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Authors: Steven James

The Pawn

BOOK: The Pawn
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“In his brilliant debut novel, Steven James gives us a captivating look at the fine line between good and evil in the human heart.
The Pawn
is not to be missed.”

Ann Tatlock, Christy Award–winning author

“I consider
The Pawn
the best-written thriller I’ve read from a Christian publisher.”

Cecil Murphey, coauthor of
90 Minutes in Heaven
and more than 100 other books

“Steven James combines twenty-first-century, high-tech law enforcement techniques with eighteenth-century Sherlockian deduction to craft an exciting, suspense-filled story. Dr. Patrick Bowers uses geography and his wits in the pursuit of a calculating, ruthless predator.
The Pawn
covers a wide range of human experience as its characters fight both internal and external battles for their survival.”

Dr. Kim Rossmo, Center for Geospatial Intelligence and Investigation, Texas State University

THE PAWN

THE BOWERS FILES

STEVEN JAMES

© 2007 by Steven James

Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
www.revellbooks.com

Fourth printing, July 2008

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-0-8007-3240-0 (pbk.)

   The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows: James, Steven, 1969–
   The pawn / Steven James.
      p. cm.—(The Bowers files ; bk. 1)
   ISBN 10: 0-8007-1896-8 (cloth)
   ISBN 978-0-8007-1896-1 (cloth)
   1. Detectives—Fiction. 2. Criminologists—Fiction. 3. Serial murderers—Fiction. 4. Magicians—Fiction. 5. Serial murder investigation—Fiction.
I. Title.
PS3610.A4545P39 2007
813'.6—dc22

2007014279

Some of the events in this story are a matter of public record; many are products of the author’s imagination and are not meant in any way to dishonor the victims or diminish the enormity of the tragedy that took place in Guyana.

In memory of
Gloria and Malcolm,
because your story matters

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

64

65

66

67

68

69

70

71

72

73

74

75

76

77

78

79

80

81

82

83

84

85

86

87

88

89

90

EPILOGUE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PROLOGUE

March 5, 1985
La Cruxis, Mississippi
4:13 p.m.

It happened upstairs at her house after school on a Tuesday afternoon. Her parents were still at work, just like always. So Aaron Jeffrey Kincaid and Jessica Rembrandt had the house to themselves. Just like always. Most afternoons found them here, making out, fooling around in the basement.

But today was different. Today was the day.

Jessie smiled at her boyfriend as she unlocked the front door. “Aaron Jeffrey Kincaid,” she breathed, “I love you.” Her voice sounded so alluring, so alive. It said more than I love you; it said, I believe in you.

“I love you too, Jessie.” He stepped past her and swung the door open. “I’ll always love you.” He said the words smoothly, convincingly, but he wondered if he really meant them. He wondered if he did love her; if he’d ever loved anything at all.

He took her hand as they stepped into the living room. Then, with one smooth motion of his free hand, he shut the door behind them.

They’d been going out for almost three months. At first it’d been like any other relationship for him—after the initial thrill wore off, he’d started to get bored with her; started to wonder if maybe he’d be happier with someone else. But the more time he spent with her, the more he realized she did things to please him. Little things. She went to the movies he liked. She wore the clothes he told her to wear. And she let him do things to her, sometimes whatever he wanted to. So, of course, one day he started wondering how far she would go to please him, how much she would actually do. Who wouldn’t wonder those kinds of things?

They headed upstairs to her parents’ bedroom. That’s where the whirlpool was.

He led her by the hand, and she followed without even a trace of hesitation in her step. Amazing.

Earlier that year another couple had been found in a car. In the garage. Double suicide. So all these counselors had arrived at their high school to talk to the students about death and hope and reasons to live. One of the counselors, a delicate woman with sweet, caramel eyes, had met with him individually. “Aaron, have you ever thought about taking your own life?”

And Aaron had given her a look, wide-eyed and innocent. “Well, just like most kids, I guess.” He was playing naïve, searching her eyes for understanding and compassion, toying with her. “I guess I’ve thought about it—suicide that is. But nothing serious. Nothing specific.”

And she nodded and wrote something down in her notebook. Then he leaned close. “Is there something wrong with me?”

She smiled. “No, of course not, Aaron. It’s perfectly normal to think about ending your life sometimes. I’d be a little worried if the thought had never crossed your mind.” Then she laughed as if that should have been funny or comforting or something. And she looked across the table at him reassuringly, and he smiled back at her in a boyish, trusting way.

“Thanks,” he said. “You’ve been very helpful.”

And after that, the counselors left their numbers on little cards and on posters on the walls of the school for kids who felt lonely or depressed or needed someone to talk to. “They’ll be back in two months,” the principal had told the students at an assembly in the gym, “to follow up with anyone who needs to talk some more.”

Maybe he’d gotten the idea from that—the double suicide and the meetings and the counselor with the eyes of a doe. It was hard to say. Aaron had tried to trace the exact origin of the idea, but finally he’d realized that sometimes ideas just come to you fully formed, as this one had. And in the end it doesn’t really matter so much where they come from as it does where they lead you, what you do with them.

“It’ll all be over soon,” Jessie said as they entered the bedroom. Her voice was more agitated now, excited. Maybe fear had crept into it.

“No, soon it’ll all
begin
.” He walked over to the window and twisted the blinds shut to close out the warm afternoon sunshine. A few slivers of sunlight cut through the spaces between the blinds and landed on the lightly ruffled blankets on Jessie’s parents’ bed—streaks of light and darkness lying next to each other, side by side. He walked through the zebra-shadowed room to her arms. “Soon it’ll all begin,” he repeated. “And then we’ll be together forever, and nothing will ever be able to keep us apart.”

“I’m ready,” she whispered.

“It’s a cruel world,” said Aaron Jeffrey Kincaid.

“It’s a cruel world,” echoed Jessica Rembrandt.

“But our love will unite us forever.”

“Our love will unite us forever . . .”

Aaron pulled the polished stainless steel hunting knife out of his backpack and led Jessie to the whirlpool. The knife had a serrated edge on one side and a wickedly curved blade on the other. They’d picked it out together last week at a sporting goods store at the mall. The two of them had been planning this for weeks, to make sure everything was perfect. After they found the knife, Aaron had sent her in to pay for it with cash while he waited outside “to keep watch.” He’d made her think it was all her idea. He was good at that.

Jessie turned on the whirlpool.

The motor hummed, sending jets of warm water churning at their feet.

“I’ll go first,” she said, “because I love you.” Her voice was shaking. Her breathing, fast.

“No, I’ll go first. Just like we practiced.”

They stripped off their clothes and eased into the whirlpool. Only two heads and a pair of shoulders were visible now above the foaming, roiling water.

It was just like the couples had done in Roman times. Lovers sitting in the baths, letting the warm water help pump the blood from their wrists as they drifted off into the darkness of a sleep that never ends. He knew. He’d researched it. But this was even better. The jets from the whirlpool would help pump the blood out faster.

Steam began to rise from the water.

Aaron carefully placed the edge of the blade against his left wrist.

“It’s a cruel world,” he said, repeating the mantra they’d practiced together so many times.

“It’s a cruel world,” Jessie echoed.

“But our love will unite us forever.”

“Our love will unite us forever . . .”

People would be surprised if they saw him here. Her parents had never even seen them together. Even at school they were both loners, so no one really paid much attention to them. It was all so perfect. “Everyone will know about us now,” he said. “At last.”

Aaron drew the blade toward him, deep into the meat of his wrist, and a red spray shot across the pool. A sharp ache bristled up his arm, but he didn’t flinch. The cut was angled just so across his vein so it would be harder to stop the bleeding. They’d rehearsed it this way, the best way. The fastest way.

He quickly lowered his hand into the steamy water, and at once the water began to twirl with crazy red swirls. It reminded him of watching his foster mother bake when he lived in California, seeing the food coloring swirl through a bowl of hot water. He thought of her, the smells in the kitchen, the sound of her laughter, until his wrist began to throb. Then, his eyes found their way back to the knife he was still holding.

“Should I do the other one right away?” he asked Jessica calmly. She was entranced, staring at the red water that was now encircling her legs and abdomen.

“No,” she whispered. “We need to leave at the same time. Hand me the knife.”

He held it to her, handle first, across the steamy, swirling water. “This life is so unpredictable, Jessie.” He spoke the words tenderly, evenly, smoothly, as the blood pumped out of his wrist and merged with the crimson water. “Who knows what the future holds? Your dad could get a new job and make you move away; your parents could get a divorce . . .” The blood continued to curl around him. “I could die in a car accident . . . It’s best this way. The only way. This way nothing can ever separate us. This way, we’re in control of what happens. All that matters is us. All that matters is this moment.”

BOOK: The Pawn
10.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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