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Authors: Chris Mooney

The Soul Collectors

BOOK: The Soul Collectors
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The Soul Collectors

Chris Mooney is the author of six previous thrillers, of which
Remembering Sarah
was nominated for the prestigious Edgar Award for Best Novel.
The Missing, The Secret Friend
The Dead Room
– all Darby McCormick thrillers – are available as Penguin paperbacks. Chris lives in Boston with his wife and son.

The Soul Collectors




Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published 2010

Copyright © Chris Mooney, 2010

All rights reserved

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-14-196166-8

For Mari Evans,
editor extraordinaire

pity this busy monster, manunkind …

– e.e. cummings


  I The Good Thief
 II The Cross
III The Wheel

Dear Coop,

By the time you read this, chances are I’ll be either missing or dead. Whatever you do, don’t come looking for me. Making people disappear, as you already know, is what they do best. They’re experts at hiding things: the living and the dead … the truth. They’ve been doing it for at least a hundred years – longer, if Jack Casey is to be believed, and I have no reason not to believe him. Not any more.

This is what I know for sure. They’re known to strike in daylight but more often they wait for darkness, like vampires. They work in pairs. If they come for me – no, not
, it’s a matter of

they come for me, I’m sure they’ll bring a small army. They won’t kill me. They want to bring me back to that place they call home.

It’s where I belong, they say, to atone for my sins.

I’m writing you this letter on the back porch of a rental home in Oguinquit, Maine. It’s remote and private here. The salty air blowing off the water feels unnaturally warm for this first week of December. Maybe it’s the Irish whiskey. I’m drinking Midleton, your favourite, and as I look out over the porch railing, at the setting sun, I can’t stop thinking about how we’re only given one life. How there’s no second or third act, just this messy and imperfect one we’ve been handed, and it’s up to us how we choose to live it.

You were right, Coop. I should have chosen you when I had the chance.

I’ve included the key for my condo, just in case you no longer have the copy I gave you. The condo, everything inside – it’s all yours now.

You need to know everything that happened. I want you to know the truth about what I saw. About what happened to me and Jack Casey.

The first time I met him, Casey told me about his early career, his days working as an FBI profiler in what used to be called the Behavioral Science Unit. He called it the Monster Factory. He told me there are creatures lurking around us, doing things that the human mind doesn’t want to, or maybe can’t, comprehend.

I thought he was being overly dramatic. Now I know Casey was speaking the truth. I’ve witnessed what lives behind their masks.

I’ll tell you one other thing I know for certain:


He’s the only one who believes me.


The Good Thief


When the helicopter began its rapid descent, to the now defunct Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Darby McCormick shifted her gaze out of her window and saw, courtesy of the bright searchlight blazing from the copter’s belly, a big white van parked on the quiet stretch of dark and empty tarmac far below. She spotted a turret on the roof and then, a moment later, could make out the black gun ports along one side. Not a van but an Armoured Personnel Carrier, a brick shithouse of a vehicle meant to withstand both gunfire and explosions. The thing could roll over a landmine without suffering so much as a dent.

Darby rubbed her fingers across her dry lips, thinking. An hour ago she’d been sitting in her living room, finishing off a Heineken and watching the final minutes of the Celtics game (Boston was giving the New York Knicks a well-deserved and highly enjoyable ass-kicking), when the phone rang.

She had hoped it was Coop calling from London. He’d been moved there three months ago, and because of the different time zones – London was five hours ahead of Boston – they were constantly playing phone tag. She had called him earlier in the day to thank him for the gift – an antique hardcover copy of her all-time favourite book, Jane Austen’s
Pride and Prejudice

The gruff voice on the other end of the line introduced himself as Gary Trent, SWAT senior corporal for the Portsmouth and Durham areas of New Hampshire. He told her she was needed up north immediately and that someone was already on his way to take her to Logan Airport.

Darby told him she didn’t store her SWAT gear at home, just her tactical equipment. Don’t worry, Trent said. All the arrangements had been made. Then he hung up.

The man’s abruptness or his failure to explain why she was needed didn’t surprise or shock her, as SWAT never spoke over an unsecured channel. She shut off the TV and went to her bedroom closet to gather the things she needed. Five minutes later, when she heard the buzzer for her condo, she grabbed her duffel bag, locked up and headed down the winding set of stairs to the building’s front door.

Her escort, a skinny, puppy-faced Boston patrolman she didn’t know, looked like a teenager dressed up as a cop for Halloween. He said his name was Tim and informed her he’d been ordered to bring her to Logan, where a private helicopter would take her directly to New Hampshire. Clearly Timmy had been given the word to step on it. Lights flashing and sirens wailing, the car made it to Logan in record time.

Darby wondered how the Boston brass felt about her being called in to assist in a SWAT operation. Three months ago, Boston PD had suspended her, with pay, from the Criminal Services Unit, the department’s specialized group that dealt with violent crime. CSU had been dismantled temporarily – maybe even permanently – in the wake of the murder of Boston Police Commissioner Christina Chadzynski.

Seated inside the helicopter, it came back to her again, that night inside the abandoned auto garage with the two cops who had kidnapped her. One was a federal agent, the other a Belham detective, a man she had known since childhood – Artie Pine, a close friend and confidant of her deceased father – and they had planned on torturing her. Darby killed them both and on her way out of the garage found Christina Chadzynski waiting in an adjoining room, the woman sitting at an old desk holding a shotgun, the police commissioner’s hands covered in latex gloves. Darby remembered the momentary flash of surprise on the woman’s face at being discovered.
You’re supposed to be dead
, that look said, and then the woman said,
I have a way out of this for you … If you play your cards right, you’ll come out of this looking like a hero.

Darby didn’t have to worry about Chadzynski any more – or Internal Affairs. Darby had told the IA officers that Artie Pine had killed the police commissioner. She had staged the crime scene, and, after hearing the recording of Chadzynski boasting about her skilful corruption methods, IA had cleared her. Now she had a more pressing problem: the Boston Police Department. The brass believed she had committed the one mortal and unforgivable sin: airing the department’s dirty laundry in the press. That was the real issue at work here, why the suits were taking so long deliberating her fate. If she was reinstated – her lawyer had an almost unwavering confidence that this would, in fact, happen – the powers that be would find a way to punish her. Probably kick her back to the lab and make her process rape kits or feed old DNA samples into CODIS. Drown her in mind-numbing work given to a first-year forensic tech.

The helicopter made a hard landing on the tarmac. Darby unbuckled her seatbelt, grabbed her heavy duffel bag and opened the cabin door, crouching underneath the steady
thump thump thump
of the spinning blades. Once she cleared them, she hoisted the bag over her shoulder and ran through the brisk late-September night air, heading for the SWAT officer, dressed head to toe in black assault gear, standing by the APC’s rear doors.

Darby climbed inside, quickly found the empty spot on the edge of the right bench mounted against the wall and sat. A SWAT officer banged a gloved fist twice on the wall, the signal to get rolling. The APC lurched forward, and just before its rear doors slammed shut she caught sight of the copter taking back off.

Six SWAT officers, all men, in heavy black assault gear and with black greasepaint on their faces, crammed the benches. Her attention locked on the seventh man – a big white guy standing near a partition behind the driver, looking away from her and his men. He held on to one of the metal handles installed on the ceiling while he talked on a phone connected to an encryption pack. He stared down at the floor listening to the person on the other end of the line, his jaw muscles bunching as he bit down hard on the wad of gum wedged between his front teeth. He appeared to be in his mid-to-late forties, and in the dim interior light she could make out the stubble on his shaved head, the webbing of fine white lines around his narrowed eyes.

Has to be Trent
, she thought, tying her hair behind her neck using one of the elastics she always wore around her wrists. She could feel the stares coming from the black-painted faces. They were trying to size her up.

SWAT was still strictly boys-only. It didn’t matter if she could shoot the balls off a flea or that she could go head to head with any one of these bozos and have him on his knees sobbing in less than a minute; right now they couldn’t see past her tits. They were probably wondering how she’d be in the sack. The Puerto Rican-looking guy sitting to her right – a dead ringer for one of her favourite Red Sox players of all time, Manny Ramirez – held a gas grenade launcher between his knees and had no problem checking her out like she was a piece of meat.

Darby turned to him, grinning, and said, ‘Something on your mind, cowboy?’

He licked his lips, and she expected him to say how she looked like Angelina Jolie. More than one person had said they had the same lips and eyes, but Darby didn’t see it. She had auburn hair, for one, and green eyes; and, unlike Mrs Brad Pitt, she had a permanent scar on her left cheek, courtesy of being hit by an axe that had fractured her cheekbone. The surgeons ended up removing the bones and installing something called a MediCor implant.

Instead, the Manny Ramirez-looking guy said, ‘You the same Darby McCormick who was involved in that shootout at the garage with the Boston police commissioner?’

She nodded, knowing where this conversation was headed.

‘That recorded conversation between you and Chadzynski, where she admits to all of her foul deeds?’ He whistled. ‘That broad was one cold and cunning bitch. She sold her soul and for what? To protect that Irish gangster prick Sullivan – and a serial killer to boot. Damn smart of you using your cell to record that conversation.’

BOOK: The Soul Collectors
3.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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