Play Dead

Miracle Cure

Deal Breaker

Drop Shot

Fade Away

Back Spin

One False Move

The Final Detail

Darkest Fear

Tell No One

Gone for Good

No Second Chance

Just One Look

The Innocent

Promise Me

The Woods

Hold Tight

Long Lost


Live Wire


Stay Close

Seconds Away

Six Years

Missing You


The Stranger

Fool Me Once


title page for Don’t Let Go

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Epub ISBN: 9781473519053

Version 1.0

Published by Century 2017

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Copyright © Harlan Coben 2017

Cover photos of figures © Colin Thomas

Cover inset of town scene © plainpicture and Getty Images

Harlan Coben has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

First published in Great Britain in 2017 by Century

The Penguin Random House Group Limited
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ISBN 9781780894232

Pour Anne
A Ma Vie de Coer Entier

Author’s Note

WHEN I WAS growing up in suburban New Jersey, there were two common legends about my hometown.

One was that a notorious Mafia leader lived in a baronial mansion protected by an iron gate and armed guards and that there was an incinerator in the back that may have been used as a makeshift crematorium.

The second legend—the legend that inspired this book—was that adjacent to his property and near an elementary school, behind barbed-wire fencing and official NO TRESPASSING signs, there stood a Nike missile control center with nuclear capabilities.

Years later, I learned that both legends were true.

DAISY WORE A clingy black dress with a neckline so deep it could tutor philosophy.

She spotted the mark sitting at the end of the bar, wearing a pinstripe gray suit. Hmm. The guy was old enough to be her dad. That might make it more difficult for her to make her play, but then again, it might not. You never knew with the old guys. Some of them, especially the recent divorcés, were all too ready to preen and prove they still had it, even if they’d never had it in the first place.

Especially if they’d never had it in the first place.

As Daisy sauntered across the room, she could feel the eyes of the male patrons crawling down her bare legs like earthworms. When she reached the end of the bar, she made a mild production of lowering herself onto the stool next to him.

The mark peered into the glass of whiskey in front of him as though he were a gypsy with a crystal ball. She waited for him to turn toward her. He didn’t. Daisy studied his profile for a moment. His beard was heavy and gray. His nose was bulbous and putty-like, almost as though it were a Hollywood silicone special effect. His hair was long, straggly, mop-like.

Second marriage, Daisy figured. Second divorce in all probability.

Dale Miller—that was the mark’s name—picked up his whiskey gently. He cradled it in both hands as though it were an injured bird.

“Hi,” Daisy said with a much-practiced hair toss.

Miller’s head turned toward her. He looked her straight in the eyes. She waited for his gaze to dip down the neckline—heck, even women did it with this dress—but it stayed on hers.

“Hello,” he replied. Then he turned back to his whiskey.

Daisy usually let the mark hit on her. That was her go-to technique. She said hi like this, she smiled, the guy asked whether he could buy her a drink. You know the deal. But Miller didn’t look to be in the mood to flirt. He took a deep swallow from his whiskey glass, then another.

That was good. The heavy drinking. That would make this easier.

“Is there something I can do for you?” he asked her.

Burly, Daisy thought. That was the word to describe him. Even in that pinstripe suit, Miller had that burly-biker-Vietnam-vet thing going on, his voice a low rasp. He was the kind of older guy Daisy found oddly sexy, though that was probably her legendary daddy issues rearing their insecure heads. Daisy liked men who made her feel safe.

It had been too long since she’d known one.

Time to try another angle, Daisy thought.

“Do you mind if I just sit here with you?” Daisy leaned a little closer, working the cleavage a bit, and whispered, “There’s this guy …”

“Is he bothering you?”

Sweet. He didn’t say it all macho poseur, like so many of the d-bags she had met along the way. Dale Miller said it calmly, matter-of-factly, chivalrously, even—like a man who wanted to protect her.

“No, no … not really.”

He started looking around the bar. “Which one is he?”

Daisy put a hand on his arm.

“It’s not a big deal. Really. I just … I feel safe here with you, okay?”

Miller met her eyes again. The bulbous nose didn’t go with the face, but you almost didn’t notice it with those piercing blue eyes. “Of course,” he said, but in a cautious voice. “Can I buy you a drink?”

That was pretty much all the opening Daisy needed. She was good with conversation, and men—married, single, getting divorced, whatever—never minded opening up to her. It took Dale Miller a little more time than usual—drink 4, if her count was correct—but eventually he got to the impending divorce from Clara, his, yup, second wife, who was eighteen years his junior. (“Should’ve known, right? I’m such a fool.”) A drink later, he told her about the two kids, Ryan and Simone, the custody battle, his job in finance.

She had to open up too. That was how this worked. Prime the pump. She had a story at the ready for just such occasions—a completely fictional one, of course—but something about the way Miller carried himself made her add shades of candor. Still, she would never tell him the truth. No one knew that, except Rex. And even Rex didn’t know it all.

He drank whiskey. She drank vodka. She tried to imbibe at a slower pace. Twice she took her full glass to the bathroom, dumped it into the sink, filled it with water. Still, Daisy was feeling a little buzzed when the text came in from Rex.


R for “Ready.”

“Everything okay?” Miller asked her.

“Sure. Just a friend.”

She texted back a Y for “Yes” and turned back to him. This was the part where she would normally suggest that they go someplace quieter. Most men jumped at the chance—men were nothing if not predictable on that score—but she wasn’t sure that the direct route would work with Dale Miller. It wasn’t that he didn’t seem interested. He just seemed to be somehow—she wasn’t sure how to put it—above it.

“Can I ask you something?” she began.

Miller smiled. “You’ve been asking me things all night.”

There was a slight slur in his voice. Good.

“Do you have a car?” she asked.

“I do. Why?”

She glanced about the bar. “Could I, uh, ask you for a ride home? I don’t live far.”

“Sure, no problem.” Then: “I may need a little time to sober up—”

Daisy hopped off the stool. “Oh, that’s okay. I’ll walk, then.”

Miller sat upright. “Wait, what?”

“I kinda need to get home now, but if you can’t drive—”

“No, no,” he said, managing to stand. “I’ll take you now.”

“If it’s trouble …”

“No trouble, Daisy.”

Bingo. As they started for the door, Daisy quickly texted Rex:


Code for “On Our Way.”

Some might call it a con or a swindle, but Rex insisted that it was “righteous” money. Daisy wasn’t sure about righteous, but she didn’t feel a lot of guilt about it either. The plan was simple in execution, if not motive. A man and a woman are getting divorced. The custody battle turns nasty. Both sides get desperate. The wife—technically speaking, the husband could use their services too, though so far it had always been the wife—hired Rex to help her win this bloodiest of battles. How did he do it?

Nail the husband on a DUI.

What better way to show the man is an unfit parent?

So that was how it worked. Daisy’s job was twofold: Make sure the mark was legally drunk, and then get him behind the wheel. Rex, who was a cop, pulled them over and arrested the mark for driving under the influence, and boom, their client gets a big boost in the court proceedings. Right then, Rex was waiting in a squad car two blocks away. He always found an abandoned spot very close to whatever bar the mark would be drinking in that evening. The fewer witnesses, the better. They didn’t want questions.

Pull the guy over, arrest him, move on.

They both stumbled out the door and into the lot.

“This way,” Miller said. “I parked over here.”

The lot’s surface was made up of loose pebbles. Miller kicked them up as he led her to a gray Toyota Corolla. He hit the key fob. The car gave a muted double honk. When Miller headed toward the passenger door, Daisy was confused. Did he want her to drive? God, she hoped not. Was he more wasted than she thought? That seemed more likely. But she quickly realized it was neither of those things.

Dale Miller was opening the door for her. Like a real gentleman. That was how long it had been since Daisy had known a real gentleman. She hadn’t even realized what he was doing.

He held the door. Daisy slid into the car. Dale Miller waited until she was all the way in and properly situated before he carefully closed the door behind her.

She felt a pang of guilt.

Rex had pointed out many times that they weren’t doing anything illegal or even ethically dubious. For one thing, the plan didn’t always work. Some guys don’t hang out in bars. “If that’s the case,” Rex had told her, “then he’s in the clear. Our guy is already out drinking, right? You’re just giving him a little push, that’s all. But he doesn’t have to drink and drive. That’s his choice in the end. You’re not putting a gun to his head.”

Daisy put on her seat belt. Dale Miller did the same. He started the car and put it in reverse. The tires crunched the pebbles. When he was clear of the spot, Miller stopped the car and looked at Daisy for a long moment. She tried to smile, but it wouldn’t hold.

“What are you hiding, Daisy?” he asked.

She felt a chill but didn’t reply.

“Something happened to you. I can see it in your face.”

Not sure what else to do, Daisy tried to laugh it off. “I told you my life story in that bar, Dale.”

Miller waited another second, maybe two, though it felt to her like an hour. Finally, he looked forward and put the car in drive. He didn’t say another word as they made their way out of the parking lot.

“Take a left,” Daisy said, hearing the tension in her own voice. “And then it’s the second right.”

Dale Miller was silent then, making the turns deliberately, the way you do when you’ve had too much to drink but don’t want to get pulled over. The Toyota Corolla was clean and impersonal and smelled a little too strongly of deodorizer. When Miller took the second right, Daisy held her breath and waited for Rex’s blue lights and siren to come on.

This was always the scary part for Daisy, because she never knew how someone was going to react. One guy tried to make a run for it, though he realized the futility before he reached the next corner. Some guys started cursing. Some guys—too many of them—started sobbing. That was the worst. Grown men, coolly hitting on her moments earlier, some still with their hand sliding up her dress, suddenly starting to blubber like preschoolers.

They realized the severity in an instant. That realization crushed them.

Daisy didn’t know what to expect with Dale Miller.

Rex had the timing down to a science, and as though on cue, the spinning blue light came to life, followed immediately by the squad-car siren. Daisy pivoted and studied Dale Miller’s face to gauge his reaction. If Miller was distraught or surprised, neither emotion was showing on his face. He was composed, determined, even. He used his blinker to signal before carefully veering to a proper stop by the curb as Rex pulled up behind him.

The siren was off now, the blue light still circling.

Dale Miller put the car in park and turned to her. She wasn’t sure what expression to go with here. Surprise? Sympathy? A “What can you do?” sigh?

“Well, well,” Miller said. “It looks like the past has caught up with us, eh?”

His words, his tone, his expression unnerved her. She wanted to yell for Rex to hurry, but he was taking his time the way a cop does. Dale Miller kept his eyes on her, even after Rex did a knuckle knock on his window. Miller slowly turned away and slid open the window.

“Is there a problem, Officer?”

“License and registration, please.”

Dale Miller handed them over.

“Have you been drinking tonight, Mr. Miller?”

“Maybe one,” he said.

With that answer, at least, he was the same as every other mark. They always lied.

“Do you mind stepping out of the car for a moment?”

Miller turned back toward Daisy. Daisy tried not to cringe under his gaze. She stared straight ahead, avoiding eye contact.

Rex said, “Sir? I asked you—”

“Of course, Officer.”

Dale Miller pulled the handle. When the interior car light came on, Daisy closed her eyes for a moment. Miller rolled out with a grunt. He left the door open, but Rex reached past him and slammed it closed. The window was still cracked, so Daisy could hear.

“Sir, I would like to run a series of field sobriety tests on you.”

“We could skip that,” Dale Miller said.

“Pardon me?”

“Why don’t we go right to the Breathalyzer, if that would be easier?”

That offer surprised Rex. He glanced past Miller for a moment and caught her eye. Daisy gave a small shrug.

“I assume you have a field Breathalyzer in your squad car?” Miller asked.

“I do, yes.”

“So let’s not waste your time or mine or the lovely lady’s.”

Rex hesitated. Then he said, “Okay, please wait here.”


When Rex turned to go back to his squad car, Dale Miller pulled out a gun and shot Rex twice in the back of the head. Rex crumpled to the ground.

Then Dale Miller turned the gun toward Daisy.

They’re back, she thought.

After all these years, they found me.

Chapter One

I HIDE THE baseball bat behind my leg, so Trey—at least, I assume it is Trey—won’t see.

The Maybe-Trey bebops toward me with the fake tan and the emo fringe do and the meaningless tribal tattoos lassoing bloated biceps. Ellie has described Trey as a “purebred twat waffle.” This guy fits the bill.

Still, I have to be sure.

Over the years, I have developed a really cool deductive technique to tell if I have the right guy. Watch and learn:


The choadwank stops, gives me his best Cro-Magnon forehead furrow, and says, “Who wants to know?”

“Am I supposed to say, ‘I do’?”


I sigh. See what kind of morons I have to deal with, Leo?

“You replied, ‘Who wants to know?’” I continue. “Like you’re being cagey. Like if I called out, ‘Mike?’ you wouldn’t have said, ‘You got the wrong guy, pal.’ By answering ‘Who wants to know?’ you’ve already told me you’re Trey.”

You should see the perplexed look on this guy’s face.

I take a step closer, keeping the bat out of sight.

Trey is all faux gangsta, but I feel the fear coming off him in hot waves now. Not surprising. I am a respectable-sized guy, not a five-foot woman he could slap around to feel big.

“What do you want?” Trey asks me.

Another step closer.

“To talk.”

“What about?”

I swing one-handed because that’s fastest. The bat lands whiplike on Trey’s knee. He screams, but he doesn’t fall. Now I grip the bat with both hands. Remember how Coach Jauss taught us to hit in Little League, Leo? Bat back, elbow up. That was his mantra. How old were we? Nine, ten? Doesn’t matter. I do just what Coach taught us. I pull the bat all the way back, elbow up, and step into my swing.

The meat of the wood lands flush on the same knee.

Trey goes down like I shot him. “Please …”

This time, I lift the bat high overhead, ax-chop-style, and, putting all my weight and leverage into it, I again aim for the same knee. I can feel something splinter when the blow lands. Trey howls. I lift the bat again. By now Trey has both hands on the knee, trying to protect it. What the hell. Might as well be sure, right?

I go for the ankle. When the bat crash-lands, the ankle gives way and spreads under the onslaught. There is a crunching sound like a boot stepping on dried twigs.

“You never saw my face,” I tell him. “You say a word, I come back and kill you.”

I don’t wait for the reply.

Do you remember when Dad took us to our first Major League Baseball game, Leo? Yankee Stadium. We sat in that box down the third-base line. We wore our baseball gloves the whole game, hoping a foul ball would come our way. It didn’t, of course. I remember the way Dad tilted his face toward the sun, those Wayfarers on his eyes, that slow smile on his face. How cool was Dad? Being French, he didn’t know the rules—it was his first baseball game too—but he didn’t care, did he? It was a day out with his twin boys.

That was always enough for him.

Three blocks away, I drop the bat into a 7-Eleven Dumpster. I’d worn gloves so there would be no fingerprints. I had bought the bat years ago at a garage sale near Atlantic City. There is no way you could track it back to me. Not that I was worried. The cops wouldn’t bother Dumpster diving into cherry Slurpees to help out the likes of a professional asshat like Trey. On TV, they might. In reality, they would chalk it up to a local beef or drug deal gone wrong or gambling debt or something else that made it well and truly deserved.

I cut through the lot and take a circuitous route back to where I parked. I am wearing a black Brooklyn Nets cap—very street—and I keep my head down. Again, I don’t think anyone would take the case seriously, but you might meet up with an overzealous rookie who pulls CCTV or something.

It costs me nothing to be careful.

I get into my car, hit Interstate 280, and drive straight back to Westbridge. My mobile phone rings—a call from Ellie. Like she knows what I’m up to. Ms. Conscience. I ignore it for now.

Westbridge is the kind of American Dream suburb the media might call “family-friendly,” maybe “well-to-do” or even “upscale,” but it wouldn’t reach the level of “tony.” There are Rotary Club barbecues, July Fourth parades, Kiwanis Club carnivals, Saturday morning organic farmers’ markets. Kids still ride their bikes to school. The high school football games are well attended, especially when we play our rival, Livingston. Little League is still a big deal. Coach Jauss died a few years ago, but they named one of the fields after him.

I still stop by that field, though now in a police car. Yep, I’m that cop. I think of you, Leo, stuck out in right field. You didn’t want to play—I know that now—but you realized that I might not have joined without you. Some of the old-timers still talk about the no-hitter I pitched in the state semifinals. You weren’t good enough to make that team, so the Little League powers that be put you on as a statistician. I guess they did that to keep me happy. I don’t think I saw that at the time.

You were always wiser, Leo, more mature, so you probably did.

I pull up to the house and park in the driveway. Tammy and Ned Walsh from next door—in my head he’s Ned Flanders because he’s got the pornstache and the too-folksy manner—are cleaning their gutters. They both give me a wave.

“Hey, Nap,” Ned says.

“Hey, Ned,” I say. “Hey, Tammy.”

I’m friendly like that. Mr. Nice Neighbor. See, I am the rarest of creatures in suburban towns—a straight, single, childless male is about as common out here as a cigarette in a health club—and so I work hard to come across as normal, boring, reliable.


Dad died five years ago, so now I guess some of the neighbors perceive me as that single guy, the one who still lives at home and skulks around like Boo Radley. That’s why I try to keep the house well maintained. That’s why I try to make sure I bring my appropriate female dates back to the house during daylight hours, even when I know said date won’t last.

There was a time when a guy like me would be considered charmingly eccentric, a confirmed bachelor. Now I think the neighbors worry that I’m a pedophile or something along those lines. So I do all I can to alleviate that fear.

Most of the neighbors also know our story, and so my staying here makes sense.

I’m still waving to Ned and Tammy.

“How is Brody’s team doing?” I ask.

I don’t care, but again, appearances.

“Eight and one,” Tammy says.

“That’s terrific.”

“You have to come to the game next Wednesday.”

“I’d like that,” I say.

I’d also like to have my kidney removed with a grapefruit spoon.

I smile some more, wave again like an idiot, and head into the house. I moved out of our old room, Leo. After that night—I always refer to it as “that night” because I can’t accept “double suicide” or “accidental death” or even, though no one really thinks it is, “murder”—I couldn’t stand the sight of our old bunk bed. I started sleeping downstairs in the room we called the “little den” on the first floor. One of us probably should have done that years earlier, Leo. Our bedroom was okay for two boys, but it was cramped for two teenage males.

I never minded, though. I don’t think you did either.

When Dad died, I moved upstairs into his master bedroom. Ellie helped me convert our old room into a home office with these white built-ins in a style she calls “Modern Urban Farmhouse.” I still don’t know what that means.

I head up to the bedroom now and start to shed my shirt, when the doorbell rings. I figure it’s the UPS or FedEx guys. They’re the only ones who stop by without calling first. So I don’t bother going down. When the doorbell rings again, I wonder whether I ordered something that would need a signature. Can’t think of anything. I look out the bedroom window.


They are dressed in plain clothes, but I always know. I don’t know if it’s the bearing or the outfit or just some intangible, but I don’t think it is strictly because I am one—a one-cop-to-another kind of thing. One of the cops is male, the other female. For a second, I think that it might be connected to Trey—logical deduction, right?—but a quick glance at their unmarked police car, which is so obviously an unmarked police car it might as well have the words “unmarked police car” spray-painted on both sides, reveals a Pennsylvania license plate.

I quickly throw on a pair of gray sweats and check my look in the mirror. The only word that comes to mind is “dashing.” Well, that isn’t the only word, but let’s go with it. I hurry down the steps and reach for the doorknob.

I had no idea what opening that door would do to me.

I had no idea, Leo, that it would bring me back to you.

Chapter Two

LIKE I SAID, two cops – one a man, one a woman.

The woman is older, probably midfifties, and sports a blue blazer, jeans, and practical shoes. I can see the hip bulge from her weapon ruining the line of the blazer, but she doesn’t hit me as the kind to care. The guy is probably forty and wears a suit of dead-leaf brown usually favored by your nattier vice principals.

She gives me a tight smile and says, “Detective Dumas?”

She pronounces my name Doo-mass. It’s French, actually, Doo-MAH, like the famed author. Leo and I were born in Marseilles. When we first moved to the USA and the town of Westbridge at age eight, our new “friends” thought it was ridiculously clever to pronounce Dumas as “Dumb Ass.” Some adults still do, but we, uh, don’t vote for the same candidates, if you get my drift.

I don’t bother correcting her.

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m Lieutenant Stacy Reynolds,” she says. “This is Detective Bates.”

I don’t like the vibe I’m getting here. I suspect that they are here to deliver bad news of some sort, like someone close to me has died. I had done the condolence bit many times in my official capacity. It’s not my forte. But pitiful as it may sound, I couldn’t even imagine who in my life meant enough to me for anyone to send out a squad car. The only person is Ellie, and she’s in Westbridge, New Jersey, too, not Pennsylvania.

I skip the “Nice to meet you” and head straight for the “So what’s this all about?”

“Do you mind if we come in?” Reynolds says with a weary smile. “It’s been a long drive.”

“I could use the bathroom,” Bates adds.

“Hit the head later,” I say. “Why are you here?”

“No need to be testy,” Bates says.

“No need to be coy either. I’m a cop, you’ve come a long way, let’s not draw this out.”

Bates glares at me. I don’t give a rat’s buttock. Reynolds puts a hand on his arm to defuse the situation. I still don’t give a rat’s buttock.

“You’re right,” Reynolds says to me. “I’m afraid we have some bad news.”

I wait.

“There’s been a murder in our district,” she continues.

“A cop killing,” Bates adds.

That gets my attention. There is murder. And there is a cop killing. You don’t want those to be two separate things, one being worse than the other, but you don’t want a lot of things.

“Who?” I ask.

“Rex Canton.”

They wait to see if I show anything. I don’t, but I’m trying to work the angles.

“You knew Sergeant Canton?” she asks.

“I did,” I say. “A lifetime ago.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

I am still trying to figure out why they are here. “I don’t remember. High school graduation maybe.”

“Not since then?”

“Not that I remember.”

“But you might have?”

I shrug. “He might have come for a homecoming or something.”

“But you’re not sure.”

“No, I’m not sure.”

“You don’t seem broken up about his murder,” Bates says.

“On the inside I’m dying,” I say. “I’m just supertough.”

“No need for sarcasm,” Bates says. “A fellow officer is dead.”

“No need to waste our time either. I knew him in high school. That’s it. I haven’t seen him since. I didn’t know he lived in Pennsylvania. I didn’t even know he was on the job. How was he killed?”

“Gunned down during a traffic stop,” Reynolds says.

Rex Canton. I knew him back in the day, of course, but he was more your friend, Leo. Part of your high school posse. I remember the goofy picture of you all dressed up as some mock rock band for the school talent show. Rex played the drums. He had a gap between his two front teeth. He seemed like a nice enough kid.

“Can we cut to it?” I ask.

“Cut to what?”

I am so not in the mood. “What do you want with me?”

Reynolds looks up at me, and maybe there’s a hint of a smile on her face. “Any guesses?”


“Let me use your toilet before I pee on your stoop. Then we’ll talk.”

I move out of the doorway to usher them in. Reynolds goes first. Bates waits, hopping up and down a bit. My mobile rings. Ellie again. I hit ignore and send her a text that I’ll call her back as soon as I can. I hear the water running as Reynolds washes her hands. She comes out; Bates goes in. He is, uh, loud. As the old saying goes, he needed to pee like a racehorse.

We move into the living room and settle in. Ellie fixed up this room, too. She aimed for “woman-friendly man cave”—wood paneling and huge-screen TV, but the bar is acrylic and the leatherette loungers are an odd shade of mauve.

“So?” I say.

Reynolds looks at Bates. He nods. Then she turns back to me. “We found fingerprints.”

“Where?” I ask.


“You said Rex was gunned down during a traffic stop.”

“That’s right.”

“So where was his body found? His squad car? The street?”

“The street.”

“So you found fingerprints where exactly? On the street?”

“The where isn’t important,” Reynolds tells me. “The who is.”

I wait. Neither speaks. So I say, “Who do the prints belong to?”

“Well, that’s part of the problem,” she says. “See, the fingerprints got no hits on any criminal database. The person has no record. But you see, they were still in the system.”

I have always heard the expression “the hairs on my neck stood up,” but I don’t think I ever quite got it until now. Reynolds waits, but I won’t give her the satisfaction. She’s carrying this ball now. I’ll let her take it to the goal line.

“The prints got a hit,” she continues, “because ten years ago, you, Detective Dumas, put them in the database, describing her as a ‘person of interest.’ Ten years ago, when you first joined the force, you asked to be notified if there was ever a hit.”

I try not to show the shock, but I don’t think I’m doing too good a job. I’m flashing back, Leo. I’m flashing back fifteen years. I’m flashing back to those summer nights when she and I would walk by moonlight to that clearing on Riker Hill and lay out a blanket. I flash back to that heat, of course, the exquisiteness and purity of that lust, but mostly I flash back to the “after,” me flat on my back, still catching my breath, staring up into the night sky, her head on my chest, her hand on my stomach, and for the first few minutes we would be silent, and then we would start talking in a way that made me know—know—I would never get tired of talking to her.

You would have been the best man.

You know me. I never needed a lot of friends. I had you, Leo. And I had her. Then I lost you. And then I lost her.

Reynolds and Bates are studying my face now. “Detective Dumas?”

I snap out of it. “Are you telling me the prints belong to Maura?”

“They do, yes.”

“But you haven’t found her yet.”

“No, not yet,” Reynolds says. “Do you want to explain?”

I grab my wallet and house keys. “I’ll do it on the ride. Let’s go.”

Chapter Three

REYNOLDS AND BATES naturally want to question me right now.

“In the car,” I insist. “I want to see the scene.”

We are all heading down the brick walkway my father put in himself twenty years ago. I take the lead. They hurry to catch up.

“Suppose we don’t want to take you with us,” Reynolds says.

I stop walking and do a toodle-oo finger wave. “Buh-bye, then. Safe ride back.”

Bates really doesn’t like me. “We can compel you to answer.”

“You think? Okay.” I turn to head back inside. “Let me know how that turns out.”

Reynolds gets up in my face. “We are trying to find a cop killer here.”

“Me too.”

I’m a very good investigator—I just am, no reason for false modesty here—but I need to see the scene myself. I know the players. I may be able to help. Either way, if Maura is back, there is no way I’m letting this go.

I don’t really want to explain all this to Reynolds and Bates.

“How long is the ride?” I ask.

“Two hours if we speed.”

I spread my arms, welcoming-like. “You’ll have me alone in a car for all that time. Imagine all the questions you can ask.”

Bates frowns. He doesn’t like it, or maybe he’s so used to playing bad cop to Reynolds’s reasonable one that he is set on automatic. They will cave. We all know this. It is just a question of how and when.

Reynolds asks, “How will you get back here?”

“Because we ain’t Uber,” Bates adds.

“Yeah, return transportation,” I say. “That’s what we should all be concentrating on.”

They frown some more, but this is done now. Reynolds gets in on the driver’s side, Bates the passenger.

“No one is going to open a door for me?” I say.

Needless needling, but what the hell. Before I get in, I take out my phone and go to my Favorites. From the driver’s seat, Reynolds gives me a WTF look. I hold up a finger to tell her this will only take a moment.

Ellie answers, “Hey.”

“I have to cancel tonight.”

Every Sunday night I volunteer at Ellie’s shelter for battered women.

“What’s up?” she asks.

“Do you remember Rex Canton?”

“From high school? Sure.”

Ellie is happily married with two girls. I’m godfather to both, which is odd, but it works. Ellie is the best person I know.

“He was a cop in Pennsylvania,” I say.

“I think I heard something about that.”

“You never mentioned it to me.”

“Why would I?”

“Good point.”

“So what about him?”

“Rex was killed on the job. Someone shot him during a traffic stop.”

“Oh, that’s awful. I’m sorry to hear that.”

With some people, it’s just words. With Ellie, you could feel the empathy.

“What’s that have to do with you?” she asks.

“I’ll let you know later.”

Ellie didn’t waste time with asking why or for more details. She got that if I wanted to say more, I would have.

“Okay, call me if you need anything.”

“Take care of Brenda for me,” I say.

There is a brief pause here. Brenda is a mother of two and one of the battered women at the shelter. Her life has been made a living nightmare by a violent douchenozzle. Two weeks ago, Brenda fled to Ellie’s shelter in the thick of night with a concussion, broken ribs, and nothing else. Since then, Brenda has been too frightened to go outside, not even to get some air in the shelter’s isolated courtyard. She left everything other than her children behind. She shakes a lot. She constantly winces and cringes as if awaiting a blow.

I want to tell Ellie that Brenda could go home tonight and finally pack her belongings, that her abuser—a cretin dubbed Trey—wouldn’t be home for a few days, but there is a certain discretion even between Ellie and me here.

They’d figure it out. They always do.

“Tell Brenda I’ll be back,” I say.

“I will,” Ellie says, and then she hangs up.

I SIT ALONE in the back of the squad car. It smells like squad car, which is to say of perspiration and desperation and fear. Reynolds and Bates are up front, like they’re my parents. They don’t start asking me questions right away. They are completely silent. I roll my eyes. Really? Did they forget I’m a cop too? They are trying to get me to talk, to reveal something, wait me out. This is the vehicular equivalent to sweating a perp in the interrogation room, intentionally making him wait.

I’m not playing. I close my eyes and try to sleep.

Reynolds wakes me up. “Is your first name really Napoleon?”

“It is,” I say.

My French father hated the name, but my mother, the American in Paris, insisted.

“Napoleon Dumas?”

“Everyone calls me Nap.”

“Queer-ass name,” Bates says.

“Bates,” I say. “Instead of Mister, do they call you Master?”


Reynolds holds back a chuckle. I can’t believe Bates has never heard this one before. He actually tries it out, saying softly to himself, “Master Bates,” before he figures it out.

“You’re an asshole, Dumas.”

He pronounces my last name correctly this time.

“So you want to get to it, Nap?” Reynolds says.

“Ask away.”

“You’re the one who put Maura Wells into the AFIS, correct?”

AFIS. Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

“Let’s pretend the answer is yes.”


They know this already. “Ten years ago.”


“She vanished.”

“We checked,” Bates says. “Her family never reported that she was missing.”

I don’t reply. We let the silence linger a bit. Reynolds breaks it.


It won’t look good. I know that, but it can’t be helped. “Maura Wells was my girlfriend in high school. When we were seniors, she broke up with me via a text. Cut off all contact. Moved away. I looked for her, but I could never find her.”

Reynolds and Bates exchange a glance.

“You talked to her parents?” Reynolds asks.

“Her mom, yeah.”


“And she said Maura’s whereabouts were none of my business and I should move on with my life.”

“Good advice,” Bates says.

I don’t take the bait.

Reynolds asks, “So how old were you?”


“So you looked for Maura, you didn’t find her …”


“So then what did you do?”

I don’t want to say it, but Rex is dead and Maura may be back and you have to give a little to get a little. “When I joined the force I put her prints into the AFIS. Filed a report saying she was missing.”

“You really didn’t have any standing to do that,” Bates says.

“Debatable,” I say, “but are you here to bust me over a protocol issue?”

“No,” Reynolds says. “We are not.”

“I don’t know,” Bates says, feigning dubious. “A girl dumps you. Five years later, you break procedure by putting her in the system, so you can, what, try to hook up with her again?” He shrugs. “Sounds stalkerish.”

“Pretty creepy behavior, Nap,” Reynolds adds.

They know some of my past, I bet. They don’t know enough.

“I assume you looked for Maura Wells on your own?” Reynolds asks.


“And I assume you didn’t find her.”


“Any thoughts on where Maura’s been the past fifteen years?”

We are on the highway now, heading west. I am still trying to put this together. I try to place my memories of Maura in terms of Rex. I think about you now, Leo. You were friends with them both. Does that mean anything? Maybe, maybe not. We were all in the same graduating class, so we all knew one another. But how close was Maura to Rex? Had Rex perhaps recognized her by chance? And if so, does that mean she killed him?

“No,” I say. “No thoughts.”

“It’s odd,” Reynolds says. “There has been no recent activity for Maura Wells. No credit cards, no bank accounts, no IRS filings. We’re still checking the paper trail—”

“You won’t find anything,” I say.

“You’ve been checking.”

It’s not a question.

“When did Maura Wells fall off the radar?” she asks me.

“Far as I can tell,” I say, “fifteen years ago.”

Chapter Four

THE MURDER SCENE is a small stretch of the kind of quiet back road you might find near an airport or train depot. No residences. An industrial park that has seen better days. A sprinkling of what were either abandoned warehouses or ones on the way out.

We step out of the squad car. A few makeshift wooden horses block off the murder scene, but a vehicle could drive around them. So far I have seen none do so. I keep that in mind—the lack of traffic. The blood hasn’t been cleaned up yet. Someone did a chalk outline of where Rex fell. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those—an actual chalk outline.

“Walk me through it,” I say.

“You aren’t here as an investigator,” Bates snaps.

“You want to have a pissing contest,” I ask, “or you want to catch a cop killer?”

Bates gives me the narrow eyes. “Even if the cop killer is your old flame?”

Especially if. But I don’t say that out loud.

They take another minute to pretend to be difficult, and then Reynolds starts in. “Officer Rex Canton pulls over a Toyota Corolla in this area at approximately one fifteen A.M., purportedly for a DUI.”

“I assume Rex radioed it in?”

“He did, yes.”

That is protocol. If you stop a car, you radio in or look up the license plate number, see if the car is stolen, if there are any priors, that kind of thing. You also get the name of the car owner.

“So who owned the car?” I ask.

“It was a rental.”

That bothers me, but a lot about this bothers me.

I say, “It wasn’t one of the big chains, was it?”


“The rental company. It wasn’t, like, Hertz or Avis.”

“No, it was a small place called Sal’s.”

“Let me guess,” I say. “It was near an airport. No advance reservation.”

Reynolds and Bates share a glance. Bates says, “How do you know that?”

I ignore him and look at Reynolds.

“It was rented by a guy named Dale Miller from Portland, Maine,” Reynolds says.

“The ID,” I ask. “Was it fake or stolen?”

Another glance exchanged. “Stolen.”

I touch the blood. It’s dry. “CCTV cameras at the rental agency?”

“We should be getting the footage soon, but the guy working the desk said Dale Miller was an older man, sixties, maybe seventy.”

“Where was the rental car found?” I ask.

“Half mile from Philadelphia airport.”

“How many sets of fingerprints?”

“In the front seat? Just Maura Wells’s. The rental agency does a pretty thorough cleaning between customers.”

I nod. A truck makes the turn and cruises past us. This is the first vehicle I’ve seen on this road.

“Front seat,” I repeat.


“You said fingerprints in the front seat. Which side—passenger side or driver’s?”

Yet another glance exchanged.


I study the road, the position of the fallen body in chalk, try to piece it together. Then I turn and face them. “Theories?” I ask.

“Two people, a man and your ex, Maura, are in the car,” Reynolds says. “Officer Canton pulls them over for a DUI. Something spooks them. They panic, shoot Officer Canton twice in the back of the head, take off.”

“The man probably does the shooting,” Bates adds. “He’s out of the car. He fires, your ex slides to the driver’s side, he jumps in as a passenger. That would explain her fingerprints as both a passenger and a driver.”

“As we said before, the car was rented with a stolen ID,” Reynolds continues. “So we assume the man at the very least had something to hide. Canton pulls them over, figures something isn’t right—and it gets him killed.”

I nod as though I admire their handiwork. Their theory is wrong, but since I don’t yet have a better answer, there is no reason to antagonize them. They are holding out on me. I would probably do the same if the roles were reversed. I need to find out exactly what they aren’t telling me, and the only way to do that is to be nice.

I force up my most charming smile and say, “May I see the dash cam?”

That would be the key, of course. They don’t often show everything, but in this case, it would show enough. I wait for them to answer—they would have every right to stop cooperating now—but this time when they do the exchange-a-glance thing I sense something different.

They appear uncomfortable.

Bates says, “Why don’t you stop jerking us around first?”

So much for the charming smile.

“I was eighteen,” I say. “A senior in high school. Maura was my girlfriend.”

“And she broke up with you,” Bates says. “You told us this.”

Reynolds shushes him with a hand gesture. “What happened, Nap?”

“Maura’s mother,” I say. “You must have tracked her down. What did she say?”

“We’re asking the questions, Dumas,” Bates replies.

But again Reynolds gets that I want to help. “We found the mother, yes.”


“And she claims she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in years. That she has no idea where she is.”

“You talked to Mrs. Wells directly?”

Reynolds shakes her head. “She refused to speak with us. She issued this statement via counsel.”

So Mrs. Wells hired an attorney. “You buy her story?” I ask.

“Do you?”


I’m not ready to tell them this part yet. After Maura dumped me, I broke into her house. Yep, stupid, impulsive. Or maybe not. I was feeling lost and confused with the double whammy of losing a brother and then the love of my life. So maybe that explains it.

Why did I break in? I was searching for clues to Maura’s whereabouts. Me, an eighteen-year-old kid, playing detective. I didn’t find much, but I stole two things from her bathroom: a toothbrush and a glass. I had no inkling I was going to become a cop at the time, but I saved them, just in case. Don’t ask me why. But that’s how I got Maura’s prints and DNA into the system when I could.

Oh, and I got caught.

By the police nonetheless. Specifically, Captain Augie Styles.

You liked Augie, didn’t you, Leo?

Augie became something of a mentor to me after that night. He’s the reason I’m a cop now. He and Dad became friends too. Drinking buddies, I guess you’d call them. We all bonded in tragedy. It makes you grow close—someone else who gets what you’re going through—and yet pain is always there. A carrot-stick relationship, the pure definition of bittersweet.

“Why don’t you believe the mom?” Reynolds says.

“I kept tabs.”

“On your ex’s mother?” Bates is incredulous. “Christ, Dumas, you’re a full-fledged, card-carrying stalker.”

I pretend Bates isn’t here. “The mother gets calls from throwaway phones. Or at least, she used to.”

“And you know this how?” Bates asks.

I don’t reply.

“Did you have a warrant for checking her phone records?”

I don’t reply. I stare at Reynolds.

Reynolds says, “You figure it’s Maura calling her?”

I shrug.

“So why is your ex working so hard to stay hidden?”

I shrug again.

“You must have a thought,” Reynolds says.

I do. But I’m not ready to go there quite yet. The thought is, at first blush, both obvious and impossible. It took me a long time to accept it. I have run it by two people—Augie and Ellie—and both think I’m nuts.

“Show me the dash cam,” I say to her.

“We’re still asking questions,” Bates says.

“Show me the dash cam,” I say again, “and I think I can get to the bottom of this.”

Reynolds and Bates share another uncomfortable glance.

Reynolds steps toward me. “There is none.”

This surprises me. I can see that it surprises them too.

“It wasn’t on,” Bates says, like that explains it. “Canton was off duty.”

“We assume Officer Canton switched it off,” Reynolds says, “because he was heading back to the station.”

“What time does he get off?” I ask.