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The second time around, p.1
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       The Second Time Around, p.1

           Mary Higgins Clark
 
The Second Time Around


  Acclaim for THE QUEEN OF SUSPENSE

  #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

  MARY HIGGINS CLARK

  THE SECOND TIME AROUND

  “[Clark] knows how to spin an intriguing tale . . . she’s created a convincing heroine in Carley.”

  —Booklist

  DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL

  “Clark certainly has a few tricks left in her bag.”

  —Boston Globe

  “Her best in years . . . a tightly woven, emotionally potent tale of suspense and revenge. . . . With its textured plot, well-sketched secondary characters, strong pacing, and appealing heroine, this is Clark at her most winning.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Few stories of obsession will grab readers quite like this one.”

  —Ottowa Citizen

  “A fast and fascinating read.”

  —Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)

  “Daddy’s Little Girl is the best book Clark has written in two years. Her work seems somehow more solid, the plotting more deft. The . . . ending is so unexpected and harrowing I just had to sit back and allow the story to run through my mind until I absorbed the depth of all I’d just read.”

  —Tulsa World (OK)

  ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE

  “Is a reincarnated serial killer at work in a New Jersey resort town more than a century after he first drew blood? That’s the catchy premise that supports Clark’s 24th book. . . . This is a plot-driven novel, with Clark’s story mechanics at their peak of complexity, clever and tricky.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “A suspenseful page-turner that will delight her many fans.”

  —Booklist

  “The cleverly complex plot gallops along at a great clip, the little background details are au courant, and the identities of both murderers come as an enjoyable surprise. On the Street Where You Live just may be Clark’s best in years.”

  —Amazon.com

  BEFORE I SAY GOOD-BYE

  “Mary Higgins Clark knows what she’s doing. . . . This savvy author always comes up with something unexpected. . . . A hold-your-breath ending.”

  —The New York Times Book Review

  “Romantic suspense has no more reliable champion than Mary Higgins Clark. Her characters are . . . breezy and fun, and so is this confection of a book.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “For someone who loves plot, Mary Higgins Clark’s Before I Say Good-Bye should be like manna from heaven. . . . [The] ‘Queen of Suspense’ clearly knows what her readers want. Here she provides it, in spades.”

  —Los Angeles Times

  “A smooth and easy read.”

  —New York Post

  “The storytelling skills of the newest grandmaster of mystery writing have never been better.”

  —The Hartford Courant (CT)

  “Clark holds the reins the whole way through this tale of mischief and secrets, allowing us to unwind her labyrinth of hidden clues only as she wants them to unfold.”

  —The Christian Science Monitor

  “Characters so interesting the reader can identify with them in an instant.”

  —Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)

  Thank you for purchasing this Simon & Schuster eBook.

  * * *

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  CONTENTS

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Chapter Forty-Six

  Chapter Forty-Seven

  Chapter Forty-Eight

  Chapter Forty-Nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-One

  Chapter Fifty-Two

  Epilogue

  ‘Nighttime Is My Time’ Excerpt

  Once Again

  For my nearest and dearest—

  John Conheeney—Spouse Extraordinaire

  The Clark offspring—

  Marilyn, Warren and Sharon, David, Carol, and Pat

  The Clark grandchildren—

  Liz, Andrew, Courtney, David, Justin, and Jerry

  The Conheeney children—

  John and Debby, Barbara, Trish, Nancy and David

  The Conheeney grandchildren—

  Robert, Ashley, Lauren, Megan, David, Kelly,

  Courtney, Johnny, Thomas, and Liam

  You’re a grand bunch, and I love you all.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  The end of writing a story is the beginning of expressing gratitude to those who made the journey with me.

  My gratitude is endless to my longtime editor, Michael Korda. It is hard to believe that twenty-eight years have passed since we first started putting our heads together with Where Are the Children? It is a joy to work with him and for the last twelve years his associate, senior editor Chuck Adams. They are marvelous friends and advisors along the way.

  Lisl Cade, my publicist, is truly my right hand—encouraging, perceptive, helpful in ways too numerous to mention. Love you, Lisl.

  My gratitude continues to my agents Eugene Winick and Sam Pinkus. Truly friends for all seasons.

  Associate Director of Copyediting Gypsy da Silva has once again been marvelous and meticulous. Many, many thanks and kudos to you always.

  My gratitude to her associates Rose Ann Ferrick, Barbara Raynor, Steve Friedeman, Joshua Cohen, and Anthony Newfield.

  Again and always thanks and blessings to my assistants and friends Agnes Newton and Nadine Petry, and reader-in-progress, my sister-in-law, Irene Clark.

  My daughter and fellow author Carol Higgins Clark is always my valued and helpful sounding board. We continue to communicate the highs and lows of creativity—the high begins when the book is finished.

  I am so grateful to Clinical Research Associate Carlene McDevitt, who so willingly answered the questions I posed: Suppose? What if? If I got any details wrong when she answered those questions, I plead guilty.

  I close with my thanks to my husband, John, and our wonderful combined families, children and grandchildren, who are named in the dedication.

  And now, my dear readers, the tale has been told. I truly hope you enjoy.

&nb
sp; ONE

  The stockholders’ meeting, or maybe the stockholders’ uprising is a better way to describe the event, took place on April 21 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. It was an unseasonably cold and wintry day, but suitably bleak considering the circumstances. The headline two weeks earlier that Nicholas Spencer, president and chief operating officer of Gen-stone had been killed in the crash of his private plane while flying to San Juan had been greeted with genuine and heartfelt grief. His company expected to receive the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration for a vaccine that would both eliminate the possibility of the growth of cancer cells and bring to a halt the progression of the disease in those already afflicted—a preventive and a cure that he alone was responsible for bringing to the world. He named the company “Gen-stone,” a reference to the Rosetta stone that had unveiled the language of ancient Egypt and allowed the appreciation of its remarkable culture.

  The headline proclaiming Spencer’s disappearance was followed in short order by the announcement from the chairman of the board of Gen-stone that there had been numerous setbacks in the experiments with the vaccine and that it could not be submitted to the FDA for approval in the foreseeable future. The announcement further said that tens of millions of dollars had been looted from the company, apparently by Nicholas Spencer.

  I’m Marcia DeCarlo, better known as Carley, and even as I sat in the roped-off media section at the stockholders’ meeting, observing the furious or stunned or tearful faces around me, I still had a sense of disbelief in what I was hearing. Apparently Nicholas Spencer, Nick, was a thief and a fraud. The miracle vaccine was nothing more than the offspring of his greedy imagination and consummate salesmanship. He had cheated all these people who had invested so much money in his company, often their life savings or total assets. Of course they hoped to make money, but many believed as well that their investment would help make the vaccine a reality. And not only had investors been hurt, but the theft had made worthless the retirement funds of Gen-stone’s employees, over a thousand people. It simply didn’t seem possible.

  Since Nicholas Spencer’s body had not washed ashore along with charred pieces of his doomed plane, half the people in the auditorium didn’t believe he was dead. The other half would willingly have driven a stake through his heart if his remains had been discovered.

  Charles Wallingford, the chairman of the board of Gen-stone, ashen-faced but with the natural elegance that is achieved by generations of breeding and privilege, struggled to bring the meeting to order. Other members of the board, their expressions somber, sat on the dais with him. To a man they were prominent figures in business and society. In the second row were people I recognized as executives from Genstone’s accounting firm. Some of them had been interviewed from time to time in Weekly Browser, the syndicated Sunday supplement for which I write a financial column.

  Sitting to the right of Wallingford, her face alabaster pale, her blond hair twisted into a French knot, and dressed in a black suit that I’m sure cost a fortune, was Lynn Hamilton Spencer. She is Nick’s wife—or widow—and, coincidentally my stepsister whom I’ve met exactly three times and whom I confess I dislike. Let me explain. Two years ago my widowed mother married Lynn’s widowed father, having met him in Boca Raton where they lived in neighboring condominiums.

  At the dinner the evening before the wedding, I was as annoyed by Lynn Spencer’s condescending attitude as I was charmed by Nicholas Spencer. I knew who he was, of course. The stories about him in Time and Newsweek had been detailed. He was the son of a Connecticut family doctor, a general practitioner whose avocation was research biology. His father had a laboratory in his home, and from the time that Nick was a child, he spent most of his free time there, helping his dad with experiments. “Other kids had dogs,” he had explained to interviewers. “I had pet mice. I didn’t know it, but I was being tutored in microbiology by a genius.” He had gone the business route, getting an MBA in business management with the plan of owning a medical supply operation someday. He started work at a small supply business and quickly rose to the top and became a partner. Then, as microbiology became the wave of the future, he began to realize that was the field he wanted to pursue. He began to reconstruct his father’s notes and discovered that shortly before his sudden death his father had been on the verge of making a major breakthrough in cancer research. Using his medical supply company as a base, he set out to create a major research division.

  Venture capital had helped him launch Gen-stone, and word of the cancer-inhibiting vaccine had made the company the hottest stock on Wall Street. Initially offered at $3 a share, the stock had risen as high as $160, and conditional on FDA approval, Garner Pharmaceutical contracted to pay $1 billion for the rights to distribute the new vaccine.

  I knew that Nick Spencer’s wife had died of cancer five years ago, that he had a ten-year-old son, and that he’d been married to Lynn, his second wife, for four years. But all the time I spent boning up on his background didn’t help when I met him at that “family” dinner. I simply was not prepared for the absolutely magnetic quality of Nick Spencer’s personality. He was one of those people who are gifted with both inherent personal charm and a genuinely brilliant mind. A little over six feet tall, with dark blond hair, intensely blue eyes, and a trim athletic body, he was physically very attractive. It was his ability to interact with people, however, that came through as his greatest asset. As my mother attempted to keep the conversational ball going with Lynn, I found myself telling Nick more about myself than I had ever revealed to anyone at a first meeting.

  Within five minutes he knew my age, where I lived, my job, and where I grew up.

  “Thirty-two,” he said, smiling. “Eight years younger than I am.”

  Then I not only told him that I had been divorced after a brief marriage to a fellow MBA student at NYU, but even talked about the baby who lived only a few days because the hole in his heart was too big to close. This was so not like me. I never talk about the baby. It hurts too much. And yet it was easy to tell Nicholas Spencer about him.

  “That’s the sort of tragedy our research will prevent someday,” he had said gently. “That’s why I’ll move heaven and earth to save people from the kind of heartbreak you’ve experienced, Carley.”

  My thoughts were quickly brought back to the present reality as Charles Wallingford hammered the gavel until there was silence—an angry, sullen silence. “I am Charles Wallingford, the chairman of the board of Gen-stone,” he said.

  He was greeted with a deafening chorus of boos and catcalls.

  I knew Wallingford was forty-eight or forty-nine years old, and I had seen him on the news the day after Spencer’s plane crashed. He looked much older than that now. The strain of the last few weeks had added years to his appearance. No one could doubt that the man was suffering.

  “I worked with Nicholas Spencer for the past eight years,” he said. “I had just sold our family retail business, of which I was chairman, and I was looking for a chance to invest in a promising company. I met Nick Spencer, and he convinced me that the company he had just started would make startling breakthroughs in the development of new drugs. At his urging I invested almost all the proceeds from the sale of our family business and joined Gen-stone. So I am as devastated as you are by the fact that the vaccine is not ready to be submitted to the FDA for approval, but that does not mean if more funds become available, further research will not solve the problem—”

  Dozens of shouted questions interrupted him: “What about the money he stole?” “Why not admit that you and that whole bunch up there cheated us?”

  Abruptly Lynn stood up and in a surprise gesture pulled the microphone from in front of Wallingford. “My husband died on his way to a business meeting to get more funding to keep the research alive. I am sure that the missing money can be explained—”

  One man came running up the aisle waving pages that looked as though they had been torn from magazines and newspapers. “The Spencers on the
ir estate in Bedford,” he shouted. “The Spencers hosting a charity ball. Nicholas Spencer smiling as he writes a check for ‘New York’s Neediest.’ “

  Security guards grabbed the man’s arms as he reached the dais. “Where did you think that money was coming from, lady? I’ll tell you where. It came from our pockets! I put a second mortgage on my house to invest in your lousy company. You wanna know why? Because my kid has cancer, and I believed your husband’s promise about his vaccine.”

  The media section was in the first few rows. I was in an end seat and could have reached out and touched the man. He was a burly-looking guy of about thirty, dressed in a sweater and jeans. I watched as his face suddenly crumpled and he began to cry. “I won’t even be able to keep my little girl in our house,” he said. “I’ll have to sell it now.”

  I looked up at Lynn and our eyes met. I knew it was impossible for her to see the contempt in my eyes, but all I could think was that the diamond on her finger was probably worth enough to pay off the second mortgage that was going to cost a dying child her home.

  * * *

  The meeting didn’t last more than forty minutes, and most of it consisted of a series of agonized recitals from people who had lost everything by investing in Genstone. Many of them said they had been persuaded to buy the stock because a child or other family member had a disease that the vaccine might reverse.

  As people streamed out, I took names, addresses, and phone numbers. Thanks to my column, a lot of them knew my name and were eager to talk to me about their financial loss as well. They asked whether or not I thought there was any chance of recouping some or all of their investment.

  Lynn had left the meeting by a side door. I was glad. I had written her a note after Nick’s plane crashed, letting her know I would attend a memorial service. There hadn’t been one yet; they were waiting to see if his body would be recovered. Now, like almost everyone else, I wondered if Nick had actually been in the plane when it crashed or if he had rigged his disappearance.

  I felt a hand on my arm. It was Sam Michaelson, a veteran reporter for Wall Street Weekly magazine. “Buy you a drink, Carley,” he offered.

 
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