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Nighttime is my time, p.1
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       Nighttime Is My Time, p.1

           Mary Higgins Clark
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Nighttime Is My Time


  Acclaim for THE QUEEN OF SUSPENSE

  #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

  MARY HIGGINS CLARK

  THE SECOND TIME AROUND

  “Clark keeps the chase lively throughout.”

  —People

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

  —Booklist

  “There’s something special about Clark’s thrillers. . . . Grace, charm, and solid storytelling.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL

  “Clark’s best journalism novel.”

  —Atlanta Constitution

  “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)

  “The plot is classic Clark, except the author tells her story from a first-person perspective. She pulls it off well.”

  —Star Ledger (NJ)

  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. . . . [A] plot-driven novel.”

  —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 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Chapter 60

  Chapter 61

  Chapter 62

  Chapter 63

  Chapter 64

  Chapter 65

  Chapter 66

  Chapter 67

  Chapter 68

  Chapter 69

  Chapter 70

  Chapter 71

  Chapter 72

  Chapter 73

  Chapter 74

  Chapter 75

  Chapter 76

  Chapter 77

  Chapter 78

  Chapter 79

  Chapter 80

  Chapter 81

  Chapter 82

  Chapter 83

  Chapter 84

  Chapter 85

  Chapter 86

  Chapter 87

  Chapter 88

  Chapter 89

  Chapter 90

  Chapter 91

  Chapter 92

  Chapter 93

  Chapter 94

  Chapter 95

  Chapter 96

  Chapter 97

  Epilogue

  ‘No Place Like Home’ Excerpt

  About Mary Higgins Clark

  For Vincent Viola, a proud West Point graduate, and his lovely wife, Theresa, with affection and friendship.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  I am frequently asked if the longer I write, the easier it gets. I wish that were true, but it simply isn’t. Each story is a new challenge, a new landscape to fill with characters and events. That is why I am so grateful to those same people who are always there for me, especially when I’m beginning to wonder if I really can tell the tale the way I hope to tell it.

  Michael Korda has been my editor ever since my first suspense fiction novel thirty years ago. He has been friend, mentor, and editor par excellence for three decades. Senior editor Chuck Adams has been part of our team for the last dozen years. I am grateful to both of them for everything they do to guide this writer along the way.

  My literary agents, Eugene Winick and Sam Pinkus, are true friends, good critics, and great supporters. I love them. Dr. Ina Winick brings her psychological expertise to assist me on the workings of the human mind.

  Lisl Cade, my publicist and dear friend, is always there for me.

  Many thanks to Michael Goldstein, Esq., and Meyer Last, Esq., for their valuable assistance in answering my queries about adoption law and procedure.

  Again and always a tip of the hat to Associate Director of Copyediting, Gypsy da Silva, and her team: Rose Ann Ferrick, Anthony Newfield, Bill Molesky, and Joshua Cohen, and to Detective Richard Murphy and Sgt. Steven Marron, Ret., for their contin
uing support and guidance.

  Agnes Newton, Nadine Petry, and Irene Clark are always in my corner on my literary journeys.

  The special joy is that after the story is told, I celebrate with my nearest and dearest, the children and grandchildren and, of course, “Himself,” my marvelous husband, John Conheeney.

  And now I hope you, my valued readers, enjoy the goings-on at a deadly twentieth class reunion in the beautiful Hudson Valley.

  The definition of an owl had always pleased him: A night bird of prey . . . sharp talons and soft plumage which permits noiseless flight . . . applied figuratively to a person of nocturnal habits. “I am The Owl,” he would whisper to himself after he had selected his prey, “and nighttime is my time.”

  1

  It was the third time in a month he had come to Los Angeles to observe her daily activities. “I know your comings and goings,” he whispered as he waited in the pool house. It was one minute of seven. The morning sun was filtering through the trees, causing the waterfall that spilled into the pool to sparkle and shimmer.

  He wondered if Alison could sense that she had only one minute more of life on earth. Did she have an uneasy feeling, perhaps a subconscious urge to skip her swim this morning? Even if she did, it wouldn’t do her any good. It was too late.

  The sliding glass door opened, and she stepped onto the patio. Thirty-eight years old, she was infinitely more attractive than she had been twenty years ago. Her body, tanned and sleek, looked good in the bikini. Her hair, now honey blond, framed and softened her sharp chin.

  She tossed the towel she was carrying onto a lounge chair. The blinding anger that had been simmering inside him escalated into rage, but then, just as quickly, was replaced by the satisfaction of knowing what he was about to do. He had seen an interview in which a daredevil stunt diver swore that the moment before he began to dive, knowing that he was risking his life, was an indescribable thrill, a sensation he needed to repeat over and over again.

  For me it’s different, he thought. The moment before I reveal myself to them is what gives me the thrill. I know they’re going to die, and when they see me, they know, too. They understand what I am going to do to them.

  Alison stepped onto the diving board and stretched. He watched as she bounced softly, testing the board, then positioned her arms in front of her.

  He opened the door of the pool house just as her feet lifted from the board. He wanted her to see him when she was in midair. Just before she hit the water. He wanted her to understand how vulnerable she was.

  In that split second, their eyes locked. He caught her expression as she plunged into the water. She was terrified, aware that she was incapable of flight.

  He was in the pool before she had surfaced. He hugged her against his chest, laughing as she flailed about, kicking her feet. How foolish she was. She should simply accept the inevitable. “You’re going to die,” he whispered, his voice calm, even.

  Her hair was in his face, blinding him. Impatiently he shook it away. He didn’t want to be distracted from the pleasure of feeling her struggle.

  The end was coming. In her craving for breath, she had opened her mouth and was gulping water. He felt her final frantic effort to break away from him, then the hopelessly feeble tremors as her body began to go limp. He pressed her close, wishing he could read her mind. Was she praying? Was she begging God to save her? Was she seeing the light that people who have experienced a near-death event claim to have seen?

  He waited a full three minutes before he released her. With a satisfied smile he watched as her body sank to the bottom of the pool.

  It was five minutes after seven when he climbed out of the pool, pulled on a sweatshirt, shorts, sneakers, a cap, and dark glasses. He had already chosen the spot where he would leave the silent reminder of his visit, the calling card that everybody always missed.

  At six minutes past seven he began to jog down the quiet street, another early morning fitness buff in a city of fitness buffs.

  2

  Sam Deegan had not intended to open the file on Karen Sommers that afternoon. He’d been fishing through the bottom drawer of his desk in search of the packet of cold pills he vaguely remembered having stashed there. When his fingers touched the well-worn and troublingly familiar folder, he hesitated and then, with a grimace, pulled it out and opened it. When he looked at the date on the first page, he realized that he had been subconsciously intending to find it. The anniversary of Karen Sommers’ death was Columbus Day, twenty years ago next week.

  The file ought to have been kept with the other unsolved cases, but three successive Orange County prosecutors had indulged his need to keep it at his fingertips. Twenty years ago Sam had been the first detective to arrive in response to the frantic phone call from a woman screaming that her daughter had been stabbed.

  Minutes later, when he had arrived at the house on Mountain Road in Cornwall-on-Hudson, he had found the victim’s bedroom crowded with shocked and horrified onlookers. One neighbor was bent over the bed uselessly trying to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Others were attempting to pull the hysterical parents away from the heartbreaking sight of their daughter’s brutalized body.

  Karen Sommers’ shoulder-length hair was spilling onto the pillow. When he yanked the would-be rescuer back, Sam could see the vicious stab wounds in Karen’s chest and heart that must have caused instant death and had drenched the sheets with her blood.

  He remembered his initial thought had been that the young woman probably never even heard her attacker enter her room. She probably never woke up, he reflected, shaking his head as he opened the folder. The mother’s screams had attracted not only neighbors but a landscaper and delivery man who were on the premises next door. The result was a thoroughly compromised crime scene.

  There had been no signs of forced entry. Nothing was missing. Karen Sommers had been a twenty-two-year-old first-year medical student who surprised her parents by coming home for an overnight visit. The logical suspect was her ex-boyfriend, Cyrus Lindstrom, a third-year law student at Columbia. He admitted that Karen had told him she wanted both of them to start seeing other people, but he also insisted that he had agreed it was a good idea because neither one of them was ready for a serious commitment. His alibi—that he had been asleep in the apartment he shared with three other law students—was verified, although all three roommates admitted they had gone to bed by midnight and therefore did not know whether or not Lindstrom had left the apartment after that time. Karen’s death was estimated to have taken place between two and three in the morning.

  Lindstrom had visited the Sommers house a few times. He knew a spare key was kept under the fake rock near the back door. He knew that Karen’s room was the first one to the right off the back staircase. But that wasn’t proof that in the middle of the night he had driven fifty miles from Amsterdam Avenue and 104th Street in Manhattan to Cornwall-on-Hudson and killed her.

  “A person of interest”—that’s what we call people like Lindstrom today, Sam reflected. I always thought that guy was as guilty as sin. I could never understand why the Sommers family stood by him. God, you’d have thought they were defending their own son.

  Impatiently, Sam dropped the file on his desk, got up, and walked to the window. From his perspective he could see the parking lot, and he remembered the time a prisoner on trial for murder had overpowered a guard, dropped out the window of the courthouse, raced across the lot, mugged a guy getting into his car, and driven away.

  We got him in twenty minutes, Sam thought. So why in twenty years can’t I find the animal who killed Karen Sommers? For my money, it’s still Lindstrom.

  Lindstrom was now a high-powered New York criminal attorney. He’s a master at getting the murdering bums off, Sam thought. Appropriate, since he’s one of them.

  He shrugged. It was a rotten day, rainy and unusually cold for early October. I used to love this job, he thought, but it’s not the same anymore. I’m ready to retire. I’m fifty-eight y
ears old; I’ve been at police work most of my life. I should just take the pension and run. Lose a little weight. Visit the kids and spend more time with the grandkids. Before you know it, they’ll be in college.

  He had a vague sense of a headache brewing as he ran a hand through his thinning hair. Kate used to tell me to stop doing that, he thought. She said I was weakening the roots.

  With a half smile at his late wife’s unscientific analysis of his approaching baldness, he went back to his desk and stared down again at the file marked “Karen Sommers.”

  He still regularly visited Karen’s mother, Alice, who had moved to a condominium in town. He knew it comforted her to feel that they were still trying to find the person who had taken her daughter’s life, but it was more than that. Sam had a feeling that someday Alice would mention something that had never occurred to her as being important, something that would be the first step toward finding out who had gone into Karen’s room that night.

  That’s what has kept me in this job the last couple of years, he thought. I wanted so much to solve this case, but I can’t wait any longer.

  He went back to his desk, opened the bottom drawer, and then hesitated. He should let it go. It was time to put this folder with the other unsolved cases in the general file. He’d done his best. For the first twelve years after the murder, he’d gone to the cemetery on the anniversary. He’d stayed there all day, hidden behind a mausoleum, watching Karen’s grave. He’d even wired the tombstone to catch anything a visitor might say. There’d been some cases where killers had been caught because they’d paid an anniversary visit to their victim’s grave, even talking about the crime to their victim.

  The only people who ever came to Karen’s grave on the anniversary were her parents, and it had been a gutwrenching intrusion of privacy to hear them reminisce about their only daughter. He’d given up going there eight years ago, after Michael Sommers died and Alice came alone to stand at the grave where her husband and daughter were now resting side by side. That was when he walked away, not wanting to be a witness to her grief. He’d never gone back.

  Sam stood up and put the Karen Sommers file under his arm, his decision made. He wouldn’t look at it again. And next week, on the twentieth anniversary of Karen’s death, he’d put in his retirement papers.

 
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