The Best Revenge

( 24 )

Overview

In a riveting new novel of psychological suspense, Stephen White shines a brilliant light on the darkness that hides just beneath the surface of ordinary lives, on the fears that cripple us and the prisons we create—prisons of the body, mind, and spirit. A thriller of runaway tension, taps into our most closely guarded fears, taking us on a harrowing journey into a realm of terror and pain, of love gone wrong and vengeance gone mad.

Psychologist Alan Gregory is living through a ...

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Overview

In a riveting new novel of psychological suspense, Stephen White shines a brilliant light on the darkness that hides just beneath the surface of ordinary lives, on the fears that cripple us and the prisons we create—prisons of the body, mind, and spirit. A thriller of runaway tension, taps into our most closely guarded fears, taking us on a harrowing journey into a realm of terror and pain, of love gone wrong and vengeance gone mad.

Psychologist Alan Gregory is living through a season of discontent. With a new daughter, a wonderful wife, and a prospering career, he has little to complain about and lots of regrets: past cases that won’t let him go, patients who don’t get better, and a growing unease with keeping secrets. But Gregory has two new patients who will drag him out of his introspection—and dare him to enter a storm of injustice and revenge.

FBI special agent Kelda James is a hero, a woman who as a rookie agent made a choice, drew her gun, and saved a life, taking another. Now Kelda is hiding from the world a secret pain that is gradually crippling her body—and she has turned to Alan Gregory to help free her from the prison of her pain. Then Kelda refers a patient to Gregory, who is terrifyingly dangerous to them both.

Tom Clone served thirteen years on Colorado’s death row for a crime he claimed he didn’t commit—until an FBI agent dug up evidence that set him free. The agent’s name: Kelda James. With both Kelda and Clone telling him their innermost secrets, Alan Gregory becomes the one person who can piece together an extraordinary puzzle—of two unsolved violent deaths of vulnerable women, of a man who may be innocent or may be very lucky, and of the strange, fatal attraction between two people trapped in a horrific plot to get revenge—at any price.

A thriller that delivers a stunning body-blow of a surprise ending, captures lives colliding at unpredictable angles, probing the dangerous lies people tell to each other and themselves. In this astonishing work by a novelist at the height of his powers, Stephen White brilliantly blends thrilling action and breakneck pacing with unrivaled insight into the human mind, heart, and psyche.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tired of humdrum cases, Alan Gregory welcomes two new patients-FBI agent Kelda James and released death row inmate Tom Clone-in this latest thriller by White (The Program; Warning Signs; etc.) to feature the crime-solving clinical psychologist from Boulder, Colo. Referred to Dr. Gregory by a neurologist treating her for leg pain, Kelda is famous for saving a six-year-old kidnap victim. She also uncovers DNA evidence that overturns the murder conviction of former medical student Tom Clone after he spends 13 years behind bars. She picks Tom up at the prison, treats him to breakfast, drives him to his grandfather's house, pulls a gun on his arresting officers when they harass him and gives Tom her own shrink's number after his grandfather insists he try therapy. In fact, Kelda spends more time with Tom than with her boyfriend, Ira. Still, Tom quickly finds himself in trouble with the law. Two narratives-one Dr. Gregory's, the other Kelda's-come together as her story and Tom's reach a common climax in a mountain hideaway where Kelda, Tom, Ira, the harassing officers, Dr. Gregory and his good friend, Det. Sam Purdy, come together to solve an old crime and prevent a new one. Gregory's role in this novel is to listen to the protagonists and help the reader understand them. He also considers patient confidentiality and front-page news in rambling passages that slow but do not hamper the otherwise fast-paced plot. After a surprise twist, White provides amply plausible explanations for what seem like implausible actions, shedding light on human motivation with personal insights into the psychology of guilt, stress, fear and justice. Major ad/promo; simultaneous release as a Delacorte e-book. (Feb. 4) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
White's recurring hero, Boulder, CO, psychologist Alan Gregory, is having a career crisis. Patients like Kelda James and Tom Clone bring him into the conflict between the law and confidentiality. FBI agent James is a hero, having saved a little girl from a child molester several years before becoming a patient of Alan's. Suffering from leg pains, Kelda sees a neurologist, who recommends counseling to alleviate her distress and help in her overall treatment. Still at work, she gets enough evidence to free Tom from prison for a murder he did not commit. What happens between Tom and Kelda involves kidnapping, torture, and a crooked policeman, all leading to an intriguing and suspenseful climax. Dick Hill, an excellent narrator, has performed previous works by the author. He provides an individual voice to each character and just the right pace. A great companion for library users getting ready for that long road trip.-Steven J. Mayover, formerly with Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
White injects Boulder psychologist Alan Gregory into the wild and wooly saga of a convicted killer released from Death Row to the even more dangerous world outside. Thirteen years ago, medical student Tom Clone, traumatized even as a child by his manic-depressive mother’s suicidal throat-cutting, tried to stop Ivy Campbell when she broke up with him. Tried too hard, according to a jury of his peers, who found Tom guilty of murder. Now Kelda James, an FBI agent who made her reputation by rescuing little Rosa Alija from a kidnapper Kelda shot dead, has acted on a telephone tip to find the long-missing knife that slit Ivy’s throat, and DNA analysis establishes that Ivy’s blood is on it and Tom’s isn’t. With the least possible fanfare, Tom’s released from prison, and Kelda’s waiting outside to buy him breakfast at a posh Denver hotel and drive him back to his grandfather’s house—if the pair of menacing Park County detectives who investigated Ivy’s murder and aren’t ready to accept Tom’s exoneration don’t stop her by force. Kelda even hooks Tom up with her own psychotherapist, Dr. Gregory (The Program, 2002, etc.), who makes scant progress with Tom but is soon connecting Kelda’s psychosomatic leg pains to her school friend Joan Winslett’s accidental death in Hawaii just a few weeks after Ivy’s murder. A patient analyst might eventually have sorted out all the resulting suspicions, neuroses, and betrayals, but instead of giving his unlikely detective a fair chance, White opts for the action route via a second kidnapping, a high-country shoot-’em-up, and a denouement that leaves one forlorn participant protesting, "This [is] the goofiest thing I’ve ever heard." White handles his suspensefulset-pieces with all his accustomed authority, but the case he’s lavished them on is a farrago of coincidences, absurdities, and pitifully shadowy and unmotivated conspirators from beginning to end.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440237426
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/2/2003
  • Series: Dr. Alan Gregory Series , #11
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 246,783
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 5.55 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen White
Stephen White is a clinical psychologist and the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels, including Kill Me and Dry Ice. He lives in Colorado.

Biography

Anyone who has ever tried his or her hand at writing has surely heard the sage advice "write what you know." Stephen White has most-assuredly taken that bit of wisdom to heart in creating his thrilling series of Alan Gregory novels. A clinical psychologist, White has crafted a character with a similar background that has also benefited from his fifteen years of professional practice.

White has been keeping fans of psychological thrillers on the edges of their seats ever since he published his first novel Privileged Information in 1991. The book introduced his literary alter ego Dr. Alan Gregory and made ample use of everything he'd gleaned while working as a practicing psychologist. "There are two benefits of my previous experience as a psychologist that I consider invaluable to my life as a writer," White revealed in an interview on his web site (www.authorstephenwhite.com). "The first is that my work gave me a chance to observe and study the infinite varieties of motivation that human beings have for their behavior. The other is that being a psychotherapist exposed me to dialogue in its purest form. For eight to ten hours a day over a period of fifteen years I had the privilege of sitting and listening to a wide variety of people just talk. I can't imagine a better training ground for writing dialogue."

As for how similar he truly is to his most-famous creation beyond their shared profession, White says, "The similarities don't exactly end there but there's no need to exaggerate them, either. Although neither of us is a model of mental health, his neuroses are different than mine. And he has advantages that I never had as a psychotherapist. First, he has the benefit of all my years of experience. And second, I get to think about his lines as long as I'd like. Real patients never offer that luxury." The resulting debut novel won rave reviews from the likes of The New York Daily News, Publisher's Weekly, and The Library Journal and established White as a writer to watch.

White followed Privileged Information with over a dozen additional installments of the Alan Gregory adventures. The latest may very well be the most exciting and psychologically provocative episode yet. In Kill Me, a happily-married extreme sports enthusiast and patient of Gregory's makes a deal with a clandestine organization called Death Angels Inc. that may very well bring his life to an untimely end. As always, Dr. Alan Gregory is present, but he plays more of a background role than he does in most of White's other novels. Still, fans of White's previous work will surely be captivated by the novel that Booklist has deemed "Bizarre, thrilling, and oh so much fun" and fellow bestselling writer Michael Connelly (Blood Work, The Closers) asserts is "his best yet."

In any event, White has no immediate plans of abandoning Gregory to write a non-series novel. "My series is commercially successful, thanks to all of you," he says. "As important for me as the commercial success is, the fact [is] that the series is also creatively flexible.... [I] anticipate staying with the series as long as the readers are interested..." If that's the case, then readers can expect the Dr. Alan Gregory to have a long and psychologically healthy life.

Good To Know

Contrary to the rumor mill, the Stephen White who created Alan Gregory is not the same Stephen White who has written a series of books about...ahem ... Barney the Purple Dinosaur. However, White admits that he has occasionally signed the other Stephen White's Barney books when asked to.

For those who are wondering what ever happened to the seemingly long-lost book Saints and Sinners, which was excerpted in Private Practices, you may have already read it without even realizing. Shortly before publication, the title Saints and Sinners was changed to Higher Authority. Some interesting outtakes from our interview with White:

"Jonathan Kellerman and I were colleagues in the early 1980's before either of us were novelists. At a time when our nascent field was very small, we were both psychologists specializing in the psychological aspects of childhood cancer. Jon was at Los Angeles Childrens Hospital. I was at The Children's Hospital in Denver."

"My brother is a better writer than I am."

"One of my first jobs was as a tour guide at Universal Studios. I lasted five weeks. That's two weeks longer than I lasted as a creative writing major during my freshman year at the University of California."

"I worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971-72, running the upstairs café, waiting tables, and occasionally doing some cooking. Two of my bosses were Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower. They both cook better than I write. Jeremiah actually writes better than I cook."

"I learned to fly an airplane before I learned to drive a car".

"I'm a lucky man. I've spent much of my adult life in two terrific, rewarding careers. In the first, as a clinical psychologist, I spent eight to twelve hours a day in a room with one other person. In the second, as a writer, I spend a similar number of hours a day in a room with no other person, though sometimes I'm blessed with the company of a dog or two."

"A primary difference between the two experiences? As a psychotherapist, only one other person -- my patient -- typically observed my work. Virtually no one ever critiqued it. As a novelist, literally millions of people observe my work, and most feel no compunction whatsoever about critiquing it. Being a writer is a lovely thing. But adapting to the reality of being read has been a constant source of wonder for me."

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    1. Hometown:
      Colorado
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 20, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Long Island, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., UC Berkeley, 1972; M.A., University of Colorado, Boulder, 1975; Ph.D., 1979
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Prologue 1997

If Kelda James hadn’t been wearing inch-and-a-half heels and the toilet paper roll hadn’t been empty, Rosa Alija would probably be dead.

At about ten-twenty that morning Kelda had excused herself from her fellow FBI agents and followed directions to the restroom–down the long hall, go left, last door on the right. The bathroom was a step up from what she had expected to find, given the tacky condition of the rest of the building. She was relieved to see that the sink was reasonably clean and the toilet seat wasn’t stained with yellow coins of urine. The only problem was that there was no toilet paper on the cardboard roll.

Kelda stepped back out into the hall to retrace her route and retrieve her shoulder bag and its stash of tissues, but noticed a closet marked “Utility” adjacent to the bathroom. The knob on the door wasn’t locked and she found herself staring into a space about six feet square. A window was mounted high on the wall, dividing the small room in half. A jumble of brooms and mops leaned against a cracked porcelain sink on one side; the opposite side was stacked with particleboard shelves piled high with what appeared to be a lifetime supply of paper towels, soap, disinfectants, and toilet paper. Kelda reached onto an upper shelf for a fresh roll of toilet tissue and reflexively glanced over the sill and out the window as she rotated back toward the door.

The window overlooked the alley behind the building. Across the alley was the back of a single-story light-industrial building not noticeably different from the one that Kelda and her FBI colleagues had just raided.

Except for the hand.

Kelda was sure that for a split second she had glimpsed a hand in a window of the building across the alley. In her mind she was already considering it to have been a tiny hand, a child’s hand.

She approached the utility closet window, stood on her toes, and peered again at the building across the alley. No hand. She raised her fingers to the sill to hold herself up and examined the distant window in detail. The bottom edge of the cloudy pane was streaked with parallel vertical lines that could have been made by fingers.

Tiny fingers. Child’s fingers.

“Oh my God,” she said.

Fresh out of the FBI Academy, Special Agent Kelda James had been in the Denver, Colorado, field office for all of five weeks. Her initial assignment was to a squad that investigated white-collar crime, and that morning she had been ordered to accompany three other agents–all male, all senior to her, all somewhere between significantly and maximally apprehensive of her skills–to serve a federal warrant and raid a company called Account Assistants, Inc., on Delaware Street in Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood. The company did contract billing for medical practices, and the raid was intended to collect evidence of suspected Medicare fraud.

For an FBI white-collar crime squad, this was routine stuff.

Prior to entering the FBI Academy, Kelda had earned her credentials as a certified public accountant and had spent a few years investigating fraud for an international insurance company. Her role in the raid of Account Assistants, Inc., was to cover the back door as the raid started and, later, to use her forensic accounting background to help make certain that the agents didn’t fail to retrieve any records that they might ultimately need to press their case against the firm.

Most important, though, she knew that her primary responsibility was to remember at all times that she was the new guy, or in FBI parlance, “the fucking new guy.” Her primary responsibility was not to screw up.

Later in the day, after she and the other agents had finished collecting the evidence and had transported the boxes back to the Denver Field Office, Kelda figured that she–the fucking new guy–would be the one who would be assigned to spend the next few weeks sitting at her Bureau desk examining the mind-numbing details of the service and billing records, trying to use Account Assistants, Inc.’s own numbers to prove the fraud case that had spawned the warrant and the raid.

It’s what she did. And she knew she did it well.

That was what she was contemplating when she saw the hand flash across the window a second time. But as swiftly as it appeared in the window, the little hand disappeared again.

A more experienced agent might have gone back to her squad, reported what she’d seen, and asked one of her colleagues to accompany her across the alley to investigate the fleeting hand. A more experienced agent–one who wasn’t a bookish young woman with an accounting degree whose colleagues called her Clarice behind her back–would have been less concerned about the scorn she would suffer if she pulled a fellow agent–or two, or three–away from important work to search the back of an adjacent building because she thought that maybe she had seen a child’s hand in the bottom of a window.

Kelda could only imagine the relentless ridicule she would endure from her fellow agents after word spread in the field office that she had begged for assistance in checking out what would probably turn out to be nothing more nefarious than an unlicensed day-care facility.

Kelda moved out of the utility closet, closed the door, and took three steps farther down the hall to a door that was marked “Exit.” An hour and a half earlier she’d stood in the alley on the other side of this very door in case any of the principals of Account Assistants, Inc., tried to flee out the back as the FBI team announced the raid and the warrant was served by the agents who entered the building through the door at the front.

She checked the inside of the exit door for an alarm: She couldn’t spot any electronic devices attached to the heavy door that would announce that she had opened it. She stepped outside, propped the door open with a softball-sized piece of concrete, and then jogged across the alley to the window with the streaky glass and the disappearing tiny hand.

Two days before, six-year-old Rosa Alija had vanished from the playground of her elementary school’s summer day camp near Thirty-second and Federal on Denver’s near west side. The other children on the playground told police conflicting tales of a van or truck that was gray or brown and one man who was white or two men who were black or two men and a woman who were all kinds of different combinations of races and colors who had waited for a child to chase a ball into the field adjacent to the school and then, when Rosa Alija had been that child, had scooped her up, covered her mouth, and carried her away in the van or truck.

Some of the child witnesses reported that Rosa had kicked her legs and cried. Others maintained she was already dead by the time she got to the van.

No adult reported seeing a thing.

And no one had seen Rosa since. The girl’s frantic parents, an independent landscaper named José Alija and his receptionist wife, Maria, waited in vain for a ransom demand. But neither the police nor the local FBI office expected to hear from Rosa’s abductors. The Alijas weren’t the type of family who were chosen for a kidnapping for ransom.

Rosa Alija had been taken for some other purpose.

Denver mobilized in an unprecedented fashion to find the girl. Hun- dreds of citizens–Hispanic, white, black, Native American, Asian–searched the city for little Rosa. Posses of private citizens scoured the banks of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. The huge expanse of rail yard between her school and Lower Downtown was searched, and the interior of every last boxcar in the yard was examined. Her picture was featured on the front page of both daily papers, and the quest to find her dominated the local TV and radio news.

Bloodhounds tracked her route away from the school. The dogs seemed confident that her abductor had taken her down Speer Boulevard after the kidnapping, but the hounds lost the scent near the spot where Speer intersected with Interstate 25. The cops knew that once Rosa’s abductors had her on Denver’s main freeway, they could have taken her anywhere.

Anywhere. The Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Great Basin. North to Wyoming, south to New Mexico. Anywhere.

Even into the back room of a light-industrial building in one of Denver’s transitional urban neighborhoods.

The bottom of the window in the building across the alley was level with the top of Kelda’s head. She listened for the sounds of children playing, but all she heard was the sough of distant traffic on Speer Boulevard; she heard nothing to convince herself that she’d stumbled onto a day-care facility. A moment’s contemplation failed to suggest any other good reason that a small child would be scratching at the glass in a back room in a building in this neighborhood.

Kelda grabbed a discarded plastic milk crate from the alley and carried it back toward the window to check and see what was inside the building.

Before she had a chance to step onto the crate, she saw the hand again. It was reaching, groping, the fingers extended against the bottom edge of the pane, but they could only stay there for a second or two. Kelda imagined that every time the girl lifted her hand someone else was yanking it right back down.

Most of the doubt about what she had discovered evaporated from Kelda’s mind. Rosa Alija, she was hoping. It’s Rosa Alija. But even in her head, the thought was only a whisper. If hope was the balloon, reality was the ballast.

What if it’s not?

For the first time since Kelda had graduated from the Academy, she withdrew her handgun from its holster with the clear understanding that she might be about to fire it. The Sig Sauer felt almost weightless in her hand as she stepped up onto the crate. Her confidence grew; Kelda’s best days in training at Quantico were the days that her Sig weighed about as much as a glove. She knew instantly that this was going to be one of those days.

The filth on the glass and the dark interior of the room kept Kelda from peering inside. For a split second she considered returning to Account Assistants to collect her colleagues, but she was already fearing what would happen if she left the little girl alone for another minute. She decided that she would use her radio to summon the other agents the moment she was absolutely certain that she had indeed found the abducted child.

The building had a small loading dock that faced the alley. She pulled herself onto the narrow cement shelf of the dock and tried the big door. It was locked tight. She hopped back down and moved to the side of the building. The long cinder-block wall was interrupted by a solitary steel door that was secured by a hasp and padlock. Around the front, two old newspapers still in their delivery bags littered the sidewalk at the main entrance. A big “For Lease” sign hung in the window, and three or four flyers were stuffed in the mail slot. Kelda put pressure on the handle of the glass entrance door. It didn’t give.

Whatever this place once was, it wasn’t in business anymore.

She returned to the side door. The bolt on the lock was in place, but the hasp seemed to be beginning to break free of whatever was holding it to the cinder block. She searched the weeds behind her and found a rusty length of angle iron, jammed it behind the hasp, and began to pry the steel hasp away from the wall.

After two minutes of constant pressure, the fasteners securing the hasp gave way and the door creaked inward half an inch.

Kelda had made a hundred armed entries into buildings during her training at Quantico. Maybe two hundred. She knew the drill. She knew where to look, what to say, how to hold her weapon.

She also knew not to do it alone.

In one minute, she promised herself, she’d call for help. Right after she was sure that Rosa Alija was safe and that her kidnapper couldn’t spirit her away to some new location before the cavalry arrived.

Once inside the door, Kelda turned left toward the back of the building and stopped. Her gun was in her hand. It was not pointed at the ceiling; it was pointed in front of her. Why? Because that’s what the FBI had taught her. Why? Because, as one instructor had shouted at a classmate during a drill, “very few fucking UNSUBs are going to be waiting on the ceiling.”

She listened for any indication that the building was occupied. She heard nothing, and the stale air she was breathing confirmed her impression that the building was probably not being used.

She paced silently across the empty loading area until she confronted a closed door. The door, she figured, should lead to the room with the window. With the same gentle squeeze she would use to compress a trigger, she put pressure on the knob. It was locked.

She thought she heard a whimper.

Kelda’s heart was cleaving. She thinks he’s coming back, that’s why she’s crying. Kelda swallowed, checked her breathing.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Prologue 1997

If Kelda James hadn’t been wearing inch-and-a-half heels and the toilet paper roll hadn’t been empty, Rosa Alija would probably be dead.

At about ten-twenty that morning Kelda had excused herself from her fellow FBI agents and followed directions to the restroom–down the long hall, go left, last door on the right. The bathroom was a step up from what she had expected to find, given the tacky condition of the rest of the building. She was relieved to see that the sink was reasonably clean and the toilet seat wasn’t stained with yellow coins of urine. The only problem was that there was no toilet paper on the cardboard roll.

Kelda stepped back out into the hall to retrace her route and retrieve her shoulder bag and its stash of tissues, but noticed a closet marked “Utility” adjacent to the bathroom. The knob on the door wasn’t locked and she found herself staring into a space about six feet square. A window was mounted high on the wall, dividing the small room in half. A jumble of brooms and mops leaned against a cracked porcelain sink on one side; the opposite side was stacked with particleboard shelves piled high with what appeared to be a lifetime supply of paper towels, soap, disinfectants, and toilet paper. Kelda reached onto an upper shelf for a fresh roll of toilet tissue and reflexively glanced over the sill and out the window as she rotated back toward the door.

The window overlooked the alley behind the building. Across the alley was the back of a single-story light-industrial building not noticeably different from the one that Kelda and her FBI colleagues had justraided.

Except for the hand.

Kelda was sure that for a split second she had glimpsed a hand in a window of the building across the alley. In her mind she was already considering it to have been a tiny hand, a child’s hand.

She approached the utility closet window, stood on her toes, and peered again at the building across the alley. No hand. She raised her fingers to the sill to hold herself up and examined the distant window in detail. The bottom edge of the cloudy pane was streaked with parallel vertical lines that could have been made by fingers.

Tiny fingers. Child’s fingers.

“Oh my God,” she said.

Fresh out of the FBI Academy, Special Agent Kelda James had been in the Denver, Colorado, field office for all of five weeks. Her initial assignment was to a squad that investigated white-collar crime, and that morning she had been ordered to accompany three other agents–all male, all senior to her, all somewhere between significantly and maximally apprehensive of her skills–to serve a federal warrant and raid a company called Account Assistants, Inc., on Delaware Street in Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood. The company did contract billing for medical practices, and the raid was intended to collect evidence of suspected Medicare fraud.

For an FBI white-collar crime squad, this was routine stuff.

Prior to entering the FBI Academy, Kelda had earned her credentials as a certified public accountant and had spent a few years investigating fraud for an international insurance company. Her role in the raid of Account Assistants, Inc., was to cover the back door as the raid started and, later, to use her forensic accounting background to help make certain that the agents didn’t fail to retrieve any records that they might ultimately need to press their case against the firm.

Most important, though, she knew that her primary responsibility was to remember at all times that she was the new guy, or in FBI parlance, “the fucking new guy.” Her primary responsibility was not to screw up.

Later in the day, after she and the other agents had finished collecting the evidence and had transported the boxes back to the Denver Field Office, Kelda figured that she–the fucking new guy–would be the one who would be assigned to spend the next few weeks sitting at her Bureau desk examining the mind-numbing details of the service and billing records, trying to use Account Assistants, Inc.’s own numbers to prove the fraud case that had spawned the warrant and the raid.

It’s what she did. And she knew she did it well.

That was what she was contemplating when she saw the hand flash across the window a second time. But as swiftly as it appeared in the window, the little hand disappeared again.

A more experienced agent might have gone back to her squad, reported what she’d seen, and asked one of her colleagues to accompany her across the alley to investigate the fleeting hand. A more experienced agent–one who wasn’t a bookish young woman with an accounting degree whose colleagues called her Clarice behind her back–would have been less concerned about the scorn she would suffer if she pulled a fellow agent–or two, or three–away from important work to search the back of an adjacent building because she thought that maybe she had seen a child’s hand in the bottom of a window.

Kelda could only imagine the relentless ridicule she would endure from her fellow agents after word spread in the field office that she had begged for assistance in checking out what would probably turn out to be nothing more nefarious than an unlicensed day-care facility.

Kelda moved out of the utility closet, closed the door, and took three steps farther down the hall to a door that was marked “Exit.” An hour and a half earlier she’d stood in the alley on the other side of this very door in case any of the principals of Account Assistants, Inc., tried to flee out the back as the FBI team announced the raid and the warrant was served by the agents who entered the building through the door at the front.

She checked the inside of the exit door for an alarm: She couldn’t spot any electronic devices attached to the heavy door that would announce that she had opened it. She stepped outside, propped the door open with a softball-sized piece of concrete, and then jogged across the alley to the window with the streaky glass and the disappearing tiny hand.

Two days before, six-year-old Rosa Alija had vanished from the playground of her elementary school’s summer day camp near Thirty-second and Federal on Denver’s near west side. The other children on the playground told police conflicting tales of a van or truck that was gray or brown and one man who was white or two men who were black or two men and a woman who were all kinds of different combinations of races and colors who had waited for a child to chase a ball into the field adjacent to the school and then, when Rosa Alija had been that child, had scooped her up, covered her mouth, and carried her away in the van or truck.

Some of the child witnesses reported that Rosa had kicked her legs and cried. Others maintained she was already dead by the time she got to the van.

No adult reported seeing a thing.

And no one had seen Rosa since. The girl’s frantic parents, an independent landscaper named José Alija and his receptionist wife, Maria, waited in vain for a ransom demand. But neither the police nor the local FBI office expected to hear from Rosa’s abductors. The Alijas weren’t the type of family who were chosen for a kidnapping for ransom.

Rosa Alija had been taken for some other purpose.

Denver mobilized in an unprecedented fashion to find the girl. Hun- dreds of citizens–Hispanic, white, black, Native American, Asian–searched the city for little Rosa. Posses of private citizens scoured the banks of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. The huge expanse of rail yard between her school and Lower Downtown was searched, and the interior of every last boxcar in the yard was examined. Her picture was featured on the front page of both daily papers, and the quest to find her dominated the local TV and radio news.

Bloodhounds tracked her route away from the school. The dogs seemed confident that her abductor had taken her down Speer Boulevard after the kidnapping, but the hounds lost the scent near the spot where Speer intersected with Interstate 25. The cops knew that once Rosa’s abductors had her on Denver’s main freeway, they could have taken her anywhere.

Anywhere. The Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Great Basin. North to Wyoming, south to New Mexico. Anywhere.

Even into the back room of a light-industrial building in one of Denver’s transitional urban neighborhoods.

The bottom of the window in the building across the alley was level with the top of Kelda’s head. She listened for the sounds of children playing, but all she heard was the sough of distant traffic on Speer Boulevard; she heard nothing to convince herself that she’d stumbled onto a day-care facility. A moment’s contemplation failed to suggest any other good reason that a small child would be scratching at the glass in a back room in a building in this neighborhood.

Kelda grabbed a discarded plastic milk crate from the alley and carried it back toward the window to check and see what was inside the building.

Before she had a chance to step onto the crate, she saw the hand again. It was reaching, groping, the fingers extended against the bottom edge of the pane, but they could only stay there for a second or two. Kelda imagined that every time the girl lifted her hand someone else was yanking it right back down.

Most of the doubt about what she had discovered evaporated from Kelda’s mind. Rosa Alija, she was hoping. It’s Rosa Alija. But even in her head, the thought was only a whisper. If hope was the balloon, reality was the ballast.

What if it’s not?

For the first time since Kelda had graduated from the Academy, she withdrew her handgun from its holster with the clear understanding that she might be about to fire it. The Sig Sauer felt almost weightless in her hand as she stepped up onto the crate. Her confidence grew; Kelda’s best days in training at Quantico were the days that her Sig weighed about as much as a glove. She knew instantly that this was going to be one of those days.

The filth on the glass and the dark interior of the room kept Kelda from peering inside. For a split second she considered returning to Account Assistants to collect her colleagues, but she was already fearing what would happen if she left the little girl alone for another minute. She decided that she would use her radio to summon the other agents the moment she was absolutely certain that she had indeed found the abducted child.

The building had a small loading dock that faced the alley. She pulled herself onto the narrow cement shelf of the dock and tried the big door. It was locked tight. She hopped back down and moved to the side of the building. The long cinder-block wall was interrupted by a solitary steel door that was secured by a hasp and padlock. Around the front, two old newspapers still in their delivery bags littered the sidewalk at the main entrance. A big “For Lease” sign hung in the window, and three or four flyers were stuffed in the mail slot. Kelda put pressure on the handle of the glass entrance door. It didn’t give.

Whatever this place once was, it wasn’t in business anymore.

She returned to the side door. The bolt on the lock was in place, but the hasp seemed to be beginning to break free of whatever was holding it to the cinder block. She searched the weeds behind her and found a rusty length of angle iron, jammed it behind the hasp, and began to pry the steel hasp away from the wall.

After two minutes of constant pressure, the fasteners securing the hasp gave way and the door creaked inward half an inch.

Kelda had made a hundred armed entries into buildings during her training at Quantico. Maybe two hundred. She knew the drill. She knew where to look, what to say, how to hold her weapon.

She also knew not to do it alone.

In one minute, she promised herself, she’d call for help. Right after she was sure that Rosa Alija was safe and that her kidnapper couldn’t spirit her away to some new location before the cavalry arrived.

Once inside the door, Kelda turned left toward the back of the building and stopped. Her gun was in her hand. It was not pointed at the ceiling; it was pointed in front of her. Why? Because that’s what the FBI had taught her. Why? Because, as one instructor had shouted at a classmate during a drill, “very few fucking UNSUBs are going to be waiting on the ceiling.”

She listened for any indication that the building was occupied. She heard nothing, and the stale air she was breathing confirmed her impression that the building was probably not being used.

She paced silently across the empty loading area until she confronted a closed door. The door, she figured, should lead to the room with the window. With the same gentle squeeze she would use to compress a trigger, she put pressure on the knob. It was locked.

She thought she heard a whimper.

Kelda’s heart was cleaving. She thinks he’s coming back, that’s why she’s crying. Kelda swallowed, checked her breathing.


From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright© 2003 by Stephen White
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    Fast paced and thoroughly entertaining

    Great mystery• a guessing game about whats actuall occurring right up to the last few pages

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2003

    White scores again!

    The Best Revenge has one of the most devious plots I've ever read. Author White skillfully leads the reader along, allowing us to form opinions about the central characters. Then he blows those opinions to smithereens as he deftly doles out more and more telling details. Few writers have the insight and the talent (not to mention the psychological training) to offer images that seem, on the surface, to be one thing, but in fact have immense underpinnings of subtext. Again, hero Alan Gregory plays a supporting role, allowing the other characters (including the always entertaining cop Sam Purdy) to take center stage. The premise is truly clever; the delivery is superb. And the payoff is completely unexpected. One of the reasons this series works as well as it does is White's positioning of his hero--sometimes in the forefront, sometimes on the periphery. It keeps the books fresh, the plotting unique, and the narrative line as taut as a fishing line with its hook in the mouth of a seriously big fish--with all the tension implicit in the effort to land that big one. I particularly liked the ending which is rooted in a reality we might prefer was otherwise but is completely viable. Splendidly drawn characters and breathless pacing, the book is hugely entertaining. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2013

    My first read by this author; clever plot but very boring dialog

    My first read by this author; clever plot but very boring dialogue among the characters.
    I skipped about 30 pages just to get to end and find out who the baddies were.
    Don't think I will ever read another book by this author.

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  • Posted October 27, 2013

    Have read most of the SW books.

    I love the Colorado settings of this series. A very likable group of recurring characters. This one got a bit grim in a couple of spots. Think I'm getting a bit wimpy in my advancing years. Would definitely recommend it for a quick thrill. :). eb

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    VBalal

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    ApagXqpalaBagal alqpVag agVqpasqasaQyqtBqyqqeq

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    Gripping! Suspenseful! Great read!

    Suspenseful, tension-filled narrative. Reader will be fully involved in this harrowing ordeal.

    Lotsabks

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Some evil in these pages!

    I found this story pretty thrilling and there's some seriously twisted stuff that comes from one of the characters. This story held my interest and I blazed through the chapters pretty quickly, but my only complaint is that it runs long in some areas. I wasn't interested in the many geography lessons and weather lessons of Colorado, but if you skim over that, you will enjoy the rest of the pace of this story. I will definitely read more of Mr. White's books. :)

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  • Posted June 22, 2009

    The Best Revenge by Stephen White

    Stephen White's descriptions of Boulder Colorado and the surrounding area are lyrical and enticing. After reading many of his books, I have a sense of knowing the area and the people in the way people who live in the South know Southerners, although not as intimately. Alan Gregory, a psychologist who is believably faithful to his wife, his friends, and his patients, along with police detective Sam Purdy and others thread their way through White's novels, relieving tension with humor and sarcasm that is warm and wholesome and at the same time honest.

    Marriages mellow or grow stale, children grow up, friendships solidify into comfort that knows the other and accepts the annoying and the frustrating features with the same generosity as the appealing and the charming ones, People stand together when the need arises with a loyalty that remains even when doubts shoot holes in that belief.

    The Best Revenge is one of White's finest novels, with surprises that keep popping up just when the reader thinks he has the plot figured out, and with behaviors that are (mostly) believable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2006

    Great author, Great book

    This was the first book I have read from this author. I will definatly put him at the top of my read list. I could not put this book down. If you are a fan of suspense and very good use of plot twists, this book is for you!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2004

    Another Wrong Suspect

    It started off fast pace but then it started to lose it's momentum. I was disapointed. It' a long read my first.Even a back of the book made me think it was a good read. I think the ending could have turned out better.

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    Posted January 7, 2010

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