The Closer

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Overview

METHOD

He is the Closer -- a remorseless executioner whose modus operandi is terrifying in its brutal simplicity. He captures his prey, tortures them until they confess their sins, and disposes of them as they deserve. His victims have only one thing in common: theyare all serial killers.

MOTIVE

Accompanied by a hardened ex-prostitute who lost her closest friends to a twisted murderer, the Closer is closing in...

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Overview

METHOD

He is the Closer -- a remorseless executioner whose modus operandi is terrifying in its brutal simplicity. He captures his prey, tortures them until they confess their sins, and disposes of them as they deserve. His victims have only one thing in common: theyare all serial killers.

MOTIVE

Accompanied by a hardened ex-prostitute who lost her closest friends to a twisted murderer, the Closer is closing in on his ultimate quarry: an ingenious psychopath known as the Patron who must be stopped. For behind the fa?ade of the Closer is atortured man whose family the Patron slaughtered.

MADNESS

But even as the time for his revenge approaches, the Closer may be turning into what he despises most. Because with every violent act of retribution, he fears that he's no longer killing in thename of justice...

HE'S KILLING BECAUSE HE LIKES IT./b>

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743476980
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.40 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Donn Cortez is the pseudonym for Don DeBrandt, who has authored several novels. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

It was a slow night on the Stroll, and Susanna grinned when the late-model Taurus with the rental plates pulled over. Rental plates meant an out-of-town businessman with an itchy credit card and a lonely hotel room; it meant a quick hundred dollars, maybe one-twenty with tip. It meant she could kick off her damn shoes for a few minutes, and go someplace where the wind wasn't turning her nipples into raw pencil erasers.

She leaned over and stuck her head into the passenger-side window. The guy driving was a surprise -- younger than she'd expected, with a shaved head, scruffy goatee and chrome rings piercing his eyebrows and lower lip.

Street instincts sized him up in the time it took her to smile. Once, anybody looking like him was sure to be trouble; these days, everyone under the age of thirty seemed to have something pierced. Susanna herself had a ring through her belly button.

What the fuck. Maybe he's got some coke.

"Hey," she said. "Wanna date?"

"Nah," he said, matching her grin. "I just pulled over for a few fashion tips."

She laughed despite herself. The outfit she was wearing -- black latex minidress with four-inch matching heels -- was brand new. She knew it showed off both her long legs and her waist-length black hair, but she didn't expect a john to appreciate it as any more than a candy wrapper.

"Well," she said, "I know what'd look good on you."

"What's that?"

"Me."

He chuckled and nodded, his piercings glinting chrome green in the glow of the dash. "Okay. I'm in."

"Not yet," she said sweetly, "but you will be."

She got in on the passenger's side. He pulled smoothly away from the curb.

"I'm Todd," the driver said.

"Susanna."

"For a second, I thought you were going to tell me to get lost," Todd said. "What, I don't look like I have a Gold Card?"

"Just checking you out. A girl can't be too careful, you know?"

"Sure, I understand. Lotta freaks out there..."

Afterward, he lay in the hotel bed, smoking.

Man, that was sweet. Not as good as the real thing, of course, but pretty good all the same.

He put his arms behind his head and stretched out luxuriously. And the stupid bitch never suspected a thing. Thought I was Mr. Normal. Hah.

The bathroom door opened and Susanna stepped out, wearing the minidress but barefoot. She bent down and grabbed her stiletto heels from the floor.

"That was great, Todd," she said. "I'm gonna go wait for my cab downstairs, okay?"

"Sure," Todd said with a lazy grin. "Hey, I'm going to be in town for a few days -- you got a number I can reach you at?"

"I left my business card beside the sink. It's got my pager number," she said, wincing as she put on her shoes. "Call me any time you feel like a party."

She was halfway out the door when he said, "Hey, wait a sec!"

She turned back. He motioned toward the table beside the door. "At least finish your drink...."

She grabbed the scotch and water he'd mixed for her and downed the last half of it. "Thanks," she said. "That'll keep me going."

"And everybody else coming," he said, grinning.

As the door swung shut he called out, "And hey -- be careful! Lotta freaks out there!"

Click.

He got out of bed naked and padded over to the door. He took a tissue from the box on the table and used it, very carefully, to pick up the glass Susanna had used.

He held it up to the lamp on the nightstand and squinted at it. He could see several usable fingerprints already.

"Oh yeah," he murmured. "Whole lotta freaks out there..."

• • •

The hooker's name was Nikki. She was in her early thirties, pretty, her hair currently long and blond. Makeup hid the lines in her face. She got her tan from a UV booth and her smile from years of practice; her eyes were as sharp and blue as a pissed-off Siamese cat's. Skintight white pants and a black halter top showed off her flat belly -- she had the hard physique of someone who treated her body the same way a soldier treated his gun.

Her feet sported a pair of stylish white sneakers with four-inch soles. A thick chain bracelet, heavy with charms, was her only jewelry. She chewed gum constantly, and blew big pink bubbles from lips exactly the same shade.

Nikki had been on the street circuit since she was seventeen; she knew how it functioned. The first thing she'd done when she'd gotten into town was find the all-night coffee shop where the working girls hung -- there was always a place near the Stroll -- and get a quick feel for the scene. She'd worked Seattle before, but things shifted; it was always a good idea to check out the flow first. She didn't want any territory hassles.

A black car pulled up. Nikki bent down to talk into the open passenger-side window, then got in. The car pulled away.

A second later, a white van rolled out of the alley. It swung in behind the black car and followed it at a discreet distance.

Nikki turned in the seat to face the driver and studied him coolly. He was middle-aged, white, balding. Typical. His suit was wrinkled and badly out of style, and the car smelled of old tobacco. "So, Stanley," she said. "What do you like?"

"I, uh -- nothing unusual, really. And call me Stan."

"Okay, Stan -- so what's usual?"

"Uh, well -- I'm sorry, but I really don't want to get into any trouble. You're not -- you're not a policewoman, are you? I've heard they sometimes disguise themselves -- "

"Oh, is that the problem? Okay."

She leaned over and slid a hand into his crotch. He gasped, but she left her hand there.

"If I was a cop, think I'd do this?"

"N -- no, I guess not."

He gave her an embarrassed smile. She smiled back and blew a big pink bubble.

Ah, Todd thought as he dropped his duffel bag on the floor. It's good to be home.

Not that "home" was much. A studio apartment with a pull-out bed, a desk and a dresser, a tiny kitchenette that could hold two people at a time. He hadn't bothered to put anything on the bare white walls, and the small space reserved for a dining table was occupied by a mountain bike. He usually ate out, or over the sink.

The apartment was really only a place to sleep -- and to keep his most prized posession, which he headed straight for. It was his lifeline, his doorway into the Real World.

As soon as he sat down and logged in he began to relax. He stretched, yawning. It had been a long flight -- but hey, you did what you had to. Besides, it wasn't like the job didn't have its perks. He thought about the hooker's legs wrapped around his waist, and grinned.

He dived into the datastream of the web with the same fierce joy a snowboarder would show the Matterhorn. Graphics blurred past as he jumped from website to website, checking out postings, gossip, rumors. The websites had names like Serial Killer Hall of Fame, True Gore, and Monsters of the 20th Century; they were as familiar to him as the local mall, and about as tame.

Time for the real deal.

The chat room was called the Stalking Ground. It was his own system, a dedicated server accessible only through an intricate system of encryption and rerouted messages. He logged on with his name -- not Todd, which was about as genuine as the name the hooker had given him -- but his real name, the one he'd taken for himself: Djinn-X.

The screen split into three horizontal bands of color: black, red, and white. At the very top of the screen was the word Discussion in elegant script. Djinn-X's name appeared in the right-hand corner of the top band, which was black. There was a picture of a blindfolded woman screaming on the far left margin; when he typed, her mouth moved and his words appeared in a dripping, blood-red font.

DJINN-X: Hey, fellow hunters...looks like we'll have a new member of The Pack pretty soon!

The second band on the screen was a swirling red, and the name in the right-hand corner was The Gourmet. His icon to the left of the screen was an animated meat cleaver, which split a skull and released a little gray brain, over and over. When he typed, the thick black letters slowly coalesced as if appearing out of a scarlet mist.

GOURMET: He's passed the initiation?

DJINN-X: Not yet, but the sheep is on the altar -- sent her stats last night.

The third band on the screen was a crisp, clean white. The name in the corner was Road Rage, in elegant script. The font used was the same, verging on calligraphy but simple and easy to read.

ROAD RAGE: Did anyone see the Patron's latest posting?

Djinn-X grinned. "All right! The master of disaster returns...."

GOURMET: Not yet. Body count?

ROAD RAGE: Only five.

DJINN-X: When you're talking about the Patron, numbers don't matter and you know it. It's how he did them. Hang on, I gotta go check it out.

He jumped to another area of the site. The expression on Djinn-X's face went from intense interest to shock to outright awe as he scanned the screen. "Fuck me...." he whispered in admiration. He scrolled down greedily, then returned to the discussion page.

DJINN-X: Can you believe that? "Drowned in the youngest child's blood." Goddamn.

GOURMET: He's a genius.

ROAD RAGE: He's a monster. Even by our standards.

Djinn-X shook his head and leaned back. "He's both, boys," he said softly. "He's both."

Stan's house was two stories high with the first built flush to the ground, and looked exactly like every other house in the suburban cul-de-sac: painted white with red tile roofing, a white iron-railing fence with stone pillars every few feet and cheesy plaster lions on top of them.

The automatic garage door opened as the car approached. The van pulled over a block away.

Nikki followed Stan from the garage through a connecting door to the kitchen. Beige linoleum on the floor, appliances in Harvest Gold. Formica countertops in a sunshine yellow that didn't quite match the fridge or stove. A sink piled with dirty dishes, but otherwise clean. Her wet sneakers squeaked on the linoleum.

"The bedroom's this way," Stan said. He seemed more relaxed now. They always did, once they were on their home turf. She followed him down a short hallway.

The bedroom itself was about what she expected: nondescript, unmade double bed, pile of dirty clothes on a chair by the window. Heavy drapes on the window, drawn shut. A musky odor was evident, a mix of unwashed sheets and stale air.

"Would you mind, um, washing your hands?" said Stan. "Before we start? The bathroom's right through there."

He pointed. The bathroom door was just off the bedroom, and opened inward.

"Sure. Why don't you make yourself comfortable?"

He circled the house silently. All the doors were locked, but he found a sliding glass door off the sundeck. He pulled a glass cutter from the pack slung over his shoulder. It took him less than a minute to etch a circle in the glass, pop that out and reach inside to unlock the door.

He pocketed the glass cutter and pulled out something the size and shape of an electric razor. He tested it; a blue spark leapt from electrode to electrode where the rotating heads would have been. Holding the stun gun at the ready, he stepped across the threshold.

Nikki entered the bathroom, keeping the door open.

The bathroom was narrow and claustrophobic, done completely in white tile. There was no towel rack, no towels, no mirror and no window. A recessed light was set into the ceiling, and an inset fan above the toilet. There was a bathtub that had a shower head, but no shower curtain. There were no toiletries of any kind except for an almost empty roll of toilet paper hanging on the wall.

The sink was against the far wall, forcing Nikki to go all the way into the room to wash her hands. She wrinkled her nose; the place smelled like the basement of a parking garage.

She entered warily and turned on the faucet in the sink. No water came out.

"Hey, your sink's busted -- "

The door slammed shut. The other side of the door had a poster of a kitten hanging from a branch, with the words Just hang in there! printed on it.

"Stan?"

She tried the door. Locked. She looked around, then pulled a cell phone out of her purse and hit a button. The phone gave her a No Carrier message.

There was a loud thump from the other room. Nikki put her cell phone back in her purse -- and pulled out a .38 instead.

"I've got a gun, Stanley. Unlock the door or I'll blow the fucking doorknob off."

A voice crackled from the other side of the door. It sounded like someone whispering into a bullhorn, with the volume cranked way up.

"Stanley isn't available at the moment. He's...busy."

Nikki fired. The doorknob was some kind of heavy-duty industrial model; the bullet ricocheted off it and shattered a tile beside the shower head.

"Go ahead, shoot the door," the voice whispered. "How many bullets do you have?"

Nikki hesitated, then rapped the butt of the gun against the door. It rang like metal. She traced her fingers over dents in the metal, recently painted over, and nodded slowly.

"Look behind the poster," the voice whispered.

She peeled the poster away. There were six photographs taped to the door behind it; three were obviously from a black-and-white video feed, taken from a POV above the bathroom door. They showed three different women, all obviously prostitutes, all with long blond hair. The first woman was looking at a cell phone in her hand with a confused expression; the second woman was angrily pounding on the door with a gun in her hand; the third was naked and pleading, hands clasped together and tears ruining her mascara.

The next three were color Polaroids. They showed the same women with their throats cut.

She looked up. Now that she knew it was there, she spotted the pinhole camera above the door immediately. She took the gum from her mouth and blocked it.

There was a hissing sound as gas began to come in via the shower head.

"What type are you?" the voice whispered.

"I'll tell you if you shut off the gas," she said coolly.

"A bargainer. Good. I prefer those, I really do. I don't like the bitchy ones. Unblock the camera and you have a deal."

She did. The gas shut off, leaving an acrid smell hanging in the air. She tried to keep her breathing shallow, but it still burned the inside of her nose.

"See? I'm a reasonable man. Go ahead."

"Go ahead and what?"

"Offer me something."

"I guess you wouldn't just settle for a blow job, huh?"

Laughter, crackling with static. "You'll have to do better than that. I've had women offer to be my slave, to fuck dogs, to eat their own shit. One even offered her best friend in her place."

"What about the ones that don't offer you anything?"

"Oh, the threateners. They always say the same things -- my boyfriend's in the Mafia, I'm really a cop,

I have AIDS. I had one put a voodoo curse on me, though -- that was entertaining. But sooner or later, the threateners always turn into the pleaders."

"Ever let anyone go?" Nikki asked.

"What do you think?"

"I think I'll pull out one of your fingernails," Nikki said thoughtfully. "No, two."

"That seems rather rude..."

"I know, I know. Usually I let him do all the work -- some of the shit he does, I can't stand even being in the same room. But for you, sweetheart -- I'll make an exception."

"And who's he supposed to be? Your big bad pimp, charging in to save you in his shining Cadillac?"

"Fuck, no. He's in the same business you are -- Stanley."

"What?"

"He kills people. Slowly."

"Sure he does -- "

There was a sudden crackle of static from the speaker, followed by something heavy slamming into the other side of the bathroom door.

"That would be him, now..." Nikki said. She fished a pack of cigarettes out of her purse.

The door swung slowly open. Her partner stood in the doorway, stun gun in one hand. Stanley, unconscious, lay at his feet.

Nikki lit her cigarette and looked down at Stanley. She shook her head.

"This is the Closer, you poor bastard. I almost pity you."

She kicked him in the head, hard.

"Almost," she snarled.

Stanley woke to find he was bound, naked, to a chair in his own kitchen. There was a rubber sheet under the chair. His wrists were tied together in front of him, and lashed to his knees. Duct tape sealed his mouth.

The Closer entered with a black bag, which he set down on a chair and opened. He was around thirty, with mid-length brown hair that hadn't seen a comb in a while, and wore a black leather trenchcoat. He began to empty the bag of its contents, which he carefully arranged on the table.

A box of surgical gloves.

A small vise, a hatchet and a pair of pliers.

A pair of pruning shears.

A hacksaw and a ball-peen hammer.

A packet of razor blades, a clear Baggie full of fishhooks, and a box of table salt.

A container of lighter fluid, a can of Drano, and a large hypodermic needle.

An electric knife.

A propane torch.

The last items he pulled out were a small tape recorder and half a dozen cassette tapes.

"Now, then," he said calmly as he pulled on a pair of surgical gloves. He put a tape into the cassette deck and hit Record.

"Let's go back to the beginning...."

He reached out and ripped the duct tape off Stanley's mouth with one hand.

With the other, he picked up the hacksaw.

She found them in a shoebox in the closet, eight white linen napkins folded into neat triangles and sealed in Ziploc bags. In the center of each napkin was the scarlet imprint of a pair of lips, a kiss captured on cloth.

Nikki studied them. Each bag had a letter stenciled on the back in Magic Marker. She found one with a G on it, and inhaled sharply.

"Gee...Genevieve? Is that you?"

She sat down on the bed and pulled off the blond wig, tossing it to the side. She stared at the napkin through the clear plastic of the Baggie, studying the lips and tracing their outline with a fingertip. She suddenly felt immensely weary, like her body weighed a thousand pounds.

"Oh, Genny. I hope you're in a better place, sweetie. I hope this helps."

A muffled but agonized scream came from the kitchen.

Nikki butted her cigarette out in a large, empty ashtray beside the bed. She let the baggy fall to the floor and put her head down, covering her face with her hands.

"I know you're lying."

"No! No! I swear to God!"

"You're as predictable as your victims. First you'll deny you were really going to do anything, that it was all just a game. Then you'll act tough, say I have no proof, threaten to sue me. When that doesn't work you'll try bribery, and finally pleading."

"I'm telling the truth, please, oh Christ -- "

"And then we arrive at this point." The Closer reached down, selected a razor blade. He leaned forward intently. "This is when you lie. You tell me something that I'll have to go check, because stalling is the only option you have left."

He crammed a rag in Stanley's mouth to stifle his screams, and worked in quick, precise strokes. The flesh peeled back easily. He used fishhooks to pin the flaps to the tops of Stanley's ears.

"We're past that point now. Now you're going to start telling the truth."

Stanley nodded, tears leaking from his eyes, then gave a muffled yelp as the salty drops slid across the raw, exposed meat of his cheeks.

"Consider that a preview," the Closer said. He picked up the box of salt.

He reached down for Stanley's gag, then stopped. The two flaps of skin stretched to either side, with their tracery of red and blue veins, had their own grotesque beauty; they looked like the wings of a flesh butterfly, with Stanley's nose the body.

The Closer shook his head, and removed the gag.

"Look in the freezer," Stanley gasped. "Look in the freezer, I did it for the initiation. I'll tell you everything I know about them, just please don't kill me...."

And Stanley began to tell him some very interesting things.

Seven hours later.

The Closer raised a bloody, rubber-gloved hand and opened the bedroom curtains a crack, letting in a ray of early morning sun. Outside, a kid delivered a newspaper. In a house across the street, a mother kissed her husband good-bye as he got ready to drive his kids to school. The Closer stared at them, regret on his face.

In the kitchen, Nikki sat in a chair next to the table. Various bloody implements were scattered over the table's surface.

"Know what she liked to do on her days off?" Nikki asked Stanley. "Dress in baggy clothes, baseball cap, no makeup, and try to meet guys. Seriously. She wouldn't go to a bar, but anywhere else was fair game: the park, the library, the fucking corner store. Wanted to meet someone who didn't just want to fuck, she said. I told her, all guys just want to fuck -- only difference between 'em is that some are willing to pay for it. Lucky for us." She paused, fumbling for a cigarette.

"Except then a prick like you comes along, Stanley, and all the luck turns shitty." She lit the cigarette, her hands trembling.

"I rehearsed what I was going to say a million times, you son of a bitch. What I was going to say when I finally caught you. Now it feels like it doesn't make any fucking difference." She shook her head and gave a grim little laugh.

"But there's a few things I want you to know. Her real name was Janet, not Genevieve, and -- and people liked her. She was a good person. She liked cheesy disco music and going to malls, and old cars from the fifties and drinking beer and she wasn't a goddamn trophy to stick in a shoebox after you killed her, you sick fuck!"

One of Stanley's eyes hung from the socket. It swung grotesquely against his face as he twitched.

"Kill me..." Stanley whispered.

"Is that all? No fucking problem."

She grabbed the hatchet and raised it over her head.

Before she could bring it down, the Closer seized it from behind.

"No."

Nikki whirled to face him, furious. She didn't let go of the hatchet.

"Why the fuck not? You said you were finished with him!"

"I am. But I can't let you kill him."

Tears of rage and sorrow spilled down Nikki's face. "He killed my friend, goddammit!"

"I know. But we made a deal when we agreed to work together. You take one kind of risk, I take another."

She glared at him, then let go of the hatchet.

"You don't want blood on your hands, Nikki. Not even his."

"Okay, okay." She locked eyes with the Closer. "But this time -- I want to watch."

The Closer met her eyes levelly, his face unreadable.

"All right."

He turned without warning and swung the hatchet at Stanley's skull.

Dymund and Fimby arrived at Stanley's house at 3:15 P.M. Three police cars, the coroner's wagon and a newsvan were crowded into the end of the cul-de-sac. Neighbors gathered in a small, nervous clump across the street.

Dymund was the senior detective. He was close to retirement, tall and bulky, with thin white hair he kept slicked back.

Fimby was the junior. He had a pear-shaped body and a pear-shaped face, with a salt-and-pepper handlebar mustache riding on top of fleshy jowls. Both of them wore tan trenchcoats and fedoras -- not so much for style as to fend off Seattle's ever-present rain.

"It's gotta be him," Dymund said as they walked in the front door, flashing their badges at the patrolman who guarded it.

"It's not him," replied Fimby.

"Gotta be him."

"Can't be him."

They entered the kitchen and saw the body for the first time. They both stopped dead and stared for a second.

"Okay," said Fimby. "It's him."

"Oh, yeah."

Dymund leaned in to take a closer look at the body as Fimby snapped on a pair of rubber gloves.

"It's the Closer, all right," Dymund sighed. Fimby picked up one of the five cassette tapes lying in a neat stack on the table.

"Four tapes," said Fimby. "Ninety minutes each. Six hours."

"Whatever else he is, he's thorough."

Another patrolman entered the kitchen. His face was pale, and he carefully avoided looking directly at what was left of Stanley.

"Detective? We've found a second body."

They followed him to a back room where a police photographer was taking a picture of an open freezer. Dymund and Fimby peered inside.

The body was young, nude and female. Her throat had been cut.

"Right hand missing," Fimby said.

"Doesn't sound like the Closer's style, does it? Probably done by the guy in the kitchen -- guess we'll know once we listen to those tapes."

"Detective?" the patrolman asked. He was young, with acne scars on his cheeks and a bristling blond crew cut."Why do you call him the Closer?"

"Don't you read the tabloids?" Dymund asked.

SERIAL KILLER STALKER STRIKES AGAIN!

WEEKLY WORLD NEWS, June 4, 1999 -- Seattle, Washington.

The vigilante known as the Closer -- so called because he closes unsolved murder cases -- struck again this week, ending the murderous rampage of yet another maniac: Stanley Dupreiss, whom the police have confirmed as the killer of at least eight local prostitutes. No details of Dupreiss's death have been released, but rumor has it he was found in the same mutilated condition as the Closer's other victims.

This brings to four the number of serial killers the Closer has introduced to his own brand of grim justice, leaving police on both sides of the U.S./Canada border no nearer to his identity -- or are they?

Some say the police aren't trying very hard to find the Closer. "Hell, why should we?" says a police officer who asked not to be identified. "He's doing our job for us. Why should we waste the public's money on a task force to stop this guy, when he's doing what most of us wish we could do? Instead of millions being spent on these creeps to catch, prosecute and incarcerate them, one guy is making sure they get what they deserve."

The question is, how is he doing it? Are the police, with all the resources at their disposal, so incompetent that a single determined man can outperform them not once, but four times? Or is the truth darker -- that the Closer is one of their own, a renegade cop who's decided to take the law into his own hands?

Some say this explains not only the reluctance of the police to pursue the Closer more actively, but also the vigilante's uncanny ability to find his victims. If he has access to police files, then he has a shopping list of suspects to pick from.

So far, the only people the Closer has killed have been reprehensible murderers themselves. But even the police make mistakes -- what happens if the Closer does?

You can only hope you're not on his list.

• • •

Charlie Holloway leaned back in his chair and yawned; it had been a long day. His eyes fell on his own portrait hanging on the wall across from his desk, and he wondered how long it would be before his real face no longer resembled the one captured in oils. He'd always have the big, potato-sized nose, of course, but his hair, full and black in the painting, was already mostly gone and hardly black. His face had gotten fuller as middle age had added pounds along with the years, and his blue eyes -- always his best feature, his mother had told him -- were usually hidden behind glasses these days.

Ah, if only I had Dorian Gray as a client, Charlie thought ruefully. Still, that painting's going to be worth a mint one day --

The phone rang, interrupting his reverie.

"Hello, Charlie Holloway."

"Charlie."

"Jack? Hey, I was just thinking about you." Charlie's voice softened from friendly to concerned. "How are you?"

"I -- I don't know. I'm all right, I guess."

"It's been a while since I've heard from you. Been keeping busy?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I have."

"Working, I hope."

"Not exactly."

"Oh. That's too bad," Charlie said, shaking his head. "You know I don't want to push you, Jack, but -- "

"But it's been three years. I should move on."

Charlie sighed, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "No, no, that's not what I mean. What happened was horrible, Jack, and it didn't just happen to them, it happened to you, too. I'm not trying to trivialize it, or give you some New Age bullshit about inner peace -- "

His assistant, Falmi, came in with a clipboard. Falmi was a Goth, skeletally thin with spiky jet black hair and skin the color of vanilla ice cream. He wore black eyeliner and had Celtic tattoos curling up the side of his neck; Charlie had never seen him wear anything that wasn't black or chrome. Today it was black jeans, a black T-shirt and studded leather gauntlets. "Charlie?" he said. His voice was high and nasal.

"Just a sec, Jack. What is it?"

"I need your signature on this manifest."

Charlie grunted, took the clipboard and signed it. Falmi was amazingly anal for a Goth, but he had a meticulous attention to detail that Charlie appreciated. He handed the clipboard back and Falmi left.

"Sorry, Jack. What I am trying to say is that the kind of pain you're carrying around is -- well, it's a real thing. It has weight, it has depth, and it's toxic. If you don't find a way to let it out, it'll eat you alive."

"You should have been a writer, Charlie."

Charlie grinned. "I'll leave the creativity to the artists like you, thanks. I'm happy to flog your stuff and take my cut."

"Guess you're not too happy, then. Not much of my stuff to flog, is there?"

"Look, I didn't mean it like that -- I just think you'd be happier if you were working, that's all. Don't even worry about doing anything commercial. Do it for yourself."

"Art as therapy."

"Why not? Just give it a chance."

"Thanks, Charlie -- but I'm already in therapy. Kind of a radical approach, but it seems to be working."

"Oh? Well, as long as it works, I guess. That's the important thing."

"I thought I might come for a visit."

"That'd be great, Jack. Anytime at all."

"My schedule's a little...murky, at the moment. I'll call you when things firm up a bit."

"You do that."

"I'll talk to you later, Charlie."

"Not too much later, I hope."

Jack hung up. Charlie put the phone down and glanced back up at the portrait Jack had done of him. He frowned.

"Ready to go?" Nikki asked.

"Yeah," the Closer said, putting down the phone. "I'm ready."

Art as therapy. That wasn't the problem.

It was therapy as art....

INTERLUDE

Dear Diary:

I, Fiona Stedman, have come to a conclusion: I'm in love with my uncle Rick.

Okay, maybe not in love -- but a major-league crush, anyway. He's twenty-four, ten years older than me, but my dad is ten years older than my mom, so it's not that much. And nobody else understands me the way he does.

Actually, nobody even tries. Dad's always working late, and Mom's so stressed over her charity work she's in a permanent bad mood. And I can forget about any of my so-called friends; they already tease me about "wanting to jump my uncle's bones" -- I'd never hear the end of it if they knew how I really felt.

So the only shoulder I have to cry on is an electronic one with a dumb name: Dear Diary. No offense, but that's just way too cheesy sitcom for me -- mind if I call you something else?

Hmmm. How about Electra? Yeah? Okay, let's start over....

Dear Electra: Today sucked. I asked my mom if I could go to the Undulating Fools concert and she said no way. I told her a bunch of my friends were going and that seemed to make it worse, like I was in some kind of gang or something.

By the way, Electra, did you know you have my uncle Rick to thank for your existence? I mean, my parents did pay for you, but it was Uncle Rick who actually unpacked you and helped get you up and running. Without him, you'd probably still be in your box.

Sigh. Uncle Rick. It is so not fair that we're related. Electra, he is so good-looking. Tall, dark wavy hair, big brown eyes, a gorgeous smile...and a really nice body, too. Last summer he went to the beach with us, and I had to try really hard not to stare. I mean, he's not a bodybuilder or anything, but he has muscles -- and he isn't all hairy either, just a little curly patch in the middle of his chest.

God, is there something wrong with me? I mean, I haven't even kissed a boy yet and I'm thinking about my uncle like he was my boyfriend or something. This is seriously weird, Electra.

Did I mention he rides a motorcycle? He lets me ride behind him sometimes, and I put my arms around his waist and my face close to his neck. He smells like leather and cigarettes and something sweet.

It's just not fair.

Copyright © 2004 by Don DeBrandt

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 23, 2010

    Gross

    This book cannot be recommended. The content is totally disgusting. I have to say that I have discarded it as something I would not want my mind to be polluted with.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2006

    Creepy

    I loved it. To many times the authors go for same old story line and you know exactly what the characters are going to do long before they ever do it. I raced through this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    Thrilling

    This book is sick by most people's standards. It's gorry and thrilling. It will keep you turning to find out what will happen next. creative twists always keeps you off guard. a great read for those who can stomach it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting thriller

    One Christmas Eve, struggling artist Jack meets with a potential patron at Jack¿s warehouse. His client never shows up, but when a disappointed Jack returns home he finds the murdered corpses of his wife, son and parents. His new goal is to kill the person who killed his loved ones, but first he must find out who did the dastardly deed.............................................. He teams up with Nikki the prostitute as both shares in common the loss of loved ones due to serial killers. They search for serial killers and when they catch them they make them confess on tape who they murdered and where they buried the bodies. The police dub Jack the Closer because he provides some closure to the victims¿ families. When Jack and Nikki learn about a secret site for serial killers, they gain the passwords and codes to the Stalking Ground. There he finds his family killer, but who will provide victorious in this cat and mouse game they play........................... THE CLOSER is an exciting yet odd thriller reminiscent of Bronson¿s Death Wish but somewhat different because all the characters even the professionals are serial killers. In his pursuit of justice, Jack crosses the line to become the thing that he wants to destroy which turns him into a paradox. Nikki keeps him grounded until he finally goes one step too far for even her and she is forced to walk away. There is plenty of violence in this crime thriller though the plot contains numerous serpentine twists and red herrings as Jack¿s quest to find his family¿s killer never stays on a straight path. Thouse detours make for a solid but intense reading experience............................ Harriet Klausner

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    Posted February 6, 2012

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    Posted October 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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