Perilby Thomas H. Cook
One afternoon, without telling a soul, she packs a single suitcase and
Sara Labriola is a married woman haunted by the shattering secrets of her past—and terrified of the future. Tired of living in fear—and knowing that if she stays in her marriage she'll be killed—Sara decides to do the only thing she can: she makes herself disappear.
One afternoon, without telling a soul, she packs a single suitcase and leaves her life in Long Island behind. In New York City, she will reinvent herself. She will change her identity, and maybe even get the happy ending she's always dreamed of. But that dream is about to become a nightmare when her father-in-law decides to make her pay for abandoning his son.
Leo Labriola runs his modest but lucrative criminal organization like he does his family—with unspeakable brutality and zero tolerance for disobedience. He's determined to teach Sara a lesson and he'll stop at nothing to do it. Now six differently desperate and dangerous men—each with the power to destroy her—are on Sara's trail. But none of them suspect that the woman they are seeking has a dangerous secret of her own. For Sara is leading all of them down a path of private demons, past sins, and the deadliest peril.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Each time she thought of it, she felt her body shiver, felt the pistol cold in her hand, the pressure of her finger as it drew down upon the trigger. And so she put it out of her mind, because if you played it over and over, the shadows would deepen around you, thicken until they suffocated you, or until you became a shadow yourself. And so she put it out of her mind because she couldn’t stand the shivering anymore, the icy feel of the metal, the way her eyes had narrowed into slits at that moment, as if she were melting in this boiling pit of hatred. Kill him, the voice had commanded at that instant. Kill him now!
She whirled around and headed up the stairs to the bedroom she’d shared with Tony for the last nine years. With every step she crumbled a little, just as she had years before when she’d fled the South, headed north, already making up a new name, a new identity. She half expected parts of her body to fall away as she continued up the stairs, a tuft of hair on the third step, a hand on the fourth. But she moved determinedly despite the sensation of breaking apart, and somehow the forward movement knit her together, momentum a force in itself, driving her onward like a stone hurled through bushes, razing the path it took.
Tony’s underwear lay crumpled on his side of the bed. The rest of his clothes were strewn haphazardly about the room, lifeless as pelts. He’d thrown them on the floor, probably because his father had told him that was what a man should do. Tony’s father. She closed her eyes tightly and tried to squeeze him out of her mind. Even so, she could hear Leo Labriola going at Tony, laying down the law, daring him to disobey it. A woman has to learn certain things, Tony. One of them, she thought, was to stoop. Another was to keep quiet no matter what raged inside you. And the last, and for the Old Man, the most important, was that a woman should always be afraid.
And she had been afraid, she realized, and not just of Labriola or Tony or of Sheriff Caulfield on that summer afternoon he’d pulled her over, citing a broken taillight. She’d been afraid all her life—afraid to cross her father, afraid to be alone, afraid to stay and afraid to leave, afraid to say no to some things and yes to others. Now she was afraid of the future. And these large fears fueled smaller ones, so that at this very moment, in the midst of flight, she remained afraid even to leave Tony’s clothes on the floor, though at last she decided to do precisely that, leave his clothes scattered across the plush blue carpet, his first clue that things had changed. When he got home tonight, he’d notice that his clothes had not been picked up, and there’d be a click in his head, audible as a pistol shot, She’s gone.
She spun violently and strode to the closet, yanked the suitcase from the shelf, and began to pack. She took no shorts or swimsuit or sandals; she was packing not for a few days away but for the rest of her life, and she made sure there was nothing temporary about the clothes she selected, nothing that suggested she might change her mind, return to the sun-drenched house, the glittering pool. The clothes she chose were decidedly simple, the colors gray and black, appropriate camouflage for the hidden life she would live from now on. She selected them like one readying for nocturnal battle, and as she packed each item she tried to think of herself as one of the women warriors she’d read about, armored, mounted, broadsword in hand, brave in a way she’d never been but now had to be if she were going to climb out of the quicksand of her life.
The pistol, she thought suddenly, then walked to the bureau where Tony kept it, dug beneath his carefully folded underwear, felt its cold steel heft. For a moment she’d been determined to take it but now decided not to, because if she were ever cornered she would use it, and once she’d done that, taken that final, fatal step, then any dream of a better life would be forever shattered. That was where she was, she realized, poised between equally desperate alternatives, flight—unarmed flight—the only vaguely open door.
She took a moment to look over the room a final time. Everything in it looked frilly. Lacy pillows. Fringed draperies. All the colors were pastels. It was a little girl’s room with muted hues and caressing fabrics, a vision of safety where there were no shadows or sharp corners. “Barbie doll,” she whispered, still unable to map the route by which she’d reached this place, though she knew it had started in a field, then moved on through worlds of loss and insecurity, a grasping need for a big happy ending that appeared, at that instant, to explode before her, set her hair ablaze.
She grabbed the suitcase, raced downstairs, called a cab, and waited by the door, watching the morning light build over her neighbors’ houses. Again, the irrevocable nature of what she was doing settled over her. She would never see this street again, never wave to her friend Della across the cul-de-sac or shop with her in the local supermarket. Della, like everything else on Long Island, was already disappearing from her life, growing translucent in her memory. She would call her when she got to the city, let her know that she’d made it, but all the rest—whatever job she got, where she lived—all of that she would have to keep secret for fear of being found.
The phone rang but she didn’t answer it. She was terrified it might be Tony and she didn’t want to hear his voice. Or it might be his father, whose voice would freeze her in place. No, she decided, the only voice she would listen to now was her own.
“All right,” she whispered vehemently, “go.”
And suddenly everything grew oddly weightless and insubstantial, the past years of her life, the long hope she’d nurtured for that big happy ending, all of it suddenly rising from her like the final bubbles of a dead champagne.
“How did this fucking happen?” Labriola demanded. His eyes glowed hotly in the murky darkness of the living room.
Caruso gripped the arms of the worn Naugahyde chair and shifted nervously. “He’s always been good for it before.”
“And so you let him get in this deep? Fifteen fucking grand?”
“Like I say, he was good for it before, and so . . .”
“Before?” The Old Man’s mouth jerked violently, spitting words like stones. “You mean before he suddenly wasn’t good for it no more?”
“Yes, sir,” Caruso confessed weakly.
Labriola’s eyes narrowed. “Well, here’s my question, Vinnie. Why the fuck do I care what he was before if he ain’t good for it now?” His massive frame blocked Caruso’s view of the street outside, the gabled row houses of Sheepshead Bay. “Can I spend the money this guy ain’t good for?”
“No, sir,” Caruso answered meekly.
Beyond the window, children played on the sidewalk and women stopped to chat, their arms filled with grocery bags or the latest baby. Caruso wondered what it would be like to live on such a street, have a house, a wife, kids, be complete and on his own. His cramped apartment surfaced in his mind, the rumpled sheets of his bed. He called it his bachelor pad, but it was no such thing. A bachelor pad was a place a guy fixed up nice and kept clean because he might meet a girl and bring her home. The room he rented in Bay Ridge was just the place where he slept and ate pizza from the box and waited for the phone to ring, summoning him here, to face the smoldering figure of Leo Labriola.
“You listening to me, Vinnie?”
“Are you fucking listening to me?”
Labriola ticked off all the things he couldn’t buy with money he didn’t have—fancy cars and whores and diamonds for Belle, his longtime mistress. And if “some broad” wanted a sawbuck for a blow job, he’d have to pass on that too, because Caruso had let this deadbeat fuck get in over his head, which wasn’t going to stand, because nobody came up empty on Leo Labriola. No. Fucking. Body. Ever.
“So what I’m saying is, make him good for it,” Labriola fumed. “You don’t make him good for it, Vinnie, then I’ll make you good for it.”
“Yes, sir,” Caruso said. His fingers rose to the knot of his tie. “Don’t worry, Mr. Labriola. I’ll get the money.”
“You fucking better. Because I don’t make threats, right? I make promises.”
Labriola had told him about other promises he’d made to people who’d previously crossed him or disappointed him or simply failed him in some way. They’d ended up at the bottom of the East River or curled into the trunks of old sedans on President Street, he said. And always the stories about Russian roulette, how if you wanted to face down a guy, you offered to play it with him, took the first turn yourself, proved you had the balls to look death in the fucking eye. You did that, Labriola said, nobody ever questioned who was boss. Caruso wasn’t sure the Old Man had ever actually spun the chamber and placed the barrel against the side of his head. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t sure if any of the Old Man’s gangland tales were true. Years before, when Labriola had first given him a job running numbers, he’d believed Labriola was a big-time mobster. Later he’d learned that in fact he was little more than a nickel-and-dime shylock. But by then it didn’t matter whether the Old Man was big or small. He was the guy who’d taken him in after Caruso’s father had vanished, the guy who’d given him work and patted him on the head when he did things right and yelled at him when he did things wrong and in doing that had pulled him from the boiling rapids he’d been shooting down be- fore Labriola had yanked him from the water and given him some- thing to do besides boost cars and raid vending machines for a few lousy bucks. Old Man Labriola had brought him under his wing, given him real work, so that he wore a suit now and looked re- spectable, and if you didn’t know better, you might even think he was legit.
“So, you gonna straighten this fucker out?” Labriola barked. “ ’Cause if you don’t . . .”
“I know, believe me,” Caruso said. “I’ll straighten him out.”
“You fucking better,” Labriola warned. “ ’Cause nobody screws Leo Labriola and gets away with it.” He slashed the air, his hand like a cleaver. “Now get the fuck outta here.”
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Thomas H. Cook is the author of sixteen novels, including The Chatham School Affair, winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel; The Interrogation; Instruments of Night; Breakheart Hill; Mortal Memory; Sacrificial Ground and Blood Innocents, both Edgar Award nominees; and two early works about true crimes, Early Graves and Blood Echoes. He lives in New York City and Cape Cod, where he is at work on his next novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Tremendous work once again by Thomas H. Cook. Instead of giving away the whole story like you-know-who, I'll review this book. I especially liked the book design - no chapters. It was broken into five acts which made the story so much more fluid. The story added up at all ends. The characters were vibrant and alive. The ending was fantastic. That's where so many good mysteries fall off - the ending. Not with Cook. He nails the story from beginning to end. Cook has a special way of exposing the darker side of humanity. He takes good advantage of that gift. That is one of the many reasons he is my hands-down favorite author.
I was interested in the premise, but about 100 pages in, I just wanted it to be over. I felt the story could've had fewer main characters with them better developed. I never felt I "got to know" any of them.
Mortimer has three months left at best to live and he has nothing to leave his wife but shattered dreams and hopes. All his money was lost at the track and he is into loan shark Leonardo Labriola for $15,000 with no way to pay it. Labriola¿s son Tony finds out his wife Sara left him and he does not have a clue why but his father is rabid that his daughter-in-law must be found. Leonardo¿s henchman Vinnie knows Mortimer is acquainted with a private investigator named Stark who finds missing people. Labriola will excuse Mortimer¿s debt and give Stark $30,000 fee for locating Sara. Mortimer gives $15,000 to his friend Abe, who runs a bistro, to give to his wife after he dies. When Abe hires Sara to sing and play music at his bistro a showdown between the various players becomes a certainty. Thomas H. Cook writes brilliant works of psychological suspense and PERIL is his crowning achievement. Readers are left to wonder until the very last chapter why Sara left Tony after nine years of marriage and why her father-in-law, not her husband is so eager to find her. Events culminate in a showdown at Abe¿s place of business and the results will shock and stun readers who would have never guessed what demons drove Sara and the other players in this very sick game. Harriet Klausner