Read an Excerpt
Kill him, Cindy Allen silently prayed. kill him, and let me know that this is over.
Sensing her tension, Bill reached over and took her hand. “They’ll lock him up forever,” he said softly. “They’ll lock him up and you’ll never have to be afraid again.”
Though she squeezed Bill’s hand as if his words had comforted her, Cindy knew they weren’t true. She would be afraid for the rest of her life.
Afraid to walk by herself in the streets—if she could ever walk again.
Afraid to look at the faces of strangers, fearful of what she would see in their eyes: pity and revulsion and embarrassment.
Afraid even to look at Bill, of seeing shades of those emotions in his eyes.
And all because of the man whose face now filled the screen of the television set at the foot of her bed.
She tried to put aside her anger and her fear for a moment, tried to look dispassionately at the face of Jeff Converse. It was a handsome face—she had to admit that. Clean-cut, even features.
Not the kind of face you’d expect to see on a monster. Indeed, nothing about Jeff Converse’s pleasing appearance hinted at the cruelty that lay within. Not the dark, wavy hair, not the warm brown eyes, not the expression on his face. In the image on the television screen of the man she’d testified against in court, Jeff Converse looked as frightened as Cindy Allen felt. Except that she knew her fear was real.
His was just another lie, like all the lies he’d told in court.
“What if the judge believes him?” she whispered, not quite aware that she’d spoken aloud.
“He won’t believe him,” Bill replied. “The jury didn’t believe him, and neither will the judge. He’ll give Converse everything he’s got coming to him.”
But he won’t, Cindy thought. He might put Jeff Converse in jail, but he won’t do to him what he did to me.
As the image of Jeff Converse vanished from the television screen, replaced by the smiling visage of the pretty blonde who anchored the morning news, Cindy looked away, her gaze shifting to the mirror over the dresser that she’d made Bill hang low on the wall so she could see herself as others saw her.
“It will be all right,” Bill had said, trying to reassure her the first time she’d looked into the mirror after the bandages were removed. “I’ve talked to the doctor, and he says he can repair almost all the damage. It will just take time.”
Time, and five surgeries, and more money than she and Bill earned in a year.
And even then, even if they found the money and she went through all the procedures the plastic surgeon had explained to her, she wouldn’t be well. Her features might once again bear some resemblance to the face that had been hers until that horrible night six months ago. But even if they could repair the scars on the outside—rebuild her crushed cheekbone and shattered jaw, repair the lower lip that had been nearly torn away when he’d slammed her face into the concrete, breaking five teeth in her lower jaw and four in her upper—they’ d never be able to repair the scars on the inside. Even if they could find a way to mend the damage to her spine that had made it impossible for her to walk, they’ d never be able to make her feel safe on the streets again.
That was what Jeff Converse had taken from her. She had been on her way to meet Bill. It was late, but not that late. He’d had to work, and so had she, and they were going to meet for dinner at ten.
The subway was almost empty—only one seat was taken on the car she got on at Rector Street—and that passenger got off at Forty-second. Then she had the car to herself, which was just the way she liked it. Alone, she was able to concentrate on the IPO she was analyzing before making her final recommendation on Monday morning. By the time she got to 110th Street, she’d marked half a dozen sections to go over with Bill during dinner.
The station was nearly as deserted as Rector Street had been, and she barely noticed the solitary man standing on the platform, waiting for a downtown train.
She was just starting up the stairs when she felt the arm snake around her neck, felt the hand clamp over her mouth. She was yanked backward, then dragged down the deserted platform until they were at its northernmost end.
That’ s when her face was smashed the first time, slammed so hard into the tile wall that her nose shattered and blood started streaming down. Stunned, she had no strength to resist as the man shoved her to the platform and began tearing at her clothes. Finally, she started fighting back. She struggled to roll over so she was facing him, but he was too strong for her. He slammed her face into the concrete platform as though trying to break the head of a doll, and for a second she blacked out. When she came to an instant later, she was lying on her back, and though her eyes were already swelling and swimming with her own blood, she could see his face clearly.
The brown eyes looking down at her.
The shock of dark hair.
She lashed out, her fingernails raking his cheek as she found her voice and screamed. She tried to twist away from him, but something was wrong with her body—she couldn’t move her legs.
She screamed again and again, and after what seemed an eternity, during which she was certain she was about to die, help appeared.
Abruptly, the figure above her was pulled away, and a moment later she was surrounded by people. Two transit policemen asked her what had happened, but by then the agony was already overwhelming, and as she saw two more cops dragging the man away, she drifted into unconsciousness.
When she woke up again, she was in a hospital.
They brought her pictures of a dozen men when she was well enough.
She recognized him immediately.
She would never forget him.
“I want to be there,” she said now, as another image of Jeff Converse appeared on the television screen. “When the judge sentences him, I want to be there.”
“You don’t have to, Cindy,” Bill replied, but Cindy Allen was determined.
“I want to see him. I want to see the fear in his eyes.” Without waiting for Bill to help her, she began working her broken body out of the bed and into the wheelchair that stood next to it. “He deserves to die,” she said. “And the scariest part is, I wish I could watch them kill him.”
carolyn randall felt the tension in her expensively decorated breakfast room as the newscaster finished her story on the sentencing of Jeff Converse. When Jeff’s face first appeared on the screen, she’d instinctively reached for the remote control, but not quickly enough. The blond newscaster—who Carolyn was almost certain had been flirting with her husband at a Cancer Society benefit two weeks ago—had already spoken Jeff’s name, and both Carolyn’s husband and her stepdaughter had immediately turned to look.
“Why do you two insist on watching every report about this awful thing?” she demanded when the newscast cut to a commercial. “It’ s over. You’ve got to let it go.”
“It’s not over,” Heather replied without hesitation, her voice tinged with anger. “It won’t be over until they let Jeff go.”
“ ‘They,’ as you put it, are not going to let him go unless he’s innocent,” Perry Randall said in a condescending tone, which Heather recognized as one he ordinarily reserved for dim witnesses who were ignorant of the facts. “And since he is not innocent, I don’t think that is going to happen.”
“You don’t know—” Heather began, but her father cut her off before she could finish.
“I know the facts of the case,” he reminded her. “I saw the police report after Converse was arrested, and though I recused myself from the case for obvious reasons, that does not mean I didn’t review it carefully.” He saw in the way his daughter’s jaw set that his arguments would be no more persuasive this morning than they had been on any other day since Jeff Converse had been apprehended at the scene of the assault on Cynthia Allen. His own stubborn streak now revealed itself. “I know how you feel, Heather, but if feelings were allowed to rule our courts, our prisons would be empty. There isn’t a man on Rikers Island—or anywhere else, I suspect—who doesn’t have a girlfriend who swears he’s innocent.”
“But Jeff is innocent!” Heather flared. “Daddy, you must know he’s not capable of what he’s accused of doing!”
Perry Randall’s left eyebrow arched. “No, Heather, I really don’t know him.”
Heather felt she was choking on the stream of furious words rising in her throat, but held them in. What was the point of arguing with her father now? His mind was made up—had been made up since the moment she’d called him after Jeff’s arrest.
She had called him in the hope—no, in the certainty—that he’d be able to talk to someone and straighten everything out. Now she realized she should have known better. Hadn’t it been her father’s cool, analytical responses to nearly every emotional issue that ever came up that had finally driven her mother away? Still, she hadn’ t been prepared for his response to her request for help:
“I want you to come home immediately,” he’d told her. “The last thing I need right now—”
“You need?” she’ d retorted. “Daddy, Jeff’s in jail!”