Daughter of Darkness
A gripping, psychological thriller in the best tradition of film-noir
It began with the missing week of her life…
Found in an alleyway, completely dazed, with no memory of who she is, or how she's gotten there, an obviously well-to-do young woman is taken to a nearby shelter run by a nun. There she meets former cop Michael Coffey, who often stops in to visit Sister Mary Agnes. When it becomes obvious that she is suffering from sudden, agonizing, recurring headaches, Coffey volunteers to take her to the nearest ER. But, haunted by an elusive memory she has of a motel, she insists that he drive her to the location first. There they discover a brutally murdered man in the room, and blood-splattered clothing that would certainly fit the young woman.
Is she a cold-blooded killer, or has someone set her up?
Instead of turning her in to the police, Coffey takes his mystery woman back to his house. And even when she disappears from there without a word, he is positive she's innocent, and remains determined to help her. But the truth which his investigation gradually reveals is so shocking that it will be almost impossible to prove. For the real criminal is someone she trusts implicitly, someone who is about to wreak the ultimate revenge-someone who has tampered not only with the truth but with this innocent victim's very mind!
From Publishers Weekly
A beautiful young woman is found unconscious in an alley, with no memory of who she is or how she got there. When a mysterious impulse leads her to a cheap motel room containing a corpse, all the evidence points to her as the most likely suspect in the murder. The detective on the case, a sensitive recovering alcoholic named Michael Coffey, falls in love with her and sets out to prove her innocence, despite the evidence. The book bounces around between Coffey's efforts to help the amnesiac (who turns out to be named Jenny) and glimpses of a madman, Quinlan, living out his sexual fantasies by way of drugs and hypnotism. Gorman (
Guilty as Charged
) keeps the pace swift and navigates smoothly among the many subplots, but his characters, which he defines mostly by comparing them to various movie and TV stars, fall flat. The author drops one bombshell at the end, but-because he simply informs the reader flat out rather than revealing the surprise dramatically-the bomb fails to explode, and the novel's resolution collapses into melodrama.
Scanning by unknown hero.
OCR, formatting & proofing by
To Sheila Gilbert,
for her skill, her patience, and her generosity.
I'd like to thank Sue Reider, John Heifers, and Tracy Knight for their help with this book.
"Who love too much hate in like extreme."
A week earlier, a
columnist had noted that Chicago was becoming "an exciting city of shopping malls."
The columnist had no way of knowing that only six days after her column appeared, life in one particular Chicago mall would get exciting indeed.
The date was Sunday, April 8th, the first truly springlike day of the year. The mall was packed. There were serious shoppers, browsers, shoplifters, loafers, and lovers of various kinds, especially those in junior high and high school, for whom the mall was a mini universe of fast food stands, a six-screen theater, three record stores, and a huge Gap outlet. Nirvana comes to suburbia.
Judith Carney was easily overlooked in such a crowd. At five feet, six inches, one hundred and twenty-two pounds, and thirty-seven years of age. there was nothing remarkable about her at all. Her short hair had recently been tinted a darker color to hide stubborn streaks of gray. She wore a demure white blouse, blue slacks, blue hose, and a pair of blue flats. She carried a hand-tooled leather purse, one she'd bought from the Pueblo Indians when she and her husband and the kids had traveled the Old West last summer. She was plain but not un-appealingly so. When she smiled, she was very nearly pretty.
She had been at the mall for more than an hour. Thus far, she'd bought two small items, a Sue Grafton paperback at B. Dalton's, and an umbrella at Penney's. She'd needed a new umbrella for some time and just hadn't gotten around to getting it.
In her hour at the mall, she'd gone to the ladies' room three times, each time to run cold water and swallow aspirin. She was suffering a very strange headache, one that also seemed to radiate pain in her ears as well. If the last few aspirin didn't do the trick, Judith would go home. She couldn't fight the pain much longer.
Shortly after leaving the ladies' room this last time, Judith decided that what she really needed was a little time off her feet. She went to the food court and bought herself a Coke and an oatmeal-and-raisin cookie. She didn't really have much of a sweet tooth but oatmeal cookies had pleasant associations for her. Her mother used to bake oatmeal cookies on cold winter afternoons when Judith had to stay in (she had a predisposition to head colds) and read her Nancy Drews. It was funny all the memories that a cookie could bring tumbling back.
She had just finished her cookie when the headache suddenly got much, much worse. She was well beyond the curative powers of aspirin-or any other over-the-counter medicine. She needed to go home.
She was sitting at a small table watching the people fanned out across the food court. Sunlight streamed through the long skylight on the roof. Everybody looked so healthy and Midwestern and happy on such a fine, lazy Sunday afternoon.
For instance, the woman sitting right across from her. A grandmother, had to be. A grandmother and her little granddaughter out shopping for the day. And now Grandma was giving her little granddaughter her treat for the day. The cute, pigtailed girl was shoveling a chocolate ice cream sundae into her mouth with great vital enthusiasm. Every few moments, Grandma would dip a white paper napkin into her glass of water and then daub the napkin on the girl's sweet, sticky mouth.
These were the two Judith decided to kill. She had nothing against them personally. Had never seen them before. It was probably because they were sitting so close to Judith. No other good reason, really.
She set her purse on the small food court table. Opened it up. Reached inside. Brought out the .45 that belonged to her husband.
And opened fire.
She killed Grandma first, a crown of blood-soaked white hair flying off the top of the older woman's skull. Then the little girl. Judith put two bullets straight into the little girl's forehead.
Screams. Shouts. A black man in a short-sleeved white shirt, yellow bow tie, and jaunty summer straw hat grabbed Judith around the shoulder and neck and seized the gun. But Judith offered no resistance, really. To her, this was all like a dream. In fact, all the shrieking, sobbing faces seemed to recede behind a thickening white mist. Even their voices began to recede.
She would go home and tell her two little girls to play quietly so Mommy could get some sleep. And then she would lie down on the sunny bed, lazy as a cat, and read a few pages of her new Sue Grafton book. And then she would drift lazily off to sleep. And when she woke up, everything would be fine, just fine.
That was when the cops showed up.
A homeless man found her in the alley and brought her inside to Sister Mary Agnes.
In the Downtown South area of Chicago, Sister Mary Agnes' shelter was legendary. Not the Downtown South of trendy restaurants and festivals of fine arts, but the dark and neglected part where men still sleep in gutters and women sell themselves for the price of their next fix.
Sister Mary Agnes had fixed up an infirmary of sorts and this was where the woman was taken. The white room contained a cot, a tall glass case filled with medicines, and a toilet. The air smelled tartly of antiseptics used earlier in the evening.
The woman was gently placed upon the cot and covered with a white sheet. Sister Mary Agnes got the lights on and started to examine her.
The first thing that struck the nun was the woman's face. She had the classical beauty of a statue. Her body was as slender and supple as that of a dancer. You did not often see women like this in a homeless shelter, especially not dressed in a Ralph Lauren Western shirt and jeans. Sister Mary Agnes guessed the young woman's age at twenty-five or so. One thing, though, the woman wore too much garish makeup. The nun, being a nun, wiped the makeup off when she cleaned the woman's face with a washcloth and hot water.
The woman was just now beginning to stir. She opened lovely, dark eyes and asked, "Is this a dream?"
"No, I'm afraid not," Sister Mary Agnes said. "You're in a homeless shelter."
The woman sat up. "A homeless shelter? What'm I doing here?"
Sister Mary Agnes put a steadying hand on the woman's shoulder. Like a drunk who was going through delirium tremens, the young woman was now overwhelmed by panic.
"Everything's fine. You need to lie back and relax."
"Who're you?" the woman said suspiciously.
"My name is Sister Mary Agnes. I run the homeless shelter here. Now why don't you lie back down? I want to shine a flashlight in your eyes."
"To see if you have a concussion."
"Are you a doctor?"
"No, but I've picked up a few medical pointers over the years." She smiled. "And I play one on TV."
She gently eased the woman back down on the cot. From the folds of her black habit, the nun took a small silver penlight. For a short, stout woman, the nun moved with surprising grace and economy. Her rimless glasses, which usually slid down her pugged nose, reflected the fluorescent overhead.
"What happened to me?" the woman said. She was somewhat sweaty and disheveled, but she bore no outward signs of injury, no bruises or cuts.
"I don't know."
"How did I get here?"
The nun shone the penlight first into one eye then the other. "No sign of a concussion."
"How did I get here?"
"One of our residents found you in the alley."
"Umm-hmm. You were propped up against the wall. He thought you were sleeping off a drunk."
"Oh, God." the woman said. Panic had been replaced by quiet fear. "You know what?"
"I don't even know who I am." Before the nun could say anything, the woman said, "I don't even know what my name is."
"Maybe we should gel you to the hospital."
The woman seized the nun's arm. "No. No hospital." Fear was now terror.
"I'm… not sure. Just… I don't want to go."
"But you need a real doctor to examine you. Amnesia is serious."
"Maybe it's just a momentary thing."
"Maybe," the nun said. "But I'm still not equipped to handle it."
There was a knock on the door. "Yes?" Sister Mary Agnes said.
A middle-aged man wearing a faded blue T-shirt and a pair of loose gray work pants came into the infirmary. He walked with small, careful steps, as if he was afraid his knees might give out at any moment. He looked painfully sober. He raised his right hand. A woman's leather wallet rode in the middle of his palm.
"I went out and looked in the alley like you said, Sister," the man said. "I found this." He handed her the wallet.
The nun eyed the cowhide wallet quickly. "Thanks, Ron. I appreciate it."
He said, "Harrigan's up in the TV room watching some old movie. You want me to tell him to go to bed?"
Sister Mary Agnes combined compassion with a drill sergeant's tenacity. She had strict rules for the men who stayed here and God forbid you broke any of them.
"Just tell him to keep it low," she said. "He's having a bad time."
"He fell off the wagon, huh?"
The nun nodded. "Yeah. So now he's got to dry out all over again. You know the insomnia you get when you're drying out."