About the Author
RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON
studied fiction writing at the University of Alabama with Jesse Hill Ford; his first short story was published in
The Atlantic Monthly
, his first novel,
The Lasko Tangent
, won an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1979 and his last novel,
Degree of Guilt
was an international bestseller. Until recently a trial lawyer, Patterson lives with his wife, Laurie, and their family in San Francisco and on Martha's Vineyard.
âPatterson is a fluid prose writer clearly at his best in the taut courtroom scenesÂ .Â .Â .
Eyes of a Child
is a gripping storyÂ .Â .Â . a well crafted book that deserves to do well and almost certainly will.'
âDestined for celebrity status alongside Scott Turow and John GrishamÂ .Â .Â . he belongs among the elite.'
Los Angeles Times Book Review
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Degree of Guilt
The Lasko Tangent
The Outside Man
Escape the Night
Richard North PattersonEYES OF A CHILD
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Epub ISBN: 9781407059976
Published by Arrow Books in 1995
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Â© Richard North Patterson 1994
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the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as
the author of this work
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First published in the United Kingdom by Hutchinson 1995
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FOR FRED HILL
AND SONNY MEHTA
Ricardo Arias's face filled with fear and disbelief.
âIf you're going to kill yourself,' the intruder repeated softly, âyou must leave a note.'
Richie's eyes would not move from the gun. Pulled from damp and darkness, it had not been fired for years; the intruder wondered if it would fire now. But Richie Arias did not know this.
Sitting at his desk, Richie began groping for a pen.
His movements were sluggish, like those of a man struggling under water. Fixated on the gun, he seemed blind to the darkened living room: the worn couch and armchair, the cheap coffee table, the computer on the desk, the answering machine he used to screen creditors, the faded posters. A chrome standing lamp cast a pall on his skin.
His face was thin, with black eyes that shifted from softness to anger, as suited his needs, and yet never quite lost the alert, almost fevered expression of a bright graduate student running on too much coffee and too little sleep. Blood had begun to trickle from one nostril.
âI never write.' His head twitched toward the computer. âEveryone knows I use that.'
âSuicide is different.' The intruder's voice was strained now. âThe handwriting must be yours.'
Richie's face looked drawn. Slowly, he picked up the pen, holding it gingerly.
â“I am ending my life”' â the intruder spoke for him â â“because I have faced what I am.”'
An instant's pause, the instinct to resist. Then Richie's pen began to inch across the paper. The effort was awkward and hesitant, that of a child learning to write, pausing in the middle of letters. Heavier on some than others, spidery at the end.
â“What I am,”' the voice instructed him, â“is selfish and pathetic.”'
Richie stopped writing. His eyes filled with resentment.
the intruder ordered.
Wiping the blood from his nose, Richie stared at the paper. It was a moment before his hand moved, and when it did, there was a red smear on the back of his fingers. The word âpathetic' took too long to write.
â“My only business is extortion. I have used my wife and child, out of greed and shamelessness, because I myself am nothing.”'
Richie flushed with anger. He stopped, staring at the words he had already written. His hand would not move.
The intruder hesitated, irresolute. Then saw, on the bookshelf next to Richie, a photograph.
Gun aimed at Richie, the intruder retrieved the picture and placed it carefully on the desk. A dark-haired girl, her solemn brown eyes gazing at Richie Arias.
It was far better than a note, the intruder realized: a last expression of cheap sentiment would seem so very like him. A shrine to his own suicide.
Turning from the picture, Richie's face showed that he understood the rest.
âYou see,' the intruder said softly, âI know who you are.'
As if by instinct, Richie stood, backing from his chair. âWait,' he cried out. âNo one commits suicide from across a room.'
Their eyes met. The intruder did not speak.
âYou can just
.' Richie's tone became a shrill wheedle. âI won't tell anyone. We just let it go, okay?'
All at once, staging a suicide did not matter. âOnly
the intruder said quietly, âwould think that I could “let it go.” Only
Richie's gaze darted to the gun. Slowly, the intruder started toward him.
Five feet, then four.
Richie's face was taut with fear and calculation. Backing toward the coffee table, he seemed to have forgotten it was there: his eyes flickered toward the bedroom hallway, searching for a way out. His throat worked. âShoot me now, and it's murder.'
The intruder stopped, raising the gun.
Richie's eyes changed. In that moment, he seemed to accept â despite his deepest instincts â that one person could truly love another.
âI'll give her up,' he whispered.
In silent answer, the intruder's head moved from side to side.
Richie turned to run.
The gun jerked up at his first panicky step. As he stretched forward, straining for the hallway, Richie's leg slammed into the coffee table.
There was a sharp sudden scream of pain.
The next few seconds were like freeze-frames. Richie snapping at the waist, arms flailing. Sprawling forward in a face-first dive, head bobbing like a rag doll. Temple hitting the corner of the table. Another sound: a sickening crack. And then Ricardo Arias rolled sideways, flopping onto the carpet, and was still. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. The lamp bathed him in a circle of light.
Gun hand trembling, the intruder knelt beside him.
There was a red gash on his temple. Blood dribbled from his nose. The luminous wristwatch on his arm read 10:36.
Tentatively, almost gently, the intruder pushed open Richie's lips with the barrel of the gun.
It did not require much room. As the barrel slipped into his throat, Richie's mouth clamped down, the reflex of choking. The only sounds were Richie's shallow breathing, the whir of air-conditioning.
Eyes shut, the intruder took one breath and pulled the trigger.
A metallic snap. It was only an instant later that the intruder, forced to look at Richie's face, knew the ancient gun had not discharged.
Richie blinked, the first tremor of consciousness. Watching him taste the black metal, then discover it in some state of half awakening, the intruder prayed that the gun would fire.
Four more bullets.
Richie's eyes widened in terrible comprehension. His head rose, twisting feebly. His mouth opened around the barrel to form a single word.