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Authors: Jeffery Deaver

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General

The Skin Collector

BOOK: The Skin Collector
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Table of Contents

Also by Jeffery Deaver

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

I: The Out-of-Print Book

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

II: The Underground Man

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

III: The Red Centipede

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

IV: The Underground Woman

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

V: Reunion

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

VI: Skin and Bone

Chapter 79

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Also by Jeffery Deaver

Mistress of Justice

The Lesson of Her Death

Praying for Sleep

Speaking in Tongues

A Maiden’s Grave

The Devil’s Teardrop

The Blue Nowhere

Garden of Beasts

The Bodies Left Behind

Edge

The October List

THE RUNE SERIES

Manhattan is My Beat

Death of a Blue Movie Star

Hard News

THE LOCATION SCOUT SERIES

Shallow Graves

Bloody River Blues

Hell’s Kitchen

THE LINCOLN
RHYME THRILLERS

The Bone Collector

The Coffin Dancer

The Empty Chair

The Stone Monkey

The Vanished Man

The Twelfth Card

The Cold Moon

The Broken Window

The Burning Wire

The Kill Room

THE KATHRYN DANCE THRILLERS

The Sleeping Doll

Roadside Crosses

XO

A JAMES BOND NOVEL

Carte Blanche

SHORT STORIES

Twisted

More Twisted

Trouble in Mind

THE SKIN COLLECTOR
Jeffery Deaver

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in the United States of America in 2014 by

Grand Central Publishing

First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

Copyright © Gunner Publications, LLC 2014

The right of Jeffery Deaver to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters in this publication are fictitious
and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 444 75747 7

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

www.hodder.co.uk

For Dennis, Patti, Melissa and Phillip

The creatures I had seen were not men, had never been men. They were animals – humanised animals – triumphs of vivisection.

H. G. Wells,
The Island of Doctor Moreau

I
THE OUT-OF-PRINT BOOK
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5
NOON
CHAPTER
1

The basement.

She had to go to the basement.

Chloe hated it down there.

But they’d sold out of sizes ten and twelve Rue du Cannes – the tacky little floral number with scalloped hemline and plunging front – and she needed to replenish the racks, fill ’em up for the grazers. Chloe was an actress, not a retail fashion expert, and new to the store. So she hadn’t fathomed why, in a November
impersonating January, these particular dresses were selling out. Until her boss explained that, even though the store was in alternative SoHo in Manhattan, the ZIP codes of the purchasers situated them in Jersey, Westchester and Long Island.

‘And?’

‘Cruises, Chloe. Cruises.’

‘Ah.’

Chloe Moore walked into the back of the store. Here the shop was the opposite of the sales floor and about as
chic as a storage unit. She found the key among those dangling from her wrist and unlocked the basement door. She flicked on the lights and studied the unsteady stairs.

A sigh and she started down. The door, on a spring, swung shut behind her. Not a small woman, Chloe took the steps carefully. She was also on Vera Wang knockoffs. Pseudo-designer heels and hundred-year-old architecture can be
a dangerous combination.

The basement.

Hated it.

Not that she worried about intruders. There was only one door in and out – the one she’d just come through. But the place was moldy, damp, cold … and booby-trapped with cobwebs.

Which meant sly, predatory spiders.

And Chloe knew she’d need a dog roller to remove the dust from the dark-green skirt and black blouse (Le Bordeaux and La Seine).

She stepped onto the uneven, cracked concrete floor, moving to the left to avoid a big web. But another one got her; a long clinging strand clutched her face, tickling. After a comic dance of trying to brush the damn thing off and not fall over, she continued her search. Five minutes later she found the shipments of Rue du Cannes, which may have looked French and sounded French but came in boxes
printed largely with Chinese characters.

As she tugged the cartons off the shelf Chloe heard a scrape.

She froze. Tilted her head.

The sound didn’t repeat. But then she was aware of another noise.

Drip, drip, drip.

Was there a leak?

Chloe came down here often, if reluctantly, and she’d never heard water. She stacked the faux French garments near the stairs and turned to investigate. Most
of the inventory was on shelves but some cartons rested on the floor. A leak could be disastrous. And while, yes, Chloe was eventually headed for Broadway she nonetheless needed to keep her job here at Chez Nord for the foreseeable future. Stopping a leak before it ruined ten thousand dollars’ worth of overpriced clothes might go a long way in keeping those paychecks dribbling into Chase.

She
walked to the back of the cellar, determined to find the leak, though also on serious spider alert.

The dripping grew louder as she moved toward the rear of the room, even murkier than the front, near the stairs.

Chloe stepped behind a shelf, containing a huge supply of blouses so ugly even her mother wouldn’t wear them – a major order by a buyer who, Chloe believed, had made the purchase because
he knew he was going to be sacked.

Drip, drip …

Squinting.

Odd. What was that? In the far wall an access door was open. The sound of water was coming from there. The door, painted gray like the walls, was about three feet by four.

What did it lead to? Was there a sub-basement? She’d never seen the doorway but then she didn’t believe she’d ever glanced at the wall behind the last shelf. There
was no reason to.

And why was it open? The city was always doing construction work, especially in the older parts, such as here, SoHo. But nobody had talked to the clerks – her, at least – about a repair beneath the building.

Maybe that weird Polish or Rumanian or Russian janitor was doing some repairs. But, no, couldn’t be. The manager didn’t trust him; he didn’t have keys to the basement door.

Okay, the creep factor was rising.

Don’t bother figuring it out. Tell Marge about the drip. Tell her about the open doorway. Get Vlad or Mikhail or whoever he is down here and let him earn his salary.

Then another scrape. This time it seemed to be a foot shifting on gritty concrete.

Fuck. That’s it. Get. Out.

But before she got out, before she even spun an eighth turn away, he was on her from
behind, slamming her head into the wall. He pressed a cloth over her mouth to gag her. She nearly fainted from the shock. A burst of pain blossomed in her neck.

Chloe turned fast to face him.

God, God …

She nearly puked, seeing the yellowish latex full-head mask, with slots for eyes and mouth and ears, tight and distorting the flesh underneath, as if his face had melted. He was in worker’s
coveralls, some logo on them she couldn’t read.

Crying, shaking her head, she was pleading through the gag, screaming through the gag, which he kept pressed firmly in place with a hand in a glove as tight and sickly yellow as the mask.

‘Listen to me, please! Don’t do this! You don’t understand! Listen, listen …’ But the words were just random sounds through the cloth.

Thinking: Why didn’t I
chock the door open? I thought about it … Furious with herself.

His calm eyes looked her over – but not her breasts or lips or hips or legs. Just the skin of her bare arms, her throat, her neck, where he focused intently on a small blue tattoo of a tulip.

‘Not bad, not good,’ he whispered.

She was whimpering, shivering, moaning. ‘What, what, what do you want?’

But why did she even ask? She
knew. Of course she knew.

And, with that thought, Chloe controlled the fear. She tightened her heart.

Okay, asshole, wanna play? You’ll pay.

She went limp. His eyes, surrounded by yellow latex like sickly skin, seemed confused. The attacker, apparently not expecting her collapse, adjusted his grip to keep her from falling.

As soon as she felt his hands slacken Chloe lunged forward and grabbed
the collar of his coveralls. The zipper popped and cloth tore – both the outer garment and whatever was under it.

Her grip and the blows aimed at his chest and face were fierce. She pumped her knee upward toward his groin. Again and once more.

But she didn’t connect. Her aim was off. It seemed such an easy target but she was suddenly uncoordinated, dizzy. He was cutting off her air with the
gag – that was it maybe. Or the aftermath of the shock.

Keep going, she raged. Don’t stop. He’s scared. You can see it. Fucking coward …

And tried to hit him again, claw at his flesh, but she now found her energy fading fast. Her hands tapped uselessly against him. Her head lolled and, looking down, she noticed that his sleeve had ridden up. Chloe caught sight of a weird tattoo, in red, some
insect, dozens of little insect legs, insect fangs but human eyes. And then she focused on the floor of the cellar. A glint from the hypodermic syringe.
That
was the source of the pain in her neck – and of her fleeing strength. He’d injected her with something.

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