In Close Your Eyes, The New York Times bestselling duo Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen are back with a suspenseful novel about a once-blind woman with a talent for tracking serial killers
The FBI doesn't usually consult with music therapists to solve their cases. But Kendra Michael's astonishing powers of observation and analysis have made her a favorite of law enforcement agencies all across the country. Blind for the first twenty years of her life, she cares little for investigative work but can't deny her unique skill, or the results she's been able to facilitate. Kendra learned at an early age to become hyper-aware of her surroundings, perfecting the art of picking up the most subtle audio, olfactory, and tactile cues in the world around her. Like a secret weapon, she is in high demand.
Former FBI agent Adam Lynch, known as The Puppetmaster, has weapons of his own. He's a notorious master manipulator, skillfully handling criminals and colleagues alike to get the results he wants. Now he needs Kendra's special brand of help, but she's not interested until Lynch reveals that Agent Robert Stedler--Kendra's ex--is missing and may have run directly into the path of a serial killer. What began as a heinous murder investigation escalates into something even larger and more frightening: a multi-million dollar conspiracy to hide a secret that's worth killing for, again and again and again.
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St. Martin's Press
July 17, 2012
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Excerpt from Close Your Eyes by Iris Johansen
KENDRA MICHAELS PULLED the strap over her head and adjusted her guitar in front of her. "We're going to do something different today, Jimmy."
She ignored the outburst. Twelve-year-old Jimmy Matthews hated any variation in his routine, but she was determined to coax him, ever so slightly, from his comfort zone. "Look at me, okay?"
Jimmy looked up at her, his dark eyes glittering with defiance. He was autistic, and it had taken weeks for him to feel comfortable enough to make eye contact with her. She'd regarded that as a major victory. She knew there were other breakthroughs to come, if only she could unlock the secrets of that bewildering yet fascinating mind of his.
She held his gaze. "Jimmy, remember when I had you put your hand on my guitar last week? When I told you to feel the music?"
"You liked that, didn't you?"
"You could feel it, couldn't you? I saw you tapping your fingers and moving your feet."
He thought for a moment. "I felt it all over."
"I know. And I thought to myself, this guy has rhythm. You know what that means, don't you? It means you can feel the beat. You can feel it in your bones ... and in your soul."
He looked away again. "I want to sing. I always sing."
"And you're a really good singer. And you can keep singing, but I want you to do something else."
She turned and walked across her small studio. It was a carpeted, octagonal-shaped room with a whiteboard, a piano, several colorful music-themed posters, and a large mirrored panel at the far end. "Come here, I want to show you something."
She smiled luminously at him. "I promise that you're going to like this, honey. Don't you trust me?"
He didn't answer, then nodded jerkily. "I ... trust you."
Her heart melted. Another victory.
"That means a lot to me, Jimmy." She gripped the corner of a white tarp and pulled it away to reveal a percussion kit.
His eyes widened. "Drums!"
"Do you like it?"
He bit his lip. "Why should I like it? I don't know how to play drums."
"Anybody can play drums. Whether they can play them well, that's another matter." She picked up a pair of drumsticks and placed them in Jimmy's hands, curling the fingers around in a matched grip. She pulled him around to the other side of the drum set. "Now sit down. This will be fun."
Jimmy slowly sat, holding the drumsticks in front of him as if they were sticks of unstable dynamite.
"You don't have to hold them so tightly. Loosen up, feel the beat like you did last time."
He looked at the various surfaces around him. "But what do I do?"
She strummed the guitar. "Whatever you feel like doing. Whatever sounds and feels good to you." She played George Harrison's "Got My Mind Set on You," accenting the song's strong and clean rhythms.
Jimmy held the sticks over the snare drum.
He struck the drum's surface tentatively.
"Both sticks, Jimmy ... Come on, it's fun!"
He used both sticks to accompany her on the snare, striking with a not-entirely-unrhythmic beat.
He closed his eyes and nodded. He branched out to the tom-tom on his left, accenting his stylings with the lower-pitched drum.
"Good!" She pointed down to the pedal on the floor. "That's for the bass drum. Want to try it?"
He pressed the pedal and reacted with a start as the kicker struck the drum surface. He stepped on it again and again, repeating the motion until he found the rhythm she had set.
He continued on the bass drum as he struck the snare and tom-tom with increased vigor.
Kendra studied him. Could it be?
Ever so slightly, a faint smile was pulling at the corners of his mouth.
* * *
KENDRA MICHAELS DIDN'T appear to be the bitch he'd thought she'd be, Adam Lynch thought, as he watched her through the one-way glass in the observation room as she interacted with the child. What he'd heard about her had been far from complimentary, but that could be due to jealousy. Her work had completely overshadowed that of the FBI agents from whom he'd received reports. Evidently, she had not done it diplomatically.
Yet every move, every expression, was warm and gentle as she taught that troubled boy. A puzzle. If he was going to use her, he had to know which buttons to push to do it. He had no doubt he'd find a way to do it. It was a skill that had earned him both applause and hatred over the years. But it was annoying that he'd been given the wrong information with which to develop a method to do it. He studied her, looking for an answer to the paradox.
Though she was of middle height and slim, she did not appear fragile at all. When she walked or moved, she had a litheness that spoke of strength and suppleness earned by frequent exercise. Her shoulder-length, pale brown hair was sun-streaked in places. Her face ... Strength there, too. A strong chin, well-formed lips that still spoke of control and discipline, large hazel eyes that were set far apart and seemed to hold intelligence as well as humor. Not a pretty face, but for an instant, when she smiled at the boy, he had seen a flash, a beauty. It was the most dangerous form of allure, which could challenge a man to try to make that elusive beauty reappear again and again. She wouldn't appeal to everyone. She was too strong, too confident, but Lynch was drawn to that challenge.
He felt a rush of sudden eagerness at the thought of dealing with Kendra Michaels. She was interesting. He had grown so accustomed to successfully manipulating his targets that any change, any stretch, was welcome.
What was the key that he could use to make her go in the direction he wanted? Sympathy? She obviously had a warm attachment to children. But would that extend to adults? Anger? Fear? Sex? No, that last choice had popped up out of nowhere and probably had nothing to do with logical reasoning and everything to do with his physical response. The other two were possibilities, but he would have to see if they were necessary tools.
Oh well, it would come to him. He leaned back against the wall, his gaze intent on Kendra Michaels. In the meantime, he would enjoy watching her. She was like a kaleidoscope, with different shadings and settings shifting before his eyes.
Yes, Kendra Michaels was going to be an interesting project.
* * *
THE HOUR-LONG SESSION with Jimmy stretched to an hour and fifteen minutes, violating Kendra's own rule about her enforced stopping times. She wanted to leave her clients wanting more, eagerly anticipating their next session together. It was always tempting to keep going when she saw them enjoying themselves, but Jimmy had hit such a joyful groove in his drum playing that she knew he wouldn't tire of an extra quarter hour.
Kendra opened the door to the waiting room, where Jimmy's mother, Tina, had watched from behind the large one-way glass.
As Tina entered, Jimmy rushed toward her. "Mom, I played the drums!" He pounded his drumsticks into the air.
Tina laughed and hugged him. "I saw! You were amazing!" She glanced at Kendra. "I can't believe the way he lit up!"
"Yes, he did."
"I actually think ... he's getting better."
"He could be." Kendra managed a smile. She knew that Tina wanted more confirmation than that. All the parents did. They spent their lives searching for some sign--any sign--that their children might finally be turning the corner in their afflictions, but it was rarely that clear-cut. It was a marathon, not a sprint, she liked to say, and this race could go on for the rest of their lives.
But once in a while, there could be an exception. And who was to say that exception couldn't be Jimmy?
"It was a good day," Kendra said. She gently took the drumsticks from Jimmy. "I'll see you Friday?"
"Yes!" He pounded the air again, still playing to the song in his head as his mother escorted him out.
It had been a good day, Kendra thought. Maybe she should have been more--
"So this is what you do for a living."
The voice came from behind her. She spun around to see a man strolling toward her from the waiting room. "How did you get in here?"
The man was fortyish, tall, well dressed, and his dark hair was cropped short. Ice blue eyes lit a craggy face that was as tanned as if he'd spent the winter in the Caribbean. He jerked his thumb back toward the waiting room. "The main entrance was locked, so I tapped on the door from the hallway. That nice woman let me in. She may have had the impression that I worked with you."
"Maybe because that's what you told her?"
"Not in so many words."
"It doesn't take so many words if you choose the right ones. Who are you?"
The man walked toward the piano and idly plunked a few notes on the keyboard. "If what I've heard about you is true, you already know quite a bit about me." He turned back to her. "Why don't you tell me who I am?"
She gazed warily at him. She had been acquiring information about him since he walked into the room, but she realized it was being submerged by the sheer impact of his personality. There weren't many people who possessed that instant magnetism, and she had an idea that he used it with the deftness and skill of long practice. Complicated. She had no need of any more complications in her life.
She checked the screen of her cell phone. "I have another appointment coming. Sorry, I don't have time for games. You should go now."
"This is no game. Humor me, Dr. Michaels." He smiled.
It was a charming smile, she thought, meant to put her at ease and draw her closer into the web. Oh yes, she had to be very careful with him.
"It's the quickest way to get me out of your hair," he continued. "Much easier than calling security. I'm curious to see--"
Kendra cut him off. "You're right, let's get to it. Who are you? Let's see. I know you have a background in law enforcement, probably the FBI." She walked around the studio, straightening it for her next client. "But I'm fairly certain you don't work for them now, though you are consulting for them in some capacity. As a matter of fact, you were at the downtown FBI branch office earlier today. And I agree with you that the third-floor conference room is quite stuffy and warm."
He stared at her for a long moment, his gaze narrowed. "Amazing. I would say that they called and tipped you off, but I didn't tell anyone that I was even considering coming here."
"No one tipped me off. I had no idea you were coming, and I'm sure they didn't either." She covered the drum kit as she continued her assessment. "When you were with the Bureau, you carried two guns, one in your left shoulder holster and the other on your right ankle. Now you're only carrying one, in the shoulder holster. I guess getting shot wasn't quite enough to put you off guns entirely, was it?"
He smiled. "Go on. I'm enjoying this."
"I'm sure everyone told you to spend more time recuperating, but you couldn't stand to sit still, could you? That wheelchair drove you crazy, almost as much as the crutches did."
"Anybody would feel that way."
"You more than most. Is that why your wife left you?"
He raised his left hand, where a slight indention still appeared on his ring finger. "That's an easy one."
"It's all easy. That ring indention is tanned, but not nearly as tanned as the skin around it. I'd say you took it off two years ago."
"Two and a half years."
"I stand corrected. I'm assuming you don't have children. If you did, that Italian sports car you drive wouldn't be very practical."
"I know you didn't see me drive up."
She shook her head. "I didn't. Not very inconspicuous for someone in your line of work, is it?"
"I'm entitled to my indulgences. I have another, much more boring, car at home. No kids, by the way."
"You've been in this area for a while, but not always. You grew up in the Midwest. Wisconsin, I'd say. You probably even went to college there. After that, you spent a few years in the Northeast. Then you came here."
"In-freaking-credible," he said softly. "I do believe that everything I've heard about you is true."
"I'm so happy I didn't disappoint you," she said sarcastically. "Will you please leave now? I'm very busy."
"And more than a little hostile. Now why is that? Could it be because I'm FBI?"
"Possibly. If you're here, I'm sure you know I've had a few problems with the Bureau."
"I've heard rumors." He crossed his arms and leaned against a table. "But there's no way I can leave without finding out how you knew all that."
"I didn't know. There's no way I could know unless someone told me."
"But you were right on the money with everything you told me."
"It's all a matter of probability. With the information I had, the likelihood of each of the things I said was high. But I really didn't know. Will you please leave? You're taking up valuable time."
"You didn't tell me who I am. What's my name?"
"You can't have everything." She stared him in the eye. "I'd have to work on that for a while. I've given you the performance you wanted from me. You're not getting anything else." She paused. "Nothing. Don't ask."
"My name is Adam Lynch. How did you know I was with the Bureau?"
"Good afternoon, Mr. Lynch."
He studied her for an instant, then turned on his heel. "I'll go. You'll be more willing to deal with me if you don't have to worry about keeping those kids waiting. We'll continue this later."
"Make an appointment. I'll see if I can fit you in. I doubt it. The FBI isn't high on my list of priorities."
He gave a low whistle. "I understand you had a very warm relationship with one FBI agent. Jeff Stedler must have really pissed you off." He paused. "I'm curious. In the bedroom or on a case?"
She stiffened. "My God, what nerve. You'll stay curious, you nosy bastard."
"Sorry. I'm usually not that clumsy. You're having a peculiar effect on me. I'm finding there's something about you that disturbs my usual modus operandi. Forgive me." He moved toward the door. "We'll talk later."
She couldn't let him walk out of the room without asking the question.
"Wait." When he looked over his shoulder, she asked, "Did Jeff send you?"
"No, though he's the reason I'm here." He smiled. "We'll discuss him at the same time you explain how you knew the intimate details of my life. Tit for tat." He left the studio.
Clever. Lynch had dangled that alluring tidbit of information to hook her into another meeting. He wanted something. He probably wanted her.
Kendra gazed after him with exasperation. She was tempted to just block him out of her thoughts and tell him to take a jump. But that reference to Jeff had made her curious ... and a little worried.
It was strange that Lynch made that abrupt sexual reference to her affair with Jeff. It wasn't slick or diplomatic. For an instant, she'd seen a flicker of recklessness in his expression. Another facet of Lynch's character revealed. Another sign of the complication she'd sensed. Did she want to assuage her curiosity badly enough to deal briefly with him again?
She didn't have to make up her mind just then. She had work to do.
She went to the door to bring in Jenny Brooks, her next student.
* * *
KENDRA LOCKED UP THE studio and walked to her car as the late-afternoon sky softened into twilight. She had tried to block Adam Lynch from her mind all afternoon. Damn him for showing up in the middle of the day, taking her mental energy from people who needed it far more.
Forget him. She would go home and document her observations, as she usually did after a day of appointments. As much as she cared for her clients, who ranged in age from two to ninety-three years old, she knew she could make an even bigger contribution with the treatment options she had developed and was still refining with each session. With precise protocols and careful documentation, she and others were slowly pushing the discipline of music therapy away from alternative woo-woo medicine and into the mainstream of accepted scientific opinion.
If she could concentrate on what was important instead of the problem that Lynch had put before her. She still felt unsettled, and she knew that her encounter with Lynch would not be her last. She would have to consider what he'd said and decide how to handle him.
If he let her have the time to consider anything before he pounced again.
Adam Lynch was leaning against the hood of his sports car, waiting in the parking space when she drove up to her condo twenty minutes later.
She wasn't even surprised.
She got out of her Honda and strolled toward him.
He smiled. "You look a bit more mellow. Was the rest of your day successful?"
"Fairly. I think I made a few steps forward in the dance."
"With my kids, learning is like a tango. Sometimes they learn the most complex steps with astonishing ease, and yet the simple ones baffle them." She turned and moved toward her front door. "You might as well come in. You'd probably camp out here if I don't get this over with."
"Possibly." He followed her. "And, besides, you want to know about Jeff Stedler."
"That's true." She unlocked the front door. "You're very perceptive."
"Which means you still care something for him."
"Does it? We were lovers for a year, but that doesn't mean it was anything more than sex."
He tilted his head. "But I don't think that you could have an extended sexual relationship with anyone unless you at least liked him."
"You have a right to your opinion." She went into the condo and turned on the lights. "But you don't really know anything about me, do you?"
"I know you were born blind due to a degenerative corneal disease in the womb. You remained blind until you were twenty." His gaze wandered around the contemporary living room decorated in rust, red, and gold shades. "Lots of color. This is charming. I can imagine how you must have embraced color when you first experienced it."
"It was as heady as a straight shot of vodka." She looked at him. "I embraced a lot of things after my operation. Everything seemed new and exciting. Including Jeff Stedler."
"Interesting. But you haven't satisfied my curiosity yet about what crystal ball you used to reveal all my secrets this afternoon."
"Secrets? It would take more than a crystal ball to learn anything about you that you didn't want me to know. But you're not going to let it go, are you? Okay, let's get it over with." She sat down on the arm of the rust armchair. "How long has it been since you were with the FBI, Adam Lynch?"
"How did you know I was FBI? You said that before I mentioned Jeff Stedler."
"Your jacket cuts a clean line, but there's still a rather distinct bulge under your left armpit."
"Many people carry guns."
"Not that many. Law enforcement and private security mostly, followed by gangsters and thugs."
He smiled. "You don't think I'm a thug?"
"Oh, you're most definitely a thug. You're just paid to be one by the FBI."
"I'm still waiting for an explanation how you knew that."
"You're obviously aware that the FBI has brought me in to consult on a few cases. I've been in that stuffy third-floor conference room, and I've sat in those ridiculous diamond-backed chairs. When you take off your jacket and place it over the chair back, you're left with three distinct impressions: one just below the collar and two others beneath the shoulders. That's exactly what I'm seeing on that jacket of yours."
He shook his jacket lapels and brushed his shoulders. "Seriously?"
"Don't worry, it's very faint, and it goes away after a day or so."
"Okay, but how do you know I'm still not an agent? How do you know it wasn't just another day at the office?"
"In that building, agents wear their IDs around their necks. Makes it easier to swipe across sensor pads to unlock doors. But visitors wear badges that clip to their clothing." She walked up to him and pulled on his jacket's breast pocket to show a quarter-inch horizontal crease near the top. "The badge holder leaves a mark that looks like this. If you were wearing something a bit more sheer, you might see what looks like a row of tiny teeth marks."
"Fortunately, I'm not in the habit of wearing silk shirts to FBI headquarters." His gaze narrowed on her face. "But how do you know I was ever an agent at all?"
"Even though you're not wearing an ankle holster now, you still walk as if you are. You make a slight sweeping motion so your pant leg doesn't press against your phantom holster. That's law enforcement all the way."
"Really?" He looked down at his feet. "Do all FBI guys walk like that?"
"More than you'd think. Police detectives, too. It's only slightly less obvious than a Haggar slacks pant leg pressed up against the side of a nine-millimeter automatic."
"I still wear it from time to time. And you were also right about the leg wound." His brow furrowed. "But I'm pretty sure I'm not walking with a limp."
"Not a visible limp."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"To look at you, one would think you move with nothing but the utmost authority and confidence."
"I think there's a 'but' coming."
"You still slightly favor your right leg. I can't see it, but I can hear it. But what I can see is a pretty nasty scuff on the sole of your left shoe. It's covered with shoe polish, but I can see it's been worn down quite a bit. That might have been prevented if you hadn't been so quick to ditch your crutches."
"How do you know I didn't slip in the bathtub or have a motorcycle accident?"
"I don't. But it stands to reason that a man who has a need to carry two guns might occasionally find himself on the receiving end of some gunfire." She stood, moved across the room, and picked up her guitar, which was leaning against the stone fireplace. She started tuning it. "And you don't impress me as someone who would slip in the bathtub. You're very sure on your feet."
"And where I've lived?" Lynch asked.
"I'd say not so simple."