The Unquiet: A Charlie Parker Thriller

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9781451668766: The Unquiet: A Charlie Parker Thriller

Internationally bestselling author John Connolly delivers a “scary, cerebral” (Publishers Weekly) thriller, featuring the tortured and brilliant Private Detective Charlie Parker.

 That is the nature of revenge. It escalates. It cannot be controlled. One hurt invites another, on and on until the original injury is all but forgotten in the chaos of what follows.

Daniel Clay, a once-respected psychiatrist, has gone missing. His daughter insists that he killed himself after allegations surfaced surrounding the harm done to patients in his care. Now, a killer obsessed with finding the truth about his own daughter’s disappearance is seeking revenge—and private investigator Charlie Parker finds himself trapped between those who want the truth about Clay’s disappearance to be revealed, and those who will go to any length—no matter the cost—to keep a deep, dark secret about a local town hidden.

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About the Author:

John Connolly is the author of Every Dead Thing, Dark Hollow, The Killing Kind, The White Road, Bad Men, The Black Angel, and The Book of Lost Things. He is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and lives in Dublin, Ireland. Visit him at JohnConnolly.co.uk.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

It was an overcast late November morning, the grass splintered by hoarfrost, and winter grinning through the gaps in the clouds like a bad clown peering through the curtains before the show begins. The city was slowing down. Soon the cold would hit hard, and, like an animal, Portland had stored its fat for the long months ahead. There were tourist dollars in the bank; enough, it was hoped, to tide everyone over until Memorial Day. The streets were quieter than they once were. The locals, who coexisted sometimes uneasily with the leaf peepers and outlet shoppers, now had their home almost to themselves once more. They claimed their regular tables in diners and coffee shops, in restaurants and bars. There was time to pass idle conversation with waitresses and chefs, the professionals no longer run ragged by the demands of customers whose names they did not know. At this time of year, it was possible to feel the true rhythm of the small city, the slow beating of its heart untroubled by the false stimulus of those who came from away.

I was sitting at a corner table in the Porthole, eating bacon and fried potatoes and not watching Kathleen Kennedy and Stephen Frazier talking about the secretary of state's surprise visit to Iraq. There was no sound from the TV, which made ignoring it a whole lot easier. A stove fire burned next to the window overlooking the water, the masts of the fishing boats bobbed and swayed in the morning breeze, and a handful of people occupied the other tables, just enough to create the kind of welcoming ambience that a breakfast venue required, for such things rely on a subtle balance.

The Porthole still looked like it did when I was growing up, perhaps even as it had since it first opened in 1929. There were green-marbled linoleum tiles on the floor, cracked here and there but spotlessly clean. A long, wooden counter, topped with copper, stretched almost the entire length of the room, its black-cushioned metal stools anchored to the floor, the counter dotted with glasses, condiments, and two glass plates of freshly baked muffins. The walls were painted light green, and if you stood up, you could peer into the kitchen through the twin serving hatches divided by a painted "Scallops" sign. A chalkboard announced the day's specials, and there were five beer taps serving Guinness, a few Allagash and Shipyard ales, and, for those who didn't know any better, or who did and just didn't give a rat's ass, Coors Light. There were buoys hanging from the walls, which in any other dining establishment in the Old Port might have come across as kitsch but here were simply a reflection of the fact that this was a place frequented by locals who fished. One wall was almost entirely glass, so even on the dullest of mornings the Porthole appeared to be flooded with light.

In the Porthole you were always aware of the comforting buzz of conversation, but you could never quite hear all of what anyone nearby was saying, not clearly. This morning about twenty people were eating, drinking, and easing themselves into the day the way Mainers will do. Five workers from the Harbor Fish Market sat in a row at the bar, all dressed identically in blue jeans, hooded tops, and baseball caps, laughing and stretching in the warmth, their faces bitten red by the elements. Beside me, four businessmen had cell phones and notepads interspersed with their white coffee mugs, making out as if they were working but, from the occasional snatches that drifted over to me and could be understood, seemingly more interested in singing the praises of Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. Across from them, two women, a mother and daughter, were having one of those discussions that required a lot of hand gestures and shocked expressions. They looked as if they were having a ball.

I liked the Porthole. The tourists don't come here much, certainly not in winter, and even in summer they hadn't tended to disturb the balance much until someone strung a banner over Wharf Street advertising the fact that there was more to this seemingly unpromising stretch of waterfront than met the eye: Boone's Seafood Restaurant, the Harbor Fish Market, the Comedy Connection, and the Porthole itself. Even that hadn't exactly led to an onslaught. Banner or no banner, the Porthole didn't scream the fact of its existence, and a battered soda sign and a fluttering flag were the only actual indication of its presence visible from the main drag of Commercial. In a sense, you kind of needed to know that it was there to see it in the first place, especially on dark winter mornings, and any lingering tourists walking along Commercial at the start of a bitter Maine winter's day needed to have a pretty good idea of where they were headed if they were going to make it to spring with their health intact. Faced with a bracing nor'easter, few had the time or the inclination to explore the hidden corners of the city.

Still, off-season travelers sometimes made their way past the fish market and the comedy club, their feet echoing solidly on the old wood of the boardwalk that bordered the wharf to the left, and found themselves at the Porthole's door, and it was a good bet that the next time they came to Portland, they would head straight for the Porthole again, but maybe they wouldn't tell too many of their friends about it because it was the kind of place that you liked to keep to yourself. There was a deck outside overlooking the water, where people could sit and eat in summer, but in winter they removed the tables and left the deck empty. I think I liked it better in winter. I could take a cup of coffee in hand and head out, safe in the knowledge that most folks preferred to drink their coffee inside where it was warm, and that I wasn't likely to be disturbed by anyone. I would smell the salt, and feel the sea breeze on my skin, and if the wind and the weather were right, the scent would remain with me for the rest of the morning. Mostly, I liked that scent. Sometimes, if I was feeling bad, I didn't care so much for it, because the taste of the salt on my lips reminded me of tears, as if I had recently tried to kiss away another's pain. When that happened, I thought of Rachel, and of Sam, my daughter. Often, too, I thought of the wife and daughter who had gone before them.

Days like that were silent days.

But today I was inside, and I was wearing a jacket and tie. The tie was a deep red Hugo Boss, the jacket Armani, yet nobody in Maine ever paid much attention to labels. Everyone figured that if you were wearing it, then you'd bought it at a discount, and if you hadn't and had paid ticket instead, then you were an idiot.

I hadn't paid ticket.

The front door opened, and a woman entered. She was wearing a black pantsuit and a coat that had probably cost her a lot when she bought it but was now showing its age. Her hair was black, but colored with something that lent it a hint of red. She looked a little surprised by her surroundings, as though, having made her way down past the battered exteriors of the wharf buildings, she had expected to be mugged by pirates. Her eyes alighted on me and her head tilted quizzically. I raised a finger, and she made her way through the tables to where I sat. I rose to meet her, and we shook hands.

"Mr. Parker?" she said.

"Ms. Clay."

"I'm sorry I'm late. There was an accident on the bridge. The traffic was backed up a ways."

Rebecca Clay had called me the day before, asking if I might be able to help her with a problem she was having. She was being stalked, and, not surprisingly, she didn't much care for it. The cops had been able to do nothing. The man, she said, seemed almost to sense their coming, because he was always gone by the time they arrived, no matter how stealthily they approached the vicinity of her house when she reported his presence.

I had been doing as much general work as I could get, in part to keep my mind off the absence of Rachel and Sam. We had been apart, on and off, for about nine months. I'm not even sure how things had deteriorated so badly, and so quickly. It seemed like one minute they were there, filling the house with their scents and their sounds, and the next they were leaving for Rachel's parents' house, but, of course, it wasn't like that at all. Looking back, I could see every turn in the road, every dip and curve, that had led us to where we now were. It was supposed to be a temporary thing, a chance for both of us to consider, to take a little time out from each other and try to recall what it was about the other person with whom we shared our life that was so important to us we could not live without it. But such arrangements are never temporary, not really. There is a sundering, a rift that occurs, and even if an accommodation is reached, and a decision made to try again, the fact that one person left the other is never really forgotten, or forgiven. That makes it sound like it was her fault, but it wasn't. I'm not sure that it was mine either, not entirely. She had to make a choice, and so did I, but her choice was dependent upon the one that I made. In the end, I let them both go, but in the hope that they would return. We still talked, and I could see Sam whenever I wanted to, but the fact that they were over in Vermont made that a little difficult. Distances notwithstanding, I was careful about visiting, and not just because I didn't want to complicate an already difficult situation. I took care because I still believed that there were those who would hurt them to get at me. I think that was why I let them leave. It's so hard to remember now. The last year had been...difficult. I missed them a great deal, but I did not know either how to bring them back into my life, or how to live with their absence. They had left a void in my existence, and others had tried to take their place, the ones who waited in the shadows.

The first wife, and the first daughter.

I ordered coffee for Rebecca Clay. A beam of morning sunlight shone mercilessly upon her, exposing the lines in her face, the gray seeping into her hair despite the color job, the dark patches beneath her eyes. Some of...

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