The year is 1911. Chief Investigator Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency has had many extraordinary cases before. But none quite like this.
Hired to find a young woman named Anna Pape who ran away from home to become an actress, Bell gets a shock when her murdered body turns up instead. Vowing to bring the killer to justice, he begins a manhunt that leads him into increasingly more alarming territory. Anna was not alone in her fatepetite young blond women like Anna are being murdered in cities across America.
And the patterns go beyond the physical resemblance of the victimsthere are disturbing familiarities about the killings themselves that send a chill even through a man as experienced with evil as Bell. If he is right about his fears, then he is on the trail of one of the greatest monsters of his time.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Justin Scott has written more than 30 thrillers, historicals, and mystery novels, including The Shipkiller, Normandie Triangle, and The Empty Eye of the Sea. With many books set at sea, he has been called “the Dick Francis of yachting.” His main pen name is Paul Garrison, under which he has written five modern sea thrillers, including Fire and Ice, Red Sky at Morning, Sea Hunter, The Ripple Effect, and the Paul Janson series based on a Robert Ludlum character. Scott created the Ben Abbott detective series and was twice nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award by the Mystery Writers of America. He collaborates with Clive Cussler on the Isaac Bell series (The Wrecker, The Spy, The Race, The Thief, The Striker, The Bootlegger, and The Assassin). He lives in Connecticut with his wife.
Date of Birth:July 15, 1931
Place of Birth:Aurora, Illinois
Education:Pasadena City College; Ph.D., Maritime College, State University of New York, 1997
Read an Excerpt
new york, autumn 1910
“Medick is dead!”
Jackson Barrett crashed through John Buchanan’s dressing room door, waving the Cognac bottle they kept for opening nights and bankable reviews.
Buchanan was blacking his face for tonight’s Othello—his Moor, opposite Barrett’s Iago. He tossed his greasepaint stick with a jubilant, “Best news we’ve had in a year!”
Nothing personal against Medick. That workman-like actor had struck it rich playing the dual title roles in the old Mansfield–Sullivan dramatization of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But his sudden death left the gold mine up for grabs, and they had a scheme to grab it with an all-new, modernized Jekyll and Hyde that would clean up on Broadway and launch the richest cross-country tour since Ben-Hur.
They banged glasses and thundered toasts.
“Barrett and Buchanan .. . .”
“Present . . .”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!”
The brandy barely wet their lips. They worked too hard managing the Barrett & Buchanan Theater Company to be drinking men, and their temperate habits kept them ruggedly youthful. Tall and broad-shouldered—“Lofty of stature,” in the words of the New York Sun critic pinned above Buchanan’s mirror—they bounded onstage like athletes a decade younger than their forties. Jackson Barrett was fair; John Buchanan, his near twin, was slightly darker, his hair more sandy than Barrett’s golden locks. Both shimmered with the glow of stardom, and their intense blue eyes famously pierced women’s hearts in the back row of the highest balcony. The ladies’ husbands rated Jackson Barrett and John Buchanan as hearty men’s men—fellows they could trust.
“I’ve been thinking . . .” said Barrett.
“Never a good sign,” said Buchanan.
“What do you say we switch our roles back and forth—keep ’em guessing who’s who. First night, I’m Jekyll, and—”
“Next night, you’re Hyde. Sells tickets, and might even keep you from getting stale.”
“Sells even more if we can talk Isabella Cook back on the stage.”
“Rufus Oppenheim will never allow her.”
Isabella Cook’s husband held the controlling interest in the Theatrical Syndicate, a booking trust with an iron-claw grip on seven hundred top theaters around the country. You could not tour first class without Rufus Oppenheim’s syndicate, and you paid through the nose for the privilege.
“Why did the most beautiful actress on Broadway marry the spitting image of a bald bear smoking a cigar?”
“She would never go with us even if Oppenheim let her,” said Buchanan. “There’s no Jekyll and Hyde role big enough for the ‘Great and Beloved Isabella.’ ”
“Actually,” said Barrett, “I’ve been tinkering with the manuscript.”
“How?” Buchanan asked sharply, not pleased.
“I wrote a new role for Miss Great and Beloved—the beautiful heiress Gabriella Utterson—which makes her central to the plot. Gabriella sets her cap for our handsome young Jekyll. The audience sees the evil Hyde through her eyes and fears for her.”
Buchanan understood immediately. His partner had gone off half cocked, per usual, but rewriting Robert Louis Stevenson’s stuffed-shirt narrator into a beautiful leading lady was a crackerjacks scheme.
“Any other changes I should know about?”
“Added some biff-bang stuff,” said Barrett.
“Airplane? What will an airplane cost?” They had warred over money since they opened their first theater down on 29th Street.
Barrett said, “Stage manager at the Casino says they’re closing He Came from Milwaukee. They’ll practically give us their biplane if we pay for removing it from the theater. Meantime, you better bone up on your swordplay. We’ll give them a duel they’ll never forget.”
“An airplane makes the play too modern for sword fights.”
“The transformation potion makes Dr. Jekyll hallucinate. Jekyll and Hyde fight a Dream Duel.”
“Jekyll and Hyde onstage together?”
“Brilliant, isn’t it?” said Barrett. “Good and evil battle for each other’s soul.”
“Any more biff-bang?”
“Mr. Hyde escapes a howling Times Square mob on the subway.”
“Jekyll and Hyde is set in London.”
“London’s old hat. I moved it to New York. Jekyll lives in a skyscraper.”
Buchanan worried that erecting, striking, and transporting stage sets for a subway train would cost a fortune. Except a New York subway was not a bad idea if you subscribed to the Weber & Fields theory that audiences were more apt to respond in familiar, “realistic” settings. It worked for laughs. Could they put it across for melodrama?
“We’ll cut down the subway for the tour.”
“Don’t patronize me with your cutting-down!” Barrett shot back.
“We’ll be carrying sixty people on the road,” Buchanan answered coldly, and they exploded into a red-faced, clenched-jaw shouting match.
“Melodrama is whipsawed! Why else are we attempting bloody Othello?”
“Cutting down saves money so we can make money.”
“Movies are driving us out of the theaters, and theater audiences are nuts for vaudeville.”
“Your free spending will kill us.”
“Damn the expense! We’re dead without spectacle.”
Their stage manager stuck his head in the door with a finger to his lips.
“Angels,” he whispered.
“Thank you, Mr. Young. Send them in.”
The partners manufactured warm smiles for their investors.
Joe and Jeff Deaver, almost as tall as Barrett and Buchanan and considerably heavier than in their college football days, were heirs to their mother’s locomotive factories and their father’s love of showgirls. Decked out in capes and top hats, twirling canes, and trailing the scent of the perfumed blondes they’d parked in the hall, they could finance Jekyll and Hyde with a stroke of a pen.
“Your timing is exquisite!” boomed Barrett.
“I’ll say. We just got invited to back Alias Jimmy Valentine. Broadway and a tour. They’ve got Vietor from England to play Valentine. And Lockwood to play Doyle. We’re going to clean up.”
“Not so fast,” said Barrett.
“Opportunity has arisen closer to home,” Buchanan explained. “Poor Medick is dead.”
Jeff, the brains of the duo, asked, “Is your Jekyll ready?”
Barrett nodded, arousing Buchanan’s suspicion that his partner’s “tinkering” had included private negotiation with the moneymen. “We are ready to go.”
“Do you have Isabella Cook?”
“We’ll find a way.”
“If you get Miss Cook on board, we say the heck with Jimmy Valentine,” said Joe. “Don’t we, Jeff? Vietor wants too much dough just ’cause he’s English. And Lockwood’s always getting chorus girls in trouble.”
“Wait a minute,” Jeff said. “Medick’s young. What killed him?”
“They say he fell from a fire escape. Fourth floor.”
“That’s crazy. The man was terrified of heights. We had him in our Black Crook. Remember, Joe? They couldn’t get him near the orchestra pit.”
“Something’s fishy. What was he doing on a fire escape?”
“Exiting a lady’s back door,” said Jackson Barrett, “pursued by a husband.”
spring 1911 (six months later)
On the second floor of New York’s finest hotel, the Knickerbocker, at the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street, the Van Dorn Detective Agency’s Chief Investigator sized up a new client through the reception room spy hole. The Research Department had provided a snapshot dossier of a “stiff-necked, fullofhimself Waterbury Brass King worth fifty million.”
Isaac Bell reckoned they had their facts straight.
William Lathrop Pape looked newly rich. A broad-bellied man in his early fifties, he stood rock-still, gloved hands clamping a gold-headed cane. His suit and shoes were English, his hat Italian. He boasted a heavy watch chain thick enough to moor a steam yacht, and his cold gaze bored through the front desk man as if the young detective were a piece of furniture.
Research had not discovered why the industrialist needed private detectives, but whatever William Lathrop Pape’s troubles, he had pulled numerous wires for a personal introduction to Joseph Van Dorn, the founder of the agency. As Van Dorn was three thousand miles away in San Francisco, it had fallen to Isaac Bell to extend the favor requested by an old friend of the Boss.
“O.K. Bring him in.”
The apprentice hovering at Bell’s elbow raced off.
Bell stepped behind Van Dorn’s desk, cleared candlestick telephones and a graphophone diaphragm out of his way, and laid down his notebook and fountain pen. He was tall and about thirty years of age, built lean and hard, with thick golden hair, a proud mustache, and probing blue eyes. On this warm spring day, he wore a tailor-made white linen suit. The hat he had tossed on Van Dorn’s rack was white, too, with a broad brim and a low crown. His madetoorder boots were calfskin, well worn and well cared for. He looked like he might smile easily, but a nononsense gaze and a panther’s grace promised anything but a smile were he provoked.
The apprentice delivered Pape.
Isaac Bell offered his hand and invited him to sit.
Pape spoke before the apprentice was out the door. “I was informed that Van Dorn would make every effort to be here.”
“Sincere as Mr. Van Dorn’s efforts were, they could not free him from previous obligations in San Francisco. I am his Chief Investigator. What can the Van Dorn Detective Agency do for you?”
“It’s imperative that I locate a person who disappeared.”
Bell picked up his pen. “Tell me about the person.”
William Lathrop Pape stared, silent for so long that Bell wondered if he had not heard. “The person’s name?” he asked.
“Pape! Anna Genevieve Pape,” said Pape, and fell silent again.
“A member of your family?” Bell prompted. “Your wife?”
“Of course not.”
“My daughter, for pity’s sake. My wife wouldn’t . . .” His voice trailed off.
Bell asked, “How old is your daughter, Mr. Pape?”
“When did you last see Anna?”
“At breakfast on February twenty-seventh.”
“Did she often go away for long periods of time?”
“Of course not. She lives at home, and will until she marries.”
“Is she engaged?”
“I told you, she’s only just turned eighteen.”
Isaac Bell asked a question that he was reasonably sure he already knew the answer to. “When did you report that the girl was missing?”
“I’m doing that right now.”
“But today is March twenty-fourth, Mr. Pape. Why have you waited so long to raise the alarm?”
“What does it matter?”
“It is the first question the police will ask when they get wind we’re looking.”
“I do not want the police involved.”
The tall detective had a steady, baritone voice. He used it to speak soothingly as if explaining a disappointment to a child. “Police involve themselves when the facts of a case indicate the possibility of foul play.”
“She’s an innocent girl.. There’s no question of foul play.”
“Policemen suspect the worst. Why did you wait so long to raise the alarm if Anna’s disappearance was unusual?”
Pape gripped his stick harder. “I suspected that she ran away to New York.”
“What did she want in New York?”
“To become an actress.”
Isaac Bell hid a smile. The situation was immensely clearer.
“May I ask why you have come to the Van Dorn Agency at this juncture?”
“She should have come home with her tail between her legs after a couple of weeks.”
“Are you concerned for her safety?”
“But you still waited another week after those ‘couple of weeks’?”
“I kept waiting for Anna to come to her senses. Her mother has persuaded me that we cannot wait any longer . . . Listen here, Bell, she was always a levelheaded child. Since she was a little girl. Eyes wide open. She’s no flibbertigibbet.”
“Then you can comfort your wife with the thought that a girl with Anna’s qualities stands a good chance of a successful career in the theater.”
Pape stiffened. “She would disgrace my family.”
“This sort of behavior attracts the newspapers. Waterbury is not New York, Mr. Bell. It’s not a fast city. My family will never live it down if the papers get wind of a well-born Pape on the stage.”
Bell’s manner cooled. “I will have a Van Dorn detective familiar with the theater districts work up the case. Good afternoon, Mr. Pape.”
“I demand you personally conduct the search if Van Dorn can’t.”
“The agency parcels out assignments according to their degree of criminality. Mr. Van Dorn and I specialize in murderers, gangsters, bank robbers, and kidnappers.”
At the moment, he was supervising investigations into train robbers derailing express cars in the Midwest, bank robbers crisscrossing state lines in autos, Italian gangs terrorizing the New York docks, a Chicago jewel thief cracking the safes of tycoons’ mistresses, and blackmailers victimizing passengers on ocean liners.
“A temporarily missing young lady is not the line I’m in. Or are you suggesting she was kidnapped?”
Pape blinked. Obviously accustomed to employees obeying his orders and his whims, the industrialist looked suddenly at sixes and sevens. “No, of course not. I checked at the station. She bought a train ticket to New York— Bell, you don’t understand.”
“I do understand, sir. I was not much older than Anna when I went against my own father’s wishes and became a detective rather than follow him into the banking business.”
“Banking? What bank?”
“You made a mistake,” said Pape. “An American States banker faces a lot more lucrative future than a private detective. Take my advice: you’re a young fellow, young enough to change. Get out of this gumshoe business and ask your father to persuade his boss to offer you a job.”
“He is the boss,” said Bell. “It’s his bank.”
“American States. American Stat— Bell? Is your father Ebenezer Bell?”
“I mention him to assure you that I understand that Anna wants something different,” said Bell. “Your daughter and I have disappointed fathers in common— Now, by any chance have you brought a photograph?”
Pape drew an envelope from an inside pocket and gave Bell a Kodak snapped out of doors of children in a summer camp theatrical performance. Anna was a cherubic, expressive, fair-haired girl. Whether she was levelheaded did not show—perhaps a tribute, Bell thought with another hidden smile, to her thespian talent.
“Shakespeare,” said Pape.
Bell nodded, engrossed in memories the picture brought forth. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“How did you know?”
“They made me play Oberon when I grew too tall for Puck— Anna’s a pretty girl. How old was she here?”
Pape muttered something Bell couldn’t understand. “What was that, sir?” He looked up from the photograph.
The Brass King had tears in his eyes. “What if I’m wrong?” he whispered.
“How do you mean?”
“What if something terrible happened to her?”
“Young women come to the city every day,” Bell answered gently. “They eventually find something they want or they go home. But, in either event, the vast, vast majority survive, enriched, even happy. I would not start worrying needlessly. We’ll find your daughter.”
Excerpted from "The Cutthroat"
Copyright © 2018 Clive Cussler.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.