Table of Contents
Also by Meg Gardiner
JO BECKETT NOVELS
The Dirty Secrets Club
The Memory Collector
The Liar’s Lullaby
EVAN DELANEY NOVELS
DUTTON Published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.); Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England; Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd); Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd); Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India; Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd); Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, July 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Meg Gardiner
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
The nightmare thief / Meg Gardiner.
ISBN : 978-1-101-54324-5
1. Forensic psychiatrists—Fiction. 2. Women psychiatrists—Fiction.
3. California—Fiction. I. Title.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
For Nancy Fraser
he young trader stumbled from the trees like a scarecrow running on legs of straw. Her suit was muddy, her blouse torn, her sleek Asian hair matted with pine needles. She ran into the street directly in front of Autumn Reiniger’s BMW.
Autumn braked. “Oh, man.”
The trader glanced at her but didn’t break stride. With one arm she clutched a battered lockbox. The other arm she cradled to her chest, protecting what looked to Autumn like a broken wrist.
This was the place. Fun city.
The trader ran across the street to the driveway of Peter Reiniger’s palatial home. She was the last to emerge from the eucalyptus grove at the edge of the Presidio. The others huddled on the driveway. Beside them, Reiniger sat on the tailgate of a Mercedes SUV.
Autumn got out of her car. She took a step, but Reiniger gestured for her to stay put.
The trader swayed to a stop. Nakamura, that was her name—Autumn recognized her from one of her father’s glossy corporate brochures. Chest heaving, the woman dropped to her knees.
She set down the lockbox. After long seconds she raised her gaze to Reiniger.
Her silence made Autumn’s skin tingle. Nakamura was controlling pain and raw emotion. And she was unintimidated—it was stirring. She knelt on the driveway, black hair falling across her face, and she held Peter Reiniger’s gaze. With her good arm she fumbled open the lockbox. Inside, hundreds of multi-carat stones glittered like tears.
“I win,” she said.
A hush pressed upon the street. Birdsong, wind through the trees, traffic down the hill along the San Francisco waterfront, all ebbed. Reiniger climbed off the tailgate.
“And?” he said.
She dug her hand into the stones and clutched a fistful. “Ransom my team.”
The people huddled around the SUV cheered. Nakamura let the stones—cubic zirconia, playtime diamonds—cascade back into the box.
Reiniger pulled her to her feet. “You okay?”
She wobbled, but smiled. “You owe me a raise.”
A medic jogged up. “Let’s take a look at that arm.”
Her colleagues thronged her. Autumn grinned and applauded. The woman was tough
From the roof of the Mercedes SUV, a cameraman panned the scene, catching their glee.
And … cut.
Cue the music from
Chariots of Fire
. Autumn strolled toward her dad, hands in the back pockets of her jeans.
The game runner got to Reiniger first. “We’ll edit the video and burn copies for everybody.”
Reiniger nodded. “We’ll stream it at our board meeting.”
The game runner, a black guy with the hard fitness of a running back, poured antiseptic on a gauze pad and handed it to Reiniger. “Clean up.”
Cleaning up was what Edge Adventures did. Absolutely. Reiniger pushed up the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Scrapes covered his elbow. This kidnap scenario looked to Autumn like it had been rowdier than most.
She took the gauze pad from him and dabbed at the scrapes. “Messy.”
“Realistic,” he said. “The screaming’s all part of the game.”
Only at team-building weekends run for Reiniger Capital.
“It’s how I find out what my people are made of,” he said.
Autumn had heard it from her dad before: Running a hedge fund could be risky and stressful, but Edge Adventures helped people find what was really inside. Toughness. Spirit. His staff now clustered around a cooler, beer bottles in hand, exhausted and proud. Two of them grabbed the lockbox and poured the fake diamonds over Nakamura’s head, as if dumping a bucket of ice on the winning coach at a football game.
Edge Adventures didn’t simply sell excitement. They showed clients the light.
Edge created urban reality games, role-playing scenarios that took clients into an imagined demimonde of crime and rescue. They threw people in the soup.
Edge offered kidnappings, manhunts by bounty hunters, and even a night locked in a morgue—all in all, the chance to face your demons and to act out fantasies of crime and danger. Today, Edge had grabbed Peter Reiniger’s team off a street in downtown San Francisco for a simulated heist scenario.
Coates, the game runner, checked Reiniger’s elbow. “It’s fine.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask for a discount,” he said.
Autumn saw a quick jab of anxiety on Coates’s face, and thought:
And he’s not going to sue you.
“We’re cool,” Reiniger said. “This was what my daughter here calls sick fun.”
Autumn rolled her eyes.
Coates slapped Reiniger on the back. “As always, we’re happy to have your business.”
“However, I do want to speak to you about our run-in with the police. See me inside in five minutes.”
Frowning, Coates went to help the Edge staff load their gear into the SUV—ropes, emergency flares, and replica firearms that looked mean as all get-out.
Reiniger turned to Autumn. “You’re half an hour late.”
“My car isn’t working right. There’s a light on the dashboard.”
“The one that tells you it’s time to buy a new car.”
“You mean ‘Service’?”
Laughing, she stretched and kissed his cheek. “Joking, Dad.”
“Sure you are.”
Autumn was a month shy of turning twenty-one. She bounced on her toes, knowing he would get the message.
Big birthday. Better think big gifts.
She nodded at the scene on the driveway. “You wanted me to watch the grand finale
“To see how things work.”
“Work? You’re playing
Name That Phobia.
” She raised an eyebrow. “Don’t deny it.”
“But you wanted me to sit on the sidelines. And what, cheer?” She crossed her arms. “Put Band-Aids on their boo-boos?”
He crooked his index finger and beckoned her to follow him. Inside, the house was gauzy with sunshine. The view through the living room to the terrace showed windswept Monterey pines and the blue waters of the bay.