No Ordinary Man

By: Suzanne Brockmann

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Jess Baxter—She has a secret admirer...one she could do without.

Rob Carpenter—Underneath his short brown hair and businesslike wingtips, he is no ordinary man.

Kelsey Baxter—Jess's six-year-old daughter believes that like Beauty and the Beast, her mom and Rob will marry and live happily ever after.

Stanford—Jess's neighbor who's pushing forty...and never been kissed.

Ian—Her ex-husband refuses to believe their relationship is over.

Pete—The new bartender at the club, his eyes follow  her every move.

Frank—He's very helpful, but what does he want in return?

Stan—The unassuming next-door neighbor who sees all.

Dr. Selma Haverstein—Her psychological profile of the killer fits Rob like a glove.



Prologue

Her apartment building was not very hard to get into. He just rang all the doorbells in the lobby and waited for someone to buzz the inner door open. Once inside, he quickly took the stairs up to the third floor.

He opened the door a crack, just enough to be able to see down the hall to her apartment door.

He had followed her as she did her chores today, as she did every Saturday. He had left her at the video store, knowing that she'd stop to pick up her dry cleaning and then come home. She had no idea he'd be waiting for her.

None of them ever had any idea.

As she emerged from the elevator and approached her apartment, he tensed. The timing had to be perfect. He had to wait until she unlocked the door, and was heading through...

He sprang.

She didn't even have time to yell. His hand was over her mouth, the knife at her throat. She knew who was in control, who was in charge. She knew not to struggle. They were alone in her apartment, and finally, the game would come to an end.

He could barely wait.


Chapter One

"It was a dark and stormy night," Doris drawled across the telephone line, "when suddenly a mysterious stranger appeared from the shadows of the mist."

Jess Baxter laughed and peered out the screen door into the small circle of light thrown onto her back deck by the porch lamp. "First of all," she said to the older woman who was her day care provider and longtime friend, "It may be night, but I've got all the lights on, so it's not dark. Secondly, it's certainly not stormy, and there's no mist in sight. And, Rob's hardly a stranger."

"He's hardly Elmer Schiller, either," Doris countered, referring to the shy, elderly little man who had been the previous tenant in the small apartment attached to Jess's house.

"No, he's not," Jess had to agree. She heard an odd, slow, shuffling, thumping sound that had to be Rob Carpenter, her new tenant, carrying something heavy up the stairs to the deck and to the door of the apartment.

"I mean, when it comes down to it," Doris said, "what do you really know about this guy?"

"Oh, come on, Doris," Jess replied, moving back into the kitchen and pouring herself a glass of iced tea. "He's lived down the street for months." For the past six months, Rob had rented a neighbor's house while the family was away in Europe.

"Where'd he come from?" Doris asked. "Where'd he live before he moved into the Hendersons' house? What's his family like? Where did he grow up? Any deeply rooted psychological problems? Any tendencies towards violence? Does he prefer to use a knife or a gun when committing murder... ?"

"You've been watching too many bad TV movies of the week," Jess scoffed, trying not to glance out the screen door as the subject in question went past, carrying another box.

"Might I remind you that there's a serial killer on the loose?" Doris persisted. "The fact is, you don't know anything about this guy."

"Next time I'll be sure to put 'Choice of murder weapon' on the rental application," Jess said dryly.

"I worry about you and Kelsey," Doris stated firmly. "Living all alone. Maybe you should get a big dog."

"Maybe you should take stress reduction classes."

"This is the guy who comes to your shows all the time," Doris said. "Right? The guy you've told me about?"

"Well, yes," Jess said, drawing designs in the condensation on the outside of her iced tea glass. "I've mentioned him once or twice."

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