Home > Shattered (Michael Bennett #14)

Shattered (Michael Bennett #14)
Author: James Patterson


Prologue

 

Early morning was one of her favorite times of the day. The sun had just cracked the horizon and traffic was still light. She was in training for the Marine Corps Marathon and intended to put in some decent miles today to make sure she was ready to race in November.

On her way to the Potomac, she would’ve run in the grass to protect her knees and work a little harder, but an early autumn drizzle had fallen overnight, and the road was as damp as she could manage. She’d already cut through President’s Park and was almost halfway through Foggy Bottom.

When she approached the Potomac River Freeway, shit started to get weird.

She wasn’t paranoid, but her instinct cued danger. She dismissed the feeling at first and kept her pace. Finally, as she came up on a clump of trees and bushes, she slowed to a jog, backward. She justified that she was following advice from a series of monthly columnists in Runner’s World, using all the muscles in her legs from different angles.

She worked her quadriceps as her eyes scanned the road and buildings in every direction. Nothing.

It was just her mind playing tricks. It had been an odd, emotional week. That was half the reason for the long run. To dig her way out of the funk she was in.

She fell back into the rhythm of her run. Her ASICS Gel trainers barely tapped the ground as she mentally prepared to sprint. That’s when she felt a cramping sensation in her shoulders. It was the grip of someone’s hands.

She involuntarily let out a sound like “Yoww.” And just like she’d been trained in countless defensive tactics classes, she swung first her left elbow then her right behind her. The blows didn’t seem to make a solid connection.

Now the strong hands were around her throat. She had to break free before the grip managed to cut off her wind. Now she felt the panic shooting through her. Her heart felt like it was racing at almost two hundred beats a minute.

She tried to yell for help just as a hand closed on the front of her throat and cut off her breath before it could build into a scream.

That’s when the attacker’s grip loosened.

The rising sun and the streetlight cast a blurry glare over the attacker’s facial features. Both hands turned her around, clamped around her throat, and suddenly restricted airflow to her lungs.

She looked at the attacker in shock. Her vision started to swim. Somehow she managed to croak, “This is a mistake.”

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Did you hear that?”

I listened for a moment and said, “What?”

Mary Catherine said, “It sounded like a growl.”

I stifled a laugh. “You mean like a wolf or a bear?”

“It certainly wasn’t a poodle in a purse like we’d see in Manhattan.”

“They haven’t had predators like that in Ireland for hundreds of years. Maybe it’s the hound of the Baskervilles. Like in the movie where Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes. A Great Dane. Ha.”

We were near the top of Howth Head, a short drive from Dublin. My wife of nine days was hearing the calls of imaginary wildlife. Or was she? I froze for a moment and heard the low, guttural growl of a large animal.

As I pulled myself up the last incline, I saw it. I slowly stood up and held both my hands out. I said in a soft voice, “Hey there.” I was staring into the eyes of a black Rottweiler that had to be at least 120 pounds. I tried to signal to Mary Catherine to stay on the lower part of the path. I heard her quick intake of air and knew she saw the dog too.

It dipped its head and growled again. The muscles in its shoulders and back popped as it moved slowly from side to side. The hair on its back stiffened. I wanted to tell Mary Catherine to run, but that might attract the dog’s attention.

Our eyes met. I assessed the risk of facing down a dangerous animal. Then I noticed something. Just a hint of a movement. In the stub of its tail. On a whim I said, “Who’s a good boy?”

The tail started wagging, fast, like a metronome trying to beat out the rhythm to “Flight of the Bumblebee.” I stood up straight. The dog waddled toward me, tail still shooting back and forth. The dog’s thick fur felt nice between my fingers. The dog rubbed against my leg, looking for more attention.

Mary Catherine climbed the few steps up to me and said, “You make friends wherever you go. You think it’s lost?”

I shook my head as I rubbed the dog’s back. It was well cared for. I kneeled to get a look at the tag on the collar.

Just then, a boy, about seven, appeared on the path in front of us. He called out, “C’mere, Lulubell.” The dog turned and followed the boy. They trotted away together without another look back.

Mary Catherine said, “Lulubell. Of course a female found Michael Bennett charming.” She wrapped her arms around me from behind and kissed me on the shoulder in relief. I had to turn around and give her a kiss on the lips.

I couldn’t believe how great this trip had been, how different it was from my everyday life. It was the first time we’d ever been able to let go together. No work, no kids, and no responsibilities.

It was the last full day of our honeymoon in Ireland. I couldn’t have wanted to accomplish any more. We had connected with some of Mary Catherine’s family and even met a few of my grandfather’s cousins. Their favorite saying was that everyone in Ireland had a cousin in New York City.

As we were starting our hike back to the car, Mary Catherine said she wanted to play a game. Name one of our children, she said, softening her command with a smile, and their most obvious attribute. Quick as I could.

Mary Catherine started by saying, “Juliana, talented. Jane, smart. Brian, determined. Ricky, funny. Trent, thoughtful.”

When she paused for breath, I jumped in. “Eddie, spontaneous. Fiona, clever. Bridget, serene. Shawna, loving. Chrissy, sweet.” I took a quick breath and said, “Great game—I win.”

Mary Catherine went to give me a playful shove, but I turned so she fell into my embrace. Then we exchanged a long, loving kiss until we found ourselves lying in clover, making out like teenagers.

I had to whisper to her, “I’ve never been this happy, and you’ve never looked so beautiful.”

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Mary Catherine giggled when I tried to fit my six-foot-three frame in the bed in our cozy bed-and-breakfast.

She said, “You look like a cartoon giraffe who goes to the veterinarian and can’t fit on the table.”

“I know this is supposed to be an ‘authentic inn,’ but this is ridiculous. Ireland is not a land of short people. How is it that they have a bed only big enough for a Hobbit?”

Mary Catherine slid into the bed next to me. Suddenly the length of the bed no longer mattered. And I was glad for the narrow width. I liked Mary Catherine right next to me.

We gazed out the handblown glass window into the starry night over Dublin. Mary Catherine’s fingers played with my hair as I gently made circles with my finger along her neck and shoulders. I could listen to her gentle laugh for days.

Suddenly it turned into a wild night. Not exactly what I’d expected but just as much fun.

We lay together in bed, both of us panting from the exertion. My head was still swimming, trying to process everything we’d just done, even wondering if we had broken anything. I halfway anticipated a noise complaint. If this were a drug, I could understand becoming an addict.

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