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A Novel

Loverboy by Michele Jaffe
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The rules:
Two weeks before he intends to slowly and sadistically kill his prey, Loverboy sends a collage of the future crime scene to the FBI. If the agents can solve the riddles of the collage in time, they can save the victim. Loverboy thinks that’s more than fair. It’s not his fault the feds have already failed five times.

The players: Rosalind Carnow was last seen alone in her Las Vegas hotel room. No one knows where she is now—except Loverboy, and he’s not saying a word. Imogen Page, an FBI agent with a painful past and uncertain future, may be the only person who can find her—and she is determined to decipher Loverboy’s brilliant but deranged puzzle. If Loveboy lets her get that far.

The game: Imogen matches wits with a homicidal mastermind, a fiercely intelligent opponent. Armed with her extraordinarily keen sense for detection, she must do for Rosalind what could not be done for Loverboy’s previous victims: save her life.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
Random House Publishing Group; June 2004
ISBN 9780345479181
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Loverboy
Author: Michele Jaffe
Chapter 1

“I hope you’re better with zippers.” The girl giggled into his shoulder as he fumbled with the lock.

“I am,” he said, humorless. Sometimes he still had trouble with how to talk to girls. It wasn’t hard to get them to come home with him, just to talk.

He focused on how the thick beige paint was scarred around the knob where generations of undergraduates had made drunken attempts to get their keys in. He was not drunk, but his fingers were trembling.

Finally he did it right and the door groaned open. He shoved against it, kissing her hard to push her inside. He was better when he wasn’t talking, with his eyes closed. They didn’t bother with the light but stripped off their clothes right there. He backed her toward the water bed and finally had the warm, reassuring feel of a female body under his.

“Ohhh, this is nice,” she murmured, wrapping her legs around him and pulling his chest over hers.

Newton’s third law: For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.

She ground her hips up to meet his and he slid inside of her. She was warm and soft and nice-smelling, baby-powder deodorant and red wine. The numbers floated through his head as his hands moved over her skin.

A car sets out for its destination at 5:45 a.m. It travels five miles at 45 mph to a stop sign. It does not stop completely, but slows, before accelerating to 60 mph for four minutes.

He pictured the car’s headlights speeding over the hunkered-down forms of the frozen trees along the straightaway, silhouetting them against the hard-packed snow, as his body moved against hers.

“Harder.” She moaned, biting his shoulder. “Do it to me harder.”

Newton’s second law: Force is equivalent to the product of the mass of an object and the speed at which is it traveling.

He leveraged all his weight and pounded into her.

For six minutes the car’s speed fluctuates irregularly between 35 and 75 mph.

He could imagine the driver rolling a Tic Tac around in his mouth to cover the bitter taste of reheated coffee and leaning forward with a squint as if the extra inches could improve his vision through the thick morning fog.

“Oh, angel, that is good,” the girl said into his shoulder as his lips, his teeth scratched over her neck.

If the car continues to accelerate—

“Oh yes, just like that.”

—and the road begins to slope downward—

“Oh God, am I close.”

—the arrival time of the passengers at their final destination—

“Right there, oh yes yes—”

The ringing phone cut through her cries.

He gripped her to his chest to still her and reached out for the receiver.


“I am so glad I reached you. Oh God, it’s terrible, terrible. There has been an accident. The car missed a curve and—” On the other end of the line he heard someone take a deep breath. “Your father is dead.”

He felt the girl tightening around him. He asked only, “When?”

The voice on the other end of the phone paused. “I beg your pardon?”

“I said, when did it happen?”

“I see. Ah, they are giving the time of death as six-oh-four.”

“Six-oh-four,” he repeated. “Thank you, Nelson.”

“Was that important?” the girl asked, pouting slightly as he hung up.

“Nope. Sorry, babe. Now, where were we?”

“I don’t think I want—”

He cut her off and, gripping her bottom to him with adrenaline-strong hands, picked up where he had stopped.

If the road begins to slope downward—

Her eyes lit up and she sighed, “Oh yesssss.”

—and the car’s brakes give out—

“Right there!”

—the arrival time of the passengers at their final destination—

“Oh angel, yes, yes, YES!”

—would be 6:04 a.m.

“My God, you are a force of nature,” she whispered to him later when he was inside her again.

Newton’s first law: an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an unbalanced force.

He smiled to himself and said, “I sure am.”

He smiled to himself again, years later, as he sat at his desk and let his fingertips run along the edges of the fragile paper that recorded his triumph that day. There had been several obituaries, but this one from the local paper was the one he liked best. Beloved father, survived by only son, it read, the words like poetry to him. He had been the one to survive. He had won that round.

Let the games begin.

Just like he would win this one.

Gently he closed the album and rested his fingers on the words deeply embossed in the rich leather, letting the shapes of the letters, F-A-M-I-L-Y-R-E-M-E-M-B-R-A-N-C-E-S, seep through his fingertips. For five minutes he sat soaking up their feel and message like a divine incantation.

Then he put away his scissors and glue, slid his newest creation into an envelope, clicked off his desk light, and locked up. It was time to go.

Ready or not, here I come!

From the Trade Paperback edition.