He melted into the woods, found a suitable vantage point, and stretched out, stomach-down, on the ground. Relied on his training to make himself part of the forest.

Cataloging faces, phone calls, names. Who?

The lights burst through the trees below, blinking white, red, and blue. Engines straining. In his mind’s eye he saw them swerving in at the house, slamming into park—

But that did not happen.

The cars did not slow. They rocketed past, two Pitkin County Sheriff’s cars.

It was okay.

No one had betrayed them.

As the sirens receded, he spoke into his radio. “Wait where you are until I give the signal.”



It came to Nick Holloway, gradually, that he was lying on cold hard concrete. Something above held him fast. His shirt was hooked on the undercarriage of a car.

He managed to get loose, tearing his shirt in the process, and crawled out from under. Enveloped by the stench of motor oil, shaking and sick, Nick finally realized where he was: the two-car garage beneath the Aspen house.

The last thing he remembered was talking to a guy named Mars at the Soul Mate wrap party. He’d never seen Mars before. It was an exclusive wrap party—just Brienne Cross, the contestants and their guests, himself, and the crew. But Nick remembered talking to the mysterious Mars, the two of them sitting on the back deck, the movement of Castle Creek rushing underneath the slats making him dizzy.

After that it was lights-out.

Nick pulled himself to his feet. His legs didn’t work very well, and the smell of flowers and cut lawn sickened him. He became aware of the bright yellow ribbon stretched across the entrance to the garage. Written on the tape were the words “CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS.”

A policeman behind the tape stared in at him, mouth open in shock. Then he started yelling.

A Pitkin County Sheriff’s detective with long legs, big shoes, and a face like a hatchet put him in the front seat of a brown Chevy Caprice, exactly the kind of car Nick had described in his thriller, Hype.

“Do you have some ID?” the detective said.

Nick had a question of his own. “Do you know how I ended up in the garage?”

“I thought maybe you could tell me that.”

Nick realized that he had to stare at the air conditioner vent in the cracked dash to avoid spinning. “I have no idea.”

“ID,” the detective reminded him quietly.

Nick shifted to pull his wallet out of his back pocket and nearly passed out. He stared at the vent until the double vision stopped. “Jesus.”

Hatchet Face took the wallet and looked at his driver’s license. “Nick Holloway. I’ve heard that name before.”

“Maybe it was my book, Hype. Number thirteen on the New York Times Best Seller list.”

“I don’t read. The wife does, though. It’s not about vampires, is it? She loves that stuff.” Hatchet Face had his license out and was tapping it against his leg. “Did you know the people in the house?”

Nick noticed the past tense. He wondered if the cast and crew had blackballed him, but that seemed silly. The aspirin taste seeped into his mouth again—he was going to be sick.

“Mr. Holloway.”

But Nick had already passed out.

They resumed the interview in the emergency room. They had plenty of privacy. It had been two hours, and a nurse had poked her head through the curtain once, ducking out instantly in case anyone asked her for anything. Nick lay in a surgical gown on the crank-abed. Hatchet Face, Detective Derek Sloan, sat on a plastic chair.

“You mean they’re all dead? Brienne? Justin? All of them?”

Nick wasn’t quite able to grasp it, but he knew it was huge. Logically, he understood that he had just escaped death, but in his current state, he was unable to assimilate it.

Sloan switched his ankle from one knee to the other. “You have any idea how you came to be in the garage?”

“Nope.” Nick told the story again: He remembered talking to Mars on the deck. Feeling pretty good. Then looking down at the rushing water between the slats of the deck, feeling sick. “I think I was looking for a bathroom.”

“That’s the last thing you remember?”

“Until I woke up under an oil pan.”

“You were writing an article for Vanity Fair?”

“A series, actually. ‘The Reality Show Diaries.’ Not my choice for a title. I was thinking more along the lines of ‘Sucking Up for Fun and Profit.’” Once again it hit home that all of them had been killed. If he hadn’t been in the garage, he would have been killed, too.

The detective questioned him about his presence in the garage at length, and also asked if he knew of anyone who would want to kill everyone in the house. He mentioned white supremacists.

The room began to spin again.

Somebody in blue scrubs bustled in and told Sloan to leave.




The pond behind Jolie Burke’s house was about two-thirds the length of a backyard swimming pool. She figured it would take her eight strokes to reach the opposite bank.

During the day, the pond was opaque. The shadows were deep and almost impossible to look into. Little bubbles spiraled up near the bank where decaying vegetation and cypress trees met.

Never once had she contemplated swimming in it.

That had changed this morning, when Jolie looked at the pond from her yard.

One minute it was a normal day, close and sticky, the sun hot on the top of her head. Her mind was still on her parents’ first home, which she’d walked through the day before.

Then the feeling came up, fast, and gripped her hard. Her heart pounded. Her hands and feet went numb. She couldn’t get her breath.

Jolie knew it was the pond.

She forced herself to move, to turn around and walk back into the house. The feeling of doom followed her into the kitchen. She sat down on a chair at the kitchen table.

She sat in the chair for maybe half an hour. Time seemed to expand. The clock ticked loudly. Her cat, Rex, begged for his food, but she couldn’t stand up to give it to him.

Finally, legs shaking, she rose to her feet and fed the cat, then went to the bedroom and put on the clothes she’d laid out the night before. She left the house and got into the car. By the time she drove into the parking lot at the Palm County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Jolie Burke felt almost normal.

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