A successful lawyer and loving mother, Nina Bloom would do anything to protect the life she's built in New York — including lying to everyone, even her daughter, about her past. But when an innocent man is framed for murder, she knows that she can't let him pay for the real killer's crimes.
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Nina's secret life began 18 years ago. She had looks to die for, a handsome police-officer husband and a carefree life in Key West. When she learned she was pregnant with their first child, her happiness was almost overwhelming. But Nina's world was shattered when she unearthed a terrible secret that caused her to run for her life and change her identity. Now, years later, Nina risks everything she's earned to return to Florida and confront the murderous evil she fled. In "Now You See Her," James Patterson serves up a head-spinning, action-filled story. Here is an excerpt:
Prologue: Lies and videotape
I'd already tossed the driver a twenty and was bouncing up and down like a preschooler last in line for the potty when my taxi finally stopped across from the Hudson hotel on west 58th. I didn't wait for change, but I did nearly get clipped by an express bus as I got out on the street side and hightailed it across Eighth Avenue.
I didn't even look at my iPhone as it tried to buzz out of my jacket pocket. By this point, with my full workday and tonight's party of all parties to plan, I was more surprised when it wasn't going off.
A sound, deafening even by midtown Manhattan standards, hammered into my ears as I made the corner.
Was it a jackhammer? A construction pile driver?
Of course not, I thought, as I spotted a black kid squatting on the sidewalk, playing drums on an empty Spackle bucket.
Luckily I also spotted my lunch appointment, Aidan Beck, at the edge of the crowded street performance.
Without preamble, I hooked elbows with the fair, scruffily handsome young man and pulled him into the chic Hudson. At the top of the neon-lit escalator, a concierge who looked like one of the happy, shiny cast members of "High School Musical" smiled from behind the Carrara marble check-in desk.
"Hi. I called twenty minutes ago," I said. "I'm Mrs. Smith. This is Mr. Smith. We'd like a room with a large double bed. The floor or view doesn't matter. I'm paying cash. I'm really in a rush."
The clerk took in my sweating face and the contrast between my sexy office attire and my much younger companion's faded jeans and suede jacket with seeming approval.
"Let's get you to your room, then," the über-happy concierge said without missing a beat.
A cold wind hit me as I came out of the hotel with Aidan an hour later. I looked up at the New York spring light glistening off the blue-tinged towers of the Time Warner Center down the block. I smiled as I remembered how my daughter, Emma, called it the world's largest glass goalpost.
I looked at Aidan and wondered if what we just did was right. It didn't matter, did it? I thought as I dabbed my eyes with the sleeve of my knockoff Burberry jacket. It was done.
"You were amazing. You really were," I said, handing him the envelope as I kissed his cheek.
He gave a theatrical little bow as he tucked the thousand into the inside pocket of his suede car coat.
"Hey, it's what I do, Nina Bloom," he said, walking off with a wave.
"It's Mrs. Smith to you," I called as I hailed a taxi back to my job.
"OK, Mom. You can open your eyes now."
My daughter, Emma, stood before me in our cozy Turtle Bay apartment in her sweet sixteen party dress. I took in her luminous skin and ebony hair above the sleeveless black silk and began to cry for the second time that day as my heart melted.
How had this magical, ethereal creature come out of me? She looked absolutely knockdown amazing.
"Really not bad," I said, catching tears in my palms.
It wasn't just how beautiful Emma was, of course. It was also that I was so proud of her. When she was 8, I encouraged her, as a lark, to take the test for Brearley, Manhattan's most prestigious girls' school. Not only did she get in, but she was offered an almost complete scholarship.
It had been so hard for her to fit in at the beginning, but with her charm and intelligence and strong will, she stuck it out and now was one of the most popular, beloved kids in the school.
I wasn't the only person who thought so, either. At a classmate's birthday party, she'd wowed the mom of one of her friends so much with her love of art history that the gazillionaire socialite MOMA board member insisted on pulling some strings in order to get Em into Brown. Not that Em would need the help.
I was practically going to have to get a home equity loan on our two-bedroom apartment in order to pay for tonight's 120-person party at the Blue Note down in the Village, but I didn't care. As a young, single mom, I had practically grown up with Em. She was my heart, and tonight was her night.
"Mom," Emma said, coming over and shaking me back and forth by my shoulders. "Lift up your right hand and solemnly swear that this will be the last time you will puddle this evening. I agreed to this only because you promised me you'd be Nina Bloom, très chic, ultrahip, cool mom. Hold it together."
I raised my right hand. "I do so solemnly swear to be a très chic, ultrahip, cool mom," I said.
"OK, then," she said, blowing a raspberry on my cheek. She whispered in my ear before she let go, "I love you, Mom, by the way."
"Actually, Emma, that isn't the only thing," I said, walking over to the entertainment unit. I turned on the TV and the ten-ton VCR that I'd dragged out of the storage bin when I came home from work. "You have another present."
I handed Emma the dusty black tape box that was on top of the VCR.
"TO EMMA," it said on the index card taped to its cover. "FROM DAD."
"What?" she said, her eyes suddenly about the size of manhole covers. "But I thought you said everything was lost in the fire when I was 3. All the tapes. All the pictures."
"Your dad put this in the safety deposit box right before he went into the hospital for the last time," I said. "I know how badly you've been dying to know who your dad was. I wanted to give this to you so many times. But Kevin had said he wanted you to get it today. I thought it would be best to honor his wishes."
I started out of the room.
"No, Mom. Where are you going? You have to stay and watch it with me."
I shook my head as I handed her the remote. I patted her cheek. "This is between you and your dad," I said.
"Hey, Em. It's me, daddy," a deep, warm, Irish-accented voice said as I left. "If you're watching this, it must mean you're a big girl now. Happy Sweet Sixteen, Emma."
I turned back as I was closing the door. Aidan Beck, the actor I'd hired and filmed with a vintage camcorder at the Hudson that afternoon, was smiling from the screen.
"There are a few things I want you to know about me and about my life, Em," he said in his brogue. "First and foremost is that I love you."
Down the hallway, I went into a large closet, otherwise known as a Manhattan home office, and shredded the script I'd written to fool my daughter. I sifted the confetti through my fingers and let out a breath as I heard Emma start to sob.
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No wonder she was crying. Aidan Beck had performed the script impeccably. Especially the accent. I'd met and hired the young off-Broadway actor outside the SAG offices the week before.
As I sat there listening to my daughter crying in the next room, some part of me knew how cruel it was. It sucked having to be a Gen-X "Mommie Dearest."
It didn't matter. Emma was going to have a good life, a normal life. No matter what.
The ruse was elaborate, I knew, but when I spotted Emma's Google searches for Kevin Bloom on our home computer the week before, I knew I had to come up with something airtight.
Kevin Bloom was supposed to be Emma's idyllic, loving father who had died of cancer when she was 2. I'd told Emma that Kevin had been a romantic Irish cabdriver / budding playwright whom I'd met when I first came to the city. A man with no family, of whom all trace had been lost in a fire a year later.
The fact, of course, was that there was no Kevin Bloom. I wish there were more times than not, believe me. I could have really used a romantic Irish playwright in my hectic life.
The truth was, there wasn't even a Nina Bloom.
I made me up, too.
I had my reasons. They were good ones.
What I couldn't tell Emma was that nearly two decades ago and a thousand miles to the south, I got into some trouble. The worst kind. The kind where forever after, you always make sure your phone number is unlisted and never ever, ever stop looking over your shoulder.
It started on spring break, of all things. In the spring of 1992 in Key West, Florida, I guess you could say a foolish girl went wild.
And stayed wild.
That foolish girl was me.
My name was Jeanine.
From "Now You See Her" by James Patterson. Copyright © 2011. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown.
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