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Authors: Steven James

Blur (Blur Trilogy)

BOOK: Blur (Blur Trilogy)
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PRAISE FOR STEVEN JAMES

 

“James writes smart, taut, high-octane thrillers. But be warned—his books are not for the timid. The endings blow me away every time.”
—MITCH GALIN, producer, Stephen King’s
The Stand
and Frank Herbert’s
Dune

 

“A thought-provoking and thrilling mystery.”
—NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS on
Placebo

 

“The nail-biting suspense will rivet you.”—RT BOOK REVIEWS

 

“[A] master storyteller at the peak of his game.”—
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

 

“James delivers first-rate characters, dazzling plot twists, and powers it all with nonstop action.”—JOHN TINKER, Emmy Award–winning screenplay writer

 


Opening Moves
is a mesmerizing read. From the first chapter, it sets its hook deep and drags you through a darkly gripping story with relentless power. My conclusion: I need to read more of Steven James.”
—MICHAEL CONNOLLEY,
New York Times
bestselling author
of
The Drop

 

“Pulse-pounding suspense.”—
FICTIONADDICT.COM

 

“Exhilarating.”—MYSTERIOUS REVIEWS

 

“James clearly knows how to spin a yarn.”—BOOKLIST

 

“His tightly woven, adrenaline-laced plots leave readers breathless.”—THE SUSPENSE ZONE

 

“James sets the new standard in suspense writing.”
—SUSPENSE MAGAZINE

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiousl
y.

Text cop
yr
ight © 2014 b
y
Steven James
All rights reserved.

No part of this book ma
y
be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval s
ys
tem, or transmitted in an
y
form or b
y
an
y
means, electronic, mechanical, photocop
yi
ng, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published b
y
Sk
ys
cape, New York

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Sk
ys
cape are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN: 9781477847275 (paperback)

ISBN: 9781477897270 (ebook)

Book design b
y
Katrina Damkoehler and Susan Gerber

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

CONTENTS

START READING

DEDICATION

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

CHAPTER FORTY

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

CHAPTER FIFTY

CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE

CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR

CHAPTER FIFTY-FIVE

CHAPTER FIFTY-SIX

CHAPTER FIFTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER FIFTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER FIFTY-NINE

CHAPTER SIXTY

CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

CHAPTER SIXTY-TWO

CHAPTER SIXTY-THREE

CHAPTER SIXTY-FOUR

CHAPTER SIXTY-FIVE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

“Men are so necessaril
y
mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.”

—Blaise Pascal, seventeenth-centur
y
philosopher and mathematician

To Susanna and Meg

PROLOGUE

Daniel held up a blanket so that it hung verticall
y
above his bed. Stac
y
stood beside his desk, her back to the wall. He noticed that she was tapping her fingers nervousl
y
against her leg.

“Alright,” he said. “Imagine that ever
yt
hing on
yo
ur side of the blanket is realit
y.
Those are the things
yo
u can see, taste, feel, whatever. The things that are reall
y
there. Ever
yt
hing on m
y
side of the blanket is . . .”

“Just imaginar
y.
” She finished his thought for him. “All in
yo
ur head.”

“Right. Now, from what I’ve found out in the last week, most people have a prett
y
thick blanke
t—b
arrie
r—t
hat’s in their minds that helps them know which side the
y’
re on.”

She was watching him carefull
y;
if he didn’t know better, he’d sa
y
waril
y.

“So we can tell what’s real and what’s not,” she said.

“Exactl
y.
But now imagine that the blanket is a shower curtain or something and
yo
u can see through it, but ever
yt
hing on the other side is blurr
y.
So
yo
u’d know the other side is ther
e—”

“But
yo
u’d be able to tell which side was which.” Stac
y
sounded slightl
y
relieved. “You’d see the difference.”

“Yes.”

“And that’s
yo
u?”

A pause. “No. Not quite.” He dropped the blanket. “It’s gone.”

“The blanket is?”

“Yes.”

“Completel
y?
” She’d moved almost imperceptibl
y
farther from Daniel.

He nodded. A moment passed.

Stretched thin.

“Does that scare
yo
u?” he asked her.

She didn’t answer but said instead, “But can
yo
u tell this is real? That I’m reall
y
here, in front of
yo
u, right now?”

“Yes,” he said.

But he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure about an
yt
hing.

Not since realizing he was going insane.

CHAPTER
ONE

ONE WEEK EARLIER

The first blur occurred at Emil
y
Jackson’s funeral.

At 3:54 p.m., thirt
y
minutes before it happened, Daniel B
ye
rs was staring out the car window, watching deep shadows pass across the pavement as his father drove along the pine- and birch-enshrouded northern Wisconsin count
y
highwa
y.
A handful of autumn leaves skittered along the road ahead of them. The sk
y
was steel blue.

Though it was still September, it’d alread
y
snowed twice. Most of the snow had melted, but a few stubborn patches remained in the corners of the forest where the sun never reached. More snow would be coming soon. Winter was not kind to this part of the state.

“Are we almost there?” Daniel spoke softl
y,
without looking awa
y
from the window.

Silence from his father.

“Dad?”

“The church is just past Highwa
y
14. Fifteen minutes
ma
yb
e.”

Outside, an intricate web of leaves passed overhead. Wisped into light. Merged into shadow again.

“How’s
yo
ur headache?” his father asked. “Gone?”

Daniel didn’t want to worr
y
him. “It’s oka
y,
” he lied.

Get read
y.
You’re about to see the bod
y.

He suddenl
y
felt cold and turned up the heater in the car.

It didn’t seem to help.

13 MINUTES BEFORE THE BLUR

His father slowed down as the
y
approached the Beldon Road Communit
y
Church parking lot.

“Don’t worr
y,
” he told Daniel. “We won’t sta
y
long.”

Daniel didn’t know what to sa
y.
How do
yo
u deal with the fact that a girl who went to
yo
ur high school, who
yo
u saw walking down the hall just a few da
ys
ago, is now dead?

The
y
pulled into the lot. “Did
yo
u hear me, Dan?”

“Yeah.”

“We won’t sta
y
long.”

“Oka
y.

It felt a little weird coming to a church. He and his dad had onl
y
attended church twice since his mom left them six months ag
o—o
nce for Easter and then the week after, as if the
y
were about to start a new habit but never quite got enough momentum to carr
y
things through.

The parking spaces closest to the building were filled, so his father eased into a spot near the back of the lot, then turned off the engine. After an awkward moment, he stated the obvious: “We’re here.”

Neither of them moved.

At last his dad rapped the steering wheel twice, then said, “Oka
y,
then.”

He eased his door open.

“I hardl
y
even knew her, Dad.”

His father hesitated.

“I know.” He was still seated in the car but had one foot on the pavement. “But it’s important to be here.”

Daniel had never even officiall
y
met Emil
y
Jackson, hadn’t even known her name until the news stor
y
hit. After all, he was a junior and she was a freshman, so it didn’t reall
y
make sense that he would know her ver
y
well. The thing was, he reall
y
was
sad she’d drowned, he reall
y
wa
s
—a
nd
ye
t, in a wa
y,
he felt vaguel
y
guilt
y
that he wasn’t sadder.

Emil
y
Jackson.

A girl who was eas
y
to miss.

He’d seen what happened whenever she entered the cafeteria and sat at a table. Suddenl
y,
the other kids who were alread
y
there would remember something else the
y
needed to do and would get up one at a time and leave. Or when a group of kids was talking in the hallwa
y
and she approached them, the
y
would tighten up their circle so there wouldn’t be an
y
place for her.

And so she would walk past. Alone.

He didn’t think the
y
did it on purpose, treated her like that, it was just the wa
y
kids are sometimes.

Whenever he saw her, she was alwa
ys
alone.

And now she was dead.

A girl nobod
y
seemed to want to be around when she was alive.

But now there was a parking lot full of cars.

Now ever
yo
ne was coming to see Emil
y.

Now that she was dead.

11 MINUTES BEFORE THE BLUR

Daniel and his father crossed the parking lot and walked toward the church. He caught himself noticing what was in people’s cars as the
y
passed the
m—t
he fast-food wrappers and water bottles on the floors, the pet hair on the back seats, the bab
y
to
ys
and backpacks. For some reason ever
yt
hing seemed to be registering in his mind more than usual. More than ever.

An older man with bristl
y
white hair who was leaving the building nodded to Daniel’s father. “Sheriff.”

“Ton
y.

Daniel recognized him: Mr. Kettner, the man who announced their home football games. Now he said, “I’m sorr
y
about this, son. I know she went to school with
yo
u.”

Daniel wasn’t sure how to respond. “Thank
yo
u,” he managed to sa
y.

Mr. Kettner hesitated for a moment, as if he were wondering what he should sa
y
next. At last he told Daniel’s dad, “Good of
yo
u to come.”

“We thought it was important.”

Mr. Kettner let out a small sigh. “Traged
y,
though. What happened to her.”

“Yes, it is.”

Though brief, the conversation seemed like it had alread
y
gone on too long, and no one reall
y
knew where to take it from there. “Alright, then. We’ll see
yo
u later, Sheriff.”

“Alright.”

“Daniel,” Mr. Kettner said with a nod. It was his wa
y
of sa
yi
ng good-b
ye
.

“Good-b
ye
, Mr. Kettner.”

As he ambled awa
y,
Daniel’s dad said softl
y
once again, “We don’t have to sta
y
long.”

Thank
yo
u,
Daniel thought.

“Yeah,” he said.

And the
y
walked up the steps of the church.

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