Read Checkmate Online

Authors: Steven James


BOOK: Checkmate
12.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“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 of Stephen King's
The Stand
and Frank Herbert's

Praise for the Novels
of Steven James


is high tension all the way. The author writes with precision and incisiveness. Fast, sharp, and believable. Put it at the top of your list.”

—John Lutz, Edgar Award–winning author of
Single White Female

“In his latest Patrick Bowers thriller, Steven James pens another fast-paced thriller chock-full of great characters, head-snapping plot twists, impeccable research, and a truly fun ride. Highly recommended. Not to be missed.”

—D. P. Lyle, award-winning author of the Dub Walker and Samantha Cody thriller series

“A perfectly crafted, hard-hitting, intense thriller that takes readers to the top of the cliff and dangles them over the edge. James is an author that every thriller reader should have on their bookshelf.”

Suspense Magazine

The King

“His tightly woven, adrenaline-laced plots leave readers breathless.”

—The Suspense Zone

“Steven James offers yet another slam dunk in the Bowers
Files series!”

Suspense Magazine

“Highly engaging, with consuming tension and solid storytelling.”


“If you love edgy, intense, on-the-edge-of-horrifying coupled with great writing, then click and order this one now.”

—Novel Reviews

Opening Moves

“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 Connelly,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Gods of Guilt

“Steven James has created a fast-moving thriller with psychological depth and gripping action.
Opening Moves
is a smart, taut, intense novel of suspense that reads like a cross between Michael Connelly and Thomas Harris. . . .
Opening Moves
is a blisteringly fast and riveting read.”

—Mark Greaney,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Dead Eye

“Prepare yourself for a horror-of-a-ride, edge-of-your-seat thriller of thrillers.”

—Fresh Fiction

“[A] fast-moving, intense thriller that has as many demented twists and turns as the crimes themselves.”


“[A] high-octane thriller.”

Suspense Magazine

The Bishop

“The novel moves swiftly, with punchy dialogue but
gruesome scenes. Readers must be ready to stomach the darkest side of humanity and get into the minds of serial killers to enjoy this master storyteller at the peak of his game.”

Publishers Weekly

“This novel is fresh and exciting.”


“Absolutely brilliant.”

—Jeff Buick, bestselling author of
One Child

“Steven James's
The Bishop
should come with a warning: Don't start reading unless you're prepared to finish this book in a single sitting. Riveting!”

—Karen Dionne, International Thriller Writers Web site chair and author of
The Killing

The Bishop
—full of plot twists, nightmarish villains, and family conflicts—kept me turning pages on a red-eye all the way from New York City to Amsterdam. Steven James tells stories that grab you by the collar and don't let go.”

—Norb Vonnegut, author,
Top Producer
; editor of

“Steven James locks you in a thrill ride with no brakes. He sets the new standard in suspense writing.”

Suspense Magazine

More Praise for Steven James
and His Award-Winning Novels

“James delivers first-rate characters, dazzling plot twists, and powers it all with nonstop action.”

—John Tinker, Emmy-winning screenplay writer

“Once again, James has given us a ripsnorting thriller with a beating heart.”

New York Times
bestselling author Eric Wilson

“James delivers . . . caffeinated plot twists and intriguing characterizations. Riveting . . . a gripping plot and brisk
pacing will win James some fans eager for his next offering.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“[An] exceptional psychological thriller.”

—Armchair Interviews

“Brilliant. . . . Steven James gives us a captivating look at the fine line between good and evil in the human heart. Not to be missed.”

—Ann Tatlock, Christy Award–winning author


—Fiction Fanatics Only!

“Best story of the year—perfectly executed.”

—The Suspense Zone (2008 Reviewer's Choice Award)

“In a word, intense.”

—Mysterious Reviews

“Steven James writes at a breakneck pace, effortlessly pulling the reader along on this incredible thrill ride. A writer to watch for.”

—Fiction Addict


Opening Moves

The Pawn

The Rook

The Knight

The Bishop

The Queen



Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by Signet Select, an imprint of New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © Steven James, 2014

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

SIGNET SELECT and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

ISBN 978-0-698-14019-6


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.





Title page

Copyright page




PART I: Arrowheads


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13


PART II: Mortalis

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25


PART III: Broken Blades

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58



Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80


PART V: The Fourth Statue

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Chapter 90

Chapter 91

Chapter 92

Chapter 93

Chapter 94




To my

“After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box.”

—Italian proverb




He stood in front of the mirror, unsure he really wanted to remove the bandages.

His plastic surgeon had said there wouldn't be any scarring, had promised him that the incisions on his face would heal quickly, that the stitches would come out on their own.

But still, the surgery hadn't taken place under the most ideal conditions and, although his doctor had an unparalleled reputation, he knew she might have been distracted by everything else that was going on.

He wondered what lay beneath the bandages, beneath the stitches.

A new face.

A new future.

He took a deep breath, reached up, and unfastened the end of one of the bandages that wound around his head.

The surgery had been aggressive and it wasn't the way he would have preferred going about this, any of this. Everything was rushed and the thought of seeing what he would look like for the rest of his life made him a little uneasy.

Slowly, carefully, he began to unwrap the bandage.

His surgeon had told him to wait three to five days.

It had been two.

Though he was relatively self-possessed in many areas of his life, he was anxious about this. There was so much to do before August and he wouldn't be able to do any of it if the surgery wasn't successful.

As he unraveled the bandage he saw that it was tainted with dots of dried blood.

Unraveled. That's a good way to put it.

Everything that was true of your life just over a year ago has unraveled.

The last few bandages were placed across the incisions and stitches.

Somewhat hesitantly, he peeled them off, until he was looking at his new face, revealed.

It was the strangest sensation, staring into a mirror and seeing the face of a stranger you knew to be yourself.

After depositing the bandages in the trash can beside the sink, he studied his reflection.


Yes, his face was swollen and misshapen, but even with all that, he could tell the difference.

His plastic surgeon really had done an amazing job, especially considering how much stress she'd been under when she performed the surgery.

He had the same bone structure—yes, of course, certainly—and the same general characteristics, but there were enough subtle differences to make it appear that he was someone else entirely.

“We are all strangers to ourselves,” he remembered hearing one time, “when the masks fall away.”

Well, had the masks really fallen away, or was this just another one for him to wear?

Either way, he was emerging, unfolding, like a butterfly flexing its wings for the first time.

Some people seek out surgery like this to hide the signs of aging. Others need it to recover from a life-altering accident. Still others so they can start over, start fresh.

That was him.

A second chance to get things right.

After all that'd happened in the last year, after all the publicity—which, truthfully, still hadn't quieted down—after all that, well, it would be much easier if there was a way to go online and pull up the information that was out there and press Delete.

But it doesn't work that way with the Internet.

In cyberspace there's no way to erase your past.

He ran a finger along his jawline and then over the ridge of one of the incisions.

So you have to erase yourself.

A few follow-up appointments with his plastic surgeon would probably be a good idea, but the logistics made that difficult and he expected that he would only be seeing her one last time.

He would ask her about the best post-op care, make sure he knew how to avoid infection, and then be on his way.

Touching the mirror, he traced the outline of his face on the cool glass.

Here is where you are now. Here.



And revealed.

His wife had divorced him last summer.

He had lost all of his friends during the trial.

Yes, it was time to make a break with the past.

But first, a visit to his surgeon.

Turning off the bathroom light, he headed for the basement, where he'd kept her since the surgery.

Both her and her boy.

When he opened the door at the top of the steps he could hear the child crying.

He decided he would take care of him first—that way the boy wouldn't be frightened when he saw what was happening to his mother.

Unpocketing the knife he would be using, he flicked out the blade, closed the door behind him, and descended the stairs.

To write the first chapter of his new life.

BOOK: Checkmate
12.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Different Drummers by Jean Houghton-Beatty
Warp World by Kristene Perron, Joshua Simpson
Tainted Mind by Schultz, Tamsen
In the Face of Danger by Joan Lowery Nixon
Never Deal with Dragons by Christensen, Lorenda
Suddenly Sam (The October Trilogy) by Killough-Walden, Heather
Break Away by Ellie Grace
Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel