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  • Now or Never
  • Written by Elizabeth Adler
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Written by Elizabeth AdlerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Elizabeth Adler


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On Sale: July 07, 2010
Pages: 448 | ISBN: 978-0-307-57496-1
Published by : Island Books Bantam Dell
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She can keep the doors locked.  The lights on.  Her fingers crossed.   But she can't stop the memories of a terrifying crime.  Or keep it from happening again.

The murderer took his time choosing his pretty victims.  Then he took his time killing them.  What was left when he finished made even veteran Boston cop Harry Jordan feel sick.  But this time the killer made a mistake.  His victim was found alive.

Armed with a police sketch of the man, Harry wanted national publicity, the kind he could get from Mallory Malone, the "TV detective."  Her top-rated show reenacted heinous crimes and often jogged witnesses' memories enough to shake loose the clue that could break the case.  

But not this time.

This case was different for self-made career woman Mallory Malone.  This cop was different.  The case scared her; the cop was falling in love with her.  Her instincts told her to run.  But the killer already knew her name.  Her address.  And a secret that could destroy them both.

Elizabeth Adler was born in Yorkshire, England.  She is married to an American lawyer and has one daughter.  They have lived in Brazil, England, France, and Ireland and currently live in California.  She is the internationally acclaimed author of Léonie, Peach, The Rich Shall Inherit, The Property of a Lady, Fortune Is a Woman, and The Secret of the Villa Mimosa.


Rain bounced from the slick sidewalk as Harry hurried around the corner to Ruby's.  It plastered against his skull, dripping inside the collar of his old black leather bomber jacket.

The dog trotted at his heels, shooting wary glances at the flashing sky, skittering nervously at the quick rumble of thunder.  Harry hoped Mallory Malone would make it through the thunderstorms that had plagued the area all day, but he wouldn't blame her if she canceled.  It was a bitch of a night.

The bell on Ruby's glass-paneled door jangled as he pushed inside.  The small cafe was jammed, every booth and Formica-topped table taken.  There were a couple of cops and some regular locals he recognized, plus a few strays.  The plate-glass windows above the red-checkered curtains were steamed, shutting out the miserable night; and the smell of hot coffee and fried food and chicken gravy hovered permanently over the room, like smog over L.A.  A couple of matronly waitresses in red and white aprons and wilting caps maneuvered laden trays skillfully between the scarred red vinyl banquettes, and blue cigarette smoke wreathed to the nicotine-yellow ceiling.

Squeeze shook himself, scattering a waterfall of raindrops over Harry's fraying Levi's, then sat on his haunches, sniffing the air eagerly.

Grabbing a paper napkin, Harry mopped the water from his face and the inside of his collar, then tried to catch the waitress's eye.

"Hey, Doris," he called as she hurried back behind the counter.  "How long for a booth?"

She shrugged.  "Ten, fifteen maybe."

He grabbed her arm.  "I need a guarantee on that, sweetheart."  He smiled at her.  She was plump and fiftyish and harassed, and he had known her since she was plump and forty and had time to flirt.  Time had taken its toll, but they were still good friends.

"You bringing a hot date to Ruby's tonight, cheapskate?" she asked, raising a painted eyebrow.

He laughed, and then his cellular phone beeped.  Turning away from the noisy room, he pressed it to his ear.  "Jordan."  

"Detective, where the hell is this Ruby's?" Mallory Malone sounded irate.  "The limo driver has never heard of it."  

He grinned.  "Everybody who's anybody in Boston knows exactly where Ruby's is, Ms. Malone.  Put him on the phone, I'll give him directions."  

Harry hated to think of what might have happened if he had kept Ms.  "Star" Malone waiting.  He edged into the booth, his back to the wall so he could see her come in.  Squeeze slid under the table out of the way--and his big head sank onto his paws as he prepared for a snooze.

As he watched, the door swung open and Mallory Malone stepped inside.  She glanced around, her eyebrows raised, as though she were wondering if she could possibly be in the right place.

Harry slid quickly from the booth and loped toward her.  "Ms. Malone."  

Her head swung around and their eyes met.  He hadn't realized from TV that hers were such a deep blue, nor that her lashes were so long.  When she lowered them and looked down at his outstretched hand, she looked unexpectedly shy.  She was smartly dressed in a gray cashmere sweater and skirt with a red jacket, and her golden hair was beaded with glittering raindrops.  She looked as out of place in Ruby's as a tropical flower in Alaska.  And she had cold hands.

As she shook Harry's hand, Mal thought uncomfortably that she was overdressed in her cashmere, while Jordan looked scruffily at home in his faded jeans and the beat-up jacket.  He was younger than she had expected and, damn it, he was attractive.  His rain-wet dark hair was plastered to his narrow skull, his gray eyes were penetrating as they looked into hers, and his firm mouth looked sexy.  He had at least a day-old black stubble and looked way too sure of himself.  Disconcerted, she removed her hand.

"Detective Jordan," she said coldly.  "It took my driver half an hour to find this place."  

"I'm sorry, though it's really not that hard."  

Antagonism crackled between them.  She glanced disparagingly at the counter with its mirrored display of pies and chocolate cake; at the steamy little kitchen and the cracked red vinyl banquettes and the waitresses slinging hash and fried eggs and burgers and cholesterol.

She raised a superior eyebrow.  "Slumming, Detective Jordan?"

Harry gritted his teeth.  What the hell did she expect, Le Cirque?  "I'm sorry it's not up to your standards, ma'am.  But it is  close to the precinct house, and I am on duty."  He shrugged.  "Besides, cops can't be choosers, with what they earn. All the guys eat here."  

Her blue eyes narrowed.  "Most cops, Jordan.  But not rich cops."  

Harry knew he was in trouble.  She hated Ruby's, she hated cops, and she hated rich cops even more.  He wondered how she knew--then he guessed it was the same way she had known his unlisted home number.  She made it her business to know exactly who she was interviewing, whether it was on TV or not.

Heads turned in recognition as he led her to the table at the back, but she seemed unaware that there were other people in the place.  As she slid into the booth opposite him, her foot encountered the soft bulk of the dog.  Startled, she peeked underneath, then a sudden smile lit up her face.

Harry stared at her, dazzled.  It was as though somebody had switched her on.

"Say hello to the lady, Squeeze," he instructed, and the dog, true to his name, squeezed out from between their knees.  He sat next to Mallory, then raised his right paw politely.

"Oh, cute."  She threw Harry a for-God's-sake glance. But she took the paw and patted the dog, murmuring sweet nothings to it.

"Back, Squeeze," he commanded, and the dog slunk obediently under the table again.  He rested his head on Harry's shabby suede Paraboots, waiting for him to make his next move.

"Okay, Jordan," she said, suddenly all business, "you're on."  

"I feel like I'm auditioning for the show," he said uneasily.

"You may be.  So get on with it."  

He told her the facts about the murders and that there had been no connection between the three young women--they had not come from the same towns or even from the same states.  They had not known each other.  They had not lived near each other.  They had not attended the same colleges.

"These were not random killings," he said.  "This guy is precise.  He's an organized killer.  He knew exactly what he was doing. I think he knew where his victims lived and their daily routine, what times their classes were, and when they were likely to be alone."  

Mal's eyes widened, and a little shiver ran down her spine.  "You mean he stalked them?"

"I believe he did."  

"That's terrible," she said soberly.  "A maniac on the loose around all these college kids.  He can just take his pick.  Don't you have any line on him at all?"

"Forensics is working on scene-of-crime evidence--fibers, hairs, semen.  We'll have the DNA in a couple of weeks, and I'm certain it will link him to the two previous attacks.  And the students are aware of the danger now.  They've been warned not to wander around campus after dark.  The schools have escort services to walk young women back to their dorms.  It'll help for a while."  

"You think he'll strike again?"

"I'm certain of it.  The FBI's Behavioral Science Unit has a psychological profile.  They say we're looking for a guy with a deep psychosis against women.  Cutting off their hair is symbolic--he's divesting them of their femininity.  Rape proves his power over them, and the slitting of the wrists probably brings him to a climax he can never otherwise reach.  For him, it's probably the ultimate moment of power.  The women are helpless, they feel pain--they are dying while he lives."  

Her horrified eyes met his.  "Oh, my God."  

He nodded grimly.  "So now you see why we have to catch him before he strikes again.  From his pattern I'd guess he'll take his time--perhaps a couple of months.  He'll survey the scene, pick out his victim, trail her, maybe even break into her house, get the feel of her, the scent of her.  Like an animal stalking its prey.  He's methodical.  That's why he's been so successful."  

"Why do men do these things?"

Harry shrugged.  "Studies show that all murderers of this type come from dysfunctional homes--drug abuse, alcohol, criminal activities, you name it.  There's often mental illness in the family, and they probably suffered serious emotional and physical abuse in childhood.  Usually the mothers dominated them, demeaned them, systematically emasculated them.  In turn, they become sexually dysfunctional adults, unable to sustain a mature, consensual relationship with another adult."  

"You think this is what happened to our killer?"

"I wish I knew."  Harry ran his hands wearily through his still-wet hair.  It stuck up spikily, and Mal thought interestedly that he looked as though he'd just stepped out of the shower.

"The public always thinks a murderer looks like a monster," he said.  "But the fact is, mostly he looks like any guy on the street.  The FBI profile says our killer probably lives a 'normal' life.  Meaning he is a man with a deep psychosis able to put up a facade of normality.  He lives alone, in a house rather than an apartment because he needs privacy for his comings and goings.  He's of neat appearance and orderly in his daily life.  He holds down a decent job, white collar rather than blue.  He might even be from a higher social level.  He carries out his job well, has no friends, and is obsessively tidy."  

"So we're not looking for a freak or a down-and-out vagrant roaming the streets.  We're looking for a regular guy, a man his neighbors and co-workers think quite normal.  No different from you or any other man in Boston."  

"A needle in a haystack," he agreed.

"It's lucky you managed to get the photo-fit."

Harry slipped the picture from the manila envelope.  "One other thing.  The last victim, Summer Young.  Before she died, she managed to tell us two details.  That he had dark staring eyes.  And smooth hands."  

"So he's definitely not a manual worker."  

"It's unlikely."  

"Did she say anything else?"

"Yeah.  She called him a bastard.  Those were her dying words."  

Shaken, Mal looked away from him.  She took a sip of the beer.

She studied the picture for a long minute, and Harry studied her. He liked the way her eyelashes curled, sweetly, at the tips.

"This is taken from the description of the two fishermen?" she asked at long last.

"Yes.  They caught him in their flashlight for a second before he took off.  But a police artist enhanced the eyes to match Summer's memory of him."  

Mal's voice was colder than the beer.  "I'm afraid it's not much to go on, Detective Jordan.  It's not accurate.  And it's certainly not enough to base a national TV program on.  I'm sorry, but I can't help you."  

Picking up her jacket and purse, she slid out of the banquette.

Harry stared at her, stunned.  One minute she had been ready to get out there on TV and save other young women from a terrible fate.  The next she had slammed the door in his face.

"Wait just a minute."  His voice was harsh.  Under the table Squeeze raised his head and growled softly.

Harry leaped to his feet.  She turned away, but he grabbed her shoulder.  "What happened?"

"What do you mean?" He let go of her and she thrust her arms hurriedly into her jacket, avoiding his eyes.

"One minute you're hot for the story.  The next you're not.  I'd like to know why."  

She shrugged.  "I let you tell your story, detective.  I listened. I made a decision.  That's the way I do things.  Rejection is not sweet, Harry Jordan, I understand that."  

She picked up her purse, still avoiding his eyes.  "Nothing personal, of course."  Then she strode past the cracked red vinyl booths, out of the diner, and into the waiting limo.

Elizabeth Adler

About Elizabeth Adler

Elizabeth Adler - Now or Never
Elizabeth Adler is the internationally acclaimed bestselling author of twelve previous novels. She lives with her family in California.


"[A] top-notch romantic thriller."
--Library Journal

"Now or Never is Adler at her best."
--Brazosport Facts

"Nerve-jangling suspense."

--Harriet Klausner, Internet Bookwatch

"Engrossing and exhilarating."
--Romantic Times

  • Now or Never by Elizabeth Adler
  • November 10, 1997
  • Fiction - Contemporary Women
  • Island Books
  • $7.99
  • 9780440224648

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