Saturday Excerpt: A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham
Are you looking to be sucked in to a mysterious read this weekend? We’re here to give you an early look at the latest book from author Heather Graham–A Perfect Obsession. It’s a suspenseful story that you won’t be able to forget!
About A Perfect Obsession:
Perfect suspense from New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham!
Someone is murdering beautiful young women in the NA killer infatuated with female beauty is targeting women who embody perfection. The corpse of a gorgeous model is found dramatically displayed in the crypt under a deconsecrated church-turned-nightclub—right around the corner from Finnegan’s pub. With the investigation spilling into the family pub, part owner and forensic psychologist Kieran Finnegan is consulting on the case, and her boyfriend, Special Agent Craig Frasier, leads the FBI team. As more bodies are discovered, it becomes clear that a clever, careful psychopath is using New York as his hunting ground. They’re right in the action, but Craig fears they’re too close, and his beautiful Kieran is in danger, since she could be the perfect victim…
“Horrible! Oh, God, horrible! Tragic!” John Shaw said, shaking his head with a dazed look as he sat on his bar stool at Finnegan’s pub.
Kieran nodded sympathetically. Construction crews had found the old graves when they were working on the foundations at the hot new downtown venue, Le Club Vampyre.
Anthropologists found the new body among the old graves the next day.
It wasn’t just any body.
It was the body of supermodel Jeannette Gilbert.
Finding the old graves wasn’t much of a shock—not in New York City, and not in a building that was close to two centuries old. The structure that housed Le Club Vampyre was a deconsecrated Episcopal Church. The church’s congregation had moved to a facility it had purchased from the Catholic Church—whose congregation was now in a sparkling new basilica over on Park Avenue. While many had bemoaned the fact that such a venerable old building had been turned into an establishment for those into sex, drugs, and rock and roll, life—and business—went on.
They were expanding the wine cellar, and so work on the foundations went on, too.
It was while investigators were still being called in following the discovery of the newly deceased body— moments before it hit the news—that Kieran Finnegan learned about it, and that was because she was helping out at their family pub, Finnegan’s on Broadway. Like the old church-nightclub behind it, Finnegan’s dated back to just before the Civil War, and had been a pub for most of those years. Since it was geographically the closest establishment to the church with liquor, it had apparently seemed the right place at that moment for Professor John Shaw. They’d barely opened; it was still morning and it was a Friday, and Kieran was only there at that time because her bosses had decided on a day off following their participation in a lengthy trial. She’d just been down in the basement, fetching a few bottles of a vintage chardonnay for her brother, ordered specifically for a lunch that day, when John Shaw had caught her attention, desperate to talk.
“I can’t tell you how excited I was, being called in as an expert on a find like that,” the professor told Kieran. “They both wanted me! By ‘they,’ I mean Henry Willoughby, president of Preserve Our Past, and Roger Gleason, owner and manager of the club. I was so honored. It was exciting to think of finding the old bodies… but then, opening a decaying coffin and finding Jeannette Gilbert!” He paused for a quick breath. “And the university was entirely behind me, allowing me the time to be at the site, giving me a chance to bring my grad students there. Oh, my God! I found her! Oh, it was…” John Shaw was shaking as he spoke. He was a man who’d seen all kinds of antiquated horrors, an expert in the past. He fit the stereotype of an academic, with his lean physique, his thatch of wild white hair and his little gold-framed glasses. He held doctorate degrees in archaeology and anthropology, and both science and history meant everything to him.
Kieran realized that he’d been about to say once again that it was horrible, like nothing he’d ever expe- rienced. He clearly realized that he was speaking about a recently living woman, adored by adolescent boys and heterosexual males of all ages—a woman who was going to be deeply mourned.
Jeannette Gilbert—media princess, supermodel and actress—had disappeared two weeks ago after the launch party for a new cosmetics line. Her agent and manager, Oswald Martin, had gone on the news, beg- ging what he assumed were kidnappers for her safe return.
At that time, no one knew if she actually had been kidnapped. One reporter had speculated that she’d dis- appeared on purpose, determined to get away from the very man begging kidnappers for her release.
Kieran hadn’t really paid much attention; she’d assumed that the young woman—who’d been made famous by the same Oswald Martin—had just had enough of being adored and fawned over and told what to do at every move, and decided to take a hiatus. Or it might have been some kind of publicity gig; her disappearance had certainly ruled the headlines. There were always tabloid pictures of Jeannette dating this or that man, and then speculation in the same tabloids that her manager had furiously burst into a hotel room, sending Jeannette Gilbert’s latest lover—a gold digger, as Martin referred to any young man she dated—flying out the door.
In the past few weeks the celebrity magazines had run rampant with rumors of a mystery man in her life. A secret love. Kieran knew that only because her twin brother, Kevin, was an actor, struggling his way into TV, movies and theater. He read the tabloids avidly, telling Kieran that he was “reading between the lines,” and that being up on what was going on was critical to his career. There were too many actors—even good ones—out there and too few roles. Any edge was a good edge, Kevin said.
While all the speculation had been going on, Kieran couldn’t help wondering if Jeannette’s secret lover had killed her—or if, maybe, her steel-handed manager had done so.
Or—since this was New York City with a population in the millions—it was possible that some deranged person had murdered her, perhaps even someone who wasn’t clinically insane but mentally unstable. Perhaps this person felt that if she was relieved of her life, she’d be out of the misery caused by being such a beautiful, glittering star, always the focus of attention.
It was fine to speculate when you really believed that someone was just pulling a major publicity stunt. Now Kieran felt bad, of course. From what she knew now, it was evident that the woman had indeed been murdered.
Not that she knew any of the findings. In fact, she knew only one: Jeannette had been found in the bowels of the earth in a nineteenth-century tomb. But she knew it was unlikely that the woman had crawled into a historic coffin in a lost crypt to die of natural causes. “It was so horrible!” John Shaw repeated woefully. “When we found her, we just stared. One of my young grad students screamed, and she wasn’t the only one. We called the police immediately. The club wasn’t open then, of course—except to those of us who were working. I was there for hours while the police grilled me. And now…now, I need this!” His hand shook as he picked up his double shot of single malt scotch and
swallowed it in a gulp.
He was usually a beer man. Ultra-lite.
It was horrible, yes, as Shaw kept saying. But, of course, he realized he’d be in the news, interviewed for dozens of papers and magazines and television, as well. After all, he’d been the one to find Jeannette Gilbert, dead. In a coffin, in a deconsecrated church now turned into the Le Club Vampyre. Well, that was news.
The pub would soon be buzzing, especially since it was around the block from Le Club Vampyre.
The whole situation was interesting to Kieran. In her “real” job, she worked as a psychologist and therapist for psychiatrists Bentley Fuller and Allison Miro. But, like her brothers, she often filled in at the pub; it was kind of a home away from home for them all. The pub had been in the family from the mid-nineteenth century, dating back to her distant great-great-uncle. Her own parents were gone now, and that made the pub even more precious to her and her older brother, Declan, her twin, Kevin, and her “baby” brother, Daniel.
As manager, Declan was the only one who made the pub his lifework. Kevin pursued his acting career, and Danny strove to become the city’s best tour guide. Yet they all spent a great deal of time at Finnegan’s.
The tragic death of Jeannette Gilbert would soon have all their patrons talking about this latest outrage at Le Club Vampyre. They’d been talking about the place for the past six months, ever since the sale of the old church to Dark Doors Incorporated. The talk had become extremely glum when the club had opened a month ago. A club like that in an old church!
The club had, of course, been the main topic of conversation yesterday, when the news had come out that unknown grave sites had been found—and Professor John Shaw had been called in.
Of course, people were still talking about the old catacombs today. Not that finding graves while dig- ging in foundations was unusual in New York. It was just creepy-cool enough to really talk about.
Creepy-cool was fine when you were talking about the earthly remains of the long dead.
Not the newly deceased.
At the moment, though, Kieran was one of the few people who knew that the body of Jeannette Gilbert had been discovered. That was because she knew Dr. John Shaw, professor of archaeology and anthropology at NYU, famed in academic circles for his work on sites from Jamestown, Virginia, to Beijing, China. He and a group of his colleagues had met at Finnegan’s one night a month as long as she could remember.
When she’d seen him enter today looking so distressed, she’d ushered him into one of the small booths against the wall that divided the pub’s general area from the offices. She’d gotten him his scotch, and she’d sat with him so she could try to calm him.
“Oh, my God! I can just imagine when it hits the news!” he said, looking at her with stricken eyes. And yet, she recognized a bit of awe in them.
Of course, he hadn’t known Jeannette Gilbert personally. Kieran hadn’t, either. She’d seen her once, on a red carpet, heading to the premiere of a new movie in a theater near Times Square.
Sadly, Jeannette hadn’t been an especially talented actress. But she’d been too beautiful for most people to care.
“I’m so sorry you’re the one who found her,” Kieran said. That should’ve been the right thing to say; usu- ally, people didn’t want to find a body. Still, John Shaw worked with the dead all the time—the long dead, at least—and he was going to be famous in the pop culture world now, as well as the academic world.
But it was obvious that he was badly shaken.
He was accustomed to studying bones and mummies— not a woman who’d been recently murdered.
“I was—I am—very excited about the project. I don’t understand how the church could have lost all those graves. Can you imagine? Okay, so, you know how they built Saint Paul’s to accommodate folks farther north of Trinity back in the day? Well, they built Saint Augustine’s for those a little north of Saint Paul’s. And, according to my research so far, the church was fine until about 1860, when way too many people went off to fight in the Civil War. It wasn’t deconsecrated—just more or less abandoned because the congregations were so much smaller. Then, according to records, Father O’Hara passed away, and it took the church forever to send out a new priest. Apparently, there was structural damage by then, which closed off that section of the catacombs. You see, until about seventy-five years ago, there was an entrance to the catacombs from the street, and I suppose everyone—church officials, city organizers, engineers, what have you—believed all the graves had been removed. Of course, most of the dead were buried then in wooden coffins, and in the ground outside, so most of those became dirt and bone. But there’d been underground catacombs, too. Coffins set upon shelves. Some of the dead were just shrouded, but some were in old wooden coffins, and they were decaying and falling apart, and I had workers taking them down so carefully—and then, there she was!”
He sipped his scotch again and looked at Kieran in- tently. “You’re not to say a word, not yet. The police… they asked me not to speak about this until…until some- one was notified. I don’t think either of her parents is living, but she must have family…” His voice trailed off. “My God. It was ghastly!” he said a moment later. “Gruesome!”
Once again he picked up his glass and swallowed the scotch in a gulp.
Kieran wasn’t sure why she turned to look at the front door when she did; it was always opening and closing. Maybe she wanted to look anywhere except at John Shaw. She was a working psychologist, and yet she wasn’t sure what to say to the man.
She glanced up just in time to see Craig Frasier come in, blink, adjust to the light and walk toward the two of them.
She wasn’t surprised Craig was there; they were see- ing each other and had been since the affair over the “flawless” Capeletti diamond. It had all started as they danced around each other following a diamond heist.
They were both assigned to the case, but Kieran’s involvement had been more than a little complicated. They’d progressed to each having a dresser drawer at the other’s apartment, and were now talking about moving in together.
While she had truly fallen in love with Craig, she was a little hesitant—and a little worried that the man she believed to be her soul mate also happened to be a special agent with the FBI. Her family was striving to be legitimate now, but that hadn’t always been the case. Growing up, her brothers had had a few brushes with the law.
And trusting her beloved brothers to behave wasn’t easy. They were never malicious; however, their ways of helping friends out of bad situations weren’t always the best.
Then again, she’d met Craig because of the Capeletti diamond and Danny’s determination to do the right thing…
And because of some criminal clientele.
“Excuse me,” she murmured to John, assuming that Craig had come to see her.
The door was still open; he stood in a pool of light, and her heart leaped as she saw him. Craig was, in her mind, entirely impressive, tall and broad-shouldered, with extraordinary eyes that seemed to take in everything.
But he had not, apparently, come to see her.
He greeted Kieran with a nod, held her shoulders for a minute—and then offered her a grim smile as he gently set her aside so he could move past her.
Something was up. Craig spent his free time here with her and her family. Her friends, coworkers and the usual clientele all knew that Craig and Kieran were a couple.
Today, however, there wasn’t even a quick kiss. Craig was being very official.
He was heading straight to the booth where John Shaw was seated.
Kieran stood there for a minute, perplexed.
Jeannette Gilbert had been killed, but as a local woman her death should’ve remained a matter for the New York City Police Department, not the FBI. And John Shaw had left the body less than an hour ago.
Why would Craig be here so quickly? And more to the point, why was the FBI involved?
She didn’t get a chance to slide back into the booth and find out what was going on; she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned.
Her brother Kevin was next to her. He was a striking man—in anyone’s opinion, she thought. He was tall and fit, with fine features, dark red hair and deep blue eyes. They were twins, and it showed.
“I have to talk to you,” he said urgently. “Sure,” she said.
“Not here. In the office,” he told her. To her surprise, he glanced uneasily at Craig, whom he liked and with whom he was pretty good friends.
Kevin whirled her and headed her down the entry aisle toward the bar, and then to the left and down the hallway to the business office. He peered in, as if afraid their older brother might be there, since it was, basically, Declan’s office.
He closed the door behind them.
“She’s dead, Kieran! She’s dead!” Kevin said, looking at her and shaking his head with dismay and anxiety.
She stared at him for a moment. He couldn’t be talking about Jeannette Gilbert—no one knew that she’d been found at the church yet, not according to John Shaw. Her heart quaked with fear. She was afraid he was talking about an old friend, or a longtime customer of the pub.
Someone he cared about deeply. “Kevin, who?” she asked. “Jeannette.”
She frowned. “Jeannette Gilbert?” He nodded.
“Okay,” she said slowly. “I know that, because John Shaw just told me. But he only found her body a few hours ago. The police asked him not to say anything.” Kevin took a deep breath. “Well, John Shaw might not have said anything, but one of the workers down there—a grunt, a student, I don’t know—came out and told people on the street, and the story was picked up, and there are already media crews there.”
She studied her brother. “Kevin, it’s terrible. A beautiful young woman has—I’m assuming—been murdered. But, Kevin, I’m afraid that terrible things do happen. But…we didn’t know Jeannette Gilbert. Not personally.”
“Yes,” he said. “We did.” “We did?”
“I did,” he corrected. “Kieran, I was the so-called ‘mystery man’ she was dating! I might have been the last one to see her alive.”
The NYPD had been called in first; that was proper protocol, since New York City was where the body had been found.
She’d last been seen by her doorman entering her apartment; she was a longtime Manhattan resident. She had, in fact, grown up in Harlem, a little girl who’d lost both parents and gone on to live in a household filled with children and an aunt who hadn’t wanted another mouth to feed.
By the age of seventeen, however, she’d had an affair with a rock star.
While the rock star denied any kind of intimate relationship with her at the time, he’d gone on to put her in one of his music videos soon after.
An agent had picked her up and it had been a classic tale—little girl lost had become a megastar. By twenty- five, she was gracing runways all over the world and, because of her modeling, doing cameo spots on television shows and even appearing in small roles in several movies. She was considered a true supernova.
Jeannette’s physical appearance had been called perfect by every critic out there.
She could walk a runway.
She had beautiful skin, luscious hair, long legs and a body that didn’t quit.
Craig Frasier had learned all this about Jeannette in the last few hours. Before that, she’d only been a face he might have recognized on a magazine cover.
But he’d made it his business to read up on her quickly.
Because her death had suddenly become the focus of his life.