MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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I Am Pilgrim

A Thriller

by Terry Hayes

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes X
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
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  • First Published:
    May 2014, 624 pages
    Dec 2014, 624 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Print Excerpt

With sudden clarity, I realize that this is anything but a by-thebook homicide for money or drugs or sexual gratification. As a murder, this is something remarkable.

Chapter Two

NOT EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS – OR CARES PROBABLY – BUT THE FIRST LAW of forensic science is Locard's Exchange Principle, and it says 'Every contact between a perpetrator and a crime scene leaves a trace.' As I stand in this room, surrounded by dozens of voices, I'm wondering if Professor Locard had ever encountered anything quite like Room 89 – everything touched by the killer is now in a bath full of acid, wiped clean or drenched in industrial antiseptic. I'm certain there's not a cell or follicle of him left behind.

A year ago, I wrote an obscure book on modern investigative technique. In a chapter called 'New Frontiers', I said I had come across the use of an antibacterial spray only once in my life – and that was a high-level hit on an intelligence agent in the Czech Republic. That case doesn't augur well – to this day, it remains unsolved. Whoever had been living in Room 89 clearly knew their business, and I start examining the room with the respect it deserves. He wasn't a tidy person and, among the other trash, I see an empty pizza box lying next to the bed. I'm about to pass over it when I realize that's where he would have had the knife: lying on top of the pizza box within easy reach, so natural Eleanor probably wouldn't even have registered it.

I imagine her on the bed, reaching under the tangle of sheets for his crotch. She kisses his shoulder, his chest, going down. Maybe the guy knows what he's in for, maybe not: one of the side effects of GHB is that it suppresses the gag reflex. There's no reason a person can't swallow a seven-, eight-, ten-inch gun – that's why one of the easiest places to buy it is in gay saunas. Or on porn shoots.

I think of his hands grabbing her – he flips her on to her back and puts his knees either side of her chest. She's thinking he's positioning himself for her mouth but, casually, his right hand would have dropped to the side of the bed. Unseen, the guy's fingers find the top of the pizza box then touch what he's looking for – cold and cheap but, because it's new, more than sharp enough to do the job.

Anybody watching from behind would have seen her back arch, a sort of moan escape her lips – they'd think he must have entered her mouth. He hasn't. Her eyes, bright with drugs, are flooding with fear. His left hand has clamped tight over her mouth, forcing her head back, exposing her throat. She bucks and writhes, tries to use her arms, but he's anticipated that. Straddling her breasts, his knees slam down, pinning her by the biceps. How do I know this? You can just make out the two bruises on the body lying in the bath. She's helpless. His right hand rises up into view – Eleanor sees it and tries to scream, convulsing wildly, fighting to get free. The serrated steel of the pizza knife flashes past her breast, towards her pale throat. It slashes hard—

Blood sprays across the bedside table. With one of the arteries which feed the brain completely cut, it would have been over in a moment. Eleanor crumples, gurgling, bleeding out. The last vestiges of consciousness tell her she has just witnessed her own murder; all she ever was and hoped to be is gone. That's how he did it – he wasn't inside her at all. Once again, thank God for small mercies, I suppose.

The killer goes to prepare the acid bath and along the way pulls off the bloody white shirt he must have been wearing – they just found pieces of it under Eleanor's body in the bath, along with the knife: four inches long, black plastic handle, made by the millions in some sweatshop in China.

Copyright © Terry Pilgrim 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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