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Excerpt from The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Empty Chair

A Lincoln Rhyme Novel

by Jeffery Deaver

The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver X
The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver
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  • First Published:
    May 2000, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2001, 496 pages

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But they were already at the riverbank, where the boy'd hidden a small skiff under some reeds and grass. He shoved Lydia into the boat and pushed off, rowing hard to the far side of the river. He beached the boat and yanked her out. Then dragged her into the woods.

"Where're we going?" she whispered.

"To see Mary Beth. You're going to be with her."

"Why?" Lydia whispered, sobbing now. "Why me?"

But he said nothing more, just clicked his nails together absently and pulled her after him.






"Ed," came Jesse Corn's urgent transmission. "Oh, it's a mess. He's got Lydia. I lost him."

"He's what?" Gasping from exertion, Ed Schaeffer stopped. He'd started jogging toward the river when he'd heard the scream.

"Lydia Johansson. He's got her too."

"Shit," muttered the heavy deputy, who cursed about as frequently as he drew his sidearm. "Why'd he do that?"

"He's crazy," Jesse said. "That's why. He's over the river and'll be headed your way."

"Okay." Ed thought for a moment. "He'll probably be coming back here to get the stuff in the blind. I'll hide inside, get him when he comes in. He have a gun?"

"I couldn't see."

Ed sighed. "Okay, well....Get over here as soon as you can. Call Jim too."

"Already did."

Ed released the red transmit button and looked through the brush toward the river. There was no sign of the boy and his new victim. Panting, Ed ran back to the blind and found the door. He kicked it open. It swung inward with a crash and Ed stepped inside fast, crouching in front of the gun slot.

He was so high on fear and excitement, concentrating so hard on what he was going to do when the boy got here, that he didn't at first pay any attention to the two or three little black-and-yellow dots that zipped in front of his face. Or to the tickle that began at his neck and worked down his spine.

But then the tickling became detonations of fiery pain on his shoulders then along his arms and under them. "Oh, God," he cried, gasping, leaping up and staring in shock at the dozens of hornets -- vicious yellow jackets -- clustering on his skin. He brushed at them in a panic and the gesture infuriated the insects even more. They stung his wrist, his palm, his fingertips. He screamed. The pain was worse than any he'd felt -- worse than the broken leg, worse than the time he'd picked up the cast-iron skillet not knowing Jean had left the burner on.

Then the inside of the blind grew dim as the cloud of hornets streamed out of the huge gray nest in the corner -- which had been crushed by the swinging door when he kicked it in. Easily hundreds of the creatures were attacking him. They zipped into his hair, seated themselves on his arms, in his ears, crawled into his shirt and up his pant legs, as if they knew that stinging on cloth was futile and sought his skin. He raced for the door, ripping his shirt off, and saw with horror masses of the glossy crescents clinging to his huge belly and chest. He gave up trying to brush them off and simply ran mindlessly into the woods.

"Jesse, Jesse, Jesse!" he cried but realized his voice was a whisper; the stinging on his neck had closed up his throat.

Run! he told himself. Run for the river.

And he did. Speeding faster than he'd ever run in his life, crashing through the forest. His legs pumping furiously. Go....Keep going, he ordered himself. Don't stop. Outrun the little bastards. Think about your wife, think about the twins. Go, go, go....There were fewer wasps now though he could still see thirty or forty of the black dots clinging to his skin, the obscene hindquarters bending forward to sting him again.

I'll be at the river in three minutes. I'll leap into the water. They'll drown. I'll be all right....Run! Escape from the pain...the pain...How can something so small cause so much pain? Oh, it hurts....

Copyright © 2000 by Jeffery Deaver. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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