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Book Jacket

416 pages
Mar 2007
Bethany House Publishers

The Watchers

by Mark Andrew Olsen

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Chapter 1

Pacific Palisades, California—Midnight

The blue flickers of her television danced across the housekeeper's unmoving pupils. She neither budged a muscle, nor leveled the odd tilt of her head, nor wiped the crimson trickles crisscrossing her neck, nor rose from the stain darkening the sofa cushions beneath her. Nor did she notice that, twenty feet away, a man gripping the weapon of her murder had now reached the bedroom door of her pequeña angelica. Her angelic one.

Her employer's beautiful, sleeping, twenty-year-old daughter, Abigail.

No, deep in the final tremors of her death, the housekeeper did not hear her assailant turn the bedroom's door handle or see him enter the room. Nor did she scream when he took two padded strides into shadow.

Paused just inside the threshold, the killer breathed in deeply and tried in vain to calm his pulse by drinking in the darkness, savoring the smell of clean sheets and dissipating perfume. He badly needed the pause. The ecstasy of the previous slaying still fired through every synapse of his nervous system. In fact, the bliss so enthralled his faculties that he could only stand motionless while it subsided, peer down at young Abigail's bed, and focus all his energy on recovering his poise.

That, and resist the urge to harvest the new prey now sleeping before him.

Breathing as silently as he could, he tried to relax by forcing his thoughts back to the instant his first kill of the evening had awakened from her TV-induced stupor and realized what was happening to her. His soul was fed by the montage of terror that had blazed across those sleep-swollen eyes: disbelief, shock, rage, numbness, and finally heavy-lidded resignation as the laws of biology asserted themselves.

Oh, how the woman's death had electrified his every sense! Each layer of fear delighted him like nothing else. His Order had never overstated how delicious it was to savor those last moments of someone's life like a mouthful of caviar. He never tired of it. He doubted he ever would.

And best of all, as the Order of the Scythe would faithfully insist, was his assurance that in the process he had fulfilled one of earth's most necessary and neglected functions. The recycling of an inferior being.

Culling the herd.

Now he scowled and focused on this second girl, on his actual purpose for being in this place. She was a different matter. No thrill-harvest here. He could not shake from his mind the fact that taking her life without authorization—or deviating one inch from his orders—could prove his last mistake.

Beyond the surface value of sparing the world one more parasite, the woman out there on the sofa had been little more than a contingency. But now the sleeping girl embodied the assignment of a lifetime, one whose failure he might not survive.

Even that danger gave him a rush.

He stared harder at the beauty before him, the insolent serenity of the woman's slumber, of her blond hair tossed casually across the pillow.

Sleeping soundly like any other untroubled youth, probably dreaming of pimple-faced boys and MTV. She'd have no idea....

He gazed at the placid face, the contours of her cheeks, and the long, thick eyelashes that lay atop sculptured cheekbones. Full lips parted gently around an escaping breath. Beautiful girl, he acknowledged. He followed the outline of legs under quilted blanket and realized that in another context the sight might have pierced him with a different desire altogether.

But tonight there was serious business at hand.

Inwardly he compared her sleeping expression to the photos he had studied. A lean, tanned face, a winsome, carefree smile, and hair bleached sandy blond by the sun. In her photos she'd worn no makeup, sporting an ordinary, unglamorous hairstyle. She might have been even more stunning if only she paid attention to such things.

She's the one, he reassured himself.

Next to his shoulder, on the dresser, sat an open laptop. He merely had to touch the space bar to wake it up.

He peered closer and started reading, shaking his head and smiling. These kids. They all think they're so bold and trailblazing, and yet they're so predictable.

It was her personal home page. Not a keystroke required; it was right there waiting for him. Her MyCorner site. The latest cyber-fad, a computer page festooned with photos of the girl, her friends, covers of her favorite albums. Her own personal corner of cyberspace.

It all began with a welcoming block of text, a sort of electronic handshake beckoning visitors into her own private world.

Congratulations. You just reached my own little corner of cyberspace.

Who am I?

Abby Sherman, that's who. Just your basic, young, messed-up California beach girl.

Who are you? And why are you checking me out?

Drop me a few pixels and let's find out!

Oh yeah, vital statistics: I'm twenty. I'm Caucasian. Californian. Upper ... Know what? I don't like the way all these labels make me sound. I know you're supposed to spit out all your demographic info for this MyCorner welcome block, but these facts don't tell the truth about me. They make me sound like some spoiled, privileged person I really want to believe I'm not.

Those handful of sloppy social labels don't tell you that I've taken four mission trips to orphanages in Romania, the Cité Soleil slum in Haiti, the Payatas landfill in Manila, and Mexico City's red-light district. That I volunteer ten hours a week at a local rape shelter. Or that I've taken ten semester credit hours of college courses.

How about the fact that my best friend isn't some debutante named Ashton like my "vital statistics" might indicate, but a very cool and wise 50-year-old expatriate from El Salvador named Narbeli. Who happens to be our ecstatic-to-have-the-job housekeeper (she's legal!) and has been since my mom took off when I was three. Who loves me so much that, even though she has her own apartment, she sleeps every night on the couch outside my door to make sure I'm okay.

I'm not telling this to be a goody two-shoes or puff myself up in any way. I'm no saint. But neither am I some girl who sits around the pool polishing her nails all day and snapping at "the help." Please don't slap easy labels on me without knowing what's under the surface.

Okay—so on that surface, some people might feel compelled to label me a rich, tanned, well-educated American beach chick. I suppose if you want to classify me, I am in the upper—see, I even hate that. I'll say, quite freely, that I'm one of the most privileged people on earth. How's that? I may not apologize for it, but I'm definitely grateful. So let's move on.

Like I started to say, I live in California. Near the beach. I love the ocean almost as much as I love the God who made it.

I've been taking college classes since high school, but I'm totally unmotivated because I have no idea what I want to do with my life. My dad's so frustrated with me. He just wants me to pick something and forge ahead, but I'm one of those people who says, if I have no idea what I'm supposed to do, then what's the point? Why waste time and effort on a major that's not for me? So I'm currently pounding on God to give me a clue just how He wants me to serve.

And yeah, my dad's one of those Type A wheeler-dealers you've never heard about unless you memorize the faces on the cover of Inc. and Forbes magazine. In which case, I feel sorry for you. In fact, if you've heard of my dad, then you're probably not gonna relate to this site. His name's Robert Sherman, or Bob, I suppose. We live in Pacific Palisades with his wife Teresa. And my half sister, Caryn, who's four.

My mom? Forget it. I'm not talking about that. Not yet. We don't know each other near well enough.

If you're a friend, stay awhile. Check out my other friends, my fave tunes, my blog.

Oh yeah. I'm about to post some pretty bizarre stuff on my blog. Some far-out things have been happening to me—at least in my dreams. Maybe if you're a true mystic, you can IM me, tell me what in the world's going on.

Meanwhile, welcome to MyCorner....

Definitely her, the killer told himself, shaking his head at people's willingness to display intimate knowledge of themselves in the most unsecured places. He breathed in deeply. She was the one. A typical young, attractive, well-advantaged American woman, except of course that ...

... if all the heat around this op was true, this woman lay dead center in the crosshairs of history itself.

Excerpted from:
The Watchers by Mark Andrew Olsen
Copyright © 2007; ISBN-13 978-0764228186
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.