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About the Author
David Baldacci is the bestselling author of a number of thriller series, including Memory Man, Will Robie, John Puller, and others. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, and have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America.
Date of Birth:August 5, 1960
Place of Birth:Richmond, VIrginia
Education:B.A. in Political Science, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1982; J.D., University of Virginia, 1986
Read an Excerpt
By David Baldacci
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
ROGER SEAGRAVES WALKED OUT of the U.S. Capitol after an interesting
meeting that, surprisingly, had had little to do with politics. That
evening he sat alone in the living room of his modest suburban home
after arriving at an important decision. He had to kill someone, and
that someone was a very significant target. Instead of a daunting
proposition, Seagraves saw it as a worthy challenge.
The next morning Seagraves drove to his office in northern Virginia.
Sitting at his desk in a space that was small and cluttered, and
looked exactly the same as other work spaces up and down the
corridor, he mentally assembled the critical pieces of his task.
Seagraves finally concluded that he would do the deed himself,
unwilling to trust it to a third party. He'd killed before, many
times in fact; the only difference now was he wouldn't be doing it
for his government. This one was all for him.
He spent the next two days in careful, decisive preparation
efficiently conducted around his day job. The three imperatives of
his mission were embedded in every action he performed: (1) keep it
simple; (2) provide for every contingency; and (3) never panic no
matter how much your plan goes awry, which it occasionally did.
However, if there were a fourth rule, it would have to be: exploit
the fact thatmost people are fools when it comes to things that
actually matter, like their own survival. He had never suffered from
Roger Seagraves was forty-two, single and childless. A wife and
brats would certainly have complicated his unorthodox lifestyle. In
his previous career with the federal government he'd adopted false
identities and traveled across the world. Fortunately, changing
identities was stunningly easy to do in the computer age. A few
clicks of the Dell, a server somewhere in India hummed, and from
one's fancy laser printer out popped a new you with all the official
bells, whistles and available credit.
Seagraves could actually buy all that he needed on an Internet site
that required a carefully guarded password. It was akin to a Macy's
department store for criminals, sometimes dubbed by its felonious
clientele as "EvilBay." There one could purchase everything from
first-rate ID packs and stolen credit card numbers to the services
of professional hit men, or sterilized weapons if you were inclined
to commit the murder yourself. He usually obtained the necessary
materials from a dealer who had a 99 percent approval rating from
his customers and a money-back guarantee. Even killers liked to go
Roger Seagraves was tall, well built and handsome with thick blond
wavy hair; on the surface he seemed carefree in his ways and
possessed an infectious grin. Virtually every woman in his vicinity
copped a second look, as did some envious men. He often used this to
his advantage. When you had to kill or deceive, you used whatever
tools you had as effectively as possible. His government had taught
him that too. Though he still technically labored for the United
States, he also worked for himself. His "official" pension plan fell
far short of giving him the quality retirement he felt he deserved
after so many years of risking his life for the red, white and blue.
For him, though, it had been mostly red.
On the third afternoon after his enlightening visit to the Capitol
Seagraves subtly modified his features and put on several layers of
clothing. When it grew dark, he drove a van up into the expensive
fringes of northwest D.C. where the embassies and private mansions
all had paranoid guards patrolling their compounds.
He parked in a small courtyard behind a building across the street
from a very exclusive club housed in an imposing brick Georgian that
catered to wealthy and politically obsessed persons, of whom
Washington had more than any city on earth. These folks loved to
gather over passable food and average wine and talk polls, policies
and patronage to their hearts' content.
Seagraves wore a blue jumper suit with "Service" stenciled on the
back. The key he'd made earlier fit the simple lock of the vacant
building that was awaiting extensive renovation. His toolbox in
hand, he took the steps two at a time until he reached the top floor
and entered a room facing the street. He flashed a penlight around
the empty space, noting the single window. He'd left it unlocked and
well oiled on an earlier visit.
He opened his toolbox and quickly assembled his sniper rifle. Next
he attached the suppressor can to the muzzle, chambered a single
round-he was nothing if not confident-crept forward and drew up the
window a bare two inches, just enough to allow the can to fit in the
opening. He checked his watch and looked up and down the street from
his lofty perch without much worry of being spotted, since the
building he was in was completely dark. In addition, his rifle had
no optics signature and sported Camoflex technology, meaning it
changed color to match its background.
Oh, what the human race had learned from the humble moth.
When the limo and lead security car pulled up to the club, he drew
his bead on the head of one of the men who got out of the stretch,
but he didn't fire. It wasn't time yet. The club member walked
inside followed by his security men sporting ear fobs and thick
necks sticking out of starched collars. He watched the stretch and
the security car pull off.
Seagraves checked his watch again: two hours to go. He continued to
scan the street below as town cars and cabs dropped off
serious-faced women outfitted not in carats of De Beers and yards of
Versace, but in smart off-the-rack business suits and tasteful
costume jewelry, with their social and political antennae set on
high. The serious-faced men accompanying them were hunkered down in
pinstripes, bland ties and what seemed to be bad attitudes.
It won't get any better, gents, trust me.
One hundred and twenty minutes dragged by, and his gaze had never
once left the club's brick façade. Through the large front windows
he could see the efficient swirl of folks who cradled their drinks
and murmured in low, conspiratorial tones.
Okay, it was time for business.
He gave the street another quick scan. Not a soul was looking his
way. Over his career he'd found they never were. Seagraves waited
patiently until the target walked through his crosshairs for the
last time, then his gloved finger edged to the trigger. He didn't
particularly like firing through a windowpane, though it wouldn't
interfere with the flight of the ordnance he was using.
Thwap! This was followed instantly by a tinkle of glass and the
heavy thud of a pudgy dead man hitting a highly polished oak floor.
The Honorable Robert Bradley had felt no pain at all with the
impact. The bullet had killed his brain before it could tell his
mouth to start screaming. Not a bad way to go, actually.
Seagraves calmly laid down the rifle and peeled off his jumpsuit,
exposing the D.C. police uniform underneath. He put on a matching
hat he'd brought with him and marched down the stairs to the rear
door. When he exited the building, he could hear the screams from
across the street. Only nineteen seconds had passed since the shot;
he knew because he'd counted the ticks off in his head. He now moved
rapidly down the street as he continued to time the action in his
head. The next moment he heard the powerful whine of the car engine
as the carefully choreographed scene was played out. Now he began to
run all out, pulling his pistol as he did so. He had five seconds to
get there. He turned the corner in time to almost be hit by the
sedan as it raced by him. At the last instant he leaped to the side,
rolled and came up in the middle of the road.
People across the street shouted at him, pointing at the car. He
turned, gripped his gun with both hands and fired at the sedan. The
blanks in his gun sounded sweet, just like the real thing. He placed
five shots and then sprinted hard down the asphalt for half a block
and slid into what appeared to be an unmarked police cruiser parked
there; it raced after the fast-disappearing sedan, its siren blaring
and grille lights flashing.
The car it was "chasing" turned left at the next intersection, then
right, and headed down an alley, stopping in the middle. The driver
in the car jumped out, ran to the lime-green VW Beetle parked in
front of his in the alley and drove off.
Once out of sight of the club, the other car's grille lights and
siren stopped as it peeled away from the hunt and headed in the
opposite direction. The man next to Seagraves never once looked at
him as he climbed into the backseat and stripped off the police
uniform. Underneath the cop clothes he wore a tight-fitting
one-piece jogging outfit; black sneakers were already on his feet.
In the floorboard of the car was a muzzled six-month-old black Lab.
The car whipped down a side street and turned left at the next
corner, stopping beside a park deserted at this late hour. The back
door opened, Seagraves climbed out and the car sped off.
Seagraves held the leash tightly as he and his "pet" commenced their
"nightly" jog. When they turned right at the next corner, four
police cruisers flew past the pair. Not one face in the cop convoy
even glanced at him.
A minute later, in another part of the city, a fireball raced into
the sky. It was the rented and fortunately empty town house of the
dead man. Initially, it would be blamed on a gas leak that had
ignited. Yet combined with the murder of Bob Bradley, the federal
authorities would seek out other explanations, though they wouldn't
After running for three blocks Seagraves abandoned his pet, a
waiting car was climbed into and he was back at his home less than
an hour later. Meanwhile, the United States government would have to
find another Speaker of the House to replace the recently deceased
Robert "Bob" Bradley. That shouldn't be too hard, Seagraves mused as
he drove to work the next day after reading of Bradley's murder in
the morning newspaper. After all, the damn town is full of bloody
politicians. Bloody politicians? That's an apt description. He
pulled his car to the security gate, displayed his ID badge and was
waved through by the armed guard there who knew him well.
He strode through the front door of the sprawling building in
Langley, Virginia, passed through additional security gauntlets and
then headed to his eight-by-ten-foot cluttered cookie-cutter office.
He was currently a midlevel bureaucrat whose main work consisted of
being a liaison between his agency and the incompetent and brainless
on Capitol Hill who'd somehow been voted into office. It was not
nearly as taxing as his old job here, and represented a bone thrown
his way for meritorious service. Now, unlike decades ago, the CIA
let its "special" employees come in from the cold once they'd
reached the age where reflexes slowed a bit and enthusiasm for the
As Seagraves looked over some tedious paperwork, he realized how
much he'd missed the killing. He supposed people who had once
murdered for a living never really got over that bloodlust. At least
last night had given him a bit of the old glory back.
That was one problem out of the way, but another one would probably
soon take its place. Yet Roger Seagraves was a creative
troubleshooter. It was just his nature.
Excerpted from The Collectors
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2006 by David Baldacci.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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