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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2021 by Columbus Rose, Ltd.

Cover design by David Litman. Car photo by Paul Collins/Alamy Stock Photo; photo of city (Santa Barbara Harbor) by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images. Cover copyright © 2021 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

Grand Central Publishing

Hachette Book Group

1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104

grandcentralpublishing.com

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First Edition: April 2021

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Grand Central Publishing name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.

ISBNs: 978-1-5387-1967-1 (hardcover), 978-1-5387-1964-0 (large print), 978-1-5387-5483-2 (international trade), 978-1-5387-0603-9 (signed edition), 978-1-5387-0602-2 (BN.com signed edition), 978-1-5387-1966-4 (ebook)

E3-20210303-DA-NF-NG

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Discover More

Acknowledgments

About the Author

ACCLAIM FOR DAVID BALDACCI’S THRILLERS

ALSO BY DAVID BALDACCI

To Trisha Jackson:

a superb publisher and editor, a wonderful person, and one of my dear friends

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Chapter 1

WITH A NEW DECADE LOOMING, Aloysius Archer was on a creaky bus headed west to California to seek as much of a life as someone like him could reasonably expect. A roof over his head, three squares a day, a pint of decent liquor every now and then, and a steady supply of his Lucky Strikes to keep his mouth supple and amused. And a job. Actually, more of a profession. He needed that right now. It was like seeking water while in a desert, you just required it and didn’t care how you got it. Otherwise, he’d be a chump, and there was no future in that.

He took off his hat and swiped at his short, dark hair before resettling the fedora into place.

Hell, maybe I am shooting for the moon after all. But why not?

Archer wasn’t yet thirty. After fighting in the Second World War, he’d spent time in prison for a crime of which he was essentially innocent, though the law hadn’t recognized such nuance and stuck him behind bars anyway. However, he would have gladly pled guilty to a charge of gross stupidity. It had involved a woman, and Archer just seemed to lose all of his common sense when they were around.

He was a little over six-one, and his frame had been hardened first by the Army and then by prison, where the strong didn’t necessarily survive, but such an attribute certainly improved your chances. He had a serviceable brain, quick-enough wits, and a work ethic deep enough to carve a good life somewhere given the chance. Archer was hoping to find that opportunity in a town on the water in California where he was eager to start his new phase in life under the tutelage of a veteran private eye named Willie Dash.

But first, he had to get there. And these days, nothing was easy, particularly long-distance travel across a country that was so big it never seemed to end.

He looked out of the bus’s grimy window and eyed the street-spanning metal sign they were passing under:

RENO THE BIGGEST LITTLE CITY IN THE WORLD

He had no idea what that meant, but it sounded intriguing. They pulled into the bus terminal and he grabbed from the overhead rack his large, brand-new leather satchel. He had on a two-piece tan wool pinstripe suit, with a patterned green single-Windsor-knotted tie, fronting a starched white shirt and topped by his crown-dented fedora with a brown band. Everything else he owned in the world was in the satchel. It wasn’t much, but it was a lot more than he’d had when the prison doors had opened not that long ago.

He got a recommendation on a place to stay the night from a gal behind the bus counter with blonde hair that wrapped around her neck like a naughty mink stole and mischievous blue eyes to match. She had a curvaceous figure that reminded him of the photo of a swimsuit-clad Ava Gardner he had kept in his helmet during the war. After telling her he was headed to California, she handed him a map, along with a recommendation for where to grab his dinner.

“My name’s Ginger,” she said with a broad smile. “Maybe I’ll see you around town later.”

He doffed his hat to her, returned the smile, and trudged on, his grin fading to a grimace. He didn’t care if she was Ginger Rogers, he was keeping his distance, naughty hair and eyes be damned.

“You look lost, soldier,” said the voice.

Archer was outside the depot now, fully immersed in the delicious heat that seeped up from the pavement and gave him a hug. The speaker was a man in his late sixties, straight as a rake, thin as a lathe, with tumbleweed-white hair

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