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The Hunted
by Alan Jacobson
Pocket Books, 2001


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Prologue

August

The United States Attorney stood on the courthouse steps, the hot August air oppressively still and heavy with humidity. Reporters were gathered around him, microphones and cassette recorders shoved toward his drawn face.
   "I only have a brief statement for you. At twelve-thirty this afternoon, Judge Richard Noonan held a hearing on newly discovered evidence in the Anthony Scarponi murder conviction of six years ago. The defense has secured what Judge Noonan has determined to be a credible witness who can provide evidence of Mr. Scarponi's innocence. Collaterally, the Department of Justice has failed to locate former FBI Agent Harper Payne, who was the central witness for the government in the original trial. As a result, Judge Noonan has ordered the release of Mr. Scarponi on two million dollars bail pending the scheduling of a new trial."
   A flurry of questions burst forth from the press corps. Instead of answering them, the U.S. Attorney turned and walked back up the courthouse steps. A screaming headache was beginning to take shape, and the last thing he needed was two dozen journalists asking the one question he had been asking himself repeatedly the past several days: how could this have happened?

September

The apartment was a sparsely decorated studio on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., secured by contacts he had maintained while incarcerated in the maximum security prison in Petersburg, Virginia. He had hoped the day would come when he would be out on his own again, free to roam the streets like a jaguar prowling for its next quarry.
   Anthony Scarponi knew that to have true freedom, the tiny device implanted in his buttock had to be removed. Foreign physicians would perform such a procedure without asking questions, but to find one in the United States would be time-consuming and dangerous.
   There was only one possible course of action.
   He stood with his right leg up on the edge of the bathtub, a large magnifying makeup mirror perched on a step stool beneath his buttock. A high-intensity halogen light lay on the floor, flooding his skin with enough brightness that if he looked away, he would have a temporary blind spot. His paraphernalia was laid out across the bathroom counter, within reach of his left hand: syringes filled with lidocaine hydrochloride solution, sterilized stainless steel probes, a scalpel, forceps, clamps, gauze rolls, pads, and suture kits.
After injecting the surrounding area with anesthetic, he began by opening a long slit overlying the tiny, delicate scar line left by the surgeon's original incision. It was tedious work at first, as he had to locate the exact position of the microchip they had implanted. That it was buried toward the rear of his buttock made the probing more difficult. Though he was not supposed to know this had been done to him, he had sources. Even inside a maximum security federal prison, he had sources.
   According to his informants, a couple of guards had taken him from his cell on a Monday-and didn't return him until the following Sunday. Scarponi surmised he had been drugged, then kept sedated until he could heal. It took him a few months, but he eventually learned what they had done to him.
   An hour later, the lidocaine syringes lay empty, the last one having been injected forty minutes ago. He was now working on sheer determination, grit, and guts, using the skills of discipline his Chinese mentors had taught him. After much tedious probing and searching, he finally found the tiny device. Carefully, he extracted the foreign body, which was a quarter the size of a penny, and placed it gently into a Pyrex dish filled with saline solution.
   Ten minutes later, he tied off the last suture, packed away all evidence of his crude surgery, then chased down an ampicillin capsule and a Vicodin tablet with a glass of water. Scalpel in hand, he walked over to the rat that was laying still in its cage. It was fast asleep, the drugs he'd given it two hours ago having done their job in marked contrast to the largely ineffective lidocaine he had used on himself.
   He suddenly realized that he should have chosen a guinea pig instead of a rat. Then it would have mirrored his own situation so closely the feds couldn't help but see the irony in what he'd done. In the end, though, it didn't matter, because he wouldn't be around to feel their shock, taste their hatred.
   He removed the rodent from its tiny prison, made his incision, and did his deed. He stepped back and laughed a shrill howl, marveling at his masterpiece, intrigued by what the feds would think of his latest feat.


Chapter One


January

"I've got her tied down to the chair. I slap her. She likes it, she smiles at me. She wants more."
   Dr. Lauren Chambers swallowed hard, then leaned forward in her seat. "Who is this, Steven, who's tied down?"
   "Gina. My girlfriend. The others are unconscious."
   Lauren bit her bottom lip. This was one of the most extraordinary first sessions she had ever experienced with a patient. Steven Simpson, a forty year-old state worker, had come to her because he had lost his ability to fight off his sexual urges. But they weren't just sexual fantasies, her patient was quick to point out. "They're torture fantasies," he had said. "There's a huge difference. Haven't you been listening to me?"
   Normally, Lauren had no difficulty focusing on her patient. She was a professional, and when she walked into the office, she left her problems at the door. But today was different. She forced herself to look at this person, really see this man, who wore oversized rose-tinted glasses and a bright blue polyester shirt opened at the collar. She decided that if a dictionary publisher were searching for a defining image of the word geek, Steven would qualify. His hair was frizzy and wild, parted and combed across his head in an apparent attempt to tame it. But the effort had failed miserably, and he looked more like a mad professor than the moderately paid state worker drone that he professed to be.
   Judging by what he had just told her, she had to agree with him. These torture fantasies were not merely a benign form of sexually oriented daydreaming.
   Though in a hypnotic state, Steven smiled. "She wants more." "Steven," Lauren said, "you mentioned others. How many women are there?" "There are four. They're all strapped into chairs. I'm more intrigued by the last one, the blonde."
   "These...sessions you have with Gina and her, uh, friends. Are they just fantasy, Steven, or are they real?"
   "There's blood. She's grinning at me so I slap her again. There's too many of them, too many women. The blood is coming from her nose, it's dripping down to her chin. I smear it all over her face with my hand. She's laughing. She loves it, she wants more. She wants me to hit her again. But there's a noise from behind me. It's Cynthia. She's naked. She's calling my name."
   Lauren suddenly felt uncomfortably hot. She knew she was taking risks by placing her patient under hypnosis on his initial session. Establishing an accurate diagnosis and a trusting rapport with a patient often took the better part of two meetings. But from what she had seen in their first forty-five minutes together, Steven's case required immediate intervention.
   Although therapy could sometimes get stressful-and this one certainly qualified-she never feared for her safety. Yet something about Steven made the hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. She pulled a couple of times on her silk blouse, attempting to flap some cool air against her moist skin, then refocused on her patient. "So what happens next, Steven?"
   "I take Gina, right there on the chair."
   "While she's tied down?"
   "Definitely."
   "And how does Gina feel about this?"
   "She orgasms."
   Lauren paused for a second. "Does she cry out?"
   Steven licked his lips. "Oh, yes. Very loudly." He threw his head back and lifted his hands. "Owww," he groaned. "Like that."
   "Oww?" she asked. "You mean, like she's in pain? Is she in pain, Steven?"
   He smiled again. "Intense pain."
   Lauren looked down at her pad. This man routinely rapes his girlfriend. But is it fantasy or reality? She shook her head. "How does that make you feel, Steven? How does her pain make you feel?"
   "It makes me come. It makes me feel special. But not as special as tying her down. I make the ropes so tight they cut into her skin. So tight that they hurt. The ropes hurt, they hurt me."
   Lauren's head snapped up. What did he just say? "The ropes hurt you, or do they hurt her? Who's tied up, Steven? You or Gina?"
   Her patient did not answer. A tear coursed down his cheek.
   "Steven, remember. No one can hurt you here. You're completely safe. No one will judge you. You can tell me everything."
   He smeared away the tear with the swipe of a hand. "Gina. Gina is tied up."
   "Does Gina say anything to you afterwards?"
   "She's angry. She went away for a couple of days."
   Lauren sat there for a moment, trying to think of the best treatment approach to use on Steven. She knew what she had heard: her patient had clearly stated that he was tied up, which could explain many things. Was he abused as a child? Had he been tied down and tortured by one of his parents? She shuddered at the thought.
   A noise in the hallway grabbed her attention and she glanced at the large black-on-white wall clock behind her patient. She needed to bring this session to a close. But what a time to have to end it!
   She sighed deeply. She knew she could not leave him in his current state. If she could curb his overwhelming desires it might keep him in check until she had a chance to work with him further and probe deeper to reach the root cause of his psychosis. Right now, she needed an immediate, albeit temporary, measure to accomplish this. To make it work, she had to take him down deeper.
   "Steven, we're going to talk more about this next week. In the meantime, I want you to close your eyes, let your head fall back against the chair, and focus on my voice." She used a calm, melodic tone to relax him. "That's it, just let everything go. I want you to picture yourself at the ocean. The waves are effortlessly rolling up the sand and tickling the tips of your toes. The soft breeze is blowing the hair off your face. Now think about all your anger, frustration, tension...and toss it out into the ocean. Watch it float away as it bobs up and down on the waves, moving farther and farther away from you."
   Her patient's facial muscles went flaccid, causing his cheeks and mouth to droop slightly. He was now exactly where she wanted him. She had performed so many hypnotherapy sessions in graduate school that she was affectionately known as "The Underlord," a nickname she did not particularly like. Still, it was a good-hearted attempt by her colleagues to honor her exceptional hypnosis skills.
   "Each time you feel a sexual urge coming on, when you feel yourself losing control, you'll feel intense pain in your left temple. It will be an explosive headache that will last for five minutes and then subside. Do you understand what I'm saying, Steven?'
   He continued to lay back in the chair, his head extended and cocked to one side, his mouth hanging open. He smacked his lips a couple of times, swallowed, and then spoke. "Yes."
   "Good. Now, I'm going to wake you up. You won't consciously remember anything we talked about. When I snap my fingers, you will awaken refreshed and happy."
He opened his eyes and sat up, looked around, and focused on Lauren. "What happened, doc? We were talking, and then...I don't know, you're sitting there looking at me."
   "Everything went fine, Steven. You just went into a very relaxed state for a few moments." She glanced again at the clock and rose from her chair. "Next week we'll talk some more, try some things that I think will help."
   "I feel great."
   "Good. I want you to feel great." Lauren smiled. "This was an excellent first session, Steven."
   "What about those thoughts, those fantasies?"
   "I don't think you'll have any problems with them. But you'd better carry a bottle of Excedrin with you."

Lauren followed her patient out into the hallway, where the shared receptionist sat behind the desk wearing a telephone headset. The other therapists had gathered in the area, as they all had completed their sessions at the top of the hour. Lauren ignored their burgeoning discussion and looked over at the receptionist.
   "Did my husband call?"
   "No, doctor, he didn't. Just like the last hour, and the hour before that."
   Fortunately, the bizarre case Steven presented had helped take her mind off Michael, even if only for a few minutes. Lauren looked away and headed back into her office. She stood in front of a photo on the wall, the one she had taken of Michael in their backyard a few years ago, shortly after purchasing their house.
   "Michael," she whispered, "please come home."

Excerpted from The Hunted by Alan Jacobson. Copyright © 2001 by Alan Jacobson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.









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