The Memory Detective

A Novel

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So many memories. So little time. In an astounding thriller ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, cutting-edge technology and a pulse-pounding manhunt lead to a conspiracy of money, power, and sex.

Cole remembers what it’s like to be murdered. That’s how he does his job. The operation takes eight hours with a dead body on the table next to his; when it’s over, he’s flooded with images, thoughts, recollections, some hazy, some crystal clear. They all come straight from the victim’s brain—right up until his or her final chilling moments.

Cole’s career in homicide has wreaked havoc on his personal life. As usual, his new case—a young runaway battered to death with a hammer—consumes all his waking moments . . . and then some. Haunted by the Jane Doe’s hopes, desires, and fears, Cole mentally retraces her every move, from Kansas to New York City, to track down a killer.

But Cole has a terrible suspicion that someone is using the same memory-transfer science for a very different purpose. In fact, he’s already being watched. Because Cole’s the only one standing in the way of a ruthless corporation that’s harvesting people for their most intimate memories—and eliminating anyone who stands in the way.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from The Memory Detective

Chapter 1

Pierce had only gone out for a quick swim, but they were already waiting for him when he returned. They were inside his house. He hadn’t been gone very long, maybe twenty minutes, half an hour at most. He didn’t even think he’d been gone long enough for the woman in his bed to wake up—not after the night they’d spent together, anyway.

Pierce almost always woke up early, no matter what type of insanity he’d gotten himself into the night before. He was always eager to start the new day because every day, for him, was an adventure. That morning, he crawled out of bed quietly so that he could sneak down to the beach for a swim without waking up his new friend. She hadn’t even moved as he slid out from under the single thin sheet that covered the two of them. He didn’t bring his surfboard. He didn’t have time. He wanted to get back to her but first, he wanted to plunge himself into the ocean. He made the short run to the beach and dove headlong, unfettered, into the bright blue waves of the early Hawaiian morning. He was alone in the water. No one else was out yet. He pushed his body through wave after wave. When he’d had his fill, he body-surfed back to the beach. He hadn’t brought a towel, so he was still dripping when he walked through the door to his house. His chest was heaving from the rush of the water. He’d planned on running back to the house, heading into the bedroom, yanking the thin sheet off his bed to reveal his new friend’s taut, naked body, and diving into her the same way he dove into the deep blue ocean.

He hadn’t planned on these uninvited guests. Not yet. He was only two weeks into a monthlong rental. They were more than a week early. And, yet, they were there, waiting in his house in the early morning as if they owned the place. Of course, they didn’t own the house. They owned something much more valuable.

“Good morning, Pierce,” the man in the chair said as Pierce ran in, his body gleaming with water. “It’s good to see that you’re keeping up your morning routine.”

Pierce glanced around the room. It was bright and airy, full of giant open windows that let the breeze blow all the way through the house. Besides the bald man in the chair, whom Pierce had known through almost a decade of periodic meetings, a large man that he’d never seen before stood silently in one corner of the room. “What are you doing here?” Pierce asked, finding it harder now to catch his breath. The large man positioned himself between Pierce and the door. Pierce glanced down the hall toward his bedroom, thinking that maybe, merely by being here, she could save him.

“It’s time, Pierce,” the bald man said without standing up. Pierce could hear what sounded like sincere sadness in the bald man’s voice. The sadness made it so much worse, made what was happening so much more real.
“I can’t,” Pierce stammered. “I have a guest.” He motioned toward the hallway. “She might hear us. She’ll wonder where I went. She’ll ask questions.”

“No, she won’t,” the bald man said with absolute certainty. “Our employees know not to ask questions, Pierce. She was my little going-away present for you.” The bald man smiled.

She wasn’t a present. Pierce knew better than that. She was a spy. How many others, over the years, Pierce wondered, worked for the Company? How many others were merely agents meant to make sure that I was doing what I said I was doing? “But it’s not time yet,” Pierce argued. “I have another week and a half. You told me yourself on the phone that I had another week and a half.” The sun was blaring in. It was a gorgeous morning. There was barely a cloud in the sky. Pierce could hear the wild roar of the ocean waves through the open windows.

“I know,” the bald man said, the pathos returning to his voice. “I’m sorry. It’s a shame we had to lie to you like that. It’s not your fault. It’s just that we’ve had a couple runners in the past, and we’ve invested far too much in you to take any chances.”

Pierce looked around for a place to run. He was in phenomenal shape and there were only two of them. All he would have to do was get out of the house, and they wouldn’t be able to catch him. Then he’d have the whole world to hide in. His new life wouldn’t be what it had been. He’d have to give up the lifestyle that he’d grown accustomed to, but he could still make a life out of it. If he could just put five minutes between him and the two collectors, then those five minutes would turn into ten minutes and then into half an hour and an hour and a day and a week and, with each passing moment, he would be harder and harder to find. The bald man saw Pierce’s eyes as they darted around the room. “Don’t try to run, Pierce,” he said, sounding like a disappointed parent. “It wouldn’t be right. After everything we’ve given you, it’s time for you to hold up your end of the bargain.”

Pierce shook his head. He’d always known this day would come, but he wasn’t ready for it. Not yet. Not today. “You told me that I had ten years. That was the deal. It hasn’t been ten years. It’s only been nine years and eighty-seven days.” Pierce could hear the weakness in his own voice. He tried to keep himself under control, but he could feel that control slipping away. That was all he wanted, a little more control and a little more time. He had no regrets. He didn’t regret a f***ing thing. He merely wanted more time. It had gone by too quickly. How could it have all gone by that quickly?

“No,” the bald man said. “What we said was that the average was ten years and that we guaranteed you at least eight. I was there, remember? I was the one who told you. With the way you’ve lived your life, Pierce, I’m surprised you’ve lasted this long. You’ve got some amazing memories in that pretty head of yours. You only lasted this long because we priced you accordingly. Now is not the time to run, Pierce. Now’s the time to reminisce. Take advantage of the time you have left with those beautiful memories.” Pierce kept scanning the room, looking for an escape route. His hands were trembling. “After all, they’re worth a fortune,” the bald man finished.

“I’m sorry, Fergus,” Pierce said. “I’m just not ready yet.”

“We had a deal, kid,” Fergus shouted. He was a businessman now, the pathos in his voice gone. “We invested a lot of money in you.” He shook his head. “Most people don’t take advantage of the deal we give them the way you did. Do you remember where you were when I found you? Do you remember what type of life you had ahead of you? And now look what you’ve done. Look at everything you’ve done.” Pierce could hear the awe in Fergus’s voice. “We don’t begrudge the fact that you cost us so much. You have to invest money to make money. But now, show us a little bit of appreciation and hold up your end of the bargain. I’m pleading, Pierce. Don’t waste your last few days. Take that time to remember.”

Pierce wasn’t in the mood to remember. Remembering was for other people. He was the one who made the memories. He eyed the open windows. The one to his right wasn’t that high off the ground. None of the windows in the house had any glass or screens, and the ground beneath the window was all soft, white sand. He could jump through it without hurting himself. Then he could run.

Fergus stood up, his patience wearing thin. “Okay, let’s go,” he ordered. With that, Pierce bolted.

Pierce took five quick strides toward the window and dove headfirst through it, hurtling to the ground. The drop was about eight feet, but Pierce landed in the sand, and the adrenaline coursing through his body erased any pain that he would have felt otherwise. His hands weren’t trembling anymore. His body was full of purpose, a single purpose: Run. He got back on his feet and started to move. He ran away from the beach, toward the jungle behind the house. His body could save him. They wouldn’t dare hurt him. He was too valuable; they wouldn’t risk it. All he had to do was make it into the jungle.

“He’s running,” Pierce heard Fergus shout from inside the house. Pierce didn’t even have time to imagine whom Fergus was shouting to because, a moment later, he was tackled by a man the size of a small bull. The man moved quickly. He got on top of Pierce and wrapped his boa constrictor arms around Pierce’s legs. Pierce tried to kick his way free, but it was no use. The man’s grip was pure muscle.

“Let me go,” Pierce pleaded. “Let me go. Let me go. Let me go.”

Pierce could see a fourth man walking toward him now, two long syringes in his hands. Then he heard Fergus’s voice, barking orders. “Don’t hurt him. We don’t want to tarnish the memories.” The man with the needles stepped closer to Pierce. “We’ve invested too much in this one. This kid is an artist,” Fergus’s voice continued. “Wrecking his memories would be like tearing a Picasso.” The man with the syringes squatted down on Pierce’s chest, pinning his arms to the sand.

“Which one first?” the man called back to Fergus.

“Hit him with the protein inhibitor first,” Fergus ordered. “We want him to remember as little of this as possible. The kid is already tainting a masterpiece. Then we can give him the tranquilizer.” Pierce felt the first needle stab him in the side of the neck.

A moment later, Fergus was standing over Pierce, his body blocking out the sun, shaking his head. “I told you, Pierce. You could have had another day or two to reminisce, but you wasted it. Don’t worry, though, your memories, those beautiful memories, they’ll live on. That’s the great thing about what we do. Because of us, those brilliant little works of art in your head don’t have to die. It’s only that you won’t be the one who gets to remember them anymore. It’s only fair, Pierce. You’ve already had your turn.”

Pierce pushed up one more time with all his might but couldn’t budge the two men sitting on top of him. “Now the tranquilizer,” Fergus ordered. Then Pierce felt the second needle jab him in the neck. It was the last thing he ever felt.

- About the author -

T. S. Nichols was born and raised in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Georgetown University Law Center. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons.

More from T.S. Nichols

The Memory Detective

A Novel


The Memory Detective

— Published by Alibi —