Read the Excerpt: Think Twice by Harlan Coben


Here is how you destroy a life.

You stand over his bed and watch him sleep. He’s a heavy sleeper. You know this because you’ve been watching him for six weeks now. You don’t take chances. You prepare. That’s the secret sauce. There is no reason to rush. Anticipation is a big part of life. “It’s the journey, not the destination.” You remember the speaker at your college graduation said that. It’s an old saw of a line, a cliché, but it stuck with you. And it’s not completely true, not by a long shot, but it is a good reminder on those long, lonely nights that joy can and must be found in both the waiting and the tedious.

Because you are well prepared, you know that he likes to have a cognac before he goes to bed. Not every night, but pretty close to it. If he hadn’t taken one tonight, then you’d have postponed. Don’t be in a rush. Don’t take chances. If you’re patient, you’ll get your target with little to no risk.

It’s about preparation and patience.

Because you’ve been watching him, you know he keeps a spare key in one of those gray hide‐a‐key fake rocks. That’s how you gained access to the house this morning to spike his cognac. That’s how you gained access again tonight.

He will not be waking up for a while.

He keeps a gun, a Glock 19, in a hard case in the top drawer of his night table. The hard case doesn’t have a combination lock. It’s biometric and opens via a thumbprint sensor. He’s totally passed out, so you lift up his hand, take hold of the thumb, and push it against the sensor. The lock mechanism whirs and pops open.

You take out the gun.

You are wearing gloves. He, of course, is not. You wrap his hand around the Glock, so that his fingerprints will be in the right spots. Then you carefully put the weapon in your backpack. You have tissues and plastic bags with you. You always carry them. Just in case. You dab the tissue against his mouth, making sure to get his spit on it. Then you put the tissue in a plastic bag and put the plastic bag in the backpack next to the gun. You may not need this. It may be overkill. But overkill seems to sell.

He remains on his back snoring.

You can’t help but smile.

You enjoy this part. You enjoy this part much more than the actual kill. A kill can be relatively simple and is usually quick.

But this, the setup, this is a work of art.

His mobile phone is on the night table. You set it on silent and then that, too, you put in your backpack. You leave his bedroom. His Audi car keys are on a hook near the back door. He’s meticulous about that. He comes home, he puts his keys on the hook. Every time. You grab the keys. For good measure, you take one of the baseball caps he keeps on the coat rack. You put it on your head. The fit is close enough. You don sunglasses. You know to keep your head low.

You drive off in the Audi toward her.

She is staying at an Airbnb on a quiet lake in Marshfield. He doesn’t know that she’s there. You do because again you’ve been preparing. Once you saw that she’d gone there—that she planned to hide from him and not tell anyone—you knew it was time. You take out his mobile phone and type in the address of the Airbnb, so there’ll be a record of it in his map searches.

The Airbnb she rented is a small Cape Cod. She’s been there for a week now. You understand why she’s taken this step, but it could only ever be a temporary solution for her. You park on the street. It’s late. Two in the morning. You know, however, that she’s still awake. So you park down the street, in front of an empty vacation home.

You take the gun out of your backpack.

The kitchen light in the Airbnb is on. That’s where she will be.

You circle toward the light and look through the window of the kitchen door. There she is.

She sits alone at the table with a cup of tea and a book. She’s a pretty woman. Her dirty blonde hair is tied back seemingly in haste. Her feet are tucked under her. She looks too thin, but that’s probably the stress. She is totally focused on her book. She wears an oversized men’s dress shirt. You wonder whether it is his. That would be bizarre and creepy, but so much of life is.

Still watching her through the window, you carefully, slowly, try the knob.

You don’t want to make noise. You don’t want to startle her.

The door is locked.

You look down at the knob. It’s old. The lock looks weak. If you had tools, you could open it quickly. But this is probably better. You look at her through the window again. And when you do, she looks up and spots your face.

Her eyes widen in surprise.

She is about to scream. You don’t want that.

Careless. Again. Despite all your planning, you made a mistake the last time. You can’t afford to make another.

So you don’t hesitate.

You aim your kick for the spot right below the doorknob. The old door gives way easily. You enter the house.

“Please.” She stands and puts her hands out, one holding the book. “Please don’t hurt me.”

You shoot her twice in the chest.

She drops to the floor. You hurry over and check.


You remove the tissue from the plastic bag in your backpack. You leave it on the floor. Juries love DNA. They’ve all grown up with TV shows that exaggerate the miracles of the technology. They expect it in a murder trial. If there’s no DNA evidence, a jury wonders about guilt.

You are in and out of the house in less than fifteen seconds.

The gun made noise. No question about it. But most people assume fireworks or backfire or some innocent explanation. Still, there is no reason to hang around. You hurry back to the car. You aren’t particularly worried that someone will notice you running. If they do—if worse comes to worst—they’ll see a man in a baseball cap running back to an Audi registered to him, not you.

It will, if anything, help.

You start to drive. You feel odd about the killing. It is a thrill, the killing part, more for your beloved than you, but you often feel oddly empty right after. It’s a bit like sex, isn’t it? Not to be too clinical about it, but the letdown after climax, the moment the French call la petite mort—the Little Death. That’s how you feel right now. That’s how you feel during the first mile or two of the drive, the shooting replaying in your mind, the way her body dropped to the floor. It’s exciting and yet a little…


You check the clock. He should be passed out for another three hours. That’s plenty of time. You drive back to his house. You park the Audi where you found it.

You smile. Here, this part, this is the true rush for you.

This Audi has some kind of tracking system, so the police will be able to see where it went tonight. You enter his house. You hang up the keys. You keep the baseball cap—it may have some of your hairs in it now. No need to take that chance. If the police notice it’s missing, they’ll figure he dumped it after the shooting.

You head upstairs to his bedroom. You put his phone back on the night table. You even plug it into his charger. Like with the Audi, the police will get a warrant for his phone locations that will “prove” he took the journey to that Airbnb at the time of the murder.

You use his thumb to open the hard case. You put the gun back. You debate just leaving the gun next to his bed, but that feels heavy‐handed. There is a storage shed in the yard. You take the hard case with the gun and hide it under bags of peat moss. They’ll know that he has a Glock 19 registered in his name. They’ll scour the entire property and find it in the storage shed.

Ballistics will confirm that the murder weapon was his Glock 19.

The Audi. The mobile phone. The DNA. The gun. Any two of the four would convict him.

For her, the horror is over. For him, it’s just begun.

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