Compulsion by Allison Brennan is the 2nd thriller in the Max Revere series about a NYC reporter convinced that there are more murders hiding up the sleeves of a recently caught serial killer (available April 7, 2015).
Investigative reporter Maxine Revere has a theory: that the five New York City murders for which Adam Bachman is being tried are just part of his killing spree. In probing the disappearance of a retired couple who vanished the prior summer, Max uncovers striking similarities to Bachman's MO and develops a theory that Bachman wasn't working alone.
Max wins a coveted pre-trial interview with the killer, whose disarming composure in the face of her questions is combined with uncomfortable knowledge of Max's own past. She leaves the room convinced, but unable to prove, that Bachman knows exactly what happened to the missing couple. The D.A. wants nothing to jeopardize his case against Bachman and refuses to consider Max's theory. With no physical evidence, Max has to rely on her own wits and investigative prowess to dig deep into Bachman's past. The picture that Max puts together is far darker and more deadly than she ever imagined.
As Max gets closer to the truth, she doesn't realize that she's walking down a road that has been paved just for her. That every step she takes brings her one step closer to a brilliant, methodical sociopath who has been waiting for her to make just one small mistake.
And when she does, he'll be there waiting.
Nine Months Ago
Sweat beaded on Adam Bachman’s forehead. He told himself the lights up ahead were just emergency vehicles because of the accident. No one cared about him or this car.
But it wasn’t his car.
He had another problem. The girl was starting to move in the trunk.
Everything had gone wrong from the beginning, but he didn’t see it right away. Because he was focused on her, the pretty blonde. The way she looked at him and he knew she was worthy. When she looked over at him at the bar, she smiled a little smile as if they shared a secret.
Maybe he’d imagined it. Maybe he’d made a mistake picking her. Why had the drug worn off so quickly?
Except it wasn’t quickly. He’d been stuck in this traffic jam for thirty minutes. Only one lane was open, and cars were backed up. It was summer, people wanted to get out of town, but it wasTuesday, not the weekend, and so the accident must be pretty bad for them to only allow a couple of cars through at a time.
The girl kicked the trunk as the car rolled closer to the emergency vehicles. Then Adam noticed the two cop cars. They must be here for the accident.
If it was just a terrible accident, why was his heart pounding?
Be quiet, girl. Just. Be. Quiet.
The drugs usually kept them out for two hours. Enough time to drive to his secret spot. To revive them. To watch them die. Sometimes, it took hours. Preparation and practice to get everything just right. There was a fine line between life and death. Uncovering that exact moment, right before their very last breath, wasn’t science. It was art. Every person was unique. It’s what made his process so interesting, so provoking. If he made movies, he’d win awards for his precision and care.
He’d made mistakes, but he’d cleaned up his mistakes. The last two had been perfect. First the boy, then the girl. And he’d thought this girl would be just as satisfying. More perfect.
He rolled closer to the police cars. They waved cars through, barely glancing inside.
Okay. Good. Stop sweating.
Why would they be looking inside at all? Did they suspect something? Habit because they were cops and all cops were suspicious by nature?
There was no way these cops knew anything about the girl in the trunk. He’d only grabbed her forty-five minutes ago. No one even knew she was missing. His process was perfect; no one had ever been reported missing until they were already dead.
This girl had been very chatty at the bar. She lived in Baltimore. She’d come to the city—alone—to visit her boyfriend. She stayed with him one night, but nothing was the same between them.
“People aren’t who you think they are,” she’d said.
He had agreed. She’d read his mind.
She stayed in a hotel on her daddy’s credit card for a few days while she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. Enjoy the city. Visit a couple of museums. Eat good food.
He couldn’t lose. Not after five perfect murders.
The trunk was silent, but he still didn’t relax. Three cars remained in front of his. They each slowed to a roll, were waved through, and then disappeared onto the bridge.
He rolled, slowed, and one of the cops waved him through. He pressed the gas pedal.
A piercing scream came from the trunk.
He froze. He wanted to press the gas to the floor, find a hole to drive through, keep going until he drove off the bridge. Ending his life, and the life of the girl in the trunk.
Maybe they hadn’t heard her.
He glanced at the two cops. They were walking quickly toward him. Their guns were already in their hands.
“Sir! Keep your hands where we can see them!”
Instead of fleeing, Adam put his hands on the steering wheel and forced himself not to cry.
Maxine Revere stood in the doorway of Ben’s office while he finished his conversation with the New York City district attorney.
Max took the D.A.’s verbal attack as a compliment. After all, she had a love-hate relationship with him. In fact, she had a love-hate relationship with most of the people in her life.
“Yes, she is.” Ben caught her eye and put his finger to his lips as he leaned over his speakerphone. “I’ll give her the good news. Thank you, Richard.”
He pressed the off button before the D.A. could change his mind—or Max could give him a piece of her mind.
Ben’s huge grin threatened to swallow him. He jumped out of his chair and squeezed her arm as he grabbed his blazer off the coat rack.
“I don’t know what you said to him, Max, but it worked.”
“It was as much you as me,” she told her producer. She’d played hardball with Richard and Ben played Mr. Nice Guy; between them, they got exactly what she wanted. An interview with Adam Bachman, the twenty-seven-year-old bartender on trial for five murders.
“You’ll have twenty minutes,” he said as they walked to the elevator. The Maximum Exposure offices occupied half of the eighteenth floor of a Seventh Avenue skyscraper, south of Times Square. “Make them count.”
She didn’t respond to his comment, too energized about this interview to be irritated over Ben’s habitual lecture. She’d been maneuvering for time with Bachman ever since she figured out that the missing person’s case she’d been investigating since last summer followed the same pattern as Bachman’s killing spree.
Max was covering the trial for the station’s news programming. She’d been NET’s on-site reporter for several high-profile trials. NET wasn’t CNN or Fox, but it was making a name for itself. It had exclusively been an Internet news show until three years ago, one year before Max joined the team. Now, while 75 percent of its schedule related directly to up-to-the-minute news, it featured several original daily, weekly, and monthly programs including Max’s true crime show Maximum Exposure, which Ben produced. She liked that NET was independent and run by a close-knit family with good business sense.
“No cameras,” Ben said as he pounded the down button several times, as if the repeated motion would make the door open faster. “But you can record it.”
“And that makes you mad,” Max said. Max didn’t care half as much about the visual, not with this case. She’d been fighting for this interview for too long to quibble over the details. Months of talking—with the D.A., the defense lawyer, cops, the victims’ families, everyone she could get access to, but not the killer himself.
Until now. Exclusive. One-on-one. Pen, paper, and an audio recorder. An old-fashioned interview. Because, as the D.A. had said, she was a tenacious bitch.
“Get him to agree to go on camera after the trial,” Ben said. He peered at his reflection in the shiny metal elevator doors and adjusted his tie. Such a yuppie, she thought. “A follow-up after he’s convicted.”
Max glanced at Ben as the doors opened and interrupted his preening. “Innocent until proven guilty,” she said as they stepped inside the empty elevator. The doors swished closed behind them.
“You don’t for a minute believe that bastard didn’t kill those people.”
She’d seen some of the evidence, enough to believe the prosecution had a solid case. But she was a reporter first; she wanted the truth out, no matter what. And while her instincts told her New York’s Finest had caught the right guy, anything could happen.
“He’s not going to admit his guilt to me the morning his trial begins,” she said. “I’ll push for the follow-up, but these twenty minutes were hard-fought.”
“If you wanted it you could get it,” Ben mumbled.
She laughed. “I love that you have such confidence in me.”
“NET will be set up to do a live interview with you during the court’s lunch break,” Ben said. “What happened the first morning of the Bachman trial, yada yada, then again when court recesses for the evening. They’d like you to post comments on your Twitter feed.”
“No can do—I told you the judge’s rules.” Judge Tarkoff had met with lawyers and reporters Friday afternoon about trial conduct. While court was in session, there would be no social media posts from inside the courtroom or the reporter would be banned for the duration of the trial. Commentary would be allowed only during official court breaks. “No electronics inside at all. If you need me, call David or Riley.”
“Where is Riley?” Ben asked. He sounded irritated, but it was his usual demeanor when he couldn’t immediately order someone to do something. Though he hadn’t liked Riley Butler when Max first hired her last month, the Columbia grad quickly earned her way into his good graces. Ben cared about two things: competence and speed. He expected the job to be done well, and to be done fast. Riley had picked up on that immediately and ingratiated herself with Ben in less than a week. A new record.
Max just wished her right-hand man David felt the same.
“I sent her on an errand. I’m picking her up on the way to the courthouse.”
He glanced at his watch. “Isn’t that cutting it close?”
“It’s important.” She had Riley doing a bit of undercover work with Bachman’s former friends and neighbors. She didn’t want to share details with Ben because he didn’t like that she’d been sending Riley out into the field. Ben felt an office assistant should be in the office assisting. Max countered that an office assistant should be assisting in whatever needed to be done. If said assistant could take care of basic footwork that gave Max more time with research and interviews—and more time to write.
The elevator doors opened. They stepped out and headed toward the exit. Voices echoed in the cavernous lobby, so Ben lowered his voice. “Are you going to ask him about the partner?”
“Of course.” She caught Ben’s eye. “Why?”
“I kind of told Richard that you weren’t pursuing that line of inquiry,” he said as he cleared his throat.
“Why the hell would you say that? You know that’s the primary reason I wanted this interview.”
“I thought you wanted to find out if he killed the Palazzolos.”
“I know Bachman was involved; I want proof. And you damn well know that I’ve been working on this killing pair theory for months.”
“When you’re not flying down to Miami to annoy your ex, or flying off to California to screw your lover.”
“Screw you,” she said. Sometimes, Ben acted like the little brother she never had. “You had no right telling Rich I’d dropped that theory. I’ll ask Bachman whatever I damn well please.”
Ex–Army Ranger, personal assistant, and sometime bodyguard David Kane approached them. She had never wanted a bodyguard or a personal assistant, but after threats during a trial nearly two years ago, Ben had insisted. Now David was not only indispensable, he was her closest friend and the only person she trusted explicitly. He’d earned it. Largely because he hadn’t quit on her, though she’d given him ample opportunity. And he seemed to be the diffuser of wars waged between Ben and Max.
Truth was, she wasn’t the easiest person to work for.
“David, I e-mailed you a revised schedule,” Ben said, ignoring Max’s glare. She was not dropping it. And he knew it. So why would he tell the D.A.—her friend (sort of)—that she would?
David nodded once. “We have to go, Max. I’m parked illegally.”
“Ben will pay for the ticket,” Max said. She patted him on the cheek, still angry that he was playing games with her interview. “Won’t you, Benji?”
He reddened. “Just—watch yourself.”
“I didn’t make that ridiculous promise.”
“The D.A. is an asset to NET. Don’t blow it.”
“Let me handle Richard Milligan. And never make a promise for me that you know damn well I won’t keep.”
“Max, this is a great case for you.”
“Meaning, don’t blow it?”
“Stop trying to piss me off. Your interview is going to be picked up everywhere. Just—well, do what you do best.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Antagonize people?”
“Find the truth.”
She relaxed. She and Ben butted heads often, but she respected him. “That I can do.”
“You always do.”
She strode through the lobby, David at her side.
“Ben never liked your theory,” he said. David was one of the smartest people Max knew, and she rarely had to explain anything to him.
“He’s playing games with my reputation. I can make or break my own reputation.”
David tipped the security guard who’d ensured his car didn’t get towed, then opened the passenger door for Max before she could reach it. “You’re not my chauffeur,” she grumbled.
He shut the door without a response, then slipped into the driver’s seat, and pulled away from the curb. “I drive because you’re the definition of a distracted driver,” he said.
“He jokes,” Max said.
David smiled, as much as his half smiles were.
“I’m right about this,” she continued.
“I don’t doubt you.”
She glanced at him. “But you aren’t convinced.”
“I’m convinced that if Bachman has a partner, you’ll prove it.” He stopped at a light. “You rarely surprise me, but I didn’t think this was going to happen.”
“I can’t believe you doubted me,” Max said with mock hurt. Then, “I knew Bachman wanted to talk to me—I have his letters to prove it—but his attorney and the prosecutor were two stubborn roadblocks. So I went around both and talked to Milligan directly.”
“The important thing is that it’s happening. I’ve been planning for this interview for months—I have a number of directions I can go, depending on his answers, but he’s going to slip up and I’m going to confirm my theory.”
“I don’t have to tell you to be careful with him,” David said.
“He’s in custody. He can’t hurt me.”
“Don’t be cocky, Max. If you are right, that means there’s another killer still walking free. And you know that.”
“And that’s why I have you, dear David, by my side.” She smiled, trying to lighten the conversation, but David stared straight ahead, expertly weaving through traffic.
Bachman had no close friends, no roommate, no siblings. His mother lived in Hartford, Connecticut, and his father wasn’t in the picture. His closest childhood friend had enlisted in the army when he turned eighteen and was currently deployed overseas. Bachman’s only known friend from college, his former Boston University roommate Chris Gibson, was a social animal whom Max had already dissected; she could find no violent tendencies. What’s more, Gibson couldn’t have assisted with at least two of the crimes as he was out of town.
So who was Bachman’s partner in these murders?
She changed the subject. “Did you tag Riley?”
“She’s waiting for us.”
He didn’t say anything more, and Max let it go. David wasn’t sold on Riley. David would come around, because Max trusted her gut, and her gut told her Riley had the chops. Max wanted to train her. She just wished she understood why David didn’t like her.
Max had sent Riley Butler to befriend Chris Gibson. Max wanted information about Bachman—insight that would help her write a three-dimensional story of a man who by all accounts was average, with a steady job as a bartender at a popular club and a loving mother in Connecticut. He fit the profile of a Ted Bundy—charming, attractive, polite—the last person anyone expected to brutally kill strangers.
Max had sent Riley because she was closer to Gibson’s age. Gibson worked as a waiter while trying to break into theater. He was sociable and Riley was cute—it worked well. Riley was born to be an undercover reporter. That she came from a long line of Boston cops and had sharp instincts made her even more valuable to Max. She graduated from Columbia with a major in psychology and a minor in journalism, and Max, hands down, thought Riley was smarter than all of her previous assistants combined.
She wasn’t perfect. In the six weeks she’d worked for Max, she’d once pursued an inquiry without first clearing it with Max—something Max could appreciate, but not when Riley was still in training, so to speak, so Max had to be much clearer about the rules and her expectations. Riley also didn’t care much for the paperwork that went with her job and cut corners, which could be a problem in the future or just a sign of immaturity. Yet Riley was tech-savvy, which streamlined much of the mundane part of her job.
David pulled over in front of a Starbucks in SoHo and Riley slipped into the backseat. She was a petite bundle of energy. A twenty-three-year-old workaholic. Her dad was an Irish cop from Boston. Her mother was a half-black, half-Hispanic pediatric surgeon at the Children’s Hospital. Riley was a beautiful blend of the two—skin the color of latte with an added shot of espresso, curly light brown hair, and huge green eyes. She looked like a teenager and had an aura of innocence and trustworthiness that put people at ease. She had two older brothers, one a firefighter and one a cop, who’d taught her to defend herself. She leaned forward and handed Max a drink, and another to David. “Latte, black coffee.” She grinned.
“Thanks,” Max said and sipped.
“I got something,” Riley said, unable to contain her excitement.
“Spill it. We have seven minutes until we get to the courthouse.”
“I brought Chris over a bottle of wine last night after he missed out on a part he wanted Off-Broadway. Which sucked, because he was called back, so thought it was a sure thing, and—”
“Faster, Riley,” Max interrupted.
“We played the ‘who you know’ game, back and forth, and he said he knew the most notorious serial killer in New York City, Adam Bachman. We drank, talked, and I learned something that seems important. Chris thinks Bachman is obsessive-compulsive.”
“And he has a psychiatry degree to back this up?”
Riley frowned, but continued. “He said Bachman was moody and absolutely anal about his stuff—very meticulous, everything had its place, a place-for-everything kind of OCD. He was gone for a semester his sophomore year. Bachman told Chris that he just needed a break from school, but Chris thinks he was in a mental hospital. Just like you suspected.”
“But you said—”
“I said I had a hunch, but I had no proof. Did he see meds? Bachman say anything about talking to a shrink? Does Chris know where he went?”
Max turned in her seat and caught Riley’s eye. She could see the girl was fuming, but Max needed her to understand that conjecture was bullshit without something tangible to back it up. Max had a lot of theories, but she didn’t flap her mouth until she had a thread she could pull.
“Riley, what you think means nothing. It means you should follow up on your theory, but it’s not tangible.” She didn’t want to demoralize the novice, but she also needed her to understand that rumors and theories weren’t printable without evidence. “How can you prove Chris’s theory?”
“Talk to Bachman’s family. Friends.”
“No one is going to talk to you. I worked that angle hard, and couldn’t get inside. His mother is completely devoted to him, will not talk to reporters or the police. He has few friends—even Gibson hasn’t seen Bachman since college.” Max softened her tone, just a bit. “I can tell you there’s nothing in the files about Bachman being committed. Medical records are practically sacrosanct and if the police don’t know something exists, they aren’t going to know to ask. His mother, if she knew, didn’t tell the police, so she’s not going to tell a reporter. And everything Gibson told you might just be a horny guy bragging in the hopes of getting you horizontal, so take everything he said with a grain of salt.”
Riley looked down at her hands, which were clenched into fists. She was angry, and Max didn’t blame her—Max had articulated her theory that Bachman had spent time in a psych ward, and Riley thought she had proved it. Max had done some preliminary research, but didn’t have enough information to narrow down where he might have stayed. Plus, medical records were next to impossible to come by and without a specific location, she’d have to spend months of legwork on a hunch that might not pan out—especially after one of the Maximum Exposure researchers had spent two weeks in Boston last fall looking into Max’s theory with zero results. Ben was still fuming over the expenses.
Riley needed more direction. “If I had that lead, I’d make a list of all the private, live-in, mental health facilities within a hundred-mile radius of Bachman’s home and college that existed during the year in question. That information is already in the files from when we first looked at that angle, so half your work is done for you. Next, I’d find out who ran the facilities and check into disgruntled staff who left after the year in question. Disgruntled employees are the most apt to talk. If I could get someone to confirm that Bachman was a patient, I’d pull as much information as I could from that person, and then use it to put the pieces together and follow up on each claim. The why being the important thing here. Having a time frame helps.”
Riley was taking notes. Good.
“But,” Max said, “this is a long shot. I might know in my gut that there’s something here, but proving it is the hard part.” She planned on tugging that thread with Bachman, however. Now that she had a partial confirmation of her theory—even if it was just the opinion of a former roommate—she felt more comfortable pressing it.
“So I wasted all that time?” Riley’s voice was almost a whine.
“No. You’re not going to get a big information win here, Riley. Investigative reporting means taking small pieces of information and seeing where they lead. Proving or disproving suspicions. It’s a lot like being a detective, only we don’t have to follow the same rules. Investigation is as much proving something isn’t as proving something is.”
“Okay,” Riley said. “I get that.” She paused, glanced first at David, then at Max. “Can I sit in the courtroom with you?”
“I need you outside.”
David glanced at Max and she knew what he was thinking. She ignored the veiled glare. “I need you in the halls. Observe. Listen. Be accessible for me to send you to follow up on any number of things. Answer Ben’s calls. I guarantee, he’ll call you at least twice an hour, if only to make sure you’ll answer your phone and know where I am.”
“Fine,” she said with a sigh. David cleared his throat. So Riley was a little dramatic; he needed to cut her some slack.
“And because you can use your phone and I can’t, start researching those facilities. You can get the list from my cloud files. Go through it, narrow it, be smart. The notes from the staffer we sent to Boston should be there. My guess? He used a facility closer to home than to college. Someplace where he felt comfortable and safe. Being an investigative reporter is not all glitz and glamour. It’s legwork. Paperwork. Research.” Honestly, that was the most fun for Max. She much preferred being in the background to being on camera.
Max slipped David a note. “Can you follow up on this for me?”
He glanced at it while stopped at a red light, nodded.
Riley leaned forward. “What? Can I do it?”
Max shook her head. “Boundaries, Riley.”
The paper crumpled in David’s hand. He’d been a soldier. He was used to taking and giving orders, and he didn’t like subordinates to question. He was also both smart and fearsome and Max depended on him. If he really wanted her to drop Riley, she would—because she couldn’t lose the only person she could truly count on. She prayed it never came to that, so she diffused the tension by giving a brief commentary on Bachman’s defense team and the prosecution and describing who Riley needed to keep an eye on in the halls.
As soon as David pulled up in front of the courthouse in a drop-off zone, Max turned to Riley and handed her a twenty-dollar bill. “The bailiff for Judge Tarkoff is deputy Frank Knolls. He likes his coffee black with a dollop of honey. Go introduce yourself as my assistant, give him the coffee, be nice, smile. Don’t ask questions and just walk away.”
“Okay. But why?”
“Because making friends with the bailiff, the clerk, and anyone else in support is how we get ahead in this business.”
“What about the clerk? Bridget Davis, right?”
“Good memory. She already hates me, attempted to stab me in the back during the last trial I covered. I wouldn’t give her water on the hottest day in August, let alone the mochas she likes.”
Max waited until Riley exited, then turned to David.
“She’s young and inexperienced. But she has good instincts.”
“You would never have tolerated insubordination with any of the others.”
“They weren’t as sharp or dedicated as she is.”
“Intelligent, maybe—but she has no common sense.”
“Give her time. I’ve gone through a half-dozen assistants. I don’t want to search for another one.” And none of her previous assistants had half Riley’s drive.
“You’re giving her too much freedom.”
“Following up on mental health facilities is a good lead. It confirms what I suspected, even if we can’t prove it yet.” Time wasn’t on their side—the trial would last four days, according to the court clerk. Tarkoff kept his court moving, so Max suspected that estimate was accurate—especially since the defense lost a series of pretrial motions that could have extended testimony. “It might lead us to his partner or give us insight into his motivation.”
If Riley found something to the theory, it might put another spin on Max’s report from the human interest side. Could someone have predicted Bachman would become a killer? If there was truth to him admitting himself to a facility, she could follow up about the viability of these places. Do they really help? Do they have a moral or ethical obligation to share a psychopathic diagnosis with law enforcement if they suspect someone is a danger to others? What flaws are there in the system that so many people who need mental health services fall through the cracks? Was Bachman one of those people?
She put her hand on David’s. “What is it? Tell me what’s really bothering you about Riley. You ran the background check yourself, you said she was clean. You even said you admired her family.”
“This is a game to her.”
“She’s eager. Ben said I like her because I’m a narcissist and she’s a mini-me.”
Max was trying to be light, but David couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice.
“That little girl will never be you.”
“I’m keeping my eye on her. But if you want me to cut her loose, I will. Just say it.”
David’s eyebrow shot up. “You’d do it, too.”
“For you I would.”
“I just want you to be careful with her. You’ve given her a lot of freedom, freedom that she hasn’t earned.”
“What are you concerned about, David?”
“Her safety. Your safety. And honestly? She’s overeager. She’s going to make mistakes that will come back and bite you in the ass.”
Max opened her mouth to argue, but David had touched on something she’d wondered herself. “Point taken.”
She put her hand on the door handle. “She is a lot like I used to be,” she told David. “She works her ass off and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.”
“She may share your work ethic, but she’s nothing like you.”
David didn’t know the old Max. The wild college girl who’d made far more mistakes than she wanted to talk about. Even if he’d read her book about the murder of her best friend while they’d been on spring break in Miami, it had been written through the lens of history, and while Max had been honest and forthcoming about her mistakes, David might not see them as such because he didn’t know her then.
One of the courthouse guards approached their car since they were in a no parking zone, and Max couldn’t continue the conversation. She made a mental note to cook dinner for David one night and get him to open up more about this. He was more forthcoming when he’d been well fed. “You okay with talking to the cops up in Queens?”
“Of course. They didn’t ban me from their precinct.” He smiled, his hard, scarred face bemused. “I’ll be back before your live report at noon, but if I’m not, don’t leave the courthouse until I return.”
“I wouldn’t think of it,” Max said, her voice edged with sarcasm.
David put a hand on her arm before she got out of the car. “Max, since I’ve been working for you, you’ve covered five major trials, and each one of them yielded serious threats. There’s no reason to think the Bachman trial is any different—especially since you’re pursuing the idea that he wasn’t working alone.”
“I haven’t printed a word about that theory.”
“But you’re about to ask him.”
“Good point. I’ll be good.” She blew him a kiss and got out of the car. “You have my word.”
Copyright © 2015 Allison Brennan.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan is the author of twenty novels, including the Lucy Kincaid series, and many short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.