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Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies 1




  PRAISE FOR CAROLINE KEPNES’ YOU

  ‘THIS DEBUT IS CREEPY INDEED – AND EXTREMELY ENTERTAINING’ SUNDAY MIRROR

  ‘THERE ARE HINTS OF GONE GIRL, BUT THE STORY IS BOTH ORIGINAL AND COMPELLING. IF YOU ONLY READ ONE NEW THRILLER THIS YEAR, MAKE IT THIS ONE. IT WILL STAY WITH YOU LONG AFTER YOU HAVE PUT IT DOWN’ DAILY MAIL

  ‘THIS BOOK WILL GIVE YOU STOCKHOLM SYNDROME’ HARPER’S BAZAAR

  ‘YOU IS THE STORY OF A MAN’S OBSESSION WITH A STUDENT UNLUCKY ENOUGH TO TURN UP IN HIS BOOKSTORE. THE TWIST? YOU’LL END UP (ALMOST) SIDING WITH THE STALKER . . . ’ ELLE

  ‘CHILLING . . . UNRELENTING’ USA TODAY

  ‘GRIPPING IN BOTH SUBSTANCE AND STYLE’ CLOSER

  ‘COMPELLING’ ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

  ‘THIS BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED THRILLER WILL GIVE YOU CHILLS’ PEOPLE

  ‘I LOVED CAROLINE KEPNES’ SMART, SNARKY, AND CREEPILY COMPELLING #YOU. GO READ. NO EXCUSES’ @LEAHRAEDER

  ‘A NOVEL THAT MADE ME LOOK AT STRANGERS DIFFERENTLY – YOU BY CAROLINE KEPNES IS A TERRIFYING MANIPULATIVE READ’ @ASHLEYMCKERNAN

  ‘AIRPORT BOREDOM ALLEVIATED BY YOU FROM CAROLINE KEPNES, A CRACKING STALKER THRILLER FILLED WITH POST-HIPSTER SNARK AND MENACE. RECOMMENDED’ @BENFRASERLEE

  ‘YOU BY CAROLINE KEPNES IS NOW #STEPHENKING, #JENNIFERPROBST, AND #THELITERARYGOSSIP APPROVED!’ @LITERARYGOSSIP

  ‘THIS BOOK SUCCEEDS EVERYWHERE GONE GIRL FAILED . . . ’ @EDWARDLORN

  ‘MY FAVE BOOK THIS YEAR HAS 2 BE THE THRILLER YOU BY CAROLINE KEPNES’ @SUSANMAYWRITER

  ‘RAW AND HAUNTING . . . A MUST READ. YOU BY CAROLINE KEPNES IS A THRILLER YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WANT TO MISS’ @PUBSLUSH

  ‘THIS BOOK’S GOING TO KEEP ME AWAKE TONIGHT. I CAN JUST TELL’ @WRITENOTE1

  ‘CAROLINE KEPNES’ NOVEL YOU IS STUNNINGLY MARVELLOUS’ @LITERARYEXAMINE

  ‘YOU MAKES ME NEVER WANT TO SHARE ANYTHING ONLINE EVER AGAIN. SO CREEPY’ @LINDZISCHARF

  ‘ABSOLUTELY RIVETING. TWISTED & TOTALLY BRILLIANT. COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN’ @SMOKENMIRRORS71

  ‘FINISHED WITH YOU, BY CAROLINE KEPNES: WOW, THIS BOOK WAS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY!’ @SHELFADDICTION

  ‘DO YOU WANT TO READ AN ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT BOOK? YOU BY CAROLINE KEPNES IS IT!’ @LOVEOFBOOKS409

  First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2016

  A CBS COMPANY

  Copyright © Alloy Entertainment, LLC, 2016

  Copyright © Caroline Kepnes, 2016

  This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.

  No reproduction without permission.

  ® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

  The right of Caroline Kepnes to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

  1st Floor

  222 Gray’s Inn Road

  London WC1X 8HB

  www.simonandschuster.co.uk

  Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney

  Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4711-3731-0

  Trade Paperback: 978-1-4711-3732-7

  Australian Trade Paperback: 978-1-4711-5464-5

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-3734-1

  Australian eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-4903-0

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

  Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd are committed to sourcing paper that is made from wood grown in sustainable forests and supports the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading international forest certification organisation. Our books displaying the FSC logo are printed on FSC certified paper.

  This book is for you, Mom.

  Thank you for life.

  CONTENTS

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  14

  15

  16

  17

  18

  19

  20

  21

  22

  23

  24

  25

  26

  27

  28

  29

  30

  31

  32

  33

  34

  35

  36

  37

  38

  39

  40

  41

  42

  43

  44

  45

  46

  47

  48

  49

  50

  51

  52

  53

  54

  55

  56

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  1

  I buy violets for Amy. Not roses. Roses are for people who did something wrong. I have done everything right this time around. I’m a good boyfriend. I chose well. Amy Adam lives in the moment, not in the computer.

  “Violets are the state flower of Rhode Island,” I tell the guy wrapping up my flowers. His careless, dirty hands graze the petals, my petals. New Fucking York.

  “Is that so?” He chuckles. “You learn something new every day.”

  I pay cash and carry my violets outside to East Seventh Street. It’s hot for May and I smell the flowers. Rhode Island. I’ve been to Rhode Island. I went to Little Compton last winter. I was lovesick, petrified that my girlfriend—R.I.P. Guinevere Beck—was in jeopardy because of her emotionally unstable friend—R.I.P. Peach Salinger.

  Someone honks at me and I apologize. I know when something is my fault, and when you walk into a blinking crosswalk, it’s your fault.

  Just like it was my fault last winter. I go over the mistake in my head a dozen times a day. How I was hiding in a closet upstairs at the Salinger house. How I had to pee but couldn’t leave. So I pissed in a mug—a ceramic mug—and I put the mug down on the hardwood floor of the closet. I ran when I had the chance, and there is no way around it: I forgot the mug.

  I’m a changed man because of that day. You can’t go back and alter the past, but you can go forward, become a person who remembers. Now, I’m committed to the details. For example, I recall with total precision the moment that Amy Kendall Adam returned to Mooney Rare and Used, to my life. I see her smile, her untamed hair (blond), and her résumé (lies). That was five months ago and she claimed she was looking for a job but you and I both know she was looking for me. I hired her, and she showed up on time for her first day with a spiral notebook and a list of rare books that she wanted to see. She had a glass container of superfruits and she told me they help you live forever. I told her that nobody gets to live forever and she laughed. She had a nice laugh, easy. She also had latex gloves.

  I picked one up. “What are these?”

  “So I don’t hurt the books,” she explained.

  “I want you up front,” I countered. “This is just a basic job, mostly stocking shelves, manning the register.”

  “Okay,” she said. “But did you know that there are copies of Alice in Wonderland that are worth over a million dollars?”

  I laughed. “I hate to break your heart, but we don’t have Alice downstairs.”

  “Downstairs?” she asked. “Is that where you keep the special books?”

&nbs
p; I wanted to place my hand on the small of her back and lead her down to the cage, where the special books are preserved, boxed, saved. I wanted to strip her down and lock us inside and have her. But I was patient. I gave her a W-9 and a pen.

  “You know, I could help you go yard-sale-ing for old books,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to find at yard sales.”

  I smiled. “Only if you promise not to call it yard-sale-ing.”

  Amy smiled. The way she saw it, if she was going to work here, she was going to make a dent. She wanted us to travel uptown to estate sales and hunt library clearances and jam our hands into empty boxes on the street. She wanted to work together and this is how you get to know someone so well, so fast. You descend into musty vacated rooms together and you rush outside together to gulp the fresh air and laugh and agree that the only thing to do now is get a drink. We became a team.

  An old woman pushing a walker looks up at me. I smile. She points at the violets. “You’re a good boy.”

  I am. I thank her and keep walking.

  Amy and I started dating a few months ago while we were on the Upper East Side in a dead man’s parlor. She tugged on the lapel of the navy blazer she had bought for me—five bucks—at a tag sale. She pleaded with me to drop seven hundred on a signed, wrinkled edition of The Easter Parade.

  “Amy,” I whispered. “Yates isn’t big right now and I don’t see a resurgence on the horizon.”

  “But I love him,” she begged. “This book means everything to me.”

  This is women; they are emotional. You can’t do business like this but you also can’t look at Amy with her big blue eyes and her long blond hair out of a Guns N’ Roses song and say no to her.

  “What can I do to change your mind?” she wheedled.

  An hour later, I was the owner of an overpriced Easter Parade and Amy was sucking my dick in a Starbucks bathroom in Midtown and this was more romantic than it sounds because we liked each other. This was not a blowjob; this was fellatio, my friends. She stood and I pulled her boyfriend jeans to the floor and I stopped short. I knew she didn’t like to shave; her legs were often bristly and she’s all about water conservation. But I did not expect a bush. She kissed me. “Welcome to the jungle.”

  This is why I smile as I walk and this is how you get happy. Amy and I, we are sexier than Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo on the cover of The Freewheelin’ and we are smarter than Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz in Vanilla Sky. We have a project: We are amassing copies of Portnoy’s Complaint. It’s one of our favorite books and we reread it together. She underlined her favorite parts with a Sharpie and I told her to use a more delicate pen.

  “I’m not delicate,” she said. “I hate delicate.”

  Amy is a Sharpie; she’s passionate. She fucking loves Portnoy’s Complaint and I want to possess all the dark yellow copies ever made and keep them in the basement so that only Amy and I can touch them. I’m not supposed to overstock a title, but I like fucking Amy near our yellow wall of books. Philip Roth would approve. She laughed when I told her that and said we should write him a letter. She has an imagination, a heart.

  My phone rings. It’s Gleason Brothers Electricians about the humidifier but it can wait. I have an e-mail from BuzzFeed about some list of cool indie bookstores and that can wait too. Everything can wait when you have love in your life. When you can just walk down the street and picture the girl you love naked on a mound of yellow Complaints.

  I reach Mooney Books and the bell chimes as I open the door. Amy crosses her arms and glares at me and maybe she’s allergic to flowers. Maybe violets suck.

  “What’s wrong?” I ask, and I hope this isn’t it, the beginning of the end, when the girl becomes a cunt, when the new car smell evaporates.

  “Flowers?” she asks. “You know what I want more than flowers?”

  I shake my head.

  “Keys,” she says. “A guy was just here and I could have sold him the Yates but I couldn’t show it because I don’t have keys.”

  I toss the flowers on the counter. “Slow down. Did you get a number?”

  “Joe,” she says, tapping her foot. “I love this business. And I know I’m being a dumb girl and I shouldn’t tell you how into this I am. But please. I want keys.”

  I don’t say anything. I need to memorize it all, lock it away for safekeeping, the low hum of the music—the Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia,” one of my favorites—and the way the light is right now. I don’t lock the door. I don’t flip the open sign over. I walk to the other side of the counter and I take her in my arms and I dip her and I kiss her and she kisses me back.

  I’VE never given anyone a key. But this is what’s supposed to happen. Your life is supposed to expand. Your bed is supposed to have enough room for someone else and when that someone comes along, it’s your job to let her in. I seize my future. I pay extra to get ridiculous theme keys, pink and flowery. And when I place these pink metallic things in the palm of Amy’s hand, she kisses them.

  “I know this is huge,” she says. “Thank you, Joe. I will guard these with my life.”

  That night, she comes over and we watch one of her stupid movies—Cocktail, nobody is perfect—and we have sex and order a pizza and my air-conditioning breaks.

  “Should we call someone?” she asks.

  “Fuck it,” I say. “It’s Memorial Day coming up.”

  I smile and pin her down and her unshaven legs scratch against mine and I’m used to it now. I like it. She licks her lips. “What are you up to, Joe?”

  “You go home and pack a bag,” I say. “And I’m gonna rent us a little red Corvette and we’re gonna get out of here.”

  “You’re insane,” she says. “Where are we going in this little red Corvette?”

  I bite her neck. “You’ll see.”

  “You’re kidnapping me?” she asks.

  And if this is what she wants, then yes. “You have two hours. Go pack.”

  2

  SHE shaved; I knew she had it in her. And I did my part. I really did rent a red convertible. We are those assholes and we’re cruising through the woodsy part of Rhode Island. We are your worst nightmare. We are happy. We don’t need you, any of you. We don’t give a fuck about you, what you think of us, what you did to us. I am the driver and Amy is the dream girl and this is our first vacation together. Finally. I have love.

  The top is down and we sing along to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” I picked this song because I’m taking it all back, all the beautiful things in the world that were corrupted by my tragically ill girlfriend Guinevere Beck. (I see now that she suffered from borderline personality disorder. You can’t fix that.) Beck and her horrible friends ruined so much for me. I couldn’t go anywhere in New York without thinking of Beck. I thought I’d never listen to Elton John again because his music was playing when I killed Peach.

  Amy taps my shoulder and points at a hawk in the sky. I smile. She isn’t the kind of asshole who needs to lower the volume on the music and discuss the bird and read into it. God, she is good. But no matter how good it gets, it is always there, the truth:

  I forgot to take the mug.

  That fucking mug haunts me. I understand that there are consequences. I am not unique; to be alive is to have a mug of urine out there. But I can’t forgive myself for screwing up, like some girl “forgetting” a cardigan after a one-night stand. The mug is an aberration. A flaw. Proof that I’m not perfect, even though I’m usually so precise, so thorough. I haven’t hatched a plan to retrieve it, but Amy makes me wish I had. I want the world clean for us, Lysol fresh.

  Now she offers me her scratched sunglasses. “You’re driving,” she says. “You need them more than I do.”

  She is the anti-Beck; she cares about me. “Thanks, Ame.”

  She kisses my cheek and life is a fever dream and I wonder if I’m in a coma, if all this is a hallucination. Love fucks with your vision and I have no hate in my heart. Amy is taking all of it away, my healer, my Bactine beauty.
In the past, I had a tendency to be intense; you might even call it obsessive. Beck was such a mess that in order to take care of her, I had to follow her home and hack into her e-mail and worry about her Facebook and her Twitter and her nonstop texting, all the contradictions, the lies. I chose poorly with her and suffered the consequences. I learned my lesson. It works with Amy because I can’t stalk her online. Get this: She’s off the grid. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, not even an e-mail address. She uses burner phones and I have to program her new number into my phone every couple of weeks. She is the ultimate analog, my perfect match.

  When she first told me, I was flabbergasted and a little judgmental. Who the fuck is offline? Was she a pretentious nutcase? Was she lying? “What about paychecks?” I asked. “You have to have a bank account.”

  “I have this friend in Queens,” she answered. “I write my checks over to her and she gives me cash. A lot of us use her. She’s the best.”

  “‘Us’?”

  “People offline,” she said. “I’m not alone here.”

  Cunts want to be snowflakes. They want you to tell them how nobody in this whole world compares to them. (Apologies to Prince.) All the little fame monsters on Instagram—look at me, I put jam on my toast!—and I found someone different. Amy doesn’t try to stand out. I don’t sit alone and scroll through her status updates and home in on her misleading photographs of staged joy. When I’m with her, I’m with her, and when she leaves me, she goes where she said she was going.

  (Of course I’ve followed her and I occasionally look in her phone. I have to know that she isn’t lying.)

  “I think I smell salt air,” Amy says.

  “Not yet,” I tell her. “Couple more minutes.”

  She nods. She doesn’t fight about stupid shit. She’s no angry Beck. That sick girl lied to the people with whom she was closest—me, Peach, her fucking fellow writers in school. She told me her father was dead. (He wasn’t.) She told me she hated Magnolia just because her friend Peach hated it. (She was lying. I read her e-mail.)

  Amy is a nice girl and nice girls lie to strangers to be polite, not to people they love. Even right now, she’s wearing a threadbare URI tank top. She didn’t go to URI; she didn’t go anywhere. But she always wears a college shirt. She got a Brown shirt for me, just for this trip. “We can tell people that I’m a student and you’re my professor.” She giggled. “My married professor.”

 
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