Patrick Kilgour returns to his office after an unsatisfactory meeting with a new client. He'd expected it to go better. But he seems to have lost some of his polish, his shine. Patrick had felt his business partner's eyes on him during the presentation. Niall had given him a hard look afterward. "Get it together," he said and walked away.
Patrick slumps in his desk chair and swivels around to stare out the window, blearily taking in the view: the two arched bridges spanning the Hudson River, and beyond them the Catskills, smudged in the distance. His eyes are burning with tiredness and his body feels stiff. Too many weeks of not getting enough sleep, and it's taking its toll. Maybe he can call the client back when he's got more energy, more focus.
It's four in the afternoon and his lids already feel heavy. He swivels back to face his desk, looks longingly at the leather sofa along the opposite wall of his office for a moment, but then turns his attention to his computer, loosening his tie and opening the top button of his shirt. He's got work to do before he goes home, where work is impossible.
He needs caffeine. He gets up and goes out to the reception area to make himself a coffee from the machine. There's a woman waiting there, her head down, reading a magazine. He catches her out of the corner of his eye—her profile, that blond hair—and does a double take. Fortunately, Kerri, the receptionist with the keen eyes, is not at her desk, and not there to notice. He's reached the coffee machine, and now his back is to the woman. She doesn't seem to be aware of him.
Erica Voss. He would recognize her anywhere. The sight of her has sent a spasm of disbelief through him. What is she doing here? It's been more than nine years since he last saw her. The past suddenly crowds in on him.
He's not sleepy now; he's shot through with adrenaline. He wonders what will happen when she looks up from her magazine and recognizes him.
He hears Niall coming into the waiting area. Patrick will have to face her to make his way back to his office. He turns around slowly. She lifts her head, glances at him—not a flicker of recognition—and stands up, turning toward Niall. Niall is reaching his hand out to greet her.
"I'm sorry—have you been waiting long? Kerri seems to be away from her desk," Niall says. He notices Patrick then, standing near the coffee machine. "I'm Niall Foote, and this is my partner, Patrick Kilgour," he says, gesturing toward Patrick.
Patrick's throat is so dry that he can't speak. He remains where he is, not stepping forward to shake her hand. He gives a brief, frozen smile. She still shows no signs of recognizing him, but he's not fooled. She's better at hiding her surprise than he is. He'd always admired her poise.
"Ms. Voss is interviewing for the temporary administrative assistant position," Niall says, and escorts her down the hall to his own office, oblivious to Patrick's hidden distress.
Patrick hears the office door close and Niall's voice become muffled. He turns back to the coffee machine, goes through the motions of adding milk and sugar to his cup, and notices that his hands are trembling.
What is Erica Voss doing in Aylesford? Last he knew, she was living in Denver.
He decides to go home early. He leaves the coffee on the table, grabs his briefcase from his office, and leaves.
• • •
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.
Monday, January 25th, we begin the book The Searcher by Tana French.