Cover image for Catch me
Catch me
Holt, A. J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
327 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Sequel to: Watch me.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Ex-FBI Agent Jay Fletcher comes out of hiding in the Witness Security Program to track down a notorious serial killer on the loose from a mental hospital. Can Jay muster up her old manhunting skills and catch a killer before he catches her?

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former FBI agent and computer hacker Jay Fletcher, known as the vigilante Ladykiller in Holt's previous novel, Watch Me, returns in this slick, grisly page-turner to play cat-and-mouse with an escaped serial killer she helped incarcerate. Jay is trying to master glassblowing and become comfortable with a new identity as a member of the Witness Security Program when she is contacted electronically by brilliant and vicious Billy Bones, a young murderer in the mold of Jeffrey Dahmer. (In Holt's first novel, Jay happened upon the Internet meeting-place of serial killers and rid the world of four of them, including the notorious Ricky Stiles, mentor of her present quarry, before turning herself in.) Billy, who believes himself the offspring of Charles Manson and cult member Mary Jane Shorter, escaped while being transported to a brain research program at the National Institute of Mental Health; he drops tantalizing clues regarding his imminent killing sprees via Internet messages to Jay. Once an anthropologist at New York's Museum of Natural History, Billy leaves a Heliconius specimen at each crime scene in a nod to "the butterfly effect" ("the flapping wings of a butterfly in one part of the world could eventually result in a hurricane in some other place at a later time")Äan example of chaos theory, which drives Billy to produce what he calls a perfect death. As the mutilated bodies pile up, including those of children, both Billy and Jay reflect at interminable length on the killer's motivations, struggling to give a cerebral spin on what remains essentially butchery. "People like me are a different species entirely," Billy blithely tells one victim. "I kill people because it gives me a rush.... Because fear is just one big turn-on." It is also a turn-on for many fans of this genre, at which Holt is adept. JayÄhaunted by having been raped when she was youngÄis an appealing character, though Holt's insistent use of italics for her stream-of-consciousness is annoying. Though this up-to-the-minute thriller feels overly manipulated, in the end it provides an abundance of old-fashioned fright. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One     "Your father was Charles Manson?"     "Correct."     Total fruitcake.     "Your mother was one of the Manson family members?"     "That's right. Mary Jane Shorter. My father called her Starr."     "That's not what your file says, Billy."     "Then the file is wrong."     His name was William Paris Bonisteel and in his thirty years of life on the planet he had murdered at least twenty-three people, usually in a complex ritual of simultaneous suffocation, disembowelment, and rape, inevitably leaving a trail of taunting evidence that baffled half a dozen police forces until the various links in the chain were put together by rogue FBI agent and computer expert Jay Fletcher, better known in the popular press as the Ladykiller. The tabloids had given William Bonisteel a nickname, too; a perfect fit considering his occupation and his gory sexual proclivities.     Billy Bones.     The psychiatrist looked up from the file and glanced at the young man seated across from him. Billy was dressed in hospital whites and expensive-looking leather slippers. Dark-haired and almost angelically handsome, he smoked a cigarette calmly, looking totally at ease.     "According to your file, you very much objected to the nickname given to you by the press. Billy Bones. You also used another name when you communicated by computer with your friend Ricky Stiles."     "Christie." Billy nodded.     "The British serial killer."     "That's right."     "You have a thing for names then."     "You could say that. I should have been given my birth father's name, or my birth mother's."     "There's no record at all of who your birth parents were."     "I was a ward of the court, just like the rest of them."     "Them?"     Too Freudian for words. Jesus.     "Charlie's kids. The files were all sealed by court order in 1971." He leaned forward and gently tapped his cigarette onto the edge of the heavy cut-glass ashtray that sat on the psychiatrist's desk. "Not too bright, Doctor." His voice was still calm. "I would take about ten seconds to bash your brains in with that ashtray. Maybe less."     The psychiatrist smiled. "Not your style, Billy."     To prove his point the psychiatrist turned slightly behind his desk and glanced out the window. The days of Bedlam and Cuckoo's Nest were long gone; Spring Grove Hospital Center, an annex to the University of Maryland Medical Center, was a pleasant group of three-story buildings set in a campus-like setting on the outskirts of Catonsville, Maryland, about twenty miles west of Baltimore. It was the logical jurisdiction for Billy since Maryland was where he had committed his last crime before being apprehended.     There were no dank basement corridors lined with open cells, nor was the hospital run by a single institutionally deranged idiot out of Dickens. The psychiatrist smiled; the Spring Grove Hospital was in fact run by a committee of institutionally deranged idiots. He turned back to the file. Billy was crazy as a loon, of course, but at least he had some of his facts right.     "Your adoption file says your name was William Paris."     "That's the name they gave me. I went into the system as a John Doe, just like all the rest of them."     The model sociopath. An answer for everything.     Born in December 1970 of unknown parentage, Billy had been taken into state custody in March of the following year, his file sealed by order of the Los Angeles District Juvenile Court. There was a small addendum to the original caseworker's notes that said Billy's only possession other than a very dirty set of clothing had been a crumpled postcard of the Eiffel Tower--hence the name William Paris.     According to a series of later notations made by a long list of state-employed medical personnel, Billy was generally in reasonable health although prone to various respiratory ailments. He also appeared to be autistic and was completely mute until the age of seven when he suddenly began speaking in fully formed sentences. An evaluation at that time showed Billy to be extremely bright, but even then there were the first signs of problems ahead; according to file entries made over the next three years, Billy was a bed wetter, a pyromaniac, and was suspected of having tortured, killed, and mutilated several domestic animals.     Just like Jeffrey Dahmer.     At the age of ten these activities appeared to cease and for the next two years Billy was the ideal orphan boy. On his twelfth birthday he was given a second evaluation and came up with an IQ score of 165, easily putting him into the genius category. Eight months later, in October 1980 he was adopted by George Bonisteel, a rural high school teacher, and his wife, Emilia, an elementary school teacher and an amateur weaver. For the next six, uneventful years Billy Paris, now William Paris Bonisteel, lived with adoptive parents in the bedroom community of Santa Clarita.     According to a previous interviewer's notes, Billy had mentioned that the distance from his family home on Walnut Street in Santa Clarita to the infamous Spahn Ranch at 1200 Santa Susana Pass Road in northern Los Angeles--where he had supposedly been conceived by Manson and Mary Jane Shorter--was exactly 9.78 miles. The interviewer checked and discovered that Billy was correct. Pursuing the young man's well-formed delusion, the interviewer further discovered that Billy was an encyclopedia of information about the Tate-LaBianca murders and actually referred to Charles Manson's first child as his half-brother. Manson's only legitimate progeny, Charles Manson, Jr., was born in 1956 during his brief marriage to a waitress named Rosalie Jane Willis.     The interviewer also thought it was instructive to note Billy's choice of mother for his delusion--there was no doubt that Mary Jane Shorter, dark-haired and starlet beautiful, was easily the most attractive of the family members, and physically wasn't a bad match for Billy himself. Shorter, never indicted, vanished shortly after the trial, and her last known address had been Lynden, Washington. Seventeen years old at the time of the Tate-LaBianca killings, Billy's "mom" would now be in her mid-forties.     "You like to get the details right, don't you, Billy?"     "In my profession it's a requirement."     Slaughtering is a profession? Like being a CPA?     "You mean your work at the museum?"     Billy smiled, crossed his legs carefully, and puffed on his cigarette. "Of course," he said, a twinkle in his eyes. "What else?"     After graduating from William S. Hart High School in Santa Clarita with the highest SAT scores the school had ever seen, Billy had his choice of any university in the country. He chose to go to UCLA, where he majored in chemistry and biology, receiving a bachelor's degree in science three years later. A month before graduation both George and Emilia Bonisteel died in a motel fire in Hawaii, where they were celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.     Billy used the resulting inheritance to pay for a postgraduate degree in anthropology and for several elective courses in medical illustration at Columbia University in New York. He followed this with a Ph.D. from Georgetown University in Washington, submitting a brilliant thesis on the identification by both computerized and physical means of the skeletal remains of a young woman who had died in a hotel fire in New York in the early 1920s.     Just like mom and dad.     Of the fire's twenty-three victims, she was the only one whose body had neither been claimed nor identified, and it had been assumed at the time that she was either a vagrant or a prostitute. The articulated skeleton of the woman had been used as a teaching tool at Columbia for decades.     Using a computer program he had designed himself and a cast of the woman's skull, Billy eventually matched her with a passport photograph, identifying the skeleton as nineteen-year-old Bridget Coffey, a mail-order bride from County Mayo in Ireland. Waiting for her husband-to-be in the small hotel after a steerage-class Atlantic crossing, Bridget had been trapped in her cupboard-sized room by the raging fire that swept through the hotel.     By the end of his thesis William Paris Bonisteel had not only identified the woman, he had also managed to track down the name and descendants of the man who'd brought her across the seas to meet her fiery death.     The thesis was a tour de force and earned Billy not only his Ph.D. but also a position at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He was twenty-six years old and his new job solved a problem that had been bothering him for the better part of ten years--how to get rid of the bodies.     After his arrest Billy described his first "real" killing to the court-appointed psychiatrist as a bungled mess, not much more sophisticated than his cat carvings and rabbit mutilations. According to his story, the victim, "harvested" in 1987, when Billy was seventeen and just beginning his first year at UCLA, was a nineteen-year-old co-ed named Susan Bryant.     Billy picked her up one evening at a Baskin Robbins on Washington Boulevard in Marina Del Rey, offered her a ride back to her dorm, and instead knocked her unconscious, took her north toward Malibu, detoured up Surfview Drive, then dragged the bound and gagged young woman into the woods of Topanga State Park.     Under cover of darkness he raped Susan several times, then simultaneously suffocated her by cramming dirt into her mouth and eviscerated her with the hooked blade of a linoleum-cutting knife. With his trophy taken, Billy then loaded the corpse into the trunk of his car and drove around for an hour trying to decide what to do with it. Eventually he dumped the corpse into the community recycling depot in the play yard of Marquez Avenue Elementary School, only a few blocks away from where he'd taken Susan into the woods.     According to later interviews, Billy was astounded that he hadn't been arrested then and there, considering the overwhelming amount of forensic evidence he'd left behind, from clotted blood in the trunk of his car to semen in a variety of bodily orifices, real and invented.     On the other hand, no one remembered what the good-looking guy at Baskin Robbins had been driving when he left with the girl, other than the fact that it was Japanese and dark blue; the young man who'd actually served Billy and Susan was shortsighted and had forgotten his glasses that shift; and as luck would have it, no one recalled seeing a blue Japanese car pulling up to the school on Marquez Avenue.     Along with enough serum DNA to convict him a dozen times, Billy also left fingerprints all over Susan's body, her clothes, and the vinyl covering of her purse. At seventeen, however, Billy had never been fingerprinted and thus there was no existing file on him in any of the databanks available at the time. The case was back-burnered and eventually forgotten. Billy had managed to get away with murder, but only just.     He continued to get away with it as the years passed, refining his techniques with each killing and learning from his mistakes, but he knew that the human remains he left behind were his great vulnerability. Without the corpus delicti there was, effectively, no crime at all, and without the crime there could be no punishment; a goal longed for but never achieved. Until, with seven deaths to his credit, he was given a job at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.     There were two methods of removing the flesh from a body at the museum: bacterial maceration--a nice term for letting flesh rot in a tank of tepid water--and the use of Dermestid beetles--tens of thousands of them. Both methods of so-called osteological preparation were easily available to Billy, as were convenient walk-in freezers to store the dismembered bodies of his victims until he was ready for them and marvelously designed, hermetically sealed shipping containers of various sizes, complete with official American Museum of Natural History/Smithsonian Institution labels. Billy also had free access to the museums's UPS and Federal Express account numbers, so shipping the bodies was not only efficient but economical.     With the body parts shipped to himself and safely within the museum, Billy spent many happy overtime hours letting his everhungry beetles methodically destroy the evidence of his crimes, stripping an entire body down to bone and gristle within a day or two, and down to virtually nothing at all in a day or two more. The few greasy scraps left after the Dermestids' feast could be flushed down the men's room toilet across the hall from his lab. Perfect place, perfect job, perfect crimes.     Perfect death.     The psychiatrist looked up from the file folder in front of him. "You call the murders you committed `perfect deaths.'"     "That's right."     "Why?"     "Because that's what they are," Billy answered. He was starting to look a little annoyed and the psychiatrist knew that he wouldn't be able to stretch the interview out much longer.     "I don't understand."     Billy sighed and leaned forward to stub out his cigarette. "Ordinary death is a random event, a fundamental expression of chaos. For example, Princess Diana is killed in a car accident in Paris that involves the juxtaposition of hundreds of elements at a specific place and time, a jigsaw puzzle in four dimensions that no one could have foreseen or prevented. Just as easily one or more elements could have kept the accident from happening at all.     "Dodi Fayed says to Diana, `Let's stay here tonight,' and they simply go up to their suite at the Ritz. Or they choose a different car, a different driver, a different destination involving a different route. Random death--hit by a bus while crossing a street, struck by lightning, a heart attack from out of nowhere, a blossoming cancer that consumes a person in days. The fate that awaits almost all of us."     "But not your victims," said the psychiatrist, suddenly understanding.     Billy nodded. "I choose the victim, the time, the place, the way. I know who is going to die and how and when. Perfect death. No randomness, no chaos, no fractal plane or Mandelbrot."     "I see."     "No," Billy said, shaking his head and smiling. "I really doubt that you do." Fractal geometry, invented by the Polish mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, dealt with the mathematical chaos of the physical, like coastlines, clouds, mountains, and even galaxy clusters.     There was a pause before the psychiatrist spoke again. "You've volunteered for our brain research program at the National Institute of Mental Health." The NIMH project in Washington was trying to discover the neurological and perhaps chemical reasons for violent crime.     "That's right. I presumed this was the screening interview."     "It is," said the psychiatrist. "That's why I'm here."     "What would you like to know?" Billy asked. The smile was back, but there was something wrong with it. The psychiatrist shifted uneasily in his chair. There was a faint sense of threat that he couldn't quite put his finger on.     "Well, for one thing, how did you hear about it?"     "They let me work in the library here. They say it's good therapy.     "So you read about the project?"     "Yes."     Liar.     "Why exactly did you decide to volunteer?"     Billy shrugged. "I want to help."     No. I want to get out of here.     And kill again.

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