The Vaults


I owe a debt of gratitude to many people for their help and support.

Faith Ball and Susan Moger both read many drafts and their suggestions and critiques helped shape this book from the beginning. Jonathan Ball, Susanna Kahn, and Jacqueline Ball Smith also read early versions and provided feedback and support.

My life as a writer changed dramatically when I began working with my agent, Rob McQuilkin. He has taught me a tremendous amount and he, along with his colleague Rachel Vogel, provided crucial guidance in making this book much stronger and getting it into the right hands. I look forward to a long partnership.

I am lucky to be working with my editor, Michael Homler, and the people at St. Martin’s Press. Michael guided this process with a steady hand and good humor, and was always available to explain, encourage, and offer insight.

There are more people than I could possibly name here who have helped me with their support, interest, and friendship, but I do want to single out a few people: Susanna, Pete, Jackson and Julia Kahn; Dorothy and Richard Saunders; Doris and Bob Ball; Terrence and Martin Sweeney; Paul Nyhan; Pete and Connie Walden; Chris Hodgson; my manager, Jacob Ball; the women at the Newmarket Public Library; and the people at Clean Air-Cool Planet, the Family Research Laboratory and the Crimes against Children Research Center who do the really important work. Also, thank you to the Newmarket/Durham mob: Vaso, Christopher, A-Train, Doug, Emma, T-Bone, Denise, Val, Tim, Blake, Britta, John, Lisa, Ian, Stephanie, Heidi, Cliff, Ben, Alex, Tim, Elly, Ollie, Tillie, Charlie, Morgan, Ted, Lauren, Dudley, Tom, Phyllis, Ray, Hunter, and Littlefoot.

Thank you to my parents, Faith and Jonathan Ball, for their lifelong love and support.

And finally, thank you to my wife, Deborah Walden, who has been by my side through it all, and to Jacob and Sadie, who give me joy every day. I love you very much.



The Vaults took up nearly half a city block. Files arranged in shelves arranged in rows; files from every case handled in the City for nearly the past century; files arranged, cross-referenced, and indexed. So complicated and arcane was the system that at any given time only one living person understood it. At this time, that person was Arthur Puskis, Archivist. He was the fourth Archivist, inheriting the position from Gilad Abramowitz, who had gone mad in his final years and died soon after taking his leave of the Vaults. Abramowitz had mentored Puskis for the better part of ten years, explaining, as best as his addled mind allowed, the logic behind the system. Even so, it had taken Puskis most of the following decade to truly understand. He was now in his twenty-seventh year in the Vaults.

As happened every day, several times a day, O’Shea, the messenger from Headquarters, had brought a list of files to be pulled. Several items on the list were preceded by an asterisk, which meant that Puskis was to pull all cross-referenced files as well. Puskis had a file cart that he wheeled down the long aisles, searching for the appropriate shelves. The cart had a loose wheel that squeaked rhythmically with each rotation.

Puskis completed his rounds and returned to his desk with the requested files. He opened the files that had been asterisked and took down the numbers of the cross-referenced files. He then took the file cart and went to retrieve those files. Each aisle was illuminated at thirty-foot intervals by a bare electric lightbulb. Every journey consisted of walking from an illuminated area into a more twilit space and then back