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The Match by Harlan Coben

The Match by Harlan Coben PDF

Author: Harlan Coben

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Publish Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN-10: 1538748282

Pages: 352

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

At the age of somewhere between forty and forty-two—he didn’t know
exactly how old he was—Wilde finally found his father.
Wilde had never met his father. Or his mother. Or any family member. He didn’t know their names or where he was born or when or how he, as a very young child, ended up living alone in the woods of the Ramapo Mountains, fending for himself. Now, more than three decades after being “rescued” as a little boy—“ABANDONED AND FERAL!” one headline had put it; “A MODERN-DAY MOWGLI!” shouted another—Wilde sat no more than twenty yards from a blood relative and the elusive answers to his mysterious origin.
His father’s name, he had recently learned, was Daniel Carter. Carter was sixty-one years old and married to a woman named Sofia. They had three grown daughters—Wilde’s half sisters, he assumed—Cheri, Alena, and Rosa. Carter lived in a four-bedroom ranch on Sundew Avenue in Henderson, Nevada. He worked as a residential general contractor for his own company, DC Dream House Construction.
Thirty-five years ago, when young Wilde was first discovered living alone in the woods, doctors estimated his age to be between six and eight years old. He had no memory of parents or caregivers or any life other than scrounging around to survive in those mountains alone. That little boy stayed alive by breaking into empty cabins and summer homes, raiding the refrigerators and pantries. Sometimes he slept in empty homes or in tents he’d stolen from garages; mostly, if the weather was cooperative, young Wilde liked to sleep outside under the stars.
He still did.
After he was located and “rescued” from this untamed existence, Child Services placed the little boy with a temporary foster family. With the onslaught of media attention, most speculated that someone would come forward immediately and claim “Little Tarzan.” But days turned into weeks. Then months. Then years. Then decades.

Three decades.
No one ever came forward.
There were rumors, of course. Some believed that Wilde had been born into a mysterious and secretive local mountain tribe, that the little boy had run off or been handled in a somewhat negligent manner, and so the tribespeople feared admitting he was one of their own. Others theorized that the little boy’s memories were faulty, that he couldn’t really have survived on his own in the harsh woods for years, that he was too articulate and intelligent to have raised himself with no parents. Something awful had happened to little Wilde, these people surmised—something so traumatic that the boy’s coping mechanism had blocked out all memory of the incident.
That wasn’t true, Wilde knew, but whatever.
His only early memories came in incomprehensible snap-flash visions and dreams: a red banister, a dark house, a portrait of a man with a mustache, and sometimes, when the visions decided to be audible, a woman screaming.

Wilde—his foster father had come up with that apropos name—became something of an urban legend. He was the local boogeyman who lived alone in the mountains. If parents in the Mahwah area wanted to make sure that their offspring came home at sunset—if they wanted to discourage them from wandering through those miles of thicket and trees—they’d remind their children that once darkness set in, the Boy from the Woods would come out of hiding—angry, feral, thirsting for blood.
Three decades had gone by and still no one, including Wilde, had a clue about his origin.
Until now.
From his rental car parked across the street, Wilde watched Daniel Carter open the front door and head toward his pickup truck. He zoomed in on his father’s face with his iPhone camera and snapped a few photos. He knew that Daniel Carter was currently working on a new town house development—twelve units, each with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and according to the website, a kitchen with “charcoal-colored cabinetry.” Under the “about” section of DC Dream House Construction’s website, it read, “For twenty-five years, DC Dream House Construction has designed, built, and sold top-quality, top-value homes that are personalized to meet your needs and dreams.”
Wilde texted three of the photos to Hester Crimstein, a renowned New York City attorney and probably the closest thing he had to a mother figure. He wanted Hester’s take on whether she thought there was any resemblance between himself and the man who was supposed to be his biological father.

Five seconds after hitting send, Hester called him.
Wilde answered and said, “Well?”
“‘Whoa’ as in he looks like me?”
“If he looked any more like you, Wilde, I’d think you were using age-progression software.”

“So you think—”

“It’s your father, Wilde.”
He just held the phone to his ear.
“You okay?” Hester asked.
“How long have you been watching him?”
“Four days.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Wilde thought about that. “I could just leave well enough alone.”
He said nothing.
“You’re being a candy-ass,” Hester said.
“My grandson taught me that phrase. It means coward.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
“Go talk to him already. Ask him why he left a little boy alone in the

woods. Oh, then call me immediately because I’m super curious.”
Hester hung up.
Daniel Carter’s hair was white, his skin sun-kissed, his forearms ropey probably from a lifetime of manual labor. His family, Wilde had observed, seemed pretty tight. Right now, his wife, Sofia, was smiling and waving goodbye as he got into his pickup truck.
The past Sunday, Daniel and Sofia had a family barbecue in their backyard. Their daughters Cheri and Alena and their families had been there. Daniel worked the grill wearing a chef’s hat and an apron reading “Trophy Husband.” Sofia served sangria and potato salad. When the sun dropped low, Daniel lit the firepit, and the entire family actually roasted marshmallows and played board games, like something out of a Rockwell painting. Wilde expected to feel a pang as he watched them, pondering on all he had missed, but in truth he felt very little.
It wasn’t a better life than his. It was just different.
A big part of him wanted to drive to the airport and fly home. He had spent the last six months living something of a normal, domestic existence in Costa Rica with a mother and her daughter, but now it was time to return to his remote Ecocapsule deep in the heart of the Ramapo Mountains. That was where he belonged, where he felt most at home.

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