End of Watch: A Novel (The Bill Hodges Trilogy)
On April 10, 2009, at a fair promising 1000 jobs held in a dying metropolis, hundreds of people desperately in need of work line up in the cold outside the city center when a crazed man, later termed the Mercedes Killer, plows through the crowd killing eight and seriously injuring others.
Hartsfield soon after attempts another killing mission during a concert filled with young teens only to be thwarted by Holly Gibney, who crushes his skull with Bill Hodge's "Happy Slapper," causing irreparable brain damage and sentencing him to a life in the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic of Kiner Memorial Hospital.
Bill, the detective instrumental in catching the murderer, aka Brady Hartsfield, is retired from the force and now running an investigation agency with partner Holly.
In the years between the massacre and January 2016, Bill visits Brady several times. Though the man appears catatonic, Bill senses he is cognizant of his presence, yet Brady knows if it could be proven, he would be put on trial.
Bill is at his doctor's office when his old partner, Pete Huntley, phones him with disturbing news. He is at Janice Ellerton's home where she lives with her daughter Martine Stover, a woman gravely injured by the Mercedes Killer. Both apparently committed suicide, and Pete is looking for Bill's take on the case. Bill forgoes his appointment and along with Holly arrives at the scene utterly baffled. To add to the mystery, they notice the letter Z written in magic marker in the bathroom, leading them to believe these women were murdered and somehow tied to Brady.
Holly discovers an outdated handheld game device called a Zappit shoved into the cushion of Janice's easy chair, and she grabs it without telling anyone. Back at the office, she shows it to Bill, wondering why an elderly woman would be interested in it. They talk to the Janice's housekeeper who further states the women were happy with no signs of depressed behavior.
Brady had been a computer whiz before pulling off his heinous crimes, so could he be behind this alleged suicide? And if so, how?
Dr. Felix Babineau, treating Brady since his admission, is using him as a guinea pig. After surgery and the so-called "vitamins" he administers during the years, he uncovers Brady's intellect is still viable and dangerous. Condemned to a hospital bed, Brady uses mind control to suit his purposes under many visages, one as Dr. Z, in which he controls Babineau's brain with his primary goal being to get revenge on Bill.
Babineau gets trapped by Brady's malevolence realizing the man is pure evil when he proposes going after a friend of Bill's:
Babineau has a good idea of who she is, and he supposed he should care, but he doesn't. What he cares about is his own skin. How did he ever allow Brady to pull him into this? When did he stop having a choice?
"It's Hodges I'm here about. I'm quite sure he's on his way right now. To see you."
"Hodges has been here many times," Brady says, although it's true the old Det.-Ret. hasn't been around for a while. "He never gets past the catatonic act."
"He's started putting things together. He's not stupid, you said as much yourself. Did he know Z-Boy when we was just Brooks? He must have seen him around here when he came to visit you."
"No idea." Brady is wrung out, sated. What he really wants now is to savor the death of the Robinson girl, then take a nap. There is a lot to be done, great things are afoot, but at the moment he needs rest.
. . . Babineau, who is at least beginning to understand who is the boss, leaves Brady's room. As always it's a relief to do that as himself. Because every time he comes back to Babineau after being Dr. Z, there's a little less Babineau to come back to.
When Bill's friend Jerome Robinson's sister, Barbara, almost dies after playing with a Zappit, they learn many of these devices have been presented to several youngsters who attended that ill-fated concert. These hold subliminal messages designed to promote suicide. Bill and Holly track down clues to prove Brady is behind these deeds. Though Bill learns the fateful results of his medical tests, nothing will prevent him from stopping this diabolical killer.
End of Watch is the last in the trilogy which includes Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers. A chilling ending of the horror storyline displays author King's uncanny ability to get under the skin.