Niceville: Book One of the Niceville Trilogy (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

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9780307745354: Niceville: Book One of the Niceville Trilogy (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

Rainey Teague disappears on his way home from school, literally vanishing into thin air. He's there one moment and gone the next, captured on security cameras. After he is found, the nightmare only gets deeper, especially for detective Nick Kavanaugh and his wife, Kate, a family practice lawyer. They have all been drawn into a shadow world between life and death--a world where a man killed on Friday night is in a duel on Sunday, where an armed robbery triggers a disastrous cascade of events that ricochets across twenty different lives, and where Nick and Kate will come face to face with the ancient force of anger and evil that lurks beneath Niceville.
 

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About the Author:

Carsten Stroud is the author of the New York Times bestselling true crime account Close Pursuit. His novels include Sniper’s Moon, Lizard Skin, Black Water Transit, Cuba Strait, and Cobraville. He lives in Toronto.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

Rainey Teague Doesn’t Make It Home

In less than an hour the Niceville Police Department managed to ID the last person to see the missing kid. He was a shopkeeper named Alf Pennington, who ran a used-book store on North Gwinnett, near the intersection with Kingsbane Walk. This was right along the usual route the boy, whose name was Rainey Teague, took to get from Regiopolis Prep to his house in Garrison Hills.
   
   It was a distance of about a mile, and the ten-year-old, a rambler who liked to take his time and look in all the shop windows, usually covered it in about thirty-five minutes.
   
   Rainey’s mother, Sylvia, a high-strung but levelheaded mom who was struggling with ovarian cancer, had the kid’s after-school snack, ham-and-cheese and pickles, all laid out in the kitchen at the family home in Garrison Hills. She was sitting at her computer, poking around on Ancestry.com with half her attention on the front door, waiting as always for Rainey to come bouncing in, glancing now and then at the time marker on the task bar.
   
   It was 3:24, and she was picturing her boy, the child of her later years, adopted from a foster home in Sallytown after she had endured years of fruitless in vitro treatments.
   
   A pale blond kid with large brown eyes and a gangly way of going, given to sudden silences and strange moods—she’s seeing him in her mind as if from a helicopter hovering just above the town, Niceville spread out beneath her, from the hazy brown hills of the Belfair Range in the north to the green thread of the Tulip River as it skirts the base of Tallulah’s Wall and, widening into a ribbon, bends and turns through the heart of town. Far away to the southeast she can just make out the low coastal plains of marsh grass, and beyond that, the shimmering sea.
   
   In this vision she sees him trudge along, his blue blazer over his shoulder, his stiff white collar unbuttoned, his gold and blue school tie tugged loose, his Harry Potter backpack dragging on his shoulders, his shoelaces undone. Now he’s coming to the rail crossing at Peachtree and Cemetery Hill—of course he looks both ways—and now he’s coming down the steep tree-lined avenue beside the rocky cliff that defines the Confederate graveyard.

   Rainey.
   
   Minutes from home.

   She tapped away at the keyboard with delicate fingers, like someone playing a piano, her long black hair in her eyes, her ankles primly crossed, erect and concentrated, fighting the effects of the OxyContin she took for the pain.

   She was on Ancestry because she was trying to solve a family question that had been troubling her for quite a while. At this stage of her research she felt that the answer lay in a family reunion that had taken place in 1910, at Johnny Mullryne’s plantation near Savannah. Sylvia was distantly related to the Mullrynes, who had founded the plantation long before the War of Secession.

   Later she told the uniform cop who caught the call that she got lost in that Ancestry search for a bit, time-drifting, she said, one of the effects of OxyContin, and when she looked at the clock again, this time with a tiny ripple of concern, it was 3:55. Rainey was ten minutes late.

   She pushed her chair back from her computer desk and went down the long main hall towards the stained-glass door with the hand-carved mahogany arches and stepped out on the wide stone porch, a tall, slender woman in a crisp black dress, silver at her throat, wearing red patent leather ballet flats. She folded her arms across her chest and craned to the left to see if he was coming along the oak-shaded avenue.

   Garrison Hills was one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Niceville and the sepia light of old money lay upon it, filtering through the live oaks and the gray wisps of Spanish moss, shining down on the lawns and shimmering on the roofs of the old mansions up and down the street.

   There was no little boy shuffling along the walk. There was no one around at all. No matter how hard she stared, the street stayed empty.

   She stood there for a while longer, her mild concern changing into exasperation and, after another three minutes, into a more active concern, though not yet shifting into panic.

   She went back inside the house and picked up the phone that was on the antique sideboard by the entrance, hit button 3 and speed-dialed Rainey’s cell phone number, listened to it ring, each ring ticking up her concern another degree. She counted fifteen and didn’t wait for the sixteenth.

   She pressed the disconnect button, then used the number 4 speed-dial key to ring up the registrar’s office at Regiopolis Prep and got Father Casey on the third ring, who confirmed that Rainey had left the school at two minutes after three, part of the usual lemming stampede of chattering boys in their gray slacks and white shirts and blue blazers with the gold-thread crest of Regiopolis on the pockets.

   Father Casey picked up on her tone right away and said he’d head out on foot to retrace Rainey’s path along North Gwinnett all the way down to Long Reach Boulevard.

   They confirmed each other’s cell numbers and she picked up her car keys and went down the steps and into the double-car garage—her husband, Miles, an investment banker, was still at his office down in Cap City—where she started up her red Porsche Cayenne—red was her favorite color—and backed it down the cobbled drive, her head full of white noise and her chest wrapped in barbed wire.

   Halfway along North Gwinnett she spotted Father Casey on foot in the dense crowd of strolling shoppers, a black-suited figure in a clerical collar, over six feet, built like a linebacker, his red face flushed with concern.

   She pulled over and rolled down her window and they conferred for about a minute, people slowing to watch them talk, a good-looking young Jesuit in a bit of a lather talking in low and intense tones to a very pretty middle-aged woman in a bright red Cayenne.

   At the end of that taut and urgent exchange Father Casey pushed away from the Cayenne and went to check out every alley and park between the school and Garrison Hills, and Sylvia Teague picked up her cell phone, took a deep breath, said a quick prayer to Saint Christopher, and called in the cops, who said they’d send a sergeant immediately and would she please stay right where she was.

   So she did, and there she sat, in the leather-scented interior of the Cayenne, and she stared out at the traffic on North Gwinnett, waiting, trying not to think about anything at all, while the town of Niceville swirled around her, a sleepy Southern town where she had lived all of her life.

   Regiopolis Prep and this part of North Gwinnett were deep in the dappled shadows of downtown Niceville, an old-fashioned town almost completely shaded by massive live oaks, their heavy branches knit together by dense traceries of power lines. The shops and most of the houses in the town were redbrick and brass in the Craftsman style, set back on shady avenues and wide cobbled streets lined with cast-iron streetlamps. Navy-blue-and-gold-colored streetcars as heavy as tanks rumbled past the Cayenne, their vibration shivering up through the steering wheel in her hands.

   She looked out at the soft golden light, hazy with pollen and river mist that seemed always to lie over the town, softening every angle and giving Niceville the look and feel of an older and more graceful time. She told herself that nothing bad could happen in such a pretty place, could it?

   In fact, Sylvia had always thought that Niceville would have been one of the loveliest places in the Deep South if it had not been built, God only knew why, in the looming shadow of Tallulah’s Wall, a huge limestone cliff that dominated the northeastern part of the town—she could see it from where she was parked—a barrier wall draped with clinging vines and blue-green moss, a sheer cliff so wide and tall that parts of eastern Niceville stayed under its shadow until well past noon. There was a dense thicket of old-growth trees on top of the cliff, and inside this ancient forest was a large circular sinkhole, full of cold black water, no one knew how deep.

   It was called Crater Sink.

   Sylvia had once taken Rainey there, a picnic outing, but the spreading oaks and towering pines had seemed to lean in around them, full of whispering and creaking sounds, and the water of Crater Sink was cold and black and still and, through some trick of the light, its surface reflected nothing of the blue sky above it.

   In the end they hadn’t stayed long.

   And now she was back to thinking about Rainey, and she realized that she had never really stopped thinking about him at all.

   The first Niceville cruiser pulled up beside her Cayenne four minutes later, driven by a large redheaded female patrol sergeant named Mavis Crossfire, a seasoned pro in the prime of her career, who, like all good sergeants, radiated humor and cool competence, with an underlying stratum of latent menace.

   Mavis Crossfire, who knew and liked the Teague family—Garrison Hills was part of her patrol area—leaned on the Cayenne’s window and got the urgency of Sylvia’s story as fast as Father Casey had, a story she was inclined to take much more seriously than a police sergeant in any other mid-sized American town might have taken it at this early stage, because, when it came to Missing Persons, Niceville had a stranger abduction rate five times higher than the national average.

   So Sergeant Mavis Crossfire was paying very close attention to Rainey Teague’s disappearance, and, after listening to Sylvia for about four minutes, she got on the radio and called her duty captain, who got on his horn to Lieutenant Tyree Sutter, the officer commanding the Belfair and Cullen County Criminal Investigation Division.

   About ten minutes after that, every cop in Niceville and every county sheriff and all the local staties had gotten a digital download of Rainey’s photograph and description—Regiopolis Prep kept digital photo files on every student—and every officer who could be spared was rolling on the Rainey Teague disappearance. This was a very creditable performance, as good as the best city police force in the nation and a lot better than most. Motivation counts.

   Less than an hour later, a beat cop named Boots Jackson called in from his riverside foot patrol along Patton’s Hard, walked into Alf Pennington’s bookshop on North Gwinnett, and developed the last confirmed sighting of Rainey Teague, which he then promptly punched in to the HQ mainframe on his handheld-computer link.

   By this time the search perimeter had been expanded to include all the Cullen County and Belfair County deputies as well as the State Patrol guys as far north as Gracie and Sallytown, on the other side of the Belfair Range, and as far south as Cap City, about fifty miles downrange.

   Sitting at his desk at the CID headquarters on Powder Ridge Road, Tyree Sutter, known as Tig, a blunt-featured broken-nosed black man large enough to have his own gravity field, saw the Alf Pennington notation appear on his Coordinated Search Screen. He immediately handed the contact off to Detective Nick Kavanaugh, a thirty-two-year-old ex–Special Forces officer, a white guy, around six one, lean, hard as cordwood, with pale gray eyes and a shock of shiny black hair going white at the temples, who was standing in Tig’s office door and staring at Tig like a wolf on a choke chain.

   Kavanaugh was in his navy blue Crown Vic a minute later and flying up Long Reach Boulevard, following the bend of the Tulip, his strobes lit up but no siren, on his way to see Alf Pennington, pulling up to the curb outside Pennington’s Book Nook at 1148 North Gwinnett less than twenty minutes later. The time was 6:17 p.m. and Rainey Teague had now been officially listed as missing for one hour and fourteen minutes.

   Alf Pennington, late sixties, rail-thin, with a dowager’s hump, bald as an eagle, with sharp black eyes and a downturned mouth, looked up from behind his banker’s desk as Nick came through the door, Alf’s sour expression deepening as Nick weaved his way through the bookcases.

   Not by nature a sunny person, Alf worked up a disapproving frown as Nick approached his desk, registering the slim well-tailored summer-weight dark blue suit—too expensive for a cop—probably a bribe—the unbuttoned jacket—so he could get to his billy club, no doubt—showing a pure white shirt, open at the neck, his tanned angular face shadowed in the dim light, the wary gray eyes, the shining gold badge clipped to his belt, the obvious bulge of a gun on his right hip.

   “Hello. You must be the police. Would you like a coffee?”

   “Thanks, no,” said Nick in a pleasant baritone, looking around the shop, taking in the titles, breathing in the scent of must and wood polish and cigarette smoke, putting his hand out. “I’m Nick Kavanaugh. With the CID?”

   “Yes,” said Alf, giving him a quick shake and taking his hand back to see if his pinky ring was still there. Alf, a closet Marxist from Vermont, didn’t like cops very much. “Officer Jackson said you’d be by.”

   “And here I am. Officer Jackson says you saw Rainey Teague shortly after three? Can you describe him for me?”

   “Done that already,” said Alf, his Yankee accent jagged with short, sharp fricatives.

   “I know,” said Nick, deploying an apologetic smile to soften the request, “but it would be a big help.”

   Alf looked skyward, his black eyes rolling as he collected himself.

   “See him every weekday. He’s a lollygagger. Skinny kid, head too big, shaggy blond hair hanging down in his eyes, pale skin, snubby nose, big brown eyes like a cartoon squirrel, white shirt, tails hanging out, collar open, tie all loose, baggy gray pants, blue blazer with that Christer doodad on the pocket, dragging a Harry Potter knapsack behind him like it was full of bricks. That him?”

   “That’s him. What time was this?”

   “Already said.”

   “Just once more?”

   Alf sighed.
   
   “Three oh five, 3:10, maybe. Usually see him then, coming home from that Christer school.”

   Nick was judging the street view from where Alf was sitting beside his desk. He had a pretty good swe...

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Book Description Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Rainey Teague disappears on his way home from school, literally vanishing into thin air. He s there one moment and gone the next, captured on security cameras. After he is found, the nightmare only gets deeper, especially for detective Nick Kavanaugh and his wife, Kate, a family practice lawyer. They have all been drawn into a shadow world between life and death--a world where a man killed on Friday night is in a duel on Sunday, where an armed robbery triggers a disastrous cascade of events that ricochets across twenty different lives, and where Nick and Kate will come face to face with the ancient force of anger and evil that lurks beneath Niceville. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780307745354

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Book Description Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Rainey Teague disappears on his way home from school, literally vanishing into thin air. He s there one moment and gone the next, captured on security cameras. After he is found, the nightmare only gets deeper, especially for detective Nick Kavanaugh and his wife, Kate, a family practice lawyer. They have all been drawn into a shadow world between life and death--a world where a man killed on Friday night is in a duel on Sunday, where an armed robbery triggers a disastrous cascade of events that ricochets across twenty different lives, and where Nick and Kate will come face to face with the ancient force of anger and evil that lurks beneath Niceville. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780307745354

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