Shadows of Death: A Desert Sky Mystery (A Desert Sky Mystery Series)

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9780312537586: Shadows of Death: A Desert Sky Mystery (A Desert Sky Mystery Series)

Seth Parker is considered a terrorist by the FBI and is credited with many unusual deaths in Southern California. A man who cut the beaks off of pelicans is found dead and lipless. Another man who ran a dog fighting ring is found torn apart by his own dogs. Two boys who posted a YouTube video of themselves blowing up cats are missing, and no one expects to find them in one piece.

 

When Parker kills two poachers in the Mojave Desert for shooting burros, he falls into Frank Flynn’s orbit. The problem is that Flynn sympathizes with Parker more than he should. Because of this connection and his intimate knowledge of the desert, Flynn seems able to anticipate Parker's next moves, though he is always one step behind.

 

With the opening of Sand Canyon, Flynn finds himself in the awkward position of having to protect an exclusive hunting resort. He’ll have to come to terms with this duty, if he's to stay alive.

 

David Sundstrand’s second novel gives more incredible descriptions of the desert and a riveting story.

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About the Author:

David Sundstrand was a longshoreman, a soldier, a railroad brakeman, and served in the United States Merchant Marine before going to college on the G.I. Bill to study English literature. He liked being a student almost as much as being a ne'er-do-well and might have stayed in college permanently were it not for the constraints of having to make a living.  After many years of teaching English in high school and college, he decided to change hats and write something himself.  He lives in Reno, Nevada, with his wife, Jacquelyn, two dogs, and a cat.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

 

This time the dead animals were in human form. Frank Flynn stood on the side of the hill and looked across the Joshua tree flats at the place Lieutenant Dewey had described as the site of the murders. The crime scene investigators had come and gone, removing the bodies, the Jeep Wrangler, and the clues; not much in the way of clues. Dewey had said nothing had been found that pointed to the shooter or shooters. That's why he'd asked Frank to look around, that and the grudging admission that Frank was really a part of law enforcement. Asking for help was an apology of sorts for past slights.

 

From the way Lieutenant Dewey had described the murder scene, one poacher, the one with the rifle, had been hit in the back of the head with a high-speed round that had taken away a quarter of his face and blown out the upper cheekbone and left eye. If the forensics people were able to find anything, Flynn would bet on bits of silver or lead from an expanding round, probably the same kind of round that had killed the burros. He looked back at the road and beyond. The killer of men had hit the killer of burros in the back of the head, which meant that Frank was looking out over the part of the desert where the shooter had waited in ambush. A low outcropping of caprock ran along the crest of the far hill. It was a perfect place from which to take life without being detected, a sniper position.

 

Flynn picked out a high spot that was in line with where the Jeep had been and started down the slope to the road, keeping the rocks as a reference point. When he reached the outcropping, he turned to look back at the murder site. The dark volcanic ridge commanded a view of the Saline Valley Road, from where the road cut through the caprock down to the dry wash that divided the two hills and up the far side. It was about six hundred yards before the ground dropped away onto the plateau. The killer had been skillful or lucky. Frank walked the ridgeline back to the road, a distance approaching two hundred yards, without seeing so much as a footprint. Returning to the beginning of his search, he moved along the ridge away from the road. He hadn't gone more than fifty feet when he spotted an empty brass shell casing, glinting in the afternoon sun. Frank kept to the rocks so he wouldn't create tracks or disturb the scene. If there was a scene, it didn't amount to much.

 

Two depressions in the sandy soil at the base of a gently sloping rock face were the only telltales of human activity. At this point along the ridge, a shooter could take a prone position and be as good as invisible from the road. Frank lay down on the rock and placed his elbows as if holding a rifle. Sighting along the imaginary barrel, he found himself looking at the murder site. Only problem, he kept slipping backward down the smoothness of the rock face, until his toes dug into the sand near the cup-shaped depressions where the toes of the shooter's boots must have been. He pushed up. The shooter had to be six or seven inches taller than Frank, a very tall person. He scanned the ground. Nothing he could call footprints, but there were some foot-sized disturbances taking a path across the desert toward Hunter Mountain. A trail-wise killer. He'd wrapped his feet so there wouldn't be any identifiable tracks.

 

Frank examined the shell casing, a .270. One shell casing, two corpses. The killer missed picking up the empty from the first shot. Oddly careless. Frank picked up the empty shell by inserting a twig in the opening where the slug and powder had been and slid it into a plastic bag. The second casing was probably still in the rifle. Something about the killer's actions made him uneasy.

 

He'd have to take a run over to Hunter Mountain. Probably wouldn't find a thing. Oh yeah, and he'd better get in touch with Lieutenant Dewey and give him the empty shell casing from the .270, nice .at trajectory, perfect for popping poachers. He felt the corners of his mouth lift into a smile.

 

Three days earlier, Frank had discovered a wounded burro and her foal not far from the site of the murders. He had ended the jenny's suffering by putting a .45 round into her head as she struggled to lift herself from the sandy soil. His attempts to catch the orphaned foal had been futile, a circular chase; the foal had kept a fixed distance between Frank and the lifeless jenny. There was no way to catch it by himself. He'd had to temporarily abandon the foal until he could come back.

 

He'd returned the following day with Molly Shannon, a BLM biologist who shared Frank's affection for the clever creatures, hoping that the foal would still be alive. It had worked out about the way things work out—without resolution. He and the biologist had found no sign of the burro foal. They assumed it was probably dead. Wandered off to be eaten by your neighborhood coyotes.

 

Later a spiraling column of vultures had shown them where another adult burro lay decomposing in the summer heat. Frank was somehow relieved by this animal's death because it meant the foal might still be alive. There was still a chance to save it. If he couldn't save the foal, he was determined to catch the poachers.

 

The burro killings in the Mojave triggered a burning anger. Frank hated the mindless cruelty. The gun nuts were on a rampage, coming into the desert for a weekend of random slaughter, killing things for the pure joy of it. If there were a way to run the poachers down, he would spare no effort. He'd returned later with a metal detector to see if he could find the spent slugs in the corpse, something tangible he could send to the forensics lab in Ashland, Oregon, that would make him feel better. He had met with no success.

 

As he made his way back to the road with his bagged .270 brass, he considered the death of the two poachers with grim satisfaction. Someone had decided to even things out. The late afternoon sun was approaching the back wall of the Sierra Nevada. Soon the high plateau country would be washed in shades of flaming gold before plunging into the deep blues of night. A line of poetry ran through his head, "Though every prospect pleases and only man is vile." He was angrier than he knew.

 

Excerpted from SHADOWS of DEATH by David Sundstrand
Copyright © 2009 by David Sundstrand
Published in March 2009 by St. Martin's Press

 

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


 

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