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In this heart stopping New York Times bestseller, Jance weaves a masterful story of suspense that travels over generations, revealing two very different women with one horrifying secret.
With his hand trapped in the door of a speeding car, a man struggles to remain upright as he’s dragged along a deserted stretch of San Juan Road in Phoenix’s South Mountain Preserve. It’s the perfect place to drive a man to his grave—literally. Starting with a crime so gruesome even prowling coyotes keep their distance from the remains, a killer begins crisscrossing the Southwest on a spree of grisly murders.
A hundred miles away, Ali Reynolds is grieving. The newscasting job she once delighted in is gone and so is the philandering husband she loved and thought she knew. When a wealthy but distant member of her family unexpectedly asks her for a meeting, Ali wonders what it can mean. Before she can satisfy her curiosity, though, Ali receives another startling call: a friend’s teenage daughter has disappeared. Ali offers to help, but in doing so, she unknowingly begins a quest that will reveal a deadly ring of secrets, at the center of which stand two undiscriminating killers...
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J.A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ali Reynolds series, the J.P. Beaumont series, and the Joanna Brady series, as well as five interrelated Southwestern thrillers featuring the Walker family. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tuscon, Arizona. Visit her online at JAJance.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
When the car door slammed shut on his hand, the universe came to a stop and nothing else mattered. Nothing. He dropped to his knees, howling in agony while a nearby coyote, startled by the sound, responded with a howl of its own. Rigid with pain, at first he couldn't even reach for the door handle. By the time he did, it was too late. The door lock inside the vehicle had already clicked home.
"Please," he begged. "For God's sake, open the door."
But the answer to that was no -- an unequivocal no. The engine turned over and the car began to move.
"You can't do this," he screamed. "You can't!"
By then the pavement was moving beneath him, slowly at first, then faster and faster. He held out his other hand, trying to brace himself or somehow pull himself back to his feet. For a moment that almost worked and he was close to upright, but then the speed of the car outdistanced his scrambling feet and he fell again, facedown this time, with the full weight of his body pulling on the exploding pain in his fingers.
As the speed of the vehicle increased, so did his agonized screams. The parking lot's layer of loose gravel scraped and tore at him, shredding his blue-and-white jogging suit; shredding his skin. By the time the hurtling car bounced over the first speed bump, he was no longer screaming. Plowing face-first into the second one momentarily knocked him unconscious.
He came to when the car door opened. Once his trapped hand was released from the door frame, he fell to the ground. He couldn't actually see the car or even the ground for that matter. He seemed to have been struck blind. Nor could he differentiate the pain in his crippled hand from the agony in the rest of his tortured body, but his ears still worked. He heard the car door slam shut again and felt the spray of gravel from the tires as it drove away into the night, leaving him in absolute darkness.
He lay there for a long time, knowing he was barely alive and feeling his life's blood seeping out through layers of damaged skin. He tried crawling, but he couldn't make that work.
"Help," he called weakly. "Somebody, please help me."
In the wilds of Phoenix's South Mountain Preserve, only a single prowling coyote heard the dying man's final whispered plea for help. The coyote was on the trail of his dinner -- an elusive bunny -- and he paid no attention.
No one else did, either.
* * *
Sybil Harriman strode through the early morning chill and reveled in the sunlight and the clear crisp air. Across the valley, she could see the layer of smog settling in over the rest of the city, but here it was cold and clear -- cold enough to see her breath and make her nose run and her eyes water, but not cold enough to scare her away from walking the full course of the park's Alta Trail and back to the parking lot along the Bajada.
She had been warned that Alta was "too difficult" for someone her age, and that she certainly shouldn't walk it alone. So she did so, at least twice a week. Because she could. And as she walked along, huffing and puffing a little, truth be known, she was also drinking in the view and the cactus and the birds -- birds so different from the ones she'd grown up with back in Chicago -- and she was also thinking about how wrong she'd been and wishing things had been different.
Herman had wanted to move here the moment he retired from working for Merck. She was the one who had fought it, saying they should stay where they were in order to be closer to the kids and grandkids, although a lot of good that had done. Finally, when Herm's arthritis had gotten so bad that he could barely walk, she had relented. Now she was sorry they hadn't come sooner, while Herman would have been able to reap some of the benefits of desert living.
His arthritis had improved so much once they were in Arizona it was unbelievable, but then the rest of it had happened. The dry climate could do nothing at all to stave off the ravages and gradual decline that was Alzheimer's. As for the kids? Once Herm died, it had been plain enough that what they wanted more than anything was to get their greedy little hands on their father's money. Well, thanks to the trust Herm had wisely insisted on setting up, they weren't getting any of that, not until Sybil was damned good and ready. And that was another reason she walked every single day. She was determined to live as long and as well as she could.
Let 'em wait, she told herself fiercely as she marched along. They can wait until hell freezes over.
When she returned to Chicago for Herm's funeral, her friends there hardly recognized her. They thought she had dropped the
excess weight she had carried all those years in a fit of sudden grief. In actual fact, the process had been much less abrupt than that -- and much more permanent. She had started by walking four miles each day on the flat but circular streets in their Awatukee neighborhood. Later she had forced herself up and down the steeper grades and gradually more and more difficult trails throughout South Mountain Preserve.
Sybil was one of the early birds this crisp January morning. She had seen not a soul on her morning walk -- at least no other humans -- in the course of her almost three solitary hours. There had been plenty of bunnies, however, and scads of other early birds -- doves, quail, skittish roadrunners, breakfasting cactus wrens, finches, colorful hummingbirds, hawks, and even an ebony-feathered, red-eyed phainopepla. Now, as she approached the spot where the trail crossed San Juan Road, it was close to midmorning and the sun was high.
San Juan Road had been closed indefinitely for some strange reason, so there shouldn't have been any traffic. Still, Sybil was too much of a city girl to cross a road or a street without looking both ways. And that's when she saw it -- what appeared to be a pile of rags or trash lying in the middle of the roadway some thirty or forty yards northeast of the now abandoned San Juan parking lot.
Offended that someone would toss out a load of garbage and leave it there in the road, Sybil headed in that direction. She was determined to clean up the mess and haul it off to the nearest garbage containers. Ten yards or so away from the debris field, however, she saw the blood.
With a trembling hand, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911. "Emergency operator. What are you reporting?"
Sybil was closer to the mess now -- much too close -- and wished she wasn't. There was blood everywhere. It was hard to tell that the flayed and bloody pulp inside the pile of shredded clothing was even human, but she knew it was.
"A body," she managed at last. "I've just found a human body lying here in the middle of the road."
She didn't hear the panic in her voice, but the operator evidently did. "Calm down," the operator advised her. "What is your name and your location?"
Sybil took a deep breath and forced herself to get a grip. "Sybil Harriman," she replied. "I'm in the park -- South Mountain Preserve. The body is just to the east of the abandoned parking lot on San Juan Road."
"Units are on the way," the operator told her briskly. "Are you sure the person is dead? Did you check for a pulse?"
Sybil looked at the mound of bloody flesh, searching for wrists. One hand, virtually skinless, was little more than a bloody stump. The other hand contained a relatively recognizable thumb, but the four fingers seemed to have been mashed flat. Sybil knew at once there would be no pulse in either one of those two mangled wrists nor would there be any possibility of bringing the bloodied victim back to life.
"He's dead," she whispered to the operator. "Sorry. I've got to hang up now."
Sybil snapped the phone shut. Then, gagging, she staggered over to the edge of the road and promptly lost the single banana she had eaten for breakfast.
As she straightened up and waited, listening for approaching sirens, Sybil Harriman knew it was the last banana she would eat for a very long time.
Copyright © 2007 by J.A. Jance
With her laptop asleep and perched virtually untouched on her crossed legs, Ali Reynolds stared into the flames of the burning gas log fireplace. She was supposed to be working on her blog, cutlooseblog.com, but on this chilly January morning she wasn't. Or maybe she was. She was trying to think of what to say in today's post, but her mind remained stubbornly blank -- right along with her computer screen.
Ali had started cutloose in the aftermath of the sudden and almost simultaneous ends of both her television newscasting career and her marriage. Back then, fueled by anger, cutloose had been a tool for dealing with the unexpected bumps in her own life. To her surprise, what had happened to her was far more commonplace than she had known, and what she had written in cutloose had touched chords in the lives of countless other women.
Since the murder of Paul Grayson, Ali's not quite, but nearly ex-husband, cutloose had morphed into something else entirely. For weeks now it had focused on grief and grieving -- on the pitfalls and setbacks that lie in wait for those attempting to recover from the loss of a loved one or even a not-so-loved one. Ali had learned enough from her readers that she could almost have declared herself an expert on the subject if it hadn't been for the inconvenient reality that she had zero perspective on the topic. She was still too deep in grief herself. As her mother, Edie Larson, would have said, drawing on her endless supply of platitudes: She couldn't see the forest for the trees.
Because Ali was back in her hometown of Sedona, Arizona, grieving. She grieved for a phantom of a marriage that had evidently never been what she had thought it was and for a job she had loved but which had come with zero job security and no reciprocal loyalty.
Having people write to her and tell her that "someday you'll be over it" or "it doesn't matter how ...
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Book Description Simon & Schuster Audio, 2009. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0743597559
Book Description Simon & Schuster Audio, 2009. Audio CD. Condition: New. Abridged. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0743597559n