Far From True (A Promise Falls Novel)

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9781410487612: Far From True (A Promise Falls Novel)
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Investigating a break-in at the home of an accident victim, private investigator Cal Weaver finds evidence of the thief's interest in the victim's salacious private life; while Detective Barry Duckworth checks out two possibly related murders before making a horrific discovery tied to Cal's case. By a New York Times best-selling author. (suspense). Simultaneous.

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About the Author:

LINWOOD BARCLAY is the "New York Times" and #1 international bestselling author of fourteen critically acclaimed novels, including "Broken Promise," " No Safe House," " A Tap on the Window," "Trust Your Eyes," which has been optioned for film, "Never Look Away," which has been optioned for television, and "No Time for Goodbye." The author lives in Toronto, ON.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

Copyright ©2016 Linwood Barclay

TWO

They decided Derek was the one who should get into the trunk.

Before heading off, the four of them, Derek Cutter included, thought it would be cool to smuggle someone in. Not because they couldn’t afford a fourth ticket. That wasn’t the issue. They just felt the situation demanded it of them. It was the sort of thing you were supposed to do.

After all, this was the last night they’d ever have the chance. Like so many other businesses in and around Promise Falls these days, the Constellation Drive-in Theater was packing it in. What with multiplexes, 3-D, DVDs, movies you could download at home and watch in seconds—why go to a drive-in, except maybe to make out? And given how much smaller cars had gotten since the drive-in was first conceived, even that wasn’t much of a reason to watch a movie under the stars.

Still, even for people of Derek’s generation, there was something nostalgic about a drive-in. He could remember his parents bringing him here for the first time when he was eight or nine, and how excited he’d been. It was a triple bill, the movies becoming successively more mature. The first was one of the Toy Story flicks—Derek had brought along his Buzz Lightyear and Woody action figures—which was followed by some rom-com Matthew McConaughey thing, back when he was only doing crap, and then a Jason Bourne movie. Derek had barely managed to stay awake until the end of Toy Story. His parents had made a bed for him in the backseat so he could zonk out when they watched features two and three.

Derek longed for those times. When his parents were still together.

This night, the Constellation was showing one of those dumber-than-dumb Transformers movies, where alien robots inhabiting Earth had disguised themselves as cars—usually Chevrolets, thank you very much, product placement—and trucks. Morphing from car to robot involved a slew of special effects. Lots of things blew up; buildings were destroyed. It was the kind of movie none of the girls they knew were interested in seeing, and even though the guys tried to make them understand the movie itself didn’t matter, that this was an event, that this night at the drive-in was history, they’d failed to win them over.

Even the guys knew this was a dumb movie. In fact, there had been agreement among them that the only way to see a movie like this—whether in a drive-in, at a regular theater, or at home—was drunk. Which led to a discussion that they would try to sneak not only a person into the drive-in, but some beer, too.

Thing was, this was a milestone piled on top of a milestone. This the last night for the Constellation, and it was the end of the academic year at Thackeray College, which Derek had been attending for four years, and was now leaving. For what, he had no clue. He had no job prospects, other than maybe working for his dad again, cutting lawns, planting shrubs, trimming hedges. Did he go to college for four years to run a leaf blower? Even his dad didn’t want that for him. And yet, there were worse things than working alongside his father.

For this one night, he wouldn’t think about his job future, or a couple of other things that had been weighing heavily on him.

The first was the death of a friend, just about the most senseless thing ever. This guy, he comes to college, goes to class, writes essays, tries out for some school plays—he’s just doing his thing like everybody else—and then one night campus security shoots him in the head while he’s supposedly trying to rape somebody.

Derek still hadn’t been able to get his head around it.

But then there was the other thing. Even bigger.

Derek was a father.

He had a goddamned kid.

A son named Matthew.

The news hadn’t come as a shock just to him. Even the mother was surprised, which sounded kind of weird, but it was a pretty weird, fucked-up story, and Derek still didn’t know all the details. He’d known that she was pregnant, but had believed the baby died at birth. Turned out not to be that way. He’d talked to her—Marla was her name—a few times since finding out the baby was alive, been over to visit her with his father in tow, and he was still kind of feeling his way through this, trying to sort out just what his responsibilities were.

“Hello?”

“Huh?” Derek said.

It was Canton Schultz, standing next to his four-door Nissan, the driver’s door open. Flanking him were Derek’s other friends from Thackeray, George Lydecker and Tyler Gross.

“We just took a vote,” Tyler said.

“What?”

“While you were off in la-la land, daydreaming, we took a vote,” said George. “You’re it.”

“I’m what?”

“You’re the one going into the trunk.”

“No way. I don’t want to go into the trunk.”

“Well, tough shit,” said Canton. “We’ve been standing around here talking about it, and you had nothing to say, so we made a decision. Thing is, it’s a very important job, being the guy in the trunk, because you’re the one protecting the beer.”

“Fuck it, fine,” Derek said. “But I’m not getting in now. It’s a ten-minute drive from here. We’ll pull over when we’re almost there—then I’ll get in the back for a couple of minutes till we get inside.”

The thing was, the trunk was very much a place he did not want to be. He didn’t want to be cooped up in there for two minutes, let alone ten. Back when Derek was seventeen, while hiding in the basement crawl space of a friend’s house, he’d had to listen while three people were murdered.

And hold his breath so the killer didn’t find him, too.

It was a big story in Promise Falls at the time. Prominent lawyer, his wife and son, all executed. For a while there, the police even wondered if Derek had done it, but they got the killer in the end, and everything worked out, so long as you didn’t count the fact that Derek was pretty much scarred for life.

Okay, maybe not for life. He’d managed to move on, pull his life together, go to school, make friends. His parents splitting up had actually hit him harder. But it didn’t mean he was happy to jump into a car trunk.

Derek was not a fan of confined spaces.

But he wasn’t a fan of looking like a wuss, either, which was why he’d proposed getting in just before their arrival at the drive-in. Everyone agreed that was reasonable. So, after putting a case of beer into the trunk, they piled into the car. Canton behind the wheel, George shotgun, and Derek and Tyler in the backseat.

It was already dark, and it would be after eleven by the time they got to the Constellation. The first feature would probably already be nearly over, and they weren’t interested in it anyway, since it was always something for kids. Not that a Transformers movie wasn’t for kids, but the opening flick would most likely be a cartoon that wasn’t all that scary. And even if they ended up late for the Transformers flick, how hard would it be to catch up? And before long, they’d be too drunk to care.

While Derek had not volunteered to be the guy in the trunk, he had stepped up to be the designated driver on the way home, and everyone was fine with that. One or two beers for him, and that’d be it. He’d get everyone back safely.

And after that, Derek didn’t know when he would see any of them again. Canton and Tyler would be heading home to Pittsburgh and Bangor, respectively. George Lydecker, like Derek, was a local, but Derek didn’t see himself hanging out with him. Derek was reminded of a phrase his own grandfather used to say about people like George. “He’s not wrapped too tight.”

The words that came to mind for Derek were “loose cannon.” George was always the one who acted first, thought later. Like turning over a professor’s Smart car and leaving it on its roof. Slipping a baby alligator from a pet shop into Thackeray Pond. (That little guy still hadn’t been found.) George had even boasted about breaking into people’s garages late at night, not just to help himself to a set of tools or a bicycle, but for the pure thrill of it.

As if George could read Derek’s thoughts at that moment in the car, he decided to do something monumentally stupid.

George dropped the passenger window, allowing cool night air to blow in as they sped down a country road that ran around the south end of Promise Falls. Next thing Derek knew, George had his arm extended out the window.

There was a loud bang. And an instantaneous PING!

“Jesus!” Derek said. “What the hell was that?”

George brought his arm back in, turned around in the seat, and grinned. He showed off the gun in his hand.

“Just shooting at some signs,” he said. “I fucking nailed that speed limit one.”

“Are you out of your mind?” Canton shouted, glancing over. “What the fuck!”

“Put that away!” Derek screamed. “Asshole!”

George grimaced. “Come on, lighten up. I know what I’m doing.”

“Where did you get that?” Tyler asked. “You steal that out of someone’s garage?”

“It’s mine, okay?” he said. “It’s no big deal. I figured, I could take a couple of shots at the screen. I mean, they’re going to be knocking it down in a week or two anyway. Who cares if it’s got a couple of holes in it?”

“Are you really that stupid?” Canton asked. “You think you can fire that thing off with hundreds of people there, lots of them with little kids, and they won’t call in a goddamn SWAT team and arrest your stupid fucking ass?”

“Promise Falls has a SWAT team?”

“That’s not that point. The point is—”

“I figured when the Transformers are knocking over a bunch of skyscrapers, nobody’ll even notice. It’ll be so loud anyway.”

“You’re unbelievable,” Tyler said.

“Okay, okay, okay,” George said, lowering the weapon, resting it in his lap. “I wouldn’t really have done that. I just wanted to shoot some signs, maybe a mailbox.”

The other three shook their heads.

“Idiot,” Derek said under his breath.

“I said okay,” George said. “God, what a bunch of pussies. I’m glad to be getting the hell out of here.” George had already told them he was off to Vancouver the day after tomorrow.

They traveled the next few minutes in silence. It was Canton who broke it. “How about here?”

“Huh?” Tyler said.

“This is a good spot. No one around. Derek, this is where you get in the back.”

“Are we still doing this?” he asked. “It’s stupid.”

“It’s tradition—that’s what it is. When you go to the drive-in, you smuggle someone in. It’s expected. If you don’t do it, the management is actually disappointed.”

Derek felt resigned to his fate. “Fine.”

The car pulled over to the shoulder, gravel crunching beneath the tires. Derek got out on the passenger side, gave George a withering look, then went around to the back of the car. Canton had popped the truck from the inside, pulling on the tiny lever by the driver’s seat, but had gotten out so he could close the lid once Derek was inside.

“It’s not exactly huge in here,” Derek said, standing there, staring into the gaping hole.

“You getting in or what?” Canton asked.

Derek nodded, turned around, dropped his butt in first.

“So it’s not an Oldsmobile,” Canton said. “Stop whining. Once we get inside, you can get out. It’ll be, like, five minutes.”

Derek said, “I hate this.”

“What’s the big—” Canton stopped himself in midsentence. “Oh shit, it’s about that thing that happened, isn’t it? When you were hiding in that house?”

“It’s okay.”

“No, I’ll do it. I’ll get in, and you get back in the car.”

“I said I would do it.”

Derek noticed, with some relief, the emergency lever inside the trunk that allowed it to be opened from the inside. He got his head in, then brought up his legs. He lay on his side, the case of beer tucked behind his knees.

“Okay, so don’t start screaming or anything,” Canton said, and slammed the lid shut.

It was nearly pitch-black in there, save for some red glow from the back side of the taillights. Derek felt the car veer back onto the pavement, then pick up speed.

Despite the rear seat between him and his friends, he could hear them talking.

“Just everyone be cool,” Canton said.

“Yeah,” said Tyler. “Like I’m going say, ‘We got nuthin’ in the trunk!’ I’m not an idiot. Not like George.”

“Fuck you,” said George.

“Okay, here we go,” Canton said. “Jeez, there’s still a line.”

“It’s only like ten cars. It won’t take long.”

Derek struggled to get comfortable. He hoped it wouldn’t take them long to buy tickets and get parked. He knew it was his imagination, but he felt as though he were running out of air, that he was having trouble breathing. His heartbeat was moving into second gear.

He felt the Nissan turn. Canton would be pulling up to the gate, where there were two ticket booths. Right beyond them, towering over them, in fact, would be the back side of the four-story screen. Once the tickets were bought and the gate was cleared, the car would pass through an opening in a ten-foot wooden perimeter fence designed to keep people from sneaking in.

The car would follow the driveway to the far end of the property, where the concession stand was located, then do a one-eighty, facing the screen head-on. Derek figured once they’d picked a good viewing spot, they’d let him out.

But first, they had to clear the gate.

The car stopped, inched forward. Stopped, inched forward.

Come on come on come on.

Finally, Derek heard Canton shout: “Three tickets.”

Then, not quite as clearly, a man’s voice. “Just the three?”

“Yep, just us.”

“Ten bucks each.”

“There ya go.”

A brief pause, then the man’s voice again. “You sure it’s just the three of you?”

Canton: “Yep.”

Tyler: “Just us.”

George: “You can’t count?”

Shit, Derek thought. What the hell was wrong with him tonight?

The man selling tickets said, “And you guys know, there’s no booze allowed. You can’t be bringing anything in like that.”

“Of course,” Canton said.

Another pause.

Then: “I’m gonna have to ask you to pop the trunk.”

“Sorry?” Canton said.

“The trunk. Pop it.”

Shit shit shit shit.

Well, what was the worst that could happen? Derek figured, once this guy found him in the trunk, with the beer, he could do one of three things. He could deny them entry. Or he could charge Derek ten bucks, confiscate the beer, and tell them they could pick it up on the way out. Or the son of a bitch could call the cops.

Derek figured bringing in the police was pretty unlikely. Did the Promise Falls cops really want to be bothered with someone sneaking into the drive-in for free?

At this point, Derek didn’t much care. Right now, he’d happily endure a full body-cavity search if it meant getting the hell out of here.

Canton said, “Uh, I don’t think you have the right to do that.”

“Yeah?” the man said.

“Yeah. I don’t think you have the authority. You’re just some dick selling tickets.”

“Really. Well, my name is Lionel Grayson, and I’m the owner and manager of this place, and if you don’t pop that trunk, I’m calling the cops.”

Maybe it was more likely than Derek thought. Fine, so be it.

“Okay...

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