Sandford, John Field of Prey

ISBN 13: 9781471134869

Field of Prey

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9781471134869: Field of Prey
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The extraordinary new Lucas Davenport thriller from No. 1 New York Times-bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner John Sandford.

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About the Author:

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist John Sandford is the author of the Prey series, four Kidd novels and the Virgil Flowers series. He lives in Minnesota. Visit www.johnsandford.org for more information.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

YEARS AGO . . .

The fifth woman was a blond waitress who enhanced her income by staying late to do kitchen cleanup at Auntie’s, a diner in Faribault, a small city on Interstate 35 south of the Twin Cities. The diner had excellent qualities for a kidnapping. The blacktop parking lot was wide and deep in front, shallow and pitted in back, which meant that nobody parked there. When the fifth woman finished her cleanup, at midnight, she’d haul garbage bags to a dumpster out back.

In the dark.

She was out there alone, sweating in the summer heat, sickened by the odor from the dumpster, with no light except what came through the diner’s open rear door and two pole lights in the front lot.

R-A waited for her there, hidden behind the dumpster. He was carrying an old canvas postal bag, of the kind once used to carry heavy loads of mail in cross-country trucks. The bags, forty-eight inches long and more than two feet in diameter, had eyelets around the mouth, with a rope running through the eyelets. The rope could be cinched tight with a heavy metal clasp.

R-A also carried a leather-wrapped, shot-filled sap, in case something went wrong with the bag.

Horn sat in his truck, in an adjacent parking lot, no more than a hundred feet away, where he could see the action at the dumpster, and warn against any oncoming cop cars. When the waitress came out with her second load of garbage bags, R-A waited until she was standing on tiptoe, off-balance while throwing one of the bags into the dumpster. He stepped out behind her, unseen, and dropped the canvas bag over her head, like a butterfly in a net.

The woman struggled and fought, and screamed, but the screams were muffled by the heavy bag, and two seconds after he took her to the ground, R-A slipped the locking clasp tight around her legs.

Horn was coming, in the truck. He stopped beside them, blocking the view from the street. Together, Horn and R-A lifted her and threw her in the back of Horn’s extended cab truck. Horn climbed in on top of her with a roll of duct tape, and threw a half dozen fast wraps around the woman’s ankles. Sort of like calf-roping, he thought.

As he did that, R-A jogged a half-block down the street to where he’d parked his own truck. When Horn had finished taping the woman’s ankles, he jumped out and slammed the narrow door, ran around the back of the truck and climbed into the driver’s seat, and they were gone, Horn a half-block ahead of R-A.

The system had worked again.

In three minutes, they’d gotten to the edge of town and were starting cross-country toward a hunter’s shack in the backwaters of a Mississippi River impoundment. There, they’d rape the waitress and kill her.

R-A trailed a half-mile behind Horn. That was part of the system, too. If a cop car came along, and showed any interest at all in Horn’s truck, R-A could provide warning, and support. If worse came to worst, R-A would drive recklessly and way too fast past the cop, provoking a chase, while Horn would re-route.

·   ·   ·

THE SYSTEM HAD WORKED BEFORE, and would have worked again, except that Heather Jorgenson had always worried about being alone in that parking lot in the night. She carried a Leatherman multi-tool, which included a three-inch-long serrated blade, in the pocket of her waitress uniform, and while her feet were restricted by the locked bag and the duct tape, her hands were free.

For the first minute or so of the truck ride, she fought with a panic-stricken violence against the heavy bag, without making any progress at all. In the thrashing, her hand slapped against the Leatherman.

The knife!

She fumbled it out and broke a nail trying to get it open, but hardly noticed; three minutes into the ride, she had the knife out and open. Jorgenson knew she’d only have one chance at it, so she continued to shout and scream, and thrash with one hand, as the truck drove through town. At the same time, she slit the bag with the razor-sharp blade, and at the bottom end, cut the binding rope around her legs. Finally, she carefully sliced through the duct tape at her ankles.

She took a moment to get her courage up, then pushed herself up in the back of the truck, and screaming, “You sonofabitch,” she stabbed Horn in the neck, and then stabbed him again, in the back, in the spine, and then in the arms, and in the neck again, and Horn was shouting, screaming, trying to swat her away, while struggling to control the truck. He failed, and the truck swerved to the left edge of the road, two wheels dropping off the tarmac. They ran along like that for a hundred feet, then the truck began to tip, and finally rolled over into the ditch.

Jorgenson, in the back, felt the truck going. A former cheerleader, still with a cheerleader’s suppleness, despite the extra pounds she’d picked up in the diner, she braced her feet against the roof of the truck and locked herself in place as it went over. When it settled, driver’s side down, she found the handle on the back door, unlocked it, shoved it open, and crawled out.

She ran across the roadside ditch, tumbled over a barbed-wire fence, ripping her clothes and hands, into a cornfield—she was afraid to run down the road, because the kidnapper could see her, might come after her.

They’d just left town, and there were house lights no more than four or five hundred yards away. She ran as hard as she could, choking with fear, through the knee-high corn, then fell again and found herself in a mid-field swale, a seasonal creek, dry now.

Breathing hard, she crouched for a moment, listening, fearing that the kidnapper was right behind her. When she heard nothing, she got to her feet, stooped over so far that her hands touched the ground, and groped forward in the dark, toward the house lights.

She had no idea how long she’d been in the field when she made it into a tree line, the branches of the saplings slapping her in the face and chest. She crossed another fence and a ditch, out onto a road, then ran across the road toward the house lights. She was now so frightened and exhausted that she took no care about waking the house. She leaned on the lighted doorbell and pounded on the door while screaming, “Help! Help me!”

·   ·   ·

THE COPS were there in five minutes.

They found an upside-down truck with lots of blood in the front seat, and the cut-open mail sack in the back. They traced the truck in another five minutes, and were on their way to Horn’s house in ten.

·   ·   ·

WHEN R-A GOT TO Horn’s truck, the woman was gone.

Horn groaned, “I’m hurt, man, I’m hurt bad.”

“Where is she?” R-A asked.

“She ran off, she’s gone, man, we gotta get out of here.” Horn was crumpled onto the driver’s side window of the truck. R-A was kneeling on the narrow back door on the passenger side, looking down into the truck, the front door propped half open. “Help me out, help me.”

Horn was covered with blood, down to his waist. R-A pulled him out of the truck, but Horn couldn’t walk: “Did something to my legs, they don’t work . . .”

R-A carried him to his own truck, put him in the back, and told him to stay down. “The hospital . . .”

“Fuck that. Fuck the hospital,” Horn said. “They’re gonna find my truck. The bitch knows my face, from the scouting trips. She’ll pick me out.”

“Then where?”

“Your place,” Horn groaned. “They’ll be at my place, sure as shit.”

·   ·   ·

R-A GOT HIM BACK to his place, managed to half-drag, half-carry him down to the basement bomb shelter. Put him on a cot, plastered his wounds the best he could.

Thought about killing him. Horn’s legs didn’t work, he could never be anything but a liability. But R-A couldn’t do it: Horn was the closest thing he’d ever had to a friend.

·   ·   ·

HORN MADE THE TV the next morning: Heather Jorgenson, according to police reports, said she’d been attacked by a man in the parking lot behind Auntie’s, and had stabbed him. The police were looking for Jack Horn, of Holbein. Jack Horn, singular. No mention of two men. R-A cruised by his house, and the cops were all over it.

Horn himself, down in the bomb shelter, was drifting in and out of consciousness. In one of his lucid moments, he saw R-A staring at him.

“What’re you staring at?” he mumbled. And, “Water. I need a drink. Need some . . . medicine.”

R-A ran a country hardware store, with veterinary medicine in a locked cabinet at the back. Horn was out of it, so never felt the horse-sized needle that R-A used to give him the penicillin.

·   ·   ·

HORN WAS still in and out. During one of his lucid moments, R-A told Horn that the cops had taken his truck away, and that there was a warrant out for him, for kidnapping. “They’re looking for you everywhere between Chicago and Billings. You can’t look at the TV without seeing your ugly face.”

“Water,” said Horn. R-A went away and came back with a glass of water, but Horn found he couldn’t even lift his hand. R-A poured it awkwardly into Horn’s open, trembling mouth.

“How long?” he said, when he found his voice again.

“You’ve been up and down for two days,” R-A said. A pause. “Mostly down.”

“No hospital . . .” Horn said.

“If I don’t, I figure you’ll die,” R-A said. “Then what’ll I do?”

“No hospital . . .” Horn repeated. And then he was gone again.

It went like that for two more days; by the end of the second day, the bomb shelter smelled like an unclean hospital room, with the stink of human waste and corruption.

Then, on a Friday, R-A got back from the store and found Horn deathly still, his face as pale and gray as newsprint. At first, R-A thought him dead. That would have . . . made things easier. He could get rid of the body, and still feel he’d filled the requirements of male comradeship.

Then Horn opened his eyes and said in a calm voice, “You been thinking about choking me out, haven’t you?”

“The thought crossed my mind,” R-A admitted.

“No need, now. Things are different now.”

“Yeah, I . . .”

“I been thinking about it. This is the perfect place. You’re going to have to start bringing the girls here.”

“I . . . thought I might stop.”

Horn grunted: “Roger—you can’t stop. But there’s no more banging them out in the woods. That’s all done. . . . Now you’ll have to bring them down here. Look around. It’s perfect. Down here, we can keep them for a while. Half the trouble, twice the fun.”

And it’d worked. For a very long time.

1

There comes a crystalline moment in the lives of most young male virgins when they realize that they are about to get laid, and they will clutch that moment to their hearts for the rest of their days.

For some, maybe most, the realization comes nearly simultaneously with the moment. With others, not so much.

For Layton Burns Jr., of Red Wing, Minnesota, a recent graduate of Red Wing High School (Go Wingers!), the moment arrived on the night of the Fourth of July. He and Ginger Childs were wrapped in a blanket and propped against a tree of some sort—neither was a botanist—in a park in Stillwater, Minnesota, looking down at the river, where the fireworks were going off.

Fireworks were not going off in Red Wing, because the city council was too cheap to pay for them.

In any case, Stillwater did have fireworks. Layton, a jock, had his muscular right arm wrapped around Ginger’s back, then under her arm and in past the unbuttoned second button on her blouse, where he was getting, in the approved parlance of the senior class at Red Wing High School, a bare tit. One of those hot, nipple-rolling bare tits. Not only a bare tit, but a semi-public one, which added to the frisson of the moment.

While intensely pleasant, this was not entirely a new development. They’d taken petting to a fever pitch, but Layton was the tiniest bit shy about asking for the Big One.

Ginger had her hand on Layton’s thigh, where, despite his shyness, his interest was evident, and then as the final airbursts exploded in red-white-and-blue over the hundred boats in the harbor below, Ginger turned and bit him lightly on the earlobe and muttered, “Oh, God, if only you had some . . . protection.”

·   ·   ·

UNTIL THAT VERY MOMENT, one of the few people in Red Wing who wasn’t sure that Layton was going to get laid that summer was Layton himself. His parents knew, her parents knew, Ginger knew, all of Layton’s friends knew, all of Ginger’s friends knew, and Ginger’s youngest sister, who was nine, strongly suspected.

But Layton, there in the park, wasn’t organized for the moment. He groaned and said, in words made memorable by thousands of impromptu daddies, “Nothin’ll happen.”

“Can’t take a chance,” said Ginger, who was no dummy, and for whom, not to put it too bluntly, Layton was more or less a passing bump in the night. “Do you think by tomorrow night?”

Wul, yeah.

·   ·   ·

BY THE NEXT NIGHT, Layton was organized.

He’d gotten the green light to borrow his mom’s three-year-old Dodge Grand Caravan, which had Super Stow ’n Go seating in the back, converting instantly into a mobile bedroom. He’d stashed a Target air mattress and a six-pack of Coors with a friend. And he’d stolen three, no make it four, lubricated condoms from a twelve-pack that his father had conveniently left unhidden in the second drawer of his bedroom bureau, for the very purpose of being stolen by his son, his wife being on the pill.

Layton also had the perfect spot, discovered a year earlier when he was detasseling corn. The perfect spot had once been a farmyard with a small woodlot on the north side. The farm had failed decades earlier. Most of the land had been sold off, and the house had fallen into ruin and had eventually been burned by the local volunteer fire department in a training exercise. The outbuildings had either been torn down or had simply rotted in place. Still, the home site had not yet been plowed under, though the cornfields were pressing close to the sides of the old yard.

A narrow track, once a driveway, led across a culvert into the site; and there were good level places to park. An hour before he was to pick up Ginger, Layton signed onto his computer and went out to his favorite porn site to review his knowledge of female anatomy; which also reminded him to put a flashlight in the car in case he wanted to . . . you know . . . watch.

·   ·   ·

LAYTON HAD BUILT a sex machine, and it worked flawlessly.

He got the beer and air mattress from his friend, picked up Ginger, and they headed west on Highway 58, out of the Mississippi River Valley, up on top, then down through the Hay Creek Valley, up on top again, and out into farm country. The ride was short and sweet in the warm sum...

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Book Description Simon & Schuster Ltd, United Kingdom, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. UK ed. Language: English. Brand new Book. A Lucas Davenport thriller by internationally bestselling novelist John Sandford 'He knows where the bodies are buried.' A familiar expression, often said with a laugh. But in Lucas Davenport's line of work, it's sometimes all too true. When a county deputy is called out to an abandoned farmhouse in the cornfields of Minnesota by a couple of terrified teenagers, he finds that a body has been stuffed down a cistern. And then another, and another. By the time Lucas Davenport is called in, the police are up to fifteen bodies, and counting. And when Lucas begins to investigate, he makes some disturbing discoveries of his own. The victims have been killed over a great many years, one every summer, regular as clockwork. How could this have happened without anybody noticing? Because one thing was for sure: The killer has to live close by. He is probably even someone they see every day.***READERS LOVE THE PREY SERIES*** 'John Sandford knows all there is to know about detonating the gut-level shocks of a good thriller' The New York Times Book Review 'The best Lucas Davenport story so far. The man has a fine touch for outlaws' Stephen King on Golden Prey 'Sandford's trademark blend of rough humor and deadly action keeps the pages turning until the smile-inducing wrap-up, which reveals the fates of a number of his quirky, memorable characters' Publishers Weekly on Golden Prey 'It appears there is no limit to John Sandford's ability to keep new breath and blood flowing into his Lucas Davenport series. This is a series you must be reading if you are not already' 'Sandford has always been at the top of any list of great mystery writers. His writing and the appeal of his lead character are as fresh as ever' The Huffington Post 'Sandford is consistently brilliant' Cleveland Plain Dealer. Seller Inventory # BTA9781471134869

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