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Open Season

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Praise for Open Season “Meet Joe Pickett: He’s going to be a mystery star.”— Publishers Weekly  (sta... Weiterlesen
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Zusatztext Praise for Open Season “Meet Joe Pickett: He’s going to be a mystery star.”— Publishers Weekly  (starred review) “C. J. Box is a great storyteller.”—Tony Hillerman “A great crime novel.”—Lee Child “A muscular first novel…Box writes as straight as his characters shoot, and he has a stand-up hero to shoulder his passionate concerns about endangered lives and liberties.” — The New York Times Book Review “Intriguing, with a forest setting so treacherous it makes Nevada Barr’s locales look positively comfy, with a motive for murder that is as unique as any in modern fiction. Pickett is a refreshingly human and befuddled hero...But it’s Box’s offbeat way of telling the story that puts it on the best of the year track.” — Los Angeles Times “C.J. Box might represent an endangered species himself: a first novelist who is getting his due…Box’s book has it all — suspenseful plot, magnificent scenery and a flawed male hero who is tough but truly connected to his family…profoundly memorable.” — Boston Herald “Every few years a first novel appears that immediately sets itself apart from the crowd. As readers, we feel that special shock of recognition that announces, ‘Here is something special.’ Taking dead aim with his first sentence…Box remains square on target throughout this nearly word-perfect debut...Best of all, the soft-spoken Joe Pickett is a Gary Cooper for our time.”— Booklist  (starred review) “A high-country Presumed Innocent that moves like greased lightning.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Pickett [is] an engaging change from the fast-driving, trigger-happy male heroes of so many contemporary crime novels.” — Washington Post Book World Informationen zum Autor C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Joe Pickett series, five stand-alone novels, and the story collection Shots Fired. He has won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, and two Barry awards, as well as the French Prix Calibre .38 and a French Elle magazine literary award. His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages. He and his wife Laurie split their time between their home and ranch in Wyoming. Klappentext The first novel in the thrilling series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett from #1 New York Times bestselling author C. J. Box. Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, a town where nearly everyone hunts and the game warden-especially one like Joe who won't take bribes or look the other way-is far from popular. When he finds a local hunting outfitter dead, splayed out on the woodpile behind his state-owned home, he takes it personally. There had to be a reason that the outfitter, with whom he's had run-ins before, chose his backyard, his woodpile to die in. Even after the "outfitter murders," as they have been dubbed by the local press after the discovery of the two more bodies, are solved, Joe continues to investigate, uneasy with the easy explanation offered by the local police. As Joe digs deeper into the murders, he soon discovers that the outfitter brought more than death to his backdoor: he brought Joe an endangered species, thought to be extinct, which is now living in his woodpile. But if word of the existence of this endangered species gets out, it will destroy any chance of InterWest, a multi-national natural gas company, building an oil pipeline that would bring the company billions of dollars across Wyoming, thr...

Praise for Open Season

“Meet Joe Pickett: He’s going to be a mystery star.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“C. J. Box is a great storyteller.”—Tony Hillerman

“A great crime novel.”—Lee Child

“A muscular first novel…Box writes as straight as his characters shoot, and he has a stand-up hero to shoulder his passionate concerns about endangered lives and liberties.”The New York Times Book Review

“Intriguing, with a forest setting so treacherous it makes Nevada Barr’s locales look positively comfy, with a motive for murder that is as unique as any in modern fiction. Pickett is a refreshingly human and befuddled hero...But it’s Box’s offbeat way of telling the story that puts it on the best of the year track.”Los Angeles Times

“C.J. Box might represent an endangered species himself: a first novelist who is getting his due…Box’s book has it allsuspenseful plot, magnificent scenery and a flawed male hero who is tough but truly connected to his family…profoundly memorable.”Boston Herald

“Every few years a first novel appears that immediately sets itself apart from the crowd. As readers, we feel that special shock of recognition that announces, ‘Here is something special.’ Taking dead aim with his first sentence…Box remains square on target throughout this nearly word-perfect debut...Best of all, the soft-spoken Joe Pickett is a Gary Cooper for our time.”—Booklist (starred review)

“A high-country Presumed Innocent that moves like greased lightning.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Pickett [is] an engaging change from the fast-driving, trigger-happy male heroes of so many contemporary crime novels.”Washington Post Book World

Autorentext

C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Joe Pickett series, five stand-alone novels, and the story collection Shots Fired. He has won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, and two Barry awards, as well as the French Prix Calibre .38 and a French Elle magazine literary award. His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages. He and his wife Laurie split their time between their home and ranch in Wyoming.



Klappentext

The first novel in the thrilling series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett from #1 New York Times bestselling author C. J. Box.

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, a town where nearly everyone hunts and the game warden-especially one like Joe who won't take bribes or look the other way-is far from popular. When he finds a local hunting outfitter dead, splayed out on the woodpile behind his state-owned home, he takes it personally. There had to be a reason that the outfitter, with whom he's had run-ins before, chose his backyard, his woodpile to die in. Even after the "outfitter murders," as they have been dubbed by the local press after the discovery of the two more bodies, are solved, Joe continues to investigate, uneasy with the easy explanation offered by the local police.

As Joe digs deeper into the murders, he soon discovers that the outfitter brought more than death to his backdoor: he brought Joe an endangered species, thought to be extinct, which is now living in his woodpile. But if word of the existence of this endangered species gets out, it will destroy any chance of InterWest, a multi-national natural gas company, building an oil pipeline that would bring the company billions of dollars across Wyoming, through the mountains and forests of Twelve Sleep. The closer Joe comes to the truth behind the outfitter murders, the endangered species and InterWest, the closer he comes to losing everything he holds dear.



Leseprobe

A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Chicago Tribune’s Ten Best Mysteries of 2001

Edgar® Award Nominee for Best First Novel by an American Author

 

UNPRECEDENTED ACCLAIM FROM CRITICS AND PEERS FOR C. J. BOX’S

OPEN SEASON

 

“Buy two copies of Open Season, and save one in mint condition to sell to first-edition collectors. C. J. Box is a great storyteller.”

—Tony Hillerman

 

“Intriguing, with a forest setting so treacherous it makes Nevada Barr’s locales look positively comfy, with a motive for murder that is as unique as any in modern fiction. Pickett is a refreshingly human and befuddled hero. . . . But it’s Box’s offbeat way of telling the story that puts it on the best-of-the-year track.”

—Los Angeles Times

 

“C. J. Box has hit the bull’s-eye his first time up. Open Season explores an honorable man’s love of family and the unflinching measures such a man is willing to take to protect them. Riveting suspense mingles with flashes of cynical back-country humor and makes Box an author to watch. I didn’t want this book to end.”

—Margaret Maron

 

“C. J. Box . . . certainly knows the Wyoming territory Pickett covers. . . . Pickett is deceptive and complicated himself, a struggling young husband and father who combines eagerness and ambition, strength and fragility into an interesting, original package.”

—Chicago Tribune

 

“Pickett [is] an engaging change from the fast-driving, trigger-happy male heroes of so many contemporary crime novels. . . . What really sets Open Season apart, however, is the author’s ability to incorporate the viewpoints of his hero’s seven-year-old daughter into the story. Box does a very fine job of capturing the heart and fears of a young girl. . . . She is, indeed, an integral part of the story, and she adds a warm counterbalance to the relentless greed of the adults surrounding her. Open Season is a very promising debut.”

—The Washington Post Book World

 

“A fabulous debut—a great crime novel and a great modern-day western rolled into one. All the elements are here: a tremendous sense of Wyoming’s scenic grandeur, vivid characters, and a high-stakes plot that moves like a rifle bullet. Plus, as a bonus, hero Joe Pickett’s daughter, Sheridan, is the best-written child character I’ve read in a long time. C. J. Box is a keeper, and I for one hope he’ll write a few more like this one—soon.”

—Lee Child

 

Open Season rings true . . . Box nails the taste and smell of the place, and in the process, creates a sensory experience that can be rare in fast-paced, plot-driven crime fiction—without stalling the plot. He finds a way to weave the mysteries of landscape into the larger mystery at hand . . . Box’s yarn is full of the kind of grittiness a reader can expect from a place where blood and bone are not just the stuff of crime fiction, but of sport and survival, too.”

—The Denver Post

 

“C. J. Box knows the Wyoming high country inside out, and his protagonist, Game Warden Joe Pickett, is as real and refreshing as they come. This one is a hunting trip and then some.”

—Les Standiford

 

“C. J. Box has written a fast-paced, intelligent mystery that draws us into the wide open spaces of Wyoming and introduces a memorable hero: Game Warden Joe Pickett, unwilling detective and a man with a conscience. A page-turner and a remarkable debut.”

—Margaret Coel

 

“Every few years a first novel appears that immediately sets itself apart from the crowd. As readers, we feel that special shock of recognition that announces, ‘Here is something special. ’ Taking dead aim with his first sentence . . . Box remains square on target throughout this nearly word-perfect debut. . . . Best of all, the soft-spoken Joe Pickett is a Gary Cooper for our time.”

Booklist (starred review)

 

“The unusual setting and flawed characters make for an enlightening, as well as suspenseful, read.”

—New York Daily News

 

Open Season is a lean, fast-moving thriller that proves you don’t need an urban landscape to make the pages turn. With the exception of James Dickey, I can’t think of another writer who has managed to wring so much white-knuckled terror out of rural America. This is a truly outstanding read.”

—Loren D. Estleman

 

Open Season is a western deco, vividly painted and fun as hell. I know nothing of the West, but C. J. Box is a superb guide—and also a very good novelist.”

—Randy Wayne White

 

“[A] debut mystery to be savored . . . Joe Pickett is a modern-day Gary Cooper, soft-spoken and good-hearted . . . [A] clever mix of mystery, western, and scenery-to-die-for . . . Box has created an enduring hero in Joe. . . . Once you stake out Open Season, you won’t want to turn loose until the limit is bagged and the back cover is closed.”

—The Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger

Also by C. J. Box

The Joe Pickett Novels

OPEN SEASON
SAVAGE RUN
WINTERKILL
TROPHY HUNT
OUT OF RANGE
IN PLAIN SIGHT
FREE FIRE
BLOOD TRAIL

 

BLUE HEAVEN

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

 

OPEN SEASON

 

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

 

 

Copyright © 2001 by C. J. Box.

Excerpt from Savage Run copyright © 2002 by C. J. Box.

The Edgar® name is a registered service mark of the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

 

eISBN : 978-1-101-46380-2

 

BERKLEY ® PRIME CRIME
PRIME CRIME Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

 

 

 

To Molly, Becky, Roxanne, and especially for Laurie—
my partner, my anchor, my first reader, my love
And thanks to Andy Whelchel and Martha Bushko, who
brought this to life

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

 

Prologue

 

PART ONE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

 

PART TWO

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

 

PART THREE

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

 

PART FOUR

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

 

PART FIVE

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

 

PART SIX

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

 

PART SEVEN

 

Epilogue

 

An exciting preview of STONE COLD

Prologue

When a high-powered rifle bullet hits living flesh it makes a distinctive—pow-WHOP—sound that is unmistakable even at tremendous distance. There is rarely an echo or fading reverberation or the tailing rumbling hum that is the sound of a miss. The guttural boom rolls over the terrain but stops sharply in a close-ended way, as if jerked back. A hit is blunt and solid like an airborne grunt. When the sound is heard and identified, it isn’t easily forgotten.

When Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett heard the sound, he was building a seven-foot elk fence on the perimeter of a rancher’s haystack. He paused, his fencing pliers frozen in midtwirl. Then he stepped back, lowered his head, and listened. He slipped the pliers into the back pocket of his jeans and took off his straw cowboy hat to wipe his forehead with a bandanna. His red uniform shirt stuck to his chest, and he felt a single, warm trickle of sweat crawl down his spine into his Wranglers.

He waited. He had learned over the years that it was easy to be fooled by sounds of any kind outside, away from town. A single, sharp crack heard at a distance could be a rifle shot, yes, but it could also be a tree falling, a branch snapping, a cow breaking through a sheet of ice in the winter, or the backfire of a motor. “Don’t confirm the first gunshot until you hear the second” was a basic tenet of the outdoors. Good poachers knew that, too. It tended to improve their aim.

In a way, Joe hoped he wouldn’t hear a second shot. The fence wasn’t done, and if someone was shooting, it was his duty to investigate. Joe had been on the job for a only a week, and he was hopelessly backlogged with work that had accumulated since the legendary Warden Vern Dunnegan had retired three months before. It was the state’s responsibility to keep the elk herds out of private hay, and the pile of work orders on his desk for elk fence was nearly an inch high. Even if he built fence from dawn to dusk, he didn’t see how he could possibly get it all done before hunting season started.

There was nothing really unusual about gunshots ringing out at any time of day or night or at any time of the year in Twelve Sleep County, Wyoming. Everybody owned guns. A rancher could be shooting at a coyote, or some of the boys from town could be out sighting in their rifles on a target.

Pow-WHOP.

Joe’s eyes swung northwest toward the direction of the second shot, toward the foothills of the mountains where outstretched fingers of timber reached down into the high sage that reflected blue in the heat. The shot had come from a long way, three to five miles.

Maxine, Joe’s eight-year-old yellow Labrador, also heard the shot, and bounded from her pool of shadow under Joe’s green Ford pickup. She knew it was time to go to work. Joe opened the passenger door with the Wyoming Game and Fish logo on it, and she leaped in. Before he closed the door, he unsheathed his Winchester .270 rifle and scope from its scabbard case behind the seat and fitted the rifle into the gun rack across the back window. His gun belt was coiled in a pile on the floorboard of the truck, so he picked it up and he buckled it on. Even though regulations dictated that he wear his sidearm at all times, Joe hated driving with his holster on because the heavy pistol jabbed him in the back.

As he climbed into the pickup, there were two more quick shots, one after the other. The first shot wafted across the brush and hay. The second was definitely another hit. Joe thought it was likely that at least two—and possibly three—animals were down.

Joe shoved the pickup into four-wheel drive and headed west toward the mountains, driving as fast as he could without losing control of the wheel. There were no established roads, so he kept the left tires in a cow track while the right wheels bounced through knee-high, then thigh-high, sagebrush. Maxine leaned into the windshield with both of her large paws on the dashboard, balancing against the violent pitching of the terrain. Her tongue swung from side to side and spattered the dashboard with dog spit.

“Get ready,” Joe told her—although for what he didn’t know.

They plunged into a dry wash and ground up out of it, the tires independently grabbing dirt and shooting plumes of dust into the air. Joe nearly lost his grip on the steering wheel as it wrenched hard to the right and left, then he regained control and powered up a brushy slope. His mouth was dry, and he was, quite frankly, very scared.

 

 

A game warden in the field rarely encountered anyone who wasn’t armed. Hunters, of course, had rifles, shot-guns, and sidearms. Hikers, fishers, and campers all too often were packing. Even archery hunters had bows capable of rocketing a razor-sharp broad-head arrow through his pickup door. But that was during hunting season. This was the middle of summer, and there were no seasons open. The only kind of people who would be knocking down big animals now would be poachers or cattle rustlers, and either could be desperate and dangerous if caught in the act.

Joe Pickett topped the small hill and quickly sized up the situation: three large buck mule deer were dead, lying on their sides, on the bottom of the saddle slope. Their throats had been cut to bleed them, but they hadn’t been opened up yet to field dress. A bearded man wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and a King Ropes cap straddled the largest of the bucks. He was a big man, built solidly with thick arms and a barrel chest. His T-shirt read HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUT PILE. He outweighed Joe by at least 40 pounds, but he didn’t seem menacing, only very upset with the fact that he had been caught. He held a dripping knife in his hand. His rifle was propped up in a tall sagebrush about 50 feet away from him. He appeared not to have a sidearm. His pickup, a battered three-quarter-ton GMC, nosed out of the timber on the opposite slope.

He squinted up at Joe’s pickup and his face fell open. “Oh, fuck me,” the man said, loud enough for Joe to hear over the whine of the engine.

Joe drove quickly down the hill and positioned his Ford between the man and the rifle so the poacher couldn’t lunge for it. Joe got out, told Maxine to stay, and approached the man and the downed deer.

“Please drop the knife,” Joe asked, sizing up the deer and the poacher. The poacher tossed the knife aside into the grass. Joe saw no reason to draw his revolver. Joe rarely found a reason to draw his weapon, and even if he did, he doubted he could hit anything with it. Joe was a notoriously bad pistol shot at any range, the worst in his class.

“You’re about four months early for deer season, you know,” Joe said. He now recognized the man, a local outfitter named Ote Keeley. Joe had seen his photo and a reference request for an outfitter’s license on his desk his first day on the job.

Ote sighed. “Meat for the pot, Warden. Just meat for the pot. Some of us got a family to feed.” Ote had a deep Southern accent. Joe couldn’t identify the state.

Joe squatted over the nearest and largest buck deer and ran his fingers over the soft velvet that still covered the antlers.

“Seems to me you didn’t have to kill the only trophies in the herd just to fill your freezer.” He looked up at Ote Keeley, his eyes hard. “A meat hunter would have probably been happy with a big dry doe or two.”

Joe knew there was a black market for antlers in velvet, and that racks this size would command thousands of dollars in Asia where they were thought to possess healing powers as well as serve as an aphrodisiac when ground up and ingested.

“I’m going to have to write you up. Ote Keeley, isn’t it?”

Ote was genuinely surprised. His face flushed red.

“You’re gosh-darned kidding me, right?” Ote asked, as if avoiding an additional ticket for cursing.

Joe stood and pulled his ticket book out of his back pocket and flipped it open. “No, I’m not kidding.”

Ote stepped toward Joe over the downed deer he was straddling. “Hey—I know you. You’re the brand-new game warden, ain’t you?”

Joe nodded and began to fill out the citation.

“I heard about you. Everybody has. You’re the bonehead who arrested the governor of Wyoming for fishing without a license, right?”

Joe could feel his neck getting hot.

“I didn’t know he was the governor,” Joe said, wishing he hadn’t said anything.

Ote Keeley laughed and slapped his thigh.

“Didn’t know he was the governor,” Ote repeated. “I read about that in the paper. Everybody did. ‘Rookie Game Warden Arrests Governor Budd.’ ”

Ote turned serious: “Hey, you’re not really going to ticket me, are you? I’m a professional hunting outfitter. I can’t feed my family if my outfitter’s license gets pulled. I’m not kidding. I’m sure we can work this out.”

Joe looked up at Ote Keeley. “I’m not kidding, either. Now give me your driver’s license.”

It was as if Ote Keeley, for the first time, realized what was really happening. Joe was amazed at the man’s almost staggering stupidity. Joe caught Ote glancing toward where he had left his rifle.

“There’s more animals in Wyoming than people,” Ote spat. “These critters won’t be missed by anyone. That herd ran nearly thirty. Vern Dunnegan wouldn’t have pulled this shit.

“I’m not Vern Dunnegan.” Joe said, hiding his surprise about what Ote had said about his predecessor and mentor.

“You sure as hell ain’t,” Ote Keeley said bitterly, as he pulled his wallet out of his jeans and held it out for Joe. As Joe reached for it, Ote grabbed Joe’s arm and jerked it past him, throwing Joe off balance. Ote had Joe’s revolver out of the holster before he could recover.

For a brief second, Joe Pickett and Ote Keeley stared at each other in genuine surprise, then Ote raised the pistol and aimed it squarely at Joe’s face.

“Uh-oh, look what just happened,” Ote said, a little in awe.

“I would suggest you give that back,” Joe answered, trying to keep his face from twitching. He was terrified. “Give it back and we’ll call it even.”

Ote Keeley smoothly cocked the hammer of the revolver. Joe watched the cylinder rotate. Dull noses of lead filled each chamber, and the mouth of the barrel was black and huge, gaping. Ote wrapped his other hand around the grip, steadying his aim.

“Now we’re in really, really fucking deep,” Ote said, more to himself than anybody.

Joe thought of his daughters, Sheridan and Lucy, both at home, probably playing outside in the backyard. He thought of his wife, Marybeth, who had always feared that something like this would happen.

Then Joe’s entire consciousness, his entire being, focused on one simple question: would he die with his eyes open or closed?

PART ONE

Findings, Purposes, and Policy

(b) Purposes. - The purposes of this Act are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in subsection(s) of this section.

 

—The Endangered Species Act Amendments of 1982
Printed for the use of the Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works
US Government Printing Office
Washington: 1983

1

Joe lived, but it wasn’t something he was particularly proud of. It was now fall and Sunday morning dawned slate gray and cold. He was making pancakes for his girls when he first heard of the bloody beast who had come down from the mountains and tried to enter the house during the night.

Seven-year-old Sheridan Pickett related her dream aloud to the stuffed bear that served as her confidant. Lucy, three and horrified, listened in. The television set was on even though the reception from the vintage satellite dish was snowy and poor, as usual.

The monster, Sheridan said, had come down from the mountains through the dark, steep canyon behind the house very late last night. She watched it through a slit in the curtain on her window, just a few inches from the top bunk of her bed. The canyon was where Sheridan had always suspected a monster would come from, and she felt proud, if a bit fearful, that she had been right. The only light had been the moon through the dried leaves of the cottonwood tree. The monster had rattled the back gate before figuring out the latch and had then lurched clumsily (sort of like mummies in old movies) across the yard to the backdoor. Its eyes and teeth glinted yellow, and for a second, Sheridan felt an electric bolt jolt through her as the monster’s head swiveled around and seemed to looked directly at her before it fled. The monster was hairy and shiny, as if covered with liquid. Twigs and leaves were stuck to it. There was something white, a large sack or box, swinging from the monster’s hand.

“Sheridan, stop talking about monsters,” Joe called out. The dream disturbed him because the details were so precise. Sheridan’s dreams were usually more fantastic, inhabited by talking pets or magical things that flew. “You’re going to scare your little sister.”

“I’m already scared,” Lucy declared, pulling her blanket to her mouth.

“Then the man walked slowly away across the yard through the gate toward the woodpile where he fell down into a big shadow. And he’s still out there,” Sheridan finished, widening her eyes toward her sister to deliver the complete effect.

“Hold it, Sheridan,” Joe said abruptly, entering the room with a spatula in his hand. Joe was wearing his threadbare terry-cloth bathrobe he had purchased on a lark in Jackson Hole on his and Marybeth’s honeymoon ten years before. He shuffled in fleece slippers that were a size too large. “You said ‘man.’ You didn’t say ‘monster.’ You said ‘man.’ ”

Sheridan looked up quizzically, her big eyes wide. “Maybe it was a man. Maybe it wasn’t a dream after all.”

 

Joe heard a vehicle outside, racing up the gravel Bighorn Road much too fast, but by the time he crossed the living room and parted the faded drapes of the front picture window, the car or truck was gone. Dust rolled lazily down the road where it had been.

Beyond the window was the front yard, still green from summer and littered with plastic toys. Then there was the white fence, recently painted, paralleled by the gravel road. Farther, beyond the road, the landscape dipped into a willow-choked saddle where the Twelve Sleep River branched out into six fingers clogged with beaver ponds and brackish mosquito-heaven eddies and paused for a breath before its muscular rush through and past the town of Saddlestring. Beyond were the folds of the valley as it arched and suddenly climbed to form a precipitous mountain-face known as Wolf Mountain, a peak in the Twelve Sleep Range.

With Wolf Mountain in front of them and the foothills and canyon in back, the Pickett family, eight miles from town in their house, lived a life of deep and casting shadows.

The front door opened and Maxine burst in, followed by Marybeth. Marybeth’s cheeks were flushed—either from the brisk cold air or her long walk with the dog, Joe wasn’t sure which—and she looked annoyed. She wore her winter walking uniform of lightweight hiking boots, chinos, anorak, and wool hat. The anorak was stretched tight across her pregnant belly.

“It’s cold out there,” Marybeth said, peeling the hat off so her blond hair tumbled onto her shoulders. “Did you see that truck tear by here? That was Sheriff Barnum’s truck going too fast on that road up to the mountains.”

“Barnum?” Joe said, genuinely puzzled.

“And your dog was going nuts when we got back to the house. She nearly took my arm off just a minute ago.” Marybeth unclipped Maxine’s leash from her collar, and Maxine padded to her water dish and drank sloppily.

Joe had a blank expression on his face while he was thinking. The expression sometimes annoyed Marybeth, who was afraid people would think him simple. It was the same expression, in a photograph, that had been transmitted throughout the region via the Associated Press when Joe, while still a trainee, had arrested a tall man—who turned out to be the new governor of Wyoming—for fishing without a license.

“Where did Maxine want to go?” he asked.

“She wanted to go out back,” she said. “Toward the woodpile.”

Joe turned around. Sheridan and Lucy had paused at breakfast and were looking to him. Lucy looked away and resumed eating. Sheridan held his gaze, and she nodded triumphantly.

“Better take your gun,” Sheridan said.

Joe managed a grin. “Eat your breakfast,” he said.

“What’s this all about?” Marybeth asked.

“Bloody monsters,” Sheridan said, her eyes wide. “There’s a bloody monster in the woodpile.”

Suddenly, there was the roar of motors coming up Bighorn Road from Saddlestring. Joe was thinking exactly what Marybeth said next: “Something’s going on. I wonder why nobody called here?”

Joe lifted the telephone receiver to make sure it was working, the dial tone echoed clearly into his ear.

“Maybe it’s because you’re the new guy. People here still can’t get used to the fact that Vern Dunnegan isn’t around anymore,” Marybeth said, and Joe knew instantly she wished she could take it back.

“Dad, about that monster?” Sheridan said from the table, almost apologetic.

 

 

Joe buckled his holster over his bathrobe, clamped on his black Stetson, and stepped outside onto the back porch. He was surprised how cool and crisp it was this early in the fall. When he saw the large spatters of dried blood between his oversized fleece slippers, the chill suddenly became more pronounced. Joe pulled his revolver and broke the cylinder to make sure it loaded. Then he glanced over his shoulder.

Framed in the dining room window were Sheridan and Lucy. Marybeth stood behind them and off to the side. His three girls in the window were various stages of the same painfully beautiful blond and willowy female. Their green eyes were on him, and their faces were wide open. He knew how silly he must look. He couldn’t tell if they could see what he could: splashes of blood on the ancient concrete walkway that halved the yard and crushed frozen grass where it appeared that someone—or somethi...

Produktinformationen

Titel: Open Season
Autor:
EAN: 9780399576614
ISBN: 978-0-399-57661-4
Format: Kartonierter Einband
Herausgeber: Random House N.Y.
Genre: Krimis, Thriller & Horror
Anzahl Seiten: 320
Jahr: 2016

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