Snowbound, стр. 1

Snowbound

Blake Crouch

*For Will Innis and his daughter, Devlin, the loss was catastrophic. Will’s wife, Devlin’s mother, vanished one night during an electrical storm on a lonely desert highway and, suspected of her death, Will took his daughter and fled. Then one night, a hardedged FBI agent appears on their doorstep and says, “I know you’re innocent, because Rachael wasn’t the first… or the last.”

 

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of this overwrought thriller from Crouch (Abandon), attorney Will Innis's wife, Rachael, fails to come home from a late night at work. Her car is found on an Arizona desert highway, the driver's side window smashed, but no sign of blood. After a belligerent cop interrogates him about his wife's disappearance, Will packs up his 11-year-old daughter, Devlin, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and flees. Five years pass until FBI agent Kalyn Sharp tracks down Will, who's lived in several towns under various identities, to tell him she believes he's innocent. For a lawyer, Will is incredibly gullible. Based on nothing, he fears he'll be prosecuted, and Devlin will have no one to take care of her. He forgets that the girl has loving grandparents as well as aunts and uncles, and ignores that her disease, though in remission, can be life threatening. He accepts Kalyn's involvement with little thought. The story comes to a less than credible climax at a remote Alaskan resort.

SNOWBOUND

BLAKE CROUCH

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Minotaur Books

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New York

For Jordan Crouch

I love you, brother

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

In September of 2007, my great friend and uncle, Greg “Zig” Crouch, took me to Redoubt Mountain Lodge on Crescent Lake in the heart of Alaska’s Chigmit Mountains. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had, and I am profoundly grateful for that invitation. If there is a more spectacularly scenic place on earth, I haven’t seen it. The isolation and beauty of Redoubt became a huge inspiration for this book.

John Grove also made that trip possible, and Ryan and Heather Richards, who run Redoubt Mountain Lodge, were superb hosts and guides. Neither of them, nor any of the staff or guests who were at Redoubt when I was there are characters in this book. Except for Zig.

A heartfelt thanks to Linda Allen, who went so far above and beyond to get this one off the ground.

Michael Homler, my editor, made this book better in a thousand ways.

Anna Cottle and Mary Alice Kier, as always, provided wise counsel and tireless support.

Anne Gardner at St. Martin’s Press is the best publicist I’ve ever had, and these words are totally insufficient acknowledgment of the hard and brilliant work she has done to spread the word about my books.

And finally, back at base camp, hugs, kisses, and lots of love to Rebecca, Aidan, and my new daughter, Annslee Gray Crouch. I love you.

The Wrong Stars

ONE

In the evening of the last good day either of them would know for years to come, the girl pushed open the sliding glass door and stepped through onto the back porch.

“Daddy?”

Will Innis set the legal pad aside and made room for Devlin to climb into his lap. His daughter was small for eleven, felt like the shell of a child in his arms.

“What are you doing out here?” she asked, and in her scratchy voice he could hear the remnants of her last respiratory infection like gravel in her lungs.

“Working up a close for my trial in the morning.”

“Is your client the bad guy again?”

Will smiled. “You and your mother. I’m not really supposed to think of it that way, sweetheart.”

“What’d he do?” His little girl’s face had turned ruddy in the sunset and the fading light brought out lighter strands in her otherwise-midnight-dark hair.

“He allegedly—”

“What’s that mean?”

“Allegedly?”

“Yeah.”

“Means it’s not been proven. He’s accused of selling drugs.”

“Like what I take?”

“No, your drugs are good. They help you. He was selling, allegedly selling, bad drugs to people.”

“Why are they bad?”

“Because they make you lose control.”

“Why do people take them?”

“They like how it makes them feel.”

“How does it make them feel?”

He kissed her forehead and looked at his watch. “It’s after eight, Devi. Let’s go bang on those lungs.”

She sighed but didn’t argue. She never tried to get out of it.

He stood up, cradling his daughter, and walked over to the redwood railing.

They stared into the wilderness that bordered Oasis Hills, their subdivision. The houses on No-Water Lane had the Sonoran Desert for a backyard.

“Look,” he said. “See them?” A half mile away, specks filed out of an arroyo and trotted across the desert toward a shadeless forest of giant saguaro cacti that looked vaguely sinister profiled against the horizon.

“What are they?” she asked.

“Coyotes. What do you bet they start yapping after the sun goes down?”

When Devlin had gotten into bed, he read to her from A Wrinkle in Time. They’d been working their way through the penultimate chapter, “Aunt Beast,” but Devlin was exhausted and drifted off before Will had finished the second page.

He closed the book, set it on the carpet, and turned out the light. Cool desert air flowed in through an open window. A sprinkler whispered in the next-door neighbor’s yard. Devlin yawned, made a cooing sound that reminded him of rocking her to sleep as a newborn. Her eyes fluttered and she said softly, “Mom?”

“She’s working late at the clinic, sweetheart.”

“When’s she coming back?”

“Few hours.”

“Tell her to come in and kiss me?”

“I will.”

He was nowhere near ready for court in the morning, but he stayed, running his fingers through Devlin’s hair until she’d fallen back to sleep. Finally, he slid carefully off the bed and walked out onto the deck to gather up his books and legal pads. He had a late night ahead of him. A pot of strong coffee would help.

Next door, the sprinklers had gone quiet.

A lone cricket chirped in the desert.

Thunderless lightning sparked somewhere over Mexico, and the coyotes began to scream.

TWO

The thunderstorm caught up with Rachael Innis thirty miles north of the Mexican border. It was 9:30 P.M., and it had been a long day at the free clinic in Sonoyta, where she volunteered her time and services once a week as a bilingual psychologist. The windshield wipers whipped back and forth. High beams lighted the steam rising off the pavement, and glancing in the rearview mirror, Rachael saw the pair of headlights a quarter of a mile back that had been with her for the last ten minutes.

Glowing beads suddenly appeared on the shoulder just ahead. She jammed her foot into the brake pedal, the Grand Cherokee fishtailing into the oncoming lane before skidding to a stop. A doe and her fawn ventured into the middle of the road, mesmerized by the headlights. Rachael let her forehead fall onto the steering wheel, closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath.

The deer moved on. She accelerated the Cherokee, another dark mile passing as pellets of hail hammered the hood.

The Cherokee veered sharply toward the shoulder and she nearly lost control again, trying to correct her bearing, but the steering wheel wouldn’t straighten out. Rachael lifted her foot off the gas pedal and eased over onto the side of the road.

When she killed the engine, all she could hear were the rain and hail drumming on the roof. The car that had been following her shot by. She set her glasses on the passenger seat, opened the door, and stepped down into a puddle that engulfed her pumps. The downpour soaked through her black suit. She shivered. It was pitch-black between lightning strikes and she moved forward carefully, feeling her way along the warm metal of the hood.

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