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Filled with the rich characterization and exceptional drama that are his hallmarks, Mortal Prey proves that John Sandford just keeps getting better.
“Sandford’s eye for the tell-all character quirk remains finely tuned, as does his deadpan humor, rivaled by few in the crime-drama ranks.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Copyright © 2002 John Sandford.
All rights reserved.
THE THOUGHT POPPED INTO HER HEAD as she lay in the soft-washed yellowed sheets in the hospital bed. The thought popped in between the gas pains and muscle spasms, through the pungent odor of alcohol swabs, and if she'd read the thought in a book, she might have smiled at it.
She wasn't smiling at anything now.
She stared past the IV drip bag at the whitewashed plaster ceiling and tried not to groan when the pains came, knowing that they would end; tried not to look at the hard-eyed Mexicano at the end of the bed, his hand never far from the pistol that lay under the newspaper on the arm of his chair. Tried not to think about Paulo.
Tried not to think about anything, but sometimes the thoughts popped up: tall, wiry Paulo in his ruffled tuxedo shirt, his jacket on the chair, a glass of red wine in one hand, his other hand, balled in a fist, on his hip, looking at himself in the full-length mirror on the back of his bedroom door, pretending to be a matador. Paulo with the children's book Father Christmas, sitting naked at her kitchen table with a glass of milk and a milk mustache, delighted by the grumpy Santa Claus. Paulo asleep next to her, his face pale and trusting in the day's first light, the soft light that came in over the gulf just before sunrise.
But the thought that might have made her smile, if it was in a book, was:
Just like the fuckin' Godfather.
LIKE THIS: AN Italian restaurant called Gino's, with the full Italian-cliché stage setting—sienna orange wails, bottles of Chianti with straw wrappers, red-and-white checked tablecloths, baskets of hot crusty bread as soon as you sat down, the room smelling of sugar and wheat, olives and peppers, and black oily coffee. A few rickety tables outside faced the Plaza de Arboles and the fifties tourist-coordinated stucco church across the way, San Fernando de Something-or-Other. The church belfry contained a loudspeaker that played a full, slow bell version of the Singing Nun's "Dominique," more or less at noon, depending on whose turn it was to drop the needle on the aging vinyl bell-record.
Paulo took her to lunch almost every day, picking her up at the hotel where she worked as a bookkeeper. They'd eat Mexican one day, California or French the next, Italian twice a week. He picked her up about noon, so on most days she could hear, near or far, the recorded bells of San Fernando's.
Gino's was the favored spot. Despite the clichéd Italian stage-setting, there was an actual Gino cooking at Gino's, and the food was terrific. Paulo would pick her up in a black BMW 740iL, his business car, with his smooth-faced business driver. They'd hook up with friends, eat a long Caribbean lunch and laugh and argue and talk politics and cars and boats and sex, and at two o'clock or so, they'd all head back to work.
A pattern: not predictable to the minute, but predictable enough.
ISRAEL COEN SAT up in the choir loft at the back of the church with his rifle, a scoped Remington Model 700 in .30-06. He'd sighted it in along a dirt track west of town, zeroed at exactly sixty yards, the distance he'd be shooting across the Plaza de Arboles. There was no problem making the shot. If all you wanted was that Izzy Coen make a sixty-yard shot with a scoped Remington 700, you could specify which shirt button you wanted the slug to punch through.
Not that everything was perfect. The moron who'd bought the gun apparently thought that bigger was better, so Izzy would be shooting at sixty yards through an eight-power scope, and about all he could see was a shirt button. He would have preferred no magnification at all, or an adjustable two- to six-power scope, to give him a little room around the crosshairs. But he didn't have that, and would have to make do.
The problem with the scope was exacerbated by the humidity in the loft. Not only was the temperature somewhere in the 120s, he thought, but the humidity must have been 95 percent. He'd sweated through his shirt at his armpits and across his chest, and the sweat beaded on his cheeks and forehead and arms. When he put the rifle to his cheek, the scope fogged over in a matter of seconds. He had a bottle of springwater with him, and that helped keep his body cool enough to function, but there was nothing he could do about the fogging eyepiece. The shot would have to be a quick one.
No matter. He'd scouted the play for three days, he knew what the conditions would be, and he was ready, up high with a rifle, yellow vinyl kitchen gloves protecting against the inadvertent fingerprint, the jeans and thin long-sleeved shirt meant to guard against DNA traces. Izzy was good.
He'd been in the loft for an hour and ten minutes when he saw the 740iL ease around the corner. He had two identical Motorola walkie-talkies sitting next to his feet. Izzy believed in redundancy. He picked up the first walkie-talkie, pushed the transmit button, and asked, "Hear me?"
TEN OF THEM had been sitting in the back of Gino's, the talk running down, a friend leaving and then another, with his new girlfriend, who'd been brought around for approval. Then Paulo looked at his watch and said to Rinker, "We better get back."
"Just a minute," she said. "Turn this way." She turned his chin in her hand, dipped a napkin into a glass of water, and used the wet cloth to wipe a nearly invisible smear of red sauce from his lower lip.
"I was saving that for later," he protested.
"I couldn't send you back that way," she said. "Your mother would kill me."
"My mother," he said, rolling his black eyes.
THEY WALKED OUT Of the Italian restaurant—Just like the fuckin' Godfather—and the black BMW stopped beyond the balustrade that separated the restaurant's patio from the Plaza. They walked past an American who sat at a circular table in his Hawaiian shirt and wide-brimmed flat hat, peering into a guidebook—all the details as clear and sharp three days later, in the hospital, as the moment when it happened—and the driver started to get out and Paulo called, "I got it, I got it," and Rinker reached for the door handle, but Paulo beat her to it, stepping in front of her in that last little quarter-second of life....
The shot sounded like a firecracker, but the driver knew it wasn't. The driver was in his pocket as Rinker, suddenly feeling ill—not in pain, yet, but just ill, and for some inexplicable reason, failing—went to the ground, Paulo on top of her. She didn't understand, even as a roaring, ripping sound enveloped her, and she rolled and Paulo looked down at her, but his eyes were already out of control and he opened his mouth and his blood gushed onto her face and into her mouth. She began screaming as the roaring sound resumed.
She rolled and pushed Paulo down on the cobbles and turned his head to keep him from drowning in his own blood, and began screaming at the driver, "Paulo, Paulo, Paulo ..."
The driver looked at her, everything slow-moving. She saw the boxy black-steel weapon in his hand, a gun like she hadn't seen before. She saw his mouth open as he shouted something, then he looked back over the car and then back down at Paulo. Then he was standing over them, and he lifted Paulo and put him on the backseat, and lifted her, and put her in the passenger seat, and in seconds they were flying across the Plaza, the hospital three minutes away, no more.
She looked over the seat, into Paulo's open eyes; but Paulo wasn't there anymore.
Paulo had gone. She could taste his blood in her mouth, crusting around her teeth, but Paulo had left the building.
IZZY COHEN SAID, "Goddamnit," and he wasn't sure it'd gone right. The scope had blocked too much and he ran the bolt and lifted the rifle for a second shot, the bodies right there, and he saw the driver doing something, and then as Izzy lifted the rifle, the driver opened up and the front of the church powdered around him and Izzy thought, Jeez ...
An Uzi, he thought, or a gun just like it. Izzy rolled away from the window as the glass blew inward, picked up the two walkie-talkies, and scrambled to the far corner of the loft and the steel spiral stair, the bullets flying around him like bees. He dove down the stair and punched through the back door, where a yellow Volkswagen Beetle was waiting with its engine running. Izzy threw the gun in the back, climbed in, and slammed the door. The driver accelerated away from the church's back door and shouted, "What was that? What was that gun?"
"Fuck if I know," Izzy said. He was pulling off the latex gloves, shaking glass out of his hair. Blood on his hand—he dabbed at his cheek: just a nick. "A fuckin' Uzi, maybe."
"Uzi? What is this Uzi?"
"Israeli gun, it's a machine gun ..."
"I know what is a fuckin' Uzi," the driver shouted. "WHY is this fuckin' Uzi? Why is this?"
"I don't know," Izzy said. "Just get us back to the plane and maybe we can find out."
THE AIRSTRIP WAS a one-lane dirt path cut out of apiece of scraggly jungle twenty kilometers west of the city. On the way, the driver got on his cell phone and made a call, shouting in Spanish over the pounding of the Volkswagen.
"Find out anything?" Izzy asked when he rang off.
"I call now, maybe find out something later," the driver said. He was a little man who wore a plain pink short-sleeved dress shirt with khaki slacks and brown sandals. His English was usually excellent, but deteriorated under stress.
A couple of kilometers east of the airstrip, they stopped and the driver led the way through a copse of trees to a water-filled hole in the ground. Izzy wiped the Remington and threw it in the hole and tossed the box of shells in after it. "Hope it doesn't dry up," he said, looking at the ripples on the black water.
The driver shook his head. "There's no bottom," he said. "The hole goes all the way to hell." The phone rang on the way back to the car and the driver answered it, spoke for a minute, and then clicked off with a nervous sideways glance at Izzy.
"Two dead," the driver said. "One bullet?"
"One shot," Izzy said with satisfaction. "What was that machine gun?
The driver shrugged. "Bodyguard, maybe. Nobody knows."
THE AIRSTRIP TERMINAL was a tin-roofed, concrete block building, surrounded by ragged palmettos, with an incongruous rooster-shaped weather vane perched on top. What might have been a more professional windsock hung limply from a pole beside the building, except that the windsock was shaped like a six-foot-long orange trout, and carried the legend "West Yellowstone, Montana." A Honda generator chugged away in a locked steel box behind the building, putting out the thin stink of burnt gasoline. Finger-sized lizards climbed over walls, poles, and tree trunks, searching for bugs, of which there were many'. Everything about the place looked as tired as the windsock. Even the trees. Even the lizards.
From the trip in, Izzy knew the generator ran an ancient air conditioner and an even older dusty-red Coca-Cola cooler inside the building, where the owner sat with a stack of Playboy magazines, a radio, and a can of Raid for the biting flies.
"I'll call again," the driver said. "You check on the plane."
When Izzy had gone inside, the driver, now sweating as heavily as the American, dug a revolver out from under the front seat of the Volkswagen, swung the cylinder out and checked it, closed the cylinder, and put the gun under his belt at the small of his back.
Izzy and the driver had known each other for a few years, and there existed the possibility that the driver's name was on a list somewhere; that somebody knew who was driving Israel Coen around Cancún. But the driver doubted it. Nobody would want to know the details of a thing like this, and Izzy wouldn't want anyone to know.
Only two people had seen the driver's face and Izzy's in the same place: Izzy himself, and the airport manager.
The driver walked into the airport building and pulled the door shut. The building had four windows, and they all looked the same way', out at the strip. And it was cool inside. Izzy was talking to the airport manager, who sat with a Coca-Cola at a metal desk, directly in front of the air conditioner.
"Is he coming? the driver asked.
"He's twenty minutes out," Izzy said, and the airport manager nodded.
The driver yawned. He had twenty minutes. Not much time. "Nice trip," he said to Izzy. He tipped his head at the door, as though he wanted to speak privately. "Hope your business went well."
"Let me get my bag," Izzy said. He stepped toward the door, and the driver pulled it open with his left hand and held it. Izzy stepped out, the driver right behind him, his right hand swinging up with the revolver. When it was an inch behind Izzy's head, he pulled the trigger and Izzy's face exploded in blood and he went down. The driver looked at the body for a moment, not quite believing what he'd done, then stepped back inside. The airport manager was half out of his chair, body cocked, and the driver shook his head at him.
"Too bad," he said, with real regret.
"We've known each other for a long time," the airport manager said.
"Why is ... Let me say a prayer."
"No time," the driver said. "Today we killed Raul Mejia's baby boy."
He shot the airport manager in the heart, and again in the head to make sure. Back outside, he shot Izzy twice more, the shots sounding distant in his own ears, as if they'd come from over a hill. He dragged the body inside the airport building and dumped it beside the airport manager's. He took Izzy's wallet and all of his cash, a gold ring with a big red stone and the inscription "University of Connecticut, 1986," and every scrap of paper he could find on him. He also found the padlock for the door on the manager's desk, and the key to the generator box in the manager's pocket. He went outside, padlocked the door behind himself, killed the generator. There was a black patch of bloody dirt where Izzy's head had landed. He scuffed more dirt over it, got back in his Volkswagen, and pulled away.
Raul Mejia's baby boy.
The driver would have said a prayer for himself, if he could have remembered any.
RINKER DIDN'T KNOW the names of the players. When she woke up, she was in the hospital's critical care unit, three empty' beds with monitoring equipment, and her own bed. Anthony and Dominic, Paulo's brothers, were sitting at the foot of the bed. She couldn't quite make out their faces until Anthony stood up and stepped close. Her mouth was as dry as a saltine cracker: "Paulo?"
Anthony shook his head. Rinker turned her face away, opened her mouth to cry, but nothing came out. Tears began running down her face, and Anthony took her hand.
"He was ... he was dead when they got here.... We, uh, you have been in surgery. We need to know, did you see the man who shot you?"
Rinker wagged her head weakly. "I didn't see anything. I just fell down, I didn't know I was shot. Paulo fell on top of me, I tried to turn his head, he was bleeding ..."
More tears, and Dominic was turning his straw hat in his hands, pulling the brim through his fingers in a circular motion, like a man measuring yards of cloth.
"We are trying to find out who did this—the police are helping," Anthony said. "We, uh ... You will be all right. The bullet went through Paulo and fell apart, and the core went into you, in your stomach. They operated for two hours, and you will be all right."
She nodded, but her hand twitched toward her stomach.
"I think I'm, I might have been, I think...." she began, looking at Anthony and then Dominic, who had stepped up beside his brother.
Dominic now shook his head. "You have lost the baby."
Dominic reached out and touched her covered leg. He was tough as a ball bearing, but he had tears rolling down his cheeks. He said, "We'll find them. This won't pass."
She turned her head away and drifted. When she came back, they'd gone.
Excerpted from MORTAL PREY by John Sandford. Copyright © 2002 by John Sandford. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted February 19, 2012
I've been eagerly reading thru the "Prey Series" w/excitement over when "Rinker" would reappear as villianess to test Lucas again. It was an even better read than I expected. J.S. wrote her so well that I grew as equally fond of her as Lucas despite the fact she was completely amoral & I knew wouldn't come to a happy end. Rinker finally rests in peace as Lucas enters new & more humanized phases of his personal & professional life. I do so love this series.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 22, 2005
This was a great book the writing is very descriptive and intresting. The ending was classical by using the adversaries only weakness, to draw her into the kill zone.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 18, 2013
Posted August 25, 2012
Have to say that I spent most of the book rooting for Rinker. I liked her in a bizarre way and really hated most of the FBI people. Am kind of sorry for the way it turned out. One twist at the end didn't make sense to me & there is a question left hanging in the air about Paolo. Wondering if it's a set up for a future storyline.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2012
Another good one from Sandford. Not sure that this ranks in the upper echelon of Prey books, but it is pretty good. We know Lucas well by now, and most of his supporting cast. We even know the killer from a previous novel. All characters have depth and Sandford delivers a strong plot all the way through. If I had one complaint or criticism it would be that the story slowed a bit towards the end. Not awful, just not as strong as some of the others. I love this series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 27, 2011
Posted January 25, 2004
Posted October 28, 2003
Davenport and the old school cops are believable and make the book intense. It was interesting how I wanted Clara to win and the feds to lose. A good story that made me lose sleep.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 14, 2003
Posted June 20, 2003
I've read most of the Prey series and enjoyed this one more than most. Clara Rinker is a complex, refreshing antagonist for Davenport. You can predict the outcome, but the way it happened was a letdown. Don't blame the author for the poor editing. One of the top 3 or four in the series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2003
Posted May 19, 2003
I have read all of the prey novels and this one along w/the last weren't very impressive. Could have been wayyyyyy better!!!!!!!!
0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 20, 2003
John Sandord has been able to hold a reader for hours at a time with his stories of Lucas Davneport. I started reading the Prey series in the early 90's and can't wait until the next installment is made. Anyone who reads the series will find themselves on the eadge of their seat with each turn of the page.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 25, 2003
This book should have received 5 stars, but had to many mistakes. Repeated text,poor editing, and different names for the same characters.The story is fast-pace and action-filled! aside from the errors I strongly recommend this book. Treat yourself to some good reading!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 22, 2002
Posted October 12, 2002
This has to be one of his best. You have to love Clara and dread the thought that she might not make it to another episode! Small detail; but, one that has always bothered me: John refers to the multible of joist as joists. There is no such word as joists. One joist is a joist and twenty joist are 20 joistWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 11, 2002
Sandford has done it again! I too am addicted to Sandfords Prey series. I hope he never stops this amazing Detective! If he were only real I would love to meet him! Page turner from begining to end!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 13, 2002
Once again John Sandford writes a good book. I've started his Lucas Davenport novels years ago and have yet to be disappointed. In this one he's up against a woman, Clara, whom he almost lost his life to in a previous novel. As someone kills Clara's fiance she vows to avenge his death at any cost... ooohh an unsuspected character gets murdered! It's a definite enjoyable read and I anticipate his next PREY novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 5, 2002
Turns out not so excellent whenever clever, unpredictable hit woman Clara Rinker is the main attraction. Drafted by the FBI, Davenport knows how dangerous Clara is because she almost killed him years before. He also knows about Clara's past, the sad and tortured road that led her into a life of cold-blooded murder for hire ¿ and revenge. This insight is strangely compelling to Davenport and so to us. An odd circumstance, as we're are at times so drawn into her life, so taken in by her motivations that until she kills again we almost forget she is unworthy of our sympathy. Anyone who writes knows how hard it is to develop a duel story line that has a protagonist and an antagonist vying for a reader's loyalty. What Mr. Sandford has accomplished in Mortal Prey is nothing shy of masterful. He takes us to the brink in more ways than this ¿ and he does it time and again. Set in St. Louis and filled with richly depicted, likable characters, snappy dialog and page turning twists and turns, this is one wild ride no thrill seeker should miss. Wonderfully done. For those who can't wait for Mr. Sandford's next Prey novel, I recommend his Kidd series; The Empress File, Fool's Run and The Devil's Code.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 14, 2002