The Silent Placesby James Patrick Hunt
St. Louis Police Lt. George Hastings is loyal to the people under his command. When they're right, he backs them all the way. Sometimes it gets him in trouble. So after a round of butting heads with the top brass, Hastings and his team catch a lousy detail—keeping an eye on Senator Alan Preston, a political star looking to storm the national stage in the
St. Louis Police Lt. George Hastings is loyal to the people under his command. When they're right, he backs them all the way. Sometimes it gets him in trouble. So after a round of butting heads with the top brass, Hastings and his team catch a lousy detail—keeping an eye on Senator Alan Preston, a political star looking to storm the national stage in the upcoming presidential elections.
There's only one problem with Preston's plans. It seems that John Reese, a veteran and former CIA agent whom Preston prosecuted while a U.S. Attorney, has escaped from prison and may be looking to settle the score. Preston won't reveal any details. All he'll say is that Reese is a traitor who should've been executed a long time ago. But as Hastings guards the senator, he uncovers a much different story about Reese, one that isn't as cut-and-dried as Preston would like everyone to believe, one that would give a man like Reese plenty of reason to want revenge at any cost.
As Hastings races to stop Reese, he quickly finds that he's not the only one hunting this most dangerous prey and that Reese isn't the only one caught in the crosshairs of politicians and professional killers in The Silent Places, another pulse-pounding read from James Patrick Hunt.
“Hunt's fourth George Hastings title is an exciting, action-packed tale. Hunt, a practicing attorney, stays away from the courtroom and focuses on the gritty reality of police work in a big city... Readers who like Michael Connelly's early books will especially appreciate.” Library Journal (starred review)
“Hunt's nail-biting storytelling keeps readers in its grip until the end. For those who like John Sandford and remember David L. Lindsey's Houston homicide detective Stuart Haydon.” Library Journal on The Assailant
“Hunt unspools this gripping plot at breakneck speed. Not a word seems wasted, whether in breathtaking action sequences or in backstory sketches of the book's various players.” The Wall Street Journal on Goodbye Sister Disco
“The superbly drawn characters in this mix of thriller and police procedural would do Joseph Wambaugh or Michael Connelly proud. . . . Another fine piece of work.” Booklist (starred review) on Goodbye Sister Disco
“Hunt’s roller coaster of a crime thriller has it allgreat characters, plenty of action, and a nail-biting ending. For fans of police procedurals.” Library Journal (starred review) on Goodbye Sister Disco
“Compares favorably to Elmore Leonard's early urban crime novels. His protagonists are intelligent, self-aware, and capable of swift, harsh action. And no one is better at capturing the flirty-but-keep-your-distance banter between the sexes. Tracy and Hepburn got nothin' on this guy. Plan ahead and clear a shelf for James Patrick Hunt. He's the real deal.” Booklist on The Betrayers
Read an Excerpt
The Silent Places
By James Patrick Hunt
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2010 James Patrick Hunt
All rights reserved.
They pulled Reese out of his cell at 2:12 A.M. Three prison guards, one of them holding a riot gun on him, another gripping a nightstick, the third one with his hands on his hips, showing the others he wasn't afraid of the prisoner.
John Reese was fifty years old. He had been in prison for twelve years now and he had never taken a swing at a guard. He was a slim man, almost of slight build, and not overly tall. But there was a coiled-up air to him. His eyes were alert and penetrating. He had kept his body strong, his wind up. Once, in the yard, an inmate had made the mistake of presuming Reese could be dominated. Reese casually snapped the man's pinkie like a twig, kicked his leg out, then drove the palm of his hand into the man's nose, smashing it to pulp. Reese was left alone after that.
In prison, time is an enemy — a thing to be feared and respected. You do the time, but you cannot let the time do you, even when you're facing a life sentence.
Reese allowed himself to look at the lead guard's watch.
Two-twelve, coming up on 2:13. The middle of the night. The time when Soviets liked to grab enemies of the state. The dreaded knock on the door in the middle of the night. Take them when they're cold and tired and their defenses are down.
Reese thought, What more can they do to me?
He said, "What do you want?"
The lead guard said, "Warden wants to see you."
Bullshit, Reese thought.
But he kept it to himself. Odds were, the guards themselves had not been told the whole story. He could ask them how much they knew, but he didn't want to give them the satisfaction of looking vulnerable, yet alone scared.
Soon he was out of his orange jumpsuit and back in civilian clothes they had brought him. Loose-fitting dungarees and a gray sweatshirt and a cheap windbreaker. Kmart clothes. Maybe wanting him to feel comfortable, maybe wanting him not to look like he'd broken out of prison. Looking like shit, but what the hell. He was out.
He was in the cell twenty-three hours a day as it was, behind a double steel door and with no window. Put in solitary so he couldn't tell anyone what he was doing there. Sealed in a coffin, only breathing. If it were an hour or so less of coffin time, he would not complain. Again, he thought, What more can they do to me?
About two hours later, he began to have an idea.
He sat between two very large men in the backseat of a Chevy Suburban. The windows were tinted. Reese had looked in the backseat to see if there was anyone there. There wasn't. If they had put him in the front seat, it would have made him nervous. A setup, possibly, for an old gangland-style execution. Get the speed up to about seventy, the tired man relaxes and leans back in his seat. Then someone behind would put the barrel of a .22 to the back of his head and put two bullets in it. The Israeli commando way, though they usually didn't put their victims in cars.
The prison guards had turned him over to these guys. There were two men in front, one of them with a shaved head. None of the men were wearing a suit. They weren't feds. These were mercenaries, probably ex-military. Special Forces. Reese knew the type.
Reese's hands were bound in front of him. They had used plastic twists rather than handcuffs. That was at least something.
The guy in the passenger seat in front was tall and well muscled and had cheekbones that suggested Cherokee ancestry. His name was Clu Rogers. At one point during the drive, he turned and gave Reese a long look, snorted, and smiled, as if to say Reese didn't impress him much.
Reese gave him nothing back then. He looked out the window at the darkness and stars. They were in wide open country, and he wished he could enjoy being out of prison.
Still looking out there, Reese said, "Who you fellas working for?" The man on his right turned and looked him over, surprised that Reese was finally saying something. But he didn't say anything, and neither did anyone else.
Reese said, "CIA?"
Reese said, "I would say Company. But nobody really says that anymore. It was going out of style when I was in the spook business. And that was a long time ago."
"I guess things have changed since I've been in," Reese said. He looked at the man on his left and then at the man on his right. "Sure looks like they've lowered their standards."
One of the men sighed, and then the man on Reese's left lifted his arm to give Reese a sharp elbow in the ribs. Reese doubled over, gasping. It hurt plenty, but he had tensed himself, halfway expecting it. They weren't as professional as he had feared.
The one in the front seat turned again to look at him.
Clu said, "Why make it hard on yourself?"
Reese managed to say, "Bored, I guess." He took a couple of breaths. Then said, "Are you the one in charge of this mission?"
The Suburban slowed to take a turn off the small highway onto a dirt road. Soon they were in a wooded area, trees walling them in on both sides.
Reese said, "What's the nature of this mission, soldier?"
"Old man," Clu said, "I'm going to give you some advice, and you don't even have to pay me for it. Just sit there and keep your mouth shut. Cause if you don't, the next words out of your mouth are going to be 'Ow, ow, ow.'"
"I told you," Reese said, "I'm bored. Where you from?"
Another elbow from the man on his left. This one was harder.
Clu stared at him, shaking his head. Some people don't listen.
Reese exhaled and said, "Texas? No, you don't sound like a Texan. Oklahoma, I'll bet. Somewhere around Muskogee."
"Very good," Clu said.
"I'm good with voices, dialects. It's something you pick up when you travel around a lot. You know how you can tell if a guy's from Pittsburgh? He calls his mother 'Mum.' Like the English. It's true, really. Now an Okie from Muskogee, he's got his own special twang. But when you get down to, say, Durant, they start sounding more like Texans. Though they're both Okies. Both from the same state. Funny, isn't it?"
Reese saw the man's cold smile in the darkness.
"You're funny," Clu said.
"I have moments," Reese said.
Reese looked out the windows again. The headlights illuminated the dirt path in front of them, pushing through, leaving darkness behind.
Reese said, "Where do you think you'll do it?"
After a moment, Clu said, "Do what?"
"Oh, come on," Reese said. "You know."
Clu said, "I know you're a traitor to your country and a smart-mouthed piece a shit to boot. In my opinion, they should have done it along time ago." Clu shrugged, showing he could be philosophical about someone else's death. He said, "What difference does it make anyway? They had you in solitary. This won't be much worse."
"Maybe not for you."
"You were condemned already, old man. We're just carrying out the proper sentence, that's all."
Reese smiled. He said, "Boy, you're really looking forward to this, aren't you?"
"I am now."
For a while nobody said anything. The forest passed by.
Reese made a point of sighing. Then he said, "Well, a man should enjoy his work. You going to tell me who you're working for?"
"On the point of death," Clu said. "Yours."
"At least I'll have that," Reese said. "So, do you miss Muskogee?"
"Not a bit."
"Can't say I blame you," Reese said, "You ever hear that song 'You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma'?"
"It's a country song."
Clu turned around and looked out the windshield. He was sick of this man's silly bullshit. The man had probably lost his marbles in the joint. It happened to guys in solitary. Clu said, "I don't listen to country music."
"You don't know what you're missing," Reese said, and threw his elbow into the man's face on his left. The sharp force of it burst the man's nose, making a distinct crunching noise. Before the man could scream out in pain, Reese had reached past him to the door handle. He heard someone yell as the door popped open and he saw a blur as the man in the front started to pull a weapon, but Reese grabbed the lapels of the jacket of the man next to him and pulled him with him, using him as a shield. Gravity took them out of the opening and Reese flipped the big man over so that he landed on top of him when they hit the ground. Then they rolled together for a few turns and Reese broke free of him. The Suburban skidded to a halt and Reese got to his feet and ran, slipping into the darkness of the woods. Moments passed before shots were fired into the trees.
Approximately forty miles away, two men waited at an abandoned train depot.
The train depot was small and old and wooden, its clapboard sides faded and worn by more than a century of sun and elements. There were a couple of wrinkled chamber of commerce posters on the walls, a halfhearted attempt at boosting local tourism. Wooden benches and stone floor and not much else. There was another bench outside on a wooden platform bordering the tracks.
The younger of the two men sat on the bench outside. He pulled his coat around him because it was cold. He did not understand the other man's attraction to this old dump. It was as good a rendezvous as any other because it was isolated and private, but goddamn, couldn't they have picked a place that had some heat?
The man he answered to was standing near the track with his hands in his coat pockets. His name was Dexter Troy. He was forty years old. A tall man, wide in the shoulders and narrow of waist.
Dexter Troy panned the area, west to east. He rested his eyes on the east, imagining a Union Pacific steam train coming into the station. Part of him wished they were bringing John Reese on such a train. Bound by chains, guarded by Pinkerton detectives. They would take him off the train and put him in a cell and take him out to the gallows in the morning. Hanging would be a better death for a traitor. Let the public see what happens to such a man. Better that than doing it in secret, burying him in the woods.
Like a lot of veterans of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Troy had heard about John Reese. Reese was a veteran of the army and the CIA and the Cold War. A man from another time, another era. Younger men, men like Clu, would find Reese a curious, perhaps even pathetic, figure. They would find it difficult to believe that he had once controlled fortunes. When it slips away, Troy thought, it really slips away.
Troy's cell phone rang and he answered it.
"Dex," a voice said. It was Clu, the team leader of this mission, second in command. From his tone, Troy knew he had bad news. He did.
Clu said, "He escaped."
Troy closed his eyes, opened them. "Explain."
"He jumped out of the car while it was moving. Pulled Cody out with him."
"He's got a concussion and his arm is broken. But he's alive."
From his place on the bench, the young man watched and listened as Dexter Troy sighed.
Troy said, "And what about the quarry?" He was hoping that he, too, had died in the fall.
Clu said, "He ran into the woods. We're still looking."
"Well, keep looking, you idiot. It'll be daylight soon." Troy said. "Have you reported this to anyone?"
"Good. I'll contact you later."
Dexter Troy clicked off the phone. Resumed his stare on the eastern sky.
The younger man walked up to him and said, "What have we got?"
"A manhunt," Troy said.
Reese continued south. He moved, but he had stopped running, because he knew after a time that it was not necessary and that it would be bad if he just ran himself to exhaustion. Running was panic. He moved at what he considered a quick walk.
He had gone through survival school at Fort Benning thirty years before. They had trained him then to survive in different environments and to learn about where you were going. How to find food and water, how to travel through different kinds of terrain, how to doctor yourself. They had instructed him specifically that rest could be more valuable than speed.
He had jumped from a vehicle that had been moving at a higher speed than he would have liked. He had tucked and he had rolled and he had used a man as a cushion, but his feet had hit the ground and then he'd tumbled and flown without control. He had maintained consciousness and, probably through sheer luck, not broken any bones. But when he put some distance between himself and his pursuers, he felt the pain from his head to his fingertips and he knew his legs and hips would be bruised purple and yellow by morning. Along with the bruises to his ribs.
But he was alive and he was free. But now men were coming after him, and if they were mercenaries, they might have night-vision goggles and high-powered rifles that could take you down at eight hundred yards. Yeah, rest was more valuable than speed. Particularly after you'd had to jump from a moving vehicle. But men were coming after him. And if they were as well financed as they looked, they might get a helicopter, using searchlights and body-heat sensors. He had to keep moving.
God, it was cold, though. He had only the clothes they had given him and a windbreaker, which had torn at the sleeve when he hit the ground. No gloves, no thermal underclothing, no hat. The instructors at Fort Benning had told him and the others at Ranger School that cold lowers your efficiency, decreases your ability to think. Moreover, it could mess up your perspective. Too much cold and all your thoughts would begin to focus on getting warm. Everything else would be secondary.
He should stop and build a fire. Like the man in that Jack London story. To build a fire. And live. Except that the fire and life would not be extinguished by snow falling off a branch, but by a sharpshooter crouching in the brush.
Reese looked east. He estimated he had about an hour and a half of night left. The sun would rise and he would be exposed to daylight. Visibility was more of a threat to him than cold. When the sun rose, he would have to find a place to hide and rest. That would be the proper thing to do. The thing he had been trained to do. But instinct told him to get as much distance as possible.
Forty minutes passed, and he saw lights in the distance. Then he heard the faint sounds of traffic. A truck's exhaust. Music. Who would have thought he'd ever be glad to hear such a thing?
Another thirty minutes brought him to a truck stop. Before the sun came up, he was in the back of a semitrailer, sharing hay and shit with around thirty head of cattle. He placed himself in a corner and covered himself with hay. He was asleep when the truck moved back on the highway.CHAPTER 2
The day after the mistrial, Howard Rhodes was called to Capt. Karen Brady's office. Hastings went with him. Lt. George Hastings was Rhodes's supervisor and had been so for two years. Rhodes was in his early thirties, tall and handsome. He had a bit of a regal bearing and he was faintly aware of it. He was the only black detective on Hastings's squad.
When they arrived at the captain's office, Karen Brady widened her eyes in surprise. She had not expected Hastings to come with Rhodes. In her mind, the issue did not concern Hastings, and she had hoped to be able to deal with Rhodes alone.
Hastings said, "Karen," acknowledging her with a politeness and respect that was due her rank, if not her person, but letting her know at the same time he was there.
George Hastings had always had a tenuous relationship with Karen Brady. He believed he had nothing personal against her. He did not consider her a bad person. But he knew she had never been more than a mediocre detective. She was not good with people, whether they were from the street or cops.
Now she said, "Close the door." Using an order tone, probably trying to get something back on Hastings now.
Hastings closed it, and that was when he noticed that Deputy Chief Fenton Murray was also with them. Well, well, well. The morning was full of surprises.
The deputy chief and the detectives greeted one another. Karen motioned for the detectives to take seats. They did, and then they were on opposite sides of the captain's desk, the brass facing members of the homicide squad.
Hastings did not exactly trust Fenton Murray. To begin with, Murray had never worked as a detective. His entire career had been either in patrol or administration. Homicide detectives have a reputation for being snobbish and elitist, and that reputation is, to a large extent, deserved. But detective or no, Murray was no dummy. Murray was also an African-American. He was wily and cunning, as most men are who have the ambition to be chief. People who had worked with him years earlier had said he was a good, conscientious police officer, but they knew he wanted to be at the top. Or near it. He was an able, intelligent man and he not achieved his rank by luck or circumstance. But for all that, Murray was quietly threatened by homicide detectives who believed they might be smarter than he was, and he was not above the occasional power play to keep them in place.
Now Murray said, "So what happened yesterday?"
Rhodes looked briefly at Hastings. Hastings nodded and then Rhodes told them about it.
Excerpted from The Silent Places by James Patrick Hunt. Copyright © 2010 James Patrick Hunt. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
James Patrick Hunt, a practicing lawyer, was born in Surrey, England. The author of three previous George Hasting novels, he now lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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