The Highway [NOOK Book]

Overview


Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the New York Times bestselling author of Back of Beyond and Breaking Point and the creator of the Joe Pickett series is back.


“If CJ Box isn’t already on your list, put him there.” – USA Today

 

When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone might ever hear from them again. The girls—and their ...

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The Highway

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Overview


Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the New York Times bestselling author of Back of Beyond and Breaking Point and the creator of the Joe Pickett series is back.


“If CJ Box isn’t already on your list, put him there.” – USA Today

 

When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone might ever hear from them again. The girls—and their car—simply vanish.  Former police investigator Cody Hoyt has just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety.  Convinced by his son and his former rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, he begins the drive south to the girls’ last known location.  As Cody makes his way to the lonely stretch of Montana highway where they went missing, Cassie discovers that Gracie and Danielle Sullivan aren’t the first girls who have disappeared in this area.  This majestic landscape is the hunting ground for a killer whose viciousness is outmatched only by his intelligence.  And he might not be working alone.  Time is running out for Gracie and Danielle…Can Cassie overcome her doubts and lack of experience and use her innate skill?  Can Cody Hoyt battle his own demons and find this killer before another victim vanishes on the highway

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Cody Hoyt's penchant for alcohol and evidence tampering lost him his job in a Montana's sheriff, but disgraced or not, this persistent investigator can't resist the call of a new case when it's brought to him by his son Justin and his former partner Cassandra Dewell. What begins as the case of two missing teenage girls escalates into something far more vexatious and dangerous. A twisted serial nicknamed the Lizard King is loose and Cody must cage his own demons before he can catch him. A dark, suspenseful read by an Edgar Award-winning novelist.

Library Journal
Cody Hoyt, a former investigator with the Lewis and Clark County, MT, sheriff's office, is on the trail of two missing girls. Supposedly on their way from Colorado to Nebraska to visit their father over Thanksgiving, Danielle and Gracie Sullivan are actually driving to Montana to visit Danielle's boyfriend, Justin, who is also Hoyt's son. The girls' reckless behavior and car trouble put them in the path of a killer who drives an 18-wheeler. Although Cody's erratic conduct and evidence tampering led to his firing, he embarks on a search for the girls at the request of his son and former partner Cassandra Dewell. Then Cody disappears, and Cassandra steps up to search for him. She soon stumbles across evidence of psychotic killers, police corruption, and scenes from the dark underside of transient society. Her tenaciousness serves her well and the results are explosive. VERDICT Drawing on characters introduced in Back of Beyond, Box's stand-alone weaves together subplots into a nonstop, action-filled race against time. Rolling down the superhighway of suspense, this thriller will leave readers breathless.—Patricia Ann Owens, Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel
Publishers Weekly
Two sisters, 16-year-old Gracie and 18-year-old Danielle Sullivan, set out from their mother’s home in Denver to spend Thanksgiving with their father in Omaha, Neb. But Danielle doesn’t tell anyone that they are driving to Montana first to see her old boyfriend, Justin Hoyt, until they are on the road—she doesn’t even tell her sister or Justin. Justin’s father is Cody Hoyt, a law enforcement officer who barely acknowledges rules, much less follows them. Fired from his most recent post at the Helena sheriff’s office for planting evidence on a murdered criminal in order to assure the killer’s arrest, he continues to mentor his ex-partner, Cassie Dewell, who shakes her head at his willingness to do anything necessary to track down and arrest criminals, even as she is amazed by his skills and persistence in doing so. Ronald Pergram calls himself the Lizard King. An independent long-haul trucker, he is intelligent, cunning, filled with rage against women (be they “lot lizards”—prostitutes who work truck stops—passing drivers, or his mother), and a serial killer who enjoys capturing and torturing his prey. When the sisters’ car breaks down in the midst of wilderness, they think themselves rescued, until their rescuer turns out to be the Lizard King. When Danielle’s messages to Justin suddenly cease, he knows to turn to his father. Cody, aware that several young women have vanished in the region in recent years, is immediately suspicious, and enlists Cassie to help him find the girls and the man he knows to be their kidnapper. Filled with believable characters and hard, realistic dialogue, Edgar-winner Box’s perfectly paced novel (slated for an August release) offers a suspenseful story laced with more than a few shockingly unexpected plot twists. In unfolding his narrative he provides fascinating insights into the life of the long-distance trucker: how to maintain a Peterbilt, which states have the toughest traffic laws, which truck stops have the most lot lizards available for easy assault—and how the nature of life on the road, where the driver never stays long in a single place and can be hundreds of miles away in a matter of hours, can readily allow the criminal to get away with murder for years. While Cody confronts his own demons—including some he never expected—Cassie comes into her own as a good cop in spite of the condescension, sexism, and personal insults she has faced from most everyone save for Cody; and watching her confidence in her own skills grow as she confronts darkness greater than anything she has previously imagined is tremendously satisfying. As the film Duel demonstrated, the mere sight of an enormous truck speeding up behind you on a long, empty stretch of highway is never comforting; and Box works that inherent fear masterfully. Jack Womack is best known for his novel Random Acts of Senseless Violence.
From the Publisher
Early Praise for The Highway:

A non-stop, action-filled race against time. Rolling down the superhighway of suspense, this thriller will leave readers breathless." —Library Journal (starred review) 

Praise for Back of Beyond:

 

Chosen as a Kirkus Reviews "Best of Fiction"

 

"One of the most suspenseful wilderness thrillers since Deliverance. And Box's characters are so real that you want to reach out and shake their hands or flee from them as fast as you can." —Associated Press

 

"Terrifically entertaining stuff that comes together with a bang in the end." —Kirkus Reviews

"Grade A...page-flying suspense with superior character portrayal...a great adventure." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

 

"Box knows life and death in the backcountry like few other writers today." —Library Journal

"Terrifically entertaining stuff that comes together with a bang in the end..." —Booklist

 

"Once again, Box provides the complete suspense package..." —Kirkus (starred review)

Kirkus Reviews
The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Breaking Point, 2013, etc.) works the area around Yellowstone National Park in this stand-alone about a long-haul trucker with sex and murder on his mind. The Lizard King, as he calls himself, normally targets lot lizards--prostitutes who work the parking lots adjacent to the rest stops that dot interstate highways. But he's more than happy to move up to a higher class of victim when he runs across the Sullivan sisters. Danielle, 18, and Gracie, 16, are supposed to be driving from their mother's home in Denver to their father's in Omaha, but Danielle has had the bright idea of heading instead to Bozeman, Mont., to visit her boyfriend, Justin Hoyt. Far from home, their whereabouts known to only a few people, the girls are the perfect victims even before they nearly collide with the Lizard King's rig and Danielle flips him off. Hours later, very shortly after he's caught up with them in the depths of Yellowstone and done his best to eradicate every trace of his abduction, Justin, worried that Danielle refused his last phone call, tells his father that something bad has happened. Cody Hoyt, an investigator for the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Department, is already having a tough day: At the insistence of his crooked boss, Sheriff Tubman, his longtime student and new partner, Cassandra Dewell, has just caught him planting evidence in an unrelated murder, and he's been suspended from his job. If he's lost his badge, though, Cody's got plenty of time on his hands to drive downstate and meet with State Trooper Rick Legerski, the ex-husband of his dispatcher's sister, to talk about what to do next. And so the countdown begins. Box handles this foolproof formula with complete assurance, keeping the pot at a full boil until the perfunctory, anticlimactic and unsatisfactory ending.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250031921
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/30/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 9,854
  • File size: 822 KB

Meet the Author

C. J. Box

C.J. BOX is the bestselling author of Back of Beyond, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, and sixteen other novels including the award-winning Joe Pickett series. Blue Heaven won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2009, and Box has won the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, and the Barry Award. His first novel, Open Season, was a New York Times Notable Book and an Edgar Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. Box’s work has been translated into twenty-six languages. He lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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Read an Excerpt


1.
 

4:03 P.M., Tuesday, November 20
HE CALLED HIMSELF THE LIZARD King. The prostitutes known as lot lizards feared him. More precisely, they feared his legend, the idea of him. None of them who’d ever seen his face up close lived to describe it.
He was parked in the back row of trucks with his diesel engine idling, his running lights muted, his hair slicked back, and a bundle of tools on the floorboard on the right side of his seat within easy reach. He was hunting but there was no need to go after his prey. The lot lizards would come to him.
The truck stop was four miles west of Billings, Montana, off I-90. A cold mist hung in the air and moisture beaded on the windows and the paint jobs of more than seventy big trucks. The black asphalt lot shined as if freshly varnished between the rows of semis, reflecting the lighted highway signs and hundreds of streams of horizontal running lights from the parked trucks themselves. The air outside hummed with rumbling engines. Tendrils of steam rose from beneath the engines and combined with the undulating waves of heated exhaust that rose from beneath the big rigs.
From his high perch in the dry and warm cab, his sight lines were clear. The truck plaza itself was filled with activity and he noted it carefully. Vehicles entered and exited the long banks of fuel pumps in front of the garish low-slung building a hundred yards away. Professional truckers filled 150-gallon aluminum tanks with diesel fuel on one side of the lot, passenger cars and vans filled up with gasoline on the other.
Inside the truck stop restaurant, waitresses served the $10.95 T-bone special advertised on the marquee near the exit. Drivers lounged in the “trucker’s only” section checking e-mail, comparing road conditions, or drinking coffee. Truck stop employees cooked up fried chicken and potato wedges for the lighted bins at the front counter and manned the cash registers selling salted snacks, energy boosters, beef jerky, and drinks.
This was the way it was on the open road; islands of lighted activity in a sea of prairie darkness. Cars and families on one side, truckers on the other, but sharing the same facility. Two vastly different worlds that met only at places like this. Inside, truck drivers and citizens barely acknowledged each other and the modern truck stop was designed so there would be little interaction. Sure, the drivers would get on their radios and laugh at the rubes they’d run into inside and mock their looks or stupid conversations, but inside they were segregated between the amateurs and the professionals, the clueless consumers—the civilians, the amateurs—and the cloistered universe of the providers.
He was on the road so much his outlook on it had changed completely over the years. It no longer seemed like he was moving, for one thing. Now he felt as if he were stationary while the road rolled under him and the scenery flowed by. The world came to him.
Like the captain of a large ocean vessel, a large swath of the landscape was off-limits to him, as he was confined by the shipping lanes that were interstate highways. When he parked his truck at a rest area or truck stop for the night he couldn’t venture into town because he had no way to get there unless he walked. It was like a captain who had to anchor his boat and take a dinghy to shore.
Oh, how he resented the smug people in those towns. They thought their food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and electronics simply appeared at stores or on their front doorsteps. They didn’t stop to think that every item they ate or wore or used was likely transported across the nation in the trailer of his truck or those like him, or that the hardworking blue-collar rednecks they avoided in real life and despised on the road were the conduits of their comfort and the pipeline of their wealth.
*   *   *
It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so there was more traffic on the highways than usual. It would be much worse the next day as families moved across the country with a lull on Thanksgiving and another spike on Sunday as people returned home. He was used to it. The rhythms of the road were like rivers that flooded and receded in perpetuity.
The Beartooth Mountains to the south were light blue with new snow and the lack of stars indicated heavy cloud cover. It was still warm enough on the valley floor that the moisture hadn’t turned to snowflakes, but there was a snap in the air outside and he watched as travelers left their cars and zipped up coats on their way into the truck stop. He snorted at an overweight family of fools wearing T-shirts and shorts who practically ran from their passenger van to the door that led to the restrooms. Fucking idiots. What if they broke down wearing clothes like that? Who would they look for to rescue them? Me, he thought. The invisible, faceless trucker.
In the darkened cab of his eighteen-speed Model 379 Peterbilt, the Lizard King was alone, quiet and still, the cab perched over 550 horses of steel muscle under the iconic squared-off snout. The truck was flat black, stripped of chrome, and as subtle as a fist. It was a trucker’s truck the way a Harley-Davidson was a biker’s bike. He’d even painted the twin stacks with black chimney paint to eliminate any hint of flash.
Without looking down, he let his right hand slip down on the side of the seat until he could find the string that held his bundle together. He pulled the cord and the bundle unrolled. His fingertips traced each item. Everything had been wiped clean and sterilized since its last use: the tire thumper, which was a short lead-filled wooden baton used to check the pressure of his eighteen wheels, the pliers and wire cutters, two pairs of handcuffs, four knives—the heavy hunting Buck, the short folding Spyderco, the long thin filet knife, and the stainless-steel hatchet. His lightweight Taurus 738 TCP semiauto in .380 ACP. In an oblong, hard, and hinged box once used for sunglasses was a syringe filled with Rohypnol. And his vintage fourteen-inch long Knapp butcher saw with the aluminum T-grip and both bone and wood teeth on opposite sides of the blade. It was designed for the rapid field butchering of big game. He ran his thumb gently along the bone teeth.
Satisfied that everything was in order, he removed the tire thumper and placed it on the dashboard next to his roll of one hundred-mile-an-hour brown Gorilla tape. Both were standard items used by every trucker and they wouldn’t draw a second glance. He bundled the rest of the tools and reached under his seat for the satchel, which contained heavy plastic bags, the wire ties, his folding shovel, the 300,000 volt Stun Master stun gun, and the three-inch-wide roll of duct tape. He put the bundle of tools back into the satchel and zipped it closed.
If things went well, he wouldn’t even need to reach for the satchel. If things went well …
*   *   *
The Lizard King glanced around the cab to make sure he’d completed all the items on his mental checklist. The carpeted floormats had been pulled and stashed, leaving a bare metal floor. Both seats were fitted with clear plastic covers. All logbooks, maps, and other paperwork—anything that could absorb fluid—had been stashed away. He turned in his seat. The cloth drapes separating the cab from the sleeping cabin had long ago been replaced by clear shower curtains that allowed him to see clearly into the back. On his bunk was a specially adapted cover made from blue tarpaulin, and plastic sheeting lined the walls. The single small window of the sleeper was blacked out.
He’d forgotten nothing. There was no cloth or porous surface for blood, hair, or fiber to cling to inside, and the cab and cabin could be hosed clean in a few minutes by a power washer.
He was ready.
*   *   *
He waited for the segregation between the professionals and the amateurs to breach. It did when a rusted-out van cruised the trucking lanes and parked in shadow on the side of the truck stop. North Dakota plates.
Two lot lizards got out and the van drove away. That meant they had thumbed a ride or made arrangements for a pickup later. Meaning there would be no telltale vehicle left at the truck stop to raise any alarm. That was good.
What wasn’t so good was that there were two of them. It wasn’t unusual; they tended to partner up to some extent. Which meant if one of them vanished the other would know.
One lot lizard, who was short and heavy and dark—maybe an Indian from the res to the south—started off for the far corner of the lot. She’d work that side first, he guessed. He breathed a sigh of relief.
The other one put her hands on her hips and looked in his direction.
She looked thin and gaunt and had long stringy blondish hair haloed by the blue overhead lamps and the mist. He couldn’t see her face yet because of the darkness. A long sweater or shawl-like cape hid her figure, which was one of the tricks of the trade. She teetered on high heels and held her hands out to her sides as if for balance and she baby-stepped toward the parked lines of trucks.
Perfect.
He stubbed his cigarette out and squinted through the curl of smoke and the rain-smeared windshield. He could feel his insides start to knot.
*   *   *
Since that morning outside of Chicago the Lizard King had been planning the hunt. He’d awakened in his bunk thinking about it, and at breakfast he’d gone through his mental checklist. It had been several weeks, and he was due.
He pulled a fifty-three-foot trailer known as a “reefer,” meaning the inside of the box was controlled by a separate diesel refrigeration-slash-heating unit mounted on the front. Depending on the contents of his load, he could keep the box cool to freezing, and his loads were primarily pallets of fresh or frozen food. He ran coast-to-coast, picking up apples in Yakima, Washington, and delivering them to Boston, and completing the circuit with yogurt from Connecticut or potatoes from New Jersey to be delivered in the west. The loads and destinations varied from circuit to circuit, and sometimes he forgot what he was hauling. It took him four and a half days to run from one coast to the other, and he generally completed two full laps of the nation before returning home. His life was a rhythm of three weeks on the road, a week at home to recuperate and get repairs, then three more weeks of running. He was on his way home after nineteen straight days on the road; meaning no more than eleven hours of driving in any fourteen-hour period, and ten hours of rest in order to legally drive another eleven.
The Lizard King knew mileposts on every highway in America and knew which truck stops to fuel up and which ones to avoid. He timed his routes to avoid as many weigh scales—called “chicken coops”—as possible and he’d rather use his piss-jug than be forced to stop at highway rest areas frequented by homosexuals known as “pickle parks.” Like all truckers, he did his best to avoid states with overbearing troopers and stupid regulations like Minnesota, Ohio, California, Oregon, and Washington, and he gave a wide berth to other trucks from companies known for poorly trained drivers.
*   *   *
It had taken just one glimpse of a young woman the night before, red-haired and college-age, her car filled with boxes and clothes she was taking home for Thanksgiving break, who passed him on an incline and swung back into his lane so recklessly that he had to tap his brakes and lean on his horn. When he was able to catch back up with her in the passing lane she looked up and their eyes met for a brief second. Then she flipped him off with dismissive contempt. That’s all it took. Rage blasted through him and orange spangles erupted in front of his eyes.
Before he could swing his rig over into her lane and force her off the highway she stomped on her accelerator and shot ahead. Their bumpers almost kissed but she gained distance. He cursed the half-load in his trailer that held him back. It was like dragging an anchor behind him. He cursed that red-haired girl until her taillights faded away in the dark.
He’d kept an eye out for her all the way to Janesville, Wisconsin. But by the time he got to Chippewa Falls he’d lost her somewhere. She’d either continued to speed home straight ahead or she’d taken an exit off the interstate.
She had no idea, he thought, how lucky she was. Outside West Fargo, he’d barely slept and he thought of what she’d look like bound in cuffs and tape with a whole new attitude toward him.
So after breakfast, in light rain outside of Mandan, he parked at a rest area and pulled on his raincoat. The first thing to do was to make his loaded eighty-thousand-pound truck invisible. He did it by covering the transmittal dome of his Qualcomm unit with a shower cap lined with aluminum foil and sealing the bottom with tape. This way, neither his employers nor curious troopers could track his movements or his speed.
His anticipation built throughout the day as he rolled west. He paid special attention to the radio and slowed in advance of the speed traps or scales outside Wibaux and Bad Route, Montana, and he didn’t stop for lunch or mandatory rest periods although he lied in his logs to say he did. He shot across I-94 in Montana maintaining the perfect speed of sixty-three miles per hour for maximum fuel efficiency for his Caterpillar C15 motor to get as far ahead of schedule as possible. They shouldn’t expect him before 10:00 P.M. If the dispatcher, that bitch, said she had trouble tracking him via his Qualcomm, he’d curse and say it must have malfunctioned again like the last time.
He gained four hours, he figured, by the time he hit Miles City, Montana. Four hours of free time, where no one would be watching. He’d carry that four free hours with him as he pounded west, and not withdraw a minute of it until he got to the truck stop outside Billings.
Four hours was more than enough time to do what he needed to do. He’d done it in two, so he was sure of it.
*   *   *
He’d arrived early to the truck stop, an hour before dark. At that time there was plenty of room in the back row of the trucker’s lot when he arrived, and he took a middle space without neighbors on either side.
Choosing the back row meant something to other truckers. Either the driver wanted to get some real sleep in his cabin behind the seat, or he wanted privacy to rest or do paperwork, or, in this case, he was sending a signal that he was available to the truck stop prostitutes who worked the facility. The lot lizards.
He carried a duffel bag across the lot in the dusk and went straight to the trucker’s entrance of the building. Inside, he paid eleven dollars for a shower. He shaved and changed into a disposable one-piece Tyvek jumpsuit with elastic bands on the sleeves and cuffs. The jumpsuit got no strange looks in the trucker’s lounge because truckers wore all kinds of strange clothing. A driver with a full beard, a multicolored serape, and flip-flops sat at a table reviewing his logbook. The man didn’t even look up. One driver he knew drove in his underwear with the heat on high.
Still, though, when he became the Lizard King he knew his presence made a statement. People shied away from him when they saw him coming. Conversations stopped as he passed by, like there was some kind of malevolent black cloud hanging over his head. And when he stared at others they tended to quickly look away. It used to bother him, but now he took a kind of perverse pride in it. He didn’t want to make new friends, anyway. What was the point?
The Lizard King had never felt brotherhood toward other drivers. In fact, he found many of them as disgusting as the amateurs on the road. He noted how many piss-jars and urine bombs had been tossed on the side of the road, how many Walmart bags of feces. He’d seen the cutaways in the floorboards of some trucks, and he cringed when he witnessed fat truckers parking as close as possible to the truck stop restaurant so they wouldn’t have to waddle far to eat. And then there were the Bible-thumpers …
He avoided the public retail section of the truck stop, and took a long route back to his Peterbilt through dozens of idling trucks so no one would track where he went. As he passed between two semis in the first row he was dismayed to find a small knot of five drivers shooting the breeze back and forth. Three men leaned against the fuel tank of a blue Mack on the left and two others mirrored their posture against a red Kenworth on the right. He had no choice but to walk right through them and to betray no surprise or caution. To his chagrin, they were arguing about a Bible passage.
“That ain’t what it means,” one of them said. The man was tall and well built and clean-shaven. He wore a yellow chamois shirt and a ball cap that read TRUCKING FOR JESUS. His Mack truck had the same logo painted on its door behind him. He said, “Listen: ‘The discretion of a man defers his anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.’ That’s in Proverbs. It means look the other way.”
The driver he was arguing with leaning against the Kenworth had bushy muttonchop sideburns and wore a cowboy hat. He shook his head and said, “No, you listen. Romans 12:20 says, ‘If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for in doing so you shall heap coals of fire on his head.’ That says to me God will get your revenge for you so you don’t need to do any thumpin’. That says God don’t look the other way but you should.”
“God doesn’t do revenge,” the man in the chamois shirt said, rolling his eyes. “He does love and forgiveness. Maybe you ought to do the same.”
“And I will if I know God will do the thumpin’. But if he’s just going to let the bad man get away with it—naw, that don’t seem right.”
“You’re readin’ it wrong, friend,” Chamois said. “Remember that later in Proverbs…”
“Excuse me,” the Lizard King said, “just passing through.” He wanted to get by them as quickly as possible. He hoped they were so deep into their discussion they wouldn’t even recall him later if asked. The front row truckers weren’t all Christians, but many of them were. They’d park next to each other in their sanctimony and self-righteousness and spout verses and lessons to each other while looking down on people like him. He avoided them whenever possible.
The Bible-thumpers sometimes hung bras out their drivers’ side windows at night as a way of warding off the prostitutes since it suggested a husband and wife driving team inside. It was a message known well among truckers, but not all the whores knew what it meant, which caused great consternation among the faithful.
“Hey, you look familiar,” the muttonchop driver said to the Lizard King.
Since he couldn’t just charge through now without making more of an impression than he wanted to, he glanced up at Muttonchops and said, “Sorry, I don’t recall.”
But he did. The truck stop out of Amarillo. Muttonchips had been down there, parked in his Kenworth the row in front of the Lizard King, when that fat lot lizard in the Ugg boots and micromini waddled her way to his Peterbilt. The Lizard King was ready—oh, he was ready—but as he reached down to let her in he looked up to see Muttonchops watching him through his side sleeper window.
It ruined the moment, and destroyed his plans. If Muttonchops was later questioned and could say he saw the fat lizard get into the Peterbilt …
So instead of inviting her in and starting the process, he’d opened the door and as she reached up for his hand to climb inside greeted her face with a kick from his size twelve hunting boot. She fell in a heap on the pavement, blood streaming out of her nose. She was angry but not nearly as angry as he was as he slammed the door shut. He hoped like hell Muttonchops didn’t get a clear look at his face that night when he opened his door.
“McAllen, Texas, then?” Muttonchops said, not sure. “The Flying J down there?”
The Lizard King shrugged. “Nope,” he lied. “I ain’t been down there in years.”
The McAllen truck stop was one of the better locations for lot lizards in the country. It ranked right up there with the Vince Lombardi Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike or any truck stop in Gary, Indiana. Other infamous lot lizard high spots included El Paso, Detroit, and the Port of Albany in New York. Although truckers rarely used CB radios anymore, they still had them. Lot lizards knew it, and he’d hear his radio crackle with, “Anybody need company tonight? If you do, take it to 21. This is Barbie Doll…”
Once the lot lizard and the trucker switched to the other channel—along with everyone else parked at the stop who wanted to listen in—there would be a discussion of services, prices, and the location of the man who wanted company. The Lizard King didn’t ever respond. He waited for them to come to his door.
“Feel free to join us, brother,” Chamois said. “You’re more’n welcome. You don’t have to know nothing about the Bible. My friend here doesn’t, either.”
Muttonchops said, “Hey,” as if offended and a couple of the others laughed.
“Thanks,” the Lizard King said, waving over his shoulder but not looking back.
“You a Christian, son?” Chamois asked.
“Sure,” he said without conviction.
“God bless you, buddy,” Chamois said. “Whatever you are. Whatever the deal is with you.”
And one of the others said, “He needs it.”
The Lizard King didn’t stop or turn around to see who said it. Was it Muttonchops? Did Muttonchops just remember where they’d met and what nearly happened?
As he reached the back bumper of the trucks and turned left, he shot a quick look over his shoulder at the Bible-thumpers. They were still looking in his direction, and Muttonchops was in the middle of them, talking low.
*   *   *
“He needs it” stuck in his craw as he watched the skinny blond lot lizard climb up into a cab ten trucks away. Who were they to judge him, those bastards? he thought. Weren’t they supposed to show some tolerance? Wasn’t their whole act about forgiveness?
She was making her way toward him, truck by truck. Most calls were refusals, but four trucks away he saw a hairy arm reach down from a cab and a big hand grasp hers and pull her up. The lights in the cab went out and he saw cheap curtains pulled sharply across the sleeper cab window. He’d gotten a glimpse of her thin and haggard face from the interior dome light of the cab before it went out, and it wasn’t a face to write home about. But it would do, he thought. He slid the elastic cuff up over his wristwatch and checked the time. In about five minutes she’d be done. It rarely took longer than that. Truckers wanted blow jobs and not much conversation. Rarely did they want anything else that would take more time. Five minutes tops, and the lot lizards backed out, usually grasping stained and crumpled tissue.
He hoped she had all her teeth but if she didn’t, he hoped she had none. He remembered that one in Utah after he’d knocked all her teeth out …
There were more and more semis entering the truck stop by the minute, and more cars. They were pouring in. He couldn’t account for the sudden traffic, but the more chaos and confusion on the lot, the better for hunting.
He sat back, trying to stay calm until she reached him.
He visualized the dispatcher, that dried-up old crow, trying to track him by his Qualcomm and flipping out because she couldn’t locate him or his truck.
His ears hummed with tension and he was so preoccupied he almost didn’t hear the rapping on his driver’s door. The sound jerked him out of his internal debate, and suddenly all was quiet and he was focused.
He wondered how the hell she’d gotten there so fast. Had everyone else rejected her? Or was there a new one, a new lot lizard he hadn’t seen?
He reached over and grasped the door handle and opened it a few inches. It was that damned Chamois and Muttonchop.
He didn’t open his door more than two inches, so they couldn’t see inside.
“Hey, buddy,” Chamois said, “We just heard I-90 West will likely be closed all night.”
“Why?”
“Big propane truck jackknifed a few miles past Laurel. The Montana State Patrol shut down both lanes.”
That explained the sudden arrival of traffic, he thought.
“No shit?” he said, angry they were there but assuming they’d interpret his curse being about the highway.
“Yeah,” Chamois said, “We’re likely to be here all night. The Montana state boys are taking every precaution that jackknifed truck don’t blow up.”
He looked down through the gap between the door and the frame. Muttonchop stood shoulder to shoulder with Chamois but he couldn’t see his face. The Lizard King wanted them to leave. Their presence might spook the lot lizard working her way to him. Or they might turn on her, the Bible-thumping bastards.
“Well,” the Lizard King said, “thanks for letting me know. I may give it a try later, though. I’m not that far from home base and there are a few other routes I can take.”
“Where’s home?” Chamois asked. “Livingston, Montana?”
He was taken aback that they knew, but then realized they’d read it on his door.
“Yeah.”
“That ain’t that far.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’.”
“Well,” Chamois said, as if killing time for a reason the Lizard King couldn’t discern, “you’ll have to decide for yourself which road you take.”
He said it in a way that caused the Lizard King to think it had nothing to do with the highway.
“That I’ll do,” he answered, trying to keep his rage from overtaking him. These bastards were mocking him. “In fact, I’ll do whatever the hell I want and I don’t need any help or advice from you,” he said, slamming the door shut.
As he watched them walk away toward their trucks in the front row, he saw Muttonchop playfully punch Chamois in the shoulder as if they were sharing a joke. He thought of shoving his gearshift into second and mowing them down.
Then he saw her, the blond one. She was descending from the cab four trucks away. The lights inside came back on. And she was teetering toward him on her high heels.
Everything was set up perfectly, but too many factors nagged at him. The closed road, for one. And all the attention the Bible-thumpers had paid him. One of the beauties of the road was its anonymity. The Bible-thumpers would likely be five states away by morning. Still, though, they’d seen his face. They knew his rig. If they were somehow found and questioned later …
A voice in the back of his head squawked: Abort-abort-abort.
But the closer she got, the more his entire body coursed with electricity and it seemed like his nerve endings were firing, shooting sparks. It had been so long, and he was ready to explode. He thought of that red-haired girl calling him a loser. Those Bible-thumpers mocking him. His perfect, perfect plan and preparation.
He almost felt sorry for the lot lizard because she had no idea what kind of hell she was getting herself into.

 
Copyright © 2013 by C. J. Box

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 93 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(34)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(19)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(15)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 93 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 30, 2013

    C J Box revives some characters from BACK OF BEYOND to populate

    C J Box revives some characters from BACK OF BEYOND to populate this thriller of a mystery story. Once I realized that this is NOT the same style as my favorite Joe Picket books, I quickly got engrossed in this fast passed story that covers only a couple of hair raising days in a few people's lives. Evil travels the highways and I might just need to avoid highways for a few days until I get my breath back! 




    Cody Hoyt, ex-alcoholic policeman, has bypassed the law again, for all the right reasons, but bypass them he did. This has given his purely politically minded boss just the excuse he needed to fire Cody. Unfortunately, Cody's new rookie partner, Cassie Dowell, was sent to spy on Cody to provide the evidence of his wrongdoing. As a single mom, she felt obliged to follow through, but she also felt terrible doing this to a man she truly respects for his record of closed cases.




    As Cody and Cassie moan their situations in a local bar, Cody breaks his sobriety. But a couple hours later, Cody's son, Justin, calls to tell his Dad that Justin's girlfriend and her sister have gone missing while they were traveling the highways to Justine's house for Thanksgiving. Cody leaves to check out the situation, even though he no longer has "cop status". Cassie, on her own time, mans the computer to seek information. After a few hours, communications for Cody stops also, and Cassie goes on the search for answers. Troubles they will find, as pure evil shows it's ugly face. 




    This is definitely a darker story than other C J Box books, but the thrills and "issues" are definitely shining through in this story also. The book is populated with deeply flawed characters whom you will root for, and also with purely evil characters whom you wish never existed in real life---but , unfortunately, they do exist. Fortunately for me, Box manages to give just enough descriptions so that I "got the evil" without lots of gratuitous descriptions of blood, gore, and excessively described pain. The "possibilities" that Box describes are so reasonably likely, that it made my mind race for possible solutions. I love that Box tells a great story, which also makes me think, as well as just enjoy his great mysteries. Could this be a future new series for Box? let's hope so!!!

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a phenomenal mystery/suspense book. I really like C.J. B

    This is a phenomenal mystery/suspense book. I really like C.J. Box's fast writing pace. He keeps the story moving at a really quick pace. There lots of twists and turns. The characters are all very well done.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Dark and Twisted

    How many times have you heard DO NOT get in a stranger’s vehicle? If The Highway by author C. J. Box doesn’t prove the dangers of that action, nothing will! Teen sisters, Danielle and Gracie Sullivan, in an act of parental defiance, take a road trip to see Danielle’s boyfriend, Justin (Deputy Sheriff Cody Hoyt’s son), but they never arrive. On a lonely stretch of highway, their car breaks down and the trucker that stops to “help” them becomes their biggest nightmare. Known as the Lizard King, this trucker is actually a twisted monster who preys on women for his own perverse pleasure. Will Cody be able to save them before it’s too late? Will the vast beauty of the landscape work against him?

    The Highway is very dark, an edge of your seat, twisted and gut-clenching battle against an evil so vile, you may want to lock your loved ones away for their own safety! From start to finish, there is no reprieve for your nerves or your imagination! Author C. J. Box has developed his hero with flaws, making him all the more real! He even nailed the teen defiance and daring! When the beauty of the surroundings can become menacing, as well, you KNOW you’ve found some great writing! The pace is quick, the plot is deep and you will be haunted by its contents long after the last page!

    An ARC edition was provided by NetGalley and St. Martin's Press/Minotaur in exchange for my honest review.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    this is a depraved book that I read and sorry that I did I would

    this is a depraved book that I read and sorry that I did I would warn anyone
    thinking
    about getting it

    to leave it off your list, just not worth the read worst Box book yet

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Not recommended

    This is the first C J Box book that I will not recommend. The story is too gory and the language is too rough throughout. The story reminds me of a true incident in the 1980's of a college girl who was raped and murdered in WYoming as she was traveling home on a lonely highway. Too sad.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2013

    This was my first C.J. Box book,and I'm not real sure why.I had

    This was my first C.J. Box book,and I'm not real sure why.I had read alot of reviews on the book,lots of good reviews.So I figured I'd give it a shot.Well to my surprise I couldn't put it down! Needless to say I will be reading more of C.J. Box.I don't want to give away the story but it twists and turns like a rattlesnake.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2013

    Generally a good plot but......

    Moved slowly thru 300 pages. Like other reviewers said, not enough action.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2013

    Left me underwhelmed. I like Box's work normally, but this one

    Left me underwhelmed. I like Box's work normally, but this one made me feel I wasted my time reading a book that glorified the villian while trashing the investigators by making them act non-professionally.

    Come on! If you're going to charge me this much, make it worth my time reading it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Just not up to his normal standards.

    Just not up to his normal standards.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    Good, twisted read

    This is the first book I've read from C.J. and I was impressed. The plot was twisted, but it held my attention. The character development was great and you'll find yourself hating quite a few based on their attitudes and actions. Definitely a must read... but beware, you may start looking at other drivers differently.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    I have loved EVERY one of Mr Box's books until this one. From n

    I have loved EVERY one of Mr Box's books until this one. From now on I will get his books from the library before I buy them.This book was awful. It was depressing, sick, dark, and sad and I wish I had not spent money on it. I read Stephen King so it is not like I have not read a scary book before. I think to enjoy a book you have to like or at least identify with at least one of the characters. I hope this was an experiment because if this author continues with this type of book I will mark him off of my favorite authors list.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Only okay

    I did enjoy this book but not nearly as much as I have enjoyed C J Box books in the past. I think I will stick with Joe Pickett unless I wait longer for many more reviews. I would in hindsight have skipped over this one, as his books are pretty costly. I usually feel they are well worth the cost, as he does write very well, but not in this case.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2013

    So so not enough action.

    So so not enough action.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2013

    Any book I spend an entire day reading deserves five stars. This

    Any book I spend an entire day reading deserves five stars. This one is dark but compelling. He also goes where few authors dare, and for that, I'll bet the reviews for the book will be polarized. I'm glad I read Back of Beyond first, because Box brings back characters from that book. The story reflects his research into the dark side of long-haul truckers--you'll probably never drive past a truck stop without wondering what else goes on there. The characters are realistically flawed. All in all, a scary book, because it could happen. In fact, Box said he got the idea for the book when he learned there's an FBI task force that's looking into disappearances of prostitutes from truck stops. (And make sure you get your car serviced immediately when the engine light comes on!)

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2014

    Thinking about this book even after I put it down

    First book i've read by C.J. Box....and half way through I purchased several more.....love this book.....made me feel like I was right there....the killer was one sick twisted person and you felt like you were in the truck with him......Highly recommend

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Joe Pickett series has always been a favorite of mine. How


    The Joe Pickett series has always been a favorite of mine. However, this standalone gets off to a slow start, a very slow beginning. The reader has to plow through half the novel, learning about two teenage sisters driving supposedly to their divorced father in Omaha for Thanksgiving. The older sister, Danielle, is an airhead; the younger, Grace, practical and determined. Danielle is driving and decides to go to Helena to visit her boyfriend. And thereby hangs a tale: They break down along the way and a predator long-distance trucker abducts and imprisons them in a dungeon.

    At this point, the reader has reached the halfway mark of the story, the plot of which is just about to begin. And the rest is quite obvious. Cody Hoyt, who appeared in a previous book, is a renegade detective who gets fired just as the girls disappear. They were attempting to visit his son, Danielle’s boyfriend, so Cody undertakes to find them. When his partner, Cassie, a relative neophyte, doesn’t hear from him for several hours, she determines to follow his footsteps.

    Joe Pickett quality the novel isn’t. It certainly is well written, but tedious and, to some extent repetitious. While the story is somewhat interesting, it is not particularly entertaining or gripping. And certainly not suspenseful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    good book

    very good book u won't be sorry if u purchase. Have never been disappointed with any of his books

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2013

    I read this book in two days! It was hard to put it down but I

    I read this book in two days! It was hard to put it down but I had to because I have a full time job and two toddler boys! It's very dark and thrilling and THAT is why you can't put it down. You just want to know what will happen next. Can't wait to read more of C.J. BOX!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    I like Joe Pickett better

    Too dark

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2013

    This is one to NOT read!

    I started and stopped four times and got to page 68 and thought that this so bad the library should toss it out. Joe Pickett or forget it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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