Black Mountain

Black Mountain

by Les Standiford

Narrated by Richard Ferrone

Unabridged — 10 hours, 35 minutes

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

by Les Standiford

Narrated by Richard Ferrone

Unabridged — 10 hours, 35 minutes

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When Presidential Deal hit the best-seller lists, fans of Les Standiford's other books, including Done Deal , and Raw Deal rejoiced. They already knew what new readers would find: taut suspense, tough characters, and a superb sense of mood. Now in Black Mountain, Standiford combines high-country adventure with a tale of ruthless revenge. Black Mountain looms on the horizon east of Yellowstone. When New York's governor goes there on vacation, policeman Richard Corrigan is an unofficial part of the security team. The first "accident" occurs when the seaplane explodes after dropping them at the campsite. The second is clearly murder. One by one, members of the camping trip fall under the hands of unseen, silent killers. As Corrigan desperately tries to anticipate the next attack, the danger and tension mount with each passing hour. Filled with non-stop action, Black Mountain reaches new heights of suspense, and narrator Richard Ferrone captures every perilous step with his muscular performance.

Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald

Standiford has given himself plenty of targets to pick off along the trail, with the aid of a pair of ruthless and rugged murderers. Even nature takes a turn as a killer during a terrifyingly sudden snowstorm that brings back images of Krakauer's true-life Mount Everest tragedy. Standiford seems to know Wyoming as well as he knows South Florida and is as at home under the shadow of perilous peaks as he is navigating our simple but no less dangerous terrain. Like a born backpacker, he steps surely through his newest adventure, never stumbling on the winding path.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

In 1991, before Standiford launched his popular and acclaimed John Deal thriller series (Presidential Deal, etc.), he published Spill, an undistinguished novel about environmental disaster in Yellowstone. Now he's written another non-Deal novel. It, too, is set in Wyoming, in the Absaroka wilderness, and, though it boasts vigorous writing with lots of action, it, like Spill, lacks the pungent edge of the Deal stories. Standiford's new hero is Richard Corrigan, a NYC transit cop who takes down a homeless man apparently threatening New York governor Fielding Dawson. In reward, Dawson invites Corrigan to join him and 15 others, including a film crew and pretty USA Magazine reporter Dara Wylie, on a highly publicized foray into the Absaroka. In Wyoming, meanwhile, a pair of hired killers, one man, one woman, are--for reasons revealed only at novel's end--plotting to wipe out the Dawson expedition. They begin by blowing up the plane that deposits the party deep in the mountains. As expedition members struggle by foot back to civilization, they die a few at a time--two are caught in an avalanche, several tumble into a gorge when a bridge collapses. Each mishap seems accidental, but soon Corrigan and the other survivors suspect they're being stalked. More are murdered during a blizzard, leading to a final confrontation between the killers and Corrigan, and to a poorly contrived twist ending. Standiford makes terrific use of his spectacular setting, and his characters carry some depth despite their familiarity, but the plotline is so linear--now one death, now another--that it approaches tedium, despite tense sequences. This is a respectable thriller, but for Standiford fans it's only a so-so deal. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

AUG/SEP 01 - AudioFile

Mystery and adventure fans will love this latest effort from one of the masters of the genre. It’s the tale of a popular New York governor’s macho expedition into the Wyoming wilderness to show the country he’s man enough to be president. Narrator Richard Ferrone is masterful. He has the perfect, hard-boiled, slightly grizzled voice that is standard issue for this story, but he adds great characters and a wonderful dramatic sense. Ferrone avoids predictable traps by using subtle vocal inflections to keep us off guard, and he also keeps us guessing about who is behind the mayhem. Listen especially to his descriptions of the great Wyoming scenery. He makes it sound breathtaking. R.I.G. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine

Product Details

BN ID: 2940170831364
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 04/13/2012
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Bright had been trailing the black Suburban for nearly thirty miles, ever since it had left the gun shop in Sheridan, something called Mighty Malcolm's Arsenal and Ordnance. August was nearly gone, now, but there'd been a boldly lettered sign still hanging in one of the shop's barred windows, red, white, and blue: HAVE A BLAST ON THE 4TH OF JULY—ALL HANDGUNS DISCOUNTED.

    Patriotism, Bright thought. Always a useful concept.

    Take those proclamations pasted to the bumper of the big vehicle up ahead. TAKE MY GUN, KISS MY BUTT. THE NRA'S FOR CANDYASSES. And another sticker featuring a rendering of a fist with the middle finger extended, which Bright wasn't close enough to read.

    An actual hand appeared briefly at one of the passenger windows of the Suburban, and a can sailed back in the slipstream, jouncing onto the pavement. Bright felt it pop under his own wheels. He'd seen perhaps a dozen other cans sail by in the last hour.

    They'd turned off 1-90 onto the state highway several miles back, had passed through two wide spots in the road known as Ranchester and Dayton, then turned northward again just shy of a flyspeck called Burgess Junction. They were deep in the heart of the Bighorn wilderness, now, on a winding, ever-climbing, two-lane blacktop that would give out to gravel before long, somewhere above 9,000 feet, somewhere in a vast spread of peaks and pine near the Montana line, population per square mile steady at zero. Bright,having spent far too much of his adult life in human ant piles, the past several months in Hong Kong, the most recent in New York, found the prospect pleasing.

    There had been an exotic game ranch up there once, a fact he had learned in the course of his considerable research. The Roosevelt Preserve, named with unabashed irony, it had sprawled across the shoulders of Black Mountain, the most formidable of those angry-looking peaks and one that had been sacred to the Lakota tribe, the original settlers of the area.

    The Lakota once had hunted the area, too, but they had taken only what they needed for survival and had offered up apologies to their gods each time an animal had fallen. Things had changed, of course. The Lakota long since slaughtered, the few survivors displaced. For a time, their sacred mountain had become a place where world-class high rollers had come to stalk ibex, gazelle, bison, bighorn sheep.

    Were one to pay enough, Bright mused, one might have shot oneself a rhino up there, chased after a snow leopard with an automatic weapon, tracked down some bewildered elephant too old for the circus or stolen from some zoo, finished it off with a bazooka or a Sidewinder missile, whatever turned the hunter in oneself on.

    The ranch had finally gone under, but there was talk of what storybook creatures had escaped or been left behind and were still roaming that far-flung wilderness. All of them fair game, free game, now, for the intrepid hunter, and for what seemed to be the freelance expedition such as that traveling the lonely road just ahead.

    Time to bring that party back to its senses, Bright thought. Time to remind them how careless men can be. He nudged the accelerator of the big Ford Expedition, brought his window down, and reached to place the magnetic lamp onto the roof. It wasn't actually a policeman's light, of course, just as the uniform and the siren belonged to no jurisdiction, but they would help him get the job done.

    At first, the Suburban ignored the flashing blue light, but Bright had expected that. He nicked the siren a couple of times, then held it, its unearthly squawks and whoops doubling and redoubling off the deep canyon walls.

    Another mile, and the Suburban finally slowed, then bumped down grudgingly onto a turnout a hundred feet or so above the stream that sawed with timeless patience at the canyon floor below. Bright had turned off the siren but allowed the flasher to continue its whirl as he got out.

    The moment he emerged into the still air, the heat struck at him. The better part of two miles up, but it was ovenish hot, as close and as hot here, it seemed, as it had been on the plains below. What kind of hunting weather was it, anyway?

    "Some kind of problem?" It was a burly man who addressed him, the driver of the Suburban stepping down onto the gravel, so quiet Bright could hear the crunch beneath the man's spit-polished boots. Five-eleven, maybe six feet, a close-shaved head the shape of a concrete block, no discernible neck. With a massive chest above a formidable gut, he went perhaps 240, and Bright, himself six-two, his 200 pounds easily concealed in the loose uniform he wore, knew what it would feel like to hit him.

    "Please take your hands out of your pockets," Bright told him evenly.

    The man glanced down, then back inside the open compartment of the Suburban, rolling his eyes.

    Bright heard something spoken inside, an answering guffaw of laughter. There were four of them altogether: one standing by the road in front of him, three hidden behind the smoked windows of the Suburban. Convinced he'd taken enough time to make his point, the driver took his hands out of his fatigue-fashioned pants and opened his palms to Bright.

    "You worried I was gonna shoot you?" the man said. He offered a smile that came across as a leer.

    Bright's own expression was neutral. "I'd like to have the others out of the truck," he told the man.

    "What the hell's this about?" the driver said, taking a step toward him.

    Bright didn't back away, simply held up his hand. Something in the gesture must have communicated itself to the man. He gave Bright an exasperated glance, then turned to the open doorway. "He wants you to get out," the man called.

    A chorus of groans and muffled curses. The door nearest Bright swung open, and a tall man with a camouflage cap mashed atop his unkempt dark hair got out, kicking a beer can onto the gravel.

    Hamm's, Bright noted. From the land of sky-blue waters. They were driving a $40,000 vehicle, drinking special-of-the-week beer. Possibly it appealed to their proletarian instincts.

    The tall man looked at Bright. "He ain't been drinkin'," he said, jerking his thumb at the driver.

    Bright nodded, as if it mattered. Then two others, the first a younger-looking, pseudomilitary version of the driver, and the second—something of a surprise to Bright—a stocky, light-skinned black man in jeans and a T-shirt, emerged around the back of the Suburban.

    "What kind of cop are you?" the younger man said, and Bright assumed from his voice that he was the driver's son.

    And a fair question, Bright thought. His vehicle was unmarked, his uniform, such as it was, unadorned. Pale green canvas trousers, a matching shirt, a badge that seemed vaguely official in its shape but offered no explanation as to his affiliation.

    "Forest Service," Bright said. "I noticed your erratic driving."

    "And I'm a Chinese aviator," the young one said. He glanced at his father. "This isn't any traffic cop."

    "Take it easy, Simms," his father said.

    "You mind if I just have a look in the back?" Bright said. Unnecessary, really. He'd had a look while the group had shopped at Mighty Malcolm's. They'd brought along everything he was interested in already. Whatever they had added there would be a bonus.

    "You got a warrant?" This from the tall man, an unlikely-looking litigant.

    "That why you stopped us, to have a look in the back?" the driver said. He affected calm, but there was new color flushing that close-cut scalp.

    The black man had been staring closely at him. Bright noticed that the man's nose was unnaturally flattened, that a fine crosshatching of scars thickened the tissue above each eye. Maybe that explained what he was doing with this crew of self-appointed militia. Take enough punches, your natural enemies might seem to be allies.

    "This fellow is a long way from home," the black man said abruptly.

    There was something forlorn, something resigned, in the way he said it. Or perhaps it was just the shadow of the great mountain that sobered him. Either way, Bright thought, he'd sensed the truth of what was about to happen.

    "Yeah, well, let me just get my license, Officer," the driver said, turning toward the cab of the Suburban.

    The black man also had turned, and was heading around the corner of the Suburban when Bright withdrew the pistol from the holster at his belt. The first shot took the black man in the back, just beneath his left shoulder blade. He staggered forward, spine bowed as if he'd been kicked, then pitched over the side of the canyon.

    The driver was turning with a pistol upraised when Bright shot him twice in the chest. He went backward into the cab of the Suburban, squeezing off a round that blew through the roof with a whang. The roar of the unsilenced shot echoed again and again off the narrow canyon walls.

    Meantime, the driver's younger double was bent over, scrabbling for a pistol sheathed in an ankle holster. Bright shot him squarely in the top of his shaven scalp, and the young man fell back into a sitting position, his head lolling against the side of the Suburban as if he had had just too much beer and hot sun to bear.

    The tall man had bolted around the back of the truck with an agility that seemed surprising for his awkward stature. Bright knew he'd be going for something inside the vehicle. Instead of pursuing the man, he stepped over the inert form of the young man before him and slid into the backseat, just as the opposite door was swinging open.

    Bright kicked hard, heard the surprised grunt from the other side of the door. The man would have been yanking that door open with desperate force. Bright's kick was all it took. The tall man flew backward, lost his grip on the door handle, and sailed out into space, his arms windmilling. Bright caught a glimpse of his surprised face, was on through the passenger compartment in time to see the man land on the rocks below, his hands upflung in permanent surrender.

    All done, well done, Bright found himself thinking. Then felt something grip his ankle, felt his foot fly from under him.

    Stunned, he caught a glimpse of the face of the black mall as he went down hard on his back. Bright felt his breath fly from him, felt his hand bang against the side of the Suburban, heard his pistol clatter away in the gravel.

    The black man, his face twisted up in pain, was pulling himself up over the lip of the cliff, now, his gaze on the pistol, which had come to rest a few feet away. There was no question who would reach it first.

    He saw the man's hand close on the weapon, saw the look of satisfaction on his face as he swung it toward him. Still gasping, Bright swept his hand through a skiff of gravel, stinging the man's face and raising a cloud of dust between them.

    The black man cursed, and squeezed the trigger. Bright heard the familiar chuff of his own pistol, then a great, odd sigh from behind him, the sound of one of the Suburban's huge tires deflating in an instant. The black man was wiping the grit from his eyes with one hand, steadying himself for a second shot, when Bright braced himself against the flattened wheel and drove his heel against the man's forehead.

    The man tottered, but clearly he had taken harder shots. He was bringing the pistol down once more when Bright kicked him again, this time high on the chest, where a bright stain had blossomed on his shirt. The man groaned and fell backward, one hand clutching at his wound, the other locking on to the leg of Bright's billowing trousers.

    Bright kicked him again in the chest, then a third time, but though the man's eyes dimmed in pain, his grip on Bright's leg held firm. Bright slung one arm backward, clawing for a hold on the deflated tire with one hand, reaching for his belt with the other. His feet were sliding in the loose gravel, struggling for purchase like dream appendages. He yanked hard at the clasp of his belt, tore at the fastener of his waistband, his zipper.

    He rolled onto his back, forced his shoulders hard against the wheel of the Suburban, kicked once more, this time giving it everything. He arched his hips off the ground with his follow-through, felt the cloth of his pants peel down his legs in an instant, felt weightlessness for a moment, then heard the man's cry as he sailed off into space. Bright's trousers were still clutched in his hand, flapping above him like some faulty parachute.

    A tree limb jutting from the cliff tore the fabric from the man's hands and flipped him, end over end, toward the stream below. Had it been a true river, the man might have had a chance. Instead, he went head-down into water that might have been a foot deep, the apotheosis of a Do Not Dive Here warning. The crack rose to Bright as if two great stones had been clapped together.

    Bright got to his feet, breathing heavily, and stared down at the crumpled figures below. After a moment, he retrieved his pistol, then went around to the other side of the Suburban to be certain there were no more surprises waiting.

    The canyon had regained its former quiet. Heat waves shimmered above the mute asphalt road. No hum of sixteen-inch tires, no clack of cans tumbling toward the steep shoulders, no raucous, steel-edged laughter. Bright smelled the tang of pine in the still air. A pair of jays swooped overhead, their cries a harsh counterpoint to an otherwise peaceful scene.

    The man who had been driving the Suburban lay half in, half out of the cab, his pistol clutched rigidly in his hand. The one Bright had taken for the driver's son still sat upright against the side of the truck, his porcine eyes bloodshot and protruding, a bottle fly making its way down the bridge of his nose, where a trickle of scarlet had dried.

    Bright glanced at his watch, checked the angle of the sun, let his breath out in a sigh. He would have to find a way down that cliff and scale it again, would have to change a sizable tire, and so much else.

    It was his own fault, of course. The matter could have been handled simply, with far less risk. But he had allowed himself an inexcusable breach of caution, given his line of endeavor and his considerable experience. Was boredom to account for it? Some lapse attributable to such thin air? He might be getting too old for this line of work, he thought. Perhaps he would have to start picking his jobs with more care.

    He glanced out over the tops of the pines clinging to the roadside canyon, toward the distant line of peaks. Maybe it was the mountain, he thought, maybe some lodestone deep inside its mass, some essence that tugged at the workings of any man's inner compass. The Lakota had died, but not because they were stupid about such things.

    He opened his hands to the mountain, bowed his head briefly. He had no idea if the Lakota had behaved that way, but he offered up his apology anyway. This is what I must do.

    And then he turned to regard the men on the ground beside him and shook his head, driving superstition from his mind. They had died, he had not. He would not be so careless again. He had accomplished what he'd set out to do, and he could go on to the next step of the plan, now.

    He bent down to pry the pistol from the hand of the man who'd been driving the Suburban, removed its clip, jacked the remaining round from the chamber. He was about to turn his attention to the arsenal in the back of the vehicle, when he thought of something.

    It took him a moment—it was always difficult undressing a corpse—but it turned out that the pants fit perfectly. He tucked in his shirt, then glanced down at the man who had been so fond of his weapons.

    Bright bent down, applied his lips to the tips of his fingers, and tapped the rigid buttocks of the driver. Acknowledge the spirit of your victim, was that not the Lakota way?

    "Take my gun, kiss my butt." Bright nodded. He had his equipment, now; he had the bodies of the men upon whom everything would one day be blamed. All that remained, then, was the work itself. So he rose and began to do it.

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