This novel in Kathleen George's stunning Pittsburgh-set police procedural series begins when a young mother dies in a hit-and-run accident caused by two young delinquent brothers. Jack and Ryan Rutter flee to Sugar Lake, the summer community where they vacationed as children. As Detective Colleen Greer searches for the brothers, Jack and Ryan create a terrifying hostage situation. Lightning fast and brilliantly plotted, Hideout is totally riveting.
About the Author
KATHLEN GEORGE is the author of The Odds, which was nominated last year for the Edgar for best novel. She is also the editor of the short story collection Pittsburgh Noir. She and her husband live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
By Kathleen George
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Kathleen George
All rights reserved.
COMMANDER CHRISTIE SLAPPED DOWN a file folder and got up to look out his office door. It was late on a Saturday in early May and there was nothing going on in Homicide. Some of his detectives were relieved about the slack; others were restless. The few who were in were slogging through paperwork.
It was long past time to go home; he'd put in his shift, set a good example and all that. He left his door open and went back to his desk, as if chaining himself to it might keep up the spirit of his troops.
He wanted to talk to his kids so he dialed his ex's house. Catherine was just answering, saying, "Oh, it's you," when he noticed a flutter of activity outside his door. "Kids aren't here," Catherine added.
He tried to see what was happening on the floor. "How come they're both out?" he asked. It was six thirty. Where would they both go?
"It's a crime?"
"Because I have a date. Shock you?"
"No. No, I'm glad." While he watched his two detectives — phone, physical movement — he tried to picture Catherine on a date, still battling so much anger. "The kids are where?"
"At my friend's house."
"Have a good time."
She didn't answer.
He said, "Take care," and hung up.
Paul Mertz and Irina Alexandratos were fetching their jackets, but Alexandratos was on the phone again as Christie hurried over to them.
"What is it? You got something?"
"We just got a 911. Kid on a sidewalk," Mertz said hopefully, buttoning his sport coat. "Caller said he looks dead. Probably crack, so we can get there in case —" His raised eyebrows finished the thought. You got crack, you got a potential killer, Mertz always said. It was more or less true. The crack addicts were the worst.
Alexandratos had a hand up to silence him.
"She's on with the ambulance," Mertz told Christie.
Alexandratos's face fell as she hung up. "Nah, he's still alive," she said glumly. "Ah, well." She wagged her head and looked at her deskful of memos and other junk waiting for her attention. "Commander? We'd like to go to the hospital, you know, in case there was any intention or in case he doesn't make it."
Christie nodded. It might be something. He hoped the tide was turning and there'd be cases to get their teeth into. Dolan and Greer were due at midnight. Murders didn't happen on an even schedule. You either had four of them or none. "I'm going home," Christie told them. "Watch crime on TV."
* * *
JACK RUTTER, DRIVING THE RED TRUCK, had looked for his brother in the usual places. The base house where Ryan bought his rocks looked different today, curtains opened. Jack drove around the corner to East Ohio, where he immediately saw the flashing lights of a police ambulance. He thought, Oh, no, please no. People were standing around. Shit, shit, shit, he breathed. Then he saw through the gaggle of onlookers that his brother's friend Chester was down on the pavement. Ryan was alive at least, squatting next to Chester in front of an empty barbershop with the windows papered over. Jack put the truck in a NO PARKING space with the motor still running and leapt out and went over to his brother. Two baby-faced medics were trying to talk to Chester, turning him slightly. Chester was big, 250 pounds or more.
"What'd he take?" one of them asked Ryan.
"I don't know."
"Come on, talk. You want to be responsible for killing him?"
"Crack, I think."
Jack moved over to Ryan and squatted down beside him.
"We're getting a heartbeat," one medic said to the other, who was clapping an oxygen mask on Chester. "His name?" the guy asked Ryan.
"I don't know."
Jack was trying to get Ryan to stand up when the one EMT man took a call.
They could hear a woman asking, "He's still alive?"
"Yeah. Barely." The medic hung up. "Some detective on the prowl," he said.
Ryan couldn't stand up at first. He was usually jacked up high after he'd smoked, but he was stunned, scared. Jack lifted him and he slid up the wall. "Come on, man. You got to get out of here."
One of the medics looked hard at Ryan. "What's your name?"
Brown wasn't their last name.
"He smoked it?"
The EMT men swept Chester onto a stretcher and into the ambulance as Jack dragged his brother away from the wall and toward the truck. The people who were hanging around moved aside to let them through.
Ryan moaned. "He might die."
"I know," Jack said. "But we gotta go." The EMT, hardly older than Jack and Ryan, slammed the door of the ambulance and the driver took off as Jack guided his brother toward the corner. "I left the motor running. Hurry. You can't hang out here."
Two dressed-up people holding hands stopped walking to watch Jack helping Ryan into the passenger seat of the truck. Jack said, "What are you looking at? Keep to your own business." Ryan took a mock swing in their direction through the window of the truck.
Jack drove away from the scene toward a place on Western where he wanted to buy food so they'd have it later when Ryan was able to eat. He kept looking behind him in the rearview mirror. No police were following them.
"Chester is my friend ..."
"I know. You feel okay?"
"I feel sick."
Ryan was the older of the two brothers. There was a point in their childhoods when Ryan took care of Jack. Now it was the other way around most days. "What were you doing on East Ohio?" Jack asked, meaning in front of the barbershop with the FOR SALE sign.
"The other place, the basement place, is being watched."
The open curtains. That was it. "So you went like, what, ten feet away?"
"Morgan figured how to get in the back way to the barbershop. He's meeting people there until he can find somewhere else. You think Chester's going to make it? He did the chicken."
The chicken was bad. That was the flapping around before everything stopped. "He's going to make it."
"I opened the front door and dragged him out and made some guy with a phone call the ambulance."
"How'd you drag big old Chester?"
"Some other guy helped."
"I don't know who he was. He helped and then he booked."
"Where was Morgan during this?"
"He got out the back way."
Jack parked the truck and took a deep breath. All day today he had thought about getting away from this scene, even if it meant getting away from Ryan. "You are real bad messed up. This has to end."
"Where'd you get the money to pay Morgan?"
"Up the hill. Turned out some lady was home." Chester and Ryan had been laughing about roughing up some old lady. They said they'd leave Jack out of it because he was a pussy and you had to be very persuasive with the old ladies.
"You hurt her?"
"No," Ryan said vaguely as if not quite sure.
Jack finally went into the shop. He watched out the window to be sure his brother stayed put while he ordered a couple of pieces of pizza and a large cup of coffee. As soon as he put the order in, he returned to the truck with the coffee and leaned in the passenger window. Ryan was drumming on his thighs. The coffee was boiling hot.
"You okay?" Jack said.
They both laughed a little, thinking of the same thing — one of Chester's stories. Chester once broke into someone's house, ate their food, drank their wine, popped their prescriptions, then curled up on the sofa and went to sleep. Owner came home, ran out, called the police, the police came. None of it woke Chester. The police had to shake him awake. According to Chester, the police said something like, "Hey, buddy, what're you doing here?" And Chester gave them a nice big smile and said, "Oh. Just chillin'." Afterward, the police kept imitating him, joking and laughing. "He was just chillin'." Even the owner of the house found it funny and didn't press charges.
Chester was big, sly, always playing, and Ryan admired him.
"Let's go up to Tanya's," Ryan said now.
Chester's girlfriend had an apartment she'd let them stay in a couple of times when Chester wheedled her into it and they gave up a couple of dollars for the pleasure of sleeping on her floor.
When he figured the pizza slices were ready, Jack went back inside and paid. It felt fantastic to have money in his pocket. He vowed not to tell Ryan how he got it.
"Not hungry," Ryan said as Jack got in the truck and handed over the box. Ryan put the cardboard box on the floor.
Jack drove up the hill to the clump of bushes where they parked the truck at night and he finished up his coffee. He wondered if Ryan could be a different person if he got away from here, away from Chester and Morgan and the lot of them.
Ryan felt in his pockets for a pack of cigarettes, as if he'd finally remembered what he wanted. Finding a crumpled pack, he scooped out a bent one and lit up. Suddenly his eyes came alive. "Hey. How'd you pay for the pizza? Hey, where the fuck were you all day?"
"Just driving. Mostly. Got a little money."
"No shit." Ryan blew out a large bellows of smoke and punched him on the arm, too hard. "Good, good. You finally did something."
Jack looked out the window into a cluster of wild bushes. Night hadn't completely fallen yet. He'd actually taken Chester's advice about finding a summer place to break into where they could hole up for a while. And he'd found one. Or more accurately remembered one at Sugar Lake and found it again. He hadn't broken in, but he'd thought about going there on his own, just to live for a while. It was two hours away. He couldn't figure out how to get there without the truck, and if he took the truck, Ryan would be angry.
That was only one of the things he did today.
But Ryan was all attention now. "How'd you get the money?"
That was another story.
"Yeah." A lie.
"A house. Way out. Rural."
"No shit. Anybody home?"
He hesitated. "Yeah."
"And what? Who?"
"Some old lady."
"Chester says the old ones are the best."
A patter of sound began on the truck's roof and the windshield. Ryan sighed. "Fucking rain." He started to shiver. He looked back at the bed of the truck, where they usually slept.
The dashboard clock said it was after nine. Just dark.
They waited for a while. The rain kept coming down, not hard, but hard enough to keep them out of the bed of the truck.
Jack started up the engine. "Maybe Mum'll put us up."
Ryan had called their mother every name in the book and then asked her for money. Even though he hated her, he'd probably be able to get around her. They hadn't seen her for over a year. "I hate the bitch."
It was ten thirty when they drove up to Perrysville and then to Defoe Street to their mother's place. They tried the doors of her place, back and front. Both doors were locked. They banged on the back door, hard. A window went up in the second floor of the house next door. A man's voice said, "Go away. You're disturbing the peace. Your mother's gone."
"How would you know?"
"I've seen you two banging on the door before. You're talking about the red-haired woman? She's gone. She moved."
"How the hell would I know? She moved."
"Let's get out of here," Jack said. He hauled Ryan to the truck. They went too fast down the hill, Ryan shouting that he wanted cigarettes and he wanted to go to Bippy's and get some booze. "And I want to go see about Chester."
* * *
ADDIE WARD LUGS PRIMER AND SANDPAPER and a couple of scrapers from her mudroom to her living room windows so she'll have to face them tomorrow morning when she must attack the rotting windowsills, must.
She thinks back to earlier today, the odd boy who came by wanting work. She'd been trying to make herself do things, but not succeeding very well. Something was wrong, a flutter in her heart. She'd had a terrible dream last night — of her own death. She felt it. She was in the dream-film and out of it at the same time, so that she saw herself dying, but she also felt the sensation of lying down, feeling panic, feeling everything stopping. In a couple of weeks she has a birthday, eighty-three, and if she learned anything at all during the forty years she worked in a doctor's office, it was what a dangerous age eighty-three is. That's when it falls apart — that's when a person faces illness or death. Car mechanics can say, "In ten thousand miles, you'll need new brakes." Doctors are afraid to use that language, but if they were honest, they'd say, "Make it past eighty-three and you're probably good for a while." Also, if doctors were honest, they'd say, "Tiptoe for about a month before your birthday, any birthday." Because people tended to die (at whatever age they died) about a month before the year turned. There were mysteries still to be solved; the body had its own secret calendars.
This morning she'd wakened and she couldn't shake off the dream. She had a whole list of things she wanted to do — everything from shingle the roof to drive into town for groceries — but she threw up her hands. Time to pause. She couldn't quite go to an emergency room to report she'd had a bad dream last night.
Then the boy came by.
If I konk out, she told herself, at least someone is here. He can call 911. Maybe he knows CPR.
She had a Gary Cooper movie on TV. The Fountainhead. She could remember seeing it with Archer, oh such a long time ago.
And when the boy came to the door, her first thought was, he seemed odd. Guilty and mumbly. She had her hearing aid in, but she also had the television up loud. She had to concentrate to hear him.
"Need your grass cut?" He had a bit of an accent. The "cut" ended in a glottal stop. So he was English or something.
"I'm not expensive." Yes, there it was again, the t in the back of the throat.
"I can do it myself, tomorrow maybe."
"You? It's ... a lot."
"I was about to fix the roof," she added almost defiantly. "I can still do things."
"I can fix your roof."
She looked at him skeptically. He'd pulled his truck around back as if he planned to stay. He cast his eyes about her house and yard.
"Whatever you usually pay," he said.
"Go ahead, then, on the yard." She had grave doubts that he could do CPR or layer shingles.
He moved off to her garage, a barnlike shed that she'd left open, and took out her power mower. He looked at it as if he didn't know what to do with it. She'd been up here since mid-April to get the lettuces and flowers and vegetables in and thriving. She hoped he wouldn't ruin them.
But she decided not to be afraid. She let him work all day. She taught him how to do the roof and then ... she'd seen how skinny he was, how he inhaled the iced tea and water and anything she gave him, so, in the long run, she fed him dinner, too. It was a dinner made out of nothing, made out of magic. A frozen fish Tom Jensen had given her last summer. Some grits. A rind of cheese. Vegetables she had frozen for soup that she mucked up with a lot of oil and onion. She found a loaf of bread in the freezer and baked it. The boy said it might be the best meal he ever had. Well, she'd done that for him.
The windowsills are raw. She'll have splinters for sure. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
* * *
THE GUARD AT EMERGENCY is a middle-aged man with a shaved head. He looks like he could put both of them down with one arm. He studies their faces, makes them go twice through the scanner, and examines with apparent suspicion all they have taken out of their pockets. Jack tries to make eye contact. Ryan doesn't even try to be civil. Finally the guard nods them through.
The harried intake clerk inside looks up and begins typing. "Name?"
"We're just here to see about our friend."
He examines them briefly. "Friend's name."
"Just came in?"
The clerk clicks at a few keys. "No," he says. "No."
"Can't see him. I'm sorry."
"What the fuck ...?"
"Orders. It's in the computer."
"Is he dead?"
The man smirks. "Alive, but he's being sent somewhere."
"Confidential. I can't give that out."
"Come on, man. We got the whole way up here —"
"Family only. There are rules. And you have to quit harassing me."
"Just tell us where he's going to be."
"I'm not allowed to give out that information."
"He's our friend."
"I'm sorry. There are privacy laws."
Ryan says, "This is a fucking fascist prison."
"Hey. Let's go." Jack nudges Ryan along to the exit.
Excerpted from Hideout by Kathleen George. Copyright © 2011 Kathleen George. 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kicks a duck. Duck: quackquackquak!!!!!
Walks back in then back out
Smokes his vape
Great story. Kathleen George pulls you into the story and you cant put it down. Love the characters.
I enjoyed this one as much as The Odds. A lot of similarities. A very good read.