Tyrannosaur Canyon

Tyrannosaur Canyon

by Douglas Preston

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A stunning new archaeological thriller by the New York Times bestselling co-author of Brimstone and Relic.

A moon rock missing for thirty years...
Five buckets of blood-soaked sand found in a New Mexico canyon...
A scientist with ambition enough to kill...
A monk who will redeem the world...
A dark agency with a deadly mission...
The greatest scientific discovery of all time...
What fire bolt from the galactic dark shattered the Earth eons ago, and now hides in that remote cleft in the southwest U.S. known as Tyrannosaur Canyon?

Tyrannosaur Canyon is a stunning novel from acclaimed bestselling author Douglas Preston, hailed by Publishers Weekly as "better than Crichton."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765349651
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 08/29/2006
Series: Wyman Ford Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 174,841
Product dimensions: 4.32(w) x 6.96(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Douglas Preston is the co-author with Lincoln Child of the celebrated Pendergast series of novels, including such best-selling titles as Fever Dream, The Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, and Relic, which became a number one box office hit movie. His solo novels include the New York Times bestsellers Impact, Blasphemy, and The Codex. His nonfiction book The Monster of Florence is being made into a film starring George Clooney. Preston is an expert long-distance horseman, a member of the elite Long Riders Guild, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He has traveled to remote parts of the world as an archaeological correspondent for The New Yorker. He also worked as an editor and writer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. Preston is the Co-president of International Thriller Writers, and serves on the Governing Council of the Authors Guild.

Place of Birth:

Cambridge, Massachusetts


B.A., Pomona College, 1978

Read an Excerpt

Tyrannosaur Canyon

By Douglas Preston

Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

Copyright © 2005 Splendide Mendax, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-1446-8


STEM WEATHERS SCRAMBLED to the top of the Mesa de los Viejos, tied his burro to a dead juniper, and settled himself down on a dusty boulder. Catching his breath, he mopped the sweat off his neck with a bandanna. A steady wind blowing across the mesa top plucked at his beard, cooling him after the hot dead air of the canyons.

He blew his nose and stuffed the bandanna back into his pocket. Studying the familiar landmarks, he silently recited the names—Daggett Canyon, Sundown Rocks, Navajo Rim, Orphan Mesa, Mesa del Yeso, Dead Eye Canyon, Blue Earth, La Cuchilla, the Echo Badlands, the White Place, the Red Place, and Tyrannosaur Canyon. The closet artist in him saw a fantastical realm painted in gold, rose, and purple; but the geologist in him saw a set of Upper Cretaceous fault-block plateaus, tilted, split, stripped, and scoured by time, as if infinity had laid waste to the earth, leaving behind a wreckage of garish rock.

Weathers slipped a packet of Bull Durham out of a greasy vest pocket and rolled a smoke with gnarled, dirt-blackened hands, his fingernails cracked and yellow. Striking a wooden match on his pant leg, he fired up the quirly and took in a long drag. For the past two weeks he had restricted his tobacco ration, but now he could splurge.

All his life had been a prologue to this thrilling week.

His life would change in a heartbeat. He'd patch things up with his daughter, Robbie, bring her here and show her his find. She would forgive him his obsessions, his unsettled life, his endless absences. The find would redeem him. He had never been able to give Robbie the things that other fathers lavished on their daughters—money for college, a car, help with the rent. Now he'd free her from waiting tables at Red Lobster and finance the art studio and gallery she dreamed of.

Weathers squinted up at the sun. Two hours off the horizon. If he didn't get moving he wouldn't reach the Chama River before dark. Salt, his burro, hadn't had a drink since morning and Weathers didn't want a dead animal on his hands. He watched the animal dozing in the shade, its ears flattened back and lips twitching, dreaming some evil dream. Weathers almost felt affection for the vicious old brute.

Weathers stubbed out his cigarette and slipped the dead butt into his pocket. He took a swig from his canteen, poured a little out onto his bandanna, and mopped his face and neck with the cooling water. He slung the canteen over his shoulder and untied the burro, leading him eastward across the barren sandstone mesa. A quarter mile distant, the vertiginous opening of Joaquin Canyon cut a spectacular ravine in the Mesa de los Viejos, the Mesa of the Ancients. Falling away into a complex web of canyons known as the Maze, it wound all the way to the Chama River.

Weathers peered down. The canyon floor lay in blue shadow, almost as if it were underwater. Where the canyon turned and ran west—with Orphan Mesa on one side and Dog Mesa on the other—he spied, five miles away, the broad opening to the Maze. The sun was just striking the tilted spires and hoodoo rock formations marking its entrance.

He scouted the rim until he found the faint, sloping trail leading to the bottom. A treacherous descent, it had landslided out in various places, forcing the traveler to navigate thousand-foot drop-offs. The only route from the Chama River into the high mesa country eastward, it discouraged all but the bravest souls.

For that, Weathers was grateful.

He picked his way down, careful with himself and the burro, relieved when they approached the dry wash along the bottom. Joaquin Wash would take him past the entrance to the Maze and from there to the Chama River. At Chama Bend there was a natural campsite where the river made a tight turn, with a sandbar where one could swim. A swim ... now there was a thought. By tomorrow afternoon he would be in Abiquiú. First thing he'd phone Harry Dearborn (the battery on his sat-phone had died some days back) just to let him know ... Weathers tingled at the thought of breaking the news.

The trail finally reached the bottom. Weathers glanced up. The canyon face was dark, but the late-afternoon sun blazed on the rimrock. He froze. A thousand feet above, a man, silhouetted on the rim, stared down at him.

He swore under his breath. It was the same man who had followed him up from Santa Fe into the Chama wilderness two weeks ago. People like that knew of Weathers's unique skill, people who were too lazy or stupid to do their own prospecting and hoped to jump his claim. He recalled the man: a scraggy type on a Harley, some biker wannabe. The man had trailed him through Espanola, past Abiquiú and Ghost Ranch, hanging two hundred yards back, making no effort at deception. He'd seen the same joker at the beginning of his hike into the wilderness. Still wearing the biker head scarf, he followed him on foot up Joaquin Wash from the Chama River. Weathers had lost his pursuer in the Maze and reached the top of the Mesa of the Ancients before the biker found his way out.

Two weeks later, here he was again—a persistent little bastard.

Stem Weathers studied first the lazy curves of Joaquin Wash, then the rock spires marking the mouth of the Maze. He would lose him in the Maze again. And maybe this time the son of a bitch would remain lost.

He continued scrambling down the canyon, periodically checking his back trail. Instead of following, however, the man had disappeared. Perhaps the pursuer thought he knew a quicker way down.

Weathers smiled, because there was no other way down.

After an hour of hiking down Joaquin Wash he felt his anger and anxiety subside. The man was an amateur. It wasn't the first time a fool had followed him out into the desert only to find himself lost. They all wanted to be like Stem, but they weren't. He'd been doing this all his life, and he had a sixth sense—it was inexplicable. He hadn't learned it in a textbook or studied it in graduate school, nor could all those Ph.D.s master it with their geological maps and synthetic aperture C-Band radar surveys. He succeeded where they failed, using nothing more than a donkey and a homemade ground-penetrating radar unit built on the back of an old IBM 286. No wonder they hated him.

Weathers's ebullient mood returned. That bastard wasn't going to spoil the greatest week of his life. The burro balked and Weathers stopped to pour some water into his hat, letting the animal drink, then cursed him forward. The Maze lay just ahead, and he'd enter there. Deep in the Maze, near Two Rocks, was a rare source of water—a rock ledge covered with maidenhair ferns, which dripped water into an ancient basin carved in the sandstone by prehistoric Indians. Weathers decided to camp there instead of at Chama Bend, where he'd be an open target. Better safe than sorry.

He rounded the great rock pillar marking the entrance. Thousand-foot canyon walls of aeolian sandstone soared above him, the majestic Entrada Formation, the compacted remains of a Jurassic desert. The canyon had a cool, hushed feeling, like the interior of a Gothic cathedral. He breathed deeply the redolent air, perfumed by salt cedar. Above, the light in the hoodoo rock formations had turned from electrum to gold as the sun sank toward the horizon.

He continued into the warren of canyons, approaching where Hanging Canyon merged with Mexican Canyon—the first of many such branches. Not even a map would help you in the Maze. And the great depth of the canyons made GPS and satellite phones useless.

The first round struck Weathers in the shoulder from behind, and it felt more like a hard punch than a bullet. He landed on his hands and knees, his mind blank with astonishment. It was only when the report cracked and echoed through the canyons that he realized he'd been shot. There was no pain yet, just a buzzing numbness, but he saw that shattered bone protruded from a torn shirt, and pumping blood was splattering on the sand.

Jesus God.

He staggered back to his feet as the second shot kicked up the sand next to him. The shots were coming from the rim above him and to his right. He had to return to the canyon two hundred yards away—to the lee of the rock pillar. It was the only cover. He ran for all he was worth.

The third shot kicked up sand in front of him. Weathers ran, seeing that he still had a chance. The attacker had ambushed him from the rim above and it would take the man several hours to descend. If Weathers could reach that stone pillar, he might escape. He might actually live. He zigzagged, his lungs screaming with pain. Fifty yards, forty, thirty—

He heard the shot only after he felt the bullet slam into his lower back and saw his own entrails empty onto the sand in front of him, the inertia pitching him facedown. He tried to rise, sobbing and clawing, furious that someone would steal his find. He writhed, howling, clutching his pocket notebook, hoping to throw it, lose it, destroy it, to keep it from his killer—but there was no place to conceal it, and then, as if in a dream, he could not think, could not move ...


TOM BROADBENT REINED in his horse. Four shots had rolled down Joaquin Wash from the great walled canyons east of the river. He wondered what it meant. It wasn't hunting season and nobody in his right mind would be out in those canyons target shooting.

He checked his watch. Eight o'clock. The sun had just sunk below the horizon. The echoes seemed to have come from the cluster of hoodoo rocks at the mouth of the Maze. It would be a fifteen-minute ride, no more. He had time to make a quick detour. The full moon would rise before long and his wife, Sally, wasn't expecting him before midnight anyway.

He turned his horse Knock up the wash and toward the canyon mouth, following the fresh tracks of a man and burro. Rounding a turn, a dark shape sprawled in front of him: a man lying facedown.

He rode over, swung off, and knelt, his heart hammering. The man, shot in the back and shoulder, still oozed blood into the sand. He felt the carotid artery: nothing. He turned him over, the rest of the man's entrails emptying onto the sand.

Working swiftly, he wiped the sand out of the man's mouth and gave him mouth-to- mouth resuscitation. Leaning over the man, he administered heart massage, pressing on his rib cage, almost cracking the ribs, once, twice, then another breath. Air bubbled out of the wound. Tom continued with CPR, then checked the pulse.

Incredibly, the heart had restarted.

Suddenly the man's eyes opened, revealing a pair of bright blue eyes that stared at Tom from a dusty, sunburnt face. He drew in a shallow breath, the air rattling in his throat. His lips parted.

"No ... You bastard ..." The eyes opened wide, the lips flecked with blood.

"Wait," said Tom. "I'm not the man who shot you."

The eyes peered at him closely, the terror subsiding—replaced by something else. Hope. The man's eyes glanced down at his hand, as if indicating something.

Tom followed the man's gaze and saw he was clutching a small, leather-bound notebook.

"Take ..." the man rasped.

"Don't try to talk."

"Take it ..."

Tom took the notebook. The cover was sticky with blood.

"It's for Robbie ..." he gasped, his lips twisting with the effort to speak. "My daughter ... Promise to give it to her ... She'll know how to find it ..."


"... the treasure ..."

"Don't think about that now. We're going to get you out of here. Just hang in—"

The man violently clutched at Tom's shirt with a trembling hand.

"It's for her ... Robbie ... No one else ... For God's sake not the police ... You must ... promise." His hand twisted the shirt with shocking force, a last spasm of strength from the dying man.

"I promise."

"Tell Robbie ... I ... love ..."

His eyes defocused. The hand relaxed and slid down. Tom realized he had also stopped breathing.

Tom recommenced CPR. Nothing. After ten futile minutes he untied the man's bandanna and laid it over his face.

That's when it dawned on him: The man's killer must still be around. His eyes searched the rimrock and the surrounding scree. The silence was so profound it seemed that the rocks themselves held vigil. Where is the killer? There were no other tracks around, just those of the treasure hunter and his burro. A hundred yards off stood the burro itself, still packed, sleeping on its feet. The murderer had a rifle and the high ground. Broadbent might be in his sights even now.

Get out now. He rose, caught his horse's reins, swung up, and dug in his heels. The horse set off down the canyon at a gallop, rounding the opening to the Maze. Only when he was halfway down Joaquin Wash did Tom slow him to a trot. A great buttery moon was rising in the east, illuminating the sandy wash.

If he really pushed his horse, he could make Abiquiú in two hours.


JIMSON "WEED" MADDOX hiked along the canyon floor, whistling "Saturday Night Fever," feeling on top of the world. The .223 AR-15 had been field- stripped, wiped clean, and carefully secreted in a crevice blocked with stones.

The desert canyon took a turn, then another. Weathers, attempting the same ploy twice, had tried to lose him in the Maze. The old bastard might fool Jimson A. Maddox once. Never twice.

He strode down the wash, his lanky legs eating up the ground. Even with a map and a GPS he had spent the better part of a week tramping around lost in the Maze. It hadn't been a waste of time: now he knew the Maze and quite a bit of the mesa country beyond. He had had plenty of time to plan his ambush of Weathers—and he had pulled it off perfectly.

He inhaled the faintly perfumed air of the canyon. This was not so different from Iraq, where he had done a stint as a gunnery sergeant during Desert Storm. If there was a place the opposite of prison, this was it—nobody to crowd you, nobody in your face, no faggots, spics, or niggers to spoil the peace. Dry, empty, and silent.

He rounded the sandstone pillar at the entrance to the Maze. The man he had shot lay on the ground, a dark shape in the twilight.

He halted. Fresh hoofprints in the sand headed to and from the body.

He broke into a run.

The body lay on its back, arms by its side, bandanna carefully spread over its face. Someone had been here. The person might even have been a witness. He was on horseback and would be heading straight to the cops.

Maddox forced himself to calm down. Even on a horse, it would take the man a couple of hours to ride back to Abiquiú and at least several more hours to getthe police and return. Even if they called a chopper it would have to fly up from Santa Fe, eighty miles to the south. He had at least three hours to get the notebook, hide the body, and get the hell out.

Maddox searched the body, turning out the pockets and rifling the man's day pack. His fist enclosed over a rock in the man's pocket and he pulled it out and examined it by flashlight. It was definitely a sample, something Corvus had pointedly asked for.

Now the notebook. Oblivious to the blood and entrails, he searched the body again, turned it over, searched the other side, kicked it in frustration. He looked around. The man's burro stood a hundred yards off, still packed, dozing.

Maddox undid the diamond hitch, pulled off the packsaddle. Yanking off the manty, he unhooked the canvas panniers and emptied them into the sand. Everything fell out: a jury-rigged piece of electronic equipment, hammers, chisels, U.S.G.S. maps, a handheld GPS unit, coffeepot, frying pan, empty food sacks, a pair of hobbles, dirty underwear, old batteries, and a folded-up piece of parchment.

Maddox seized the parchment. It was a crude map covered with clumsily drawn peaks, rivers, rocks, dotted lines, old-time Spanish lettering—and there, in the middle, had been inked a heavy, Spanish-style X.

An honest-to-God treasure map.

Strange that Corvus hadn't mentioned it.

He refolded the greasy parchment and stuffed it into his shirt pocket, then resumed his search for the notebook. Scrabbling around on the ground on his hands and knees, combing through the spilled equipment and supplies, he found everything a prospector might need—except the notebook.

He studied the electronic device again. A homemade piece of shit, a dented metal box with some switches, dials, and a small LED screen. Corvus hadn't mentioned it but it looked important. He better take that, too.


Excerpted from Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston. Copyright © 2005 Splendide Mendax, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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