Excerpt from Mortal Prey by John Sandford, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Mortal Prey

By John Sandford

Mortal Prey
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  • Hardcover: May 2002,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: May 2003,
    400 pages.

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"Fuck if I know," Izzy said. He was pulling off the latex gloves, shaking glass out of his hair. Blood on his hand-he dabbed at his cheek: just a nick. "A fuckin' Uzi, maybe."

"Uzi? What is this Uzi?"

"Israeli gun, it's a machine gun . . ."

"I know what IS a fuckin' Uzi," the driver shouted. "WHY is this fuckin' Uzi? Why is this?"

"I don't know," Izzy said. "Just get us back to the plane and maybe we can find out."

THE AIRSTRIP WAS a one-lane dirt path cut out of a piece of scraggly jungle twenty kilometers west of the city. On the way, the driver got on his cell phone and made a call, shouting in Spanish over the pounding of the Volkswagen.

"Find out anything?" Izzy asked when he rang off.

"I call now, maybe find out something later," the driver said. He was a little man who wore a plain pink short-sleeved dress shirt with khaki slacks and brown sandals. His English was usually excellent, but deteriorated under stress.

A couple of kilometers east of the airstrip, they stopped and the driver led the way through a copse of trees to a water-filled hole in the ground. Izzy wiped the Remington and threw it in the hole and tossed the box of shells in after it. "Hope it doesn't dry up," he said, looking at the ripples on the black water.

The driver shook his head. "There's no bottom," he said. "The hole goes all the way to hell." The phone rang on the way back to the car and the driver answered it, spoke for a minute, and then clicked off with a nervous sideways glance at Izzy.

"What?"

"Two dead," the driver said. "One bullet?"

"One shot," Izzy said with satisfaction. "What was that machine gun?"

The driver shrugged. "Bodyguard, maybe. Nobody knows."

THE AIRSTRIP TERMINAL was a tin-roofed, concrete block building, surrounded by ragged palmettos, with an incongruous rooster-shaped weather vane perched on top. What might have been a more professional windsock hung limply from a pole beside the building, except that the windsock was shaped like a six-foot-long orange trout, and carried the legend "West Yellowstone, Montana." A Honda generator chugged away in a locked steel box behind the building, putting out the thin stink of burnt gasoline. Finger-sized lizards climbed over walls, poles, and tree trunks, searching for bugs, of which there were many. Everything about the place looked as tired as the windsock. Even the trees. Even the lizards.

From the trip in, Izzy knew the generator ran an ancient air conditioner and an even older dusty-red Coca-Cola cooler inside the building, where the owner sat with a stack of Playboy magazines, a radio, and a can of Raid for the biting flies.

"I'll call again," the driver said. "You check on the plane."

When Izzy had gone inside, the driver, now sweating as heavily as the American, dug a revolver out from under the front seat of the Volkswagen, swung the cylinder out and checked it, closed the cylinder, and put the gun under his belt at the small of his back.

Izzy and the driver had known each other for a few years, and there existed the possibility that the driver's name was on a list somewhere; that somebody knew who was driving Israel Coen around Cancun. But the driver doubted it. Nobody would want to know the details of a thing like this, and Izzy wouldn't want anyone to know.

Only two people had seen the driver's face and Izzy's in the same place: Izzy himself, and the airport manager.

The driver walked into the airport building and pulled the door shut. The building had four windows, and they all looked the same way, out at the strip. And it was cool inside. Izzy was talking to the airport manager, who sat with a Coca-Cola at a metal desk, directly in front of the air conditioner.

"Is he coming?" the driver asked.

"He's twenty minutes out," Izzy said, and the airport manager nodded.

Reprinted from Mortal Prey by John Sandford by permission of G. P. Putnams Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © May 2002, John Sandford. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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