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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She demurred. She wanted to learn the long guns, she said. Rifles and a shotgun. Not a double-barreled bird gun or anything cute, but a stubby, fat-barreled combat pump. She didn't want to learn how to shoot any fuckin' birds: give her a shotgun and a moving target five yards away . . .

He shook his head and smiled good-naturedly and showed her the long guns, two weeks of first-class tuition, but he kept coming back to the handgun. "Just try it," he'd say. "You are very natural with a gun. The best woman I have ever seen."

"Shooting's not exactly rocket science," she'd said, but the phrase didn't translate well into Spanish; didn't come off with the irony of the English.

IN HER SECOND two weeks on the ranch, she went a half-dozen times into town, to her apartment, and gathered what she needed in order to move. She also wiped the place: There'd be no fingerprints if anyone came looking for her. Then one Wednesday, after she'd been on the ranch for a month, Dominic came out and said, "We've got word about a man who some people say might have been the driver for the shooting. We don't know where he is, but we know where his family is, so we should be able to find him. Then we might learn something."

"When?" she asked.

"By the weekend, I hope," Dominic said. "We have to know where this came from, so we can get back to business. And for Paulo, of course."

THAT WAS ON a Wednesday. She was still not one hundred percent, but she was good enough to run. She'd handled everything she could by phone, she had documents she could get to, she'd moved the money that had to be moved. She would leave on Thursday afternoon.

She'd already worked it out: She had two doctor's appointments each week, on Monday and Thursday. The driver always waited in the lobby of the clinic. When she came out of the doctor's office, if she turned left instead of right, she would be at least momentarily free on the streets of Cancun, and not ten yards from a busy taxi stand.

She should have half an hour before the driver became curious. If she got even two minutes, she'd be gone. She'd done it before.

RINKER AND JAIME went for one last shooting session on Thursday morning, with the shotgun. Jaime had six solid-rubber, fourteen-inch trailer tires that he could haul around in a John Deere utility wagon. They went out to the gully and Jaime rolled the tires, one at a time, down the rocky slope. The tires ricocheted wildly off the rocks, while Rinker tried to anticipate them with the twelve-gauge pump. When she hit them, at ten yards, she'd knock them flat, but on a good day, she struggled to hit half of them with the first shot. She learned that a shotgun, even at close range, wasn't a sure thing.

When she'd emptied the shotgun, they'd pick up the tires and Rinker would drive them to the top of the slope and roll them down while Jaime shot at them. Taking turns. He did no better than she did, though they both pretended that he did. On this day, she made what she thought later was almost a mistake.

Jaime pulled the Beretta from his belt clip and said, "Just one time with the handgun, eh? Make me happy."

"Jaime . . ." With asperity.

"No, no, no . . ." He wagged his finger at her. "I insist. We have time before the doctor, and this you should learn."

"Jaime, goddamnit . . ."

He ignored her. A half-dozen empty Coke cans sat in the back of the John Deere, and he threw three of them down the gully. "You can do this. You will find it much harder than the rifle or the shotgun."

"Give me the gun, Jaime," she said, making the almost-mistake.

He stopped in midsentence, looked at her, and handed her the Beretta. She'd always liked that particular gun when she was shooting nines: It seemed to fit in her hand.

And she liked Jaime and might have wanted to impress him a bit, on this, her last afternoon. She flipped the safety and pulled down on one of the cans and shot it six times in three seconds before it managed to flip its now-raggedy ass behind a rock.

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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