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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  • First Published:
    May 2002, 416 pages
    May 2003, 400 pages

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"Do you know what happened?" she asked.

He shook his head. "No. I don't understand it yet. We've been asking everywhere, but there is no word of anything. Some people who might, in theory, have reason to be angry with us from years ago have let it be known that they were not involved, and have offered to help find those who were."

"You can believe them?" she asked.

"Perhaps. We continue to look. . . . There was a strange circumstance the day Paulo was killed." He hesitated, as if puzzling over it, then continued. "Two men were killed at an airstrip not far from here. Shot to death. One was the airstrip manager and the other was an American. There was no indication that they were involved with Paulo's assassination. With that strip, there is always the question of unauthorized landings"--he meant drug smuggling-"but still, it is a strange coincidence. The American was identified through fingerprints. He was not involved in trade, in"--he made a figure eight in the air with his fingers, meaning drugs--"but he served time in prison and was believed connected to American organized crime, to the Mafia. A minor person, he was not important. We are asking more questions of our police, and our police are talking with the Americans. We will find out more, sooner or later."

"When you find them," Rinker said through her teeth, her cold eyes only inches from the old man's, "when you find them, kill them."

His eyes held hers for a moment, doing an assessment of the woman he knew as Cassie McLain. They didn't know each other well, but the old man knew that Paulo's involvement with her was more than casual; knew she'd been pregnant with one of his own grandchildren, this tidy blond American with the perfect Spanish. After the moment, he nodded. "Something will be done," he said.

"This dead American at the airstrip," she said, at the end of the audience. "Do you even know where he was from?"

"That we know," he said. He closed his eyes for a minute, parsing the information in his head. He smelled lightly of garlic, and had fuzzy ears, like a gentle Yoda. There was a legend that in his early years he'd had an informer hung upside down by his ankles, and had then lit a fire under his head. According to the legend, the informer stopped screaming only when his skull exploded. Now Mejia opened his eyes and said, "He lived in a town in Missouri, called Normandy Lake. A woman who lived there told the Missouri police that he'd gone to Cancun on vacation. She said she would come for the body, but she didn't come. When the police went back to the house, she had gone. She'd packed all her personal belongings and had gone away."

"That's crazy," Rinker said, shaking her head. But her brain was moving now, cutting through the glue that had held her since the shooting, and she was touched by a cool tongue of fear. After a moment, she said, "I don't want to go home. I'm a little frightened. If it would be all right, I would like to go to the ranch until I can walk. Then I think I will go back to the States."

"You are welcome to stay as long as you wish," the old man said. He smiled at her. "You may stay forever, if you wish. The friend of my baby."

She smiled back. "Thank you, Papa, but Cancun . . ." She made the same figure eight in the air as he had. "Cancun is Paulo. I think it would be better to go away when I am well."

One of the old man's bodyguards wheeled her back out to the BMW, and as the car pulled away, she looked at the driver's shoulders and the back of his head and realized that she now knew more about what happened at Gino's than the old man did.

SHE KNEW THAT the bullet had been aimed not at Paulo, but at her.

If the old man found out that his baby boy had been killed because of Rinker, and that Rinker had never told them of the danger--she hadn't expected it, hadn't believed it could happen--then maybe the old man's anger would be directed at her.

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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