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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She shivered at the thought, but not too much, because Rinker was as cold as the old man. Instead of worrying, she began planning. She couldn't do anything until she got her strength back, which might take some time. She'd benefited from the report put out by the Mejia family and the Mexican police that she'd been killed along with Paulo--at the time, they'd done it simply to protect her from a possible cleanup attempt if it turned out that she'd seen the shooter.

The story would serve her well enough. The St. Louis goombahs didn't have anything going in Mexico, as far as she knew, and the only information they would have gotten would have come from the newspapers.

On the other hand, with the old man pushing his drug-world contacts, sooner or later the truth would come out. By that time, she had to have made her move.

Before she talked to the old man, she hadn't had anything to do; now she'd be busy. As Cassie McLain, she'd retired, and was living on her investments. As Clara Rinker, she had to move money, retrieve documents, talk to old acquaintances across the border.

She had to be healthy to do it all.

RINKER SPENT A MONTH at the old man's ranch, living in a bedroom in the main house, with an armed watcher to follow her around. The middle brother, Dominic, visited every third day, arriving at noon as regular as clockwork, to bring her up to date on the family's investigation.

All the time at the ranch, she waited for her image of Paulo to fade. It never did. To the very end of her stay, she could smell him, she could taste the salt on his skin, she still expected to see him standing in the kitchen, listening to futbol on a cheap radio, his white grin and black tousled hair and his weekend bottle of American-style Corona . . .

BY THE SECOND week on the ranch, bored but still weak, feeling more and more pressure to move while remaining determined not to move until she was solid, she began talking with her watcher. His name was Jaime, a short, hard man with a deeply burned face and brushy mustache. He was good-natured enough, and went everywhere with a pistol in his pocket and an M-16 in the back of his truck.

Rinker said, "Show me about the M-16."

After a little talk, and perfunctory protests by Jaime, he hauled two chairs out to a nearby gully, set up a target range, and showed her how to fire the M-16. She did well with the weapon and he became interested--he was a gunman, deeply involved with the tools of his profession--and brought out other guns. A scoped, bolt-action Weatherby sporting rifle, a pump .22, a lever-action treinta-treinta, and a shotgun.

They spent two or three hours a day shooting: stationary targets, bouncing tires, and, with the .22, they'd shoot at clay pigeons thrown straight away. The clays were almost impossible to hit--at the end, she might hit one or two out of ten, learning to time her shots to the top of the target's arc.

As they shot, Jaime talked about rifle bullets and loads, wind drift and heat mirages, uphill and downhill shooting, do-it-yourself accurizing. He liked working with her because she was serious about it, and attractive. An athlete, he thought, though she didn't really work at it, like some gym queens he knew in Cancun--trim, smart, and pretty in a blond gringo way.

And she knew about men. He might have put a hand on her, himself, if she hadn't been in mourning, and mourning for the son of Raul Mejia. He remained always the professional.

"There is no way that you can carry or keep a long gun for self-protection," he told her. "With a handgun, you have it always by your hand, like the name says. With a rifle, which is very good if you have it in your hand, well, it will be in the bedroom and you will be in the kitchen when they come for you. Or you will be sitting in the latrine with your pants around your ankles and a Playboy in your hands--maybe not you, but me, anyway--and the rifle will be leaning against a tree, and that's when they will come. So this gun"--he slapped the side of the M-16--"this gun is fine when you are shooting, but you must learn the handgun for self-protection."

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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