Excerpt from The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Drifter

by Nicholas Petrie

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie X
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2016, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Chapter 1

There was a pit bull under the front porch and it didn't want to come out.

Young Charlie Johnson said, "That dang dog's been there for weeks, sir. It already ate up all the cats and dogs around here. I can't even let my dang little brother out the front door no more."

The hundred-year-old house sat on a narrow lot on the edge of a battered Milwaukee neighborhood that, like the house, had seen better days. It was early November, not warm, not even by Wisconsin standards. The leaves had already fallen from the skeletal trees that towered overhead.

But the sun was out, which counted for something. And the sky was a high, pale morning blue. Not a morning for static. Not at all.

Peter Ash said, "Just how big is this dog?"

Charlie shook his head. "Never seen it up close, sir, and never in daylight. But it's awfully dang big, I can tell you that."

"Didn't you call animal control?"

"Oh, my mama called," said Charlie. "Two men came, took one look under there, got right back in their truck and drove away."

Charlie wore a school uniform, a light-blue permanent-press dress shirt, dark-blue polyester dress pants, and giant polished black shoes on his oversized feet. He was the kind of skinny, big-eared, twelve-year-old kid who could eat six meals a day and still be hungry.

But his eyes were older than his years. They didn't miss a thing.

He was watching Peter Ash now.

Peter sat on the closed lid of a wooden toolbox, his wide, knuckly hands on the work-worn knees of his carpenter's jeans, peering through the narrow access hatch cut into the rotted pine slats enclosing the space under the porch. He had to admit the dog sounded big. He could hear it growling back there in the darkness. Like a tank engine on idle, only louder.

He had a .45 under the seat of his pickup, but he didn't want to use it. It wasn't the dog's fault, not really. It was hungry and scared and alone, and all it had was its teeth.

On the other hand, Peter had told Charlie's mother, Dinah, that he would fix the rotting supports beneath her ancient porch.

She hadn't mentioned the dog.

Peter really couldn't blame her.

Her husband had killed himself.

And it was Peter's fault.

**

Peter was lean and rangy, muscle and bone, nothing extra. His long face was angular, the tips of his ears slightly pointed, his dark hair the unruly shag of a buzz cut grown wild. He had the thoughtful eyes of a werewolf a week before the change.

Some part of him was always in motion—even now, sitting on that toolbox, peering under that porch, his knee bobbed in time to some interior metronome that never ceased.

He'd fought two wars over eight years, with more deployments than he cared to remember. The tip of the spear. He'd be thirty-one in January.

As he bent to look through the narrow access hatch under the porch, he could feel the white static fizz and pop at the base of his skull. That was his name for the fine-grained sensation he lived with now, the white static. A vague crackling unease, a dissonant noise at the edge of hearing. It wasn't quite uncomfortable, not yet. The static was just reminding him that it didn't want him to go inside.

Peter knew it would get worse before he was done.

So he might as well get to it.

The space under the porch was about three feet high. Maybe twelve feet wide and twelve deep, with a dirt floor. About the size of four freshly dug graves, laid sideways. The smell was rank, worse than a sergeant's feet after two months in a combat outpost. But not as bad as a two-week-old corpse.

Light trickled in through the slatted sides of the porch, but shadows shrouded the far corner, some kind of cast-off crap back there. And that growl he could just about feel through the soles of his boots.

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Excerpted from The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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