Excerpt from The Target by Catherine Coulter, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Target

by Catherine Coulter

The Target
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  • First Published:
    Apr 1998, 372 pages
    Aug 1999, 400 pages

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"You can't do that!"

"I just did. Get off my property."

The man scrambled to his feet, holding his camera to his chest. "I'll sue you! The public has a right to know!"

He wanted to beat the guy senseless. The urge was so strong he was shaking with it. It was then he knew he had to leave. Otherwise it might not stop before he went nuts and really hurt one of the jerks. Or he simply just went nuts.

Chapter One
Rocky Mountains : Spring

He stood at the edge of the mountain that sheered down a good two hundred feet before smoothing out into tree-covered ledges and gentle wildflower-covered slopes and sharp gaping ridges. He breathed in the thin air that was so fresh it burned his lungs, but, truth be told, it burned less today than it had yesterday. Soon, the frigid clean air at nearly six thousand feet would become natural to him. It had been only yesterday that he'd realized he hadn't thought all day about a telephone, a TV, a radio, a fax machine, the sound of other voices coming at him from all sides, about people grabbing at him, shouting questions six inches from his face. And those blinding explosions of white from the ever-present flashbulbs. Now, he figured, at last he was beginning to let go, to forget for stretches of time what had happened.

He looked across the valley at the massive, raw mountains that stretched mile upon mile like unevenly spaced lagged teeth. Mr. Goudge, the owner of the Union 76 gas station down in Dillinger had told him that many of the locals, lots of them Trekkies, called the whole mess of knuckle-shaped mountains the Ferengi Range. The highest peak rose to twelve thousand feet, bent slightly to the south, and looked like a misshapen phallus. He wasn't about to climb a mountain with so unsubtle a shape. The folks down in Dillinger joked about that peak, saying it was a sight with snow dropping off it in the summer.

He was aware again as he was so often of being utterly alone. At his elevation there were thick forests of conifers, mainly birch, fir, and more ponderosa pine than anyone could begin to count. He'd seen lots of quaking aspen too. No logging companies had ever devoured this land. On the higher-elevation peaks across the valley, there were no trees, no flowers as there were here in his alpine meadow, just snow and ruggedness, so much savage beauty, untouched by humans.

He looked toward the small town of Dillinger at the far end of valley that stretched from east to west below. It claimed fifteen hundred and three souls. Silver mines had made it a boomtown in the 1880s, nearly bursting the valley open with more than thirty thousand people - miners, prostitutes, store owners, crooks, an occasional sheriff and preacher, and very few families. That was a long time ago. The descendants of those few locals who had stuck it out after the silver mines had closed down now catered to a trickle of summer tourists. There were cattle in the valley, but they were a scruffy lot. He'd seen bighorn sheep and mountain goats coming n the slopes really close to the cattle, pronghorn antelope grazing at the lower elevations, and prowling coyotes.

He'd driven his four-wheel-drive jeep down there just once since he'd been here to stock up on groceries at Clement's grocery. Had it been Tuesday? Two days ago? He'd bought a package of frozen peas, forgetting that he didn't have a freezer, just a small high-tech refrigerator that was run off a generator sitting just outside the cabin. He'd cooked those frozen peas on his wood-burning stove, eaten the entire package in one sitting next to the one bright standing lamp that also worked off the generator.

He stretched, caught a glimpse of two hawks flying low, looking for prey, and took his ax back to the stump beside the cabin where he was splitting logs. It didn't take him long to pull off his down jacket, then his flannel shirt, then his undershirt. And still he worked up a sweat. His rhythm sped up. The sun felt hot and good on his skin, seeping in to warm his muscles. He felt strong and healthy. He was in business. He knew he had more logs than he could use for the next week, but he just kept to that hard smooth rhythm, feeling his muscles flex and loosen, grow tight with power, and release.

Copyright © 1998 Catherine Coulter. Reproduced with the permission of G P Putnam's Sons. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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