Table of Contents
“Vivid and strong. . . . Brant does an excellent job of building the partnership and attraction between Abbie and Ryne. . . . Suspense fans will love the unexpected twist and pulse-pounding climax.”—
“Sharper, I want you to meet Caitlin Fleming, a consultant for the sheriff’s department. She’s with Raiker Forensics.”
The inflection in the man’s voice imbued his last words with meaning. But it was his earlier words that had Zach halting in disbelief. Tipping his Julbo sunglasses down he looked—really looked—at the woman approaching.
The mile-long legs could be right. And she was tall enough; only a few inches shorter than his six-three height. The kiss-my-ass cheekbones were familiar. But it was the thick black hair that clinched it, though shorter now than it’d been all those years ago. He didn’t need her to remove her tinted glasses to know the eyes behind them were moss green and guaranteed to turn any breathing male into an instant walking hard-on.
His voice terse, he turned his attention to the deputy and said, “Is this some kind of a joke?”
Barnes blinked. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“He’s talking about me.” The voice was smoke, pure sex. He’d never heard her speak before, but he’d imagined it often enough years ago in his adolescent fantasies. “Probably recognizes me from some of my modeling work, isn’t that right, Sharper? A long time ago. If you want me to believe you’ve changed from a sweaty hormone-ridden teenage boy who undoubtedly used one of my posters to fuel your juvenile wet dreams, then you’ll have to credit that I too grew up and moved on. I want a firsthand look at that cave. You’re going to take me there.”
Berkley Sensation Titles by Kylie Brant
WAKING THE DEAD
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
WAKING THE DEAD
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / November 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Kim Bahnsen.
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For Carly, who already felt like a member of the family
even before it became official. We love you!
One of the most intriguing parts of writing a novel is the research that goes into it, and many people contributed to this book. First off, thanks are owed to Alan Mayer, for describing the cave you found on the face of Castle Rock. It turned out to be perfect for my villain’s needs.
For all things bone related, much is owed to Alison Galloway, Ph.D., D-ABFA F-AAFS, and Laura C. Ful giniti, Ph.D., D-ABFA. Your information was as fascinating as it was appreciated!
Thanks to Bud Jillett for the details on the care and feeding of dermestid beetles. Your book was a big help, too!
A big thank you is owed to Wally Campbell, Laboratory Manager of the GBI-DOFS Coastal Regional Crime Lab in Savannah and Tammy Jergovich, Trace Evidence Section Manager, GBI, Division of Forensic Sciences, Decatur, Georgia, for your help regarding collection and analysis of trace evidence, comparison and reference samples, and infinite other nagging problems I sent your way. As usual, all mistakes are mine and mine alone.
A very special note of thanks goes to Kelcie and Guy Santiago for hauling me around to the Oregon caves and through the forest, and answering my endless questions. I had a blast! The area around McKenzie Bridge, Oregon, is one of the loveliest I’ve seen and is unlikely to house the sort of criminal activity found in this story. The beauty of writing fiction is the ability to change anything that doesn’t fit into the plot. Hence some site names, directions, and distances between points, among other things, have been altered to suit the needs of the story.
The way through the forest was familiar, so the lack of a moon didn’t bother him. With the aid of the flashlight he made his way surely, avoiding fallen logs and low-hanging branches from memory. The large bag he carried on his back added nearly another twenty pounds, but that didn’t slow him either. His strength was as sure as his sense of direction.
He carried a shotgun in his free hand and a machete hung from his belt. Not because he expected trouble, but because he’d lived in and around the Oregon wilderness long enough to be prepared for it. There were elk, bears, and cougars in the forest. Any number of poisonous snakes. And sometimes there was danger of a two-legged variety. It didn’t pay to leave anything to chance.
His Sweetie would say once he had an idea he implemented it with the precision of a storm trooper. But for a long time now, it’d been Sweetie with the ideas and he who carried them out. That was all right with him.
The path he took wasn’t an easy one as there was no trail to where he was going. Just across his backyard and into the forest that fringed it. Walking miles through brambles, salal, and thickets of blackberry bushes. Over outcroppings of lichen-slicked rocks and down through a creek that changed from a trickle in the summer to a rushing torrent when the mountain snows melted in the spring. Then the real test would begin at the base of Castle Rock. He’d have to stow the flashlight and shotgun. Switch on the camper’s light he wore over his Oregon Ducks cap. And climb eight hundred feet to his hidey-hole.
He always fasted for a couple weeks before he made this trek. The first time he’d found the chamber in the small cave on the face of Castle Rock had been over ten years ago. He’d bulked up since then. Each time he belly crawled through it there were a few bad moments when he’d get stuck and have to work himself loose. He wanted to make damn sure he was able to do so.
But when he got close enough to see the lights, he slowed. Taking shelter behind the trunk of a large fir, he reached for the night vision binoculars he wore on a strap around his neck and held them up for closer observation. What he saw sent a jolt through him. Looked like he wasn’t going to be making the climb tonight after all.
The place was flooded with cops.
There were spotlights illuminating the edge of Castle Rock like a rooftop at Christmastime. Plenty more at the base, shining upward. Dotting its face. His initial thought that the locals had busted a meth lab was quickly banished when he saw that some of the lights came from climbers hanging like spiders in front of his hidey-hole.
Sweetie might be the brainy one, but he was smart enough to figure out that his secret hiding place was no longer a secret.
As if to underscore that thought, one figure on a line leaned forward to the cave’s mouth to grasp at something coming out of it. Something long and black. Something not so different from what he carried on his back right this moment.
He continued to watch as he pondered his options. He’d been busy with preparations for the last couple days and hadn’t left his place. And Sweetie was on that trip with the kids, so there hadn’t been any warning of the discovery, the news of which must be sweeping the area. Their dump site might have been found, but there was no way anything in it led back to them. They’d made sure of that.
He watched for a while longer, wishing he dared get closer.
was his favorite show. It was the worst kind of luck that he didn’t dare hang around and watch the cops work. Not that the locals would be much to see. Hell, most of the deputies were dickheads. With a force like that, Sheriff Andrews was going to be chasing her tail from now until doomsday.
Grinning, he lowered the binoculars and faded back into the forest. Nope, he had absolutely nothing to worry about.
Nothing except finding a new hiding place for the bag of bones he was carrying on his back.
Seven stainless steel gurneys were lined up in the morgue, each occupied by a partially assembled skeleton and a large garbage bag. The bones gleamed under the florescent lights. At the base of the last gurney was a heap of stray bones that had been found lying separately. Caitlin Fleming’s first thought was that they looked forlorn. Deprived of their dignity, until they could be rejoined to form the remnant of the person they’d once belonged to.
Her second thought was that without the skulls, the chances of identifying those persons decreased dramatically.
“What do you think?” Sheriff Marin Andrews demanded. Her booted feet sounded heavily as she walked from one gurney to the next. “The bones were pretty much loose in the bags, but the medical examiner made an attempt to reassemble them. We brought out the bones scattered on the bottom of the cave floor in a separate body bag. Recovery operation was a bitch, I’m telling you. The cave branches off from the original vein, gets wider and higher. Then it drops off to a steep chamber about seven feet down. These were probably dumped from above into that chamber.” She must have caught Cait’s wince, because she added, “We had an anthropologist from the university supervise the removal process.”