Long Road to Mercy
Atlee Pine Series, Book 1eBook - 2018
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Catch a tiger by its toe.
It's seared into Atlee Pine's memory: the kidnapper's chilling rhyme as he chose between six-year-old Atlee and her twin sister, Mercy. Mercy was taken. Atlee was spared.
She never saw Mercy again.
Three decades after that terrifying night, Atlee Pine works for the FBI. She's the lone agent assigned to the Shattered Rock, Arizona resident agency, which is responsible for protecting the Grand Canyon.
So when one of the Grand Canyon's mules is found stabbed to death at the bottom of the canyon-and its rider missing-Pine is called in to investigate. It soon seems clear the lost tourist had something more clandestine than sightseeing in mind. But just as Pine begins to put together clues pointing to a terrifying plot, she's abruptly called off the case.
If she disobeys direct orders by continuing to search for the missing man, it will mean the end of her career. But unless Pine keeps working the case and discovers the truth, it could spell the very end of democracy in America as we know it...
From the critics
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ADX Florence, about a hundred miles south of Denver, was the only supermax prison in the federal system. (For real prison: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADX_Florence )
The supermax currently held, among others the Unabomber, the Boston Marathon bomber, 9/11 terrorist, serial killers, an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, spies, white supremacist leaders, and assorted cartel and mafia bosses. Many of the inmates here would die in federal prison under the official weight of multiple life sentences.
The prison was in the middle of nowhere. No one had ever escaped, but if anyone did, there would be no place to hide. The topography around the prison was flat and open. Not a blade of grass, or a single tree or bush, grew around the complex. The prison was encircled by twelve-foot-high perimeter walls topped with razor wire and interlaced with pressure pads.
For unruly prisoners, or in the case of a crisis, there was the Z-Unit, also known as the Black Hole. Its cells were kept completely dark, and restraints were built into each concrete bed.
She was tall; over five eleven in her bare feet. Her height had come from her mother, who was an even six feet. Despite her stature, Pine was hardly lithe or willowy. She would never grace a runway or magazine cover as a stick-thin model. She was solid and muscular, which had come from pumping iron religiously. Her thighs, calves, and glutes were rocks, her shoulders and delts sculpted, her arms ropy with long cords of muscle, and her core was iron.
If you weren’t an animal before you went to a max prison, you would be one by the time you got out. Or else, you’d be dead.
Unless he pulled a Methuselah, he would die right here.
Pine had taken a position at the RA in St. George, Utah. It was a two-person outfit and Pine had been there for two years. When the opportunity arose, she had transferred to a one-agent office in a tiny town called Shattered Rock. It was a recently established RA due west of Tuba City, and about as close to Grand Canyon National Park as it was possible to be without actually being in the park. There, she enjoyed the support of one secretary,
Tor looked her up and down in a way that perhaps he had used in sizing up all his victims. There were thirty-four of them confirmed. Confirmed, not total. The actual number was feared to be triple the official count.
Pine knew that narcissism was probably one of the most dangerous traits someone could possess for one critical reason: The narcissist could not feel empathy toward others.
“They were all operating in the West. Here, you have wide-open spaces without a policeman on every block. People coming and going, lots of runaways, folks looking for something new, long strips of isolated highways. A billion places to toss the remains. It encourages … talent like yours. ”
Pine nodded, but only because she was afraid of the words that might come out of her mouth at that moment.
In the little canteen was a mail pouch for visitors to put their postcards in. The mule train would take it up the following day. The postcards were all stamped with: “Mailed by Mule from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.” What could be cooler than that in a world of smartphones and devices named Alexa that ruled your life?
A town so small that the outskirts and the minuscule downtown area were kissing cousins.
FBI supervisor: They sat at desks all day and told other agents how to run their cases, playing Monday morning quarterback at every opportunity, while others did the heavy lifting.
“I don’t know who did it, why they did it, how they did it, or where they are now. Other than that, things are going pretty good. ”
The Navajos were descendants of the Anasazi’s, whose name meant “ancient one” in the Navajo language. There was even a so - called Mummy’s Cave in the Canyon de Chelly where the Anasazis had lived. It was about three hundred feet above the Canyon floor and comprised of two adjacent caves housing a dwelling space consisting of more than fifty rooms and circular ceremonial structures dating back more than a thousand years.
Blum had emailed her on the way with some more information. She was going to go over it while sipping a beer in her apartment. That was her idea of a night out without actually going out.
I was in Iraq, lady. You go to Iraq, you’ll want to smoke weed too.
Multiple sets of flat and then incline bench press, military and swimmer’s press, the squat rack, deadlift, calf raises, depth charges, push-ups on one leg, regular pull-ups and then round-the-world reps that had her take her chin from hand to hand, dips, pounding the core with medicine balls, pendulum lifts with a thirty-pound kettle ball, and then a forty-pound one. Then came isometrics that had the sweat pouring off her from standing in one spot, followed by endless deep lunges with the kettles being passed under each hammy, decline push-ups, crunches, sumo squats with ass-busting dumbbells, and then she jumped rope for ten minutes, doing crossovers every fifth rep.
Pine was tall for a female weightlifter. This was an advantage and a disadvantage. From simply a physics point of view, shorter people had shorter distances to heft the weight. And shorter muscles tended to be more explosive in nature, because of the very same rule of science. But Pine’s longer muscles gave her tremendous leverage that shorter muscles simply could not muster.
With a sudden, explosive movement, Pine performed the clean part of the lift, curling the loaded bar under her chin while simultaneously nailing the squat perfectly. She then performed the bounce, rose up with the barbell completing the concentric phase, and with a whoosh of released air, jerked it cleanly overhead as she split her legs performing the drive position. Then, legs parallel, she held the weights steadily aloft. Clean and jerk. Done.
Cleveland, sometimes referred to in FBI circles as the “mistake on the lake.”
After all the painting was complete they’d installed Dynamat, which kept the noise and exhaust heat under the car, where it should remain? The original engine had been the 289 V - 8, of which only a few hundred were put in this model. But 1967 also had brought the first major redesign of the Mustang and had offered a larger engine option. So they’d dropped in a big block 390, which had been in the vast majority of the Mustangs built that year. That had necessitated the dual exhaust, since the 390 couldn’t efficiently run off the single pipe. The 390 V-8 mustered 320 horsepower, plenty of muscle for a car that size.
“It wasn’t a war, Atlee.” “What was it then?” “I didn’t sign up to shoot …”
“It has a CAGPT sticker on it. That stands for ‘check and give protection to. ’ It’s what they do with valuable or fragile instruments. And also, it’s what they sticker a case with that has a gun inside. But I knew for certain you had a gun in there, because the airline had zip - tied it, probably at the point of destination. It’s a procedure they started to use after the Fort Lauderdale shooting. One zip tie for a pistol, two for a rifle.
“I can work for interests outside this country without working against this country. But allies are allies until they become enemies. And sometimes our enemies can be allies. It’s a fluid situation. ”
Laundered. You can launder people, too. “You mean switching their identities? Making them disappear? “Something like that,” answered Priest.
“This is getting weirder by the minute.” “Oh, I always thought it was a little weird to begin with. I mean, you don’t see a dead mule with letters carved on it every day of the week. ”
“Well, I’ve actually been thinking about a job change. My husband divorced me so he could be with some floozy. My kids are all grown and living all over the place, except near me. I’m not really sure what to think about that, but I guess I’m at the age where I don’t let it bother me too much.”
“Ever heard of Maasaw?” “No.” “He’s the Hopi god of death. He’s said to actually live in the Canyon. And you have the ancestral Puebloan granaries at Nankoweap Creek. And Eagle Rock at Eagle Point on the West Rim. It’s considered sacred by the Hualapai. And some in the Hopi tribe believe the Canyon is the site of the sipapu, the portal through which they climbed a reed cast into the sky and used it to reach the Fourth World.”
“You don’t like burgers and fries?” asked Pine. “Oh, I do. But at my age, they don’t like me like they used to. In that regard, they’re sort of like men.”
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