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The blood red indian sum.., p.1

The Blood Red Indian Summer, page 1


The Blood Red Indian Summer

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The Blood Red Indian Summer

  For my dear friend David Thompson, who has taken up permanent residence in Slip F-18, Bahia Mar, Lauderdale


  Title Page



  24 Hours Earlier

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15


  Also by David Handler



  SHE WOKE UP WITH a gasp, her heart pounding. Sweat poured from her as she lay there in bed under a single sheet. It was that awful nightmare—again. The one where he came for her in the night, hungry for her. The one where he did those horrible things to her. And she couldn’t stop him no matter how hard she fought him or—

  Scritch … Scritch …

  Except this was no nightmare. It was real. He was out there in the hallway turning the knob on her locked door, first one way, then the other.

  Scritch … Scritch …

  She scrambled up to a seated position, knees hugged to her chest, her breath quick and shallow, eyes wide with terror. It was 3:13 A.M. according to her bedside clock. Moonlight streamed in the open window.

  Scritch … Scritch …

  Such a tiny noise. But her senses were so alive that it had yanked her awake. Because she was expecting it, fearing it. That was why she’d locked her bedroom door.

  Scritch … Scritch …

  He was being real quiet so he wouldn’t awaken anyone else. The bastard. She stared at the door in the moonlight, defenseless and alone. She couldn’t cry out for help. If she did, then it would no longer be a secret. And it had to stay a secret. Just had to. That was the only thing that was saving her right now. That no one knew. Although they would soon enough, because there was no way she could hide the awful truth that was growing inside her right at this very—

  Plink … Plink …

  A different sound. Now he was, what, inserting a key in the lock? He had a key to her door. How? No point in wondering how. He always figured out how to get in when he wanted her. Had there ever been such a vile man on the face of this earth? No, never. She had to get out of here. Just had to.

  Plink … Plink …

  Desperately, her eyes searched for a way out. There was the door. There was the window—a second-floor window with its priceless waterfront view of Long Island Sound smack dab at the mouth of the Connecticut River. It was, what, a fifteen-foot drop out the window to the stone terrace below? She’d break both legs for sure. She could try to climb out the window and up onto the roof. Except she wasn’t Catwoman. She was a flesh and blood girl. A flesh and blood girl who was about to be brutalized yet again.

  Kerchunk …

  He’d done it now. Unlocked the door.

  Hurriedly, she lay back down, stiff as a board in her sleeveless T-shirt and panties. Pretended she was asleep as, oh-so slowly, he swung the door open. Every cell in her body screamed at her to run. Yet she forced herself to remain motionless, breathing slowly and evenly. She couldn’t overpower him. He was too strong for her. Unbelievably strong. She had to outfox him. He was incredibly wily. But she had to try.

  He tiptoed toward her bed, silent like the predatory night creature that he was. She could smell his sweaty animal scent. He was an animal, not a person who had any genuine feelings or sense of decency. He tiptoed closer and closer, her heart hammering inside of her chest as she lay there motionless. He came around to one side of the bed. Now he was right there next to her nightstand, reaching for her.…

  She bolted out of the other side of the bed and made a dash for the open door. She caught him by surprise. He dove for her but missed her. She ran out the door and down the hallway to the stairs, silent on her bare feet. She had no idea where she was going. Just away. Down the stairs she ran, hearing him coming after her. Toward the kitchen, then out the kitchen door onto the fieldstone terrace, where she tripped over a garden hose and went down hard, scraping both knees. But she sprang right back up and kept on running as he barreled out the door after her. She ran across the lawn toward the water, hearing her own frightened gasps. She was not a fast runner. And he was so shockingly quick that within seconds he’d caught her from behind, ripping her T-shirt as he tackled her to the damp grass.

  “Why do you make me chase you?” he whispered, pinning her body to the grass with his knees. His hands gripped her tightly by both wrists. “You know you want me.”

  “Why can’t you leave me alone?” she moaned, squirming in his grasp.

  “Because you’re mine.” One of his hands went to her throat, squeezing it so hard she couldn’t breathe. “You’ll always be mine.” He let go of her throat and fell on her like an oak tree, nuzzling her neck, his breath reeking of alcohol.

  She writhed beneath him, shuddering with revulsion as he rubbed himself against her, making her feel how aroused he was. He ran a hand up and down her bare leg, his fingers finding her panties. When she started to scream he clamped his other hand over her mouth.

  “So beautiful,” he whispered, rising up onto one knee to unzip his pants.

  That was when she took her best and only shot—kneed him in the groin as hard as she could. He let out a groan of pure pain, releasing his grip on her. She scrambled out from under him and started running again. There was only one means of escape. She took it. Dashed across the narrow ribbon of sand and dove headfirst into the water, shocked by how cold it was. She started to swim, the salt water stinging her scraped knees. Her stroke had never been smooth. It wasn’t much more than a frantic dog paddle, her arms and legs working hard, nose up out of the water. But it got her where she was going, away, as she watched him over her shoulder.

  He stood at the water’s edge, fully clothed. “Come back, girl,” he called to her softly. Didn’t raise his voice. That would wake people up. He always remembered to keep quiet. He was pure evil that way. “Come on, stop this foolishness.” He watched her for another moment before he took off his shirt and yanked off his shoes. But by now she was at least a hundred feet out and he wasn’t much of a swimmer. He changed his mind and didn’t come in after her. Just stood there and waited, knowing she’d eventually get tired and cold and would have to come back.

  Except she wasn’t coming back. He wasn’t going to have her. Never again. She swam farther and farther out, away, until she could no longer see him standing there. All she saw were a few porch lights twinkling here and there at neighboring houses. All she heard was her own breathing, hard but steady, as the river’s current sent her farther out into the Sound. Free of him. Free.

  She turned over onto her back and floated, gazing up at the half-moon and stars that were poking through the hazy sky. The water didn’t seem as cold to her now. She just felt numb. Also terribly aware. It was all so clear to her now. How she could never be truly free of that evil bastard. Never escape the awful reality of what he’d done to her. It would never, ever be good between her and the man she loved once he found out the truth. And he would soon enough. Everyone would. She wouldn’t be able to hide it much longer. And then she’d lose him and that smile of his that made her melt. He would never smile at her again. Never love her. No man would.

  Leave town. That’s what she should do. Move to a place far, far away where nobody knew her and the evil bastard couldn’t find her. She could take a new name and start all over again, truly free. Who was she fooling? She’d never be free agai
n. Never be able to forget what he’d done to her. She’d had so many beautiful dreams for her future. Now they seemed like nothing more than stupid schoolgirl fantasies. This was all there was. This life. This evil bastard who would not leave her alone. There was no getting away and she knew it as she floated there, letting the current take her farther out to sea—so far out that she could barely see the twinkle of lights on shore.

  Except, wait, she did have control. The absolute truth of this smacked her with a sudden sureness that was unlike anything she’d ever felt before. She had a choice. Sure she did. She could choose to let the sea take her away. Then he’d never be able to touch her again. And she’d never have to confess her terrible secret. No one would ever have to know. She could get away. Yes, she could. All she had to do was keep swimming. It seemed so perfectly clear to her. She wasn’t wigging out or anything. She was being completely rational and mature.

  I am taking control of my own life.

  And so she started swimming again, farther and farther out into Long Island Sound. She swam and she swam, the current helping her along. Swam until her arms and legs felt heavy. Swam until every breath came hard. But she wasn’t scared. She was calm and at peace. Safe. There was no fear. Just this water and that sky up there. It felt good. It felt right.

  I am taking control of my own life.

  She was many miles out now. Her arms and legs were lead weights. She could barely move them. Kept sinking below the surface, salt water streaming into her open mouth. Briefly, she fought to stay afloat, sputtering and gasping, flailing her exhausted limbs. But not for long. Because she was ready—and she wasn’t afraid.

  I never have to be afraid again.

  And so she let the water have her. Sank below the surface for the very last time thinking, just for a fleeting instant, that her foot had scraped against the jagged edge of a rock. But by then she’d already surrendered.

  She was gone.



  WHEN SHE HEARD THE floorboard creak outside her bedroom door, Des dove for the loaded SIG under her pillow, instantly awake. A prowler. A prowler had broken into the house. It was 4:02 A.M. according to her digital bedside clock.

  “Coffee’s ready, Desiree,” a voice called to her through the door.

  It wasn’t any prowler. It was the ghost of Buck Mitry.

  Des stashed her weapon back under the pillow, breathing in and out. She’d slept with it there for years. Felt safe with it there. Happiness was a warm gun. But she’d have to lock it away from now on because she did not, repeat not, wish to blow his fool head off. It merely felt that way sometimes.

  “Desiree, are you up?”

  “I am now, Daddy.” She flicked on her bedside light and fumbled for her heavy horn-rimmed glasses. Reached for the covers that she’d thrown off in the night and pulled them over her. Her room was warm even with the windows wide open. It was freakishly balmy for late October. An official Indian summer, the weathermen were calling it. “Come on in.”

  Buck Mitry came on in. He wore a fleece-lined jacket over a V-neck wool sweater, plaid shirt and wool slacks. He was always cold these days, no matter the temperature. He’d lost weight since the surgery. The lines in his face were deeper and made him look ten years older to her.

  “Daddy, it’s four o’clock in the morning.”

  “You said you wanted to get up early. But if you’d rather sleep…”

  “No, this is great. We’ll have a chance to sit and chat for three hours until the sun comes up.”

  His lower lip began to quiver. “I-I’m sorry.”

  “No, I’m sorry. It’s fine, really. I’ll be up in a sec, Daddy.”

  Not that this meek stranger was her daddy. Her daddy was deputy superintendent of the Connecticut State Police—the highest-ranking black man in the history of the state. A fierce, six-foot-four-inch hard-ass known as the Deacon. The Deacon was feared by everyone. Including his only child, who was the resident trooper of bucolic Dorset, the historic jewel of Connecticut’s Gold Coast. He was staying with her while he recuperated from quadruple bypass surgery. Doing real well physically. Getting his appetite and stamina back. His cardiologist felt he’d be ready to resume a light office schedule in another ten days. There was only one problem: He’d undergone such a radical personality transplant that Des hardly knew him. The Deacon she knew was strong-willed and demanding, a tower of strength. This Deacon was hesitant, emotionally fragile and listless. He didn’t do a thing all day long. Didn’t sleep at night. Mostly, he just stared at the television. He’d lost his edge. And if he went back to work in this condition his enemies inside of the Waterbury Mafia would kick his butt around the block.

  Des wanted the old Deacon back. True, the old Deacon could make her crazy. But at least he was the Deacon who she’d always known and loved. This one was a stranger.

  She padded naked into her bathroom and splashed some cold water on her face, gazing at herself in the mirror. She was an inch over six feet tall, long-legged, high-rumped and, these days, all ribs and hip bones. She’d lost six pounds in the past two weeks. That was her thing. When she was stressed she stopped eating. She returned to her room and put on a cropped T-shirt and gym shorts, her stomach in knots. There was that ghost out there prowling her halls. There was the “urgent” work thing that First Selectman Bob Paffin, an all-around dick, had insisted she attend this morning at eight o’clock. And then there was the situation with the man in her life. A biggie that practically had her jumping out of her skin.

  Her cottage overlooking Uncas Lake was airy and open. She’d torn down several walls so that the living room, dining room and kitchen were all one big room. Ordinarily, she shared the place with Bella Tillis, the seventy-eight-year-old Jewish grandmother and fellow cat rescuer who’d been her neighbor back in Woodbridge when Des’s husband, Brandon, had left her. Bella was out on the West Coast for the month, attending the weddings of two of her nine grandchildren.

  The coffee smelled good. The Deacon liked it strong and black. Her three live-in cats, Christie Love, Missy Elliot and Kid Rock, were noses down in their kibble bowls, thrilled that someone, anyone, was up this early. He poured her a cup, the mug practically disappearing in his hand. The Deacon had the hugest hands she’d ever seen on any man. He’d played first base in the Cleveland Indians organization before he’d joined the state police.

  She went out onto the deck and sipped the coffee, gazing out at the blackness of the lake below. The air felt soft and muggy. It was supposed to hit ninety today. The Deacon sat down in one of the Adirondack chairs out there. Kid Rock immediately jumped into his lap and began kneading the Deacon’s stomach with his paws. The Deacon stroked him, sipping his coffee in stony silence.

  “Are you going to repair that section of railing for me today?”

  “If I have time,” he answered in a distant voice.

  “You carpenters sure are hard to pin down. What are you going to do?”

  “Same thing I did yesterday—sit here with my buddy and wonder what the point is.”

  “The point of what, Daddy?”

  “My life.”

  Des felt her stomach clenching. “Have you thought about talking to that therapist your cardiologist recommended?”

  He made a face. “I don’t deal with shrinks.”

  “Maybe you should try. He said it’s real common for people to feel a sense of letdown after this surgery. Nothing to be ashamed of.”

  “I’m not ashamed, Desiree. And I don’t need any help.”

  “We all need help sometimes.”

  “I’m done talking about this. I’m fine.”

  “Sure you are,” she snapped. “We’re all fine. The whole fucking world’s fine.”

  “Watch your mouth, young lady,” he warned her, flaring slightly.

  She let out a gasp. “Well, how about that? I finally got a rise out of you. Maybe I ought to start dropping F-bombs more often.”

  Instead, she went back inside t
he house before she totally lost it. Since she was up so nice and early she thought about spending some quality time with her sketchpad and a hunk of graphite stick. She’d been neglecting her portraits of murder victims lately. But she just couldn’t seem to focus on shapes and shadows while the ghost of Buck Mitry was skulking around the place. Instead, she went down to the gym in her garage and did three punishing circuits of twenty-four reps each with twenty-pound dumbbells until her muscles were popping and the sweat was pouring from her. Then she showered and got herself ready for work, which took her almost no time. Des kept her hair short and nubby and never wore war paint on the job. Rarely wore it, period. Didn’t need it. She had almond-shaped light green eyes, a smooth, glowing complexion and a wraparound smile that, in Mitch’s words, made Julia Roberts look like ZaSu Pitts. Whoever the hell ZaSu Pitts was. Des dressed in a summer-weight poly/wool blend uniform. Her necktie was the same shade of royal blue as the epaulets on her slate gray shirt. Her high gloss square-toed oxfords were black. So was the Sam Browne duty belt on which she holstered her SIG. Her big gray hat with its band of royal blue and gold waited for her on a table by the front door.

  The Deacon was sitting right where she’d left him, his eyes on the water, Kid Rock dozing contentedly in his lap.

  “I’m heading out now, Daddy. Have yourself a good one, okay?”

  He said nothing in response. Didn’t so much as nod.

  Des wasn’t even sure that he’d heard her.

  * * *

  Turkey Neck Road was one of Dorset’s choicest spots—a bucolic country lane of rolling green meadows and gnarly old trees set behind fieldstone walls that were centuries old. Long, winding driveways led to multimillion-dollar estates that looked out onto the mouth of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. Many of the estates had private docks. Turkey Neck was a slice of Yankee heaven. Incredibly peaceful.

  Or it used to be. Des ran smack dab into the freak show as soon as she steered her silver Crown Vic off of Old Shore Road. Satellite trucks and news vans lined both sides of Turkey Neck. Camera crews from Connecticut’s local news stations, from ESPN and from a dozen assorted cable news networks and tabloid TV shows were crowded around the security gate outside one of those long driveways, along with a wolf pack of paparazzi, print reporters and celebrity gawkers. The gate was new. So was the eight-foot chain link fence topped with razor wire that surrounded the entire twelve-acre estate. A trooper from Troop F barracks in Westbrook was trying to keep the traffic moving along. Another was guarding the gate. The troopers were there at the request of First Selectman Paffin.

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