Storm peak, p.1
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       Storm Peak, p.1
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         Part #1 of Jesse Parker Mystery series by John Flanagan
Storm Peak

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page











































































  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

  Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  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.

  Copyright © 2009 by John A. Flanagan.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


  Random House Australia Bantam book trade paperback edition 2009font>

  Berkley Prime Crime trade paperback edition February 2010font>

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Flanagan, John (John Anthony)

  Storm peak : a Jesse Parker mystery John A. Flanagan.font>

  p. cm.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-19567-3

  1. Ex-police officers—Fiction. 2. Ski patrollers—Fiction. 3. Skiers—Crimes against—Fiction. 4. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 5. Steamboat Springs (Colo.)—Fiction. I. Title.

  PR9619.4.F63S76 2010

  823’.92—dc22 2009045782

  In memory of Edwina Rochin,

  who guided me onto my first chairlift




  JULY, 2003

  On the day Detective Jesse Parker killed Detective Tony Vetano, they had been partners for nearly two years.

  They had been slumped in the front seat of an unmarked department Chevy for over two hours, watching Number 1153 Alston Road, while a string of drug dealers arrived to collect their supplies from their distributor. There were seven men inside the ordinary looking suburban house and it was time for the bust. Tony had just called the squad for backup. Seven armed drug dealers were more than they’d bargained for—and a little too many for two cops.

  That was when it all started to go to hell.

  A Denver PD patrol car turned the corner, moving slowly along the street toward 1153. As it approached, its lights fell on the late model Pontiac GTO belonging to one of the dealers. The car was canary yellow, with the hood decorated in leaping flames. The suspension had been lowered and the rear wheels were shod in fat rubber. In a quiet suburban street like this, it stuck out like a two-dollar whore in a convent.

  The black-and-white eased to a stop and the officer climbed out and walked slowly round the GTO to check the tags. He was young, they could see, and on his own. He should have had a partner but departmental budget cuts had been playing hell with the duty roster in the last few months. He moved back to the patrol car, still watching the house, and leaned in the driver’s side window. The two detectives heard the muted sound of the police radio.

  “Oh, Christ. He’s calling it in,” Jesse said.

  “Maybe the plates are clean,” Tony Vetano whispered.

  “Maybe he’ll move on,” Jesse said hopefully.

  “Maybe there’s a Santa Claus,” Tony muttered back.

  The radio burbled again as the dispatcher came back with a report on the GTO’s tags. The young cop looked at the car again, then at the house. The front porch and windows were in darkness, with no lights showing. Then he hitched up his service belt and began striding toward the gate set in the low brick wall that fronted the property He could have stepped over it with comparative ease, but he was a meticulous man. He leaned down, unlatched the gate and went into the front yard, then turned to fasten the gate behind him.

  “I’m going to have to warn him off,” Tony said. “One sight of him and they’ll head for the hills.”

  Before Jesse could stop him, he had the door of the Chevy open and was crossing the street in long, hurried strides. They’d parked a few houses down from the target house and he had quite a bit of ground to cover. Tony called softly to the patrolman but the uniformed cop didn’t hear him. Tony lengthened his stride. In the car Jesse moved uneasily. He didn’t like the way this was panning out.

  The patrolman was marching up the front steps of the porch now. He lit his flashlight, looking for a doorbell. There was a button on the left-hand side of the door. He pressed it. Nothing.

  He rapped sharply on the wooden door with his nightstick. Still thirty yards away, Tony Vetano stopped. He looked back to where he knew Jesse was watching, made a small negative gesture, then kept going, moving toward t
he shelter of a large chestnut tree set in the verge of the road, just before the grassed sidewalk.

  On the porch, the patrolman raised his nightstick for another assault on the door. Then he paused as a light went on in the front room. As it did, the young cop made his last mistake of the day-and his life. He began to slide the nightstick back into his belt again. It snagged on his uniform jacket and he looked down to free it and slip it into place. His eyes were down when the door opened, his attention elsewhere.

  Consequently, he never saw the Ingram 9 mm—an ugly, boxy little submachine gun with a firing rate that sounded like ripping cloth. Three slugs from the eight-round burst stitched into him, in a diagonal line that took in hip, chest and shoulder, and bowled him backward down the porch steps.

  Tony stepped out from behind the tree, his .38 in his hand.

  “Police!” he yelled. “Throw down the gun, motherfucker!”

  The flickering muzzle flash of the Ingram lit up the front of the house once more as the shooter fired. Chunks of bark flew from the tree beside Tony. He was caught by surprise, not expecting the gunman to react so quickly. He dived headlong away from the tree, sliding into the meager cover provided by the curb. He flattened himself there, trying to force himself lower to the ground as another burst ripped over his head, a few inches above him.

  “Christ!” Jesse said to himself. He came out of the car, keeping it between him and the shooter. His .45 Colt 1911 model came up and he thumbed back the hammer. There was already one fat round in the chamber and a full load of seven in the magazine. It was a long shot from where he was, but he had to take the heat off Tony.

  For a fraction of a second, he considered calling a warning. To hell with it, he thought, the guy had been warned.

  He slammed out three rounds from the .45, knowing he was too far away to hit anything. All he’d hoped was that he’d catch the gunman’s attention and he succeeded. The Ingram’s muzzle flash lit up again and bullets clanged off the metalwork of the Chevy, ricocheting and whining around him. There was a dull report and the car subsided suddenly to the right as the front tire blew. Jesse ducked behind the hood. It was damned unhealthy out here, he thought.

  He duckwalked to the front of the car, peering around the grill. He couldn’t see Tony and the porch had gone dark again. There was no sign of the gunman but he let another two rounds go in the general direction of the porch for good luck.

  “Tony?” he called. “You okay?”

  Another burst from the Ingram erupted in return. The headlight a few inches away shattered, spraying broken glass onto the road. Hurriedly, he pulled back into cover.

  “Jess? I’m in a bad situation here,” Vetano called. His voice was pitched higher than normal. Jesse could read a trace of panic in it. Jesus. Who wouldn’t be panicked, stuck in the open like that with a machine gun trying to chew you up? A short burst rattled out toward Tony’s position in response to his voice.

  “You hit?” Jesse called. He flinched, expecting the gunner to open up on him but no shots came.

  “No. But I’m pinned down. Can’t move.”

  Once again the gunner opened up at Tony’s position. Jesse, peering cautiously over the top of the hood, saw strikes on the top of the house’s front wall. He realized that the low structure was shielding Tony from the gunman’s fire, providing a shallow wedge of dead ground. For the moment, his partner was safe—although safe was a relative term in this situation.

  “Stay there!” he yelled. “Don’t move!”

  “Jess? Get me out of here, man!” Tony was definitely on the edge of panicking, Jesse realized.

  “Hang in there, Tony! You’re cool,” he replied, as another burst tore chips off the brick wall. Tony, his nose pressed to the ground, trying to force himself lower and lower behind the shallow curb, couldn’t see that he was sheltered. So far as he was concerned, the gunman was just a lousy shot to keep missing him.

  Mind you, all that would change if the gunner decided to move closer and change the angle of his fire. Jesse had to stop that happening and he had to do it fast. He’d need to get closer himself. There was a Dodge cargo van next in line, then a Ford pickup. That was where he needed to be. He took a deep breath, gathered himself and launched out from behind the Chevy.

  The gunman reacted a fraction too late. A burst of fire ripped the air behind Jesse, shattering another headlight and punching more holes in the Chevy’s hood. He crouched behind the van, felt it rock as more rounds impacted the far side. Then he was running for the shelter of the Ford.

  More bullets whined around him but the gunner was shooting too high. The Ingram pulled up when it fired and he wasn’t allowing for the fact. If he didn’t hit Jesse with the first two shots, the others sailed harmlessly overhead.

  Bent-kneed and crouching, Jesse shuffled along the side of the truck till he reached the hood. It had gone quiet now that the Ingram wasn’t shooting. The guy knew where he was. He’d be waiting this time. Jesse thumbed the magazine release, dropping the depleted magazine out of the Colt’s butt. He jammed a fresh one in and worked the action, pumping a round into the chamber.

  “Jesse? I’m getting out of here, man!”

  “No, Tony! Stay put! Don’t move!”

  But a sudden burst from the Ingram, and a grunt of pain that accompanied it, told him that his warning had been too late. Tony had finally lost it. Jesse stood up behind the Ford’s hood, pistol gripped in both hands, feet wide apart to steady himself. He saw Tony lurching and spinning as he fell to the ground in the middle of the street. He heard him crying out in pain and fear and knew he was still alive. For the moment. But now he was helpless and exposed.

  The Ingram had fallen silent. Gunner must be changing mags too, Jesse thought, and knew he had to stop him before he could reload and zero in on Tony. He could see a dark shape moving in shadows on the porch.

  Jesse fired-carefully and deliberately.



  Three times.

  The gunman had seen him. Bullets from the Ingram slammed into the truck. The windshield shivered apart under a hail of slugs, showering him with pebbles of broken safety glass.

  Four times.

  Something was moving in his peripheral vision. Something between him and the porch. He ignored it, locked in a fatal duel with the machine-gunner, his upper body completely exposed. Totally outgunned.

  Five times. A shape, moving, blurred, indistinct. Ignore it.

  Six. A shrill scream.


  The Colt’s action slammed back and locked open, the magazine empty. Jesse stood, pistol still leveled at the porch. Vaguely, he realized he should drop back into cover, rejected the idea.

  He stood, waiting for the return fire but there was none. The drug dealer was dead. Three of the heavy caliber .45 slugs had hit him.

  Only one had hit Tony.

  But when Jesse reached him he was just as dead as the drug dealer.



  WINTER, 2006

  Sheriff Lee Torrens shook her head as she gazed down at the dead body, surrounded by trash.

  “How the hell did he get in there?”

  It was a rhetorical question but Patrolman Paul Onorato, who’d been first on the scene with his partner, Dale Carruthers, wasn’t the sharpest chisel in the town police toolkit.

  “Guess the killer put him there, Sheriff,” he said helpfully. Lee turned a baleful eye his way.

  “Thank you for that,” she said coldly.

  Onorato shrugged, missing the sarcasm.

  “There” was the big rectangular container that rode the cable car down to the bottom station at the Mount Werner ski fields. It carried the trash and detritus from the restaurants up on the mountain and when the on-mountain traffic wound down at the end of each day, the operators at the top station would stop the cable car for five minutes or so while they wheeled the big steel container into position. Then they’d clamp it onto the heavy cable a
nd start up again, sending the trash container sailing off down the valley into the gathering darkness.

  When the container swooped out of the darkness into the bottom station, slowing as it detached from the main cable to the unloading circle, the bottom station attendant had noticed something odd. About two-thirds of the way up the unloading hatch, a glove was jammed between the hatch and the frame. Leastways, he’d thought it was a glove.

  Right up until he’d noticed the glove had fingernails.

  The container was open-topped so that trash could be dumped in from above. To unload, one of the sides was hinged at the bottom and held in place by dog clamps. As the attendant looked more closely, he realized that the upper dog clamp on the hatch hadn’t engaged properly at one end, leaving a narrow gap through which the hand was protruding.

  That had been enough for the bottom station attendant, a kindly old man named John Hostetler. He’d taken one look and run for the phone, faster than he’d moved in maybe forty years. Onorato and his partner, Dale Carruthers, had been cruising in the area and they’d arrived within five minutes. It had been Onorato who had released the other clamps, despite Carruther’s warning cry not to corrupt a crime scene. The hatch had fallen open and the body had rolled clear, along with a small avalanche of Dixie cups, soda cans, wine bottles and remnants of half-eaten fast food.

  Round about that stage, Onorato realized he was in over his head. The town police attended to minor crime within town limits—disturbances in Steamboat’s many bars and restaurants, arguments in the lift lines, drunks, lost children, traffic offenses, crowd control and the like. They were the equivalent of the uniformed branch in a big city police force. They weren’t expected or equipped to conduct investigations into serious matters. That was left to the sheriff’s office, which had jurisdiction over the entire county.

  A dead body in the trash container was definitely a serious matter, so the two patrolmen had put in a call to Lee.

  She hunkered down beside the dead body. The corpse stared up at her with sightless eyes. He was male, aged in his early thirties.

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