Shock Wave, p.1John Sandford
Table of Contents
ALSO BY JOHN SANDFORD
ALSO BY JOHN SANDFORD
Rules of Prey
Eyes of Prey
The Night Crew
The Fool’s Run
The Empress File
The Devil’s Code
The Hanged Man’s Song
VIRGIL FLOWERS NOVELS
Dark of the Moon
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
Publishers Since 1838
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 0RL,
England • Penguin 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 0RL, England
Copyright © 2011 by John Sandford
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.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Shock wave / John Sandford.
ISBN : 978-1-101-54765-6
1. Flowers, Virgil (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Government investigators—Minnesota—
Fiction. 3. Minnesota—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3569.A516S54 2011b 2011027848
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, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet
addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any
responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher
does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or
third-party websites or their content.
I wrote this book in cooperation with my friend David Cronk, a schoolteacher, golf professional, politician, Catholic catechism instructor, sometime actor—the Nazi in The Sound of Music—and longtime thriller-novel enthusiast. Dave and I have played several hundred rounds of golf, mostly at the Clifton Hollow golf course outside River Falls, Wisconsin. Soon after we began playing together, I noticed his talent for fiction: scores, stories of golf-course heroics, his attractiveness to women, etc. Dave, in fact, gave me my most valuable golf tip, one that will lower the score of even the worst duffer; that is, always carry an extra ball in your pants pocket. He is NOT the model for the golf-pro schoolteacher in this novel; any passing resemblance is purely coincidence.
FROM THE BOARDROOM WINDOWS, high atop the Pye Pinnacle, you could see almost nothing for a very long way. A white farmhouse, surrounded by a scattering of metal sheds, huddled in a fir-tree windbreak a half mile out and thirty degrees to the right. Another farmhouse, with a red barn, sat three-quarters of a mile away and thirty degrees to the left. Straight north it was corn, beans, and alfalfa, and after that, more corn, beans, and alfalfa.
Somebody once claimed to have spotted a cow, but that had never been confirmed. The top floor was so high that the board members rarely even saw birds, though every September, a couple of dozen turkey vultures, at the far northern limit of their range, would gather above Pye Plaza and circle through the thermals rising off the concrete and glass.
There were rumors that the vultures so pissed off Willard Pye that he would go up to the roof, hide in a blind disguised as an airconditioner vent, and try to blast them out of the sky with a twelvegauge shotgun.
Angela “Jelly” Brown, Pye’s executive assistant, didn’t believe that rumor, though she admitted to her husband it sounded like something Pye would do. She knew he hated the buzzards and the saucersized buzzard droppings that spotted the emerald-green glass of the Pinnacle.
But that was in the autumn.
On a sunny Wednesday morning in the middle of May, Jelly Brown got to the boardroom early, pulled the drapes to let the light in, and opened four small vent windows for the fresh air. That done, she went around the board table and at each chair put out three yellow #2 pencils, all finely sharpened and equipped with unused rubber erasers; a yellow legal pad; and a water glass on a PyeMart coaster. She checked the circuit breakers at the end of the table to make sure that the laptop plug-ins were live.
As she did that, Sally Humboldt from food services brought in a tray covered with cookies, bagels, and jelly doughnuts; two tanks of hot coffee, one each of regular and decaf; and a pitcher of orange juice and one of cranberry juice.
THE FIRST BOARD MEMBERS began trickling in at eight forty-five. Instead of going to the boardroom, they stopped at the hospitality suite, where they could get something a little stronger than coffee and orange juice: V-8 Bloody Marys were a favorite, and screwdrivers—both excellent sources of vodka. The meeting itself would start around nine-thirty.
Jelly Brown had checked the consumables before the board members arrived. She’d put an extra bottle of Reyka in the hospitality suite, because the heavy dri
A few minutes after nine o’clock, she went back to the boardroom to close the windows and turn on the air-conditioning. Sally Humboldt had come back with a tray of miniature pumpkin pies, each with a little pigtailed squirt of whipped cream and a birthday candle. They always had pie at a Pye board meeting, but these were special: Willard Pye would be seventy in three days, and the board members, who’d all grown either rich or richer because of Pye’s entrepreneurial magic, would sing a hearty “Happy Birthday.”
Jelly Brown had closed the last window when she noticed that somebody had switched chairs. Pye was a man of less than average height, dealing with men and even a couple of women on the tall side, so he liked his chair six inches higher than standard, even if his feet dangled a bit.
She said, “Oh, shit,” to herself. Almost a bad mistake. Pye would have been mightily pissed if he’d had to trade chairs with somebody—no graceful way to do that. She then made a much worse mistake: she pulled his chair out from the spot at the corner of the table and started dragging it around to the head of the table.
THE BOMB WAS in a cardboard box on the bottom shelf of a credenza on the side wall opposite the windows. When it detonated, Jelly Brown had just pulled the chair out away from the table, and that put her right next to the credenza. She never felt the explosion: never felt the blizzard of steel and wooden splinters that tore her body to pieces.
SALLY HUMBOLDT WAS bent over a serving table, at the far end of the room. Between her and the bomb were several heavy chairs, the fourinch-thick tabletop, and the four-foot-wide leg at the end of the table. All those barriers protected her from the blast wave that killed Jelly Brown and blew out the windows.
The blast did flatten her, and broken glass rained on her stunned, upturned face. She didn’t actually hear the bomb go off—had no sense of that—and remembered Pye screaming orders, but she really wasn’t herself until she woke up in the hospital in Grand Rapids, and found her face and upper body wrapped in bandages.
The bandages covered her eyes, so she couldn’t see anything, and she couldn’t hear anything except the drone of words, and a persistent, loud, high-pitched ringing. For a moment she thought she might be dead and buried, except that she found she could move her hands, and when she did, she felt the bandages.
And she blurted, “God help me, where am I? Am I blind?”
There were some word-like noises, but she couldn’t make out the individual words, and then, after a confusing few seconds, somebody took a bandage pad off her left eye. She could see okay, with that eye, anyway, and found herself looking at a nurse, and then what she assumed was a doctor.
The doctor spoke to her, and she said, “I can’t hear,” and he nodded, and held up a finger, meaning, “One moment,” and then he came back with a yellow legal pad and a wide-tipped marker and wrote in oversized block letters: You were injured in an explosion. Do you understand?
She said, “Yes, I do.”
He held up a finger again and wrote: You have temporarily lost your hearing because of the blast. Another page: You have many little cuts from glass fragments. Turned the page: Your other eyelid is badly cut, but not the eye itself. Another page: Your vision should be fine. Another: You also suffered a minor concussion and perhaps other impact injuries. Finally: Your vital signs are excellent.
“What time is it?” she asked. The light in the room looked odd.
5 o’clock. You’ve been coming and going for almost 8 hours. That’s the concussion.
There was some more back-and-forth, and finally she asked, “Was it a gas leak?”
The doctor wrote: The police believe it was a bomb. They want to talk to you as soon as you are able.
“What about Jelly? She was in the room with me.”
The doctor, his expression grim, wrote: I’m sorry. She wasn’t as lucky as you.
MORE OR LESS the same thing happened all over again, three weeks later and four hundred and fifty miles to the west, in Butternut Falls, Minnesota. Gilbert Kingsley, the construction superintendent, and Mike Sullivan, a civil engineer, arrived early Monday morning at the construction trailer at a new PyeMart site just inside the Butternut Falls city limits.
Kingsley, unfortunately for him, had the key, and walked up the metal steps to the trailer door, while Sullivan yawned into the back of his hand three steps below. Kingsley turned and said, “If we can get the grade—”
He was rudely interrupted by the bomb. Parts of the top half of Kingsley’s body were blown right back over Sullivan’s head, while the lower half, and what was left of the top, plastered itself to Sullivan and knocked him flat.
Sullivan sat up, then rolled onto his hands and knees, and then pushed up to his knees and scraped blood and flesh from his eyes. He saw a man running toward him from the crew’s parking area, and off to his left, a round thing that he realized had Kingsley’s face on it, and he started retching, and turned and saw more people running....
He couldn’t hear a thing, and never again could hear very well.
But like Sally Humboldt, he was alive to tell the tale.
THE ATF—ITS FULL NAME, seldom used, was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—instantly got involved. An ATF supervisor in Washington called the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and asked for a local liaison in Butternut Falls.
The request got booted around, and at an afternoon meeting at BCA headquarters in St. Paul, Lucas Davenport, a senior agent, said, “Let’s send that fuckin’ Flowers up there. He hasn’t done anything for us lately.”
“He’s off today,” somebody said.
Davenport said, “So what?”
VIRGIL FLOWERS WAS SITTING on a bale of hay on a jacked-up snowmobile trailer behind Bob’s Bad Boy Barbeque & Bar in North Mankato, Minnesota, watching four Minnesota farm girls duke it out in the semifinals of the 5B’s Third International Beach Volleyball Tournament.
The contestants were not the skinny, sun-blasted beach-blanketbingo chicks who played in places like Venice Beach, or down below the bluffs at Laguna and La Jolla. Not at all. These women were white as paper in January, six-three and six-four, and ran close to two hundred pounds each, in their plus-sized bikinis. They’d spent the early parts of their lives carrying heifers around barnyards, and jumping up and down from haylofts; they could get up in the air.
And when they spiked the ball, the ball didn’t just amble across the net like a balloon; the ball shrieked. And the guys watching, with their beers, didn’t call out sissy stuff like, Good one! or No way! They moaned: Whoa, doggy! and “Let that ball live. Have mercy!”
Of course, they were mostly dead drunk.
SITTING THERE IN THE MIXED ODORS of sawdust and wet sand, sweaty female flesh and beer, Virgil thought the world felt perfect. If it needed anything at all, nose-wise, it’d be a whiff of two-stroke oil-and-gas mixture from a twenty-five-horse outboard. That’d be heaven.
Johnson Johnson, sitting on the next bale over, leaned toward Virgil, his forehead damp with beer sweat, and said, “I’m going for it. She wants me.”
“She does want you,” Virgil agreed. They both looked at one of the bigger women on the sand; she’d been sneaking glances at Johnson. “But you’re gonna be helpless putty in her hands, man. Whatever she wants to do, you’re gonna have to do, or she’ll pull your arms off.”
“I’ll take the chance of that,” Johnson said. “I can handle it.” He was a dark-complected man, heavily muscled, like a guy who moved timber around—which he did. Johnson ran a custom sawmill in the hardwood hills of southeast Minnesota. He’d taken his T-shirt off so the girls could see his tattoos: a screaming eagle on one arm, its mouth open, carrying a ribbon that said not E Pluribus Unum, but Bite Me; and on the other arm, an outboard motor schematic, with the name “Johnson Johnson” proudly scrawled on its cowling.
“Personally, I’d say your chances of handling it are slim and
Virgil was thinner, taller, and fairer, with blond surfer-boy hair curling down over his ears and falling onto the back of his neck. He was wearing aviator sunglasses, a pink Freelance Whales T-shirt, faded jeans, and sandals.
They were just coming up to game point when his cell phone rang, playing the opening bars of Nouvelle Vague’s “Ever Fallen in Love.” He took the phone out of his pocket, looked at it, and carefully slipped it back in his pocket. It stopped after four bars, then started again a minute later.
“Work?” Johnson asked.
“Looks like,” Virgil said.
“But you’re off.”
“That’s true,” Virgil said. “Hang on here, while I go lock the thing in the truck.”
Johnson tipped the beer bottle toward him: “Good thinkin’,” he said. And “Man, that’s a lotta woman, right there.”
The woman hit the volleyball with a smack that sounded like a short-track race-car collision, and Virgil flinched. “Be right back,” he said.
As he walked down the side road to his truck, carefully stepping around the patches of sandburs, he was tempted to call Davenport. That would have been the right thing to do, he thought. But the day was hot, and the women, too, and the beer was cold and the world smelled so damn good on a great summer day. . . . And he was off.
The fact was, the only reason that Davenport would call was that somebody had gotten his or her ass murdered somewhere. Virgil was already late getting there—he was always the last to know—so another few hours wouldn’t make any difference. The powers that be in St. Paul would want him to go anyway, because it’d look good.
Shock Wave by John Sandford / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes