Sangin District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
They kept it simple. They could cut off his right hand, or he could use it to learn how to fire the weapon they gave him.
They had even picked the target. He knew before they told him it would be American. By now he could repeat the Imam’s Friday harangue to do jihad on the invaders word for word.
All he had wanted was to go home. Pakistan was a hungry place for a young Afghani man with no family or friends. His father had been killed when the Americans invaded in 2003, and his mother had taken the children and fled over the border, joining the hundreds of thousands of other refugees in the camps. When she died, he found his way back to his own country, where he had not been so much recruited by the Taliban as kidnapped.
At least they fed him.
The camp three hundred yards up the narrow valley was small, an outpost dug into a small saddle between two hills, consisting of forty American soldiers. The top of the hill in front had been leveled to provide a landing place for a helicopter. He had been waiting for it for three days, broiling by day and freezing by night beneath the camouflage netting that had been stolen, they told him, from the enemy in another firefight in another valley.
The weapon was beautiful and deadly, brand new, light of weight, black in color, made of heavy plastic married to a dense, dark metal with a dull shine. A zippered sheath kept it free of the dirt and sand that filtered through the netting to layer his clothing and coat the inside of his nostrils so that he could barely breathe.
In the distance, a few tumbledown buildings marked a primitive landholding. A boy herded goats toward a patch of earth that showed the barest hint of green and hosted a few wormword bushes twisted into nightmare shapes from lack of water. Those fields he could see lay fallow, the only cash crop this area had ever known rooted up by the invaders.
A faint sound of wings disturbed the air. He looked up. A steppe eagle had been hunting this valley every morning and evening, soaring overhead on brown wings spread six feet from wingtip to wingtip, black tail spread wide.
This sound wasn’t the eagle, though. It was the helicopter, coming at last.
It hurtled up the valley, barely time enough for him to get the rifle out of its protective sheath. He settled his eye to the scope, as he had been taught, and sighted in. The magnification of the scope threw the aircraft into startlingly immediate relief. The windshield was scratched and sandy and the sun rendered the Plexiglas nearly opaque, so that the figures at the controls on the other side were barely visible to him. He caught the merest glimpse of a smooth cheek, nearly hidden beneath helmet and sunglasses. Too young yet to shave. His age.
One shot was all it would take, they had told him, so long as he hit the target. He blinked the sweat out of his eyes as his finger pulled the trigger, slowly, firmly, even gently, again as they had taught him. The stock recoiled against his shoulder as the high explosive round left the barrel. The sound of the shot rendered him temporarily deaf.
Before he could raise his eye from the scope, the helicopter touched down on the pad and on landing seemed simply to shatter into a thousand pieces. The three-man crew died instantly, shredded by fragments from their own splintering aircraft, as did the one soldier on the ground standing fifteen feet from the landing pad, skewered by a flying piece of one of the rotors. All six of the soldiers waiting for their ride home fifty feet from the landing pad were injured as well, two of them mortally.
The watcher upslope granted him just enough time to be amazed at the destruction he had wrought before putting a bullet into the back of his head precisely where his skull ended and his spinal column began.
Copyright © 2012 by Dana Stabenow
New York Times bestseller Dana Stabenow returns with her most outstanding novel yet, teaming up two of her most beloved characters, Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak and Alaska state trooper Liam Campbell, in the same story for the first time.
Alaska aviation entrepreneur Finn Grant died in the fiery crash of his Piper Super Cub. Someone sabotaged his engine, and virtually everyone in southwestern Alaska has a motive, including his betrayed wife, his bullied children, and Liam’s wife, bush pilot Wyanet Chouinard. With few places to turn, Liam asks his former mentor Niniltna post commander Sergeant Jim Chopin, for help, and Jim quickly brings Kate onto the case.
Working undercover as—of all things—a waitress at Bill’s Bar and Grill, Kate learns over beer and burgers that Grant’s business had expanded meteorically over the last two years. After buying the closed Air Force base south of town from the federal government at a bargain-basement price, he became a fixed-base operator running his fishing, hunting, and flight-seeing business, servicing planes flying through the area, and most interestingly and lucratively, getting into the air freight business. But what kind of freight was he moving, and where?
The answers involve Kate in her most challenging case to date, one that starts with murder and quickly sprawls into a much larger conspiracy ranging from the darkest family secrets to treason and beyond. Restless in the Grave is a treat for fans and another outstanding addition to Dana Stabenow’s acclaimed and award-winning series.
Acclaim for Dana Stabenow
“Entertaining 19th novel featuring the brash, fearless PI [Kate Shugak]… The book sparkles with energy and wit, and packs an unexpected punch.”
--Publishers Weekly on Restless in the Grave
“Though Not Dead is the latest in Dana Stabenow’s robust series. It’s her most far-reaching Shugak story yet, ambitiously incorporating some of Alaska’s colorful history”
—Seattle Times on Though Not Dead
“In Edgar winner Stabenow’s brilliant eighteenth novel to feature the feisty Alaska detective … Kate is at her butt-kicking best as she and Mutt, her inseparable half-wolf, half-husky companion, deal with murder, theft, and deception.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Though Not Dead
“Stabenow is blessed with a rich prose style and a fine eye for detail. … It’s an outstanding series.... If you’ve never visited Alaska, it’s also an intriguing introduction to that big, brawling, rather bewildering state.”
—The Washington Post on A Night Too Dark
“Kate Shugak, the Aleut private eye, demonstrates why she is considered one of the best among female sleuths, in A Night Too Dark.”
—San Diego Union-Tribune on A Night Too Dark
“Grade: A. Some of the greatest mystery writers enrich us with their wonderful sense of place. Stabenow is one of them: Alaska’s answer to Tony Hillerman, she brings us the sights and sounds that few visitors will ever know.… If you haven’t discovered Stabenow yet, start here—then go back to A Cold Day for Murder and enjoy the whole story.”
—Rocky Mountain News on Whisper to the Blood
Dana Stabenow, New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award winner, is the author of eighteen previous Kate Shugak novels, four Liam Campbell mysteries, three science-fiction novels, and two thrillers. She was born, raised, and lives in Alaska, where she was awarded the Governor’s Award for the Humanities.