I believe readers will understand a contemporary Cherokee who is driven to avenge, by a series of vicious murders, the wrongs done to his clansmen in the past, just as they can identify with the young woman he holds captive to entrap his next victim. Developing their ambiguous relationship was the most interesting part of writing this book, and I hope readers put it down with mixed feelings about my obsessed Cherokee.
The parts I enjoyed writing most were the settings: an empty Gold Coast mansion that once stood where my wife and I built a sunny home on Long Island, NY, and Stigler in Indian Territory, where my forbearers had an eventful life.
I’m now working on my next mystery/suspense novel in the coffee shops of Santa Barbara, California, where we now live.
As in his other thrillers, Jones infuses the relentless action of this story with the dilemmas faced by complex characters whose choices lead to a surprising resolution.
She jumped out of the chair and stood in the middle of the room, fists clenched and training her head left and right like an antenna, trying to locate the sound of his voice.
“Reunion time, Sam.” Coming closer. Thump. Footsteps overhead. The kitchen.
“I know you’re in here, Sam. I saw your car outside in the driveway. You and your terrorist boyfriend, you were ready for a quick getaway?”
In the driveway? Charley must have moved it. What happened to Charley?
A door opened. Back stairs. She caught her breath. More footsteps. Walking back across the kitchen. Must have seen the door to the back steps. Didn’t come down here. Doesn’t like basements. Did he leave the door standing open?
“Let’s not play games, Sam.” His voice was fainter. Going upstairs? “You know I’m not going to leave until I find you.” She looked up at the brass horn in the ceiling. If he was searching the bedroom, would she hear him down the tube? Charley must have brought him here. How else could he find the place? So the connection at the airport, that must have worked. But then . . . she could think of only one possibility.
“Your friend and I came to an understanding, Sam.” Voice still distant. “Met at the airport and talked about what he needed. Turns out I just had to look into that camera he’s got down there in the boat house and say what a shitty deal the Cherokee got.” Closer again. Coming back downstairs. “Now he’s got the disc to show the people back home, and he’s on his way to his next gig. Told me to come up here and explain things to you.”
Deep breaths. Keep grounded. She stared at the Queen of Hearts, glowering from the wall.
“Your friend, he said you and I can come to an understanding too. He gave me a message for you. Don’t you want to hear it, Sam?”
If he came in here he wouldn’t be pushing a cart like Charley had been. He’d probably stand in the hall, shove the door wide open and look around first.
“I guess you could be hiding out in the woods somewhere.”
YES! She almost said it out loud. Lots of places to hide out there. Go check out that boxwood labyrinth.
“Doesn’t seem likely. Why would you hide when your car is right there in the driveway?”
Not right overhead in the kitchen. Maybe in that dark room with all the bearded guys in the gilt frames.
“I think you’re here somewhere. Within the sound of my beloved voice.”
A scrape across the floor. He moved a chair? He’s sitting down?
“This old house doesn’t have many closets to hide in, but it has a lot of rooms. If you make me find you, Sam, I’m going to be pissed. We’d both be better off if you just come out now so we can have a little talk.”
Floorboard creak. Walking around, looking?
“Is this hide and seek, Sam? Like you used to play with Amy? Look, Sam, I know that Amy’s your hangup. Your idea about me is all wrong, but never mind. Let’s talk about what you want. If supervised visitation has to be the deal, well, I could accept that. So just come out and let’s talk.”
Long silence. Maybe he’s out in the foyer where his steps wouldn’t sound on the terrazzo.
“Come on, Sam, let’s be grownups.” Closer now. “I’m going to find you, so let’s not play games.”
Back in the kitchen?
“You wouldn’t try to sneak out on me, would you Sam? Make a run for it? I guess what I have to do is figure out how to search the rooms and still keep an eye on the doors.”
Not down here. No way to see the doors from down here. Please God, or Charley’s Nunnehi or anybody else up there who’s listening: please don’t let him come down here.
“Maybe I can lock the doors from the inside. I suppose you could—”
Without consciously moving she found herself crouched in the corner, staring around with trapped-animal eyes. The clamor was everywhere. She raised her hands to her ears. Then she remembered: Seth. The alarm clock. Charley’s time lock. She heard the latch scrape as it lifted. The door exhaled open and drifted ajar.
Knees wobbling, she stood and stumbled to the door. Peered out. Dark hall, with a rectangle of light spilling down the steps at the far end. The CLANG-CLANG-CLANG-CLANG! bounced around the bare walls like an echo chamber. A rickety end table outside the door. She edged out as if onto quicksand, grabbed the clock off the table and snapped the twine running up to some kind of an eye-screw in the ceiling as she jammed the alarm button down.
Sudden silence, as loud as the alarm had been.
“Is that you, Sam? Your alarm clock? You just waking up down there?”
Four doors along the hall, all closed. What had Charley said? Closets. And one for something else, she couldn’t remember what. Footsteps. She saw his feet coming down the steps at the end of the hall. Without thinking she backed into her cell—familiar territory—and pulled the door closed.
“If you’ve set off some kind of an alarm to draw me down here while you get away . . .”
So this is it. In a moment he’d kick open the door. Check out the room and then step inside. He’d expect her to be scared and helpless. Stepping carefully, as if he might hear her, she went into the bathroom.
“These doors seem to be locked. You wouldn’t have a key, would you Sam?”
There it was. The pantyhose was stretched, but the lump of lead was still in the toe. She wadded up a grip and let the rest trail behind as she went back into the bedroom.
“Furnace room is open. You couldn’t climb up that coal chute, could you? Maybe, but I doubt it.”
She looked up at the light bulb in the ceiling. Unscrew it? No time. Hide behind the door? No. Face him. She planted her feet on the sun in the rag rug with her hands behind her, pantyhose puddling out of the way at her feet. She thought of Charley discovering the skull of the raccoon or whatever it was. A shot of calm that makes you into something different.
Something scraped outside the door. “What’s this little antique table doing down here in the basement? And what’s—oh, I see. This must be the alarm clock I heard . . . Light’s coming from under the door, Sam. Game’s up. You going to come out so we can talk?”
She actually felt a smile. He didn’t want to come into this claustrophobic little room.
“You going to make me come in after you?”
She hefted the pantyhose behind her, testing the stretch.
The door slammed open against the wall. He was a murky silhouette in the dark hall until he stepped into the doorframe. She recognized that cool smile, and then she saw the bloody khakis—and the big knife.