Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Dave Folsom - Big Sky Dead is featured in the HBS Mystery Reader's Circle today.
Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Website: Dave Folsom's Books
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Born and raised in Montana, Dave Folsom graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Forestry and spent the first decade of his career working in and around the logging industry. This experience led to his first published short story entitled “Scaling Rexford” which won honorable mention in the 1992 Edition of the University of Oregon’s West Wind Review. This work eventually led to his first novel, Scaling Tall Timber.
Dave’s published works include Scaling Tall Timber, Finding Jennifer, The Dynameos Conspiracy, The Zeitgeist Project, and a collection of short stories and essays published under the title Running with Moose.
He resides in South Dakota with his wife, has three grown daughters and two grandchildren and winters in Arizona where there isn’t any snow.
Big Sky Dead
Author: Dave Folsom
Book Trailer: Big Sky Dead
Charlie Draper takes on what seems like a simple assignment. Check on a missing DEA agent. He does not expect to find him dead; dead on the floor of a drug manufacturing house. Frustrating weeks of digging into the lives of a small town in Montana uncovers drug trafficking, human trafficking and murder for hire leaves the local Sheriff gunned down and Draper with a major headache. Then he begins to suspect all the mayhem is a ruse for the real objective. Charlie receives help from his friend DEA agent Alejandro Jones and together they uncover a diabolical plan to destroy the United States.
The man on the floor was dead; very dead, if there was such a condition. Dead was dead; nothing he could do about it. Sheriff Roscoe Hornsby’s twenty-year-long law enforcement career exposed him to a cornucopia of recently deceased individuals of all ages and sexes. It told him a medical degree and a flock of health professionals would not get this one up. Three large caliber wounds to the upper chest made that fact clear as spring fed water; a bit of overkill though, Hornsby thought, wasted ammunition for sure and suggesting a elevated level of anger on the part of the shooter.
“Is he dead, Ross?” The voice came from the front door and belonged to Randall Ruskin, owner of the house and several other rentals in town. “I told you something wasn’t right.”
“Randy, stay the hell outside like I told you,” Hornsby said, stepping through the debris-covered floor while drawing his weapon. He had been Sheriff twelve years and he had drawn his Glock not more than a dozen times. There had never been a need outside of sapping a belligerent drunk. Of those, he had plenty; cowboys, itinerant farm hands, and sheepherders all with a craving for the bottle during those rare winter times when there was little else to do. Sore-headed, hung-over, and sheepish, Hornsby crowded them into his single twelve by twelve drunk tank/jail cell and let them sleep. On a busy Saturday night and a full tank, he handcuffed the overflow to the oak railing across the front of the office and let them snore on the hardwood floor.
The man’s body lay sprawled on his back, arms outstretched in a slowly expanding pool of dark blood in the middle of a furniture-void living room. The holes in his chest marred a much-washed red Carhartt t-shirt worn over faded tan Dickies. The Sheriff guessed the man’s age at about forty to forty-five with light brown thinning hair and streaks of pre-mature gray; a stranger though, not a local. No hint of recognition rose in Hornsby’s mind to block the vision of hours of paperwork.
The room was far from empty; it contained the makings of a sophisticated chemistry lab and dozens of plastic-wrapped and mailing tape secured packages. Hornsby guessed cocaine, which he knew cooked crack or sold as an inhalable powder. Hornsby had seen a lot of coke and knew this pile represented over a million dollars in potential revenue; definitely enough to kill for. A nearby table sat covered with a variety of chemicals, most of which had potential to lift the roof off the house if miss-used. He recognized the ingredients for cooking meth. In Chicago, they were as plentiful as household cooking oil. In Montana, anhydrous ammonia, used everywhere as a soil enhancement during farming, also provided a plentiful ingredient for meth manufacturing.
The house itself showed unremarkable, plain construction, ranch-style, three-bedroom rambler with the third bedroom the size of a large walk-in closet. Several years beyond needing a complete remodel, the dated structure classified as either a low-rent income producer or a bargain-priced fixer-upper. Hornsby cleared the rest of the house following his Model 23 Glock .40 through each room. The two larger bedrooms contained expensive grow lights and a sophisticated watering system nurturing a robust crop of multi-aged marijuana. Behind the grow tables the sheetrock walls were water-stained and speckled with dark spots of black and green mold. Careful not to touch anything, Hornsby surveyed each room with a cop’s eye without finding anything of interest. Back in the living room, Hornsby searched the man’s pockets for identification and found zip. Unlike current television programs, he lacked a fully staffed forensics lab. Anything that was not obvious would require the Tri-county Medical Examiner’s office touch, a minimum of two hours away.
Sheriff Hornsby, an Undersheriff and three deputies, represented the law enforcement presence in one of Montana’s larger counties area wise, but with the least amount of population. The nearest city of any size sat sixty miles east in another county. Antelope County sat in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, with the eastern half in the Great Plains and the western half dominated by the Crazy’s, a heavily forested, steep-sided mountain range scraping tall into the state’s famous Big Sky. Covering over five thousand square miles, the county could count a scattered population of twelve hundred, a quarter of which were over sixty-five. Primary income came from large ranches where cattle and sheep outnumbered the fiercely conservative inhabitants ten to one. In years past the crime rate hovered near zero, but recent statistics mirrored most big population centers.
Hornsby surveyed the front room again and it reminded him of his long career as a Los Angeles police detective. Only the surrounding prairie and lack of water felt different. The home sat a half mile south of town on a wind-swept, ten-acre plot of scattered prairie grass, sagebrush, and barking prairie dogs. Over recent years, the renters had been mostly transient workers, single cowhands and an occasional older retired couple. The rent barely covered the upkeep but Ruskin advertised it as valuable income property while looking for a cash-flush stranger seeking a bargain. So far, none had appeared. Hornsby stepped onto the porch, closed the door, sealed it with crime scene tape, and prodded Ruskin down the stairs onto the driveway.
“I need to get in there. It’s my place,” Ruskin complained.
“No you don’t, Randy, it’s a goddamn crime scene. Nobody goes in there until the ME gets here from Lewistown.”
A black Lincoln, raising clouds of prairie dust skidded to a stop in of front of the driveway. The car had tinted windows causing the Sheriff to draw again and put both hands on his county-issue Glock while he stepped behind his patrol car. He held the gun at his side waiting. When the Lincoln’s door opened, he lifted it up and pointed it at the car. A black Lincoln and a dead body behind him in the house, demanded caution and he growled, “Randy, step behind me, Goddamn it. Do it now.” When Ruskin did not move, he shouted, “Now!” Ruskin moved.
The man in the Lincoln stepped out following raised hands, slow, as if he knew the Sheriff would shoot if he made a wrong move. “Sheriff Hornsby?” the man said, “your office said you’d be out here somewhere.”
“And who the hell are you?” Hornsby said, his Glock not wavering and still pointed at the stranger’s chest.
“Appreciate it if you’d lower that cannon, Sheriff, I’m on your side. My name’s Draper, Charlie Draper. I believe you were told I was coming.”
“Got some ID, Mister? You’d better, because I’ve never heard of you. If you don’t I might be inclined to shoot your ass right here and now. So, reach for it nice and slow and if you get anywhere close to that piece under your left shoulder I will kill you where you stand.”
Author: Dave Folsom
Barnes and Noble
The killer stood behind granite boulders high above the surrounding landscape. His custom-built M98B Super Magnum sniper rifle, chambered for .338 Lapua, rested on a wool blanket cushion spread carefully over the granite table. The finely-crafted rifle cost just under five thousand dollars, had a two and half pound trigger pull, a customize barrel with a muzzle brake, a 4x16 power high optic scope, a built-in biped in front and desert camouflage. The two things Damián Sanchez learned during his years of contract killing included: use a precision weapon and be patient. His specialty, killing at distance, ranked as his only employment. Demanding complete anonymity, and working only through a broker of such things, he required fifty percent payment up front. The drug cartels kept him busy and made him rich….
Still early, the morning sun beat on his back through a desert camouflage-colored shirt and threatened to drive the afternoon temperature into the nineties by noon. Damián Sanchez ignored the heat since he anticipated the job would be done quickly. He watched his prey through the rifle’s scope waiting for the moment his target would stand for even a second when he could squeeze ever so gently on the rifle’s hair trigger. While the M98B was capable of kills in excess of two thousand yards, Sanchez preferred a distance under a thousand. At any measure under that he could put five out of five shots through the center of a man’s chest with ease. When the distance lengthened a rare chance of a sloppy kill or even a miss arose. Not likely, but still not a sure thing. Therefore, he waited, knowing from his study of the target, a closer opportunity would afford itself before the day became much older. Damián Sanchez earned a tidy one hundred thousand American dollars for each kill and in ten years he’d never failed. His employment took maybe one or two weeks, rarely more, four or five times a year which left him considerable time to cultivate a lavish lifestyle on the western beaches of Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Yucatan, Mexico; and best yet, near the tourist city of Cancun. He owned and piloted a Cessna Citation Mustang hangared at the Aeropuerto De Isla Mujeres less than a mile from his estate. The plane’s 391 mile-per-hour cruising speed could place him anywhere in the North American Hemisphere in a short time with the M98B and ammo concealed in a custom-built hidden compartment. His mostly wealthy neighbors thought him an inherited-money playboy and he cultivated the image. The cartels paid well for his services and this day he intended to add to his already bursting coffers.
John Quinn worked at chores almost two thousand yards distant, unaware of the watcher. Standing tall and heavy set, a long-time rancher pushing sixty, but still hard as nails and ornerier than a Irish grizzly bear with a toothache, Quinn owned two thousand acres of dry Arizona desert supporting no more than one cow per several acres in a good year; but he’d buried two wives in that Sonoran sand and raised three daughters, now grown and gone. Two were married with families and lived clear across the country. The third taught school in Phoenix, lived alone and rarely visited since she’d inherited her father’s disparaging outlook on existence and the idiots who inhabited it. John Quinn’s Silver Buckle Ranch butted against Sonora, Mexico on the south and the Tohono O’Odam Indian Reservation on the west. The buildings were sun-baked, tinder dry and paint naked from years of neglected maintenance. John rose early every day to tend his dwindling stock because he always had, if not for any other reason. The land was windswept, drier than bleached bones, and needed constant irrigation. The single deep well that supplied his irrigation needs had, in recent years, pumped dry at the height of the growing season forcing Quinn to reduce his herd to match the available feed. In today’s market he knew he’d be lucky to find a buyer for the either the cattle or the land at anything but giveaway prices. Just before ten in the morning, Quinn walked to his old Honda four-wheeler to start his daily hunt for strays. Quinn’s cattle, not unlike similar bovine creatures, habitually searched for food, a continuing quest occasionally finding trouble. This morning, his count came up two short.
His dog, a mixed breed Border Collie stray that found Quinn’s doorstep six years before and never left, followed behind at a safe distance. Quinn and the dog shared a love-hate relationship. Quinn liked the dog because it didn’t talk back and was pretty good at rounding up stray cattle; the dog on the other hand didn’t much like Quinn and growled if he got too close, but scarfed down the table scraps provided. After his master backed away the dog would eat and then followed everywhere behind him at a discreet distance. Quinn started calling him Dog and the name stuck.
“Come on, Dog!” Quinn growled mounting his four-wheeler. He started the engine and twisted the throttle, not looking to see if the dog followed. Quinn rode west toward the sloping hills that split his property into two distinct sections. The western side over the hills shared a common boundary with the Reservation and the eastern side served as the main ranch and went as far as the highway. His cattle usually hid from the afternoon heat in the steep valleys and deep gulches that divided the ranch. Quinn was just short of the beginning of the elevation change when the .338 copper-jacketed bullet slammed into his chest slightly to the left of his breastbone.
The dog cowered in the shade of a mammoth Saguaro watching the inert body of his master for the rest of the day listening to the Honda idle. The next morning, nearly seventeen hours after the Honda ran out of gas, the dog trotted over to the body, sniffed, and turned away. The dog looked back once from the top of a low hill a quarter-mile or so away, before continuing.
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