Fiction (Mystery) P. J. Tracy Shoot to Thrill

ISBN 13 : 9780451413055

Shoot to Thrill

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9780451413055: Shoot to Thrill

The FBI asks the ingenious Monkeewrench crew to help them find the chilling link between a dead bride found floating in the Mississippi and a series of gruesome murder videos posted anonymously on the Web- before the killer claims his next victim...

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About the Author :

P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym of mother-daughter writing duo P.J. and Traci Lambrecht, winners of the Anthony, Barry, Gumshoe, and Minnesota Book Awards. Their first four novels, Monkeewrench, Live Bait, Dead Run, and Snow Blind have become national and international bestsellers.

P.J. Lambrecht is a college dropout with one of the largest collections of sweatpants in the world. She was raised in an upper-middle class family of very nice people, and turned to writing to escape the hardships of such a life. She had her first short story published in The Saturday Evening Post when Traci was eight, still mercifully oblivious to her mother’s plans to eventually trick her into joining the family business. She has been a moderately successfully free-lance writer ever since, although she has absolutely no qualifications for such a profession, except a penchant for lying.

Traci Lambrecht spent most of her childhood riding and showing horses. She graduated with a Russian Studies major from St. Olaf College in Northfield Minnesota, where she also studied voice. Her aspirations of becoming a spy were dashed when the Cold War ended, so she instead attempted briefly and unsuccessfully to import Eastern European folk art. She began writing to finance her annoying habits of travel and singing in rock bands, and much to her mother’s relief, finally realized that the written word was her true calling. They have been writing together ever since.

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Prologue

From top to bottom and everywhere in between, Minnesota was a bleak and frigid place in January, whether you were shivering on a blizzard- swept western prairie or paralyzed under a foot of snow smack in the middle of Minneapolis. But there was no greater sense of winter desolation than on the north shore of Lake Superior, where the big water that looked like an ocean was forever pushing enormous blocks of sharded ice against one shore or another.

The past two weeks had been particularly cruel to the lake. A parade of low- pressure systems had stalled, battling each other for command of the winds, freezing the great body of water almost to the horizon line. It was profoundly disturbing to see something so powerful completely subdued, like King Kong in chains on a Broadwaystage.

Randy Coulter had a lot of empathy for the lake, because he knewwhat it felt like to be the helpless victim of a greater force, trappedby circumstances he was powerless to change. But that was the oldRandy— the new, improved Randy finally had the power to makethings happen. And if he could muster the guts, he’d make somethinghappen today.

The trail on the edge of the cliff provided spectacular winterscapeviews for the snowshoers and cross- country skiers who frequentedthe winter resorts along the shore, and their numbers were legion inthe week between Christmas and New Year’s. City dwellers accustomedto the protective environment of crosswalks and guardrailsflocked to the north in a foolish fit of adventure, where you actuallyhad to rely on your own good sense instead of the nanny state tokeep you safe.

Randy slipped out of his snowshoes and off the groomed trail,testing each step toward the edge of the cliff with a pole to makesure there was frozen earth beneath the windswept snow. Thecloser he got to the lip of eternity, the colder the wind that blewon his face. He began to despair, thinking that no would- be athletewould venture out on such a day, when the barometer rose and thetemperatures plummeted. They were all inside their cozy cabins andresort rooms, frolicking in hot tubs or drinking in front of a fire,and Randy would be the only soul to see this cliff today.

He had to drop to the snow on his stomach to safely examine themagnificent sight over fifty feet below him. The shoreline bristledwith stalagmites of frozen water that vaulted upward from the shorelike monstrous icy teeth, just waiting for something substantial tognaw on. “Beautiful,” he whispered.

“Hey. You okay?”

Randy nearly tumbled over the edge at the sound of a male voicebehind him, and then looked over his shoulder and saw everythinghe would never be. From the logo on the Gore- Tex suit he knewimmediately that the man drove a foreign sports car and had lefta probably augmented blond woman back in his cabin, and for amoment he felt himself shrink away, curl inside himself, until heremembered the power. “Thank God,” he said, and the man’s waxedbrows moved into a frown.

“Are you hurt, buddy? How can I help?”

Randy closed his eyes. “I think there’s a body down there,” hewhispered, rising to his feet. “I didn’t know what to do . . .”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, really.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Do you have a cell phone?”

“Sure. Let me get a look first.”

“Okay, but be careful. It’s a little slick out here near the edge.”The man removed his snowshoes, moved cautiously toward theedge, and peered over. “I don’t see anything.”

“You have to come further this way. Those ice spikes block theview . . . oh, man, this is horrible, I’ve never seen anything likethis . . .” Randy felt the man’s hand come down firmly on his shoulder.Oddly, he found the touch comforting.

“Take it easy, buddy. Just relax, take a breath. It’s down there?”Randy didn’t have to fake the tears. They came on their own, andhe couldn’t imagine why. “Right . . . down . . . there . . .” he pointed,and when the man leaned forward to follow his finger, Randy lockedhis knees and braced his legs and pushed against the man’s backwith all the strength he had.

The wind carried away the prolonged scream as Randy just stoodthere, looking out toward the horizon, his face expressionless. Itmight have been seconds or hours when he finally fell to his stomachagain and peered over the edge.

It looked like Mr. Gore- Tex was humping one of the ice stalagmites,and Randy thought that was pretty funny.

“I told you there was a body down there,” he whispered, thenpulled a tiny video camera out of his parka pocket and hit the zoombutton.

Chapter 1

Alan squinted hard at his three faces in the tiara’s bathroom mirror, trying without any real success to bring a singlereflection into focus. But even with his vision swimming and pixilatedby vodka, he could see enough to know he looked like a Picassoportrait of Liza Minnelli. His false eyelashes were drooping liketired spiders, spinning crazy webs of mascara down his cheeks, andhis smeared lips looked slightly askew, a scarlet counterbalance forhis cockeyed wig that was tipping to the opposite side.

His billowy white dress had also suffered the indignity of histwelve- hour party day, and it was shedding pearls like a vomitingoyster.

He cringed as he tried to tease out snippets of the evening fromhis memory, but there were a lot of black spots in the matrix. SweetJesus Lord Almighty, he was drunk. How many martinis had hehad? Two at home, another four or five at Camilla’s place for sure,and then there had been an unrelenting succession of those disgusting,tragically pink cocktails here at the club, pushed on him by thenew Dominican bartender who’d been so guileless in sharing thevarious intimate locations of his body piercings.

The thought of needles being poked into certain sensitive areasof a male’s anatomy sent his stomach into turmoil, and he leanedover the sink and splashed cold water on his face until the nauseasubsided.

When he finally felt sturdy enough, he pushed himself into anupright position and aimed his compass for the nearest exit. Thenight was young, there were still some A- list parties he was planningto attend, and he needed to sober up before he did, especially if hewas going to perform. Fortunately, Camilla had given him the key toher condo, which was just a few blocks away if he went as the crowflies and took the riverside walking path. He’d take a shower, drinksome juice, and he’d be up and running again just in time for thedrag show.

It was never easy negotiating the path along the Mississippi infour- inch stilettos, even with your sense of equilibrium intact; andit was harder still when you were wearing a fabulous pair of Dolce& Gabbanas you just had to have because they were fifty percent offat Neiman’s, even though they were a size too big. He’d stuffed thetoes with cotton balls and had doubled up some duct tape and put itin the heels, because dancing to “It’s Raining Men” wasn’t exactly aminuet, and he needed the extra security. But he was still slipping inand out of them as he half- careened, half- bulldozed down the path,and at one point, he stumbled, fell, and came to lying in a nest ofdamp, putrid- smelling weeds so close to the river, he could hear thehiss of water in his ears.

He could also hear Wild Jim’s psychotic, drunken rants echoingin the darkness: “Crazy faggot! Crazy faggot, crazy queen, fell downand broke his crown!”

Wild Jim was a fixture along this stretch of the Mississippi, andthe locals who lived around here knew him every bit as well as thecops did. He was clearly on a superior bender of unknown origintonight, like almost every other night, and in that regard, the two ofthem had a lot in common. In fact, Alan felt strangely comforted bythe familiar presence, as annoying as it was.

“Yoo- hoo! Jimmy!” he called in his best soprano lilt. “Where areyou? Come here and help Mama up!”

Wild Jim answered with a grunting salvo of unintelligible expletivesfrom somewhere above him on the embankment.

“Puh- leeze, Jimmy,” Alan needled. “Come help your mama.”

“Stop talking shit. You crazy faggots are messing up my river andalways talking shit.”

Alan giggled and stared up at the stars, wondering if he’d everbe able to muster the strength to pull himself up. And in truth, hewasn’t sure he wanted to, at least not yet. It did smell down here,and the ground was damp, but it was surprisingly peaceful in thislittle hollow where the riverbanks absorbed the urban cacophony ofthe streets above. If Wild Jim would only shut up, he might actuallyconsider taking a little nap right here.

He had no idea how much time had passed before he finallystruggled to his feet, and as he did, he heard the rustle of grass comingfrom somewhere behind him, drawing closer. He hadn’t everexpected that Wild Jim would actually show himself— he had a bigmouth, but he usually stayed out of sight.

It was a delicious, naughty surprise to feel two powerful armsscoop him up like a bride. Not a common scenario for gay men meetingby the river for a one- time, anonymous assignation, which wasthe saddest thing about being a queen. Normally there were no realkings in the circle; no take- you- down- and- have- their- way- with- youromantic heroes, and Alan’s girlish heart had always pined for that.How lovely that at last he was the romantic heroine of his imagination.Too bad he was so wasted he’d probably never remember anyof this.

He heard the splash when his hero first stepped into the river,but didn’t process the implications until he felt himself being loweredinto the water. His first thought was for his shoes; his secondfor his dress; but both of those major tragedies were blasted fromthe ruins of his mind when the man pushed him to the bottomand pinned him there. Alan held his breath dutifully, looking upthrough the water, waiting to see what came next in this kinkiest ofall encounters.

It wasn’t very deep this close to the shore; maybe five inches overhis face. Less than half a foot of water between Alan and oxygen.Suddenly that became very important, but by the time he realizedthat nothing came next, that this was the grand finale, it was toolate for his tortured lungs. He struggled mightily, but only for a fewseconds before his body told him to gasp, gasp now, and he had nochoice but to open his mouth wide and take in his first drink of theMississippi River. He didn’t struggle much after that.

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