By Al Sarrantonio
Jack Paine was on what passed for a vacation, or maybe it was a regrouping, an opportunity to forget the events of the last year and especially of the last month. When the phone rang, he tried to ignore it. There were only a few people who knew where to reach him, and none of them would try. But the phone kept ringing. And Jack Paine finally answered it.
Of course, it was bad news. Bob Petty, a friend from Paine’s days on the force, had disappeared. Petty’s wife, Terry, knew that he hadn’t gone undercover; they’d worked out a code for situations like that. All Bob had said in his last phone call to his wife was, “If you ever come near me I’ll kill you and the kids.”
Jack Paine is a retired cop with a private license and a telescope he uses to watch the heavens. It’s a simple life, good when he’s got clients, and he manages when he doesn’t. But this call was leading to something Paine wasn’t sure he could manage: Now that Petty had disappeared, bodies were beginning to appear and the trail always led back to his old friend.
Paine doesn’t think his friend has turned. But something is very wrong, something that goes beyond the deep-rooted corruption he beings to uncover, something that goes deeper…and much further back.
And in the Arizona desert, where day’s heat turns deathly cold at night, and where the stars scream for attention, Jack Paine turns over the last stone…