Authors: Robert Palmer
Published 2015 by Seventh Street BooksÂ®, an imprint of Prometheus Books
. Copyright Â© 2015 by Robert Palmer. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic, mechanical, photocopyÂing, reÂcordÂing, or otherwise, or conveyed via the Internet or a website without prior written permission of the publisher, exÂcept in the case of brief quotations emÂbodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, products, locales, and events portrayed in this novel either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover image Â© Steve Allsopp/Arcangel Images
Cover design by Nicole Sommer-Lecht
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows:
Palmer, Robert, 1955-
The survivors : a Cal Henderson novel / Robert Palmer.
ISBN 978-1-63388-082-5 (paperback) â ISBN 978-1-63388-083-2 (e-book)
1. PsychologistsâFiction. 2. Cold cases (Criminal investigation)âFiction. 3. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
For WTP and TAG
and the heights of Mount Olympus.
A most amazing day.
he wind gusted, rattling the old windows, and the four boys looked up from their game. “Ghosts!” whispered Scottie.
“Shut up,” said Alan, the oldest. “It's Davie's turn.”
They bent back over the board. “Five or better and he wins,” Scottie said, fingering the spinner.
They grew quiet as the sound of adult voices echoed up from the dining room on the far side of the house.
“Mom again,” Ron said. “I wish she and Dadâ”
,” said Davie. Ron and Alan were his big brothers, and he loved beating them. He played every gameâcheckers, cards, tag, board games like thisâwith the same pure intensity.
The voices rose again downstairs, loud enough so they could make out a few words, and their father cursed. That was followed by a bang. “That's it,” Alan said. “Dad's gone out.”
Scottie said, “We can hear them sometimes clear over at my house. My mom talked about calling the police once. She said maybe I shouldn't come here anymore.”
,” Ron snapped.
Davie sighed and hung his head. Scottie was his friend and a constant annoyance to the two older boysâwith his lame jokes and bluntly chewed fingers, his pale red hair standing on end like a cartoon character. And now he was playing with the spinner again, nudging it to the edge of the three spot. Davie's family had owned the game for years, and none of them had noticed the quirk of the spinner. Scottie figured it out the first time they let him play, but he only confided in Davie. Any spin that started on that spot always ended on six. He shot Davie a look, jumpy and furtive, a timid rabbit look.
C'mon buddy. All set.
Spin and win!
Eight-year-old Davie didn't want to disappoint anyone, but he wouldn't take the bait either.
“Let's do something else,” he said.
“Yeah, this is lame.” Alan slapped the board closed, and the little plastic cars bounced across the floor.
“Like what?” Ron said.
They turned to Davie. He was youngest, but he was the ideas man here. It had been that way since he was old enough to run with the others, as if somewhere behind his dark and deep-set eyes there always was an answer. “Hide-and-seek?” he said.
Scottie jumped up. “I'm it!”
“No,” Alan and Ron said together.
Hide-and-seek was a problem with Scottie. It was a special game for Davie and his family, something they all played together. Scottie was an outsider. Worse than that, when he was it, he didn't go searching for anybody. He just hid next to the base, and when the others tried to tag free, he was waiting to jump out and catch them. Rules didn't make any difference to Scottie, and no amount of advice from Davie could convince him otherwise. But that was mostly why Davie put up with him, even liked him. Scottie wasn't like any other kid Davie knew.
“I'll be it first,” Davie said, “then your turn.”
“OK,” Scottie moped.
Ron and Alan smiled at each other. They could see the clock on the bedside table. There was only time for one round before Scottie would have to go home.
They headed in opposite directions, the three down the hallway and Davie around the corner to his parents' room. “Stay up here,” he called. “Mom won't want us downstairs with her papers everywhere.”
“Sure,” one of the others mumbled.
They clicked the lights out as they went, leaving the upstairs dark except for the small lamp in their parents' room. They'd use the bed there as the base.
Davie went to the window that looked out on the backyard. It had started to rain, and fat droplets spattered the pane. He closed his eyes, listening past the storm to the sounds of the other boys. When they played hide-and-seek as a family, he always teamed with his mom. They almost never lost because she had taught him the strate
gy. Listen carefully. Follow the others with your ears. Triangulate in your head to where they were hiding. Nothing random, all scientific. He heard a giggle and Alan muttered something angry. A door slammedâ
and two moreâ
. In the closets, then. Probably the bedrooms at the top of the stairs.
He leaned into the wall to begin the count.
At fifty-seven, he heard something that sounded like the faint mewing of a cat. That couldn't be. Brookey was dead, two weeks ago. He looked out the window and saw his mother step into the yard. She wasn't wearing a coat or sweater. And the sound. The mewing was coming from her. She was crying. She'd cried for a whole day when Brookey died. Lately, she cried a lot.
She turned to face the house. The wind whistled through the pine trees behind her, and she shivered. No, she wasn't shivering but crying harder. Then she glanced up, and for an instant her eyes settled on him. Her hand moved ever so slightly, pressing down. It was a signal from hide-and-seek.
Get down, Davie. Stay quiet
Davie knelt, following instructions. He was always a good boy around her. From his new position, he could just see over the sill. Her hair was long and curly and blond, and the wind whipped it across her face. There was something in her other hand. Black. Heavy. Distorted by the raindrops on the window. She said something, a sentence or two, very low. Was his name part of it? He thought she would look up again and smile, maybe wave. She stared straight ahead.
Slowly, she raised her hand. Up beside her head. He'd never seen a real gun before, but of course he knew what it was. Muzzle at her temple. She lowered her face even more. The hair writhed around her eyes.
He opened his mouth to screamâ
âbut nothing came out. It was as if a hand had clamped on his throat, strangling the words before they could form.
The gun fired. That was the
he'd heard before. Not doors slamming.
Her body pitched sideways. There was no pirouette, nothing gracefulâjust down. She was still clutching the gun.
He kept trying to scream, but his voice wasn't there. In his head, he saw the last stricken look she'd given him as her hand patted the air.
Get down. Stay quiet
. Then his mind slipped over the edge. It was the same blank emptiness that came over him when he found Brookey's crushed body on the roadside. He'd knelt there, rigid and unmoving, until his mother found him and dragged him away.
The wind mounted again, battering the windows. He blinked and everything swam out of focus.
Davie crawled away from the window, something he wouldn't recall doing, and slid under the bed, using the springs to pull himself into the shadows. His wrist caught on a raw wire end, but he didn't feel a thing. He curled on his side with his knees to his chest and his arm impaled above him. Blood dripped off his elbow. Davie knew none of it, as he dove deeper and deeper into his own dark hole.
“Hey, there's one in here under the bed!” the cop shouted. “Oh my God, look at the blood.”
The paramedics had just arrived, and they burst into the room, a woman and a man. The woman dropped to her knees and reached in to untangle the boy's arm. “This one isn't shot, only bleeding from his wrist.”
She pulled him onto the rug. “Is he alive?” the cop said. This was his first call out for a shooting, and his voice was shaky.
“Yeah. Hard to tell how much blood he's lost. Let's get him outside to our rig.”
The copâDamon Thierryâled the way, shoving another cop who didn't move fast enough off the stairs. There were three police cars out on the road, all with lights flashing. Scottie Glass's mother sat in the back seat of one, looking like she'd lost all touch with the world. She'd called it in.