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A thrilling and timely novel about three women with dark secrets whose lives intersect in the picturesque and perilous Yosemite National Park from the USA TODAY bestselling author of the “propulsive” (Laura Dave, author of The Last Thing He Told Me) Please Join Us.
Equipped with a burner phone and a new job, Cassie Peters has left her hectic and secretive life in New York City for the refuge of her hometown of Mammoth Lakes, California. There, she begins working again with Yosemite Search and Rescue, where a case she worked a decade ago continues to haunt her.
She quickly falls into old patterns, joining a group of fellow seasonal workers and young adventurers who have made Yosemite their home during the summer. There, she meets Petal, a young woman living in a trailer with her much older wife, keeping a detailed diary of the goings on of the park, and Jada, a recent college graduate on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, documenting their journey on Instagram.
When these three women cross paths, Cassie’s past catches up with her, and the shocking consequences ripple out far beyond what any could have imagined in this unputdownable thriller from an author who “never fails to impress” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author).
Chapter 1: Pumpkin Hour
We’re losing light!” Ben yells over the whir of the blades. “We need to go!”
I turn to look out over the field to the tree line, taking in the scene of the crime. The dark green conifers, with their exposed lower limbs. The trampled grass. A wrapper from a protein bar tumbling over and over like a gymnast. A dark patch in the dirt that looks like it’s tinged by rust.
I can’t hear anything but the helicopter’s whine, but the screams are still caught in my thoughts—sharp, terrified, then cut out, cut off.
“Cassie!” Ben yells next to me. “Move it!”
The fear in his voice unsticks my feet. I turn away, following Ben to the Huey. He goes up first, and I put my foot on the landing gear, careful to keep my head bent as I was taught, conscious of the blade spinning above me. Ben crouches in the opening and reaches out his rough hand. I grab it and let him haul me into the helo’s belly. I stumble, then right myself, still bent over.
“You got this?”
I nod and he lets me go. I shuffle to one side and sit in an empty seat, facing Ben and Gareth. As I strap myself in, I try not to think of the body that rests on the floor between us, zipped into a thin black bag by Ben and Gareth after they found me. But the space is so tight that I can’t put my feet on the floor without resting them on it. That possibility brings bile to my throat, so I raise my legs in front of me. They protest; I won’t be able to keep this position for long.
The pilot checks us over his shoulder. He, like Ben and Gareth, is wearing a dark helmet, a microphone by his mouth. The pilot points to a helmet hanging on a hook next to my head. I grab it and put it on, adjusting the volume with a wheel on the side. It’s tight and uncomfortable, edging into the headache that’s been building since yesterday.
The pilot’s voice is tinny and distant. “We have ten minutes till pumpkin hour.”
Ben gives him a thumbs-up, and I feel a moment of confusion until the meaning of the term thunks into place. The helicopter can’t fly safely after dark in this mountainous terrain. They call it pumpkin hour, and there won’t be a fairy-tale ending if we flirt too hard with that deadline. I know this, I knew this, but the shock of everything that’s happened has affected more than my motor skills—I can feel it eroding my memory, like a thick fog descending that I must find my way out of before it’s too late.
“Everyone strapped in?” the pilot asks as he does his final checks.
“Ready!” Ben says, giving a thumbs-up again. Gareth does the same, and then it’s my turn.
I pop my thumb up in a gesture that feels more positive than possible. But I do have some things to be grateful for.
That they found me before it was too late.
That I’m alive.
That there’s only one body in a bag at my feet.
The pilot turns away, and then the engine changes gear. The blades above us spin harder, faster, louder as we lift slowly from the ground. It’s deep twilight now, the world fading like a watercolor left in the sun, and I cling to the straps holding me in place, petrified of the open door, and that I’ll never be able to erase what I saw. What I did.
The Huey banks, heading back to the Heli Base at Crane Flat, circling over the small field we just left.
I don’t want to look down, but I can’t help but throw a last glance at the scene below. And maybe it’s a trick of the fading light, but I swear I can see the faint outline of someone waiting at the edge of the tree line, watching to make sure we fly away.
- On Sale
- Jun 27, 2023
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Hachette Book Group