By Sandra Brown
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Kerra Bailey is a TV journalist hot on the trail of a story guaranteed to skyrocket her career to new heights: an interview with Major Franklin Trapper, a reclusive American hero who once led a handful of survivors to safety after the bombing of a Dallas hotel. Kerra is willing to do anything to get an exclusive with the Major-even if she has to secure an introduction from his ill-mannered and volatile son, former ATF agent John Trapper.
Trapper was fired from the ATF during his investigation into the same hotel bombing, and now he wants nothing to do with his father. Yet Kerra’s hints that there’s more to the story rouse Trapper’s interest despite himself. And when the interview goes catastrophically awry-with assailants targeting both the Major and Kerra-Trapper realizes he needs her under wraps if he’s going to track down the gunmen…and finally discover who was responsible for the Dallas bombing.
Kerra is wary of a man so devastatingly charming one moment and dangerous the next, and she knows Trapper is withholding evidence from his ATF investigation. But having no one else to trust and enemies lurking closer than they know, Kerra and Trapper join forces to expose a sinuous network of lies and conspiracy-and uncover who would want a national hero dead.
Did you think you were going to die?”
The Major pursed his lips with disapproval. “That question wasn’t on the list I approved.”
“Which is why I didn’t ask it while the cameras were rolling. But there’s no one here now but us. I’m asking off the record. Were you in fear of your life? Did dying cross your mind?”
“I didn’t stop to think about it.”
Kerra Bailey tilted her head and regarded him with doubt. “That sounds like a canned answer.”
The seventy-year-old gave her the smile that had won him the heart of a nation. “It is.”
“All right. I’ll respectfully withdraw the question.”
She could graciously pass on it because she’d got what she’d come for: the first interview of any kind that The Major had granted in more than three years. In the days leading up to this evening’s live telecast from his home, he and she had become well acquainted. They’d engaged in some lively discussions, often taking opposing views.
Kerra looked up at the stag head mounted above his mantel. “I stand by my aversion to having the eyes of dead animals staring down at me.”
“Venison is food. And keeping the herd thinned out is ecologically necessary to its survival.”
“Scientifically, that’s a sound observation. From a personal and humane standpoint, I don’t understand how anyone could place a beautiful animal like that in the crosshairs and pull the trigger.”
“Neither of us is going to win this argument,” he said, to which she replied with matching stubbornness, “Neither of us is going to concede it, either.”
He blurted a short laugh that ended in a dry cough. “You’re right.” He glanced over at the tall gun cabinet in the corner of the vast room, then pushed himself out of his brown leather La-Z-Boy, walked over to the cabinet, and opened the windowpane front.
He removed one of the rifles. “I took that particular deer with this rifle. It was my wife’s last Christmas present to me.” He ran his hand along the bluish barrel. “I haven’t used it since Debra died.”
Kerra was touched to see this softer side of the former soldier. “I wish she could have been here for the interview.”
“So do I. I miss her every day.”
“What was it like for her, being married to America’s hero?”
“Oh, she was super-impressed,” he said around a chuckle as he propped the rifle in the corner between the cabinet and the wall. “She nagged me only every other day about leaving my dirty socks on the floor rather than putting them in the hamper.”
Kerra laughed, but her thoughts had turned to The Major’s son, who’d made no bones about his aversion to his father’s fame. She’d felt an obligation to invite him to appear on the program alongside The Major, perhaps just a brief appearance in the final segment. Using explicit language that left no room for misinterpretation, he had declined. Thank God.
The Major crossed to the built-in bar. “So much talking has made me thirsty. I could use a drink. What would you like?”
“Nothing for me.” She stood and retrieved her bag from where she’d set it on the floor beside her chair. “As soon as the crew gets back, we need to hit the road.”
The Major had ordered a cold fried chicken picnic supper from a local restaurant for her and the five-person production crew. It was delivered to the house, and, after they’d eaten, packing up the gear had taken an hour. When all was done, Kerra had asked the others to go gas up the van for their two-hour drive back to Dallas while she stayed behind. She had wanted a few minutes alone with The Major in order to thank him properly.
She began, “Major, I must tell you—”
He turned to her and interrupted. “You’ve said it, Kerra. Repeatedly. You don’t need to say it again.”
“You may not need to hear it again, but I need to say it.” Her voice turned husky with emotion. “Please accept my heartfelt thanks for…well, for everything. I can’t adequately express my gratitude. It knows no bounds.”
Matching her solemn tone, he replied, “You’re welcome.”
She smiled at him and took a short breath. “May I call you every once in a while? Come visit if I’m ever out this way again?”
“I’d like that very much.”
They shared a long look, leaving the many insufficient words unspoken, but conveying to each other a depth of feeling. Then, to break the sentimental mood, he rubbed his hands together. “Sure you won’t have a drink?”
“No, but I would take advantage of your bathroom.” She left her coat in the chair but shouldered her bag.
“You know where it is.”
This making the fourth time she’d been to his house, she was familiar with the layout. The living area looked like a miniature Texas museum, with cowhide rugs on the distressed hardwood floor, Remington reproductions in bronze of cowboys in action, and pieces of furniture that made The Major’s recliner seem miniature by comparison.
One of the offshoots of the main room was a hallway, and the first door on the left was the powder room, although that feminine-sounding name was incongruous with the hand soap dispenser in the shape of a longhorn steer.
She was drying her hands at the sink and checking her reflection in the framed mirror above it, making a mental note to call her hairdresser—maybe a few more highlights around her face?—when the door latch rattled, calling her attention to it. “Major? Is the crew back? I’ll be right out.”
He didn’t respond, although she sensed someone on the other side of the door.
She replaced the hand towel in the iron ring mounted on the wall beside the sink and was reaching for her shoulder bag when she heard the bang.
Her mind instantly clicked back to The Major taking the rifle from the cabinet but not replacing it. If he’d been doing so now and it had accidentally discharged…Oh, my God!
She lunged for the door and grabbed hold of the knob, but snatched her hand back when she heard a voice, not The Major’s, say, “How do you like being dead so far?”
Kerra clapped her hand over her mouth to hold back a wail of disbelief and horror. She heard footsteps thudding around in the living room. One set? Two? It was hard to tell, and fear had robbed her of mental acuity. She did, however, have the presence of mind to reach for the switch plate and turn off the light.
Holding her breath, she listened, tracking the footsteps as they crossed rugs, struck hardwood, and then, to her mounting horror, entered the hallway. They came even with the bathroom door and stopped.
Moving as soundlessly as possible, she backed away from the door, feeling her way past the sink and toilet in the darkness, until she came up against the bead board wall. She tried to keep her breathing silent, though her lips moved around a prayer of only one repeated word: Please, please, please.
Whoever was on the other side of the door tried turning the knob and found it locked. It was tried a second time, then the door shook as an attempt was made to force it open. To whomever was trying to open it, the locked door could only mean one thing: Someone was on the other side of it.
She’d been discovered.
Another set of footsteps came rushing from the living area. The door was battered against with what she imagined was the stock of a rifle.
She had nothing with which to defend herself against armed assailants. If they had in fact fatally shot The Major, and if they got past that door, she would die, too.
Escape was her only option, and it had to be now.
The double-hung window behind her was small, but it was the only chance she had of getting out alive. She felt for the lock holding the sashes together, twisted it open, then placed her fingers in the depressions of the lower sash and pulled up with all her might. It didn’t budge.
Bambambam! The rapid succession of blows loosened the latch and splintered the wood anchoring it.
Because silence was no longer necessary, Kerra was sobbing now, taking in noisy gulps of air. Please, please, please. She whimpered the entreaty for salvation from a source stronger than she because she felt powerless.
She put all she had into raising the window, and it became unstuck with such suddenness that it stunned her for perhaps one heartbeat. Another violent attempt to break the latch separated metal parts of it. She heard them landing on the floor.
She threw one leg over the windowsill and bent practically in half in order to get her head and shoulders through. When they cleared the opening, she launched herself out and dropped to the ground.
She landed on her shoulder. A spike of pain took her breath. Her left arm went numb and useless. She rolled onto her stomach and pushed herself up with her right arm. After taking a few staggering steps to regain her balance, she took off in a sprint. Behind her she heard the bathroom door crashing open.
A blast from a shotgun deafened her and sheared off an upper branch of a young mesquite tree. She kept running. It fired again, striking a boulder and creating shrapnel that struck her legs like darts.
How many misses would they get before hitting her?
There were no city lights, only a sliver of moon. The darkness made her a more difficult target, but it also prevented her from seeing more than a few feet ahead of her. She ran blindly, stumbling over rocks, scrub brush, and uneven ground.
Please, please, please.
Then without warning, the earth gave out beneath her. She pitched forward, grabbing hold of nothing but air. She was helpless to catch herself before smashing into the ground and rolling, sliding, falling.
Six days earlier
Trapper was in a virtual coma when the knocking started.
“Bloody hell,” he mumbled into the throw pillow beneath his head. His face would bear the imprint of the upholstery when he got up. If he got up. Right now, he had no intention of moving, not even to open his eyes.
The knocking might have been part of a dream. Maybe a construction worker somewhere in the building was tapping the walls in search of studs. An urban woodpecker? Whatever. If he ignored the noise, maybe it would go away.
But after fifteen seconds of blessed silence, there came another knock-knock. Trapper croaked, “I’m closed. Come back later.”
The next three knocks were insistent.
Swearing, he rolled onto his back, sailed the drool-damp pillow across the office, and laid his forearm over his eyes to block the daylight. The window blinds were only partially open, but those cheerful, skinny strips of sunshine made his eyeballs throb.
Keeping one eye closed, he eased his feet off the sofa and onto the floor. When he stood, he stumbled over his discarded boots. His big toe sent his cell phone sliding across the floor and underneath a chair. If he bent down that far, he doubted his ability to return upright, so he left his phone where it was.
It wasn’t like it rang all that often anyway.
Holding the heel of his hand against his pounding temple, and with one eye remaining closed, he managed to reach the other side of his office without bumping into the bottom drawer of the metal file cabinet. For no reason he could remember, it was standing open.
Through the frosted glass upper half of the door, he made out a form just as it raised its fist to knock again. To prevent the further agony that would induce, Trapper flipped the lock and opened the door a crack.
He sized her up within two seconds. “You’ve got the wrong office. One flight up. First door to the right off the elevator.”
He was about to shut the door when she said, “John Trapper?”
Shit. Had he forgotten an appointment? He scratched the top of his head, where his hair hurt down to the follicles. “What time is it?”
She took a breath and let it out slowly. “Monday.”
He looked her up and down and came back to her face. “Who are you?”
The name didn’t ring any bells, but it would be hard to hear them over the jackhammer inside his skull. “Look, if it’s about the parking meter—”
“The one in front of the building? The one that’s been flattened?”
“I’ll pay to have it replaced. I’ll cover any other damages. I would have left a note to that effect, but I didn’t have anything on me to write—”
“I’m not here about the parking meter.”
“Oh. Hmm. Did we have an appointment?”
“Well, now’s not a good time for me, Ms.…” He went blank.
“Bailey.” She said that in the same impatient tone in which she’d said Monday.
“Right. Ms. Bailey. Call me, and we’ll schedule—”
“It’s important that I talk to you sooner rather than later. May I come in?” She gestured at the door, which Trapper had kept open only a few inches.
A woman who looked like her, he hated turning down for anything. But, hell. His head felt as dense as a bowling ball. His shirt was unbuttoned, the tail hanging loose. He hoped his fly was zipped, but in case it wasn’t, he didn’t risk calling attention to it by checking. His breath would stop a clock.
He glanced behind him at the disarray: suit jacket and tie slung over the back of a chair; boots in front of the sofa, one upright, the other lying on its side; one black sock draped over the armrest, the other sock God only knew where; an empty Dom bottle precariously close to rolling off the corner of his desk.
He needed a shower. He really needed to pee.
But he also really, really needed clients, and she had “money” written all over her. Her handbag, literally so. It was the size of a small suitcase and covered in designer initials. Even if she had been looking for the tax attorney on the next floor up, she would have been slumming.
Besides, when had he ever been known to say no to a lady in distress?
He stepped back and opened the door, motioning her toward the two straight chairs facing his desk. He kicked the file cabinet drawer shut with his heel and still got to his desk ahead of her in time to relocate an empty but smelly Chinese food carton and the latest issue of Maxim. He’d ranked the cover shot among his top ten faves, but she might take exception to that much areola.
She sat in one chair and placed her bag in the other. As he rounded the desk, he buttoned the middle button of his shirt and ran a hand across his mouth and chin to check for remaining drool.
As he dropped into his desk chair, he caught her looking at the gravity-defying champagne bottle. He rescued it from the corner of the desk and set it gently in the trash can to avoid a clatter. “Buddy of mine got married.”
Her eyebrow arched. “It must have been some wedding.”
He shrugged, then leaned back in his chair. “Who recommended me?”
“No one. I got the address off your website.”
Trapper had forgotten he even had one. He’d paid a college kid seventy-five bucks to do whatever it was you do to get a website online. That was the last he’d thought of it. This was the first client it had yielded.
She looked like she could afford much better.
“I apologize for showing up without an appointment,” she said. “I tried calling you several times this morning, but kept getting your voice mail.”
Trapper shot a look toward the chair his phone had slid underneath. “I silenced my phone for the wedding. Guess I forgot to turn it back on.” As discreetly as possible, he shifted in his chair in a vain attempt to give his bladder some breathing room.
“Well, it’s sooner rather than later, Ms. Bailey. You said it was important, but not important enough for you to make an appointment. What can I do for you?”
“I’d like for you to intervene on my behalf and convince your father to grant me an interview.”
He would have said Come again? or Pardon? or I didn’t quite catch that, but she had articulated perfectly, so what he said was, “Is this a fucking joke?”
“Seriously, who put you up to this?”
“No one, Mr. Trapper.”
“Just plain Trapper is fine, but it doesn’t matter what you call me because we don’t have anything else to say to each other.” He stood up and headed for the door.
“You haven’t even heard me out.”
“Yeah. I have. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta take a piss and then I’ve got a hangover to sleep off. Close the door on your way out. This neighborhood, I hope your car’s still there when you get back to it.”
He stalked out in bare feet and went down the drab hallway to the men’s room. He used the urinal then went over to the sink and looked at himself in the cloudy, cracked mirror above it. A pile of dog shit had nothing on him.
He bent down and scooped tap water into his mouth until his thirst was no longer raging, then ducked his head under the faucet. He shook water from his hair and dried his face with paper towels. With one more nod toward respectability, he buttoned his shirt as he was walking back to his office.
She was still there. Which didn’t come as that much of a surprise. She looked the type that didn’t give up easily.
Before he could order her out, she said, “Why would you object to The Major giving an interview?”
“It’s no skin off my nose, but he won’t do it, and I think you already know that or you wouldn’t have come to me, because I’m the last person on the planet who could convince him to do anything.”
“Why is that?”
He recognized that cleverly laid trap for what it was and didn’t step into it. “Let me guess. I’m your last resort?” Her expression was as good as an admission. “Before coming to me, how many times did you ask The Major yourself?”
“I’ve called him thirteen times.”
“How many times did he hang up on you?”
Under her breath, she said, “It must be a family trait.”
Trapper smiled. “It’s the only one he and I have in common.” He studied her for a moment. “You get points for tenacity. Most give up long before thirteen attempts. Who do you work for?”
“A network O and O—owned and operated—in Dallas.”
“You’re on TV? In Dallas?”
“I do feature stories. Human interest, things like that. Occasionally one makes it to the network’s Sunday evening news show.”
Trapper was familiar with the program, but he didn’t remember ever having watched it.
He knew for certain that he’d never seen her, not even on the local station, or he would’ve remembered. She had straight, sleek light brown hair with blonder streaks close to her face. Brown eyes as large as a doe’s. One inch below the outside corner of the left one was a beauty mark the same dark chocolate color as her irises. Her complexion was creamy, her lips plump and pink, and he was reluctant to pull his gaze away from them.
But he did. “Sorry, but you drove over here for nothing.”
“You’re wasting your time. The Major retired from public life years ago.”
“Three to be exact. And he didn’t merely retire. He went into seclusion. Why do you think he did that?”
“My guess is that he got sick of talking about it.”
“What about you?”
“I was sick of it long before that.”
“How old were you?”
“At the time of the bombing? Eleven. Fifth grade.”
“Your father’s sudden celebrity must have affected you.”
She watched him for a moment, then said softly, “That’s impossible. It had to have impacted your life as dramatically as it did his.”
He squinted one eye. “You know what this sounds like? Leading questions, like you’re trying to interview me. In which case, you’re SOL because I’m not going to talk about The Major, or me, or my life. Ever. Not to anybody.”
She reached into the oversize bag and took out an eight-by-ten reproduction of a photograph, laid it on the desk, and pushed it toward him.
Without even glancing down at it, he pushed it back. “I’ve seen it.” For the second time, he stood up, went to the door, opened it, and stood there with hands on hips, waiting.
She hesitated, then sighed with resignation, hiked the strap of her bag onto her shoulder, and joined him at the door. “I caught you at a bad time.”
“No, this is about as good as I get.”
“Would you consider meeting me later, after you’ve had time to…” She made a gesture that encompassed his sorry state. “To feel better. I could outline what I want to do. We could talk about it over dinner.”
“Nothing to talk about.”
He shook his head. “Thanks anyway.”
She gnawed the inside of her cheek as though trying to determine which tactic to use to try to persuade him. He could offer some salacious suggestions, but she probably wouldn’t go that far, and even if she did, afterward he’d still say no to her request.
She took a look around the office before coming back to him. With the tip of her index finger, she underlined the words stenciled on the frosted glass of the door. “Private Investigator.”
“So it says.”
“Your profession is to investigate things, solve mysteries.”
He snuffled. That was his former profession. Nowadays, he was retained by tearful wives wanting him to confirm that their husbands were screwing around. If he managed to get pictures, it doubled his fee. Distraught parents paid him to track down runaway teens, whom he usually found exchanging alleyway blowjobs for heroin.
He wouldn’t call the work he was doing mystery-solving. Or investigation, for that matter.
But to her, he said, “Fort Worth’s own Sherlock Holmes.”
“Are you state licensed?”
“Oh, yeah. I have a gun, bullets, everything.”
“Do you have a magnifying glass?”
The question baffled him because she hadn’t asked it in jest. She was serious. “What for?”
Those pouty pink lips fashioned an enigmatic smile, and she whispered, “Figure it out.”
Keeping her eyes on his, she reached into an inside pocket of her bag and withdrew a business card. She didn’t hand it to him, but stuck it in a crack between the frosted glass pane and the door frame, adjacent to the words that spelled out his job description.
“When you change your mind, my cell number is on the card.”
Hell would freeze over first.
Trapper plucked the business card from the slit, flipped it straight into the trash can, and slammed the office door behind her.
Eager to go home and sleep off the remainder of his hangover in a more comfortable surrounding, he snatched up the sock on the armrest of the sofa and went in search of the other.
After several frustrating minutes and a litany of elaborate profanity, he found it inside one of his boots. He pulled on his socks but decided he needed an aspirin before he finished dressing. Padding over to his desk, he opened the lap drawer in the hope of discovering a forgotten bottle of analgesics.
That damned photograph was there in plain sight where he couldn’t miss it.
But whether looking at it, or acknowledging it in any manner, or even denying its existence, he was never truly free of it. He had lied to Kerra Bailey. His life was never the same after that photograph went global twenty-five years ago.
- "Sandra Brown just might have penned her best and most ambitious book ever, a tale that evokes the work of the likes of Don DeLillo, Greg Iles and Robert Stone....SEEING RED is an exceptional thriller in every sense of the word, a classic treatment of the costs of heroism and the nature of truth itself. Not to be missed."—Providence Journal
- "Brown's story mixes thrills with mystery and a spicy sex scene or two. She has a talent for making the reader think that too much information has been revealed early in the story, eliminating any possibility for suspense, but the conspiracy is so multilayered, the reveal is a tiny part of the overall picture. Strong characters and an emotional narrative make this one of Brown's best books in years."—Associated Press
- "When it comes to telling stories that are suspenseful, complex and romantic, no one does it better than Brown...Looking for excitement, thrills and passion? Then this is just the book for you!"—Romantic Times (4 1/2 stars, Top Pick)
- "Brown ticks off the boxes that elevate her books to the bestseller lists in this sexy romantic thriller set in Texas...murder, intrigue, betrayal, and a series of dark revelations...witty, pitch-perfect dialogue and fluid writing. A master of her genre, Brown knows how to please her most ardent readers."—Kirkus Reviews
- On Sale
- Jun 26, 2018
- Page Count
- 496 pages