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By Ted Dekker
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Yet under the cover of the storm looms a much more ominous threat: A vindictive killer known as Red who’s left a string of victims in his wake and is now bent on exacting his final revenge on the unsuspecting town.
But there is an enigma surrounding Red that the FBI is unwilling to admit-closely guarded secrets of something gone terribly wrong beneath the skin of Summerville. Secrets that will destroy far more than one small town.
Wendy Davidson is caught in the middle. She’s a recovering cult survivor who takes refuge in Summerville on her way to visit her estranged mother. And with her, four strangers, any of whom could be the next victim . . . or the killer.
ACCLAIM FOR TED DEKKER’S NOVELS
“Ted Dekker has been here for years, but he’s finally arrived. [T]his is what true storytelling is.”
—The Bookshelf Reviews advance praise for Skin
“[C]ompelling, thought-provoking fiction that is wildly out-of-the-box, speculative, [and] boundary-breaking.”
—TitleTrakk.com advance review of Skin
“Saint is filled with intense, edge-of-your-seat action that will keep you turning pages until you are finished. There’s something compelling about [Dekker’s] writing style that sets it apart from anyone else I’ve ever read and Saint certainly doesn’t veer from that path.
“Saint reads like The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum), meets The Matrix, meets Mr. Murder (Dean Koontz).”
—5 out of 5 stars from The Bookshelf Reviews
“Fans of Dekker and supernatural suspense will relish this creative thriller.”
—Library Journal review of Saint
“A master of suspense reminiscent of Dean Koontz and John Grisham, Ted Dekker keeps readers on their toes trying to solve the mystery of Saint’s identity.”
“Dekker’s in fine form here, delivering another blockbuster of action, mystery, and suspense, while serving up some of his most heartrending scenes ever. This latest plot is a breathless, winding maze of intrigue, and his tightest non-stop thrill ride since Thr3e.”
—INFUZE review of Saint
“[In Showdown] Dekker delivers his signature exploration of good and evil in the context of a genuine thriller that could further enlarge his already sizable audience.”
“Only Peretti and Dekker [in House] could have delivered this full-tilt supernatural thriller. They had me ripping through the pages . . . then blew me away with a final twist, I never saw coming. Can’t wait to see the movie!”
—Ralph Winter, producer of X-Men 3 and Fantastic Four
“[In Obsessed] an inventive plot and fast-paced action put Dekker at the top of his game.”
“[With Thr3e] Dekker delivers another page-turner . . . masterfully takes readers on a ride full of plot twists and turns . . . a compelling tale of cat and mouse . . . an almost perfect blend of suspense, mystery, and horror.”
“Toss away all your expectations, because Showdown is one of the most original, most thoughtful, and most gripping reads I’ve been through in ages . . . Breaking all established story patterns or plot formulas, you’ll find yourself repeatedly feeling that there’s no way of predicting what will happen next . . . The pacing is dead-on, the flow is tight, and the epic story is downright sneaky in how it unfolds. Dekker excels at crafting stories that are hard to put down, and Showdown is the hardest yet.”
“Dekker is a master of suspense and even makes room for romance.”
“[Showdown] strips the veneer of civilization to the darkness of the soul, revealing the motivations and intents of the heart. This is a difficult book to read and definitely not for the squeamish. It brings home the horror of sin and the depth of sacrifice in a way another book would not—could not.”
—Author’s Choice Reviews
“One of the highlights of the year in religious fiction has been Ted Dekker’s striking color-coded spiritual trilogy. Exciting, well written, and resonant with meaning, Black, Red, and now White have won over both critics and genre readers . . . An epic journey completed with grace.”
—Editors, BARNES AND NOBLE
“Calling [Showdown] unique is an understatement. Ted Dekker has successfully laced a contemporary thriller with searing spiritual principles.”
—In the Library Reviews
“Put simply: it’s a brilliant, dangerous idea. And we need more dangerous ideas . . . Dekker’s trilogy is a mythical epic, with a vast, predetermined plot and a scope of staggering proportions . . . Black is one of those books that will make you thankful that you know how to read. If you love a good story, and don’t mind suspending a little healthy disbelief, Black will keep you utterly enthralled from beginning to . . . well, cliffhanger. Red can’t get here fast enough.”
“If you’re looking for a book that will keep you up at night and yet offers hope at some point, then House is a must read for you. My words will never suffice how spectacular this book is, so go out and get this book for yourself. But don’t forget to lock the windows and doors and whatever you do . . . stay out of the basement.”
“Ted Dekker is clearly one of the most gripping storytellers alive today. He creates plots that keep your heart pounding and palms sweating even after you’ve finished his books.”
—Jeremy Reynalds, Syndicated Columnist
“[Thunder of Heaven is] a real page-turner . . . scenes read like the best of David Morrell . . . his description is upsettingly precise.”
OTHER NOVELS BY TED DEKKER
The Martyr’s Song
When Heaven Weeps
Thunder of Heaven
House (coauthored with Frank Peretti)
Blessed Child (coauthored with Bill Bright)
A Man Called Blessed (coauthored with Bill Bright)
© 2007 by Ted Dekker
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson in association with Creative Trust, Inc., Literary Division, 5141 Virginia Way, Suite 320, Brentwood, TN 37027. Thomas Nelson is a trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Thomas Nelson, Inc. titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail SpecialMarkets@ThomasNelson.com.
Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dekker, Ted, 1962–
Skin / Ted Dekker.
ISBN-13: 978-1-59554-277-9 (hard cover)
ISBN-10: 1-59554-277-9 (hard cover)
ISBN-10: 1-59554-291-4 (IE)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59554-291-5 (IE)
1. Serial murderers—Fiction. 2. Nevada—Fiction. I. Title.
Printed in the United States of America
07 08 09 10 RRD 7 6 5 4 3
When the rain isn’t so much falling—be it in bucket loads or like cats and dogs—but rather slamming into the car like an avalanche of stone, you know it’s time to pull over.
When you can’t see much more than the slaphappy wipers splashing through rivers on the windshield, when you’re suddenly not sure if you’re on the road any longer, and your radio emits nothing but static, and you haven’t seen another car since the sky turned black, and your fingers are tense on the wheel in an attempt to steady the old Accord in the face of terrifying wind gusts, you know it’s so totally time to pull over.
Wendy leaned over the steering wheel, searching for the yellow lines that separated the two-lane highway. No real shoulder that she could see. What was to keep another car from rear-ending her if she pulled over here?
She’d seen the black clouds pillaring on the horizon as she headed across the Nevada desert. Heard the tornado warnings on the radio before it had inexplicably fried. The fact that this wasn’t tornado territory had the announcers in a bit of a frenzy.
Wendy had ignored the warnings and pressed on into evening. She’d given herself two days for the long haul between San Diego and western Utah. The call from her mother asking her to come had frozen Wendy for a good ten seconds, phone in hand. Had to be Thursday, this week, her mother had insisted. It was now Tuesday night. Wendy wondered if she’d see the rest of the Brotherhood cult or just her mother. The thought of either was enough to keep her awake at night.
The tribe, as its leader Bronson called it, was a somewhat nomadic group of twenty or so members, going where God led them. God had evidently led them to the remote Utah-Nevada border now.
Wendy had been born into the cult and had managed to escape eight years earlier, on her eighteenth birthday, the day she was to wed Torrey Bronson as his third wife. Twice she’d hired private investigators to locate the tribe and report on her mother’s condition. Twice the report had come back favorable. But the investigators had never actually talked to her mother—speaking to anyone from the outside world was strictly prohibited. Even making eye contact was good for a day in isolation. Physical contact, heaven forbid, was grounds for severe punishment.
Inside the cult there was plenty of touching and hugging and kiss-ing, but no physical contact with strangers ever, period. That was the Brotherhood way.
Wendy had fallen in an Oklahoma ditch when she was seven years old and broken her leg. A farmer had heard her cries and taken her to the others who were searching. Before setting the bone, “Father” Bronson had beaten her severely for allowing unclean hands to touch her. The lashing hurt more than the broken leg. It was the last time Wendy had touched or been touched by anyone outside the tribe before escaping.
And when Father Bronson had taken it upon himself to break her two thumbs and two forefingers as punishment for kissing Tony, another thirteen-year-old in the tribe at the time, he’d made it excruciatingly clear that he’d claimed her for himself alone.
She’d fled the cult, but not the wounding of such a perverse childhood. Few knew the extent of the damage; she hid it well behind soft eyes and a light smile. But to this day even the thought of physical contact with men unnerved her.
No issue in Wendy’s tumultuous life consumed her as much as this failing. Touch was her personal demon. A beast that prevented her from expressing the deep caring she’d felt in any relationship with a man, isolating her from love, romantic or otherwise.
Now, driving through nature’s fury, she felt oddly isolated again. It was suddenly clear that her decision to continue into the dark clouds had been a mistake.
As if hearing and understanding that it had played unfairly with her, the storm suddenly eased. She could see the road again.
See, now that wasn’t so bad . . . Time to retreat to the nearest overcrowded motel to wait out the storm with the rest of the traveling public.
She could even see the signs now, and the green one she passed said that the turnoff to Summerville was in five miles. Exit 354. A hundred yards farther, a blue sign indicated that there were no services at this exit.
Freak storm. Flash floods. Truth be told, it was all a bit exciting. As long as the storm didn’t delay her, she kind of liked the idea of—
Her headlights hit a vehicle in the road ahead. Like a wraith, the cockeyed beast glared at her through the rainy night, unmoving, dead on the road. A pickup truck.
She slammed her foot on the brake.
The Accord’s rear wheels lost traction on the wet pavement and slid around to her left. She gripped the steering wheel, knuckles white. Her headlights flashed past the scrub oak lining the road.
For an instant Wendy thought the car might roll. But the wet asphalt kept the Accord’s wheels from catching and throwing her over.
Unfortunately, the slick surface also prevented the tires from stopping her car before it crashed into the pickup.
Wendy jerked forward, allowing her forearms to absorb most of the impact.
Steam hissed from under her hood. Rain splattered. But Wendy was unhurt, apart from maybe a bruise or two. She sat still, collecting herself.
Oddly enough, the airbags hadn’t deployed. Maybe it was the angle. She’d hit the other vehicle’s front bumper in a full slide, so that her left front fender had taken the brunt of the impact before becoming wedged under the grill.
She picked up her cell phone and snapped it open. No Service.
No service for more than half an hour now.
She tried the door. It squealed some, then opened easily before striking the smallish pickup, which she now saw was green. She climbed out, hardly noticing the rain. The pickup was missing its right front wheel and sat on the inner guts of the brake contraption—which explained the tire she now saw in the road. Her eyes returned to the pickup’s door. The side window was shattered. The front windshield seemed intact, except for two round holes punched through on the driver’s side.
Of course she couldn’t be sure they were bullet holes, but it was the first thought to cross her mind, and since it had done so, she could hardly consider that mere debris had punched those two perfect circles through the glass.
Someone had shot at the driver.
Wendy jerked her head around for signs of another car or a shooter. Nothing she could see, but that didn’t mean they weren’t out there. For a moment she stood glued to the pavement, mind divided between the drenching she was receiving from the rain, and those two bullet holes.
She remembered the pistol in the console compartment between her Accord’s front seats. Louise had talked her into buying it long ago, when they’d first met at the shelter. Wendy had never received the training she’d intended to, nor had she ever fired the gun. But there it lay, and if ever there was a time for it . . .
She flung the Accord’s door wide and ducked inside. Finding and dislodging the black pistol case from between the seats proved a slippery, knuckle-burning task with wet fingers. Yet she managed to wrench it out. She disengaged the sliding mechanism that opened the case, snatched out the cold steel weapon, and fumbled it, trying to remember what the safety looked like.
Meanwhile, her butt, which was still sticking out in the rain, was taking a bath. The gun slipped from her hands and thudded on the floor mat. She swore and reached for it, found the trigger, and would have blown a hole in the car if the safety had been off.
Thank God for safeties.
Now she found the safety and disengaged it. However unfamiliar she was with guns, Wendy was no idiot. Neither was she anything similar to gutless.
Whoever was in the truck might still be alive, possibly even injured, and out here in this storm. And Wendy was the only one who could help. Sniper lurking or not, she would never abandon anyone in need.
Wendy turned the key in the Accord’s ignition. The car purred to life. It was still steaming through the hood, but at least it ran.
She took a calming breath, then slipped back out of the car and hurried around to the truck’s passenger door, staying low.
With a last look around the deserted highway, keeping the gun in both hands down low the way she’d often seen such weapons wielded on the big screen, she poked her head up and looked through the passenger window.
She stood up for a better look. The driver’s window was smeared with something. Blood. But no body. Someone had been shot. The truck had apparently sideswiped another car and lost its front wheel before coming to a rest.
Wendy scanned the shoulder and ditches for any sign of a fallen body. Nothing.
Still no sign of a shooter, no sign of any danger.
No response to her call.
Louder this time. “Hello? Anybody out there?”
No, nothing but the rain drumming on the vehicles.
She started to shove the gun into the back of her Lucky jeans, which were now drenched right through to her skin, but a quick image of the gun blowing a hole in her butt stopped her short.
It was then, hand still on the pistol at the small of her back, that she heard the cry.
She jerked the gun to her left and listened. There it was again, farther down the road, hidden in the growing dark. An indistinguishable cry for help or of pain.
Or the killer, howling at the moon in victory.
The cry did not come again. Wendy crouched low and ran down the roadside toward the sound, gun extended. She wanted to yell but was torn, knowing that in the very unlikely case the sound had been made by whoever had shot at the truck, she would be exposing herself to danger.
That she was now running away from the safety of her car through the dark rain, toward an unidentified stranger, struck her as absurd. On the other hand, she would gladly spend the rest of her life pulling little girls with broken legs out of the ditches into which they had fallen, regardless of the consequences.
She’d run less than fifty yards when a van loomed through the rain. She pulled up, panting.
The van had apparently swerved off the road and down the shallow embankment on the left, where it now rested in complete darkness. It wasn’t the kind of minivan in which moms hauled their children to soccer matches. It was the larger, square kind—the kind killers threw their kidnapped victims into before roaring off to the deep woods.
A streak of fear passed through her. Refusing to be gutless was one thing. Acting foolishly out of some misguided sense of justice was another. This was now feeling like the latter.
How many?” Colt asked.
“Three,” the dispatcher said.
“You’re saying three tornadoes have actually been spotted, or the weather service is warning of the possibility that—”
“Spotted, not speculated.” Becky was as nervous as a mouse, and her quick eyes betrayed her. Otherwise, she was handling her duties as dispatcher quite well, all things considered.
Summerville’s police station was situated at the center of the small town at Main and Rolling Hill, an absurd name for a street in a town that was as flat as a tortilla. The dispatch doubled as a reception area out front. Double doors led to a large open room containing seven desks, only half of which were used for more than counter space and the filing cabinets each housed.
The chief’s office bordered the common area on the right, next to a conference room that doubled for the occasional interrogation. Behind it all sat an overbuilt jail—five cells.
Summerville wasn’t a town that saw too much trouble, certainly not of the magnitude that now threatened with three tornadoes bearing down from the east. In the full year since Colt had packed his life into the back of a midnight blue Dodge Ram and headed north to his new appointment as one of four deputies in Summerville, the department had responded to forty-seven domestic violence calls, seven accidental deaths, one murder, and more than six hundred miscellaneous violations and accidents, including everything from drunk driving to stranded cats. All in all, a fraction of what the residents of Las Vegas endured in a fraction of the time.
Colt knew, because he’d practically fled Vegas for the relative calm of a small town post. Unfortunately, a full year of this relative calm hadn’t changed him. A traumatic childhood had reduced him to a clumsy, insecure mess around women, and only slightly better around men. Being a cop in the City of Sin somehow hadn’t helped him hone those skills. He was exceptional with a gun, but that really wasn’t what the job in a small town required.
Now that small town was in the direct path of not one but three tornadoes.
“I didn’t know we had tornadoes in Nevada,” Colt said absently, looking past the blinds at the rain. It had eased off considerably.
“We don’t. Freak storm, they’re saying. Global warming or something.”
“Where’s Chief Lithgow?”
“With the maintenance crew.”
“Shutting down the main roads till this blows over.”
Colt lifted his baseball cap off his forehead and walked toward the door. It was his day off, and he’d come in to see if they needed any help. Sounded like they had the situation under control.
“I’ll be on the radio if you need me.” He reached for the door.
“Tell the chief—”
“Officer down, officer down!” Eli Seymore’s voice squawked on the radio like a chicken eyeing a freshly ground ax. “We got us trouble. There’s someone out here with a gun, and he’s shot the chief. Request backup.” And then as if an afterthought, “Right now!”
Becky’s face turned white. “You sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure! He’s right here. Man, oh man. Man, oh man! Send an ambulance.” The officer sounded like he was nearly in tears.
“Where is he?” Colt asked.
“Where are you?” Becky repeated.
“One block west of the main . . . Oh my . . . Crap, crap, crap.
There he is! He’s—” Sounds of gunfire popped on the radio speaker.
- On Sale
- Mar 31, 2015
- Page Count
- 448 pages
- Center Street