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by John M. Floyd

About the Author: John M. Floyd’s work has appeared in more than 250 different publications, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, Woman’s World, The Saturday Evening Post, Mississippi Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories. A former Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is also an Edgar nominee, a three-time Derringer Award winner, and a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. His seventh book, The Barrens, is scheduled for release in late 2018.


Police Chief Michael Ryan sat at the small desk in his home office, his eyes on the steamy darkness outside the window and his mind on what might happen tomorrow. He doubted it would be good. Early this afternoon he’d received a message informing him that Everett Garth had been released this morning from the state prison. Everett Earl Garth. Ryan thought he knew, now, how Gary Cooper’s character must’ve felt when he found out an old enemy intending to kill him would be arriving on the noon train.

Ryan wasn’t sure, of course, that Garth would come tomorrow. It might be the next day, or the next. Maybe at high noon like the movie, maybe at night like a bad dream. But it would be soon.

He was chewing his second Gas-X tablet when his desk phone rang.

“Sheriff? Debbie Weston,” the voice said.

Ryan ran a weary hand over his face. “What’s up, Debbie?”

“I think I have some information on the Hightower boy.”

He sat up straight in his chair. Twelve-year-old Benny Hightower had disappeared without a trace from the middle-school grounds yesterday morning, and half the county was looking for him. Ryan himself had been up all night and chasing false leads all day. “What kind of information?”

Debbie sighed. “We need to talk, Mike. Can you come here, to the house?”

“I’m on my way.”

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