Also by Blake Crouch

Desert Places

Locked Doors



Minotaur Books      New York

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

ABANDON. Copyright © 2009 by Blake Crouch. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53740- 1

ISBN-10: 0-312-53740-9

First Edition: July 2009

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This book is dedicated to Aidan Crouch.


It’s been a long trek to reach the end of this book, and I owe a lot of people my gratitude. Rebecca and Aidan, for sharing me with this story. It isn’t always honeydew and sugarcanes living with a writer, but you guys are troupers and you’re my people. I love you both so much. Linda Allen, for your friendship and endless support when I needed it most. Michael Homler, for pushing me in the right directions and being as much of a perfectionist as I am. Anna Cottle and Mary Alice Kier, for your priceless insight in the final stages. Joe Konrath, Gregg Hurwitz, Marcus Sakey, and Scott Phillips, great writers and greater men, who gave me diamond-hard feedback and support when things were looking insurmountable. David Morrell needs his own page, but this will have to suffice: you’re a gentleman and an inspiration and I’m blessed to know you. Everyone in my local writers group—Suzanne Tyrpak, Terry Junttonen, Doug Walker, Shannon Richardson, Dinah Swan, Cacy Alexander, Gail Harris, Nina Moats, Haz Said, and Adam Watson. Early readers: Sandi Greene, Jordan Crouch, Clay and Susan Crouch, Judy Johnston, and Anne Marquard. Sally Richardson, Andy Martin, George Witte, and Kelley Ragland for making all this possible and putting me in the best of hands. Jeroen ten Berge, for your amazing creativity and love of books. Michael Richard, Joe Foster, Duane A. Smith, Marianne Fuierer, Art Holland, Karen Sway, and Clyde Gibbs for providing answers to questions I couldn’t hunt down in books. Diane Cerafici and Beverly Coleman at Rocky Mountain PBS for tracking down the quote. Carol Edwards for your virtuoso copyediting. The awesome baristas and kickass coffee at the Steaming Bean in Durango, Colorado, where much of this book was written. And finally, group hug with the Jordans—Jon, Ruth, and Jen—thanks for having my back and for your friendship.

In the West, the past is very close. In many places, it still believes it’s the present.


Thursday, December 28, 1893


ind rips through the crags a thousand feet above, nothing moving in this godforsaken town, and the mule skinner knows that something is wrong. Two miles south stands Bartholomew Packer’s mine, the Godsend, a twenty-stamp mill that should be filling this box canyon with the thudding racket of the rock crushers pulverizing ore. The sound of the stamps in operation is the sound of money being made, and only two things will stop them— Christmas and tragedy.

He dismounts his albino steed, the horse’s pinked nostrils flaring, dirty mane matted with ice. The single-rig saddle is snow-crusted as well, its leather and cloth components—the mochila and shabrack—frozen stiff. He rubs George’s neck, speaking in soft, low tones he knows will calm the animal, telling him he did a good day’s work and that a warm stable awaits with feed and fresh water.

The mule skinner opens his wallet, collects the pint of busthead he bought at a bodega in Silverton, and swallows the remaining mouthful, whiskey crashing into his empty stomach like iced fire.

He wades through waist-deep snow to the mercantile, bangs his shop-mades on the door frame. Inside, the lamps have been extinguished and the big stove squats dormant in the corner, unattended by the usual constellation of miners jawboning over coffee and tobacco. He calls for the own er as he crosses the board floor, moving between shelves, past stacked crates and burlap sacks bulging with sugar and flour.

“Jessup? It’s Brady! You in back?”

The twelve burros crane their scrawny necks in his direction when Brady emerges from the merc. He reaches into his greatcoat, pulls out a tin of Star Navy tobacco, and shoves a chaw between lips and gums gone blackish purple in the last year.

“What the hell?” he whispers.

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