By: Judith A. Jance


AVON BOOKS. A division of The Hearst Corporation

1350 Avenue of the Americas New York, New York 10019

Copyright C 1994 by J. A. Jance

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 9340351

ISBN: 0-38O76546-2

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.

Published in hardcover by William Morrow and Company, Inc.;

for information address Permissions Department, William Morrow and Company, Inc 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10019.

First Avon Books Printing: April 1995

First Avon Books Special printing December 1994

Printed in the U.S.A.

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ROCKS RAINED down on him in a steady, deadly barrage, small ones at first; then, gradually, larger. In the beginning, he managed to crawl out of the way, dodging this way and that, scrabbling on his belly with his hands and arms wrapped around his head, protecting it.

“Stop,” he begged, his voice strangely muffled the dirt and rocks beneath him. “Please stop. I’ll never do it again. Never.”

The brutal rocks kept falling. They fell onto his legs, his arms, the small of his back. He screamed in pain, in agony, but there was no escape, no place to hide.

The attack couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes from beginning to end, but for him-the target-it seemed like forever. And it was, because when it was over, he lay partially buried and lifeless on the rock-strewn floor of the hole, with a ten-pound boulder crushing part of his skull.

HAROLD Patterson squinted through the rain-blurred windshield. Checking for traffic, he pulled his rattletrap International Scout through the gate of the Rocking P Ranch and onto the highway. Pouring rain made it hard to see. Part of the problem was his eyes. Ivy, his daughter, was constantly nagging him about that, and she was probably right. Thank God his ears still worked all right.

At eighty-four, even with his new, thick trifocals, the old peepers weren’t nearly as good as they used to be. But Harold figured the real problem was the damn wiper blades. The rubber was old, cracked, and frayed. The blades squawked across the windshield, barely making contact and leaving trails of muddy water on the dusty, bug splattered glass.

In southern Arizona, it seemed like you never noticed that the wipers weren’t working until you needed them, and when you noticed, you were too busy driving blind to remember. The next time he went into an Auto Parts to drink coffee and shoot the breeze with the counterman, Gene Radovich, Harold still wouldn’t remember, not if it wasn’t raining at the time. It reminded him of the words in that old-time song “Manana” No need to fix a leaky roof on such a sunny day?

Same difference.

But that particular day-an unseasonably cold early-November morning-it was raining like hell.

A pelting winter storm had rolled into the Desert from the Pacific, filling the normally dry creek beds and swathing the Mule Mountains in a dank gray blanket that was almost as chilly as Harold Patterson’s stubborn old heart.

His daughter’s personal-injury trial was due to start in Cochise County Superior Court first thing tomorrow morning-Wednesday at nine o’clock.

Unless he could figure out a way to stop it. Unless he could somehow bluff Holly into agreeing to talk to him. Unless he could work a deal and convince her to call it off.

He had tried to talk to her about it several times since she arrived in town. That ploy hadn’t worked. That damn hotshot lawyer of hers had insisted that until Harold came to see her with his hat in his hand-to say nothing of a settlement it was a straight-out no go. His own daughter refused to see him, wouldn’t even tell him where she was staying.

His own daughter. Just thinking about it caused Harold’s gnarled, arthritic hands that had wrung the necks of countless Sunday-dinner chicken to tighten into a similar death grip on the smooth surface of the worn steering wheel.

Harold thought about Holly and her damn lawsuit the whole time he guided the wheezing yellow Scout over the rain-swept pavement of Highway 80, up the mountain pass locals called the Divide and then down the winding trail of Tombstone Canyon into Old Bisbee.

Holly had been a Fourth of July baby. He had wanted to call her Linda-Indy for short in honor of Independence Day, but Emily wouldn’t hear of it. She insisted that if she had daughters, they would be named after their grandmother’s favorite Christmas carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” regardless of whether or not they arrived any time near December 25. And Holly it was. Would she have been less prickly, Harold sometimes wondered, had she been given a different name?

Holly Patterson had entered the world sandwiched neatly between Bisbee’s traditional Independence Day Coaster Races and the annual Fourth of July parade down Tombstone Canyon.

She was born in the Old Copper Queen Hospital, the brick one up in Old Bisbee, not the new apricot-colored

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