The woods around Lake Mondac were as quiet as couldbe, a world
of difference from the churning, chaotic city where the couple
spent their weekdays.
Silence, broken only by an occasional a-hoo-ah of a
distant bird, the hollow siren of a frog.
And now: another sound.
A shuffle of leaves, two impatient snaps of branch or twig.
No, that couldn't be. The other vacation houses beside the lake
were deserted on this cool Friday afternoon in April.
Emma Feldman, in her early thirties, set down her martini on the
kitchen table, where she sat across from her husband. She tucked a
strand of curly black hair behind her ear and walked to one of the
grimy kitchen windows. She saw nothing but dense clusters of cedar,
juniper and black spruce rising up a steep hill, whose rocks
resembled cracked yellow bone.
Her husband lifted an eyebrow. "What was it?"
She shrugged and returned to her chair. "I don't know. Didn't
Outside, silence again.
Emma, lean as any stark, white birch outside one of the many
windows of the vacation house, shook off her blue jacket. She was
wearing the matching skirt and a white blouse. Lawyer clothes. Hair
in a bun. Lawyer hair. Stockings but shoeless.
Steven, turning his attention to the bar, had abandoned his
jacket as well, and a wrinkled striped tie. The
thirty-six-year-old, with a full head of unruly hair, was in a blue
shirt and his belly protruded inexorably over the belt of his navy
slacks. Emma didn'tcare; she thought he was cute and always
"And look what I got," he said, nodding towardthe upstairs guest
room and unbagging a large bottle of pulpy organic vegetable juice.
Their friend, visiting from Chicago this weekend, had been flirting
with liquid diets lately, drinking the most disgusting things.
Emma read the ingredients and wrinkled her nose. "It's all hers.
I'll stick with vodka."
"Why I love you."
The house creaked, as it often did. The place was seventy-six
years old. It featured an abundance of wood and a scarcity of steel
and stone. The kitchen, where they stood, was angular and paneled
in glowing yellow pine. The floor was lumpy. The colonial structure
was one of three houses on this private road, each squatting on ten
acres. It couldbe called lakefront property but only because the
lake lapped at a rocky shore two hundred yards from the front
The house was plopped down in a small clearing on the east side
of a substantial elevation. Midwest reserve kept peoplefrom
labeling these hills "mountains" here in Wisconsin, though it rose
easily seven or eight hundred feet into the air. At the moment the
big house was bathed in blue late-afternoon shadows.
Emma gazed out at rippling Lake Mondac, far enough from the hill
to catch some descending sun. Now, in early spring, the surrounding
area was scruffy, reminding of wet hackles rising from a guard
dog's back. The house was much nicer than they couldotherwise
afford -- they'd bought it through foreclosure -- and she knew from
the moment she'd seen it that this was the perfect vacation
The colonial also had a pretty colorful history.
The owner of a big meatpacking company in Chicago had built the
place before World War II. It was discovered years later that much
of his fortune had come from selling black-market meat,
circumventing the rationing system that limited foods here at home
to make sure the troops were nourished. In 1956 the man's body was
found floating in the lake; he was possibly the victim of veterans
who had learned of his scheme and killed him, then searched the
house, looking for the illicit cash he'd hidden here.
No ghosts figured in any version of the death, though Emma and
Steven couldn't keep from embellishing. When guests were staying
here they'd gleefully take note of who kept the bathroom lights on
and who braved the dark after hearing the tales.
Two more snaps outside. Then a third.
Emma frowned. "You hear that? Again, that sound. Outside."
Steven glanced out the window. The breeze kicked up now and
then. He turned back.
Her eyes strayed to her briefcase.
"Caught that," he said, chiding.
"Don't even think about opening it."
She laughed, though without much humor.
"Work-free weekend," he said. "We agreed."
"And what's in there?" she asked, nodding at the backpack he
carried in lieu of an attaché case. Emma was wrestling the lid
off a jar of cocktail olives.
"Only two things of relevance, Your Honor: my le Carré
novel and that bottle of Merlot I had at work. Shall I introduce
the latter into evid..." Voice fading. He looked to the window,
through which they could see a tangle of weeds and trees and
branches and rocks the color of dinosaur bones.
Emma too glanced outside.
"That I heard," he said. He refreshed his wife's
martini. She dropped olives into both drinks.
"What was it?"
"Remember that bear?"
"He didn'tcome up to the house." They clinked glasses and sipped
Steven said, "You seem preoccupied. What's up, the union
Research for a corporate acquisition had revealed some possible
shenanigans within the lakefront workers union in Milwaukee. The
government had become involved and the acquisition was temporarily
tabled, which nobody was very happy about.
But she said, "This's something else. One of our clients makes
"Right. Kenosha Auto. See? I do listen."
She looked at her husband with an astonished glance. "Well, the
CEO, turns out, is an absolute prick." She explained about a
wrongful death case involving components of a hybrid car engine: a
freak accident, a passenger electrocuted. "The head of their
R-and-D department...why, he demanded I return all the
technical files. Imagine that."
Steven said, "I liked your other case better -- that state
representative's last will and testament...the sex stuff."
"Shhhh," she said, alarmed. "Remember, I never said a word about
"My lips are sealed."
Emma speared an olive and ate it. "And how was your
Steven laughed. "Please...I don't make enough to talk about
business after hours." The Feldmans were a shining example of a
blind date gone right, despite the odds. Emma, a U of W law school
valedictorian, daughter of Milwaukee-Chicago money; Steven, a city
college bachelor of arts grad from the Brewline, intent on helping
society. Their friends gave them six months, tops; the Door County
wedding, to which all those friends were invited, had occurred
exactly eight months after their first date.
Steven pulled a triangle of Brie out of a shopping bag. Found
crackers and opened them.
"Oh, okay. Just a little."
Her husband frowned. Emma said, "Honey, it's freaking me a
little. That was footsteps."
The three vacation houses here were eight or nine miles from the
nearest shop or gas station and a little over a mile from the
county highway, which was accessed via a strip of dirt poorly
impersonating a road. Marquette State Park, the biggest in the
Wisconsin system, swallowed most of the land in the area; Lake
Mondac and these houses made up an enclave of private property.
And very deserted.
Steven walked into the utility room, pulled aside the limp beige
curtain and gazed past a cut-back crepe myrtle into the side yard.
"Nothing. I'm thinking we -- "
"Honey, honey, honey!" her husband cried.
A face studied them through the back window. The man's head was
covered with a stocking, though you could see crew-cut, blondish
hair, a colorful tattoo on his neck. The eyes were halfway
surprised to see peopleso close. He wore an olive drab combat
jacket. He knocked on the glass with one hand. In the other he was
holding a shotgun, muzzle up. He was smiling eerily.
"Oh, God," Emma whispered.
Steven pulled out his cell phone, flipped it open and punched
numbers, telling her, "I'll deal with him. Go lock the front
Emma ran to the entryway, dropping her glass. The olives spun
amid the dancing shards, picking up dust. Crying out, she heard the
kitchen door splinter inward. She looked back and saw the intruder
with the shotgun rip the phone from her husband's hand and shove
him against the wall. A print of an old sepia landscape photograph
crashed to the floor.
The front door too swung open. A second man, his head also
covered with mesh, pushed inside. He had long dark hair, pressed
close by the nylon. Taller and stockier than the first, he held a
pistol. The black gun was small in his outsized hand. He pushed
Emma into the kitchen, where the other man tossed him the cell
phone. The bigger one stiffened at the pitch, but caught the phone
one-handed. He seemed to grimace in irritation at the toss and
dropped the phone in his pocket.
Steven said, "Please...What do you...?" Voice quavering.
Emma looked away quickly. The less she saw, she was thinking,
the better their chances to survive.
"Please," Steven said, "Please. You can take whatever you want.
Just leave us. Please."
Emma stared at the dark pistol in the taller man's hand. He wore
a black leather jacket and boots. His were like the other man's,
the kind soldiers wear.
Both men grew oblivious to the couple. They looked around the
Emma's husband continued, "Look, you can have whatever you want.
We've got a Mercedes outside. I'll get the keys. You -- "
"Just, don't talk," the taller man said, gesturing with the
"We have money. And credit cards. Debit card too. I'll give you
"What do you want?" Emma asked, crying.
Somewhere, in its ancient heart, the house creaked once
Excerpted from THE BODIES LEFT BEHIND © Copyright 2010 by
Jeffery Deaver. Reprinted with permission by Simon & Schuster.
All rights reserved.