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Chapter OneDoc's deceased wife had come from a ranching family in the
Bitterroot Valley of western Montana. When Doc first met her on a
fishing vacation nearly twenty years ago, I think he fell in love
with her state almost as much as he did with her. After her death
and burial on her family's ranch, he returned to Montana again and
again, spending the entire summer and holiday season there,
floating the Bitterroot River or cross-country skiing and climbing
in the Bitterroot Mountains with pitons and ice ax. I suspected in
Doc's mind his wife was still with him when he glided down the old
sunlit ski trails that crisscrossed the timber above her burial
place. Finally he bought a log house on the Blackfoot River. He
said it was only a vacation home, but I believed Doc was slipping
away from us. Perhaps true peace might eventually come into his
life, I told myself.
Then, just last June, he invited me for an indefinite visit. I
turned my law office over to a partner for three months and headed
north with creel and fly rod in the foolish hope that somehow my
own ghosts did not cross state lines.
Supposedly the word "Missoula" is from the Salish Indian
language and means "the meeting of the rivers." The area is so
named because it is there that both the Bitterroot and Blackfoot
rivers flow into the Clark Fork of the Columbia.
wooded hills above the Blackfoot River where Doc had bought his
home were still dark at 7 A.M., the moon like a sliver of crusted
ice above a steep-sided rock canyon that rose to a plateau covered
with ponderosa. The river seemed to glow with a black, metallic
light, and steam boiled out of the falls in the channels and off
the boulders that were exposed in the current.
picked up my fly rod and net and canvas creel from the porch of
Doc's house and walked down the path toward the riverbank. The air
smelled of the water's coldness and the humus back in the darkness
of the woods and the deer and elk dung that had dried on the
pebbled banks of the river. I watched Doc Voss squat on his
haunches in front of a driftwood fire and stir the strips of ham in
a skillet with a fork, squinting his eyes against the smoke, his
upper body warmed only by a fly vest, his shoulders braided with

Excerpted from BITTERROOT © Copyright 2001 by James Lee
Burke. Reprinted with permission from Simon and Schuster. All
rights reserved.

by by James Lee Burke

  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket
  • ISBN-10: 0743411439
  • ISBN-13: 9780743411431