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The Shimmer

Chapter 1

From fifteen hundred feet off the ground, the blue pickup truck
looked like a Matchbox toy. Normally it would have blended with
traffic, but on this clear Tuesday afternoon in early June, the
pilot watched the truck race past other vehicles and veer back and
forth between lanes as the driver searched for any open space he
could find.

The aircraft, a Cessna 172, had high wings and a single
propeller. Its pilot was a forty-year-old police officer named Dan
Page. He knew that the driver of the pickup was male because he
monitored a police radio through his headphones and was aware that
ten minutes earlier the man had shot and killed another man in a
feud between drug dealers at Fort Marcy Park. A police officer
driving by saw the shooting. When he sped into the park, the
assailant fired through the cruiser’s windshield and killed
him. Park workers who saw the murders all identified the shooter as
a thin, twentyish Anglo with a shaved head and a white T-shirt, the
short sleeves of which revealed a large tattoo on his left arm.

This was Page’s day off. A private pilot, he enjoyed
flying his Cessna from Santa Fe’s small airport and, as he
phrased it, “getting above it all.” But when his police
radio transmitted news of the chase, he headed over the
four-mile-wide city to where the truck had last been seen, hoping
to spot it among Santa Fe’s low buildings and provide
directions to his fellow officers in the pursuing police cars. Five
minutes later, he had it in sight. The truck’s frantic,
random route would have been difficult to follow on the ground but
was obvious from the air.

“He’s going east on Peralta,” Page said into
the microphone on his headset. “Now he’s turning right
onto Guadalupe, heading downtown.”

“I’m five blocks in front of him,” another
officer’s voice answered quickly. “I can cut him

“Wait. Now he’s veering onto Agua Fria.”

Page stared down helplessly as an oncoming car swerved out of
the truck’s way, lurched onto a sidewalk, and hit an adobe
wall, earthen bricks cascading onto the hood. He imagined the sound
of the crash, the violence somehow gaining in magnitude because of
the distance.

“He’s back on Saint Francis Drive,” Page

“If he’s headed toward the interstate, we’ve
got the ramps blocked,” an urgent voice replied.

Again the truck abruptly changed direction.

“He’s turning right onto Cerrillos Road,” Page

“I’ll intercept him at Cordova!” a different
voice blurted.

Peering down toward a crosswalk, Page noticed pedestrians
scurrying to avoid the truck. A car was forced off the road.

“Too late! He’s past Cordova!”

“We’ll set up a roadblock at Saint Michael’s

“Better make it Rodeo Road! He’s driving so fast,
you won’t have time at Saint Michael’s!”

Indeed, the speed with which the truck covered distance was
astounding. The other vehicles on Cerrillos Road seemed to be
standing still.

My God, he’s got to be doing over a hundred, Page

Other drivers must have seen the truck speeding toward them in
their rearview mirrors, or maybe the fugitive kept blowing his
horn. For whatever reason, traffic veered out of the way.

“We’ve got the intersection at Cerrillos and Rodeo
Road closed!” a

voice shouted.

Immediately the truck swerved onto another side street. Page
finally understood the pattern. “I think he’s got a
police radio!”


“He changes directions whenever you tell me you’ve
got a street blocked! He must be listening to us! Now he’s
turning into the Lowe’s parking lot!”

Customers leaving the huge hardware store darted to the side as
the truck sped toward the movie theater at the end of the lot. It
disappeared into a parking garage.

Circling, Page watched for a man in a white T-shirt to leave the
garage and try to get away on foot. But in June, a lot of men wore
T-shirts, and from this altitude, it was almost impossible to
distinguish colors on clothing. Moreover, the color might be
irrelevant --- the driver could force someone in the garage to give
him a different-colored shirt so he could walk away without
attracting attention.

Page kept circling.

A car left the garage.

He watched the tiny figures of pedestrians proceeding toward the
theater’s entrance. He looked for anyone whose pace was

An SUV left the garage.

He can change vehicles as easily as he can put on another
, Page realized.

A sports car left the garage.

From above, Page kept track of all three vehicles and described
them to the officers on the ground. The first one reached a lane
that took it to the left toward Cerrillos Road. The SUV reached the
same lane and turned in the opposite direction, toward a side
street. The sports car headed back toward the parking lot in front
of the hardware store. Three different directions.

Meanwhile, the pursuing police cars converged on the area. Page
saw their flashing roof lights and imagined the wail of their

No other vehicles came from the garage. At the hardware store
parking lot, a police cruiser stopped the sports car. Page switched
his view toward the first vehicle that had left the garage. It was
stopped at the entrance to Cerrillos Road, unable to find a break
in traffic. In contrast, the SUV faced no obstacles as it drove
leisurely in the opposite direction, along the lane toward the side

Page had a hunch and followed it. He descended a hundred feet,
doing nothing drastic, nothing the FAA would object to, but even
so, the downward motion made his engine grow louder.

The SUV seemed to drive a little faster.

He descended another hundred feet, making his engine sound even
more insistent.

The SUV increased speed.

“He’s below me, in the SUV!” Page yelled into
the microphone, testing his theory by flying another hundred feet
lower and trying to provoke a response.

He got one. The vehicle surged forward and skidded onto the side

“He’s heading toward Airport Road!”

The SUV swung onto the multilane road and zigzagged through
traffic, its speed so reckless that cars swerved to get out of the
way. Two of them crashed against each other. Each time the vehicle
abruptly changed lanes, it rocked a little --- not as stable as the
truck had been.

Page glanced farther along Airport Road, gaping at a gasoline
truck that emerged from a service station. Oh, my God . .

When the SUV changed lanes again, the abrupt motion caused it to
lean. Instead of tipping, it managed to jolt back onto all four
wheels. But as the driver tried to find an open space in another
lane, he must have yanked the steering wheel. The vehicle tilted
more severely, balanced on two wheels, fell all the way over, and
crashed onto its side.

Throwing up a shower of sparks, it slid along the road.


The SUV hit the tanker, tore a gash underneath, and burst into
flames as the sparks ignited the gasoline cascading from the fuel
truck’s belly.

A fireball swelled upward. Banking from it, Page felt the shock
wave. It took several moments before he could make his voice work
and radio for an emergency team. Dark smoke drifted past him.


The debriefing room consisted of metal chairs arranged in rows
before a blackboard. Overhead, fluorescent lights hummed and made
everyone look pale as the police chief listened to their reports.
Page glanced through a window and saw several television broadcast
trucks in the police station’s parking lot.

“Okay, you told me what you did right. Now, how about what
you did wrong?” the chief demanded. “That
press conference is in fifteen minutes. I don’t want any

“We weren’t chasing him,” one of the officers,
Angelo, insisted. “We never endangered any civilians. All we
did was try to get ahead of him and cut him off.”

“Right,” another man, Rafael, added. “Even
though the bastard shot Bobby, we didn’t

“He was driving a hundred miles an hour,” an officer
named Vera said. “It’s a miracle the only other driver
he killed was the poor guy behind the wheel of that gasoline

The chief looked in Page’s direction.

“How about you?”

Page tried not to imagine the agony of the tanker’s

“With the state police helicopter in the hangar for
maintenance, the only aircraft available for police use was mine. I
warned the airport traffic controller to advise other planes not to
fly over the city. I stayed above the minimum required altitude. No
FAA regulations were broken. Nobody was at risk.”

The chief swept his gaze across the group. “Anybody have
anything to add? Any screw-up I should know about?”

The group was silent.

“Then I’m ready to talk to the reporters.”

The officers looked relieved.

Page hung back as they all rose and began to leave the room.

“Want to join us for a beer?” Angelo asked.

“As soon as I tell my wife I’m okay,” Page
answered. He didn’t need to ask where they’d meet. They
always went to the same place --- a sports bar on Cerrillos

Once he was alone in the debriefing room, he used his cell phone
to call home. It was the fourth time he’d done so since
landing --- and the fourth time he’d heard his own voice
saying, “Please leave a message.”

He tried Tori’s cell phone, and for the fourth time it was
her voice saying, “Please leave a

Yet again he said into the phone, “Hey, it’s me.
Call me when you get this.”

He glanced at his watch, the digital display of which showed

Where is she? he wondered.


Turning into the driveway of his single-story home, Page pressed
the garage-door opener that was attached to his SUV’s sun
visor. As the door swung upward, he saw that Tori’s Saturn
wasn’t there. He drove in, turned off the engine, got out of
his Grand Cherokee, and closed the garage door.

Entering the shadowy kitchen, he noticed how quiet the house

A note lay on the table.

Gone to see my mother.

This made Page frown because Tori’s mother lived in San
Antonio, Texas, eight hundred miles away, and Tori hadn’t
said a word about wanting to visit her mother. What on earth could
have caused her to make such a spur-of-the-moment trip? he

The only explanation he could think of was, Some kind of
emergency. She got a phone call with terrible news from her mother
--- no,
about her mother --- so she bought a last-minute
plane ticket and hurried down to Albuquerque.

The state’s only big airport was in Albuquerque. The drive
down from Santa Fe took an hour and fifteen minutes. Normally Page
and Tori used his plane when they visited her mother. But because
he’d been flying and couldn’t answer his cell phone,
Tori hadn’t been able to tell him what had happened.

Sure. That makes sense, Page thought.

Nonetheless, he couldn’t help rubbing his forehead.

Even if I wasn’t able to answer my phone, that
wouldn’t have prevented her from leaving a message.

The kitchen phone hung on a wall next to the fridge. Page went
over to it, looked at a list taped to the side, found the number he
wanted, and pressed the buttons. He expected to get the answering
machine, but an elderly voice answered.


“Margaret? Is that you?”

Page didn’t talk to Tori’s mother often, but she
recognized his voice.

“Of course it’s me, Dan. Why do you sound so

“I didn’t think you’d be answering. I just
assumed you were sick... or something.”

“Sick? What would give you that idea?”

“I came home and found a note from Tori saying she’d
gone to visit you. It’s so spur-of-the-moment --- I mean,
when I left this morning she didn’t say a word about going
--- I assumed something serious had happened. That you’d been
in an accident or something like that. Are you sure you’re

“Well, I’m tired from working in the garden all
afternoon. Otherwise I feel fine. When Tori called and said she was
coming to see me, I was as surprised as you.”

Page tightened his grip on the phone. “She called you?

“This morning around ten.”

As soon as I left to go to the airport, he thought.
Tori was a real estate agent. She often spent the morning at home,
writing offers or making phone calls.

Page did some quick calculations. There wasn’t a direct
flight between Albuquerque and San Antonio. Tori would have needed
to catch a connecting flight in Dallas. Door to door, the whole
trip usually took about seven hours. Depending on when her
flight left, she
should be in San Antonio by now, he

“Is she there? I’d like to talk to her.”

“No, I don’t expect her for several more
hours,” the elderly voice replied. “Maybe not until

“Tomorrow?” Confusion made Page’s head start
to ache. “She must be on a really late flight.”

“She’s not flying.”

That didn’t sound right. “Not flying? But then
how... Are you telling me she’s driving?”

“That’s what she said. It didn’t make any
sense to me, either. Eight hundred miles --- but that’s what
she told me she wanted to do. You really didn’t know
about this?”

“Nothing. Not a damned thing.”

“I asked her why she was driving. She answered that she
wanted to see the countryside and think. But she didn’t say
what was on her mind. Dan, I don’t know another way to ask
this. Is everything okay between Tori and you?”

His impulse was to blurt, Absolutely. We get along fine.
Things couldn’t be better.

But the words stuck in his throat.

He forced out a different answer. “All she needed to do
was tell me she wanted to visit you. I might even have gone with
her. She didn’t have to keep it a secret. If she drives
straight through and gets there tonight, tell her to call me as
soon as she arrives. I don’t care how late it is.”

“Count on me. I’ll ask her.”

“Not just ask her, Margaret. Please, make sure she does
it. Put the phone in her hand and make sure she calls


After he hung up, Page studied the kitchen. Tori had put the
breakfast dishes away. The kitchen counters were bare, and
everything was in its place, just as if the house were ready for a
real estate showing.

He moved into the living room. Magazines that had been spread
across the coffee table were neatly stacked. Cushions that had been
in disarray from when he and Tori had watched television the
previous night were back in their proper places. He remembered that
she hadn’t watched TV for long, that she’d gone to bed
early, saying she wanted to read.

He walked down the hallway and peered into Tori’s office.
Her laptop computer was gone. Apart from a lamp, nothing was on her
desk. He entered their bedroom. The bed was made, everything
perfectly arranged. Looking in the closet, he discovered that two
suitcases were missing. He studied the empty hangers and concluded
that Tori had taken most of her casual clothes but none of her
business outfits. He checked her bureau drawers and discovered that
all her socks and underwear were gone. He glanced toward her side
of the bed. A compulsive reader, she normally kept a dozen books
stacked there.

All of those were also gone.

Page didn’t move for quite a while. When he became aware
of the gathering darkness outside, he went into the living room and
sat in shadows.


Waking with a start on Wednesday morning, Page turned toward the
terrible emptiness on Tori’s side of the bed. He stared at it
for several troubled moments, then quickly got into some jeans,
went outside, and grabbed the newspaper from the sidewalk, hurrying
back so he wouldn’t fail to hear the telephone. But it
didn’t ring.

The newspaper’s headline announced, SHOOTING LEADS TO
CHASE AND TANKER EXPLOSION. A photograph showed Bobby in his
uniform. Another showed the truck driver. A third showed the
twisted metal of the SUV and the gasoline tanker after the intense
blaze had fused them together. Page turned the newspaper over,
hiding the photographs. Unable to wait any longer, he picked up the
phone and pressed numbers.

“Margaret, it’s Dan.”

She responded without any of the ordinary pleasantries:
“Tori isn’t here yet.”

Page’s throat felt terribly dry. After swallowing, he
managed to speak. “She must have gotten tired and spent the
night in a motel.” Even as he said it, he didn’t
believe it.

“Then why didn’t she call to tell me not to worry?
Which is exactly what I’m doing.” The elderly
voice quavered. “What if she had an accident?”

“I don’t think that’s likely, or I’d
have heard something.” Page tried to sound convincing.
“But I’ll see what I can find out.”

Three hours later, en route to investigate a high school
stabbing, he received a call from the duty officer at the police

“There’s no record that Tori was in a traffic
accident either in New Mexico or Texas, and nothing about her being
admitted to any hospital along the route she was

Page breathed out in relief, but he knew what the report meant
and what he was forced to do next --- he didn’t see another
option. “Put out a missing-person report.”


Early Thursday morning, the phone rang. Page set down his coffee
cup and grabbed the receiver.


“Dan Page?” a man’s voice asked. It had a
Southern accent and a raspy tone, as if it belonged to a

“Speaking.” Page realized how tightly he held the

“This is Police Chief Roger Costigan in Rostov,

Where?” Page’s mind swirled. He
reached for a pen.

“Rostov, Texas. We’re southeast of El Paso, about
fifty miles from the Mexican border.”

Page felt a knot in his stomach. “You found my

“Victoria Page,” the voice said, as if reading from
a list. “Caucasian. Five foot six. One hundred and twenty
pounds. Red hair. Green eyes.Driving a dark-blue 2008 Saturn
Outlook.” The voice gave the license number.

“That’s her.” Page’s brow felt cold.

“One of my officers spotted her car at the side of a road
early this morning. He found her nearby.”

Page had the sensation of holding his breath. “Is

“She’s fine. You don’t need to worry on that
score. She hasn’t been hurt. She wasn’t in any

 “No accident?”

“No, sir.”

“She hasn’t been injured?”

“That’s correct, Mr. Page. She’s just

Thank God, Page thought. But troubling questions
immediately flooded through him.

“If she wasn’t injured, then why was her car at the
side of the road?”

“That’s difficult to explain.”

“I don’t understand. Is she there? Can you put her
on the phone?”

“No, sir. She isn’t with me.”

“Then how can I talk to her?”

“I guess that’s up to her,” the voice replied.
“We told her you’re looking for her, but she
didn’t react.”

“You’re not making sense. Is she alone?”

“As much as I can tell.”

“Then what in God’s name is she doing in . .
.” Page looked at the note he’d made. “Rostov,

“It’s a little complicated. You’ll understand
better if I tell you in person. The main thing is, no law’s
been broken. She’s here of her own free will.”

“You say it’s better if you tell me in

“Maybe ‘show you’ would be more

“Why are you being so damned cryptic, Chief?”

“I’m not trying to be. Believe me, this is an
unusual situation. I’m afraid I can’t explain it over
the phone. You’ll just have to see for yourself.”

“Whatever the hell is going on, you can expect to show me
this afternoon.”

“Mr. Page, I’m afraid you’ll need a lot longer
than that to get here. You’re in Santa Fe, right?”

“That’s correct.”

“Well, our nearest major airport is in El Paso, and
we’re a couple of hundred miles from there. There’s no
way you can get here by this afternoon.”

 “Do you have any airport at all?”

“There’s a little one that the ranchers use, but . .

“Then I’ll see you at five o’clock.”


Page phoned the police station and told the duty officer that he
couldn’t come to work that day and probably wouldn’t be
in until Monday. He packed a suitcase, grabbed his flight bag, and
drove to Santa Fe’s small airport. After carrying his luggage
into a reception area, he said hello to a young woman behind a
counter. She had the newspaper sitting on the counter in front of
her, but before she could mention the front-page article, he turned
left into a computer lounge, where he studied reports of the
weather in New Mexico and Texas. The forecasts indicated a chance
for thunderstorms in a couple of days but no immediate

The last thing he always did was look for announcements about
prohibited areas. These warned pilots about airspace they
weren’t allowed to enter, often because of security issues. A
pilot who trespassed into a forbidden area was liable to find his
or her plane flanked by fighter jets giving angry orders to land at
the nearest airfield. There weren’t any flight restrictions
in New Mexico, but Page was surprised to discover that the Rostov
area of Texas did have one. Puzzled, he clicked a button to get
more information and learned that the prohibition involved an array
of radio astronomy dishes twenty miles northwest of the town. The
concern wasn’t related to national security. Rather, the
observatory was off-limits because planes flying over the dishes
were liable to cause electrical interference that blocked attempts
to collect radio signals from astronomical phenomena such as solar
flares and spiral galaxies.

Fine --- I’ll just stay away from it, Page

He pulled charts from his flight bag and quickly plotted a
course to Rostov. As Chief Costigan had told him, the town was a
couple of hundred miles southeast of El Paso. Nowhere near
San Antonio. His emotions in turmoil, Page stepped through a door
onto the airport’s tie-down area. There, in warm sunlight,
numerous small aircraft were secured to the concrete by ropes
attached to their wings and tails. One of them was Page’s
Cessna. Feeling the pressure of time, he warned himself to slow
down as he inspected the plane’s exterior. After each flight,
he always had the fuel tanks filled. Now he drained a small amount
of fuel into a cup to assure himself that there weren’t any
water bubbles or other contaminants.

Stay focused, he told himself.

After untying the plane, he got inside, attached his maps and
flight plan to a clipboard strapped to his thigh, and took a deep
breath. Pay attention, he thought. No matter how much
I want to reach
Tori, what matters now is the plane. Pay
attention to flying the plane.
He took another deep breath and
went through his preflight checklist.

What in God’s name is Tori doing in Rostov,

He used his radio to ask the ground controller for permission to
taxi to the takeoff area. Five minutes later --- less than two
hours after he’d received the phone call from Chief Costigan
--- he was in the air, flying to Texas.

Excerpted from THE SHIMMER © Copyright 2011 by David
Morrell. Reprinted with permission by Vanguard Press. All rights

The Shimmer
by by David Morrell

  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vanguard Press
  • ISBN-10: 1593155379
  • ISBN-13: 9781593155377