Zero-Degree Murder (A Search and Rescue Mystery)

Zero-Degree Murder (A Search and Rescue Mystery) by M.L. Rowland Read Free Book Online

Book: Zero-Degree Murder (A Search and Rescue Mystery) by M.L. Rowland Read Free Book Online
Authors: M.L. Rowland
ride up to the trailhead.
    As the Suburban wove its way through the stop-and-go Boulevard traffic, wonking its siren to move slow-moving drivers out of the way, Gracie fine-tuned her equipment and rearranged the gorp, candy bars, and slap-dash peanut butter sandwich into various pockets for easier access on the trail.
    “Damn, I hope we find him.” Cashman’s voice barged in on Gracie’s contented fiddling. “I could get Wanda an autograph. She fuckin’ loves Rob Christian.” A few seconds of silence, then, “Yeah. I need to get his autograph.”
    Gracie re-Velcroed her knee-high gaiters and retied them at the top with double bows. “Who is this guy anyway?” she asked. “What movies has he been in?”
    Steve rattled off half a dozen film titles only one of which—
Far Horizons
—sounded remotely familiar to Gracie.
    “Didn’t he punch a reporter or something like that?” she asked, pulling the elastic from her hair and combing through the tangles with her fingers.
    “Yeah. Nailed the sucker. Broke his nose. Fuckin’ awesome!”
    The Suburban turned a sharp corner at the far eastern end of the valley. Incredibly for a holiday weekend, the highway leading up to the summit then down the back side of the mountain was free of traffic. Cashman floored the accelerator and the Suburban crawled forward at the speed of a full-bellied mastodon running uphill.
    Gracie French-braided her hair in the back, refastened it, and pulled on her fleece beanie, tucking the braid up underneath. She leaned back in the cushy leather seat. “What’s all the hoopla about movie stars anyway?” she asked. “Aren’t they all just a bunch of self-important, pampered . . . ?” What was a good alliterative noun? Poodles? “This guy is probably as bad as all the others. Maybe even worse.” She sighed. “God, I’m tired. Joshua Bradford really got to me.”
    Gracie watched the scenery flow past as Cashman launched into a lengthy diatribe of the previous night’s recovery, railing about the mistakes everyone else made and why they should have done an infinitely riskier technical ropes litter raise instead of unglamorously hoofing the body out, and why maybe it was time Hunter retired and someone else (namely Cashman) was elected the team’s Commander.
    A dense forest of yellow pines scrolled by on their right. On their left, rounded hills dotted with piñon pines and manzanita with Joshua trees behind fell away to the desert beyond. In the distance, milk chocolate–colored mountains glowed pink as the sun sank lower in the west.
    The Suburban tires squealed as they rounded a tight curve and drifted over the double yellow highway line into the oncoming lane which, thankfully, was unoccupied. Gracie clutched at the armrest with both hands.
    Cashman swerved the Suburban back into its own lane and shifted his monologue to the present search. “Maybe we’ll make the news,” he said with a grin. “That would be fuckin’ awesome.”
    Gracie rolled her eyes at the pines.
    The Suburban crested the summit. Across a wide valley on the right loomed the monolith that was Mount San Raphael.
    Imposing, forbidding, the mountain’s austere beauty beckoned unsuspecting hikers and mountaineers into its ice chutes and rocky canyons, every year claiming lives of men and women alike for its own. An early-season snow had draped a white shroud atop the mountain’s barren dome. Behind it, delicately fringed mare’s tail cirrus caught the late-afternoon sun to blaze tangerine fire against the turquoise sky.
    The Suburban picked up speed on the downhill and sailed around a curve. San Raphael was swept from view.

CHAPTER

11
     
    D IANA grabbed the toes of her tennis shoes with both hands and flexed them up and down to get the blood flowing again. The lower half of her body felt like a block of ice from sitting in the same position without moving for so long.
    How long had she been there crouching between the two rocks? How long had it been

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