Read The Night Season Online

Authors: Chelsea Cain

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Oregon, #Police, #Women journalists, #Crime, #Thrillers, #Portland (Or.), #Police Procedural, #Fiction, #Portland, #Serial Murderers

The Night Season

BOOK: The Night Season
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The Night Season
Archie & Gretchen [4]
Chelsea Cain
Minotaur Books (2011)
Tags: Fiction, Mystery Detective, Suspense, Thrillers, Police Procedural, Serial Murderers, Police, Crime, Portland (Or.), Oregon, Portland, Women journalists
Fictionttt Mystery Detectivettt Suspensettt Thrillersttt Police Proceduralttt Serial Murderersttt Policettt Crimettt Portland (Or.)ttt Oregonttt Portlandttt Women journaliststtt

From Publishers Weekly

With serial killer Gretchen Lowell locked up, Archie Sheridan can concentrate on more pressing issues, like the Willamette River threatening to overflow its banks, in Cain's fine fourth thriller to feature the Portland, Ore., detective. When a body turns up at an amusement park, Archie thinks it's just another drowning, until the coroner finds a puncture wound. The case becomes a murder investigation when similar marks are found on other recent victims thought to have succumbed to the Willamette's rising waters. Meanwhile, reporter Susan Ward is writing a piece on a skeleton uncovered at the site of what was once Vanport, a town destroyed by a flood in 1948. She tags along with Archie's team as they try to pinpoint not only the killer's motive but also his bizarre toxin. Cain easily weaves the history of the real-life Vanport flood with her trademark heart-stopping moments, and fans will be pleased to see the series flourishing without Gretchen on every page. 150,000 first printing. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From

Starred Review
Devoted readers of Cain’s superb Archie Sheridan novels, starring the Portland, Oregon, police detective, have known all along that eventually the series would have to stand on its own without the mesmerizing presence of serial killer Gretchen Lowell, with whom Archie shares the quintessential love-hate relationship. But can Cain pull it off? Yes, indeed. As the novel begins, Portland is threatened by the worst flood since 1948, when the town of Vanport, just north of the city, was wiped from the map. Cain skillfully incorporates the details of the real-life Vanport flood into her story, which centers on the murders of a random group of victims who have been bitten by a rare breed of venomous octopus. The floodwaters continue to rise as Archie and reporter Susan Ward, elevated here from scene-stealing supporting player to full-fledged costar, track the killer and a boy he has apparently kidnapped. In the earlier books, Cain pinned readers to their seats with a unique mix of horror, black humor, and psychological tension. This time she adds another arrow to her narrative quiver: the interplay between landscape and mood. This may be the best thriller set in a flooding city since Donna Leon’s Acqua Alta (1996). The enveloping floodwaters are every bit as terrifying as the octopus-toting killer (many of the key action scenes take place in or under the black water), and the river itself takes on a kind of evil persona, a superhuman antagonist of unfathomable power. Who knew it would take the Willamette River to prove that Chelsea Cain doesn’t need Gretchen Lowell? --Bill Ott

For my husband, Marc Mohan. Go, Pack!

DOWNTOWN PORTLAND

 
REMEMBER:
DIKES ARE SAFE AT PRESENT.
YOU WILL BE WARNED IF NECESSARY.
YOU WILL HAVE TIME TO LEAVE.
DON’T GET EXCITED.
—Statement issued by the Housing Authority of Portland to the people of Vanport, Oregon, on May 30, 1948.

PROLOGUE

Memorial Day, 1948

Floyd Wright came
bursting into Williams’s office, red-faced and out of breath, his clothes dusty from the speeder.

“It’s bad,” Floyd said.

Williams stood up at his desk. He took the news in stride. You didn’t get to be president of the Portland Union Stockyards without having an iron stomach. He’d known this could happen. It’s why he’d sent Floyd out on patrol. He was already calculating their losses, rerouting cattle cars on alternate lines. If the tracks were down for a few days, they could still get the butchers their meat.

Williams’s secretary scrambled into the office after Floyd, but Williams didn’t want her interrupting. He motioned for her to wait, and she stopped a few steps inside the door.

“What are we looking at?” Williams asked Floyd.

Floyd held his hat in his hands. “It’s the west side,” he said. “Complete collapse. Fifty feet, at least.”

Fifty feet? They had expected that the dike might spring a few leaks. Those could be repaired. A fifty-foot breach was something else entirely. There weren’t contingencies for that.

“Oh my lord,” the secretary said.

She was staring out the window, her hand covering her mouth.

Williams had spent enough time at that window watching the cattle cars come in to know exactly what she was looking at.

He stepped around his desk and moved quickly to her side, motioning for Floyd to do the same. It was a clear sunny day, seventy-six degrees. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The office was on the top floor. Beyond a hundred acres of wooden pens that held cattle waiting for slaughter, they had a good view of the city of Vanport, and to the east, the railroad tracks that formed the city’s eastern boarder. Seventy-six two-story apartment buildings were arranged in groups of four around utility buildings. A movie theater. An elementary school.

The railroad bed functioned as a dike, holding back Smith Lake from the Vanport floodplain. The breach was visible even from the window. Brown water gushed from where the gravel and dirt had given way to the lake’s pressure, over the tracks and down toward the city.

Vanport was going to flood, and fast. Williams felt his stomach knot. The stockyards were above the floodplain. The cattle, the buildings, the water wouldn’t reach them. But those people in Vanport.
All those people.

“Call the Vanport city manager,” Williams barked at his secretary. “Tell them there’s a fifty-foot gap in the railroad fill near the northwest corner of the project.”

The girl hesitated. Her eyes looked wild.

“Now,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” she said, turning and running to her desk outside the office.

Fifteen thousand people lived in Vanport. Working people. Families. Plenty less than lived there during the war. The apartments were cheap, but the walls were paper thin, and there wasn’t hot water or heat at night.

“They don’t have telephones,” Floyd said. “Company decision.”

As the minutes ticked by, the two men listened in silence for the emergency siren. Williams didn’t hear anything. He lifted the window. The smell of cattle and hay settled in the office. He could hear the moan of the cows, the tremble of their hooves on the bare beaten ground. But he still didn’t hear a siren.

It was 4:35
P.M.

His secretary returned.

“Well?” Williams said.

“I told them,” she said.

Several more minutes passed. Williams began to fume. He picked up the pair of binoculars that he kept on the windowsill and aimed them out the window. The breach had widened, and was now nearly a city block long. The water from Smith Lake spilled through the dike like a gleaming brown waterfall. It was coming with such force that Williams could see it moving, see it spreading on the west side of the dike, a new lake forming, widening by the second, the muddy water transforming as it advanced, reflecting the calm blue of the sky, deceptively tranquil. He followed the water west with the binoculars, toward Vanport. A boy riding his bike in the two feet of water that had already collected on North Portland Road. A car driving up Victory Avenue. A couple walking together across a park.

“What’s taking them so long?” Floyd asked.

It was a good goddamn question.

Williams put down the binoculars, picked up the phone on his desk, and fumbled with it, his palm slick with sweat. But he didn’t make calls. His girl did. He looked at her helplessly and she came around his desk and took the receiver and dialed, and then handed him the phone.

“Hello?” a man’s voice asked.

“For God’s sake,” Williams hollered into the phone, “alert those people.”

It was a few minutes after that that the sirens finally started.

Williams glanced at his watch. It was 4:47
P.M.

The entire railroad bed had given way now, and the lake flowed freely over it. The railroad tracks, snapped in half by the surging water, the ground washed away beneath them, now seemed to hang in midair.

The secretary began to cry quietly. Williams thought he should say something, but he didn’t know what. Floyd coughed. No one spoke. The three of them stood together at the window, wordless, as the water continued to swell. The binoculars sat on the sill. Williams didn’t want to look.

BOOK: The Night Season
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