Start Reading Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdon

In the rural Catskill mountains of upstate New York, August was an unstable month, lurching back and forth between the bright glories of July and the gray squalls of the long winter to come.

It was a month that could erode one’s sense of time and place. It seemed to feed Dave Gurney’s confusion over where he was in his life — a confusion that had begun with his retirement from the NYPD three years earlier and had intensified when he and Madeleine had moved out to the country from the city where they’d both been born, raised, educated, and employed.

At that moment, a cloudy late afternoon in the first week of August, with low thunder grumbling in the distance, they were climbing Barrow Hill, following the overgrown remnant of a dirt road that linked three small bluestone quarries, long abandoned and overgrown with wild raspberry brambles. He was trudging along behind Madeleine, as she headed for the low boulder where they normally stopped to rest, doing his best to take her frequent advice: Look around you. You’re in a beautiful place. Just relax and absorb it.

. . . . .

Madeleine tilted her head.

“What is it?” asked Gurney.


He waited — not an unusual experience. His hearing was normal, but Madeleine’s was extraordinary. A few seconds later, as the breeze rustling the foliage subsided, he heard something in the distance, somewhere down the hill, perhaps on the town road that dead-ended into the low end of their pasture “driveway”. As it grew louder, he recognized the distinctive growl of an oversized, under-muffled V-8.

He knew someone who drove an old muscle car that sounded exactly like that — a partially restored red 1970 Pontiac GTO — someone for whom that brash exhaust note was the perfect introduction.

Jack Hardwick.

He felt his jaw tightening at the prospect of a visit from the detective with whom he had such a bizarre history of near-death experiences, professional successes, and personality clashes. Not that he hadn’t been anticipating the visit. In fact, he’d known it was coming from the moment he heard about the man’s forced departure from the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. And he realized that the tension he felt now had a lot to do with what had occurred prior to that departure. A serious debt was involved, and some kind of payment would have to be made.

A formation of low dark clouds was moving quickly over the far ridge as though retreating from the violent sound of the red car — now visible from where Gurney was sitting — as it made its way up the mowed pasture swath to the farmhouse. He was briefly tempted to stay on the hill until Hardwick left, but he knew that would accomplish nothing — only extend the period of discomfort before the inevitable meeting. With a small grunt of determination he got up from his place on the boulder.

“Were you expecting him?” asked Madeleine.

Gurney was surprised that she remembered Hardwick’s car.

“I remember the noise,” she said, seeming to read his expression.

Gurney glanced down the slope. The GTO came to a stop by his own dusty Outback in the little makeshift parking area by the side of the house. The big Pontiac engine roared louder for a couple of seconds as it was revved prior to being shut down.

“I was expecting him in a general way,” said Gurney, “not necessarily today.”

“Do you want to see him?”

“I’d say he wants to see me, and I’d like to get it over with.”

Madeleine nodded and stood up.

As they turned to start down the trail, the mirror surface of the quarry pool shivered under a sudden breeze, dissolving the inverted image of the willows and the sky into thousands of unrecognizable splinters of green and gray.

If Gurney was the kind of man who believed in omens, he might have said that the shattered image was a sign of the destruction to come.

Excerpted from Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdon. Copyright © 2014 by John Verdon. Excerpted by permission of Crown Publishers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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