1979. The Cold War, a troubled family, and murder.
Vietnam veteran Detective Dean Wallace’s fondness for whiskey ended his New York City detective career and marriage. Having retreated to his hometown, Zion, to the only detective job he could find, he works under the shadow of his father, the Chief of Police.
A few days into the new year, the body of Billy Nimitz–a young automobile repair shop employee–turns up in the woods just on the United States side of the border. A bullet in his head, a copy of The Communist Manifesto in his pocket, and a gun in the snow.
Dean’s investigation takes him down a tangle of paths and connections with a local biker gang, drugs, rivalries, a tight-knit group of friends, an unpopular girlfriend, and a crime in Montreal. As Dean strives to find Billy’s killer, his shunned brother returns to the family, stirring up memories. Painful memories Dean would prefer to keep buried in the past.
January 2, 1979
The gunshot cracked across the snow laying a foot deep in the clearing in the woods. Snow fell heavy, in large, wet flakes. A rabbit, some distance away, perked its ears and stood upright, looking for danger. But as the sound of the gunshot dissipated and the sound of the snow landing on the trees replaced it, the rabbit returned to its exploration of the tree and hill, nudging its nose into the clumps of snow into the underbrush for grass.
The bullet itself lodged in the ground near the man lying against the tree. He would have been running had he not twisted his knee a few yards back after stepping into a hole obscured by the snow. He shined a black metal flashlight up at the man who had fired the shot, smoke curling from the barrel.
The shooter, dressed in a thick coat with a fur-trimmed hood, light brown knit hat, and large light blue scarf, stared at the man on the ground.
The sitting man first grabbed his knee but then held his hands up in front of his face. Tears fell down his cheeks. How had he ended up here? When he first started meeting this near the border, he not once thought he would find himself with a twisted knee in the snow with a gun pointed at him. He wondered if he could talk his way out of it, but he knew this was it. His short life gone. He had always wanted to see San Juan with Sarah. She had talked lovingly of the place. It sounded warm. And her arms—almost as if he could feel them now—felt warm around his neck. How had he gotten himself here? He knew, of course, but still the path one’s decisions lead is obscure, impossible to predict with accuracy.
The shooter looked down at the man on the ground. He held the gun steady. Had anyone heard the shot? He looked around quickly, never taking his aim off his target. Clumps of snow weighed down the branches of the firs at the edge of the clearing. The trees were beautiful in the sliver of light from the crescent moon. They reminded him of the Christmas cards from a few weeks ago that showed happy families around campfires and through the windows, trees heavy with snow. He too wondered how he found himself at this moment training a pistol on another man.
The injured man dropped his hands. Tears ran down his face. “Please don’t.”
The shooter shook his head slowly. No way he could back out now. He was too far into this, but that did not make it any easier. No, he realized killing a man was more difficult than he could have imagined.
“Please don’t. What do you want?”
The shooter pulled the trigger. The other man’s head snapped back, blood splattered the tree trunk and snow behind him. His entire body relaxed and slumped all at once. The tree taking the full weight of his body.
The animals and the elements would take care of the body for him, so he dropped the gun and turned north and walked across the snow, across the clearing, and into the woods. He walked across that imaginary boundary from the United States to Canada. His car was parked off the side of a Canadian farmer’s access road. He had done what needed to be done, but he would never forget the steam rising from the hot, fresh blood as it melted the snow.