Rise the Dark (Mark Novak #2) - Michael Koryta

Part One

Echoes

1

The snow had been falling for three days above six thousand feet, but it had been gentle and the lines stayed up. At this point in the season, after a long Montana winter that showed no signs of breaking, Sabrina Baldwin considered that a gift.

Then, on the fourth day, the wind rose.

And the lights blinked.

They were both awake, listening to that howling, shrieking wind. When the omnipresent hum of electrical appliances in the house vanished and the glow of the alarm clock went with it only to return a few seconds later, they both said, “One,” in unison, and laughed.

It was a lesson she’d learned in their first home in Billings, watching the lights take two hard blinks during a storm, Jay explaining that the system would respond to trouble by opening and closing circuits, automatically testing the significance of the fault before shutting things down altogether. You’d get maybe one blink, maybe two, but never three. Not on that system, at least.

In their new home in Red Lodge, the glow and hum of an electrified existence went off once more, then came back on.

“Two,” they said.

Everything was as it should be—the alarm clock blinked, waiting to be reset, but the power stayed on and the furnace came back to life. Sabrina slid her hands over Jay’s chest and arms. For five fleeting seconds, it seemed the system had healed itself, that all would be well, and no one would need to travel out into the storm.

Then the electricity went out again, and they both groaned. The problems of the world outside had just moved inside, announcing themselves through the staggered blinks like knocks on the door.

“The phone will ring now,” Jay said. “Damn it.”

Sabrina shifted her chest onto his and kissed his throat. “Then let’s not waste time.”

They didn’t. The phone rang before they were finished, but they ignored it. She would remember that moment with odd clarity for the rest of her life—the unique silence of the house in the power outage, the cold howling wind working outside, the warmth of her husband’s neck as she pressed her face against it, each of them so lost in the other that even the shrill sound of the phone caused no interruption.

The phone rang again when they were done, and he swore under his breath, kissed her, and then slipped out from under the covers, leaving her alone and still breathless in their bed.

A new bed, new sheets, new everything. She was grateful for the simplicity of Jay’s scent, the only thing that was not new, not different. They’d moved to Red Lodge only two months ago, and while everyone told her she’d appreciate its beauty, she still found the mountains menacing rather than enticing.

When winter finally yielded to spring, her view of the place would improve. She had to believe that. Right now, all she knew was that they’d managed to move somewhere that made Billings seem like a big city, and that wasn’t an easy feat.

She could hear his side of the conversation, providing a strange blend of breaking news and the customary—storms, lines down, substations, circuits. Even the bad pun was familiar: We sure don’t want the hospital to lose patience.

A joke that he’d told, and his father had told, and his grandfather. It gave her a sense of the situation, though. The outages were bad enough that the hospital was running on backup generators. This meant he’d be gone for a while. In weather like this, the repairs were rarely quick fixes. Not in Montana.

She followed him downstairs and brewed coffee while he explained what was going on, his eyes far away. She knew he was thinking of the map and the grid, trying to orient the issues before he rolled out. One of his greatest concerns lately was that he wasn’t familiar enough with the regional grid. In Billings, he’d known every substation, every step-down transformer, probably every insulator.

“It’ll be a long day,” he said. He pulled on his insulated boots while sitting in the kitchen that still felt foreign enough to Sabrina that she often reached for the wrong drawer or opened the wrong cupboard. It was a lovely home, though, with a gorgeous view of the mountains. Or at least, it would be gorgeous in the summer. The windows that Jay loved so much because they looked out at the breathtaking Beartooth Mountains were facing the wrong direction as far as Sabrina was concerned. The worst of the storms blew down out of