The old cemetery was cloistered in dark, looming trees, some as ancient as the graveyard itself. A place of moss, history, and ghosts.
A thousand years earlier, Krista’s Viking ancestors took their axes to the forests that covered the countryside, leaving Iceland as a modern case study in deforestation. For the past hundred years citizens had poured their energies into a major reforesting effort. So far, they’d managed a gain of half a percent. Outside its cities, Iceland was still a mostly treeless moonscape.
Not here, though. Here it was a different world.
Krista felt like a child in a Grimms’ fairy tale traipsing through Germany’s Black Forest.
The sound again.
Not her imagination.
Not a fairy tale.
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She felt her heart rate accelerate.
Someone following her.
She had reached about the halfway point on the path. The graveyard’s western gate was maybe two hundred feet to her left. Closer than the northwest corner gate she was aiming for. Should she alter her path?
Should she move at all?
In the faint light filtering through the trees she caught a brief glimpse of a figure, about thirty meters back, stalking up the path.
Too tall to be Pike.
A glint of light off a pair of glasses.
A few images flashed through her mind, unbidden. The two corpses at the clinic, garish and ugly under the fluorescent light. The broken body of the American lying in the bloody snow. Poor Ólafur lying ghost-white, exsanguinated, in a duck pond of his own blood.
Stop it, Krista.
She slipped off the path to an outsize tombstone a few meters away and crouched down behind it.
The fog felt like a toxic substance, seeping in through her clothes, through her skin, into her bones. She wished she had worn more, silently cursed that freakish warm snap. Though without it there would be no fog. Would her situation be worse? Or better?
A new sound cut through her thoughts, short, soft and hard at the same time. Like the puff of a pneumatic brake, but quieter.
Heard it again. Puff, puff. Two sounds, in quick succession. Like two breaths of air.
And again. Two short breaths in sequence. Then silence. Like someone inhaling sharply, through his nostrils.
Like someone sniffing.
A shiver ran through her, starting at the base of her spine and shimmying up across her shoulders and neck.
She knew exactly what he was doing.
It was too bizarre, couldn’t possibly be true. But she knew it was.
He was tracking her by scent.
She couldn’t see him now, from her position behind the gravestone.
Only hear him.
She inched farther down behind the headstone, making herself as small as possible. Ten feet away a stone mausoleum stood staring at her. She cursed herself for not having investigated that as a hiding spot. Agonized over whether to lower herself even closer to the ground, which would present a smaller profile, but would also make it more difficult to bolt out of there if she came to the point of having to make that terrifying decision. Afraid to make the smallest movement.
Closer this time.
She felt a trickle of sweat slipping down her sternum, traversing the skin between her breasts.
Smelled her own sweat betraying her, screaming out her location.
Krista closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, willing her adrenals not to bear down, willing her autonomic nervous system to stay the scent of fear rising off of her. Compelled her own breathing to slow and go still.
If the moment for flight came, it would need to be calculated and precise.
She forced her mind to reassert control.
Within seconds the perspiration dried, the cloud of fear vanished.
Without moving, Krista folded into herself. She became a glacier.
She became Snæfellsjökull.
The seconds squeezed past.
Closer—and this time followed by a second, different sound. A quiet clanking rattle, like a ghost’s tambourine. What the hell was that? It sounded to Krista like a handful of small, brittle objects clanking against each other. A set of thin, stone wind chimes, or a loose necklace jostling as its owner moved.
She felt the tiny hairs on her forearms and the nape of her neck standing erect, quivering like a porcupine’s quills. A fresh flood of adrenaline poured through her bloodstream, flipping every switch, throwing every circuit.
She knew what had happened to the victims’ canine teeth.
She couldn’t say how she knew, but she knew.
He had made a necklace out of them.
A fucking necklace.
Perspiration burst out again, on her face, on her neck, under her arms, running down her sides and her chest in rivulets.
The clanking stopped.
She could feel herself about to bolt, her control giving way to panicked flight.
Breathe! she shouted inside her head. Wait!
With excruciating care, she shifted her weight to her right foot and tensed her thighs and abdomen into the taut drawn string of a hunting bow, preparing to launch herself into a sprint—
When she heard another sound, this time coming from outside the cemetery.
Someone running . . .
Order your copy of “Cold Fear” today!
Order at least two copies of Cold Fear or Steel Fear (soon to be a streaming series) for the Holidays and receive a limited offer to have your gift recipients receive a personalized cameo style video emailed to them directly from the authors and there’s more.
You’ll also receive an exclusive live Zoom SNEAK PREVIEW where the authors will reveal glimpses into their next book, Blind Fear (spring/summer 2023 release).
Send proof of purchase and your gift recipients name and email to: [email protected]webbandmann.com
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Brandon Webb is founder of SOFREP and the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Circle and Benghazi: The Definitive Report. A former U.S. Navy SEAL whose last assignment was Course Manager for the elite SEAL Sniper Course, he was instrumental in developing new curricula that trained some of the most accomplished snipers of the twenty-first century. Webb has received numerous distinguished service awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Commendation Medal with a “V” for “Valor,” for his platoon’s deployment to Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.
John David Mann is coauthor of more than thirty books, including four New York Times bestsellers and five national bestsellers. His writing has won multiple awards and been featured in American Executive, Financial Times, Forbes, Leadership Excellence, Huffington, Wired, and CrimeReads. His bestselling classic The Go-Giver (with Bob Burg) has sold over 1 million copies and won the Living Now Book Awards Evergreen Medal for its “contributions to positive global change.”
John and Brandon have coauthored ten books together. Steel Fear, the debut novel in their Finn series, was nominated for a Barry Award and hailed by Jack Reacher author Lee Child as “an instant classic, maybe an instant legend.” Cold Fear is the second book in the series; the third, Blind Fear, comes out summer of 2023.
Visit Webb & Mann here.
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