gt;gt;Eye of the Mountain Godgt;gt;gt;gt;gt;gt;Chapter Onegt;gt;gt;gt;Mgt;egan Montoya got out of her car and was halfway to the front door before she noticed the living room drapes were closed. She always left them open. Her daughter should be home from school by now, but why would Lizzie close the drapes?gt;gt;She hated the idea of Lizzie coming home to an empty house. If the stoplight on Alameda hadn't stuck on red, backing up two lanes of horn-happy drivers as last year's tumbleweeds rocketed through the intersection, Megan would have been there sooner.gt;gt;Hurrying up the steps, she shoved her key in the lock and opened the door. One foot was inside the house before her brain registered what she was seeing.gt;gt;The head of one of Lizzie's dolls, ruthlessly decapitated, gaped up at her. Strewn across the aged carpet were lamps, books, and photographs. Spools of thread and a heap of buttons spilled from her overturned sewing basket. Scattered sheets of paper fluttered like surprised ghosts as a gusty breeze whipped past her.gt;gt;"Lizzie!"gt;gt;Her belongings lay like wreckage in debris that spread through bothbedrooms and the spare room she used as an office. In the dining area, newspapers once neatly stacked now littered the table.gt;gt;A stuffed rabbit, stabbed in the heart and oozing cotton, squeaked in protest when she stepped on it.gt;gt;"Lizzie!" she screamed. "Where are you?"gt;gt;"Mom?"gt;gt;Megan whirled and ran back to the living room. At the door, eyes wide, mouth open, a mix of puzzlement and fear written on her face, her Lizzie gawked at her.gt;gt;Megan's own freckles stood out on the little girl's whitened cheeks. At eight and a half, there wasn't a trace of baby fat. Lizzie was all angles, from the chin of her heart-shaped face to her elbows and knees.gt;gt;"What happened, Mama?"gt;gt;Megan hugged her so tightly the child yelped.gt;gt;"You knocked my hearing aid loose." Lizzie straightened the wire and placed the little device back in her ear. "What happened?" she asked again.gt;gt;"I don't know, sweetheart. I just got home." A gust of wind slammed the door shut, making both of them jump.gt;gt;"Poor Eliot." The little girl scooped up the wounded toy rabbit, then glanced at her mother. "I passed the spelling test."gt;gt; gt;gt;gt; gt;gt;gt;The shorter officer had a dark leathery face and the broad chest and mournful eyes of a basset hound. His name was Córdova, which he pronounced carefully, as if Megan were a foreigner, which, in a way, she was.gt;gt;The younger deputy sheriff didn't bother giving his name. He was built like a stump. Bristling red hair topped a broad face above a short, thick neck. Pacing, wide black shoes squeaking, he shot questions at her, ending with, "Any idea who did it?"gt;gt;"I told you, I'm new here." She ran fingers through hair she had cut herself to save money. "I hardly know anyone."gt;gt;A few months ago she had packed Lizzie and everything they owned into an old blue Chevy Nova and headed out of Pennsylvania toward California, where she planned to take some classes and begin a career in photography.gt;gt;But in New Mexico's Rio Grande Valley the Nova had succumbed to a worn piston ring, and Megan, bewitched by the brilliant colors and bold contrasts, had succumbed to the high desert that once was home to her grandparents. She wished she had paid more attention when they talked of their early lives there.gt;gt;By the time the mechanic pronounced her car worth more dead than alive, she had found this house in Santa Ynez, far enough from Santa Fe to be affordable.gt;gt;The officer with the doleful eyes was intoning more questions. While Lizzie clung to her mother's hand, Megan repeated everything for the third time: Someone broke the glass in her back door and ransacked her home. Nothing seemed to be missing. "Why would anyone do this and not take anything?"gt;gt;The younger man, right foot bouncing incessantly, as if he were about to break into a run, scratched his Marine-style haircut. "You sure nothing's missing?"gt;gt;Megan shook her head. "My cameras are here, computer, photo equipment. Nothing else is worth taking."gt;gt;Deputy Córdova demonstrated how to secure the sliding windows with a dowel and recommended a new lock for the back door. The present one would be easy to manipulate with an ordinary credit card.gt;gt;The younger deputy watched as if sizing her up. Eyes beneath blond eyebrows searched hers. "You get the paper delivered?"gt;gt;"Yes." The frown that now seemed permanently etched on her face deepened. "Why?"gt;gt;"You know the delivery boy?"gt;gt;"Seems like a nice kid."gt;gt;Córdova passed a look to his partner. The two moved toward the door.gt;gt;"Excuse me?" Megan said. "What gt;aboutgt; the paper boy?"gt;gt;Córdova turned back, eyebrows meeting in a peak. "We do not want to frighten you and the little girl." He glanced toward his partner, who had stopped at the door. "Four break-ins on this street. All today. All of them get the newspaper delivered. And the paper boy ..."gt;gt;"He's missing." The redhead finished the sentence for his partner, tossing the words over his shoulder like things he wanted to be rid of. "The kid's parents say he got up early Saturday to ride his paper route. He never came home."gt;gt;gt;EYE OF THE MOUNTAIN GOD. Copyright © 2010 by Penny Rudolph. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.gt; gt;gt;gt;Continues...gt; gt; gt;gt; gt;gt;gt; Excerpted from gt;Eye of the Mountain Godgt; by gt;Penny Rudolphgt; Copyright © 2010 by Penny Rudolph. Excerpted by permission.gt; All rights reserved. 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