Vanishing ActBook - 1995
Jane Whitefield is a Native American guide who leads people out of the wilderness--not the tree-filled variety but the kind created by enemies who want you dead. She is in the one-woman business of helping the desperate disappear. Thanks to her membership in the Wolf Clan of the Seneca tribe, she can fool any pursuer, cover any trail, and then provide her clients with new identities, complete with authentic paperwork. Jane knows all the tricks, ancient and modern; in fact, she has invented several of them herself.
So she is only mildly surprised to find an intruder waiting for her when she returns home one day. An ex-cop suspected of embezzling, John Felker wants Jane to do for him what she did for his buddy Harry Kemple: make him vanish. But as Jane opens a door out of the world for Felker, she walks into a trap that will take all her heritage and cunning to escape. . . .
Praise for Vanishing Act
"Thomas Perry keeps pulling fresh ideas and original characters out of thin air. The strong-willed heroine he introduces in Vanishing Act rates as one of his most singular creations." -- The New York Times Book Review
"One thriller that must be read. . . . Perry has created his most complex and compelling protagonist." -- San Francisco Examiner
From the critics
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The one who would matter to Jane was Jigonsasee, a woman part Betsy Ross and part Joan of Arc, but mostly Mary Magdalene, still called the Mother of Nations and the Great Peace Woman, because she was the one who decided it was better to save two fugitives than to keep endlessly feeding the warriors who came along the trail on the way to butcher people just like themselves.
In the early spring they had planted the corn, and then after it had sprouted, they had planted the beans and the squash so the vines could grow up the cornstalks to keep the vegetables off the ground. They called the plants the three sisters.
The man who had ordered the attacks was named George Washington. From that day in 1779 until now, the only way of referring to any American president in the Seneca language was Destroyer of Villages.
A fifty-pound suitcase was a burden; a ten-pound suitcase was a weapon.
It was their hope that the large animals that were a nuisance to little people everywhere would smell the clippings and think there were full-sized human beings around.
He said he had read somewhere that the more mongrelized a person was, the better the chance that he would be healthy and intelligent.
In his younger days Jake Reinert would have disdained the idea of being the next-to-last live person in a dying place. He would rather have put a gun to his head. But life had a way of presenting you with a dogshit sandwich and tailoring events perfectly so that you just had to hang around and eat it.
’’The man is a piece of scum. But he is also probably the last Beothuk Indian left on earth."
But in my experience, nobody in this country gets rich by accident. A lot of people who haven’t gotten caught at anything are pretty ruthless. The heirs and colleagues of men like that can be pretty ruthless too.
This is a man who spent forty years building those businesses with his hands, and what they consist of is killing people who don’t give him money. …. old. I’ve heard he speaks English like a native, except there are a few words he never learned, like mercy.
... because they don’t even know that much, that when they’re driving at a hundred and ten, the helicopter over their heads isn’t going to lose sight of them if they go a hundred and twenty, or that fifteen cops at their door aren’t going to give up and leave them alone, no matter how hard they fight.
The world was old now. Most of the unexplored territory left was in the space between people’s ears.
Margaret had never been one to be critical of anyone for having had a lot of sex. That would have been completely alien to her nature. The way she always said it was "People have a right to try to be happy. It’s in the Declaration of Independence."
"Are you married?" "I used to be. After about three years of being a cop’s wife, she saw the future before I did."
They used to show Tarzan movies on Saturdays for a quarter, so children had watched them without complaint. She had sensed that it was always a big moment when Jane got wet, but at the time the significance was lost on her.
´… When was the last time you were afraid for your life?" "That’s easy," he said. "When I was a cop." "Cops are dogs. Try to think in rabbit." "What?" She said it carefully, so he would understand. ’’This is like dogs chasing a rabbit. When the rabbit wins, he doesn’t get to kill the dogs and eat them. He doesn’t get to be a dog. He just gets to keep being a rabbit."
It was easy to imagine why people would believe— no, not believe, exactly, just express the mystery of it this way—that the world was begun when Sky-Woman fell and was caught by the sea birds and placed on the shell of a gigantic turtle.
"I wish we had some light," he muttered. "Those four men wish we did, too. By now they’re looking in our direction."
The French, the British, the Americans, and all of the Indian tribes allied with each of them had fought for control of that fort from the 1680s to the 1780s. Now it was empty, a museum. It was one of the quiet places where all the old human blood had made the grass grow green.
"What kind of Indian?" "The usual kind," she said. "Feathers and beads."
"Well, if you’re no better than the rest of the men, I ought to write your mother a letter. Because I know you won’t." "No," he said. "I don’t think I want you two getting together. I’m no match for her as it is."
"Keep one hand on that one. He’s beautiful, but he didn’t learn that much about women from his mother."
"But sometime in the twenties the Canadian government decided that all Canadian Indians had to be patrilineal. “
"What’s a great disguise?" "Great? Great is like you take female hormones for a year, get a sex-change operation that’s so good that your reclusive billionaire husband never suspects that you weren’t always a woman, and neither do any of his army of security people."
"Remember, Polish wedding. Join the fun and you’re a guest. Stand around and you’re a stranger."
I saw those four, and I know men like that don’t just come out of the blue after a young woman in Deganawida. You have to go where they are to attract their attention.
If you wasted something that was good enough, it wasn’t called waste, it was sacrifice.
The coast of California was a sad place for Indians: Chumash, Gabrieleno, Cupeno, Tataviam, Luiseno, Costanoan, Miwok, Ipa, Salinan, Esselen—all either exterminated by 1900 or down to 1 percent of the 300,000 people the priests had counted when they took their first inventory of souls.
There were lots of people in their fifties and sixties wandering around town doing nothing. They played golf, walked on the beaches, and sauntered around State Street looking in store windows. It was the sort of town where all you needed was the money to pay the rent and a dull, plausible story that would explain why you had chosen to pay it there.
But when she was little, maybe two years old, she was swinging on a swing in the front yard. The sun was right in her eyes, and one of the neighbors heard her say, ’Daddy! Move the sun!’
He had asked questions, made her talk about what she felt and about her family and her people, not because he was even morbidly curious, but because everyone knew that the best way to lie to someone was to make her do the talking.
After a year in jail, that might be anywhere. After eight in jail and a fresh murder, he would go home.
That was the way the stories went: There was always one left, …
"What doesn’t matter?" "None of it. People are born and they die. What any of them do in between doesn’t look like much from a distance. Viruses and rusty nails and people like (xyz), they’re working all the time on the same side. Always were, always will be. If they didn’t exist, we’d die anyway."
"What you’re telling me is that it’s just good and evil in this constant fight and that there’s no outcome."
She was almost certain that Lake Nehasane was where he would be. It was a big oval with lots of depths and a complicated shoreline, and it was fed on the upper end by the outlet of Lake Lila and emptied on the other into the Stillwater Reservoir.
If only she could find a hiding place, a cave or something. But there was nothing up here that would hide a rabbit.
"I am brave and intrepid. I do not fear death or any kind of torture. Those who fear them are cowards. They are less than women ..."
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