Readers Read

Readers Read


Books Section

Reading Sections

Book Publishing News
Children's Books
General Fiction

Cyanide Wells
by Marcia Muller
Mysterious Press, 2003

Click here
for ordering information.

Saugatuck, Minnesota
Thursday, July 28, 1988

"Matthew Lindstrom?"


"This is Sheriff Cliff Brandt of Sweetwater County, Wyoming. Are you married to a Gwen Lindstrom?"

". . . Yes, I am."

"And she drives a white Toyota Tercel, this year's model, Minnesota license number four-four-three-B-C-Y?"

"That's correct. What's this about, Sheriff?"

"Her car was found in my jurisdiction, parked by the side of County Road Eleven, eight miles from Reliance. That's a farming community north of Interstate Eighty. Nothing wrong with the vehicle, but there were bloodstains on the dash and other signs consistent with a struggle. A purse containing her identification and credit cards was on the passenger's seat."

"And Gwen? What about Gwen?"

"No sign of her. Tell me, Mr. Lindstrom, does she know anyone in Reliance? Or Sweetwater County?"

"As far as I know, she's never been to Wyoming."

"When did you last see Mrs. Lindstrom?"

"Two weeks ago, on the fourteenth."

"Two weeks ago? And you've got no idea where she's been since then?"

"We're separated. Have filed for divorce. We met on the fourteenth to go over the property settlement."

"I see. Messy divorce?"

"Amicable. We have no children and very little in the way of assets."

"There was a student ID from Saugatuck College in your wife's purse."

"Yes, she's a senior in the journalism department."

"And what do you do, Mr. Lindstrom?"

"I teach photography there, operate a small studio on the side. Mostly wedding portraits, that sort of— Why are you asking me these questions? And what are you doing to find Gwen?"

"Just familiarizing myself with the situation. I take it you can account for your whereabouts during the past two weeks?"

"Of course I can! I was here in Saugatuck, teaching summer courses. Now, what are you doing to find—"

"Don't get all exercised, Mr. Lindstrom. My last question was strictly routine. As for finding your wife, we plan to circularize her photograph, but we're hoping you can provide a better likeness than the one on her driver's license."

"I'll overnight several to you. If you find her, will you please ask her to call me? Or if . . ."

"If Mr. Lindstrom?"

"Well, if something's happened to her . . ."

"Don't worry. We'll be in touch."

Thousand Springs, Nevada
Thursday, July 28, 1988

"That's a bad place to hitchhike. Somebody could pick you off coming around the curve. Where're you headed?"

"West. Where're you going?"

"All the way to Soledad County, California."

"Good a place as any, I guess. If you'd like some company . . ."

"Hop in."

"Thanks, I really appreciate it. I was starting to get spooked, all alone here."

"Why were you alone, anyway?"

"My last ride dropped me off. I kind of . . . had trouble with him."

"That'll happen. Hitching's not the safest way for a woman to travel."

"I know, but it's the only way I've got."

"How long have you been on the road?"

"A couple of days."

"Coming from where?"

"East. What's this place—Soledad County—like?"

"Pretty. Coast, forest, foothills, small towns."

"Lots of people live there?"

"No. We're one of the most sparsely populated in the upper half of the state. Isolated, too; it's a four-hour drive to San Francisco, even longer to Sacramento because of bad roads."

"Sounds nice."

"Well, you've got to like the quiet life, and I do. I live in the country, near a little town called Cyanide Wells."

"So you think Soledad County is really a good place to live?"

"If you want, I'll sing its praises all the way there. By the way, my name's Carly McGuire."

"Mine's Ardis Coleman."

Port Regis, British Columbia
Sunday, April 21, 2002

Matthew Lindstrom?"


"I'm calling about your wife."

"I have no wife."

"Oh, yes, you do. Gwen Lindstrom—"

"My wife disappeared fourteen years ago. Our divorce went through shortly after that."

"I know, Mr. Lindstrom. And I know about your legal and professional difficulties surrounding the situation. They must have been very painful. Put an end to your life as you'd known it, didn't they?"

"Who is this?"

"A friend. My identity's not important. What's important is that your wife is very much alive. And very cognizant of what she put you through when she disappeared."

"Listen, whoever you are—"

"Aren't you curious? I'm sure I would be if I were you."

"All right, I'll go along with your game. Where is Gwen?"

"Soledad County, California. Has lived there for the past fourteen years near a place called Cyanide Wells, under the name of Ardis Coleman."

"Ardis Coleman? My God, that was Gwen's mother's maiden name."

"Well, there you go. Let me ask you this, Mr. Lindstrom: Will revenge taste good served up cold, after the passage of all those years?"


"Surely you must feel some impulse in that direction, considering . . ."

"What the hell are you trying to do to me? Who are you?"

"As I said, a friend."

"I don't believe a word of this!"

"Then I suggest you check it out, Mr. Lindstrom. Check it out."

Cyanide Wells, California
Sunday, April 21, 2002

"Hey, Ard, you're awfully quiet. Something wrong?"

"Nothing that I can pin down, but I feel . . . I didn't sleep well last night. Bad dreams, the kind you can't remember afterwards, but their aura lingers like a hangover."

"Maybe it's your book. It can't be easy reliving that time. And from what I've read, it's a much more personal account than what you wrote for the paper."

"It is, but that's how I want it, Carly. Besides, I don't think this is about the book—at least not completely."

"What, then?"

"Matt, maybe."

"After all these years?"

"I've been thinking of him a lot lately. Wondering . . ."

"And feeling guilty, I suppose."

"In a way. When I found out they suspected him of murdering me, I should've come forward."

"You found out way after the fact. And when you did try to contact him, he was gone, no forwarding."

"I know, but instead of trying to find out where he'd gone, I just felt relieved. I didn't want to hurt him any more than I already had."

"So he's better off."

"No, he'd've been better off if I'd been honest from the first. I could've—"

"As my aunt Nan used to say, 'Coulda's, woulda's, and shoulda's don't amount to a hill of beans.'"

"I guess. But I'm concerned for Natalie. My anxiety's obvious, and it upsets her."

"She hasn't said anything about it to me."

"You know her; she's a child who holds everything inside. Carly, d'you think I'm being irrational?"

". . . You're stressed. You'll get over it once the book is done."

"Will I? Sometimes I think that given all the terrible things I've done, I don't deserve another good night's sleep in this lifetime."

Excerpted from Cyanide Wells by Marcia Muller. Copyright © 2003 by Marcia Muller. All rights reserved. Posted with permission of No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Copyright © 1997-2015 by Writers Write, Inc. All Rights Reserved.