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Injustice for All
There's nothing like a woman's scream to bring a man bolt upright in bed. I had been taking a late-afternoon nap in my room when the sound cut through the stormy autumn twilight like a knife.
I threw open the door of my cabin. The woman screamed again, the sound keening up from the narrow patch of beach below the terrace at Rosario Resort. A steep path dropped from my cabin to the beach. I scrambled down it to the water's edge. There I spotted a woman struggling to drag a man's inert form out of the lapping sea.
She wasn't screaming now. Her face was grimly set as she wrestled the dead weight of the man's body. I hurried to help her, grasping him under the arms and pulling him ashore. Dropping to his side, 1, felt for a pulse. There was none.
He was a man in his mid to late fifties wearing expensive cowboy boots and a checkered cowboy shirt. His belt buckle bore the initials LSL. A deep gash split his forehead.
The woman knelt beside me anxiously, hopefully. When I looked at her and shook my head, her face contorted with grief. She sank to the wet sand beside me. "Can't you do something?" she sobbed.
Again I shook my head. I've worked homicide too many years not to know when it's too late. Footsteps pounded down the steps behind us as people in the bar and dining room hurried to see what had happened. Barney, the bartender, was the first person to reach us.
"Dead?" he asked.
I nodded. "'Get those people out of here, every last one of them. And call the sheriff."
With unquestioning obedience Barney bounded up the steps and herded the onlookers back to theterrace some twenty-five feet above us. Beside me the woman's sobs continued unabated. It was a chilly autumn evening to begin with, and we were both soaked to the skin. Gently I took her arm, lifting her away from the lifeless body.
"Come on," I said. "You've got to get out of those wet clothes." She allowed me to pull her to her feet. "Is this your husband?"
She shook her head. "No, a friend."
"Are you staying here at the hotel?" She nodded. "Where's your room?"
"Up by the tennis courts."
She was shaking violently. The tennis courts and her room were a good quarter of a mile away. My cabin was just at the top of the path. "You can dry off and warm up in my room. The sheriff will need to talk to you when he gets here."
Like a dazed but pliant child, she followed me as I half led, half carried her up the path. By the time we reached my room, her teeth chattered convulsively. It could have been cold or shock or a little of both. I pulled her into the bathroom and turned on the water in the shower. "Get out of those wet things," I ordered. "I'll send someone to get you some clothes."'
Kneeling in front of her, I fumbled with the sodden laces of her tennis shoes with my own numbed fingers. "What's your name?" I asked.
"Gi ... Ginger," she stammered through ,chattering teeth.
"Wa ... Watkins."
I stood up. Her arms hung limply at her sides. "Can you undress, or do you need help?"
Clumsily she battled a button on her blouse, finally unfastening it. Leaving her on her own, I let myself out of the bathroom. "I'll be outside if you need anything."
Alone in the room, I stripped off my own soaked clothing and tossed the soggy bundle on a chair near the bed. I pulled on a shirt, a sweater, and two pair of socks before I picked up the phone and dialed the desk clerk. "This is Beaumont in Room Thirteen," I said. "Did someone call the sheriff?"
"Yes we did, Mr. Beaumont. The deputy's on his way."
"Have someone stay down on the beach with the body until he gets here. Make sure nothing is moved or disturbed. The woman who found him is here in my room. She was freezing. She's taking a hot shower. Her name is Watkins. Can YOU send someone to her room for dry clothes? Does she have a husband?"
"There's no Mr. Watkins registered, Mr. Beaumont, but Ill.send someone after the clothes right away."
"She'll need the works, underwear and all."
"I'll take care of it as soon as I can."
"Good," I replied. "And when the deputy comes, be sure he knows she's here with me. Since she's the one who found the body, he'll want to talk to her."
The desk clerk himself brought the clothes, handing them to me apologetically. His nametag labeled him Fred. "I hope I have everything" he said.
I opened the bathroom door wide enough to slip them inside onto the floor before turning back to Fred. "The deputy isn't here yet?"
"There's an accident down by the ferry dock. He can't come until he finishes with that."
"Did the dispatcher call for a detective from Friday Harbor?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I guess, but I don't know for sure. You seem to know about this kind of thing, Mr. Beaumont."
I ought to. I've worked homicide in Seattle for the better part of twenty years.
Fred moved uncertainly toward the door. "I'd better be getting back."
"Who was he?" I asked. Fred looked blank. "The dead man,-' I persisted.
"Oh," he replied. "His name was Sig Larson. He was here with the parole board."
"The parole board!" Cops don't like parole ,boards. Cops and parole boards work opposite sides of the street. Parole boards let creeps go faster than cops can lock them up. "What's the parole board doing here?"Injustice for All. Copyright © by J. Jance. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.