Until Proven Guilty (J. P. Beaumont Series #1)by J. A. Jance
“Any story by Jance is a joy.”
Now fans of the enormously popular Sheriff Joanna Brady suspense series by J.A. Jance can discover another side to the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author. Until Proven Guilty—a riveting tale of the very worst kind of murder/b>/b>/b>/p>/p>/b>/b>/p>… See more details below
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“Any story by Jance is a joy.”
Now fans of the enormously popular Sheriff Joanna Brady suspense series by J.A. Jance can discover another side to the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author. Until Proven Guilty—a riveting tale of the very worst kind of murder—marks the debut of Seattle Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont. This Premium Plus edition of Until Proven Guilty—the classic novel that put the incomparable Jance on the crime fiction map—indisputably proves that she truly belongs “in the elite company of Sue Grafton and Patricia Cornwell” (Flint Journal).
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She was probably a cute kid once, four maybe five years old. It was hard to tell that now. She was dead. The murder weapon was a pink Holly Hobbie gown. What little was left of it was still twisted around her neck. It wasn't pretty, but murder never is.
Her body had rolled thirty feet down a steep embankment from the roadway, tossed out like so much garbage. She was still tangled in a clump of blackberry bushes when we got there. As far as I could see, there was no sign of a struggle. It looked to me as though she had been dead several hours, but a final determination on that would have to wait for the experts.
My name is Beaumont. I've been around homicide for fifteen years, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to puke. I was careful not to think about my own kids right then. You can't afford to. If you do, you crack up.
My partner, Ron Peters, was the new man on the squad. He had only been up from burglary a couple of months. He was still at the stage where he was long on homicide theory and short on homicide practice. This was his first dead kid, and he wasn't taking it too well. He hadn't come to terms with the idea of a dead child as evidence. That takes time and experience. His face was a pasty shade of gray. I sent him up to the road to talk to the truck driver who had called 911, while I prowled the crime scene along with a small army of arriving officers.
After the pictures, after the measurements, it took the boys from the medical examiner's office a good little while to drag her loose from the blackberry bushes. If you've ever tried picking blackberries, you know it's easy enough to get in but hell on wheels toget back out. By the time they brought out the body bag, I was convinced we weren't going to find anything. We slipped and slid on the steep hillside, without finding so much as a gum wrapper or an old beer can.
I climbed back up and found to my relief that I had waited long enough. The swarm of killer bees that calls itself Seattle's press corps had disappeared with the coroner's wagon. I like reporters almost as much as I like killers, and the less I have to do with them, the better off I am.
Peters' color was a little better than it had been. He was talking with a man named Otis Walker, who was built like an Alaskan grizzly. In the old days people would have said Walker drove a sewage truck. These are the days of sanitary engineers and environmentalists, so Walker told us he drove a sludge truck for the Westside Treatment Center. That may sound like a high-class detox joint, but it isn't. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but if it looks like a sewage plant and smells like a sewage plant, that's what I call it.
However, Otis Walker had a heavy, square jaw and a nose that showed signs of more than one serious break. His biceps resembled halfgrown trees. I chose not to debate his job title. Despite his fearsome appearance, he was having a tough time talking to Peters. The words stuck in his throat, threatening to choke him.
"You gonna catch that SOB?" he asked me when I appeared over Peters' shoulder. I nodded. "I got a kid of my own at home, you know," he continued, "almost her age. Wears the same kind of gown. Shit!" He stopped and swiped at his face with the back of one meaty paw.
"That's our job," I told him. I wondered what kind of murder this was. The easiest ones to solve are the hardest ones to understand, the husbands and lovers and wives and parents who murder people they ought to cherish instead of kill. The random killers, the ones who pick out a victim at a football game or a grocery store, are easier to comprehend and harder to catch. That's the problem with homicide.
I turned to Peters. "You about done here?"
He nodded. "Pretty much."
Walker pulled himself together. "You guys through with me?"
"For right now," Peters told him, "but don't go out of town without letting us know where to find you. With all this timely-trial crap from the Supreme Court, we may need to get ahold of you in a hurry."
Walker looked dolefully at the blackberry clump halfway down the hill. He shook his head. "I wish I never saw her," he said. "I wish I'da just driven past and never knew she was down there, know what I mean?" He climbed back into the huge blue tractor-trailer and started it, waving halfheartedly as he eased past where Peters and I were standing.
"What now?" Peters asked.
"Not much doing here as far as I can tell. Let's go get something to eat and come back for another look later." The call had come in about eleven in the morning. It was now well after three. I'm one of those guys who has to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or I begin to foam at the mouth. I was getting close.
Peters gave me a reproachful look. "How can you think about food? Where are her parents? The medical examiner says she died sometime around nine or nine-thirty. Someone should have come looking for her by now."
"Somebody will come," I assured him. "With any kind of luck it will be after we finish eating." As it turned out, they found us before we even got out of the car in the parking lot at G.G.'s.Until Proven Guilty. Copyright © by J. Jance. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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