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By William W. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 1999 William W. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Denton, Missouri-May, 1999
"Yes." The shaken and stunned father made the identification. "That's my daughter." The sheet was dropped, covering the battered face of young death. The father put his face in his hands and cried, openly and unashamed. "Oh, God!" he cried. "Why her? Why this way?"
You're a great actor, Detective Lieutenant Joe Davis thought, watching the father. You incestuous son of a bitch.
The father was gently pulled away from the body and out of the cool, antiseptically clean room in the morgue. Joe waited until he pulled his emotions together.
"Howard, I have to ask you some questions. Sorry, but it's my job. I know it's a bad time."
"All right, Joe. But can't it wait a little longer?"
The two men looked at each other. It was obvious they did not like each other.
The cop nodded. "All right, Howard." He looked at his watch. "I'll come to your house at two this afternoon. Will that be okaya?"
Howard Jordan nodded his agreement, reluctantly.
"I'll want to speak with your wife as well."
"She'll be there," he said shortly.
"I'll see you both then."
"Whatever is necessary, Joe."
* * *
Only a few miles separated Denton and Red Bay, Missouri, in the heart of the resort and tourist area, and that distance was practically unnoticeable because of the fast food operations, shopping malls, tourist traps (featuring everything from hillbilly music to live rattlesnakes), gas stations, and sub-divisions. The combined population of the two towns was near forty thousand, so the police departments of both towns linked with and became part of the sheriff's department of Morrison County, forming the Red Bay/Denton Sheriff's Department. That move not only gave the citizens more protection, but gave them more professional law enforcement, better trained officers and more equipment.
Detective Lieutenant Joe Davis, a 1975 graduate of Denton High School, had joined the Morrison County Sheriff's Department after serving three years in the army as a member of first the military police, then the army security agency, ASA.
Joe was a bulldog of a cop; once he got his teeth into a case, he was reluctant to turn it loose. His percentage of crimes worked and solved was high above the national average, and the sheriff, T. L. Roberts, considered Joe his best investigator, usually letting him work at his own pace, without interference. Joe would be up for detective captain within the next three years, and few had any doubt that he would make it.
Joe had no interest in running for sheriff; he was too blunt, and had made some enemies. He was a cop, not a politician.
On his desk, in the station house, was a small 5x7 black-and-white photo of a very pretty girl. Her name was Judy Evans, and she had been dead a very long time. Joe remembered the sensational murder well, though he had been a sophomore in high school at the time. He had known Paul and Judy Evans, but not well, and their deaths had saddened him, reenforcing his desire to become a police officer, something Joe had wanted to be since small boy.
The case was still unsolved. And Joe did not like unsolved murder cases. They were so ... untidy, unprofessional.
For reasons, even he could not name, Joe had never, even as a boy, believed some vagrant had raped, tortured, and then killed the Evans girl-and the boy, although his body was never found. No, even as a boy he believed it had been a person, or persons, living in the Red Bay/Denton community. Further, although he kept his theory private, sharing it with only a very few close and closemouthed friends, he believed that the rich bunch of kids from the Hill Section, that group who had called themselves the Club of the Elite (which had, for some reason, disbanded shortly after the killing of the Evans twins), had something to do with it. And some day, if Joe lived long enough, he would prove his theory.
Over the years, Joe had carefully compiled a dossier on each member of the group. That is how he knew Howard Jordan had incestuous relations with his daughters, Ruth and Donna. He had listened to the rumors, tracked down the source, nailed it shut, and spoken with several nurses at both Red Bay and Denton hospitals. Joe kept those dossiers in a locked desk in his study at home. Occasionally, he studied them, making new notations in his neat script.
Joe knew the lives and the carryings on of the offspring of the Elite Eleven better than any person on earth. Each good man has a fault, and Lieutenant Joe Davis was no exception: he had a dislike-bordering on hatred — for each member of the old Club of the Elite. He disliked them for the taunts he had taken from them as a child from the wrong side of the tracks, their fine new cars (for which they hadn't lifted a finger), new clothes, ski vacations, summers in France, Spain, England, winter vacations in Mexico, Florida — it all came too easily to them. And he disliked them because of who they were. Old reputations in this part of Missouri. Old money. Some wealthier than others, but all very, very comfortable: Jordan, Hartman, Wooten, Rick, Stagg, Harkins, Pike, Lewis, Richard, Kennedy.
They were factory owners, attorneys, landowners, resort owners, highly successful businessmen. And they were snobs. They almost always married within their social group.
Also, Joe knew through hours of legwork, most of their ancestors had made their money through shady, if not downright illegal, business dealings. And the offspring carried on in exactly the same manner.
For all his dislike, Joe never used his position in the sheriffs department to hassle or roust any of them, and he could have very easily done so. He was known throughout the state as an "up and up" cop, unapproachable with any kind of shady deal or bribe, solid and unyielding. He had earned, twice, the highest medal offered peace officers by the state of Missouri, and the highest peacetime medal for bravery offered by the military.
Joe had killed one man while an MP in the army, and wounded another. He had killed one man in his fourteen years as a member of the sheriff's department, and wounded two. He had broken the arm of one assailant, the wrist of another, and both arms of yet another.
Joe Davis had very little compassion for poor punks. He had risen-pulled himself up-from almost abject poverty, and believed strongly that anyone else could do the same, if they had the desire. If they didn't: to hell with them.
He had absolutely no compassion for rich punks.
Joe was five-feet, ten-inches tall, and at first glance appeared to have an average physique. But on a second, much closer look, one noticed his huge wrists and forearms. His upper arms were heavily muscled. Joe boxed in the police gym, practiced whenever possible on the unarmed combat range, and was wicked in a stand-up, bare-knuckle fight. His hair was brown, cut short. His eyes were blue-friendly or agate mean. He was a bachelor, forty-one years old. There was only a touch of gray in his hair.
* * *
Before going to the Jordan house in the Hill Section, Joe went to the county morgue to see if Doctor Williams, the coroner, had returned from Jeff City from a meeting. He had not. He spoke with Doctor Williams' assistant, a young pathologist named Perkins. The pathologist seemed to be flustered about something.
"Uh ... Joe. I got a confession to make."
Joe allowed one of his rare smiles to crease his face. "What? You gonna tell me you killed the girl?"
"Huh? Hell, no, Joe!"
"Okay, okay, not funny. What confession do you have to make?"
"We ... I mean, I missed something in my preliminary workup on the Jordan girl."
With a cop's patience, Joe waited; Perkins would get to it in time-he hoped.
"I, ah ... well, I was so flustered, first job without Doc Williams looking over my shoulder, you know, I didn't notice the marks on her back. I mean," he corrected himself, "I did notice them, but I thought she probably got them when she was raped. On her back. You know what I mean, Joe, damn! "
Inwardly, Joe came to attention. "What marks?"
"Come on. I want you to see this firsthand."
In the "Stiff Room" (as it was called by the law enforcement personnel of Morrison County, among themselves), Perkins rolled out the locker containing the body of Ruth Jordan. He gently turned the body over on its side, exposing the back and buttocks of the girl. That area was crisscrossed with welts. Perkins was clearly embarrassed by his mistake.
"Uh ... Joe? You gonna tell Doc Williams that I screwed up on this one?
"No, what's the point in that? I know you won't let it happen again, will you?"
Joe was on his knees by the body, examining the welts, making notes in his small pad.
The marks had been made, probably, with a heavy leather belt, about two inches wide. "You're sure she was not anally abused."
"Not recently, Joe." Perkins's voice was hard, and full of contempt.
Joe looked up at him. "Yeah, I know," he sighed, getting to his feet. "It happens in the best of families, partner."
"Isn't there anything anyone can do about it, Joe? I mean, you're the lawman."
"It's hard to prove, Charlie. There are centers being set up around the country, but I don't know where the nearest one is around here. And like I said, God, it's tough to prove without all parties coming forth."
Joe walked to the door, tucking away his pad in his hip pocket. He turned around at the door. "You finish with the report on stomach contents yet?"
"Yes, sir. Purple Passion, mostly."
"Vodka and grape juice. A lot of it."
"I heard that," Joe said, and walked out the door.
Oh, Judy. I'll make them pay. Every one of them. They'll pay for that night so long ago. They'll pay dearly. I'll hunt them for you, and I'll avenge you. As surely as there is a God in heaven and a devil in hell, they'll pay. I'll make them scream out their pain just as you screamed out your pain and humiliation that night. I'll make them pay as you paid, and our parents paid. Our mother, who died of grief; our father, who went insane. I saw him last month, Judy.
I know you did, she answered him. I was with you, remember?
Yes, of course, you were. We saw him, but he did not see us. He put his eyes on us, but did not see us. Poor, pitiful wretch of a man. Don't dwell on this, Paul.
They'll pay, Judy. Oh, my, yes, how they will pay. I give you my word.
I know, Paul.
On our mother's grave, Judy. By the mental devils that put our father in that awful place. I swear on all those things, Judy. They will pay.
I know, Paul. I know.
* * *
"Howard, Sissy, tell me, if you can, where Ruth went night before last."
Sissy Jordan began to weep, face in her well-manicured and lotioned hands. Joe waited patiently, his face impassive. He had played this scene many times before.
"She was supposed to have had a date with Dan Hartman," Howard answered. "They were going to one of the senior parties.",
Joe nodded. "Go on."
"But Dan came down with some kind of stomach bug; his father called and told us. Ruth then said she didn't want to go to the party alone, so she said she'd drive over to Karen Rick's house, to watch TV. I'm tired of telling this story, Joe. My patience is wearing thin over this. Why do we have to keep going over and over it?"
Joe evaded the question. "And that's the last time either of you saw her?"
Sissy began her crying.
"Did Ruth drink much?"
"Certainly not!" Sissy said indignantly, through her tears. "She was only seventeen."
Joe closed his notepad and sighed inaudibly. It was always the same with parents: all the other kids drank and doped, but not their own. Deaf, dumb, and blind, Joe thought. And arrogant, vain, and stupid. Producing perfect children.
Howard stood up. "I think that will be all, Lieutenant Davis," he announced majestically, as if dismissing a servant.
Which I am, Joe thought, rising from his chair. A public servant. "Of course, Mr. Jordan. I think I have all I need."
"When can we ... get the body?" Howard asked. His wife continued weeping.
Joe looked at Howard and felt the old hate and new contempt rise in him like hot bile. "When Doctor Williams says you can," he answered shortly, much more so than he intended. You may not like these people, he reminded himself, but they have lost a daughter and at least one of them is shocked with grief. "I know my way out," Joe said, then left.
* * *
"I'm taking you off all other assignments, Joe," the sheriff said back at headquarters. "The Jordan case is yours. Pull as many extra men as you need." He knew Joe would work alone, or at the most, use one or two other men.
"For how long?"
The sheriff met his gaze, then, very unlike him, lowered his eyes. "Until you solve it, Joe. Howard Jordan, Senior, requested you specifically."
"Old Man Jordan hates my guts, T. L., and you know it. This is his way of discrediting me, if I don't break this case."
The sheriff sighed. "Joe, get the chip off your shoulder. You've been carrying it around for too many years. You're the best investigator I've got. You're among the best investigators in this state. Howard Jordan, Senior, does not hate you. Repeat he does not hate you."
"He killed my father."
"Your father died of a heart attack, Joe."
"And you're conveniently forgetting all the story."
"Just drop it, Joe."
"He was worked to death by Old Man Jordan, then kicked out without a pension or a medical plan, while that fat cat sat on his money bags and purred."
"Times have changed, Joe."
Joe glared at him. "I heard that, T. L."
* * *
Erica Johansen was shocked when Joe approached her desk at headquarters and said, "Give your other cases to someone else, Erica. You're working with me on this Jordan case."
She looked at Joe through pale blue eyes, a wisp of honey blonde hair hanging, as it almost always did, over one eye. She stood up, only two inches shorter than Joe's five-ten. "Would you mind repeating that statement, oh great Morrison County investigator?"
"You heard me," Joe said, then walked into his office.
"Wow!" another detective said, leaning back in his chair. "I don't believe my ears."
"I'll bet," Erica said, "that in the four years I've been with this department the Mighty Joe Davis has not spoken ten words a year to me. He was friendly enough when I first came, and then, boy, did the deep freeze come on."
The third detective on this shift of the day watch leaned back in his chair and smiled up at Erica, his eyes not failing to take in all her highly visible charms. Erica, a beautiful woman of Scandinavian descent, had a lot of charms to be viewed. "If you had but asked, Erica, I would have told you what the problem was."
She looked down at him. "So I'm asking-four years later."
"You went out with Bates Pike when you first got to town. Several times. Joe hates Bates. That dislike goes back to childhood. You'd have to have lived around here to understand."
She sat on the edge of his desk. "So tell me about it."
The detective shook his head. "If Joe wants you to know, Erica, he'll tell you. Right now, you'd better get your tail in his office. As you well know, Joe's all business around the office."
"I never see or hear of him dating anyone, Mike. Does he?"
A slight smile flitted across the cop's face. "Occasionally. Never the same woman more than twice, maybe three times. I think Joe's gun-shy around women."
"Sounds interesting and very elusive. That all you're going to tell me?"
"Ms. Johansen!" Joe's voice blasted through the intercom, with a great deal of emphasis on the Ms. "Get a copy of the Jordan file and get in here!"
She grimaced and said, "I think I'll report him to the local chapter of women's lib."
"We don't have one." Mike laughed. "Relax. Joe's bark is worse than his bite. He likes you, Erica."
"Oh? And how do you know that?"
"He told me."
Erica, file folder in hand, knocked on Joe's door, entered at his brusque command, and sat down. "Here I am, Lieutenant Davis. I'm ready."
Joe looked up from his paperwork, a twinkle in his eyes. "Oh?"
Excerpted from Blood Oath by William W. Johnstone. Copyright © 1999 William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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