Blood Relative

Blood Relative

by Michael Allegretto

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Overview

Weary of his work, Lomax reluctantly takes a case defending a man he believes is guilty of murder
When Samuel Butler, a cruelly arrogant titan of industry, learns his wife is cheating again, he expresses his feelings with a punch to her face. She is bruised when he leaves the house, but still alive. After a few hours’ drinking, he comes home to apologize, flowers in hand, and finds his wife bludgeoned to death on the floor. Or at least that’s what he tells the police.
The cops don’t believe him, and neither do the people of Denver, who write Butler off as a murderer even before his trial starts. In desperation, Butler’s lawyer hires private detective Jacob Lomax to prove his client’s alibi. Fresh off a Mexican vacation and thinking of quitting the business, Jake hates himself for defending a man who is so obviously guilty. But as he digs into the victim’s past, he reconsiders. There are plenty of men who wanted this woman dead.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480462779
Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Series: The Jacob Lomax Mysteries , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 839 KB

About the Author

Michael Allegretto (b. 1944) is an American author of thrillers and mystery fiction best known for creating Colorado private detective Jacob Lomax. Raised in Colorado, Allegretto spent his youth listening to the stories of his father, a Denver police officer whose experiences he later used as the basis for his first books. He made his debut in 1987 with Death on the Rocks, a story of murder, blackmail, and pornography that introduced Allegretto’s only series character: Jacob Lomax, an ex-cop who becomes a private detective after the brutal murder of his wife.
Lomax would star in four more novels, including Blood Stone (1988), The Dead of Winter (1989), and Grave Doubt (1995). In the early 1990s, Allegretto began writing standalone novels, including the Christmas suspense story Night of Reunion (1990) and the fast-paced family thriller The Watchmen (1991).
Michael Allegretto (b. 1944) is an American author of thrillers and mystery fiction best known for creating Colorado private detective Jacob Lomax. Raised in Colorado, Allegretto spent his youth listening to the stories of his father, a Denver police officer whose experiences he later used as the basis for his first books. He made his debut in 1987 with Death on the Rocks, a story of murder, blackmail, and pornography that introduced Allegretto’s only series character: Jacob Lomax, an ex-cop who becomes a private detective after the brutal murder of his wife.
Lomax would star in four more novels, including Blood Stone (1988), The Dead of Winter (1989), and Grave Doubt (1995). In the early 1990s, Allegretto began writing standalone novels, including the Christmas suspense story Night of Reunion (1990) and the fast-paced family thriller The Watchmen (1991).

Read an Excerpt

Blood Relative

A Jacob Lomax Mystery


By Michael Allegretto

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1992 Michael Allegretto
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-6277-9


CHAPTER 1

Samuel butler had murdered his wife, and I was supposed to help him go free.

I didn't much like it. I preferred working for victims, not victimizers. And although Butler had yet to stand trial, everyone knew he was guilty. The cops, the district attorney, the media—they all knew it. It was hard not to agree with them. After all, you can't ignore the three M's.

These are—according to a boozy old cop I'd once ridden with—motive, means, and mother-jumpin' opportunity.

Butler had them all.

As I said, I didn't like it. But I needed the money.

I'd spent the past few months and the bulk of my savings in Puerto Vallarta in old Mexico, escaping the tag end of Denver's winter. I'd wasted my days on sunny beaches and my nights in cool bars, drinking tequila and Tecate and generally spreading goodwill, cheer, and dinero among our friendly neighbors to the south. Two neighbors in particular, a pair of lovely señoritas. Cousins, they were, with a house on a hillside overlooking the sea.

And one of them had the most incredible way of ...

... well, never mind.

Because here I was, seated in the oak-paneled, book-lined office of Oliver R. Westfall, attorney-at-law. I was tan but broke, wearing shoes and socks, not huaraches, and prepared to help free a murderer.

The calendar on Westfall's desk declared today April first. It seemed appropriate.

"Are you familiar with the details of this case, Mr. Lomax?"

"Just what I've seen on the nightly news."

"Yes, well, television."

Westfall was a small, quiet man. He wore dark blue slacks with faint stripes, a matching vest, and a blinding white shirt. His tie was maroon and subtly patterned. His suit coat was hung squarely on an oak valet in the corner. When he'd spoken to me, he'd shuffled papers on his desk, avoiding eye contact, as if he were embarrassed to be involved in this hopeless affair.

However, I was aware of Westfall's reputation in the courtroom. He was a tenacious fighter, worth every dollar of his fee. If you could afford him. Obviously, Samuel Butler could.

Now Westfall raised his eyes to me and smiled faintly. His large, round glasses and rosy cheeks made him look like a fifty-year-old little boy.

"Just so you know precisely where we stand," he said, "on Saturday, March sixteenth, at three-twenty in the afternoon, Samuel Butler called the police to his house. When they arrived, they found him distraught and smelling of alcohol. He said he'd just come home and found his wife Clare dead. She was sitting at the kitchen table, facedown, the back of her head crushed in, apparently by repeated blows from a blunt instrument. There were no signs that she had struggled or attempted to flee."

"So she wasn't alarmed by the presence of her assailant."

"Obviously." He spoke with confidence, as if he represented the prosecution, not the defense. "The subsequent investigation revealed no forced entry into the house. So she either admitted her assailant, or he had a key. In other words, she knew him."

"She was married to him."

Westfall gave me a sad look and folded his hands across his little vested belly. "Mr. Lomax, I wonder if you have the right attitude for this job."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound—"

He raised his hand and showed me his palm, a diminutive crossing guard telling the big kid to halt.

"The private investigator whom I usually employ was injured in an accident and is physically unable to work on this case," he said. "Otherwise you wouldn't even be here. You are here because you've been recommended by a colleague of mine. He said you'd be adequate for the task at hand."

"Only adequate?"

"For now, that's all I need. But I demand nothing less. Please try to remember that Samuel Butler is innocent until proven guilty."

"Of course."

My eyes moved past Westfall to the window and the square piece of building visible across Seventeenth Street, shimmering in the morning sun. I couldn't see the street far below. But I could picture the businessmen and businesswomen down there, dressed in business suits, bustling about in the chill spring air, with business on their minds. Business. I found myself drifting back to Mexico. While I'd been down there, I'd questioned whether I wanted to continue working as a private eye. Perhaps Westfall was right about my attitude.

I asked, "Do the police have any other suspects?"

"Unfortunately, no. After three days of investigation, they determined that Samuel Butler was the only one who could have murdered his wife. And the D.A. presented a convincing case to the grand jury:

"One, the police found the murder weapon, a heavy crescent wrench belonging to Butler, hanging on a peg-board in the garage. It appeared to have been hastily wiped with a rag, but lab technicians found Mr. Butler's fingerprints at one end and traces of Clare Butler's blood, hair, and scalp at the other. Two, before his arrest, Mr. Butler admitted to police that that morning he'd argued violently with his wife. Three, neighbors saw no one enter or leave the Butler residence all day. Four, well, I think you get the picture. Last Friday the grand jury returned an indictment of first-degree murder. The judge ordered Mr. Butler held without bond."

"No bond? But isn't he an established member of the community? His family is here, his business ..."

"Well, Mr. Butler has some history of violence. And unfortunately, he made a vague but public threat to the district attorney."

Big mistake. "What defense will you present?"

"That Samuel Butler was not home when his wife was murdered. Of course, the D.A. won't argue this point. He'll claim that Mr. Butler killed her, then left the house for several hours, returned later, and called the police. What I intend to show the jury is that during those hours Samuel Butler was not behaving like a man who had just committed murder."

I waited for more. "Is that it?"

"It may be enough to cast doubt in the minds of the jurors. That's all I need to keep my client out of prison."

It seemed pretty thin to me. Of course, you have to play the cards you're dealt.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Find four persons," Westfall said, "three of whom are crucial for our defense. Mr. Butler spoke to these three and no others while he was away from his house—while his wife was being murdered. They can testify to his attitude and behavior."

"And the fourth person?"

"Mr. Butler can better explain about him," Westfall said. "As for the other three, I want them in here for depositions as quickly as possible. Memories fade."

"Do you have their names?"

"No."

Of course not. Otherwise he would've hired a process server, not an investigator.

Westfall explained that after Butler had left his house, he'd driven toward the mountains and stopped in Golden. He'd gone into the first bar he'd seen and sat in the company of two men. A few hours later, he'd walked unsteadily out to his car and driven home, along the way buying flowers for Clare.

"So you want the two guys in the bar and the person in the flower shop."

"Not a flower shop. A street vendor."

"Which intersection?"

"I don't know. Near his house, though."

"What's the name of the bar?"

"I don't know that, either. Mr. Butler said it was on the right-hand side as he drove into town."

"I'll need to talk to him."

"Of course. I'll arrange it. This morning, if you're prepared to start."

That was the question—was I prepared? I'd just returned from a fantasyland of warm days and soft nights, and part of my mind was still there. The rest of me was having trouble reentering the real world of work, bills, duties, and obligations. It was a little early for mid-life crisis—I'd be thirty-six this month—but I sure as hell was going through something.

"I'll need a recent photo of Butler," I said.

"I'm sure there's one at his house. You can get the key from my secretary on your way out."

Westfall opened a ledger-sized checkbook and inscribed my name and the amount we'd agreed on—my advance plus a week's per diem. If the job lasted longer or if I had any unforeseen expenses, we'd settle up later. Westfall would've preferred a contract, but fine print gives me a headache.

He carefully tore out the check and handed it to me. I had to stand to reach across his desk.

"Report the moment you locate these people," he said. "Time is of the essence." Then he began shuffling through some papers on his desk that had nothing to do with me. I was dismissed.

When I didn't leave, he looked up.

"Off the record," I said, "do you think Butler did it?"

Westfall's face remained impassive. But when he spoke, his voice expanded and hardened, like water freezing.

"Samuel Butler most definitely did not murder his wife."

He meant it.

Or maybe he was just rehearsing for the courtroom.

CHAPTER 2

The Denver County Jail lies on the edge of an enormous open field just east of Stapleton International Airport.

I'd been there a number of times during my half-dozen years as a Denver cop, but not recently. There was a brand-new complex next door, the Reception and Diagnostic Center. If Samuel Butler were convicted of murder, he'd be transferred temporarily to the center, where he'd be studied and tested to see who his new roommates would be in the penitentiary in Canon City—sort of a state-run dating service.

I passed through the razor-wire fences to the old jail buildings, showed my ID to a deputy sheriff, and was ushered through a couple of interior gates to a hallway.

Along the right-hand side were five enclosed booths, each with a pair of doors, windowed and numbered. Mine was "3."

The first booth was occupied by two black men, one in green, angry, the other in a suit, calm, if not bored. The second booth held two Hispanic men, with similar attire and attitudes.

I stood by my door and waited for Butler.

A few minutes later, he came toward me from the end of the hallway, accompanied by a deputy.

I'd never seen him before, but I knew at once it was Butler.

He was in his early fifties, a sturdily built man, about my weight, I'd guess, two hundred or less, and nearly as tall, perhaps six feet. He had black hair speckled with gray, shorter on the sides than on top, brushed straight back. His face was broad and ruddy. His thick black brows were slightly pinched together over the bridge of his nose, giving him a permanent scowl.

He didn't act frightened by his surroundings or familiar with them. He neither slouched nor strutted, but walked erect, with accustomed self-esteem—despite his baggy green jumpsuit. He stood out from the other jailbirds like a hawk among buzzards.

"Jacob Lomax?"

"Right."

He hesitated, studying me with displeasure. I knew he owned a company that employed dozens of workers. No doubt he'd fired a few in his time. This was the look he gave them just before the ax fell.

Finally, he jerked open his door. I opened mine, and we entered the booth and sat on our benches. A tabletop jutted out between us from the wall. We could've been sitting in a fifties diner. The deputy waited within shouting distance, ready to take our order.

"So. You're the detective." Butler's tone was condescending.

I nodded.

"Do you know Gil Lucero?" he asked suddenly.

"No."

"He's the private detective I've used in the past."

"Sorry, I've never heard of him."

"He's one of the best."

"Aren't we all."

Butler's scowl deepened, approaching anger. Then it returned to merely annoyed. "Tell me why I should hire you?"

"Your attorney has already—"

"I pay his salary, too. Tell me why I should let you work for me."

"Shall I go home and fax you my résumé?"

Butler snorted, which may have been a laugh. Then he folded his thick hands on the tabletop. "I need you to find someone," he said.

"Your attorney said there were four, altogether."

"Forget what Oliver Westfall wants."

"He seemed to think three of them were crucial to—"

"I'm giving the orders here!" he shouted, making me wince. I hate it when people do that.

"I don't think so," I said evenly. "First, I may be working in your interest, but I'm working for Westfall. He's the one who signed my check. And second, it was my idea to come here. I can do this job with or without your cooperation." I paused, soaking up his glare. "Although," I said, "it'd be more efficient 'with.'"

He gripped the edge of the table so hard I expected metal to ooze between his fingers. His face was an ugly shade of red. I wondered if his family had a history of stroke. He took a couple of long, slow breaths. Gradually, his grip relaxed, and some of the color went out of his cheeks.

"All right," he said. His voice was strained, as if he would have preferred to shout. Who could blame him? He was staring at life in prison.

I got out a pad and pen.

"What time did you leave your house on the day of the murder."

"The police know all that."

"I'm not the police."

He pursed his lips, and his gaze moved up and to his left. "It was around ten-thirty in the morning."

"And then you drove straight to a bar in Golden?"

"That's where I ended up, but I don't know how 'straight' it was. See, Clare and I had had a terrible fight the night before, and we'd started up again that morning. We'd yelled at each other, said some terrible things. Things a husband and wife should never say to each other. I ... I'd hit her."

For the first time, Butler's face registered something other than annoyance or anger. Pain. Perhaps sorrow.

"When I left the house, I wasn't thinking straight. I just wanted to get away, to drive. By the time I'd calmed down, I was on Sixth Avenue, heading west. I wanted a drink, and I was nearly to Golden." He moved his shoulders in a shrug.

"What was the name of the bar?"

"I didn't notice. I just parked and went in."

"Describe it."

Butler did. Golden was a small town, and I knew I'd find the saloon.

"Who'd you talk to in there?"

"The bartender. And some old guy named Winks."

Butler told me he'd sat at the bar, drinking whiskey shots and beer chasers. Before long he was crying in his booze, buying drinks for this character Winks, and spilling his guts out to him and the bartender. He told them how he'd mistreated his wife, how much he loved her, and how he feared losing her. They were both sympathetic; especially Winks, who had experienced several marriages and occasional domestic violence.

"What was the bartender's name?"

"I don't know."

"Describe him. Winks, too."

Butler did in detail.

"What time did you leave the bar?"

"I'm not sure. The police records show that I called from my house at three-twenty that afternoon. So I must've left Golden around two-thirty or so."

"Did you drive straight home?"

"I stopped to buy flowers. A peace offering."

"Where?"

"On Colorado Boulevard. Between the highway and Evans. Some kid was selling them in a parking lot. I bought all I could cradle in one arm, gave him a hundred-dollar bill, and told him to keep the change."

"He should remember you."

Butler nodded, his eyes a bit out of focus, remembering.

"When I got home, I was as nervous as a schoolboy on his first date, ready to do whatever was necessary to make up with Clare. And then I walked into the kitchen ..."

Again his face showed pain and sorrow. I didn't think he was faking it.

"She was slumped over the kitchen table in a pool of blood. The back of her head was ... broken ... smashed in. I ... I could see ... her brain. I ..." He cleared his throat. "I didn't have to touch her to know she was dead. But when I did touch her, she was ... so cold."

Slowly his expression changed. His eyes narrowed, and his jaw tightened. He stared hard at me, all signs of sorrow gone.

"Some son of a bitch killed her, Lomax, bashed in her head like a clay pot. She was mine, and he took her from me. And he's still out there somewhere."

I said nothing.

"The cops aren't even looking for him. I told the D.A. that if he didn't get who killed her, I'd beat his head ..." He heaved a sigh. "Everyone's so sure I did it. Other than Westfall, the only people who believe me are Kenneth, Karen, and Nicole—my children. Their love and support are keeping me from exploding in here." Butler licked his lips. "Being locked up, it's—I can barely stand it. If I don't get out, I don't know ... I might really kill somebody."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Blood Relative by Michael Allegretto. Copyright © 1992 Michael Allegretto. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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