While in Chicago, right-wing televangelist Bruce Mucklewrath is attacked and his daughter killed. Sensing a potential time bomb, and with Mucklewrath creating great pressure, the police brass assign the case to Detective Paul Turner whom they trust with sensitive matters. During their investigation, Turner and his partner discover that other right-wing bigots have been suffering odd attacks, and they begin to suspect a conspiracy of vengeance, perhaps even from the gay community. This is an uncomfortable thought for Turner, who is himself gay, but when Turner is attacked and his two sons threatened, he has to enlist the help of people in his close-knit neighborhood, as well as his contacts in the gay world, to find the solution in time.
Publishers Weekly calls Mark Richard Zubro's Sorry Now? "compelling and even urgent."
About the Author
Mark Richard Zubro, winner of the Lambda Literary Award, is the author of numerous mystery novels in his two series. An English teacher and union president, he lives in Mokena, Illinois.
Mark Richard Zubro is the Lambda Literary Award winning author of two gay mystery series - the Tom&Scott series featuring high school teacher Tom Mason and his lover professional baseball player Scott Carpenter, and the Paul Turner series, featuring gay Chicago Police Detective Paul Turner. He is a high-school teacher, and president of the teacher's union, in the Chicago suburb of Mokena, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
By Mark Richard Zubro
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1991 Mark Richard Zubro
All rights reserved.
Paul Turner padded downstairs to his son Jeff's bedroom. Sunlight and birdcalls streamed in through the open window. The gauze curtains brushed against his hips as he stepped over his son's crutches. He paused, as he always did for a brief moment, to watch his son sleep. He noted the rise and fall of the thin chest, let his eyes rove over the shaggy hair. Neither Jeff nor his brother, Brian, believed in haircuts. Even shampooing their hair when they were little had been a major battle. He checked the leg braces on the floor and then ran his eyes over the catheterization equipment on the nightstand. Everything in place. Jeff stirred and turned on his stomach, the covers slipping down to reveal the years-old scar on his back. Paul called Jeff's name and touched his shoulder. Only another week of school before Jeff could sleep late. Paul shook the shoulder gently. Jeff's ability to sleep through even the worse noise still astounded his father. Jeff opened an eye and his dad left; hearing the shower start on the second floor, he knew Brian was up.
Paul returned upstairs to his own room to finish dressing and continue his morning routine. Fifteen minutes later, after carefully knotting his tie, he went to the safe in the closet and unlocked it. He took out his gun, checked it carefully, strapped on his holster, and grabbed his wallet with the star in it.
Jeff sat at the kitchen table reading a library book. Brian, hair still damp, stood at the stove. He poured beaten eggs into the pan and sprinkled cut-up spinach onto them. He asked, "There's a party at David's tonight. I'll be out late. Okay?"
Paul took the orange juice out of the refrigerator and placed it on the table. He eyed his sixteen-year-old son critically. "Who's supervising the party? Remember you have to pick up your brother by midnight. I'll be late."
"Dad! Nobody's going to do drugs or drink. We're not going to have an orgy on the carpet!"
"What's an orgy?" Jeff asked.
"When people enjoy themselves more than they imagine," his father answered the ten-year-old. He turned back to Brian. "Are David's parents going to be home?"
His son grinned at him, "I think they're the ones supplying the condoms."
"I know what a condom is," Jeff said. "I saw it on TV."
"As long as your bother knows, is what's important," Paul said.
Paul squeezed behind Jeff's chair to get to the drawer with the utensils. He found the silverware, placed it on the table, and grabbed a coffee cup. The kitchen sat at the back of the house with a window overlooking the cluttered back porch and small urban back yard.
Brian's voice squeaked as he began to speak. "I promise to clean the basement and the attic the first day of vacation."
"You have to clean them anyway. You usually don't resort to bribery until after you've whined for ten minutes. You in a rush?"
"My whine quotient got used up talking to Coach yesterday. He expects us to do a full workout in this heat, besides regular practice."
"Just remember to drink lots of fluids and you should be okay," Turner said.
Paul and his sons ate breakfast together every weekday. They rose a half hour early to share at least the one meal together, to talk, compare schedules, settle family squabbles. Paul Turner's workday started at eight thirty, and as much as he tried to stick to a set schedule, the amount of overtime required of a detective in Area Ten of the Chicago Police Department made this almost impossible. In spring Brian's baseball practice kept him out until six most nights. Jeff's schedule varied because of his physical therapy. Paul wanted them together at least once a day for a meal one of them cooked. They each took a week and rotated assignments. One cooked, one set the table, one cleaned up. Jeff's meals were, understandably, simple. The kitchen had special chairs, hooks, and pulleys to aid Jeff, although Turner stood ready to help and often assisted Jeff if things got complicated.
On the car radio on the way to work, the announcer gave the temperature as eighty-one degrees. The National Weather Service predicted another record high temperature in Chicago, with little chance of a break in the early-June heat wave.
As usual, the detectives in Area Ten mumbled their way through Friday-morning roll call. The structure they sweated in was south of the River City complex on Wells Street, in a building as old and crumbling as River City was new and gleaming. Fifteen years ago the department had purchased a four-story warehouse scheduled for demolition, and decreed it would be the new Area Ten headquarters. To this day rehabbers occasionally put in appearances. In fits and starts the building had changed from an empty hulking wreck to a people-filled hulking wreck. The best that could be said about it was that the heat usually worked in winter. The worst was that it had absolutely no air conditioning.
Sergeant Felix Specter had been through roll call with some of them over a thousand times. They rested their back ends on folding chairs. The bulletin board hung to the left of the chalkboard in front of the room. Messages crammed the entire surface. Turner glanced over the items on the board: the usual announcements of retirement parties and a few notes from the Fraternal Order of Police, the cop union in Chicago. Next to the bulletin board hung the chart of acceptable hair lengths in the department.
Later in the squad room, Paul joined his partner, Buck Fenwick, at the coffee machine. Buck was on another diet. They'd been partners five years and Buck had gained an average of eight pounds per year.
"Double and triple fuck," Buck swore as he shook the last grains of sugar from a mangled box.
Turner said, "I thought you couldn't have sugar on the new diet."
"I get ten grains a cup." He shook the box again.
Ten years ago the Chicago Police Department created Area Ten to combat the rising wave of crime along Chicago's lake front. It ran from Fullerton Avenue on the north to Fifty-fifth Street on the south, and from Lake Michigan west to Halsted Street.
Turner took his black coffee, strolled to his desk, and began sorting through files, active cases to be pursued today, leftover paperwork from an ax murder in Grant Park. From the start Paul had been sure it was the deranged father-in-law who'd done it. They had caught the guy two nights earlier trying to retrieve the ax from the bottom of Buckingham Fountain. Unfortunately for him the police had found the ax already and had set up watchers in case he returned.
Buck Fenwick arrived at his desk, which was front-to-front with Turner's, and threw himself into his chair. Turner heard the telltale squeaks of protest that told him the chair had about another week and a half before Fenwick's bulk would crush it to the floor. Fenwick perched the cup on a stack of files, as he always did. Coffee sloshed out, as it always did. Turner handed him a napkin, as he usually did. "Double fuck," Fenwick swore, mopping it up.
Turner liked being partnered with Fenwick. They could hardly have been more different. Turner's dark haired five feet eleven inches contrasted with the blond bulk of his rapidly balding friend. Fenwick didn't sweat the small stuff. Turner appreciated his casualness.
Sergeant Specter bustled into the squad room, his white shirtsleeves already rolled up past the elbow, revealing the angry red flaking that started with the first seriously humid days of the Chicago summer. No doctor had been able to cure it and neither mounds of salve nor special-ordered ointments seemed able to control it. He slapped a message on Turner's desk.
"Oak Street Beach, and you better hurry." He moved off quickly.
Turner and Fenwick took one of the old unmarked Plymouths from the lot. They crossed Congress Parkway and turned left to descend to Lower Wacker Drive, a little-used but extremely efficient method of crossing the Loop without the usual hassle of masses of pedestrians and blocks of jammed traffic. Fenwick drove with a cab driver's abandon. He claimed city driving was just like bumper cars when he was a kid going to carnivals. Turner always hooked his seat belt and spent the time watching the passing scenery. They parked illegally across from the Drake Hotel and took the pedestrian underpass to the beach.
Near the children's play area, just north of Oak Street Beach about fifty feet from the LaSalle Street off-ramp, the beat cops had roped off an area one hundred by one hundred feet. Joggers slowed to crane their necks at the mob of cops trudging around in the sand next to the jungle bars. As he plodded through the sand, Turner observed a tall blond man who looked to be in his mid-sixties sitting on a park bench. The man let tears stream from his eyes, making no attempt to stanch the flow. He occasionally wiped at his upper lip with the back of his hand.
A beat cop named Mike Sanchez met Turner and Fenwick half way across the sand. Turner knew Sanchez and liked him. Recently Sanchez had taken the detectives test, and Turner asked him if he'd gotten the results. He got a shrug and a no.
Sanchez explained. "We got big problems here. This guy," he jerked his thumb toward the crier, "is the Reverend Bruce Mucklewrath."
He hardly needed to say more. Not only did Mucklewrath have a national reputation, but his distinguished face had been plastered all over every TV station in the Chicago area for the past three weeks. He was on a campaign fund-raising and religious tour, gathering money from and speaking to the faithful. He'd just finished his first term as senator from California, and was in the middle of a brutal campaign to get himself reelected.
Prior to his election, his fame had rested securely on a far-flung spiritual and financial empire. His critics scoffed at the missions he funded for the homeless in every major city in the country, saying they were only for show. The voters in the state of California had elected him senator in a freak three-way race. The Republican and Democratic candidates had split the middle-of-the-road and minority votes almost evenly. The far right had spent thirty million in the most expensive senatorial campaign ever. The reverend, as an independent, had won by slightly less than two thousand votes out of eleven million cast.
Turner had read a couple of Mucklewrath's speeches and followed his career, as had most Americans. He didn't like him. As a rookie cop, Turner had learned to put his emotions on cruise control during an investigation. He'd lost his temper a few times after becoming detective. The last time was when he'd gone after a drug dealer who'd murdered an entire family — father, mother, and three kids all under the age of five — because the father was behind in his payments. His temper outburst had caused the dealer to have an unfortunate encounter with a brick wall. The defense attorney used it to escape, his client getting a penalty only a little more inconvenient than a trip to the dentist. Turner had learned: add your temper to personal feelings and nowadays you lose a perfectly good bust.
"What happened?" Turner asked.
"We got a dead body over there." Sanchez pointed to a jungle-gym set. "The reverend hasn't been able to tell us much. Pretty broken up. We do know it's his daughter."
As the three of them stepped toward the children's play area Sanchez said, "We got a visit from one of the people in the mayor's office. This is going to get political."
"I suppose it will." Turner sighed.
Close up now, they saw the mass of twisted blond hair streaked with red splayed out on the sand. The body lay six inches from one of the metal struts supporting the jungle gym. Sunlight gleamed on the metallic surfaces of the eight-foot-tall children's play set. Remnants of the disaster clung to the light-blue summer dress the victim wore. Bits of brain, blood, and gore covered the sand next to the nonexistent face.
Sanchez pointed to a small cluster of people thirty feet to the north of the body. "They're as close as we've got to witnesses. No one saw the actual shooting. They all showed within minutes."
Fred Nokosinski was clambering up the play set to get pictures from above. A bearded dwarf, Fred always took the crime-scene photos. He grunted a hello down toward them. The white van with CHICAGO CRIME LAB printed on the side had been driven over the sand to the crime scene. Paul saw a tall, young, new guy he didn't know fussing with materials in the back of the van. Two feet from the body Sam Franklin, the head of this crime-lab unit, knelt in the sand. He held a thin piece of screen boxed by four wooden slats. Through this he carefully sifted grains of sand, hunting for evidence. Two other men around the body engaged in the same activity.
Sam rose and greeted the detectives.
"Be a miracle if we find anything in this sand," he said. "You guys are going to be up to your tits in politics in this one. Know who the dad was?" Turner thought he sounded altogether too confident and cheerful.
Turner nodded. "Any idea what happened?"
"I can get you all the technical details later. For now, somebody blew her away. No weapon around." He nodded toward the lake. "Lots of room to toss a gun." He glanced toward Mucklewrath. "They haven't been able to get the preacher to talk, which I guess is unusual for him." Sam shrugged. "I don't envy you guys."
"We'll call you later," Turner said. He and Fenwick walked to the bench and sat on either side of the Reverend Mucklewrath. Turner eyed him warily. One of the first lessons they taught you was, always watch the family most carefully. In all likelihood, if one of them hadn't done it, one of them knew something about why.
Turner watched the man pulling in vast gulps of air and exhaling them noisily. Sand covered his black wing-tip shoes, the knees of his pants, and his suit coat up to the elbows. His clothes were spattered with blood and gore, concentrated mostly on the front of his shirt and suit coat, probably where he'd held his daughter. Paul pictured the man holding his lifeless child. As the father of a child with spina bifida, he'd held Jeff many a night when he didn't know if the boy would survive an operation. He didn't want to imagine his son dying.
Turner said, "Sir, I know it's difficult, but we need to talk to you, ask you some questions."
After mopping his face with a pink handkerchief, and still breathing erratically, Mucklewrath said, "I want the killers punished." He gasped for air and shuddered. "I want them punished in such a way that they will pay forever, here and in hell."
"Yes, sir, I understand," Turner said. "You could help us catch them if you could answer a few questions."
"Who would want to hurt her? Such a good and beautiful daughter. Her angelic smile. She laughed so beautifully. So full of life and hope."
Turner said, "Please, sir, a few questions."
He mopped his face again and stuck the hankie in his suit-coat pocket. "All right."
"Could you tell us what happened?" Turner asked.
Speaking with numerous pauses and gasps for air, the reverend told them that he liked to bring his daughter on his speaking trips. His wife usually came, too, but this time had stayed to oversee some changes in the new university their ministry was building in Laguna Beach. Today the Reverend Mucklewrath didn't have a meeting until ten. So when his daughter expressed a desire to go out together for an early walk, they chose a stroll along the shore. "We've been here before. It seems so safe in the middle of Oak Street Beach. All the people going by on Lake Shore Drive."
A few tears escaped his eyes. Paul thought they were real, but he'd discovered over the years that some killers were often completely overcome with grief after they'd murdered.
The reverend continued, "She was so happy, so content. We talked about her new role in the upcoming campaign. She'd finished her sophomore year in college and wanted to spend the summer helping me. She had plans and dreams. Real ideas to help out. A father couldn't expect more from a child." As he finished the sentence he broke down sobbing.
The cops waited patiently. Turner noted that the bench sat in a grassy area about ten feet from the jungle gym and about thirty feet from the shore. The leaves of a few trees let in the dappled sunlight on what should have been a peaceful patch of quiet earth. None of the bathers who would cram the beach by noon were around to see horror on this beautiful morning.
Excerpted from Sorry Now? by Mark Richard Zubro. Copyright © 1991 Mark Richard Zubro. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents