Authors: Mara McBain
Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Thriller
Table of Contents
Tears streamed from huge, almond shaped eyes. Her thin lips stretched wide and grotesque around a hard rubber ball gag, muffling choked sobs. The black tie from her school uniform was twisted around her small wrists, cutting deep. Crouched on knees and elbows in the middle of the mussed sheets, the girl’s hands were clasped before her as if in prayer. Porter knelt behind her, gripping just below the bunch of her plaid skirt. The bedsprings squawked in discordant protest as he thrust in and out of her grasping young body. Her back bowed in anguish with every plunge of the sick fuck’s hips, but with his head lolled back, eyes drifting shut in bliss, Porter seemed oblivious to her pain, the splintered door, or his audience. The last was his undoing.
Time stood still, the scene stamping itself on Detective Brawer’s consciousness in Technicolor horror. Twenty-two years behind the badge couldn’t keep bile from burning the back of his throat. Hazel eyes brimming with pain and tears locked with his, begging him to end this. A sense of déjà vu sent rage searing through his veins, sealing Randall Porter’s fate.
As if hearing the gavel sound his sentence, Porter looked up and smiled. His boyish good looks were a poetic contrast to his dark soul. No stranger to this dance, he eased back on his heels, raising his hands in placation. His cocky grin didn’t waver until three rounds tore through his chest.
Twelve little girls, their faces forever burned into Brawer’s memory, had graced the cold mortuary slab, their innocence snuffed by this boy-next-door. Now, fear and gratitude shone from the pale, freckled face in front of him. Thirteen had turned out to be a very unlucky number for Porter.
Detective Zeke Brawer’s features remained impassive as he pulled himself from his thoughts, focusing once again on the man across the desk. Captain Donovan had downed his whiskey and now sat turning the chipped mug in his hands. His hangdog features further leant to the wake atmosphere. Draining his own cup, Zeke luxuriated in the burn while his mind whirled.
“They got nothing.”
“They have a witness,” Donovan refuted with a sigh.
“She’s a traumatized thirteen year old girl that has since admitted she isn’t sure.”
“You know all they need is the perception of guilt to ruin your career.”
“Jesus,” Zeke muttered in disgust. “You’ve seen the report. Porter was behind the kid on the bed. She was looking at Jimmy and me. How in the hell would she have seen him reach for a gun?”
“I’m not the one taking issue. I know you and Lombardi are good cops, but the history between you and Porter is raising questions. Everything has to go by the book. The Chief is all over my ass on this one, Zeke. With the hits the department has taken of late in the press…” Donovan‘s words trailed off.
Zeke’s hand slammed down on the desk. “I’m damn sick of hearing about the Chief’s concerns, the press, and our public approval rating! When did you stop being a cop and become a politician? Porter raped and killed twelve little girls. If the Chief and his bureaucratic biddies had their way the son-of-a-bitch would’ve added a thirteenth girl and two decorated officers to his kill list and still be walking our streets!”
“My hands are tied on this one, Zeke. Until the I.A. investigation is complete, you’re on paid administrative leave. Go home,” Donovan said, rubbing at bloodshot eyes. He didn’t flinch when an angry swipe of Zeke’s brawny arm cleared his desk. He made a point of keeping his eyes on the fluttering papers as his officer and friend of fifteen years headed for the door, but he had a job to do.
“I need your badge and weapon, Detective Brawer,” he said with quiet authority. The hair on the back of his neck rose as Brawer’s cold, blue stare bored into him. He tensed as Zeke reached for his Glock.
Crossing the small office in one angry stride, Zeke placed the holstered firearm in the center of the desk and slapped his badge beside it. His knuckles were white with fury. When Donovan refused to meet his gaze, he turned and left the office.
Slumping in his chair, Donovan reached for the antacids. The civility of Brawer’s exit worried him. There was a sense of finality in the door’s soft click.
Clearing the city traffic, Zeke set the Durango’s cruise control and tried to ease some of the tension from his broad shoulders. Far from a drawback, he had always considered the fifty-minute commute a benefit to both job and marriage. The time alone on the highway allowed him to set his priorities, mentally pull on the bulletproof vest, or compartmentalize the filth and horror of the day, so that he could just be a husband and father. He had never needed it more than today.
Cracking the window open, he lit up a cigar. His blue eyes drifted half shut in pleasure; then narrowed in thought as he mulled over the situation. Internal Affair’s involvement almost certainly meant another run in with Kramer. Paul Kramer and Zeke had gone through the Academy together. With Zeke straight out of the Marines and sands of Kuwait, and Kramer fresh from the hallowed halls of higher learning, the two of them hadn’t exactly hit it off. While Kramer’s sense of entitlement and superiority had rubbed many in the class the wrong way, it had been Zeke who had made it his mission to put the rich boy in his place.
A wry grin curved Zeke’s lips. Besting the pissant in the physical challenges had been a breeze, but the rivalry had also forced him to step up his academic efforts. Hard work was something he had never been afraid of. His mother had instilled that in him. With the competition coming down to the wire for top in the class, Kramer had tried to use family connections to get Zeke and a couple others expelled for partying. Too bad their instructor had been with them. A squealing rat bastard since the academy, Kramer was a perfect fit for I.A.
Lost in thought, it wasn’t long before the exit popped up before him. Leaving the highway, Zeke sped through rolling hills and wooded acres interspersed with farmer’s fields. Rounding a sharp curve, the road dropped down into a slight valley and Trinity Falls.
Tooling into town, he felt an inexplicable pride wash over him. At eighteen, he hadn’t been able to get out of this sleepy little town fast enough. Even when he had returned from the Marines, he had gone looking for a job in the city, where the action was. Ginny had changed that. A man looked at things a little differently when he had a wife and kids. Trinity was the kind of town to raise a family in. People here still believed in old-fashioned values and looked out for one another. It had only been in the last five years the town had graduated from village status and that close-knit mentality still prevailed.
Various developers had hawked grand visions of shopping centers, cinema complexes, and apartment buildings for Trinity Falls, but the town council was diligent in retaining their small town feel. Fifteen minutes away you could find urban sprawl at its best with all the Wal-Marts, Giant Eagles, and Blockbusters you could want along with the filth and crime that came with expansion. Trinity was content to stay mom and pop.
Clearing downtown, he zigzagged through streets lined with neat ranch-style homes until he reached their house. Situated on a double corner lot, their sprawling ranch had sat alone until the neighborhood had sprung up around it. Swinging up the circle drive and into his garage, he killed the ignition and leaned back in the seat to gather his thoughts. With a final pull on the cigar, he snubbed it out and headed into the house. He didn’t go far. Leaning a shoulder against the kitchen doorjamb, he paused to admire long, tan legs, tiny work out shorts, and an ass that should have been illegal on a woman over eighteen. God bless Tae Bo. Spotting the iPod peeking out of her waistband and the wire trailing up her side, he grinned. Stepping up behind her, he delivered a hearty smack to one cheek. Only his other arm snaking about her waist kept her from falling over the open oven door.
Ginny Brawer whirled on her husband, small fists thudding unheeded against his expansive chest.
“Ass-hole,” she muttered without rancor as he grinned down at her.
Yanking the ear buds out, she stood on tiptoe to kiss him. Mid-kiss, she paused. Stepping back, she glanced at the clock for confirmation, and her eyes flew back to him. Her hands joined her gaze, running with care over his hulking form to assure he was uninjured.
“I’m okay, baby,” Zeke rumbled with quiet reassurance.
“You’re early.” Her voice remained calm and noncommittal, yet the question hung between them like a tangible object.
“I’m on paid leave pending investigation into the Porter shooting.”
The hint of worry fled as Ginny’s expressive, hazel eyes flared in righteous indignation.
“They should give you a commendation…a medal…a fucking
for shooting that sick bastard!” she hissed in disbelief.
“I know, baby, it’s…” Zeke started to say, reaching to comfort his wife, but she batted his arms away, whirling to pace the kitchen.
“No, Zeke! Don’t tell me that it’s procedure, protocol, whatever. What it is
bullshit! You put your life on the line every damn time you walk out that door to uphold the law, and when you do your job they side with a baby-raping scumbag! Twice you arrested him, and
the stuffed suits let him walk to rape again. Where the hell is the justice in that?” Her eyes searched his hard, craggy features, looking for an answer where she knew there was none. She let out a sigh and rested her forehead against the cool patio doors. When she spoke, her voice was soft and calm again.
“What do they have on you?”
“It’s a witch hunt, baby. You know Kramer has had a hard-on for me since the Academy, and now he’s in a position to stick it to me. They got nothing.”
“What’s Jimmy say?”
“Porter sat up, leaned back, and reached for the pillow. I fired. We found a snub-nosed .38 under the pillow. Jimmy has my back.”
Ginny nodded. She stared across the backyard. As if reaching some internal decision, she nodded again and turned back to him.
“This will give you plenty of time to work on the honey-do list before the cookout next weekend,” she said with a smirk.
“Woman, why do you have to ruin a good thing?” he asked with a groan.
Ginny laughed as she wrapped her arms around her husband’s waist.
“It’s your club cookout, Mr. President,” she reminded him.
“How about as president I delegate the honey-do list to my strapping sons and whatever prospects I can find?” Zeke asked with a grin.
“As long as the outdoors stuff gets done, big man, I don’t care how you do it. Delegate away.”
Stepping up behind her at the stove again, Zeke wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled her neck.
“Since I am home early…” he suggested, leaving the thought unfinished. The slamming front door made her response immaterial.
“Hey, Ma. What’s for dinner?” The question preceded their thirteen-year-old son into the kitchen.
“Hey, baby. We’re having ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, and fresh bread.” Ginny answered, kissing her son’s forehead and smacking Zeke’s reaching hand with a wooden spoon. “Stay out of the bread until dinner.”
Garrett grinned as his dad pulled back his injured appendage and made a jesting backhand motion behind his mother’s back.
“What’re you doing home, Dad?”
“Starving, it seems,” Zeke replied dryly.
Ginny rolled her eyes.
“Poor babies. I will make you both a sandwich to tide you over.” She pointed the spoon at Zeke again. “Not with that bread. Hand me the loaf out of the box.”