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Authors: Ed Gorman,Daniel Ransom

Daddy's Little Girl (19 page)

BOOK: Daddy's Little Girl
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6

Vince Reeves knew better than to expect some Roy Rogers trick of himself.

Bound and gagged, rolling around in the rear of a truck, bumping into his wife Donna as the vehicle bounced and jostled over rough roads, Vince sensed that his dread of the past month—ever since learning of the terrible secret a small group in the town shared—was going to come true.

Donna’s belly was never going to get swollen with a child of theirs.

He was never going to take that fishing trip to Canadian waters.

And he was never going to achieve that inner peace he had striven for all his life.

There was just the blackness.

And the slamming metal floor of the truck.

And the horrified gaze of his wife.

He closed his eyes.

Tried to think.

He smelled gasoline from the tank and the sweat of fear from his own body.

She expected him to do something. He was a man. He was her husband

Almost unconsciously, he began pawing at the ropes wrapping his wrists.

Tugging.

Turning.

Pulling.

He could imagine what it would be like to get his hands free and to jump one of his captors.

See their surprise.

Their shock.

Their horror.

And he could imagine what Donna would look like, her pride, her excitement, her gratitude—

He thought of their last month in bed and his spirits waned again.

He could not adjust to an image of himself as an inept lover.

He opened his eyes, so he wouldn’t have to think about that particular problem.

And saw that Donna had rolled to the back of the truck and was trying herself to get free—

She kicked and bucked like a crazed horse—

Her eyes were frantic—

He had seen her like this only once or twice before. When she’d just gone berserk, some innate rage overwhelming her, scaring her as well as him—

He went back to working on his own wrists.

The truck continued to slam against the road, roaring onward.

Bruising his ribs.

His legs.

His head.

He kept grinding the ropes.

He had no idea how long he worked.

He began to concentrate to the point that everything else faded away.

Even Donna faded away.

There was just Vince Reeves and his ropes.

There was nothing else.

Five minutes later, his hand came free.

He waved it at Donna, who got wide-eyed and joyous, just as the truck rumbled to a stop.

 

 

The driver of the truck jumped down from the cab, taking his .45 with him.

He had no idea why he’d stopped before reaching his destination, he just had some sense that something was wrong.

 

 

Vince ripped the tape from his mouth, nearly crying out from the pain.

Then he unbound his legs and started crawling toward his wife.

It took him scarcely thirty seconds to get her unbound.

Then she was in his arms, kissing him, crying silently, her pendulous breasts making him crazy with excitement.

He couldn’t ever recall so many different emotions charging through his body at one time.

Now he was going to be the old Vince.

He was going to tell the state authorities what was going on here.

And then he was going to be the old Vince.

With one exception.

Now he was going to be sheriff.

Shushing his wife, making sure she said nothing, Vince started to crawl toward the back of the truck.

To freedom.

He reached up.

Grabbed the handle.

Started very slowly to ease the door open.

Very slowly.

So as not to be heard.

To get out of this mess before anything else happened.

Easy now.

He pushed the door open gently.

It creaked, despite all his efforts to keep silence.

Then he waved to Donna to follow him, to jump down to freedom, to flee as soon as they hit the ground.

He got the door open about two more inches before it happened.

Before the .45 came out of the darkness and stuck itself in a terrible place.

Right in Vince Reeves’s face.

His wife started sobbing instantly.

Chapter Eleven
1

The motel was a long string of lights against the night sky as Adam Carnes and Beth Daye wheeled onto the macadam.

A jolting memory struck Carnes as he saw the slot where his car had been parked last night.

Where he had last seen Deirdre.

“Remember now,” Beth said. “You’ve got to stay calm.”

“I know.”

She glanced at him to make her point again silently.

He looked down the incline they’d just come up.

“I keep waiting to see one of Wayman’s men.”

“I know,” she said.

On the drive over here, after leaving Deputy Shanks tied up behind them, they had talked things through and decided that their arrest was imminent.

Whatever was going on, they were in the middle of it. Wayman obviously knew something they didn’t. There was no way he was going to let them wander around much longer.

As was proved by the fact that he’d put Shanks on them.

Inside the motel office, the clerk was dozing in front of the TV again.

Like any other guest, Carnes rang the desk bell for service.

Even with prodding from the bell, the old clerk came slowly to life.

When he saw Carnes, he frowned. He did not come to the desk with any great speed.

“Help you?” he said grumpily.

No questions about Deirdre.

No questions about Carnes’s condition.

Just his usual grouchy demeanor—but with one important difference.

Tonight the clerk seemed frightened.

“I wanted to ask you a question about last night,” Carnes said.

The clerk stared at Beth a moment.

“He needs some help, his daughter is missing,” Beth reminded the clerk.

Without asking permission, Carnes went around behind the desk.

He stood where the clerk had stood last night. He looked out the window.

Clearly, he saw the slot where his car had been sitting last night.

For Deirdre to get out of the car, or for somebody to haul Deirdre from the car, the clerk would have to have noticed.

“Remember where you were standing last night?”

The clerk shrugged.

“Right here.”

“So what if I was?”

“Then you would have seen my daughter get out of the car.”

“My eyes ain’t so good.”

“They couldn’t be that bad.”

“I didn’t see nothin’.”

Carnes knew he shouldn’t lose his temper, but he couldn’t help himself.

“I don’t believe you.”

Before the clerk could respond, Beth stepped in, putting her hand on Carnes’s arm to restrain him.

“Please,” she said to the clerk, “it’s very important.”

The clerk was obviously taken with her looks and manner.

He shook his white head. “I didn’t see nothin’. Most of the time this man was in here I had my head down at the desk.”

“Did you hear anything?”

“Nope. Didn’t hear anything either.”

Beth frowned.

Asking questions that were never answered positively eventually got you down.

She decided to try once more.

“Do you remember anybody roaming around out on the macadam last night when Mr. Carnes and his daughter arrived?”

“Same questions the sheriff asked me last night.”

“Well, did you see anybody?”

“No, I didn’t ma’am.”

Carnes, tired of all the hopeless questioning, started glancing around the tiny office.

The place looked as if nothing new had been added since the early 1950s.

There was an abundance of blond furniture to prove it, as well as a framed photograph of Harry Truman, as if the man from Missouri were still President.

Carnes wandered over to the small bookcase. Most of the titles were book club editions of novels popular in the early fifties: Frank Yerby, Lloyd C. Douglas, Erle Stanley Gardner.

None of the titles held any special interest for Carnes, so he started to turn away from the bookcase. But as he turned he noticed a pamphlet-like piece on top of the case.

The Town of Burton, Land That I Love, by
Juanita Krause.

The pamphlet appeared to be a history of Burton from its founding in 1843 up through 1954.

He thumbed it, mostly reading captions and glancing at the more interesting illustrations. In one section, labeled “Burton Today,” he saw photographs of a younger Sheriff Wayman standing next to a handsome man and woman identified as Mr. and Mrs. Foster. The three of them were standing in front of the Foster Meat Plant.

In the next picture he saw a boy of maybe seventeen next to the Foster woman.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled as he saw the name of the boy.

Kenneth.

There would be many boys with that name in Burton, probably, Carnes cautioned himself.

Just because Dora Jean Williams had mentioned Kenny as the boy who had attacked her in the park that night ...

He went up to the clerk and put the pamphlet down in front of him.

“You remember this kid?”

The clerk stared at the photograph. He had to bring it nearly to his face before the picture seemed to register with him.

“Boy, this sure is an old booklet, ain’t it?” he chuckled.

“The kid. Do you remember him?”

Beth took the pamphlet from the clerk, looked at it. “Kenneth Foster,” she murmured. “The Foster boy ...”

The clerk nodded. “He wasn’t the type most people hung around much. Kind of spoiled for one thing, being the son of the Fosters. For another thing, people was afraid of him. The old man Foster was always threatening to move his plant for one reason or another to a bigger city. People figured if they ever made the kid mad he’d tell his Pop and there we’d be, without the meat packing plant. And let me tell you, mister, without that plant there just wouldn’t be no Burton at all. Not at all, if you catch my drift.”

“Where’s the kid now?”

“Kenny? Oh, he’s dead.”

“How did he die?”

“Hit by a semi-truck. One of those his father owned, if you happen to like irony. He was eighteen or so. His mother never got over it.”

“She’s become a recluse since her husband died years ago,” Beth added.

“Just lives up there in that big mansion with that colored gal friend of hers. The way I get it,” the clerk said, “the colored gal was the maid for a while. But then the Foster woman just made her into a friend, like a roommate.”

Carnes put the pamphlet down.

Neither of his ideas had paid off. If the clerk had seen something last night, he obviously wasn’t about to tell.

And if Kenneth Foster had had anything to do with Dora Jean Williams’s assault all those years ago, he was way beyond being prosecuted for it now.

Then he saw that he hadn’t thought the question of Kenny through entirely.

What if the boy’s mother knew something that Kenny had done before he’d died—something that tied into the strange message in Beth’s husband’s journal.

The insatiable animal is born.

“Well,” he said to the clerk, “I guess you aren’t going to be much help to us tonight.”

Beth watched Carnes, surprised at the sudden chipper tone of his voice.

“Thanks for your time,” Carnes said, stepping over to the door.

“Hope you find your daughter,” the clerk said.

“Thanks again,” Carnes said, moving out into the pure night air.

The starry sky reminded him of Wyoming at this time of year. The heavens filled with lights.

In the car, Beth said, “What’s going on?”

“There’s one person who might be able to answer your question about your husband’s journal—that is, if Kenny Foster had anything to do with Dora Jean’s incident.”

“Who’s that?”

“Foster’s mother.”

“Ruth Foster? She’s about as easy to see as Lady Di. There’s no way she’s going to let us in to talk about her son, particularly if there’s even a hint that there was something less than wonderful about him.”

Carnes frowned.

“Do you know anything about Kenny?” he asked.

“Only that I’ve heard he probably did his parents a favor by getting killed.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, of course, it’s all a long time ago now. And no one ever talks of it anymore. But I seem to remember Sam mentioning that he was a vicious boy, with a genuinely sadistic streak. Apparently one of his teachers thought he might even be psychotic and suggested to Mrs. Foster that she send him to a shrink. A few days later the teacher was fired for reasons of ‘morality.’ Everybody said he’d been framed, but a fifteen-year-old girl was nonetheless found in his apartment. The law gave him the choice of leaving town or facing prison.”

“The law?”

She nodded. “Probably in the person of Sheriff Bill Wayman himself.”

“I saw their photos taken together.”

“The sheriff and the Fosters?”

“Yeah.”

“Good friends. That’s always the word I got. Back in those days Wayman had political aspirations. He’s always been a forceful man. There was talk that he might even go as far as the Governor’s office with Foster money behind him. But then Mr. Foster died. Mrs. Foster never had interest in much besides her own activities—gardening, going to big cities for art exhibits, things like that. I was always told that she never cared much for Burton. Many people considered her a snob. Foster met her back East. She was a boarding-school type. Very stylish, I’m told. Anyway, he brought her back here and made her his princess. There was a time when she tried to fit in and get along with everybody, but I guess she’s kind of high-strung and people’s lack of manners and education around here just grated on her. After the death of her son and her husband, I suppose she had a great reason to become a recluse.”

“Why didn’t she go back East?”

Beth smiled. “You may find this hard to believe, but Mrs. Foster doesn’t often confide in me, even if I am the only newspaper editor in the whole booming metropolis of Burton.”

“Maybe we should ask her.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?”

“You’re damn right, I am.”

“There’s an electric fence all the way around her house.”

“Can’t we call her on the phone first? See if she’ll agree to talk to us?”

“She has an unlisted number.”

“I’ll bet if you tried real hard, you being the only newspaper editor in the booming metropolis of Burton, that you could get the number from somebody.”

“Yes, I suppose I could. But when would we call her?”

“Tonight.”

“At her age, she probably goes to bed early.”

“At eight o’clock?”

“Maybe.”

“Well, let’s get the number and give it a try.”

Beth shrugged. “You’re grabbing at straws again, I’m afraid. I don’t think she’ll be able to tell us anything that’s even remotely connected to Deirdre’s disappearance.”

“Humor me.”

Beth shook her head. “Drive over to that pay phone.”

Carnes did as he was told.

Beth got out, made one phone call, then another.

She came back to the car.

“For being the only newspaper editor in the booming metropolis of Burton, I don’t seem to cut much mustard.”

“What happened?”

“Two people told me very politely to go to hell. They were very protective of Ruth Foster.”

“Anybody else you could call?”

“I’m thinking.”

Then she snapped her finger.

“Wait a minute!”

She went back to the phone booth, deposited her money.

Carnes watched through the windshield as she had a brief conversation with somebody.

She wrote something down in her notebook.

A minute later she was slipping into the car, shutting the door.

She handed a piece of paper over to him.

“Here you go,” she said.

“How did you get it?”

“I suddenly remembered an old friend who’s a telephone operator at night.”

“She gave you the number?”

“After I threatened to line her up with the same guy I lined her up with last year.”

“He must be a winner.”

“A real winner.”

She waved the paper at him again.

“I have no idea what you’re going to say to her.”

“Neither do I,” Carnes admitted.

He got out of the car and went over to the phone booth.

This was going to be some call.

BOOK: Daddy's Little Girl
12.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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