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Authors: Ed Gorman,Daniel Ransom

Daddy's Little Girl (23 page)

BOOK: Daddy's Little Girl
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Minerva had listened on the extension to the conversation between Adam Carnes and Ruth Foster.

It seemed Minerva wasn’t alone in thinking that something strange was going on. The girl disappearing last night. Reverend Heath killing himself this morning. The odd noises coming up from the basement. And the curious goings-on tonight—her room being locked from the outside—then, after a time, unlocked.

Then, too, there had been glass shattering earlier this evening. Unable to stay in her room and not know what was going on, Minerva had snuck downstairs in the shadows.

The gun case had been broken into in the den. Mr. Foster had always kept his hunting rifles there.

Sometimes the casing stuck.

Apparently impatient, Ruth had smashed the glass.

One of the rifles was missing.

Minerva had gone back upstairs, trying to decide what to do.

A premonition of something terrible filled her.

Ruth was no longer her friend.

Indeed, Ruth sounded genuinely crazy.

Once again, she crept to the door and peeked out.

She saw nothing in the darkness.

She looked both ways.

The rifle that touched her cheek was a total surprise.

Ruth walked into the half-light thrown by the moon.

“Get back in your room, Minerva. Lock the door and stay there.”

“Ruth, you’re scarin’ me, you really are.”

“Something’s going on. I don’t want you hurt.”

“I’m your friend.”

“Minerva, it’s because I’m your friend that I’m doing this.”

She waved the rifle at Minerva.

“Now you get in there and bolt the door and you stay in there no matter what you hear in any part of the house.”

“What’s going on, Ruth? Please tell me. Maybe I can help you.”

“Nobody can help me, Minerva. Nobody.”

“But what’s it all about, something with the basement?”

Even in the shadows she could see her friend wince.

Ruth waved the rifle at Minerva again.

“It’s about the basement, isn’t it?”

Ruth nodded slowly. “A long time ago, I made a mistake, a terrible mistake.”

Minerva started to say something.

Ruth forced her inside, back across the threshold.

Then she pulled the door shut.

Minerva was in darkness.

Chapter Thirteen

The seven men sat around the long tables in the cabin as they had sat around the town council tables in the mayor’s office for years.

They were seven of the most prosperous and popular men not only in their community but in this part of the state.

In the center of the room sat a pudgy man named Lou Bascomb who always wore bow ties and smelled of barber shop hair oil. Bascomb had been the mayor of Burton for nearly twenty years. He was most famous for having gone to Washington, D.C. eighteen years ago and single-handedly bringing back a grant that resulted in the new Burton High School.

From that time on, he had been a revered figure in the affairs of the town.

At present, he did not look like a man who could claim such authority. His pudgy face ran with sweat and he daubed at his jowls with a handkerchief.

Sitting next to him, Sheriff Wayman had taken out a pipe and was puffing on it. Close scrutiny of Wayman’s hands revealed that the man was trembling.

The other council members sat in equally disarrayed states.

Depression seemed to be the theme of the meeting.

In the center of the cabin, just in front of the wide fireplace, Deputy Vince Reeves and his wife Donna were lashed and gagged. They appeared to be waiting execution by firing squad.

Wayman raised his eyes to the couple, looked quickly away.

They knew what lay ahead of them.

Wayman felt ashamed.

It was one thing to have to kill Reverend Heath, as Laumer had done this morning. Heath, in all his years in the community, had never quite become a friend, even though he had shared the secret.

But the Reeves ... they were good people ... people Wayman felt close to.

The mayor produced a gavel. He always carried it with him. Everywhere. By now it was a part of his legend, a part people laughed at affectionately.

It was said that before the mayor and his wife made love, the man pounded the gavel and brought the session to order.

In the night, shot as it was with crickets and baying dogs and hoot owls, the gavel sounded almost ludicrous.

“I guess we know what kind of decision we’ve got to make tonight,” the mayor said.

“Where’s Laumer,” one of the other members said. “He should be here.”

Four of the council members had earlier expressed concern that neither the mayor nor Sheriff Wayman had the balls required to do what had to be done.

They looked on Laumer’s murder of Reverend Heath with a kind of pride and relish.

Laumer was their kind of man.

He got things done.

Sheriff Wayman and the mayor however ...

Sheriff Wayman watched as the debate began. He was well aware that four of the members wanted Carl Laumer to take over at this point. But Laumer scared Wayman.

You never knew what Laumer was going to do. Wayman had seen Laumer beat a hunting dog once, a dog who had not done as he was told. Witnessing that, the sheriff knew that here was a man capable of absolutely anything.

It was important that Mayor Bascomb stay in control. Even if it meant ...

Wayman had had the thought several times today.

Even if it meant ... confessing their secret to the authorities... stopping what had been going on since back in 1953.

Surely it would mean prison for them all ... but more violence seemed an even worse fate than prison.

“Many years ago we made a decision,” the mayor was saying. “We made it for ‘the greater good.’ I believed that then and I believe that now. If we hadn’t made that decision, Burton as we know it would have died, virtually become a ghost town. At the time we felt we couldn’t let that happen, so we found ourselves agreeing to something that—well, something maybe we shouldn’t have.”

A voice down the table said, “We didn’t have any choice, Mayor.”

Mayor Bascomb sighed. “At least, that’s what we told ourselves.”

“Look around the town, Mayor. Look at all the good things that’ve happened to our community since we made that decision.”

“Yes, but was it worth it?” the mayor asked.

“Guilt isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

In the middle of the room, the Reeveses struggled against their restraints.

Their eyes were wide with fear.

“So now we’ve got to make another decision,” the mayor said.

“And I say let’s get on with it,” the belligerent man said. His name was Hoskins. He owned a farm implement store.

“You really think it’s going to be that easy?” the mayor said, sounding irritated. “To make a decision on what happens to these people?”

He nodded to the Reeveses in the center of the floor.

“‘For the greater good,’ Mayor, remember,” Hoskins said.

Sheriff Wayman spoke up. “At least that’s what we tell ourselves. But now, I don’t think so, I think we can dress up our motives all we want, but what we’re really doing now is saving our own skins.”

Hoskins snapped, “You want to go to prison, Sheriff? You’d have a really good time in there. You know how convicts like lawmen.”

There was a harsh laugh as one of the others agreed with Hoskins.

The mayor gaveled for silence. “You know it’s going to go on and on, of course. I think in the back of our minds we knew years ago that eventually our secret would come out. Well, more and more people are going to learn it, and there’s no way we can keep silencing them without attracting suspicion to ourselves. No way in hell.”

“Who else knows besides the Reeveses?”

“That man Carnes, and Beth Daye,” the mayor said.

“Well, we’ll take care of them,” Hoskins said. “That isn’t such a big deal.”

“No, I guess it’s not a big deal, unless you stop to think that we’re committing murder.”

“People do what they have to to survive,” Hoskins said. “That’s what Laumer always says, and I agree with him.”

Laumer, thought Sheriff Wayman. One way or the other, Laumer was going to have his way.

Wayman glanced over at the Reeveses again. Vince Reeves was staring at him. Just staring. There was accusation in his eyes.

Why in God’s name had Reeves had to drive out here a few weeks ago and overhear the conversation in which their ugly little secret was discussed?

Hoskins nodded to the Reeveses. “I vote we get to the issue at hand. All this talk is doing no good.”

The mayor sighed. “You don’t think two people’s lives are worth a little more discussion?”

“We don’t have time for discussion, Mayor. As soon as we’re done with the Reeveses, then we’re going to have to find this Carnes and Beth Daye. Then things will be safe again.”

“You’re a hell of a man,” the mayor said sarcastically.

“Do you want me to tell you what kind of a ‘man’ you are?” Hoskins shot back. “If Laumer was here, we’d have gotten all this over with.”

The mayor looked around at the faces before him.

He was looking for somebody, besides Sheriff Wayman, who could be counted on to vote their way.

But he knew better.

These men were frightened. Prison loomed as a real possibility. Nobody was going to vote to put himself in prison. Nobody.

The mayor glanced at Sheriff Wayman and frowned.

Wayman returned the frown.

Both men knew there was no hope of talking sense to these people.

The mayor said, “Is everybody here in agreement that we should vote?”

Everybody said yes.

“Very well, then,” the mayor said.

“I just want everybody here to realize what we’re condoning,” the sheriff said.

Another harsh laugh from Hoskins. “You’re too easy on us, Sheriff. Look what we’ve condoned in the past.”

To that, Wayman could say nothing.

He thought of other nights. Of the victims he’d seen, what they looked like afterward.

Maybe Hoskins was right.

Maybe they were so far gone that it no longer mattered what they did or condoned....

Sheriff Wayman literally cringed.

It was not easy for a man who’d always thought of himself as moral and upright to have to face the fact that he was neither of those things ... that in his most secret heart he was just as corrupt as the people he castigated as evil.

The mayor brought the gavel down again.

“Then let’s vote and get it over with,” he said bitterly.

The voting began.

There was little doubt about what the outcome would be.

The only question was, who was actually going to do the killing after the vote was taken?


Given the tension of the moment, Sheriff Wayman had no trouble leaving the cabin—nobody seemed to notice him.

He needed fresh air—or at least that’s what he told himself.

He stood in the night outside the cabin watching the stars. The clear night reminded him of the days he’d gone fishing for small-mouthed bass in a cabin in Montana. You could see God in the sky on nights like these, at least up in the mountains you could.

Here, however—

He glanced back at the cabin and shook his head. He could no longer be a part of all this, even if it meant going to prison or—

But, now, to talk to Beth Daye, to explain wearily how it had all started, and why it had been done in the first place, and where it had all lead.

Sheriff Wayman walked over to his car, got in and drove away.

Simple as that.

Inside the cabin, several people looked out to see what was going on.


Laumer knelt next to a gnarled oak twenty feet away from the cabin where the discussion was going on, chuckling to himself. Where the hell was Wayman off to? Chickening out, no doubt.

His fellow townspeople were a laughing lot, no doubt about that.

He saw their indecision as typical of what had happened to the whole country.

Laumer read a lot of history. His favorite men were Stonewall Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. Men long on action and short on talk.

That was why he was sneering as he overheard the conversations inside.

Take Hoskins, for example.

Hoskins talked about what needed to be done, that the Reeves couple needed to be killed.

But would Hoskins do it himself?

Of course not.

Even though it was the necessary and proper thing to do, even though Hoskins had a moral obligation to do it himself, Hoskins would come looking for Laumer and have Laumer do it.

No, the country had degenerated hopelessly into a bunch of spineless whiners.

Laumer stood up, taking the gasoline can with him. While he was still upset over Carnes and Beth Daye getting away, he knew he would have another chance at them later tonight.

For now, he needed to concentrate as hard as possible on the joy at hand.

He would need to move quickly and silently. All his years of reading books on jungle warfare were about to pay off, he felt.

He had just started to move toward the cabin when he heard a footstep crackle the leaves to his right.

Laumer whirled, pulling his bowie knife from his belt, and at the same time fading into the shadows and foliage.

The visitor was none other than Sheriff Wayman’s incompetent nephew, Deputy Shanks.

Shanks saw Laumer and the gasoline can he carried and froze.

“What’re you doing here?” Laumer whispered.

“Carnes tied me up. I was tailin’ him for the sheriff. I thought I’d better come here and warn everybody.”

Laumer couldn’t help but laugh.

Shanks was such a loser.

But right now, Shanks was also something else— a dangerous man. He would be able to tie what was about to happen to Laumer. Laumer’s plan of total freedom would fail.

“Come here,” Laumer said sternly.

Good puppy that he was, Shanks obeyed.

It was not until he was inches from Laumer that Shanks realized what was going on.

Laumer slapped a hand over Shanks’s mouth so he could not scream.

Then he drove the bowie knife into Shanks’s abdomen right up to the hilt.

BOOK: Daddy's Little Girl
10.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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