Authors: Taylor Lee
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance
Book 2: The Justice Brothers Series
, Book 2 in USA Today best-selling author Taylor Lee’s provocative new series,
The Justice Brothers
Romance so HOT it singes the pages
“What. The. Fuck.”
Jude Justice shoved out a tired sigh. Running his hands through his ragged, collar-length hair, he nodded to his brother who was staring at him in disbelief. “Yeah, Jared. You can say that again. And when you’re done, maybe say it a third, or a hundred and third fucking time.”
Jude shook his head and squeezed his eyes closed to shut out the horrific scene. It didn’t work. Knowing it was unlikely that he would ever be able to erase the sight of the hideousness in front of him, he donned his hard-bitten cop veneer and faced his stunned brother. “I’ve got a call in to Jake. I wanted you both to see this before I let the CSI techies in.” He nodded to the group of crime scene investigators hovering in the hallway and added, “I shouldn’t be the only Justice brother who gets to see this horrendous scene unhindered.”
The sound of heavy boots in the hallway signaled the arrival of Duluth PD’s Commander Justice.
Jude met his older brother’s shocked gaze and nodded at the doorway. “Glad you’re here, Jake. Jared and I waited for you. I think this scene is worthy of the attention of all the Justice brothers—or at least those who have the misfortune to be cops.” As he ushered his stunned brothers into the library, Jude added, “Just one question, Commander Justice. Is this why you brought me back from Somalia to work with you? You wanted to be sure I knew that our little wannabe Northwoods burg can out-evil the worst of the world’s monsters? If so, Jake, you coulda saved your breath. If anyone knows the depth of depravity we human beings are capable of, it’s yours truly.” Shaking his head, Jude added with a groan, “But for Christ’s sake, did it have to be
Jude stepped back to allow his brothers to enter. He didn’t have to see the horror on their faces or hear their shocked gasps to know the revulsion they were feeling. He’d felt every bit of it and more when he had walked unprepared into the familiar room.
At first glance, it looked as though someone, or some
had picked up the impressive room by its load-bearing walls and given it a hard shake. Leather-bound books and treasured pieces of expensive artwork lay amongst shattered glasses and broken bottles. Odiferous alcohol mixed with blood stained the Fereghan Sarouk rugs adorning the hardwood teak floors. Schonbek lamps lay in pieces under the broken tables and smashed chairs. Knowing well the cost of the room and its contents, Jude estimated the damage to be at a minimum in the low seven figures.
But as overwhelming as the aesthetic and monetary destruction was, it paled in comparison to the centerpiece of the crime scene. Hanging from the Wildwood chandelier, its intricately twisted crystal buds sparkling subtly, were two bodies. The bungee cords wound tightly around their necks, allowing them to bounce slightly as they swung in ghoulish circular patterns. Their hands were bound, zip-tied behind their backs. Their heads hung at odd angles, occasionally facing each other as they swayed. It was as if the hapless couple wanted their last sight to be the corpse hanging beside them. Both were naked.
The tall man’s body was reasonably fit, although the paunch on his otherwise toned physique telegraphed his age, as did his cropped gray hair and the crevices on his face. The hair on his chest was also gray, as were the tufts leading to his groin. Jude scoffed at his focus on the color of the tortured man’s hair, amazed that he could notice anything except the guy’s penis and scrotum. Which were missing. At least, they were absent from their usual place. Rather, the man’s flaccid penis and bloody nutsack had been shoved into his mouth, likely contributing to the horrified expression on his now dead visage. The dried blood crusting on his legs confirmed that the castration had occurred several hours before. Jude watched his brothers’ eyes widen further when the swaying bungee cord allowed the corpse to turn slightly, revealing the thick iron pipe wedged in the man’s bloodied anus.
If possible, the woman’s body was more shocking. Her expensively coiffed hair was in disarray, likely destroying a several-hundred-dollar couture cut. Blood stained the various shades of blond in her meticulously highlighted hair. Like the man’s body twisting slowly beside her, the blood on her legs and on the floor at her feet confirmed that she also had been sexually assaulted. Anally, as well as vaginally.
It said something about the scene that the rape, as hideous as it was, could have been expected. And frankly, it didn’t compare to the shocking state of her face. Dried blood from her empty eye sockets striped her cheeks with reddish-brown streaks. The blood and mucous in her propped-open mouth were also dry, clotted, confirming that her tongue had been wrenched out early on in the macabre murder.
Jared’s low mutter broke the heavy silence. “What’s with the bungee cords?”
Snorting at the crass non sequitur, Jude shrugged. “My guess is that the perps wanted them to die slowly, literally swinging in the wind.”
Ignoring Jude’s irreverent take, Jake went into commander mode. “Who found them, called it in?”
Jude gave a disconsolate shake of his head. “Alicia did. Apparently, she’s been living here for the last year or so in the carriage house. She was out for the evening and found this when she returned. The medics are with her now.”
Jared’s voice was harsh, strained. “What about Marion? Charlotte? And, Holy Christ, Blake? Do…do
“Yeah, they’re on their way. We’re going to need some seriously quick cleanup if we don’t want them to see this.”
Jake demurred. “Hell, you know that’s not possible, Jude. No one can touch this scene until the CSI team and the ME are finished.”
Jude agreed. “I do know that, bro. Wishful thinking on my part. For what it’s worth, I’ll strangle anyone who touches a thing until I give the word. I don’t care how goddamned long it takes me to make some sense of this.” He turned to Jared. “Look, buddy, you’re closer to Blake than either Jake or I am. You need to be prepared to deal with him when he arrives. I put a call into Jorden and the Judge. I know they both will want to be a part of this. They can try to help with the sisters. No question, Marion and Charlotte will be as hysterical as Alicia is.”
He glanced up at the softly swinging bodies and groaned. “Christ, dudes, Carol and Hank Parker were our mom and dad’s best friends. Jesus, if I remember hearing it right, they stood up for Mom and Dad at their wedding.”
“You’re correct, Jude. The Parkers ran in the same elevated circles as our parents did.” Jake huffed. “They could afford to. The only people in this fair city of ours who are wealthier than the Justices are—were
the Parkers.” He added with a snort, “Kinda shoots a hole in the theory that money can protect you from evil.”
Jude pressed his lips together, clenching his jaw so hard it was a wonder he didn’t crack his back teeth. He glanced up at the bodies, then glared at his brothers. “As if we didn’t learn that little lesson a long time ago.”
Jude was crouched down, staring up at the bodies, when he heard the shocked expletive. Seeing his grandfather and oldest brother filling the doorway, Jude rose slowly to his feet. Not sure how the eighty-year-old man would handle the shock, he exchanged a concerned glance with his brother. Jorden was the Assistant US Attorney for the Northern Minnesota jurisdiction, including Duluth, and had seen his share of crime scenes, but Jude knew his brother had to be as traumatized as he, Jake, and Jared were. Seeing Jorden reach for his grandfather’s arm confirmed that Jorden was also concerned about the elderly man.
Jude moved toward them when the Judge, as everyone called him, repeated his anguished expletive. “Holy…Fucking…Christ.”
Shaking his head, the old man looked beseechingly at Jude and Jake. “What…why…” His words trailed off as he stared in horror at the mutilated bodies.
Jude grasped his grandfather’s other arm and said after a hard sigh, “The last thing we ever wanted you—or anyone—to see, Judge, was
The Judge shook his head and swiped at the moisture on his face. “No…no, Jude. And you two as well,” he said, looking to Jake and Jared. “No, as hideous as this is, I had…to see it. I…I owe it to Carol and Hank.”
He stood between them, clinging to Jorden’s and Jude’s arms for support. Tears streaming down his weathered cheeks, the Judge’s voice shook with emotion. “Do…the girls know? Does Blake?”
“Alicia found them. She’s upstairs with the medics. I sent cars for Charlotte, Marion, and Blake. They’ll be here any minute.” Jude shared a glance with Jorden. “Jared has agreed to help with Blake. We’re hoping you and the Judge can talk with the girls.”
Jorden nodded in agreement then expelled a hard breath. “They…you know…they’re all going to insist on seeing the bodies.”
Jude nodded. “We can do our best to try to convince them not to see their parents like this. But we can’t stop them. As much as I would like for none of them to ever witness this hideous scene, it’s their right. Let’s hope to God they choose not to exercise that right.”
Hours later, Jude looked up to see Jared enter. Jared’s face was strained with fatigue. His customary cockiness was glaringly absent. Glancing around the room at the teams of investigators, he asked, “Your guys about done, Jude?”
“Yeah, I think we’ve made as much sense of this nightmare as we can. At least as far as documenting the scene. Making rational sense out of it won’t happen anytime soon, if ever.” He nodded to the older gentleman in the gray suit. “I’m about to have them take down the bodies and turn them over to Doc Evans. Maybe the doc can help shed some light on this mayhem. We all have a pretty fucking good idea of
they died. But optimist that I am, I hope to God the doc can give us some clues as to why.”
Jude put his arm around his younger brother. “Unfortunately, you, Jorden, and Gramps got stuck with the hardest job of all. Christ, man, I don’t know if I’ll ever forget Blake’s and the girls’ reactions when they saw their mother and father.” He hugged Jared closer. “I gotta ask, after you got them out of here, what did you do?”
“Fortunately, Jorden took over. And Gramps did as well. After we got them to the point where they were semi-rational, Gramps suggested that they all come to the Justice Mansion. I never thought of that, but it was a genius stroke. God knows the mansion has more bedrooms than a small hotel and almost as much staff. By the time we got them to agree, Gramps and Jorden had a medical contingent at our place and rooms ready for the four of them.”
“That was smart in more ways than one.” Jude was cautious, but knew his brother would understand. “You know, buddy, that as lead detective in this nightmare, I’m going to have to interview each one of them.”
Jared ran his hands through his hair and audibly sighed. “Yeah, I know that, Jude, and I don’t envy you. I thought telling military families one of their sons or daughters was killed in battle was hard. But at least then, the families were aware of the danger.” Glancing up at the mutilated bodies the medics were beginning to take down, he groaned. “But how in hell can anyone explain
Watching the medics place the corpses on the gurneys, then zip up the body bags, Jude answered his brother the best that he could. “Evil, man. As clear an example of unadulterated evil as I’ve ever seen, too fucking many times. Only this time, I can’t just pass it off as the evil that war brings out in men. No, bro, this time I have to figure out who
did this and more importantly, why. And then, buddy, I have to ensure that whoever committed this inhuman, indescribable evil will spend the rest of their sorry lives rotting in the deepest, darkest hole I can find.”