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Authors: Polly Iyer

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BOOK: Murder Deja Vu
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“Looks like it’s in pristine condition. When I turned the key in the ignition, it purred like a kitten.”

“This old Ford was my dad’s pride and joy. He died years ago, but I could never bring myself to sell it because I promised David, my younger son, that he could have it if he kept up his grades. He doesn’t need it at school, so it’s been in a rented garage all this time. When I built the house, I brought it here. Every few weeks, I’d start it up. The registration’s current.” She clicked the automatic garage opener, and the door wheezed up on its runners. “I’ll put my Jeep inside. They’ll have to break into the house to see what’s here. That’ll set off the alarm and give them a fit.”

Reece smiled. “You’re good. I didn’t think of anything but getting the hell out of here.” He kissed her. “You sure you don’t want to change your mind?”

“Positive. Pull on out. I’ll follow you home so you can leave your truck there. Maybe it’ll throw them off for a while.

Reece drove the pickup out of the garage. Dana parked her Jeep inside and closed the garage door. Then he got into his pickup, and she followed him to his house.

He parked in his yard, went inside to pack a few things, then got behind the wheel of the Ford to take the first shift. “Okay, we’re set. Let’s hope we make it out of North Carolina.”

“Where are we going, Reece?”

“To Lynn, a city north of Boston on the coast, where an old friend of mine lives. Jeraldine will figure it out, although with us on the run, she won’t want to know.”

“If I know Robert, he’ll contact the prison.”

“So will the sheriff. I met him once, and he struck me as smart and efficient. One more thing, Dana. I haven’t been officially charged, but they’ve issued a warrant for my arrest, and you’ll be an accessory. The minute we cross the state line, if we get that far, the feds will be in on it.”

“I know. I lived with a lawyer for twenty years. I know something about the law.”

“Then I’ll ask you one last time.”

“Don’t,” she said with stubborn resolve. “Are you going to call this friend of yours?”

“Yes, but not from around here.”

“What’s his name?”

“Frank Vance.”

“Isn’t he—?”

Reece smiled. “So, Jeraldine told you. I figured she would.”

Vance was from the second part of Reece’s life. The part he’d promised to tell her but never did because the police hauled him off to jail. “We have a long drive. Tell me about him.”

Reece drew a deep breath. “Sure you want to know?”

“There’s nothing you could tell me that would change the way I feel about you.”

He reached across the divide and wrapped his rough-skinned hand around her neck. “Maybe it’ll be easier to talk about if I don’t have to look at you. Let me think how to start.”

“Start at the beginning.” She watched Reece’s face contort and braced herself for what she was going to hear.

* * * * *

R
eece inhaled a deep breath, then let it out. Again. In and out. Slow and steady. He started with the trial and the fear and disbelief that settled on him as the lack of convincing evidence became secondary to pinning the vicious murder on someone—anyone—and closing the case.

“I sat there when they read the verdict thinking this couldn’t be happening. This is a mistake. Where’s the justice? I’m innocent. Innocent people don’t go to prison for a murder they didn’t commit.” He turned to Dana. “But they do.

“Jeraldine promised she’d pursue other avenues, appeal the verdict. But off I went. To Norfolk, a medium security prison south of Boston. I arrived, dazed, and went through the stuff all new prisoners go through—strip search, exam—both physical and psychological, got my clothes, and listened while some guy told us what life would be like in prison and how we’d better accept it. They called it orientation. I called it ‘—scare the new guy into shitting his pants.’”

This is where you’re going to spend the rest of your life, buddy. Get used to it.

“My stomach tightened like this.” He fisted his hand. “You know my life until then. You said it yourself—boring. That first week, I lay on the thin mattress in my small cubicle, listening to the sounds, wondering how many more nights I could go without sleeping. I must have dozed occasionally, but not much. I heard crying and laughing; I heard otherworldly voices. I waited for a guard to come in, because I’d heard some were as bad as the cons. I waited, but no one ever came. I wondered if I could make it. A week later, I doubted I would.”

“If you don’t want to tell me this part, don’t.”

“Why? Have you figured it out?”

She didn’t answer. Reece assumed she’d heard stories. She’d been married to a lawyer for twenty years. But he wanted her to know. They’d shared so much. Bad enough the label of murderer hung on him like a scarlet M—if she didn’t know what happened to him in prison, she’d always wonder who lay beside her in bed.

“Jeraldine warned me what could happen, but because of my size she doubted anyone would take me on. Cons went for the weak ones, she said. Small, helpless boys, not guys six-three and weighing two-twenty.” He glanced at Dana, then quickly fixed his focus on the road. “She was wrong, but it took four of them to do it, all as big or bigger than me.”

Reece couldn’t tell her everything. How could he convey the rancid smell of body odor fermenting in the humidity of the showers? Or the sound of his kneecaps cracking as they pushed him hard to the shower floor, his palms sliding on the slick tile? Strong hands digging into his backside while they held him down?

“I fought them, but two of them batted me down every time I tried to get up.” His muscles tensed as he recalled the cold shank biting into his throat, forcing him to suck dick while another penetrated him from behind, pumping and pumping, until the son of a bitch shot his wad.

How do you like this, frat boy? Bet you never had it this good.

“The pain shot through my body as if an electric cattle prod had been jammed inside me. No words can describe the humiliation and degradation of having my head held into another man’s groin.”

He couldn’t tell her about the stink of sweat and the salty taste of cum shooting into his mouth. The vomit and choking after. Or how the second man took his turn, until blood mixed with semen seeped from his anus. Even after all the years and the dozens of times he banished the vision from his mind, it was still so real. He didn’t want to remember it happened. But it did.

“They said I’d be their bitch for as long as they wanted me.” He felt Dana’s hand on his arm.

“Stop. Please, stop. I don’t want you to go through this. I know enough.”

He saw the tears rolling down her cheeks, but he couldn’t stop. “You’ll know as much as I can tell you and then we’ll never speak of it again.” He was glad he was driving, glad he couldn’t break down the way he had so many times when he thought of that day. When he learned the evil in the world would always be there like some predatory animal skulking in wait, if not for him, then for some other innocent whose life would forever be changed.

“They took turns.” His voice cracked. He swallowed. “When the one standing guard came to change places with the man who’d just sodomized me, I heard a scuffle. I didn’t know what was happening, but the hands holding me fell away. I couldn’t catch my breath, as if all the air in the room had been sucked out. I found the strength to crawl into the corner of the shower and curl into a fetal ball.”

“Stop, Reece. Please.”

He shrugged off Dana’s hand without looking at her. “Then I saw him. This big hulking man with a shaved head and tattoos and muscles rippling all over like one of those toy action figures. He looked like something out of a horror movie, sneering and grunting. He threw those guys around, big as they were, like they were midgets. One of them lay bleeding on the tile floor, the other three scrambled away like roaches.”

Reece pulled the truck off the road. He couldn’t see, blinded by the rage that filled him, his heart pumping like an engine piston.

Dana moved across the bench seat, wrapped her arm around his neck, and placed her other hand over his mouth. “Enough,” she whispered. “I know enough.”

He moved her hand away. “That was my introduction to Frank Vance, the man we’re going to see. He’s sick now, but he’s the best friend I ever had. He saved my life, and later, a long time later, I saved his.”

Chapter Twenty
Collusion

 

R
obert couldn’t believe it when he heard Lurena Howe was dead. His witness. Damn Klugh. Robert didn’t trust him worth a damn, and the feelings were mutual. But too many knots over the years tied them together, inextricably binding them into unlikely partners. They met at a different out-of-the-way diner.

Klugh exuded his usual air of superiority, looking like he’d wandered off the golf course at a high-class country club. Pressed slacks, expensive shirt, tanned and fit. That pissed off Robert even more. Sweat soaked the collar of his expensive Egyptian cotton shirt. Sweat stains didn’t come out, even when professionally laundered.

“When I told you to incriminate Daughtry in Rayanne Johnson’s murder, I didn’t mean like the time in Charlotte, with a dead body. Which, by the way, I never ordered.”

“Of course you didn’t. You never do. You imply. But somehow I always find money transferred into my account for whatever you didn’t order. Besides, no one ever found that body.”

“What the hell were you thinking?”

“You wanted to nail him, didn’t you, Robert? Well, I nailed him for you. Everything played out perfectly. Lurena Howe needed money—who doesn’t these days?—and she didn’t bat an eye lying to get it, because she believed Daughtry was guilty. Now, with her dead, they’ll
know
he committed both murders.”

This was the problem doing business with idiots. “It’s
too
perfect. Daughtry’s not stupid. Don’t you think he’d know what the reaction would be if he killed the witness?”

“How smart was it to kill a second woman the same way he killed the first? Killers have patterns. That’s a fact. He followed the pattern.”

“But this didn’t fit the pattern. Not even close. And what if my ex-wife was with him, which is entirely possible, the whore?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. So we might not get him for this one. But he’ll panic. Bet he runs. That’s what guilty men do.”

Robert considered that. “Hmm, he might. I’ve heard he sleeps outside sometimes, not to feel like he’s in prison.” He chewed on a fingernail. “I don’t have a choice now, do I? You’ve seen to that.”

“I’m telling you, he’ll run.”

“Are you sure no one saw you with Howe?”

“Naw. We got it on at her place. I did her, then cleaned up.”

“You’re sure?”

“You think I’d leave prints? You don’t know me, Robert, if you asked that. If things work out the way I planned, Reece Daughtry’s going back to prison.”

“With Daughtry’s history, I could have built a case to nail him. The public would have clamored for his head. I don’t understand why you had to do Howe.”

Klugh leaned across the table, eyes squinting, stale coffee-scented breath clouding the air. Robert slid back to put more space between them. Klugh’s words came out tight and soft. Robert scanned the diner to make sure no one could hear.

“Because a dead witness can’t change her story. She can’t accept deals by opposing counsel, and she can’t implicate anyone in the bribe. Like me. That’s why.” He sat back, took a bite of his sandwich. “Now, if everything works out the way I planned, you can try Daughtry for two murders and close out the one in Cambridge once and for all. And you might even get your ex-wife along with him if he runs and she goes with him. Hell, you’ll be all over the front page of the
New York Times
,
Boston Globe
, and every other big newspaper still left in the country. You’ll be a star. Doesn’t get much better than that.”

Robert grunted, thought about Dana. “Hmm, maybe you have a point. This could work out after all. Sure will help when I decide to run for governor.”

“Sure, it will. I guarantee it. Of course, I expect to be well-paid for my work. I’ll send you my new account number. As soon as you deposit the money, I’ll transfer it to another account, so don’t get any ideas.”

Robert wiped his handkerchief around the back of his neck and across his forehead. “Have I ever screwed you? In all the years? You should know me by now.”

Klugh snorted. “Yeah, I know you. The only person you give a shit about is Robert Minette.” He finished his coffee. “I’m curious. This hair across your ass for Daughtry—you never answered. Is it because he’s banging your wife or is it because he wouldn’t build you the fireplace?”

“Fuck you, Harry. And she’s my
ex
-wife.”

Chapter Twenty-One
Clarence Comes Clean

 

R
obert paced the floor of his office, fuming because the sheriff’s deputies couldn’t locate Reece Daughtry to serve the arrest warrant. He wanted to blast them out, but it wasn’t their fault. Daughtry’s lawyer probably had a snitch. That was what he’d do, what he’d always done. Someone in his office had sided with the competition. Goddamn, he’d find out who.

BOOK: Murder Deja Vu
3.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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