Authors: John C. Dalglish
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Religion & Spirituality, #Christian Fiction
John Patton sat behind his desk. The memory of the Circle K case nearly took his breath away. He’d locked it away long ago, but now it came rushing back. It had been such a difficult time in his career, as well as in his marriage to Lindsey, and he’d almost quit the force.
wasn’t responsible for any of the deaths, but he and Peters had to flesh out all the facts, and ultimately put the blame where it belonged.
Neither officer deemed responsible for the two civilian deaths was found to have done anything wrong
. Nor were they reprimanded.
It was the news reports that had done the most damage. They painted the scene like a wild
-west shootout: guns fired erratically, officers panicking. It’d taken weeks to calm the outrage in the city and get the real story out.
The lieutenant rubbed his hands across his face. Just the thought of it all made him tired. He chastised himself for not thinking of the case sooner
. It fit the timeline and the officers involved, but he’d likely not allowed himself to go there.
A knock came at the door and Jason’s head peered in.
“Got a minute, Lieutenant?”
He sat back in his chair and gestured for the detectives to come in.
“What have you got?”
Jason and Vanessa both took seats in front of the lieutenant’
s desk. Jason gave the list of names to his boss.
“We feel pretty certain our shooter is connected to the Circle K case. The other files don’t have the same type of circumstances. The list in your hand is the names of all the SAPD employees involved in the case.”
studied the list before looking up at his detectives.
“You think this is a
“So far, it fits.”
“Okay, let’s say for a minute you’re right; where did the shooter get all the names? They’re not going to have access to the police report, unless they’re in law enforcement.”
Vanessa shook her head.
“We’re not saying the shooter is a cop. The names targeted up to this point are ones that easily could have been found in news reports.”
didn’t want to hear any suggestion a member of the department could be responsible.
“I don’t want any
notion of an SAPD connection to leave this room. Am I clear?”
The lieutenant watched as both detectives nodded.
“Okay, what next?”
“We want to warn the people
on the list, including you, that they could be a target.”
John looked at the list again. The captain’s name was on the list
, and that posed a different set of problems. Jesse Garza would want to protect his back in more ways than one.
“I’ll take it to the captain, he’s gonna have to make the call on this. In the meantime, you two begin doing background on the civilian names you found in the file.”
Vanessa led the way out.
“Shut the door, Jason.”
“Yes, sir. And John, be careful.”
The lieutenant let a smile come to his face.
“I will. Don’t forget, I won’t even be in town this weekend.”
With the door shut, he picked up the phone.
“Captain Garza, please.”
He waited for the captain to pick up.
“This is Garza.”
“Jesse, I need to see you.”
He knew the captain would recognize the significance of his lieutenant calling him by his first name.
“Be right there.”
John Patton hung up
, grabbed the list Jason had given him, and headed to the captain’s office. Normally, he didn’t want anyone making decisions about his detectives, but this time, he was glad someone else had to make the call.
If the list got into the wrong hands, it would create a circus worse than the original case
Jason and Vanessa were back in the conference room when the lieutenant went by. Vanessa raised her eyebrows at Jason.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the lieutenant as tense as he seems today.”
Jason nodded, watching his boss get on the elevator.
“I know what you mean.
He’s really shaken.”
They returned to the file and the work at hand. Jason made a new list of names, this one belonging to the victims at the scene. He read it aloud as he made it.
“First victim: Tiffany Barker, age thirty-six, married, mother of one. Second victim: Jim Dolan, age twenty-two, college student, engaged. Number three: Levi Anderson, age seventy-one, retired, a widower. Victim four was: Sarah Webster, age twenty-nine, married, mother of two.”
Vanessa picked up from there.
“If we exclude the widower for now, we’re left with three gunshot victims. Tiffany Barker, killed by a bullet from Dan Connor’s gun, Sarah Webster, killed by a bullet from by Brad Winston’s gun, and Jim Dolan, shot by the robber. Where do we start?”
“We need to find
the closest person to each victim: Mr. Barker, Mr. Webster, and if we can, Jim Dolan’s fiancé.”
Vanessa made a note of both the Barker and Webster information from the file
, and headed for her desk.
“I’m going to run name and last known address through the Texas License Bureau database
. Maybe I can get a current address for either spouse.”
I’ll try to track down Jim Dolan’s fiancé.”
Lieutenant Patton got off the elevator and walked up to the two detectives.
“The captain said to call the names on the list, but to make them aware it’s only a precaution. Tell them to keep a lid on it, and we’ll be in touch with them as more information comes available. Make them understand we don’t want a panic.”
at his boss and turned to Vanessa.
“I’ll place the calls; you go ahead with the license search.”
The lieutenant went into his office and closed the door.
Late that night, under the cover of darkness, a solitary figure slipped into position. The Hunter had come to finish the preparation for a kill. Each time, the location was visited the day before the shot. The Hunter needed to make sure nothing from previous scouting missions had changed and that the plan didn’t need to be adjusted.
Everything looked as expected,
and when The Hunter returned the next night, it would be for the kill.
Just thinking of the
moment of release, arrow flying to impact, was enough to bring a smile to The Hunter’s face.
Time to go; tomorrow night is kill night.
The next morning, Vanessa was waiting for Jason when he got to the station.
“I’ve got addresses for both the Webster and Barker families. Did you have any luck finding the fiancé?”
Jason shook his head. “Not yet.”
“Okay, I’ll let the lieutenant know where we’re going. The Webster place is just a few blocks from here
, so I figured we’d go there first.”
“Works for me
, meet you downstairs.”
Fifteen minutes later, they arrived at the address in South San Antonio. A small adobe home , the color of red clay, with a short patio wall around the front. They walked up the driveway and through a small gate to the front door.
The sun was beginning it
s daily ritual of cooking West Texas in July, and the hint of shade by the door was a nice relief.
On the way over, Vanessa had briefed Jason on what
Jeffrey Webster had not remarried
, and lived with his two kids. One was a senior and the other a freshman in high school. The City of San Antonio had settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family after his wife, Sarah was killed by a bullet from Winston’s gun.
Jason rang the doorbell. It was only a minute
before the door opened, Vanessa had told Mr. Webster they would be coming by.
“Mr. Webster, my name is Detective Layne; I talked to you last night.”
. Of course.”
“This is my partner
, Detective Strong. May we come in?”
He swung the door wide, and led the way into a small living room. Grabbing the remote, he shut the TV off.
“Please sit down
. Would you like something to drink?”
Both detectives declined. Jason stayed standing
, leaning against the wall by the door. He took his notebook out as Vanessa sat on the couch across Jeffrey Webster, who had chosen a large, brown recliner.
“You mentioned last night you wanted to speak to me about Sarah.
It’s been ten years. Are they investigating it further?”
“No, Mr. Webster
“Jeffrey. We’re investigating a different case, but it may be tied to the events of the day your wife died.”
Oh, okay. How can I help?”
Jason could already sense this mild-mannered man was not their killer. It was only a gut feeling
, but he was usually right about these things, and he didn’t sense a mean bone in this man’s body.
The house was tastefully decorated
, and one wall was dedicated to family pictures. Smaller pictures of two boys surrounded a large portrait of a woman. Jason pointed at it.
“Is that portrait of your wife?”
Jeffrey Webster looked up at it, and answered without looking back at the detectives.
“Yes, that’s my Sarah.
It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. Did you know that was the first time she ever stopped at that Circle K.”
Jason shook his head as the man’s focus returned to the detectives.
“She always went to the one down the street from our home, but she had gone to a yard sale and stopped to use the bathroom. I guess some things are meant to be.”
“She’s very beautiful
,” Jason said.
It’s nice of you to say so.”
Vanessa focused on the man in front of her.
“You have two boys?”
“Yes, Luke and Mitch. Luke’s the oldest, a senior this year.”
“Are you employed?”
“I’m a writer. As you
probably know, the boys and I received a settlement from the city, and the money allowed me to be here for them as they grew up. Writing had been just a hobby of mine, but after Sarah died, I found solace in putting my feelings down on paper.”
“Have anything published?”
“Mostly articles, but I did eventually sell a novel. I’m working on the second one now.”
Vanessa blurted out her next question.
“Can you tell us where you were last Sunday morning?”
clearly caught Jeffrey Webster off guard.
Vanessa tried to soften her approach.
“As I said, we’re inv
estigating another case. It’s just background.”
“I was in church. Trinity Christian on the eastside.”
Jason made a note as Vanessa continued.
“I left Monday morning to go to Dallas. I was doing research for the novel I told you about, and got back last night.”
“Can you provide evidence to support that?”
“Yes, but I don’t think I like the implication of that request. What exactly is this about?”
“Mr. Webster, we’re investigating a series of homicides, and we’re just trying to rule out some people, you included, who may be tied to the case.”
“What murders are you referring to?”
“You may have seen the stories in the newspaper; the arrow killings?”
“You think I’m th
at crazy hunter!”
Mr. Webster got up.
“I would like you to leave now. I’ll provide any proof you need, but I will not be questioned like this. Give me your card, and I’ll send you the itinerary for my trip.”
Vanessa got up and moved to the door. Jason closed his pad and pulled out a card, giving it to Jeffrey Webster. The man shut the door behind them without saying another word.
Out at the car, Vanessa gave Jason a wry smile.
“That ended quickly.”
“Sure did, but didn’t you get the feeling it was more because he was insulted than because he was guilty?”
Vanessa thought about it as
Jason started the car.
“I guess so
, but we still need to check his alibi.”
“Of course. Let’s get some lunch before we go see Mr. Barker.”
“Sounds like a winner to me.”
After ordering pulled pork sandwiches and onion rings, Vanessa and
Jason found a booth. Jason could tell something was on Vanessa’s mind.
, Layne, out with it.”
, knowing Jason was on to her.
“I haven’t had a chance to ask you how you’re doing with the whole ‘being a dad’ thing
. You excited?”
“I dumped Sandy’s salad on the floor hugging her when she told me, so yes I’m excited.
is another word that comes to mind.”
“Oh come on, Jason.
You’re gonna be a great dad. I’m sure Sandy is excited.”
“Oh yes, not spill
-your-salad excited, but excited none the less.”
Vanessa laughed picturing Jason and the flying salad.
Jason finished his last onion ring.
“Did I ever tell you I delivered a baby as a rookie officer?”
“What? You didn’t.”
“Well, aren’t you the hero!”
“I don’t know ab
out that. If being able to catch a baby makes you a hero, then I guess, but I really didn’t do much.”
“I think you’re being too humble.”
Jason let a smile cross his lips.
“You know, we see a lot of bad stuff in our line of work, but seeing the miracle of birth
, reminded me God designed us for better things.”
“You’re right, and for the record, that miracle hurts!”
“I believe it. I told Sandy if men had the babies, there would be nothing but only children. We’re too wimpy to go through birth a second time!”
It was Vanessa’s turn to laugh.
“That’s the truth!”
After lunch, the two detectives made the twenty
-minute drive to East San Antonio. They parked in front of a split-level, ranch home.
is middle class, with white fences and green lawns, and the home of Mr. Sam Barker was no exception. A well-kept yard led up to a white house with blue trim.
Jason noticed a van with a handicap plate parked in the garage. When they got to the front door, their knock was answered from inside.
The two detectives exchanged a look before Jason pushed the door open.
A short hallway led to a doorway on the right. They found Sam Barker in his living room, sitting in a wheelchair. Jason tried to hide his surprise, and was about to rule out Sam Barker as a suspect, when he caught site of the items hanging on the far wall.
The room design was classic hunting lodge, with dark wood paneling and a trophy wall at one end. Two mounts adorned the front wall on either side of the bay window.
One appeared to be a deer, and the other a wild boar.
Jason took a quick look at his partner; she was trying to ignore the animal heads, and had focused on Mr. Barker.
“Mr. Barker, my name is Detective Layne; we spoke on the phone yesterday.”
Sam Barker turned off the TV.
“This is my partner, Detective Strong.”
“Okay, so why has SAPD darkened my door today?”
Sam Barker obviously
didn’t like cops, and had no problem showing it. Jason watched as Vanessa struggled to remain calm.
“We’re investigating the arrow killings, perhaps you’ve heard of them?”
“Of course, I’ve heard of them. I watch the news, you know. What have they got to do with me?”
Jason had moved down by the trophy wall, having spotted several pictures of Mr. Barker with a hunting bow. Some of the wall hangings were certificates for excellent target shooting scores. Jason answered the man’s question with one of his own.
“You’re quite a shot with a bow, I guess?”
, and looked over his shoulder, in Jason’s direction.
“So that’s what this is about.
I used to be a crack shot, and you think I might be the Hunter. I bet this chair was a surprise.”
“I assume you can no longer shoot, so that does answer some of our questions.”
“Actually, I can still pull a bow. I’m paralyzed from the waist down, and I have to use a special bow, but I’m nowhere near as accurate as I used to be. Sorry to disappoint you.”
“You haven’t disappointed me Mr. Barker; I’m after a killer, not a scapegoat. Can I ask how you became paralyzed?”
“I don’t like to talk about it; let’s just say it was my own fault.”
“Do you live alone?”
“No. My daughter lives with me.”
“Is she around?”
“You leave her out of this. And besides, why are talking just to me? Have you questioned the rest of the shooters out at Canyon Lake?”
Jason came around the front of Barker.
“Yeah, Canyon Lake Archery Club.
That’s where most of those awards are from. I assumed that’s why you’re here.”
“Actually, I’m not familiar with it.”
Sam Barker snorted.
cops! Some of the best shooters in the country come from Canyon Lake.”
Vanessa had her pad out.
“Can you give me the address?”
“Look it up yourself.”
Jason decided they were done.