Authors: John C. Dalglish
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Religion & Spirituality, #Christian Fiction
“A new reporter told me about it
and I decided to check it out. I went out there, but the guy was less than pleased to see me.”
“He wouldn’t talk to you?”
“Actually, he fired a shotgun at me.”
“What?” Jason looked around the reporter at his car. “Obviously, he missed.”
“Well, not ‘at me,’ but over me. Naturally, I beat a path out of there.”
“I bet. This is near Hondo
. Did you report it?”
I came directly here.”
“Okay, I’ll check it out and let you know what I find, fair enough?”
Jason turned to walk back to the station
, but stopped and looked at the reporter.
“You okay, Devin?”
“I’ll be alright. I might take the rest of the night off, though.”
They shared a laugh
, and Jason continued toward the station. Brad Winston was not a name he’d heard before, but right now, any lead was welcome.
The next morning
, when Jason got to his desk, he noticed the door to Lieutenant Patton’s office was closed again. This time, when it opened, Captain Jesse Garza came out.
Garza was once John Patton’s
lieutenant and Jason knew they were still close. The look on the captain’s face told Jason this visit was not to catch up on old times.
As the captain
passed by his desk, Jason nodded.
“Good morning, Detective Strong.”
That was about as much as the captain ever said.
didn’t know him well and rarely saw him. Usually, Lieutenant Patton would go to the captain’s office when they needed to talk.
Jason saw the lieutenan
t motioning him toward his office, so he got up and went in.
“Good morning, Jason. Sit down for a minute. Where’s Layne?”
Jason shut the door and took a seat.
“Haven’t seen her yet.”
“What have we got on the arrow killings?”
“Not a lot. We’re still trying to make the connection between the two victims.”
“You think it could be random?”
“Sure, could be. It doesn’t feel that way to me, though.”
Patton leaned back in his chair.
“That’s why the captain was here. People are starting to get scared, thinking
could be next. We need to know if the shootings are connected or not. If they’re random, the captain wants to warn the public.”
The door to the office opened and Vanessa came in.
“Sorry I’m late, Lieutenant.”
John Patton waved his hand as if to brush away her apology. He continued.
“How can we answer the question of whether the killings are random or not?”
Jason took out the note Devin James had given him the day before.
“I was given a lead on a possible arrow killing near Hondo. Problem is the victim.”
“What do you mean?”
“The victim’s a horse.”
The lieutenant’s eyebrows went up.
“That’s right, but it
an arrow, and that kind of shooting is rare enough that I thought we should check it out. It happened about ten days ago.”
“Where did you get the info?”
The lieutenant groaned.
“Great. Who owned the horse?”
Jason glanced again at the note.
John Patton sat up in his chair, something gnawing at his memory.
“That name is familiar… Winston?”
“Yes, Brad Winston.”
The lieutenant snapped his fingers.
He served as an officer with SAPD. It was probably seven or eight years ago, at least.”
Jason was up and out the door in an instant. If the dead horse belonged to a former SAPD officer, they may have found their connection.
He sat down at his computer, opened a department search, and typed in the name Brad Winston.
no time, the search turned up the name along with the time spent at SAPD. He’d left the department eight years ago, just like the lieutenant thought. The address in the file was in East San Antonio though, not Hondo.
printed the info, picked up the sheet of paper, and went back into the lieutenant’s office.
You were right. He left SAPD eight years ago. I can’t get into his personnel file, but I have an address. It’s here in the city, but it’s probably old.”
Vanessa took the sheet Jason handed her and looked it over
The lieutenant sat forward.
“Let’s follow the Hondo lead and worry about this address later. If this is the same guy, going to the old address is a waste of time.”
had something else to tell the lieutenant.
There’s more. James said the guy wouldn’t talk to him, and even pulled a shotgun on him, firing a warning shot when he didn’t leave fast enough.”
Patton got to his feet. “I think I’ll go with you. If it is the former officer, maybe he’ll remember me and talk to us. Is Dan Carpenter still with Hondo PD?”
“I think so.”
“Okay. Vanessa, you try to get hold of him, maybe go out to the station and see what he’s got on the shooting. Jason and I will go talk to our Mr. Winston.”
en minutes later, Jason and Patton were in the lieutenant’s car, driving west on Highway 90 toward Hondo.
Vanessa followed behind for the thirty-five minutes or so it took to get to the city limits of Hondo. She exited on Y Avenue
as Jason and the lieutenant continued west.
’s police station was located downtown, across from the Medina County Courthouse, a three-story, sand-colored building that had aged surprisingly well in the Texas heat.
The police station
was a much newer structure, also sand colored, but with a more modern feel.
Vanessa parked on 16
Street and darted through the traffic to reach the front doors. She’d talked with Detective Dan Carpenter before leaving, and he’d invited her to come out and see what they had in the way of evidence on the horse killing.
Coming in out of the heat, she removed her sunglasses and stopped at the front desk.
“Detective Carpenter, please.”
The mid-fifties female desk sergeant gave Vanessa a warm smile.
“Can I tell him who’s here?”
“Detective Vanessa Layne, SAPD.”
The desk sergeant dialed the number and spoke briefly with Carpenter. She hung up the phone, and before she could say ‘he’ll be right out,’ the door opened.
“Vanessa, come on in.”
Dan Carpenter was slender and tall, better than six-four, with black hair, and the easy smile of a detective in a small town. He was clearly happy to see an old friend.
Layne, how are you? Still partnered with Strong?”
. Yeah, I’m still keeping JD from hurting himself.”
“You’re looking fit
. This small-town detective gig must agree with you,” Vanessa said.
eah, this ‘small-town gig,’ as you put it, is pretty nice.”
He led her down a short hallway
, and turned right into a glass-enclosed conference room. Vanessa pulled out a chair and sat down at the long wooden table. Dan laid the file he was carrying on the table.
“You want something to drink?”
“That would be great. Diet Dr. Pepper?”
“Be right back. Go ahead and look at the file while I’m gone.”
He left, closing the door behind him, and Vanessa slid the file over in front of her.
When she opened it, she was met wi
th a photo of a large, chestnut-colored horse lying on its side. Blood ran from a wound just behind the shoulder, an arrow protruding from the nasty gash. Two more pictures showed the same details from different angles.
Vanessa had seen hundreds of pictures of dead people, every one of them shocking in their own way, but a majestic a
nimal like this was disturbing in a different, unsettling way.
She pulled the typewritten report out and scanned it. The owner, Brad Winston, had reported the shooting after finding the horse in his pasture.
The animal didn’t come to his call and, when Winston went looking for him, this was what he found.
t was dated five days before Vicky was shot in San Antonio. If the cases were connected, this could be the first shooting.
The door opened and Dan came back in with two cans
of soda. Vanessa gratefully accepted hers, drinking nearly half almost immediately. Thirst was part of summer in West Texas, a constant reminder of the battle to keep from getting dehydrated. Dan sat down across from her.
“Find what you’re looking for?”
Vanessa shook her head.
“The facts are similar
, but what I really need is the arrow. You guys have it?”
“Sure. There’s a photo of it in the file, too.”
He reached over, flipped down several pages, finally pulling out an eight-by-ten picture of the arrow. It was lying on a table, and had a broadhead on it much like the others. Vanessa stared hard at the photo but couldn’t make out any writing on the shaft.
“I need to see the arrow itself.”
“Okay. Mind if I ask what you’re looking for?”
“In both shootings we found writing on the arrow
, and in each case, it was a name that would fluoresce under UV light.”
“No kidding? Was it the victim’s name?”
“Actually, no. The name on each arrow was of someone close to the victim. Both names were also tied to SAPD.”
Dan Carpenter stood and gathered up the file.
“Well, let’s go down to evidence and see what we can find.”
Vanessa followed the Hondo detective out of the conference room and down the hall. They went through another set of doors, turned
left, and entered a stairwell. Going down one flight, through another door, Vanessa found herself standing with Dan in front of the evidence room.
asked the young officer behind the window to let them in and the door buzzed. Once inside, Dan told the officer what they were after and, a few minutes later, he handed them a narrow box containing the arrow.
They put the box on an inspection table behind them. Dan slid the arrow out onto the table.
Vanessa saw immediately it was an Easton arrow. She figured the mangled broadhead would match the others as well, but she needed to confirm writing on the arrow to be certain it was the same shooter.
in her pocket for a small UV flashlight to examine the arrow.
“None, and no other DNA beside the animal’s was found.”
“Not surprised. We haven’t found any on the arrows in our cases
the light down the length of the arrow, and the beam revealed script like the others.
“There it is. Officer Brad Winston
,” Vanessa announced.
“That name ever pop up on your radar before?”
“No, never met him before this shooting.”
Vanessa opened her phone and called Jason. He picked up on the third ring.
“JD, this Vanessa.”
“Hey. What have you got?”
“Arrow is a match and has a name on it.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll tell the lieutenant.”
Vanessa snapped her phone closed.
“Can I get copies of the file and photos?”
Jason looked at the lieutenant
as he pocketed his phone.
name and everything.
They had continued west on Highway 90 past Hondo, swinging south around the Hondo Municipal Airport
, until they reached County Road 424..
arrived in front of two large NO TRESPASSING signs at Winston’s address.
Jason shrugged. “Guess he’s serious about being left alone.”
“I think the shotgun he fired at the reporter was a good indicator of his idea of hospitality.”
They turned down the long lane, crossing the cattle gate
, and approaching slowly. They didn’t want their arrival to surprise Winston, even though Jason doubted anyone could get down this driveway without being noticed.
If the shooter managed to get onto the property, shoot the horse, and escape without being seen, he was probably on foot.”
As they approache
d the house, Jason was struck by the state of disrepair. The place appeared to have once been an impressive farmhouse.
They stopped in front of the porch and Patton turned off the car. After several minutes, no one had come out
, and the lieutenant stepped out into the late morning sun. Jason was about to get out when he heard a voice.
“Who are you?”
Both Jason and Patton swiveled toward the barn on their left. Jason couldn’t immediately see where the voice had come from, but a moment later, a figure stepped out from the shadow of the barn door.
didn’t appear to be armed, but Jason still loosened the strap on his gun as he got out of the car. The lieutenant took the lead, his hand against his forehead, shading his eyes.
“Are you Brad Winston?”
There was a hesitation before the answer.
“Maybe. You still haven’t answered
The lieutenant flashed his badge.
“Lieutenant John Patton, and this is Detective Strong; we’re from SAPD. We’re looking for Brad Winston.”
The man’s posture relaxed noticeably.
“Been a long time, John. Come in out of the sun.”
Jason re-strapped his gun and followed the lieutenant into the relative cool of the barn.
The men shook hands, and Brad took a seat on an overturned water trough. The barn was a stark contrast to the house. Inside, it was clean and organized, especially for a barn.
Leather saddles, reins, bits
, and various ropes hung in perfect order along one wall. The far end of the barn had another large door that was open onto the pasture beyond. The wall running opposite the hanging tack had a series of square stalls with sliding doors. Jason noticed all the stall doors were open.
Brad Winston looked like a man who had been busy with chores
, but there didn’t appear to be any animals to tend.
“What brings you way out here, John?”
“We heard about a horse being shot with an arrow on your farm; we needed to ask you about it.”
Jason watched as the man’s face dropped, his eyes becoming instantly moist.
“Southern Dancer. That was his name. I mortgaged the farm to buy him as a colt.
Ultimately, I had to sell the other horses when money got tight. He was my ticket to a bright future. Now, I don’t know…”
“What made him so special?”
The man raised his eyes
, shining with pride.
“He was born
from a mare with a Kentucky Derby winner in her bloodline. As a stud, he would’ve brought high fees for breeding, but what made him special was the connection we had. It’s probably hard to understand, but that horse was my best friend.”
immediately thought of Penny. He could tell the big, white dog had already connected with them on an emotional level that was hard to explain.
’s voice reflected the compassion he felt for Brad Winston as he spoke.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
Jason took out his notebook as the man took a deep breath and began to describe a day he’d probably relived a thousand times. One he wished he could forget.
“It was a Wednesday morning like any other. I came out to the barn around
seven-thirty and called him. Normally, he would hear the front door of the house and already be standing over at the end of the barn, or he would appear just minutes later. He could run like the wind and, even if he was at the far end of the property, he would show up quickly.”
He paused to gather himself before continuing.
“Anyway, when he didn’t show, I got worried and walked toward the pasture. At first, I didn’t see him, but eventually I caught something lying by the east fence. I called several more times, but he didn’t move. I ran to him…he was already dead when I got there.”
Brad Winston wiped a dirty shirtsleeve across his eyes.
“Why are you interested in what happened to Dancer?”
Jason stepped in for his lieutenant, who
appeared to need a minute to gather himself. The loss of the thoroughbred seemed to bother Patton a lot, and Jason made a mental note to ask him about it later.
“We’re investigating two shootings in San Antonio
, both with an arrow. My partner visited Hondo PD and verified the arrow used to kill Dancer matches the arrows in our investigation. We’re trying to find the connection between the victims.”
“What could Dancer have to do with the people in your cases?”
“Actually, we’re working on a theory the people close to the victims, rather than the victims themselves, is what connects the killings.”
“You mean Dancer was killed because of me?”
The idea horrified him. The lieutenant put his hand on Brad’s shoulder.
“It’s just a theory
, and you’re in no way responsible for Dancer’s death. Do you understand that?”
Brad nodded his head but
didn’t appear comforted.
“Do you h
ave any leads on who this animal is?”
We’re working hard on it, and I’ll keep you informed myself, okay?”
Brad nodded again.
Jason wanted to see the spot where Southern Dancer had been shot.
“Is it okay
if we walk out to where you found Dancer?”
, but I haven’t been out there since that day. You guys mind going without me?”
didn’t wait for an answer, but got up and slowly walked to the far end of the barn. He swung open the big door, and pointed them across the field.