Read Absolution Online

Authors: Michael Kerr

Tags: #Crime Fiction, #Thrillers, #Vigilante Justice, #Murder, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime

Absolution

ABSOLUTION

A Joe Logan Thriller

-3-

 

By

Michael Kerr

Copyright © 2014 Michael Kerr

Discover other Titles by Michael Kerr at
MichaelKerr.org

Kindle Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.  If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon and purchase your own copy.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this Author.

Also By Michael Kerr

DI Matt Barnes Series

1 - A Reason To Kill -
Link
2 - Lethal Intent -
Link
3 - A Need To Kill -
Link

The Joe Logan Series

1 - Aftermath -
Link
2 - Atonement -
Link

Other Crime Thrillers

Deadly Reprisal -
Link
Deadly Requital -
Link
Black Rock Bay -
Link
A Hunger Within -
Link
The Snake Pit -
Link

Children’s Fiction

Adventures in Otherworld – Part One – The Chalice of Hope -
Link
Adventures in Otherworld – Part Two – The Fairy Crown -
Link

I
am a loner and drifter by choice.  Being unconnected and on my own for much of the time is my idea of true freedom.  If the need arises I will help out those in jeopardy, because I can.  I regard that as being my biggest weakness.

~ Joe Logan

PROLOGUE

Wayne
drove the van just a couple of miles an hour above the speed limit, out to Sand Point Industrial Park and through the open gates into the storage facility owned by his boss. He made a left into the third aisle and stopped outside the segmented roll-up door of a cinder block-constructed unit with the number twenty-six stenciled on it in foot-high black numerals.

Killing the lights before climbing out of the vehicle, Wayne unlocked the door of the unit, pushed it up halfway and returned to where Gary was dragging Sam from the rear of the van. They carried the unconscious man between them into the cold, dark unit.  Gary hoped that he had not overdone it.  He’d hit Sam hard, three times across the side of the head with the butt of his Glock pistol.

With the door closed, Wayne switched on the overhead fluorescent ‒ that flickered and pinged in its rust-mottled casing for a few seconds before steadying ‒ to cast a solid white light that filled an almost vacant space with dimensions no larger than that of a one-car garage.

Sam came round groaning, taped to a rail back chair.  His head hurt and he was blindfolded.

“I was beginnin’ to think you were in a fuckin’ coma,” Wayne said.

“I can explain,” Sam said, slurring the words.  “There’s no need to get heavy.”

The strip of cloth covering his eyes was untied and removed.  He blinked rapidly until his vision adjusted to the brightness.

“So explain,” Wayne said.”

“I was going to put the money back,” Sam said, and even to his ears the statement sounded like the lie that it was.

“Where is it?” Wayne said.

“I don’t have it.  I had to buy myself out of a deep hole.”

“You dumb shit, Sam,” Gary said, backhanding him hard across the mouth.  “Gambling with Mr. Slater’s dough hasn’t bought you anything but a deeper hole.”

Wayne knelt down and removed one of Sam’s shoes, then the sock, which he stuffed in Sam’s mouth and then wrapped tape around his head to keep it in place.  “We’ll be back soon,” he said.  “Give you time to reflect on what a total dickhead you are.”

There was no rush.  They left Sam in darkness, drove to a diner in town and ordered all-day breakfasts, even though it was after midnight.  Wayne gave his boss a call, brought him up to speed and was told what to do.

They took their time.  The boss wanted Sam to sweat on the predicament he had put himself in.  After a leisurely meal and two pots of coffee, they visited a young Mexican broad who was open all hours’ for business.  Dawn was breaking when Wayne and Gary drove back to the unit.

Wayne removed the gag.  “The money, Sam, where is it?  This is your last chance to be sensible.”

“I’ll get it back,” Sam said.  “Just give me some time, for Christ’s sake.”

Wayne moved to one side, away from the wood crate he’d been standing in front of.  On top of it were two items; a pair of pliers and a pair of short-handled pruning shears.  He picked up the brand new parrot-beak shears and advanced on Sam.  “Sorry, buddy, but time is something you’ve run out of,” he said as he placed the sharp steel jaws either side of Sam’s right index finger and snipped the top of it off, the way you’d clip off the cap of a cigar to ready it for smoking.

Sam bellowed in pain as the ends of all his fingers and both thumbs were severed from his hands.  And that was just the beginning of the horror he would have to face.  He wanted to tell them who had the money, but had left it too long.  And he knew that even if they got it back he was still going to die.

Much later, now driving a 4x4, due to the terrain, Wayne and Gary drove Sam out into the desert.  He was unconscious in the rear and covered by a blanket.

Wayne had taken little pleasure in what he had done.  Sam had always been an okay kind of guy, but Mr. Slater wanted to make a statement, and had given him and Gary specific instructions.  The money was unimportant.  This was about principles: about not biting the hand that fed you.

Sam surfaced from a bad dream into a much worse real life nightmare.  He was naked, lying under the late morning sun with his arms and legs outstretched.  Sweat glistened on his reddening skin as he blinked his eyes to dislodge the flies.  And then the pain blossomed. Turning his head to the left, he could see nothing but saguaro and organ pipe cacti, creosote bushes, bur sage and wild flowers.

Sam Benton had been out cold, but was now wide awake and in agony.  They had pulled out all of his teeth and cut off his nose and lips, as well as the tips of his fingers and thumbs.  His hands and feet were tethered to the burning-hot rails, and he knew that he was going to die: almost welcomed the escape that death would bring to end his suffering.

Twisting his head to the right, he saw the two men who’d tortured and mutilated him.  They were standing eighty or ninety yards away from where he lay, next to a red Dodge Ram 1500 pickup, smoking, talking and laughing.

A vibration passed through Sam’s body, and he screamed in terror at the realization of what it signified.

The train consisted of a diesel locomotive and one hundred freight cars full of copper ore.  It was east of where Sam lay, speeding through the town of Madison Bend and out into the desert.

The two men ground out their cigarette butts in the sand with the soles of their boots and climbed into the pickup.  Another couple of minutes and the train would pass by, and they could then head back to the ranch, having fulfilled their task.

Sam attempted to wrench his wrists and ankles free from the coarse rope that held him spread-eagled, but only succeeded in ripping the skin from his flesh.  Stretching his head up, he looked down the track to see the distant, wavering image of the train forming in the heat haze, and he could now hear the rails singing, and feel the ground tremble.

He thrashed in futile desperation to escape a death that his brain could not compute or accept as something that was actually going to happen.  The noise deafened him to his own final shriek as the gleaming wheels thundered over him on polished rails, amputating his hands and feet effortlessly, like a knife sliding through warm butter.

Blood sizzled, bubbled, soaked into the sand and was dry in seconds. And before half of the cars had sped by, Sam had bled out.

The train was soon gone, swallowed up as it sped through the vast wilderness.  The engineer in the cab was unaware of the incident, having been checking computerized readout displays as the locomotive had approached and run over Sam.

Now at the wheel, Gary Foley drove slowly round in a loop, to get a closer look at the body.

“That’s fuckin’ awesome,” Wayne Miller said as he pulled the tab off a can of Coors that he had taken from a cooler box in the foot well.

Gary grinned as he spun the wheel and headed back towards the highway a half mile away.  “He shouldn’t have stolen the money,” he said.  “The boss doesn’t take kindly to disloyalty.”

CHAPTER ONE

The
tall figure walked leisurely along the side of the highway.  He was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a short-sleeved denim shirt and loose-fitting jeans.  But this was no cowboy without a mount.  He was also wearing Timberland boots, and there was a rucksack on his back that held spare clothes, a couple of liters of water, a throwaway cell phone and twenty-thousand dollars in crisp bills.

The man’s name was Logan, Joe Logan. He had left the Buckhorn Motel south of Gila Bend at nine a.m. that morning, and was heading south on 85 in the direction of Ajo.

It was mid-June, and several months and many miles away from the trouble he had become involved in up in Colorado.  Since then he had traveled like some migratory animal, following the sun, staying at motels the length and breadth of New Mexico before crossing into Arizona, where he had spent several weeks in Red Rock Country, enjoying the splendor of the area around Sedona.  But he could not settle.  Familiarity with people and places did not breed contempt within him; it just became in some way intolerable.  His restless spirit always won out and compelled him to move on.

He stopped, shucked off his rucksack and sat down a few yards back from the side of the blacktop. A half mile distant, a train went by heading west.  He took a plastic bottle out of the rucksack and had two mouthfuls of the tepid water as he looked about him at the rock and cacti strewn landscape.  He acknowledged that this land had probably looked exactly the same for millions of years.  It was a part of America that had, for the most part, not been tamed, cultivated or modified to any great extent, for it was hostile and considered of little worth.

Up ahead, Logan heard engine noise.  A large red pickup bounced out onto the highway at speed, made a left and sped off in a cloud of dust.  He got a glimpse of one of the two occupants; short gray hair, craggy-faced, with a thick walrus mustache.  He waited until the vehicle had vanished around a bend, and then got to his feet.

After walking for another ten minutes he saw buzzards circling to the east.  At first there were two, then four, and then at least a dozen of the winged scavengers.  His cop intuition kicked in.  Twenty years with the NYPD had left an indelible mark.  The pickup he’d seen had appeared from the direction that the carrion eaters were now concentrated in.  His curiosity got the better of him, and he studied the position of the sun in relation to the highway and headed off-road, content that he would be able to return to it without getting lost.

Following intermittent tire tracks that would no doubt soon be erased by desert wind, Logan walked for no more than ten minutes before coming to the railroad track.  And a few seconds later he saw the body up ahead between the rails.  He jogged towards it, scaring up two of the buzzards that had already landed and were cautiously hopping towards the corpse, their wing feathers rustling like old dry leaves.

Taking in the scene without approaching too close, so as not to contaminate it, he speculated as to what had happened, in no doubt that the two guys in the pickup had brought the now deceased man to this spot and tied him to the track to be run over by the train that he had watched pass by.  He saw the severed hands and feet and noted that the ends of the fingers and thumbs were missing, and also looked at the face, which had been mutilated to destroy the features.

Backing off, Logan once more removed his rucksack, unzipped a pocket on it and withdrew his phone.  Tapped in 911 and was answered immediately, to be asked who he was, and for the number he was calling from.

“My name’s Logan, and I’m speaking on a throwaway phone from a desert location midway between Gila Bend and Ajo on highway 85.  I’ve just found a body on the railroad track, and it wasn’t suicide.”

He was put through to a dispatcher, repeated what he had already said, and was then asked to hold.  Within seconds a deep voice, which could have belonged to the actor, Sam Elliott, drawled, “Howdy Mr. Logan. I’m Sheriff Clay Manders over in Madison Bend.  I understand that you’re reporting a fatal accident.”

“No, Sheriff,” Logan said. “I’m reporting a homicide.  You have the DB here of a male victim who’d been tied to the rails, after being mutilated.”

“And exactly where is this dead body?”

“Off 85, a half mile from where the track crosses the road.  Just follow the buzzards in.”

“Wait there for us, Mr. Logan.  We’ll need to ask you a few questions.”

“Make it quick, Sheriff.  It must be a hundred degrees out here, and I’m running low on water.”

Logan ended the call, went over to a large barrel cactus and sat in its shade, with the wide brim of the straw hat pulled down. Decided to pass the time by phoning Kate Donner up in Carson Creek.  Kate was a lawyer that he had become very close to.  The kind of woman that he could almost but not quite put down roots and settle to domesticity with.

“Kate Donner.”

“It’s Logan.”

“Hi, Logan.  This is a nice surprise.”

“You okay?”

“Fine.  The Creek is back to being Sleepy Hollow again.  Where are you?”

“Sitting next to a cactus in the Sonora Desert.”

“Why?”

“Because I came across a body, reported it, and am now waiting for a local sheriff to haul ass out to the scene.”

“You really do seem to find trouble wherever you go, Logan.  Are you implicated?”

“No, Kate.  Like I said, I just found it.”

“Natural causes?”

“Unfortunately not.  Some guy was tied to a railroad track, and wasn’t rescued at the last second like happens in old movies.”

“Don’t get involved, Logan.”

“I’m not going to.  I’ll give a statement and move on.  How’s Bama?”

“He’s with me now, asleep on the floor next to my desk.”

“Doesn’t seeing him scare prospective clients off?”

“Some are a little wary at first, but he behaves.  Hasn’t eaten one yet.”

Logan smiled.  He had been attacked by the dog when it had been owned by Larry Horton, the killer cop in Carson Creek that he had apprehended.  He had almost killed the enormous Argentinean Mastiff/Boerboel cross, which Horton had set on him.  But the dog had survived, and Kate had been happy to give Bama a home.

“Say hello to him from me,” Logan said.  “I’ve got to go, I can hear vehicles approaching.”

“Be careful,” Kate said.

“I always am,” he replied.  “Bye for now.”

Kate put her phone down on the desktop and sighed.  When she had heard Logan’s voice she had hoped that he had been on his way back to the Creek.  But that was wishful thinking.  He was a wanderer by choice, capable of caring deeply for others, but unable to settle to what might be considered normal everyday life and the responsibilities and demands that went with it.  He appeared to have no aspiration, other than to keep on the move like the proverbial rolling stone.

Logan didn’t get up as the Ford Explorer Interceptor and Crown Victoria appeared and parked just a few feet from him, throwing up sand and grit.

There was one occupant in each vehicle.  The guy in the SUV stepped out first and Logan decided that he was the sheriff.  He looked to be in his mid-forties, a shade over six-foot tall, clean-shaven with a gray brush cut.  The uniform that got out of the Crown Vic was in his twenties, with overlong black hair, a deeply-tanned broad face, and dark patches of sweat at the armpits of his tan uniform shirt.

“Mr. Logan?” Sheriff Clay Manders drawled.

Logan said nothing, just nodded, pushed his hat back and used a thumb jerk to indicate where the body was.

“You mind standing up?” Clay said, reaching back into the Explorer to withdraw a bottle of water from a holder on the console, which he tossed to Logan, who picked it out of the air, unscrewed the cap and drank over half of the contents.

Slowly rising to his feet, Logan wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said, “Thanks Sheriff that hit the spot.  It’s hotter than hell out here.”

Clay formally introduced himself and his deputy, Lance Deerbolt.  “So what’s the story?” he said as the three of them headed over to the body, which was now covered in flies.

“I saw a freight train go by up ahead of me.  And then a few minutes later a red pickup pulled out of the desert on to the highway and took off in the direction of Ajo.  It looked like a big Dodge, but I was too far away to get the plate number. I got a glimpse of the passenger; a gray-haired guy with a thick mustache.  I thought nothing of it till I saw the buzzards start to wheel overhead.  I was curious, so walked in here and found what’s in front of you.”

Lance swallowed hard and screwed his face up at the sight of the remains.  It was messy.  Clay took in the scene without changing his deadpan expression.

“Get on the radio, Lance,” Clay said.  “We need a CSI team and a coroner out here ASAP, before this cadaver gets much more sun on it.  And make sure no other trains use this line until I personally give the all clear.”

Lance trotted back to his unit.

“So who exactly are you, Mr. Logan?” Clay said as they strolled back towards the Ford Explorer.

“It’s just Logan, and I’m a tourist, passing through.”

“Where’s your vehicle…Logan?”

“I don’t have one.”

“So you’re a hitcher?”

“Meaning?”

“I’m a cop, and I have a major crime scene and a guy that appears from nowhere and―”

“And reports it, Sheriff.  And now I’m getting braced for calling it in.”

“That’s a police term.”

“Maybe because I was a cop for twenty years.”

“Where?”

“New York City.  Now I’m a civilian, and choose to go where I want, when I want to.”

“You got ID?”

Logan went down on his left knee, unlaced his right boot, pulled it off and took a driver’s license from it.  Handed it to Clay.

Clay frowned.  Studied the license and handed it back.

“What do you make of it, Logan?”

“That’s your unenviable task, Sheriff.  I found it and reported it.  I’m done.”

“What rank were you?”

“I made Detective first-grade.  These days I’m a drifter by choice, not a vagrant.  I have a pension and walking money.”

“I’d appreciate your take on what we have here?”

“What you have is the body of a young Caucasian male.  He was tied to the tracks and almost certainly bled out when the train took his hands and feet off.  He’d also had his fingertips removed and his face mutilated beforehand, to make identification difficult or impossible.  He obviously pissed someone off, big-time.”

Clay nodded.  “I’ll need for you to come into town and give an official statement.”

“I reckoned you would.”

Another cruiser arrived.  It was Deputy Sheriff Curtis Baker.

“Hi, boss” Curtis said to Clay as he got out of the unit and walked over to the Ford Explorer.  “What’ve we got?”

“Go take a look,” Clay said, inclining his head to the scene.

“Lordy, Lordy,” Curtis mumbled as he neared the body.

Lance rejoined Clay and Logan.  “There’s a forensics team and a Medical Examiner on their way from Tucson, boss,” he said.  “And the trains are on hold.”

“You stay at the scene with Curtis, while I give Mr. Logan here a ride into town,” Clay said.  “And don’t go wasting rounds shooting buzzards or any other varmints, Lance.  I know you get bored quick.”

Other books

Yesterday's Bride by Susan Tracy
Walk (Gentry Boys) by Cora Brent
Forbidden Highlander by Donna Grant
Fun With a Fireman by Daniella Divine
Wild About You by Sparks, Kerrelyn
Dianthe Rising by J.B. Miller