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Authors: Janice Kay Johnson

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BOOK: His Partner's Wife
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Hearing their arrival, she glanced up with a pleasant smile
also at odds with the scene. "Detectives. Haven't seen either of you for a
whole day or two."

The last body had been the result of a bar shootout. Neither
victim nor shooter, both tattooed, black-leather-garbed motorcyclists, had been

"Busy days," John said laconically.

"Well." She was already closing her bag.
"Cause of death looks obvious from here, although you never know. We might
be surprised when we get him on the table."


"Something darned heavy. Probably smooth and
rounded." She pursed her lips. "A metal pipe, maybe. There are a few
flakes caught in his hair that might be rust."

"Time of death?"

"I'm guessing morning." She groaned and pressed a
hand to her lower back as she straightened from her crouch over the body.
"Say, ten, eleven o'clock."

Both men had both taken involuntary steps forward when she
began to heave herself to her feet. Now they exchanged a glance.

"That's consistent with what the home owner says."

"Which is?"

Geoff told her about the cat that had napped on the fabric.
"And the old couple down the street, the neighborhood snoops, would have
been grocery shopping about then."

"I wonder," John said thoughtfully, "whether
the Porters go grocery shopping every morning. Or the same morning every

Geoff made a note. "Easy to ask."

Dr. Koltes left after conferring with the uniforms who had
been delegated to bag the body. "I can do the autopsy tonight," she
said, promising. "You'll have my report tomorrow."

Gazing with distaste at the corpse, John said, "Time to
have a look."

He checked back pockets—no wallet. Ditto for the pockets of
the crumpled linen jacket. The jacket interested him. Men in Port Dare leaned
more to denim or heavy flannel, maybe a dark suit if you worked in a bank or
law office. This looked … hell, like

He called for the paramedics, who put a collar on the neck
to protect the bashed skull for Dr. Koltes's benefit, and then rolled the body
onto a gurney. Faceup, a man who could have been mid-thirties to forty tops
stared sightlessly at the ceiling. Longish brown hair, brown eyes, a stubble of
beard—this guy had stumbled out of TV land, John thought again. On a wrist that
had been under the body was an obviously expensive watch, the kind that
probably told you the time in Paris, the altitude and your heart rate.

Sinking back on his heels, John contemplated the face.

"Damn it, Baxter, he looks familiar."

His partner nodded. "I was thinking the same."

"If we know him, he's probably not a realtor or the
manager of the Rite Aid pharmacy."

Geoff gestured toward the watch. "Drugs?"

"Could be."

They stood back and let the photographer get full frontal
pictures as well as close-ups of the face.

"I want those as soon as possible," John said, and
was answered with brisk nods.

"Fingerprints?" he asked.

"The victim's," he was told. "Half a dozen
others. Mrs. Reed's, presumably. We'll need to get hers tomorrow."

Feeling uncomfortable admitting it for reasons he didn't
like to examine, John said, "Mine will be here, too. I used that bathroom
just last week when I was treating the back deck."

To his relief, nobody gave sly or knowing glances. Nobody
made an off-color joke about widows—one that would have been deeply regretted.

It helped when Baxter said, "Hell, mine'll be here,
too. Natalie had Linda and me to dinner Friday night."

He and Baxter took their time studying the den once the body
was carted out. It was a room that could have used Natalie's lighter touch.
John guessed that she stayed out of it.

Stuart had smoked cigars, or at least liked to have one
clenched between his teeth curling noxious smoke into the air. The smell, faded
with time, nonetheless still lingered in here. Walls were papered in a
masculine navy-and-tan-striped paper. Bookshelves held Stuart's favorite
bedtime reading: Ken Follett, John Le Carre and the ilk.

A monster, the desk was one of those huge oak ones that had
probably graced the office of a CEO in the 1920s. The finish was yellowing, the
top covered with a blotter. In its own way, the computer that sat atop it was
as much an antique, a 385, maybe a 485. Forget Pentium. No telephone line to
it, which meant no internet access. No CD drive. In fact, the floppy drives
were for the outmoded bigger disks. The keyboard was covered, the monitor
screen a little dusty.

Using a handkerchief, John carefully opened drawers. The top
one held nothing but paper clips, pencils that needed sharpening, a staple
remover, markers and packing tape. The big drawer was set up with hanging
files, all labeled: 1986 tax return. Ditto '87, '88, and so on through the year
before last. MasterCard statements. Appliance warranties. Household receipts.

On the face of it, nothing of any interest to anyone but the
IRS doing a back audit. And, damn, was Stuart ready. No midnight scrabbling for torn receipts for him. It was almost a shame the IRS had never, to the best
of John's knowledge, chosen to audit Reed.

The closet held boxes and plastic-wrapped clothes on
hangers. A cracked leather aviator jacket, ski pants and parka, a high school
letterman's jacket. Some of the boxes were labeled: check stubs, photo albums,
records. His turntable had probably given up the ghost, but he wouldn't have
given up the records. A faint musty odor lingered in here.

Baxter muttered a profanity. "Did Reed ever throw
anything away?"

"Not so's I can tell." John eased the closet door
shut again. "Nothing unusual in here, though. We all have crap like

"We'd better look in those boxes." He grunted
agreement, however much he disliked the idea. Mining every detail was their
job, but usually what he learned about people's lives was of academic interest.
He made a mental jigsaw puzzle, slotting pieces in until every one fit. This
time was different. Stuart Reed had been not just a fellow cop but John's
partner and friend. Even more, he hated the idea of intruding on Natalie's
privacy. "Tomorrow," he said.

They tried the remaining houses on the street. One was still
dark; at the two places where someone came to the door, shakes of the head were
their answers. They'd been gone all day. Neither knew Natalie or, quite
frankly, would have noticed a truck in her driveway if they had been home.

"I say we go back to the station and look for that
face," John said at last. "Even odds we have his picture in our

"No point in waiting for fingerprint ID," his
partner agreed. "Tomorrow is soon enough to look hard at the house."

Mug shots were arranged into books by theme: drug arrests,
rape, B and E, and so on. That way, if a store owner was held up, say, he
didn't have to gaze at the face of every rapist or marijuana grower who had
ever been arrested. He could concentrate on likely perps. This worked fine
normally. In this case, however, the face could have been familiar for dozens
of reasons.

John's money was on drugs.

The next hour and a half was punctuated only by the slap of
a cover closing, the abrupt departure of one man or the other for another cup
of coffee, and a couple of trips down memory lane.

"Ha!" Baxter crowed once. "Remember our
friend Jerry Canfield? Sending him to the pen in Walla Walla was one of the greater
pleasures of this job."

It was Geoff Baxter who found their victim.
"Bingo," he said softly. "I knew we'd met."

John rotated his shoulders and waited until his partner
shoved the book across the table. From the rows of mug shots, the sullen face
jumped out at him.

"He was better looking alive," Baxter said.

"Who isn't? No, don't answer that."

Ronald Floyd had a lengthy rap sheet, starting with
possession of cocaine when he was seventeen in Tacoma. Thirty-four the day he
died, Floyd had stuck to his chosen career of dealing drugs and slowly risen on
the ladder. The part that always amazed John was how little time a guy like
Floyd ever served despite multiple arrests. The system was overwhelmed; he'd
walked a couple of times because prosecutors had shrugged and decided he wasn't
worth the bother. John knew how the arresting officers had felt; after all,

Memory nudged by the photo, he recalled being involved in
Ronald Floyd's last arrest, which had led to four years in the Monroe State
Penitentiary. Acting on a tip, officers had been waiting when a cabin cruiser
docked at the marina. The hold had been packed with plastic bags full of white
powder. It had been a pretty good haul, by Port Dare standards.

Unfortunately, those standards were rising by the day. Half
the border between Washington State and Canada was water: the Strait of Juan de
Fuca and the Puget Sound. The rocky, wooded Canadian Gulf Islands and American San Juan Islands made the waters a maze of spectacular channels and
inlets. Pods of orcas tried to elude the ubiquitous whale-watching ships.
Sailors and boaters were in paradise, with every island offering hidden coves. Green-and-white Washington State ferries plied the waters between islands and Canada and the USA, while the blue-and-white Canadian ferries carried traffic between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

sailors was a nightmare for Coast Guard and law enforcement. Boaters didn't
respect customs laws or international boundaries. Smuggling was a breeze—literally,
as it filled gaudy sails on blue waters. Officers couldn't search every boat
that docked at one of the marinas or anchored in the bay, even when they knew
damn well some of them were here on business. Luck and tips led to the few big

Ronald Floyd must have made an enemy, because a muffled
voice on the telephone had set him up. Officers had waited in the nighttime
shadows at the marina while the pretty white boat eased slowly in, water
lapping against the pilings. Floyd himself had bounded from the bow to the dock
with the first line. The Port Dare P.D. waited until the boat was tied bow and
stern and the engine snuffed. Two other men joined Floyd, all wearing jeans,
deck shoes and wind-breakers. They'd talked briefly, laughed. Then the spotlight
froze them as a dozen police officers packing guns and a warrant surrounded

"Stuart cuffed Floyd," John said slowly,
remembering. "I got one of the others."

"I didn't make any of the arrests, but I was
there." Baxter ran a hand over his thinning hair. "So Stuart booked
the guy. That's not much of a connection."

"But it's something. I've been asking myself, why
Natalie Reed's house? Why not the one two doors down with the new

Baxter shrugged. "Chance."

"Or maybe not." Suddenly energized, John shoved
back his chair. "What do you say we have a chat with some of our stiff's



atalie came downstairs
in the morning to the sound of a girl's laugh and a man's
deep voice.

She felt like the walking dead. She'd been able to snatch
only bits and pieces of sleep from endless wide-eyed hours. She supposed she'd
dreamed, but it was hard to separate unsettling scenes supplied by her
unconscious mind from the gruesome images that played behind closed eyelids
when she was awake. Last night, sleepless and still in shock, she had wished
that today was a working day so that she would have something to
morning she was intensely grateful that she didn't have to go into the office.
Coaxing bad-tempered advertisers into agreeing that a check written to the
money worth spending was beyond her in her current exhausted state. Maybe she
could take Evan and Maddie down to the spit. If she found a warm, sandy spot,
she could lean against a log and watch them build castles or splash in the

Or fall asleep at last, which wouldn't make her much of a

BOOK: His Partner's Wife
4.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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