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Authors: Jason Deas

Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - P.I. - Florida

Jason Deas - Benny James 02 - Pushed

BOOK: Jason Deas - Benny James 02 - Pushed
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Jason Deas - Benny James 02 - Pushed
Benny James [2]
Jason Deas
3 Day Ranch Press (2012)
Tags:
Mystery: Thriller - P.I. - Florida
Benny James, former FBI agent turned private eye, is whisked into action by TV evangelist, Reverend Jim, who heads a mega church in Mississippi and has a major problem. Reverend Jim’s son, Brother Jim, has taken his battle against sin to the extreme. Attractive young women are being “baptized” by being pushed from bridges.
Benny jets to West Palm Beach, Florida, the epicenter of the murders, to join his girlfriend and media powerhouse. As she chases the story, an adversary from her past vies for Benny’s affection. An FBI agent and hot young gun, becomes infatuated with Benny and creates more waves in an already turbulent atmosphere.
The bizarre murders continue as the fatal baptismal rituals increase in frequency. Only one woman survives, but she disappears before she can identify her would-be killer.
Benny crisscrosses Florida in search of answers, making connections, in an attempt to catch the killer before more young lives are washed away.

Prologue

 

 Jim shuffled his hands together, ready to baptize. Jim imagined a soft and woolly lamb. He ran one hand over her softness, and his crotch tingled. Jim stood at the center of the bridge. His stomach lurched as he peered below.

The bridge, metal through and through, perched above the gorge. Slats of metal, the backbones of the bridge, ran the length of the ravine. Water gushed below to the sea.

Jim spoke into Erin’s ear. “This is it, my little lamb.” He was giddy; Jim was doing God’s work—or so he thought. “Peace be with you.” 

Jim pushed Erin backwards off the bridge.

The water, like concrete, smashed her brain.

 

 Chapter 1

 

Benny reeled in a bass, studied it, and gave the fish back to the lake. The fish skipped once and disappeared. Benny smelled his hand. He wasn’t sure if he liked or detested the smell.

“Why you not eat fish, Bendy?” asked Red.

Benny’s buddy Red was a doll. Special Ed to the max. Red basically solved Benny’s last case. Red’s body was mid-twenties, his speech equated to a five or six year old on a good day, and his mind was somewhere in between. Benny thought Red was perfect.

“It was a good fish, Red. I don’t like skinning them though. I’d rather get one just like it all dressed up at the grocery store.”

“You rich man, throw away good fish.”

“Yeah, Red. If only I was loaded like you.”

Benny had collected five hundred thousand dollars for Red a few months earlier. Red lived like he had five of them.

Benny’s boat,
Birdsongs
, passed under a bridge as they headed home. Red stared up at the structure and marveled. Benny, like a father, smiled with Red’s amusement.

As they neared the dock, Benny spied detective Vernon Kearns waiting for their return.

Vernon was the town of Tilley’s only detective. The town of Tilley had three roaming officers handling everything from traffic misdemeanors to burglary.  Vernon handled anything exceeding the aforementioned offences.  Vernon waiting at the end of the dock was not a good sign. 

“Vernon look like he poop he pants.”

“Red!” Benny admonished.

“Sorry, Bendy. I worried for you.”

Benny tied the boat and Vernon stirred.

“There’s a guy at the station looking for you,” Vernon said, once Benny had the boat tied.

“Who?”

“He said he was Brother Jim’s daddy.”

“Are you serious?” Benny asked. “Reverend Jim?”

“Yeah. That name means something to you?”

“He’s been in the news.” 

“You’ve been watching Rachael’s show,” Vernon accused.

“So what?” The tone embedded in the two words told Vernon to shut the hell up. The Rachael he spoke of was Rachael Martin, a cable television news goddess. She spent some time in Tilley during a murder investigation. During that time, she and Benny had a love affair.

“She’s covering the story, and I think Brother Jim’s daddy wants to hire you to find him.”

“Aren’t cops everywhere looking for him?”

“His daddy is confident they won’t find him,” Vernon answered. “God told him you would.”

“OK.” Benny chuckled at the absurdity of the situation.

“You have to getting to work, Bendy,” Red said. “You need find that man before more girls dead.”

“Are you going to be OK?” Benny asked Red, “if I go out of town?”

“Yes, Bendy.” The boat was tied and Red’s eyes found Benny’s. “You need find that man’s little boy.”

“OK, Red. OK.”

 

 

The Tilley Police station was not like the ones on television. Maybe the television of decades past, but maybe even worse.  The station might be compared to the one from the Dukes of Hazzard and about twice the size of the one on the Andy Griffith show. The interrogation room could almost double as a walk-in closet. It contained an ordinary kitchen table and three folding chairs. The third chair was present in case the force had to play good cop, bad cop with a suspect. They never did.

Benny touched the doorknob to the interrogation room and paused.
What the hell am I about to get myself into?
He entered the room. Reverend Jim sat with his elbows on the table. Benny surmised he was praying.

“Sir?” Benny said lightly, so as not to scare him. He swore that the Reverend said amen as he looked up.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. James.”

“My pleasure,” Benny lied. “How can I help you?”

“My sheep has gone astray.”

Benny waited for him to continue. He did not. “Police everywhere and the FBI are looking for your son, sir.”

“They won’t find him.”

Benny once again waited for more. “There’s no picture of him,” Benny finally replied with a sudden realization. Benny knew by the look on Reverend Jim’s face that what was about to follow was not good.

“No, there is not,” Reverend Jim said, making the sign of the cross and slapping himself violently across the face.

Benny’s eyes flashed, but he didn’t move.

 “It’s my fault they won’t catch him. He is my design.”

“Your what?” Benny asked, confused.

“His brain is mish-mush,” Reverend Jim answered, looking Benny dead in the eyes. “I did it. He’s full of fire and brimstone. I tell you, he is. He’s got a deep hatred for sinners. I know
that
for sure. Especially loose women.”

“Makes sense,” Benny said. “So far, he’s only killed young and attractive women.”

“Yep,” Reverend Jim said pulling at his suit coat nervously. “He’s never had sex as far as I know and I think he’s pretty flustered with the idea of it. I think my little Jimmy snapped.”

The Reverend studied his fingernails and tried to excavate a few unsavory findings. “I found some girly magazines in his room when he was a teenager and I wore his little behind out. Ever since then he’s had an awful disdain for pretty girls. I’ve seen it in his eyes. His flesh is battling his spirit.”

“So, you’re sure the media are correct when they allege your son is responsible for the murders of the girls pushed off those bridges?”

“Yep. Thank God, one girl lived to tell about it. She said he named himself as Brother Jim! The description she gave of him was dead on to what he looked like the last time I saw him.”

“They’re reporting he had a ZZ Top beard?” Benny asked, thinking there was no way Reverend Jim knew who ZZ Top was.

“I know who ZZ Top is,” Reverend Jim smiled thinly. “I preached against them boys once or twice. I think they’re smoking the pot.”

“They probably are,” Benny chuckled.  “OK. I’ll find your boy. I don’t think you can afford me though, on a preacher’s salary.”

Reverend Jim smirked. “I’m not a preacher; I’m an evangelist.”

 

Chapter 2

 

As Benny loaded his suitcase, he dialed Rachael on his cell.

“Hey baby,” she answered. “Is the life on his way to the party?”

“I am,” Benny said, laughing, with stars flittering around his brain. “Where do I go?”

“Well, my best bet is West Palm Beach. That’s where the show is tonight. We’ve pinpointed it as the epicenter of all the murders. Brother Jim is operating within a 300-mile radius of it. I imagine he’ll stay close. He knows the country.”

“Where are you staying?”

“The Sea Chief,” Rachael laughed. “It’s quite nice. I’m afraid with all the media in town though, it’s booked.”

“Damn. What else is around there?”

“Don’t be silly, you’re staying with me. Room 210.”

“I like the sound of that.”

 “Call me when you make your flight plans and I’ll pick you up at the airport.”

“I’ll do it.”

“I can’t wait.” Rachael’s voice was a soft purr in his ear.

 

 

Benny had two Jack and Cokes on the plane. When Rachael met him at the baggage claim he was well oiled. They shared a long lover’s kiss and then smiled at each other, oblivious to the milling crowd around them.

“Just one bag?” Rachael watched as Benny pulled it off the carousel.

“Red gave me some spending money,” Benny answered, with a wry smile.

“Red is something else.”

“That he is.” Benny lifted his bag and prepared to haul it across the vast parking lot.

“My car is out front,” Rachael pointed.

 “In the loading area? You saved a taxi?” His muscles relaxed.

“See that limo?” Rachael whispered.

“Yeah.”

“It’s ours.”

“It’s a Hummer!” Benny exclaimed.

“Yes it is,” Rachael winked.

 

 

Back at the hotel, they had it out, a wrestling match of sorts. Benny pinned Rachael. Rachael pinned Benny. There were no clear winners or losers. At the end of the bout, everybody involved was a champion and sweating beads of victory. The belts were displayed on the floor.

In the dark, as their breathing returned to normal, they discussed the case.

“So,” Rachael began. “Who brought you here?”

“Reverend Jim.”

“Brother Jim’s daddy?”

“Yes.”

“My goodness. How did he know about you?”

“I guess he looked under the right rock,” Benny joked.

“I didn’t mean it like that.” Rachael tweaked his ear. “My goodness,” she said again. “Went right to the top didn’t he?”

“I’d like to think he did.” They pulled each other close and drifted off to sleep.

 

 

Benny strutted out of Room 210 of the Sea Chief. A smug smile covered his mug. He had called for a rental car delivery service. The car was there as promised; the key waiting for him at the front desk. The car was a peach compact with “Free Tibet” bumper stickers and mild rear quarter panel damage.

Benny put on his sunglasses and tried to act like it didn’t belong to him as he wedged himself behind the wheel of what felt like an oversized go-cart.
This is not what I meant when I asked for a compact.

His list of things to do for the day just received a new number one: trade in this peach piece of junk for a real car. He didn’t fit behind the wheel and he was trying to stay inconspicuous. This car was anything but inconspicuous.

He called the front desk for directions. He was afraid if he got out of the car, let alone tried to get back in again, he would invite bodily harm. The directions were easy.

Benny tried to squeal the tires coming out of the lot. The peachmobile lurched forward with no success. 

He found Dirk’s Rentals with no problem. As he pulled into the lot, it was obvious that Dirk rented much more than cars. A chain link fence surrounded the lot, adorned with enough barbed wire to make any prison in America jealous. Strewn around were ladders, cement mixers, mowers, barbeque grills, and even spotlights. Benny didn’t see any other cars that crossed the line of acceptable to his mind. Some of the cars didn’t even have wheels. He hoped Dirk had more behind the dilapidated building or hidden by the giant sign painted the same peach color as the car. 

He parked the car, honked the horn, and waited. With somewhat of a struggle he pulled himself out of the vehicle, almost doing a face plant on the gravel drive. He kept his eyes on the front door.

Benny swore the guy kicked it open. The slanted, plastic replica of a glass door flew from closed to open in a split second and remained in the open position with a pop and a bang. Dust flew up and settled, and out walked Dirk. He took two steps out the door and paused.

He
was
a spectacle. Atop his long and slightly dirty black hair sat a Stetson Hat that cost more than the peach death trap. He had a wild mustache that curled and swirled across his cheeks. He looked as if he was straight out of a Texas gunslinger movie with his boots and tight pants, not to mention his absurd manly stance.

“What can I do you for?” Dirk asked, when the dust settled.

Benny wondered if he had somehow entered an alternate universe. “Did you rent me this car?”

“That’s Betty.”

“Betty is
not
my type.” Benny walked away from the heap.

BOOK: Jason Deas - Benny James 02 - Pushed
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