Authors: Rose Beecham
Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Lesbian Mystery
Jude Devine Mystery Series
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By the Author
ROMANCES as Jennifer Fulton
Dark Vista Series
More Than Paradise
Moon Island Series
The Sacred Shore
A Guarded Heart
Greener Than Grass
CONTEMPORARY FICTION as Grace Lennox
Not Single Enough
MYSTERIES as Rose Beecham
Jude Devine Series
Sleep of Reason
Place of Exile
Amanda Valentine Series
Introducing Amanda Valentine
Jude Devine Mystery
“Lying is done with words and also with silence” -Adrienne Rich
Montezuma County Sheriff's detective, Jude Devine doesn't face too many challenges based in remote Paradox Valley, where most of the crime involves hiker assaults, campsite thefts, and cattle rustling. However, when the body of a local teenager shows up with a stake through her heart, Jude finds herself leading an investigation no one wants to touch.
As Jude uncovers the truth about the murder and tries to save a young girl from being forced into a plural marriage, she must decide how much she is willing to risk to see justice done. Further complicating her choices is her torrid entanglement with the golden girl of Southwestern forensic pathology, Dr. Mercy Westmoreland.
Book One in the Jude Devine Mystery Series
© 2005 by Rose Beecham. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 10: 1-933110-25-2E
ISBN 13: 978-1-933110-25-7E
This electronic book is published by:
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.,
New York, USA
First Printing: Bold Strokes Books 2005
This is a work of fiction. names, characters, places, and Incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editor: Stacia Seaman
Production Design: Stacia Seaman
Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])
I belong to that species of author for whom writing a novel is a lonely, antisocial affair. Family and friends are excluded, the phone is ignored, and the espresso machine works overtime. My dear ones, especially my partner, put up with all of this and still love me. Puzzling, but I cannot thank them enough.
As I worked on this novel, Shelley, Connie, and JD kept my feet to the fire—thank you. Radclyffe made the publisher/author relationship a rewarding and happy one, and Stacia Seaman took her usual care editing the end results.
I owe a debt of gratitude to several LDS friends—Carrie, John, and Rona, whose experiences and insights added much to my research for this novel. Writing this story would have been immeasurably more difficult without Jon Krakauer’s superb account of Mormon fundamentalism in America, Under the Banner of Heaven, and without the courage of the women who’ve escaped these communities and who refuse to remain silent about the abuses committed within them.
For my mother, Wyn
who defines family values for me
On a still afternoon in early August, a couple of gas station robbers fished an old-style Samsonite suiter out of the Dolores River near Slick Rock. Bobby Lee Parker and Frank Horton had been dragging the murky waters under the Highway 141 bridge for the proceeds of a stickup they’d pulled two weeks earlier.
It was not their lucky day.
So far, they’d lost the final round of the watermelon seed spitting competition at the Montezuma county fair. Then Bobby Lee’s mom showed up wanting to get high and helped herself to his last gram of weed. Now it seemed like the plastic garbage bag they’d stashed under some rocks had been washed away during the big storm that had startled locals earlier in the week.
Normally, this time of year, the Dolores between Slick Rock and Bedrock was a muddy trickle. The whitewater crowd abandoned the place by June, taking their kayaks and Discover cards back to Boulder. Soon after, the canyons were overrun with hikers busting their asses to see wildflowers and shit. A couple of these idiots normally got themselves mauled by mountain lions every summer. Then came the annual funeral procession of VWs packed with posers winding down their tinted windows and asking directions to Telluride. Bobby Lee had seen the worst movies of his life trying to get laid at that film festival.
He stared up at the bridge, where yet another dickhead had stopped his SUV so he could peer down at the river. The guy waved and yelled something about “boatable flow.”
Ignoring him, Bobby Lee said, “Fucking perfect. They’ll be down here with their fucking kayaks before we get done.”
Frank let go of the suiter and stood upright, panting and wheezing. His light brown mullet was limp with perspiration, the combed-back sides drooping flaccidly onto his cheeks. “Damn, it’s a heavy mother,” he whined.
Reluctantly, Bobby Lee helped him hump the garment bag further up the bank onto the flat. He figured maybe they’d lucked onto some other guy’s heist. “Open it,” he said and watched Frank plaster his DNA all over the striped canvas like the amateur he was. The zipper wouldn’t budge.
Eventually Einstein remembered he had a knife and used it to slit the thing apart. “Oh, man!” he choked, lurching back. “That stinks worse ’n a dead skunk. We gotta get out of here.”
Bobby Lee took a moment to digest the grisly sight of a decomposing corpse. He weighed his options. His midnight blue Chevy Silverado was parked at the Chuck Wagon Café a few yards from the bridge. The truck was well known in these parts on account of its Super Swampers and the custom-painted flames that licked across the rocker panels. A bunch of cars had gone by while he and Frank were searching the river, mostly tourists headed for the canyons. But tourists were nosey and took photos of every fucking blade of grass. Who knew how many of them had shot video that could later become Exhibit A in the kind of bogus trial Bobby Lee knew all about?
He stared around the riverbanks. They could haul the suiter under the bridge and bury it real quick while the earth was still moist, only he didn’t have a shovel, so they’d be doing it with their bare hands and Bobby Lee had never cared much for manual labor. Or they could do what Frank wanted and shove it back in the river.
The bad news was dead bodies had a habit of showing up. In a few days’ time, the Dolores would be a mud slick again and some dude would spot the lumpy Samsonite shroud. Murders were a big deal in the Four Corners, so the discovery would be plastered all over the front page of the
. Someone would remember seeing Bobby Lee’s wheels. Next thing, the cops would come knocking at his door. Who else around here owned a tricked-out show truck like the
Placing his hand over his nose and mouth, he said, “We’re gonna do the Christian thing. Whoever this dead chick is, there’s a family needs closure.”
Frank turned away and sucked in a breath. “You’re gonna call the cops?” He removed his Terminator shades and shook them free of sweat. His pudgy face was incredulous. “They’ll wanna know what we was doing down here. That cross your mind?”
Bobby Lee took a few paces along the bank to escape the stench. Frank was the kind who never saw the bigger picture. He had not graduated from high school. Bobby Lee, on the other hand, had finished two years of college before he had to suspend his education to serve time for an assault that was really self-defense. Unfortunately, the so-called victim was not just any retard who’d gotten antsy when his girlfriend flashed some leg at Bobby Lee, but the son of a Ute Tribal Council member. And seeing as the Ute owned the casino and employed half of Montezuma county, guess whose version of events the jury bought?
Patiently, Bobby Lee explained the psychology of law enforcement officers. “They’ll be real surprised that we’re reporting this, on account of our past histories. So they’ll know we’re not the guys who did it, otherwise we’d have been hightailing it out of here as per your proposal. Now they’d see that as suspicious behavior. Guilty conduct. Know what I’m saying?”
Frank mopped his face and flattened his hair back into place. “So when they ask us what we was doing down here in the first place, we tell them some bullshit about fishing?”
Bobby Lee shook his head. “Call of nature. We were relieving ourselves and that’s when we saw it. You got curious because it looked to contain something large, so you cut it open with your knife.”
Frank chewed this over for several seconds then asked, “Do I bury the knife?”
Bobby Lee did not call his buddy a dumbass, even when he acted like one. It was not Frank’s fault his father was a no-good SOB who beat on his family. Bobby Lee was aware of several head injuries that had sent Frank to the hospital when they were kids, so he made allowances.
“No, Frank,” he said like he took the question seriously. “Burying the knife is felon-thinking. If they ask for it, just give it to them. We got nothing to hide. Okay?”
Interpreting this as approval, Bobby Lee flipped open his cell phone and dialed 911.