Read Tombstone Courage Online

Authors: J. A. Jance

Tombstone Courage

BOOK: Tombstone Courage
12.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Rocks rained down on him in a steady, deadly barrage,…


Harold Lamm Patterson squinted through the rain-blurred windshield. Checking for…


Wearing only her bathrobe and with a towel wrapped around…


Traveling down Tombstone Canyon, Harold was tempted to drive right…


Bisbee as it is known now was created in the…


All his life, Harold Patterson had been the kind of…


As predicted, Burton Kimball's reaction was nothing short of astonished…


Holly Patterson sat in the back upstairs bedroom at Casa…


In the relative pre-lunch quiet of Bisbee's Blue Moon Saloon,…


As he drove home to the Rocking P, Harold Patterson found…


Later on, when Burton Kimball tried to recall the exact…


It turned out to be one of the longest days…


Once more Harold awakened, caught in a disorienting spin—the turbulence…


Jim Bob and Eva Lou Brady weren't exactly social butterflies.


The usually mild-mannered and easygoing Linda Kimball was on a…


When Marianne and Joanna stepped out of the building, the…


“The scratches don't show all that much,” was Eva Lou…


Still feeling spoiled by Eva Lou's breakfast, Joanna drove down…


When she left the justice complex, Joanna drove straight to…


Joanna expected to toss and turn after those two disquieting…


When Jenny finally calmed down enough to go shower, Joanna…


Even without directions, Joanna would have had no trouble finding…


Joanna walked back to where Yuri Malakov was sitting on…


With some effort, Ivy pulled herself together and leveled her…


As Joanna drove toward Casa Vieja, she was once more…


When Joanna entered the beauty shop, Helen Barco stood stolidly…


Ernie Carpenter stayed in Joanna's office for more than an…


Kristin dumped Joanna's mail unceremoniously on her desk. “There's someone…


When Joanna rushed out of the office in search of…


Joanna picked up Jenny from the Bradys' house at six…


It was ten o'clock before Joanna sat down at the…


Joanna spent the next half hour studying every word of…


Burton Kimball came to work that morning out of habit,…


For a while after she went back up to her…


The MJ meeting was dull as watching grass grow. Max…


By the time Joanna parked the Blazer on the far…


The first shock of landing in frigid water took Joanna's…


Things became hazy after that. Gradually, Joanna realized there were…

down on him in a steady, deadly barrage, small ones at first; then, gradually, larger. In the beginning, he managed to crawl out of the way, dodging this way and that, scrabbling on his belly with his hands and arms wrapped around his head, protecting it.

“Stop,” he begged, his voice strangely muffled by the dirt and rocks beneath him. “Please stop. I swear I'll never do it again. Never.”

But still the brutal rocks kept falling. They smashed into his legs, his arms, the small of his back. He screamed in pain, in agony, but there was no escape, no place to hide.

The attack couldn't have lasted more than five minutes from beginning to end, but for him—the target—it seemed like forever. And it was, because when it was over, he lay partially buried and lifeless on the rock-strewn floor of the hole, with a ten-pound boulder crushing part of his skull.

Patterson squinted through the rain-blurred windshield. Checking for traffic, he pulled his rattletrap International Scout through the gate of the Rocking P Ranch and onto the highway. Pouring rain made it hard to see. Part of the problem was his eyes. Ivy, his daughter, was constantly nagging him about that, and she was probably right. Thank God his ears still worked all right.

At eighty-four, even with his new, thick trifocals, the old peepers weren't nearly as good as they used to be. But Harold figured the real problem was the damn wiper blades. The rubber was old, cracked, and frayed. The blades squawked across the windshield, barely making contact and leaving trails of muddy water on the dusty, bug-splattered glass.

In southern Arizona, it seemed like you never noticed that the wipers weren't working until you needed them, and when you noticed, you were too busy driving blind to remember. The next time he went into A & A Auto Parts to drink coffee and shoot the breeze with the counterman, Gene Radovich, Harold still wouldn't remember, not if
it wasn't raining at the time. It reminded him of the words in that old-time song “Mañana.” No need to fix a leaky roof on such a sunny day? Same difference.

But that particular day—an unseasonably cold early-November morning—it was raining like hell. A pelting winter storm had rolled into the Sonoran Desert from the Pacific, filling the normally dry creek beds and swathing the Mule Mountains in a dank gray blanket that was almost as chill as the pall around Harold Patterson's stubborn old heart.

His daughter's personal-injury trial was due to start in Cochise County Superior Court first thing tomorrow morning—Wednesday at nine o'clock. Unless he could figure out a way to stop it. Unless he could somehow bluff Holly into agreeing to talk to him. Unless he could work a deal and convince her to call it off.

He had tried to talk to her about it several times since she arrived in town. That ploy hadn't worked. That damn hotshot lawyer of hers had insisted that until Harold came to see her with his hat in his hand—to say nothing of a settlement—it was a straight-out no go. His own daughter refused to see him, wouldn't even tell him where she was staying.

His own daughter. Just thinking about it caused Harold's gnarled, arthritic hands—hands that had wrung the necks of countless Sunday-dinner chickens—to tighten into a similar death grip on the smooth surface of the worn steering wheel. Harold thought about Holly and her damn lawsuit the whole time he guided the wheezing yellow
Scout over the rain-swept pavement of Highway 80, up the mountain pass locals called the Divide and then down the winding trail of Tombstone Canyon into Old Bisbee.

Holly had been a Fourth of July baby. He had wanted to call her Linda—Indy for short in honor of Independence Day, but Emily wouldn't hear of it. She insisted that if she had daughters, they would be named after their grandmother's favorite Christmas carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” regardless of whether or not they arrived any time near December 25. And Holly it was. Would she have been less prickly, Harold sometimes wondered, had she been given a different name?

Holly Patterson had entered the world sandwiched neatly between Bisbee's traditional Independence Day Coaster Races and the annual Fourth of July parade down Tombstone Canyon. She was born in the Old Copper Queen Hospital—the brick one up in Old Bisbee, not the new apricot-colored one down in Warren. It had been a hot, miserable morning. On that pre-air-conditioning summer day, the nurses had left the delivery-room windows wide open in hopes of capturing some faint hint of breeze. Emily had screamed her fool head off. For several hours running. To a poor, anxious, prospective father waiting outside, that's how it had seemed.

Harold remembered the whole morning as vividly as if it were yesterday. Left to his own devices in the waiting room, he had been propelled out of the hospital by his wife's agonized cries. But with the windows open, there was no escape from Emi
ly's frantic shrieks. No one else in the downtown area—onlookers watching the races or waiting for the parade—could escape them, either. The relentless screams echoed off nearby hillsides and reverberated up and down the canyons. People lined up on the sidewalks kept asking each other what in the world were they doing to that poor woman, killing her or what?

Pacing up and down in the small patch of grassy park between the hospital and the building that housed the Phelps Dodge General Office, Harold had wondered the same thing himself. What were they doing to her? And when old Doc Winters finally slipped Emily the spinal that shut her up, Harold had despaired completely. As soon as she grew quiet, he was convinced it was over, that his wife was dead.

Of course, that wasn't the case at all. Emily was fine, and so was the baby. Men don't forget that kind of agony. Women do. Had it been up to him, one child was all they would have had. Ever.

Afterward, holding the beautiful baby in her arms, nursing her, Emily had smiled at him and told him Holly was worth it. Harold wasn't so sure. Not then, not ten years later when Ivy was born, and certainly not now.

Things change. The delivery room where both Holly and Ivy had been born now housed a Sunday-school classroom for the Presbyterian church across the street. A law firm—the biggest one in town—now occupied the lower floor space where the old dispensary and pharmacy had been located. In fact, Burton Kimball, who was Harold's
nephew as well as his attorney, kept his offices there. And as for the waspish Holly? Harold shook his head and clenched his jaw. Once more the powerful fingers tightened their viselike grip on the Scout's loosey-goosey steering wheel.

Holly was Holly. Had it been in Harold's power to make her life different, certainly he would have. She had grown up tough, headstrong, and hard to handle—a runaway while she was still in high school. Well, she was back in Bisbee now, staying God knows where. He had heard rumors about Holly and that friend of hers tooling around town in somebody's bright red Allanté, lording it over whoever saw her. Harold wondered about the car. It might possibly be hers, but Harold doubted it.

If Holly had enough money to buy a car like that, why was she back home, trying to take his ranch away from him? No, if she wasn't dead broke, she had to be close to it. After thirty-four years with no letters, no phone calls, why else would she suddenly come back home to a place she despised? As a precocious sixteen-year-old, Holly had found life on the Rocking P worse than prison. What else but abject poverty could bring her home as a fifty-year-old demanding her fair share of the family fortunes?

Holly was Harold's firstborn daughter. If she had needed help and asked for it, he would have given it to her gladly, regardless of the heartaches and disagreements that might have gone before. But Holly's reappearance had come in the form of a legal attack, mounted by some big-time California attorney who expected Harold to just lie down
and play dead. And the attack had been aimed, with pinpoint accuracy, at the one place in Harold's life where he was most vulnerable. And guilty.

Of course, he had denied Holly's allegations. And when the
magazine reporter had shown up at the Rocking P and told him she was doing an article on “forgotten memories,” Harold had tried to throw her off track without having to tell his side of the story. But the woman was one of those sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued little city women. He couldn't remember now exactly how it was she had phrased the critical question.

He may have mentally misplaced the exact text, but he recalled the reporter's meaning well enough. He had wondered if that particular line of questioning had come directly from Holly or from that so-called hypnotherapist of hers, Amy Baxter. The assumption behind the question was the idea that since one daughter had been forced to run away from home in order to avoid sexual abuse, what about the daughter who didn't leave? Was Ivy—the stay-at-home, old-maid daughter—a willing participant?

The reporter had made a big deal about the fact that Harold and Ivy lived alone together on the Rocking P, as though that in itself was enough to raise suspicions. Harold had exercised incredible restraint in not throwing the woman bodily out of his house. It was no surprise that the resulting article had made Harold sound like some kind of sex-crazed monster whose incestuous relations
with his daughters had no doubt ruined both their lives.

The usually even-tempered Ivy had been livid when the article came out, and she had blamed Holly for it. Ivy had wanted Harold to sue, wanted him to have Burton Kimball go after the magazine for defamation of character. Harold had his own good reasons for refusing, but when he did, there had been a huge blowup between him and Ivy. For weeks now, they had barely spoken, doing their chores together around the ranch, but with none of their customary camaraderie. By attempting not to fight with one daughter, Harold had inevitably quarreled with the other.

Determined to solve the problem with the least additional damage to everyone concerned, Harold had put all his hopes in what would happen once Holly came home for the trial. He had thought that somehow he would be able to get his two daughters together in the same room where he would finally, once and for all, put the past to rest. But that hadn't happened.

For the entire week since Holly had been back home in Bisbee, she had insisted that all contact be conducted on a lawyer-to-lawyer basis. Harold hadn't been allowed access to her by telephone, and no one would tell him where she was staying. Well, that was changing today. He had figured out a way to make it happen, a way to bring her around.

Harold was coming to town with what, on the surface, would appear to be an enticing carrot. He was prepared to offer Holly the ultimate prize—
total capitulation. Everything she wanted. For someone like Holly, that should prove irresistible, but there was a stick as well. And when it came to those two things, both carrot and stick, what he had to say would not be discussed on a lawyer-to-lawyer basis. Those were private—to be discussed with his daughters alone. No one else. Once and for all time, he would finally tell both of them the truth.

Surely, once they both knew the truth, he might be able to find some common ground, some avenue for reconciliation. Once he came up with the plan, he had allowed himself to hope it would work. Perhaps if Holly knew all of it, she'd call off the trial and her hired attack dogs. Harold Patterson could imagine nothing worse than having to endure the humiliation of a public trial. He could imagine how it would feel to sit in one of those overheated Cochise County courtrooms. The place would be packed with friends and neighbors, people who had known him all his life. He would have to sit there and be stripped bare; would be forced to listen while his daughter recounted the exact nature of his alleged crimes and the horrible things he had supposedly done to her.

The possibility that Holly might really remember caused Harold to squirm on the Scout's sway-backed front seat. Just thinking about it set off a severe ache that started in Harold's breastbone, spread across both shoulders, and arched down his tense forearms. What if she really did remember? What then?

Harold remembered hearing someone say that
the truth would set you free. Could it do that for him? Harold doubted it. In this case, truth seemed like some kind of evil genie. Harold worried that once he rubbed the bottled past and set the genie loose in the world, things would never be the same. Telling the truth meant that long-made promises would have to be broken, that the lives of innocent people would be forever changed. But then, innocent people were always being hurt. That was the way the world worked.

BOOK: Tombstone Courage
12.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

LUST by Laura B. Cooper
Thick As Thieves by Joan Smith
A Woman on the Edge of Time by Gavron, Jeremy;
In the Blood by Kerley, J. A.
The Dream Ender by Dorien Grey
Captivated: Return to Earth by Ashlynn Monroe
Anastasia and Her Sisters by Carolyn Meyer