Killing floor, p.11
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       Killing Floor, p.11

         Part #1 of Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
 
Chapter Twelve

  I WAS WATCHING FINLAY VERY CAREFULLY, TRYING TO DECIDE how far I should trust him. It was going to be a life or death decision. In the end I figured his answer to one simple question would make up my mind for me.

  "Are they going to make you chief now?" I asked him.

  He shook his head.

  "No," he said. "They're not going to make me chief. "

  "You sure about that?" I said.

  "I'm sure," he said.

  "Whose decision is it?" I asked him.

  "The mayor's," Finlay said. "Town mayor appoints the chief of police. He's coming over. Guy named Teale. Some kind of an old Georgia family. Some ancestor was a railroad baron who owned everything in sight around here. "

  "Is that the guy you've got statues of?" I said.

  Finlay nodded.

  "Caspar Teale," he said. "He was the first. They've had Teales here ever since. This mayor must be the great-grandson or something. "

  I was in a minefield. I needed to find a clear lane through.

  "What's the story with this guy Teale?" I asked him.

  Finlay shrugged. Tried to find a way to explain it.

  "He's just a southern asshole," he said. "Old Georgia family, probably a long line of southern assholes. They've been the mayors around here since the beginning. I dare say this one's no worse than the others. "

  "Was he upset?" I said. "When you called him about Morrison?"

  "Worried, I think," Finlay said. "He hates mess. "

  "Why won't he make you chief?" I said. "You're the senior guy, right?"

  "He just won't," Finlay said. "Why not is my business. "

  I watched him for a moment longer. Life or death.

  "Somewhere we can go to talk?" I said.

  He looked over the desk at me.

  "You thought it was Hubble got killed, right?" he said. "Why?"

  "Hubble did get killed," I said. "Fact that Morrison got killed as well doesn't change it. "

  WE WALKED DOWN TO THE CONVENIENCE STORE. SAT SIDE by side at the empty counter, near the window. I sat at the same place the pale Mrs. Kliner had used when I was in there the day before. That seemed like a long time ago. The world had changed since then. We got tall mugs of coffee and a big plate of donuts. Didn't look at each other directly. We looked at each other in the mirror behind the counter.

  "Why won't you get the promotion?" I asked him.

  His reflection shrugged in the mirror. He was looking puzzled. He couldn't see the connection. But he'd see it soon enough.

  "I should get it," he said. "I'm better qualified than all the others put together. I've done twenty years in a big city. A real police department. What the hell have they done? Look at Baker, for instance. He figures himself for a smart boy. But what has he done? Fifteen years in the sticks? In this backwater? What the hell does he know?"

  "So why won't you get it?" I said.

  "It's a personal matter," he said.

  "You think I'm going to sell it to the newspaper?" I asked him.

  "It's a long story," he said.

  "So tell it to me," I said. "I need to know. "

  He looked at me in the mirror. Took a deep breath.

  "I finished in Boston in March," he said. "Done my twenty years. Unblemished record. Eight commendations. I was one hell of a detective, Reacher. I had retirement on full pension to look forward to. But my wife was going crazy. Since last fall, she was getting agitated. It was so ironic. We were married all through those twenty years. I was working my ass off. Boston PD was a madhouse. We were working seven days a week. All day and all night. All around me guys were seeing their marriages fall apart. They were all getting divorced. One after the other. "

  He stopped for a long pull on his coffee. Took a bite of donut.

  "But not me," he said. "My wife could take it. Never complained, never once. She was a miracle. Never gave me a hard time. "

  He lapsed back into silence. I thought about twenty years in Boston. Working around the clock in that busy old city. Grimy nineteenth-century precincts. Overloaded facilities. Constant pressure. An endless parade of freaks, villains, politicians, problems. Finlay had done well to survive.

  "It started last fall," he said again. "We were within six months of the end. It was all going to be over. We were thinking of a cabin somewhere, maybe. Vacations. Plenty of time together. But she started panicking. She didn't want plenty of time together. She didn't want me to retire. She didn't want me at home. She said she woke up to the fact that she didn't like me. Didn't love me. Didn't want me around. She'd loved the twenty years. Didn't want it to change. I couldn't believe it. It had been my dream. Twenty years and then retire at forty-five. Then maybe another twenty years enjoying ourselves together before we got too old, you know? It was my dream and I'd worked toward it for twenty years. But she didn't want it. She ended up saying the thought of twenty more years with me in a cabin in the woods was making her flesh crawl. It got really bitter. We fell apart. I was a total basket case. "

  He trailed off again. We got more coffee. It was a sad story. Stories about wrecked dreams always are.

  "So obviously, we got divorced," he said. "Nothing else to do. She demanded it. It was terrible. I was totally out of it. Then in my last month in the department I started reading the union vacancy lists again. Saw this job down here. I called an old buddy in Atlanta FBI and asked him about it. He warned me off. He said forget it. He said it was a Mickey Mouse department in a town that wasn't even on the map. The job was called the chief of detectives, but there was only one detective. The previous guy was a weirdo who hung himself. The department was run by a fat moron. The town was run by some old Georgia type who couldn't remember slavery had been abolished. My friend up in Atlanta said forget it. But I was so screwed up I wanted it. I thought I could bury myself down here as a punishment, you know? A kind of penance. Also, I needed the money. They were offering top dollar and I was looking at alimony and lawyer bills, you know? So I applied for it and came down. It was Mayor Teale and Morrison who saw me. I was a basket case, Reacher. I was a wreck. I couldn't string two words together. It had to be the worst job application in the history of the world. I must have come across as an idiot. But they gave me the job. I guess they needed a black guy to look good. I'm the first black cop in Margrave's history. "

  I turned on the stool and looked straight at him.

  "So you figure you're just a token?" I said. "That's why Teale won't make you chief?"

  "It's obvious, I guess," he said. "He's got me marked down as a token and an idiot. Not to be promoted further. Makes sense in a way. Can't believe they gave me the job in the first place, token or not. "

  I waved to the counter guy for the check. I was happy with Finlay's story. He wasn't going to be chief. So I trusted him. And I trusted Roscoe. It was going to be the three of us, against whoever. I shook my head at him in the mirror.

  "You're wrong," I said. "That's not the real reason. You're not going to be chief because you're not a criminal. "

  I PAID THE CHECK WITH A TEN AND GOT ALL QUARTERS FOR change. The guy still had no dollar bills. Then I told Finlay I needed to see the Morrison place. Told him I needed all the details. He just shrugged and led me outside. We turned and walked south. Passed by the village green and put the town behind us.

  "I was the first one there," he said. "About ten this morning. I hadn't seen Morrison since Friday and I needed to update the guy, but I couldn't get him on the phone. It was middle of the morning on a Monday and we hadn't done anything worth a damn about a double homicide from last Thursday night. We needed to get our asses in gear. So I went up to his house to start looking for him. "

  He went quiet and walked on. Revisiting in his mind the scene he'd found.

  "Front door was standing open," he said. "Maybe a half inch. It had a bad feel. I went in, found them upstairs in the master bedroom. It was like a butcher's shop. Blood everywhere. H
e was nailed to the wall, sort of hanging off. Both of them sliced up, him and his wife. It was terrible. About twenty-four hours of decomposition. Warm weather. Very unpleasant. So I called in the whole crew and we went over every inch and pieced it all together. Literally, I'm afraid. "

  He trailed off again. Just went quiet.

  "So it happened Sunday morning?" I said.

  He nodded.

  "Sunday papers on the kitchen table," he said. "Couple of sections opened out and the rest untouched. Breakfast things on the table. Medical examiner says about ten o'clock Sunday morning. "

  "Any physical evidence left behind?" I asked him.

  He nodded again. Grimly.

  "Footprints in the blood," he said. "The place was a lake of blood. Gallons of it. Partly dried up now, of course. They left footprints all over. But they were wearing rubber overshoes, you know? Like you get for the winter up north? No chance of tracing them. They must sell millions every year. "

  They had come prepared. They'd known there was going to be a lot of blood. They'd brought overshoes. They must have brought overalls. Like the nylon bodysuits they wear in the slaughterhouse. On the killing floor. Big white nylon suits, hooded, the white nylon splashed and smeared with bright red blood.

  "They wore gloves, too," he said. "There are rubbery smears in the blood on the walls. "

  "How many people?" I asked him. I was trying to build up a picture.

  "Four," he said. "The footprints are confused, but I think I can see four. "

  I nodded. Four sounded right. About the minimum, I reckoned. Morrison and his wife would have been fighting for their lives. It would take four of them, at least. Four out of the ten Hubble had mentioned.

  "Transport?" I said.

  "Can't really tell," Finlay said. "Gravel driveway, washed into ruts here and there. I saw some wide ruts which look new, maybe. Could have been wide tires. Maybe a big four-wheel-drive or a small truck. "

  We were a couple of hundred yards south of where Main Street had petered out. We turned west up a gravel driveway which must have been just about parallel with Beckman Drive. At the end of the driveway was Morrison's house. It was a big formal place, white columns at the front, symmetrical evergreen trees dotted about. There was a new Lincoln parked near the door and a lot of police tape strung at waist height between the columns.

  "We going in?" Finlay asked.

  "May as well," I said.

  WE DUCKED UNDER THE TAPE AND PUSHED IN THROUGH Morrison's front door. The house was a wreck. Gray metallic fingerprint powder everywhere. Everything tossed and searched and photographed.

  "You won't find anything," Finlay said. "We went over the whole place. "

  I nodded and headed for the staircase. Went up and found the master bedroom. Stopped at the door and peered in. There was nothing to see except the ragged outline of the nail holes in the wall and the massive bloodstains. The blood was turning black. It looked like somebody had flung buckets of tar around. The carpet was crusty with it. On the parquet in the doorway I could see the footprints from the overshoes. I could make out the intricate pattern of the treads. I headed back downstairs and found Finlay leaning on a porch column out front.

  "OK?" he asked me.

  "Terrific," I said. "You search the car?"

  He shook his head.

  "That's Morrison's," he said. "We just looked for stuff the intruders might have left behind. "

  I stepped over to the Lincoln and tried the door. Unlocked. Inside, there was a strong new-car smell and not much else. This was a chief's car. It wasn't going to be full of cheeseburger wrappings and soda cans like a patrolman's would be. But I checked it out. Poked around in the door pockets and under the seats. Found nothing at all. Then I opened the glovebox and found something. There was a switchblade in there. It was a handsome thing. Ebony handle with Morrison's name in gold-filled engraving. I popped the blade. Double edged, seven inches, Japanese surgical steel. Looked good. Brand-new, never been used. I closed it up and slipped it into my pocket. I was unarmed and facing big trouble. Morrison's switchblade might make a difference. I slid out of the Lincoln and rejoined Finlay on the gravel.

  "Find anything?" he asked.

  "No," I said. "Let's go. "

  We crunched back down the driveway together and turned north on the county road. Headed back to town. I could see the church steeple and the bronze statue in the distance, waiting for us.

 
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