Authors: David L. Lindsey
Tags: #Adult, #Crime, #Fiction, #Murder, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Thriller
BODY OF TRUTH
David L. Lindsey
First published by
Houston homicide detective Stuart Haydon deals in lost souls, and Lena Muller, daughter of a prominent local family, is about as lost as you can get. Three months have passed since Lena went out to meet an old friend, and she has yet to return. Haydon is determined to bring her home. But word has come that she has surfaced in a place far beyond her jurisdiction and way out of his league. To find her, he must head for Guatemala, a land where people never die … they simply disappear.
From the moment he arrives in Guatemala City, Haydon finds nothing but traces of the vanished: Lena, her journalist lover, and the private detective who tracked them down. As he searches for the young woman in a ravaged country, he encounters a trail of her lovers and a string of brutal murders. Lena, it appears, has unearthed a dirty secret, one that reeks of death. Drawn into a world of casual violence and corruption, Haydon soon find that, like Lena, he is seeking the body of truth at the heart of a labyrinth of lies.
“Beautifully written and echoing with deep moral resonance: Graham Greene would be proud.”
“Gets off to a quick start and rarely lets up … . A masterly addition to the shelf of international intrigue novels.”
The Washington Post
“One of those rare thrillers that entertains, educates, and breaks the heart.”
“A well-crafted thriller with penetrating insights.”
The Christian Science Monitor
Also by David L. Lindsey
In the Lake of the Moon
Heat from Another Sun
A Cold Mind
Black Gold, Red Death
the wrong girl who became the right woman
after walking through the wrong door
at the right time.
We perceive an image of the truth
and possess nothing but falsehood…
aydon stared out through the rain-spattered windshield of his car, past the uneven, foggy margins that had formed around the edges of the glass in the cold January afternoon, and waited for the woman to gain control of her emotions. She was not a woman who showed her feelings easily, nor was she inclined to invite demonstrations of tenderness from others, so that even in her grief, which for so long she had refused to disclose, Haydon did not feel free to comfort her. Until now, her dejection had been a closely held sorrow, a concealed anguish. As he sat beside her in the front seat, his hands on the cold steering wheel, wishing for a cigarette, though he hadn’t smoked in years, he imagined that their closeness in the car, his intimate witness to her loss of self-control, must be costing her dearly.
Germaine Muller was fifty-six, ten years older than Haydon himself. He had known her and her husband exactly three months to the day, having met them when he investigated the disappearance of their daughter, Lena, who had gone to the Rice University campus, not far from where they were now sitting, to meet a friend. She did not come home.
Lena had graduated from Rice three years before she disappeared. She had majored in philosophy and six months after graduation had joined the Peace Corps and spent two and a half years among the Ixil Indians in northwestern Guatemala. She had completed her term of service in the Corps and had been home only six weeks when she disappeared. Germaine and George Muller were convinced that their daughter had gone to the university campus to meet a young free-lance journalist she had gotten to know in Guatemala named John Baine, an American who traveled throughout Central America. He had shown up at the Muller home unannounced five or six days earlier. They said their daughter seemed to have been upset by his visit, and when he showed up again the next day, George Muller had told him to leave and had threatened to call the police. Baine had left, but only after a bitter quarrel between Lena and her father that George Muller blamed on John Baine.
The investigation had been an awkward one from the point of view of satisfying Lena’s parents. After a lengthy inquiry, Haydon had come to the conclusion that there had been no foul play. In fact, Haydon believed that Lena had disappeared voluntarily, probably with John Baine. It had not taken Haydon long to learn that George Muller and his daughter had a complicated relationship, one that—before Lena had left for the Peace Corps—had come full circle from inseparable (and, some had said, “unhealthy”) to intolerable. Lena’s disappearance had all the signs of flight, not abduction, George Muller, however, could not abide this reading of his daughter’s disappearance. As abrasive a man as his wife was stoic, Muller insisted from the beginning that the Houston Police Department was misreading his daughter’s disappearance. He was convinced she had been murdered. He had badgered them, tried to pull political strings, tried to put pressure on everyone in the department, from the chief on down to Haydon himself. He had written letters to the editors of both major dailies complaining about incompetence and neglect within the homicide division. He was certain John Baine was a murderer, despite the total absence of any evidence. Muller was outraged that his daughter’s disappearance could not be resolved, and in the fog of his own frustration he found fault with everyone.
Because of Muller’s high-profile protest and the lack of a conclusive resolution to Lena’s disappearance, the story had a long run in the newspapers and the television nightly news. Lena Muller was a pretty girl, her parents were well-to-do, the university from whose campus she had disappeared was a prestigious, private institution. In a way, from the media’s perspective, Lena’s disappearance was even more intriguing than if her body had been found. It had all the ingredients of a melodrama. In fact, this morning both Houston dailies had done follow-up stories:
THREE MONTHS LATER—WOMAN STILL MISSING AND MULLER’S DISAPPEARANCE STILL A MYSTERY
Germaine Muller opened her purse to get tissues, and a faint, sweet smell reached Haydon in the close confines of the car. He had opened the purses of many women over the years, and most of them had had in common something of a similar fragrance, the subtle hint of cosmetics. A strawberry blonde going gray, Germaine was an attractive woman, always well dressed, always ready, her dove pale eyes prepared for any jolt. She did not like being caught by surprise. Lena had been her only child.
Haydon waited, looking across the manicured lawns of the university campus, the wet winter day foreshortening the distances of the heavily wooded grounds with a veil of suspended mist. He took a hand off the steering wheel and touched his moustache. It was three weeks old, just getting to the point that it reflected to its best advantage the crisp, clean lines that he wanted it to have. It was darker than his hair, which had been going gray at the temples for several years. He didn’t know why he had decided to grow the moustache. One morning he simply had looked at himself in the mirror and didn’t shave his upper lip.
Germaine’s raincoat made a muffled crinkling noise as she moved in the leather seat, wiping at her nose, clearing her throat, digging in her purse for something, he didn’t know what, something she needed. He had no idea why she had called him at home on this drizzly afternoon and asked him to meet her here. When she had pulled up behind his car as he waited for her at this isolated campus drive, she immediately had gotten out of her car, walked up to his Jaguar, and gotten in. She had said, “Thank you for coming. I’m sorry to get you out on a Sunday. I really ought—” and then she suddenly, uncharacteristically, had broken down, and for the next ten minutes he had listened to her weep uncontrollably. It was a long ten minutes, every minute a full sixty seconds, and she had slumped over against her door, leaning her head against the window as she hunched her left shoulder defensively as if she thought he might be moved to touch her, as if this was a gesture to keep it all to herself.
Haydon was uncomfortable. Anyone in this much pain easily evoked his compassion, and he usually said what he felt, did what came naturally, a firm hand, empathetic words. But Germaine Muller was complex. He did not want to offend her, and he wasn’t sure that she might not find such a gesture too intimate, somehow unwarranted.
He waited as she began to regain her composure, and he wished for some other sound to concentrate on other than the detailed ones of her poignant effort to recover her demeanor of equanimity, a practiced behavior that he imagined she had used all her life to keep the world at arm’s length. Haydon thought about the odd phenomenon of self-image, about how so many people had it wrong, and about what it did to the lives of those who were slaves to it. Germaine Muller lived her life by it and, sadly, had tried to mourn by it.
“Jesus God,” she managed to say, her voice thick with emotion and tears. “This was masochistic. I could have met you anywhere.”
It was like her to believe she was being masochistic, rather than sentimental, to have asked him to meet her so close to where her daughter had last been seen. He looked at her.
“You’re too hard on yourself,” he said. “It’s been a stressful three months. You owe yourself a little self-indulgence, even a lot of self-indulgence.”
Her head was bowed and her eyes began to flutter, and he thought she was going to start crying again, but she didn’t. She steadied herself. She hadn’t looked at him since she’d gotten in the car.
Haydon’s eye caught a movement in the rearview mirror, and he looked up and saw a girl on a bicycle approaching them from behind on the narrow lane. She was wearing a forest green plaid skirt and a pastel yellow sweater and high socks pulled past her calves, and when she saw them in the car she stopped pedaling and let the bicycle coast. Just before she got to the car she began pedaling again and looked at them as she passed, the wheels of her bicycle making a swishing sound on the wet pavement, her breath a vaporous streamer trailing from her mouth. Germaine had not known the girl was coming and flinched as she passed them, then kept her eyes fixed on the cyclist as she rode calmly around a curve and disappeared into the mist and woods. Haydon wondered what the girl must have thought they were doing. An affair, probably. She must’ve been close to Lena’s age. Could possibly have known her. Rice wasn’t a large university.
Germaine Muller continued to stare at the swirling mist where the girl had vanished.
“I know you must’ve seen the papers,” she said.
“I did, yes.”
“That was bad,” she said, turning a little in her seat now. “I wasn’t prepared for that. Oh, they called. The reporters called, but I couldn’t talk to them. So I knew what they were doing. Still…it was…shocking.”
The word sounded quaintly outdated, though it was entirely consistent with her personal moral rectitude, a frame of mind that seemed so out of place in the last decade of the twentieth century when so few persons had the time, or the innocence, to be “shocked” by anything. Haydon almost wished the word still meant for society what it meant for Germaine Muller.
She held the wad of tissues to her nose and tilted her head back for a moment in a gesture of emotional exhaustion. Then she straightened it in resignation.