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Authors: J. A. Jance

Damage Control

BOOK: Damage Control
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Damage Control
J. A. Jance

For Jim

Contents

Prologue

LAUREN DAYSON WAS SLEEPING SOUNDLY WHEN SOME SMALL noise in…

Chapter 1

“THANK YOU SO MUCH, MR. CAMPBELL,” CLAIRE NEWMARK SAID AS…

Chapter 2

WHILE STOPPING OFF TO GRAB A QUICK LUNCH IN SIERRA…

Chapter 3

HALF A MILE BEYOND THE MOBILE HOME, PARK DEPUTY RAYMOND’S…

Chapter 4

BY THE TIME JOANNA LED CAROL SUNDERSON BACK OVER TO…

Chapter 5

BY NOON JOANNA HAD THINGS AT WORK AS MUCH UNDER…

Chapter 6

JOANNA AND BUTCH WERE IN BED BY NINE AND ASLEEP…

Chapter 7

TO JOANNA’S SURPRISE, WHEN THE INTERVIEW ENDED LUCINDA Mappin insisted…

Chapter 8

ANOTHER LATE-AFTERNOON THUNDERSTORM WAS PREDICTED. NOT wanting to have her…

Chapter 9

THE STARTLING REVELATIONS ABOUT JOANNA’S FATHER AND THE clear threat…

Chapter 10

COMING BACK TO THE OFFICE AFTER LUNCH, JOANNA FOUND SHE…

Chapter 11

“MOM,” JENNY CALLED FROM THE BEDROOM DOORWAY. “YOU’D better get…

Chapter 12

“HE WAS LESS THAN HELPFUL,” DEB COMMENTED AS THEY WALKED…

Chapter 13

DREADING THE UPCOMING CONFRONTATION, DEB HOWELL AND Joanna drove most…

Chapter 14

WANTING ALL HANDS ON DECK FOR SANDY’S INTERVIEW, JOANNA had…

Chapter 15

DRIVING DOWN THE WASHBOARDED DIRT TRACK FROM THE ranch house…

Chapter 16

IT WAS WELL AFTER THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING BEFORE…

Chapter 17

WHEN THE GURNEY WAS FINALLY LOADED INTO THE M.E.’S VAN,…

Chapter 18

JOANNA STAGGERED BACK TO HER OFFICE, WHERE SHE NO LONGER…

Chapter 19

IT TOOK A WHILE FOR JOANNA TO EXTRICATE HERSELF FROM…

Chapter 20

BY THE TIME THEY GOT THEIR WEAPONS AND WERE OUTSIDE…

LAUREN DAYSON WAS SLEEPING SOUNDLY WHEN SOME SMALL
noise in the front room of the apartment disturbed her. What actually awakened her was the sound of Mojo barking. Mojo, an unlikely cross between a Chihuahua and a chow, was a pintsized, laughable dog, but this time she was barking in her ferocious big-dog voice, and Lauren knew what it meant. Rick Mosier was here. Somewhere in her apartment. Somewhere in her home. He had broken in and he was coming for her.

Rick had warned Lauren that he would be. He had sworn that if he couldn’t have her, nobody would. He swore he would kill her before he would let her go, and Lauren had reason to believe him. He told her that it didn’t matter to him if she moved or changed the locks on the doors or put bars on her windows or papered Pima County with restraining orders against him. He
said she could never hide from him—that he would find her anyway; that if Rick Mosier wanted her, he would have her. End of story.

When Lauren had first fallen for the guy, that kind of exclusivity hadn’t bothered her. It hadn’t been a problem. She had loved him with all her heart. She had been intrigued by the fact that Rick walked on the wild side; that he lived an edgy existence that was beyond the scope of her limited, girl-next-door experience. She had been fascinated by the idea that when he sped around campus on his skateboard like a modern-day whirling dervish, he had carried at least one handgun and often several knives along with the schoolbooks in his backpack.

Lauren came from a family where the very idea of owning guns was unacceptable. According to her father, only “right-wing yahoos owned guns.” Rick was, in fact, the antithesis of “right wing,” but knowing he was armed to the teeth every moment of every day was part of what made him appealing in a forbidden-fruit sort of way. For Lauren, the “good-girl daughter,” as opposed to her older sister, the “rebellious one,” Rick was an idea whose time had come at a point when Lauren was a naive freshman and Rick a “mature” twenty-one.

She had found him utterly fascinating and charming in those early days, especially when Rick told Lauren she was “the fair princess” to his “dark prince.” Over her parents’ strident objections and because she knew it would drive them nuts, Lauren had moved in with him at the end of her junior year. Their romance had stopped being charming on the day three years later when Rick had blackened one of Lauren’s eyes because he claimed she’d been flirting with a guy playing pool at the Red Garter when they’d gone there for a burger. The truth was, she hadn’t
even noticed the man, but that didn’t matter to an insanely jealous Rick. Two months after that, he’d broken her arm for the same reason—because he thought she was flirting with someone else. That wasn’t the end of the relationship, but it was pretty much the end of the fascination.

Eventually Lauren had taken her worldly goods and moved out. The best she could afford on her own was a much cheaper apartment in a not-so-good part of town. So she had done all those other clichéd things as well. She had convinced her new landlord, Mr. Ford, to put bars on her windows, jamb-bars in the slider, and dead bolts on the front door. Lauren had also managed to sweet-talk her way around Mr. Ford’s “No Pet” rule. He had finally reluctantly gone along with letting Mojo move in by saying she was such a worthless little sample of muttdom that she didn’t really qualify as a pet, let alone a canine.

In addition to all that, Lauren really had gone to Legal Aid and gotten herself a restraining order, but she’d done one thing more—the one thing her parents would never tolerate or forgive. She’d gone to Best Deal Pawn, just up First Avenue, and bought herself a used Glock 26 semiautomatic. Then she’d made it her business to learn how to use it. She’d taken the classes and passed the necessary tests so she could have her very own concealed-weapon permit as well. And that was where her Glock was at the moment—concealed and loaded—directly under her pillow.

The first chambered round was full of bird shot. That was supposed to function as a deterrent—as a nonlethal warning shot. After that, though, all bets were off. The others were hollow points. Her instructor had told her, “If you draw a weapon, you’d better plan on shooting to kill.” And that’s what she was
going to do. If the first bullet didn’t stop Rick, one of the others sure as hell would.

Mojo was closer now, still barking frantically, still raising the alarm. The phone was right there on the bedside table. Lauren could have reached for that, but she knew the statistics. Rick had come to kill her. She’d be dead long before Tucson PD could respond to an abortive 911 call. Instead, Lauren reached for her weapon and pulled it free of the bedding and free of the holster. Then she turned over and propped herself up on the pillows.

She could have switched on the lamp, but she didn’t. The full moon outside glowed in through the window, suffusing the room in an eerie silvery light. She hoped it would make it easier for her to see him and harder for him to see her. With her heart pounding a quickening drumbeat in her chest, she sat, with the gun trained on the open doorway, waiting.

Suddenly Mojo’s barks were punctuated by a sickening thump. The dog gave a startled half-yip and fell momentarily silent.

My baby,
Lauren thought fiercely.
My poor baby. That son of a bitch kicked her!

Mojo whimpered then. The sound of the injured dog only served to strengthen Lauren’s resolve.

I’ll get you for that!
she swore to herself.

Lauren had already decided that this was where Rick Mosier would meet his “fair princess” match. This was Lauren’s home, her castle, and she was going to make her last stand here no matter what. Not that there was time for her to move or run away even if she’d wanted to. Besides, where would she have gone—out through her carefully barred window and then down a twenty-foot drop to hard-packed bare dirt? Not a good idea.

Then suddenly he was there—a dark silhouette looming in
her bedroom doorway. Lauren saw the moonlight dance off something in his hand. She knew at once what it was—what it had to be—a knife blade shimmering in the moonlit room.

The cops on TV always warn the people they’re about to shoot, but in Lauren’s book, Rick Mosier didn’t deserve any warning—none at all. Armed or not, he was an uninvited intruder in her home. She simply held the weapon with both hands and squeezed down on the trigger. Rick squawked once in surprise when the bird shot hit him. He staggered and turned aside as if to protect himself, and then he grunted when the first hollow point hit him as well. But just because he was falling didn’t mean Lauren stopped pulling the trigger. She fired away, one shot after another, following him as he fell. None of the shots went wide of their mark. Every single one of them hit him, even though he was dead before the last one struck.

Only when he lay still and the clip was empty did panic finally hit. Lauren suddenly found that her trembling hand and arm could no longer support the weight of the weapon. She dropped it and reached for the phone, but her hand didn’t seem to be attached to her arm or her brain. Instead of picking up the phone, her fumbling, clumsy fingers knocked it off its stand and sent it spinning across the room, where it came to rest under her chest of drawers.

Lauren crawled out of bed to retrieve the phone. Just then Mojo came limping into the room, still whimpering. Forgetting the phone, Lauren scooped up the trembling dog and held her close.

“Oh, my baby,” she murmured over and over. “My poor, poor baby. Are you hurt? Are you okay?”

Mojo, for her part, wagged her tiny tail and kissed Lauren’s nose.

When Lauren finally managed to retrieve the fallen phone, it took three separate tries before her shaking fingers finally managed to key in the proper number.

“Nine-one-one. What are you reporting?”

“A man was in my room. My ex-boyfriend. He broke into my house.”

“Is he there now?”

“Yes. He’s here. I shot him.”

“You say he’s injured?”

“I don’t know,” Lauren answered. “He isn’t moving. He could be dead.”

“Units are on the way. What’s your name?”

“Lauren. Lauren Dayson.”

“Are you hurt?”

“No. I’m okay. But Mojo isn’t.”

“Mojo?”

“My dog. My little dog. She was barking at him. I’m pretty sure he kicked her. She may have a broken rib.”

“You say you know the intruder’s identity?” the operator asked.

“Yes. His name’s Rick Mosier. He used to be my boyfriend.”

“Does he have a pulse?”

“I don’t know. Do you want me to check? Do I have to?”

“Please.”

Still holding the dog in one hand and the phone in the other, Lauren managed to get to her feet. Using the back of the phone hand, Lauren reached over and switched on the light. That was when she finally got her first clear look at the man lying dead in her bedroom doorway.

After he had spun away from that first hit, one of the hollow
points had entered the back of his head and exploded out the front, taking part of his face with it. Lauren stared in astonishment at the bloodied, sandy-blond-haired mess that was left behind. It wasn’t just that the man was dead—that she had killed him in cold blood—it was that she couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing.

Rick Mosier had been her “dark prince” because he was dark. His hair was chemically augmented black. He was olive-complexioned. Swarthy. From what was left, Lauren could tell that this man was light-haired, light-skinned.

No matter how much Lauren wanted it to be true, the dead man wasn’t Rick Mosier! This was someone she had never seen before. Lauren had gunned down a total stranger. As for the threatening knife she had seen in his hand, the blade glinting in the moonlight? That had tumbled from the dead man’s hands as he fell, and lay at the tips of his lifeless fingers. It was a harmless kitchen table knife, probably from her own silverware drawer, with flecks of peanut butter and jelly still attached to the blade.

As the awful, appalling realizations hit home, Lauren gripped Mojo so tightly that the little dog finally yelped in pain. Now she was sure one of her puppy’s ribs was broken. Lauren eased her hold, but still she couldn’t believe she had done this. How was it possible? She had shot some poor man who had broken into her apartment to help himself to a peanut butter sandwich? Lauren had killed him for that? Because no matter how she looked at the dead man lying there on her floor, he wasn’t Rick Mosier.

“No,” she whispered hoarsely into the phone. “No, this can’t be.”

“Miss?” the emergency operator asked. “Are you all right?”

But by then Lauren had dropped the phone and her whispered no had become an anguished wail. “Nooooooo!”

“Miss Dayson, are you still there? Are you all right?”

Even though Lauren didn’t hear the question, her answer was correct. “No! No! No!”

Because she wasn’t all right and would never again be all right. In trying to protect herself, Lauren Dayson had killed the wrong man.

BOOK: Damage Control
12.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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