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Authors: Brandilyn Collins

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Dread Champion

BOOK: Dread Champion
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Other books by Brandilyn Collins

Kanner Lake Series

1
 
Violet Dawn

Hidden Faces Series

1
 
Brink of Death

2
 
Stain of Guilt

3
Dead of Night

4
Web of Lies

Bradleyville Series

1
 
Cast a Road Before Me

2
 
Color the Sidewalk for Me

3
 
Capture the Wind for Me

Chelsea Adams Series

1
Eyes of Elisha

2
Dread Champion

ZONDERVAN

Dread Champion
Copyright © 2002 by Brandilyn Collins

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Zondervan.

ePub Edition July 2009 ISBN: 978-0-310-85844-7

Requests for information should be addressed to:
Zondervan,
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Collins, Brandilyn.

Dread champion / Brandilyn Collins.

     p. cm.

ISBN-10: 0-310-23827-7

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-23827-0

1. Trials (Murder)—Fiction.    2. California—Fiction.    3. Jury—Fiction    I. Title.

PS3553.O4747815 D74 2002

813'.6—dc21

2002008291     

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Interior design by Susan Ambs

For Ryan Matthew Collins.
This is my version
of a single white rose.

F
or me the word of the L
ORD
has resulted in reproach and derision all day long. … I have heard the whispering of many … watching for my fall, say: “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him.” But the L
ORD
is with me like a dread champion; therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.

J
EREMIAH
20:8, 10–11
NASB

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE PAGE

COPYRIGHT PAGE

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PROLOGUE

PART 1: TROUBLE

MONDAY, AUGUST 5

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

PART 2: DECEIT

TUESDAY, AUGUST 6

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

TWENTY-THREE

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9

TWENTY-FOUR

TWENTY-FIVE

TWENTY-SIX

TWENTY-SEVEN

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

TWENTY-EIGHT

TWENTY-NINE

MONDAY, AUGUST 12

THIRTY

THIRTY-ONE

THIRTY-TWO

THIRTY-THREE

THIRTY-FOUR

THIRTY-FIVE

TUESDAY, AUGUST 13

THIRTY-SIX

THIRTY-SEVEN

THIRTY-EIGHT

THIRTY-NINE

FORTY

FORTY-ONE

FORTY-TWO

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14

FORTY-THREE

FORTY-FOUR

FORTY-FIVE

PART 3: PURPOSE

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

FORTY-SIX

FORTY-SEVEN

FORTY-EIGHT

FRIDAY, AUGUST 16

FORTY-NINE

FIFTY

FIFTY-ONE

FIFTY-TWO

FIFTY-THREE

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17

FIFTY-FOUR

FIFTY-FIVE

FIFTY-SIX

FIFTY-SEVEN

FIFTY-EIGHT

FIFTY-NINE

SIXTY

SIXTY-ONE

SIXTY TWO

EPILOGUE

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

PREFACE AND
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many people generously gave of their time as I wrote this book. I'd like to thank these professionals for granting me interviews on myriad subjects: Gery Sterling, D.D.S., good-naturedly answered some rather strange questions about teeth. Lynne Jacobs, executive director of Adopt International in Redwood City, took time out of her busy schedule to talk both about the procedures of adoption and about her personal passion for her work. Charles Robinson, assistant administrator for San Mateo County's Private Defender Program, went over many details of how a defense attorney would handle a case such as the one presented in this story. And James Wade, San Mateo County deputy district attorney, gave me the prosecutorial side of things. Redwood City police officer Todd Hurst outlined the various jobs of law enforcement professionals in regard to missing persons and murder cases.

These folks know their stuff. If you find errors within these pages,
mea culpa.

A special thanks to my wonderful friend Jacqueline Clark, who drove around Salinas and nearby beaches with me, helping me note exact driving times and details. Jacqueline also critiqued the manuscript, along with my respected writer colleagues Niwana Briggs and Randy Ingermanson.

As always, special thanks to my agents, Jane Jordan Browne and Scott Mendel of Multimedia Product Development, and her team. And of course my utmost gratitude to my editor,Dave Lambert, and all the terrific folks at Zondervan. They are heaven-sent.

Most of all, God, omnipotent and full of mercy, saw me through the worst days of writing this book, when I thought I had no more to give. May he be glorified by this story about his ultimate power and grace.

And now a word of explanation about the locations within these events.As with
Eyes of Elisha,
the first book in this series, I have begun with real places, at some point jumping off into the chasm of fiction. Breaker Beach is fictional but all surrounding beaches are real. Latitude and longitude and information about currents and tides are based on nearby Moss Landing Beach. The general areas of Salinas are true to life, as are some of the streets mentioned. And the exact location of Darren Welk's house is real, although that rich plot of earth is certainly not owned by the “Salad King.” As for the hardworking ranchers of Salinas and surrounding areas in Monterey County, they are indeed larger than life.We have them to thank for most of the vegetables and salads on our dinner tables. In fact, it is true that ranchers in Salinas are credited with creating the readymade, bagged salads in today's grocery stores. However, my character Darren Welk, who is given the credit in
Dread Champion,
is in no way based upon any real rancher in Salinas. Nor is the character Enrico Delgadia based upon any real person. Of course the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City does exist. People familiar with it will recognize most of the description.Occasionally I have made some changes, adding a door or bench as the story required. Finally, Channel Seven (ABC affiliate) is a respected source for news in the California Bay Area. But they do not employ a Milt Waking, nor is the character of Milt based on any Channel Seven reporter.

To quote the character of Geoffrey Chaucer when he was caught fictionalizing in
AKnight's Tale,
“I am a writer. I give the truth—scope.”

So allow me some scope and come on, get in. Let's go for a ride.…

PROLOGUE

After twenty years of midnights among the dead, Victor Mendoza didn't spook easily.

The graveyard shift at the graveyard. His superstitious mother had shaken her head when he first took the job. Victor didn't care. You want to talk fear, he'd told her, fear was the night he was four years old, clinging to his papa's bony back as they scuttled like rats across the U.S. border.

“But the dead,” she'd said.

“They don't scare me half as bad as the living.”

Brothers Memorial Cemetery was oddly shaped at its rear, one corner crooking like an arthritic finger around the edge of Darren Welk's sprawling backyard. A single line of ancient gravestones formed that finger, an incongruous add-on years before the Salinas Valley sprang to life with ranches and crops. Victor didn't typically patrol the crook; no need to.Whoever once tended those graves had long passed on. His job was to protect the graves of those whose loved ones still visited Brothers Memorial—folks whose money greened the cemetery and surrounding valley. Rich folks like Darren Welk, whose parents were buried on the eastern hill.

But that night something caught Victor Mendoza's eye, and he ventured in for a look.

Chilly air wafted around Victor's face as he stealthily drew near the edge of the crook, his breath puffing in a fog. A crescent moon slung itself against a hazy sky, stingy with its light.He hunched, fists curling and uncurling, about three feet from the rusty barbed wire fence running the perimeter of the cemetery.His eyes widened as he realized what had caught his attention. A shadow. Grotesquely tall and skinny—a warped silhouette spilling across the entire driveway leading into the Welks' garage. The aberration moved in steady rhythm, spindly arms stretching, pulling back, stretching, pulling back.Victor stopped breathing and tilted his head, listening.A vague sound rolled toward him, then sharpened into pattern.
Crunch, hiss. Crunch, hiss.
In beat with the shadow's movement. Slowly Victor's eyes followed the shadow's extremities to its bent shoulders, along its narrow torso, down a stick-figure leg. There it connected with a stocky man on the far side of the driveway, feet wide apart, shovel in his hands, digging. He extended his muscular arms, and the skinny silhouette arms slid across cement.
Crunch.
The shovel connected with ground.He arced the shovel back and to the side, shadow arms mocking.
Hiss.
Dirt and tiny rocks flowed off onto a growing pile.A large potted bush, similar to others already planted alongside the driveway, sat a few feet away.Victor's eyes fell on a blazing lantern on the ground behind the man—the cause of his shadow. The light illuminated the man's trousers, haloing his back, fading into an umbra behind his head. But Victor Mendoza saw just enough of the features to recognize him. Anyone in the valley would know this man.

BOOK: Dread Champion
8.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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