Authors: Alafair Burke
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #General, #Suspense
Missing Justice By Alafair Burke
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid is back at work after an attempt on her life and a promotion into the Major Crimes Unit. When the husband of Portland, Oregon city judge Clarissa Easterbrook reports her missing and Samantha is called on the case, she assumes her only job is to make the district attorney look good until the judge turns up. When the police discover evidence of foul play, however, Samantha finds herself unearthing secrets that Clarissa had wanted to stay hidden, the lingering personal tolls of a crime that occurred decades ago. And when those secrets lead to the discovery of corruption at the highest levels of the city’s power structure, Samantha realizes that her quest for justice could cost her not only her job, but her life.
In this skilfully plotted, highly suspenseful follow-up to her acclaimed debut, Judgment: Calls, Alafair Burke once again demonstrates that ‘she’s got what it takes’ (Michael Connelly).
With its irreverent heroine and seamless blend of squad rooms, street scenes and courtroom drama, Missing Justice confirms Burke’s place among the genre’s most talented and exciting newcomers.
Also by Alafair Burke Judgment Calls
First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Orion, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group Ltd.
Copyright 2004 by Alafair Burke
The moral right of Alafair Burke to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.
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, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 0 75285 716 9 (hardback) 0 75286 659 1 (trade paperback)
Printed in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St. Ives plc
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance. to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
The Orion Publishing Group Ltd
5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane London, we2H 9EA
For Jim, Andree, and Pamala
If it’s true that dreams come from the id, then my id is not particularly creative.
The dream that makes its way into my bed tonight is the same one that has troubled my sleep almost every night for the past month. Once again, I relive the events that led to the deaths of three men.
The walls of the stairway pass as a man follows me upstairs. I force myself to focus on my own movements, trying to block out thoughts of the other man downstairs, armed and determined to kill me when I return.
Time slows as I duck beside my bed, reach for the pistol hidden in my nightstand, and rise up to surprise him. The .25 caliber automatic breaks the silence; more shots follow downstairs. Glass shatters. Heavy footsteps thunder through the house. In the dream, I see bullets rip through flesh and muscle, the scene tinted red like blood smeared across my retinas.
I usually wake during the chaos. Tonight, though, the silence returns, and I walk past the dead bodies to my kitchen. I open the pantry door and find a woman whose face I know only from photographs and a brief introduction two years ago. She is crouched on the floor with her head between her knees. When she looks up at me and reaches for my hand, the phone rings, and I’m back in my bedroom.
It is four o’clock in the morning, and as usual I wake up chilly, having kicked my comforter deep into the crevice between my mattress and the foot board of my maple sleigh bed. I fumble for the phone on my nightstand, still ringing in the dark.
“This better be worth it,” I say.
It’s Detective Raymond Johnson of the Portland Police Bureau’s Major Crimes Team. A member of the search team has found a woman’s size-seven black Cole Haan loafer in the gutter, but Clarissa Easterbrook is still missing.
The call came only eight hours after my boss, District Attorney Duncan Griffith, had first summoned me to the Easterbrook home. It was my first call-out after a month-long hiatus and a new promotion from the Drug and Vice Division into Major Crimes. I was told it would just be some quick PR work to transition me back into the office.
So far, the transition had been rough.
When I pulled into the Easterbrook driveway that first evening, I cut the engine and sat for a few last quiet moments in my Jetta. Noticing Detective Johnson waiting for me at the front window, I took a deep breath, released the steering wheel, and climbed out of the car, grabbing my briefcase from the passenger seat as I exhaled.
I climbed a series of steep slate steps, a trek made necessary by the home’s impressive hillside location. Despite the spring mist, I was able to take in the exterior. Dr. Townsend Easter brook was clearly no slouch. I wasn’t sure which was bigger, the double-door entranceway or the Expedition I’d parked next to.
Johnson opened one of the doors before I’d had a chance to use either of the square pewter knockers. I could make out voices at the back of the house; Johnson kept his own down. “Sat in that car so long, Kincaid, thought something might be wrong with your feet.”
At least my first case back on the job brought some familiar faces. I had met Raymond Johnson and his partner, Jack Walker, only two months ago, when I was a mere drug and vice deputy. But given the history, however recent, I felt a bond with these guys the gun ky kind that threatens to stick around for good.
“You must not have given up all hope, Johnson. You were waiting at the door.”
“I was beginning to wonder, but then you tripped something off walking up the path, and I heard a voice somewhere announcing a visitor. George fucking Jetson house. Gives me the creeps.”
The Easterbrook home wasn’t exactly cozy, but I’d take it. Neutral colors, steel, and low sleek furniture the place was a twenty-first century update on 1960s kitsch.
With any luck, Clarissa Easterbrook would turn up soon, and there’d be no need to disrupt all this coolness.
Johnson caught my eye as I studied the house. “Look at you, girl. You’re almost as dark as I am.” He grabbed my hand and held it next to the back of his. Not even close. Johnson’s beautiful skin is about as dark as it comes.
“Yeah, but you’re still better looking.”
He laughed but it was true. He also dressed better than me more Hollywood red carpet than police precinct lineoleum. Griffith dragged you back from Maui just for this?”
“I flew in last night. I sort of assumed I’d have Sunday to myself before I headed back in tomorrow, but the boss must have thought it would do me good to get some hand-holding practice while we wait for Easterbrook to turn up. You know, ease me out of drug cases into the new gig.”
“They usually do,” Johnson said. “Turn up, I mean. She probably went shopping and lost track of time or went out for a drink with the girls.”
“Right, because, of course, that’s all women do in their spare time: shopping and girl talk.”
“This is going to take some getting used to, Kincaid, after seven years of MCT work with O’Donnell.”
I didn’t react to the mention of my predecessor. “Just doing my part to lead you down the path of enlightenment, Ray. Clarissa Easterbrook’s an administrative law judge, not some bored housewife.”
“Oh, so it’s only women lawyers who excel beyond malls and gossip. Got it. Note to all detectives,” he said, as if he were speaking into a dictation recorder, “the new Major Crimes Unit DA says it’s still OK to diss housewives.” He dropped the routine and cocked a finger at me. “Busted!”
There was no arguing it, so I laughed instead. “Who’s in the back?” I asked, leaning my head toward the ongoing murmurs.
“Walker’s back there with the husband and the sister. We got here about half an hour ago, and the sister showed up right after. We haven’t been able to do much more than try to calm them down. We need to start working on the timeline, though. I stayed out here to wait for you. I suspect Dr. Easterbrook’s still getting used to having a brother in the house.”
It was unusual to have MCT involved so early in a missing persons case, but Walker and Johnson were here from the bureaus Major Crimes Team for the same reason I was: to make sure that our offices looked responsive and concerned when the missing judge showed up and to triple-check that the investigation was perfect, just in case she didn’t.
“Sounds good. I’ll do my part for the family and any press, but for now you guys take the lead on interviews.”
“Music to my ears, Kincaid.”
He began walking toward the back of the house, but I stopped him with a hand on his elbow. “I assume you’re keeping things gentle for now, just in case. And absolutely no searches, not even with consent.” If Clarissa Easterbrook had encountered anything criminal, everyone close to her would become a suspect, especially her husband. We couldn’t do anything now that might jeopardize our investigation down the road.
“I should’ve known it was too good to be true. All DAs just got to have their say. It’s in the blood.” I could tell from his smile that he wasn’t annoyed. “No worries, now.”
We made our way to the kitchen, walking past a built-in rock fountain that served as a room divider. The Easterbrooks had sprung for marble countertops and stainless steel, Sub-Zero everything, but it looked like no one ever cooked here. In fact, as far as I could tell, no one even lived here. The only hint of disorder was in a corner of the kitchen, where the contents of a canvas book bag were spread out on the counter next to a frazzled-looking brunette. She had a cell phone to one ear and an index finger in the other.
Jack Walker greeted us. With his short sleeves, striped tie, and bald head, he had enough of the cop look going to make up for his partner. “Welcome back. You look great,” he said into my ear as he shook my hand with a friendly squeeze. “Dr. Easterbrook, this is Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.”
There are women who would describe Townsend Easterbrook as good-looking. His brown hair was worn just long enough and with just enough gray at the temples to suggest a lack of attention to appearance, but the Brooks Brothers clothes told another story. On the spectrum between sloppy apathetic and sloppy preppy, there was no question where this man fell.
He seemed alarmed by the introduction. At first I assumed he was nervous. I quickly realized it was something else entirely.
“Please, call me Townsend. Gosh, I apologize if I was staring. I recognized you from the news, but it took me a moment to draw the connection.”
It hadn’t dawned on me that, at least for the foreseeable future, former strangers would know me as the local Annie Oakley. One more daily annoyance. Terrific.
“I’m sorry to meet you under these circumstances, Dr. Easterbrook. Duncan had to be in Salem tonight, but he wanted me to assure you that our office will do everything within our power to help find your wife.”
When Griffith called, he had insisted that I use his first name with the family and assure Dr. Easterbrook that he would have been here personally if he weren’t locked in legislative hearings. Other missing people might disappear with little or no official response, but Dr. Easterbrook’s phone call to 911 had ripped like a lightning bolt through the power echelon. The wife was sure to turn up, but this was Griffith’s chance to say I feel your pain.
And Easterbrook clearly was in pain. “Thank you for coming so quickly,” he said, his voice shaking. “I feel foolish now that you’re all here, but we weren’t sure what we should be doing. Clarissa’s sister and I have been calling everyone we can possibly think of.”
“That’s your sister-in-law?” I asked, looking toward the woman in the corner, still clutching the phone.
“Yes. Tara. She came in from The Dalles. I called her earlier to see if she’d heard from Clarissa today. Then I called her again when I saw that our dog, Griffey, was gone, too.”
Walker tapped the pocket-size notebook he held in his hand with a dainty gold pen that didn’t suit him. Most likely a gift from one of his six daughters, it looked tiny between his sausage fingers. “Dr. Easterbrook was just telling me he got home from the hospital at six-thirty tonight. His wife was home when he left this morning at six.”
A twelve-hour day probably wasn’t unusual for the attending surgeon at Oregon Health Sciences University’s teaching hospital, even on a Sunday. Looking at him now, though, it was hard to imagine him steadying a scalpel just four hours ago.
Easterbrook continued where he must have left off. “She was still in bed when I left. Sort of awake but still asleep.” He was staring blankly in front of him, probably remembering how cute his wife is when she is sleepy. “She hadn’t mentioned any plans, so when I got home and she wasn’t here, I assumed she went out to the market. We usually have dinner in on Sundays, as long as I’m home.”
“You’ve checked for her car,” Walker said. It was more of a statement than a question.
“Right. That was the first thing I did once I was out of my scrubs: I changed clothes and walked down to the garage. When I saw the Lexus, I thought she must have walked somewhere. I tried her cell, but I kept getting her voice mail. Finally, around eight, I thought to look out back for Griffey. When I saw he was gone too, I drove around the neighborhood for what must have been an hour. I finally got so worried I called the police.”