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Authors: Matt Hilton

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Rules of Honour (6 page)

BOOK: Rules of Honour
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It was a photograph in a gilt-edged frame.

Tyler pulled on latex gloves, handed to him by one of the CSI men.

He teased the photo out from under Jed, and then paused to look at the carpet where it had lain. Because the shots into Jed’s body had been fired post-mortem there was little blood beneath him, but some dots were visible on the carpet underneath where the photo had been found. I don’t consider myself a detective, but even I could tell that the photo frame had been slipped beneath the body after Jed was already dead.

Tyler looked once at Jones, confirming that his partner had caught the significance too, before noticing us looming over them. ‘Do you mind keeping your distance? In fact, I’m not even sure that I want you in the room.’

Continuing our show of compliance we stepped back, watching as Tyler sealed the photo in an evidence bag, then signed it over to the CSI team. Unless the killer was supremely stupid he would have been wearing gloves when placing the photo, but there was always an off chance that fingerprints could be found on the frame. I doubted it; but the frame was a clue of sorts to me, and more for the photograph’s subject than the physical item.

On the way over here, Rink had told me a little about Jed Newmark, that he was a widower whose wife, Rose, had died a few years earlier. Rose had been a friend of Yukiko’s but I hadn’t realised until seeing the picture that she too was Japanese. A theory was beginning to rattle around in my head, gaining momentum, but it wasn’t something I wanted to mention to the detectives. Rink’s words came back to me. ‘
Giri
. My mom is a firm believer in the old ways.’ I had begun to wonder how far that ‘burden of obligation’ stretched.

Detective Jones left his partner to approach us. He was smiling faintly as he tucked his thumbs into his belt and shoved back his shoulders. ‘There’s stuff you guys know but aren’t telling us. Want to get down to business and save us the runaround?’

We shared a look, and I allowed Rink to reply for us. ‘All I know is that someone murdered my dad, and now his best friend, and the SFPD doesn’t seem to have a goddamn clue who’s responsible.’

Jones shook his head. With his strawberry-blond curls and a splash of freckles across his nose, he looked much younger, and less experienced, than his position as a homicide detective dictated. But his face took on harder edges, and he didn’t look as amiable as before. He looked into Rink’s eyes and didn’t flinch. ‘When your father was killed you were in Florida. We checked. We know that you –’ he gave me a cursory nod ‘– and your friend weren’t involved directly, but we also found out a thing or two that raised a red flag. As much as you’ve covered your asses, and it seems someone with influence has kept you both from being thrown in jail, our colleagues out East aren’t idiots. They know that you’re responsible for a number of violent crimes –
fatally
violent in some cases – and that you have made some dangerous and brutal enemies in the last couple years. There has been a certain laxness shown towards your actions, primarily because those that you’ve gone up against probably deserved what they got, but when those actions bring trouble to
our city
the SFPD isn’t the type to turn a blind eye. We don’t endorse vigilantism here.’

‘You haven’t just had someone close to you murdered,’ Rink said. ‘Maybe you’d think differently then.’

Jones ignored the retort.‘The way I was beginning to look at things, this was your entire fault: someone with a beef with you chose to attack you through your family.’ He gestured at the bagged corpse being loaded on to the gurney. ‘Now I’m not so sure. I can’t see any reason why they would then target Mr Newmark. Not unless there’s something I’m missing?’

Did Jones believe that Jed Newmark was Andrew’s murderer, and that we’d done the old guy in out of revenge? If so, he wasn’t saying, but it would add validity to why it had become necessary for us to consent to forensic examination. I didn’t think that was the case, though: if we were deemed suspects we’d have been arrested at the get-go.

‘Whatever you’re missing, we are too,’ Rink said.

Jones puffed his cheeks out, before exhaling noisily. ‘Forgive me, Mr Rington, but I think you’re feeding me a line of bullshit.’

‘That’s your prerogative. I don’t care. All I care about is finding the man who killed my dad.’ His gaze flicked to the gurney being trundled past us. ‘And Jed Newmark.’

‘That’s what we all want. But there’s something else that we demand . . .’

‘If we learn anything, we tell you immediately?’

‘Yes. I’d hate to think that you chose to exact your own brand of justice. If that were to happen—’

‘The SFPD wouldn’t turn a blind eye. Yeah, we got that already.’

Detective Jones unhooked his thumbs, allowing his jacket to swing closed over the gun holstered on his belt next to his detective’s shield. ‘I’m glad we’re all clear on that.’

‘Crystal,’ Rink said. I could smell the testosterone in the air.

‘Just the way we like it.’ Jones glanced over at Detective Tyler and the men shared a less than subtle nod. Jones allowed his features to relax, and the easygoing smile crept back into place. ‘We appreciate your cooperation on this. Makes it much easier for everyone involved.’

Including the murderer, I thought, but elected to keep my opinion to myself.

Jones indicated one of the CSI techs. ‘Don’t forget to speak with my colleague before you leave. In fact, why don’t you go with him now? You can use the kitchen over there.’

We’d been dismissed like chastened schoolboys from the principal’s office. Not that either of us minded. We’d wasted enough time there as it was. As soon as we were done with the forensics guy, we could get on with what needed doing. After we’d changed our clothing and shoes and put on gloves.

Chapter 8

In South Dakota, at 8.30 p.m. on the day of Andrew Rington’s funeral, Dan Lansdale was sitting in the bleachers of his grandson’s Little League stadium. The description of ‘stadium’ was too grand because it wasn’t much more than a diamond set in well-trampled sun-dried earth, a lean-to dugout and a chain-link fence, surrounded by triple-tiered rows of wooden benches on metal scaffolding. But it was known as ‘the Stadium’ by the local townsfolk and had been since Dan was a boy. When he was a kid he’d taken his first practice swings out on the same diamond, observed by his grandfather in turn. He wasn’t watching his own grandson now: the boy was home with his parents, as he should be this late in the evening. Dan had come here because it held such fond memories for him, thinking they might push aside the terrible things he’d been forced into recalling since hearing of Andrew’s murder.

The sun was low in the heavens, setting fire to the low-lying clouds shrouding the nearest peaks of the Black Hills. Occasionally Dan turned his gaze away, blinking until the colours etched on to his retina faded, before looking west again. He was sitting in the tiny town of Whitehead, far enough off Interstate 90 that sightseers heading for the nearby national park and Mount Rushmore missed it, but his mind was on his deceased friend in San Francisco. Occasionally it drifted to a different place but he was quick to shove the thoughts away. He chose to dwell on better times, or at least attempted to because thoughts of
the basement
kept coming back to him.

Dan had been born here in Whitehead, into a large Evangelican Lutheran family, and but for a spell spent abroad had lived here most of his adult life. Whitehead was his sanctum, the place he felt that his other life had no business invading and until the telephone call he’d received a couple days ago it had left him alone. Being a religious man, he had no truck with the concepts of fate or karma, but believed that a man’s sins would come back to repay him tenfold. He was therefore unsurprised when he heard the soft thud of footsteps and turned to see a man approaching across the deserted baseball ground. Though he wouldn’t admit it, Dan had come here for more than the purpose of reminiscing. He had suspected that he was next on the list and didn’t want to be found at home where his wife could be hurt the way Yukiko was when the man had gone for Andrew.

Dan didn’t get up.

There was no point in trying to run, not with bad legs that required the support of a walking stick these days. But that wasn’t the reason; he fully accepted that he was about to die and wouldn’t give the man the satisfaction of chasing him down like a coward.

As the man approached he kicked up dust, small zephyrs lifting dust devils in his wake. The man was wearing a black jacket over a plaid shirt, jeans and boots. He had a baseball cap pulled down low, and sunglasses that reflected the burning clouds. He stopped ten feet from Dan and regarded him through the links in the fence. The effect of the sunglasses added to the man’s soulless scrutiny. The image took Dan way back to that basement again, and how he’d struck a similar set of glasses from a man’s face. He wished now he could do likewise, but even with the added reach of his stick the man was out of range.

Without saying a word his would-be executioner pulled a folding knife from out of his jacket pocket. He was wearing gloves, the latex type favoured by surgeons. The blade also reflected the fiery sky as the man opened it.

‘You shot Andrew Rington.’ It wasn’t a question, or recrimination; Dan was simply stating a fact.

‘That’s right. I shot Newmark and Tennant as well.’ The man watched the colour drain from Dan’s features. ‘I see the news about your other two buddies hasn’t reached you yet.’

‘There aren’t many of us left . . .’

‘No. Soon there won’t be any.’

‘And what will you do then, when this misguided crusade ends? You’ll go back to your normal life? Have you stopped to think about that? Can it ever be normal again?’

‘I doubt it. I’m beginning to enjoy being judge, jury and executioner. There’s still a penance to pay. My life has been hell; maybe I’ll make
others
suffer the way I have.’

Dan hung his head. ‘I accept now that what we did was wrong. I’ve made my confession, begged forgiveness from God, but from the fact you’ve shown up here, it seems my prayers went unheard.’

‘Don’t expect leniency from me either.’

‘I don’t. I accept my punishment. But please . . .’ Dan lifted his head to stare directly at the man. ‘Stop then. There’s no need for anyone else to get hurt. There’s been enough killing already.’

The man shook his head, an almost sad motion at odds with his sneer. ‘It can’t stop here.’

‘It can.’

‘It can’t and I won’t stop.’ The man held the knife close to his hip. ‘Not while there are three still alive. And I won’t stop while the other ones who concocted those lies breathe either.’

‘They weren’t lies,’ Dan said as the man approached him, pushing through a gate in the fence. He pointed an arthritic finger at the murderer. ‘And you know it.’

The man kept on coming, hopping up on to the first tier. The first sign that Dan’s accusation struck a chord was in the way his jaw tightened. Then there were his words. ‘I chose to bring a knife here because there was a danger a gunshot would be heard, and a knife was a more silent way of killing you. I wasted my time. For what you just said, you’re going to scream, old man.’

Dan lowered his head. He put aside his walking sticks and clasped his hands in his lap. Perhaps he was praying for strength, the fortitude to deny his killer. But once more God didn’t appear to be listening.

Chapter 9

Following the murder of Dan Lansdale his killer left South Dakota and returned to San Francisco, arriving late in the evening. The clothing he’d worn – as well as the murder weapon – had been discarded in a Dumpster behind a roadside diner thirty or so miles from the scene of the crime, as he’d made his way to catch his flight. He now wore jeans, over a grey button-down shirt and casual jacket. His only baggage was a carry-on holdall, containing an innocent change of clothing, a toiletry kit and a well-thumbed thriller novel he’d skimmed through on the flight home. Since reclaiming his holdall from where he’d hidden it, he had placed his cigarettes, wallet and cellphone in his jacket pockets. But that was all he carried. He was a big man, but there was nothing distinctive about him that would attract attention, or even more than a cursory glance from any airport staff. He walked out through the arrivals exit confident that no one had paid him any attention.

He had three choices: he could take the BART into the city, hail a cab or plump for the next bus to come along. He had taken precautions while in South Dakota, ensuring that there was no record of his visit to Whitehead, having hired a car under false credentials and paid his bill in cash. Back at this end there was of course a record of his flight, but he’d already told a couple of his work colleagues that he was heading off on a hiking trip for a couple of days, and that he was going to visit Mount Rushmore. His trip to South Dakota was no secret, only his real agenda. The chances of his presence in the state being flagged against the brutal murder in a backwoods town would be nil. Nevertheless, the fewer points on his trail that could be identified the better, so he had elected to leave his car at home and travelled to San Francisco International Airport via public transport, thus leaving no record of his vehicle in the airport car park. Now he thought he might have been overcautious, and all it meant was a slow return home. He was wiped out from the adrenalin buzz, needed rest, but was due in work at six the following morning. He decided to taxicab it to his house in Clarendon Heights, despite the cost of the fare.

BOOK: Rules of Honour
9.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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