Read The Third Victim Online

Authors: Lisa Gardner

The Third Victim

BOOK: The Third Victim
10.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Contents

Title Page

Acknowledgments

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Epilogue

Excerpt from Love You More

Get an exclusive peek at the script for AMC’s addictive new series, The Killing. Premiering Sunday, April 3 at 9/8c. Only on AMC.

About the Author

Other Books by Lisa Gardner

Praise for Lisa Gardner

Preview of
Alone

Copyright Page

AUTHOR’S NOTE
AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

WHEN I FIRST PROPOSED
this book to my editor, it was the winter of 1998 and nearly seven months since the last shooting—Kip Kinkel’s May rampage in Springfield, Oregon. That tragedy had followed close on the heels of another, in Jonesboro, Arkansas (March 24, 1998), which had followed West Paducah, Kentucky (December 1, 1997), Pearl, Mississippi (October 1, 1997), and Bethel, Alaska (February 19, 1997). Like many Americans struggling to grasp five shootings in fifteen months, I wanted to understand why these mass murders had occurred and what could be done to prevent them.

After fine-tuning what would be appropriate to cover in a work of fiction whose goal must also be to entertain, I began researching this novel. One Monday, while wrapping up weeks of interviewing, I asked an expert if he believed that the rash of incidents indicated a new trend in juvenile behavior. While this point is controversial, the man did not hesitate to answer. “Absolutely,” he said. “As for future shootings, the question is not if but when.”

The very next day, Littleton, Colorado, joined the sad list of shot-up schools in a scope and scale that was staggering. I watched the news clips, and like people all around the world, I gave my thoughts and prayers to a community I had never met.

Each time one of these shootings occurs it is heartbreaking, but as Supervisory Special Agent Pierce Quincy tries to explain in the following pages, it does not have to be hopeless. With each tragedy, we have learned and are learning. In addition to Littleton, Springfield, and Jonesboro, there is Burlington, Wisconsin, where police responded to an anonymous tip in time to arrest three teenage boys plotting to assassinate a target list of “in” students, and there is Wimberly, Texas, where concerned students contacted police in time to foil a plot by five eighth-grade boys to blow up the junior high. People are learning to listen, and it does work.

In the end, I believe we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to each of the communities that has suffered this tragedy. By sharing their experience with us, and their sorrow, they are teaching us to be better people, students, families, and neighbors. May there come a day when white lilies and red roses are not piled against schoolyard fences. May there come a time when we are not haunted by the image of teenagers signing farewell notes on white caskets. May there be a future when our schools once again know peace.

The following people helped me tremendously with my research. I appreciate their help and patient explanations. Of course, all mistakes are mine, and some facts are subject to artistic license.

Dr. Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Atlanta Christian College

Thomas Grisso, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry (Clinical Psychology), Director of Forensics Training and Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Steve Ellis, Officer, Amity Police Department

Rudolf Van Soolen, Chief of Police, Amity Police Department

Jonathan McCarthy, Paramedic, New Orleans Health Department

Amy Holmes Hehn, Senior Deputy District Attorney, Juvenile Division, Multnomah County

Stacy Heyworth, Senior Deputy District Attorney, Multnomah County

Michael Moore, Attorney-at-Law

Virgie Lorenz, teacher

Bruce Walker, computer whiz extraordinaire

Chad LeDoux, gun aficionado and fellow writer

Debra Dixon, author

ONE
                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Tuesday, May 15, 1:25
P
.
M
.

O
FFICER LORRAINE CONNER
was sitting in a red vinyl booth at Martha’s Diner, picking at her tuna salad and listening to Frank and Doug gossip, when the call first came in. She was sitting alone in the booth, eating salad because she’d just turned thirty-one and was beginning to notice that the pounds didn’t magically melt away the way they had when she was twenty-one, or hell, even twenty-seven. She could still run a six-minute mile and slip into a size 8, but thirty-one was fundamentally different from thirty. She spent more time arranging her long chestnut hair to earn those second glances. And for lunches, she traded in cheeseburgers for tuna salad, five days a week.

Rainie’s partner that day was twenty-two-year-old volunteer police officer Charles Cunningham, aka Chuckie. Known in the lingo of the tiny police department of Bakersville, Oregon, as a “green rookie,” Chuckie hadn’t yet gone to the nine-month-long training school. That meant he was allowed to look but not touch. Full authority would come when he completed the required academy courses and received his certificate. In the meantime, he got to gain experience by going on patrols and writing up reports. He also got to wear the standard tan uniform and carry a gun. Chuckie was a pretty happy guy.

Before the call came in, he was up at the lunch counter, trying to work some magic on a leggy blond waitress named Cindy. He had his chest puffed out, his knee crooked forward, and his hand resting lightly on his sidearm. Cindy, on the other hand, was trying to serve up slices of Martha’s homemade blueberry pie to six farmers at once. One cantankerous old man muttered at the rookie to get out of the way. Chuckie grinned harder.

In the booth behind Rainie, retired dairymen Doug Atkens and Frank Winslow started placing their bets.

“Ten dollars says she caves,” Doug announced, slapping a crumpled bill on the pink Formica table.

“Twenty says she dumps a glass of ice water over Romeo’s head,” Frank countered, reaching for his wallet. “I know for a fact that Cindy would rather earn good tips than Clark Gable’s heart.”

Rainie gave up on her salad and turned around to face the two men. It was a slow afternoon and she had nothing better to do with her time, so she said, “I’ll take a piece of that.”

“Hello there, Rainie.” Frank and Doug, friends for nearly fifty years, smiled as a single unit. Frank had bluer eyes in his sun-weathered face, but Doug had more hair. Both men wore red-checked western shirts with pearl snaps—their official dress shirts for an afternoon spent out on the town. In the winter, they topped their shirts with brown suede blazers and cream-colored cowboy hats. Rainie once accused them of trying to impersonate the Marlboro Man. At their ages, they took that as a compliment.

“Slow day?” Doug asked.

“Slow month. It’s May. The sun is out. Everyone is too damn happy to fight.”

“Ahh, no juicy domestic disputes?”

“Not even a quibble over whose dog is depositing what souvenirs in whose yard. If this good weather continues, I’m gonna be out of a job.”

“A beautiful woman like you doesn’t need a job,” Frank said. “You need a
man.

“Yeah? And after thirty seconds, what would I do?”

Frank and Doug chortled; Rainie winked. She liked Frank and Doug. Every Tuesday for as long as she could remember, she would find them sitting at that booth in this diner at precisely one
P
.
M
. The sun rose, the sun set. Frank and Doug ate Martha’s Tuesday meatloaf special. It worked.

Now Rainie tossed ten bucks into the pot in Chuckie’s favor. She’d seen the young Don Juan in action before, and Bakersville’s young ladies simply loved his dimpled smile.

“So what d’you think of the new volunteer?” Doug asked, jerking his head toward the lunch counter.

“What’s there to think? Writing traffic tickets isn’t brain surgery.”

“Heard you two had a little encounter with a German shepherd last week,” Frank said.

Rainie grimaced. “Rabies. Damn fine animal too.”

“Did he really charge Romeo?”

“All ninety pounds.”

“We heard Chuckie ’bout peed his pants.”

“I don’t think Chuckie likes dogs.”

“Walt said you took the shepherd out. Clean shot to the head.”

“That’s why they pay me the big bucks—so I can counsel drunks and shoot household pets.”

“Come on, Rainie. Walt said it was a tough shot. Those dogs move
fast
. Chuckie indebted to you now?”

Rainie eyed the rookie, still puffed up like a rooster at the lunch counter. She said, “I think Chuckie’s scared
shitless
of me now.”

Frank and Doug laughed again. Then Frank leaned forward, a gleam in his old blue eyes as he started fishing for real gossip.

“Shep must like having more help,” he said meaningfully.

Rainie eyed the bait, then refused the offer. “All sheriffs like getting people willing to work for free,” she said neutrally. It was true enough. Bakersville’s modest budget allowed for only one full-time sheriff and two full-time officers—Rainie and Luke Hayes. The other six patrolmen were strictly volunteers. They not only donated their time for free, but they paid for their own training, uniforms, vests, and guns. Lots of small towns used this system. After all, the majority of calls dealt with domestic disputes and crimes against property. Nothing a few good people with level heads couldn’t handle.

“I hear Shep is cutting back his hours,” Doug prompted.

“I don’t keep track.”

“Come on, Rainie. Everyone knows Shep and Sandy are having their differences. Is he working on patching things up? Getting more comfortable with his wife having a job?”

“I just write up civil incidents, Frank. No spying for the taxpayers here.”

“Ahh, give us a hint. We’re going to the barbershop next, you know. Walt gives free haircuts if you provide fresh news.”

Rainie rolled her eyes. “Walt already knows more than I do. Who do you think
we
call for information?”

“Walt does know everything,” Frank grumbled. “Maybe we should open up a barbershop. Hell, any kind of moron oughtta be able to cut hair.”

Rainie looked down at the two men’s hands, twisted from a lifetime of hard work and swollen by a decade of arthritis. “I’d come in,” she said bravely.

“See there, Doug. We could also pick up chicks.”

Doug was impressed. He began contemplating the details, and Rainie decided it was time to exit stage right. She swiveled back around in her booth with a parting smile, then glanced at her watch. 1:30
P
.
M
. No calls coming in, no reports from the morning to be written up. An unusually slow morning in an already slow town. She looked at Chuckie, whose cheeks had to be aching from that smile.

“Wrap it up, rookie,” she muttered, and drummed her fingertips restlessly.

Unlike Charles Cunningham, Rainie had never planned on becoming a cop. When she’d graduated from Bakersville High School, her first thought had been to get the hell out of dairyland. She’d had eigh-teen years of claustrophobia building up inside her and no family left to keep her chained. Freedom, that’s what she needed. No more ghosts, or so she’d thought.

Rainie had boarded the first bus to Portland, where she’d enrolled at Portland State University and studied psychology. She’d liked her classes. She’d liked the young city brimming with cooking schools and art institutes and “alternative lifestyles.” She’d gotten involved in a heady affair with a thirty-four-year-old assistant district attorney who’d driven a Porsche.

Nights spent taking over the wheel of the high-performance vehicle with all the windows rolled down. Putting the pedal to the metal and streaking up the sharp corners of Skyline Boulevard with the wind in her hair. Climbing higher, higher, higher, pushing harder, harder, harder. Searching for . . . something.

Then, when they finally crested the top of the hill, the city spreading out like a blanket of stars, pulling over and stripping off clothes as they furiously fucked amid gear-shifts and bucket seats.

Later, Howie would drive Rainie home, where she’d pop open a six-pack of beer alone, though she of all people knew better.

Rainie glanced at her watch again. “Come on, Chuckie. It’s not like Cindy’s going anywhere.”

The radio on Rainie’s belt crackled to life. Finally, she thought with genuine relief, some action.

“One-five, one-five. Calling one-five.”

Rainie picked up the radio, already sliding out of the booth. “One-five here, go ahead.”

“We have a report of an incident at the K-through-eight school. Wait . . . hang on.”

Rainie frowned. She could hear noises in the background, as if dispatch had her own radio up very high or a phone next to the radio receiver. Rainie heard static and shouts. Then she heard four distinct popping sounds. Gunshots.

What the hell?

Rainie strode toward Chuck, turning him around just as dispatch came on again. For the first time in eight years, Linda Ames sounded frazzled.

“All units, all units. Reports of gunfire from Ba-kersville’s K-through-eight. Reports . . . blood loss. . . blood in the halls. Calling six-oh . . . six-oh . . . Walt, bring the damn ambulance! I’m securing channel three. I think it’s a school shooting. Oh my God, we’re having a school shooting!”

Rainie got Chuck out of the diner. He looked pale and shocked. She waited to feel something but came up empty. There was a faint ringing in her ears. She ignored it as she slid into the old police sedan, buckled up, and reached automatically for the sirens.

“I don’t understand,” Chuckie murmured. “A school shooting? We don’t have school shootings.”

“Keep the radio on channel three. That’s the designated channel, and all information will pass through there.” Rainie slammed the car into gear and pulled out. They were on Main Street, a good fifteen minutes away from Bakersville’s K–8, and Rainie knew that a lot could happen in fifteen minutes.

“We can’t be having a school shooting,” Chuckie continued, babbling. “Hell, we don’t even have gangs, or drugs, or . . . or
homicides,
for that matter. Dispatch must be confused.”

“Yeah,” Rainie said quietly, though the ringing was growing in her ears. It had been years since she’d heard that sound. Years since she’d been a little girl, coming home from school and knowing from the first step into the doorway, the first note of foreboding in her ear-drums, that her mother was already drunk and this was going to be bad.

You’re a cop now, Rainie. You’re in control.

Suddenly, she desperately needed to hold a bottle of beer.

The radio crackled again. Sheriff Shep O’Grady’s voice came on as Rainie cleared the first light on Main Street. “One-five, one-five, what is your position?”

“Twelve minutes out,” Rainie responded, weaving sharply around one double-parked car and barely squeaking by the next.

“One-five, switch to channel four.”

Rainie looked at Chuckie. The rookie made the switch to the private channel. Shep’s voice returned. He didn’t sound as calm anymore. “Rainie, you gotta get here faster.”

“We were at Martha’s. I’m coming as fast as I can. You?”

“Six minutes out. Too damn far. Linda sent the rest of the officers scrambling, but most gotta run home for their vests and sidearms. Nearest county officer is probably twenty minutes away, and state a good thirty to forty minutes. If this really is a major incident . . .” His voice trailed off; then he said abruptly, “Rainie, you need to be the primary.”

“I can’t be the primary. I don’t have any experience.” Rainie glanced at Chuck, who appeared equally confused. The sheriff was always the primary on the case. That was procedure.

“You have more experience than anyone else,” Shep was saying.

“My mother doesn’t count—”

“Rainie, I’m not sure what’s really going down at the school, but if it’s a shooting . . . My kids are there, Rainie. You can’t ask me not to think about my children.”

Rainie fell silent. After eight years of working with Shep, she knew his two children as well as a favorite niece and nephew. Eight-year-old Becky was horse crazy. Thirteen-year-old Danny loved to spend free afternoons at the tiny police station. Once, Rainie had given the boy a plastic sheriff’s star. He’d worn it for nearly six months and demanded to sit beside Rainie whenever she came over to dinner. They were great kids. Two great kids in a building filled with two hundred and fifty other great kids. Not one above the age of fourteen . . .

Not in Bakersville. Chuckie was right: These things couldn’t be happening in Bakersville.

Rainie said quietly, “I’ll be the primary.”

“Thanks, Rainie. Knew I could count on you.”

The radio clicked off. Rainie hit another red light and had to tap the brakes to slow. Fortunately, cross-traffic saw her coming and halted right away. She was vaguely aware of the other drivers’ concerned expressions. Police sirens on Main Street? You never heard police sirens on Main Street. They still had a good ten-minute drive, and now she was genuinely concerned that that might be too long . . . too late.

Two hundred and fifty little kids . . .

“Turn back to channel three,” she told Chuckie. “Order the medics docked.”

“But there’s a report of blood—”

“Medics are docked until the scene is secured. That’s the drill.”

Chuck did as he was told.

“Get dispatch on. Request full backup. I’m sure the state and county boys have heard, and I don’t want there to be any confusion—we’ll take all the help we can get.” She paused, sifting through her memory to classes taken eight years ago in a musty classroom in Salem, Oregon, where she had been the only woman among thirty men. Full-scale mobilization. Procedure for possible large-scale casualties. Things that had seemed strange to be studying at the time.

BOOK: The Third Victim
10.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Zom-B by Darren Shan
The Search by Darrell Maloney
The Fatal Funnel Cake by Livia J. Washburn
Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
The Song Is You by Megan Abbott
SEAL Endeavor by Sharon Hamilton
Horrid Henry Rocks by Francesca Simon