Chapter 48

Frank rang the doorbell of the Morgan mansion holding the infant cradle, in which his son was asleep, in his left hand. Sandra stood beside the boy studying her husband’s facial expression while they waited. It was only a matter of moments before a smiling James Morgan opened the door and immediately extended his hand in friendship.

“I was so happy to hear from Marcia that you were safe and doing well.”

Frank accepted the offer: “Thank you and thank you for everything you and Felicia did for Janie and I.”

“We had to do something.”

Frank nodded: “This is my wife Sandra and our son Tyrone.”

“Named for a good man,” James said, and stepped aside. “Please come in. My father says he has some important announcements that he believes you should be privy too. It sounded so very urgent that Abigail flew in from Philadelphia.”

“I thought she swore never to return.”

“She did, but our father said it was gravely important, and I implored her to make the trip.”

Frank and Sandra followed James to and through the open study doors where the Old Man was seated behind the desk with his wife Marion seated beside him. There were also James wife Felicia, his sister Abigail, and Jack’s widow Patricia seated opposite the desk.

The Old Man stood and addressed Frank: “I want to thank you for agreeing to meet with my family and I. Sandra you are every bit as beautiful as I was informed.” The Old Man smiled: “I understand you named your son after your father.”

“Yes sir,” Frank answered, “we did.”

“Please,” the Old Man beckoned, “we have chairs for you.”

Frank sat their still sleeping infant son between the two reserved chairs, waited for Sandy to be seated, then took a seat himself. The Old Man sat, pulled his chair closer to the desk, and laid his arms and hands upon it. He looked around the room and then directly at Frank.

“I built this house as a sanctuary. I called it my Shangri-La, my escape from,” he waved his arm, “the all out there. You will not find a single law book about and I refused to conduct any business here except for one time a little more than two years ago, here in this room. Frank,” he asked, “you don’t really understand politics, do you?”

“No sir.”

“Your father did. I thought he was a very good politician and he had my respect even though he and I had differing visions for this county. When you agreed to run for the County Commissioner’s Office I knew you shared your father’s vision and that you would be the preferred candidate. James was busy in California and wasn’t able to campaign so I flew down from Denver and met with my youngest son.” The Old Man paused: “I instructed him to discredit you in some manner that would force you to withdraw your candidacy, or at the very least, to cost you enough votes to lose the election.”

Frank leaned forward in his chair: “I always believed you were behind it.”

Joseph Morgan nodded: “I have been a hard man throughout my career. One does not build a dynasty by playing nice. I have crushed rivals through the years but I give you my word of honor that I have never killed anyone nor have I ever directed that someone be killed. My son’s only task was for his brother to win that election. I never intended, nor believed, that your family would be killed. For that I am deeply sorry.”

“I take it you arranged for Jack’s disappearance.”

“That task was undertaken by Vincent and then he left my employ.”

“I am no lawyer,” Frank stated, “but it seems to me that both of you could be charged as accessories.”

“You may not believe this but I bore you no malice and yes, given this admission, I could be prosecuted and that brings me to the other matters that I wanted to let you all know of.” He turned slowly, caught each persons eye, nodded, and then turned his attention to his eldest son.” Firstly, as Marion is already aware, I have sold all interest in the law firm to my senior and junior partners and I am currently liquidating all of my business interests and land holdings including the Diamond M. I am now retired from all public life and intend to spend the rest of my life here, as a proper husband, father, and grandfather. Frank, I am seventy years old and have spent far too few of those days here.” The Old Man paused while he studied the faces of his family and then reached for his wife’s hand. “I have pancreatic cancer and will not be around much longer. So Frank, you must see that even if I were to be prosecuted I will be dead before the case ever goes to trial. I am certainly not deserving but I do implore you to grant me peace for what life I have left and my request is not without consideration. I cannot restore your wife and daughter to you nor do I believe that any amount of financial consideration can compensate you for you loss but I have established an annuity that will provide you with an annual income of one-hundred-thousand dollars.”

“I do not want your money,” Frank sneered. “I do well enough on my own.”

“If you do not want the income you may reassign all or part of it to a beneficiary or beneficiaries of your choice. Frank, I understand how you must hate me but let me warn you that hatred will only harm you in the long run. I am dying and your hatred will not make my passing any more painful then I have already been told it would be.”

“When I learned that Jack was dead,” Frank turned to Jack’s widow Patricia who was weeping sorely, “all I felt was a terrible sadness for the family he left behind.” Frank turned back to the Old Man: “I am through hating and I know that hatred and vengeance will not change a god damned thing. But, since you seem to be in a generous mood have you thought at all of Shane’s family.”

The Old Man nodded: “I have established an annuity for the Gregory’s such that they will not ever be in want. James Duncan did not leave behind a family but I have seen to it that his final expenses have been taken care of along with those of that poor fireman and his wife.” Joseph Morgan then looked from family member to family member: “I have also taken care of all of you so that you and your children will not want. The balance of my estate will be placed into a trust that will be jointly and equally managed by James and Abigail, that is, if the should agree to.”

The brother and sister looked at each other the first James then Abigail nodded their assent and together they answered: “Yes, father.”

“Thank you. It is my wish that anyone who has been harmed by these tragedies that I have overlooked be compensated.” The Old Man turned to Frank: “I wish for you to reconsider the acceptance of compensation for the sake of my conscious.”

“I have,” Frank replied, “and I will on the condition that the full annuity be designated the Emily and Katherine Jarrett Memorial Scholarship Fund, and that James and Abigail agree to manage it.”

James stood and walked to where Frank sat and extended his hand: “I would be honored.” Frank stood and shook hands with James who then stepped aside and allowed Abigail to offer her handshake and an: “I will, gladly.” She released his hand and then closed to hug him and quietly say: “Thank you for your trust in us.”

Frank sat and looked at the Old Man who was uncharacteristically tearing along with his wife Marion. “I,” Frank said, “must know something. When I relocated to Durango a private detective hounded Sandra trying to get to me. It terrified the both of us. Were you behind that?”

The Old Man shook his head: “No. I had private detectives prying into my business here and in Denver as well. I also received a call from Vincent just over two months ago that they were investigating him as well and actually broke into his DC apartment. I suspect that is how they located Jack. Vincent put some muscle on one who said he was hired by Robert Stephens.”

“Then I will not ask that you be prosecuted.” Frank stood and added: “You may have your peace.”

The Old Man rose and walked around his desk and to where Frank stood and offered his hand. “May,” he said, “you find your peace as well.”

The two men shook hands and then Frank turned to Sandy and said: “Let’s go home.”

“Home?” she asked.

Frank nodded: “The Lazy J.”

The End

Chapter 47

Chief Marcia Williams was at work in her office late Monday afternoon in an attempt to catch up on all the tasks she’d ignored over the previous days. The Mayor had occupied much of her morning with his complaints, demands, and projects but fortunately her capable staff had made significant progress in what the news feeds had tagged the Anniversary Murders. Captain Paul Davidson knocked upon her open office door several minutes past four.

“The Jarrett’s are here,” he explained. “You mentioned you’d like to see them before they leave.”

“Thanks yes, please bring the back.”

The Captain left and returned within moments with Frank, Sandra, and the infant Tyrone and then returned to his duties. Marcia stood and said: “Please have a seat,” and then waited until they were seated before she sat herself.

“Yesterday,” Marcia began, “when Officer Foster and I were on the way to your ranch we noted a white car driving south towards Overton but at the time did not think about it. When we arrived at the entrance to your ranch there was a high-powered scoped rifle and a 9mm automatic pistol propped against the gatepost that had not been there five minutes earlier when Deputy Zamerra had arrived. Ballistics have proved that the pistol is the one used to kill Officer Jim Duncan and the rifle was used to kill Officer Shane Gregory.”

“Then he changed his mind?”

“I believe so.”

“Why?”

“I believe because you were holding your son.”

Frank nodded and the Chief continued: “The white Oldsmobile Cutlass is still unaccounted for.”

“What year?”

“Early nineties.”

“Emily drove a 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 2-door Coupe.”

“Which is where?”

“At our place in Grand Junction. We use it for around town.”

“An eyewitness in Greeley identified the make and model but could not be specific about the year. However, a man that fit the general description of Edward Stephens returned a rented Toyota Corolla at the Denver International Airport but the name on the rental agreement was Jackson Turner. And again, a man fitting the general description of Edward Stephens boarded an Aeromexico flight to Mexico City but the name on the passport was Elmer Thompson. The passenger who sat with him on the flight was located and shown a photograph of Edward Stephens and she positively identified him. She also said that the only thing he told her was that he was on the flight because of a family duty, and that he was quiet for the duration of the flight although she said she observed him crying.”

“He’s grieving.”

“His mother committed suicide three months ago.”

“Do you know why?”

“The suicide note found by the Flint Police indicated it was because of the death of her daughter and granddaughter and the anger her husband still clung to.”

“She was a good woman.”

“We have not been able to ascertain what happened to Edward Stephens after landing in Mexico City. A fugitive warrant has been issued and he is high on the FBI’s watch.”

“It’s hard to think that this was all Eddie’s idea. To my way of thinking Robert has to be behind it. He made it very clear that he wanted me dead.”

“So I understand. The Michigan authorities are working with us. We have asked for Robert Stephens’ phone records and if there should be a pattern of calls that correspond with Edward’s movements we may be able to extradite him as an accessory to murder.”

“It seems to me that that might be a hard case to prove.”

“Short of a confession or some hard physical evidence you are correct but we’re still looking.”

“What about the weapons,” Frank asked. “They’re physical evidence, aren’t they.”

“They were both unloaded and wiped clean.”

“Who owned them?”

“The 9mm pistol belonged to Jack Morgan, or rather Michael Robinson as he was known in Oregon. The rifle was part of a shipment of stolen weapons and that case is still open so we don’t know who he acquired it from. The scope itself was also stolen.”

“Chief Williams,” Sandy asked, “does this mean my husband is safe now?”

“I believe that Edward Stephens left the weapons to let us know that it is over and he is done.”

“And Joseph Morgan?” Frank asked.

“I related this same information to James this morning and he went to speak with his father who is here now, and according to James, is staying. Joseph told James that there has been far too much killing and asked him to let you know that he had nothing to do with the death of your father or his first wife.”

“Do you believe him?”

“I believe James and James believes his father, whom he says is clearly penitent.”

“That’s got to be a sight to see.”

Marcia smiled: “You have the opportunity. Joseph Morgan has extended you an invitation to meet with him. He has expressed the need to apologize to you in person.”

“Make peace with the Old Man?”

“That,” Sandy suggested, “wouldn’t be so bad. You could come home again. We could live under our real names and not be afraid anymore.”

“I don’t know.”

“Frank,” Marcia interjected, “you have a lot of people around here that would like to see you finally come home.”

“Please Frank,” Sandy implored.

Frank lowered his head in thought for several moments before he answered with: “Okay. We’ll go see him. All three of us.”

Sandy reached over to squeeze his hand, little Tyrone started to fuss, and Marcia called James on her cell phone. Sandy tried to calm her son who continued to fuss and finally said: “He’s probably hungry again.”

“James,” Marcia said, “is currently in his father’s study and will wait there for you if you can drop by.”

Frank nodded and stood: “Let him know we’ll be on our way as soon as the baby get fed.”

Marcia relayed the information then disconnected the call. “James said to tell you his father said ‘Thank you.’”

Frank nodded again and Marcia stood and offered her hand across the desk: “You’re doing the right thing.”

“That is what they told me when I agreed to run for County Commissioner. That turned out not to be so right after all.”

“This time,” Marcia said, “will be different.”

“Let’s hope so.”

The Jarrett family left the office of the Chief of Police and went outside to where they had left the Cherokee where Frank sat in the driver’s seat while Sandy sat in the back to nurse her son.

“Frank,” she said, “I won’t mind being a rancher’s wife. You know that right? I mean I won’t miss the city or anything.”

“I’m not worried about that.”

“Then what?”

“It’s just that the Morgan’s have had problems with the Jarrett’s for a long time.”

“All of them?”

“No, not all of them. Justine came to my rescue once. James and his sister Abigail were always good people, but the Old Man and the Jack Ass were as bad as they get.”

“You won’t start anything while were out there, will you?”

“Sandy,” Frank turned to face his wife, “I don’t have any fight left in me. I’m just tired of it all.”

“It sounds like Joseph Morgan is too.”

“We’ll find out soon enough.”

Chapter 46

The man drove the Cutlass east on US 50 keeping the speed just above the posted limits while constantly shifting his eyes to the rear view mirror expecting to find that he’s was being pursued. His heart raced all the way into Salida where he stopped at an unattended storage facility. There he removed a rented Toyota Corolla from within the unit and replaced it with the Cutlass. He was careful to wipe the Corolla clean and then changed into a businessman’s attire of dress slacks, shirt, and shoes. He stowed his old clothing in a plastic bag inside the trunk of the Corolla.

He followed Colorado 285 for the next three hours driving conservatively and several times passed Colorado State Patrol cars, whom he imagined were trolling for white Cutlasses. Then south of Lakewood he passed by two of the cars that had indeed pulled over a white Cutlass and had the driver leaning against the side of the car while they checked his credentials. The man smiled.

Near the Denver International Airport the man filled the Corolla with gasoline, disposed of the plastic bag inside the trash bin between the pumps and pushed in into the existing refuse. He pulled the car away from the pumps and stopped it by the payphone and called the memorized number.

“It’s over,” he said.

“No, it’s just over. He has a new wife and a baby.”

“No, you listen to me it’s over. Their looking for me now because your asinine plan and alibi didn’t work.”

“No, it’s fucking over.”

“Look because of you I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life in hiding.”

“Fuck you.”

“You get Timmy involved and I’m taking you out.”

“You bet I’m pissed. You said that boy didn’t have a family. He had a wife and two little girls. For that alone I should take you out you fucking liar.”

“If mom were still alive I’d tell her what you fucking did and then let her deal with you.”

“Just you fucking remember, get Timmy involved and you’re dead.”

The man practically slammed the handset back on the switch hook and then drove into the Airport and returned the rented Corolla to the Alamo lot, removed a suitcase and garment bag from the trunk, caught the shuttle to the Jeppesen Terminal’s west side, and then picked up his reserved and prepaid ticket. He checked both of his bags and then stopped inside a restaurant for food and a drink to calm his nerves. An hour and a half later he was sitting on board the airplane in a rear window seat anxiously waiting to be in flight and hoping that the authorities were keeping busy on the roadways and would not catch up to him in time. A woman about his own age sat beside him in the center seat and immediately initiated a conversation.

“Business or pleasure,” she asked.

“Neither. Family duty.”

“Oh, what kind of duty?”

“Do you mind?”

“Sorry.”

The woman pulled a magazine from the seat pocket and began to read while the man stared out the window hoping. When they finally closed the doors to the plane the woman moved to the empty aisle seat. When the plane began its taxi for the runway the man leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. When the plane reached its cruising altitude the woman turned to look at the man beside her who wanted to be left alone and frowned from the sadness she felt when she realized tears where squeezing out between his closed eyelids.

Chapter 45

Deputy Christian Zamerra pulled his Patrol Car to a stop behind the red Cherokee Support while Frank, Sandy, and Carlos looked on. He shut the engine off, removed his seat belt and the safety strap to his sidearm, and then stepped out. He circled behind and around the Patrol Car and came to a stop several feet from the others.

“It’s been some time,” the Deputy commented.

“Most of two years now,” Frank responded.

“You have a little one now?”

Frank smiled: “He was born March twentieth.”

“Almost three months old.”

Frank nodded: “Chris, what’s been going on? I read about Shane’s murder in this mornings paper.”

“There’ve been some killings.”

“Some?”

“You remember Jim Duncan?” the Deputy asked.

“I remember everyone that was there.”

“He was killed early Wednesday morning. Jack Morgan’s body was discovered Tuesday morning and it looks like he died late Monday night. I understand their not sure if it was accidental or assisted.”

“They found Jack,” Frank mused. “Who’s responsible?”

“We don’t know.”

“Suspects?”

“Some suggested you/”

“That’s impossible,” Sandra shouted, “we haven’t been apart since our baby was born.”

“Sorry ma’am. I never thought Frank had anything to do with it. Shane was a friend.”

The four adults heard the approaching vehicle. Chris stepped back and turned sideways to observe the Overton Patrol Car coming down the rise and then turned his attention back to the other three.”

“We having some kind of convention?” Frank asked.

“It’s the Police Chief and one of her officers. They’re both new, least ways since you left.”

Officer Foster pulled the Patrol Car to a stop along side the Deputy’s and the two policewomen exited. Chief Williams motioned for the Deputy to join her by the car. When he arrived she directed his attention towards the rifle and pistol lying on the rear seat.

“We found these propped up against the Lazy J gate post.”

“They weren’t there when I arrived.”

“How long?”

“Five minutes, tops.”

“Karen,” she asked, “that white car that slowed with the two pickup trucks. Could it have been a Cutlass?”

“I don’t know Chief. Had my eyes mostly on the road.”

“Deputy, would you have your office put a want out on a white 1990’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme two-door last seen south on Colorado 152. Identify, but make it clear the driver is potentially dangerous.”

“Right Chief.”

Chief Marcia Williams walked over to where the others were waiting and stopped an arms length from Frank.

“Mr. Jarrett, I presume?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am.”

“Marcia Williams, Overton Chief of Police,” she said, and extended her hand. “I’ve been quite anxious to speak with you.”

Frank Jarrett handed his son to Sandy and accepted the Chief’s hand.

“This,” he nodded, “is my wife Sandra and our son Tyrone Franklin Jarrett.”

Marcia nodded at the mother and child: “Named for his grandfather I take it.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And,” Sandy added, “his father.”

Marcia smiled and nodded as Deputy Zamerra stepped beside the two Police Officers with the safety strap on his holster put back into place.

“Do you know what’s been happening here?” the Chief asked.

“I read about Shane in this mornings paper. Chris filled me in on Jack Morgan and Duncan.”

“Are you two friends?”

“We,” the Deputy answered, “were once. I was the one that had to keep him off the ranch and away from Jack Morgan. I had to draw my weapon and I don’t know if he’s ever forgiven me.”

“Chris, you did your job,” Frank said, and offered his hand.

The Deputy accepted Frank’s handshake and then was excused by Chief Williams to return to his patrol.

“We’ve,” Marcia said, “have had half the State looking for you. Might I ask where you’ve been living?”

Frank hesitated and Sandra explained: “My husband has been afraid that either the Stephen’s or Morgan’s would come after us.”

Marcia nodded: “I do not believe you have anything to fear from the Morgan’s. James is a personal friend of mine and has told me that he not only likes your husband but respects and admires him as well.”

“I,” Frank replied, “always thought James and his sister were good people.”

Marcia continued: “As for the Stephens: Robert is living in Flint, Michigan. He has rheumatoid arthritis and cannot travel. Timothy is on active duty in Germany and has been alibied by his commanding officer. Edward is also on active duty but is on leave and his whereabouts are unaccounted for.”

“You think that it’s Eddie.”

“He fits the description of an eyewitness and when she was shown his photograph could only say it looks like the man she saw leaving Officer Duncan’s apartment.”

“Chris said that some folks suspect me.”

“Your physical description is close and you were definitely a person of interest. I hope you can account for your whereabouts.”

“He most certainly can,” Sandy declared. “Through me and others if need be.”

“I thought as much.”

“Is,” Sandy asked, “my husband in danger?”

“I thought so.”

“But maybe not now?”

“I must check on something first. In the meantime you still have not told me where you have been living.”

“At first,” Frank explained,” we were in Durango but a private detective came down looking for me. It scared Sandy and I enough that I hid out while she sold the restaurant and house then we relocated to Grand Junction.”

“We checked there.”

“I’m not Frank Jarrett in Grand Junction.”

Marcia grinned: “My young Officer here reached that conclusion. What is it you do there?”

“We restore classic automobiles.”

“That is what my friend James suggested. He …”

Chief Williams turned at the sound of another approaching vehicle, which she recognized, walked toward it, and took a stance in front of it. The Chevy Blazer stopped short of her and Barry and Melissa Roberts exited the vehicle. Frank excused Carlos who returned to his pickup and left.

“I,” Chief Williams scolded, “asked for you to be out here on duty and in uniform.”

“I’m sorry Chief but I just couldn’t. I’m here as is friend – not a cop.”

Melissa Roberts walked by the Chief and to Frank, promptly put her arms around him, and with tears flowing and the Chief watching said: “We’ve been so worried about you.”

Frank returned the embrace and replied: “I’m better now. I have a wife and son now. It gives me something to live for.”

“I’m so happy for you,” she said, still crying and forcing a smile.

Melissa released her embrace and stepped over to Sandy and the baby. She put her arms out and with a smile Sandy promptly released her son to her. Then, with smiles all around, the two women conversed. Frank turned toward the Chief and Barry and then crossed over to where he stood. The two men stared poker-faced at each other for several long moments.

“The,” Frank started, “last time I saw you I nearly killed you.”

“She stopped you. I know Emily stopped you, didn’t she?”

“Yes, she reminded me that you were our friend.”

“What about now?” Barry asked.

“I hated all of you for a long time. Sandy helped me get through the grief. She found this little book about the ten stages of grief a person goes through. The seventh stage is where you want revenge for your loss. I was stuck there for months.”

“And now?”

“Would you accept an apology from me,” Frank asked.

“I’ll do you one better,” Barry answered, and then stepped forward and embraced his old friend to the delight of their wives.

The two men remained locked in their embrace for several moments and when they separated it was clear that they were both tearing. Sandy and Melissa excused themselves and, along with the infant Tyrone, went into the house.

Frank wiped at his eyes and said: “The last of the hatred left me this morning when I read about Shane’s murder. Then, when Chris told me about Jack, all I felt was sadness for the family he left behind.”

“Are you,” Barry asked, “returning to the Lazy J.”

“Sandy and I have discussed it. I had promised my father that I would not sell the Lazy J and now I have an heir and maybe a second one in time. But now, if Eddie is acting on Robert’s behalf then, you know, he blamed me for their deaths more than anyone. And if it really was Eddie that did the killings and changed his mind about me who’s to say Robert won’t send Tim.”

“You really think the boy you and Emily gave a home and future to would come after you?”

“I know firsthand what grief can do to warp a soul beyond recognition.”

“Still.”

“I will not put my family at risk.”

Barry nodded and Chief Williams, who had waited patiently, asked: “Then how long will you be staying here?”

“We had planned on several days but with all that’s been going on I have half a mind to get back in the jeep and hightailing it home.”

“I would like to have your contact information in Grand Junction and I must have a statement from each of you before you leave.”

Frank removed two business cards from his wallet and handed one to the Chief and one to Barry: “We’ll stop by the station on the way out?”

“Today?”

“No, but I think maybe tomorrow. I have two angels I need to visit with in the morning plus Will would skin me alive if I didn’t poke my head in again this time.”

“Your godfather has been worried about you. Tomorrow will be fine.” Marcia looked at the business card and read: ‘Will and Sandra Franklin, Classic Automotive Restorations’ along with an address and telephone number. “What about a home address and phone number.”

“Same. Our rooms are behind the garage and showroom.”

“Showroom?” Barry asked.

“I restore cars on spec like I did here and they go on display in our showroom. We also do custom restorations for hire.”

“You both do?”

“Sandy runs the office and sales and helps in the garage when she can.”

“Mr. Jarrett,” Marcia interceded, “it’s been nice to finally meet you. Everyone I’ve spoken with has a high regard for you and your family. I do hope you consider coming back home.” Marcia offered her hand once again.

Frank accepted it and added: “When you speak with James again please thank him for everything he and Felicia did for me and Janie. Tell him I don’t hold him responsible for what Jack did to my family.”

“I’m sure they’ll be quite relieved to know your better.”

The two released hands and then the Chief grinned and added: “You know, he told me just this morning that before the tragedy he had planned on voting for you as commissioner.”

Frank smiled: “James never wanted to be his father’s puppet.”

Chief Williams raised her hand in a farewell salute and she and Officer Foster drove away while the two men walked toward the house to join their wives.

On the highway Officer Foster asked: “Do you think those are the murder weapons?”

“I do.”

“If they really are what do you think it means?”

“I believe he’s telling us it’s over.”

Chapter 44

The man from the Cutlass had sat upon his perch watching the Lazy J since before dawn on that Sunday morning. He continued to watch with new anticipation when Carlos Sanchez arrived and went about opening the doors and windows of the ranch house and then turned on the electricity, water, and propane. He then watched the man go to the barn, unlock it, and disappear inside.

While Carlos Sanchez was still inside the barn the man observed the approach of a red Cherokee Sport and followed its progress through his binoculars to where it parked on the far side of the pickup. The man sat down his binoculars and reached for the rifle he’d used to kill Officer Shane Gregory. He removed the rifle rest from beneath the barrel and pushed it into the ground. He then assumed a prone position and aimed the rifle at the Cherokee.

Through the scope the man recognized Frank Jarrett through the windows of the pickup as he exited the Cherokee, turn to push forward the driver’s seat, and lean inside. He rose several moments later and as he passed between the vehicles and stop the man began to exert pressure on the trigger and then released it completely when he saw that the rancher was holding a baby in his arm. He watched the scene through the scope as Frank moved to the very front of the Cherokee where a pretty brown-haired woman joined him.

“Sandy,” the man mouthed.

The man lowered the rifle and replaced it with the binoculars while he remained in a prone position. He watched Carlos come from within the barn and the two men exchanged handshakes before the foreman was introduced to the infant.

“It is over,” the man said aloud.

He fitted the rifle rest back to the weapon and stood in the shadows of the trees. He watched a Deputy Sheriff’s car clear the rise that led from the road and on to the Jarrett property then turned and carried his possessions back to the Cutlass. He placed the binoculars on the floor of the backseat, removed the ammunition from the rifle, and wiped it carefully clean, and laid it across the backseat. He repeated the same for the 9mm pistol and sat it next to the rifle.

The man backed the Cutlass out to where he could see that the road past the Jarrett ranch was clear to the highway. He drove quickly along the unimproved road followed by a large plume of dust and dirt. He stopped in front of the entrance to the Lazy J and hurriedly leaned the rifle and pistol up against the right side gatepost using rags to prevent the transference of his fingerprints. He returned to the Cutlass and drove even more quickly to the highway where he rolled through the stop sign and turned south towards Overton. He fell in behind two pickup trucks in the single southbound lane and moments later he saw the emergency lights of the approaching Overton City Patrol Car. The man quickly donned a ball cap and sunglasses and slowed as the pickups ahead of him slowed to a near stop and then sped up again as the Police Car passed. The man nervously looked in his rearview mirror, and as the police car continued north, he brokered an audible sigh of relief and then passed the two slower moving pickups.

Chapter 43

On the day following her meeting with Carlos Sanchez, which was Sunday, the sixteenth of June, Marcia awakened to the front door bell followed by a firm knock. She reluctantly slipped out from under the blankets, donned her slippers and a robe, made her way to the door, and peered through the peephole. She sighed and opened the door.

“Why so early,” she asked.

“It’s after nine,” James Morgan answered. “I wanted to see you before church.”

“I don’t do favors.”

“It’s something any citizen might ask.”

“Really?”

“You know that my younger brother was found dead in Oregon. The authorities there in Bend have told us it was an accidental death but we cannot get any information on when his body will be released to his family so that it may be brought home for burial.”

“The FBI is treating his death as suspicious and placed a hold on his body.”

“Thank you, we could not get an explanation. Why suspicious?”

“As I understand it, they believe there was too much force for someone who simply tripped.”

James nodded: “As if perhaps he were running.”

“As if perhaps.”

“Do you think his death is related to Officer’s Gregory and Sanchez?”

“It’s being considered.”

“If indeed my brother were murdered along with the other two I would worry about Frank Jarrett.”

“Being the killer?”

“No,” James shook his head, “a target.”

“I,” Marcia stated, “have arrived at the same conclusion.”

“Have you located him?”

“No.”

“If he’s not farming then he’s likely holed up somewhere restoring automobiles. It’s something he did in college and afterwards before he moved back to the Lazy J after his father died. I’d make that my first line of inquiry.”

Marcia tipped her head: “From the way you talk about him one might think you two are friends. I heard the Morgan’s and Jarrett’s were enemies.”

“My father and Tyrone Jarrett didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on political matters. I’d say political rivals instead of enemies. Jack, on the other hand, hated Frank with a passion. Myself, I liked, admired, and respected Frank Jarrett.” James laughed and added: “Just between you and me though I had made up my mind that he would get my vote for County Commissioner.”

“Even though you were running against him?”

“Even though.”

Marcia smiled and nodded: “I actually believe you.”

James returned the smile: “Friends may not be able to share everything but I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“Then would you mind a direct question?”

“I did not have anything to do with my brother’s actions or with the deaths of Emily and Katherine Jarrett. I’ve had no knowledge before or after the tragedy.”

Marcia grinned: “You know,” she continued, “I’ll see what I can find out about your brother.”

“Thank you,” James said, and extended his hand.

The two friends shook, separated, and James turned to leave when Marcia said: “My condolences for your loss.”

James turned and said: “My apologies for disturbing your Sunday morning.”

The two friends exchanged a final smile and Marcia closed and locked the door. She had barely returned to the bedroom when she her house phone rang. She rushed to the kitchen and answered it on the third ring.

“Chief, it’s Sergeant Brown. I just got a call from Carlos Sanchez. Frank Jarrett is on his way to the Lazy J and will arrive shortly. Carlos is on his way over there to open up the house right now.”

“Call the Sheriff and get a Deputy out there right away to make sure he stays put and get Karen Foster over here in uniform and with a car right away.”

“Will do, Chief.”

“Wait, one more thing. Pull Roberts in for duty. I want him out there too.”

“You got it.”

Marcia hung up, grabbed a cereal bar, wolfed it down, and followed it with a tall glass of orange juice. She then set a personal best for showering, getting her uniform on, and belting her sidearm in place. She stepped to the entrance, opened it, and smiled when she saw the Patrol Car turning on to her block. She locked the front door and met the car at the street.

“Are you expecting trouble?” Karen asked as her Chief buckled her seat belt.

“I certainly hope not but Frank Jarrett is on his way home.”

“I heard.”

“I want to get there as soon as possible but no sirens.”

Officer Foster switched on the lights, pulled away from the curb, and proceeded to ignore the City’s speed limits.

Chapter 42

Carlos Sanchez saw the dust on the lane in from the highway, walked toward the compound, and waited in the shadows of the carport. He watched the car come to a stop in front of the house and studied the two women that emerged from the Patrol Car as they looked around the property then turned to each other in conversation. Carlos stepped quietly into the compound and the Chief of Police turned quickly to face him. As he approached Carlos respectively removed his hat and crossed his hands in front.

“Help you, ma’am?”

“Are you Carlos Sanchez?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She stepped forward with her hand extended: “I’m Marcia Williams, Overton Chief of Police.”

Carlos nodded and accepted the offer of a handshake.

“I was hoping to be able to speak with you.”

“About?”

“About Frank Jarrett. I’d really like the chance to sit and talk with him. Are you able to contact him.”

“No ma’am.”

“I don’t understand how that can be.”

“He thinks it’s safer for us and him if we don’t know where he is.”

“Us?”

“There’s my wife Leticia, my son, and two daughters. We all work for the Lazy J.”

“Why safer?”

“Frank’s afraid the Morgan’s would hurt us if we knew where he was.”

“Have any of the Morgan’s asked you about his whereabouts?”

“No ma’am.”

“Has anybody else?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Who?”

“The Sheriff and Chris Zamerra, Barry Roberts and Shane Gregory, and Emily’s friend Jane all came out hear looking for him. They were all the bosses friends.”

“Others?”

“People in town, my cousin, and others. The wife of James Morgan asked if the boss was okay but not where he was.”

Marcia nodded: “Does Mr. Jarrett contact you?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“How often?”

“When necessary.”

“Like?”

“When the taxes were due.”

“When was that?”

“He came by the end of March to get everything filed.”

Marcia nodded: “Did he mention when he’d be back.”

“No ma’am.”

“You expect to hear from Mr. Jarrett soon.”

“Possibly.”

“Why possibly?”

“He reads the paper.”

Marcia nodded.

“You know,” Carlos added. “He didn’t do it.”

“Do what?”

“Shoot that policeman. They were friends.”

“I still need to speak with him.”

“Yes, ma’am. Do you know what Monday is?”

“Second anniversary of the deaths of his wife and daughter.”

“He was here on the seventeenth last year. Visited the grave.”

“Alone?”

“With his woman.”

“Sandy?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Do you know her full name?”

“Sandra Jo Livingston.”

“Thank you. She was from Durango I understand.”

“Yes ma’am, but not now. She told me that she sold her restaurant and house and they moved several hours away.”

“Did she say where?”

“No ma’am. She did mention that it was a two-and-a-half hour drive to get here.”

“Was she here in March?”

“No ma’am. The boss was alone.”

“If you should hear from him would you please tell him it’s extremely urgent that I speak with him?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And,” she added, offering her card. “Would you please call me?”

“Yes ma’am,” Carlos answered, accepted the card, and placed it in his shirt pocket.

“Thank you,” Marcia said, and extended her hand once more.

Carlos put his hat back on as the two policewomen returned to the Patrol Car. As he watched them leave he heard the front door of the house open and close and listened to the familiar footsteps of his wife as she approached his side and then stopped to take him by the arm.

“What did they want,” she asked her husband.

“Talk to the boss.”

“Because of the killing?”

“Yes, what else.”

“Did you tell them they were friends?”

“Yes.”

Out on the highway Marcia opened the folder and looked at the email from the newspaper editor.

“He was on Neil’s list of people hurt by the killings.”

“Carlos Sanchez?”

“Yes, but I don’t see him as a viable suspect.”

“Who do you see?”

“I’d really like the chance to speak with Frank Jarrett.”

“Maybe you could have someone watch his ranch?”

“What’s a two-and-a-half hour drive from here? Denver’s closer to four hours. Pueblo’s more than three.”

“Telluride.”

“But it’s not several hours away from Durango.”

“It’s over two hours I think.”

“A couple but not several.”

“It took me almost two-and-a-half hours last time I drove to Grand Junction.”

“And how far from Durango?”

“Close to four hours I’d say.”

“When we get back to the station call information and see if they have a listing for Frank or William Jarrett or Sandra Jo Livingston.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Back in her office Marcia read the message from Captain Whitcomb that the ballistics test proved the firefighter’s pistol was not the one used to kill Officer Duncan and an eyewitness had come forward with a description of the man she saw leaving Duncan’s apartment and she swears it wasn’t the firefighter. She shook her head as she read the message a second time and leaned back in her chair deep in thought and remained there until Officer Foster knocked on the door to her office. She nodded and leaned forward as Karen approached.

“Sandra Jo Livingston’s Durango phones were disconnected in July of 2000. The phone company has no listings for her or Frank Jarrett. I asked about unlisted numbers and was told there were none. I was able to determine that Sandra had a cellular phone while in Durango but it was cancelled as well.”

“That’s too bad.”

“I checked the data bases I could get to then called the Grand Junction PD, the Mesa County Sheriff’s, the Telluride Marshall, the San Miguel County Sheriff’s, and the CSP and told them we are looking for both as possible material witnesses in the homicide of a Police Officer. Nothing so far.”

“Thank you.”

“Captain Ryan has requested information on the Stephens’ from the Army and the Flint PD. Chief?”

“Yes.”

“You seem a lot more anxious to find Frank Jarrett. Do you think he’s the one?”

Marcia took a deep breath: “When everyone I’ve talked to said no, and with the information in the Sheriff’s file, it occurred to me that if he’s not then he’s likely a target. He seems to be the one the Stephens’ hold mostly responsible for their daughter’s and granddaughter’s deaths.”

“The Sheriff did say he was leaving to where they wouldn’t be found. Maybe they adopted new identities.”

“Or left the State altogether.”

Marcia’s cell phone rang and from the caller ID she could see that it was the Newspaper Editor. She answered it with a: “Yes Neil.”

“I just pulled something very disturbing off the wire. You know that fireman they were holding in Greeley.”

“Yes, I understand he was released after the ballistics results.”

“They also have an eye witness who claims the man she saw leave Duncan’s apartment didn’t look anything like him.”

“I heard, but haven’t received a description yet.”

“All that’s been released is that he’s well built, about six-feet, short-cropped brown or black hair, driving an older white Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.”

“She recognized the car?”

“Apparently it was the same kind of car her parents drove but that’s not why I called. They gave that fireman back his pistol. He stopped for several stiff drinks then went home, shot his wife to death, and then turned it on himself. He died at the scene next to his wife.”

“Damn.”