Vigilante Dead, page 1part #8 of Kate Jones Series
A Kate Jones Thriller
Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved.
By D.V. Berkom
Cover by Deranged Doctor Designs
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, event or occurrence, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.
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Death. Lies. Revenge.
After years of running, Kate Jones is finally putting her past behind her. Between restoring ties with her younger sister, moving in with Sam, a cop-turned PI, and working as a PI herself, she's learning to live life without looking over her shoulder.
Then Kate lands a case that changes everything: a young college student with no history of drug abuse dies of an overdose, and the parents come to Kate demanding answers. Soon, Seattle is reeling from dozens more deaths, all with the same chemical markers. At first, police assume that the victims are closet junkies who got hold of a bad combination, but after someone close to her becomes a victim, Kate believes something far more sinister is going on.
The deeper Kate digs, the more she uncovers about the deadly drug’s origins, forcing her to choose between doing what’s right…
…and getting revenge.
THE PULSING MUSIC made the excruciating pain worse.
Lisa closed her eyes for a moment, trying to block the spearing ache in her left temple. Silver flashing pinwheels erupted in her periphery and were getting worse, a sure sign that a whopper of a migraine was on its way.
She had to find Momo. Ian had said he’d be there. She would have waited until Ian showed up after work to make the buy, but the headache had become too severe and she needed relief, now.
Making her way through the shifting crowd in the living room, Lisa pushed past a massive guy with shoulders the size of a building bobbing his head up and down to the strains of Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass. The room smelled of sweat and booze and weed, and it was all she could do to stay on task. With so many bodies in such close proximity the air was thick and warm. And suffocating. If Lisa hadn’t been feeling so shitty she’d have been dancing and singing along with everyone else. Instead she was fighting to concentrate.
She spotted the evening’s host, Althea, across the room, and by sheer force of will caught up to her before she could disappear into the crowd. Althea smiled at Lisa and bent over to hear her. She still had to yell to be heard above the booming bass.
“I’m looking for Momo.”
With a raised eyebrow, Althea straightened and scanned the crowd. Apparently not finding what she was looking for, she said something to a man standing next to her. He replied and nodded toward the stairs leading to the second floor.
“Momo left about an hour ago.”
Lisa groaned. “Ahh, God, no.” I’ll never make it back home. Not like this.
“Looks like you need something now,” Althea said, her warm breath tickling Lisa’s ear. She smelled of wine and cigarettes. “Momo’s boy, Bobby, is upstairs, first door on the right.”
A small flame of hope flared in Lisa’s chest. She managed a smile and nodded her thanks before making her way around the perimeter of the room to the stairway. Halfway up the stairs she stopped to take a deep breath to fight a wave of nausea.
Once the sick feeling receded, she continued to the second-floor landing. Beige carpeting stretched in both directions, punctuated by white trim and closed doors. The overhead lights spiked into her brain and Lisa shaded her eyes. Two people stood at the end of the hall to the left, sharing a blunt and waiting for the bathroom. The sharp, acrid scent of marijuana made her headache worse. Holding her breath, Lisa went right and knocked on the first closed door.
There was a pause and the door opened. A thin young woman with translucent skin and dishwater blond hair beckoned her inside and closed the door behind her. Although the pain didn’t diminish, relief came as the muffled music receded to a manageable thump.
She was in someone’s bedroom. To her left stood a bed, two night stands, and a large dresser. Prints on the wall depicted bucolic settings in some European country, a world away from the Seattle neighborhood in which Lisa found herself. A slight, wiry guy with sandy brown hair and brown eyes sat on the queen-size bed and regarded her with mild curiosity.
“Are you Bobby?” Lisa asked, working hard to maintain against the alarming throb spiking through her head.
He nodded. “Yo. And who are you?”
Lisa winced at the loudness of his voice.
“Lisa. I was supposed to meet up with Momo, but Althea said that you’re the guy to talk to. I’m looking for something to help with my pain.” She kept her voice low and tried to keep the words to a minimum, but the act of speaking still lanced through her like a thousand blaring horns.
“Yeah, I’m taking over for Momo.” Bobby leaned forward, a smug expression on his face. “What are you looking for?”
Lisa rubbed her temples and closed her eyes for a moment, willing the pain to lessen enough so she could hold a conversation with the man.
“Anything. I usually take oxy, but my doctor—”
Bobby waved her explanation away. “Say no more. I got just the thing.” He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a plastic baggie. He picked out half a dozen pills, which he handed to her.
“What are these?” she asked, suddenly apprehensive. She didn’t know the guy. Were they safe? Then she remembered Ian assuring her that Momo only dealt in what were considered the best counterfeits around, and she relaxed a little.
“I think you’ll like them,” he said with a smile. “They’re strong, but they’ll do the trick. Just take one to start.”
She dry-swallowed one and put the other five in a metal case in her purse. “How much do I owe you?”
Bobby shook his head. “On the house.”
Lisa glanced at him in surprise. “I can pay.”
“Any friend of Momo’s is a friend of mine. Besides, you like them, you come back and only deal with me.”
Lisa nodded. “Bobby, if these work, I’ll come back and buy everything you’ve got, believe me.”
Bobby smiled as he stood. “I gotta bounce.” He stuffed the baggie back in his pocket and picked up his coat from the bed. The other woman slipped her arm through his and they walked to the door.
“Do you think it would be all right if I just lay down here for a minute?” The thought of heading back downstairs into all that movement and heat and suffocating noise made Lisa want to hide in a dark corner and assume the fetal position.
He shrugged. “Don’t see why not.”
As soon as Bobby and the woman were gone, Lisa turned off the bedside lamp and crawled onto the bed with a heavy sigh. Tears of pain rolled down her cheeks, wetting her neck and hair. The discomfort was so intense she thought her skull would literally explode.
Come on, little pill. Start working your magic.
With oxy, relief usually came within minutes, although it wasn’t working as well as it used to. She hoped Bobby’s concoction would be as fast or faster. During her last visit to the clinic, her doctor had told her he couldn’t in good conscience write another prescription for oxycodone, even though it was working to alleviate the migraines. He suggested trying various over the counter remedies or possibly some herbs.
She patiently explained that she had tried everything, from naproxen sodium to warm baths to diet to alcohol, but nothing worked. Still, the doctor had resis
Lisa checked her watch. Twelve minutes had elapsed. She took a deep breath and waited, hoping for blessed relief. Closing her eyes she tried the visualizations the pain therapist had taught her, but the tropical beach and cool blue water weren’t cutting it this time.
The minutes ticked by and Lisa was about to get up from the bed when a warm flush started low in her belly and flowed outward to her arms and legs. The sensation rushed through her, bringing with it a feeling of immense relief and well-being. The migraine receded into the background and for the first time that evening, she smiled.
Damn, if that’s what these little pills do, I’m going to buy stock in Bobby’s company. Lisa giggled at the thought of a drug dealer going public and selling stock to shareholders.
Why not? I’ve heard of stranger things.
Lisa’s arms and legs grew heavy, and she tried to move. Too much effort was involved, so she gave up. She felt like she was soaring in space, and she heard herself giggle again. A euphoric, floaty feeling replaced all other sensation and she gave herself over to it, enjoying the relief the pills offered. She’d never felt this good, ever.
But then the floating sensation changed—subtly at first. The welcome lightheaded feeling soon turned to dizziness. She struggled to stand and the vertigo hit her, knocking her back onto the bed. Nausea churned her stomach. Something wet and warm spread across her legs and she looked down. She’d vomited and hadn’t realized it.
Alarm swept through her and she fought to move off the bed to get to the door, but her legs wouldn’t support her and she fell onto the carpet with a thud. The euphoric feeling receded, replaced by dread. Breathing became difficult and she opened and closed her mouth, trying to get enough oxygen into her lungs.
It didn’t work.
The bedroom door opened and excited voices joined in with the driving bass of the music below. Hands gripped her under the arms and she was pulled to a sitting position. She closed her eyes and sank toward the darkness, not knowing how long she’d been there and not caring, either.
The last thing she heard were sirens.
THE CROWD MILLING around the front of the nightclub obscured my view of our target. Bright streetlights cast an artificial glow across the partygoers taking advantage of the unseasonably warm spring evening. I checked my watch: it was after ten.
The multitude parted briefly and I caught a glimpse of green fabric and greasy brown hair. Dressed in an army field jacket, dirty cargo pants, and heavy combat boots, Charlie Krueger, the guy Sam and I were following, looked more like a down-on-his-luck vet than a high-level informant. Krueger glanced furtively at his surroundings. An instant later he disappeared into an alley leading through the bowels of Pioneer Square. Sam motioned for me to follow.
“Let me know which way he goes and I’ll bring the Tahoe around the other side.”
I nodded and hurried past the club, working my way between two twenty-something women with multiple piercings and a group of selfie-addicted tourists wearing Hello Kitty T-shirts. I made it to the alley and turned left in time to catch a glimpse of our slippery target. Charlie Krueger blended with the shadows and I did the same, staying close to the wall. At the end of the alley he stopped to look over his shoulder. I froze in place, thankful for the darkness. Apparently satisfied that he wasn’t being followed, he disappeared around the corner of the building. I upped my pace to keep him in sight.
My name is Kate Jones, newly minted private investigator for Akiaq Investigations. Jones is just one of several last names I’ve had over the years. Changing names, addresses, and hair color becomes second nature when you’re on the run, and keeping track of who I was supposed to be ended up being too much like a full-time job. Now that the bad spirits from my past were gone, I’d settled on Jones. It was easy to remember.
“He’s headed east on King Street,” I said into the whisper mic pinned to the inside of my collar.
“On my way,” Sam replied.
I’d gone full Seattle tonight, tucking my now-blond hair up under a dark blue ball cap and wearing a quarter-zip sweatshirt over a pair of jeans and a gray tee that read “Nirvana,” a hidden tribute to the ’90s grunge band. The ensemble was topped off with an unremarkable-looking waterproof slicker in case the weather went to crap. Since moving to Western Washington from Arizona, I’d given up guessing at appropriate attire and resorted to the Seattle-native standby of layering against the elements. Spring in Western Washington was like that; what might be an epic downpour one minute could morph into a balmy evening like tonight, but might just as quickly flex into freezing cold, with black ice on the sidewalks.
We were tailing Krueger because he was somebody’s informant, and were keeping tabs on him for a friend of Sam’s in the Seattle Police Department. We’d both thought it would be a routine stakeout, but then Charlie went rogue.
Krueger was on a mission. Without a glance to either side, he turned right off of King Street and disappeared. I hurried to the corner, but he was already halfway down the next block.
“He’s headed south on Occidental,” I murmured into the mic.
“Copy that. Stay with him. Maintain discreet so you don’t get burned.”
“On it.” I slowed my pace enough so I didn’t look like I was chasing him but still kept Krueger in sight. At the next intersection he paused and checked both ways before he crossed the street and continued south. Sam’s SUV appeared down the block to my left and pulled to the curb. I took out my phone and pretended to check the screen while I continued along the same sidewalk.
A cop turned private eye, Sam Akiaq was a long-distance runner, martial arts master, and the most accurate marksman I’d ever met. He was also an enigma who lived by a spiritual code I couldn’t begin to understand. It probably had something to do with his Native Alaskan heritage. Either that, or it was all a ruse to get me into bed.
If so, it worked.
I hung back and crossed the street. There’d been a concert at the Wamu Theater earlier, and there were still plenty of people around. Krueger wouldn’t think anything of my being there. I glanced behind me to see Sam and the Tahoe less than a block away. My subject entered a parking lot and upped his pace when a dark green van pulled next to him and stopped. I ducked behind a vehicle, keeping Krueger and the van in sight.
“He’s got company,” I said to Sam.
The van’s door slid open and two men exited. Krueger pivoted like he intended to run, but they were too quick. There was a brief scuffle before the two larger men managed to drag him inside the vehicle. They slammed the door closed and the van sped off.
“Shit.” I turned and sprinted back to the SUV, threw the door open, and climbed in.
“Did you get the plates?” Sam asked as the Tahoe squealed away from the curb.
“Yeah.” I grabbed a pen from the console and wrote it on my hand while Sam speed-dialed the friend we were working for and put him on speaker.
“Hey, Mac. We’re in pursuit. Our guy was apprehended by two thugs in a dark green van and they’re headed south on Occidental.”
“Copy that, Sam. Keep on him. I’ll see which one of our units is available. Do not make yourselves known. This is a high-level informant. We don’t want him compromised.”
“Hi Mac, Kate here. I have the plate number.”
I recited the information and then Sam ended the call. We both fell silent as he concentrated on tracking Krueger.
The van turned off Occidental and headed toward the warehouse district. Sam hung back as much as he could without losing them. Several blocks later, they pulled into a dirt lot next to an older brick building and parked. Sam drove past, turned around in a nearby parking lot, and pulled to the curb on the other side of the street.
“I’ll keep an eye on where they’re taking him,” I said, and exited the SUV.
Phone to his ear, Sam leaned across the console and said, “Wait for me at the door. Do not go insi
“No problem.” I grabbed my 9mm from underneath the seat, slid it into the holster in my waistband, and closed the door.
I slipped past the chain link fence that surrounded the lot just as the two thugs from the van dragged Krueger inside the building. Head hanging limply between his shoulders, his face was all different shades of bloody.
The four-story structure looked like it hadn’t been used in decades. Along with a boatload of chipped and missing mortar, major cracks ran up its brick façade giving the impression that the last earthquake had almost finished it off. Several of the windows boasted plywood instead of glass.
Sam joined me a couple of minutes later.
“It’s not looking good for Mac’s guy,” I said, and told him what I’d seen.
“Backup is fifteen minutes out, maybe twenty.” He scanned the outside of the building.
“I say we go in and find out where they’re keeping him, and relay the info. That way, Mac’s guys can get to him sooner.”
Sam nodded. “Don’t take any chances. If they think he’s been followed, things will escalate, fast.”
We stopped at the door they’d used, and Sam tried the handle. It was locked.
“Here, let me.” Stepping in front of him, I slid my slender case of lock picking tools from my pocket and pulled out a turning tool and rake. I learned how to use them by watching YouTube videos. Amazing what a person could find on the Internet. Sam kept an eye out for passersby while I worked my magic.
There’s a little larceny in all of us. I just tended to use mine more often than most.
Private investigator work suited me, especially when I was on a case with Sam. After the hell I’d been through dealing with Mexican drug cartels, rogue commandoes, and dirty Drug Enforcement agents, working as an investigator was a cakewalk.
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