Private justice, p.1

Private Justice, page 1

 

Private Justice
 



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Private Justice


  PRIVATE JUSTICE

  Books by Terri Blackstock

  Emerald Windows

  Cape Refuge Series

  1 | Cape Refuge

  2 | Southern Storm

  3 | River’s Edge

  4 | Breaker’s Reef

  Newpointe 911

  1 | Private Justice

  2 | Shadow of Doubt

  3 | Word of Honor

  4 | Trial by Fire

  5 | Line of Duty

  Sun Coast Chronicles

  1 | Evidence of Mercy

  2 | Justifiable Means

  3 | Ulterior Motives

  4 | Presumption of Guit

  Second Chances

  1 | Never Again Good-bye

  2 | When Dreams Cross

  3 | Blind Trust

  4 | Broken Wings

  With Beverly LaHaye

  1 | Seasons Under Heaven

  2 | Showers in Season

  3 | Times and Seasons

  4 | Season of Blessing

  Novellas

  Seaside

  ZONDERVAN

  Private Justice

  Copyright © 1998 by Terri Blackstock

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Zondervan.

  ePub Edition JUNE 2009 ISBN: 978-0-310-85988-8

  Requests for information should be addressed to:

  Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Blackstock, Terri, 1957—

  Private Justice / Terri Blackstock.

  p. cm.

  ISBN-10: 0-310-21757-1 (soft)

  ISBN-13: 978-0-310-21757-2 (soft)

  I. Title. II. Series: Blackstock, Terri, 1957— Newpointe 911:bk.1.

  PS3552.L34285P75 1998

  813'.54—dc21 97—36571

  The examples used in this book are compilations of stories from real situations. But names, facts, and issues have been altered to protect confidentiality while illustrating the points.

  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible:New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

  Published in association with Yates & Yates, LLP, Literary Agent, Orange, CA.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in aretrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

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  This book is lovingly dedicated to the Nazarene

  Contents

  Books by Terri Blackstock

  Title Page

  Copyright 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

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Chapter Forty-Six

  Chapter Forty-Seven

  Chapter Forty-Eight

  Chapter Forty-Nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-One

  Chapter Fifty-Two

  Chapter Fifty-Three

  Chapter Fifty-Four

  Chapter Fifty-Five

  Chapter Fifty-Six

  Chapter Fifty-Seven

  Chapter Fifty-Eight

  Chapter Fifty-Nine

  Chapter Sixty

  Chapter Sixty-One

  Chapter Sixty-Two

  Chapter Sixty-Three

  Chapter Sixty-Four

  Chapter Sixty-Five

  Chapter Sixty-Six

  Chapter Sixty-Seven

  Chapter Sixty-Eight

  Afterword

  About the Author

  About the Publisher

  Share Your Thoughts

  Acknowledgments

  In March of 1996, my neighboring town of Jackson, Mississippi, was shaken to the core when one of our firemen walked into Central Fire Station and killed four district chiefs. He then wounded several other firefighters and a cop in his effort to get away. Shortly thereafter, police discovered that he had also murdered his wife.

  The event was a tragic one for our community. A gaping hole was left in the Jackson fire department, and suddenly the town became aware of how important those men and women in our protective services can be.

  It gave me the idea for the Newpointe 911 series, in which the close-knit community of firefighters, paramedics, and police officers in my fictitious town of Newpointe struggle together against the dangers that threaten their town. I wanted my readers to have a new appreciation for the individuals who make up these forces—individuals with families and friends and beliefs and values. Individuals who hurt and grieve and bleed like we do, but who must go on, because they’ve sworn to protect us. This series is a salute to those real individuals who live from emergency to emergency, and often put our lives before their own.

  Thanks to my stepfather, Bill Weathersby, retired Jackson firefighter, who fought fires because it was what he loved to do. He gave me answers to many questions—both simple and complicated. I couldn’t have written this if he hadn’t been just a phone call away.

  Also, thanks to Dr. Harry Kraus, who doesn’t report me to the FBI when I ask him questions like, “How could I shoot a person in the head without killing him?” Being a novelist himself, he patiently talked me through the scenarios I needed to set my story up. I hope I can someday return the favor.

  Thanks to my agent, Greg Johnson, for not putting money above the calling. How wonderful to work with someone who shares my vision.

  Thanks to Mike Hoffman, Zondervan webmaster, who gave me a map of cyberspace and opened a whole new world of research for me.

  And finally, a huge thanks to the best fiction team in publishing today—Dave Lambert, Lori Walburg, and Sue Brower—for their tireless work to make my books somethi
ng we can all be proud of. I probably put us all through the wringer on this one!

  Chapter One

  The competing sounds of brass bands, jazz ensembles, and zydeco musicians gave Newpointe, Louisiana, an irresistibly festive atmosphere, but Mark Branning tried not to feel festive. It was a struggle, since he stood in a clown suit with an orange wig on his head, preparing to make the long walk down the Mardi Gras parade route. Already, Jacquard Street was packed with tourists and townspeople here to chase beads and candy being thrown by drunken heroes. In moments, he and his fellow firefighters, also dressed as clowns, would fall into their sloppy formation on the town’s main drag, followed by the fire truck that carried even more painted firemen.

  It was what promoters advertised as a “family friendly” parade—unlike the decadent bacchanalian celebrations in New Orleans, only forty minutes away. But Fat Tuesday was still Fat Tuesday, no matter where it was celebrated, and it always got out of hand. It was the time of year when the protective services in Newpointe had to be on the alert. Last year, during the same “family friendly” parade, a man had been stabbed, two women had been raped, and they’d been called to the scene of four drunk-driving accidents. It seemed to get worse every year.

  Just days ago, Jim Shoemaker, police chief of the small town, and Craig Barnes, fire chief, had appealed to the mayor that the town was better served if their forces remained on duty on Fat Tuesday. Mayor Patricia Castor insisted that the community needed to see their emergency personnel having fun with everyone else. It fostered trust, she said, and made the men and women who protected the town look more human. At her insistence, and to Shoemaker’s and Barnes’s dismay, only skeleton crews were to remain on duty, while the rest of the firemen, police officers, and paramedics were to dress like clowns and act like idiots. “It’s a religious holiday,” she drawled, as if that sealed her decision.

  Mark slung the shoulder strap of his bag of beads and candies over his head, and snickered at the idea that they would call Fat Tuesday a religious anything. The fact that it preceded Lent—a time for fasting and reflection as Easter approached—seemed to him a lame excuse for drunken revelry.

  A police squad car pulled up beside the group of wayward firefighters, and Stan Shepherd, the town’s only detective—still unadorned and unpainted—grinned out at him. “Lookin’ good, Mark,” he said with a chuckle.

  “So how’d you get out of this?” Mark asked him, ambling toward the car. “I thought Newpointe’s finest were supposed to dress like demonic bikers.”

  “Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?” Stan asked with a grin. “Pat Castor wants us to show the town how human and accessible we are, so she makes us wear makeup that could give nightmares to a Marine.”

  “Hey, what can you say? It’s Mardi Gras. You still haven’t told me why you’re not made up.”

  “Because I refused,” Stan stated flatly. “How’s that for a reason?”

  Mark leaned on the car door and stared down at his friend. “You mean that’s all it took?”

  “That’s all. Plus I read some statute to her about how it was illegal for someone out of uniform to drive a squad car.”

  “You’re not in uniform, Stan.”

  “Yes, I am. I’m a plainclothes cop. This is my uniform.” Stan looked past Mark to the others milling around, waiting impatiently for their chance to ruin their reputations. “Speaking of nightmares, check out George’s costume.”

  “You talkin’ ’bout me?” George Broussard asked, coming toward the car. Mark grinned at the Cajun’s gaudy three-colored foil wig and the yellow and purple-polka dot shirt he wore. It was too little for him, and the buttons strained over his protruding gut. His hairy belly peeked out from under the bottom hem of the ill-chosen blouse, and someone had drawn a smiling pair of lips under his navel and crossed eyes above it.

  “Yep. The stuff that bad dreams are made of,” Mark agreed.

  “Yeah, and you got lotsa room to talk,” George returned. “Just ’cause you don’t got the canvas I got to work with…” He patted his bare belly again, and Mark turned away in mock disgust.

  Mark was glad he had lost weight since he and Allie had split up. The wives gleefully wielding the face and body paint were particularly cruel to those midlife paunches. His costume did, at least, cover all of his torso without accenting any glaring flaws, though he could have done without the flapper fringe that some sadistic seamstress had applied in rows to the polyester shirt.

  “Is Allie gonna be here today?” Stan asked Mark.

  Mark glanced at George, wishing Stan hadn’t asked that in front of him. He hadn’t broadcast the news of his separation from his wife and figured there were still some in town who didn’t know about it. That suited him just fine. George, who had only been in Newpointe for the past year, wasn’t a close enough friend for Mark to air his dirty laundry with.

  As if he sensed Mark’s discomfort, George wandered off and blended back into the cluster of clowns.

  “How would I know what Allie’s gonna do?” Mark asked.

  “Don’t give me that garbage,” Stan said. “You keep closer tabs on your wife now than you did before.”

  “Estranged wife. I don’t know if she’ll be here. I doubt it. It’s not her thing.” He straightened, unwrapped a Jolly Rancher, and popped it into his mouth. “Then again, I did kind of think she might swallow some of her self-righteousness today to come help the wives paint us up. It’s a power thing, you know. They love to make us look ridiculous. Allie’s devoted her life to it.”

  “At least you’re not bitter.”

  The barb hit home. “Bitter? Why should I be bitter? Actually, I feel great. I love my new bachelor life. Did I tell you that I picked up some great furniture at Kay Neubig’s garage sale? Mid-century relics complete with the original stuffing coming out from the tears in the authentic vinyl. And my apartment has ambiance. The building’s foundation is going, so the whole place slants. It’s hard to keep gravity from pulling the kitchen cabinets open, and I worry a little when the train that comes by at two A.M. every night makes the building sway and vibrate—but like I said, ambiance. You know how I live for ambiance.”

  “So you’re ticked about the apartment. Do you miss your wife?”

  Mark was glad his face was painted so the heat moving to his cheeks wasn’t apparent. Stan was a good friend, but he was crossing the line. He decided to change the subject. “Let’s just say I’m aware that she’s not here. I’m also aware that your wife isn’t here. Why isn’t Celia wielding a paintbrush today with the other cop wives?”

  “Because we’re boycotting the whole makeup idea. She’s here. I’ll pick her up when the procession gets up to Bonaparte, and she’ll ride the rest of the way with me.”

  “I thought only uniformed cops could ride in the squad cars.”

  “She’s dressed just like I am—in plainclothes.” Stan grinned and winked, then put the car into drive and skirted the band and the motorcycles up ahead.

  Mark turned back toward the firemen and saw George dancing to the jazz band. That face painted on his stomach gave him a comical double-decker look that had the women among them doubling over in laughter.

  “If Martha could see you now!” one of the wives yelled.

  “She will, darlin’,” George said. “She’s bringin’ the baby. They’re probably in the crowd as we speak.”

  “Poor kid,” Mark muttered with a grin. “Only six months old, and he has to see a thing like this.”

  The noise of the sirens, revving motorcycles, and brass bands playing three streets over almost drowned out the screams of the six-month-old baby in the Broussard house, but Reese Carter, the old man who lived next door, pulled himself up from his little rolling stool in his garden and wondered why the baby’s mother hadn’t quieted him yet. The parents—George Broussard, a local fireman, and his pretty wife, Martha—were attentive, and he rarely heard the baby crying for more than a few minutes. But this had gone on since the parade had started—prob
ably more than half an hour now.

  Not one to intrude where he wasn’t invited, he tried to mind his own business and concentrate on the weeds he pulled from his garden. He wished the parade would end, so that he could have peace again. The conflicting sounds of jazz and marching bands, drum corps from the high school, tapes playing on floats, and sirens blaring were making him wish he’d picked today to visit a relative out of town. But most of his people lived here in Louisiana, and he doubted there was a place in the state that was immune to Fat Tuesday.

  Despite the parade noise, he could still hear the baby screaming. He pulled his gloves off with a disgusted sigh, trying to decide whether to go inside where he couldn’t hear the baby’s cries, or check to see if things were all right next door. His first instinct was to go inside, but then he remembered that last Christmas, after his wife died, when he’d expected to spend the day alone mired in self-pity, Martha Broussard had knocked on his door and invited him over to share Christmas dinner. He hadn’t wanted to go—hadn’t been in a festive mood and didn’t want to pretend he was—but she had insisted. So he had gone, and several hours later he realized that the day was mostly over and he hadn’t had time to feel sorry for himself.

 
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