Jack Murphy knows a setup when he sees one. Proving it makes his day. Especially when it involves his own partner. Lured into a trap, Evansville P.D. Detective Liddell Blanchard is accused of murdering a cop who was investigating a shadowy voodoo cult. Justice is murky enough in the swamplands of Louisiana, but when a purported descendent of Marie Leveaux menaces a murder investigation, the gumbo really hits the fan. Corruption comes with the territory. But there are darker forces at play-and only Murphy can see the light . . .
Praise for Rick Reed and his novels
"A jaw-dropping thriller."-Gregg Olsen
"As authentic and scary as crime thrillers get."-Nelson DeMille
"Rick Reed knows the dark side as only a real life cop can, and his writing crackles with authenticity."-Shane Gericke
"Put this on your must-read list."-John Lutz
"Det. Jack Murphy tracks killers through a political maze of lies, deception and dishonor that leads to a violent, pulse-pounding climax."-Robert S. Levinson
"Reed thrusts the boundaries of his story forward to bring us along on a ride we won't soon forget!"-Suspense Magazine
"Reed gives the reader a genre story worth every minute and every penny spent."-Book Reporter
Read an Excerpt
The Darkest Night
A Jack Murphy Thriller
By RICK REED
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Rick Reed
All rights reserved.
She regained consciousness, choking and gagging on the rum that was being forced down her throat. She sputtered and sucked in air, and the glass lip of a bottle was forced between her lips and deep into her throat. The bottle was yanked out, chipping her teeth, and her tortured lungs struggled to expel the liquid fire.
A man's voice seemed to come from far down a tunnel. "Who else knows?"
She had been stripped naked, tied in a chair, and beaten unconscious several times. She was drowning sitting up, and the lack of oxygen made her thoughts fuzzy. She knew this voice belonged to the man-mountain, but she couldn't think. His big fist struck the side of her head, and pain exploded behind her eyes.
"Who else knows?" the man asked again.
She wanted to answer, but she just coughed and sucked air into her burning lungs.
A palm that dwarfed her face stung her cheek and blurred her already-fuzzy vision.
"Who have you talked to?" the voice demanded.
She felt the words forming, but her throat was so damaged she rasped out nonsense and expected another blow. None came.
She swallowed saliva and what tasted like blood and lifted her head. Through the slits of swollen eyes, she watched the giant open the door to the room and speak to the two men. They came in and the door was closed.
These were the two men who had brought her here and beat her before the giant came. One man was tall, thin, balding, and muddy brown. This one stood beside the door watching her. The other man was short, almost as short as her five foot, three inches. He was muscular, with almost black skin, maybe pushing twenty years old and buzzing with energy. He enjoyed hurting her.
Neither man had spoken to her, or asked her who she was or what she was doing there. They had just grabbed her, hit her, and she came to here. The tall man had beaten her in the face and bare breasts with his fists. She remembered thinking that using his bare knuckles was stupid because it was a good way to break your hand. His hand hadn't broken, but she was sure he had broken her nose and knocked teeth out.
The questioning and beating had come to a halt, and she took deep breaths, clearing her mind, trying to remember if she had told them anything.
She remembered screaming in pain. She remembered the giant asking over and over again. "Who else knows?" But try as she might, she couldn't remember if she had told them the little she knew or what she suspected. Had she told them about her friend's visit? Or his name? She didn't think so, but it was possible.
Blood trickled down her lips into her mouth, and she spit it out.
"You gon' be better soon," a voice said beside her ear and startled her.
She felt a man pushing his crotch against her back in a state of arousal while he massaged her shoulders. His hands moved from her shoulder. One gripped her neck, the other down her bare front, cupping a breast, squeezing until she thought she would scream.
The hand on her breast relaxed and moved down, probing between her legs, rubbing, exploring, burrowing into her most tender spot until he made painful penetration. He moaned in spasms as he ground his hardness into her back.
His breath smelled of decomposing meat. Strong hands gripped her throat until she felt light-headed. Her breaths came in rapid gasps, and black spots gathered in front of her eyes. The hands fell away from her throat, and she heard a soft thud behind her.
As her lungs filled and the world swam back into focus, she heard the smaller man say, "Damn, DeeDee. Why you hit me?" The voice was coming from the floor behind her.
Now she had a name for the tall one. The one who had just saved her from being raped. He was named DeeDee. She intuited that DeeDee was the careful one, but just as capable of dispensing torture or death if the giant commanded it.
"Papa say keep this one alive for now," DeeDee said.
"I wan' ..."
"I know what you wan'," DeeDee said. "If Papa catch you he cut your dick off. Papa say watch, no touch. Next time, I kill you myself." DeeDee opened the door and stood still as if he was going to say something, thought better of it, went out and shut the door.
"DeeDee don' wan' fun. He wan' kill you," her abuser said. His rough hands returned to her breasts. Calloused thumbs rubbed her nipples until they responded, and he squeezed until her breath caught in her throat. She fought down a scream as tears ran down her face.
"Don' worry, you. I gon' make de pain go way. My juju make it better."
Now she knew the names of two of her captors. The tall one was DeeDee and the giant was the one called Papa. She had heard of Papa. He was the reason she had come here. Getting caught and tortured was not the way she had expected this little excursion to end.
The small man stepped in front of her and leaned over, his face inches from hers. She could see he wasn't a man at all. He was barely a boy, fifteen or sixteen if that. But what he lacked in size and age he more than made up for in aggression and violence
He lifted her face and smiled at her, showing a piano keyboard of ivory teeth. The expression turned serious. "Don' move, bitch." He pulled a machete from his belt and moved it back and forth in front of her eyes until he was sure he had her attention. He cut through the bindings on her ankles, and her feet tingled like she was standing on a bed of nails. She wiggled her toes, willing the circulation to come back.
He must have read her expression and stood, brandishing the machete. She saw the wood handle of a revolver stuck down in the front of his pants. He sliced at the air with the machete, the smile gone.
"No way out, bitch. Papa no here. DeeDee no here. I here. You here. Dis gun here. And this," he said and held the blade of the machete to her neck. "You be nice, I no hurt you. You move, I cut you deep."
He cut the binding holding her wrists. She let her arms fall to her sides and remained motionless, passive, buying time for the feeling to come back into her arms and hands and feet.
He came up close beside her and put a hand on her face, pulling it toward his crotch.
She lunged out of the chair, grabbed him by the throat, and slammed him into the wall by the door. His hands went to his throat just as she had hoped and she wrapped a hand around the gun's handle, reached down with a finger, and pulled the trigger. His clothing and the proximity to his body muffled the blast, but she didn't know where DeeDee was. Or when Papa might reappear. She leaned into him and ground the barrel into his crotch and pulled the trigger again and again. He went limp, and she let him fall to the floor. A reddish stain blossomed between his legs and spread around him.
She staggered into the wall for support. Her feet felt like swollen lumps of clay, but she thought she could walk. She put her ear against the door to listen, but her ears were still ringing from the gunshots. Even if someone was coming she had to leave this room. Try to get away.
The doorknob turned before she could reach it and the door opened. DeeDee stood in the doorway gaping at her. His hand moved for his waist, but he was too slow. She shot him in the chest twice and kept pulling the trigger, the hammer falling harmlessly on empty chambers.
DeeDee fell up against the wall and slid down to his butt, legs spread out. She could see the blood bubbling around the holes in his chest. He was as good as dead, but his hand groped for his gun. She slapped his hand away and yanked the semiautomatic out of his waistband. She knelt beside him and put the gun against his cheek.
"How do I get out of here?" she asked. She knew she was in a basement or other subterranean place, but when they'd knocked her out, she was outside, in the woods, watching the giant from a distance.
"Shoot, bitch," he said, and she did.
She left the revolver, and went through DeeDee's pockets. He had some paper money, change, a pack of gum, but no keys and no extra ammunition. She dropped the clip from the semiauto and counted. The clip had six bullets, so she had seven rounds counting the one already chambered.
DeeDee's body lay slumped in the middle of a long hallway with walls, floors, and ceilings of smooth unpainted concrete. Lights were recessed into the ceiling, and in both directions the hallway appeared to branch into intersecting hallways. On each side of the hallway she saw steel doors, most likely to other rooms like the one she had been in. There were a half dozen doors in this hallway alone. When she had awakened in the room, although tied to the chair, she assumed she was in a basement of a commercial building. But this was no basement.
She got to her feet and headed to her right. It didn't matter what direction she went as long as it took her away from here. It was dark at the end of the hallway. She hesitated, but turned right. As she walked, the overhead lights came on. She crouched, turning, pointing the gun in all directions, and expecting to see Papa or more men coming for her. She was alone. She realized the lights were motion activated.
At the end of this hall she saw concrete steps ascending to a wide landing with two steel doors. Three steel doors were on the left of the hallway and one on the right. She moved toward the stairs and froze when she heard something. It didn't sound like a voice, but it was human and the sound was coming from the other side of a door.
She put her ear against each of the doors, and at the second one she could hear someone crying. A child. The doors were secured with a sliding bolt. She lifted the bolt and opened the door. The light from behind her bled across the threshold and across the figure of a tall disheveled girl staring wide-eyed at the naked woman with the gun. The sobbing stopped.
"Please don't kill us," the girl said.
Tiny heads peeked up from dirty mats scattered on the floor.
"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. She had hoped to find something, someone, but this was far beyond what she'd imagined.
She heard indistinct talking and a door opening by the staircase. She hurried into the room and pulled the door shut. She listened to the sound of footsteps, two people, coming closer. They would have to walk right past her. She stood beside the girl and whispered, "I'm here to take you all home. Get the other children and keep against the wall."
Without questions the girl ushered the younger children into a corner of the room just as the sounds of steps were right outside the door.
The door opened, and a man's voice asked, "Who's in there?"
She stood in a shooter's stance, two hands on the gun, shoved to the front, eyes level with the top of the slide. The door opened wider, revealing a dark-skinned man with a handlebar mustache. He said, "Oh shit!" before she shot him in the mouth. She heard the other man beat feet toward the stairway and knew she wouldn't catch him.
She turned to the children but spoke to the tall girl. "I can't take you with me. It's too dangerous. Do you understand?"
Tears welled up in the girl's eyes, but she said, "Yes."
"I'll be back for you. I promise. Be brave. Can you do that for me?"
The girl went back to the other children and began comforting them. Her heart ached as she backed out of the room. She kicked the dead man's leg out of the doorway, shut the door, and slid the bolt home. Maybe it would keep them safe until she got help.
She raced up the steps and came to the double set of steel doors. A wooden door was to her right, but she chose to go straight ahead. She pushed one door open and was struck by the heated air of late summer and the smell of dirt and the Mississippi. Nothing ever smelled so good.
She stepped out into the night and ran to her left. She had no idea the direction she was going because the moon was hidden behind thick cloud cover. The gravel bruised and cut her feet as the hue and cry of voices was raised from every direction. Her foot came down in soft dirt and she stumbled into a sugarcane field. Most of the stalks were dried out, dead, and the leaves sliced her skin. She got to her feet and tried to run, but something hard came down on the back of her head and she went face-first into the soft dirt. She lifted her face and spit out dirt as strong hands yanked her to her feet. She couldn't see their faces, but several men, all armed with handguns or rifles or shotguns, surrounded her. The barrel of a pistol was shoved in her mouth, and something hard jammed into her spine.
Another man was on a cell phone. "Papa. We foun' her. She alive."
Her heart sank and all of the fight went out of her. She hoped they would kill her here, right now. She didn't want to go back to that room. Back to that hellhole. She could still see the frightened faces of those poor children. She had promised to save them, and she had let them down.
The man put the phone in his pocket. "Papa say bring her."
Another man came running up. "DeeDee dead. He dead."
The one that had been on the phone laughed, pointed a pistol in her face, and said, "Papa say bring her. He no say alive."CHAPTER 2
Detective Jack Murphy felt something wet on his mouth. A tongue. And it was working its way inside. Without opening his eyes, he drew his head back and said, "Hold on, Katie. Let me get awake first." The chuffing sound in his face made him jerk wide awake.
"Oh Christ!" he said and jumped out of bed, spitting and wiping at his mouth.
Katie rolled over, saw Cinderella staring at Jack, and laughed.
"You think that's funny. She put her tongue down my throat."
"She's just hungry, Jack. She needs to be fed," Katie scolded him. To Cinderella she said, "Good girl. Want some food? Want some food? Daddy will feed his baby."
Katie always sounded like she was talking to a two-year-old and not a mangy mutt.
"Are you sure your sister won't keep her?" Jack asked.
Katie's sister, Moira Connelly, first in her class in law school, had come home almost a year ago. She became a deputy prosecutor just days before her boss, the Prosecutor, shot himself in the head.
"Moira's seeing someone, Jack. And he's allergic to dogs. You know that."
"Well, I'm seeing someone too," Jack said with a pout. "Or don't you mind me swapping spit with a dog?" He moved toward Katie, his lips puckered for a kiss. "Come on. Gimme a big wet kiss. It's just the widdle baby's spit."
Katie crawled over Jack and got out of bed. "I'll feed her. You need to use some mouthwash. Both of you."
Cinderella followed Katie out of the bedroom. Jack sat on the side of the bed. His life had changed in the last six months. He and Katie had been divorced for three years longer than that, but she had always been there for him when he needed her. He'd gotten himself banged up pretty good last year when some asshole tried to rob the Blue Star riverboat casino. Katie had been by his side almost constantly while he was healing. She'd moved into his river cabin, fed him, bathed him, took him to doctor's appointments and the like. He'd always heard that you don't appreciate what you've got until you lose it. Almost dying was his wake-up call. He knew there would never be another woman for him.
He'd dated around after the divorce. Came close to getting engaged once. But Katie was the yardstick he measured other women by. When she'd asked him to move from his cabin back into the house, he didn't have to think about it. He'd said yes. But this was just a house. Katie was his home. They'd had problems — would have more undoubtedly — but he was sure they could weather them, together.
He got up and went to the bedroom window to see into the backyard. When he was in the third grade, he'd broken Bobby Sanders's nose right out there. It was like all fights, silly, full of testosterone and "you take that backs." His mom had insisted that his dad, Jake, punish him for fighting. His dad said he would take care of it, took him out to the garage, hugged him, and called him a chip off the old block. His dad pinched his arm so hard he screamed. "That was for your mother to hear," his dad explained. "You did the right thing breaking that bully's nose. Don't ever take any shit from a bully, son. They never stop if you do."
Excerpted from The Darkest Night by RICK REED. Copyright © 2017 Rick Reed. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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