The RedeemerHarry Hole investigates a mistaken assassination
Betrayal of Trust
I was sitting on the window seat of our penthouse_ unit in Belltown Terrace when Mel came back from her run. Dripping with sweat, she nodded briefly on her way to the shower and left me in peace with my coffee cup and the online version of the New York Times crossword. Since it was Monday, I finished it within minutes and turned my attention to the spectacular Olympic Mountains view to the west.
It was June. After months of mostly gray days, summer had come early to western Washington. Often the hot weather holds off until after drowning out the Fourth of July fireworks. Not this year. It was only mid-June, and the online weather report said it might get all the way to the mid-eighties by late afternoon.
People in other parts of the country might laugh at the idea of mid-eighties temperatures clocking in as a heat wave, but in Seattle, where the humidity is high and AC units are few, a long June afternoon of sun can be sweltering, especially since the sun doesn’t disappear from the sky until close to 10:00 p.m.
I remember those long miserable hot summer nights when I was a kid, when my mother—a single mother—and I lived in a second-story one-bedroom apartment in a blue-collar Seattle neighborhood called Ballard. We didn’t have AC and there was a bakery on the floor below us. Having a bakery and all those ovens running was great in the winter, but in the summer not so much. I would lie there on the couch in the living room, sleepless and miserable, hoping for a tiny breath of breeze to waft in through our lace curtains. It wasn’t until I was in high school and earning my own money by working as an usher in a local theater that I managed to give my mom a pair of fans for Mother’s Day—one for her and one for me. (At least I didn’t give her a baseball glove.)
I refilled my coffee cup and poured one for Mel. She grew up as an army brat. Evidently the base housing hot water heaters were often less than optimal. As a result she takes some of the fastest showers known to man. She collected her coffee from the kitchen and was back in the living room before the coffee came close to reaching drinking temperature. Wearing a silky robe that left nothing to the imagination and with a towel wrapped around her wet hair, she curled up at the opposite end of the window seat and joined me in examining the busy shipping traffic crisscrossing Elliott Bay.
A grain ship was slowly pulling away from the massive terminal at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill. Two ferries, one going and one coming, made their lumbering way to and from Bremerton or Bainbridge Island. They were large ships, but from our perch twenty-two stories up, they seemed like tiny toy boats. Over near West Seattle, a collection of barges was being assembled in advance of heading off to Alaska.
Brandon Walker knew he was running away. He had the excuse of running to something, but he understood that he was really escaping from something else, something he didn’t want to face. He would face it eventually because he had to, but not yet. He wasn’t ready.
Not that going to see G.T. Farrell was light duty by any means. Stopping by to see someone who was on his way to hospice care wasn’t Brandon’s idea of fun. Sue, Geet’s wife, had called with the bad news. Her husband’s lung cancer had been held at bay for far longer than anyone had thought possible, but now it was back. And winning.
“He’s got a set of files that he had me bring out of storage,” Sue had said in her phone call. “He made me promise that I’d see to it that you got them - you and nobody else.”
Brandon didn’t have to ask which file because he already knew. Every homicide cop has a case like that, the one that haunts him and won’t let him go, the one where the bad guy got away with murder. For Geet Farrell that case had been the 1959 murder of Ursula Brinker, a twenty-one-year-old coed who had died while on a spring-break trip to San Diego.
Geet had been a newbie ASU campus cop at the time of her death. Even though the crime had occurred in California, it had rocked the entire university community. Geet had been involved in interviewing Ursula’s friends and relations, including her grieving parents. The case had stayed with him, haunting him the whole time he’d worked as a homicide detective for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department, and through his years of retirement as well. Now that Geet knew it was curtains for him, he wanted to hand Ursula’s unsolved case off to someone else and let his problem be Brandon’s problem.
Fir enough, Brandon thought. If I’m dealing with Geet Farrell’s difficulties, I won’t have to face up to my own.
Geet was a good five years older than Brandon. They had met for the first time as fellow cops decades earlier. In 1975, Brandon Walker had been working Homicide for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, and G.T. Farrell had been his Homicide counterpart in neighboring Pinal. Between them they had helped bring down a serial killer named Andrew Philip Carlisle. Partially due to their efforts, Carlisle had been sentenced to life in prison. He had lived out his remaining years in the state prison in Florence, Arizona, where he had finally died.
Brandon Walker had also received a lifelong sentence as a result of that case, only his had been much different. One of Carlisle’s intended victims, the fiercely independent Diana Ladd, had gone against type and consented to become Brandon Walker’s wife. They had been married now for thirty-plus years.
It was hard for Brandon to imagine what his life would have been life if Andrew Carlisle had succeeded in murdering Diana. How would he have survived for all those years if he hadn’t been married to that amazing woman?
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