“Wake up, cult boy, follower of the Golden Path.”
Jake Sinclair lurched a bit in the hospital bed at the sheriff’s voice, but it was nearly a minute before he actually opened his eyes and focused on the lawman sitting and staring at him.
“Morphine’s good stuff, isn’t it Jake? . . . Just out of curiosity, what did you do or say to that mastiff to make him chew you up like that?”
His voice cracked when he tried to respond. “Coyote.”
The sheriff laughed. “Not even in Rojo Duro County do the coyotes have nine inch bite patterns and pedigrees. Of course, it just might be a coyote. Which means we start on the rabies shots immediately. You know where those go, right?”
Jake coughed. “Want a lawyer.”
“You need a lawyer. Let’s see. Breaking and entering. Assault and battery. Attempted capital murder. Egypt lived by the way. She was just down the hall. Until she snuck out.
“Where was I? Then I’m guessing Leia Menendez will be glad to testify against you, especially since she’s dead set on leaving town too. Lt. Frio is busy informing her that filing charges against you will speed up her intended departure from Rubicon Ranch. So that’s another set of assault and battery charges.”
Bryan laughed. “See, I told you it wasn’t a coyote. Isn’t that strange, son? Her dog gnaws the hell out of you and you go to jail for it. Like you said, you need a helluva lawyer.”
“She isn’t who she says she is.”
“Save it, Jake. I’ve seen the pictures. The originals. Those girls were hot, weren’t they? Have to hand it to your dad. He could pick ‘em.” He shifted in the vinyl seat. “But back to your legal problems. In addition to the charges I’m about to file against you, there is another serious pending legal action. Apparently your little cult killed a child, Jake.” His voice slowed. “Apparently you killed a child.”
He snorted. “Runs in the family.”
“We’ll get to Moody directly.”
Jake looked at him sharply.
“Hmm. Do you care what happens to her, son? I wouldn’t have thought that. Sibling rivalry has risen to new heights with you two, hasn’t it? Well, we’ll see. . . . So the way I have it figured, you’re looking about life plus twenty-five.”
“Is there a reason you’re telling me this? You think it tortures me?”
“Oh shoot no. If I wanted to torture you, I’d just—” Abruptly he kicked the hospital bed. “—jiggle you a little.”
Jake clenched his teeth. He reached up and pushed the button on his morphine drip.
“Oops,” Bryan said. “I may have accidentally unplugged that.”
Jake’s hand dropped and his lips tightened.
“You’re going to help me out, Jake. And I’m going to help you. For starters, tell me about your dad. Why did you kill him?”
The son of Morris Sinclair stared at him from the bed with his father’s calculating, malicious eyes. “The old bastard had it coming.”
“So you admit it?”
“Ha. Why deny it? Most people around here would consider me a hero for capping him. Or should I say ‘de-capping’ him? Do you have any idea how many people wanted Morris Sinclair dead?”
“Oh, the town’s full of them. Or I should say, it was full of them. They’re all trying to sneak away.”
He lay his head against the pillow. “I’m a hero to them, Sheriff.”
Bryan stood. “I don’t think you quite understand, Jake. Prison is sort of like your cult all right, but this time you’ll be the sacrificial lamb. Every day. For the rest of your life. There are ways to cut your losses. There are ways to avoid a life sentence. Deals can be made to get you into one of our finer penal establishments.”
Jake stared at him. “What are you getting at? Why would you want to make a deal with me?”
The sheriff opened the door and nodded to someone outside in the hallway. Moody Sinclair, dwarfed by the hulking form of Deputy Midget entered the room. Bryan indicated the chair at the foot of the bed and Jake’s sister sat down.
“I believe you two know one another. Not to be mercenary about this, but one of you has a golden opportunity. You both know what happened. One of you is going to tell me the whole story.” He watched them stare silently at each other. “Jake, your sister has every reason to put you away and she sure has the power to do it. This is her chance to make up for all you put her through. Unless of course you help yourself out by telling me her part in it.”
Bryan waited then; waited for the animosity he knew Moody felt for her brother to bubble up; waited for the lifelong hatred to vindicate itself with a revelation that would send the evil son of her evil father to jail forever. The silence continued for long minutes. At length he realized from the set of her jaw and her eyes fixed upon the floor that Moody was not ready to speak.
“I guess you forgot what jail is like, dear. I guess you forgot the misery of being behind bars and being told when to eat and when you get out of your little steel room for fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there. You forgot what a pariah you were when you got out—so much so that only the man you hated most in the world would take you in.” He glanced at the patient. “As for Jake here, he can do himself a world of good just by telling me what I already know, can’t you Jake?”
Jake looked at his sister and something passed between them. “She did nothing. I killed the old bastard.”
“Oh.” The sheriff’s voice was cynical. “And I supposed you—”
“Cut him up? Who do you think scattered him around so lots of people could find him.”
“Just out of curiosity, what did you kill him and cut him apart with?”
“With his own mattock. And it wasn’t quick either. I made sure of that.”
Bryan glanced back at Moody, waiting to see if she would respond. “Hmm. Well, you got it halfway right. The axe end of a mattock is consistent with the Medical Examiner’s description of how Morris’s head was severed. But that’s not what you used to cut him up with.” He turned toward the chair. “Maybe you could fill that part in, Moody.”
Again she refused to answer. After two minutes of silence, Bryan began to smile.
“I don’t know if you are letting your brother protect you—maybe he’s doing that because you saved his miserable life—or if you just realize we can’t prove anything if you don’t admit it. . . . Here’s what I know, dear. Jake killed your father. Then someone, and based on our investigation, it really couldn’t have been anyone but you, took a very sharp, very hard blade. Like maybe Eloy’s saber? And you severed the pieces of your father. And then you took them out into the desert and scattered them.”
Bryan sighed, exchanging a gaze with Midget.
“I suppose, if I can’t get you to admit doing it, Moody, then you won’t tell me why you two did it, will you? Did you plan it together? Were you only trying to hide what Jake did? He smiled. “This is a place peace officers get to more often than we like to admit. We know who did it and how they did it. But we can’t prove it. And we don’t know why they did it.