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By Tami Hoag
Published by Bantam on 2017-10-31
FICTION / Thrillers, FICTION / Romance
New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag returns with a thriller that begins with a shocking crime scene you’ll never forget and follows two relentless detectives on a manhunt that ends in a chilling confrontation with the essence of human evil.
It was a crime so brutal, it changed the lives of even the most hardened homicide cops. The Haas family murders left a scar on the community nothing can erase, but everyone agrees that convicting the killer, Karl Dahl, is a start. Only Judge Carey Moore seems to be standing in the way. Her ruling that Dahl’s prior criminal record is inadmissible raises a public outcry—and puts the judge in grave danger.
When an unknown assailant attacks Judge Moore in a parking garage, two of Minneapolis’s top cops are called upon to solve the crime and keep the judge from further harm. Detective Sam Kovac is as hard-boiled as they come, and his wisecracking partner, Nikki Liska, isn’t far behind. Neither one wants to be on this case, but when Karl Dahl escapes from custody, everything changes, and a seemingly straightforward case cartwheels out of control.
The stakes go even higher when the judge is kidnapped—snatched out of her own bed even as the police sit outside, watching her house. Now Kovac and Liska must navigate through a maze of suspects that includes the stepson of a murder victim, a husband with a secret life, and a rogue cop looking for revenge where the justice system failed.
With no time to spare, the detectives are pulled down a strange dark trail of smoke and mirrors, where no one is who they seem and everyone is guilty of Prior Bad Acts.
Tami Hoag initially came to the attention of readers as a romance novelist, but now fans of the suspense genre are becoming aware of her talent for writing taut thrillers. Her 2004 novel, KILL THE MESSENGER, combined identifiable characters with a genuine mystery and resulted in another personal best for her. Therefore, readers who jumped on the Hoag bandwagon will find much to love in PRIOR BAD ACTS, her latest work of fiction.
Those who have sampled Hoag's past work would do well to read PRIOR BAD ACTS. Her timing and pacing are flawless, and her constantly shifting perspectives heighten the atmosphere and keep the pages turning at a rapid pace. There are plenty of surprises here, and while Hoag uses sleight of hand and misdirection as plot devices, she always plays fairly so that readers aren't fooled any more than they want to be. PRIOR BAD ACTS is so well-written, however, that by book's end you won't care how wrong --- or right --- you are. Recommended.
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'ONE OF THE MOST INTENSE SUSPENSE WRITERS AROUND.' '''Chicago Tribune Praise for the Bestselling Novels of Tami Hoag PRIOR BAD ACTS 'A snappy, scary thriller.' ''Entertainment Weekly 'A chilling thriller with a romantic chaser.' ''New York Daily News 'Hoag's cliff-''hanger scene endings and jump cuts leave the reader panting and turning the pages as fast as possible.' ''Boston Globe '[A] no-'holds-'barred, page-'turning thriller? .' .' . Readers beware: Don't begin this novel unless you have plenty of time to finish it, because you likely won't be able to put it down.' ''Philadelphia Inquirer 'Slick and satisfying.' ''Cleveland Plain Dealer 'Stunning? .' .' . Here [Hoag] stands above the competition, creating complex characters who evolve more than those in most thrillers. The breathtaking plot twists are perfectly paced in this compulsive page-'turner.' ''Publishers Weekly (starred review) 'A first-'rate thriller with an ending that will knock your socks off.' ''Booklist
'Breathtaking pace? .' .' . [Hoag's] skill as a storyteller insures that Prior Bad Acts provides a huge dollop of escapist fun.' ''Orlando Sentinel 'A strong, disturbing tale.' ''Flint (MI) Journal 'An exciting page-'turner.' ''Kansas City Star 'When you pick up a book by Tami Hoag you know it won't leave your hands except for emergencies. Prior Bad Acts is no exception. It's perfectly paced, well plotted, and suspenseful. This is pure entertainment that will not disappoint.' ''Kingston (MA) Observer 'A? fast-'paced, intense novel.' ''Daily American 'An engrossing thriller with plenty of plot twists and a surprise ending.' ''OK! 'Choose a comfy chair when you sit down with Prior Bad Acts because you probably won't budge until you've finished it.' ''Minneapolis Star Tribune 'A chilling tale of murder and mayhem.' ''BookPage KILL THE MESSENGER 'Excellent pacing and an energetic plot heighten the suspense? .' .' . enjoyable.' ''Chicago Tribune 'Demonstrates once again why [Hoag's] so good at what she does.' ''San Francisco Chronicle
'Everything rings true, from the zippy cop-'shop banter, to the rebellious bike messenger subculture, to the ultimate heady collision of Hollywood money, politics, and power.' ''Minneapolis Star Tribune 'Hoag's usual crisp, uncluttered storytelling and her ability to make us care about her characters triumphs in Kill the Messenger.' ''Fort Lauderdale Sun-'Sentinel 'A perfect book. It is well written, and it has everything a reader could hope for.' .' .' . It cannot be put down.' .' .' . Please don't miss this one.' ''Kingston (MA) Observer 'High-'octane suspense? .' .' . Nonstop action moves the story forward at a breath-'stealing pace, and the tension remains high from beginning to end? .' .' . suspense at its very best.' ''Romance Reviews Today 'Hoag's loyal readers and fans of police procedural suspense novels will definitely love it.' ''Booklist 'Engaging? .' .' . the triumph of substance over style? .' .' . character-'driven, solidly constructed thriller.' ''Publishers Weekly 'Hoag upholds her reputation as one of the hottest writers in the suspense genre with this book, which not only has a highly complex mystery, multilayered suspense and serpentine plot, but also great characterizations? .' .' . an entertaining and expertly crafted novel not to be missed.' ''Curled Up With a Good Book 'Kill the Messenger will add to [Hoag's] list of winners.' .' .' . This is a fast-'moving thriller with a great plot and wonderful characters. The identity of the killer is a real surprise.' ''Daily American
DARK HORSE 'A thriller as tightly wound as its heroine? .' .' . Hoag has created a winning central figure in Elena.' .' .' . Bottom line: Great ride.' ''People 'This is her best to date? .' .' . [a] tautly told thriller.' ''Minneapolis Star Tribune 'Hoag proves once again why she is considered a queen of the crime thriller.' ''Charleston (SC) Post & Courier 'A tangled web of deceit and double-'dealing makes for a fascinating look into the wealthy world of horses juxtaposed with the realistic introspection of one very troubled ex-'cop. A definite winner.' ''Booklist 'Anyone who reads suspense novels regularly is acquainted with Hoag's work''or certainly should be. She's one of the most consistently superior suspense and romantic suspense writers on today's bestseller lists. A word of warning to readers: don't think you know whodunit 'til the very end.' ''Clute (TX) Facts 'Suspense, shocking violence, and a rip-'roaring conclusion''this novel has all the pulse-'racing touches that put Tami Hoag books on bestseller lists and crime fans? reading lists.' ''Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate Magazine 'Full of intrigue, glitter, and skullduggery? .' .' . [Hoag] is a master of suspense.' ''Publishers Weekly 'Her best to date, an enjoyable read, and a portent of even better things to come.' ''Grand Rapids Press
By Tami Hoag The Boy The Bitter Season Cold Cold Heart The 9th Girl Down the Darkest Road Secrets to the Grave Nature of the Beast Heart of Gold Deeper than Dean Reilly's Return McKnight in Shining Armor The Trouble with J.J. Man of Her Dreams Mismatch Heart of Dixie Taken by Storm Tempestuous The Restless Heart Straight from the Heart The Alibi Man The Last White Knight Prior Bad Acts Kill the Messenger Dark Horse Dust to Dust Ashes to Ashes Cry Wolf A Thin Dark Line Guilty as Sin Night Sins Dark Paradise Rumor Has It Lucky's Lady Still Waters Magic Keeping Company Bantam Books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotions or corporate use. Special editions, including personalized covers, excerpts of existing books, or books with corporate logos, can be created in large quantities for special needs. For more information, contact Premium Sales at (212) 572-'2232 or email specialmarkets@ penguinrandomhouse.com.
TAMI HOAG PRIOR BAD ACTS B A N TA M B O O K S ? N E W YO R K
Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as 'unsold or destroyed? and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it. Prior Bad Acts is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. 2017 Bantam Books Premium Mass Market Edition Copyright ? 2006 by Tami Hoag Excerpt of The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag copyright ? 2016 by Tami Hoag Excerpt of The Boy by Tami Hoag copyright ? 2017 by Tami Hoag All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Dell, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Bantam Books and the House colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Bantam Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, in 2006. ISBN: 978- 1- 101- 96611- 2 eBook ISBN: 978- 0- 553- 90245- 7 Cover design: Caroline Johnson Cover image: ? Paul Knight/Trevillion Images Printed in the United States of America randomhousebooks.com 2 4 6 8 9 7 5 3 1 Bantam Books premium mass market edition: November 2017
With thanks to Lynn, who, despite all protests to the contrary, has a mind nearly as twisted as my own. Brainstorms R US.
PRIOR BAD ACTS
HE KNEW BEFORE he entered the house that day that something was very wrong. It was July. The sky pressed down like an anvil''ominous, dark, gray. The afternoon was over, evening not yet begun. Time had ceased to mean anything. The air was still, as if the day were holding its breath in anticipation of what would come. Dead calm. Lightning ripped across the western sky. Thun? der rumbled, a distant drumroll. In his memory there were never other houses around the foursquare clapboard house with the peeling green paint and the porch that bowed midway across the front of the building like a weary smile. Everything else receded, slipped into the trees, dropped over the horizon. He saw the house, the yard''turned weedy and straw colored by the lack of rain. He saw the trees back by the train tracks, leaves turned inside out. No one was around. No cars on the street behind him. No kids ripping up and down on their bikes. There were no dogs, there were no birds, there were Prologue
TAMI HOAG no squirrels or rabbits. There was no sound but the thunder, drawing ever closer. In his memory, he didn't draw near the house. The house advanced on him. Bang! His heart stopped. His head snapped to the left. 'You better get in the basement! Tornado's coming!' The neighbor, whose dreary ranch-'style cracker box had crept back onto the periphery, stood on his back deck. He was a guy with Elvis sideburns and a gigantic beer gut. He held a camcorder. He pointed to the west. A storm was coming. The air was electric. Colors were sharper, crisper. Everything seemed in hyper-'focus. His eyes hurt taking it in. The house lunged at him. He tripped on the first step and stumbled onto the porch. The hinges on the screen door screamed as he drew it back and stepped inside. Crack! Boom! The lightning was so bright, it seemed to fill the living room. He called out. No one answered. In his memory his feet never moved, but he was suddenly in the dining room, then the kitchen, then the TV room at the back of the house. The room was small and dark, wrapped in cheap wood paneling. The heavy curtains at the windows were old, and they didn't hang right. They had been made for some other window in some other house, and cast out when the fashions changed. Light seeped in around the edges and down the center, where the panels didn't quite pull all the way together. The television was on. Storm warning. Outside
PRIOR BAD ACTS 3 the house, the wind came in a gust. Lightning flashed. He found the first body. She was sprawled on the couch, propped up like a giant doll, eyes open, as if she were still watching television. A wide strip of duct tape covered her mouth and circled her head. Her hair had been chopped off with a scissors or a knife. Coagulating blood marked gouges in the scalp. Her clothing had been cut down the center and peeled back, exposing her body from throat to crotch. Storm coming. Crack! Boom! She'd been cut down that same line. Through skin, through muscle, through bone, like a fish to be ? gutted. Drooping daisies had been planted in her chest. Bile rose in his esophagus at the same time that his throat closed. Terror wrapped two big, bony hands around his neck and squeezed. He stumbled backward, turned and ran into a floor lamp, jumped sideways and tripped over a footstool, fell and hit his head on the corner of the coffee table. Crack! Boom! Crack! Boom! Dizzy, weak, scared, he scrambled to get his feet under himself and get out of the room. A strange mewling sound squeezed up out of his throat, like a dog that had been beaten. He ran to the kitchen. He ran out the back door. He couldn't stay in the house, couldn't get away from it fast enough. The world had taken on a weird green cast. There was a roaring sound coming, coming, like a freight train. But when he looked at the tracks, there was no train, or if there had been one, it had been swallowed whole by the huge black
TAMI HOAG funnel cloud that had touched ground and was chewing up everything in its path. This had to be a nightmare. None of this could really be happening. But he felt the debris hit him. Slivers and splinters and dirt pelted him. He threw his arms up around his head to protect his face. The roar was deafening. The old storm cellar door was open and clinging to the frame by a single hinge as the wind tried to rip it free. He all but threw himself down the concrete stairs and kicked in the door to the basement itself. It was old and rotted with damp, and it split away from the frame on the third kick. The basement was as dank as a cave, and smelled of mildew. He couldn't find a light switch. Above him, the old house had begun to shake. He had the impression of it pulling upward as the tornado tried to rip it from its foundation. The rain came in a deluge. The bullwhip crack of lightning. Thunder drumming. The basement was illuminated in bursts of stark white light. The darkness between was absolute. He curled into a ball on the floor''cold, wet, sick at the thing he had seen upstairs, sick at the smell of the basement. He didn't know how long he stayed there. It might have been five minutes or five hours. Time meant nothing. All he would remember later was the dawning of awareness that everything had gone silent again. So silent, he thought he might have gone deaf. Random flashes of lightning still illuminated the night beyond the high basement windows, but he couldn't hear the thunder. Slowly he rose from the cold, wet floor. Some? thing like a hand touched the back of his neck, and
PRIOR BAD ACTS 5 the sweat coating his skin turned to ice. Something nudged him in the back as if to make him turn around to see a surprise. Lightning burst outside the windows like the flash of a camera, and the image was forever imprinted on his brain. A memory that would never fade, never lessen in its impact or in its horror: the bodies of two children hanging from the ceiling beams, their lifeless eyes staring sightless into his.
Fifteen months later 'HE SLAUGHTERED A MOTHER and two children.' Hennepin County prosecutor Chris Logan was a man of strong opinions and stronger emotions. Both traits had served him well in the courtroom with juries, not always so well in judges? chambers. He was tall, broad shouldered, athletic, with a thick shock of black-'Irish hair now threaded with silver. Forty-'five years old, Logan had spent twenty of those years in the criminal court system. It was a wonder he hadn't gone entirely white. 'I'm sorry,' said the defense attorney, his sarcasm belying the expression of shock. 'Did I miss something? When were we suddenly transported to the Dark Ages? Aren't the accused in this country still innocent until proven guilty'? Logan rolled his eyes. 'Oh, for Christ's sake, Scott, could you spare us the act? We're all adults. We all know each other. We all know you're full of shit. Could you spare us the demonstration''
TAMI HOAG 'Mr. Logan? .' .' .' Judge Carey Moore gave him a level look. She had known Chris Logan since they had both cut their teeth toiling as public defenders'? a job neither of them had the temperament for. They had moved on to the county attorney's office as quickly as they could, and both had made their names in the courtroom, prosecuting everything from petty theft to rape to murder. Sitting in the other chair across from her desk was another cog in the public defender's machine. Kenny Scott had gone in that door and had never come out, which made him either a saint battling for justice for the socially disadvantaged or a pathetic excuse for an attorney, unable to rise out of anonymity and go on to private practice. Having had him in her courtroom numerous times, Carey suspected the latter. He looked at Carey now with the eyes of a mouse in a room full of cats. Perspiring, nervous, ready to run, scrambling mentally. He was a small man whose suits never fit''too big in the shoulders, too long in the sleeves''which somehow emphasized the impression that he was overwhelmed by his job or by life in general. By the luck of the draw, he had gotten stuck with the job of defending the most hated man in Minneapolis, if not the entire state: a drifter named Karl Dahl, accused of the most heinous murders Carey had encountered in her career. The scene had been so gruesome, one of the uniformed officers who had responded to the original call had suffered a heart attack and had subsequently retired from the force. The lead homicide detective had been so affected by the case, he had eventually been removed from the rotation and put
PRIOR BAD ACTS 9 on a desk job, pending the completion of psychiatric counseling. 'Your Honor, you can't allow Mr. Logan to circumvent the rules of law,' Scott said. 'Prior bad acts are inadmissible''? 'Unless they establish a pattern of behavior,' Logan argued loudly. He had the fierce expression of an eagle. Kenny Scott looked like he wanted nothing more than to bolt from the office and run for his life, but to his credit, he stayed in his seat. 'Mr. Dahl's previous offenses have nothing to do with this case,' he said. 'Criminal trespass? That hardly establishes him as a violent offender.' Logan glared at him. 'What about possession of child pornography? What about breaking and entering? Window peeping? Indecent exposure'? 'He never killed anyone with his penis,' Scott said. 'It's an escalating pattern of behavior,' Logan argued. 'That's what these pervs do. They start small and work their way up. First they get their jollies whacking off while they look at little kids in their underwear in the JCPenney catalog. When that doesn't do it for them anymore, they move on to window peeping, then to exposing themselves. Next they need to have physical contact''? 'And they jump from weenie wagging to evisceration'? Scott said. 'That's absurd.' He turned back toward Carey. 'Your Honor, there is nothing violent in Karl Dahl's record. The information regarding his prior convictions would be prejudicial and inflammatory. The jury would be ready to convict him based on Mr. Logan's theory, not fact, not evidence.' Logan ticked his facts off on his fingers. 'We
10 TAMI HOAG have his fingerprints at the scene. We have a complaint filed by one of the neighbors, reporting him for looking in her windows. We know he knew the victims, that he'd been hanging around the neighborhood. He had the victim's necklace in his possession at the time of his arrest''? 'He was doing odd jobs,' Scott said. 'He admits to having been in the Haas home the day of the murders. Mrs. Haas paid him thirty-'five dollars to install some curtain rods. He stole a cheap necklace. Big deal. Other than the one neighbor, no one in the neighborhood had any complaint against him.' Logan rolled his eyes dramatically. 'Every one of them said the guy was strange, that he gave them the creeps''? 'That's not against the law'? ? 'Good thing for you,' Logan muttered. Carey warned him again. 'Mr. Logan? .' .' .' He gave her a familiar look from under the heavy dark eyebrows. 'An eyewitness puts him at the scene''? 'At least five hours after the murders had been committed,' Scott pointed out. 'Coming back to review his work,' Logan said. 'That doesn't make any sense. Coming back that late in the day, when people would be arriving home from work''? 'So he was back to kill the father and the old'est kid''? 'Just where did you get your crystal ball, Logan'? Scott asked. 'Maybe we can all run out and get one. Maybe the state can buy them in bulk and distribute them to every law enforcement agency'? ? Carey arched a brow in disapproval. 'Put the sarcasm away, Mr. Scott.'
PRIOR BAD ACTS 11 Logan jumped in again. 'This is a clear exception to the rule, Your Honor. The man is a serial killer at the front end of his career. If we don't stop him now''? Carey held up a hand to stave off any more arguments. Her head ached as if it had been crushed by a millstone. Through law school and the years working her way up the ranks, her goal had been to sit in these chambers, to wear the robes, to be a judge. At that moment, she wished she had listened to her grandmother and honed her secretarial skills as a fallback should she not land a suitable husband. Presiding over felony proceedings was a responsibility she had never taken lightly. Because she'd come from a successful career as a prosecuting ? attorney, people expected her to be biased toward the prosecution''an expectation she had worked hard to dispel. As a prosecutor it had been her job to vigorously pursue the conviction of defendants. As a judge, her job was to preside fairly, to take no sides, to keep the scales of justice in balance so that every verdict was reached based solely on the relevant facts and evidence presented. Carey couldn't take sides, no matter what her personal feelings might be. In this case she had her work cut out. Two children had been brutalized, tortured, murdered, left hanging by their necks from the ceiling of a dank basement. She was a mother herself. The idea of someone harming her daughter evoked an emotion so strong there were no words adequate to describe it. She had viewed the crime scene photos and the videotape. The images haunted her. The children's foster mother had been raped,
12 TAMI HOAG sodomized, tortured, her body sliced open from throat to groin. The coroner had determined that the woman had died first, though there was no way of knowing what might have taken place before her very eyes prior to her death. She might have been made to watch while unspeakable acts were committed on the children. The children might have been made to watch while unspeakable acts were committed on her. Either way, a nightmare from the darkest, most primal, fear-'filled corner of the human mind. But as a judge, Carey couldn't attach those atrocities to the defendant on trial before her. Her decision on the matter before her now couldn't be swayed by her own fears or disgust. She couldn't worry how people would react to her ruling. A criminal trial was not a popularity contest. A fine theory, at least. She took a breath and sighed, the weight of the matter pressing down on her. The attorneys watched her. Kenny Scott looked like he was waiting for her to pronounce sentence on him. Logan's impatience was palpable. He stared at her as if he believed he could influence her mind by sheer dint of will. Carey quelled the sick feeling in her stomach. Move forward. Get it over with. 'I've read your briefs, gentlemen,' she said. 'And I'm well aware of the impact my decision will have on this case. I can guarantee neither of you would want to be sitting in this chair right now.' Logan would have argued that, she knew. Bias was a way of life for him. 'Right with might? was his motto. If he believed something, then it was so''no arguments. But he held his tongue, held his breath, poised to leap out of his chair. Carey met his gaze full-'on.
PRIOR BAD ACTS 13 'I don't see an exception here,' she said. Logan opened his mouth, ready to rebut. 'You'll allow me to finish, Mr. Logan.' His face was flushed red with anger. He looked at the wall. 'Mr. Dahl's prior acts may point in a particular direction, suggesting a possible path of future criminal behavior,' she said. 'However, he has no history of violent crimes, and this court can't foresee what Mr. Dahl might do in months or years to come. At any rate, we aren't allowed to try people for crimes they have yet to commit.' 'Your Honor,' Logan said, his voice tight from holding back the need to shout. 'Violent criminals are made over time. Mr. Dahl's record''? 'Is inadmissible,' Carey said. If people could have been put away for crimes they had yet to commit, Chris Logan would have been led away in handcuffs. The fury in his eyes was murderous. Kenny Scott barely contained himself from leaping out of his chair and doing a victory dance. Carey stared at him, and he slouched back down and swallowed the joy of his victory. He wouldn't think it was such a good thing after the news hit the press, Carey thought. People generally demonstrated less loathing for public defenders than headline defense attorneys. They were, after all, civil servants toiling away for low wages, devoting their lives to helping the unfortunate. But as soon as her ruling was made public, Kenny Scott would suddenly become an enemy of the state. Defending the indigent was one thing. Getting an accused murderer off was quite another. 'Your Honor,' Scott said, ready to strike while the iron was hot. 'In view of your ruling, I don't see
14 TAMI HOAG that the prosecution has enough evidence to support the indictment''? Logan came out of his chair. Eyes popping, Scott looked at the man looming over him. 'I move that the charges be dismissed,' he said, talking as fast as he could, trying to get all the words out of his mouth before Logan could grab him by the throat and crush his larynx. 'Motion denied,' Carey said with a calm that belied her inner tension. 'Sit down, Mr. Logan, or I'll have you removed.' Logan glared at her, defiant. He didn't sit, but he moved away from Kenny Scott and went over by the wall, his hands jammed at his waist, nostrils flaring as he tried to gather himself. 'But Your Honor,' Scott argued, 'the state has no direct evidence linking my client to the crimes. No fingerprints on the murder weapons''? 'He wiped them clean,' Logan growled. 'No blood evidence on his clothes''? 'So he ditched the clothes.' 'No DNA evidence''? 'He used a condom''? 'Not so much as a hair''? 'The guy doesn't have any,' Logan snapped. 'He shaves his body clean so he won't leave any hairs behind. What does that tell you'? 'He does it for hygiene reasons,' Scott said. 'The guy's a transient. He doesn't want to pick up lice.' Logan made a rude sound and rolled his eyes dramatically. Carey turned to him. 'Well, Mr. Logan? What do you have on Mr. Dahl'? 'I'm supposed to lay out my entire case in front of him'? Logan said, incredulous. 'Do you have a case to lay out''
PRIOR BAD ACTS 15 'He's got conjecture, supposition, and coincidence,' Scott said. 'I've got a grand jury indictment,' Logan said. 'And the Cracker Jack box it came in'? 'It's good to know you have so much respect for our criminal justice system, Mr. Scott,' Carey said without humor. Scott stammered, tripping backward, trying to cover his mistake. Carey held up a hand to forestall the attempt. She wished the earth would open and swallow Kenny Scott and Chris Logan and this entire nightmare case. 'The indictment stands,' she said. 'A jury can decide if the state has a case strong enough to convict your client, Mr. Scott.' She gave Logan a look she knew he recognized from their years together on the same side of the bar. 'And if you don't, Mr. Logan? .' .' . God help you.' She rose behind her desk and nodded toward the door. 'Gentlemen? .' .' .' Kenny Scott bounced up from his seat. 'But Your Honor, shouldn't we revisit the idea of bail'? 'No.' 'But my client''? 'Should consider himself damned lucky to have a guarded building between himself and the public,' she said. 'Considering the climate of the community, bail would not be in your client's best interest. Quit while you're ahead, Mr. Scott.' Scott bobbed and nodded. 'Yes, ma'am.' 'Don't call me ma'am.' 'No. I'm sorry, Your Honor. I meant no disrespect.' 'Please leave.' 'Yes, ma'? Of course.'
16 TAMI HOAG He held up his hands as if to concede his stupidity, then fumbled to grab his briefcase and nearly tripped himself on his way out the door. Logan remained for a moment but didn't say a word. He didn't need to. Carey knew exactly what was going through his mind. Then he huffed a sigh and walked out like a man with a purpose. The bottle of scotch in his bottom right-'hand desk drawer. 'Have one for me,' she muttered.
THE BEST TIME for a controlled release of bad news to the public is Friday afternoon. Taxes are going up, the economy is going down, more troops are being deployed to some third world hot spot'? the announcements are made on Friday afternoon. People are busy ending their workweek, getting ready for a few days of freedom, getting out of wherever early for a weekend at a lake. There's a good chance a lot of attention will be anywhere but on the news. Detective Stan Dempsey knew how the world of politics worked. He'd been on the shit end of it much of his life, in the army, on the police force. He had a great loathing for the people who held those positions of power. People who were able to wave a hand, shrug a shoulder, raise an eyebrow, and alter the lives of those beneath them without a care or afterthought. People like Judge Carey Moore. It was difficult for him to think of her as being in a position of authority, holding sway over cases he had built. She seemed too young, looked too pretty.
18 TAMI HOAG His soul was as old as dirt. He had been wearing a police uniform when she was a child. He had dealt with Carey Moore when she had been working her way up through the county attorney's office. A good prosecutor. Tough. Demanding. Despite the big blue eyes and turned-'up nose, she had never been anyone's patsy or pawn. Dempsey didn't know what had happened to her since she'd become a judge. Cops had believed they would have someone on the bench who wouldn't take any crap from defense attorneys, wouldn't have any time for the dirtbags on trial before her. They had practically expected automatic convictions'? Do not pass Go, Go directly to jail. That wasn't what had happened at all. She had become a different person on the bench, entertaining ridiculous defense motions, allowing the work of the police force she had once relied on to be questioned and ridiculed. As far as sentences went, if she had a book, she sure as hell wasn't throwing it at anybody. And so Stan Dempsey shouldn't have been surprised that Friday afternoon when the news broke. Court wasn't even in session. The meeting had gone down in Judge Moore's chambers. With nothing better to do, he had left the desk job, where he'd been stuck for all these months, and walked across the street to the Hennepin County Government Center. The department brass had worried he wasn't stable enough to be on the streets after the Haas murder investigation. They had worried he was a liability risk, that he might go off at any time on anyone the way he'd gone off on Karl Dahl in the interview room the night Dahl had been arrested. In his own heart, Dempsey didn't know that he
PRIOR BAD ACTS 19 wouldn't. He was a different person now. In the twenty-'eight years of his career, he had been an exemplary cop''in a uniform and in a suit. Never a complaint filed against him. The Haas murders had changed who he was. He'd gone into that house that summer evening in the eerie calm between thunderstorms, and hours later he had come back out a different man. The department had sent him to a shrink, but beyond his official report and his statements to Logan in the prosecutor's office, he had never talked about what he had seen. He had never spoken to anyone about what he felt. Twice a week he had gone to the shrink's office, stretched out on the couch, and stared at the wall for forty-'five minutes, saying nothing. The truth was, he was too damned scared to say anything. If anyone had known the kind of thoughts that filled his head, he would have gotten shipped off to a secure mental facility. Images of the crime scene were lodged in his brain like pieces of jagged glass. At any given moment a blinding spotlight could hit any one of the images, transporting him back there. He could smell the mildew of the basement and the unmistakable stench of violent death. The sour, acrid smell of terror. The deaths of that woman and the two children had been horrible. The tortures they had endured, unspeakable. For the very first time in his career, Stan Dempsey had committed the cardinal sin of letting a case get under his skin. He had allowed himself to imagine the last, terrifying hours of the victims? lives, to feel their fear, their helplessness. Those emotions had burrowed down into the core of his brain like some kind of weevil. A sense of toxicity had filled him. He had difficulty sleep-
20 TAMI HOAG ing, mostly because he feared the violent dreams of vengeance that plagued him. The dreams had become particularly strong recently, as the trial of Karl Dahl drew near. His lieutenant had been more disturbed than perturbed by the reports from the shrink regarding his twice-'weekly lack of cooperation. That was because his lieutenant was a woman, and women always wanted to open up the heads of men and drag their thoughts out into the light like a tangled mess of string to be sorted out and rolled up neatly. She herself had tried to get him to talk. She had expressed concern for his well-'being. She had tried to find out if he had a wife or a family member she could talk to in an attempt to end his stubborn silence. But Stan didn't have anyone anymore. People he had been close to over the years had drifted away from him. His wife had divorced him because he was so emotionally closed off, and she needed someone who took an interest in her and in what she needed. His daughter lived in Portland, Oregon, with her 'life partner.' She called on Christmas and Father's Day. He hadn't known how to keep her close. He didn't have the tools, as the shrink told him. He wasn't open or demonstrative or communicative. He only had the job. And now he barely had that. The powers that loomed over him had pressed for him to take his retirement and go. They didn't see that any use he had left in him was worth the risk of having him around. If he snapped one day and beat some skell to death, or drew his weapon and fired into a crowd, he would cost them millions in lawsuits. Bastards. He was that close to his thirty years and full retirement benefits. He had served the depart-
PRIOR BAD ACTS 21 ment well and faithfully. And now they wanted to screw him over on his pension because he had suddenly become an inconvenience to them. No. He would sit at that goddamn desk, go to their shrink and stare at her wall, and time would crawl by, and his career would die on schedule, and he would take his full pension and? .' .' . and? .' .' . Nothing. The thing that kept him going these days was his focus on the Haas case, the pending trial of Karl Dahl. And so he got up from his desk and went across the street and went into the criminal courts side of the building. He positioned himself where he would see the attorneys coming away from Judge Moore's chambers. Word was she would rule as to whether or not Karl Dahl's prior bad acts could be entered into evidence at trial. Logan would fight hard for it. They didn't have a hell of a lot of direct physical evidence against Dahl. The case was largely circumstantial''knowing that Dahl had been in the Haas home, that he had been there that day, that an eyewitness had seen him enter the house, that he had left a fingerprint on the telephone, that a neighbor had made a complaint about him to the police just days prior to the murders. But he was the guy, Stan had no doubt, and the murders were something Dahl had been working toward for a long time. He had probably been living that fantasy in his head for years, planning what he would do, inuring himself to any extreme emotional reaction that would come during the commission of the act so that he wouldn't make mistakes. Stan Dempsey believed that down to the marrow of his bones. He sat on a bench, crossed his legs, and wished
22 TAMI HOAG he could smoke a cigarette. A person could hardly smoke anywhere these days. There was even a movement to make it illegal to smoke outdoors in public spaces. Just another little bit of personal individuality being chipped away. People came and went up and down the hall. No one paid any attention to him. He was unremarkable in his homeliness, a thin gray man in a baggy brown suit. Sad eyes that stared at nothing. Kenny Scott, the public defender assigned to represent Karl Dahl, burst into the hall, looking like a man whose execution had been stayed. Logan followed him a moment later. Logan was a force of nature''big, commanding, full of fury. His brows slashed down over his eyes. His mouth was set in a grim line. He leaned forward as if he were walking into a stiff headwind. Dempsey stood up. 'Mr. Logan'? For an instant, Logan glared at him, then slowed his march and veered toward him. 'Detective.' 'I heard maybe a ruling was coming down on Karl Dahl.' Logan glanced away and frowned. His tie was jerked loose at the throat, collar undone. He pushed his coat open and jammed his hands at his waist. 'She didn't dismiss the case,' he said. 'There was a chance of that'? 'Look, Stan, you and I both know Dahl butch? ered that family, but we don't have a hell of a lot to prove it. His lawyer has to move to dismiss''that's his job.' 'What about Dahl's record'? Logan shook his head. He was clearly pissed off. 'Judge Moore seems to think it's inflammatory and prejudicial.' 'Being on trial for a triple murder isn't'? Stan
PRIOR BAD ACTS 23 said. 'A lot of folks figure if he's sitting in that chair, he must be guilty.' 'It's a game, Stan,' Logan said bitterly. 'It's not about right or wrong. It's about rules and fairness, and making sure no one has the common sense to form an opinion.' 'Can you appeal'? Logan shrugged, impatient. 'We'll see. Look, Stan, I've got to go,' he said, reaching out with one big hand to pat Dempsey's shoulder. 'Hang in there. We'll get the son of a bitch.' Dempsey watched him go, feeling defeated. He looked back down the hall toward Judge Moore's chambers. He wanted to go in there and talk to her. He thought he would tell her in great detail the things he had seen, and the terrible waves of emotion that bombarded him all day, every day, and all night, every night. He could see her sitting behind her desk, looking cool and calm, the desk acting as a buffer between them. He would politely introduce himself (because he never expected anyone to remember him). He would tell her how disappointed he was in her ruling. But then he saw himself exploding, raging, storming behind the desk. Eyes huge with shock, she bolted, tripping as she scrambled to get out of her chair and run. He trapped her in the corner, her back against a cabinet, and screamed in her face. He wanted her to feel the kind of terror Marlene Haas must have felt that day when Karl Dahl had come into her home and tortured her and her two children over the course of several hours before he had butchered her. Rage built and built inside him like a fire, searing his organs, melting the edges of his brain. He felt
24 TAMI HOAG huge and violent and monstrous inside. He saw himself wrapping his stubby hands around her beautiful white throat, choking her, shaking her. But no one passing by Stan Dempsey saw anything but a bony man, with a heavily lined, expressionless face, loitering at the end of the hall. He cleared the images from his mind and left the building to have a cigarette.
6:27 P.M. I'm a coward, Carey Moore thought, staring at the clock on her desk. Not for the ruling she had made but for hiding from it. After Logan and Scott had left her office, she had instructed her clerk to tell all callers she had gone for the day. She didn't have the energy to deal with reporters, and even though it was Friday afternoon, she knew they would be lying in wait. The case of The State v. Karl Dahl was too big a story to blow off for an early weekend. She wanted to close her eyes and, when she opened them again, magically be home with her daughter. They would cook dinner together and have a 'girls? night in? evening of manicures and storybook reading. David had left a message that he had a dinner meeting with a potential backer for a documentary comparing the gangsters who had run amok in the Twin Cities area in the thirties and the gangs that ran the streets in the new millennium. Once upon a time Carey would have been disappointed to lose 3
26 TAMI HOAG him for an evening. These days it was a relief to have him gone. All day, she carried the weight of her work on her shoulders, the Dahl case being the heaviest thing she had ever been called on to handle. And every evening David was home, the tension of their relationship made Carey feel as if she were living in a highly pressurized chamber and that the pressure was such that everything inside her wanted to collapse. There was no downtime, no release. Over the decade of their marriage, their once-? good ability to communicate had slowly eroded away. Neither of them was happy now, and neither of them wanted to talk about it. They both hid in their work, and only truly came together for their daughter, Lucy, who was five and oblivious to the tension between them. Carey walked around her office, arms crossed, and looked out the window at the city below. Traffic still clogged the streets of downtown Minneapolis. Headlights and taillights glowing. The occasional honk of a horn. If this had been New York, the horns would have been blaring in a cacophony of sound, but even with constant growth and an influx of people from other parts of the country and other parts of the world, this was still the Midwest, and manners and courtesy were still important. There was an order to things here, and a logic to that order. Stability. Life made sense. Which made something like the Haas murders all the more horrific. No one could make sense of such brutality. Random acts of violence undermined the foun? dation of what Minnesotans believed about their society.
PRIOR BAD ACTS 27 The office door opened and Chris Logan filled the space, looking like an avenging angel. Carey stared at him, her outer calm belying the jolt of unpleasant surprise that shot through her. 'You've just dispelled my theory that Minnesotans are still polite and mannerly.' 'Everyone's gone,' Logan said, as if the lack of a monitor in the outer office excused his behavior. 'I'm just leaving myself,' she said, opening the closet where she had hung her coat. 'I can't believe you're doing this, Carey.' 'You shouldn't be here, Chris,' she said firmly. 'I'm not having an ex parte discussion with you about this case. If you leave now, I won't report you to the disciplinary committee.' 'Don't try to throw your weight around with me,' Logan snapped. 'That so pisses me off, and you know it.' 'I don't have to try,' she pointed out. 'I'm a judge, and you're a prosecutor with a case before me. It's improper for you to come in here and question my decisions.' 'I've already questioned them outside on the courthouse steps.' 'I'm sure you have. You wore your good suit. The rumpled hair and the tie askew are a nice touch. You'll probably get marriage proposals called in to the television stations after they run the piece on the news.' 'Don't play that card with me, Carey,' he warned. 'This isn't about politics. This is about what's right.' 'A fair trial is right.' 'Putting away the sick son of a bitch who killed that family is right.' 'Yes,' Carey agreed. 'That's your job. Make the
28 TAMI HOAG case good enough to stick. If you really think the outcome of this trial hangs in the balance of this one issue, then I'm inclined to agree with Kenny Scott''you barely have enough to sustain the indictment.' 'You want me to make my prima facie case right here, right now'? Logan challenged. Anger slashed red along his cheekbones. It was never difficult to read him. If the glare in his eyes didn't give him away, his pale Irish complexion did. 'No,' Carey said. 'I'm just warning you, Chris. If you rush this before a jury to soothe the public outcry, and you lose'? ? 'I have enough to convict him.' 'Then why are you here'? she demanded. 'Would you barge into Judge Olson's chambers? Or Judge Denholm's? No. You're here because you think you should have special privileges, that I should knuckle under and bend to your will because we used to be colleagues and because I'm a woman. If I were a man''? 'I never would have slept with you.' Logan completed the sentence. Carey stepped back as if he'd slapped her. He might as well have. During the years they had worked together, there had always been something between them, an attraction both had felt but neither had acted on, with the exception of one night. They had been putting in long hours, preparing for a trial''her last before her appointment to the bench, as it had happened. Carey had been drained of energy from fighting with David about her long hours, about her lack of support for his career. With David every issue was turned around until it was about him. Her career was interfering with his spotlight. Never mind that when he was working on
PRIOR BAD ACTS 29 a project she sometimes didn't see him at all for weeks at a time, and it was only on a rare occasion that he included her in any part of the process. It never failed that when she needed his support'? as she had on that last case''he was never there for her. But there Chris Logan had been, understanding and sharing the pressure of the upcoming trial, strong and passionate.' .' .' . 'You'll leave this office now,' she said, her voice hard and tight with emotion. 'Or I'll call a deputy and you can deal with the consequences.' She went to the door and yanked it open, stared at Logan with eyes as fierce as his. He looked away and down. 'Carey, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that.' 'No, you shouldn't have. And you will never say it again.' 'No. I'm sorry,' he backpedaled. 'It's this case. It's just getting to me,' he said, shaking his head, raking a hand back through his thick hair. 'Don't try to give me an excuse,' Carey snapped. 'There is no excuse. You're pissed off and you're trying to undermine my authority, and I won't stand for it. If you come within a yard of that line again, I'll have you removed from this case, and think about what that would do for your public image. Get out.' He didn't look at her. She wanted to think he was too embarrassed by his own behavior, but that probably wasn't the case. He was regrouping, switching tracks to a wiser course of action. Logan's passion for his work was a thing to behold in the courtroom. Defense attorneys of no small caliber were routinely blown out of the water and crushed. But he had never learned to completely
30 TAMI HOAG control it when he needed to, and so his strongest asset was also his Achilles? heel. 'You've seen the crime scene photographs,' he said quietly. 'You know what was done to that woman, to those two little kids, foster kids. They didn't even belong there, really. It was just the luck of the draw that they ended up at that house. 'I look at those photos every day. Can't get them out of my head. I dream about them at night. I've never had a case affect me the way this one has.' 'Then you should stop looking at the pictures,' Carey said, despite what she had been thinking about the photographs herself. 'There's no point in it. You can't make a trial be about your own personal obsession, Chris. You'll lose your perspective; you'll make mistakes. Like this one. Go. Now.' He sighed and nodded, then met her gaze with genuine apology in his eyes. 'I am sorry.' Carey said nothing. He turned and walked out, shoving his hands in his pants pockets, the wide shoulders slumping a bit. If this had been a movie, she would have run after him and forgiven him, and they would have ended up in each 'other's arms in a mad embrace. But it wasn't a movie; this was the real world. She had a job to do, she had a husband, she had a child. She couldn't have Chris Logan, and she knew better than to want him. What she really wanted was someone strong to hold her, support her, shelter her. But she didn't have that. As lonely as it was, she'd learned a long time ago to handle her battles and her insecurities on her own. Carey put her coat on, slung her purse over one shoulder, and picked up the large old leather briefcase her father had carried when he had sat on the
PRIOR BAD ACTS 31 bench as a judge in this same building. She wished she could have gone to him for advice, as she had for most of her life. But Alzheimer's had stolen her father away from her in the last few years. He no longer recognized her, and so all she had of him were things, his gavel, his briefcase, photographs, and memories. Feeling hollow and beaten, she left the office. The press would still be waiting outside, hoping in vain that she would come out the main doors. Instead, she took the skyway across the street to the garage where she parked her car. Afraid to lose the impressive background shot of the Hennepin County Government Center, none of the television people had decamped to find her elsewhere. She braced herself for confrontation with a newspaper reporter, but the skyway was empty, and most of the cars were gone from the level where Carey had parked. She would have to consider a uniformed escort now that the news of her ruling had broken. And she felt even more of a coward for thinking it, because she pictured herself hiding behind a deputy, trying to avoid the fallout of her own decision. Lost in her thoughts, she fumbled to dig her keys out of her purse, while her Palm Pilot and a lipstick tumbled out. She sighed heavily, set down the briefcase, and bent awkwardly to scoop up the things she had dropped. As she began to straighten, something hit her hard across the back, stunning her, knocking her breath from her. A second blow sent her sprawling forward. The rough concrete tore at the palms of her hands. Her knees hit the surface like a pair of hammer? heads. She tried to draw breath to scream, but
32 TAMI HOAG couldn't. Her purse flew out ahead of her, its contents spewing out, skidding and rolling. Her assailant swung at her again, just missing her head as Carey shoved herself to the right, one hand outstretched to try to snag her keys. Some kind of club. She couldn't really see it, was just aware of the sound as it struck the concrete. Her assailant cursed. 'You fucking bitch! You fucking cunt!' Not shouting, but a harsh, hoarse, rasping sound full of venom. He fell on her, bouncing her head into the floor like a basketball. Did he mean to kill her? Rape her? Carey flailed at the car keys, breaking a nail, scraping her fingers, catching hold. Her attacker grabbed her by the hair, yanked her head back. Did he have a knife? Would he slit her throat? She fumbled with the key to her BMW, fran'tically pushing the buttons. The car's alarm screamed, and the lights began to flash. The voice behind her swore again. He slammed her head down. What little breath she had regained huffed out of her as he kicked her hard in the side. Then everything went terrifyingly black.
SAM KOVAC STOOD in front of the mirror in the john down the hall from the Criminal Investigative Division offices, his shirt half-'off. He needed to go to the gym, except that he hadn't been in a gym since he'd been in a uniform. A long damn time ago. Now that he was on the downhill side of forty, he was beginning to wonder if he shouldn't do something about that. But the notion of sweating and making a fool of himself in front of the young hot bods that populated health clubs, an obvious and pathetic display of midlife crisis, was enough to make him leave his jockstrap in the drawer. Nor was he interested in hanging out in the weight room with the muscleheads who wore the Minneapolis PD uniform, the guys who reeked of testosterone and couldn't buy shirts off the rack. Bunch of freaks. Probably most of them were trying to ? overcompensate for small dicks, or homosexual tendencies, or the fact that they used to get the snot pounded out of them for their lunch money every day when they were kids. 4
34 TAMI HOAG Kovac assessed himself with a critical eye. He looked like an old tomcat that had taken his share of licks in alley fights and had dished out plenty of his own. A scar here, a scar there, a cranky expression, a twice-'broken, high-'bridged nose. His hair was equal parts brown and gray and had a tendency to stand up. Partly from his Slovak heritage and partly because he never paid more than ten bucks for a haircut. But overall, he didn't think he looked that bad. No beer gut. No hair sprouting out his ears. Women had never run screaming at the sight of him. At least none that weren't wanted for something. At his last department-'mandated physical, the doctor had preached at him that it wasn't too late to reverse the damage he had done to himself smoking and drinking and living on a steady diet of sodium, fat, and job stress. Kovac had told the doctor if he had to give up all that, he might as well eat his gun, because he wouldn't have anything left to live for. The men's room door swung in and Nikki Liska stepped inside. 'Jesus, the least you could do is go into a stall,' she said. Kovac scowled at her. 'Very funny. What the hell are you doing in here? This is the men's room, for Christ's sake!' 'So where are they'? Liska challenged, crossing her arms over her chest. 'The least I could get out of this is a sneak peek at a little throbbing manhood.' Kovac felt his cheeks heat. Liska had been his partner for enough years that he should have been immune to her mouth, but she never ceased to outdo herself. Her personality was her loudest, largest fea-
PRIOR BAD ACTS 35 ture. The rest of her was five-'five with big blue eyes and a white-'blond pixie haircut. To the unsuspecting, she looked sweet and perky. But the last guy to call her that had gone home from the party with a limp. Her eyes narrowed. 'I don't believe it.' 'Don't make a big deal,' Kovac warned. 'You, Sam Kovac, are an optimist.' 'No, I'm not.' 'Yes, you are.' 'I'm a pragmatist.' 'You're full of shit,' Liska said, marching into the room. She walked right up to him and smacked him on the arm. 'The patch!' 'Ouch!' 'Don't be such a baby.' She admired the fresh nicotine patch affixed to his upper arm. Kovac pulled his shirt back on and started doing the buttons, grumbling under his breath. Liska leaned back against the counter. 'I thought you told the doctor to take a hike.' 'I told him I have shoes older than he is,' Kovac groused. 'It's got nothing to do with him. You know I try to quit once a year. It's an annual event. It's like a holiday.' He had only tried quitting more times than he could count. It never lasted more than a few weeks, a month at the outside. Something always happened that made him think he should just enjoy himself, because in any given moment he could become a statistic. He was a homicide cop. A sunny outlook didn't come with the job. 'Nothing to do with Tim Metzger having a heart attack last week,' Liska said. Kovac didn't answer her. He focused on tying his
36 TAMI HOAG tie. It was hard enough to face mortality on his own terms. If he had to share his feelings with Liska'? or anyone else''he would sooner have thrown himself in front of a bus. Liska looked up at him, speculating. 'Are you seeing someone and not spilling all the details to me'? Scowling, Kovac straightened the knot in his tie and snugged it up against his collar. 'Did you come in here for some other reason than trying to see a dick'? 'We're up,' she said. 'That's what I get for hanging around to do my paperwork. What is it'? 'Assault,' she said. 'In the government center parking ramp. Get this. Our vic is none other than the Honorable Judge Moore.' 'Moore'? Kovac said with disgust. 'Can't we just leave her for dead''
FRIDAY NIGHT IN the Hennepin County Medical Center ER could resemble a violent punk rock Halloween party, but the evening was young. The ghouls and gangbangers were still home, primping their nose rings and polishing their tattoos. 'Sam Kovac! Fuck me sideways!' 'He can do that'? Liska asked. 'A man of hidden talents, our Sam.' Kathleen Casey, trauma nurse and ER pit bull, waved a hand in dismissal as she marched up to them. 'The hell if I know. But I'd rather find out than deal with these people.' She rolled her eyes toward the waiting area, where reporters and camera crews were perched on the furniture like a flock of vultures. 'God save us from the media. Give me your average street scum any night.' As if on cue, several of them spotted Kovac and started toward him. 'Kovac!' 'Detective!' 'Do you have any leads'? ? 5
38 TAMI HOAG 'Do you know what prompted the attack''? 'Did this have anything to do with the ruling on the Dahl case'? The usual cacophony. Rapid-'fire questions they knew damn well he wouldn't answer. Kovac held up a hand to ward them off. 'No comment.' Casey took an aggressive step toward them and shooed them with her hands. 'Back to the chairs with you before I break out my Taser.' Casey had been through the wars. Kovac called her the Iron Leprechaun. Five feet nothing, with a hedge of maroon hair and a sweet-'Irish-'mother kind of a face that drew people to her so they could confide in her, then implode in some spec'tac? u ? lar way. Kovac had known her forever. She was a longtime veteran of HCMC, with a brief stint at a small-? town ER in the Minnesota hinterland, also known by Kovac as Outer Mongolia. He tried never to venture south of the airport, east of the river, west of the 494 freeway, or north of downtown. 'So what's the story with our vic'? he asked as they started down a side hall at a quick clip. 'Resident Pain-'in-'the-'Ass will want to fill you in ad nauseam,' she said. 'Quick and dirty: Someone beat the ever-'living-'crap out of her.' 'Sexual assault'? Liska asked. 'No.' 'She's conscious'? 'Yes, but she hasn't had a lot to say.' 'I wish we could have said that earlier in the day,' Kovac muttered. They had all heard about Judge Moore's ruling on Karl Dahl's past criminal record. Carey Moore had been a kick-'ass prosecutor, but on the bench she had earned the motto 'Moore is less,' giving perps
PRIOR BAD ACTS 39 a benefit of the doubt no cop in town believed they deserved, and they felt betrayed because of it. The resident making notes in Judge Moore's chart looked like she had probably been the president of the science club in high school''last year. Drowning in her lab coat, stringy brown hair scraped back into a ponytail, and black plastic rectangular glasses. Liska shoved a badge in her face and got aggressive. 'So? Spill it, sweetie. I want to get home before menopause sets in.' It was always fun to set young doctors back on their heels before their egos could metastasize and take over their humanity. This one used a lot of fifty-'dollar words to explain that their victim had a mild concussion, a couple of cracked ribs, and a lot of nasty bruises and abrasions. The uniformed cop who had answered the initial 911 call had filled in Kovac and Liska on the details of the assault as they had walked the crime scene. Moore had been on her way to her car in the parking ramp adjacent to the government center. The assailant had hit her from behind, knocked her down, smacked her around. Apparent motive: robbery. If anything more had been on the agenda, there hadn't been time. Moore's car alarm had gone off, and the mutt had run away with her 'wallet. Kovac looked over the top of the doctor's head and into the examination room. Carey Moore was propped up on a hospital bed, looking like she'd gone five rounds with one big, badass dude. The bruises hadn't turned blue yet, but Kovac had seen more than enough victims of beatings to read the damage and predict what would greet the vic in the mirror the next morning. There was a contusion on
40 TAMI HOAG her forehead crowning a lump the size of a golf ball. One eye, the flesh around it already swollen, was going to turn black. A short line of stitches crawled over her swollen lower lip like a black ant. She had a cell phone pressed to one ear. Alerting the scavengers out in the waiting room, or complaining to the mayor how people weren't safe on the streets, no thanks to her. He moved past the doctor without acknowledging her, walked up to Judge Moore, took the phone out of her hand, and clicked it off. 'What do you think you're doing'? she demanded. 'I'll need your undivided attention, Judge Moore. That is, if you want your assailant caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. You might care about that more now than you did a couple of hours ago.' She snatched the phone back from him and turned it on, never taking her glare off his face. 'I was on the line with my nanny, letting her know I'm going to be late and not to let my daughter see any news on television. I don't want her to find out from strangers that her mother has been attacked. 'I don't care what you need, Detective Kovac,' she said. 'You aren't more important than my child.' Kovac arched a brow and took a step back. So much for her weakened physical state. She looked like a tigress ready to tear his throat out. 'My mistake.' 'Yes, it is.' She looked down then, touched a hand to her forehead, and winced as her fingers brushed against the angry red abrasion. Flesh v. Concrete. 'I'm sorry, Anka. We got cut off. Please get Lucy in her pajamas and put a movie on for her.' She was silent for a moment, listening to the nanny. 'Yes, all
PRIOR BAD ACTS 41 right. Put her on.' .' .' . Hi, sweet pea,' she said softly, tears welling in her eyes. Kovac turned a little away from her in order to look like he wasn't eavesdropping, even though he was. 'No, honey, I won't be home before you go to bed. I'm sorry.' .' .' . I know I promised, but I had an accident and fell down, and I'm at the doctor now.' .' .' .' She closed her eyes, and a couple of tears squeezed out from between her lashes. 'No, honey, I don't know what time Daddy will get home.' .' .' . Why don't you have a slumber party with Anka'? She touched a knuckle beneath the blackening eye to discreetly wipe away the tears. Kovac scowled and turned away completely. He didn't want to feel sorry for Carey Moore. She was no friend to him, certainly no friend to Stan Dempsey, who would never be right again after working the Haas murders. He couldn't even imagine what Wayne Haas and his son were feeling after hearing about the judge's ruling against the prosecution. The last thing Kovac wanted was to feel sorry for her. 'I'll see you in the morning, sweetheart.' .' .' . I love you more.' .' .' .' Her voice strained, she said good night and ended the call. Kovac waited. Liska joined him. 'Did you make her cry'? she whispered, accusatory. 'I didn't do anything!' 'And you wonder why you're single.' 'I know why I'm single,' he grumbled. 'And I know why I'm going to stay that way.' 'Let's get this over with.' Judge Moore had her voice and her composure back.
42 TAMI HOAG Kovac shrugged. Liska gave him a look of womanly disgust and pushed past him. 'Judge Moore, I'm Detective Liska''? 'I know who you are,' the judge said. 'Can we cut to the chase, Detective? I want to go home.' The resident piped up then. 'No, I'm sorry, Judge Moore. You have a concussion. We'll need to admit you overnight for observation.' Carey Moore raised her chin and gave the young doctor a glimpse of the steely look she had leveled at many a difficult witness in her days as a prosecutor. 'I'm going home to my daughter. I'll sign a release. Why don't you get that process started'? The science club president looked like she didn't know whether she should be offended or afraid. She disappeared into the hall. 'You might want to reconsider that, Judge Moore,' Liska said. 'Someone attacked you.' 'I was mugged. It's over.' 'With all due respect, you don't know that.' Kovac watched her set her jaw as best she could, considering the split lip. She wanted to believe what she wanted to believe. 'You managed to piss off a lot of people today, Judge,' he said. 'Maybe someone decided they needed to express themselves in person.' 'He stole my wallet.' 'Bonus.' 'He'? Liska said. 'Did you see him'? 'No. He was behind me. The voice was male.' 'Young, old? Black, white'? 'Angry. That's what I remember. Angry. Full of rage.' 'What did he say'? '''You fucking bitch. You fucking cunt,''? the judge said without emotion.