Home > Open Season(11)

Open Season(11)
Author: Linda Howard

That was one of the reasons he’d tapped Jack Russo as chief of police. Russo had worked in both Chicago and New York City; he had a lot of experience in the streets and alleys, and knew what to look for when it came to drug infestation. If his methods were sometimes a little rough for this part of the country . . . well, you had to take the bad with the good. The best thing about Russo was that he was an outsider. He could get the job done, but he wasn’t hooked into the old-boy network by which an astonishing amount of information and favors were passed around. A favor received was a favor owed, and before you knew it, things were being done that shouldn’t be done, information passed that should be kept quiet. By hiring an outsider, Temple had nipped that in the bud. Hillsboro was to stay peaceful and clean, the way he loved it, and the chief was too isolated to pick up on things he didn’t need to know. So far, that had worked out well.

Temple had been mayor for nine years, having just won his third term of office the year before. He was only forty-five, a trim, good-looking man with blue eyes and neat dark hair. He’d grown up in Hillsboro, a popular boy who played all the sports—football, basketball, baseball—but never been the star of any of them. That hadn’t affected his popularity, or his plans. He’d never dreamed of making it big in the major league of any sport. And the star quarterback hadn’t been the one who married the head cheerleader; Temple had that honor. Jennifer Whitehead, lithe and blond, had become Mrs. Temple Nolan, in June, after he received his college degree in business administration. The next year had seen the arrival of Jason, and three years after that blond little Paige had been born. Their family portraits looked idealized, like a brochure for family planning.

His kids had kept their noses clean, too; Jason had turned out to have a decent throwing arm, and attended college on the strength of it. But a life in the majors wasn’t his dream any more than it had been Temple’s, and he was currently in medical school in North Carolina. Paige, at age twenty, was also in college, with double majors in math and science; she wanted to work in the space program. They were great kids; thank God neither of them took after their mother.

Yep, Jennifer was the fly in his ointment. Good old Jennifer; he should have realized that if she was easy in high school and college, marriage wasn’t going to change her. He reckoned she’d crawl into bed with just about anyone. If both his kids hadn’t resembled him so much, he’d have had their DNA tested. But at first Jennifer had at least tried to limit herself to his bed; he didn’t think she’d begun steadily cheating on him until Paige was about two.

His political career would probably withstand the shock if he divorced her, but he had no intentions of doing so. For one thing, the kids loved their mother, and he didn’t want them upset. For another, Jennifer had her uses. He was certain she gained him some sympathy votes—the “poor Nolan, he does his best to hold the family together” type of thing—plus if he needed her to close a deal or pay a favor, Jennifer was always willing to drop her drawers and lie down.

Of course, that meant he had to go elsewhere for relief. No way would he stick his click in her again, not after some of the trash she’d let crawl on top of her. He could have set up a liaison with any one of several available women in town—as well as some who weren’t supposed to be—had he been so inclined, but a wise man never fouled his own nest. No, it was best that he keep his urges out of town, and it wasn’t as if he ever had any trouble finding a woman when he needed one.

His private number, distinguished from the other office lines by its distinctive tone, began ringing. After first glancing to make certain his door was closed, Temple answered the call. “Yes?” He never said his name, just in case—especially not on his cellular phone, but the habit had carried over to land lines, too.

“We have a little trouble with the shipment,” said a voice he recognized.

“Will there be a delay in getting it out?”

“Yeah. You might want to see to this yourself.”

Temple cursed to himself; he had a round of golf scheduled, if this damn rain ever let up. Now he had to drive almost to Huntsville. But Glenn Sykes was a capable man; he wouldn’t have said Temple needed to oversee this problem personally if it wasn’t something serious. “I’ll take a long lunch,” he said briefly.

“Come to the barn,” said Sykes. “I’ll be there waiting.”

Both men disconnected, and Temple slowly replaced the receiver. So long as there hadn’t been a successful escape, everything would be all right, and Glenn would have told him immediately if that had happened. But other problems sometimes cropped up, problems that had to be handled immediately before the situation became more complicated.

Three hours later, standing in a dilapidated old barn, he looked down at the problem and silently swore as he estimated the lost profits. “What happened?”

“Overdose,” Glenn Sykes said succinctly.

It wasn’t much of a stretch to guess what had happened, the mayor thought sourly. “GHB?”

“Yeah.”

“Mitchell.” Sykes didn’t contradict him, and Temple sighed. “Mr. Mitchell is becoming a problem.” This wasn’t the first time Mitchell had closed one of the girls with GHB. The sick bastard preferred them unconscious when he fucked them; Temple guessed it made him feel as if he was getting away with something. Or maybe he thought that if they didn’t fight, then it wasn’t rape. Whatever his reasoning, this was the second time he’d killed one of the girls with GHB. Using the merchandise was one thing, but when he started cutting into the profits, that was serious.

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