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Until Proven Guilty

Cover of Until Proven Guilty

Until Proven Guilty

J. P. Beaumont Series, Book 1
The little girl was only five, much too young to die -- a lost treasure who should have been cherished, not murdered.She could have been J.P. Beaumont's kid, and the determined Seattle homicide...More
The little girl was only five, much too young to die -- a lost treasure who should have been cherished, not murdered.She could have been J.P. Beaumont's kid, and the determined Seattle homicide...More
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Description-
  • The little girl was only five, much too young to die -- a lost treasure who should have been cherished, not murdered.She could have been J.P. Beaumont's kid, and the determined Seattle homicide detective won't rest until her killer pays dearly. But the hunt is leading Beaumont into a murky world of religious fanaticism, and toward a beautiful, perilous obsession all his own. And suddenly Beau himself is a target -- because faith can be dangerous...and love can kill.

 
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  • Chapter One

    She was probably a cute kid once, four maybe five years old. It was hard to tell that now. She was dead. The murder weapon was a pink Holly Hobbie gown. What little was left of it was still twisted around her neck. It wasn't pretty, but murder never is.

    Her body had rolled thirty feet down a steep embankment from the roadway, tossed out like so much garbage. She was still tangled in a clump of blackberry bushes when we got there. As far as I could see, there was no sign of a struggle. It looked to me as though she had been dead several hours, but a final determination on that would have to wait for the experts.

    My name is Beaumont. I've been around homicide for fifteen years, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to puke. I was careful not to think about my own kids right then. You can't afford to. If you do, you crack up.

    My partner, Ron Peters, was the new man on the squad. He had only been up from burglary a couple of months. He was still at the stage where he was long on homicide theory and short on homicide practice. This was his first dead kid, and he wasn't taking it too well. He hadn't come to terms with the idea of a dead child as evidence. That takes time and experience. His face was a pasty shade of gray. I sent him up to the road to talk to the truck driver who had called 911, while I prowled the crime scene along with a small army of arriving officers.

    After the pictures, after the measurements, it took the boys from the medical examiner's office a good little while to drag her loose from the blackberry bushes. If you've ever tried picking blackberries, you know it's easy enough to get in but hell on wheels to get back out. By the time they brought out the body bag, I was convinced we weren't going to find anything. We slipped and slid on the steep hillside, without finding so much as a gum wrapper or an old beer can.

    I climbed back up and found to my relief that I had waited long enough. The swarm of killer bees that calls itself Seattle's press corps had disappeared with the coroner's wagon. I like reporters almost as much as I like killers, and the less I have to do with them, the better off I am.

    Peters' color was a little better than it had been. He was talking with a man named Otis Walker, who was built like an Alaskan grizzly. In the old days people would have said Walker drove a sewage truck. These are the days of sanitary engineers and environmentalists, so Walker told us he drove a sludge truck for the Westside Treatment Center. That may sound like a high-class detox joint, but it isn't. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but if it looks like a sewage plant and smells like a sewage plant, that's what I call it.

    However, Otis Walker had a heavy, square jaw and a nose that showed signs of more than one serious break. His biceps resembled halfgrown trees. I chose not to debate his job title. Despite his fearsome appearance, he was having a tough time talking to Peters. The words stuck in his throat, threatening to choke him.

    "You gonna catch that SOB?" he asked me when I appeared over Peters' shoulder. I nodded. "I got a kid of my own at home, you know," he continued, "almost her age. Wears the same kind of gown. Shit!" He stopped and swiped at his face with the back of one meaty paw.

    "That's our job," I told him. I wondered what kind of murder this was. The easiest ones to solve are the hardest ones to understand, the husbands and lovers and wives and parents who murder people they ought to cherish instead of kill. The random killers, the ones who pick out a victim at a football game or a grocery store, are easier to comprehend and harder to catch. That's the problem with homicide.

About the Author-
  • J. A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the J. P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, the Ali Reynolds series, and four interrelated thrillers about the Walker family, as well as a volume of poetry. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.

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J. P. Beaumont Series, Book 1
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