DEATH SONG

Also by Michael McGarrity


Mexican Hat

Serpent’s Gate

Hermit’s Peak

The Judas Judge

Under the Color of Law

The Big Gamble

Everyone Dies

Slow Kill

Nothing but Trouble





Published by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Copyright © 2008 by Michael McGarrity

All rights reserved

For Elizabeth “Betsy” Reed

Thanks go to James and Lynda Sanchez of Lincoln, New Mexico; Peter Rogers and Carol Hurd Rogers of San Patricio, New Mexico; former Capitan police chief Robert Bird; former Capitan mayor Steve Sederwall; Capitan municipal judge J. D. Roehrig; and retired Lincoln County sheriff Tom Sullivan.

Chapter One

The week had been a long grind for Sergeant Clayton Istee. On paper he’d been scheduled to pull four ten- hour shifts, but the demands of the job had turned his workweek into five twelve-hour days.

In small, underfunded, undermanned law enforcement agencies, officers routinely carried out multiple assignments that required constant juggling of their time and priorities. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was no different, and while Clayton’s primary duties consisted of supervising patrol deputies and serving as lead investigator for all major felony cases, he’d recently taken on the additional responsibility of training supervisor for the department. As a result, he’d been forced to work overtime and put in an extra day on the job to get a newly hired deputy up to speed.

In general, Clayton enjoyed the variety that came with his job and had no complaints, other than he didn’t get to see his family enough. From a professional standpoint, the time he’d spent with the Lincoln County S.O. had been much more satisfying and rewarding than the years he’d worked as an officer with the Mescalero Apache Tribal Police. But five twelve-hour days in a row was pushing it even for Clayton, and he was eager to end the week and get home at a reasonable hour.

The new deputy, Tim Riley, a certified police officer with six years’ experience, had spent most of the week in Clayton’s company learning the ropes. Clayton had toured Riley through the back roads and out-of-the-way places in the county, introduced him to criminal justice and law enforcement personnel, walked him through the county jail, and showed him some of the best places to run radar.

He coached Riley on department protocols and procedures, watched him conduct traffic stops, had him handle a report of a gas skip at a convenience store, and showed him where some of the badass felons and sexual predators on parole from the state pen lived. Now the only thing that stood in the way of turning Riley loose on his own was getting him certified with his department-issued firearms.

On Friday afternoon Clayton drove Riley to the range the S.O. used for weapons recertification, where a state police firearms instructor from Roswell was standing by to test Riley’s proficiency with a .45 semiautomatic and a pump-action shotgun.

A quiet man in his mid-forties, Riley was more than ten years older than Clayton, but the differences in their rank and age didn’t appear to be a problem. Riley had a low-key, pleasant personality, wasn’t bothered by long periods of silence, and rarely made small talk. By the end of the week, Clayton knew very little about the man other than he was married, had a grown son from a prior marriage, and was a retired air force master sergeant.

Riley’s five foot, ten inch frame matched Clayton’s height, and although he carried a few extra pounds around his gut, he looked to be in good physical shape. He had brown eyes and a long narrow face that gave him a somewhat serious look that was offset by an easy smile.

At the firing range, Clayton turned Riley over to the instructor, and watched from his unit to avoid the swirling, chilly March wind. First the instructor went over the range protocols and walked Riley through the outdoor combat pistol range, showing Riley what to expect on the course. Just as Riley was about to start a dry-fire practice run with the pop-up targets hidden from view, the wind kicked up a dust devil that obscured him from Clayton’s sight. When the wind subsided and the dust settled, Riley ran the course with ease, holstering his weapon while moving from one concealment point to the next, assuming a proper shooting stance at each firing station.

Riley returned to the starting line, where he donned protective eyewear, loaded his weapon with live ammo, put extra magazine clips in the pouches on his belt, and waited for the instructor’s signal to go. When it came, Clayton tracked Riley’s progress with binoculars. After Riley finished, the instructor inspected the targets, tallied the score, and gave Clayton a thumbs-up sign. Then he moved Riley over to the adjacent stationary target range and tested him with the shotgun. Once live firing ceased, Clayton joined the instructor behind the firing line while Riley went downrange on the handgun course to pick up his spent brass.

“Good shooting,” the state cop said, handing Clayton the paperwork. Riley had qualified as an expert marksman with both his department-issued 45-caliber semiautomatic and the twelve-gauge pump shotgun.

“Excellent,” Clayton said as he slipped the signed paperwork into Riley’s training file, went downrange, and gave his new deputy the good news.

Riley smiled slightly as he dumped his spent brass into a rusty coffee can. “I thought I did okay.”

Clayton nodded. “More than okay. Let’s head back to the office. Sheriff Hewitt will want to talk to you.”

Riley feigned a worried look. “Am I in trouble already?”

Clayton laughed and shook his head. “No, he just wants to give you his traditional pep talk before he cuts you loose on patrol.”

“The new guy speech?” Riley asked as he slipped a fresh magazine into his .45.


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