The Butcher's Son (A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #1) (ebook) by Dorien Grey

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ISBN: 9781611877939
Pages: 143

Dick Hardesty, working for a public relations firm, is assigned the task of helping elect a rabidly homophobic police chief governor. Dick’s being gay himself, coupled with rumors that the chief had one of his identical twin sons murdered for being gay doesn’t make Dick’s job easier. He soon finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of politics, drag clubs, a do-good reverend’s homeless shelter, and an arsonist torching the city’s gay bars.

I’ve already mentioned I hated my job. I’d had several since I left college and hadn’t felt really comfortable with any of them; but as I always say, it isn’t the principle of the thing, it’s the money.
At the moment, I was being rather embarrassingly overpaid by a small public relations firm, Carlton Carlson & Associates. The reason for the high salary was that CC&A was run by the rear end of a horse with a monumental ego, and the only way he could keep help was by paying them so much they couldn’t afford to go elsewhere.
He had, thanks to his rich wife’s family connections, passably juggled the careers of one or two fairly well-known clients over the years. Now, he had volunteered his—that is to say, his staff’s—services in the promotion and setup of a press conference for the chief of police’s contemplated assault on the governor’s mansion. His magnanimous gesture was hardly altruistic, since C.C. viewed it as his key to taking over the chief’s entire campaign.
The task wouldn’t be an easy one, as anyone with his head a little less far up his behind than my boss would readily have recognized. The chief’s political beliefs fell considerably to the right of Attila the Hun’s, and he ran his department like Vlad the Impaler. Need I add that he loathed homosexuals? His tact, diplomacy, and delicate handling of any problem involving the gay community had, among some gays, earned him the nickname “The Butcher.”
But his methods, however reprehensible, had kept the local crime rate in check, and he had, until now, maintained an extremely low personal profile.
If the chief managed to win the primaries—his opponent was one Marlen Evans, a moderately popular but lackluster state senator—he would be pretty much a shoo-in, since the incumbent governor’s wildly liberal policies had alienated the most powerful lobbying groups in the state.
The first step in humanizing the inhuman, my boss decided, was to play up the chief’s warm and loving family life. Guess who got stuck with gathering homey bits about this little nuclear holocaust? Yep, yours truly. The fact that, up until now, very few people had any idea, or the slightest interest, that the chief had a license to breed, let alone that he had exercised it five times, left me a pretty open field.
We started by building a rather anemic file of newspaper photos and articles. The chief’s wife Kathleen was always on hand at functions that required the presence of a spouse, but she generally blended so well with the wallpaper she was almost impossible to pick out if there were more than three people in the picture. Of the children, there was almost nothing known except that the eldest son was a minister, and the chief had recently become a grandfather.
It was, therefore, decreed that I, together with a freelance writer noted for never having met a subject she didn’t like and a photographer selected for his Vaseline-lensed portrait work—both handpicked by C.C. himself—would be sent out to meet with the entire family. The object was getting a feature story into the Sunday supplement of the city’s leading newspaper. My purpose for being there was a bit vague, other than to ride herd on the writer and photographer and to steer them clear of the unlikely possibility they might touch on anything that could smack of controversy.
I viewed the entire project with the same enthusiasm as I’d anticipate a root canal, but I had little choice.
The interview was set for a Saturday afternoon, my boss not believing in the sanctity of weekends where his employees were involved. We arrived at the chief’s Hollywood-back-lot, two-story neo-Georgian home at exactly the appointed hour and were met at the door by Kathleen Rourke, looking like a cross between June Cleaver and Donna Reed. She ushered us into the living room, which appeared to have been set up for the photographers from House Beautiful. Chief Rourke, obviously painfully uncomfortable out of uniform, removed the unlit pipe from his mouth, set it in the chair-side ashtray, and rose from a wing-back chair near the fireplace to greet us.
The cursory introductions over, to the obvious relief of both Chief Rourke and me, we were told the rest of the family was gathered on the poolside patio and followed Mrs. Rourke outside through a set of curtained French doors. Standing around a picnic table at the far end of the pool like deer caught in the headlights was the rest of the Rourke clan.
Chief Rourke, who followed us outside lest, I suspected, one of us if unattended might make a grab for the family silver, made the introductions. Clockwise around the table: Tammy, aged fifteen; Colleen, age seventeen; Mary, thirteen; Robert (Robby), fourteen; and Kevin, the minister, age not given but probably 25, who was accompanied by his lovely wife Sue-Lynn and their infant son Sean.
The children took after their mother, except for Kevin, who had obviously inherited all the good looks. That is to say, they were nondescript to the point that any one of them would be hard to pick out of a police lineup.
I suggested we first get the photos out of the way, and Ted, the photographer, proceeded to take up the next half-hour orchestrating various homey shots of the family around the picnic table, by the barbecue, in the living room, around the kitchen table, etc. It might have just been my imagination, but it seemed like every time I looked at Kevin, he was looking at me. Whenever our eyes met, he’d hurriedly look away.
Actually, Ted need have taken only one photo of the chief, since his expression—that of the proud family man—never changed except for one moment when the baby, who had been handed to him, reluctantly, only after Ted’s repeated suggestion, developed a slow leak in the diaper department.
While all this was going on, the writer, in obvious awe at actually being in the presence of someone so prominent as the chief, tried getting responses to a set of routine questions.
After the majority of the photos had been taken and the chief and Mrs. Rourke were huddled at one end of the living room with the writer, I wandered over to the mantle to look at a set of family photos. There were individual shots of all the kids, plus Kevin and Sue-Lynn’s wedding photo, plus a photo of baby Sean. However, one that caught my eye was an older family shot, taken in front of the house apparently when Mary, the youngest child, was a baby. The interesting thing about the picture was that it contained two Kevins.
Kevin, who had been off somewhere with Sue-Lynn changing the baby, had just reentered the living room. He must have noticed me looking at the photo and hurried over. I got the distinct feeling I’d been caught at something illicit.
“I was just looking at your photos,” I said, rather lamely.
“Yes,” he said, the first time since we’d arrived that he’d spoken directly to me. “My mother and father are typical proud parents, I guess.”
Never having been noted for excessive tact when my curiosity is aroused, I couldn’t resist remarking on the photo.
“I hope I’m not touching a sensitive area, but I notice in this one photo there seem to be two of you. I didn’t know you had an identical twin.”
Suddenly, we were aware the chief had gotten up from the sofa, crossed the room, and was, like a thundercloud at a picnic, hovering just behind us.
“Sue-Lynn needs you, Kevin,” he said, although how he might have come by that information was totally beyond me, since he’d been seated at the other end of the room for the past ten minutes.
Kevin turned without a word and left the room the way he’d come in, leaving me standing there with the chief. The beaming family man façade was gone. His eyes were cold black holes, and his voice sent a chill down my spine.
“Patrick’s dead,” he said.

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