Price of Justice
by Alan Behr
Price of Justice is a crime thriller about two people dealing with personal loss, each from a different perspective. A widowed police detective vows to be a father and mother figure to his young daughter while solving a series of related murders, and a female police crime analyst with a dark secret and a mission: vengeance.
Drawn together by their tragic backgrounds, the two team up to hunt down a killer and a group of lowlife criminals linked together by a mysterious figure known as the CEO. At the same time, two corrupt police commanders do everything in their power to slow the detective’s investigation and end his career. Meanwhile, the analyst’s secret threatens to derail both her life and the investigation. When the detective’s daughter is abducted by the killer and the analyst is taken hostage, the detective is faced with the ethical dilemma of his life, forcing him to rethink the value of playing by the rules.
Retail Price: $17.95
TAA Sale Price: $14.95
“There’s no way out of the desert, except through it.”
– Old African proverb
Looking down the black barrel of his service weapon, Detective
Jason Scarsdale saw the promise of peace. Just pull the
trigger, flick out the lights, and rest. He couldn’t sleep, he
didn’t eat, and he couldn’t work. He saw the fingers of his right
hand on the trigger guard, his left clutching the grip. With deliberation,
he shifted his hold to adjust his wedding ring so that the
three diamonds were showing. She had bought it for their first anniversary
and, after the priest blessed it, had placed it on his ring
finger in a reaffirmation of their vows. She told him the three diamonds
signified the Holy Trinity. She said the Trinity would protect
them, keeping their union intact as they grew old and feeble.
Now Charity was dead. Killed four weeks ago. Dead at twenty-
eight. Dead because of him.
When they first met, he knew right away he wanted to be
with her for the rest of his life but it took a while to win her over.
He was older and she had reservations about being a cop’s wife.
But in the end he had won her heart.
He tried to imagine the future without her. Family and friends
said time heals, but time was his enemy. All he could see was an
eternity of black emptiness. To him, each minute of each day for
the past four weeks had felt the same: empty, except for the pain.
Daytime or nighttime—it didn’t matter.
He lifted the gun and opened his mouth, jerking violently as
his cell phone rang. His eyes went to the dashboard where he kept
it. The display read Home.
He stared at it, wrapping his head around that word Home. He
took a deep breath and exhaled.
He laid the gun in his lap and picked up the phone.
His eyes were riveted on the gun, his voice a flat monotone.
“Jason, are you okay? You didn’t eat anything. You walked
out of here like a zombie.”
Sarah was his sister, three years his junior. Despite every terrible
thing he had done to her when they were kids, from putting
frogs and lizards in her bed to blowing up her favorite doll with a
cherry bomb, she was always there for him. She wasn’t stronger,
but she was kinder. She never held onto things like he did.
“Trust me,” Sarah said. “Things will get better. It’ll just take
He traced the contour of the gun. “Maybe, maybe not. I don’t
A few seconds of silence passed.
“There’s someone here who wants to talk to you.”
“Jason! Who do you think? Does a certain little five-year old
named Shannon ring a bell?”
“Is she all right?”
“Of course. She just wants to ask you something. Hang on.”
Shannon. He hadn’t been there for her. Never was a good father.
Now, with Charity gone, he was good for nothing. He heard
Sarah calling for Shannon. “Honey, your daddy’s on the phone.”
“Daddy,” Shannon said. “Aunt Sarah read me a story about
Shannon’s image filled his mind. The day in the hospital
when he first laid eyes on his new-born daughter, when he first
held her in his arms. “She did? That’s great.”
“When are you coming home, Daddy? I miss you.”
“I miss you too, princess, but I can’t make it home right now.
I’m working on a case. But I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
His police cell buzzed. He glanced at the screen. It was his
partner, Sean Harris.
“Sweetheart, I have to hang up. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Daddy, will you read me more about Narnia tonight?”
“Of course, I will.”
“You promise?” she asked.
“I promise,” he said and knew that he meant it.
He laid his cell down and pressed the Talk button on the police
A moment of silence on the line and then Harris spoke up, his
voice tentative. “Where are you, buddy?”
Scarsdale looked around. In front of him was the Zilker Park
pool, closed for the season. He turned to see a single jogger pass
by. His lips tipped in the tiniest wry smile at the sight of an older
couple strolling along a walking path, smiles on their faces, her
hand holding his arm while her head rested on his shoulder. Life
just went merrily on. He looked at the gun now resting in his lap.
“You feel up to working a kiddie diddler case with me?”
A long silence.
Scarsdale pushed the revolver into its holster and snapped the
thumb break tabs together. “Yeah. Meet me at the station.”
“I’m already there, buddy,” Harris said.
Harris leaned across the seat and opened the passenger door
for Scarsdale. Harris was a heavy-set man with gray stubble
around the sides of his shaved head and eyes that viewed the world
with a wary kindness reserved for the proven few.
As they drove away, Scarsdale sat, slouched in the seat, staring
straight ahead, his clenched fists planted on his thighs. With a
tremendous effort of will, he focused his thoughts on Shannon.
Charity had taken the lead being a parent and role model for their
daughter. Now it all fell on his shoulders, and he didn’t have a
clue how to do it. But starting now, no more guy’s nights out, no
more football Sundays. From here on, Shannon was the reason, the
center of his universe.
“Almost ate your gun, didn’t you?”
It was more statement than question and Scarsdale felt a
weight lift at the plainly spoken fact.
They drove a while in silence. Scarsdale stared out the side
window. The whole afternoon played in his head again, like it had
so many times since patrol officers came to his door with the
news. It felt strange to him because he always figured, being a
cop, he’d be the one to die, not Charity.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Harris said.
He shot a quick glance at Harris. “It was my fault. She asked
me to—” Scarsdale took a deep breath and let it out. “—go to the
store.” He looked out the front window then out the side. “I
begged off. Too damn busy watching a game,” he said. “She gave
me a kiss on the cheek, asked who was winning, then left.” He
looked down at his ring. “I should have been the one driving that
“How’s Shannon doing?” Harris asked as they drove south on
First Street, passing over Ben White Boulevard.
“She cries a lot at night. But she’s getting better. Sarah’s going
back to Waco Thursday evening, so I’ve got to find a babysitter. Know any good ones?
Really good ones?”
“Haven’t needed one for quite a while but I’ll check with
Mary. Have you asked around the department? A lot of our civilians
post stuff on the bulletin board. Try that.”
Scarsdale nodded, etching the task into his memory. He’d
need someone available to pick Shannon up from kindergarten,
too, on those days when a case prevented him from doing so himself.
Someone to come in on short notice when he had one of those
late night investigations working.
“How many cases did Mitchell pile on your desk?” Harris
“Too many. You recall that citizen’s complaint about kids
buying porn from Blue Cloud Adult Books and Videos?” He
looked at Harris.
Harris cast a sideways look of surprise at him. “He gave you
that piece of crap? Patrol should have handled that.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Scarsdale sat up straighter. “How
old is the victim in this case?” he asked as Harris pulled up to the
curb before a rundown duplex. He saw three police patrol cars
parked on the street in front.
“Three or four, I think,” Harris replied as they got out of the
A scrawny brown dog barked at them, circling around behind
them and approaching tentatively as they walked across the dead
grass toward the front door. Scarsdale reached down, making the
dog skitter away and bark furiously. He picked up a nude Barbie
doll lying in the yard, brushing off pieces of grass and a small glob
of dirt. Two uniformed officers, providing scene protection, stood
about ten yards away from the duplex and nodded at them as they
headed for the front door.
The on-scene supervisor, a uniformed sergeant named Daryl
Fields, briefed them before they entered the duplex. “The perv
lived here. Was the mother’s boyfriend. When she got home from
work at seven, she caught him in the kid’s bedroom with his pants
down around his knees. According to the neighbor—” Fields nodded
toward a gray-haired stoop-shouldered woman standing on the
porch of the duplex. “—Ruth Short, she heard the mother screaming
like a banshee. Stuff smashing against the wall. When Ms.
Short got over there, the perv was taking off out the door. Almost
ran her over.”
“The perv’s name is…” Scarsdale asked.
Scarsdale heard the loud Texas twang of a woman he assumed
was the mother coming from inside the house, threatening
violence against the perv.
Fields read from his notes. “Olsen. Terry Wayne Olsen.
White male. About fifty. Bald over brown, about six foot, around
one-hundred-forty to one-hundred-fifty.” Fields nodded in the direction
of the door. “The voice you hear is the mother, Dory
Mabry. The victim is Beth Ann Mabry, three years old.”
Scarsdale opened the door—a lightweight screen door
trimmed in green that wouldn’t close completely. Once inside the
duplex, Scarsdale saw the mother and the three-year old victim—
her daughter Beth Ann, standing a few feet away. Neither looked
The blonde-haired Dory gestured, using a lit cigarette to emphasize
her story. “That bastard better hope you people find him
before I do.” She pointed with the cigarette toward the kitchen. “I
got me something in there that’ll fix that son of a bitch real good.”
She paused long enough to take a drag off a cigarette and
blow the smoke out her nostrils before continuing her rant. She
drowned out a female officer who was trying to ask questions.
Dory was a big woman, not fat, light-complected, and dressed
in a pale-green waitress uniform. From the wrinkles and creases
on her cheeks and forehead, Scarsdale guessed her age to be about
thirty to thirty-five.
Beth Ann seemed small for a three-year-old, but healthy.
Cute, with big blue eyes. Little rosy cheeks. Her jeans and T-shirt
had some stains. Not too bad for a child her age. Shannon always
seemed to find a mud hole in the backyard and wade right into it.
He looked around the room. The inside of the duplex smelled
like stale cigarette smoke. Maybe a trace of pee. A large flat
screen TV—brand-new, about forty-six to fifty inches—covered
the far wall and made the room seem small. The room was clean, a
few toys scattered around. No roaches scurrying up the walls. No
trash littered around the room. Some dust caked around the window
sills. An ordinary room with simple furnishings, except for
the TV. He couldn’t help fixating on the TV. It was a lot better one
than he had.
Scarsdale moved in front of Dory, drawing her attention away
from the officer, who had given up trying to ask any questions,
realizing the futility of her efforts.
She stopped talking and stared at him, taking another drag off
the cigarette, and gave Scarsdale an apprising once-over.
He smiled at Beth Ann as she clung to her mother’s leg, halfhiding
behind her. She stared up at Scarsdale. Her eyes were
wide—a frightened look.
“I believe this is yours,” he said, handing the doll to her.
When he knelt down, she moved behind her mother around to the
other leg. Dory snatched it out of his hand.
“Don’t.” One word, in a tone that portended an ominous
warning. “It ain’t good for her to be taking things from strangers
And Scarsdale knew better than to say anything.
The female officer looked at Scarsdale. An ever-so-slight
curling up at the corners of her mouth. A rolling of her eyes as she
backed away. “She’s all yours, Detective.”
The baton had been passed. Flipping his pocket notepad open,
he introduced himself.
She looked down at Beth Ann and handed her the Barbie doll.
“Baby girl, why don’t you go over there and play with your doll
while me and this here cop visit.”
Beth Ann protested. “Mama—”
“You go on now. Put some clothes on your doll before she
catches a cold.” A minute or two after Beth Ann walked away,
Dory turned to face Scarsdale. “I swear to Holy Jesus if I catch
that shitass, I’ll slice and dice him,” she said, her voice subdued.
“She’s only three, for crissake. I hope the prick rots in hell.”
Scarsdale sighed. He couldn’t blame her. “Okay, Ms. Mabry.
Tell me exactly what happened.”
Dory gave him all the lurid details and Scarsdale questioned
her about small gaps in her recollection of events.
“Where’s Beth Ann’s room?” Scarsdale asked.
She motioned with her hand for them to follow her. “Down
He followed her down the hall and into the diminutive bedroom.
Light-blue walls complete with crayoned stick figures. Pieces of a lamp
were scattered around the floor. A few spots of blood sprinkled the floor
near the door.
“Was Beth Ann hurt?”
Dory looked at him dumbstruck. “Hurt? Ya mean like broken
Scarsdale pointed at the spots. “Bleeding, like that. Whose
blood is that?”
Dory leaned over, looking at the blood spots. “Aww, hell no.
That’s from him.”
He readied himself to take some good notes. “So you found
him in here?”
“Yeah. When I come in, he had Beth Ann right here,” Dory
said, slapping the unmade bed. “He was fixin’ to—” She took another
drag off the cigarette. “It makes me wanna puke to even
think about it.” She blew out a long cloud of whitish smoke toward
the ceiling. “That’s when I took that there lamp and busted
his skull with it.” She pivoted around as if she were swinging the
lamp. “I caught him right smack on the head. That jackass took off
for the door.” She pointed in the direction of the living room. “He
lit outta here, runnin’ faster than a bee-stung stallion. I done
grabbed a butcher knife off the kitchen table and chased after that
no-good sonofabitch. But he got away before I could catch up to
She nudged the pieces of the lamp into a pile with her shoe.
“His head was for sure gushing blood. I hope I cracked his damn
skull real good. He ain’t gonna ever come within a mile of Beth
Ann or me again. I damn sure guarantee that.”
“Who babysits Beth Ann when you’re at work?”
“He did. My next-door neighbor, Ruth Short, is gonna do it
“Do you have a photograph of Olsen?”
He followed Dory to living room where she grabbed a framed
picture off the coffee table and handed it to him. “That’s him,’”
she said. “Keep it.”
“Do you know where he may have gone? Any friends? Relatives
in the area?”
“No. He don’t have no kin around here and I never seen him
with any friends but he did talk about a guy named Fergie and no,
I ain’t never met the guy.”
Satisfied that he had all the information, he and Harris left,
heading back to the office. Scarsdale had an appointment later
with a prosecutor to go over his testimony.
And tomorrow, in district court, he’d testify about his investigation
and arrest of a murderer named Scott Lasiter. By Friday, he
figured the jury would sentence that defendant to death.
Retail Price: $17.95
TAA Sale Price: $14.95