SYNOPSIS: Jason Franco is an aspiring novelist stuck in a dead end job working for a newspaper in a small town where nothing exciting happens until someone rapes and murders a young woman only eighteen years old. All evidence points to the woman's boyfriend who confesses to the crime. Jason is assigned to write a follow-up story for the paper and soon suspects that the local police are covering up for one of their own. Jason enlists the help from a high school classmate who works at the state crime and the two soon fall in love. Jason and his girlfriend, Tina, follow the leads and Jason finds himself a target for the rapist turned murderer. An attempt on Jason's life puts him in the hospital as the alleged rapist commits suicide. An unexpected turn of events put Jason back in the cross hairs of a different killer.
Emma and Sage Godfrey, Montana, Thirteen Years Earlier
Naomi sat at her desk, and as she always did first thing, she checked her e-mail. She held her breath as she open the e-mail from the Montana DMV. After reading it, she printed out a copy and rushed to her father’s office.
She entered without knocking. “Dad, I think I may have found my mother.”
Chief High Marini frowned. “So it’s ‘dad’ now? Not Chief? Must be personal. What do you want?”
Naomi rolled her eyes. “This is personal. I’ve an address on my mother. She’s in Montana. I flagged her name in the Montana DMV to notify me if she renewed her driver’s license. They sent me an e-mail this morning.”
Chief Marini made another face. “You know that I don’t approve of you using official channels for person stuff. I also don’t want you to go see your mother. Is her name still Godfrey?”
“Then I guess she still married to that jerk, Sage.”
“Dad, I know you have issues with her, but I need to meet my biological mother face to face.”
“Sit down Naomi.”
Naomi sat down in the overstuffed chair next to her father’s desk.
Chief Marini turned his swivel chair to face her. He sighed. “There are some things I didn’t tell you about your mother. You probably think that when you meet her it’ll be one of those long lost mother and daughter reunited stories. It won’t be. She’s an evil person. It’ll end badly if you visit her. You’ll be disappointed.”
“I know, dad, but I’ve to chance it. I need to do this. I want to see what she looks like. I want to know about that side of my family. I want to ask her why she left us. What didn’t you tell me?”
“I told you before that she was having an affair and that is why I left. There was a lot more than that.”
“You were still a baby. I had a tip from someone. He told me to check out a certain pedophile web site on the internet. When I did, I found pictures of you posted there. She was selling pictures of you to pedophiles. They were not cute pictures.”
Naomi felt her stomach cramp. “I think I’m going to be sick. Why didn’t you arrest her?”
“I thought about it. In fact, I wasn’t going to divorce her. I thought she needed help. I was willing to get her counseling or whatever. Then I discovered the affair. She was sleeping with a guy who was also a pedophile.”
“You could have arrested both of them.”
“Yes. Outside of a few baby pictures, she hadn’t done anything serious. It was her first offense. She would have gotten a light sentence. I wanted her out of our lives permanently. Divorce seemed like the best option at the time.”
“I wish you’d told me earlier. I still want to find her. Maybe she’s changed.”
“I doubt it. Pedophiles don’t change.”
“I’ve some vacation days. I want to take five days. With the weekends, it would be nine days. If you approve it, I’ll leave first thing in the morning.”
“I’ll approve, but I’m against it. I want you to take your badge and side arm. It might be a good idea to take your body armor too. If you'll do that, I’ll approve it. It’ll end badly. Trust me.”
Naomi packed a suitcase that night. The next morning she got up early to make breakfast for her dad. They weren’t breakfast people, but she want to say goodbye. The smell of bacon frying brought her father into the kitchen.
He smiled. “Smells good. Any for me?”
Naomi laughed. “It’s all for you. I already ate. Want coffee?” She poured her father a cup of coffee without waiting for an answer. “I’m leaving in a minute, as soon as I do the dishes.”
“Leave them. It’ll give me something to do. You all packed? Got your side arm and badge?”
“In the glove compartment.”
“In the trunk.” Naomi put the frying pan in the sink. “Well, I guess I’m off.” She hugged her father. “Take care. I’ll be back in nine days or less.”
“I wish you wouldn’t go. I know this'll be a big disappointment for you, but I guess you need to get closure. Where are you going?”
“A town called Rosebud. It’s about 450 miles. I’ll stay in Billings tonight and arrive in Rosebud mid-morning.”
“Be careful. Stay safe.”
Naomi gassed up before leaving town and headed her Toyota Corona north toward Casper. She planned to use the interstate highways as much as possible. She didn’t mind the long drive. She would stop at Chimney Rock along the way. She hadn’t seen Chimney rock since she saw it on a class field trip in high school. After a long drive, Naomi arrived in Billings and found a motel near the Interstate. After breakfast the next day, she drove to Rosebud to find her mother.
The address from the DMV was not in Rosebud but on a rural road about ten miles outside of town. Naomi had to stop twice to ask directions, but finally, she pulled up in front a nice looking home. The house looked out of place among the farms. There was a four-foot, white plastic fence around the place. A large driveway ran from the gate to the house and ended in a circular driveway. On one side of the hpuse was a three car garage. Some cars were parked in the circular drive way. Naomi noticed two large satellite dishes on the side of the house. The lawn was well manicured.
Naomi saw a security camera above the gate. There was a buzzer but she didn’t see any speaker. She pressed the buzzer and looked up at the camera. The gate opened, and Naomi walked up to the front door and knocked. There was another security camera just above the door. It moved and focused on her face.
After a minute, a slender woman with roots showing on bottle blond hair opened the door. She removed her cigarette. “Can I help you?” she asked as she flipped her cigarette into the front yard.
Naomi smiled. “I’m looking for Emma Godfrey?”
“I’m Emma Godfrey.”
“In that case, I’m your daughter, Naomi Marini from Torrington.”
Emma’s mouth dropped open. “Well I’ll be damned.” She hesitated and then spread her arms and hugged Naomi.
Naomi didn’t know what reaction to expect after her father's admonitions but she wasn’t expecting this one. She hugged Emma back. Emma invited her in and led her to the living room. It was obvious that the Emma and her husband were doing well. The house was beautiful and well kept. Naomi noticed a shotgun in the corner by the front door. She wasn't too concerned but made a mental note of it. It was a common sight in rural areas in this part of the country. The house was a large ranch house with a basement. Emma and Sage appeared to collect antiques which seemed out of place in the modern home. The floor were oak with Persian rugs shattered about. Naomi noticed a comprehensive security system with alarms on every window.
Emma yelled for her husband to join them. After a few minutes, Sage Godfrey walked in and sat down next to Emma. He took a cigarette from her and lit it. She took out one for herself and Sage lit it for her.
“This is my husband, Sage. Sage, would you believe this is my daughter, Naomi?”
Sage smiled. “I’m pleased to meet you at last.”
Emma patted Sage’s knee. “Sage is a photographer. He has a lab in the basement. You go on back to work, dear. Naomi and I’ve some catching up to do. Oh, and tell the models to go out the back way so they won't disturb us.”
After Sage left, the two women began to tell each other what they have done in the last twenty plus years. Naomi thought it might be best not to mention that she was a police officer. She lied and said that she was looking for work. At lunchtime, Sage reappeared with a tray of cold cuts and bread for sandwiches. The women continued to talk until around three when a young boy walked into the room.
A couple of times, Naomi saw young women walking on the lawn in front toward the parked cars and driving away. She thought they all looked liked hookers. Once, Emma saw her looking at the women and said, “Those are the models that Sage photographs.”
Emma stood up “John! Come here honey, I want to introduce you to someone. John, this is your older sister, Naomi. Well, half-sister anyway.”
Naomi stood and was nearly knocked over as John rushed to hug her. His hug took her breath away. She was surprised and laughed. “I’m pleased to meet you too, John.”
“John’s only twelve but he’s big for his age. He’s in junior high now.”
John sat down and started asking questions one after another. Around four thirty, Emma said, “Naomi, you’ll have to stay for dinner, but I’ve no food in the house. John, why don’t you two go pick up some fried chicken while I set the table.” She handed John a fifty-dollar bill. “John will show you where to go like. Pick up side dishes too –whatever you like. Don't get drinks. I have soda and beer.”
“I’ll put away my books and meet you out front,” said John as he picked up his book bag and head toward the back rooms. As they drove away, John said, “I’m so glad that you found me. You’ve got to take me with you when you leave.”
Naomi was surprised. She expected some chitchat but not this. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“It’s hard to explain and we don’t have much time.” John pulled several CDs from his pocket. “I brought these to show you. They’ll tell you everything. I’ve saved them for the last couple of years. Mom and dad aren’t as nice as they appear. They’re bad people. Watch these and you’ll see. You have to help me.”
“Are they doing something illegal? Drugs? Meth?”
“You'll see. They're doing porn. Dad records it in the basement.”
“Well that's not necessarily illegal. Your mom said he had a lab in the basement.”
It's more than just a lab. You'll see when you watch the CDs.”
John sat quietly for the rest of the short trip. Naomi glanced at him whenever she could. He had several small scars on his face. Naomi thought he was too young for acne. “What happened to your face? Are those scars from chicken pox or something?’
“They’re from cigarettes.”
“When mom and dad get mad at me, they burn me with cigarettes.”
Naomi rasied her eyebrows. “You’re kidding?”
“No, I’m serious. They burn me. Sometimes they use a Taser on me.”
“Oh my God. Why?”
“You’ll see when you watch the CDs.”
Naomi didn’t know what to say, so they sat in silence for a few minutes. Rosebud was a small town with a town square in the center. On one side sat the police station and town hall. Naomi slowed down as she neared the station.
“What’re you going to do?” asked John.
“I want to see those CDs. I thought I could use the computers in the police station.”
“Mom knows how long it takes to pick up the food. She’ll be suspicious if we’re gone too long.”
“Okay. I won’t look at them now, but I need to coordinate when I can come back. I’ll just be a minute.”
“Then don’t park in front. People know me. They’ll tell mom. Park down the block.”
Naomi parked a block away and ran to the station. She caught the police chief as he was leaving. She convinced him to let her use the computers later that night at eight. She left the CDs with the chief and sprinted back to the car.
When Naomi got into the car, she said, “John, I want you to take my cellphone. You know how to use a cellphone?”
“Yeah. Mom and dad track me on my cellphone.”
Naomi showed John where to find her number in the contact section. “I’ve another cellphone that I use at work. If you feel you're in any danger call me. I’ll come get you. Where can we meet?”
“There’s a stream that runs beside the house. It turns and runs under the main road out front. Right now, there’s no water in it. I can hide under the bridge and meet you there. There no camera in view of it.”
“That’ll work. Show me when we get back. The other thing I want you to do is to take some pictures around the house. Include the basement and anything you want me to know. I’ll get the cellphone from you tomorrow. Can you do that?”
“Sure. I know how to use the camera, but they’ll beat me if they see your camera.”
“Hide it somewhere outside if you can. Don’t keep it on you or in your room. Be careful when you use it.”
“I know. Still, I’m scared.”
“John, what did they do to you?”
“Bad things. They take pictures of naked kids and sell them on the internet. That’s how they make money. Sometimes they use me. Sometimes they use other kids. I thought that was normal until I got older and talked to other boys in school.”
“I’m surprised they let you go to school.”
“They want me to go to school. They want me to invite kids to the house. They give them beer and cigarettes. There are cameras hidden everywhere in the house. Don’t use the bathroom.”
Naomi stopped at a KFC and bought a bucket of chicken with two sides. She decided to use the restroom at KFC. On the drive back, John really opened up. He talked non-stop about his ordeal growing up. Sage and Emma were pedophiles and abused John sexually and physically. They made money by making and distributing pornographic videos and CDs.
Supper was uneventful. Naomi said as little as possible about herself. She asked Emma and Sage lots of questions and kept them talking. Shortly before eight, Naomi said that she wanted to leave and get to the motel because he was exhausted from driving – a lie. Emma invited her back for lunch for the next day. Naomi drove straight to the police station. She remembered what John said about parking in front of the station. She decided to park a couple of blocks away in case Sage or Emma were following her. When she walked into the station, she was surprised to see the police chief still there with a deputy. Rosebud was a town much smaller than Torrington so it had a sheriff and only a handful of deputies. When needed, they were backed up by police from Billings.