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Hal's Own Murder Case [Deb Ralston Series Book 5]
by Lee Martin

Category: Mystery/Crime/Suspense/Thriller
Description: Readers have loved this book more than all the others in the series. Detective Deb Ralston, 81/2 months pregnant, must retrieve her son Hal, 16, and his girlfriend Lori, 15, after they hitchhike to Los Alamos, New Mexico during spring break. Missing them there, she arrives in Las Vegas, NM to find Hal in jail on suspicion of murder and Lori missing. What can she do now?
eBook Publisher: Live Oak House, 1988 St. Martin's Press
eBookwise Release Date: April 2005


28 Reader Ratings:
Great Good OK Poor
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [217 KB]
Words: 53215
Reading time: 152-212 min.

"Lee Martin has produced another bijou of a book. Martin's handling of teenaged Hal, who is hyperactive, 'scatty' (his mother's word), and 'hopeless at geography,' is delicious."--The Droof Review of Mystery

"The search for Lori becomes more frantic as her captor's psychotic persona is revealed.... Well-sketched scenic background, colorful Indian lore, and a wry sense of humor enliven ... an unpretentiously entertaining story."--Kirkus Reviews

"Former policewoman Martin again displays her skill in the procedural genre, combining completely convincing characters and good plotting. Sure to be in demand."--Stuart Miller, Booklist

Chapter Three
* * * *

With the largest Coke I could find in Las Vegas, and a couple of hamburgers, we went to wake up Hal. He was even less coherent than his usual incoherent morning self, but after whatever sedatives they'd given him at four or whenever it was, that was probably to be expected.

"Hi, Mom," he said sleepily. He sat up--in a shirt with blood on it, in jeans with blood on them; why hadn't Salazar taken those clothes away from him and put him into coveralls? He rubbed fretfully at his eyes and then, stretching with his arms behind him, he looked around. His eyes widened, and he scrambled out of the metal jail bunk, managing not to bump his head on the one above it. "Mom! What are you doing here?"

"What do you think I'm doing here?" I demanded, and put the Coke and hamburgers down so I could hug him. "Hal, how could you--"

"Mom, I didn't--"

"--be so stupid--"

"But Mom--"

"--as to take off by yourself like that, just you and Lori?"

"Oh, that." He sat back down, rather abruptly. "Yeah, I did do that."

"What did you think I was talking about?"

"That girl. Mom, did you see that girl?" Corpses are nothing new to me, but they don't fall into Hal's normal galaxy, and he was looking more than a little bit green.

"I'm afraid I did. Hal, who in the world was she?"

He shrugged. "Just a girl. She said her name was April. Hey, Mom, where's Lori?"

"Now we were hoping you'd be able to help us figure that out," Salazar said, behind me.

"Well, I don't know. I told you last night I don't know. She was there when I went to sleep. Somebody ought to be able to find her. Unless--"

"Unless what?" I asked.

He scrambled to his feet again, a look of horror building on his face. "Mom, do you s'pose whoever ... did that ... took her? Took Lori?"

"I expect Lori saw what was going on and ducked out and hid. She'll turn up eventually."

"You really think so?"

I nodded, feeling guilty. The truth was that I didn't really think so. If she were coming out of hiding she'd have done so already; the square was swarming with cops, and even the most timid shrinking violet ought to feel safe by now. Lori has never been what I would want to call timid, and she'd be no more likely to abandon Hal in a crisis than Hal would be to abandon her. So Hal's suggestion wasn't just a possibility; it was a probability. But there were other possibilities, not all of them quite that bad.

"I'll be helping Chief Salazar," I said, "and we're going to need a lot of help from you."

"What kind of help?"

"I need to ask you some questions," Salazar said, still behind me, "and we need some answers. A whole damn lot of answers."

"Oh, that kind of help," Hal said. "When Mom said a lot of help, I thought--"

Salazar moved restlessly. "So, are you ready to come out and answer questions?"

"Uh--can I wait a minute?"

"Wait a minute for what?" Salazar demanded.

Hal wriggled a little, and Salazar repeated the question. Hal looked embarrassed, and then blurted out, "I've got to pee."

"By all means pee," Salazar said, and led me back to his office. Pointing me to a chair, he said, "I'll let him take a shower. You can wait here."

It was nearly half an hour later before Hal, in jail coveralls with his hair damp and tousled, appeared. Salazar, following right behind him, told him to sit down and he sat, placing his now-cold hamburgers and half-consumed Coke on the corner of Salazar's desk.

I am not used to seeing a chief of police personally conducting an investigation, much less escorting prisoners to take showers. But on the other hand I do not live in a small town. Salazar might--maybe--have two investigators. Certainly no more. He'd already told me he didn't have much experience working homicides. But most likely he was the only one in this department who had the appropriate training.

And he definitely was not stupid. If I hadn't already figured that out for myself, his first words to Hal would have told me. "I called Fort Worth," he said. "They tell me your mom's a pretty sharp cop."

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