Joe Dillard - 01 - An Innocent Client

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Book: Joe Dillard - 01 - An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Scott Pratt
Tags: Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers, Mystery & Detective
walk away from the profession that Uncle Raymond, at least indirectly, had led me to.
    By the time I got back from Mountain City, it was almost dark. So far, my birthday had been a bust.
    Johnny Wayne had been gagged, I’d practically fallen apart in Ma’s room, and the flashback of Sarah’s rape kept playing over and over in my head. And I couldn’t reach Caroline or either of the kids on my cell phone. I’d called ten times on the way back down the mountain.
    I finally pulled into the driveway and pushed the garage door opener. There wasn’t another car in sight.
    Rio, my young German shepherd, came bounding out of the garage and started his daily ritual of running around the truck. I’d rescued Rio from a bad situation when he was only two months old. I was his hero. When he saw me pull into the driveway every day, the excitement was too much for his young bladder. As soon as I got out of the truck, he peed on my shoe.
    Where could they be? I didn’t see my son’s car.
    When I’d talked to Jack on the phone last week, he promised to come to dinner with us on my birthday.
    I thought seriously about backing out and going somewhere to drown my sorrows but decided I’d go in and see if they left me a note. Surely they wouldn’t forget my birthday. These were the people I loved more than anything else in the world. They’d never forgotten my birthday. They always made a big deal out of it.
    Caroline hadn’t said anything that morning, but I’d left at five thirty and showered at the gym after I worked out. She and Lilly were still asleep when I walked out the door. Maybe they did forget.
    Or maybe something was wrong. Something had to be wrong. I rubbed Rio’s ears for a minute and walked up and opened the door that led to the kitchen. It was dark inside. I let the dog go in ahead of me. It was quiet.
    ”Hello! Anybody home?” I flipped on the light in the kitchen.
    A huge poster had been hung from the kitchen ceiling. It stretched all the way to the floor and was at least six feet wide. It looked like something a high school football team would run through when they took the field for a game. The poster, in bright blue letters, said: Happy Birthday, Dad!
    WE LOVE YOU!
    I laughed as the three of them came around the corner from the den into the kitchen, singing ”Happy Birthday.” All three were wearing striped pajamas and grinning like monkeys. They’d tied their wrists together. The Dillard family chain gang. My self-pity vanished and I opened my arms for a group hug.
    Caroline announced that they were taking me to dinner, and they changed out of their striped pajamas. I chose Cafe Pacific, a quiet little place on the outskirts of Johnson City that served the best seafood in town. As I sat there eating prawns and scallops in an incredible Thai sauce, I looked at their faces, settling finally on Caroline’s. I’d fallen in love with the most beautiful girl in school all those years ago, and she was even more beautiful now. Her wavy auburn hair shimmered in the candlelight. Her smooth, fair skin and deep brown eyes glowed, and when she caught me looking at her I got a coy smile that brought out the dimple in her right cheek.
    Caroline has the firm, lithe body of a dancer, but it’s soft and curvy where it matters. She’s studied dance all her life and still operates a small dance studio. Lilly is Caroline’s clone, with the exception that her hair runs to a lighter shade and her eyes are hazel. Lilly is seventeen and in her senior year of high school. She wants to be a dancer, or a photographer, or an artist, or a Broadway actress.
    Jack looks a lot like me. He just turned nineteen and is tall and muscular, with dark hair and brooding eyes that are nearly black. Jack is a top student and a highly competitive athlete whose goal is to play professional baseball, and he works at it with the intensity of a fanatic. He and I have spent countless hours together practicing on a baseball field.
    He’ll hit

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