William Defoe wanted to punch Michael Matthews in the mouth, but in his role as Matthews’ friend, Darren Parker, he couldn’t do that. Matthews was furious that Darren had helped Darlene pack her stuff. “What the hell kind of friend helps a man’s wife leave him?”
“I’m sorry, man. I wasn’t really thinking, but then I thought if I helped her, I’d know where she was staying,” Defoe said trying to pretend to be stupid.
“Well then, where is she?” Matthews demanded.
Defoe dropped his head. “She ditched me at her work. I guess she caught on that I was really trying to help you, not her.”
“Fucking bitch!” Matthews yelled and slammed his hand down on the kitchen counter. He’d gotten out on bond in less than twelve hours, but by then Darlene had taken most of her stuff.
Even though they had gone on the hunts for Jenna together, Darlene wasn’t speaking to Matthews. Everyone in town was looking at him like he was the worst father in the world. He hadn’t been the best father, he could admit that, but he hadn’t been the worst. And if his nosy ass daughter hadn’t been poking around in his garage, he wouldn’t have had to beat the shit out of her. He was convinced her dyke girlfriend and her bitch mother had taken Jenna someplace and hid her. They thought they were so damn smart, but he’d find Jenna and make sure she never told anyone about what she saw.
Matthews started pacing like a caged animal. Defoe watched him carefully and listened to every word he said. He was pretty sure that Matthews had been completely unconscious when Defoe took Jenna out of the room. For Matthews to think that Darren Parker had any role in Jenna’s escape would be detrimental to the FBI’s investigation. Somehow, he had to figure out what Matthews had done with the body. Based on what little description Jenna had given the intake officer, it was the same girl Defoe had seen in Morehead, Kentucky.
When Defoe was recruited for this assignment two years ago, the FBI was still trying to figure out what Michael Matthews’ role was in the Cobra Cartel. Since Defoe had infiltrated Matthews hunting group, they’d come closer to proving that Matthews was a recruiter, picking up the girls for petty possession and giving them to the cartel.
Jenna finding that body in her father’s freezer and calling it in almost blew their undercover operation. Fortunately, Jenna had not trusted the Evansville city police or the Vanderburgh Sheriff’s Department with the information. She was a smart girl. Her father had worked as an officer in both organizations. Now, he was a detective in the drug enforcement unit of the Vanderburgh Sheriff’s Department.
Unless Jenna had convinced someone from one of those departments to come to her house and look in that freezer, there was no way anyone of the officers from either organization would have taken her seriously. Matthews was a decorated police officer who had not had more than a slap on the wrist in his twenty years in law enforcement. No one in that police community was going to believe he had the body of a woman in a freezer in his garage.
The FBI believed her because Matthews was a person of interest in a human and drug trafficking ring they had been investigating for more than two years. Matthews drew the FBI’s attention when a young woman Matthews had busted for a small-time possession charge had gone missing the year before last. The story didn’t make the news. It was swept under the carpet as another teenage runaway. The girl’s parents were drug addicts who were in and out of her life. She’d been in and out of foster care and juvenile detention centers. No one really missed her when she disappeared, until they found her body in a heavily wooded area of the Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky.
Matthews had been one of the last people to see the girl alive. A drug dealer said he saw Matthews talking to the girl in between a couple of buildings that are known for drug deals. The dealer, who said that he’d gotten drugs for the girl, said he didn’t see her again after that night. He’d just assumed she’d gotten busted and was in jail, until he saw the story in the paper about her body being found.
Matthews said that he’d given the girl a warning about being in that area, but didn’t see her again after he told her to leave.
That had only raised a few eye brows. The girl had a tattoo of a cobra on her lower back that was associated with the Cobra Cartel’s prostitution business. The investigation turned to the Cartel. Matthews would have never crossed the feds mind again if it wasn’t for the fact that another Evansville girl, who had been arrested by Marshall on possession charges, turned up dead. This time her body was found near Mammoth Cave National Park in central Kentucky. Both times the girls had been strangled, had a certain level of drugs in their systems, had the cobra tattoo, and had been buried in a heavily wooded area near a popular nature park. Both girls had been discovered by hunters.
The fact that Marshall had arrested both girls and was a hunter familiar with the areas where the bodies were found raised red flags on the FBI’s radar. That’s when they assigned Defoe and Garrett Johnston to go undercover in Evansville to see if Matthews was involved with the Cartel.
Garrett Johnston, an agent who specialized in infiltrating drug rings, had gone undercover as a drug dealer and had quickly found out that Evansville was indeed under the control of the Cobra Cartel. They controlled most the drugs coming into the area and had a decent sized prostitution business. Most of that business was done on the Ohio River on private yachts.
William Defoe was an expert in flushing out bad cops, so he became Deputy Darren Parker with the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s department. His job was to keep an eye on Matthews and find out if he was involved with the Cartel. Matthews was very careful, and it took a few months before Defoe figured out how to get Matthews to be friends with his alter ego, Parker. Hunting and fishing were it. Matthews was a big hunter and fisherman. He went out either hunting or fishing, depending on the season, every time he got a few days off. Once Defoe was able to get an invite to one of Matthews’ hunting expeditions, he found himself slowly being welcomed into Matthews’ circle of friends. Unlike the other police officers Matthews was friendly with, these guys were a rough and ruthless crowd.
Matthews wasn’t the leader of this group of sportsmen. A judge from the Covington, Kentucky area was. Defoe thought it was weird that this guy would come all the way to Evansville to hunt and fish, but when he found out the group was also involved with drugs and prostitutes, that explained why a judge would be going so far for fun. They never hunted near Evansville or Covington. They went to smaller towns and less popular hunting grounds. Defoe immediately became suspicious of this group’s real intentions and was rewarded when they went hunting in eastern Kentucky, and the judge showed up at their cabin with several prostitutes of questionable ages.
In the two years they spent gathering information about Matthews and his group, they hadn’t been able to get enough concrete evidence to prove the girls were underage, or that the men were doing anything but using the drugs recreationally. It wasn’t enough to start arresting everyone when they felt they were close to figuring out how this group was tied to the Cobra Cartel.
Finally, on a fishing trip near Morehead, Kentucky, the judge showed up with a group of girls again. Defoe had always managed to get out of doing more than a little cuddling with the prostitutes. He told the men he had genital herpes and didn’t want to take a chance on spreading it, which they seemed to have bought for the most part. This particular trip, the judge had a young woman that Defoe immediately recognized as a girl missing from Evansville. He had not been a part of the case. The city police had been handling it. The judge insisted Defoe take the girl saying, “She’s already served her purpose, so no one else will want her anyway.”
Defoe had taken the girl into one of the rooms and tried to talk to her, but she was so drugged that she was completely out of her mind. The only thing she said was that she didn’t want to go back to the boat. “I messed up,” she’d mumbled. “Can’t go back to the boat.” While the girl was passed out, Defoe searched her body and found the cobra tattoo on her lower back like the other girls. This was the tie-in.
If Jenna’s description was correct, there was a very good possibility that the girl in the freezer was the same girl Defoe dealt with in Morehead. Now that the girl was dead, they could only hope that her body turned up soon and that Jenna could identify it. That would tie Matthews to the judge, who the FBI already knew had ties to the Cobra Cartel. Defoe and Jenna’s testimonies would be enough to put several people behind bars, and hopefully one of them would spill their guts, preferably the judge.
Suddenly Matthews’ phone rang. “What?” he barked.
Defoe watched Matthews stop pacing, and his face turned dark with anger.
“Is that right?” Matthews said. “Send me a picture.” His face turned a darker red. “Figure out how to get one.” He punched the smart phone with a jab of a long thick finger.
“What was that about?” Defoe asked.
“One of the dealers we talked to last week said he thought he saw one of the kids we almost busted last week making a deal. He’s going to get a picture and send it to me,” Matthews said seamlessly, but Defoe knew he was lying.
“Sheriff Nichols said I could take the day off and hang with you if you want me to,” Defoe said. “He knows you’re going through a hard time right now, especially being on administrative leave.”
“I’m fine,” Matthews said and pulled a beer out of the refrigerator. I think I’m going to find a movie to watch and just relax for a while.”
“You want me to hang out and watch it with you?” Defoe asked.
Matthews ran his hand threw his short blond hair. “No. I want to be alone.”