Deputy State Police Chief Kevin Kerney is weeks away from trading in his badge for a rancher's hat, when six murders are committed at a remote campground in New Mexico. Most of the evidence points to the work of a spree killer, but peculiarities at one crime scene suggest another grisly possibility: that five random people have been shot to death to cover the premeditated murder of the sixth, Vernon Langsford, a retired judge and wealthy businessman. Ruling out neither scenario, Kerney mounts a high-profile search for the possible spree killer and conducts a deep probe into the life of Vernon Langsford -- which quickly reveals a number of motives for Langsford's murder. But Kerney has no clear suspect, nor does he know why Langsford's son scornfully refers to his murdered father as "the Judas Judge." As Kerney pieces together a shocking history of family betrayal, he is harassed by a stalker, forced into a gunfight with a c rooked cop, and is shaken by new doubts about his plan to give up police work.
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April 30, 2001
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Excerpt from The Judas Judge by Michael McGarrity
Starting sometime after midnight, six murders had been committed along a stretch of highway in south central New Mexico. Soon after sunrise, Kevin Kerney arrived at the Oliver Lee State Park, where Sgt. Randy Shockley waited for him outside a motor home parked in an area that provided electrical and water hookups to recreational vehicles. Westward, across the Tularosa Basin, a band of low clouds mimicked the outline of the distant mountains, creating a mirage of shimmering vague foothills. The October morning was chilly, and a low sun softened the stark landscape, giving the desert a deceptively inviting impression.
Raised on the Tularosa until his parents' ranch was taken over by the army and made part of the high security White Sands Missile Range, Kerney knew the clouds would soon burn off and the day would heat up.
He eyed the motor home. It was an expensive model with a retractable awning, an air-conditioning unit on the roof, and a detachable satellite TV dish mounted on a bracket. Under the awning were a small barbecue grill, a lawn chair, and a folding metal side table. The door into the cabin of the RV was open. Painted on the side of the rig, above the manufacturer's nameplate, a bounding cartoonlike kangaroo floated in midair.
Sergeant Shockley held the crime scene log in one hand and a pen in the other. Kerney scribbled his name on the log and returned the pen. "Any witnesses?" he asked.
"No," Shockley replied. He eyed the chief's cowboy boots, jeans, and silver belt buckle, and repressed a smirk. "And nobody heard any shots. A camper discovered the body."
"Where is he?"
"Sequestered inside the visitor center with the park manager. I have an officer with them."
Across the way, a tight group of campers had gathered around a picnic table under a shelter to watch the action. Most were gray-haired, overweight, tanned, and wearing sweats and pullover tops to guard against the early morning chill.
"We're holding everybody who stayed overnight until we can take their statements," Sergeant Shockley said. "Some of them aren't happy campers."
Kerney smiled thinly at the joke. Shockley, a shift commander and the evidence officer for the Alamogordo District Office of the New Mexico State Police, smiled back. With nine years on the force, Shockley still had a cockiness about him that most cops lost after working their rookie season on the streets. He was thirty-two years old, stood five-nine in his stocking feet, and carried a hundred and forty-five pounds on a compact frame.
Shockley's record was clean. Divorced with no children, he served as an officer survival trainer at the state police academy when recruit classes were in session, and had a reputation as an instructor who enjoyed putting a hurt on cadets during hand-to-hand training.
Kerney knew about Shockley because the sergeant was the target of an internal affairs investigation. He inclined his head toward the motor home. "Who's been inside?"
"Me, a paramedic, the man who found the body, and the park ranger. The radio message from Major Hutchinson said you were the primary investigator on this one."