When the Lonesome Dog Barks by Trey R. Barker is the third book in the Jace Salome series.
Two bodies, recently beaten to death, are discovered on the edges of Zachary County. There is a recent attempt to break into the security office at a resort in nearby Rooster County. And the Zachary County Jail has exploded with seemingly random fights.
A year into the job now, Deputy Sheriff Jace Salome is edging into being more comfortable with her role in the department. When she finds a smartphone in the jail she learns the random fights are anything but, that they have been filmed and then emailed from the phone to an intricate web of private email servers and access-only websites. And the fights seem to be directed from someone outside the jail.
The two dead bodies, as well as the investigation of the resort break-in, and Jace’s look into the fights, all collide when she discovers that a dead girl had been in the Zachary County jail and that video exists of her getting beaten both in the jail and in the security office of the hotel.
Jace realizes the darkest recesses of her imagination cannot keep up with reality. This is a world of technology and online predators, and the stakes are much higher than her pay-grade. Worse still … Jace Salome has to face this case alone.
Late Friday night and Zachary County Deputy Harvey DeGarmo, badge 217, watched the oncoming car. The guy’s brights were on and with any luck at all, he’d forget to dim, DeGarmo would pull him over, and he’d be wildly drunk, ensuring yet another DWI notched in DeGarmo’s duty belt.
DeGarmo loved DWIs.
He hated that people drove drunk because his mother had been hit by a drunk, but he loved arresting drunk drivers. It was good to get them off the road, sure, but also it was just plain fun dealing with drunks. He’d had a guy once, babbled after he was cuffed and sitting in the back of the squad. “You’d…better…uh…cop…if you were…uh…you know…a doctor.”
“Yeah?” DeGarmo had answered. “Cuff ’em, stuff ’em, and slice ’em?”
The drunk had stared at him for a minute, his eyes spinning counter-clockwise. “Hey, man, that shit ain’t funny.”
DeGarmo had laughed.
“Dude, stop laughing…I know the sheriff.”
“Me, too. Maybe the three of us can go to a strip club sometime.”
“Yeah, that’d be great. But…no…uh…offense but you ain’t gonna get no…uh…chicks.” The guy had rubbed his head against the backseat. “Man, you be a better cop you shaved your head.”
DeGarmo laughed at the memory as he continued to watch the car come toward him. “Hang on, Brad, lemme check this guy.”
DeGarmo set his cell phone down. He was talking to his best friend from high school, but wanted to focus full attention on the on-coming car. He clicked his radar and the tiny red eyes showed him the guy was going thirty-four in a forty zone.
As the car got within about a half mile, the driver clicked off his high beams.
The car passed with no violations. The driver, an old man, waved as he passed. DeGarmo gave his red and blues a quick flash as a hello, turned onto a county road, and grabbed his phone.
“Man, tonight’s been crap boring.”
“Don’t say that,” Brad said. “Every time you do, things get crazy.”
“Yeah, well, I could use a little crazy right now.”
DeGarmo liked the back roads, though they weren’t as empty as they used to be. When he’d started on the road ten years ago, before this particular oil and gas boom, before the desert filled up with people looking for work and housing and their early twenty-first century slice of the American Dream, these roads had been hidden in the west Texas darkness. This was where people did crazy stuff, thinking they were anonymous, but anymore, the backroads were full of cars and pickups and oilrig cowboys and service industry trucks, but there wasn’t much action.
“Brad? Hang on.”
DeGarmo pulled up alongside the fence. He was on East County Road 160 and had seen something on the other side of one of the metal fences. Rags or trash, something tossed from a car or a ranch truck. He trained his spotlight on a point about twenty feet beyond the fence. His window was down and all around him, pump jacks banged and clacked, filling the air with the industrial sound of money.
Frowning, he climbed from his cruiser, slipped through the cattle fence, and went about five steps when he saw it. He went back to his car. “Uh…Brad…I gotta go.”
He hung up and grabbed his radio mic. “Zachary County from 217.”
—217 from Zachary County…go ahead—
“Get Sergeant Lawrence out here. Now. I’m on East County Road 160, just a little east of South County Road 1030.”
—10-4…what do you have—
He took a deep breath and realized his hands were shaking. He’d wanted some crazy—maybe a bar fight or a foot chase after a burglary—but this he could have done without.
“Zachary…call Major Jakob’s team, too. And somebody better call a Justice of the Peace. I’ve got two bodies, a male and a female.” He swallowed. “Pretty fresh, too.”
—got it, 217. Hang on—
DeGarmo looked back toward the bodies. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Friday night…stuck here with you.”
Jace Salome patted Jose Urrea’s cheek. “Aww. Don’t you say the sweetest things?”
He blushed, a cherry red star atop his six-foot, two-inch frame. “Don’t touch the merchandise, lady, I ain’t no piece of meat.”
“You are totally a piece of meat and that’s just how we like you.”
He laughed. “Who’s this ‘we’ you speak of?”
She spread her arms wide to her side, indicating the entire cell block. Tonight they were working D Pod—the discipline cases—and the bad boys were already locked down for the night, though more than a few were awake. “All of us. Don’t we, guys?”
Most ignored Jace and those who didn’t gave her the finger.
“Ah…the love of the discipline pod.” Urrea winked.
Jace glanced at Jimmy Davis, a jailer so new he hadn’t even been to the academy yet. He had been with the department a couple months or so and had spent most of his time on the day and afternoon shifts. He’d recently moved to nights and now he walked the upper tier slowly, tugging on doors.
Still trying to get comfortable.
Jace had been exactly where he was—intimidated by a job warehousing people, sure she was going to get hurt or killed, terrified that she’d have to kill someone someday. But now, a year in, she knew with the certainty of the righteous that this was the best job she’d ever had.
“He’s scared to death.” Urrea nodded toward Davis.
“Trying to hide it under absolute confidence.”
“The way I hide my macho side under a warm blanket of sensitivity.”
“‘A warm blanket of sensitivity’? Did you actually just say that?”
“Makes me sound like a good guy, don’t it? Dammit, if it don’t I’ll have to get me a new line for the bars.”
“Your wife lets you go to bars?”
He grinned. “Only when she’s with me.”
“Dork.” Jace went back to her book. It was about evidence collection and analysis. Major Jakob, the woman in charge of Zachary County’s crime lab, had given it to her. This was the fourth time Jace had read it.
—control from 10-4…one to medical…A Pod inner—
From somewhere deep in the jail, Jace and Urrea heard the muffled thud that was the electric lock being opened from the control room.
—control from 10-4…A Pod outer—
—one moving to medical—
Davis keyed up his portable radio. “410 from 476. You need some help?”
—476 from 410. Naw, I’m good. Thanks—
Davis had been hired at the behest of the Southwestern Jail Commission. They oversaw jail standards in this part of the state, reporting directly to Austin and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. They had recommended two additional jailers per shift because of recent deaths in the jail, and Davis was one of those hires; recommended by name to the sheriff by the jail commission. Tonight he was assigned floater status, making him available for whatever came up.
“10-4.” Davis came down off the upper tier and headed for the pod door. “Think I’ll take another walk around the jail, make sure I know where I’m going.”
Urrea laughed. “You been all over days and afternoons, ought to have a pretty good idea where stuff is.”
Davis waggled his eyebrows. “Not the good stuff.”
“I hated bouncing around,” Jace said.
“It’s all right,” Davis said. “Get to see a little bit of everything. I like afternoons best, lots of action, but at least going to all the shifts I get to know damned near everyone.” He rolled his eyes. “All the control room sergeants. They all want stuff done different ways.”
—and my way is the right way, ain’t it, newbie worm?—
Without even looking for a camera, Jace raised a hand and gave Sergeant Bibb a middle finger. Urrea and Davis both laughed.
“How long newbies stay on nights? I’m ready to get back to days.”
Urrea shook his head. “You won’t be on days. Not enough seniority, you’ll be on nights.”
“That would suck. Bet I don’t, though, bet you five bucks.”
“Dude, I could bet you a million and not be worried. You’re coming to nights.”
Davis grinned and headed for the door. “You’re missing a good bet, then, if you’re so sure.”
When Davis was gone, Urrea said: “Smit call you about trading a few hours tomorrow night?”
“You didn’t want it?”
“I can’t get in that early. I figured I’d toss it to you.”
“Again, you’re a sweetie.” She blew him a kiss.
“Watch it, wench, I’m married.”
Jace clutched her heart. “I’m devastated.”
“So is half of Zachary City.” He eyed the tiers. “What about these fights?”
“I didn’t realize there were so many.”
“Bad boys all cranked up when the sun’s up. Go to sleepy-time when the sun goes down, I guess.”
“Yet another reason to be on nights: fewer fights.”
Dillon’s warning, delivered during tonight’s roll call, banged away in her head. Lots of fights popping up the last few weeks, he’d said. Lots of tussling and more than a few knocked out teeth and busted ribs.
“Some of it’s our regular mopes,” Dillon had said. “But I think mostly it’s transients.”
Men who’d come for the oil field jobs, cracking the earth open with fracking fluids. They tended to be younger, less in control of themselves, and highly paid.
“Drunk, stoned, and stupid,” Laimo had said.
Jace had waited, expecting a retort from Rory Bogan, a former jailer who was now at the academy learning to be a road officer. When no smart-assed comments came, Jace realized again, abruptly, that her partner was gone from the jail for good.
From the far end of the upper tier, someone moaned. Loud and long. An inmate named Franco. He’d been moaning all night. Jace and Urrea had checked on him as soon as they’d come on duty. He didn’t come out of his cell, didn’t ask for medical, didn’t cause a problem. He said he had a stomach ache, probably the flu, and he’d be fine.
“Dude, shut the hell up, already.” An anonymous voice from the lower tier.
“Getting tired of listening to yo’ ass, loser.”
Then lots of voices, all riled to wakefulness, some laughing, while a cascade of catcalls fell from everywhere like a hot rain.
Urrea gave a quick look to all the doors, upper and lower tiers, then ran his eyes across the computer to make sure all the doors were secured. The computer screen was embedded in the jailers’ desk and had two LEDs for each cell door, green for closed and locked and red for open and unsecured. “We’re good.”
“Good.” Jace didn’t want an issue tonight. Tonight she wanted calm. She wanted to read her book and let it, through its mélange of technical terms, take her away from the strain pressing her and Gramma over the last couple of months.
—control from 410…medical outer—
The medical pod was on the far side of the jail from D Pod so Urrea and Jace didn’t hear the electric lock.
—and medical inner, please—
Urrea eyeballed the inmates who were awake, listening through the din of those catcalling. His breath slowed, which Jace knew was a sign of him getting ready for whatever might come, his focus tight. She watched him watch everything. He could sense when storms were brewing and when they’d need to call the emergency response team. But he also knew—and this was the lesson Jace was still trying to learn—when the ERTs were not needed and when the storm would die for lack of unstable air.
Eventually, he breathed more easily. “So you seeing Bogan this morning?”
“Breakfast after shift.”
Southwestern Law Enforcement Academy ran Monday through Friday in Ector County. Rory stayed there and came home on the weekends so Saturdays were Jace and Rory’s catch-up day.
Urrea winked. “She gonna get you wanting to go to the road before too much longer.”
Jace shook her head. “I’m happy where I am.”
The road was a different beast than the jail. The people roadies met weren’t always bad people. More often than not, they were car accident survivors, or victims of fires and thefts, of burglaries and rapes, of shootings and stabbings. Inside, the people Jace dealt with were those who had committed those crimes. Both on the road and in the jail, the people ZCSO dealt with were the lost and lonely, the quiet and the loud, but roadies got to help people keep moving down the road while jailers interrupted lives to try and put people on a different road; sometimes rehab, sometimes prison, sometimes a few weeks in county stir to contemplate their mistakes.
There were practical, more brutal differences, too. Jace had been involved in a number of fights in the jail and two small scuffles on the road while riding with Rory. On the road, those who fought usually did so just enough to get away and avoid jail. But once in the jail, those who fought knew they were going to lose the war because of the emergency response team, the ERTs, so they tended to fight out of anger and vengeance. Those fights tended to be more violent and left more damage on both officers and inmates.
“Too smart to be happy in the jail. You’ll get bored eventually. Just like Rory. She got bored real quick. Me and her started about the same time and she was ready to move to the road before she even graduated jailer school.”
Jace laughed. “Well, I’m happy for her.”
“Me, too, don’t get me wrong. But I’m gonna miss that sassy bitch in the jail.”
So was Jace. She’d been melancholy since Rory started the academy ten weeks earlier. The jail just didn’t have as much life when Rory was gone. It was colorless without her energy and drive, without her salty language and her standing dare to anyone—officer or inmate—to get in her way.
—control from 410…inmate moving back to A Pod—
They both looked toward the far end of the upper tier. The inmate who’d been moaning most of the night, Franco, was visible through the narrow window of his door, motioning to them.
Jace headed to the inmate while Urrea stayed at the computer in case the door needed to be opened. When she got to the inmate, he spoke through the glass of the cell door.
“Pissing blood. Gotta go to medical.”
“Pissing blood? What happened?”
He shrugged but had a hand pressed against his right kidney. She looked at Urrea and nodded for him to open the door. Before he did, she backed up, giving herself room if this guy wanted to start swinging.
The electric lock popped, a huge metallic whang in the pod and, and with her hand on the door, she motioned the inmate to back up a step. He raised his hands as he did. With the door open, light from the pod spilled inside the cell and Jace’s breath caught.
The guy was beat to pieces.
Bruises crawled all over his face and down his throat and neck until they disappeared beneath his orange jail shirt. His arms were bruised a surprising number of shades of black and blue, of a purple so deep it reminded Jace of summertime sunsets.
“Holy crap, Franco, what happened to you?”
“How many times?”
“You think this is funny?”
“Hey.” She said it sharply and with a bit of steel. “Easy. You give me a crap story and I’ll give you a crap answer.” She backed up and motioned him to come out and head to the stairs. As they walked, she asked who he’d been fighting with.
He walked silently, with a slight limp, his hand still on his kidney.
Urrea watched them carefully as they crossed the pod and headed for the interior door. “Wha’cho got?”
“I’m guessing a yard fight but Franco won’t say.” Jace put the inmate on a chair, his knees on the seat with his legs pointing out. She shackled him quickly, then cuffed his hands behind his back. Once secured, she let him lead her toward the door as she keyed her portable radio. “Control from 479…D-david inner, please.”
—479…where you going?—
“One for medical.”
A second later, the electric lock snapped opened and Franco pushed into the go-between. It was a small area between two secured doors that led from the hallway into the pod. Once the inner door was closed, the outer door lock popped and Franco went into the hallway with Jace two steps behind.
—no dallying, Miss Jace—
“Dallying? Surprised you know a word that sophisticated, Sarge.”
—479 from 476…I got a free hand. Need it?—
Jace keyed her radio. “No, thanks, Davis.”
On the floor, and every floor throughout the secured part of the jail, was a mass of painted lines, each snaking with a different color toward a particular place. Franco put his feet on the red line, medical, and walked as quickly as the shackles would allow. They were around his ankles, about eighteen inches of chain between each foot; enough to walk but not enough to run with any speed.
—one moving to A Pod…one moving to medical—
“Franco, do me a favor and put your left shoulder on the wall, please.”
He did as Jace asked and they moved slowly toward medical. From down the hallway, Jace heard Graham and his inmate coming toward them. Clank clank, the sound of industrial jailing. The unmistakable sound of shackles. A sound that had bothered Jace, symbolic of so much, when she first started but that had since become just another part of the job. One of the many cogs that kept the machine moving.
When Graham and his prisoner came around the long curved hallway that defined this part of the jail, Jace noticed two things. First, Graham had his prisoner against the wall to his left also, which meant maximum room between prisoners. Secondly, she felt Franco’s anger instantly ratchet up. His body stiffened. His hands, cuffed behind him, clenched to fists, and his head rose, his chin out like a lance leading a soldier to battle.
Graham and his prisoner, who stared at the floor, were about forty feet away.
“Franco? Everything cool?” Jace asked.
“Cool as ice, CO.”
“Are we going to have a problem?”
“Cool.” His jaw tightened. “As ice.”
Holding his right bicep with her left hand, as she did with all prisoners she walked, Jace tightened her grip. “Heads up.”
Graham looked at her, ten feet away now, but didn’t seem to register the situation. Jace pushed Franco further to the left, using the wall to limit his options. “Don’t be stupid.”
“Cool as stupid ice, CO.”
The other inmate, his hair long and flopped over one eye, looked up, saw Franco, and grinned. His teeth, dingy white, bared and reminded Jace of a feral dog. “Think you can trash me?”
Franco laughed. “I trash you whenever I want, puto.”
“Graham, heads up, heads up.”
The deputy realized it just as his inmate broke free and dashed across the wide hallway. Jace raised a hand and put herself directly between the two men. Graham’s prisoner faked left and when Jace went that direction, he hammered back to the right, easily slipping around her.
The man slammed into Franco with a ferocious heat butt. Bone cracked and blood spattered both men.
—all call from control: Zebra Two. Repeat: Zebra Two. Hallway between medical and A. Hallway between medical and A—
The alarm exploded to life and the sound should have reverberated off the concrete and cinder block hallway. Usually it came back at Jace a thousand times, each more ear-piercingly bloody.
But this time, Jace, trying to keep two men from killing each other, never heard a sound.
Jace kicked as hard as she could to the other inmate’s gut. He blew stale breath in her face and fell backward. When he tried to brace himself with his feet, drawing his right foot back as he would in an alley fight, the shackles pulled taut.
“Motherfucker.” He yelped as he fell backward, banging his head on the concrete wall before hitting the floor hard on his ass.
Franco laughed and raised a foot as high as he could to stomp the other man.
Jace yanked Franco’s right bicep backward, dragging Franco into her but putting him off kilter enough that his foot had to come down for balance. Then she slung him across her body toward the far wall. He hit it face first and left a bloody smear from his broken nose.
She raised a hand, finger out like a scolding second grade teacher. “Don’t. Move.”
Franco took a step and Jace immediately laid the outside flat of her hand hard against his neck. It was a brachial stun. She’d learned it in the academy yet had never used it. But with Franco focused on nothing except the other inmate on the floor, she hit Franco hard directly on the main nerve in his neck.
“Son of a—” and then he was down. Not incapacitated, not unconscious, but stunned enough that he focused on her now.
She hadn’t expected him to go down that quickly or easily. “Don’t even think about moving.” The other inmate was also on the floor, Graham hovering above him. “You, either.”
Graham’s prisoner was on his back, cuffed behind, and didn’t have much mobility. He kicked at Graham.
“Okay, we’re done. Watch him.” Jace nodded at Franco and went to the other prisoner. Grabbing the chain between the shackles, she hauled the inmate’s feet off the ground and dragged him toward A Pod, only a few steps away.
“Control from 479…A-Adam outer.”
The door popped and Jace hauled the inmate into the go-between. She slammed the outer door closed, leaving the prisoner stranded. Graham looked at her wide-eyed while Franco laughed and spattered his blood all over the floor.
“That was sweet, CO.” Franco wiped blood from his face. “Totally sweet.”
Jace keyed her radio. “Stand down…stand down. Situation secure. Repeat: situation secure.”
—all call from control…479 reports secure. Stand down. Zebra Two cancelled. Stand down—
She got in Franco’s face. “You told me we were cool.”
“Hey, CO, he started it. You saw it, he came at me. Broke my damn nose.”
“Uh…Salome?” Graham looked confused. “What do I need to do?”
He hadn’t been on duty long and she remembered being at a loss the first few times something violent happened. True violence, the kind she saw in the jails, was always quicker and more brutal, but much more banal, than most people realized.
From down the hall, she heard the quick steps of a handful of deputies.
“Get to your prisoner before Kleopping gets here.”
“Crap.” He headed for the outer door of the A Pod go-between. His inmate was still on the floor, though he’d twisted to his side. When Graham got to the door, he didn’t call for it to be opened. He left the prisoner alone and waited.
Jace nodded and gave him a thumbs up.
“CO? I’m going to medical?”
“Nah…broken nose doesn’t qualify.”
He shook his head. “Funny girl.”
A moment later, Corporal Kleopping came around the corner, leading a team of four deputies, all geared up for ERT duty. Jace braced herself and raised her hands.
Still they came, moving quick, their boots heavy on the concrete, echoed and amplified into an army. Heads and eyes moved back and forth, seeing everything, assessing every threat, looking for what might hurt them.
Please don’t put me on the floor.
Jace had been on the floor before. When the ERTs came into a situation, they slammed anyone who was standing to the ground. They took hard, violent, unquestioned control of a situation until they knew what was what.
Please don’t please don’t please—
“All good.” She hated the whine in her voice, the pleading. “Don’t need to—”
Kleopping came right at her, ballistic shield out like a talisman. His face was empty, his eyes hard on her.
At the last second, he pulled up. Then he laughed. The three other members all stopped long before they got to her. They grinned.
“Thought you were going to the floor, huh?” Croft asked. “That’s funny.”
“She’d’a pissed herself.” Laimo sneered. “Or thrown up.”
A white hot heat blasted into Jace’s face. The first time the ERTs had put her on the floor, pressing her beneath their shields, she’d peed on herself she’d been so scared. The second time, she had vomited. Both times, she’d been staring into the eyes of a dead inmate.
“Laimo, shut up,” Kleopping said. “Instead of giving her grief, why don’t you applaud that she and Graham handled it?”
“Not me, boss, this was all Salome. Kicked this one—” Graham pointed to the inmate in the go-between. “And dragged him by the shackles into here, and slung that one into the wall so hard he couldn’t get up.” He grinned like a young boy. “Actually, it was totally cool. Ninja.”
“Laimo, you’re done. Back to booking.”
“Not a problem.” She turned and was gone in a breath.
Last one in and first one out.
It was what Rory always said about Deputy Sassy Laimo. Rory had what Jace thought of as a hate-hate relationship with Laimo.
Another pang of loneliness washed through Jace. She’d never work with Rory in the jail again. It was great for Rory but made Jace a little sad. Jace’s music, always jazz, had lost some of its fervor the last few weeks. From the speed and intensity of Charlie Parker’s alto sax down to the slower, deeper strains of Sonny Rollins’ tenor sax.
Kleopping yanked his helmet off. His hair stood at odd angles.
“You heard me call you off.”
“We came anyway. Thought it’d be fun.” He clapped her on the shoulder. “You did good. Anybody hurt?”
“Me.” Franco pointed to his nose. “I’m gonna sue that asshole and all y’all. You should’a kept us outta the same hallway.”
Jace turned to him. “And why would that be? Is it possible that’s your fight partner? Made you piss blood and gave you all those bruises?”
Franco opened his mouth then snapped it closed. “Ain’t knowing nothing about that.”
“Right.” She helped him up and headed them toward medical. “Control from 479…one moving to medical. Can you let them know probable broken nose?”
—10-4…well done, Salome—
She waved at the camera, listened to the deputies’ footsteps fading behind her as they went back to booking, and smiled.
She had done well.
Excerpted from WHEN THE LONESOME DOG BARKS courtesy of Down & Out Books. Copyright (c) 2017 by Trey R. Barker. All Rights Reserved.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
Trey R. Barker is the author of the Jace Salome novels, the Barefield series, as well as other novels, collections, non-fiction, and hundreds of short stories. He spent seventeen years, off and on, as a journalist before moving into law enforcement. Currently, he is a sergeant with the Bureau County Sheriff's Office, the crisis negotiator for the regional special-response team, and a member of the Illinois State Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He lives in northern Illinois with three Canine-Americans, though he was born and bred in west Texas. http://treyrbarker.com/