Cover image for Fourth horseman
Fourth horseman
Dalton, Margot.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada : Mira, [1999]

Physical Description:
378 pages ; 18 cm
Format :


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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

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While out on maternity leave, Spokane detective Jackie Kaminsky uncovers the bodies of a murdered woman and baby buried in the backyard of her new home and sets out to uncover the truth about a thirty-year-old crime, but someone will do anything to keep the past a secret. Original.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

When the remains of a young woman and a newborn baby are unearthed from her seemingly tranquil garden, Jackie Kaminski's joy in being a new homeowner turns sour. In the final stages of her pregnancy, Jackie is on maternity leave from the Spokane police department in this fourth, and best, entry in Dalton's (Third Choice) series about the Washington State detective. Shy of committing fully to Paul, a rancher and the father of her baby, Jackie is determined to be a single mother. She becomes less sure when the baby arrives and Paul wants to be with them full time. Furthermore, Jackie's investigation into the murders brings a terrifying warning from the killer: "I wouldn't mind killing another baby." Satanism, incest and paranormal phenomenaÄalong with creepy neighbors and an old diary hidden in a wallÄadd up to a suspenseful page-turner. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In her fourth outing, Detective Jackie Kaminsky must solve a murder that took place 30 years earlier. This crime quite literally hits close to home: the victims, a mother and her baby, have been laid to rest in the flower bed of Jackie's new home. Jackie, out on maternity leave, fears that the murderer is still in her neighborhood and will harm her baby. To further complicate things, the father of her baby is doing his darnedest to convince this independent female that a wedding would be best for everyone involved. False identities, gritty suspense, and an evil that spans three decades will make this a popular choice with library patrons. Dalton lives in Alberta, Canada.ÄSM (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Rain fell during the night, a cold spring downpour that pattered in the bare tree branches and washed the last snow from the prairie. By morning the streets of Spokane smelled fresh and clean, with a tang of damp sage carried on the west wind and a scent of new grass pushing through wet soil.     Jackie Kaminsky stood at the curb in a quiet residential neighborhood, leaning against her police car, hands jammed deep in the pockets of her jacket. She was a tall woman, still slender and athletic though her body bulged with pregnancy. Her hair was black and short, and her attractive face showed traces of a mixed ethnic background in its dark eyes, high cheekbones and pale coppery skin.     She looked intently at a small two-story house standing back from the street behind a peeling white picket fence. The house was covered in white siding with dark green trim. and shutters, and had a green shingled roof. At one side, a wooden trellis thatched with a network of vines stood above a gate that led to the backyard. The house was encircled by a tall hedge, just beginning to show a drift of new green leaves.     Jackie took a deep breath and pressed one hand automatically against her abdomen. By now, nearing the eighth month of her pregnancy, she was certain she could actually feel the outline of little feet as they pressed into her sides. "Do you like it?" she whispered to the tiny person who rested snug and unseen within her body. "Do you like this house? Because it's probably going to be ours, you know. I think I'm going to buy it for us."     Hearing the words spoken aloud in the quiet April morning made her suddenly fearful. She glanced around nervously, then straightened and moved away from the car as another vehicle pulled up and parked behind her.     A woman got out, hauled a briefcase from the back seat and bustled toward Jackie. She was heavily built, probably in her forties, wearing a long black coat and dark nylon stockings, her plump feet jammed into high-heeled pumps. Her hair was an unlikely shade of bright auburn, and she had a green paisley shawl draped over her shoulders.     "Hello," she said, extending her free hand. "I assume you're Ms. Kaminsky? I'm Lola Bridges."     "And I'm Jackie." They shook hands, taking the measure of each other.     "Well, good morning, Jackie. Nice to meet you." The woman rummaged in her coat pocket. "I'll just find the key, and we can ..."     A vehicle drove past them and braked, then swerved and backed expertly into the spot in front of Jackie's car. She tensed and felt her mouth go dry.     The new arrival was a big ranch truck, its undercarriage caked with mud, bits of straw clinging to the dusty metal sides. As the two women watched, a man climbed down from the driver's seat, slammed the door and strode toward them.     He was tall and bareheaded, the pale sunlight glinting on his smooth blond hair and blunt cheekbones. Even in faded jeans, work boots and a worn denim jacket lined with sheepskin, he moved with lithe grace and the air of contained power that always stirred Jackie.     She watched him draw closer and felt almost sick with love. Her first reaction was to hug him and burrow close. But, as always, Jackie's fear of this emotion rose up and overwhelmed her. So instead she held herself stiffly and gave him a cautious smile.     His dark gaze raked over her, studying the bulge of her abdomen, then her face, with a hungry yearning that took her breath away. But as soon as he caught her eye, he masked his expression and turned to nod politely at the woman with the briefcase.     "This is Paul Arnussen," Jackie said to the real estate saleswoman. "He's a ... friend of mine who's going to have a look at the house for me and see if everything's okay with the foundation and construction. Paul, this is Lola Bridges."     He shook the woman's hand while she gaped up at him with a look of stunned admiration, her plump cheeks and parted lips making her seem like a goldfish with makeup. Jackie hid a wry smile and moved away from them toward the house.     "Well, let's get started, shall we?" she said over her shoulder. "I'm just on a coffee break. I'll have to get back to work soon."     The saleswoman gathered herself together and trotted up the walk next to Jackie. Paul followed, squinting thoughtfully at the exterior of the house.     "I understand you've already viewed the property," Lola Bridges said.     Jackie nodded. "I came over here yesterday afternoon for the open house, and spent almost an hour looking around."     "Oh yes, my assistant was here for the open house. He said it was busy all afternoon." Lola gave her bright, professional smile.     "It was pretty busy. Apparently a lot of people are out looking at houses these days."     Jackie stood aside while Lola unlocked the front door, uncomfortably conscious of the man standing close behind them on the tiny front veranda.     As always when Paul was nearby, the baby seemed, mysteriously, to be excited by his presence. The baby was moving and surging with buoyant energy. Jackie winced as it turned and kicked lustily.     They walked into the house, paused to take off their boots and left them on the entry mat, while Lola hurried through the house switching on the lights. Alone with Paul, Jackie sighed and pressed both hands against her stomach.     "I think this kid is turning somersaults," she said. "All the thumping around is practically driving me crazy."     He glanced down at her, then moved closer and pulled her jacket aside to lay a callused palm on the bulge of her abdomen. When the baby stirred and kicked against the pressure of his hand, Paul's face relaxed into one of the rare, shining smiles that always transformed him, making him look boyish and young.     But the warmth vanished as soon as it came. He withdrew his hand and studied Jackie's face.     "Are you feeling all right?" he asked. "You're not getting too tired?"     "I'm fine. These days I'm eating spinach and liver, even though it makes me sick," she told him with forced lightness. "And swallowing tons of vitamin pills and folic acid. This is probably going to be the healthiest baby in the world."     He seemed on the verge of saying something else, or reaching out to touch her again. To Jackie's relief, the real estate agent came back with a folder in her hands.     "It's pretty straightforward," Lola said, glancing curiously at the two of them as they stood together in the foyer. "Just a lovely, cozy little house with everything a young family needs. A perfect starter home. Clear title, no existing mortgage. Too bad it's empty at the moment," she added. "The last occupants had it furnished so nicely."     "I'll go down and check the basement, if you don't mind," Paul told her. "I'd like to have a look at the foundation."     The agent indicated a door behind her and he moved away, looking big and broad-shouldered in the narrow hallway.     Lola watched him go, then cast Jackie another questioning glance.     "I'll need to know what the property taxes are," Jackie said. "And the average monthly utility bills."     "I have all that information right here. We can sit down and go over the numbers after you and your ..." Lola hesitated, looking down at the papers in her hands. "After both of you have had a chance to look around," she concluded awkwardly.     "Thank you." Jackie moved into the small living room and studied the brick fireplace with its old-fashioned gas heater and oak mantel.     Beyond the window she could see the veranda and the branches of a tree that drooped across the railing.     "That's a mountain ash," the woman said, following her glance. "In the summer it shades the whole front of the house and makes it quite dark."     Jackie pictured the bower of sheltering green leaves, the berries and flocks of birds. She turned away to hide her expression and ran a finger along part of the oak chair rail that encircled the room.     "Such overdone woodwork," the saleswoman commented. "I've never thought it really suited a modest house like this."     Her manner seemed oddly negative. Jackie wondered suddenly if perhaps Lola Bridges had another buyer for the house.     "It sounds like you know a lot about the place," Jackie said, trying to sound offhanded.     "Well, as a matter of fact, I do." Lola waved a hand toward the front window. "My father lives next door. He's been there for almost twenty-five years. That's how I got the listing, actually. My father was quite friendly with the young couple who own the house."     "No kidding," Jackie said. "So you grew up in the neighborhood?"     The woman smiled wryly. "Well, thank you for that nice compliment, Jackie, bat I'm afraid not. I was already in college when Dad moved here."     Jackie heard Paul's footsteps as he came back up from the basement and mounted the stairs to the second floor. She waited tensely, listening while he moved around overhead, then came down.     He leaned in the arched living-room entry, watching her.     "Well?" she said at last.     "It looks fine. I found a few cracks in the basement walls, but that's to be expected in a house this age. And they're all vertical cracks, so they aren't likely to be a problem. It's the big horizontal cracks that wind up costing you money."     Jackie felt a surge of relief.     "Could you excuse us for a moment?" Paul said to the saleswoman.     He nodded to Jackie and started toward the kitchen, padding softly in his heavy work socks.     She followed him through the door and stood by the sink, looking down nervously.     The silence lengthened between them, growing tense and uncomfortable.     "You're sure about what you're doing, Jackie?" he asked at last. "This is really what you want?"     "Paul, I don't want to get into all that again. We've talked about it a hundred times and we never get anywhere."     "That's because you won't ..." He clenched his jaw and stared out the window at the backyard, his profile etched with a pale wash of silver.     Suddenly, Jackie was overtaken by another stormy wave of sexual desire. Again she longed to touch him, to nestle in his arms and hold him close, to smell his clean male scent and taste his mouth. It was a struggle to bring the wayward emotions under control and keep him from seeing her weakness.     "I'm not prepared to move out and live at the ranch with you," she said. "And I'm not sure if I ever will be."     "Why not?" He looked at her steadily. "You keep telling me how much you like the ranch."     "Don't be dense, Paul. You know the ranch isn't the whole issue. It's --"     "Commitment," he said when she stopped abruptly. "Oh yes, I know how scared you are of committing to a life with me, Jackie. God knows we've fought about it often enough. I just never thought you'd carry it this far."     "How far?"     "Choosing to raise your child without a father."     "I'm not raising this baby without you!" she said, stung. "You'll be able to see the baby whenever you choose."     "That's always nice to hear," he said dryly. "Visits every weekend. Maybe a phone call in the evening when the kid gets older. Sounds like a great life."     Jackie ignored the sarcasm, since this was an argument they'd had many times before. "But I also don't want to raise my baby in an apartment," she went on as if he hadn't spoken. "That's why I think a little house like this is the ideal solution."     "Well, I still believe it's a huge mistake. I think you should be living with me, both of you. I want this baby to grow up in my house. I want to marry you, Jackie. It's what I've always wanted, and I always will."     "Look, I really don't think we should be--"     "I know," he said wearily, waving a hand to cut off her words. "I know what you think. And I'm fired of arguing with you. I'm tired of these fears and demons you haven't been able to shake since childhood. I wish you'd give me a chance to show you how secure I could make you. Why can't you try it, Jackie?"     For a moment she pictured herself giving in, moving out to the ranch with him where they'd sleep together every night and share their child.     But the seductive image was washed away almost immediately by a cold, familiar wave of fear.     Jackie Kaminsky had always been a loner, If she was alone, she could look after herself without risk of being left or abandoned. The thought of putting her life into the hands of anybody, even this man she loved, was too terrifying to be contemplated.     "Paul, let's not do this," she pleaded, turning away from his intent gaze. "Let's just talk about the house, okay?"     "Sure, fine," he said coldly. "It's a nice little house, Jackie. If you want to buy it, go ahead. For the money, you're probably getting a pretty good deal."     He turned and left the kitchen. She followed him and waited while he said a brief farewell to Lola Bridges, then pulled on his boots and strode down the walk to his truck.     "Oh, my goodness. What a handsome man that is," the saleswoman breathed, watching through the front window as he climbed behind the wheel.     "He's a ... friend of yours, you said?"     "He's my baby's father," Jackie said. "Now, can we go somewhere and talk about this deal? I don't have much time."     They sat outside the house in Lola's car with listing forms and papers spread on the seat between them. Lola asked questions, punched numbers on her calculator and scribbled busily on a sheet of paper.     "Now, what's your place of employment, Jackie?" she asked.     "I'm a detective with the Spokane Police Department." "Really?" The plucked eyebrows shot up. "How long have you had that job?"     "I made detective four years ago, but I've been in the police force for almost fourteen years, since I was twenty."     "All of that time in Spokane?"     Jackie shook her head. "I started as a patrol officer in Los Angeles, where I grew up. After about five years I moved to Spokane."     "Well, that's just fascinating," Lola said. "What would your annual salary be? I need to know," she added when Jackie hesitated, "so we can calculate your eligibility for the mortgage."     "The base salary is forty-one thousand a year, but overtime bumps it up quite a bit. I usually net about twenty-five hundred a month after deductions and my pension contribution."     "And how much can you bring forward as a down payment?"     "I have eleven thousand saved, but I'll want to keep a couple thousand of that in reserve to buy things I'm going to need when the baby comes."     "Of course. Nine thousand is more than adequate." Lola scribbled busily on her notepad. "So, if we can get them to come down a little on their price, that would mean a mortgage of ... say, eighty thousand dollars. At current rates, with interest and taxes included, the monthly payment would be about seven hundred a month, or a little more than twenty-five percent of your net income."     "Will the bank be willing to go for that?"     "Oh, I'm sure they will. In facet, you could almost certainly qualify for a higher mortgage if you wanted a house that was a little--" Lola paused tactfully. "A little newer," she said at last.     Jackie felt a flood of relief. "I don't want a newer house," she said. "I want this one."     "Are you sure?" Lola cast her a thoughtful glance. "It's not wise to underbuy, you know. And with your salary and available down payment, I could show you a lot of very nice properties."     "This is the house I want."     The woman frowned briefly and seemed on the verge of continuing the argument, then gave Jackie a bright smile. "I see. Well, then, we'll just have to write up an offer and see that you get it, won't we?"     "I guess we will." Jackie looked out the window at the little green and white house, annoyed by the saleswoman's patronizing manner.     But she was afraid to antagonize Lola Bridges. For the moment, at least, Jackie had the uncomfortable sense that this woman held her future, and the baby's, in those pudgy hands sparkling with rings.     "When should I talk to the bank?" she asked.     "As soon as possible. Today, if you can. We'll need confirmation on acceptance of the offer that you can come up with the funds."     Anxiety gnawed at Jackie, a result of the lifelong insecurity over money that was a legacy of her impoverished childhood.     "You're sure there won't be any problem with the mortgage?"     "Nothing that I can see at the moment. Unless you have a lot of other debts and fixed payments?"     "Just my car loan at three hundred a month, and it's almost paid off. There's another four or five months to go, I think."     "No outstanding credit card balances?"     Jackie shook her head. "I only have one credit card, and I pay it in full every month. I'm very disciplined with money," she said.     Well, that was certainly true. In fact, the one extravagance in Jackie's life was the money she sent on a more or less regular basis to her grandmother in Los Angeles.     God only knew what those checks were spent on.     Irene Kaminsky swore she wasn't drinking anymore, that the money went straight into the bank and was used to buy food, pay medical bills and make life a little nicer for herself and Jackie's ne'er-do- well cousins, Joey and Carmelo, who still lived with Gram though they were in their mid-twenties by now.     Jackie, too, had grown up in that squalid apartment in south L.A., after her father ran off and her young mother died of a drug overdose when Jackie was little more than a baby. Irene Kaminsky had the care of a number of her grandchildren, a group of cousins whose unruly antics had made the old woman's cranky nature even more sharp and irritable.     On Jackie's rare visits to her grandmother these days, she never saw any evidence of the money she sent. A couple of the ancient appliances were usually malfunctioning, and a front windowpane that had been shot out a couple of yearn earlier was still covered with weathered plywood.     No doubt Gram spent the money on vodka and bingo. But if Jackie went too long without mailing a check, she was sure to get an abusive, accusatory phone call from the old lady, and after all these years she still couldn't withstand Gram's verbal attacks.     In fact, that was another of the things she and Paul fought about ...     "Hmm?" she asked with a start, realizing that Lola was saying something to her.     "I just wanted you to sign the offer. Right here, and on this line, too."     Jackie looked at the form. Her heart beat faster and she felt suddenly terrified by what she was doing.     Jackie Kaminsky, about to become a home owner. What a concept.     She kept her face deliberately expressionless, took the pen and signed the real estate form.     "Well, that's just excellent," Lola said with satisfaction, tucking the sheet into her briefcase. "Now I'll run back to my office and present this to the vendors before lunch. I'll call you as soon as I can with their reply."     "Thanks. I'll be waiting to hear from you." "That man ... your friend ..." Lola fingered the gearshift lever. "Yes?"     "I'm curious. You said he's the father of your baby, didn't you? But I take it you're not planning to live together."     "That's right." Jackie watched a thin black cat as it slipped under the trellis beside the house and walked up onto the veranda, then squeezed back through the railing, jumped lightly to the ground and vanished into the lilac hedge.     "Why not, if you don't mind me asking?" But I do mind, Jackie thought, startled. In fact, I mind a whole hell of a lot. She looked at the woman's heavy makeup, her dyed hair and consciously dramatic clothes, and marveled that anybody could ask such a question.     People were so amazing ... "Because you know, if I had a man like that," Lola said wistfully, "believe me, I wouldn't let him out of my sight for a minute."     Jackie glanced again at Lola's left hand. Despite all of the rings on those plump fingers, there was no evidence of a wedding band.     Her annoyance gave way to reluctant sympathy. Lola Bridges sounded like a lonely person, and Jackie knew all about loneliness.     "Paul and I have a lot of differences," she said at last. "He owns a ranch out by Reardan, and living that far from the city would be difficult for me given that I work odd hours and have to be on call. Besides, he's not thrilled about being married to a police officer. He thinks the job's too dangerous. If we lived together, he'd start pressuring me to quit. Especially," she added, "now that I'm pregnant."     "But you're still friends?"     Jackie thought about Paul's look of hungry intensity, quickly masked, his obvious anger over her purchase of this house and the tension that always hung between them these days.     She wondered if it was possible to make anybody truly understand the complexity of a relationship, the powerful attraction that drew a man and woman to each other and the disagreements, fears and insecurities that made it impossible for them to live together.     "Sure," she said at last. "We're still friends." Lola sighed. "I think that's so romantic."     "Romantic?" Jackie smiled without humor. "I'm not sure that's the exact word I'd use to describe our relationship."     "But he loves you so much," Lola said. "The man's crazy about you. Anybody can tell that by the way he looks at you."     "I have to get going." Jackie glanced abruptly at her watch and reached for the door handle, then paused     "Do you think you could let me have the key, just for now? I'd like to go through the house once more by myself."     "Well, it's not usually allowed until the deal is concluded. But tell you what." Lola gave her a conspiratorial smile. "I'll let you into the house before I go, and you be sure to lock it up when you leave, au right?"     "Thanks," Jackie said gratefully. "I'd really appreciate that."     She followed the woman back to the house, stood in the doorway watching as Lola drove off, then went inside.     The baby moved and kicked, and Jackie smiled.     "Well, it looks like this is really going to happen, kiddo," she said to her bulging smock. "And you know what else? I think maybe we already have a cat."     There was no sign of the black cat at the moment, but she'd detected a certain proprietorial manner in the way he'd slipped under the trellis and marched up onto the veranda.     Although a black cat was supposed to be bad luck, wasn't it?     Jackie remembered her grandmother, with her harsh superstitious nature. "A black cat's a terrible omen, Jackie. If you see it when you're starting something new, you'll surely fail ..."     She shrugged off her memory of the bitter old woman and moved through the rooms of the little house with a growing sense of euphoria.     It was really, truly happening. She was going to buy this place. For the first time in her life, she'd be a property owner.     That hinged oak window seat in the living room, the flower-sprigged wallpaper, the bathroom with its big claw-footed tub and the mountain ash in the front yard--all would be hers.     Already she loved the place.     Jackie climbed the stairs to the room on the second floor she'd designated in her mind as the nursery. The wallpaper was faded and dull, peeling away from the oak baseboard in places.     She and Paul had done a lot of wallpapering together while he renovated the old house on his ranch. Maybe she could ask him to help. They worked efficiently as a team, and it was so much easier than wrestling with wet sheets of paper all alone.     Then she remembered his attitude that morning, his look of disappointment and taut anger as he'd left the house.     "I'm afraid we're on our own, sweetie," she said ruefully to the baby. "Your daddy isn't crazy about us having this house in the first place. It's hardly fair to ask him to hang wallpaper for us."     She moved around the little room, picturing where she'd place the crib, the changing table and the little dresser she'd already purchased, with its rows of whimsical teddy-bear knobs on the drawers.     Near the window she felt a sudden chill, like an icy breath on the nape of her neck. Jackie paused and examined the window, which was closed and locked. Tattered lace curtains hung limply across the glass.     Again she felt the coldness, and a wholly irrational sense of dread, as if she were in the presence of something evil. She moved forward and put her hand out to see if air was coming in around the window frame. But she could find no evidence of a leak.     At that moment the curtain lifted and stirred in the morning stillness, as if a breeze tugged at it gently.     "When a curtain moves and the window's not open," Gram's voice said in her memory, "it's terrible bad luck, Jackie. It means somebody's going to die soon in that room ..."     Jackie was stunned by her clammy rush of terror. She'd never paid the slightest attention to her grandmother's drivel in the past. Pregnancy must be making her come unglued.     She left the small bedroom and went back downstairs, walking with a firm tread and resisting the nervous urge to look over her shoulder.     But she kept a protective hand over the warm swell of her abdomen, and she couldn't quite shake the unreasoning sense of dread, even after she'd locked the door and walked back outside into the thin April sunshine. Copyright © 1999 Margot Dalton. All rights reserved.