I had hoped to have Kathy’s killer before Mrs. Jackson regained consciousness. Gun and I were close. I had found the gang, and I even had Alejandro in my crosshairs, but we could not connect the dots yet. There were some inconsistencies I hoped Mrs. Jackson could help clear up.
I had not been to the hospital, so I was not sure what to expect. I chatted briefly with the head nurse who assured Gun and me that Mrs. Jackson was well enough to question. According to the nurse, Elle Jackson had asked about us for the last three hours. I remembered the confrontation she had with her husband the day we were at their house. Mrs. Jackson was a fighter. With her help, we might bring her family’s attackers to justice.
The nurse said Mrs. Jackson was in better health, but what I saw sucked the wind out of me. Both her eyes were still black from the beating. The swollen yellow and blue rings showed that at one point Mrs. Jackson was unable to see through her eyes. Elle’s bandaged hands held her broken fingers in place. Mrs. Jackson’s immobilized fractured and dislocated right hip told the story of her violent rape. A head bandage covered most of her scalp. The man or men, who did this had hit her repeatedly in the head, and probably assumed she was dead when she lost consciousness.
Flowers from well-wishers filled her room. Thanks to the news reports she had every color of rose, carnation, and orchid that was sold in the Southland. Poking out between the rose parade of good wishes were cards and aluminum balloons of every shape and size. Apparently, Mrs. Jackson did not have any major plant allergies. The response helped remind me there was still a lot of good in our community.
Even with all her injuries, she smiled when we walked in the room, exposing her two missing teeth. “Have a seat, detectives. Please tell me you have arrested the men who destroyed my family.”
My heart sank. We were coming to Mrs. Jackson for answers, and she was expecting them from us. I decided I should just dive in with the truth. “Mrs. Jackson, we are still working the case. We have some suspects, but we are still gathering evidence.”
“I see.” Mrs. Jackson replied. She reached over to the bed’s remote and began to raise herself into a full sitting position. The pain on face told me her actions were aggravating her injured hip. When she could see us without lifting up, she dropped the bed controls, and the humming of the electric motor ceased. Mrs. Jackson grunted as she adjusted her hip. After letting out a heavy sigh, she asked, “What do you men need? I can tell you anything you want to know.”
Gun looked over at me surprised. I turned back to Mrs. Jackson and asked, “You remember everything about your attackers?”
“I remember enough. I see it replayed every time I close my eyes to go to sleep. What are you looking for?” Mrs. Jackson adjusted her sheets and grimaced in pain.
“Let’s start by helping us understand exactly how many people were in your house when you and your husband were attacked?” I asked.
Mrs. Jackson folded her hands and began her story. “There were at least five men. Each of them wore a costume. Bandanas, hats, they looked almost cowboys from the old west. Except for Diablo. He knew we knew him. At first, they had John and I sit on the couch. They had warned us not to talk to the police if we wanted our daughter back alive, but once I found out she was dead, I didn’t care what that devil had to say. Diablo had returned because he claimed we had broken the deal, not him.”
Gun looked over his notes. “Let me make sure I have this correct Mrs. Jackson. Caleb took your daughter and disappeared. Diablo shows up at your doorstep to tell you he has your daughter and you are not to speak with the police if you want her back alive.”
Elle nodded her head.
Gun continued, “The day we came to your house you did not mention Diablo had been in your home, but he had been there already?”
She nodded again.
Gun pulled his pen out of his pocket. “How long did Alejandro have Kathy?”
“I don’t know.” tears began to trickle from Elle’s blackened eyes. “He could have already killed her by then. We had hoped our baby was still alive.”
Mrs. Jackson was beginning to break down. I decided to jump in and try to get some new information before we needed to stop. I discretely lifted my hand towards Gun, and he finished his questioning. I slid my chair over and patted Elle’s hand to help her calm down, and then I begin to question her.
“It’s okay, Elle. You didn’t do anything wrong. The day you and John were attacked you said there were at least five men, did that include Alejandro?”
“Yes,” she replied. I reached over and got her some tissues for her eyes.
I continued my questioning. “Did you see who killed John?”
Elle began to cry a little harder but then composed herself. “I saw them shoot, John. Alejandro, Diablo, said we had broken his trust and needed to pay the price for disloyalty. I stood up, called him a murderer, and slapped him. A man Diablo called Jose grabbed my arm and punched me in the face. I fell to the ground. Alejandro pulled John off the couch and put him on his knees. John looked at me, and before he could say a word, Alejandro shot him in the back of the ear.”
Elle began to cry again. A nurse stuck her head in the door and said we needed to leave, but Elle stopped us. “No, you need to know the rest. The man called Jose, he is the man who raped me. The other men held my legs, and I fought them until my hip gave way. Then Jose got on top of me and said, “I’m going to do the same thing to you that I did to your daughter.” ”
I looked over at Gun. We had Kathy’s killer in protective custody and did not even know it.
Elle continued, “The last thing I remember after Jose said that was Alejandro kicking me in the head with Caleb’s boots. He laughed because he thought the police would be too stupid to tie the boots to him.”
Elle’s anguish flowed out after she finished. She tried to muffle her cries inside her sheets.
I gently patted her shoulder and thanked her. As Gun and I prepared to leave the nurse administered a sedative to Elle’s I.V.