Half a Dozen [Sunset Investigations Vol. III]
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by Sharon Kull
Description: Detectives Ryan and Curtis, partners in Sunset Investigations, are up against several cases that follow one another so closely, drawing a calming breath is nearly impossible. If they aren't trying to find the reason a new mother was murdered, they're after a jewelry thief, or stalker. Mrs. Patrick would like to participate more in the nitty-gritty, but her lack of experience is a definite drawback.
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, 2008 SynergEbooks
eBookwise Release Date: July 2008
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [482 KB]
Reading time: 299-419 min.
The cry of alarm from their elderly, rotund girl-friday, after they had rolled her in her swivel chair out of their second story agency and into the corridor, caused the two detectives to stare at the door they'd just snapped shut behind her. As partners in Sunset Investigations, their experiences had a tendency to be high key. However, the high pitched key of Doreen Patrick's voice had taken them by complete surprise.
Neatly presented men in their dress slacks and crisply ironed shirts, stood rooted to the spot long enough to exchange puzzled expressions. Marcus Ryan was the first to react, by yanking open the door. Aware of Frank crowding close behind him, he took one step across the threshold, and saw a tragic scene.
The wide corridor, although exceeding a hundred feet in length, seemed jam packed with an air of mystery, even though there was but a single clue left behind by fate. A dead woman. First glance said she was African-American, in her late teens or early twenties. Approximately five and a half feet tall, her thin body was sprawled in a pool of blood, belly up, head turned to one side. Unseeing eyes stared at the closed elevator doors.
"Uh, guys," Mrs. Doreen Patrick gasped, her outstretched arms gesturing in all directions. She was still seated in her swivel chair, both feet on its star shaped base to keep them off the carpeting. Her voice had become squeaky. "I thought the poor thing was dead, but then she wasn't, only now she really is!"
"How do you know?" Frank was still angled behind his partner, peering around broad shoulders. He nudged his way into the corridor.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. Between the time I thought she was dead there on the floor, and when she really died, she spoke to me. The poor girl said she'd changed her mind. What do you suppose she meant?"
"There's of course no way of knowing, unless we investigate," Marcus needlessly replied. He stepped closer to the body, and stooping, began an intent, hands-off study. There was no outward sign of a crime. Nothing spoke for violence, certainly not a knife wound, or one caused by another weapon. There hadn't been any noise to alert three individuals, who had been practically within arm's reach of the victim so recently claimed by the Grim Reaper.
Studying the carpeted floor with every slow stride, Frank worked his way completely around the corpse, then along the corridor, first toward the street facing window, then backtracking and continuing to the opposite end. Other than the agency door, which was wide open, none of the other three doors he passed on his trek were unlocked. Finally, he returned to stand before the elevator and depressed the button, summoning the box. "Except for the carpet beneath, and immediately near her lower torso, there's not a drop of blood anywhere," he said across his shoulder. He was not, however, looking at his partner and girl-friday. The sliding door opened, revealing several splotches of fresh blood on the floor. "There's enough of it in here, though. Not that there can be any doubt, but she rode up and collapsed when she got out. The blood is fresh, it hasn't started showing signs of drying."
"This had to have happened just before Mrs. P. found her," Marcus said, holding the back of his left hand just above the victim's throat, close enough to feel slight warmth without touching her. The reason neither Frank or himself had seen the dead woman when they'd provoked Mrs. Patrick and had wheeled her into the corridor, was two fold. First, they hadn't passed through the doorway, and secondly, the elevator wasn't directly across the corridor, it was several yards toward the front of the building. The rectangular structure had been built two decades earlier, out of concrete block, on a corner lot, with the entrance on a short side, facing the major street. None of the windows, no matter where located, were the kind that opened. Without either a fire-escape, or ledge wide enough for a toe-hold, they were out of reach, anyway. "Check with the other tenants, find out if any of them were expecting her. I'll phone the police."
"My guess is that she bled to death," Doreen declared, nodding a single time. "Would one of you boys push me away from her?"
Standing, Marcus silently obeyed the request while glancing at Frank, who was already walking away. "Keep an eye on her, Mrs. P., I'll be right back."
In short order, he was conversing with Tucson's Chief of Police, Charlie Armatron. Marcus normally skipped the front desk, dialing that head honcho directly. The two of them had known each other for a good many of Marcus' thirty-five years. Charlie had passed the double nickel in age.
"We haven't disturbed the body," stated reassuringly, after having disclosed the reason for phoning. "Frank is questioning the tenants in the building, and Mrs. Patrick is on guard duty in the corridor."
"Do you have any idea who the deceased is? Or where she was going?"
"I've got this feeling that I've seen her before, only I'm having trouble remembering where."
"Could she have been headed for your agency?"
"You know we're not the only business on this floor, there are two others," Marcus reminded him. "Anything is possible, though. For the record, I doubt your theory."
"It's not a theory. I was merely asking your opinion. My forensic team will turn up enough evidence to indicate a motive."
"Given time, they will. You know the suspense while they take their sweet old time, drives me up the wall. I'm more than ready for answers even before a victim has been checked out at the scene, and taken to the morgue."
"Team's on the way," Chief Armatron said, having given the order while Marcus was talking. "When the results are in, I'll see that you get a report, ASAP. You're going to investigate this?"
"The agency hasn't been hired, but yeah, Frank and I will be investigating. How can we ignore a corpse on our doorstep?"
"It'd be impossible for me," Charlie admitted. "One more thing. What is the dead woman wearing?"
"I thought you'd never ask. Although she's thin, her shades of blue dress is baggy. There are two hospital identification bracelets on her."
"I'd say she recently had a baby."
"And I'm lost. Clue me in."
"She's lying in a pool of blood, without any obvious sign of a wound in the areas of chest or lower torso." He'd deliberately omitted revealing the data he had gleaned from the I.D. bracelets, and was amazed that Charlie hadn't picked up on it.
"What about on her back?"
"My uneducated guess is that back wounds don't bleed profusely. At least the ones I've seen haven't. I know better than to turn her over, Charlie. I'm going to go now; I hear your team out in the corridor. How'd they get here so fast?"
"They were already in the area. Consider getting a cordless telephone," Marcus was told from halfway across the city, a split second before the distant receiver hit its cradle.
Staring at the mouthpiece on the cordless phone in his hand, hearing the disconnect buzzing, Marcus grimaced. "How far behind the times does he think we are?"