MURDER ON THE ROCKS--work in progress
Murder is a seductive story that keeps me hypnotized and soothes my itchy feet. Macabre? Maybe. But I’d like to see you walk away from it. Money and murder-the world’s most fascinating subjects. Forget love; I left all that in behind. Love is for sunny, squishy people and I’m dark. Black hair and black heart walking on the real side of life where love stabs, shoots and poisons.
I’m a homicide detective. I get paid to put it all together. Let me tell you something about my job. The more violent the crime, the closer the relationship is between victim and murderer. Murder investigation is a two-piece puzzle. One piece is the crime scene and it forms half the picture; the other is the family, witnesses and suspects. Ideally, the two halves come together and form a complete whole and your case is solved. If they don’t, either I’ve made a mistake or someone is lying. And I don’t make mistakes.
“Well, whaddya think, Rogers?” Officer Hill chewed his toothpick. “Call came in from the landlord. Thought the vic was a mannequin.” I looked at the bloody mess and multiple bullet holes in the body. “Lead poisoning,” I pronounced.
“Yeah, good thing we have you here to tell us the obvious,” Officer Smith observed, fiddling with his watch.
“Suck my dick, Smith,” I retorted and stepped outside for some fresh air. The bright green of the lawn and trees was a relief after all that fatal red. I removed a hand-rolled from my pouch, perched it on my lip, struck a wooden match with my thumbnail and lit the cigarette. I loved this job. My cell buzzed. “Rogers.” I said.
“Jill? Jim. Whatcha got over there?”
The DA. Not an ADA or an intern, the motherfucking big daddy himself, Hallelujah Jim Harrison. “Just a routine homicide. We got it.”
I rolled my eyes. “The usual, Mormon school boys, Amish mothers, bunny rabbits.”
Jim ignored my jabs. “Make sure to secure the scene. I want the dirt bag caught.”
The DA got fuzzed up over every little thing in an election year. “Yes, sir!” I replied fervently. Jim mistaking the malice for sincerity.
“Bless you, Jill. You’re God’s own hero and I’m always thanking Him that you’re on our side.”
“Yes sir,” I repeated dully. I pulled smoke deep into the black canyons of my lungs. Once I had seen Jim laying hands on new hires. At the Christmas party, he gave me a gold cross on a chain. I waited until I got home to drop it in the trash.
“Just make sure you’re thorough. Don’t leave a square inch unexamined. I don’t want there to be any chance of this case getting kicked. Air tight, okay, Jill?”
“Absolutely.” What was he on about? This appeared to be a garden-variety shooting. Jim’s involvement was unnecessary. “Whatever you do, fly under Jim’s radar. Don’t let him get involved. Don’t become a pet of his or you’ll regret it.” My ADA friend, Marny Marlowe, had advised me on my first day. Too late, I thought, returning my phone to my pocket.
“Are we interrupting your coffee break with this murder, Rogers?” Officer Smith asked over my shoulder.
“Nope. Just finishing up.” I grinned, flicking my roach into the grass and following Smith back inside. I rolled on latex gloves.
“Well, it looks like a burg gone bad,” he said. “There was a helluva struggle. This guy didn’t want to let his shit go.”
I bent over the body and looked at his hands. “His fingernails are broken.”
“And that’s not all. Look at this.” Smith guided me through the house. There was blood spatter on every wall. Back in the living room, I looked at the ceiling. “Up there too.” I pointed.
“Jesus,” Smith muttered. “What the hell is worth that kind of fight?”
“Your life?” I said. “This was overkill.”
“Probably just made the assailant mad and he couldn’t stop,” Hill said.
“Wait a minute.” I frowned. The victim was white, in his thirties, rough. He had six bullet holes and blood smeared all over him but there was no blood from the wounds themselves. They were dry and clean. “Post mortem,” I whispered. I turned the victim’s head and there was a red line on his neck. I removed a magnifying glass from my pocket, pulled up the victim’s eyelid and shone my flashlight into his eye. Petechial hemorrhages. “Cause of death wasn’t shooting. This man was strangled. They shot him after he was dead and mopped him in this blood.” I stood straight. “Shit! Whose blood is this?”
It was a dark and stormy December night when I got the call. Sheriff Perryman had a case just outside the city limits that she wanted my department to evaluate. Having been newly elected and a female, the first woman sheriff in tri-state history, Dana Perryman wanted no mistakes in her administration. She intended to single-handedly transform the country bumpkin image of the sheriff’s office. She wanted no more parallels drawn between Andy Griffith and the Tulsa County Sheriffs. She wanted the comparisons to the Three Stooges to end. She wanted no more inmates lost in jail or accidentally released. She wanted no more deputies unable to understand a written court order. She wanted no more deputies napping in court. In short, she wanted to eliminate the ignorant hicks from her staff. And that made her universally despised. The rumor ripples and vitriol had been felt far enough to make it to me-the last grape on the vine. And Perryman wanted to repair the petty, jurisdictional wars between city and county, so in the interest of cross-departmental diplomacy, I was called to go to the death scene and to take my olive branch. I was curious to get a look at this broad and very interested in how she got the job in a county that still wasn’t sure about evolution or the solar system.
After I hung up from being summoned, I cursed the cold rain, put my box of dinner back in the freezer, got into my 86 Buick Grand National Turbo and drove out to the beeline west of town. The rain beat like drumsticks on the roof. I blew past vehicles that had pulled into the emergency land and under bridges to wait out the storm. I cupped my hands to my mouth and blew on them. My breath plumed between my fingers like steam. Predictions stated this winter rain would turn to ice any minute. I promised myself a hot bucket of chicken after I wrapped this up.
“Damn, where is the heat?” I played with the knobs. The low-down heater had never worked right.
The scene on the highway was lurid in the rainy blackness: smeary red police lights, headlights, spotlights, cars crawling by the detour, uniforms directing traffic with flashlights. The sound of rain on my car roof abruptly changed to the sound of sand and I knew the ice was here. I skidded close to the scene and a few officers jumped like gazelles out of the way. I pushed my hood into the police tape. I revved the engine a couple of times and turned it off.
The ice pellets dropped down my collar and on my blue-black hair and clicked on the ground like tiny glass beads. I stomped my boots a few times to warm my feet. The air was silent except for the encompassing sound of millions of ice grains ticking on the pavement. I walked through the barriers to a bevy of brown.
“Sheriff Perryman?” I said in general. Ordinarily, I didn’t stop to greet anyone at a crime scene, but I knew tonight was different. The deputies scowled at me and parted to reveal the sheriff. Reading from top to bottom: white girl, of course, with thin brown hair clipped in a pony, no make-up, oversized glasses, thick overcoat and long legs clad in pressed brown uniform slacks. “I’m Officer Rogers from Homicide. Grrl, congrats on being the big dog!” I held out my hand. Wordlessly, she bit her glove to remove it and clasped mine in her own bony, chilled hand. “Spin so I can see whatcha got!” I raised her hand and tried to twirl her. Sheriff jerked her hand from mine.
“Detective Rogers, that will be quite enough.” Perryman stated, her voice colder than the air. “The accident is over here.” She strode away and I stared at her trunk.
“Not flat enough for mid-town but too flat for the west side. You sho didn’t use that to win, so you musta got the goods on somebody.”
The sheriff whirled indignantly, losing her footing momentarily in the ice pellets. I reached to steady her and she swatted my hands away. “I was warned against you and I am disappointed to find you are worse than I anticipated. I had hoped we would have a common understanding as two females trying to be successful in a male-dominated profession, but you have ruined that hope with your puerile humor. This is all going in my report.”
“Woof!” I said, grinning. “Feisty! What say we stop flirting and get a look at this body?”
“Oh for God’s sake. You’re just like these teenage boys calling themselves deputies,” she muttered, kneeling with me over the victim.
Time to focus. I put a cigarette in my mouth and lit it.
“There’s not smoking here, Officer.” Perryman sniped.
“Where?” I looked around, a speck of ice hitting my eyeball. “The earth? Let’s get to work.”
The dead woman was sprawled on the asphalt, her body twisted into a swastika, a scarf covering her face, a blanket of ice beads already pooling in her clothes and hair. I removed a pair of latex gloves from my pocket and put them on, an act that never failed to give my crotch a charge.
“The call came in about an hour ago from a passing motorist.” Perryman consulted her notepad. “The caller said the vehicle never slowed down. The caller thought it was a mannequin. My men say it’s just an accidental hit and run. Vehicular manslaughter.”
I squinted up through the smoke and ice at Perryman. “But you had a hunch, didn’t you?”
A faint smile twitched one corner of her mouth. “Yes.”
I stood up, enjoying every feline inch of my frame. “And you called me,” I purred.
Perryman dropped her eyes. “Yes.”
I crunched around the body. “How much tromping through this scene have the hillbillies done?” I smoked, enjoying the flare of coal in the middle of the ice storm. I exhaled a big, blue cloud.
“None. The responding deputy secured the scene and called me.”
“None?” I gestured to big, ice-filled boot prints pressed in the mud next to the asphalt.
Perryman shrugged. “Not ours.”
“It’s not a felony swerve, that’s for sure,” I said under my breath. I held out my hand and without a word, Perryman put her flashlight into my grip.
Perryman’s eyes lit up. “I knew it! What do you see?”
“Well, between the report and the deputy arriving, somebody came back and wiped the blood from her face.” I barely lifted the scarf and pointed to the cleaned smears around her chin and throat that were only visible under the strong beam of Perryman’s flashlight. “And he or she laid the scarf over her head. See?” I pointed uphill. “The direction she was dragged would make it impossible for her scarf to be over her head. And one shoe is on and the other one is placed neatly upright near the body. That loose shoe should be somewhere between her car and here, not sitting pretty right next to her. What a mess.” I shook my head and motioned for the body to be removed.
“So wait,” Perryman held her hands out. “What is this? Accident? Hit and run?”
“Hell no. It’s murder, Sheriff.”
“Aren’t you?” I grinned. “This woman was set up, run over and dragged till dead. And considering that she was most likely killed on impact, that she was dragged so far after the collision is vindictive.”
Perryman clapped her gloved hands together. “Murder! Thank you, Officer Rogers.”
A chubby, balding deputy with glasses approached. “Chief, you ready to send these boys home to their families? Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on here, just a sad axie-dent in a ice storm.”
“Officer Rogers and I believe it to be murder, Harris. So no one will be going home.”
Deputy Harris laughed. “Now why would you think that? I been a deputy 45 years and I’m sayin’ this little gal had car trouble, got out to flag down help and got hit, case closed. Murder. That dog just won’t hunt.”
“Analysis of the scene indicates-“ Perryman began.
Harris cut her off. “Now listen, young queen, we’ve a been takin’ care a this county long before you was born and we done all right. Remember who you work for and don’t get tangled up in the city’s fancy theories.” Harris spat tobacco at my feet. “Sheriff, you got to dance with who brung ya. This ain’t no murder.” He ambled away.
Perryman was red-faced. Suddenly, I regretted what a heel I had been and I saw the obstacles this woman faced every hour.
“Hey, Sheriff, I am sorry-“ I began.
“Save it.” She snapped. “I don’t need your motherfucking pity. I heard you were good at your job. Too bad you’re just a throbbing hormone.” She jogged away to give instructions to her deputies.
I smiled and flicked my butt into the darkness. Chicken time.