EXCERPT from REECE: Prequel to the Dark Legacy series
Los Angeles, November 2016
My name is Reece Daniels and I used to be a detective with the LAPD. You know, even though I’d been a cop for a lot of years, the things people could do to each other still astounded me. And I didn’t like how it made me feel. I’d become jaded working homicide and had been looking for something to make what I did seem worthwhile. The bad guys were getting badder and there didn’t seem to be any hope of that changing any time soon. And, more times than not, they got away with it, either because there wasn’t enough evidence to convict or on a legal technicality that allowed them to get off scot-free. Criminals had rights. What the hell! I hated apprehending the bad guy just to watch him walk.
It was around that time I met Andre. Andre Delacroix. He was a doctor working in the children’s wing at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and I was on a difficult case with nothing to go on: the murder of one of their nurses. I needed answers. And as she’d worked with the doctor I was eager to talk to him.
We became fast friends, and over time best friends. More like brothers, really. I’d grown up an only child, so it was good to have someone to connect with in that way. We had a lot in common on a personal level. He became my sounding board, my confidante, and I thought I was his too. But there was something he was keeping from me, a huge secret, and I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I was the kind of man who trusted my gut and believed that if I could see it, touch it, taste it, smell it and hear it then it was real. Did I have a lot to learn?
Ten years went by before Andre opened my eyes to the things out there that I had no idea about. Sometimes I wonder what took him so long and then I remember his secret and why he couldn’t tell me. But before then I was flying blind. I was chasing perpetrators I would never catch. Today I’m taking down the bad guys one at a time. But they’re not your ordinary, everyday criminals, there’s far more to it than that. So let’s go back to where it all began…
Los Angeles, July 2004
I was on my way to another crime scene, the flashing blue light suctioned to the hood of my 1966 midnight blue Mustang convertible screaming shrilly as I hurtled along the one ten freeway heading south. I’d been investigating another case when the call came through. Dave Colson, my partner, was already at the location and had contacted me to tell me where to meet him. The body had been discovered in an alley downtown by a homeless guy rummaging through the dumpster for food scraps.
I screeched the car to a halt outside the entrance to the alleyway, flung the door open and climbed out of the vehicle, slapping a police parking permit on the windshield before threading my way through journalists, uniforms, and curious onlookers, and heading down to the scene. “What have we got, Dave?”
Dave spun on his heel. “Hey, Reece, didn’t expect you to get here so fast. What’d you do? Fly?” He gave me one of his cheesy grins.
“Pretty much. So what’s the situation?” I folded my arms, my body tense, my gut tight.
“Female. Early to mid-twenties. Caucasian.”
My eyes moved to the coroner’s guys disinterring the body from the large, blue metal receptacle standing beside the backdoor of a burger place reeking of burnt cooking oil and fried onions. “What else?” My gaze returned to my partner.
Dave’s Adam’s apple bobbed above the neckline of his T-shirt. “Her throat’s been ripped out.”
“What?!” I pushed past him and stalked across the alley to the dumpster. “Hey, Jim, what can you tell me about the victim and the injuries sustained?”
He turned around. “Hi, Reece. I’d say she’s been dead around twelve hours, give or take. I’ll be able to calculate a more precise time once I examine her. And…”
“What about her throat being torn out?” I stood with my hands on my hips.
Jim walked over to the gurney and lifted the flap on the black body bag.
I followed. “Jesus!” My stomach rolled and bile rushed up my throat. I raised my hand to my mouth and coughed.
“Yeah, and to answer your question, I can’t explain that yet. Like I said, I’ll let you know as soon as I do a thorough exam back at the lab.” Jim frowned as the guys loaded the body into the van. “Off the record.” He turned his gaze back to me. “It looks like something an animal, like a bear or wolf or something big would do. If a person did that…” he said, shaking his head, “hell, then I don’t know.”
I rested my hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay?”
He gave a heavy sigh. “Not really, no. I think I need a new line of work. Seeing young people killed, especially like that, is getting too much.”
“Hang in there. You’re the only one I trust to do a thorough job. We need to catch this sonofabitch soon.”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, you do.” He removed the cream colored latex gloves from his hand, balled them up and dropped them into his kit then lifted it off the ground. “I’ll be in touch as soon as I have something.”
“Thanks, Jim. Appreciate it.”
Dave gave the coroner a nod as he passed then joined me in front of the dumpster. “What do you think? Gruesome, huh?”
“Yeah, you could definitely say that. I have no idea at this point. Let’s find out who she was, who she knew and where she’d been prior to her death.”
“Got it.” Dave headed back along the alley toward the street.
He stopped and glanced over his shoulder at me. “Yeah?”
“ASAP. We need to get some kind of lead on whoever did this and find them before they do it again.”
The white coroner’s van eased past me and my gaze locked onto it. Who would rip out a young woman’s throat? What had she done to justify someone doing something like that to her? Nothing!
My boss was in his office on the phone when I knocked and he waved me in. This new investigation had him on edge. His ulcer had flared up and he was chewing antacid tablets like candy. Too many young people were dying in LA and he wanted to put a stop to it. He finished the heated call, slammed the receiver down and heaved a huge sigh. “That was the DA. He’s already on my back about this new murder. Have you got anything yet?”
I slumped into the chair in front of his desk, crossed one leg over the other and clasped my hands across my stomach. “Nothing yet. I’m waiting on Jim’s findings. Hopefully we’ll have a name by then too.”
“There are too many young people being picked off in one way or another, either by drugs, accidents or murder. What’s wrong with this city?”
“People are not as compassionate as they used to be, Chief.”
His eyes locked onto me. “Well it’s a hell of a way to live, isn’t it?”
I shrugged. “Unfortunately, yes, but that’s how it is.”
Dave appeared at the open doorway. “Hey, Chief. We just got a name on the victim. Chelsea Murdoch, twenty two years of age, lives… lived here in LA and worked at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.”
“Have you got an address for the parents?” I was on my feet.
Dave sifted through the papers in his hand. “Uh, yeah, why?”
“We’ll go together.”
“Keep me up to speed, Reece,” the chief said. “And be gentle with the family.”
I frowned over my shoulder at him. “I know how to handle it.”
He gave me a skeptical smile and waved us out of his office.
“I handle this kind of thing ok, right?” I gave Dave a disgruntled frown.
Dave didn’t answer.
I stopped and grabbed his arm. “Wait. What are you saying?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“That’s what I mean. Do you think I have no empathy for people at a time like this?”
Dave sighed. “It’s not that. It’s just… well, you want answers. And rightly so. It’s the only way we’re gonna solve any case. But when a parent’s just found out their child is… you know, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to berate them with questions.”
“Maybe not berate so much, inundate them.”
I sighed and continued toward the workroom door. Good to know what your colleagues think of you. “I’ll wait in the car and you can go tell them their daughter’s dead.”
I kept walking. I wasn’t in the mood.
By the time we reached Glendale it was late afternoon. Dave pulled the car into the curb opposite the Murdoch house and turned off the engine. The twenty five minute drive had been relatively quiet because I was still brooding over what he’d said. He wasn’t just a work colleague he was also a friend and I couldn’t get my mind around the fact that he thought I had no tact. Why hadn’t he said something before now?
Dave gave me an uncertain sideward glance and I caught it out of the corner of my eye. “Are you coming in?” he asked.
I ran my eyes over the white, single story home with terracotta tile roof, bay front window and well-kept yard. “I think I’ll sit this one out.”
“Look, you asked for my opinion and now you’re not happy because I gave it.” He shrugged.
“I thought you’d say I handled these kinds of situations well. I didn’t expect you to tell me I was unfeeling.”
Dave huffed out a sigh. “That’s not what I said.”
“Well you may as well have.”
“Ok. Fine.” He swung open the door and stepped out of the car. “Sulk if you want. I have a job to do.” Dave stalked across the street. He hated having to do this kind of thing on his own.
I watched him knock, show his badge to the mother and step inside. It would be the first time he’d have to be the bearer of bad news alone.
When Dave emerged from the Murdoch home an hour later he looked disturbed. It was always a difficult task telling a mother her child was lying dead in the morgue. When he crossed the street, opened the driver’s door and climbed in his face was pale.
“How’d it go?”
“How do you think? The mother almost passed out on me. I had to quiet her down, make her a cup of tea and sit with her. She wouldn’t let me call her husband. She said she’d be ok, that he’d be home any minute.”
Right at that moment, a pale green Nissan sedan pulled into the drive. Before the driver had a chance to exit the vehicle, the front door of the house flew open and the woman ran to the car sobbing uncontrollably.
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© 2016 M. A. Anderson
Bella Luna Books, Australia
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