Search in the Dying

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“I hate elevator music. I also hate chauvinists, politics and accountants - the list goes on and on - but the one thing I hate more then all of those nuisances are first days.”

Detective Roe Sozer didn’t know that this first day would be the beginning of a lot of firsts. If she had, she probably never would have gotten out of that elevator. But she hadn’t she never would of met Ray, she would never of gone to that crime scene, she never would of done a lot of things.

But most of all she never would of died.

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Search in the Dying

  1. 1. SEARCH IN THE DYING THE ROE RAVEN SERIES ~ 1|P a g e
  2. 2. Contents Chapter 1 ..................................................................................................... 4 Chapter 2 ..................................................................................................... 15 Chapter 3...................................................................................................... 22 Chapter 4.......................................................................................................? Chapter 5 ......................................................................................................? Chapter 6 ..................................................................................................... ? Chapter 7 ......................................................................................................? Chapter 8 ......................................................................................................? Chapter 9 ..................................................................................................... ? Chapter 10 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 11 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 12 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 13 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 14 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 15.................................................................................................... ? 2|P a g e
  3. 3. Chapter 16 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 17 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 18 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 19 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 20 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 21 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 22 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 23 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 24 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 25 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 26 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 27 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 28 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 29 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 30 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 31 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 32 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 33 ................................................................................................... ? 3|P a g e
  4. 4. Chapter 34 ................................................................................................... ? Chapter 35 ................................................................................................... ? ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah 4|P a g e
  5. 5. CHAPTER ONE I hate elevator music. I also hate chauvinists, politics and accountants - the list goes on and on - but the one thing I hate more then all of those nuisances are first days. I remember every first day I have ever experienced with startling clarity, and I remember hating them all: Elementary School, High School, The Academy and the first day at Precinct 73. However, right now I hated the music that was wafting through the metal box I was currently trapped in, I was slowly breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, as the cage drew me closer to another first day to go on my every growing list. The first day at Precinct 45. I don’t know why I had come to hate first days, it was just one of those things that was ingrained in my personality, just like some people didn’t like cats – not that I understand that, personally - I just didn’t like first days. It seems slightly dull and uninteresting to not have some long drawn out story about some life-altering event that caused this dislike. But I don’t dwell on it as I am the sort of person who deals with things that cannot be changed only when they are directly in front of me, and then ignore them when it’s gone. A bad habit to have but it has worked for twenty-seven years so far, so I don’t see the point in fixing it now. Just as I believed I was prepared – mentally and emotionally - the doors stiffly jutted open, exposing the landing of the fourth floor. One foot in front of the other I told myself, as I stepped out of the elevator. I was greeted by a rosy faced blonde sitting behind the receptionist desk. Her truism blue eyes gave me a once over and she must have approved as her face spread into a grin. Those blue eyes were sparkling with anticipation. That worried me a little but I ignored it. Walking over to her, I held the girl’s gaze as I approached her. “I’m here to see Captain Mannell,” I told her, trying to avoid my voice sounding as though I was a fifteen-year-old girl being called to the principle’s office. She leaned forward, “You’re Detective Sozer, aren’t you?” My eyes narrowed, I didn’t like the way she said ‘you’re’. It was as though I was being accused of something. It had that undercurrent tone that mothers and grandmothers have on a regular basis when dealing with children who have stuck their hand in the infamous cookie jar and have now been caught out. Though for me it meant that word had spread of my arrival, rumours had been discussed and conclusions had been made. This was not good. “Yes, I’m Detec-,” I stopped, when I saw the girl straighten back up to her full height, whilst sitting. I grew wary as she raised her chin high and her eyes grew sharp. I glanced behind me. Two men had just got off the elevator. 5|P a g e
  6. 6. Already I understood and steeled my expression to one worn by any strong- willed woman who worked in a male-orientated workplace. It didn’t bother me really; it came with the territory of being one of the few female detectives. But my respect for the receptionist grew. Normally in a precinct you found bubbly blondes who would take any flack the men gave them just to be accepted, but the girl beside me held her own. I knew immediately that I would like her, if only in that respect. The two men were talking animatedly to each other. They were both around five foot eleven, though one was slightly taller then the other. He wore a navy blue suit, which matched his sandy brown hair that swished while he walked. He had a pleasant face; it was handsome in the regular way some men are. With hazel eyes, and a small mouth. You could look at him and not pity him for being unsightly, but also have a conversation with him and not get so blinded by his appearance as to forget what you were saying in that girly way some women tend to do. It’s women like that, with their perfectly painted lips agape, staring all doe eyed, that make me want to walk over to the nearest hard surface and bash me head against it. It’s this sort of mentality that makes me perfect for the police force. I don’t have much patience for idiocy and girlish impulses. My mother always said she thought I was going to turn out homosexual because I was so butch as a teenager. But like I said I have no patience for idiocy and girlish impulses, so that would never work. The somewhat shorter man wore a similar suit to his companion, though his jacket lay somewhere forgotten. Instantly I knew what sort of cop he was. He was the sort of cop that was good at his job, knew it and liked to shove it in every bodies face. It was this sort of cop, I tried to avoid, as they firmly believed that females should not be on the force. How I knew this was simple. He didn’t wear his jacket for the simple fact that it hid his badge that lay proudly on his waistline. His gun was positioned on a holster on his belt. It was less practical then a shoulder holster, but it was the first place people looked when you stated you were a cop. It therefore showed off his gun by being placed there. It was a Beretta M9, silver- plated, an ostentatious type of gun for the police force in comparison to my standard black 9mm Glock. I also knew everything I wanted to know about him, as his lips curled up into a sneer the moment he saw me turn and my jacket shifted exposing my piece next to my badge. It made me feel even worse to consciously admit that this man was attractive. I had to physically stop myself from screwing my nose up at him. It was always the way, that the pigs in the world had all the advantages. No pun intended. His eyes were perfectly symmetrical, green orbs glaring at me in distaste. His lips were full and round, a natural pout any woman would envy. His thick brown hair sat in soft waves framing his sharp cheekbones; his skin 6|P a g e
  7. 7. had a subtle glow from the sun. In frustration I turned back to the receptionist and rolled my eyes hoping she gained my meaning. She did; her body shook with silent laughter and her eyes smiled at me. “Hey Melanie,” the taller one said when they were finally upon us. His smile was gentle and held no hidden motive. I warmed to him slightly, he was genuine, and that was hard to find in a male these days. “Hi John,” Melanie returned his smile in kind, ignoring his partner as he proceeded around us to lean against the desk, which reached his hip. “So Mel, who have we here?” He asked his shirt straining as he crossed arms, he didn’t even bother to look at me. Melanie seemed hesitant to reply, but giving a deep sigh, she did, “Detective Sozer.” I heard John shift his weight uncomfortably, causing me to glance at him. He wasn’t looking at me, he was watching his partner. Reluctantly, I turned toward the man I had quickly come to dislike. Now he was looking at me, his whole attitude had changed. Great. “So, this is Detective Sozer, ey?” He pushed off the desk to go stand next to John, “Not what I expected, I thought you would be more butch.” His eyebrows rose as he took me in. I went to cross my arms in defiance, but thought better at drawing attention to my chest. “And you are?” I said in a neutral voice. I didn’t want to start trouble on my first day, before I had even seen the captain. He straightened up immediately, “Officer Daniels.” Damn. I had heard of him, he had been in the paper a few times. I schooled my face to show no recognition and I watched with immense pleasure as the annoyance showed in his face when I didn’t react. “Well Officer Daniels would you be a doll and show me to the Captains office?” I was over doing it, but it was worth it to see John no-last-name turn his head to the side to hide the grin that spread across his face. Daniels just gave me a blank look, then glared at me. I just smiled sweetly at him. He then stormed past the receptionist desk. Raising an eyebrow at his partner, I gained another grin. Decision made, I liked John. “Follow him,” was all he said, as he too walked pasted the receptionist’s desk. I was just about to do the same, when I felt a hand on my arm, “I’m going to like you aren’t I?” Melanie stated. She didn’t wait for me to answer; she just went back to her work a smirk plastered on her lips. When I finally caught up with Officer Daniels, he was impatiently tapping his foot a scowl on his face. Once he saw me, he continued walking through the maze of desks to a door at the end of the station. As I got closer I could make out the block letters on the door. CAPTAIN MANNELL. I 7|P a g e
  8. 8. suddenly felt nervous. Swallowing I took the last steps until I was in front of the door. “You won’t last a week,” Daniels snorted, then turned and walked away. I hoped he was wrong, as I knocked sharply on the door. There was no response and then the door opened. Captain Mannell stood tall at six foot four, I had to strain my neck to look him in the face. “Sozer, my girl, come in,” His voice was rich with the warmth and indulgence that comes from men who are older than you and have known you since you wore pigtails. He moved to the side to let me enter, and I stepped into his office. It was exactly the same as the last time I had been here. The walls were a dull green, covered in framed newspaper clippings and station photographs. His desk was littered with papers and family photos. I saw one of me standing next to Captain Mannell’s son when we were children. I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit and my hair was plastered to my head. I would have to find a way to get him to remove it now. There was no mistaking the little girl was me. My wavy brown hair was exactly the same with the hint of gold, as well as the deep brown eyes that sparkled in the sun. I had a distinctive face that people didn’t readily forget. I don’t know why, it was just how it was. My skin was a gentle brown colour, not from the sun and my nose was straight. My cheekbones were prominent and my lips were nice and round. I didn’t consider myself attractive but men apparently did. I always compared myself to my mother and my sister who were beautiful and I was simply plain next to them. But I didn’t mind, it was not something I held high in my priorities. Having a photo of me as a child on his desk, showed that I was related to the captain in some way. But it was not an obvious relation though our families were fairly close. Captain Mannell was my uncle’s brother-in-law. So there was not really any relation, but like I said our families were close, so I always called him Uncle Sam. Being Latino, family was something we all treasured, even though I knew no Spanish and held to none of the cultural beliefs. My grandmamma had instilled it in all of her children that family was important above all-other. Sam walked around to sit in his chair behind his desk. His moustache twitched, which only meant that I was going to get a lecture. “So Sozer, are you sure you want to join this precinct?” He asked, clasping his hands together in front of him on the desk. I took a moment, pretending to think about his query then answered, “Yes.” He sighed, “You do know you will be the only woman to have ever worked in this station? And I don’t know how the boys are going to act with 8|P a g e
  9. 9. having a woman superior. I can’t be there every second making sure they are treating you with the respect they would give if you were not a woman.” He frowned for a minute, considering how to proceed. I was listening, but all I heard was how many times he said ‘woman’, I knew he was trying to make a point but geez. “Captain, I know all this, but I am a cop as well as a woman, and it is not like I have not been in this situation before. It comes with being a female cop.” I assured him. He gave me a wary look. “Geez Sam, you know me, you know I can handle these guys. If they are like Officer Daniels then I will survive. He is harmless – bigoted maybe – but harmless.” Sam leaned back in his chair with a smile, “Ah so you met Daniels. Yes well, I don’t think they will all be like him. But they do tend to follow his lead.” I simply cocked my eyebrow as though it was nothing. “Well, if you are sure, I didn’t think I could really persuade you to change your mind, but I promised Sarsha I would try.” I gave him a look that said this had nothing to do with her, and that whatever she had said he should disregard. Sam laughed, his eyes grinning with mirth, “She’s you mother Roe, and she just worries that you take on more than you can handle.” Rolling my eyes, I relaxed back in my chair. I didn’t say anything, and neither did Sam; he seemed to be waiting to see what I would do next. I had always liked Sam; he was different from the rest of my family. Being one of the few in our family who was not Spanish he saw things more in a Western way, where women could work in a male world, like the police force. It was actually Sam, who had inspired me to become a cop, but I had never told him that, it would upset my father if he ever found out. The silence was broken when the phone rang; Sam leaned forward to pick up the receiver and started talking. After a few minutes he held his hand over the phone and lowered it to his chest. “I’m going to be awhile, go out and get yourself acquainted with the station and come back in twenty, ‘kay?” He said smiling. I was dying for a smoke, so I nodded and stood, shutting the door quietly behind me. I had no idea where the smoker’s area was so I made my way back through the desks to Melanie. She was typing on the computer, her fingers flying around the keyboard. I waited for her to finish before talking, but she got in before me. “So how did it go?” She asked. “As good as it could have,” I replied, I didn’t want people to know that I was related to Sam. Cops don’t tend to like it when you use family to move 9|P a g e
  10. 10. around the force. They also see it as a weakness in female cops, as though we can’t get work otherwise. “Well that’s good, it will be nice having another girlie around the station. The guys are nice enough,” she rolled her eyes then, “but you know how they can be.” “Yeah I know,” I said with a smile of understanding, “hey I was just wondering where the smokers area was.” “Oh it’s just down the hall on your left. You will see a sign that says lounge, there is balcony that you can use.” “Thanks,” I waved and headed in the direction she had instructed. It amazed me, how every precinct was the same, with their sun-dried beige walls, and lamo floors. It always felt stuffy in the halls of a station. I often thought they should make them more appealing so that people would feel more relaxed. That’s what you want in a station, relaxed people. Tense people just get anxious and anxiety becomes anger, and that’s just so much harder to work with, especially when you yourself are just fed up with the whiney complaints people make. That is why I became a homicide detective I think, it has more of a purpose than missing cats and whatnot. I finally found the lounge. It was a typical cop lounge, messy. I walked across the room pulling my lighter and smokes out of my purse. It wasn’t until I slid open the glass door that I noticed someone else was already outside. Well least I wasn’t the only smoker here. I breathed in the air and knew I would come here a lot just to get away from the stuffiness. Once I had relaxed, muscles that I hadn’t realised were tense did too. I peeked a glance at my companion. God, another tall one. I wasn’t short but with all these tall men I was quickly feeling that I was. He was leaning against the balcony railing, and even slumped he looked tall, about six foot two. The first thing I noticed was his long black hair that shimmered in the morning sun. It hung just above his shoulders, and it was tied up. It surprised me, as you didn’t see many cops with long hair. It wasn’t against regulation – anymore - but you just didn’t see it. At a sidelong angle I could see that he was lean, but well built, the pull on his shirt from his position showed off his arms, which were nicely built, lean muscles working their way up his arm. I think I stared longer then was polite, as he turned his face feeling my gaze. Normally I would have turned away at that point but his eyes held me. They were so dark - they were captivating. They looked at me with neither judgement nor a preconceived notion. It startled me. I would have thought he was a desk jockey, if it hadn’t been for his shoulder holster. Desk jockeys didn’t wear them. He wore black suit pants and a white pin-stripe shirt rolled up to his elbows, a tie lying smoothly down the row of buttons, and his shoulder holster was the new black leather that was becoming a favourite among the men. 10 | P a g e
  11. 11. When he had turned to face me, I noticed that he was Native American, which explained the hair. His skin was a mild chocolate and it looked so smooth, I soon became jealous. Like Daniels, he was appealing to the eye, but unlike Daniels he held himself like he didn’t acknowledge it nor cared. He watched me size him up and when he felt I had finished; he smiled and faced back to look out on the city, bringing his cigarette to his mouth. The silent type I guess. Taking a step forward I put my purse on a chair and placed my hand on the railing, breathing in the fresh air again. I loved the outdoors; I prayed my desk was close to a window so I could open it while writing up reports. While I got lost in my thoughts, I paid no further attention to the man beside me. Remembering why I had come out, I went to light my cigarette but I all I got was sparks from the end of my lighter. Flicking it a couple more times, I sighed and started rummaging through my purse hoping I had a spare. I felt warmth behind me, so I turned and Mr. No-Name was standing there holding out a blue lighter. “Thanks,” I said, taking it from him. He just nodded, then returned to his spot against the railing. I lit the end of the cigarette, and handed the lighter back. “You’re the newbie?” He asked, pocketing the lighter. I scoffed, newbie, but I nodded my head, I guess I was a newbie to the station. “Hmm, so you know who your partner is yet?” He voice was not deep like I had expected. I wouldn’t have known how to explain it if someone had asked me to at that moment, but now I would say it was kind of smooth and clear, but rich at the same time. It was familiar, in a way that made you trust him, without knowing him. It was a good trait for a cop, but it made me guarded. I had come to trust my gut when it came to men in my line of work, but when someone had the ability to manipulate your judgement, that was something to be careful around. “No, the captain got a call before he had a chance.” I answered; it came out a bit curt. Oh well. “Do you have anyone in mind? Or do you not know anyone from this station?” he seemed curious about me, it didn’t really faze me, I was a new toy, that they had never been allowed to play with before. So I could his questions, I suppose. “Nah, I don’t really know any of the guys here.” He nodded, bringing the cigarette to his mouth again. Then looked back at me, “I’m Ray.” 11 | P a g e
  12. 12. Ah, finally a name. There were two ways I could proceed I could state my rank and title, or I could be casual. I would probably have nothing to do with him, so casual would be fine, I surmised. “I’m Roe.” “I know,” He smiled, as my brows gathered, “Detective Sozer, you used to belong to the 73’s,” He said with a knowing smirk. I cringed, as I was flashed perfect white teeth. What was the criteria for this place: tall, attractive and male? Maybe I had been wrong about him, as his smirk widened and he stood up straight crossing his arms, when he saw my reaction. His eyes were daring me, saying ‘go on, you know you wanna look again’, that annoyed me. Fine then. I let me eyes travel up and down his body. He had board shoulders, curving into a solid waist. He was a man, but he wasn’t huge, tall but not overwhelming. A perfect balance, I suppose. He took care of his body but he didn’t do anything to really enhance what Mother Nature had given him. A natural beauty. I let my eyes take in his face straight on properly this time. It jerked my chain, to see that he was more attractive then I had first perceived. His skin looked like melted chocolate spread smoothly, his eyes were dark, but not black as I had first thought, they were brown like mine just to the extreme. It made him appear more native. I had a flash of what he would have looked like in just cow skinned pants. Blinking sharply I pushed the image away. It must have shown on my face, as he laughed at me. Arrogant prick. I rolled me eyes, and turned away. Men. “So?” He asked, his voice lowering slightly. I tried to think quickly, and I figured that Ray was either the trickster or the player of the station. I couldn’t decide which one yet. He could very well be the player; he had the qualities to be so. But there was something in the way his eyes crinkled with amusement, that made me think he was just mucking around and it was just his personality to tease people. I could play either game. I didn’t look back at him, “Acceptable.” I heard his laughter bounced of the walls, and I glanced a look, he was smiling so bright, I sighed, he was a teaser. I felt him pat my shoulder as he walked past me, “I’ll see ya,” he said, still smiling. When I was alone, I let my frustration come to surface. I was unsure if I liked him, I was usually quick at assessing whom I liked and who to avoid. I got the impression that he could be trouble, impulsive even but probably be better then Daniels. I sat on the chair next to my purse, pondering Ray’s question. Who was my partner going to be? I had only assumed that John was Daniels partner, but what if he wasn’t. The way Sam had smiled when I said his name made me nervous. I lost track of how long I had been sitting there, when the sliding door opened, and Sam stood beside of me. “Sozer, Sozer, Roe!” He waved a hand in front of my face. 12 | P a g e
  13. 13. “Sorry,” I shook my head, and stood, following him back towards the inner station. “So did you introduce yourself to anyone?” Sam asked, as we walked down the hall. I nodded a knot building in my stomach; in my head ‘not Daniels’ was spinning on repeat. “Who?” I had to stop my chanting, to go over the names. “Erm- Melanie, John, Daniels, and this guy Ray.” “Hmmm, and what did you make of the boys?” He asked, looking at me. My first instinct was to ask ‘why?’- “They seemed fine, Daniels would be a handful but I would just teach him…” I let the sentence hang open, letting Sam make what he would with it. He just laughed, I don’t think I have been laughed at so many times in just a short amount of time, and it was started to grate on me. “Relax Sozer, Daniels is an officer not a Detective, you know this,” he was goading me, but I still let my hand fly to my head. I glared at my feet, as the stupidity rose though me. We pasted Melanie again, and I smiled at her. “Okay, your partner is Detective Caddo, he is an excellent cop and should give you no trouble. Also the majority of the boys respect him, so it will be easier for you to be accepted.” Sam rested a hand on my arm, “This has nothing to do with you, Roe okay, don’t take it personally, but it will help you so just take it.” He wasn’t asking me, I knew, so I smiled and patted his hand. He was worried, it was sweet, but if it had been anyone else I would have ripped them a new one, but it was Sam so I took it in my stride. I hadn’t been paying attention to where we were going so when we stopped, I took in my surroundings. I felt a little better there were windows. “Sozer, this is Caddo your partner,” Sam said with a flourish of his arm. My eyes followed to where his hand was directing me, and there on the phone leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk, was a six foot two chocolate skinned, black haired, Native American Ray. He was grinning ear to ear, twirling the phone cord between his fingers. Great. Ray hung the phone up and stood up, “Captain”, he said never taking his eyes off me, or that stupid grin off his face. Sam looked between the two of us, and smirked, “Caddo, you’ve met Sozer I heard.” Ray placed his hands in his pockets, “Yep.” Sam just shook his head and walked back to his office. 13 | P a g e
  14. 14. “You knew, didn’t you?” I accused. “Yep.” He replied again, his smile still growing bigger. I sighed, and slumped down in the chair that sat in front of the desk opposite to Ray’s. He followed and we sat there staring at each other. “So Sozer, you going to be tight-lipped the whole time we’re partners?” Ray asked. “Depends,” I snapped, it felt childish but I didn’t care. “On?” “If you decide to be an arrogant prick the whole time we are partners.” His smile faltered a little, then returned, “Fair enough.” If things couldn’t get any peachier, Daniels decided that it was time appear again. “Oh look it’s the Cadbury Crew,” he sneered. I snapped my head up to glare at him, but Ray just laughed, “Yes, with all that yummy chocolately goodness on the inside,” he replied. John had followed Daniels up, and gave me a pleasant smile, but his eyes apologised for Daniels. I guess Ray was used to the taunts about his skin colour. I was too, but that didn’t mean I would laugh it off like him. Daniels opened his mouth to reply, when the phone on Ray’s desk rang, he held up his hand as if to pause an enjoyable conversation they were having. He said a few ‘Yeah’s’ and ‘Okays’, scribbling something down and hung the phone up. He looked back up at the boys, whilst standing, grabbing his jacket and putting it on. “Sorry boys, we gotta go, a C.O was found out past the sticks,” he looked at me to follow him. I got to my feet, and took a few steps but realised Ray hadn’t moved. He had bent down over his pad and ripped off the scribble he had written and pasted it to Daniels. “Jackson, told me to tell you that missing person’s came in, here’s the address.” Daniels took the piece of paper, looked at it for a second then glanced back up at Ray, “Did he give you a description?” he asked. Ray walked past him, and stood beside me, “Yeah, said it was a female, about 9 years old, black hair, been missing for about 4 days now,” He looked solemn for a minute, “I am sure you will be able to handle it. Poor kitty is probably stuck in a tree.” I tried not to laugh when Daniels went to step forward and John grabbed him by the arm. Ray just smiled, “Later boys,” then he walked towards the elevator. I quickly followed. I caught up just as he was pushing the button for the ground floor. I let him see my smirk of approval and he just chuckled in response. The elevator doors closed, and I looked at Ray. “A C.O?” I asked. He looked at me for a second, “It must be a precinct thing, C.O means “Cold One’, other words a stiff.” 14 | P a g e
  15. 15. “You mean they found someone who was dead,” I said, in a tone that spoke volumes. “Don’t tell me, you are one of those who respect the dead, even with shop talk?” He didn’t sound serious, but I knew that my answer was being tested. I was slowly coming to the realisation that Ray was not as stupid as he tried to let on with his easygoing attitude. He had manipulated my judgement on him, to be a judgement on me. Very clever. “Yes, I do believe the dead should be shown respect, but I can’t begrudge using slogans to disassociate from one’s emotion’s and so as not to get attached to the deceased.” I replied in my serious voice. In my head I was laughing slightly. When Ray nodded and the corners of his mouth tugging up, I allowed him a smile. It seemed to ease him as little, to know that the broom wasn’t completely up my arse - maybe only halfway. The elevator door’s opened and I went to head in the direction of the station car park, full of marked cars. But Ray grabbed my arm and pulled me in the opposite direction. I said nothing simply followed him around the ground floor reception area. A variety of people filled the chairs and standing areas. The desk sergeants were scattered among the complainants, writing down whatever hassle was bothering them. There were also a few tattooed men handcuffed to chairs. The usual goings-on for the ground floor of a station. Ray didn’t let go my arm, dragging me past the receptionist, who he gave a smile, towards a door marked ‘Basement’. Once inside the stairwell, Ray let got of my arm and walked down the few steps that were there. He put his hand in his pocket and withdrew his keys, clicking a button, the lights of a black sedan flashed, so I walked over to the passenger side, opened the door and got in. Ray jumped into the driver’s side, put the keys in the ignition and started car. “So, you have been past the sticks before?” He asked pulling the car out of the car lot and onto the street. “No,” I said, shaking my head as well. Watching the buildings past by. Ray pulled a siren out from under his seat as the traffic was a bit congested, he didn’t really speed, just parted the traffic so we could get through quicker. He turned off onto the main highway, a long stretch of asphalt. Tree’s started popping up here and there as the building dwindled down; soon all there was harsh desert. The trees were still lush and green for a few miles, but as the ground started to crack, the trees appeared to be dying, to all that was left was the skeleton of their branches. I now gathered why they called it ‘the Sticks’. We had been driving for about fifteen minutes, neither of us saying a word. It was not an uncomfortable silence, but it was a little stiff. The sun was kicking out some heat, so I tried to wind down the window. After cranking my arm five times in a circle, the window was only half way down. My arm was heavy, so I let the window stay where it was. I 15 | P a g e
  16. 16. leant back into the seat and listened to wind whistle into the car. There was a slight bend in the road causing the wind to change its direction against the car. A whopping sound started reverberating in my ears. I looked pained at the window. I was going to have to wind it back up, because there was no way I was tolerating that noise. Just I was about to reach down and kill all the remaining strength I had left in my arm the noise stopped. It was so abrupt it startled me slightly. Looking over I saw that Ray had his window down all the way. “How in the world did you get your window down?” I asked, almost whinging. Ray gave me what I was coming to know as he famous grin and just shrugged, “Maybe I just have more upper body strength,” with that he took the arm closest to me and flexed it, his muscles grouping together tightly, “See?” I rolled my eyes but smiled at the same time, he was infectious I would give him that. With the windows now down, I could hear a far off noise. A jumble of commotion that you usually get at a scene. My body heaved a sigh, and then I strained my eyes to see what I knew was coming. About a mile up the highway three marked cars and a silver SUV were parked on the side of the asphalt. As we got closer I could just make out a couple, their arms wrapped around each other talking to two Officers. A boy of about thirteen popped his head out of the back window when he heard our car coming up the stretch of road. His father, I could only guess, turned his head sharply his face frowning and the boy quickly hide back within the safety of the vehicle. Ray turned the car to pull up next to the marked cars. We stopped with a jolt. “Sorry about that, pot hole I think,” he laughed, reaching over me and scrounging around in the glove compartment. I shifted my legs out of his way, frowning as he leant on my shoulder. Finally he pulled out a pair of sunglasses and a camera, then he turned that white grin on me again. Saying nothing he got out of the car. I huffed and followed him. As I walked behind Ray, I was glad I decided to wear pants, therefore able to wear boots. The ground was uneven and spotted with holes. I was side stepping in ever which direction. This place was truly barren – the perfect place to dump a body. 16 | P a g e
  17. 17. CHAPTER TWO T he couple had explained to - who I would later find out to be - Officer Petes and Wiles that they were road tripping around the country and had stopped to stretch their legs for a while. They had decided to walk around the area and unfortunately for them on their walk they had discovered our C.O. They said they touched nothing, didn’t even get in within two metres. They simply saw the dead body and called the police. Curiosity is a powerful thing, and I had learned that people liked to look more closely at things they have never seen before. Most people have never seen a dead body before, lucky people I would call them. But these lucky few get curious when they stumble upon one just like this. They liked to touch. They liked to play cop. They liked to stick their big fat noses in things that don’t concern them. Most of all they liked to fuck up my investigations with those noses. I had come to assume that at least one thing had been touched or moved at a crime scene. It is never as it was left, either by natural causes such as weather or people’s plain stupidity. Yes, you can get dumb cops. I once had a case where I rocked up and the Officer on scene had needed to use the facilities - to put it nicely – and had gone right there using the victim’s bathroom. That was a nightmare of paperwork. So when the couple said they didn’t touch anything, that they stayed at least two metres away. I naturally assumed they were lying. Naturally. Ray went straight over to the couple to verify everything Petes and Wiles had told us and ask questions that an Officer wouldn’t think to ask. It sounds arrogant, but its truth. Officer’s don’t think the same way as a Detective. An Officer’s job is to control and man the situation, a Detective’s job is to figure out what caused the situation - in layman’s terms. 17 | P a g e
  18. 18. I headed straight for the corpse, I didn’t like talking to bystanders. While they had useful information they didn’t talk as much as a corpse. While silent a body can say volumes, it was a cliché but again truth. Officer Wiles, was a typical cop. He thought he had seen everything, so nothing penetrated but you could see that slight crinkle in the eyes when he looked upon the body. He hadn’t seen this before and it disturbed him, but in typical cop fashion he hid it behind a tough exterior. He looked about forty-something, so he probably had seen a fair bit of nastiness, but you never really saw anything until you were on Homicide then you walked into a whole new world. Not just your domestic violence and occasional gang shooting. In homicide you got the Serial Killers, the Psychopaths, the deranged and the straight crazy. There was a half a dozen un-named uniforms standing around, some were writing things down on little pads for their reports, one was talking on a cellphone a bit off from everyone else. He looked strained, probably talking to a superior. There were two uniforms standing side by side, one had his arm crossed against his chest and annoyed expression on his face. While the other looked slightly concerned, casually looking over his shoulder ever now and then. They were subtly trying to hide a Rookie he was throwing his guts up on the dry dirt. Wiles lead me to who appeared to be the man in charge, Sergeant Frank Collins. I didn’t know why he was here but it didn’t really matter at the moment, all I was concerned with was my dead body. Sergeant Collins lifted the tape and I walked under, Wiles turned and walked over to where the Rookie was stilling on his knees. Collins said nothing as we made it the rest of the way. It was about fifteen metres away from the highway. The family sure had stretched their legs. I was watching the ground as I walked, still side stepping all the holes. It was because of this that I spotted the pile of butted out cigarettes. Looking up I noticed we were about a metre from the white tarp that flapped softly against the figure. “Have any of the Uniforms been behind the tape?” I asked Collins. Collins shook his head, while concentrating on the ground also. He stopped and saw that I was standing a little bit back. His shoulders heaved a sigh of frustration and made his way back to me. He looked down at the butts and crouched, grabbed a pen out of his own little pad and flicked on over. Marlboro. He took his pen and wrote in down. “So much for two metres,” he muttered under his breath. I couldn’t help but smile, yes so much. But you can’t always assume, the couple could – I stress could - be telling the truth if so the butts could have belonged to our killer. I pulled out a pair of latex gloves from the bag I was carrying and slide them on, then I retrieved a plastic evidence bag, put the butts in and sealed the 18 | P a g e
  19. 19. chain of evidence. Scribbling all the necessary information of the front. I tucked it back into the bag and proceeded towards the body. It was all so routine. Find a coin pick it up but it in a bag and hope for the killer to have some bad luck. I laughed to myself as I thought of the little rhyme. My face became serious again when Collins gathered up the tarp in his arms and gestured with his entire body. It was his way of saying ‘well what do you make of this? Because I have no bloody idea.’ And at first glance neither did I. At second glance I was stilled stumped. It didn’t look like a homicide, it looked like an accident, a stupid accident. The man was impaled on a tree branch and the tree branch was impaled into the earth. He was bent over backwards, his knees appearing as though they were supporting his weight while he rested against the branch, except the branch went right through his chest. His neck was tilted back at an awkward angle which screamed to me ‘Corpse’. It was limp, nobody still alive or even asleep could be in the position without some pain. But for him there was no more pain. He was about six foot, his skin a dark brown, from a distance it could almost be mistaken for black. His face showed that he was African American, his nose was flat but not in a distasteful way. A veil of black hair spun down the branch resting in a pool on the dirt. His eyes were open staring up at the heavens, they were a rich golden brown, dead they still held a glimmer of life. It spooked me. But it was his ears that what fascinated me the most. They were covered in something small, they looked dulled and aged. Leaning forward, I saw a gaping hole in his right ear, it was about the size of twenty cent coin. Along the edges of there were pointy shards of something going up the length of his ear. On the left one, there were only two shards at the very top. It looked awkward and painful at the same time. As I looked on, I noticed more things, little things. He had scars scattered on his chest. Anyone else would have thought them random, but for some reason I immediately saw that they were above major organs. People had been trying to kill him for some time and only now had someone succeeded. I took a couple of steps to get a closer look and I nearly fell into one of those blasted holes, Ray appeared by my side out of nowhere. He had caught me by the waist and was holding me up so I wouldn’t fall. “Thanks,” I muttered, regaining my feet. He showed me teeth again, “So what have we got?” He said rubbing his hands together as though he was about to tuck into a Sunday roast. “Male, African-American, maybe around twenty-five and he seems to be impaled on a branch,” I said in my best Detective voice. “Oh really, Detective?” Ray wriggled an eyebrow at me and walked ahead. 19 | P a g e
  20. 20. When I caught up, paying attention to the holes, he was scowling. A deep set frown, it etched wrinkles I would have thought impossible into his smooth skin. The C.O was wearing only a pair of worn blue jeans, he chest was bare so his injury clearly visible. It was surprising how clean the area was around the branch sticking out of his chest. It was as though the branch had just slide right into place, there was no bruising of the skin, no blood dribbling down the side of the body. Nothing. He was simply dead and impaled. “By the area around the wound, I would say he was dead before he was impaled,” I said out loud. Collins nodded in agreement, but Ray looked unsatisfied. He shifted his feet around, kicking dirt up and around. I covered my face and started coughing. Grabbing him by the arm, I pulled him to face me, frowning back at him. “What are you doing?” He said nothing, just looked down at the ground drawing my eyes with his. There in the red dirt was a pattern. I crouched down, it looked as though it was tattooed into the earth. A white contrast against all the red, remembering I still had my gloves on I reached out to touch the markings. But Ray caught my wrist sharply, almost painfully. “Don’t touch it,” was all he said. His whole body spoke of rage, his other hand was in a fist at his side. He slowly released my wrist, which I was thankful for. “Why not?” I asked. He hesitated as if unsure of what to say, I could see him thinking, he knew something he wasn’t telling me. His face cleared almost as suddenly and was left blank, “Chain on evidence, it might disturb the pattern if you touch it-” “But it looks like it’s ingrained into the earth.” Ray just shook his head, “Looks can be deceiving,” He turned back to the pattern and snapped a photo of it with the camera that hung around his neck. Stepping back a little he took another snap, and then got on his knees. “What is he doing now?” I muttered, rubbing my eyes. Ray rolled onto his back and wiggled closer to the corpse, avoiding the pattern on the ground, he kept wiggling until he was right under the body, he snapped another shot, focused the camera and shot another, then came wiggling back. He stood once more and stalked off. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but I knew one thing Ray looked pissed. Collins looked just as perplexed as I, but to be undone, and got on my knees and tilted by head. I wasn’t as tall as Ray so I could see under the corpse without lying in the dirt. Where the branch had impaled the man in the back was the same white pattern tattooed in his skin. All I could think of was ‘well that’s different’. 20 | P a g e
  21. 21. I found Ray twenty-five minutes later - after processing what there was of the tiny scene and a staggered walk back to car - shouting down the car radio. He was still too far away to make out exactly what he was saying. All I got was ‘No – Not – Doing – Don’t – Me! – Captain!’ Shit he was yelling at Sam, great way to start off at the new precinct, my new partner yelling at my new boss who was also my kind of uncle. Just great. When I finally got near enough to hear exactly what was going on all I got was ‘Precinct now, Caddo!’ I guessed we were leaving then but there was something I had to do before that. I walked over to the man and woman still wrapped around each other by the car. Smiling sweetly, I gave them my hand to shake. Up close they were just an average couple. I saw rings, so they were married. The woman had sandy brown hair and hazel eyes and a plain face. The man was just as plain, with short brown hair, a little subtle and a long face. Petes was standing next to them, making sure they didn’t go anywhere. I suspected they weren’t allowed to leave until Sergeant Collins gave the go ahead. “Mr and Mrs. Hannington, this is Detective Sozer,” Petes introduced. “Hi, I’m sorry to ask any more questions but I just have one more. Do either of you smoke?” I said. They both looked at each other and shook their heads. “No Detective, neither of us do,” Mr Hannington replied. I didn’t let my gaze drop, someone did and I needed to know who, “Please, if you have any information, I need to know if the butts I found belong to any of you or if they belonged to someone else?” I shouldn’t have told them that much, but I needed answers. Mrs. Hannington sighed then looked at me, “What brand were they?” “Malboro.” Mr. Hannington shook his head and looked towards they car, “Our daughter smokes them.” I gave them a small smile, “I’ll need to talk to her please.” Mr. Hannington finally let go of his wife and walked around the car, there was some hushed talking and then he reappeared, walking back to his wife. Their daughter looked about nineteen, she was a wiry girl, all legs and arms. She was wearing a black sun dress that had little red skulls trimming the edges, her hair was an unnatural red with bangs just above her eyes any longer and she wouldn’t have been able to see. She walked over, slouched against the car and crossed her arms. A defiant one. “Detective, this is Jamie,” Mrs. Hannington said. “Hi Jamie, I’m Detective Sozer, can you tell me if you were smoking near the body before. It doesn’t matter if you were I just need to know. Paperwork and all,” I laughed slightly light-heartedly. 21 | P a g e
  22. 22. “Yes,” was all Jamie said. “Okay good, did you move anything or touch anything.” “No I didn’t touch anything.” She said looking me straight in the eye, and for once I believe a bystander when they said they didn’t. “Okay then, thanks. I think that’s all. If you remember anything don’t hesitate to call, an Officer gave you a card yes?” Mr and Mrs. Hannington nodded. I said goodbye and left them. One of uniforms was standing randomly in between the SUV and marked cars. He was holding a clip board. I signed both me and Ray out and then headed to the fuming man. He looked at me, tried to smile but half way through stopped. He couldn’t hide that he was mad about something. He didn’t want to tell me fine, but if he wouldn’t someone better. I just hoped Sam would have calmed down enough by the time we got back. The drive back was just as silent as the trip there, but now there was hostility in the air. It vibrated off Ray in waves, at one point I thought I felt the car shake from it. He was gripping the wheel so tightly his knuckles were white. Once we were parked back in the police basement, Ray noticed me watching him. He loosened his hands and laid them in his lap. “I have a little problem with anger, it sometimes boils out of control, it’s no one’s fault. I’m not even mad at anyone in particular now but it just sort of grows. Feel free to shot me if I ever go to do something-,” He stopped, thinking of the right word to use. I placed a gentle hand on his arm, “Let’s just hope it never comes to that.” Ray just nodded. I didn’t know if he understood what I meant. I had seen what an uncontrollable rage can do to a man, he seemed to have a grip on it slightly but if he ever turned that shit onto me I would not be cautious enough to miss. Not yet, I didn’t know him well enough. But if there was another way, I would try to use it first. Try. I was sitting in Sam’s office while he typed on the computer. He was deliberately making us wait because he was still a little mad at Ray. About five minutes later he looked up. “So Caddo, what makes you think someone else should take this case and not your pretty self?” Sam queried. “It’s not our problem,” Ray was slouched in his chair, cool, calm and collected. The elevator ride was it took apparently. He seemed un-phased by Sam’s growing annoyance. “Not our problem how?” 22 | P a g e
  23. 23. “It’s not a murder, I told you already it’s a traditional Rite. Whoever did this is out of our jurisdiction.” Ray didn’t explain any further. He had lost me, but not Sam. Sam had straightened up and leant forward. They locked eyes and neither would relent. It was though I wasn’t even in the room. “I don’t care what you call it Caddo. Here murder is murder. You are going to find out who did this and you are going to do it by the end of the week. How many more bodies do you need before you start actually doing your job,” Sam’s voiced started to rise as he spoke, and with each work Ray sat straighter and by the end he was rigid in the seat. “Hey, wait a minute. How many bodies have there been?” I asked, looking from one to the next. Sam leant back in his chair, rubbing his brow, “This one would make four. They keep popping up past the stick for the past couple of months.” Sam gave Ray a withering stare as though it was his fault, Ray obviously thought the same because he jumped to his feet, his fist coming down hard on the desk in front of Sam. “How many times do I have to tell you? We don’t have jurisdiction. They have claimed their land, and by law we are not even allowed to enter. Their law is onto themselves. You would never suggest I walk into another country and try and arrest one of their criminals. It’s just not done. There really is nothing we can do. Only they can walk their land, literally. If anyone else tries they will end up just like the other four bodies – dead.” Ray yelled. Sam remained surprisingly calm. I sat back and simply watched again lost to what they were talking about. Sam gave Ray another long look. “We don’t have jurisdiction? And they can only be punished by their own laws? And only they can walk their land, yes?” He made it into a question, as though Ray had not only just said that moments ago. “Yes,” Ray answered. Sam clapped his hands together and smirked. I knew that smile. Whatever battle Ray was fighting he had just lost. “Then I don’t see a problem.” Ray collapsed into his chair, his head in his hands, “Sam, please don’t make me.” I frowned, Ray had just called his Captain by his given name. Something was definitely up and I still had no idea what was going on. Geez and it wasn’t even past twelve yet. “Ray, I want this killer and you’re the only one who can catch him for me,” Sam said, reaching behind him and grabbing a couple of glasses and a bottle of Scotch. 23 | P a g e
  24. 24. Through his hands Ray said, “Don’t assume it’s a man, it could very well be a woman.” I had to stop a laugh, “A woman, I know I’m one of the first to battle for fair judgement. But come on, there is no way a woman could of impaled that man this morning. Not unless she was Xena.” I was frowning as I said this because Ray looked completely serious. “You know, you’re not far off,” Ray said accepting the drink from Sam. “So what are you saying, there are warrior princesses out there in the desert killing men twice their size,” I scoffed. Ray’s famous smile was back, “Pretty much.” I turned to Sam, he was just watching us a small smile on his lips. They were both enjoying this, me in disbelief and totally in the dark. Three empty glasses later, the men seemed to be on speaking terms again. Ray was resigned to the fact that he was doing something – I still didn’t know what – and there was no persuading Sam to see otherwise. “So when are you going?” the Captain asked. Ray laid a hand on his stomach, “After lunch I think, if we are let in it will be a while before they allow us to eat.” Sam just nodded and stood up. Ray followed and they shook hands, I guessed the meeting was over. “I’ll see you later Captain,” I said over my shoulder as we left the office. I wasn’t sure but I thought I heard him mutter ‘god I hope you do.’ I don’t know if I imagined it, but a not so imaginary shiver ran down my spine. Back at our desks, Ray was sitting with his feet resting on the desk’s smooth surface once more. He was flipping through pamphlets. Asian Cuisine, Italian Lasagne Special, Steak Galore Thursdays’ was printed in big flashy letters on the top of each one. We really were going to go have lunch. I looked down at my watch, it was only ten past eleven. Ray waved the pamphlets in my face, “what do you feel like?” I took each one and scanned them thoroughly. The lasagne looked fantastic, it was making me feel hunger that hadn’t been there five seconds ago. Dropping the other two pamphlets on my side of the desk, I gave him back the Lasagne Special pamphlet. He looked at it, turned that grin on me and grabbed his keys. 24 | P a g e

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