Pressing The Message Home Excerpt

Marriott Hotel Parking Lot

Virginia Beach, VA

Day 1

The wedding and honeymoon were over. Things were getting back to normal. Both Rachel and Press were back at work. Rachel was now assigned to the Norfolk Bureau Office; Press was back at VBPD Homicide.

In Press’s mind, nothing was the same, would never be the same again. He was amazed at just how damned happy he could be. He and his bride had spent a blissful time on a secluded beach. They did nothing but make love and eat gourmet food prepared by an expert chef. Their every need was met by a staff that appeared only at appointed times and then immediately disappeared.

If only life could always be that simple, he grunted as he knelt down to view the body. Reminder to self, put a damned pair of sneakers in the trunk of the unmarked, so you don’t ruin another pair of Italian loafers, you idiot!

Suddenly, his partner’s voice broke through his thoughts. “…damned shame.”

“What?” Press hated to admit he’d missed what his partner was saying, but best to just admit it and get on with their new case.

* * *

“Daydreaming, were we?” Trace looked down at his partner squatted down next to the body. Press had been drifting off ever since getting back from the South Pacific. Who wouldn’t have a hard time re-adjusting after two weeks in paradise?

“I said, looks like he’s just a kid. Can’t be more than twenty. It’s a damned shame.” The teasing tone to his voice just shriveled and fell to the ground like a deflated balloon at the glare he got from his senior partner.

“I see we’re not in the mood for levity this morning,” Trace tossed back at the glare. He was amazed at himself, at how brave he’d become with his partner, since he and Steffi had become engaged.

He knelt down on the other side of the body of a young white male, in high-end jeans, William & Mary t-shirt, expensive sneakers, and blue, lightweight, nylon jacket.

Poor kid. He was going to miss so much.

* * *

“Now who’s daydreaming?” Press took his turn.

“Oh, yeah. I was just thinking that he’s going to miss so much. Good looking kid, looks like he might be a W&M student.”

“Well, I think I just heard Gladys’s van pull in. The State of Virginia really needs to get that muffler fixed.”

“Once she takes a look, we’ll check for ID, see what we’ve got.” Press looked further down the hotel parking lot and saw his favorite rotund coroner, Gladys Williams, jumping down out of the driver’s side of the Tidewater Branch coroner’s van. Her short legs worked overtime as she ran to the back of the van, pulled out her kit and the gurney, then slammed the doors shut.

Moving toward them, she said, “Well, good morning, boys! Which of life’s mysteries have you got for me this fine spring morning?”

Press took in the view of Gladys Williams at her absolute best—some would say her most outrageous, but Press just loved the quirky little coroner. This morning’s costume included a pair of jeans, a bright green t-shirt with rhinestones in the pattern of huge, toasting, martini glasses across her very ample breasts, and little, green, plastic bows fastened to the end of umpteen corn rolls. Her face black, shining, rosy cheeks, glossed pink lips, and broad smile absolutely tickled Press to death.

“Morning, beautiful! Glad you could join us. Take a look at this morning’s offering to the Gods and tell us what you think.” Press found himself grinning back at her.

Press watched as she checked for footprints or evidence she might disturb and then put down a plastic cloth on which she knelt. She took a liver temp, and then she gently turned the victim’s head checked the head wound that had very obviously been the cause of death.

He heard a distinct “tsk tsk” from the compassionate little coroner as she continued with the few tasks she could accomplish here at the site.

Finally, she rolled the young victim slightly onto his side and felt for a wallet in his hip pocket. Finding said wallet, she pulled it from its hiding place and handed it to Press.

“Well, let’s see who we’ve got.” Press opened the nylon wallet and found the kid’s driver license. “This is our boy. Derek McElroy. License says Norfolk.”

The crime scene crew had packed up and was getting ready to leave. They had waited for the coroner to arrive since they would not touch the body until she’d checked it.

Press approached Bill Jenkins, one of the best CSIs he’d ever worked with. “Here’s the kid’s wallet.” Press watched as Jenkins held out an evidence envelope into which Press’s latex-covered hands placed what was, so far, the last earthly possession of poor Derek McElroy. Just as he started to open his mouth, Jenkins cut him off.

“You don’t have to ask,” Bill said, grinning. “It’s already been sent.”

Press heard his cell phone go off. He checked his messages and found a photo—head shot—of young Derek McElroy. He noted that the photo showed almost none of the fatal damage done to the handsome young man. He could almost have been sleeping.

“Thanks, Bill. Should have known you’d think of that on your own.”

“Press, we’ve worked the same cases for the last ten years. How many times have I let you down?”

“Well, there was that time…”

“Other than that one!” Jenkins laughed.

“Have a great day, Press. See you, Gladys!” Bill Jenkins climbed into his big, black SUV and drove away.

Now the notification would be left to the detectives. Press felt his chest tighten. This is the worst part of the job, he thought. Best to get it over and done.

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