Hard Press’d Excerpt


Crime Scene

Day 1

2:30 AM

The kid is stammering. Press decided to have a little fun. It might just brighten his mood a little.

“Dead bodies make you nervous, Evans?”

“N-no, sir!”

Andrews had spotted the case of nerves the first time they’d worked together—he’d decided it wasn’t the work but Press himself that unnerved the kid. He’d been there himself…though it seemed like a lifetime ago. He’d been a big admirer of his now-retired partner when they first got paired. They’d become so tight that, by the time old Finnegan retired, they could finish each other’s sentences.

If we’re going to spend the next who-knows-how-many-years together, I’ll have to break Evans of that little case of “hero worship” quickly!

Despite his mood and the hour, he found the youth and inexperience of this young cop had him trying to hide a smile as he snapped on a pair of latex gloves.

Evans was rumored to have an IQ that would knock any Ivy League college dean’s socks off—but he’d decided to be a cop. It seemed that they had a little something in common—disappointing those who meant the most to them. Well, if the powers-that-be wanted him to hone the kid’s detective skills, by God he’d make him the best damned detective they’d ever seen.

Glancing at Evans, Press suppressed his grin once more. The kid would probably have to find a dark corner to deposit last night’s dinner before the morning was over.

He’d have to admit, if asked, that the kid was a pleasant young guy—but he also was a constant reminder of how much Press himself had changed in the mere six years he had on the kid. Homicide does that to you, he supposed.

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” Damn, Evans thought and cringed. Andrews hates that “sir” stuff.

The ME, a rotund, little fireball named Gladys Williams, arrived in her big black van. She watched the Crime Scene team take photographs of the body and surrounding area.

The crime scene crew acknowledged the detectives’ arrival. Flash bulbs were going off left and right—adding a strange red-carpet atmosphere to an otherwise deadly scene.

Andrews and Evans stood back waiting for the ME to do a preliminary examination including the usual liver temp. They had to go through the required steps despite the fact that the cause of death was all, too obvious. When Gladys was finished, she nodded to Andrews and stepped back to give him access to the body.

“Needless to say, she’s got two pretty lethal bullet wounds. I’ll do a complete work-up as soon as I get her back to the morgue,” the ME said, before turning to return to her van to get a gurney. She could be heard grumbling while moving as quickly as her short, plump legs would let her.

“Hum,” Andrews said, as he squatted down beside what was left of a pretty blonde in a sexy, low-cut blue silk dress, one of its thin spaghetti straps—left shoulder—was snapped in two. Her pricey handbag lay beside her.

Her dainty feet were strapped into silver sandals with five-inch heels, Manolo Blahniks, unless his eyes failed him. His sister would be proud of him for recognizing them, if she ever spoke to him again. Undoubtedly the ankle straps had kept them on when she went down.

The victim’s jewelry was still in place. Sapphires and diamonds twinkled from the ring and bracelet. Her pendant—the ring’s mate in design—was hanging around her neck from a white gold chain so thin it was a mere whisper.

All this luxury was accompanied by two small, neat, round gunshot wounds. One sat between her pretty green eyes which were now clouding over. Their lids showed the first signs of rigor—no doubt due to the cool night air. The other wound was right in the center of her throat.

Other than those two rather obvious flaws, their accompanying powder burns and a small, bubbling trail of brain blood on her forehead, she looked like she had just collapsed backwards and gone to sleep. The pool of blood beneath her head was small for a head wound—already dead before that shot—and brain matter on the wall behind her proved that the appearance of sleep was just a fantasy.

Her blonde curls weren’t even mussed, neither was that expensive dress—despite the snapped strap. Death had been quick and unexpected. Evans’ dinner was probably safe after all. It was one of the neatest, cleanest, yet most destructive shootings he’d ever seen—but with the same result as too many. A beautiful young woman was dead. Something about her is vaguely familiar, he thought as he straightened up and stood next to his partner.

“Tell me what you see, Evans.”

“Young female, sir—approximately twenty to twenty-five years old—probably out partying from the outfit she’s wearing—maybe a party girl or a pro, sir. Two gunshot wounds up close. First shot probably killed her. Looks like a nine-mil. Maybe a trick gone bad?”

“You’re right on the nine-mil.” He watched Evans’s complexion turn a wee bit green, but the kid was hanging in there and, although this was probably the neatest, cleanest murder scene he’d ever run into, his regard for Evans moved up a notch. Your first few dead bodies and all the unpleasantness that accompanied them were difficult to handle.

His own lack of reaction—other than those tingling nerve endings—was proof that, with enough exposure, you grew less affected by the sight alone. Other matters could shake you though. That much he had learned the hard way.

“Throw up on me or my crime scene, Evans, and you’ll ride your desk for the next week,” Press growled in his deep voice. “Lesson #2, Evans—never, ever throw up on my crime scene.”

“Yes, sir—I mean, no sir!”

“Make up your mind, Evans! See anything else? ”

Evans took a deep, cleansing breath. “Strange the way she’s laying there. The first shot should have knocked her off her feet. Usually there’s an odd position of the body—she looks like she just lay down to take a nap.”

“Yeah, or maybe somebody laid her down.”

Another notch for the kid.

“But the girl’s very probably not a pro, Evans—at least not a street pro—there’s real money here and lots of it. Could be a high-priced pro, but I don’t think so. The clothes are too expensive. Dress is silk.” He bent over and gave a slight lift to that dress’s skirt—which had never covered more than the top third of those long, slim legs. “Lingerie is French lace.” He carefully put the skirt back in place. “And those sandals were about fifteen-hundred dollars retail.”

“Whew!” Evans couldn’t imagine paying that kind of money for a pair of shoes—let alone shoes that were just straps with spikes for heels.

“I’ve got a sister with expensive taste,” Andrews explained when he saw the expression on Evans’ face.

“How can you tell that’s French lace, sir?” Trace asked, wondering if he’d ever seen French lace.

Press gave the kid a crooked smile and a wink. “Once you’ve seen it up close, kid, you never forget it.” He saw Evans taking one more look, as the kid tried to figure it out.

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