This book developed differently than my others and I want to honor that process. Monthly I get together with six other writers that live here, and we critique 10 or so pages of each other’s WIP. We call it Writer-to-Writer. This is the first book I put through that process and it is much enhanced because of it. These women – Laura, Laurel, Leslie, Lynn, Cyn, and Jane – have my undying thanks for their help, insight and honesty.
Letting himself out of the house, Sal took a deep breath and ran his hand through his thick dark hair, pushing it back from his forehead. He needed air. He’d been a cop for nearly eight years, a detective for three, but he’d never seen anything to compare to this level of viciousness. God, this guy brutalized the woman. The amount of overkill was frightening. The walls of the room were covered in blood, which meant she’d been alive . . .
Looking up at the bright blue June sky, he noted a couple of cotton ball clouds to the west. It really was a beautiful day, and he had always loved driving through this neighborhood, especially when the Christmas decorations took over the area. He’d grown up here in Carlton City, though the city was a lot more developed now than when he was a boy.
The homes in this part of town were older—many built back in the 1920’s, full brick with large windows. Flowers and shrubs were at the front of every home and all of the yards were small but neat. There were mature trees in the yards, none of those spindly pear trees that developers insisted on lining up in new developments. At least a few of these trees were here before the houses were constructed and they meandered down the street where they wanted to be, not cultivated by designers.
What was in that bedroom, however, did not fit with this sedate, upper middle-class neighborhood. Would he ever be able to drive through here again without seeing what was inside that house?
He stiffened his spine and took a deep breath of the fresher air. The forensic team was in there now and needed him out of the way. He’d seized the chance to escape for a little while. For something productive to do, he scanned the crowd on the other side of the police tape. Gawkers, he hated them, even as part of him understood. Most of them had some real excuse to be out, like the man with his dog. The dog was much more interested in the mature tree closest to him. These people were quiet at least, probably neighbors. They weren’t pressing to get closer, only murmuring their questions to each other, concern on their faces, but not demanding answers of him. If they’d seen the bedroom, they’d be racing to get as far away as possible. Of course, there was always the possibility that the perp was watching to see people’s reaction, gloating over being on the inside even while anonymous. But he wasn’t seeing anything that set off his spidey sense that way.
His eyes fell on a woman standing slightly apart from the others. She was on the short side, maybe five foot two, well below the six foot one he claimed. Okay, he was six foot and three quarters—damn, he really was trying to separate himself from what he’d seen for a little while.
She wasn’t pressing to get closer, standing at the far edge of the sidewalk. She wasn’t talking to the others, holding herself apart. The clothes she wore were too big, and a color that caused her to fade into the background, as though hiding something. The large gray sweater was baggy, shapeless, and unnecessary in this weather. Her arms were wrapped around her waist, as though trying to protect herself from everything. Her hair was dark and down around her face, again hiding, but he could see the escaped tear that ran down her face. She wore no make-up and was pale. It struck him then—she was staring at the window of the bedroom. All of the others were watching the front door, waiting for some gruesome thing to emerge.
He found himself moving in her direction. When he stood in front of her, she looked up, clearly startled. “You a friend of the family?” he asked in a conversational tone. She wasn’t a suspect. Not to be sexist, but most women probably wouldn’t have the physical strength to accomplish what this perp had done. At least this one couldn’t. He was just marking time. She wouldn’t meet his eyes, turning her face down to examine the sidewalk.
“Uh, no.” She shook her head and the arms she wrapped around herself tightened.
She shook her head.
He extended his hand. “I’m Detective Capello.”
She didn’t speak and ignored his hand.
“Mary, Mary B-bridges.”
“Why are you here, Mary Bridges?” He kept his polite detective smile in place but was watching her closely now. He let his hand fall back to his side when she ignored the gesture.
“I . . . I heard . . . I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be here, it’s disrespect—Excuse me.” She turned away then and hurried toward a nondescript navy Honda. He glanced down at the license, and quickly scribbled the number on the back of his hand as she pulled away. He had no concrete reason, she didn’t feel like a suspect in this, but it seemed the thing to do. Something about her had caught his attention, and he paid heed to that. He pulled out his notebook and wrote her name and license number in the top corner of a page and drew a box around the information.
He needed to get back inside.