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February 22nd New Release

Posted on February 15, 2014 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

 


CHANGING PARTNERS
From The Chris Gallagher Files

by Tom Bryde

Detective Chris Gallagher catches his first case after the murder of his partner Vince. He arrives to find Pete Barnigan, an undercover drug cop, spattered all over the dining room wall. To make matters worse, his new, unannounced partner arrives on the scene. Dave Purvis is an unknown commodity to Gallagher, but makes sure Chris realises that he is not impressed by rank or reputation as he starts to work the case. As they retrace Pete's moves and talk to his contacts, more people associated to Pete also land on the Medical Examiner's table, including Pete's partner, and their handler is in the wind. Along with the twists and turns of the case, Gallagher has to deal with his new 'partner' putting the moves on his lady. The question that haunts Chris most during this case? Is he dealing with a cop killer or a killer cop?

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Chapter 1


She looked at the gun resting in her palm then slowly raised her gaze to look him in the eye. “It’s untraceable?”

JJ nodded. “That’s what was ordered.” He dug in his pocket. “This is the silencer. It just screws into the end of the barrel.”

“The others...?”

“Have I ever let you down?”

“I know you never will.”

JJ held out his hand. A bag of powder was placed in it. “Sweet!”

“Don’t spend it all in one place.”

#

Pete raced down the stairs from the bedroom, his brow furrowed, his step determined. As he rounded the corner to the dining room, he stopped, his eyes narrowing. “What are you doing here?”

“Good morning.”

He took two steps closer to the table. “What do you want?”

“From you? Absolutely nothing.”

One muffled shot sounded. Pete crumpled to the floor.

“Nothing, that is, other than for you to mind your own fucking business.”


Chapter 2


“Jesus, do I really want to go back to the damned job?” Detective Chris Gallagher stood in his shower allowing the hot water to massage his tense muscles. “Do I need that crap? Everyone will be staring at me when I’m not looking at them, whispering behind my back, afraid to make eye contact, not sure of what to say – a bunch of cats on eggshells, afraid of what might upset me. I’m the damned senior officer there, and I need all of them to have their heads in the game! We have a murder to investigate – the murder of another cop, for Christ sake. That has to be our priority. Vince is dead. His case is closed, so it’s time to move on.”

Not wanting to think of his partner anymore, he shut off the water and grabbed a towel, continuing his soliloquy. “I should stay here to help Becky. God knows she still can’t do a damned thing for herself. If she could have, Vince would never have been killed.” He considered the option for a moment, knowing it was a non-starter. “Richard would probably rubberstamp my leave pass for another couple weeks, despite the fact they’ve called me in early, but I can’t hide here forever. Besides, every time I look at Becky, I see Vince lying in that damned pool of blood.” He sighed, leaned closer to the mirror and began to shave. The thing is, I really like Becky. I don’t want to see her leave. She deserves a break – she has no place to go, she’s lost everything... I can’t very well turn her out, can I? If I did, I know Vince’s ghost would haunt me. He died trying to save her. I owe it to him to finish that assignment.

He shut off his razor and dropped it on the counter. The towel landed in a heap on the floor. Naked, he strode to his closet and grabbed some slacks from a hanger. “Crap! Get your shit together, Gallagher! There’s a murder to deal with. Richard expects me to lead the investigation. The guys will have to get over the fact that Vince won’t be working this case with us, or any other case.” He sat on the edge of the bed, swallowing back the lump in his throat. “I’m not supposed to be going back like this. This was absolutely not how it was to happen. It’s been a long time since I worked alone. Shit, Vince is gone.” He strolled across the room then slammed his fist against the dresser. “God damn it, he wasn’t supposed to go, and I don’t want to do this.”


#


The uniformed police officer lifted the yellow tape, allowing Chris into the crime scene. He ducked under then straightened. Before moving any closer, he paused, taking a deep breath. I don’t want to go in here. I really don’t want to. Images of Pete Barnigan flooded his memory – sturdy, boisterous, dedicated; the goofy grin on Pete’s face when he announced to everyone that he was going to be a dad now haunted Chris. He climbed the stairs. It’s another body, another vic… nothing more. He took a second deep breath, pursed his lips and held his eyes shut tight for a moment, his hand resting on the doorknob. Sweet Jesus, I don’t want to do this.

As he walked through the door of the house, he pulled his dark glasses from his face. He hated the stereotypical expectations of cops in movies, however the morning sun was bright and his eyes were tired from a restless night. The glasses provided the added benefit of allowing him to observe while not alerting the person in his sights of his interest. His badge was clipped to his belt, but it was hardly necessary. The uniforms nodded him through without looking at it.

A young, slender police officer at the door met him with a stony, determined expression. “He’s in the dining room, Chris.”

Chris nodded. “Is Richard here yet?”

“He just radioed. He should be here any minute now; likewise with Colleen and Doctor Throckmorton. I also heard that Wentz and Niles Cooper are on the way.” The uniform looked down at his shoes as he talked.

“What about the kid who found the body?”

“Ten year old boy, lives across the road, comes over to cut the grass whenever it needs to be done. I guess Rachel must have set it up when she started having problems with the pregnancy, especially because of Pete’s hours. The kid is back home with his folks. There’s a uniform over there with him in case he says anything you need to know about.”

“They got dogs out there already?” Chris looked through the window as he asked, but saw nothing.

“Yeah, plus the uniforms are already canvassing for you, and road blocks are set up, but…” He shrugged.

Chris nodded again. “Okay. Thanks.” He walked into the living room. The unmistakable stench of blood and decay, smells of death that were a significant factor of his job, assaulted his senses. Already he was looking for any sign of what might have happened in the house – a home in which Chris had enjoyed many a beer and a laugh. He stopped then returned to the door. “Hey, Frank, his service revolver and badge?”

The uniform turned back toward Chris. “We didn’t touch anything. We did notice, though, that his sidearm is still holstered. We left that for you to log into evidence. This is one of those files that we really don’t want to screw around with, you know?”

Chris smiled. “Yeah, I know.”

“Chris,” the uniform called out again as Chris reached the living room for the second time. “I just wanted to say, well, you know, I’m sorry…”

Chris raised his hand and pushed off the gesture of sympathy. “Yeah, I know.”

There appeared to be nothing disturbed in the living room. To anyone arriving at the front door, there would be no reason to suspect anything at all had happened in the quiet, quaint home. His gloved finger traced along the back of the couch. Pete was so damned proud when we moved this furniture in for him and Rachel. He fussed around like some old lady whenever we came here to watch a game, always worried about the glasses leaving rings on the damned table. It all came from Ikea, for god’s sake, but he treated it like it was Chippendale.

Chris walked around the corner to the dining room, the typical dated L-shaped living arrangement of so many homes in the neighborhood. He stopped short, his eyes locked on the body sprawled on the floor, and the crimson pool of blood dotted with shards of broken glass that surrounded it. It seemed straightforward enough. Pete had been standing in the dining room. A shot through the window hit him, blasting tissue from his body as it pierced, killing him almost instantly. The mahogany table and chairs separated victim from window. In the Rorschach spray of blood and brain matter that covered the wall, Chris easily spotted the evidence of a second shot that had been fired through the window. He made a mental note to point it out to Colleen when she came to work the scene.

Careful to touch nothing that might harbor a fingerprint or destroy evidence, Chris knelt beside the body. Constable Pete Barnigan was face down on the carpet, his cheek pressed into the once cream-colored fibres. His left eye, vacant and brown, was still open. His mouth was twisted as if he was mid-sentence when he was shot. That could be nerves, panic or fear as he lay dying. The position of his feet, the fact that the bullet had entered his head through his face… he was looking toward the window when he was shot. There’s no sign anyone was in the house with him – no knocked-over furniture, no footprints, no sign of struggle at all.

“Well?”

Chris shook his head then stood to face his supervisor. “Right now, I would suggest the bullet came from outside the window. There’s nothing in here to indicate anyone came in the house, and we have a spray pattern and broken glass.”

Richard Nichols quietly examined the scene himself. Chris was always impressed by the man. He looked like he had just walked off the set of a network soap opera, his thick, silver hair professionally coiffed, his long face still free of wrinkles and in perfect proportion, and the package finished off with an Armani suit, Gucci shoes and a silver silk tie, even those times when he had been called in at five in the morning. “He was shot through the window. Anything outside?”

Chris turned, his eyes still examining every item, every detail of the room. “Haven’t gotten there yet, but they have a dog working the area now. Colleen is on her way, and some uniforms are already canvassing.”

“What about Rachel? Where is she?” Richard asked.

Chris turned once more to face the supervisor of the SCU, and was caught off guard by the second figure behind Richard, examining the room. With effort, he turned his full attention to Richard. “I’m not sure where she is, but it’s going to be hell for her. We’ll make sure she has some support here, and considering her condition, I’ll arrange for someone to take her to see her doctor as soon as we locate her.”

Richard frowned. “Why the hell did this have to happen? What went wrong?”

“I guess it’s just part and parcel with the job, especially when you work drugs.” Chris was still having a hard time ignoring the dark-haired, dark-eyed man who continued to hover in the background, but based on Richard’s indifference, he talked openly to his superior. “I’ll get Bert to go through Pete’s files and contacts, see what he was working on, although I have no doubt the list will be massive. While he does that, I’ll have Jimmy work the scene here with Colleen, and I’ll talk to the boy then track down Glen Gilletto to see what light he can shed on this situation.”

“Niles Cooper is on his way to deal with the media, making sure that no one says anything about Pete being on the job, but just his presence here will be enough of a warning flag that something more is going on with the case.” Richard pushed his hair back with his fingers as he spoke. “For now, you might just want to tell him it’s too early to speculate about anything. I don’t want to release any details at all about Pete or the undercover work he was doing. When you brief him, you might strongly suggest that we need to think about the other guys on the squad who could be impacted if Pete’s cover is blown. We also need to take care of Rachel and protect her as much as possible from the media attention that’s sure to come from this.” Richard looked out the window. “Chief Wentz is going to want a full briefing as well. He was planning on coming over here, but I told him we had it covered and you would be by to see him at your first opportunity. You can expect him to be shadowing you constantly on this one. Two dead plainclothes officers in one month is more than enough reason for him to be concerned. He’ll be demanding answers quickly.”

Chris stared at his mentor, close friend and surrogate father. “Please tell me you don’t really believe there’s any possible connection between this and what happened…?”

Richard shook his head. “Absolutely not. We know there’s no connection at all, but public perception might not see it that way, despite what we say. They’ll be scared. They’ll want answers. Two dead cops is two dead cops, and the fact that both were shot in cop’s homes doesn’t help matters at all. This will be a media nightmare for all of us.”

“Yeah, well the public better not find out about the second dead cop, at least not for a little while, because that would certainly jeopardize the whole unit. I’ll get to Wentz when I can. I have other pressing business to take care of, like processing this scene and tracking down Pete’s partner.”

The stranger in the room was examining the carpet at the base of the wall then stood as his eyes followed the spatter pattern up the drywall. As he focused on the bullet hole, he pressed his face close, almost touching the paint. He had said nothing. The red flashing lights outside bounced off the badge clipped to his belt.

Chris could contain himself no longer. “Hey, get the hell away from that. This is a crime scene, asshole, and you have no business in here.” He turned to Richard. “I don’t know who the hell this guy thinks he is, but I don’t need him contaminating this scene. We just had someone shot here, and if there’s a problem, it’s my ass in the sling.”

Richard’s left eyebrow lifted and his eyes widened. “Yeah, well, I don’t think you need to worry about him, because...” Before he could finish, two more men made their way into the dining area of the little house.

“Shit. I kept saying on the way over here that there was no way in hell this could happen to Pete. Jesus.” Jimmy Estabrook groaned as he looked at the floor.

Chris noted again that at any hour, Jimmy Estabrook looked like a GQ model. Feeling suddenly out of place, he tugged on his sleeves and ran his hand through his hair, straightening it.

Lyle ‘Bert’ Burton, Jimmy’s perpetual partner, the two of them working together like the gears in Big Ben, stood beside Richard. “Where do you need us, Chris?”

“You can hang around till Colleen gets done in here then see what you can find for paperwork or anything else Pete left that might help us. Then you can get your keyboard out and see what you can dig up from whatever sources you need to use.” Chris emphasized the ‘whatever sources’ – a clear indication that Bert was to push, bend or twist the rules as much as he needed to get the information.

Bert nodded, pulled out a camera and began to snap photos of every aspect of the scene. Colleen would also have her forensics people doing the same thing, but Bert knew that Chris liked some to be downloaded into the computer right away for their own reference.

“Jimmy, you can come outside with me. We need to find where the shooter was and see if he left us any presents. Then you can see what the uniforms came up with. They may have found some people you can talk to. Also, check out what’s happening with the tracking dog and the roadblocks then go back to the office and start going through Pete’s files.” Chris continued to focus his attention on the scene around him while he spoke, looking up only briefly as he issued his instructions.

“Sure thing, Chris,” Jimmy said while he scratched some notes He then slipped the pen and paper back into his pocket and turned to go.

“James,” Richard quietly called out. “Perhaps you can give Bert a hand in here instead.”

Jimmy spun around, but not as quickly as Chris. He was not used to his orders being overruled, even by Richard. At times Richard Nichols would make a suggestion or offer an opinion, but never had he so blatantly interfered with one of Chris’ investigations. This was neither the time nor the place for him to start. There was absolute silence in the room, all eyes, save for one set, intent on Richard.

The stranger who had arrived with Richard was now kneeling beside Pete. With his pen and, using extreme care, he eased the victim’s shirt open to look down along the body. Pete’s gun was still in its shoulder holster, where under normal conditions it was hidden from sight. He appeared totally oblivious to what the other men in the room were saying or to the electric atmosphere that had developed since his unannounced arrival.

“I told you to get the hell out of here before I pick you up and throw you out myself,” Chris hollered at the man, his anger and confusion at Richard’s interference manifesting itself in the only outlet available. He could feel his world spinning out of control as already this investigation was being hampered and tampered with. He owed it to his fallen friend to ensure that everything was done properly. There would be no mistakes.

With painstaking slowness, the kneeling figure swiveled his head around to look at Chris, his face still frozen, but there was a sparkle in his dark eyes. When he stood up and approached Chris, it was clear that neither would be easily intimidated. This man was equal to Chris in height, but his thick neck, chiseled face and well-muscled chest were clear indicators that he was no flyweight. His face continued to show no emotion.

“There are an awful lot of people who would probably appreciate seeing me tossed from a room.” His voice was smooth, his words delivered with quiet control. “I rather doubt that you would be the man to do it. It might be entertaining to see you try, but I think you have enough here to keep you busy for the next couple minutes, without adding a trip to the hospital to the list of things you need to get done.” A slight smile twisted his lips as he pressed his face close to Gallagher’s.

Teeth clenched in anger, nails digging into his palms as he fisted his hand, Chris glared back, welcoming the challenge. “Clearly you underestimate me. I would have to guess that all those steroids you pop don’t help build every muscle.” Gallagher reached out and tapped the stranger on his head.

The smile remained in place, as did the sparkle, but only for a moment longer. With no warning at all, Chris found himself pinned to a wall, a large and strong rubber-gloved hand around his throat holding him in place. “Excuse me, Sir,” the stranger addressed Richard, “but I believe you wanted to say something to Detective Gallagher here, and I think probably right now you could have his undivided attention.”

Richard rolled his eyes upwards in a practiced plea for help from above. He took a breath then sauntered over to where the two men were now standing. “Okay, Dave, let him go and the two of you make nice. It’s time for you both to learn to play.”

“Why is that?” Chris growled from the corner of his mouth, the hand still holding him tight to the wall.

The stranger answered, a wide and wicked smile cutting across his face. “I think he wants us to learn to get along because they already have two dead cops and that seems to be enough for now. Also, it will make his life a whole lot more simple in the long run, Partner.”

“Good morning, Detective Purvis.” The approaching male voice was conversational and very relaxed, indifferent to the fact that Purvis’ hand was still wrapped around Chris Gallagher’s throat.

Purvis smiled at the older and much shorter man. “Good morning, Doctor Throckmorton.”

“Good morning, Detective Gallagher,” the diminutive Medical Examiner greeted the other investigator as he made his way through the room. He seemed befuddled, preoccupied and scattered, but the men knew such was never the case with Norton Throckmorton.

“Norton,” Chris acknowledged perfunctorily.

After a quick visual examination of the scene, the doctor turned to Richard. “Good morning, Richard. This shouldn’t take me too long; then your boys can have the place.” He used a quick movement of his head to indicate the two men, who still had not moved. “You still think this is a match made in heaven, do you?”

Richard chuckled as he gave the two the same look an exasperated mother might give her children when they are trying her patience. “Yeah, I must be nuts, but yes, I do.”

Throckmorton shrugged. “So do I.” His head dropped down and he examined the floor as he made his way further into the dining room. “Detective Purvis, put the nice policeman down. It’s time to quit playing and get to work.



CHANGING PARTNERS by Tom Bryde

Available in Print, Digital and Kindle/mobi formats on

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

 


 

Victoria Seacress Returns!

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

If you liked Victoria in her first book, you are going to love her now. Tom Bryde offers another great mystery in Victoria Seacress: Headstones.


Chapter 1


  

 


“This is all simply routine, so don’t worry.” Detective Chris Gallagher’s voice was soft yet serious. His eyes never left her. “Before we start, can I get you something? A drink, maybe?”

If it’s routine, why are we in this room and why is that little voice in the back of my head telling me to shut the hell up? “I’m fine, thanks,” Victoria Seacress answered. Gallagher closed the door. There were just the two of them in the little room. He smells of oak moss and spice. Perhaps with a hint of leather? It might be yummy if he didn’t always have his head up his ass.

So what friggin detail did they find in my bedroom that turned a suicide into a murder investigation? And where the hell is Dave ‘the-hottest-cop-on-the-force’ Purvis? She ran her tongue across the length of her top lip. He was strictly Purvis the cop, not Dave the hot guy in the tight jeans. He and I were in my bedroom, together, at last. Yeah, right! That was a blast, wasn’t it? He was rather sweet, though, the way he picked me up and carried me out of there. He was so attentive, so why the hell isn’t he in here with me?

“Can you tell me about your day yesterday?” Gallagher sat down facing her. Only a small metal table separated them.

Oh, my god, look at his eyes! He thinks I did it? He thinks I killed Rod! Oh, shit! What the hell do I say? Do I need a lawyer or does asking for one make me look even more guilty? “I suppose, but there really isn’t a lot to tell. The day itself was pretty ordinary.” It was ordinary till I got home last night – then things went to hell in a hand basket, didn’t they? “Jake picked me up like always. We went to the Tim Horton’s on Sixteenth to meet with Isabella Farleigh from the women’s shelter.” Her words were clipped, the delivery abrupt. I have to chill a bit. If he thinks I have attitude, it could come back to bite me in the ass. He can’t think I have attitude. “We went back to my house to get some papers I had forgotten then met with Detective Purvis about the Terrill story. After that, we went to the shelter to do some interviews and get some video footage. We took that back to the station and did some editing. I was there until Dave… Detective Purvis… asked to meet me in front of the building. When I went back to work, we did more editing, I worked on some of my files then I went home.”

Gallagher let silence consume the room.

Will you say something, jerk… please? I hate this.

“You went back home… to find your fiancé dead in the middle of your bedroom.” Gallagher leaned back in his chair. “That’s quite a report, Miss Seacress, although I had hoped for something a bit more explicit. It would appear that your eye for detail is much more developed for your news reports, or when you’re shouting questions at me in a scrum. Surely you can do better than that.”

What the hell do I say that doesn’t hurt me? How do I answer his questions without him spinning them around and throwing them back at me? It’s what cops do.

There was a knock at the door.

Thank god! A reprieve!

Detective Purvis stuck his head into the room. “Excuse me. Sorry for the interruption.”

He winked at me. That cheeky Purvis winked at me. He knows I could never kill anyone. He’d never accuse me anything like that. Oh, Dave, please stay in here with me.

“It’s no problem, Dave. Miss Seacress, here, was just getting ready to put her star investigative-reporter hat on so she can understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, because it will make this easier for everyone once she does.” Gallagher walked out of the room.

The door closed with a heavy thud. She was alone. I saw that patronizing look, asshole! Man, thank god for Dave. He came at the right time. I don’t know why they’ve brought out the heavy guns – Gallagher is mostly a desk jockey. Hopefully Dave will take over to get my statement then I can get the hell out of here.

Wow, so this is what it’s like to sit in ‘The Sauna’. Victoria examined her surroundings. The table was cold under her arms. She shivered. I wish I had a warmer shirt on. You would think they could turn up the damn heat. Looking at the bruises on her arms, realization set in. Oh, shit! Gallagher probably told Purvis to get me this shirt. Gallagher knew I needed clothes from my room, so this is what he told Dave to bring for me. They’ve already started with the games. The bare arms, the bruises; he wants those front and center. He wants them in my face to rattle me, to get me to say something about Rod hitting me. Humpft, he may want that, but I won’t give it to him. He can’t make me look at my arms. These marks aren’t from Rod hitting me anyway, so what does it matter? Okay, that may be strictly semantics, but it’s true. She turned around in her seat, examining the Spartan room once again. Looking for a way out? How the hell long has he been gone? Did he forget I’m sitting in here?

Her mouth went dry. Goosebumps crept from her nap, down her arms. I had already broken up with that asshole, anyway. Rod was gone. I wasn’t planning on ever seeing him again, so why would I feel the need to kill him? He was out of my life. I can make that argument. She nodded her head as she considered her current predicament. It’s true. I never killed him. So, how do I make Gallagher believe me when I say that? Probably everyone who sits in this damn room does so with the intention of pleading their innocence, despite the fact they may be guilty as hell. Dave knows me. He won’t accuse me of anything. He knows I couldn’t possibly have killed anyone.

The door opened again. Please be Dave! Please be Dave! Shit!

“Sorry for the interruption, Miss Seacress.” Gallagher returned to his seat.

No wonder I feel like I’m being hunted. He moves like a cat, a big, hungry cougar that stalks his prey, stalks me, from behind a rock or perched high in a tree, totally camouflaged and waiting for me to make just one mistake that he can pounce on.

“Okay, where were we?” he asked.

Asshole! You know! You know exactly where we were, so quit pissing around with me. “I had just told you where I was all day.”

He nodded. “Right. So, what did you do for lunch? You never mentioned any lunch.”

Okay, so he misses nothing, does he? He will pick apart my every word. “I didn’t stop for lunch. I didn’t even think about it.”

“That’s normal for you?”

You, sir, are starting to get up my nose. “Unless I have a meeting over lunch, I rarely take the time to stop.”

“No supper either yesterday?”

“No.”

There was another knock. Gallagher left.

Here I sit again, while they play their little game. This sucks. I wish they would just get to the point. Holy shit, speaking of sucks, this room really sucks. Surely they could have put some color somewhere in it. Victoria looked around her again, at the bare walls, the sparse furniture. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing in here. It’s like the quintessential black hole.

Victoria had been tapping her nails on the table. She straightened her fingers and examined them. Damn! I need a manicure. She twisted her face in disgust. I never thought to get Purvis to grab my nail kit when he picked up my stuff at the house. I’ve got to get them fixed before I file my next report. This chipped nail will show up the same way a giant zit on my face would, once the camera is turned on. No one understands the details we have to watch for. Well, Purvis might understand. She rolled her eyes as she conceded the point. He lives for details.

The doorknob clicked open and Purvis beamed in at her from around the edge of the door.

Amen, sweet Lord! Ask and ye shall receive.

“Ah, yes, I can see the wheels turning up there, Vic. How you doing? Everything okay in here?” He did not enter the room.

It is now, baby! “I’m fine, but Dave, seriously, how long is this going to take?”

He shrugged. “Chris should only be a couple of minutes. I can get you something to drink, if you like. You want some tea?”

“No, I’m fine.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Now, get in here and tell me what the hell is going on? What burr got up Gallagher’s ass today?” Oh, baby, don’t give me that weak grin. I hate that grin, Dave. Get your ass in here or get me the hell out of here.

“Sorry, Vic, but I gotta run. Just wanted to make sure you didn’t need anything.”

“Where’s Jake…?” She let her voice trail off. Purvis was already gone. The door closed again. Oh god, what a hollow, depressing sound that is. Why the hell didn’t he stay? We’re friends. I know we are. He should have stayed. He likes me.

He told me once that he liked me in lavender because it brought out the color of my eyes. Maybe that’s why he chose this outfit. She looked down then tugged at the hem of her shirt. That’s it. It was nothing sinister or underhanded on his part. He just wanted me to feel good about myself. He has to know I would never kill or hurt anyone. He has to know that. How the hell much longer will that asshole be? I don’t have all day!

There’s no way they can think it was me. Dave was there right away. He saw my reaction, didn’t he? She shifted in her chair. The bare metal seat was uncomfortable. Everything is such a blur. I can’t remember him coming into the bedroom at all. He can’t think I made up my reaction? How could anyone pretend to react in a believable way after finding some guy’s brains splattered all over the ceiling? Shit, that wasn’t ‘some guy’. That was Rod. She frowned and bit on her bottom lip in an attempt to keep it from trembling. How the hell did we go from him in my bed with me one night, to this, to me sitting in this god-forsaken police interview room and Gallagher being ready to accuse me of killing him?

Oh my god, that was really Rod? It can’t have been him. It wasn’t him, was it? How can they know for sure it was him, though? She taxed her memory, trying to conjure up the image she saw in her mirror. There was no head on that person. It could have been anyone. His face was gone. Her stomach was starting to wretch, twisting and knotting as she forced herself to remember what she had seen.

God damn it! I was there. I was in the room. Why can’t I remember what I saw? Gallagher is going to ask me and I can’t remember. But how is it possible to forget something that horrific?

Jesus, was that really Rod? Was it? I loved him. I still love him. A tear brimmed over her eyelid and started a slow course down her right cheek. She did not want others to follow. What the hell happened in there? He wouldn’t kill himself, would he? But why would anyone else kill him? That makes no sense. Despite her efforts, a tear from her left eye raced to catch up with its mate on the other side of her nose. Why in the hell do they just leave me in here?

Turning over her hands, she stared at the black shading still on her fingertips. She had been printed before being put into the room. Oh my god, they really think I did it. They believe that I killed the man I love; the man I hoped and prayed would love me more than anything else in the world. She started to rock back and forth on her seat. I wouldn’t kill him. He would have understood eventually that he can’t steamroll over my professional life. He would have changed, maybe even mellowed a bit. So we had a spat. He would have come back to me and we would have worked it out. I would set down the guidelines and he would remember them. He would have come back to me. He was going to. Oh my god, he did come back to me. That’s why he was in my bedroom, and now he’s dead. He’s really dead.

Seeing the whole picture was a direct blow to her solar plexus. She began to gasp for air. The room was closing in, and she was trapped. Where the hell is Jake? What have they done with him? I need Jake. I need help. Someone, please? Anyone? Why are they leaving me in here alone for so long? This is crazy. I have to get out of here. I have to find out what happened. Oh my god, Rod’s dead.

Victoria dropped her head onto the cool table. She felt dizzy. The sterility of her surroundings made her feel abandoned and desperate.

The door opened. She jumped, snapping to the sound. She jumped, snapping her head off the table. A wet spot on the metal surface betrayed her fear and her tears. Am I being saved? Is Jake coming to get me out of here, or maybe Dave? As she looked at the face in the doorway, what was left of her heart plummeted to the floor, waiting to be stomped on, destroyed by the grinding of her lavender stiletto.

“Sorry, again. That should be our last interruption.” Gallagher was back in his seat. “Could you please write out a detailed description of your day for me? Include the times as best you can remember.”

Am I in high school again or something? I do news assignments, not this crap. “Yeah, sure. Right now?”

Gallagher leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He looked relaxed, except for his eyes.

Don’t look at me with those eyes. I hate those green eyes. They’re cat’s eyes. They sparkle. They’re dangerous.

“Yeah, right now, before you leave. But first, it’s probably important that I clear up a few things with you. I find it rather curious that you didn’t mention Rod at all in your explanation of your day. Didn’t you see him at all? All day? The man you live with, work with, and were supposed to be marrying in two weeks? The man you found dead in your home only hours ago?”

Oh, god, here it comes. “Rod and I shared my home, most of the time. He was there in the morning when I woke up. We had coffee together. He went to work before I left with Jake. I ran into him a couple of times through the course of the day, but I’m usually out in the field or in editing and he’s in the studio doing lighting, so we don’t cross paths often under normal circumstances.”

“You weren’t annoyed with him? I’d be annoyed if someone tried to railroad my career. That would be a pretty big deal to me.” Neither Gallagher’s face, nor his tone of voice, changed from the moment he had walked in the room.

Bastard! If you already know the answer… “Yeah, we had a fight and I asked him to leave my house, to get his stuff out. Couples do that.”

“You two fight a lot?”

For god’s sake, change your tone of voice once in a while, would you. “No, we didn’t. That was our first real fight.” Maybe that’s what our problem was; we just never fought.

Gallagher deliberately looked at her arms. His expression became resigned, lips pursed, eyes sad.

Well, so now we know those face muscles can move at least a little bit. Too bad it’s not for the better.

“Miss Seacress, it may surprise you to know that I am not out to hurt you nor to accuse you of anything. There are procedures and protocols that we follow for every case. Talking to the person who found the body is one of those procedures, as is talking to the spouse and/or partner.”

And/or? Who the hell talks like that... besides an up-your-ass cop?

“In fact, we ensure we protect you and your rights that way, because you don’t want the shadow of doubt marring your reputation, and we want to make sure we capture and convict the right person. That’s why Detective Purvis is not in here.”

Yeah, remind me to kill him for not being here when I need him. Jake too, for that matter.

“He knows you personally and so whatever he says could later come under scrutiny.” He leaned closer. “Here’s what we know so far, so pay attention because a lot rides on how you react in the next few minutes. Rod Peters is dead. He died in your bedroom. Someone shot half his head off, and wanted us to believe it was a suicide. We know you had a fight with him prior to that, and I have no doubt we can prove that he was responsible for those bruises on your arms, because we have more than enough witnesses who will swear to what went on at the studio, so why can’t you be honest with me about what happened? I need the unedited version of your day, and instead you try to serve me up some shit on a shingle.”

Order for one, preferably to go. She choked off her internal sarcasm as she felt his warm breath on her face. He had been drinking coffee. Please back off. I didn’t do this. You’re scaring me.

“You’re not very good at avoiding or lying, Victoria. Just so you know, though, shit in this room has only one future; it hits the fan and lands right back in your lap. So, you may want to take a few minutes to pull your head out of your ass, and tell me what I need to know. The sooner you do, the sooner we can throw a net over whoever did this, because Rod did not do it alone. You might find this hard to believe, but we aren’t interested in the quick arrest of the most convenient person. We want to make the right arrest, before anyone else gets hurt. Miss Seacress, your boyfriend was murdered in your bedroom. I would think that you, more than almost anyone else in the world, would want to know who was responsible for blowing his brains out in your house, no?” He dropped some photos of the scene on the table in front of her.

Damn it! Get rid of those! I don’t want to see that. Back off! “What the hell do you want me to say? I had a long day at work yesterday. I went home last night, after breaking up with my boyfriend, and I found some guy in my house with his brains all over my ceiling!” With a shaking hand, she pointed upward to emphasize her words. “I didn’t even know who the hell it was. I know I saw a billion bloody pieces all over the place. Maybe I should have tried to put the damned pieces back together so I would know who it was! Is that what you expect? For Christ sake, there was a dead man in my house! I didn’t think to look for ID.”

She took a trembling breath. “We had a god damned argument. So what? I loved him. I wouldn’t hurt him. I sure as hell wouldn’t kill him in the middle of my bedroom.” She was sobbing, her hands clenched tight. “I’ve lost my fiancé. I’ve got a house that I don’t ever want to go into again. I can’t even begin to imagine… to imagine… where the hell will I sleep? I can’t go back into that room. His brains were dripping off the ceiling and into my bed. His brains! Rod’s brains.”

“Good. Be mad! Be mad at me or Dave or Rod or whoever. Be mad at the asshole who invaded your privacy and robbed you of everything. Be mad, but don’t be stupid. You can come in here and yell at me whenever you want. I’m a big boy. I can take it. Just be honest with me, because I can’t help you if you lie to me. One lie; that’s all it takes, then this whole mess heads off in a different direction again. Be mad, but be smart. Your life depends on this, Victoria. Be smart.”

Gallagher returned to his seat and produced a notebook. “Tell us what we need to know so we can start the investigation. There’s nothing you can tell me that’ll shock me; I’ve pretty much heard it all before.” His hand grabbed hers on top of the table, and squeezed gently. “Let me help you. I can walk you through this. Answer my questions, and let me answer yours, okay? We can do this together.”

Victoria looked first at the paper, then at his hand, and finally looked him in the eye. Right, Sherlock. So riddle me this: why the hell, when I make a mental list of all that has happened in the last twenty-four hours, of all that I have lost, why is Rod not there at all? Why am I not grieving for him, or more distraught at losing him? Why do I feel just a little bit relieved that he’s gone? Hah! Those are the questions you wanted to ask, Captain Anal Probe; wouldn’t you love to hear my real answer. Lock me up and throw away the key, because I wanted him gone, and I didn’t care how. I guess I am guilty, even if I didn’t pull the frigging trigger.

She pulled the pad of paper closer. Looking at it, she ran both hands through her long hair, rubbing her scalp, holding her head in an attempt to make it stop pounding.

It was hours ago but it’s a lifetime ago. It’s too surreal. If I am honest, my day yesterday started the night before, the last time we were in bed together. Shit, I wish I could forget the unforgettable.


Victoria Seacress: Headstones by Tom Bryde will be available for purchase on Friday, February 22, 2013, in print, digital and Kindle formats.

The Muse Rules -- A Guest Blog by Tom Bryde

Posted on April 24, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (1)

 

I write mystery. Some of you have read some of my work; many of you have not, but I hope to correct that with another book or two, thanks to WAMM. On the occasion of the first anniversary of Writers AMuse Me, I would like to share with you some of my ‘rules’, knowing fully that no one at WAMM really is a big advocate of ‘writing rules’.

1. Listen to your muse. She knows all, and will never steer you wrong. When you think she has, you simply take a deep breath, and realize that it is you who are lost; not your muse. She is patiently waiting for you to realize that, and trust in her navigational abilities. Sometimes it helps to name your Muse, to give her, or him, an identity of their own; it makes them a bit harder to argue with when you do.

2. Enjoy the process. What is the point of writing if you do not enjoy the process? The flow of words from your fingertips is, in itself, an amazing gift. When you paint yourself into a corner, remember that you can then write in the hammer that breaks through the wall behind you and start you down another new, exciting path. The joy is in the journey as much as the destination. The research that is sometimes necessary has the incredible potential to lead to more words, more projects, more hours of creating and weaving. The editing process as well should not be a chore. Read your work, play with it, tweek it, and enjoy it as much as you enjoy writing the words in the first place. By editing, you are simply dressing up your baby in its finest outfit.

3. Read your work out loud. There is no greater editor than the ones on each side of your head. Hear your words, the flow, the rise and fall of the current, the cadence that becomes a part of the written word.

4. For those of you who write mystery, or any other genre I suppose, remember that if you scatter crumbs throughout the manuscript, please gather them up nice and neat at the end.

5. Keep writing. It’s part of who we are.

6. Be proud to say ‘I’m an author’. God knows, you’ve worked hard, and even if you are not published yet, you hold your head high, and acknowledge the skill, the gift, that you have within you.

Happy WAMMiversary. I raise my glass, and toast to many more years.