Tuesday Tales: From the Word BATTERY

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. This week’s word prompt is BATTERY. I continue with The White Dahlia. Enjoy! WARNING! IMAGES MAY BE UNSETTLING!

The White Dahlia

“Sergeant Reynolds?”

The woman peeled away from the wall, her spine straightening as she pulled the vestiges of her professionalism around herself like a cloak. She was young for a detective sergeant—or maybe she was just one of those women who hid their age well. Reaching for his outstretched hand, she shook it and released it.

Unexpected energy raced along Al’s nerves at the slight touch. When had shaking a woman’s hand produced a sensation like that?

“I did.” She aimed a battery-powered mini-light at the corpse. “Sorry to drag you out near the end of your shift like this, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I figured that, despite the shape of the body, you could still ID her for me.”

He nodded. An average of fifteen thousand people went missing each year in the city. While the majority were found within days, others never were. Some wanted it that way, others? Was Sylvia still alive? He didn’t want to give up hope, but the odds weren’t good.

Beth Reynolds indicated the body and the woman beside it. “This is Dr. Michele Smith, one of the city’s new coroners who’s been getting more business from this side of town than anyone likes. Show him what we have, Mitch.”

The coroner stood and moved out of the way, giving him his first clear look at the body.

“Mother of God, what the hell happened to her?”

No wonder Reynolds and the rookie had lost it. He was just about ready to join them. He’d seen floaters pulled out of the Hudson in better shape and less pungent than this one.

Naked, the white girl, an anomaly in this primarily black neighborhood, lay on her back, her eye sockets empty. Beneath the blistering corpse was a pale blue sheet like those he’d seen used in hospitals. No doubt she’d been wrapped in it. Her long blond hair was matted with blood, but given the gaping hole where her internal organs should’ve been and the relatively small amount of blood present, he doubted she’d been killed here.

“She’s been gutted like a fish and then frozen. I can’t tell you for how long yet,” Mitch began. “Whoever did this meant to toss the poor thing into the dumpster now that he no longer needed her, but something stopped him from doing so. The accelerated decomposition is thanks to Mother Nature’s quick thaw method.”

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word WIN

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. Meet the hero of the piece. The word prompt is WIN.

The White Dahlia

When Al Foster left St. Louis three years ago, he’d hoped he would leave behind the jaded homicide detective he’d become, but that hadn’t been the case. Too many of the missing people he sought ended up dead, murdered at the hands of pimps, johns, and anyone else who had a grudge—and then there were others, like Sylvia, who’d vanished four years ago, leaving no clues behind as to what had happened to her.

Finding his ex-wife had been the reason he’d left his hometown—not that the promotion and higher salary hadn’t been an incentive—but until he discovered what had happened to her, he would never, could never, rest. So far, he hadn’t found any answers. Now, perverse creature that he’d become, he prayed he wouldn’t find any tonight.

Calls to Brownsville, New York City’s deadliest neighborhood, never boded well. Within less than a square mile rose more than one hundred publicly owned apartment buildings, almost nine hundred stories of misery. Good people might live there, but the violence never ended. It was the original no-win scenario. Gangs, dealers, and assorted scumbags were never far away. If you wanted to disappear, it was as good a place as any for some, but others would stick out like sore thumbs. Since he’d been called here at this ungodly hour, the sergeant not giving him any details, the odds were one of his missing persons wouldn’t be making it home for the Columbus Day weekend.

Al pulled his gray sedan to the curb and turned off the engine. It was almost five, still dark out, but soon the sun’s glow would brighten the Eastern horizon. Already the humidity had the air feeling well over eighty. The weather station had issued another heat advisory. The temperature could climb above one hundred and four again today. Not good news for the people living here, many of them without so much as a fan to cool down. He liked the warm weather as much as the next guy, but enough was enough. By now, he’d expected cool autumn air. Tempers flared when the mercury rose. Was this morning’s victim an example of that? Had he or she pissed off the wrong person and paid the ultimate price?

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word SKINNY

NEW TT BADGEIt’s time for another round of Tuesday Tales, brought to you today by the word prompt SKINNY.  I’m continuing with The White Dahlia. Enjoy.

The White Dahlia

“Whoa!” Her eyes watered. If she worked too many of these cases, it would be a cinch getting into those skinny-assed jeans of hers. Who could eat after smelling this?

It wasn’t that the aroma of decay was new to Beth, but she usually got to the bodies when they were fresh kills. The last time she’d smelled something like this had been in Boston, but even there, the cloying scent of lilies had masked some of it. How long had this one been here? Why hadn’t someone noticed the stench earlier? Nearing the body, she pinched her nose.

The corpse lay on its side on a metal dolly. So, not a child’s toy as she’d assumed but a means of moving the cadaver. Most likely this was a murder, and Riley had been right to requests someone from Homicide. The dolly implied a body dump. Someone had been interrupted and had taken off leaving everything behind. With a little luck, he or she had left fingerprints and DNA as well.

“Hi, Mitch. Sorry you got dragged out of bed at this unholy hour. What have we got?” The pinched nose didn’t help with the scent, but gave her voice a nasal quality.

“Not a winner, that’s for sure.” The young doctor shook her head. “All bad. The last time I saw anything like this was the first case I worked with Amos Flynn and even then … This is definitely one for the books. God, I hope it’ll be the only one.” The coroner shook her head, her lips pursed tightly.

Beth looked down at the naked corpse on her side, the flaccid, marbled skin, showing signs of slippage. There was an unusual tattoo on her left shoulder, hard to see given the body’s color, but unmistakable. Was that a name under it?

“I’ve seen that tat before,” she mumbled. “Yes!” The pieces fell into place. “She was in the missing persons’ report I looked through earlier.”

The poor girl must’ve gotten involved in the sex trade and pissed off her pimp. Why did so many of them end up dead before anyone could rescue them?

She squinted. “Is that a brand on her ass? It looks like a horseshoe.”

Mitch bent and examined it more closely.

“It’s not a tattoo … Could be a brand … Some pimps stamp their whores. I’ve seen stars, crescent moons, but never anything quite like this. There’s a number under it.” She peered closer. “Looks like an eight.”

Beth shuddered. Eight could well mean seven before. How many after?

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday tales: From a Picture

NEW TT BADGEThey say a picture is worth a thousand words. In Tuesday tales, it’s worth 300. Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. I;m continuing with The White Dahlia. Here’s the image I chose. Enjoy!

 

Blocking off the alley was Officer Chou’s suggestion. People were coming around. We didn’t want gawkers. Whatever did that isn’t human.”

If any of the yellow journalist got wind of this, they would be down on them in no time, and the tabloids would have a field day. Werewolf in NYC wouldn’t be what the Commissioner wanted either—not with a full moon this weekend. God alone knew how many drunks might get shot, mistaken for one supernatural creature or another.

She and Riley moved aside for the coroner’s car. The van wouldn’t be far behind. The window came down. Apparently Mitch Smith, the new kid on the block so to speak, had drawn the short straw. Beth had worked with her briefly before leaving Boston.

“Evening or should I say morning, Sergeant. Where’s the body, not that I can’t smell it.”

Beth nodded her response to the greeting, then turned to Riley and canted her head to the left. Lane ways between tenement blocks in this part of the city usually stunk to high heaven—one reason why there weren’t any windows on the lower floors—and the hot spell wasn’t helping.

“Between the second and third dumpster down. You can’t miss it,” Riley said.

“See you there.” Mitch raised the window and drove down the alley.

“It’s as if some wild animal went after her,” Riley continued.

Beth frowned and shook her head. “Whatever you do, don’t repeat that. We have enough crazies in the area, and the damn press can sniff out weird stories. Whatever this is, we don’t want it to make the morning news. Right now, until we know any different, this is simply a body found by a dumpster. It may not even be a crime scene.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales:From the Word LONELY

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to September. When I was teaching, I always saw this date as the end of my vacation. Now that I’m retired, it’s just the start of a month with more of the same. This week’s Tuesday Tales is based on the word LONELY. Today, more than ever, people are isolated, alone, and lonely. I continue with The White Dahlia.

Enjoy!

The White Dahlia

Given the time of night—or day—traffic was light. Beth reached her destination within ten minutes. A dozen people stood within a few yards of a sanitation truck up on the sidewalk, blocking the alley. Why were they even here? It was true that New York was billed as the city that never slept, but seriously, these ghouls should be in bed.

She shuddered. Hadn’t it been the same in Boston? The possibility of a fresh kill always drew the wraiths and vultures, people who got off on the misery of others, lonely souls who relished someone else’s worst luck. This person might’ve been murdered, but whether they had or not, they deserved some sympathy and respect.

Someone had to move that truck for the medical examiner’s van to get by—assuming the truck hadn’t hit someone dumpster diving for a late night snack.

After flashing her badge at the uniformed officer and the sanitation men standing with him, she scowled. They were pale, but given the intense aroma, she could understand why. Decomposing flesh was hard to mistake for anything else, but mixed with garbage like this, even her own stomach rebelled, reminded of previous gruesome acts. Glancing around, she couldn’t see Riley’s training officer. Where was Chou? It was her job to secure the scene.

“Sergeant Reynolds, Homicide. And you are?”

“Phil Carmichael and Gus Hernandez.” The shorter of the two men answered. “Gus is legal but his English ain’t as good as mine.”

“I see.” She pulled a small black notebook and pen out of the fanny pack she wore at her side, flipped the cover open and wrote down the names as well as the sanitation truck’s license plate and number. “Who’s got the keys to this thing?”

“I do, signora,” the taller of the two men answered.

“Did you hit the person?” Was that why the truck blocked the alley?

Madre de Dios, no. We found her here,” he struggled to speak English.

“I’ll take your cellphones.”

Si.”

The men handed over their cellphones without argument. Glancing through the photos, recent texts, and social media posts, she verified they hadn’t taken any pictures—if there was anything really to take a photograph of—and handed the devices back.

“Don’t talk to anyone about what you found,” she ordered. “Pull the vehicle over there.” She indicated the curb a few feet away.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word BARK

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to another Tuesday Tales. This week, the last one of August, gives us another look at The White Dahlia.  Fear is an odd thing. Some people go to movies to be frightened. I don’t. My imagination can come up with tons of scary stuff all by itself. This week’s post is based on the word BARK. Enjoy.

The White DahliaMorelli, never one to keep his big foot out of his even bigger mouth,  a man whose bark was worse than his bite, claimed she was either damn lucky or cursed. Even she had trouble trying to decide which one it was. She thought of the three dahlias—one for Colin, one for Saul, and one for Ben—three partners she’d lost. The last thing she wanted to do was add to the bouquet.

Killing a man was easier in simulations and training exercises than it was in real life. During her ten years on the force in Boston, including two seconded to the FBI, she’d never been injured nor had she fired her weapon in the line of duty. Five years in New York, and she’d been shot twice, had wounded one man, and had killed another. That didn’t bode well for the future.

While it was true she hadn’t initiated the first deadly conflict, she didn’t really know who was to blame for the second. The scene replayed itself every time she closed her eyes—another reason why she couldn’t sleep. They’d been like gunslingers in an old Western movie, her screaming at him to drop his weapon as Ben bled out at her feet, while the punk had cursed her, his eyes filled with hatred, his mouth spewing soul-destroying venom. He’d pulled the trigger once, twice, three times, or had it been four or more? She couldn’t recall. One of the missed shots had winged a tree, stinging bark reminding her that her head was unprotected, but the vest had shielded her heart.

The elevator dinged, and Beth stepped into the car, pushing the button for the garage level. Grabbing a set of keys from the night watchmen, she headed toward the dark blue SUV, mindful of the fact she was heading to an active crime scene unarmed. She would be lucky if Lieutenant Harris didn’t rip her head off for this, but honestly, one more day of nothing but paperwork, and she would scream. Maybe Papa Tom was right and it was time to move on—again. But running away from Boston hadn’t solved anything. There were some things that followed you wherever you went, and fear was one of them.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

 

Tuesday Tales: From the Word SLOWLY

NEW TT BADGEWow. Mid-August. Is there any normalcy yet? Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales based on the word prompt SLOWLY I continue with The White Dahlia.

Animal control had verified the presence of a couple of dozen coywolves, a coyote-wolf The White Dahliahybrid, in that area last spring. Maybe the animals had decided to move to Brooklyn. Why not? It seemed all the other predators had.

“What about his T O? Does she think this is a homicide, too?”

“I didn’t speak to Officer Chou. The original call came from a sanitation worker. They’re on site, and Riley’s secured the area with their help.”

Beth glanced around the empty squad room, as if doing so could make people appear. It was just after four. Much as she might like to, she couldn’t ignore the call and pass the case off to the day shift—those sanitation workers and that squad car couldn’t wait another four hours for an answer, not if there was a child involved. Hopefully, the scene wouldn’t be as bad as Kara implied. She’d seen terrible things in Boston and had no desire to go there again.

People would be getting up soon, making the crime scene harder to secure. If this was murder, the perp was long gone. Besides, with a patrol car there, she wouldn’t be alone—a moot point—but if she needed to justify herself, it was all she had. She could survey the scene, fill in the initial reports, and hand the case off to whatever squad it belonged to before she packed it in for the night. Easy-peasy. What could possibly go wrong? Exhaling slowly, she sighed.

“Fine. I’ll take a look. Let Riley know I’m on my way.”

“Thanks, Sergeant. Will do.” She paused once more. “He isn’t really a hothead. Some of those zombies were extremely well done.”

Beth sneered. “Yeah, but you have to believe in that crap to let it get to you. There are plenty of real monsters in this world. We don’t have to invent others. If an emergency call comes in, you’ve got my cell number.”

“I have. Thanks again.”

Beth hung up and automatically opened her bottom drawer to retrieve her gun. “Crap!”

She wouldn’t get her weapons back until she was cleared for full duty. While she’d requalified on the shooting range two days ago, she wasn’t scheduled to meet with the shrink until later this afternoon. Was it ethical to lie to a psychiatrist? Probably not, but she was prepared to try if it meant getting her old job back and adding some semblance of normalcy to her life.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: Picture Time!

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales. I’m continuing with The White Dahlia. Did you know that dahlias  symbolize, among other things inner strength, change, and dignity, all qualities Beth will need to get out of this plot alive.

Here’s the photo I chose.NY Skyline

 

Enjoy!

The White Dahlia“Reynolds, Homicide.” She choked back a squeal as coffee dribbled across the back of her hand and set the cup down, using tissue to mop up the mess on her desk.

“Sergeant, this is Kara on switchboard again. It’s been a busy night, hasn’t it? This kind of heat just makes people bat-shit crazy. Apparently 9 1 1 has been lit up like a Christmas tree with everything from alarm failures to UFO sightings.”

The dispatcher’s voice conveyed her tiredness.

“I can just imagine. So what have you got for me this time? Another domestic gone bad?”

Beth sipped the hot coffee, hoping the caffeine would rouse her. There were still four hours to go before the day shift arrived. Maybe whatever this was could be checked by a patrol car. Not every dead body found in the district belonged to Homicide. It could be a case for Special Victims, Gangs, or Major Crimes. Hell, it might just be an overdose and Narcotics could look after it.

“Wish I knew.” Kara sighed heavily, her voice filled with concern.

Beth frowned. Since when did dispatch not know why they were calling? Since she’d been here, Kara had always been level headed and on the ball.

“I got a call twenty minutes ago from a 9 1 1 operator about a body near a dumpster off Blake Street between Osborne and Rockaway.” She paused and exhaled heavily. “The man claimed wolves had attacked someone.”

Righting the vase she’d knocked over, Beth choked on the hot brew. Bat-shit crazy might well be the right term for this caller.

“Seriously?” She rolled her eyes. And it was only September, even if they were caught in a heat wave. “Wolves in Brooklyn? I suppose the man claimed they were werewolves, too? The moon won’t be full until Sunday. He’s ahead of himself.”

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word Arch

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to August and this week’s Tuesday Tales. I am continuing with The While Dahlia, Book Four of the Harvester Files. Some of the posts may be quite graphic and i will warn you when that’s the case.

Now that we are moving into the new story line, I’ll share the cover with you.

The White Dahlia

Here you go. Enjoy!

Six years later

Heart pounding, long legs moving like those of a speed walker in a marathon, Beth scrambled through the obstacle course that was the bullpen to get back to her small office without spilling scalding hot coffee all over herself. She arched an eyebrow. Why was it she could sit in there for hours, counting the holes in the ceiling tiles, and that damn phone never rang, but the second she left the room, the bells jangled loudly enough to wake the dead?

Weekday night shifts as Acting Supervisor in Homicide at the 73rd was supposed to be a temporary assignment until the department shrink said she could go back on the streets. But three weeks had stretched to six, then nine, now twelve. If this were a promotion, they could shove it where the sun didn’t shine.

How was she ever supposed to get back into the field? She still wasn’t sleeping—how the hell could she with her days and nights blurred like a newborn baby’s? Her bodily injuries had healed, and she had a few more scars, but it would take a long time for her head to catch up.

The phone, still three desks away, jangled once more, yanking her back to the empty bullpen, making her walk faster and pray she didn’t sprain an ankle. So far, all she’d done was assign cases, take reports, and submit paperwork, not the job she’d expected when she’d passed her sergeant’s exams. She was a detective, maybe not as hard-boiled as a few she could name, but definitely more than some damn paper pusher. Unfortunately, until the psychiatrist cleared her for full duty, this was where she had to stay. Even Beth Reynolds, who apparently had magic horseshoes up her ass, had to follow orders, whether she agreed with them or not.

Tonight had been busier than any Thursday since she’d started here—and that wasn’t a good thing. Night shift on Homicide meant eight detectives, including herself, four teams in total. Three were out on cases, while Erica, her temporary partner, had clocked out a couple of hours earlier. The last thing Beth needed at a crime scene was a new mother with stomach flu. Hopefully, the call was from one of the other teams on the way back.

Going out on a case on her own while on modified duty was a little like playing Russian Roulette.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.

Tuesday Tales: From the Word Balloon

NEW TT BADGEWelcome to the end of July and this week’s Tuesday Tales. I’m continuing with the Prologue to The White Dahlia, my fourth Harvester Files book. Enjoy!

“Beth, calm down,” Rob stood, came around the desk, and took her hands in his to stop her rubbing. “Larson and the Reno police sent the dogs in, and they found traces of explosives in a mechanic’s locker. He’s dead.”

She swallowed. “So, we have them all?”

Rob stepped away and rubbed the back of his neck. “They’ve finished identifying the bodies in Alaska. There are three Colchesters unaccounted for—Sara, Michael, and Timothy. Give me that plane’s call numbers, and I’ll alert the airports.  It’s unlikely the girl is behind this, given where women sit in the pecking order. Besides, we’ve got eyes on every group associated with New Horizon. As for the other two, I contacted Jacob. He says they’re the youngest, only kids when he left the compound, but they were a little different, even back then.”

“Different how?” Beth frowned. As far as she was concerned that was three potential threats.

“Really quiet and shy. The boys were close in age, and Michael was sickly. Timothy was always watching out for him, protecting him from the others, although most of the time the older siblings ignored them. Who knows, someone could’ve disposed of them years ago.”

“I hate to burst your balloon, but you don’t know for sure. What does Adam have to say about them?”

“Nothing. He hasn’t said a word since we told him his father died. He didn’t even react when I mentioned the plane carrying his body had crashed. He refuses to eat. They’ve got him on a suicide watch. The man seems intent on dying any way he can.”

She frowned. “I wonder why they blew up the plane. It doesn’t make sense. It’s certainly not respectful of a man they considered almost a god.”

Rob shrugged. “It must have something to do with their burial practices. They couldn’t sanitize the body the way they usually do, and fire cleanses. I’ll run that by Lilith when I speak to her.” He grinned. “In the meantime, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. We’re done here. We’ll be back in Boston before the weekend.”

Beth shivered. The job done? With three of the Chosen still out there? Not by a long shot.

That’s it. Stay safe and don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday Tales.