Book 2: Brooklyn Heat (excerpt)

Out Now!

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One

 

Dawn, hot as fresh blacktop, creeps over Brooklyn. Aggie Jones, in a worn yellow bathrobe, sits at her window enjoying the breeze from the air conditioner and watching the sky change color. The street below is empty of last night’s hipsters and thugs. Drunk vampires crawled back to whatever hole they sleep in, she thinks.

This is Aggie’s favorite time of day: quiet enough to hear the birds chirp; cooler and slightly less humid after the concrete has shrugged off the triple-digit temperature of the previous day. The noise and heat of the city is turned low for an hour or so between the denizens of night and citizens of day.

As the tea kettle begins to softly whistle, she sees a man leaving the house across the street. The one with that nice woman and her little daughter, she thinks. Seems awfully early to be leaving, unless you got somewhere very important to be.

The streetlights flicker off as the kettle screams. Aggie rushes to the kitchen, leaving the quiet and the changing sky behind.

An hour later, she’s squeezed into a seat on the 6 train with sweaty, unhappy others. The serenity of early morning is forgotten, as are the birds, sky, and the man across the street.

X

The clock radio goes off for the third time, fighting for attention against the rattle of the air conditioner. Lisa Serrano throws the covers aside, swings her pale, sturdy legs over the edge of the bed and turns the alarm off for good.

She rubs her eyes, yawns, and puts a hand on the edge of the mattress, holding her slight frame upright. Staring at the wall, she waits for her brain to catch up to awake. The clock reads 7:07. She’ll remember the time specifically. A frozen line marking before and after.

Still sleepy, she rises and fumbles into the white terry robe she received as a gift from her mother last Christmas, opening the door to a blast of humid air in the hallway.

“Come on kitten. Time to get up,” she says in her usual morning sing-song.

Standing in the doorway, she smiles, taking in the small room with finger paintings clumsily taped to the pink walls, the bookshelf piled with Clifford The Big Red Dog, Curious George, Kipling’s Just So Stories, Where the Wild Things Are, and dozens of other books she remembers from her own childhood, along with newer ones they didn’t have back then like Everyone Poops.

The bed, its blue sheets covered in stars and planets, is empty. Unmarked by Lisa, the air conditioner has been off long enough that the temperature in the room matches that of the hallway.

“Were you dreaming about Barbie again? Just can’t leave that doll house alone, can you?” Lisa calls out from the top of the stairs. The flesh of her unshod feet make a wet sound as her skin peels away from each step. She pauses in the stillness of the empty living room, notices the doll house sitting unplayed with from the night before. Moving to the kitchen, she sees no sign of breakfast, dolls, books, or play of any kind.

Smiling wide, she steps backward past the basement door and back into the living room. “Let’s see … where is that little girl? She’s such a good hider. I wonder if I can find her before school starts,” she says, bending down to look under the coffee table. She checks behind the couch, frowns in mock disappointment while creeping over to the floor-to-ceiling curtains. “Gotcha!” she says, grabbing a handful of deep red velour and throwing back the curtains. “Huh. You’re a very good hider,” she says loudly, walking into the entry foyer. She opens the closet door and squats down looking for little legs that aren’t there. “Where are you, muffin?” she calls out, heading back to the kitchen, looking under the table and in the cubby under the sink.

She climbs the stairs, looks in the hall linen closet, the bathroom, and both bedrooms. Finding nothing, she remembers the one place she hasn’t checked and heads back down the stairs. “Mommy’s asked you not to play in…” she says, opening the Judas door to the closet under the staircase, but stops when she finds only the cleaning supplies and vacuum. “OK, sweetie. You win,” she calls out. “You are the Olympic champion, gold medal winner of hiders, ever, ever in the history of hide-and-seek. Mommy gives up, baby. Come on, now. You’ve got to get ready for school.”

She listens in the silence. Hearing no triumphant giggle of glee, she passes the basement door into the kitchen again, then stops. The basement door. She hadn’t noticed before that it was ajar. She takes half a step back, opens the door wide and calls into the darkness. “No fair, sweetie. You can’t move from your hiding place.” She calms her rising anxiety by thinking how smart Nina has gotten.

Lisa flips the switch on the wall outside the basement door. The darkness doesn’t change. “Oh, the bulb,” she says, moving to the drawer in the kitchen where she keeps the flashlight. Grabbing a new bulb from under the sink, she heads down the basement stairs. “Come on, sweetie. Mommy gives up now. It’s time to get ready for school.”

Standing on the second to last step, she stretches to reach the darkened bulb. It flickers at her touch. “Huh.” She twists it home, momentarily blinding herself with the sudden brightness. “Come on, Honey. Mommy’s blinding herself here,” she chuckles. “Come out now.” She turns her head. The flashlight hits the bottom step just before the spare lightbulb pops, casting tiny shards of white glass across the basement floor. Much as she’d rather they stay shut, her eyes go wide. She lets out a scream so loud and long and frightening, it is heard next door. Frozen in fear, unable to look away, she stands there screaming until her voice is gone.

X

Officer Jimmy McNally is first on the scene and finds her at the bottom of the stairs. The only movement is her shallow breathing and the sweat trickling down her face, large as tears. Her hair is damp, as if she’s just stepped from the shower or a pool. This reminds him of a movie poster for a French film called Code Unknown. Though he never saw the movie, he walked past the poster every day for weeks on his first beat. The poster is a frame from the film, with Juliette Binoche shouting, up to her neck in a swimming pool.

“Ma’am?” he says hesitantly, reaching a hand to her shoulder. “Ma’am?”

When she doesn’t respond, he turns to follow her gaze. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he whispers in terror. Instinctively, he puts a hand over her eyes. The spell broken, she crumbles into him, and they tumble to the floor together. “Shh, shh, all right, shh,” he comforts, thinking, Nothing will ever be all right for her again.

“Jimmy?” Officer Pete Dugan calls down from the kitchen. “Jimmy, where are you?” Dugan, weapon out, rounds the corner at the top of the stairs. He sees Jimmy McNally’s wiry body tensed around a person as if protecting them from a bullet. McNally puts out a hand, palm open, signaling Dugan to stop. “What’s going on, Jimmy?” Dugan asks furtively.

McNally can only manage a hoarse, pleading whisper. “Paramedics. One in shock, one deceased.”

Dugan clicks the mic on his shoulder. “Central?”

At the sound of Dugan’s voice, Lisa tightens her grip on McNally. “Get out,” McNally hisses at Dugan. Confused, Dugan backs out of the doorway and disappears around the corner. When McNally shifts his weight to relieve the pressure on his knees, Lisa pulls him close again, teetering on a cliff, desperately hanging on to her sanity.

X

Detective Hiro Masimoto makes his way through the gaggle of spectators, approaches the yellow police tape stretched loosely between the railings at the foot of the brownstone steps. He runs an absent hand through his cropped, jet-black hair, then bends his lanky six-foot-two-inch frame under the tape. Despite the heat, he wears an immaculately pressed dark-blue suit, crisp white shirt, and geometrically patterned blue and white tie. A gold shield hangs from his breast pocket.

“Hey, Maxi,” the uniform standing at the top of the stairs says, taking a pull on his cigarette as the detective walks up to meet him.

“Hey, Ralphie. What’s the deal?” Masimoto asks in his patient way, as if passing the time, waiting for a train.

“Don’t know really, but I think it’s murder,” Ralphie chuckles darkly, blowing smoke. When Masimoto doesn’t respond, Ralphie frowns. “I wasn’t first on the scene. McNally and Dugan were. Dugan said to wait here for the Dicks.”

“OK, well, I’m here now. Medical Examiner on the way?”

“Don’t know.”

“Right, so, what do you know?” Masimoto asks.

“It’s been three weeks without a drop of rain, and today’s gonna be another scorcher. Weatherman says hazy, hot, and humid. There’s a bit of a panic over the temperature as no one can recall it ever being this hot this early in the year. It’s been so hot for so long, the murder rate has dropped to its lowest since the city’s been keeping track. People are just too hot to bother,” Ralphie says with a wink, a nod, and a puff of his cigarette.

“Yeah, I heard that,” Masimoto says, wiping sweat from his forehead and then looking at his wet fingers. “I meant about the crime scene.”

“I’m supposed to wait here,” Ralphie says, pulling on the cigarette again.

Masimoto rolls his eyes. “I’m going in now. Why don’t you wait here?” he says, moving past Ralphie. “And lose that cigarette, will ya?”

Ralphie turns to face Masimoto. “Hey, just ’cause you got that gold hanging off your jacket don’t mean you got rank on me.”

“It’s not rank. I just don’t want you getting caught if your sergeant comes by, and as you don’t know anything, you might as well try looking useful for a change,” Masimoto says with a smile and a pat on the shoulder.

Ralphie pulls on the cigarette again, turns and blows a large plume of smoke over his shoulder toward Masimoto. “Yeah, sure. Thanks for looking out.” He watches Masimoto disappear into the house.

“Hey, asshole!” Sergeant Sal Cappalleri shouts from behind Ralphie. “Lose that cigarette.”

“Sorry, Sarge,” Ralphie says, flicking the butt into the street.

“Sorry my ass. Who was first?”

“McNally and Dugan.”

“Where are they now?” Cappalleri asks.

“Inside.”

“Stay here.”

“Sure thing, Sarge.”

“And don’t let me catch you smoking again,” Cappalleri says on his way up the stairs.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Ralphie mutters to himself. “Everybody’s somebody’s bitch in this gig.”

 

“Hey, Detective,” Pete Dugan says, looking exhausted and nervous.

“What’s up?” Masimoto asks, stepping further into the hallway, glancing at the black nameplate on Dugan’s chest and scratching it in his pad.

“Well, my partner Jimmy and I responded to a call. Someone heard screaming at this address. When we get here, nothing’s happening. We ring the bell, knock, but nothing. Neighbor who called was outside. She had a key. We enter, announce. Nothing. Not a sound. Jimmy, ya know, he dives right in. I take upstairs, he’s down here.” Dugan stops, looking around like a lost child.

“So, where’s he now?” Masimoto asks quietly, noticing Sgt. Cappalleri standing next to him.

“Basement. With the lady. I tried to go down there, but he bit my head off. I never seen him like this. Scared the fuck out of me.”

“The lady, she have a name?”

“Neighbor who let us in said Lisa and mentioned a daughter. Jimmy said there were two downstairs. One dead, one in shock. I just saw him and the lady.”

“You check the rest of the house?”

“Yeah, empty.”

“OK,” Masimoto says jotting all this in his pad. He notices Sgt. Cappalleri looking through the mail on a side table to their right. “You call the M.E.?”

Dugan shakes his head. “Just the paramedics and you.”

The Sergeant holds up a few letters. “All these are addressed to a Lisa Serrano, probably your lady in the basement.”

“Thanks,” Masimoto says to Cappalleri, then turns back toward Dugan. “Where’s the basement door?”

“Through the kitchen, on the right.”

“Sergeant, we need the M.E. down here, and when the paramedics show up…”

“We’re here,” says a short, squat bulldog of a man with a thick mustache in a blue uniform, holding one end of a stretcher with a large case in the middle. A woman, who looks almost identical, but without the mustache, holds the other end of the stretcher. “Whatcha’ got?”

“Hey, we’ve got a situation with one of ours. I need a few minutes. Hang here for me, OK?” Masimoto asks.

“It’s your scene,” the bulldog says as he and his female twin lower the stretcher to the floor.

“Thanks,” Masimoto says, noticing Cappalleri on the phone with the Medical Examiner’s office as he turns. “Dugan, come with me.”

“Where’s the neighbor that let you in?” Masimoto asks as they walk to the kitchen.

“Shit, I don’t know. We asked her to wait outside.”

“You get a name?”

“No,” Dugan says dejectedly.

“OK. What’s your partner’s full name?”

“Jimmy McNally.”

“All right,” Masimoto says, writing Jimmy’s name in his notepad. “Go find the neighbor and get a statement. Dispatch will have her info from the call, if she’s not outside.”

“Got it,” Dugan says, but doesn’t move.

“What?”

“It’s Jimmy. We’ve been partners a long time and…”

“Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.”

“Yeah?” Dugan says, not all that reassured.

“Yes, trust me. Now, go,” Masimoto says firmly. After Dugan leaves, Masimoto tucks the pad and pen into a pocket, steps to the basement doorway and sees the familiar short-sleeved blue shirt stretched to breaking across Jimmy McNally’s back. There are two sets of legs, splayed out and tangled awkwardly underneath Jimmy and another person, who Masimoto surmises to be female. As he takes a tentative step down, he notices the bodies are gently rocking back and forth. He feels like an intruder, as always, outside of things, but more now than usual. There’s something he doesn’t understand, something about the intimacy between these two. As if they are locked inside a large glass box, safe from the world. And he is the hammer about to smash that safety to pieces. “Officer?” Masimoto says, calm as a bird on the wind. The rocking stops. “Officer McNally,” he says, slowly creaking down the steps.

McNally twists his head around, looks up at Masimoto. “Don’t,” he whispers as the detective reaches the midway point on the staircase.

“It’s all right, Jimmy. It’s all right. I’m Detective Masimoto.”

“Don’t,” McNally says again, sounding like a frightened boy.

“Officer,” Masimoto begins again, in an effort to remind McNally of his professional duty. “I’ve got EMT’s upstairs to take care of the lady. We need to make sure she’s OK.”

As Masimoto takes another step down, McNally shouts “No!” while pivoting on one knee, hiding the woman behind him and leveling his Glock at Masimoto.

The woman, a lifeless form until now, grabs at McNally’s shoulder, mouthing the word ‘No.’ The detective freezes. When McNally doesn’t lower his weapon, the woman pounds her fist into his back. He doesn’t seem to notice.

Masimoto takes in a long, slow breath, listens to the hollow sound of the woman’s fist pummeling McNally’s back, notes the safety on the weapon is set to off. In his mind’s eye, he pictures his overweight calico, sitting on the window sill in a broad slash of sunlight. “You’re scaring her, Jimmy,” Masimoto says quietly, smelling fear rise from the basement. Then, more forcefully, as if on the firing range. “Holster your weapon, Officer!” Instinctively, McNally flicks his thumb against the safety, then drives the weapon into its holster. The woman opens her fist, places both hands against McNally’s back and slides down into a child’s pose, her palms against his lower back. Masimoto comes the rest of the way down the stairs, crouches in front of McNally and notices tears running fast down the officer’s cheeks. “All right, Jimmy,” Masimoto says, taking him by the elbows. “Stand up.” They rise.

The combination of heat, tension and blood rushing out of his head, McNally pitches forward and vomits over Masimoto’s shoulder. “Oh Christ,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

“No problem,” Masimoto says, pushing McNally back onto his feet. He turns to check his back for vomit and sees for the first time the small, lifeless form of a child’s body, strung up, arms and legs apart. Underneath the body is a plastic pan, the kind used to catch oil draining from a car. Except it doesn’t look like oil. It looks like blood. A lot of blood. On the child’s body, the tatters of what was once a pristine white nightgown are soaked through with it. The detective can’t look away. The sheer disbelief of what he’s seeing, like a trick of the eye, keeps him frozen. He watches a bead of blood form on the hem of the nightgown. Sees it build enough girth to roll down a hanging thread. It’s only seconds, but seems to hold on to the end of that thread for a few minutes before gravity plucks it down. The sound of it hitting the half-filled pan goes off like a bell, breaking the spell. Knowing he must get them out, Masimoto swears under his breath, deftly sidesteps McNally, bends down and gently lifts the woman to her feet. Keeping himself between her and the child, he guides her past the puddle of puke and up the stairs. “Come on,” he says to McNally as they head up into the bright sunlight.

In the kitchen, Masimoto detaches himself from the woman. She grabs onto McNally. Holding the officer by the shoulders, Masimoto guides the pair like puppets toward the kitchen table and arranges them in chairs next to each other. He gently touches the officer’s forearm, then points to McNally’s weapon. The officer nods. Masimoto removes the Glock, slides the clip out and ejects the one in the chamber. He retrieves the bullet from the worn green linoleum and slips it with the clip into his rear pocket. He carries the gun by its barrel and heads back down the hallway.

In the living room, he finds the EMTs, Sergeant Cappalleri, two crime scene technicians and his partner, Detective Ryan Sullivan. At six-foot-five, with wide shoulders, a ruddy Irish-American face and thick head of short, cropped red hair, Sullivan is difficult to miss. His suit jacket strains against the bulk of a six-day-a-week weight training routine. Though he looks to all as someone to avoid, Sullivan is one of the most level-headed, gentle cops Hiro Masimoto has ever met. His smile is as quickly disarming as his stare is frightening, and he uses both to great effect. “Maxi, what’s going on?” Sullivan asks as Masimoto steps up to the huddle of men.

“Hey, Sully, bit of a mess here. I’m not sure what the hell happened, but we’ve got a woman, probably the mother, in shock. Our first on the scene isn’t much better. And there’s a kid of about seven strung up, sliced up and left for dead in the basement. My guess is the mother found her this morning, and that’s where the screaming came from.”

“Jesus,” Sullivan whispers.

“Yeah, him too,” Masimoto says as if it’s an answer. He turns to the EMTs. “Tread lightly in there. I think the lady’s going to need a sedative and a few years with a shrink.”

“Don’t worry, we do this all the time,” the bulldog says as they heft the cases onto their shoulders and move to the kitchen.

“That the murder weapon?” Sullivan asks, pointing to the Glock in Masimoto’s hand.

“No, it’s McNally’s.” Sullivan frowns in confusion. “I’ll tell you later. Where’s Dugan?”

“Next door with the neighbor who called it in,” Sergeant Cappalleri says, looking at the Glock.

Masimoto brings the gun behind his back, slips it under his belt. Best to get it out of sight and avoid further questions. “Hey, Billy,” Masimoto says to Bill Grieve, one of the crime scene technicians. “How’s it going?”

“OK,” Grieve says. “This is Pete Fasulo. He’s just come on with us.”

“First day?” Masimoto asks.

“Yeah,” says Fasulo.

“Steel yourselves. It’s ugly down there.”

“Hey, I’m new on this job, but it ain’t my first day at the rodeo. I was a nurse at Kings County Burn Unit for five years. Seen my share of shit.”

“No offense meant. I just wanted to prepare you,” Masimoto says, trying to step back from insulting the tech.

“None taken,” Bill Grieve replies, glaring at Fasulo.

“You’ll need more light down there. I want every inch of that basement photographed and videotaped.”

“No problem. We’ve got lights in the wagon,” Grieve says.

“OK. Set up. Sullivan and I will meet you down there after we talk to the neighbor.”

“Got it,” Grieve says and jerks his head toward the door for Fasulo to follow him out.

Masimoto turns to Sgt. Cappalleri. “Who’s McNally’s rabbi?”

“Don’t know. Check with his partner.”

“OK. Let him go with the woman to the hospital if he wants. And put a man at the top of the basement stairs. Nobody but crime lab, the M.E., Ryan and myself down there. Nobody. Understood?”

“Understood,” Cappalleri says and marches toward the front door.

“Let’s talk to the neighbor, see what she knows,” Masimoto says with a backhand tap to Sullivan’s mid-section.

“Let’s,” Sullivan replies, thinking he’d rather get to the basement and see the crime scene firsthand, but decides to follow Masimoto’s lead.

Outside, a crowd has gathered along with a blue Eyewitness News van. A reporter and cameraperson meet Masimoto and Sullivan at the tape. “Detective, is it true two people were murdered here last night?” the reporter asks, shoving a microphone in Masimoto’s face.

“No comment,” Masimoto says.

“Well, what did happen?”

Masimoto turns and walks back up the stairs.

Ryan Sullivan leans toward the reporter. “That would be a no-comment comment.”

“All right, cut it, Sam,” the reporter says to the cameraperson. “Come on, Detective. Give me something. You guys don’t just decide to show up here en masse for a play date. What’s going on?”

Sullivan looks around at the crowd, then back at the reporter. “Looks to me like a lot of sweaty people have decided to stand around. Must not be anything good on TV this morning.”

“You’re not going to talk to me, are you?”

“I’m talkin to you,” Sullivan answers.

“Yeah, but you’re not saying anything I can use.”

“Look, why don’t you let us do our job?”

“Why won’t you let us do ours?” the reporter replies.

“You got a point. Here’s a tip, find another line of work.”

“Thanks for that. I’ll consider it.”

“Someone will talk to you in a little bit once we’ve sorted a few things out, OK? So just hang back and we’ll see what we can do for you,” Sullivan says, changing tack.

Masimoto leans close to Sgt. Cappalleri. “Sal, do me a favor and move these people back, then tape off the sidewalk in front of both these houses. And put another guy down there with Ralphie when you can. I want to keep these news dogs and gawkers as far back as we can, OK?”

“Yeah, OK.” Cappalleri says, holding a phone to his ear. “I’ve got another squad car on the way.”

Masimoto moves down the stairs and bends under the tape as Sullivan holds it up. Knowing better than to say anything within earshot of the reporter, they push silently through the thickening crowd to the next house. At the stairs, Masimoto hands the roll of police tape to Sullivan. They unfurl some and tie it off on the banister posts at the foot of the stoop, then make their way to the door.

“Is the neighbor involved?” the reporter shouts up the steps.

“Need a cup of sugar is all,” Sullivan replies.

Masimoto presses the bell. As they wait for the door to open, Sullivan is confessional. “I told that mutt we’d give him something later.”

“Yeah? What are we going to give him?”

“I’d like to give him a fat lip, but I suppose we’ll have to tell him something about the murder.”

“OK. Soon as we figure out what the hell is going on, we’ll think of something to tell him.”

“Good. Otherwise they’ll be making the kid out to be an honor student and the mother a prostitute with a drug habit,” Sullivan chuckles.

“You realize this is a reporter’s wet dream. They’ll milk this for all it’s worth until we close this case.”

“Yeah, we better close it fast then. I hate reading about myself in the paper,” Sullivan says.

“You still read a newspaper?”

Sullivan doesn’t answer before Officer Dugan opens the door. Masimoto and Sullivan follow Dugan into the living room to find a grey-haired woman of about eighty, frail but alert in a green print house dress and fuzzy purple slippers. The furniture is worn but neat, with lots of earth-tone throw pillows and flower-print furniture covers. There’s a coffee pot and a delicate plate of butter cookies set on the large, dark wooden coffee table. “Morning, Ma’am. I’m Detective Masimoto and this is Detective Sullivan.”

“I’m Mrs. Bennett. Would either of you like some coffee?”

“No, thank you,” Masimoto answers for both of them, noticing two cups with the remnants of her and Dugan’s coffee.

“Please sit down,” Mrs. Bennett says.

“My partner is going to ask you a few questions. I need to speak with the officer in the kitchen,” Masimoto says, indicating Dugan. “Is that all right?”

“Yes,” she says.

Sullivan sets his big frame down on the couch opposite Mrs. Bennett, pulling a pad and pen from inside his jacket. “Can you tell me your neighbor’s name?”

“Yes, it’s Lisa Serrano. Is she all right?”

“She will be, yes,” Sullivan assures her. “Who else lives in the house next door?”

“Her daughter, Nina.”

“No husband?”

“He passed away a few years ago. She’s raising Nina on her own.”

Masimoto tilts his head toward the hall and Dugan follows him to the kitchen. Masimoto closes the kitchen door so they can’t be heard. “How long have you worked with McNally?”

“Six years.”

“You close?”

“Yeah.”

“Who’s his rabbi?”

“Lieutenant Lopez has been his rabbi since he was our sergeant back in the day.”

“OK, good,” Masimoto says, thinking, Mike Lopez, political animal, but good man, good cop. “He your rabbi too?”

“Nah, I ain’t got one,” Dugan says.

“Well, find one if you ever want to get out of that uniform,” Masimoto says, then pulls McNally’s weapon from under his belt and hands it, butt first, to Dugan. “Hold on to that for me.” From the weight Dugan knows the clip is missing and instinctively ratchets the slide to clear the chamber, but nothing comes out. “I’ve got it here,” Masimoto says, taking the clip and spare round from his pocket. He sends the spare home in the clip and holds it out to the officer. Dugan slips the gun under his belt and drops the clip into a rear pocket. He gives Masimoto a puzzled look but says nothing. “It’s McNally’s. Give it to Lieutenant Lopez and don’t mention where you got it from to anyone but Lopez. Understood?”

“Yeah.”

Masimoto holds out his card to the officer. “Have Lopez call me at this number as soon as he can.”

“OK.”

Masimoto takes a read of Dugan’s face, hoping he’s doing the right thing by trusting this guy with another officer’s career. “You understand what’s going on here?” Masimoto asks.

“Not really, no.”

“But you realize your partner’s career is at stake here, yes?”

“Yeah. We’ve known each other since before we were on the job. Jimmy’s good people. Good police. I won’t talk about this with anyone other than you and Lopez.”

Masimoto takes comfort in the admiration he hears in Dugan’s voice. “OK. What did you get from the Bennett woman?”

Dugan reaches into a side pant pocket, pulls out a notepad and flips the pages, but he recites from memory. “She heard screaming this morning. Said it sounded like someone was being murdered – her words – and she called it in.”

“What else?”

“Said Serrano is a single mom, husband died about five years ago. The daughter’s name is Nina. She’s seven.”

“She was seven. Somebody decided she wasn’t supposed to see eight,” Masimoto says gravely.

“Shit.”

“Yeah and whoever it was is a twisted son of a bitch. That basement is a mess. Your partner is going to need some help dealing with this, I’m sure.”

“Fuck me,” Dugan whispers.

“Anything else?”

“She mentioned a boyfriend.”

“Whose?”

“The mother, Lisa Serrano. Says she has or had some boyfriend. Loud arguments a few months back. They apparently broke up and he wasn’t happy about it.”

“She know what broke them up?”

“I didn’t ask that.”

“Name?”

“Um…” for the first time Dugan looks at his notes. “…Nick. That’s all she knew.”

“All right. Good work, Dugan. Get back outside and help with the crowd for now.”

“Yeah, sure,” Dugan says and turns to leave.

“One more thing,” Masimoto says, stopping Dugan.

“Yeah?”

“Make sure you get on to Lopez and don’t forget to keep this between us, all right?”

“You got it, Detective. And thanks for watching out for Jimmy. I don’t know what happened down there, but I ain’t never seen him like that.”

“No problem. We watch out for our own, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Dugan says and heads down the hall.

Alone for the first time since he stared down at the frantic, sweating McNally holding a gun on him, Masimoto bows his head as if in prayer, pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger.

© Copyright 2016 D James Eldon

____________________________

 

Comments
  1. Carol says:

    I’m hooked! Can’t wait for August 24th!

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