Sunday, July 25, 2004

Nobody likes a good murder better than a private investigator. But I was always under the impression that "one a day" was reserved for apples, vitamins and sex. Not corpses.

I went into the kitchen, picked up the phone with a paper towel and called the crime in, hoping like hell that Broderick had the day off. Then I started nosing around before the cops arrived and destroyed any leads.

The place had been professionally trashed. Drawers had been removed and emptied and the furniture tipped over to examine the backs and bottoms for anything that might have been taped there. Against one wall two cherry wall units had had their shelves swept clean of knick-knacks and shards of glass and crystal and the fine powder of crushed porcelain lay scattered everywhere like a light blanket of fresh snow. A tall brass lamp lay on its side next to the body and on top of a blood-stained sofa lay a woman's clutch purse.

I picked up the bag and opened it. Besides the usual bullshit we ladies carry around was a red leather Gucci wallet containing four fifties and some change. Stuck in a zippered pocket on the inside of the bag were some credit cards, all in Sharon's name, and a color photograph showing her on the beach posing with two male body builders. The string bikini she was wearing barely covered her nipples and the two guys were holding hands. On the back were three names: Larry, Buck and Sharon.

I looked down at the bloody pulp on the floor and back at the picture. Broderick had been right on both counts. Sharon had been a real good looker and she was too young for him.

I heard a disturbance downstairs at the front door and slipped the picture into my pocket just as Broderick bounded up the stairs.
He stood in the archway for a few seconds, staring at the mess on the floor.

"Sweet Jesus!" was all I heard as I rushed past him and beat a hasty retreat down the steps.

I’ve never been very good at comforting grief-stricken people and wasn't going to start now.

I squeezed past two uniforms guarding the front door and walked across the lawn to the street, taking several deep breaths. Death was beginning to become a familiar smell. I pulled out a pack of Newports and was lighting up when a white Cougar screeched to a halt at the curb. The driver's door flew open, Folley jumped out and ran around the back of the car to me.

"What's up, Maggie? I just got off a double shift and was on my way home when I picked this up on the radio."

"Someone killed Broderick's latest girlfriend."

"Shit! People are dropping like flies around you!

"Thanks. I needed that."

"Broderick know?"

"He got here a couple of minutes ago. He's inside."

"And what are you doing here?" he asked.

"They had a fight a couple of days ago. Broderick hasn't been able to get in touch with her since. So he asked me to come over and make sure she was alright. She wasn't."

"You know, you guys are divorced," he said jamming his hands into the pockets of his jeans and walking toward the crime scene.

"And one of these days you're gonna stop doing his dirty work," he called over his shoulder.

"It was a favor," I shouted back.

I sat down on the curb and kept on smoking. I was on my fourth butt and had watched two County cars, one State and the coroner's wagon come and go when Broderick finally appeared in the doorway. He glanced around and spotting me, wandered across the lawn. As he got closer I could see that the perpetual Irish grin was gone from the corners of his eyes and the handkerchief hanging out of the pocket of his jeans was wrinkled and damp.

He sat down next to me, pulled a butt out of his shirt pocket and lit up. The look on his face was strictly "Don't fuck with me" so I shut up and let him pollute his lungs for a while.

"I'm really sorry about Sharon," I finally said. "You okay?"


I put an arm around his shoulder and watched some smoke drift out of his mouth up into his eyes, making them tear again.

"I want to know why they had to beat her and cut her up like that!"

His shoulders started to shake and for a second I thought he was going to lose it again. I thought us girls were supposed to be the emotional ones.

"How well did you really know Sharon?" I asked.

"Pretty well..."

"Well enough to know where she got the bread to afford a place like this? I mean, we're talking three or four hundred thousand even in a bad market."

"She was married for a while to some guy with money. Real estate broker or something. They split and she bought this place with the settlement."

"Where did she work? Do you know what kind of crowd she hung out with? Whoever 'did' her wasn't playing paddy cake."

"I could see that!" Broderick said angrily.

He stood up, dropped his butt onto the lawn and kicked at it, taking out a divot the size of Rhode Island.

"I just never really asked a lot of questions because they never came up. I thought she was playing straight with me!"

"I've been there," I said.

"I'm going back inside. See if forensics has found anything."

We began walking back across the lawn.

Broderick disappeared inside the townhouse and I walked over to one of the cops guarding the door.

"Can I borrow your flashlight?"

"Sure," he said, detaching a Maglite from his belt.

I could feel him and his buddy watch admiringly as I bent over and examined the locks on the front door. The only pick marks I could see were mine. I returned the flash and joined Broderick in the living room. Someone had thrown a body bag over Sharon and two geeks were crawling around on the rug picking up samples of debris with tweezers, stuffing them into clear plastic baggies.

"Never seen a place trashed so well, Sarge," said one, looking up at Broderick. "Must have been a burglary and whoever it was got pissed because there wasn't anything here."

"The lady knew how to party, though!" said the other one, a red-headed Howdy Dowdy clone. "Check it out!"

He held up a book of matches that he had snagged with his metal claws.

"Found this underneath the sofa."

"Whoa!" cried the other one. "The Tiger's Navel! Excellent party place!"

"Give me that!" Broderick cried, snatching the matches from him.

"Getting a little kinky in your old age?" I kidded him.

"What the hell do you know about this place?" he demanded, waving the matches underneath my nose.

"Only that if you've got the bucks, they've got the diversion... or is that perversion? Heard that they take plastic, too."

"Well, I never took Sharon there! Never even been there myself," he muttered.

Broderick stomped away down a hallway and I slowly followed. We ended up in a bedroom that had been destroyed with as much care and precision as the rest of the place. A slashed mattress and box springs lay against a wall and a disassembled bureau lay on its side nearby.

"This wasn't a robbery," I said.

"And how do you know?" he demanded.

"Are you blind? First of all, I'm the only one who has ever picked the lock on the front door. And there are no windows broken, so either Sharon let the murderer in or they had a key. She's also got some cash and plastic in her wallet. And did you see that ruby shiner on her finger? Had to cost a couple of grand."

"Her ex gave it to her," Broderick said quickly.

"You show me a second story man who's going to pass that up. Any fence would give you at least five hundred for it. This was no B & E."

I nodded at the matchbook still clutched in his hand.

"That's where you answer is, Broderick. That place has the people kinky enough to do what was done here. And if you dig around deep enough, you'll find a reason. You just may not like what you find."

Broderick licked his lips.

"The chief will never let me work on this case. I'm too involved." he said. "But I want to see somebody burn. Are you for sale?"

"Right now, you're the only game in town," I said.

"How much?" he asked.

"I'll knock a hundred bucks a day off my regular fee because I like you."

"I get paid tomorrow." he said. "Three days advance okay to start out?"

"Done," I said.


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