Writerly Wednesday 1.16

Hello my darlings,

It’s been not much writing lately and a lot of writing business. I’m trying to fine tune my back of the book verbiage for The Body in the Pool.

Maybe you’d like to help me with that?

Option A:

Seattle has seen it’s fair share of serial killers, but this time a new demographic needs to watch their backs…successful white males are losing their lives in shockingly public venues.

Detective Spencer Thomas and his task force are 12 murders deep and no closer to finding the Dismember Killer than they were when the first body appeared. The killer is taunting them without leaving in any useful evidence.

With a pregnant wife on bed rest, brass that strips his resources, and the FBI breathing down his neck…the last thing Spence needs is a dead body at an exclusive boarding school. Except now, he’s got one…


Option B:

Whispering Evergreen Academy, boarding school to the troubled elite, just got the worst kind of floater dumped in their pool; a dead one. Another successful white male, left in a public place, is this the 12th body dropped by the Dismember Killer?

Detective Spencer Thomas and his task force hope this time the serial killer has left some evidence they can use.  They’ve come up empty so far – no physical evidence, no witnesses, and no surveillance. Will this body be any different?


What do you think? What direction would you go? What would you change? Help me finally finish this blurb so I can publish the darn book.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 22

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Twenty Two

In a rare late afternoon sun, Melanie, Barnes, and Spence met on the patio of a dive bar outside the Shadow Brook neighborhood.
Beer in hand, Melanie groused, “These people.”
“That bad?”
“Worse. I have never met so many people who don’t work and still need a full household staff to take care of things.”
Spence nodded.
“And they all, they’re all, just…” Melanie stopped speaking and took a deep breath.
“I met one or two with class,” Spence commented. “Not any that knew the Paulson’s. Did you find that?”
“Massive case of isolation going on up there,” Melanie agreed.
“Why is that? Clearly, the Paulsons had money.”
Barnes cleared his throat. “Maybe that was the problem. A little too flash with the money.”
Spence tipped his beer bottle at Barnes. “I saw a lot of old money today. I saw an effing Degas hanging in someone’s hallway.”
“Sharp contrast to Arlene’s fur coat and label heavy wardrobe,” Melanie commented. She drained her beer. “Listen, I’ve got to put in some family face time. Are you going into the office tomorrow?”
“We’re waiting on a lot of reports, take the day. I’ll work on a few things from home.”
“Like what?” Barnes asked.
“I want to take a close look at what the Paulsons are spending their money on. How much they go through each month.”
“I’ll get into that if you like. Seahawks aren’t playing until four, I can get through a lot of bank statements before then.” Barnes took a drink of his beer. “You should spend the day with your wife, while you still have one you like.”
Spence choked on a bit of lager sliding down the wrong pipe as he laughed with Barnes and Melanie.
The reality of Barnes’s life was close to the mark for most cops. A string of ex-wives who all thought a cop was sexy and dangerous until they married him and started to resent the long hours and tense undertones of their life. Spence hoped he and Tess could do better.

He texted her before he left the bar and grill. Should I pick up dinner?
Her response was swift. Coming home before five? What’s the special occasion?
Spence smiled and waited. Her second text was close on the first. I really want sushi but I know that won’t fly. What’s close?
Bar food it is.

Spence was thrilled to see Tess in her easy chair, feet up, TV on when he got home. She had rested after she left the office. He kissed her hello and held up the food bag. “I’ll serve you here.”
“Thank you. What did I do to deserve such royal treatment?”
“That info from Magda was pretty helpful.”
“Was it?” Tess smiled.
Spence saw a little reaction in his wife’s face, around her eyes maybe. “What?”
Tess giggled. “You know I think it’s appropriate to follow up, a little text thank you for lunch, a call for dinner, a card for a gift.”
Spence had no idea where this was going, “Uh huh.” He patted Butch’s head as the dog leaned into his leg.
“I texted Magda to say thanks for lunch. There was a little back and forth and then all of a sudden she’s steaming mad because Matt canceled their dinner plans. He needed to go to a meeting at the nightmare client.” Tess made quote signs with her fingers around the word nightmare.
“Tess, you were supposed to stay out of this.”
“I can’t help it if people tell me things.”
Spence took a deep breath. He sat down on the couch next to Tess’s chair and removed cardboard boxes from the bag. He opened her meal and handed it to her. “Got a drink?”
Tess nodded.
Spence opened his own box and put his feet up on the coffee table. “What are we watching?”
“Property Brothers rerun.” Tess took a sip of water. “Know anyone who could take a peek at what’s going on at the Academy?”
Spence jabbed a french fry into mayonnaise and replied, “Maybe,” before stuffing it into his mouth. Setting down the to-go box, Spence fished his cell phone from his pocket. He texted Tom. Did you get a contact number for that swing shift guard?
Tom replied back, It should be in the system.
I’m not at the office Sherlock.
Spence’s phone rang a minute later and he answered with a grin. “Hey.”
“What do you need Mike for?”
“There may or may not be a top secret board meeting going down at the Academy tonight.”
“Mike’s not working,” Tom replied. “I’ll call him anyway. We had a rapport.”
“Let me know,” said Spence. Tess was pulling at his arm, mouthing words at him. To Tom he said, “Hang on a sec.” To Tess he asked, “What?”
Tess reached for the phone. “Hey Tom. Are you free for brunch tomorrow?”
“Are you cooking?”
“I wish I could. What about that biker bar on the far side of the lake? 1030?”
“Anything the lady likes.”
Tess handed the phone back to Spence, who told Tom, “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Tom laughed, “Guess so.”
As he hung up and returned the phone to his pocket, his left eyebrow rose an inch in question.
“You two need to talk.”
“We talk all the time,” Spence said in an offhand manner.
“Um, no. After the whole paper thing? Have you even talked about that?”
“It was yesterday, Tess.”
“Sooner talked about, sooner mended.”
“You sound like my grandmother. Next thing I know you’ll be telling me wool gathering is only useful if you’re a sheep herder.”
Tess threw a fry at him with a laugh.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 21

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Twenty One

Heading for the motor pool, Spence texted Tom. I got the boss not to replace you.
Tom’s response a moment later was not reassuring. You need the manpower.
Spence paused behind the wheel, engine running, sick feeling in his stomach. You don’t think you’re coming back.
Tom didn’t respond and Spence couldn’t wait all day. He filed the emotions under useless and headed out of the garage.

When he arrived in Shadow Brook, Spence started closest to the Paulson home. He didn’t mind if Arlene Paulson saw them interviewing door to door at this point. He wanted her a touch nervous. Then again, given how large the properties were up here, Arlene would practically need to be visiting a neighbor when Spence arrived to have any clue.
“Yeese?” A young woman with a thick Russian accent answered the door.
He displayed his badge and then his credentials, “Detective Thomas, Sheriff’s Office.”
Her eyes went wide with fear. Spence didn’t attach undue import to her reaction. It was probably a simple facet of her experiences back in her home country. “I would like to speak to the lady of the house.” Such a complicated way to put it.
She nodded and beckoned him in. “Please wait.” She held up one hand to gesture him to stay in the foyer as she went into the depths of the house.
Spence took advantage of the time to look at whatever he could before the maid returned. Grandfather clock, probably an actual antique, as it was slightly banged up. A little further in a print of ballet dancers seen through a bunched cluster of heads, Spence thought it seemed like a Degas. Degas liked dancers, or so he remembered from a college art history girlfriend. After a closer look, Spence hoped it was a print. The idea that he was about to go fishing for information from the owner of an original Degas intimidated him a little.
At the clack of high heels on wood floor, he quick stepped it back to the area immediately by the front door.
“Can I help you?” Her cultured voice contrasted with her youthful face. Second wife. Trophy wife.
“Detective Thomas, County Police.”
She nodded with a tight smile, “Elizabeth Greggson.”
“I am investigating the death of your next door neighbor, Harold Paulson.”
“I was sorry to hear about his death.” Her statement was a formal platitude.
Spence decided to wait a moment and see whether she would deviate from the script.
“Would you like to have a seat?” She gestured to a small sitting room in the opposite direction from the Degas.
Spence nodded and moved forward. After they were seated and he was still silent, she raised an eyebrow.
“Were you well acquainted with the Paulsons?”
“Not really.”
Spence waited to see if she would say more. Elizabeth merely out-waited him with a vague smile on her smooth face.
“Have you lived here long?” Spence decided to try another track.
“A few years.”
“I ask because it seems odd that two such close neighbors would be unfamiliar with each other.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath and broke eye contact. Her mouth pursed. “Arlene and I were not compatible. Up here the wives make friendships, the husbands make business contacts.”
“And your husband didn’t have business with Harold Paulson?”
“My wife and I don’t socialize with the inhabitants up here much.”
Spence looked up from his notepad and met Elizabeth’s smirking smile. “That must be complicated.”
“It is. This is Rebecca’s family home and she likes to live here.”
Spence nodded. “Is there anything you can tell me? About their relationship with each other? About their friends? Any arguements you may have overheard?” No reason not to be direct now. Elizabeth wouldn’t be running next door to tell Mrs. Paulson anything.
She slowly shook her head. “I don’t think so. The walls are thick, our property wide. I haven’t had much opportunity to observe anyone coming or going. I work at home and my office overlooks my own back forest, so to speak.”
Spence nodded. “Well thank you for your time.” He slipped a card out of the back slot on his credentials folio. “If you see anything, hear anything, give me a call, please.”
“Of course, detective.” She stood and took the card with a smile. She gestured him towards the front door.
“Out of curiosity, the Degas?”
“Musicians in the Orchestra?”
“That’s not a print is it.” Spence said a little sadly.
She simply smiled and opened the door for him. “Thank you for stopping by detective.”
Spence stepped out on the porch and shook his head. It was a strange old world. He moved down to the next house, hoping for better luck.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 20

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Twenty

When Spence got to the lobby, Tess was leaning against the wall next to the elevator. “No stairs for me.” She popped the button and waved at the desk sergeant.
Spence nodded to him as well. “Is everything okay?”
“You didn’t get my text?”
“It’s been a little mad. What’s up?”
“I’ll tell you upstairs. You need to thank Tom pronto.” Tess saw the flash of pain on Spence’s face. “What happened to Tom?”
“Let’s go up.” Spence guided her through the elevator doors which had opened behind them. He waited until the doors closed and he hit the four button. “Tom got suspended this morning.”
“Because he texted me?” anguish rang in Tess’s voice.
Spence smiled and kissed his wife. “No, honey. He talked to a reporter.”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
As soon as they entered the office Melanie descended on Tess with a hug. “You look amazing.”
“Magda told me I looked as big as a house today.”
“You might. I know I looked like an apartment block by the time I was this far along.”
“What brings you by?” Melanie sat on the edge of the work table.
“Tom texted me yesterday and today I had lunch with an old friend. Magda. Sugden. As in Matt Sugden’s wife.”
“Oh shit.” Melanie’s mouth dropped open.
“After a couple of martinis Magda gushed about her husband’s latest work problem. It seems he has a client who thinks some money went missing. And the guy they think took it was murdered recently.” Tess grinned as she looked around the room. If astonished silence was her aim, she hit the mark. “Did you guys already know that?”
“Definitely not,” said Spence.
“So I helped?”
“You helped. You did babe.” Spence rubbed her back.
“Really? I think she totally wants to show me their house. I could do a little snooping while I was there. Maybe happen to wander into Matt’s office,” Tess said eagerly.
Melanie’s eye went wide and she spoke quickly before Spence stuck his foot in his mouth. “We would have trouble getting anything you found admitted into evidence if this comes to trial.”
“Oh. I suppose I hadn’t thought of that. Will what Magda told me today be an issue?”
“Magda knows your husband is a cop, right? Plus we had already warranted and received access to the Paulson financials. No harm, no foul. You helped us pinpoint what we are looking for though.”
Tess nodded, “What are we going to do next?”
“You, my love, are going home. Aren’t you about at your limit for time spent not resting?”
“There speaks my jailer.” Tess laughed. “I’m going.” She leaned in to kiss Spence on the cheek.
“I’ll walk you.”

When Spence returned Melanie and Barnes were eyeballs deep in their computer screens. Melanie spoke up the minute Spence entered the room. “Well it’s hard to track…there seem to be deposits into various accounts where the timing doesn’t line up with any billing cycles.”
“Corporate billing isn’t as straightforward as your monthly gas bill. How can you even track that out?”
“I’m still waiting on the report from the forensic accountant on Harold’s business account. These are transfers into to his personal accounts.”
“Okay, what are we talking about then?”
“Look at these three transfers in. They came from the corporation. They’re random amounts at random times and huge. I don’t think this is a standard payday on the 3rd, the 11th, and the 22nd. Most of the money went right back out again.”
“Can you show me the money?” Spence laughed self-consciously and then leaned in to take a better look at Melanie’s computer. “We need to to dig into those three transactions. Where did that money go?”
“This isn’t looking good as a Dismember case, is it?”
“No. We can only follow the evidence where it leads. Even if it leads away from where we thought it might go.”
Melanie nodded. “Sounds like we really need to get into Paulson. Barnes and I will drive back out to that community today. See who’s about and who might want to chit chat.”
“I’ll head out there after I talk to the lieu. Let her know we’re not sure this is Dismember. She may want to pull us.”
“Let us know.”
“I’ll catch up with you in Shadow Brook.”

After Melanie and Barnes departed, Spence headed to see the lieu. With a loud rap on her open door he waited to be invited in.
“Thomas.” The lieu nodded her approval.
“I wanted to talk to you about Harding.”
Raising an eyebrow, the lieutenant leaned back in her chair and waited.
“I know you’re thinking about assigning me a new partner.”
“It’s protocol and you know that.”
“I want you to wait. A partnership can’t be replaced with any old detective.”
“There are days when I wish I had gone with the rotation model.”
Spence laughed. “We both know fixed partners provides better results overall.”
“And bigger problems overall,” she snapped back.
Spence knew better than to respond. His boss was thinking things over and he needed to allow her the space to do that.
“The team is a man down and you caught another murder related to your serial killer. You need manpower.”
Spence quickly debated with himself. “We aren’t altogether sure this is a Dismember killing.”
“Based on what?”
“There are slight variances in the profile of this victim compared to the others. And there are irregularities in the information we have been turning up. This might be a copycat.”
Removing her glasses, the lieu rubbed her temples. “Damn Stephanie Lewis.”
“I don’t want to cloud the issue but the article did come out after the murder.” Spence waited for the lieutenant to consider this.
When she spoke, she ignored his input. “I’m assigning you another detective, not a new partner.” She held up her hand to forestall any arguement Spence might launch. “Consider this a helping hand. And I’ll wait until the outcome of the other investigation before I assign you a new partner.”
Spence couldn’t argue with that. It was a generous offer. The best he was going to get under the circumstances.
“As usual, we are undermanned and overworked. It might be a bit before I can reassign anyone.”
“Thanks.” Spence headed for the door while the going was still good.
“Spence, one more thing.” It was never a good sign when the lieu used your first name. “I know you want to protect Harding, keep it clean.”
With a brief nod he left her office and went to attend to the job he said he would do.

The Body in the Pool Chapter 19

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Nineteen

Barnes and Melanie were back by noon. “It was a flipping farm of cubicles. I sent everything to a forensic accountant. It’ll be eons before they can make heads or tails of it.”
“Aren’t you full of good news.” Spence’s mood was black.
“Who pissed in your Wheaties?” Melanie frowned.
“Shit. There’s no easy way to lay this out there.” Spence stopped staring at his screen and made eye contact. “Turns out the leak was Tom.”
Melanie laughed and turned to her desk. She grabbed the wall calender hanging there.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking the date. You’re a couple of months late for April Fools.”
Spence shook his head.
Barnes pulled out his chair. “The new girl right?”
“Oh, come on.” Melanie’s face scrunched up. “We do not need this right now.”
“For now, he’s off the case. I don’t know if he’ll be back or when.”
“All these years, we’ve all debated what it might take to bring down ‘dynamite’, turns out it’s one bleach blonde bitch with a big mouth.”
Barnes snorted. “Say that three times fast.”
“Bleach blonde bitch with a big mouth, bleach blonde bitch with a big mouth, bleach blonde bitch with a big mouth.” Melanie sing-songed her way through the words.
Spence let it slide. They needed to process losing a family member. If making jokes helped, he was on board.
“I got a couple of the lab reports back.” Spence hoped this would get them focused on the case. “The mystery meat.”
Barnes provided a drum roll on the work table with his hands.
“Human. DNA was too fried for a match to Paulson. Think about it, how many bits of human flesh can we expect to find within 30 feet of a body missing those same bits.”
“That’s a new one for our serial killer.” Melanie frowned.
“We’ve had that thought about a number of aspects to this case.” Spence countered.
“I know, I just think we shouldn’t lose track of the minutia.”
“Fair enough,” said Spence. “The eyeball jelly is back as well.”
“Vitreous fluid,” said Barnes correcting Spence.
“Right, the vitreous fluid contained Rohypnol.”
“Somebody roofied the old guy?” Melanie asked in blatant disbelief. “That has never been done by our serial killer. He always overpowers them.”
Spence nodded his acquiescence. “It fits with the mode of death suggested by Choi, smothering. A few drops in a cocktail, he passes out. Couple of minutes with a pillow.”
“He passes way out,” Barnes chuckled. “That’s cold. And not our guy. I agree with Mel.”
“You two think we should pass this case off then?” Spence knew a copycat designation by his team right now, could tank Tom’s case for accidental information transmission. Harold was dead before the story hit the front page but it would still come down on Tom.
“That’s a hard call.” Barnes shook his head. “I think I’d rather take a gander at the personal financials we have access to now.”
“That sounds reasonable.” Spence looked over at Melanie who was staring off into space. Okay then, back to the data.
It was several minutes later when Melanie leapt to the cork-board and grabbed the preliminary autopsy report. She flipped pages. Then slapping the page in her hand, said, “No marks on his heels.”
“No what?” Spence asked.
“Marks on his heels. Paulson was 5’11”, 180 pounds. If he was dead already, how did the killer get him from the murder location to the pool without dragging him?”
“He carried him.”
“That’s a lot of dead weight. No pun intended,” she continued when Barnes guffawed.
“We’re looking for a big guy, a team, or someone with a little red wagon. That really narrows it down.”
Melanie flipped the papers back into order and retacked them to the board. “At least I’m trying.”
“As opposed to me?”
“You’re just staring at your screen, feeling sorry for yourself and Tom.”
Spence considered how to answer this without lying. Because Melanie was right. He did feel sorry for himself, for Tom, for the team. And he really hated Stephanie Lewis right about now. The ringing phone on his desk saved him the trouble of answering her. “Thomas.” He hung up ten seconds later. “It appears my wife is here.”

The Body in the Pool Chapter 18

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Eighteen

Tess arrived at the restaurant early. She was actually dying for a Reuben, had been since she suggested it to Magda in text last night. She also wanted to be sure they dined in a window booth. Spence’s seriousness the night before had left her with lingering unease. Deuces surrounded the bar, all next to large plate glass windows. She selected the table she wanted and ordered a Mango Mana-tea while she waited. Magda, true to form, was 20 minutes late.
“Tess, my darling, you are the size of a house.”
Tess laughed. “Thank you, I think.”
“A completely adorable house, of course.” Magda kissed both of Tess’s cheeks and then sat down signaling the waiter as she did. “I’m dying for a Martini. How about you?”
Tess shook her head. “Alcohol is bad for the baby.”
“Oh, right. The baby. One Martini then, s’il vous plait.” Magda beamed at Tess. “Tell me everything.”
For a moment Tess wondered if Magda knew, then she shook herself and tried to remember all the reasons she and Magda had been friends in culinary school. Which she could sum up in one word: fun. Magda was fun. “You’ve always been way more entertaining. Tell me what you’ve been up to.”
“Oh darling. Things have been simply dreadful. Matt actually had the nerve to put me on a shopping budget. Can you imagine? Me? On a budget?”
Tess laughed. “No. Absolutely not.”
“That’s absolutely what I told him.” Magda bubbled over with laughter. “Let’s order, I’m famished.”

They were into dessert, well Tess was, Magda was sipping coffee, when the subject of Matt’s work came up.
“He’s been ridic busy lately. Apparently one of his clients is in a mess of hot water. A bunch of money disappeared.” Magda leaned in towards Tess, “And the client canceled their deliberate malfeasance insurance last year.”
“And now money is missing?”
Magda nodded. “It’s about to be such a scandal. Of course Matt’s terribly stressed and working long hours. He had the nerve to suggest we might have to cancel our trip to Barbados next month.”
“I can’t imagine.” And she couldn’t. Spence took Tess on a cruise to Alaska for their last vacation. It happened to be their honeymoon, three years ago.
“I didn’t tell you the best part. Last night when Matt got home, he told me the guy they think stole the money was murdered yesterday.”
Tess stopped hard, her spoon half-way to her mouth. “Murdered?”
“Like murdered, murdered.” Magda flopped back in her chair, wrung out by the rehashing of such vibrant gossip.
“Matt’s not a suspect, is he?” Tess asked with a concerned note in her voice.
“Don’t be silly. It’s Matt’s clients that might be in hot water, in more ways than one.”
“With Matt as their lawyer…” Tess let her sentence trail off.
“He is rather good, isn’t he?” Magda smiled. “Complete pit-bull. Ridic sexy. Except when it’s about my credit card bill.”
Tess laughed.
“We should do this again.”
“I’d like that. I’ve been super bored since the whole bed rest thing.”
“It sounds positively ghastly. I don’t know how you stand it.”
Tess’s hand moved to her belly in an automatic response. “You do what you have to.”
“No, my darling, you do what you have to. There’s a reason my stomach is still perfectly flat and it’s not just Pilates. Speaking of which I’ve got to run. I’ll grab the bill this time.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“Nonsense. I’ve done nothing but natter at you today. The least I can do is pay for the privilege.”
Tess stood up from the table. “Thank you.” She gave Magda as firm a hug as she could manage with the bowling ball in her belly.
Magda laid a gentle hand on Tess’s belly. “Next week?”
“Sure.” Surprisingly, Tess found she meant it.

While she waited for Magda to pay the check and leave, Tess texted Spence. I’m dropping by the office and boy do I have a scoop for you.

I’ve been thinking Thursday: I think my head is broken

Last week I got an email from an anthology I was asked to submit to. I wrote a twisted little short about an energy demon trapped on Earth. Anyway, the anthology accepted the story.

I wasn’t even happy. My brain immediately started going on about how it’s not like this was going to help me gain readership.

What is that about? It’s like my writing career is stuck permanently in the negative. I keep moving forward, doing all the things people say you should do. Act positively. Only, I don’t think I really believe it will create a positive outcome. Ergo, my head is broken.

Do you have anything in your life that causes a disconnect? Your actions and your beliefs are at total odds?

The Body in the Pool Chapter 17

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Seventeen

Spence was in the office before seven the next morning. He needed time to order a drive-by on the South Lake Grill.
Once he got to his desk he scrolled through his emails looking for reports: the Stephanie Lewis situation, lab reports, warrants, that preliminary written autopsy Choi said he was finishing last night.
The autopsy was there. He opened it and read through. He hit print, stapled the pages together, and added them to the cork-board under the New Reports heading. Melanie came through the door as he was sticking the tack in it.
“Prelim autopsy,” Spence responded.
Melanie hung up her coat and crossed back to the cork-board to read the report.
Spence returned to his desk.
“Water injected into the lungs after death?”
“Yup, that’s what Choi told me last night.”
Melanie stared at Spence. “Who does that kind of shit?”
“Got me.”
Barnes came in and Melanie started explaining the preliminary findings.
“Warrants. We’ve got warrants for the business and the personal accounts. Who wants to serve?”
“We’ll go.” Melanie nodded at Barnes who nodded back.
“Go to it. And get digital where you can.”
Melanie laughed. The partners grabbed the coats they had just shed and left the office.
Spence was back into reading his email when Tom came through the door. Spence glared. “What the fuck were you thinking?”
Tom stopped dead in his tracks. “I wasn’t, I wasn’t thinking.”
“Partners for seven years, four years in that god awful hell of a sand pit before that. And you do this to me?” Spence kicked his chair back out of the way.
“I’m sorry.”
“What if something happens to Tess or the baby?”
Confusion streaked across Tom’s face. “Why would anything happen to Tess?”
“You don’t think asking her to sneak behind enemy lines and do a little recon is dangerous?”
Tom opened his mouth and then closed it without answering.
“You forgot you called her?”
“I didn’t-”
“Texted her.” Spence shouted, interrupting his partner.
Tom swallowed. “I did forget.”
“Then what were you talking about?”
They stood, staring at each other, computer fans whirring in the background, the hum of the overhead lights. Tom waited for the penny to drop.
“Stephanie Lewis.”
“You’re the leak.” Spence felt a weight crushing his chest.
Spence sat down, his head in his hands, elbows on his knees.
Tom hung up his coat and waited.
“You should have told me.” Spence’s voice was distant.
“I didn’t want to involve you. I saw the headline and I hoped it wasn’t, she hadn’t.”
“I ordered surveillance on her.”
“This isn’t how I thought it would go down.”
“Oh, you thought through the ramifications of dating a reporter?” Spence’s anger rose in his throat.
Tom shook his head. “I meant the end of our partnership, I figured one of us would get shot.”
“That can still happen,” Spence snapped back.
They stared at each other before Tom started to laugh, Spence slowly joining in.
“I am well and truly fucked.”
“Maybe not. Did you go see her?”
Tom nodded. “Last night.”
“Go to the lieu. Tell her Stephanie lied to you, you didn’t know she was a reporter until you saw the article. You never read The Times.”
“That’s a lot of lies to live with.”
“Or you end your career. I’ll back you either way.”
“I better go throw myself on her highness’s mercy.” Tom smiled then his face relaxed. “You’ve been a good partner. Even better friend.”
“Stop talking like you’re dying. It’s only your career that’s committed suicide.”
“Stop stalling. Go, before she gets around to the surveillance reports.”
Tom nodded and left the room. He went down the stairs to the floor below. It felt like everyone’s eyes were on him as he walked across the open bullpen. No conversations stopped, nothing that obvious. But voices dropped as he passed. He knocked on the closed door of his boss.
“Busy,” Her voiced barked.
“It’s Harding.” Tom heard her chair hit the wall behind her desk, five seconds later the door whipped open.
“You better have one hell of an explanation.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Tom watched her nostrils flare way too up close for his comfort. The bullpen behind him was silent now. If he turned, he knew he would find all eyes were watching the show.
“Come in.”

The Body in the Pool Chapter 16

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Sixteen

Butch greeted Spence at the door. His tail beyond mere wagging, into full helicopter rotor mode. “Where’s Tess, huh, boy?”
“Tess is in the kitchen,” her voice called out.
Spence followed the sound. “Does she still want ice cream?” He held the bag as he rounded the corner.
“Did you go buy me more ice cream today?”
Spence nodded.
“You are a sweet, sweet man.” Tess kissed his cheek. “You must be exhausted. How’s the case going?”
Spence sighed. “Rough.”
Tess took the ice cream out of the bag and placed it in the freezer. “Leftovers okay?” She pulled several Tupperware containers from the fridge and handed Spence a beer.
“I love you.” Spence took a long draught, “I’m not even hungry.”
Tess leaned towards Spence, inhaling deeply. “Kung Pao Chicken. And you didn’t bring me any?”
Spence took another long drink from the bottle and looked at Tess with sad eyes.
“I forgive you. You had a mighty long day.”
“I did. What about you?”
“Nothing too exciting. I did talk to Magda Sugden today.”
Spence stopped drinking mid gulp and pulled the bottle from his mouth. “What made you think to call her?”
Tess smiled. “I thought I might while the days away by calling up one or two old friends.”
Spence nodded. “What did Magda have to say?”
“She invited me round for tea tomorrow. Her husband is super busy right now and I knew you’d be tied up for days on this new case.”
“Are you going?” Spence held his breath.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Tess widened her bright green eyes.
Spence set the bottle down on the table. “Because her husband is general counsel on the case we are working right now. Why do I think you know that already?”
“I had no idea.”
“Spence. I had no idea Matt was general counsel.”
“Which one of them called you?”
Tess laughed. “No one called me. I called Magda.”
“Tess.” Spence wanted to be mad; this wasn’t on Tess though. It was on one of his team and his team wasn’t here. He took a long drink of beer, counted to 15, and tried again. “Which one texted you?”
Tess laughed again. “Tom. He asked if I knew Matt Sugden’s wife. I actually had no idea who he meant until I came across that travel mug they gave the guests at their wedding, as though that made up for a crack of dawn ceremony.”
“Please don’t go over there tomorrow.” Spence crossed the kitchen to hug her.
“What if I meet her somewhere else? Lunch out?”
Spence held her closer and didn’t answer.
“What do you need to know, I’ll steer the conversation in the right direction.”
“Please don’t. It is way too dangerous for you to get into this.”
“Kind of too late now honey. Way weirder if I cancel.”
Slowly releasing his hug, Spence tipped his wife’s face up to meet his. “We need to talk about guidelines for this operation.”
Tess’s grin lit up her freckled face. She pulled her long red hair back into a bun and stuck a pencil through it. “Absolutely.”
“You meet somewhere neutral for lunch.”
“You do not eat any food that you left unattended. Pee between courses, Tess.”
“What if the mains come while I’m in the ladies?”
“Pretend you changed your mind and order a new meal. Drink only water and keep your glass way on your side of the table.”
“I can do that.”
“Do not ask about Matt or his work.”
“I have to ask about Matt. I’ll keep it simple, has he made partner yet? How many vacation days do they manage to get away each year? I do know how to have a conversation with an old friend, Spence.”
“I’m gonna kill Tom for bringing you into this.”
“You don’t actually suspect Magda of anything do you?”
“No. Maybe. Her husband worries me.”
“You didn’t like him before this. That’s half the reason Magda and I rarely speak anymore.”
“Really? Because I thought her husband was an ass?”
“It’s hard when one half the couple doesn’t like half the other couple to keep things balanced. It’s not like we have kids in common or anything.”
Spence sighed. “What’s the other half the reason?”
Tess laughed, “He didn’t like you.”
Spence shook his head. “Where are you going to meet her?”
“Are you going to stake the place out?”
“Maybe. At least have a couple of officers do a drive by.”
Tess rolled her eyes. “Hang on. Let me text her.”
My day went wonky. Can you meet for lunch instead? Dying for a Reuben at the South Lake Grill.
Tess showed Spence the text before she hit send.
“As long you don’t end up really dying for a Reuben.”
Tess shook her head with a smile on her face. “I think you’re being silly. I can’t imagine what Magda might say to put me in any danger.”
Spence could imagine many things Magda might say.


The Body in the Pool Chapter 5

The Body in the Pool

Book One of the Dismember Killer Series


Chapter Five

“Detective Harding, have you been waiting here the whole time?” Doctor Wallsgraf asked when he returned to his office.
Tom smiled. “I was admiring your interesting collections.”
The headmaster paused in his stride. “I see. Detective Thomas said you’d like to interview the guard.”
“That would certainly help. Was there only one guard on duty?”
“No. We employ five guards daily on three shifts. If you will follow me to the security office.”
“Of course.”
The security office was two doors down the hall. The headmaster pushed open the partially closed door revealing two uniformed men. One young, extremely slight in build with what seemed like an entire boy scout mess kit on his belt. He was crumpled in a wooden chair squeezed into the corner, his elbows resting on his knees. The other man: older, craggy faced, and tending to roundness, sat in front of a bank of screens which displayed the contents of various cameras about the property. The room smelled of fast food, burgers and fries by the lingering ketchup scent.
“Detective Harding has a few questions for you,” the headmaster announced.
In case he was inclined to linger, Tom said, “Thank you, doctor. I’ll let you know if I need anything else. You’ll be in your office?”
The headmaster exhaled heavily. “Fine.”
The sound of a chuckle turned into a cough emanated from the older guard.
Tom suppressed a smile. Turning to the occupants of the room, he asked, “Who can tell me about the security policies here?”
The older guard nodded.
“And you are?”
“Mike Hunter. Been here about three years.”
“Go on then Mike.”
“Standard overlapping three by. One in the vid room on all three. One at the gate day and evening shift.”
“So there’s no one at the gate at night?”
“No reason for it. No one should be coming and going after hours, by the board’s decree.”
Tom nodded. “Board?”
“Board of Directors. They run the place although the good doctor will tell you otherwise,” Mike said with chortle.
“Got it.”
“I handle the evening shift, interior, Sunday through Thursday.”
Taking a stab in the dark, Tom said, “Kind of rough during football season, eh? I would have thought with three years you’d have seniority.”
Mike nodded his head. “You’d think that, wouldn’t you.”
Tom waited. Mike clearly had practice with the waiting game. Neither spoke for two minutes.
The skinny guard finally broke the silence, “I’m Bobby. I work the night shift.” His voice cracked twice in the two short sentences.
Tom glanced at the boy scout. Run with him since he was willing to talk or establish dominance by reminding Bobby he was mid-interview with his coworker. Tom made eye contact with Mike who shrugged. There was a story there.
“Hi Bobby. I’m Detective Harding. Can you tell me about your night?”
Bobby nodded. “I got here at eleven, like I always do. Well, maybe I was a little late. I got distracted by my chem homework when I was supposed to be getting ready but I can’t have been more than five minutes late.”
Tom glanced at Mike as Bobby ran on at the mouth. Mike held up seven fingers.
“And it was super rainy on the 405 and people always drive badly when it rains, which makes no sense to me because it’s always raining here. I should have gone to school somewhere warm but I got a partial scholarship which meant less loans, Seattle seemed like a good choice, you know. But then I got depressed from all the rain and I almost flunked out, lost my scholarship, and had to take this job to afford school.”
Tom tamped down his mounting irritation. Fountains of information eventually distilled into facts worth writing down, eventually. The secret was to perfect your interested face. Tom nodded to back up his face.
“Like I said I was a few minutes late. I started my rounds as soon as I got here. Well, almost as soon. I mean, I dropped my lunch off in the office first. But then I went right out. Well okay I stopped at the bathroom, too. But that was kind of already on my rounds. Right, I mean, I’m supposed to check all unoccupied rooms.”
Tom bit his tongue to keep from laughing.
“Everything was fine. I had to ask room 412 to turn down their music. And a couple of boys from 319 were looking out the windows in the hall with binoculars. Bird watching they said. I sent them back to their room.”
Tom noted 319 and ‘bird watching’ in his notepad.
“I was getting to the main floor rooms, I always start at the top and work my way down, when I heard the girl scream. God, it was terrifying. She was loud and shrill and I got goose bumps everywhere. I ran outside and found the kids by the pool. The boy was holding the girl and I think trying to quiet her down. He seemed more concerned about getting caught outside after curfew than the b-b-b-body in the pool.” Bobby sobbed as he stuttered out the last.
Tom waited to see if Bobby would regain control of himself.
Mike cleared his throat. “Video came back up not long after that I guess. The first thing I saw the kids were hugging and Bobby there was puking in one of the potted plants.”
“Did you call the headmaster?”
“I did. Then I flipped through the cameras to see if anything else was amiss, then went out to the pool deck. Got there before the headmaster. Bobby was, well, like that,” Mike gestured to Bobby’s current state. “The girl was hysterical. The boy pretty quiet. The body floating in the pool.”
“Did you see anything on the cameras?”
“Would have said so if I did.”
Tom shot a look at Bobby. He was done for. Time to press Mike. “Why is the maintenance window common knowledge?”
Mike shrugged. “Not my call.”
“You have an opinion about it.” Tom prodded.
Mike sighed. “It’s important we maintain a predictable schedule for the comfort of the students.”
“Let me guess, the good doctor,” Tom asked.
Mike nodded. “He’s not much for accepting other people’s ideas.”
“Even when they have more experience?” Tom asked. “What did you do before this? Military? PD?”
Tom nodded. “What else should we know?”
“That’s a hell of a question.”
“I can tell you’ve been on the job. What do you think we need to know about the school? The headmaster? The security process? The students?”
Mike took a deep breath. “The headmaster is generally an ass. He’s been worried lately. Clear as glass. The gate out front is useless. We’re wooded on the other three sides, no fences. The kids are mostly your run of the mill teenagers with a few budding criminals.”
“Got it.” Tom noted the lack of fencing as a point to check out. How close were roads to the woods? Could someone have come through easily? With a dead body? Tom brought out his phone and showed Mike the picture of the victim. “Do you recognize him?”
Mike took a long look. “Can’t be sure. It looks a lot like one of the board members though.”
“One of the Academy’s Board Members?” Tom asked again.
Mike nodded. “They come in monthly for dinner meetings. Pretty sure I’ve seen that guy or someone who looks like him.”
Tom handed Mike a card. “Call me if you think of anything else.”
“Will do.”