don’t take any shit.”

He always said that, although Laura had never taken any shit yet. She knew the pep talk was just his way of showing support for her, a woman doing a man’s job. But being called in to assist on investigations in other jurisdictions—mostly small towns—Laura knew that petty politics were far more obstructive to an investigation than any effect her gender might have.

“Victor will meet you there as soon as he can. You know where the ADOT yard is this side of the tunnel?” Jerry said. “They’ll have someone from Bisbee PD there to escort you in.”

Fifteen minutes later, Laura turned her 4Runner onto Interstate 10 going east, dread pressing into her throat.

Fourteen years old.


Once on the road, Laura punched in the Jerry Grime’s number to get some background. Now she’d have time to absorb what he had to say.

“A girl named Jessica Parris was abducted yesterday from the street near her house. They think that’s where it happened; there weren’t any witnesses.”

“What time yesterday?”

“After school. She didn’t come home for dinner. Place is kind of out in the sticks. According to Bisbee PD, she lives—lived—at the end of West Boulevard.” Jerry paused. He reminded her of an old-time union boss, tough and gruff. This case, though, would get to him; he had three daughters of his own.

Jerry said, “A girl fitting the Parris girl’s description was found this morning in City Park. You know where that is?”

“On Brewery Gulch.”

“That’s right. Tourists went to see the bandshell and got a big surprise.”

She thought of how the tourists must have felt, that sudden drop in the pit of the stomach. “She was in the bandshell?”

“Propped up against the back wall. Kind of like a doll on a bed, the woman said. The witness’s name is Slaughter.” He paused to let the irony sink in. “Doris Ann Slaughter. Said the girl was dressed up in some way, I don’t know, like a doll dress.” He paused again—this was hard for him. “Victor’s coming from Marana. Should be a half hour behind you.”

Laura signed off and pushed the 4runner up to eighty, mesmerized by her own thoughts as the freeway unraveled before her. She hoped the storm would hold off until she got a look at the crime scene. The day was sunny, but the sky to the south and east was an ominous leaden blue.

The monsoon season had started July 4. They’d had a thunderstorm every day this week—uprooted trees, downed power lines, roofs torn off, the north-south streets of Tucson turned into flooded canals. A whole city held hostage by rain-swollen streets, many of them uncrossable. Ask a man who has been plucked by a helicopter from the roof of his pickup in a Tucson intersection just how quickly nature can trump progress.

This morning, the heat hadn’t yet built up sufficiently to produce the cumulonimbus clouds necessary for a thunderstorm, but Laura could feel the electricity in the air. She stopped at a fast food place in Benson for a breakfast sandwich—fuel—then drove south into the gathering gloom that seemed to press down on the mountains like a weight.

She felt both dread and anticipation. Needing to get there, see it for herself, but knowing that when she did, the image would haunt her for the rest of her life. The sight of the dead girl would be imprinted on her eyeball as if it were caught in the flash from a camera.

It would have plenty of company.

Laura reached the ADOT yard, where the Arizona Department of Transportation kept road machinery, at a little after ten a.m. A Bisbee PD Crown Vic was parked just outside the Mule Pass Tunnel. The officer, female and twenty-something, leaned against the Crown Vic’s door. When she saw Laura’s unmarked 4runner pull in behind her, she walked up to the window. “I have to advise you that you are not allowed to park here.” Her face was peeling from a severe sunburn.

Laura showed her badge and told the officer—her nameplate said Duffy—that she would follow her. They drove through the tunnel and down into town and parked in a lot populated by law enforcement vehicles from four different agencies. Everybody and his brother was here.

Officer Duffy was out of her car in an instant. She strode across the lot without looking back, headed toward the staging area set up outside the mining museum across the street. Laura was used to this kind of rudeness. A state agency, the Arizona Department of Public Safety could only assist small town police departments if the chief requested it. The chief usually asked for help either because his force was too small or they weren’t equipped to do the job. Laura encountered resentment every time she set foot in one of these small towns.

Sometimes she thought her job description should read Professional Pariah.

She opened up the back of her vehicle and took out her camera bag, wishing she hadn’t worn dark clothes that absorbed the heat. The sky above was an unrelenting blue; no sign of the storm clouds she’s seen on the way down. The mountains above the town were so high, they probably hid them from view. Laura entered the park and introduced herself to the cluster of men in the roped-off area.

Rusty Ducotte, who served twenty-five years with the DPS before his current stint as Bisbee Police chief, spoke in the subtle Arizona drawl that Laura had grown up with. He was long-faced with receding hair and red-rimmed eyes that reminded her of a rabbit’s.

Ducotte made it clear that she was the lead, that it was now her scene. “I’d like Detective Holland to walk the scene with you, though, if that’s okay.”

Although the chief put it in the form of a request, Laura could sense steel behind it. He wanted his detective to work the case with her. Laura didn’t see why not, as long as he didn’t get in the way. She couldn’t depend on Victor; his wife had just had a baby, and he’d already told everyone who would listen that he wanted to stay close

Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату