Terry follows, staying in the shadows, curious. They stop at a headstone, not even noticing him.

Three words appear on the marble when the younger woman shines a flashlight beam on it.

Die, Dolly, Die.

“It’s not blood.” Gretchen is breathing fast, rushing her words as she speaks. “It’s lipstick.”

A cop walks toward them, with Matt trailing behind. Terry steps in beside Matt, who nods so slightly Terry almost misses the greeting.

“Caroline,” Matt says, moving forward to shake the older woman’s hand. “Thanks for coming to get Gretchen.”

“I don’t like this.”

“None of us do. Listen, we found a doll. Would the two of you take a look?”

“Of course,” both women respond.

Terry watches his buddy slide away, stopping a good distance from where an officer holds up a clear bag containing a doll.

What’s up with Matt?

The flashlight in Gretchen Birch’s hand illuminates the doll for a moment, then swings wild, erratic. Terry takes the flashlight from her. She doesn’t resist, instead giving him a look of gratitude. He shines it on the object with a steady hand.

The doll’s face is exquisitely chiseled. She has long copper hair that falls to her waist. Ivy snakes up a perfectly formed leg.

A second bag contains gold wings. In the murky light, the wings sparkle like gemstone dust.

“A fantasy doll,” Gretchen whispers. “Her wings have broken off.”

“Yes,” Caroline agrees.

“Have you seen this doll before?” Matt asks from outside the small group. “Or one like it?”

“No,” Caroline says, but Terry catches something in her voice, in the startled expression on her face. Matt senses it, too, because he glances sharply at Terry.

“Thank you again, Caroline, for coming,” Matt says after a pause. Terry waits while Matt escorts the women back to their car, opening doors for them and muttering reassurances. The women drive away.

“Gretchen’s mother?” Terry asks.


“She recognized the doll.”

“Maybe. I’ll talk to her again.”

Terry gestures toward the body, covered and strapped to a gurney. Strobe lights everywhere. “What’s going on?”

“A murdered woman.”


“No purse and no identification.”

“But we have a doll.”

“Just my luck,” Matt says.


The man-known to his friends as Nacho, formerly called Theodore Brummer in a life he barely remembers- watches the car leave the cemetery. He thought about moving away from the group, greeting his friends Gretchen and Caroline before they drove off, but that would have called even more attention his way. The police already think he is some kind of ringleader.

Police! He hates them and their superior, suspicious attitudes.

“Vagrants,” says a cop, who pretends he is doing good deeds while actually satisfying a sadist tendency to manipulate and destroy those who are weaker. He’s the same one who rounded them up, flashing a club to prove his power. Make my day. Make a move so I have an excuse to pound you into the ground.

All Nacho wanted was a quiet place to bed down away from the dopers downtown, the addicts who will kill for a buck, for the possibility of a high. That’s all any of them wanted, peace and quiet. Not this.

How could Gretchen get involved with a cop?

Here he comes, striding over like he owns the world. The one his friend Gretchen is so fond of. Albright. Nacho wants to give him the benefit of the doubt for her sake. But a cop? More benefit for him in doubt.

“Hey, Detective Albright,” Nacho says. “They want to haul the lot of us in.” That’s what the cop had called them. The lot, like they aren’t human. Maybe Gretchen’s cop friend can help him and Daisy.

The detective nods in recognition. Good. He remembers. Nacho glances back and sees Daisy pushing forward and addressing the detective, too. “Hi,” she says, friendlylike. That’s Daisy, no prejudices there, even when they pick her up off the street for no good reason.

The detective honors her with another nod before consulting with the coppers, not bothering with Nacho’s concern of incarceration.

Nacho doesn’t want to spend the night in jail, although sleeping in a bed would be a treat. A square meal and sheets. How long has it been? He’s used to passing the night in a ripped-up sleeping bag thrown down on hard desert dirt, a cover over his head if he’s lucky. Black plastic sheets work when it rains. But the cops have confiscated all their possessions-Daisy’s shopping cart filled with supplies, their backpacks.

Who called in the cops without warning them to leave the cemetery first? Usually Nacho is the first to know of these situations. When you live on the street, you hear it all, see it all, and you vamoose before the heat arrives. It wasn’t one of theirs who made the call. That’s obvious.

Too late this time. They should have gone when the going was good, when they heard the disturbance, little ripples of conflict, on the other side of the cemetery.

Detective Albright starts interrogating the clump of frightened people, asking the same questions already asked by the other cop. Who are you? What are you doing here? What did you see go down?

No one wants to say anything. Who would? Speak at all and they run you in and book you on some trumped up charge. None of them admits to hearing the disturbance, two people, the mutter of voices, rising, then falling, quiet after that.

There’s someone whom Nacho doesn’t recognize in the group. One among them doesn’t belong to his community, but he isn’t saying a word. He doesn’t get involved in other people’s business.

The streets of Phoenix are beginning to swell with more homeless people than ever before. The old-timers are forced to share more and more, make due with less all the time. No one will leave them alone. They’ve lost their tent city, the services they used to count on are closing up, laws are tightening, some of his acquaintances go missing by morning, rounded up and dropped off at the border. Get out, that’s the message he hears the most. Go someplace else.

If he could control his drinking, he’d consider a different lifestyle. That’s what Daisy hints at. A real home.

Albright gets around to the one who looks like them, but doesn’t smell right. After a while, you know who fits and who doesn’t. This one doesn’t.

“Who are you?” Albright asks, but Nacho doesn’t hear the answer because Daisy is on her cell phone. People sometimes laugh when they find out about her phone. What’s a homeless person doing with a cell phone? But Daisy is amazingly secretive about her past.

Most of them don’t even remember having a past. Nacho doesn’t.

“We’re in the cemetery,” Daisy says into the phone, then listens. “… I don’t know why… Didn’t want to make trouble for you… Taking us in for questioning… Not yet. I’ll let you know. Thanks.”

Nacho thinks how cute she looks since she changed her style to that red hat thing. Daisy is wearing a floppy hat with her favorite purple dress. The rest of her wardrobe is in police custody along with everything else she owns.

“Vagrancy?” one of the cops asks the detective.

Albright replies loud enough to interrupt Nacho’s eavesdropping, but that’s okay, Daisy has disconnected from the call. “Book them,” he hears from this man Gretchen thinks so highly of. She should be here to see how they’re

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