“What a mess.” Detective Louis Stratton mumbled in disgust as he lit his customary crime scene cigar, a medium strength macanudo and began pushing his way through the crowd of paramedics, cops, onlookers and the gathering swarm of reporters. He lifted a burly leg over the yellow crime scene tape and made his way deeper into the underground parking structure. He puffed deeply on the mac as he and his partner moved to the center of the crime scene that surrounded Father Jeffries’s mangled body.
Robyn was already writing copious notes in her little, black notebook. She took more notes than anyone he had ever worked with, far more notes than ever made it into her reports and he found himself wondering, as he often did, what she found so compelling. Young for a detective, she was a brilliant investigator, near genius according to her test scores from Stanford and he could never understand why a beautiful, young twenty-something with an I.Q. like hers would want to lend her skills to the gritty streets of downtown Los Angeles.
They had been partners for about a year and he only had another nine months before he could hang up his shield and retire with full benefits. He chuckled to himself when he thought about their unlikely pairing as partners. They were something right out of a movie, the gruff, experienced detective showing the ropes to the idealistic young partner before the old timer retired for good. He wondered if it would be a peaceful retirement or if they would be thrust into one last deadly case before he could ride off into the sunset. As he approached the dead body, an uneasy knot formed in his gut telling him the odds were against the peaceful exit. “Bring on the movie rights,” he mumbled to himself as they bent down to look at the dead priest.
“There’s quite a story out there somewhere,” Robyn said after studying the body for a moment. “The perfect priest who’s never made an enemy in his life hears a couple of confessions from an Elliott Blythe and then a few days later turns up dead. We need to find Elliott.”
Stratton nodded his agreement and then noticed something odd about the priest’s clothing. His pants were high waters.
Robyn had just noticed it too and she also noticed that his shirtsleeves were too short and that crisscrossed tattoos were peeking out from them. They bent closer and stared at the man’s face. He certainly looked like a priest with his black suit and once-white clerical collar but his face was bloody and swollen and it was hard to tell if it was the same kind face that had smiled at them from the numerous photos they had just seen in Father Jeffries’s peaceful, little home.
The collar was stained dark red from the deep puncture wounds that riddled his midsection and as Louis and Robyn looked closer they both saw that the collar didn’t fit any better than the rest of the clothing. It was stretched around the neck as far as it could reach but it was unattached in the back. Someone had dressed this body to look like a priest.
Louis looked up and spoke to a uniformed officer, “Who identified the body?”
The officer looked around quickly and then a troubled look shot across his face as he realized that his witness had stepped away. He whispered to another officer who turned and began walking quickly through the crowd of onlookers. “I don’t see him, sir. We’ll find him momentarily.”
“No, you won’t.” Louis replied grimly. “He’s gone and this isn’t Father Stan Jeffries.” He took a long, thoughtful puff on the macanudo. “Call me when this body gets properly identified.” And then to Robyn, “Do you still have Elliott Blythe’s address in that little phone of yours?”
Robyn was already punching in the numbers and walking hurriedly back to their car.
End of Chapter Eight. To purchase this book and continue reading in printed or electronic form click here.