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"JESUS CHRIST, NO fucking head!" In Murry's eighteen years on the force, this was the first time he almost tossed his cookies at a crime scene. Tired, irritated, and longing for a fresh, hot cup of French roast, he nervously flipped his notepad open and closed as his new partner, William Kidman, AKA Billy the Kid, raced down the steps to the walkway, then stopped to light a cigarette.
The house—a small version of a Southern mansion transplanted to the West Coast—stood out like an aging Madame surrounded by youthful harlots. Beverly Hills. Paradise—unless you happened to be the corpse. A high-profile murder, and a homicide rookie. The press would be on him like turkey vultures.
"Wonder where her head is?" the droopy-lidded kid mumbled, the cigarette dangling from his lips.
Murry half-expected the kid's pale blond mustache to catch on fire. That would lighten his day. "What I'm wondering is what's going on in the judge's brain. His wife is murdered, head cut off like a chicken, and he shows zero emotional response."
"Like, so what? Obviously the guy's a raisin head."
"The guy's a superior court judge, and he didn't get there by being stupid." Murry shook his head, livid that once again he'd gotten a dud for a partner. His ex-partner, Tack, was probably laughing his head off.
"Well, I may not be the fuckin' psychic you are, Murry, but first the guy's spoutin' spiritual shit in two different languages, then he's mumbling about missing his golf game, then he's jerking us around while he calls his lawyer!"
"He said a lwa—whatever the fuck that is—murdered his wife," Murry countered,remembering the judge's murmur. It sounded French. He vowed to look it up as soon as he had time. The kid was right, though; the judge was calm as a zombie. Ten years as a homicide jock could affect you the same way—make you act calm no matter what you saw. Although in his five years in the Beverly Hills Department he'd only seen three homicides—and none of them came close to this mess.
He nudged Billy's arm. "You don't need to be psychic. Just a good detective and a lucky one. I've heard you're smart, Kidman, but are you lucky?" Murry stopped and gave his new sidekick the one-eye, thinking they'd need all the luck they could get. Him, because this was his first case back in Homicide after four punishing months working traffic—his penance for slugging Tack. So what if it had taken a roll of bailing wire to put the man's Pierce Brosnan jaw back together? He deserved it. And Billy needed some luck because a case like this could boost his career faster than a reverse bungee ride.
The cigarette fell from the Kid's lips but he didn't seem to notice. "Shit, yeah, I'm lucky. Got you for a partner, didn't I?" He barked a laugh that irritated Murry. "Just call me the Lucky Dick." He burst into more braying laughter, then bent down, retrieved his still smoldering cigarette from the ground and stuck it back between his teeth. He sucked hard, the end flaring like orange neon.
Murry shook his head. "Now, that was gross. You're supposed to blow off the dirt, Detective. Didn't your mother teach you anything?"
"Sure." Billy smiled, forming dimples. "She taught me to like dirt. That's why I love this lousy job."
Murry eyed him, and something in him relaxed. This guy might not be so bad after all.
"Hey, Murry!" A woman's voice echoed from behind them.
He gestured Billy toward the car, then turned and waited for the medical examiner to catch up. First time in seven years the woman had ever come after him.
A good-looking woman, but he'd heard she had ice in her veins. Women! The ME looked downright fetching in a pale pink suit that gave her chronic thinness a little shape. Must have been called in from a social event, he thought, and wondered what happened to her date and if she had a steady squeeze. He couldn't remember ever seeing her in anything but baggy pantsuits, two sizes too big. Her frown knitted her eyebrows together, and what he thought could pass as a smile was really a tight-lipped scowl. The hour-old coffee in his stomach percolated.
He knew he'd regret it, but said, "Hey, Babe, lookin' for some action?" His days on Hollywood vice were over, but the lingo still lurked. The sad part was, he half meant it. A guy surrounded by stiffs needed a little excitement in his life.
The ME, whose name happened to have the same initials, Mary Eclair, stopped two feet away, legs splayed like a woman ready to duke it out, arms crossed. "First off, I'm not your babe," she said, but for a second he could have sworn he saw a smile in her green eyes, directly contradicting her stance and severe hairdo. "And second, Billy the Moron left a cigarette butt in the crime scene!"
Shit! Murry rolled his eyes as though to commiserate, and silently cursed the Kid's carelessness. If this ever went to trial, an error like that could fuck the D.A. "You remove it?" he asked, slapping the file folder against his leg.
"Yes. But that's not the point, Detective."
Murry sighed. "I get the point, Doctor. I'll give the moron a lecture about his crime-scene habits." He winked. "Least he didn't puke." Which was more than most new homicide kids.
Surprisingly, she laughed, the sound sweet and light, not what you'd expect with her ball-buster rep. Damn if it didn't make her one hundred percent more attractive.
She blinked. "Sing?"
Copyright © 2005 L.F. Crawford.