Read an Excerpt
The Rapture of Omega
By Stacy Dittrich
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2010 Stacy Dittrich
All right reserved.
"The National Weather Service has just confirmed a powerful cell forming off the coast of South Africa, expected to reach hurricane status within days. The remaining Florida residents are already making plans to evacuate. If the expected path reaches the coast of Florida by next week, Hurricane Stephen would make the fourth major hurricane to devastate the Florida coast in the last six weeks. Florida governor Randall Jimenez is expected to order a mandatory evacuation for affected areas beginning Friday. In other news ..."
I reached over and turned the radio off before tossing my half-smoked cigarette out the window. I didn't need to hear any more depressing news about other parts of the world. I had enough here, in Mansfield, Ohio, to keep me occupied.
Just thirty feet from my car lay the remains of a murder victim-young, pretty, and savagely brutalized. I'd say that allows me a significant amount of depression. Fifteen years of looking at bodies never gets easier. I'd give a number on this particular murder, but I quit counting a long time ago. Most people assume that I, Sergeant Detective CeeCee Gallagher, am made of steel. After reading newspaper accounts that have deemed me the ace detective of the Richland Metropolitan Police Department Major Crimes Division, they tend to look genuinely surprised when I show any type of emotion toward a victim. That fact alone disturbs me. I don't want to be perceived as a coldhearted bitch that was born without tear ducts, or a soul, for that matter. But then again, why should I care what they think?
The warm stream of sweat that slowly made its way down the side of my face alerted me that the air-conditioning in my car had just conked out. I sighed.
"You gonna come out and look at this, or are you hell-bent on losing forty pounds while you sit in there and melt?"
So deep in my thoughts, I hadn't noticed that my fellow detective, and dear friend, Jeff "Coop" Cooper, had walked up to my window. Boyishly handsome, and devilishly funny, Coop was married to the boss-Captain Naomi Cooper, formerly Kincaid. Naomi was on the riverbank with the others, processing the body and scene. Coop began running his fingers through his dark hair and fanning his shirt out.
"Jesus! I thought it was supposed to cool down a little today."
"It has. We have officially cooled down to a balmy ninety-one degrees."
I whipped my long, sweat-soaked blonde hair into a ponytail before grabbing my briefcase off the passenger seat. Coop opened the door for me, still whining about the temperature.
"Ninety-one degrees, my ass. I think this sucks."
"Ah, the pleasures of global warming." I slammed my car door shut and nodded toward the embankment. "What have we got down there?"
"Prepare yourself. She's only been there about two days, but the heat has accelerated decomposition something awful. It's not pretty, and you can only imagine the smell." He crinkled his nose as if I needed a visual. "Coroner says it looks like some type of crude abortion. She bled out."
I stopped walking, already smelling the body. "What? Is she young?"
"Not really, late twenties. A group of Boy Scouts on a nature hike found her. I remember doing that ..." He paused briefly as if to reflect. "Of course I was only in Boy Scouts for a year until my dad found out the leader was some homo-"
"Coop, please." Sometimes he needed to be redirected.
"Yeah, right, sorry. Anyway, the coroner said she bled out here so this is probably where the murder occurred. It's not just a body dump."
"Good, at least we don't have to deal with any secondary crime scenes. Everything we're looking for should be in this one spot."
Entering the crime scene, an embankment along the Mohican River, I absorbed the familiar sight. Evidence technicians wearing their rubber gloves and holding their evidence bags were everywhere. Some were taking photographs, and some were on their hands and knees in search of the most miniscule piece of fiber or hair that could prove to be the sole piece of evidence leading us to our killer. Yellow crime-scene tape was strewn between the trees along the embankment while other detectives, including Naomi, stood inside.
It was a beautiful day, really. The region was known for its scenic value, usually traveled by tourists who wanted a leisurely stroll down the massive river's banks to observe the rolling Appalachian foothills. It was disturbing to see a death scene mar a perfectly picturesque place. Of course, inside the mind of a murderer, things like that don't matter.
Naomi waved me over. She was statuesque, blonde, and stunningly beautiful, but she and I had a rocky past. We had smoothed things over throughout the years and had become good friends. It was a rare occasion that my husband, FBI Special Agent Michael Hagerman, and I went out to dinner or a movie without Naomi and Coop. We were like a family.
"CeeCee, what took you so long?" Naomi asked as I teetered around an evidence technician bagging a pile of leaves.
"Sorry, Isabelle and Selina both have soccer games tonight, so I had to wait until Michael got home."
"Sorry you're gonna miss the games." She tried to be sympathetic.
"Don't worry, I'm used to it. So are they. What've we got?"
"Twenty-six-year-old white female, apparently had a crude abortion performed before she was drowned." Naomi started to lead me to the body.
I stopped walking. "Drowned? Coop didn't say anything about that."
"It's just a theory right now. The coroner said it would've taken a while for her to die from the bleeding and she's got marks on her wrists where she was tied up. It'll have to be confirmed in the autopsy, but it looks like her face was put in the water to drown her after the abortion was performed."
I had a thought. "How do we know it was an abortion?"
"Just another theory because of the vaginal bleeding. She's covered in blood from the waist down, and the coroner said that's what it appears to be."
"Any identification yet?"
"Yes, believe it or not, her purse was found three feet from the body. Empty, except for her driver's license inside. It's almost as if someone left it there on purpose so we'd know who she was. Her name is Kelly Dixon, and she's from Shaker Heights."
"Shaker Heights? That's in Cleveland."
We stopped at the embankment where the body lay. Coop was right; she looked awful. The decomposition, mixed with the water, had bloated her face and stomach. I've seen bodies like this before and they always reminded me of the old Kewpie dolls whose eyes and stomachs popped out when you squeezed them. Bodies like this never looked real. It was as if some Hollywood special effects company came in and decorated a department store mannequin to suit their upcoming horror flick. But it was real. The pungent odor that permeated throughout the area proved that to all of us.
The only part of the victim that indicated it was a female was the long dark hair that lazily swayed in the water. There was only about an inch of white material at the bottom of her pants that wasn't blackened by the horrendous amount of blood. The ground underneath her and at her sides was just as black.
"Good Lord ..." I murmured.
"I doubt the Good Lord had anything to do with it."
If we only knew then just how right she was.
Excerpted from The Rapture of Omega by Stacy Dittrich Copyright © 2010 by Stacy Dittrich. Excerpted by permission.
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