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MIAMI -- TODAY
People applauded when Craig Burch walked into the office. His face reddened. He wanted no attention, no fuss. He wanted his first day back to be like any other day on the job. But that didn't happen.
Two of his detectives sprang to their feet. Pete Nazario, usually quiet and introspective, moved in for a bear hug, then hesitated.
"It's okay," Burch said, and hugged back.
He exchanged a high five with Stone, who grinned like he'd won the lottery. Other homicide detectives pumped his hand.
A sea of smiles and good humor, except for Emma, Lieutenant K. C. Riley's tiny, middle-aged secretary, who blubbered uncontrollably into a flowered handkerchief. She removed her spectacles, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose loudly. "Thank God you're back." She hiccuped.
Where is Riley? Burch wondered. Joe Corso, his temporary replacement, was missing in action as well. He scanned the sprawling homicide office and spotted their heads together in the lieutenant's glass-enclosed office, the door closed. What's that all about? he wondered. Corso, who had seniority, had been appointed acting sergeant in Burch's absence.
The two emerged to join the welcome.
"So ya finally got off your lazy ass and came back to work!" Corso trailed behind the lieutenant's welcoming smile.
"Yeah, had to make sure somebody was doing some detecting around here."
Burch had made certain, despite his impatience, that before he returned he looked suntanned, robust, and fit, as though back from a vacation, not life-threatening gunshot wounds. He wore a new jacket, shirt, and shoes, and had had his hair cut a week earlier.
No dead-man-walking look for him. Cops rush to donate blood, money, and vacation time to a fellow officer in need. You can take that to the bank. But reappear limping and scarred, with a hospital pallor, and the camaraderie pales as well. Survivors can read it in their eyes. Nobody on the job needs a daily reminder that there but for the grace of God...
Hailed from all directions, Burch made the obligatory rounds, to briefly shoot the breeze.
"You won't believe the one I caught today, Craig," homicide detective Ron Diaz said. "Guy shot a dozen times -- by his own kids."
"Not those little rugrats out there?" Burch had seen them in the hall on the way in. A curly-haired thumb-sucker with wide, frightened eyes. She and a sturdy boy about seven clung to a plump middle-aged woman with a half-closed, swollen, and purpling left eye. They huddled on a hard wooden bench.
"That's them. The two little ankle biters."
"Holy crap! He at the morgue yet?"
"Hell, no. He's at Jackson, in the ER. Doing okay."
"Where'd he get hit?"
"Both legs, groin, chest, face, arms. You name it, they shot it. Guy looked like Swiss cheese."
"What'd they use? Old ammo with no punch?"
"Nah! Get this. He picks a fight with 'is old lady, lands a right cross to 'er eye. They're in a shoving match when she starts screaming, 'Shoot 'im! Shoot 'im! Shoot 'im!' to the kids.
"Unlike mine, her kids listen. They open up on Dad with the trusty Red Ryder BB guns he got 'em for Christmas. Keep shooting even after he falls down the front steps and cuts his head trying to get away. Damn good shots; guy should be proud.
"Moral a this one is: Be careful what you give 'em for Christmas. Don't buy 'em nothing they can use against you.
"Pisses me off, 'cause now I gotta figure out who to charge and with what. An ASA said I could charge the kids with agg battery, a felony. They're five and eight. I could bust Dad for spousal abuse instead. Or lock Mom up for neglect, child abuse, and contributing to their deliquency. I'm leaning toward the last one at the moment."
"A little harsh with that shiner she's sporting."
"Yeah. Ain't it a beaut." Diaz shrugged. "But the ASA says it's a crime to encourage kids to break the law. Or I could just bust both parents for spousal abuse on each other and let a judge sort it out...."
Burch sighed. "Some people shouldn't have kids."
"Tell me about it."
An attractive long-haired woman sat at a detective's desk, waiting to give a statement, her expression forlorn.
"What's her story?" Burch asked.
With her silky, low-cut blouse, dangly earrings, billowy skirt, and high heels, she looked dressed to go dancing, except for her tear-streaked makeup -- and handcuffs.
"Yeah, all dressed up with no place to go. Domestic. Long history. Husband lies to 'er, cheats on 'er, beats on 'er. Separated for a while, but he claims he changed, turned over a whole new leaf. Talks 'er into letting him move back in. Promises to take 'er out on the town to celebrate last night. At seven, she's ready and waiting. She's still waitin', sittin' out front, when he finally gets home this morning, drunk as a skunk, lipstick on 'is shirt. Poor bastard hops outta 'is car with a big grin. 'Qué pasa, baby.'"
"'Qué pasa, my ass!' she says, and shoots him between the eyes. DRT, dead right there."
"My wife would call that justifiable," Burch said.
Another weepy suspect inside a small interview room wore open-toed stiletto heels, a miniskirt, and a bad case of five o'clock shadow.
"You don't wanna know about that one," Diaz said. "Rivers's case. Fatal shooting up on the Boulevard. The victim was dumped out of a pickup on Seventy-ninth Street. He was wearing a red dress. Some kind of transsexual turf war up there in hooker heaven.
"So how ya doing, Burch?" The detective eyed the taller sergeant speculatively. "Heard it was touch and go for a while."
"They exaggerated. I'm good."
We all have a case number waiting for us, Burch thought. His hadn't come up yet. Life was good. He sighed as he returned to the Cold Case Squad's corner. Home at last.
Two hundred and thirty rumpled pounds occupied his space. Corso was slumped in Burch's chair, one big foot up on his desk.
"You mind?" Burch gripped the chair back.
"Sure. Sure." Corso took his time vacating the seat. "Force a habit. Made sense ta use your desk when you were laid up. More convenient."
Sure, Burch thought. He and Corso, a transplanted New Yorker, had worked patrol at the same time years ago. Time had mellowed Corso some, but edgy and unpredictable, he could still be a loose cannon. If Burch had had his way, Corso wouldn't be on his team, but the man knew how to win favors from friends in high places. After a stint as a city commissioner's driver/bodyguard, he returned recommended for a coveted homicide slot. After a brief, but lucky, run of cases, he'd applied for the Cold Case Squad. The regular hours appealed to him, too.
"Time for the Monday-morning case meeting," Burch announced.
Stone and Nazario exchanged glances.
"Oh, yeah," Corso said nonchalantly. "I changed that to Wednesdays."
"So today," Burch said mildly, "it's changed back."
Hell, he was only gone a few weeks. What was Corso's big rush to change things?
"Stone, what's the status on your case?"
The husky black detective, the youngest on the squad at twenty-six, shook his head. "Nada. We decided to wait for you to come back." Stone avoided Corso's eyes.
"Okay," Burch said, sensing an unpleasant undercurrent in the air between them. "We take a hard run at it. Now. Give it top priority."
"So, what was it like?" Corso said. "When that SOB shot you, when you hit the deck and thought you'd bought the farm, what were you thinking?"
"What we all think," Burch said quietly. "That the worst thing is that you might not die. You don't want your family to have to spoon-feed you the rest of your life. I was lucky." He glanced at Nazario. "I had good backup."
"Damn straight," Stone said.
"It makes you appreciate what matters most."
"Exactly right." Corso nodded wisely. "Me, too. Been there, ya know." He stared at the other detectives. "Didn't know I got shot, did ya? On the job, like Craig." He exposed his left forearm. "See that scar? Right there. That's where the bullet hit me."
The detectives squinted at his hairy arm and saw nothing.
"Right there." Annoyed, he pointed, and looked to Burch for confirmation.
"Yeah, right." Burch's eyes rolled. "Won't ever forget that. Started over the price of a lime. Haitian guy in a Cuban market claims he's overcharged seven cents.
"The owner tells 'im get the hell out, we don't need your business. The Haitian guy refuses to go without his groceries. The argument escalates into a scuffle and the store security guard shoots the customer. Before air rescue can even evacuate the victim, angry Haitians are milling around outside. There was already bad blood between them and the owner.
"We're shorthanded. It's hot, Saturday afternoon, and all of a sudden, we've got a riot situation on our hands.
"We tell the owner to close up for the day. He gives us an argument. Rocks and bottles start to fly. We have just three, four cops out there. No riot gear. It's locked up back at the station. Nobody knows who has the key. This whole situation came outta nowhere. People start smashing the store windows, knocking down displays, snatching merchandise.
"Corso here draws his gun."
"Right, we were overrun." Corso shrugged.
"Somebody punches his arm," Burch said, "his gun flies outta his hand, up into the air, crashes to the curb, discharges -- and shoots him in the goddamn forearm. I'm thinking, Oh, shit. He manages to retrieve his gun, thank God."
"Shoulda seen my arm," Corso said proudly. "Blood like a waterfall, flying everywhere."
Burch nodded. "It worked, believe it or not. Broke up the whole damn riot. Everybody ran. Know why? They figured this crazy cop means business. He's so mad, he already shot himself, he'll shoot us next. Scared the hell outta all the would-be looters.
"I don't recommend it if you guys ever find yourselves in the same situation," Burch said. "But it worked."
"Yeah," Corso said. "They ran like hell."
"Came out smelling like a rose," Burch said. "Don't ask me how, but he always does. Even got his name on the plaque in the lobby, 'Heroes Wounded in the Line of Duty.'"
Nazario and Stone struggled to keep straight faces.
"So what's the joke?" their lieutenant interrupted.
"Just war stories." Burch shrugged.
"In my office, Burch," Riley said.
She still looked too thin, he thought. The gun on her hip, a standard Glock, looked bigger and badder because she was so slim. She settled in her creaky leather chair, her blond shoulder-length hair backlit by Miami's radiant morning light. It cascaded through the window behind her, glinting off the hand-grenade-shaped paperweight on her desk.
He took a seat, eyes roving across the books -- Why They Kill, Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, Inside the Criminal Mind, The Handbook of Forensic Sexology, When Bad Things Happen to Good People -- lining the shelves. He felt like a stranger seeing them for the first time yet comforted by the familiar titles. The framed photo of her and the late Major Kendall McDonald, carefree and laughing aboard a fishing boat, had been relocated to a less conspicuous spot, he noted, moved down a shelf or two. Maybe that was a good sign. Maybe she was healing, recovering at last from the loss.
"Glad you're back, Sarge. Sure you're ready?"
She always got right to the point; he liked that about her.
"Absolutamundo. In better shape than I was in the academy. Pumping iron, working out, swimming. Couldn't be better."
"You talk to the shrink?"
"Had a session, only because it's SOP. Said I don't need to come back unless I have a problem, which I won't." He shrugged. "Said I had a great support system."
Being back home with my family is the best medicine, he thought.
"Connie and the kids have been great. Couldn't ask for more. Did a lotta work around the house. Fixed up the patio. Drove the family upstate, did some canoeing on the Peace River. Spent a lotta time together."
"Connie okay about you coming back to work?"
He shifted in his chair. "A few boo-hoos from her and the girls this morning. Only natural. You know how girls are. Connie knew me before I put on a badge, she knew what she was getting into. She's taking some kind of course now, some kinda interior design, I think. It'll keep her busy. Craig Jr. kept a stiff upper lip. He's thirteen now. A cool kid."
"Takes after his old man," Riley said. "Okay, if you're sure you're up for it."
"Absolutely. The docs give me a clean bill of health."
Her look remained questioning.
"What?" he asked, nettled. "Is Corso so attached to my desk that he wants it permanently?"
"Sure, he's willing." She looked amused. "But far as I know, he has yet to pass the sergeant's test."
"Thank God for small favors."
He lumbered back out into the squad room, where a stranger was distracting his detectives.
Though petite, she had a larger-than-life presence. Attitude, he thought. She wore shades and crinkly white cotton under a blue linen suit, had tanned bare legs in high-heeled sandals. She knew how to dress for a Miami summer. Masses of curly light-brown hair had been captured by tortoiseshell combs and piled up on the back of her head. Late twenties, early thirties.
The plastic card issued at the front desk and clipped to her blouse identified her as a visitor.
"I want to report a crime." Her voice was low-pitched and earthy. Her name, she said, was Kiki Courtelis.
"This is Homicide," Burch said. "I think you're on the wrong floor."
"No." The word was brisk, her tone assertive. "You're the Cold Case Squad. I read about you in the Sunday News magazine months ago. I have the article right here. Someplace." She fumbled in her bulging soft-sided briefcase, then withdrew a manila folder. She replaced the shades with little gold-rimmed granny glasses.
"See?" She displayed the clipping. "It even has your pictures."
"That's us," Nazario said agreeably.
Was this broad about to cop to an old homicide? Burch wondered. He brightened. Maybe she bludgeoned a bad boyfriend with a baseball bat or blew away a cheating spouse. Walk-in confessions are rare but occur often enough to keep hope alive. Like lightning, they do happen from time to time. He smiled expectantly.
She returned his smile with a grateful expression that lit up her brown eyes.
Yes! She found Jesus, he thought, and wants to confess. Feels the need to come clean, unburden herself of secrets, and face the music. His eyes roved the room discreetly. No lawyer in sight. She hadn't brought one with her. A good sign.
Nazario invited her to sit down. She crossed her ankles, daintily tucked them beneath the chair, and stood her briefcase on the floor beside her.
She might be copping to a still-unreported homicide, Burch thought. A missing person whose body remains undiscovered. Catching Stone's eye, he recognized the same hopeful gaze. Both were thinking dirty.
Her attitude was cool, her brown eyes honest. She didn't look the type. But do they ever? He thought of Betty Newsome, the wholesome-looking Miami housewife who, with the help of her apple-cheeked fourteen-year-old daughter, dismembered her husband, the girl's father, in their garage. With faces that could be on Ivory Snow boxes, they might have been mother and daughter of the year, except for the black plastic garbage bags they left in Dumpsters all over Miami. Piecing that body back together at the morgue had been a chore. He wondered wistfully where mother and daughter were now. Damn shame they'd been freed on a technicality. Thank God it wasn't his case.
"What kind of crime?" he inquired, voice friendly.
"Where did it happen?" Nazario asked.
"The crime scene is in your jurisdiction, if that's what you're asking. I can show you," she offered.
Will we need a backhoe? Burch wondered, thinking ahead. He knew where to rent one.
Even Corso, checking out the woman's legs from his desk across the aisle, had perked up.
"Actually," she said somberly, "it hasn't happened yet. But it will if you don't stop them."
Burch averted his eyes and stared past her. So often, he thought with a sigh, the deranged don't look disturbed. Off their medication, they are not readily apparent until they begin to talk to garbage cans and bark like dogs.
"You need to step in. Now," she said urgently, pausing to scrutinize each face in turn. "We have no time left."
"You," she said, her voice growing louder, "are our last hope."
She could have walked in here yesterday, two weeks or a month ago, Burch thought. Why now? Why me? Does anybody screen visitors at the front desk anymore or do they just wave them through the metal detectors and send them here?
"What sort of crime we talking about?" Stone gnawed his lower lip.
"Murder," she said succinctly. "Miami's most famous unsolved murder. Bulldozers are poised to level the scene of the crime. Isn't tampering with a murder scene and destroying evidence a criminal matter? Doesn't it compound the felony?"
"What case?" Burch said, dubious.
"The shotgun murder of Pierce Nolan. The most notorious unsolved homicide in the entire state. As well known as the Chillingsworth case in Palm Beach and the Von Maxcy murder in Central Florida. They were solved, ours wasn't. Nolan was a former mayor, the son of a prominent and colorful pioneer family. If you let them bulldoze the Shadows, his murder will never be solved. Isn't it vital to preserve a crime scene?"
"Why don't I know about it?" Stone asked, puzzled.
"You weren't born yet," Burch said. "None of us were. I've heard stories. It happened way back. He was a popular one-term mayor in the fifties, then bowed out of politics to spend more time with his family."
"Shot down outside his own front door, at the Shadows," Kiki Courtelis said, "the historic house built by his father, the notorious rumrunner Captain Cliff Nolan, back in the twenties, during Prohibition. The night of August twenty-fifth, 1961, a killer ambushed Pierce Nolan as he arrived home from a Miami civic association meeting."
Kiki Courtelis had done her homework.
"How do you know so much about it?" Stone asked, arms crossed.
"I'm a Miami native. My family's been here forever. I heard a lot about the case growing up. My thesis was on Miami history and I'm on the board of the Historic Preservation Society. The Shadows, on three waterfront acres, was somehow overlooked and never placed on the registry of historic houses, which would have protected it. It stayed in the Nolan family, but they haven't occupied it since shortly after the murder. Recently, before anyone realized what was happening, out-of-state family members sold the property to a high-rise developer. The new owner had the house declared unsafe, and despite our protests, the city has issued him a permit for demolition. We've done all we can to save it, but they intend to bulldoze it later this week." Her look was pleading. "You can stop them."
"I sympathize," Burch said. "I'm no fan of what developers have done to this town, either. But we investigate cold cases, not ancient history."
"But," she protested, "in this article written by that reporter..." She reopened her carefully labeled file folder. "Right here." She indicated a paragraph highlighted in yellow and read aloud: " 'There is no statute of limitations on first-degree murder,' said Sergeant Craig Burch." She peered meaningfully over her glasses at him. " 'No homicide case is too old, too cold to pursue.' Aren't those your words, Sergeant?"
"Yes, ma'am. But -- "
"What makes you think the case could be solved now?" Nazario asked.
"As the story says, 'New high-tech forensics undreamed of when the crime occurred can now be applied to old, cold cases.'"
"Don't believe everything ya read in the newspaper," Corso said.
She paused for a beat or two, then asked politely, "May I speak to your lieutenant?"
"She ain't gonna tell ya anything different," Corso warned.
"You're clever and creative," Stone said, "but you can't use us to fight your battle. We have other cases that might really be solved."
"A brief stay of execution is all we ask. We're seeking legal support from the National Heritage Trust, an injunction to block the developer, but that takes time and we have none. Once the house is gone, it's gone forever."
"Sorry, we've got a meeting." Burch checked his watch. "Wish we could have helped. Good luck."
"I'd like to speak to Lieutenant Riley," she said, making no move to leave.
"Somebody mention my name?"
Burch sighed. Timing, again.
Kiki Courtelis's eyes lit up as she scrutinized the lieutenant's face.
"You're one of the Allapattah Rileys. I can see that. I thought you were."
K.C. Riley did a double take and cut her eyes at Burch. "Well, yeah, way back. My -- "
"Grandmother," Courtelis finished. "Of course. Our families were close."
"Wasn't her name Margarite?"
K.C. Riley did another double take.
"Here." Courtelis fumbled in the briefcase again.
What the hell is she about to pull outta there now? Burch wondered.
Courtelis came up with an old sepia-toned photo, an eight-by-ten, a dozen women wearing big hats, seated around a wooden table in the shade of a huge banyan tree.
"The Lemon City Garden Club, 1934." She handed the photograph to Riley, who studied it for a moment, frowning.
"That's Memaw!" Riley's jaw dropped. "I've never seen this picture before. Where did you get it?"
"See the woman on her right?" Courtelis asked. "That's Lilly Pinder, my grandmother. They were best friends."
Oh shit, Burch thought.
"I'm Kiki Courtelis. I would have recognized you anywhere. You have the Riley jaw and your grandmother's eyes."
Riley gazed fondly at the photo. "She was a tough lady. Came from a little town in Georgia. Was a teacher at eighteen when the Miami school superintendent wrote to offer her twice her Georgia salary. She boarded the train to Miami the day after the 1926 hurricane.
"They had to stop dozens of times along the way to clear trees, debris, and dead cows off the tracks. When she stepped off the train, it was into water above her knees. She waded to a Miami boardinghouse carrying her little bag. The owner said, 'Grab a broom and start sweeping.' She helped sweep out the storm water and started to teach the next day.
"Her first classroom was outdoors under a stand of palm trees. She propped a blackboard up against a tree and taught the alphabet and numbers to three dozen children.
"She met my grandfather at a dance. The night he proposed, they drove over to the Congregational Church in Miami Beach."
Kiki Courtelis nodded. "The city's first place of worship, built in 1920. Carl Fisher donated the land. That old mission-style church is still on Lincoln Road, beautifully restored."
Riley nodded. "That's the one. She told me about how they found the Reverend Elijah King at work in his study. He married them in the little chapel that night. They were married for fifty-two years.
"Memaw become an elementary-school principal and then a school board member. Stayed sharp as a tack till the day she died. Did you ever meet her?"
"Sure, she taught my Sunday school class when I was little. I remember how sad she was when your uncle was killed in Vietnam."
"Do you have time for a cup of coffee, Ms. Courtelis?"
"Sure, Katherine. Please call me Kiki."
The two women went off to the coffee room chatting animatedly.
"Who'da thought Riley even had a grandmother?" Corso said.
This can't be good, Burch thought.
The women returned a short time later, laughing and talking.
"I've explained to Ms. Courtelis," Riley told them, "that we can't officially intervene in a legal demolition, but since the scene is about to be lost, you can go out there, shoot photos and video, do some diagrams, and see if you find anything that might have been missed. There's a good possibility since, according to Kiki, the place hasn't been occupied since the shooting. It's smart to augment the file, in the event anything ever comes up. Take a metal detector. See what you find."
Riley arranged for Kiki to join the investigators at the Shadows the next day and then Kiki receded like a wave gliding back out to sea.
"She just sold you a used car," Burch told Riley.
"Do it anyway." Riley shrugged. "Why not? It's an open case."
"The shooter is doing the big dirt sleep or drooling in his soup at some nursing home by now."
"But how good would it look if we closed it? It might even persuade the chief to keep this unit in next year's budget."
"It'll take less than a day," Burch reassured his detectives. "No muss, no fuss."
"I have a bad feeling about it." Nazario shook his head.
"Did your built-in shit detector kick in?" Stone asked. "Did little Kiki lie to us?"
Nazario's talent, inadmissible in court but priceless to a detective, was that he could unfailingly sense a lie when he heard one.
"She didn't lie. It's more what she didn't say."
Copyright © 2005 by Edna Buchanan
Excerpted from Shadows by Edna Buchanan Copyright © 2005 by Edna Buchanan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 23, 2006
I read Cold Case Squad and all the same characters are in Shadows and both books are fantastic. The characters are well developed, the plot is exciting and the writing style is smooth and enjoyable. Edna Buchanan is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.
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Posted December 9, 2008
In Miami preservationist Kiki Courtelis visits the police department¿s Cold Case Squad to investigate the murder of 1950s city Mayor Pierce Nolan in front of his home in 1961. Kiki informs the cops that if they fail to act, the most famous unsolved case in the state will remain that way forever because developers have bulldozers ready to tear down Nolan¿s home the Shadows. She also admits that the Cold Case Squad is her last hope to save the elegant but abandoned 1920s style house from progress. Sergeant Burch reluctantly leads his team on a search of the premises, but is stunned when they find a box containing the remains of seven babies that died four decades ago. DNA testing proves that Pierce sired none of the infants.--- While much of the squad is morbidly fascinated with the infanticide, Police Officer Sam Stone works a more personal cold case, the murders of his parents in 1987. He is astonished to learn that the cop Ray Glover, who informed him and his grandmother that his parents were murdered, died not long afterward in an accident.--- Mindful in positive ways of Ed McBain¿s 87th Precinct, the two prime subplot cases never intersect yet both grips the audience for differing reasons. Readers like most of the cold case squad and the city will be ghoulishly mesmerized by the murders of the former mayor and the babies; on the other hand the audience and the city will empathize with Sam¿s need for closure as his inquiries lead towards a conspiratorial cover-up by Miamians, but who and why appears just out of reach. Edna Buchanan writes a terrific police procedural.--- Harriet Klausner
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Posted January 29, 2013
Posted October 19, 2012
This is where the apprentice will learn to fight in a 'normal' flat area. This is where the basics are taught.
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Posted August 5, 2005
Posted May 1, 2011
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