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"Hell of a thing," Jonesy said for the third time.
Matt agreed. It was a hell of a thing. He turned his gaze from the gaggle of reporters smoking and talking beside the grouping of snarling cement saber-toothed tigers, and returned his attention to the sticky, bedraggled corpse currently watching the birdie for the police photographer.
Whoever had dumped the dead man had counted on the body sinking in the black ooze of the Brea Pits, and in the heat of the summer when the tar heated up and softened maybe. But it was December, a little more than a week before Christmas, and it had been raining steadily for two days. No chance in hell. The body had rested there, facedown in the rainwater hiding the treacherous crust of tar beneath, until the museum paleontologists excavating the site for fossils had made the grisly early-morning discovery.
"Looks kinda familiar," Jonesy remarked gloomily, as the plastered hair and drowned eyes were briefly illuminated in the white flash of the camera.
Matt bit back a laugh. "Yeah? Must be the fact that he's dead."
Jonesy looked reproachful, although after thirty-three years on the homicide squad, he'd seen more than his share of stiffs. They both had, though Matt had seen more violent death and destruction during his seven months in the Pacific than he had in his eleven years on the force.
"No identification on him at all?"
"Nope. Even the label was cut out of his jacket. No sign of his hat or shoes."
Matt considered this. Soaking in water and tar hadn't done John Doe's clothes much good, and they'd have to wait 'til everything dried before they could hope to get much from an examination. How much they would get then was doubtful, but that suit didn't look particularly old or worn, and the tailoring was the kind that showed its worth even in the worst conditionswhich these were.
Laughter drifted from the circle of statues where the reporters and a couple of photographers waited impatiently. Matt knew most of them: Williams from "The Peach," Mackey from the Times, Cohen from the Mirror and Tara Renee of the Examiner. The only one he didn't recognize was the slim man lighting Tara's cigarette. Thin brown fingers cupped the lighter against the damp breeze; lean, tanned cheek creased in a smile as Tara flirted with him. Tara flirted with everyone, but she was a good little crime hound.
"Who's that?" Matt asked Jonesy, and Jonesy looked up from the meticulous diagrams he was making of the crime scene and followed Matt's stare.
"Doyle. Tribune-Herald. Heard he was with the Eighth Army in North Africa 'til he picked up a case of lead poisoning." Jonesy grinned his lopsided smile. "Got hit by machine-gun fire in Tunisia."
"Yeah, well, there's a lot of that going around." But Matt's interest was unwillingly caught. "So he's English?"
"Nah. Hometown boy, Loot."
"Doc's here, Lieutenant," one of the uniformed officers said as the police ambulance bumped its way over the grassy verge.
Matt nodded and then nodded again toward the reporters. "Tell 'em I want to see Miss Renee and " He thought it over. "Doyle."