In the parish of Tangipahoa sits the small, quiet town of Hammond, Louisiana. Hammond isn't a hot spot for crime-which is why Detective Jonathan Miller is shocked by his most recent case. Miller is young and well respected among his peers, but he also recognizes cold-blooded killing when he sees it.
There are no clues, and the crime scene doesn't make sense. He soon identiﬁes the victim as twenty-seven-year-old Daniel Edwards. Once at Edwards' apartment, Miller ﬁnds a perfectly ordinary item with extraordinary capabilities that might help him solve his case.
As the investigation continues, Miller meets Callie St. Claire, the last person to see the victim alive. To his dismay, however, she is nowhere to be found and Miller is worried she might be victim number two. As the detective tries to make sense of his case, he uncovers secrets about Hammond he never could have seen coming, making this the most astonishing case of his career.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.24(d)|
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By M. W. Potts
Abbott PressCopyright © 2014 M. W. Potts
All rights reserved.
Detective Jonathan Miller grabs his phone, rubs his eyes and tries to focus on the clock by the bed. The voice at the other end of the line makes no sense to him.
The dispatcher tries again. "A motorist has spotted a man's body in the wooded area near exit 36 off of Route 55 in Hammond. I will tell them you're on your way."
Jonathan stretches and tries to undo some of the knots the last twenty-four hours have tied in his muscles. The tips of his fingers are just a whisper away from the ceiling. He dresses in khakis, a navy-blue polo shirt—slightly stained from last night's dinner—and his comfortable Frye slip-ons. He runs his fingers through his thick, curly hair and is on the scene within twenty minutes.
He steps out of the car and looks toward the spot where the body was found. His green eyes narrow to a slit as they follow the bright yellow crime scene tape down an embankment and about fifty feet into the thick brush.
"No ID. No wallet. Nothing in his pockets," the officer on scene informs him.
Detective Miller is now thankful for Louisiana's recent dry spell. The field he is trudging through is typically four to six inches deep in water and mud. He holds the flashlight at eye level and searches the area as he nears the victim. The grass and bushes are only slightly damaged. The body had to have been carried. Miller visually checks the victim and notices that he is clean and well dressed. There is no blood or anything else to tell me what happened to this man. There is nothing on this road for miles, so where did he come from and where was he going? One set of tire tracks is discovered leaving the area, so Miller takes pictures of the marks for comparison, but there isn't a car in sight. "Just dumped here, I guess. This is not our crime scene." His thoughts escape his lips.
Where was he killed? The young detective looks around for clues and realizes he can't see his car from where he is standing. He cannot see any of the cars. If it weren't for the flashing red and blues, he would not be able to locate them.
The bushes are so thick and the sun is just now peeking over the horizon. At the time of the call, it would have still been very dark. How could someone driving by doing a minimum forty-five miles per hour— and no one does forty-five on this stretch of blacktop—see a body from the road?
After the emergency responders lift and load the body into the ambulance, they head for the coroner's office, and Detective Miller heads to his office. As he drives, his head spins with questions; this is going to be a long day. Headquarters is quiet this time of the morning. Only a few scattered desk lamps illuminate the files of working officers. Miller plops his fatigued body into a worn but comfortable leather swivel chair and yanks the chain that wakes up his lamp. He needs to find a name for the victim discarded on the side of the road.
Hammond only has a population of about 17,700 people in the Parrish of Tangipahoa and more than half are women. If this guy's a local, it shouldn't take long to ID him. Miller fingers his well-used Rolodex and calls on longtime friend Jason Harper, his contact at the local television station.
He explains the situation and finds that Harper is all too willing to help him. Deciding it would be in poor taste to show the dead man's photo on the news, Miller has a sketch artist draw a likeness of his victim. He faxes the face to Jason, who puts it into the hands of the broadcaster. It's just in time to make the early morning news.
"Breaking news. Hammond local police need your help in identifying this person. Black male. Twenty-five to thirty-five years old. Short brown hair and hazel eyes. About 6' 1" and 170 pounds. If you have any information regarding this man, please contact Detective Jonathan Miller at Police Headquarters."
It doesn't take long before the calls come in. The locals don't mind making phone calls; just don't come knocking at the front door. That's when they tend to play the "hear no, see no, and speak no evil" game. People have seen this guy all around town, and they didn't mind letting him know. Apparently, he has been hanging around some of the local diners, antique, and hardware shops over the past couple of months, asking questions about a girl. But the call Miller is holding his breath for comes days later.
"Hammond Police headquarters. Homicide division. Detective Miller speaking."
"I know that guy you're looking for," the croaky voice says.
This gets Miller's attention and he straightens up in his chair. "How do you know him?"
"He rents an apartment from me."
"Where is this apartment?"
The voice on the other end gives Miller the address. The loud click comes before he can get a name.
"Great. Now I have a face and an address. Officer Branson, you're with me on this one." Miller grabs his sport coat and heads for the Treasure Cove Apartments about ten miles away from the 55.
Officer Branson checks to make sure he has all of his gear and then double-times it to catch up to Miller. Ted Branson is even newer to the department than the fast-rising Detective Miller and he has his eyes set on a gold detective badge of his very own.
Miller, on the other hand, hit the fast track to detective right out of the academy. Being a fourth-generation family member on the force only added to his gilded position. His quick assessment of crime scenes is unmatched in the department.
At the end of the winding road, a long, two-story building holding no more than twelve small apartments stands before them. The thick vines cover most of the upper level balcony and the bushes out front are unkempt and under watered. A few worn, wicker chairs wait patiently, yearning to be used on the long verandah.
A middle-aged man—barely chest-high to Jonathan—steps out of the side door and meets them as they approach. His thick legs and pot belly are not complemented by his partially balding head and thick glasses.
"You the landlord of this building?"
"What's your name?"
When he speaks, Miller recognizes the voice from the phone call. He catches the tell-tale rasp of a habitual smoker in his voice and stains on his fingers.
The landlord leads Miller and Branson into the apartment. Much to his dismay, he discovers nothing of value. A few pieces of furniture—remnants of a flea market—scatter the one-bedroom unit. The red plaid sofa and orange chair scream "teenage girl" against the lime green shag rug on the floor. The dark brown curtains hang on just enough hooks to keep them off the floor. Nothing matches. This man would've made Martha Stewart cry.
"The man was here long enough to make his bed. He left clothes in the closet and drawers. He didn't pack his suitcase. Everything's still here, so he must have been coming back." Branson moves throughout the room, careful not to disturb the surroundings.
Miller turns to Bradley, still nervously lurking in the doorway as he watches the detective move about the apartment. "Does this guy have a name?"
"Yeah, of course. Edwards. Donald or David. No... Daniel. Yeah, that's right. Daniel Edwards."
A search of the apartment yields no clues as to Edwards' activities. No pictures of his life are found in any of the small rooms; it's as if he's just passing through. There's no sign of a struggle in the apartment. It's sparse, but clean. No dirty dishes have been left in the sink. The refrigerator is not only empty, but clean. There's not even trash in the trash can. He didn't have coffee or breakfast here. Maybe he ate at a local diner for breakfast.
Miller wanders into the bathroom and rifles through the cabinets and drawers for any clues. It, too, is spotless, as if the man never used it. He catches a faint whiff of bleach. It's not fresh—maybe days old—but he can smell it. He looked into the cabinets. No bleach container. "Branson! Check the kitchen cabinets for bleach." Weird. There's toothpaste, but no toothbrush; soap, but no towel or washcloth; shaving gel, but no razor. He carefully lifts the can and holds it up to check for any sign of fingerprints. Nothing. "What's wrong with this picture?"
Branson just shrugs in response. "It rules out DNA testing, that's for sure. I found no bleach in the kitchen."
"Hey!" Miller turns toward Tom. "When was the last time you saw Mr. Edwards?"
"Maybe two or three days ago. Could've been a week. I don't pay attention to when my tenants come and go, ya know?"
"Has anyone been in this apartment since the last time you saw Daniel Edwards?"
"Um ... I don't think so."
"Do you use a cleaning service?"
"Have you ever seen anyone come into this place with Mr. Edwards?"
"Um ... I don't think so."
The young officer tries not to laugh at either the dumb answer or the croaky voice.
As Miller and the officer are about to leave, he notices a pair of round, gold-rimmed glasses on the floor, just at the foot of the orange chair. The rose-tinted lenses seem a little odd for a man. Maybe they belong to someone who visited. Miller reaches for the glasses. "What does the world look like through rose-colored lenses, Mr. Edwards?" He places the glasses on his face. "Whoooooaaa! What was that?"
He snatches the glasses from his face, startling Branson and Bradley. When he slowly puts the glasses back on, the room changes before his eyes. Images of Daniel Edwards move about in front of him. He quickly takes them off again and hands them to Branson. "Here, look in these. What do you see?"
"They're in need of a good cleaning, Sir." Branson takes them off and rubs them clean with his shirt tail.
"But what do you see?"
Officer Branson puts them back on. "You and a very ugly plastic Tiffany-style lamp." He returns the glasses to Miller.
Miller cautiously puts the glasses on again, slowly trailing his glance round the room above the rim of the glasses. As his eyes move back to the lenses, he watches as a scene unfolds before him. He looks over the rims at the officer then back at the scene in the glasses. He reaches out to touch the images, but nothing is there. "How is this possible?" He hands the glasses back to the officer. "Look again. Go on and look again!"
The young man, after seeing Miller's reaction, is reluctant, but slowly puts the glasses on again. "Sir, I don't see anything unusual. What did you see?" Branson hands the glasses back.
"Never mind." He shakes his head, hoping to clear the cobwebs. "Must not have gotten enough sleep last night or not enough coffee this morning." He decides to keep his mouth shut about the glasses. He places the glasses in a plastic bag as he and Branson leave the apartment and return to headquarters. What the hell was that? Miller's head whirls with the images from the glasses.
The scene in the glasses showed Edwards going through his morning routine. He made coffee, shaved, brushed his teeth, and combed his hair. He was preparing to make breakfast when he stopped and looked in the direction of his front door. Edwards appeared to have had a normal morning up to the point where he looked at the door, yet everything he used that morning was clean or missing.
What kind of glasses are these? Miller holds up the plastic bag. They appear to be just glasses—small, round, gold rims, rose tint on the lenses, but nothing unusual at all. He scratches his fingers through his thick, curly hair. Curious, Miller removes the glasses from the bag again. Running his fingers over the rims and examining the lenses and ear pieces, he searches for anything out of the ordinary. They are a puzzle to solve on their own, but that will have to wait. Daniel Edwards needs his help to find a killer.
Miller's pocket vibrates as his phone quietly informs him that someone needs his attention. He reaches in and pulls it from his pocket just far enough to read the ID screen—Ted Branson. He lets him wait.
He doesn't yet have a cause of death. The initial toxicology screen shows no alcohol or illegal drugs in his system. His phone vibrates again. This time is the coroner calling. "I have finished my preliminary report. The young man has been dead for at least six days. He must have been someplace pretty darned cold to slow decomposition, but he wasn't in the elements that long. There would be more signs of animal activity on the body. If not the insects, the gators would have gotten him. His heart looks a little inflamed. If something happened, it was quite sudden. There is no scar tissue from a prolonged heart problem. His brain, liver, and lungs are normal, so natural causes are pretty unlikely. Other than that, the young man was healthy. A heart attack is one possibility, but I can't say with one-hundred percent certainty what killed this man."
With no other leads, Detective Miller turns again to the rose colored glasses in the plastic bag. He pulls them out and examines again them from earpiece to earpiece. They look like ordinary reading glasses, but they may hold more information about what happened to the man now lying in the morgue than he might ever find anywhere else. He slowly puts them on and watches as the scene comes into focus.
Edwards walks up behind a young woman. She's dressed in a lavender sundress with a subtle ruffle at the hem. Her sandals have the tiniest of a heel and she only stands about five-foot-nothing. This makes Edwards a good head and shoulder taller, so it is easy to see over her. The two are reading the menu on the outside of a small cafe window. It is written in French. When the young woman turns, Miller is taken aback by her beauty. She is about to walk away—either not able to read the language or simply not interested in the selections—when Daniel steps in front of her, playfully blocking her way. He engages her in conversation. She is surprised, but she responds with a smile. She examines his face and demeanor; she seems to like that he's older and very handsome.
Daniel says just the right thing and she turns around to stay and have lunch. He talks to her with a southern boy kind of charm and smile. His hazel eyes complement his fair skin, but his smile is what seems to win her over.
They pick up their lunches and take them to a small cafe-style table outdoors. The opaque clouds float overhead in a sea of bright blue; it's pleasant and very warm, but the striped umbrella above them provides some respite from the afternoon sun. The light breeze plays with the ruffles of the umbrella above their heads, as well as the hem of her dress.
He's captivated by the woman. She moves with the ease and grace of a dancer. Her skin is the color of milk chocolate with a glisten of honey. Her dark hair falls into a bazillion ringlets past her shoulder, and the wide, colorful, beaded headband is the only thing keeping them under control.
They seem to enjoy each other's company and conversation. Miller watches her face. Her laughter appears light, easy, and genuine. Her smile is bright yet coquettish and says she's comfortable with her life, but her eyes tell him there's another story—much more than she's saying over lunch.
Detective Miller watches the scene, but frequently keeps his focus on the young woman as the two complete their lunch and stand to leave. Edwards reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small notepad and pen, jots down something, and hands it to her. She smiles and turns to leave. He watches her go then sits down, pulls his reading glasses from his pocket, and writes what Miller assumes is a note about their encounter as the images in the glasses begin to fade.CHAPTER 2
Miller sits at his desk and takes a deep breath as he removes the glasses and thinks of how he's going to find this woman. She may be able to give some insight as to who Edwards was and why he was here, but even if the department had the high-tech facial recognition software he'd heard so much about, he wouldn't be able to use it on the glasses.
He is not going to let that stop him. He is confident he can recreate a characterization of the woman in the glasses. Perhaps he can solve one small piece to his puzzle. He reaches for his phone and calls up the headquarters' sketch artist. When he arrives, Miller describes the young woman, giving as much detail as he can remember from the glasses. The artist captures everything from the sparkle in her eyes to the warmth in her smile.
Excerpted from Miller's View by M. W. Potts. Copyright © 2014 M. W. Potts. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This novelette is a murder mystery with a twist of fantasy. An anonymous 911 call reports a male body along Route 55 in Hammond, Louisiana; and Detective Miller is called to investigate. During the search for clues at the victim's apartment, Miller finds Daniel Edwards' glasses. These mysterious glasses provide the detective with clues that not only lead him to solve the crime, but also reveal family secrets. M. W. Potts delivers a short, but very enjoyable tale that is easily read in an afternoon. Does she suggest a sequel with her surprise ending? Maybe so.