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Poor, Poor, Ophelia
A Krug & Kellog Thriller
By Carolyn Weston
Brash Books, LLCCopyright © 2015 Brash Books LLC
All rights reserved.
"Why you can't eat a decent breakfast like other men," his mother's voice floated plangent and unceasing as a millrace from the kitchen.
Casey glanced at his watch. Five minutes to spare, he was cutting it pretty thin. But then, he always did.
Gulping down the last of his coffee, he jumped up, knocking the table, setting the centerpiece of half-blown roses and drying maidenhair fern to trembling. Four petals dropped silently onto the gleaming waxy table top. His own blurry reflection stared up at him briefly — a ghost submerged in a dark brown pond.
Casey rammed his arms into the sleeves of his new hacking-type Edwardian sports coat, hunching his shoulders to settle it. He surveyed himself in the mirror over the sideboard — medium-sized, medium good-looking, brown sunbleached hair, hazel eyes, lifelong tan, a few muscles still left from his surfing days — and thought, Not bad. But maybe Edwardian was too way-out for work? Side vents and back pleats hadn't arrived yet in the Detective Division of the Santa Monica City Police Department. Well, starting this morning, a new sartorial style will be set. And by none other than your well-dressed junior-grade detective-about-town, Casey Thornton Kellog.
"— And don't forget to gargle before you leave," his mother was saying. "Fog's coming in, I can smell it."
Breezing into the kitchen, he kissed her sunburned cheek. "See you when I see you."
"Good Lord" — she gaped at him — "if you don't look like one of those Canyon pansies. Honestly, Case, if you can't look serious, how can you expect anyone to take you seriously?"
Swallowing an argument, he grinned at her. Styles in seriousness had changed like everything else, but he'd never convince her, he knew that. Just as he'd never convince his father that police work wasn't the worst possible choice of livelihood for a university-educated man. They had the old values, both of them — a compound of decency, snobbery, and that sort of oldfashioned ambition which demands that life should proceed vertically, every son exceeding his father.
"Edwardian," she was saying. "As if a nice Ivy League jacket —"
She was still talking as he waved good-bye and slammed out the back door, jogging down the driveway to the garage, where his Mustang sheltered from the damp sea breeze off the Pacific.
"Gargle!" she shrieked as he shot by the kitchen window in reverse. "Call if you're going to be —" then, blessedly, the sound track faded out.
Ah, Mama, Mama, you're too much, he thought, grinning as he turned and gunned toward the light at the end of their street — zero to forty in five seconds flat.
According to an old weather tradition in Santa Monica, California, the coastal fog begins at Fourteenth Street. But this morning the veil of gray had crept inland as far as Seventeenth, dimming then blotting out the morning sun as he drove westward, hanging like theatrical scrim over the new high-rises along Ocean Avenue. The foghorn at the end of Santa Monica Pier gave periodic howls — like something dying, Casey thought, far out at sea. Of the Pacific, he could see nothing. But picturing eight thousand miles of open ocean to the coast of China, he felt a gypsy stir, a moment's dissatisfaction with the crystallizing pattern of his life.
Then the traffic light changed. Casey gunned the Mustang, and a minute later swung into the asphalt-surrounded snowwhite civic complex which included the City Hall, the Police Department, and — separated by half an acre of parking lot — the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
A few years ago, he remembered, the Academy Awards had been held here. A rookie fresh out of the Police Academy, he'd been detailed to emergency traffic control, waving all the movie nabobs into parking slots. Glamour comes to Santa Monica. Oscar Night.
"You're late," Krug said as he pounded up the stairs, passed by Juvenile, and slid into the second-floor squad room of the Detective Bureau just under the time wire.
"Uh-uh." Casey pointed to the clock. "Thirty seconds to go. Anything doing this bright and sunshiny morning?"
"What world are you living in? It's pea soup out there. I got water on the lungs just breathing." To prove his point, Krug coughed juicily, swallowing a knot of phlegm with a gulp that turned Casey's stomach. "Malibu Sheriff Station's got a bulletin out on the Sampson kid. Some hikers found a cowboy hat in the brush about a mile from where the body was found. Red, child-sized. The parents haven't identified it yet, but Malibu's pretty sure it's the one the kid was wearing when he was grabbed." He coughed again, grimacing. "One mile away, would you believe it? They should've spotted it the first sweep. Christ, the way I heard it, they had everybody but the League of Women Voters out combing those hills!"
"It's rough country in those canyons and washes, Al. Thick underbrush. Rock slides. Take it from an old local Boy Scout, you could hide an elephant if you really wanted to."
"What a case. Three weeks now, every molester in three counties processed — still nothing, no leads, no suspects. Well, anyhow" — his reddish-brown weathered face creased momentarily — "you're looking pretty sharp this morning, partner. Got something going for you around here I don't know about?"
"Not yet, but I like to be ready."
"Get a wife," Krug advised, as usual. "Get married. Best way I know to keep your mind on your work."
"Anybody complaining that I don't?"
"Our one and only intellectual marvel — who'd have the nerve?" His grin made it a joke, but Krug's resentment was still there, Casey knew, buried but still ticking, ready to explode at any time.
And not only Krug, Casey reminded himself. His fast advance through the grades from rookie patrolman to detective galled all the old-timers on the force — all the middle-aged career cops for whom plainclothes assignments were the reward for long and faithful uniformed service. "The college boy cop," they called him. UCLA's gift to police work. Sure, they agreed, the answer to the law-and-order problem wasn't more police, it was better policemen. But a good policeman didn't learn to be one from any stack of books. A good cop got that way by long, hard service.
The argument was a stalemate by now, an uneasy truce. But one mistake, Casey knew, and they'd be down on him like a pack of wolves.
"We got a new stiff," Krug was saying. "Girl about twenty. Suicide maybe. Commercial fishing boat spotted her at dawn out beyond the breakwater. Lifeguards picked her up and got her to the pier. They booked her into the morgue a little while ago." He pulled a long brown property envelope out of his top desk drawer. "Take a look at that."
Expecting jewelry — a wedding ring, the usual sort of thing found on drowning victims — Casey tipped up the envelope, staring at the oblong piece of plastic hooked onto a chain which slid out on Krug's desk top. "What's this, an ID?"
"Could be. Take a look."
Cold as ice, the cheap link necklace swung around his fingers as Casey picked up the piece of plastic with something white sealed inside. He blinked as he turned it over. "What the — it's a business card!"
"'Scobie, Stone and Levinson,'" Casey read. "'Attorneys at Law. Beverly Hills.'" Dampness or perhaps faulty lamination had partially destroyed the bottom edge of the card. He could decipher only the first half of the name engraved in tiny letters. "David J. — somebody."
"Go have a look at her, then call the guy. With any luck, we'll get a quick identification."
"Right," said Casey briskly.
But once out of the office, he didn't hurry, for the idea of a trip to the morgue this early made him queasy. A dead girl. Maybe twenty years old. Drowned, he thought as he thumped down the shining-clean stairway. Shouldn't he be grateful it wouldn't be a child's body lying in there, putrefied and unrecognizable after thirteen days' exposure to the September heat of a Malibu hills canyon? No leads, no suspects. Molested, then murdered. As his inside quivered, he cursed his too-vivid imagination. And he wondered as usual if his stomach was too weak after all for this job.
But when he looked at the girl, all he felt was pity. Poor Ophelia, he caught himself thinking. They hadn't started the autopsy yet, and a sodden dark brown pants suit still clung to her slender body. He noticed that the belt was missing. Poor, poor, Ophelia. Had she drifted, singing, into her watery death? Kelpish tendrils of hair clung to marble cheeks. She looked less dead than unreal.
"No M.E. yet," the morgue attendant was saying behind him. "We got two ahead of her already — a guy got himself knifed, and a hit-and-run case."
"Don't hurry on my account."
"I'll tell the boss you said so."
"She was pretty, wasn't she?"
"They're none of 'em pretty when they get here." He fingered Casey's lapel. "Very nice, the new threads. You bucking for best-dressed man in the Department?"
"Could be. What's the prize — a gold watch?"
"A patrolman's badge, I think maybe."
Haha, they mouthed together, then Casey drifted out again, feeling gray as the fog pressing softly against the windows, mournful as the distant hooting of the foghorn at the end of the pier. Poor Ophelia, he kept thinking. Poor, poor, Ophelia.CHAPTER 2
David J. Somebody at Scobie, Stone and Levinson, Beverly Hills attorneys, turned out to be a young-sounding, stuffed-shirt type, Casey discovered. His name was Farr, David J. Farr. And some of the starch went out of his voice when Casey explained the reason for his call.
Yes, Farr admitted, he did know a girl of that general description. Not well, mind you. And it had been some time since he had seen her. He seemed unable to grasp that she was dead, that her body had been found in the sea. "But she told me she was afraid of water," he kept saying irritably. "You must be mistaken —"
"Well, maybe we are," Casey admitted. "It might not be the girl you're thinking of. But we'd like you to try to make an identification if you can."
"You mean in person? Drive down there and — and look at —?"
"By this afternoon, if you can, Mr. Farr."
"Well, I don't know." A humming silence conveyed his reluctance, perhaps distress at the idea. "I've got a heavy day ahead of me. Incidentally," he added coolly, "how did you happen to get my name?"
"We'll explain when you get here, Mr. Farr."
"So apparently I haven't any choice in the matter?" Again he hesitated. "All right, I'll take my lunch hour. Who shall I ask for when I get there?"
"Either Kellog — that's me — or Sergeant Krug. Dectective Bureau. You got that?"
"Kellog or Krug, yes," and the line went dead.
Krug was grinning at him across the double expanse of their desks which were placed back to back. "Cool one?" he asked.
"Strictly. But he can spare his lunch hour."
"Big deal. Lawyers," he began a familiar commentary. "For my dough, you can —"
"Al," Lieutenant Timms called sharply, "grab line two — it's that hit-and-runner, I think."
Snatching up the receiver, Krug announced himself in benevolent tones. Good old Uncle Al, friend to all. And the hit-and-run case was quickly closed by coffee time — a guilty voice on one end of the phone, Krug on the other, gentling him like a spooky animal until he got a name and address out of the caller. By eleven the man was booked. And by the time the clock on the tower of the bank building beamed high noon through the fog, the hit-and-run driver was out again, rescued till court time by his brother-in-law, a local attorney.
"We better grab a bite before what's-his-name from Beverly Hills gets down here," Krug said. "You want a hamburger, or what?"
"Anything, as long as it isn't pancakes and eggs."
"You got a real thing against breakfast, don't you? Me, I could eat bacon and eggs and a stack any time, day or night."
In the camper truck Krug also used for daily transportation — his wife wouldn't drive anything but the family Chevy — they drove inland out of the fog to Pickle Bill's on Pico, bolting down hamburgers, a bowl of chili each, glasses of milk, and, for Krug, a wedge of pie. Then, flatulent and both yawning, they drove back into the coastal fog again. Ten minutes after they arrived back at Santa Monica Civic Center, David J. Farr appeared.
"Dig the dude," Krug muttered. "What do you figure — show business?"
Surveying the tall wiry man about his own age standing in the doorway, Casey grinned inwardly. If this longish-haired, beautifully barbered, Bill Blass-tailored stud was David J. Farr, he was in for a rough half-hour. For Krug hated dudes. And more than anything, he hated successful ones. "Want to bet?" Casey asked softly as they were pointed out and the man approached them. "You say show biz, I say attorney."
"Jesus," Krug groaned, "a fruit Beverly Hills lawyer. Now my day's really made."
"Kellog?" Farr asked. "Krug? Which is which? I'm David Farr. You called me this —"
"Yeah, right," said Krug brusquely. "This way, Mister Farr." And winking at Casey, he strode off.
"I'm glad we're not going to be wasting any time," Farr said dryly as Casey fell in beside him going down the stairs. "You're busy here in Santa Monica?"
"Not as busy as some of the L.A. divisions," Casey admitted. "But busy enough." He hesitated. "You ever been in a morgue before, Mr. Farr?"
"Never." Farr smiled nervously. "Or a police station. Not even a courtroom, I'm afraid. My specialty's corporation law."
Guessing that Farr was Harvard Law with a new West Coast gloss over the Ivy League style, Casey nodded amiably. He'd bet the long hair and mod threads had been acquired not more than a year or two ago ...
"The girl?" the clothes-conscious morgue attendant asked, admiring Farr's attire. "This way."
Watching Farr brace himself, Casey felt a moment's compassion for him. Morgues are a shock for the sheltered. He glanced at Krug, and sensing how he was enjoying Farr's ill-concealed apprehension, sighed unconsciously. Lord, let me never be that kind of tough cop.
She was naked now, a pale corpse with a number and a file started. In it would accumulate the papers of her case, starting with a medical examiner's report and a list of the property found in her possession. Without evidence of crime, the file would close with a disposition of the body — possession taken either by some shocked relative, or that chill authority which buries paupers and the unknown.
Farr made a sound — a groan, a sigh, it was hard to tell. His face flamed, then went sallow-pale under his deep tan. "Holly," he breathed. "Oh, my God —"
"You can identify her?" Krug asked.
As Farr nodded, Casey took his arm, feeling the shuddering tension in his muscles. Farr was swallowing rapidly, as if nauseated. "Come on," Casey said, "let's get out of here. We can talk outside."
Her name was Holly, Farr told them as he sat in the hall, drinking ice water from a paper cup. Holly Berry. She had come from somewhere in the Middle West, but where exactly, he had no idea.
"She a girl friend of yours?" Krug asked.
Farr blinked up at him. "No, nothing like that."
"Then a client, maybe?"
"No, not really. I just helped her out of a jam." He hesitated. "She was in an accident. Automobile. At the emergency hospital they found some, uh, marijuana in her possession."
"This was in L.A.?"
"In Hollywood. She ran off one of the freeway ramps. I suppose they took her to the emergency hospital there, then transferred her downtown."
"Yeah, that's what they'd do." Krug looked at him speculatively. "Okay, she got busted, then what? You acted for her? In court, I mean?"
"No, it didn't get that far. I just bailed her out."
"You mean the case is still pending."
"More water?" Casey asked.
Farr shook his head. "No, thanks. Yes, still pending." He blinked again, dizzily, refusing Casey's offer of a cigarette. "I don't smoke, thanks." A deep shuddering breath went through him. "I can't believe it. She was so — I don't know —"
"Alive," Krug filled in for him. "They all are. That's what everybody says. He or she was so alive. They can't believe it."
"Yes, I suppose you do hear these things over and over again." Abruptly, Farr stood up, crumpling the paper cup. "If there's nothing else —"
"There is," but Casey made it sound easy. "Next of kin. Any family you know of."
"Well, there's a brother. And I think," he said vaguely, "I heard something about an uncle." Then, distractedly, he peered into their faces. "Was it — suicide you think?"
"Can't tell yet," Krug said. "She have any reason you know of to kill herself?"
Excerpted from Poor, Poor, Ophelia by Carolyn Weston. Copyright © 2015 Brash Books LLC. Excerpted by permission of Brash Books, LLC.
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