Excerpt of Close Case by Alafair Burke
(Page 4 of 8)
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I found an open spot, grabbed my
briefcase, and climbed out of the car, cinching my raincoat more tightly
around me. It was the first week in November, and the autumn dampness had
already begun to settle into the air and into my bones.
As I walked across the parking lot, I
noticed neighbors peering from behind their blinds at the obvious bustle. A
few had stepped outside their condos, some still in robes and holding coffee
cups, trying to ascertain what could have brought so many uniforms and marked
vehicles to this quiet enclave.
The learning curve in the Major Crimes
Unit had been a steep one, and by now I knew the ropes on a call-out. I showed
my badge to the officer monitoring access at the scene, watched as he logged
my entry onto his clipboard, and then ducked beneath the tape that roped off
about a quarter acre surrounding an open carport.
Jack Walker caught sight of me in his
periphery and waved me over. He stood with his partner, Detective Raymond
Johnson, in front of a black Mercedes S-430 sedan. The personalized plate read
SNOOP. Even in a lot stocked with late-model yuppie-mobiles, that one stood
As I approached, I saw two crime-scene
technicians rise from where they must have been kneeling next to the front
driver's-side tire. A blur of crisp white linen flashed between them; then
they carefully maneuvered a covered gurney through the tight corner in front
of the vehicle. I nodded as they passed on their way to the medical examiner's
Johnson and Walker met me just outside
the carport. Some of the other detectives referred to the pair as Ebony and
Ivory. Even beyond the obvious contrast in melanin, the two couldn't have been
more divergent physically. Walker wasn't much taller than my five-eight, but
about twice as wide, testing the buttons of dress shirts that were almost
universally short-sleeved. Johnson's frame, on the other hand, was tall, fit,
and always tucked neatly into whatever suit he'd brought home that month from
the Saks men's store.
Regardless, the partners were two peas in
a pod. I couldn't imagine them working with anyone but each other.
"So who's our dead guy?" I asked,
glancing back at the techs loading the gurney into the van. The MCU culture
required a kind of nonchalance toward death -- or at least the appearance of
The two detectives exchanged a glance.
Using whatever silent language partners tend to share, they must have decided
to let Johnson break the news.
"The one and only Percy Crenshaw."
"The reporter?" I asked incredulously.
"Didn't I just say he was the one and
only?" Johnson retorted.
I shook my head. "This is not
'Try telling that to Crenshaw," Walker
Percy Crenshaw started out doing "on your
side" pieces for the Oregonian's Metro section. If a restaurant fed you
bad meat, or your used car oozed mystery melt, or your new hairdresser
surprised you with a blue mohawk, Percy Crenshaw was the go-to guy. More
recently, though, he had managed to make a name for himself as a celebrity
muckraker in this relatively quiet little city. Of course, like all good
muckrakers, he had done that by turning what usually would have been
relatively quiet stories into salacious tales of sex, greed, and corruption.
Last year, just for instance, I had
worked on a case involving the murder of an administrative law judge. Sure, it
had all the ingredients of a good scandal: bribery, betrayal, adultery, the
works. At its heart, though, it was the sad story of a woman whose own
mistakes had gotten her killed. Crenshaw had nonetheless managed to sell his
version of the story, including every last irrelevant detail of the victim's
sex life, to L.A. Magazine.
From Close Case by Alafair Burke, Chapter 1,
pages 3-17 of the hardcover edition. Copyright © 2005