A camera flash popped as the crime scene photographer circled the car, stepping on the neighbor's pansies. Another cop placed squarish yellow markers on the concrete. Someone's radio squawked, staccato and abrupt.
Behind Norris, I saw two new arrivals duck under the tape, one male, one female. The woman was average height and athletic, with the kind of bleached straw hair and nut brown skin that come from too many hours in the sun. The man was only a little taller, with deep-cocoa skin and hair clipped close to his head. Both wore the same thingcharcoal pants and jackets, gold shields clipped at the belt.
APD detectives. They knew better than to step on the pansies.
"And you have no idea who she is?" Norris said.
"No. Do you?"
He seemed surprised at the question. "Would I be asking you if I did?"
"Of course you would, you're a cop. You ask all kinds of questions you already know the answer to."
I said it with a smile, and he smiled too, just a little, which was a relief. Not as big a relief as a Winston Light, mind you, but something.Just then, I noticed a dark gray sedan pull up close to the crime scene tape. A sandy-haired business type pushed himself out a stocky guy, with broad shoulders and a purposeful stride. One of the uniforms shook hands with him and pointed him toward the detectives.
Not a cop, I decided. Probably a GBI agent, maybe even a Fed. Which could only mean one thingthis dead girl I didn't know was somebody important.
The patrol officer led the detectives and the sandy-haired man under the yellow tape to the crime scene itself. The sandy-haired man peered inside, then shook his head. The female detective held up a plastic bag with something small and white inside. I squinted to get a look. And then, as if on cue, all three turned and looked at me. With interest.
Not a good thing.
My belly sloshed. And then the two detectives headed toward my patrol car, leaving the sandy-haired man at the crime scene to do things I didn't want to think about. I peeked at my cell phone. Nothing from Eric, nothing from Rico, nothing from anyone at all. Abandoned.
And then they were upon me.
"Ms. Randolph?" The male partner leaned down and extended his hand. His grip was dry and warm, but his eyes were skewers. "I'm Detective Ryan. This is my partner, Detective Vance."
The woman unfastened her gaze from the dead girl's car and swiveled her head my way. She reminded me of a hawk, right down to her small hook of a nose and round unblinking eyes. I fought the urge to get still and small.
Ryan smiled. "Is it all right if we talk inside?"
The way he phrased it wasn't a question.
My mind raced. I watched CSI, I knew what it meant to let a cop in your house with their little vials and black lights and rubber gloves. Should I demand a search warrant? Tell them to wait until I heard from Eric? Call a lawyer?
I thought all of these things, but what I said was, "Sure. Okay."
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