"Rub it in, Kincaid. You have no idea how much I miss my amber ales." She looked down again at the contents of her maternity suit.
"Sorry," I said sheepishly. "Starbucks?"
"You're on," she said, opening the first folder.
Jessica and I each issued fifteen separate cases in the next fifty-six minutes. I won two prosecutorial sprints of the three. A quick read of the police report, a few taps on the ten-key pad for the badge numbers of the arresting officers, and a few more strokes for the applicable sections of the criminal code, and -- voilà! -- out popped a criminal complaint.
If the pace seems callous, don't blame me; blame the system, at least when it comes to issuing custodies. These are the cases filed against suspects who were booked the previous night. If a custody case isn't ready for arraignment by the time the suspect is called on the 2 P.M. docket, the court cuts the suspect loose. Free lattes weren't our only motivation for rushing.
As eight-thirty was rolling around and the rest of the office was finally strolling in, a young woman I recognized as the intake unit's receptionist interrupted our case-issuing sprints.
"You're Kincaid, right?" she asked.
I nodded, scrawling my illegible signature at the bottom of yet another complaint.
"You've got a call from an officer. I'll transfer it back," she said.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"Who pays attention? They asked for you, though."
"Thanks a bunch," I muttered, under my breath. I couldn't figure out who would be calling me at intake, but for the moment it was an excuse to ditch my post, at least for a few minutes.
I picked up the transferred call. "Kincaid."
"Good morning, Ms. Kincaid. It's Jack Walker." Otherwise known as one of my favorite Major Crimes Team detectives. "So my sources were right. You've worked your way all the way up into the glorious misdemeanor unit."
"Rumor's out already, huh? You calling to gloat?"
"I'm busting you out of there. We got a body up in Hillside. I'm told you're our gal."
"Yeah? By whom?"
"That'd be one Senior Deputy District Attorney Russell Frist." He enunciated my supervisors name in the deep booming staccato voice used widely in law enforcement circles to mimic Russ Frist. Apparently Russ had decided this call-out would be mine.
"You need me to come up there?" I asked.
"Definitely," he said. "This one's gonna be a doozy."
As my Jetta putted up the steep incline on Burnside toward what Walker had helpfully described as "the parking lot of those big pink condos," I considered the scenarios possibly awaiting me at the top of the hill -- none of them good. Protocol requires the bureau to connect with our office immediately on every new homicide, just to be sure a DA works the case from the start. But most cases don't warrant the physical presence of a prosecutor at the crime scene. What made this one so special?
When I turned into the parking lot of sprawling Vista Heights, I silently cursed Jack Walker. There must have been eight hundred condos perched on the overlook above north-west Portland, surrounded by acres of parking lot. I cruised the main road surrounding the complex -- as well as its various offshoots -- at a steady five miles per hour, thanks to the frequent and enormous speed bumps spread throughout the property. I finally knew I'd reached the right place at the dead end of one of the side roads when I spotted a flurry of cop activity behind the familiar yellow crime-scene tape.
From Close Case by Alafair Burke, Chapter 1, pages 3-17 of the hardcover edition. Copyright © 2005 Alafair Burke.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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