I gestured toward the Lexus. Eric's Virginia Highland cul-de-sac was usually quiet, the only noise the distant murmur of North Highland traffic. It was a place of Arts and Crafts bungalows and kitschy specialty shops, a place where you strolled to the corner café for a petite serving of organic peach gelato. Not the kind of place where you stumbled into corpses on the curb.
"So your brother was tense?" Norris said.
Oh great, I thought. Now I'd done it.
"Not tense like guilty," I corrected, "tense from worrying about passports and stuff. A perfectly innocent tense."
This was not the whole truth, but I didn't feel like explaining the rest, the part where we'd argued, the part where he'd told me to grow up and I'd told him to shove it. The part that would make any cop's nose twitch with interest. I knew it wasn't relevant and would only distract the police from what they should be doing, namely, finding out why there was a corpse across the street.
"You picked him up here, at the house?"
"No, at work, some place by Perimeter Mall. He's a PhD, you know, an industrial psychologist."
I had no idea why I added that last part. Perhaps I was trying to make Eric seem stable and ethical, not the kind of man who'd murder some woman and then flee the country. Officer Norris didn't seem concerned about his character, however. He remained focused on the timeline.
"So you picked him up at work, dropped him off at the airport, and came back here?"
"No, not immediately anyway. I went to the shop first."
I hesitated. It was looking like I didn't have a non-suspicious answer in me.
"Dexter's Guns and More," I finally said. "Up in Kennesaw. I'm the new owner."
Norris' eyes dipped to my chest, to the tee-shirt with Dexter's logo and the slogan "From My Cold Dead Hands" on it. I'd found a bag of them in my uncle's desk and pulled one on while I cleaned the storeroom, so not only was it politically incorrect, it was filthy with dust and cobwebs.
"Look, I know it sounds bad, me with a gun shop just forty-five minutes away and a murdered person on the curb, but it's entirely innocent."
I held up my cell phone and showed him a photo from that morning. There I was, standing in front of a display case chock full of dangerous things, a Confederate flag hanging brazenly behind me.
"Interesting," Norris said. His ebony features betrayed no emotion.
I tried again. The next shot didn't have any rebel paraphernalia in it, just the prominently displayed city ordinance requiring all Kennesaw citizens to own a gun. And me, beaming brightly. But it did have the time and date, proving that I was telling the truth about my whereabouts.
"Uncle Dexter left the place to me in his will. Well, he left it to my mother actuallyshe's his sisterbut she's been dead for over a year nowmy dad and Aunt Dotty too, a long time agoand we were next in line, me and Eric, but Eric will have nothing to do with it, loathes the whole concept, so technically"
"Can anyone verify your story?"
I took a deep breath. "Sorry. I run on when I'm nervous. My friend Rico was there, I'll give you his number."
Norris wrote down the information, which I knew was going to piss Rico off royally. Rico didn't like being asked to go on the record for anything; he never had, not even in high school. But he'd forgive me, just like I'd forgive him for not returning my four messages and three texts.
Norris turned the page. "Tell me how you found the body."
"I left the shop a little after four, got here sometime around five-thirty. I noticed the car right off, but I didn't think much of it, not until I went to the mailbox. That's when I saw the woman slumped over the steering wheel. So I went over and knocked on the window, and when she didn't look up, I opened the door. And that's when I saw the blood."
Excerpted from The Dangerous Edge of Things by Tina Whittle. Copyright © 2011 by Tina Whittle. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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