Today's Reading

'The short one's Frank O'Neill,' Bogey said. His voice had a little rasp of tension in it—he knew all the experienced detectives were watching him, curious to see his chops. He added the other thing he knew about O'Neill, 'The Irish guy who speaks Spanish?'

'Ah.' That was the other story on the grapevine this week, the new recruit with an edge in la lengua. Most Tucson cops, the Anglo ones, quickly acquired the few words of Spanglish sufficient to make an arrest. But this recruit from last fall's class had a father whose job with a major oil refiner had kept him travelling the Mexican states, and afforded his son many school holidays cruising the barrios of outback Mexican towns. O'Neill spoke street Spanish, it was said—he could even roll his Rs.

'The other guy on the tape is Francisco Gomez,' Bogey said. 'Mexican but second or third generation; people call him Franny. He and O'Neill seem to team up often, and the guys say they gossip together in Spanish, sound like a pair of old abuelas sitting around the pueblos.'

'Fine, then, 'Sarah said. 'You download O'Neill and his gossipy partner. I'll check the victim and see what the staff has to say.'

'Gotcha,' Bogey said. And then, over his shoulder as he walked away, 'Call me if you need any help with that screamer.'

'You bet,' Sarah said. When pigs fly, I will call you for help.

Back in the day when she was new in homicide, part of the first wave of female detectives in Tucson, men had offered to help her all the time—her male peers had made no secret of their disbelief in her ability to do the job. She had ignored the snickers, bit her tongue to hold back sharp answers, and worked hard to prove she could hold up her end. She was proud now that she was treated as an equal by the men and respected as a leader by the many younger women coming on board.

She unclipped the badge from her belt, aware as she got out of Bogey's unmarked Ford Fusion that they were the only two people in sight whose clothes and vehicle did not identify them. Like the Glock in her shoulder holster, her badge didn't show under her neat jacket. A savvy observer might realize she was too well-dressed for the weather, but this group looked too preoccupied to notice style points.

So she held the badge up for the two gardeners to read as she passed them, and said, 'Wait here for me, please, while I get a look at the body. Is that what's bothering this lady?'

'Tammy? I guess,' the older one said. The name tag on his pocket read Henry. 'I know she ain't as crazy as she sounds right now,' he added. 'Must be the first time she ever seen bl—'

Just then the woman cried, 'I'm going to be sick!' and bolted for a door under an arch in the building behind her.

No use following her there. Watching the attendant run toward a bathroom, Sarah noticed for the first time a tiny woman seated on a bench in the shade near the front door of the building. Not in uniform, so she must be a patient. She seemed oddly detached, paying no attention to the activity churning all around her. As Sarah watched, she raised her hands from her lap and scrutinized them carefully as she matched fingers—thumb to thumb, index to index. Her lips moved but no sound came out.

She probably shouldn't be alone, Sarah thought, but I don't have time—is anybody controlling access to this scene? Bogey was already talking to the tape-stringers. She held up her badge and called, 'I'm going aboard here.'

Bogey held up one hand with fingers curled in the 'OK' sign, and made a note. It would have to do for now; the squad stringing tape hadn't brought a posse box evidently, and nobody was controlling access to the van. She gloved up and ducked under the newly strung tape.

The steps slid out from under the chassis when she pushed back the big side door of the van. Luckily the vehicle hadn't penetrated the building far enough to jam the lock. She climbed aboard and turned right.

Somebody had turned on the overhead lights in the garage, but the front of the van was still gloomy compared to the brightness outside. There was indeed a lot of blood, spread over the whole front of the van. And glass—the windshield had shattered and there were shards of glass scattered over the console, the floorboards and the dead man.

He was still in the driver's seat, slumped over the steering wheel, left arm lying on the padded armrest. His shoulders rested on the steering wheel and his right hand had slid forward onto the console.

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