Stop. Twenty years of working homicide told him he should. Right now. Don’t go any further; call it in.
Birds chirped overhead, the sound so crisp and incessant it sliced right into his ears. Henry apparently had riled ’em good. Still squatting, Larry scanned the desolate area. Beyond the fence at the end of the last quarter mile, the early-morning rush began to swell on Cicero.
Henry barked again. Normally calm as a turtle, he wanted to dig.
Larry cocked his head to study whatever peeked through the dirt, and once again his stomach seized. After all these years, only one thing futzed with his stomach.
But, truth be told, he had a tendency to overthink things. Something else years on the job had done to him. Hell, he could be staring at an old ceramic bowl. And how humiliating would it be to call this in and have it wind up being someone’s china?
Henry barked again, urging him on, and Larry gave in to his curiosity and pushed more loose dirt around. At least until he hit a depression and his finger, handkerchief and all, slid right into it. Gently, he moved his finger around, hitting the outer edges of the depression, and a weird tingling shot up his neck. His breathing kicked up.
What’d this dog find?
He cleared more dirt, his fingers moving gently, revealing more and more of the surface of whatever was buried here. Once again, his fingers slipped into the depressed area and he knew. Dammit.
He’d just stuck his finger into an eye socket.
Five Years Later
Surrounded by four hundred guests, seven of them sitting at her table in the ballroom of Chicago’s legendary Drake Hotel, Amanda studied a giant photo of a fallen firefighter that had flashed on the screen behind the podium. Without a doubt, she’d botched his nose.
Ugh. How embarrassing. Any novice artist, particularly a sculptor, would see the slight flare of the man’s nostrils. She slid her gaze to the sculpture, her sculpture, a gift to the widow of Lieutenant Ben Broward, who’d died three months ago after running into a crumbling building to save a child.
The child had survived.
Ben had not.
And Amanda’s gift to his widow and their children was now worthless. At least in Amanda’s mind. Had the flaring nostrils been that obvious on the photos she’d been given? Later, when she arrived home, she’d swing into her studio and check. Just to satisfy herself.
Sitting back in her chair, she eased out a breath and made eye contact with Lexi, her interior designer friend who’d originally suggested she attend this fund-raiser and meet Pamela Hennings and Irene Dyce, both politically connected—and extremely wealthy—women. Amanda’s idea to donate the sculpture had come after seeing an interview with Lieutenant Broward’s wife and children. She couldn’t give them the man back, but maybe the sculpture would bring some sort of peace. Not exactly closure because Amanda didn’t buy in to that whole closure thing. What did that even mean? Tragedy was tragedy and she doubted Ben’s family would ever fully recover.
Mrs. Hennings leaned closer to speak over the chatter and the sound of clanging silverware filling the room. “Amazing likeness, dear.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Dyce said from the other side of Mrs. Hennings. “Beautiful work, Amanda.”
Not that she believed it after spotting her mistake, but coming from Mrs. Hennings, the wife of Chicago’s most brilliant defense attorney, a woman notorious for her good taste, Amanda, as she always did, graciously accepted the compliment, allowing it to momentarily smother her doubt.
At least until she looked at that nose again. Would the widow notice? Would she see the blunder every time she chose to look at the piece? Would it drive her insane? Gah.
The woman couldn’t spend years looking at a nose butchered by the artist. Amanda couldn’t allow it. She’d redo the piece. That was all. She’d make time to fix her mistake.
A waiter slid a slice of cherry cheesecake in front of her. Any other day, she’d happily indulge, which of course wouldn’t help her lose that extra ten pounds, but a girl had a right to sugar. Simple fact. But after the beating she’d just given herself, she wasn’t sure her stomach could handle a rich dessert. Gently, she nudged the plate away, opting instead for a sip of water.
“Evening, Miss LeBlanc.”
She glanced up to where a large, barrel-chested man, late fifties perhaps, stood behind her. “Hello.”
“I’m Detective Larry McCall. Chicago PD. Homicide.” He gestured to the vacant chair next to her. “Mind if I sit?”
Oh, boy. What was this?
Whatever it was, she was thankful he wasn’t the man who’d been sitting beside her all evening. That man, a financial planner from one of the city’s big banks, had disappeared more than thirty minutes ago after she flatly told him, no, she was not interested in doing “hot” things in his bed. What an idiot. With any luck, he’d found a woman willing to take him up on his offer.
She held her hand out. “Of course. Someone was sitting there, but he’s been gone awhile.”
Hopefully, for good.
The detective glanced across the table to where Lexi sat with her boyfriend, Brodey, another Chicago homicide detective and also the brother of one of the Hennings & Solomon investigators. Seemed to Amanda that the Hennings clan had a connection to just about everyone in this city.
“Junior,” Detective McCall said, nodding a greeting.
“Lawrence,” Brodey drawled.
And how amusing was this? Clearly these two were in some kind of twisted male peeing match, and Amanda did everything in her power not to roll her eyes.
Detective McCall dropped his bulky frame into the chair beside her. “I’ll move if he comes back. Sorry if I’m interrupting.”
“Not at all. What can I do for you, Detective?”
“I checked out your bust.”
Amanda bit her lip, stifling a smile as the detective replayed in his mind the last seconds—wait for it. There.
He smacked himself on the head, then did it again, but he laughed at himself all the same. Instantly she liked him, СКАЧАТЬ