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Killer Winter

By Kay Bigelow

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2018 Kay Bigelow

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Killer Winter

Lieutenant Leah Samuels catches the first homicide case of the new year 2235, and a monster blizzard is obscuring the evidence. The Murder Scene Investigators find only blood and microscopic pieces of flesh and bone of an estimated twenty-plus people. With a winter that will last another six months, she can’t wait until spring to find more evidence in the killing field. Leah resorts to good old-fashioned detecting—and trusting her gut. The motive for the murders is more bizarre than she could have imagined. Finally, when she thought things could get no worse, she learns the woman she loves has betrayed her in devastating ways.

Killer Winter

© 2018 By Kay Bigelow. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN 13:978-1-63555-178-5

This Electronic Book is published by

Bold Strokes Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 249

Valley Falls, NY 12185

First Edition: March 2018

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.


Editors: Victoria Villasenor and Cindy Cresap

Production Design: Stacia Seaman

Cover Design by Melody Pond

By the Author

Hiding Out

Killer Winter


My thanks to the Bold Strokes Books team, including Sandy Lowe, Ruth Sternglantz, and Cindy Cresap, for their patience in answering my questions and their knowledge of the whys and wherefores. My thanks to Melody Pond for creating the cover I imagined. I especially want to thank my editor, Victoria, for her understanding of my genre, her astute suggestions on needed changes, and her gentle humor regarding my gaffes.

To Reddeer for her patience in listening to me go on about people, i.e., my characters, she hasn’t yet met and their foibles.

Chapter One

As Lieutenant Leah Samuels approached the crime scene, she saw cops—rookies and veterans alike—throwing up in the gutters while others kept their backs to the murder scene. Leah took a second to steel herself before stepping through the electronic plyomene screen that kept nonessential personnel from entering a crime scene. That brief moment wasn’t enough to keep the bile from rising in her throat as she took in the carnage before her. For a split second, she wished she’d skipped the coffee earlier and opted for something less acidic. She had to avert her eyes to keep from joining the cops throwing up in the street. When her stomach began to settle down, she focused on her surroundings. At the rate it’s snowing, we’ll lose whatever evidence there is beneath three feet of snow within a few hours. The first day of 2235 isn’t beginning auspiciously.

One thing the snow and early morning darkness couldn’t hide was that a slaughter had taken place. At the edge of the crime scene, Leah stopped and studied the field. At first, all she saw was blood. Without much hope of it being true, she wondered if this was someone’s idea of a New Year’s Eve prank. When she took a closer look, she understood why the cops had been throwing up. Spread across the field were hundreds, if not thousands, of bits of flesh, bones, and, probably, internal organs. There was no way what she was seeing could all belong to a single person. It would take the Murder Scene Investigation team an eternity to determine the identities of the victims unless she and her team caught a huge break somewhere along the way.

What were the victims doing in a park in the middle of a blizzard? How many were here? What the phuc happened here? Who were these people and why were they killed? And why here?

Leah shuddered as another strong blast of Arctic air roared across the field. The wind and the twenty-five-below-zero cold added to everyone’s misery. The conditions and the Klieg lights set up around the small field somehow added to the eeriness and horror of the site. Leah hoped they could get the evidence gathered up and into the lab before it was impossible to process.

The MSIs were dissecting the field into a grid. As each of the grid squares was set, other techs moved into the roped-off area and rapidly began shoveling as many of the small bits of flesh and bone chips as they could into evidence bags. She saw they were marking the bags with the number of the grid where the evidence was found. It appeared Dr. Scott, chief of the MSI department, had called out his entire department to help gather evidence.

There was a flurry of activity around Scott. As Leah neared the small circle of people surrounding him, she heard him tell them the weather was about to worsen. A second front was moving in and was predicted to dump an additional two or three feet of snow over the next twenty-four hours. The people around Scott cursed and began blowing whistles and waving their teams to them. As the MSIs returned to gathering evidence, they were no longer picking up everything within a grid square. They were only picking up the larger pieces of evidence from each grid. If time and weather allowed, they’d go back for the smaller pieces.

While she watched the MSIs work, Leah wished she’d ignored her wife, Quinn, and stayed in bed when the call to this scene had come in. It was supposed to be Leah’s first day off in months. Quinn knew she hadn’t slept through the night in weeks. Dammit, I need today off instead of standing at the edge of this carnage. Quinn had insisted she’d like herself better if she responded to the dispatcher. As she stood watching the techs picking up bits and pieces of her murder victims, she decided Quinn had been very wrong.

Leah looked around, trying to find her team among the growing crowd of cops who were wrapped from head to foot in bulky winter clothing. Everyone had their hoods pulled up and sitting low on their foreheads, and they had scarves wrapped around their necks and pulled up to cover their noses and chins to prevent frostbite. Everyone, herself included, looked like rotund masked bandits. The clothing made identification of individuals impossible. Leah recognized a latecomer to the scene, though. It was Weston, a member of her team. Weston swore he never used his hood because it was, he said, “girly” to do so, and he thought it a matter of male pride not to wear a scarf like “a sissy.” On this morning, however, not only did he have a scarf pulled up over the lower half of his face, but he had his hood up as well. In spite of the hood, he hadn’t removed the fedora he wore when out of doors regardless of the weather, making identifying him easy. The person arriving with him had to be Allison Davidson, his partner.

“Lieutenant,” one of the uniforms said, interrupting her thoughts. “Dr. Scott says he’s ready to begin transporting the remains.”

“Thanks. Ask him to notify me when he has something.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“What do you think happened here, Lieutenant?” Peony Fong asked as she came to stand with Leah. She’d lowered the scarf covering her lower face only long enough to ask the question. Leah knew she’d soon learn not to do that in this kind of weather.

Peony was a new detective, both in years and experience, with little fieldwork under her belt. She’d only been on Leah’s team for a month. Leah suspected Peony had been one of the cops standing in the shadows near the street vomiting into the gutter.

The rest of Leah’s team gathered around her, and Leah noticed Weston was taking his time coming to join the circle around her. She started without him.

“I don’t know what happened here. Nor do I want us speculating about it until the MSIs give us some hard facts to go on.” Leah didn’t bother lowering her scarf. Long experience told her she’d be heard.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Davidson asked.

Leah shook her head. “Who’s going to stay at the scene to see if there’s any information to be had?” she asked.

No one volunteered, but they all looked at Peony. As the newest member of the team, she was expected to catch these kinds of assignments, and any others the rest of the team didn’t want to do. Leah knew the youngster had taken each assignment as it was handed to her without complaining.

“Peony has taken the watch for the last month. I think it’s time to start back at the top of the list.”

“No!” Weston all but shouted. “Doesn’t seniority count for anything anymore?”

“Not on my team,” Leah said. “And not on this night.”

“Well, it should,” Weston said, narrowing his eyes as if that would intimidate Leah and make her change her mind.

Leah almost laughed out loud at the look of relief on Peony’s face when she realized she wasn’t going to have to stand around in the freezing cold waiting for the crime scene team to finish their work.

“I’ll meet the rest of you back at the office in twenty. Peony, ride with me.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Someone, almost assuredly Weston, made sucking sounds to indicate Peony was sucking up. Leah was tired of Weston and relieved that a decision had finally been made about him by the captain.

Leah led Peony to where she’d parked her car. She punched in her code and the driver’s door slid open. She got in and hit the button unlocking the passenger side door. Peony wasted no time getting in and hunkering down.

Leah started the car and let it idle while the engine and the interior warmed up to freezing. She could hear Peony’s teeth chattering, and she noticed for the first time Peony didn’t have a winter coat on. What she had done to protect herself from the below-freezing temperatures was to add layers, lots of them. The kid looked like everyone else but only because she must have a dozen layers of sweaters on. For no particular reason, Leah flashed back to the fat cat she’d had as a child that had needed a bath. Beneath all the fur, the cat was as skinny as a rail and madder than hell at being wet.

“Where’s your coat? You’ll catch pneumonia if you don’t wear it in this weather,” Leah said as she brought herself back to the present.

“Don’t own one.”

“How can you not own a coat?”

“I’m not from here.”

“Where are you from?”

“Xing,” Peony said, naming a planet known for its year-round temperate weather and beauty. Xing had been terraformed by humans a century earlier and colonized by humans from New America.

Leah looked closer at Peony and saw she had the exotic looks of a Xing native. Unlike other women from her planet, though, Peony kept her thick hair cut short, but like her countrywomen, it was the deep rich black of a Sirulian panther. Her skin tone was a warm caramel color. Her almond-shaped eyes were so dark her pupils couldn’t be seen.

“Well, get a coat, then,” Leah growled.

“No money till payday.”

“Drust!” Leah swore. “I think I have a spare in the office you can borrow until payday.”

“No, thanks.”

“What?” Leah asked, surprised at being turned down.

“Look, Lieutenant, the guys make fun of me enough as it is. I mean, my name alone was fodder for their jokes since I first walked in the door. You heard the sucking sounds when you told me to ride with you. What do you think they’ll do if they find out I’m wearing the boss’s coat? No, thanks. I’ll just add a couple more layers of sweaters and pants.”

“Who’s going to tell them you’re wearing my coat?”

“They’ll find out. They always do,” Peony said, turning away from Leah to look out the window.

“If they ask, tell them your roommate lent it to you.”

“My roommate is a guy, a cop from the Twenty-seventh. Some of the guys here know Tommy. They’d just call and ask him if it’s his. Besides, his coat would drag on the ground and your coat won’t, and that’s how they’d know.”

Leah shook her head. Sometimes pride was an awful thing. “Suit yourself, Peony. But the offer stands.”

“Thanks, boss.”

Leah’s phone rang. It was the chief MSI.

“I’ve released Weston and Davidson. With the amount of snow falling, there’s nothing more we’re going to be able to find here. Any evidence is going to have to come from forensics. We’ve taken hundreds of photos, videoed the scene from two different angles, and picked up evidence from every grid. We’ll vacuum the scene tonight before we leave. But we started losing evidence when it hit the ground. It would still have been body temperature and would have melted through the snow. Tonight, though, we’ll start trying to determine who we’ve got here once we get everything back to the lab. We’ll keep the perimeter barriers up so when, or if, spring ever gets here, we’ll come back and see what we can find.”

“Thanks, Scotty, for the heads-up,” she said and broke the connection.

When the car’s computer told her the engine was warm enough, Leah took off. She had them in the tertiary lanes moments later.

“Why does everyone insist on driving so far off the ground here?” Peony asked as she clutched the handle above her head so hard her knuckles were white.

“I don’t know what it’s like on Xing, but here the primary lane is for delivery trucks and the like. The secondary lane is reserved for taxis and small busses, while the tertiary lane is for emergency vehicles and cops. The lanes above that are for personal cars. Being in the tertiary lane is much faster than in either of the lower lanes or the lanes above us,” Leah told her. “Besides, we’re only sixty feet off the ground.”

“Isn’t it better to get to your destination alive?”

Leah laughed. “I haven’t killed anyone yet.”

“I don’t want to be the first.”

“Trust me, I’ll get you to the cop shop alive and in one piece.”

To prove her point, she hit the accelerator and had Peony pinned to the seat for the rest of the short trip.

When they squealed into Leah’s parking space and stopped only inches from the steel post at the top of the space, she glanced at Peony. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and her face was as white as her knuckles. Peony couldn’t seem to let go of the handle. At least her teeth have stopped chattering. Of course, she’s clamped her jaw closed so tight, she might have broken some teeth. I need to take it easy on the kid.

The “rookie ride” in her car had started many years earlier when Weston had first been assigned to her team despite her objections. She had made him ride with her to try to get him to stop being such an ass to the younger members of the team, but ended up with her being frustrated by his sense of entitlement because of his years on the force. So she gave him a ride. After that, it became a rite of passage, an initiation, for the new detectives assigned to the team. She’d tried to stop having to do it, but the detectives in the squad insisted she had to do it since they’d been put through having to ride with her.

Leah spent a few minutes at the rear of her car with the trunk open to give Peony time to recover. When Peony finally emerged from the vehicle, she still looked shaky. Leah didn’t comment on how long it had taken her to get out of the car. She didn’t want to add to the embarrassment the young woman must already be feeling. Neither of them said anything as they rode the glides to the third floor.

By the time they reached the offices assigned to Leah and her team, Peony looked recovered from their ride together. The kid had no way of knowing all the detectives had been in the same passenger seat, and they’d all had nearly the same reaction, and a few of them, including Weston, had thrown up after leaving her car.

From the door to her office, Leah watched as Peony entered the bullpen. The guys surrounded her and told her she’d passed the initiation of having to ride with Leah. She was now a full member of the detective squad. Peony grinned as each detective shook her hand.

Leah smiled at Peony’s reaction. She knew that would help her feel more at ease with the other detectives and a lot of the ribbing and joking would end. She took off her layers of outerwear and hung them on the back of the door. She released her bootstraps and stepped out of them. She’d put on the pair of soft black leather boots she kept in her office after her feet thawed out. After she removed her hat, she finger-combed her short auburn hair to get rid of some of the results of hat hair.

She paused long enough to turn on the space heater beneath her desk, and with a deep sigh, sat in her chair and stretched her feet toward the little heater.

As she was beginning to feel her toes again, she glanced out the window that looked into the detectives’ bullpen. It was made from privacy glass, allowing her to watch her detectives but not allowing them to see her. Leah noted everyone was present except Weston and Davidson. It was yet another instance of his insubordination, and she was finally going to be able to put a stop to it.

Twenty minutes later, she watched as the absent detectives strolled into the bullpen and went to their desks. Clearly, they hadn’t come straight to the cop shop.

“Davidson, in my office,” Leah said when the detective answered her phone.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Before Davidson could take a step away from her desk, Weston grabbed her arm. She tried to jerk her arm away from him, but he had an iron grip on her wrist. Obviously, Weston wanted to know where she was going and why. Davidson finally got away from him, and a minute later, there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Leah said.

Both Davidson and Weston walked in.

“I didn’t call you, Weston.”

“If you’re going to talk to my partner, you may as well tell me at the same time because she’ll tell me later.”

“Get out.”


“You have thirty seconds to get out of my office.”

“Or what?” Weston asked with a sneer.

Leah was sick and tired of his insubordination. She held his gaze but didn’t respond.

Weston blinked first. “Who needs this bullshit?” He stormed out of her office, slamming the door hard enough to rattle the windows.

Leah would deal with him later. “Allison, Peony needs a partner and a mentor. She needs someone with the knowledge of how to be a good detective and how to survive the bullpen. I’d like that person to be you, if you’re willing.”

The relief on Allison’s face was far too obvious.

“Thank you, ma’am. I’d like to work with the kid. From what I’ve seen, she has good instincts and the potential to be a good detective.”

“I agree. Thanks for taking her on,” Leah said.

“No problem.”

“Where were you and Weston?”

“Ma’am?” Allison asked, clearly trying to stall for time to think of a plausible excuse.

“You heard the question. You guys got back nearly an hour after the rest of us.”

“You told Weston to stay at the scene.”

“I didn’t say anything about you staying.” Leah watched as expressions flitted across Davidson’s face. She’d been a cop long enough to know when someone wasn’t telling her the whole truth.

“I rode to the scene with him. He wouldn’t give me the keys to the car.”

“Dr. Scott released you long ago. So where have you two been?”

“Weston wanted to have breakfast,” Davidson said, not able to meet Leah’s eyes.

Leah watched as the young detective clenched her jaw several times. Is she afraid of Weston? I’ll kill the son of a bitch if he laid a hand on her. “Didn’t you hear me tell the team to be here in twenty?”

“Yeah. But Weston didn’t care.”

“Send him in when you go back out there,” Leah said.

Leah saw Davidson stop by Weston’s desk. As she spoke to him, she nodded in the direction of Leah’s office. Weston kept Leah waiting fifteen minutes. Then he entered her office without knocking. This is going to be fun.

“Sit down, Weston.”

“I’ll stand,” he said as he squared his body and looked at her defiantly.

Leah took a moment to look Weston over and didn’t like what she saw. He was greasy looking—his hair was dirty, his tie had stains on it, and his shirt looked like he’d had it on for weeks. He looked like he hadn’t had a shower since last fall, and she could smell him from where she sat three feet away. He was a study in brown: brown hair, brown eyes, brown suit, but then there were the black shoes and white socks. Worse than his lack of sartorial sense was that he always reminded Leah of Billy Tompkins, her grade school’s resident bully. Not in looks, but in his actions. When young cops joined her team, they always looked up to Weston because of his years on the force. It didn’t take them long, however, to lose their hero worship. Weston thought work was beneath him, so he had the young cops write his reports, perform the scut work of the day-to-day investigations, and never gave them credit when they solved a case for him. Everyone who had ever worked as his partner had asked for either a new partner or a transfer to another precinct within a month of being forced to work for him. He was universally hated by all, including Leah. Weston was vicious and vindictive. He’d been brought up on charges numerous times, including charges of abusing suspects more than once, but nothing had ever stuck.

“Suit yourself. I’ll make this short and sweet. You’re being transferred.”

“What? You can’t do that,” he told her, clearly surprised at her news.

“It’s done. I’d prefer to fire your lazy ass, but the captain said the Eighty-sixth was shorthanded, so that’s where you’re going.”

“You can’t send me out there.”

“I repeat, it’s done,” Leah said, glad to be rid of him.

The Eighty-sixth Precinct was the armpit of the police department. It seemed like every misfit, malcontent, and suspected dirty cop was sent to the Eighty-sixth. They were always shorthanded because members of the precinct were killed on a regular basis. An internal analysis by the police commissioner’s office said the high mortality rate among the cops at the Eighty-sixth was due to their own negligence. In fact, cops there were as likely to be killed by a fellow cop as by criminals.

“I’ll go to the captain. He won’t let you do this to me.”

“Go. He signed the transfer order.”

“That’s where the losers go.” Weston stepped toward her and glowered at her as if to intimidate her.

“You’ll be amongst your own, then. Pack up your desk and be out of here in the next fifteen minutes. If you’re not, I’ll have you escorted out.”

“You’ll be sorry that you did this, bitch.”

“Yeah, yeah. Get out.”

They’d been at odds with one another since they’d been at the academy nearly twenty years earlier. He’d been lazy then, too. At the time, she’d been sure he’d cheated on the tests, but she couldn’t prove it. He’d intimidated the weaker cadets into doing his bidding, proving he was a schoolyard bully who had simply grown older. He’d graduated last in their class. How he’d ever passed the test to get his detective’s shield was beyond Leah. She was convinced it had involved bribes, or cheating, or both.

Things hadn’t improved over the years. Every time Leah had been promoted, Weston went ballistic and, more than once, accused her of sleeping with the captain to get the promotion he’d believed should have been his. He’d never been promoted above detective third grade, the lowest of the detective levels. Leah didn’t understand why he hadn’t been fired. It was rumored he had something on the chief.

As Weston left her office, he slammed the door again, but it lacked the force of his first exit. He returned to his desk and Leah could see, but not hear, him ranting. The cops in the bullpen ignored him. He had no friends out there. Leah watched as Weston sat at his desk, leaned back in his chair, and put his feet on his desk.

Leah called the desk sergeant, Derek Kendrick. “Sergeant, Weston has been relieved of his duties here, and he’s been told to leave the building within fifteen minutes. Please have some of your men up here in sixteen minutes to escort him out if he hasn’t left.”

“Yes, ma’am. With pleasure.”

Weston stayed seated at his desk, glowering at her window, until Sergeant Kendrick and four burly cops walked in. Weston literally jumped to his feet, regained his bravado, and sauntered out of the room. He hadn’t bothered to pack up his desk. While Leah was sure there was nothing in his desk but candy and gum wrappers, she’d have Davidson go through it and box up anything of importance and toss the rest into the recycler.

Leah was relieved that Weston hadn’t turned violent. She was also relieved he was out of her life. She’d fought against his being assigned to her squad but had lost that battle. Now he was no longer her problem and she wouldn’t have to deal with the daily complaints from her own squad members and others in the precinct house. She wasn’t one to back down from a fight, but that didn’t mean she enjoyed meaningless confrontations either.

Later in the afternoon, Leah received a call from Dr. Scott. “We’ve run an analysis on the crime scene photographs and video, and we don’t think there’s more than twenty victims despite the amount of blood and other evidence. We do have a tentative identification of one of the victims,” Scotty said.

“Only one, and that’s tentative?” Leah asked, disappointed.

“Yeah. Honestly, we may never identify the others because it looks like the evidence may be cross contaminated. If we could find teeth or fingers, we’d be able to identify more of the victims.”

“Okay. Tell me what you found.”

“As you know, we’ve found lumps of flesh all over the field, most of them tiny. When we vacuumed the field, we found hundreds of thousands of tiny bone fragments. It could take us years to identify them. Then we got lucky, we thought, when I found the partial remains of a thumb, or at least the fleshy section below the thumb.” Scotty paused.

“That’s good, right?” Leah asked. Even one lead could mean a break in the case.

“I couldn’t get a decent print off the lump of flesh, so I ran a quick DNA scan on it. We have a preliminary identity.” Scotty paused again.

“Scotty, will you give me the bottom line here?” Leah asked, getting frustrated.

“I ran the DNA test three times…”

“Drude, Scotty. Who is this person?”

“You’re not going to believe this.”

Leah pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes in an effort to keep her temper in check. “Just tell me.”

“The DNA says the hand belongs to Bishop Solomon Cohane.”

Good Lord. “Bishop Cohane? The Bishop Cohane?” She knew Scotty wasn’t the type to kid about his evidence. But this? She wished there was a way to reset the day so she could ignore the dispatcher’s midnight call.


Cohane was the head of the planet’s Christian church. He was well respected by everyone. He had a worldwide reputation for piety, for many, many good deeds, and a commitment to both his and others’ religions.

“My God, what was he doing there?”

“That’s your job to figure that out. Mine was to identify him.”

What the phuc was the bishop doing in that field at midnight in the middle of a blizzard? The man had to be in his eighties. What or who would have lured him out on such a night? Leah tried to keep an open mind about how the bishop got to the field. Was he killed elsewhere and his body dumped in the field? That would make as much sense as his having been lured to the field only to be killed.

Leah tuned back into what Scotty was saying.

“We’ll keep testing what we’ve found out there.”

“Thanks, Scotty. Don’t let anyone else work on this case but yourself, okay? I don’t want this to hit the media until we’ve put together what happened in that field and why.”

“I agree. My techs are cataloging what we found out there. You and I are the only ones with this information. I’ll call you later when, or if, something else turns up.”

Leah thumbed off her phone, leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes. She should be used to cases with unexpected twists, but there was no way she’d ever expected what was coming at her now.

Chapter Two

Leah sat mulling over what Scotty had told her. She knew she was sitting on a time bomb and had to find a way to get off the bomb before it either derailed her career or killed it altogether. The death of the much-beloved bishop would explode in the media, and demands for the PD to find his killer would escalate every day thereafter. She and her team would be in a fishbowl with everyone watching their every move, second-guessing every decision, and demanding both her removal from the case and her resignation if she didn’t find the killer fast enough for them. After a few minutes, she called Allison Davidson.

“In my office, and bring Peony with you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Allison said.

The two detectives walked into Leah’s office a moment later.

“Scotty has found evidence that Bishop Cohane was murdered at the killing field. Call his people and see if he’s gone missing again. Don’t tell them anything about him being dead. We need to keep that under wraps as long as possible. Understand?” Leah knew as the bishop aged, he’d developed a tendency to get lost if he was on his own. Each time, the police would be called and sent out to find him. Perhaps he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Yes, ma’am,” they said almost in unison.

“Allison, has Weston left the building?” Leah asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Boss, I’d watch your back. He said you’d pay big-time for sending him out to the Eighty-sixth,” Peony said.

“Thanks for the heads-up,” Leah said, not for a moment believing Weston would have the balls to come after her. She’d been threatened before by men far more dangerous than Weston, and she knew he was no more than a bullying ass.

Allison was back at Leah’s door fifteen minutes later.

“I found him,” she said. “Kind of.”

“Alive?” Leah asked hopefully.

“No. Well, he might be. His housekeeper reported him missing this morning. She said the last time she saw him was yesterday morning when he left for his office at Saint Mike’s Cathedral.”

“Who caught the case?” Leah asked.

“O’Donnell at the Seventy-third,” Allison said.

“I’ll ask that the case be assigned to us,” Leah said, not wanting to have another precinct digging around the perimeters of her case.

Leah had a bad feeling about this. She went to stand in front of what she called her murder board. The department wouldn’t spring for a holographic board, citing budget constraints as the reason. She had the next best thing, though—an electronic murder board that could be projected onto a wall. It was how she kept track of her current cases. She opened a new file for this case. As the case progressed, she’d put everything related to it on the board. It was blank for now, but it would soon hold case notes, photos, interviews, and anything else she could think to put there. It helped her keep track of the minutiae every case generated and kept anything from falling through the cracks. Members of her squad had joked about her obsession with the details when she first started using the murder board technology, but when one of those details helped them solve a serial killer case a few years earlier, they stopped teasing her. She couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been fascinated by details.

She took the keyboard from the cradle and typed in when she’d caught the case, her impressions of the crime scene, what Scotty had reported about Bishop Cohane, and what Allison had found about whether the bishop was merely lost or really missing. She tried to think if she could add anything else, but nothing came to mind.

As she sat staring at the limited information she had on the case, she picked up her phone and called the captain’s office.

“Franklin,” the gruff voice said.

“Captain, it’s Samuels. I’d like to brief you on the case we caught this morning.”

“What’s wrong with the old-fashioned way of briefing me? Why can’t you send me your case notes?”

“The case involves Bishop Cohane.”

There was silence on the other end for a moment. “Please tell me that the bishop took another wrong turn on his way home last night.”

“I wish I could.”

“Get up here.”

Before leaving her office, Leah turned off her murder board and engaged both the encrypted password and palm print protections. She also locked her office door, something she rarely did. She took the glide up to the fifth floor and waited until the secretary, Sylvia, told the captain she’d arrived. As she waited for permission to enter the captain’s office, she casually studied Sylvia. The woman had been every captain’s secretary for as long as Leah could remember. She was older now, neatly dressed with her graying hair kept under control in a bun at the back of her head. She looked more like a grandmother every time Leah saw her. Of course, I’m not getting any younger either.

She was jerked out of her thoughts when she heard Sylvia say, “Go right in, Lieutenant.”


Leah had no sooner closed the door than the captain started in. “What’s going on with Cohane?”

Leah didn’t ask how much he knew about her case. She knew he’d always had his ways of finding things out. She wouldn’t be surprised if he knew nearly as much right now as she did.

“We think he’s dead.”

“Think? What does the crime lab say?” the captain asked.

“Dr. Scott is unwilling to state with one hundred percent certainty that Cohane is dead.” Leah wished she had better news.

“Why not?”

“The crime scene was a bloodbath. There were lumps of flesh and tiny bone fragments strewn over the entire field. Dr. Scott started testing a partial thumb in the hopes of identifying one victim. The other blood, lumps of flesh, and bone fragments will take longer to test, although he thinks there aren’t more than twenty victims in total. He’s facing an uphill battle on identification not only because most of the evidence in the field is no larger than a computer chip but because the blood was diluted by the amount of snow that fell between the commission of the murders and when he was able to vacuum it up.”

“Good God. What happened out there?” the captain asked, rubbing his fingertips across his forehead as if wanting to chase away the implications of the victim being the bishop.

“We have no idea yet. My team can’t do much until Dr. Scott figures out a way to identify who or what we’re looking for. He did give me the heads-up when the thumb came up as belonging to Cohane, but he’s unwilling to say unequivocally the victim is Cohane because of the cross contamination of the evidence.”

“Has anyone contacted the bishop’s office?”

“Yeah, he was reported missing this morning by his housekeeper.”

“Who caught it?”

“O’Donnell at the Seventy-third.”

“I’ll have him transfer the case to you. They’re overwhelmed with a series of home invasions and the murder of the occupants. He’ll be glad to get rid of a missing persons case.”


“I’m assuming we have no idea what Cohane was doing there?”

“None.” Leah paused, not sure what to say next.

“Well, phuc,” he said as he fiddled with a small trophy he kept on his desk.

She was sure he’d immediately jumped to what a public relations nightmare this case could turn into, just as she had. It could be a career ender for both of them.

“Okay. Keep this under wraps. I don’t want anything about this case leaking to the media, understand?”

“I’ll put one team on it and have the others working on cases they’re already in the middle of. I’ll send my reports to you ‘Eyes Only.’ That’ll help.”

“Don’t put any of your cowboys on this one.”

“I have Allison Davidson and her partner, Peony Fong, on it. They’re both sane and sensible investigators.” At least I hope they are. Fong is too new to know for sure.

“Who’s Fong?” the captain asked.

“The new kid. She’s a newly minted detective. She’ll replace Weston as Davidson’s partner.”

“You took care of him this morning?” he asked.

Leah thought he sounded as relieved as she was Weston was out of their hair. “Yeah, he’s gone.”

“Did he threaten you?”

Leah smothered a smile. The captain occasionally sounded like her dad when she’d been a kid and someone picked on her.

“Of course.”

“Watch your back, Leah. He’s a nasty piece of crud who’s hated you for years. This may be the blow that throws him over the edge.”

“I know. I’ll be careful.”

“Keep me informed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Leah left the captain’s office and returned to her own. Her computer was dinging softly, indicating she had messages. One was from Scotty. He’d sent the crime scene photos to her.

She brought them up. There wasn’t much to be seen from the photos. Eventually, she’d blow them up to see what she could see about the scene. She accessed her murder board again and stored the crime scene photos there.

A second message was from Davidson, who’d sent Bishop Cohane’s driver’s license to her. Leah stored it on the murder wall as well.

There was a soft knock on her door.


“We’re assuming we need to keep this case to ourselves until further notice. How are we supposed to do that out there in the bullpen?” Peony asked when she and Davidson came in. “The guys are already wanting to know what we’re up to. I’ve caught Thompson trying to look at what’s on my computer screen. I’m pretty sure he heard a part of my conversation with the bishop’s housekeeper.”

Leah waved them to the chairs in front of her desk and said, “Good question. Let me figure out an answer for you.” She gave them what she hoped was a reassuring smile, but by their expressions, she guessed it hadn’t worked.

After Leah dismissed them, she sat at her desk thinking. It wouldn’t do much good to go door to door asking if anyone heard or saw anything. Idiots were shooting guns into the air, there were firecrackers, and the elders were probably already in bed and asleep. What was the bishop doing there, and who were the other victims? What was the connection between an elderly religious man and the other victims? What should the logical next step be? Was there a logical next step?

While she was pondering the escalating questions, she called the captain. When he answered, she said, “I have to move this investigation off-site if there’s to be any hope of containing it.”

“I agree. Do you have any idea where you want to go?”

“Yeah. I have a place in mind, but I need to confirm its availability.”

“Let me know.”

“Yes, sir.”

Leah’s next phone call was to her wife.

“What an unexpected surprise, Lieutenant,” Quinn said when she heard her voice. “I didn’t expect to hear from you until very late tonight.”

“Something unusual has come up. Can we share dinner together tonight?”

“Yet another unexpected pleasure. Where would you like to go?”

“Somewhere secure.”

There was silence on the other end, and Leah knew Quinn was absorbing the request for privacy and putting two and two together. Quinn knew she’d been called out to a homicide in the early hours of the morning and now, just over twelve hours later, Leah was asking for a meeting somewhere private. Quinn had to know the case had become both sensitive and high profile.

“I’ll meet you at seven at the Mexican joint.”

The Mexican joint was a tiny restaurant they had started going to years before when they first began dating. Then, there had been only a tiny dining room and the kitchen. The dining room had only a half dozen tables, and the patrons could hear everything the chef said and every dropped utensil, but the aromas emanating from the tiny kitchen had been divine. Now it had evolved into a grown-up restaurant with dozens of tables and a separate bar, and even had three privacy booths.

“I’ll be there.” Leah allowed herself a smile of anticipation at seeing her wife, a prospect that always made the most gruesome day seem a little less ominous and overwhelming.

Chapter Three

At the restaurant, Leah waited for the maître d’ to return from seating a couple. She glanced at the mirror behind the bar as she removed her hat. Her hair was standing up like she’d stuck a finger in an electrical outlet. She did a quick pat down to try to tame it before seeing Quinn. The pat down had only made matters worse. What she needed, she decided, was a haircut.

“Lootennent, it’s been a long time,” Jorge, the maître d’ of Mama’s Mexican, told her as he returned to his station.

“Too long, Jorge.”

“How many will be eating with you tonight?”

“One other. We’d like a secure booth.”

“Absolutely.” He led the way away from the line that had formed behind Leah and through the restaurant to a row of booths surrounded by privacy panes.

“I’ll send your waiter over immediately,” Jorge said with a little bow.

Leah wasn’t surprised to see Quinn already in the booth when Jorge opened the door for her. Jorge was the soul of discretion, and he took his job very seriously. He obviously hadn’t wanted to let a random listener know Leah’s dinner companion had already arrived. After taking her coat off, she slid into the booth and looked at her wife. When they’d met, she had no idea how old Quinn was, thanks to the way her kind aged. Her blond good looks kept her as youthful looking as the day they’d met. When they had first gotten together, Leah used to sit and watch her, mesmerized by her beauty. She still thought her incredibly handsome, and it made her heart sing to know Quinn loved her.

Quinn kissed her hello. “This must be some serious business if we’re meeting here,” she said.

“It is more than just a little serious, hon.”

“What can you tell me?”

“The case I caught this morning was a bloodbath. On my way over here, Scotty called. He thinks the victims were slaughtered and shredded in an open field during the night.” Leah was having a hard time getting her head around Scotty’s characterization of the victims being shredded—it made the murders more horrific somehow.

“He thinks? Shredded?” Quinn looked as horrified as Leah felt.

“We have some lumps of flesh, and he’s found a ton of bone fragments. Most of them aren’t big enough for immediate positive identity purposes. The blood is so mixed together and diluted by the snow that it will take months, if not longer, to distinguish individuals’ blood.”

“It sounds horrific, and I’m pretty sure you’ve cleaned it up for me.”

“The scene had veteran cops puking in the street.”

“What haven’t you told me?”

Quinn knew her too well. She paused before telling her the rest of the story. She knew she could trust Quinn implicitly. Quinn knew the importance of keeping what she told her to herself. She’d never betrayed her confidences in the years they’d been together. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“This is strictly between you and me. Got it?” Leah said.

“Of course, babe. I know the rules by now.”

She gave Quinn a sanitized version of what they’d found out so far.

“You have a serious problem if you have that many dead people and no way of knowing who they are or why they’re dead. No wonder we’re meeting here.”

There was a discreet tap on the door. Quinn pressed the button to unlock the door to the waiter.

After they ordered, they returned to Leah’s case.

“Is there any way you can walk away from this?” Quinn asked.


“You know people will be gunning for you when this hits the news outlets.”

“We’re going to try to keep it under wraps until we can start identifying victims and coming up with possible motives.”

“What’s your main worry, then?”

“I’m wondering why someone would take the time to chop up twenty people into little bitty pieces. Granted, it was in the wee hours of the morning and there was a blizzard, so it would be less likely there’d be witnesses, but still.”

“Why would he want the victims to remain unidentified?”

“Undoubtedly to keep us from connecting him to them, but we won’t know for certain until we catch the son of a Sirulian she-dog.” Leah didn’t like to speculate on the details of a murder without evidence, even for Quinn. She liked to keep the early days of her investigations as non-specific as possible until the evidence started trickling in, giving her something specific she could speculate on. Right now, the only evidence she had was tiny pieces of bone and flesh and perhaps the bishop. That was way too little to build a case on or to begin speculating about who the perp or perps were.

“Are you thinking it’s gang related, then? One of the big crime families dealing with traitors or some such?”

“Right now, I’m not thinking about who it could be. I doubt it was a gang or a mob since they tend to kill their victims with guns or knives one at a time, not dozens all at once.”

Quinn sat silently while she digested what Leah had told her. “Anyone who could pull this off is seriously deranged and dangerous. Which means, love, that you’re in danger, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Which is why I’ve limited the investigation to myself and two other detectives.” She knew Quinn worried far more than she did about her safety.

“Are they to be trusted?”

“I think so. But who knows in something like this? I’m also taking the investigation out of the precinct house.”

“The fewer people who know what you’re up to, the less the enemy knows.”

Leah smiled. Quinn was learning. “Exactly.”

There was another light knock on the door. The identifier indicated it was their waiter. Leah put her hand on her weapon, suddenly more paranoid than before talking with Quinn. She nodded at Quinn, who tapped the key that unlocked the door.

The waiter, seeing Leah had her hand on her weapon, quickly served their dinner and fled.

“Where are you taking the investigation?”

“You mean physically?”

“Yeah,” Quinn said, smiling. “I know full well nothing else will be on your mind until it’s over.”

“I’d like to take it to your old place. It’s secure. It’s high-tech. It has the tools we’ll need to be able to do research. There’s no obvious connection to me or the team.”

“Perfect choice. But if it ever comes out that you ran the investigation from the condo, the shit will hit the fan.”

“It’s bound to happen someday.”

That was the one thing she and Quinn had been hoping they could stave off for several years. They didn’t want people finding out they were together. While the prohibition against humans marrying aliens had been lifted five years earlier by the legislature, the stigma against it was still firmly in place.

Quinn was a Devarian, a fierce race who had come to Earth uninvited and refused to leave. A war had been fought and Earth had sued for peace after only six months. The humiliation of “defeat” had seeped into the human psyche. There were those who still hadn’t forgiven the Devarians for winning the war, though many people in New America would never admit they’d lost to a race of aliens.

Leah had met Quinn four years earlier during an investigation of a Devarian woman murdered for being with a human man. Initially, Quinn had been looked at as a possible suspect because she’d been seen near the murder scene minutes after the victim had been killed, and because she was Devarian, but Leah had quickly cleared her. She found her intelligent, open-minded, and helpful in her investigation. The more time she’d spent with Quinn, the more she wanted to be with her. Leah had always been attracted to intelligent, tall, blond women. Everything about Quinn drew Leah to her. Quinn had asked her out, and within a few months, they had both declared their love, even though they knew Leah’s career could be ended by the disclosure of their relationship. Few in the cop shop would want to work with her if she were associating with an alien. Things were changing as more and more Devarians were integrated into human society, but the changes were slow in coming.

“I can’t afford to go through the department to find a safe place to work. The captain and chief like to think that all cops, except those at the Eighty-sixth, are clean. We all know it’s not true. That knowledge hasn’t climbed its way up the chain of command yet.”

“I’d rather risk exposure of our relationship than to have you risk your life and / or career at the precinct. Is there anything I can put into the condo for you before you arrive?” Quinn asked.

“Not if you left your electronics behind.”

“Yeah, they’re still there. I keep hoping we’ll be able to live there one day. In the meantime, Cots spends time there.”

Leah hadn’t yet figured out what Cots’s role in Quinn’s life was. Best friend? Valet? Bodyguard? So many possibilities, and when asked, Quinn was somewhat vague with her answers. Leah knew Devarians didn’t like to discuss their personal relationships with humans because they were complex and not always like human families and friends, so she accepted the lack of information as part of having a relationship with a nonhuman.

They ate their dinner in silence, each lost in thought.

“I’m about to suggest something I’m sure you won’t like, but I’d like you to consider it nevertheless,” Quinn told her.

“Uh-oh,” Leah said with a smile. She took a deep breath. “All right, tell me.”

“I’d like Cots to stay with you.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

Cots was also a Devarian. He was six feet seven inches tall, handsome as the day is long, charming when he wanted to be, and could pass for human with ease. Beyond his looks, though, he was trained in about 96,000 ways of killing. He’d been a soldier in a very elite division of the Devarian military before immigrating to the Americas. Quinn, like others of the ruling family on Devaria, had grown up under protection. According to Quinn, Cots had been with her since she was a child, and she trusted him implicitly. When the war ended, many of the Devarians, in a gesture of goodwill, had assumed human names. Cots had, for reasons known only to himself, chosen the name Cotsworthy. Quinn, too, had chosen a new name, since her own was unpronounceable by humans.

“What in the world would I do with him? He’d be in the way.”

“No, he wouldn’t, and you know it. He’d be helpful. He is discreet and wouldn’t betray you or your investigation. He knows the electronics as well as I do and better than you. And it would give me some peace of mind knowing he had your back.”

Leah’s mind was running a mile a minute. What Quinn said made sense, but having to deal with Cots on a daily basis in the middle of a nasty investigation wasn’t her idea of a good time. She and Cots hadn’t much liked each other from the beginning. Evidently, Cots thought Quinn shouldn’t be involved with a human and should certainly never have married one.

When she and Quinn were finished with dinner, they sat a few minutes longer, talking about Quinn’s day. During the previous four years, she’d made a fortune buying and selling real estate. She seemed to have a second sense about upcoming trends. In fact, the restaurant they were sitting in was hers, which was why they were both comfortable talking about Leah’s case there. Quinn knew the extent of the security in this room. If she was comfortable with it, so was Leah.

“You leave first, love. I’ll follow later. Meet you at home?” Quinn asked.

“Okay. I had planned to go back to the precinct, but there’s nothing I can do there. Since my communicator hasn’t buzzed since I’ve been here, there’s nothing new.”

“Good girl. Why don’t we go to the condo first thing in the morning and check it out?”

“Sounds good,” she said, sliding from the booth. “Thanks for dinner. It was delicious as usual.”

“Did you even taste it?”

She smiled at her. She hadn’t actually tasted the food. “Of course.”


She shrugged and Quinn released the lock on the door.

“Take care out there,” she said.

As she walked through the restaurant, she felt, rather than saw, eyes on her. Am I just being paranoid? Besides, how could anyone know where I’d be? Quinn might be right. Maybe Cots would be a nice addition to the team. Another pair of eyes might not be a bad thing.

Leah took a circuitous route home to see if she could spot who was following her. She was sure someone was but couldn’t see anyone specific. There were too damned many cars on the road to get a good sighting. She wasn’t so much worried about who was following her as why. None of the cases she was responsible for would make anyone want to follow her, and the murders in the field were too new for anyone to know about the details. She mentally shrugged since there was nothing she could do about it, filed away the possibility she might have been followed, and continued home to Quinn.

Chapter Four

The next morning, as Leah and Quinn were preparing to leave their apartment, she called Davidson and Fong. She told them to meet up at the food kiosk at Fifth Avenue and Sixty-third Street and call her from that location. She also told them to make sure they weren’t followed.

Leah and Quinn went directly to the condo. Leah loved the space and had wanted them to live in it, but Quinn had asked whether someone might question how she could afford to live in the building, let alone on the top floor, on her cop’s salary. She had been disappointed to have to agree with her, but she was right, there was no way she could afford to buy the space, so Quinn had moved into Leah’s already-cramped apartment when they married. They’d talked about moving to a larger space but never seemed to have time to go looking, even with Quinn being in the real estate business.

When they entered the condo, Leah could sense there was already someone in the space. She tensed and her hand automatically went to her weapon.

“Relax, Lieutenant. Cots is here. I asked him to install some additional equipment and some additional security,” Quinn said, lightly touching Leah’s arm.

“I seem to be jumpy all of a sudden.”

“Little wonder,” Quinn murmured.

Quinn led the way behind a security screen built into a wall in the living room that, when activated, looked as if it was part of the wall. On the other side of the screen was a large room full of electronics. There were multiple screens covering each wall and the room was cooler than the rest of the condo because of all the equipment, making it so the humans working the equipment didn’t sweat to death.

“Good morning, Lieutenant,” Cots said with a ghost of a smile as he rose from behind one of the two desks in the room.

Leah looked at Cots closely. It wasn’t like him to be so convivial around her. She had once asked Quinn if the man ever got any older or if his looks stopped changing when he hit his thirties in human years. Quinn had only laughed at her, and hadn’t given an explanation. Leah hadn’t seen Cots in nearly a year, and he remained unchanged. She wondered if he’d share his secret with her. Probably not. He didn’t share anything about himself. Besides, it was probably a Devarian thing, which left her wondering… Will I look my age at ninety while Quinn still looks thirty-five? It was a disconcerting thought she put quickly from her mind.

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