Back on Murder

Back on Murder by Mark J. Bertrand

Book: Back on Murder by Mark J. Bertrand Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark J. Bertrand
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If it weren’t for the badge around his neck, I’d assume he escaped from lockup. He scratches his head something furious, then smiles behind his brush-like mustache. Even if he did know, he might not share. In my jacket and tie I’m obviously Homicide. We might as well be wearing gang colors. When you work murder, you assume everybody who doesn’t wishes they could. We’re the first string, and murder is the big show. But a certain type of police sees Narcotics in the same light. There’s no accounting for taste.
    For good measure I give Geiger’s mobile number a ring before leaving. By now I could recite the man’s recorded greeting from memory. No point in leaving another message. I’ve done what I can on this one for now.
    En route to my desk I’m intercepted by a sullen twenty-year-old in tactical cargo pants and an hpd polo shirt, who waylays me just outside the elevator. He introduces himself as Edgar Castro from the crime lab, claiming to recognize me from the Morales scene, though I don’t remember him.
    “I’ve been trying to get through to Detective Lorenz,” he says, “but he’s not returning my calls.”
    As much as I sympathize after this morning’s fruitless errand, there’s a tribal imperative to observe. Crime-scene technicians can’t expect to have homicide detectives at their beck and call. The food chain runs in the reverse direction.
    “He’s got his hands full at the moment,” I say.
    He brandishes a shiny-covered report. “So can I leave this with you, then?”
    “You wanna tell me what it is?”
    So he starts explaining, turning the pages as he goes. “It’s actually pretty interesting. The victim in the hallway, the one sticking halfway out the bathroom? Hector Diaz – ?”
    “Little Hector,” I say, remembering what the girl across the street had called him.
    “Originally, we thought he must have been leaning through the door pretty far, because he was hit three times in the side. Right here.” He uses his fingertips to indicate holes above his left kidney and between the ribs. “But I had a hard time making sense of that. I mean, if somebody’s taking a shot at you, and you’re returning fire, do you turn your flank toward them like that? For a right-hander like him, that’s not the best use of cover.”
    I wonder if Castro’s ever been in a firefight, or for that matter any kind of fight. Making best use of cover, that’s a lesson they don’t teach on the streets.
    “So I went back to the scene,” he says, “and took a harder look. The bathroom window is busted open – that’s on the original report – but it looks like it happened a while back. No loose glass on the floor or anything like that. So nobody paid much mind. But when I went outside and started looking through the shrubs, I recovered a 9mm shell casing.”
    “Just the one?”
    “Maybe the shooter collected the rest of his brass.”
    “So you’re saying Little Hector was shot from outside?”
    He nods. “What must have happened is, he was holding them off from the bathroom door, so they sent someone outside to . . . you know, flank his position.” He makes a gun out of his fingers and jams it through an imaginary window. “That would make sense of the angles. He was crouched in the doorway, firing down the hall, when suddenly he starts taking fire from the window.”
    The report includes a three-dimensional computer rendering of the action, one stick figure outside the window with red lines streaming out of his stick pistol, intersecting the torso of another stick figure in the wire-frame doorway.
    “That’s a pretty sophisticated move, don’t you think? For gang-bangers? The guy with the shotgun must have kept Diaz engaged while they sent the other one outside. That’s fire and maneuver, isn’t it? Basic tactics.”
    The cynic in me wants to squash Castro’s enthusiasm, but the kid has a point. In a standoff like this, I’d expect the players to empty their clips and get out of

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