he spotted her.
She slowly walked around the tree, glancing around for a place to hide. The nearest grave was a monument, as tall as her. She immediately walked over and knelt in front of it, her head low, putting her camera around her neck while twisting off the long lens and pocketing it in her jacket, otherwise it would be pretty obvious what she was doing. She dipped her head and clasped her hands as if she were in deep prayer. Her eyes were open a slit so she could keep an eye on the bastard who’d nearly burned her alive.
He walked ten feet from her and didn’t appear to pay her any attention. She stayed where she was for five long minutes before she got up and looked around.
He was gone.
Still, she took the long way back to her Jeep. She uploaded the photos to the Moreno & Hart secure server and then sent Mac a message that she wanted an ID on the guy if possible, and a clear image of the badge on his belt.
He could be a cop. A cop out shooting at other cops? Was he LAPD? Another department? Or was the badge something else? Maybe so he could impersonate a cop? Or private security? Like Armor?
Scarlet sent the clearest picture of the pick-up man to her brother.
Don’t show this to anyone. Do you know who this is?
It took her about two minutes to make up her mind about what she would do next. She’d originally wanted to hunt down Kyle Richardson, but John was working on that. She’d considered continuing to follow Mercer, but he was a cop—he’d pick up on her tail after a while, especially since she didn’t have a partner where they could swap lead cars.
She drove to Sunland.
Gina Perez had lived in one of those foothill neighborhoods where one house was crap and the next had been totally remodeled. Most were single-story ranch style, alternating between well-maintained yards and chain-link framed dirt patches. But Scarlet remembered the neighborhood from when she was a cop. Most residents were blue collar or retired. They watched their neighbors but kept their distance. Crime was mostly limited to theft; violent crimes were statistically less than the rest of the city. It was a decent place to live if you wanted a house, especially if young or single and on a budget.
Gina’s house was old but neat, a single-story that had been built far back into the lot and appeared smaller than it was. To her right was a tiny bungalow surrounded by mature trees. Neither the house nor the trees had seen much maintenance. To her left was a house almost identical to Gina’s, but in the reverse. Lawn mowed, mini-van in the driveway with the suburban mom stick figure decal on the back window: Dad, Mom, Boy, Girl, Boy, Cat.
Across the street were two decrepit houses with foliage and chain link fences, and the one in the middle, directly across from Gina’s, was small, cute and a too-bright shade of yellow. Planters hung from the porch, which included two rocking chairs. In one of the chairs was an old man and he was watching her.
Terrific. Geriatric neighborhood watch. Better to nip it in the bud now.
She smiled, crossed the street and approached the old man. “Hi, I’m Scarlet Moreno, private investigator.”
“I thought you were one of those reporters trying to get dirt on my cop.”
“You knew Officer Perez?”
He was eying her suspiciously, but he was a talker. She stood at the bottom of his stairs, not wanting to threaten him by crowding him on his small porch. “Of course I knew her. She was my neighbor. She was a good girl. I don’t like the police, as a general rule. Fascists, you know. All power hungry, want to write up tickets right and left, don’t care that you didn’t know your taillight was out. Gina wasn’t like that. She was a good girl. There’s no crime on my street, no crime I tell you, until this.”
She believed him. Scarlet didn’t think teenagers would dare walk down the street, fearing this old man’s evil eye.
“Did anyone come talk to you after Officer Perez was
Scott Hildreth, SD Hildreth
K.L. Middleton, Cassie Alexandra