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By Karen E. Olson
Mysterious PressCopyright © 2005 Karen E. Olson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy hand closed over the cold steel in that second between hearing the phone ring and before my eyes opened. I squinted at the clock, the red numbers glowed 3:42, and I pushed the drawer shut, my paranoia possibly the result of too many beers. I knocked the phone off the table, and I could hear "Hello? Hello?" as I fumbled for the receiver on the floor.
"Yeah?" was the only sound that I could force through the fog of sleep.
"Get out of bed, Annie. There's a dead girl in the road in front of University Towers on York Street. She took a dive."
I heard the click, then the dial tone. Asshole, I thought as I pulled myself up on my elbows in an attempt to do what he said, but the room started to spin and I had to stop for a minute. What had I been thinking? I don't drink like that anymore. It's too dangerous, in too many ways.
A dead girl, that's what Marty said. In the road. I'm not the fucking cops, they're not going to tell me anything anyway, but I dragged my sorry butt into the bathroom. I almost screamed when I saw my reflection: my hair hanging in tangled clumps, lipstick smeared across one cheek, mascara smudged under my eyes. I was naked, but that wasn't anything new.
A blast of water was what I needed, even though I'd probably miss something by not leaving the house sooner. But if I didn't shower, get myself sobered up some, I'd miss more.
I grabbed a pair of leggings out of the laundry basket and pulled on a big sweatshirt. It was almost 4:00 A.M., for Christ's sake, and she was dead. No one was going to call the fashion police on me. My hair still hung in a clump, but at least it was clean and the alcohol haze had faded.
I stuffed my notebook in my bag and went out into the dark for the second time that night, the rain startling me as it slammed into my forehead. I cursed Marty for the umpteenth time, the dead girl for being dead at such an ungodly hour. I knew nothing, I was going into it cold, I hated this job.
The blue and red lights flashed against the black backdrop of the narrow street. I double-parked next to a cruiser; they'd be pissed, but what did I care, they weren't leaving before me anyway. The yellow tape stopped just where the cops stood talking to one another, their notebooks getting soaked. I still hadn't taken mine out of my purse.
I saw her before any of them saw me. She was facedown, the rain beating into her bare back, her body slumped over the sidewalk and into the road, her hair a waterfall into the catch basin. Her arms were at her side, her fingers spread, clawing the pavement. The spotlight accentuated her white skin, the pool of dark liquid under her head. Someone had put a raincoat over her bottom half, but a mangled leg peeked out from underneath.
The rain was washing all the evidence away.
I looked up at the balconies over me, my eyes finally resting on the barbed wire fence between the sidewalk and the building.
I caught bits and pieces of conversation around me, but I ignored them, finally seeing the detective I knew would be there.
"Hi, Tom," I said, my voice still husky from the booze.
"What cat dragged you in?" He chuckled.
"Got a call. Thought I'd stop by."
"Didn't think you'd be up to it." He winked, and I could still feel his mouth on mine as he said goodbye. He was gone by the time Marty called; I hadn't heard his pager, but that's not a surprise, considering.
"I'm always up for it, you know that."
"I like your outfit." His Paul Newman-blue eyes caressed my body, and I struggled to bring myself back to the matter at hand.
"She fell or she jumped, who knows?"
"Who is she?"
He shrugged, and I could see him putting on his armor. "Don't know yet. No ID."
"Where'd she fall from?"
He smiled patronizingly and put his hand on my shoulder. "Why don't you go home? I'll call you when we're done here."
Yeah, and then I'd never get any information. We'd been playing this cat-and-mouse game for a year now, and he still didn't get it. This was my job, I had to be a pain in his ass.
"Where'd she fall from?" I asked again.
He sighed. "We don't know. We're checking every apartment."
A row of balconies loomed over us. She had to have been on one of them.
"She bounced off the fence," he said wearily.
I didn't want to think about it. At least she hadn't gotten impaled. I forced myself to get my train of thought going in a different direction. "What time did she take her leap?"
"Coroner's guessing she's been here about an hour."
"Who found her?"
Tom glanced across the sea of officers at a tall woman teetering on high heels. One of New Haven's better-known prostitutes, her name is Patricia, but I think it used to be Peter. "Coming home from a late date?" I guessed.
"If you want to hang out, okay, but you have to let us do our job. Can you do that?" Tom began to walk away from me, the story of my life.
"Does it look like she fell or jumped?" I tried to keep him talking, but he just shook his head and kept moving out of my line of fire. He hadn't done that three hours ago.
"What happened?" I heard the voice behind me. I almost could feel his breath on the back of my neck.
"Who called you?" I demanded.
Dick Whitfield held up his portable scanner. "Heard it on this. Thought I might get a head start."
"This is my beat, now get the fuck out of here." I couldn't blame my attitude on my hangover, I always talked to Dick this way. It was the only way he could hear me, I swear.
"Wow," he muttered as he stared past me at the girl. "What happened?"
Exactly what I wanted to know, and exactly what I wouldn't tell him even if I did.
"Seriously, Dick. Go home, I've got this covered."
"Is that your boyfriend over there?"
I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him a few feet away. "Listen, I'm not in the mood for this right now. Marty called me, I'm here, you can go home."
Dick Whitfield was the newsroom boob, but the editors liked his "enthusiasm." Even Marty. If he got wind of this confrontation, I'd be dog meat. I wished I hadn't had so much to drink, it was making me even more cranky than usual. I took a deep breath and tried to compose myself. "There really isn't anything for you to do. I've got it covered."
A shout from above and my head moved back so fast I saw double for a second and thought I was going to throw up.
Someone was shouting, waving, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tom run into the building. That was it, that was the balcony, now how was I going to get rid of Louis Lane here? But when I looked at him, I saw his eyes were blank.
I glanced back over at Patricia, she was still talking to the cops. It was worth a try. "See that woman over there?"
"She found the body. We need to get some quotes from her, can you do that?"
If he were a dog, his tail would be wagging. It was pathetic. I watched his long, skinny frame lope through the rain, and my wet hair dripped into my eyes.
The night had started out better than this. I had a new dress on; it was black and slinky and sexy. The cold beer slid down my throat as Tom's hand caressed my knee under the table. We both knew what was going to happen; it always did, at least for the past year. Before that, it was just a lot of fantasizing and cold showers.
He shouldn't be seeing me, either. It was a conflict of interest for both of us, since I was the cop reporter. But the attraction was too strong. Not enough for more than what it was, neither of us wanted to get tied down, but we were monogamous in a weird sort of way. I didn't see anyone else, and neither did he. At least I liked to think so.
I wasn't sure why I got drunk, but I suppose it was just the whole scene, piano player banging out great jazz, candles flickering, the light making me look younger than my almost forty years. Sure, it was a great night. Until now. Wouldn't you know I'd have an editor who was an insomniac and kept his scanner on all the time.
I slipped in past the cop at the door; he was too busy interrogating some guy with a dog who wanted to go out. I could've been anyone who got caught in the rain. One elevator was stuck at 14; it seemed like a good place to start, so I took the other one up, the jolt stirring my stomach. When the doors opened, I was met by a patrolman who wouldn't let me out. I stuck my hand across the door so it wouldn't close.
"This is a crime scene, ma'am."
I could've forgiven anything but the "ma'am." It really pissed me off. "Let me out, goddammit. People live here, you know. You can't keep me from my home." I prayed Tom was too far away to hear me. I pushed my way out and moved down the hall, like I really lived there, and when the officer turned around, I made a beeline for the apartment with the open door and sounds of cops inside.
It had been tastefully and inexpensively furnished by IKEA. A plush sofa edged up against a sleek Scandinavian coffee table large enough to seat a family of five; a couple of chairs perched on the corner of a dark blue rug covering the standard beige apartment carpeting. A print of Gauguin's Tahitian women splashed the room with much-needed color. A big-screen TV stretched across one wall; a glass cabinet housed a sound system.
A few candles were scattered on the coffee table, all in various sizes, their wicks charred. A small pile of books lay like dominoes on a small table next to the couch. There were no strewn newspapers, no dirty laundry, no signs of life.
A galley kitchen was off to the right, the countertops gleaming, the stylish stainless steel dish drainer empty.
They were out on the balcony and in the bedroom. I bumped into Tom as he came down the hall with a pair of jeans in a plastic bag.
"How the hell did you get up here?" But he was distracted. He didn't focus on me; his eyes were darting around like mine, taking in the scene, wondering what happened to that girl, how did she end up on the pavement.
"Come on, Tom, give me something and I'll leave. I promise."
He snorted. "Yeah, right. You never leave."
When I thought about it, I realized he was right. He was always the one who was gone in the morning, not me. But we were usually at my place.
"Are those hers?" I asked, pointing to the bag in his hands.
"Any ID up here?"
He sighed, biting his lip, and I wished I could bite it for him. "Yeah."
The wall was up, and I could be any reporter asking the questions. "Come on, can you give me anything?"
"You're not supposed to be here," he said roughly, trying to get past me.
"Any sign of anyone else here?" I was pushing it, and he glared.
"Leave. Now. You know about next of kin notification. Let us do our job." He gave me a little push toward the door.
"Okay, okay. Don't have a coronary. I'm gone."
The cop at the elevator gave me a dirty look but didn't say anything. I thought about shooting him the finger as the doors closed between us, but I was too tired.
There was no sign of Dick Whitfield when I stepped back outside. The rain settled on my sweatshirt, drops rolling down my neck. The coroner was bent over the body; the flash blinded me as someone took pictures. Cops mingled everywhere, curious people formed a circle outside the yellow tape. It's funny how a crime scene will attract people at the oddest hours.
"How'd she die?" I yelled over the tape.
The coroner looked up, his mouth twitching with the unpleasantness of his task.
"I'm with the Herald," I offered.
"Call me tomorrow." He turned back to the body.
I sidled up to another cop, Tim something-or-other. "Anyone else see it?"
He shrugged. "Canvassing now." He turned away, back to his colleagues.
I couldn't see what else I could accomplish. It was too late to get a story into the paper, too early to go to work. I could still get a couple hours of sleep. I wondered if Dick Whitfield ever slept.
My car was cold and had barely heated up when I pulled up in front of my brownstone. Once inside, I stripped down to my birthday suit and crawled back under my comforter. Even though I liked Tom in my bed, it was nice to sprawl out in the middle all by myself.
I think I fell asleep in about a minute.
Excerpted from Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson Copyright © 2005 by Karen E. Olson.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I checked out 4 books in the library....I know shock, I actually went for a free book instead of massively hemmoraging money in the book store. I went armed with my list from goodreads, all the books I wanna read, and they either don't have the titles, or authors, or they were already checked out. I grabbed on the go, from genres, and this is the only book worth mentioning. It was actually pretty good, with the main character being some bitchy type journalist after a big story. I didn't get the title until like 3/4 of the way through, as it was an incidental thing throughout the book. That was the biggest complaint. Other than that, it was an okay book, and I'll definitely read more by this author.
I liked the overall story but I felt that the use of "swear" words was not necessary for the storyline. I found this word usage distracting and limited my enjoyment of the book. This is not a book that I would reread or add to my permanent library nor would I give it as a gift. However, I will probably donate this book to a book drive or Goodwill. Others might be able to read it (and enjoy it more) without the looking at the word usage as an obstacle.
Annie Seymour is a police reporter who lives in a brownstone on Wooster St., in New Haven, within sniffing distance of Sally's and Pepe's pizza parlors. She's awakened by her editor one night (after a rowdy night with her policeman lover and just a tad too much to drink). A young woman (a Yale student)has taken a dive out of a window not far from her brownstone, and Annie gets tapped to write the story. This is a terrific police procedural/cozy. Annie is burdened with a toadying coworker, an uber and really scary attorney mom, who's sleeping with Annie's publisher and who may have secrets about the girl's demise, an old flame turned PI, some truly sleazy developers, the possibility that some Yale students may have quirky ways to make tuition, and conflicts with her policeman lover. And she has to juggle the all-important town-gown relations, in which Yale is the 300-pound gorilla. And to top it off, she has to wrangle the Parade of Cows, a trail-drive of decorated fiberglass cows strung around New Haven. She follows her sources around New Haven, including a sleazy escort service owner, who keeps trying to recruit her. She asks hard questions and a doesn't give up. The ending is a bit facile I saw it coming, but there are enough red herrings and false trails to keep you guessing. I loved Annie she a first-class crank and doesn't take any guff. No Sex-in-the-City stilettoes for her. She's strictly a whatever I can fish out of the laundry hamper girl. She's down to earth, she's lovable (but cranky). I'd like her even if we didn't agree that Sallly's makes the best pizza in New Haven.
New Haven Herald police reporter Anne Seymour covers the story of a murdered Yale student Melissa Peabody, whose body was found near a luxury high-rise condo. She quickly learns the coed was a high priced escort in the evening which explains why a student would be by an exclusive locale. Anne Though her editor wants her to not dig any further and the lead homicide detective Tom refuses to cooperate, Anne keeps searches for clues................. Her perseverance continues and soon a second female Eli is found murdered she too was an escort. Her mom and the university join the chorus of those who want Anne to stop investigating, but the ambitious intrepid journalist continues her quest for the truth....................... SACRED COWS is a fabulous journalist who-done-it with a strong police procedural and an academic setting to anchor the tale. The key to the plot is the heroine who keeps on ticking although everyone except a slimy rival reporter wants her off the case and the slimeball only seems to want her around to hit on her even if she can lean her chin on his bald head (think of his view). The support cast is terrific as they seem genuine rounding out a fine investigative tale that fans will fully enjoy.......................... Harriet Klausner