“Ivy, where are you?”

She told me.


“Have you called the police?”

“I … yes, I … I can hear the sirens. They’re coming. Oh, McKenzie—”

“I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I deactivated my cell phone and shoved it into my pocket. Nina watched me from across the booth.

“Josh Berglund has been murdered,” I said.

She stared at me for a few beats, then nodded her head as if it were bad news she had been expecting all along.


I was stopped at the entrance to the apartment building by the SPPD uniform who carried the attendance log that noted the names of everyone who visited the crime scene. His name tag said FONTANA. I explained who I was and that Ivy Flynn, one of the victims, had summoned me. He called someone on his handheld radio while his partner, a ten-year veteran tagged MANNING, and I waited. There weren’t many people to keep back, only a few neighbors attracted by the flickering light bars on top of the cop cars and the inevitable yellow crime scene tape. We both knew that would change in a hurry when the TV van pulled up and the driver started adjusting his satellite dish—God knows where he was pointing it. Next came the lights. Followed by a camera. Suddenly a crowd appeared seemingly out of thin air. A stunning woman with honey-colored hair and dressed in a cream suit stepped out of the van and began fiddling with her earpiece and microphone. People waved at her, called her name. She acknowledged her audience, but it was a halfhearted gesture. She reminded me of a ballplayer fighting crowd noise to keep her head in the game.

“Kelly Bressandes,” Manning said. “Best legs on television.”

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The rest of her didn’t look too shabby, either, I had to admit. She was almost pretty enough to get me to start watching TV news again—almost.

I glanced at my watch. Ten twenty-two. No way did Bressandes have enough time to do a live remote for the evening newscast, and somehow I couldn’t see the station breaking in on Leno for anything less than a tornado warning. Which was probably a blessing. Now Bressandes could take the time to do some actual reporting—assuming she was a journalist and not just another pretty face.

Fontana returned and lifted the yellow tape for me to duck under. “You’re okay,” he said.

“Heady praise, indeed,” I said.

“How do you spell your name?” I recited it letter by letter as he wrote it down on the clipboard.

“Hey,” Manning said. “Are you the McKenzie that caught that embezzler a while back, became a millionaire?”

“’Fraid so.”

“Nice,” he said. ‘Very nice. I wish I knew some embezzlers.”

“Next time I meet one, I’ll give you a call.”

“If only,” he said.

“Loo says for me to walk you upstairs,” Fontana said. “He said that you’re not to touch a fucking thing—those are the lieutenant’s words, not mine.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

Fontana led me to the front entrance. Behind us we heard a woman call, “Officer, Officer.”

Bressandes was approaching at a trot, armed with a microphone and covered by a man with a camera. Manning held his hands up like a crossing guard halting traffic. He was smiling brightly, and I knew if Bressandes stuck a microphone in his face and gave him a look—you know the kind I mean—he’d spill his guts on any subject she wanted to chat about.

“You better not leave him alone too long,” I said.

Fontana shook his head more out of amusement than distress. “That Al, he likes the ladies.”

Don’t we all, I thought but didn’t say.

It was a three-story apartment building, and Fontana and I took the wide, carpeted stairs up. We stopped at the second-floor landing. Fontana nudged me forward, but I wouldn’t move. Berglund’s body was slumped against the wall twenty feet down the corridor, and the sight of it froze me in place. The way his body was twisted, I could easily see the bullet hole just below his right eye. The scene activated my gag reflex. I’ve never been one to flinch at the sight of blood, but death—I spun away from it and stared at the steps leading down to the ground floor, yet made no effort to use them. Instead, I just stood there, filling my lungs with air and slowly exhaling until my stomach settled. Fontana watched me suspiciously. I could see the unspoken question on his face: “You used to be a cop?”

“I don’t spend much time looking at dead bodies these days,” I said. “I’ve lost the knack.”

He nodded his understanding, yet in my mind’s eye I could see him skipping down the stairs to Manning, telling him, “The millionaire ex-cop you like so much—what a wuss.”

I took a deep breath, turned again, and moved down the corridor, trying to walk as if there were no place I’d rather be. Fontana kept pace. Two men were examining the body as we approached. I recognized Lieutenant Robert Michael Dunston; the other was an ME I knew only as Danko.

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