At Close Range(3)

By: Laura Griffin


Dani aimed her flashlight inside the vehicle.

No wallet, no cell phone, no computer case. The wallet was likely in his pocket, but no one could touch him until the ME’s van arrived. She skimmed her flashlight over the car’s interior, paying close attention to the floorboards and cup holders.

Jasper returned with the lamp and started setting up.

“Was this other door closed when you got here?” she asked.

“I told you, I didn’t touch anything.”

She looked back at the CSIs pouring quick-dry plaster into an impression on the ground. Roland Delgado glanced up at her.

“Hey, there, Dani Girl.”

“Hey. Who else is here?”

“Another one of your uniforms.” Roland nodded at the trees near the lake where flashlights continued to flicker. “He’s combing the woods with Travis Cullen.”

Travis Cullen. So no Scott tonight. Dani felt a twinge of relief as she stood up.

She leaned into the car and popped open the glove compartment. The insurance card was sitting right on top inside a protective plastic sleeve.

She stepped away from the Accord and turned her back on the victim as she dialed Ric Santos. He answered on the first ring.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“On my way. What do we got?”

“White male, thirty to forty, gunshot wound to the chest and groin, point-blank range.”

“Groin?”

“That’s right.”

“Damn. What else?”

A low grumble had her turning toward the road. Her nerves skittered as a gunmetal-gray Dodge pickup pulled into the clearing and glided to a stop beside the crime-scene van.

“No ID yet,” she told Ric. “But there’s an insurance card inside the vehicle. James Matthew Ayers, 422 Clear Brook Drive.”

“That’s near the university.”

“There’s a hangtag on the mirror. A university parking permit.”

Scott Black slid from his pickup and slammed the door. He reached into the truck bed to unlatch the shiny chrome toolbox. He pulled out his evidence kit and glanced up.

Their gazes locked.

“Dani?” Ric asked.

She turned away. “What’s that?”

“The permit. Is it A or B?”

“B. Faculty parking.”

“Shit.”

“What’s your ETA?”

“Five minutes,” Ric said.

“You’ll probably beat the ME.”

She ended the call and closed her eyes briefly. Raindrops dampened her face and water trickled between her breasts. She was in yoga pants and a tank top, and she wished she’d had time to change into something better suited for detective work because it was going to be a long night.

She took a deep breath and made a mental list. She had to interview the first responder. And she had to get a K-9 team out here. She sent her lieutenant a text coded 911 for urgent.

Roland and the female CSI were still crouched behind the car, and the woman was snapping pictures. She had to be the Delphi Center crime-scene photographer, but Dani had never met her.

Scott stood beside the Accord now, his back to the victim as he skimmed his flashlight over the ground. The firearms expert was tall and broad shouldered, with the super-ripped body of a former Navy SEAL. Instead of his usual tactical pants and combat boots, he wore jeans and a leather jacket tonight, so maybe he’d been out when he’d gotten the call. Dani knew from experience that his jacket had nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with the Sig Sauer he carried concealed at his hip.

Something glinted in the grass, and Scott crouched down to tag it with a numbered marker. Two minutes on the scene and already he’d discovered a piece of evidence. He stood and squared his shoulders, and Dani felt a pang deep inside her as he approached.

He stopped and towered over her, and for a moment they just stared at each other.

“Was the passenger door closed when you got here?” he asked.

“That’s right.”

“Where’s the girl?”

“No sign of her.” Dani nodded at the woods. “One of our officers is searching near the lake with Travis.”

Jasper joined them by the car. “How do you know there’s a girl?”

Scott knelt beside the body. “He didn’t come all the way out here to jerk off.” Scott looked at Dani. “You have an ID yet?”