At Close Range(4)

By: Laura Griffin


“Nothing confirmed.”

He watched her for a moment with those cool blue eyes. His gaze shifted to the woods. “You need a K-9 team.”

She bristled. “I know.”

He strode over to his truck and opened the toolbox again. He took out a metal detector, which would help him locate shell casings or bullets, and maybe even the second victim if she was wearing jewelry or a belt.

Then again, the killer might have taken her somewhere else. Dani glanced back at the road and got a queasy feeling in her stomach. Where was she?

She turned her attention to the lake, visible just beyond the trees. It was a scenic spot, usually—a tranquil little oasis for couples. But not tonight.

She glanced at Scott again, and he was watching her closely—so closely it made her wonder what he was thinking.

“You coming?” he asked.

She nodded at the body. “I’ll stay with him until the ME shows.”

Scott walked off, and Dani let her gaze follow him until he disappeared into the woods.

The medical examiner’s van rolled up, followed closely by Ric, and Dani’s stomach tightened as she thought of everything she didn’t like about this case. And it wasn’t even an hour old yet.

Ric walked over, his expression grim as he took in the scene. “The media has it.”

“That didn’t take long.”

“It was all over the scanner,” he told her. “I give us ten minutes, tops, before they roll in here with their cameras. We need to barricade the road.”

“Daniele.”

She turned toward the sound of Scott’s deep voice calling her from the woods. He was a tall silhouette at the edge of the trees, and from his tone Dani knew it was bad.

“What is it?” she yelled back.

“I found her.”





CHAPTER 2




Dani was up before dawn, guzzling coffee. By eleven thirty she’d made it through two autopsies without incident, but her nerves were frayed as she whipped into the parking lot behind the police station.

Ric was leaving the station and crossed the lot toward her as she got out.

“Glad I caught you,” he said.

“Where were you? I thought you wanted to observe.” She slammed the door and looked him over.

Both of them had worked late, but Ric looked like he’d caught even less sleep than she had. As in, none at all.

He raked his hand through his disheveled hair. “I was at the hospital.”

“What happened? Is Mia okay?”

“False alarm again.”

“Is she all right?”

“She’s fine. The baby’s fine. Far as they can tell, anyway.” He didn’t sound convinced.

Dani was friends with Mia and had known about the pregnancy even before Ric. Mia had had a rough time of it, with severe nausea that continued into the third trimester. She’d had trouble gaining weight, and the doctors had been worried, but supposedly everything was okay now.

“Sorry you were solo this morning.” Ric rested his hands on his hips. “How were the autopsies?”

Horrible. Sickening. Dani wished she could scrub down her brain and get rid of the images. “Fine.”

“Listen, I just talked to Reynolds and asked him to make you the lead on this. He thinks you’re ready.”

She stared at him. “You’re joking.”

“No.”

“Ric.” Her stomach knotted. “I’ve worked a grand total of four homicides. You were in charge, and those were open-and-shut cases. This thing’s a nightmare.”

He watched her with those brown-black eyes that were usually so alert and observant. But right now Ric looked tired. Not just tired—anxious—and she wasn’t used to seeing him this way.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “but you are ready, Dani.”

Yeah, right. She wasn’t ready at all, but that had nothing to do with it. Ric wasn’t ready. His wife was due to give birth any day now, and there was no way he could focus on that plus a case of this magnitude.

But making her the lead? She didn’t have the experience, not by a long shot. What if she screwed it up? And inexperience was only one of her problems. This case was complicated. And political, given the university connection. And then there was the problem of Scott.