It starts off slowly, so this isn't even a good example. But you have to start at page one, I guess. Email me in private if you want to read more.
Her name was originally Paige Turner, but I was in jail and couldn't research it. So I loved her as Paige, but I had to change her name, naturally. Feedback appreciated and considered, but like music, I tend to do what the hell I want, criticism be damned. But I'd still like to hear from you about it. And I don't have a name for the damned book yet, either. The last 7-10 chapters are still in my head. I want to type it up, fact-check it, edit it, so I can get used to her new name (if I keep this one) before I finish it.
I'm not sure it can be published as is, because it has her going to a Bad Brains show, ranting about Aspartame, etc. Publishers won't like some of that, and I'm not really inclined to change it. Maybe for a juicy deal, I would, I guess. It'd make a great paperback.
Chapter 1 – A Fishy Tale (part one)
Detective Mason Parker sighed and pushed open the door that opened into the Laguna Niguel Ritz-Carlton suite seven. She was immediately struck by the pungent odor of decaying seafood. “Bleh,” she said, grimacing in mock disgust. The truth is, Mason can and has eaten sandwiches next to mutilated bodies writhing with maggots, where the victim fully lost control of their bowels, before or after death. Simpler smells, like pooled and drying blood, were almost comforting.
Her least favorite dickhead, Office Blankenship, was already slouching toward her. “Blankenshit”, she thought, “shut the fuck up.”
Blankenship was one of those wannabes who would never in a million years graduate to detective status. She held a general disdain for long-term uniformed officers in the abstract, and for Blankenship in the specific.
Uniformed officers, she felt, were fake cops. Street janitors. If you didn’t aspire to make detective, in her mind, you were lazy, ignorant, corrupt.
Uniformed officers didn’t solve crimes. And more often than not, they committed them. Low-paid, uneducated. If they didn’t steal dope money, they were sadists that took joy in human misery and beating suspects.
“Ah, Detective Parker! So good to see you”, Blankenship lied. He was an ugly little man, all bald head and decaying buck teeth. “What we have here is…”
Mason cut him off. It was best to not let him get worked up in the first place. “Has the scene been disturbed?”, she inquired.
“No one has been into the bathroom, the actual site of the altercation.”
She winced, internally, at his misuse of terminology. Buffoons like Blankenship tried to use stilted speech, and often failed spectacularly at it.
“But,” he said, “About ten P.C. have been in here, and about four of us uniformed officers. The victim is, uh, in the state of being nude. Disrobed.”
“Plainclothesmen?”, she asked. She knew what he meant, but felt like subtly chiding him. She was premenstrual, and no one to fuck with.
“Affirmative. Detective Gautier, Detective Charles, Detect…” Mason cut him off again. She was in no mood for repetitive braying from a jackass.
“Thanks, Clement. That’ll be all. I’ll take it from here.”
“Are you sure? I could…”
“Quite sure, Clem. Thanks.”
Duly chastised, born-loser Blankenship had already slunk away, leaving behind only the faint, forgettable aura of a second-rate buffoon. She was called in for the oddball murder scenes, the ones that had officers with twice her years on the force scratching their heads at the onset of the case. This was undoubtedly going to be a doozy.
Now she could relax and work in peace and silence. She set her Rubbermaid bag down and donned her forensics gear: surgical scrubs, hairnet, O.R. mask, and gloves. Few were as meticulous as she.
Humming “Ode to Joy”, she turned the corner that led to the over-sized bathroom. Such opulent surroundings were rarely the setting for murders. Splayed awkwardly across the cold tile floor, under bright lights, was the corpse of an attractive thirty-something year old woman. No wonder they took so long to call her, she thought. Her body was perfect.
She raised her six-megapixel Nikon and began snapping photos before ever entering the bathroom. Considering it, she removed her shoes to enter in her stocking feet. This was one aspect of detective work she could never decide on. Outside shoes could bring in contaminants: dirt, dog shit, etc. But shoe covers could also remove evidence. When working alone, she usually worked barefooted or in pantyhose. She liked working alone.
The victim, a Ms. Maureen Benford, lay on her back with her head toward the Jacuzzi tub, blond ringlets matted, soaking in a puddle of blood that had already congealed to the consistency of thick Karo syrup. No flies in the Ritz, at least, she mused. They would come, she knew. They always did.
Having read a scant dossier on Ms. Benford, now Maureen to her, she knew she was unique, even for this upper-upper class coastal neighborhood. You don’t remain an unmarried woman here, often, except in a few cases: gay, ugly as sin, or extremely eccentric. And Maureen was quite a catch.
He file didn’t contain info on her family, but Mason knew the name. Descendants of a real estate mogul, the Benford children each had a considerable nest egg, each of the four probably sitting on twenty million or so.
Jealousy, money and revenge being the primary motives to murder, in Mason’s mind, net wealth and the bottom line had to be considered. And money was hard to forget in Laguna Niguel, where even this branch of the Ritz-Carlton, she knew, made other Ritz-Carltons look like Holiday Inns.
She loved the view from this hotel. Looking to the north, you saw the endless expanse of the Pacific, but also the cove that the Ritz inhabited. At nine a.m., it was already populated with nannies pushing strollers, gold-diggers in French-cut bikinis, and older men in Speedos and gold chains, trolling for either of the other two.
Opposite the slight inlet, there was a private residence nearly the size of the hotel, and twice as ostentatious, all shining glass and metal. It was probably a forty million dollar house, minimum.
One of Mason’s first assignments as a uniformed officer was to escort a bewildered pair of married servants from that property. The couple, young, good-hearted but naive domestics from the southern U.S., learned the hard way what will happen if you stand up for yourselves against the super-rich.
They had apparently angered their boss. Owner, really, Mason thought. And thus found themselves summarily evicted from the house on a Sunday morning, without warning. It was hard for her to do, back then, because she knew the situation. Still, legally, the property owners could throw anyone out, live-in servants or not. But she didn’t enjoy it, and such interactions discolored her view of the elite.
Returning from her brief daydream, she gingerly padded into the room to gather evidence. She didn’t like to receive the analysis of others beforehand, when working a scene. She didn’t want their preconceived notions to shape her view of events.
She snapped shots of the gorgeous-in-repose female body on the floor, including several close-ups. You never really knew what clues the photos might hold later, when the actual body had been vivisectioned, stuffed and mounted, or cremated. And, she knew, as hot as this chick was, she’d probably be mounted and stuffed several times on the coroner’s table. Corpse-fucking was a privilege afforded that morbid profession. Everyone on the force knew it, but few discussed it.
So, it was best to get all of your evidence on the first pass. Mason usually didn’t leave a scene before she felt she’d solved the case, anyway.
She had graduated top of her class from the academy. This was no small task. She had worked her fingers to the bone, mentally and physically. She had endured hardships and trauma, repeated hazings, and even out-right threats. In the end, she was their superior, and she never quite forgave or forgot the type of cretins who’d impeded her. And she carried her dedication to excellence with her even today.
While taking artful photos of the reclining nude, she noticed what had sent the other detectives running, and was also the source of the scent of dead marine life. A large Maine lobster, blue-gree, lay on its back near the toilet and wastebasket, its claws open, tail extended. It was a big one, and her mouth watered slightly.
Rock lobster, B-52s aside, was for suckers. Maine lobster was the eating kind. Boil for nine to twelve minutes; serve with real butter and ground garlic, with a hint of sea salt and a fine wine.
Mason shuddered and reminded herself to let someone not entirely distasteful take her out to dinner soon. She wanted lobster and to get laid, in that order. Forced to choose, she’d settle for the lobster and an enjoyable conversation.
The future cadaver/necrophilia-subject-to-be mostly attended to, she redirected her focus on the ill-fated decapod, which belonged either in the North Atlantic, or in someone’s stomach. Mason had once wanted to be an oceanographer or marine biologist, until ‘Jaws’ came out when she was six. Thanks, Mr. Spielberg.
It was too bad she never got to utilize her marine biology knowledge, she thought. After snapping abundance of photos of this dinner who got away, she produced an evidence bag, labeled it, and placed the lobster inside. She put the bag on the countertop, with the lobster lying on its back. For fun, she examined it with a biologist’s eye. An adult American lobster, about three pounds or so, female. Examining the swimmerets on the abdomen, she noted brine shrimp eggs and a few dead hatchlings.
This was symbiosis in action. The brine shrimp, sea monkeys to laymen, often spawned there, giving their eggs a fighting chance at survival. Unless, that is, the lobster was harvested. And this one was fresh, no more than two days from the sea, three, max. Otherwise the shrimp would have all hatched by now.
Now donning her detective’s hat, she performed forensics on the lobster. The cephalothorax, or main shell, wasn’t cracked. It was too supple before boiling to crack, but it was bruised, indicating it may have been thrown or dropped. The facial region, eyes, brain, mouth and maxillipeds was covered with ash. Interesting. Mason had no doubt that under the ash was a mass of burns.
She turned her attention to the ashtray on the counter, ignored until now. She counted eight butts, two with lipstick. Using her tweezers, she examined each in turn, after taking a few photos of their initial arrangement. She bagged them together as she examined them.
After she removed five of them, she found a roach buried in the ash. Unsurprising. This was California. Everyone, even a lot of cops, smoked pot. Mason certainly did, before work, after work. Occasionally at lunch. It made her a better detective, she felt, and relieved stress, helping her to sleep at night.
She brought it to her nose and inhaled, trying to place the strain. It smelled like Purple Haze, a potent, smooth-smoking hybrid favored by smokers with money. The hard weed-heads smoked B.C. bud from Vancouver, or whites, rhino and widow. But there was a base note to the scent she didn’t immediately recognize, a faint candy smell reminiscent of opium. On a whim, she left the bathroom and began to search the suite.
Within three minutes, she had her answer. She found most of an eighth of Haze. She knew her weed. In the baggie was a piece of foil. Inside of that were three cubes of rock cocaine. This was a package deal some sellers offered. For $100, you got a sack of high-grade hydro and five stones.
So, considering the lack of a pipe, the pack of Job Crystal papers, the roach, and the smell emanating from it, Mason concluded that the joint was a primo, marijuana laced with crack. And a good primo could burn for nearly twenty minutes, she noted. Neither here nor there, but a good investigator considered everything, significant or not.
She returned to the lavatory, pocketing the herb sack. No need to shame the victim after death. The coroner’s toxicology report would show traces of THC and cocaine anyway, but that wouldn’t be widely known or reported.
Mason refocused on the wounds of the victim. Wound, in this case. Obviously, there was no gunshot involved, or stab wound. Blunt force trauma seemed most likely, but she knew poisoning or overdose could have had the same effect. The victim, she surmised, was most likely struck in the head, assuming murder was the case. Barring that, once possibility remained. Well, two. But a single dichotomy often not considered by many murder investigations. It might not have been a murder at all.
True, a long shot could mean that something akin to poisoning or overdose could have resulted in Lady Maureen falling over and striking her head on the floor. But what if that wasn’t the cause? Yes, you could fall out from smoking crack, or even have a heart attack, but it wasn’t very common in small amounts such as this. Maureen was a “chipper”, an amateur. A light, weekend smoker.
The autopsy would reveal more, but Mason wanted to know, now. She still had time to get herself a lobster for lunch, if she wrapped this up. She went back into the suite and called the front desk. “This is room seven. Do we have lobster on the menu?”
“Yes, ma’am. Shall I send up another one?”
Mason paused. “No, thanks. I’ll come down for lunch. Please have the chef prepare a two-pound lobster, with a Catalina chef’s salad and a glass of Zinfandel.”
Polite to a fault.