Today's Reading

(The copy in this email is used by permission, from an uncorrected advanced proof. In quoting from this book for reviews or any other purpose, it is essential that the final printed book be referred to, since the author may make changes on these proofs before the book goes to press. This book will be available in bookstores December 2019.)

Washington, D.C.
April, 2013

Pink snow.

A gentle breeze sent the fragile, two-days-past-prime cherry blossoms cascading to the ground.

Detective Brian Kavanagh ignored the petals falling around him. As he peered past the railing toward the east side of the Tidal Basin, he was focused on one thing. He adjusted his binoculars. A naked body floating face-down in the murky water came into view. What he saw was long dark hair and a petite build. Odds were the body was female, but he knew better than to assume. Another slight adjustment provided a clearer look. He noticed something unusual. The skin on the right shoulder and extending part way down the arm appeared inflamed. There were lots of possible explanations, but Kavanagh knew the only way to find out was to get a close-up look.

At roll call, seven hours earlier, the lieutenant had announced that the weekend triple shooting in Southeast brought the number of homicides up to forty-one. Would this add another to the tally? Murders were running ahead of last year's total, and at this rate, could start creeping back up to the bad years—those years when D.C. had the distinction of not just being the nation's capital—but its homicide capital as well.
Kavanagh didn't believe in numerology any more than he believed in psychics solving crimes, but for some reason, the number forty-two seemed to be stalking him. He had turned forty-two last month and celebrated by watching a couple of spring training games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. For a split-second he thought about his chance coffee-shop encounter with Mariano Rivera. Many times, he'd watched the Yankees' number forty-two take the mound at the top of the ninth. Calm and confidant with nerves of steel, the Sandman would face his opponent and then almost always strike him out. Kavanagh hadn't thought of it before, and even though it might be a stretch, realized he had something in common with the future Hall of Famer. After all, their goal was pretty much the same; close the inning or close the case; do your job and put another one in the win column.

"Hey, Brick."

Kavanagh's red hair was now laced with strands of gray, but the nickname from his youth would probably stick with him to his grave. He turned toward the sound of his partner's voice. Brick had been working with Ron Hayes for a little over a year. They were a good fit even though Ron was ten years younger and this was his first stint in homicide. He was a quick study, eager to learn, but only time would tell if his enthusiasm would last or he would burn out like several of his predecessors.

"They've got the area by the bridge taped off and uniforms posted.

A couple of squirrel chasers are over there, too."

Brick smiled. He didn't always agree with Ron, but when it came to the Park Police, they were of the same mind. Still, the presence of mounted officers might help discourage curious onlookers. "What's going on with the harbor patrol?" Brick asked.

"The dive team is suiting up; they should be here in about twenty, twenty-five minutes." Ron glanced at his watch. "Ten bucks says the media gets here first."
Brick shook his head. Only a sucker would make that bet. "I'm surprised they're not here already." He glanced toward a dock where a fleet of light blue, plastic-shelled paddle boats were moored. In a few hours, tourists and locals would pay a nominal fee to don life jackets and pedal around the Tidal Basin. Before long, this annual rite of spring would lose its appeal when summer temperatures soar and the smell of fish hangs heavy in the humid air. Brick pointed toward the boat dock. "Let's go."

For a moment, Ron hesitated. He lagged a few steps behind his partner. "Please tell me you're not considering hopping into one of those boats."

"You got a better idea?" Brick shouted over his shoulder.

"C'mon, man, it's the Tidal Basin. The body's not going to get washed out to sea. I say wait for the Harbor Patrol."

Brick turned in Ron's direction. "That's because you've never worked with them. Some guys are okay, but a few are known for finding new ways to screw things up."

Ron shook his head. "Guess I should have figured that's not happening on your watch." His dark dreads swayed from side-to-side as he stepped up his pace. He caught up to Brick in front of an eight-foot fence surrounding the area where the boats were stored. A heavy padlock secured the rusted metal gate where a sign listed the operating hours for boat rental. "Looks like were out of luck."

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