After a career-ending incident on a covert military operation, Amber Farrell is surprised to find herself back in her home town of Denver and becoming a policewoman. But what happened in the army casts a shadow across her life from which she will never be free.
Raw Deal is the prequel to the Bite Back series. Here is a little taste:
“Black, two sugars. Obligatory donut.”
“Farrell, we might just make a police officer out of you yet.”
I handed Officer Knight his essential nutrients through the open window of the Crown Vic patrol car and walked around to get back in the driver’s side, glancing up and down the empty streets. There wasn’t much traffic to worry about in Denver at 4 a.m.
I didn’t mind the hazing; the fetching and carrying, the monotonous forms, the graveyard watch. If anyone had thought it was tough enough to put me off, they had no idea of what I’d passed through in the army. I was just happy, all things considered, that it had landed the way it had. If this was part of the price of getting past rookie, so be it.
“It’s a cruiser. So cruise,” said Knight, past a mouthful of donut. “And just for future reference, a rookie never adds the term ‘obligatory’ when describing basic foodstuffs to a veteran of these mean streets. Might be construed as sarcasm, fairly or otherwise.”
I managed to stop the eyeballs rolling and pulled out, then turned left on Humboldt. We trailed along the edge of our patrol precinct.
“Quiet,” I murmured to myself. The late traffic had died down after the clubs had closed and it was still too early for the predawn traffic to be moving.
“Savor it,” he said. “That might keep you alert. Better than bored, careless and dead.”
I nodded in time with the emphasis he beat out on the dash. I’d heard that one a few times now, but at least it was sound. I’d heard a lot of sound advice from Officer Knight. A lot.
When the sergeant had handed out the schedule and I saw I was assigned to partner Knight, about the only thing I’d known about him was his nickname was ‘Silent’. As in huge joke. As in ceaseless patter while I drove.
But he didn’t smell and he didn’t hit on me. It’s not that I expect it. At five-ten, I’m too tall for a lot of guys. I run a lot, I practice martial arts and I spent years in the army. I don’t do simpering. Most guys don’t look beyond that, at the auburn hair and green eyes, a product of mixed Celtic and Arapaho blood. Nothing to write home about, but I’d heard that long hours sharing a cruiser made anyone attractive, and I was pleased Knight didn’t have that problem.
I’d take the chatter and I’d buy him donuts and I’d count the days till I could transfer off patrol to somewhere I felt I could contribute more.
“…you’ll get the feeling you just don’t have all the knowledge you need. And you’d be right. You just gotta relax into the job and try to keep doing what you—”
“Car 152, 10-20?”
I grabbed the mike.
“Junction 13th and Humboldt.”
“Possible 187, service road to west of junction 11th and Gerritsen. Officers requesting assistance.”
“Car 152, in two minutes,” I said immediately. Almost no one used the codes anymore, but the dispatcher was old school. 187 meant homicide.
I swung round and let the tires talk to me as I hustled us back to 11th Avenue.
“Two minutes,” said Knight. “Not forty-five seconds.”
The officers were sealing off a service road with yellow tape and calling for homicide and CSI as we pulled up.
Knight pointed me back to the mouth of the alley. “Keep the list,” he said. It was the shortest thing he’d ever said to me. He turned away and started talking to the pair from the other cruiser.
At this time of the morning, there was little for me to do, keeping people away. Anyone passing by wasn’t interested in sightseeing. I fetched a crime scene form from the car with a sigh.
It was a strange feeling, standing there knowing there was a dead person in the road behind me. I’d lived around death for ten years in the army’s most covert special operations battalion. A body was a body. I couldn’t even see it. Most of what I could smell was the result of the contents of the dumpster being spilled into the alley. I wasn’t nauseated. In fact, beyond that sort of sense of disbelief, that the body didn’t belong here, I didn’t feel anything.
I could make out what had happened from the conversation Knight was having. A drunk had hit the dumpster in his car, knocking it over, before taking off. Another guy took a short cut, for that read ‘wanted a piss’, and saw a body in the trash. Called it in. Uniforms sealed it off and we were standing around waiting for the crime scene team and keeping the public out of it.
A car pulled up and a man came out and headed for me. Medium height, heavy blond hair with a curl that needed flicking to keep it off his forehead. Sharp jaw. Worked out too much, with too much emphasis on the shoulders and arms. Kinda heavy on his feet. Known to me.
I raised a hand to stop him anyway and got the badge wave in return. He didn’t even look at me as he signed the form and walked on. Detective Buchanan was too important to look at uniforms.
Right after him, a couple from CSI turned up and signed in too. The intense blond woman I’d seen before, but her lanky, male partner was new to me.
As the city started to wake up, one of the guys spelled me so I could fetch coffees and when I came back, miracles had happened. Buchanan was talking to uniforms. Crap.
He swung around as I approached. “Good of you to join us. I hope it’s not inconvenient for us to talk during your break.”
“Of course not, Detective. Glad you could make the time for us.” I managed to shut myself up. Where the hell had that come from? I hadn’t learned that attitude in the army.
Buchanan’s jaw worked. I’d just pissed him off enough that the others wouldn’t back me up. They didn’t need to create enemies in their jobs, over some smartass rookie who might talk her way out of hers.
Way to go, Farrell.
I offered him my coffee as an apology. He ignored me.
The CSI man came across and muttered something in his ear while the body went out under the tape to their van. All the trash was being systematically bagged.
The detective turned back to us.
“Right. First estimate puts this guy being killed between 10 and 12 last night. There’s no way he was killed here, so he had to have been brought in from somewhere. I need you to do house to house within a block to check if anyone saw something between 10 and the time it was called in. Any questions?”
“There’s a HALO camera across the way,” I said. Denver’s HALO surveillance network was intended to reduce crime. If the camera was on and if it was pointed in this direction, there could be a record of activity.
“If there’s no questions, then I suggest you get on with your task,” Buchanan said and walked away.
“Oh, nice work, Detective Farrell.” Knight jerked his head and we walked back to the mouth of the alley. “I thought you wanted to try for homicide eventually.”
“I do.” I looked to the heavens. “Don’t try and tell me that asshole is responsible for admission.”
“No.” Knight shook his head and sucked air in through his teeth. “No, I wasn’t saying that. He’s not responsible, but he goes to ball games with the guy who is.”
I groaned. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, on top of a graveyard shift patrol and the promise of an long extra stretch of getting told nothing by the people living nearby.
Knight relented. “Word is, your scores are good enough for the SWAT team.”
“Thanks.” That wouldn’t be so bad.
“But if you want my advice, which is free, and you get it anyway…”
I managed a sickly grin. “Hit me.”
“Oh, come on!”
“I have only one more thing to say about it. Something very important.” He waited till he saw he had my attention. “Regular hours.”
“Looks good just now,” I said, and rolled my neck to loosen it up. “What made them say the vic didn’t die here?”
“No blood. None in the dumpster. Not much in the body. No other way round it, he must have bled out somewhere else.” He squinted up at the HALO camera.
I shivered. I knew another way round it.
The army still had its claws in me. They had me looking for things that most people would think weren’t there. The trouble was, that mentality threatened to seep into everything I did. I couldn’t afford to see things that genuinely weren’t there. A body was bled out. It didn’t mean anything on its own and I had a job to do.
The city was stirring. People were up and about.
I checked for my notepad. “I’ll go left.”
“Whose left?” Knight said.
“My left and you’re left standing there.” I walked off.
“Wiseass,” he chuckled.
A time of death of 11 p.m., give or take. Of course I didn’t know it then, but that was when the clock had started ticking.