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Minute of Angle

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Rookie detective Allison Rane must confront the city’s worst nightmare: a former combat sniper bent on revenge. Battling her superiors over what she knows to be the truth, her unorthodox theory of the case forces her to seek a way into the killer’s mind. Convincing a veteran sergeant to teach her the art of the sniper, she soon finds herself in a fight to the death with a man who can kill from a mile away. The conflict turns personal as the body count rises and the police are helpless to stop it. Is she prepared for a showdown with a trained killer who strikes without warning? Which of them will survive their final confrontation? Detective Rane will quickly discover that in the world of the sniper, the hunter becomes the hunted!

Action / Drama
Haley Donohue
4.8 2 reviews
Age Rating:

Sniper's Log: One - Two in One Day

Be careful what you wish for, because you might be stupid enough to promote and get it. They should carve that on a wall somewhere. It might’ve saved me a lot of aggravation. Case in point: the dead guy lying underneath the sheet in front of me. I’m the one who wanted to be a detective. I’m the one who studied my ass off for the test. I’m the one who got promoted and couldn’t wait until she got to work a homicide case. Now I’m here and something tells me that this is most certainly not what I had in mind. I’m pretty sure the dead guy didn’t have being dead in mind when he got up this morning, either. It looks like both of us got something we probably didn’t want. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

I’ll say this much for this case: it’s a new twist. You don’t need twenty years on the police force to know that not many people get murdered with rifles at long range. You see that crap in the movies, but not in real life. People murder people with handguns. The average distance for a shooting is less than seven yards. A hundred and sixty yards? One shot right through the noggin in broad daylight with a hundred people passing by? That just doesn’t happen in everyday life. Something tells me that’s why they stuck me with this case. Actually, I’m not the lead detective on it. I’m just the schmuck-slash-rookie detective they sent out to the scene. A murder like this? They’ll give the case to some twenty-year man. This one’s going to get a lot of press and they don’t give press cases to detectives who just got sent over from the auto theft desk a month ago. I’m just here for the scut work: examine the crime scene and gather the evidence; maybe talk to a witness or two. There’s not much to gather here, other than the guy with half of his head missing. The poor son of a bitch was sitting on a bench in this little park, probably getting some air during his lunch break. He’s got a suit and tie on, so I’m guessing he works in one of the office buildings around here. Or at least, he did. So how does he rate a long-range shot in the head from a rifle? What did he do to bring that on himself? He must’ve pissed off somebody. Somebody with a serious axe to grind. Whoever did this wanted to make absolutely sure this guy didn’t live to see dinnertime. I’d say they got their wish.

In case you were wondering, I’m Detective Allison Rane. It’s pronounced “Rain,” by the way. No fancy pronunciations for this girl. Yes, I’m using my maiden name again now that my divorce is final and I don’t have to think about my useless son-of-a-bitch ex-husband anymore. Why the salty language? Let’s just say it wasn’t an amicable divorce and I came out of it with the clothes on my back and an old car that just cost me almost two grand to fix – which I couldn’t afford, of course. I didn’t even get any of the furniture and I paid for most of it. A word to the wise, ladies: never go with a cut-rate divorce attorney. You’ll pay for it in the end. Anyway, I’ve been on the force a little over seven years and I’ve been a detective for eleven months. Our department is pretty small and we don’t get a lot of murders, so this one was something of a shock for me. Our department wheels you through every detective desk to get you the experience, with the average tour lasting two or three months. So I went from sorting stolen car reports and looking at stripped hulks to Homicide. Homicide in this city is usually pretty quiet. I’ve got to admit, I never thought I’d see anything like this. It’s been a year of firsts for me.

“Hey, Allison! What do you think was the cause of death?”

Very funny. That’s Mike Langfelder, our resident traffic sadist. A born motor cop who probably wears his riding boots to bed, he’d write his own mother a ticket for not wearing her seatbelt in her wheelchair. He probably generates more revenue for the city than the property taxes do. People are always down at the station bitching about him. We’ve got at least fifty reports of his house being egged over the years and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the neighborhood kids who did it.

“I’m guessing it was the involuntary brain surgery. Mike, are the witnesses sure the shot came from that roof?”

“The ones we talked to? Yeah, most of them. You know, that’s no easy shot. The drop, the wind you get in this park, and the sun would’ve been right in his face. Your guy knew what he was doing.”

Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon out here. This is Arizona. We’ve got a lot of hunters and the shots cover some serious distances. I learned that when I moved out here. Still, we don’t get a lot of hunters going around murdering people. They tend to be pretty stable types. If they’re going to shoot something, they’ll go out and shoot an elk or an antelope. People? They might punch them, but they don’t usually shoot them. Not unless they’re drunk in a bar, anyway.

“You’re a mighty hunter. How hard would it be to make that shot with your deer rifle?”

“Are you kidding? That angle? In this heat? From that distance? And picking the guy out in the crowd and making a head shot? That’s a little out of my league. I might be able to do it on a shooting range, but out here? Not likely. And I wouldn’t use my deer rifle. It’s not accurate enough. I’d want to go with something special. A precision target rifle or a sniper rifle. Not exactly what most people use on deer.”

No, and I’m guessing one of those would be really expensive. Most hunters probably wouldn’t have something like that. You’d need something like what our SRT unit has. Where would you even buy something like that?

“Who’s in the building now?”

“Arredondo and someone I don’t know. They’re heading up to the roof. Some of our uniforms secured it right after it happened, but they didn’t find anything. No shell casings, no nothing. Whatever your boy brought along for the ride, he took it with him when he left.”

And since none of those windows can open, it had to have come from the roof. So what did this guy do to piss off a sharpshooter? You’ve got to be pretty pissed off to head downtown, climb up on a rooftop, and blow some guy away. I think we can check the premeditation box. This was no crime of passion. The guy who did this put some real thought into it.

“And the witnesses all say there was only one shot?”

“That’s the one thing they’re certain of. So what do you think?”

Do you mean besides the fact that this guy was the unluckiest person in the city today?

“I think this guy pissed off the wrong person. Did anyone get an ID on him?”

“Arredondo did. Some stockbroker or something. He had his business cards on him. He works in the Pearson building, just down the block. They sent a unit over there to ask about him. Hell of an introduction to Homicide, huh?”

There’s an understatement if ever I heard one.

“I don’t think it’s going to be my case. Arredondo will take the lead on it. I’m just along for the ride right now.”

He’s our most senior detective, so that figures, right? He’s not bad, but I think he jumps to conclusions a little too quickly. That happens when you get set in your ways. Still, they’re going to want the most experienced people on this one and that leaves me out. That doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve got a feeling this one is going to be a bag of horseshit from start to finish. I can do without any more of that in my life right now.

How did the shooter get up on that roof? I know they’ve got security in these buildings. They don’t let just anyone in there. And the doors to the roof are usually locked. We’ve had our issues with jumpers around here. Suicides are bad for the city’s image, so the buildings are pretty well locked down. And why did he pick that one? Why not one of the other ones? Does he have a connection to that building? If so, it might make it easier to identify him. I know I’m asking a lot of questions that I’ll probably never get to follow up on, but until somebody tells me this isn’t my case anymore, I’ve got an obligation to ask them. I worked hard to make detective. I take it very seriously. And a guy with half his head blown off is about as serious as it gets.

“Hey, Allison! What’ve you got? Have you ruled out suicide?”

And there’s Arredondo. Sometimes I think he’s worked Homicide a little too long. He’s got a warped sense of humor. Most Homicide detectives do.

“It wasn’t a suicide. Not unless he could stretch his arm about a hundred and sixty yards. Are you here to take over?”

“Right now, I’m here to assist. You got the call first. They don’t make case assignments until the preliminary investigation is in. Didn’t I teach you that already?”

Yes, he did. But a murder like this? I don’t think they need a lot of details before they decide this is one seriously unusual case. They’re going to want their best detective on it.

“I haven’t forgotten. I just thought that given how weird this one is, they’d have already given it to you. The responding officers all say the shot came from that roof over there. That can’t be an easy thing to do. Whoever did it knows his way around a rifle; more than your typical hunter, I think. They say the victim was some kind of stockbroker. Young guy. He worked in a building nearby.”

“And a lot of these young executive-types come here for lunch. It’s faster than going to a sit-down place. They get something from the stands and eat it quick so they can get right back to work. Which means this was probably part of this guy’s daily routine. The shooter probably knew the victim would be here at this hour.”

Yes, but picking him out of a crowd from six stories up at a hundred and sixty yards? A lot of the people standing around here are wearing suits and they’re all young white guys. They all look the same as the victim, even close up. So how did our shooter manage to pick him out of a crowd like that?

“So why didn’t he just walk up to him and shove a gun in his gut and pull the trigger? Why go to all the trouble of shooting him at a distance? Why make it so hard on himself?”

“That’s what we need to find out, girl. Start with the victim’s coworkers. Find out as much about him as you can. I’m going to head up to that roof and see if there’s anything there we can use.”

Use? I’m pretty sure the guy’s not up there hiding. He’s long gone by now. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s a guy. It could be a woman. Plenty of women in this state know how to shoot a rifle. We’ll add that to our lengthy list of questions. I’ll say this much: God help whoever was standing next to him when it happened. The victim’s head looks like somebody took a baseball bat to a melon full of blood. If they saw it, then they’re probably scarred for life.

“Hey, Arredondo? Has this ever happened before?”

“Around here? Not that I ever heard about. Out in the desert? Yeah. We’ve had our share of rifle shootings out in the boondocks. But an urban sniper? It’s a new one on me.”

That’s not what I wanted to hear. When a detective with as much experience as he’s got tells you he’s never seen anything like this before, then you know you’re in big trouble. This isn’t the introduction to Homicide I was expecting.

I’m back at the police station. Station number nine, in case you were wondering. Nine of twelve in the city, but we just call it the station. Virgil Leland Keller. That was our victim’s name. Twenty-eight years old, no wife or kids, worked in futures trading – whatever the hell that entails – and was at the company for a little over two years. Everyone spoke highly of him: good worker, good guy, good producer, a tragic loss to the company. That’s pretty much what we expect to hear right after they all find out the guy’s been murdered. We learn the important details only after the initial shock has worn off. That’s when people are willing to tell us the things they can’t bring themselves to say about the victim while he’s still lying on the pavement. I took a look at the guy’s office. No pictures, no posters, nothing of a personal nature at all. They said he routinely put in ten to twelve hours a day, sometimes six days a week. This guy lived for the job. That’s probably why they all thought so highly of him. One thing’s for sure: somebody didn’t think too highly of him. Somebody thought he was worth killing. I just wish I had an idea of who it was. Nobody seemed genuinely distraught when I broke the news to them, but they didn’t do anything that made me think they were glad he was dead, either. The world of high finance: I can do without it. There’s also the fact that I’m too broke to afford to invest in anything. Divorce does that to you; especially when you end up with the short end of the stick.

So what did Arredondo find on that rooftop? Zero. Zip. Nada. Goose egg. No shell casings, no weapon, no cryptic note taunting the police to catch the guy; nothing. Arredondo said he didn’t even find any footprints or any indication of where the guy stood when he fired the shot. It’s like the shooter was a ghost. I don’t even know how he managed to get up there. The door to the roof was locked when our guys got there. They had to get the building superintendent to open it for them. How the hell did the shooter get up there? Did he have the key? The superintendent said there are exactly four keys to that door and they’re all accounted for. Are we looking for a locksmith with a mean streak? Right now, I’m not ruling anything out. I can’t afford to. That’s something they teach you in detective training: when you’ve got nothing to go on; everything’s in play. They also teach you that it’s exactly where you don’t want to find yourself in an investigation. Having no leads at all is often the first step toward your investigation winding up in the cold case file. And contrary to what you see on TV, the vast majority of cold cases never get solved. They just sit in a file that nobody ever reads. Then there’s the fact that the media is all over this one. How could they not be? If we don’t catch a break in this case, they’re going to bend us over and fuck us with a chainsaw. We have to solve this one or we’ll never hear the end of it.

The DA’s Office has a Financial Crimes Investigative Unit, so we took as many records as that firm would give us and sent them over to the bean counters. Our best bet is that one of the victim’s clients lost a shit ton of money and got all pissed off because of it. Some rancher out in the sticks who entrusted his life’s savings to the victim and got screwed decided to get his vengeance; that sort of thing. I just wish I knew how long it’s going to take for them to go through all of them. And that firm didn’t give us everything. They had two lawyers telling me about client confidentiality and how they couldn’t just turn over their records without a court order. We’ll get one. The DA’s people will figure out what they need and draft a subpoena for it. Then the lawyers can fight it out in court. We may not see those records for months. In the meantime, we do it the old-fashioned way: we talk to everybody who knew the victim and see if anything turns up. Sometimes you get lucky right away; most times you don’t. I’m already hoping they give this case to Arredondo and I don’t have to worry about it anymore. Give me a nice, normal murder case: angry wife kills deadbeat husband. I can totally relate to that kind of case.

I’ve typed up my report, which amounts to pretty much nothing. No suspects, no evidence, no eyewitnesses; just a bunch of earwitnesses who claim to have heard a single gunshot. That’s about the only thing anyone can agree on: it was just one shot. The medical examiner will perform the autopsy tomorrow morning and we’ll see if that tells us anything. They might recover the bullet from what’s left of the guy’s head, or at least part of it. Our canvas of the scene revealed nothing: no suspicious people seen, nobody saw anything out of the ordinary. They sure as hell didn’t see a guy with a rifle heading up to the roof, and we watched the security video from the building’s lobby. It was clear. Nothing out of the ordinary. Unless our suspect flew up there by himself, I don’t know how he got up there. Maybe the shooter planned the whole thing well in advance? Stashed the rifle up there days or even weeks ago? It’s possible, but that’s a hell of a lot of premeditation to shoot some stockbroker. That’s more like what you do if you’re crazy enough to shoot the President. But like I said, we can’t rule anything out. Not yet, anyway.

Time to turn in the report to Lieutenant Jutras, our CO of the Detective Unit. Four pages of absolutely nothing. Something tells me he’s not going to like it.

“Sir, this is my report on the shooting at Folger Square. Basically, people heard a shot and they think it came from a roof northeast of the square. No one claimed to have seen the shooter. There was nothing on the surveillance video from the lobby of the building. The patrol officers collected the videos from the other buildings in case the shot came from one of them.”

“And Arredondo said there wasn’t anything on the roof. So right now, we’ve got nothing, nothing, and nothing.”

Pretty much. Except for the dead body, that is.

“Maybe the medical examiner will find something?”

“I saw the pictures of that guy’s head, Allison. I don’t think there’s enough left of it for bullet fragments. How far away was that rooftop?”

“One hundred sixty-six yards, give or take a few inches. I’m thinking either an experienced hunter or ex-military.”

“Or a lucky shot. A word to the wise, Allison: I don’t place a lot of stock in these ‘criminal profiles.’ In my experience, they’re wrong at least as often as they’re right. Is there any reason to think the victim could’ve pissed off somebody enough to kill him?”

“Not so far. He was a workaholic, lived alone, and spent most of his life at the office. No criminal history, no problems at work. His coworkers said if he had a personal life, they didn’t know about it. He was some kind of financial guy, so maybe it was an unhappy client? I don’t know enough about what he did to make that call, though.”

“Fair enough. Could it be a random victim?”

Is he serious? That would be beyond random! That would be the unluckiest guy in the world!

“Shot through the head in broad daylight in the middle of a crowd from long distance, sir? That doesn’t sound very random to me. I’d say whoever did it put a lot of thought into it ahead of time.”

I hope I didn’t just say something that’s going to piss him off. He has to write my rating before my year is over.

“I’m just spit-balling ideas, Allison. I’ve seen my share of crazy shit over the years, but never one like this. Some guy goes off his nut and takes to the rooftops; he doesn’t usually stop at just one. If it were a thrill-killer, I’d expect to see a dozen dead people in that square.”

I really wish he hadn’t said that. That’s a thought I’ve been trying to avoid all day.

“Do you really think we could have a thrill-killer on our hands, sir?”

“I doubt it. It’s like I said: those nut jobs kill people in bunches, not one at a time.”

“So we’ve got some kind of professional sniper on our hands?”

Whoa! He didn’t like hearing that! Why? What did I say?

“Allison, I want you to cool it with that kind of talk. I don’t want to hear anyone around here talking about a sniper. Not unless we get some proof. That’s a word that scares the living shit out of people; even out here. Remember what happened in D.C.?”

Only what I saw on TV. Some psycho and his kid were driving around shooting people from the trunk of a car. It was a national news story. It caused a major panic, too. I see what he means.

“Will do, sir. For now, it’s just a homicide with a single shooting victim.”

“Let’s hope it stays that way. If we’ve got a nut job on our hands, we’ll be hearing from him again soon enough. Look, I know you were first-call on this one, but under the circumstances, I think we need someone with a lot more experience to handle it. It’s not that I don’t think you’re a good detective…”

“You don’t have to explain, sir. I figured you’d give it to Arredondo. He can have it. I prefer the sane cases.”

“Is there such a thing as a sane homicide case?”

Good point. Murder is about as crazy a crime as you can get.

“How about one that has some evidence we can use?”

“There you go. The next one that comes along is all yours. I may have you do some of the follow-up on this one, though. With so little to go on, we’re probably going to end up talking to a lot of people. Who knows? You may be the one who finds the lead that breaks the case?”

I know it sounds crazy coming from a cop, but I don’t care either way. As long as we find the guy who did it, I don’t care who breaks the case. And I’d hate to see one of my first homicide cases end up in the cold case file. It’s a shitty way to begin your detective career.

“As long as the guy doesn’t have his rifle when I find him. Keep me posted, sir. Let me know what I can do to help. In the meantime, I’m done. I’m going home. Have a good one, sir.”

“Allison, let me give you a little advice: dropping a cluster fuck on your lieutenant and then telling him to have a good one is not going to endear you to your superiors.”

No, but if push comes to shove? A low-cut blouse and a tight skirt should do the trick. Believe me, I’ve seen how the guys around here look at me. They looked at me the same way when I was in uniform.

“That’s why you get the big bucks, sir. Goodnight.”

The lieutenant is a good guy. At least, I think he is. He seems to do a lot more than just serve as the Lieutenant of Detectives. He’s like our jack-of-all-trades as far as supervisors go. I think his head and his heart are in the right place. I haven’t been in this unit long enough to be certain, though. I got the impression that some of the detectives weren’t crazy to have me here. Since I’m still on the wheel, I’m just doing my tour in Homicide right now. After this, I’ll get a permanent assignment somewhere. New detectives on the wheel are generally frowned upon. The old guard feels like they have to train you and they all seem to hate that shit. Oh, well. I knew what I was getting into when I took the test. It’s only for a year and then you’re considered a full-fledged detective and you’ll find a home somewhere. Homicide is the last stop on the wheel and frankly, it never really appealed to me. I liked the Robbery desk a lot better. It was plenty busy and we cleared a lot of cases. It was interesting, too. I learned a lot when I was there. I plan to put in for it when I’m done here. You can keep your dead bodies, boys. Give me a bunch of stickup men with knives or guns any day. It’s nowhere near as depressing and a hell of a lot less messy.

I’m home. Hold the snide remarks, thank you very much! Yes, this dumpy little one-bedroom cube is my home. It’s a far cry from the house I lived in when I was married, but that’s gone. We were renting it and we had to get rid of it when we split. I couldn’t afford it anymore, thanks to that son of a bitch I used to call my husband. Why is that, you ask? Well, when we got divorced, he was flat broke and trying to get his footing in the restaurant business. I had a steady job, so guess who got bent over and fucked in the divorce trial? You got it! And what happened after the dust settled and he ended up with practically everything – including most of my paycheck in alimony? He got a job as a chef in some trendy place, rose to fame almost overnight, and now he just opened his own restaurant that gets rave reviews and makes him a fortune! What’s that, you say? Renegotiate the divorce settlement? Fat chance! We were so nasty to each other during the proceedings that the judge made it clear she never wanted to see either of us ever again. On a few occasions, she threatened to have us both locked up for contempt. Trying to revisit the settlement is out of the question. I know. I tried. She threw my motion to renegotiate right in the trash and told me to go fuck myself. Yes, those were her exact words. She was wearing her black robe when she said it, too. I’m lucky I don’t have to pay that worm alimony anymore. This next check is going to be the first one I get to keep since the divorce. I’ve been hanging on by a thread for a couple of years now and no, that’s not an exaggeration. Life isn’t fair. I’m the proof.

Like the décor? It’s all courtesy of the local Goodwill store and it shows. Mister shit-for-brains got all of our furniture, the TV, the stereo, and most of the kitchen utensils. That shitty little microwave over there in that sorry excuse for a kitchen? That’s what I got. That, and the two lawn chairs that are currently serving as my living room chairs. He got just about everything else. If his professional prospects hadn’t turned around, I’d still be writing him alimony checks. That’s right! I had to pay him alimony! Yeah, I got reamed but good! People say the wife always gets the best in a divorce settlement? Bullshit! Those people should take a look at mine! Read our damned settlement! It’s proof positive that you can actually be raped on paper! When I saw the final version of it, I swear I was in a state of shock for about three days! Sometimes I think the shock never really wore off. I’ve spent my share of sleepless nights staring at a ceiling that I couldn’t see because I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the lights. And going to the mailbox had become a ritual that I absolutely dreaded. I was always afraid I was going to find a letter in there from a lawyer telling me I owe even more money; either to him or to my stupid ex. The whole experience has been one giant black hole that sucked every ounce of joy and hope and happiness out of my life. The fact that I’m a police detective just makes it worse. It’s like I’ve become a bad stereotype from a lame cop drama. Don’t laugh. People have actually told me that to my face.

But now I’m home, I’m tired, it’s still scorching hot outside, and I just want to sit down and think about nothing. I’d turn on the TV, but it’ll be nothing but bad news and I don’t need any of that right now. The sun will be down in a little while and then I can open the windows without feeling like I’m in an oven. I’ll probably sit and stare at the desert. I do that a lot. That’s one saving grace about this dump: I’ve got a great view of the desert. It’s not much to look at during the day, but at night it’s beautiful. It’s one of the few things I never tire of looking at.

It’s June now, and that means the summer is in full swing. Out here, that means it’s as hot as Satan’s fiery anus during the day. That means my coming home ritual starts with turning on the air conditioner and peeling off my clothes. Back when I was a street cop, I thought the bulletproof vest was going to kill me in the summer. Now that I’m a detective, I don’t usually wear one. I’m not out confronting dangerous suspects on a regular basis anymore. I have to wear a suit, though. When you live in a desert environment, you learn to buy suits that are wash-and-wear. It’s that or go bankrupt from the dry cleaning bills. We don’t get the humidity that a lot of other places do, but when it’s been in the triple digits all day long and you were walking around a homicide scene, your clothes still stick to you. God, peeling off my underwear feels like it’s taking a layer of skin with it! I’m just going to lay on the bed and wait for the air conditioner to cool the place off before I try to put on any clothes. The blinds are drawn so I don’t have to worry about any perverts watching me. Hell, if they were, I think I’m too tired to do anything about it right now. Enjoy the show, perverts! Feel free to slide any tips under the door!

So what does Allison Rane; smart, sexy, adorable young woman who spends her days serving and protecting the people do with her free time? These days? Not a goddamned thing! That’s right: I have no life! Not anymore. It went up in smoke with my marriage. My divorce soured me on any kind of social life, I don’t have the money to spare on frivolous things like going out to clubs or even paying for my own drink, and I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer go to see movies until they come out on video and I can rent them on Netflix. Even then, I can usually only afford the terrible ones that are either so old or so low-budget that nobody wants to watch them. I watch a lot of them. I have some very strange tastes in movies. Hobbies? None. When I was a kid, I had a pretty cool coin collection, but once you become an adult the coins become way too expensive to afford on a cop’s salary. I sometimes go onto online chat forums and argue with people about ridiculous shit because it’s free, but that’s the extent of my social contacts anymore. I kind of like the anonymity that goes with it. Whoever invented internet chat forums must’ve been reamed in a divorce, too. It’s tailor-made for us. I exercise in the station’s weight room so I don’t belong to a gym, so I can forget about picking up guys there. I probably couldn’t afford the dues, anyway. And after the things I saw when I did my rotation on the Sex Crimes desk, I will never put myself on any of those online dating sites! You don’t want to know some of the things I learned about online predators! No, thank you! I’ll take masturbation over what could happen on one of those things. Besides, I don’t think I have the soul left to get laid. Not right now, anyway. Having your life ripped apart can do that to you. That’s weird when you think about it because the truth is, I’m practically a total nympho. Well, I am when everything is going right for me. These days? Not so much. That’s what a soul-crushing divorce will do to you. I don’t recommend it.

“I need to get a dog!”

Why did I just say that? I don’t know. It just sort of blurted out. But you know what? It’s true. One nice thing about this place: they allow you to have pets. And since I’m working regular hours now, it makes sense. Why not? I need a friend. Who cares if it has four legs? At this stage of the game, I’ll take whatever I can get. There’s an animal shelter a few blocks from here. I’ve thought about going in there a few times. Why not? Let’s see if they’ve got a website. Yes, I managed to keep my computer in the divorce. Probably because it’s pretty old and my stupid ex already had a better one. There it is. Let’s see who they have up for adoption. Once of the reasons I avoid looking at these kinds of sites is because I really like dogs and you never want to pick just one. I always said that if I ever had a ranch, I’d have a whole bunch of them. I don’t think I’m going to have a ranch anytime soon. I feel like the lawyers would just make me give most of it to my ex, anyway. Well, what have we here? A brown pit bull, one year old. He looks cute. He’s a beefy boy. It says he’s friendly. I’ve found most pit bulls are really friendly. They get a bad rap. Kind of like the police these days. Maybe it’s something we can bond over? It says they’re still open. Give them a call and see if he’s still available.

“Hello? Yes, I’m calling about one of your dogs. Number 2608. Is he still up for adoption?”

“Uh, let me check. He’s a pit bull, right?”

He’s asking me? He’s the one who works there!

“That’s what it says.”

“Yeah, let me check. Hang on a minute.”

He sounds like a total eighteen year-old stoner. Probably working at the local animal shelter as part of his probation for narcotics offenses. Hey, I’m cynical. The job does that to you. Sue me.

“Yeah, he’s still here. Do you want him?”

“That depends. Is he healthy? Is there anything I should know about him?”

“Lady, he’s a dog. What more do you need to know?”

And that, dear friends, is your public education system at work! Plus a lifetime of high-grade weed, no doubt.

“I’ll be right down to take a look at him. My name’s Allison Rane.”

“Sweet. We’re open until eight. You know, you’ve got a kickin’ voice. You sound pretty hot. How old are you?”

See what I mean? If he asks me what I’m wearing, he’ll be in for a shock. I’m not wearing a stitch. I don’t think I’ll tell him that, though.

“Twenty-nine going on forty. Does that get me a break on the adoption fee?”

“You’re twenty-nine? You don’t sound that old.”

Oh, just what I want to hear from some stoner moron! What the fuck is it with guys these days? You hit twenty-five and suddenly you’re practically a senior citizen!

“I’m a young twenty-nine. So how much are they going to hit me for?”

“The fee is a hundred bucks, but I think they give you a sweet deal on the pit bulls. They’re hard to adopt out.”

“Good. I don’t want to spend a lot. I’m going to have to buy some stuff for the dog, you know. I’ll see you in a few. Goodbye.”

Actually, I probably won’t have to spend too much. A food and water dish, a leash, and a collar. That’s about it. Chew toys? What for? He can chew on the furniture for all I care. It’s not like this crap is worth anything. As long as he’s got all of his shots, and I’m pretty sure they take care of that stuff. Hey, I said I had no life and I needed a friend, right? Why not? Something tells me this dog is going to be the only guy in my life for a long time. I just hope it works out. I’ve got terrible taste in men, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.

Home again, and with my new friend in tow. Not bad! He’s a good boy, they say he’s housebroken, and I got him for forty bucks. I was a little worried about that part because I thought it meant he was trouble and they were desperate to get rid of him, but he’s really friendly. I like him. He’s a real Velcro dog: he just wants to stick with you all the time. After being in a shelter and waiting to be killed, I can understand it. He didn’t have a name, so I decided to call him Beefy. I told you he’s a beefy boy, and he is. I needed help to lift him into the car. I think he’s going to work out fine. I think this is the first time I’ve smiled at home since I moved in here. That’s a nice change. He’s pretty excitable. He’s been running around since we got back here. Too bad he doesn’t have more room to run around. He would’ve liked our old house. It wasn’t very big, but it was bigger than this place. He’ll settle in. If I can do it, so can he. So can anyone.

“Listen up, big boy. I’m pretty easy to live with. I’ve only got one hard and fast rule: when I’m asleep, don’t wake me up. I lose enough sleep as it is. It’s not as bad as when I was a uniformed cop. I work regular hours these days. One week a month, I’m on-call at night, but I’ve only been called in once so it shouldn’t happen very often. And once I’m done with this Homicide rotation, that’s going to end. I’ll be working five days a week, Monday through Friday, regular hours. Robbery detectives don’t get called in at night. So if you see me snoozing? Leave me alone and we’ll get along just fine. Understood?”

I don’t know if he understands, but he seems happy to be out of that shelter and to have someone to talk to. I think he’s going to do just fine.

“Now, one look at you and I can see you’re a pig. I’m happy to share my food with you, but the operative word here is ‘share.’ You don’t get all of it.” Understood?”

I’m not sure he gets that part, but he’s going to have to figure it out. I’ve been on what they call a starvation diet for a long time now. Not because I want to, but because I didn’t have the money to buy decent food. That pesky divorce again.

“I eat a lot of TV dinners. Something tells me you’re going to be fine with that. And you’ll have your dog food. Don’t worry, I’m not going to eat any of that. That stuff is yours.”

I’ll take him out for a walk a little later. One thing about this town: except for an area downtown that has most of the nightclubs, not much goes on around here after nine o’clock. Everything just kind of dies down. That’s fine with me, since I don’t consider myself a night owl. Sometimes I’ll grab a bite to eat around eight thirty or so, but that’s about it. I’ll go for a walk after that, but I have a pretty quiet life on my own time. I think I get enough excitement on the job. We’ve got enough of a crime rate to keep us busy most days. Throw in the fact that this is Arizona and people are pretty strong-willed, independent types and the police have their work cut out for them. There’s also the fact that pretty much everyone in the state packs a gun. You don’t need a permit to carry one and a lot of people like to carry openly, which is fine under the law. If you think that makes us a regular Wild West psycho town; think again. People tend to mind their P’s and Q’s when they know everyone’s got a gun. You don’t pick a fight with someone when you know you might get shot for your stupidity. It works.

“Speaking of sleeping, you’ve seen the bedroom. You’re entitled to half of the bed. I said half! None of this stretching out lengthwise so I can’t go to sleep on it! If anyone is going to sleep on the couch, it’s you! Got it, pal?”

I think that part got through loud and clear. Yes, I value my sleep. I already told you how I don’t sleep well to begin with, so I can’t afford to lose any more than I already do. When I was in uniform and had to work midnights in the summer, it was sheer hell. Have you ever tried to sleep when the sunlight is pouring through every crack and crevice and it’s a hundred and ten degrees outside and you’re too broke to run the air conditioner? I’m telling you, there were a couple of summers where I think I got a total of three hours’ sleep! I’m glad to be done with that.

“Now, I tend to sack out at around ten or eleven. Earlier when I’m really tired. Yes, I know: I live like an old woman. I’m not old; I’m just pathetic. And you don’t have to worry about me kicking you out because I’ve got a guy in my bedroom. I can’t remember the last time I got laid, if you can believe it. If I shut that door, it’s because I’m self-servicing. I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. Yes, I know! Pathetic! These days, I’m practically a hermit. That’s why I got you. If I don’t get some life in this place, I’m going to fade right into the furniture.”

He seems pretty happy to hear that. Believe me, I didn’t enjoy saying it. It’s bad enough to be pathetic without having to announce it out loud. I really need to do something about that. At the rate I’m going, I’m going to turn into a prude. Believe me, now that I’m back on the market? I really want to find a nice guy and just cut loose. After what I went through? I deserve a good revenge fuck. I’m talking an all-out, over-the-top revenge fuck. The kind of thing you see on a porn site. So far, I’m not making any progress in that department. And that’s with these boobs and this ass! Truly pathetic, huh?

“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together, pal. And now that I’ve got you, people won’t hear me talking to myself and think I’m a nutcase so much. I tend to do that because I don’t have anyone to talk to outside of work, so you’d better get used to it. You’re welcome to chime in whenever you want, but try to keep the barking to a minimum. I don’t want to get any complaints. If someone tries to break in? Feel free to bark. You bark and I’ll shoot them. Fair enough?”

Yeah, I’ll shoot them and then the neighbors will all come out and shoot the living shit out of them. I wasn’t kidding when I said everybody out here has a gun. That goes for this apartment complex. Lots of people in here carry. We’ve definitely got a few modern-day cowboys in here. A few modern-day vaqueros, too. That’s a Mexican cowboy, in case you didn’t know. Same thing, different language. Same pickup trucks, too.

Hang on! The phone’s ringing. Who the hell would be calling me at nine-thirty? It’s not like I have a lot of friends – or any friends. Don’t get me started on that one. Let’s see…it’s the station. Why are they calling me? I’m not on-call this week. Still, that’s the number for our Homicide Unit. What gives? Please don’t let this be some kind of bad news!

“Detective Rane here. What’s up?”

“Allison, it’s Lieutenant Jutras. I need you to make sure you’re in tomorrow at six sharp. It’s all hands on deck time.”

“Roger that, sir. What’s the reason?”

“That shooting you worked on earlier today? The one from the roof? It looks like we’ve got another one. We had a homicide about an hour ago on Calle Los Santos. Another guy with his head blown off from a distance of nearly a hundred yards. Witnesses say it sounded like a rifle shot. I’m thinking it’s not a coincidence.”

Seriously? That’s nowhere near where the first one went down. Calle Los Santos is in a predominantly Hispanic residential neighborhood and it’s not known for a lot of trouble. Another guy got shot in the head from a distance with a rifle? Two in one day? No way is that a coincidence!

“Do you want me to come in now, sir?”

“Negative. Stay put. There’s nothing you can do out here right now. We don’t have any more evidence at this scene than we did at the first one. I’m sending you down to the medical examiner’s office first thing in the morning. You’re to collect the autopsy reports and any physical evidence they recover and bring them back here code three. We’re going to need them.”

“Will do. Sir, is there any chance this really is a coincidence?”

“I’m not ruling it out, but I think it’s a slim chance. It looks like you might’ve been right: we may have a mad sniper on our hands. And if we do, he’s already racked up two kills in less than twenty-four hours. If it’s the same guy, then I’m betting this is just the beginning. We haven’t seen the last of him. I’ll see you when you get in tomorrow. Jutras out.”

I don’t believe it! Two in one day? I’m still trying to wrap my head around one murder like that! So what the hell is going on? Do we have a serial killer running loose? I don’t think so. Serial killers don’t usually kill from a distance. Are the victims connected somehow? Maybe. I don’t know who the second victim is. I’ll find out tomorrow. It’s not the first time we’ve had two murders in one day. We’re close enough to the Mexican border that we’ve got a serious narcotics problem, and there have been times when a drug gang decided to clean house and wipe out the opposition. Then we get eight or ten murders back-to-back. We’ve also got our share of outlaw biker gangs in and around the city. Those guys cause all kinds of trouble on a somewhat regular basis. But this isn’t like that. That shooting this afternoon was no gangland hit. It was too professional. Too calculated. Too much skill involved. This is weird. Really weird. I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be a very interesting day. I also have a feeling that Arredondo won’t be the only detective assigned to this case. If we’ve got some nut job blowing people away at random, then we’ll be lucky if we’ve got enough detectives to handle it. We’re not a small town, but we’re not a major city, either. I just hope this isn’t the start of another national news story. That case in D.C.? I read about that one. That one got solved pretty fast, but not before those shitheads racked up a serious body count and sent all of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia into a total panic. I remember the wall-to-wall news coverage of that case; even out here. It was ugly. Very ugly. I hope we’re not replaying that scenario here. Please God, don’t let that be the case!

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