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The Candy Shop

By Susan Woods Claridge All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Mystery

CHAPTER 1

It was close to midnight when Special Detective, Rocco Sterling, squealed the tires of his black Hummer, cutting across traffic and whipping into the strip mall parking lot. At the rear of the mall, he leapt from his vehicle and made a beeline for Lieutenant Barkley and Officer Peters who were standing alongside a rusted out dumpster.

“Is it what I think?” Rocco asked, pulling a small flashlight from the pocket of his black, pleated slacks, while stepping atop a milk crate and shining the light into the dumpster.

“Depends on what you’re thinking,” Lieutenant Barkley grunted, adjusting his belt and maneuvering his pants up and over his beer gut. Barkley was in his late fifties and both his physique and enthusiasm for the job had seen better days.

Peering into the dumpster, Rocco grimaced. Not again. It was exactly as he had feared. There lie an attractive African American woman with her throat slit, her left ring finger severed and a single flower pinned to the front of her shirt.

“Third one this month,” Lieutenant Barkley snorted. “So if you’re thinking we’re dealing with one sick, serial killing SOB, then it IS what you’re thinking.”

Rocco shook his head, narrowing his dark brows. “Who found the body?”

“Three kids who said they climbed into the dumpster, looking for donuts,” Barkley explained with a snort, as if the idea was inconceivable.

“I remember doing that. We used to call them Dumpster Donuts,” Office Peters interjected.

“That’s gross,” Barkley groaned.

“They’re still fresh,” Peters defended. “They just didn’t sell during business hours so as soon as they were thrown away we’d climb into the dumpster and retrieve ’em.”

“Yeah, well, you grew up in the ghetto,” Barkley sneered. “Out here in the suburbs we bought our donuts like every other upstanding citizen.”

Peters bit down on his lip. If he hadn’t been the new kid on the force he might have dropped Barkley right then and there.

Climbing down from the crate, Rocco shined the flashlight along the outside of the dumpster and across the pavement. “I want the entire area printed and a DNA analysis on everything you find,” he ordered.

“We’ve done that with every victim and every crime scene,” Lieutenant Barkley objected. “We’ve never been able to find anything other than a trace of Lye used to burn off all of the victim’s fingerprints. That is, except for the finger that’s missing. This killer is clean and careful.”

“Do it again,” Rocco demanded.

“But…”

“Do it again!” Rocco seethed, whirling around to face Lieutenant Barkley. “Are you going to be able to follow my orders or should I get someone else for this case?”

Officer Peters’ eyes widened as they maneuvered their way from Barkley to Rocco and back to Barkley. It was obvious that he had never witnessed Rocco’s rage firsthand, though he had certainly heard the stories. Rocco Sterling had a reputation that superseded all others. He was the best detective in the city; maybe even the country and he had yet to fail at solving a murder case. He was known for becoming so intensely involved in his work that he would occasionally lose touch with reality. “If you want to find a serial killer, you have to think and act like a serial killer,” Rocco gritted, taking a step closer to Barkley and leaning into his face. “You have to live and breathe like a serial killer. You get it?”

“Yeah, I got it.” Narrowing his eyes, Barkley raised his chin in a slight upward nod.

Rocco headed back to his Hummer in long strides. Stopping just before opening the driver’s door, he turned to Peters. “Oh, and I used to eat Dumpster Donuts too,” he said, shooting Barkley a sarcastic grin and then directing his attention back to Peters. “Bear Claws were my favorite. Finding a Bear Claw meant it was going to be a great evening.”

“Right on,” Peters blurted and nodded his head enthusiastically. “I was a Long John man, myself.”

Barkley sneered.

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