Sandman(7)

By: Morgan Hannah MacDonald



“Look, maybe he fucked up this time and left some evidence.” She shrugged. “It could happen.”

A sarcastic laugh escaped. “Yeah, right, and monkeys could fly out of my ass.”

Cheryl chuckled. “I’d pay good money to see that.”

He heard a commotion up the beach and turned his head.

“Shit, looks like we’ve got company.” He nodded toward the TV crew heading down the beach.

Cheryl followed his gaze. “Goddamned piranhas,” she grumbled.

Thomas ignored them and headed in the opposite direction toward the witness. After listening to the guy’s story, he asked the surfer to stop by the station sometime that afternoon to make a formal statement. Thomas gave the guy his card and asked him to call if he remembered anything else.

The poor guy was in shock, Thomas could tell. His nightmares were going to be a bitch. He would be a good candidate for post-traumatic stress disorder. As an afterthought, Thomas reached into his wallet and got out the card of a friend whose expertise was PTSD. He hoped he wouldn’t need it, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

The victim was ready for transport by the time he caught up to Cheryl. “Hey, I’m heading out. Give me a heads-up when you’re ready to start the autopsy.”

“Will do. Oh, and be careful.” She crooked her head toward the camera crew blocking the path.

“Damn straight. I don’t want to see my ugly mug on the eleven o’clock news.”

Cheryl laughed. “Better you than me.” She turned back to the gurney and checked the straps.

Thomas trudged up the beach to meet the trail. He hoped to sneak by while the reporter interviewed some poor sucker who’d happened by. No such luck. The petite blonde with big hair intercepted him; her name was something like Misty Waters, or Stormy Weather, some asinine name like that. Thomas couldn’t remember and really didn’t give a shit.

She planted herself right in his path. “Detective, is it true you found another woman’s body in the same condition as the victim found in Huntington Beach?” Her high-pitched voice sounded like she’d been sucking helium.

The microphone thrust in front of Thomas’s face. Where the hell do these people get their information? His jaw clenched. He had a strong urge to shove it down her throat, but thought better of it. He liked walking around as a free man. He gave her his best death stare.

“No comment,” he grumbled in a voice that made the toughest men tremble, then sidestepped her.

She jumped in front of him again. “Do you think it’s the same man who brutalized young Jennifer Hooper?” There was that damn microphone again. This woman could not take a hint.

“What part of ‘No comment’ don’t you understand?” She reminded him of a little dog running around in circles, barking, and jumping up and down. He wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t piddle in the sand while she was at it.

“Was today’s victim a young collegiate like poor Jennifer Hooper? Should college girls be alarmed? Do you think—”

“Look, lady—” Thomas’s hands shot out, grabbed her on either side of her arms, then lifted all ninety-eight pounds of her and set her out of his way. She gasped. Good, he had her attention.

“Sissy,” she interrupted. My God, she had the IQ of a gnat!

“Get out of my way,” he finished through clenched teeth.

The news crew silently backed up. Sissy, the blond-haired Pekinese, simply stared at him.

He stomped up the trail toward the road, steamed about the encounter. He shouldn’t have lost his temper. He would hear about it for sure, but it always amazed him why anyone would choose to be a bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking “broadcast journalist” as they liked to call themselves.

By the time he reached the top, it had started to sprinkle. He noted the Beach Closed signs and Officer James guarding the head of the path.

“James, after they clear out down there, I want you and Cooper to start canvassing the homes along the cliff.”

“Yes, sir.”

***

Driving up Interstate 5, Thomas’ windshield wipers kept time with an old blues tune by Jimi Hendrix. One of the best things about his new car, he thought, was the stereo.

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