HARDY - Chapter One: Rita

A scream rippled through the cold room. “Please,” the girl in the chairpleaded. She attempted to stand and yelped as her skinned wrists brushed therope binding them back. “Why are you doing this to me?” She cried.

   In a moment’s time, theblindfold was torn off the girl’s face. She panted, observing the room foranything familiar, but got nothing. Where wasshe again? She knew it was cold, but that could have just been the metal chairshe sat in. The room was sinisterly dark, too, like the man.

   The man behind her began towalk. He paced in a circle around the girl for a little while, being completelysilent. As quick as this had all been, he placed a gun to her head and tookpride in watching her screech and squirm before pulling the trigger.


Alleywayoff W. Pipeline and Harrison Lane

January7, 3:48 p.m.

“C.O.D. is shot to the head. It’s almost too difficult to get astraight identification for her because of the wound and the burns all over her,but another investigator told me that the victim’s Margaret Valor, twenty-nine,from Bedford, not too far away. She’s been missing for a week.” Tamara, amedical examiner, slipped the plastic cover over the dead woman’s body. “Nosolid evidence yet so far. There wasn’t rape, and there’s no saliva orexcrements at this scene, just on the victim. She was dumped here. Time ofdeath is about thirty-three hours ago. I’m surprised she’s hasn’t been foundyet. It’s a damn open city and a damnopen alleyway,” Tamara walked offmumbling angrily.

   Halle Hardy nodded once, staringat the blood stain surrounding Margaret’s head like a halo. This was the firstcase since her accident Christmas Eve, and it just happened to be a headshot-Lucky her.

   Margaret had the same look inher eyes that every victim had. It was glossy, somewhat fogged. Blood had dribbledinto one of her eyes, somewhat disgusting Halle. Yeah, she saw dead bodies allthe time, but she could never be used to them- especially when they just staredup at you. Other than that, the rest of her face was a little… battered away.Chunks of skin and meat stuck to a nearby dumpster. Somewhat disgusting onceagain… Maybe Halle wasn’t ready forbeing detective again.

   Halle bit her lip, kneltbeside Margaret, and took out a pair of tweezers, plucking a hair fromMargaret’s fingernails. “Hey, vic’s got an unidentified hair under her nail.Girl fought back, I’d guess,” She announced. Halle let the strand of hair fallinto a small evidence bag and handed it off to another medical examiner. Hallewas about to stand up when a shadow blanketed her. “Ed?”

   Her partner held out his handand pulled Halle up. He was much taller, at least a foot, but she had neverminded looking up at him. The man was adorable. His hair flipped out in browncurls and his eyes sparkled olive. Ed exposed his lustrous smile at her. “Hal, you’reso fashionably early- always, always. It’s a little offensive. You’re making mefeel horrible, I can say.” He smirked, looking down at Margaret. “Is that RitaValor?”

   Halle’s face furrowed. “Youknow her?”

   “No, but she was all over thenews. She got kidnapped on the first. Her friends made a public statementasking for her to be brought back. We’ll talk to them first. Have you lostcontact with the world when you were on leave?”

   Halle looked at her feet. Shestood, replying, “Have you become even more of an ass?”

   Ed chuckled, taking out anewspaper from his suit jacket and reading. “Her friends are Shiva Sarek Shadanand Linda Fenmore. They shouldn’t have been contacted yet, so we should do thatwhen we get to Shadan’s place.” He sighed softly, glancing at Halle again.“Hal, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be impeding on the investigation, or on yourmental health, I just want to know that you’re finally okay.”

   Halle shot an irritated glareat him and grumbled, “I’m fine, okay? I am fine.I took my break, and now, I’m fine.” She pulled at the hem of her shirtabsentmindedly. “Are we taking your car?”

   “I thought you’d never ask!”Ed went all doe-eyed and sprinted to his dark Impala. From inside the car,Halle saw him tap the passenger seat. “I set up my new radio while you were onleave! It’s too damn cool!”

   Halle rolled her eyes, walkingup to the door and getting inside. “Jesus Christ!” She exclaimed, crossing herarms and shivering. “Do you ever turn the heat on in here?!”

   Ed shrugged. “I’m a man. Ican’t feel temperatures.” He snorted at his own lame joke and leaned forward toadd heat. “How was staying at home forever?”

   Halle rolled her eyes. “I didn’tstay home forever.” A sigh of content rolled through her as the heat made itssoft sound. Ed began driving. He retorted, “I disagree.”

   “I was home for two weeks,Edwin,” She drawled. After a small look of contempt shined on Ed’s face, givingHalle complete bliss, she added, “And anyways, I was sick for one of those andpissed off the other.”

   Ed nodded, turning a corner.“Enlighten me.”

   “I got this stomach virus. Nowthat’s screwed up if I’ve ever heardof it- half of my vacation- I got sick. That was the first week, so it didn’tleave me too much room to be jumping in joy as I got out of the sickness- andhey, I got no calls. My parents are in Florida, the bastards, and you have toomuch to deal with to take a slice of your life out and… I don’t know-”

   “Bring you soup? Would thathave made you happy? I work, Hal. I can’t consistently take care of you.”

   Halle burst out in laughter.“I save your ass all the time!” She looked out of the window. “But it doesn’tmatter, Ed. I’m fine now, like I said.” She smiled to herself and closed hereyes. “I got over it. It’s not a big deal. Lots of cops have to shoot kids- andhe wasn’t even a kid. I tried to save him-”

   Ed stopped the car in front ofa fancy apartment complex. “Don’t talk about it, Hal. I know you don’t want to.Everything's okay, Hal, I promise, but don’t pretend like you are over it. Youaren’t. You’re just lying to yourself, hon, and to me.” He brushed Halle’s handand tugged it. “C’mon, let’s go meet Shiva Sarek Shadan.”


ShivaSarek Shadans Apartment

January7, 4:02 p.m.

Shiva Sarek Shadan opened the door cautiously. She peered through thesmall crack, frowning. “Are you the press?” the foreign girl rushed. Her dark eyesdarted from Ed’s badge to Halle’s. “Good. These reporters are pissing me off.”The girl let the door swing open and she sat on the black sofa in the middle ofthe living room.

   On the perimeter of the room,boxes lined up. Other than the boxes and the sofa, Shiva was the only thing inthe room. Her wavy blonde hair fluttered as she stood back up. “I forgot- Itook out my lamp earlier. Excuse me.” She exited the room.

   A slow, chill draft crept upto the detectives. Halle pulled on her cardigan, but knew it would be utterlyunhelpful. Why was everywhere so cold? Halle really had become a hermit on hervacation…

   “She’s pretty,” Ed commented,closing the front door. “How is she blonde?”

   “Hair dye, Ed, you ever heardof it?” Halle looked at the written titles on the boxes. “She’s moving to OklahomaCity. So do you maybe think that she’s moving because she knows something aboutRita’s death? Suspect number one?”

   “I’m not a suspect,” Shiva defended,walking back in. “I was at a party with my sisters on Saturday. I was therenine to twelve and it takes me forty or so minutes to get back here, notincluding New Year’s traffic. Rita was taken at twelve-thirty, or, that’s whatthe other officers told me. I don’t know why you’re here.” She chewed at herplump lips, glaring angrily at Halle. “I didn’t see you last time. You’re a newcop?”

   “She was on vacation fromvocation. Please, we just need your statement.”

   The girl stopped rolling hersea shell necklace in her fingers. She shot her cold glare at Ed. “If you wantmy statement, go to your little files and findthem.” She ushered the two out of the door, slamming it behind them.

   “She never even brought outthe lamp…” Ed mumbled. He walked back to his car slowly. “She’s suspicious, butI don’t think she killed Rita- and anyways, she’s a toothpick. I highly doubtshe could pick up a dead body and dump it.”

   Halle agreed, adding, “Movingon such a quick time slot is definitely a sign that she knows what’s going on,though.” Halle pulled the car door open. “If she was at a party with hersisters only a week ago, this move probably wasn’t planned.  We should check her file and speak with hersisters, too.”

   Ed nodded, climbing inside andturning on the heat again. “So who’s next- Linda Fenmore? I remember on thenews: she was absolutely distraught. Maybe it’s a cover-up? Linda and Shivaworked together?”

   Halle chuckled. “Or it’s not aconspiracy theory at all, Ed. After all, no one suspected yet even works atthat auto shop beside the alley. We haven’t even looked into them yet.”

   “They were at a companyChristmas party. They were all accounted for. Have you not read the wholecase?” Ed pursed his lips. “That’s unlike you.” He gripped the back of Halle’sseat and watched as he pulled out of the lot. “We only have two suspects, andthat’s Shiva and Linda.”

   Halle turned red, staring ather pale hands folded in her lap. Every little crease and crack and wrinklejust seemed deeper and deader. “I just arrived this morning when Tamara calledme. I haven’t been to work in two weeks, Ed. Don’t act like I don’t care aboutthis case, though. This is the last thing I need.” Halle was tempted to rollher eyes, but decided against it. A catty thing like that wasn’t going to helpa thing.

   Ed’s knuckles hardened andturned white on the wheel. “It’s not about you. It’s about your work ethic.This messed you up, Halle-”

   “I’m fine!” Halle snapped.“I’m fine, I’m fine- I’m fine! Okay?!” She shook her head. “I am fine.” She wasshaking, but kept her other emotions on a leash. She did not need to break downin Ed’s car. No.

   Ed tongued his cheek. Heturned the knob on the stereo and the almost inaudible saxophone tune becamelouder. He pressed a few buttons and his usual 80’s rock cassette tape playedthrough the speakers. “That’s better,” He said softly. A man screeched on thetape. Ed took an exit to the highway. The partners rode silently for a fewmoments before Ed spurred up a conversation. “Did you hear that Tamara’spregnant? Yep, our first med examiner in-”

   “Fourteen years, Edwin, Iknow. Do you honestly feel so down that you resort to the medical examinerpregnancy talk?” Halle scoffed, rolling her eyes. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.I’m just trying to figure some things out and your incessant pestering doesn’thelp me.” She pushed his shoulder playfully. “It’s my first day back, Ed. Giveme a break.”

   Ed shrugged. He glanced at theglove box. “Would you get the case file out for me, please? I can’t rememberLinda’s address.”

   “Sure,” Halle replied,clicking the glove box open and sliding out the thin manila folder, handing itover to Ed. Their fingers brushed and Halle smirked, liking the feeling.

   Ed glanced down and tookanother exit. He set the file on Halle’s lap and sighed loudly. “I can’t staymad at you.”

   Halle laughed. “Of course youcan’t. Have you seen this preciousface?” She grinned jestingly.

   “Was Rita pretty?” Halle askedafter a minute of silence.

   Ed raised an eyebrow andlooked at Halle. “Why do you ask- you’re jealous?”

   Halle burst out laughing. “Goto hell. I’m not jealous, simply curious. She was terribly bloody when I sawher, and half of her face was sort of on a dumpster. I couldn’t tell.” Sheglanced in the file and searched through. “Her picture is in here, yeah?”

   Ed nodded, pointing to a page.

   There, held to the edge ofRita’s file with a paperclip, was a picture of Margaret Valor. She was smilingbig, holding up a graduation cap. Every tooth was straight, every sparkle inher eyes were genuine. Her chestnut hair blew in the wind, and her eyes staredstraight at Halle. “She has heterochromia.”

   “Speak English.” Ed retorted.“What’s that?”

   “It’s when you have twodifferent eye colors. One is this deep blue color and the other is brown.” Sheclosed the file. “She was pretty. So, have we arrived?” Halle glanced out ofthe window, looking at the building before her.


LindaFenmores Flat

January7, 4:49 p.m.

It was five stories tall, and the blinds of a window ruffled as theydrove up. It was a cold, desolate place.

   “Neat way to hit it out of thepark, Fenmore,” Ed uttered, turning the key and jingling them back into hispocket. There was a thick, fairly large, key ring holding each key. He had akey for everything. Halle didn’t know why, but he did. Maybe it was somethingin his head, but he was secretive sometimes. Hell, what person on Earth wasn’t?

   Halle exited the car andglanced over the hood to Ed. “She’s potential suspect number two?”

   “Yeah, when I saw her on TV,she was way over-acting. We’ll have this case wrapped up soon in a tight littlemurderous bow.” He shot a grin at Halle and approached the buzzer. He pressed anumber. “Hello, Linda Fenmore...?”

   A slight static rumble cameout of the little festering box. It was a blanched yellow color. Halle sworeshe could see a leg of some kind of insect crammed into the third button. “Whoasks?”

   Ed replied, “Edwin Signe-Diaraand Halle Hardy. We’re detectives and we need to speak to you about MargaretValor. Can we come in?”

   “No, that’s not necessary. Iwas going down for a smoke anyhow. I’ll be… down in a few.” Linda Fenmore’s honey-drippedvoice disappeared.

   Ed shrugged. “She’s justpeachy. A smoker, though, oh yes, that’ll be great for my asthma.” He rolledhis eyes, leaning on the wall. Ed flipped his badge wallet back and forthimpatiently. “I forgot my inhaler at home. Damn it!” He chuckled, moving as thedoors opened to reveal Linda Fenmore herself.

   A small, silver Monroepiercing hung over her chapped lips, where a short cigarette sat between. Long,curly black hair ran down her back and shoulders, messily thrown in a half-bun.Her eyes were drooped with tiredness and the rest of the whole upper and lowerareas of her eyes were caked with black makeup. The girl’s tan face glowed asshe lit the end of the cigarette.

   The girl’s thick leather,rhinestone studded clog heels clicked as she stepped out from the threshold.“So, you copper’s here ‘bout Ritz?”

   “Um, we’re actually here aboutMargaret. Margaret Valor… she was found recently-”

   Linda cut off Ed, saying,“Actually, I know ‘bout that. Ritz wasmy best and all.”

   Ed nodded. “We send our condolences,Ms. Linda, but we wanted to ask you some things about Margaret’s death. Now,where were you when Margaret was taken?”

   Linda shrugged. “I was at aparty with Shadan. I got drunk that night, ordered a few of those college cupsthat they sold. I had them.”

   “No need, the other policeofficers should have taken it in as evidence.” He glanced at Halle. Twosuspects down almost immediately. Halle begged to differ.

   “Where were you yesterday andthe day before?” She retorted.

   Linda swallowed. “I was northwest.My mom’s boyfriend may have died because of this car accident. I don’t know away to prove any of that to you, though, ‘cause I drove partway, Mom called andtold my Ted was fine, and then I came back.” She glanced at the two officers likea bug under a microscope.

   Ed pursed his lips. “Well,we-” He stopped, looking down. Ed pulled out his phone, which was ringing. Aloud electric guitar played a solo. He excused himself and walked some pacesaway. Ed muttered on the phone and had a short conversation with someone. Hefinished and said, “Thank you, Linda, that’s all for now.” He grabbed Halle’swrist and pulled her away, unlocking the doors to his car. After they got in,Halle began questioning Ed.

   Ed held up his palm. “Tamarafound something. It’s important. She won’t tell me what until we get there.”

   “The medical examiner’soffice, you mean? I hate that place.”

   “Tell me about it.”

   Ed looked back at the road. Hesighed, pressing his lips together. The man was deep in thought. He thought ofsomewhat that aching feeling in his gut that Tamara’s news would put a stint intheir investigation, and that she’d simply make their job harder. He alsothought of Linda. Why was she so beside herself when she asked for Margaret tobe returned, but completely normal when asked about her friend? She was plainsuspicious. So was Shiva, though, Ed remembered. Blonde and moving to Oklahoma inan instant- what was she hiding? Shedidn’t need to hide anything at all- she was at a party. It was all a dead end.

   “Damn it,” muttered Ed,digging in the console and swallowing a pain reliever he had found there.

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Novel / Novella
writing jessebooth
Shame acts like dirty water flowing through a broken dam. Every living thing is affected and the problems keep stacking.
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Detectives Halle Hardy and Edwin Signe-Diara are introduced to Rita Valor's case, and Halle is consistently nagged psychologically about her mysterious incident on New Year's Eve.
A Word from the Writer
There are more chapters to come, and editing/revision is not done.
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