As things move down the path toward the release of this fourth book in the Seasons Mystery Series, I’m happy to share another excerpt from the story. This is the beginning of Chapter Four, following the shooting downtown Dallas in the midst of protests over the killing of an unarmed young black man by a rookie Dallas patrol officer some weeks earlier. Up to this point, the protests have been primarily non-violent, and this midnight shooting puts the DPD on high alert. You can read Chapter Three here.
The book has gotten some buzz, thanks to the great features by Lone Star Literary, the latest being this Spotlight.
Now for the excerpt:
Wednesday July 1- Night
The incessant chiming of her cell phone woke Sarah from a deep sleep. Stretching one arm out from under the covers, she reached for the nasty intrusion on her nightstand only realizing at the last second that she was reaching with the wrong arm. She rolled off the bed with a painful thud. Finally grasping her phone, she saw McGregor’s number on the screen.
Why the hell was he calling in the middle of the night?
A year ago, she would have asked why the fuck he was he calling, but she was still really trying to clean up her language.
The slip up the other day notwithstanding.
She pressed the accept-call button. “You do realize this is like o-dark-thirty,” she said, “and I’m on day duty.”
McGregor didn’t respond to the sarcasm. “We’ve got a vic down on Commerce.”
“You want me to go downtown in the middle of a goddamn protest?”
McGregor’s response was delivered in a low even tone that Sarah recognized meant ‘cut the bullshit and do your job.’
She sighed. “Okay. I’ll get dressed and get there. Angel on her way??”
“She hasn’t answered her phone. Burt will meet you. ”
A year ago, it would’ve been Chad at the scene with her if Angel wasn’t available, but Chad was now permanently unavailable After he’d been killed in a raid, she’d been awash in grief again. It had been so hard to work around another huge loss in the department, and to her personally. She’d grown to like the cocky young detective a lot, and she missed his ready smile and clever lines. While she had the highest regard for Burt, she’d not worked as closely with him as she had with Chad, and that made a difference. While she’d never been as close to Chad as she had her former partner, John, they’d been on enough cases together that they’d started to know each other’s moves, sometimes almost each other’s thoughts. Since Burt mostly worked burglary/robbery, she’d never had the opportunity to make that same kind of instinctive connection with him.
Still. Burt was a seasoned cop, and she knew she could count on him.
A half-hour later, Sarah parked her Taurus a few blocks over from Commerce, hoping that it was far enough away from the heart of the protestors that it was safe. The car was still new enough that she was super protective. Her old Honda had sported so many dents and scratches, a few more hadn’t mattered, but when it had rolled its last mile and stopped, she’d done the humane thing and retired it.
Skirting potholes the city was slow to fix, she walked toward the area where the most protesters were filling the streets, many of them appearing to just be walking randomly, often changing direction more than once. Others, however, seemed to have a purpose in mind and were marching closer to the barrier in front of the federal building. The metal fencing reminded Sarah of the chain-link used for dog kennels that a neighbor man in Tennessee had for the dogs he raised. The fencing stood about four and a half feet high, and the outraged mob had a similar look in their eyes as the angry dogs that had been confined in those kennels when she was a kid.
Oh geez. This is not good for anybody.
Sarah worked her way through the crowd, heading toward the corner where McGregor said the victim had gone down. It was about a half a block ahead, and there was enough ambient light that she could see Burt standing by a crumpled body. Nearby, officers in uniform wearing gas masks were trying to form a line to keep people back. The scene was close enough to the federal building that lingering clouds of tear gas filled the stagnant air, stinging her eyes and bringing tears. Unfortunately, nothing moved in the heat and humidity that were still high enough to be close to ninety degrees. A breeze, any kind of breeze, would be a relief.
Reaching into her pocket, Sarah pulled out the facemask she’d been using for the past few months because of the COVID pandemic. The flimsy cloth wasn’t as good as having a gas mask, but it was better than having nothing between her and the tear gas.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
The sudden explosion of sounds started a virtual stampede. People screamed. People shoved each other, bolting to get away from the stun grenades and creating a scene of pure chaos. Hundreds of people raced down the street, barely parting to go around the police officers who’d circled the body on the concrete. Sarah pushed on, feeling like a salmon going against the flow of a river as people bumped and jostled her. She stumbled, almost going down, but a hand reached out to steady her. Whose? She didn’t know. But she was thankful for the assist, finally making her way toward Burt.
The stun grenades had been effective, forcing that stream of people down the street, away from the scene. Now only a few people milled around, not far from the man on the concrete who wasn’t moving. Cell phones were held aloft, aimed at the victim and the cops. Nothing happened anymore that wasn’t instantly shared on the Internet.
Realizing this could go from calm to storm in just a few seconds, Sarah took a step toward a young Hispanic teen who was brandishing his phone. “You want to put something out on social media about this?” Sarah motioned to the downed man.
The teen lowered his hand slightly and asked as if he hadn’t quite understood. “What?”
“Just figured if you were going to make a recording. Hoping it would go viral. And you’d get lots of followers on Instagram or YouTube or wherever the hell you plan to post it. Maybe you’d like to tell the truth.”
“What truth? I see cops. I see a man sprawled on the street. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened.”
“Well, Mister ‘It doesn’t take a genius.’ Since you have the situation all figured out, why don’t you come downtown and help us nail the person who was trigger-happy tonight?”
“What?” Confusion washed over the kid’s face. “He been shot? Dead?”
“I can tell you he’s been shot,” Sarah said even though Burt was pulling on her arm, maybe trying to get her to stop from saying anymore. “But can’t tell you if he’s dead. That’s up to the coroner to determine. But like I said. We’d be happy for any assistance in figuring out who attacked this guy. I’m sure you just want to help.”
The young man lowered his phone completely and backed away. “Okay, lady. You made your point. Don’t want no trouble. Didn’t plan on getting involved with no crime when I came down here with my amigos. Just wanted to do a little peaceful marching.”
“That’s what I thought.” Sarah gestured for the teen to move on. “Go on. Go find your buddies.”
The young man didn’t hesitate. He thrust his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and hustled away.
“Maybe not your smartest move,” Burt said, “That could’ve gone badly.”
Sarah nodded. “But maybe it kept another video of somebody suspected of being killed by a police officer off the Internet.” She paused and sighed. “We don’t even know what happened here. And I sure as hell didn’t want to let some punk kid create another sensation by having his recording go viral. Aren’t you sick of all that?” Burt didn’t respond. He really didn’t need to. Every cop in the nation who wasn’t a racist was sick of all that.
That’s all from me for today, folks. I do hope you have a fun St. Patrick’s Weekend ahead, and whatever your party plans might be, Be Safe. Be Happy. If weather permits here, I may be outside playing with flowers.