Shelby's Secret (Once a Marine, Always a Marine Book 4)

Shelby’s Secret

By: Kori David

This is an original publication of CoKeA, LLC.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. CoKeA, LLC or the author, does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.

Copyright © 2015 by Kori David

ISBN 978-0-9960623-3-6

All rights reserved.

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Contact
[email protected]
for permission.

Printed in the United States of America.

www.KoriDavid.com

Dedication

I want to give many thanks to Lt. Lynn Koliboski of the Mesa Police Department for all the help in understanding police procedure when it comes to crime scenes. And for all the times that I just snuck into your office for chats about guns, bad guys, and officer mindset. You’ve made this book so much better because you care.

To Sgt. Kevin Baggs, of the Mesa Police Homicide Division, thank you so much for making the details of my crime scenes so much more interesting and gory. And for the stories and the steps involved in solving a murder, you will never know how much your time meant to me. Thank you.

There is also a certain, shy, Officer in Internal Affairs of the Mesa Police Department that was gracious enough to let me grill him about what happens when the public makes a complaint or when an officer gets into trouble. He didn’t want to be named, but you know who you are and I appreciated all of your wisdom.

And to all my friends in Communications, this book is for you. For every day that you show up to make sure the citizens and our officers are safe, I thank you. The general public will never know how stressful and yet rewarding your job is. Being the first, first responder isn’t for everyone and you all do it with grace and style. You’re all amazing!

Chapter 1

Sergeant Mike Hanson was about dead. More zombie really . . . the walking-barely-talking dead when he got the call.

Another homicide.
 

The scene was bright, lit by the light bars on the patrol cars. A couple of early-bird reporters trying to make a name for themselves were off to the side, attempting to get a shot of anything interesting and occasionally yelling out a question to the officers passing by. He parked, and Patrol Sergeant Dave Martineau approached his F-250 before he had the door open.
 

“Hey, Mike. Sorry to get you up again or did you even sleep?”

“Two glorious hours. Whatcha got?”

Dave shook his head. “Not a normal one, that’s for damn sure.”

They fell in step as Mike headed toward the large warehouse already cordoned off with yellow crime tape. An officer stood on the side of the building, one hand bracing against the brick wall and the other on his hip. Hard to tell in the dark, but it looked like he was heaving his guts up.

“New guy?” Mike asked, pointing toward the officer.

Dave chuckled and nodded. “It’s his second week out of academy, and he wanted to see a dead body to prove he could hang with the big boys.”

Mike shared a tired laugh. Every time an officer-in-training went to the scene of a homicide one of two things happened—either they ran and puked, or they stayed to gut it out and turned a pearly shade of white. They didn’t always pass out, but a good portion of the younger ones ended up face planting anyway.

Turning his attention from the rookie, he noticed most of the seasoned guys looked more disturbed than he would have thought. “You said it’s not normal?”

“It’s fucking sick,” Dave said. “Almost twenty years on the street and I’ve never seen something like this.”

That didn’t sound promising. They’d had their share of some fairly gruesome crime but if Dave said the scene was sick, then Mike didn’t want to look. He really didn’t. Not that he hadn’t seen some fucked-up shit over in Iraq during two tours with the Marines, but that was war and to be expected. This was home, and he still didn’t get how people could butcher one another the way they did. And for the petty reasons they came up with. “What’s the ETA on the medical examiner?”

“Anytime now. I told them they’d need at least two on this one, but I asked for Casey specifically.”

“That’s good. She’s the best. What’s the scene like?”

“Staged.”

Mike threw a look at his friend. Dave actually looked spooked, and that was odd because the man wasn’t squeamish. “Staged how?”

Dave pursed his lips and then shook his head again. “It’s something you just have to see.”

The smell hit him first. He’d once tried to describe the scent of decomposing flesh in a report and gave up. There just weren’t enough words. Or maybe he didn’t know the right words. But the stench was a slap to the face and made his eyes water. The fast food burger he’d choked down four hours ago churned.

The warehouse was old construction and had two main areas, split down the middle by a cement wall. Broken roll-up bay doors stood open, as was the single regular-size door occupying the center of the wall. The music playing softly puzzled him. Like a tune he was supposed to know but couldn’t quite place. He shot a questioning look at Dave.

He just pointed. “I felt the scene should be kept the way it was, music included.”

The music got louder as he continued into the room.

And found himself in Hell.

“Jesus Christ,” he muttered, struggling to breathe through his mouth. His stomach flipped more violently this time, and he had to choke down the bile that rose. Mike hadn’t had such a visceral reaction to a crime scene in years.

Dave wasn’t even bothering to hide his revulsion. He had a handkerchief pressed to his nose and mouth. He was the smart one. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Mike was too stunned to answer. The scene before him was like something out of a twisted
Grimm’s Fairy Tale
. “Staged” was the word Dave had used. He wasn’t kidding. Everything about this scene was placed to elicit a response.

The victim was female—maybe—it was difficult to tell. She was in a turn-of-the-century-style dress with bonnet, hands and feet tied to the ropes of a homemade wood plank swing that hung from the twenty-foot ceiling. Long, kinky, curly, blonde hair held its shape on her head. Probably a wig. Dead flower petals made a carpet beneath her, as if to cushion a fall that the ropes around her wrists and ankles prevented.

Her face was missing.

The skin peeled off—showcasing muscle and tendons and murky white eyeballs that stared sightlessly forward. The image was creepy as fuck.

“Well, this is about the weirdest thing ever,” a female voice said from behind.

Mike didn’t turn. He’d worked with Casey Henderson on too many cases over the years and instantly recognized her wry tone. She was the spunky kid sister that he’d never had, and they’d hit it off at their first crime scene together. “What do you think the walls are coated with?”

“If I had to guess, I’d say blood. It’s overwhelmingly copper smelly in here. From the desiccation of the face, I’d say she was exsanguinated at some point so that’s probably the vic’s blood.” She walked past Mike and pointed at the walls. “And since I just repainted my living room, I can tell you that looks like about a gallon.”

“I hope it wasn’t red,” Mike said.

Casey turned and smiled, seemingly oblivious to the smell and gore. “Nope.” And she didn’t elaborate.
 

She never did. The one thing Mike really knew about the senior medical examiner was that she lived for death. She was too young to stare at corpses and scenes like this, but she was a near genius at forensics. She had more degrees than most doctors, and a morbid sense of humor.

Casey talked and dressed like she’d recently escaped from a grunge band. Her short hair was black with streaks of red and blond, and the pierced eyebrow gave her an exotic look that turned more than a couple of heads.
 

“Oh, are you done puking?” Casey directed the question over Mike’s shoulder with a big false smile plastered on her face and an evil look in her eyes.

Mike turned to see the young officer standing in the door, misery written on his pale greenish face. He nodded and tried to smile back. Mike was proud of the young man. Not a drop of vomit had landed on his uniform.

“Great, I need help gathering up all these fat little maggots.”

The poor guy’s throat worked, and he turned and ran out of the room—the sound of imminent projectile expulsion of anything left in his body ringing through the empty space.

“That was mean,” Mike said. He nodded toward Dave, letting him leave the nasty scene as well. One too many people inside could mess up evidence.

Casey circled the swing, snapping shots of everything she could see and sweeping wide arcs in case the camera could catch something they all missed. “I met him last week while examining that dead homeless guy they found over off of Van Buren. He’s all brawn and no brains.”

“He hit on you right away?” He walked the scene, pulling on latex gloves as he went and making sure to stay on the outside perimeter of Casey’s circle. Casey didn’t date cops. But watching the rookie try was always fun.

“Yep, and then acted as if I should be grateful for the attention.” She stopped taking photos long enough to roll her eyes. “Is he even old enough to shave, much less carry a gun?”

Mike smiled. Whatever man ended up with the fiery little examiner would have his hands full. “You can’t blame the guy, Case. You’re gorgeous and smart. It’s an intriguing combination.”

Hitting the button on the mini boom box shut off the song that was on repeat. He moved to the other side of the room and turned to take it in. He realized Casey was staring.

“Was that an actual compliment?” She wrinkled her nose and turned back to continue taking pictures.

“When you take swabs of blood, make sure to get this spot.” Mike pointed to the area on the wall that looked a little darker than the rest.
 

“Will do. I’ll get Lyle to take swabs of everything.” she said. “Thanks for shutting off the music. I like Shelby Lynn’s music, but the same song over and over gets on your nerves.”

“Oh, hell,” Mike cursed quietly.

Casey looked up in surprise. “What?”

“Dave said the scene was staged. I thought it was maybe some twisted way of getting a reaction , but it’s a different kind of stage.”

“What am I missing?” Casey rarely missed anything so she looked annoyed.

“You don’t watch music videos, do you?”

Casey shrugged. “It’s not like anyone actually
plays
videos anymore. All that’s on is that reality-show crap teenagers binge watch, and I don’t have time to sit around on YouTube all day.”

An uneasy feeling crept up Mike’s spine, raising the hair on the back of his neck. “This scene is out of Shelby Lynn’s first music video. Back when they did show music videos. But what’s the message? Or is this a threat?”

“Oh shit. Isn’t she coming to town soon for a concert?”

Mike nodded, the whole scene before him taking on a new and even more sinister meaning. “Her last concert stop for this tour. She’s playing three nights.”

“How do you know all that?”

“My friends’ wives love her music and all have tickets to go. The concert is all they’ve talked about for months now.”

“Then let’s hope this is just some sick fan art, and doesn’t mean anything else.”

Mike moved closer to the woman in the swing. She was small but full figured, and with the wig on, she could be Shelby Lynn’s body double. But something was wrong with the face. Otherwise, why remove it?

***

Shelby Lynn Collins was physically exhausted, but also stuck in the vortex known as insomnia. She hadn’t slept in more than twenty-four hours. Thank God for make-up artists because she had an interview in roughly five hours, and she looked like road kill.

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