Authors: Kate Flora
A Joe Burgess Mystery
Reviews & Accolades
"A triumph in the police procedural genre. Highly recommended"
~Library Journal Starred Review
"Flora has created one of the more intriguing protagonists to come along in a few seasons."
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The small black dog skittered into the street, shining eyes registering canine astonishment that a vehicle dared to be out at this hour. Burgess stomped on the brakes, the Explorer responding with orgasmic ABS shudders, stopping just short of the beast. Four-wheel drive beating out four-foot traction. With a look Burgess decided to take as gratitude, the dog turned and trotted away. A good result. The cops waiting with the body wouldn't have taken kindly to freezing their nuts off while their detective worked a dead dog scene.
Dog was right. Three a.m. on this icy bitch of a February night, even a murderer should have known enough to stay home. February in Portland, Maine wasn't a benign month. Tonight, with the temp at minus ten, a roaring wind and black ice under foot, it was winter at its worst. But that was the cop's life. Get a call there's a dead body in a car on a lousy night, you don't roll over and go back to sleep, planning on working it in the morning. You get up and go.
Not that Burgess had been asleep when Remy Aucoin called it in. He'd been finishing the report on an unattended handgun death, detailing the reasons they'd concluded it was suicide. He preferred working nights. He liked his landscape gray and quiet, regarded the day's flurries of activity—all those sounds and smells and people—as intrusions into the peace that was possible at night. Some cops didn't like nights. They got used to it—when you were low man on the totem pole, you got stuck on late out—but always found it a little spooky. He'd seen it. Touch a guy on the arm in the afternoon and he'd act one way, touch him the same way at night and he'd wheel around, hand on his gun, a little wild around the eyes.
The brass preferred him working days. Their grudging compromise was some of each. So Burgess, already well into a double shift—had gotten the call. He'd put on his expedition-weight underwear, lined, waterproof boots, and a snowmobile suit. A hard-faced, middle-aged Michelin man. But not everyone would dress for the weather and they were going to suffer. Crime scenes didn't take less long because it was cold. Ninety above or ten below, the job required the same slow, meticulous work. You had to give the dead their due.
In fiction, crime scenes were the pristine springboards of the mystery. People didn't move bodies and carry away souvenirs, cops didn't stomp on footprints, track blood everywhere, litter the scene with their own hair and fibers. In real life, anything could happen. He'd been to scenes so compromised by cops that the perp couldn't have asked for better. Once he'd found two EMTs and a fireman handling the murder weapon. Another time a patrolman washed the glasses the victim and her killer had used "so her parents wouldn't know she'd been drinking." Hell of a piece of numbskull chivalry, with the girl already dead. He'd said that loud enough to make the papers. Gotten called on the carpet for making the department look bad. He didn't care. Truth was truth. At least the hour and the weather would keep spectators away.
He passed the neon lights of the hospital, moving fast as the slippery streets allowed. Saw the flashing light bar, only sign of life at this dismal hour. He stopped well short of the cruiser and the parked Mercedes. Stepping carefully in the existing tracks, he went to meet Remy Aucoin, the young patrol officer who'd found the body. Aucoin got out, head down and shoulders hunched defensively, like a kid expecting to be yelled at. Burgess wanted to slap a hand on his shoulder and tell him it was okay, but held back. He didn't know if it was okay, or if the kid had fucked up somehow. Looked like the kid thought he had. It usually wasn't the end of the world, but he'd never let on he thought that. He'd never have another crime scene go right if word went around he was getting soft.