Authors: Diane Fanning
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Crime Fiction
A Lucinda Pierce Novel
Copyright © 2010 Diane Fanning
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Mistaken Identity – (A Lucinda Pierce mystery)
1. Pierce, Lucinda (Fictitious character) – Fiction
2. Women detectives – Fiction
3. Murder – Investigation - Fiction
4. Detective and mystery stories
I.Title II. Series
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6866-4 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-223-9 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
A special thanks to Liz Nichols, Andrea Campbell and Don White
for helping me find answers to my questions on genetics, forensics and firearms.
The crisp taps of Pamela Godfrey’s heels on the concrete echoed through the garage. She clenched and unclenched her jaws, the clack of her teeth matching the rhythm of her shoes. She was not pleased with her day. He had no good reason to keep her waiting that long. He asked for that meeting. Then to cut her off because he had another appointment compounded his sin. The next time, she’d make him wait – if she showed at all. That lack of consideration on top of the mess she’d had to handle first thing in the morning.
It was all just too much.
She pressed the lock release on her key chain. The responding beep made her flinch. She opened the door and stepped up into her Escalade. “Dammit,” she said as she spotted a piece of paper stuck between the wiper blade and the windshield. She didn’t care, let it fall where it may, she thought, as she reversed out of the parking slot quicker than she should. Shifting into drive, she hit the windshield wipers to dislodge the nuisance as she made the turns toward the exit.
It didn’t work. The paper clung to the blade arcing back and forth across the glass. It wasn’t an advertisement after all. It was a typewritten note. Curious, she stopped, slipped the transmission into park and stepped out of her SUV. Behind her, a horn honked. She turned and glared at the silver Lexus. The engine revved. The horn blared again. She couldn’t see anyone through the tinted glass but flipped the bird in the driver’s direction anyway. She stepped to the front of her car, grabbing the document. She was back at the side of her car with one leg raised, ready to step inside, when the horn blasted a third time.
She lowered her foot to the pavement, turned with hands on her hips and stared at the driver. As the door of the Lexus started to open, she realized that she really didn’t want a confrontation with a stranger – she’d had enough grief for one day and it wasn’t even noon yet. She hopped into the seat and left the other driver standing by his car and shouting obscenities as she pulled away.
The piece of paper crumpled between her hand and the steering wheel. Stopping at a red light, she opened it up and read: “
call 9-1-1 now!!!
James Landing Drive
A polite tap of a horn brought her back to her surroundings. The light was now green. She jerked forward, driving half a block before turning into a parking lot where patrons pulled into numbered spaces and stuffed money into the corresponding slot in a big metal lock box. She stopped in the middle of the lane; glanced in her rear-view mirror to make sure no one was on her tail again.
I must have read the address wrong
. She reread the note.
Who left it here? Who knows about my connection to that house?
What is the best way to handle this situation? Should I do what seems natural and place this call or simply toss the note into the first dumpster I see?
She considered driving to the address but worried that might confirm someone’s suspicions.
Wouldn’t it be better to call from miles away and react as if the address was not familiar to me?
She wanted to return to her office, accomplish something positive and forget this morning ever happened. But she knew someone could have seen the person placing the note on her SUV and could even have recognized her car. If she ignored it, it wouldn’t look good for her. She had to make the call.
Pulling out her iPhone, she slid the digital lock to the left, hit the green phone button, then the keyboard icon. She paused, rethinking her decision. She didn’t believe anyone knew of her ties to that address. But if she was wrong, it was probably too late to save her professional image anyway. She turned back to her iPhone just before it faded to black. It brightened at her touch. She hit the three digits.
“Nine-one-one. What is the nature of your emergency?”
Confusing. Contradictory. Like two crime scenes in one. The old Doublemint commercial jingle skipped like a naughty child through her thoughts. Homicide Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce stood beside the female victim in the master bedroom of
6423 James Landing Drive
A summer-weight blanket, the same shade of scarlet as the drapes over the windows, stretched from the foot of the bed over her body, up to her armpits. Over the top three inches was folded a crisp gold-colored sheet matching the shade painted on the walls. The sheet and blanket were as smooth and wrinkle-free as if someone made the bed with her in it.
Her bare arms lay on either side of her body, hands palm side down. The natural nails were moderately long and well-tended with a blunt cut and a French manicure. No jewelry adorned her fingers but the flesh was flattened in a band at the base of her left ring finger. Was a wedding band removed? Ante or post-mortem? No ring rested on the surface of the nightstand next to the body.
The female victim’s shoulder-length hair formed a honey-brown corolla around her head, spreading wide over the pillow – obviously brushed as she rested there. A fresh application of make-up brightened her face. No doubt that was post-mortem as well. The foundation obscured much of the stippling around the wound in the center of her forehead but nothing could cover the angry red edges of the blood-blackened hole.
Except for that solitary defect, all else indicated a woman who died in her sleep – a quiet, peaceful departure. No sign of blood spatter on the headboard or the bed linens. Perhaps she, too, met her end in the bathroom.
The Tyvek booties on Lucinda’s feet whispered as she crossed the carpet to the doorway of the en suite bath. One hairy leg hung over the edge of the deep, soaking tub. A dark patina of partially dried blood covered the porcelain, the walls, the ceiling, the floor.
Lucinda took two steps into the room, stopping just outside the perimeter of the red. On the polished marble surface of the vanity, two brilliant blue glass bowls sat beneath pewter faucets. Between them, a chainsaw rested, its bar spattered with blood and bits of flesh.
Lucinda caught a glimpse of her face in the mirror above the saw and jerked her head away. The last procedure granted her no satisfaction. It did not return the symmetry to her features she desired. The doctor had warned her it would take multiple operations, but Lucinda was not a patient woman. She did not expect miracles. She demanded them.
She looked again at the sprawled, nude male in the tub. The murder was fresh; a tiny rivulet of fluids still traced a thin line from the body to the drain. The body no longer had a head or hands. Officers searched for the missing parts in the house and yard. She did not expect they would be found anywhere near the property.
The scene where this victim rested jarred with the other one like an orchestra engaged in a simultaneous performance of Brahms and Tchaikovsky. What did the contrast tell her? Two perpetrators? Or one killer with different feelings toward the two victims? But how could one overcome two? Were they both shot point-blank in the head quicker than either one could respond? Impossible to know without the other head.
Maybe, though, it had nothing to do with emotions toward the two. Maybe, his identity needed to be concealed. If so, why was hers irrelevant? To be found here together meant there had to be a connection. In that case, wouldn’t it be easy to deduce his once hers was known?
“What kind of mess have you got for me today, Pierce?” a gravelly voice barked from the hallway.
An involuntary smile crossed Lucinda’s face. “Doc Sam, welcome to my world. I hope the timing of this one meets with your approval.”
He grunted as he crossed the threshold. “Very considerate of you, Lieutenant, to arrange this one during regular business hours.” He crossed the room to the far side of the bed. “Well, how nice. You laid her out pretty for the viewing and I’m not even family.” He leaned over the body in the bed, observing every detail before slipping his hand under the victim’s fingers. The elbow didn’t bend, the whole arm lifted. “Looks like just past three hours since she died. You touch anything?”
“Of course not.” Lucinda bristled.
“Don’t get your knickers in a wad. Had to ask.”
Lucinda’s lips twitched. She bit back a retort.
“Any idea of the cause of death, detective?”
Lucinda snorted. She refused to take his bait. “Of course not, Doctor, that is your purview.”
“Ha! Like you have any respect for those boundaries. Photos taken?”
“Yes. From every angle.”
Doc Sam grunted his approval and gently pulled down the sheet and blanket, sliding it from under the dead woman’s stiffening arms. The victim was nude, her legs together, stretched in a straight line. They looked at the soles of her feet – as clean as if she just stepped out of a bath.
The doctor lifted the right hand, moving his face close to her fingertips. He set it down with care and examined the left one. “Looks like someone might have cleaned her nails. Better bag them just in case they missed something.”
A silent, hovering tech stepped between Lucinda and the coroner, efficiently covered both hands and retreated to his current role as wallpaper.
“Help me turn her over,” Doc Sam said.
He and Lucinda slipped four hands under the body, making her body flip like a solid board. Three washcloths, soaked in blood and cerebral fluid, sat stacked in the center of the pillow. The exit of the bullet left a messier and larger wound on the back of her head.
“Find the bullet and you’ll know where she died. Think you can do that, Pierce?”
Knowing he was baiting her again, she did not respond.
“Where’s the other one?”
Lucinda led him to the bathroom.
“You certainly left a mess for me in here,” he said staring down at the body. “Husband? Lover? Lousy plumber?”
“Can’t locate the husband – never showed up at work today. No word on a lover – one way or the other – yet. And there are no abandoned service vehicles in the immediate vicinity of the house. Of course, that would be an interesting variation on the theme. We can, however, eliminate murder-suicide from the list of possibilities here.”
“Really, Lieutenant. I thought that was
“Of course, Doctor. How presumptuous of me. Could you please explain how a suicide could dispose of his hands and head or how the woman could apply make-up and brush her hair after putting a bullet in the center of her forehead?”
Doc Sam grunted and kneeled down by the side of the tub. He found it difficult to manipulate the body with the stiffened leg forming a hook securing it in place. “I see no signs of bullet wounds or stabbing …”
“But if he was shot in the forehead like …”
“I don’t make guesses, Lieutenant,” he snapped.
“Yes sir, Doctor Sam, sir.”
He rewarded her with a baleful glare, muttering “Smart ass”, as he turned back to the body. “Find the head.” He placed his gloved hands on the side of the tub and pushed up. His right hand slipped on the slick surface. Lucinda leaned forward, extending a hand to assist. “You think I’m too old to do my job, Pierce?”
“No, sir,” she said, jerking back upright as if her hand had been slapped.
A disembodied voice shouted, “Lieutenant.”
Lucinda stepped out of the bathroom and walked to the bedroom doorway where a uniformed woman patrol officer stood. “What is it, Colter?”
‘There’s a boy downstairs claiming he lives here.”
The detective glanced over to the dresser to a framed snapshot of a man, a woman and a boy, all with drenched hair, grinning at a camera. “The son?”
“He says so, yes, ma’am.”
“Where is he?”
“We took him out back by the pool to get him out of earshot of any grisly conversations. But he’s full of questions.”
Lucinda sighed. “How old?”
“Eleven, twelve, maybe thirteen. And he’s none too happy that none of us would give him answers.”
“He’ll be less happy when we do.”