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Authors: Mell Corcoran

Shadows of Doubt

BOOK: Shadows of Doubt
Mell Corcoran

Copyright © 2013 by Mell Corcoran.

Mill City Press, Inc.

212 3rd Ave North, Suite 290

Minneapolis, MN 55401


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.

Cover Design by Alan Pranke

ISBN: 978-1-62652-087-5

Table of Contents



For my Mom. My biggest fan, my toughest critic, my best friend.

A very special thanks to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
for all your hard work, inspiration and for putting it all on the line every day.

I would like to thank my uncles and aunts for all their support during this journey. If I were to thank each of you for every little thing you did for me, that would be a novel unto itself. I am so blessed to have a family such as mine.

Thank you to my best-pal, Shelley, for putting up with me through all of this. Your patience and humor kept me sane and I adore you.

To my cousins, especially Sara, for supporting me and putting up with all my Facebook stuff. I love you guys tons!

To the rest of my family, there is far too much to say to fit on one page.

Finally, to MK, thank you for your unwavering belief in me and absolute support. This simply would not have been possible without you.

Mom, my partner in crime, you are my strength and my laughter in all things. No one in the world is as lucky as I am to have such a phenomenal mother. Thank you.

It is a simple thing to know one’s place in this world, provided you have
a pulse and your gray-matter is intact. Whether your name is on the V.I.P. list or you are required to wait in line behind the velvet rope with everyone else depends entirely on your place in the social food chain. This pecking order is entirely different from the true ecological food chain. The natural order of things such as spider to fly, cat to mouse, cheetah to gazelle. Survival of the fittest has given way over time from the physical to the fiscal and become the driving force behind modern civilized society.

Let us be completely honest here, it is only opposable thumbs and the invention of gunpowder that has given humankind the illusion they are king of the evolutionary mountain. Little worry of being ambushed and devoured by a pride of lions on one’s way to a mani-pedi or power lunch as far as the natural selection aspect is concerned. So completely taken for granted by modern culture, the social food chain is rarely, if ever, given actual thought. Who is at the top of the chain rules all and those at the bottom have little choice but to either accept their fate, scraping the boots of those on high, or bite and claw their way up the rungs by whatever means possible. An individual’s moral compass is all that dictates whether the biting and clawing is metaphorical or literal. It is in that simple distinction that we have the modern struggle of right versus wrong, good versus evil. This entire concept is just a given course of tides in our society, rarely thought of, questioned or challenged. It simply “is” and has been for thousands of years. Until it isn’t.

For a select few, whom we shall not necessarily call a “lucky” few, all illusions are shattered and the social food chain is properly pushed to the back of the line behind the natural order. By a simple twist of Fate in the guise of bad timing, a lapse in judgment, a wrong turn, or a simple mistake, the comfy cozy illusion of life as one knows it can be forever altered and replaced by a reality that only some know to be the truth. In that split second of wrong place at the wrong time, the fragile human psyche can fracture irreparably, leaving the ill-fated individual facing a rapid end to their life. Or, in the alternative, a permanent state of drooling and a long, fruitless existence filled with pudding cups and anti-psychotics administered at regular intervals. Once in a while, however, the unfortunate soul holds, absorbs, processes and actually survives not only the physical assault, but the psychological cataclysm of this encounter. Either way, life is never the same. Every rule, social norm and expectation is warped, flipped and contorted beyond comprehension. Here it is back to the natural order with a variable never before known in the average every day in a life. In a nutshell, adapt and fight or die.

On this particular day, this particular instance, it would most certainly be die. After all, this was not an encounter created by the Fates, twisted though it may be, it was careful design. He pondered that a moment with a twinkle in his eye as he looked at his fly writhing and wriggling in his meticulously woven web. Even from a distance he could feel the terror radiating from the young, petite blond that was brutally bound to the wooden chair in the middle of the room. A shiver of excitement slid up his spine as he leaned against the doorjamb staring at her, savoring the moment. Even obscured by her bonds she was lovely. Pale blond curls, only slightly matted, tousled about her heart shaped face, spilling down over her bare, bronzed shoulders. Delicate shoulders, he noted, though probably formed more from malnutrition and copious amounts of crack than her having a naturally slight frame. Such a romantic, he thought to himself. He would rather look upon her as a delicate fragile beauty than the abject hollow crack whore that she was. Worn and overused at such a tender young age. Had she said she was twenty when he asked? Or was it twenty-one? It mattered little. He was sure she was lying for his benefit as would any semi-experienced underage harlot to a nervous John. How thoughtful that was, he mused with a smirk. Her selfless attempt at making him feel comfortable with the transaction. He would have to remember to thank her for that at some point between the bouts of unconsciousness that were about to befall her and surely before he finally ended her pathetic and useless life.

He moved toward her slowly, taking delight in the desperate flare of her nostrils as she struggled for air. Smiling softly, he stood over her and continued to observe the panic washing over his little fly caught in his web. With a tug of his sash and a roll of his shoulders, the rich brown silk robe he wore slid to the floor like a puddle of melted chocolate. He stood bare before his prey breathing in deep the scent of her fear. Almost tenderly, he reached out to stroke a stray curl covering her face. “I wish I could say that I am sorry this is going to hurt you, my dear.” His voice was soft, low and musical with an accent she had never heard before. “But I must admit to you now, before we get started, that it truly brings me joy. So please, don’t hold back on my account...” He reached around her head and unfastened the buckle of the thick leather strap that mercilessly dug into her flesh. The strap was tethered to the ball-gag that was brutally shoved in her mouth. Once undone, he tossed it aside then sighed almost wistfully before he continued. “Scream my dear, scream all you like.”

She felt the air shift and something quickly brush against her chest, a surge of heat, something warm and wet. A coppery smell filled her nostrils as a searing pain snaked its way up her neck and wrapped itself around her skull with an agony she could scarcely believe possible. To his delight, the screams began.

January in Southern California was nothing short of meteorological
schizophrenia. Thursday the snow levels had dropped to twenty-five hundred feet with temperatures topping out at a whopping forty-three degrees through the weekend. Now, the amazonian lap dancer passing as a weather anchor buoyantly reported the forecast for Monday as above average highs in the low eighties. Detective Lou Donovan stood four feet from the flat screen television staring, highly annoyed. She looked down at herself, growled, then violently yanked the heavy wool turtleneck from her body.

Born Tallulah Louella Donovan, the petite homicide detective went strictly by “Lou” to anyone other than her mother or uncle. Those others who preferred keeping all their teeth securely in their mouths called her “Lou”. Haphazardly pulling sweatshirt over t-shirt, she caught the disapproving gaze of her cat out of the corner of her eye. “What?” she demanded from the glossy black puff of fur sitting in the middle of the doorway. The feline simply tossed his nose up at her then sauntered off to find a patch of sun to lounge in. “Everyone’s a fashion critic.” she muttered and proceeded to pull on her boots. Though Lou would never be mistaken for a fashion model, she was a far cry from plain. Rich auburn hair, cut in a severe a-line bob, framed delicate almost elfish features. Sharp green eyes, the color of good imperial jade, could spot a mouse hiccuping fifty yards away in the dark. At a mere five feet, four inches tall, she could take down and hog tie a two-hundred and fifty pound tweaker in under a minute. It was well known among the ranks that this fifth generation cop was all business and not someone to be taken at face value. Despite her uncle being a highly decorated, now retired, detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and her father having been gunned down in the line of duty when she was only two years old, Lou earned her own way, on her own merits, and everyone in the department knew it.

“Good morning sunshine!” Lou exited the closet with one pant leg inadvertently tucked in her boot to meet the sound of her mother’s voice. “I heard you come in around four this morning so I figured the sooner you got this in you, the better for the planet.” The cheerful woman handed her one of the two mugs of coffee she was holding and leaned in to kiss her daughter good morning.

“Have I told you today how much I love you?” Lou took the offering with both hands as if it were the most fragile thing in the universe then returned the ritual morning kiss before bringing the mug to her lips. She nearly inhaled half the steaming contents in one gulp. “Ahhh... thank you, thank you, thank you.” She followed her mother to the sitting area of her room and plopped down in one of the overstuffed chairs. “Sorry for waking you. I was helping out one of the guys from narcotics who was sitting on a house waiting for some jackass he’s been trying to pin down for almost a month.” She drank deeply from her mug and flashed her mother a weary smile. “The moron finally came out around three, stark naked, to get a pack of smokes out of his car and we scooped him up.” Lou snorted a laugh recalling the events. “Rico had me rolling, yanking the guy’s chain telling him he was going in naked as a jaybird. The twit was seriously freaking out over that more than the fact that he was facing fifteen to life.”

“Morons have their priorities too, dear.” Her mother noted as she grinned and leaned over to pull Lou’s pant leg from her boot. “You didn’t wake me though. Joe had to catch a red-eye flight at two this morning. I couldn’t fall asleep after he left.” Her mother was referring to her husband, Lou’s step-father, Joe McAllister, who despite being rich enough to hire Donald Trump to do his laundry for him, still worked harder than any man she had ever known. “He’ll be in Bangladesh or Bangalore or wherever the hell it is until Thursday.”

Shevaun McAllister was more then Lou’s mother, she was her best friend and biggest fan. With a short fringe of strawberry blond hair, her face always reminded Lou of a fairy queen. Regal petite features, with gently sculpted cheekbones, a slight upturn to her nose and a smile that never failed to make Lou feel like everything in the world would always be fine so long as her mother kept smiling. Her slight, athletic frame was wrapped in her favorite fluffy purple robe as she curled up in the chair opposite Lou. “So anything juicy on calendar for today?” Her sapphire blue eyes twinkled with curiosity.

“Nothing exciting on tap so far. I’m gonna take the train in, get some paperwork done and see what Vinny has cooking.” No sooner than she spoke his name, Lou’s cell phone began to play the theme to the movie “Godfather”, which she had set as her partner’s specific ring-tone. Her own little personal joke. “Speaking of angels.” She popped up from her chair and retrieved the phone from the bedside table and snapped it open. “Yo! Vinny!” She answered his call as she often did, imitating a thick Brooklyn accent. On the other end should could almost hear him roll his eyes.

“Yo yourself, Kiddo. I can tell you’re coffee has started kicking in.” Sergeant Vincenzo DeLuca had been a part of Lou’s life for longer then she could remember. He had come up through the academy with her uncle and had been his partner in Narcotics Division for several years during which time a friendship of enviable proportions had been forged. When her uncle retired early, after nearly being blown to pieces during a raid on a major methamphetamine lab, Vinny transferred to homicide. Almost losing his best friend shook him more than he would ever admit, so he opted for the slower pace of the dead squad. Once Lou had put her time in at Narco, she transferred over to Homicide herself and Vinny had made it his personal mission to keep as close an eye on Lou as humanly possible. “We got a messy one. I’ll text you the address but you want me to swing up and grab you? You really awake?”

“I’m awake, I’ll meet you there.” It was Lou that rolled her eyes now. “Whereabouts am I headed?” She looked at her watch to calculate her arrival time.

“Sherman Way and Jordan, the alley behind a little bookstore. Uniform has the street blocked waiting for us so you’ll spot ‘em.”

She furrowed a brow and sighed. “I love that bookstore, damn. Isn’t that LAPD’s turf?”

“I’ll explain when you get here.” He grumbled.

“Okay, I should be there in ten.” She snapped the phone shut and started to gather up her things. “Looks like we got a juicy one after all, Momma.” She pulled her holster over her shoulders and adjusted herself before tossing on her jacket. “Although juicy as in messy, or so Vinny says.”

Her mother scrunched her nose at the visual that popped into her mind. “That’s not the kind of juicy I was looking for but, oh well.” She hopped up and kissed her daughter’s cheek, then headed down the hall. “Be safe and check in with me later if you get the time. Love you!”

“Love you too!” Shevaun was already gone from the room by the time Lou snatched up her bag and headed out.

About nine minutes
later Lou was walking up the back alley of the funky bookstore she frequented every now and then. It was an older section of town that the city had tried to revitalize by emulating the Melrose Avenue boutique feel. Unfortunately, the city kept the rehab to face value and the backsides of the shops were in worse than sad shape. Jury-rigged power lines buzzed audibly as they twisted from one main pole that towered at the far side of the alley. The cables looked like dirty clotheslines slung almost low enough to touch as they splayed out to the back of each shop. Crates, boxes, rubble and waste were piled everywhere due in some part to the fact that the graffiti riddled dumpsters overflowed with all manner of refuse. The stench of rotting produce and spoiled fish from the Asian market’s repository wafted through the air along with undertones of urine and wet asphalt from the previous night’s rain. Lou knew the area well. Just two blocks north was a notorious drug area with its low income housing and heavy gang presence. During her time in narcotics, she and her former partner had spent many a day scooping up junkies and tweakers that had violated their probation or parole by inevitably crawling out of their holes to score from the drive-up dealers that hung out on every other street corner. Finding a dead body from an overdose was not uncommon in this area so, naturally, that is what Lou expected to find. When she rounded a rusted out dumpster behind the bookstore and looked at the scene, it was clear this wasn’t that simple.

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Her partner grumbled, having apparently read Lou’s mind.

“Well this is different.” Lou looked down at the body of what had once been a rather young blond female. At first blush Lou surmised that if this were a cartoon, the voluminous injuries inflicted upon the victim were the result of being repeatedly dragged over a giant cheese grater. But this was no cartoon and there was nothing even remotely humorous about what had happened to this girl. The naked form had more slashes and slices from head to toe than could be counted without a great deal of time and effort. It was apparent that the body hadn’t been dumped willy-nilly in this location but had been carefully placed there. Behind a dumpster, the girl lay face-up on the asphalt with her arms arranged deliberately so they crossed over her pubic area in an odd show of almost modesty. The dead eyes were open and already clouded over which told Lou right off that time of death was more than three hours prior to their arrival. Pulling a pair of gloves from her pocket she glanced up to notice the baby-faced Deputy that stood off to the side of the scene and was a curious shade of greenish gray.

“So why is this ours and not LAPD?” She asked her partner.

DeLuca simply looked at her with mild annoyance then to the bright and shiny rookie. “Ask him.”

Making note of the name on his tag she snapped the gloves on. “Brooks, what’s the deal?”

Deputy Brooks averted his eyes from the victim and turned sheepishly to face Lou. “Ma’am, my partner and I were on our way to serve subpoenas just up the street when the owner of the bookshop, a Miss Sue Shuster, came bolting out of the alley, into the street right in front of our cruiser. It was approximately 6:13 a.m. at that time. When we got out of the car to investigate, she informed us of the body which she discovered just moments prior. Ms. Shuster stated she arrived early to do inventory and when she approached the back door of her shop, well, there it was.” He gestured with his thumb to the corpse. “She said she immediately started yelling for help and ran out into the street to try and flag someone down and we happened to be right there. When we confirmed there was in fact a body, we called in to dispatch at approximately 6:20 a.m. for Homicide detectives and backup to assist with securing the alley. Rather than have the witness sit out here, my partner escorted her to the front entrance and is presently waiting with her inside.” He looked now at the body and swallowed hard.

“You are aware that this should have been called in to LAPD since this is on their side of the line?” She asked.

The Deputy blew out a breath and looked at her partner. “I am painfully aware of that now, ma’am.”

“I checked with the brass. Captain said we deal with it for now, contact LAPD later and pass it off if they want.” Vinny’s tone of voice matched the annoyed expression he wore.

“Alright, fine. Anything else Brooks?” She asked, trying to mimic her partner’s tone.

“Ma’am, Shuster did indicate to me the owners of the Asian market were here before her. She says they get here at dawn and are always here before her. However, Ma’am, the dumpster appears to block the view from their side, they probably never saw the body when they got here.”

“Probably, but we’ll need to confirm one way or the other.” She squatted down closer to the corpse. “Alright then, lets get this party started, shall we? ETA on the crew?” She glanced at her watch and noted the time being 6:48 a.m.

“Should be here in a few.” Vinny replied as he donned his own gloves. “They got the buzz when I did. This girlie got one serious working over, and it wasn’t done here, that’s for sure. I’m not seeing one speck of blood anywhere besides whats on her and even that ain’t much.” As two more deputies arrived on scene Vinny immediately proceeded to bark various orders at them and then instructed Deputy Brooks to get statements from the Asian market proprietors. It was highly unlikely the market people saw or noticed anything. No one had even bothered to peek out their back door to notice it was a crime scene. Lou had learned very early on as a rookie that there were two kinds of people in this world, those who would go out of their way to do anything they could to help, and those that couldn’t be bothered to pee on you if you were on fire, dancing a jig smack in front of them. In this neighborhood she expected you were going to find more of the latter then the former.

While her partner walked methodically over the area, Lou leaned over the body and looked closely. Head to toe the girl was covered with dozens upon dozens of lacerations ranging from less than one to ten inches long. Some of the slices were clean, almost surgical while others were jagged and rough. The wound that stood out the most, however, was the gouge across the throat. It appeared as though someone had literally tried to rip her throat out. While scanning the injuries to the arms she could clearly make out track marks between and beneath the slices. “She’s a junkie.” Lou noted aloud so her partner was apprised. “Long time user by the tracks.”

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