It was Latisha Dawn Messinger who finally made my reputation. Cast that sucker in concrete, she did.
“Not every white clinical psychologist in San Diego can boast of having cold cocked an innocent black female patient in his office, trussing her up like a hog, and surviving the ensuing turd tornado,” Darrell observed with his usual Captain Obvious delivery. “You perverted racist, you.” That was mild compared to most of the epithets hurled my way in recent days. The proprietor of Hickman’s Cleanup and Maintenance, LLC, stood in his classic Jack Benny pose, studying the graffiti on the exterior walls while I unlocked, his expression giving away nothing. There was plenty of graffiti to go around the little standalone building, Conveniently Situated Just Two Blocks Off El Cajon Boulevard.
Darrell Hickman made me chuckle. He could always do that. He’d even gotten a smile out of me when I’d made my one phone call from jail, cuffed and stuffed because, you know, there isn’t any way a sixty year old Caucasian male can be the victim when he’s got a loudly cursing African American lady tied wrist and ankle to an office chair. Never mind the fact that rapper L.D. Mess was also packing black belt designations in three different martial arts, plus a two foot piece of rebar, when the action started.
“Not every white clinical psychologist is nearly dumb enough to try counseling L.D. in the first place, either. How hard is it going to be to get everything cleaned up?”
Jack Benny’s cheaper descendant stroked his chin thoughtfully, the way he always did when he was working up a quote. “Looks like they did get enthusiastic….”
With the heavy locks disabled, we moved inside. Stuffy, with no air conditioning running for all that time. No broken windows, but being bullet resistant plexiglass set firmly into the frames by the previous owner, they weren’t made to be opened, either. The AC came on just fine, blowing enough dust to put anybody with COPD in the hospital. “Yeah. Most likely irritated the haters some, not being able to break in. I’d give up, close the practice and head on out to the Utah property, except I don’t care to give anybody the satisfaction of thinking they made me run.”
Alarms were a joke; I’d known businesses with every kind of alarm you could buy, including some wired directly into high profile security firms, and still they’d get broken into on a regular basis. The building was already as old as the hills but solid as a rock when I bought it, so my security budget went into hardened steel door gates and window shutters that would have stopped a charging tank…almost, anyway. They were certainly good enough to stop the average vandal or thief. A welder with an an oxy-acetylene torch could probably get through, given enough time, but not without alerting half the neighborhood. Hardened steel, ample lighting, and security cameras that actually worked, those were the tickets. Only the visible cameras, fakes one and all, had been destroyed; the real eyes were camouflaged and, unless I missed my guess, still functional. I’d check them later, when there was no one around to see what I was doing.
Three men can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Darrell and I only made two, but I probably couldn’t get away with killing him to keep my secret. Besides, he might be too tough to kill.
I got tired of waiting for him to lay it on the line, though. Darrell loved negotiating, anything from flipping a house on down to picking up a fifty cent widget on sale at a swap meet. I hated haggling almost as much as I detested California’s draconian gun laws. Pay full retail and get on with it, that’s my motto. “Everything you can get done by noon for five hundred flat.”
He looked offended. He was offended because he knew I was overpaying him on purpose. A fellow who wouldn’t play the negotiation game was just no fun at all. But he also knew me, being married to my sister for these past eleven years. “That’ll cover everything”, he admitted. “Filling the holes in the stucco, scraping the graffiti, priming and repainting, all that…except….”
“Yeah.” Somebody had brought along a metal-melting torch of some sort on one of their jaunts. One of those little portable jobs, maybe. Not enough to cut through the massive shields protecting either the locks or the hinges, but enough to bubble-etch a label into the steel plate covering the center third of the front security gate. Even that must have taken a while to accomplish, but the message was brief enough.
“I know a guy who knows a guy.”
“Nah. Not worth it. If it said EFFING RACIST or something like that, I’d have to…but everybody already sees me as psycho, from the California Board of Psychology on down. Including the cops and most of my peers.”
Hickman chuckled. “Yeah. They do hate to admit you’re still legally licensed after all their heroic efforts; that’s for sure. So you’re going to leave it in place?”
“For now, anyway. We’ll see how it goes. Just hit it with some primer or something so it doesn’t rust.”
“Hey, Marty, I’ll make it stand out like a neon sign. If you got it, flaunt it.”
I scowled at him. He laughed, acknowledging my displeasure with anyone who dared call me Marty. True, elementary school had been even worse, once my classmates figured out how to make fun of Marten (with an “e”, dammit) Warner. “Fartin’ Marten! Fartin’ Marten! Fartin’ Marten!” Even after all these years, the refrain still got stuck in my head from time to time. That I had to fight my way out of high school to get rid of that stupid Marty nickname should have been enough. Like it should have been enough to know my detractors on the Board had found themselves beaten for the third time in their unceasing attempts to have my license yanked. “I shouldn’t have to put up with your sass, Rastus, but Carly sees something in you. Can’t imagine what it might be.”
“Whoa, boss! De racist done come out from unda da sheet! I be gettin’ to work right now, massa! Step and shuffle! Lif’ dat barge! Tote dat bale! You betta be careful, honky, ah’ll Black Powuh yo’ ass!”
We hadn’t been paying attention. With the door wide open, our voices had wafted out onto the street. Extreme political incorrectness had forcibly entered the ears of a young black mother and her impressionable son who happened to be walking by, hand in hand. Accidental ear rape. She glared our way briefly, then shifted gears and sped up dramatically, practically dragging the poor kid toward the Boulevard, where men of any color dared not throw racial insults at each other for any reason short of sincere hostility or Presidential politics.
Watching her go, we stifled ourselves, hands over mouths to keep from laughing out loud. Certain family members considered us to be mere overgrown juveniles when we got together like this. Despite Hickman’s million dollar annual income and my late-in-life PhD, they were probably correct in their judgment. If we could poke holes in sacred cows and drink their blood, we’d do it every time. Especially when we were together. Despite my psych training, I had no clue why it worked that way. It just did.
“Damn,” Darrell whispered, “that’s one fine sister!”
“Got that right,” I whispered back. “Not that I’m looking. Think she prefers white or dark meat?”
“From the looks of that child, she splits it down the middle.”
“Brown? Yeah, the boy did look like he had a Mexican daddy.”
“Pancho Villa rides again.”
The wall clock chimed. Eight a.m. Time to get to work. We shut up and got to it.
Darrell always worked fast. A perfectionist, never missing a lick, yet capable of getting more work done in an hour than most men could do in a day. I knew that for a fact, having been one of his part time subcontractors for a while after returning to school at the age of forty-nine in pursuit of my Master’s degree. By the time that had segued painfully into doctoral work, including a dissertation on Astrology as a Diagnostic Tool in Clinical Settings–which had been a royal bitch to defend and probably wouldn’t have worked at all in any state other than California–I stood in awe of my blue collar millionaire brother in law. On my best day, even if he was under the weather with walking pneumonia, I couldn’t keep up with him.
It was no surprise when eleven thirty rolled around and he’d already done everything that needed to be done, including the stucco patching. He wouldn’t even have to paint that; the man had magically pre-colored the stucco. I didn’t bother to check; the patch would look darker now but dry into perfect invisibility as the new stucco cured. I’d seen him do that dozens of times. He never missed. Still amazed me.
“The money’s on the–” Oh. The $500 was already gone, along with Hickman. I could hear the distinctive sound of his work truck, a refurbished step van, pulling away from the curb. Hick wasn’t long on goodbyes.
The street was pretty quiet, one or two cars motoring by every minute or so. About average for this neighborhood. Noise from the Boulevard could certainly be heard through the open door. I’d forgotten all about that while the two of us were working at our respective tasks. The AC was working okay and generous applications of Febreze had cleared out the stale smell; time to close up.
Not locked. I was a one man business now, Alicia having served notice while I was still under Grand Jury investigation, claiming fear of personal injury. No big loss; the woman hadn’t done badly as a receptionist, but she never did file anything but her nails.
“Okay,” I said aloud, back to talking to myself when no one else was around. “One final walk-through and then it’s time for lunch.” As of today, my office hours were back up and running. Psycho Doc, the only practicing psychologist in the entire county who kept evening hours. Yellow Pages and website listings both announced boldly, “OPEN 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M and 7:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.”.
Prior to me becoming a target on a dart board for every Angry Minority Person out there, most of my clients–I refused to call them patients–a good sixty percent opted for evening appointments. Would there be any clients now? I had no idea. Careers have been sunk with a lot less ammunition than the L.D. Mess mess provided. On the other hand, I had close to one hundred percent name recognition now.
Time would tell.
The front office slash waiting room looked pretty good. Functional desk, computer terminal, sign-in sheet on a clipboard. Walls paneled in light oak, adorned with several sizeable pictures of snowy mountains and a look or two at Earth from outer space. There used to be a couple of pictures of old time contestants on saddle broncs, including a black and white of Hall of Fame cowgirl Fanny Steele, but those had suffered during the Mess mess. I’d need to get new glass for the frames and see about touching up a couple of scratches to the photos themselves before hanging them back up. Four comfortable chairs along the wall because I hated waiting rooms with crappy seating, along with a bookcase and magazine rack. No TV, but that didn’t matter; most folks who darkened my door were device addicted anyway. Smart phones for dumb clucks.
More than once, I’d had to quietly insist before a client would even consider putting the latest Android or Apple Crap away during therapy.
Restroom was clean, paper towel dispenser freshly filled, toilet paper squared away, soft soap available on the counter by the sink. Missed a fly speck on the mirror. Stopped my inspection long enough to square that away.
My office…ah, my Inner Sanctum. Not every client who paid for an hour long session found it soothing, but I sure did. Cherry wood desk, one I’d been salivating over for years before finally buying it. Damned shame Cheryl had to die on me for that to happen. Twenty-nine years, babe, I thought. Way too damn short. You reincarnated yet? She probably was. Darrell Hickman’s granddaughter, little four year old Fantasy Hickman, showed a lot of Cheryl’s personality traits.
The high backed recliner, well padded and covered with a dusky blue fabric that was both comfortable and attractive, was good to go. My brown leather office chair had a squeak somewhere underneath; spraying everything metal I could find with aerosol WD-40 took care of that. More Febreze to tone down the WD-40 aroma. Some picky people don’t appreciate fine perfumes. No windows in this room, of course; distracting the distraught is a big no-no. Earth tone wall paper for the first four feet up from the floor, light sky blue at the high end, a foot-deep strip of decoration dividing the two: A Mearns coyote, found only in the desert southwest, lying with its forepaws stretched out in front, head up and alert, intelligent eyes looking straight into the camera, big furry ears perked forward. Dry brush and bunch grass in the background, reddish dirt and rocks out front. The scene was repeated every six feet, running all the way around the room.
“Looks like a distraction to me,” Xerxes Parsons had declared, severe disapproval in his tone. I hadn’t responded, just smiled a little. Doctor X didn’t like me much, or maybe he just didn’t like anybody who consulted astrological charts. He’d tried to shoot down my defense of my dissertation. Tried hard. But he’d failed. By the time he’d “stopped by to see how I was doing”, I was doing fine, had completed my residency and opened my own practice. Screw him.
My sister, on the other hand, found the image fascinating. “What do you call him?” She’d asked.
“You would. Always with the runaway imagination.”
I hadn’t bothered to explain. Coyote served as a sort of poor man’s Rohrsach ink blot test, but Carly Warner Hickman didn’t really care any more about my career in psychology than Xerxes the Jerksies did. What she did care about was her own survivor’s guilt after her Lexus stalled on the railroad tracks. It had to be tough, knowing you made it out alive only because of your disregard for seat belts while your law abiding sister in law struggled to release the buckle just long enough to get T-boned by a drunken engineer driving an Amtrak train.
In truth, I’d found that coyote paper online and originally added it to the room’s décor for my own pleasure and nothing else…but it had turned out to be functional as well. When a client came in for an appointment, the reaction (or lack of reaction) to Coyote provided food for thought. Some people were so wrapped up in their own troubles that they didn’t even notice the yellow eyes staring at them. Others reacted with varying degrees of intensity, anything from admiration to confusion, fear, or outright hate.
Jed: “Cool dog!”
Amber: “That’s…that’s a lot of coyotes!”
Pearl: “Why’s he looking at me like that? Is he going to bite me?”
Arthur: “Wow. Are their ears really that big?”
Harrison: “Only good f—ing coyote is a dead f—ing coyote.”
Jonesy: “Coyote killed my cat last year. Carried it off, right outa the back yard. I heard her screams before she died…I don’t think I can stay in here.”
Jonesy had bolted from his chair, run out of the office and down the street. He’d come by bus, but he wasn’t waiting; the man was booking. Never saw him again. Got no reply to the voice mail I left him, letting him know we had one more room, plain walls, where we could hold our sessions if he wanted to reschedule. I even gave him another psychologist’s name and number; Gerry had no predatory wildlife images on her office walls.
But I still used this office for first sessions. You just couldn’t get that kind of gut reaction from a bunny picture.
Before today’s transition to Psycho Doc, I’d been known in certain circles as Shock Doc. Shock jock Howard Stern, eat your heart out.
One more task. The biggest stack of mail, unsolicited junk, went into the bin to be shredded later. A burn barrel would be better, but in the middle of San Diego? The second biggest stack, a total of thirty-seven death threats, were tucked into the safe for, duh, safekeeping. Most of those threats were postmarked prior to the release of the video on YouTube, which made Latisha Dawn’s aggression and my restraint perfectly clear, but not everyone had gotten the message. A couple of bills, power company and Internet provider respectively, into the In Box. Probably cut checks for those after lunch. The companies kept bugging me about setting them up on AutoPay, but I preferred the monthly reminders to check over the usage. Not that I didn’t trust my fellow man or anything like that. Surely not.
And…done. I let myself out, locked up, and decided to walk to City Cuisine. Which used to be a Jack in the Box, but the current owners had done a bit better than that. You still had to place your order at the counter, but the food was actually edible and they brought it to your table. They also made sure your drinks were refilled, the coffee wasn’t bad, and the fruit pies they featured for dessert were as good as any I’d ever encountered. Mixed clientele on this section of El Cajon Boulevard, fifty-fifty white versus black, a stray Asian on occasion, very few Hispanics despite San Diego’s proximity to the Mexican border. A neighborhood on the edge, as one journalist had described the area. The question was, as a local wag had pointed out, the edge of what? I preferred to think of it as the city’s pivot point, but I kept my opinion to myself. After all, I was an outsider. I worked here, but I surely did not live here.
As usual, there were plenty of people lined up to place their lunch orders. Nancy was hustling a tray to a table in the center line of booths, spotted me the moment I walked in the door, and silently mouthed your usual? When I nodded, she made a head gesture toward my favorite corner. I gave her a two finger salute of acknowledgement, sauntered on back, and settled in. Being a favored regular had its percs, never mind that I hadn’t stopped by for three full weeks.
The dark haired mother of four knew legal difficulties could do that to you. She’d battled her ex in court for three solid years before being granted full custody of her brood.
Many a time in the past, I’d brought my Kindle along, ignoring the noise of forty loud diners as background while tuning out. Chilling. Recharging. Not today, though. Today was Friday, meaning a Daily Special meal of Swiss steak like your mother used to make. Your mother, not mine. My mother, may she either rest in peace or reincarnate under better circumstances, couldn’t boil water without burning the pot. Jeremiah Browning had a few fishy items on the Friday menu to keep the Catholics anesthetized, but for us red blooded carnivores, there was always beef of one sort or another.
Besides, it was always possible that one of those thirty-seven death threats meant something…or that a truly dangerous enemy who knew better than to issue any threats at all might be lurking around the edges, looking for his chance. Or her chance; I was not one to discount the lethality of the fair gender.
The lunch crowd looked pretty normal. Focused on their food, their electronic devices of choice, or on the time; quite a few had to cram their vittles down like Army recruits in basic training, clearing the area and getting back to work as fast as their Hondas or Subarus or Fords could take them. My position provided a great view of the street, including the cop car that stopped at the curb long enough for an officer to briefly hassle a couple of working girls. Dudley Do Right had nothing on them, no proof they were hooking despite probably having busted them before. El Cajon Boulevard supported a thriving population of prostitutes. The officer didn’t look overly put out when he gave up and drove off, but the girls gave each other high fives as soon as the patrol car was out of sight.
Looked like they were hungry; I watched as they headed inside. One of them, a tall Caucasian girl–Russian, if I had to guess, with red hair that most likely came out of a bottle–headed over to the order line. The shorter, curvier wench, considered black despite possessing a mere one eighth African American ancestry in her DNA, made a beeline for me.
“Mind if we join you, Doc?” Her smile was dazzling, by far her best feature. Which was saying something, since her other assets were outstanding to say the least. No kink in her shoulder length black hair, just a gentle wave, and that without straightener of any kind. Dark eyes that sparkled like sunlight over a woodland pond when she was feeling fine or flashed lightning at midnight when she was angry. She was clearly feeling fine at the moment.
“Not a bit, Tina.” Street name, after the immortal Tina Turner. The name on her driver’s license was Gertrude Samantha Perkins, age twenty-two. A Scorpio sun sign, which I understood at an instinctual level, being one myself. Measured I.Q. of 138. Ranked eleventh in her high school graduating class of six hundred and forty-three students. All that, and here she was four years later, making her way with her body instead of her brain. Not that 38D is inferior to 138 I.Q. It’s all in one’s perspective, especially if you decide to matriculate in crystal meth. “Glad to have the company.”
She slid in across from me. By the time her friend finished standing in line and strutted back our way, Nancy had already delivered my Special. “No use letting it get cold,” I said by way of apology, and dug in.
Tina got up, let the tall girl slide in next to the wall, then sat back down. Protective. Senior partner. Lovers? Could be; Tina had been known to swing either way.
“Doc, this is Russet. She moved in with me a couple of days after they busted you for not letting L.D. kill you dead. Russet, this is Dr. Marten Warner, the shrink I was telling you about.”
“Pleased to meet you, Doctor.” Cultured voice, a bit little-girly for her size, but not bad. Slender build, full lips, hazel eyes that betrayed more than a hint of vulnerability. A foot shorter and she’d have been every pedophile’s wet dream.
I nodded my acknowledgment. Not polite to talk with your mouth full. Waggled the fingers of my free hand, the one that didn’t have a fork in it.
We all stayed pretty quiet after that until their food had been delivered and we’d all cleaned our plates. Nancy swung by, cleared our plates, refilled my coffee mug and brought them fresh Cokes. I still had a full hour to kill. The girls didn’t look to be in any hurry, either. Lunch rush isn’t the best time for working girls to pick up tricks anyway.
Tina took a sip of Coke. Kept her head down, brought her eyes up to look at me in that way she had. Teasing. That move likely added to her bank account some; it was incredibly demure and sexy. I twinkled at her, aware that Russet was watching our little game with interest.
Abruptly, she dropped the act. “Russet needs to come see you.”
I raised one eyebrow. Just a little, just enough to indicate curiosity, not rejection. “Do you, Russet?”
No response. Tina started to say something else. I stopped her with a subtle gesture. Waited. Held eye contact with the redhead until she broke. “I..uh…yes. Tina says you’re one of the good ones. I definitely…should talk to someone.”
“All right. But before we schedule an appointment, I have to make sure you understand the situation. It’s possible the police are watching me, waiting for me to make a mistake, spit on the sidewalk or something. I also have civilian enemies out there. I don’t believe you’d be at risk if you were seen visiting my office, but there’s always a chance.”
“Hey Doc”, Tina interrupted, “welcome to our world.”
“Good point. But it’s still something to consider. Russet?”
Her chin lifted. She looked me firmly in the eye, nothing demure about her attitude now. “Tina’s right. I’d like to schedule an appointment.”
“Afternoon or evening? Weekdays only; I don’t work on the weekends.” Not in the city, anyway.
We settled on the following Monday, two p.m., first appointment of the day. I scribbled her name–her real name, which turned out to be Jean Marie Spinks–and date of birth. Eighteen years of age, barely legal as the porn sites say. A Leo, born right in the middle of the sign. “Where were you born, Russet?”
“Ellensburg. That’s in Washington state. Tina said you’d need my time of birth, too, so I checked my birth certificate. Six fifty-nine a.m.”
With that settled, Russet excused herself to go to the restroom. I looked at Tina. “My sincere thanks. After all the L.D. Mess publicity, it’s kind of a surprise to find an old client still willing to refer a new client.”
“Oh, I’m old now, huh?”
“Oops. Twenty-two and over the hill.”
“Hah. Tell the truth, Doc. How you holding up?”
“As well as could be expected. Not as well as that lime green bra under that lime green top is holding you up, but not bad.” I fake-leered at her, part of our game. Of course, my leer wasn’t entirely fake. I was born a dirty young man, seem to be evolving into a dirty old man, and haven’t lost one bit of awareness when it comes to feminine charms. I’ve just got a lot more control at sixty than I did at sixteen.
“Hey, this is Victoria’s Secret. Ain’t nobody going to hold up any better’n that.”
“Didn’t hire you to be my shrink, Tina.”
“Hey, dickhead, the word is friend. And you don’t hire people for that, capiche?
“Really. You try and prove I don’t got no Italian in me. Matter of fact, I had an Italian in me just last night.”
I held my hands up in surrender. “Serves me right!”
“And don’t you forget it.”
“I won’t. Seriously, you want to know?”
“Why I asked.”
“I’m doing fine…except for one thing. I need intel. Lot of my contacts dried right up, won’t talk to me since I was busted. I need to know the word on the street.”
“Baby James ain’t speaking to you?”
“He was the first to boogey. Can’t blame him, considering his history with the po-lice and all.”
“Got that right. Okay, Doctor Marten Warner, I can tell you some stuff. Can’t guarantee it’s as complete as ol’ Baby’s would be, but if the well is dry, any water is good water, right?”
“Close enough. Absolutely.” I felt my pulse pick up, adrenaline kicking in.
“Well then. Opinion is kind of split. Most folks, if they’ve heard anything or paid any attention at all to the news, figured you must be one more perverted loser at first. Then when your YouTube video hit–you know that thing went viral, right? Course you do. That changed the whole game. Right now there’s a lot of people figure you’re a good guy. Some are scared of you; taking down L.D. like that got you a rep, dude. I’ve heard some things I swear come close to hero worship. Ain’t heard nobody talking about going after you or anything. One thing could be trouble.” She grinned, full sparkle mode. “The Aryan Nations types think you is their newest Great White Hope. Pretty soon, they be lining up to kiss your ring like you was the Pope.”
“Oh crap,” I muttered.
“Yeah. I thought you’d like that. I gotta go; Russet just come outa the ladies’ room, spring in her step and five pounds lighter. You might oughta know she’s bulimic.”
Bulimic? Great. I’d only had my own practice for three years, but in my admittedly limited experience, eating disorders were some of the most treatment resistant problems we humans ever invented. Tougher than Tina’s issues, which weren’t exactly fragile little things. It’d be interesting to see how the Russian redhead reacted to Coyote. I’d never heard of a coyote with an eating disorder.
Through the window, I watched the girls until they disappeared, striding down the sidewalk, just two more employees heading back to the office. If you didn’t know them, they could easily pass for that.
I sat there for a while, sipping the dregs of a cup of coffee gone cold, then got up and headed to the counter to pay my bill. Time to get back to the office. Study up on bulimia. The last bulimic I’d tried to treat–operative word being try–had abandoned therapy more than a year ago. Maybe the APIG, the all powerful internet gods, could keep me from losing this one.
The walk back to the office was peaceful. Not so much the lone message in my voice mail; Shrag Yeager wanted to know if I was back in business. Wanted to schedule an appointment. I called him back; yes, he could make it at seven p.m. this evening. Which was a good thing, this being Friday. When Shrag needed to be seen, he needed to be seen now. A stockbroker with an enviable track record when it came to picking winners and no discipline whatsoever when it came to food, the fat man stood six feet, four inches…and weighed well over five hundred pounds. He still walked without the use of a crane (not a misprint; a crane would have been about right), but the extreme pressure of all that poundage had compressed his kneecaps to the size of apricots. Forty-three years of age and unlikely to see his forty-fourth birthday. Engaged twice but never married. His idea of supper involved two pounds of raw hamburger and a gallon of milk. Hauling his immense bulk all the way down the hall to the bathroom constituted a monumental task, so if he was at home and all he had to do was pee, he usually did it right there on the floor. Soaking the shag carpet. One man ammonia factory.
Shrag Yeager didn’t entertain a lot.
The image was one you simply could not erase from your mind. Big man Shrag soaking the shag, stuffed with raw burger straight from the grocery bag. Not quite proper rap meter, but a mess worthy of L.D. Mess for all of that.
I was sitting there at the reception desk, pondering the Shrag problem, when an unmarked cop car pulled into the parking lot. Detective Samuel LaTreille walked in like he owned the place and plunked his altogether too handsome young butt in one of the waiting room chairs. “We need to talk, Doc.”
This couldn’t be good. My mind does really stupid things at times; at the moment it was tripping on the rhyming aspect. We need to TALK, DOC. Walk, cock, block, smock, frock, CLOCK, DOC.
“That sounds ominous.” No use trying to mask my alarm completely. Any citizen who’s been unfairly handcuffed and jailed would naturally be a little edgy when the youngest member of San Diego’s finest ever to make Detective says, We need to talk, Doc.
“Ominous.” LaTreille considered the word. Tasted it. Rolled it around with his tongue for a few seconds. “That’s true. It’s ominous enough.”
“Latisha Dawn Messinger was murdered last night.”
I didn’t say anything to that. Just hauled in a huge lungful of air, held it a moment, then let it out through my nose. Explosively.
The detective nodded appreciatively. “Couldn’t have said it better myself. First question is, where were you between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m.?”