Kevin was reading the reports Jason Everly had sent. Jon, gloved, was tapping on the unidentified victim’s phone. Kevin asked, “What are you doing?”
“Testing PINs. That kid is somewhere between eighteen and thirty-five, right? With any luck, he was dumb enough to use his birth year as his PIN.”
Kevin scoffed. “No way.”
Jon tapped a few more times. “Way! One nine eight nine. Dumbass.”
“So…we may have a date of birth?”
“Maybe. Let’s see if we have a name.”
Kevin heard the ding of his email notification and turned to his computer. “Hey, here are the names of the task force.”
Jon was still intent on the dead kid’s phone. “Who?”
Kevin scanned the list. “This might not be so bad. Susan Portman’s in charge.”
Jon looked up in interest. “Seriously?”
Before her promotion to the LAPD’s elite Robbery-Homicide Unit, informally known as Homicide Special, Susan Portman was a long-time detective at Pacific Division. She and Jon were partnered there for a couple of years, until Jon transferred to West LA. Susan was an out lesbian whose career began well before the LAPD’s official welcome of LGBT cops. She was fearless.
Kevin asked, “Isn’t Susan the noob at Homicide Special? Why would they give her a task force?”
“Maybe they’re testing her. In which case her response will be, ‘bring it on, motherfuckers.’ Who else is on the list?”
“Eric Padilla and Cody Mendoza.”
“Makes sense, since they’ve seen several of these cases.”
“Did you know that Eric used to date Jamie?”
“No, I did not. Padilla is gay? I had no idea.”
“Yeah. They met at a mystery bookstore.”
Jon snorted. “Figures. Who else?”
“Patrick Leong and another ER doc. Padmini Gupta. That’s it. First meeting is tomorrow morning at 8:30, at headquarters.”
“Maybe this won’t be so bad.”
“Maybe.” Kevin’s email dinged again. “Here’s a report from Adam Rabinowitz. The John Doe’s prints are not in the system. They’re searching through missing persons reports, but there are hundreds of possibles, so that’ll take a while. You finding anything?”
“Nothing but text messages. Put on your gloves and you can read ‘em.”
Kevin dug into a drawer for gloves then took the phone from Jon and read. The texts between Lane Swarthout and his co-victim began about four weeks before their deaths.
Is this Lane Swarthout?
Who wants to know?
Call me D. A mutual acquaintance said u want to be more productive.
YES. U can help?
Nothing permanent. Just for fall term.
Sure. Got just the thing.
I don’t mess with that shit.
Good. What is it?
Something new. Harmless. When can u meet?
Mission Dump Road. Turn south off Mulholland, go about 100 yards.
I’ll find it.
CU then. Thx.
Not so harmless, after all. The next text exchange began the following day, initiated by the mysterious D.
How’d you do?
AWESOME. Just like you said.
Great. Happy customers R us.
It wore off after about six hours, tho. Can I take 2?
Not yet. Wait a week. Get used to it.
I will. Don’t wanna mess it up.
That was it. Kevin handed the phone back to Jon. “I guess they made the rest of their arrangements in person.”
“Yeah.” Jon resealed the phone in its evidence bag and initialed the bag with Sharpie. “How do you suppose all those capsules ended up in Lane’s sofa? Lane was helping D. expand his customer base?”
“Sure. And I bet the two of them were trying to figure out how many they could safely take the night they died. Assuming the capsules in the sofa were what Lane and D. took. They may be something else.”
“God, I hope not.” Jon yawned. “What else do we need to do today?”
Kevin shook his head. “Autopsies are tomorrow, preliminary tox screens won’t be back until morning… I can’t think of anything else.”
“And we should probably wait until we meet with Susan and the task force before we try anything cute.”
Kevin laughed. “I don’t ever want to be on Susan’s bad side.”
Jon nodded sagely. “No, you do not. Trust me.”
Called out in the middle of the night.
Pete Ferguson’s call is from his sister; their dad has collapsed and is in intensive care. Pete flies to Tucson to be at his bedside. Jamie Brodie was already concerned for Pete’s emotional well-being, and his worries only grow each time he talks to Pete – who seems to be gradually falling apart.
Kevin Brodie’s call is from his boss, Tim Garcia; there’s been a double overdose at the Powell Library at UCLA. When the standard drug screens come back negative, Kevin and Jon Eckhoff go on the hunt to identify a new pharmaceutical killer.
When Kevin and Jon’s quest leads them in a direction they couldn’t have imagined, Jamie gets answers to some old questions, and is left with two more mysteries.
How is everything that’s happening in LA connected to New Mexico?
And will he and Pete make it through this crisis in one piece?
About Author Meg Perry
From Meg’s website:
“I’ve been writing the Jamie Brodie Mysteries since June 2012. Hard to believe! Jamie is (like me) an academic librarian. Not like me, he’s a gay man, a Rhodes Scholar, a rugby player, a son, brother, uncle…and boyfriend (eventually, husband). Jamie’s boyfriend (eventual husband) is psychology professor Pete Ferguson, and they share a townhouse in Santa Monica, CA.”