Mid-morning, Detective Maria Doss went on a coffee run and stopped by Ellie’s desk for a break and some conversation.
“So, do tell,” she said, taking the visitor’s chair. “How was the honeymoon? Didn’t you regret not taking more days off?”
Life had been busy leading up to those perfect moments, so Jordan and Ellie had agreed to take a prolonged weekend at a spa retreat rather than a longer trip.
“Oh, no, it was amazing,” she said. “Thanks, by the way.” She picked one of the hot beverages and opened the lid. “Caramel latte. It’s not so bad coming back to this—though I really loved it. The nature, and fireplaces everywhere…Even the naps were tantric.”
She didn’t notice her choice of words until Maria started laughing.
“Transcendent. That’s what I meant.”
“Still, too much information, and a bit cruel to the single lady.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t worry. I can take it.” Maria took a sip of her coffee. “You better enjoy the peace and quiet while you can. Cliff’s been grumbling the whole time…When he was actually present, that is. Funny how in his opinion, only the women have too much off time.”
“He said that?” Ellie frowned. “We had a vacation last year, and before that, I never took more than a couple of days at the time. I know Jordan did the same. What’s his problem?”
“The whole world,” Maria commented. “Anyway, I’m glad you had a good time. It’s been almost quiet…you know that never lasts long.”
“True.” After the past few days, Ellie felt fairly ready to face whatever was going to come her way. Besides enjoying the heavenly tranquility of the mountain spa, including sauna, massages and the hot tub, she and Jordan had talked, a lot more than during those days in Hawaii, when they’d still had so much healing to do. Many things had still been uncertain back then. Now they had a solid foundation that enabled them to look at everything that had led them here.
“Harding, where’s your partner?” She turned around to face Lieutenant Carroll who had left his office.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him today.” Ellie barely suppressed a wince when she saw the irritation in his expression.
“All right, then, Doss, you go with her.”
“Sir…I have a meeting with the D.A. in…” Maria checked her watch. “Seven minutes. I should be going.”
“That’s okay. I can go by myself,” Ellie offered. Much to his credit, Carroll only hesitated a brief moment.
“Sure. Arnold Robertson, the music producer, was just found dead in his condo by his bodyguard.”
Ellie was already standing, keys in hand. “I’m on my way.”
Peace and quiet were over.
* * * *
Officers Chris Atwood and Samantha Potts were on the scene, and a perimeter around the building had already been established. Ellie had to make her way through a crowd of press and bystanders.
“You’re late,” Atwood said, and she barely refrained from rolling her eyes. Atwood was about the only friend Waters had at the department. While he was younger than Waters, his antiquated ideas were even worse than the detective’s. He didn’t like that Ellie had made this step up the career ladder, either.
At the front door, she showed her badge to a concierge who studied it for an inappropriate length of time, and on the penthouse floor, a guard quickly followed her.
“Ma’am, you can’t go in there.”
“I believe I can,” she said, flashing her badge again. “Thank you.”
The apartment stretched over two floors, with floor to ceiling windows. Ellie had no time to admire the view, her gaze drawn to the body in the center of the room. In another corner, Casey Lyons was talking to a burly man Ellie assumed to be the bodyguard, and ME Melissa Adams was taking pictures.
Now was not the moment to get nervous. She had proven that she deserved to be here, she knew what to do, and most of all, it wasn’t her fault if Waters neglected his duties to the point no one could ignore it any longer.
She walked over to Dr. Adams, grateful no one but she could hear her heart that was beating loudly all of a sudden.
“Good morning, Doc. What do we have here?”
“You’re aware of who it is we have here, right?” Dr. Adams asked dryly.
“Yes, of course. Arnold Robertson, the music producer. I’ve heard of him, but I didn’t know he lived in the city.”
“Well, someone who didn’t like him very much knew. By the way, there’s a woman in the other room they found holding this,” she held up a gun enclosed in an evidence bag. “Her shirt’s soaked in blood.”
For a brief moment, Ellie wondered if it could really be this easy. She looked down at Robertson who had been shot multiple times. How had that woman made it past the bodyguard? Unless…
“The how is pretty obvious, right?”
“I’d be surprised if those bullets didn’t come from this gun,” Melissa said.
“Okay, let’s find out.”
She knew Melissa would want to know if her team could move the body. Ellie saw no reason why not, given the rather clear circumstances of how Robertson died. She wanted to talk to the bodyguard, and see the woman before they brought her to the station, wishing she could do everything at the same time—wishing her partner would take the job more seriously. Still being the newbie in the Homicide unit, she couldn’t afford to make mistakes.
“That means we can go ahead? Detective?”
“Yes. Call me as soon as you know more.”
Ellie walked over to Casey Lyons and the man she was talking to.
“This is Raymond Owens, Mr. Robertson’s bodyguard. He found him earlier.”
“I also found the bitch that did it,” Owens said angrily. “Are you going to remove her from this house, or what?”
Ellie sent an imploring look to Casey who supplied the information she was looking for. “Her name is Brandi Gilbert. She’d been a guest of Mr. Robertson’s a couple of times before. Those visits passed without incident, Mr. Owens told me.”
“She’s a hooker, if you must know. It’s obvious that she was after money, probably to pay for drugs.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of this,” Ellie assured him. “In the meantime, I’d like to talk to you at the station, just so we can clear up some things.”
“What’s to clear up? I saw her with the gun in her hand.”
“She threatened you?”
He seemed almost offended at that. “I disarmed her, and then I made sure she stayed put until the police arrived.”
So that was what Atwood had meant when he said she was too late. Well, neither Atwood nor Owens would decide the next steps.
“Okay. I’ll meet you at the station. Thank you for your cooperation.”
In an office off the main living area, Brandi Gilbert sat, sobbing, the officer in the room with her shaking her head.
“Has she said anything?” Ellie whispered.
“Ms. Gilbert? I’m Detective Harding. Can you tell me what happened here?”
The woman looked up at Ellie with so much despair in her expression she felt a chill run down her spine.
“Have you arrested him yet?”
“Ray…if that’s his name.” She sounded nauseated, but that might be from the blood soaking her shirt. It made Ellie think of her first case…Bloody clothes didn’t always mean someone was guilty. On the other hand, she might be trying to shift the blame.
“Are you saying that Mr. Owens shot Mr. Robertson?”
She cast a frightened look towards the door, then shook her head.
“I did it,” she said.
On her first day back at work after her honeymoon, Ellie was apparently having it all: The murder weapon, and a suspect confessing at the drop of a hat.
Nothing was ever this easy.
More about author Barbara Winkes:
Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings. Women loving women always take the lead.