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Sarah nodded; Tucson PD had the same orders. Monsoon rains were drying up but September was still a scorcher—it would be a hundred degrees in this parking lot before lunch. Homicide had recently taken a beating about an elderly bystander who collapsed while a pair of detectives questioned him on the street. All investigators now got reminders with the morning brief: Get your witnesses out of the sun!

'Does he need medical attention now?'

'No,' Jacob said. 'Happens this is the nurse practitioner's day to visit. We turned him over to her and she put him on a respirator.'

'But he's still very upset about the shooting,' Henry said. 'Giving everybody hell about it like we could make it unhappen if we tried hard enough. Mr Ames is in about the best shape of anybody living here. But he always wants to be sure he gets his share of everything we got.'

'And gets it first,' Jacob said. 'Never too sick to see to that.'

'So with him out of the way I finally did get the motor turned off,' Henry said. 'I had to go right up there close to...' He choked again briefly but went on. 'Blood all over the place and even, God, I guess, must be pieces of his head...' He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, opened them and said, 'Shouldn't there be a doctor coming?'

'The coroner will be here soon. Tell me about the victim. What's his name?'

'The vic'—' oh, you mean the driver? Same as mine but Spanish—Enrique? But everybody around here calls him Ricky.'

'Any idea why somebody would shoot him?'

'Hell no,' Henry said, 'Ricky's a muffin.'

'Must be a mistake,' Jacob said. 'Of all the guys I know, Ricky's the last one I'd shoot.'

'What's his last name?'

'I don't know,' Henry said. 'Ask the manager.'

'All right. What's his name?'

'Her. Letitia.'

'That's all?'

''S'what she said to call her. Everybody's first names here.' Both men shrugged. Who knew what managers would do next?

'Except Mr Ames,' Sarah said. 'Why is he special?'

'Dunno,' Henry said, 'probably because he demanded it. He's a better'n average demander.'

'Right up in the top tier, I would say,' Jacob said. 'Him and his pal Millicent.'

Sarah was thinking, Where's my crime scene crew? She asked the gardeners, 'Have you seen a tall patrolman named Pratt, about this wide'—'' She held her hands up. 'With a hillbilly accent?' Henry's eyes recovered a little luster.

'And freckled all over?' Despite the stressful morning, Jacob began grinning again.

'That's the guy,' Sarah said, thinking, 'nobody like Bobby Lee Pratt for warming up the crowd.'

The young gardener pointed toward the entrance and said, 'There he comes now.'

She turned to look. Pratt was coming across the porte-cochère with his hand under the elbow of a tall, handsome woman who walked with a self-confident air. Pratt saw Sarah's nod of recognition and strode toward her with a gleaming smile. So big and all-over-blue, he looked like a uniformed tsunami ready to sweep her across the beige-pebbled grounds that surrounded this elegant building. Sarah got ready to fend off—they were not back in the day and it wouldn't do for the lead detective to be lifted and twirled by the meaty ol' boy from West Virginia. She settled her jacket with a quick shrug and stood tall.

But she relaxed as she saw him stifle his grin. Bobby Lee Pratt had never been the clueless hick it pleased him to impersonate, and they had stayed in touch during his years of teaching wannabe law officers down on Kolb Road. He had even treated her once to the standard tour of the training school, with gunshots and lunch. So he knew she had been over plenty of jumps herself and advanced several pay grades, including the big move to detective, in the thirteen years since he'd been her field training officer. He squared up in front of her and said, 'Detective Burke, good morning.'

'Good to see you, Officer Pratt. What have we got here?'

This excerpt ends on page 11 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart.

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