Here’s a sneak peek at the first chapter of my next Kate Huntington adventure…
The police radio chattered with unintelligible codes. Kate shoved a dark curl out of her eyes and stifled a yawn.
The uniformed officer in the driver’s seat glanced her way. A corner of his mouth quirked up. “Don’t know who said it first, but it’s true. Police work is mostly boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”
She flashed him a smile. “Sorry. It’s been a long day.”
What have I gotten myself into?
“All available units,” the radio squawked. “Shots fired. Armstrong building.”
The officer sat up straighter.
Kate couldn’t make out the address the dispatcher rattled off. All she caught was “…third floor.”
Armstrong building. Why does that sound familiar?
“Unit 12 responding.” Officer Peters hit the siren and lights. The cruiser surged forward.
Kate’s heart went into overdrive.
At nine o’clock on a rainy Sunday evening, the business district of Towson was relatively quiet. The few cars on the roads quickly got out of the way. Kate suspected it wasn’t nearly as easy to get to a crime scene during a weekday, when these streets would be teeming with cars and pedestrians and delivery trucks.
Her heart rate kicked up another notch as they careened around a corner onto York Road. “Remember to call me once you have the scene secured,” she yelled over the wail of the siren.
Officer Peters nodded slightly without taking his eyes off the slick road in front of him.
He pulled into the parking lot of a high-rise office building. Braking to an abrupt stop, he killed the siren and unhooked his seatbelt. The actions seemed to happen all at once.
Kate was impressed.
“Stay in the car until I call,” he said.
The order was unnecessary. She had no desire to end up in the middle of a gunfight.
He was out of the car and running toward the building, one hand on his holster, the other keying the radio on his shoulder. No, doubt checking on backup, Kate thought.
She transferred her phone to her left hand and made a note on the pad in her lap. Going into an on-going crime scene by oneself would definitely heighten the stress level of the officer.
She’d no sooner finished the note than two other cruisers screamed into the lot. Their sirens ceased with a dying screech, and two officers–one female, one male–bolted from their cars.
Peters had reached the front of the building. He grabbed the handle of one of the big glass doors and pulled it open.
Kate thought that odd. Wouldn’t an office building be locked up tight at night?
The other officers were hard on young Peters’s heels as he bolted into the building.
Kate scratched out the note she’d just made.
Temporarily, her moments of sheer terror were over. She sat in the cruiser, its motor humming, blue lights reflecting off the wet pavement in front of it.
Minutes ticked by.
Mist swirled around the car, adding to the eeriness of the night. The yellowish glow of the streetlights surrounding the parking lot created mini rainbows.
Butterflies danced in Kate’s stomach. What was going on in there? Her phone chirped in her hand. She jumped.
“We have a gunshot victim up here. Ambulance is on the way. Come inside and hold the elevator on the ground floor for the EMTs.”
“Sure, okay.” She fumbled with her seatbelt release, got out of the car. More sirens in the distance, a different pattern to the sound. The ambulance.
She jogged to the building and entered the lobby. Stopping for a few seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dim light, she willed her heart to slow its pounding. It didn’t listen.
She located the elevator in the shadows of the lobby and punched the up button. The up-and-down wail of the ambulance’s siren was growing louder.
A ding and the doors opened, the light inside the elevator blinding. She stepped in and squinted to find the open-door button.
Her finger was numb from keeping it on the button by the time the EMTs were maneuvering their gurney and equipment into the cramped space.
“Okay,” one of them said.
A frisson of panic ran through her. What floor?
The older of the EMTs reached past her and punched the button for three.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. “I couldn’t remember.”
“Ride along?” the EMT asked.
“Yeah.” She considered explaining further but suddenly felt exhausted.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. The EMTs hustled across a carpeted space to double glass doors.
A security guard held one of the doors open for them. Kate grabbed the other one and shoved.
The EMTs hurried past her. The guard gestured toward a lighted hallway off of the oversized reception area.
Kate started to follow them, her heart in her throat. She’d seen more than her share of the aftermath of crime, but she wasn’t sure she was up for this tonight.
The guard held up a hand to stop her.
“I’m with Officer Peters,” she said. “Doing a ride-along for the governor’s task force on PTSD in police officers. I need to observe the officers in action.”
“Sorry, ma’am. This is a restricted area.”
“But I need to observe the officers in action. I won’t do anything to contaminate the crime scene.”
“That’s not my worry, ma’am. We have top secret projects here.”
Movement in the corner of her eye. She turned her head.
A stocky man of medium height was pushing through the glass doors. He wore a business suit but carried himself like a police officer. Pulling back his suit jacket to expose a gold badge attached to his belt, he said, “Detective Russell.”
The detective looked from the guard to Kate and back again. “What’s going on?” He glanced past her to the lit hallway. It was one of many, like spokes in a semi-circle off the reception area, but it was the only one that was well lit.
Kate spoke up before the guard could answer. “I’m with Officer Peters. I need to be at the crime scene.”
Detective Russell raised an eyebrow. “You a witness?”
“Yes.” It wasn’t a total lie. She’d witnessed the call.
He grabbed her elbow. “Come with me.”
The guard seemed to hesitate, then stepped aside.
They walked briskly down the hallway. Rounding a corner, they entered a long room, the source of the light. Its walls were flanked by metal workbenches, with computer monitors scattered along them, all dark.
Officer Peters stood at parade rest about halfway down the room. He held a small book in his hands.
The detective let go of her arm and again flipped his jacket aside to show his badge. “Russell.”
Peters wrote in the book, checked his watch. Wrote the time.
“What’s the deal?” Russell said.
The officer started filling him in.
Kate stepped to one side to see past him, then froze. Her heart skittered around in her chest. She blinked and looked again at the man lying on the floor, the EMTs working with quick, efficient movements to stop the blood spurting from his chest.
A scream erupted unbidden from her throat.
Officer Peters pivoted toward her. “Mrs. Huntington, please. Go out in the hall.”
His words barely registered in her brain, which was still trying to compute what her eyes were seeing. “My God, Manny!” Her hands flew to her mouth to stifle another scream.
“You know him?” Detective Russell said.
She nodded, willing herself not to faint. “Y-yes,” she stuttered. “He’s M-manny. Manuel Ortiz. He works for my husband.”
Multiple Motives, Book #1 in the series, FREE on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Nook.
Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.