Read Kissing Arizona Online

Authors: Elizabeth Gunn

Kissing Arizona

Further Mysteries by Elizabeth Gunn
The Jake Hines Series
TRIPLE PLAY
PAR FOUR
FIVE CARD STUD
SIX POUND WALLEYE
SEVENTH INNING STRETCH
CRAZY EIGHTS
McCAFFERTY'S NINE *
THE TEN MILE TRIALS *
The Sarah Burke Series
COOL IN TUCSON *
NEW RIVER BLUES *
KISSING ARIZONA *
* available from Severn House
KISSING ARIZONA
A Sarah Burke Mystery
Elizabeth Gunn
This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
 
First world edition published 2010
in Great Britain and in 2011 in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Gunn.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Gunn, Elizabeth, 1927-
Kissing Arizona. – (The Sarah Burke series)
1. Burke, Sarah (Fictitious character)–Fiction. 2. Women
Detectives–Arizona–Tucson–Fiction. 3. Illegal
Aliens–Fiction. 4. Deportation–Fiction. 5. Family
Secrets–Fiction. 6. Detective and mystery stories.
I. Title II. Series
13.6-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-056-2 (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-72786-961-6 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-289-5 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
ONE
S
arah blew off the phone entirely on the first ring. Her brain took grudging notice of the second ring but she just muttered ‘stinkin' minute', and went on banging out her report on the Cooper homicide interviews. She was trying to state precisely why she thought the children of the deceased had given her verifiable answers but not the whole truth. For openers, why didn't they ever look at each other? She believed in the validity of first impressions, if you could get them into the record before you got too distracted by interruptions like this stupid phone. She snatched up the miserable thing on the third ring, took a deep breath to stifle her frustration and said quietly, ‘Burke.'
‘Sarah,' Delaney said, ‘you know Artie Mendoza, right?'
‘Sure. Worked graveyard with him for a couple of years.'
And he helped me last Fall, when my druggie sister went down the rabbit hole.
‘Pick up line three and see what he wants, will you? He's ranting about a box of bones.'
‘A box of . . . ?' She abandoned the question because Sergeant Delaney's line had gone dead. Running the homicide division of the Tucson Police Department in a recession year kept him tightly focused on getting from one calamity to the next without blowing any new holes in his budget. Polite enough in public, in-house these days he mostly skipped frills like hello and goodbye. Sarah shrugged and punched the lighted button on line three. ‘Artie?'
‘Ah, Sarah, good, it's you. Listen, you coming to see about this now? Because I need to get
going
.'
‘See about what? Nobody told me . . .' She began looking around for her notebook, getting ready to move. Arturo Mendoza didn't fragment easy.
‘I got this call, go to the corner of Seventeenth Street and Park. That dead-end street down past the Seventeenth Street Market?'
‘OK. For what?'
‘Dispatch said meet some guys who claim they were hunting for a geocache in the area and found part of a body. I said, “Aw, they probably just found some old coyote bones.” Went down and found three guys standing on the corner waving handheld GPS units. I said, “Show me what you got,” and they told me to park in the turnaround and follow them into the alley. So I'm out in the noonday sun sweating like a hog in my vest, trying to keep up with these geezers tracking over weeds and rocks like a herd of goats. You know about this game?'
‘My mother's boyfriend is a cacher. It's just an Internet version of a paperchase, right? She says it's for old guys that still miss their Orphan Annie decoder badges.'
‘What, she thinks the GPS units are a little over the top?'
‘Yeah, using satellite technology to find hidden treasure that's really just worthless trinkets.'
‘Mom can get mean, huh? Why, does she want him to do something else?'
‘Ballroom dancing. He says when hell freezes over.'
‘God, Sarah, you mean love doesn't get any easier in the golden years?'
‘Nope. Looks like it's a fight right down to the wire.' She gazed longingly at her computer screen. ‘What about the bones, Artie?'
‘They're in a plastic tub, the kind you store records in, or extra bedding? Usually has a lid, but this one's full of cement and there's a piece of something sticking up so they couldn't get the lid on. Maybe a shoulder, part of an arm? Smells terrible.'
‘And you're calling me because?'
‘I called the ME's office, said send a wagon to take this corpse out of here. That office manager they got down there – Ethel, you know her? Ethel got all huffy with me, said they can't be running around picking up bones every time somebody calls. Could be a dead dog, Ethel says. I said, “When's the last time you seen dog parts set in cement, Ethel?” And
she
said, “Officer
Men
doze” – she can't be bothered learning how to say my name, y'know? – “Officer
Men
doze, your story keeps getting crazier, you better get a detective down there to handle things right.”
That's
why I'm calling you.'
‘Well . . .' Every synapse in Sarah's brain protested leaving her almost-finished crime scene report to run a fool's errand in the ratty south end of Seventeenth Street. But she and Artie Mendoza had backed each other up during many a long night in Midtown. And on the terrible night last fall when her niece disappeared, he had stayed on the hunt, quiet and resourceful as only a good street cop can be, till they rescued Denny from her mother's neglect. There was only one way she could answer to a call for help from Artie Mendoza.
‘Be right there.' She copied the next crime scene number onto a report form, clipped her Glock in its paddle holster onto her belt, and pulled on her jacket as she trotted downstairs. This errand was almost certainly a waste of time, but as soon as she agreed to it she adopted Burke's Law:
Don't waste time bitching, just do it.
Thirteen years on the Tucson Police Force, plus a bad divorce that laid waste to her savings, had sealed her stoicism. She'd put a couple of speed bumps in her career path with a habit of speaking the unvarnished truth when a little diplomacy wouldn't have hurt anything. She was learning to be more circumspect now, in hopes of being next up for Delaney's job when he moved on. Meantime she put in her hours in the gym, did her share of dog work and guarded her reputation as a straight-ahead police detective who did not mess around. Three minutes after she hung up the phone she was pulling out of the parking lot, headed south.
They were waiting for her on a weedy strip of gravel near the corner of Sixteenth and Park, three fit-looking retirees standing by a Jeep waving electronic devices. Artie was nearby, sitting in his Crown Vic talking on the phone. He folded it up as soon as he saw her, and jumped out to introduce her to the men who had called 911.
‘This is Team Low Gears,' he said, watching her face with unconcealed pleasure as he pointed to each and recited their handles. ‘Huffie the Horrible,' – the white-bearded one, ‘Naughty Dick,' – friendly-faced and quiet, ‘and Punxsutawney Phil,' – thin, with a humorous glint.
‘But that's too long to write down, isn't it? So just call me Phil,' the third man said, smiling as he put out his hand. He added, tentatively, ‘Officer?'
‘Detective,' Sarah said. ‘What's with the fancy names?'
‘Oh, just . . . you know . . .
noms de search
. To give us a little more
profile
,' the bearded one said, smiling brightly. ‘But you can just call me Huffie and this is Dick.'
‘Pleasure.' She shook hands all around. Behind them, Artie was pointing an anxious finger at his watch. ‘And I know you good citizens have already waited quite a while, but now I have to ask you to wait here just a little bit longer while I debrief Officer Mendoza.' She walked with Artie toward his car, saying, ‘Show me.'
‘Quickest way from here is on foot.' He walked a step ahead of her, pointing out the hazards among the trash heaps.
As soon as they were a few steps inside the alley, the city noises began to fade. The neglected backs of the buildings seemed older than the fronts, at once funkier and more glamorous. Looking around, Sarah imagined she could hear a distant echo of zither music from
The Third
Man
theme.
‘Isn't this amazing?' She looked around. ‘The isolation – I don't think I've ever come in here before.'
‘Looks like hardly anybody ever does.'
It was one of those spaces a big city sometimes creates and then leaves behind. Half a block south, a steady stream of customers flowed in and out of the Seventeenth Street Market, chattering happily over its astounding hoard of bead curtains, Asian produce, exotic canned goods and noodles from around the world. Twenty feet below the eastern retaining wall, heavy traffic roared by on Aviation Parkway. But here they were in a nearly moribund space, an alley between two rows of warehouses that faced north and south. All the loading docks had been moved out to the street sides of the buildings. In here the old windows were boarded up, most of the back steps had been removed and the rear doors, three or four feet off ground level, were locked up and covered with undisturbed grime.
‘There's where they found it,' Artie said, ‘over there where my tape is. The box is next to that pile of rubble.'
‘How messed up is my crime scene?'
‘Not bad. They pulled off the trash that was covering it up – they thought they'd found their treasure, you know? But soon as they saw . . . they backed right off and called 911, and they say they haven't touched anything since.'
‘You believe them?'
‘Oh, yeah. They're kind of spooked. You'll see why when you look in the box. Can you smell it now?'
She could, plainly. She stepped over the tape, picked her way across the rubble heap, and peered down at the plastic tub. Her first feeling was doubt.
‘This can't be a whole body,' she said. ‘The tub's too small.'
‘I know,' Artie said, ‘but chopped up, maybe?' On that cheerful note, he looked at his watch again and said, ‘Look, I got about a hundred calls on my screen, I
gotta go.
'
An hour later Sarah had parked her car on the gravel strip facing into the alley, and was sitting in it with the A/C on, chewing on a granola bar and watching a couple of crime scene techs at work. Before they arrived, she'd photographed Artie's taped square from every possible angle and noted down the distances from both ends of the alley. Now she added the names of the streets on all four sides and, thanks to the geocaching team, the GPS coordinates of the box of bones.

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