Truth & Lies: Excerpt 1

CHAPTER ONE

Sunday, November 9—2:30 am
Mt. Lookout Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

 

There was a special place in hell reserved for the kind of sicko who could kill a woman and then display her folded hands twined with Rosary beads. Dana’s eyes swept the bloody body of the young woman in impossibly high stilettos, a micro-skirt, and a lace top that left little to the imagination. The victim lay on the ground, one leg bent and slightly raised, the other spread to the side, leaving her wide open. As Dana studied the body, she tried to hang on to the investigative thread winding its way through her head, but a nearly uncontrollable fury pulled her back inside herself.

Conscious of the Cincinnati Police officers standing close by, she inhaled deeply and focused on the case at hand.

“When was she found?”

One of the uniforms stepped forward. “About an hour ago. A pedestrian stumbled on her. Our captain knew about the other two cases, and asked that you guys take lead.” He sounded a little annoyed by that, but since they asked, at least there wouldn’t be a turf war over the case.

Very little blood had pooled on the blacktop under the woman’s body. Long, deep cuts split open the skin on her thighs, abdomen, arms, and breasts. If she’d been killed here, there would have been a lot more blood.

The killer had left the woman’s face completely untouched. Even her makeup appeared flawless. No tearstains marred the perfection of her heavily applied shadow and mascara. A thin perimeter of lip liner contained dark red lipstick. Everything about this was so wrong. While the victim looked like a standard-issue prostitute, Dana felt in her bones that they had missed something.

The killer had planted this woman for them to find. Just like the others. She blew out a breath.

“You gonna faint?” asked her partner, Eric Thompson, as he stepped around her to get to the body.

She responded with a dirty look and rolled eyes. That would be a fun end to a lousy day. With the guys she worked with, she’d never hear the end of it. As a woman—particularly one new to the team—she hadn’t yet earned her stripes. She couldn’t afford to give them a reason to believe she was the weakest link in the chain.

“Take a look at these,” Eric called as he slid the rosary beads from around the woman’s fingers into a clear plastic evidence bag. He handed them to Dana so she could study them more closely without the risk of destroying evidence. Above the crucifix, a familiar medal had her turning it over and trying to read the inscription on the back. The lettering was too small to read in the poor light, especially through the clear plastic bag. She directed the beam of her flashlight at the bag.

“I’ve seen this medal before. My grandmother had a similar set.”

“What is it?”

“The medal is Our Lady of Medjugorje.”

“Med-where?”

“Medjugorje.” Dana spoke slower, pronouncing each syllable separately. Med-joo-gor-ee-ay. “In Bosnia?”

“So you think she’s Bosnian?”

Dana shrugged. “Assuming these belong to her, then she—or whoever gave them to her—had to have at least visited somewhere in the former Yugoslavia. Medjugorje is only about ten miles from the Croatian border.”

“You are a font of random knowledge.”

“I was born in Croatia. I didn’t move to the States until I turned eight.” Dana amazed herself with the casual way she’d delivered the information. Not so much as a catch in her throat. She’d become a better actor than even she’d realized.

And she knew she was good. Practice made perfect, after all.

The first raindrops began to fall from the sky, splattering on the plastic bag Dana still held in her hands.

Eric looked around. “Let’s allow the crime scene people to get in here to retrieve the body before the rain washes everything away.” He shot a quick glance at his watch. “It’s going to be light soon. I just got off the phone with the boss man. He’s bringing the rest of the team in Monday. He wants us to brief everyone on where we stand.” Eric rolled his head on his neck, trying to relieve tension. “He told us to coordinate with the police on the canvas and then go home and get some sleep. We’re not going to have any answers until the crime scene guys do their voodoo. And if the last two cases are any indication, we’re gonna be working doubles for the next couple of weeks, so we’re going to need it.”