“Good morning, Grady. Say hello to our new case.” Maeve slapped down paperwork, the beginnings of a new murder book. His private investigator had seen it all. Homicides, suicides, assaults, and no amount of horror could come as a surprise.
He slid onto his chair in front of crime photos. “This can’t be.” His heart pounded like a wild animal bursting to be free. “Victim has broken teeth, lodged in her throat.”
“The pattern mirrors Irene Brennan.” She scowled.
“Who’s our new client?”
“A handyman. Samuel Peterson repaired a leaky toilet at the Winter’s home yesterday afternoon. He left prior to the murder of Rose Winter.”
“A rose on ice,” he said, referring to this morning’s headline on the front page of the Los Angeles Globe. The body of the victim, found on her white marble floor, lay at an odd angle, arms and legs flung out like Raggedy Ann. Her shoulder length hair of dyed burgundy surrounded her head in a puddle of her own blood and scattered long-stem roses. “Rose Winter’s features were smashed.”
“Beaten to a pulp,” Maeve said.
“Her husband, Dr. Joseph Winter, is missing.” Joseph Winter, Ph.D. taught a class in urban planting at Cal State Long Beach, but more importantly conducted research for the department of agriculture. “Dr. Winter and his laptop hold secrets vital to national security.”
“Maybe Rose Winter held back his location.” She removed the lid and sipped coffee from the cup.
He sank in his chair staring at the white board where she scrawled key events.
Maeve said, “Maybe her assailant enjoys torture for the heck of it.”
He squeezed his panic into iron fists. “Did Rose write our client a check?”
“Yes, and then Sam Peterson left.” As if it were an everyday occurrence, Maeve adjusted the purple scarf around her neck. “Mrs. Peterson phoned us. Assured me her husband has no hidden talents. Sam isn’t a secret novelist or computer nerd. He’s a struggling black handyman supporting a family of four.”
A text message pinged again. This time he read it aloud. “Tori Morningstar. Says her food truck is open for business.”
“Great, team up. You’re both on Seamus McGinn’s tail.” Maeve gathered her purse and two four-inch binders.