Author's Official Booksite PINKIE PARANYA

Sample Chapter: One... Two... Buckle My Shoe

~ Chapter 1 ~

Katharine Macklin stared at the computer screen in disbelief. Little dolls stood in a parade in front of her, wrapped in see-through plastic. She rubbed her knuckles in her eye sockets, trying to clear her vision and bring back the bookkeeping program.

One...two...buckle my shoe. The snippet of nursery rhyme came clear, over and over in high pitched, whispery little voices. Kate’s throat tightened and the muscles around her heart constricted when she realized they weren’t dolls—but little girls. Why were they singing to her? An ominous dread settled around her shoulders. It was the psychic thing coming back to haunt her. It had helped to find her daughter when she needed it two years ago, but why was it here now? The familiar chills ran from the back of her neck down her spine and something told her she would have to call the police again.

~ * ~

“We’re facing a brick wall, Slater.” Captain Murphy glared at the man in front of him as if he’d grown two heads. “What do you mean you won’t come back to Homicide?”

The big man shrugged, towering over Murphy, causing him to move back a step. “I told you. I’m never doing Homicide again.”

“The chief wants it.” Murphy struggled to keep the ‘God only knows why’ sound out of his voice. “Don’t you ever wear anything besides street clothes?” Technically the sergeant wasn’t on duty, but his own men always wore neatly-pressed New York City blues and he liked that. “If the chief wants you back on this, it’s not negotiable.”

The two men glared at each other, neither backing down.

 

One... Two... Buckle My Shoe

“No can do. That’s why I left. Too much.”

Murphy hoped like hell Slater would refuse. He hated to push any more, but the chief was...well he was the chief. Slater wasn’t a team player though, and difficult to work with in the best of times.

“It makes no sense to anyone but that killing machine out there. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. We ID’d the kids. So far each family thinks it’s the only prey of this psycho. When the news gets out there are others, the public will go crazy buying weapons—I don’t blame them. Jesus! If you could talk to the parents.” Murphy sat behind his desk and slammed a drawer in frustration.

“I’m not coming back, I like it where I am.” Slater turned to go.

Murphy felt himself sputtering. “Hold on a minute, the chief didn’t say pretty please. He said you’d do it, although I don’t see how....”

“You don’t see how I can do anything Homicide hasn’t already done,” Slater finished Murphy’s sentence. “I don’t either.”

Slater’s interruption showed an arrogant lack of respect. It wasn’t his fault the sergeant hadn’t progressed through the ranks.

“The chief knows, when I left Homicide I said no more. Nearly killed me.” Slater’s mouth compressed into a grimace, a look that scared the hell out of rookies, and Murphy wasn’t too comfortable with it either.

The entire precinct knew how Slater’s dedication to work broke up his marriage. Many times, when Murphy heard his men talking about their home life or lack of it, he was glad he never took the time to develop any relationships. Slater’s next words jerked his attention back.

“I put my time in, got the flat feet to show for it. I’m good at what I do now, and you know it. The college boys, the button-down cops, are taught that any kind of mayhem to the suspect is to ‘punish with extreme prejudice’. The older officers call it ‘getting the perp’s attention’. That’s where I stand.”

“Plain and simple, you can’t accept progress.”

On the phone, the chief had called the sergeant by his first name, Richard. It grated on Murphy’s nerves to know the chief and the department troublemaker were on a first name basis. Only a few of the oldtimers ever called Slater by his first name.

 

One... Two... Buckle My Shoe

“I damn well don’t want to talk to any parents. That’s why I transferred to Robbery. I try reasoning with the suspect. If he won’t cooperate, that’s his problem. Pure and simple.”

Murphy tried to hold back a comment. Slater had crossed the line several times in his career. Not far enough to get suspended, but he wasn’t a stranger to Internal Affairs. In fact he came so close to the line he was never promoted beyond sergeant which didn’t seem to bother him.

“Look, Slater. I told the chief I had plenty of men who could do the job on this one. Hell, I see your point. I’d jump at early retirement too. I heard you’ve been seeing the doc about those headaches. A nice cozy desk job should work it all out for you.” Murphy swung his chair around, turning his back on Slater, dismissing him. Not easy, since the big man towered over his shoulder like a pile of rocks threatening to avalanche down a hill.

“You know that’s a crock of shit. I never pulled down a desk job in my life and don’t intend to. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to work in Homicide again.”

Murphy felt a glow of elation mixed with regret. He had Slater by the short hairs now. When a man began to justify his decisions, it was a sign he was caving in. You didn’t get to be captain in one of the toughest precincts in New York and not know your men. Time for a swift kick to the cojones while Slater hesitated, even so briefly.

“Don’t make me pull rank. I know you’ve been here longer than most of us, but I’m still boss. Robbery can wait, but the little girls out there can’t.” Murphy remembered that Slater had a daughter about the same age as these kids.

Slater opened his big fist and closed it again, cracking his knuckles. “Shit. Where’s the paper work?”

“Problem is, I can’t keep the news quiet much longer. We’ll have to hold back some information—as much as we can.”

“Yeah, I know. The copycats. They follow media coverage like groupies after a rock concert.”

Murphy slid the file toward the edge of his desk. “We have one citizen who’s anxious to talk to us about the murders.”

 

One... Two... Buckle My Shoe

Slater reached long arms for the papers and read for a moment. “Macklin. Is that the name of the woman I’m supposed to talk to first?”

“You should remember her. I looked up her file. A couple of years ago her daughter was killed in a hit and run. She led us to the body after having some sort of psychic vision. You were one of the investigating officers.”

“Oh yeah. I remember. She was strung out all right, scared of her shadow.”

Slater wouldn’t have tolerated lack of control. That’s what made him so damn good at solving psycho cases. They didn’t like to give up control either.

Murphy scratched his head with care not to muss the few wispy strands. His pale reddish hair was thick everywhere on his head but the very top. He figured he’d probably be bald at forty. “The point is, when she called, she told me about the plastic wrapped around the bodies—something few people know. She claims she sees things on her computer. That’s how she knew where her daughter was—or so she said.”

“Brother, that’s all we need. Let’s bring her in. Maybe she’s the killerælooking for her fifteen minutes of fame.”

Murphy ignored the sarcasm in Slater’s voice. “Kicker is, she refuses to come to the station. Insists on someone going to her house. One officer at a time. I told her that wasn’t procedure. You’ll have to question her. Sure, she sounds like a nut case, but we can’t take a chance. I know of police departments that keep psychic detectives on retainer—like attorneys. But you wouldn’t know about that, not having kept up with the times.”

“Yeah, Murphy, right. Probably they do that in California on a regular basis.”

Leaning back in his chair, Murphy laced his fingers behind his head. “I’ve got an FBI buddy who says they don’t officially acknowledge it, but they use psychics. All I’m asking is you check this out. If you don’t want to bother....” Murphy knew his tone of voice irritated, like a stone in the toe of Slater’s shoe. He folded his arms across his chest and waited.

Slater glared at him and when that didn’t seem to work, gave up and stared at the message in his hand with distaste. “Oh hell. I’ll do it on my way home this afternoon.”

 

One... Two... Buckle My Shoe

“What time you get here this morning?” Murphy asked. “You look like you’ve been dragged behind a truck on an unpaved road.”

“Thanks. Came in about four. Couldn’t sleep.”

“I don’t know about going over there alone. You should take another officer with you, even if she doesn’t want it that way. We can’t make her come in, although we could put on some pressure. If we do that, she might decide not to talk at all.”

“Think she’ll try to take advantage of me?”

The captain laughed. “You should be so lucky. But hey, kidding aside, this one sounds strange. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to stick your neck out.”

“That’s what I do best.”

Murphy’s shrug delayed the sarcastic comeback that edged to the tip of his tongue. Slater wasn’t known for his sense of humor. “I’ll call Mrs. Macklin—let her know you’re coming and fill her in about you talking to her before.” He rustled some paperwork on his desk and felt rather than heard Slater’s departure. For a big man, he was light on his feet.

 Murphy got up to go to the john, still thinking about how the lab had analyzed the scrapings from the shoes of the victims with the results showing loamy soil and grass mixtures. The kids hadn’t picked that up from a city sidewalk or street. Just one more fact to file away in his brain.

~ * ~

A car pulled up in front of her house. She sneaked a peek from behind the drapes and watched the man inside the car. Her mind instantly connected with his. He was sizing up her place. It had been two years since he’d been there and bits and pieces were coming back from the past. She felt his reluctance to come inside—he thought she was neurotic. She watched him continue to stall, judging the surroundings. She knew his thoughts as clearly as if he’d spoken out loud.

 

One... Two... Buckle My Shoe

Middle class, older people in the neighborhood. He could tell by the respectable vintage cars occupying most driveways in the afternoon that the owners probably were retired. The silence of the street said no children around. No toys or bikes cluttering yards. Several streets down, the area was changing into a quiet warehouse district.

Her driveway was empty with no sign of an oil or radiator leak. Had she grown bored sitting around home listening to her soaps? She could be lonely and needing attention.

He intended to set her straight in a helluva hurry. He didn’t have time to waste.

Kate pushed away the detective’s sour thoughts, wishing that nice Captain Murphy might have come. He sounded so gentle on the phone. This man was the opposite. He was everything in the outside world that terrified her and kept her a recluse since her husband and daughter had died and left her behind. In a few moments, she would have to open the door and let him into her home.