Today's Reading

The body lay five feet or so from a rear bank of sliding glass doors. One panel was open.

Stepping out of his home into the warm night air and...

Something small had been yellow-tagged to the left of the corpse. I bent and took a look. Unrolled condom.

Stepping out into the charitable night air, ready for fun.
He was young, late twenties or early thirties, with a black buzz cut and a three-day beard the same color. Midsized, lean, muscular with a long chiseled face centered by a strong, slightly hooked nose. Hispanic, Mediterranean, or Mideastern.

Rose-vine tattoo around his left ankle.

He lay flat on his back, mouth open, eyes partially shut, what was visible of the sclera, dark brown.

A black terry robe had been tossed carelessly over a chaise lounge chair that faced the pool. Next to the lounge a table held two crystal highball glasses, a bottle of Campari, an ice bucket half filled with water, and two cans of Pellegrino. Abutting the cans, a dish of small, ocher olives. The absence of pits said untasted.

Beyond all that, a naked woman occupied an identical lounge.

Prone and shot in exactly the same spot, head facing left, right arm dangling.

A bit older than her companion—fortyish—she was equally trim with crisp angular features and the kind of symmetrical beauty that cameras love. Blood of the same color and consistency striped her left breast and ran onto the chair, which was some sort of woven vinyl. Spaces between the weave allowed the rusty clot to settle on the deck below.

Her thick mahogany hair was scrunched up in a high pony. Her fingernails were polished pink, her toenails black. A black robe identical to her companion's was draped neatly over the top of a third lounge.

No body ink I could see; any obvious adornment came from the carbon glinting on her left hand: a sizable rectangular diamond ring above a pavé wedding band.

Holes in her earlobes but no earrings.

I took in the rest of the layout. A few leaves floated on the pool surface. Only a few, because unlike the front of the property, the sliver of space was concrete, much of it cracked. It butted up against ten-foot redwood fencing that continued on both sides. Several feet behind the back fence, massive, bushy podocarpus asserted themselves. Layers of them, from the near-black density. They're clean trees but slow-growing. These had to stretch back decades.

I said, "Who lives over there?"

Milo was surprised by the question. "No idea, Alicia's canvassing.
Anything right here intrigue you?"

I took a closer look at both bodies and a few of the uniforms took closer looks at me. "Big holes. A .38 or larger?"

He strode to the northern fence and pointed out a splintered divot in a plank. "Pulled out a bullet, no casings, mashed up but looks like a .38."

"A revolver...there's a precise feel to it. Confidence that one shot would take care of business and pinpoint accuracy. Where's the other bullet?"

"Still inside her," he said. "The back of the chair blocked exit, it's wedged up against the plastic." Shaking his head. "Miracle fiber, who knew."

"Who found the bodies?"

"Pool guy at six forty-five. He comes twice a month, this is the first stop on his route, he's careful to be quiet. Says with no plants it's an easy job, he's in and out, has never actually seen or spoken to anyone, his company handles all the arrangements."

He tapped his foot. "How do you see it happening?"

"My guess would be he got shot first."

"Mine, too. Subduing him first would be safer."

"His position suggests he'd gone inside, maybe for the condom, reemerged and was confronted. The killer could've been concealed at the side of the house and still had an oblique view of the yard. What time do you figure it happened?"

"C.I. guesstimates eight p.m. to two a.m., doubts the pathologist will be able to narrow it much."

"No rigor."

"There was some when I got here but it faded soon after, so I'm figuring on the earlier end."

I said, "Either way, it was dark and they were preoccupied and less likely to notice an intruder. He waited until the time was right—after the male victim stepped out—came forward, and pulled off a quick shot to center mass. She was relaxing in the chaise, naked and vulnerable. She froze, the shooter walked up to her and finished what he'd come to do. I asked about the neighbors because if it's also a small property, someone might've heard the gun go off."

"No 911 calls, but we'll check it out."

"Her ring is sizable but it wasn't taken. Anything lifted from the house?"

"Nothing obvious. Want to see for yourself?"

Without waiting for an answer, he gloved up, handed me a pair, turned and led me through the open glass door.

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...