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Dream Man(5)
Author: Linda Howard

“So what kept you awake last night?” he asked Trammell. “Anything in particular?”

“No, just one of those nights when a weird dream starts every time you doze off.”

It was funny how the dreams came and went. All cops had dreams, but he and Trammell had gone through a rough patch a few years back, just after the shootout; the dreams had come every night for a while. Most cops went through their entire careers without ever firing their weapons on the job, but Dane and Trammell hadn’t been that lucky.

They had been trying to find a suspect for questioning in a shooting and had been led, by the suspect’s pissed-off girlfriend, right into the middle of a big-time drug operation, operated by none other than the suspect himself. That was usually the way the bad guys went down; they weren’t caught by sharp detective work most of the time, but by someone dropping the dime on them.

That particular time, instead of bailing out any available window and disappearing down rat holes, the bad guys had come up with lead flying. Dane and Trammell had hit the floor, diving into another room, and for five of the longest minutes in history they had been cornered in that room. By the time backup had arrived, in the form of every cop in the vicinity, uniformed and otherwise, who had heard Dane’s radio call of “officer under fire,” three of the bad guys and the girlfriend were down. The girl and one of the men were dead. A slug had ricocheted, splintered, and part of it had hit Dane in the back, just missing his spine. It had still packed enough punch that it had broken a rib and torn a hole in his right lung. Things had gotten a little fuzzy there, but the one clear memory he had was of Trammell kneeling beside him and cussing a blue streak while he tried to stop the bleeding. Three days in intensive care, fifteen days total in the hospital, nine weeks before he’d been able to return to the job. Yeah, they’d both had a lot of bad dreams for a while after that.

Just as Trammell served up the waffles, the phone rang. Dane stretched to pick up the receiver, and at the same time Trammell’s beeper went off. “Shit!” they both said, staring at each other.

“It’s Saturday, damn it!” Dane barked into the receiver. “We’re off today.”

He listened while he watched Trammell hurriedly gulp a cup of coffee, then sighed. “Yeah, okay. Trammell’s here. We’re on our way.”

“What canceled our day off?” Trammell wanted to know as they went out the door.

“Stroud and Keegan are already working another scene. Worley called in sick this morning. Freddie’s in the dentist’s office with an abscessed tooth.” Things happened; no sense getting hot about it. “I’ll drive.”

“So where are we going?” Dane gave him the address as they got into his car, and Trammell wrote it down. “A man called in and said his wife was hurt. An EMT was dispatched, but a patrol officer got there first. He took one look and canceled the EMT, and called Homicide instead.”

It took them about ten minutes to reach the address, but there was no mistaking the house. The street was almost blocked with patrol cars, a paramedics van, and various other official-capacity vehicles. Uniformed officers stood around on the small lawn, while neighbors gathered in small bunches, some of the onlookers still in their nightclothes. Dane automatically studied the onlookers, looking for something that didn’t fit, someone who didn’t seem to belong or who was maybe just a little bit too interested. It was amazing how often a murderer would hang around.

He shrugged into a navy jacket and grabbed the spare tie out of the backseat, loosely knotting it around his neck. Somehow, he noticed, Trammell had managed to impeccably tie his own tie in the car. He looked again. Damn, he didn’t believe it! The dapper bastard had chosen a doublebreasted Italian suit to wear on his day off! He’d simply slipped into the suit jacket as they’d left the house.

Sometimes he worried about Trammell. They showed their badges to the policeman at the door, and he stood aside to let them enter.

“Sheeit,” Dane said in an undertone as he got a good look.

“And all the other bodily excretions,” Trammell replied in the same disbelieving tone.

Murder scenes were nothing new. After a while, cops reached the point where violent crimes were pretty routine, in their own way. Stabbings and shootings were a dime a dozen. If anyone had asked him half an hour earlier, Dane would have said that he and Trammell had been detectives long enough that, for the most part, they were unshockable.

But this was different.

Blood was everywhere. It was splattered on the walls, on the floor, even on the ceiling. He could see into the kitchen, and the bloody path wound from there through the living room, then into a small hallway and out of sight. He tried to imagine the kind of struggle that would have sprayed blood so extensively.

Dane turned to the uniformed policeman who was guarding the door. “Have the crime lab guys showed up yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Shit,” he said again. The longer it took the crime lab, or forensics, team to arrive, the more the crime scene would be compromised. Some disturbance was unavoidable, unless the forensics boys were the ones to discover the victim and immediately secured the area. But forensics wasn’t here, and the house was crowded with both uniformed and plainclothes policemen, milling around and inevitably muddying the evidential waters.

“Don’t let anybody else in except for Ivan’s guys,” he told the officer. Ivan Schaffer was head of the crime lab team. He was going to be really pissed off about this.

“Lieutenant Bonness is on the way.”

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