Just a little something to whet your KINDLE VELLA reading appetites. From THE JANE AUSTEN MURDERS a fan favorite for over 30 weeks.
“Detectives,” the officer at the apartment door greeted them, touching a finger salute to his cap.
“What ya got?” Frank asked.
While he referred to his notepad, the young officer read, “Vic is Charlotte Lucas, twenty-two, senior at Longbourne College. Discovered this morning by her roommate, Lucy Steele, at approximately seven-thirty.”
“Is the roommate still here?” Frank asked.
“Yes, sir. In her bedroom. The girl’s pretty shook up so I left my partner with her.”
“Anyone else here?” Lizzy asked.
“ME just arrived. CSU’s on the way.”
Frank nodded. “Thanks. Keep the door secure.”
Together, the detectives entered the apartment. Frank crossed his hands behind his back while Lizzy folded hers into her jacket pockets.
The front door opened into a living room that was a wide L shape, an efficiency kitchen forming the bottom part of the letter. Full-length floor-to-ceiling windows spanned one wall, the professional treatments open, letting in the early morning sun. Two sofas were a cocoa-colored leather, a detailed ornamental rug under them. The lamps on the two end tables were crystal, and the paintings on the wall were large and bright. Lizzy’s gaze flicked over one twice. It was a confusion of colors and strokes, all blending together to form an obelisk in the center of the canvas.
Modern art. Weird.
Both rooms were painted a stark, antiseptic white.
“Furniture’s not cheap,” Lizzy said. “My sister Jane would kill just for the couches. Place like this usually doesn’t go for less than three grand a month. Furnishings tell the vic must have money.”
Frank hummed a simple, “mmmm.”
The room had an order to it that bordered on perfection.
“There’s nothing personal in here at all,” Lizzy said, looking around. “No photos, no mementoes. It’s like a hotel.”
“Check the kitchen,” Frank said.
A quick glance at it and Lizzy saw a juice glass and a bowl in the sink, a drizzle of milk in the bottom of it.
Someone had time to eat.
The coffee maker was empty and spotless. The countertops glistened.
“Wonder if she had a housekeeper?” Lizzy said.
They found the victim’s bedroom at the end of a short hall, the pungent smell of her death guiding them in the right direction. Lizzy blew out a few quick breaths. The acrid and metallic smell of blood always made her queasy and she’d found that clearing her mouth and nose helped abate the nausea. From his squatting position next to the bed, Lizzy could make out the bald head of the county’s medical examiner.
“Detectives,” Dr. Hurst said, never raising his gaze to them. “This one’s messy. Be careful coming around.”
Paying close attention to where she stepped, Lizzy walked around the bed.
“Talk to us,” Frank said.
Hurst impaled the skin on the victim’s abdomen with the spiked end of the liver thermometer, stabbing it through with a purposeful, deliberate shove until it reached its mark. “Basically, her head’s been pulverized. Beaten to death with something long and hard.”
“Like what?” Lizzy asked.
Hurst shook his head. “Can’t tell for sure. I need to get exact measurements. Something like a baseball bat maybe. The splatter on the walls tells me the whole incident took place right here.” He removed the thermometer, a wet, sucking sound following it out on a path from her liver, through the muscles and fascia, to the outer skin.
The noise made the bile Lizzy was trying to keep down jump in her gullet.
She didn’t look at the victim. Couldn’t. Not first. The aftereffects of death on the surrounding area were easier for her to deal with than viewing the actual body from the onset.
Easier to deal with the facts, she thought. With the evidence. The victim wasn’t going anywhere.
Her gaze followed the bloodstream staining the wall and across the curtains and bedspread. Fat, gorged globules of brownish, rusty tinged streaks marred the wall in an inverted triangular pattern, with the higher droplets less dense, thinner, and elongated.
“He was angry,” she said, scrutinizing the splatter from top to bottom and back again.
“Understatement,” Hurst replied, a caustic chortle escaping with it. “Lotta rage here to cause this much damage. Her face looks like oatmeal with ketchup.”