It should have been an open and shut case. At least that's what Sergeant Lopez had said.
We'd been tracking the guy for weeks now and it didn't seem like we were getting any closer. I pulled my trench closer around me and stepped out from under the awning of the bakery and into the downpour. Heavy drops of rain spattered off my wide-brimmed fedora and ran in rivulets down my coat.
What a night for a murder.
Inconsiderate ass, I thought as I approached the crime scene. There were two uniformed cops standing in the rain, ostensibly guarding the perimeter. It wasn't as though anyone was going to come out on a night like this to bother the scene, but regulations were regulations. At least they had umbrellas. I'd lost mine during a particularly interesting car chase the week before and hadn't yet managed to convince the local PD to replace it.
Just beyond the beat cops was another man. He was clad in a trench coat much like my own, although his was a lighter brown than mine. Both had been soaked to nearly the same color by the torrential rain, though. He wasn't wearing a hat and the water ran into his eyes and down his strong face. Dark smoldering eyes, chiseled features. He was a looker, but I didn't have time to speculate on that just now. Save it for later.
I flashed my badge at the nearest cop. He didn't even bother to look, just waved me on by. I couldn't decide whether to be annoyed by that or grateful.
"Go on, Princess. Hurry it up, it's freezing out here." The cop said. I recognized him now that I was close enough to see him. His name was Jenkins. He'd only been on the force for a few months, but he was a sharp kid.
"Screw you, Jenkins." I replied, passing him by. He chuckled good-naturedly.
The comments were more affectionate than rude. I'd acquired the nickname "Princess" years before, during a case that I'm not at liberty to speak of. I wouldn't speak on it even if I could. Some skeletons are best left where they're found if you know what I mean. Most of the force called me that now. The rest just called me by my last name, the harbinger of bad luck.
"You must be Murphy," said the detective, rising and extending his hand to me. I took it, shook it, looked him in the eye. "I'm Detective Knight."
"Chantal Murphy," I answered. "What do we have?" That's me, all business.
We crouched down together and looked at the body lying in the rain. It was a man, mid-thirties if I had to guess. There were two bullet holes in his chest, although neither looked like it should have been immediately fatal. The guy had probably bled out right here on the street and it had all washed away in the rain. Of course there wouldn't be any witnesses. There were never any witnesses, even when there were.
"Any ID?" I asked calmly, carefully walking around the body in a half-crouch, examining and occasionally using the eraser of my pencil to twitch aside fabric or a stray lock of hair.
"Yeah," Knight explained. "Still had his wallet on him, although most of the contents were ruined by the rain. His card says his name is Brian O'Malley. Irish immigrant would be my guess."
I looked around for any other clues, quickly spotting the building just a few steps away down the street. "Let me guess," I said wearily. "Our man got caught stealing from someone in the pub there. This guy followed him out here. Words were exchanged and boom." It wasn't the best guess, and I knew it, but I was already tired. It had been a fourteen hour day already and the pelting precipitation wasn't helping a damn thing.
"Close." Knight smiled ruefully. "He's the owner of the pub right there."
I quirked an eyebrow, nodding thoughtfully. Our man was into collectibles. This was the fourth case like this now. Each time there was a dead man in the street, two or three gunshot wounds and a missing collection worth a fortune.
"You look around inside, yet?" I asked. He shook his head. "I'll bet my hat there's something missing."
Knight looked wistfully at my hat and I grinned broadly at his own sodden and hatless head. "As much as I'd like to, there's no way I'm taking you up on that bet. The way I hear it, you're quite the jinx."
I just nodded, knowing my reputation. It was the reason so many people just called me Murphy.
"I'll go check it out," I told him and headed for the pub.
There was another uniformed cop standing beside the door. He looked appreciative to be hiding under the awning. "Some night, huh Murphy?" He seemed to think something was funny about it.
I looked back at Detective Knight, and then at the cop, confused. "What?" The cop pointed upward at the storm. "Oh, sure. Whatever." I glowered at him and then opened the door and walked inside. As though it were my fault that there was a storm tonight. Who knows? Maybe it was.
I shrugged out of my coat and hung it up on the coat rack by the door, then added my hat to it. It felt nice to shake my long brown hair out of the bun that it had been tied up into. I'd have to pull it back up before I could put the hat on again, but sometimes it was just nice to let your hair down. Unprofessional, maybe, but nice.
The pub wasn't especially large and it didn't take too long to look it over. I found what I was looking for in the back bedroom. Shelf upon shelf, completely empty, but the dust patterns showed that there had definitely been something there before. A lot of little somethings by the look of it. Interesting.
After pulling a few drawers open I found a small leather bound photo album. It was worn and obviously cherished. I flipped it open and found it. Bingo. There, plain as day was a photo of the man in the street. He had two less holes in him and was upright in the photo. A big goofy grin suffused his face and he was standing beside the shelves in this very room. Every detail was identical, except that the shelves were covered in hundreds of figurines. The little statuettes were cast in every color with brilliant shapes and shining hair.
My heart skipped a beat. It must have been the largest collection of rare My Little Ponies that I had ever seen. No wonder they had been stolen, they would be worth a fortune to the right buyer. I had a few different collections of my own at home, so I knew how serious this sort of thing could get. Disney movies, anime, Star Wars. What? Everyone has a hobby.
I glanced at my watch. It was almost five in the morning. It was too late; scratch that, too early for this shit. Now that I knew what was missing, it was time to look for clues. Someone had come back here and taken the entire collection. They would have been here for at least a couple of minutes. Maybe something had been left behind.
After nearly fifteen minutes of searching, I found it. There was a small notebook that had been kicked under the desk. It looked not unlike the one I had in my own pocket. In fact it was almost identical. I flipped it open to the first page, and there it was in heavy black writing. Detective Knight.
A creak by the door made me look up. Detective Knight was standing there, staring down at me. He looked taller in here, out of his trench coat and standing rather than crouching. His plain clothes fit him well, showing off just a tantalizing hint of the body I had already suspected must be there. Really, really, a looker.
I dropped that in here, earlier."
"When I asked you about it earlier you were pretty insistent that you hadn't been in here." I reminded him. Probably a bad move on my part. Never call out the perp on his wrongdoings when he's standing over you. Especially when he's bigger than you. I watched his muscles flex and ripple as he drew the pistol out of his shoulder holster and pointed it at me. Certain death never looked so good.
"I didn't think you'd buy that, but it was worth a shot," he said, his voice sounding smooth and sinful now that we were out of the rain. What can I say? I have a thing for bad boys, even staring down the barrel of a nine millimeter pistol.
"So what now? You shoot me and run off to sell your new collection?"
"Sell? Hell no."
"You're not selling them?" I asked, surprised. "What the hell are you doing with them?"
"I'm keeping them. Saving them for the right girl."
"Oh, really?" I turned to face him, rising slowly to my feet. The gun barrel didn't follow me, but remained fixed on the floor where I had been crouching. He must have seen the goofy smile plastered on my face.
"Yeah," he said, swallowing.
I tossed my long auburn hair behind me and shot him my best smile. I looked into his smoldering gaze with my own dark eyes and a whole world of words passed between us in an instant.
He holstered his pistol. I handed him his notebook and he pocketed it.
"This is a really tough case," I said, grinning at him. "I don't know if we'll ever be able to figure this one out."
We walked out to the bar again. He handed me my coat and hat, which I put on without bothering to pull up my hair. He put his own coat on and opened the door for me. We told the cop by the door that we were finished with the scene and left him and the other two to clean things up with the coroner when he got there.
The rain had slowed but it was still present, washing away all traces of evidence from the scene outside. I smiled up at Knight and he smiled back down at me. I really am Murphy, I thought with amusement, knowing there was nothing left back at the scene for anyone to go on. Bad luck just seems to follow me around.
"You want to get some coffee?" Knight asked me.
"Sure." I replied cheerily. I started humming a song quietly to myself.
"Aladdin, huh? You a Disney fan?"
"A bit," I admitted.
"I have the whole collection at home," he said. "My brother works in their production studio, so he always sends them to me."
I grinned ecstatically as we walked toward the coffee shop, thinking about my own collections at home.
"Well let me ask you this," I said, not daring to hope. "What's your opinion on Star Wars?"
We grinned hugely at one another and walked into the coffee shop and the rest of our perfect, if slightly sullied lives.