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Consumed

Consumed

Page 47

On that happy little note, he left the boardroom. As Perry came out of nowhere again and started to run after him, Tom nearly grabbed the guy by the throat and threw him across the lobby.

“Not now, Perry.”

“But I just want to put a bug in your—”

Tom wheeled around. “Stay away from me right now. Or you will not like what happens next.”

Apparently, the guy had basic survival skills in addition to all his ambition because he backed the fuck off like he had a gun pointed at him.

Smart. Real smart.

Chapter 32

On Saturday morning, Anne walked up to a three-story apartment building that had about thirty units. On the second floor, its brick exterior was stained with black streaks and plywood panels had been nailed over a line of windows that had been broken. A tree close to the corner had sustained loss, its gumdrop shape given a heat shear on one side.

The crime scene investigators were on-site, two of their boxy vehicles parked in front, and there were a couple of marked NBPD cars behind them. Television crews from the local stations were parked across the way, a uniformed cop staring at the made-up reporters and the casually dressed cameramen like he expected them to try to get into the place and was prepared to cut ’em off at the knees to keep them out.

The media’s interest had been intense ever since the details had started coming out the night before. The murder of one of the residents, supposedly by her grandson, and the subsequent fire that had started in the kitchen, were so sensational that the crime had been sucked into the vortex of the twenty-four-hour news cycle, click bait to be served up as the Internet’s newest fast-food meal.

She’d already seen two memes with something cooking in a cast-iron pan.

Grandma. It’s what’s for dinner.

Grandma. The other white meat.

Bastards.

After flashing her ID to the uni at the door, she went up the four flights of stairs, and the nuances of the fading smell of a contents fire confirmed on an olfactory basis that they were indeed some twenty-four hours out: the acrid stench had dissipated some, but it was still strong enough that she could catch the plastic high notes.

As she closed in on the apartment in question, there was a walk-of-shame element to the aftermath, the excitement gone, the frenzy over, nothing but water and smoke damage left as artifacts of the emergency. These residuals were concentrated down at the end of the hall, and there was NBPD’s yellow caution tape running on a diagonal so that it cordoned off the scene’s door.

As she approached, she had her ID out, but the cop on the business side of the tape nodded and held the tape up so she could duck under.

“Gloves and booties are here,” he said.

“Thanks.”

Stepping over to a box of nitrile gloves and a larger container of shoe covers, she got herself ready. Don had assigned her a support role on the case, the primary investigator having already been over during the night as soon as the fire was extinguished. Residents and the firefighters had been interviewed then, and a preliminary report filed. She was on origin and cause, but, as a probie, also required to do a start-to-finish on the investigation as training.

As she pushed open the door with her gloved hand, voices, soft but insistent, murmured deeper inside the apartment.

Initializing her recorder, she spoke into her iPhone. “Upon entrance, there is extensive evidence of a high-temperature contents fire in the living area . . .”

Following investigative protocol, she continued to describe what she saw as she proceeded forward into a short hallway, stopping at the marker indicating where the first body was found. Continuing on, she noted the fire’s characteristics and prevalence, its spread from the kitchen, its—

Anne stopped as she looked through an open doorway and into a bedroom that had been spared. Of the burn, at least. The violence that had happened within the four walls more than made up for it, and the pair of crime scene investigators working by the bed didn’t look out of place in the slightest.

She’d read both the preliminary report and the log from the 499, and was prepared, but the bloodstained sheets was a pause-maker. All she could think of was Danny opening the door in the blaze and seeing a relatively smokeless room with a gutted seventy-nine-year-old woman tied by her extremities to the bed.

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