“Sour cream, onion and death!”
The shout was a fraction of a second before the small round object grated across warm flesh. A gash opened immediately and a fountain of blood drenched the wall and floor. The masked figure discarded the weapon and held the victim from behind. It looked like the embrace of lovers, comforting each other at the beginning of another day. It wasn’t until the body was dropped unceremoniously to the floor that the viscera was revealed. The masked figure looked around the room, picked up a laptop, and quietly closed the door on the way out.
Josephine Montez ducked under police tape, stepped through the open door and surveyed the scene. Kneeling, she examined the face-down body and the dark sticky pool. She made certain her shoes stayed clean.
“Yo, Jo! What do you make of this?”
Josephine’s partner stepped through the same door, but didn’t venture far into the room.
Without turning, Josephine called out. “Hey, Doug. Looks like he’s struck again.”
“Another potato chip?”
She held up an evidence bag. “Sour cream and onion.”
“We won’t find anything here. Let’s get outta here.”
Josephine stood, smoothed her pants and walked out the door.
The next morning, Josephine walked into the bullpen to see Doug scrutinizing several photos. Several were face-down on his desk.
“I just can’t get used to a homicide detective who’s queasy at the sight of blood.”
“Seen enough blood in my time, don’t need to see more.”
She smiled and draped her coat over her chair. Before she could retort, the phone on the desk rang.
Doug seized the phone. “Crawford.”
He listened for a moment and frowned. “Same to you, asshole!” He slammed the phone down to disconnect the call.
To Josephine he said, “We have a problem.”
“Then what did the caller say?”
“‘Ruffles have ridges, motherfucker’ and I hung up.”
The captain frowned. “And you didn’t keep her on the line for a trace, because?”
“Sorry, Ma’am. I lost my cool in the heat of the moment.”
Josephine interjected, “Ma’am, this assassin has eluded us for months, I doubt a trace would’ve led us anywhere.”
“Guess we’ll never know, will we?”
In unison the detectives responded, “No, Ma’am.”
“Get out and get this case solved.”
The two detectives stood, glanced at each other and again said in unison, “Yes, Ma’am!” before scurrying out of the office.
“Up for some lunch?”
Josephine scowled. “From the roach coach around the corner? No, thank you.”
“Uh… No. I prefer my foodstuffs properly prepared.”
“Come on, Jo. These guys are subject to the same Heath Department as a restaurant with windows and doors.”
“The whole setup looks skeezy.”
Doug grabbed her coat before announcing, “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.” He tossed it at her and continued, “My treat. Surely you won’t pass up on a free meal?”
“More like free food poisoning” Sighing, she relented. “Lead the way.”
Side by side they walked to the elevator.
Doug shoveled pico de gallo, sour cream and ground beef into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in days. Josephine watched and ate small bites of her gyro. She hadn’t thought of a Mexican food cart for Greek food, but other than the sauce, they were similar enough. They ate in relative silence. Doug so he could focus on shoveling, Josephine concentrating on the case. Each time she attempted to work out a piece of logic, Doug would grunt and shovel another tortilla in his mouth. When he finally finished, he asked, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Why did I become a detective?”
“Yeah. Your family is in the food manufacturing industry. You don’t exactly need this job.”
“You mean, ‘why did you turn your back on the family potato empire?'”
Doug shrugged his agreement.
“Let’s put it this way: the family business is all-encompassing and I didn’t want to mix it up in the mud.”
“Still, that’s a lot of money to walk away from.”
“Someday I’ll have to deal with it, but until then, I’ll do my job as a detective.”
“That day might be sooner than you think.”
“Let’s get back to work.”
“Let’s call it a day.”
Josephine looked past Doug to a clock that read 5:15. She closed the file she was studying and grabbed her coat off the back of her chair.
“Walk you out?”
“That’s hardly necessary.”
Doug flipped his scarf over his shoulder. “Suit yourself.”
Josephine walked through the parking garage. She felt uneasy. Instincts told her she had a missing piece to a puzzle she was only vaguely aware of. Sitting behind the wheel, staring at herself in the rear view mirror, she saw the grill of a large truck seconds before she felt the impact.
Josephine awoke tied to a metal chair in the middle of an empty warehouse.
Her shout echoed. She didn’t know how long she was unconscious, but she watched a moon beam creep across the floor. She worked her wrist and felt her binding loosen. She had been at it for hours and now watched sunlight fill the warehouse.
Her attention was drawn to an opening door as Doug entered, gun drawn.
“Doug! Over here!”
Doug rushed to her side. “There you are.”
“Help. I’m almost free.”
“I see.” He said tightening the rope. “I got here just in time.”
“I said five million!” Doug shouted into a cellphone. “Fine. I’ll be waiting.”
Closing the phone, he focused on Josephine. Glaring, she spat at him.”You work for a rival company?”
“Please.” He scoffed. “I have loftier ambitions.”
His rant was interrupted by the sound of a car door closing outside. A man walked through the door with a briefcase. Doug rushed to him and seized the case with both hands. Before he could open it, a fine red mist erupted from his forehead.
The man walked over to Josephine and holstered his weapon. “Let’s go home, pussycat.”