When a conservative Senator dies in a kinky scene at a sleazy hotel, Jane Sweet is put on the case. Soon the bodies begin piling up as she and her partner, Shelby Dimitri, search for a killer that seems to be one step ahead of them. Fighting her own personal demons, Jane wonders who she can rely on when evidence is planted to point her way. Someone is searching her desk and using every means possible to monitor Jane’s progress in the case. They forgot one thing though, her reputation; everyone knows that Jane Sweet is a crazy bitch.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have enjoyed stories where the main character is less than perfect. To me, this made them seem real. During the college courses I took for both my Law Enforcement/Corrections and Registered Nursing degrees we were warned about the high rate of addiction suffered by members of both professions. As a nurse, I have frequently dealt with people who suffer with addiction. While some medical professionals may only see the addict, I try to see the person underneath the disease.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I have known many strong women and try to insert their strength into my characters. The weakness Jane suffers is hers alone. Shelby is based on the people I have run across in my life that are absolutely certain life revolves around them.
The man tied to the bed was dead and didn’t know it. He was lying spread eagle on the iron four poster bed with a ball gag in his mouth and his flagpole standing at attention. More like a flag stump, but it was what it was. His heart was pounding in his chest as the promise of what the woman would do to him grew. She had been in the bathroom for a long time, hopefully she hadn’t left him like this.
A trickle of sweat rolled down his brow, toward his ear. God, he could just see the headlines if a maid found him like this tomorrow morning. Conservative State Senator found in local hotel bondage scene. Any future bid for the White House would end there. He’d lose it all, the ugly rich wife, the pretty little mistress, the free golf vacations to the Caymans. The minute the story hit the stands he’d have maybe thirty-six hours to clean out his accounts and get out of the country.
When the door to the bathroom opened, he breathed a sigh of relief underneath the ball gag. The woman had put on a leather mask and taken off everything else. In her right hand she held an old fashioned bullwhip that she was casually swinging back and forth. Picking up the remote control to the television with her left hand, she turned on the TV and tuned it to an erotic movie. She turned up the volume on the set to a barely acceptable level. Although, anyone that used this hotel probably wouldn’t complain.
The Senator writhed on the bed in anticipation of the games to come. Slowly the woman ran the whip across his skin, allowing him to take in the scent of the fine braided leather. Teasingly she lashed out, causing a small, pleasurable sting. Shivers ran down the man’s spine as he awaited her next move. Slowly the woman built him up just to the edge. Finally, when he was certain he could take no more, she straddled him, grabbed a pillow and placed it over his face.
At first he thought it was just an extension of the games they were playing; a kind of autoerotic asphyxiation. Then, when she failed to lift the pillow, he knew it was real. Struggling against his bonds, he bucked and twisted, trying to get away from the pillow that was so effectively blocking his airway. Finally, he began praying. Begging God to forgive him. Promising he would do anything and everything if only he was allowed to live. Suddenly, like someone flipped a switch, he was calm. He thought about how in the old vacuum tube television sets the picture would fade down to one point of light before extinguishing when turned off. That was what he was experiencing now. The light shrank to the size of a pinpoint and then faded to black.
The woman returned to the bathroom and dressed. Using a towel, she wiped down every surface she had touched. Leaving the bullwhip on the bed she scanned the room for anything she may have unintentionally dropped. Now that the kill was done, she was exhausted. She had just one more task before leaving. Removing a tape covered strip of plastic, she carefully placed the plastic against the door jamb at the room’s entrance. She rubbed lightly, then put the tape back onto the plastic and placed it into her pocket. Satisfied with a job well done, she exited into the cool, Cleveland night.
Ginny O’Mally had been the caretaker for the Riverside cemetery for fifteen years, since her husband, the previous caretaker, had taken a header into an open grave and broke his neck. She would’ve felt bad for him, but the mean bastard was coming home from a three day drunk when he had his accident. Since she had done most of the work for him anyway, the company let her take his job. Most people backed away from working in a place filled with the dead, but not Ginny. She liked her job. She tended the graves, mowed the grass and directed loved ones to the proper gravesite. It was quiet and she set her own pace for doing things. Most days you didn’t have to talk to another person. You could just do your job and go on.
Driving the lawn mower between the rows of tombstones, Ginny found her thoughts drifting, not landing on any one particular subject. The hum of the mower, the cool morning air and the warm sun beating down on her face worked together to put her into a Zen-like state. If running over a rock hadn’t caused enough racket to bring her out of her reverie, she would have mowed right over the girl’s outstretched leg. Swerving, she bumped into a large marble gravestone on her left, overcorrected and hit the one just inches from the girl, on her right. Finally she straightened the mower and cut the engine.
Hands shaking as she pictured what could have happened, Ginny sat for a few minutes to calm down. Climbing off the mower she warily approached the body lying behind the tombstone. The girl was pale and skinny, splayed out on her back. Ginny didn’t want to touch her, but she needed to check for a pulse. Nudging the woman with a toe, she yelled, “Hey!” and received no response.
Reaching down with her right hand and touching the woman’s neck, she jumped back three feet when the woman’s eyes opened. “Arrgh!” Ginny screamed.
“What, where am I?” the woman asked.
“R-r-riverside cemetery.” Ginny replied.
“Oh.” the girl replied, reaching out to lightly touch the gravestone at her head.
“What are you doing here?” Ginny demanded, more annoyed than scared now.
“I’m” before she could answer a cell phone rang. Holding up a finger, the woman took a phone out of the inner pocket of her brown leather jacket and tapped the screen. “This is Sweet.”
After listening for a minute she replied, “Yeah, I know where that is. Look I need you to come get me. I’m at the cemetery.”
The voice on the other end of the line got loud enough for Ginny to hear. The girl cut her off, “Just come get me, I’ll wait by the front gate.” pushing herself to her feet, Sweet brushed the freshly mown grass off of her clothing and said to Ginny, “Sorry about that. I am usually out of here before you come through in the morning.”
Waiting in front of the double iron gates at the entrance to the cemetery, Sweet did a quick self check. Gun, check. Handcuffs, check. Pepper spray, back up gun, knife, check. Unzipping an inner pocket of her coat, she inventoried its contents. Confirming she had everything she needed, she smoothed out her clothes just as an unmarked police car pulled to a stop beside her. Climbing in, smiling at the female detective, she said, “Hey.”
“Jesus Sweet, you look like hell. What are the other cops gonna think?”
Slipping the chain attached to her badge case over her head, she replied, “I’ll just tell them I’m undercover.”
“Yeah, way under. Just stay out of sight of the press. Shit, what are you doing? You need to stop hanging out with the dead and come back to the living. It’s been almost two years now, you’ve got to go on.”
Staring out the window at nothing, Sweet leaned her head against the cool glass, tuning out Shelby. As the sun burned off the morning haze hanging over the lake, she felt a bout of nausea grab her. Uh oh, not a good thing. She had not taken her morning dose of medicine and her body was revolting in protest. She should have told Shelby she would meet her at the crime scene; it was just, she wasn’t sure where she had parked her car. It had to be around the cemetery somewhere, she just didn’t know where.
“Hey, are you listening to me?” Shelby asked.
“No, not really. What’d you say?”
“I said this case is going to cause a record shit storm. Senator Thompson was about as conservative as you can get. Hell he was pushing hard to have all the sex shops closed down. Now here he is, dead in a roach motel with a fake dick shoved up his ass. Even if he died of a heart attack the vultures are going to feed.”
“He had to be seventy if he was a day. What was he doing playing sex games in a pay by the hour joint?”
“That’s the Viagra generation for you.”
As Shelby pulled into the parking lot of the motel, Jane could see that she hadn’t been exaggerating about the vultures. She counted no less than four news vans and a good thirty people crowding the sawhorse barricade manned by two uniforms. She knew this hotel. If you wanted to find trouble, you could find it here; cheap. Flashing her badge, she walked around the line toward room 61. Ignoring the shouting press, she signed in with the tech at the door, donned shoe protectors and gloves from the proffered boxes and entered the room.
If you looked up sleazy in the dictionary, there was a picture of this room. Heavy red velvet curtains covered the stained and broken blinds. An old bulky television set sat on a dresser placed directly across from the queen sized bed. A burn scarred nightstand sat next to bed holding a desk lamp and a corded telephone. On the bed lay the late great republican Senator from the state of Ohio, Shepherd Thompson.
God she hoped these crime scene photos didn’t leak. The esteemed Senator was naked, on his back in the center of the bed. He was spread eagle, velvet ties securing his hands and feet to the corners of the bed. The smell of death filled the small room; that ripe smell of early decay. Clenching her teeth, Jane entered the room despite the protest from her already nauseous stomach.
A stained recliner sat at an angle in the corner of the room. A suit of clothes, neatly folded, were piled on the seat of the chair. A pair of very expensive leather shoes had been placed next to the chair. Fighting off the urge to run outside and throw up in front of the press, Jane asked, “Where’s his car?”
“Don’t know. According to the wife, he left this morning riding in the back seat of his black Lincoln. His usual driver, Kevin, chauffeured him to his local office. We’re still trying to contact him.”
“Great, tell me the late Senator was having a fling with his male driver. The press will eat this up.” Jane said, shaking her head.
“If so, Kevin was a tall blond in a short mini dress and high heels.”
“So they play dress up. Where’d you get the description?”
“The desk clerk said they came in together around 9 a.m. She waited by the door while he got the room.”
“Where’s this clerk now?” Jane asked as she moved around the bed, taking in the scene.
“I sent him home.”
“Look Sweet, the guy had been here all night. We couldn’t find you. I took his statement and sent him home. You’re not the only one that can interrogate a witness, you know.”
“Get me his address, I’m going to want to talk to him.”
“What? You think I missed something?” Shelby asked sharply.
“You know how I am. I just like to look the witness in the eye and question them.”
“Fuck it! If we weren’t cousins I’d be insulted.”
“You’re insulted anyway. I can tell. You have your pouty face on.” Jane smiled to show she was teasing.
“Fine. Have it your way.”
Turning to the crime scene tech photographing the room, Jane asked, “Have you done the dresser yet?”
Pulling the lollipop out of his mouth, Jake answered, “Yeah. We took the pictures, dusted for prints. It’s safe to handle and bag.”
Jane held a hand out to Shelby. Shelby handed her a red striped plastic evidence bag. Using a pen, Jane moved the objects around on the dresser. “A man is screwing around with a hooker; does he leave his wallet, watch and cell phone lying out in the open on the dresser?”
“Who said it was a hooker?”
“This is the kind of hotel you bring a hooker to. Not a mistress.”
“Maybe it was a regular deal. You know, every Tuesday morning at nine he schedules a little bondage and discipline session.”
“Some people just play golf. No. This doesn’t feel like a regular thing. Something’s off. Did the clerk say the Senator had been here before?” When her cousin didn’t reply, she asked, “Shelby? You did ask if he’d been here before, right?”
Shelby’s face reddened, “Um, we were kinda in a hurry to get the scene secured. I kinda forgot to ask.”
The other cops in the room looked at anything but Shelby. Jane maintained her cool. “Yeah, I understand. We’ll ask him during the follow up.”
The air in the room changed as Captain Terry Prentiss chose that moment to enter the crime scene. The tall, broad shouldered Captain filled the tiny space. Jane swore he polished his bald head to get that shine. “What’s it look like, Sweet.”
“Definitely murder.” She replied, using her pen to open the Senator’s wallet.
“You can’t say that! The coroner hasn’t even checked him yet. Hell, until the doctor says so, he ain’t even officially dead.” Shelby said.
Ignoring Shelby, he asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Petechia on the face and eyes suggests death by asphyxiation. Plus, there’s a perfect imprint of his face on the pillow.” Jane pointed to the pillow lying on the bed next to the Senator.
“Not unless the perpetrator was after something other than money. He’s got a five hundred dollar phone, a twenty thousand dollar watch and at least three thousand in cash in his wallet. Even with a sex games gone wrong scenario I can’t see your typical street walker passing up that kind of money.”
“Just fucking great. The bastard couldn’t do this in Columbus?” The Captain shook his head.
Jane squeezed past the Captain to enter the tiny bathroom. A cockroach carcass in the corner of the room added that special little touch that let you know you were in a high class establishment. Seeing a layer of dust coating the bathroom surfaces, Jane asked, “Jake, have you been in here yet?”
“Nope, we’re finishing up in here first.” The tech called out.
“Jeez, it must be the maid’s week off.” She mumbled as she looked for any obvious clues.
“Hey we might have gotten lucky.” Jake called out.
Jane turned to see the tech peeling fingerprint tape off the doorjamb. Smiling, he placed the tape against the backing. “Looks like we’ve got a print.”
“Hopefully it’s in the database. When you do the bathroom get underneath the toilet handle too, ok?”
“Sure Sarge.” Jake replied.
A uniformed officer entered the room. “Sarge, we found the driver.”
“Good, maybe he’ll have some answers for us.”
“I doubt it. He’s sitting in the Senator’s car with his throat slit from ear-to-ear.”
“Fuck! Sorry Captain. Well shit, there goes the easiest suspect.”
“Go take over that crime scene. It’s ours now. I’ve got to feed the press.” The Captain ordered.
“Yes sir.” Stepping outside of the room, Jane asked, “You coming Shelby?”
The sun was high in the sky by the time Jane and Shelby arrived at the lakeside park. With temperatures in the mid seventies and a warm breeze blowing off the lake it was the perfect day to be outside enjoying the early taste of summer. Rollerbladers and power walkers vied for sidewalk space as families staked claim to the concrete picnic tables next to the metal grills. Parking was at a premium as the park filled up causing more than one patron to complain about the spaces taken by the crime scene tape surrounding the Lincoln and the three patrol cars. Shelby cut off a Jeep to take a space next to one of the cop cars. The blast of the driver’s horn reverberated through Jane’s already aching skull.
The driver, dissatisfied with the lack of response, blasted his horn again. Jane exited the car, storming towards the SUV. “Damn it! No Jane! Shit!” Shelby called after her.
One of the older patrol officers smiled and elbowed his younger partner, nodding toward the furious redhead storming toward the Jeep. When Jane exited the car, the driver revved the engine as though he was going to run her over. Drawing her weapon and moving to the driver’s side of the vehicle, Jane assumed the two-handed stance and yelled, “Get out of the car now! Now! If you hesitate I will shoot you. Hands in the air.”
The suddenly meek jock exited the vehicle with arms stretched high above his head. His friends that had guffawed at his antics only moments before were suddenly quiet.
“Turn around and face the vehicle!” Jane ordered.
“I didn’t do anything.” the big man whined.
“Shut up! Turn around and face the vehicle now!”
Once he had complied, Jane had him interlock his fingers behind his head. Using her left hand, she grabbed his interlocked fingers along with a handful of hair, pulled him backwards to keep him off balance, holstered her weapon and proceeded to pat him down. When she was certain he was unarmed, she took him over to the curb and had him sit down. After a five minute lecture on attempted murder with a motor vehicle and the proper use of the safety device known as the horn, she let him and his friends continue on their way.
“Did you have to do that?” an embarrassed Shelby asked.
“Did he have to blow his horn?” Jane replied.
“You’re supposed to be the bigger person.”
“That doesn’t work with assholes. Hey Kopensky.” she called out to the older cop as she walked over to the car.
“Hey Sarge. Did you leave that kid any balls?”
“Yeah, unfortunately he can still breed. Who found the DB?”
“Couple of tourists looking for directions to the Hall of Fame. Guy goes to knock on the window, sees all the blood and dials 9-1-1.”
“Have your trainee take them over to Jimmy’s and get them a coffee and Kolachi. We’ll interview them in a few minutes.”
“How’d she know I was a trainee?” the kid asked as they walked toward the witnesses.
“She’s a detective. It’s what she does.” His partner answered, shaking his head.
Shelby and Jane walked around the car in ever widening circles, scanning the pavement. Moving off the pavement to the grass, Jane spotted the first drop of blood.
“I’ve got a blood trail here.” Jane called out to the crime scene tech.
A young girl in a white jumpsuit ran over and placed a numbered plaque next to the blood. Jane followed the trail of blood to the women’s restroom. Using her elbow, she pushed open the heavy metal door leading into the bathroom. The restroom consisted of four stalls and a double sink. An electric hand dryer was mounted on the wall above a silver bullet shaped trashcan which sat next to the sinks. If she had to guess, Jane would say that the red smears around the lid of the trashcan were blood.
Fighting the urge to lift the lid to discover the prize inside, Jane stepped outside the restroom and signaled for the techs to get to work. A deep, cramping growl from her stomach reminded her that she had other needs to fill. Walking by the crime scene photographer, she reminded him to take some pictures of the crowd. Fortunately for the cops, yes, some criminals really were dumb enough to return to the scene of the crime.
At the open door of the Caddy, Jane asked the coroner’s assistant, “Do you have an estimate TOD?”
Jenny Newman looked up from the body, sliding the thermometer out of the corpse’s liver, she said, “Don’t quote me on this, but I’m thinking about eight this morning.”
“Shit! The Senator was seen alive at nine. It just can’t be simple can it?”
“If it was simple what would they need us for?” Jenny asked as she began her inspection of the body.
“You’ve got a point. Look, if you find anything significant have Kopensky come get me. I’ve got a couple witnesses waiting for me over at Jimmy’s.”
“Ok. Hey Sweet, are you doing ok?”
“Yeah sure, why do you ask?”
“Cause you’re all pale and sweaty. You should grab some grub while you’re at Jimmy’s.” Jenny looked concerned.
“Yeah, I’ll do that. I just need to get home and shower. I’ll be alright.”
“I’m not kidding Sweet, eat something. You’re not looking so good.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jane waved a hand as she went to give the patrol officers instructions.
Shelby and Jane walked the two blocks to Jimmy’s, a hole-in-the-wall diner that sat tucked away on a side street between a twenty-four hour laundry and a printing shop. The torn green and white awning hung limply over the entrance. Jane had asked Jimmy once why he didn’t replace it. He said it kept the metrosexual trendsetters away. Inside the restaurant, she spotted the rookie sitting with the elderly couple at a booth near the back wall.
When the spicy, fatty, cooking smells inside the diner hit her nose Jane’s stomach clenched in protest. A sheen of sweat coated her forehead as she fought the urge to vomit. At this point it was probably more of a dry heave, but still embarrassing in front of the rookie. Trying to maintain her composure, Jane smiled as she slid into the booth across from the couple.
Davey and Norma Wilson had driven all the way from Flint, Michigan to find a dead body today. Knowing Flint she was surprised they couldn’t find one closer to home. Actually, Davey was a big football fan and they had come to see the Hall of Fame. They’d missed their exit to Interstate 77 south toward Canton and somehow ended up at the lakeshore park. She was betting Davey was wishing he’d updated his GPS right about now.
With pale faces to match their snow white hair, the couple told the story of finding the body. Like most couples that had been together for a long time, they talked almost as one unit. One partner would fill in or talk over the other during the telling of the story. Jane’s heart sank as she remembered how she and Brenda would frequently do the same thing. Laughing as their words mingled into one sentence.
Sipping the coffee that had somehow ended up in front of her, Jane went over the couple’s story one last time. It wasn’t that she thought they were lying, she was just trying to squeeze every bit of information from them while the memories were still fresh.
“What woman?” Jane interrupted as her brain caught up to the conversation.
“The blond woman on the motorcycle. Davey tried to wave her down to help, but she just drove away.” Norma answered.
“Could you describe her?”
“Oh no, she was much too far away. Anyway she had on one of those helmets that cover the face. I wouldn’t have known it was a woman except, well, she um had breasts.”
“Yep, she damn near ran me over with that fancy foreign bike of hers.” Davey agreed.
Pouring sugar into her third cup of coffee, Jane took the Wilsons through their story again. Back at the car, Jane turned to Shelby, “Look, I need a shower and fresh clothes. Drop me off at my place and then we’ll meet up at the morgue. I’d bet the Captain has pushed Senator Thompson’s autopsy to the front of the line.”
“Yeah sure. So what do you want me to do in the mean time?” Shelby asked, easing the car into traffic.
Sliding her shaking hands underneath her thighs, Jane replied, “Check to see if there are any traffic cams, ATM’s or security cameras within two blocks of the hotel. Maybe we’ll get lucky and find the Senator and his date on one of them.”
“I think you’d have a better chance at winning the lottery, but ok.”
“Also, run the driver’s financials. Look for any expenditures this morning that could let us follow his trail from the time he dropped off the Senator. You know what? You better check the security footage from the Senator’s office to see if he even showed up today.”
Shelby pulled into the parking lot of Jane’s apartment building. Jane was relieved to see her car parked in its usual spot. Looking at three story brick building with bars on the first floor windows, she asked, “Fuck Sweet, can’t you afford something better on your pay?”
“Hey! I like my place. This is where working class people live.”
“You were raised in thirty room mansion on Lakeshore Drive, what do you know about working class?” Shelby sneered.
“I know I fit in better here than I ever did there.” Jane replied, climbing out of the car.
“Yeah that’s easy to say when you can call mommy for money any time you need.”
“Fuck you, Shelby! Meet me at the morgue later. After that we’ll go finish the interview with the hotel clerk.” Jane replied.
As Shelby peeled out of the parking lot, Jane berated herself for her petty remark. Oh well, what the hell did Shelby expect, bringing up her mother like that. Running up the stairs to her second floor apartment, Jane’s hands shook violently as she tried to insert her key into the door lock. After what seemed like an eternity, she was finally able to disengage the deadbolt and open the door. Not bothering to lock the door behind her, she passed through sparsely furnished living room into the kitchenette. Sitting at the secondhand Formica topped table, she pulled her kit out of the zipped inner pocket of her jacket.
Unzipping the black leather case, she laid her tools onto the table. Pulling her right leg up across her knee, she removed her black combat boot and woolen sock. Small pinprick bruises lined the soft skin between her toes. Lighting the tea candle from her kit, the calmness of the routine stilled her shaking hands. Opening the brown vial, she tapped some of the white crystalline powder onto the silver spoon.
Slowly, methodically she swirled the spoon over the candle’s flame, watching as the crystals melted into liquid form. Using a cotton ball as a filter, she drew the liquid up into the syringe. Prying apart her toes, she looked for the perfect spot for the injection. Finding a small spot between the fourth and fifth toe, she inserted the needle and injected the liquid into her bloodstream.
Ahhh. The familiar warmth began moving toward the top of her head. Sensing her nose was running, she clumsily ran the back of her hand across her face. Leaning her head back, she felt the familiar numbness take over her brain, erasing away all of life’s pains. Her head slowly fell forward as she forgot about the shame, the guilt and all the other nastiness that had filled her soul since Brenda’s death. When her chin hit her chest, the agony was erased by the oblivion of the sweet nod.
Two hours later, she was showered, dressed and ready to face the rest of the day. Putting on her sunglasses, she ran down the stairs and hopped into her Mustang convertible. Lowering the top of the convertible, she smiled as the warm sun hit her face. Still buzzing, she failed to notice the credit card lying on the seat next to her. Revving the engine, she roared out of the parking lot toward the city morgue. The card on the seat slid to the floor of the car. Jane Sweet, police detective, heroin addict, was ready to get to work.
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