Q is for Quarry


"What have we got?" Don swallowed a yawn and stuck his hands in his pockets to stop himself from rubbing at his eyes again.

4 AM. What a rotten time for a wake-up call. Especially when he had finally turned in at - what was it again? One? One-thirty? Never mind - no point in thinking about it - only made it worse. Pretend you've had eight hours and maybe it will feel like that.

"Dorothy Meyers - white female, forty-four. Found bludgeoned to death in her kitchen." Colby steered a path through the busy crime scene mice, indicating a door straight ahead.

Bludgeoned. Great. That's an image to start the day with. Or end it with - depending on your point of view. He stepped over the narrow threshold, nodding a greeting to David, who was chatting with a tall man in a suit. A glance at the badge clipped to the man's belt identified him as an LAPD detective.

"Don, this is Lt. Saul Michaels. Lt. Michaels, Special Agent Don Eppes."

Don accepted the hand offered, skirting the body lying uncovered in front of the stove taking up most of the floor space. "Nice to meet you."

He dropped into a crouch next to the body, careful to keep his shoes clear of the dark pool of viscous liquid haloing the head. The eyes stared back at him, open and focused on nothing. He winced a little, even as he took in the details of her position and the direction of the blood spatter. "No ME?" The sooner somebody looks at her, the sooner we can cover her up.

"On her way. You beat her here."

Don nodded. Good. One step closer to according the body a little dignity. Oh, he knew she was dead, but still…He tugged a pair of gloves free from his pocket and slid his hands into them. "Who found her?"

"One of my guys." Lt. Michaels spoke up. "Took a call from one of the neighbors about loud music and investigated when she didn't answer the knock."

"Loud music." Don squinted up at him, then glanced reflexively at his watch. "At this hour? That a common thing, did they say?"

Michaels shook his head. "Nope. Evidently she's usually pretty quiet - one reason the neighbor was so put out."

Don studied the area around the head wound. Back of the skull. Probably didn't even see it coming. "So the perp either used the noise to cover the sounds of the murder, or wanted to make sure she was found."

"Or both," David suggested.

Don nodded. "And where was the music coming from?"

"There's a sound system by the door."

Don slowly unbent his knees, pushing to his feet. "Convenient. We know if that's where they entered?"

"Definite signs of forced entry."

"Uh huh. And we know that wasn't from your guy?" He glanced at Michaels.

Michaels shook his head. "Got the key from the landlady, he says. She has the apartment in the basement."

"Yeah." Don scratched at his ear. What I wouldn't give for a cup of coffee. "Tell me again why we're catching this one instead of the LAPD?"

"She's a federal witness." Don's brows rose fractionally and David continued, "In the ValCom case?"

A frown gathered on Don's forehead. "She's not the only witness in that case." He turned abruptly. "Colby - get on the phone and tell them that I want protection on every witness in the ValCom case - starting ten minutes ago."

Colby whistled. "Wow. Do you know how many witnesses that means?"

Don looked at him. "Your point?"

Colby nodded, pulling out his cell. "I'm on it."

Don turned his attention back to Lt. Michaels. "So. Where's this neighbor?"

"Up a floor. One of my guys is with her."

"Good. David, you're with me." Coffee AND breakfast. Something hot.

"Hey, Don?"

Don followed Colby's voice back to the small living room. "Yeah? They giving you a hard time?"

"Naw - they're moving on it. But - well, there's something here I think you oughta see."

There was an odd note in Colby's voice, and Don eyed him curiously, trying to read his expression. He stepped around the crime scene activity to join him by one of the crime scene mice, who was busily organizing evidence bags. He was vaguely aware that David had followed him.

"What you got?"

Wordlessly, Colby handed him a clear plastic evidence bag, neatly labeled.

Don glanced at it, then took it from him, looking more closely at the small square of pasteboard sealed inside. His stomach gave an odd lurch, and he turned the bag over to study the other side, though he knew what it said by heart. Without thinking, he rubbed one gloved hand through his hair. Suddenly breakfast didn't sound so appealing.

"Nice Stats," Colby offered weakly, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

Don turned the bag back over, ran a thumb over the familiar logo under the plastic.

David tried to catch a glimpse over his shoulder. "What is it?"

Don drew in a breath, not certain he wasn't still in bed, having some surreal, mixed up dream. "It's a baseball card." His voice sounded odd to his own ears.

"Mine. My rookie baseball card."