It was one of those fall mornings that defied the fact that it was the middle of November. The sun shone warmly down, and the outside thermometer read 62? Yep, 62 alright. Mac smiled and shook his head as he settled on the couch for a late, late breakfast. Or was it an early lunch now? He shrugged and decided he figure out which later. The most remarkable thing about this morning, well, two things really: a) this was the 3rd day of 60+ degree weather in row and b) he had actually slept in. Granted this was in large part due to a couple god-awful back-to-back shifts that had only finally ended at 0300 this morning. Say what you will about the beautiful weather, the practical truth was that any unexpected non-cold meant trouble would find a way to come right along with it. It happened every spring too, when people poured outside to enjoy new warmth, and existing feuds and old enmities collided suddenly and violently.
Mac propped his feet up on the coffee table and flicked on the TV. The news lady was reporting on the number of violent crimes in the past 48 hr, trying to look shocked, saddened and wise all at the same time but just coming off as bored. Mac shook his head in disgust and changed the channel. No need to tell him about the last 48 hr. He could count on one hand, hell, half a hand, the hours of sleep he'd had in that time frame. Not that there had been anything complicated, but the sheer volume of calls had made laughingly futile his attempts to somehow fit some sleep in the equation. He had at one point only realized he been accidently successful when Danny had shaken him awake at his desk, his left arm numb from lying on it, to go to another stabbing victim. Stella would owe him big for this one. She had asked him to cover her shift and on call night, with that "pretty-please-with sugar-on-top" look that Mac found completely irresistible, and his fate had been sealed. He smiled, remembering, and dug into his breakfast. Yeah, this would be breakfast.
He was only half done when his phone rang. He stared at it as it sat on the coffee table demanding to be answered; an evil omen that, considering the torture it had recently brought him, certainly deserved to be chucked out the window to a shattering death below. Mac wearily picked up the phone and looked at the ID. His misgivings about the phone's intentions were justified when, staring back at him, was the name "Don Flack". And Flack was working today. Heaving a sigh, Mac answered. Maybe it would just be a head's up about a case for when he went back in tomorrow. But that would be too good to be true.
"Hey Mac! How are you doing?"
"I was doing just fine until you called. Nothing personal."
"I know, I know. Look, I hate to call you on your day off, especially today of all things, but I've got multiple fatalities on this one, and it hasn't slowed down yet."
Mac sighed. The sun was just starting to make its way across the couch. But duty called.
"I'm on my way."
As Mac parked his truck, grabbed his case and stepped out to meet Flack, he had an odd sense of déjà vu. Hadn't he just done this? Oh right, yeah, he thought wryly, he had.
"What do you got, Flack?"
"Armed robbery gone bad. In fact, there have been three armed robberies reported within a square mile of this place in the last 8 hr. Up until now no one's even been touched, just straight up armed theft. This is the first one to go bad, but obviously we're thinking it's the same couple of guys. This one ain't pretty."
Mac grimaced. "Is it ever?"
Flack nodded assent and led the way into a small convenience store. "Mr. and Mrs. Velasquez and Marcus Jimenez," he motioned towards the three bodies lying on the floor. "The Velasquez's owned and ran the store and Mr. Jimenez appears to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Best we can figure, Mrs. Velasquez was behind the counter when the perps came in and her husband was taking inventory in the back. His clipboard and record sheets are still back there. There was obviously a struggle of some sort which ended with this," Flack gestured across the scene. "We're reviewing the security camera recording now."
Mac nodded, frowning. "And this happened this morning?"
"Probably a half hour before I called you."
"Unusual to hit a place mid-morning."
Flack shrugged, "Hey, there's been nothin' usual about the last couple days. "
Mac smiled wryly, "True. Any witnesses?"
Flack just looked at him, "Come on. What do you think?" "
Shaking his head, Mac inspected the scene more closely. The owner had been shot in upper abdomen at point blank range, and apparently at an upwards angle based on the entrance wound. "You're definitely right about the struggle," he told Flack. "It looks like they were wrestling for the gun when the owner got shot, his wife came around the counter to help him and gets shot in the chest, and Mr. Jimenez there looks like he was killed as collateral damage. Let me know if you get anything off the security tape. I'm going to start processing."
Flack nodded and headed to the store's small, back room.
Mac was just finishing photographing the scene when he heard a voice behind him.
"Want a hand?"
He turned his head and looked up. Stella was standing, framed in the doorway.
"I thought you were on another call."
"I was. Turned out to be a pretty obvious suicide though. Autopsy should say for sure, but I'd be shocked if it were otherwise. So I cleared there and headed here to bail you out and let you finish having a day off." She looked apologetically and somewhat sheepishly at him, "Heard about yesterday. Sorry Mac. I owe you one."
Mac propped his camera on his knee and looked up at her. "One what?"
Stella gestured, "You know, a day off, a favor, whatever you like!"
A slow smile spread across his face, "Whatever I like?"
"Now, you know what I meant…"
Mac stood and held up his hand, "No, you said, whatever I like."
Stella looked at him giving her that quiet little mischievous grin and shook her head, bemused. "All right. But," she pointed at him, "You can't wait for ages to make up your mind about what it is."
Mac turned and looked back over his shoulder at her as he knelt back down, "Don't worry."
Stella shook her head and smiled as she knelt down next to him. He had something up his sleeve, but she knew there would be no dragging it out of him. When he wanted to be, Mac could be the most obvious and obtuse person all at the same time. "So fill me in here, Mac. What do we got?"