Murdock blinked, tried to focus on the curves in the road. He had forgotten her first name.
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Steinbeck was tall, built for stamina, late thirties or early forties, and not bad to look at. She had dark hair and olive skin and a Roman nose that was almost craggy. Her face was not pretty, but the features were strong and the eyes didn't waver when they looked you over. Her hiking hat was a battered Tilley, pricey and built to last.
Her tan shorts had hiked up, showing tanned thigh. Had she smiled yet? He couldn't remember. He did remember her wounded knee and the solidity of her body when he had boosted her the first few steps down the trail. Also that she smelled good. Murdock yawned. He needed a stretch, a bath, a massage. Two nights sleeping in the woods and he was ready for food and beer and fourteen hours in the sack.
He felt old and out of it. The dead girl's ID was a New York driver's license. Her name was Sophie Orff. An apartment address. Numbered street, numbered unit. Murdock didn't know New York. Sophie Orff was twenty-two. Her photo showed a blonde girl with a flashy movie star smile. Her listed height was five feet, three inches.
Her weight was Other stuff from the fanny pack: lip gloss, moisturizer in a little envelope, pills in a tiny pillbox, a compact mirror. A lipstick. A stub of a drawing pencil with brown lead. She busted up with her boy-friend, came to the Land of Enchantment to re-boot. Had a work-study deal with an art colony, one month in duration. The month ended and she headed back east with a new friend from the colony. That was two weeks ago.
No word from the daughter since. Her dad — he's an old Army pal — came to Taos to see for himself. The cops are stretched thin, a budget thing. The art colony folks didn't have a clue. So here I am.
Moving easy but still with some stealth. He's young and tough so he got ahead of me. When I came up over a rise, I spotted you on the trail. There were two shooters; the crossbow guy had joined up with the recurve guy. And I thought I saw a spotter on that little ridge. You said he had a device. Any idea what kind? If you go through this light, then turn right at the next corner, you'll be on Salazar, which will take you right there. I know the chief from way back. His name's Obregon. There's a temporary guy, some kind of ex-fed, while they do a search.
I met him at a party. She patted his knee. He looked up. She was smiling at him and her eyes were soft. He felt the rush. Female sympathy, female passion, female mystery.
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He put his hand atop hers. Today, they were survivors.
They rode with their hands touching. They rode without talking along the back road, skirting behind the shops that girded Taos Plaza. At the police station, Helene Steinbeck took her hand back. She picked up her camera. This is a small town and we don't know who's connected to what.
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Leave the camera in the car. Helene Steinbeck was no stranger to police stations. When she was twelve, her dad had taken her on a tour of the Tombs, Manhattan's criminal holding facility, before it was christened the Bernard B. Kerik Complex. After Kerik's fall from grace the city renamed the place the Manhattan Detention Complex. She had grown up with cops and cop talk. Murdock was holding the door for her. His face was etched with fatigue and his shoulders sagged.
As she crossed the threshold into cop-world, Helene saw a bullpen, three women at desks — two in uniform, one in a bright green summery dress. One of the uniforms was Sally Jo Catton, from the writing workshop. Sally Jo left her desk to give Helene a hug. She was blonde and hard from exercise. Great figure, Helene thought. The woman in the green dress brought alcohol and a big bandage for Helene's knee. When the knee was bandaged, Sally Jo led them back to the chief's office. In the center of the door, there was a bare space, room for a new nameplate. Sally Jo was about to knock when the door opened and there stood Sammy Savage, dressed in khakis and a short-sleeve shirt, sandals with no socks.
He looked bigger than she remembered, heavier, with more gut, his face an unhealthy red. In his shirt pocket was a cellphone. The two did a man-hug, one arm around the shoulders, pat-pat-pat. Helene could tell that Sammy was not happy to see Murdock. And what about that surprise name, Foxy?
It fit what Helene knew about Murdock — crafty, shifty, every move clandestine. The office was bare. No flags, no photos, no glory wall. The furniture felt temporary.
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A laptop next to a telephone, next to a plastic water-bottle. Sammy sat in a wooden swivel chair. Helene and Murdock sat across the desk in saggy chairs. She waited while the two men played catch-up, Sammy in Iraq, Murdock in California. The bastards pensioned me off. I was going crazy when an old pal invited me to peaceful Taos. I don't have the creds for the Chief's job — when they find their permanent guy, I am back to the bread-line.