sink rate front cover A good detective has to be able to multi-task. A gruesome crime scene is more than an exercise in bile control. Examine, preserve, and get the story. Sam’s team is there and working the clues. And Ozzie is feeding his stomach and his curiosity.

From the first novel in the SAM DELAND CRIME NOVEL series, SINK RATE:

When he got out, he stepped around the truck and looked down the alley behind the building. Several old metal garbage cans sat at Sam’s end of the building. A small overhang protected them and a coil of garden hose that probably should have been taken inside for the winter before it cracked in the cold. Narrow stairs ran up to a wooden door on the second floor. It didn’t look like it was used very often and the railing was coming loose near the bottom. Adams was standing at the back door to the first floor writing in his pocket notebook. Calvin stepped out the door and looked left and then right toward Sam. He flipped his hand up to wave hello, said something to Adams, and started toward Sam. Johnny came out right behind him, waved to Sam and went the other way toward his car.

Calvin looked worried, but still had enough spirit to say, “Nice outfit. The country fighter pilot?”

Sam hadn’t really thought about it until now but he was wearing loafers, jeans, mud splattered from chasing Molly, his favorite Villanova sweatshirt, rips and all, and his old flight jacket. All that was missing was his scarf and pipe. “Attack pilot, get it right, how’s it going so far?” Sam thought Calvin should be a captain or a major by now he was that smart and a natural leader. Calvin had never taken a promotional exam and was happy to let Ozzie and Sam run things. Calvin didn’t like telling people what to do, he knew what the other side of that was like.

Calvin let it out, “We need to get crime scene in here to photo and process. I want to dig into some paper in there. This stinks like maybe a family or business spite hit. Real anger, lots of bullets, lot of good stuff left behind, can’t figure the angle yet.”

Oh, but you will, thought Sam. Sam asked, “Where’s Ozzie?”

Calvin turned and pointed at the rear door of the house directly behind Adams’ cruiser, “Adams says he’s in with the caller in there. Bethlehem sending anyone out besides the crime scene folks?”

Sam thought a moment, “Yeah, probably, I don’t think any court is scheduled today except maybe a preliminary hearing, should be some manpower available. If they do, I’ll have a couple stand by at the Valley to do statements. We can get Adams and Brad to shuttle for us.”

Calvin nodded, “We’ll need the lady who called in for sure, if Ozzie hasn’t already done it and anyone Brad turns up on the first round of door to doors. Oh, and if they send out Hamilton, don’t put him on statements, stupid fuck hands the witness a tablet and says, ‘Here write down everything you know about the case.’ You should see those beauties, useless. I’ve got to make some notes, give me a minute, Corp?”

Sam moved into the alley and stepped over to Adams. He took a quick look inside at Ginny’s lifeless body and the death mask she wore on her face. Sam knew he would see that again, probably late at night when he didn’t want to. Sam nodded to Adams and stepped into Ginny’s kitchen. The cruelty of human beings never ceased to amaze Sam. These two ordinary people ran into someone very not at all ordinary. Someone who was willing to look into another person’s eyes and kill them, cold. Cold heart. He couldn’t tell where Patrick had been hit, or with what, but Ginny was obvious. Their earthly remains would tell a story to the medical examiner, who, if Calvin was as good as Sam thought he was, would tell that story to a jury of twelve citizens of this county.

He photographed the bodies and the areas all around them to give perspective to where they ended up. He was curious about the shop. The front door was dead bolted and Sam tried to think of any reason for that, other than it had been all along, and whoever did this to the McFaddens came in another way. Like through the kitchen, and that door didn’t appear to have been forced in any way. He was also puzzled about the personal computer he found in several broken pieces on a desk behind the sales counter.

Sam learned a lot from his son. Ken was into very difficult academics and learned how to use computers to help him cut through the volume of school work he took on. Sam knew computers not only were very helpful in doing things, but could store huge amounts of information in very small areas. Why this one was smashed and little else was disturbed sent up a large red flag. He made his way carefully upstairs and found the bedrooms and a bathroom. Sam went to a front window and looked down on the street. He had a good view of most of the area in the front of the building. Changing lenses, he zoomed in on the gathering onlookers and shot them in groups and individually. Back down stairs and out through the kitchen, he paused to examine the door and lock before he headed for Mrs. Bern’s back door.

When he got just outside her door, Sam stopped and looked across at the back of the gun shop. He soaked it in, trying to get an idea of what Mrs. Bern may have seen. He stepped over to her small kitchen window and looked from that angle, too. Didn’t look promising. He saw Adams was making a list of names and times, keeping a log of the scene. At least the Academy still gives them the tools if they remember to use them.

The laughing sound reached Sam in the alley. It had to be Ozzie and it was coming from Mrs. Bern’s. He could hear a woman laughing, too. Sam went up to the door and listened. Ozzie and the woman were yakking back and forth in English, bits of German, and Polish. He knocked on the door and opened it to look into the little kitchen. Ozzie was standing at a tiny counter top to the right of the stove with his sleeves rolled up kneading dough on a bed of flour. The woman stood only chest high to Ozzie and was looking up at him with a big smile and listening to him tell the punch line from one of his preacher, priest, rabbi jokes. This was the one about skydiving that Sam really didn’t think was funny. Sam missed the last of it when Ozzie slipped into pidgin German again and the lady shook, she laughed so hard. She was at the stove over a sputtering pan making fried cakes. It looked like some Norman Rockwell painting. “Hey, Ozzie. Who’s your new girlfriend?”

They both turned to him and Ozzie said, “Mrs. Freda Bern, this is Sam Deland, my boss. Don’t let him eat all them cakes, my wife has to hide ’em when he comes to my house,” Sam loved the little sugary doughnuts, especially on a nippy day like today. Ozzie wiped his hands and put his arm around Freda. “We decided we needed to cook. Always cook in time of sorrow, makes you think of helping the living, don’t it Mrs. Bern? Besides I was hungry, been over two hours since I ate last.”

“Pleased I am to meet ya, Mr. Sam. Sit and drink some tea before cold it gets,” she was short and round and her wire framed glasses were perched at the end of her nose. She looked like Mrs. Santa Claus. Sam was charmed.

Ozzie said, “Mrs. Bern says the folks over there have a couple of married daughters. Their son was killed in a crash a few years ago. She thinks one of the daughters is in California, the other lives in Pottstown. We need to notify one of them. Probably a phone list in the kitchen over there, maybe we can run down the address. They lived alone and ran the shop,” Ozzie waited as Mrs. Bern left the room to get something at the front of the house.

He turned to Sam and said quietly, “It happened around 11:30 Saturday night. Freda said she didn’t see anything, but heard thunder at 11:30, woke her up. No thunder out of that weak front that came through, was probably the gunshots muffled by the rain. She says most of the customers use the front door to the shop, but every once in a while a van or a truck pulls in the alley and they load or unload boxes that take two men to carry. Right through the kitchen. Doesn’t sound right. A yellow rental box van did a delivery like that on Saturday morning about 8:00. Real early. The rain let up a little and Freda saw two guys she says were medium, medium, medium, taking boxes in,” Ozzie was on the job, did an interview while making fried cakes.

Ozzie flipped the doughnuts and got down a plate and covered it with a double layer of paper towel. A brown paper bag sat on the counter and Ozzie filled it part way with sugar. He forked out the cakes and dropped them on the paper towel. Before they could cool he dumped a couple at a time in the bag and shook it. The sugar stuck to the fried cakes and he took them out and sat them on another, bigger, serving plate Freda laid out on the kitchen table. Sam thought while Ozzie worked. Ozzie was cutting the holes in a fresh batch as Freda came back into the room.

“Here, Mr. Sam. A Christmas card I kept from Ginny’s daughter over to Pottstown. The picture is good of her family and on the back the address is,” now tears were coming back into her eyes. Ozzie stepped over to her and gave her a gentle bear hug and kissed her on the top of her head.

“Freda, you sit down a minute, let me finish this up. Me and Sam are going over to Pottstown to tell her daughter in person, it’s better that way,” Ozzie calmed her and she looked up at him and nodded her head. Ozzie reached over with a paper towel and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I’m going to have one of these nice young troopers take you over to the office so we can write down everything you told me and anything else you can remember, shouldn’t take long, it’ll be easier for you to think there. Should be a little while yet, they’ll let you know when, okay?” she nodded, got up and got busy again.


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