“Jimmy, you can come outside with me. We need to find where the shooter was and see if he left us any presents. Then you can see what the uniforms came up with. They may have found some people you can talk to. Also, check out what’s happening with the tracking dog and the roadblocks then go back to the office and start going through Pete’s files.” Chris continued to focus his attention on the scene around him while he spoke, looking up only briefly as he issued his instructions.
“Sure thing, Chris,” Jimmy said while he scratched some notes He then slipped the pen and paper back into his pocket and turned to go.
“James,” Richard quietly called out. “Perhaps you can give Bert a hand in here instead.”
Jimmy spun around, but not as quickly as Chris. He was not used to his orders being overruled, even by Richard. At times Richard Nichols would make a suggestion or offer an opinion, but never had he so blatantly interfered with one of Chris’ investigations. This was neither the time nor the place for him to start. There was absolute silence in the room, all eyes, save for one set, intent on Richard.
The stranger who had arrived with Richard was now kneeling beside Pete. With his pen and, using extreme care, he eased the victim’s shirt open to look down along the body. Pete’s gun was still in its shoulder holster, where under normal conditions it was hidden from sight. He appeared totally oblivious to what the other men in the room were saying or to the electric atmosphere that had developed since his unannounced arrival.
“I told you to get the hell out of here before I pick you up and throw you out myself,” Chris hollered at the man, his anger and confusion at Richard’s interference manifesting itself in the only outlet available. He could feel his world spinning out of control as already this investigation was being hampered and tampered with. He owed it to his fallen friend to ensure that everything was done properly. There would be no mistakes.
With painstaking slowness, the kneeling figure swiveled his head around to look at Chris, his face still frozen, but there was a sparkle in his dark eyes. When he stood up and approached Chris, it was clear that neither would be easily intimidated. This man was equal to Chris in height, but his thick neck, chiseled face and well-muscled chest were clear indicators that he was no flyweight. His face continued to show no emotion.
“There are an awful lot of people who would probably appreciate seeing me tossed from a room.” His voice was smooth, his words delivered with quiet control. “I rather doubt that you would be the man to do it. It might be entertaining to see you try, but I think you have enough here to keep you busy for the next couple minutes, without adding a trip to the hospital to the list of things you need to get done.” A slight smile twisted his lips as he pressed his face close to Gallagher’s.
Teeth clenched in anger, nails digging into his palms as he fisted his hand, Chris glared back, welcoming the challenge. “Clearly you underestimate me. I would have to guess that all those steroids you pop don’t help build every muscle.” Gallagher reached out and tapped the stranger on his head.
The smile remained in place, as did the sparkle, but only for a moment longer. With no warning at all, Chris found himself pinned to a wall, a large and strong rubber-gloved hand around his throat holding him in place. “Excuse me, Sir,” the stranger addressed Richard, “but I believe you wanted to say something to Detective Gallagher here, and I think probably right now you could have his undivided attention.”
Richard rolled his eyes upwards in a practiced plea for help from above. He took a breath then sauntered over to where the two men were now standing. “Okay, Dave, let him go and the two of you make nice. It’s time for you both to learn to play.”
“Why is that?” Chris growled from the corner of his mouth, the hand still holding him tight to the wall.
The stranger answered, a wide and wicked smile cutting across his face. “I think he wants us to learn to get along because they already have two dead cops and that seems to be enough for now. Also, it will make his life a whole lot more simple in the long run, Partner.”
“Good morning, Detective Purvis.” The approaching male voice was conversational and very relaxed, indifferent to the fact that Purvis’ hand was still wrapped around Chris Gallagher’s throat.
Purvis smiled at the older and much shorter man. “Good morning, Doctor Throckmorton.”
“Good morning, Detective Gallagher,” the diminutive Medical Examiner greeted the other investigator as he made his way through the room. He seemed befuddled, preoccupied and scattered, but the men knew such was never the case with Norton Throckmorton.
“Norton,” Chris acknowledged perfunctorily.
After a quick visual examination of the scene, the doctor turned to Richard. “Good morning, Richard. This shouldn’t take me too long; then your boys can have the place.” He used a quick movement of his head to indicate the two men, who still had not moved. “You still think this is a match made in heaven, do you?”
Richard chuckled as he gave the two the same look an exasperated mother might give her children when they are trying her patience.
“Yeah, I must be nuts, but yes, I do.”
Throckmorton shrugged. “So do I.” His head dropped down and he examined the floor as he made his way further into the dining room. “Detective Purvis, put the nice policeman down. It’s time to quit playing and get to work.”