Shards of Life - Chapter 1

Her day started long before the call. The morning ritual was always the same, with breakfast—still in her PJs, twenty minutes of Pilates, ten minutes of yoga, a warm shower, and an extra cup of cocoa. She was in the process of zipping her jacket when the call came at 6 a. m.

She listened to the click of her heels on the asphalt as she walked from her car to the alley, following the human breadcrumb trail comprised of CSU techs canvasing the area. The alley where the body had been discovered was rather remote, impossible to reach by car, part of a small maze of alleys in the seedier part of Washington Heights.

She flashed her badge and ducked under the yellow tape, musing on this being a perfect spot to commit murder...Or dump the body. Which already gave her a big clue as to who might have done the deed. It wasn’t the Mob. They preferred the East River for their dumping disposal.

“What you got, Dr. O’Halloran?”

The new M.E. lifted his head, his eyes crinkling a little as he peered at her in the gloom. “Victim is a female, Caucasian, 25-35. Death is pretty recent, she’s not yet in rigor.”

“Less than three hours ago,” she murmured, scanning the ground with the help of her flashlight.

“Yes. You’ll have to wait for the autopsy for me to be more accurate.”

“Okay, doctor.” She moved closer, into the halo created by two spotlights bathing the body in light. “What about CO—” A thrill ran up her spine as she gazed down at the victim.

In front of her lay the body of a tall, slender brunette. Dark, skinny jeans hugged long legs, the calf-length coat was open, revealing a navy blue shirt unbuttoned at the throat. The left sleeve of her coat was bunched at the elbow, the right one was torn at the shoulder, her palms were upturned, showing signs of resistance. She would’ve looked peaceful if it wasn’t for the bloody mess where her face should’ve been. Her long, wavy hair was matted with blood and brain tissue, a few tendrils curling in the carnage of her face.

“Never mind. Found any ID?”

The M.E. shook his head. “None. Maybe the CSU will have more luck.”

A corner of her mouth curved. “Playing detective, doc?”

He looked sheepish. “Well, I only wished to spare you the routine.”

“Just kidding, don’t worry.” She crouched by the body and pulled on the latex gloves he offered her. “Thanks.” She ran her eyes over the body. “Did you find anything useful in identifying her if we don’t find any ID?”

O’Halloran shook his head. “Nothing. Rather generic clothing, nothing of brand...She could be anyone.”

“Not anyone, doc. She’s someone’s daughter—”

“Sister, wife and friend,” he finished the, despite his short status as M.E., often-heard speech. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just...I really hate Jane Does.”

“Tell me about it. The missing persons database is often a dud, if we fingerprint they’re often not in the system, same for DNA...” She lifted the victim’s left arm. “The cuff is crooked.”

“Probably from the struggle.”

“Maybe.” She peered into the sleeve. “Or maybe...” She unbutton the cuff, showing him a discolored band of skin on the wrist. “Someone took her watch.”


“Why would a robber button the cuff after the deed?” She moved a lock of hair off the victim’s ear. “Or leave the earrings?”

“Detective!” An officer approached, a brown item in his gloved hand. “We found this between the trash bags.”

“Let’s see.” She rose and took the thin wallet, opened it. “You can discount robbery, doc.” She pulled a couple of folded bills from a compartment. “No ID and no credit cards.” She looked down at the faceless body. “But someone went to a lot of trouble to hide her identity.”

The sliding doors into the morgue whooshed open and she was once again staring down at the missing face of Jane Doe.

“Anything, doc?”

O’Halloran removed his plastic goggles, replaced them with his glasses, opened a file, and turned to her. “Plenty, Detective.” He cleared his throat. “TOD was somewhere between 3.30 and 5.30 a.m. as I suspected.”

She nodded, leaning her palms on the autopsy table. “Cause of death? The shotgun blast to the face?”

“A 12 gauge, probably sawed-off, but it was post-mortem.” He closed the file, tucked it under his arm, and turned the victim’s head to the side. “Here is your killer. A single GSW to the back of the head.”

Another thrill rushed up her spine as she leaned closer. “Execution style,” she murmured. “Nine mil?” She looked up to see him shake his head.

“.45 ACP.”

Something went cold inside her as she straightened. “.45?”

“The diameter of the wound suggests it. I will have to find the bullet to confirm it.”

“Shit,” she murmured, her fingers brushing tenderly over the SIG at her hip, truly hoping he was wrong about the caliber. “But why would he bother with the shot to the face?” That didn’t make any sense. “Doc, tell me you got something.”

“As the matter of fact I do. Her fingerprints were in the system.” He handed her the file. “I know exactly who she is.”

She opened the file, blinked at the photo, read the data, turned the page, looked at O’Halloran, “You got to be kidding me,” glanced at the picture again, and once more read the info. Still holding the open file, she slowly lifted her gaze to meet the M.E.’s eyes. “I think the shit just gained its sainthood.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and pressed 2.

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