Detective Lindy Ferguson had just finished cleaning her kitchen after hosting Thanksgiving dinner, got her four-year-old daughter, Gillian, to sleep with only five pages of Alice In Wonderland (instead of the customary ten), and managed to steal maybe four hours of sleep.
When her cell phone lit up her nightstand, the ringtone of the theme from Dragnet telling her her captain was calling.
"Yeah . . . " she grumbled.
"Sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep," Captain Hicks said, "but you've got a homicide."
"I'm not on call," Lindy coughed, swallowing the expletive she almost blurted.
"Adams can't respond right now," Hicks explained. "He's getting stitched up. Got stabbed with a butcher knife answering a domestic disturbance."
The horrible news of a brother in blue injured woke Lindy up immediately.
"Is he going to be okay, Cap?"
"I think so. No major artery severed. He should be back on his feet by New Years."
Lindy grabbed a pad of Mary Engelbreit stationary and pen with a snowman bobble head.
"What's the address?" She jotted the Southeast location down in hurried shorthand. And she would have used her palm rather than a piece of her Mary Engelbreit collection, but she needed to grab a quick shower. "Felony Flats. Terrific. I'll be there in forty-five minutes."
Oh God, she thought, the captain only used her first name when giving her a reprimand, or at personal functions like Gillian's first birthday party.
"Thanks again for dinner last night. Are you still sure you won't share your family stuffing recipe?"
Lindy didn't even bother to gratify that with a response and ended the call.
After pulling on a pair of black jeans, a purple silk blouse, her Glock in a shoulder rig, and fleece-lined leather coat, Lindy left a note for her family on the coffee table, then stepped out into the brisk forty-degree night.
While she warmed up her restored 1968 Hunter Green Ford Mustang, Lindy unlocked her iPad. She accessed a database developed by the Cyber-Crimes division that catalogued criminal activity. She entered the address off Fifty-Second and Henderson to track any recent updates.
A week ago one Geoffrey Shepard had been reported for a parole violation and when his parole officer tracked him down to confront him, Shepard assaulted her with a knife, then raped her. Several calls from the neighborhood Lindy was going into had reported sightings of Shepard. She tapped a link to the felon's rap sheet. He’d been nailed for a GTA five years ago.
Her memory clicked on the day of Shepard's apprehension. She had been one of the officers that corralled Shepard into driving his stolen Shelby GTO over a spike trap.
The evening was cold, but not moist, and once the windows were defrosted, Lindy shifted gears, and pulled out of her driveway in Clackamas. 103 FM plays Christmas music every year from Thanksgiving to New Years and Fergie began to sing a cover of “Santa Baby”. Lindy rocked out to the Black-Eyed Peas chanteuse all the time, but as far as she was concerned, Eartha Kitt would always own that song.
She double parked across the street from the location, grabbed a travel case and baseball cap from the back seat, then headed for the border of crime scene tape around the broken-down Victorian house that'd seen better days. One of the two uniformed officers that'd secured the exterior got out of the driver's side of his cruiser to offer Lindy a cup of coffee.
"No thanks, Charles," Lindy said. "Who tipped us off here?"
"Neighbor lady next door. She was supposed to have dinner with the family that rents the place, but they never answered the door when she knocked yesterday afternoon. A couple hours ago, she did some nosing around and discovered all four tires on the family car slashed, then the family cat scared the shit out of her running out through the animal door."
The officer panned the beam of his flashlight along the gravel path that lead to the stairs. Lindy spotted the paw prints of blood.
She placed the travel bag on the hood of the cruiser, then bunched her shoulder length blonde hair underneath the Oregon Ducks baseball cap. Lindy didn't want her golden locks to get mixed with any evidence she collected inside. Grabbing the case, the homicide detective approached the house, sidestepping the gory animal tracks.
"Watch my caboose, boys," she told Charles over her shoulder.
"Aye, Lieutenant," the uniform promised as Lindy snapped on a pair of gloves.
She found the door locked, but before resorting to her lock picks-a trade craft Lindy didn't have the patience for-she found a set of spare keys in a tin stowed away inside the bird house that hung above the archway of the porch.
Inside, she canvassed the dimly-lit dwelling, starting with the living room and kitchen, then the three bedrooms upstairs, and finally the basement which was a deathtrap of magazines and newspapers. She spotted a mildew-stained rag on top of one pile that was an out-of-print circular for Portland's adult entertainment industry back in the day when she was a lingerie model to help pay her way through college.
She found the bodies of the family stacked like lumber in the tub of the basement bathroom. There were no weapon marks or bruises to suggest they'd been slain by a weapon. Just feline bites and scratches where the cat had scavenged. Poison then? She examined the fingertips, slack mouths, and hollow expressions of their death masks for any tell-tale signs.
"Gross," she muttered. "What in the hell are you?" Lindy asked the tiny worm that crawled out of the adult male's eye socket, leaving a slimy trail. She snatched a petrie dish from her evidence collecting kit, along with a pair of tweezers, and delicately placed the worm inside.
She took a picture of the creepy crawly with her cell phone and sent it along with a text message to an entomologist friend at PSU that lived with insomnia. Just before her cell phone battery died, he revealed that the specimen was a trichina worm.
"You're telling me that these people died from trichinosis?" Lindy talked to herself. "Food poisoning? Then how did the corpses end up in the bathroom?"
She raced back up the stairs and into the living room. One of the pictures above the mantel of the fireplace showed the adult male with his arm around the shoulder of Geoffrey Shepard. Taking a deep breath, Lindy dropped her evidence collecting gear and unholstered her sidearm to aim it at the entrance of the kitchen.
A bowl or something rattled.
Barrel covering her twelve' a clock, Lindy proceeded to step towards the kitchen, her heartbeat racing, her lips clenched to breathe quiet and shallow.
The kitchen was a mess of moldy dishes and food containers. Fruit flies drifted around the sinks garbage disposal and a stench forced Lindy to move her gun down so she could cover her mouth. The cat's bloody paw prints were all over the linoleum floor and formica countertops.
It leapt from the top of the fridge to land at her feet, then scurried away.
"You little shit," Lindy chuckled, following her nose to the smell in a pantry lined with shelves of canned food just beyond the kitchen and a little nook and dining room table.
The butt of a cigarette smoldered in an ash tray off center.
The foul stench led to a refrigerator next to a deep freeze, neither emitting a hum that they were operational. The fridge door was ajar and Lindy pushed it open all the way with her foot.
Trichina worms spilled out onto the floor. The hundreds that didn't fall out were clinging to a ham that rested on a plate.
The door of the deep freeze flew open and Geoffrey Shepard's ratty mop of red hair whirled in Lindy's peripheral vision.
"Suspect on location!" she began to shout, but Shepard nailed her in the mouth with a fist. A mop handle smacked her hands to knock the Glock from her grasp and the weapon dropped. Agile as a tiger escaped from a cage, Shepard hurdled out of the freezer to reach for the gun, but Lindy sent it skittering across the floor with a swipe of her Nikes. The shooter swiveled underneath the fridge.
"Bitch!" Shepard yelled, giving Lindy a shove into the kitchen. Off balance and coughing from the blood in her mouth and acid reflex in her throat from the vomit she'd swallowed at touching the worms when she lost her gun, Lindy hit the floor on her ass, legs spread.
"Oh yeah," Shepard said, grinning. "I've been thinking of this moment ever since you read me my rights. I'm gonna fuck you up so bad."
As the felon lunged, Lindy hurled a fistful of trichina worms into his face, then rolled out of his path. Shepard screaming obscenities like a girl, Lindy grabbed the first kitchen utensil she could, a marble rolling pin, and brained Shepard up alongside the head with it.
After he went down hard and began to moan, Lindy gave him a swift kick to the nuts.
"That's for making me miss the Black Friday sale at Fred Meyer."