Holland Bay – Excerpt

Holland Bay

Holland Bay is now out from Down & Out Books.

Here is an excerpt.

The crime scene tech was an Amazon who might have had a decent career with Monticello’s WNBA team. They sat in a metal shed heated by a kerosene wall heater. The impound lot could have been a junkyard or a lower-end buy-here-pay-here used-car place.

The tech thrust a slip of paper at Branson. “Is this what you needed?”

Branson took the slip, noticing, not for the first time, that the crime scene techs’ logo resembled that of the television series CSI. She wondered if the Council thought that the resemblance made up for the budget cuts they had inflicted on the MPD’s own CSI group. Half the work was done by students at the two major universities and the community college in Rockefeller Point.

The slip of paper had a charcoal impression of a VIN tag from the charred sedan they had taken from Pier 9. It was readable. Thank God for small favors, thought Branson.

“This is it,” she said.

“Is there anything else you need, Detective?” asked the tech. Before Branson could answer, she turned on her heel and headed out the door. “Good. Because I have to get back downtown.”

With all the real cops? thought Branson. Then again, if Baker were really serious…

That name simply popping up in her head sent her blood pressure skyrocketing. She brushed it off and turned to the clerk running the impound lot.

“I need to use your computer,” she said.

The clerk, a graying man of about fifty, gave the hoarse laugh of a chronic smoker. “Why? It’s a Pier Nine murder. Nobody cares.”

She glanced at the clerk’s rank insignia. Not even a corporal and this guy had to have… What? A good twenty-five years on the force? “Patrolman…”

The clerk winced at the mention of his rank.

“I have been ordered to work this as a homicide,” said Branson. “I spent two years in Homicide before getting exiled out to that dump on Lake Avenue, so I know a little something on the subject. Now, can I run this VIN tag, or will you do it for me?”

The clerk logged into the system, then stepped aside for Branson to work.

“Thank you,” she said, and typed in the VIN tag. Unfortunately, the State of Ohio’s web application for motor vehicle searches appeared to have been sold to Columbus as being “Y2K compliant,” a joke Jerry liked to make about antiquated technology. This did not surprise her. The clerk’s PC was still running an older version of Windows with an outdated web browser. Branson was no techie, but she wondered how law enforcement in Ohio kept from simply grinding to a halt.

“I know a few things about homicides, too, Detective,” said the clerk.

“And what’s that?”

“I know the guy who died in that Buick you sent over died in the wrong place in Monticello. No one’s going to care who killed him. Chances are, the guy who did it will end up dead on Pier Nine later this week.”

“It’s a new day in Holland Bay, Patrolman,” said Branson.

At that, the clerk let out a full belly laugh.

“Yeah,” said Branson, “that’s what I thought when I heard that, too, but someone upstairs has other ideas.”

“Probably that male model Safety Director. He wants the mayor’s job, you know.”

It was Branson’s turn to laugh. “Right. The mayor’s a Democrat. The vice mayor’s a Republican. Either she gets reelected, or the vice-mayor has to go look for a Democrat to replace him when he moves up. It all depends on how the coin toss goes in November.”

“You don’t think Chalmers could win?”

Chalmers was the Safety Director and the bane of both the MDP and the fire department.

“That guy wears so much Aramis,” said Branson, “that I sneeze every time I see him on television. His only job as Safety Director is to make the mayor look somewhat attractive on television and to stay out from under the chief’s feet.”

“Christ, you’re a cynical broad, Detective.”

“Secret of my success.” The computer finally coughed up the details of the burned-out Buick. She scanned it, confirming it was, indeed, a 2001 Park Avenue last sold for sixteen hundred dollars. It also had a name. She pulled out her Android and dialed a number she hadn’t used in a long time.

“Musgrave County Morgue,” said a male voice on the other end. “You kill ’em, we grill ’em. Levinson speaking.”

“Jesus, Joel,” said Branson, “after all this time, and you still make corny jokes like that answering the phone?”

“Jessica Branson, as I live and breathe. How the hell are you?”

“Freezing. I’m in impound. Speaking of killing and grilling, a Port cop named Murdoch sent you a BBR this morning.”

“You’re calling me about a Pier Nine killing? Do you know how many seniors I’ve got who died for the gas company’s sins this morning?”

“I hear you, but I got a name for your crispy critter. You could have him in and out today and off your slate. And you’d be helping me close my first homicide in four years.”

“You? Working a homicide? All right, gimme a name.”

“José Carcinira.” When Levinson did not come back with so much as a smartass comeback, Branson said, “Joel?”

“Get up here as soon as you can.”


“Because the name ‘Carcinira’ has everything to do with why the Inbound was shut down this morning.”

Branson hung up.

“Nobody cares. Right?” said the clerk.

“Wrong. The ME is very interested.” She patted the clerk on the cheek. “You have a nice day, Patrolman.”

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