Thrill Kill (Matt Sinclair #2) - Brian Thiem Page 0,1

the week. The two partners took turns assuming the responsibility of being the primary investigator of new cases.

“I heard about it,” said Boone. “Dude was stepping out on his old lady, and she took a butcher knife to him as he slept.”

“She was still holding the bloody knife when the first patrol officer got there,” said Sinclair. “Said she wasn’t a damn bit sorry.”

“I take it you don’t have the suspect on this one waiting for us in the back seat of a patrol car,” said Braddock.

“Let’s get out of the rain,” Boone said, stepping under the tarp alongside two officers, both in their midtwenties and about eye-to-eye with Sinclair’s six-foot frame. “The tech already processed the ground around the body and found nada. We have the caller in a car down in the parking lot. He was walking his dog and saw the vic and called it in.”

Sinclair stepped under the tarp and looked at the corpse. A heavy yellow nylon rope was tied around her neck, looped over a branch fifteen feet above the ground and tied to the trunk of a smaller tree about thirty feet away. Sinclair pictured a very strong man pulling the rope over the branch until the woman was suspended, wrapping it around the other tree trunk, and tying it off. Another length of rope, tied around her right ankle, was looped over the same branch and tied to the trunk of the oak tree. She was naked except for a soggy piece of cloth hanging from her crotch. Sinclair estimated her at around five-foot-eight, slim build, probably about 130 pounds. Her long, blonde hair hung over her face like a stringy mop. He pulled an assignment card from his pocket and jotted down some more notes.

Sinclair looked around the area. Grass covered the ground except under the tree where the sun couldn’t reach. He knew there’d be no footprints in the grass even if it hadn’t rained all night. “Any signs of footprints where the ropes were tied off?”

“Nothing,” said a voice behind him. Sinclair turned to see Joyce Talbert, one of the department’s civilian crime-scene techs. She was in her midforties, short and squat. Her black raincoat extended to her knees, and her bleached-blonde hair was stuffed under a baseball cap with the OPD patch on the front.

“Hey, Joyce,” said Sinclair. “How’d I get so lucky to get you as my tech?”

“You know how much I love working outdoor scenes in the winter, so when I heard the call of a DOA over the sound of rain pounding on the roof of my car, I jumped at the chance to handle it.”

“Everyone says we need the rain,” said Sinclair. California was in its fourth year of drought, but more than three inches of rain had fallen in the last week, and even the Californians who had been forced to let their lawns die because of water rationing last summer were starting to complain.

“It’s those cute little weather girls who don’t have to work in it that say we need it,” Talbert said.

“Have you found anything interesting?” Sinclair asked.

“Only this,” she said, stepping under the tarp and opening a black garbage bag.

Sinclair looked inside as she opened a paper bag containing a can of Aqua Net hairspray and another paper bag containing a green plastic lighter. “And this is connected how?”

“I found them about twenty feet down the path,” Talbert said. “Come around this side and it’ll make sense.”

Sinclair and Braddock walked to the other side of the body. A piece of burned cloth hung from the victim’s crotch. The skin on her upper legs, abdomen, and lower chest was charred and blistered.

Braddock crouched and looked closely. “Oh god, are you telling me some asshole . . .”

“That’s my guess,” said Talbert. “That’s the sleeve of a cotton sweater. I found the rest of it in the parking lot. It looks like someone soaked it in gasoline or lighter fluid—I could smell it when I first got here—stuffed the end of it into her vagina, used the hairspray and lighter as a blow torch, and lit her on fire.”

“That’s one sick motherfucker,” said Sinclair.

“I only hope she was already dead when the asshole did it,” said Braddock.

“I’m sure the coroner will be able to tell us. Speaking of the coroner—” Sinclair turned to Boone.

“I called them as soon as you drove up. They said they’re on their way.”

“What about the canvass?”

“Two officers are still out knocking on doors, but I don’t expect