Excerpt: Light Perpetual Shines

Two things slammed their way into my consciousness almost simultaneously. First, I had just smacked my hand into the corner of my bedside table. Hard. And second, that obnoxious trilling noise was my pager, not my alarm clock. Yes—I said pager. And, yes, I know it’s 2014. Only two organizations that I know of still use pagers this late into the twenty-first century: hospitals and police departments. Lucky me, I work for both.

After a few more painful misses, I was finally able to lay a hand on the small black box that was blaring in my sleep-sensitive ears. Another fumble or two, and I managed to press the button that lit up the screen. I blearily beheld the phone number to local dispatch. It’s the only number that has ever showed up on that screen. I don’t know why they didn’t just call my cell. It would have been faster and more efficient all the way around, but I’m pretty sure the policies and procedures handbook hadn’t been updated since sometime in the mid-eighties, so pagers it was.

Since I was a little more awake at this point, I was able grasp my cell phone on the first try. I shook my head quickly to dispel any lingering cobwebs before I dialed the number.

I heard two rings on the other end of the line before a professional-sounding female voice answered with, “City of Rockwall dispatch. Dispatcher 3178 speaking. How may I help you?”

I recognized the voice as belonging to one of the regular night dispatchers. “Hey, Annabelle, it’s Sam. You paged?”

“Yeah, it’s a bad one. Domestic dispute—one partner dead—called in by a friend of the family. If you can be ready in ten minutes, I can have Charlie pick you up on her way out to the scene.”

“Sounds good. You can tell her I’ll be waiting.”

Eight and half minutes later, as I was popping the ends of my collar onto its button at the back of my neck, I heard Charlie’s signature two short and one long horn honk. I grabbed my bag and dashed out to the car waiting in front of my house.

She peeled out from the curb the moment my butt hit the seat.

“Hey, preacher man. How’s it hangin’?”

“Hey, cop lady. Much better, now I’m hangin’ around with you.” We both smiled as I gave my usual response.

A comfortable silence settled between us for the rest of the drive. I closed my eyes, recited a prayer for quiet confidence, and prepared myself for the scene I was about to enter.

The red and blue glow cast by the flashing lights of the cop cars already on scene gave everything they touched a surreal radiance. The eerie dance of colored light and shadow in the dark of the night always chilled me to the bone. It didn’t help that the sight of those lights was almost always closely followed by the sight of a brutally murdered body.

Charlie pulled up to the curb behind the cars already parked there—two police cruisers, an ambulance, and the coroner’s van. We both got out of the car, and I followed her inside, making sure to walk only where she walked. I didn’t want to get in trouble for disturbing a crime scene.

We both ducked under some yellow police tape, she flashed her badge to the uniform guarding the front door, and I made sure my police consultant ID was visible hanging around my neck. The collar around my neck was usually a giveaway, but you could never be too careful. I stuck close to Charlie and purposefully looked straight at the floor as we made our way through the front of the house. I didn’t want to see any more than I had to.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at a well-lit lounge area in the backyard was the tension emanating from the tableau before me. In the middle of the configuration of chairs and benches, and the source of much of the tension, stood a tall, red-haired man with fire in his eyes. I could practically see the smoke coming from his ears as Detective Ronny Haralson continued to talk. It took me a second to process what he was saying.

“You wanna know what I think? I think girly man back there didn’t tell the dead fellow what he was getting into. They get back here, and he discovers a few things a lady shouldn’t have. Things get heated and… ”

Detective Haralson didn’t get a chance to finish. I saw the moment the other man’s hold on his temper snapped. Thankfully, Charlie was a few steps closer to them than I was. She caught the red-haired man’s hand in hers as he swung back for a punch. After a quick, quelling glare in his direction, she turned on Detective Haralson.

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