YIKES!  My editor just finished raking over my novel--just kidding. I'm going to start over, posting the first three chapters. Writing is a process, of course. Your comments are welcome, so don't be shy. If you already read Chapters 1 through 3, you'll see they're better now. DON'T MISS my new Chapter 4!

San Francisco
December, 2002

Chapter 1

Albert Schultz bent down
to get his paper and saw a nude corpse on the sidewalk. It was five a.m. Still dark, the body dimly lit by a street lamp some thirty feet away.
         Schultz ran back into his apartment and called 911.
         The dispatcher picked up his call.
         “Where are you?” she asked.
         He gave her his address on Cole Street. It was a good neighborhood in the Haight, away from all the craziness a few blocks away.
         “Are you safe?”
         “Yes. But there’s a naked body on the sidewalk.”
         That threw her for a few seconds.
         “In front of our apartment building,” he added.
         “Are you sure the person is dead?”
         “No,” he admitted.
         “I’m going to send an ambulance. I would advise you to stay in your house until it gets there.”
         “I intend to,” he said.
         But then he got curious. He decided to see what he could see from the front stoop. He went to his bookcase and grabbed his binoculars.  Came back and turned on a floodlight.
         It was a female. 
         He watched her closely to see if she was breathing. No. She was face down, with a big gash on her neck. His hands began to shake.  He lowered the binocs. Am I going to throw up? Deep breaths, he told himself. Summoning his courage, he peered through them again.  He focused on her back and ribs to detect any sign of breathing. Nothing. He looked at the rest of her. There was something on her hip. Initials?  He refocused until he could make them out. L and K.
         The slashed throat, the branding of initials. Both were signatures of The Death Valley Gang, he remembered.  
         He stumbled out of the kitchen and hustled into the bedroom. Time to wake Bea before an ambulance blared its siren and screeched to a halt out front. That would freak her out, and with her heart problems, she didn’t need that. He gently shook her.

Out front a blue tent stood, hovering over the spot where the young woman was found. Inside, the coroner wished that her techs would turn off their damned lamps. They blinded her every time she looked up. She much preferred to work by sunlight, but the sun was not cooperating. The first thing she noticed was that this body did not look like the other four.
         This girl’s hair was clean and stylishly cut. No tattoos. Her teeth were white. The gums a healthy pink. Her cheeks were pale now, but there were no deep wrinkles there or on her forehead. Whoever she was, she was definitely not a street person. Other than camping out, perhaps, she had probably never lived rough for any length of time.
         There was another difference. This one miniscule. The tiny soil fragment she was carefully extracting from the neck wound showed no evidence of finely granulated desert sand.  Instead: a tiny particle of dark, loamy soil.  Cultivated, perhaps. Or maybe it was mulch from a forest. The other bodies had all contained trace elements of arid soil and the telltale sand grits. 
Maybe it’s a copycat.
She leaned down to inspect the girl’s ear. “Where did you come from?” she whispered.


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