The smell of decomposition hung heavy in the air of the small bedroom—a nauseating odor that defied description. A homicide detective in Philadelphia for nearly five years, Michelle Wallace still found dealing with death unsettling.
She clutched a tissue to her nose to help block the stench. Nerves beneath her skin shuddered as she surveyed the posed body of the deceased. On the queen-sized bed, a naked woman in her late twenties or early thirties lay with arms crossed over her breasts, her blue eyes fixed in a permanent stare toward the ceiling. Her mouth, lips painted bright red, twisted in what was probably her last attempt to scream. The piece of rope embedded around her throat left ligature marks on her otherwise flawless skin.
The room hummed with activity while uniformed officers with gloved hands went through drawers and the closets. No one dared touch the body until the medical examiner arrived. Michelle didn’t need confirmation. She already knew. In an unbidden vision, she’d seen the bits and pieces unfold. The occurrences weren’t frequent or regular, and when young, she’d tried to seek an explanation from her mother but got only a dismissive wave and words uttered about an overactive imagination.
Shell’s gaze shifted to the nightstand, noticing the novel next to the lamp, titled The Perfect Crime.
Would there be ramifications if her fellow officers knew she authored the book. Her pseudonym, consisting of her initials and her mother’s maiden name, kept her writing persona separate from her professional side. Although proud of her work, she dared not brag. The guys would never let her live down the fact she’d used facts from past cases to pattern her storylines. Only Mom and her best friend, Naomi, knew about Michelle’s fiction passion and they’d been sworn to secrecy. No book signings or personal appearances would be scheduled until she wrote that breakthrough novel, earning her rights as an author and enabling her to leave the force.
Her attention flipped back to the hectic scene transpiring around her, especially the three officers ogling the shapely corpse. Shooting them an icy glare, she motioned them away. “Geez, move it along, you guys.” She rolled her eyes, disgusted at the lengths some men went to for a glimpse of a bared breast—even on a dead woman.
Finishing his conversation with the building super in the hallway, Michelle’s partner, Tony Rizetti, strode inside. He eyed the body, his brow raised. “How long you think she‘s been dead, Meesh?”
God, she hated his nickname for her. Why couldn’t he call her Shell like everyone else? So many times she’d asked, but the sparkle in his eyes when he defied her showed his stubborn side.