LEATHER AND LACE Excerpt on Eat Sleep Write - Chapter 1

*This originally posted here.

November 30, 2013

Leather and Lace - Chapter 1 by Erica Sutherhome
posted by Adam Scull

Beacon Hill, Boston

When he got to the crime scene on Warrenton, Detective Dreyling got out of his car. He muttered a customary greeting to the officer near the black and white unit stationed outside and headed into the club, Venu. Despite the fact that it was a pretty hot club, he wasn’t really surprised shady things were going on. Venu was placed in a pretty nondescript area of Beacon Hill, and crime wasn’t really location dependent.  
Patrick was the first investigator on the scene, though he imagined the second officer inside had had his own questions.  Patrick’s partner was away for the night because his wife was down with their second baby. The doctor had put her on bed rest and even though her sister helped out often, his partner Nathan understandably wanted to check in on her from time to time.   
Patrick made inquiries to the owner, a Mr. Francis, and was motioned to the back.  According to the man, the victim was seen leaving the establishment.  He put his gloves on in preparation, then opened the exit door to the back alley. 
            When he stepped out, it was clear the exit let out onto Charles Street, a pretty heavily trafficked street.  It was not far from the Milner Hotel.  By now, the crime scene had been taped off, but there was no officer around to patrol.  The familiar smell of blood and death drifted into his nose as well as the combination of dirt and trash. Stealing himself against it, he headed down the walkway. 
He stopped as he saw a figure leaning over the still form.  He wondered if it was another cop.  As he got closer, he saw the long hair, knew it was a woman.  The lamplight hit her face and his heart stammered.  She was a beauty, for sure, with a heart shaped face and long, wavy brown hair.  But, what drew him the most was the look on her face.  The tears swimming in her eyes, the deep regret. 
She certainly did not dress like a cop. She wore black skinny jeans and a matching top as well as stiletto boots as she kneeled over the body. The clothes she wore were elegant somehow. She struck him as powerful.  She probably had a powerful job as well.  “Ma’am?”
            She recoiled, gasping and turned to run, effectively breaking the police tape.
            “Hey, stop!  Police!”  He suspected she might know the victim and so might provide some information.  He doubted she was the suspect, mostly because of her compassion toward the man.  But, he had to give her credit as he broke into a run after her.  The woman could sure run in heels.  It was impressive.  He followed her a good three blocks or so until they reached Lagrange.  He saw her enter through the back of a club.  Cursing, he propped his hands on his knees and got his breath back.  Well, he knew where to find her.  And with a body like that, he assumed she was a dancer.  He knew the place, The Glass Slipper.    
            Reluctantly, he headed back to the crime scene, though her escape really got to him.  He had given chase to many suspects and hadn’t lost once. Well, he certainly wouldn’t be floating the story around at the precinct.  She was a person of interest in the case, but no one needed to know about it.  He didn’t bother to wonder why a woman of her looks and character should be a mystery he very much wanted to unravel.  He was a cop.  It was his job to figure people out.
            When he returned to Venu, the medical examiner had already arrived.  June Tremont was clear that it was a stabbing, but she informed him she wouldn’t know what kind of knife until she did the autopsy. The body was bagged and sent away. 
            Patrick had recovered enough belongings to know the victim’s I.D. and little else.  He interviewed the patrons of the club, then spoke with the owner, informing him the CSU would still need a couple more hours to process the scene.  It was possible hair and other tissue could be found, but Patrick really didn’t consider it likely since the street was so busy.  He would put Nathan on the 911 call tomorrow to try to determine who had phoned it in.  The club owner had seemed far too surprised when the first car came on the scene. So, who had called it in? The murderer? A witness?  Someone who’d just stumbled across the body? 
            An image of that woman came to mind.  Long legs, enough curves to make his throat suddenly dry.  He shook it off.  It didn’t matter how attractive she was.  She could be any of those things.  He still had a job to do.  The clear emotion on her face had moved him, he had to admit.  So, it was very possible she had only come upon the victim in his final moments.  That couldn’t have been easy to see.  In any case, he would find her and figure out how she’d been involved.
            He returned to his District A-1 precinct on Sudbury Street.  He updated his Captain, filed a report and headed home.
            Patrick entered his early 1900s home on Park Street and threw his keys on a nearby table. He had loved the layout since he’d bought it.  He hoped to fill the rooms with children some day, but there was time for that.  It was a gray two story home with white and burgundy accents.  The master bedroom was located on the first floor while four other bedrooms were on the second. The backyard was decent-sized and there was a massive deck behind the house. He had invited Nathan and his family over for barbecues several times. 
            On many evenings, only when he was off duty, of course, he liked to sit before the fireplace in the living room and sip a glass of red wine.  His partner didn’t understand why he would buy such a big house when there was no one to fill it.  He simply hadn’t found the right person yet.  He often wondered if there was a woman like that out there, one that would accept the unpredictable hours of a cop. 
His father had been a cop too, and it had ensured that his mother would run off with the first man who could make her life easier.  It had also ensured that his father would drunk himself to death.
            Patrick had never been in a committed relationship exactly.  He and Jennifer, his last girlfriend, had drifted apart because of their different work schedules.  He hadn’t really felt much of a spark with her, though he didn’t mind the sex.  Mostly, he had grown tired of her complaints.  “You have this big house,” she would say, “but, you never spend your money like you should.  Why don’t you come to the dinners with some of my clients?  I’m sure we could get you into investing.”
            He only had the house because a lawyer showed up one day, claiming he was a relative of a woman he’d never known.  She was supposedly his aunt.  He wasn’t naïve so he’d done his due diligence.  Scams were so prevalent, of course, and his luck had never run that way.  But, it was the truth.  Somehow, he’d had a wealthy aunt and never knew.  Delilah Jennings had left a lot of money around, and had no living heirs.  He was the lawyer’s last resort.
It hadn’t mattered to him one bit though.  It kept him comfortable in the house, but he rarely used any of the money.  He wasn’t an investor though.  He also wasn’t into the kind of work that Jennifer had wanted him to do.  He was a cop, plain and simple.  Having money had never changed that.  He didn’t do it for the glory.  He liked the puzzle of figuring out a crime.  And he sincerely wanted justice or a sense of closure for the families of the victims. 
            Patrick picked up the phone, ordered takeout and settled down for the evening.
            The next day, he spent a lot of time learning more about the victim, Danny Richland, and where he had been for the past week. African American, late twenties and he worked here and there.  The man had had a girlfriend, but she was pretty close-mouthed about what he did for a living. His mother couldn’t provide much information either.  She hadn’t spoken to him in a very long time. 
            He spoke to Danny’s random employers, but they didn’t seem to know much about him either.  He was very private, they claimed, but he was also someone you didn’t want to cross.  The fact that he’d had enough funds to go to Venu didn’t really surprise him.  The motive for the murder could have ranged anywhere from a drug deal gone wrong to a crime of passion. Danny’s girlfriend Rose insisted he’d been loyal to her, but women had been wrong about men before. 
            He received the report back from the medical examiner, and Danny had been stabbed multiple times in the chest. There were no hesitation marks so that meant that the murderer had planned to do it, or felt no remorse.  They had narrowed the kind of knife down to a Boker Plus BO160, which could be used for anything from hunting to self defense.  No weapons had been found on Danny, which pointed further to a cold-blooded killer if the man had been attacked unarmed. There were also very few defensive wounds, which meant the first few blows must have crippled Danny enough that he couldn’t fight back.
            Patrick shook his head. Occasionally, he was still amazed what humans were willing to do to each other.
            Nathan was able to pin down the 911 caller to a female. They could only guess she was mid to late twenties, possibly early thirties, but it was hard to judge by voice alone. 
             A couple of hours after Nathan left, Patrick went back to Lagrange Street. He staked the place out for awhile, hanging around across the street, lighting the occasional cigarette, then stamping it out.  Men frequented the joint mostly. The women who went inside entered through the back door.  Bouncers stood around the doorway as if to guard their treasures.  He knew The Glass Slipper was a strip club mainly from word of mouth, though he imagined Cinderella wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like that.
He grimaced. The woman he’d seen had seemed dominant, yes, but far from the kind that would objectify herself for a quick buck. She had seemed graceful, beautiful yet poised as if she was used to luxury. The company she kept left much to be desired.  He could have sworn she’d been a high class woman, the wife of a rich man or even an executive herself.
The fact that he’d misjudged her rankled him. It wasn’t like she was a prostitute, but her job didn’t exactly make it look like she respected herself much either. He hoped he was wrong.  Perhaps it was possible that she was simply visiting a friend then.  It was possible that last night, she had come to this place as a safe haven.  It wasn’t likely though. His job had taught him that the most unsavory conclusion was usually the right one. And if the establishment she had entered was any indication, she had to be a stripper.
He shifted on his feet, unsettled, shoving his hands into his pockets.  It really wasn’t any of his business.  He should leave her alone.  It was her life.  But, he had missed finding out her identity and she still might know something, though his instincts told him she probably knew little of the victim. Perhaps she had been a passerby? Wasn’t it his job to find out though?  In a way, he also felt responsible for her safety.  It couldn’t hurt to check it out, see if everything was as it should be. If she wasn’t there, he could ask around, see if anyone had seen her. 
It was possible she was a stripper. He didn’t exactly agree with the profession she’d chosen, but there was little he could do about that.  Hard on the decision, he stalked across the street and went straight up to the door of the building.  He flashed his badge at the door and with a curse, the bouncer let him pass.
Once inside, the room was covered with spots of fog and smoke.  The smell of sweat permeated the air along with cheap perfume and other things not worth mentioning.  His gaze skimmed the customers, and every man seemed to be typical. They all came for one thing, to get away from their lives, whether they were married, workaholics, old men or young men.  They were looking for a cheap thrill.  Of course, it wasn’t that cheap really.  But, the cost wasn’t worth it.  It wasn’t real.
Patrick thought that a man should devote himself to one woman in a meaningful relationship and by doing so, all of his desires would be fulfilled. He was not delusional enough to think that all relationships were satisfying or that they were perfect, just that loyalty was required. Of course, his job usually kept him from enjoying the luxury of such a relationship. His relationship with Jennifer had been evidence that things didn’t always work out.
As he looked around the room, he could see several women dancing around poles. Others were scattered around the edges of the room, offering lap dances to customers.  The men were eager to shove bills into the dancers’ lingerie, grabbing what they could before a bouncer stepped in. There was one positive thing he knew about such establishments. The dancers were usually pretty protected, at least as long as the club’s owner felt the safety of the strippers was necessary. Since he did not know much about this club, he could not vouch for its security.
On one table, he spotted her.  Her long, brown curls fell down her back, nearly to the middle, where the hooks of her bra lay.  She wore red lacey fabric for lingerie along with thigh-length red fishnet hose, and her feet were strapped into red high heels.  Her steps were purposeful, seductive, and she was serious in her task.  Her dark brown eyes were also alluring. The makeup she wore was not heavy, but applied precisely to add a dramatic effect to her appearance.  She looked sexy yet mysterious, the way she had seemed before.  His groin tightened in response and his mouth went dry.  Satisfied that his equipment was working well, he casually inspected her.
It was her eyes that gave her away.  She was angry beneath that seductive exterior.  He wondered who she was angry with. Or, was it something she was upset about?  Was she dissatisfied with her job?  Was she angry at herself for having to resort to such a profession?  He didn’t know, but he wanted to. No, he needed to know.  He would not be able to let it go until he did know what was bothering her, how she truly felt about her job.
Suddenly, a man grabbed her hard and she stumbled into his lap.  “Come on, baby.  Make it good for me.”
Instead of screaming, she smiled.
There was something in that smile, Patrick realized.  A strange sensation ran over his body.
The woman managed to elbow the jerk in the face, then struggled back on the table.  With a well placed heel in the man’s chest, she nodded to the door. One of the bouncers shortly hauled her assailant out of the club.
Patrick was relieved. He would have stepped in, but he knew she would have recognized him.  He was only going to give it another few seconds longer, but she had handled herself.  A strange sense of pride moved through him.
But, he disliked the circumstances.  He had seen her flee before, but she now struck him more as a stubborn person and he knew that if he approached her now, she would tell him nothing. He wanted her to trust him for some reason. He didn’t allow himself the luxury of analyzing his motives though.  He simply decided that he would be involved in her life on some level.  He had to ensure she was safe, not only from danger, but from predators like the men at the club. He wouldn’t hurt her by forcing her out of the business. He would have to be patient, and convincing. 
There was one thing he could do.  He could make sure she was protected by watching her himself. And he knew just how to go about it.  He flagged down the nearest waitress, requested to see the manager, then followed the woman back to a small office.  He would arrange to see her again and this time, everything would be on his terms.