As soon as Detective Kenny Elliot stepped out of his car, he knew he’d slowed, stumbled somewhere along the way, for it had finally caught up with him, and like a twenty-nine-year-old boxer who grows old in the third round of a title fight, he would never be the same. It was what he saw in the vehicle, a late model Mercedes left beside a trash dumpster. It was in the parking lot of the Village at Central Park, a bunch of upscale, newly constructed condominiums just off Peoria Avenue.
Elliot silently cursed Captain Dombrowski for dragging him into this on his day off. It’d been 6:00 a.m. when the phone rang, and Elliot had come out of his sleep in a fit, fighting to rid himself of the bed sheets that trapped his legs and torso like some kind of malignant ivy. He hadn’t been sleeping well. It was the dreams; they’d started again. They’d become intense, occurring more frequently and leaving in their wake unsettling thoughts that rambled through his head—burdensome notions that something wasn’t quite right in his world, a problem just below the surface that he couldn’t quite drag into consciousness.
Elliot had a pretty good idea why Dombrowski had called. Cunningham was on vacation somewhere in Montana and Mendez was out with the flu, but there were other detectives. Obviously, Dombrowski knew there would be more to it than a simple homicide, if “simple” can be used when talking about deliberate death. An informal understanding had begun to develop inside the department. Dombrowski had an instinct about unusual cases, knowing which ones would deviate from the norm, and Elliot had a knack for solving them.
Elliot approached the Mercedes, a knot forming in his gut, his usual calm behavior displaced by his progress like the smooth surface of a pond disrupted by gas bubbles escaping from something vile hidden beneath its depths. An image of Carmen Garcia blossomed in his mind.
Don’t do this, Kenny. We can work it out.
He thought about the report. He couldn’t write it up indicating the suspect was a ghost, an unseen demon, but as he approached the Mercedes that thought vibrated through his head. Then, as he drew near and confirmed that it was indeed a necklace dangling from the inside mirror, his legs nearly gave way and for a moment his thoughts were in another time and place.