The Murder Collection
January 18, 2017
Cover art: Dianne Thies, Lyrical Lines
Copyright: Emporium Press / C.S. Poe
Genre: Amateur sleuth mystery, romance, choose your own adventure
Pt. 4 ended with two options:
Dean denies the comment and claims momentary insanity.
Dean rolls with the outcome.
Readers chose for Dean to roll with the outcome!
I started laughing.
And it wasn’t little old lady tittering, but full-on, from the gut, laughing.
Watanabe raised an eyebrow as he watched me slowly spiral into insanity. “Oh—kay.”
“Not like paint on you,” I said in between breaths, wiping tears with my free hand. “Because then you’d be naked, which would be good for me and probably bad for you.”
“Are you sure you haven’t been on any drugs, Mr. Stewart?” he asked, voice partially drowned out by the police siren as the car pulled up to the side of the road.
I laughed harder and shook my head. “I wish I had an excuse….”
“Detective?” a uniformed officer asked, recognizing Watanabe as he climbed out of the cruiser.
Watanabe gave me one last cursory glance and then said, “Doc Houdini was here. He took off on foot, heading south. I lost sight of him.”
The officer, beat cop or not, must have known that was serious news, because he got on his remote radio and immediately called for more backup. He motioned to his partner over the roof of the car and the two headed in the direction Watanabe pointed.
I’d managed to control my fit of giggles by then. The manic adrenaline rush was dying away, leaving me exhausted and shivering in Watanabe’s hold. “Can I go home?” I asked him.
“I didn’t do anything,” I protested again, more tired sounding this time. “I’m telling you—”
“A body, yes. Tell me about the body,” he replied.
“It’s in my water closet.”
“You established as much, Mr. Stewart.”
“Can you not call me that? It’s weird.”
“It’s your name, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but Mr. Stewart is my Dad. And he’s fifty, wears socks with his sandals, and makes literally the worst Dad-jokes known to man. I’m twenty-two.”
“And do you wear socks with your sandals?” Watanabe asked dryly.
“As if.” I pointed to my rainbow Dr. Martens.
Watanabe glanced down. “Of course….”
“I’m an artist,” I said quickly. “My studio is up there.” I pointed to the building behind us. “I hadn’t been in for a while…. There was a god-awful smell in the water closet. I opened it up and there was— it— was like—”
Watanabe motioned for me to speed it the hell up.
“The body was congealing in a tub of turpentine!”
His eyes narrowed. “What happened next?”
“I freaked out! I ran for the door, and that’s when I saw the dude, I mean, Charlie— Doc. He had a gun, that’s why I knew something was wrong.”
“What was he doing?”
“He was walking down the hall, carrying what appeared to be cleaning products, maybe? I ran back inside, locked the door, he broke it, then that’s how we met after the fire escape chase.” I motioned between us.
Watanabe’s expression softened around the edges. Slightly. I mean, you’d practically need a magnifying glass to have seen the change, but it was there.
“What did I say?” I asked.
Watanabe didn’t answer. He directed more arriving officers to secure my studio, and I gave them the floor and room number. The street was being blocked off by fast responding police, and now the pedestrians that had originally run from the gunfight, were slowly filtering back to watch the event unfold.
“Detective Watanabe,” an officer said, returning to our side a few moments later from the front door. “The location is secure.”
“Good. Come with me, Mr.— Dean.” Watanabe tugged my sleeve and more or less made me walk back into the building. We took the stairs to my floor. Our steps echoed through the empty stairwell, and when we reached my hall, the murmurs of cops and radios broke the silence.
“I really don’t want to be here,” I whispered.
“It’s been secured. No one is in there.”
“Except the dead man.”
“As someone who’s been around a body or two, I can assure you it won’t hurt you.”
“Obviously you’ve never binge-watched The Walking Dead in the dark by yourself.”
“Don’t worry, darling,” Watanabe murmured, finally sounding amused. “I’m armed.”
We reached my studio, and the stink of paint supplies and rotting flesh hit me hard in the gut again. I kept walking behind Watanabe after he let go of my jacket sleeve, I guess convinced at this point I wouldn’t try to run away. He followed the obvious breadcrumb trail of stink to the closet, where a few other officers lingered.
“You said you hadn’t been in for a while?” Watanabe asked, turning to look at me. His face had softened even more at this point.
“Yeah,” I agreed. Damn, he’s gorgeous….
“How long would you say?”
“Almost three weeks.”
Watanabe glanced over his shoulder at the human soup and then back to me. “Dean?”
A shiver crawled from toes to head when he said my name in a tone that was crazy sexy, even though he probably didn’t intend for it to be. “What?” I asked.
“Are you willing to look at this and tell me if you recognize the person?”
I swallowed hard. “It— still has a face?”
Watanabe actually nodded and said gently, “Only if you can handle it.”
Well shit. Now wasn’t the time for me to chicken out. Not if I wanted Watanabe walking out of my life after this fiasco thinking I was a big baby.
I straightened my posture and raised my chin up. “I’ll look.”
Watanabe stepped aside, placed a hand on my shoulder, and drew me closer to the closet.
CHOOSE DEAN’S ACTION!
Dean recognizes the victim.
Dean doesn’t know the victim.