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When Detective Michael Dalton is called to investigate a floater at Little Basin in Islamorada, Florida, he finds a man with a bullet in his head. Dalton is a veteran homicide cop but suddenly he’s hitting roadblocks. Someone wants to torpedo the investigation. As the body count rises, Dalton suspects his saboteur is involved in the murders.
Trusting no one local, Dalton calls on shady freelance investigator Sam Mackenzie for help. He brings a computer expert on board and their efforts uncover a complicated web of deceit.
With each step forward, Dalton knows he must get the killer before the killer gets him.
Page Count: 296
Word Count: 74533
The body lay face down in the reeds near the shore of Little Basin. A uniformed deputy stood a few feet away wiping perspiration from the back of his neck, the Islamorada sun already sizzling before 9:00 a.m. An iguana scampered through the scrub, sending the deputy backward as if jolted by electrical shock.
Detective Dalton approached as a second deputy stretched crime scene tape around the area.
“Hey, hey,” the deputy said, “you can’t come over here.”
“Monroe County Sheriff.” Dalton held up his badge and the man stepped over for a look.
“So, you’re the new detective. Michael Dalton. I heard about you.”
“You get a look at the body?”
The deputy’s nametag read Ted Colson. He nodded. “I think it’s a gunshot wound to the head. We didn’t touch anything. Crime scene guys will be here soon.”
“Any footprints, other than your friend’s over there fouling the scene?”
The deputy frowned and turned to his partner. “Hey Jim, get out of there. Make sure you step on solid ground.”
“A fisherman on a boat found him this morning,” Colson said. “Looks like he hasn’t been here long. The wildlife hasn’t bothered him much.”
Dalton took out his phone and zoomed in with the camera. He could see congealed blood on the side of the man’s head. Longish blond hair, going to gray. Slender with knobby elbows. His T-shirt and jeans were dark, maybe black. Some sort of image on the back of his shirt. No way to guess at his age. He snapped a photo. “You have the name of the fisherman who found him?”
“Hold on. I’ll get it,” Colson said. He used the radio clipped to his shirt and called the station.
The name came back, along with an address, and Dalton jotted the information in a pocket notebook.
“He say why he couldn’t hang around until you got here?” Dalton asked.
“The 911 operator said he had to go to work. He’s a car salesman.”
Crime scene investigators, a man and a woman, arrived with the medical examiner. Dalton introduced himself, his eyes lingering a few seconds longer on the woman. Her name was Robin Marlowe, and she gave him a smile.
The crew took several photos of the surrounding area. Deputy Jim told them where he had stepped, leaving an unintended trail.
“I don’t see any other shoe prints here,” the woman said. “The victim must’ve gone in the water somewhere else.”
The medical examiner stepped closer. “Okay, get him out of there.”
Within a few minutes, they had the man on top of a body bag. He looked about forty, his eyes wide as if expecting a surprise. Bullet hole on the forehead, left side. Dalton snapped another photo. The shirt had Key West stenciled across the front. Probably one of many thousands sold in the gift shops in the Keys.
Lifting the man’s head, the ME examined the bullet wound. “Hard to peg the caliber of the weapon. I’ll need to see the bullet.” He checked for a wallet and found none. No keys either, or a phone. Just a couple of coins. After he ascertained water and body temp they zipped the bag and carried it through the brush to a van.
Dalton went to the office to complete his new employee paperwork. Starting work that morning, he’d arrived early and was getting set up when the commander, Lieutenant Cobb, assigned him the case. After making notes about the homicide in his notebook, he dragged the stack of employment forms in front of him.
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