"Still waters, huh, Bren?"Matt got out of the cruiser. "The guard dog. Nice enough to any of us in uniform. A little odd around everyone else." He closed the door and walked off.
"My little girl's growing up."
"Have you told Dad about the attack yesterday?"
"Stay here. And watch out for Killer."
"Killer? Matt, wait!" Brenna opened her door. She saw the young police officer walk into a trailer converted into an office. "Matt!" A dog growled, freezing Brenna with one leg out of the cruiser. "Killer? Nice puppy." She looked around for the source of the growl. "Good puppy." Brenna brought in leg back in, nice and slow.
A huge doberman mix ran around the corner of the office trailer. Brenna eeked, then slammed the door shut. The dog leapt up, barking like mad at her. Brenna held her hands up. "Good doggie. Nice doggie. Down, please, Killer. Matt!"
The occupants of the office ran out at the commotion the dog was making. One of the men, tall with receding hair, called for the dog. Killer got down from the window and trotted over to his master. Matt ran over and opened Brenna's door. "It's okay, Brenna."
Brenna looked over at the dog. "He's not going to attack?"
"He's not going to attack."
Brenna set one leg on to the ground. Killer barked twice before being hushed. "Matt . . .."
Matt held out a hand for Brenna. "It's safe."
"If you say so." Brenna continued getting out of the police cruiser.
"I'll take you to your van. Everything's ready to go." He handed Brenna's keychain to her. "Here."
Matt led Brenna down row upon row of impounded cars of all sorts, from high-priced sports cars to a lonely Lada rusting in the California sun. Brenna's van was parked between a chrome and red pick-up truck and a heavily modified black Mitsubishi Lancer. "Here you go," Matt said. "Just make sure everything is there. Detective McCoy will be by with the paperwork."
"Okay." Brenna opened the van door. The mess she left yesterday had been cleaned up. She climbed inside, getting a boost from Matt. Once she had settled into the driver's seat, she turned her attention to the young officer. "You even cleaned it up."
"That was the forensics lab. They're nice like that. I'll be right back." Matt grinned. "And I'll make sure Killer is on leash."
"Thanks." Brenna watch Matt as he returned to the trailer office. With a sigh as he disappeared, she picked up her purse and took out her cell phone. The device was off. When Brenna tried to turn it on, the phone complained about a low charge and shut itself back down. "Stupid phone," Brenna muttered. She got her portable charger out from the glove compartment and plugged the phone into the cigarette lighter. So much for checking for any messages right away.
Brenna slid out from the driver's seat to climb to the van's cargo area. She checked the locks on her storage boxes under where her bed connected to the wall. None of the locks looked disturbed. Satisfied, she started opening the van's curtains, letting the sunlight enter. As she looked out the back, she saw Detective McCoy approaching. She opened the back doors and waved.
McCoy sat down on the floor of the van, legs reaching the ground below. "Good morning, Ms Halliday."
"Morning, Detective." Brenna sat down beside the homicide detective.
"You're looking chipper today."
"Do you mind a personal question?" McCoy asked. "About where you were last night?"
"Last night? After you talked to me?"
"Yes. If you don't mind."
Brenna shrugged. "I suppose. Matt – Officer Larson – took me to dinner."
"Officer Larson did that?" McCoy raised an eyebrow. "And you were with him all night?"
"Until eleven. Then he took me home. Why? Was there another murder last night?"
McCoy smiled. "Got it in one. However, you're clear. You have an excellent alibi and your van is clean."
"You checked my van? Is that even legal?"
"It was part of the crime scene." McCoy rubbed his hand on the leg of his pants. "And we never opened anything that was closed. Perfectly legal. All the techs did was bring in a black light to look for blood."
"And, to tell the truth, there's no way you could have killed the victim last night. You're just not tall enough."
Brenna frowned. "Detective, I know this is going to sound weird, but . . .."
"But?" McCoy prompted.
"Be careful? Something's not right."
"It's homicide, Ms Halliday. 'Not right' is just the start of it."
"I know, but . . . call it a hunch, okay?"
"I'll keep it in mind. You should get your van off the lot, though. Killer might notice it. He likes chewing on tires."
"Yeah, I already met him."
McCoy smiled. He stood back up. "Oh, one more thing, Ms Halliday. Do you mind if I get your phone number." He held up his hands to forestall protests. "It's not for me. My partner, however, would like to talk to your sister again."
"My sister?" Brenna slid to the ground. "She's not a suspect, is she?"
"No. My partner would like to talk to her again, that's all." McCoy shakes his head. "I don't know how he does it."
Brenna hid her laughter with her hand. "Sure." She rummaged through her purse for a pen and a scrap piece of paper. "Tonight's not a good time to call. Dad is having company and we, me and Gracie, we're not supposed to be home. But during the day would be good." Brenna jotted her home phone number down, then gave the slip of paper to Detective McCoy.
"Thanks. Paperwork's taken care of, so you can go whenever."
Brenna closed the back doors of the van. "Thanks, Detective. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help."
"Maybe." McCoy started to walk away. "I might get you to look at a composite later. You might be the only person to have seen the murderer."
"Sure." She jotted her cell phone number on another piece of paper. "Here. Might be easier to reach me."
"Thanks, Ms Halliday. You have a good day."
"You, too, Detective."
Brenna waved to Matt as she left the impound yard. She wandered through the streets of San Diego, trying to maneuver through the traffic. In the back of her mind, she mulled over the latest news, the latest murder. She knew something was up, but just couldn't put her finger on it.
A blaring horn from behind her van brought her back to the here and now. The light in front of her was now green and she was holding up traffic. Brenna stepped on the accelerator, getting going again. She gave her head a shake to clear it. Maybe Missy could help her, even if her best friend just distracted her. Brenna guided her van to Gnarly's Boards along the beach. The store was already open, though it only had a couple of customers. Brenna parked her lavender van then ran into the store.
Missy looked up from the counter. "Hey, Bren. Didn't expect to see you. Interested in learning to surf? I've got a new woman who can teach you."
"Surf? Um, can I get a rain check?"
"Sure." Missy walked out from behind the counter. "What's up? I don't normally see you this early."
"I had to get my van out of the impound yard."
"Brenna, really." Missy put her fists on her hips. "What have I told you about driving while looking for ghosts?"
Brenna laughed at the joke. "Nothing like that. It was part of a crime scene yesterday."
A look of concern crossed Missy's expression. "What happened?"
"I got attacked. Don't worry, Missy. I drove her away. I have to patch my favourite skirt, though."
"Did the police find her?"
Brenna shook her head. "And I think she's responsible for a murder last night."
Missy returned to the counter and picked up the newspaper. "You mean this one?" She held up the front page. Under the headline, "Body found at beach", a secondary line read, "Gory death left local man boneless."
Brenna paled as she read the headlines and first few paragraphs of the story. "Ugh."
"Yeah. Not far from here, either. I'm going to have the best sales day ever here, or it's going to be, well, I don't want to use the word dead, not after that."
"You know where it happened?"
Missy nodded. "A few regulars told me when they came in this morning. And, no, I can't take you. Not right now. I'm the only one in."
"Does anyone else work here?"
"I've got a college student coming in for noon today. He can watch things once he gets in. How did you get involved anyway?"
"You mean the body I found two days ago or being attacked yesterday?"
Missy raised her eyebrows. "Things really aren't quiet around you, are they? Is this how it goes when you're on the road alone?"
"Fewer attacks. No one bothers me outside the city."
"Maybe it's having both of us in the same city." Missy sighed. "Tell me about the attack."
Brenna shrugged. "This woman tried to stab me. I stopped her. She ran away."
"Thank you Reader's Digest. Details, Brenna. How did you stop her?"
Brenna looked to see if anyone was listening in. In a whisper, she answered, "The Soul Blade."
"I was defending myself, Missy. I got lucky when I cut through her knife."
"I'm never going to get full details, am I?"
"Excuse me for being busy trying not to get stabbed at the time."
"You're forgiven." Missy opened the display fridge and took out a bottle of juice. "Okay, so, why do you want to go to the murder scene? Checking on the victim's ghost?"
"Sort of." Brenna leaned on the counter. "I need to see if the crime scene looks like the office did."
"Like I said, I'm it this morning here. And, really, I don't want to leave the new guy to the afternoon crowd alone. Got plans for this evening?"
"Not really. Dad's got a friend coming over tonight, so I need to be elsewhere for a bit."
"A friend, huh?" Missy smirked. "Oh, reminds me, Krista phoned. She's coming in from Needles this afternoon."
"Really? Awesome! Is she just here to visit or is this because of her job?"
Missy shrugged. "I'm hoping for a bit visit time with the three of us while she's here. You know, if you had your cell phone on last night, I could have told you then. Krista and I tried to reach you."
"Sorry. It was in my van overnight and it lost its charge. The police had it impounded while the CSI guys gathered evidence."
"Because of whoever attacked you."
Brenna nodded. "I'm charging the phone now."
"So what's the plan? Meet here around four?"
"Oh, I can't. I have to be home for when Dad gets home from work. That should be around five. Can you call me after that?"
"Not a problem. Okay, how about me and Krista find a place to eat and call you so you can join us?"
"Sure, that works."
"So what are you going to do while us workers slave away all day?"
"Subtle hint?" Brenna pushed off from the counter. "I should get to work on those costume requests. Do you have them handy?"
"I'll print them off." Missy opened the emails and printed off both the message and attachments for each request. As her laser printer warmed up, the tall blonde looked around the store. "It's way too quiet here today. Not one high schooler playing hookie."
"I'm sure they'll skip in the afternoon."
"So says the girl who had near perfect attendance."
"I remember what Gracie did to get out of classes. She got me in trouble a couple of times by skipping. Friday afternoons? Perfect time to leave early. Get more weekend in."
"Here's hoping." The laser printer stopped. Missy grabbed the pages and handed them to Brenna. "And here you go. Have fun."
"Don't forget to call me."
"Bren, you're being ridiculous."
"You're not the only one with weird powers in this family."
"Never go ghost hunting in shorts, Krista."
"Which is why I want to see the crime scene."