The Falling Girl (A Private Investigator Mystery Series of Crime and Suspense, Lee Callaway #3), страница 1
THE FALLING GIRL
A LEE CALLAWAY MYSTERY
The Falling Girl © Thomas Fincham 2018
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1)
The Rogue Reporter (Hyder Ali #2)
The Runaway Reporter (Hyder Ali #3)
The Serial Reporter (Hyder Ali #4)
The Street Reporter (Hyder Ali #5)
The Student Reporter (Hyder Ali #0)
Close Your Eyes (Martin Rhodes #1)
Cross Your Heart (Martin Rhodes #2)
Say Your Prayers (Martin Rhodes #3)
Fear Your Enemy (Martin Rhodes #0)
The Rose Garden (Echo Rose #1)
The Rose Tattoo (Echo Rose #2)
The Rose Thorn (Echo Rose #3)
The Rose Water (Echo Rose #4)
The Blue Hornet
The October Five
The Paperboys Club
Killing Them Gently
The Solaire Trilogy
Thank you for checking out my work. The Falling Girl is book #3 in the Lee Callaway series. Although this book can be read as a standalone, there are minor references to the earlier books. If you haven’t had the chance, please check out The Dead Daughter, and The Gone Sister, as well.
Also, if you want more of Lee Callaway you can read his introduction in The Rose Water (Echo Rose #4).
Thank you again for your support. Without you, I wouldn’t get to do what I do.
One year ago
Gail Roberts was frowning as she got out of the taxi.
Gail was short, stocky, and she had shoulder-length auburn hair. She had graduated with a degree in creative writing. She dreamed of being a novelist, but after a couple of years spent toiling away on an unfinished manuscript, she decided to give screenwriting a try.
With two finished screenplays to her name, she took a job as an assistant in a movie production company. She figured it would give her access to agents, producers, and studio heads. Maybe an A-list actor would fall in love with one of her scripts and want to star in the film.
The assistant job was supposed to have been a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It was anything but that, proving to be a thankless job with long hours and no benefits.
She thought about quitting, but she gave herself another year until she could save enough money. She would then sit down and plan what she would do next with her life.
Her parents were always supportive of her decisions, but even her father had reservations when she had told him she wanted a career in writing. “Do something practical,” he had warned her. “Do something that will give you a stable income.”
She held out hope that someone might stumble upon her scripts and offer to buy them. Maybe someone would even hire her to write a script for them. There were a lot of maybes, and they were what held her in her current position.
Her plans changed when she came upon something that shook her to the core. It went against everything she believed in. It was vile, depraved, and criminal. She knew she could not stay silent. Her parents had raised her to speak out for the weak and helpless.
She had stormed into the offices of those responsible and told them what she was going to do. They did not take kindly to her decision. They threatened her with lawsuits. She had signed non-disclosure agreements. She didn’t care. She was willing to face prison in order to do the right thing.
When they saw her resolve, they offered her money. But she refused. She was not going to change her mind.
She was scheduled to speak to a reporter the next day. The reporter did not know her name nor the details of what she was about to disclose, but her revelations would be explosive.
Gail hoped her whistleblowing would start a dialogue and that others like her would come forward. She would be the face of this new movement. Even if she was not, it didn’t matter. She was not the victim. Others were. It was their voices she wanted heard.
Earlier in the day, she had gone out with her friends to ease her anxiety about what she was going to do. She had debated giving them a heads up, but she never saw the right opportunity. Her work required her to travel often, so she hardly saw her friends. The moment they were together, she was swept up in the excitement of spending time with them. They laughed. They drank. They told stories of their youth. One of her married friends even broke the news that she was pregnant. Her announcement brought joy to an already boisterous gathering.
Then Gail received the call. She hesitated answering, but she did. The caller pleaded to see her. All he wanted was for her to hear him out.
She finally agreed. What she was about to do the next day was going to be devastating to the parties involved. She had to give them a chance to explain themselves. She doubted very much that their words would change her mind, but what was one more meeting?
Her friends were not happy she was leaving the party early, but she assured them she would fill them in on the details the next time they met up. She knew full well it would be sooner than that. The moment the news broke, her phone would be ringing off the hook. In fact, her friends would be banging on her door to get all the juicy gossip.
After paying the taxi driver, she walked up to the front lobby of her apartment building. Her place was located in a rough and dangerous neighborhood. It was not uncommon to see gang-related shootings, people selling drugs around the corner, or the police raiding the building.
She could not wait to move out, but the rent was cheap, so she was staying put. It might not be for long, though. She might have to take refuge in her parents’ house from all the attention she was about to put on herself. Luckily, her parents lived outside the city.
She unlocked her apartment door and entered. Warm air hit her, and she felt like she was walking into a sauna. The apartment was hot and stuffy, and she almost couldn’t breathe.
She walked over to a wall and checked. For some strange reason, the thermostat was turned up high. She turned it down and moved to the glass doors that led out to the balcony. She slid them open. She would give the cool air a minute or two to circulate through the apartment before she went back inside.
She leaned over the balcony railing and stared down at the streets below. She was fifteen floors up, but she could still make out people. Down below, a man was walking his dog while he smoked a cigarette.
The view across from her balcony was terrible. She was surrounded by buildings just like hers. Sometimes when she couldn’t sleep, she would come out to the balcony and stare into the living rooms and bedrooms of the people living in those buildings. It was voyeuristic, even creepy, but it helped pass the time.
She sensed movement behind her.
She was about to turn when something st
The next second, she was over the balcony.
She let out a loud scream as she fell to her death.
The sun was up, shining from a clear sky as the Honda SUV moved down the narrow road. On either side of the road were tall trees and bushes. The view was idyllic, almost serene.
Dana Fisher was a detective with the Milton Police Department. She was five-foot-five, weighed one hundred and ten pounds, and had dark, shoulder-length hair. Her thin nose pointed upwards, and it moved whenever she opened her mouth.
Her large green eyes took in the surroundings, and she almost wished she didn’t have to go where she was headed. There was a murder, and she was called in to investigate.
A part of her wanted to turn around and head in the opposite direction.
Fisher grew up in the city. She was constantly bombarded with noises from buses, garbage trucks, and drivers honking. This made her somewhat accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life, but even so, she appreciated the beauty and tranquility of what nature provided.
She rolled down her window and inhaled the fresh air. It filled her lungs, giving her renewed energy.
She and her siblings were born a year apart from each other. After having two boys, her parents were grateful for a girl. They then wanted to give her a sister so that she too would have someone to play with. When the last child ended up being a boy as well, they stopped having kids.
Fisher and her siblings fought incessantly about everything. First they vied with each other to get their parents’ attention, then they squabbled over toys, who got to watch their favorite shows, and who was best at sports. That competitive spirit stayed with her when she reached adulthood.
Fisher had joined the police force straight out of college. Her first year as a recruit was spent patrolling the streets. She dealt with drug addicts, prostitutes, and civil complaints. She then moved up from recruit to officer, where she was involved in police raids on drug manufacturers, shutting down human trafficking, and capturing gang leaders.
She was quickly promoted to detective, and now she had her eyes set on becoming sergeant. She hoped she would make captain by the time she retired. She was fully confident she would.
She slowed the SUV when she spotted a deer by the side of the road. A doe. The deer watched her for a second. When the doe was certain Fisher was not a threat, it darted across the road.
She sighed. The day had started with so much potential, but from her experience conducting murder investigations, days never ended that way. By the time she got home that night, she would be mentally and physically drained.
She accelerated the SUV and continued down the road.
Her destination was tucked away behind a row of massive oak trees. To reach it, you had to get off the road, pass through a brick entrance, and drive up a long gravel path.
The house had a gray exterior, a triangular roof, and French windows. A police cruiser was parked next to a black limousine.
Fisher pulled up next to the cruiser and got out when a uniformed officer approached her. He was tall, and he had blonde hair hidden underneath his police cap. His deep blue eyes were set, and he had a prominent chin.
Fisher had first seen Officer Lance McConnell at the annual police games. He had won the 100-meter dash. She then met him twice during her last major murder investigation.
Whenever she was around McConnell, she found she could not stop blushing.
“Detective Fisher,” he said with a smile.
“Officer McConnell,” she replied. Her face burned. She coughed to regain her composure. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“I don’t normally patrol this area, but when someone called in sick, I was asked to come here,” McConnell said with a shrug.
The Milton PD was restructuring the way it policed the city. Officers were constantly being redeployed to areas with urgent needs. They called it Modernization of Service, which was a fancy way of saying they had no money to hire new officers and were forcing existing officers to take over their colleagues’ shifts. The police union was up in arms over this and had gone on a PR blitz. In their ads, they named the police chief, the head of the police services board, and the mayor as the people responsible for the thin-stretched service. It was going to be a bloody fight. Fisher hoped the union prevailed in the end.
“Will you be working solo on this?” McConnell asked.
Detective Greg Holt was her partner. After his nephew’s brutal murder, Holt was encouraged to take some time off. Holt refused like he always did. He lived for the job. Nothing else mattered when he was in pursuit of a killer.
The department—under the direction of the Officer Assistant Program, which was set up to monitor officers’ health—forced Holt to attend a law enforcement conference in Las Vegas. He was even allowed to bring his wife, Nancy, to this event. They figured, rightly, if Nancy was there, Holt would not put up a strong fight.
Nancy was Holt’s Achilles’ heel. He would do anything to make her happy, even if it meant sitting through long lectures and presentations, surrounded by thousands of strangers.
Fisher knew Holt deserved a break whether he liked it or not. He had been through so much in the past couple of years. Holt and Nancy had adopted a boy from Ukraine. The boy did not live to see his first birthday, dying from a rare form of cancer. And when his nephew was gunned down, Holt had reached the breaking point. Thankfully, they were able to find his murderer, and Holt was able to provide closure for his sister, Marjorie.
Fisher spotted a man next to the limousine. The man looked pale as he spoke into his cell phone.
“Who’s that?” she asked.
“He called 9-1-1.”
“Let’s go take a look at who the victim is.”
“I think you’ll recognize him when you see him,” McConnell said.
A knot formed in the pit of Fisher’s stomach. It was the same feeling she had when she found out Holt’s nephew was murdered. “I will?” she slowly said.
“It’s Dillon Scott.”
Dillon Scott had starred in over thirty film productions. Ten of those had opened at number one at the box office. Scott had started in showbiz when he was sixteen years old. His first role was in a TV series, where he played a troubled kid with a heart of gold. He reminded viewers of a young James Dean. He became an overnight star and was named Most Likely to Win an Academy Award.
He spent three years on the short-lived TV series. In his public life, he mostly imitated his character on the show. He was caught on camera taking drugs, got charged with DUIs, and even spent a night in jail for assaulting an extra on set.
He then disappeared from the public eye. He cleaned up his act, and two years later, at the age of twenty-two, he starred in a remake of Romeo and Juliet. His portrayal of the tragic lead character made him a heartthrob for young girls. The movie was a smash hit.
His subsequent movies made him one of Hollywood’s leading men. He dated starlets, young and old, but then he did something that surprised even his most die-hard fans. He married an unknown woman by the name of Rachel Poole. She worked as a real estate agent, and she had sold Scott a six-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills. They ended up having two children—a boy and a girl—and Scott settled into being a bankable movie star.
At the height of his fame, he was commanding a salary of ten million dollars per movie. He was everywhere, starring in action-adventure, science fiction, romance, and even drama films. In one dramatic role, he played a quadriplegic detective, which got him his first Oscar nomination.
He parlayed his success into charitable work that focused on children in poor countries. He backed projects in Africa, India, and Latin America. He gave his time and money to set up orphanages in many parts of the world.
His last couple of movies had flopped at the box office, however, and his star had started to fade. Even then, audiences loved him for his roles.
Fisher would never admit it to anyone—especially not Holt—but she had a crush on Scott when she was a teenager.
Like many girls her age, she had a poster of him playing Romeo. He had long hair, piercing blue eyes, a slight grin, and he looked like he was staring directly at her.
She dreamed of marrying him one day, even though he was much older than her. According to his date of birth, Scott was forty-five as of this year.
She had followed his career with the enthusiasm of an ardent fan. She knew Scott was on the verge of a major comeback. He was signed on to play Jean Valjean in the reproduction of Les Miserables. His performance would remind viewers of the time he had won them over as Romeo. Fisher was certain he would be back on top in no time.
She was shocked he was dead.
The hula girl figurine wiggled her hips on top of the van’s dashboard. The girl had a smile that he found enticing and also disturbing. He was not sure why. Maybe because whoever painted her face made her eyes bulge out and her lips three sizes too big.
He scanned the minivan’s interior. The dashboard, handrest, and even the steering wheel were covered in colorful stickers. He looked down at the floor mats, and all he saw were cartoon characters.
Lee Callaway was tall, tanned, and he had strands of silver around his temples. He had also begun to get gray strands on the top of his head, but those were still unnoticeable.
Callaway felt out of place behind the wheel of the minivan. He was wearing a black coat, dark sunglasses, and he had stubble on his cheeks. Parents held their children closer as he drove past them. He looked like he was out to kidnap their children.
He missed his Dodge Charger. That car was pure muscle and power. Whenever he accelerated, he could feel the adrenaline course through his veins.