MURDER ON LOVERS' LANE - excerpt                                                       

Murder on Lovers' Lane
A Brody & Hannigan Mystery

Text Copyright © 2011 by Paula Graves.
Copyright © 2011 by Paula Graves.  
Cover art Copyright © 2011 by Paula Graves.
Photo: konradbak -  All rights reserved.

The night was unnaturally quiet, Brody thought.  Even the cicadas, never ones to let a late summer evening go to waste, seemed hunkered down and silent, waiting for—what?
Something was about to happen.  Something wicked.

"You're channeling Lovecraft again."  Stella Hannigan's voice broke into his thoughts, flat and amused.
Lowering his binoculars, Lee Brody slanted a look at his partner.

"You have a little furrow in your brow," she explained, lifting her own spyglasses to peer through the front windshield of his Ford Taurus.  They were parked a half block from Alvin Morehead's rental house, where they suspected he was holed up, waiting for a chance to go hunting again.  "The one you get when you're convinced the world has suddenly turned harsh and iniquitous, and we're the only creatures left among the living who can stop the coming malevolence."

"Don't you feel it?" Brody let his gaze linger on his partner's delicate features a little longer than necessary.  "There's evil in the air."

"That's high ozone and particulates," she drawled.
"Any movement?"

She dropped her binoculars. "How sure are we that Alvin Morehead's the Lovers' Lane killer, anyway? While we're sitting here—off duty, might I add—some other psychopath may be killing poor, horny kids elsewhere.
"Morehead fits our profile."

She stifled a yawn. "We don't have a profile, Brody.  The FBI hasn't been called in.  The brass won't even admit this could be a serial killer."

"Come on—six murders, bodies positioned in the same way, shot with the same weapon, all at known make out spots—"

"When you say 'make out' spots like that, it gets me kinda hot," she murmured, her voice dry as a desert.  Even though he knew she'd tossed out the innuendo to diffuse some of his pent-up frustration, it still made his jeans feel about two sizes too small.  He gave her a pointed look and saw a hint of a smile touch the corners of her lips.

He cleared his throat.  "We know at least one of each couple murdered was a student at the community college.  Morehead works there—"

"So do literally scores of other people, not to mention hundreds of students.  Are they all on your suspect list?  Should I pencil in a few hundred more off-duty stakeouts until we've covered them all?"

Brody sighed.  While Hannigan's hard-headed pragmatism and brutal honesty were among her more annoying qualities, they were also the qualities that had made them such good partners for the past four years.  She kept him grounded, made him think through his flashes of inspiration to find a useful course of action.

She'd saved his ass more times than he wanted to remember.

They were two of the six detectives working Robbery/Homicide at the Weatherford, Alabama, Police Department. The other detectives rotated between partners, pairing up based on who was around when a call came in, but the lieutenant had figured out long ago that none of the other detectives cared to be paired with Hannigan or Brody.  It seemed the only person who could stand either of them was the other.

"Let's assume for the sake of argument that you're right about Morehead," Hannigan said.  "What do you expect to happen tonight?"

Brody sat forward, his gaze moving to the darkened house framed by the windshield of the Ford.  "That."

Hannigan followed his gaze.  "Son of a—"

Alvin Morehead was on the move.

AS HE DROVE, BRODY'S whole body seemed to hum with excitement.  He so loved being right, Hannigan thought, splitting her attention between her partner and the tail lights of Alvin Morehead's tan Chevrolet Malibu.  
Lee Brody didn't look like a cop.  He looked like a movie star, all lean, well-proportioned muscles and perfect, perfect features, from his soulful brown eyes to his artfully dimpled chin.  He wasn't beautiful—he was far too masculine to fit that description.  But sometimes, he took her breath away, though she fought not to let it show.
The last thing she ever wanted was to let it show.

Brody kept a careful distance from Morehead's vehicle as it cruised up Tremaine Street and hung a left at Gladden Drive, taking them closer and closer to Weatherford's nightclub district.   "How many make out places in this city—seven?  Eight?"
"How would I know?" she shot back.

He glanced at her, a smile playing with his lips.

"Shut up," she muttered.

"Well, there has to be a reason your high school nickname was Hoover Hannigan."

She was going to kill her brothers for sharing that piece of information with her partner last week.  They'd surprised her on her birthday for the first time in, well, ever.   She had a sneaking suspicion Brody might have been behind the impromptu celebration of the big three-oh.  

Unfortunately, Grady, Ellis and Carl had taken the first opportunity to make her life miserable by telling Brody all her childhood secrets.  And Brody, of course, had lapped it up like a kitten in a puddle of spilled milk.

Irritating ass.

She sighed.  "They called me that because I used to eat really fast in the lunch room."

"So you'd have time to do that night's homework during lunch period?"

Dead on, but she wasn't going to admit it aloud.  He already thought she was a brainiac nerd, pragmatic to a fault.  Hell, the whole department did.  She supposed it was a good thing, in most ways—at least nobody thought she'd made detective as a diversity hire.

So she let that be her thing.  Every detective had a thing.  Walt Billings was Mr. Cheerful, tooling around everywhere he went with a big ol' grin on his face.  It wasn't great for interviewing the victim's family after a death, of course, but it was perfect for disarming potentially hostile witnesses.  Suspects got sucked in by the grin all the time.

Brody was the magician.  He had the wild ideas, the flashes of intuition.  He was the one who could look at a suspect and know, in his gut, whether he was the one or not.

Which left Hannigan to be Lady Logic.  She was the one who tested Brody's insane theories, ran them through the fire of her empirical pragmatism.  She honed the raw material of his genius into something practical.  Useful.

Good grief, she thought bleakly, did that make her a blacksmith?  

Yeah, that was attractive.


Copyright @2011 by Paula Graves.  All rights reserved.