Diversion

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Here is a free sample of Diversion, Breaking the Pattern #2 for your reading pleasure!

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chapter-1

drop-cap-sandy watched herself in the mirror as she brushed her long red hair. She assessed herself critically, studying her hair, makeup, and outfit. Examining her legs and stomach for any extra weight, carefully evaluating everything. Her pager went off and she silenced it without looking and finished brushing her hair. Sandy put down the brush and looked at the number on her pager. She didn’t recognize it.

She really should be hitting the street, but she shrugged off the momentary guilt at delaying, and made the call.

“Sandy?” an unfamiliar male voice queried.

“Who’s this?” she questioned.

“It’s Dr. Denzel.”

Sandy swallowed. Henry had given her name to Denzel as his emergency contact.

“Is Henry okay?” she questioned.

“He’s well… but he’s in some trouble.” Denzel sounded grave.

“What for? Drugs?”

“No… it’s worse than that.”

“What?”

“There are some officers who would like to talk to you. They want to talk to people who know Henry. You’re the only one I know about.”

“Okay. It’s pretty bad, huh?” Sandy questioned, her voice catching.

“Yes. Do you want an officer to pick you up, or—”

“I’ll get there on my own. What precinct? Downtown?”

“Yes. Ask for Aberdene.”

“Okay. I’ll be there.”

Sandy ended the call and stood there wondering what Henry had managed to get himself into. She assessed her outfit and decided she’d better tone it down. After slipping out of the mini skirt into a pair of blue jeans and pulling a crocheted sweater over the midi, she picked up the phone again and called Marcia.

“Hey, Sandy,” Marcia greeted.

“Hi, Marcia. Listen, I’m not gonna be out today.”

“You sick or slacking off?” Marcia challenged.

“Got a last-minute call.”

“Okay, girl. Thanks for letting me know.”

“Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

Sandy stood around waiting for Aberdeen. He eventually showed up, looking around and picking her out.

“Sandy?”

“Yeah.” She looked at his nametag, which designated him a detective.

“So what’s Thomas got himself into?” she questioned.

“You know him by his real name,” he observed.

Sandy shrugged. Thomson. He was Henry Thomson now. He was always reminding her.

“Come sit down with me, we’ll talk,” Aberdeen invited.

Sandy went along with him. She caught him looking at her sidelong a couple of times. She looked to see if all of her buttons were done up, and then ignored his looks. He took her to a conference room and sat her down. They were joined by another detective named Bentley. Sandy saw startled recognition in his eyes. She didn’t recognize him; but she met a lot of men and only really remembered the regulars.

“So, what’s this about?” she questioned again.

“Your friend Henry is under arrest for murder,” Aberdeen said.

It was so completely unexpected, Sandy wasn’t able to suppress a gasp at the information.

“Murder?” she repeated in disbelief. “You’ve got the wrong guy!”

“What makes you think that?”

“He’s a nerd. He’s not the kind to kill someone!”

“He’s confessed.”

“Henry? Who would he kill?”

Bentley slid a photo across the table toward her. Sandy looked at the picture of the blond. A candid shot, soft edges, glamorous.

“Is that one of Henry’s photos?”

Bentley nodded. Sandy studied her face.

“I’ve never met her. Was she… his girlfriend? Or a stranger?”

“Girlfriend.”

“The one from school?”

They both nodded.

“Why? Why would he kill her?” Sandy still couldn’t believe it. Not Henry. She knew a lot of guys that were violent, that she wouldn’t doubt for a minute could kill. But Henry? That baby face?

“This one… We’re not quite sure,” Aberdeen said. “The others… people started to get suspicious, noticed him hanging around where he shouldn’t be.”

“The others?” Sandy repeated.

Bentley shifted his seat forward.

“There were others,” he confirmed.

Sandy swallowed. She looked from one cop to the other.

“He’s not a killer,” she affirmed. “He hasn’t been killing girls.” Then suddenly, everything connected, and Sandy felt nauseated. “Oh, no…!”

They waited for her to go on. Sandy cleared her throat, trying to keep her voice steady.

“Don’t tell me he’s the one… who’s been strangling working girls…”

“What makes you suggest that?” Bentley questioned sharply.

“There hasn’t been any other series of unsolved murders, has there?”

“Even those girls haven’t been identified as a series,” Aberdeen pointed out. “How do you know about that?”

“Because I’m in the business,” Sandy said in exasperation, “and we notice when other girls are being killed, even if no one else does. So is he the one? Is he the one killing them?”

Aberdeen conceded.

“Yes, he’s the one.”

Bentley laid down a series of other photos on the table. Sandy touched a couple of them.

“Katelyn… Josie… are you sure Henry did this?”

“He has their pictures. They’re dead. He admits it.”

Sandy swore; she couldn’t believe it. How could it be him?

“Henry has had two other prior murder charges, you know,” Aberdeen pointed out.

“Two? I only knew about one. He was in juvie with my brother—but someone else confessed to it.”

They shrugged.

“He got lucky,” Bentley said. “Twice. But this time…”

Sandy shook her head.

“I just… can’t believe it.”

“We’d like to ask you some background questions about Henry, okay?” Aberdeen said.

Bentley held up his hand.

“Hang on one sec,” he told Aberdeen, and delved into his portfolio, looking for another series of pictures. He shuffled through them, and pulled a few out, handing them to Sandy.

Sandy looked down at pictures of herself. Her stomach lurched. They were pictures she never knew Henry had taken. Head shots, full length, pictures through her window, down the street, laughing with a friend, meeting a client, even one of her shooting up, totally unaware she was being observed. He must have used a telephoto lens, Sandy thought numbly.

“You could have been next,” Bentley suggested.

“I never knew he was taking those,” Sandy said. Her stomach lurched, and she put her hand over it. “Oh man… I’m gonna be sick…”

Aberdene stood up.

“Let’s take a break. I’ll show you to the restroom.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Sandy splashed water on her face and took a few deep breaths, trying to settle her nerves and clear her mind. So what if Henry Thomas was a serial killer? It wasn’t like they were that close to each other. He’d never been her type. He was a loser. Sure, she’d taken him under her wing when he was hurt and sick, she felt sorry for him and he didn’t have anyone else. That was all over. He was going away for a long time now.

Sandy stepped out of the room and looked around. Aberdeen was busy talking to another cop and made a sign indicating that he’d be with her in a couple of minutes. Sandy saw Dr. Denzel sitting in a lobby at the end of the hall, and went to talk to him. He looked as sick and gray as Sandy felt. He saw her and stood up to shake her hand.

“Sandy—how are you?”

“Well—in shock, I guess. I just… I had no idea.”

Denzel nodded. They sat down.

“Henry told me,” Denzel said pain in his eyes.

“He did? Today?”

“No… when he was at the clinic.”

Sandy stared at him in shock. Denzel knew back then?

“He was on a new medication when he told me,” Denzel explained further. “He was uninhibited, his associations were very loose. I thought it was a psychotic break.”

Sandy shook her head wordlessly.

“I didn’t believe him,” Denzel said. “I thought it was his imagination. A hallucination.”

“You couldn’t have known.”

“I should have known. I should have paid closer attention. Seen the warning signs.”

“How could anyone have known?” Sandy protested. “He never said anything. I even talked to him about them! About the girls getting killed. He never acted suspiciously.”

“I knew more about him than anyone. I knew his family history… his mom’s mental illness and her tendency to pick abusive partners… I knew all her worries about him, but he always seemed like such a responsible, mature kid… I never took her concerns seriously…”

He put his face in his hands, shaking his head and breathing raggedly.

Sandy sat there wondering what she could say or do to comfort him. She understood the guilt. She felt it too. They sat in silence, both at a loss, in shock over the developments.

After getting back from the police station, Sandy opened her door, disarmed the alarm, and threw herself down on her bed, mentally and emotionally wrung out. She just lay there for a while, drained. Eventually, she rolled over and grabbed a needle from the night table drawer. She had been hurting for a hit all day. Sitting there, all sweating and jittery with the cops, while they tried to learn everything they could from her about Henry Thomas. The shock, the stress; Sandy had downed cup after cup of coffee, when what she really wanted was something hot straight into her veins.

With one hand and her teeth, she swiftly tied a tourniquet around her arm and picked up the needle. Then she stopped, looking at the ugly track-marks riddling both arms. She remembered just a few months ago, showing them to Henry, trying to scare him into kicking his heroin habit. He had gotten rehabbed, but Sandy hadn’t. She was still trying to do it on her own or get into a program, while he had gotten straight in. Somehow it wasn’t fair. It was a waste of resources, rehabbing him just for him to turn around and get sent to prison, while she still waited for an opening.

Changing her mind, Sandy released the tourniquet and put it all back away. She popped a Valium and lay back down for a nap.

As much as Sandy wanted to just hunker down and spend the rest of the day and night in bed, she was too disciplined to waste a full day on activities that didn’t turn a profit. Rene would be horrified to hear she was wasting daylight in bed, without a paying customer. Not that he would ever know. But Sandy would.

Sandy stretched and forced herself to get up. Having had too much coffee already, she splashed water on her face and popped a no-doze. She touched up her makeup before going out.

Alyssa was at her usual corner, easing her feet out of a pair of shiny red stilettos and rubbing them tenderly.

“New shoes?” Sandy questioned. “They’re cute.”

Alyssa laughed.

“Yeah. Cute is right. I thought you weren’t coming by today.”

“I had some time. How’s it been today?”

“Bit slow. Steady, no excitement.”

Sandy nodded.

“Still some daylight left.”

They both preferred daytime work. While it didn’t bring in quite as much as nighttime jobs, it was safer. They hoped. A rusty Chevy pick-up truck pulled up alongside them.

“Take you for a ride?” the balding forty-something suggested to Sandy.

Sandy checked carefully up and down the street and walked up to the truck, putting her head in the open window to check out the driver and the interior of the vehicle. He wasn’t a regular; she didn’t recognize him. The interior of the truck was tidy, but not too clean. Sandy thought it smelled faintly of marijuana. Everything looked kosher.

“What’s your fancy?” she questioned.

He named a couple of possibilities, carefully couched in euphemisms in case there was a sting. Sandy nodded.

“You got the means?” she asked.

He pulled out a money clip with ample funds and displayed it. Sandy lifted the handle on the door.

“Your friend want to join us?” the John questioned, nodding to Alyssa. Sandy turned around.

“You up for a double-feature?” she asked.

“Sure, babe,” Alyssa agreed.

They both climbed up into the truck; Sandy first, then Alyssa. He pulled out, and they discretely finalized terms.

I hope you enjoyed this sample of

Diversion, Breaking the Pattern #2

By P.D. Workman

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