CHAPTER 3

Without using her siren and portable flasher, Carson made good time on Veterans Boulevard, through a kaleidoscope of strip malls, lube shops, car dealerships, bank branches, and fast-food franchises.

Farther along, subdivisions of tract homes alternated with corridors of apartment buildings and condos. Here Michael Maddison, thirty and still single, had found a bland apartment that could have been in any city in America.

Bland didn’t bother him. Working to the jazz beat and the hoodoo hum of New Orleans, especially as a homicide dick, he claimed that he ended every day in local-color overload. The ordinary apartment was his anchor in reality.

Dressed for work in a Hawaiian shirt, tan sports jacket that covered his shoulder holster, and jeans, Michael had been waiting for her to drive up. He looked wry and easy, but like certain deceptive cocktails, he had a kick.

Carrying a white paper bag in one hand, holding an unbitten doughnut in his mouth with the delicacy of a retriever returning to a hunter with a duck, Michael got into the passenger’s seat and pulled the door shut.

Carson said, “What’s that growth on your lip?”

Taking the doughnut from between his teeth, intact and barely marked, he said, “Maple-glazed buttermilk.”

“Gimme.”

Michael offered her the white bag. “One regular glazed, two chocolate. Take your pick.”

Ignoring the bag, snatching the doughnut from his hand, Carson said, “I’m crazy for maple.”

Tearing off a huge bite, chewing vigorously, she swung the car away from the curb and rocketed into the street.

“I’m crazy for maple, too,” Michael said with a sigh.

The yearning in his voice told Carson that he longed not only for the maple-glazed doughnut. For more reasons than merely the maintenance of a professional relationship, she pretended not to notice. “You’ll enjoy the regular glazed.”

As Carson took Veterans Avenue out of Jefferson Parish into Orleans Parish, intending to catch Pontchartrain Boulevard to Harrison and then head to City Park, Michael rummaged in the doughnut bag, making it clear that he was selecting one of the other treats only from cruel necessity.

As she knew he would, he settled on chocolate- not the glazed that she had imperiously recommended-took a bite, and scrunched the top of the paper bag closed.

Glancing up as Carson cruised through a yellow light an instant before it changed to red, he said, “Ease off the gas and help save the planet. In my church, we start every workday with an hour of sugar and meditation.”

“I don’t belong to the Church of Fat-Assed Detectives. Besides, just got a call-they found number six this morning.”

“Six?” Around another bite of chocolate doughnut, he said, “How do they know it’s the same perp?”

“More surgery-like the others.”

“Liver? Kidney? Feet?”

“She must’ve had nice hands. They found her in the City Park lagoon, her hands cut off.”

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