Unidentified Flying Suspect (Illegal Alien Book 2), page 1
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING SUSPECT
By Carrie Harris
Unidentified Flying Suspect
Copyright © 2017 by Carrie Harris
All Rights Reserved.
This book 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, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book can be reproduced in any form or by electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the express written permission of the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.
Edited by Kelley Lynn of CookieLynn Publishing
Cover Design by Steven Novak
Find Carrie on the web!
For my moms,
Cindi and MaryEllen
Table of Contents
“Your hair looks nice today, pretty girl.”
Julio Martinez got in my face with a cocky grin that made me want to punch him in the throat. We only known each other for a few weeks, but we’d already figured out how to push each other’s buttons. Julio had the kind of boyish good looks that usually allowed him to get away with impudent behavior, but I’d built up immunity to pretty boys in my forty-two years. Besides, nobody called me “girl” and got away with it. I almost swung a left hook right then, but the tiny part of my brain that could still function rationally pointed out that he was trying to get my goat on purpose. Trying to knock me off my game.
Instead of flying off the handle, I tossed my hair a little, not removing my eyes from the sway of his shoulders, ready for whatever he threw at me next. He’d try something else as soon as he realized his little ploy hadn’t worked. It was why I liked sparring with him.
“You like what you see, huh?” I said, striking the kind of pose I’d seen in about a million come-hither Facebook selfies. But no duck lips. I had limits.
I’d never flirted back in any of our training sessions, and it took him by surprise. He blinked, and I took advantage of the fraction of a second it gained me, stepping in with a quick feint followed by an uppercut that took him right in the breadbox. Air expelled from his body with a whoosh and a grunt of pain. Then his face lit up with a smile.
“Nice!” he said, holding up his boxing gloves for me to tap. “I thought I had you there for a minute.”
I bumped my hands against his and grinned. “I’ve figured you out, jefe. You don’t play fair.”
“All’s fair in love and war.” He was just tall enough to throw his arm over my shoulders, and he did so now, pulling me toward him to a distance that was just shy of impertinent. “Maybe sometime we’ll try a little naked wrestling.”
I let out a cry of annoyance, and he noogied me with his boxing gloves still on. That leapt over my aforementioned limits with both shoes on. It was on like Donkey Kong. I launched everything I had at him, forcing him to retreat into the corner of the sparring ring. I threw punch after punch but failed to get through his defenses. He started laughing about halfway through it, and I fought through a real wave of anger then. Finally, I stepped away, puffing from exertion.
“Oh, hell,” I said, anger dissolving into exasperation. “I don’t know why I let you rile me like that. Everyone knows you act like this to distract people from the fact that you have a micropenis.”
He scowled for a moment but couldn’t hold it long before he burst out laughing.
“You have a serious mouth on you, Vorkink. I can’t believe half the stuff that comes out of it.”
“Join the club,” I replied. “Thanks for a good session. Friday still good for round two?”
He picked my towel up off the bench and threw it at me. I managed to catch it despite the clumsy gloves, but it wasn’t pretty.
“Sounds like a plan. See you then, beautiful.”
“Bite me,” I said, and sniggered at his mock-scandalized expression.
After a leisurely cooldown on the stationary bike, I headed for the locker room in a haze of post-exercise bliss. I loved my gym. The rooms smelled like clean sweat, not an unwashed stink, but the smell of bodies hard at work in a facility with meticulous hygiene standards. Phillipe’s might not have been a fancy place, but I loved it. Ubergyms bothered me. Exercising next to cute young things in full makeup and matching sports bra and micro-shorts made me twitchy. I preferred my workouts with a little less cleavage.
That preference had taken me to boxing, which tended to attract people who weren’t so sartorially obsessed, and eventually to Phillipe’s. One of the SWAT recruits had introduced me to the place about five years ago, and we’d been sparring buddies until he moved to Cleveland so his wife could be closer to family. I’d been bummed by the loss, but life as a SWAT spouse was no picnic, so I couldn’t begrudge her wanting more of a support system. After he left, I signed up with a trainer. The first kid I got was just too nice. I kept wanting to ruffle his hair and feed him dinner when I was supposed to punch his face in. But a couple of months ago, he’d left, and I’d eventually signed on with Julio. He’d started pushing my buttons on day one, and I was finally making some decent progress because of it. He worked me hard. After today’s workout, my arms felt like spaghetti in the pot, and I loved it.
As great as that felt, my buzz melted as I speed-showered. It had been a half a year since Ronda’s death, and I was fighting a losing battle against self-doubt. Right after it had all happened, I’d felt so certain about what I’d seen. About the existence of aliens. About the otherworldly nature of Ronda’s attacker. But after months with no UFO sightings or inexplicable crimes, my memories no longer seemed like enough. I’d been under such stress. What if I’d imagined it all? I still had the Sankanium hidden at my house, but that proved nothing. It was a rock.
In the aftermath of the death of the no-mouthed alien—or my hallucination of it—I’d been determined to prep for the next invasion, which would certainly happen soon. But it hadn’t, and now it felt like wasted time. Even if the aliens were real and they did come back, what good would boxing do against a creature from another planet? I could hit the bag and practice at the shooting range until my face turned blue, but I had no guarantees that it would be enough. Sometimes I dreamed about the no-mouthed alien. In those nightmares, my gun jammed, and no amount of boxing skill could keep my head
Some days, it felt like I was cracking up, and all I could do was hold it together and hope no one noticed. I couldn’t have told anybody even if I’d wanted to. They would have put me on psych leave so fast my head would spin, and the worst part of it was that I wouldn’t have blamed them.
Under different circumstances, I would have relied on research. The key to finding any criminal was understanding how they thought, but sadly, there was no Dummies book on the alien psyche. I’d put in hours at the library and on the internet but hadn’t gotten my hopes up. Good thing, too. I’d ended up with a bunch of conspiracy theory claptrap and some really hilarious books about women getting it on with a bunch of hot sex god aliens. I’d given a few of the latter to Aunt Rose as a gag birthday gift, but otherwise the literature search had been useless. Another dead end in a series of them.
I stepped out of the shower, shaking off the melodramatic emo thoughts. It wasn’t easy, but I distracted myself by mentally planning my day even though that kind of thing was an exercise in futility in my line of work. I liked the way planning made me feel. Like I could still control some things.
As I stepped out of the locker room, sucking down a sports drink that tasted vaguely orange-adjacent, a woman in a full burka and hijab stood up from her spot on the bench next to the practice ring, walking toward me with purpose. I tensed. Not because I had a problem with Muslims, but because I didn’t like not being able to see people’s hands. Her voluminous clothing had swallowed hers, and for all I knew, she could be carrying a hatchet in one and a syringe of anthrax in the other.
Her body language—as much as I could read it behind all that fabric—struck me as more purposeful than threatening, and I had almost a half a foot on her height-wise, but I held out a hand to intercept her anyway. She’d gotten too close for my comfort already; my bubble of personal space only came in size extra-large.
“Hey,” I said. “Watch out.”
She pulled up short just out of reach of my hand, looking all affronted like I might be the one with a secret anthrax syringe stashed somewhere on my person. Like she hadn’t just charged at me like a bull in full religious garb. I felt like I was being quite polite under the circumstances, especially since I still couldn’t see her damned hands.
I looked her over, trying to get some kind of read on her despite the fact that she was completely covered except for the patch of skin around her eyes. The eyes in question were dark, almost black, but she had no eyelashes at all. I wondered if she picked them. One of the girls I’d known in high school had plucked hers out one by one and ate them, and I’d been so distracted by the strange behavior that I’d nearly failed my geometry final.
“I am searching for Audrey Vorkink. Are you she?” she asked.
She had an accent that I couldn’t quite place and a lisp on top of it. The combination of the two made her words particularly hard to follow. My vague feelings of discontent flared into full on annoyance. I still couldn’t see her hands, and I just wanted to enjoy my processed health drink in peace and quiet without being accosted by random eyelash eaters.
So I might have snapped a little. “What do you want?”
“Are you Vorkink?” she persisted.
I let out a long suffering sigh. “Yes. What do you want?”
“I am wanting to talk to you about the Pyrex. Please, come and we will discuss it in private.”
Pyrex? It took me a moment to figure out what the hell she was talking about. For some reason, I hadn’t expected a woman in a burka to accost me at my boxing gym and strike up an impromptu conversation about casserole pans. After a moment, the pieces clicked into place. Someone must have signed me up for another one of those so-called parties where your hosts try to guilt you into buying overpriced kitchenware. If I had to guess, I’d put my money on Mrs. Gunderson, my landlady. She seemed to sell a different thing every week and got all huffy when I didn’t want to clear out the catalog. Now it looked like she’d enlisted help in trying to make me buy useless shit I didn’t need.
Sending them to my gym was a tacky move, but I wasn’t very surprised. Mrs. Gunderson liked bringing me my mail just to get a look at the return addresses. She’d just brought me my Phillipe’s bill last week and tried to talk me into going to her daughter’s Zumba class instead. I’d do Zumba over my dead body, but I hadn’t said it in so many words. I was beginning to regret that.
“I’m not interested,” I said. “Take me off your list.”
“List?” she asked, sounding genuinely puzzled. “What list?”
“I don’t need any kitchenware.” I tried to hold onto the shreds of my patience, but it was getting tough. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m running late for work.”
“But wait! The Pyrex is important! And the dead people in the ground!”
Now that made me pause and take a second look at her, but there wasn’t much to see that I hadn’t noted before. Dark eyes. No eyelashes. Now I could see part of one hand, which was encased in soft cotton gloves in a lighter shade of black than the rest of her outfit. Phillipe’s had an overtaxed air conditioner, but it was almost 100 degrees outside and so humid that the air felt like soup. She had to be sweltering. The burka and hijab looked new, but clean and simple. Black cotton fabric. Nothing out of the ordinary.
“What dead people?” I asked cautiously.
“The dead people in the ground. The fuckwit put them there with the Pyrex,” she said.
I took a moment to process this, thinking that maybe I’d misunderstood her, but I couldn’t come up with any variation of dead people, fuckwits, and Pyrex dishes that made sense. I gave her a closer look, as if concentrating might give me the power to see through all that fabric and straight into her brain. That didn’t work, but her body language struck me as I looked her over. She seemed jittery, unable to stand still, near to panic. It didn’t strike me as a drug-induced behavior, though. More like mental illness, especially considering the random conspiracy theory with bonus glassware comments.
I swallowed my annoyance and revised my theory. This wasn’t a kitchenware sales pitch. This woman was smack dab in the middle of a psychiatric break. Someone had given her my name, probably because they didn’t want to deal with her. Instead, they figured they’d brush it off on the nearest cop despite the fact that they could have damn well helped her themselves. But I couldn’t hold their lack of common decency against her. I might have been an ass sometimes, but that didn’t mean I’d abandon someone who was mentally ill and in crisis.
I took a deep, calming breath. “Let’s not worry about the dead people right now,” I said.
She blinked. “Really?”
“Really. I have to head into work, and I want to make sure you’re okay before I go. Are you here with anyone else?” I kept my voice matter-of-fact. “Let’s go check in at the front desk, shall we?”
“No buts. I insist.”
I led her to the rudimentary front desk and took a few moments to make sure she was well situated. Julio pulled me aside to tell me he had a half-brother who was schizophrenic, and he promised to care for her personally until help arrived. I felt a lot better about heading into work after I saw him talking to the woman in the burka with a level gentleness I hadn’t expected from him. He even had the number for the mental health crisis line saved in his phone. I left her in his capable hands before heading out for the office a few minutes later than intended.
Being late stressed me out, but it could have been worse. I could have been late to the office where I’d investigate a fuckwit murderer who beat people to death with glassware. Whatever the day brought, it would be an improvement over that.
Overnight, the streets of downtown Toledo had turned into a warren of construction barriers, single lanes, and entire blocks closed at random without a single construction worker in sight. Detour signage seemed to have been placed by a dyslexic drunkard with a poor sense of humor.
By the time I pulled into the parking lot behind the building, all the good spaces had been snapped up, and I was forced to pull into a spot all the way out in the nosebleed section. Of course, my legs worked just fine, and I had no problem with the extra exercise. But I didn’t like parking my pricey convertible out in the boonies. The police lot sported a guard and a nice security system, but Candyass—the car—had cost too much for me to want to take any chances. I couldn’t do anything about it but grumble at this point, but the situation only added to my general annoyance. At some point this morning, something would go my way, and I’d probably faint from shock.
Since I was already later than I preferred, I decided to swing by Bug Murphy’s office on the way into the building. The coroner’s office was tucked way down in the basement, because as my burka clad friend from the gym had pointed out, dead people belong in the ground. Although the destination didn’t exactly qualify as “on the way” to my desk, I could excuse the detour by inquiring about some pending autopsy results. I had a secret motivation, of course. I’d welcome any information about those test results, but I really wanted to know if we were on for our standing tennis date. I played doubles with Bug, his wife Leah, and my best friend Jenn every week, and after the slightly sprained morning I’d had, I needed something to look forward to.
The elevator doors opened on the sub-basement, bringing me face-to-face with a trio of green tinged newbies. A cloud of vomit fumes hung over their heads like Pigpen in a Peanuts strip, and I held my breath as I stepped hastily out of the elevator car and hurried down the hallway.
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