Athen ‘Blackeye’ Mavromatis moves from New York to Beverly Hills to be lead investigator in their serious crimes division. It isn’t long before he gets his first case. A dead woman’s body has been found wrapped in a carpet outside somebody’s house ready for pickup with their trash. Athen must appease not only the police chief, but the mayor, in a city where murder doesn’t happen often. In fact, this is the first homicide in eight years.
Athen must wrap things up quickly because nothing must tarnish the Beverly Hills image of being the home of movie stars and the most expensive store in the world. The cops here pride themselves on a one-minute response time to emergency calls, but this case won’t get solved that fast. Secrets and lies, gangs, a mysterious woman…all of it is like a ticking timebomb. Meanwhile, Athen has his lover, Grady, at home, who worries about a strange link in his life with the dead woman. Who could have such a heart of stone to leave her out with the rubbish?
He and Lorne waited at the door after ringing the bell and knocking several times. An overweight brunette who looked to be in her late sixties opened it, peering at them over the top of her eyeglasses.
Athen took in her yellow polyester suit. He hadn’t seen one like it since he was a small kid in the 70s and his mom wore similar outfits. His mom had worn patent leather flats with hers. Mrs. Goldfarb wore high-top sneakers.
“Yes?” She asked rather than said the word.
Athen ran through the introductions with her, and she sighed.
“Is this about the body in the carpet?”
“Yes. You know about it. I talked to you earlier. You didn’t think to come back down and talk to us?” Brand asked, his tone sharp.
“Are you in charge?” she asked him.
“No. I am.”
“Exactly. You weren’t here yet. It was two jumpity officers.” Her gaze narrowed. “And this one. I think he’s gay. I can tell he doesn’t like women.”
Athen couldn’t believe his ears. She had Lorne pegged.
“I told the jumpity one and this one here that I wanted to speak to the lead investigator.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Athen said.
She had wound herself into a tizzy. “Everybody knows about that body. My house is on TV! Why’d they pick my house to leave it at?”
It. Athen’s hackles rose thinking of the dead woman. “May we come in, please?” He shouldered his way into the house before Mrs. Goldfarb could protest, Lorne right behind him. Athen’s gaze flew over the entrance way and the living room beyond it. What a claustrophobic place. Over-filled with plants of every kind. He was shocked to see a small Christmas tree in the corner of the living room and a stack of wrapped presents on the coffee table.
Mrs. Goldfarb didn’t look happy about the intrusion. She’d been watching a cooking show featuring Giada de Laurentiis who looked way too happy about eating spaghetti so early in the morning. The TV boomed, and Athen’s head throbbed with it.
“Could you please turn the TV off?”
“I’m watching this show,” Mrs. Goldfarb protested.
“It can wait. Murder cannot.”
“Murder!” She grabbed the remote and powered down the TV. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’m very sure that the woman we found didn’t strangle herself and roll herself up in a carpet.”
“Stranger things have happened.”
“What?” Athen couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Mrs. Goldfarb nodded. “I watched a whole marathon of Forensic Files this weekend, and they had an episode about a woman who kept telling the police she was being stalked by some guy, but they found no evidence of it. They were convinced she was lying. They found her dead, handcuffed and bound, and said she did it to herself. She was working with a private investigator who said she was telling the truth, but there was never ever any proof. I bet that’s what happened here.”
Athen stared at her, speechless.
“That has nothing to do with this case,” Lorne snapped.
Athen recovered his use of speech. “Do you recognize this woman?” He found a photo of the victim’s face on his phone and held it out to Mrs. Goldfarb.
She flicked a glance at it. “No. Should I?”
“This is the woman we found outside your house.”
“Is she smiling?” Mrs. Goldfarb squinted at the image.
“No. She’s dead.”
“She looks quite peaceful.”
Athen and Lorne exchanged glances. Mrs. Goldfarb was a piece of work. Since she hadn’t invited them to take a seat, they remained standing.