A cluster of uniforms stood in a holding pattern dripping melted snow on an antique Kilm runner. They'd been busy looking at each other. Now they looked at me.
Ritner, the FMI said, "Yo, Jake. In there." I turned right, into a fog of Shalimar.
A woman's naked body lay sprawled face up on a pillowed daybed; her matted red hair tangled across a mask of makeup and streaked black mascara. Maybe she'd been pretty. The body was middle-aged, big breasts sagging, heavy thighs dimpled.
One ringless hand hung stiffly over the edge of the bed, the other splayed palm up, the long scarlet nails almost touching a red plaid kilt.
My stomach heaved. After nine years on the force, six in Homicide, I don't react to death with my gut. It was the Shalimar that got to me.
Charlie Alberts was studying the body. She popped a square of grape Bazooka gum into her mouth as I came in. Phlegmatic as a cud-chewing cow, she's a big-bodied 55-year-old woman with a disillusioned stare and a flat nasal voice.
"Hi'ya, Jake. Cold enough...."
I gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
"Quit that." Her bloodhound eyes traveled from my black tie to my boots. "Hoo-ha! Get a load of you. All dolled up."
I ignored the crack, pointing to the body. "What do we know?"
She blew a violet bubble. "Name's Mona Raeburn. Actress. Divorced. Lived alone. Daughter was called to make the ID."
"And the daughter...."
"Is having hysterics in the kitchen."
"Odd," I touched the plaid, "a kilt next to the body."
"It's a kilt?" Charlie's hand disappeared into the inside pocket of her shapeless jacket and came out with a notebook. "I called it a skirt." She worked a Bic pen out from under a rubber band and made a new entry.
I looked down at the corpse that had been Mona Raeburn. "Who found the body?"
"Anonymous male called it in at one-thirty-five. The uniforms arrived at one-forty-five. By the time I got here, they were stomping around busy destroying evidence. A goddam clusterfuck."
I walked to the open glass doors and looked out at the falling snow.
"If the murderer left through here, he didn't bother to close it behind him."
"No. The uniforms say they opened it to air out the perfume."
"How do you know?"
"Paula wore Shalimar."
A red fox coat spilled from a blue armchair. Black high heels had been kicked half-under the chair and a black lace bra hung from a lampshade. A green satin dress and black panty hose were heaped on the rug. What looked like a valuable gold bracelet and a pair of diamond earrings decorated the top of the TV.
I eased on a pair of disposable gloves and lifted the victim's eyelid. Petecchiae, tiny hemorrhages, dotted the whites of her eyes. They indicate strangling or suffocation. Charlie snapped her gum. "Looks like she was smothered with that there pillow. It's smeared with makeup gunk and it stinks of her perfume."
I knelt on the rug to inspect a litter of papers that had been dumped from pulled out desk drawers onto the blue rug. Dampness spread across my knee. When I touched it, the glove came away stained.
"Blood? Why blood on the floor if she was smothered?"
"Not hers, the poodle's. Look under there. Its head's bashed in."
I shifted the papers away from a limp little rag of a body with my boot toe.
"I thought it was a poodle."
"It's a Peke. What's left of it."
"Peke, Poodle," Charlie said. "What difference does it make now?"