Chapter 1

It was a beautiful October morning and I was heading for the hospital, on my motorcycle, to make my early rounds. The road stretched out in front of me, smooth and empty, begging me to turn up the throttle. The speedometer had barely touched seventy when I noticed that the sweep of road ahead, usually deserted, was clogged. I decelerated back to forty. State police cars lined both sides of the road and troopers milled around--crossing and re-crossing. A small cluster of spectators ogled something by the side of the road.

A deer, was my first thought. But why would a deer attract so much attention? Deer accidents were a dime a dozen in these parts. Butting my motor, I trolled over to an officer and asked, "What's up?"

"Move on!" He tried to wave me through, taking time to cast a disdainful glance at my shoddy Honda.

I trundled over to the pack of people by the side of the road and repeated my question. A disheveled blonde wearing a sweatshirt with the label
"Cowtown Rodeo" looked up. "Dead man," she said succinctly.

I decided not to linger. I'd had my fill of dead men for one year. A band of bikers had invaded my motel a few months ago and one of them had been murdered in the parking lot. I had even been a suspect for a while. I wasn't anxious to get involved in another crime scene. I caught myself up short. Crime scene? Why not a simple hit-and-run? "What happened?" I asked the blonde.

She looked up again, her eyes glazed with excitement. "Two bullet holes in the back of the head."

A burly man in a plaid shirt and stained overalls turned to me. "I found him," he said proudly. "I live right across the road." He waved at a small frame house that was almost hidden from view by the huge American flag hanging from the porch. Congratulations, I thought. But I said, "No one you know, I hope."

He shook his head. "A stranger." Did I detect a note of disappointment? "No ID yet," he added, in his best Law and Order tone.

An unmarked car pulled up and a man I knew only too well got out. Detective Hiram Peck. He had been in charge of the biker case. Time to move on. A trooper with the same idea came over and began shooing us away. The little knot of rubberneckers scattered and I turned up the throttle. I could learn all I wanted to know at the hospital when they brought the body into the morgue.


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©2008 Robin Hathaway

Slight of Hand