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Melissa M Garcia

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Next of Kin
by Melissa M Garcia   

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Books by Melissa M Garcia
· Stranger: A Death Valley Mystery
· Falling Angels
· Chasing Demons
· Faith Departed: Short Stories of Mystery, Crime, and Despair
                >> View all



Publisher:  Createspace ISBN-10:  1502585723 Type: 


Copyright:  December 1, 2014 ISBN-13:  9781502585721

As Homicide Detective Will Stellar comes to grips with his brother’s recent incarceration, he’s called out to the murder of a childhood friend. His investigation leads him to uncover secrets that could take down the Lake City Police Department and force him to walk a tightrope of politics and civic responsibility.

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Author Melissa M. Garcia

As Homicide Detective Will Stellar comes to grips with his brother’s recent incarceration, he’s called out to the murder of a childhood friend. His investigation leads him to uncover secrets that could take down the Lake City Police Department and force him to walk a tightrope of politics and civic responsibility.
Troubled by the stall tactics that has allowed criminals to live in the quiet desert city, a vigilante, dubbed the Coyote decides to take matters into his own hands. He leaves the mutilated bodies of two violent criminals as a present to the city. As the city cheers on their new hero, the Coyote focuses on Detective Stellar's inability to close his case.
Pushed against two opposing forces, Detective Stellar finds an unlikely ally in motel owner and convicted murderer, Alex Delgado. Stellar is determined to stop the Coyote, even if it means breaking the rules. But dangling an irresistible target in front of the Coyote could put more at stake than just Stellar’s badge.


Chapter 1

The long, lonely howl of a coyote dripped in the dark desert air. Somewhere in the distance, it called out for something everyone wanted.
Will Stellar heard its call, but the whispers of Irish whiskey in his thoughts intrigued him more. He stood in the parking lot, staring at the door of O’Sullivan’s bar. Every so often, the door swung open to reveal laughter, music, the smell of beer, and the sound of people having fun with family and friends. It all called to him, like the whiskey called to him. Then the door would close, leaving Stellar to the desert sounds. He hoped the coyote had found his way home.
He looked around and clenched his hands into fists inside his jacket pockets. He wasn’t alone. Two men stood at the edge of the parking lot, and he watched the orange glow of a lit cigarette streak through the darkness as they talked. Waiting for him.
He looked back toward the bar. The choice between getting drunk and doing his job had been tougher lately. It was past ten in the evening, and a crisp, cold wind had taken over the desert. He should have been at home, next to a fire. Relaxing. Instead, his stomach knotted.
It was Saturday night, and the parking lot was filled with the Ford and Chevy pickup trucks of locals, along with a couple of big rigs whose drivers regularly stopped in Lake City as they journeyed through California and into Nevada. Lake City didn’t see a lot of strangers in town, but there were a couple of cars Stellar didn’t recognize tonight. California and Nevada plates. Probably just tourists making a pit stop on their way to nearby Death Valley National Park.
The bar door opened again, and a man walked out. Stellar watched him stumble around the parking lot and stop at two different white trucks. He struggled with the door handle of the second before finally fishing out keys from his pocket. Stellar looked back at the two men waiting for him and held up his hand to let them know he’d be a minute more. They didn’t seem concerned. They weren’t in any rush, either.
The wind changed, and he smelled it. His breath caught, and his heart began to race. He took a deep breath and attempted to calm himself. He knew he’d choose work over whiskey tonight.
He turned from the smell and marched over to the man fumbling with his keys. The short man wobbled against the driver’s side door of his white pickup. He wore slacks and a pleather jacket, which told Stellar he definitely wasn’t a local.
“Hey, buddy,” Stellar said. “Do you have a friend who can come pick you up?”
The man looked at him and started to spout profanities.
Stellar interrupted him. “Why don’t you go back in the bar and have Liam call you a cab?”
“I’m fine, buddy. I’m on my way to Vegas.” The man successfully unlocked the door.
Stellar reached over and attempted to grab the keys, but the man had some reaction still left in him, even though his dark eyes darted around as he struggled to focus.
“Who do you think you are?” the man yelled, his breath reeking of cheap beer. “Get the hell out of here.”
“I’m Detective Will Stellar of the Lake City Police Department, and if you put those keys in that ignition, I’ll have to arrest you for DUI. My night’s going to be busy enough already. I don’t need the hassle. You just need to delay your trip a bit.”
The keys dropped from the man’s hands and landed on the floor in front of the driver’s seat. Stellar reached in and picked them up. He heard another vehicle and looked up to see a patrol car pulling into the parking lot. He nodded at the driver.
Stellar turned his attention back to the drunk. “Go back inside and get something to eat and drink,” he ordered. “Try some water this time. When you’re sober, come back out, and I’ll have one of these gentlemen return your keys,” he said, pointing to the two men already waiting.
Stellar left the man, who continued to curse, and walked toward Officer Larry Florio. Patrol Sergeant Reed stood beside him, still smoking. Stellar had summoned Reed after getting the call from dispatch. He always requested the best at his crime scenes.
“Are we sure it’s not just a dead animal?” Florio asked.
Officer Florio had fewer years on patrol than Sergeant Reed but held his ground against the older man. Florio had started in patrol with Las Vegas Metro and had probably seen more in his short years than Reed had seen in his extensive career in Lake City.
Stellar shook his head. “The witness was pretty specific on the call.”
He didn’t mention the smell that burned in his nostrils. The men would encounter it soon enough. His gaze drifted toward the empty lot of land behind the bar, ending at the street. His anxiety was running high, and it would soon start to show. He turned his back on the two men and examined the weed-infested lot.
“It’s a big area to search,” Sergeant Reed said. “At night, it won’t be easy.”
Stellar nodded, but he knew it wouldn’t take long to find what he was looking for. The rest could wait until morning. He wiped his clammy hands on his jeans and pulled out his flashlight. “How many men do we have, Sergeant?”
Reed straightened. It wasn’t necessary, as he was the tallest man there. Sergeant Reed had always been a bit too formal for Stellar. They had worked together before. Stellar knew the man was thorough, by-the-book, and trustworthy. He was also well liked in the department, from the people who worked for him all the way up to the Chief of Police. Will Stellar knew he was in good hands.
“I’ve got two men who will stay in the bar parking lot to control any crowds,” Reed responded. “Officer Florio, here, will run tape and control the line. I’ve got three more coming, if you need help with the search. Any more, and I’d have to call someone in and deal with overtime. Chief Mack wouldn’t like it.”
“Detective Morgan is on his way,” Stellar said, understanding the issues that came with a small police department. “He can coordinate the grid search for evidence with your three.”
Small town meant Stellar would be doing evidence collection himself. He knew was lucky to have a few men protecting his scene. He grabbed his camera and flashlight from his truck and stuffed a couple evidence bags in his pockets.
Stellar ran a flashlight along the perimeter of his scene. A well-lit dumpster sat behind the bar. A fence had once run along the edge of the lot, but scavengers looking for free wood had torn it down years ago.
“Run some tape from that old post,” Stellar said. “Watch for tire tracks.” He looked south, down about two hundred feet to the street’s edge. “Get a patrol car over there.” He pointed. “I don’t want anyone from the bar to wander out into my crime scene.”
He waited for Florio to start stringing crime scene tape before he took the first step into the dirt lot. Ankle-high weeds brushed his jeans as he walked on the hard, compact earth.
Florio yelled out, “Do you want me to come with you?”
Stellar shook his head. Sweat popped out on his brow, and his hands twitched. How could he explain his fears to another cop? Cops weren’t supposed to show fear.
This wouldn’t be the first dead body he had seen. He’d been working homicide for over six years, and most of that in Las Vegas, where deputies came across a body almost every night. But Lake City was different. Lake City was small, so the chance of finding a dead body was slim—a murder scene, even slimmer. As Stellar took the next step and swept his flashlight back and forth across the lot, he felt an uneasy certainty that the victim would turn out to be someone he knew.
His heart raced, and the acid in his throat burned. He didn’t want to continue on. He didn’t want to know who was out there. He wanted to go back to the bar, drown himself in whiskey, and forget about being a homicide cop.
It didn’t take long to find her. Stellar continued to sweep with the flashlight as he walked carefully toward the smell, taking an indirect path to avoid trampling evidence. The smell guided him closer as it grew stronger. Flies smacked into his face, now pouring with sweat despite the coolness in the air.
Stellar looked down at the woman and felt a chill go through him. He focused on his breathing, trying to fight the urge to vomit. He closed his eyes and grasped at his sanity. He rubbed his hands together to warm them and squatted down to get a better look at the woman lying at his feet. The light from his flashlight trembled. Stellar steadied his hand and hoped his stomach would follow suit.
He stared into the neck wound. Maggots wiggled around the torn edges of her skin as they fought for exposed muscle. A fly buzzed by his head, and he swatted it away with his flashlight.
The woman’s bloated face stared upward, discolored with splotches of blue, green, and yellow and riddled with cuts that had long since stopped bleeding. Stellar knew she had felt pain before death had taken her. Despite the bruises, the cuts, and the blood, Stellar recognized the woman, and he felt another part of himself fall away.
As he stood in the middle of the empty desert lot, listening to the quiet sounds of the evening, he understood that knowing the victim wasn’t the worst part of this. The chances of knowing the killer were just as high.

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Books by
Melissa M Garcia

Stranger: A Death Valley Mystery

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Falling Angels

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Chasing Demons

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Faith Departed: Short Stories of Mystery, Crime, and Despair

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