January 2, 2022

Baby Steps

"I should've been an accountant."

Trish Flores slammed her slim stack of folders onto her desk, round it swiftly to sit down and grab a swig of her now-cold coffee.  Her trembling assistant kept minimum safe distant, with one arm out the tiny office door.

"I could be crunching numbers at my desk, at a national bank, in a big city somewhere, but no...I wanted to be a crime reporter, and now I'm stuck in a small town where I can barely keep up with all the crime.  What's this...three in one week?"

"Yes, ma'am," came the timid reply, accompanied by a wince.

"I assume the police are already at the school."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And Principal Santos closed school for the day?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"How the hell does anyone get an education around here?" Trish bellowed.  She placed both elbows on her desk, rubbing her temples.  She needed sleep.  She needed to eat something.  And she needed to switch to water, at least for the rest of the day.

"Do we know who's been assigned to the murders?"

"New detectives from out of town.  One arrived earlier this week and the other arrived today."

"I need names, Consuela."

"Detectives Daos and Ona, ma'am."

That caught Trish's attention.  Her head snapped up as her hands dropped to her desk.

"Nicolao Daos...is in Soleado Valle?"

Roslyn Sanchez as Carmen Arellano

"Forget it, Trish," Chief Editor Carmen Arenallo shook her head.  She turned away from Trish and headed back towards her desk.  "You know how our dear Chief of Police feels about reporters milling around her crime scenes.  She complains we 'contaminate evidence'.  That being said," Carmen snorted, "not a single reporter was present at the last two murders her detectives couldn't solve."

"But Carmen, Chief Solís has replaced her main homicide detectives," Trish insisted.  "She somehow managed to get Detective Daos on her force."

Carmen paused before sitting down.  "Am I supposed to know that name?"

Trish gave her a look.  "Don't act like you don't.  There are three types of people who know Daos - cops, conspiracy theorists, and hardcore journalists.  Now, you may not have been in the killing fields for some time now, Carmen, but you're no exception.  I know you know about Nicolao Daos and his forays into the paranormal in Southern California and New Mexico.  It was only a matter of time before he made a pit stop in Texas."

"Even so, I fail to see what would attract such a detective to our humble town," Carmen shrugged, keeping her voice mild.  "I've lived in Soleado Valle my whole life and I can tell you now, murder here is like murder anywhere else.  Behind every dead body there are drugs, money, sex, and/or lies - that's all."

"Mm-hm," Trish smirked.  "You want me to see what they're up to."

Again, Carmen gave her noncommittal shrug. "If it's what you really want."

Trish beamed her the first real smile in weeks before spinning on her heels and practically skipping out the door.  Behind her, Carmen scowled.

"Bibiana," she rasped, picking up her phone, "you stupid perra. Sí, por favor...Edil Gomez."


Perfection Herself--er, Gina Torres as
Chief Bibiana Solís

Chief Bibiana Solís warily eyed her two new detectives.  The one called Dominador Ona was what she'd expected: young, fresh, still by-the-book in some ways.  He remembered to wear his gloves and actually brought a notepad.

The one they called Daos, however, was the one she didn't get, couldn't read.  He didn't bother with the usual steps.  While Dominador patiently interviewed the sobbing teenager who found the dead body and the school's new guidance counselor, Daos didn't even give them a second glance.  He instead seemed preoccupied with the girl's locker, noting the number and its position in the hallway.

"The coroner estimates the boy died some time last night," Bibiana stated neutrally, hoping to pull Daos back into her reality, maybe get a sense of what he was thinking.  "His body was simply stashed here."

"How did you know him?" Daos asked, not looking at her.

"No," Bibiana began.  "I didn't actually --"

"Not you," he interrupted, finally turning around.  He drilled those dark eyes of his mercilessly into the young girl.  "Was he a friend of yours?"

"No," the child insisted.  "I mean, I knew him, but we weren't friends."

"So how did you know him?" Dominador asked, his gaze softer.

"His name's Celestino Ferrera," the guidance counselor suddenly cut in.  "I looked over his records last week.  He had trouble with truancy, fighting, and severe drug use.  Apparently, all the kids knew him."

"I can imagine," Daos nodded briefly.  "But how did you know him?" he asked the girl again, maintaining that unflinching gaze.

The young girl seemed to crumble.  "I didn't...I never...."

"Your locker is located in the middle of the hallway, in the very center of this building," Daos pointed out, moving away from the locker and stretching both arms out for emphasis.  "That means his killer had to carry his body all the way in from the parking lot in the middle of the night, and down multiple hallways just so they could stuff this kid in your locker.  The lock's not broken, which means they knew your combination.  In short, the perp went through an awful lot of trouble just to make sure you were the one to find Celestino's body.  So how did you know him?"

A fresh wave of tears began to flow.  The admission came out as a whisper.  "We went out once."

The guidance counselor looked appalled.  "Juliana!"

Bibiana raised an eyebrow.  "You're thinking someone's sending a message?"

"Most definitely," Daos nodded, his eyes unreadable.

"We could check the security footage," Dominador suggested with a slight shrug.

Daos snickered.  It was empty, brittle, and void of actual humor.  "We won't find anything," he shook his head.  Turning back to the locker, he shook his head again and snorted, "Check the security footage."

Next: Filling in the Blanks

perra = "bitch"
edil = "mayor"

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