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Neon Nights
About the Author: Shea E. Butler has a passion for storytelling in all its forms. She is an award-winning filmmaker for her screenplays, her short films and web series and is a published author. Her short story, “Giving Up The Ghost,” was the featured cover story in the November 2019 issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine and her short story, “Do Not Go Gently,” is published in the 2020 Black Veins Anthology. Shea divides her time between Vancouver, B.C. and Los Angeles, California.

The oil in the puddle swirled slowly, in a lazy kaleidoscope of colors, as the water reflected the flickering neon lights of the overhead sign—Kitty’s Kats: Exotic Dancers—with its outlandish outline of a woman sitting in a chair, legs spread in a suggestive pose. A red-beaded Jimmy Choo, with a five-inch stiletto heel, lay abandoned on the gravel-pitted alley inches from the liquid rainbow. It was an odd sight amongst the used condoms, rotten food and tangled heaps of garbage that littered the vicinity. A swarm of mosquitoes buzzed in the night air around the puddle of water, the sound mimicking the electric hum of the neon sign.

A slim-boned hand, nails buffed short with clear polish, reached toward the abandoned pump. A reverent voice sighed, then murmured, “Man, now that’s a damn shame. Waste of perfection, if you ask me.” James Alonquin Mendelsohn, better known as Jam, crouched down, careful not to get the cuffs of his immaculately pressed Balmain trousers dirty.

“Gloves,” snapped a low, smooth voice. Detective Sammi Aku, a mid-40’s African-American woman, stood several feet away. Her eyes flickered over the body of the woman posed on a hard-backed, wooden chair in the same suggestive pose as the dancer in the neon sign above. Curly hair, cut short, and deep lines fanned out from Sammi’s chocolate colored eyes. Jeans, a cotton shirt and, despite the heat, a blazer was her wardrobe of choice. Her intense gaze never left its thorough scrutiny of the crime scene as she asked, “What’cha gonna do, Jam, add it to your collection?” Sammi stepped over and slapped a pair of thin, latex gloves in the younger detective’s outstretched hand.

“I wish. These beauties start at two thousand a pair.” Another sigh emanated from Jam’s pursed lips as he pulled on the gloves. “I just want to touch it. Once.” Jam reverently picked up the Jimmy Choo. “I bow to a creation of magnificence by a master.”

“Quit drooling. Bag it and tag it,” said Sammi. “Let’s get the scene processed and try to figure out what this dipshit is trying to tell us.”

Jam stood. “Mint condition, hardly scuffed,” he murmured. “Think it came from our perp?” He looked over at Sammi for confirmation.

“Probably,” she agreed. “Not something a woman like her could afford and from the track marks on her arm, she’d use her money for a fix, not high fashion.”

“Shame,” Jam murmured as he carefully placed the red-beaded Jimmy Choo in a clear, plastic evidence bag. Sammi wasn’t sure if he was referring to the victim or the shoe.

Jam pulled out a starched, crisp handkerchief from his pocket and wiped off the beads of perspiration that dotted his face in the thick, heavy humidity. “Never seen anything like this before,” he continued. “You?” When she didn’t answer, he persisted. “I mean, this town’s main crime sprees consist of drunken college brawls and domestic violence calls. Not like Philly. You must have seen some gnarly crap working up there.”

Sammi shrugged and turned away, hiding the memories that flitted across her face from Jam as she deflected his efforts to probe. Philadelphia wasn’t like Langston. Which was exactly why I moved here, she thought. A small, sleepy South Georgia college town was nothing like the bloody streets of a big city. Thank God. She looked at the dead woman posed on the chair and grimaced. Until now. Sammi shut the door to her past and focused on the job at hand, analyzing the scene. “He wasn’t in a mindless killing frenzy, not the way our victim is posed. This was deliberate.”

“A calling card? To get our attention?”

“It certainly got mine,” said a rough voice behind them.

Sammi and Jam whirled around and stared at the short, stocky man with the beginning of a middle-aged belly standing just inside the police tape cordoning off the crime scene. His hair was cut military-short and his suit hung limp and wrinkled in the humidity. “Who the hell are you and what are you doing contaminating my crime scene?” Sammi glared at the two uniformed officers standing guard. She’d have words with them about keeping Looky-Loos outside the perimeter of her crime scene later. Right now, she focused all her attention and ire on the man in front of her.

“Cal Garvey, FBI.” He held up his I.D. in his left hand. Waited.

After a quick glance at Sammi, Jam stepped forward for a good look at Cal’s I.D. “Looks legit.” He held out his hand for a quick shake. “Detective James Alonquin Mendelsohn. Jam, for short.” With a nod at his partner, he added, “Detective Sammi Aku.”

This story appears in our SEP2020 Issue
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