Traffic near the Island Hotel was at a standstill. There was a convention of cop cars for two blocks on Santa Monica Boulevard and several on Wilshire Boulevard as well. Traffic cops had blocked off lanes on both streets. Parking anywhere near the Island Hotel alley, where the actual crime scene was, would be impossible. Rosemaria drove down the open inside lane on Wilshire at a crawl for two blocks, turned right into a side street, and found an available parking spot. She paid the meter with her card and started walking toward the hotel. She was apprehensive of what she would find and dreaded seeing someone she knew lying on the ground being checked by the medical examiner like a piece of meat. A murder that involved a friend was hard to take even for someone as hardened to the sight of violent death as she had been as a homicide investigator. Over a year away from the job didn’t make this any easier. The girl had been strangled. That and a few hours in a dumpster would not make for a pretty picture. At least Summers had told her to take her time. Her cases could wait until she came in. There was nothing urgent for her to deal with. So that worry was eased at least.
Rosemaria showed her ID to the cops who were keeping looky-loos at bay, signed in, then started walking down the alley. She saw some familiar faces—Sergeant Darryl Osborne and Jimmy Waite, who had been on her team when she had headed up the homicide unit, were having a discussion with Mal Crews, the medical examiner. She was a plain, middle-aged, no-nonsense kind of lady who did not approve of dark humor around the deceased. As far as Mal was concerned, everyone, even the dead, deserved respect. The victim was lying on the ground next to them as they talked and took in the crime scene. She was wearing a tight black dress that was pulled up to the top of her thighs. At least three people from the forensics unit were collecting evidence near the body and inside a dumpster. A few cops stood at the edge of the crime scene.
There were two dumpsters right outside the delivery entrance that were ready for the trash collectors. There was another walk-in entrance inside an alcove a few feet farther up.
Osborne looked up and smiled, genuinely happy to see her. Tall and skinny, he towered over her as he waved his plastic-gloved hand. “Good to see you, Baker. I wish it could have been under better circumstances.”
“Me too.” She turned to Waite. The redhead’s familiar, friendly grin made her feel like she’d never been away. He held up a plastic bag with a wrinkled card inside. She studied it and said, “It looks like an old one from six years ago, when I was working vice in Hollywood.”
Mal gave her a brief wave. “Have a look. We just brought her out of the dumpster. The garbage truck broke down on Wilshire this morning, or she would have been long gone by now. A housekeeper found her when she came out to empty a trash can.”
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