The Second Girl - David Swinson Page 0,1

pulled from their regular assignments by the chief for one ridiculous thing or another—some detail with a fancy acronym. By the time those officers get off from working that shit, they’re either too tired to work regular or they just don’t give a damn. Hate to say it, ’cause I like most of them, but their fatigue or sloppiness works to my benefit.

I sit on the house for another ten minutes after the Salvadorans pull out.

When it feels right I step out of my Volvo, and slip on my suit coat, and tighten the knot of my tie. I shoulder my nearly empty backpack, which contains only a few items I might need once I get inside—a small Streamlight, a stun gun, a crowbar, a screwdriver, pliers, a box cutter, zip ties, and an extra pair of handcuffs.

I look both ways and cross the street.

It’s about half a block to the house.

I walk like I belong.

Two

Most of the leaves have fallen from the few trees that hang tough on this block. The largest one, an old oak, with roots like fat, arthritic fingers reaching over the median, stands tall, anchored defiantly in front of their house.

The sidewalk and the walkway leading to the front porch are littered with dead leaves, crunching under my feet.

If I’m walking like I belong, why try to walk quietly? That wouldn’t be natural. It’s the way I look and dress, the way I carry myself, that means the most. Those years on the job stay with you, and I learned well. A commanding exterior presence. The inside, well, maybe not so much.

An empty bottle of Cuervo 1800, spent containers of sports drinks, cigarette butts, and scrunched-up red plastic cups are piled in a corner of the patio, in front of a couple of fold-up chairs. The black security gate is aluminum; the front door’s wooden, and there’s one dead bolt above the doorknob. Old, just like the house. You’d think based on what they do for a living they’d have more sense and give the front door an upgrade, invest in a steel door with a stronger frame. Maybe they’re just too fucking confident. They’ll know better soon.

I pull a pair of latex gloves out of the front pocket of my pants, put them on. I ring the doorbell a couple of times. I hear it chime, muffled through the wooden door, wait a few seconds and ring again. No answer. No barking dog, but I never saw them with a dog, so I don’t expect one.

I look behind me, scan the block, unshoulder the backpack, unzip one of the pockets, and grab a large screwdriver.

I wedge the tip between the door and the frame to the right of the dead bolt, find the spot where the bolt meets the metal, then slam the screwdriver with the heel of my palm. It doesn’t take more than a couple of hits.

Another quick glance behind me, and I pry the door open and enter, closing it behind me. It swings open a bit ’cause it won’t latch. I notice a single tennis shoe on the floor, grab it, and push it against the door so it stays partly open. Push back my suit jacket and remove my Glock from its holster. I tuck it to my side.

The smell inside the house is like ripe armpit mixed with cheap old liquor. I’ve been in worse places, though. More shoes on the floor, discarded shirts on two stained sofas, empty bottles of liquor, beer, cigarette butts falling out of ashtrays, beer cans replacing ashtrays, brand-new flat screen on an old coffee table against a wall.

It doesn’t matter how much preparation you put into a spot before you go in. Unless you can see through walls, you never know what you’re going to find. Fortunately, this is a small house, so there are not a lot of rooms to clear. No basement either, so one of the upstairs bedrooms is more than likely the spot I’m looking for. I’ve got a feeling Shiny likes to keep the stash close, so after I clear the house, the room I believe he beds down in is the one I’ll tear up.

The kitchen is littered with pizza boxes, more empty beer and liquor bottles. There are a few power tools—circular saw, drills, tile cutter, and so on—lined up against a wall near the rear door. Doesn’t look like they do much cooking. There are a couple of nearly full bottles of Cuervo on