Last week at a Meet the Author event, I read some excerpts from North of Grand, my second Detective Red Shaw novel. What follows is one of my favorites, in which Shaw gets a phone call that ends in a little extra mystery.
The sun was still up but Shaw turned in early after dining on what remained of a four-day-old pepperoni pizza and downing a Leinenkugel. He lay awake in bed for an hour, appreciating the AC, replaying the day in his mind, then trying to shut his brain down so he could sleep. The phone rang. Cheryl. Again already? He answered.
“Hello, Detective,” she said. Her voice was a bit deeper, sexier than in her voicemail or how she had sounded in person.
“Hello, Ms. Massey.”
“Okay, hello, Cheryl. What can I do for you?”
“Can I call you Ed?”
Shaw hesitated. “Is this about police business?”
“No … I hope not.”
“Well I hope not, too. Ed is fine, please.”
“How about Red?” Her voice was lighter, playful. He had to laugh.
“You can call me whatever you like.”
When she didn’t respond, he tried to wait her out, as he had with countless suspects. He broke first, and quickly. “I’ve thought about calling you.”
“So why didn’t you?”
“Well, I guess I assumed you’re married or otherwise involved, and I didn’t have your number … until a few hours ago.”
“The detective couldn’t find my phone number?”
“Well, I suppose I could have, but I hadn’t yet. Besides, there’s that thing about not knowing if you were married … or otherwise involved.”
She laughed, and he imagined her reaching out to touch his arm.
“You’re funny,” she said. “I like that. Otherwise involved.”
“It covers a lot of possibilities,” Shaw said. Again, she fell silent. He broke, again. “So … which is it, Cheryl?”
He heard a voice, faint in the background.
“Otherwise involved,” she said. “I have to go, Red.”
And then she was gone.