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Narrow Gate
~~ excerpt ~~
by Eugene Parker


Administration paired the officers only yesterday. Both men poured themselves coffee, and then settled into J.D.'s newly assigned cubicle at the sheriff's department. The men knew little of each other; however, the formalities of introductions and other pleasantries were history. The morning's agenda was entirely business.

The sergeant spoke while studying his new partner. "J.D., there's two things a man just doesn't share," he reasoned, adding emphatically, "his woman and his razor."

"I heard that!" the younger deputy exclaimed while poring over the case file again. "Y'know, you may be right about the sharing aspect. This looks as if it might be one of those love-triangles gone haywire. There's a bunch of possible suspects here."

Rico pushed his hat back and began massaging his temples. "Yeah. And we need to narrow down the list, and I mean pronto," he answered in acknowledgment.

The autopsy report was two weeks old, but Rico viewed it again for the umpteenth time. It only reaffirmed his suspicions. The medical examiner had previously explained it to him in laymen terms. Officially, partial severing of the spinal cord with fractured neck vertebras C2, C3, and C4 was determined to be the cause of death. The M.E. had deemed that the other cuts and bruises were injuries consistent with expectations resulting from such an incident.

Rico shrugged as he read excerpts from the report. "The stomach contents were nothing but brown fluid, J.D., so that agrees with the apparent time line." He propped his boots up on the desk edge, amid all the clutter.

J.D. placed his keyboard on top of the computer's monitor, up and out of harm's way. They discussed how the bodily fluids were ladled and precisely measured. Rico's vivid explanation of how the major organs are sometimes bread-loafed sent a chill tingling down the younger deputy's spine.

J.D. noted the temperature recorded from the liver, and Rico explained further. "Doc said they'd factored in the heat the victim had been exposed to, as well as the low body-fat percentage. He calculated the time of death had occurred approximately twelve hours prior to the body's discovery."

Toxicity levels were normal. No smoking gun there, both men agreed.

Nearby commotion distracted J.D.'s concentration. Over the years, Rico had become oblivious to the bustling background activity and noise in their midst; however, J.D. was struggling to adjust to his new job surroundings. The new recruit was certainly excited though, to be assisting a seasoned homicide investigator of Sgt. Rico Valenzuela's caliber and reputation. His ego had really soared when Rico had addressed him as "Pardner" for the first time.

J.D. wondered aloud how much the weather had actually affected the corpse, and Rico confided, "It was already a real hot one out there that morning when I arrived." To stress his point, he mentioned the abundance of flies swarming the victim.

"Hmmm. Isn't San Antonio always hot in the middle of June?" J.D. wondered. Hailing from the panhandle, he was facing his first summer season in this locale.

"Yeah," Rico conceded, "but it's been extra hot lately due to the drought. This year looks like it's gonna be a real scorcher."

J.D. refilled their cups as he spoke. "Sooo, the toxicology reports indicate no drugs or alcohol were involved, and the brown fluid in the stomach suggests no solid food had been ingested for at least three or four hours."

Rico nodded in agreement while picking up his mug. "It seems to fit with what I've been told to this point. I haven't had time to confirm it all just yet, J.D., but the victim reportedly hadn't eaten anything for several hours."

Their conversation drifted from their conclusions drawn from the autopsy report to the numerous love connection possibilities. They realistically considered those avenues.

J.D. said, "At the academy we were taught that passionate people are capable of doing all sorts of crazy things. In addition, you said millions of dollars are at stake here. Now, there are several motives for murder."

Rico nodded and acknowledged their task was daunting. "I'm afraid this one' s going to be complicated, Pardner. I've interviewed many of the folks connected with this thing, but I still don't have a really good handle on exactly what we're facing here."

J.D. looked through the stack of crime-scene photographs while Rico verbally profiled the victim and divulged additional highlights he had gathered during his brief investigation.

"I'm sure I can dig up something from the computer on these suspects you've listed here, but should we rank them in some particular order?" J.D. hunched over the desk blotter, his index finger hovering over the list of names. "Maybe we should, y'know, prioritize them somehow," he repeated.

Rico wrinkled his forehead, wondering in which order they should be classified. "There's several there I haven't been able to interview yet." He paused, and then said, "Let's go back and take another look at my lead sheets.

"The trouble seems to have begun brewing last year after the old patriarch of the Kirby clan died from a heart attack," Rico said. He opened his journal and slid it over for J.D. to view, then suggested, "We need to backtrack about a month for you to get up to speed. The obvious place to begin is with this guy here named Clayton Kirby." Rico tapped the photograph with his finger. "He's the scion of the clan."

J.D. concurred, saying, "Makes sense to me. He would've been close to the action, from what little bit you've told me so far."

"Yeah, and I'm beginning to realize he's no choir boy either."


Eugene Parker is the founder and president of Parker Petroleum Pros, Inc., a petroleum consulting firm. Straight out of high school, Parker caught a helicopter ride to the Gulf of Mexico, joining the petroleum industry as a roughneck. Eugene and his wife, Vicki, reside in Grand Saline, Texas. He can be reached via e-mail at pppinc@cox-internet.com.

Narrow Gate, ISBN #1-4137-5164-4, may be purchased from
Barnes & Noble.com

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Please write Ye Editor at bethjacks@hotmail.com.

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