Sunday, October 13, 2013

Don’t Look Away by Leslie Kelly @lesliekelly

Excerpt from



Leslie Kelly

“This is gonna take forever.”

Detective Veronica Sloan glared out the windshield of her car, mentally cursing the heat, and the crowd. Though traffic in the nation’s capital was always a bitch, the lines to get through the Pennsylvania Avenue checkpoints were longer than usual on this wickedly hot summer morning.

A queue of pedestrians wound from each of the heavily-guarded entrances, through Lafayette Park, all the way to H Street. Throngs of other people milled around them, selling cold drinks, packaged food or souvenirs. Some held protest signs, some formed prayer circles.

A bunch of them blocked the damn road.

On any day there would be discontent. On this particularly sweltering July one, tempers were flaring. Hers not the least of them.

In the time it had taken to crawl two blocks in the unmarked sedan, she’d seen one woman faint, two fights break out, and a group of children sprawl on the sidewalk in exhaustion. Flag-draped rednecks glared at Japanese tourists—the slanty-eyed foreigners just as unwelcome as the burqa-wearing ones in their minds. Everyone sweated and cursed and bitched and shouted.

But they didn’t leave. Morbid curiosity always ensured they wouldn’t leave once they’d made it this far.

She could have roared in on full emergency response, dispersing the crowd spilling into the street with her siren and her horn. She didn’t. Because if the people heard about the murder, they might get a little itchy. Might start stampeding, in fact. Washington was quick to panic these days. And she didn’t particularly want to add any boot-crushed grandmas from the Midwest to her already backbreaking caseload.

“Christ, I think there are as many people in line now as there were yesterday for the rededication.”

Ronnie glanced over at her partner, Mark Daniels, who looked as impatient as she felt. The cynic in her couldn’t help saying, “Yeah, but this is nothing compared to the crowds who lined up to gawk at the rubble that first year.”

No, it definitely wasn’t. As soon as the military had begun to allow visitors to view the destruction wrought in October of 2017, D.C. had become the hottest tourist destination in the world. People had clamored for the chance to say they had seen the site of the worst terrorist attack in history.

Goddamn ghouls.

“I guess you’re right.” He leaned back in the seat, crossing his arms over his brawny chest and closing his eyes. “Wake me up when we get there.”

She laughed softly. “Who was she?”

Her partner didn’t bother looking up. “A stripper from the Shake And Bake. I always thought it would be fun to be the pole for a walking pair of jugs, but I think I’m gettin’ too old for that stuff.”

He wasn’t even forty. Nowhere near old, in brain or brawn, though his weary tone hinted at his recent late nights. Daniels had been edgy lately, pushing limits, taking risks. She couldn’t say why. Nor could she say she wasn’t worried about him.

“Hard living. You’d better slow down.”

“Look who’s talking.”

“Hey, my ass isn’t hanging off a bar stool seven nights a week. And the only poles I see are the ones holding up the lights in the park where I run.”

Mark’s lips twitched a little, though his position never changed. “I keep telling you Ron, a body’s only got so much runnin’ in it. You better save it for our visits to the East Side. One of these days when you’re chasing some banger, you’re gonna run out of run.”

Ahh, Daniels wisdom. What would she do without her daily dose of it?

Ronnie didn’t have time to wonder, because they’d finally reached the turn-off for heavily barricaded 17th Street. Ignoring the glares of the pedestrians who grudgingly got out of the way, she turned and drove past a picket line of armed soldiers dressed in urban fatigues.

This was the only vehicular route into or out of the north quadrant of the area once called the National Mall. An area that had, just yesterday, in a ceremony full of as much pomp and ceremony as could be accomplished behind a wall of bulletproof glass, been rededicated by the president as Patriot Square.

The place had another name on the street. Just as most New Yorkers still called the 9/11 site Ground Zero, most people around here called this The Trainyard.

“Stop the car,” a stern voice ordered as she slowly cruised toward the iron-and-barbed-wire fence. The voice had come out of one of the dozen body-armor wearing troops fronting the gate, every one of whom had a weapon aimed directly at her face. Talk about a welcoming committee.

Eight years ago, when she’d been just a rookie cop and the U.S.—more than a decade after 9/11—had seemed relatively safe, a flashed badge would have gotten her past any roadblock. Times were different now. Much different. So without a word, she threw the car into park, killed the engine, and put her hands up.


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Genre - Thriller

Rating – R

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