Excerpt from No Sanctuary by Marilyn Meredith
“Oh, boy,” Officer Stacey Wilbur keyed her radio and requested assistance, quickly describing the single vehicle accident in front of her.
Working the four-to-midnight shift, Stacey had been returning from a burglary call at a secluded ranch located far into the foothills that backed the community of Rocky Bluff. When she maneuvered her police unit around a sharp corner, she came upon the light green Toyota smashed into the trunk of a massive oak tree.
It was obvious the accident had happened recently. Though not a busy road, there were enough homes and ranches nestled in the valleys for someone to have come upon the scene if it occurred much before her arrival.
Hoping for survivors, Stacey shined her flashlight beam in the open driver’s window. Squashed against the bent steering wheel was the woman driver. Blood splattered the sea foam green seat and the floor of the car. The puddling blood hadn’t congealed. The speedometer needle pointed to 75. Steam erupted from the radiator.
An abundance of dark hair, wet with blood, covered the victim’s face. Though Stacey knew there wouldn’t be any, she reached through the window to feel for a pulse on the women’s neck. Nothing.
Stacey put her hand on the hood of the car. As she’d expected it was warm. Quickly, she went over a check-list in her mind. There were no witnesses to question. The driver was dead. There was not enough traffic on the country road at that hour to worry about. Despite the unrelenting Santa Ana winds that had been blowing down the canyons for the last two days, there didn’t seem to be any danger of fire. Usually ocean breezes kept the southern California beach town cool, but they didn’t have a chance against the power of the seasonal blast coming from the deserts.
Going back to her unit, Stacey called in the license number on the plates. While she waited for the information, she suspected this was more than an accident.
Using her cell phone, she dialed Doug Milligan’s home number. A homicide detective, he was also a special friend of Stacey’s. If they could find a way to spend more time together, their relationship might develop into more than a friendship. She often reflected on how wonderful it felt the few times she had been in his arms.
She should call the duty sergeant, but she could do that after she talked to Doug.
He answered on the first ring. “Milligan.”
“Hi, it’s Stacey.”
His voice immediately softened. “Aren’t you working tonight?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m calling you. I’m at the scene of an accident, but it looks like it might be more than that.”
“Tell me where you are and what you’ve found.”
She gave him a quick description, ending with, “..there’s blood on the seat of the car and the floor.”
He interrupted. “Do you know who it is?”
“No, I can’t see her face and I haven’t touched anything except when I tried for a pulse.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Doug said.
“Do you want me to call the Sergeant?”
“Who’s on tonight?”
“No, I’ll do it. Don’t let anyone touch anything.”
Stacey heard the approaching wail of sirens.