Chapter 1 "They oughta hang the son of a bitch came up with this shit," Sam Kovac groused, digging a piece of nicotine gum out of a crumpled foil pack. "The gum or the wrapper?" "Both. I can't open the damn package and I'd rather chew on a cat turd." "And that would taste different from a cigarette how?" Nikki Liska asked. They moved through a small throng of people in the wide white hall. Cops heading out onto the steps of the Minneapolis city hall for a cigarette, cops coming back in from having a cigarette, and the odd citizen looking for something for their tax dollar. Kovac scowled down at her from the corner of one eye. Liska made five-five by sheer dint of will. He always figured God made her short because if she had the size of Janet Reno she'd take over the world. She had that kind of energy--and attitude out the wazoo. "What do you know about it?" he challenged. "My ex smoked. Lick an ashtray sometime. That's why we got divorced, you know. I wouldn't stick my tongue in his mouth." "Jesus, Tinks, like I wanted to know that." He'd given her the nickname--Tinker Bell on Steroids. Nordic blond hair cut in a shaggy Peter Pan style, eyes as blue as a lake on a sunny day. Feminine but unmistakably athletic. She'd kicked more ass in her years on the force than half the guys he knew. She'd come onto homicide--Christ, what was it now?--five or six years ago? He lost track. He'd been there himself almost longer than he could remember. All of his forty-four years, it seemed. The better part of a twenty-three-year career, for certain. Seven to go. He'd get his thirty and take the pension. Catch up on his sleep for the next ten years. He sometimes wondered why he hadn't taken his twenty and moved on. But he didn't have anything to move on to, so he stayed. Liska slipped between a pair of nervous-looking uniforms blocking the way in front of the door to Room 126--Internal Affairs. "Hey, that was the least of it," she said. "I was more upset about where he wanted to put his dick." Kovac made a sound of pain and disgust, his face twisting. Liska grinned, mischievous and triumphant. "Her name was Brandi." The Criminal Investigative Division offices had been newly refurbished. The walls were the color of dried blood. Kovac wondered if that had been intentional or just trendy. Probably the latter. Nothing else in the place had been designed with cops in mind. The narrow, gray, two-person cubicles could just as well have housed a bunch of accountants. He preferred the temporary digs they'd had during the remodeling: a dirty, beat-up room full of dirty, beat-up desks, and beat-up cops getting migraines under harsh white fluorescent lights. Homicide crammed into one room, robbery down the way, half the sex crimes guys wedged into a broom closet. That was atmosphere. "What's the status on the Nixon assault?" The voice stopped Kovac in his tracks as effectively as a hook to the collar. He bit a little harder on the Nicorette. Liska kept moving. New offices, new lieutenant, new pain in the ass. The homicide lieutenant's office had a figurative revolving door. It was a stop on the way for upwardly mobile management types. At least this new one--Leonard--had them back working partners instead of like the last guy, who'd tortured them with some bullshit high-concept team crap with rotating sleep-deprivation schedules. Of course, that didn't mean he wasn't an asshole. "We'll see," Kovac said. "Elwood just brought in a guy he thinks is good for the Truman murder." Leonard flushed pink. He had that kind of complexion, and short, white-gray hair like duck fuzz all over his head. "What the hell are you doing working the Truman murder? That's what? A week ago?Hoag, Tami is the author of 'Dust to Dust' with ISBN 9780553582529 and ISBN 0553582526.