“Rough night?” the desk sergeant asked.
“I’ve had rougher.”
“Would hate to see that.”
“You look great too, Slater.”
“Newborns. They have this thing for crying just as you’re about to finally fall asleep after the last time you comforted their crying.”
“No experience in that area.”
“One day, Davis.”
“That’s what I always said, until—”
“I need to file a report.”
“I’m harassing you?”
Donna couldn’t help but smile at Desk Sergeant Slater’s attempt at humor.
“If you were I never would have lasted a minute back in Chi-Town.”
“Well, we may not be Chi-Town, but we have our own crime right here.”
“Little old ladies jaywalking again?”
The phone rang.
“One second.” Desk Sergeant Slater said. His tone with the caller turned very serious. His answers were short and direct. He hung up the phone.
“Caucasian male. Middle aged. Up on Eagle Rock Way. Hysterical. Said his daughter’s been murdered.”
“What time?” She felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
“He just called it in.”
“Time of death?”
“Says he found her just now when he went to check on her.”
“Not yet. Units are responding now.”
“I want it. I’ll secure a vehicle and call you when I’m in route.”
“Roger that. I’ll let the chief know you’re on your way.”
Fifteen minutes later Donna was arriving at the scene. One of the officers from the second unit to respond was taping off the area. The whole neighborhood was either already outside or rubbernecking out their windows.
“Upstairs, detective. Second door on the right,” the young police officer said. She could see they put a rookie on the door to keep the lookie loos at bay.
“It’s not pretty in there,” the officer outside the door said.
“Is it ever?”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Donna entered the room without regard for the warning. She immediately regretted her decision.
Ten minutes later she had her notes from both the medical examiner and blood pattern analyst. She was back on the front lawn looking at the house’s layout and possible entry and exit points. She also decided it would be a good time to meet the neighbors.
The house was near the top of the hill. Only one house was on higher ground. Beyond the last house was empty space that led into bike trails and brush, an easy escape route.
Two young girls were sitting on the front lawn when Donna approached the only house that sat higher.
“Hello,” the girls replied in unison.
“Do you live here?”
“Yes,” they again replied in unison. Donna noticed they were dressed the same. Identical twins.
“Mom or dad home?”
They both shook their heads, no.
“Can I help you?”
Donna looked up and noticed a third girl walking their way. She appeared to be high school aged. She was drying her hands on a towel.
“Hi. I’m Detective Donna Davis with the Laguna Beach Police Department. I would like to ask you a few questions if you have a moment to spare.”
“Um … okay?” the girl said nervously. She froze in place, unsure what to do next.
“Mind if we sit down?”
“Yeah, sure,” the girl said. She sat next to the two younger girls.
“Maybe over this way,” Detective Davis pointed towards a palm tree in their front yard.. “Away from your sisters.”
“They’re not my sisters.”
“Okay, but can we sit over here?”
Donna and the girl walked over to the tree and sat down at its trunk.
“What can you tell me about your neighbors down the hill?”
“They’re not my neighbors. I’m just babysitting.”
“So you’re not too familiar with them?”
“I know them. Everybody knows them. They’re pretty popular in town.”
“Why is that?”
“Andrea is really popular at school. She has over one hundred forty thousand followers on Instagram. She’s really pretty.”
“You’ve spoken with her personally, or mostly just know her through social media?”
“I know her. Not like we were good friends or anything, but she was always nice … she said hi and stuff like that to me. Is she okay?”
“I can’t say too much about anyone right now. There’s an investigation that’s taking place.”
“Her dad was going crazy this morning, screaming and everything. He was yelling that she’s dead.”
“We’re talking to her dad right now.”
“Is she really dead?”
Even with her thick skin and years of experience, Donna was never good at hiding sadness and grief, especially the loss of young life. One that ended before it really even began.
“I’m sorry, but I really can’t say.”
“Did you know anything else about Andrea?”
“Mostly she was just known to be pretty and popular. She posted a lot of pictures online, either at the beach, traveling, or at parties. Stuff like that.”
“Nothing out of the ordinary?”
“Not if you’re rich I guess.”
Donna let that comment swirl around a second before filing it away.
“When did you start babysitting here?”
“A few months ago.”
“What about this particular job?”
“It’s my only one.”
“But this job. The hours you were to work this particular time.”
“I just got here. I started this morning and their mom and dad get back after work. One of them gives me a ride home then.”
“Okay.” She felt this line of questioning was going nowhere fast.
“Do you mind if I take a look?”
“It’s a closed scene. No one’s allowed on their property.”
“Yeah, but I already saw some stuff from the upstairs window. It looks really bad.”
“You shouldn’t have seen that. That was before we arrived and shut the scene down.”
“Yeah, but I already saw it.”
“I think it’s best if it stops there,” Donna said. “And can you do me a favor?”
“Please don’t scare the two little girls you’re watching. It’s best if you take them inside and talk about other things.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Okay.”
Detective Davis got up and walked across the grass. She took a quick look over her shoulder just in time to see the babysitter leading the girls back in the house.
So much for trading in the big city life for peace and quiet.