The loud jangling of the telephone woke Detective Tom Trask out of a sound sleep. He reached over, turned on the light, and kneaded a knuckle into the corner of his eye.
"This better be good," he growled into the receiver.
It wasn't everyone who could go out for a night of heavy drinking and wake up four hours later. The stench of the clip joint was still in his hair.
"Give me half an hour." Before hanging up, he snatched the receiver back to his ear. "Hey! I don't have to remind you to keep the scene clean, do I?"
Too often he had seen evidence compromised when a cop made a snap judgment or formed theories before all the evidence had been collected.
Tom's methods of investigation were untraditional. That's why he was assigned to so many cases. He was resourceful, imaginative, and had the tenacity of a hound dog.
Thunder rumbled, followed by heavy rain, drumming against the window.
"Nice day," he muttered.
He stepped into his pants. Both shirts hanging on the bedpost were wrinkled but would pass for clean. He slipped one on.
There was a crowd on the steps of the library when Tom arrived, mostly cops keeping a few curious bystanders and their dogs away from the scene. Umbrellas clustered together to form a makeshift roof over the body. When Officer Kelly saw Tom, he walked down to meet him.
"Hi, Kelly." Tom greeted him as his eyes slid up the building to the Egyptian ornamentation. "Talk to me." He reached in his breast pocket for his notebook.
"We got a stiff up there on the steps." Kelly jerked his chin in the general direction. "Looks like a heart attack."
Tom flicked him a look. "Who is he?" He tugged the brim of his hat to re-direct the rain.
"I have his identification right here." Kelly handed Tom a worn, leather wallet. "He's a doctor." Tom gazed at the crumpled body on the steps.
"Was a doctor," Kelly corrected.
Tom slid a business card from the wallet. "Did you get pictures?"
"From every wet angle." Kelly pointed to the photographer.
"Hi, Gumshoe," chirped a small brunette. She bounced beside him and looped an arm inside his.
Tom gave her a sideways glance. "Look, Newshawk, I don't have time to bump gums. I have work to do."
"Sure, Doll. I'm doing my job, too. Are you going to give me, Dixie Uriel Moran, star Bugle journalist, an exclusive?" She fluttered her eyelids and widened her brown doe eyes. Her hair was molded to the top of her head underneath a clear plastic rain bonnet.
"Why don't you have an umbrella?" Tom asked.
"I don't believe in them." She smiled and held her hands out. "I love fresh showers."
Tom tilted his head to the side to let the rain run off the brim of his hat onto her shoulder. "Me, too. Now stand back," he said as he guided her away from the scene.
Tom leaned over to inspect the body. The man had multiple contusions on his face and cuts around his eyes. He was wearing a black wool overcoat over red cotton pajamas. Tom suspected his slippers had trudged through some type of loamy soil.
In the next moment, Officer Kelly was beside him. "What do you suppose he was doing here so early?" he asked.
"Either he was sleepwalking or his library book was overdue." Tom stood.
A paisley umbrella split away from the group and floated toward him.
Suddenly, he regretted the wrinkled shirt. He slipped a hand inside his coat pocket and skillfully unwrapped a stick of clove gum.
It was her eyes that attracted him first. They were like liquid cobalt fringed with long, dark lashes. He estimated her height to be about five foot three. She couldn't weigh more than a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet, and she was.
He wanted to smile but responded only with a nod. "What time did you arrive this morning?"
"May I see your badge?" She asked with marginal trepidation.
He gave her a quirky look, shrugged, and pulled his identification from his inside breast pocket. Tom watched with interest as she mouthed his name.
"I arrived here at four thirty this morning," she said, glancing at the body. "He was right there on the steps."
"Do you know who he is?" he asked.
She rubbed the cold from her arms. "No, I've never seen him before."
"You want to go inside?" He turned toward the door. "You look cold."
She nodded and pushed her way up the steps to the large entry doors.
Tom warned himself not to look at her figure. The warning went unheeded. He stole glances at her from beneath his hat and then halfheartedly reminded himself the last thing he needed was to be dizzy with a dame. An educated one at that. The most troublesome kind.