One Shot by B.K. Stevens



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When rising politician Karen Dodd pushes through the toughest gun-control bill in Ohio's history, she thinks it's her ticket to the governor's office. But soon after she announces her candidacy, on the day she's slated to receive an award from a gun-control organization, Karen Dodd is found dead in her comfortable suburban home, one bullet through her heart.

Suspects abound-her philandering husband, a hard-drinking former beauty queen, a smooth-talking gun lobbyist and his deceptively meek assistant, an ambitious television reporter who sees the murder as the story that could transform her career. Police lieutenant Dan Ledger puts his own life in danger as he struggles to uncover the secrets of suspects who at first seem harmlessly eccentric-but who can quickly turn deadly serious. Ledger's used to piecing together meager bits of evidence, and he's usually adept at analyzing the fears and desires that drive people to kill. This time, though, the motive takes him by surprise.

One Shot is a traditional whodunit with a contemporary twist. Packed with suspense and humor, it raises questions about issues ranging from gun control to reality television.

Excerpt:

Of course, Rick Carlson’s metallic green Mustang already sat outside the house, front right tire jammed hard against the curb. Carlson had made detective just three months ago and hadn’t gotten past the glow of it yet—still frantic to score points daily, still always first on the scene if a case promised to inch past ordinary. Pulling up behind a patrol car, I reminded myself that it’s good for young people to feel enthusiastic about their work. Carlson’s work, though, involves sifting through human misery and assigning guilt. That made it vaguely disturbing to see the way he came bounding across the lawn, leaping over hedges, face stretched taut with joy.

“Glad you’re finally here, Lieutenant,” he said, flinging my car door open. Carlson’s twenty-seven, just good-looking enough to be full of himself, just clever enough to think he’s smarter than everyone else. “Boy, have we got a hot one! Know who the victim is?”

“No.” I’m still on the downside of forty but felt ancient as I climbed out of my car. Maybe that’s what disapproving of younger colleagues does to you. “Dispatch just said possible homicide.”

“Possible, hell.” He percolated with excitement. “This is as definite as homicide gets. And the victim? Get this, Lieutenant. You won’t believe it. Karen Dodd. Can you believe it? I bet you can’t believe it.”

At first, I couldn’t. “Karen Dodd? You don’t mean—”

“I do mean.” He bounced in place, heel to toe. “How’s that for a homicide?”

I tried to take it in. Two nights ago, along with almost everyone else in Akron, I’d watched Karen Dodd on the six o’clock news, surrounded by her perfect family, sounding perkily committed as she announced she’d seek her party’s nomination for governor. “Just don’t tell me she was shot,” I said. “Please don’t tell me she was shot.”

Carlson couldn’t hold back a whoop. “She was shot! How’s that for heavy irony? Karen Dodd was shot to death.”

*

The scene inside the house looked ironic, all right. Karen Dodd, the state legislator who had pushed through the toughest gun control law in Ohio’s history, lay dead on her living room floor, shot just once, square in the chest. She wore jeans and a white pullover sweater and cloth bedroom slippers but otherwise looked pretty much like she had at her press conferences—face calm, careful sculpture of short blonde curls only slightly disturbed by death. I paused several feet away, feeling I owed her at least a few seconds of mourning. I probably would’ve voted for you, I thought. I’m sorry.

Carlson bubbled by my side. “No evidence of burglary, nothing disturbed upstairs. No forced entry. So maybe she opened the door for her killer. Or maybe he opened it himself. With his own key. If you know what I mean.”

Yes, you twit, I thought. I know what you mean. The husband’s always the first suspect—I don’t need you to tell me that. “Who found the body? When?”

Carlson checked his notes. “Call came in at 7:27. And—get this—her mother and her kids found her. Pretty damn poignant, huh? Apparently, the old lady freaked when she saw the body, went instant coma or something. The seven-year-old boy called 911. As soon as the paramedics got here, they carted Grandma off to the hospital.”

I nodded. “And the husband? Any sign? Any word?”

“Yeah, he called maybe fifteen minutes ago, asking for his wife, all Mr. Innocent Ignorance. I said she’d been shot and he’d better get his ass over here. Anyway, I tried questioning the kid—he was blubbery, but I was making progress. Then that bitch Sullivan snatches all the kids away and takes them upstairs. Some nerve, huh? I didn’t even get to ask the kid about the roses.”

The roses. For the first time, I focused on the roses. They lay scattered on the floor and furniture, leaves and broken stems and deep red petals, looking like they’d been torn to bits and hurled against the walls. Several leaves clung to Karen Dodd’s sweater; one intact blossom lay inches from her left hand—she seemed to be reaching for it. I wondered what had happened to the vase, then looked up and found my answer. A large framed photograph hung over the mantel, the sort of family portrait photographers display in their lobbies—the mother slim and smiling, seated on a small maroon sofa; the twin five-year-old girls nestled on either side of her, all plump blonde pigtails and thick bangs; the seven-year-old son kneeling in front, grinning, just awkward enough to look natural; the proud young father standing behind them, his longish crew cut swept upwards and carefully moussed, his arms stretched out to rest on the back of the sofa as if scooping his whole family to him. They don’t get much more wholesome than this, I thought. But the glass covering the portrait was shattered, and thick, jagged fragments of pottery littered the bricks surrounding the fireplace. That’s what had happened to the vase.

Carlson, too, gazed at the photograph. “Looks like an abridged version of the Brady Bunch,” he observed. “Murder Stalks Mr. and Mrs. Middle America. I love it.”

“Less glee, please, Carlson,” I said. “It isn’t decent. Any sign of the gun?”

“Nope,” he said. “Naturally.”

Nodding, I turned away from him and made a circuit of the living room—huge and relentlessly tasteful, spectacular in a careful way, cream carpets and pale woods and shades of off-white, with throw pillows adding cautiously contrasting colors. Not one piece of furniture looked old or worn or particularly comfortable; nothing interfered with the cool harmony of the place. A one-eared stuffed bear lay sprawled on an armchair, but I figured that was a fluke. I’d bet the children weren’t often allowed in this room.

A few feet from the front door, I saw a large splotch of something on the carpet. Dark, reddish, but not blood. Crouching down, I touched it, found it still damp, sniffed my fingers, decided I wasn’t brave enough to taste it. Smells like barbeque sauce, I thought, but not quite. Well, the lab can take samples.

Carlson beckoned from the kitchen. “Hey Lieutenant, come see. More rip-your-heart-out stuff.”

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