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Three emails already this morning, and they were not replies to anything Sonya had sent. Sonya did not like random emails or random events, and this was three of them. That usually meant people wanting something, and she would have to read and read the messages to figure out what it was, and whether it was the same as what those people actually said.

She had never been good at that.

Conversations were hard because of tone and nuance. Hank said there was usually more going on than it first appeared, but Sonya often couldn't tell—she might as well be guessing. Emails were even harder. They seemed straightforward, but sometimes they hid things.

Three emails. Three uninvited problems. Sonya liked answers, not questions, and emails that came on their own usually involved questions.

Her phone buzzed, startling her out of her thoughts. The front desk told her that someone was there to see her.

It was Marco Ruiz.

Marco strolled around to her office, already far too comfortable there, though nobody else seemed to mind. He glanced at the folders on her desk—case folders, the murdered women's pictures spread out in neat rows of horror. The look he gave her was very similar to the expression Hank had when he said things like, "Jesus Christ, Sonya."

Sonya would need a lot more than just those three words to figure out what Hank meant by that, or why he seemed to say it so often.

"What have you got?" Marco asked. He always wanted to know the status of her cases but didn't ask the hard questions when investigating his own. He did too much or too little, and Sonya didn't understand him at all.

"Another body," Sonya said. She called the detective whose name was on the report, using her cellphone so she could talk to him over her wireless headset. Marco sighed and rolled his eyes, probably about her phone habits. Other people said it looked odd when Sonya used the headset, as if she were talking to herself. But Sonya didn't like having things in her hands, like phones or purses. She had a holster for her gun, and the gun was different anyway. When she needed it, she didn't mind holding it, but she put it away as soon as she was finished.

Marco read through the report while she talked, which was distracting, though she couldn't imagine why.

"So," Marco said when she was off the phone, "you want to go look at where they found her?"

"Yes," Sonya said. She hadn't completed anything this morning, and the new crime just added onto her mental list of things needing her attention, but she hoped it might tell her something new. Sometimes you gathered pieces and pieces of information until there were so many you couldn't stand it, but then you found one that finally made all the others fall into place.

They hadn't found that one just yet.

Sonya drove them to the scene, playing her sister's music and knowing Marco hated it. Sonya didn't really like the music either, but it was her sister's truck and her sister must have liked the music, along with the dream-catcher hanging from the rear-view mirror. Sonya never changed anything in the truck. It wasn't because she thought it would bring her sister back, but because she felt her sister had wanted the truck to be the way it was. It seemed only fair that Sonya maintain all of those special things, now that her sister no longer could.

Nobody else understood that, but they didn't need to. It was Sonya's choice.

"Sometimes, we don't even know who the girls are," Marco said.

He must have been talking about his cases, the ones with so many victims and so few answers. "I know," Sonya said.

It was harder to find a killer when you didn't know anything about the people he was killing.

"How long have you been a cop?" Sonya asked.

Marco shrugged. "All my life."

Sometimes answers weren't really answers. "Was your father in the police?"

Marco laughed, a harsh kind of sound that Sonya didn't really understand.

That wasn't an answer either.

"Did you always want to be a cop?" Marco asked.

"No." It seemed so long since Sonya had been a little girl, and had known nothing about crime or the police. She hardly remembered those days at all. "Not always," she said.

Marco nodded. "Me, I don't regret my choice."

"No," Sonya said. "Neither do I."

The arrived at the crime scene, a dusty wash circling around the back of a hill off a dirt road. It was desolate. Hank had said this wasn't the first time a body had been found near there, or even the second. Looking at how far away from houses and traffic the place was, how well-hidden from the road, it was easy to see why.

"Was she killed here, or just dumped?" Marco asked.

"Probably not here." Sonya got down near the ground, looking over the sifted dirt that showed where the other officers had removed the body. She examined the surrounding area, looking for anything that might offer some idea of why the woman had been left there and who might have done it. There wasn't a trace. The wash looked like any other part of the desert now, with no hint of the tragedy so recently visited upon it.

The area where Sonya's sister had been found was much the same. There was nothing there to tell anyone but Sonya how much sadness a small scrap of land could hold.

Marco wandered over to her. "I don't think this one is related to our case."

Sonya had to agree. "We should leave." Whatever secrets the ground had offered here would have to be solved by some other team.

They got back into her truck, Marco looking out at the far hills as they drove away. The music started up again. Marco sighed, but Sonya had already tuned it out.

She hoped there would be something waiting at the office to help move their case along, something useful and not more random messages that sought her help but had nothing to give her in return.

There had been no new piece of the puzzle sitting out there in the desert. She would just have to keep looking, and keep on believing that someday, it would come along.


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