“What happens in Paradise stays in Paradise,” replied Bullock.

“Vegas has tons of surveillance cameras,” she pointed out.

“In the casinos. And I guess we’re a little more forgiving here.”

“Not very forgiving to those two,” said Puller, pointing at the dead men.

“How’s the investigation coming with your aunt?” asked Landry.

“It’s coming. Did you ever find Jane Ryon?” “She wasn’t at her home. We left messages on her phone for her to contact us.”

“How about an APB?”

“We don’t have enough cause to issue an APB. You just saw her driving down the street. She could have been coming from anyone’s home, or just passing through the neighborhood. We learned she has other clients on that street. And the ME has not issued her report yet. We don’t even know if it was a


“So you’re just going to wait to hear from her?” said Puller. “And if you don’t? If she’s already fled the country?”

Carson said, “You can put markers in the system for passport, credit card, and cell phone usage. She can be tracked that way.”

Bullock looked doubtful. “I’d need a court order for that. Let’s just try to work the case a bit more. I don’t want to get my butt sued in case she’s just off on vacation or something. And now I’ve got all this to deal with. This, we know, was a murder.”

Puller turned back to the bodies on the bed. “What do you want me to do?”

“You’re a trained investigator. Look around and tell me if you see anything that strikes you.” “I’ve got my evidence duffel in my car. If I’m going to look around I’d rather do it my way and professionally.”

Bullock exclaimed, “Hell, have at it. I’m not too proud to admit I’m out of my depth here.” Puller left to get his duffel.


Four hours later Puller rose off one knee and bagged one more piece of evidence. He gave all the bags to Landry and slipped off his latex gloves and booties.

Carson, Landry, and Bullock had watched Puller methodically work the crime scene, taking photos, measuring, dusting for prints, and generally scrubbing the room for any clues to the killer’s identity. He had done both this room and the one next door.

“Army trained you well, John,” said Carson, looking impressed as he tossed his gloves and booties into his duffel.

“Yes, they did, John,” Landry added hastily.

Puller tried not to think about the increasingly complex situation with the two women as he packed his tools away.

Bullock was sitting on the edge of a credenza. While Puller had worked away, Landry went for sandwiches and waters. They had eaten outside the room, at Puller’s insistence, so as not to contaminate the crime scene.

“Any conclusions?” Bullock asked.

“Got a partial footprint near the edge of the bed in the other room. Dirt pattern that was probably carried in from outside. No obvious smells. Killer probably wasn’t wearing any type of strong cologne that might have lingered. I did elimination prints on the dead guys. Those are most of the prints I found in the rooms. I would assume some others match hotel personnel. For elimination purposes, we’ll need to print any of them who came up here.”

“Unless it was someone working at the hotel who killed them,” Carson pointed out.

“Right,” said Puller. “Then we’ll need to print all of them.”

Bullock said, “We’ll get right on that.” He nodded at Landry, who walked out to get it done.

Puller swept his gaze around the room. “Anything else?” asked Carson.

“Not forensically. I think we’ll know more when we find out about the dead guys’ backgrounds.” He looked at Bullock. “These aren’t street bangers. But you have drug problems here, right?”

“What city doesn’t have drug problems?” he said stiffly.

“Any other issues here we should know about?”

Carson looked at Puller and then at Bullock.

The police chief stared back at the CID agent. “Like what?”

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you. You know this town better than I do.”

“There’s nothing special about Paradise in the crime department. In fact, before this last wave of violence we were pretty clean.”

Puller glanced at Carson.

Bullock caught his look and said, “You know something I don’t?”

“People disappear here?” asked Puller. “Disappear? What the hell do you mean? Spontaneous combustion?”

“Do they live here one day and then they’re gone the next?”

“Missing persons? No. We don’t get much of that.”

“How many folks here are undocumented illegals?” asked Carson.

“This is a beach town on the Gulf. Unprotected border. Tourist destination. Cheap labor is important.”

“Meaning you have a lot of undocumented,” said Puller.

“I wouldn’t say a lot.”

“But if they went missing you wouldn’t necessarily hear about it. I mean, folks might not report it.”

“I guess they might not. But what are you getting at?”

“When I find out I’ll let you know.”

Landry said, “I’ll fill you in, Chief. Some kids are missing. We have an APB out on them.”

Before Bullock could react to this, Puller hefted his duffel over his shoulder and looked at Carson. “You ready?”

“Let’s go.”

“You just gonna leave it at that?” said Bullock. “I came down here to find out why my aunt died. I intend to finish that mission.”

“And all the other stuff that’s going on?”

“If it’s connected to what happened to my aunt, then that too.” He motioned with his hand to the bed. “You might want to get them out of here. The smell is only going to get more unpleasant, especially in this heat.”

Carson followed him out as Bullock stood in the middle of the room looking at the dead men.

Puller loaded his duffel into the Tahoe and climbed into the driver’s side while Carson got in the passenger seat. Landry hurried up to them. “Are you heading out?” she asked.

“For now, yeah. You getting the elimination prints done?”

“Organizing it right now.”

“Let me know when you find out anything about the two stiffs. They weren’t down here for a vacation.”

“I will.”

Landry glanced at Carson and then back at Puller. “You have time to get together later?” Puller licked his lips and felt the heat rise to his face. “That’s a possibility. I’ll give you a call.” Landry looked like she’d been slapped and she glanced once more at Carson. “Are you at the Gull Coast?”

At first Puller thought she was asking him, but then it became clear she wasn’t.

Carson said, “Yes. Just checked in.”

“I assume you’re down here on vacation.”

“I am.”

“Then you might want to try a place closer to the beach. The Gull is a long walk. And you don’t want to miss any rays.”

“Thanks for the advice.”

“You’re welcome,” she said curtly and then turned and stalked off.

Carson said, “Am I interrupting something?” Puller put the Tahoe in gear and backed out of the space. “No,” he said.

“Okay. Where are we going?”

“You want to hit the beach?”

“Is that what you want to do?” she asked, looking surprised.

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