Chapter 1 - Discovery

Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m., the elevator was out again, so Danny Soto, student cop, took the steps two at a time to the seventh floor faculty offices. He held a cell phone in one hand and in the other his police baton. On the seventh floor landing, he darted down the short hallway toward the heavy outer office door and pulled it open. He hurried inside.

Jade was standing still, as if frozen, outside Ms. Quinn's wide-open office door. She turned her head mechanically as Danny approached. Her long, black hair hung down her back and over her shoulders. He saw that her eyes were glazed over from shock and the knuckles on her left hand were white where she held the phone in a death grip. On the floor around her feet were several sheets of white paper with her boot prints on them. Spilled coffee was on the papers and the carpet.

"Are you OK?" he asked, placing his large hand on her shoulder and automatically pushing her hair back from her forehead. He looked at her face—smooth skin, features that reminded him of her Chinese heritage.

"Yes." Jade answered in a tiny whisper. She shook her head as if to shake loose cobwebs, and then cleared her throat. "I'm OK, Danny. You have to. . ." she hesitated. "You have to look. She's in there." She pointed at the open office door.

Danny turned, stepped over the mess of coffee and papers on the floor, and went briskly to the door. His eyes fell on a shiny blue high-heeled shoe alone in the middle of the floor.

"She's over there," Jade's voice, stronger and louder now, came from right behind him. She touched his arm and pointed at the wooden filing cabinet to the right of the far wall. There she was. Ms. Quinn was stuffed between the tall, overloaded bookcase and the heavy oak filing cabinet.

Danny stepped closer. Jade stepped up beside him. Ms. Quinn looked like she was almost standing up. Her legs were bent slightly at the knee and she was uneven because she was missing the shoe on her right foot. Her head sagged onto her chest and her long blonde hair covered her face. Her shoulders were squeezed into the tight space. She wore a blue wool dress and her pale hands hung down in front of her. Her fingernails were painted blood red and she was still wearing the diamond engagement ring that everyone had been talking about for the last two weeks. There was no doubt about it. Ms. Ruby Quinn was dead.

Danny caught his breath. Jade took his hand. They leaned against the bookcase for support. He put his hand on the filing cabinet and leaned closer to the body, trying to discover the cause of death.

Jade jerked his arm. "Danny! Don't mess with a crime scene."

"Oh, right," and he moved away again.

Breathing heavily, they moved together out of Ms. Quinn's office and over to the study carrel on the opposite wall. Danny offered a chair to Jade. He stood.

"Did you call the captain?" Danny asked.

"I tried. He wasn't in yet. I called you because…" she hesitated. "Because they taught us that you're always supposed to call your partner."

Danny nodded. "We still have to call Captain Mitchell. But tell me. Tell me about it." Danny tried to sound like he was used to finding dead bodies on campus every morning.

Jade took a deep breath before she could speak. She started slowly. Then the words came rolling out, fast and smooth. "I found her like this. I had an appointment with her this morning at 7:00. She said she always got here early. I should just come on in. Bring my paper." She hesitated. "So I did." She just then remembered her paper. She stood and started picking up the pages from the floor.

Danny started to pace back and forth. He was a pacer. Pacing helped him think better.

"Was the outer door unlocked? It's supposed to be locked before 8:00."

"It was open. I just walked right in."

"Was her office door open?" he asked.

"Just a little. I knocked and called her name. When nobody answered, I opened the door all the way, And I saw her. You know, like that. Like, dead." She sat down again and put her paper on the study desk.

"Oh, my God, Danny! Who would want to kill Ms. Quinn? Everybody liked her. I thought so anyway. Who would do this? Oh, God, Danny, I'll be a suspect, won't I?" She covered her face with her hands.

Danny put his arm around her and tried to comfort her. "Of course, they'll have to question you, but I'm sure that no one will really suspect you. How could you murder anybody?" He smiled at her.

Jade finally lifted her head. "We have to call Captain Mitchell. He'll make the report to the Ocean View City cops."

"Come on, Jade, this is our first murder case. Let's not screw it up." Danny was getting excited.

"This cannot be our first murder case. Are you forgetting? We're just campus cops, in training. We haven't even graduated from Ocean View College. We haven't even been accepted at the police academy yet. We're not actually cops yet. If we try to get involved here, we're only asking for trouble. For sure."

Danny frowned. He knew she was right. "Yes. I know. We can direct traffic, write tickets and respond to an emergency. That's it. That's all."

Jade stood and touched his cheek. "Danny, maybe they'll ask us to help. I'll call the captain."

She took the cell phone from her pocket and called the campus police chief. She could hear a little yawn as Captain Charlie Mitchell picked up on the second ring.

"Ocean View College. Police Department. Captain Mitchell speaking."

Jade took a deep breath. "This is student officer Jade Lee. Officer Soto and I would like to speak to you." She handed the phone to Danny, but he pointed at her.

"You talk to him. You found her."

She froze again for just a minute, then placed the cell phone to her ear.

"Captain Mitchell, there appears to be a homicide victim on the seventh floor of Peterson Hall. Ms. Quinn. English teacher. Officer Soto and I are at the scene waiting for your instructions."

Jade paused, in control now. "Yes, sir." She turned off the cell phone and turned to Danny. "Charlie is on his way."

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