Truly Dead

By: Anne Frasier


Savannah, Georgia

The construction worker hefted the mallet, the momentum of his swing punching a hole in the wall, sending a shower of debris to the floor. He swung again, harder this time. One firm tug and a large section of drywall fell away. As the chalky dust settled, he peered inside the gap, looking for the copper pipes he’d been hired to remove, along with anything else of value that could be salvaged and sold before the house was torn down.

“Gimme that flashlight,” he said, hand held out to his assistant, face in the dark gap. “Think I see something.”

The flashlight was slapped into his palm, and his fingers closed around it. He flipped the switch and shot the beam inside the wall. It illuminated what appeared to be a grotesque mask until he panned the light down. Gasping, he stumbled backward, tripped over the mallet, and crashed to the floor, crab-crawling away in horror.


Chicago, Illinois

Detectives Elise Sandburg and David Gould stepped out of Chicago’s city hall. As they hit the sidewalk, video cameras and microphones were shoved in their faces. Local and national reporters scrambled for prime positions, hoping to catch a sound bite for the evening news.

A lot had changed in the month since they’d been fired from the Savannah Police Department. After solving a high-profile case involving a Windy City spree killer, they now found themselves in the uncomfortable position of pseudo-celebrity.

David gave the media what they wanted. He always gave them what they wanted. Throughout the murder investigation, he’d been the darling of the press, and they’d described him as witty and charming, playing off Elise’s “straight-man” persona. She thought the straight-man description a little severe, although she was more than okay letting the spotlight fall on someone else for a change. But David’s rabid fans left her concerned for her partner’s safety, while not the least surprised when a pair of red panties hit him in the head during a press conference.

“All in good fun,” he’d said, dangling the lacy underthings from one finger.

Now the case was over, solved, and the reporters were bidding farewell to their media sweethearts. News coverage would move on to someone else, hopefully shifting away from death and murder.

“Can we get a photo of you both in front of city hall?” a reporter asked.

“Maybe holding hands?” someone else suggested.

The press was always trying to figure out their relationship. Were they more than partners? Did they have plans to get married? One reporter even went so far as to ask if they’d ever slept together.

David planted his hands on his knees and bent at the waist, his dark tie dangling. “Jump on my back,” he told Elise.

She stared at him.

“Jump on my back. It’ll be a great shot.”

Maybe it was all those annoying descriptions of her that did it. Serious. Somber. Or maybe it was the euphoria of the moment, of solving the case after the blow of getting fired back home.

Dressed in her typical and somber black slacks and white top, Elise jumped on David’s back, arms locked around his chest as he supported her legs. Cameras clicked.

Moments later, feet on the ground, she smoothed her shoulder-length hair and adjusted her top. She was pretty sure she’d regret the pose tomorrow. At least they worked for themselves now. They wouldn’t be called down the hall for a reprimand, and the mayor of Savannah wouldn’t chew them out from the other side of his desk.

“Feels good, right?” David asked from behind the wheel of the rental car as they headed for the hotel to pack and finally take the vacation they’d put on hold for the Chicago job.

Even though her excuse of being Savannah PD partners was no longer valid, she and David hadn’t had sex. The idea of being so intimate with someone still made her uneasy, and she kept imagining herself freaking out on him. Losing it. She kept thinking she should do a test run on some random guy just to see if she could tolerate sex after what Tremain had done to her. But sex with a stranger was stupid. She knew that.

Her phone buzzed. Relieved by the interruption, she pulled it free of her pocket and checked the screen. The call was from Savannah medical examiner John Casper.

“Got something going on down here you might find interesting,” he said. “A body has been found in a house scheduled for demolition.”


“I wish, but no.” His voice dropped. “I didn’t think about that being the first conclusion you’d draw. Sorry. No, the body was identified as Zane Novak.”

She hit “Speaker” to include David in the conversation. “The boy who disappeared a few months ago?”

“Yep. And this isn’t for public consumption, but the MO matches those child killings in Florida you’ve probably heard about.”

“Asphyxiation as well as the method of disposal?” Elise asked.


“Possibly a copycat?” David asked, thinking aloud.

Or worse. “Maybe the Florida killer has moved to Savannah,” Elise suggested.

“I had both thoughts,” John told them. “Another thing that’s probably just a weird coincidence—the house where the body was found used to belong to Frank J. Remy. Know who I’m talking about?”

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