Part Two of the Mysteries of Maya saga.
“Stay calm. We’ll be there in a few,” my dad said over the phone. “And don’t touch anything.”
Unmoving, dead eyes met mine as I studied the body of Dr. Beckstead. In his temple, a bloodied tunnel furrowed itself deep into his head, most likely from a bullet. Three syringes, garbage bags, and broken pieces of glass encircled the corpse. Slowly, I slid the dumpster lid down. As I did so, my phone slipped from my hand, disappearing in the clutter. Holding back a scream, I flinched away from the dumpster, the lid thudding on the stiff and motionless hand.
Flashing siren lights rounded the corner, screeching to a halt behind me. The policemen surrounded the area with caution tape, and one officer gently guided me away from the revolting scene.
“Name,” Chief Black said, taking my statement.
“Maya, why did I find you standing over a dead body?”
“Miss Osborne gave me his day planner. This address was scribbled in there, so I came here.”
“She gave you his planner?”
“Do you know that I could charge you for obstruction of justice for not turning that in to the police?”
“Did you see anyone else here?”
I shook my head.
“Okay, Maya. Go home, get some rest. Your father is worried sick about you.”
At home, I turned the shower on hot, hoping it would burn out the memory of the corpse. But when I closed my eyes, those blank eyes stared back.
“Maya, I’d like to chat with you when you’re done,” my father called.
Dried and fully dressed, I trudged down the stairs. “Yes?”
“You told me you were going back to work.” He folded his arms across his barrel chest.
“Well, I did, kind of. I went to work on a story.”
“You lied to me.”
“Not completely,” I hedged. “I thought I could help the investigation and get a good story in!”
“And did you?”
“Help? Well, I did find the missing doctor. Get a good story? Most definitely!”
“Butting in on police investigations is dangerous! What if someone had seen you? What if you’d been the victim, and not the doctor?”
My mom walked into the room, her long, silky black hair swaying down her back. “Listen to your Papi, Mija,” she said, using my nickname. My mother moved from Guatemala when she was in college. I’d inherited her dark eyes and black hair, but not her gentleness.
“I’m not like you, Mama. I’m just not!” Tears threatening, I ran up the stairs and locked the bedroom door behind me.
The next morning, my alarm sounded at seven. I rolled my eyes at the idea of going to Chronicle Circle. My day got even worse when Gwen Panthers, my boss, called me back to her office.
“Maya, you left early yesterday.”
She waited, expectantly.
“I was chasing a story,” I explained.
“And did you find one?”
“Yes, ma’am. I found a dead body.”
“Where is it?”
“In an alleyway, on the outskirts of town.”
“Not the body. Where’s the story?”
“Oh.” I chewed my lip nervously. “I haven’t written it yet.”
She slapped another newspaper down on her desk. “Was it this body?”
Dr. Beckstead’s decomposing face covered the front page. “Yes,” I answered.
“So you chased a story, found a story, but then didn’t write it?” She waited for me to respond. I didn’t. “Maya, let me get one thing straight with you. I didn’t hire you. Mark did. He seemed to think you have talent. But from what I’ve seen so far,” she gestured to me, “I’ve seen nothing but waste.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but was cut off.
“Mark! Get in here.” Mark, the secretary, seated just outside the door, scrambled to his feet and entered the office.
“Write me a story about the dead body found downtown. It’ll be old news, but give me more details than what they have here.”
“I can write it!” I objected.
“No,” her eyes flashed, “you can’t. Your story could have been front page news, but you decided not to write it. If you’re going to pass up on opportunities, then you have no business being a journalist.”
She flicked her hand towards the door, dismissing me. Exasperated, I plopped onto my chair, then turned to Liz.
“I found a dead body, and the only thing I can do right is get yelled at.”
“You found a dead body and didn’t call me? Maya! Tell me what happened!” She shook my arm excitedly.
“I dropped it my phone. It’s next to the dead body. Can I borrow your phone?” I asked suddenly.
Liz handed me her phone, and I dialed up my dad’s number.
“Dad, it’s me. I dropped my phone in the dumpster. I was using it as a flashlight, and I dropped.”
“I haven’t seen it in evidence, but I’ll have Landon drive you down there so you can search for it.”
Although I didn’t care for Landon, I agreed. If I didn’t know better, I’d say my dad is trying to set me up with his partner. Within a few minutes, Landon’s unmarked police car pulled up, and I told Mark I needed to take a personal day to deal with trauma. He seemed to understand.
The foreboding feeling in the alley had completely dissipated, the bright summer sun chasing away the shadows in the corners though caution tape still surrounded the crime scene. Wearing gloves, I slowly opened the dumpster, examining the contents for my phone.
A shuffling noise came from behind the dumpster. Trying to jump out of the way, I planted myself right into the intruder’s path. “Move!” He yelled roughly, shoving me out of the way. Gravel embedded itself in my knees and palms as I collided onto the ground.
The sound of his voice sounded familiar as I watched Landon chased the intruder down the street. Instantly, I knew why. He was C1, from the bank robbery.