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October 22, 2021

The Encanto by Arthur Swan ~ an Excerpt



Would a cloud be too much to ask? The afternoon sky had thinned out and surrendered to the relentless sun. Saul parked on Lincoln Boulevard near the mob of looky-loos pressing in around the barricades on the sidewalk. Behind the crime scene was a carwash with faded fin-toppers that might have looked stylish in the sixties.

He left the engine running for the AC. In front of him was a pink van advertising “Topless Maids $99” and then a squad car. Beside it, Hernandez was talking to the uniforms. She was five foot two and lithe. She only saw him as a partner, but Saul was hoping for more. 

He couldn’t bear for her to see him heave his huge belly out. If she would just get in here with him, they could crank up the AC and talk like human beings. Forget all the politics and procedure of the LAPD.
He motioned her towards his car, but she looked away.

He flashed his lights.

Useless signal against the sunlight. He sighed. Grabbed his trench coat from the backseat. Climbed out of the car and put it on. It did little to hide his girth. If anything, the coat made him more conspicuous.
Instantly sweating, he tried to ignore the murmurs from the crowd, the mouths gaping open, all the phones pointing at him as plowed his big belly toward Hernandez. 

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye but continued joking with the uniforms, as if unaware of his approach. Her skin was perfect. She would look twenty-five if not for the clump of gray hair always falling across her forehead.

“What’s the status?” he asked.

“Where you been, Barker?” She trotted out her Chicana accent, pronouncing the P in his last name like a B. She was pissed.

“Traffic’s a bitch,” he said.

She pointed inside his coat. “Is that the evidence you were looking for?”

He glanced down. A dollop of ketchup stained his shirt. He hadn’t noticed it escape his burger. He should have told her he was going to the Castle for lunch. She knew he belonged to the clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, but she had no idea how much he loved going there. The ornate wood and crystal chandeliers. The deliberate lack of windows which made it feel like stepping out of LA and back in time to an alternate world where the air seemed to spark with possibility.

He’d only lied because Hernandez was working through lunch, and what if, like his ex, she hated magic?
He buttoned his coat over the stain. They needed to focus on the case. At least Saul did. Not that Lieutenant Levy had actually told him in so many words, but she’d called Hernandez with the assignment instead of Saul when he was the lead detective, or he was supposed to be. If Levy had demoted him, she should have at least told him, but Saul wasn’t surprised. She was passive-aggressive and still held a grudge against him for the Brown shooting. Although he’d been cleared of wrongdoing, the fallout had stalled her career.

Hernandez led him away from the uniforms to the black-and-white on the curb in front of Checks Cashed. In the backseat, a middle-aged man with a shaved head, stared at the crowd with a sour expression.
Hernandez turned toward Saul and combed back her shock of white. “Look. I don’t care if you take a long lunch, just let me know where you’re at, okay? We’re partners. We’re supposed to trust each other.”
Her eyes caught the sunlight like honey. Saul tried to memorize every detail. He could gaze into them for hours. “I went to the Castle. If you want to come next time—”

“Hollywood is too far for lunch.”

Was she suggesting somewhere else? A real sit-down meal instead of their usual takeout. Or maybe dinner? The Castle would be ideal for dinner.

Before he could ask, she slapped the roof of the squad car. “We’ve got the bastard dead to rights, and get this: he can’t move his legs.”

“He’s a paraplegic?”

“Exactly. His wheelchair’s in the trunk.”

Saul peered through the back window of the car. The man inside had a potbelly. His arms were cuffed behind his back. He looked up at Saul, his face blank and his eyes, shadowed by a massive brow, just dark hollows.

Saul shuddered.

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The Encanto
October 2021; swanfall; 978-0996560535
ebook, print (285 pages); ghost thriller

About The Encanto


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