Bobby’s Gym was a living, breathing time machine that had decades earlier burrowed into a dingy side street in downtown Indianapolis like a hungry wood tick. In a world of fancy workout clubs, complete with juice bars and power yoga classes in mirror-walled studios, Bobby’s was the squat, ugly cousin with buck teeth and stained knees. The scent ambiance at Bobby’s consisted of a potent mix of old urine, mold, and dirty armpit sweat. The visual atmosphere was Rocky-esque, complete with the saggy, beat-up old boxing stage and stained and cracked concrete flooring that carried enough old sweat and blood in its pores to keep a crime scene unit busy for the better part of a year.
Unfortunately, there would be no problem identifying the donor of the recently added puddle of blood beneath the brand new lat machine. The bright red substance was still dripping from two tidy holes in the dead guy’s forehead. The victim hung from the pull bar, his knees resting on the hold-down pads and his head drooping toward his chest.
“Double tapped.” The tall, good-looking cop informed the group standing several feet away from the ghoulishly decorated machine. “Textbook shots.”
“So you’re saying it’s a professional job, CC?” Adam asked hopefully.
Bobby glanced over and gave him a tight smile, obviously understanding why Adam had asked.
“It appears that way. But anybody who knows how to shoot could have made it look like a mob hit.” The careful way CC avoided looking at Bobby spoke volumes. Bobby was in a precarious place, and CC was trying really hard not to let their friendship interfere with him doing his job.
Sirens sounded outside the building and Maddy hurried toward the door. “I’ll let them in.”
Adam thought she was a little too enthusiastic about playing doorman for the crime scene unit and CC’s backup. Her ashen complexion was probably a good hint as to why. Maddy was too proud to hork up her breakfast in front of everybody. She’d probably walk into the alley to take care of business.
A moment later, two technicians dressed in khaki slacks and black polo shirts with a Crime Scene Investigations patch on the pocket came through the door and greeted CC. The taller of the two men frowned at the assembled group. “Please tell me you haven’t tromped all over our crime scene?”
CC lifted a light brown eyebrow. “The body was discovered by the owner. He called me immediately and I examined the scene and pronounced the victim deceased. Nobody else has been within twenty feet of the body.”
The tech nodded and they headed across the gym, CC leading the way.
Adam glanced over at Mink, who’d been uncharacteristically quiet since they’d walked into the gym an hour previous and found the body, with Bobby standing over it. The diminutive Realtor stood a few feet away, chewing his fingernails as he kept his gaze averted from Bobby. Adam took Mink’s arm and walked him away, toward the door. “Are you all right, buddy?”
Mink’s pretty gray-blue eyes widened theatrically. “You mean ‘cause I may have just gone into partnership with a murderer and I have about twenty thousand of my retirement money tied up in a venture that’s just been ripped off the tracks by the arrival of a copiously bleeding corpse?”
Adam grimaced. “Yeah. All that. But you know Bobby didn’t kill this guy right?”
Mink sighed, throwing the aforementioned possible murderer a quick look. “My heart knows it. My head isn’t so sure. And my bowels are pretty sure the world is upending and I don’t have an “oh shit” bag to hold me over until it rights itself again.”
As Mink’s eyes grew suspiciously bright with unshed tears, Adam took pity on him, pulling him into a hug. “Come on, now. You’re gonna be fine. CC’s going to get to the bottom of this. There’s no way Bobby had anything to do with it.”
Mink nodded, sniffling, and pulled away. “I’m gonna go see how Mads is doing. She’s had enough time to cough up her kidneys by now.”
Adam watched his friend shuffle despondently out the door. He wasn’t fooled for a minute, Mink wasn’t worried about Maddy. She was made of sterner stuff than all of them put together, he just needed to go someplace and lick his wounds in private.
Adam rejoined Bobby in distant vigil as the CSU guys zipped the corpse up into a big, black bag. “This really sucks, huh?”
Bobby turned a haunted gaze his way. “Mink left?”
“Yeah, he’s checking on Maddy.”
Bobby’s laugh sounded bitter. “I wouldn’t blame him if he made a run for it. This is certainly no way for us to start a venture together.”
Adam just nodded, unable to think of anything to say that wouldn’t smack of false comfort. “So, who was that guy, Bobby?”
Bobby opened his mouth to respond and then slammed it shut, stiffening. CC was coming back their way. And he didn’t look happy. He stopped in front of Bobby. “You have a gun on the premises?”
Bobby frowned. “I have a permit, CC.”
“I’m not questioning your right to have a gun, Bobby. In this part of the city you need protection. But I need to see it. It could be evidence.”
Adam frowned. “CC, you don’t really think…?”
“Stay out of this, Adam.”
Bobby’s gaze slid to the gurney with the black-clad corpse. “It’s in my office. I’ll go get it.” CC grabbed him as he started past. “I’ll need to see your hands too.”
Bobby’s eyes widened but he slowly pulled them out of his pockets. Both sets of knuckles were bruised. A couple of them were scuffed.
“Looks like you’ve been in a fight recently.” CC’s expression was sad.
Adam felt his heart twisting as Bobby seemed to droop before the cop’s unspoken accusation.
“I didn’t kill him, CC.”
Detective Craig Clandestine expelled a soft breath, inclining his head. “We’ll need to make sure we prove that, Bobby.”
The other man nodded and started toward his office. CC turned to a uniform standing just inside the door, jerking his head. The uniformed cop started after Bobby.
“Oh shit, CC. You think Bobby’s gonna make a run for it?” CC turned a tortured gaze on Adam and he felt immediately sorry for the words. CC had known Bobby almost as long as Adam himself had, and it couldn’t be easy on him to have to treat their friend like a suspect.
“You listen to me, Hoale. The only chance Bobby has is if I perform a textbook investigation. If the chief so much as gets a whiff that Bobby and I are friends I’ll be off the case and I’ll have no control over the way this plays out. And believe me, the guy who would replace me won’t give a rat’s dick if Bobby is guilty. He’s looking to score points with the chief and closing this case would be a great way to do it.”
Adam swore softly. “You’re right. This just sucks. Do you know who the victim was?”
CC’s gaze slid across the gym, to Bobby’s office. “Unfortunately I think I do. And if I’m right I’m afraid Bobby has more to worry about than my investigation. A lot more.”
He started walking toward the office and Adam followed, grabbing his arm to stop him. “Wait, CC. You need to tell me what’s going on. Is Bobby in danger?”
The cop shook off his hand. “I can’t share details of the investigation with you, Hoale. You know that.”
Adam watched CC stroll across the space, his heart heavy. He would have to get Bobby alone and make him explain who the dead guy was. If Bobby was in some kind of trouble he might be dragging Mink down with him. That just wasn’t acceptable.
And Adam was going to do something about it if he could.