Excerpt: Three Women Walk Into a Bar, by Linda Sands

Three Women Walk Into A Bar is a hard-boiled detective novel gone contemporary with an Internet slant, featuring a killer who remakes himself after “googling” his own name. It’s a seeking, winding tale of twisted identities–both real and imagined.

Check out an Excerpt:

3 Women Walk Into a Bar

JULIA ANDREWS SAID TO START AT THE VERY BEGINNING, BUT DO YOU?

Chapter 1

The smell that drifted out the propped-open door to Flannigan’s was sweet coppery blood with an undertone of fish and chips.

On the sidewalk, a pigeon pecked at a lipstick-stained cigarette butt. A gust of warm wind ruffled his feathers, sent paper trash skittering into the gutter. He cocked his head as black rubber–soled shoes passed by, pushing a gurney.

At the entrance to the bar, cops milled about in various stages of procrastination. Some were putting off returning to the station out of dread of the paperwork that lay ahead, another thought that although there was no investigation to speak of, he’d rather be standing around an empty bar than go home to a wife who was still pissed about that thing last week. The two rookies leaning against the brick front, drinking coffee and sharing photos on their cell phones, knew there was no hurry. They’d be the last to leave—after the detectives and investigators, after the reporters, the extra cops, the coroner and the guys rolling out the corpses, after the technicians and the photographers. They were the tail end of a grisly parade on this Monday morning.

Inside, a well-dressed detective removed his latex gloves, tucked them into his pocket, and nodded at the crew to indicate they should continue collecting evidence.

It seemed like an open-and-shut case. No sign of struggle, three dead girls shot at close range. The murder weapon, a .45 caliber Glock looking more like plastic kid toy than real, on the floor near the killer. A man who’d taken the easy way out, offing himself with a shot to the head after the murders. The front door was locked from the inside, and a quick glance showed three surveillance cameras that would probably provide the rest of the answers. Murder. Suicide. Open-and-shut. It wasn’t a bad way to start a morning—for the detective, anyway.

A shadow passed over the bodies as a broad-shouldered man in a ball cap stepped through the door. He pointed to the camera hanging from his neck, flashed a lanyard holding credentials to the rookies.

“Hey Sam,” the detective said without turning around. “Took you long enough.”

“I was going to stop for donuts too, but . . . you know,” Sam said, adjusting the flash on the camera.

“Yeah. I know.”

Sam approached the four bodies, careful to stay out of the way of the forensics team. He raised his camera and fired off a burst of flashes, finishing with a chopped-beef looking shot—the close-up of the killer’s face.

“Looks like someone got seriously overserved,” he said, focusing on the three girls. They’d fallen side by side and were still holding hands. If it hadn’t been for the blood or broken glass or splintered wood, they might be sunbathing, napping at the shore, waiting for low tide.

The detective made a grunting sound.

Sam clicked away as happily as if he were the lead photographer at a wedding. “Pretty,” he said.

“What’s that?” the detective asked.

“I said, they’re pretty. All three of them. Unusual, don’t you think?”

Sam stepped back and reviewed the digital pictures on his camera’s screen.

The detective peered over his shoulder. “Yeah, unusual. Like their names.”

“How’s that?”

The detective pointed at the display on the camera. “That one is Roxanne Dupont.”

“Was . . .” Sam said.

“Right. And that one.” the detective said, pointing to the palest girl. “Crescent Moon.”

Sam chuckled then clicked the display again.

The detective leaned in. “The last one is Chamonix Leonard. She tried to cross the Leonard off her driver’s license though. Must have preferred just Chamonix.”

“Like Cher?” Sam said.

“Or Madonna.”

“And the shooter?” Sam asked, tipping his chin to the faceless dead man.

“No ID. I’m betting on the owner, currently MIA. Guy named James John Smith.”

“Is that right?” Sam turned off the camera and tucked it back into his jacket. “I went to school with a J. J. Smith.”

“I think everybody knows a James or John Smith, don’t we?”

“You mean like we all have an Aunt Rose?”

The detective laughed as he walked Sam to the door. He said, “That last photo, of the three of them? You can have it. We’ll need the rest.”

“Just one? That’s all you’re giving me to run?”

“That’s all for now.”

Sam looked over his shoulder into the dim bar. Black body bags were being unfolded. “Reminds me of a joke,” he said. “Three women walk into a bar. A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead . . .”