Dissecting Meredith - Freya Barker


As always there are a great many more people who contribute to each of my books behind the scenes than are visible that I need to thank.

Susan Stoker, thank you for inviting me to use characters from the incredible world you created, for introducing your readers to my work, and for your ongoing support

Amy Hrutkay, Aces Press, thank you for your endless patience and ready answers when I’m looking for help.

Karen Hrdlicka & Joanne Thompson, my editor and alpha/proofreader, two women who have become so imperative to the books I produce, I’d be a mess without them.

Stephanie Phillips, SBR Media, my agent and friend who never tires of peddling me to publishers of all kinds, encourages me to expand my horizons, and firmly keeps me on task.

Debra Presley & Drue Hoffman of Buoni Amici Press, my publicists, who do everything I lack the skills for, advertising, promoting, scheduling, marketing, web management and overall handholding.

Krystal Weiss, my assistant, who aids in a lot of the above, but also makes sure my social media followers are engaged, my books are talked about, and provides constant support.

Pam Buchanan, Deb Blake & Petra Gleason, my beta readers for Dissecting Meredith, and very dear friends who have been the first to read my books for years. They provide critique, pick out mistakes, and ensure that the story you get is as good as it can be.

I’m always grateful for every blogger reading, reviewing, and/or sharing my books into the world. They are a driving force in this industry.

And most of all I’m so thankful for you, my readers, whether loyal or new. Thank you for taking a chance on the stories I create, and for the support you give me. You are my motivation.

Love you all.

Chapter 1


The smell is overwhelming.

Jesus, ten thirty in the morning and I’m breathing in death fumes.

I ignore everything around me and focus on the life lost too young. My guess is twenty-five at most. Fire and Rescue was able to pry what is left of his vehicle back so I could have a closer look. White powder residue is visible around his right nostril which I suspect will turn out to be some kind of drug. Maybe cocaine, heroin, or some crushed-up amphetamines. Some people will put anything that’ll give them a quick high up their nose or in their veins.

I’ll be able to find out more during the postmortem, but if I’d hazard a guess, I’d say he was under the influence of what I’ve seen too often is a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol when he careened his car off the cliff.

I’d barely sat down at my desk when the call came in about a single vehicle accident. The man had already been deceased when first responders arrived on scene, which is why they called me. In fact, I’m thinking he may have been there since last night. His jaw is still tight and I’m unable to move the one hand he kept clenched around the steering wheel. Rigor mortis generally sets between two and six hours after death and starts with the jaw and neck muscles tightening. From there it moves down the body and to the extremities. It reaches its peak at around twelve hours before the body loosens up again. The whole process can take up to forty-eight hours. From my observations so far, I’m guessing he’s been dead since at least around ten or so last night, possibly longer.

“Got anything for me?”

I glance over my shoulder to see Detective Keith Blackfoot trying to keep his balance as he climbs down toward me.

“Surprisingly little blood, given the condition of the body.” It was the first thing I noticed when I peeked in the car. “I’m estimating he’s been dead between twelve and sixteen hours, but I’ll know more when I get him to the morgue.”

Blackfoot looks over my shoulder into the mangled vehicle and grunts when the smell hits his nostrils.


Clearly he recognizes the sickly sweet odor often associated with ingesting large amounts of alcohol before death.

“Likely. And check this out.” I point at the traces of white substance on the victim’s nose. “Also check his hand still on the wheel.”

I move out of the way so he can see.

“That’s weird. You’d have expected him to cover his face going over the side.”

Exactly my thought, which is why I want to have a closer look at the body sooner rather than later.

“I know, and there isn’t anywhere near as much blood as I would’ve expected.”