See Chapter One for disclaimers.Website: www.KatLynFic.com
Loraine Osborne sat and stared at the drab gray walls of her office. The phone call from Herbert Whittaker had taken her by surprise. She admired the courage it took for the Mayor to admit his long-standing association with C.W. Langston, yet it also angered her that the only reason he had done so was the threat of his unblemished political career being marred with allegations. He displayed no remorse, only fear at being caught up in the middle of a murder investigation. She could only hope that the man possessed a vast reserve of that courage, because she knew from experience C.W. Langston did not give up without a fight, and although she was the exception to the rule, more often than not, he won.
The Commander knew all too well, how determined Langston could be when he set his mind to something. She would most likely be the Assistant Chief of Investigations today instead of Charles Thornton had she not had the backbone to deny the CEO his demands. She pushed away from her desk and slipped on her jacket before locking the filing cabinet and walking quietly from her office.
Riding down in the elevator to the garage level, she relived the tension-filled days leading up to her face-off with Langston. Until that time, she wasn't even aware he knew who she was, but then as a smirk crossed her face as she acknowledged that a man as powerful as C.W. Langston didn't get where he was today without knowing everything that could affect his business and long-term plans.
She and Richard Henderson, an old friend, had been dining at Primanti Brothers, celebrating his 40th birthday when C.W. Langston and his entourage of cronies entered the deli. Even in 1993, before his illustrious career made national headlines C.W. Langston's presence drew everyone's attention around the streets of Pittsburgh. The manager had scampered across the room to attend to the well-known executive's needs but was brushed off as Langston's attention focused on her.
She remembered the nervous glance received from Richard as Langston moved towards their table and the even more surprised look when the well-known executive spoke her name, requesting a moment of her time, in private. Thinking back on that night, remembering herself as a cocky, homicide detective, she had calmly looked at the man towering above her and denied his request. Sorry Mr. Langston, but I'm off duty, celebrating my friend's birthday. Since I don't know you personally, I can only assume you are here in an official capacity, so if you would like to discuss anything with me, please contact me on Tuesday, I'll be on duty...then we can chat. With that said, she had turned back to Richard, sitting across from her, a horrified look on his face, and leaving C. W. Langston, shocked and speechless.
After a few uncomfortable moments, Langston had abruptly waved his hand at the men accompanying him and stormed out of the restaurant. Richard had watched the men exit with astonishment as he frantically spoke to his friend. His questions had come in a frenzied rush. Do you know who that was? Do you have any idea who you have just pissed off? What-the-hell were you thinking? Good God woman, go after him.
She had allowed Richard to vent and calmly answered his questions. Yes, I know who the man is...Yes, I know I pissed him off, but do you think I did a good enough job? Moreover, NO, I'm not going after that man, he's an asshole, and besides we're celebrating your birthday for heaven's sake...eat...your roast beef sandwich it's getting cold.
She had often wondered if she would still have the guts to stand up to Langston today, given what she knew of his reputation as a career killer of anyone who didn't play by his rules. He had tried to sideline her career after their encounter at Primanti Brothers, but she had stood strong and held her ground against the man. Ten years had passed since Malcolm Cavanaugh had died in her bed. Her life had changed in numerous ways, earning the gold shield that indicated her promotion to Detective had been an accomplishment she alone had brought about, without any assistance from anyone.
C.W. Langston had threatened to take all of that away in a flash if she didn't cooperate and conveniently lose some vital evidence in a case involving his son, Chris. Out of fear, she had gone along with his threats up until the day before the trial when she allowed it to suddenly reappear among the back shelves in the evidence room. Langston had been livid and met her unspoken challenge with a vengeful assault on her reputation and her affair with the late District Attorney.
What Langston didn't count on was the loyalty and resources of her fellow officers. Many times over the years individuals had requested and been privileged to have small legal matters disappear due to lack of paperwork or some other inconsistency within the vast and overworked legal system, very similar to what Langston had demanded, minus the threats. Although some would consider the favors highly unethical, they happened all the time within police departments across the country. Those favors were tallied and filed away by her comrades for future reference when they or someone they respected needed a small favor in return.
Loraine had been overwhelmed by the response of her fellow officers as they began calling in their marks, and she watched with amusement as Langston was hit with code infractions on his new buildings, lost applications for zone changes, delays in construction permits and numerous other inconvenient technicalities.
After a week, Langston had called off his bulldogs and called a truce, but she had always feared that he would one day return and bring more havoc into her life. Thinking back on the first weeks after Malcolm's death, she remembered the courage and strength she had presented to her superiors, the same courage, and strength she would need to get through the rest of this never-ending day. As the elevator stopped at the garage level, she stepped out into the cold biting air that seemed to forever permeate the concrete structure. Making her way to the car, she ignored the people passing her by as she remembered the first few weeks after Malcolm's death.
The department had spent a few harrowing days trying to keep her identity quiet. Several high up officials had wanted to dismiss her, but she had threatened the department and the city with a public lawsuit and even more unpleasant press coverage if they chose to pursue the issue. In the end, she had remained on the force and a few weeks later, and after the gossip died down, she had been promoted to Sergeant in return for her loyalty and silence in the case.
She knew somewhere in the mix Marissa Cavanaugh played a role in her promotion. The woman, known for her lavish lifestyle and the elite associations that came from being married to one of Pittsburgh's finest and most popular servants was common knowledge to many. Everyone knew if Malcolm had lost the re-election...been demoted to a mere has-been, Marissa would have bolted and taken everything with her, including their daughter. The only love the woman possessed was for the position in the Pittsburgh society that his office guaranteed, not for the man...or the young child she used as a threat against him.
Malcolm had shared with her the numerous times Marissa's threats to take Madison and leave and she knew that as long as the possibility of losing his daughter remained, he would never leave his wife to be with her. It was a constant reminder in those days, of what Marissa Cavanaugh was capable of doing to her husband and they had both taken great care in keeping their relationship secret, meeting in nearby townships, and sadly impersonal hotel rooms. The inconvenience had been a small price to pay to be with the man she loved, and the day he died had been the first time they had shared in her home. That one fateful afternoon, she mused, had changed her life forever.
After having been publicly humiliated by her husband's sudden death, Mrs. Cavanaugh was determined to leave that dark part of her life behind and start anew. A very large donation had been made to the Police Benevolent Fund and a few days later, her captain had presented the promotion, along with the attached condition of eternal silence.
She had taken the promotion with a promise to Malcolm's memory never to forget what they had shared together. She had genuinely loved the man, caring nothing for his position, or his money. Her only regret was the resultant publicity and the embarrassment the young Madison Cavanaugh had been forced to endure. Marissa had gotten what she wanted, a mansion, money, and the sympathy of all the young available bachelors in the city.
Having kept up with the widow over the years, she knew the woman was now living somewhere in Europe with a thirty something year old artist and often wondered if the woman ever gave a second thought to either her late husband or successful daughter.
Slipping into the nondescript sedan, Loraine took a deep breath, before starting the engine. What she was about to do could alter the course of her career for a second time, but once again, she wasn't going to allow C.W. Langston to get away with his devious and intimidating methods. Merging with the traffic on Grant Street, she guided the government issued vehicle through the late afternoon traffic towards Penn Circle and the Investigative Headquarters, Logan McGregor called home.
Charles Thornton, Assistant Chief of Investigations, slid from behind the wheel of his car. The investigation into the Strip District murder's had all but come to a stand still with Logan's accident. Although she and the task force had kept detailed records of the interviews and investigative information thus far, he knew the integrity of the case was threatened by her absence.
No matter how well prepared the Task Force; he knew the primary investigator on any case had a better advantage in solving the case. Now with Logan out of the picture, at least for the time being, Thornton had decided to take a more active roll in the continuing case.
Walking towards the uniformed officers hovering about the blue Porsche, he looked around the parking garage, noticing the many shadowed nooks and crannies in which the killer could have been hiding in wait for Phillip Crafton. Noticing his arrival, the group of officers dispersed and went back to the meticulous task of gathering evidence. Stopping beside the car, Thornton's stomach lurched at the sight of the eviscerated Human Resources Director.
With each murder, the killer was getting bolder and more violent with his strikes. In less than twenty-four hours, the primary investigators residence had been destroyed by fire and the eighth murder had been committed. Even though the theory hadn't yet been proven, the Assistant Chief had a feeling that the fire at Logan's house had been started to serve two purposes, to get rid of the primary investigator, and to act as a diversion for the murder of Phillip Crafton. Thornton made a mental note to speak with the PPD's psychologist and get her input on the recent events.
Several years had passed since actively investigating a case, and even today, he didn't harbor any egotistical ideas that his input would sway the investigation. The Task Force was comprised of the best investigators the PPD had to offer. His role was merely for appearance sake, to make sure the department, the public, and most importantly the murderer, knew the investigation was in full swing.
Harold Simmons strolled over nonchalantly from his position near the Porsche and stood beside Thornton as his assistants removed and bagged the body. The preliminary, on-scene finding didn't tell him much. The Langston Vice President had essentially been gutted. "You know Thornton, I'm not one of your high class investigators, but in my opinion, for a murder like this to occur, the victim had to know the killer."
Nodding, Thornton concurred. Although it was a small bit of information, it could prove to be one of the most important elements yet. Up until now, the murders were committed in the shadowed alleyways within The Strip. Of course, Thomas Peters' murder had occurred inside his own home, but that, in and of itself, hadn't given them a solid clue. However, with Crafton's murder, the passenger door had been standing open when the first officers arrived indicating the murderer could have possibly been sitting inside the car with Crafton. With the sequence of murders being predictable and knowing he was logically the next victim, Crafton would have been especially wary of anyone he didn't know and trust.
Turning slowly, Thornton glanced at the crowd assembled beyond the yellow crime scene tape. Looking around, he didn't see the department's photographer on the scene and cursed under his breath, until he spotted the spunky form of The Pittsburgh Post/Gazette's crime reporter among the throng of newspaper and television personnel. Walking quickly towards the crowd, he called out. "Ms. Phillips, can I see you for a moment?"
Ducking under the thin barrier of tape, Jen hurriedly walked towards the Assistant Chief, silently smiling at the complaint and insults thrown her way by the remaining reporters. "Hello, Chief Thornton."
Turning away from the reporters, Thornton led Jennifer far enough away from the crowd so that they could not be overheard. "You're a good friend of Log...I mean, Detective McGregor's, am I right?"
"Yes sir I am." Jen wasn't sure what the Assistant Chief wanted so she chose her words carefully.
"Well, I was wondering if you could do me a small favor?" He waited but only received and expectant look. Releasing a haggard sigh, he growled at the young reporter. "You do want the man responsible for putting your friend in the hospital to pay don't you?
Standing to her full five foot four inch height, Jennifer looked up into the glaring eyes of Logan's superior. "Yes, I certainly do, Assistant Chief Thornton. However, one issue Logan and I never, and I mean never breach is our professional ethics. I won't do it for her and I certainly won't do it for you." Returning his icy stare, she continued. "Now, if you care to explain exactly what it is you need, then, and only then will I tell you if I'm interested."
Thornton chewed on his lip, quietly admiring the woman's spunk. "Okay Ms. Phillips, I'll offer you a deal instead. I know you have been present at all the murder scenes and I also know you have had that camera with you." Glancing down, he smiled as the woman's hand protectively covered her Nikon. "Here's my deal. I'm asking you to take as many photos as you can of that crowd over there, then go back to your office and round up any other photos you have of the other scenes and bring them to me later this afternoon." Holding up his hand to delay her protests, he continued. "In return, I promise that you will have the exclusive when this thing breaks."
Jennifer held Thornton's eyes as she weighed his offer. Logan would do this...she would make a deal, something ethical yet productive for both of us. "Okay, you've got a deal. However, I warn you, if you cross me on this, I'll personally see to it that the only press coverage you ever get from me is bad. Got it?"
"I've got it." He handed Jen his card and turned to walk away then stopped and called out to her once again. "Ms. Phillips, I have Logan under 24 hour guard, no visitors, but I'll leave your name with the officer on duty in case you have some time and want to go by and see her."
Jen watched as the Assistant Chief folded his long body into the car and drove away, then turned and started clicking away at the crowd.
Dove returned to Susan's room and found her asleep. He quietly sat in the chair adjacent to her bed taking in the smooth curves of her face. A strand of long blonde hair had fallen across her forehead and he had to restrain himself from reaching out and tucking it behind his ear. How could anyone hurt someone as beautiful as you?
He felt his anger rise as he thought back on the senseless killings he had witnessed over the years as a cop. Domestics were the worst, with one or both of the participants bringing about most of the arguments through bouts of jealousy or insecurity. When the arguments became violent, they often became deadly games of russian roulette, the participants never knowing with each savage hit if the next one would be the blow that ended the game.
His thoughts moved back to the recent events and The Strip District killer. What was it that made him select those women? What event or non-event set him off? Why target Langston Development? Why were only the high-ranking executive's targeted? Dove was startled when a soft voice shattered his musings.
"Hey there. Have you been here long?" Susan watched as the detective gathered his composure, thinking how cute the slight blush looked on his face.
Clearing his throat, Dove hesitantly smiled at the blonde woman. "No, I haven't. I, ahh...didn't want to disturb you, so I just decided to sit down." For the first time in many years, Dove couldn't figure out where to put his hands. One minute they were on his knees, the next crossed in front of his chest, then in the next on the arm rests in the ready position so he could quickly push himself out of the chair and bolt from the room.
Susan watched his nervous mannerisms all the while trying to bite back the playful smile threatening to break across her face. She couldn't believe she was sitting in a hospital room with a broken arm, fractured scull, and a seven-inch incision across her stomach, flirting with a man she had just met two hours earlier. For god's sake, he's probably married with two kids and a dog at home. Dammit, why are all the good-looking ones taken?
Regaining some semblance of her composure, she tried to sit straighter in the bed, but cried out from the searing pain. Almost at once, she felt a strong arm around her shoulder as Dove leaned over her. As their eyes met, Susan inhaled the spicy scent of his cologne and felt light-headed by his nearness. Unable to find her voice, she allowed him to help her sit up in the bed.
Backing away nervously, Dove shoved his hands into the pockets of his chinos as his eyes darted first to the woman before him, then to the window and back again. Nervously scratching his chin, the detective was suddenly without words. Geez, Logan would bust a rib laughing if she could see me now. He suddenly realized Susan had asked him a question. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I asked if your wife knew that babysitting women in the hospital was in your job description." Cutting a quick glance his way, she waited for his reply.
"Well I don't think so, but come to think of it I'm really not sure. See there hasn't been a wife for the last two years, so I'm not sure how current she is on my job description."
One eyebrow rose skyward as she shot a smile and an amused look towards the detective. "Oh...well, ummm, I just assumed that..."
Dropping into the chair, Dove returned her smile. "Well, it appears that while I was out saving the world from crime and corruption, Libby, my ex-wife, was playing doctor with one of the residents here.
"Oh, damn, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up painful memories." Susan chastised herself, suddenly self-conscious and regretting her question.
"No problem. Peter is a great person and he's a good stepfather to my daughter. He, Libby and Rachel now live in Philly."
Hmmm, no ex-wife nearby, a kid, but that's okay. "Well, I'm glad it turned out okay for you then." Suddenly needing to get back to safer ground, the medical assistant changed course. "So, you said earlier that you needed to ask me some more questions."
Taking the cue, Dove nodded and extracted the small flip pad from the back pocket of his chinos. "Well yes, but if you're too tired?"
Susan weighed her options, but decided to get the questioning out of the way. I can always call him back if I remember something else, right?
Continue to Chapter Twenty-Two of Code Blue
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