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Family Values -- Part 3
Copyright: Although the main characters in the following do bear a strong resemblance to a cute couple with whom we are all familiar, all the characters in this work of fiction are the product of my own imagination and are therefore copyright to me. For the rest of the disclaimers, please see the first part.
Quinn settled back into the taxi seat and hit speed dial. The weather might have turned cooler, but that hadnt affected her mood. So far the day was going ok. Ariel had been surprisingly upbeat about being guarded 24/7 again. That could change, Quinn admitted, if the situation dragged on, but for the moment she was doing ok.
Quinn checked her watch as she listened to the phone ring at the other end. She had originally expected to be at the office by now, but an old client had begged her to drop by so she decided to shoehorn in a visit with him before proceeding to her meeting with Kris.
California Girl, California Girl
The security consultant stared at the phone, then put it to her ear again. "Kris?"
"Yo, fearless leader."
"What gives with the music?"
"Getting into the mood for the movie star tomorrow."
"Ah. What if it had been someone other than me on the phone?"
"Mute button. Besides, I checked call display before I picked it up."
"Glad to see youve got things covered."
"Always. And speaking of covered, Vanessa filled me in. Ive got a schedule worked out, and a few other things for your attention if youre coming this way any time soon."
"Ill be there around 1:00 oclock, or so."
"Alright. We ought to be done watching Charlies Angels by then."
"Original episode or one of the movies?"
"Original. Take no substitutes thats me."
"Uh huh. I thought youd be more into VIP," said Quinn, enjoying the banter as she watched the landscape fly by the car window.
"Thats for after youve gone and you think were actually back to work. I thought I might throw in a few episodes of She Spies as well, and maybe John Carpenters Ghosts of Mars to top it off. Cant get too much of that Natasha Henstridge! Woo hoo!"
"Mmm. I just might stay around for that."
"And spoil our fun?"
"Hmm. Ok, point taken. Oh, looks like Im at my next stop. See ya later."
"Ok, Boss Lady. Later."
Quinn disconnected, punched in her code to pay the tab and exited the taxi. Just as she turned toward the buildings entrance, the phone on her right hip vibrated. "Quinn Thanatos."
"Hey Boss. Kris tells me youre just going into another meeting, but do you have a minute?"
"Hi Joe. I do, but Im running late so its only until I reach the sixth floor."
"Ok. Well, I got something on Katie Johnson. Or at least I think its about her."
"Yeah?" said Quinn, as she punched the elevator up button.
"I checked all the hospitals and clinics like you asked. A clinic out on Salewski Blvd has a record of a Kathryn Johnson being prescribed both the morning after pill and birth control pills. The description fits her."
"When was this?" said Quinn as she stepped through the sliding door and pushed the button for the 6th floor."
"September 20 of 48."
Quinn grunted. "Almost two years ago."
"Yeah, but the birth control prescription was renewed. Plus, I have another entry for her on December 16, same year. This time for contusions and a possible fractured arm. The fracture was negative."
Quinn stood still, hand on the door of the office where her next appointment was scheduled. "Anything else in the doctors notes?" she asked quietly.
"The doc noted she was there with her boyfriend. Or someone she thought was her boyfriend. It looked like domestic violence to her but she couldnt get the kid to tell her anything."
"Ok." Quinn fell silent. "Ok," she said again. "Send me what youve got. Ill get it after my meeting."
"Will do, Boss. And Ill keep looking."
"Yeah," mumbled Quinn abstractedly as she disconnected. "Thanks, Joe." Standing in the silent hall, the security consultant was unaware of tapping the top of her phone against her lips, as she thought about what shed just learned. Katie, what have you got yourself into?
"signed the death warrant for Karl Rohl today. Barring appeals, Rohl will die for the rape and murder of ten women on Wednesday. Rohl has expressed no remorse, telling authorities that he wished he could do it all over again. After this news update well talk with a specialist keeping track of serial murderers. What he has to say you wont believe! But before we get to that, police are warning that the anti-techno group, On Foot, has struck again. At least ten taxis were vandalized overnight and calls are still coming in. The group, which is opposed to self-drive cars, has wrecked the control mechanisms on dozens of taxis and several private vehicles over the past six months. Police Chief Be" Quinn grunted and switched off the info feed, punched in her code to pay the taxi, and got out. Four long strides brought her to the door of Thanatos Security, where she quickly keyed in her lock code. As she stepped in, she could hear Dream a Little Dream playing quietly.
"Cass Elliott. Nice choice."
"Glad you approve. Heres the info from Joe on the clinic visit," Kris said, holding a printout in the air for Quinn to retrieve, without lifting her eyes from her monitor.
The security consultant tossed her jacket on the meeting table and walked over to take the papers. "Thanks" she said abstractly, and leaned against the table to review the material. Everything Joe had told her was there. "Did you read this?" she asked Kris, who was focused on her monitor.
"Huh? Oh yeah. I guess the morning after pill worked," responded the brown haired woman as she consulted a scribbled note.
"Presumably, since theres no mention of pregnancy at the second visit." Quinn paced slowly around the table, re-reading the report. "We still have about an 18-month gap, from then to the present." Throwing the papers down in disgust, she strode to the window and stood looking out.
Kris looked up, but said nothing, as she watched Quinn. The dark haired woman put her hands on her hips and starred out, not seeing. Where was Katie? she asked herself. Why did the trail go cold? Was she dead? No! she hastily told herself. I refuse to believe that without irrefutable proof. Alright then, hot shot, her mental voice immediately challenged, get off your ass and go find her! Quinn ran a hand through her hair and turned to Kris. "Ok. What else have you got for me?"
"The schedule for the next 10 days, a couple of contracts, bunch of cheques that need signing, and some partial findings from Joe on the people you didnt get to talk to in Parsonville, since they werent there."
Quinn nodded, accepted the sheaf of papers and pulled out a chair. Tilting it back against the wall, she propped her feet on the table and began to read. The personnel schedule, contracts and cheques she covered quickly, signing or initially where necessary. There. Now she was free to read the report on the people they hadnt been able to talk to during their aborted visit to Ariels hometown.
Joe, she saw, had been able to supply addresses and telephone numbers for most. She noted that neither Paula McBean nor Jefferson Bennett had numbers. In Paulas case Joe speculated that it was because she lived in a back-to-the-land group that likely didnt maintain a landline. Jefferson Bennett, the merchant marine sailor, likely didnt find it very useful to maintain a landline either since he was probably at sea for months at a time. In the case of McBean, Joe had provided the telephone number of the closest police department, while for Bennett he had supplied the name of his employer.
Ok, she said to herself, so now we can contact them if we want to. So where does that leave us? With a bunch of questions and, so far, no answers. Uh huh. And just how, her inner voice asked, sarcastically, does that differ from what we knew before? Oh Shut up! If youre so smart make some useful suggestions!
Quinn gave herself a mental shake. "Any takers on the poster reward?" she asked.
Kris looked up. "Weve had some calls. Ive got a list of names of people who have called with info, but none of its recent. It all ends about 18 months ago. We may have caught a break on a call I took just before you arrived, though. I think we got the name of her boyfriend, or whatever. Hopefully the guy who took her to the clinic."
"Yeah. Name of Mickey D."
"At Quinns incredulous look, Kris added "Im not kidding. Thats what hes called. Real name Michael Dionne. And apparently, he loves fast food."
"Do we have a description?"
"We have better than that," said Kris, as she waited for her printer to spit out a sheet then gathered several and held them out to Quinn. "Hot off the press by way of the police department files."
"You turning into a hacker?" said Quinn with a small grin as she took the papers.
"Just a little sideline of mine. Cant let Joe have all the fun."
"No indeed. Hmm. Boosted a few things, and got caught. Kited a few cheques. Small time grifter, and similar stuff, looks like."
"Un huh," responded Kris.
"No violent crimes on his record."
"No. I noticed that too."
"Lessee. He was picked up in December of 48, but let go, and hasnt come to the departments notice since. Thats kinda long.
"Un huh. I thought so."
"Hmm. Date of birth . . . " Quinn did some mental calculations. "So hes 28." She turned a page. "Looks younger."
Quinn stood, staring at the pages for a few moments longer, but she was thinking, not reading. Looking up finally, she said: "You got the name of the person who called this in?"
"Well a nickname, and a number where I can leave a message for him. I thought you might want to pay the reward in person."
"You were right, as usual. Leave a message that I want to meet today. Lessee, I want to see if I can talk to the doctor . . ."
"Clinic closes at 5:00 pm. And the doc is in."
Quinn grinned at that. "More hacking?" she asked.
"Nope," said Kris. "Traditional method. Telephone."
"Good. Ok. Leave a message with the guy that I want to meet, say, any time after an hour, and he picks the spot. Somewhere public." As Quinn talked she pawed over papers in a safe next to Kris desk, grabbed one fat envelope and her jacket and headed for the door. "Call me when its set up."
"Oh, and Kris," said Quinn, as she paused at the door, "I owe you."
"Gwan," said the other woman with a wave of her hand. "Get outta here and let me get back to work."
Quinn flashed her an answering smile and was gone.
"Good luck," said Kris softly, to the empty room, then turned back to her computer.
"You cant go in without an appointm"
"Emergency police matter," said Quinn to the receptionist while flashing her P.I. license, and hoping the receptionist would not look closely, as she stepped quickly around the desk and through the door of the doctors office.
"Doctor Esperanza, I tried to stop her. I"
"Its a matter of life and death," said Quinn interrupting her. "I just need answers to a few questions and then Ill be gone. Promise."
The doctor looked up from the notes she was making. She was a handsome middle-aged woman with dark hair just starting to go grey at the temples. To Quinns eye she looked tired but competent, and far from a pushover.
"Of course," said Quinn, "you could always wait for Detective Hank Walsh to pay you a visit, which will happen not long after you turn me away, and then youd have two interruptions in your schedule today, and not just one." She saw the womans mouth quirk slightly, and an amused look appear in her eye.
"Its ok, Marina. Ill be five minutes, only," she said to the receptionist as her eyes swiveled to Quinns. "Alright," she said, as the woman closed the office door, "talk fast, starting with your name, and go on from there."
"Ok. Im Quinn Thanatos of Thanatos Security. Heres my card." Quinn handed a business card to the doctor who took it and examined it as Quinn continued. "You treated a teenager in September and December of 48 who gave her name as Kathryn Johnson. Is this her?" said Quinn, as she passed over a copy of the poster.
The doctor looked at the photo, then compared the telephone number on the poster to the office number on Quinns card, and looked up. "Why?" she said.
"Her aunt is trying to find her. Katie left home under unexplained circumstances but it appears she was in fear for her life, possibly from immediate family members. Her aunt is estranged from Katies family. She only heard recently that her niece had run away from home and she wants to help her."
The doctor folded her arms. "Whats in it for you? Youre not a police detective."
"Her aunt is my partner," said Quinn, quietly.
The doctor sat still for a moment, thinking, then reached out a hand and picked up the phone. Quinn thought about asking whom she was calling, but decided to wait and see.
"Hello? Yes, this is Doctor Elena Esperanza at the free clinic on Salewski Boulevard. Please connect me with . . . What was his name again?"
"Detective Hank Walsh."
The doctor repeated the name and then said, "Yes, Ill hold." Activating the speakerphone, she went back to writing up the notes she was working on when Quinn had barged into her office. Muzak, or the telephone equivalent, played quietly, and Quinn forced herself to sit still. Just when she felt she couldnt re-read the doctors certificates on the wall without screaming, the music cut off.
"Walsh," growled a voice.
"Detective Walsh, my name is Doctor Elena Esperanza. I have someone in my office named Quinn Thanatos, who says she is investigating a missing person."
"Yeah, I know Quinn. What gives?"
"Hi Hank. The doctor has you on speakerphone. Im here because she may have treated Katie back in the fall of 48."
"And just how would you know that?"
"Im omniscent? Seriously, give me the lecture another day, would ya? Katie, if its Katie that is, came here with a man. We have a line on him, at least I hope so, and all I want Doctor Esperanza to do is to look at the photos I have of Katie and of this guy and tell me if she recognizes anybody."
There was silence, and Quinn held her breath. She knew Hank would be ticked at the way she got the lead, but that was just too bad.
A sigh issued from the speaker, then: "Dr. Esperanza, ordinarily I would obtain a warrant and serve it on you, and I will if you insist, but if Quinn says all she needs is an identification, I would appreciate it if you would look at the photos and tell us if the people in them are who we think they are."
The doctor sat silently for a moment, then said, "thank you, Detective," and disconnected.
Quinn waited. The doctor sat looking at her notes for a few seconds then looked up and said: "Yes, that is the girl who came to see me." She added, "I see so many people in the course of a day, or a week, or a year, but Ive trained myself to remember faces. It helps to establish a rapport with the patient, you understand."
Quinn found herself nodding, but said only: "How about him?" and pushed over the photo from the police files.
Doctor Esperanza contemplated it for so long that Quinn thought she was going to reply in the negative, but when she spoke it was to say "I only got brief glimpses of him, you understand, but Im pretty sure that was the man who accompanied her on both occasions. At the second visit he seemed pretty anxious to hurry her out of the office. And so he would if he had done the damage. But she wouldnt say. She fell down the stairs, she said." The woman looked up. "Thats what they all say, you know. Or some variation thereof." She shook her head, and added, "sometimes I wonder why I bother."
Quinn nodded sympathetically, reached for the photos and slipped them into her pocket. "Thanks," she said as she stood up. "I appreciate what you just did."
The doctor smiled. "If this ever comes back to bite me in the ass," she said, "youll want your policeman friend out front to run interference. I can guarantee it."
"It wont. I can guarantee that."
The doctor smiled again, this time with more warmth, and leaned back in her office chair. "This is about more than domestic battering isnt it," she said.
A statement, Quinn noted, not a question. Quinn smiled in turn, hand now on the doorknob. "Thank you doctor," was all she replied as she pulled open the door and stepped through, closing it quietly behind her.
Out in the taxi, which she had directed to wait, Quinn flipped on the info feed. She thought about switching to an audio channel but decided to phone Kris first. She had just unclipped the phone from her belt when it started to vibrate.
"Shit! Ah, Quinn Thanatos," she said as she juggled, then regained control of the instrument.
"I take a lot of orders from you in any one day, Boss Lady, but there I draw the line."
"Ok, Kris. Youve had your laugh. Now, have you got something for me?"
"You bet. The guy just phoned back. Name of Jimmy, by the way. Theres a tavern at the corner of Wallace and MacArthur. Dalwhinneys. You know it?"
"I know the area. I can find the place."
"Ok. He says go there, sit at the back and order a drink that comes with a paper umbrella."
"You were never a scout."
"Youre right. My orientation is one the top brass wouldnt exactly approve of. But I had fun with some girl guides once."
"No more about your lurid past Kris, my heart couldnt stand it. When is this guy going to show?"
"Likely as soon as he thinks youre alone. If I were you I think Id go buy a book to pass the time."
"Thanks for the suggestion. See you soon, I hope."
"Corner of Wallace and MacArthur" she told the taxi. "Best possible speed."
"Wallace and MacArthur by way of"
"No need to give me the specifics. Just drive." Detecting the word "drive," the vehicles silicon brain cut short the reply and pulled out into the street.
Quinn settled back. Her mind on the coming interview, she didnt bother to switch to an audio channel on the info feed, and soon realized that the interview with the expert on serial murderers, which she had heard being promised earlier, was being replayed, and was, in fact, well along.
"In your report you estimate that there are more than 450 serial murderers currently active on the North American continent?
"Yes, 462 actually," responded a sandy-haired young man, identified across the bottom of the screen as Dr. Stanley Hollis, of Statistical Probabilities Inc., otherwise known as the governments statistical office.
"How can you be so sure?" asked the female interviewer.
"Well, we gather data from a number of sources. Uh, police reports, missing persons. Since serial murderers are often active over a number of years, we look at historical data too. Then everything is fed into a very complex computer program . . ."
"Let me interrupt you there. The name of the program is MORBID?"
"Yes, thats correct."
"And that stands for . . .?"
"Murder: Organizational Report-Based Idiosyncratic Database."
"Murder . . ."
". . . Organizational Report-Based Idiosyncratic Database."
"Quite a mouthful."
"Yes it is."
"Please continue, Doctor Hollis."
"Ok. Well, this program was only rolled out a year ago, but its already exceeding our expectations. It generates statistical probabilities from which we can produce schematics."
"Yes, we have one of those to put up now."
"Heres the central part of the continent, for example, over the course of the last 10 years," continued Dr. Hollis, offscreen. "As you can see, more serial murderers are active in urban areas, but some of the less populated regions are represented as well."
Quinn looked at the schematic as the interviewer asked: "What do the colours and patterns indicate?"
"Oh, well, each represents the territory of one serial murderer. Or at least as closely as we can determine."
"And how do you do that?"
"Similarities in how the murders are committed, and geographical location, in relation to each other I mean, is also taken into consideration."
"Right now, it looks like a very beautiful abstract."
"Yes, but this is a time sequenced schematic. If your technicians could run it, starting at 2040 . . . Yes, as you can see, its a bit easier to understand as you run it year by year. Karl Rohl, for example is that bit of cross-hatched blue in the northeast section . . ."
"Yes! I see, starting in 2045. Are the others equally identifiable?"
"Our data indicates yes."
"Yes, we can take schematics that represent the historical data and match them against murderers who have been caught.
"So, Dr. Hollis, if there were a series of murders spread over an area, you could feed the details into MORBID and it would link them?"
"If we had all the details, and a high degree of accuracy interpreting the evidence, there is a 92 percent chance that MORBID would project an overlap."
"And in laymans terms. . .?"
"Thank you Doctor," said the interviewer, adding, as the camera closed on her, "There you have it. MORBID. Back to you Worthington."
Quinn stared at the screen for a minute or two, turning this over in her mind. Abruptly she reached for her phone again and speed dialed.
"Yeah, Joe. its Quinn again. I have another job for you.
"Ok. The feds have a statistical database called MORBID. It tracks serial murderers.
"MORBID. M as in mother, O as in . . . operations, R as in ruler"
"Morbid, you said?"
"Yeah. Morbid. Anyway, I want you to get into that and see what comes up."
"Youll see when you access it. Im not completely sure what Im looking for but check it out. One thing I want to know is if the program suggests that the guy active at Parsonville has done stuff elsewhere. Ok?"
"Sure thing Quinn. You think Scott continued having fun when he got here?"
"Its a possibility that had occurred to me."
"Ok. Ill get right on it and call you as soon as Ive checked it out."
"Thanks Joe," said Quinn and disconnected. Checking to see how close she was to her destination, she decided that she had time to make a very quick call to Ariel, and speed dialed her number.
"You have the sexiest voice."
A chuckle. "Why thank you. Youre pretty good in that department yourself, you know."
"Ok. I worked this morning. It seems strange to have someone in the house during the day, since Id gotten used to being by myself again, unless Im expecting someone of course, but Im managing. Vanessa has been as unobtrusive as she can, and that helps."
"On the other hand, however, shes likely bored out of her mind."
"Shell be even more bored at the film location, I expect, so this is a good dress rehearsal for her."
"I suppose thats one way of looking at it. And speaking of looking, I hear that youve been busy."
"You do? Vanessa hasnt been as unobtrusive as youve led me to believe."
"Well, we had lunch together and she got a call from Kris so, at my request, she asked for any developments."
"Ah. Thats alright then," Quinn said with a smile.
"So when are you going to get home and tell me all about it?"
"Well, thereve been a few other interesting developments since then, and Im about to meet a guy who I hope can provide some other useful details. But Im not sure when hes going to show, so I might not be home for a while."
"Certainly interesting. But if I had my druthers, Id be there with you rather than here with . . . whatever his name is. And speaking of him, I see the cross street coming up so I better end this."
"Ok. Be careful."
A chuckle greeted this, but all Ariel added was "I love you."
"And I love you back." Just then, the taxi came to a halt, double-parked, so Quinn added "Oh, gotta go. See you soon, Love," and disconnected.
Punching in her pay code, she exited quickly, the taxi roaring off as soon as its sensors detected that she was clear of the vehicle. Quinn stepped over to the sidewalk and surveyed the area. The corner of Wallace and MacArthur was in an older section of the downtown that the push for redevelopment of a few years back had passed by. It wasnt quite a slum, but it was definitely seedy. Rapidly scanning the intersection, she spotted her destination on the opposite side of the street. A few quick strides, and an unplanned two-step to avoid being run down by a bicycle courier, brought her to the stairs leading down to Dalwhinneys door. Quinn eyed it for a second, then muttered "Well, its not Cheers, but I guess itll do."
Quinn paused in the doorway. The interior was pretty much what she expected: dim and smoky. Heaving a sigh, she continued inside, the door cutting off sunlight and fresh air as it closed behind her. Two men sat isolated from each other at either ends of the bar. Both were drinking something amber-coloured in shot glasses, and neither paid her any attention as she stepped up to order. Quinn mentally reviewed the drinks she could reasonably expect to get with an umbrella in them, and made her decision. "Give me a scotch and rocks in one of those fancy glasses," indicating the glasses used for mixed drinks that were hanging in a rack above the bar, "and put an umbrella in it."
The bartender stared at her. Quinn held up a $20 bill and said "Give it to me without argument, and you keep the change."
A faint smile touched his lips as he reached for a glass, dropped in some ice, floated it in scotch and dropped in an umbrella that he brought out from somewhere under the bar. "Youre the boss," he said, placing the drink on the dark surface and extracting the bill from Quinns fingers.
Quinn nodded, picked up the glass and strolled toward the back of the room. To her relief, other than the two men at the bar, it was empty. Setting the glass down on the table in the last booth, she slid in and decided to get something done while she waited, so she extracted her notebook from a pocket of her jacket and flipped it open. Rapidly scanning her list of things to do, she took satisfaction in striking off several, then added some notes, sipping her scotch from time to time, enjoying the slight burn of the smoky liquid as she swallowed.
Quinn had gone over the list once and was thinking of reviewing it again when a trio of young men entered noisily, ordered pitchers of beer, and seated themselves in a booth across the room. Quinn ignored them, although that was hard since the noise level picked up considerably. In her peripheral vision, she noticed some glances her way, but it would likely take some alcohol laced with peer pressure before anyone had the nerve to approach her. Just stay in your seats and leave me alone, she thought at them, cause if any of you try hitting on me and it scares off my contact, Im gonna get mad.
Taking another sip of the scotch, she decided to turn her mind to the problem of Katies disappearance.
Ok, she admitted up front, as she doodled on her notepad, she could be dead. That has always been a possibility. Just because we dont have a body doesnt mean it isnt so. Quinn glanced at her notepad and discovered she had written DEAD??
Dont get in a rut here, she cautioned herself. Dropping down a line she added, IF NOT??
If not indeed, she thought. If people dont see you for a while, they dont assume youve died. They think youve gone on a trip, moved to another part of town or dont want to associate with them anymore. Thinking about Mickey D, Katies supposed boyfriend, she admitted, that or they assume youve gone to jail to do another stretch for something. Ok, she said to herself, that might be, but Mickey hasnt come into contact with the law, let alone done a stretch in almost two years, which is damned peculiar.
Rolling the pen in her fingers she stared at the page, and mentally reviewed his record. Mickey was the sort of petty criminal who couldnt stay out of sight. Up to two years ago, he had been picked up every few months, sometimes sentenced to something, but most of the time not. Quinn stared at the page some more. So what this says is that you think Katies disappearance is tied in with Mickey Ds, since he seems to have disappeared.
"You the broad with the cash?"
Quinn looked up and sized up her interrogator. He was mid-thirties, about 510," with dark hair worn long, and was dressed in a medium grey suit and a black shirt with the collar worn open showing off a gold chain. A heavy gold bracelet encircled one wrist, a flashy, chunky-looking watch the other. His fingers, she noted, were covered in rings. The better to mark you with, my dear, she thought. "If youre the guy with the information," she replied. "Siddown."
"Wheres the money?"
"Safe. Answers first."
"Show it to me or I walk."
Without breaking eye contact, Quinn reached inside her jacket and extracted the envelope she had taken from the safe and slid out a thick sheaf of bills. Holding it so that just a corner of the stack was visible, she waited for a few seconds to ensure that her companion was satisfied, then slid it back into the pocket. "Now. Answers," she said.
The man opposite her shrugged. "So ask," he said.
"You know Mickey D?"
"Seen him around, but not lately," he said, with an unpleasant smile.
"Oh? And whys that?"
Enough of this shit, she said to herself. "You saying hes dead?"
"No, leastwise, not that I heard."
"And what did you hear?"
"That he made Big Augie mad, so decided that life would be healthier some place else.
"Big Augie? The gangster? The guy that ended up dead in his hot tub a couple of months ago?" said Quinn, referring to the news story that had knocked the attempt on Ariels life out of the lead-off spot on all the info feed channels.
"The one and only. I dont know what he did, but the story I heard was that Mickey had to leave town because of it."
"So what Im hearing you say is that youve never heard Mickeys actually dead out in a swamp somewhere."
"Could have happened, I suppose, but I heard he left town."
Quinn eyed him as she sipped her scotch. "So where does Katie Johnson fit in?" she asked.
"The chick youre lookin for?" At her nod, he shrugged. "Girlfriend, I guess. They were together for quite a while and I havent seen her around since Mickey disappeared."
Quinn contemplated her next question. "Do you ever remember seeing her before you saw her with Mickey?" she asked.
"You mean on her own?"
"Nah. One day she was just with him."
"You ever see her with anyone else?"
"Youre awfully sure."
He shrugged. "There was something about her. Hard to forget."
"And youre absolutely sure it was Katie. This girl in the photos?" she said, as she laid the poster on the table then slid it under the mans nose.
He smiled nastily. "I swear it on my mothers grave."
"Look at the photos first," she said, keeping her eyes focused on his face.
He glanced down and she noted that he did look at both, although quickly, before looking up again. "So whats to see?" he said. "I looked at the photos when I got your number off the poster. Yeah, its her. Its her a few years younger, but its her."
Quinn maintained eye contact for a few seconds, then slid the wad of cash out of the pocket and handed it over. "You hear anything else, give me a call."
The man fanned the money quickly, then tucked it inside his jacket. "Pleasure doin business with ya," he said, before easing out of the booth and sauntering out of the bar.
Quinn watched him leave, then tossed down the rest of her scotch and headed out herself.
"But wouldnt a check of the regional police files turn him up, even if he went to another city?" queried Ariel, as she forked in a mouthful of spaghetti, slurping up a couple of strands that strayed at the last second.
"Maybe," said Quinn, applying herself to her own plate, "but the problem is, if he went to another city and also changed his name to keep from being found by Augie, its going to be that much harder to track him down."
"Youre saying that youd have to check by finger prints or DNA or something," said Ariel, reaching for her beer.
"Exactly. And thats only if hes been arrested wherever he is now. Ive already called Hank to see if he can have a search done. But you see, theres another problem on top of that."
"Which is?" queried Ariel, intently.
Quinn frowned. "We cant be sure how far hed run. If it was right across the continent, well . . . " She let her voice trail off.
"That would put us back to square one looking for Katie."
Quinn reached across the table and squeezed Ariels hand. "Not quite, but it does slow us down."
Ariel nodded slowly, but said nothing.
Quinn lifted and gently kissed the back of the writers hand before relinquishing it.
"So tell me," said Ariel, making an obvious effort to change the subject, "what do you expect this MORBID database to show?"
"Well, if there are any murders in this area that appear to have the same m.o. as those around Parsonville, it could give the police something else to dig into, to bolster the case against Scott."
"And it can do that? Show connections, I mean." said Ariel, as she opened a tin foil package of garlic bread, releasing the pungent fragance into the air. "No Charlotte," she added sternly to the kitten who, knowing good food when she smelled it, prepared to leap onto the kitchen table.
"No! You cant have any." repeated Ariel as the kitten paced back and forth looking for a way up.
"Ill get her, Love," said Quinn, "Im just gonna get another beer. Want one?"
"Ok. Come on guys. Out in the hall until weve finished eating," she said, as she scooped up Charlotte and Hairy, who had been attracted by Charlottes protest. Grise was nowhere to be seen but as she straightened from setting the other two down outside the kitchen door, she spotted him strolling out of the living room. "Sorry guys. Find something else to do until were done." Shutting the door, she crossed to the fridge to select a beer before returning to the topic, and the table. "Supposedly. At least thats what the guy on TV seemed to indicate. Joe is supposed to phone me when hes got something to report."
As though to underline her words, her phone beeped. Quinn checked the caller ID, winked at Ariel and flipped it open. "Hi Joe," she said.
"Boss this is some database you sent me to," said Joe, without preamble.
"Hello to you too," said Quinn with a grin. "So its as good as advertised?"
"At least. Ive been playing with it for the last hour. Theyve got all the known serial murderers in it and you can run the schematics to show their crimes. Its wild, I tell ya. Theyve used it to link the known guys to other murders that were considered unsolvable. Solved a whole bunch in the past year."
"Yeah? Did they get those guys to cop to them, to support their conclusions?"
"Yup. They have details on sixteen of them that they got the murderers to confess to, and they say they are going to put up details of several others over the next few months."
"Sounds promising. So. Did you find out anything that helps us?" said Quinn, leaning forward unconsciously.
"Well, its the weirest thing, Boss . . ."
"Theres nothing like the Parsonville crimes in this area . . ."
"Shit," muttered Quinn.
"No, wait. Like I said, theres nothing in this area, but there are some small odd pockets on the west coast. Theyre pretty sure its the same guy but for the moment theyre marked inconclusive. Because of the distance, you see."
"The coast?" said Quinn. "And youre sure theres nothing in this area?"
"Not a thing. But Ive put in a call to the head honcho . . ."
"Dr. Stanley Hollis."
"Thats the one. Maybe he can tell me more, but I wont be able to talk to him until tomorrow."
"Ok, Joe," said Quinn, distracted. "Call when youve got more."
"Will do," said Joe, and disconnected.
Quinn sat back, dinner forgotten.
"What is it?" asked Ariel, watching Quinns face.
"Huh? Oh, something that I never thought of before. And dammit, I should have! Just a sec. I want to check something." Quinn picked up her phone again, activated the pda function and logged into her offices secure server. As she hunted for a file, Ariel watched with ill-concealed impatience.
"Ok, yeah. Here it is. Vanessa said two of the people questioned by the police moved to the west coast. And they are . . . " Quinn rapidly scanned the document "Mike Davis and Paula McBean." At Ariels questioning look, she added, "Joe just told me that although nothing like the Parsonville murders has been seen around here, some murders that bear a resemblance to them have shown up on the west coast. Has Scott been anywhere near the west coast?"
"I dont know," said Ariel. "I dont think so."
"Ok, Hank may have to see if he can track his movements. If he hasnt, Im not too sure what to make of this."
"It creates an enormous hole in our theory about Scott."
"Unhuh. And I dont like it," said Quinn, with a frown.
Quinn had puzzled over this glitch in her theory far into the night. If Scott hadnt ever visited the west coast, he couldnt have done the murders. But the murders bore a resemblance to the Parsonville murders in which Scott possibly was implicated. Was the MORBID database accurate? Where was Katie and why did Scott not want her to be found, supposing, of course, that she was why he had tried to kill Ariel in the park. If in fact it was him who had tried to kill Ariel in the park. And if not Scott, who? The idea that someone else might be out there intent on killing her lover was frightening, but had to be examined since, given Ariels well known views, it might, in fact, be true. Sleep finally claimed Quinn about 4:00 am, without her solving any part of her problem. Maybe in the cold light of day, she decided, something would jump out at her that she had missed the night before. With that in mind she laid the problem before Kris.
"How many murders, all told?"
"Five," said Quinn, staring over Kris shoulder at the computer screen.
"Ok. Well, other than a colourful pattern, what do you think we should be seeing?"
"I dont know! Something!" exclaimed Quinn, throwing her hands in the air. "I was so sure that Scott was the killer I didnt look beyond him. Now everythings up for grabs again and were still no closer to finding Katie or nailing her no good brother!"
"Easy Boss Lady! Easy! Lets take a step back." Quinn glared at Kris, but the other woman didnt back down.
"Ok," said Quinn, dropping into a chair. "Youve got the floor."
"Alright." Kris stood up and paced slowly back and forth. "There were other people besides the two who moved to the coast, uh, Paula McBean and Mike Davis, that you were unable to interview because they moved out of town. Right?"
"And the fact that the police originally interviewed them because they had some connection to the missing girls, they moved out of town, and then these west coast murders come to light looking like they might have been done by the same person, bump the folks you couldnt talk to higher up your list of probable suspects, right?"
"Your point?" growled Quinn.
"Were you able to track them all down?"
"Joe located them. No one else lives on or near the west coast."
"Ok, but do they travel to the coast on business? Have they been there on vacation? Do any of them live close enough to nip over and back on an airline shuttle on a day off?"
Quinn contemplated Kris with an unreadable expression that finally resolved into a small grin. "Nip over and back?" she said, and started to chuckle. "Nip over and back?"
"Hey! Ariels the wordsmith around here, not me! And you know what I mean!"
"Yeah, I do." Quinn sobered and looked rueful. "You mean weve got our work cut out for us evaluating the likelihood that any of these people committed the murders."
"Thats exactly right."
"Nip over and back."
"Bite me. And while youre at it, I assume that youve included in this number the people who were on your list that you had no idea where theyd got to. Joshua, Julius and whatshername, Emily."
"I assume youre referring to Jessie, John and Amelia."
"Joe tracked em all down, so weve got starting points for all of them." Quinn sat immobile for a few seconds then slapped her hands down on the arms of her chair. "Ok. Kris, I want to get this resolved as quickly as possible, so in addition to Joe working on this I think its time to give your hacker skills another outing."
"Be still my heart. Now get out of my office."
"Thats what I like," said Quinn as she grinned and got to her feet. "Loyal, obedient, polite staff."
"Thats me," said Kris, settling down once more in front of her computer, adding sarcastically as Quinn turned to leave, "Tell him Im taking credit cards and airline records. Those always put me in a carefree mood."
"You got it," said Quinn as she left the room.
Quinns phone buzzed as she strode back to her office, or, more accurately, her closet. When shed moved in with Ariel she had revamped the layout of the office in her two-bedroom bungalow to give her employees more office space. With her out of the office most of the time, either on the road visiting clients or protecting Ariel, which, she acknowledged ruefully, had become a full-time proposition, she didnt need much space herself. Now, since Kris and John seemed to have taken over most of the administrative load of running the business, they had the only areas that could properly be called offices, while she and the rest of the operatives shared a couple of desks tucked into odd corners. The one that she was currently using was located in a closet in the bedroom considered Johns office. He was on the phone as she threaded her way around filing cabinets, silenced the buzzing of her own phone by opening the connection and dropped into a chair. "Thanatos," she barked.
"Mmm. Id say you should have taken me up on my offer this morning," purred a velvet voice.
Quinn grinned in reflex. "Sorry, Love. Just a bit of frustration showing there."
A sexy chuckle greeted this. "Thats exactly what I mean. If youd stayed in bed a while longer I would have taken care of all, and I mean all, your frustrations."
"Oh, Baby, I wish I had! But since Jamie was arriving at 8:00, and wed overslept, I didnt think the new hire should find her boss and the client getting it on. Didnt seem to set the right tone, somehow."
A chuckle greeted this, but Ariel elected not to pursue it, saying instead "Actually, the reason I phoned was not to remind you of what might have been, but to tell you that Edward just phoned with some good news that I wanted to share."
"Oh yeah? How is the old buzzard and what did he have to say?" said Quinn, who found herself doodling a caricature of Ariels publisher on the desk blotter.
"He just got the word that After Dark has sold three million hardcover copies world wide and the same film company that optioned Midnight Madness is interested in optioning it. We made a date to discuss that and future projects at his office on Wednesday."
"Hey! Congratulations! Thats great news!" exclaimed Quinn. "Knowing Edward, Ill bet he was absolutely bubbling."
Ariel chuckled. "He told me that after he heard that, he rushed right out to Julias desk and waltzed her around the office before he could calm down enough to call me."
"Sounds like youre his favourite author, as if there were any doubt."
"Yeah, well hes my favourite publisher, so I guess were even," said Ariel, with a smile in her voice. Then changing the subject she asked: "How are things going there?"
Quinn blew out a breath. "Well, if I told you that wed made progress, Id be lying."
"Oh Love, I wish I could help!"
"Thanks. I wish I could do more than what Im doing, but Kris and I have decided that we have to investigate all the people we couldnt talk to, to see if any of them could be responsible for those west coast murders."
"Oh no." commiserated Ariel.
"Yeah, which means hacking into credit card info, bank accounts, airline records, employment records. That sort of thing. Which means that Joe and Kris are going to have to bear the brunt of the work on this."
"Has Joe got through to Dr. Hollis yet?"
"I havent heard from him, so I assume the answer is no, but Im just about to call him with this latest assignment, so Ill ask him. Speaking of assignments, hows Jamie doing?"
"Fine! No problems at all."
"Good. The way things are working out . . . well," Quinn paused, "you may be seeing more of her."
"Quinn, Honey, it will all work out. It will."
Quinn smiled ruefully. "Thanks for your confidence, Love. Now Id better get back to doing whatever it is I should be doing."
"Ok. Me too. I love you."
"And I love you too. See you later."
After disconnecting, Quinn thought for a second then decided it would be smarter to review the file they had compiled on the people theyd missed, before calling Joe. She was comparing conflicting stories from two witnesses to the same event, making her marvel at the subjectiveness of human memory, when she heard voices from Kris office. After a moments eavesdropping she concluded it was Owen, the firms other new operative, back from the film shoot, and she decided to go get an update.
"Its like watching grass grow. Twenty-two takes! And one of the camera techs told me they were on schedule."
"Welcome to the world of movie making," she heard Kris respond, dryly. "Dont get so bored that you forget what youre there for."
"Yes mom," he was saying with a grin, as Quinn came around the corner.
"So, no sign of the deranged fan?" asked Quinn, leaning in the doorway. Carson Oliver, the star theyd been engaged to protect, had been followed around the country by a man convinced that she really was Honor Harrington, a role she had played in a sci-fi film some years before.
Two heads swivelled toward Quinn. "Not so far," responded Owen.
"Yes, but if he holds true to form, hell turn up sooner or later," interjected Kris. "Hes been arrested at every film shoot shes done on this continent since the release of Death before Dishonor, three years ago. So I repeat, dont get distracted."
"Vanessas guarding her now?" asked Quinn.
"Yeah. They dont need Carson now til later in the day so Vans with her in her hotel suite and she told me to come back here in case theres anything else you need done."
Quinn raised an eyebrow at Kris, who grinned evilly in return. "You betcha, sonny boy! Ive got some filing over here thats just waiting for someone like you."
"Oh boy," mumbled Owen resignedly as he followed her out of the office.
Quinn smirked and went back to her desk to dial Joe.
Fifteen minutes later, the phone was picked up on the second ring. Finally! said Quinn to herself, leaning forward, pen poised over her notebook. Shed punched in his number and then hit redial twice but got his voice mail each time on the first ring. And she hated waiting! "Have you got through to Dr. Hollis yet?" she barked, before he had time to speak.
"Quinn! Hi. Yeah I just got off the phone with him. This is real interesting stuff!"
"Well, he says that theyve got some other murders out there on the coast that they havent put up yet, but theyre pretty sure its the same guy."
"Six. Spread out geographically, which has been making it hard to link them. But if theyre all the same guy, its eleven in all."
"Yeah. Hes sending me info. I ought to have it within the hour and Ill send it on immediately."
"Good, although if they are the same guy, its really beginning to look as if Scotts not our man," said Quinn with a frown. "But well cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess. Anyway, nother topic. Because those murders occurred there, weve got to take a closer look at the people we couldnt talk to. Kris is taking credit cards and airlines. Can you handle the rest?"
"Ill get right on it."
"Good. Call me."
Quinn tapped her lips with the phone as she considered what to do next. She felt so useless. Hacking was a skill that shed never taken the time to develop well enough so that she could contribute significantly at times like these. Of course, she conceded ruefully, times like these were few and far between, and usually handled by Joe quickly, and with no problem. Alright, she told herself, as soon as this is over, a hacking 101refresher and further instruction is at the top of your list of new and useful things to do. Mind made up, she was just setting the phone down on the desk when it buzzed.
"Quinn, its Hank Walsh. We think weve got a line on the guys who did the driveby."
"Yeeeehawwww!" shouted Quinn as she pumped her fist in the air. John looked up, startled. "Where are they?" asked Quinn, ignoring John, and then Kris and Owen who arrived seconds later.
"We went to their last known addresses but neither was home. Weve got APBs out on both.
"Howd you get onto them?" she asked, curious.
"The usual way. They bragged about being paid to take a shot at a celebrity. The guy they told needed something to get out of a three-time loser rap. The story sounds pretty solid. We just have to confirm it."
"Great. Keep me posted. I want to see the interrogation."
"Ill let you know," said the detective and disconnected.
"Good news," said Kris, laconically.
"The best. The driveby shooters. They know who they are. Now they just have to catch them."
As it turned out, the good news about the driveby shooters was the high point of Quinns day, and she arrived home in a very bad mood.
Although Joe had expected to receive material from Dr. Hollis momentarily, it was hours before the hacker phoned her back to report that a computer crash at the government facility had effectively stalled that line of inquiry until the next morning, at the earliest.
Quinn hoped that at least the electronic search by Kris and Joe would turn up something, but as the hours went by and nothing out of the ordinary materialized, it became apparent that it was going to take many more tedious hours of hard work to unearth anything, although both contended that it was just a matter of time before something surfaced.
Hank had not called back with further news about the shooters so that too was at a standstill. And to top it all off, the automated controller of the taxi she took to go home had been vandalized by the anti-techno group shed heard about on the news, causing the vehicle to wander aimlessly along city streets unless given specific instructions at every street corner. This proved to be less than safe and Quinn arrived home still recovering from a close encounter shed had before getting the hang of controlling the vehicle: shed told it to proceed straight along the street she was on, and it had, crossing an intersection against the lights and narrowly avoiding clipping the tail end of a moving van. Thank the Goddess that the automated controllers on the vehicles around her had been operational!
"Hunk of junk!" she snarled as she got out. "Park yourself and wait for Central Traffic to come get you."
"Thank you for taking Central Traffic Transportation," intoned the car. "We hope you enjoyed your ride, and will travel with us again soon. Have a nice day."
"Park it, you accident-waiting-to-happen!" she roared, slamming the door. While dialing CTTs customer service line, she was somewhat mollified to see it pull over to the side of the road and shut itself down. Assured that a crew would be around soon to repair the damage, she started across the street.
Just as she reached the sidewalk, with her thoughts beginning to turn from murderous mayhem involving people who sabotaged taxis, to Ariel, cold beer, and a much neglected workout schedule, the door of the Rankin sisters home opened, and Jemma Rankin looked out. "Quinn!" she called. "Quinn do you have a moment?"
The security consultant arranged her face into what she hoped was a cordial expression. "Ms. Rankin. What can I do for you?" she said, stopping at the bottom of their front porch. Shed spoken to the Rankins less than a half dozen times and usually it was just hello and goodbye, so she wondered why one of them would be flagging her down.
"Oh you!" the other woman exclaimed. "So formal! You really must start calling me Jemma ."
Quinn controlled herself no reason to take her mood out on innocent bystanders "Ok Jemma. Whats on your mind?" she inquired.
The elderly woman glanced up and down the street theatrically, and Quinn began to rethink her decision not to inflict her mood on others, when she continued: "Well, Maggie and I know about Ariels nephew. . . I mean, it was all over the netnews for days after all, and the media hanging around Ariels front door. . ." Sensing something in Quinns demeanour she hurried on: "Well, I thought you should know, I saw him out here this afternoon."
What? "You saw who out here this afternoon?" she barked.
"Scott," said a new voice from behind Jemma. "It was Scott," said the voices owner, Jemmas older sister, Maggie. "Jemma called me and I saw him too," the other woman continued as she edged past her sister out onto the porch.
"When? Give me the details," Quinn snapped, hanging onto her patience by only strength of will, although intuition told her that getting the story from Maggie would be a lot quicker than from Jemma.
"About two hours ago. He was only here for a few minutes. Jemma looked out the front window. We were expecting a grocery delivery and when she heard a motorcycle she thought it was the delivery boy."
"Yes, they promised us the boy would be right over with some of those wonderful cinnamon buns. . ." Two sets of eyes bored into her. "Um " she said, hurriedly. "Well, anyway, he just sat out there on his motorcycle, watching the house.
"Youre sure it was Scott? He took his helmet off and you got a look at his face?"
"No," responded Maggie, uncompromisingly. "He didnt take it off."
"Then how can you be sure it was Scott?" snapped Quinn, losing patience. "I mean if he was still wearing a helmet what "
"It was the way he sat, dear," interjected Jemma triumphantly before Maggie could reply.
"The way he SAT!" exclaimed Quinn, voice rising in volume.
"YES!" shouted Maggie, temporarily silencing the security consultant." He has a way of sitting, when hes not sitting in a chair with a back," she continued, "leaning a bit to his right and resting his elbow on his thigh. It was Scott. No doubt about it!" She folded her arms and stared challengingly at Quinn.
And Quinn had a sudden flashback to Scott on many occasions talking and laughing with Ariel in the garden, seated on the backless bench and resting his right elbow on his thigh. Looking at the two faces gazing back at her she was suddenly thankful that they apparently spent a lot of time observing Ariels back garden.
"Ok," she responded carefully. "What happened?"
"Nothing. He sat there for about five minutes, then he gunned the motor, did a wheelie down the street and disappeared," answered Maggie.
"Thats right. We watched him the whole time and thats what he did," agreed Jemma. "Personally, I was surprised he was able to do a wheelie on a Suzuki-Honda 1280 so easily, because of the torque and the centre of gravity, you know, but there you are," she added, offhandedly.
Quinn closed her mouth, which had dropped open, and tried to collect her thoughts. Several ideas tried to push to the fore, but what came out was: "A Suzuki-Honda?" she asked, weakly. "He was riding a 1280?"
"Yes," interposed Maggie. "But all the chrome was painted black. Probably to disguise the make. As if!" she added, disdainfully.
"Yeah. Ok," said Quinn, mind at sea. "Ill have to call the police . . ."
"Oh, thats already taken care of dear," responded Jemma, pleasantly. We called Ariel right away and that nice woman you have staying with her now Jamie? she called that lovely man Mr. Walsh and he came right over. We served him the cinnamon buns with tea the boy had delivered them by that time and we told him everything. We just wanted you to know so that youd be extra vigilant, dear. We know how protective you are!"
"Oh." Quinn gave herself a mental kick, as the two gazed at her. Collecting her wits, she added, "Thanks. Uh, yes, I am pretty protective. Thanks again for, uh, speaking up," she added, lamely.
"Our pleasure dear. Wed hate to have anything happen to Ariel," said Jemma, brightly. "Shes such a lovely neighbour. Bye now," she added, as Maggie steered her into the house.
"Yes," added the second Rankin, pausing for a moment before closing the door. "Keep her safe."
"Count on it," responded Quinn, thoughts in a whirl.
"Youre telling me that those two old biddies are motorcycle experts?"
The voice at the other end of the phone chuckled for several seconds while Quinns blood pressure rose. Just as she was about to lose it, Hank Walshs baritone replaced the laughter, but only just. "Yup. In their day, between them, they held a good half dozen national motorcycle records. And they operated a cycle shop that was famous throughout the north east. Custom jobs, refurbishments, you name it, they did it. If anybody qualifies as a cycle expert, its Maggie and Jemma Rankin. And if they say it was a Suzuki-Honda 1280, it was a Suzuki-Honda 1280. They still contribute occasionally to some of the cycle zines, so theyre up on the latest, trust me."
"Ok," responded Quinn, weakly.
"What Im wondering about," Hank continued, his voice considerably more serious, "is their identification of Scott. Whats your take on that?"
"Well," Quinn paused. "Its not an identification that would hold up in court, but he does sit like that. And it sounds as if theyve seen him often."
"Yeah." There was a pause. "When we went looking for him he was in his room and claiming to have been there studying all afternoon. We couldnt find anyone who could or would say anything different. And of course, hes still claiming the bike was stolen, and still periodically pesters the theft detail about it. "
"Ok, but what Im wondering," said Quinn, slowly "is what does he get out of this? I mean, it seems pretty pointless."
"I dont know. So he can claim police harassment when it finally comes to trial? Maybe he thought he could get into the house. Or perhaps because hes keeps eluding us he thinks he can get away with anything. Your guess is as good as mine." Hank paused, then continued. "Just to be safe, Ive asked that patrols on your street be upped."
"Thanks." Quinn cudgeled her brain, but nothing else came to mind. "Ok, Hank, thanks. I suppose theres no sign of the driveby shooters yet."
"Nope. Ill let you know."
"Alright. Talk to you soon," said Quinn as she disconnected.
"Believe it now?" asked Ariel, uncapping a bottle of Hobgoblin Ale, and crossing the kitchen to Quinns side.
"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Who knew. Little old ladies on hogs. What is this world coming to," replied Quinn, weakly, as she accepted the bottle and took a long pull of the malt flavoured brew.
"Well, Darlin," said Ariel with a grin, slipping her arms around her lovers neck as she seated herself in her lap, "they arent little, in fact, Maggie is almost your height, and Jemmas not that much shorter, they havent always been old, and theyd have to have a bit of money tucked away to live in this area, so running, and then retiring from a successful business sounds quite plausible to me." The blond woman concluded by intercepting the bottle and languidly gulping down the tawny liquid. Quinn watched, entranced, as beads of moisture rolled off the chilled bottle over Ariels bottom lip and chin, to run down her tanned throat toward the valley between her breasts.
"Ummm. . ." Quinn shook herself mentally and raised her eyes, only to meet Ariels amused glance. "Oh! Uh, yeah, but. . . Well, I guess I just thought they must have inherited a bundle from Daddy, or somebody," responded Quinn lamely, as she relieved her lover of the now half empty bottle and poured more of the crisp brew down her own throat.
"Jumping to conclusions, were we?" asked Ariel, with a smile, as she leaned closer.
"Yeah, youre right. I was," said Quinn, shamefaced.
"Dont beat yourself up," murmured the blond woman as she brushed her lovers lips with her own. "Just improve."
Quinn grinned lopsidedly, hearing a variation of the advice shed given on more than one occasion, coming back to her. "yes Maam," she whispered, inches from Ariels face.
The blond woman shifted fractionally and Quinn felt a surge of heat to her groin. "Perhaps you need some positive reinforcement?" inquired Ariel, between kisses.
"Oh, yes Maam!" responded Quinn, eagerly, leaning forward.
Ariel paused and contemplated Quinn, a small smile playing around her lips. "Call me Maam too many times and Ill think you want this to go in a somewhat different direction than what I planned," she breathed.
Quinn caught her breath. "Well, you in tight black leather always turns me on"
"Oh yeah . . ."
"And . . . ?"
"Well then," murmured Ariel, amused. "What are you waiting for? Take me to bed."
"Yes Maam!" agreed Quinn, enthusiastically.
The fog of sleep was suddenly dissipated by a small sound. The dark haired woman ran a quick auditory check of her immediate surroundings before determining that whatever she had heard, it wasnt in the room with them. Turning over carefully she lifted the gun from the bedside table and sat up noiselessly on the side of the bed. The clock glowed 3:00 am.
Quinn listened. Ariels slow, deep breaths told her that her lover was still sound asleep behind her. The security consultant concentrated, to isolate what had wakened her. Outside the house, a car drove down the street, not slowly, but not fast either. Someone on the way home, or one of the police patrols Hank had promised. Quinn was ridiculously comforted by the thought, for she wryly acknowledged that the patrol car could be miles away before anything went down, if anything was going down. Still, she was glad they were near, even if near was relative.
There it was again! Quinn rose and walked quietly across the room to listen at the closed door. Whatever it was, was right outside in the hall.
Suddenly a series of unearthly shrieks, hisses, thumps and spitting erupted, followed immediately by two sets of pounding feline feet heading downstairs at breakneck speed, followed a few seconds later by a third set, moving more sedately.
Quinn, aware of her racing pulse, concentrated on breathing evenly. Just the cats or something else? Glancing back at the bed, she saw that other than turning onto her side, Ariel, a very heavy sleeper, seemed to be undisturbed. Good. She didnt want to wake her if she could avoid it. Putting her ear to the door and listening for another minute, the security consultant was pretty sure she had the answer to her question, since she heard nothing. However. Satisfied that no one was immediately outside, and holding the Glock at the ready, she eased the door open. Nightlights, which she had installed as a security device, provided enough illumination that Quinn could see the hall was empty of intruders. Sliding through the entrance, she closed the door behind her.
Moving carefully, Quinn drifted silently down the hall to the first room next to the master suite. She was pretty sure the noise had just been the cats, but didnt intend to leave anything to chance. One thing is sure, she thought, if I run into anyone Ill have a split second advantage since no home invader would expect to encounter a six-foot tall naked woman with a heavy duty gun, in the middle of the night. Smiling grimly, she checked each room in succession, and found nothing.
Back again at the head of the stairs, she moved down slowly, one step at a time, pausing to listen and assess her surroundings on each step. Nothing. At the bottom she waited and listened, then headed for the front door. All secure. The videocamera that allowed her to check who was at the front door showed only the street at night. Retracing her steps from the front entry, she began methodically checking the downstairs rooms, moving toward the kitchen at the back of the house. No one anywhere, and all windows secure. So far, so good.
Pausing at the doorway to the kitchen, she could hear something inside, but a moment of concentration told her it was more of the feline fracas that had wakened her, although not nearly so noisy. Easing through the doorway she listened, and determined that whichever cats were involved would be found in the back alcove outside the powder room. Nightlights again provided enough illumination that she could determine that the back door was still barred against intruders, as was the door to the basement. Moving silently around the edge of the room, she took enough time to determine that she was the only human there.
In the back alcove, she found Charlotte, back to the wall, protecting herself against Hairy, while Grise looked on interestedly.
"Hey! Stop it you little monster!" she said, as she pushed Hairy aside with her foot and bent down to pick up Charlotte.
"Roworrghh!" said Hairy indignantly, but backed off hurriedly when Quinn growled at him.
"Hey Sweetie," she said to Charlotte, scooping her up, and setting the Glock down on the powder room counter, "You ok?"
"Yeorrow!" was the reply, although under Quinns soothing hands it soon turned to purring.
"Hey, I see a little blood on your ear. No, no. No wiggling. I have to look. Ok. I think you need a little peroxide on that." Holding the cat with one hand, Quinn opened the cabinet over the sink and lifted out the liquid. Working quickly she applied some to a cotton ball she extracted from a bag under the counter and then wiped it on Charlottes ear. "Yes it smells bad, I agree," she told the struggling cat. "There now. I think youre ok." Charlottes response was to leap down and disappear. Nevertheless, Quinn fervently hoped that shed heard the last of the feline follies for the night.
Collecting the Glock, she padded back into the kitchen proper and manually checked the back and basement doors and the windows, just to be sure. Again all was secure. Breathing a sigh of relief, now that her security check was complete, she pulled out a chair and slumped in it. Might as well rest here for a minute or two, she told herself, because Im still too hyper to go back to bed right now.
Especially since she had to admit that the first thing shed thought when she heard the noise outside the door was that Scott had found some way to get in.
Curiously enough, thinking back to earlier in the evening, Ariel had not been particularly alarmed at news that Scott had been spotted outside their home. Later, after Quinn outlined the reasons that Hank had come up with, Ariel had said that setting up a case for police harassment might be the reason, but she was far more willing to believe that Scott was just scared and frustrated and was trying anything that he thought might achieve his purpose, which, as they both knew, was to get rid of her, even though the logic for such an act escaped them both. And, Quinn acknowledged, she might be right. Certainly, if the McEwan Park attacker had been Scott, he had failed dismally. All hed managed to do was cause Quinn some inconvenience since the car was still being repaired, although its return was promised by Friday, thank the Goddess.
So, she had been 100 percent wrong about Ariels anticipated reaction. And thats not the only thing youve been wrong about, she told herself. Yeah, thats true, she acknowledged. Look at how far off you were regarding the Rankins. She winced. Yeah. Things arent always what they seem. She stopped and thought for a minute, trying to tease a memory out of her subconcious. Suddenly it came to her. Her grandmother used to sing a snippet of song with words like those. "Things are seldom as they seem," she sang, under her breath, remembering, then paused. "Dah, dah dah, dah dah, dah dah. Whatever," she said acknowledging that the rest was lost. The important thing was that the lesson remained.
Yeah, so here you are, its the middle of the night, youve just had the shit scared out of you, so you wont sleep for hours. . . So what are you waiting for? Get to work!
A quick scan of the kitchen revealed Ariels laptop at the end of the kitchen counter, where the writer often left it. Scooping it up, she turned on the pendant light over the table, sank into her chair again and flipped the machine open. In seconds she had established a secure connection to her office. Maybe all of them had been guilty of looking for what they expected, not what was there. Ok. She had some hours to kill, since she was now wide awake, might as well see what she could see.
Quinn glanced to her left at the half-grown dark gray cat who had materialized on the table next to her, and who was now eyeing her solemnly. "Hi Grise."
"Keeping me company, or do you have some insidious motive of your own?" she asked as her eyes swung back to the screen.
"Mew," he responded, and stood up to rub against her shoulder.
Quinn spared him a brief glance and then reached out to stroke him, causing him to purr happily. "Ok, little guy, Ive got work to do, so settle down or take a hike. Or make some coffee. Your choice."
The cat responded by stepping down onto her bare thighs, and preparing to knead. "Hey! Hey wait a minute!" she exclaimed, snatching him up. "Wait til Ive got something on, for the Goddess sake!" Glancing around, she noted one of her sweatshirts slung across the back of another kitchen chair. Snagging it she quickly arranged it one handed in her lap then gently deposited Grise. Quinn watched with approval as he kneaded for a moment, then settled down and closed his eyes. "Ok, weve established Im good furniture. Lets see if Im good for anything else," she said, leaning forward to review the files Kris and Joe had compiled.
7:00 am. Hugely pleased with herself, Quinn leaned back in her chair, stretching and yawning. Shed done it! Or at least part of it. She still didnt know how Scott fitted into the overall scheme, but she was more sure than ever that he did, and it was only a matter of time until she figured it out and nailed his ass to the wall. Her activity, after hours of minimal movement, woke the cat on her lap and he promptly leaped down, mirrored her actions in catly fashion, then strolled over to his dish. Charlotte trotted in, seconds later, seemingly none the worse for the battle the night before, but Hairy was nowhere to be seen.
"Hey guys," said Quinn, as she got up to switch on the coffeemaker, and put out kitten food. "Wheres Hairy? As if in answer, the third feline member of the family walked in, but with little of his usual joie de vivre.
"Hi Hairy. You look as if youve been through the wars. Did Charlotte hurt you last night?" Picking up the feline she checked him over, finding a swollen and painful area on his leg near his hip that surrounded a puncture mark. She put the struggling animal down, unwilling to cause him more pain, and watched him retreat to the other side of the kitchen. "Yeah, I think we should get that checked out," she said, thoughtfully.
"Get what checked out?" said Ariel, newly arrived on the scene. Walking over to slip an arm around the taller womans waist she murmured: "Love the outfit," and slid her hand down over sensitive skin to give Quinns buttock a quick squeeze.
Quinn grinned, but elected not to respond, saying instead, "Hairys right back leg. I think Charlotte bit him last night in their battle royal."
"Oh? They had a fight?" said the writer, crossing the kitchen to the cat in question and picking him up to check out the injury.
"Yeah. Right outside our door. I was pretty sure you slept through it, although how, I dont know. Glad you did, though."
"Hmm. Must explain why I dreamed I was attending a Klingon Opera," said Ariel, bemused while she slid her hands lightly over Hairy.
"Klingon opera? That would have been worse than being wakened by the fight!"
"Um, well it had its compensations," Ariel replied, sparing Quinn a quick grin before redirecting her eyes to Hairy as she returned him to the floor. "I attended with Jadzia Dax."
"Really!" said Quinn, amused. "So, how far down do her spots go?" she leered.
Ariel looked up from watching Hairy pick at his food, and flashed Quinn a lecherous smile in return. "Im not the kind to kiss and tell," she responded. Then more seriously: "Yes, he should go to the vet ASAP. They had a fight a couple of days ago before you got home. I didnt find any marks on either of them at the time. But I think its an infected bite, and more likely he got it then, rather than last night. Anyway, both of them should be checked over. What about Grise?"
"He just seemed to be a bystander."
"Hmm. Yeah, just like the other day, although he has had a couple of scraps with Hairy recently." Ariel observed a listless Hairy for a few seconds more then said: "I think its time to get the boys neutered."
Mind made up she looked up at her lover and added: "At any rate, first things first. Ill make an appointment for Hairy with the vet right after my laps, which gives me . . ." Ariel glanced over Quinns shoulder at the wall clock ". . . 20 minutes until they open."
"Ok," said Quinn, picking up the Glock from the table and preparing to follow the writer out. "Lets go."
Ariel regarded her with an amused smile. "As much as I love what youre wearing, or more properly, not wearing, Sweetheart, Im not letting you go outside in daylight like that. Ill wait right here while you go get some clothes on."
"What? Oh, yeah. I wasnt thinking. Be right back," said her lover, and sprinted out the kitchen door toward the stairs.
Ariel, enjoying the last glimpse she had had of Quinns tanned, muscular body, grinned and said, "World, eat your heart out. Shes all mine!"
Her lover soon returned in hastily dawned shorts and t-shirt. A few minutes later, laps accomplished, Ariel was back upstairs, stripping off her wet bikini while simultaneously punching in the vets telephone number.
In response to her enquiry, the receptionist said: "Yes, Ariel. We can fit you in at 4:00 pm."
"No chance it could be earlier Beth? The little guys in pain."
"Aw, poor Hairy! I wish we could, but Dr. Connor has a very tight schedule today, and thats the earliest time we have."
"Ok then," said the writer, accepting defeat. "Well see you at 4:00."
Ariel disconnected, dressed and hurried downstairs. Quinn, who was just serving omelets, looked up as the writer walked into the kitchen.
"4:00 pm. Dr. Connor is booked solid." Ariel crouched and stroked Hairy, adding directly to him: "Im sorry, Sweetie, but youll feel better soon."
"Ok. Ill go with you," said Quinn, as she carried the plates to the table. "By the way, what time is your appointment with Edward?"
"11:00. Jamie can go with me"
"Ill be back here at 10:30. Shes good but Id still rather do the honors. Until we have this squared away."
"Mmm," said Quinn giving Ariel a quick kiss as she handed her a plate. "A female who does what shes told. I like that in a woman."
"No you dont," rejoined the writer, playfully, as she sat down at the table.
"Ok. Point taken. Let me amend that. I like that in a woman Im guarding."
"Better," smiled Ariel, as she poured Quinn some coffee. Sniffing the fragrant brews aroma, she added "I expect youll need this, since I assume you were up most of the night?"
Quinn made a face. "Yeah. I decided after the cat astrophe it was pointless to go back to bed, so decided to do some work."
"Cat astrophe nice one," grinned the writer. Then, looking closer, she added: "Come to think of it, you re pretty perky for someone awake half the night, not to mention the sleep deficit from the night before. What gives?"
"Well, I have to check some things at the office first, but if Im right we got part of the puzzle solved, although how it fits into the whole, I still havent a clue," concluded Quinn, buttering toast. Then glancing up and noting Ariels hopeful look she added, quickly: "Sorry, Love, its not anything to do with where Katie is. But that will come in time. Im sure of it."
"Ariel smiled, and laid a hand gently on Quinns wrist. "With you working at it, its sure to be a slam dunk," she murmured.
Just then, the doorbell sounded, signalling Jamies arrival, cutting off further conversation.
"Morning Boss Lady," said Kris, simultaneously checking faxes received overnight and nodding at Quinn who was just letting herself in the front door.
"Morning Kris. Anything happening I should know about?" said Quinn as she dropped her jacket on a chair. All the way down to the office she had tried to snatch a few minutes of mental rest, putting what she thought of as the Scott problem out of her mind so that she could return to it refreshed and ready to look for new ways to tackle it. But her subconscious was having none of that, worrying at it like a dog with a bone. She hoped the normal office activity, frantic though it could be, might help.
"Just got here myself, but no ones called me about anything, so presumably its all under control," said Kris as she glanced quickly over a fax, adding "heres something for you from a company called Asia Marine. It gives you the ports of call of one of their ships, uh . . . ." Kris paused to consult the paper she held, "the Sea Dragon, over the last two years. What gives?"
"That was fast," said Quinn, taking the paper. Scanning it quickly she said "I only called them a couple of hours ago and the guy I talked to didnt seem too interested. But, if Im right, we are about to identify the Parsonville, and presumably, the west coast killer."
"Yeah?" said Kris, taking the paper back.
"Pull up MORBID. If you plot when the ship was in port against when the murder victims went missing, well soon find out," responded Quinn.
"You got it!" said the shorter woman as she slid into her chair and opened the MORBID database.
While Kris was occupied, Quinn phoned Vanessa.
"Hows it going?"
"Fine, Quinn, although I wish we were through this street scene."
"Would it be better if you had another body there?"
"Yeah. Right now I feel we dont have her well enough covered."
"Ok. Someone will be down there soon. Likely me."
"Good. We could use the help."
"You got it," said Quinn, and disconnected. "Well? she added to Kris, who was waiting for a chance to speak.
"It fits. Ive only had time to check the first two but they dovetail perfectly. Jefferson Bennetts our guy."
"Yeah. Quinn replied. "After about the sixth time over the facts it jumped out at me that after he left Parsonville to join the merchant marine, there were no more disappearances. And then that helped to explain the scattered nature of the west coast murders. Join the merchant marine and slay a girl in every port," she added, savagely. "Call Hank for me, will you? But before you do, check the rest of the data and make sure it matches up. I dont want to be premature on this."
"Of course, oh Cautious Leader." Kris slid into her chair again, then looked up. "By the way, Boss, good call.
Quinn grinned. "Thanks. A wise woman cautioned me on jumping to conclusions and that made me rethink what we thought we knew. If you need me," she added, collecting her jacket and heading for the door, "Ill be at the movie set."
"You got it."
"And . . . action."
Unlike almost everyone else on the set, Quinn directed her attention to the onlookers, not the actors, as the scene was played yet again. And that was a pretty tall order, considering that the action covered the length of a city block.
She had arrived at the set twenty minutes before, but just seconds before the crew signaled that a take was about to begin. Quinn had positioned herself so that Vanessa could see and acknowledge her presence. After that take was complete, and while everyone waited for the crew to get ready for another attempt, the security consultant had occupied herself looking over the spectators and assuring herself that no one in the immediate vicinity was a danger to their client.
For this take, she could see that both her operatives were again in position. Vanessa was up the street, as close to Carson Oliver, the woman they had been hired to protect, as she could be under the circumstances, while Owen stood about halfway down, trying to keep an eye on the onlookers and stay out of the crews way at the same time. Oliver, Quinn could see, was strolling down the street with a fellow actor, playing out the scene surrounded by cameras, crew and many extras. It was no wonder, thought Quinn, that Vanessa had felt that a little help in this situation was in order.
The main group of actors and crew stopped advancing down the street, while extras continued to mill about the edge, as Oliver and the other actor faced each other and exchanged several lines of heated dialogue. Quinn and her staff tuned out the scene that everyone else was focused upon and kept their eyes moving constantly, checking all the possibilities. Filming on a street with only barricades holding back passersby was chancy. Most people cooperated cheerfully, but a few, well, they were the ones to watch out for.
"And . . . cut. Good one, everybody. Ok, thats it for here," Quinn heard the director say. An assistant with a megaphone repeated the words up and down the street. As she threaded her way through the throng, she noted with approval that Vanessa and Owen moved in swiftly on either side of Carson, after the scene came to its conclusion. A crew member had just completed a brief conversation with their client when Quinn reached Vanessa. "Whats happening?" she asked. The tall red head turned to greet her, as Owen escorted Carson to a waiting car.
"Hi Boss. They finished here earlier than expected. Carson isnt needed again until the afternoon so Owen and I will see her back to her hotel, and Ill stay with her."
"You need anyone later?" she asked, mentally juggling operatives.
"No, I dont think so. The scenes to be shot this afternoon are interiors."
"Ok, but call for it if necessary," said Quinn.
Vanessa nodded then followed Owen and the client. Quinn watched until she was sure they were safely into a waiting car and off to the hotel. Then, looking around, she assessed her chances of quickly finding transportation herself. The barricades at either end of the block had been lifted and traffic was beginning to build to normal levels. Dodging around some crew members disassembling their equipment, the security consultant spotted and hailed a passing cab.
"Thank you for choosing Central Traffic Authority to fulfill your transportation needs," intoned the taxi, as she got in. "We aim to give you the best in swift, courteous and SAFE service. There is no need to be concerned about recent incidents of taxi vandalism. This cab is tamper-proof and certified safe, clean and suitable for the whole family! If you are travelling with little ones, child seats are available and can be accessed at the touch of the red button on the console! Please follow the instructions to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride. Now, it is our very great pleasure to assist you to reach your destination. Where may we take you today?"
Quinn, who had stolen an impatient look at her watch during the taxi promo responded: "1420 Rochester and cut the chatter."
"I do not recognize "
"Yeah, yeah, I know, I know already! Just drive!"
Settling back into the taxis upholstery, albeit hesitantly, given her experience the day before, Quinn dialed in an info feed audio channel.
Keep your motor runnin,
The dark haired woman smiled wryly as she got comfortable and closed her eyes. Who would have believed that the old girls next door would turn out to be motorcycle experts. Goes to show you, she said to herself, Margaret Thatcher was right: its a funny old world.
Her phone chose that moment to buzz, interrupting her reverie. "Quinn Thanatos," she said.
"We got them Quinn. The driveby shooters. Weve just started the interrogation."
Quinn bolted upright. "On my way!" she responded and then a split second after disconnecting growled "Oh shit!" as she remembered where she was supposed to be at 10:30.
"Excuse me," queried the car, "I did not understand that instruction." Please repeat, speaking slowly and clearly."
"Cancel your last instruction and take me directly to central police booking."
Thumbing the speed dial on her phone while the taxi acknowledged the change in destination, Quinn impatiently waited for Ariel to pick up. "Hi Love," she said, without waiting for Ariel to speak. "Theres been a change in plans. Hank just phoned to say they got the driveby shooters so Jamie will accompany you to Edwards after all, and I hope to meet you there."
"Finally! Thats great news!"
"Yeah. Im hoping the interrogation will nail Scott to the wall. Would you let me speak to Jamie, please?"
"Sure thing, Love. Here she is."
Seconds later, a new voice said: "Yes, Quinn."
"Jamie. Normally Id relieve you at the house but the police have finally caught the driveby shooters and I want to see the interrogation so youll have to accompany Ariel to her publishers. Ill meet you there. Dont let her out of your sight and dont let Scott anywhere near her. If you do, youll deal with me. Understand?"
"Loud and clear, Quinn."
"Ok. Good. See you in a while." Quinn disconnected, musing that so far Jamie, who had an impressive resume, had proved to be a good addition to the staff of Thanatos Security.
Her immediate problem taken care of, the security consultant discovered that shed arrived at her destination. As Quinn punched in her pay code and exited the vehicle, she surveyed the building entrance, taking in the half dozen police cars parked outside, and officers coming and going through the doors, with and without handcuffed prisoners. Every time she saw the police HQs gray façade, the security consultant found herself wondering how something that looked so Stalinist had wound up on the opposite side of the globe. "Damned institutional architects," she muttered, as she strode to the entrance.
Although Quinn could hardly curb her impatience, in reality it was only a matter of moments before she was logged in, issued a visitors badge and waved down the hall to the interrogation section, which smelled faintly of disinfectant. Hank met her there.
"Well?" she barked.
"Theyre not talking. I think theyll fold, but theyll want something for it. It may take a while."
"I got time," she said, hoping shed bought herself enough.
"Ok. You can watch through here," said the detective, ushering Quinn into a small dim room with one-way mirrors on two of the four walls. Through each she could see a youth seated at a table. One was alone, but two police officers were questioning the other. "Theyre talking to Ronnie Whalen," said Hank, gesturing at the interrogation. "The one by himself is Marcus Colby. Ronnie is the weak link."
Quinn nodded, but before turning to the interrogation of Whalen, took a moment to focus intently on the kid lounging indolently in a chair in the other interrogation room. She knew without a doubt that here was the gunman who had fired multiple rounds at Ariel, Scott and herself, so many months ago. His face still haunted the occasional nightmare in which she found herself powerless to prevent Ariels murder.
Turning to Hank Walsh, who was watching, she pointed at Colby and mouthed "shooter." Hank nodded, and softly said "Thats what we were told." Then, both focused their attention on the interrogation in the other room.
"So Ronnie," one of the plainclothes officers was saying, "Attempted murder. Wouldnt want to be in your shoes! Thats pretty big, isnt it Danny?" he added, addressing his partner, who was lounging against the wall.
Taking his cue, the other man, who was taller, younger and more fashionably dressed, agreed. "Twenty to life," he said. "Thats practically all she wrote. Only one more stop on that sin-bound train before they cancel your ticket," he added, leaning over the table to face the prisoner.
"Attempted murder! What are you guys talking about? I dont know nothin bout no attempted murder!" scoffed the seated prisoner.
"Sure you do. Your prints tie you to a car from which hollow point rounds were sprayed at three people at almost point blank range. The car was IDed at the scene. Youre going down bro. Thats all there is to it."
"And the ammo used is going to get you a special circumstance no parole consideration til youve served 30 years. Minimum," added Danny, again leaning against the wall.
Quinn, who knew that when found, the car had been wiped clean of prints and the rounds fired were standard, held her breath to see what Whalen would say.
"Aw, you dont got shit," the prisoner sneered.
"Nice big fat thumbprint on the steering wheel. You didnt get em all, Ronnie," said the older detective moving back into the picture again. Quinn, noting a fleeting look of worry cross the kids face, glanced at Hank, who had been watching the scene as intently as she.
Sensing an unvoiced question he met her eyes and shook his head, whispering, "Theyre just softening him up. Criminals arent usually the brightest people, and theyre hoping hell contradict them. Its been known to happen."
Quinn nodded and went back to observing the dance.
"So Ronnie," continued the older detective, "with the evidence we got, its gonna be next to impossible to disprove. Course, with a good lawyer you might be able to wiggle out of it." He sat down, smiled and added: "If Marcus doesnt talk, that is."
"Marcus aint sayin nothin, cause theres nothin to say, " said the prisoner, confidently.
"Thats my cue," said Hank. "Excuse me. Back in a moment," and he left by the door through which he and Quinn had entered. In a few seconds Quinn heard a knock on the door to the interrogation room, followed almost immediately by Hank stepping in to motion the older detective out.
The two men entered the observation room seconds later. "Quinn, John. John, Quinn," Hank muttered by way of introduction. Quinn and the older detective nodded at each other and then turned their attention to the action on the other side of the glass.
Danny, the officer left in the room with the prisoner, relaxed against the wall, and then after a couple of minutes began to pace slowly around the perimeter, whistling softly. After about five minutes, Ronnie, whose calm exterior was beginning to show cracks, suddenly asked: "So whats happening?"
"Huh?" said Danny, portraying a man wrapped up in his own thoughts who had been suddenly pulled back to the present. "Oh, hell be back soon."
"Fuckin cops" mumbled the prisoner, slouching down in the hard plastic chair and folding his arms.
The older detective grinned. "Well give him another minute or two then Ill go back in and see if the wait has helped things along."
The younger detective came to rest at a section of wall slightly behind and to the left of the prisoner, leaning against it, hands in his pockets and whistling almost soundlessly to himself. After a couple of minutes, Ronnie craned his head around and complained: "Hey, how long you gonna keep me here? I got rights!"
"Oh, we got lots of time yet, man. Dont worry," responded Danny, smiling pleasantly.
"Ok. Showtime again," said the older detective as he turned and stepped out of the viewing room, pulling the door soundlessly closed behind him. Seconds later he re-entered the interrogation room. "Well, Ronnie," he greeted the prisoner, "youve been a very bad boy."
"Whatcha talking about? I aint done nothin."
"Your word against Marcuss, Ronnie, and remember whose thumb print we found," continued the older officer with glee. "We didnt find any of Marcuss prints so that supports what hes been telling the officers in the other room."
"Whata yuh mean?" the kid blurted. "Whats he been saying?"
"You should have just kept your mouth shut, but you had to boast to him about the job you did."
"I never told him nothing about nothing!" exclaimed the prisoner, becoming agitated.
"Sure you did," said John, the older officer, leaning over the table. "You were supposed to hang out with him at Jacks Bar and Grill, but when he got there you were gone. It wasnt until he saw you the next day that you told him about the easy money you made taking pot shots at a celebrity. Hes writing it all down now, and hell testify at your trial."
"I didnt take no shots! He " Ronnie, realizing he was about to give the game away, clamped his mouth tight and made an effort to compose himself. Quinn was aware of total silence both in the viewing room and in the interrogation room, and realized she was holding her breath.
John pulled out a chair and sat down opposite the prisoner. "Are you telling us that Marcus is lying, Ronnie? See, hes got the evidence on his side, seeing as how we didnt find anything to tie him to the car, and if you cant shake his story, youre going down and hes gonna walk."
Quinn watched. Hank watched. The two detectives watched, but the prisoner remained stubbornly mute.
John, the older officer, leaned across the table. "So thats how its gonna be, huh?" he said. "I guess Marcus is right." He stopped, and smiled pleasantly at the prisoner.
"Marcus is right bout what?" snarled the prisoner.
"Think about it, Ronnie. Why do you think he did the job with you? Cause he knows youre so stupid you wouldnt know how to get off and he could leave you twisting in the wind. But Marcus knows how, doesnt he, Ronnie?" Turning to the younger detective he added "Danny, go see if Marcus is finished writing his statement yet."
"Will do," acknowledged the other man, and stepped out the door. Seconds later he appeared in the observation room.
"Quinn, Danny. Danny, Quinn," said Hank. The younger detective nodded at Quinn, then, as before when John had entered, all three focused on the action on the other side of the glass.
"You see, Ronnie. Its like this," the older detective was saying as he tilted his chair back and locked his hands behind his neck, the picture of relaxation. "Whoever talks first, gets our attention. Theres still a chance, of course, to change our minds, but if someone hands us a perp tied up with a bow, why should we bust ours balls to prove their story wrong? Personally, the city doesnt pay me enough."
"My cue, whispered the young detective, picking up some papers from a filing cabinet next to the door before slipping out. Quinn raised an eyebrow at Hank, who quietly said "its a confession alright, but one we got on another case, a day or so ago." The security consultant nodded and turned back to the room on the other side of the glass.
Quinn expected to see Danny appear immediately in the interrogation room, but all she saw was the door open slightly, and heard his voice as if he was finishing a conversation with someone outside the room before re-entering it.
"Ok, thanks, man. Yeah. Yeah, well need you at the trial. Well let you know. Bye."
"Get it?" asked the older detective, as Danny reentered the room with the papers.
Uh huh," was the response, as the younger officer handed them to his partner.
"Has Marcus gone now?"
"Yup. But hell testify."
"Good. Good. Well I guess that wraps it u"
"Whaddaya mean has Marcus gone?" interrupted the prisoner, clearly listening to the conversation, and not at all liking what he heard.
The older detective looked up, as if hed forgotten that the prisoner was there. "Marcus finished his statement," he said, lifting the papers by one corner. "Youll see him again at the trial."
"You let him go? Just like that? And youre keeping me here!?" Ronnie exclaimed.
"Well, its like I tried to tell you," said the older officer, in a reasonable tone. "Whoever talks first, gets first crack at selling his story." He stopped to riffle the pages, pausing as if reading a line here or there. "What hes given us here is plausible. Im afraid theres nothing more we can do for you." Turning to the younger officer he added, "Danny, would you get a uniform to take him back "
"Ok! Ill talk, " he snarled.
"Finally!" Quinn muttered, then immediately spluttered "what?" when John, the older officer said, "Well, weve got Marcuss sta"
"Fuck his statement! Its a pack of lies! He was the shooter, All I did was drive the fuckin car. Im not taking a fall for him!"
John looked at him, brow furrowed. Then, he slowly pushed a writing pad and pencil across the table. "Ok," he said. "But youve got to write it, so we got it down in your own words. Start with how the whole thing came about. Somebody paid you to do it, didnt they, Ronnie. Hell, if they paid you, even if you did do it, its their responsibility, see? You could turn states evidence and walk away laughing."
The prisoner was nodding through this, and grabbed the pencil and paper. But before he could begin writing, the detective added: "But remember, Ronnie, if somebody paid you, weve got to be able to find him, otherwise, youre still stuck. See what I mean? So youve got to give us a good description, and pick him out of a lineup, too."
"Thats easy!" exclaimed the prisoner, now the picture of cooperation. "We saw the dude two or three times before he offered us cash to do a little job for him . . . "
Turning away from the scene on the other side of the glass, Quinn exhaled, and looked at Hank. "You guys do good work," she said.
The big man smiled. "Like tickling fish," he said.
"What?" Quinn said, clearly not following.
"Tickling fish. Its a fishing technique. You take the hook and . . ." The big man trailed off, seeing his listeners face "Forget it," he said with a wave of his hand. Then added. "By the way, nice call regarding the serial murderer."
"Kris called you?" said Quinn, as she opened the door and stepped out into the hall.
"Called me and faxed and emailed me the info. Time matches on all the murders. We sent out notification immediately. Hes currently at sea, but hell be picked up at his next port of call."
"Yeah." The big man rubbed the back of his neck, then added, "Would you like the pleasure of telling the police chief in Parsonville?"
Would she!? Quinn had to admit that shed love it. However. "Naw, Ill leave that to you, but tell him that I sent him a big ol wet kiss, Ok?"
"Itll be my pleasure," he replied with a grin. Then, switching gears, he added, "You leaving now? Dont want to stay to see them crack the other guy?"
"Wish I could," responded Quinn, ruefully, "but I dont have the time. Got to meet Ariel over at her publishers, about . . ." checking her watch, "twenty-five minutes ago."
"Ok. The other guy will take a while but we should have this wrapped up in a couple of hours."
"Youll make him the same deal? If you identify Scott youre laughing?" Quinn asked as she and Hank walked down the hall.
"Yeah. I know, that sucks, but, yeah. Thatll be the deal." They stopped at double doors to the entry lobby, cops, robbers and bystanders streaming by on all sides. "And remember, we still have to get them to identify Scott."
"They will," said Quinn with certainty.
"Sure about that?" asked Hank. "They might not be able to identify him after all these months."
Quinn looked at him with a small smile. She was as tall as most men, but she still had to tilt her head back to look Hank in the eye. "Ive been wrong about a lot of things in this case, but thats not one of them. Theyll identify him and make it stick. Count on it."
The big man smiled slowly, and then nodded. "Its about time something went our way on this thing," he agreed. "Ill call you when Ive got anything else to say."
"Likewise, " she agreed, then joined the sea of humanity streaming past, and was gone.
Continued . . .
Copyright 2004, by Helen Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
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