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Authors: Danielle Girard

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Literary

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BOOK: Chasing Darkness
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Tucking
the extra magazine in his pocket, Nick holstered his gun, put on his
windbreaker, and zipped it to cover the vest. He could already feel the sweat
trickling down his back. The vest made it hotter, but he was better off hot
than dead.

He’d
learned a hard lesson in his first hours working for the detective division as
a patrol officer. His partner, on a routine set of interviews, had decided not
to don a vest. He’d been shot through a solid oak door as he approached a
suspect’s house. Though the shot hadn’t killed him, he’d taken the round in his
intestines. He’d been eating baby food since. And he was considered lucky.

Nick
stepped out of the car and crossed over to the house, giving a half nod to the
backup. Sam walked beside him, the two of them like normal people coming for a
visit. Reaching the front door, he paused and looked at Sam. When she nodded,
he knocked three times. After a moment, the door squeaked open and little Molly
stood half hidden behind it.

Nick
bent down a little as he spoke. “Molly, I’m looking for the man who’s here. Do
you know him?”

Molly
looked up and then behind her.

Nick
stepped into the house. “Ms. Mayes. Mr. Lugino,” he called out.

No
one answered.

“Where’s
your grandma?” Sam asked.

Molly
looked around as though someone might help her with the answer.

“I’m
the detective helping with your mommy’s case. Can you tell me where your
grandma is?”

Molly
shook her head, strands of light brown hair falling across her cheeks. “She’s
not here.”

“Is
there a man here, Molly?” Sam asked.

Molly
shook her head.

He
didn’t get angry with her. These kids had been trained to lie. The abused ones
had been doing it since they could talk. Nick stooped lower so his gaze was
level with Molly’s. “Molly, it’s very important that I talk to him. Where is
he?”

Molly
looked puzzled, then put a hand on one hip like a miniature grown-up. “He went
out when you got here.”

Nick
stood. “Went out where?”

She
pointed behind her. “The back door.”

“You’re
sure?”

She
nodded seriously and pointed to the door. “See, it’s still open.”

Nick
cursed inwardly. “Did he know who I was?”

She
smiled proudly. “I told him you were Mommy’s ’tective.”

Sam
laughed at her antics, and Molly’s grin widened.

Giving
her a smile, Nick scanned the room. He didn’t think she was lying. “Good girl.
Now lock the doors,” he said, as he raced back outside and scanned the street
for Lugino. Sam was on his heels. The officers were still sitting in the car.
McCafferty got out.

“He
bolted,” Nick said. “McCafferty, call for backup and then stay posted on this
car.” He pointed to Lugino’s Skylark. “Lewis, head around the block from this
side. He’s got to be on foot.”

“They
would’ve seen him if he’d come this way,” Sam said. “We should check the next
block down.”

Drawing
his gun, Nick nodded and made his way around the side of the house. There was
nowhere to hide in the Walters’ small backyard, so Nick assumed Lugino had
taken off. Despite his frustration, he couldn’t help but smile when he
remembered the sound of Molly’s little voice talking about her mommy’s
’tective.

Nick
ran to the street behind the Walters’. Sam held back ten feet or so, covering
in case Lugino appeared. Like Molly’s house, the houses on this street were
small, mostly ranch-style single-family homes.

Nick
looked in both directions. The streets were clear. He hadn’t expected to find
Lugino on the street, though. If Nick were the one on the run, he would want to
find a place where the cops couldn’t find him. He looked back at Sam, and she
pointed to the right. “Further from the main street.”

Nodding,
Nick followed her lead. Moving down the middle of the street, he surveyed each
house. He was looking for deep bush, a hidden stairwell, a visible backyard, an
empty-looking house—anything big enough for a human body. He got halfway down
the block when something stirred behind him. He whipped around to see a little
black girl coming out of a house, cradling a baby doll in her arms and
whispering to it. She walked down the three steps to the sidewalk and started
to climb onto a tricycle.

“Back
inside,” he urged her.

The
girl froze and looked up, her eyes wide.

“Please
go inside,” he repeated, motioning to her. He didn’t want to scare her, but he
didn’t want her on the street at the moment, either.

She
looked around, clearly frightened. Then, squeezing the doll tight to her, she
raced up the steps and inside the house, screaming.

Sam
stopped at the curb. Nick could see her checking the street for signs of their
suspect.

“Anything?”

“Nada,”
she said.

Nick
exhaled. He had started to turn around when he noticed a crawl space beneath
the deck of the girl’s house. Walking slowly, he pulled out his flashlight and
turned the light toward the deck.

Silently,
he crossed the grass and started to kneel.

“What
the hell are you doing?” someone hollered.

Nick
jumped back.

A
woman, holding a bat, stood above him, leaning over the deck. “Get the hell off
my lawn. Where do you get off scaring my girl that way?”

Nick
raised his hand. “I’m a police officer, ma’am. I didn’t want your daughter out
here because I’m looking for a suspect in a murder case.”

The
woman didn’t lower her bat. Instead, she took a couple of steps backward and
scanned the area. “Let me see some I.D.”

“Ma’am.”

She
waved the bat around in a small circle like she was winding up to hit one home.
“I’ll go back in that house and call the police ’less you show me your goddamn
badge.”

Sam
came forward, her badge drawn. “Special agent for the Department of Justice.”

The
woman frowned, and the dark lines of her face suddenly looked painted on. “Not
you,” she said to Sam and then pointed to Nick. “Him.”

He
took a careful look around for Lugino. By now, he was probably on a bus for the
next county.

“I.D.,
mister,” the woman repeated.

Sam
was right behind him now. “You’re clear,” she said.

“Okay,”
Nick agreed. Still holding his gun, he found his badge with his left hand and
brought it out, handing it to the woman.

He
looked around again and slowly holstered his gun.

The
woman studied his badge, then looked at him.

Nick
sensed movement in the crawl space under the porch behind him.

The
woman screamed.

“Freeze!”
Sam commanded.

Nick
spun around, reaching for his gun.

Lugino
stood behind him, swinging the tricycle.

Nick
ducked, unable to reach his gun in time. The tricycle missed his head but hit
him hard against his right shoulder. He moaned, falling forward.

“Drop
it and freeze,” Sam repeated.

Lugino
didn’t listen. He took off down the street.

The
woman ran back into the house.

“Fuck,”
Sam cursed, taking off after Lugino.

Nick
forced himself up and cupped his right arm to his chest. He shook it loose
slowly, the pain already starting to pulse in his muscles.

Lugino
was moving, but not fast, and Sam reached him easily. When Sam was within arm’s
reach, Lugino dove right, but Sam caught his arm and whipped him around.
Without giving him a chance to pause, she kneed him in the balls and watched
him drop to the ground. He moaned and rolled to his side, bringing his legs up
in the fetal position. She put her hand in his hair and pressed his face into
the ground, her gun at his back.

“Nice
cover,” Nick said when he reached Sam. “I thought you were watching my back.”

She
didn’t answer him but instead got on her knees and straddled Lugino. Her gun
holstered, she pulled out a pair of cuffs and slapped them on Lugino. Nick
wished again that he was alone out here. Watching her work was too much.

When
she was done, she stood up and turned toward him. “You okay?”

He
nodded.

Lugino
moaned as Nick pulled him to his feet. “My nuts, man. That bitch crushed my
nuts.”

“You
shouldn’t have tried to crush my head,” Nick muttered, leading him toward the
car.

Chapter
Six

Nick
ran a hand over his face and took a long drink of his cold coffee. It was after
ten and they had been talking to Lugino for more than three hours. Sam had left
early on, promising to come back later. Lugino hadn’t been responsive with a
woman in the room. And since she’d kneed him in the balls, he seemed to be
particularly against talking to her. She’d gone to make some phone calls, and
Lugino had relaxed a bit after she left. Nick knew how he felt.

Through
a small one-way window in the viewing room, he watched Officer Polaski wear
down Lugino. The idea was to tire the witness, exhaust him, until he was ready
to spill everything—or everything you were going to get. Then you recorded the
interview.

Nick
had had interviews that lasted five minutes and others that had gone six or
seven hours. Only one had pushed into the twenty-third hour, leaving Nick
almost as desperate for a confession as the perp was for release. Twenty-four
hours was the cutoff. Hold them that long, they had to be charged with something.
Twenty-three hours and twenty minutes into it, Nick had gotten a full
confession and detailed instructions on where to find the murder weapon. In
interviewing, patience was an officer’s best friend. He’d ask a question and
wait—sometimes ten minutes—for an answer. If he didn’t like the answer, he’d
ask it another way or ask a different one and come back to it.

Over
a hundred or so interviews, Nick had developed a sort of sixth sense about who
was guilty and who was innocent. He didn’t have the guilty feeling about
Lugino. He’d missed it in others who had killed, but Lugino lacked a baseness
in his gaze and the fake confidence that came with being able to carry off a
lie of that magnitude.

Lugino
was being held on assaulting an officer, but if they were going to charge him,
Nick wanted it to be something more substantial than that. He’d left the
interview room to give the other officer a chance to intimidate Lugino before
they continued.

He
paced the small viewing room, watching while Polaski glared at Lugino. Polaski
was the ultimate bad cop. A nice enough guy, he had a rugged, pockmarked face
and a scar from the corner of his mouth to above his ear. The scar was from a
dog attack when he was a kid. His thick, dark hair divided at the line of his scar
like a second part on the side of his head. When he was smiling, the scar
dimpled, like a huge lopsided grin. But when he wasn’t smiling, you’d swear it
was a gash from a recent knife fight, and you’d wonder how bad the other guy
looked.

Polaski’s
tactics certainly seemed to be working on Lugino. He had sweated a thick streak
down the front of his gray Raiders T-shirt, and his curly dark hair was
plastered to his brow.

“Is
he talking?”

Nick
turned to meet Sam’s gaze. “Polaski’s working him a bit.”

“I
got some good news,” she announced, smiling. She was dangling a piece of paper
in her fingers.

Nick
tried to snatch it but missed. “Good news I could use.”

She
handed it to him. “We got a print on the body.”

Nick
read the evidence report. “Any matches?”

“Not
yet, but maybe we’ll have one soon.”

“I
hope you’re right.”

Sam
moved up beside Nick to look through the window. He felt her closeness like an
electrical current, but he kept his distance. He didn’t let them touch and
neither did she. “Any priors besides the possession?”

“That’s
it. I can’t figure it. No history of violence.”

“Maybe
Sandi drove him to it,” Sam suggested.

It
didn’t feel right. “According to the guys he works with, he doesn’t have a
temper to speak of. Came to work one day with three broken fingers. Guys razzed
him about getting in a fight. Turned out Sandi broke them and he didn’t even
get mad—just said it was her fire that made her fun.”

“A
real tough guy.”

Nick
nodded. “Exactly. Not the type to strangle someone.”

“Maybe
not.”

Nick
rubbed the stiffness in his right shoulder where the trike had hit.

“How’s
that arm?”

He
dropped his hand. “It’s fine.”

“Must
be getting old if it still hurts.”

He
didn’t look at her, but he could tell she was kidding. “It’s fine, I said.”

She
was quiet a moment. Through the speaker wired to the interview room, they heard
Polaski ask Lugino what he thought his chances were of not getting nailed for
Sandi’s murder if he didn’t answer the questions. Lugino didn’t respond.

“Plans
have changed a bit for your birthday,” Sam said, frowning.

Nick
didn’t blink. “That’s fine,” he said, though he was disappointed.

“It’s
just that with Rob grounded, I don’t really want to take him to Chevy’s. I want
him to learn from this and taking him out will feel like a reward.”

Nick
nodded. “That’s fine. I’m going to dinner at my sister’s on Saturday.”

“But
tomorrow’s your actual birthday,” she said, still watching Polaski and Lugino.

“No
biggie.”

She
watched through the two-way mirror, and he could see her thinking. “Why don’t
you come to dinner anyway?”

“Why
don’t I take you out?”

Her
gaze shot to his. “Take me out on
your
birthday?”

He
nodded. “Or you can take me.”

She
opened her mouth.

“Or
we can go Dutch.”

“Just
the two of us?” She looked like she was holding her breath.

He
laughed. “Okay, it was a bad idea.”

BOOK: Chasing Darkness
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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