Authors: LS Sygnet
Tags: #mystery, #deception, #vendetta, #cold case, #psychiatric hospital, #attempted murder, #distrust
"I've had other things going on."
"Well, it's no secret anymore. The
world knows Johnny is the guy behind the badge of power at
I was sure Chris Darnell
was thrilled to be publicly reduced to a puppet
administrator. "I'm afraid I'll have to pass on Saturday
night, Zack." Big law enforcement bash, Johnny's cover blown,
no thank you. It was one thing to have heart shattering
dreams about the man. Rubbing elbows with him in public after
two months of active avoidance delved directly into the realm
very bad plan
"Right. I shouldn't have asked.
Well, I should've realized that you'd rather attend with
Then again… "Zack, I'm not sure where you're
getting your information, but Johnny Orion is not in the picture
"No. I wouldn't even call it a picture
when we were sort of... well, toying with the idea. It was
more of a doodle on a cocktail napkin than a picture."
"How formal is this gala Saturday
"Black tie," Zack said. "Are you
having second thoughts about attending?"
Second, third, millionth. "What time
will you pick me up?"
"Five thirty," he said. "Cocktails at
six followed by dinner at seven. After dinner, there's a
brief awards ceremony, typically when Darkwater Bay decorates
officers for outstanding service during the calendar year, and then
dancing and socializing, but it's entirely understandable that you
wouldn't want to stay past –"
My brain heard cocktails, but Zack had
something else in mind.
"We'll play that part by ear, I
My voice dipped lower as I stepped away from
the perked ears of my therapist. "Zack, this thing with
Orion, how much did it hamper the investigation he was working on
for the past couple of years?"
A slow breath blew over the
connection. "It's tough to say, Helen. You'd have to
talk to him about it, but I can tell you this. Danny Datello
has been pretty vocal about the
of law enforcement of late.
It's no secret that he had to realize Johnny was watching him in an
official capacity now that word is out about his real
position. Rumor has it that Datello is scouring the ranks of
the state senate for someone to challenge Joe Collangelo in the
"So he can get rid of OSI
no doubt." Stupid! Orion should've maintained his cover
and let Darnell deal with the fallout from Kim Jackson's
shooting. The idea of Danny Datello slipping through the
cracks yet again gnawed at my gut, sparked a little bit of vendetta
back to life within me. I'd been so wrapped up in running
away, in the
to run away immediately that everything else faded into
"I'm afraid Datello might have the
connections to pull it off too, Helen. Like I said, I'm not
aware of the details of Johnny's current investigation, but I do
know that he's been working almost around the clock for the past
few weeks. No doubt he's feeling the pressure from
Collangelo's end of the hierarchy too."
"Because if someone isn't arrested on a
charge that will stick, Joe stands to lose a great deal. I
can't tell you how much that disturbs me."
"Downey Division, all of Darkwater Bay for
that matter, could sure use you back at a hundred percent,
Helen. It feels like we're taking a giant step backward after
some very promising progress."
Amy's foot tapping intruded on something I
would've rather continued to discuss. "My tormenter is losing
her patience, Zack. Perhaps we can discuss this more at
dinner Saturday night."
"I look forward to it."
We disconnected and Amy huffed, "'Bout damn
time. Shut the phone off, Helen. Our time is
finite. If you want to put those dancing shoes on Saturday
night, we've got a lot of work to do."
I was a little surprised at how much the
idea appealed to me. Well, not the dancing part, but getting
my head into something outside pity. Danny Datello, my
nemesis and the only living part of the equation that ruined my
life, did the trick. I spent the next forty-five minutes
focused on being obedient and following Amy's directions to the
point that it roused her suspicions.
"I thought you weren't really interested in
this party Saturday night."
"Sure sounded like your friend had to twist
your good arm to talk you into it. Why the sudden change of
"You were persuasive that it would be good
"Ha!" she barked. "You don't listen to
a thing I say or follow a single direction because I ask you to do
it. What's the real motivation here?"
"Can you keep a secret?" That was a
joke. Darkwater Bay, for the level of corruption it has and
its dirty underbelly, is filled with people who couldn't hold a
confidence to save their lives. Exhibit A, Batshit Crazy,
drug dealer of massive moron caliber who died because he admitted
that a dead undercover cop frequented Uncle Nooky's bar.
"I've got to get back to work."
The twinkle in her eyes died, the shoulders
deflated. "Is that all? Here I thought there was some
great romance about to bud."
I couldn't remember the last time I laughed
and meant it. As it turned out, Amy's dark humor lifted my
spirits and became a turning point in therapy. I felt better
than I had in weeks, goals meant something to me again. Goals
that didn't involve erasing my identity.
With high spirits, I left therapy with a
sincere promise not to overdo at home and continue to give my best
effort through the duration of physical therapy.
"This may come back to bite me in the butt,
Helen, but I think I believe you meant that."
I wasn't sure how I felt about giving off an
aura of dishonesty no matter what I said, no matter how long the
audience had known me. It was a conscious decision to chalk
it up to her smart ass sense of humor.
The Expedition was parked on the sixth level
of the hospital garage. My brain was on Datello, a little bit
on Orion and how much he probably hated me for being the reason his
cover was blown. After all, it was one thing to come out of
the undercover cop closet with a payoff being the undying love of
the woman whose life you saved. It was another to be
unceremoniously thrown out on your ass.
Suddenly it made sense. His absence
had nothing to do with respecting my wishes. Johnny found
himself in the unenviable position of having no choice but keep his
mouth shut and walk away. To do otherwise would incriminate
him in a crime as felonious as mine had been.
Tiny pangs of regret pricked my heart, not
just for another shot at putting Datello behind bars slipping
away. Guilt almost propelled my cell phone into my hand,
tempted me to dial a familiar number and offer an apology for
inadvertently screwing up Orion's cover. If I had waited for
backup that night... if I hadn't been so reticent with Briscoe and
Conall and made a stupid decision to sneak off and close the case
my way... if, if, if.
At the door of the Exposition, I found the
iPhone in hand instead of the car keys. If I were a religious
girl, I'd have seen it as a sign that it was time show a little bit
of the empathy I recently discovered.
Voices tickled the periphery of my
awareness. Sweet and feminine preceded low and deep.
Then the shriek bounced through the concrete structure.
For ten years, I carried a semi-automatic
pistol on my left hip. Even though I denied working in the
field as an agent on a regular basis, the habit of reaching for the
gun was ingrained as much as waking in the morning and trudging
into the shower for the morning routine.
I cursed softly and ducked. Since the
shooting, I was no longer in the habit of leaving the house, let
alone wearing the gun. I ducked beside the Expedition and dug
through the purse for the .38 snub nose revolver I carried since
moving to the land of lax gun control. Cell phone was already
out. I dialed 9-1-1.
"This is Detective Eriksson from Downey
Division, badge number 48125. I'm in the parking garage at
MSUH on level six. A woman is screaming. Send backup,
I'm going to render aid."
I shoved the phone back into my purse and
left it tucked under the car. Carefully, I dodged from
vehicle to vehicle. Voices continued in urgent tones.
His carried menace. Hers dripped pleading.
I darted to the concrete pylon that
separated this row of parking from the center aisle. Pressed
against the cold surface, I wondered if my range of motion would
permit me to raise the gun high enough to fire safely.
A grunt of pain, a low
conveyed that I didn't have time to debate my skills at the
moment. I stepped out from my cover and took aim while my
brain processed what the eyes saw. Head to toe in black, a
man with a wicked blade hissed into the ear of the girl he held
"Darkwater Bay police! Drop the
He didn't of course. Instead, his
right hand slashed, blood spurted and my victim crumpled to the
concrete. Sirens in the parking garage signaled the rapid
approach of backup while my perpetrator took off at a dead run.
"Dammit!" I shoved the gun in the
waist of my jeans and rushed to the girl on the garage floor.
Blood pooled around her head. I tore off my jacket and
applied pressure to the left side of her neck. An unmarked
car save for flashing lights in the front window screeched to a
halt only a few feet away.
MSUH is perhaps a mile, maybe two from
Downey Division. During my brief tenure in the city, even I
knew that the approaching assistance was from the division I
technically called home. "She's got a knife wound to the left
side of her neck."
"Ma'am, step back and let us do our
I looked up, stunned that someone from
Downey hadn't recognized me. "I'm –"
"Goddammit, get out of my way!" The
swarthy detective who immediately reminded me of a pirate (without
the gold earring) shoved me aside.
I lost my balance and teetered left, caught
myself with the bad arm and groaned.
"Get her statement, Ned." Rude guy
scooped the victim off the floor and ran for the elevator.
Ned Williams offered a hand up. "Hey,
Eriksson. Sorry about that. Are you all right?"
I flinched and rubbed my shoulder.
"Who was that jerk?"
He grinned. "New guy that Darnell and
Orion recruited from Montgomery. His name is Devlin
"Great," I muttered. "The Neanderthal
squad grows. What's his problem?"
"You've avoided your brothers and sisters in
blue for so long, he knows the name but not the face." He looked at
the pool of blood on the concrete and shook his head. "Does
trouble naturally find you like this, or are you seriously that
For a moment, the pain in my shoulder and my
irritation at being shoved aside obscured the crime I
witnessed. "I was leaving physical therapy."
"This early in the morning?"
"I apparently was mistaken thinking that the
earliest possible appointment would allow me to avoid the
public. I was about to leave when I heard that woman
scream. I called it in and came to render aid. When I
stepped out from that pylon," I pointed behind me, "the perp had a
knife to her throat. When I identified myself and ordered him
to drop the weapon, he slit her throat. I didn't give
"Good," Williams' eyes scanned the
area. "Looks like he kept the knife on him. I'd hate to
see stabbed added to the tally of injuries you've received in our
"I'm armed, Ned. I think my gun trumps
"Let me get some gloves and we'll see if we
can put a name on our victim."
I frowned. "Aren't you calling Crime
Scene Division to process the scene?"
"Hmm. A mugging in a parking
garage. My victim is alive and transported to the emergency
room. I've got a puddle of blood and a handbag. I think
Forsythe would rip me a new one for asking them to show up for
this, Helen. We've got a digital camera in the kit.
Don't worry. I'll take pictures. And while I do, you
can tell me what this mugger looked like."
My mind zoomed into focus on what I recalled
seeing. "He was wearing black."
Williams poked his head out from behind the
open trunk door. "And?"
"The knife looked like a switchblade."
"It happened fast. The girl had blood
squirting out of her neck, Ned. I didn't get a good look at
him. He was sort of behind her, you know?"
"So the victim was obscuring the perp?"
"Yeah. A bit. He was white."
"I..." closed my eyes. "Shit. He
was wearing some kind of mask. It covered most of his
face. Everything but his jaw and mouth."
Ned started snapping pictures.
"He was smaller than you. Definitely
smaller than Detective Manners."
"Mackenzie," he chuckled. "Dev's not a
bad guy. At least I don't think he is. He's got some
ideas about people being in the way of cops trying to do their
jobs. I'm sure he'll feel like a complete imbecile when he
learns who you are."
"I doubt he'll care."
Ned offered gloves. "Shall we peek
inside the young lady's purse and see who she is?"
I lifted the small, practical handbag off
the floor and unfastened the clasp. "Wallet. Car
keys. Hospital ID. Lancôme lipstick."