Authors: Marie Ferrarella
To his frustration, the phone on his desk remained silent.
But just as he got up to get himself a third cup of really bad coffee, a catchy pop tune from the last decade faintly filled the air. The phone in his pocket was making its presence known.
“Cavanaugh,” he announced after he'd swiped the screen, sending it into its receptive mode.
“Is this the annoying Cavanaugh who's handling cold cases?” he heard a melodic female voice ask.
Malloy smiled broadly to himself. “Ah, Doc, you kept my card.”
“I forgot to throw it away,” she countered, deliberately deflecting any hidden meaning the act of retaining his card might have for him.
“So you decided to call the number on it?” he guessed. “Did you call to hear the sound of my voice, or do you have something to tell me?” he asked, allowing just a shade of hope to filter through his words.
“Oh, I have a lot to tell you,” Kristin answered. “But if you're specifically asking me about all these body parts that are currently surrounding and haunting me, yes, I called about them.”
“I'll be right there,” he promised.
“I can tell you what I have to say over the phone,” she said, trying to save him a tripâand herself from having to deal with him face-to-face. His presence was difficult to factor into the sum total of her day and still remain entirely unaffectedâno matter what she attempted to pretend to the contrary.
“Yes, but I can't see you over this phone,” he pointed out.
“It's not necessary to see me in order to get this information,” she told him almost defensively, really hoping she didn't sound that way.
“Maybe it's not necessary to you,” he allowed, “but it is to me. I'm a very visual man,” he explained. “I need to see things before I can retain them.”
“You're not serious.”
She supposed there could be a grain of truth to what he was telling her. Kristin had to admit he'd gotten her to the point where she was beginning to doubt the most normally acceptable concepts.
“Frequently,” he told her. “And twice on Sundays. Hang on, I'll be over before you have a chance to regret calling me.”
“Unless you've found a way to travel back into time, Detective, I'm afraid it's too late for that,” Kristin responded.
Malloy could have sworn, as he terminated his call, that he had heard a smile in her voice as she said the last line.
That was enough for him to actually envision one in his mind's eye. It was also enough to spur him on and have him make his way down to the morgue in a record amount of time.
The fact that he used the stairs rather than wait for an elevator didn't hurt, either.
hat did you do, run all the way?” Kristin asked, surprised to see Malloy turn up so quickly when he walked through the morgue's door less than five minutes after she'd spoken to him.
He'd had his own reasons for hurrying, but he refrained from saying so. Instead, he told her, “A magician never divulges his secrets.”
“A magician? You've quit the force?” Kristin deadpanned.
Malloy laughed. “Ah, so you
have a sense of humor,” he commented appreciatively. “Even if I were tempted to make that happen, I couldn't.” When she seemed confused, he explained, “Quit the force. I'd have everyone in the family hunting me down. Like it or not, this is the family business and it's become a tradition handed down through three generations.”
“You obviously must like it,” she observed. He didn't strike her as the type to do anything he didn't want to do, family tradition or no family tradition.
“What makes you say that?” he asked, curious.
She set aside the camera she'd been using to photograph the end results of one of the bodies she'd reassembled on the table to the left.
Kristin wasn't about to flatter him and inflate Malloy's ego, so she kept her assessment down to the bare minimum.
“Otherwise, you wouldn't have said âeven if I were tempted,' which means you're not tempted. You're on the force by choice.”
“Busted,” he answered with a grin. The woman made a fair detective herself, he thought in admiration. “How about you?”
She'd lowered her visor, not wanting to waste anytime. “How about me what?”
“Why are you doing autopsiesâor whatever this practical phase of it is calledâ” he waved a hand at the tables of bones that were throughout the room “âinstead of working in a hospital or a doctor's office?”
She hadn't even told her mother about the little boy who had died on her watch, or how she'd felt as if her insides were gutted because he had done so despite her best efforts to save him. What she said was, “Because the dead don't talk back.” And then her voice became cooler as she said, “I'm sorry, but when did this suddenly turn into a therapy session?”
Malloy pretended to be taken aback by her question. “I'm sorry, I thought we were sharing.”
“We areâwe're sharing information,” she said pointedly. And then she realized that her response still left it wide open. “
information,” she emphasized, then added, “Unless you're not interested in ID'ing one of the bodies.”
Excitement entered both his voice as well as the expression on his face. Everything else was pushed into the background. “You actually managed to identify one of the victims?” he asked.
She couldn't help thinking that he sounded like a kid at Christmas. Kristin was beginning to think that Malloy Cavanaugh was far more complicated than the image he liked to projectâor the reputation that had preceded him.
“No,” she answered honestly, “but I found a way for you to do it.”
He'd really thought that this was going to take
of chasing after imaginary leads that eventually led nowhere. The prospect that it might be otherwise filled him with hope.
“One of the women had a hip replacementâ”
He immediately jumped on the morsel she'd held out. “Those things are numbered, aren't they?” he asked, anticipation echoing in his voice.
She nodded. “The prosthetic has an ID number. If we can track that down, we have the name of one of our victims.”
“Wait,” he said as his thoughts were coming together. “Did you say a hip prosthetic?”
“I realize you probably would rather work with a breast implant,” she said dryly, “butâ”
“That's not it,” he told her, waving the suggestion down and for once not making a wise crack about said body part. “But I thought you said that the victims were all between the ages of eighteen to thirty.”
“That's what it looks like,” Kristin confirmed. “What's the problem?” she asked.
“Well, wouldn't she have to be older to warrant a hip replacement?” he asked. Senior citizens got hip replacements, not girls right out of high school or college.
“No.” Kristin shot down his assumption. “There are a lot of reasons for a young woman to get a hip replacement.” To convince him, Kristin ticked off only a few of the ways the need might have come up. “She could have been in a car accident, or just been unlucky enough to fall and break her hip. There's also juvenile arthritis. Then there are some dancers who have the grave misfortune of wearing out certain joints and body parts way before their timeâwant me to go on?”
Yes, he did, but not about hip replacements. He would have preferred a far more intimate subject to be up for discussion.
“No, you've convinced me,” he told her. “Did you happen to write down the number of that prosthetic?”
“No, I thought that I'd transmit it to you by mental telepathy,” she answered dryly, reaching for a piece of paper she'd placed on the next table. “Here.”
He glanced at the numbers she'd written down as she handed the lined paper to him.
“Too bad. I was looking forward to our minds melding.” When she said nothing, he felt the need to explain the comment. “That's a term out ofâ”
, yes,” Kristin said, cutting him off before he went on needlessly. “I know.”
Her response stunned him, and he looked at her with renewed respect. “You're familiar with
?” Before she could answer him, Malloy laughed, obviously tickled by this newest piece of information he'd learned about her. “First, jigsaw puzzles, now,
. It's like we were separated at birth.”
Photographing another segment of the body she was beginning to reconstruct, she shook her head, doing her best to maintain an emotional distance between themâwhich was becoming harder to do.
“A lot of people like jigsaw puzzles and are familiar with
, Detective,” she replied. “Don't get carried away.”
Despite her best efforts to block it, there was something boyishly appealing about the expression on his face as he told her, “I've brought you food after hours. Call me Malloy. And, trust me,” he added with a wink, “you'll know when I get carried away.”
That grin of his was going to be her downfall if she wasn't careful, Kristin silently warned herself. She forced herself to talk facts, keeping a tight rein on her thoughts.
“Those numbers are all cataloged in a database, along with the physician's name and the patient's name,” she told him crisply.
She wanted to get him moving and on his way out of the morgue. The space in the area was definitely growing smaller somehow.
“You may just have found our first genuine break in this case, Doc,” Malloy declared with enthusiasm.
“You're welcome,” Kristin murmured as she lowered her eyes back to the partially reconstructed skeleton on the table before her.
Which was why she failed to be prepared for what came next. By the time she realized what was happening, it was too late.
Caught up in the moment, Malloy bracketed her shoulders between his hands and delivered a very enthusiastic and yet innocent kiss to her cheek.
The next second, he had released her and quickly crossed the floor, getting halfway to the door.
“I'll get back to you,” he promised half a second before he was gone.
Kristin stared at the open door, stunned. Half of her was hoping that he would live up to his promiseâand half of her really hoped that he wouldn't.
And both sides were for her best interests.
* * *
“I'm not any good at this,” Malloy confessed in what came across as his attempt at refreshing honesty.
He was standing in the computer lab, pleading his case in person to his youngest sister. Detective Valri Cavanaugh split her time between the division where she usually worked and crime scene investigations' computer lab.
Usually she filled in if they were shorthanded. But along with this access she'd gained to the police department's intranet, she'd also acquired miscellaneous requests from her siblings whenever they needed to avail themselves to her expertise and her considerable computer wizardry.
“I'm fine with the everyday, routine stuff and plodding through things that I can find in the department's regular database,” Malloy went on to tell her, laying out his case, “but this special stuff, hell, I don't even know where to begin. Help me out here, Val,” he asked, putting on his most contrite face. “I just can't work magic with computers.”
The inference was that she could. But Valri saw through her brother's flowing rhetoric and his golden tongue.
“No, that's a talent you work with women. I'm not one of those women,” she pointed out. “I'm your sister, which makes me immune to all the golden words that come out of your mouth.”
“Val, I have no idea how you come up with these fanciful thoughts,” he said, pretending to be grievously hurt. “I just need my little sister's help.”
Valri laughed, turning away from the computer monitor to look at him. “You're slipping, Malloy. You need to do a little brushing up on your acting.”
“I'll brush up on anything you want if you just help me out here,” he told her. Then, his expression lighting up, he added, “I brought food,” before she had a chance to put him off. To prove his point, he shook the bag he held in front of her so that its contents made a noise. “Hear that? It's calling to you.”
“Donuts do not call. They make noise hitting the sides of a paper bag as their glaze flakes off, but they definitely do not call.”
Opening the bag, Malloy looked inside it as if he was checking out the contents. “I'd say those crumbs have your name on them.”
“And I say you're pushing it. You know, between you and Kelly and Moira, not to mention Duncan, it's a wonder I ever get anything done for the department at all.”
He pretended to lower his voice so he could whisper in her ear. “Don't look now, baby sister, but Kelly, Moira, Duncan and I
part of the department, so technically, your complaint doesn't hold any water.”
She raised her eyes to his. “You want me to find that database or not?”
“Your complaint holds lots of water,” he told her with feeling, backtracking quickly.
“Better,” she approved, nodding her head. Looking at the numbers that he had handed her from the medical examiner, she paused, thinking. “Give me a minuteâthis was for a hip prosthetic, right?” she asked, double-checking that he'd given her the correct information so that she logged on to the right database.
“Right,” he answered. With that, he turned his back to her and stared at the opposite wall.
The redhead at the next desk saw him and smiled right at Malloy. But for once, Malloy's attention was not captured. It was focused on getting the information he needed from Valri.
Looking at his back, Valri asked, “What are you doing?”
“Letting you work,” he said, still looking at the opposite wall. “The medical examiner told me that a watched pot never boils.”
“Since when did you start thinking of me as a pot?” Valri asked.
The sound of her fingers flying across her keyboard, making the keys click, brought a satisfied smile to Malloy's lips.
“I don't,” he assured her. “I'm just trying my best to be accommodating and unobtrusive.”
“Well, stop it,” she told him sharply. “You're frightening me. The Malloy I grew up with was not accommodating
“Sure I was,” he insisted good-naturedly. “You're probably confusing me with one of the other brothers you have. You know, the ones who were always dragging their knuckles on the ground and playing pranks on you.”
He heard her announce, “Done,” with a flourish as the sound of the portable printer beside her computer coming to life underscored the word.
“You remembered which brother you confused me with?” Malloy asked innocently as he turned back around to face her.
Valri held out the information she had printed for him. “No, I was referring to having found the number you were looking for in the database. And I didn't confuse you with anyone. That was definitely you. You, Malloy, have always been one of a kind.”
“I'll take that as a compliment,” Malloy told his sister, accepting the paper from her.
“No comment,” Valri replied prudently, her expression giving nothing away.
Malloy glanced down at the page. He had a name and information, which in turn might lead to more identifications.
“You're the best, Valâand if that fiancÃ© of yours doesn't treat you like the queen that you clearly are, tell him he'll have me to answer to. He makes you so much as frown, I'll beat him to a pulp,” he promised.
It was no secret that she was all but walking on air these days. “Alex makes me very happy and you know it.”
“Well, just in case,” Malloy told her, doing his best to maintain a dead serious expression. “You know where to come.”
“Uh-huh.” She was already back to the search she had been conducting when Malloy had walked in with his request.
“And thanks for this!” he called out, raising the sheet she'd handed him in the air on his way out.
“Just go!” Valri ordered her brother. “I have work to do.”
“Like I said, you're the best!” Malloy told her just before he crossed the threshold.
“Glad you finally figured that out,” Valri answered, talking half to herself under her breath. “Certainly took you long enough.”
* * *
He lost no time getting back to Kristin with the victim's name.