Read Shades of Gray Online

Authors: Brooke McKinley

Shades of Gray

BOOK: Shades of Gray
7.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Published by

Dreamspinner Press

4760 Preston Road

Suite 244-149

Frisco, TX 75034

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Shades of Gray

Copyright © 2009 by Brooke McKinley

Cover Art by Paul Richmond All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 4760 Preston Road, Suite 244-149, Frisco, TX 75034

ISBN: 978-1-61581-079-6

Printed in the United States of America

First Edition

October 2009

eBook edition available

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61581-080-2

For my husband, the most supportive

and patient man on the planet.


For Holly, who has been along for

the ride from the very beginning.

Shades of Gray | 1

EIGHTY-TWO, eighty-three, eighty-four.
Plop. Plop. Splat.
Don’t even
want to fucking know what that was. Eighty-five… or shit, was it
ninety-five? Son of a bitch! One, two, three…

Danny Butler was bored. And cold. That always happened when he was in pain, the shakes starting almost as soon as his body registered the hurt. He’d kept it at bay, just on the edge of his consciousness, by concentrating on filling his lungs with smoke. He’d already worked his way through an entire pack of cigarettes and counted the aged ceiling tiles three times. He still hadn’t decided if the broken one on the edge should count as two.

Danny tapped the ash from his cigarette, eyes skipping over the red puddle spreading at his feet. The buzzing from the decades-old fluorescent lights overhead was the only sound other than the steady
plop, plop,
which he was trying to ignore.

He’d spent plenty of time in rooms like this. Small, dirty, hopeless. At least this one didn’t have a smear of vomit caked on the wall like the last one. But the filthy cinder blocks in front of him held their own vile secrets. Scuff marks from flailing legs and straining arms, dried phlegm that had missed its target, ancient brown stains reminding Danny he wasn’t the first man to have shed blood behind these walls. The familiar scent of desperation leaked out slowly, a toxic poison working on the men left to sit here. Last chance, end of the line.

Danny bit down hard on the filter, chattering teeth sounding like ice tinkling against a half-full glass. He risked a glance south at the 2 | Brooke McKinley

blood pool growing bigger by the drop. A few dark red chunks floated in the soup, the source of the mysterious splat.

Time to get this show on the road. Send in the clowns.

Danny stood up on careful legs, ran a hand through his sweaty hair. He moved over to the greasy mirror on the far wall and rapped hard against it with his knuckles. “Hey, assholes! What are you waiting for? An engraved invitation?”

Silence. But Danny knew he was being watched, all too familiar with the crawl of judgmental eyes against his skin. He lit his last cigarette with his shiny silver lighter. He drew in a steadying lungful of smoke before he reached down and peeled up his white T-shirt, wincing when the material stuck to the congealed blood below the left side of his rib cage.

“See this? Thinking maybe it could use a fucking bandage.” He tried to avoid it, but his eye caught the glint of bone peeking out at him from the gash. “Fuck,” he muttered. “Or you could just throw in a needle and thread,” he suggested, eyes on the mirror. “Have myself a quilting bee.”

No response. He let his shirt fall back with a wet, squishing sound. Then he reached out and slammed his bloody palm against the glass. Souvenir for the next poor schmuck stuck in hell.

THE two men behind the mirror watched Butler without speaking. The taller one took a step forward to get a better look. Up to this point, he’d only seen Danny Butler in photographs or through the gazing end of binoculars. He took in the thick, black hair sticking up in sweaty tufts, the face made pale by a combination of pain and bad lighting, a day or two worth of stubble outlining the shit-eating grin, huge eyes fringed with long, dark lashes, silver glinting from the small hoop in Butler’s left ear.

“Jesus,” the short man next to him groaned when Butler exposed his wound. “You get a load of that? Can he bleed to death from Shades of Gray | 3

something like that?”

“No,” the tall man said with a shake of his head. “He’d be dead already.”

“Oh, that’s comforting,” Shorty said, rolling his eyes. “Still…

don’t you think we’d better have it looked at?”

“Later. When I’m done with him.”

“Yeah, but—”

The tall man had already let the door slam behind him before the sentence was finished. Miller Sutton didn’t need some local cop telling him how to run this investigation. He finally had Danny Butler exactly where he wanted him. He wasn’t going to let Officer Friendly fuck it up.

Miller took a quick detour to the bathroom. He always had to take a piss before an interrogation. It was not a fact he’d willingly share with anyone. He did his business, washed his hands, and swiped a palm full of cold water across his face.

He stared at himself in the mirror, scrubbing at the freckles on his nose with two fingers as if he could erase them. He always hated them at times like this; worried they made him look childish, too young to be taken seriously. With a tired sigh he lowered his hand and turned his back on his own reflection.

It used to be this was his favorite part of the job: closing in on a case, trapping someone just frantic enough to save their own ass that they’d help you along. Fighting the good fight and all that happy horseshit. But today he just felt worn out, no anticipation in his gut.

Where’d it go, Miller? Where’s that fire in your belly? Get it
together. You’re one of the good guys, remember?

He couldn’t pinpoint when it had started slipping away, when he’d started to see more than an arrest, more than a notch in his career belt, when he looked into someone’s eyes across a dirty table in a cramped interrogation room. He wished he could go back to when nothing mattered but the job, when empathy didn’t have even the slightest toehold on Miller Sutton.

4 | Brooke McKinley

Maybe he had been doing this for too long. He’d always thought he would become more numb to the crappy state of the human condition as time went on, not less so. Besides, he’d only been at this job for seven years, not nearly long enough for burnout to set in.

Yeah, well, maybe you should have hung it up at five.

But that thought was too depressing to contemplate. He didn’t know what the fuck he’d do with his life if not this. Everything set out in neat little boxes, all black and white, exactly how he liked it. Good and evil, right and wrong, innocent and guilty. Stay in the right box and it would all work out in the end.

Enough of this shit! Get in there and nail his ass to the wall.

Show Danny Butler what desperate really feels like. Show him if he
doesn’t do things your way, his hurting days have just begun.

MILLER opened the door, shut it softly behind him. He crossed to the table, pulled out a chair opposite Butler, and sat down without a word.

His power had always been in his silence. Never comfortable with coming in and barking out questions, he chose instead to use his quiet nature to work at a suspect. He’d discovered quickly that people weren’t easy with silence. Pretty soon they’d be barfing up their life story, splattering Miller with their verbal vomit just to have some noise in the room.

Butler was leaning back in his chair, booted heels propped up on the table.

“Get your feet off the table,” Miller said, not looking up from the file he’d spread out in front of him.

Butler took his sweet time about complying, lowering each foot deliberately to the floor. “Yes… sir,” he drawled, lip curving up in amusement.

We’ll see how funny you think this is in about five minutes,
Miller glanced at the card in his hand. “I see you’ve been given your Miranda warnings.”

Shades of Gray | 5

“Yeah, where’s the lawyer I requested two hours ago?” Miller shrugged. “Couldn’t tell you. Must be on his way.”

“Uh-huh,” Butler said. “Now why don’t I believe that?” Miller waited him out, praying he would be as over-confident as most of the men who’d sat in that chair before him. He didn’t have to wait long.

“Well, get to it.” Butler made a beckoning motion with his hand.

“Not like I’m going to tell you shit anyway.” Miller swallowed his triumphant smile, flipping through the pages in front of him.

“They must’ve decided to send in the big dogs,” Butler smirked.

“Don’t think I’ve met you before. Detective…?”

“Special Agent Sutton.”

Butler laughed under his breath. “Should have known. A junior G-man. So they’ve got the Feds on my ass now. Excellent. I’m moving up in the ranks.”

“Says here you’ve got some experience with the federal system.” Miller thumped Butler’s file with his index finger. “Done some quality time in Leavenworth, Marion, even a short stint in Super Max.”

“What can I say?” Butler shrugged, spread his arms wide.

“Wanted to see the world.”

“Conspiracy to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to distribute cocaine again. At least you’re consistent.”

“Yeah, but I was innocent all those times,” Butler said with a lazy smile, gaze floating up to the ceiling.

Cocky son of a bitch.
“Oh, really?” Miller gave a cold smile of his own. “Well, this time you’re not. Felon in possession of a firearm, Mr.

Butler.” He made a clucking sound with his tongue. “That’s a big no-no. Five years mandatory.”

“It wasn’t my fucking gun,” Butler retorted, tilting his chair back on two legs, his voice bored.

6 | Brooke McKinley

“No good,” Miller countered. “Thought you’d know by now, federal judges see right through that one. The gun was in your car when you were arrested. Nobody gives a shit whose it really is. You’re on the hook for it, bud.”

“As you can see, Sutton, I’m shaking in my boots over here.”
Don’t let him get to you. It’s what he wants. You’re holding all
the cards here. Danny Butler is nothing. Nothing.

“You ought to be scared. Haven’t ever done five years hard time at a stretch, have you? And that’s before we add on whatever goodies we find in your house during our search. Be a while before you see the light of day again, Mr. Butler.”

“Would you stop with the Mr. Butler shit? It’s Danny.”

“Fine… Danny.”

“And I can call you…?” Danny grinned, Cheshire cat coming out to play.

BOOK: Shades of Gray
7.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Bite (Bloodlines Book 1) by Crissy Smith
My Own Miraculous by Joshilyn Jackson
Lord Samhain's Night by Beverley, Jo
Parker 01 - The Hunter by Richard Stark
Wolf's Cross by S. A. Swann
The Wicked Kiss by Trina M. Lee
A Castle of Sand by Bella Forrest
Sons of Fortune by Malcolm Macdonald
Ghost of Doors (City of Doors) by Paetsch, Jennifer