Authors: Lena Diaz
He was so surprised he actually sputtered.
She pulled a chair over to his brother and sat down. She hoped she’d finally found
an ally who’d give her the background she needed on the Buchanans.
“He told me a little, but not much. Any information you can give me on your family
and their relationship with Carolyn would be helpful to our investigation,” she said.
“Perhaps you can begin with the whole who’s-related-to-whom thing again. I don’t have
it straight just yet. And tell me their occupations too.”
“Fine,” Austin said, “but we’ll have to make it quick. You’ve got exactly ten minutes
and I’m out of here. That includes the time it takes for the DNA sample.”
What was it with these Buchanans and their time limits on questions? She pulled her
cell phone out and punched up her note-taking app. “Ready when you are.”
Devlin crossed his arms, not looking happy with this turn of events. But he didn’t
try to interfere.
A handful of minutes later, Austin asked, “Did you get all that? The family background
“Yes, yes. I think I did. Basically, your mother married a much older man who already
had a son from his prior marriage, your oldest brother, Braedon—who owns and operates
B&B Construction now. When Carolyn’s husband died, she took Braedon with her, remarried,
had a son with that husband. That was, um—”
“My second oldest brother, Pierce. FBI agent here in Savannah. And then she married
another old geezer—”
Devlin punched him in the arm.
Austin punched him back. “He
an old geezer. Devlin’s bio dad by a prior marriage. He died too, which sent Carolyn
out on the hunt for another sucker.”
Devlin appeared to be gritting his teeth. He obviously didn’t like sharing the intimate
details of his family history with her. Either that or he didn’t care for Austin’s
Austin continued, not a bit concerned about his brother’s discomfort. “When Carolyn
married Alex, she brought Braedon, Pierce, and Devlin with her, then had me and Matt.”
“Right, right. Got it. And Matt’s the private investigator?”
“Right. He’s the entrepreneur of the family too. Invents all kinds of sh—”
“Austin,” Devlin warned.
Austin grinned and winked at Emily. “Devlin’s like an old hen, just like dad. Always
worried about my manners.” He tilted his head. “He’s not really all that old. He’s
thirty-four. And he’s single. Did I mention he likes brunettes? Of course he pretty
women, but still, he—”
“Shut up,” Devlin growled.
Austin winked again, enjoying teasing his brother.
Emily felt her face flush hot. She refused to look at either of the men, focusing
instead on her notes. “So, Austin—you, Matt, and Pierce are blood related to Carolyn.
But only you and Matt are blood related to Alex. And Braedon and Devil—I mean Devlin—aren’t
blood related to anyone else in the family?”
“Your mother didn’t seem to have very good luck with keeping her husbands alive. Seems
rather . . . unfortunate.”
“Suspicious, you mean?”
She laughed at his lack of tact. “Well, yes, actually.”
“Yeah, a few of us wondered about that over the years. When Pierce became an FBI agent,
he looked into it and concluded it was just bad luck. Or maybe she purposely chose
older men with health problems, hoping they’d die and leave her their estates, until
she met my dad at least. There’s nothing to support that she was a black widow or
anything. She certainly never made it rich.”
Emily studied him closely. “You seem remarkably okay with all of this. It doesn’t
bother you that your mother abandoned all of you and went from husband to husband
the way she did?”
He leaned forward in his wheelchair. “Detective, I thank God every day that she left
us. Alex is the best father that I could have hoped for. And I’m grateful for every
one of my brothers, even him.” He aimed a thumb at Devlin, who rolled his eyes. “No
telling what kind of life we might have had if she’d hung around. Honestly, I’m relieved
to close the door on the whole thing. Maybe if Alex knows that Carolyn is dead, he
can finally move on and find someone else. He deserves that. Can we do the swab now?”
His abrupt change of topic threw her off guard. She closed her phone app and grabbed
the box Dr. Kennerly had given her. “Yes, of course. I’ll take care of that right
As soon as Devlin and Austin headed out of the lobby, Emily headed up to her desk
to ship the DNA kit to the state lab. When she stepped out of the elevator, Tuck motioned
to her from across the squad room. Two other detectives were with him, and they were
all looking at the computer monitor on Tuck’s desk. From the excitement on their faces,
she knew something big must have happened.
Since Tuck’s desk was beside hers, she set the DNA kit on top of her own desk before
joining the others.
“What are we looking at?” she asked.
Tuck waved toward one of the other detectives. “This genius used the sex, height,
and approximate age information from Kennerly’s preliminary autopsy notes to look
for a match in the missing persons report database—which, I might add, has digital
copies of dental records for each missing person to assist with identification. This
other genius was assigned to find Carolyn Buchanan’s last known address.” He picked
up a folder on his desk and flipped it open to reveal a drawing of a young woman.
“And I had the fun assignment of sitting with Hawley while she worked with the sketch
artist. While you spent the past hour flirting with Devlin Buchanan, the rest of us
were getting a boatload of work done.”
The other detectives snickered. Emily narrowed her eyes in warning until they sobered.
“Say that to me one more time, Tuck. Don’t be surprised when you end up with your
ass on the floor.”
He held up his hands in surrender. “All right, all right. I couldn’t resist. Here”—he
pointed to the screen—“take a look at what we’ve found.”
She leaned over his shoulder and read the relevant parts of the report on the screen
as he rolled the cursor over them. Then he scrolled down and pointed. She blinked
and reread the conclusion.
“Wait, are you sure about this?”
“Yep. Kennerly was just up here and made it official. You must have just missed him.”
He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “Now who’s the amazingly fast and
brilliant detective on the team?”
She waved to the two men standing behind him. “These guys.”
The detectives laughed and headed back to their own desks. Tuck shot her an irritated
look. “Admit it. For once, while you were off chasing a dead end, the rest of us were
chasing down real leads.”
She sat in her chair and eyed the DNA kit. “I admit it. You did good. Really good.
All of you.”
“And you’re an amazing, fast, brilliant detective. There. Happy?”
He hooked his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair. “Yep. And since
you’ve been kind enough to stroke my ego, I’m going to do something for you. Next
time your family of doctors calls to rub their accomplishments in your face, I’ll
get on the phone and brag about you so much that they’ll have no choice but to finally
accept your chosen career path.”
never going to happen. But just to keep you straight, in case you ever do talk to
them, only my dad and my oldest brother are doctors. Mom’s a nurse. The others are
an EMT and a physical therapist.”
“Wait.” He held up his fingers. “Dad, mom, and only three siblings. I thought you
“I do. My baby sister is a housewife.” Without looking at him, she held up a hand
to stop him. “Before you say it, she also won the Nashville Volunteer of the Year
“Oh, please. I’m sure she didn’t do anything all that spectacular. Winning the award
could just be a fluke.”
“Three years in a row?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m not in competition with them.”
She ignored him and picked up the DNA kit. “Guess we don’t need this anymore.” She
dropped it in the wastebasket.
“Who gets to break the news to the Buchanans?” he asked, his teasing tone gone.
“I will,” Emily said. “Just as soon as I make a call. It’s been on my mind, and I
want to call before it gets too late today.” The windows on the other side of the
room were growing dark as night fell. “If it isn’t already too late.” She pulled the
phone closer to her.
“Too late for what?”
“To call EXIT Incorporated. Colorado’s three hours behind us, right?”
“Two. What is EXIT?”
“I’ll explain later. But for now, let’s just say that I’m not convinced I was chasing
a dead end when I interviewed Devlin Buchanan. He may not be the one who abducted
and killed those women, but he’s definitely hiding something, something that links
him to the crimes. And I’m going to find out exactly what that is.”
EVLIN WAS ABOUT
to get into his truck in the police lot when Austin rolled down the passenger window
of his van and called him over. Devlin leaned into the opening. “What’s up?”
“You sure you don’t want me to wait for you?” Austin asked.
“I’m sure. Go home and eat that steak you’ve been whining about. I have to return
a call that came in while I was in Montana. I’ll be just a few minutes behind you.”
“Don’t take too long. I can’t guarantee your steak will be waiting for you.” Austin
grinned good-naturedly and backed out of his spot.
Devlin hopped in his truck and waited until his youngest brother was heading down
the road before punching in his boss’s number. Since he hadn’t planned on calling
Cyprian when he’d left the house, he didn’t have one of his satellite encryption phones
whose numbers were registered with EXIT with him. Those phones ensured no one could
pick up their conversation off the airwaves. Since he wasn’t calling from one of those
phones, Cyprian wouldn’t recognize the number on caller ID. Devlin would have to identify
himself by punching in a special code. And even then, they’d both have to be careful
what they said, knowing the line wasn’t secure.
When the line clicked, he typed in his code.
“Devlin,” Cyprian’s smooth, cultured voice came on the line. “You’re supposed to be
taking it easy for a few days between tours. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
So far, so good. Cyprian didn’t sound upset. Maybe news of this afternoon’s incident
hadn’t reached him.
“There’ve been a few hiccups here. I was a witness to a crime. Had to answer a few
questions. But that’s over now. It’s handled.”
A pause, then, “Hiccups. Pesky little things. But as long as you’re certain it’s handled,
I’ve got no cause to worry. Correct?”
“Correct. No cause at all, sir. Detective Emily O’Malley may call EXIT to verify details
of the Montana tour with the Rands. But that’s the end of it.”
“I’m sure human resources will take care of the call, or forward her to one of our
public relations specialists. Shouldn’t be a problem. Anything else I should be aware
This was where it got tricky. Cyprian wouldn’t want Devlin looking into Carolyn’s
murder. He wouldn’t want anyone from EXIT Inc. caught up in a police investigation.
Devlin understood the concerns. It was necessary to insulate EXIT Inc. from all suspicion.
But this was something Devlin couldn’t let go. He wanted closure for his father. And
he didn’t have time to wait for the police to methodically cross and dot their t’s
and i’s on their way to solving the case. He needed those autopsy notes. They might
give him a clue, a starting place to search for Carolyn’s killer.
“No, sir, there’s nothing else you need to be aware of. That’s it. Oh, wait, there
is one more thing; a request, actually,” he added, trying to sound nonchalant. “It’s
been quite a while since I’ve had any real time to spend with my family, and I’ve
got a young niece I’ve hardly seen since she was born. Is there any chance I could
take a week of vacation before reporting in for another assignment?”
Another pause. “Of course, of course. You’ve got plenty of time built up. I’ve got
a sweet, midwestern couple with a bucket list, and they insist on the best guide I’ve
got. Naturally, I recommended you. But I can reassign them. No worries.”
Midwestern couple. More likely a Middle-Eastern contact with something far different
than a bucket list in mind. “Sounds great, sir. I appreciate it.”
“Hold on a second. My assistant is trying to call me on the other line.” A few moments
later, he came back on the line. “Sorry about that. Looks like your detective already
tracked me down through human resources. She must be a real bulldog to have gotten
through several departments and then to get my secretary to put her through directly
to the top.”
The blood drained from Devlin’s face, leaving him cold. “You’re going to speak to
“I’m always happy to assist law enforcement. She wants to speak to the CEO, she’ll
speak to him. She’s on the other line. I don’t want to keep her waiting. Enjoy your
The line clicked. Devlin lowered his phone and stared at the brick wall of the police
station. O’Malley was speaking to his boss, the man who ran the public side of the
organization, as well as the secret side. That wasn’t something Devlin had expected.
He’d figured she would be schmoozed by one of the lower-level assistants and that
would be the end of it. Once again, she’d surprised him.
And not in a good way.
What would she say to Cyprian? She wouldn’t say something crazy, like bringing up
her assassin theory. Would she? If she did, would Cyprian see it for what it was,
a detective with a wild hunch based on nothing but conjecture? Or would he think her
theory was based on fact, which could only mean that Devlin had caved during the interview
and betrayed his boss and everyone he worked with?
talked, he would have used the term
, his actual job title. Enforcer was somewhat synonymous with agent at one of the
alphabet agencies like the CIA or FBI, but without the shackles of laws and political
policies to tie him down. The assassin role was only part of what he did, and only
when absolutely necessary. Most of his peers called him “
Enforcer” because he was the one called upon to hunt down other enforcers if they
went rogue—off the grid, defying orders—and became a danger to EXIT and the general
public. Since O’Malley wouldn’t have known to call him an enforcer when she spoke
to his boss, wouldn’t that clue Cyprian in that she was reaching? Guessing? What if
it didn’t? What if he believed her?