Read Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel Online

Authors: Elizabeth Bemis

Tags: #Mail Order Bride, #FBI, #military, #Police

Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
8.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Chapter One

Sunday, November 9—2:30 a.m.

Mt. Lookout Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

There was a special place in hell reserved for the kind of sicko who could kill a woman and then display her folded hands twined with rosary beads. Dana’s eyes swept the bloody body of the young woman in impossibly high stilettos, a micro-skirt, and a lace top that left little to the imagination. The victim lay on the ground, one leg bent and slightly raised, the other spread to the side, leaving her wide open. As Dana studied the body, she tried to hang on to the investigative thread winding its way through her head, but a nearly uncontrollable fury pulled her back inside herself.

Conscious of the Cincinnati Police officers standing close by, she inhaled deeply and focused on the case at hand.

“When was she found?”

One of the uniforms stepped forward. “About an hour ago. A pedestrian stumbled on her. Our captain knew about the other two cases, and asked that you guys take lead.” He sounded a little annoyed by that, but since they asked, at least there wouldn’t be a turf war over the case.

Very little blood had pooled on the blacktop under the woman’s body. Long, deep cuts split open the skin on her thighs, abdomen, arms, and breasts. If she’d been killed here, there would have been a lot more blood.

The killer had left the woman’s face completely untouched. Even her makeup appeared flawless. No tearstains marred the perfection of her heavily applied shadow and mascara. A thin perimeter of lip liner contained dark red lipstick. Everything about this was so wrong. While the victim
looked
like a standard-issue prostitute, Dana felt in her bones that they had missed something.

The killer had planted this woman for them to find.
Just like the others.
She blew out a breath.

“You gonna faint?” asked her partner, Eric Thompson, as he stepped around her to get to the body.

She responded with a dirty look and rolled eyes. That would be a fun end to a lousy day. With the guys she worked with, she’d never hear the end of it. As a woman—particularly one new to the team—she hadn’t yet earned her stripes. She couldn’t afford to give them a reason to believe she was the weakest link in the chain.

“Take a look at these,” Eric called as he slid the rosary beads from around the woman’s fingers into a clear plastic evidence bag. He handed them to Dana so she could study them more closely without the risk of destroying evidence. Above the crucifix, a familiar medal had her turning it over and trying to read the inscription on the back. The lettering was too small to read in the poor light, especially through the clear plastic bag. She directed the beam of her flashlight at the beads.

“I’ve seen this medal before. My grandmother had a similar set.”

“What is it?”

“The medal is Our Lady of Medjugorje.”

“Med-
where
?”

“Medjugorje.” Dana spoke slower, pronouncing each syllable separately.
Med-joo-gor-ee-ay.
“In Bosnia.”

“So you think she’s Bosnian?”

Dana shrugged. “Assuming these belong to her, then she—or whoever gave them to her—had to have at least visited somewhere in the former Yugoslavia. Medjugorje is only about ten miles from the Croatian border.”

“You are a font of random knowledge.”

“I was born in Croatia. I didn’t move to the States until I turned eight.” Dana amazed herself with the casual way she’d delivered the information. Not so much as a catch in her throat. She’d become a better actor than even she’d realized.

And she knew she was good. Practice made perfect, after all.

The first raindrops began to fall from the sky, splattering on the plastic bag Dana still held in her hands.

Eric looked around. “Let’s allow the crime scene people to get in here to retrieve the body before the rain washes everything away.” He shot a quick glance at his watch. “It’s going to be light soon. I just got off the phone with the boss man. He’s bringing the rest of the team in Monday. He wants us to brief everyone on where we stand.” Eric rolled his head on his neck, trying to relieve tension. “He told us to coordinate with the police on the canvas and then go home and get some sleep. We’re not going to have any answers until the crime scene guys do their voodoo. And if the last two cases are any indication, we’re gonna be working doubles for the next couple of weeks, so we're going to need it.”



Sunday, November 9—9:00 a.m.

Oakley Police Station, Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, OH

“Yo, Deck. Welcome back, man.”

Deck Murphy nodded tightly. It was the third such greeting he’d received in the span of the last sixty seconds. The handle of his arm crutch burned in his palm. The stare of what felt like thousands of eyes bored into the back of his neck, and the effort required to keep his gait as steady as possible made his leg ache even worse than usual. He just wanted everything back to normal. Whatever
normal
meant now.

He came to the stairs. A year ago, he would have sprinted up the steps to the second floor without a thought. Today, he sighed as he pushed the button on the elevator, and a small piece of what was left of his pride withered and died. He stepped in and hit the button for the second floor. The ancient elevator closed and shuddered as it made the rare climb to the second floor. His boss’s office was directly opposite the elevator doors. He knocked on the open doorframe and cleared his throat.

“It’s good to see you, Deck.  Welcome back.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Captain Rupert rose to his feet and came around his desk. He stood nearly as tall as Deck’s six feet five inches, but unlike Deck, he had the lean frame of a runner. He held out a hand, and Deck released the handle on his crutch and took it.

“We’ve got a desk for you on the first floor.  You should have had someone call up. I could have come down.”

Deck had known this day would be an agony of helplessness. He just didn’t realize how much it would make him want to throw himself out of a tenth floor window. Unfortunately, District 2’s police station was only two floors tall.

“I—” Deck’s voice actually cracked and he had to clear his throat. “I appreciate that, sir. I may not be as fast on my feet as I once was, but I can still get from point A to point B.”

Captain Rupert jerked his chin down. “Understood.” He extended an arm, indicating Deck should precede him. “Let’s get you settled.

Rupert punched the button on the elevator like it was something he did every day. A hot wave of shame crept up Deck’s neck. His ears burned, and he wanted to howl in rage. He resisted the urge, instead stepping into the elevator, as if he didn’t resent its very existence.

“For now, I’m going to have the desk sergeant kick any potential investigative cases to you so that you can make a determination about whether they need a detective or can be sent out to Patrol. Other detectives will use you as their man on the ground, helping to coordinate investigations and resources. And finally, we have a stack of boxes containing cold cases that you can dig through in any spare time you have.”

Busy work
, in other words.

They came to Deck’s new desk, which apparently had been the drop-off point for miscellany for some time. Precarious stacks of paper, a set of handcuffs in a leather pouch with a broken belt loop, a variety of pens without lids, and paperclips littered the top of the desk. La pièce de résistance came in a dirty coffee mug that looked like it might have been there long enough that the contents could soon become sentient.

“Sorry. Someone was supposed to have cleaned this up.” Rupert looked toward the front desk, but the desk sergeant was engaged with one of the patrolmen, neither of whom Deck knew. “At least they remembered your computer.” He indicated the laptop bag sitting on the chair. “Contact IT for your login info. It’s probably the same as before you were deployed.”

“No problem. I appreciate the opportunity, sir,” Deck said.  And he did. Riding a desk wasn’t ideal, but it beat the hell out of riding his La-Z-Boy at home while collecting a disability check. It had been nearly nine months since the roadside ambush in Afghanistan had all but wiped out his leg, and the loss of activity had driven him near to the breaking point.

“It really is great to have you back, Deck. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Will do.”

Captain Rupert strode back toward his office on the second floor, and Deck sat down and began sorting through the detritus on the desk. Tidy stacks of paper went into the inbox, the coffee mug and random bits of junk went into the trashcan. An hour and a half later, Deck got his computer setup, and then started picking through the first box of cold cases.

Just after eleven thirty, a disturbance sounded from the front of the bullpen. Deck turned to see that the desk sergeant had stepped away. A large, bearded, barrel-chested man, dressed in a Bengals jacket and sagging jeans, manhandled a slight Asian woman by the upper arm toward the counter. Another woman hovered behind them, clutching her purse in front of her and biting her lip.

“Dude, let her go!” This from an early-twenty-something Asian kid with an alarmed look on his face, his arms filled with bags bearing the logo of Tiger Wok, the Chinese joint from several blocks down the street.

Deck reached for his crutch, tightening his grip on the handle as he stood. He moved to the front of the room at top speed, which wasn’t very fast.

The Asian woman, who could have been anywhere from fifteen to twenty-two, wore black polyester slacks that were at least a size too large, a plain, black, sleeveless blouse, a black apron with two pockets in the front but no other markings, and cheap-looking black shoes. She wore a white nametag that read “Jennifer” in black lettering from a label maker. As she whimpered in a foreign language, Deck would have bet his left nut that her name was
not
Jennifer. He’d also bet she was freezing. It was thirty degrees outside this morning, and he didn’t see a coat anywhere.

“Can I help you?” he asked, narrowing his eyes as the guy in the jacket jerked the woman toward Deck. She cowered, raising an arm to cover her head as she wailed.

“We found this woman hitchin’ a ride in the back of our truck. She’s an illegal. We think she was gonna try and rob us.”

Deck’s eyebrow tried to climb into his hairline, but he forced it back down.

The desk sergeant came back at that moment.

“Could you take their statements?” Deck wanted to get the woman out of the guy’s grip.

“Aren’t you going to arrest her?”

“We need to get to the bottom of things, first, sir,” the desk sergeant said. “Please come in here and tell me what happened.”

With some protest, the man shoved the girl toward Deck, and she shrank in on herself, narrowly avoiding colliding with him.

Deck turned back to the kid with the Chinese food delivery. “What’s your role in this?”

“I’m just here to deliver lunch.” He lifted the bags.

“Set them on the counter.” Deck turned to the girl and spoke as calmly as he could. “Can you tell me your name?”

She stared at him blankly.

Deck pointed to his chest. “Detective Deck Murphy.”

Then he pointed to her and held his hands up in question.

She just looked at him.

“Do you speak English?” he asked.

She shook her head.

Without being prompted, the Asian kid spoke in a rush of what Deck assumed was Chinese.

The girl responded, relief and gratitude rushing over her face.

“Hey, kid. What’s your name?”

“Zhong Yi. But most people call me Shawn. And this is Lee Jing.”

“Would you mind translating for me?”

He grinned. “Nope. But it’s gonna cost you a big tip.”

Deck felt a short bark of laughter bubble its way to the surface. It was such an unusual, forgotten feeling that it escaped before he could catch it.

Shawn spoke slowly to the girl. Relief showed instantly in her expression.  Deck looked back and forth between the two while they spoke. Finally, Shawn turned back to Deck. “She said she ran away from her home in a farming village in the south part of the Guangxi province, near the border of Viet Nam. She was promised if she worked for the people who smuggled her in for a year that her trip would be paid for. Once she got here, she was housed in a dormitory with a bunch of other women. They taught all the women how to do nails. Lee Jing wasn’t given access to phones or computers and wasn’t able to contact anyone from home. They told her if she tried to run away or contact anyone that they’d kill her family, and to make sure she believed them, they’ve shown her recent photos of her parents several times.”

“How did she get to the country?”

Shawn spoke to Lee Jing. “She was smuggled in a shipping container.”

“How did she break away now?”

There was more conferring, and Lee Jing spoke animatedly for an extended period of time.

“There’s a TV in the salon where she works. This morning, she saw an interview on the news of a couple who had traveled to the Cincinnati area trying to find their daughter. It was her parents. She realized if they were here, they weren’t at someone’s mercy in China so she didn’t have to worry about their safety.  So after she finished the pedicure she was doing, she faked a stomachache, went to the bathroom and while the person in charge was busy with a customer, she slipped out and hid in the back of a pickup truck. When the people got to their destination at another shopping center, she got out of the first truck and hid under a tarp in another truck just to get as far away as possible.  Unfortunately, though, the tarp flew up and the couple saw her and brought her here.”

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
8.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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