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 (20 page)

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
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Cincinnati FBI Field Office, Kenwood Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

Andrew looked through the two-way mirror into the interrogation room. Giordano slouched in his chair, looking for all the world like he was waiting for nothing more significant than the next city bus.

Doc and MacQuaid came into the room, coming to a halt next to Andrew.

“How do you want to handle this?” he asked them.

“I think Doc and I should talk to him together,” MacQuaid said.

Doc nodded in agreement.

Doc could look like the scariest SOB alive, and his background in psychiatry gave him an uncanny ability to ask just the right questions to get a suspect to roll over like a puppy. And MacQuaid went after every suspect like he was a piece of one of his puzzles. They worked well together as a team.

“Before we do, I want to follow up on a hunch. Permission to leave him cooling his jets for a few while I go have a talk with his laundry service?”

Andrew looked to Doc for his input. “He’s looking a little too confident to me,” Doc said. “A couple of hours of waiting with nothing to do should put him in a more pliant frame of mind.”

“I’ll come with you,” Andrew said.

“Thanks, boss,” MacQuaid replied. “Meet you in front of the building.”

“Kid’s a real go-getter,” Doc commented after Kier took off.

Andrew nodded. “Any idea what his hunch is?”

“Nope. But I’d lay odds that he’s dead-on, whatever it is. He’s got the instincts.”



Thursday, December 11—12:00 p.m.

Hang ‘n’ Fold Laundry & Dry Cleaning, Blue Ash Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

“What are you hoping to find?” Andrew asked.

“I’m not sure,” MacQuaid said. “Some connection. Something is pinging my intuition. You have no reason to trust my hunches, but they’re usually right, even when I can’t tell you where they came from.”

“You trying to tell me you’re a fortune-teller?”

“Hardly. It’s more fact based than that.  I just don’t always know which fact my gut’s picking up on that I’m not.”

“Fair enough.”

They walked into the Hang ‘n’ Fold. A customer stood at the counter while a carousel of clothing swooshed past.

“Hmm. I don’t see it. Let me pull it up in computer,” said the clerk at the counter. She had a strong Eastern European accent.

She clicked keys on the keyboard in front of her. “I see what happened. Your receipt must have gotten scratched or bent. It leaves a mark on the bottom copy.” The carousel twirled until she found the clothing she was looking for. “Have a nice day…” She peered back at the computer screen. “Mrs. Montgomery.”

The woman took her clothing and left.

The clerk looked up at Andrew and MacQuaid, her eyes narrowing. MacQuaid pulled out his badge and flipped it open. “I’m Special Agent Kier MacQuaid with the FBI, and this is my colleague, Special Agent Andrew Sherwood.”

The woman by the counter looked suddenly terrified.

“Wh-what can I help you with?”

“You have a customer named John Giordano,” said Kier.

She shook her head. Andrew heard some noise in the back, and he stepped to the right to be able to see around the wall of clothing hanging neatly on a turnstile.

He saw several women duck out of sight. The woman at the front pressed a button on the back of the counter, and the turnstile started until Andrew could see nothing but a wall of clothes.

“We can go get a warrant,” Andrew said. “Or you can print out John Giordano’s history, and we’ll walk away and leave you alone.”

Her eyes darted around, before she clicked a few keys on her computer.

“Only prints on receipt paper.” She indicated the small receipt printer as it came to life with a whirring sound.

She handed him both the white and yellow copies. “Please go.” Her voice was quiet, strained and frightened rather than rude.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“I think my hunch paid off,” MacQuaid said as Andrew drove and the kid perused the receipt.

“Call Emilie and have her get everyone on the line.”

They arrived in the war room as Emilie brought Deck and Dana online.

MacQuaid jumped in. “Six months ago, this guy sent his clothes in once every couple of weeks… And that makes sense. I can see a single guy not wanting to be bothered with laundry. A couple rounds of pink tighty-whiteys, and who wouldn’t be looking for another alternative?

“But starting in late July, he had women’s clothing too, and that seems weird. Most women don’t want anyone else washing their unmentionables. And it’s been my experience that if you have a woman around, she’s going to do your laundry. You know what I mean?”

“Get to it, MacQuaid,” Andrew said. His fingers started tapping the tabletop of their own volition.

Kier shoved a paper-clipped pack of pages to the center of the conference table. “We’re in luck. It seems they have a detailed tracking system and keep track of every item that comes in and out—not just the dry cleaners but the regular laundry service as well. There appears to be a lot more women’s clothing than men’s. And that clothing isn’t always the same size. There’s always women’s size-six clothing. But there were two weeks where there was women’s size-four clothing and another time where there was women’s size eight.”

“What’s the breakdown of when?” Andrew asked.

“Do we have the approximate sizes of the women who we’ve found?”

“I’d bet Lucija Vukelich—the woman we found in Over the Rhine—was a size eight,” Thompson said.

Thompson would be the last man Andrew would suspect of having enough experience with women that he could gauge size. He raised an eyebrow.

He shrugged. “My wife is about the same height and weight.”

“Check out the dates,” MacQuaid said.

Andrew grabbed the pages. “Okay. So there were two trips to the laundry with size-eight clothing between the time that the Vukelich woman came to the States and the time she was found dead.” He scanned the pages. “What about the woman we found in Newport?” he asked.

“Five ten and a buck nineteen,” MacQuaid said.

Andrew nodded. “That’s slender.”

“The dates match up. The size fours showed up two weeks before we found her dead.”

“That’s still pretty circumstantial,” Doc said. “But it might be enough to get him talking in interrogation.” He looked up at MacQuaid. “Ready to go break him, New Guy?”

“In just a minute. Emilie, can you get me everything you can on the laundry itself?”

“What now?” Andrew asked.

“I was getting a weird vibe from that place. Did you notice how when you looked around the hanging clothes, she turned on the carousel so you couldn’t see in the back?”

“Yeah.”

Deck chimed in on the phone. “I know this is an oddball question, but could you tell if the staff was American?”

“The woman was Eastern European. What are you thinking?” Andrew asked.

“So my original case involved a Chinese woman who had escaped from a nail salon where she was being held against her will and forced to work as a nail tech. She claimed there were a bunch of Chinese women there as well as other women who were white, non-English speakers who were also being held against their will, but who weren’t working in the nail salon. What if those white, non-English speaking women were running a laundry? What if there are multiple semi-legit businesses, all using the slave labor of trafficked women?”

“That’s possible,” Andrew was forced to admit.

MacQuaid’s eyes got as round as saucers. “Oh God. What if we got that woman in trouble?”

“Don’t tell Giordano where you got your info. Find out what you can. And quickly.”



Thursday, December 11—1:30 p.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

“We need food,” Dana said, perusing the pitiful offerings of the pantry.

“Excuse me?” Deck asked over the top of his coffee cup.

“We need to make a grocery run,” she clarified. “Or, since you’re leaving to go downtown in about ten minutes, I guess
I
need to make a grocery run. Mind if I borrow your truck?”

“You don’t have to. We can do that after I get home, if you like,” Deck said.

Dana shrugged. “If I go now, then I can have dinner on when you get home.”

“You’re going to cook?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Scared?”

He cleared his throat. “Marines don’t get scared.”

She gave him a knowing grin. “My partner’s wife gave me a recipe she said even I couldn’t screw up.” She’d originally asked Angie to come down and help her cook, because while Deck hadn’t told her, she knew today was his birthday, thanks to the background check Emilie had run on him.

Angie had given her a recipe and told her it would be a lot more special if she did it herself.

He mumbled something that could have been, “I wouldn’t bet on that.”

“Hey,” she protested.

“You have many talents. Cooking just doesn’t happen to be one of them.”

“You’ll be eating your words this evening.”

“That’ll probably be the only thing I’ll be eating,” he muttered, and she wasn’t sure she was supposed to have heard him.

Dana didn’t take offense. In fact, she was feeling oddly buoyed by the easy exchange.

She took her own coffee and sat at the island on the barstool next to his. “I’ll get a frozen pizza. If dinner doesn’t come out, we’ll have reinforcements. A marine like yourself should appreciate that.”

“Knock yourself out,” he said, sliding his keys out of the pocket of the jacket hanging over the back of his barstool. He slid one set off the ring and handed it to her. “Be careful with my truck.”

“I will.”

He glanced at his watch. “I’m outta here. I’ll be home by five.” He stood slowly, grabbed his travel mug and the rest of the sports section, leaned down, dropped a peck on her cheek, and headed toward the kitchen door.

Dana froze. Had he just kissed her?

She heard him halt just before he made it through the doorway. “I—uh—” He cleared his throat, and she wondered if he would explain.

“Have a good day, Murphy.” She didn’t want the explanation, actually.

“Uh, you too.” His measured steps continued down the hall and out the front door.

Dana’s fingers touched her cheek where his lips had brushed just moments before and shook her head. Maybe she’d just imagined that. Or maybe he was getting too used to having her around.

She kind of doubted it had anything to do with him suddenly having dumped off his anger toward her.

It didn’t take long for her to grab her purse and her grocery list and head out to his truck.

She parked in the Kroger parking lot, locked the truck, and went inside. Deck would be surprised when he came home to pot roast. Angie had given her specific instructions. There was virtually no preparation involved, just tossing a few ingredients into a Crock-Pot. Even she could do that.

She wound her way through the store, picking up meat, dry onion soup, bread, coffee, and cereal. She’d noticed Deck was a big milk drinker, so she plopped a gallon of 2% in the cart before making her way to the frozen foods section. She snagged a premade ice-cream cake. She had no illusions about the advisability of trying to bake a cake.

In the produce section, she picked out a selection of fruit for herself, remembering with a grin the way Deck had teased her about having to have strawberries with her morning yogurt and granola.

She was reaching for a bag of baby-cut carrots when she was bumped from behind.

“Pardon me,” said a deep male voice with a smooth Italian accent.

She turned and looked up into the thickly lashed chocolate-brown gaze of possibly the most aesthetically pleasing man she’d ever seen. He was tall, muscular but trim, with thick dark brown hair and full, sensual lips. Frankly, everything a fairy-tale Prince Charming should be.

She was surprised at how little he did for her.

“Is no problem,” she said, letting her accent fall back into place instinctively.

It wasn’t like she normally felt the need for vocal disguises at the corner market. There was something about this guy…besides his incredible good looks. Something about his eyes.

They were…flat. Dead. Emotionless.

“Cara,” he said. “
Sei un bellissimo donne
.”

She was a beautiful
women
? Okay, this bozo wasn’t a native Italian speaker. His accent was…well, not good. But the fact that he’d screwed up the wording of such a simple phrase made it clear he was trying to show off.

She gave him an impersonal smile and went back to her produce.

The carrots landed in her cart as his hand landed on her fingers. She pulled back immediately and put her shopping cart between him and her. Something about him gave her the creeps.

“Your skin. It is so soft,” he said, wonder in his voice.

She nodded in what she hoped was a dismissive manner and hastily beat feet to the front of the store to check out, but she could feel his gaze on her the whole time.

She passed the wine aisles between the produce and checkout and ducked in. The bottle of wine to go with dinner was secondary to finding a location from which to observe the Italian creep.

Using her cell phone’s camera feature, she could see around the edge of the display, but he couldn’t see her. She snapped a couple of still shots and about fifteen seconds of video, none of which was particularly high quality.

To her relief, he didn’t follow her to the checkout. By the time she made it out to Deck’s truck, she passed off her nervousness as the paranoia that came from working on a case as high profile and intense as this one.

She shook her head at herself.

Next thing she knew, she’d be seeing crazies in every person she passed on the street.

Chapter Fifteen

Thursday, December 11—4:30 p.m.

Cincinnati FBI Field Office, Kenwood Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

“Well that was a fucking waste of time,” MacQuaid said as he dropped into a chair in front of Sherwood’s desk.

He looked up from the report in front of him. “He said nothing?”

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
4.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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