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 (5 page)

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
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She was achingly pretty and approachably cute at the same time. It made for a lethal combination.

Draghana:
You very handsome too. But you look tired. Long day?

Deck was a little startled.  It had been a long time since someone had done something as simple as ask about his day.

Deck Murphy:
It’s still early here. I just got up.

He remembered when he never slept past six, and jumped from bed every morning with gusto. Now, it was hard to even drag his ass out of from under the covers on days he didn’t have to be at work or go to physical therapy.

Draghana:
What you like to do for fun?

Deck Murphy
: I’ve been remodeling my house. Had to quit for a bit because I hurt my leg, but I’m getting back into it.

Draghana:
Tell me about that.

Deck Murphy:
I think I mentioned before, it’s an old firehouse. It was built in the 1890s, when the fire trucks were pulled by horses.

Deck looked around the living room, remembering why he’d gotten excited about buying this house in the first place.  

Draghana
: Wow.

Deck Murphy:
It has lots of “potential,” which kind of means it’s still a wreck.  But the kitchen is done. And I have a guest room. And pretty much everything else is a work in progress.

Draghana: That sounds amazing. I’d love to see it.

Deck found the folder on his computer with before-and-afters of the kitchen, and the front of the house. He sent them, unreasonably proud of what he’d accomplished.

Deck Murphy:
Here you go.

Draghana:
Lovely. What did it look like when it was a firehouse?

Deck Murphy:
I don’t have any pictures of it back in the day…but I’ll bet there are some online.

A quick Google search yielded him a History of the Cincinnati Fire Department website with photos of all the old fire houses.

He sent her the link.

Deck Murphy:
Just look for 4455 Millsbrae Avenue.

Suddenly his computer beeped and a pop-up box came up over his screen.  “You have violated the terms of service. You are not permitted to give your address, phone number, or email address. You have been locked from the system.”

 

 

Chapter Four

Thursday, November 20—3:00 p.m.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

“Welcome to Cincinnati. Passport and visa, please?”

Dana lifted her suitcase onto the table, even as she raised an eyebrow at Kier MacQuaid, who wore a black US Customs & Border Protection uniform.  She handed him her passport portfolio.

“What is the purpose of your trip?”

“I’m a student,” Dana said in highly accented English, keeping her cover in place.

He unzipped her suitcase, and then placed a tracking device, about the size of a credit card, only thicker, in the pocket at the side. “How long will you be staying?” In a sleight-of-hand move most magicians would envy, Kier pulled a Croatian passport from a pile at his left and slid Dana’s passport into the pile in its place. The entire move took less than two seconds.

“A year,” she answered.

“Where will you be staying?”

“With friends.”

He handed Dana her new passport. “Your friends are near.” With no up inflection at the end of the sentence, it wasn’t a question. Dana took that to mean that the team would be following her closely.

“Yes,” she answered anyway.

A quarter fell on the table from his hands.

“Oh, you dropped some change.”

Kier’s look was intense, and he dropped his chin in the minutest of nods.

“Oh,” Dana said.

As he picked up the quarter, he squeezed it between his index finger and thumb and mouthed,
Off
, and then did it again and mouthed,
On
. She understood that to mean that the quarter had GPS capability, and that it could be turned off if necessary.

“Have a nice visit,” he said, handing her the coin.


Hvala.
” Dana replied her thanks in Croatian.

She grabbed her bag and stepped forward, quickly riffling through her passport portfolio to find a visa for Petra Draghana Kirasic-Tomasaic in the pages.

When she reached the other side of baggage claim, she had no idea what to expect.  She’d received a message that her conversation with Deck Murphy had been stopped because they’d violated the terms of service.  On her application, she’d already revealed her travel dates. She was told she’d be met by a representative from Dream Come True.

She’d immediately contacted Eva to find out if this was standard protocol.

Eva responded, “That seems very unusual.”

Dana had contacted the team, who did everything they could to make sure her cover was in place in the US and to ensure her safety.

She found a tall, beefy man holding a white card with her name printed on it.
Definitely not Deck Murphy.
That little ripple that fled her abdomen felt a lot like disappointment, which was dumb. While they didn’t know what Declan Murphy’s role was in this—if any—her goal was to find a serial killer, and the Cincinnati cop couldn’t be it, because he’d been having his leg reconstructed at Bethesda at the time of the first murder.

The guy with the sign appeared to be nearly fifty, with thick dark hair, olive skin, and was dressed in dark trousers, with one too many buttons opened on his ivory silk shirt, and a thick gold chain around his neck. It was as if someone had rung Central Casting for a mobster named Guido. Dana looked for signs of weakness anywhere and couldn’t find one. She was confident in her superior training, but she was equally glad that her team was nearby. Could this be the killer?

Dana straightened her long skirt, missing her usual pantsuit, before tucking a strand of hair back into the unaccustomed bun at the back of her head. She stepped up to Guido, then pointed at the card and finally at herself.

“Your fiancé couldn’t make it,” Guido said.

Dana pretended not to understand. It had been her experience that people tended to say more around those they thought couldn’t speak their language. He hefted her suitcase with no effort whatsoever. After crossing the street to the parking garage and wandering up one aisle, he stopped behind an older, black Lincoln Continental and popped the trunk before turning to her with a critical eye. “Huh. You’ll do.”

A nervous ping went through her stomach. What could that mean? Granted, the more tired she was, the older she looked, but she still thought she could pass for early twenties, the age of all the known victims and what her profile listed. God knew she got carded to buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store often enough.

Guido stuffed her suitcase in the trunk, shaking his head and muttering something she couldn’t hear. Opening the back door, he indicated that she should get in and said, “Go on. I ain’t gonna hurt ya.”

Dana gave him a deliberately confused look, then slid into the seat.

“You don’t speak much English, do you?”

“English? Yes. Speak English,” Dana said in as thick an accent as she could.

Her driver harrumphed and picked up his phone.

“I have the new girl,” he said in a soft voice that still carried to the backseat. Dana pretended to be absorbed in the landscape as it sped by.

Apprehension coiled in her chest as she continued to keep an ear trained on the telephone conversation happening in the front of the car. Guido sounded pissed. “I know, but this guy isn’t even expecting it. And we’ve got a deadline.” There was a long pause before he sighed loudly. “Okay, you got it.” Guido flipped the phone closed, then back open, pressed one key for a long moment, then held it to his ear.

What the hell was that? She’d bet her next paycheck that he was using a disposable burner phone. Who else used a flip phone? So these calls would be hard to trace.

“Hey, Sally, do you have the address for our newest guest?”

Dana could hear a high-pitched voice speaking rapidly, but she couldn’t understand what was actually being said on the other side of the conversation.

Guido didn’t say much. He just scribbled down an address on the back of his hand, as he drove. “Got it.” He hung up without saying good-bye.

Once he pulled onto I-71 North, Dana took a compact out of her purse, ostensibly to check her appearance and powder her nose, but in reality to look out the back window. She took a breath of relief when she saw the FBI van—disguised as a Cincinnati Bell service truck—following two cars behind. Not that she’d had any reason to believe her team wouldn’t be there for her.

Not
this
team, anyway.

Guido pulled off at Exit 6 and crossed Edwards Road. This was the route to Deck Murphy’s house—just moments from this exit.

“Welcome to your new home,” Guido said as he pulled up in front of an old brick firehouse whose
everything
had seen better days. The concrete driveway was cracked. The brick façade sported missing bricks and mortar, and the yard was brown and scraggly. Of course, it was November, so no one’s yard was at its best. The single focal point was an obviously new, dark blue door with etched windows on either side, and a brightly polished brass door knocker and handle. It gave the entire building a little hope for the possibility that better times lay ahead.

Guido got out, opened her door without waiting for her to exit the car herself, popped the trunk, and dragged her suitcase to the ground.

He didn’t wait to see if she followed before striding to the front door and ringing the bell. Dana caught up on the porch and waited, her stomach trembling as much as her hands.

Finally, after a long,
long
moment, the door began to swing open. She lost the breath she’d been holding.

Deck Murphy stood in the doorway looking nothing like your average psychopath. He was at least a hundred times better looking than the photo that had been part of his profile.

If she’d been in this for a legitimate husband, she would be considering herself very,
very
lucky about now. He was six feet five inches, well over two hundred pounds, with very short black hair and dark, almost black eyes. His complexion spoke of time out in the sun and a likely smattering of different races and ethnicities, though she couldn’t put her finger on any one in particular.

His body wasn’t exactly hard on the eyes either. Khaki cargo pants hung low on trim hips. His shoulders were about a mile wide, and his snug, black, long-sleeved T-shirt showed off impressive muscles. The hand propped at eye level on the doorframe boasted large, long fingers, with neatly trimmed square nails and just the barest dusting of dark hair. His middle finger had a Band-Aid around one knuckle.

Once again she wondered why a guy like this would need a mail-order bride. He was
gorgeous.

“Hello,” he said slowly, a hint of question in his voice.

Guido dropped her suitcase and shoved her toward the door. “I’ve brought your bride.”

Chapter Five

Thursday, November 20—4:30 p.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

It took a few cycles through Deck’s language filter before he was able to parse what the Italian guy standing on his front porch said into some sort of coherent sentence. Unfortunately, it still didn’t make sense.

“My new…
what
?”

He leaned harder against the doorjamb to take more of the weight off his left leg. Looking over the guy’s shoulder, he could see that the Croatian girl he’d been talking to on the Internet was indeed standing on his porch. Her dimples were even more adorable in person than they had been in her photo.

As the silence stretched on, the adorable dimples disappeared, leaving her looking tired and a little defeated.

“Y-You do not want me?” she asked in heavily accented English. She had cinnamon-brown eyes with little flecks of amber shooting out from the center, surrounded by thick eyelashes. Freckles dotted the landscape of her upturned nose. She was, in a word, cute. Slightly curly brown hair had escaped the knot at the back of her head and fell to her shoulders, and her face was scrubbed free of makeup. Between the dimples and the freckles, she looked like the girl next door, except with the kind of serious curves that made him want to get neighborly.

He shook his head, trying to restore reality. “How did this happen?” he asked.

The Italian guy pushed the woman forward half a step. “I’m from Dream Come True. This is Draghana, your new bride. Catch up, buddy.”

“Yeah. I got that. She and I spoke over email a few times. But I never asked her to marry me.”

“But you gave her your personal info, which is against the site’s terms of service. Kind of a ‘
you break it, you buy it’
thing.”

Shit. He’d used his own credit card rather than get the department bean counters involved. Deck had a feeling there was probably a hefty charge sitting on his MasterCard at the moment.

Deck didn’t doubt that it was written in the Terms of Service. The legal document had been about twenty pages long, and he’d been skimming by the end. He was also pretty sure Dream Come True didn’t have a legal leg to stand on and that he could fight the charge in court if he wanted to—if he didn’t mind paying five times as much in legal fees.

That they’d try to scam him out of the thousand dollar “meet fee” wasn’t shocking. That they’d sent on his bride
was
.

The Italian guy’s eyes narrowed in a manner that could only be described as crafty, which pushed some big red button in the back of Deck’s head labeled DANGER.

“I can take her back.”

That seemed like a pretty good idea to Deck. He opened his mouth to agree, until Freckles face fell.

“Please do not send me back,” she said quietly.

“It’s no problem, actually,” the guy said, eyeing the woman with what looked like far too much appreciation. “She may not be your type. It happens.”

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
3.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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