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 (7 page)

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
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Last night, she’d plugged her phone into the outlet behind the bed to keep it charged, but kept it turned off so Deck wouldn’t hear it.  However, she’d checked it as soon as she’d woken to find a text from Sherwood.
Possible case in Warren County. Killed in August. Meeting with the Sheriff @ 8:45 @ office. Attend if possible
.

The text message was every bit as efficient and succinct as the man was in person.

She’d checked the bus schedule, then texted back.
Plan to be there. Will advise if I run into problems.

It seemed like a good idea at the time to take the bus. If Deck caught Dana taking the bus, she could claim she was trying to see the city. If he caught her getting into or out of someone’s car, she’d have some serious explaining to do.

But now, while trying to appear as if she were taking a non-noteworthy stroll and still covering five blocks in seven minutes, it seemed less like a good idea and more like a recipe for showing up late.

She dashed the last block as the bus came to a stop with a hiss of the air brakes. It was with great relief that she plugged a dollar and some change into the automatic feeder before taking the first side-facing seat opposite the driver.

With her back in a corner and every passenger within her line of sight, she relaxed, only to realize that after the meeting, she had to reverse the process and get back before Deck realized she was gone.

That should be a good time.

Precisely fifty-eight minutes later, she stepped off the bus, crossed the street, and trotted into the building, past security, and finally up to the war room, where the meeting had evidently just begun.

“Sheriff, thanks for coming on such short notice,” Sherwood said to a man dressed in a khaki uniform.

Sheriff Adam Robbins looked at the assembled agents and detectives. “It looks like my little case is a small piece of a much bigger, even uglier picture. I just hope the information I have to give you helps. I’ve gotta tell you, this folder has kept me up too many nights. I’m happy to have your guys on it.”

Sherwood nodded. “Why don’t you give the highlights of your case, and then we can tell you what we’ve learned.”

“Sounds good. On the last Monday in August, construction workers found the body of a Jane Doe in a wooded area about to be razed before construction of new homes began. She was Caucasian. Early twenties. Five-six. Petite. Long dark hair. Blue eyes.”

Even as the sheriff began laying out the facts of the case, a lead ball sank into the pit of Dana’s stomach. How many more women had to die before they caught this bastard?

“Our ME said she’d been dead for at least a couple of weeks. She was badly decomposed, and between the bugs and the local wildlife, there wasn’t much left of her clothes. We traced the label on her top to a Victoria’s Secret. That same top had been sold in that size to hundreds of people in the area. It was available both from the catalogue and in the store, and we just didn’t have the manpower to track down every known sale.

“Tox screen showed no drugs or alcohol, and any biological evidence was long gone. The back of her head was smashed in.”

“Sounds like our guy,” said Jack Falcon, with an unusually subdued tone. He was the unrepentant playboy of the team. He tried to use his combo of charm, dimples, and cobalt-blue eyes on Dana when she’d first moved to Cincinnati. Recognizing the type—in fact, having nearly thrown away her career for someone very similar—she shut him down fast and brutally. Now he treated her with 95% professionalism, and 5% flirting, but Dana figured he couldn’t actually help himself.

Doc spoke. “This feels like his first kill. He’s getting bolder each time. Now he
wants
us to find them. He poses them. Leaves them in ever more public places. But this woman, he hides in the woods. Why?”

“Do you think he knew her?” Dana asked.

“It’s possible,” said Doc.

A knock on the door interrupted the meeting. “Sorry to barge in, but I’ve got some information you’re going to want.”

A lanky kid in a lab coat who Dana had met her first week but whose name she didn’t remember handed a folder to Sherwood. He opened it and began leafing through pages. His eyes widened. “Skip. Share.”

He didn’t look like a Skip, but he definitely skipped to it when Sherwood told him to.

“We took samples of the blood on the woman on the off chance that the killer cut himself and some of his blood was on her. It was a long shot, but it paid off.”

“Tell me we got DNA,” Falcon said, rubbing his hands together.

Dana felt her own excitement build.

“I don’t know what to make of the results,” Skip said. “The second sample is from another female.”

“Our killer is a woman?” Dana asked, everything in her rejecting the idea.

Doc shook his head. “Women don’t kill like this.” He cleared his throat. “Not very often, anyway.”

“Another victim?” Dana asked. “Did you check the DNA against the other women that have been found?”

Skip nodded. “Yes. And we cross-referenced the sample from the Warren County body as well. No matches. We’re running the samples from the missing girls that you brought back from Croatia now, but it will take some time.”

There was a long moment of silence before Dana spoke. “Has anyone tracked down the clothing that our women were wearing? Do we know the brand and size?”

“It’s all been from large clothing manufacturers who have local stores and do a brisk business. Victoria’s secret, Frederick’s of Hollywood, and a skirt and stockings were likely from the Hustler store but were also available at a number of other retailers. No joy.”

She sighed. “What’s next?”

“What’s going on with your guy?” Jack asked Dana.

“I haven’t found anything that leads me to believe he’s not on the level, but I haven’t gotten the chance to comb through his house yet.” She looked directly at the boss man. “You ready to pull me yet?”

“The guy who dropped you off… Did he say when he’d be back to check on you?”

She shook her head.

“Then, no. I still think we’re going to need you to stay on the inside.”

She sighed. She was afraid of that. It was starting to feel like a waste of time.

“Are we going to let him in on the case? He
is
a detective. He might be able to help.”

Sherwood shook his head. “We’ve been trying to track down the owner of Dream Come True, Michael Milton. His assistant, Sally, told us that someone claiming to be from the police and possibly named Murphy called him last week, and after that he disappeared. He hasn’t been back to the office, and he’s turned off his cell. I don’t want to tip our hand until we find out more.”

Dana started to restate her case for bringing Deck in, but Sherwood silenced her with a look.

“Fine.” She should have known better than to argue with Sherwood. “In that case, I’d better be getting back. It’s better that I not risk getting caught knowing my way around the city.” She picked up her bag and headed out.

 

Chapter Seven

Friday, November 21—12:30 p.m.

Oakley Police Station, Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

Something about Deck’s new houseguest was definitely hinky. The night before, he’d asked her surname and she’d given it, seemingly without thought.

However, no woman by the name of Draghana Tomasaic (with a multitude of spelling variations) had come into the United States, either through the Cincinnati airport or any other, in the past month. He’d spent several hours tracking that down. He hadn’t gone so far as to hit Interpol yet, but that would likely come next after he spoke with her.

He’d also checked into the black Lincoln Town Car. It was owned by the Dream Come True dating and bridal agency.

Deck glanced at his watch. Time for him to clock out for his meal break. Fortunately, things had been slow today, so he could run home for lunch.

Madison Road was the main thoroughfare through “downtown” Oakley, which was little more than a collection of small shops and restaurants centered around the town square. Before his injury, work had been a twelve-minute walk or a five-minute bike ride from his house. Now it was a three-minute drive. He tried not to focus on how much that pissed him off, and instead focused on how much his new houseguest had pissed him off with her lies.

He cursed, realizing he’d gotten stuck behind the number fifty-one bus. Friday-lunch traffic was usually not a problem in this part of town, except on the square. However, as the bus stopped in front of him, the flow of traffic to his left kept him from getting around.

He watched impatiently as the rear passenger exit doors opened and a single passenger exited. The bus took off, and he eased forward, only to do a double-take at the passenger standing on the sidewalk and looking over her shoulder.

Deck slammed on his brakes, causing the driver behind him to lay on his horn. He punched the button on his armrest to roll down the window. “Get in!” he said, trying to hold back a snarl. Dana opened the door and slid in, giving him a curious expression as he finished the last block and half of his trip home in dead silence.

“Why you not at work?” she asked.

“What the hell were you doing?” Deck demanded as he peeled into the driveway.

“Wha—?” She shook her head as she got out of the car, then turned to him, her face a mask of confusion. Deck didn’t buy it. Damn, but he hated liars. “I want to learn neighborhood, so I take bus.” She shrugged. “But I get on wrong bus. End up downtown. But it is okay. I walk around. See…” She paused as if trying to remember. “Fountain Square. Get back on bus. Come home.”

“When did you fly in?” he demanded.

As they walked toward the front door, she sighed at him as if he weren’t terribly bright. “Yesterday. I fly from Dubrovnik to London to Cincinnati.”

“There’s no record of it.”

Dana dug around in her shoulder bag. A few moments later, she slapped something against his chest.

Hard.
He winced. No one would take this girl for a powderpuff, no matter how cute her freckles and dimples.

He took the small blue booklet from her hand. Her passport. Dark blue leather. Gold embossed shield with a checkerboard pattern. The words “Republic of Croatia” in (he assumed) Croatian, English, and French.

He opened it, glanced at her picture before opening it to the stamps. Sure enough. A stamp for Cincinnati dated yesterday.

Why was his lie-dar pinging so loudly? It appeared that she was telling the truth. He was still going to look at the records again.

He flipped back to the first page again. Her name: Petra Draghana Kirasic-Tomasaic. Well, he’d definitely spelled her name wrong. And if customs had just entered her as Petra Kirasic, then that would explain why she hadn’t come up.

“So why you check up on me?” she asked as he unlocked the door.

He hesitated. How to answer that?
Because I don’t trust you any farther than I can throw you?
was guaranteed to make friends and influence people. Perhaps throwing himself on her mercy was the best defense.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m not very trusting.” He handed her passport back to her, having committed the information he needed to memory.

She gave him a “well, duh” sort of look. It was one that translated into any language.

“Have you had lunch?” he asked.

“Downtown, I eat…” She hesitated. “Hot dog?” She shook her head. “That wrong word? Like sausage.”

“Yeah. It’s called a hot dog.”

“No dog, right?”

He couldn’t help but grin. “No. It’s pork and beef, usually.” Which didn’t mean that he would have eaten one from a downtown hot dog vendor to save his life. He left that part out.

“I need to get back to work. I have tomorrow off. I’ll give you the grand tour of Cincinnati then, okay? I’m not sure I want you to take the bus downtown. If you get off in the wrong neighborhood, you could get into trouble.” And there were a number of neighborhoods
he
wouldn’t want to walk through along that bus route. Even before his injury.

She nodded. “I am sorry. I do not want to make you angry.”

He shook his head as he backed toward the door. “I’m not angry. And
I’m
sorry for overreacting.” But he was still going to check out her arrival.

He returned to work to do just that. A flush of embarrassment washed over him as he found the information. Petra Kirasic arrived just before 3:00 on Thursday at CVG airport. She probably thought he was a total whack job. He spent so much time being suspicious of people that now he was seeing lies where there were none.

Maybe he should stick to the case in front of him.  As he’d done every couple of days, he contacted the closest Chinese Consulates and Embassy, only to find out that Lee Jing’s passport had been replaced several days prior, and no one had notified him. He requested plane manifests for OUTCONUS flights, and found out that Lee Jing and her parents had indeed rescheduled their flights back to China and had arrived yesterday.

Dammit.

No complaining witness.  No proof of a crime. And possibly dozens of other women being held against their will, with no way to find them.



Saturday, November 22—10:00 a.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

Deck had been looking at the loose trim along the doorframe for the past five months. Whether it was having someone else in his house or finally just taking an interest in his surroundings, he didn’t know. But it had to be fixed.
Now.

He pulled his toolbox from the large hall closet. He placed a level, a hammer, and a handful of trim nails into a tool belt, and attached it to his waist before making his way to the front door. He leaned his crutch against the wall and managed to balance on his good foot, keeping the majority of his weight off his bad leg.

He’d pulled off the loose trim, realigned it using the level as a guide, and had his hammer poised over a nail when Dana stepped into the room.

“Deck?” Unfortunately, she spoke right as his hammer came in for a landing.

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
12.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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