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 (9 page)

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
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The husband came on the line. “This is Jeff Wilson.”

“Mr. Wilson. I’m so very sorry. It wasn’t my intention to alarm your wife. My name is Special Agent Andrew Sherwood, and I’m with the FBI. Neither you nor your wife is in any sort of trouble. We are investigating the murder of a young woman who came from Croatia on a fiancé visa, and we want to ask your wife a few questions about her experience with the agency she used.”

“Oh,” Jeff Wilson responded. Andrew could hear him explaining the situation to his wife.

When he was finished, Andrew got down to business. “Is there any way we can set up a time to meet?”

“Actually, we’re out of town—we have the home phone forwarded to our cell—but we’ll be back late Wednesday night.”

He thanked the Wilsons and set up a time to meet later in the week.

“Okay, people. What have we got?” he asked as he strode through the war room door. He focused his attention on Emilie.

“Our Mr. Milton has a fairly interesting history,” she said from the other end of the long conference table, handing a packet of papers to Rey, who sat on her right. He took a stapled section, then passed the pile to Falcon, who continued it on.

“Dream Come True was started by Michael’s mother in the early eighties as a video matchmaking service. Milton took it over when she died in 2009. In 2010, he expanded the focus to include online matchmaking and mail-order brides. From what I can piece together from their financials, it looks like things started to go downhill about then, but I’d bet the Internet dating craze didn’t help much, and his service isn’t really big enough to compete with, eHarmony, OkCupid, and Tinder.”

“Any priors?” Andrew asked, hoping she’d get to the point.

“Milton served a three-month stint in juvie at age sixteen for joyriding. Nearly took a collar at eighteen for driving a getaway car from an armed robbery. The police didn’t have enough to make it stick, and the buddy he was driving for wouldn’t rat him out. As far as the official record goes, that’s it.

“He had a big tax bill in 1997 from race track earnings. Won the trifecta on a long shot. It was enough to keep him in college for a couple of semesters. Then his money situation is all over the place. I’m guessing gambling, but I don’t have any solid proof yet. He was married in 2008. His wife and baby were killed in late 2009 in a car crash outside of Chicago. Mom dies shortly thereafter, and he takes over the business.”

“Have we located him?”

“I have one possibility. He hasn’t been using any of his own credit cards, but a large cash withdrawal was taken from a card that’s registered to his late mother three days ago in St. Louis.”

Andrew focused his attention on Doc. “What’s your opinion? Is this our guy?”

Doc cleared his throat. “It would be easy if he were, but…” He shook his head. “I just don’t think so. Our killer is meticulous, but Milton doesn’t seem to be. The killer hasn’t left a shred of DNA or a fingerprint, beyond that of the second woman. He’s probably in his late twenties or early thirties, and I’m fairly certain he’s white. He’s gaining experience and confidence with each kill, and he dumps each one in an entirely new area. The first victim was dumped in the woods in Warren County. I’ve been poring over the case file from the sheriff to see if the killer might have missed anything. So far, nothing is standing out. The second in an industrial area, the third in the entirely closed backyard of an unoccupied home in a fairly quiet neighborhood in Northern Kentucky, and then this latest in a public park. While it’s possible he has an accomplice, I don’t think it’s likely. This just doesn’t read like a crime with a coconspirator. Which means it’s likely he has to dump these bodies himself. Everything seems to be well planned. Carefully, painstakingly premeditated. If Milton’s a compulsive gambler, then he probably doesn’t have the attention to detail and patience of our killer.”

“Even if he isn’t our killer, I still think Milton is attached to this in some way. Falcon and Rodriguez, I want you on a plane to St. Louis tonight. As for the rest of you, if Milton isn’t our psychopath, I want to know who is.
we find another dead Croatian girl.”

Falcon and Rodriguez nodded in tandem.
Good men.

“On Thursday, I’m meeting with one of Dream Come True’s first brides from that area. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything useful.”

Please, God.
Let him come up with something useful. It was time they stopped chasing their tails and caught this bastard.


Monday, November 24—6:00 p.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

The doorbell rang, and Dana heard Deck answer the door.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Thought I’d check up and see how you two were getting along. Your little lady at home?”

She gritted her teeth at the “little lady” comment, but at least this visit validated her reason for being here. Since this was the
reason, as far as she could tell, that she was still undercover, she made her way toward the foyer.

Deck caught her gaze as she came up to him.

“Things are fine,” he said after a long moment.

“It’s okay if they aren’t,” Guido said. “Sometimes it just don’t work out. We have a one hundred percent satisfaction guaranteed policy.”

Dana just bet they did.
And hey, if you don’t like the “little lady,” I’ll take her off your hands for you. Never you mind that she’ll end up in the morgue a couple of days later.

She almost wished Deck would send her back. Then she could discover who the killer was and take the psychopath down. She might have prodded him in that direction if Sherwood hadn’t given her explicit instructions to stay put.

She was so frickin’ frustrated with all the waiting.
, she could be doing some actual good on this case if she wasn’t sitting here playing house with Deck.

“Don’t worry. I’m satisfied.”

Guido clearly took that in a different way than Deck meant it. “Well, good for you.” He cleared his throat. “Just remember, chemistry don’t last forever,” he began, until Deck interrupted.

“Buddy, I’m happy with my match.
Back. Off.

If the situation were different, Dana might have raised her eyebrow at him. However, the situation wasn’t different. Guido was a suspect, and she needed to know how he was involved. The only way for her to find that out would be to let Guido take her back to Dream Come True.

She almost spoke until she looked up and saw the fierce expression on Deck’s face.

“Understood. If you change your mind, just call the office.”

Deck shut the door firmly behind the guy and turned to Dana. “Well, that was weird,” he said.

Dana agreed, but she also suspected they’d just missed a major opportunity. Unfortunately, Deck shoved him out so fast, she hadn’t even been able to get his name.


Wednesday, November 26—9:00 a.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dana needed to get in touch with Sherwood. If she could get Deck to send her back to DCT,  they could figure out how Guido fit in with the rest of the case. Or at least bring Deck in on the case.  He was a detective, after all. Chances were likely that he could be of help.

She waited until Deck left for work, and then she started a systematic search of his house.  The firehouse had no basement and no attic, which kept the number of locations to search at a minimum.  She’d already been able to search the kitchen with ease, under the guise of finding glasses and dishware.

She went through the garage, which was large enough to house a couple of fire trucks, but contained only a large, red pickup truck, power tools—most in protective cases—lined up on shelves, a giant, red Craftsman tool chest holding an impressive set of hand tools and hardware, and carefully stacked sheets of drywall, two-by-fours and wood flooring.  Everything required to turn this firehouse into an exceedingly lovely home.

Dana wondered what it would look like when he was done.  And whether she’d ever get to see it.  She kind of doubted it. Once he found out she’d been lying to him since they met, she had a feeling he’d want nothing to do with her.

She tried not to let the weight of that pull her from her task.

The living room contained a couch, an easy chair, and an open entertainment center. No clutter. No furnishings. The only decoration in the room was a giant shadow box with a folded flag and an impressive number of military insignia and medals, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with a V on the ribbon.

Everything she learned about Deck made her like and respect him more.  And she knew he wouldn’t appreciate the fact that she was invading his privacy, even if he realized how much she hated doing it.

The entire top floor had once been the bunk area of the firehouse. At some point before her arrival, the guest room had been sectioned off. It seemed the bathroom had once been much larger, but now it contained only a single shower, toilet, and a framed-in area she suspected would one day hold a large Jacuzzi tub. She took time to go through the medicine cabinet and under the counter now, even though she’d given them a cursory glance the first time she’d taken a shower.

The medicine cabinet contained a bottle with a dozen tablets of Vicodin, prescribed two months in the past. The original bottle only contained twenty. She hoped that was because his pain was improving, and not that he stoically avoided pain pills.

Deck’s bedroom was enormous and almost as unfurnished as the living room. A king-size bed with the covers pulled up, a single dresser, and a nightstand didn’t come close to taking up the entire space.

A large closet had been framed, drywalled, and mudded, but not primed or painted. Inside, nine suits hung from a closet rod, in varying shades of black, dark gray, and navy blue. They were good quality, and she suspected, since she’d seen him wearing them when he left for work and they fit him, they were probably custom tailored to some extent. His shoulder-to-hip ratio was extreme and his biceps were huge. To the right, a line of crisp white dress shirts marched across the closet, still in their dry-cleaner’s plastic. His marine dress blues hung at the far right of the closet in a clear, thick, plastic garment bag with a zipper.

Behind the uniform, a walker was folded in the back of the closet and Dana tried to picture Deck using the support equipment, but the image wouldn’t form in her mind. The closet shelves held a couple of boxes of memorabilia, including photos from his time in the military, a photo album, his senior high year book, and diplomas from both high school and Ohio State. A bunch of high school trophies and plaques from football, wrestling, and basketball took up another box, which was coated with a thin layer of dust.

His dresser had a small pile of change on top, a receipt from a fast-food restaurant, and a couple of pens. The top drawer of the dresser contained a neatly folded stack of white boxer briefs, a stack of white undershirts, and balled-up socks separated by color, white athletic socks on the left, black and navy dress socks on the right.

Other drawers held jeans, T-shirts, shorts, and sweatpants. Everything folded neatly. Nothing out of place. This was literally the most boring search she’d ever done. Deck was a man of few possessions and was compulsively tidy.

There was nothing under his dresser, bed, or nightstand. 

The only surprise came in the form of a basic Kindle e-reader sitting on his nightstand. She opened it up to find that it wasn’t password protected and his reading tastes were all over the place. The Kindle held a lot of biographies, military nonfiction, and the complete works of Stephen King. It also had multiple pages’ worth of mysteries and thrillers, and even a couple written by women authors, which were more romantic suspense. That he read books by Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy wasn’t particularly surprising. That his Kindle held an equal number of novels by Karen Rose and Allison Brennan was.

She set his Kindle back down in exactly the same place she’d found it, left the room and crossed to her own.  She could see no reason not to bring Deck into the investigation. Her iPhone was still plugged in behind her bed. She picked it up and dialed her office.

Sherwood shut her down immediately. “No. Until we figure out where he fits in all of this, I don’t want to tip our hand.”


Wednesday, November 24—12:05 p.m.

Oakley Neighborhood, Cincinnati, Ohio

Dana looked down at the screen of her cellphone.
Please call as soon as possible.

Deck had left for work a couple of hours earlier, and she didn’t expect him home before end of shift. She tapped on the speed-dial for Sherwood’s cell phone.

“Yenichek, can you break away this evening to meet with me and one of the actual brides? She seems a little skittish, and having someone who can speak her language can’t hurt.”

Neither would having someone who could temper Sherwood’s efficient but brusque manner. “Sure. Let me know where to meet you.” He gave her the address in Blue Ash. Of course, there was no direct bus route.

“It will take me a couple of hours by bus. Can you pick me up at the corner of Hyde Park and Edwards in about fifteen minutes?”

“Murphy around?”

“Work,” she said. “He’s on duty until after five.”

Precisely fifteen minutes later, Sherwood pulled up in a black Chevy Tahoe. She turned in a 360-degree circle, saw no one, and hopped in.

“I think I scared her when I called earlier in the week, so thanks for coming along.”

“Not a problem.”

“We’ve got some news.”

“A break?” Dana asked hopefully.

“Skip identified the body of the woman from Warren County.”

Dana felt dread creep through her stomach. “Who?”

“Elena Kovać.”

“Oh God. Has anyone notified her family?” Dana still remembered the hope on the face of Elena’s sister, Eva.

He nodded. “It’s been taken care of.” He signed. “In other news, the most recent body was not Anka Pierovich so the name in the coin purse is a mystery.”

BOOK: Truth & Lies: A Queen City Justice Novel
5.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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