Dark Need
Page 7

 Lynn Viehl

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"No such thing." Sam picked up her phone and dialed Evidence Processing. Tenderson had grudgingly allowed her to take the cross and wallet they had found on Lena Caprell's body, and on her way to the squad room she had left them with one of the techs in EP for analysis. "This is Detective Brown. I forgot to add a dating request to my processing request."
"We'll have to send out that cross you left here," the tech told her. "It's solid handworked copper, you know, and these might be real beryls and onyx."
"No, I didn't know." Sam had wondered why it had been so heavy, but what she knew about old jewelry could fit comfortably inside a thimble. "Where do you think she got it?"
"They don't carry stuff like that at Ron Jon Surf Shop," the tech said. "I kind of wonder if she didn't steal it. I mean, I'm no expert, Detective, but I grubbed around some archaeology digs when I was in college. This cross belongs in a museum. It's definitely the oldest religious object I've ever seen."
"How old?"
"I can't say." The man sucked some air through his bridge-work. "Wild guess? It might date back to the Middle Ages. Maybe before that."
What was Lena doing with something so old? "Let me know what you find out."
"There's one more thing," the tech said. "We found the stem of a cherry in her wallet. It was fresh and, uh, tied in a knot."
"Got it. Thanks." Sam jotted down some notes on the conversation and switched on her computer terminal. She knew the old bar dare of tying a cherry stem in a knot using only tongue and teeth; men thought it was sexy when women did it. Which meant Lena might have stopped somewhere for a drink last night. "Harry, what was the name of that nightclub across the street from the crime scene?"
"One word. Something short." He dropped a tea bag over the side of his favorite mug, a gift from his wife that sported a miniature bass serving as a handle and the words I'D RATHER BE CASTING.
Sam did a search of Fort Lauderdale nightclubs with single-word titles and began reading them out loud. "Hotshots, Infusion, J.T.'s—"
"Infusion," Harry said as he came to the desk and picked up his phone. "That was it."
"Thanks." Sam's gaze moved from her screen to watch their boss walk in through the door that led into Violent Crimes. "Morning, Captain."
"I need to see you two," Garcia said as he passed by Sam's and Harry's desks and continued without stopping to his corner office.
Harry stopped dialing a number and replaced the receiver. "You get mouthy with Tendernuts?"
"Do I ever?" Sam printed out the info sheet on Infusion before following Harry into their boss's office. Out of deference to her partner's seniority, Sam let Harry take the only chair in front of Garcia's desk and assumed her usual spot next to the door frame.
Ernesto Garcia's office was as tidy as the captain himself. Rows of framed citations he had earned over the years marched up and down one side wall. He had occupied the former interview room in Homicide for three of the seven years Sam had worked there, but to date he remained something of a mystery man. He had a reputation for running a tight, efficient division, and had zero tolerance for time wasting or bullshit.
Despite that, everyone agreed that there was something a little off about Garcia.
Unlike other ranking Cuban-American officers in the department, the captain didn't waste time establishing rapport with his subordinates or projecting himself as a friendly or kindly authority figure. He was also a bachelor, lived alone, and never spoke of family or friends.
"He's gay," was Jeff Peterson's theory. "And his boyfriend is a drag queen. A flaming drag queen."
"Nah, I bet he lives with his sweet little old silver-haired mamacita," Ortenza argued. "Mine would move in with us if we had a spare room. Only I think my wife would poison her."
Sam didn't care about her boss's love life or living arrangements; she figured he was entitled to some privacy. A body-conscious man, Garcia kept his big frame in shape by lifting free weights and running five miles on an indoor track every morning before work. She knew because she used the same gym herself. Harry had speculated that Garcia shaved his head to look older and tougher, but Sam suspected the captain didn't want to waste time in the a.m. fooling with his hair.
"Prelim on Caprell, Lena." He held up a file from the coroner's office. "Cause of death was drowning."
"We figured—" Harry began.
"She drowned in tap water," Garcia continued as if he hadn't spoken. "Both lungs were filled with it. The ME also found a minor ligature mark on the neck, ten broken fingernails, and extensive bruising on the upper sternum."
No one had to state the obvious: Lena Caprell had been murdered.
"We don't believe that she was killed on the beach," Sam said, and described the condition of the victim's remains. "The positioning is too deliberate; he must have posed her."
"Talk to the men in her life." Garcia pushed the file across the desk. "Pull her photo off DOT and run copies, show them around the area. Check with next of kin; see if she's dumped someone recently. Quinn, excuse us for a minute."
Harry gave Sam a quick look of concern before he retreated back to the squad room.
"Sit down, Brown."
Sam didn't like being invited to sit; it meant bad news. Still, she took Harry's seat. "If this is about a new partner, Captain, I'd like to fly solo for a while."
A flicker of surprise crossed Garcia's dark features before they smoothed back to impassivity. "That's against department policy. Peterson got his academy post approved, so I have two new transfers coming in next week."
Sam knew then that her boss had already chosen someone to take Harry's place. "Anyone I know?"
"Adam Suarez from Economic Crimes, and Wes Dwyer from Metro-Dade Traffic."
Her entire body went cold. Three shots rang out in her memory, while a phantom burn scorched across the back of her left hand. She didn't remember the bullets that had struck her in the abdomen and upper arm. Just the one that nearly took off her hand.
A handsome face leered at her from an ugly past that wouldn't go away. I'll fix you, bitch. Another, less attractive visage grinned from behind a street piece. Wes say to tell you this from him.
"I've been briefed on your history with Dwyer," Garcia was saying over the dull roar of Marqueta's laughter in Sam's ears. "I thought I'd tell you before he signs on, so you can prepare yourself."
"Prepare." She peered across the ten thousand miles of desk between them. "The last time I worked with Wesley Dwyer, I ended up in the hospital for six weeks. The first two I spent in intensive care. How would you suggest I prepare? By wrapping myself in Kevlar?"
Garcia leaned back in his chair. "Dwyer didn't shoot you, and he was never implicated in the shooting. You killed Marqueta."
Deep and abiding outrage melted the ice encasing her limbs. "If that's the way it is, I'll make it easy for you." She stood up and reached into her jacket for her badge.
"Sit down, Samantha."
She sat. Garcia got up and shut the blinds before coming back around to perch on the edge of the desk. Although he didn't look sympathetic, his voice went quiet. "I need to know how bad this thing is between you two."
"Bad." She forced herself to recite what constituted the worst moments of her life. "I filed a sexual harassment charge against Dwyer two months after we became partners. There were never any witnesses, so he wiggled out of all of it by saying it was all a big misunderstanding. Ever since, every guy in the department has considered me a tight-ass."
Garcia didn't deny this. "Did you misunderstand his intentions? Maybe he was being friendly."
She regarded him steadily. "If your partner made obscene phone calls during the middle of the night to your residence, or dropped in so often that you had to move, or referred to you only as 'my suck bitch' while speaking to other officers, or left sex toys covered with scented lube in your desk, or cornered you in a restroom in order to shove his tongue in your ear and his hand down the front of your pants, and threatened to set you up for a drug bust if you didn't give him a weekly trip around the world, would you consider those intentions friendly?"
The captain's full mouth tightened. "No."
"The chief down in Burglary did, but he was a hard-ass who didn't like women on the force." Sam rubbed her temple. "He kept us paired until the Marqueta case."
"The IA reports state that Marqueta shot you while Dwyer was requesting backup." Garcia crossed his arms. "Your ex-partner said you went in alone."
"Dwyer left me alone in that warehouse and took off. Marqueta was waiting for me." She toed the carpet with her shoe. "It was my word against Dwyer's, but this time IA treated it a little more seriously. I was the one who took three bullets and nearly bled to death after shooting Marqueta."
Garcia glanced out at the rising sun and went to shut his outside window blinds. "What about the complaint you filed with IA on him once you were released from the hospital?"
"One of the guys over in VC found a hooker who said she saw Dwyer and Marqueta together the afternoon before the shooting," Sam told him. "She disappeared an hour before she was scheduled to come in and make a formal statement. They found her three weeks later with her throat cut in a landfill out in Davie."
"You wore a wire and tried to get him to admit to killing her."
"I pushed hard, but he wouldn't," Sam admitted. "He must have been expecting it, too, because right after IA ran the tape, his union rep showed up yelling about entrapment. Division settled things with a transfer down to Metro-Dade's Traffic Unit."
"He's gotten a couple of citations for community service, talking to kids about bike safety and that kind of thing," Garcia told her. "He also did the mandatory psych eval and came through clean."