Home > Kill and Tell (CIA Spies #1)(9)

Kill and Tell (CIA Spies #1)(9)
Author: Linda Howard

The meat wagon boys came over. "You through here, Detective?" Marc stood. "Yeah." There was nothing else he could do, no other details to glean from the scene. Maybe the medical examiner could come up with a name, but other than that, they likely knew as much about the victim as they were ever going to know.

In the meantime, he had four young women to interview. After watching the body being loaded and carried away, he glanced at Shannon. "You want to do some interviewing?" The young detective looked over at the women. "As long as I don't have to talk to the one who's squalling. Man, she hasn't shut up since I got here."

"Just do some preliminaries. I'll get in touch with them tomorrow." He could request that they come down to the Eighth District, but he didn't want to make things tougher for them than he had to. The young ladies, all of whom looked to be in their early twenties, had come to the Quarter for a good time. The brutality of murder had never touched them before; he could forgive them a few tears.

"Take it easy on them," he advised Shannon under his breath as they approached. "They need a little petting."

Shannon darted a startled glance at Marc; in case the senior detective hadn't noticed, he was black, and the witnesses weren't. Pet them? Was he crazy?

But though Shannon had been a detective for only a few months, he had heard some things. Chastain kind of kept to himself, but he was well liked in the department. The word was he was the best at interrogating witnesses and suspects alike, because when he needed to be, he was cool and low-key and could calm the most hysterical witness, but he was also a real hard-ass with the bad guys.

"Chastain," one detective had said, "is the type of guy who carries a blade." By that, Shannon deduced, he was referring not to the utility pocket knife almost every man carried but to a knife whose sole function was as a weapon.

Yeah, that described Chastain, all right. A good knife fighter was smooth and controlled, sneaky and lethal.

Shannon also admired Chastain's sense of style. Man, look at him; obviously just out of bed, unshaven, his eyes heavy-lidded, but he was wearing pleated linen slacks, some kind of drapey pullover shirt, and a cream-colored jacket. Even his sockless feet looked cool, as if he'd planned it. Now, that was style. They reached the knot of young women and introduced themselves. Shannon noticed that Chastain's voice changed, became lower, more gentle. The women subtly moved closer to him, dazed, frightened eyes fastening on his face. Even the one who kept sobbing tried to get control of herself. Smoothly, Chastain separated the group, directing two of the women a few steps away with Shannon. The girl kept weeping, though more quietly now. He heard Chastain making some low, soothing sounds, little more than rumbly whispers in his throat. Before Shannon could gather his thoughts to do more than ask names, he was aware of the girl wiping her eyes and answering Chastain's questions in a clogged, wavering, but much calmer manner.

It was a little after five before the scene was finally cleared. The witnesses were escorted to their hotel by a patrolman, the crowd dispersed, the media fed enough information for them to have their stories without giving them any salacious details, the street tidied for the next human wave. Morning brought a different set of people to the Quarter: shoppers, delivery men, tourists who felt safer during the day or simply weren't interested in nightlife.

Marc silently cursed when he thought of the paperwork he had to do. He would like to go home and fall into bed, but he'd already had all the sleep he was going to get today. He rubbed his hand over his face, beard stubble rasping. The paperwork could wait until he had showered and shaved.

"No sense walking when my car is here," Shannon said, falling into step beside him. "You going home or to the station?"

"Home first, then to the station. Thanks for the ride." They reached Shannon's car, and Marc slid into the passenger seat.

"So, did you do a hitch in the Army?" Shannon asked. "I mean, you noticed the camo."

"Marines. Right out of high school. That way I could go to college."

"Yeah." Shannon had enlisted for the same end purpose. It felt strange for them to have that in common, a tough young black dude from a bad neighborhood and a smoothly sophisticated white guy from one of the old French Creole families.

There was no traffic to contend with, so in less than a minute they reached St. Louis. Shannon slowed.

"Left," Chastain said. "That's it on the right, in the middle of the block. The blue gate." Shannon stopped in front of the blue gate. In typical Quarter fashion, the big gate was set in a solid wall that provided privacy for the courtyard beyond. The old Creole houses were built around a center courtyard, facing inward to their own gardens rather than out toward the streets. Long wrought-iron balconies extended over the sidewalk, the third-floor balcony providing a roof for the one on the second floor. Tall white shutters framed two sets of double french doors opening onto the balcony, and Shannon could see a couple of garden chairs and a small table up there. Two lush ferns hung from the overhang.

"Ferns?" Shannon couldn't quite keep the disbelief from his tone. Chastain wasn't married. Ferns weren't normal for a heterosexual single guy.

Chastain chuckled. "Relax. They were a gift from an old girlfriend. Women like them, so I keep them. They aren't much trouble, I just water them now and then."

Shannon's mama kept ferns, so he knew there was more involved in their upkeep than occasional water. He grinned a little, imagining a slow parade of women keeping Chastain's ferns in good condition, feeding and pruning and watering. Maybe he should get some ferns.

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