Home > The Last Move(14)

The Last Move(14)
Author: Mary Burton

In the break room she passed the dented vending machine and set her backpack in a chair. She quickly cleaned out the black coating in the coffeepot and reloaded the machine. Soon fresh coffee perked. She moved to the machine and fished her credit card from her pocket. She chose crackers and a chocolate bar.

As the machine burbled, she washed the mugs in the sink and wiped down the counter. She chose the most generic mug, guessing it didn’t belong to any individual. There were few transgressions worse than taking a man’s coffee mug.

When Mazur reappeared she was sitting at a table, eating the chocolate bar and sipping coffee. Beside him was a tall redhead. She was early to midthirties with pale freckled skin, and she wore skinny jeans with a loose white blouse tucked only on her right side and brown cowboy boots. The identification badge hanging around her neck read Detective Jane Palmer.

Palmer and Mazur were an interesting mix. While Mazur appeared to be by the book, Palmer looked as if she didn’t mind bending a rule or two. She was fit and, judging by her straight posture, proud of it.

“Dr. Hayden,” Mazur said. “This is my partner, Detective Jane Palmer.”

Detective Palmer extended her hand to Kate. “Pleasure to meet you. Sorry I missed you at the autopsy this morning. I was stuck in court.”

Kate shook her hand, noting smooth palms and trim French-manicured nails. No sign of a wedding ring, but a gold-and-onyx college ring winked on her right hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“I hear, and can now smell, that you know how to make coffee,” Detective Palmer said. “That’s a prized commodity in this shop.” She moved to the counter and picked up a blue Disney Frozen mug. “And you clean. I could marry anyone who cleans.” She paused to sip. “And makes great coffee.” She nudged Mazur hard in the ribs with her elbow. “Why don’t you ever make me coffee? You’ve been here six months and not one cup for me.”

Mazur shrugged. Six months. So he was newer to the team than she’d realized. Perhaps the cool reception they’d received wasn’t just a product of her presence. He was an outsider who’d brought in a Fed. She’d bet money his hire had sent ripples through this department, and though he was still in the proving stage of the job, he didn’t seem to care about winning points with his associates. His heart was not rooted to this squad or this city.

“What’s your secret to a great cup of coffee?” Detective Palmer asked.

“Cleaning the pot and machine,” Kate said.

Detective Palmer laughed as she shook her head. “Who’d have thought?” Palmer’s phone chimed with a text. She glanced at the words and frowned. “Dr. Hayden, you’re the wordsmith, right?”

“Forensic linguistics is my specialty.”

“What do you say to a guy who texts, I might have time this weekend to see you?”

Each detective had his or her own style of breaking the ice. While Mazur appeared easygoing and patient, Palmer used humor to build alliances. “Might? Does he have a job that keeps him on call?” Kate asked.

She cocked a brow. “He’s an accountant.”

“It’s not tax season.” Kate stared at Palmer. “You know what he’s saying.”

Palmer nodded, eyes narrowing. “But how do I respond?”

“Tell him, ‘Making plans and with luck we might catch up. Have a great week.’ And add an emoji. A smiley face.”

Palmer typed the words, then hesitated. “The smiley face isn’t my style.”

“It’s effective.”

“Dating 101 over?” Mazur asked as he filled a paper cup with coffee.

Palmer shrugged, pushed a few buttons, and slid the phone in her back pocket. “Just because you don’t care about a love life, Mazur, doesn’t mean the rest of us live a monastic existence.”

He stiffened a fraction as he filled his own cup. “The other detectives and cops are headed into the briefing room.”

“Of course,” Kate said.

She followed them into the windowless briefing room equipped with rows of chairs and desks, a podium for the speaker, and a whiteboard on the wall. Ten other officers, all in suits, filed into the room. Two older cops took seats in the front. They each had short gray hair, wore sport jackets, no ties, with khakis and cowboy boots. They were the veterans of the squad, the ones who didn’t welcome change. A couple of other young detectives, who were introduced to her as Santos and Davis, stood in the back, arms folded. They were the young bucks in the proving stages of their careers. Still hungry, still aggressive, and most likely hadn’t been happy when an older, more experienced detective from Chicago had joined their team.

Kate arranged files on the table beside the podium just as a six-foot-three man with white hair and a thick mustache entered the room. He wore a gray suit and cowboy boots.

“Mind telling me what a serial killer is doing in my jurisdiction, Agent Hayden?” the man asked.

“And you are?” Kate slid on dark-rimmed glasses.

“Chief Luke Saunders,” the man replied.

“He runs the show,” Mazur said. His tone shifted, not quite deferential, but respectful and suggestive of a paternal relationship. The chief, she guessed, had been the one to buck protocol and hire the outsider.

“I’m not sure what you have yet,” she said.

“I thought you’d locked up this clown,” the chief said.

“I have. You have a copycat or an accomplice.”

The chief cursed. “So we’re the lucky sons of bitches.”

“That’s correct,” Kate said.

The chief frowned. “This isn’t PC, but I’m asking the question anyway. How old are you?”

“I’m thirty-four.” She spoke loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. “And in case you’re wondering, I have a size five shoe and I wear a petite four in dresses. I’m five foot two and weigh one hundred and one pounds as of my last physical. If any of you have other questions or remarks about my size, please go ahead and ask now.”

The chief eyed her, then grinned. “I like you. You’ve got grit.”

Kate’s gaze did not waver. “Thank you.”

The chief took a seat in the front row and folded his arms over his chest. “Go ahead and get us up to speed.”

Until Mazur’s call yesterday, she’d been almost certain Charles Richardson had acted alone. She had suspected it was a matter of time before she found evidence linking him to the three other killings and disproving any theories that there could be a second shooter. Now, she had no choice but to admit he hadn’t been working alone. What, or rather who, had she missed when she’d been digging into Richardson’s background?

She lowered her gaze to her files, which were organized to the point of OCD. She’d been teased about them more times than her size, but she wasn’t concerned. Given her constant travel, the system enabled her to juggle multiple cases at one time. She set up her computer and prepped it to show slides.

Mazur moved beside Kate, and the room grew quiet. “This is Dr. Kate Hayden with the FBI.” He ran through her credentials and explained why he’d called her. “I’ll turn it over to you, Dr. Hayden.”

“Thank you, Detective Mazur,” Kate said.

No welcomes, no smiles, no nods came from the group, so she pulled a green color-coded file marked Samaritan. Moving toward the whiteboard with it, she removed a picture of the first Samaritan victim and attached it to the whiteboard with a piece of tape. She repeated the process four more times until images of the five women were lined up in a neat column that stretched from the top to the bottom of the board.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» The Last Move
» The Sometimes Sisters
» All the Little Lights
» The Hardest Fall
» To Hate Adam Connor
» To Love Jason Thorn
» A Beautiful Funeral (The Maddox Brothers #5
» Beautiful Burn (The Maddox Brothers #4)