Book Length: Novel
Book Type: eBook
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave Publishing
MSRP/List Price: $11.90
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Jack Cade is skeptical of the new criminal profiler he’s using. Michael seems so absent-minded and too neurotic to be effective. But he is brilliant and hot and Cade finds himself falling hard and fast, both in lust and in love. The attraction is mutual, although Michael’s past demons haunt him, keeping him from getting too close. Together, they begin to unravel Michael’s emotional knots even as they close in on a killer, another brilliant, wily person whose sights are now set on Michael.
Being a homicide detective hadn’t cured Jack Cade of his horror at seeing a dead body. Jack slipped on a pair of latex gloves and went into the apartment, up to the body. The victim, a white male in a white bathrobe, probably in his mid-forties, still knelt in the position he’d apparently died in, a knife protruding from his ravaged belly. The robe gaped open enough to show the blade remained embedded. Drying blood soaked the area rug on which the body knelt.
Jane Mallory, one of the detectives on Jack’s team, approached him. “His name’s Conrad Kent,” she said. “Age forty-five, according to the date of birth on his driver’s license.”
“Who found the body?”
“The next door neighbor, Sam Tyson. He stepped out to get his morning paper and saw Kent’s door was open. Didn’t think anything of it at first but then ten minutes later he left his apartment again to walk his dog, and the door was still open. That’s when he peeked in to check on Kent and found him.”
“Yes. As for Tyson, he’s retired and home every day. Easy to reach if we have any more questions for him.”
Mal returned to her search of the apartment while his second detective, Ken Chin, canvassed the other neighbors to find possible witnesses in the neighborhood. Jack turned his attention back to the body.
He knelt down beside Bill Murphy, the medical examiner, as close to the victim as he could get without being assaulted by the stench of blood. Around him, the flashes of crime scene photographers’ cameras sent bursts of light into the dusky apartment. Voices murmured while patrol officers and crime scene team members performed their duties. Even though it was mid-afternoon, the living room curtains were drawn. Jack took a closer look. Kent had been a handsome guy with dark blond hair, his strong features now etched in a permanent grimace. Jack had never seen anything like this before. Nausea threatened in his gut. “What do you think, Bill?” he asked finally.
“Well,” the older man said, sitting back on his heels and considering the grisly scene before him, “by all appearances, this man took his own life. See here, though,” Murphy lightly tapped the victim’s cheek with his pointer, “there’s some kind of bruising, the kind I’ve often seen when someone’s been gagged. Whether it has anything to do with his death, I won’t be able to determine until after a thorough autopsy.”
Jack nodded. “All right. I’ll let you know when to bring him down.”
“Will do, Detective Cade.” The medical examiner turned back to his work.
Jack rose and peered around the immediate space.
The room was sparsely furnished, the way Jack imagined a man’s apartment to be if he were living alone, newly divorced or something like that. No personal effects around, family photographs or artwork. Just a sofa in some kind of ugly blue scratchy material up against the wall opposite where a black lacquer entertainment unit stood, complete with flat screen television, DVD player and stereo. Expensive electronics set in an ugly half-assed decorated room.
The cheap area rug—an imitation Oriental in gaudy colors—on which the victim had been kneeling, still showed indentations near each corner. The coffee table, an inexpensive mission-style such as one bought in chain department stores, matched the indentations. Jack frowned as he ran the fingertips of one gloved hand over an indentation. The coffee table had been removed from the rug, which had then been pulled out toward the center of the room.
Jack turned his attention to the crime lab team member, who was busy lifting fingerprints off the items on the table. A glass of water—half full—sat on a table, along with a prescription bottle of pills. After making sure the necessary photos of the spot had been taken, Jack picked up the bottle and examined it. Propranolol. A beta blocker. Indicated Kent had had a heart problem. Jack replaced it on the table and made a note on his pad, including the prescribing doctor’s name. When the time came, the bottle would be bagged by the crime lab team.
The only other item on the table was a piece of paper with writing on it. He picked it up and crossed over to the window where some daylight came through the blinds. After studying it a few moments, he called Mallory over. “Looks like a suicide note,” he murmured. “Is this is his handwriting?”
“I’m not sure, Sarge. We found a checkbook in his desk drawer. The handwriting in the register resembles this handwriting but the note is slightly neater.”
“Anything appear to be stolen?”
“Doesn’t seem so. His wallet, complete with two hundred and eleven dollars cash and credit cards was there, as were the keys to a BMW. And there’s no sign of forced entry.”
“Mm.” Jack continued to study the letter. In it, Kent carried on about his sorrow, guilt for things he’d done, souls he’d harmed and what a useless and stupid individual he’d been, wasting his human life on fear. On and on. Jack read the letter once more and set it back down on the table. That sense of something strange tickled in his gut again. There seemed to be an air of ritual, of careful planning to this man’s suicide that just didn’t gel with the thrown together, uncoordinated look of the man’s surroundings. If he’d been haphazard with his living space the way he’d appeared to be, why would he have been so careful with his death? Would he really have taken the trouble to move his coffee table aside the way he had? And even if he’d left a suicide note, wouldn’t the writing have been sloppier? It looked as carefully written as a child’s handwriting drill in third grade. Why the difference between the checkbook register print and this one?
Sighing, Jack pulled out his cell phone and scrolled his contacts. This one was already tricky and he was going to consult Dr. Wittig before the trail had a chance to go cold. Some of his colleagues didn’t believe in calling in a profiler until things got desperate. Jack disagreed completely. He pressed the button to the Psychology Department at Harvard University. The department’s receptionist picked up on the second ring.
“Yes, hello, Gert,” Jack greeted the woman who answered.
“Hi, Detective Cade, how are you?” After so many times of calling for Dr. Wittig’s help on cases, Gert Neuman knew Jack’s voice immediately.
“I’m fine, but I’m on a case.”
“Oh. Sorry.” She paused. “Dr. Wittig isn’t available for consulting, Detective. His health deteriorated suddenly and he’s going into semi-retirement.”
“I see.” Damn.
“However, Dr. Wittig has already found his replacement.”
“Yes. A student of his from years ago just joined the faculty. His name is Michael Di Santo.”
“Is he available right now?”
“Let me check. Just a moment.”
Jack heard the phone click as Gert put him on hold. Roughly half a minute later, someone clicked back on.
Jack hesitated. The guy sounded…young. “Yes. This is he.”
“Hello, this is Dr. Di Santo, Dr. Wittig’s replacement? Mrs. Neuman tells me you need a consult?”
“Yes. As soon as possible. We got a hit. I mean, there’s a body. I’m at the location right now. It appears to be a suicide but there are some inconsistencies that say otherwise.”
Jack explained his suspicions.
“Well, that definitely needs looking into. I can come down now and take a look.”
Jack tried to guess the man’s age. Old enough to have earned a Ph D, at least. He caught himself and forced his attention back to the call. “Yes. That would be great.” He gave the Boylston Street address to Michael Di Santo, guessing it would take the man roughly twenty to twenty-five minutes to get there on the T.
“Fine. I’ll leave right now.”
“Do you have your badge?” Michael wouldn’t be allowed on the crime scene without identification from the BPD.
“Actually, yes. Dr. Wittig organized for one to be left here for me.”
“Good.” Jack ended the call and pocketed his phone then stepped into the hallway. There were three other apartments on the floor and no security camera that he could see. He made a note for his team to find out the individual or company who managed the building to see if there were security tapes available for the back and front entrances to the building.
On his way out to meet Di Santo, he stopped at the door of the neighbor who had found Kent’s body and questioned Sam Tyson. Tyson said Kent seemed to spend a lot of time in his apartment, watching TV or listening to music. He’d go out occasionally but never for long. “Sometimes I’ve seen a woman come and go,” he added.
“Did you ever meet her?”
“What does she look like?”
“She’s tall. Brown hair in a kind of bob. Always wearing sunglasses, so I never really got a good look at her face. But that’s all I know.”
“Do you recall seeing her at any time yesterday?”
The elderly man rubbed his grizzled chin. “Oh yeah. I think she was here in the morning. I walked my dog and I saw a glimpse of her just before the door closed.”
“Do you remember what time that would have been?”
“Hmm. Maybe ten? Ten thirty? At my age, I lose track of time.”
Jack noted down the information, thanked Tyson and went downstairs. At the front entrance to the building, he noted a security camera trained on the glass door. Aside from that, there seemed to be no other security. The building only had twelve apartments in all. It was in a nice area on Boylston Street. Not cheap. Kent drove an expensive car according to the key ring Mal had found in his pants pocket, and yet the furnishings in the place aside from the TV and stereo, were cheap and ugly.
Studying the front area of the building, he wandered down the flower box lined stone walk of the apartment building and turned to face it. Crime lab workers and patrol officers moved around on either side of the yellow crime tape, keeping the building cordoned off until Jack gave instructions to clear out and retain only the apartment as the crime scene.
Jack stepped aside to let someone go past him and bump! Smacked into something.
He turned. “Excuse me, I’m—” Or rather, he’d bumped into someone.
The man was adjusting the glasses Jack had apparently knocked off his face. “You’re in a crime scene,” Jack said.
“Yes, I know.” Almond-shaped brown eyes seemed to study Jack from behind round lenses. He looked Asian, yet sort of…not Asian at the same time. His dark brown hair was styled in a conventional way, parted on the side in short layers. The crumpled navy suit he wore, complete with diagonally striped tie against a light blue dress shirt made him appear as if his mother had dressed him for a spelling bee at school even though he was probably about Jack’s age. Forty.
Jack blinked. He was taking absolutely too long to find out who this man was. Then light dawned. Of course. “Dr. Di Santo?”
“That’s me. Hope I didn’t break your glasses.”
Di Santo touched them on each side as if to check. “No, they’re fine.”
Jack watched the man’s hands as he gingerly adjusted the frames. Nicely shaped fingers. Clean, trimmed nails. “Sorry I bumped you that way.”
“No problem.” Di Santo cleared his throat. “I hope I can be of help to you.”
Jack started. “Me too. This way.” He led Di Santo into the building and up to the apartment. “As I told you on the phone, I’m not so sure this was a suicide.” He let Di Santo precede him into the apartment and followed him, observing the way the slim man took in the surroundings on his way over to the victim.
Jack explained his suspicions and then let the man work. For what seemed a long time, Di Santo wandered about then stood in the center of the room, his gaze on the coffee table. His hand disappeared into his jacket pocket and pulled something out, which he popped into his mouth.
Jack watched him. Watched the man’s cheek bulge on the side while he sucked on whatever it was in his mouth, his gaze intent on the coffee table and victim. He then approached Jack and Jack heard the click of hard candy against the guy’s teeth. Finally Di Santo turned and knelt by the body.
Jack saw the professor’s eyes widen, especially on the hilt of the knife. “What is it?”
“Please open the robe so I can see the wound,” he said to Murphy.
Murphy did as he asked and Di Santo gazed for what seemed five straight minutes at the vicious cross-shaped cut in the centre of the wound.
“Jumonji giri,” he said, nearly in a whisper.
“What?” Jack looked between the knife wound and Di Santo.
The hot-yet-nerdy man was still staring down, seeming to ignore him. The candy in his mouth clicked several times against his teeth.
“Dr. Di Santo?”
Michael Di Santo looked up, his eyes seemingly far away yet intent at the same time. “What kind of movies did this man watch?”
“What?” Jack felt a jolt of annoyance under his collar. “What does that have to do with anything?” Dr. Wittig had never worked like this. He’d had his quirks while doing his profiling work but he was at least…normal.
“I saw some DVDs on his shelves. He obviously spent a lot of time watching films, perhaps over and over again since he actually spent his money on purchasing them instead of renting from the library. What are they? I assure you it matters.”
Jack exhaled. If Wittig had recommended this guy as a replacement, he’d at least humor him until he saw a reason to do otherwise. He rose and crossed over to the shelves and looked at the titles. Tough guy action films, a few dippy romantic comedies and heavy metal music concerts from the eighties. Everything very ordinary. Returning to Di Santo, he reported what he’d seen.
“Nothing foreign?” Di Santo asked. “Like samurai films?”
Jack shook his head, hoping Di Santo would get to the point sooner rather than later. “No. No films that weren’t at some point first run in major movie theaters. Everything conventional. He seemed to be an all-American, ordinary, middle-aged guy.”
Di Santo shook his head. “No one is ordinary, Detective. Have you found anything else in this apartment that would indicate he is into Japanese culture? That he would have any knowledge of it? Books? Furniture? Anything?”
“No.” Jack had glanced at the few books on the shelf near the entertainment center. All stuff on making a financial fortune and playing the stock market. Not even a dictionary.
“Have you determined whether he died by the sword wound or was dead before the sword penetrated?”
“From what I can see,” Murphy said, “the sword wound is the cause of death.”