Habeas Corpus | Bleed Blue 69

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25 Authors. One SEXY Police Station. All for Charity.

This collection is no longer for sale, but below you will find Sarah’s short story, Habeas Corpus, which you can read here for free in its entirety! 

 

Please note this material is copyrighted. Any copying and distributing of any kind is illegal, and prosecutable by law.

 

 

Habeas Corpus by Sarah M. Cradit

CIAN

I squinted through the darkness at the name pulsing on the glowing screen. Only she would call me at this ungodly hour. Only she had the nerve.“Mina.” I growled the name, running a hand over my face. “It’s two in the damn morning.”

“Cian,” she whined. I imagined her perched over a late night cup of coffee, wide awake, mind whirring. This was my ex-wife’s hour; always had been. “I wouldn’t have to call you this late if you’d answer my calls when you’re awake.”

“There’s nothing else to say. I can’t help you.”

I heard the pout through the phone. “You can, you just don’t want to,” Mina charged.

I sighed. “Even if I did, I don’t have the connections you seem to think I have.”

“You do, and you won’t help, not even for me.”

Especially not for you. “I’m a homicide detective.”

“Who knows people.”

“I have no contacts on the City Council, which is who you need to be calling about this. Here’s some advice: Don’t call them at two in the morning.”

There was silence from my ex-wife’s end, and for a moment I thought I’d mercifully lost her. “What about Katrina? She works for the mayor.”

My chest tightened. This wound was still very fresh, and I had a suspicion Mina was intentionally twisting the knife. “Worked, past tense. She passed away last month.”

“Oh? I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Except you already knew, because her body was donated to your lab.”

“Was it?” Mina never had been good at deception.

I pulled myself to a seated position. I drew in a deep breath to steady myself. “I can’t help you get the funding back, Mina. Piedmont College has been dead in the water for years. That includes the medical cadaver program, which I realize is your baby, but it’s also a lost cause. We both know this. It’s your own fault for staying with the sinking ship.”

“But Cian—“

“Goodnight.” I pressed the red button before she could drag me even deeper into her dramatics.

“Was that who I think it was?”

I jumped, knocking my glasses off the nightstand. A warm body shifted to my left, sliding under the navy sheets. I slowly turned my head and as she came into view, so did the memories of the night before.

Kendra Connor, my partner. My best friend. She’d been by my side for over five years, nursed me through broken hearts and kept me from going off the deep end on challenging cases. There was no one in my life I counted on more. No one I trusted more.

She was also quite possibly the love of my life, but after everything that had happened, she was also not someone I wanted to drag down into the cesspool of my unfortunate luck. I’d promised myself this wouldn’t happen, not ever, but we’d finally scored the indictment on the Devore murders, one of our longest cases to date, and it was only supposed to be one drink…

“Earth to Cian?””

“Yeah,” I said. I slipped on my glasses. Kendra’s hand brushed my thigh, awakening me, though the touch was tender rather than provocative. How strange and wonderful, after all these years, to be lying next to her in a bed. “I don’t know why Mina thinks I can help her save her cadaver lab. Or why she doesn’t move to a better college. Or why she thinks I care anymore.”

“Three years.” Kendra shook her head. Her toes stretched and tickled the sides of my calves, which was also, strangely, erotic. “When do you think she’ll finally let it go?”

“Me or the lab?”

“Both?”

My phone screen lit up as I checked the time. Still too damn early. I shouldn’t have brought Kendra back to my place. And she shouldn’t have agreed, either. She knew my reservations, and was the one person on the force who didn’t think I’d gone mad.

“Hungry?” I asked. Between Mina’s call and the sobering reality of my prior night actions laid before me, there would be no further rest.

“And here I thought, after months of chasing Peterson, that we were finally going to get some sleep,” Kendra teased with a yawn. But she was out of bed before I was, shrugging an afghan over her shoulders. “Bacon, or I’m leaving.”

You should. You should leave. Maybe we can take it back. Maybe I can reverse the danger I’ve put you in.

I forced a smile for the one person in the world who truly knew me. “Bacon it is.”

 

 

Kendra devoured her early morning breakfast with the enthusiasm of one who hadn’t eaten a square meal in months. I would have liked to think my prowess in bed was somehow responsible for that, but I knew the culprit was more likely the months of working a murder that had very nearly been relegated to a cold case.

My own appetite was nonexistent.

“Want me to make more?”

“Are you judging me?” Kendra looked up, mouth overflowing with eggs. “You’re judging me.”

“Me? The same guy who gives you daily crap for claiming potato chips are a valid meal replacement?”

She pointed with her fork. “You’ve hardly touched yours.”

I shrugged. “Not hungry.”

Kendra raised a brow. “Wasn’t it your idea to make breakfast, Dunne?”

I didn’t respond. In truth, I didn’t know why I’d suggested food except as an excuse to keep my mind busy.

Her fork dropped to the plate. “Cian, talk to me.”

My eyes were heavy when I raised them to look at her. With exhaustion. Defeat. Fear, perhaps. “You know it’s not you.”

Kendra cocked her head. “But it is.”

“K, no. That’s not what I meant at all—“

Her hand came up to stop me. “I know it isn’t. I know you. And I get it, I do, I understand your fear. I’m the only one who does, and I’ve never doubted what you believe. But I’m not afraid, Cian. I can, and always have, taken care of myself and there’s no doubt in my mind that if someone is after the women in your life, they’re going to be in for way more than they bargained for with me.”

I fell back in my chair. Despite our open talks on this issue in the past, I hadn’t expected her easy candor.

Kendra Connor was the only one in all of Precinct 69 who believed me when I suspected someone was killing off my girlfriends, one by one.

The deaths themselves had all been deemed non-suspicious. All accidents, no evidence of foul play, and no witnesses tying anyone else to the scenes of their deaths.

Lana had been my first serious relationship following my contemptuous divorce with erratic Mina. She worked for the District Attorney’s office as a paralegal. I first saw her in court for a trial where I was the lead detective. Later, I ended up beside her at the countertop of a nearby diner, both of us weary of the hours in the courtroom. We talked for hours. We ended that night, and many nights for several months, in my bed.

The official cause of death had been drowning. They’d found Lana washed up on the shore of the Long Island Sound, after having been missing for several days. When I insisted she wasn’t even in Long Island that week, the other detectives exchanged sad looks. Probably assumed she’d been cheating on me.

Annette had worked at the coffee shop I stopped in each morning at the start of my shift. Her consistent presence each morning became an immediate comfort in my life, a constant I didn’t realize I’d needed after the turmoil of losing Lana. I didn’t ask her out for several months, and even then, I held her at arm’s length, still grieving Lana.

We were together almost a year before she slipped and fell down the stairs of her apartment building. The official cause of death was a broken neck.

I began to wonder if I was cursed. The only three serious relationships I’d had in his life had ended in divorce or death.

Kendra was the one who set me up with Katrina. Annette had been gone nearly six months by this time, and Kendra feigned annoyance at my nihilistic outlook on dating. Unlike the others, she hadn’t outright dismissed my claims that something was amiss, but she also saw nothing to be gained in not moving on and continuing to live.

Katrina worked for the mayor. We’d met her at the start of one of the most prolific cases any of us had worked, a serial killer stalking and killing single mothers. Daily press conferences became the norm, and Katrina was often the one tasked with conversing with the detectives and the chief beforehand to decide what we should and should not share with the public.

When Katrina was found in her apartment dead of an overdose of Xanax and alcohol, I no longer thought I was cursed. I believed someone was deliberately targeting me.

To my relieved surprise, Kendra believed it, too. I didn’t know your other girls that well, Dunne, but I knew Katrina. She wasn’t depressed. She wasn’t a drug user. None of this adds up.

Oh, it adds up. I’m the common denominator.

But you didn’t do it.

No. So who did?

I had no answers. I’d put hundreds of criminals behind bars, some of whom had served their time and been released. An equal number had been acquitted and still walked the streets with a chip on their shoulder. I had no shortage of enemies. Although investigating homicides was my livelihood, I couldn’t use department resources to solve cases the team had never been assigned to begin with.

Without resources or support, outside of Kendra, I saw only one choice in the matter. Whoever was doing this, and whatever their motive, they could only come after my girlfriends if I had one. If I didn’t date, no one could get hurt. This decision turned out to be easier than I expected. I’m married to my career.

“Stop disappearing,” Kendra accused, but gently. “You spend too much time in your own head. That’s a pretty dark place sometimes.”

“I’ve put you in danger,” I said finally. I paced the floor behind my chair. “I wish we hadn’t done that. Not because I didn’t want to, because Lord knows I did. I’ve wanted you for years.”

Kendra’s face softened. Her lips tightened into a sad smile. “I knew that. I’ve spent every day, and most nights, by your side for five years. You think I didn’t?”

My socked feet swished across the linoleum. I came to a stop behind her chair and dropped my face into her hair, breathing deep. “I would die if anything happened to you, K.”

Kendra tilted her face back until our lips touched. “Nothing will. I can shoot even better than you, Dunne.”

 

 

We spent the rest of the morning in bed. Around eight, both our phones blew up in tandem.

The task force was supposed to have two days off following the completion of the Devore case. After months of round-the-clock surveillance, witnesses, and following leads and tips, we were all worn out and bone tired, but still running high on the adrenaline of a major crime solved. Captain Estrella Miranda had all but ordered us to leave, and we did, watching wistfully as case files were loaded into boxes and pictures un-tacked from walls.

“Fantastic,” Kendra whispered as we both rolled to check our texts.

A body had been found in a dumpster behind Grand Central. Female. Mid to late twenties. Possible strangulation.

I called it in. Their captain answered on the first ring. “Aren’t there others who can take this one?”

“Negative,” Miranda said, sounding as disappointed to be giving the news as we were to receive it. “The rest of the department was stretched thinner than a crepe when we moved twenty of you to the Devore task force. They’re all assigned out.”

I rubbed my thumb over the stubble on my chin. “All right. I’ll leave in ten.”

“Great. Sorry about this. You deserved the break.”

“You’re right. You can still do me a favor.”

The captain sighed. “What?”

“Connor gets the morning off. I’ll handle this one myself for the day. I’ll need time to get the download from the responding officers anyway.”

Kendra’s eyes flew open wide in indignant anger. I flashed her a knowing smile, one that said, You can’t say anything without giving away the fact that you’re in my bed.

“Fine for now. Depending on what you find, we’ll need both of you on it by tomorrow, though.”

“Fair enough.”

“You gonna let her know, or should I?” Miranda’s tone indicated she knew precisely how Detective Connor would respond to being at the end of this “favor.”

I winked at my very angry partner. “Oh, I’ve got this one.”

Once the phone was dead, Kendra threw a pillow at me, knocking my glasses crooked. “Not cool, Dunne.”

I feigned innocence. “Huh?”

“That’s not how we do things. You’ve never pulled rank, or made me feel like I can’t hold my own.” Her face flushed red, but she also bit back a smile. “Just because we slept together does not mean you get to go and act protective of me.”

I leaned in and kissed her, lingering several moments.

Kendra huffed. “Still not okay.”

“Just for today,” I promised. I tried to hide how relieved I was that she’d only put up a mild fight. I’d seen her nuclear side; I couldn’t win if it emerged. “If we’re going to do this, I need to figure out a way to open an investigation on the other deaths without getting myself fired. I have an idea, but I need to see if I’m still owed a favor or two. I know I can’t keep you here forever, so I need the day to sort this out. To think. And I can’t do that if….” I crawled across the bed on all fours and flipped her on her back, pinning her.

Kendra grinned at me, drawing the sheet lower and lower. Five years it had taken me to make this move. Five years I’d loved her. “If I’m distracting you with my unending charms?”

I didn’t kiss her this time. Instead I wrapped her in my arms and squeezed tight. “Just promise me, K. Just today. Please.”

Something in my voice killed her smile. “Sure. Okay, Dunne.”

 

 

 

KENDRA

 

Dunne had another thing coming if he thought Kendra Connor was going to stay put like an obedient child. I wasn’t angry with him… I understood the nature of his fears and even believed they were grounded in something real. But I would not let this psychopath hold us in suspended animation.

We had an unspoken policy of open communication. Always had, and as long as we were partners (which was likely not much longer, once we told Miranda they were dating), we always would. Yet once I began to suspect who was behind the murders of Dunne’s girlfriends, I’d kept my hypothesis between myself and God. If I was wrong, he might never trust me again. If I was right, his life would never be the same.

Dunne might blame poor judgment for how we ended up in the sheets, but I now and always would claim I was in possession of my full faculties when I led him back to his apartment, my palm pressed into his, eyes brimming with invitation. To me, it was simple: We’d danced this dance far too long. We were either in it, or we weren’t. Given how Cian’s goal had evolved to solving the problem of his disappearing girlfriends, rather than shutting me out and continuing to deny his feelings, it seemed like we were definitely “in it.”

There was no way he was solving this conundrum on his own, though.

Good thing I had a plan.

 

 

Time was my first hurdle to overcome.

With Dunne’s prior girlfriends, it had been anywhere from months to a year before they met their untimely ends. I wasn’t too keen on waiting for an unidentified deadline to pass, or looking over my shoulder until something happened. The only option was to lure the murderer out and force their hand.

I had looked back on the other three victims and searched for any common denominators, outside of, of course, their connection to Dunne.

In the looks department, Lana, Annette, and Katrina could not be more disparate. A petite redhead, a busty blonde, and a rather lanky brunette. They were all intelligent, degreed women with promising careers. All lived in Manhattan. None drove a car. Lana liked romantic comedies, which I recalled Cian suffering through. Annette preferred classics, and Katrina could not be bothered with pop culture.

None of these things posed a motive, as far as I could find (except possibly the rom coms).

I considered the timing of the murders themselves. There was nothing significant going on in the lives of the women at the time of their deaths. No major professional changes, no family trauma. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except…

It had taken me months, but I had it.

All three women had died just as they were preparing to take the step of moving in with Dunne.

Once I had what I was sure was the answer, I was ready. I knew how I felt about Dunne, and was tired of hiding it, constantly, always, around the clock. He would be furious if he knew I was almost literally knocking on danger’s door, but he would never relax until he was free of his fear. And I valued my own life enough to get this sorted before jumping in with both feet.

With a deep, resolved sigh, I picked up the phone.

 

 

Convincing the suspect to invite me over for drinks had been no difficult feat. I had played my hand early, claiming I wanted to “get some advice,” before moving in with Cian. Never mind that I had no intentions of moving in with Dunne. She only needed the suspect to think I did.

When the person on the other line suggested coming to my place, I countered that my place was a mess. How about mine? sang the other line, almost too eager, and we had our date.

I straightened my hair in the mirror, and swabbed on a shock of red lipstick. If I was to play the part, I had to look the part. I had to be effective bait.

I checked the clip in my Glock and tucked it into the back of my trousers. Patting the inside of my blazer, I confirmed the cuffs were secure.

I didn’t need anyone to save me. I’d raced down and tackled down grown men pumped up on adrenaline and amphetamines. This would be easy in comparison.

On the other hand, I hadn’t excelled at my career by employing errant foolishness.

I found a spiral notebook, bent and abused, on the breakfast bar, and left Cian a brief note. Trace me, it said.

Dunne wouldn’t be back until nightfall. If by some terrible twist of fate I wasn’t there to greet him, he would know what to do.

 

 

I stepped into the early evening air, a crisp mix of an approaching storm and the startling scent of ice cold wind. I pulled my pea coat to a tight close, buttoning it around the bottom of my face, tucking my blonde hair into the wool to better insulate myself. I never complained about the cold the way other New Yorkers often did. I loved everything about this city, from the weather to the history to the eclectic mix of culture and prestige. Born on Long Island, I never had any designs of leaving my city. Nothing could chase me away.

All the more reason to put the problem of Dunne’s girlfriends to bed.

I didn’t pull a car from the motor pool. This was not official police business, at least not yet, and if I was wrong I might get a mark on my flawless record. Besides, parking on the Upper East Side was an adventure in and of itself, and if by some twist of fate the suspect saw me in a department car, I had no doubt that would send off warning bells. The suspect knew I was a cop, but she didn’t know she was being set up. I didn’t want to get made until I was ready for the fallout.

As I flagged a cab, the first flakes from a winter storm landed in a dust on my black jacket. I sighed with pleasure as I slid onto the crumbling leather seat and gave the address.

The cabbie grunted. “Hope you ain’t in a hurry. The tree’s going up tonight. We’ll never get past Rockefeller.”

I scrunched my mouth tight, thinking. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to show up to this particular date late. Add some frustration to the mix to draw out my suspect’s anger. “How long do you think?”

“An extra thirty minutes. Maybe more.”

I waved a hand at him. “Not a problem.” Secretly, and despite the importance of my mission, I looked forward to being stalled in front of Rockefeller Plaza. I hadn’t had the pleasure of attending the tree ceremony since my college days. I had worked through every one since.

The cab drive tilted his head and put the car in gear. “Your money.”

I leaned my head back against the rest and closed my eyes, falling into practiced meditation. I envisioned the words I would say to my suspect. How my suspect might respond. The various ways in which my suspect might show her stripes.

“Lookie.” The cabbie whistled and I opened my eyes to see a throng of bundled onlookers along West 51st all the way to West 48th and beyond. Live music carried across the cold night as those gathered sang and swayed. The sky was alive with sparkling lights from the tree that, even now, years later, looked to me to be the biggest and most beautiful tree in all the world.

I resolved then and there that next year Cian and I would go, together.

My actions tonight would ensure we could.

 

 

I stepped out on E. 65th and evaluated the row of brownstones. I would never, not in this line of work, be able to afford one myself, and didn’t think the individual I had come to visit could afford to, either. Why Dunne never questioned this only further reinforced the blinders he’d always had to those around him.

I took a deep breath and rang the bell.

A lovely, dark-haired woman with soft features answered the door holding two half-filled wine glasses. I had met Dunne’s ex-wife only a handful of times over the years, but I would have known her anywhere. “Hello Mina. Thanks for having me over.”

“The pleasure is certainly mine!” Mina exclaimed, sloshing a small spot of red wine on the central carpet as she thrust one of the glasses into my hand. She seemed oblivious to her mess. “Come in. How long has it been?”

“Oh, no thank you,” I said quickly. “I’m on call.” This wasn’t true, thanks to Dunne’s maneuvering with Miranda, but I didn’t at all trust whatever was in the glass Mina Dunne was so eager for me to drink.

Mina’s face fell. “Water, then? I have sparkling. Your favorite.”

And how did she know that? “I’m fine, really. I don’t intend to stay long.”

“Oh?” Mina’s disappointment settled deeper into the fine lines on her face. She gestured toward the living room and pointed to a loveseat. “So you and Cian, huh? Took him long enough. Even when we were married, I suspected he had a thing for you. Too noble to act on it, though. You know Cian.”

“Yes, I do,” I said politely. I enacted a careful scan of the room, evaluating the contents and the proximity of anything that could be used as a weapon against me. It was important to understand the setting of what may end up in an arrest—or worse.

“What is it you’d like to know?” Mina, too, sent her gaze around the room. I took note of it. Was she hiding a weapon? If there had, indeed, been poison in the wine, did she have a backup plan?

I feigned nervousness, but the blush in my cheeks was genuine. Even thinking of Cian’s deep Irish dimples and youthful laugh sent my stomach in happy knots. “I really like him. I’ve had feelings for a long time, and then last night… well….”

Mina’s eyes darkened and then, with a jolt, she smiled. “I see. How wonderful.”

“And, you know, like you said, there have been feelings there for a long time, and so now that things are moving, they’re um… well, really moving.” I inwardly rolled my eyes at how silly I must look and sound. Only someone as self-absorbed as Mina would miss this for the act it was.

“Moving?”

“He asked me to move in.”

Mina’s fingers turned white on the flute of her red wine, which she hadn’t touched. She set down the glass with a deliberateness that suggested extreme self-control. “In the house he and I lived in together?”

“He inherited it from his parents,” I couldn’t help remarking, falling slightly out of character in my defensiveness.

“Yes, upon his marriage to me.” Mina straightened. She tugged at the straps of her too-tight dress. “And did you say yes?”

“I did, but…” I dropped my eyes. “You know…”

“What is it you think I know?”

“His last three girlfriends died after he asked them to move in with him.” I steadied myself. I’d said what I came to say; the words no one else had said until now.

“Is that so?”

I nodded, pretending again to look nervous. “Should I be worried?”

Mina’s face had gone entirely pale. “What’s that?”

“Nervous. Should I be nervous?” I forced a high, coquettish laugh. “Or am I being silly?”

“Will you excuse me a moment, dear?”

I nodded, but as soon as Mina slipped from the room, my hand traveled to the small of my back, where the Glock remained firmly secured.

I continued my scan of the room. Nothing extraordinary, or immediately alarming. Fine art lined the walls. The furniture was all antique, as was the rug it sat upon. A few vases and a sculpture graced oak end tables. The only unsettling piece of décor was a framed photo from Mina and Cian’s wedding day.

Ten minutes passed and Mina still had not reappeared.

I slowly rose. I pulled my Glock from the back of my pants and wrapped both hands around the metal, dropping it to my side as I took careful steps in the direction Mina disappeared.

My feet rose and fell against the wood floor with in methodical slowness. At each room I stopped, lifted my service weapon, and then dropped it again after determining Mina was not inside.

Light spilled out from under a door at the end of the hall.

I started my approach, my steps slower, quieter. Mina was beyond that door. She had to be, as it was the only room I hadn’t checked.

The metal doorknob was cold to the touch. I started to turn it when I heard a click. Not from behind the door, but the kitchen.

Before I could investigate, two young men stumbled into the hallway carrying a bucket of cleaning supplies and a long black bag that resembled the type people used when traveling with skis or other unwieldly items.

They looked more shocked to see me than I did to see them. The one carrying the bucket dropped it, stumbled to recover, then trained his wide eyes on his partner for direction.

At that moment, Mina burst from the room wielding a golf club and a wild look. I tore her attention away from the newcomers and dodged just as the driver crashed into the wall behind where I stood, creating a divot in the drywall. Then I, still doubled over, rushed Mina and knocked her into the door, flinging it open. Mina stumbled several steps and scrambled for purchase.

I kicked the door closed. I didn’t know if the men were armed, but I needed to secure my immediate area. With my gun trained on Mina with one hand, I fished out my phone with the other and called for backup.

“Are you going to kill me?” Mina shrieked, hanging half on the bed.

“Like you killed the other women Cian dated?”

Mina huffed in indignation, but her eyes were drawn past me as the door opened.

I swung around, pointing my weapon at the intruder. Dunne’s eyes widened and I lowered the gun. He produced his own, directing it at his ex-wife.

“I traced you,” he explained, with an unusually shy glance. “I stopped in around dinner to see you. I couldn’t wait.” He blushed. “Then I saw your note.”

“Gag me,” Mina quipped, despite having two guns trained on her. “All Hail Prince Cian, killer of hearts.”

“The only killer in this room is you,” I said. I looked at Cian. “What about the men outside? We need to stop them before they get far. I called for backup, but they could be down the block by now.”

“Backup is already here.”

I read the question in his eyes. How did you know it was Mina?

I had an answer ready, and would give it to him later, when this was over.

“You want me to say the words, or would you like the honor?” I nodded at Mina.

Cian looked down at his ex-wife, menacing even in her position of disadvantage. “You have the right to remain silent…”

The door opened and two officers rushed in as Cian continued with her rights. They cuffed Mina and one of them removed her from the room. The other stayed, wearing a bewildered look on his face.

“Those two kids?” He waited for Cian and I to nod. “Didn’t even get a chance to read them their rights before they squealed like a couple of baby pigs.”

Cian holstered his weapon. I checked the closet before doing the same. There were at least three people involved in this mess, and, for all I knew there was more. “And?”

“They work for her. For…” he flipped over his notepad. “Mina Dunne. Hey, any relation?”

“Not anymore,” Cian replied.

“At Piedmont College. Didn’t know that place was still open.”

I flashed an impatient look. “Okay, so?”

“Yeah, so, they work in the medical school. Under Mrs. Dunne’s supervision. I guess they have funding issues and so they’ve been having problems getting dead bodies.”

“Dead bodies?” I repeated.

“You know, cadavers. For their research.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Money wasn’t there, so they weren’t getting bodies. No bodies, no research. No research, no program.”

Cian’s hand slid down his face. He blew out a breath. “So they went out and got their own. Is that what you’re getting at?”

The officer nodded. “According to the two blubbering college kids out there with looser lips than Dolly Parton. Johnson’s trying to get a word in edgewise so we don’t catch hell from the captain when we have to throw out the confession.”

“Jesus,” Cian whispered. He backed up and fell into a seated position on the bed.

“What’s more, they claim this is personal,” the officer went on. “The vics? None were random, to hear them say it. All this, if you can believe it, in the first thirty seconds after we apprehended them. This job always has a way of surprising me.”

“Of course it’s personal,” I muttered. I rested one hand on Cian’s back. I’d been right and was vindicated in my belief, but there was no winner here. Cian would carry this weight on his soul for all time.

“Let’s see. Mostly enemies of Mrs. Dunne. Couldn’t catch everything they said, but we’ll get the details in the confession later. Some friends from her high school days. Girlfriends of her ex-husband.” The officer looked up. His eyes widened. “That’s you, isn’t it? You’re her ex?”

Cian nodded, but didn’t raise his head.

“What a shit show,” the officer mumbled. A pause filled the air as the three of us went silent, and then the other man left us to join the others in the living room.

 

 

Captain Miranda reassigned the earlier homicide case and gave Cian and me the next week off. She ended the phone call with me by saying, “And if you guys have something you want to tell me, it can wait until you get back.” There was a light smile in her voice.

Mina had confessed to everything. She needed a plan to save her medical cadaver program when funding was cut. What started as stealing John and Jane Does from the city morgue turned into something far more personal. She made lists. Her students did most of the dirty work, but not all. When it came to Dunne’s exes, she all but bragged at the pain caused. She regretted nothing. “I may go to prison, but Cian won’t escape the one I’ve placed in his head,” she was quoted as saying in her official confession.

I couldn’t turn back time and change the past, but I could be a part of brightening Dunne’s future.

I found him on the fire escape of my apartment, catching snow with his tongue.

“Ever been ice skating?” I asked, as I pulled up a seat on the step behind him, wrapping my legs around his body from the back.

“When I was a boy.”

I kissed his neck. My lips moved through his hair, trickling more kisses. “We could go.”

Dunne stood abruptly and turned. He pulled me forward off the step and I stumbled into his arms. “Thank you,” he whispered against my cheek.

“It was at least partly a selfish motivation.”

“Still. You’ve been my rock through it all, K. My marriage falling apart, what happened to Lana, Annette, and Katrina. I’m sorry it took me so long to get it together and see that.”

“I’ve always loved you,” I confessed, a truth I’d held tight in my heart for too long.

He wrapped his arms around me, protecting me from the chill of the night air. “Show me.”

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