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Despite what it said in the Old Testament, death was rarely the result of divine intervention. Often nature could be blamed. More frequently another person was the cause. On that drizzly gray evening in early November, nature had an alibi.
If Supreme Court Justice Byron Reinbeck had known what fate had in store for him that day, he’d have spent less time writing the scathing dissenting opinion on Clayborne vs. Leland. Which in turn would have had him leaving his chambers at a decent hour. That would have negated the need to stop at his favorite sidewalk vendor for flowers to take to Mary Jo, his wife of twenty-five years. She was having a dinner party that evening and he was running unforgivably late.
But not being blessed with psychic powers, he pulled over at the sidewalk in question. Danny was there, rain or shine, until the snow started flying. And he never folded up shop until he’d sold his entire inventory.
“Mr. Reinbeck, good to see you.” A smile put another crease in Danny’s grizzled well-worn face. A three-sided awning protected him and his wares. A small propane heater was tucked in the corner of it. “When you called I put ’em back special. I got just the thing.” He sprang up from his battered lawn chair with a surprising spryness.
Byron turned up the collar of his overcoat, belatedly remembered the umbrella in the backseat. Hunching his shoulders a bit, he pretended to contemplate the bouquet of yellow roses thrust out for his approval. He suspected Jimmy stocked them daily, on the off chance that he’d stop.
Yellow roses were Mary Jo’s favorite.
He reached for his wallet. “You’re a life-saver, Danny.”
The older man’s cackle sounded over the crinkle of the wrapping paper he was fixing around the bundle. “You gots to be in big trouble for these flowers not to do the trick.”
A quick glance at his watch told Byron that he was only a handful of minutes away from ‘big trouble’. He withdrew a couple bills, intending to leave without waiting for change.
He didn’t have a chance to turn around when the sharp ‘crack’ of the rifle sounded behind him. But he saw the splash of crimson on the front of Danny’s stained brown hoodie. A second later pain and shock paralyzed his system before he pitched forward, his lifeless body crushing the fragrant long stemmed beauties against the makeshift plywood table.
Adam Raiker rapped softly at the door of the library. Although there were three occupants in the room, only one voice bade him to enter.
Because it was the only one that counted, he eased the door open, his gaze going immediately to Mary Jo Waverly-Reinbeck. “Everyone’s gone.”
Even grief stricken as she was, there was no mistaking the command of the woman. The red sheathe she wore accentuated her pale blond hair and ice blue eyes. She was brilliant and witty and had been known to dismantle a seasoned defense attorney with a few well-chosen lines. But it was her devotion to one of Adam’s closest friends that had endeared her to him.
Tears still running freely down her face, she held out a hand to him. “Thank you, Adam.” He went to her, aware of the impatience emanating from the other two in the room. He took her hand in his and at her urging, sank into the seat beside her.
FBI Deputy Director Garrett Schulte leaned back in his chair and offered Adam a polite smile. But there was no pretense of civility from the other man. Curtis Morgan served in Homeland Security in some capacity, Adam recalled. Given his presence here, it was a position of some import. Regardless, it was Byron Reinbeck’s widow who held his focus.
“Gentlemen.” She took a moment to wipe at her face with a tissue. “I’m sure you both know Adam Raiker, by reputation if not personally. Adam is a dear family friend.” When her voice broke, she paused to compose it. “I’d like a few moments with him now. We can resume our discussion in fifteen minutes. If you’d excuse us?”
Schulte and Morgan exchanged a startled glance but the deputy director recovered first. “Of course.” When he rose, the other man followed suit. “Is there anything we can get for you?”
“I’d like a copy of the investigative report updated daily and delivered to me.” Even under the circumstances it was difficult for Adam to suppress a smile at the men’s uniform reactions to Jo’s crisply worded request. “Perhaps you can discuss the details involved for making that happen.”
Without another word, the men moved to the open door. Through it. And when it shut behind them, Adam knew the woman had successfully distracted the two from his presence here. They were going to be kept busy employing a duck and dodge strategy that would allow the investigation to continue in confidence while still placating the widow of one of the most powerful men in the country. Their focus on her connection to Byron Reinbeck also meant they’d underestimate the fact that Jo Waverly-Reinbeck was a brilliant assistant U.S. attorney in her own right.
If the situation were different he might feel a bit sorry for them.
“Thank you.” She squeezed his hand and sent him a watery smile. “For making the necessary calls. For getting the people out of here…God. I just couldn’t deal with that.”
“What about the kids?” he asked quietly. The couple had two sons, both blonde like Jo, both in their teens. So far they were being shielded from the news of their father’s death.
“They’re with my parents. They’ll keep the boys away from the TV until I can go and tell them in person.” Her chin quavered once, before she firmed it. “We discussed this. Byron and me. Given our professions, I always thought I’d be the likelier target. God knows I’ve had plenty of threats. Remember the Calentro drug cartel trial last year? Somehow the USMS managed to keep me safe through that but Byron hasn’t had a serious threat in years. And still…”
Because there were no words, Adam released her hand to slip an arm around her shoulders. The passing minutes filled with her soft weeping caused a growing desolation inside him. Helplessness. There was nothing he hated worse.
Moments later, she drew away, mopped her face. And he recognized the determined expression she wore. “You’ve told us often enough over the last couple months, but are you truly okay? Completely recovered?”
The non sequitur had him blinking. “The bullets caught me in the one area of the chest that wasn’t already scarred. I’m still a bit miffed about that, but otherwise I’m fine.”
Her gaze was intent. “Who will have jurisdiction on this? The bureau?”
“DCPD will have been first to the scene. Marshals will have sent backup. Then you have the FBI and Homeland Security, just for starters. It’ll depend on what’s discovered at the crime scene. At the location of—”
“—the shooter,” she continued for him. Her tears had stemmed, as if she’d successfully willed them away. “With Byron a sitting justice, we’re likely to have every alphabet agency coming out of the woodwork trying to get a piece of this.” Her smile was fierce. “I’ve read the Justice reports. Regardless of 9/11, the agencies still haven’t learned to share intelligence. I don’t want Bryon getting lost in a bureaucratic pissing match.”
He couldn’t refute her logic. Although he’d left the FBI years ago, Adam had been an agent long enough to recognize the potential pitfalls of the upcoming investigation. “What are you proposing?”
“They won’t keep me in the loop of the investigation.” She waved away any response he might have made. “I know they can’t. That’s not my forte anyway.” Her pause then was laden with expectancy. “But it is yours. And that of your agency.”
With certain regret he answered, “As good as we are at Raiker Forensics, there’s zero chance that the feds would invite us to consult on a case of this magnitude. They’d see it as a duplication of services, for one. And my relationship to Byron would be considered a conflict of interest.” Although given the man’s far-reaching career thus far, he was likely personally acquainted with several top officials in both the FBI and DHS.
“Perhaps under ordinary circumstances.” A small sound was heard in the hallway. Jo lowered her voice as she reached out to grip his hand. “I have a few hours to trade on the expressions of sympathy that will be coming my way. Having the sitting U.S. Attorney General as a former boss is about to come in handy. And I fully expect the White House to call soon. President Jolson is responsible for Byron’s seat on the Supreme Court. I think he’ll grant his widow this one favor.”
Shock flickered. “Jo, if you accomplish that, I’d be working with the task force put together for this case. And given its sensitivity, I couldn’t—”
“—report directly to me? I know.” She leaned forward, her expression urgent. “But I trust you. Byron trusted you. And if you’re on this case I won’t worry because I know you’ll cut through all the bureaucratic bullshit to get the answers.” Her voice grew thick with tears again, although there were none in her eyes. They gleamed with purpose. “I want my husband’s killer. And if things get messy, I want the real facts, not the sanitized version or whatever the feds deem publicly palatable.” Her grasp on his hand tightened. “Before I beg my former employer and the President for a favor, Adam, I’m requesting one from you.”
I’ve never asked you for anything, Adam. I’m asking now.
There was no reason for Jo’s words to have memory ambushing him. To evoke the image of another time years earlier, from another woman with similar entreaty in her eyes. In her voice. Turning away from that woman had been the right thing to do. He still believed it.
And still lived with the searing regret that lingered.
He looked down at their clasped fingers. Her pale smooth skin contrasted sharply with the furrowed scars crisscrossing the back of his hand. Some decisions, made for the best of reasons, left haunting remorse in their wake. This one didn’t even require a second thought.
“I’ll do everything I can.”
“The prudent thing to do—for all concerned—is to bow out gracefully.” FBI Assistant Director Cleve Hedgelin looked at a point beyond Adam’s shoulder as he parroted the suggestion, which had no doubt stemmed from a loftier position in the agency’s hierarchy. But it was equally likely that Cleve shared the sentiment. He might have been Adam’s partner eight years ago, but he’d stayed on at the bureau. Had risen in its ranks in the Criminal Investigative Division. An agent didn’t do that without learning to toe the political line.
And after the spectacular ending of the last case they’d worked together, Cleve likely harbored his own reasons for keeping his distance from Adam. “There’s nothing that you can add to the case, and your involvement is a needless distraction.”
The office was outfitted more grandly than the cubicle Adam had been assigned when he’d worked in the Hoover building. He settled more comfortably into the plush armchair and sent the man a bland smile. “Stop wasting time. Attorney General Gibbons has already approved my full inclusion on this investigation. The president himself assured Jo Reinbeck that her wishes in this matter would be heeded. The agency’s objections to my presence are expected and duly noted. Let’s move on, shall we?”
An unwilling smile pulled at the corners of Hedgelin’s mouth. “Same ol’ Adam. You never were much for small talk.”
“Is that what that was?” When his thigh began to cramp, he shifted position to stretch his leg out. “And here I thought it was the usual bureaucratic BS. The bureau’s been painted into a corner with Gibbons and Jolson weighing in but still thought it was worth a shot to appeal to my more tender sensibilities.”
“You never had many.”
“And I haven’t developed any in the time since I left. Tell your superiors you gave it the college try and I’m not budging. So.” His hands clenched and unclenched on the knob of his cane, an outward sign of his flagging patience. “Catch me up.”
Cleve smoothed a hand over his short hair. It was more gray than brown now, but his pale brown eyes were covered by the same style gold wire framed glasses he’d favored eight years ago. His build was still slim, but the intervening years had left their stamp on the man’s face. Adam didn’t want to consider what showed on his own.
“We’ve got more agencies than we can handle jockeying for position in this investigation.”
“I imagine that kind of juggling comes with the job.”
The assistant director grimaced. “You have no idea. But in this case it means doling out pieces of the case to teams comprised of agents, and members from DHS, USMS, DCPD…and now you.”
“Nice to know I’m not crowding the field.” Adam wasn’t without sympathy for the man’s position. But the emotion didn’t run deeply enough to have him bowing out and making it easier for Hedgelin or the bureau. He’d made a promise to Jo. She’d done her part. She’d gotten him placed on the investigation. He had no allusions; it would have been her connections—and Byron’s—that had landed him here. Despite his past in the agency—or perhaps because of it—his presence would make them uneasy. His last case for the FBI had ended dramatically—and nearly killed him. Although he didn’t care about such things, to some it had made him a hero. But because he’d chosen to cut his ties with his former job, the bureau might regard him much differently.
That part didn’t matter. The investigation did.
“You’ll be partnered with two of our seasoned agents. I believe you know both from your time here. And Lieutenant Frank Griega will be your liaison from the DCPD.” Hedgelin dropped into his high-backed leather desk chair and shot Adam a small smile. “Given that our best guys in the Behavioral Analysis Unit were actually instructed by you, we’d be interested in any profile of the offender you put together.”
Adam inclined his head. Since he hadn’t made a point to keep up with many from the bureau once he’d left it, he had no idea who was still left in the BAU. But Cleve was right. Profiling had been a specialty of his while he’d been an agent. Now it was his employees at Raiker Forensics who received his tutelage. “Of course.” His pause was meaningful. “But it’d help to get some background on the case first.”
The agent leaned forward and stabbed at a button on his desk phone with the stump that remained of his right index finger. Adam wasn’t the only one who bore old injuries from the last case they’d worked. He rarely considered his own. When it came to human nature, it was only the scars on the inside that were worth noting.
Moments later the door to the office opened and a man and woman entered. With a glance, Adam determined that Cleve was right. He did know the agents. His gut clenched tightly once before he shoved the response aside by sheer force of will. He’d had recent dealings with Special Agent Tom Shepherd, as well as knowing him slightly when they’d both been with the bureau.
But his reaction had nothing to do with Shepherd.
“You recall Special Agents Shepherd and Marlowe?”
“Of course.” He gave them a curt nod.
Shepherd’s broad smile complemented his aging Hollywood golden boy looks. “You’re looking a sight better than you did a few months ago in the Philly CCU. I heard that the doctors took to calling you the miracle man.”
Her voice and face devoid of expression, Jaid Marlowe raised a brow at him. “Just a word of advice, you aren’t actually bulletproof. Next time you have an assassin after you, try Kevlar.”
“Now that I’ve discovered bullets don’t bounce off me, I may have to.” His tone was as mild as hers. No one would suspect that only a few short months ago Jaid had sat at his bedside clutching his hand, silent and pale, her wide brown eyes drenched in tears. In a medicated fog at the time, he might have thought she was an image produced by his subconscious. She’d taken up permanent residence there eight years ago, like a determined ghost refusing to be banished.
Cleve stood, taking three oversized brown folders from a pile on his desk and leaning across the desk to pass them out. Flipping his open, Adam saw it contained copies of the case file. Regardless of the minutes wasted trying to convince him to bow out, a file had already been prepared for him just in case.
The thought vanished when he focused on the pictures contained in the first manila folder inside. There was a clutch in his chest when he recognized his friend crumpled on top of the stained, broken plywood, bright yellow roses crushed beneath him. The depth of emotion blindsided him. He took a moment to acknowledge the feeling before tucking it away. Subjectivity crippled an investigator. Turning those feelings into purpose was the only way to help Byron Reinbeck.
“Any word from ballistics?”
Hedgelin nodded. “The kill weapon was a .308 Remington Model 700. Full metal jackets, which explains Shelton being killed with the same bullet. Passed through the justice and into him.”
Riffling through the pictures, Adam plucked out a few to arrange on his lap atop the open folder, side by side. After studying them for a moment he looked up. “The shooter was in the parking garage across the street?” At Hedgelin’s nod his gaze lowered again. “Second level, most likely. Easiest thing to do would be to back a van into a slot facing the street. Open the rear doors, take the shot and then drive away.”
“Second level, southeast corner,” Cleve affirmed. “Second level, southeast corner. The other folder has the scene photos.” There was a note in the man’s voice that alerted Adam. He shuffled through the pictures in the next folder. There was little to see in the images. No evidence of a rifle or scope. No tripod or shell casings. The shooter had coolly taken the time to pick up before fleeing the scene. There was nothing except…he squinted his one good eye at a photo of what looked like an ordinary five by eight white index card encased in a plastic Ziploc. On it was scrawled one word in what looked to be red marker.
As if reading his thoughts, Jaid said, “Wrath? The shooter was angry at the victim?”
Riffling through the rest of the photos in that file, he stopped at one that showed the card before it’d been disturbed. “Oh, he wanted this to be found, didn’t he?” Adam murmured. He’d first thought the bag protecting the card was an evidence bag used by the crime scene technicians, but now he realized the shooter had left it that way. Encased in plastic, with a fist-sized piece of broken concrete holding it in place on the pebbled flat roof of the building. “Wrath. One of the seven deadly sins.” Feeling the others’ eyes on him he looked up. “Not that I’m all that well-versed in the tenets of Catholicism but I had some exposure in my youth.”
“A passing exposure, obviously.” Jaid’s wry remark had the corner of Adam’s mouth quirking.
“It didn’t take, no. Much to the Franciscans’ despair.”
“As it happens I am a devout Catholic, so I had the same thought.” Hedgelin took a large manila envelope off his desk and opened it to shake out a single photo. Bracing himself with one fist planted on the desk, he leaned forward, holding the image up for them to see.
“That’s not Reinbeck,” Shepherd noted, shifting to better view what was obviously a crime scene photo.
“This victim’s name was Oliver Patterson.” The deputy director paused but when no one commented he went on. “He had a global investment and securities firm. Patterson Capital.”
“One of the too big to fail companies that plundered unfettered until the financial collapse a few years ago.” Recognition was filtering now, of the victim’s name and his company. Both had been on the receiving end of some unbelievably bad press after the upheaval, worsened further when its top executives’ obscene bonuses came to light. Adam assumed Patterson had ridden out the rocky times with help from the government issued bailout funds. He recalled the news stories surrounding the man’s death had been lacking in details. “When was he killed, last week?”
“Nine days ago in the parking garage of his building on I Street, Northwest. Stabbed. You can’t tell in this picture but there was an identical card left at the scene.” Cleve’s expression turned grim. “It was impaled on the knife left in his heart.”
Intrigue spiking, Adam guessed, “Avarice.”
The deputy director nodded. “Close enough. The word ‘greed’ was written on the card, in red marker, much like the one found at the site of Reinbeck’s shooter. Another biggie according to church dogma. The DCPD is compiling copies of the complete report on that ongoing investigation. Griega will get it to us when it’s ready.”
“You think these two are serial killings?”
Hedgelin raised his hand as if to halt Jaid’s line of thought. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. DCPD tells me that the detail about the card got leaked three days ago. Wasn’t picked up by all the media outlets, but it was out there. No way to tell if we’ve got a copycat or if the same person killed both men. The manner of deaths was completely different. We’re a ways from tying the two homicides together, at this point.”
“But the religious connotation of the notes give us a link worth following up on.”
The deputy director didn’t reply to Shepherd’s observation. Instead, he took off his glasses to polish them with his handkerchief, a habit Adam recalled from their time partnered together. “We’re in the midst of having all the evidence from the Patterson homicide transferred to Quantico, where it will be given top priority. If there’s a link to be found, we’ll soon know about it. We still have a large group of DCPD officers canvassing the area surrounding last night’s shooting.”
Despite his cautionary note regarding a serial killer at work, it was obvious the bureau was looking closely into a connection between the cases. They had to. “What about the threats the justice received? Depending on how many clients took a bath in the financial collapse, Patterson probably had more than his share of enemies, too.”
Adam’s comment elicited a nod from Hedgelin. “Since it’s the USMS Judicial Security Division’s duty to anticipate and deter threats to the judiciary,” his voice was heavy with irony, “they have a thorough file on any targeting Reinbeck. It’ll take some time to compare them to those received by Patterson. You won’t be involved in that end of things. Right now you’re headed over to the Supreme Court building to help with the interviews there. It’s the JSD’s turf, so play nice. With over three hundred permanent staff members alone, it’s going to be a daunting task. You’ll be part of the contingent focusing on the staff that worked most closely with the justices. There are close to forty clerks, four fellows, administrative assistants and God knows who else in there with direct access to the judiciary. Your first focus will be on Reinbeck’s clerks and his administrative assistant.”
His attention shifted to Shepherd. “Take Raiker to security and pick up a temporary ID badge for him.” His smile was thin as he included Adam in his glance. “They’ll need to take a picture for it. Shouldn’t take longer than fifteen minutes or so.”
Barely restraining a grimace, Adam rose. Photos were a necessary evil at times, but one he avoided at all costs whenever possible. It clearly wasn’t going to be possible this time around. And the realization already had him feeling surly.
When the agents rose, Hedgelin looked at Jaid. “Agent Marlowe, if you’d stay for a minute?”
The order couched in the request had Adam’s instincts rising, but he didn’t look at her as he and Shepherd headed to the door. He’d been given a reprieve.
He had the next ten or fifteen minutes to figure the best way to handle working with the woman who represented the biggest regret of his life.
Since she wasn’t invited to sit again Jaid remained standing, her eyes fixed on the Executive Assistant Director. The pseudo-civility that had permeated his voice for the earlier briefing had vanished. The gaze he regarded her with was hard. “I had an opportunity to speak to Shepherd earlier. I’m going to tell you the same thing I told him. I want Raiker supervised at all times. He doesn’t conduct interviews alone. He doesn’t follow up on any leads without one of you accompanying him. The bureau may have had its arm twisted into including him on this case, but damned if we’re going to sit still and allow him to turn this thing into another chapter for his sensationalized memoirs.”
There was absolutely no reason for his tone, his words, to have her hackles rising. Feigning puzzlement, she asked, “He’s writing his memoirs?”
Hedgelin sent her a sharp look but she knew her expression was blank. She didn’t wear her emotions on her face any more. Adam Raiker had begun that lesson, all those years ago. Life had completed it.
“I’m certain you know what I mean. You’re to keep him firmly contained within the investigative parameters you’re given. In addition to the report you or Shepherd file online nightly, I want details on Raiker’s behavior. His thoughts about the case. Who he talks to. Anything he says of interest.”
In short, she was to spy on him. Just the thought filled her with distaste. She’d run her share of surveillance ops in her career, but informing on another member of her team was especially abhorrent. Especially since she suspected his most grievous crime was his mere presence in this investigation. The petty politics involved in the agency was her least favorite aspect of the job.
But she knew how to play the game. Or at least how to appear to. “Understood.”
He stared hard at her, long enough to have to her flesh prickling. “I’m told you knew him when he was with the agency.”
“I took a class he taught for the BAU.” The words were delivered in a bland voice. And didn’t reflect the sudden weakness in her knees. “Worked a couple cases with him after that.”
Hedgelin gave a nod, as if satisfied. “It’s to our advantage that you and Shepherd are on a friendly footing with him. That should keep him off guard. Just be sure you don’t let that friendship interfere with your duties regarding him.”
“It was a long time ago.”
He picked up a folder on his desk and opened it, clearly dismissing her. “Join them in security.”
Without another word Jaid turned for the door. She’d seen Adam twice in the last eight years. Each of those times he’d been in CCU, clinging to life. It had taken a wealth of strength to accept this assignment, realizing it would place her at his side for days, possibly weeks on end. She’d convinced herself that she could handle it. Could handle him.
But it had never occurred to her that she might be called on to betray him.