Cut and run, p.10

Cut & Run, page 10

 part  #1 of  Cut & Run Series


Cut & Run

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  “You worry about your own self,” Ty griped.

  He thought some of the sharpness hadn’t returned to Ty’s voice, so Zane didn’t push. Seeing a sign for a diner, he turned the corner and parked in a Police Only space on the side of the street. “Food,” he said happily.

  “What the hell?” Ty muttered as he stared out at the diner. “Can’t you eat stale bagels and shit like normal people?”

  “We all have our vices. You want to eat a stale bagel and brighten your oh-so-lovely disposition with constipation, be my guest,” Zane invited as he got out of the car.

  “Kiss my ass,” Ty shot back as he sat in the seat and huffed.

  “Maybe after breakfast,” Zane answered with saccharine sweetness as he shut the door and walked toward the diner, lighting up and pausing just around the corner to smoke.

  After a couple minutes, Ty got his holster redone correctly and his jacket collar straightened, and he trudged after Zane into the greasy spoon. “I think I just got heartburn by osmosis,” he grumbled as he sat down opposite Zane. He didn’t trust New York eateries as far as he could fling one.

  Zane ignored him, looking over the menu with a content expression.

  “Mmmmm. Waffles,” he murmured, giving them proper consideration.

  Ty just rolled his eyes and waved his hand at the waitress. “Eggs, bacon,” he ordered. “And my idiot friend here would like a stale bagel,” he said with a wave of his hand at Zane.

  The waitress raised her eyebrow and looked over at Zane questioningly, who just rolled his eyes. “Waffles and sausage links. And orange juice. ” The waitress nodded, chewing her gum, and took off after making note of their orders.

  “I appear to be moving up in the world,” Zane pointed out, deliberately prodding at Ty all he could while the man was tired and not as snappy with the comeback as yesterday.

  “By being an idiot?” Ty asked with a tilt of his head. “Yeah, I suppose that is a step up from your usual state. ”

  “Better than a prickly ass,” Zane commented, turning his head to look out the window.

  “Other than the little bit of buckshot still left in it, my ass is perfectly smooth, I’ll have you know,” Ty replied easily.

  “I hope so, since I’m supposed to kiss it after breakfast,” Zane said facetiously as the waitress arrived with his drink.

  “I don’t do that before lunch,” Ty cautioned. “Can I have an orange juice, please?” he asked the waitress with a brilliant smile that fell back into a tired frown immediately after she turned away.

  Seeing the wide-spectrum mood shift on Ty’s face, Zane let the odd moment of teasing die and instead watched MSNBC on the television over Ty’s shoulder.

  “See? I can be nice,” Ty pointed out as they sat there.

  Zane’s eyes shifted to Ty, and he nodded. “Yeah. I’m only a little suspicious of what you’re going to want, but nice is good. For a change.

  Occasionally. ”

  Ty sat there looking at him for a long moment, face expressionless.

  “Shut up,” he finally muttered.

  Lips twitching, Zane did, until the waitress came over with their food.

  He thanked her politely.

  “So, aside from being annoying and shaving every four hours, what is it you do, exactly?” Ty asked Zane as he picked up a piece of bacon and crunched into it.

  “I just finished six months in a stock market brokerage’s computers,”

  Zane answered evenly.

  “Is that a euphemism for Hell?” Ty asked seriously.

  “Very nearly,” Zane said, voice dark. “I have new respect for the nice, plain insanity of terrorists after those cyber freak bastards. ”

  Ty hummed noncommittally and crunched another piece of bacon, finally waking up some more and shaking off the last of the exhaustion.

  “What’d you come up with last night, anyway?” he asked finally. “Did I ask you that?”

  Zane smiled a little. “Yeah. And the answer was noth —” The smile fell off his face as his eyes focused totally over Ty’s shoulder, and without warning he was up, tossing a twenty on the table. “Time to go,” he said sharply, pulling out his cell phone as he stalked past the television and out the door.

  Ty cursed quietly and gathered his bacon in a napkin haphazardly as he got up to follow, glancing up at the lurid red letters scrolling across the television screen: “NYPD reports Tri-State killer strikes again. ”

  ird flu,” Ty repeated in disbelief as the medical examiner gave them the autopsy report. He held a white mask to his face, “Be refusing to put the little elastic bands over his ears. "What the hell?”

  The woman nodded and shrugged as she handed Special Agent Ross the file. “ ‘What the hell’ is not my job,” she answered with a small smile that showed in her eyes. The white mask she wore over her nose and face covered the rest of the expression.

  “Isn’t bird flu pretty rare?” Ty asked her in a mystified voice. “How would he get it?”

  ”Well, more than two hundred confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A viruses have been reported since 2004,” the ME answered, sounding to Ty as if she were reciting facts she’d just recently looked up.

  She flipped her hair over her shoulder and frowned. “The virus isn’t easily sustained from human-to-human transmission, but it can mutate to be highly contagious. Still,” she went on with a shake of her head, “the most likely source would have been from handling dead birds that were infected.

  And, to my knowledge, there haven’t been any reported cases in the Tri-State area in at least three years. ”

  “So …,” Ty prodded as he leaned closer expectantly.

  “Unless he was traveling in east Asia or the Middle East, Special Agent Grady, I don’t believe he would have been able to contract it by natural means. ”

  “He was intentionally infected,” Ross concluded with a frown.

  “How?” Zane demanded before the ME could even answer.

  “I’d rather wait to get the preliminary reports before speculating too much,” she answered hesitantly. “But the easiest way to do it—and safest for the person who did it—would have been an injection. ”

  “How long would it take for an injection like that to infect someone?”

  Special Agent Sears asked, looking up from her notes. Sears and Ross hovered near the exam table. Ross merely held his mask to his face like Ty did and looked down at the body in distaste. He handed the file to Zane absently without looking up.

  “Incubation period would be about the same as if he were infected in more typical ways,” the ME answered. “I can tell you that bird flu does not have to be lethal. Most cases, in fact, if treated promptly, there’s a full recovery. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge. ”

  “So what you’re saying is, either he didn’t know he was sick, didn’t care that he was sick, or wasn’t able to get to a doctor?” Ty asked with a deeper frown.

  “Pretty much,” the woman nodded.

  “For two weeks?” Zane asked. “Were there any signs of restraint or struggle?”

  “None,” she answered with a shake of her head. “Is there anything else?” she asked as Zane flipped open the folder and started reading. “I've got more in the morgue. ”

  Zane closed the file and looked back up at her. “Thank you, Karen. I hope we won’t be seeing you again while we’re still breathing,” he said. She gave him a little laugh.

  Ty rolled his eyes and looked away. She shook their hands and went back to work, and Zane turned to look at Ty. “We need to talk to the cops.

  Number one, why didn’t they call us first—before the damn press got hold of it? And number two, see if they’re having any luck connecting the victims. ”

  “That’s their job,” Ty responded pointedly as he nodded his head at Sears and Ross. They both gave him disgusted looks as Zane glanc
ed over at them and raised an expectant eyebrow.

  “We’ll get right on that,” Sears said to them in annoyance as she jerked her head at her partner and they both stalked out of the room.

  Ty looked down at the body, still on the table and covered mostly by a sheet. “Bird flu,” he murmured in a slightly mystified voice.

  Sighing, Zane tapped the file against his hand. “And another token. ”

  “What is it this time?” Ty asked dejectedly.

  “A black feather,” Zane answered with a frown. “It’s the first one that’s made any sense when you consider the method of killing. ”

  “Hmm,” Ty responded distractedly, still frowning as they made their way out of the morgue. “I need . . . I need to go somewhere and just look,” he finally said in frustration as he took his mask and tossed it into a nearby waste container.

  Zane stopped and looked at his partner as he removed his own mask, tilting his head. “Where do you want to go? Crime scene?”

  Ty shook his head. “Somewhere empty,” he answered with a wince.

  “Maybe they have a meeting room at the field office with a whiteboard we can use,” he suggested.

  “There are classrooms at Federal Plaza. Most times they’re empty, if there’s not a team in training,” Zane offered. “Henninger told me about them last night. ”

  “Oh, yeah? What else did the kid tell you?” Ty asked sarcastically.

  “He suggested putting you out of your misery,” Zane answered pleasantly.

  “Your gun ain’t big enough, son,” Ty drawled with a smirk.

  “At the risk of sounding clichéd, I've never had that complaint before,” Zane answered, turning to lead the way toward the car.

  Ty remained where he was and tilted his head to watch Zane as he walked down the hall. “I’ll believe that when I see it,” he scoffed finally, smirking as he followed.

  “Somehow I just don’t believe you’re remotely serious about that,”

  Zane replied without looking back or breaking stride.

  “Your loss, Brutus,” Ty laughed as they came up to the elevators and he punched the button.

  Zane’s brow furrowed. “Brutus?” he asked. “As in Brutus and Cassius?”

  “Sure, man, if you say so,” Ty laughed.

  Rolling his eyes, Zane got on the elevator once the door opened.

  “You know, at first I was insulted by the way you treat me. Then I realized it’s not personal; you treat everyone like shit. I find it doesn’t bother me all too much anymore,” he said.

  “Usually I only don’t bother people I want to see naked,” Ty told him seriously as the elevator rose. “So stop it. You’re freaking me out. ”

  Zane watched his partner curiously as several people filed into the elevator from the hallway. “I’ll keep it in mind,” he said under his breath as they walked out. The slightly suggestive tones of Ty’s words freaked him out, too.

  The walk and drive to the office were quiet, and his mind wandered back to the case. They made it into the office and secured one of the empty classrooms with a minimum of fuss, mainly because Ty didn’t request one—

  he just took one over.

  “Okay,” Ty grunted as soon as they had settled in. “So, what do we know about the latest victim?” he asked as he thunked the stack of paperwork down on the table in the middle of the room and went to the wall where a whiteboard was bolted up. He grabbed the dry-erase marker and began scribbling the names of the victims. “The new victim,” he started. “Prison tat on his arm was pretty clear, so he’s not squeaky clean. ”

  “File says he was paroled two years ago. Clean record since then,”

  Zane said.

  “Uh-huh,” Ty muttered as he began writing in the physical characteristics of each victim, excluding the two FBI agents. Age, race, height, weight, hair color, eye color. “Well,” he said as he stepped back and cocked his head. “They’re all Caucasian?” he offered weakly.

  “Actually, no, the stock broker was biracial and the roommate was Latino. ”

  “Goddammit,” Ty cussed as he made the corrections. “They’re too random to be random,” he muttered, neither noticing nor caring that the statement would make little sense outside of his own mind.

  Zane raised his brow. “Didn’t I say that yesterday?” he asked, forcing himself to be patient. Somehow.

  “You say that like you think I listen to you,” Ty responded instantly, a smile pulling at his lips.

  Zane snorted in irritation, scooted his chair back, and crossed his legs restlessly.

  “Maybe it’s not the victims at all,” Ty went on as he sat on the edge of the table. “Maybe they’re just wrong place, wrong time. ”

  “Possibly,” Zane allowed. “But what’s been done to them is very specific. ”

  “Mm hmm,” Ty nodded. “So that’s where we look for the trigger.

  Either the way the scenes are staged or the method of killing. ”

  Zane nodded slowly. “Yes, I think so. ”

  “I don’t want a goddamned yes-man for a partner, damn it,” Ty snapped.

  “Stuff the attitude, asshole,” Zane snarled.

  Ty turned his head to look back at Zane and grinned. “Better,” he said approvingly.

  Zane closed his eyes for a moment and then looked up at the ceiling, shook his head, and forced himself to take a deep breath before looking back down at the papers.

  Ty continued to watch him, narrowing his eyes as he did so. “You should do that more often,” he told him. “Let go and tell someone to fuck off, I mean. Makes you look less like you’re about to have a coronary. ”
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