Cut and run, p.37

Cut & Run, page 37

 part  #1 of  Cut & Run Series


Cut & Run

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Page 37


  Do we need to lay low until your brain pulls itself out of the frying pan?” he asked worriedly.

  Ty lowered his head and looked at Zane from under lowered brows.

  “Things are fuzzy,” he admitted after a moment of honest self-examination. “I remember most of the important things. Mentally I’m okay. Physically, not so much. I think if we were in a fight tonight I’d be a liability,” he added with a wince as he bowed his head again.

  “Then we’ll stay in and take it easy. I do want to make a few phone calls and go pick up our stuff, get those personnel files to Henninger. Right now, that’s our only lead. Other than that, we’re sadly lacking in choices to pursue on the case. I hate to say it … it’s going to take another killing—and some lucky evidence—to give us a break. ”

  “Maybe if we weren’t ducking and covering every other day we’d have made more progress,” Ty muttered sulkily as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Where are the files again?”

  “At the other room,” Zane answered evenly, trying not to show how worrying it was that Ty was having trouble remembering. “I’ll run out and pick them up, get us some food other than room service and some snacks, and head back this way,” he continued nonchalantly.

  Ty looked up at him, something like hurt resentment in his eyes.

  “What about Henninger? Can you call him to go with you?” he finally asked resignedly.

  Zane turned his chin and looked at him evenly. “I’d rather have you there. But yeah, I can call him. ”

  Ty merely looked up at him blankly, his façade from the first several days slowly returning. Zane’s lips twitched ruefully. There was “his” Ty. It was something like protective armor. If Ty was feeling threatened, he turned into that man. Zane stood and walked out to the front room to call Henninger.

  At least this Ty he knew how to handle. The other, softer man threw him totally. But oddly, Zane’s chest hurt. It was something he had said that made that newer man disappear again.

  “I’ll go with you if you trust me to,” came a soft call from the bedroom.

  Torn, Zane held the cell in one hand. The past day and a half, Ty had threatened him with bodily harm if he went back to the Holiday Inn without him—something Zane had first thought was disdain for his abilities, but later discovered was concern. Now, Ty was acting like Zane was the one who was sitting in judgment over his abilities. Sliding the phone into his pocket, Zane walked back to the bedroom door.

  “You know I’m not all here,” Ty said to him flatly as he sat on the edge of the bed with his hands clasped between his knees.

  “Even not all here, you’re better than I am,” Zane said conversationally. “It’s up to you to believe me or not. ” Ty was Recon. A goddamn Marine. A top undercover agent. Survival was ingrained in his instincts and reflexes, things that just didn’t come naturally to Zane.

  Ty jerked his head slightly and looked up at Zane appraisingly. “Give me a minute to get dressed, then,” he finally muttered.

  Zane nodded and walked to the dressing table where he’d set out their guns and started adjusting his holster. Ty dressed slowly, quietly dreading another attack of dizziness or nausea. Finally, he looked over his shoulder as he buttoned his shirt and muttered, “I don’t like feeling useless. ”

  “I know,” Zane replied, not turning around from where he was checking over the guns. Ty turned and watched the movements of Zane’s shoulders as he checked that the guns were loaded and working properly. He moved closer, bare feet on the carpet letting him move almost soundlessly. He stopped just out of arm’s reach and slid his hands into his pockets.

  “Is there anything else I’m not remembering, Zane?” he asked softly, the words slow and pointed.

  Zane looked up, though he didn’t turn, hands still moving knowledgeably on the weapon. “Such as?”

  “I couldn’t say,” Ty answered in quiet confusion. He could feel that Zane expected something of him, and he knew whatever it was, he wasn’t delivering.

  The falter in Ty’s voice made Zane’s shoulders stiffen. He turned around. “Ty,” he sighed. “I’m just worried, all right? This isn’t … exactly …

  you. It’s not bad, it’s not wrong, just not the same, and it worries me. It worries me what you’ll think about it after. What you’ll think about me.

  Okay?” He held out Ty’s gun, butt toward the other man.

  Ty looked down at the weapon and then back up at Zane in confusion.

  “What I’ll think about you?” he echoed, sounding slightly lost.

  Zane’s smile was self-deprecating. “I’m fairly sure that, fucking aside, you’re not at all fond of me. Remember the pansy-ass comments?” He offered the gun again. “You meant them wholeheartedly. And not undeservedly, I guess. ” He shrugged and looked at Ty evenly, and his voice was slightly flatter. “Don’t think too hard about it. Give it another day or so, and you’ll be okay. Then all this can be as unfond of a memory as you want. ”

  Ty frowned harder as he took the gun. “Fine,” he said softly, checking automatically to see if the gun was loaded.

  Why it hurt when Ty turned away, Zane didn’t know. And he refused to think about it.

  ON the way to the Holiday Inn the call came over the radio. Another murder.

  The dispatcher gave the address, the name of the hotel, and the room number, and Ty inhaled sharply.

  “I know that number,” he said softly. “Why do I know that number?”

  he asked Zane in frustration. His head was pounding, but Zane didn’t need to know about that. Or about the black around his peripheral vision.

  Zane glanced over at him worriedly as he drove.

  “Go there,” Ty requested. “Go to the scene. ”

  Zane nodded and punched in the address on the GPS, then turned on the siren as they made their way through traffic toward the hotel. The front entrance was already busy with city cops and FBI forensics. An ambulance idled in the tow-away zone.

  Ty was opening the door and getting out of the car before Zane even had it in park, and Zane cursed creatively and followed him hastily. Ty walked out into the middle of the road, and Zane spared a thought that it was a damn good thing the street was cordoned off, or Ty would have just wandered into traffic unheeded. The fact that his partner was definitely not all there came crashing down on him so quickly that it hurt.

  “Jesus, Garrett,” Ty gasped out in horror as he stared up at the façade of the hotel building. “It’s her,” he said breathlessly.

  “It’s who?” Zane asked in confusion.

  “I’ve been here. That room number,” Ty answered as his breathing began to accelerate even more. “It was hers. ”

  “Whose?” Zane asked in frustration.

  “The little stewardess,” Ty whispered. “From the flight. ”

  “The girl you fucked the other night?” Zane asked in dread as he looked back at the ordered chaos of the police vehicles.

  “I’ll be all over that room,” Ty told him quietly. “She was leaving that night. If it’s her, I was the last person with her. ”

  “Fuck,” Zane hissed as he ran his hand through his hair.

  “Yeah,” Ty murmured as his mind reeled. “I think it’s time we report in,” he whispered, “before I get framed for this fucking murder. ”

  Zane swore, pulled out his cell, and started dialing.

  Four hours into the night, they were standing outside the room, talking quietly with Special Agents Sears and Ross as members of the forensics team and others worked busily.

  They had been given a chance to look at the scene before anything was touched.

  Isabelle St. Claire’s body had been hung up in the window against a clean white hotel sheet. She was naked and bloody, covered with various colors of water-based paint, and framed by the painted wooden casing of the window like a portrait.

  Ty had stared at the scene mo
tionlessly, going dangerously pale as he looked up at the obscene parody of a framed portrait on the wall. Zane had finally taken his elbow and pulled him away, unable to watch the effect the scene had on him.

  “So you knew the victim?” Sears asked Ty as they stood out in the hallway.

  Ty nodded, but then shook his head. “She was an acquaintance,” he said hollowly, unable to take his eyes off the doorway.

  “Meaning you fucked her then left,” Ross supplied.

  Zane cleared his throat, but Ty merely nodded again in answer, not taking exception to the harsh words.

  Zane hovered closer. “He was gone for less than two hours that night,” he supplied in a hard voice. “He wasn’t covered in paint or blood when he got back. I think I would have noticed that, at least. We’ve been with each other pretty much twenty-four/seven since,” he told them.

  Ty turned to stare at Zane briefly, but added nothing.

  Ross and Sears looked between themselves, silently communicating before Ross turned his attention back to the agents. “All right. We’ve got your numbers in case there’s anything that comes up. Get out of here,” he muttered.

  Ty didn’t move; his feet were rooted to the floor in front of the yellow police tape that now cordoned off the room. “How’d she die?” he asked in a hoarse voice. “Was she still alive when he put her up there?” he asked as the elevator dinged down the hall.

  He waited as their two fellow agents looked at each other again. Sears answered, finally. “There’s a lot of blood. It looks like maybe she was,” she murmured regretfully.

  Ty closed his eyes and turned his head to the side, fighting back the urge to be sick. Zane had to fight hard not to touch him or comfort him in any way, and finally he placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

  There was a sickening thud as the coroner lowered the body and sheet to a piece of plastic on the floor.

  Sears closed her eyes and looked away. “Sometimes, I hate my job,”

  she muttered, turning to look at her partner, who was watching dispassionately.

  Another hand on his other shoulder caused Ty to open his eyes again, and he turned to see that Henninger had joined them. Ty didn’t even think to ask why or how.

  “What are you doing here?” Zane asked, frowning a little. He looked over the younger man’s shoulder to see Morrison several feet away, getting paperwork from one of the city cops who had been called in to secure the scene.

  “I figured you might be here when I heard the call,” Henninger answered quietly. “Are you sticking around?”

  Zane looked at Ty. The man was obviously shell-shocked. “No.

  We’re leaving. Come on,” he murmured as he took Ty’s arm, pulling him along behind to the stairwell at the opposite end of the hall. Henninger followed them, glancing over his shoulder to see Morrison absorbed in discussion with his back to them.

  “Stop,” Ty muttered as they got to the fire door. He shook his head and looked at both men, then turned to look back at the activity behind them.

  “If we disappear again it’ll make us suspects,” he reminded hazily.

  Lips pressing hard, Zane bit down on his urge to protest. Although Ross and Sears had cleared them—for now—that didn’t guarantee it would stay that way. “Shit,” he swore under his breath. “Fuck it. I don’t want to be where that bastard knows where we are. ” He turned and waved Henninger back to the activity, then took Ty’s elbow and put his hand on the heavy stairwell door.

  Henninger nodded and headed back down the hall to the crime scene and his partner, glancing over his shoulder worriedly at them.

  “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Zane muttered as he opened the stairwell door and gestured Ty inside.

  Ty didn’t reply as he entered the stairwell and stood staring down the steps unseeingly.

  Zane started down the stairs, then stopped and turned when he realized Ty wasn’t following.

  Ty’s hands hung limp at his sides and he cocked his head slightly.

  “He knew I’d been here,” Ty murmured. “He followed me. He knew he could hurt us through her. He knew we’d take different rooms than the ones we were given and he found us. He knew we’d stay on it even after being hurt and he planned for it in case we weren’t killed,” he rambled slowly. “He’s profiled us,” he whispered with a bit of shock in his voice.

  “Yeah,” Zane agreed. “So we’re not going to get anywhere. ” He paused a long moment. “Unless we break profile. ”

  Ty shook his head and frowned. “We need to take this to Burns,” he said softly, as if they might be overheard. “’Cause right now my number one suspect would be me. ”

  Zane’s eyes narrowed. “Was your last assignment here in New York?” he asked.

  Ty pressed his lips together tightly, prepared to offer the usual “that’s classified. ” But there was really no point in that. “Yes,” he answered finally.

  Jaw setting, Zane stared at Ty for a long minute. “You’re not the killer,” he finally said evenly. “There will be evidence to track and clear you.

  Just like there’s evidence to track and trap him. We just have to find it. ”

  Ty returned the look with one that was unreadable. Finally, he nodded and looked down at his booted feet.

  “Ty,” Zane said, trying to get his attention. “I can’t do this without you. ”

  “You know they’ll take us off this case, right?” Ty responded softly.

  “We’re both probably looking at probation until I’m cleared. ”
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