Cut & Run, page 46part #1 of Cut & Run Series
“I didn’t think you had a problem with him?” Ty questioned.
“At first I didn’t, but I think that’s because I was so wrapped up in being annoyed with you,” Zane admitted. “But damn, he’s eager. I was never that shiny. ”
Ty gave Zane a sidelong glance and shrugged. “Guess that depends on who you ask,” he said.
Zane looked at Ty with narrowed eyes. “You met a caricature. You know that. ”
“Yeah, but it’s still fun to watch you get all puffy over it,” Ty laughed softly, a glimmer of the man Zane had first met shining through in his eyes.
Chuckling as they crossed the street, Zane smiled and winked at Ty.
“You just like to poke and poke and get me riled up,” he said with a purposeful double meaning.
“Damn right,” Ty said with a grin, and then he stopped suddenly and kicked Zane in the shin.
“Ow!” Zane cried, though he was laughing slightly in surprise as Ty turned back around and began walking.
“I’m gonna start wearing steel-toed boots,” Ty said over his shoulder.
Zane snorted as they walked. He stopped without warning as he glanced across the street. “Oooh—detour. ”
“What?” Ty asked in confusion as he turned and then followed Zane’s line of sight worriedly.
“Come on!” Zane ordered. He actually sounded happy all of a sudden.
He pulled Ty along to the corner and then crossed to the other side of the street and walked partway back up to stop in front of the classy storefront window of a privately owned bookstore.
“What?” Ty asked again as he looked up at the hand-carved sign.
“I’ve heard about this place,” Zane said, looking up at the sign. “It’s all mysteries, suspense, thrillers. . . . ” He nearly bounced in place.
“Do you not get enough of that shit in your real life?” Ty asked with a roll of his eyes. “Come on,” he ordered as he turned away. “I don’t do books. ”
“Well, I do. Get an espresso or something,” Zane said, pulling open the door and going inside.
“I don’t do espressos,” Ty called after him stubbornly. As he stood outside the doors, his shoulders slumped, and soon he obediently followed Zane into the store.
Zane was already browsing on a table marked “Old Favorites” when Ty stepped through the door. Quiet jazz played in the background, and a slim, white-haired man with spectacles sat behind the counter reading. A full coffee and espresso bar was set up to the side, steaming gently.
Ty forced himself not to groan. He hated these fucking places. Give him McDonald’s black coffee and a copy of Guns and Ammo to read on the john and he was set. He didn’t even like coffee.
“I see you’re a man of action rather than one of reflection,” the old man said out of the blue, his twinkling eyes looking over the glasses.
Ty was slightly surprised to be addressed, but he recovered quickly enough to respond with, “I’m prone to paper cuts. ”
The man chuckled and closed his book, using a tasseled bookmark.
“Your friend is happy to be here. ”
“He’s happy to be anywhere,” Ty grumbled with an unfavorable glance at Zane.
“Perhaps he’ll be better company the rest of the day. Coffee?”
Ty shook his head and glanced at Zane again with a frown. “You can keep him,” he told the man in a grumble as he checked his watch.
Lifting his teacup, the man took a sip and looked over at Zane speculatively. “It changes one’s appearance so, don’t you think?”
Ty looked up at the old man in confusion and then glanced over at Zane again. The agent was practically beaming, another Jekyll and Hyde turnabout in five minutes flat. Ty watched him for a long moment, blinking in surprise at the twist in his chest. Finally, he gave the old man another look and cleared his throat.
“Help yourself to a seat,” the old man offered.
Ty sighed and moved closer cautiously to take the chair. He realized that he wasn’t used to people addressing him at all, especially strangers. Most everyone shied away from him because of his threatening, grumpy air. Was it slipping or was the old dude just crazy?
The man settled back in his seat, picking up his book again. “Perhaps he’ll take pity on you soon,” he said, opening the pages and going back to his reading, looking through the spectacles that sat low on his nose.
“I doubt that very much,” Ty muttered as he turned his attention to Zane and crossed his arms over his chest.
Within a minute, Zane felt Ty’s eyes on him, and he looked over his shoulder to favor Ty with a smile. Then he nodded and looked at the books he held. He chose three and put a couple back, then walked over to the counter.
“Not even going to look, huh?”
Ty suspected that Zane wouldn’t be enjoying this quite as much if he knew Ty didn’t mind watching him. So he maintained his slightly sulky air and shook his head.
Zane glanced to the old man who was reading and apparently paying them no attention. “Okay, I’m happy. We can go after I pay for these. ” It hadn’t even been ten minutes.
Ty looked him over and then sighed softly, allowing a small smile to show through. “We’ve got more time,” he murmured in a low voice.
Zane tried not to grin like a fool. He adored bookstores, and it was a welcome distraction from his worries and brooding. “Thanks,” he said softly with an indefinable look in his eyes. Then he turned to disappear in the stacks that led further into the store.
As soon as he was gone, Ty rolled his eyes heavenward and slouched in his chair in defeat. That look in Zane’s eyes would get him anything.
The old man didn’t make a sound or look up from his book. But he was smiling. “Shut up,” Ty muttered to him. He glanced over at him again, reading the gold lettering on the book the man read: The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Ty frowned at the leather-bound volume as something buried deep in his memory began to click. Anyone who lived in Baltimore for any period of time had read at least one Poe story. The only ones Ty could remember were the one about the heart in the floorboards, the guy being bricked up in a wine cellar, and the name of the last one he had read, the Murders in the Rue Morgue.
“Can I see that?” he asked suddenly, sitting up and pointing at the old book.
The man looked up at him, a small smile curling at his lips. “Of course,” he said graciously, putting his bookmark in place carefully before he closed it and handed it to Ty.
Ty flipped to the index, where he found a list of the stories included in the volume. “Have you read all these before?” he asked without looking up.
“Many times,” the man answered.
“Two people locked in a morgue,” Ty murmured.
“That’s one, yes,” the man answered, mistakenly thinking that Ty was still speaking to him.
“Is there one with a blonde woman and a brunette, maybe switching places?” Ty tried as he looked up at the man. “Or one about a painting? A girl getting her teeth all pulled out?”
The old man nodded with a confused look at Ty and then at the book.
Ty stood up quickly, thrusting the book back into the old man’s hands. “Garrett!” he called out excitedly.
Zane appeared around one of the long bookshelves, moving toward him quickly and obviously alarmed. “What?” he demanded worriedly.
“I think you just broke this fucking case,” Ty said to him with a grin.
“Go find a copy of that book,” he ordered as he pointed at the hardback the old man held gingerly in his hands.
Zane watched the activity from between the blinds of a small storefront across the street from the crime scene. He’d been watching for twenty Z minutes, not moving at all. Ty stood beside him, a little further away from the window because he was restless and couldn’t quite stand still.
They watched as the local poli
“Looks pretty chaotic. I think we can get in and out and never be seen,” Ty murmured to Zane. “The ME is new; he won’t know us. And you know he’s got it pretty cleared out in there now as he examines the body. ”
Zane nodded slowly, still watching. He pulled out his phone, hit a few buttons, and waited. Down on the street, Henninger dug out his phone.
“We’re going in with the ME. Keep the rest out,” Zane said shortly.
After a long moment in which the other agent answered, he snapped the phone shut, a grim look on his face. “Let’s go,” he said quietly. “Around the block and through the back. Entrance through the back. ”
Ty nodded and followed silently. They’d been leaving the bookstore with their newly purchased collection of Poe stories when they’d received the call, and he was almost eager to see if this newest murder would fit into their theory.
They headed outside and around the block, well away from the gathered law enforcement, and came in through the back alley where the ambulance was parked. There were just a couple cops to stand guard. A quick flash of their badges and some officious government snarls at the overworked men, and they were in.
Zane shoved his hands in his pockets and walked carefully on the narrow runner of plastic laid over the slick and sticky floor. Each room was bloody. They found the new ME in the living room.
The man looked over his shoulder at them. “You’re the team from the Bureau?”
Ty glanced at Zane and then back at the ME. “What can you tell us?”
he asked without answering the question.
“Occupant of the house is a seventy-one-year-old male. We don’t know if he’s the victim yet, but he’s nowhere to be found. No way to tell time of death just yet except for the congealing of the blood. I’d say anywhere from three to five hours,” the examiner told them. He stood up from where he crouched, carefully keeping his hands away from his own body. His gloves were stained almost to the wrists. “We’re still finding pieces around the house. I figure most of the victim is here. ”
“How was the scene discovered?” Zane asked stoically.
The ME glanced between them. “The victim’s heart was delivered to Federal Plaza with this address on a return address label. ”
“The heart?” Ty echoed flatly.
The ME nodded and merely looked at him as Zane rubbed his hand over his eyes, flinching painfully. Ty glanced around and pursed his lips. The blood that was visible was beginning to dry and grow darker. There were indeed pieces, just as the man had said. It was like a scene from some camp slasher movie. But Ty wasn’t registering the absolute horror of the scene he was calmly perusing. Instead, he found himself trying to fit it into the profile he had made of the killer all those months ago.
“Anything else remarkable?” Zane forced himself to ask. He wanted—needed—to get out of there. Very soon. It was messing with his head.
“The murder weapon,” the ME answered with a nod. He had one of the crime scene techs lead them over to a dresser that was decked out with a white cloth and tapers in silver candlesticks. On a tarnished silver platter in the center of the cloth was a gore-caked hacksaw.
Zane took one good look, nodded sharply and turned away, clenching his trembling hands into tight fists. It wasn’t the blood and carnage that bothered him so much; it was the idea that someone did this to another living person, that it was so obviously planned.
Ty didn’t notice his partner’s reactions. Instead, he stared at the placement of the murder weapon curiously, intrigued by it.
“They found it like this?” he asked with a wave at the platter.
The tech nodded. “We’re the only ones who’ve been in this room, sir. ”
Ty turned and looked over the room, glancing at Zane and then back at the bloody floor again. “Anything else?” he asked the crime scene guy.
“The only thing we’ve found that’s odd is a hole cut in the floorboards. We’re pretty sure the murder weapon was used to do it,” the tech answered.
“Where’s the hole?” Zane demanded.
“Bedroom. Here, I’ll show you,” the man answered as he pointed to a nearby doorway. “But it’s not a hole. The killer covered it again,” he added hastily as he led them into a front room of the house. “We haven’t lifted the cover yet. We just finished taking photos. ”
Ty frowned down at the crudely cut square in the floor. “This dude’s nuttier than squirrel shit,” he muttered.
The tech glanced at him and bit his lip to keep from smiling.
Zane carefully knelt down, staring at the cracks in the wood.
“Gloves,” he asked, holding up one hand.
The tech blinked down at him, then glanced at Ty.
“Don’t you think maybe you should let the crime scene dudes do this, Hoss?” Ty asked Zane pointedly.
“Give me some fucking gloves,” Zane growled.
The tech pulled some out of his pocket and handed them over without questioning. After pulling them on, Zane started slowly tracing the cracks in the floorboards with his fingers. Ty watched wordlessly, recognizing Zane’s gears turning but too annoyed with him to care.
All Ty knew was that their perp was getting frustrated with the lack of progress the Feds had been making, and he was now putting on a show. It felt almost like he was excited. The scene had a sense of manic glee to it, something none of the other scenes had carried with them. Ty looked over his shoulder, back in the direction of the room with the platter and the murder weapon, flanked by silver candlesticks.
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