Cross and crown, p.7

Cross & Crown, page 7

 part  #2 of  Sidewinder Series

 

Cross & Crown
 



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Page 7

  “I’m good with it,” Kelly said with a shrug. His fingers continued to trace the lines of Nick’s back. “So who was it you saw?”

  “Do you remember me telling you about Ty and Zane and the CIA chasing them a few years back? Ty called from the road begging for me to pick them up in Philly?”

  “Yeah, you fired at CIA agents and then got arrested to give Ty and them time to get away. That’s why there’s holes in your boat. ”

  “It still floats. Anyway, the dude they were trying to keep safe, his name was Julian Cross. He was an operator trying to make a break from the Company. ”

  “Yeah?”

  “He looked a whole lot like Garrett. Maybe it was him I saw. ”Kelly laughed softly, his fingers gentle against Nick’s skin.

  “Was he nice? Did he say hi with a super-secret decoder ring?”

  “I’m serious. ”

  “You always are,” Kelly drawled. He sat up, and the sheets pooled in their laps. “You think this Cross guy is behind the robbery?”

  “First instinct is no. He really did seem like he was trying to break when he was on the run with Ty and Zane. He had his boyfriend with him, scared rabbit type. ”

  “Wow, that’s . . . judgey. ”

  Nick laughed weakly. “Well, he was. And Cross was a hitter. He didn’t do jobs like this. ”

  Kelly rested his chin on Nick’s shoulder, face so close that Nick couldn’t even turn his head to meet his eyes. Instead, they looked at each other in the mirror. It made Nick smile, and he tried to hide it by pressing his lips together hard.

  “So, why bring him up?” Kelly asked before kissing Nick’s bare skin.

  Nick shivered and closed his eyes. “He was there when he should be in hiding. He might know something. Might be involved. ”

  “How do you find him?” Kelly kissed him again, moving down Nick’s arm.

  Nick grunted. “I don’t know. I’ll give Ty a call later, see if he has any advice. Actually . . . I’ll call Garrett; Cross and Ty didn’t get along very well. ”

  “Surprise,” Kelly sang, and he kissed the back of Nick’s shoulder a last time and then flopped to the mattress. “Okay, I’m sorry I woke you. Come here and keep me warm. ”

  Nick lay back down, sliding his body against Kelly’s and finally settling with his head on Kelly’s shoulder.

  Kelly’s fingers drifted through his hair, trying to soothe him to sleep. But Nick’s mind was whirring now. He kissed Kelly’s chest, humming.

  “You want to go in right now and start working on this, don’t you?” Kelly asked, deadpan.

  Nick raised his head. “Sort of. Do you mind?”

  Kelly chuckled and shook his head. “My fault for waking the sleeping dog. Go on. ”

  Nick kissed him quickly and rolled out of bed to get dressed. “Call me when you wake up, I’ll come get you. ”

  “Get me for what?”

  “I’m going to see if I can get the captain to hire you as a consultant on the case. ” He hopped as he pulled his pants up and fastened them.

  “What? Why?”

  Nick grinned mischievously and crawled back into bed, his belt still in his hand. He kissed Kelly soundly. “Because I’m running with your treasure hunter theory and I’ll need you to back me up. ”

  “What?” Kelly sounded breathless and a little panicked.

  Nick headed for the steps, buttoning his dress shirt as he went. “That’s not my theory, it’s your theory!”

  “Not according to the report I’ll be submitting!” Nick called back.

  “Don’t you dare put my name to a time-traveling Knights Templar librarian, you crackpot!”

  Nick laughed as he slid his feet into his shoes and headed for the door.

  Chapter 3

  hat are you doing here on a Saturday? How “Wthe fuck long have you been here?” Hagan asked Nick as he tossed his coat onto his desk chair.

  Nick looked up from the files he was studying.

  “Oh my God,” Hagan said as he saw Nick’s face. “You look like a feral cat in an alleyway. What have you done to yourself?”

  “Found a case of energy drinks in the break room,” Nick answered, his words clipped and precise. “I think I got something on this case, man. ”

  “Is it contagious? ’Cause I’d rather not do . . . this,” Hagan said as he waved his hand at Nick.

  “No. Okay so, we have the books they went after in the shop, right? But why take books you can’t hope to sell? Discounting the highly unlikely scenario that they had a buyer for those specific rare books, which could be true I guess—”

  “O. ”

  “I mean they could just be front men for someone with money, but still, it had to be the books themselves they were after and those books specifically. ”

  “Dude, can you feel your tongue?”

  Nick picked up the book he’d been examining and turned it so Hagan could see it. “Look. This one has a complete surveyor’s map of Boston from 1819, and a copy of an earlier reproduction from 1779. ”

  Hagan raised an eyebrow. “What happened in 1819?”

  “Nothing. I don’t know. But that’s what all four have in common. ”

  “1819?”

  “No. They’re all contemporary reports from Boston in the years after the Revolution. ”

  “Vive la révolution. So . . . a crew of highly trained thieves broke into a rare bookstore, stole four books and two as yet unknown objects, and then kil ed a man, all because they’re planning a heist of Revolutionary War era Boston?”

  Nick glanced up at his partner, nodding.

  “Where are they hitting next to get their time machine parts? We should put a few unis on that shit. ”

  Nick glared at him for several seconds, then his eyes darted over Hagan’s hands. “Where’s my coffee?”

  “Oh, fuck no. ” Hagan threw both cups of coffee in the trash can, shaking his head. “No more caffeine for you. ”

  Nick stared at them, seriously thinking about reaching in after one of them, when Captain Branson paced over to their desks. Nick and Hagan both watched him expectantly. He stood over them with his hands behind his back. Nick was pretty sure he and Hagan hadn’t done anything to draw their captain’s ire, but you never knew.

  Branson pursed his lips and peered into the trash can, then back at Nick. “Correct me if I’m misreading you, Detective O’Flaherty, but were you about to go after that cup of coffee in the trash bin?”

  Nick’s eyes darted to the trash can, then back to his captain’s again. “Yes, sir. ”

  Branson nodded sagely. “How long have you been here?”

  “I’m not sure, sir. ”

  Hagan cleared his throat. “Please don’t ask him to explain his current theory. ”

  Nick pressed his lips tightly together, self-aware enough to know when not to speak. He avoided Branson’s eyes for all of two seconds before he gave in, though. “I have a consultant I’d like to bring in on the case. ”

  “For?”

  “Hunting treasure. ”

  Branson frowned, gave Hagan one last sideways glance, then cocked his head at Nick. “Okay. Make sure he signs the waivers. ”

  Nick and Hagan watched him walk away, aiming for his office with a steaming mug of coffee in hand.

  “What just happened?” Hagan finally asked.

  Nick shook his head, still frowning at his captain. Then he turned back Hagan and straightened up. “Where’s the witness?”

  “I left him in the break room with a uni. ”

  “How’d he do last night?”

  “After you left, he was fine. You got the Midas touch, my friend. ” Hagan reached to his desk like he was grasping for a cup. He looked confused for a moment before seeming to realize he’d tossed his own coffee in the trash as well. He and Nick both leaned over the edge of the desk to eye their trash can.

  “I won’t tell if you don’t,” Nick
offered.

  Hagan gave a single nod, then stood up and coughed, making a show of fixing his tie and smiling around the squad room as Nick fished the cups out of the trash.

  Kelly had to get directions to Nick’s desk, and it was like trying to find his way through a rabbit warren as he navigated the department. When he finally saw someone he recognized, Nick’s partner Hagan, Kelly could have hugged the man.

  “Hey, Doc, how they hanging?” Hagan asked as soon as he saw Kelly.

  “Um . . . they can’t complain with the current situation. ”

  Hagan laughed. “Sorry, O always calls you Doc. I don’t remember your real name,” he admitted. He gestured toward the desk opposite him. “Have a seat. Want some coffee?”

  “No, I’m good, thanks. ” Kelly eased into the chair, Nick’s chair, watching Hagan suspiciously. He actually reminded Kelly a little of Nick; he was so deadpan you could never tell when he was joking.

  Hagan was alternately tapping at his computer and reading a notepad on his desk, probably filling out a report or transferring notes. Kelly glanced around the room. There were more pods of desks like this one, in various degrees of organization. Nick’s desk, in comparison to the others, was very clean. It was almost empty, in fact. There was a large doodling pad in the center with notes and rough sketches all over it. There was the regular desktop fare, such as a stapler and a cup of pens and a computer. Nick had been back at work for several months, but most of that time had been spent doing desk work. Kelly could imagine him sitting here, bored to tears, organizing everything again and again.

  A single photograph adorned the desk, in a simple black frame. Kelly reached for it, letting a finger run across the faces of his brothers-in-arms. It was a photo of the six men of Sidewinder, all of them ten years younger, all of them grinning at the camera, dressed in their combat gear.

  They’d taken a picture before every mission, just in case no one came back. This had been their last mission before being decommissioned.

  Nick stood in the middle of the back row, a smile on his grease-painted face. Ty had his arm around Nick’s neck, and Nick was resting his elbow on Kelly’s shoulder.

  The other three members of the team, Owen Johns, Elias Sanchez, and the Cajun they’d called Digger, were kneeling in front of them.

  Kelly glanced at the desktop again. No pictures of family.

  None of Nick’s sisters, whom Kelly knew he loved dearly.

  None of any of his coworkers here in Boston, past or present.

  Just Sidewinder.

  Kelly’s chest twisted and tightened, and he rubbed at the scar near his heart as it throbbed. He replaced the frame careful y.

  When he looked up, Hagan was watching him. “You boys must have been some kind of special. ”

  “We were. ”

  A hand clapped his shoulder, and he jerked in the seat. It was difficult sometimes for Kelly to resist the urge to defend himself when something surprised him, even a decade after seeing his last combat. Of course, almost being killed on vacation in New Orleans a year or so ago, and then again on vacation in Scotland several months back, had reinforced the instinct a little.

  Nick leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Kelly turned his head and caught a real kiss from him before he straightened. He was shocked by the public display, but then, he kept having to remind himself that Nick had been out for a few years now.

  “You got here okay?” Nick asked him. He sat on the edge of the desk, grinning down at Kelly.

  “Yeah, no problem. Why do you look like you just ate a canary?”

  Nick reached across his desk and opened a manila file folder. He tapped the paper and handed Kelly a pen.

  “Congratulations, you’re our newest special consultant. ”

  Kelly grunted. “Are you serious?”

  “You have to promise the city you won’t sue if you die. ”

  “How could I sue if I died?”

  “A paralegal,” Hagan said without looking up from his computer.

  Nick barked a laugh. Kelly rolled his eyes and yanked the pen from his hand, signing the consent form before either of them could make another joke.

  “What am I supposed to be specializing in?” Kelly asked.

  “Treasure hunting,” Nick answered, still grinning widely.

  “You’re insane. Seriously. Did you get checked out when they let you out of the Corps this time?”

  “No. ” Nick put a hand on Kelly’s head as he slid off his desk. “Come with me. ”

  “Are you . . . high?” Kelly muttered as he followed.

  “There may have been a little too much caffeine consumption this morning, but it’s evened out. ”

  “You sure about that, bud?”

  Nick laughed and ushered Kelly into what appeared to be a break room. The man from last night, JD, was sitting on one of the sofas. He stood when they entered, shuffling nervously.

  Kelly went over to shake his hand. “How are you feeling?”

  “I’m good, thanks. ”

  “Still no memory, though,” Nick added. He had his hand on the small of Kelly’s back, his fingers sliding beneath the belt. Kelly was almost positive he didn’t realize he was doing it. “We’re going to work on maybe trying to jog something loose. I was hoping you’d sit in with us. ”

  Kelly took a seat beside Nick. He knew what Nick wanted him to do without Nick having to ask him: he was using Kelly as a lie detector test without letting JD in on the fact that they were testing him.

  Nick flopped a folder on the break room table and gestured for JD to sit with them. “Okay, I’m going to show you some pictures—just hold them up and then set them down. You don’t say anything, just let them sink in, okay?”
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