Cut and run, p.9

Cut & Run, page 9

 part  #1 of  Cut & Run Series


Cut & Run

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Page 9


  He walked toward the parking garage, hands in his jacket pockets.

  Ty just grunted in return as they parted ways.

  Zane stopped and turned to watch Ty stalk the last several feet into the hotel. Pondering the puzzle of Ty Grady, Zane made his way to the car.

  He was infuriating at best. An absolute bastard at worst. And Zane had to grudgingly admit that he might just be good at his job.

  ZANE sat at the table, feet propped on the air conditioner unit, notepad in hand as he looked through reams of reports. Paperwork was spread out all over the desk, the small round table, the floor, the second bed, the dresser …

  even on top of the television. He’d taped maps to the wall and stuck up photos from the crime scenes. Right now, they were in dated order, but he’d move them around as he formed ideas about how they fit together. Their concentration might be on the two agents who were killed, but the serial itself was just too fascinating and frustrating to leave alone.

  He mulled over the ideas about the bodies, the idea Ty had prodded him about last night. He’d made a simple list of how they were found, and he couldn’t help but feel that the killer was following a script of some kind.

  Dropping his heels, he reached over to the bed to snag the photos of the tokens left behind at each scene.

  There was a gilded mirror found with the twins. A pair of linked plastic rings like the type found in princess costume kits for little girls left with the dyed roommates. A pair of dog tags, complete with rabies licenses, were discovered by the first victim’s maid after the man had died of the meth overdose. The hooker, left in her sheet in the middle of a graveyard, had been left with a small, empty wooden box.

  Zane knew they all made sense somehow. He just wasn’t seeing it yet.

  The slow rapping on the door interrupted him and he glanced up, immediately on guard. In theory, he should be fine; if someone was there to kill him they likely wouldn’t knock. Still … he picked his gun up from the tabletop and held it slightly behind him as he walked to the door and checked the peephole.

  Ty stood in the distorted little circle of Zane’s view with his head tilted back and his eyes closed, swaying slightly on his feet as he waited. Zane pulled his head back and blinked, then removed the chain and opened the door, shoving his gun into his waistband at the small of his back.

  “I’m awake,” Ty muttered to him in greeting.

  Zane tilted his head and pulled the door open further, amused by how out-of-it Ty looked. “You sure about that?”

  “No,” Ty grumbled. “I didn’t sleep for shit. You?”

  “Not really. Too much reading before bed. My head’s swimming.

  You coming in? I’ve got coffee. ”

  “I don’t drink coffee,” Ty grunted as he remained in the hallway.

  “Any epiphanies?”

  “Other than thinking this guy may be some kind of creative freak show genius? No. ” Zane shook his head. “Give me a minute to get myself together. ”

  He turned and walked back into the room, stopping at the dresser to grab his wallet and push it into the back pocket of his jeans. They weren’t going with the usual suits and ties for this job in order to further the inept façade, so he wore just a thin cotton Henley and jeans. It brought back memories of his assignments before he’d been dumped in Cyber. He noticed with some amusement that Ty wore faded jeans that were losing the denim at their knees and a camouflage T-shirt that read, “You Can’t See Me and I’m Right in Front of You” in small yellow print. Over it he wore the green canvas jacket he had passed over the night before. Zane wondered if he coordinated his outfits to look like a slob or if he just really was one.

  “I think until we figure out what the hell the connection is, we need to concentrate on the agents,” Ty was saying as he stepped into the room and let the door fall shut. He looked around at Zane’s piles of files with a sleepy frown and ran his hand through his short hair.

  Zane lifted his shoulder holster from the bed and shook it out. “At least with them we can backtrack. According to the notes, the team was having trouble … building …. ” His words trailed off as his eyes unfocused in thought.

  “Huh?” Ty asked flatly, still too tired to be confused yet.

  Zane just stood there for another long moment, then raised a hand to make a wait motion. He turned slowly in a circle, looking at the paperwork, trying to nudge what caught his attention. Then his eyes fell upon the timelines he had tacked up next to the photos.

  “Backtracking. The team is having trouble figuring out where the victims were that night. That day. Even the day before,” Zane mumbled. Then he turned sharply on his heel and looked down at a particular stack of papers.

  “You think he’s nabbing them and keeping them? There wasn’t much evidence of restraining or struggle,” Ty pointed out doubtfully.

  Zane’s brow furrowed, and he pulled the straps of the holster through his fingers idly as he skimmed the reports. “No. But I think he’s watching them. Studying their patterns, then taking them when they’re detached from attention. ”

  “Makes sense,” Ty nodded as he watched Zane with one eyebrow cocked. “You’re not, like … going into a trance, are you?” he asked dubiously as he observed the distant look in Zane’s eyes.

  Zane blinked out of it. “You try sifting through several thousand bits and pieces of data and see how aware you can be,” he said shortly.

  Ty snorted in a derogatory manner and shook his head. “Whatever, man. I’m always aware,” Ty drawled through a yawn.

  “I’m sure,” Zane muttered, pulling his gun out of his waistband, checking it and sliding it home. “We’re going out to the scene, right? Out on the street, too?”

  “Which scene?” Ty asked as he leaned against the door.

  “The last site. The one that’s still intact,” Zane answered as he moved his jacket to reach for two small black sheaths.

  “Did you ever hear from whatshisface about whether they were ready?” Ty asked as he watched Zane with a small smirk. “Did the terrorists attack while I was asleep?” he asked sarcastically, nodding at the vast array of weaponry.

  “Always be prepared, right?” Zane prodded as he pushed up his sleeves, slid on the sheaths, then covered them and pulled on his jacket, sparing a silent thank-you to God that it was October and he didn’t have to get creative to hide the armament. “Yes, Morrison set it up; we’ll head over after we meet Detectives Holleman and Pierce at two. So we have three hours, and I’m eating first. We'll probably miss lunch. And Scott’s coming in to meet us at six. ”

  “Oh, goody,” Ty responded flatly, clapping his hands together in a mock display of excitement.

  Zane picked up the keys and turned to face Ty, inclining his head. “Of course, if you have a hot date lined up, feel free. It’ll be dry, boring stuff, I’m sure. ” He felt fairly sure his patronizing tone would get just as enthusiastic a response.

  “I dislike that woman,” Ty returned easily. “A lot. ”

  “Why? She’s very good at her job. ”

  “She’s also a raging bitch,” Ty answered flatly.

  Zane’s lips quirked. “Yeah, so?”

  Ty merely shrugged negligently. “We have history. Why do you care?”

  “If you’re not going to be able to work with her, then you need to skip the meeting,” Zane said. “No point in butting heads. ” He paused. “Of course, you seem to enjoy that sort of thing …. ”

  “Go fuck yourself, man,” Ty huffed.

  Zane actually let a smile escape, and the light brightened his dark eyes. He studied Ty for a few moments, undeniably amused. “Fair enough. ”

  He swung the keys on his fingers. “Is the feeling mutual?”

  “God, I hope so,” Ty muttered.

  Zane’s smile grew and he felt the urge to snicker. “Well,” he drew out, “maybe she’s utterly charmed by you—being that sh
e’s a raging bitch, and all. Like drawn to like, you know?” he said as he walked to the door.

  “Logic doesn’t mesh with the fact that you’re a raging bitch, too, and you hate me,” Ty pointed out drolly.

  Zane glanced back at Ty, not fazed by anything Ty said anymore.

  “Fair enough. ”

  “How’d your night go after you left me?” Ty asked as he followed.

  “Quietly. Henninger was still in the office so he got me the maps I wanted, tracked down pictures of the tokens left at each scene,” Zane said, pulling the door shut behind them. “Then I got coffee and came back here. ”

  “Thanks for the itinerary, man,” Ty muttered sarcastically. “I was referring more to the anyone following you, trying to kill you, getting laid aspect of it. ”

  “If I could have been so lucky for the latter,” Zane said, his voice dry.

  “No. No one followed me, no one tried to kill me, and no one propositioned me. ”

  “Shame,” Ty sighed sadly. “Anything bother you at all?”

  “Except for Henninger around the office, no. He’s so eager it even makes me wince. Morrison’s even worse. I imagine you wanted to kill them right off. ”

  “Maybe,” Ty affirmed with a nod.

  Zane snickered. “And you accused me of being a candy-ass brown-noser. ” They walked across the lobby toward the parking garage elevator. “I think Burns must have put us together figuring we’d strangle each other and do his job for him. ”

  “You’re really on the chopping block?” Ty asked in some surprise.

  Going quiet for a long minute as they entered the elevator and it started moving down, Zane finally shrugged, emotionless mask sliding back into place. “I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. I’ve been told several times that I’m on thin ice, no matter how stellar a job I do. I guess it depends on who’s jonesing for an example that week. ”

  “Example of what?”

  Zane looked over at him significantly. “An example of what not to do. How not to behave. Who not to be. To show others what happens when you fuck up royally. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling. ”

  “I couldn’t possibly know what you mean,” Ty sniffed daintily as the elevator doors opened. He stepped out and started toward the car.

  Zane snorted, clicking the key fob and unlocking the car.

  “So, what, you’re a reformed version of me?” Ty asked with a derisive snort as he went around to the passenger side.

  Zane got in the car and pulled on his seat belt, all the while wondering why he allowed this conversation to continue. “I am not reformed. I just want to keep my job,” he said curtly as he started the car. “If that means acting like a yes-man in the office, wearing a damn suit, keeping my opinions to myself, and kowtowing to the directors, that’s what I'll do. ”

  Ty snorted again as he shook his head. “Forgive me if I don’t buy it. ”

  “Don’t buy what?”

  “You,” Ty answered bluntly.

  “What’s that supposed to mean, Grady?” Zane asked as he started the car and put it in reverse. “It’s not all that difficult to understand. ”

  “You seem to have carefully created yourself,” Ty told him candidly.

  “This whole overly reformed bright and shiny image you want to project. It’s all very bad cop movie. And I don’t buy it. ”

  “What of it?” Why should he care what Ty thought about how he dealt with life now? There was nothing wrong with what he was doing to stay in the Bureau.

  “I’m talking about the fact that you want to project it,” Ty answered with a soft laugh. He shook his head again in amusement. “If you were truly reformed from any state of less than perfect, you’d keep your mouth shut about your past. You’re doing a lot of telling and not enough showing. ”

  “So help me God, I am going to thrash you to within an inch of your life someday,” Zane gritted out, simmering. Possibly because Ty was right, in a way; Zane had reformed, but he wasn’t proud of it. On some level maybe he did want people to know this wasn’t the real him. “You drive me absolutely insane. And I’m almost sure you do it on purpose. ”

  “I like you better when you’re angry," Ty responded absently as he looked out the window at the passing scenery. “It’s more natural to you. ”

  Zane shook his head. “You like me better when you’re making fun of me,” he muttered.

  “I’ve never made fun of you,” Ty responded instantly. “Making fun of you would imply that something about you is fun. ”

  Zane’s hand shot out to smack Ty’s chest with the backs of his knuckles. “Asshole,” he muttered. “You’re no fun yourself. ”

  “Ow!” Ty cried out in surprise, rubbing his chest and scowling.

  “Dammit,” he muttered in protest. “Don’t you know you’re supposed to wait at least a week before you physically assault your new partners?” Ty asked plaintively as he rubbed his chest where Zane’s class ring had thumped against his sternum.

  “I must be out of practice. You’re the first partner I’ve had in a long time,” Zane said, trying not to think about the last one. A real partner. Not an assigned one.

  “Pft,” Ty responded with a roll of his eyes and another yawn he tried and failed to repress.

  Zane halted the car at a stoplight and turned his chin, eyes glancing over Ty. His eyes were sunken and dull, and he still looked exhausted. “You need some more rest?” he asked. “Won’t be able to concentrate for shit if you’re tired. ”
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