Undercover Secrets, Untold Lies, page 1
Table of Contents
About the Author
Copyright © 2013 by Jasmine Austin Moore
Bella Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 10543
Tallahassee, FL 32302
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published 2013
eBook released 2013
Cover Designer: Judith Fellows
ISBN 13: 978-1-59493-336-3
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
I would like to thank all the important women in my life who have supported me, especially PDM who read, edited and shared ideas; Karen who brainstormed over many breakfasts; and my wonderful partner in crime, PJ, who has always offered encouragement. Thank you to my editor, Karin, Linda, Jessica and all the other wonderful people at Bella Books. A special thanks to my awesome mother, who has supported me in all life’s adventures.
About the Author
As an longtime teddy bear collector, with a collection nearing museum proportions, I always have plenty of company during the many long hours of writing.
Gwen Meyers slid behind the two police cruisers, parking her Crown Vic just an inch from the back bumper of one of the black-and-whites. Damn, the road was slippery. She had thought, no, had honestly hoped and prayed, that the snow was over for the season after the welcome February thaw. The snowbanks had just melted down to a manageable level when northern Wisconsin got hit hard again with another six inches. Today’s snowstorm was mixed with freezing ice and hail. She left her car running with the window defroster on full blast so she wouldn’t have to chisel ice off her windshield later. She zipped up her parka and stuffed her hands into her gloves as she slid out of the car into the frigid air.
“Morning, Detective.” Officer Jenny O’Neil walked toward her with a grim expression plastered on her face. “It’s a bad one.”
“What have you got so far?” Gwen asked, watching three cops traipsing down the steep incline while red and blue lights bounced off the white landscape like a kaleidoscope. She could smell the distinctive scent of death from up here, even with the stiff northerly wind gusting angrily.
“Looks like she lost control around the bend. Car must have bounced a couple times down the ravine before ending up overturned in old man Kaplan’s cow pasture. He’s the one who called it in.”
“Hey, it’s Kathy Wright!” Scott Richards called up.
Gwen all but reeled from shock.
“Shit!” Gwen managed to exclaim. “The captain’s daughter! Don’t publicize the identity over the police band. When he finds out his only daughter is dead, he’ll be right here on the scene. Let’s get the crime techs down here first. Jenny, call it in on your cell instead of the police band. I’m going down.”
Gwen maintained her tough demeanor, trying desperately not to show how upset she was. She turned away and stomped off, angrily swiping away a tear with her gloved hand, and tried to convince herself the bite of cold wind against her exposed flesh was what was making her eyes teary enough to blur her vision.
Walking carefully so she didn’t lose her footing, Gwen followed the larger footsteps of the men, trying to step into the deep impressions already made in the snow. About twenty-five feet down the hill she lowered herself next to Scott. The tall sergeant was kneeling over the body that had been ejected from the car. With the hood of his parka pulled tight around his face, he looked like an Eskimo who had just pulled out a whopper fish and thrown it from his ice fishing shanty onto the white tundra.
Scott was a veteran detective, having come up the ranks patrolling the streets, and then spent three grueling years in Vice, mainly busting drug dealers. He was the most gentlemanly, unprejudiced man Gwen had ever met, since most men of his experience were hardened by their constant contact with the unsavory elements of society. Nearly six-two in height, he was thin as a rail and wore his blond hair long, sometimes tying it at the nape of his neck in a ponytail. His kindly smile and friendly outlook belied his tough interior, his being able to get many suspects he interrogated to pour out their life stories. Gwen always thought it was his deep blue, penetrating eyes which made people anxious to confess to him. The thirty-two-year-old had a dry sense of humor and unrelenting determination. All of which she needed now.
Kathy was bloated, her face an ugly purple and green, and she was frozen onto the icy snow.
“She didn’t die here,” Scott said grimly.
Gwen nodded. Kathy had been dead awhile, possibly as much as three or four days despite the frozen surroundings. Rigor mortis, the chemical changes in the muscles to make them stiffen, was long gone. But why stage an accident and dump the body, knowing the medical examiner would be able to pinpoint the time of death at a much earlier time?
“Hey, there are footprints over here,” one of the other officers shouted. “They’re moving up the hill away from the scene.”
“Throw a shield down to keep them from filling up with snow. Jenny’s calling the crime scene unit now,” Gwen yelled back.
Kathy Wright was wearing jeans, black, calf-high leather boots, and a tan cable sweater. No coat, hat or gloves. Had she not died from the car accident, she would have surely frozen to death; it wouldn’t take long to succumb to exposure in these frigid elements. Gwen stared at the right sleeve of Kathy’s sweater, remembering a track of needle marks approximately an inch long in the crook of her arm. She wondered if it was still there. She’d heard Kathy was off drugs after six months in rehab, but couldn’t recall if anyone had reported whether she had stayed clean for long. Another tear threatened to fall from Gwen’s eyes as she remembered Kathy’s painful struggles with addiction.
Gwen knew Kathy and her tragic history well. They’d been friends in high school. Gosh, was that only seven years ago?
Kathy had moved out to the capital city, Madison, to attend college after graduation from high school. Gwen was already in the police academy when she had gotten a call from Kathy. She seemed to be happy and enjoying life again, and had invited Gwen to come down for Halloween weekend. It was a fascinating three days, touring the city, window-shopping down State Street, and visiting quaint little pubs that catered to the college crowd. Halloween night had been a blast, with everyone dressed in amazing costumes and parading down the streets. Gwen could describe it only as a block party for five or six thousand of the young, hell-raising residents. She and Kathy had dressed up as jail escapees, with broad black stripes painted across old white medical scrubs, with their legs tied together with a black plastic ball and chain.
Her eyes tearing again, Gwen pushed the memory out of her mind. She would find out what had happened to her former friend and bring to justice whoever was responsible for her death.
“What have we got?” Gwen asked, looking over her team. They were all huddled around the squad room table with steaming cups of coffee or tea, trying to thaw out from the bitter cold. They’d spent three hours surveying the crime scene and walking the grid around the area, pointing out any scraps of evidence that the crime scene techs could bag and put into the evidence locker.
“Not much.” Scott sighed deeply. “The car was wiped clean, and I mean squeaky-clean. Not even Kathy’s prints were inside.”
Jenny cleared her throat. “We’re pulling in every mark we’ve got. I’ve already talked to about a dozen of our more reliable informants from the downtown and east side areas where she lived and worked. No one knows a thing. One man said the last time he saw Kathy was about a week ago. He said she bought a bag of meth for fifty dollars and left, but that’s not from one of our more ‘stable’ sources. Most don’t recall seeing her for a couple of months.”
“Who’s in charge here?” The loud, deep, booming voice stopped Jenny from saying anything further. The uniformed man was at least six feet tall, had a short silver-gray crew cut, and carried a sizable paunch that hung grotesquely over his belt. He was shaking with rage.
Gwen remembered meeting Captain Wright several times when she was with Kathy. He was as strict with his daughter as Gwen had heard he was with new recruits, and she cringed at the thought of the angry words Kathy had spoken to lash out in defiance. Perhaps had he been more understanding, Kathy wouldn’t have been so anxious to escape through drugs. Gwen swallowed her sorrow as well as the revulsion she felt for this man. She didn’t have time for tears now. She had to stay strong for Kathy’s sake, and was determined to make finding her killer a personal quest.
“I am,” Gwen said confidently after a few moments of stunned silence. “Captain Wright, I’m sorry about your daughter.”
“Damn well better be more than sorry, Meyers. I want to get to the bottom of this and right now,” Wright snarled. “And keep me informed of every development, do you hear me? No matter how insignificant you may think it is, I want to know!”
“We’re doing everything possible,” Gwen managed.
“I want to find the bastard that…that…” He sniffed and stifled a sob. “Find him!” he managed, and stormed out of the room.
“For those of you who don’t already know,” Gwen explained, “Kathy Wright’s father is Captain Stanley Wright of North Scarletsville.”
“Holy shit,” Brad muttered. “He’s going to make our investigation that much more difficult. Can you, uh, keep him out of our hair, Gwen?”
Brad could not have been more different than his partner, Scott. Brad was short and stout, compact and muscular. He had boyish good looks and his dark hair was always neatly combed with sweeping bangs and matched in color to a bushy mustache. Gwen often took his joking seriously, as his smile was hidden by the thick growth over his upper lip. It wasn’t until she looked at the deep laugh lines around his dark, penetrating eyes that she knew when he was kidding. Having worked on computers since they were first invented, the thirty-six-year-old worked wonders to get information off hard drives, even when they had supposedly been wiped clean.
“I don’t know how much influence I’ll have,” Gwen said honestly. “I knew him pretty well when Kathy and I were in high school, but we’ve been out of touch for years. I’ll do everything I can to keep him from interfering in our investigation.” She supposed it would come out that she and Kathy were closer than just high school buddies, but she wasn’t ready to divulge that information yet. Her emotions were too raw to talk about it now.
“That’s all you can do,” Scott said kindly. “I’ve got the warrant to search Kathy’s apartment. Anyone want to come along? The techs should already be on the way.”
“I’ll go with you,” Gwen volunteered. “Jenny, keep up with the drug contacts and see if there’s anyone who saw her more recently. Brad, I want that car gone over from top to bottom with a fine-tooth comb. I want any trace hair or fiber analyzed. The perp had to have left something behind. The rest of you start calling her friends, acquaintances, former schoolmates. Someone had to have known who she was hanging with before she died. We’ll meet in the morning, eight a.m. sharp, to compare notes and start a whiteboard with what we know.”
They walked quietly to the parking garage. Scott slid behind the wheel and popped open the locks so Gwen could get in on the passenger side. Scott finally let out a deep breath and said, “Captain’s going to be a royal pain in the ass, Gwen. We both know that.”
“It’s his daughter. You can’t blame him for being so upset. I think I can handle him.”
“I wish you all the luck in the world. I sure hope you’re right.”
They drove the rest of the way across town in silence, each deep in thought.
Kathy’s apartment was on the east side. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood, but it was one of the older areas in town for which the city council hadn’t gotten around to authorizing any revitalization projects. Huge, leaf-bare elms and maples lined cracked sidewalks, and sagging steps led to doorways with peeling paint and rotting wood.
They found a maintenance man chopping away at dead bushes with an ax on the side of the house, and after he had scrutinized the warrant carefully, he let them in.
The apartment was relatively neat and nicely furnished. A small living room was cramped with a brown leather sofa and love seat, and a stuffed chair in a blue flower fabric with a matching ottoman. A built-in bookshelf took up the far wall and was loaded with an assortment of teddy bear figurines. To the right was a tiny kitchen with a built-in counter and two barstools. Walking further into the apartment, they found that the bedroom was the largest room, taking up the entire far end of the unit. It had a walk-in closet, office area off to the right and spacious bathroom on the left.
Scott suggested, “Let’s start in here, and we can let the forensics team know what to bag as we go along.”
“Sure,” Gwen said absentmindedly, staring in melancholy at the forest scene with black bears on the comforter covering the bed and at least a dozen stuffed bears against the headboard. Kathy saved bears of all shap
“Looks like we’re not the first to check out her belongings,” Scott commented, jerking her out of her reverie. He had been pulling out dresser drawers.
“Why do you say that?” Gwen asked.
“Everything’s been tossed. Look, every drawer is a disaster. The rest of the apartment being so neat, I doubt she’d have kept her drawers in such disarray. Look at the pile of papers pulled out of the bottom drawer.” He pointed at a scattering of papers across the carpet. “Somebody was looking for something.”
“Yeah, maybe. Someone she knew. He most likely had a key. It doesn’t look like anyone broke in.”
“Son of a bitch,” Gwen muttered under her breath. “It could have been her father. He’s going to be one step ahead of us this entire investigation, no doubt hiding what he doesn’t want us to see. He couldn’t have been very pleased with Kathy’s lifestyle, and I’m certain he’ll try to find her murderer before we do.”
“Who would do this to Kathy?” Gwen’s mind screamed with pain and frustration. Being in her apartment and touching her belongings was much harder than she’d imagined.
“No one wants their kid to be an addict. I mean, it had to be hard for him in his position to admit his daughter was a customer of the very hoodlums he was trying to lock up,” Scott said wistfully.
“Well, hopefully he missed something. I’m going to the living room. I think the techs are through dusting for prints in there now. You can finish up in here.”
Two hours later, they’d finished searching the apartment and found a laptop, an address book and two notebooks filled with scribbling, most of which seemed like gibberish. It was sadly the ranting and raving of a drug-crazed mind. They locked up and took the key with them since the maintenance man was nowhere to be found.