Russell dropped into his desk chair, another fresh cup of coffee in his hand. He took a sip, drawing in a deep breath as he set the mug down. Though he’d been at the station for a whopping six hours, he hadn’t accomplished much. He had started out his very early morning by calling the owners of the three missing guns. Of course, none of them had answered his call, which had been his hope in the first place. He needed the calls out of his way, but he hadn’t been ready to speak to another human being. Hell, he wasn’t sure when he’d be ready to speak to another person that morning.
He had left a message for all three men, including his name and number at the station. Afterward, he had spent a few hours combing through Lauren’s case file, through Vincent’s. Comparing them to find the similarities versus the differences had proven itself a difficult task, but he had managed. It hadn’t brought any new discoveries to light, but he was happy to have done it just to make sure.
Now, he had to move onto yet another difficult task: watching the traffic cam footage near Luaren’s home to see if any of the cameras caught the person who had tampered with her car.
Russell didn’t give a shit what Abby Clouse and Derek Jordan believed. Lauren hadn’t taken out her own ignition cable, and on the incredibly off chance she had, she wouldn’t have done it so he had a reason to pick her up from the house. She wouldn’t have needed a reason. Sam had never been jealous of Russell. He was certain of that. Abby and Derek’s bullshit wouldn’t change his opinion. Hell, it wouldn’t change his knowledge.
He closed his eyes for a moment. “Morning, Emey.”
Emelia cleared her throat, crossing her arms over her chest as she leaned back against the corner of the desk. “I shouldn’t have told Loo without coming to you first. You should’ve been the one to tell him, and I’m sorry for that.”
She nodded. “What’re you working on today?”
“Sifting through traffic cam footage.”
“Do you need help?”
Russell offered a smile. “I’ll be fine, Emey. Besides, you and Andy have a case to work, too. I’ll handle this one.”
Emelia watched him for several seconds before nodding. “All right. You’ll let me know if you need something?”
“Sure, Emey. I’ll let you know.”
“Good,” she whispered. She gave his arm a tight squeeze and pushed herself away from his desk. “Good luck, Russ.”
“No problem.” Emilia walked away without complaint or question. Russell considered himself thankful for that. There were a lot of things he could put up with that day. Fielding questions from Emilia wasn’t one of them.
Russell let out a breath, turning back toward his computer. While he waited for the gun owners to get back to him, he’d start with the traffic cam footage forNovember twenty-fourth. If it turned up nothing, he’d move to the days leading up to it, up until the very damn moment that he found the bastard who pulled the ignition cable from Lauren’s car.
Though Russell had been a homicide cop for quite some time and a cop for even longer, he had never been more thankful that a house was near a traffic camera than he was that Friday. While watching the footage for November twenty-second, the Sunday before Lauren had been shot, he found exactly what he’d been looking for.
At five AM that Sunday morning, a car had turned onto the road and parked two houses away from Lauren’s place. The driver had gotten out, jogged back to Lauren’s, pulled out the ignition cable, and pulled open the passenger side door. Russell assumed that was when the bastard had tucked it into the glovebox. The driver had jogged back to the car, gotten in, and driven away.
In under five minutes, Lauren’s car had been rendered incapable of going anywhere but the driveway.
Rusell put in the parameters to save the five minute section of the clip to his computer. He tapped over to his email and sent it to Ellie with a request to estimate the height on the bastard. Or, ‘the suspect’, as he chose to detail the man in his email. He knew it would take Ellie more than a minute or two to get around to his email. There had been a homicide late the night before, and Ellie was most likely still busy processing evidence.
So while he waited, he wrote down the license plate number of the vehicle and ran it through the system.
Marilyn Briggs. Russell expanded the alert at the bottom of his screen, shoulders sinking. The car had been reported stolen the same day it had driven past Lauren’s place. Dispatch had received the call about the stolen vehicle around six PM on the twenty-second. Apparently, Marilyn and her husband had been gone all day, returning from an early supper in her husband’s car.
The car had never been found.
Russell leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. How many damn cases would he have to work through before he found this guy?
Standing outside the Briggs’s house, Russell knocked on the door. It wasn’t long before a woman opened it. “Can I help you?”
Russell smiled, holding up his badge. “Detective Russell Steele. Last year, you reported your car stolen. I was wondering if you’d be willing to answer a few questions about that.”
“Is there still a point? It’s been almost a year, and this is the first follow-up with me.”
Marilyn nodded. “There were cops that spoke to me when I reported it, and then it was transferred to a burglary and robbery detective, and that was… it.” She raised a brow, crossing her arms over her chest. “Is it you?”
“No, ma’am. I’m a homicide cop.” Russell cleared his throat, tucking his badge back into his pocket.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m investigating the murder of one of our own. I’ve traced a connection back to a separate case, where a traffic cam caught your car in the vicinity of… we’ll say a crime scene. You and your husband were out for the day. This around five AM on the day you reported the car missing. I know you were not driving it, but I would love to know if you have anything that could lead me away from the drawing board.”
“Maybe. I-I can see what I can do.” She took a step back. “Would you like to come in for coffee?”
“I would love that, thank you.”
“Of course. Come on in, Detective.”
Russell’s phone dinged with a text as he walked into the station.
Russell: Yes please. Need me to come get you?
Theo: Yes. Unless you wanted to eat in the parking lot again. Then you can bring food?
Theo: But only if you let me pay you for my share.
A little smile tugged at one corner of Russell’s mouth.
Russell: I’m heading out now. Throw some food ideas my way. Be there soon.
Russell helped Theodore onto the hood of his car before lifting himself up to sit beside him. “Two slices of Casey’s pizza and a large pop.”
Theodore smiled. “Thank you,” he said, grabbing the bag and the pop from him.
“No problem.” Russell took a sip of his own pop. “How’s today gone so far?”
“Not bad. We’re preparing for a book signing and book reading, so that’s cool. Local author, indie release. Pretty exciting.” Theodore smiled. “For a book nerd, anyway.”
“That’s cool as hell, even for a dumb cop.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Russell smiled. “I know, Theo. I don’t mean you said it. You’d never say anything like that about me. My favorite cop hater was at Casey’s.”
“I’m sorry, Russ.”
“It’s all right. I’m used to it.” He leaned back against his windshield, letting out a sigh. “How was breakfast?”
“Good. Your friends should teach you to cook.”
Russell laughed, holding his cup on his chest. “They should, yeah. But that’d be much less fun than having you teach me.”
Theodore looked back at him. “Why’s that?”
“My friends totally wouldn’t hold my hand to stir things or cut up carrots. My friends wouldn’t touch my back while we wait for the sauce to simmer long enough. They wouldn’t press little kisses to my shoulder. Those are all crucial elements to my learning process, Theo.”
Theodore chuckled. “Yeah, I’m sure they are, dickhead.”
Russell smiled at him, teeth and all. That felt damn good. “Hey, speaking of my learning process, after Vera goes to bed tonight, and after I fix your shoulder, you should teach me to make a desert.”
“Are you sure you’re up to that?”
“Yeah. I need tonight to be focused on anything but this case before I become a fucking conspiracy theorist.”
Theodore’s brow furrowed, but he didn’t push the statement. “Okay. What kind of dessert are you thinking?”
“I’m pretty sure I’ve already taught you how to make brownies.”
“And I’m pretty sure there’s more than one type of brownie.”
Theodore chuckled. “Okay, brownies it is. You’ll have to tell me what kind you’d like before my shift ends. I’ll have Gina take me to the grocery store.”
“Or we can go together.”
“Your shift ends after mine.”
“Yeah. I’ll just be on call for the first two hours or so. Unless, Godforbid, another cop gets shot, I won’t be called in.”
“Okay. You… can pick me up here at five.”
“Lookin’ forward to it.” Russell sat up, laying a hand on Theodore’s knee. “Can you pick out the recipe, or should I? Shit, that sounded condescending, didn’t it?”
“No, I get it. I normally can’t choose stuff because I’m not used to being in control. Not condescending at all.” Theodore patted his hand. “You wanna talk about station stuff? Or just brownies and bookstores?”
“Brownies and bookstores work great for me.”
Theodore smiled, giving his hand a tight squeeze. “Sounds good to me, Russ.”
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