"Gamma hydroxybutyric acid, GHB," Nathan said.
"GHB?" Kelli repeated, shocked. "The date rape drug?"
"One of those drugs they slip in your drink and it knocks you out completely?" Pam asked.
"Yeah, that's what they found in Chris' blood. The nausea, the dizziness and drowsiness, it all fits."
"People who take drugs do it to get high, they don't take GHB."
Vin heard the relief in Ezra's voice and he nodded, agreeing. "So he was drugged by someone else."
"Looks that way," Nathan affirmed. "When given enough GHB you black out completely, but you need a high enough dosage for that. In a lower dose it can make you very relaxed and have you loose any inhibition you might have. In Chris' blood they found the first amount, he was knocked out solidly."
Buck thumped his fist on the table in frustration, causing everyone to look at him.
"Damn, we need to talk to him, find out what he remembers."
"Yeah, we do," JD said from behind CASSIE, a concerned look on his face. "We really need to talk to Chris, Vin. The numbers Best called? Four days ago he called Chris."
Stunned silence followed this piece of news. Finally Vin asked, "You sayin' Chris was on the phone with Best? Four days ago? Three days before the murder?"
"Y... yeah." JD swallowed nervously, but he didn't back down from the angry glare coming his way.
"You said it, Vin," Buck sighed. He had both hands in his dark hair and looked pained. "What a shit case this is."
Somber looks were visible all around the table. Then Vin stood up. "I'm gonna contact Raphael and Mark, they need to know this and ask Chris about it. And they better get in there as fast as they can."
"They still won't be out until tomorrow, Vin."
"Yeah, but I don't think they'll be denied a phone call. When's your friend on duty, Buck?"
"He starts at the beginning of the evening, around eight."
"Ask him if he can arrange for them to have some privacy when they call. If it's too much they have to tell, they'll just have to do it in two phone calls, one for Raphael and another one for Mark."
"The rest of you, keep workin' every angle we got and make sure you've found everything on Natalie Thompson. I wanna find the man who's been beatin' up James Best for her. We find him, we might find a motive for murder."
+ + + + + + +
Chris' head was pounding and he felt like shit. All morning Summerton had been hammering away at him, yelling at him, trying to put ideas into his head. And all he'd had against the accusations was the fact he didn't remember anything.
Which was, in effect, nothing at all.
After hours and hours of interrogation they'd finally let him go back to his cell. It didn't help. Pacing up and down the small space, he tried to put his thoughts in order, tried to keep a hold onto the belief he hadn't done this, hadn't murdered a man he didn't even know, had never seen before.
Only, it was hard not to waver with all the evidence piled against him.
Shit, but he hated how smug Summerton had looked when he had thrown the ballistics and coroners reports down, evidence that yes, it had been bullets out of his gun that had killed the victim.
A victim he still didn't know anything about.
The line up had been the worst. Standing there among all those other men who remotely resembled him; being told to come forward, to turn around, to say something. And of course being identified.
Bastard. The line up hadn't been necessary at all. They had found him at the scene, with the gun. The couple that had stumbled right into this mess had already told their story, everything cut and dry. They didn't need to pick him out of a line after all that.
Summerton had positively glowed about it. The man was having the time of his life thinking up shit to put him through.
After having heard the story over and over again how he had walked up to the body and pulled his gun on the couple, how forensics had proven his bullets had been the ones to kill the victim, how it was clear he had shot from the gunpowder found on him... after having heard it from every angle Summerton could think of and having been confronted with the officers who had first arrived at the scene, he really started to believe he had done it after all.
Drugged... that was what Summerton had told him. He'd definitely been drugged, they had found drugs in his blood.
"Probably high as a kite," Summerton had sneered. "You didn't know what you were doing, did you? The victim has convictions for drugs dealings, is that what it was all about? He didn't want to give you the stuff?"
At that point he had only been able to shake his head in denial, pain pounding through his skull.
"So you like drugs, Larabee? Is that it? Tell me, how does it feel? Does it give you a rush like they always say? Make the world a better place? Give you good feelings? Come on, it seems you know all about it."
He had shut down then, not wanting to hear anymore, not wanting to hear about the good feelings drugs can give you. It hit too close to home.
He didn't do drugs, he couldn't have. He'd never touched them again after... after the Donner case. Ever.
"Too bad someone had to die for those good feelings," Summerton had sneered and Chris had felt sick.
Because it all sounded so plausible now.
"What drug?" he had finally asked.
"Something that makes you relax completely, make you lose all inhibitions. Is that why you wanted the drug, Chris? To relax? God knows you've got a really though job, maybe it was too much."
Damn the bastard for putting all these doubts into his mind!
Chris stopped pacing and fell down on the bunk in his cell. The other inmates had been taunting him again when finally he had been brought back to his cell, but Chris had ignored them completely and by now they had stopped. It was no fun trying to rattle someone who didn't even seem to hear you. And on some level Chris really hadn't heard them; his thoughts were filled with his doubts, his two precious babies at home and attempts to remember something, anything.
He leaned against the wall behind him, feet tucked up, arms wrapped around his knees. It wasn't just the doubts that began eating at him, or the thoughts about his family and children, it was also being locked up for the second day now. Locked up like this, being forced to sit still, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, it was eating at his nerves.
And still his head pounded like crazy.
"Larabee, wake up!"
He looked up. Two cops were standing behind the guard, who was putting a key in the heavy lock on his door.
Not again. What the hell had Summerton thought of doing now?
"Come on." The guard gestured him out of his cell, where the two cops stood waiting. Soon handcuffs encircled his wrists once more.
The guard came grumbling out of his cell, carrying his lunch tray.
"You have to eat, Larabee. You didn't touch your breakfast either."
"Move," one of the cops told him, giving him a push. When they left the prisons hall and entered the rest of the police station, for some reason it was even harder to ignore all the stares he was getting than it had been that morning. This time he had to walk a lot further, because they went to another interrogation room at the front of the Police Station. Once there one of the cops pulled out his keys.
"You're not thinking about getting those cuffs off, are you?" the other cop asked, looking at his partner incredulously.
"Yes, I am. I ain't gonna let him in there with those on."
"This is against Summerton's rules as it is and you want to make it even worse?"
The cop with the key snorted. "You should hear the Chief about those rules. And he's still my boss, not Summerton. Larabee, turn around."
"It's your call."
"See if I care."
The cuffs fell from his hands and Chris waited in confusion for what would happen next. The reluctant cop opened the door and motioned him inside.
When he entered the interrogation room he heard a loud whoop and the next thing he knew a little tornado jumped him.
"Grace," he whispered, gathering her close to him, very close. It felt so good to hold her, it almost hurt. Over her head he saw Dottie Morris, their daily caregiver, standing with little Cody in her arms. The moment he looked at his son, the baby started to wail, small arms stretched out to him. Hastily he shifted Grace to one hip and took Cody in his other arm. The baby buried its face against his chest and hiccupped.
"Hey, Son." Carefully he placed a kiss on the wisp of blond hair. Cody responded by trying to bury himself deeper, thump in his mouth.
"Me kiss!" Grace immediately demanded. He grinned at his feisty eldest.
"Really? You want a kiss?"
"Da!" She scowled at him and he hastily complied by kissing her on her brow.
"There. That better?" A beaming smile and two warm arms around his neck, nearly choking him, was his answer.
It felt so good to be wrapped up in tiny arms, to feel his two children against him. So good he had forgotten the situation for a moment, but the clearing of a throat behind him put him back to earth.
"I'm sorry, but you better be quick about this, Agent Larabee. As you know Agent Summerton had given strict instructions you weren't allowed any visitors or phone calls or anything."
"Didn't seem right, them kids have done nothing wrong," the other cop said. "They should be allowed to see their daddy; we know you're all they got."
"Still, the Chief said we can't let them stay long."
"I understand," he said, grateful for what the cops of the Denver PD were doing for him. He went to a chair with his son and daughter still in his arms and sat down, settling them in his lap.
"Thanks for bringing them, Miss Dottie." He tried to convey his gratitude with a deep smile. She smiled back and took the chair across from him.
"You are very welcome, Chris. Kelli told me you weren't even allowed a phone call with your children. She said Vin and Ezra raised quite some hell here when they found out you were kept isolated. Anyway, since I feel very strongly it is completely wrong and both of them missed you so much, I decided I had to bring them here in person and ask the officers of the law if they wanted to be responsible for the misery of these two angels."
He heard a muffled cough behind him and then the door closed.
"Seems you made quite an impression, Miss Dottie."
"No, no, they just didn't fancy two little children crying all afternoon in their squad room. And they would have too, because I was not about to leave without them having seen you. Especially Grace was quite upset."
"She... she was?"
"Oh... oh my, I shouldn't have said that. Chris, you know we take very good care of them, don't you? There is nothing for you to worry about."
"Da, da!" Grace became impatient with the conversation between the two adults and clambered up until she stood on his lap, little shoes digging into his leg, little arms again almost choking him with their tight embrace.
"Da tell 'tory?" She pushed her forehead against his in an attempt to look him as close as possible in the eye. "Want my 'tory!"
"She didn't want anyone else tell her a bedtime story, Chris," Dottie told him, her eyes on the little girl. "God, we were so worried Tuesday when you didn't come home and no one knew where you were. Vin, Buck, Ezra and Josiah searched everywhere, while Nathan and JD checked all the hospitals."
She didn't say it had been awful, but it was clear to Chris anyway. He hugged his children closer and said softly to Grace. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I really wanted to tell you your bedtime story, but I couldn't come."
The door opened behind him.
"Mister Larabee, we better end this visit before Agent Summerton comes back."
"I... I understand." He hugged his babies tightly to his chest, not wanting to let them go out of his arms ever again. Another warning made him reluctantly hand over Cody to Miss Dottie. It was even harder to put Grace on the floor; she clung to him with all her strength. When the two officers led him back to his cell, the loud wailing of his children followed him.
It cut him right through the heart.
"Here you go."
He stepped inside the hated cell and the door closed behind him with an ominous clang, which finally made him turn towards the two cops.
"Thank you," he told them simply. They both nodded and hurried away.
With a sigh he set down on the bed, thinking about how good it had been to hold Grace and Cody. Wondering if it would be the last time, if the next time he would see them through a thick glass wall, talking to them through a telephone.
No, he wasn't going to let that happen. If he was convicted for this, he was going to get Vin's and Kelli's solemn promise that they would make Grace and Cody forget him. Give them the lives they deserved without being weighted down by a father in jail.
Ten paces to the window, stare outside for a few seconds, ten paces back into the office, turn, ten paces to the window, stare, ten paces back....
Vin couldn't keep still while he waited for the phone call that would tell him Raphael and Mark were in. Damn, but he hated this waiting, hated it with a vengeance.
The big irony of it was, once he knew the two men were in, he would have to wait again.
When the phone finally rang he had to take a deep breath before he managed to answer. It wasn't Buck though, who was on stake-out and would be contacted by his friend Charlie. It was Kelli, asking if there was any news.
"Nah, Kel, nothing. I'm still waitin'."
"Shall I come over? The kids are asleep now, yes, even Grace and Cody. Dottie was wonderful. She decided to go and sleep in the same room with them and it did wonders for Grace. So I could come if you need me."
"It's all right, Baby, nothing I can't handle and I think it's important that at least one of us will be there for the kids come mornin'."
"Tanner, I know how you handle waiting, not good." He heard her sigh on the other end of the telephone, a deep, sad sigh. "But you're right, I better be around. Miss Dottie taking the kids to see Chris has taken a lot out of Grace. I think that's another reason they both are sleeping soundly now, they were exhausted."
"I still can't believe she got in."
Kelli laughed. "She brought enough food and diapers to camp there for days and she told the cops they weren't leavin' until the kids had seen their father, as was their right. She believes changing Cody's diapers right in the middle of the main hall helped their case a lot. Plus she's not an agent. From what she heard, Summerton uses the fact we all are Chris' agents to validate isolating him."
"Dottie Morris is something else and I'm glad Chris got to see them, but I'm not so sure it was the right thing to do for the kids. It must've been hard on them."
"Vin, Grace really needed to see her dad. Cody is so small, most of it passes him by. He does feel the atmosphere and especially how upset Grace is, but he'll be all right. Grace though... she needed to see that her father hadn't suddenly up and disappeared on her like her mother had, that Chris hadn't left her alone. It's what's been on her mind all this time. Miss Dottie and Max found that out the hard way. The poor little thing was throwing everything she could get her hands on and tried to hit the other kids, even Jason and you know how she looks up to him. She was so angry with the whole world. Luckily Dottie somehow found out what was going on in her head and that was why she went to the police station with them, to show Grace that Chris was still around. She took Cody as well for Chris' sake and also in the hope that having him there would make it feel a little like family again for Grace."
"Damn, I hadn't thought about that. I hope we won't have the same problem whenever Chris has to leave for an assignment."
"I know. But at least then he can try and prepare her beforehand. And he can call. That's different from havin' him disappear all of a sudden with everyone around her worried like hell."
"I sure hope so, I wouldn't want to see her suffer every time Chris has to go away. Kel, I gotta go, there's another line comin' in. You get some sleep, Honey, turn in early, you need it."
"I will. But I'm keepin' my phone right beside me, so you call when you know something, you hear?"
"It's a promise. I love you, Texas."
"Love you too, Tanner."
The other call was Buck, finally. Raphael and Mark were in. Vin fell into his chair with a feeling of relief.
Chris? Chris, help is on it's way, bro. We'll get you out of this, I promise."
+ + + + + + +
Chris frowned. He could have sworn he felt Vin, trying to tell him something. Would that mean the drug was finally out of his system? He could try and find out, but he didn't know if he had the guts for it. Now that he had seen Grace and Cody were all right, he wasn't sure he wanted to face any of his family, not as long as he didn't know how he had gotten drugged.
A commotion distracted him from his morose thoughts. Five prisoners were brought in, two of them trying to get to the other three every chance they got, despite the cuffs and the police officers around them. One of these two was cursing in Spanish with such speed Chris couldn't follow what he was saying. The second one, the youngest of them all, yelled the most avid descriptions to the other three prisoners about themselves, their families and especially their ancestors.
"Oh, do shut up," the guard on duty said in disgust. "Throw them both in here, then we can put the other three in the last of the cells."
The two snarling and kicking men were thrown in the cell on the side where Chris' bunk was, the other three ended up in the cell on his other side. Chris didn't pay any attention to them; he was too busy watching Mark and Raphael in a manner that wouldn't give his interest away.
What the hell was going on?
He had thought about this, about having his agents get themselves into a one night lock up, even talked about it with Vin. Only, why would Vin do it now? What was behind it? He knew the biker case had to go on, but no way was this a coincidence.
He lay down on the small, hard bunk, so he would be available if Mark or Raphael wanted to talk to him. With one arm flung over his head to hide his face he waited, leaving the decision up to them. He had screwed up enough as it was; he wasn't going to screw up his agent's covers as well.
Mark and Raphael kept shouting, until the inmates across from them joined in. Soon Mark was engaged in a name calling contest the likes of which Chris never had thought him capable of. He suppressed a grin. Damn, but the kid could be colorful.
As he had expected, Raphael used Mark's noise to try and contact him. The agent put his back against the bars right beside Chris' cell, bowed his head and hissed, "Chris, we know you were drugged with GHB and we need to find out how it happened. We need to know what you can remember."
GHB? The date rape drug? Chris gasped in surprise. He had been drugged with the date rape drug?
Then it dawned and a huge feeling of relief washed over him. GHB wasn't a drug you took yourself; it was something others gave you, slipped into your drink. He hadn't taken something himself after all, no matter what Summerton had tried to make him believe. Damn the bastard for twisting the facts on him.
"You sure?" he whispered back, needing to know.
"Yes, it was in your blood tests, didn't they tell you? You were given enough to knock you out solid. Chris, what is the last thing you remember?"
He remembered leaving MCAT late afternoon, his sports bag ready in his truck and turning down the road to Denver....
"Shit, the gym!"
Images tumbled over themselves, images of going to 'Freddy's Boxing School', like he always did on a Tuesday ever since he joined the Denver PD so many years ago and where he still went if he had the chance, best place in town to practice boxing. No matter how elaborate his fighting training was, with the ATF and now with MCAT, whenever he could he still went there for some old-fashioned boxing training.
He simply loved to box, always had since he was an enraged and distressed teenager who needed an outlet for his trouble at home. It relaxed him like no other sport could, except maybe running through the woods behind Larabee 7.
As always he had taken some orange juice at the bar before going home, only this time he didn't remember leaving. Actually, he remembered nothing after being at the bar, until waking up the following morning into a nightmare.
"Chris? You still there?"
"Yeah, sorry. I went to Freddy's Boxing School like most Tuesdays when I'm able to and the last thing I remember was drinking something at the bar."
"And that's the last you know? Being at the bar of this Boxing School?"
"You remember who was there as well?"
"Susan was behind the bar as usual. There were two giggling girls and some big guy with short orange hair. Damn, the very last I remember is him walking up to me."
"Seems like someone to focus on. And the girls, you remember how they looked like?"
"Not really. One blonde, with long straight hair, the other had short and curly brown hair. They were huddled together, heads close to each other, couldn't see them very well." After a brief pause he added, "I think Susan knows them."
"Is Susan dependable?"
"Yeah, she's a regular. Guess I trust her."
"We'll talk to her, ask her about the others. Chris, there's one more thing. The murder victim called you, three days before the murder."
He bolted upright, forgetting to be careful.
"Damn Summerton! Damn him all the way to hell!"
Mark started rattling the cell door to cover Chris' outburst, while Raphael hissed, "Sssh, Chris, please. Stay careful. You remember him calling you?"
"I don't know. Don't even know who the victim is."
"They didn't tell you?"
"They didn't? What kind of investigation is this? Bastards. His name's James Best, Chris."
James Best.... Chris rolled the name around in his head, but it didn't ring any bells.
"He called you Saturday evening, around six."
The guy who had said he had information on the Platte murder, a murder from years and years ago, one of his last cases with the Denver PD.
"Yeah, I remember that. A man called and said he had information on a case gone cold. A body found in the Platte, of a small time drugs dealer. Buck knows the case."
"We'll get into it."
"Raphael? I asked him if he wanted to meet. He didn't. Said he wanted me to have the evidence, but he had to be careful. That he would put it in a post office box and let me know which one, send me the key to it. I decided to let it be and wait for his next move, be sure this was genuine first."
"Damn. I guess you never did get anything?"
"No," Chris said, defeated. It was too much of a coincidence that this man had turned up dead, with him framed for it, right after he wanted to give Chris evidence about a murder. He had the strong feeling they needed that evidence to find out what was going on.
"Chris, we have enough to prove you were framed."
"No, you don't. It's my word only that that's what the victim told me. Summerton will say he probably called me for a drugs deal. He wants me to go down, Raphael."
"Hey! You! Mexico! What you talking with him for? Don't you know he's a cop?" a voice from the cells across theirs called out. It was one of the inmates who had been trying to get a reaction out of Chris before.
"Shit," Raphael mumbled. Then he yelled. "Oh yeah? If he is, how come you didn't tell me right away? Huh? You like seeing me chat with a cop or something? That turn you on?"
"Jesus, what you going off at me for? I just warned you, didn't I?"
"Sure you do! Now! You stupid, arrogant pig head! Danny, you hear that? Our neighbor's a cop and these loco's didn't even tell us!"
With Raphael joining the shouting match, things soon got to a deafening noise. It wasn't long until the guard came back, with some cops to give him cover. Deciding that Mark and Raphael were the most guilty ones, they were hauled away to have a 'little chat' as the guard told them, and some time to themselves to cool off.
About half an hour later they were back, looking angry and disheveled. Again they were shoved into the cell next to Chris, where a brief fight ensued about who would have the bunk and who the floor. Chris kept silent, not wanting to jeopardize his men's covers even more. He had to trust them, trust that the information they had gotten from him would get to the right place. No matter how much he hated being helpless, it was out of his hands.
Soon the main lights went out and Chris found himself staring at the ceiling, just like the night before. Only this time he felt hope. Not only because MCAT clearly was on the case, trying to help him, but mostly because of what Raphael had told him.
GHB, the date rape drug. He really hadn't taken anything himself. He still had this thing with drugs under control.
The relief about that was so strong, he couldn't stop smiling.
"Walter's sure about this?" Vin asked, looking at a number of pictures on his desk, all showing the perimeters around Larabee 7. The pictures came partly from the security cameras set up around the ranch; the others were made by Walter himself.
Kelli nodded. "Yes. You know how thorough his security checks are." She took two of the pictures and put them down side by side. "See? This fence was clearly compromised and so was this camera here. It's the one between the fence and Chris' house. Someone used the commotion Summerton and his men brought when they came wavin' their search warrant and got in at about the same time. They were probably following Summerton, or they were watchin' the ranch and took their changes when Summerton arrived. Anyway, it now looks like someone else went through Chris' house right after Summerton and his agents left. Wracking it seems to be one thing that bastard really didn't do."
"So it was others who took it apart. Interesting...."
"Interesting? What you call interestin' I call one giant mess! I didn't want to tell you how bad it was before, because you've got enough on your mind and the home front is handling it just fine, but it was vandalism, pure and simple. Dottie and Max had to ask some of the ranch hands to help clean it all up; even Rain's, Casey's, Nettie's and Inez's help wasn't enough. It's slowly starting to look like a home again, but there's still a lot of replacin' to do. That's why Mallory and Barbara are shopping right now. We wanted to at least replace the messed up toys, Grace is starting to ask about them. 'Specially since she, Cody and Dottie will have to stay with us for the duration."
"Bastards. If we ever find out who did it, there's gonna be hell to pay."
Kelli nodded in agreement. "I think whoever did it got very mad. It looked like they were tryin' to find something and didn't succeed. I wonder what it could be."
"Since last night we know what it is," Vin told her. "Raphael got a call through. We better go to the War room and put all the pieces together." He took his wife in his arms and hugged her tight. "Damn, but you have the brunt of it, Kel. You handle the case and the home situation both. I should have found a moment to come home, maybe this mornin'."
She hugged him right back. "We're doin' fine, Vin and the kids totally understand." She grinned up at him. "I better warn you, Jason and Andi have been telling Grace she don't need to worry, because you are out here working on it and you'll bring Chris home."
"Aw hell, what if I can't?"
"Yes, you can," she said softly, pulling his head down for a warm, lingering kiss. "You have my faith as well and so does everyone else here. We're doin' our jobs as always and we'll get Chris out of this mess. Besides, I saw that gleam in your eyes when I came in. You don't fool me, Tanner, you're up to something."
"Maybe, but we have to stay careful. Summerton is without a doubt tryin' to nail Chris for this murder. Raphael was real angry when he called. Summerton hadn't even told Chris he was drugged with GHB."
Kelli hissed in anger. "He didn't? That's low. Makes you wonder what else he's keeping from Chris, or maybe even outright lyin' about to get him confused enough to confess. How did he get to handle this investigation anyway?"
"That's what I've sent JD and Mallory to find out. Come on, let's rally the troops and review all the evidence we have so far."
Soon everyone was gathered around the huge table. Bones was there as well, to give them an update on the forensic investigation.
"Let's see what we got," Vin said. "First I'll give you all a heads up about what Raphael and Mark found out. They managed to get in jail with Chris and thanks to Buck's friend they could phone me around eleven p.m. This is what Raphael told me. The last thing Chris remembered was being in the bar of Freddy's Boxing School, as y'all know the place he likes to go to once a week to keep his boxin' in style. He remembered drinking something at the bar and then nothing. The other thing Raphael asked him, was about the phone call Chris received from Best Saturday evening. Chris didn't recognize the name, but he remembered the call. He said whoever it was wanted to give him evidence on a murder case he and Buck couldn't solve when they were with the Denver PD. A case over ten years old now."
"Yeah," Buck took over. "I've immediately asked JD and Pam to download the files." He threw a picture in the middle of the table. "The victim was Tony Beretta, a smalltime dealer. His body was found in the Platte, murdered with two gunshots. We figured he probably tried to butt in on someone else's turf, but never found any lead as to who's turf, or if it was the real reason. Just some body floating in the Platte, a young man no one missed."
"According to Raphael, Best told Chris he would put the evidence in a post office box and would send Chris the number and key to it. But he never did," Vin continued.
Josiah leaned back in his chair, a thoughtful look on his face. "That would give us the following scenario. Someone finds out about Best's plans, most probably the killer or else someone who knows him and tells him about it. The killer wants to keep the damaging information from coming out. He decides Best is too dangerous and has to be killed. But he also needs Chris out of the way, so he can search for the evidence. Furthermore, he doesn't know what Best has already told Chris, so he sees him as another danger. For some reason he decides not to kill Chris, maybe because he is afraid to kill an officer of the law, maybe because he has already thought about setting him up for the murder of Best. In any case, that is what he does; he drugs Chris and sets him up."
"How would he know he had to have Chris?" Justin asked.
"That is something we can only speculate about," Josiah told him. "The killer might have gotten the information from Best himself, after he found out what Best was up to. Maybe threatened him, hurt him, and Best talked. Or perhaps, in the scenario where someone warned the killer about this, that person also knew who Best's contact was, which would suggest the killer was given the information by someone Best trusted. We do not know at this point. It might be prudent to look into everyone who had a close relationship with Best."
As soon as Josiah stopped speaking Pamela jumped up and started looking through a pile of photographs. The moment she saw them all looking at her she stopped, smiling a bit sheepishly.
"It's eh... when you mentioned the post office box, Captain, I remembered seeing a piece of paper with a number on it. It suddenly hit me where I saw it. It was in the wallet you had me photograph every item from and I thought, well...."
"Yes!" JD jumped up as well, all exited. "That's right, I remember that piece of paper too! You think it might be the number of a post office box?" He also dove in the pile and soon he and Pam found what they were looking for.
"Here. It's on a scrap of paper, torn out of something, with only a number on it, 21389."
He gave the photo to Vin, who looked at it with raising excitement.
"Yeah, this could very well be it. Team, we're finally gettin' somewhere. I'll inform Travis that we're goin' to get this post office box opened, I don't care what it takes. We'll probably have to flash our authority for that, but we need what's in there."
"We are getting even further," Ezra said smugly. "JD and his team found out who owned the beautiful Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport we witnessed not quite stopping at Miss Thompson's front door and therefore who in all probability her protector is. It is her brother, Wesley Thompson. His police file is much thicker than the one we have on Best. It seems this man has not done one day of earnest work in his life. Drugs are his most important source of revenue, although he also has some side businesses in stolen properties. He does not deal in the average street drugs though; he handles the more sophisticated ones that are trafficked amongst the diverse clientele of sports clubs."
"Sport clubs?" Kelli asked. "Like this Freddy's?"
Buck immediately glowered at her. "Now wait a minute, Kelli. Chris and I have been going there for a very long time and it's always been clean, Freddy makes sure of that."
Vin held up his hand. "Let's focus on the facts, everyone. It's a fact that Chris' last memories are of bein' in Freddy's Boxing School, but nothing about drugs bein' trafficked, so let's not go there at this point. First we follow the new leads we have. Josiah and I went to the club immediately after Raphael's call, to see a certain Susan Chris mentioned, who was tendin' the bar. Luckily we caught her just as they were closing up. She confirmed Chris' story about Tuesday. All right everyone, this is what we know about Chris' last conscious moments as told by him and Susan Knowles. Chris worked out at Freddy's Boxing School, like we all know he's been doin' for many years now."
And like you won't be doing again, Cowboy, if I can help it. This routine has just proven to be a liability, he thought to himself.
"After his workout he went to the bar for some juice, before goin' home. The only other people around at that time were two girls and a big, burly man. Chris didn't know any of them, but Susan knows the girls. They're friends of hers and she was mostly chatting with them that Tuesday. She was embarrassed to say about what at first, but, well, turns out they were talkin' about Chris'... eh... good points."
Buck snorted. "That's gotta be the shortest talk in history, since we all know he ain't got any."
His remark brought some much needed laughter and Vin threw him a thankful look. Tension was high after days of frustration and not enough sleep; it was about time the mood turned a bit lighter. He could also hear relief in the laughs, relief of finally having some solid information to go on.
"The last thing Chris remembered was seeing the other man in the bar comin' up to him", he resumed when everyone was silent again. "The last thing Susan remembered of Chris, was that this man went to him and then they left together. She thought Chris knew him, especially since when they left the man's arm was around Chris' shoulder and they seemed pretty close. Because she and her friends were sort of lookin' Chris over, she got a good look at this stranger as well, so I've arranged for her to go through pictures this mornin'. In the mean time, this is the description she gave and it matches what Chris told Raphael. We're after a tall, burly man, Susan thought he probably did some weight training or body buildin'. He has very short, orange hair, blue eyes, a nose that looked like it's been broken once, he was wearin' a leather jacket and...."
"That's the guy who set next to Natalie's brother in his fancy car!" Buck yelled.
"It certainly sounds like him," Ezra agreed and Kelli nodded vigorously.
They all looked at each other and then Bones threw some photos on the table. They were pictures taken from tire marks that had been found close to the scene of the crime.
"You know what made them," Vin said.
"Why do I have the feeling I already know?" Ezra asked.
Bones grinned at him. "You are very observant when it comes to fancy cars, aren't you? Did you notice anything about the tires of the one this brother drove?"
"They seemed to be the original tires of the Grand Sport, tires from Goodyear. They had Goodyear on them in letters that are impossible to overlook."
"Yeah," Buck agreed. "Big, white letters, sure to be noticed by everyone you wanna impress."
"I don't know about original tires, but what we found were tracks of the Goodyear G12A Blue Streak, a tire which has the name Goodyear on it in big, white letters." He looked at Vin. "I would love to take a look at this vehicle."
"Maybe you should go with Kelli and Ezra when they pay Mister Thompson a visit," Vin said. "Can you determine upon seeing them if they're the right tires?"
"Oh, I certainly can. By now I've seen enough of this particular tire to give me nightmares. When do we leave?"
"Immediately after this session's over."
Soon the tasks were set. Ezra and Kelli would pay Wesley Thompson a visit and Bones would go with them to see the tires of Thompson's car. Josiah and Justin would take Susan through the pictures at the police station, all arranged courtesy of Captain Bob Frisco. Frisco wasn't too pleased with the way Summerton was handling the investigation against Chris after having taken it out of his hands and was glad to help. Vin and Buck would go after the evidence in the post office box as soon as Vin had conferred with Travis.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra and Kelli immediately spotted Wesley Thompson when they drove into the Avenue he lived on. The man was washing his beautiful Chevrolet with infinite care and Ezra couldn't help but sigh.
"Such a beauty should never be in the hands of a lowlife like Thompson."
"Oh, come on, Ezra. It's mostly lowlifes who own such fancy cars, in the hopes it will convince everyone they're a real man. Fancy cars like Jags and such."
Ezra spluttered indignantly, while behind him Bones chuckled.
"Can we please do our job without the disparaging remarks?"
"Sure, Ez," Kelli agreed sweetly.
Ezra decided not to react. He concentrated on parking the jag close enough to the beautiful Chevrolet Grand Sport to be noticed and exited with a flourish, flashing his ID.
"A good day, Sir. And what a pleasure to see this beauty up close. As you see I have opted for a Jag, due to my line of work, but I have to say, the Grand Sport 1964 was one of the vehicles I seriously contemplated."
"You're a cop? Oh, you're one of those who bothered my sister, ain't you?"
"I beg your pardon? I never spoke with your sister, on my word of honor. My name is Ezra Standish and these are my associates Kelli Coulter and Robert Metfield."
Bones nodded at Summers, before walking around the sleek sports car, but Kelli stared at Thompson with hard, angry eyes. Ezra sighed. Although he understood Kelli's anger, he felt this wasn't the time for it. Ignoring her for the moment he turned his full attention to the car.
"I see you take excellent care of her. She looks fabulous."
"Off course I do. Now, what do you want?"
"Merely a routine matter, I promise. We are investigating the death of James Best, which was the reason we visited your sister."
Thompson narrowed his eyes. "They already have the killer."
"Really? How would you know?"
"My sister told me and she was told by a cop."
Behind him Kelli snorted. "That imbecile...." Ezra coughed loudly, throwing an irritated glare over his shoulder. It seemed to help, Kelli snapped her mouth shut. The anger was still in her eyes though.
"What my partner was trying to say is, that the agent who gave your sister this information was out of line. The murder inquiry is still fully open. In that retrospect I would like to hear about your own relationship with the deceased."
"Relationship? We didn't have much of one. He shacked with my sister, that's about all."
"Please, please, Mister Thompson, do not insult my intelligence, I beg of you. I was the agent who talked with your sister's neighbors, you know." Ezra stepped closer to the car, his eyes riveted on it.
"They told me some interesting stories about a man driving a beautiful, dark blue sports car, a man who on several occasions beat Miss Thompson's lover. Quite severely at one time too, I believe. There was mention of rather extensive bruising."
"Yeah? They also tell you about the beatings my sister received from the hands of this asshole?"
"Indeed they did." Ezra looked at the man now. "It has all the makings of a promising motive, don't you think?"
"I had no reason to kill the bastard! All I did was make certain he would be decent to my sister, since for some reason she seems to love him."
"Indeed, indeed. So, where were you Tuesday evening and the night following?"
"None of your business."
"I beg to differ. It is very much our business, police business. You can answer my questions here, or I can take you in."
"If you must know, I was at home, watching TV. Nothing fancy, I'm afraid."
"Anyone who can verify that?" Kelli asked.
Thompson's eyes flicked over her, dismissing her in a way that made her instantly bristle. Ezra was glad Vin wasn't here to teach this man some manners. He was hard pressed himself to try and stay civil, he didn't even want to think about what Vin's reaction would have been.
Thompson directed his answer to Ezra as if Kelli had never spoken at all. "My friend was there as well, he can vouch for me."
"I would need the name and address of this friend, preferably a telephone number as well, to verify your story." After some searching Ezra came up with a notepad and a pencil and handed them to the man.
"If you'd please...."
"I don't know, I don't want to drag Drake into anything."
"If the two of you were, as you claimed, keeping each other company during an innocent pastime, I do not see how your friend could be dragged into anything."
"I guess it's alright. Hey!" Thompson suddenly yelled. "Don't lean against my car!"
Bones hastily stepped back, putting his hands up in a gesture of peace.
Ezra tsk'd and shook his head. "Leaning against a genuine Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport 1964, the gall! I can tell you, Mister Thompson, ever since a friend of mine rode a dent in my Jag, like you I never let anyone near her again."
"You let a friend ride your Jag? That beauty over there? I never let anyone touch my car. Anyone who tries is a dead man, I don't care how long we've been friends."
"You are absolutely right, as I have found out to my grief. Alas, despite the craftsmanship of my car mechanic, I still know exactly where that dent was. It is as if I can still see it, even though everyone tells me this is not the case."
"Yep, there's nothing wrong with your fancy toy, Ezra," Kelli agreed.
Ezra rolled his eyes at Thompson. "See what I have to put up with? She has the good fortune to be my partner and sit in a genuine automobile once in a while, but does she appreciate it? Alas, no. So you never lend this dream on wheels to anyone?"
"Over my dead body. Here, the name and address of my friend."
Ezra tipped two fingers in a salute to an imaginary hat. "Much obliged, my good man, much obliged. We will check immediately. Have a good day."
Once back in the jag, Kelli instantly turned around to Bones.
"And? Was it the right tire?"
"It certainly was, the G12A Blue Streak. I want that vehicle, so I can examine it."
"We will pay a visit to this friend of our dear Mister Thompson and then talk to Vin about it," Ezra said. "If you don't mind tagging along a little longer, Doctor Metfield?"
"That's alright. It's nice to see some of your part of the work up close for a change."
"Ez, you do know Thompson will call this friend to get their stories straight, won't you?"
"It does not matter, Kelli. I have a feeling it will be the orange haired man we are looking for, so all we need to do is take his picture and show it to Susan. Once she identifies this friend, of which I have every confidence she will, and we couple it with the tires, it will be enough to bring Thompson in and confiscate his car for forensic examination. In the mean time you might want to call in and give JD the name of this friend."
"Good plan," Kelli approved. "Come on, let's get the other bastard. I'll tell JD to start diggin'."
Vin couldn't stop a huge grin from escaping, when he saw all the eager faces turned to him and Buck the moment they stepped into the bull pen. Everyone was eager to see if they finally had a genuine breakthrough in the case.
"May I deduce from your enormous smile that you and Buck were successful, Vin?"
"You may, Josiah, you may," Buck boomed, stepping around Vin with the box he was carrying. He immediately proceeded to the War room, yelling for JD to come and help him. Everyone sprang up to follow, curiosity overruling dignity. Vin grabbed a hold of Josiah first though.
"Susan found anything?"
Now it was Josiah's turn to grin. "Oh, yes."
"Good. Let's see what new facts everyone has come up with. Gunny!"
A minute later all team members had found a seat around the table in the War room. Nathan, Ezra and Justin, who had taken the time to work on the biker's case, came in last. Everyone was eyeing the box or Buck and JD, who were behind CASSIE.
"All set, Buck?" Vin asked. "Is it what the letter promised it is?"
"Yep, it sure is."
The excitement mounted in the room.
"You found something good, didn't you?" Nathan said.
"Hell, just tell us," Kelli pressed.
Vin shook his head. "Sorry, Kel, first I want to hear from y'all."
Groans all around were his answer and he and Buck grinned at each other.
"It pays to be the boss sometimes, Vin, don't it?"
"Sure does now." He turned back to the table and the anxious agents. "We're gonna start with your reports first, but not just yet. I called Orin Travis before we came back, because I think we need to make a decision and in this case I think we better have him authorize it."
Gunny came inside with coffee, tea for the few who preferred it and some homemade cookies. Buck and JD, both in very good spirits after whatever it was they had been doing, immediately dove for the tray, butting their heads in the process.
"Doctor Metfield is on his way as we speak, Captain, and Commander Travis should be here any minute now."
As if to prove her words both men stepped inside simultaneously.
While Bones pulled out a chair, Travis kept standing, hands behind his back, his eyes taking everything in.
"I have been informed by Captain Tanner that some revelations will be made during this meeting," he told them. "He also informed me he expects these revelations to lead up to an arrest. Because of the delicacy of this case, he asked me if I wanted to be present and I do." He sat down in the chair Nathan had gotten for him and waved a hand. "Please, proceed. I am as anxious as all of you to end this mess." Then he leaned back and looked at Vin, indicating he was waiting for Vin to take over.
"First, Sir, let me recap for you what we know so far." Vin was as brief as possible and Travis didn't have any questions. Soon he could go on with the new facts they had gathered. He gestured for Ezra and Kelli to start.
"Mister Wesley Thompson claims to have an alibi for Tuesday night," Ezra told them. "Of course we immediately checked."
"He said he spent Tuesday evening with a friend, who also spent the night with him," Kelli specified. "The friend confirmed it."
"A friend of decidedly huge statuette, like a body builder, with very short, orange hair and in possession of a leather jacket, named Drake Dwyer."
Buck let out a low whistle. "They're giving each other an alibi?"
"It does seem to be the obvious conclusion here. Especially in the light of what happened afterwards at the police station, where Josiah showed a picture of this friend to Susan, the girl who was going through the police photo's there. A picture Kelli made."
Kelli nodded. "Yep. While Ezra chatted the suspect up, I took his picture with my mobile phone and sent it to Josiah afterwards."
"Chatted up? I did no such thing! I had a very businesslike conversation with him."
"Sure. Like you did with Thompson, chatting about cars and dents and the proper care of your boys dreams."
Ezra sputtered indignantly. "That was all in the interest of the investigation. I have you know it made him part with some very important information. Namely that he never, ever lets someone else drive his Grand Sport."
Kelli grinned at her partner, obviously pleased she had gotten him rattled and Vin shook his head. Those two constantly tried to bait each other, luckily always in good fun these days. He wouldn't have it any other way.
"Did this girl, Susan, recognize the picture?" Travis asked.
"She recognized him immediately," Josiah said. "No doubt in her mind at all, it was the man she saw leave with Chris. By the way, Vin, you might have arranged the photo session with Captain Frisco, but his Division Chief wasn't pleased at all. He was downright hostile."
"That's Andrew Damek, isn't it?" Buck asked. "Damn, come to think of it he wouldn't be pleased. He's an old toady of Summerton. Got ass licking down to an art form, that's why he was able to rise to such a high rank."
There was some amused coughing around the table. "What?" Buck asked.
"Anything more on fellow colleagues in the law enforcement, Buck?" Director Travis wanted to know. When Buck turned beat red and stammered he really didn't have anything else, there were snickers all around.
JD saved Buck from any more embarrassment by putting a new file on the table, in between all the others. "Drake Dwyer, Thompson's friend. His file says he's been convicted together with Wesley Thompson a few times, for crimes they committed together."
"And the tires?" Vin asked. He looked at Bones.
"Definitely the Goodyear G12A Blue Streak. It is my believe this was the vehicle that made the parking tracks at the scene of the crime and I think I should examine it."
Vin looked at Buck and both grinned. "Oh, I think you'll be able to do just that, Bones. Buck, tell them what's in the box. It's time to end this."
You hear me, Cowboy? We're gonna get you out of there.
Vin was relieved to finally have contact with Chris again.
Yeah, it's me. Not long now, not long at all. I aim to have you out before nightfall.
The surge of relief was so palpable Vin was worried for a moment.
You alright there, bro?
A sharp elbow dug into his ribs and Kelli was glaring at him. "Are you still with us?"
He grinned at her. "Yeah, I'm with y'all. Come on, Buck. Show them what we got and let's make us some arrests. It's time to get Chris back."
Buck opened the box and took out what was inside. First came a few pictures of the murder victim from so long ago, Tony Beretta, in which he could be seen with Natalie Thompson. Their loving embraces left no mistake about what kind of relationship they had been in.
Josiah let out a low whistle and shook his head. "I see a definite connection coming up with Best."
"Oh, yeah." Buck held up a disc. "JD and I have just examined this. On it Best stored an e-mail exchange of Wesley Thomspon with a certain Barry McMahon, some buddy of his from the sports club world, in which Thompson boasts about the killing of Beretta. JD printed out what's on it." While JD passed the papers around, Buck grinned at Bones.
"And last but not least...." He lifted a gun out of the box, wrapped in an oily cloth. "Here, a Colt SSP. Guess with what Tony Beretta was shot?" He gave the gun carefully to JD, who hastily passed it on to Bones.
"Seems to me you and your team have a lot of work coming up, Bones."
"A colt SSP," Kelli said in disbelief. "This fellow really believes in getting the not so obvious, doesn't he?"
"Yep, makes our job easier," Buck agreed.
"Doctor Metfield and his team still have to verify this is the murder weapon," Travis cautioned. "And we need proof this gun is from who we think it is. We also need to verify if the e-mail exchange was genuine and not fabricated by Best. Still, it is enough to bring Thompson in and get a search warrant for his premises, which would include his vehicle. Let's not forget, it is the murder of James Best we need to solve to safe Chris."
Vin looked in the steely eyes of their boss and nodded, satisfied the Director saw it his way. "I want to bring in his friend Drake Dwyer as well."
Travis nodded. "We all want Chris back, so do it."
"Good." Vin stood up and looked at Buck. "How about we do the honors with Thompson, Buck, and let Ezra and Kelli get Dwyer?"
Kelli looked disappointed. "I thought Ezra might have a court order to see Chris by now? I had hoped we might drop by him first, tell him the good news?"
"Alas, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone after our return here, but all I could arrange was for the court order to be issued some time tomorrow morning."
"Summerton again?" Vin asked, getting very sick of the man. "JD, what have you found on him?"
"Not much, I'm afraid. Small time career, he left the community he was banned to after almost twelve years for a position in Chicago and for some reason he managed to get into the FBI's IA about three years ago. Mallory has been calling around a bit, she's great at making people talk."
All eyes went to Mallory, who looked grim. "I found out that it was Summerton himself who came up with Chris' case and the need to send IA over to investigate. That was the reason he was given the official command."
There was angry muttering all around the room and Travis' eyes narrowed. "I don't like this at all", he stated. "I am going to make sure he will be investigated himself, very thoroughly. But first let's end this case."
They all nodded and chairs were scraping the floor when they were pushed back.
"A domestic quarrel," Buck sighed, while he stood up. "Who'd have thought it was a domestic quarrel that got ol' Tony? We were sure it was drugs related."
He received a smart slap on his back from Josiah, who grinned at him with all his teeth showing. "Life is fickle that way, Buck. Come on, we have to get our leader home."
To say Wesley Thompson was mad was an understatement. It took all Vin and Buck had to get him in without resorting to some type of violence. The man was especially livid when, while he was escorted to Vin's truck, he saw Metfield and his team descend upon his beloved Chevrolet.
"Man," Buck sighed once they had locked Thompson up in one of their interrogation rooms. "You know, Vin, I thought he would start frothing at the mouth when he saw the forensic team start working on his one true love."
Vin nodded. "Let him steam for a while, I need some coffee first."
Buck nodded, but didn't leave the one way mirror through which he could see the suspect. "Bastard has a lot to answer for, Vin. I have to tell you, it's difficult not to rip him apart."
"I know. Come on, let's get that coffee while we wait for his lawyer and see if Kat has come up with somethin' on the gun in Best's box. Then let's nail this guy. This has been goin' on too long as it is."
"Yeah." They both walked back to the bull pen and the small kitchen attached to it. Just when they had their coffee, the door to the bull pen opened and Josiah stepped in. To Vin's astonishment he didn't only bring Thompson's lawyer, but he also had Natalie Thompson in tow.
"Josiah? What's she doin' here?"
"Hello, Vin. One moment, please. Gunny, would you be so kind as to give Miss Thompson some coffee and then bring Mister Clark to his client?" Gunny narrowed her eyes at him, then nodded when she understood Josiah wanted to be able to talk to Vin and Buck without their guests overhearing them.
"This way," she told them, indicating the door to the rest area first.
"Well? We don't have any choice with the lawyer, but why did you bring his sister? It ain't like we want too many people comin' here," Vin said tersely.
"I know, brother. But I have read Thompson's police file and it built a clear picture of the man for me. One that tells me he will not give in easily. He might just decide to take Chris down with him and keep denying the murder of James Best. Still, to Natalie it must seem very suspicious that he is connected to the murder of two of her lovers and maybe she won't like that. I want her to listen to the interrogation from the observation room and see what happens."
"Are you sure about this?" Orin Travis asked. He had stayed for the interrogation, ready to pull some strings if necessary.
Josiah gave his toothed grin and shook his head. "Sir, I am never certain of anything. Nothing is as strange as the human psyche. The truth is that my job consists of guesses most of the time."
"Hmmm," Travis grunted. "Since you usually guess right, I will give you the benefit of the doubt here."
"I am much obliged, Sir."
"And when does the interrogation start?" Travis asked Vin and Buck.
"I was hopin' to have some results from forensics regarding the gun," Vin said. "Something to confront Thompson with."
Travis nodded. "Makes sense. Any idea how long they will be?"
Just then Kat entered, looking very pleased.
"Hi girl," Buck boomed through the office. "I have the feeling you have some good news. If you glowed any more, we wouldn't need lamps around here."
"Buck, you're full of crap. Oh, eh, sorry, Sir." Kat looked mortified that she had made such an indignant remark in front of their Director, but Travis merely smiled and waved it away.
"No need to apologize for the truth, Agent Santos," he said with a straight face.
Buck spluttered, coughing up his coffee. "Thanks," he grumbled when everyone burst out laughing. "Can't we just hear the result and get on with Thompson, please?"
"Kat?" Vin asked.
Her bright smile was back as she handed him over her reports. "It is a match, Captain. This definitely is the murder weapon."
"Good. Give me the gun and keep those test results ready. Come on, Buck, let's do this."
A few minutes later they were sitting across from Thompson and his lawyer, both with a second mug of coffee in their hands, while Thompson had received nothing. His lawyer was fidgeting with his own coffee, looking uncomfortable.
Vin put his feet on the table, balancing his chair on its two hind legs. Buck leaned comfortably on the back of the chair he was straddling, his eyes riveted on the man at the other side of the table.
There a fuming Wesley Thompson sat, his lanky brow hair hanging over his eyes, his mouth set in a firm line. He had been quietly talking with his lawyer when they entered, but as soon as he saw them, had refused to say anything more, not even to verify his name for the running tape.
"Oh, stop being so damn tiresome," Buck sighed. "We know you killed Tony Berretta. We know James Best found the evidence and that's why you killed him. We know it all."
A smirk was his answer, while the lawyer spluttered in indignation.
Vin shook his head. "Stubborn, ain't he?" he asked Buck conversationally.
Vin opened the box beside him and took out the Colt SSP. "Recognize this?" he asked, putting the gun on the table.
Thompson blanched. "No," he said as if in a reflex and then swallowed audibly, clearly sorry he had reacted.
Buck leaned forward again. "Strange, since this beauty is registered in your name. I wonder how you can loose such a special gun as this. Ain't many of them around, you know. Oh hell, off course you know. That's you, collector of rare items."
"Ever heard of Tony Berretta?" Vin asked.
Vin hung his head all the way backwards until it was almost upside down, making it possible for him to see the one way mirror behind him and yelled "Kat! Get in here and bring those lab results!"
Thompson's eyes flicked to the mirror, as well as his lawyer's.
"You wondering what lab results?" Buck asked. "Yeah, we have our own special forensic lab and there they've been taking a good look at this beauty."
"Bastards," Thompson yelled. "You can't do this! You have nothing on me!"
"Mister Thompson, please." The lawyer turned to them with a smirk of his own. "No court will accept so called evidence from a privately owned forensics lab."
"Oh, they'll accept it from this lab. It's been sanctioned and all by the proper authorities, don't you worry." Vin threw the print-out of the e-mail exchange in front of him. Thompson looked at it with disdain, but as soon as he realized what it was, he paled even further. Before he or his lawyer could say anything, Kat walked inside with the results of her investigation in her hand.
"Agent Santos enters the room," Vin said for the tape. "Wesley Thompson, Mister Clark, meet agent Santos from our forensic team. She has analyzed the weapon we found in a box Best had stacked, claiming it was evidence about who killed Tony Berretta ten years and eleven months ago. Agent Santos, why don't you tell us what you found?"
She put down a row of photos. "These are enlargements of the bullets found in Tony Beretta's body. And these are enlargements of the bullets fired from the gun found in James Best's post office box, the gun registered as belonging to the suspect Wesley Thompson. There are some discrepancies due to the long interval of time between these bullets and these, but overall the bullet's striations are definitely a match."
"The weapon you see before you, the Colt SSP, is the weapon used to kill Tony Beretta."
"Thanks, Agent Santos."
She smiled and left.
"Anything to add, Thompson?"
Despite the warning headshake of his lawyer, Thompson sputtered, "I... I didn't have the gun ten years ago, I bought it later."
"No, you didn't. It's been registered in your name for twelve years now," Buck said.
"And this... this is crap! Best made that all up and made it look like those are my e-mails."
Buck jumped up and leaned on the table, his face close to Thompson. "Just give it up, man. We have the evidence and you're going down."
A knock on the door interrupted and Buck and Vin looked at each other. They would only be interrupted if it was important, something that couldn't wait. Hastily Vin told the tape the interview would continue later on, Buck hit the off switch and they went into the hallway. The door wasn't eve closed before Thompson's lawyer started in on his client.
Gunny was waiting for them. "I am so very sorry, Captain, but Doctor Metfield insisted you would want to answer his call. I told him you were in the middle of interrogating the suspect, but that only made him more adamant. He said you would want to know what he found, so you could confront the suspect with it."
Vin nodded and took over the phone. He cursed when he heard what their ME had found.
"Well?" Buck wanted to know. "Come on, Vin? What? You don't look too pleased."
"That's because I'm not. Or, hell, yes, I am, it's good news in a way, I guess."
"Shoot, why don't you just kill me and get it over with? You wanna wreck my heart or something? What is it?"
"Bones found some blond hairs in the trunk of Thompson's car."
"In the trunk? Now wait a minute, they found evidence of Best probably having been transported in Chris' truck, didn't they? There was blood there, and some blond hairs."
"That's what was assumed, although I don't think they ordered a DNA analysis. As you know, that's too expensive to use when they think they have enough other evidence. But some of the hairs Bones found in Thompson's trunk were more golden blond, like Chris' hair."
"So the bastards put Best in the back of Chris' truck, and Chris in the trunk of the Grand Sport?"
"Yeah, looks like it. That's a damn small trunk for someone Chris' length," Vin said, getting angrier the more he thought about it. "I'm just glad he was totally out of it. Anyway, Bones will make a DNA analysis of those hairs."
"And if that ain't proof...."
"Yeah, well, it'll still take him 24 hours in his lab, but it does complete another part of the picture. Come on, let's see if we can crack Thompson."
Before he could switch off his phone and reenter the interrogation room, his phone rang again.
It was Kelli this time.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra and Kelli were both tired and in a bad mood. When they had finally caught up with Drake Dwyer in the fifth sports club they visited, they had caught him red handed while he was selling some anabolic steroids. The man had tried to run and Ezra was still cursing whenever he thought about the long chase they had been led on. Kelli had finally brought Dwyer down with a leg shot, which meant they had to bring their prisoner to the hospital first.
"This is extremely frustrating," Ezra sighed, at last allowing himself to sit down beside Kelli when she came back to the waiting room after having phoned Vin. "How is Vin taking this?"
Kelli grinned. "Hey, Vin ain't no Chris Larabee, so he didn't curse...much. Said we just have to wait it out and interrogate the bastard as soon as possible. He couldn't talk long, because they were in the middle of interrogatin' Thompson."
"I see. Ah, well. My favorite pastime, waiting in hospitals. Why did I ever take this job?"
"'Cause you love the excitement, Standish. Gotta be it. Let's face it, you'd die of boredom the moment you left this."
"I have you know Barbara and I can create our own excitement, thank you very much. And do it very, very well without anyone ever getting hurt. Not much anyway," he added with a grin.
"Stop right there, Standish. I don't wanna know about it!"
"Really? I do have some colorful stories about how we spend our time together. Ah, but a gentleman never tells."
Kelli snorted. "I reckon we better stop this conversation and get us some decent coffee. The arrestee won't be goin' anywhere right now, while they're working on him."
"What an excellent idea. There is a Starbuck right around the corner. Let me talk with the doctor first and then let's go."
"Sounds like a plan."
+ + + + + + +
After having ended his conversation with Kelli, Vin and Buck went back into the interrogation room. "I just had a very interesting conversation with one of our agents," Vin told Thompson after he had switched the tape back on. "It seems they had to shoot Dwyer, because he ran. They caught him red handed tryin' to sell drugs."
"Looks like your pal is in some deep trouble. I wonder what that will do to his silence? Any idea?" Buck asked.
"And I wonder why he was takin' this chance," Vin said, watching Thompson like a hawk for every sign the man might give. Right now Thompson tried to hide his shock. "Seems to me like he wanted some cash real fast. Maybe he needed to go somewhere in a hurry?"
Thompson glared at them, but didn't react.
"He sure ain't talkative, is he, Vin? Now, me, if I heard a friend wanted to desert me...."
"Don't matter none." Vin sat back in his chair. "See, we had another just as interesting phone call. About your... what was it again, Buck?"
"A Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport."
"Yeah, yeah, something stupid like that."
"You bastards, what did you do to my car?"
"We? Nothing much." Vin's eyes became hard. "But it looks like you did."
He threw some more pictures before the suspect. "Recognize these? Tire marks, found at the scene of the crime. Marks of Goodyear tires." He took out a note and read, "the G12A Blue Streak. That mean anything to you? After all, it's a tire you don't see every day on a vehicle."
"So what? I won't be the only one with those tires. You can't do this! I have my rights! Tell them they can't do this," he yelled at his lawyer.
"Please, Mister Thompson, I really think you shouldn't say anything to them. They are clearly trying to aggravate you." He gave Buck and Vin an angry pout. "If you're not charging my client with anything, I don't see the point in this."
"We're just giving your client some facts and the chance to react," Buck told him. "He don't wanna do that, that's just fine. We only want him to know what we know."
"Like the fact they found some blond hairs in the trunk of your vehicle and we have a damn good idea whose hairs they are, which we're gonna prove. You ever heard of DNA analysis, Thompson?"
Vin looked at the suspect with contempt. "Sure you did. DNA analysis, responsible for so many cases bein' solved. Our forensic team has already started the DNA analysis of those hairs. And unlike anything you saw on TV it won't take months, we'll have those results within 24 hours."
"We have Best's DNA and we sure can get DNA from our Commander to see if it was one of them in your trunk," Buck said, looking at Thompson with a very smug expression on his face.
"What's the matter, Thompson? Why ain't you glad now?" Vin asked. "I'd think if you were innocent, you would be pleased with the possibilities DNA provides. Should prove those hairs ain't Larabee's, shouldn't it?"
Thompson looked at his lawyer and they bowed their heads together, conferring softly. When they were ready, Thompson said with a shaking voice, "I... I didn't drive my car that night."
"Really? We know you told Ezra you never ever let someone else drive it." Buck flipped open his cell phone. "Shall I call him to verify that?"
"I... my car was stolen that night!"
"And you never reported it in?"
Again he and his lawyer conferred, before Thompson told them, "No..., no, it was back the next day, so I didn't think it necessary."
At that moment the door flew open and a livid Natalie Thompson ran inside. "You killed him!" she screamed. "You killed him, like you did Tony! You bastard! You...!" In a flash she was beside her brother, beating him everywhere she could hit him, screaming at the top of her lungs.
"You bastard, you never, ever stop, do you? Never! You drag them into your world of drugs and then you kill them! I knew it, I knew about Tony, I just knew! And now they have prove! I loved Tony, you bastard! I loved him so much, I will never find a love like him and you killed him! You actually, really did kill him!"
Together with Josiah, who had entered behind Natalie, Buck finally managed to pry her off her brother. It didn't stop Natalie from yelling at him, even while they dragged her out of the interrogation room.
The door closed with an ominous bang and left Vin alone with Thompson and his lawyer. He looked at the shaken man.
"I think you're in deep shit, Thompson."
"I... I... you can't do this! Can they do this?" he asked his lawyer.
"Mister Tanner, you either indict my client or let him go. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior any longer!"
"Fine by me, I'm gonna make this official as of right now," Vin told the lawyer. Then he turned to Thompson. "You're hereby arrested for the murder of Tony Berretta, for the murder of James Best and for the assault on an officer of the law. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law...."
He finished giving Thompson his Miranda rights as fast as possible. He needed something to get the bad taste out of his mouth.
"You did that right fine, Vin," Buck said from where he was leaning against the wall of the hallway when Vin came outside. "So now that he's officially charged with the murder of Best, can we get Chris back?"
"We can and we will." Orin Travis stepped out of the observation room. "There is enough evidence on Thompson to sow sufficient doubts about Chris' incarceration. I am confident we can have him released immediately. Excuse me, I have to make a few phone calls in that regard. You boys get ready to bring Chris back."
"Maybe we should go right now, see if we can be with him when he receives the good news," Buck opted.
"Yeah," Vin agreed. "Let's go get that idiot home where he belongs. You drive, Buck, I wanna call Kelli, let her and Ezra know the latest."
Buck laughed. "After all that trouble Ezra went through to arrange a court order for tomorrow, so he could finally get in and see Chris! And here we go, getting him out."
"We sure are."
They grinned at each other and turned as one to get their Commander back.