Dani walked through the squad room without saying a word. She headed straight to her office and closed the door. Coming back so soon was not going to be easy, but she couldn’t sit at home anymore. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared. The funeral was just yesterday. No one expected her back for weeks. Her captain had ordered her to take a long vacation.
The phone rang before she could sit down.
“Dani. My office, now,” came through the receiver. She wiped her face with her hands and headed for the captain’s office.
“Before you say anything, I couldn’t stay at home anymore,” she told the captain before the door was closed.
“You buried your partner yesterday. You need to take some time.”
“I need to find out who killed him.”
“Close the door and sit down.”
She stared at the captain, turned, and did as she was ordered.
“I think it’s best for you to take some time. Zach’s death is hard for all of us to take. You were his partner. We all know it is harder for you. We will find out who killed him. Take a vacation. Go down to the beach and relax.”
“My partner was killed. I am not going to sit around on some beach and let the killer get away with it. I need to find out who killed him. I have to do my job.”
The captain stared at her. He knew what it was like to lose a partner in the line of duty. It took a long time to get over. Some never did.
“Dani, it’s hard for anyone to lose a partner, but you lost more than a partner. You need to get away for a while.”
Dani looked at her captain in disbelief. Did he know? She was sure they had hid it from everyone. How could he have found out?
Why didn’t he transfer one of us? It’s procedure. Partners are not allowed to get personally involved. It distracts them from doing their job. So they say, anyway. It never distracted us.
She could deny it, but what would be the point?
“Yes, I figured it out about six months ago.”
“Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you transfer one of us?”
“You two are my best. I figured I would wait until I saw if it was affecting your job. It never did.” He shrugged. “How long was it going on?”
“Thirteen, fourteen months.”
“How serious was it?”
She slowly reached into her pocket and pulled out the ring. “He asked me to marry him the night before he was killed.” She stared at the ring. “I told him I had to think about it. I loved him, and I couldn’t give him an answer because I was afraid it would affect how I did my job. He died thinking I didn’t love him enough to marry him. He’ll never know I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.”
She held back the tears and looked back at the captain. “I have to find who killed him.”
There was a knock at the door before it opened. “Captain Felton?” the man at the door asked.
“Yes?” the captain said as he looked up. “Can I… help… you?”
“Yes, sir, Jake Santos. I transferred here from California. I was told to report to you.”
He handed a file to the captain.
Dani and the captain were silent as they stared at him.
“Is something wrong?”
“Ah, sorry. Come in. Sit down. This is Lieutenant Dani Castello.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said, extending his hand. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“You were at the funeral yesterday,” Dani whispered. She thought she was seeing a ghost yesterday. She missed Zach. She figured she was just seeing things because of that.
When she didn’t shake his hand, he rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, I was.”
“What do you mean you’ve heard a lot about me? Captain, what is going on here? Is this some kind of fucking joke?”
“No joke. Zach was my brother.”
“Sorry, but I was his partner for three years. I would have known if he had a brother, let alone an identical twin.”
“He didn’t know he had a brother until four months ago.”
“Even if that’s true, he would have told me. Why are you lying? Who are you?”
She jumped out of her chair and pushed him into the wall. Her arm was on his throat as she stared into his eyes.
“Dani, calm down,” the captain said as he pulled her off Jake. “Give us a minute.”
Dani slowly walked to the door without taking her eyes off Jake. She turned and walked out. The squad room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. She walked past everyone without saying a word and went to her office, slamming the door. She sat at her desk and took the ring out of her pocket. “What the hell just happened? Who is that guy?”
She turned her computer on, put the ring back in her pocket and typed “Jake Santos” at the prompt.
“I think you’d better tell me the story,” the captain demanded.
Jake lightly rubbed his throat as he spoke. “I was in on a big drug bust four months ago. You might have heard about it. It was all over the news.”
“Can’t say that I have.” The captain was sitting with his hands clasped together over his stomach and leaning back in his chair. He stared at Jake as he spoke.
“Well, Zach saw it. He got in touch with me. Turns out we are twins. Separated at birth. When our parents walked out of the hospital, our mother took me and went to California. Our father took Zach and stayed in New York. We never met until four months ago.”
“And it’s just a coincidence that you both turned out to be cops?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to find out who killed him.”
“You can’t stay. My squad is having a hard enough time dealing with Zach’s death. He was one of my best men. He was also Castello's partner. Your being here is going to complicate things. We will find out who killed Zach. Transferred denied. Please leave and don’t come back.”
Jake stood straighter, squaring his shoulders. “I can’t do that, sir. I didn’t realize they were putting me right into his squad. I would not have come. Since I am here, I’m going to stay. All my life I had a brother and I didn’t even know about it. My parents took him away from me. Now someone else has. I’m going to find out who killed him. I’m not leaving until I do.”
Dani read as the trace came over her computer.
Jake Santos. Born Brooklyn, New York; August 1, 1981. Divorced. Detective first grade; San Diego, California. One commendation.
“I’m going to need more information than that,” she said to the computer and hit some more keys.
No additional information available.
“Damn it.” She hit the computer.
“Are you ignoring a direct order, Detective?”
“Look, sir, I’m a good detective. Since you’re down a man around here, you could use me. I’ll help you out until you can get someone or until I find out who killed my brother. I promise you won’t be disappointed in my performance.”
“What about them?” the captain asked as he looked at the squad room.
“I understand what they are going through. I know seeing me is a shock, but they will get over it. I need to find his killer. Our parents are dead so I can’t do anything about what they did to us. His killer is still out there. I will not rest until I find him. This is the best place to do that. You can use me while I do what I have to do or you can kick me out. Either way, I am not leaving this city.”
The captain thought about it for a long minute. “Okay, you can stay until I check out your story, but know that I’m keeping my eyes on you. If what you said doesn’t check out, you are going to wish you left.”
“I assure you, sir, this is no joke. You’ll find what I have told you is the truth.”
The captain got up and opened the door. “May I have your attention?” he yelled into the squad room. “This is Jake Santos. He will be joining us for a while. We all see the resemblance. Get over it and welcome him. That’s an order.”
He turned back to his office slamming the door behind him.
A maintenance man came in with a picture, hammer, and nail. He stood at the wall and stared. He hated this part of his job, but it had to be done. The wall reminded everyone to be careful out there. The room got quiet while he did his job. He picked a spot and carefully hung the picture. Dani stood by her door and watched. There were tears in her eyes, but she held them back.
The phone ringing broke the silence in the room. Dani walked back into her office, closing the door. A few minutes later, there was a knock and a detective entered.
“We have another one, Lieutenant.”
She didn’t answer.
“They found another one. Fifth and Main. Behind the pizza joint.”
“Thanks. I’ll be there in a minute.”
She stared at the computer again. Zach, why didn’t you tell me? You wanted to marry me, but you didn’t think I should know you had a long lost brother. Why? There has to be a reason. You know I’m not going to rest until I find out.
She left her office and headed back to the captains. “Captain, they found another one,” she said as she put her jacket on.
“He says they are brothers. Separated at birth.”
“You believe him?”
“The resemblance is uncanny, but I’ll check it out.”
“Why is he here?”
“He wants to find Zach’s killer.”
“You told him we’ll handle it, right?”
“I told him he could stay until I check out his story.”
“Captain, I don’t need him around here.”
“I understand your problem, but he needs to be watched until we find out what’s going on. I can see no one better to do that than you. If you can’t handle it maybe you should take that vacation.”
“No, sir. I can handle it. It just sucks that I have to. Find out what’s going on,” she said and started out the door.
“Take Santos. Might as well see what he’s got.”
Dani stared at him for a moment before walking out.
Jake was staring at the picture as she walked over.
“You’re with me. Let’s go.” She ran her hand across Zach’s picture and headed out. Jake was right behind her.
Dani drove in silence, but her mind was not on the road. Who was this person sitting next to her? Zach would have told her if he had a brother. Wouldn’t he?
Jake started to get out of the car once she parked. Dani held him back and looked straight in his eyes. “If this is a joke or a set-up for some reason, I will kill you. Understand?”
Jake chuckled. “Zach said you were a feisty one.”
He got out of the car.
All the officers stared as Jake and Dani walked up to the scene.
“What have we got?” Dani asked the officer.
He didn’t answer. He kept staring at Jake.
“Jake Santos,” he said to him, extending his hand.
The officer hesitated before giving Jake’s hand a quick shake. He turned to Dani. “Ah, yeah. Male, fifteen to eighteen. Needle still in his arm,” the officer said to Dani, but continued to stare at Jake.
“Who found him?”
“The owner of the pizza place. A Mr. Alberto Ranko. My partner is with him in the restaurant.”
“Get a grip, officer,” she said and walked away.
She stood five feet away from the body. He was young and good-looking, even with what the drugs had caused to his face. He was leaning up against the dumpster with the needle still in his left arm. His eyes were closed and there was a peaceful look on his face. Top three buttons of his shirt were open and he didn’t have any shoes.
“Any ID on him?” she asked the morgue technician.
“Hi, Lieutenant. I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” Peter Glander said as he rose to meet her.
Peter was young. He has been in the morgue for about six months, but he knows his stuff. He’s six feet four with blond hair and blue eyes. He had a boy next-door look and probably only had to shave once a week.
“You know how it is. I couldn’t stay away. What have you got?”
“No ID. I would say around sixteen. The needle tells me it’s a drug overdose, but I’ll run a tox screening when I get him to the morgue.”
“Time of death?”
“Around one a.m..”
“Not yet. I’ll call you after I run him.”
“Thanks,” Dani said, and walked into the restaurant. Jake was already in there talking to the witness.
“Around one,” Mr. Ranko was saying, in answer to Jake’s question.
“Did you take a trip to the dumpster when you closed?”
“Yes, sir. You don’t want to keep garbage around any longer than you have to. Creates rats, ya’ know.”
“Yeah, I suppose it would. Did you notice anything while you were taking out the garbage? Anyone hanging around that shouldn’t be?”
“We get a lot of homeless around here. Using the bathroom and stuff. I usually give them the items we can’t sell anymore. You know, stuff that has been sitting around. After a while they all look the same to me.”
“So nobody you haven’t seen before hanging out last night?”
“We’ll need a list of all the other employees that were on last night. Phone numbers and addresses. Give it to the officer.”
“Thanks for your help,” Jake said and walked over to Dani.
“How’d I do?”
“That depends. You get anything we can use?”
“Nope. Closed around one. Left with the last garbage of the day. No body. Came in today. Went outside to unlock the dumpster. Body. Called police.”
Dani was looking anywhere but at Jake as he was running it down. Concentrating on the job was not going to be easy with him around.
“Time of death was around one, so he didn’t die here.”
“That makes it murder,” Jake clarified.
“Maybe. Could be his drug partners got scared and dumped him.”
“Morgue guy give you anything?”
“Nothing worth talking about,” Dani said, and walked away. Jake followed.
“We need to talk,” Jake told her when he found her outside.
“Not now. We have to canvass the area. You go left. I’ll go right.”
She walked away.
Two hours later, they met back at the scene. The body had been removed and the last of the crime scene unit were packing up.
“Anything?” Dani asked, still not looking at him.
“Not really. The owner of the Set ‘em Up bar across the street said it was pretty quiet around here last night. He said if anyone saw anything, it would be the bouncer. He’ll be back in at eight tonight. You get anything?”
“Nope” was all she said as she headed for the car. She headed to the captain’s office when they returned to the precinct.
“What did you find out?” she asked.
“I called his captain in San Diego. He says after the drug bust Jake took some time off. Said it was a family issue. He also said he’s the best cop he has ever seen. He regretted giving him the transfer.
Dani fell into the seat opposite the captain’s. “That’s it? He didn’t say what the family problem was?”
“He claims he never asked him.”
“How long has he been a cop?”
“Captain, something’s not right with this guy. Where’s his file?”
“Right here. What do you expect to find in there?”
“I don’t know, but he is up to something. You knew Zach. And I don’t mean just as his boss. You were friends. Why wouldn’t he tell me or even you about Jake?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t believe it himself. Maybe he wanted to be sure it was true before he said anything.”
“I thought of that myself. Then I decided it was bullshit. It’s not like he was hiding a bunch of money, or having an affair. This is big. He found a lost brother. An identical twin brother. Zach liked to talk. He would have wanted to talk about this.”
“Maybe you just need to talk to Jake. Get it all out.”
She shook her head. “Talk to him. I can’t even look at him.”
“Dani, you are no good to me if you are going to be preoccupied with this. I have two dead teenagers. If you can’t do your job, then take that vacation. Think about what you want to do with your life now.”
Her head jerked up from the file. “I know what I want to do with my life. That’s why I had to think about the proposal. Do me a favor. I have three cases on my plate. Just don’t dump more on me,” she said and walked out.
Katie sat in her usual seat in the café with her laptop on. She just stared at it. She didn’t know the first kid, but she knew Willy. Now he was dead. Apparent overdose, they said. She knew Willy didn’t do drugs. He was murdered, and she wasn’t going to sit by and let them say otherwise. The cops needed to know that he didn’t do drugs or they would drop the case, write it off as another teen overdose. She watched the lieutenant run the scene.
She seems to know what she is doing. She’s the one she should tell.
She turned on the laptop and started typing.
Willy did not do drugs. He was murdered. Please find out who did it. He was my friend.
She hit “send” and sat back in her chair.
Back in her office, Dani sat with her eyes closed. There was a headache starting in the back of her eyes.
Ah, Zach, why did you have to die on me? I don’t know if I can do this without you. Now this guy shows up and says he’s your brother. Because of the resemblance, I can only believe him. Why wouldn’t you tell me? Did you think I would not have understood? Did you think I would think less of you somehow for not knowing all this time he was out there?
She was brought out of her thoughts by the beep on her computer. New mail message.
What the hell? From a friend? If you are such a good friend, why not come in and talk to me? I have too much on my plate to deal with false leads.
Jake walked in as she hit the “print” button.
“You got a minute?”
“Not for you.”
“Well, you are going to have to find one. I’m not going anywhere. You’re going to have to get over it and work with me. You may even have to look at me.”
She wiped her face with her hands and looked at him. “You’re right. What do you want?”
“Morgue called. The kid this morning has the same tattoo as the Jane Doe from last week. Glander says it’s about 48 hours old.”
“Shit. We got a serial brewing here. Cause of death?”
“OD. Six different types shot into him. Died within five minutes of the injection. He didn’t feel any pain.”
“That’s something, I guess. Come up with an ID yet?”
“William Textler. Missing for a little over two months from the private school he attends. They’re trying to find his next of kin now.”
“William, Willy. Shit,” she said again as she opened the email. “Look at this.”
Jake moved behind her, leaning over her shoulder. “When did this come in?”
“Ah, a few minutes ago,” Dani said as she got up out of her chair to pace the office. It was really because Jake was too close, but she would never let him know that.
“From a friend. Did you trace it?”
“I was about to try, but computers are not my specialty.”
“Yeah, I remember Zach said something about computers not being your strong point.” Jake sat at her machine. “Let me see,” he said as he started to hit the keys.
Dani walked to the door and closed it. “What else did Zach say about me?”
“Let’s just say you made him very happy and leave it at that for now. Damn it!”
“Whoever sent this is good. It is going to take me some time. Is there a desk I can borrow? I don’t want to disturb your thought process. I hear you get mean if your process is disturbed,” he said as he got up from her desk.
“Why would he tell you so much about me and not tell me anything about you?”
“Maybe he wasn’t as proud of me as he was of you,” Jake said before walking out.
Dani walked up to her computer and started to lay out what she had on all three cases. On the right she put the teen murders. In the center was Zach’s murder. On the left, she put Jake Santos.
Even with the resemblance, she was having a hard time believing his story was true. She sent the murder board to the large monitor hanging on the wall in her office.
She worked through all three at the same time. Well, not really. She had others follow up her thoughts on the teenager murders. She didn’t know where to start on Jake Santos. The captain had already called his former captain and didn’t get much. So she worked on Zach’s murder.
It was almost nine o’clock when Dani had had enough. She had spent the afternoon going through all of Zach’s files. There was nothing there that she didn’t know about. Nothing that she could see that would cause someone to kill him. She hadn’t eaten all day, so her headache was really kicking in. She had her eyes closed and was rubbing her temples when the door opened.
“Hey,” Jake said. “I noticed you haven’t eaten today so I brought you a burger.”
She stared at him. “So they don’t knock on closed office doors in California?”
He ignored the question and stated, “You have to eat.”
“Says you. Look, I can’t deal with you right now.”
“Okay, don’t deal with me. Just eat,” he said, putting the food in front of her.
She stared at him again. This was not the first day she had forgotten to eat. Zach had always brought her something. He took care of her better than she did herself.
She opened the container and stared at the contents. A burger and fries--one of her favorites. Good guess or just something else Zach had mentioned to him.
“Thanks, but I still don’t trust you.”
“Understandable.” He looked at the monitor with the murder board. “Did you come up with anything?”
“On which one?”
“Let’s go right to left. Anything on the teenagers?” He took a seat even though he had not been invited to. “I hate seeing pictures of dead people. When it’s kids, it’s worse.”
Dani figured if she was going to find out anything about this guy, she might as well let him in a little. Not much; just enough to get him talking.
“Me too. When we find out who they are, I’ll change out the pictures.” She took a bite of her burger. “I have some of the detectives checking the tattoo parlors. Nothing back yet. The email says he did not do drugs. I had Glander do a quick check of track marks. He didn’t find any. So if he did do drugs, this was the first time he used a needle.”
“You believe the friend from the email?”
“I’m starting to, but not yet. You figure out who it came from?”
“Not yet. The email has been routed through eight accounts so far. I’m still working on it.”
“So we’re still nowhere. Great.” Dani finished her burger and started on the fries.
“Okay, let's move on to Zach.” He crossed his left leg over his right. “Don’t like his picture in his dress blues?”
Again, she hesitated and stared. She ignored the comment about Zach’s picture. “Strike two. I spent the day going through all his files. There is nothing there that I didn’t already know about.”
“Anything he could have been working on alone? Is it possible he would do something without you knowing about it?”
Dani nodded slowly. “It’s possible.”
“How about his home computer?”
“I haven’t looked at it yet.”
“Cell phone calls? In or out?”
“Again, I haven’t checked yet.”
Jake looked at her a minute before he said anything else. When she popped the last fry in her mouth, he laughed to himself. Zach had told him so much about her. All day long he was seeing everything firsthand. He found her amusing. Zach’s description of her did not do her justice. She was not beautiful, but she was very cute. Five eight, about a hundred and thirty pounds. Wavy black hair that fell about two inches below her shoulders. Strong athletic build, a nice rack and pretty green eyes. The way she walked showed she had confidence in herself. Maybe a little too much for his liking.
“I understand this is hard for you. Why don’t you let me take care of finding his killer?”
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll do it.” She knew she was staring at him. He looked so much like Zach, she couldn’t help herself. Five eleven, about one seventy. Short wavy black hair. Big brown eyes that made your heart skip a beat. The shirt he wore showed a body that looked like he spent at least two hours a night in the gym, but somehow she didn’t think he ever stepped a foot in one.
She fell in love with Zach’s body the second they met. It just took two years before she could show him how much.
There was an instant attraction for both of them, but being partners, neither acted on it. They flirted all the time. Everyone just took it as two partners helping each other get though the day. But they knew it was building to more. It used to drive Dani nuts when he talked about his latest one-night stand. She could tell by the look in his eyes that it also drove him nuts when she told him about hers. Still, they were partners, and they couldn’t let happen what they both wanted so much.
After two years and a particularly rough night, they gave in to their feelings. Though they had to keep their relationship a secret, neither had to hear about the others’ one-night stands ever again.
Now Zach was dead. All she could think about was how they had wasted the first two years together. It pissed her off. There was nothing that was going to stop her from finding his killer. She also knew there would be no mercy when she did.
“We can do it together if you want,” Jake said.
“I don’t. I’ll do it myself. Thanks for the food. I’m going to call it a night.”
She got up and held the door open for him.
“We didn’t talk about the case on the right,” he said as he stood up. “I know there is a better picture of me in my file.”
She rubbed her eyes. “That’s the one from the newspaper write-up on your drug bust. Since Zach didn’t have a beard, that picture helps me separate you from him.” She stood up. “I’ll take care of that one myself also. Goodnight.”
“Okay, if that’s the way you want it.”
When he was out of sight, she grabbed her jacket and headed out. She needed a drink. Being around him was like being tortured. She had only buried Zach yesterday. Today she was staring at him in the flesh again. Anyone would need a drink if they had a day like hers. She ran her hand over Zach’s picture as she walked out.
Dani was in the bar about fifteen minutes and working on her second screwdriver when Jake walked in. He walked right over to her and took a seat.
“How did you find me--or are you stalking me now, Detective?”
“Nope, no stalking. I asked the guy at the front desk of the precinct where a cop would go around here to get a drink. He told me since it’s only two blocks away, O’Mally’s was the local hang out.”
“So you’re just here to have a drink with the guys?”
“No, I’m here because we need to talk.”
“No, we don’t. I’m off for the night. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. About work and only about work.”
“I’m sorry Zach didn’t tell you about me. He told me everything about you, so I don’t understand it myself. However, if we are going to find out who killed him, we need to work together. There is no point in us stepping all over each other trying to get to the same goal.”
“Can I get you… something?” the waitress said as her heart stopped.
“Bud Ice, bottle,” Jake said without looking at her.
She turned toward Dani with a puzzled look in her eyes.
“Long-lost brother,” Dani said.
“Oh. One Bud Ice bottle coming up. You good?” she asked Dani.
“Yeah, for the moment.” She swirled her drink and took a long sip. “How do I know this is not a set-up? Maybe you killed him and you’re just trying to find out from me how much I know.”
“Wow, I didn’t think you would figure it out so quickly. I under estimated you. You’re right. I did kill Zach. He told me so much about you that I decided I had to have you. So I killed him and came here to make a play for you.”
She stared at him as she tried to figure out if what he just said could be true. “Tell me what’s going on.”
“I was involved with a drug bust four months ago. Zach saw me on the news. He looked me up. We met. We found out we were brothers. We talked on the phone a couple of times a week. He was killed. I came to find his killer. End of story.”
“And you think that is so easy for me to believe? How many times did you meet in person?”
He was quiet while the waitress gave him his beer and stared at him for another moment. When she was gone he spoke up.
“What’s with her?”
“One of Zach’s old conquests. You going to answer the question?”
“Twice. Once in California and once here in New York. We needed to be together when we talked to our parents’ divorce lawyer.”
“Had he told you about me before you came here?”
“Yes. A little.”
“Why didn’t he introduce us when you were here, then?”
“I asked to meet you. He said he didn’t think it was a good idea yet.”
“He didn’t say.”
“Did he have a problem with you?”
“Not that I know of. I thought we were getting along pretty well.”
“Did he call you or did you always call him?”
“We called each other. Whenever we had something to tell each other or just to work something out. A case, maybe. Or if you were driving him nuts.”
“How long did these conversations last? A minute, an hour?”
“It depended on the topic.”
“Did he tell you he was going to ask me to marry him?”
“Yes. Did he do it?”
Tears started in her eyes. She reached in her pocket and pulled out the ring. “Yes.”
“At least he died a happy man.”
She didn’t respond to that. She wiped the tears from her eyes and put the ring away. She motioned to the waitress for another drink.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know him all that long, but I miss him. I’m not going anywhere until I find out who took him away from me again.”
“You do what you have to do and I’ll do what I have to do” was all she said. She took the drink from the waitress and drank it down. She dropped some money on the table and walked out.
As Jake pulled up to the Set ‘em Up bar, he saw Dani walking around the corner. He parked and came up behind her.
“Something wrong with your car?”
She turned to look at him, but continued walking. “I didn’t think it would be wise to drive after the three drinks.”
“So you walked? You could have gotten someone to take you.”
“It’s only about fifteen blocks. It gave me time to think.”
“Did you come up with anything?”
She gave him a sideways glare. “Nothing you need to know about. What are you doing here?”
“Same thing as you, I guess. I’m here to talk to the bouncer.”
“Fine. You take lead.”
They stepped up to the door. “Good evening. You mind if we ask you some questions?” Jake asked the bouncer as they both flashed their badge.
“What do you need?”
“We’ll start with a name.”
“Mr. Jones, you were working last night?”
“Yes.” He looked away while he checked the ID of two young women.
“See anything out of the ordinary between twelve and two?”
“Nope. It was pretty quiet last night.”
“Nobody hanging around across the street.”
“I saw Sleeter go down the alley. Not sure what time it was, though. What’s this about?”
“Homeless guy. Hangs out in that alley. What’s this about?”
“Don’t watch the news, do you? There was a body found by the dumpster behind the pizza place this morning.”
Again, he looked away to check an ID.
“Sorry about that--but as I said, it was pretty quiet last night.” He looked down, rubbing the back of his neck. “There was a Mustang that went down the alley. I’m not sure of the time, but it was after Sleeter.”
Dani jumped in. “What color Mustang?”
“It was a dark color. Maybe blue or black.”
“Any idea of the year?”
“No, but it was a convertible.”
“Anybody besides the driver in it?”
“Not that I noticed.”
“How long was it back there?”
“Sorry, I didn’t see it come out. I was talking to some customers that were leaving for about a half hour. It might have come out in that time.”
“Regulars? Do you know their names?”
“Yeah, Tommy and Johnny. Brothers. They live around the block. Come here because it’s in walking distance.”
“Sorry, no idea. But you could check with Gina, the bartender.”
Jake asked. “What time does Sleeter usually show up?”
“Between eleven and one.”
“Thanks,” Dani said and opened the door. She walked straight up to the bar. “Gina?” she asked as she flashed her badge.
“Yes. What can I do for you?”
“Tommy and Johnny. You have a last name?”
“Carro. What did they do?”
“Nothing. I just need to talk to them. You know where they live?”
“Around the corner. Third building on the left. But they are over at the pool table if you want to talk to them.”
Dani and Jake both looked over. “How come they are never small guys?” Dani said as they started over. “You’re still lead.”
Jake nodded as they headed over. “Tommy and Johnny?”
“Who wants to know?”
Jake flashed his badge. “Detective Santos and Lieutenant Castello. We need to ask you a few questions.”
“We don’t know anything.”
“I haven’t even asked you anything yet.”
“It doesn’t matter. We didn’t do anything and we don’t know anything.”
They both held their pool sticks as if they would swing them at any moment.
“Look, you are not in any trouble. Put the sticks down. We just want to know what time you left last night.”
Dani put her hand on her gun behind Jake. Tommy and Johnny relaxed their grip on their sticks. “It was around one-thirty.”
“Not an ‘around’ time. The exact time.”
“I guess it was closer to two.”
“Did you see anything outside? Specifically in the alley across the street.”
“I saw a Mustang pull out from the alley.”
“You sure it was a Mustang?”
“Yeah, It’s kind of my favorite car. I would never mistake one for another car.”
“It was dark and I was a little drunk, but I would say two thousand, two thousand one.”
“Black. Maybe dark blue.”
“Did you see the driver?”
“I told you. It was dark, and I was drunk.”
“How about you?” Jake looked over at Tommy.
“No. I was in worse shape than Johnny.”
Jake stepped away. Dani took her hand off her gun and closed her jacket. “Thanks for your help.”
“We didn’t get much, but the Mustang’s a start. I’ll run it first thing in the morning,” Jake said as they left the bar.
“Yeah, you do that.”
Dani started crossing the street.
“Where are you going?”
“I thought I’d see if Sleeter showed up.”
“It’s only ten-thirty.”
“I’m here. I figure it won’t hurt to check it out.”
Dani took a better look around the alley than she had this morning. Slowly she made her way to the end scanning from side to side. It was your typical alley. Dumpsters and trash cans. Dead ended to a six-foot wall. Under the steps at the last building was a cardboard refrigerator box with old, dirty sheets hung around it.
“Sleeter’s home,” she said as she pushed the sheet aside. Both stepped back, covering their noses with their arm at the same time.
“I guess Sleeter hasn’t found a shower he could use in a while,” Jake laughed.
Dani glared at him. “Why don’t you go? I’ll wait for him and get with you in the morning.”
“I’ll wait with you.”
“I’m sure Zach told you I can take care of myself. I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Not babysitting, just doing my job.”
They were quiet for over a half hour before Dani spoke up.
“Tell me about you.”
“What do you want to know?”
“You could start with whatever the reason was Zach thought he couldn’t tell me about you.”
“If I knew what that was I would tell you, but I have no idea why he didn’t tell you about me.”
“Then tell me what he didn’t.”
“Well, you already know we’re twins. When we were born, my mother took me to California and my father kept Zach in New York. The lawyer says they had already started the divorce process before she got pregnant. It seems they had breakup sex and she got pregnant.”
“Your mother just gave up Zach? She didn’t think it was wrong to separate the two of you?”
“From what we found out, Mom was a drunk and Dad gambled. They were not the most responsible people. I guess they thought it was the only thing they could do.”
“Zach did say his father gambled. They weren’t very close.”
“It took me ten years before I realized my mother was a drunk. We were not very close after that either. But she did keep food in my stomach and clothes on my back. I had to give her credit for that. I was sixteen when we found out her liver was shot. Nineteen when she died from it.”
“Thanks. Anyway, I was in on a drug bust four months ago. Zach saw me on the news and got in touch with me. We got together. After talking, I ripped my mom’s possessions apart and found the divorce papers. We went to the lawyer and found out what they did.”
“It’s just a coincidence that you both became cops?”
“No. I was for about six months, but it didn’t stick. I was too wrapped up in the job. She couldn’t take it.”
“Yeah, it’s hard for cops to have a relationship. You seeing anyone?”
“No. After the divorce I decided it would be best not to get close to anyone.”
Their conversation was interrupted as Sleeter stumbled down the alley.
“Hey, that’s my stuff,” he yelled as he tried to run toward them.
“Mr. Sleeter we don’t want your stuff. We’re with the police. We would like to ask you some questions.”
“I don’t know anything. Now get away from my stuff.”
They both backed away from the steps. “What time did you get home last night Mr. Sleeter?”
“It’s just Sleeter.”
“Okay, Sleeter. What time did you get home last night?”
“I don’t have a watch.”
“I guess around twelve-thirty.”
“Did you see anything unusual in the alley last night?”
“Did you hear anything?”
“Sleeter, you are not in any trouble. A body was found over by that dumpster this morning. We just need to know if you saw or heard anything.” Dani took out a twenty and handed it to him.
He looked at it and smiled. “I heard a car. When I looked out a man was helping someone out of the car. He leaned him up against the dumpster and left.”
“What did he look like?”
“It’s kinda far, and my eyes aren’t what they used to be.”
“Any description will help.”
“About your height, with gray hair.”
“What about his build or what he was wearing?”
“Wasn’t heavy, but not skinny either. I didn’t notice what he was wearing. When he drove away I laid back down and went to sleep.”
“You didn’t go check on the guy up against the dumpster?”
“Where someone wants to sleep is none of my business. Now I would like to go to bed.”
He wobbled over to the steps, pulled the sheet, and went inside.
“Not much help,” Jake said as they walked out of the alley.
“Come on, I’ll take you home.”
“No, I’ll walk. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Dani, it’s late. You’ve had a long day. You’re exhausted. Get in the car and let me take you home.”
“Fine, but don’t talk to me.”
“Where do you live?”
“Third and Monroe.”
She closed her eyes and put her head against the window. He entered the streets into the GPS and slowly pulled out into traffic.
Jake slowly moved down the block. “Didn’t Zach live on this block?”
“How would you know?”
“I was in his apartment.”
Dani sat up straight. “You were in his apartment and he didn’t introduce you to me? Where was I?”
“He told me you didn’t live together. I guess you were home.”
“Yeah, well, officially we didn’t live together.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You might as well come up. I’ll show you. Park in the underground garage.”
They rode the elevator up to the sixth floor in silence. When the doors opened, Dani walked out slowly. She stopped in front of her door and unlocked it. “This is mine.” She pointed to the next door. “That was Zach’s.”
Jake stared at Zach’s door. “You lived right next to each other?”
“For two years. Come on in.” Dani threw her keys on the table by the door, took off her jacket and threw it on the couch in the living room.
She walked over to the bookcase. “A month after we finally gave into our feelings for each other, we did this.”
She pulled out a book and flipped a switch behind it. The bookcase opened into the room. “Then we were living together.”
Jake walked through the opening. “He didn’t show me. You mind if I look around?”
“Yes, but he was your brother. I guess you have a right.”
She walked to the kitchen and grabbed a beer.
When Jake returned Dani was lying on the couch sleeping. He took the beer and set it on the table. He grabbed the blanket that was on the end of the couch and tucked her in.
“I didn’t know him all that long, but I miss him, too. I promise I’ll find out who killed him for you.”
He took a sip of the beer and walked out, closing the door quietly behind him.