Tie Me Down

Page 7


Jessica’s parents had flown in as soon as she’d disappeared, had hired a private detective to look for her even as they staked out both the Tulane and the Uptown police stations in a desperate attempt to find out what had happened to their daughter.
Once she had a name, Genevieve had called the Tulane Police Department and gotten the parents’ information. She’d called them in, told them as gently as possible that their only child was dead.
Not that there was a gentle way to deliver that kind of news—it was the part of her job she hated the most. And the part that haunted her when she lay in bed at night, the lights off and the city finally silent around her. How the people left behind looked when she shattered their world.
In an effort to spare them, she hadn’t told Jessica’s parents everything she’d discovered. She hadn’t told them how the bastard had kept her around for a while. How he had toyed with Jessica almost endlessly in an effort to maximize the pain.
Still, they hadn’t taken the news of their daughter’s rape and murder stoically. The mother wept uncontrollably while the father simply stared blankly ahead, as if the facts were just too much for him to comprehend. He’d been the one to identify his daughter’s body, and he’d been the one to escort his wife from the station when her sobs had died down to occasional whimpers.
And he was the one who had looked straight at Genevieve and demanded to know who had killed his child. She had told him the truth—that she didn’t know, but that she would find out.
And she would.
She had promised them justice and she would deliver. Jessica Robbins would be avenged. Her parents’ anger and grief would find a focus. Genevieve would make damn sure of it.
But she’d interviewed all the students at the dorm who claimed to know Jessica and none of them had said anything about an irate boyfriend, a stalker, or even a guy who’d paid her any extra interest at all.
She’d also spoken with Jessica’s professors, classmates, off-campus friends—anyone who could give her a clue into Jessica’s daily routine and any problems she might be having.
The picture that was emerging was of a young girl enjoying the freedom that going away to college had given her. She was an above-average student who worked hard but who took time out to have a good time. Well-liked but not insanely popular, pleasant, intelligent—Jessica had been a girl with a bright present and a brighter future. To see it cut so brutally short grated severely; that she had no suspect made it even worse.
That she was convinced Jessica was the latest victim of a serial killer—one Genevieve hadn’t been able to catch, though she’d been working on it for months—made it almost unbearable.
Engrossed in her thoughts, Genevieve nearly jumped out of her skin when the phone at her elbow rang. Heart pounding—even as she shook her head at her own skittishness—-she reached for the phone with a hand that was not quite steady and answered with a clipped “Delacroix.”
There was no answer, only the sound of strangled breathing on the other side of the line.
More breathing.
“Look, pal, are you kidding me? Do you have any idea who you’re calling? This is a police station, for God’s sake, and I—”
“I know who I’m calling, Genevieve.”
The voice was low, hoarse. Strangely familiar, but somehow muted. “Who is this?” she demanded.
There was a long pause. “There’s another one.”
“Another what?”
“I think you know. Think of me when you find it.”
“Find wha—”
The phone went dead in her hand, leaving Genevieve staring at it much as she would a snake. A chill crept down her spine as she placed the receiver back down. Who was calling her, and what, exactly, was she supposed to find?
Glancing down, she caught sight of the homicide photos she’d added to the folder only an hour before, and the chill became a full-out freeze. Was there another body out there, waiting to be found, or was she overreacting? Sighing, she rubbed her tired eyes. She’d been working too hard for too long—her mind no longer felt clear.
Was it just another bored kid crank calling, or had it been the killer, calling her to taunt her with his latest success?
The mere thought made her ill. She tried to shrug it off, to put the call down to some idiot just wanting to rattle her chain. But she couldn’t shake the idea that it was more than that. That it had been him on the phone.
I know who I’m calling, Genevieve. The words played back in her head as she racked her brain, tried to figure out where she’d heard the voice before. But the answer she was looking for was hovering just out of reach, impossible to retrieve.
Finally, unable to solve the puzzle but unwilling to let it go, she dashed off an email to a friend in the electronic crime division, asking Jose to unofficially look into the call’s origin.
If it was nothing—just someone yanking her chain—she didn’t want to make a big deal of it. But her instincts were shouting that it was something more, something big, and she couldn’t afford to overlook it. Not when her leads were zero and her evidence less.
“Genevieve, you got a minute?”
Looking up from the notes she was making—trying to ignore the nervousness still coursing through her from the call—Genevieve started to snap, then paused as she saw her boss standing at his door. Gritting her teeth, knowing she didn’t have a choice, she picked up the file she’d been compiling on Jessica and headed for her lieutenant’s office.
“So, where are we with the dead Tulane student?” Chastian asked as soon as the door closed behind her.
Genevieve had worked with Lieutenant Rob Chastian long enough that she didn’t even wince at the brusqueness of his tone. He was a big man—though not quite as big as Cole—and good-looking in a Ken doll kind of way. He also had a personality like a Weed wacker. Which was actually fine with her—better that than the jokes that weren’t really jokes that so many of the other squad members leveled at her on a regular basis. With the lieutenant she always knew where she stood—exactly nowhere.
“Not very far.” His brows lowered and she held up a hand to forestall the anticipated explosion. “I’ve interviewed friends, potential witnesses, teachers, strangers and gotten nothing. Jefferson’s working on the body as we speak—he promised to have the preliminary report to me by tomorrow at the latest.”
“Are you telling me that no one knows anything?” Chastian demanded. “I’ve got the press crawling up my ass, the commander demanding that something be done, and my homicide detective has nothing. That’s just fabulous. At least Shawn is back in a few days.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Sure it is. But if you can’t handle it …” He let his voice trail off, but the threat was implicit.
Biting the inside of her cheek in an effort to be civil, Genevieve told herself Chastian would be asking these same questions of any male detective on the squad. Too bad she didn’t believe her own bullshit, any more than she believed the lieutenant’s.
“I’m handling it just fine, Lieutenant. But, as I told you before, I think we’re dealing with a repeat killer. We need to get a profiler and some other detectives involved in this before he kills again.”
“So are you telling me you can’t handle it?”
Her hands clenched into fists as she struggled not to wipe the condescending look off his face with a punch that would show him just how capable she was of handling anything that came her way. The only thing that stopped her—other than the badge at her hip—was knowing that that was exactly what he wanted her to do.
From the moment she’d been assigned to his squad, Chastian had been pushing her. A snide comment here, a public dressing-down there, he’d turned getting under her skin into an Olympic event. Hoping, she assumed, that she’d screw up enough that he’d have no recourse but to throw her off his precious, male-dominated squad.
But that wasn’t going to happen. She’d worked too damn hard to get here. So she simply pulled out the ice-cold voice that had saved her so many times in the past and answered, “No, sir. But if we want to catch this guy, we need more people involved.”
“You don’t have any definitive evidence that links these murders together, yet you expect me to assign a huge amount of departmental resources to a task force that might be totally unnecessary.”
“Not a task force, then. Just a few other detectives—”
Anger shot through her at his shortsightedness, but she kept the Ice Queen façade in place. “Sir, we need to act—”
“We need to not throw this city into a panic. Things are bad enough here right now with the murder rate on such a steep incline. We can’t afford to upset the general public until we have proof.”
“I have—”
“Solid proof,” he interrupted. “But if you can’t handle it …” His voice trailed off.
“Of course I can handle it!”
“Good. Then it’s settled.” He glanced down at his desk, picked up a file. Started going through it.
She had been dismissed.
Rage simmered just under the surface as Genevieve let herself out of Chastian’s office, even as she cursed herself for jumping the gun, for thinking things were getting better. Her gut had told her he would react like that, had known he wouldn’t want to see what she saw. Truth be told, she should have waited for Shawn to sell her theory, no matter how painful that truth was.
Grinding her teeth, she snatched up her suit jacket and headed for the exit. She was done tonight, anger clawing at her lungs until she couldn’t breathe.
Why the hell did she even bother? She’d known how that briefing was going to go even before she opened her mouth. Chastian might be stuck with her—the only woman on his otherwise pristine homicide squad—but he didn’t have to like it. Nor did he have to take her seriously.
Normally, she tried not to let it bother her, but on nights like tonight when she knew she was right, it was hard. Maybe she should just give it up—
But Jessica Robbins’s face danced in her mind. No, she wouldn’t give up. Those girls deserved justice and she would get it for them, with or without Chastian’s cooperation. She was one of the best detectives in the good old boy network—despite her gender. To hell with the politics. She would find this killer and prove that she’d been right all along.
Not that it would change anything—those girls would still be dead, their parents would still be wounded beyond recovery. But maybe the next victim and her family
Chapter Five
Genevieve was halfway home before she slowed from the fast clip that had eaten up half the distance between the station and her house. Fury at Chastian burned like bile in her throat, and it was all she could do to keep from screaming in the middle of the Quarter’s crowded streets.
Taking a few deep breaths, she tried to concentrate on the world around her. The Quarter was crowded tonight—locals and tourists out in abundance as they searched for a good time.
With a small smile, she passed a group of Goth kids trying desperately to be vampires, then sidestepped a group of Tulane frat boys who had started the party entirely too early. She tossed a dollar into the hat of a young man tap-dancing on the corner of Toulouse, admiring his sense of rhythm when all he had were bottle caps glued to the bottom of a pair of old sneakers.
She wanted to stop and watch him for a while, but she was wound too tight, her body exhausted while her mind raced a hundred miles a minute. Besides, a storm was coming. She could feel it in the cloying heaviness of the air around her, taste it in the teasing, taunting wind that whipped by her. Over her. Around her.
This wasn’t just any storm. No, not this one, with its black clouds and rolling thunder just audible in the distance. Its flashes of lightning crisscrossing the afternoon sky. She slipped out her tongue, tasted the sweetness in the water-soaked air.