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Opis ebooka Honor Bound - R. C. Butler

A battle for jurisdiction sets Lieutenant Ellison Frost off on one of the most difficult cases of her career, forced to balance her need for control with her want for justice.As the bodies pile up and the evidence begins to point in a direction she feared, Ell must enlist the help of a reluctant marine Colonel in hopes of uncovering classified information about the parties involved.With his career on the line, Colonel Anthony Craig must weigh his loyalty to the core against the lives of the fallen. Fighting against the very system to which he is Honor Bound.This book contains graphic sexual content and is not intended for anyone present at the author's birth.

Opinie o ebooku Honor Bound - R. C. Butler

Fragment ebooka Honor Bound - R. C. Butler

Honor Bound

This book is a work of fiction, the characters, incidents and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by R. C. Butler

First Printing, 2017

Warning: This book contains graphic sexual material and is not intended for anyone present at the author’s birth.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Published by: Bulldog Press

Honor:: (n):  adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct.

Prologue

Her mind was spinning. She could blame the champagne, the warm night, or the adrenaline rushing through her from five hours of dancing. She could blame any of it, but she knew it would be a lie. Her mind was spinning and the handsome, uniformed man on her left was responsible. Corporal Jon Strand had her heart beating and pulse racing in a way it hadn’t in years.  He’d been the consummate gentleman, offering to walk her back to her downtown apartment, taking her arm along the way. His smile disarmed her. His soft yet powerful voice enchanted her. His presence caused an unknown sense of urgency and want. With every step closer to home her mind spun quicker. Unsure yet sure at the same time. Wanting him yet frightened. With every block her time grew shorter. Approaching the three storey modern complex, she needed to clear her mind. Make a decision. Did she trust her upbringing, say goodnight and wonder what could have been, or should she jump in and hope for the best?

“Vista Bueno Apartments, I believe this is you.” His voice was calming and sincere as he eyed the front doors.

“Thanks Jon, it was kind of you to walk me home. I think I may have had a little too much champagne.” She smiled, trying to act calm and confident while her mind reeled through the possibilities.

“I’m at your service ma’am. Of the troops, for the troops.”

She laughed, the formality of his core motto breaking the tension as he had hoped. She gazed into his eyes, shook away her fear and took the leap.

“Why don’t you come up for a bit?”

He smiled, leaned in gently and kissed her cheek. “Perhaps we should wait. It’s been a fun evening, Liz, and I’d love to spend more of it with you but…”

“But Claire’s upstairs… I get it, it’s okay.” She tried to hide her disappointment but the look she couldn’t shake gave her away.

“Liz…”

“No, it’s fine. Thanks for the walk home.” She turned and bolted into the building before he could see the tears forming in the corner of her eyes.

He stood there, staring at the empty doorway feeling like a complete fool. She deserved better. He wished he could move on, open his heart once again but no matter how hard he tried he could not get passed it. He could not get passed Claire. Jon stared at his reflection in the glass doors and shook his head. Turning to leave, unsure where he was going, a high pitch scream pierced out through the night air, tearing into him.

His only thought, ‘Liz.’

Chapter One

She didn’t hear the first ring. In fact, she barely caught the second, but that wasn’t surprising. Between the intensity of the orgasm and the deafening decibel level of her own screams as it hit, it was amazing she hadn’t passed out.

“Jamie.”

She heard her name but her mind was still elsewhere.

“Jamie, I’m pretty sure that’s yours.”

“Shit,” she muttered reaching for the night table in search of her phone.

Ell couldn’t help but laugh. It was an ego boost knowing that she had been able to take the beautiful redhead to such heights of arousal with only her tongue. She kneeled at the foot of the bed, watching Jamie transform back into the role of Detective Baker, scrambling to regain her senses.

Ell glanced at the clock, 1:12 a.m., and knew the evening was over. She withdrew herself from between Jamie’s legs and flopped down on the bed slightly frustrated as Baker finally connected the incoming call.

“Baker. Yeah… shit… ok, I’m about twenty minutes out. I’ll meet you on scene.”

“Jones?” asked Ell watching Jamie pull herself from the bed and begin the search for her scattered clothing.

“Yeah, dead body downtown. Patrol’s on scene but we’re on rotation.” She slid on her jeans, flipped her hair to the side and looked down at Ell, pausing at the site of her beautiful form laid out on the silk sheets. “Shit, Ell, I’m sorry.”

Ell waved off her concerns, “You don’t need to explain it to me. I know the job.”

“Thanks.” She leaned in, their lips brushing softly, Ell’s hand snaked through the luxurious red locks and held her for just a moment.

“Do you want to tag along?” asked Baker, pulling back from the kiss while she still could.

“Nah, you and Jones can handle it, I’m gonna catch a few hours before the sun breaks.”

“Ok, I’ll text if anything comes up. Otherwise we’ll get you a full report in the morning. Thanks for…”

Ell smiled, Jamie was always unsure what to say or do post orgasm. It was cute. “Anytime.”

Baker snapped on her holster and shield, smiled awkwardly and let out a nervous laugh. “See you in the morning Lieutenant.”

Ell’s mind wandered, watching the detective’s ass as she strolled out the door. Normally, she’d have reached for her nightstand drawer and a little relief from the sexual frustration but she knew that wasn’t an option tonight. Her instructions were clear. No self-stimulation was allowed while her ‘boyfriend?’ ‘dom?’, shit she didn’t know what Rob was, but she knew she’d follow his instructions while he was out of town. Of course he hadn’t forbidden her from finding other forms of satisfaction and Detective Baker could be very satisfying. Granted, that had backfired this evening, leaving her far more frustrated and wound up than she could have imagined. She could picture the smirk on his face as she closed her eyes in hopes of sleep.

“Point Fayee,” she muttered as she drifted off.

She couldn’t have been out for more than forty minutes when the chime of her cell broke through her slumber. Ell, brushed the hair away from her face, cursed softly and reached out blindly for the phone.

“Shit’s hit the fan. Need some brass stat. 218 3588 W Mandrin Ave. Vista Bueno Apartments. Dead Body - David Samuel Jellic – B”

“Had to tell her to text,” she muttered, pulling herself out of bed and tossing on her jeans and a fresh white blouse.

“Ten minutes – E”

Baker responded almost immediately. “Took me eighteen with no traffic - B”

“Yeah, I figured I’d stop for coffee on the way – E”

Baker didn’t respond. No witty banter, no smiley face, no ‘fuck you’ and Ell immediately knew something was seriously wrong at the scene. She’d skip the coffee.

Eight minutes and twenty-four seconds later Ell’s silver Mercedes S550 came to a screeching halt outside the Vista Bueno Apartments. The car may have been overkill but Ell loved it and, when time was tight, it definitely got the job done. She took a quick look in the mirror, confirmed that she looked like she’d just crawled out of bed, shrugged and headed for the building.

Baker and Jones were positioned just inside the main doorway face to face with two military officers in full dress uniforms. The men were built, as was expected with military officers. Each stood nearly six feet tall and, from her estimate, a finely-toned hundred and ninety pounds. It was a nice view and, given different circumstances, she may have enjoyed it. As she approached Ell could hear Jones laying into one of the officers.

“… civilian and if you don’t get the fuck out of our way and pull your team off scene I’m going to run you, and them, in for obstruction.”

“Ma’am, I have my orders, no one goes on scene. If the Police Department has an issue with that they will need to take it up with Colonel Craig.”

Ell didn’t need the back story. She’d done a quick scan on David Samuel Jellic on the way there and knew this was going to be a jurisdictional nightmare. She looked over at Baker as she stormed through the doors. “Dead civilian?”

“Yes, sir,” Baker knew there was no reason to elaborate.

Ell took two quick steps closing the gap between her and the uniformed officers. She eyed them up quickly. They were military police, private first class if she remembered the insignia correctly. She flipped them her badge, stepping in close to the talkative of the two guards.

“Lieutenant Ell Frost, Metro PD. Unless you prefer to spend the evening in lockup, you and your team will get the hell out of our way and clear my crime scene.”

The private stood his ground. “As I was just telling the detectives…”

“Did I ask for a bedtime story? Stand down or we’ll put you down, private.”

The officer to his right let out an audible laugh, looking at the three ladies, shaking his head.

“Last chance, private.”

“Listen, ma’am…”

Ell didn’t wait for him to finish the sentence. She quickly grabbed his left wrist, spun it behind his back, used her right leg to sweep his out from underneath him and shifted her body weight and momentum to drive him face first towards the floor. The direct assault was unexpected and before his mind recoiled from the fall, Ell had his wrists cuffed and her knee between his shoulder blades. The other soldier reacted quickly and without thought as instilled by years of training. Instinct and adrenaline had him drawing his weapon as he stepped to close the gap. As the detectives were accustomed to, he underestimated Jones and Baker and focused his attention on the threat to his fellow officer. Baker had his wrist and firearm restrained before he could begin to level his weapon. Jones lunged low taking out his knees and the gun skittered across the floor as his two hundred pound form collided with the tiled ground. Jones struggled to fight off his attempt to roll to his back and Baker quickly applied her own cuffs, pressing a four inch stiletto heel against his throat.

“If I was you I’d settle the fuck down before my partner decides to take a step,” snapped Jones as the soldier continued to twist against the restraint of the cuffs.

Baker removed her heel from his throat and leaned down grabbing him by the secured wrists and pushing upwards just enough to make him feel it.

“Do you like that?” she whispered softly. “The sting of the metal, the slight pain of the restraint? Keep struggling, big boy, it only gets better.”

Overhearing the comment, Ell could not help but laugh. She pulled herself to her feet, allowing Detective Jones to disarm and take control of the officer she had pinned to the floor.

“Drag their ass’s downtown and let them cool off in a cell while I get this shit sorted. If their friends are just as cordial I’m sure they’ll have some company before the night is over.”

Ell left them to deal with the two men and headed up to the second floor. An additional officer was stationed in the hallway outside of apartment 218 and she immediately knew this was not going to be a fun night.

“Lieutenant Ell Frost,” she said, flipping him her badge and attempting to walk past. The man placed a well muscled arm across the doorway blocking her path.

“Sorry, ma’am. No civilians allowed on scene.”

“Unless you plan on joining your two buddies from the lobby in lockup for the evening, you’ll want to move that tree trunk you’ve placed across the doorway and drop the ‘ma’am’ shit.”

This one appeared a tad more thoughtful. Turning his head, he called through the door, “Colonel Craig? I have a police lieutenant out here that would like to speak with you.”

Ell recognized the Colonel before he made it to the hall. Colonel Anthony Craig had become somewhat of a celebrity lately. Thanks to a series of successful peacekeeping missions and a hostage rescue in the recesses of Columbia, his star was on the rise and he’d been getting a lot of press. Ell was not looking forward to the fight she was about to pick. She hoped the press was right about his calm under pressure demeanor and that it wasn’t just a byproduct of his disarming smile and rugged good looks.

“Lieutenant?” he asked as he approached.

“Frost, Lieutenant Ell Frost.”

“Of course, I should have recognized you. I believe we’ve shared a few front page spreads lately. What can I do for you?”

The photos hadn’t done him justice. The man was young for his rank and had a ruggedly beautiful look. Coupled with the pure confidence, military body and tight fitting uniform, he was bound to make women swoon. Ell was not immune but, thankfully, the adrenaline from the episode in the lobby was still racing through her, helping to keep her mind off his chiseled jaw and on the issue at hand.

“You can pack up your men and get the fuck out of my crime scene to start.”

“Pardon?”

“Colonel, you and your men are currently interfering with an active police investigation. Given your reputation, I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and not detain the lot of you on charges of obstruction, but I do have to insist that you clear my scene immediately.”

“Lieutenant, I’m afraid we won’t be doing that. First and foremost, this is MY scene. This is a military investigation and I have been asked to oversee it. I appreciate that you are attempting to do your job but your services are not required.”

Ell decided that his ‘confidence’ bordered on cocky, a trait she disliked on its merit but loved to go up against.

“Listen, I’m in no mood to stand out here measuring… egos. I have confirmation that the victim is a civilian which means PD has jurisdiction here. If you have information in regards to the situation, I’ll be more than happy to incorporate it into my investigation but we both know that a dead civilian means this is my scene. Clear your men, Colonel and stay out of my way.”

“I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, Lieutenant but the victim’s status is… questionable.”

“Nothing questionable about it, Colonel. David Jellic may have been one of yours yesterday, but as of thirteen hundred hours he’s a civilian and that makes him mine. I have crime techs on the way and I suggest you and your team clear out before my scene is further contaminated and I have no choice but to level charges and haul your collective asses in.”

To his credit, Craig maintained his calm composure, continuing to block her entrance. “Unfortunately, time of death has not yet been determined so, as I mentioned, the victim’s status is unclear. Based on our findings, it is also irrelevant. The Department of Defense has registered this scene military jurisdiction. Based on Jellic’s background, the suspects, witnesses and involved parties are likely to be military officers. That gives me the ball, Lieutenant.”

Ell set her jaw and took a deep, calming breath. “It’s time to take your ball and go home. ‘Likely to be’ gives you a courtesy call at most, if and when I make that determination, Colonel. Until then, this is a PD Homicide. Feel free to complain to the D.O.D, Mayor, or whoever else is on your speed dial, but, in the meantime, clear out and pray to god nothing’s missing.”

Ell set her stance, letting her fingers tap against the metal cuffs hanging loosely from her belt. She could see the stonewall glare in Craig’s eyes shift, soften and turn, for a moment, to hesitation.

“In the interest of moving this along, let’s say we agree to work together, in good faith, until we know what we’re dealing with?”

“I don’t play well with others, Colonel.”

“Now that is not at all what I’ve heard,” replied Craig, a sly smile crossing his lips, making Ell wonder who he’d been talking to.

“Fine, you can tag along, but keep the hell out of my way and get your techs off the premises. I work with my team and, for now, I’ll keep you in the loop on results.”

The Colonel nodded in resignation and asked the officer at the door to inform the team inside that the PD crime techs would be taking over until further notice. Ell tried not to look too sanctimonious as he did so.

Chapter Two

She had expected the scene to be messy, murder always is, but she was not prepared for what met her inside the apartment. The two-bedroom flat was simple, not overtly expensive, but clean and well organized.  It was lived in but cared for. The living-room, however, was destroyed. The furniture was broken, flipped and covered in blood. The contents of every drawer and cupboard were strewn throughout the room and, as if set as a centerpiece for viewing upon entry, the victim was naked, bound, gagged and hung, inverted, from the ceiling on the far end of the room.

David Jellic had been a fit young man in his mid thirties yet it was hard to tell that from the state of the body. His hands and forearms were wrapped and tied across the small of his back with black leather strapping. A makeshift ballgag fashioned from a black belt and something she could not yet make out, covered his jaw. The body was suspended, upside down, from an extension cord that had been tied around his ankles and tethered to a large hook in the ceiling. The bleeding had stopped but his torso, arms and legs had been sliced repeatedly with a sharp thin blade. The cause of death was not immediately apparent. However, from the amount of blood staining the room, the victim had lived through some significant pain before it was over.

The Colonel watched her as she entered the room, waiting for a reaction that never came. Ell merely stood in the doorway, taking in the scene, her mind looking for subtle clues that could help reconstruct the hours leading up to her arrival.

“Have your techs been in here?”

“No, I had just done my on-scene analysis and was about to give them the go ahead. They’ve been confined to the rest of the apartment and interviewing the woman that found the body.”

“Girlfriend? Records didn’t indicate a spouse.”

“No, we haven’t found a direct connection. She’s a civilian, Elizabeth Plante.  She’s not sure how or why Jellic was in the apartment but her roommate is military personnel and may have let him in.”

“And the roommate is?”

“Missing. Claire Fenn, thirty-two year old female,” he referenced his notes. “Plante had expected her to be home but we haven’t been able to locate her. Her cell phone goes straight to voicemail.”

“The killer came prepared but didn’t shop for it. The extension cord, the belt, they speak to opportunity items.”

“Could have found them on-site.” Rique’s voice rung out from behind them.

“About time, don’t you live four blocks south of here?”

“Had to give your mom a lift home,” he replied and Ell could tell from the sly grin that it wasn’t his own bed she’d drug him out of. Her good friend, escort madam and sexual deviant, Angel Demarco, had been playing with her partner again.

“Colonel Craig, this is my partner, Enrique Shaw. Excuse his humor, it’s an acquired taste. The Colonel will be assisting until we can determine jurisdiction.”

Rique took his first hard look at the crime scene and winced visually. “As I was saying, the extension cord, the leather straps, the belt, these could have been found on-site.  What makes you think the killer came prepared?”

Ell waved at the ceiling, pointing to the location of the body along the back wall, “You don’t hang a plant in the center of a wall and I don’t know of a plant hook capable of suspending a full grown man. That’s a four inch stainless swivel hook with two inch lag bolts. It comes standard with most swings and suspension kits. Whoever hung it took the time to find a joist or insert pull bars in the ceiling to distribute the weight.”

Rique nodded and stepped carefully towards the body, “L.T., take a look at the arm wraps.” They were a series of flat wraps, evenly spaced, circling the thumb and looping between the arms. It was a professional threading technique used to tighten the restraint and resistance. “This is no amateur wrap. The perp had some experience with bondage.”

“Hold on,” cut in the Colonel, “Bondage? Suspension? Swings?  Are you trying to say THIS was sexual?” He waved his hand at the blood soaked, overturned room.

“God no,” replied Ell, “this was anger, rage and aggression. But the perp had knowledge of bondage and suspension. Perhaps in a sexual sense, perhaps in a professional one. Rique, get some photos before tech gets in to rip this place apart and let Sanders know I need a full work up on the body as soon as possible. I’m going to want a few minutes with Dr. Grayson in the next twenty-four hours, send her an email and give her a heads up. The profile’s odd. Too many mixed signals. She may be able to tighten it down.”

Dr. Anne Grayson was a good resource to have even if she did insist on poking at Ell’s psyche along the way. She was one of the top profilers in the business and when she wasn’t on loan to the FBI or some other acronym based organization, Ell valued her input.

Turning to the Colonel she left her partner to continue examining the crime scene. “Where’s Ms. Plante?”

“In the second bedroom, she’s pretty shaken up.”

‘No shit,’ thought Ell.

They passed Detective Lund, head of Crime Scene, and his team of techs, just arriving and watched them scatter and begin dissecting the apartment. “The body is in the living room. You’re clear to sweep as soon as Sanders finalizes the preliminary report on the victim. It’s not pretty.”

“They never are.” grunted Lund on his way past. The late night calls left little room for witty repartee.

Ell rounded the corner into the second bedroom and found Elisabeth Plante curled up in a ball on the bed. Her eyes were red and her face ghost white. A young man in a full dress military uniform sat beside her, his hand resting gently on her leg. Ell eyed him up slowly. His tight body filled out the uniform well and coupled nicely with a disarming smile and soft eyes. Her mind wandered, briefly, and her skin flushed as she imagined his strong arms pinning her down. Cursing Rob and his torturous rules against self-satisfaction, she shook her head and struggled to focus.

“I thought you cleared your men out?”

“I did, Corporal Strand is a friend of the witness. He’s not on duty this evening, but was first on scene, aside from Ms. Plante. I figured you’d want to talk with him and he didn’t seem very eager to leave.”

“Sorry sir, Liz is pretty shook up. I just wanted to be here for her.”

“Were you with her when she arrived home?”

“I was outside. We spent the evening together at the Collin’s Red Ribbon Gala. It was a fundraiser to help support the families of fallen soldiers. I walked Liz home after the event. We parted out front, but when I heard her screaming, I high-tailed it up here. I found her in the hall just outside the living room curled up and in tears. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first but by the time I reached her it was pretty clear what happened. I’m not afraid to say your techs are going to find my DNA along with some mighty tender sirloin in the hallway carpet. Anyway, I carried Liz in here, called nine-one-one and immediately contacted my Sergeant, Sergeant John Jeffrey, as per protocol.”

‘That explains the Colonel’s quick response’, thought Ell.

“What time did you arrive, Corporal?”

“Approximately Zero-One-Hundred, Lieutenant.”

“One a.m.,” whispered the Colonel and Ell tossed him a snide glance indicating that his help was not necessary.

“Did either of you enter the living-room?”

“God no. Sorry, no, not after I arrived and I found Liz on the floor in the hall, I don’t think she had been in there.”

“I… I… I was going to go in,” said Liz in a trembling haze. “but, the blood and… and… the man… I just screamed and I think I fell. Where’s Claire? Is she… is she…”

“Ms. Fenn’s location has yet to be determined. Her cell phone appears to be off. Do either of you know if she had plans this evening?”

“No, she was here when I left, she said she was staying in,” replied Liz. “She’d had a long week at work. She works for the Judge Advocate and things have been hectic lately. It’s why she was skipping the Gala, well that and… Jon…” Liz trailed off, looking at Corporal Strand.

Ell gave Liz a questioning glance and the Corporal answered for her. “Claire and I were engaged. We broke it off two months ago but it’s been awkward for both of us since. We still work in related divisions and share similar social circles. We do our best to be cordial but often it’s easier to simply avoid one another.”

“And what was her relationship with David Jellic?”

“Jellic?” asked Strand. “None that I’m aware of.” He glanced at Liz for confirmation.

“God no, we all knew about his court martial, it was pretty recent gossip in military circles, but we didn’t know him or anything like that. Wait. Are you saying? The man I saw, the body? Was that Jellic?”

“Formal identification has not been made but early indications suggest so. What time did you leave here today?”

“About nine this morning, I work at a small café over on thirty-second. My shift ended at seven and Jon met me there to head for the Gala. I wanted to come home first but the timeline was tight so I took my dress with me and changed at work.”

You mentioned that Claire works for the Judge Advocate, is there any chance she was involved with Jellic’s case?”

“Claire’s a paralegal. She deals with a lot of research but she’s not really involved with clients. She may have done something for the case, peripherally, but she didn’t mention anything. With all the gossip I’m sure she’d have said something.”

“Thank you both for your time, I’m going to have an officer take down some contact information in case we have any follow-up questions. Ms. Plante, we’re going to be in the apartment for a while yet, do you have somewhere you can go?”

“I have family in town,” she replied, beginning to calm.

“Good, if either of you think of anything else please feel free to contact us, and if you hear from Ms. Fenn have her call me immediately.”

Ell and the Colonel headed back down the hall, meeting Rique at the entryway, preparing to head out.

“Sanders is on scene, Lund’s waiting for him to finish his on-site before the techs start on the living room.”

Ell took one last look at the apartment from the edge of the doorway. Something was off. There was something she was missing but she couldn’t place it.

“Shaw, hold up.”

Rique stopped, turning back into the doorway.

“What’s up, L.T.?”

“There’s something off. Tell me what you see, what stands out as odd?”

“Not much. It’s a pretty standard front hall. This whole neighborhood is built in a similar style. Aside from the purses and heels, this isn’t much different from my own flat.”

“Purses?” asked Ell.

“Yeah, to your left on the wood bench. It’s pretty normal for ladies to leave them up here isn’t it?”

“Sure, but why are there two?”

Chapter Three

Rique issued an APB on Private First Class Claire Fenn but Colonel Craig insisted on taking point on the missing persons case. Being a missing military officer with no indication of civilian involvement, there was nothing Ell could do to prevent it. The situation was becoming a cross-jurisdictional nightmare and she feared it was only a matter of time before someone attempted to strong-arm her off of the case.

The trip back to the eleventh precinct was quick but agitating. The pent up sexual frustration wasn’t helping but there was something else about this one that wasn’t sitting right. Something about the scene had pulled her in. This was her case now, her victim, and she did not intend to walk away and let the military take over.

The precinct was quiet, though she had not expected much activity at three-thirty in the morning. There were bound to be a few drunk and disorderlies down in the tank, perhaps a couple working girls that were rousted overnight, but unless there was something high profile in the works, robbery/homicide would be a ghost town at this hour. Baker and Jones had settled into the bullpen and were filing the paperwork on the two military officers they had escorted in. Ell knew the charges wouldn’t hold, D.A. Stranik would drop them in the interest of ‘playing nice’, but the work still needed to be done.

“Thanks for taking care of the grunt work, ladies. Did they give you any problems on the way in?”

“I think their egos were bruised more than their bodies,” responded Jones. “They rode in like a couple of well scolded toddlers. How’d it go at the scene?”

“Grizzly. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll let you review the photos and notes as soon as Rique gets the file and board going. This one’s gonna turn into a fight for control and I have no intention of letting it go. It’s still your case,” she nodded at Detective Jones, “but I want to be kept in the loop.”

Baker shook her head, the flowing red locks framing her sweet, innocent smile. A smile Ell knew held much more than it appeared.

“We’ve already transferred the case off in the system, L.T. You and Rique are the active investigators. We figured, you examined the scene, started the process, you’d be invested.”

They knew her, knew she’d never be able to step aside once she’d done the initial on-scene. “Thanks, but I want both of you on this with us, if your case-load can handle it. I have a feeling I’m going to be spending too much of my time fighting to keep us involved. Colonel Craig is playing nice for now but he’s not the type to sit in the background and watch.”

Jones’ eyes snapped up from her desk. “Craig? As in the Columbian Cutie, Craig? He can watch me anytime. What the hell is he doing looking into a simple homicide? Did we run out of needy hostages in remote jungles?”  

“I’m not sure, but does hoping one comes to light in the next couple hours make me a bad person?”

“Maybe just a little,” laughed Baker. Her soft giggle sending chills through Ell’s body. Taking a deep breath she focused her mind and headed across the hall to her office.

Opening the door and settling into the desk chair, Ell took a moment to focus and take in the room. It was more a converted broom closet than an office, but she liked her private space. It was quiet and non-distracting. It also had one of the best computers in the precinct thanks to her personal I.T. slave Rob. Looking at the dual LCD monitors she felt a ping of longing. It had only been a week since he left for his ‘let’s build a robot overlord’ conference but she was definitely beginning to miss him. It was an odd feeling. She’d never felt connected to someone before. Not like this. Not to the point of affecting her. Her body tingled at the thought of his touch, his soft hands caressing her skin, setting her at ease for just a moment before the hard sting of flesh on flesh coursed through her. Her mind fluttered, her skin flushed and she nearly let out an audible moan before coming to her senses.

‘Fuck, I’m going to seriously hurt that boy for doing this to me,’ she cursed, trying to regain her composure. Taking a couple deep breaths, she turned and wiggled her mouse, bringing the computer to life. The desktop popped up and she pulled up the case files Jones and Baker had begun compiling on David Jellic. She added her own on-site notes, knowing the other detectives on scene would do the same, and then turned her attention to a search on jurisdictional requirements. It was a conversation that was going to come up sooner or later and she intended to be prepared.

Having lost herself in the search she barely noticed when Rique knocked on her open door forty minutes later.

“L.T., I’ve added my site notes and started to put together a timeline and case board in the bullpen. Not much to go on yet but it’s early. Baker and Jones went to grab a couple hours down time before their shift starts. Sanders should have a preliminary report by mid-morning and said he would contact you as soon as it’s ready. The cause of death wasn’t obvious at the scene although he said the significant blood loss may factor in. He estimated time of death as one to six p.m. but is hoping to tighten that up once he can do a thorough examination.”

The timeframe was promising yet it still left the victim’s status as a civilian arguable. Hopefully they could tighten it down before she had to speak with the Commader.

“Any word from the tech monkies?”

“Still on-sight. With the state of the room it’s going to take them a while to catalog and process everything. I sent Grayson an email about a consult but wouldn’t expect a response until the sun’s back on this side of the planet. Still no hit on the APB for Fenn so I have uniforms canvassing any known haunts that may be open at this hour. I know we are not supposed to be running point on the missing person case so they’ve been instructed to be discreet.”

“Good, we should also dig into the roommate and their relationship. It’s not likely to play but dating your roommates ex-fiancé seems like something that doesn’t go over well in most circles. There’s not much else we can do until the sun comes up. You should get a couple hours in a bunk while you have a chance. I’m just finishing up some research that may help us hold on to the case. Odds are Colonel Craig is going to want to tie in his missing private as an excuse to claim jurisdiction. I don’t plan on releasing the reins, nor do I need the military breathing down my back every step of the way.”

Rique rubbed his eyes and smiled.

“I don’t envy your job, L.T., but I’ll leave you to it.”

The seven a.m. shift change came quickly. Ell was still reviewing her jurisdictional argument when the traffic in the precinct halls began to pick up. Exhaustion was on the edge of her mind but the adrenaline of a new case had managed to keep the fog from flowing over her. It was going to be a long day.

She set aside her research for a moment and headed across the hall to the bullpen. The Jellic case may be hers but as the Lieutenant for robbery/homicide she had to make sure nothing else was falling through the cracks while she ran with it. As expected, her team were already hard at it. The bullpen was bustling with cop speak, the distinct aroma of stale pastry and tar-like coffee filling the air. If she didn’t have a throbbing head ache and a hard ass reputation to protect she may have smiled. There was nothing as beautiful as the bullpen at full throttle. Beautiful and frightening. A symphony of organized chaos.

Her mind, focussed on the scene unfolding before her, cleared just in time to sidestep an elbow to the temple. Jenkins swung around, blindly, a half eaten bagel hanging from his lips and arms full of files.

“Christ! A little warning before you bust into pirouettes, Jenkins.”

“Shit, sorry L.T.,” he said, wrestling the remaining bagel from his mouth, “I didn’t see you come in.”

“That’s the high level of observation I love to see in my detectives.” She waved him off before he could apologize again. “So what’s hot this morning?” Ell gestured at the stack of files he was struggling to keep balanced on his left arm.

“Oh, Brituski and I are on deck for testimony in the Donne’s case this afternoon. I figured I’d better brush up on the official reports and make sure everything is in order.”

“Donne’s? Was that the idiot that tried to rob the Brinks’ truck on fifth?”

“Plastic pellet gun and all.”

“How the hell did that go to trial?”

“His daddy hired a high priced attorney who is trying his best to earn a couple years worth of retirement off of this kid’s boneheaded attempt at criminal enterprise.”

Ell shook her head and sighed. “Better make sure it’s nailed down tight, and let me know if there any issues. We don’t need some pricey suit messing up the easy ones.”

“Yeah, don’t you have your own ‘pricey suit’ battle coming up on the Bouton case?”

“Don’t remind me. Fucking suits.” Ell tapped him on the shoulder and headed further into the room.

Baker and Jones were absent, as expected, hopefully getting a couple hours in the bunks. The rest of the squad were honing in on their cases and barely noticed her presence. Rique gave her a nod as she wandered over to his desk.

“If you and I are taking point on this Jellic mess I’m going to need you to be my eyes and ears in here. Last time we pulled something this high profile, I got wrapped up and the squad was left scrambling. If I’m going to be running lead on a homicide I’ll need someone making sure I don’t get tunnel vision.”

“We’re big kids, L.T., we won’t break the swing set while you’re gone.”

She glanced at the plate of frosted mini-doughnuts on the edge of his desk, snagged one, and let out a slight laugh, “You keep eating like this and your ass will be lucky to fit in the swings.”

“Damn,” he said putting down a half eaten doughnut. “Angel would be pissed if we couldn’t use the swing.”

“Jesus Rique, information and visuals your Lieutenant doesn’t need.”

Rique chuckled, “Next time leave my fucking frosteds alone.”

“Deal, a little sugar isn’t worth the torture of that visual.”

He feigned pain placing a hand over his heart. “But seriously, Ell, we’ve all got your back. Every cop in here can manage on their own if this case gets crazy, and I’ll keep an eye out for balls dropping. The media circus this is going to draw, especially on the heels of the Bouton mess and upcoming trial, isn’t going to be pretty.”

“Don’t remind me,” said Ell, the thought was enough to increase the throbbing on her temples.

“If we were smart we’d just hand this one off to Colonel Hot Stuff and sit back while the media storm rolls in, but…”

“Who claimed we were smart?” asked Ell.

“No one I’ve ever met. I’ll roll through the pen and touch base with the crew, get all the actives on track. You go deal with the brass and make sure no one screws up our case.”

Ell would have tried to come up with a bit of witty repartee but the growing headache, two hours sleep and ever present sexual frustration thanks to Rob’s damn rules, made the effort required far too much. Instead, she smiled and whispered, “Thanks,” before turning to make her way back through the bullpen and across the hall to her office.

She just managed to settle in and begin printing off the jurisdictional argument that she had been preparing when her office line rang. Checking the display she noted extension 145 – Commander Nuez. She took a deep breath before answering. She had hoped for a few hours to dig into the case before the fight for control began but clearly that wasn’t going to be an option. Deciding to forego the handset, Ell punched the speakerphone key and tried to sound professional.

“Robbery / Homicide, Lieutenant Frost speaking.”

“Good morning Lieutenant, this is Keith Dillon with the Commander’s office. Commander Nuez requests that you make yourself available at oh nine hundred to meet with him and a representative from the Judge Advocate’s office. The Commander also requests fifteen minutes with you in advance of the meeting. At a time of your convenience.”

Checking the clock on her phone, Ell saw it was eight twenty-two. “At a time of my convenience, Keith? It’s damn near eight thirty and you want fifteen minutes between now and nine. You do realize I’m a cop with an open, high-profile homicide and an entire department of other cops relying on me for leadership, right? So in what world is any of this bureaucratic nonsense convenient?”

Keith stammered, searching for a response but Ell cut him off before he could come up with anything more than awkward grunts.

“Never mind, tell the Commander I’ll be in his office in fifteen with a recap.”

She didn’t wait for a response before disconnecting but immediately felt guilty. She enjoyed harassing the Commander’s robot like assistant but it was usually just good natured ribbing. She’d taken her frustration out on him this morning and knew that wasn’t fair. Fuck! She hated owing someone an apology, especially the robot. Unfortunately she hated guilt more and didn’t need to add it to the pounding headache, exhaustion and growing frustration. She took one more glance at the clock, gathered her notes and decided she’d have to deal with Keith later. Right now murder and bureaucracy were fighting to monopolize her morning.

Normally she would have bypassed the elevator, opting to double time it up the stairs, but given how she felt and the fact that an empty car was waiting, she decided to give her legs a break. It took about twenty seconds to regret that decision. Before reaching the second floor, the lift came to a screeching halt. Emergency lights flashing.

“What the bloody hell?”

An automated voice came from the speaker embedded in the control panel. “Please remain calm. A maintenance technician has been notified. Approximate response time is twenty minutes.”

“Pardon? Twenty minutes my ass!”

Ell pulled out her cell and dialled her partner.

“King of the Bullpen, how may I help you?”

“You can get your ass out to the lobby and break me out of elevator two.”

“What?”

“Which part are you struggling with, Rique. Elevator two is stuck and I need you to come ‘unstuck’ the damn thing.”

Rique made a conscious effort not to laugh but she could hear the jubilation in his voice.

“I’m pretty sure you’ll need to wait for maintenance on that one, L.T. Even the King of the Pen’s superpowers have limits.”

“Maintenance is twenty minutes out and I’m due in Nuez’ office in ten. Can your superpowers do math? Get me out of this fucking metal coffin.”

“Ell, aside from going ‘Die Hard’ up the elevator shaft, I don’t know what to tell you.”

She didn’t have time to argue but he had given her an idea so she hung up and hit speed dial two.

“Not that I don’t love to hear from you but it’s six thirty a.m. here, Ell.” Rob’s voice sent an unexpected shiver down her spine.

Punish me later. I don’t have time for formal niceties at the moment. I’m stuck in an elevator at the precinct and need to know how to open the door.”

“Call maintenance.”

“Hilarious. You’re the tech genius, so how do I hack this piece of crap so I can get out?”

“You don’t. What car are you in?”

She could hear his laptop booting up on the other end of the call. “Two.”

Seconds later the elevator let out three long beeps of surrender and the doors slid open. She was between floors but figured there was enough clearance between the roof of the elevator and the tile of the second floor for her to squeeze through.

“Thanks, my hero,” she said in her best damsel in distress impression. Rob laughed.

“Whips an chains, can I go back to sleep now, please?”

“Get that beauty rest, we know you need it. Whips and chains back attcha.” Ell smiled and disconnected the call.