Lizzy opened the fire door on the top floor of the parking structure and stepped into a bitterly cold wind. It was only November, but freezing rain slashed down like icicles. Normally, she liked to see the night sky. But tonight, the sky was obscured by the dark clouds spitting out icy pellets that peppered her face.
She tugged her hat lower over her ears and tucked her scarf more tightly around her neck as she trudged to her car. As she got closer, she heard voices in the distance and raised her head.
Two men stood at the end of the row. Arguing. As she watched, their threatening gestures and angry voices saturated the air.
The hairs on the back of her neck rose, and without thinking, she ducked between two cars, then made her way to the front, where she edged between a bumper and the cement wall. Whatever was going on, she didn’t want them to see her. Three AM in a deserted parking garage. Alone. Reason enough to stay out of sight.
Their voices rose, and she peered over the hood of the car. One of the men waved at the other, as if dismissing whatever had just been said. He turned to leave, and the second man grabbed him. Before Lizzy could process what was going on, the second man shoved the first one over the wall.
The man’s scream lasted for endless seconds, then abruptly cut off.
Shivering with fear, Lizzy folded her body in on itself. Footsteps came toward her. She lifted her head briefly to see if the killer had spotted her. He was looking down the row of cars, but as he got closer, one of the few lights in the garage shone briefly on his face. Enough for his face to be seared into Lizzy’s brain.
She curled in on herself again, hiding her face, shoving her blond hair into her hat, grateful she’d worn her black fleece jacket. The footsteps came closer until they were directly in front of her. Lizzy held her breath as the killer passed her hiding spot without slowing down. After an eternity, a car door clicked open. It closed with a solid thump and she let out her breath. Moments later, a car engine roared to life and headlights bounced off the cement wall five or six cars down.
The car backed out of its spot, headlights accelerating in her direction. She dropped to the filthy floor and peered between the cars. All she saw was a dark sedan roaring past.
She lay on the floor, her heart battering her chest. Her breath froze in her throat as the sound of the car became fainter. Even after silence fell over the parking garage once again, she didn’t move. Her arms and legs were shaking too much. Eventually she heard sirens in the distance, coming closer and closer. Someone had found that poor man’s body.
She should go down and tell them what she’d seen happen. That she’d seen the murderer. But she didn’t move. Maybe the killer had doubled back, checking to make sure no one had seen him.
The sounds of voices talking, more sirens, police whistles drifted up to her, and she shivered as she listened to them. Her jeans and jacket had soaked up every drop of dirty water on the cement. She’d forgotten her gloves at the nurse’s station in the hospital, and her fingers were numb.
Cars accelerated up the ramp, and finally two police cars appeared, blue and red lights flashing. Tires squealed as they stopped and two cops raced out of the car.
As they focused flashlights on the concrete along the edge of the wall, Lizzy pushed to her knees, then stumbled to her feet. Every joint ached as if icicles had been driven into them, and she staggered as she made her way toward her car door. Maybe she could get away. They’d be preoccupied with what had happened. Maybe they wouldn’t notice her.
“Hey! Stop right there. What are you doing here?” One of the officers strode toward her, scowling.
Maybe not. Lizzy used a dirty silver car to support her weight until the cop was standing in front of her. “I saw it happen.”
“We’ve got a witness who saw Kelly’s murder!”
Mac Donovan lifted his gaze from the computer screen. On the other side of the room, his boss was on the phone.
A witness. Someone had seen their fellow FBI agent fall to his death from a parking garage. At three AM. How did they get so damn lucky? “Saw him go over the wall, or saw him get pushed?”
“Hold on.” The SAC, Frank Parmenter, held up his hand for silence as he continued to listen. He nodded once and said, “Thanks, Detective. We appreciate the quick call. I’ll send someone downstairs to meet you.”
He hung up and swung around in his chair, his face filled with grim satisfaction. “That was a detective from the twelfth. When they got to the top of the parking structure, they found a woman who said she’d seen the whole thing. Even got a look at the killer’s face. He’s sending her over in a patrol car.”
“Damn,” Mac said. Sometimes the good guys caught a break. Maybe they could wrap this up right away. “Want me to go downstairs and bring her up to the office?” Two of his brothers and his sister worked at the twelfth, and he’d met a lot of the cops. Maybe someone he knew had pulled escort duty.
“No, I don’t want her to freak out. She sees your ugly mug, she might take off running.”
Mac brushed his fingers over his bruised, swollen face and grimaced. “Yeah, don’t want her to think we mix it up with witnesses.”
“You look like a fucking vampire, Donovan.” Parmenter scowled at him. “So stay away from this woman.”
“Right.” Yesterday he’d arrested a dirt bag they’d been after for a long time, but not without a fight. As a result, Mac’s eye was a palette of purples and the white part of it was completely red. He rolled his shoulders. He really wanted to be part of this interrogation.
“And you’re not going in the box with her, either,” Parmenter added.
“Might scare the truth out of her,” he said mildly.
“This is a witness, Donovan. A voluntary one. We don’t need to scare her.” Parmenter spun in his chair and pointed to the only woman in the office right now. “Rhodes. You get her. The detective said our witness is pretty shaken up. And be careful. They’re bringing the woman to the back of the building, but if news leaked out that one of our agents was killed, the press will be waiting. Make sure they don’t catch a glimpse of her. We need to keep this quiet.”
“Got it, Sir.” Rhodes stood up, slung on her puffy winter coat and headed out the door.
As soon as she was gone, the SAC said to Mac, “Donovan, you find anything on Kelly’s computer?”
“I’m going through his files and there’s nothing obvious. But there are some holes in his records. I called in one of the IT guys. He’ll be able to tear this thing down to individual bytes. If there’s anything on the hard drive, he’ll find it.”
“Good.” Parmenter’s gaze skimmed over the handful of agents in the office and he settled back in his chair. “Rhodes is going to be asking the questions. Donovan, Jacobsen, I need eyes on this interrogation. Watch from the observation room. I want to nail the bastard who killed Kelly.”
“Will do,” Jacobsen said. He glanced at Mac. “You need coffee or anything, Donovan? I can make a run before Rhodes gets back.”
“Yeah, that sounds great.” Mac dug in his pocket for his wallet, but Jacobsen waved him off. “I’ve got it.” He grabbed his coat and left the office.
Fifteen minutes later, Rhodes led a woman through the office. She was on the short side and slender, with a curly blond ponytail. The ends of her hair were soggy and dirty, and the bright green scarf around her neck looked as if it had been dipped in mud. The front of her jacket was shiny, as if she’d laid in a pool of oil. The thighs and knees of her jeans were filthy and wet. She shivered, and he wondered if she was cold, or still in shock.
Could be either one. Her hands were hidden in her pockets, and her shoulders hunched. From the cold? Or was it fear?
Impossible to tell. And although the tightness of her face and her slightly trembling mouth were evidence of her nerves, she glanced around the room as if assessing her surroundings. Her eyes lit on Parmenter, hesitated, moved on. She studied the walls with their pictures and plaques, the surfaces of the desks, even the coats hastily thrown over the backs of their chairs.
Her silver earrings dangled almost to her shoulders, swaying as she walked. Only a self-assured woman wore earrings like that. Curiosity piqued, he continued to track her progress across the room.
Her eyes were huge, bright blue and striking, even with the purple smudges beneath them. Not evidence of guilt, he reminded himself. It was after three in the morning.
Even through the dirt on her face, her skin looked luminous. And her snug jeans hugged a world-class ass.
His pen fell out of his hands and as he reached down to retrieve it, he gave himself a mental slap. Jesus, Donovan. Get your mind on the job.
The woman was a witness to the murder of one of his fellow agents. A man he’d known for several years. She might hold the key to capturing Kelly’s killer. And he was watching the sway of her ass from across the room.
Maybe his brothers were right. Maybe he did spend too much time working.
With a last flash of blond hair, the woman disappeared around the corner. When the door to the interrogation room clicked shut, Mac hurried to the one-way mirror that took up a whole wall of the room.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, he watched the woman unwind the scarf from around her neck and take off the filthy jacket. Underneath, she wore a red v-neck sweater that showed just a hint of cleavage. Swallowing, Mac stared as she slid into the chair, her movements stiff and awkward. Her back ramrod straight, she folded her hands on the table and studied the room, staring at the mirror for a moment too long. Her eyes flickered once, and Mac leaned closer. Was that fear he saw?
She turned away and her hand shook as she tucked stray wisps of hair behind her ear.
Nervous about being watched? Because of course she knew what that giant mirror meant. Thanks to all the cop shows on television, everyone knew agents would be watching from behind that glass.
She’d been nervous when she arrived. Now she looked more nervous. Almost scared. He wondered why. Had she been involved in the murder? Had the police found her at the parking garage as she was trying to escape?
As Rhodes shuffled through some papers in a folder – an old trick to make the bad guys nervous – the witness ignored the agent and continued her scrutiny of the room, staring for a moment at the camera mounted high on the wall. Finally her gaze returned to Rhodes, who opened the file on the table.
“Ms. Monroe, we’re recording this interview. Is that all right?”
“Yes.” Her voice was low and a little throaty, and Mac’s cock stirred. Damn, he should have listened to his brothers. He needed to get laid.
“Would you state your full name, please?”
“Ms. Monroe, you told the police you saw the murder of Joseph Kelly. Can you describe what you saw?”
She nodded once, and Mac leaned closer to the glass as she described walking through the garage, seeing the men arguing, and slipping behind a car. As she spoke, her hands stayed tangled together, the tips of her fingers turning white where she pressed them into her hands.
Guilty secret? Or just nervous about being questioned by the FBI?
After Elizabeth Monroe finished telling what she’d seen, she eased back in her chair. She appeared uncomfortable, but wasn’t showing any tells that would indicate she was lying. From her outward appearance, he’d guess she was telling the truth.
Rhodes folded her hands on the table. “What were you doing in that parking garage at three AM?”
The witness looked startled, as if she wasn’t expecting the question. Or maybe it was Rhodes’ sharp tone. She shifted in the hard chair, the one they made sure was deliberately uncomfortable. “I’m a translator for St. Christopher hospital. When they get a patient who doesn’t speak English, I’m one of the people they call in.”
“So you’d been at the hospital translating?”
“And someone at the hospital can verify that?”
“Of course.” The woman pressed her hands together more tightly. “Do you think I had something to do with this?”
“I’m asking the questions, Ms. Monroe.”
The young woman’s mouth tightened and she straightened her back. “Fine. Ask away.”
Mac leaned closer to the glass. What the hell was Rhodes doing? She was going to alienate the only witness to Joe Kelly’s murder. He wanted to yank his fellow agent out of the interrogation room and do the interrogation himself.
No. At least he could be honest with himself. He wanted to get up-close and personal with their witness.
God. Good thing Parmenter hadn’t assigned him the interview.
Someone stepped up next to him, and he glanced at his boss. Parmenter scowled. “Where’s Jacobson?”
“Went to get coffee.”
“How long does it take to get a cup of fucking coffee? I told him to watch this interrogation.”
Mac grunted something unintelligible and turned his attention back to the interrogation.
“Do you have a job besides translating?” Rhodes asked, her voice a little less strident.
“Yes. I translate medical documents, and I teach language classes at Triton College.”
“You must be good at languages.”
Monroe shrugged. “Languages are easy for me.”
“How many languages do you speak?”
The young woman shifted on the hard chair again. “Several.”
“You want to list them for me?”
The witness stared at Rhodes for a moment, as if she was debating what to say. Finally she said, “French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portugese, Serbian, Russian. Some Arabic. A little Farsi.”
For the first time, Monroe looked impatient. As if the question was a stupid one. “Like I said, they’re easy for me.”
Rhodes asked the woman where she was born, where she grew up, about her family. Apparently, the agent knew she’d come off as too harsh and was trying to soften her approach.
Mac studied Elizabeth Monroe’s expressive face, saw her face tighten when Rhodes asked about her family. “My parents are both dead. I have one brother who lives in New York.” The mass of her ponytail had dried in wild curls. She looked watchful. Careful, as if measuring her words. He wondered why.
“…grew up in Northern Wisconsin.” Her gaze dropped to her hands, which were clenched together.
“Yeah? I was a counselor in a camp in that part of Wisconsin. Loved the area. Didn’t like the job so much.”
Damn it. He’d been studying Elizabeth Monroe so intently, he’d lost track of the questions.
The woman nodded. “That’s a challenging job.”
“You worked at a camp, too?”
“I spent a couple of summers as a counselor at a language camp.”
“In Wisconsin? I didn’t know they had something that sophisticated up there.”
Monroe’s mouth tightened. Did she dislike Rhodes’s implied criticism of their neighboring state? Or was it something else? “No, quite a way from Wisconsin. On the coast.”
“You enjoy it?”
“Yeah, I did.” She swallowed again. “Beautiful part of the country.”
Rhodes got the woman’s contact information and asked a few more questions about the killer. Finally she asked, “Would you be willing to work with a sketch artist to get a picture of this guy?”
“Yes.” The woman pulled out her phone and checked her calendar. “I could come in tomorrow afternoon.” She sighed. “I mean, this afternoon.”
“How about around ten this morning?”
She shook her head. “I have to teach a class at eleven.”
“Fine. Two o’clock this afternoon, then.”
“Make it four,” Monroe said. “I have office hours after my class.” Rhodes started to speak, and the other woman held up her hand. “Don’t worry, I won’t forget his face.” She closed her eyes briefly, then stared at her hands. “Even if I wanted to.”
Rhodes’ mouth thinned, but she said, “Four it is.” The agent stood up and opened the door a little too hard, and it banged into the wall. Monroe walked out of the observation room. Parmenter watched her for another few seconds, then marched back to his desk. He picked up his phone, punched a number, and after a moment, said, “Where the hell are you, Jacobsen?” The SAC’s roar was probably audible on the ground floor of the building.
By the time Mac’s gaze returned to their witness, she’d paused outside the interrogation room. Wanting to get closer to her, Mac moved toward the hallway where she’d emerge.
Moments later she appeared, scarf in her hands. As she wrapped it around her throat, her hands were shaking. The scarf fluttered through her fingers and drifted to the floor.
She bent to pick it up, put it slowly around her neck, and stepped out of the corridor and into the office. She gazed around the room, taking in the FBI seal on the wall, the agents’ pictures, the photo of the president. Mac studied her, knowing she couldn’t see him in the observation room alcove. It didn’t look as if the trappings of federal authority on the walls were reassuring her.
It looked more like they were upsetting her.
He watched as she pulled on the dirty, wet jacket with shaking hands, scanned the room again, then walked toward the door.
Stiff-legged. Back rigid. Eyes down. Not looking at anyone in the office.
Moments later, she disappeared from view.
There was something off about their witness. Was she lying? Mac didn’t think she was lying about what she’d seen. But her reactions were more than being scared and traumatized by what she’d witnessed. What was she trying to hide?
Was she involved somehow? Did she know more than she’d told them?
She’d agreed to return this afternoon. The woman had fascinated him from the moment she walked into the office. He wanted to peel away the layers of tension that encased Elizabeth Monroe and find out what she was hiding.
She’d be back in about twelve hours. He’d be waiting for her.