A face to die for, p.10
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       A Face to Die For, p.10

         Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane
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  Slowly, he rose from behind his desk.

  “I think we can work something out to bring up your grade,” he said, circling her chair and watching her reaction. “It would require extra hours spent in my office.”

  “Of course.” Emma nodded, forcing a flush to stain her cheeks.

  Hanover’s lips curled. “I want to make sure we’re on the same page, Miss Lowe,” he qualified. “Our work will require discretion and a locked door. Am I making myself clear?”

  “Crystal clear, sir.” Emma folded and unfolded her hands in her lap. “When did you want to have these meetings? I assume that early mornings are out.”

  One brow rose. “And why would you assume that?”

  Emma pointed at his gym bag. “You’re clearly a runner. I wouldn’t want to interfere with your running time.”

  “That’s very considerate of you,” Hanover replied. “However, early mornings are often ideal. It’s quiet, there are no classes or office hours to interfere, nor are there any nosy custodians to bother us. It’s true I run in the mornings, but that’s before dawn. I can shower and come directly here.” He waved his arm at the file cabinet. “I keep an extra set of clothes in there, plus an extra jacket like the one you were admiring for just this purpose. You need only to show up—with your class material, of course—and leave the rest to me. And for the record, I like skirts and dresses very much.” He looked at her with grave, empty eyes. “I’m less fond of undergarments.”

  I’m sure you are, you perv, Emma thought. But she could barely contain her triumph. A whole drawer of clothing, along with a permanently hung jacket. Talk about hitting pay dirt.

  Mission accomplished. Time to bid adieu to Dr. Scumbag.

  Smiling shyly, Emma rose from her chair. “When will we be having our first meeting?”

  He stopped in front of her, twisting a strand of blonde hair around his finger. “Monday morning. I’m not teaching till your evening class. I have midday office hours. And I’ll be running at dawn. So be here at six thirty.”

  “I will.” Emma extricated her tendril of hair, squeezing his hand as she did. “I look forward to acing your class.”

  Office of Forensic Instincts

  Tribeca, New York

  Perched on the edge of the desk in Ryan’s lair, Casey pulled out her earbuds and turned to him. “We’ve got to move now or Emma will be on her back in Hanover’s office come Monday.”

  “Agreed.” Ryan looked as worried as Casey. “We can make this happen tomorrow. Remember, Emma said that Sunday mornings are the best break-in times.”

  “Yes. And Claire and I will be there right after dawn. Once that’s done, get Emma out of that class. I don’t care how you make it happen. Just do it. She’s been through enough trauma playing roles like this. I’m not putting her in danger again.”

  “No arguments.” Ryan interlaced his fingers and locked his hands behind his head. “I’ll have Kate send Hanover an email. Since those can be monitored, she’ll keep it short, sweet, and nondescript. She’ll just say that she’s freaking out because she can’t handle what’s required of her. She’ll tell him she’s dropping the class, withdrawing from the program, and heading back home. As long as Kate doesn’t implicate Hanover in writing, he won’t even blink. His primary target is Brianna, anyway. Kate was just a sideshow.”

  “And the administrative arrangements?”

  “Piece of cake. Don’t worry. Kate will be extricated ASAP. I’ll take care of the red tape tomorrow morning, as soon as you give me the go-ahead.”

  “On Sunday? No one will be at their desks.”

  “They don’t need to be. I’ll do it all electronically. Relax, boss. Everything will be wrapped up before Emma’s predawn meeting on Monday. You and Claire just get your canine vacuum and its accoutrements, and do your thing. Leave the techno-stuff to me.”

  “I always do.”

  CHAPTER 10

  It was a little after nine, with a late May nighttime just settling over the city, when Brianna let herself into Lina’s apartment.

  Immediately, Lina jumped off the sofa, scrutinizing her friend’s weary expression.

  “How did things go with your parents?” she asked. “Was your security guy there the whole time? Did you get any inkling that that asshole was following you?”

  “Emotional, yes, and no,” Brianna replied, smiling in spite of her exhaustion. The past few hours had been draining. A dose of Lina’s bursting energy was just what the doctor ordered. “Mr. Nickels drove me to my parents’ apartment and walked me to the door. He met me in the hall when I called him afterwards and drove me back here. I’m sure he’s right outside your place now. Believe me, I was safe. And, no, I didn’t see any sign of Hanover. I guess that’s a blessing.”

  Lina chewed her lip, watching her friend. “And your parents? Are they okay?”

  “Of course not. They’re worried sick. They’re also upset with me for not coming to them sooner. And they’re right. I dumped the whole situation on your parents earlier this week, but I kept my own parents in the dark.”

  “You were protecting them.”

  “I know that, but it was stupid. I needed their support. Now I have it. They asked if they could speak with Casey. Obviously, I said yes. I left a message on Casey’s phone, giving FI permission to talk to them. And I’ll be reporting in to my folks daily like a teenager. But that’s fine with me. Truthfully, at this point I’m grateful for everyone’s support. I’m so on edge that I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams.”

  “I know,” Lina said softly. “And I’m so sorry. But I know Forensic Instincts will get the bastard. Just hang on.” She gave Brianna a hug.

  “Thanks.” Brianna dashed tears off her face. Crossing the room, she went to her neatly stacked pile of clothes, pulling out a tired T-shirt and jeans and quickly changing out of the blouse and slacks she’d worn to her parents’. She frowned as she hung them up on the makeshift clothing rod she and Lina had set up. “I need to pick up more things from my apartment. I’ve been washing and wearing the same outfits all week.”

  “No problem.” Lina, the reigning queen of fashion, nodded vigorously in understanding. “Why don’t we grab a cup of coffee and head over there? We’ll buy a cup for Mr. Nickels, too. He’ll walk us to and from your apartment. You can get whatever you need.”

  “Sounds good.”

  * * *

  Brianna knew something was wrong the minute she stepped inside her apartment and switched on the light.

  She couldn’t explain why. The place looked just the way she’d left it. And the front door had been locked. But she had the creepiest feeling—one she couldn’t shake.

  “Something’s not right,” she told Lina, glancing around the living room.

  “What do you mean?” Lina asked.

  “I don’t know.” She peeked into the kitchen and then headed for the bedroom.

  She flipped on the light switch, took one step inside, and let out a shrill cry. “Oh no! No!”

  Her lingerie drawer was yanked open. Her bras and thongs were tossed about in total disarray. There was a tangled trail of underwear leading from the dresser to the bed. The toiletries on
her dresser had been shifted around, and her perfume bottle was open, the cap sitting purposefully beside the naked-looking atomizer.

  And there, in the center of a visibly mussed bed, were a dozen white roses, with one red rose in the center. The whole arrangement was snuggled in white tissue paper, with a lacy bra wrapped around the stems.

  The scene was Brianna’s worst nightmare.

  “Oh my God,” Lina said from behind her. She grabbed Brianna’s hand and tugged. “We can’t go in there. He might still be inside. We’ve got to get Mr. Nickels.”

  Brianna was shaking so badly she couldn’t answer. She was frozen in place, reeling from the terrifying invasion of her space, her life.

  “Brianna—come on!” Lina dragged her friend out of the apartment, where they crashed into John Nickels in the hallway.

  “What is it?” he demanded, already reaching for the gun inside his shoulder holster.

  Lina blurted out what they’d found.

  “Both of you stay out here,” Nickels ordered.

  Pushing the door open with his foot, he crept inside, pistol raised. Slowly and methodically, he checked each room. When he was sure no one was in the apartment, he holstered his weapon and whipped out his cell phone. In rapid fire, he snapped a series of photos, sending them right off to Casey. Then he returned to the front hall. “Come in,” he instructed the girls. “But stay just inside the apartment. Don’t touch anything, not even the door handle. This is a crime scene.”

  “We won’t.” Gently, Lina guided Brianna back inside. “We’ll stand right here until the police arrive.”

  “I didn’t call the police,” John told them quietly. “I’m about to call Casey. She might want to handle things differently.”

  “I…” Lina’s eyes widened. “Okay.”

  “He touched my things. He was on my bed,” Brianna whispered. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

  “Well, you can’t be,” Lina said, trying to snap Brianna out of her hysteria by using humor. “There’s no receptacle to be sick in. We can’t touch the trash can or the toilet. So pull it together and forget the idea of throwing up.”

  Brianna managed a wan smile. “Thanks, Li.”

  “Hey, it’s as much for me as it is for you. When someone near me vomits, I immediately begin doing the same. And I happen to like the outfit I’m wearing.”

  John was about to punch in a number when his cell phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID, although he knew full well who it was.

  “I was giving you a minute for the photos to go through,” he answered without prelude. “So I’m assuming you got them.” A nod. “Yes, Brianna and Lina are both fine. Shaken but fine. They’re right here with me.”

  A long pause as he listened to Casey’s instructions.

  “How long?” he asked. A pause. “Then that’s what we’ll do. But I think it’s about as far as we can push it. Okay, done.”

  He pressed the red phone button to end the call.

  “We’re going to have to wait about an hour or so,” he said, turning to Brianna and Lina. “Then, we’ll call the police.” He cleared his throat. “We’ll have to amend our story—specifically the time we arrived. I’ll go over the script with you after I turn off the lights.”

  “We’re standing here in the dark for an hour?” Lina asked.

  “Unfortunately, yes.”

  “Why?” Brianna was re-centering herself, forcing herself to think straight. “Why aren’t you calling the police right away?”

  John pursed his lips, clearly deciding how much to say.

  “Given this much evidence, the NYPD would step in and take over the entire case. Casey doesn’t want that—not until she has the evidence she needs to turn over to them. She’s getting it now.” John gazed from one girl to the other. “Trust her.”

  “We do,” Brianna said at once.

  “Yes, we do,” Lina echoed.

  “Good.” He reached past them to turn off the front hall light. “I’ll go take care of the bedroom light.” He took a step in that direction.

  “This plan of Casey’s—it falls outside the lines, doesn’t it?” Lina blurted out.

  John didn’t reply.

  “Whatever it is, let’s give her the time to do it,” Brianna answered for him. “That’s why we hired her.”

  * * *

  After rushing down the four flights of stairs at the FI brownstone, Casey burst into Ryan’s lair. He looked up from his computer, surprised at her uncustomary dramatic entrance. But seeing her expression, his eyes narrowed.

  “What’s wrong?” he asked, swiveling his chair around.

  “Where’s Claire?” Casey’s gaze took in the entire room. “Is she with you? Please say yes.”

  “She just left to buy a box of herbal tea.”

  “Call her. Get her back here. Now.”

  Ryan asked no questions. He just did as he was told.

  Not three minutes later, Claire appeared in the doorway. She looked embarrassed. “Ryan and I were just…”

  “This isn’t about the two of you. That’s none of my business. It’s about Brianna.” Casey explained everything John had told her, showing the photos to both of her teammates.

  “Shit,” Ryan breathed. “Where the hell was the security detail watching Hanover? How did he get into Brianna’s apartment without being seen?”

  “I don’t know,” Casey replied. “Somehow he got by them. We’ll figure out what went wrong later. Right now, our focus is on Brianna.”

  Claire had paled. “This reached the crisis level much faster than we expected.”

  “And we have to rectify that.” Casey was in military mode. “Claire, you and I have to break into Hanover’s office now. As in right now. Whether or not it’s a good time. We need those scent pads, and we need Hero to confirm Hanover’s presence in Brianna’s apartment. John’s waiting an hour before calling the cops. That’s as far as we can push it. After that, they’ll have to be alerted.”

  “And we’ll lose control of the whole case,” Ryan finished for her. He began rummaging around on his desk, finally producing a faculty ID card, which he gave to Casey. “Emma charmed this out of some semi-retired professor’s pocket. It’ll get you in the building.” He rose and went over to a shelf. “Here.” He tossed two NYU T-shirts and two pair of jeans at them. “These were down here for safekeeping. You’ll just be wearing them tonight instead of tomorrow.” He turned his back. “Get dressed.”

  Both women pulled off their work clothes and donned the T-shirts and jeans Ryan had thrown them. They’d planned their attire. They had to look like any other grad students.

  “I’ll get the equipment,” Casey said. “Then we’re gone.”

  CHAPTER 11

  NYU Stern Business School

  Faculty wing

  The ID card Emma had ripped off worked like a charm. Forty minutes after Casey spoke with John Nickels, she and Claire had swiped their way into the building, dashed up the stairs, and were poised on the second-floor landing.

  Casey balanced the large duffle bag she’d slung over her shoulder as Claire
turned on her iPhone flashlight and peeked around the corner at the top of the stairs.

  “Clear,” she muttered.

  They headed down the deserted hallway and stopped in front of Hanover’s office.

  Casey gave another quick glance from side to side and then pulled two pair of latex gloves out of her jeans pocket. She handed a pair to Claire, and they both yanked them on. Then, Casey set down the duffel bag that held all the tools she needed. “Let’s see if I can do Marc proud,” she murmured. “Shine your light on the lock.”

  Claire leaned over and complied.

  With that, Casey unzipped the bag and pulled out a torque wrench and a pick. Concentrating, she followed through on what she’d seen Marc do a dozen times, and the process he’d explained to her while he was doing it.

  She inserted the flat end of the wrench first, exerting just enough pressure to the L-shaped top of the tool, which was serving as a lever. Now came the delicate part. She inserted the pick and ever-so-carefully tapped each pin out of the way. There was a slight click, followed by a subtle movement of the cylinder as the torque wrench acted as a substitute key.

  It turned the entire cylinder and disengaged the lock.

  They were in.

  “Obi-Wan has taught me well,” Casey whispered. She sounded more than a little proud.

  Claire’s lips curved. “I can’t wait to goad him about how much better and faster a job you do.” With that, she pushed open the door, and all banter vanished.

  They slipped inside and shut the door behind them.

  “Don’t take the chance of turning on the overhead,” Casey said. “I brought two low-light flashlights in my duffel. We’ll use those and our iPhones.”

  Claire nodded, and the two women went straight to work. Gloves in place, Claire swiftly retrieved each of the items Emma had reported on, all of which were there, even the gym bag.

 
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