A face to die for, p.11
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       A Face to Die For, p.11

         Part #6 of Forensic Instincts series by Andrea Kane

  She pulled a towel out of the gym bag, held it for a minute, and gave a shudder of disgust. “Dark energy. A twisted sexual mind. And sick images of him violating Brianna.”

  “See if you can focus on where he is. Hopefully far away from Brianna’s apartment. I don’t want him anywhere near there when we bring Hero over. But he’s a psychopath. If he knows Brianna’s home—even armed with security—he’ll hang around to see the results of his handiwork and to congratulate himself. If need be, I’ll check in with our security detail and get his location—after I rip them a new one for screwing up. And if he’s outside Brianna’s place, Ryan will arrange a diversion.”

  Claire nodded, sitting down and continuing to grip the towel. “Let me see what I can pick up on. The vibes from this gross rag are strong.”

  Casey knelt down, opened the duffel bag wide, and removed the STD-100 scent transfer unit—or canine vacuum, as Ryan called it—along with the necessary jars, sterile scent recovery pads, alcohol wipes, and Ziplocs. She knew the drill like the back of her hand. Set up the vacuum. Put the pads in place. Put the personal articles on the pads. Vacuum for thirty seconds—more than enough time for the pads to collect the crucial smells and then be stored in jars.

  Pack up her gear, grab Claire, and get the hell out of here.

  She was halfway through her task when Claire’s voice interrupted her. “Hanover is pacing around outside Brianna’s building. He knows she’s being guarded and that he’s being watched. Those facts are actually exciting his sick mind. So’s the fact that he managed to elude security long enough to violate her space.”

  “No surprise.” Casey turned off the vac for a minute. “Okay, there’s got to be a back entrance to the apartment. Call John and tell him to be ready to run down and unlock it. Next, call Ryan and tell him to get Hero in the van and to speed to Brianna’s. Hero can do his thing in the back alley. Then he’ll execute inside.” She turned the vac back on. “Give me five more minutes. Then we’ll put everything back in place. We were never here.”

  * * *

  Emma and Ryan came speeding around back of Brianna’s building and double-parked. Ryan leashed Hero up and led him out of the van. The trained bloodhound was already on high alert, somehow aware that he was about to be called upon to fulfill his role on the team.

  “Thanks for calling and telling me what was going down,” Emma said as she jumped out of the van. “Most of all, thanks for letting me come. I’ve never seen Hero at work. I can’t wait.”

  As she spoke, Casey and Claire appeared, rushing down the dark stretch to avoid detection.

  “Hanover’s around here somewhere,” Casey said, dropping her duffel to the ground. “We’ve got to work fast. It’s your show, Hero.” She gave his ears a quick scratch as she unzipped the bag.

  Hero spotted the familiar scent transfer unit, and he sat, his stare fixed on Casey as she squatted down and began to remove jars from the duffel bag. “I’m glad you’re here, Emma,” she added. “You deserve to be. We got everything. It was all exactly where you pointed us. Great work.”

  “He didn’t take any of his personal stuff home?” Emma asked.

  “Nope. But now he can do whatever he wants with it. It’s served its purpose.”

  “And so has grad school. Emma’s about to be done with it.” Ryan’s jaw set. “I’ll set things in motion as soon as we get back.”

  “My official get-out-of-jail-free card,” Emma said. “Thanks.” She watched what Casey was doing. “I get it. Those pads have Hanover’s smells on them. Hero’s going to match them with the stuff in Brianna’s apartment.”

  “Yup.” Casey was already opening the first jar.

  “By the way,” Claire informed Ryan with a twinkle. “According to Casey, she got into that office five seconds faster than Marc would have.”

  “And I’m the arrogant one?” Ryan teased. A sudden grin lit his face. “Damn, it will be great to rub Marc’s nose in that.”

  “Stand in line,” Claire retorted. “I was Casey’s wingman. It’s my honor to go first.”

  “You always do, Claire--voyant.” Ryan gave her a wink.

  “Cut it, Ryan,” Casey ordered. “This isn’t the time. Hero has to concentrate.” She opened a jar and offered it to the bloodhound. “Go on, boy. Take a whiff.”

  Hero went into action, thoroughly sniffing the jars containing every pad Casey had made. That done, he sat down again, looking straight into his owner’s eyes, letting her know he was ready.

  “Let’s go.” Casey scrambled to her feet.

  Claire tried the door while Casey packed up. “It’s unlocked. Bless John.”

  They were all inside the building, up the stairs, and at Brianna’s door in minutes. John ensured it was them and then let them in.

  “Thank God,” Brianna breathed, sagging with relief when she saw them. “I’m not sure I could have stood here doing nothing much longer.”

  “I’m pretty freaked out, too,” Lina confessed.

  “We’re down to the home stretch.” Casey was holding Hero’s leash, unsurprised that he was staring in the direction of Brianna’s bedroom, tugging and whining to get going. “Hang tight a minute or two.” She turned on her flashlight and allowed Hero to pull her where he wanted to go.

  The minute they crossed the bedroom’s threshold, Hero became a whirlwind of motion. He walked back and forth alongside the line of scattered undergarments, giving a sharp bark as he did. He looked up at the dresser top and sat down, signaling Casey with his body language that Hanover’s smells were on it. Most importantly, he raced up to the bed, put his front paws on the comforter, and gave several sharp, meaningful barks before resuming a sitting position on the rug.

  “Good boy.” Casey produced a few pieces of Hero’s favorite beef jerky. “Excellent work.”

  They returned to the others, who were watching them with anxious expressions.

  “Brianna, call the police,” Casey instructed. “Hanover’s scent is everywhere, most importantly on your bed and on your intimates. We’ve got him.”

  Brianna’s hands were shaking as she took out her iPhone. “Mr. Nickels told me that, when I call the police, I should tweak my arrival time a half hour or so. That’s no problem. But what do I say about how we got Hanover’s personal items?”

  “You say nothing. That’s our job. You just make the call and report the break-in.”

  Nodding, Brianna complied, dialing 9-1-1. “Now what?” she asked when she’d supplied the necessary information and hung up.

  “Now we wait. When the police come, you report exactly what you found when you got here. After that, you let us do the talking. The cops know you filed three complaints against Hanover and that there wasn’t enough proof to warrant follow-up. That’ll explain why you hired us. It’ll also explain why we’ve been watching Hanover and how we got his scent off a sports towel he left on the ground during his morning run.”

  “A white lie,” Lina murmured.

  “A necessary one,” Casey replied. “Out in the open means fair game—and admissible. Believe me, the NYPD isn’t going to grill us. They want this scumbag off the streets as much as we do. They’ll be delighted with what we’re handing them. J
ust stick to the basics. Any elaborations will come from us.”

  “Will they arrest Hanover right away?” Brianna asked.

  “They’ll bring him in for questioning and ask for a DNA sample. In the meantime, Crime Scene will be here, packing up everything so they can do a full DNA analysis. They’ll find Hanover’s genetic calling card all over your personal things. That’ll be more than enough to charge him.”

  “And then the floodgates will open,” Ryan added. “Once we give them a list of the other women Hanover has sexually harassed, the cops will talk to them and, hopefully, convince a few to testify at Hanover’s trial. But that’ll just be the icing on the cake. We already have what we need to get him locked up. He’ll be behind bars and you’ll be free.”

  “Thank you.” Brianna’s eyes filled with tears. “You’re amazing. I can’t begin to tell you…”

  “You don’t have to.” Casey squeezed her arm. “Now let’s get this wrapped up.”


  Cleveland, Ohio

  4:10 p.m. the next day

  Dani boarded the plane and stowed her carry-on under her seat. She was still smiling as she settled in and fastened her seat belt.

  The two days and one sleepless night with Gabe had been… wow. She hadn’t expected things to burn quite that hot—hotter than at the convention, even hotter than when they were in college. It had taken her aback, as had her level of stamina. Evidently, being a workaholic meant that you stored up your carnal needs until you were sex starved, so that when you let loose, you became a wild woman.

  In between lovemaking sessions, she and Gabe had talked. They’d always been strong on the communication front. And now, they had more in common than they had before, being in complementary fields. They’d shared war stories as they sipped on wine and nibbled on cheese. They’d also taken a tender stroll down memory lane, alternately laughing and falling silent, pondering the past with nostalgia. Different choices might have meant a different future, but that’s what life was all about. They’d been kids. They’d gone in different directions. But this was the here and now, and it was pretty damn wonderful. From this point, they’d see how things played out.

  All in all, a most satisfactory visit to Cleveland.

  Physical exhaustion was finally making itself known, and Dani sank back in her window seat for a catnap. The direct flight from Cleveland to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport was quick—less than an hour and a half—and she’d be landing just before six. She planned to use every minute of that time to recoup her energy for part two of her mini-vacation. Her time with Gabe had been great. But she felt an equal amount of anticipation about the next lap of her trip.

  She couldn’t wait to meet Gia.

  Despite her marathon hours with Gabe, Dani had managed a rapid-fire back-and-forth message exchange with Gia. Everything was set. Gia had managed to lighten her schedule to just a few meetings, during which time Dani would explore Manhattan on her own. The rest of the time, they’d see the sights and get to know each other, which, given the fun they shared in their messages, would be a blast. They’d even gotten silly about the whole thing, each collecting a series of childhood photos to show to the other, since they were dying to see if there had always been such a strong resemblance.

  Just as Dani had little time for romantic ties, she had little time to form close friendships. Her career simply didn’t allow for it. Sarah was her dearest friend—they’d been tight since high school—but that was about it, other than her family. So, the rapport she had begun to establish with Gia meant a great deal to her.

  And she knew in her gut that Gia felt the same way.

  * * *

  Gia walked into the terminal at LaGuardia early, at five thirty, just in case the “on time” status showing on the airline’s web page turned out to be wrong. Airline schedules were about as accurate as meteorologists. And Gia didn’t want Dani standing around waiting.

  Weaving her way through the crowds, Gia realized how much she was looking forward to these next few days. True, she was in desperate need of a self-imposed break. But that wasn’t what was driving her. The real reason for her anticipation was that she was dying to meet Dani. She had to find out if the uncanny way they’d hit it off had any link to them being dead ringers for each other.

  Situating herself as close as she could—just on the other side of the passenger screening lines—Gia gave another quick check of the airport’s data screen. “On time,” Dani’s flight still read. That meant a half hour to go. Perfect. Gia leaned against the wall and began scanning her emails to pass the time.

  * * *

  Thirty-five minutes later, Dani’s flight arrival was displayed on the screen. Gia snapped to attention. She was surprised to find that her heart was racing—an odd reality, considering how cool she always was when dealing with emotionally charged situations. But somehow this was different. She couldn’t put her finger on it. But she had the weirdest feeling that this meeting was going to have a powerful impact on both Dani and her.

  No time to ponder that thought. The girl who walked down the exit ramp, scanning the throngs of people, was a mirror reflection of Gia. Having the advantage of focusing on Dani first, before she was spotted, Gia did a sharp double take, catching her breath and just staring. Facebook photos were one thing. Up-close-and-personal was another. Different hair, different clothes, but, hell, talk about identical. This was downright surreal.

  She snaked her way forward, waving as she did. “Dani!”

  She knew the second Dani saw her. Her eyes widened, and a flash of stunned awareness shot across her face. Studying Gia with amazement, she gripped the handle of her rolling carry-on, pulling it along as she made her way over.

  The two girls stared at each other for a long minute and then spontaneously hugged, laughing as they did.

  “I can’t believe this,” Gia said, taking a step back and scrutinizing Dani from head to toe. “I think I’m in shock.”

  “I almost passed out when I saw you,” Dani admitted in return.

  A middle-aged woman who’d been one of Dani’s fellow passengers on the flight from Cleveland walked by them and paused. “What a lovely reunion,” she said, smiling. “How long has it been since you’ve seen each other?”

  They both stood there, uncertain what to say.

  “Ages,” Gia finally supplied. “We have so much to catch up on.” She was trying to be as tactful as possible without bluntly asking the woman to go away.

  Fortunately, Gia’s attempt was successful, and the woman took the hint graciously. “I won’t keep you. From what I’ve read, it’s difficult for identical twins to be apart for long. Have fun.” With another smile, she hurried off.

  “Identical twins.” Gia shook her head as she spoke. For a complete stranger to jump to that conclusion? It spoke volumes about the way things appeared. “I knew we looked alike, but seeing you in person…”

  “It’s bizarre,” Dani finished for her. She opened her mouth to say more and then flinched as a man in a business suit blew by, his suitcase whacking her as he did.

  “Sorry,” he muttered, never breaking stride.

  As Dani rubbed her elbow, Gia rolled her eyes at the man. “Well, welcome to New York,”
she intoned. “Let’s get out of here. We’ll go back to my place so you can change and unwind. The rest is completely your call. We can race around like thoroughbreds, or we can hang out like couch potatoes. I’m up for either.”

  “The first part sounds great,” Dani replied. “Going back to your place for a while. I need to catch my breath. Also, we’ll have some time in the car to talk. I’d like that before we start making our to-do plans.”

  “Perfect. Let’s go.”

  * * *

  A pair of eyes watched intently. The information he’d received had been accurate. There was nothing good about what was happening.

  He followed the two girls, walking at a leisurely pace.

  He wasn’t worried about losing them. He knew what car Gia drove, where she was parked at the airport, and where she lived.

  He’d be where he needed to be and do what he needed to do.

  This get-together would be brief—and hopefully bloodless.

  Offices of Forensic Instincts

  Main conference room

  “Last night was a slam dunk. What an adrenaline rush.” Ryan was perched on the windowsill, looking out over the New York skyline as the last filaments of sunlight caressed it. “The rush that comes from solving a case never gets old, especially when it means putting a scumbag behind bars.” He tipped back his head and took a swallow of his beer, as usual opting out of FI’s traditional case-ending glass of champagne. Screw the cache. Blue Moon trumped Veuve Clicquot every time.

  “We still have a ton of follow-up,” Casey reminded him. She was sitting at the head of the conference room table typing notes into her MacBook Pro while savoring her glass of champagne. “Although everything’s proceeding nicely. Hanover was taken in for questioning, CSI is doing its job, and the wheels of justice will soon be turning.”

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