The clock on the dash read nine o’clock in the morning, like it enjoyed reporting such a disgusting fact. Belinda rubbed her eyes, exhaustion pulling at her. Jon opened the passenger door and she managed to get a more professional face on before he saw her.
“He’s very accomplished as an artist,” Jon murmured, attention out the windshield.
Belinda got a flash of Brock standing with the teapot in his hands, his sweater somehow shrunk up to his nipples so the flat planes of his abs shown free. The vision started to get more salacious and she slammed on the breaks. “Enough!”
Jon’s brown eyes flashed at her. “Huh?”
He didn’t know! He had no idea what she’d just seen! Belinda swallowed. What was she supposed to say now? ‘I’m a psychic, and I know you want to have sex with my brother, but would you mind fantasizing about him when I’m not around?’
“Nothing,” she growled, annoyed. She pulled into traffic. Her mobile phone buzzed at her from inside her jacket and she jumped as though shot.
“What!” Jon cried.
“Relax, it’s my damned phone.” She fished it out of the pocket and thumbed the ‘answer’ button. “Gary.”
“It’s me.” Sandillo never announced himself by name, just assumed the person on the other end would know who it was. “There’s been a development. Where are you?”
“Leaving Brock’s. I was about to go home.” ‘To sleep,’ she didn’t add.
“Hand the phone to your partner. You know you should have the speaker on.”
“I just got in the car!” she protested. She handed the phone to Jon. “It’s Sandillo. He won’t talk to me while I’m driving.”
The look on Jon’s face showed her he agreed with the Lieutenant. Some days, everybody’s a critic. She turned left, heading toward the station. She didn’t need extra-sensory perception to tell her that if Sandillo called now, they’d be wanted at the station. He didn’t do ‘casual.’
Jon pulled a small, immaculate notepad encased in a red leather sleeve out of his inside jacket pocket and started writing with a gold Cross pen. She felt her eyebrows disappear into her hair. He asked cryptic questions and then hung up.
“Can you take us to North Shore Drive?”
“Yeah, why?” Belinda rubbed her cheek. “I was going to –”
“There’s been a homicide.”
She stopped at the next red light and stared at him. “Excuse me?”
“There’s been a homicide. Related to our case.”
“Are you joking? Who? We haven’t found all the owners, how do they know who was murdered?”
“Home insurance policy says, and the housekeeper knows what was taken.”
“Jesus. Who found the body?”
She shivered. Poor woman. “Where is it?”
“North Shore Drive near South Bedford. Sandillo said you’d know it. Dow Court?”
“Yeah. I’ve been through there. We’re about twenty minutes out. What else?”
“It’s messy. Killer clearly got interrupted, burglary gone bad.”
“Did they get away with the dagger?”
“Reports aren’t clear. The owner really didn’t want them to get it, put up a helluva fight. They haven’t found it missing for sure yet, but probably. If he’d had a gun or any training, instead of just a baseball bat, this might have ended a lot differently.”
She smirked. Easy to tell where he came down on the whole home defense issue; no bias there!
“What’s so amusing?”
Crap. He’d been watching her. “Nothing, exactly. I’m just amused because you’re so pro-gun, self-protection and stuff. Member of the NRA?”
“Yes.” His tone sounded defensive.
“Relax, I’m just teasing you.”
When she glanced at him, she got a flash of a body on the floor, disarranged and half-naked, blood everywhere. It filled her mind so much she almost missed the red light.
She slammed on the brakes and skidded halfway into the crosswalk.
“What the fuck is the matter with you?”
“Nothing! I’m sorry!”
“Another stunt like that and I’m driving!”
Belinda felt the scarab outline, safe under gauze, tingle on her shoulder as it tried to protect her from danger. If they weren’t so close to the address she would switch and let Jon drive after all. Her shields were crap, from lack of sleep and stress; she knew better than to let herself be distracted while driving! She blinked and the image flashed in her mind’s eye again.
“I don’t have the name; Sandillo didn’t know yet.”
“No, I meant…” She trailed off.
He stared at her, eyes wide and shocked. She watched the knowledge swim into his eyes. “What are you talking about?” His voice sounded breathy, submissive; not at all like the ‘tough cop’ voice he usually used around her.
“I saw a half naked body, on the floor, covered in blood. It was awful.”
His jaw clenched and the color drained out of his face. “What are you?”
“What?” She swallowed, mentally pushing away his fear and growing dread. “It’s nothing!”
“I haven’t told anyone about how I found him. Not anyone!”
“Was it your partner?”
He looked away, but not before she saw his lips tighten to a grim line.
Great, Belinda, fucking great. Dig at his scars. “Jon, I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”
“Let’s just get to the damned crime scene.” His voice scalded her, hot and furious but contained, like an oven.
She wracked her brains as the light turned green, trying to figure out what to say. Nothing came to mind. Neither of them spoke the rest of the ride and when they pulled up behind one of the squad cars, he just unhooked his belt and got out. He didn’t slam the door, for which she was grateful since with his bulk, he could have dented it. He strode away without a backward glance.
Make that the third partner she’d lost in as many months. Gods!
She got out and locked the car, then followed in Jon’s wake. She caught sight of a sobbing woman, her silver hair caught in a bun but wisps all undone like an areole. Her face glowed red and splotchy with makeup that had run like a grotesque skin disease.
Jon and Sandillo faced off with one of the guys from Homicide. Just as Belinda saw him, he turned and stalked off.
Her partner, at least for now, rounded on Sandillo. “No fucking way!” His arms waved around. “My partner’s been working on this case for months, Lieutenant! You can’t let them pull it away from us now!”
“It’s not up to me, Taylor. The game’s different now. It’s a homicide. You know how this works.”
“Call my Captain! He’ll give it to us!”
Sandillo’s face darkened and he took a step forward.
Belinda walked up before he could speak. “Lieutenant.”
Sandillo’s gaze raked her and returned to her partner, but he said nothing.
“Please!” Jon pressed.
Sandillo whirled on his heel and strode away. Jon took one step to follow and Belinda grabbed his arm. “Don’t!”
“No!” He pulled on his arm.
She ‘borrowed’ some of Brock’s strength and tightened her grip, praying that her brother wasn’t in the middle of anything dire. “Let him go, I said.”
Jon’s rich brown eyes glared down at her, darker than they’d been a moment before but still chocolate. “What the hell?”
She shook his arm. “Just trust me. Leave him alone.”
He stepped forward, invading her personal space, and she let go of him. “One of these days, you and I are going to have a long conversation, Gary. Don’t ever grab me again.” He spun and walked after Sandillo.
Belinda watched him go, trembling. Her mobile buzzed and she jumped, heart thudding into her mouth. “Gary!” she snapped without looking.
“What the fuck, Bee?” Brock demanded. “I was washing dishes and broke my favorite – ”
“I can’t talk now,” she told him and snapped the phone closed.
~Don’t you hang up on me!~ she heard in her head.
She slammed her shields closed. “Dammit!”
As she walked up to Jon and Sandillo, they broke off their conversation and glared at her with identical expressions of irritation.
“What?” she asked, coming to a stop a few feet away.
“Homicide agreed to give you the case,” Sandillo growled. He glanced at Jon and then walked away from them, toward his car.
“Well?” she asked Jon.
He turned his back on her and walked off without answering.
Great. Just great.