Page 27

A bored-looking supervisor sat behind a Dutch door, filling out paperwork. On the counter next to him was a logbook for signing in and out.

Maia had freshened up in the car while she was putting together her cover story. She couldn’t do much about the bandage on her cheek, but she’d fixed her makeup otherwise. She’d made sure she was wearing enough perfume.

She leaned against the Dutch door, a little closer to the supervisor than was necessary, and smiled. “Long night?”

She got the desired effect.

In his haste to stand up, the supervisor dropped his clipboard. “Oh, um, no.”

He was about thirty. Pale. Dark hair and chewed cuticles. Like most cops who gravitate to lonely jobs in the bowels of the department, he looked like a classroom pet that was used to being alternately ignored and terrorized.

Maia offered her hand. “My name’s Lee, from Austin. They tell you I was coming down?”

“Um, no, ma’am . . . I mean, I would’ve remembered if they mentioned somebody like you.”

His hand was cold and damp, but Maia gave it a nice firm shake—friendly, uninhibited. “It’s about the Orosco case. I hate to bother you, but I wanted to see the evidence. It is here, right?”

She handed him a slip of paper with a case number written on it. Finding a believable cold case to investigate, and the accompanying file information, had taken her all of five minutes—one phone call to an acquaintance in Austin.

The supervisor looked at the number. “Oh . . . oh, yeah. Been here for years. Yuck.”

“Would it be okay if I—” She gestured to his side of the door, gave him a smile that was just a bit playful. She was overdoing it. No female cop would flirt like this. But she was betting the supervisor wouldn’t object.

He didn’t.

“Just let me—um, here, sign in . . .”

He opened the gate while Maia scanned the logbook, saw the entries she wanted to see, then signed herself in as Minnie Mouse and put the incorrect date and time. The supervisor didn’t notice.

Once inside, he was more than happy—thrilled, he insisted—to walk her back to cold storage.

“Thanks, these places are such mazes,” Maia gushed gratefully. “I don’t know how you keep it all straight.”

“Oh, well, yeah . . .”

Maia figured it was time to make her point. She asked the supervisor if she could make a quick cell call.

“Oh, sure,” he said. “Don’t know if you’ll get a good signal in here.”

She got a signal. She was just calling upstairs.

“This is Maia Lee,” she said into the phone.

Momentary silence, then the man on the other end said: “We need to talk to you in person. Now.”

“I know,” Maia said. “I’m in the basement.”

“What do you mean you’re in the basement?”

“See you soon.”

She hung up, gave the evidence supervisor a conspiratorial smile. “Bosses. Such a pain. Please, lead on.”

The piece of evidence she pretended to want was a human pelvis from a stabbing murder back in 1998. The victim and the prime suspect had both been from Austin, so SAPD and APD had cooperated on the case. The weapon had never been found. The pelvis, with penetration wound, had been kept in cold storage—just in case they ever found a blade to match it against.

It boggled Maia’s mind that anyone would keep such a thing, rather than just making a cast of the wound, but her contact had assured her it wasn’t the strangest thing in the evidence room’s freezers.

“Here you go,” the supervisor said proudly.

“Wow.” Thankfully, Maia’s nausea was never bad at night, but it still took all her willpower not to gag. She promised herself she would never stand in front of a refrigerator wondering what to eat again as long as she lived.

“That’s a pelvis, all right,” she managed. “You sure it’s okay . . .”

“Oh, hell, nobody cares about this stuff. Help yourself. It’s a cold case. Literally, right?”

He sounded proud of his little joke. Maia tried to smile.

She took a closer look at the entrance wound, acting like she knew what she was doing. Finally she sighed. “No . . . damn. I was looking for a secondary laceration, but . . . well, I guess it’s back to the drawing board.”

“Aw, really? I’m sorry.”

She closed the refrigerator. Her host didn’t notice the blood kit in the small evidence bag which she’d slipped into her pocket.

They walked together toward the front of the evidence room.

“So,” she said, “hypothetically speaking, if somebody wanted to switch a DNA sample in the evidence room, how easy would that be?”



He shrugged. “I witness everything in and out. No chance.”

“What if the person were a cop?”

He laughed uneasily. “You’re kidding, right?”

Maia smiled, though she felt depressed as hell. She’d found out what she wanted. Sure—the supervisor on duty would keep out ninety-nine percent of the people. Nobody off the street could waltz in. But with somebody who was determined, who knew how departments worked—no evidence was safe. Like beat cops who regularly left their patrol cars unlocked, most deterrence inside a police station was cop aura. Cops had a hard time believing that anyone would be crazy enough to mess with police property.

And the names on the log-in book . . . Maia was trying to figure what to do with that information when her supervisor friend stopped dead in his tracks.

Detective Kelsey had understood her phone call. He was standing red-faced at the Dutch door, swinging the supervisor’s clipboard by its broken pen chain.

KELSEY SLAMMED THE INTERROGATION ROOM DOOR. “You have any idea how many charges I could level?”

Maia nodded. “I also have a fair idea how much embarrassment I could cause the department.”

“Worth it, to get you disbarred.”

Maia took the evidence bag out of her pocket, put it on the table. She did not feel particularly calm, but she was determined to act it.

“Detective, I didn’t lie. I didn’t coerce. I just batted my eyes and walked out with some poor fool’s DNA sample. Help yourself, your supervisor told me. Your security is a joke. The blood match on Arguello is a joke. Somebody tampered with the evidence.”

Kelsey looked at the evidence bag like it was poison. A vein throbbed under his left eye.

“Check the logbook,” Maia said. “You won’t find my name. How many other holes do you think there could be?”

“You will not drag this department into the mud.”

“Kelsey, the DNA testing for the White murder was sent to the lab about ten days ago. Your name is on the logbook several times for that week. Lieutenant Hernandez’s, too.”

“Every detective in homicide—”

“Yes,” she agreed. “Makes it easy to prove access, doesn’t it?”

Kelsey leaned across the table. “Miss Lee, tomorrow morning we’re issuing a warrant for Arguello for Franklin White’s murder. We’re pressing charges against Navarre for aiding and abetting. When that happens, your carping is going to look exactly like what it is: typical defense attorney crap.”

“You gave us a window. Forty-eight hours.”

“That window just closed.”

She forced herself to breathe normally. Not to think that she’d just signed Tres’ death warrant.

“Detective.” She tried to moderate her tone. “We have a mutual problem.”

She opened her purse and unfolded the police printout. She pushed it across the table.

Kelsey read it, at first blankly. Then she could see comprehension spread across his face like hardening cement. “Where did you get this?”

“Titus Roe, a two-bit assassin. We had a little misunderstanding earlier. He, ah, got away from me before I could ask him many questions, but he gave me that. He said I could figure out who gave it to him.”

For the first time, Maia saw something human in Kelsey’s eyes: fear. But fear for what, she wasn’t sure.

“I have only your word for this,” he said slowly.

“It’s a police printout. Directions for an assassination.”


“Titus Roe was an obvious choice. He was a suspect in the Franklin White murder eighteen years ago. He’s a Judas goat. Just like Ralph.”

“Ralph Arguello is a murderer.” The words didn’t need to be loud. Kelsey’s voice was saturated with loathing.

“Kelsey,” Maia said, “tell me you didn’t try to have me killed.”

“You’ve got the nerve—”

“You were off duty the night of Franklin’s murder. You had reason to hate the Whites. A cop nightstick was the murder weapon. Someone is desperate, Kelsey. Someone tried to frame Ralph, then Titus Roe. How long before they try to frame you?”

His face was pale and yellow, like something belonging in the light of the evidence basement. “That’s enough, Miss Lee.”

“Show me you’re on the right side,” Maia said. “Give that printout to Internal Affairs. Postpone the arrest warrant against Ralph.”

Kelsey picked up the paper. He crumpled it into a ball, kept it tight in his fist. “Listen to the news tomorrow morning, Miss Lee. And if you have any influence with your boyfriend, get him in here tonight.”

“You really want the media involved? You want them to hear about my visit to the evidence room?”

“What visit, Miss Lee? You said yourself—you’re not on the logbook. As far as I’m concerned, you were never here.”

He opened the interrogation room door.

He didn’t bother escorting her out.

If you have any influence with your boyfriend . . .

Before she was even out of the building, Maia had her phone in hand and was punching the number.

Chapter 14


Spanish Colonial bed. Oak bookcases. Fireplace. Saltillo tile floor with a Guatemalan rug. Disregard the surveillance camera mounted on the wall, the armed guard outside the door, the iron bars on the window, and it might’ve been a room at the Palacio del Rio.

I had to look hard to find evidence that the room once belonged to Frankie. In the back of the closet was a box of football trophies, pictures and an Alamo Heights Olmos yearbook from 1985. There was Frankie’s Mules jersey, his football helmet, baseball bat, water polo ball. His senior letter jacket looked very much like the one I had torched in a fit of angst during my college years.

Frankie’s collection of stuff creeped me out. I could’ve been looking through my own mementos. The same shots of friends, the same parties—there were even a few group pictures with me in them. If I had died at age twenty-one, my closet might’ve been preserved like this. His legacy and mine would’ve been hard to distinguish.

The only thing different in Frankie’s stuff was a nine-by-twelve framed sketch—a portrait of Madeleine White, twelve years old, her face done completely in shades of blue pastel. The likeness was unmistakable, yet the blue tint made her look different from the little girl I remembered. She stared out with a lost expression, like a shadow that had gotten separated from its owner. The inscription at the bottom, in childish letters that didn’t go with the expertly drawn portrait: To Frankie, From Maddy. Xmas, 1986.