Home > The Perfect Secret (Jessie Hunt #11)(2)

The Perfect Secret (Jessie Hunt #11)(2)
Author: Blake Pierce

“Hey, Captain,” she said. “A little early to be calling on a Sunday morning, don’t you think? The sun’s not even up.”

“Sorry, Hunt,” he replied, maintaining the last name formality even though she was no longer an employee. “You know I wouldn’t reach out like this unless it was a big deal.”

“Whatever it is, I’m think I’m going to have to take a pass on this one. I start teaching in a week. More importantly, Ryan leaves the hospital this afternoon.”

“I know,” he said. “That’s why I need to see you this morning. Please—don’t say no until you’ve heard what this is about.”

Jessie wanted to say no. With everything going on at home, she didn’t need the extra responsibility. And yet, she couldn’t help but be curious. She relented slightly.

“See me? Can’t you just fill me in over the phone?”

“No. This one’s pretty sensitive. Can you be in my office in an hour, just to hear me out? Trust me—it’ll be worth your while.”

Jessie knew he was playing her. Captain Decker understood just which buttons to push to pique her interest. And it was working.

“This better be good,” she warned, though she knew he wasn’t intimidated.

He had her hooked.

 

*

 

As Jessie entered the station, she noticed that it was deathly quiet.

That wasn’t a shock at 6:04 on a Sunday morning, but it was still unsettling to walk past the deputy desk sergeant, who was reading a magazine because there was no one in the lobby. It was odd not to hear the standard sounds of phone chatter and keyboard typing that usually filled the bullpen. Jessie passed the half dozen people sitting forlornly at their desks and headed for Decker’s office.

Just before entering she checked her phone one more time. She didn’t really expect a text from Hannah at this hour but she knew that when she got one, it wouldn’t be friendly. Hannah was surly these days as it was. But when she saw the note on the kitchen counter saying that Jessie had gone to the station to discuss a case and to keep the house tidy for Ryan’s arrival, her response was unlikely to be gracious enthusiasm.

Jessie knocked on the closed door to Decker’s office.

“One minute,” came the gruff response from the other side.

While she waited, Jessie glanced back at the HSS section of the bullpen to where she used to sit. Homicide Special Section was a unit within LAPD dedicated to cases that had high profiles or intense media scrutiny, often involving multiple victims and serial killers. For two years, she’d been the unit’s primary profiler, working with a small team of detectives led by Ryan. They’d sat at desks across from each other, initially as partners, and eventually, as much more. The thought of the long hours they spent across from each other, sparring playfully at first, then lovingly, brought a smile to her lips.

With her departure and Ryan’s injury, the unit was temporarily being led by crusty veteran detective Callum Reid. The team included Detectives Alan Trembley and Marjorie Pointer. Detective Gaylene Parker from Vice was even called in occasionally for support when things got especially hairy. They were still the most celebrated investigative squad in the department, but without Ryan and Jessie, HSS had lost a bit of its luster.

Jessie stepped over to the poster on the wall and gave herself a quick going-over in its reflection. She looked reasonably professional considering the day and hour. Her shoulder-length brown hair was loose but tidy. Her green eyes were well-rested, which she suspected would change once Ryan came home. She’d been able to maintain her trim, athletic figure through the recent injuries, though she knew she wasn’t back in tip-top shape yet.

“Come in,” Decker called out, drawing her back into the moment.

Jessie opened the door. She wasn’t surprised to find the captain standing up, dressed in the same attire he wore on a weekday afternoon—a jacket, tie, and starched dress shirt. She couldn’t tell how long he’d been awake because he looked perpetually worn out, with wrinkles near his eyes and bags under them. The few hairs on his head looked tired and wilted. Even his body, with its concave chest, seemed to fold in on itself. Despite all that, he appeared alert. Tall and skinny, his posture was painfully erect, highlighting his sharp nose and beady eagle eyes, which missed nothing.

“Thanks for making the time, Hunt,” he said, gesturing for her to take one of the weathered chairs opposite his desk. “How are you feeling?”

“Tired, Captain. Very tired.”

“I’m not surprised to hear that,” he replied. “But I meant physically. How’s your shoulder? And the burns?”

He was referring to injuries Jessie had suffered before she’d quit the force. Much of her lower back had been badly burned a few months back while rescuing a woman from her burning house, when a man who’d abducted her and then intentionally released her had come back to finish the job. Only weeks later, her left shoulder was dislocated in a life or death struggle with her ex-husband, the same attack in which Ryan had been stabbed and Hannah nearly killed.

“Both are much better,” she assured him. “The burns don’t hurt anymore, though the doctor says it’ll be another year before they heal completely. I’m still in rehab for the shoulder but it doesn’t affect me except when I try to get something off the top shelf or do a power lifting session.”

“You’re very funny, Hunt,” Decker said, not laughing. “That should serve you well when Hernandez leaves the hospital. Please let me know what I can do to help. We can have officers stop by to check on him, even just to share war stories. Plus, I know you have security concerns about some of the people you put away reaching out to do harm.”

“There are almost too many to keep track of,” Jessie conceded.

“If it helps, we’ve been keeping an extra close eye on former police sergeant Hank Costabile and on Andrea Robinson,” Decker said. “You probably heard that Costabile was just sentenced to seven years in prison. And Robinson is still safely incarcerated in a psychiatric prison ward.”

“Always reassuring to know the folks who most want to kill me are being physically prevented from doing so, at least for now.”

“We can have units do extra patrols by your place, if it sets your mind at ease,” Decker offered.

“Thanks, Captain,” Jessie replied. “I might take you up on having folks stop by to hang out with Ryan. But I think we’re good on security for now. One good thing about inheriting the home of the most celebrated criminal profiler on the West Coast in the last quarter century is that it comes ready-made with elaborate security. I’m still familiarizing myself with everything he had installed. But I’m pretty sure we’re set, even in the event of The Purge.”

“Well, let me know if you change your mind,” he said, either unaware of or unamused by the reference. “We want Hernandez back and anything we can do to expedite that, we will. In the meantime, shall I tell you about the case?”

“Please.”

He sat down at his desk and folded his hands.

“Details are still sketchy for reasons that will become clear,” he said. “But Millicent Estrada, forty-two, was found dead a few hours ago at a huge party in Holmby Hills. Her neck was broken.”

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