* * *
Sam finished writing his report and grabbed a bottle of water from the lounge refrigerator before heading into the conference room. He was a few minutes late, but operating on a strict schedule was pretty much impossible in the cop business. Ben was the only one waiting, his laptop in front of him. Lois, Tucker, Simpson and Daniel Harper would join them as soon as they could.
“You look annoyed,” Sam remarked as he sat down across from Ben. Truthfully, he looked the same way as always—stoic and long-suffering—but a few tics gave him away to anyone who’d grown up with him. His eyes were a shade narrower than usual, and his jaw was clenched tight enough to show the slender line of muscle on each side. He also held his head cocked slightly to the side and was less willing than usual to make eye contact.
“You know Ed Lawrence?” Ben pushed his laptop a few inches way, straightened his head and kneaded his neck with one hand.
“Only over the phone.”
“Huh. To hear him tell it, you’re best buds. After I left the Greeley place, I went out to Happy Grass to talk to him. He offered to fire those four employees effective immediately if you thought he should. In fact, he offered to fire all his ‘brown’ employees.” With his dark skin and Creek Indian ancestry, Ben didn’t have to make clear what he thought of Lawrence’s offer. “Of course, he’d be out of business in a day if he did.”
“Did you learn anything from him?”
“He’s a snake. Even his office girl—his words, not mine—doesn’t care much for him, and she’s married to him.” Ben leaned back as Lois came in, carrying a tray of homemade cookies. “He says he gets along great with all his clients and that Greeley couldn’t have been happier with the job his people were doing.”
Lois snorted disbelievingly. “Curt Greeley was never happy, and Ed Lawrence doesn’t tell the truth unless there’s something in it for him.” She sat next to Ben, then slid the cookies to a spot exactly in front of Sam. As soon as he reached for one, though, she pulled the tray back. “Tell us about Mee-lah-gro.”
He tried to scowl at her, but it was a lot like trying to scowl at his mother. He’d be lucky if she didn’t grab him by the ear and tweak it until he danced in pain. “She goes by Mila, and she’s not a killer.”
“Is that your cop-ly side talking or the manly side?”
“I trust my intuition.”
“Yes, but has your intuition ever told you something about a woman that you didn’t want to hear?”
“Liar. Remember that lawyer you went out with? We all tried to warn you.” She exchanged grins with Ben. “That woman was too kinky for handcuffs. I don’t know where she got her ideas, but she was a dirty, dirty girl—and you knew it before things got weird.”
Sam hated it when he couldn’t argue with Lois. On the surface, Beth DePuy had seemed amazingly right for him. She was an assistant district attorney—he arrested criminals, and she prosecuted them. They’d had everything in common. His mother had loved her. His father had been half in love with her. Everyone thought they were perfect.
Though all along Sam had had a niggling little suspicion that something wasn’t right.
Too kinky for handcuffs. That about summed it up.
Thankfully, the other officers filed in then. Lois had no qualms about picking on him in private or with Ben, but she never mocked her boss in front of other employees.
Each officer shared whatever information they’d learned in turn, then Sam looked around the table, shifting his gaze between the two detectives. “Are the cases connected?”
“The victims had only two things in common,” Daniel said. “They both had money, and they used the same lawn service. But from what I heard, Greeley’s used every big lawn service in town and a few in Tulsa.”
“So you think it’s a coincidence they were both killed shortly before the same lawn crew found them.” That came from Ben.
Harper shrugged. “Coincidences happen. That’s why someone made up the word. Two different guys. Two different circumstances. Two different weapons. Two different killers.”