I chuckled. "Already have my dream job, Leland. You know that."
He studied me for a second. "Not even for Ara?"
I froze. Now he had my attention. Ara. Sweet Ara. He knew I'd do anything for her. All the guys knew it.
"I'm listening," I said quietly, and he started talking.
Two months later, December
I walked into my boss's office and smiled at him as I took a seat in the chair sitting on the other side of his desk.
"Grace," he greeted me on a smile.
Lawrence Stewart was the D.A. in Clark County, a large man with kind eyes and an easy smile. He was fair and generally easy to work for, although he could be a little set in his ways. I hadn't found any reason to go up against him yet, but I knew from observation that I should pick my battles wisely.
"How are you, Larry?" I asked. It's what he had asked me to call him the first day we spoke, during my phone interview.
"Good, good. And you? How's wedding planning?"
I smiled. "We haven't even set a date yet. You know, we work for a slave driver."
He laughed, a big belly laugh. "I could probably spare you both a weekend."
I grinned at him. "Okay, then, we'll get on it."
I had initially been nervous to let people at the office know Alex and I were dating, especially since I was new. But at a company gathering, two months after I started, Larry had come up to me and smiled at me warmly as he said, "Alex is a good kid, I'm glad you've found a friend in him."
After that, we still didn't make a show of the fact that we were dating, but I knew that it wouldn't be frowned upon. The whole office had been happy for us when we'd announced our engagement.
It was easy to work with Alex, even though we were engaged too. We didn't live together yet and so that probably helped, but I thought it would be fine when we saw each other both at the office and at home. Alex was easygoing and calm, very go-with-the-flow. In the courtroom, he came across as the trusted boy next door, and his win record reflected that.
Larry sat back in his chair. "Murder two nights ago, Grace. Police found a young girl shot in the head, left on the side of the road near Red Rock Canyon."
I blanched. I could picture the area. I had been there once upon a time...
"Any evidence found at the scene?" I asked.
"Plenty. Police got a print off a bracelet the victim was wearing. And she was holding a rock with blood on it. They ran the print and it came back to," he picked up a piece of paper off his desk and read the name, "Joshua Garner, twenty-eight. He was recently honorably discharged from the Navy–served as a SEAL for almost ten years, and had just started life as a civilian again. Moved here a couple months ago. No family in the area. When the police went to his address to arrest him, they found that he had a head wound that matched the rock the victim was holding. When they tested it, blood on the rock was a match to Mr. Garner. Not to mention, the bullet in the girl, came from his gun. They arrested him yesterday for murder."
I furrowed my brow and tapped the pen I was using to write down the information he was giving me on the legal pad on my lap. This case sounded about as "full-proof" as you could hope to get as a prosecutor. "Is he talking?"
"No. He lawyered-up right away." So I wouldn't be able to talk to him.
"Place of employment?"
He glanced down at the paper in front of him again. "He works security at the new hotel on the strip, Trilogy."
I knew of it–it was a luxury hotel with three towers. I'd heard it was incredibly lavish. I wrote the name down and then looked back up at him. "Do we know who the girl is?"
He shook his head. "She wasn't carrying any identification and she hasn't shown up in any missing person reports yet. She looks Hispanic, late teens to early twenties. Possibly illegal. All the crime scene photos are in here," he said, tapping the case jacket in front of him.
"Some sort of prostitution thing gone wrong?" I wondered aloud.
"Could be. That was my initial thought too. But no evidence pointing specifically to that right now. No autopsy information yet. What I've told you is about all we know. Now that you're closing up the Montega case, I want you to work this one. Your first homicide–I know you're up for the job. Grand Jury is on Friday."
His phone rang and he glanced at the screen. "I've gotta take this." He slid the case jacket across the desk to me and I picked it up and stood.
I nodded. "Thank you, Larry. I won't let you down." I turned to leave his office.
"I know you won't."
I smiled and nodded again and closed his door behind me.
I walked back to my office and sat down at my computer. I called down to homicide and asked for the lead detective on the case, Detective Powers. She had time to meet with me in a half hour and so I told her I'd be there.
I started turning off my computer and gathering my papers as Alex walked in the door. "How's my beautiful girl? Can I take you to lunch?" he asked, leaning on my desk and smiling at me.
"I wish. I thought I had an easy wrap up day. But I just got a new case and I've gotta get moving on it. Larry gave me my first homicide." It didn't seem right to be overly happy about it, after all, a young woman had died. But I was excited that Larry thought I was competent enough to handle it. I had held my own with many felony cases so far, but this was the first one that involved a murder.
Alex raised his eyebrows. "I'm not surprised. You're an amazing lawyer. I'm gonna be wrapped up with clients tonight, but dinner tomorrow night and you can catch me up?"
I stood up, putting my arms around his neck and looking up into his kind eyes. "Sounds great," I said.
He kissed me quickly on my forehead and let me go, whistling a catcall as he walked behind me toward my door. I laughed and grabbed my purse and coat hanging on a coat rack and blew a kiss over my shoulder as I headed to the stairs.
I got in my car, a white Honda Accord, and made my way to police headquarters where I sat down with Detective Powers and went over the details of the case to make sure our testimonies were ready for Grand Jury. I blanched as I looked at the pictures of the dead girl again, a bullet hole straight through her forehead. I had seen violent crime scene photos before, but this time, I felt a fierce responsibility sweep over me. It was my job to get justice for this girl. A lump formed in my throat as I took in the horrific details. No one's life should ever end that way.
"If you ever get used to seeing that kind of thing, it's time to retire," Detective Powers said with a bit of humor in her voice. But her eyes said she was completely serious. I liked her. She was about forty with short blond hair and pretty features. She was direct but kind.
I smiled a small smile at her. "I agree. Makes it that much worse that she's so young," I said quietly, closing the file and pushing it away from me.
"Please, call me Kate," she said, smiling warmly.
"Okay, Kate," I smiled, "do you have any ideas about a motive here?"
"Not yet. But I do have a couple people to follow up with that have proven hard to pin down so far. They may be helpful in shedding light on Mr. Garner's state of mind, among other things."
I nodded. "Well, it looks like we have plenty to present to Grand Jury on Friday. I don't see any problem getting an indictment."
"No, there won't be a problem. If you have any questions, give me a call, but otherwise, I think we're in sync. I'll see you at the courthouse?"
"Yes, sounds good. Thanks for meeting with me today. I know you have a busy schedule."
"Not a problem."
We both stood and shook hands and she walked me to the door. I thanked her again and headed back to my office. I had two days to prepare for Grand Jury.
I walked into Leland's office and closed the door quietly behind me. He was on the phone, but when he saw me, he told whomever he was talking to that he needed to go.
I sat down in the chair across from him and leaned my elbows on my knees, running my hand over my hair, which I had kept short even after leaving the Navy.
"Anything?" Leland asked, looking at me warily.
I shook my head, my jaw tensing. "No. Not a damn thing."
Leland paused. "Okay. But you're agreed that we can't visit him. It's too risky. And even if we sent someone else in there, everything's recorded. Josh couldn't talk anyway."
I let out a frustrated sigh. "I know. We'll just have to wait until bail is set. Fuck! We've always been like a well-oiled machine. How did this happen?"
Leland frowned, drumming his pen on his desk. I knew that if anything happened to Josh, hell, any of us, Leland was going to take it the hardest. He had presented this operation to us in the first place.
"Fuck is right," he mumbled, looking out the window at the mid-day Vegas skyline.
I let out a breath and sat back in my chair. "Leland, this is a bad situation, about as bad as it f**king gets, but we knew the risk going in."
He took a deep breath, moving his eyes back to me. "Yeah." After a minute he continued. "Josh has gotta know we went back in for him, right?"
"Fuck yeah. He knows the motto. Hell, we've proven it enough times over the years." I paused. "Yeah, he knows."
Leland pursed his lips, still drumming his pen. "Okay, what's next?"
"Well, the operation halts, obviously. We keep a low profile. We can't be seen together. We keep trying to pinpoint Bakos' location because there's no one else who could be responsible. And we do it before he starts putting the pieces together and we all have targets on our backs."
Leland studied me. "Well why didn't you say it was a f**king cake walk? Shit, is that all?" He laughed a humorless laugh.
I chuckled. "Yeah, it's in the bag."
We were both quiet for a minute. "Any idea why he'd set Josh up like that rather than just shooting him in the head?"
"I figure, he has him shot in the head, he'd never know who he was. We don't carry i.d. Frame him, get him arrested, it not only goes down harder, but it's an easy way to get him identified. I mean, I've gotta give him credit."
Leland huffed. "Damn. We underestimated him."
I shook my head. "No. We got caught."
"Well, yeah, that didn't help either. So now it's just a waiting game."
"Yeah, now it's just a waiting game. We're doing everything we can."
"Have you talked to the detective yet?"
"I put her off, but I have an appointment with her Friday. I couldn't hedge any more than that. I'd appreciate it if you could call my office phone so I can cut the meeting short though. If she wants to meet with me beyond that, she'll have to bring me to the station." I wasn't going to make it easy, and for good reason. I was involved too.
He nodded. "Yeah, no problem. She know you were in the Navy with Josh?"
"Yeah, I didn't really have any choice but to tell her. I figured it'd look suspicious if I didn't offer that up and it came out later."
Leland frowned. "Probably true."
He studied me, thinking. "Any way us serving with Josh could get to Bakos?"
"I don't see how at this point, but again, we need to find him before he has time to gather information we don't want him to have. He'll be keeping an eye on the investigation. It's just normal police protocol to question an accused's boss at his place of employment. Hopefully Bakos takes it at face value and doesn't look any closer."
"Yeah, let's hope."
"I've tightened security throughout the hotel. No one is gonna get in here to ask questions without us knowing about it."
Leland was quiet for a minute and then nodded. "Thanks, man."
I nodded back, standing up to leave. "How's forty-five?"
"No problems. Dylan's still working on flights and paperwork. He said he'd have it all scheduled by tomorrow. The priority is Bakos though and so that's what he's focusing on."
"Okay, good," I said. "Keep me updated."
"I will. Thanks, Carson."
I started walking toward the door when Dylan walked in. "Hey speak of the computer genius. Tell me you have something," I said.
Dylan had moved to Vegas a month earlier when we realized we needed someone to help with the computer side of our operation–someone we could trust.
"Not yet. That motherfucker moves around so damn much." He frowned. "I have some ideas though. They'll just take time."
I nodded. "Yup, a waiting game," I said to both Dylan and Leland. "A f**king waiting game."
Dylan clapped me on the back. "I have some programs running so I'm scheduling flights right now. I ran into a couple problems with paperwork though. That's why I'm here." He looked over at Leland.
"I'll let you figure it out," I said, starting to leave again.
"Okay, see ya," Dylan said. I nodded at Leland again and walked out the door.
I walked out of Grand Jury feeling accomplished. It had gone perfectly and we had gotten the indictment. No surprise, but it still felt good to be done with that part of the process. Now I could really get to work preparing my case.
Kate Powers was standing in the hall when I walked out. "Hey Grace, great job in there."
"Thanks, Kate, you too." I smiled.