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Chapter Ten

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Adam hung up the phone and stood, having concluded a pointless ten-minute conversation with Miguel's mother that told him only that Miguel didn't have the car, and a BOLO on the license plate would be useless. He apologized for waking her so early, or so late, depending on how you looked at it, and lied through his teeth to convince her Miguel wasn't in any trouble. It felt placating and wrong, and he hated when people did the same to him—namely Grady—but the other option felt worse.

"Everything alright?"

Turning his head, Adam saw Officer Hadley leaning over from the file cabinet. "Yeah," he answered, drawing back and tapping a knuckle over an inert file on his desk. "Everything's fine."

"You should be off, shouldn't you?" said Hadley, fiddling with the paper in his hand. "But I guess Pine's got everyone pretty active right now."

Adam clicked a molar. Hadley was a good enough officer as far as he knew, but the reality of leaks in the potentially sinking ship the station had become had returned to the front of his mind the moment he'd sat back in his chair. "Couldn't sleep," he answered curtly.

A loud clatter from the hallway interrupted their exchange and they both jerked, stepping simultaneously towards the commotion to figure out what was going on. Down by Booking and Receiving, four young men in handcuffs had broken away from their arresting officers, and were trying to tackle each other while still having their hands linked together. Adam started forward, but another voice boomed and the night officers seemed to be getting things under control. With hands on his hips, he sighed, and let Hadley keep going.

"Sarge?" said Rothman, coming up behind him, then gripping his elbow and tugging him towards the corridor wall outside the bullpen. "I thought we were supposed to keep our presence here to a minimum," he continued, voice low.

"Circumstances dictated otherwise," Adam replied without expounding. He jerked his head towards the booking desk. "How long has this stuff been going on?"

"Off and on all night, the way I hear it. Things are getting a bit more intense around the city. The unofficial mob convention we've got going on didn't exactly bring diplomats to our door."

"Right," said Adam, trying to compartmentalize. "What have you found on Miguel?"

Rothman sighed, glancing over his shoulder. At first, Adam thought he was checking for eavesdroppers, but saw he was actually making eye contact with Kelsey. She caught his nod and started towards them. "Miguel wasn't at the house," Rothman began to explain, "or anywhere else we looked. No sign of Grady either. And before you ask, nothing of note came up on the phone records, at least not that immediately stood out. We did run into a couple of Miguel's old buddies at Luis's, but they insisted they hadn't seen him. I was going to bring them in but didn't see the point, especially after we found this." He turned to Kelsey, who passed a closed file into Adam's hands.

"What's is it?" asked Adam.

"They're grainy," said Kelsey, nodding at him to take a look. "But I'm pretty sure that's Grady."

Adam flipped the file open. There were three images inside. Hazy stills, black and white, angled like you'd see from a security camera. The first was nearly unrecognizable, but the last two—Grady, dressed darkly, talking to another man who was facing away from the camera. A man a hair's breadth shorter than Grady, wearing a jacket with the hood flipped up.

"This was a harbor security camera?"

"An old one," confirmed Kelsey. "But still in use. The camera was set up to take still shots on a timer. This is dock 29 when it was hit three nights ago. Grady probably didn't…" She stopped, looking apologetic, and amended her words. "Whoever has been breaking in probably didn't know it was there. They got to nearly all the other cameras around the harbor on the last two break-ins, but missed this one."

Adam flipped back to the middle picture, staring at the flash of white in Grady's eyes, depicting a sideways glance, hard edges of restraint trapping the tension in his lanky arms. He could feel Rothman and Kelsey's eyes on him, waiting for his reaction. He wasn't sure he had one. Witnesses to the break-ins had loosely identified some of Rafferty's goons, then later, a couple of Chen Dao's Shadow Dragons, and at dock 35, another camera had caught a two-bit felon with ties to both Scolari and Castano, smiling as he walked away from the dock-house not long after a reported smash up.

Now Grady was on that list.

"You don't seem surprised," hedged Kelsey.

"I don't know what I am," Adam answered. He closed the file. "I have no idea what he's mixed up in here, or why, but this is more of a starting point than I had an hour ago."

"So you do think he's part of the break-ins," Rothman stated cautiously. "You know this picture doesn't prove anything. He could have been down there for a completely different reason."

Adam appreciated what Rothman was trying to do, but stalled it off. "If Grady is involved, I don't think he's involved willingly. What I do know is that he started acting off around the same time the Foley family was murdered. In the meantime, I've got a bloody pair Grady's jeans, Miguel not giving me a thing, and a whole damn city that seems to be going crazy. It's too much of a coincidence."

"It's a big city, Sarge. Grady could be mixed up in anything."

"But this is exactly the kind of thing he would try to keep from me," Adam said severely, clamping down on the worry and the green twinge of betrayal in his gut.

Kelsey was frowning. "You think Grady's mixed up with the Foley murders specifically?"

Adam toggled his head. "I don't know." He looked at Rothman. "But according to you, he showed up at the station that same day, looking like he'd seen a ghost. Then somehow changed his mind about whatever he was going to tell me. He's in these pictures. He's had run-ins with nearly every major crime king in the city, and so have I. There has to be a connection."

"Are you thinking he witnessed something?" Kelsey pushed.

"I don't know," Adam answered honestly. He flipped open the file and rolled the names through his mind again, trying to make them fit. Foley, Mancini. Rafferty, Scolari, Castano. Chen Dao. Grady.

"He's got his thinking face on," Rothman muttered.

Omitting Grady's, Adam parted his lips and said the last four names aloud. "Chen Dao. Scolari. Castano. Rafferty. What do they all have in common?"

Rothman and Kelsey traded looks. "Organized Crime," shrugged Rothman.

"Heavy smuggling operations," added Kelsey.

"Yeah." Adam nodded. "Meaning they all had a vested interest in Foley staying alive. If one of them had Foley killed, why now? Killing him, they may have damaged their rivals' business, but they've damaged their own as well. At least for a while. If one of them ordered it, the benefit had to outweigh the cost."

"Talk about keeping all your eggs in one basket," muttered Rothman. "So for which one would it outweigh the cost?"

Adam opened his mouth, then stopped, lifting his head as two patrolmen brushed by and glanced uneasily at their suspicious huddle. He lowered his voice. "Think about this. Who gains the most by upsetting the applecart?"

There was a beat of silence. "Someone who doesn't have any apples," answered Kelsey.

He nodded at her. "Exactly. We don't have a mob convention going on for nothing. We need to stop looking at the known criminals in the area, and start concentrating on new faces. Who's trying to get a toehold into the city? Who might have a connection to Mancini?"

"Russian mob," said Rothman, straightening like he'd just had an epiphany.

Adam raised an eyebrow. "There are a lot of new faces in town, Rothman."

"I know that. But up until now, we've gone on the assumption that Mancini was either independent, or the rumors that he was a made guy for Scolari are true. And we had reason. When I was checking into it, I found Mancini has criminal ties through his father that go all the way to Sicily. But his mother…"

"Russian?"

"Born in Moscow. Grandfather did a few stints in Lubyanka Prison, specific charges unknown, but he's trained in security, and was heavily suspected of facilitating a drug smuggling operation from Afghanistan a few years back. He split and came west two years ago. And you've read the federal alerts—Russian mob has been expanding since '88. If we're looking at a group that wants a toehold…"

"We can't assume, based on that alone. We need more. I don't want to go running in the wrong direction on this. We're behind enough as it is. And if Mancini is connected to the Russian Mob, it's a broad base. Unknown. We need to know who, exactly, is pulling his strings."

"We have limited options there, Sarge. Mancini still isn't talking and he isn't likely to start. The alternative is to go through official channels and pull profiles, which further begs the question—how do we pull or request files in a station that seems to be leaking like the titanic? Case in point. After those were developed, Kelsey got back to that camera to see if it'd caught anything else, and it'd been smashed."

"Have you talked to Pine recently?"

Rothman nodded, but his expression wasn't encouraging. "He has a few suspects, but nothing specific on who's leaking."

"Okay." Adam scrubbed a hand over his face. "Pull files. Make the phone calls. Do the search anyway. Try to stick to hard copies and be discrete, but if you have to go to the computer or phone through official channels, do it. At most, it will tell whoever's watching that we're getting closer, and I'm not sure I care if they know that. Leave a message with Malloy if you find anything."

"Where are you going to be?"

"I'm going to talk to Willis. See if I can figure out when he last saw Miguel. And he's usually tapped into the city—I can see if he's heard anything. Russian or otherwise."

"Be careful," called Kelsey.

"You too."

He waved as he turned, walking towards the doors, and stopped. Willis was already in front of him, hands in his pockets at the end of the hallway, looking uncomfortably prudent as he glanced around the florescent-lit bustle of the straggling nightshift.

"Teddy? What are you doing here?"

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Adam double-checked the hallway outside the break room to make sure they were alone then pulled another chair and gestured for Willis to sit. "Did Malloy call you?"

Willis frowned. "Why would Malloy call me?"

Adam shook his head, sinking down across the table, trying to let go of the white-knuckled feeling that kept bleeding his joints. "Never mind. It's late. You need something?"

But Willis had already caught the undertone. He tipped his head, eyes evaluating. "Should Malloy have called me?"

"It's nothing," said Adam. He waved a hand to deflect.

Willis waited a beat, watching him. "That murder case from last week—still keeping you troubled?"

Adam folded his elbows onto the table and slung him a look. Willis shifted his scrutiny. "Grady then. Is he okay?"

"No," Adam breathed. "No, he is not." He trundled his hands into fists and rubbed the left one over his chin. "He's mixed up in something. Something bad. Top it off—he bolted from the bar after passing out cold about…" he checked his watch, "ten hours ago. He's hurt and he's in trouble."

"And you're sitting here looking as twisted as he had you looking when he first showed up going after Hardin. You having that nightmare again?"

Adam locked his jaw, but the echo came unbidden, cracking his cheekbone. That's for leaving me in Da Lat! He drew up sullen and tight, afraid if he gave the thought volume it'd turn to reality.

Willis lifted a hand. "Don't worry, I'm not here to be your counselor right now." He switched tracks. "Is Grady why you've been looking for Miguel? Or is he mixed up in something else?"

Grunting, Adam loosened his arms, grasping tentatively at the reason he'd wanted to seek Willis out in the first place. "Best I can figure, Miguel is running interference for him. Meanwhile, the entire city is turning into a powder keg." He jabbed a finger at the table. "You know, those two pick a hell of a time to go off the grid."

"Yeah," said Willis, eyeing him. "I figured something was going on after Miguel disappeared from the probation meeting before we even got in the door, then sent Clavo back to help me set up in his place."

"Clavo? Clavo Reyes, Clavo?"

"Yep. Told me Miguel had to go meet his mother and wouldn't say anything else. Literally. Scowled the entire time he was in there. Wouldn't answer any other questions. When I got your message back at the apartment, I got worried. As you noted, things are a little intense these days, even in the probation meeting."

Adam narrowed his eyes. "You've talked to him—haven't you?"

"Miguel," admitted Willis. "Not Grady. I was calling around trying to get a line on him for you. He found me outside my apartment about an hour ago—said he needed me to get you a message, and here I am."

"What's the message?"

"He wants you to follow a tip he heard about the break-ins in the harbor. Said it was important."

Sitting back, Adam chuffed lightly out his nose. It would have been too easy, he thought, to imagine Miguel might have actually had something to say about Grady. "And why isn't he talking to me about this?"

"Good question. I asked him the same thing and he wouldn't say."

"Okay, I'll bite. Who does he want me to look into?"

"He said you should focus on Rafferty. Drop everything else you're investigating—that's an exact quote—and focus on Rafferty."

"He said Rafferty's behind all this?"

Willis drew back with a quizzical look. "He didn't exactly go into detail. Trust me, I tried to get him to. All he would say is make sure Beaudreaux watches Rafferty—also an exact quote."

"So why do I get the feeling this is misdirection?"

"You tell me. I feel like I'm playing translator when I don't speak either language. What exactly is the issue here?"

Hesitating, with a glance at the door, Adam tweaked the file Kelsey had given him, then spread it forward on the table. "Those murders last week sparked a rushed attempt to consolidate information on the illegal imports pipeline. We've had smash and grabs up and down the docks ever since Foley's murder hit the news. Most of the break-ins are being reported as simple vandalism. Some say there are logs and files maybe gone. Nothing else." He dipped his chin at the middle photo. "Grady's mixed up in it, I just can't figure how. And he isn't talking. At least not to me."

Willis peered forward without moving. One simple creased line appeared in his forehead. "Why not?"

"Good question." The frustration welled over. "You know, I really thought we were getting somewhere. After Nigel, I thought he was starting to trust me again. Completely. I thought he was starting to get the idea of what it means to be family." He snorted. "Obviously not."

"That's not what I meant. You know Grady. You know Grady better than anyone. In the past, when he's been in trouble… why hasn't he gone to you? Why, really, wouldn't he come to you now? What's the motivation?"

Adam's pulse thudded into his fingertips. He stumbled over the automatic denial on his lips and went still, caught in the angle of the question. The hollow room had acquired an echo and he wondered for the first time if maybe he'd brought it in with him. He cleared his throat and heard it reverberate off the painted cinder block walls. "Pride," he mused, then coughed, trying to settle his brain. "His damn messed-up code of honor. Not trusting the system. The cops." He breathed again, slowly, and his voice swung low as he snorted. "Thinking he's protecting me." He shifted in his chair and looked up, meeting Willis's eyes. "Or protecting someone else."

Cracking the neutrality in his expression, Willis said his next sentence carefully. "If I'm the one playing go between, not to mention Miguel..." He tapped his thumb against the base of that middle picture, drawing Adam's eyes towards Grady's sideways glance. "Adam, I know I've had my doubts about his intentions in the past, but I know what you see in him. Maybe the question here is whether you think Grady and Miguel would mislead you on purpose? And if so, why?"

If it's not about trust, Adam thought, pressing fingers to his eyes. If it's not about trust…

He bent his head, rocking it left to right. "Teddy, on this issue, at this moment, Rafferty's as low on my list of suspects as anyone," he said. But the seed was already planted, rooting deep. After a moment, he shoved back and went to the door. "Rothman," he yelled, calling down the hall. "Change of plans."

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tbc