Rachel Caine: Devil's Due

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Rachel Caine Devil's Due
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    Devil's Due
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The money Lucia and her new partner received to open their detective agency had come with strings: any assignment delivered via read envelope had to be top priority. No sweat. No one could make Lucia do something she didn't believe in-Right? Wrong. Lucia soon learned that every choice she made meant life or death for innocent people. No one could be trusted, not even the ex-cop she'd hired-and fallen for. In fact, Ben might be her fatal weakness, if the powers warring to control the future used him to control Lucia…

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Devil's Due

Rachel Caine

It's an unusual thing to do, dedicating a book to a couple of bestselling authors, but here goes:

Thank you to Charlaine Harris and

Carole Nelson Douglas, for being such

amazing people, and writing such amazing work.

I'm privileged to know you. Not deserving, but

extraordinarily, overwhelmingly privileged.

Prologue

CASE NOTES

LUCIA GARZA

FILE #20050228-

PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL

INVESTIGATION SUBJECT: BENJAMIN MCCARTHY, 44-year-old white male BACKGROUND: Exemplary Kansas City police detective. Decorated multiple times and given awards for meritorious service. Served with the KCPD his entire career, from 1985 until his suspension and subsequent conviction for murder in 2003. Incarcerated in the Ellsworth correctional facility. Appeals continue.

PERSONAL: McCarthy was born and raised in Kansas City to a middle-class family. Background prior to joining the police department is relatively unexceptional. Scholastic history indicates high aptitude for problem solving. Parents reside in a retirement community in Arkansas. One brother, a commercial fisherman living in Florida. No evidence of close ties with other, more distant relatives. Never married, although he has been involved in two documented serious relationships, both prior to becoming a detective. (Neither with Jazz Callender, see separate file.)

FACTS OF THE CASE: At 2:34 a.m. on October 4, 2002, three bodies were discovered, bound hand and foot, shot in the back of the head execution-style. Victims were identified as Joseph Lozano, 23, a convicted drug dealer; Katherine «Kat» Vargas, 18, Lozano's girlfriend; and Navio Veracruz, 19, also a known drug dealer. No drugs or money found on the bodies. Forensic investigation yielded several key pieces of circumstantial evidence, including tire tracks taken at the scene and footprints preserved in mud. However, the ballistics tests came back with a startling result: the bullets matched another case on file that had recently been entered in the computer system, an officer-involved shooting.

The bullets came from the service weapon of Detective Ben McCarthy.

McCarthy was unable or unwilling to provide a reliable alibi for the time in question, including any corroboration from his partner, Detective Jasmine «Jazz» Callender. Convicted on the basis of ballistic and forensic evidence, he was sent to Ellsworth for thirty years. Callender insisted on his innocence, but no supporting evidence was found. It does not appear, even on detailed examination of the facts, that Det. Callender was party to his criminal acts. Her dedication to clearing her partner's name has been noteworthy during the period of his trial and incarceration, and likely resulted in the state in which she first came to my attention: broke and verging on a serious drinking problem.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Files regarding Det. McCarthy's case and Callender's investigations were stolen from her apartment recently, during an apparently unrelated breaking and entering. We have turned up no information about the whereabouts of the files.

NEW EVIDENCE: Last month, Callender received a set of photographs, via former FBI agent Manny Glickman, that show McCarthy at a separate location during the time period of the murders. (Manny Glickman has been investigated. His background is clear and, in many ways, more convincingly above reproach than Callender's. See separate file for details.) Photographs show McCarthy accepting envelopes from two known members of an organized crime family and are evidence of corruption. This explains why McCarthy chose not to use the alibi at trial, relying instead on the hope that he would be acquitted. Separate investigation has thoroughly authenticated the provenance of these photographs.

I accordingly submitted the photographs and supporting materials to the district attorney and McCarthy's defense team as exculpatory evidence. The district attorney, moving a great deal more quickly than is typically the case in these matters, has moved to vacate McCarthy's conviction.

On a personal note, I wonder at the speed with which this has been accomplished. In my professional experience, the right thing rarely happens quickly in the judicial system.

Lucia Garza, Partner

Callender & Garza Investigations

Chapter One

The gavel fell, and Ben McCarthy was free. Mira, that was fast, Lucia thought, stunned. She'd been expecting…something else. A bit more theater, perhaps; at the very least a token few questions or some fussiness from one attorney or the other.

The prosecutor looked pale and drawn in the early morning hour, squinting against the harsh overhead lights. She was a hard-looking woman, with dark hair and a fashion sense that tended toward square-cut shoulders and block skirts with sensible shoes. No doubt she won a lot of cases, but it wasn't on style points.

Lucia didn't begrudge her the lemon-sucking expression, considering how humiliating it was to have to publicly acknowledge a prosecutorial mistake of this magnitude. This had been a gigantic miss for the cops and the district attorney's office. A murderer had gone free, and a cop—not a good cop, granted—had been wrongly accused and convicted. McCarthy's life was over, professionally speaking; he was damn lucky that it wasn't over in every sense. The time he'd spent behind bars had been hazardous. He had the mended bones to prove it.

As soon as the gavel hit wood, McCarthy turned to look over the sparse crowd in the courtroom. Looking for Jazz Callender, Lucia knew, because he and Jazz had always been close, and it was reasonable to expect her to be present for his exoneration.

As Jazz would have been, if not for a conspiracy between Lucia and Jazz's beau, James Borden, to keep her safe at home.

The judge rose in a flutter of black robes and escaped back to his chambers. Apart from the usual complement of guards and court stenographers, there was the sour-faced prosecutor, the cheery defense attorney, Ben McCarthy— somehow still neat and striking even in a prison-issue jacket—three bleary-eyed reporters…and a man sitting two rows ahead of Lucia, hunched forward.

McCarthy's eyes gave up the search for Jazz and fastened on her, and Lucia felt an undeniable surge of…something. Not a handsome man, McCarthy, not in any sense she could name, but there was something about him that was compelling. Clear blue eyes in an expressive face, a force of personality that could freeze you solid or melt you to syrup, depending on his mood—she'd learned that quickly, during their prison interviews. He wasn't tall—in fact, in heels she probably topped him by an inch—but he was strong, and there was something graceful about him. The way he moved. The deft, neat hands.

She saw the flash of disappointment. But the flash was only that, and then he smiled at her—a warm smite—and nodded his head. This wasn't unusual; men smiled at Lucia Garza a lot. She was beautiful, and she was a careful steward of the gift; she took pains with her hair, her makeup and her clothing, and she stayed in shape. She was used to male attention.

And still that smile made her go entirely too warm in secret places. They'd gotten to know each other well these last few weeks, while Jazz was recovering from being shot, and Lucia assumed the primary investigator spot for McCarthy's case. It had started cautiously, but Lucia, much to her surprise, hadn't found McCarthy the typical closed-off cop nor the equally typical closed-off prison burnout. He'd been…interesting. Literate and smart and cool.

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