“WOULD THE defendant please rise.” The emphatic voice of the judge resonated through the courtroom, his eyes narrowing on the man in the navy blue suit, now standing in front of him. “Mr. Tully, do you have anything to say before the sentence is entered into the record?”
“No, Your Honor,” the defendant replied in a deflated voice. He knew exactly what was coming for him; nothing he could say would change it. Nothing would change what he’d done.
“Very well, Mr. Tully. Please remain standing.” The judge looked up, scanning the room before, at last, settling his gaze on Tully.
“Elias Tully, for the murders of Janice Spencer, Jared Doyle, and Mary Coulson you will serve three life sentences. Furthermore, you will serve 20 years for the attempted murder of Detective Michael Hobbs, all of which are to run consecutively. You will now be taken to Chesapeake Detention Facility, where you will be held without the possibility of parole,” he said evenly as he kept his sharp gaze on the defendant. The sound of the gavel banging bounced off the walls of the courtroom.
“Bailiffs, remove the prisoner.”
The judge took a final glance around the room before pausing and giving a nod to which he received three in return, after which he retired to his chambers.
“Bastard got what he deserved.” A strong, Southern-accented voice sounded from the seat next to where Detective Cade Lawson slumped down in his chair.
Cade turned his head to grin at Detective Lara Samuels, the petite, strongly tempered woman who was sporting a wide smile that, frankly, freaked Cade out a tiny bit—not that he would ever admit to that—while she waved enthusiastically at the man being escorted out of the room in shackles.
“Don’t we have the death penalty?” was asked in a gruff voice belonging to the very same Detective Michael Hobbs whom Tully tried to kill.
Lara turned to the man sitting on the other side of Cade and sent him a wicked smile before saying, “Yeah, Pumpkin, we do. But that bastard’s gonna rot in jail till the day he dies. In my book, that’s worse than bein’ put out of your misery, don’t you think? He’s gonna rot in a four by four cell, probably going to be someone’s bitch and if not, there’s always the showers. You know, if we didn’t have the laws we do, gettin’ what he deserves would be hanging him in a tree by his family jewels. Maybe burn him at the stake.”
She gave a one-shouldered shrug when she finished. Then she simply got up, leaving her coworkers staring after her with odd expressions on their faces as she exited the room.
“Remind me not to ever piss her off. Shit, man. She’s crazy. How do you do it?” The tiredness and exhaustion were clear in Mike’s voice and with a look at his pale face and slumped shoulders, it was quite obvious he hadn’t been sleeping and was probably in a lot of pain too.
“What? Survive her?” Cade asked with a cheeky smile.
“Survive her? You spend all your free time with her. Forget what I said. You’re the crazy one,” Mike huffed out with a poor resemblance of a laugh.
“Gee thanks.” Cade pulled a face at Mike, a smile breaking through when he managed to draw out another laugh from his friend.
“Come on Hobbs, let’s get the hell outta here. You look like you’re about to fall on your face, and you know I’ll just laugh at you if you do,” Cade said. He winked at Mike as he stood and offered a hand to help him up.
“Screw you, Lawson,” Mike retaliated in an almost pathetic voice. He took his hand and let Cade pull him out of his chair. Cade let out a chuckle before putting his shoulder under the other man’s arm and more or less towed him out of the courtroom.
“You wish,” he said in a mock serious voice, getting a snort combined with an eye roll in return. They both wore smiles on their faces as they made their way to the parking garage. Hobbs stayed quiet, making it possible for all those thoughts Cade held down during the court session to spring free and fill his mind.
Mike almost died. The bullet Tully put in him traveled almost to his heart. Had Lara found them just a minute later, he might not have made it. Elias Tully was an accountant who’d suddenly killed one of his coworkers. Before they managed to get to him, he’d killed another coworker and her boyfriend. They still didn’t know why, and it was driving him nuts. You didn’t just go all murderous without a reason.
So even with Mike surviving and recuperating it’d been a hell of a few months. What with Lara going bat-shit crazy, cursing everyone up and down, threatening to put Tully six feet under—at least five times a day—for bestowing her all the extra paperwork when he’d put her partner in the hospital. Cade knew her well enough to know paperwork had nothing to do with her wanting to put Tully down.
Mike had been home for one week now—well, home as in forced to move in with Lara and her daughter until he’d be able to care for himself. Lara wasn’t one for taking no for an answer. In three more weeks, he’d be in his own apartment and in another three after that, he’d be back at the station too.
“To the station?” he asked after they were both situated in his car.
“To the station,” Mike confirmed with a swirl of his finger. After buckling in, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
“You doing okay, Mikey?” Cade asked after taking a right turn out of the parking garage.
Though he liked having Lara as his partner again, he really just wanted things to go back to normal. Or as normal as they could get.
“Fine. Think I’m just getting’ old,” he replied with a pout on his lips and his eyelashes batting away—obviously looking for flatter of some sort.
“You’re thirty-five,” he exclaimed with an affronted puff of air.
“Don’t say it out loud, dumbass,” Mike grumbled.
Cade snorted as he turned onto the highway and sped up. “What? If I say it, it comes true? Isn’t that the other way around; you say it and it doesn’t come true, like wishes?”
“Shut up. I don’t know what I’m saying, I’m heavily sedated, thanks to Lara.”
“She didn’t give you a choice, did she?”
Well, that wasn’t actually a question, since there could only be one answer to that and they both knew it.
“She can make the devil do her bidding,” Mike said with such obvious belief that Cade couldn’t help the laughter bursting from him.
“Wouldn’t surprise me if she did,” Cade said with a small shake of his head, a smile on his face and gratitude filling him, not only for Mike surviving and recovering but for having Mike and Lara in his life and not to forget Morgan, Lara’s daughter. They may not be his family by blood, but they sure as hell were by everything else. He was still smiling when he drove into the Baltimore Police Department’s parking garage.
When Cade and Mike stepped out of the elevator on the floor of the precinct’s homicide
division, they were met by hoots and claps.
“Good luck, mate.”
He shook his head, albeit with a smile on his lips, slapped Mike on the back and left him to get torn apart by the gathering horde of wild animals—a.k.a. their coworkers. It was Mike’s first time back since the murder attempt and Tully was just sentenced, so it was to be expected that their fellow detectives would be overjoyed. Or perhaps they were just glad to have a legitimate reason to be obnoxious.
He walked through the open door to his, Lara, and Mike’s combined office and after discarding his jacket and gun, dumped himself in his chair with a tired sigh. He leaned back and closed his eyes, enjoying the peace and calm since he was alone for once. It didn’t last more than half an hour.
“Darlin’, when is the last time you slept? You look worse than Mikey, which kinda says it all, don’ it,” Lara said first thing when she walked into their office and found Cade slumped over his desk, several chocolate wrappers lying around him.
Cade groaned as he lifted his head slightly to look accusingly up at her. His head felt heavy from the headache he was sporting after too many days with too little sleep. He needed coffee—bad, and lots of chocolate. Chocolate could fix everything; that’s what his grandma told him when he was five and he’d lived by it ever since. It was the second religion he’d ever been introduced to and the only one he ever indulged.
“I don’t remember what sleep is,” he answered in a rough voice, plagued by what little sleep he’d just gotten.
Lara cocked an eyebrow at him before opening her mouth to say something just to be cut short.
“Lawson!” The Captain’s voice boomed through the office. He probably hadn’t even gotten out of his own chair to call for him. Bastard.
“Good luck, darlin’,” Lara drawled and winked at him before twirling her chair around and diving back into her work.
“Bite me,” he mumbled to her back.
“I heard that, and don’t think I won’t,” Lara yelled after him making him fight a smile.
Yeah, they were bantering like a bunch of high school kids and he liked it. He liked it a lot. It took some of the seriousness out of their occupation. Besides, it felt like it used to be around his siblings and cousins.
He mentally shook his head to clear any of that sort of thoughts from entering his mind and knocked twice on Captain Morris’ open door.
“Close the door, Lawson,” the captain said without taking his eyes away from the papers he was shuffling around on his desk.
Cade did as he was told and sat down in one of the plush chairs on the other side of the captain’s desk. He looked around at the pictures of smiling people while he waited for the captain to begin. A few formal photos mixed with a variety of Morris’ kids and wife decorated the otherwise plain walls. Cade had met the wife, Susan, on an occasion or two. She’d been a street cop for years until she got pregnant with their first girl and then she’d chosen to be a housewife. That was as much as Cade really knew about her. Four girls, all taking after their beautiful mother. Morris was going to have a hell of a good time running guys off with his AK-47. Yeah, no petty rifle for this Kentuckian.
“You heard ‘bout the Executioner?” Morris finally asked, looking up at him over his reading glasses.
“The serial down in Fairfax?” He asked, a frown settling between his brows.
Shit, the whole department had heard about the serial killer who seemed to concentrate on rapists and pedophiles. Some even—discreetly, of course—cheered him on. Himself included.
“Yep. Except he ain’t down in Virginia no more,” Captain Morris said pointedly, an eyebrow cocked.
“He’s in Baltimore?” Cade asked in a low voice after swallowing the lump in his throat. This wasn’t good.
“Well, his latest victim sure is,” the Captain grumbled, certainly not pleased with the news himself.
“We’re joining forces with Fairfax PD?”
Working with others in this line of work almost always ended badly, one way or the other, which Cade found incredibly stupid and just plain unnecessary. They were trying to solve murders and catch killers for Christ’s sake. At least it wasn’t the Feds. Now that wouldn’t have gone over very well.
“Sure are, and I’ve taken the liberty of offering you up on a silver platter,” he said with what Cade thought to be a pleased smile but it was pretty hard to see with the full beard he was sporting.
“Captain,” he said. “You’re downright evil.”
Cade crossed his arms and scowled at him, which Morris ignored. Honestly, it was why Cade liked the man so much; he didn’t take shit from anyone. But he stood up for his guys, always. Cade knew he could count on him no matter what, not that it stopped either of them from busting each other’s balls.
“I sure like to think so. Now, get your witty ass out of my office and down to the crime scene. The detective working the case will meet you there, and he should have the case files with him. The rest you can get from Claire,” Morris said. He returned to the papers on his desk, clearly dismissing Cade, who grumbled to himself all the way to the office where he sat down in his chair and with a loud sigh, laid his head on the desk, on top of the pile of paperwork he was yet to get done.
“That bad, huh?”
He took in a deep breath before lifting his head to put his more than likely, bloodshot eyes on the red-haired devil who was, as usual, grinning down at him. He scrunched his nose up at her.
“Don’t you have some paperwork to do, Lara?”
She snorted and sent him a withering glare before lifting herself up on his desk gracefully. You couldn’t tell she’d just turned forty-two. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her thighs.
“What’s wrong, darlin’?”
She was using her soothing-mom-voice on him.
“The captain just offered me up on a silver platter to FCPD,” he whined, genuinely not caring how pathetic he sounded. He was damned tired. He’d already pulled an all-nighter what with court this morning.
Lara wrinkled her nose in distaste.
“Those were his words,” he said with a pout, making his eyes big to use his best puppy dog expression on her. Unfortunately, she developed immunity sometime in the three years they’d worked together. She was one of the few, right up there with his grandma and youngest sister. Lara was actually a lot like both of them. Fiercely protective, but neither of them was the hugging type. They were the kick-your-fucking-ass-if-you-whine kinda girls.
“Good luck with that, darlin’,” she said and patted him on top of his head before getting off his desk and walking over to her own.
Cade let out another sigh before pulling his jacket from the back of his chair and only stopping at Claire, the Captain’s assistant’s desk to get the address before making his way to the elevator. He was betting today was going to be a fucking blast.