Cliff Diver (Detective Emilia Cruz Book 1) (7 page)

Emilia’s mouth was
dry. She needed a cola. Or a beer. “How much do you want to tell Silvio?”

“Fuck.” Rico’s
moon face creased with worry. Distrust was rampant throughout every police
force. No one knew which of their colleagues was an informant for a cartel or even
another law enforcement agency. Everyone was out for themselves and the
consequences of a misjudgment were often fatal.

“So we don’t say
anything,” Emilia said. She watched the city come into focus and she remembered
that night driving the same road in the shattered SUV with coolly confident
Kurt Rucker. His hands were on hers, helping her, giving her strength.

“Think she knew he
liked to watch you pee?” Rico asked and the spell was broken.

Chapter 7

 

 

All the detectives
were in the squadroom when Emilia and Rico walked in. The atmosphere was an odd
combination of defiance, anger, and disbelief. The questions started as soon as
Emilia and Rico set foot inside but were immediately cut off when Silvio bolted
up from his desk and shouted “
Callate
!”

The senior
detective ignored the murmur of grumbles and waved Emilia and Rico into
el
teniente’s
office. It looked the same as it always did; gouged green walls,
big metal desk, a bulletin board with notices, an overflowing inbox; the
sign-in logs for the detectives, the dispatch clipboard, a modern flat screen
computer monitor, a tall metal filing cabinet.

“Tell me,” Silvio
said tersely as he closed the door. His plain white tee hugged his body. His
shoulder holster was a worn leather extension of his lateral muscles.

Rico dumped his
leather jacket and gave a rapid-fire account of what they’d found at the
Palacio Réal marina, the condition of the body and boat, and their short visit
to the Inocentes’ Costa Esmeralda apartment. Silvio blinked when Rico described
the place and the strange conversation with Maria Teresa Inocente, including
her remarks about her brother-in-law, but otherwise he just listened.

“So he was shot
and dumped on the boat?” Silvio finally asked when Rico had wound down. The
three of them had stayed standing, each of them taut with tension.

“Hard to tell what
happened exactly,” Rico shrugged. “Most of the back of his head was pulp. We’ll
have to see what the coroner says.”

“How messy?”
Silvio asked. The rest of the sentence hung in the air. C
artel hit
?

“Just enough,”
Rico said. “There was a plastic bag over the head. From the blood trail, we
think he was killed somewhere else and the body dumped on the boat. We still
need to get time and cause of death but the back of his head was pretty well
gone. Maybe a shot to the side of the head. Hard to tell with the head wrapped
in a plastic bag. Forensics will run the fingerprints. Boat had obviously been
traveling and ran out of gas.”

“Possible
witnesses?” Silvio folded his arms, the veins in his forearms rigid against
thick muscles.

“We’ll have to
talk to people in the apartment building, the apartment marina, the hotel
marina,” Emilia said. She was still holding the laptop from his home office.
The office still felt as if Lt. Inocente would walk in any minute and be
furious to find them there. “The hotel staff and guests to see if anyone saw
the boat from the beach or the hotel. All the windows face the ocean.”

Silvio gave Emilia
a look as if irritated that she’d stated the obvious. “There was press already
at the hotel,” he said. “Did you talk?”

“No,” said Rico.
“Some of the hotel people took pictures but the manager got them out of the way
pretty quickly.”

“It’s already made
it to cable news,” Silvio said darkly.

“Shit,” Rico
muttered.

“Get your report
written up in the next 30 minutes,” Silvio said.

Emilia indicated
the laptop. “We have his laptop and some other things from his home office.
Forensics might be able to find something.”

Silvio threw her
another exasperated look, then wrenched open the door. “Go find some coffee.
I’ll call the chief of police’s office and then we’ll get this rolling.”

Rico and Emilia
walked out. Silvio closed the door behind them.

The squadroom
burst into questions again. Castro was the loudest. “It’s really
el teniente
?”

“On his own boat,”
Rico said. “It was bad.” He emptied his jacket pockets of the boat registration
papers while Emilia dumped the laptop on her own desk and dug out her notebook.

The other men
started firing questions at Rico. Emilia sank into her desk chair, shrugged out
of her jacket, unlocked the drawer and stuffed her bag into it. The clock on
her computer said that barely 90 minutes had gone by since they’d stood on the
pier at the Palacio Réal and watched the Water Patrol craft maneuver next to
the maroon speedboat. She turned on her computer while Rico held forth.

“—should have seen
that apartment,” she heard him say. “What a bitch of a place. Punta Diamante
view. Next to a movie star, probably.”

The office door slammed
open and Silvio came out holding
el teniente’s
clipboard. “Murder
investigation,” he said shortly. “Victim is Lieutenant Fausto Inocente, chief
of detectives, Acapulco.” Emilia felt an almost physical jolt as he made eye
contact with her and then with every other detective in the room, which had
gone perfectly quiet as soon as he started talking.

“You’re all on the
case,” Silvio continued. “We’re not dropping anything else, but this is top
priority.” He gave a brief and accurate recap of what Emilia and Rico had found
out. There were a few questions that Rico answered and a couple of
clarifications about the boat. Silvio’s eyes swept the room again. “We don’t
know what’s behind it so don’t do anything fucking stupid on this one.”

Emilia felt the
same shiver of fear she’d felt with Rico when they’d talked about the
situation. She might think Silvio was a bully and a thug but she knew he was no
fool. Whatever had gotten
el teniente
killed could well reach back and
bite anyone who was known to be looking into his murder.

Silvio tossed his
clipboard down on the nearest desk, which belonged to Gomez.

“Hey,” Gomez spat.

Silvio ignored
him. “Fuentes and I will set up a command center here. Get a hotline going and
call in for some uniforms to ride the phones.” He gestured at the far wall
covered with pictures and details of other ongoing investigations. “If any of
that stuff is yours, grab it now. We’ll use that as the main murder board.”

Fuentes, Silvio’s
partner, found a pad of paper and started scribbling furiously. Macias got out
of his chair and methodically started clearing the wall.

“Portillo and
Cruz, you stay on family and body. Talk to the brother and get the coroner’s
report.” He pointed to the laptop on Emilia’s desk. “Loyola and Ibarra, you’re
on forensics. See what the techs got at the boat and get the laptop looked at.
See if it gives you anything about who he was in contact with, any plans he had
for last night, whatever.”

His contacts
,
Emilia thought. Other dirty cops. People who kidnap small kids. American
tourists named Hudson.

“Cell phone?”
Silvio directed his question at Rico, who shook his head.

Silvio went on.
“Okay, Gomez and Castro, get back to the Palacio Réal hotel. Start interviewing
everybody. Staff, guests, security service. Who saw that boat and when. Macias
and Sandor, you’re at the apartment building. Portillo can give you the
address. Get over there, talk to everybody who came and went last night. Who
handles the marina, sees boats go in and out.”

Silvio picked up
the clipboard. “That’s our starting point. Everybody back here by 6:00 pm with
whatever you’ve got.” He checked his watch. “Eight hours.”

There was a
shuffling of shoes and the sounds of chairs scraping as everyone moved.

“What about any
cases he was working on?” Emilia asked into the din.

The chair banging
stopped. “His cases?” Silvio asked. Someone snickered.

“His wife said
that he’d told her he was working on something to shut down cartel activity.
Something big.”

Silvio lifted his
eyebrows, the most animation she’d ever seen on his face that wasn’t a scowl.
“You go right ahead and check that out, Cruz,” he said and turned away.

Somebody snickered
again. Probably Castro.

Chairs creaked,
feet shuffled, computers wheezed into life and phones clicked as the squadroom
hustled into action. The usual rivalries and raucous jokes were missing,
however. Voices were tense and low as if everyone was torn between trepidation
and determination.

Emilia pulled out
the CD’s she’d thrown in her purse and handed them over to Loyola and Ibarra
along with the laptop, then started writing up the victim report as Rico wrote
out the address for the apartment building for Macias and Sandor. The latter
two detectives were good investigators and their resentment at having a woman
in the squadroom was a little less overt than that of Gomez and Castro. Both
were known to be good at piecing together details from a murder board and
Emilia was surprised Silvio had reserved that job for himself and Fuentes
rather than give it to Macias and Sandor. She wondered if Silvio wanted Sandor
out of the building; Sandor had threatened to quit so many times over the lack
of decent office equipment that it had become a tiresome joke.

Gomez and Castro
were the first to leave. As they barreled out the door they collided with two
men coming in. Castro’s “Who the fuck--” was cut short. Emilia caught a sharp
movement out of the corner of her eye and looked around the side of her
computer screen to see what was going on. Every other detective’s attention was
likewise directed to the doorway. Gomez and Castro came back into the
squadroom.

The two newcomers
surveyed the room. One of them looked vaguely familiar, as if he’d been in the
newspaper lately. He was in his late thirties, with longish dark hair slicked
back from a high forehead and the sort of angular cheekbones that spoke of a
strong
indio
heritage. He wore a black leather blazer over a black tee
shirt and cuffed pants. There was a slight bulge under the left arm. He looked
around as if he owned the place. Emilia stopped typing. The man exuded power.

The other man was
bigger and blockier, with a square chin and a nose that had been broken too
many times. He was also well dressed in expensive casual clothing.

“I’m looking for a
Detective Cruz,” the black-clad man announced.

Emilia felt all
eyes shift to her. But before she could say anything Silvio crossed the room.
“Detective Franco Silvio,” he said to the man in black.

“I know who you
are,” the man replied. “I’m here to talk to Cruz.”

Emilia slowly
stood up.

“In the office.”
The man jerked his chin at Emilia and then he and his cohort pushed past Silvio
and headed into
el teniente’s
office.

Silvio swung over
to Emilia. “What the fuck’s this?” he hissed.

“I don’t know,”
she flashed back. Rico came to stand next to her and Silvio gave him a
what-the-fuck-do-you-think-you’re-doing look but Rico stood his ground.

The three of them
went into the office. The man in black sat in
el teniente’s
chair and
jiggled the locked desk drawers. “Shut the door,” he said without looking up.

Silvio complied
and the man came out from behind the desk.

“Do you know who I
am?” he asked Emilia.

Emilia gave her
head a tight shake. With five people in the room it felt crowded and Emilia
felt that cold spurt of wariness she always did when she was the only woman in
a crowd of unfriendly men. “I’m sorry, señor.”

“I’m Victor
Obregon Sosa, the head of the police union for the state of Guererro,” he
announced. “This is my deputy, Miguel Villahermosa.” The other man didn’t
acknowledge the introduction but it was clear Obregon had not expected him to
do so. “We’re here to make sure that the investigation into Fausto Inocente’s
death is handled properly.”

Rico bristled, as
if he was offended that the union would butt in. Emilia waited for him to say
something stupid but Silvio shot him a murderous glare and Rico kept his mouth
shut.

“We’re barely two
hours into the investigation,” Silvio said, obviously making an effort to keep
his temper. It had been less than 40 minutes since the call to the chief of
police. “It came in as a routine dispatch call. Cruz and Portillo were given
the assignment, made the discovery, locked down the scene, and notified the
next of kin.”

“So let’s hear
it,” Obregon said and flapped a hand.

Silvio nodded at
Rico.

“We got a report
of a drifting boat,” Rico began. “It was off the beach at the Palacio Réal
hotel--.”

“No,” Obregon
interrupted. He folded his arms. “Cruz.”

Emilia stole a
look at Rico. His face was like thunder. She swallowed hard. “As my partner
said, the call was to investigate a drifting boat off the beach at the Palacio
Réal. The hotel chef and manager saw it from the beach early this morning,
thought there were bloodstains on the side. We met Water Patrol at the hotel
and they towed in the boat.” She took another breath and tried to sound as
professional as possible. “Lt. Inocente was in the bottom of the boat, with his
head encased in a plastic bag. It was pulled tight and knotted around his neck.
When the crime scene technician opened the bag it appeared that the back of his
head was caved in. We’ll know more when the coroner examines the body.”

Obregon nodded.
“Any other injuries?” He spoke directly to Emilia.

She shook her
head. “No bullet holes in the hull of the boat, no evidence of a struggle.
Blood on the deck under the body, likely from the head wound. Blood had also
soaked through his shirt and there was some on the upper edge of the boat hull.
Technicians took samples but they’ll probably all come back as his.”

“Anything else?”

“The boat is his.
His wife gave us the registration papers.” Emilia paused, discomfited by
Obregon’s stare. The tension in the room was palpable. She swung her gaze to
Rico and plowed on. “They live in the same area as the hotel. The wife wasn’t
much help regarding his whereabouts last night. The last person who could
pinpoint his whereabouts last night was their maid. Said he got a phone call
late in the evening and went out. Took the boat keys but nothing else.”

“Wife didn’t see
him?”

“She had gone out
to a charity event,” Emilia said. “Of course we’ll be checking to verify her
story.”

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