Read Discretion Online

Authors: Allison Leotta

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Adult, #Suspense

Discretion (3 page)

She’d handled some gruesome cases: injuries inflicted with razor blades, bullets, boiling oil. Sex offenses committed on the most vulnerable victims. But this was the first time she’d seen a murder victim at the scene. The muggy night seemed to press down on her; she felt unbearably hot and claustrophobic.

Anna pushed her way back through the crowd. She made it to the railing at the edge of the terrace in time to retch over the side. She prayed she wasn’t contaminating the crime scene—and that no one was watching. When her convulsions stopped, she kept gripping the rail. Her legs were rubbery and her throat was raw, but mostly, she was mortified.

The view ahead was beautiful. The Washington Monument shone like a beacon against the black sky, and beyond it, the Lincoln Memorial was a steady white square. Anna dug in her purse for one of the tissues she always carried; they were essential in a job where witnesses routinely broke into tears. Now that she needed one herself, she was out. She searched for a crumpled Starbucks napkin, a CVS receipt,
Her hands shook.

“Anna.” Jack stood beside her, offering a folded handkerchief.

“Thank you.”

As he placed the handkerchief in her palm, he gently squeezed her hand. She closed her eyes and concentrated on his cool grip. It steadied her. She took a deep breath and reluctantly pulled her hand away. She blotted her cheeks and wiped her mouth with his handkerchief. The cloth smelled of fresh peppermint.

“God, I’m so embarrassed,” she whispered. “Is anyone laughing at me?”

“No.” His deep voice brokered no argument. “Everyone does that at their first homicide scene.”

She doubted that was true, but at least it was comforting. Her
hands stopped shaking enough for her to find a Life Saver in her purse. She sucked on the mint and willed her stomach to settle down. She checked her lapels to make sure she hadn’t spattered herself. She seemed clean.

“Okay, let’s do this.” She turned back to the terrace and stuffed Jack’s handkerchief into her purse so she could wash it before returning it. Jack nodded, and they walked to an MPD officer standing at an arched marble entranceway.

“Hi, Frank,” Jack said. “Can you show us where our victim fell from?”

“Jack, hey!” The officer was obviously delighted to see him. Jack had a loyal following among law enforcement. “Follow me.”

The officer led them through the arched entrance into the Capitol. They walked past a security vestibule and through a rabbit’s den of narrow white corridors. Compared to the mugginess outside, the intense air-conditioning in the building felt like the inside of a meat locker. Anna shivered.

The officer pointed up a curving staircase. “Two flights up to the third floor. Turn left, the door’s on your right.”

Jack thanked him, and the officer went back the way he’d come. Anna followed Jack up the empty stairwell. When they got to the second-floor landing, Jack stopped and turned to her. He lay a hand on her cheek. “You okay, sweetheart?” he whispered.

For a moment, she leaned in to his touch. She still felt queasy from the sight of the young woman on the terrace. Part of her wanted to rest her head on his chest and let his solid form blot out what she’d seen. But anyone might see them. She pulled his hand away from her cheek. “I’m fine,” she said.

“You’re pale.” He reached for her.

She stepped back quickly and raised a hand. “Not here,” she whispered fiercely. No one besides Grace knew they were dating, and Anna intended to keep it that way.

Jack sighed as he turned back to the stairs. “At least that put some color back into your cheeks.”

They walked up the final flight of steps in silence. At the top, she pointed to a dark globe implanted in the ceiling.

“Pull the video?” she said.

Jack nodded. “McGee’s on it. He’s waiting for us.”

They rounded a corner and walked down the hallway until they came to a crowded vestibule in front of a single door. Anna could see even more activity inside the sumptuous office beyond the door—Capitol Police officers securing it as a crime scene.

In the vestibule was Tavon McGee, a huge, dark-skinned homicide detective from the Metropolitan Police Department. Anna had worked with him on her biggest case, a domestic-violence prosecution that led to a homicide. McGee loved flashy suits, chili cheese fries, and a good joke. He was also very good at his job.

The detective stood next to a beautiful dark-haired woman in a pantsuit. Anna saw the gold badge clipped to the front of her belt and the slight bulge of her suit jacket over a firearm at her side. Some kind of federal agent.

McGee and the female agent were interviewing an older African-American man who sported a mane of salt-and-pepper hair, a dark suit, and a gold lapel pin with the House of Representatives crest. Anna instantly recognized him: Emmett Lionel, the District’s Delegate to Congress for the last thirty-one years. Because D.C. wasn’t a state, Lionel didn’t have a vote in national matters. Technically, he was a “Delegate” rather than a full-blown “Congressman,” but everyone used the honorific. He was the city’s most powerful local politician.

Detective McGee greeted Jack and Anna’s arrival with a gap-toothed grin. He excused himself from the Congressman, pocketed his little notebook, and walked over, putting his huge hands on both prosecutors’ shoulders. “The cavalry has arrived!” The homicide detective wore a beige five-button suit, a black shirt, and a tie with stripes of beige, black, and purple. A black fedora sat at a cocky angle on his head. McGee pointed his thumb at Congressman Lionel and shook his head in disbelief. “You know whose office this is? The Lion’s! He spoke at my Police Academy graduation twenty-two years ago.”

Jack nodded. “What’s he saying?”

“He was at some kinda reception downstairs, doesn’t know how
a girl came to fall from his balcony. But he was found coming down the stairway near his hideaway by a Capitol Police officer running up to check it out.”

A booming voice interrupted. “Congressman Lionel!”

All heads turned to see a tall, dark-suited man striding up the hallway. Anna recognized Daniel Davenport, although she’d never met him. Every lawyer in D.C. had seen his silver hair and imperious gray eyes on the cover of bar journals and inside newspapers. At a thousand dollars an hour, Davenport had represented CEOs and elected officials in the country’s most notorious white-collar criminal cases. It was said that in thirty years, none of his clients had gone to jail—and his cases more often ended with the prosecutors facing charges for misconduct. If they got anything wrong tonight, Anna knew, Davenport would hammer them.

Davenport walked between Congressman Lionel and the female agent and whispered something in Lionel’s ear. Lionel took a step away from the agent and pointed to two men in suits who were being interviewed by MPD officers.

“Stanley. Brett. Come here,” Davenport commanded. The two men looked nervously from him to the police officers questioning them. “Right now!” The men complied like puppies being called to their owner.

Jack walked toward Davenport, with Anna and McGee flanking him.

“Hello, Daniel,” Jack said. “Nice to see you. What’s going on here?”

“Good evening, Jack. I represent the Congressman. He and his staff would love to answer these officers’ questions, but I simply can’t allow that until I know more about what’s happened.”

“You don’t represent the staffers,” Jack said, inclining his head toward the men in suits.

“The Congressman’s office will be paying for their representation. I think you’ll find they will not consent to be interviewed outside the presence of their lawyers.”

“They can speak for themselves.” Jack turned to the men, who stood a few feet behind Davenport. Both appeared to be in their forties but had little else in common.

The shorter staffer stepped forward. He was African-American, fat, and bowlegged, with a chest puffed out with the pompousness of a miniature bulldog. His shirt was rumpled, and a spot that looked like ketchup marred his tie. He put his hands on his hips. “I’m Stanley Potter, Congressman Lionel’s Chief of Staff. As Mr. Davenport said, we’ll be happy to cooperate—once we’ve had a chance to talk to our lawyers.”

Potter elbowed the taller white man standing next to him. The man said, “Brett Vale, Legislative Director. Ditto what Stanley said.” If Potter was a bulldog, Vale was a greyhound. Good-looking in a wonkish way, with a sharp face and the leanness of a daily runner. He wore an impeccably pressed gray suit and had slicked his prematurely gray hair back against his head. Stylish silver glasses framed blue eyes so light they seemed almost transparent.

The Congressman himself didn’t say anything. His lawyer must have told him to keep his mouth shut. He stood there with his hands in his pockets, looking distinguished and contemplative. But Anna could see the sweat beading his salt-and-pepper hairline despite the arctic air-conditioning. She was disappointed in him. It was his right not to talk to the police, but she expected better from a public official.

“You have their contact information, and here’s mine.” Davenport handed Jack his business card. “I’d ask that you let these men go home.”

“Go home! They’re suspects in a criminal case,” said the female agent. She’d come over to stand next to Jack.

The Chief of Staff puffed up his chest even further. The Legislative Director regarded her with icy disdain. The Congressman looked sick. Davenport took a step forward so that he was standing between them and the agent.

“That’s precisely the reason they won’t consent to be interviewed,” Davenport said. “Unless you’re arresting them for something, you’ve got no grounds to keep them here. And I’m sorry, but you are who?”

“Samantha Randazzo. FBI, Violent Crime squad.” The agent put her hands on her hips, which drew back her jacket and exposed the Glock holstered behind her badge. She was in her early thirties, slim
and athletic. Her heels were a little higher—and her black pantsuit a little tighter—than the average cop’s. Curly black hair spiraled past her shoulders. She turned to Jack. “Any grounds to arrest them as material witnesses?”

Anna shook her head and saw Jack doing the same. It would be convenient to haul everybody into the police station and force them to answer questions, but that wasn’t how the system worked. Without probable cause to believe that one of the men had committed a crime, or proof that they had material evidence and would flee to avoid testifying, there was no legal basis to detain them. The police could take the names of everyone in the building, but they couldn’t keep them locked in.

Jack turned to the Congressman and his staffers. “You’re not under arrest. But Detective McGee will give you subpoenas to appear in the grand jury tomorrow.”

“Too soon,” Davenport said. “They’ll need time to meet with counsel to decide whether to waive any Fifth Amendment privileges.”

He knew exactly what to say to delay things, Anna noted with equal parts admiration and annoyance.

“Tuesday, then,” Jack said. He looked at the men in suits. “Two days is enough. If you leave town while you’re under subpoena, I’ll send the U.S. Marshals to collect you.”

The Congressman and his two staffers nodded. But Davenport wasn’t finished. He pointed to the police officers in the hideaway. “Now we need to prevent these overeager officers from violating the Constitution and compromising their own investigation. Please tell these well-meaning men and women that the Speech or Debate Clause requires them to leave my client’s office.”

“They’re securing a crime scene,” Jack said. “There could be more victims in there, or even the assailant.”

“There are half a dozen officers in there,” Davenport said. “Even they would have found another victim by now. They’ve swept the office, so there are no exigent circumstances. Now they’re merely intruding on my client’s constitutional rights.”

“Those are just Capitol Police,” McGee said. “We still need to process this as a homicide scene.”

“No,” Davenport said. “You’ve read the
case? I can see you haven’t. Suffice it to say that any items you seize from my client’s legislative office will be suppressed, and if those officers don’t leave right now, you all risk being sanctioned.”

Everyone in the U.S. Attorney’s Office had heard the basics of the
case—the FBI had found ninety thousand dollars in a congressman’s home freezer, but because of the Speech or Debate Clause, they weren’t allowed to search his office. The specifics of this esoteric corner of the Constitution were the province of federal political-corruption prosecutors. Anna was certain that in thirteen years of murder cases, Jack had never run across the issue. He looked worried, an expression Anna rarely saw on the confident Homicide chief’s face.

Anna’s youth was actually an advantage here. As a student at Harvard Law School, she’d studied the
decision. She knew Davenport was right. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked Jack.

Davenport looked surprised that the young pup was interrupting the big dogs. But Jack nodded to Anna and motioned for McGee and Samantha to join them. The four of them went around the corner and stood in a huddle.

“He has a point,” Anna said softly. “There’s only been one search of a congressman’s office in all of American history—and the appeals court held it to be illegal. The Speech or Debate Clause protects legislators from interference by the Executive Branch, even when looking for evidence of a crime.”

McGee looked incredulous. “You mean a congressman can kill somebody just as long as he does it in his office?”

“No, he doesn’t get a pass. He can be prosecuted, but not with evidence arising from his legislative activity. It’s about separation of powers between the branches of government. In
the FBI walled off the prosecution team from the search team, but the Court of Appeals still held the search to be illegal. If we search his office and disturb his legislative papers, anything we find could be suppressed.”

“What if there’s blood or fingerprints on his papers?” Samantha demanded.

Anna turned to McGee. “Will blood or fingerprints degrade overnight?”

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