MIAMI STEAM by CHANTAL VERLAINE
The fact that he had a semi hard-on was a relief, though. It had been a while. The divorce had drained him emotionally. Finally, it was over, thank God. He was free and clear. Still, Rebecca Challenger was a reporter, and he couldn’t stand reporters. They twisted the facts and wrote things out of context to sensationalize a story and sell newspapers. They damaged people’s lives by putting them on public display. Sometimes the truth was better off remaining below the surface. Look at what the Miami Star had done to his career.
His stomach churned as he walked down the hallway to the detectives’ bureau. What was she doing here anyway? The Night Knifer was the biggest case on the books, but there was no new development. Some erupting corruption scandal, a police brutality lawsuit? Could be anything, but whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be positive. A reporter sniffing around was never a good sign.
Rick’s partner, Frank O’Reilly, called out, “Hey man,” but Rick walked by. “Earth to Rick…”
Frank’s voice sliced through his thoughts. Rick stopped and turned. “Sorry, Frank, didn’t see you.”
“What’s up?” Frank peered at his partner. “Nothing, nothing.”
“I’m just going to the john; then we’ll hit that witness up in North Miami, okay?” Frank said.
“Sure. I’ll get the case file. Meet you at the car.” Rick reached his desk and plunked himself into his chair. His half-eaten tuna sandwich was still sitting there. He had been eating a late lunch when the chief had summoned him. It didn’t look the least bit appetizing now. He tossed it into the garbage and opened a manila folder on his desk.
He and O’Reilly were re-interviewing the witnesses to the Night Knifer’s early killings. They just might have overlooked a detail that only made sense in light of the more recent murders. He checked the folder; the list of witnesses was there, along with their prior statements. He picked up the car keys and headed down the hall to the parking lot.
He had to admit Rebecca was hot. He remembered driving around town with her as they looked for that missing kid. Her presence had electrified his senses. She was smart and had a great sense of humor. He had to hand it to her; she had asked good questions, and she had legs that just wouldn’t quit. He had gripped the steering wheel extra hard to control the impulse to reach over and slide his hand along that silky thigh into her nether regions, safely concealed under a skirt. His attraction had made him toughen his cop persona. In fact, he was pretty hard on her, probably more than he had to be, he had thought later. Why did she have to be a goddamn reporter?
He didn’t see the chief’s door opening and almost slammed into it. When he recovered from the startle, he found himself nose-to-nose with the chief’s perpetually red countenance.
“Jesus, Gonzalez, look out!”
“Sorry, sir.” The chief’s tone softened. “Good thing I ran into you. I’ve been thinking about this Miami Star story. We can use this. Get in here.”
Rick followed the chief into his office and closed the door. His mind whirred. This obviously had something to do with Rebecca Challenger’s recently concluded visit. He braced himself. “What’s going on with the Miami Star?” he asked.
The chief looked him straight in the eyes and ignored his question. “Listen Gonzalez, let’s face the facts. We’re shit up against the wall with this Night Knifer case. I just got another call from the mayor. He wants to call in the feds and the state police. I can’t have that. We have those dicks running around here, and we lose control of the biggest criminal to hit Miami in years, at least since I’ve been on the force, and that’s a damn long time.”
The chief pulled a handkerchief out of his pants pocket and mopped his shiny, bald pate. “We’ve got to solve this ourselves, or we’ll look like assholes.”
Rick nodded. He knew the pressure to solve the Night Knifer was intense. The case had been all over CNN; the New York Times and the Washington Post had done stories. Citizens complained about the lack of public safety at City Council meetings, which prompted grandstanding by council members and more media coverage about inept police work.
“Here’s where you come in.” The chief pointed his finger at Rick. “We’re going to fully cooperate with this Miami Star reporter. She’s working on a big feature story on the case. Some type of profile of the killer. Give her pictures of the crime scenes; take her on a tour of where the bodies were found; let her view the case files. Reporters love all that.”
Rick combed back his hair with his hand and shook his head. “Chief, are you sure? That’s a lot of access. You know how reporters are: she’s going to twist everything around, get facts wrong. We don’t have control over how it comes out in print.”
“We got no choice, Gonzalez. Let’s face it: we’re at a dead end in this investigation. We need the public to come forward. Somebody knows something about this psycho, and they’ll come forward if they read about him. She told me they’re putting this story on the Sunday front page if she gets enough new information. That could really help us. I guarantee we’ll get more new leads than we can track down.”
“I don’t know about this, Chief. I think old-fashioned shoe leather will turn something up. The press…”
“We don’t have time for old-fashioned shoe leather. Just do it.”
Rick exhaled. “Okay, Chief, whatever you say. I’ll call the paper.”