BY JENNIFER MOSS

Someone has been picking off the women of Chicago’s most notorious mob families. Detective Ryan Doherty is on the case with his partner, Matt Di Santo, walking a tight line between the Chicago PD, the feds, and the Outfit. From the Windy City to Sin City, Ryan and Di Santo travel to Vegas to chase down the assassin brave enough to take on the mob—and face shocking secrets of their own pasts.

 

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Friend of the Family by Jennifer Moss, we are once again reunited with Ryan Doherty and Catharine Lulling from Moss’s Ryan Doherty Mystery series. Ryan, who is a Chicago homicide detective, is called upon to investigate the murders of the wife and a girlfriend of two of the organized crime leaders in Chicago. No sooner does he start investigating these two murders when another mob leader’s sister is killed. Then the investigation gets even more screwed up when a federal agent, claiming to be Ryan’s brother, shows up with other federal agents who want jurisdiction of the case under the RICO act. But Ryan really takes offense when the feds start trying to use his partner’s distant family connections to the mob to make Di Santo an “inside man.”

Like the three books in the series before it, this one is well written, has a complicated plot with plenty of twists and turns, and will keep you turning page from beginning to end.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: I love a series, especially one where the author gives us realistic characters who become like old friends. Take Jennifer Moss’s Ryan Doherty Mystery series. Her latest addition to the series, book number four, is Friend of the Family, apparently a mob term meaning guys on the outside who aren’t “made” men or mob members, but who are friendly or sympathetic to the mob—or, in Detective Matt Di Santo’s case, very distant cousins. Our main hero, Matt’s partner in the Chicago PD Homicide Department, Ryan Doherty, is called to the scene of a murder on his day off and told his partner is already there. When Ryan shows up at the crime scene, he discovers that the victim is the wife of the local mob boss (godfather), and the reason Matt was there before anyone else is that the mob boss called him instead of 911, as Matt is the mob boss’s distant cousin. When the feds show up, naturally Matt is the prime suspect and they take him in for questioning. Ryan rushes off to save his partner, reluctantly agreeing to cooperate with the federal task force working to take down organized crime in Chicago, in exchange for them getting off his partner’s back, thus unleashing a chain of events none of them foresee—and that change Ryan and Matt’s lives forever.

Moss has created a cast of realistic and likeable characters and put them into situations that make them grow and change over the course of the books. In Ryan Doherty she has given us a strong, driven, unpredictable cop with plenty of human foibles, and you can’t wait to see how he screws up next. She always leaves you wanting more and waiting hungrily for the next book.

“There are three sides to every story.

Mine, yours, and the truth.”

~ Joey Massino

PROLOGUE

Two Years, Eleven Months, Twenty-One Days Ago:

The first week after his partner’s death had been a blur of people–people in his apartment, people at the funeral, people in the squad room. People gushing condolences and reiterating their disbelief that Detective Jonathan Lange had died so young. Especially since he didn’t buy it on the job, but in a freak highway accident. It was the same week that Kelly had left him–during all of the chaos, when Ryan couldn’t even stop for one minute and discuss it with her. Then again, he wasn’t sure if there was anything left to discuss.

So he’d let her go.

The second week he holed up in his apartment. Didn’t answer any calls, texts, or emails. The sarge told him to take at least three weeks off before returning to work, as he’d had six saved up in unused vacation time.

The third week he showered. Shaved. Even ventured to the corner store to replenish his groceries–and the liquor cabinet. He had consumed everything possible in his apartment down to the last two-year-old package of ramen. Now he’d become antsy and wanted to get back to work.

Ryan Doherty loved serving as a Chicago cop and had been promoted to detective four years earlier. Before that, he had been on patrol for almost ten. He and Jon had asked to be partnered when they both passed the detective’s exam within weeks of each other. Working together made them better friends, and being friends made them better cops.

Ryan stood outside the blond oak door in the beige hallway of a nondescript medical plaza. His knuckles hovered just under the nameplate, prepared to knock.

James Sullivan, PsyD.

Ryan had never been to a shrink before. Sergeant Besko reminded him it was a prerequisite to returning to the job. Even though Jon hadn’t been killed in the line of duty, it was standard operating procedure in the death of a partner. At least three sessions, Besko told him. Ryan was banking that he could get all three done this week and be back to work by Monday.

He knocked.

After getting no response, he turned the handle and entered a small waiting room, clearly designed to be tranquil. Low lighting cast a glow on several bamboo plants while a tabletop water fountain trickled in the corner. He had his choice of four blue overly-cushioned chairs, took one and checked the time on his phone: 1:25 p.m. He flipped through several tattered magazines, giving up on Glamour, as he had no interest in how to apply the perfect blush.

At exactly 1:30 sharp, an inner door opened and a man appeared. He was in his early thirties–thirty-two at the most–dressed conservatively in black slacks and a beige button-down.

Ryan stood up as the man held out a hand and addressed him with a wide smile. “Detective Doherty?”

“Call me Ryan,” he said, completing the handshake.

“I’m Jamie Sullivan, nice to meet you. Come on in.” He held the door open, letting Ryan into the inner sanctum. With similar décor as the waiting room, the walls were an earthy green offset by a warm red and yellow braided rug on a bamboo floor. A large mahogany desk stood along the far wall, while a more casual seating area took up the left.

“Take a seat anywhere you like,” Sullivan said.

Ryan smirked, spotting the proverbial psych sofa. “Should I lie down?”

“Only if you want to. But most of my clients just sit,” Jamie Sullivan quipped. The man was confident and amiable. From his mannerisms, vocal inflection, and the rainbow Pride sticker on the window Ryan concluded the doc was gay, which surprisingly made him more comfortable. When meeting a straight guy for the first time there was always an air of competition, especially when the dude found out Ryan was a cop. But with gay guys, all he had to worry about was being hit on, and there was little chance of that happening in a therapeutic environment.

He took a seat on the sofa and scanned the room. Several framed university degrees hung on the wall, along with Dr. Sullivan’s Chicago P.D. certification. The bookshelves contained true crime books, psychology texts, knick-knacks and several framed photos. He recognized a man in one of them.

“Hey, that’s Sully…Captain James Sullivan. I never got the connection. I assume you two are related?”

“He’s my father. Do you do know him?”

“Definitely. Sully was my FTO back when I was a rookie in the Sixteenth. Great guy.”

Sullivan sat down in a wingback chair facing him. “He is a great guy. And a great training officer, I’ve heard. But mostly from him,” he said with a warm smile.

“A cop’s son ends up being a cop shrink. What would Freud say about that?”

Jamie laughed as he opened the folder. Ryan’s folder. “I’m not sure. That I want to fully understand my father? It’s pretty transparent, isn’t it?” He handed Ryan a form. “This is our privacy statement, I’d like you to sign it. I want you to know that everything you say in here is completely confidential. No matter who my father is, nothing goes outside of these walls. I do have to report back to your supervisor whether you are ready to go back to work or not. If not, then I would have to share a diagnosis. Like PTSD, for example.”

Ryan nodded. “I understand.” He reviewed the language, signed the form and handed it back. “So, how long have you been with the Department?”

“Three years. Before that I did clinical work.”

Ryan nodded and crossed one ankle over his knee. “You like it? Working with cops?”

“I love it. It’s fantastic that the C.P.D. takes the mental and emotional health of its officers seriously. It’s so important for you to do your job. Do you like your work, Detective?”

“Oh, we’re starting now?” Ryan sat up a little straighter and cleared his throat.

“Have you ever been in therapy before, Ryan?”

“No.”

“It’s not scary by any means. It’s just a conversation.”

“That’s exactly what we say in an interrogation so the suspect doesn’t get upset.”

“Do you feel like you’re being interrogated?”

Ryan scratched an imaginary itch just above his ear. “I just want to say I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t ordered by the Department. My sarge says if I do three of these sessions I can get back on the job.”

“The minimum requirement is three sessions, Detective, but it’s my decision when you return to work.”

Ryan frowned. “What are you saying? That it could be longer?”

“I should say that it most probably will be longer,” he said, reviewing the one piece of paper in the file. “Judging from your closeness to the victim. And some other circumstances.”

“What other circumstances?” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Shit. I was hoping to go back Monday.”

“Let’s not concentrate on when you’re going back to work. Let’s just get through this first hour and see how it goes.”

Ryan stared at the floor and started to flex his right hand, getting increasingly pissed at the situation. Wondering if he had to talk about his fucked-up feelings.

“Ryan? Are you okay?”

He stretched his neck both ways until he heard it crack. “Yeah, I’m okay. Go ahead and ask away.”

“It’s not a race. Why don’t you tell me about…Jonathan.”

Jon’s full, formal name sounded strange. Jon never used it, himself. Formal names were meant for births, weddings and funerals, and it was repeated too many times at his funeral: We’re here to honor the life of Jonathan Lange…

“What about him?” Ryan finally answered.

“Where did you two meet–at the Eighteenth District?”

“Jon and I met at the Academy. First and second in our class. I was first.”

Sullivan scribbled that in his notebook. “And you stayed friends since?”

“On and off. After the training period, we were assigned different districts, and took different paths. He went from patrol to tac team to Homicide. I went from patrol to Robbery Division, and then asked to be reassigned when an opening came up in the Eighteenth. We asked to be partnered and we worked well…” His throat constricted to the point he couldn’t finish.

Jamie shifted in his chair. “Do you like working Homicide?”

“Yeah, I do. Helping the families. Solving the puzzle.” The doc scribbled some notes, and after a few moments glanced back at him without speaking. “What?”

“Sounds like the standard answer you give everyone who asks that question.” Ryan shrugged. It was. “It must be very emotionally taxing work,” the doc prompted.

“Yeah, well, in Homicide we deal with the worst of the worst that humanity can produce. But you just have to balance it.”

“And how do you balance it?”

“With my friends and my…” he trailed off.

“What were you going to say, Ryan?”

“I was going to say ‘my friends and my girl.’ Both gone.”

The doc scribbled in his file. “And so what will you use now?”

“Whisky and gin.” Sullivan frowned. “C’mon, I’m kidding!”

“Are you?” He poised his pen.

“Don’t write that down,” Ryan said pointing to the file. “It’s a joke. That’s how we cope. Murder cops. We have to joke about this shit or we won’t get through it.”

Sullivan nodded, turned a page in the notebook, and then took a deep breath. Ryan recognized the doc’s expression from the multitude of interrogations he’d conducted. The man was about to take a different tack.

“Tell me what you’ve been doing since Jonathan’s funeral.”

“Jon. He went by Jon.” Jamie nodded, still awaiting his answer. “Eating. Sleeping.”

“That’s it?”

“Drinking.” Jamie lifted his gaze in inquisition. “Hey, you’re Irish, right? Sullivan? You understand.” Ryan tried flashing his killer grin. The doc didn’t return it.

“How much drinking?” Jamie asked.

“Oh, now don’t go there. I was in mourning and you’re judging my alcohol consumption? Shit.” He squirmed in his seat.

“I hope I didn’t come across judgmental, that’s not my job. I just asked how much…on average. One beer? A couple of shots? Or did you go through a bottle a day?”

“Depends on the day. Some are worse than others.” And of course, he had to write that in the fucking notebook. “Look, this isn’t going to affect me going back–”

Jamie held up his hand. “We’re not going to talk about that, remember? And I don’t want you to tell me what I want to hear just so you can get back to work.”

‘Busted.’ Jon’s voice rang out. Ever since that night–the night he was killed–his partner’s voice would sporadically chime in from nowhere. Ryan chalked it up to grief, convincing himself it was all in his head. Probably all in his head. But there were times he talked back and they had lengthy conversations, as if Jon were still around. Or on the other side of the phone. But that was one thing he wasn’t about to reveal to Dr. Jamie Sullivan–hearing voices would definitely go in the mental file.

“Tell me about this girl you lost,” Jamie said.

“No.”

Dr. Sullivan gazed up at him from under his brows.

“I’d prefer not to talk about her.”

Sullivan sat back in his chair and punctuated his exasperation with a sigh. Ryan knew that trick: the longer the silence, the more uncomfortable the other person became. So uncomfortable that they’ll try to fill the quiet by gabbing. This doc was good. He decided to stare straight back until Jamie lost the game by blinking and went back to the file.

“Your sergeant. He said he was a friend of your family’s?”

“I’ve known the sarge for a long time. He actually worked it so I could serve under him. When my dad died, he was a sort of a mentor to me.”

“Is that why you wanted to become a cop? Because of Sergeant Besko?”

He shrugged. “That and other things.”

“What other things?” Ryan checked his watch to see how much time he had left. In turn, Jamie glanced at the wall clock. “Thirty-three minutes to go,” he said with a smirk. “What other things made you want to become a cop?”

“I wanted to save the world and all that,” he threw out.

The doc blew out a breath, snapped the folder shut and stood up. “You know what, Detective? I think we’re done for today.”

“What? You just said we had thirty-three minutes to go!”

“It feels to me that you’re not taking this seriously, Ryan. Come back when you’re really ready to talk. Until then, go buy a bottle. I’m sure that will be very productive.” The doctor got up from his chair and started to cross the room.

“Wait. Jamie. Dr. Sullivan. I’m sorry.”

“Please exit through the left door. That will take you straight back to the hallway.”

Ryan followed the doc to his desk. “You don’t understand. I have to do this. I have to stay.”

“So you can get back to work, right.” The doctor took a seat at his desk, turned on his computer screen and ignored him until Ryan slammed a fist on his desk.

“No!”

That got the doctor’s attention.

“No,” Ryan rasped. “I mean, yes, I have to go back to work. Because my head is a mess and work is the only thing that can clear it. I can’t stay at home one more day or I’ll–” Eat my gun, he almost said.

Dr. Sullivan cocked his head. “You’ll what, Detective?”

“I’ll go crazy. And isn’t that what you’re here for? To help me stay sane? I want…your help. Please. Give me my thirty-three minutes.”

The doctor dropped his gaze to Ryan’s file, with an expression of both anger and pity.

He made a bold decision to give the doc what he wanted.

“My sister was raped.” Sullivan lifted his head. “I was at U of I and Erin was in high school,” Ryan continued. “Her prom date didn’t understand the word ‘No’ and, well–anyway, Besko was the investigating officer. We’d just lost our dad a couple of months earlier. My mom and my sisters lived alone in the house. Besko and his wife–they sort of adopted our family. Took us under their wing. That’s how I met him and that’s what solidified my decision to become a cop. My sister was raped.”

Jamie got up from his desk, picked up the file and his notebook and returned to the other side of the room. Ryan followed. The doc gestured for him to sit back down, and they both took their previous seats.

“You said you were in college at the time?”

“Yes, University of Illinois in Champaign.”

“And?”

“And I felt guilty that I had left them alone, without a man in the house. I should have been there.”

“It wasn’t your fault, you know.”

“You can forget the platitudes, I’ve heard it all before. That’s what we tell all the families of victims.”

The doctor let it hang for a beat. “How’s your sister now?”

“Erin? She’s fine. She’s divorced now. Lives in Phoenix with her kids and my mom. It was a long time ago.”

“What about your other sisters?”

“Finn’s in L.A. She’s a reporter for the L.A. Times. My sister, Siobhan, lives in Ireland. She’s a Bohemian sort of person, a singer. She’s actually pretty popular there. Released three albums. We hardly ever see her.”

“So you have no family left here in Chicago?”

“Extended family. Aunts, uncles. None that I see regularly.”

“When was the last time you saw your mom and sisters?”

“Mom, Finn, and Erin came back three weeks ago, for Jon’s services. Siobhan sent me a video of her singing a song she’d written about loss. It was really nice, actually. Made me realize how much I missed her.”

Jamie nodded, appearing pleased that he was opening up. “Are you close with them?”

“Yes, our family is very close. But all the Doherty women together in one room are…how should I put it? Overwhelming. Especially during all that was going on. And then the whole thing with Kelly–” Shit. He didn’t want to go there.

“Kelly left you,” Jamie said quietly.

After a pause, Ryan asked, “Are you married?”

“Engaged,” Jamie replied, holding up his ring finger. A thick silver band encircled it, with three embedded diamonds.

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks. How long had you and Kelly been dating?”

He almost checked his watch but decided against it. “Fourteen, fifteen years, on and off.”

“Fifteen years! Wow. That’s a long time. And you weren’t engaged?”

He rolled his eyes. “No.”

“Why’d she leave?”

He shut down again. Sniffed. Scratched his ankle. Checked the clock on the wall. Seventeen minutes to go. “How long have you been with…your fiancé?”

Jamie narrowed his eyes, recognizing the deflection. “Three years. And I thought that was a long time.”

Good try, but that wasn’t going to work on him. He’d been honing his own interrogation techniques for a good four years now. “He a cop?”

“No-o-o, Tim works for the city. Film Board. He’s a liaison between the City of Chicago and the entertainment industry.”

“That’s cool. Get to meet a lot of movie stars?”

“Occasionally. So then I presume we’re done talking about Kelly?”

“For now.”

“Okay, I won’t push it.” They sat in silence for a couple of minutes. “Tell me,” the doc finally said. “How do you envision it when you go back to work?”

“How do I envision it? What do you mean?”

“Walk me through it. The day you go back to your squad in the Eighteenth. What’s it going to be like? What are you going to do?”

“I’ll walk in the door, Sarge will hand me a case and I’ll work it. I don’t get what you’re going for–”

“Alone? You won’t be reassigned a partner?”

Shit, he hadn’t thought about that.

“Yeah, Sarge will let me work alone. I’ve worked alone before.”

“And how will the other detectives treat you?”

“The Department’s lost guys before. We pat each other on the back and move on. Keep pursuing the bad guys.”

“So that’s it? Business as usual?”

“God, I hope so.” Sullivan nodded and unconsciously began tapping his pen on the file. “Why? Do you know something I don’t?”

“No, no. I just want you to run through it in your head. Sometimes it’s extremely traumatic for a PO to go back to the station after his partner is gone. It’s where they worked together. You’ll see his desk. His coffee cup. Any of his items left behind.”

“His family went by last week to get his stuff,” Ryan said, picturing Jon’s desk across from his. He couldn’t imagine it empty. Without Jon. Without the gleaming white smile greeting the week. Without the morning handclasp as they each recounted their weekend exploits.

“What are you thinking about?” Jamie said, breaking through his vision. Ryan glanced at the clock, and so did the doc. “That’s my last question, Ryan. And I’d like you to answer it honestly. Verbalize your thoughts. Then we’ll be done for today. What are you thinking about?”

His eyes stung with tears as the scenario sunk in.

“That he won’t be there.”

CHAPTER 1

Current Day:

Ryan fumbled with his keys in the hallway while Catharine stood waiting behind him. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. In the past sixteen years since he’d rented the Rogers Park apartment, he’d brought a litany of women back to his place. But Cat was different. He cared about her opinion, and worried about her state of mind.

“You okay?” he asked, as he found the correct key. He inserted it into the lock and then glanced back at her for the answer.

She graced him with her gentle smile. “I’m fine. I haven’t really had a bad outing since that day at the Rose Garden, but since we went back a couple weeks ago, I’ve done very well!” Cat squeezed his arm in anticipation of entering, and he took her positive energy as an answer more than her words. He’d become adept at sensing when Catharine was about to go into agoraphobic shock. It began with the trembling. Then she’d drop eye contact and start repeating words. Her fear of stepping outside her home was the main reason why–after nine months of dating–she had never seen his place.

Ryan took her into his arms, kissed her forehead, and then opened the door to his apartment as if it were the Promised Land. But first, he stepped in to do a quick scan and made sure everything was in place. “Okay, this is it.” He pulled her inside and shut the door behind them. Catharine took it all in with wide eyes. “So this is the kitchen,” he said, beginning the tour. “It’s kind of small.” He gestured to the galley-like space. The white tiles on the floor and Formica on the breakfast bar dated back to the last time the landlord had updated the place, around the mid-nineties.

Catharine entered the kitchenette and executed an effortless pirouette. “It’s good!” she announced. “Functional. What are you making me for breakfast?”

“Well…um…I can make omelets. That’s about the extent of my cooking skills. That and macaroni and cheese, but that would be a weird breakfast.”

She laughed and then stepped past him into the living room. Her gaze wandered around the room and she pointed to the two books she had lent him, displayed prominently on the coffee table. He’d read them eventually. She acknowledged them with a nod and then made her way to the entertainment center on the far wall.

“A turntable! I’m impressed. And look at all your records!” He watched her as she crouched down and flipped through the twelve-inch albums ranging from Louis Armstrong to classic rock.

She turned back to him with a smirk. “Aerosmith?”

“Yeah, well.” He scratched an ear.

“I like them too,” she said, replacing the album. Somehow, he imaged that Catharine Lulling only listened to classical music, since she was trained in ballet and he’d only ever heard piano concertos and string quartets and such playing in her estate.

“I like it, Ryan,” she said, taking another look around his living room. “I like your apartment. It’s very you. Ryan’s lair!”

He beamed at the compliment and watched as her attention turned to the view outside his bay window. It wasn’t much, but he liked being able to see the collage of trees, fire escapes, rooftops and the el tracks, situated a half a block east.

The morning sun created a halo around Cat’s long, brown curls. Her blue eyes sparkled as she glanced back at him. “Nice view! Very urban.”

He pointed east. “If you look through those buildings, you can see the lake,” he said.

She stood on her tiptoes, a move he found to be completely adorable.

“I can! I can see the lake.”

“Are you–oh, sorry. Not asking.” He put his hand on her back, rubbed it a bit, and pulled her close.

“Yes,” she replied, as if surprised at her own comfort level. “I’m good. I like being here.” She toured slowly through the living room, making her way to the hall.

Halfway down, she pointed to a door. “What’s this?”

“Bathroom.”

She peeked into the small space. He had cleaned off all his shaving stuff from the sink and stuffed it away in the medicine cabinet. It hadn’t been this clean since his mother had come to visit last year. Catharine stepped in and pointed to the ocean-themed wallpaper. “Sea horses?” she said, teasing him with a snicker.

“Yeah, well, it came with the place.”

It did. He’d never even thought of redecorating, not even after sixteen years. It was a rental, after all. He figured he’d get into all the DIY stuff once he bought a house.

Catharine bypassed him back into the long hallway. He followed, flipping on the hall light. “What’s this?” she said, opening the door on the left to the hall closet. “Oh my god, Ryan!”

“What?” He rushed up to her, concerned that she was having an episode.

“It’s your uniform!” She swung out the hanger that held his full Chicago blues and ran her fingers over the epaulets on the shoulder.

“Yeah, we have to keep them for official ceremonies and stuff.”

She took the matching navy blue hat from the top shelf and placed it on his head.

“That’s so hot!” She stepped in and kissed him, deeply.

“Mmm. What is it with women and the uniform?”

“I don’t know, it must be an evolutionary thing,” she said. “You know, we’re attracted to the ones who can protect us, and the uniform is a symbol of protection. And power.”

“You’re hot when you talk evolution,” He put his hat back on the shelf and pinned her against the wall.

“That’s funny, coming from a Catholic.” She squirmed out from under him to investigate farther down the hall. She got to the door at the end. “What’s in here?”

“My bedroom.”

She glanced back at him with a wicked grin, opened the door and peeked in. He followed and peered into his room after her–hoping it presented well, trying to see it from her perspective. He made sure he’d made his bed before he went to pick her up and hoped she hadn’t noticed the remnants of his “stuff” sticking out from underneath it. To the right of his bed sat a modest dresser with some dollars and change, a couple of receipts and a stick of deodorant on top of it. He should’ve put all that in the drawers. She moved around his room and pretended to inspect it, running her fingers along the top of the bedside table.

“I like how you look in here–in my place,” he said, stepping into the room behind her. “Like a normal woman.”

She turned around to face him and feigned offense. “As opposed to what?”

“As opposed to a queen in her castle.”

Catharine ignored the comment and sat down on the edge of the bed. She bounced a couple times and then lay back, burying her face in the pillows.

“Mmmmm, it smells like you,” she purred.

He crawled onto the bed until he was hovering over her, supporting himself on his elbows. His bangs fell down onto her forehead.

“You know what else smells like me?”

“What?”

“Me.”

He took a moment to gaze into her deep blue eyes and then lowered his body onto hers. He was just about to kiss her when she made that little humming sound that he loved.

“That’s it, right there,” he said, and continued his seduction. In his bed. In his place. He felt like a Roman conqueror as Catharine allowed him to be dominant in the lovemaking they shared for the next thirty-eight minutes.

***

“It’s so dark in here,” Catharine observed after they had rested for a while in each other’s arms.

“I know, it’s the charcoal gray walls. I never did repaint. That first morning I woke up in your bed, it was so bright I thought I was going blind. And then I got distracted by the woman beside me…” He pulled her close, kissed her, and peeled away the sheet that was covering her half of the bed. He loved to study her full, unclothed body.

“When is this breakfast that was promised to me? It’s…” Catharine turned to look at the digital clock on his side table. “It’s after eleven!”

“I’m making it, don’t worry. I want to just look at you. Here. In my bed.” She softened and snuggled in closer to him. “I love you,” he whispered. He brushed away some of the wisps of hair that had fallen onto her face and gazed into her eyes.

“Is that a statement or a question?” she asked.

She was way too smart. “Both.”

“Then I love you, too,” she whispered.

“I’ve been thinking…” He had to just let it out. “Another reason I wanted you to see the apartment sooner rather than later is because…well…maybe it’s time I did move into the grand Lulling Estate. I mean, I’m there all the time anyway, and so’s half my wardrobe.” Cat’s eyes widened. “Is–is that okay? I mean, does your offer still stand?”

Cat wrapped her arms around his neck. “Of course! Oh, Ryan, I’m so happy.” He pulled back to make sure she was really okay with it, but she seemed truly delighted at the prospect. “But what about the Department? Doesn’t everyone who works for the city have to live in the city? I don’t want it to come in the way of your job.”

“Sarge told me as long as I kept this place and picked up my mail, this could still be my official address. Our paychecks are auto-deposited, so that’s not a big deal.”

They were interrupted by the buzz of Ryan’s cell, vibrating on the nightstand. He leaned over to check the caller ID. “Here’s the Sarge now.” He answered with his usual greeting, “Doherty.”

“Yah, D. We caught a big one this morning.” Sergeant Bob Besko’s voice blared from the phone. “I’m gonna need you to come out to River Forest.”

Ryan mouthed “Damn it!” then went back to the conversation. “River Forest? But that’s not our jurisdiction. What’s up?”

“We’ve been asked to assist on a homicide over here. Actually you’ve been asked to assist. They’re asking for you by name, D. Probably because you’re one of the best detectives we’ve got, you know.” The transparent compliment couldn’t dull the sting of giving up his day off.

“I’m kind of in the middle of time with my woman, Sarge,” he said running a palm over Catharine’s bare shoulder. He was hoping to get at least one more round in before the omelets. He kissed that same shoulder, waiting on Besko’s response.

“Well, if someone had whacked your woman, wouldn’t you want the best detective on the case?” Besko’s said, his voice escalating. “We may have a serial here, D. Women. Wives. Daughters. Sisters. Women! How soon can you get here?”

Shit. Sarge knew that personalizing the victim would appeal to Ryan’s sense of duty. It worked every time. He sighed in submission and looked to Catharine for an answer. By the frown on Cat’s face, she had heard Besko’s proclamation.

She mouthed “Go,” and started to gather up her clothes. She wasn’t angry–she understood the requirements of the job–but he could feel the disappointment hanging in the air, on both their parts.

“Leaving now, Sarge. Text me the address.” He disconnected the call and apologized to Cat. “You’re welcome to stay, if you’d like. But I don’t know how long this will take. I’ll drop you off on the way.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll call one of the boys.” Catharine grabbed her delicate sky-blue blouse from the floor beside the bed. “The killings will continue,” she said cryptically, “if you and Matt don’t stop it.” She had stopped dressing and was staring out of the bedroom window.

“Matt’s on vacation,” he answered. “Week one of two.”

The Department had implemented a new policy for every cop who’d accrued over six weeks–they had to start taking it.

“No,” Catharine responded, shaking her head. “Matt’s going to work this with you. In fact, he’s already involved.”

Ryan knew from experience that Catharine’s intuition shouldn’t be ignored. He’d first met her on the Town Red case and had no idea what to expect when he’d read the file on the elusive woman who had thirty million dollars in the bank and claimed to possess special metaphysical powers. He certainly didn’t expect the intelligent, well-spoken woman that he’d met in that strange house of her own design. And he hadn’t expected to fall so hard for her.

Since then, Catharine’s “abilities” had helped the Department close more than one case. Besko had been so impressed that he put her on the official consultant’s list for the 18th District, Chicago PD, although never once uttering the word “psychic.” But Cat’s intuition went beyond psychic–she could also find things. Lost items, people, suspects, and even bodies, if necessary. Ryan couldn’t explain it in full, and neither could Catharine. She was certainly a unique individual, and from that first day he’d met her, he’d had his own vision that this unusual woman would change his life.

And she had.

© 2016 by Jennifer Moss