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Fatal Justice (Chapter 15)

Gonzo sat on the floor outside Duncan Quick's apartment for more than an hour. A window at one end of the hall looked out over South Beach, eleven stories below. The boredom gave him far too much time to think about the incredible night he had spent with Christina Billings.

She had surprised him with her willingness to sleep with him after just two dates. He'd expected to have to work harder to win over a sharp, successful woman like her. Not that he was complaining. No way. The woman was h-o-t. It was just that not too many people surprised him anymore after ten years as a cop.

Not only did she surprise him, she intrigued him. He wasn't used to being intrigued by women. Entertained, yes. Intrigued? Not so much. He'd expected her to be like most of the women who passed through his life as transients. They were on their way to something more lasting, something they knew they wouldn't find with him. So he had a reputation for being a bit of a player. So what?

"I think I might keep this one around for a while," he muttered to himself. "See what transpires." Of course the fact that Sam had freaked when she saw them together only added to Christina's appeal. "A smart man wouldn't antagonize his boss." Laughing to himself, Gonzo combed his fingers through jet-black hair. "I guess I'm not that smart."

He checked his watch again. Where the hell was Quick? The neighbors hadn't been able to shed any light on his whereabouts. In fact, no one had seen him since the previous morning. Gonzo had already checked all the neighborhood haunts he'd been told Quick frequented to no avail.

His cell phone rang. "Gonzales."

"What've you got?" Sam asked.

"Nothing yet. No sign of Quick anywhere."

"Interesting."

"How long do you want me to wait?"

"As long as it takes. He has to come home eventually."

"I was afraid you'd say that. What's happening there?"

"We've got jack. No one at the hotel remembers seeing Sinclair after the O'Connors dropped him off. We've got some grainy film that seems to show him talking to someone, but the image isn't clear enough to be of any help."

"Is it possible he was meeting someone?"

"We're looking at that. His estranged brother lives here in town. McBride and I are on our way to talk to him now."

"Keep me posted. Any sign of Cruz?"

"He rolled in about an hour ago with a hickey on his neck and a boatload of excuses about his phone dying."

Gonzo howled with laughter. "Aw, our little boy is finally growing up."

"He needs to grow up on his own time."

"It's the first time he's ever been late. Lighten up, Lieutenant."

"I wish everyone would stop saying that to me!"

"Would you ride anyone else this hard?" Gonzo asked, bracing himself for her retort.

"What're you saying? That I favor him?"

"He's your partner. Of course you favor him. But maybe you expect more of him, too." Again he braced himself. "Because you trained him."

"Hmm. I hadn't thought of it that way."

"So he had a big night out. It's high time, don't you think?"

"Maybe," she conceded. "I should probably partner up with you or someone more experienced so I don't have to deal with this crap."

"You'd break his heart, Sam. He's totally devoted to you."

"Christ," she muttered. "All these entanglements. When did I get so "

Gonzo laughed. "It's such a bitch having people care about you, isn't it?"

"Seriously! Call me when you find Quick."

"Will do." Gonzo stashed the phone in his pocket and got up to wander to the window again. Looking out at the palm trees, sugar white sand and crystal blue water, he wished he were here on vacation.  he wondered His grandparents had lived here when they first came from Cuba, but the family later moved north. Maybe after they closed this case, he'd bring Christina here for a week on the beach.

"," he said. "Where'd that come from?" He wasn't the kind of guy who took a woman on a vacation. Hell, he rarely saw them again after he slept with them. The ding of the elevator arriving at the other end of the hallway jarred him out of his disturbing thoughts. Turning, he found an older man coming down the hallway at a determined clip. Only when he drew closer did Gonzo spot the bruises on the man's face and the drying blood on his lip. He carried a small duffel bag and was dressed in khakis and an un-tucked button-down shirt.

"Mr. Quick?"

The other man jolted, clearly startled by Gonzo's unexpected appearance.

"I'm sorry to scare you. Are you Duncan Quick?"

"Who wants to know?"

Gonzo flashed his badge. "Detective Tommy Gonzales, Metro Washington, D.C. Police."

Quick ran a trembling hand through thinning gray hair. "I'm Duncan Quick. What can I do for you?"

"What happened to your face?"

"I had an accident."

Gonzo didn't believe him but decided not to push it – yet. "Do you mind if we go inside?"

"What's this about?"

"Let's go in, and I'll tell you."

Warily, Quick opened his apartment door and gestured Gonzo into a stylish, contemporary space.

"Nice place."

"Thank you. Now what can I do for you, Detective?"

"I'm sorry to have to tell you that Julian Sinclair has been murdered in Washington." Gonzo had learned to cut to the chase in these instances.

Quick gasped and took a step back, his face ashen with shock. The bruises stood out against the sudden pallor. "That's not possible," Quick stammered. "He's going to be on the Supreme Court. I saw the news."

"He was murdered last night."

"How?" he whispered.

"He was shot. His body was found early this morning in a Washington, D.C. park."

"That just can't be," Quick said, sinking to the sofa as if his bones had liquefied. He dissolved into deep gulping sobs.

Gonzo found himself looking out at the water view, anything to avoid watching the raw display of grief. "Can I get you something?" he asked a few minutes later.

Without looking up, Quick shook his head.

Gonzo gave him another couple of minutes. "Mr. Quick, I'm sorry to have to do this, but I need to know where you've been for the last twenty-four hours."

Quick released a harsh laugh. "Where have I been? I was getting the shit beat out of me by a guy I met in a bar." His voice caught on a sob, and he buried his face in his hands. "Julian, oh God, this is all my fault."

Gonzo sat down across from Quick. "What do you mean?"

"I forced the issue." He wiped tears from his face. "I wanted him to retire and move down here with me, but he wasn't ready. If I had stayed with him, if I had been with him, maybe…"

"I'm going to need the name of the man you were with last night."

Quick raised his anguished face, his eyes connecting with Gonzo's. "You suspect me?"

"I need to rule you out." Gonzo nodded toward the duffel Quick had dropped inside the door. "What's in the bag?"

"Gym clothes."

"Mind if I have a look?"

With the weary wave of his hand, Quick granted permission.

Gonzo went over to squat down next to the bag. Unzipping it, he pulled out a bloody T-shirt and turned to Quick.

"What I was wearing when this happened," he said, pointing to his lip.

Studying the older man's battered face, Gonzo believed him. According to Sam's report, Sinclair's body had shown no sign of a struggle the likes of which Quick had obviously endured. "Who were you with, Duncan?"

Quick ran a weary hand though his hair. "You really have to talk to him?"

"I really do."

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention all of this," he said, gesturing to his face.

"Why would you want him to get away with that?"

"I've been so lost without Julian, Detective." The statement and the grief behind it touched Gonzo. "I took a risk and paid the price." He shrugged. "Not the first time, probably won't be the last."

"When did you last speak to Julian?"

"A couple of months ago. He called to tell me the nomination was imminent and to assure me he would do his best to keep my name out of the proceedings."

"And that was important to you?"

"There are people in my life who aren't aware."

"What was at stake for you if they found out?"

"Plain old bigotry." He paused, gathering his thoughts. "Julian has a brother who stopped speaking to him after he found out about us. They hadn't spoken in thirteen years." Sadness radiated from him. "Can you imagine? Not speaking to your brother simply because of who he loves?"

"No, sir. I can't."

"That's how it is for people of our generation." He got up, went to a bar set up by the windows overlooking the beach, and poured himself a shot. "We often have to hide who we are from even those closest to us."

Gonzo shook his head at the offer of a drink.

"We were very discreet. Always. For the first seven years we were together, only a small circle of close friends knew that we were more than the best of friends. We even maintained separate residences, at least on paper. Then his sister-in-law found out about us and went ballistic. We were much more careful after that." Duncan poured another drink. "But I reached a point where I couldn't live a lie for one more day. Twenty years is a long time, you know?"

Gonzo nodded.

"Julian's mother died. His brother was out of the picture. My family hardly would've been surprised if I officially came out. I couldn't understand what was standing in our way."

"So what was?"

Duncan smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Ambition." He returned to the sofa and sat down hard. "Julian wanted the court more than he wanted me."

"That must've angered you."

"It hurt me. I'd planned to grow old with him." His voice hitched on a sob. "I loved him. More than anyone else in this world. I  him. After he was nominated, I kept hoping the press would find out."

Gonzo waited for him to continue.

"I figured if it got out, it might derail the nomination. As far as we've come, I don't know if America is ready for a gay Supreme Court justice. I'm ashamed to say I even considered leaking it. But I discovered I couldn't do that to him. That's how much I loved him. So when I heard he was in Washington for the hearings, I went out, got drunk, met a thug named Ron and went home with him. You know the rest."

"Ron's last name and address?"

Grimacing, Duncan rattled off the information.

Thirty minutes later, Gonzo stood at the door to Ron Spaulding's apartment, accompanied by two South Beach police officers. Obviously, they had gotten Ron out of bed, and Gonzo was gratified to note that his bottom lip was split and swollen. Duncan had gotten off at least one good shot in self-defense.

"Waddya want?" Ron mumbled. He was blond and handsome in a cocky sort of way with a pierced ear and perfect pecs. Gonzo wanted to smack him around for roughing up Duncan, a man thirty years older.

"Ron Spaulding?"

"What's it to you?" he grumbled, scratching his belly above the waistband of gym shorts.

Gonzo flashed his badge. "Detective Tommy Gonzales, Metro Washington, D.C. Police. Did you spend last night with a man named Duncan?"

"Yeah, so?"

"What time did you two hook up?"

"I don't know. Nine maybe?"

Sinclair was still alive at eleven-fifteen when the O'Connors dropped him off at the hotel. "Were you with him all night?"

"Uh-huh."

Whereas Duncan had seemed ashamed of hooking up with a stranger, this guy was so matter-of-fact about it that Gonzo suspected it was a regular occurrence in his life. He turned to the cops he'd brought with him. "He's all yours."

"You're under arrest for the assault of Duncan Quick," one of them said.

"What the " Spaulding said. "Get your fucking hands off me!"

Gonzo left them to fight it out. He had what he needed.

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