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Fatal Justice (Chapter 16)

"What do we know about Preston Sinclair?" Sam asked Jeannie McBride as she drove to Sinclair's place in Georgetown.

Reading from her notes, Jeannie recited what she'd uncovered when she ran his name. "History professor at Catholic University. Grew up in Massachusetts, one of two sons. Went to Princeton for undergrad, Harvard for graduate school. Has a Ph.D. in American history. He's lived in the District for twenty-three years. Estranged from his brother Julian for the last thirteen years. Married with two grown sons, one an accountant, the other an attorney. His wife, Diandra, is a conservative commentator on the Capital News Network."

"Yes, the hatemonger. We talked about her the other night at dinner. Julian was horrified by her."

"I can see why, but she has a huge following."

"Good work, McBride." Pulling on to Sinclair's street, she found a parking space and turned to Jeannie. "I appreciate your help with this one."

"No problem. Have you spoken with the senator? Since we saw him earlier?"


"I feel sorry for him."

"I do, too." Sam was trying her best not to think about how crushed Nick had been earlier. Lately, she had grown so accustomed to leaning on his quiet strength that she had no idea how to help him. "I'm sure he'll be fine. He's strong." But even as she said it, Sam wasn't entirely sure that he'd be okay. "Let's see what Mr. Sinclair has to say about the murder of his brother."

Located in one of Washington's more affluent neighborhoods, Sinclair's brick-front townhouse was well tended. His wife, a striking blonde, answered the door.

"Mrs. Sinclair?" Sam showed her badge. "Lieutenant Holland, Metro Police. My partner, Detective McBride. May we have a moment of your time?"

"What's this about?"

Nonplussed by the other woman's curtness, Sam said, "We need to speak to you and your husband. May we come in?"

Resigned, Diandra Sinclair stepped aside to allow them in. No doubt decorated by a high-price interior designer, the house was furnished with an eclectic mix of antiques and contemporary pieces.

"Is your husband at home?"

"He's very busy. It'd be better if you came back at another time."

"We need to see him now." Sam held the other woman's furious gaze until Diandra turned away.

"I'll get him."

"Chilly," Jeannie whispered.


She returned five minutes later with a man who bore a resemblance to his late brother but was several inches taller and a couple of years older.

Sam introduced herself and Jeannie to him.

"I've seen you in the paper," Preston said.

"Mr. Sinclair, I'm very sorry to have to tell you your brother was murdered early this morning."

Preston gasped. "What?"

Diandra reached out to her husband.

Sam gave them the few details she knew.

He moved to a sofa. His wife followed, sitting next to him and taking his hand.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Sam said.

"Thank you," he said, his voice little more than a whisper.

"I understand you and your brother were estranged."

"That's right," he said, looking pained. "Thirteen years."

"And why was that?"

"A difference of opinion that got out of hand. You know how these things happen."

"Actually, I don't. It wouldn't occur to me to not speak to my sisters for thirteen years."

"You have no right to judge him," Diandra snapped.

"No judgment," Sam said. "Just stating the facts, ma'am." Turning back to Preston, she said, "You've had no contact with him since he was nominated for the Supreme Court?"

Preston glanced at his wife and then back at Sam. "No." He cleared his throat. "Well, except for an email I sent to congratulate him."

Diandra stared at her husband, shocked. "When?"

"The other day." He seemed chagrinned. "I wanted him to know I was happy for him."

"Did you get a reply?" Sam asked.

Preston shook his head. "I know he must've been so busy. He would've written back when he could."

"Have you communicated with him by email before this?" Diandra asked, stealing Sam's next question.

"Once or twice."

Diandra's eyes flashed with anger. "I can't believe this!"

"He was my , Di. My only sibling."

"He was a liar and a fraud."

"He was my brother," Preston whispered, wiping a tear from his face.

"Stop it," she snapped, seeming appalled that he was crying over Julian's death.

As Preston obediently mopped up his tears, Sam and Jeannie exchanged glances. This was one twisted relationship.

"Did you expect to see him while he was in town?" Sam asked.

"I'd hoped to. In the email, I offered to meet him, but like I said, I never heard back from him."

"Unbelievable," Diandra muttered, glaring at her husband.

Preston looked down at the floor like a chastened child whose mother is angry with him.

"Mrs. Sinclair, can you tell me how your husband and his brother came to be estranged?" Sam said.

"Why don't you ask him?"

"Because I'm asking you."

"Fine. I saw them – Julian and that fag he referred to as his 'friend.' They were kissing! Right out in public! And I'd allowed my children – my  – to sleep at his home. He'd exposed them to his immoral lifestyle, and God knows what else." She shuddered.

"He adored those boys," Preston snapped. "You know he did! And they adored him." To Sam he said, "They'll be crushed by his death. They'd reestablished contact with him and saw him regularly."

"They did not!" Diandra said, her face flat with shock.

"Yes, they did," Preston retorted defiantly. "Once they were out of your house, they made their own decisions."

Diandra sent him a venomous glare, and once again he wilted.

"Where were the two of you last night?" Sam asked, imagining the chewing out Preston was in for after they left.

Taken aback by the question, Preston said, "We had dinner out and went to bed early. Around ten or so, I guess."

Her lips tight with fury, Diandra nodded in agreement.

"And neither of you left the house again after you returned from dinner?"

"No," he said.

"Of course not," she said.

"Do either of you require medication in order to sleep?"

"What kind of question is that?" Diandra asked.

"It's a simple yes or no kind of question. Do you require medication to sleep?"

"I take a sleeping pill every now and then," Preston said.

"Did you take one last night?"

He nodded. "I've been having trouble sleeping since Julian was nominated."

"Why's that?" Sam asked.

"I've had some concerns," Preston said haltingly, "about his nomination stirring up old hurts. Things that are better left in the past."

Sam turned to Diandra. "Do you take sleeping medication?"

"I do not."

"Tell me, Mrs. Sinclair, what does it do to a 'career' like yours if your brother-in-law comes out as a gay man to all of America during his confirmation hearings?"

"I have no idea," she said, spitting the words at Sam. "I guess we'll never know."

Sam stared her down for several long seconds. "I'd like to speak to your sons. Are they local?"

"What for?" Diandra asked.

"This is a homicide investigation. I can talk to anyone I want."

"I'll write down their information," Preston said with a pointed look at his wife. "They're both here in the city."

Sam and Jeannie left after requesting that the Sinclairs stay local until the investigation was completed.

"Wow," Jeannie said when they were in the car. "That woman was tightly wound, huh?"

"And a total homophobe. You don't see that kind of hatred very often these days."

"No question she's the reason the brothers were estranged."

"She didn't approve of Julian," Sam said. "I want to know what kind of problems it would've caused her 'career' if Julian's orientation became public."

"Definitely worth looking into."

"Yeah, she knew damned well that it would be a disaster for her if he came out just as her book was released. I also want to talk to their sons. I'm willing to bet they were his heirs."

"Probably. Why'd you ask about the sleeping medicine?"

"A hunch," Sam said. "They're each other's alibi, but if one of them was drugged up, the other could've snuck out."

"I never would've thought to ask that," Jeannie said, her voice tinged with admiration.

"Shit," Sam muttered. "Now you're starting to sound like Cruz." A pang of guilt struck her as she thought of him sitting in the cold watching Reese's place. Then she got over it. One shift spent on surveillance wouldn't kill him, and it was the least of what he deserved for lying to her.

"Let's go have a chat with Senator Robert Cook," Sam said.

At the Capitol, Sam and Jeannie were told that Senator Cook was in a meeting and couldn't be disturbed.

Sam narrowed her eyes into her most intimidating stare and watched the administrative assistant shrivel before her. Excellent. "Either you can go in there and get him, or I'm going to. Your choice."

"Please wait right here," the admin said, scurrying away.

"Can you teach me that look?" Jeannie asked.

"It's a gift. You have to be born with it."

Jeannie laughed. "I should've known you'd say something like that."

The admin returned. "Right this way, please."

"See that?" Sam said to Jeannie, loud enough for the admin to hear her. "I love when the citizenry cooperates with their law enforcement professionals."

"It's critical to maintaining law and order," Jeannie replied, playing along.

The admin probably would've scowled at them if she had dared.

Cook's spacious office, Sam noted, was easily four times the size of Nick's. Seniority had its perks.

"What can I do for you?" Cook growled. "I'm very busy."

"Then we won't take much of your time," Sam said. "You told Senator Cappuano that Supreme Court nominee Julian Sinclair should watch his back. That someone might take a shot at him. Can you tell me what you meant by that?"

"It was a figure of speech," Cook said, visibly ruffled by the question. "What does he do – run home and tell the little woman everything that transpires around here?"

"No, just comments that factor into murder investigations."

"Murder investigation? What're you talking about?"

"Julian Sinclair was murdered last night."

Cook's portly face turned an unbecoming shade of purple. "You aren't possibly insinuating that I had anything to do with it."

"Do you know of anyone who might've had something to do with it?"

"Of course I don't. I hardly associate with murderers."

Sam consulted her notebook. "Weren't you once associated with Robert 'Junior' Despositio who's doing time in federal prison for attempted murder and racketeering?"

Cook's face twisted with rage. "He was a high school classmate of mine who made poor choices. I haven't been 'associated' with him in thirty years."

"Had you ever met Mr. Sinclair?"

"I had not. I believe we had a meeting on the schedule for sometime in the next week. Meeting with the senators who'll be voting for them is part of the routine for Supreme Court nominees."

"Where were you last night after eleven?"

"Home in bed."

"Can anyone confirm that?"

"My wife."

Sam held out her notebook to the senator. "A number where I can reach her?"

Cook stared at her for a long moment. "I'm a United States senator. My word should be more than good enough."

"It isn't," Sam said. "The number please?"

He snatched the notebook from her hand. "Your superiors will be hearing about this."

"They enjoy getting complaints about me doing my job. Should I give you the best number to reach them?"

Cook thrust the notebook back at her. "Tell your boyfriend he needs to learn to keep his mouth shut if he plans to make any friends around here."

"You aren't threatening him, are you, Senator?"

"Of course not," Cook huffed. "I'm just pointing out that blabbing to cops is no way to make friends."

"I'm sure that making friends around here is of far less concern to him than finding the person who killed his  friend. Detective?"

Jeannie followed Sam from the room. "That was ill."

"Is that good or bad?" Sam asked, baffled.

"Good," Jeannie said. "Very ."

"Ill. I like that." Sam filed it away for future use.

Freddie shivered in the icy cold, his eyes fixed on Reese's house. He'd turned on the car and heater half an hour before, but the warm air had made him too sleepy. Even though he was freezing, he burned with anger directed at Sam, Elin and mostly himself. This was his own fault. If he had remained true to his faith and his beliefs, he'd be working a homicide with his partner right now rather than sitting in a frigid timeout. The day grew dark early as heavy clouds hung over the city, and Freddie fought to stay awake.

He should've known Sam would zero in on the lie. "Stupid," he muttered, his breath coming out in puffy clouds. Shrinking deeper into his coat, he wanted to smack the crap out of Elin. Except, of course, he never would. But it sure was nice to fantasize about spanking that perfect ass. When his body reacted with infuriating predictability to that image, Freddie roared with frustration, aggravation and shame.

Since he hadn't gotten to take a shower, her essence clung to his skin. Images from their erotic night together tortured him like a movie he couldn't seem to escape. As much as he wanted to throttle her, he feared that if she appeared beside the car right now, throttling wouldn't be the first thing he'd do to her.

Freddie checked the clock on the dashboard. "Three more hours. I'll die before then." He wanted a shower, a warm bed and eight uninterrupted hours of sleep so bad he was tempted to sell his well-protected soul to the devil to get them. With a mighty yawn, he reached for his cell phone wishing he could call Sam to find out what was going on with the Sinclair case.

He hated that he'd let her down. After his mother, Sam was the most important woman in his life – not that he'd ever admit that to her. Tomorrow, he would find a way to fix this. They worked too well together and meant too much to each other to let this fester.

He stared intently at Reese's house. He'd give everything he had to be the one to snag the guy who shot Skip Holland. Freddie loved the hell out of Skip and wanted to close his case almost as much as Sam did.

Another hour passed in frigid silence, until Freddie thought he'd lose his mind if he had to stare at the dark house for one more minute. Suddenly, he saw a narrow beam of light moving through the house. Were his tired eyes playing tricks on him? No, someone was definitely walking through the house with a flashlight.

Reaching for his radio, he started to call for backup but stopped himself. How much would it mean to Sam if he arrested Reese? It would certainly go a long way toward repairing the rift between them. But going in without backup went against all his training. Regardless, Freddie kept his eyes on the beam of light as he got out of the car and crossed the deserted street.

Cutting through the alley behind the house, he drew his weapon and approached the back door, his heart pounding with adrenaline and excitement. An arrest like this would make him a hero at HQ, and even though his better judgment urged him once again to call for backup before he went in, he didn't.

His heart beat like a bass drum in his ears. The back door was unlocked. He eased it open and stepped into the kitchen. Down the hallway, he could see the flashlight moving around and headed in that direction, his gun leading the way. Just as he was about to take the intruder by surprise, Freddie's cell phone rang, alerting the other man to his presence. Cursing himself for being so stupid, he grabbed the phone and flipped it open to stop the ringing.

The man, dressed all in black, spun around and fired.

The bullet hit Freddie in the shoulder, the force propelling him back against the wall. As he sank to the floor, his gun and phone fell from his hands. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was a gun pointed at his chest.

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