Jack closed the slim file he was holding and took a minute to watch the room clear.
Moments ago the meeting room had been all but full to the brim with Gardaí and detectives, but now they shuffled out to start their day on the high of a new investigation.
All Jack could think about was how hard it was to keep his eyes open.
Thoughts and ideas flew through his head at top speed, but after pulling the night shift and getting to bed for only an hour of sleep, his brain wasn’t quite ready to function properly yet.
“Hey, Jack. You look like shit.”
Jack turned his head to see Superintendent Charlie Fitzgerald crossing the room to give him a hearty slap on the back. He groaned as he sat back into the chair and Charlie perched on the edge of the table.
“I feel like shit.”
“I heard you swapped shifts last night with Maguire.”
“His kid was playing in the Abbey. Some play about…something.”
“Go home. Get some rest. It’ll be hours before results start to come in and longer still before the beat gets back from interviews.”
Charlie stood and shucked his trousers over his hips.
“I’m waiting to hear from Dr. Kelly about the autopsy,” Jack said feebly, almost as a cursory answer. He was already visualizing his drive home.
“It’s half past nine.” Charlie checked his watch and shook his head as he left the room. “She only got the body a little over an hour ago. I know she’s good, Jack, but she’s not that good.
“I’m on the way out to talk to the press, so wish me luck.”
He opened the door and paused to look back at Jack once more.
“Go home, Jack. Have breakfast with Casey and get some sleep.”
Jack waited for the door to slide softly shut before letting his head loll back over the back of the chair and stretching his arms out high over his head.
He needed sleep, he decided, and Charlie was right. It’d be hours before anything came back on this case.
Besides, maybe breakfast with Casey wasn’t such a bad idea. They hadn’t exactly left it on friendly terms last night when he had to go into work unexpectedly.
Or maybe he would be able to sneak in and slink up to bed without her noticing.
With a grunt, he pulled himself off the chair and took the file that rested on the table. Out in the bullpen where his desk was situated by the window, he saw Fiona working on the computer at her own desk.
Two uniformed Gardaí were sitting next to her reading from notes they had made. Jack immediately recognized them as the officers who had been standing at the bottom of the stairs in the house where the victim was found.
“We got a phone call from a neighbor on the twentieth about a disturbance in the house. Garda McKiernan answered the call and reported to the house at approximately 11:35 p.m. but found no disturbances.”
His voice was monotone as he drawled his report from the small flip pad.
“When questioned the witness said it was like someone was flashing the lights on and off in the living room, but she knew her neighbors were away so she called it in.
“This morning at 3:05, another call was made from that same house. Same neighbor.”
Jack noticed how the Garda looked like he was going to roll his eyes but didn’t.
“She said she heard noises coming from the house next door and that someone was in the back garden.”
“Five past three?” Jack leaned on the edge of Fiona’s desk by her keyboard and looked down at the report she was typing. “What time was this investigated?”
“Right away, sir,” the larger of the two Gardaí said, sitting up a little straighter.
“We arrived on scene and visually checked the front of the house before proceeding to the caller’s location. She confirmed that she heard noises and saw movement in the back garden.”
“After instructing her to remain in her house, we proceeded to check the other residence more thoroughly,” the other Garda cut in, and Jack immediately recognized their defenses slamming into place.
Their use of official jargon and their shoulders squaring off as if preparing to fight gave him the impression there was something else happening between these two officers.
“We saw no sign of forced entry at the front and had to maneuver around to the back of the house. In the back garden we found the furniture placed out onto the lawn and the patio doors removed from their hinges.
“We approached with caution and checked the interior upon where we spotted the victim sitting in the middle of the room. I went in to check if she was alive, but she wasn’t, and Jimmy called for backup.”
“Did you venture further into the house?” Fiona asked without looking up from her computer as she typed.
“I remained with the victim, and Jimmy waited out front for the forensic unit.”
“Okay. Thanks, guys. I think I have it now.” She turned and smiled at them, and they took the hint and left.
“Hiding something?” Jack ventured as he watched her finish writing something down then walked over to his own chair and sat down with an exhausted sigh.
“Definitely.” She swiveled on her chair to face him fully. “Maybe they went into the house, broke protocol, and moved something. Who knows?”
She leaned back in her chair and pushed it closer to his, then kicked off her shoes and propped her feet onto his lap.
“Possibly.” He was miles away, his mind wandering through images and thoughts that just eluded his reach. “Any information on where the Carrolls went?”
“The next-door neighbor, Mrs. Conway, has given us the name of a spa in Clare that they use regularly, and she thinks they went there.”
“She says they pulled out early last week. But we rang the spa, and they hadn’t arrived.”
“Avid neighborhood watcher, is she?” Jack said, laughing as he stretched his hands over his head and curled his back a little.
“They aren’t gonna rub themselves!” she said with mock indignation, and she wiggled her toes to get his attention.
Laughing, he reached out, then began to rub slow circles into the balls of her feet.
She moaned aloud, exaggerating her pleasure for his amusement, and delighted in the smile she elicited.
He almost regretted the first time he’d offered her a foot rub on that stakeout outside the casino in Howth.
She still hasn’t let him forget his supposed skill and took every opportunity to mock him about wasting it by remaining single for so long.
“I hope you don’t tell Mike that you let me touch your feet like this.”
“Are you kidding?” She laughed. “This is our dirty little secret.”
Then she lifted her head and looked at him. “By the way…you look like shit,” she murmured as her head lolled back and his fingers pushed her in all the right spots.
“Good thing I’m not the sensitive type,” he said laughing, then gave her foot a squeeze before knocking them off his lap. “You’re the second person today to tell me how crappy I look.”
“Call me when Dr. Kelly is finished.”
“Wouldn’t want to miss a meeting with Kelly, would you, Jack?” Fiona said smiling as he walked away from her, not giving her the satisfaction of seeing his reddening face, only a wave of his hand over his shoulder.
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