Ashley had nothing new to offer us besides what she’d already told us. Titus had a heart, and now he had none.
So, we went back to the beginning. Travis Franks was found murdered. Jackson Titus had visited Lilly in the hospital and told her someone with the initials MK ran the operation. He’d been branded with the initials and had two new scars on his face. My mind refused to let go of the branding.
“Lilly, we need to speak to the FBI.”
“Why would we do that?”
“They have resources we don’t. They can put an identity with our initials.”
“It’s worth a shot. You’re thinking the perp is international?”
“Yeah. There’s something wonky going on. It’s almost like the initials are a taunt, you know? Kind of like, here I am-do something about it.”
“Like their hiding in plain sight?”
“Exactly like that.”
“Okay. I’ll call them and see if they have something.”
Lilly looked at me and scrunched up her nose. I gave her a puzzled look and waited.
“You’re just gonna change gears on me like that, huh? Don’t even signal, just veer off the nearest exit without slowing down.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you, and your swapping of topics. One minute we’re talking international criminals, the next you’re asking about my son.”
She giggled and said, “Gareth is fine. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m a stranger in my son’s life.”
“Why would you feel like that?”
Lilly signaled and turned into the parking garage. She sighed, and I could hear the weariness in her voice.
“I’m always in-and-out. We quell some criminal and his cohorts, and then another rises to take their place. It’s always one tragedy after another. Would it kill these idiots to take a couple of days off?”
“Take some leave, Lilly. You’re overdue anyway. Take Gareth somewhere and just relax for a bit.”
“And who is going to take care of you?”
“Oh please. You’re my partner, not my parent. I can take care of myself, I’m good like that.”
“Un-huh. Do you really think I should take some leave?”
“Yes, I do. You need to put it in today, or I’m gonna take steps.”
“Oh yeah? What kind of steps?”
“I’ll recommend you see a shrink.”
She shook her head and glared at me, but I was serious about turning her in if she didn’t take leave. We’d been running non-stop for over a year now, and both of us were close to burn-out.
“Maybe I’ll turn you in.”
“That’s fine with me, Lilly. I could use a break.”
“I’ll ask for it at the end of business.”
“Thank you. I’ll take some when you return.”
“Do you promise?”
“Yeah. I need to be there for Paddy and Esther.”
That made her smile, and I felt my cheeks blush. Many models adorned the covers and pages of magazines, but they all paled in comparison to Lilly as far as I was concerned. Lilly was naturally beautiful, and when she smiled, she seemed even more gorgeous.
We got out and walked toward the precinct. Manson and Rankin exited the lift and nodded hello to us. We had the Trinity murders, but Manson and Rankin stayed equally busy. Both teams could use some help. Fredericksburg had survived the race riots but the aftermath of such led to more crime. The entire police department was behind when it came to the riots.
Crime happened daily, so the cases from the riots got tossed on the back burner while the current cases got handled. Everyone was overworked. From the switchboard operators to the newest recruit walking the beat, all of us needed leave. Still, someone must stand watch.
Lilly sat in her chair and scooted over to the phone. Janko noticed me and waved me into his office. Lilly had the phone in hand and stared at her calendar intently. I walked into Janko’s office.
“What’s new on the case?”
“Nothing, chief. We’re still trying to figure out what’s with the initials.”
“The feds are watching Paddy O’Shea’s place of business.”
“Don Viejo’s goons came out of there. They’ve been seen going in and out of the place. They saw you and Lilly going in there today.”
“For God’s sake, they’re my kin. We go eat there for lunch.”
Janko sighed and rubbed his head. He lifted his eyes and met mine. “What’s your uncle involved in, Konan?”
“I don’t know all of it. From what I gathered, my dead father made a deal with the cartel and now they want Paddy to keep his promise.”
“Your father is dead.”
“Yeah, but he promised them a lot.”
“You have crap luck, son. I do not recommend you hit the casino’s anytime soon.”
“Yeah, I know. Um, Lilly’s asking for leave, and I am wanting to take some when she returns. Is that a problem?”
“No. I would recommend both of you taking leave. You’re walking close to the edge of burnout. Make sure she gets her request in today. I’ll get it pushed up.”
“Thanks, chief. We both appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome. Furthermore, we have new detectives coming in. Both are experienced, both have solid reputations. You’ll meet them this afternoon.”
“Alright, I look forward to it.”