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Brady shifted in his easy chair and stretched his legs in front of him, flexing his foot and rubbing at the pain that shot from his heel to his thigh. His right leg ached when he sat for too long. Sadly, most of what he did involved sitting, as well as thinking and occasionally taking the edge off with a cold beer.
He had nowhere to go and nothing to do except twice weekly rehabilitation appointments. One of those appointments was with the shrink from the hospital. He dreaded those visits.
It was late and most televisions stations were showing infomercials. He reached for the remote to change the channel, but stopped when a knock sounded at the door. Who was visiting this late?
He planned to ignore it and hope whoever it was went away. Instead, keys in the lock jingled and then his brother Harris's voice called, "Brady?" as the door swung open.
Brady didn't want to deal with a family visit right now. "What are you doing here?" he asked, knowing he sounded surly. But that was how he felt. Surly and angry. He didn't like people dropping by unannounced. Lately, he didn't like seeing people at all.
"Oh, my sincerest apologies. Am I interrupting your doing-nothing time?" Harris asked dryly.
"What do you want?" Brady asked. He wasn't in the mood for a lecture.
"Since you aren't returning your phone calls or emails, you left me the option of finding time away from an undercover operation so I could talk to you about something important."
Guilt mushroomed through him. Brady should have returned his family's phone calls, but he wasn't ready. He didn't want themor anyoneto see him this way. Now he'd forced Harris temporarily off an undercover mission. He'd add that to his list of screw-ups. He shut off the television. "You're here. Say what you need to say." Whatever it was, Brady wasn't going to like it.
"Reilly is in trouble."
Brady hadn't expected that and he rose to his feet. The words lit a fire under him and for the first time in months, Brady had good motivation to get off his butt. "What trouble?"
"Reilly was the first responder on a murder scene and he's been accused of tampering with evidence," Harris said. "He's on administrative leave pending an investigation into the matter."
Reilly, the middle Truman brother, was a celebrated detective, his recent promotion a reward for the tough cases he'd solved. He would never compromise the integrity of an investigation by hiding or manufacturing evidence. "That's ridiculous. Why would he tamper with evidence? What idiot would believe something like that?" Brady asked. "The mayor believes it."
"The mayor?" Brady didn't like the pompous windbag who served as mayor of Denver, but since when did the mayor insert himself into police business?
" Since the mayor is in tight with Lieutenant General Ambrose, and it's his son who is the murder victim"
Brady started. "Lieutenant General Ambrose? Justin's father? Justin's dead?" Confusion streamed through him. What about Susan? How was she dealing with her fiance's death?
"That's right, Justin Ambrose. Your favorite person," Harris said. "The mayor wants the guilty party found and he's decided the guilty persons are Susan and Reilly."
Brady's blood pressure soared and disbelief tumbled through him. Susan killing someone was more ludicrous than Reilly tampering with evidence. "The police will find the real culprit and then the mayor will look like the idiot he is and eat crow."
Harris snorted. "I'd agree if the lead investigator on the case wasn't a 'yes man' jockeying for a promotion and too lazy to do actual police work."
"It can't be that bad," Brady said.
Harris held out a folder. "It is. Look at the file."
Brady had respect for his brother's colleagues and had liked the ones he'd met, but every job had its share of incompetents. He opened the file and scanned Harris's notes. It was bad. "What can I do?"
Harris sniffed and then wrinkled his nose. "The first thing you can do is call Mom so she can stop worrying about you. Then you need to take a shower, grab a shave, change into clean clothes and rejoin the rest of the world. This place is a dump. Take some pride in yourself."
His brother's comments were justified. Brady felt and looked like crap. He hadn't had a reason to care. Until now.
"And once I re-civilize myself?" Brady asked, letting his voice drip with sarcasm.
Harris nodded at the folder he'd handed Brady. "Read that cover to cover. I've kept notes on the case, nothing you can't read in the news. Justin's yacht was found covered in his blood and Susan was the last person seen with him. She was at the scene with blood on her hands and clothes."
"What? She was where with what?" Incredulity and concern tore through him.
"Susan was on the boat. Justin's body hasn't been found. The ME states with the amount of blood at the scene, Justin couldn't have survived. The police are looking for a body."
Brady closed the file. "She didn't kill anyone." He didn't need to read reports about the case to know he was correct about that. "Was she with Justin when he died? How did she keep herself from being hurt?"
Harris blew out his breath. "Susan doesn't remember where she was and she can't explain what happened or why. She has no signs of a head injury or concussion, and the lab didn't find anything in her system that suggests she was drugged or sedated. She has no alibi for the night in question. I don't believe she killed him, but I can't offer any evidence or theory to the contrary. She hasn't been charged because Justin's body hasn't been found."
When Susan was under stress, she shut down. She'd dealt with terrible things from her childhood, like having an abusive alcoholic for a father and an imbalanced mother, by ignoring them and pretending as if nothing was wrong. As an adult, Susan's coping methods were better. She'd pour her emotions into her artwork, work through the problem and eventually talk about it, but her initial reaction was silence. The one sure way Brady had to get her talking was to get her into bed and let her direct the post-coital conversation. Whether it was the intimacy of the act or that she was relaxed and contented, Susan was most open with him during those times. But her old defense mechanism could be triggered if the situation was desperate enough.
No way would she hop into bed with him now. Not only had he lost his chance with Susan, she was grieving for her fiance. "Stress-induced amnesia?" Brady asked, wanting Harris's opinion.
"Could be. My best guess is that her inability to remember is psychological," Harris said.
"What makes the police think Reilly is tied up in this? Because he was first on the scene? Wasn't his partner there?" Brady asked, worry for his brother mingling with concern for Susan. Brady wanted to go to her, to see if she was okay, to talk to her and comfort her. Even as the thought crossed his mind, he squashed it. He was the last man she'd want to see or speak to. His presence would only make it worse for her.
"Reilly was first on the scene and when he realized it was Susan involved, he called for another team to investigate. He waited with Susan on the dock, while his partner waited at the marina for backup to arrive. He and Susan's friendship survived your relationship and she still does freelance sketch work for the department, so they've kept in touch."
Brady had met Susan through Reilly at a party. The image of Susan the first time he'd seen her snapped to mind. Her beautiful, shy smile had caught his attention. He'd approached her and found she was easy to talk with and eager to see the best in people and situations. Her positive attitude had been refreshing.
Harris continued, breaking through Brady's thoughts. "Once it got out that Reilly was first on the scene, Lieutenant General Ambrose talked to the media and his pal, the mayor, and connected them through you and painted the picture like something unseemly had occurred. The media loves tidbits about Reilly. He's a pseudo-celebrity after the cases he's solved for the city."
Not shocking. The media twisting a story into a lurid and seedy tale was common and nauseating. Brady was surprised anyone reacted to the sensationalism and irrationality of the story. The public could be riled into a frenzy with the right words, the right pictures and the right people pushing their buttons. Why didn't anyone stop to think about the idea of a detectivea decorated detectiveleaving Susan, the alleged killer, at the scene of the crime with blood on her hands? If Reilly had wanted to cover up anything, he would have dealt with that first. The accusations were ridiculous.
How could he help? Susan wouldn't want to see him and Reilly was capable of defending himself. Sleuthing wasn't his area of expertise. However, if they needed someone to bungle the investigation at a critical moment, Brady had some experience with that. "I'm not a detective and I'm impaired at the moment. What do you want me to do?" Brady rubbed his knee.
Harris snorted. "Cut the crap and quit acting like a sissy stewing in your own tears. Your knee is fine. Get off your lazy rear end and talk to Susan. Work with her to find out what happened the night Justin was killed. Her memories might come back, but the stress she's under could be concealing something important."
Susan wouldn't withhold information if she had it. "Why can't you talk to Susan?" Harris was the one trained in FBI interview and profiling tactics.
"Two reasons. My career gives me a few more boundaries. I'm working an operation at the moment and I can't bail out or juggle both. Too much is at stake. Second reason, and more importantly, you know Susan better than I do. You can help her remember."
It had taken Brady time to earn Susan's trust and when they'd broken up, he was sure that trust had been demolished. "What makes you think Susan will talk to me about the murder?" Brady hadn't told his family the details of why their relationship had ended or about her visit to the hospital when he'd been a world-class jerk to her.
"You're a Truman. Your brother needs you. You'll do whatever is necessary to help Reilly."
Harris was right. The Trumans stood by each other. It was how they'd been raised. Integrity, honor and loyalty defined their family. This situation had to be killing Reilly and putting a strain on his marriage to Haley. They were a strong family and Brady felt like the weak link. Could he be useful in his current state? What if he made it worse for Susan and Reilly?
"Anything else?" Brady asked, shoving aside his self-pity. The idea of his brother suffering and having done nothing wrong had spurred him to act.
Harris hesitated. "There is one more thing. Reilly is worried about Susan. We don't know why she wasn't also a victim and why she didn't sustain physical injuries the night Justin died. Since the police have decided to focus on Susan as a suspect, they're not interested in providing her with police protection. Reilly believes there's more going on and Susan's not out of danger yet. While you're helping her sort this out, you need to look out for her."
Spending time with Susan had convoluted mess written all over it. He wasn't the soldier he'd been before his accident. His body was damaged and weakened, his confidence shaken. Was he capable of protecting her from a killer? What if she was attacked? Would he respond and protect her or hesitate and get her killed?
Then again, what choice did he have? His brothers needed him. So did Susan. Despite the ugly history, he would talk to her and do what he could to help.
The constant gnawing dread never let up. Susan Prescott clocked out of work, sliding her employee badge through the gallery's timekeeping system. It had been another horrendous day. She was leaving via the side entrance, hoping the reporters waiting to speak with her would remain in the front. She altered her route every day to avoid a confrontation.
Susan didn't have answers to the questions they asked. Why had she killed Justin? Where had she put the body? Why wouldn't she give closure to his family?
How did someone answer those questions? They were meant to bait her into saying something she'd regret. She didn't know anything about Justin's murder. She hadn't been involved. At least, she didn't think she had. Frustration worked at her. Why couldn't she remember?
Susan pushed open the side door. Reporters and cameramen snapped to attention and began shouting at her. A jolt of anxiety ripped through her. Susan focused on her car parked a few yards away, blinking back the tears that sprung to her eyes, a combination of sadness, humiliation and grief. Anything she said would make it worse, but she wanted to shout the only answer she knew, which was she didn't know anything.
A hand grasped her elbow and Susan pulled her arm free, spinning and coming face-to-face with Brady Truman. The last man she'd have expected outside the gallery. He looked disheveled and tired, not that she was in any position to judge. She was sure she looked worse. The aggravating thing about Brady was that even exhausted and unkempt, his charisma and good looks were undeniable. Every part of him tempted her.
It wasn't the time to fixate on Brady's tremendous appeal. Extending one muscular arm in front of them, he led her through the crowd, forming a path to her car. He took her keys from her hand, unlocked the doors and helped her into the passenger side. He climbed in the driver's seat, fastened his seat belt, held down the horn in warning to the media to move and drove them away from the gallery and the crowd.
Susan shook off her shock and confusion. "What are you doing here? You told me to leave you alone." She had tried to talk to him in the hospital. He hadn't been interested in hearing what she had to say.
"I need to talk to you."