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Five years ago Houston, Texas
“Seth Cavanaugh, you’re under arrest for the murder of Montgomery Jenkins. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney . . .”
Blank-faced stoicism firmly intact, Seth didn’t resist as his arms were wrenched behind him and he heard the clink of handcuffs. Staring straight ahead, he ignored the officer reciting his Miranda rights. Didn’t need to listen to something he’d memorized long before he’d entered the police academy. For barely an instant, he wondered what Greg Wallace thought as he read his former friend his rights. Greg had already been on the force for several years when Seth started with the Houston Police Department. He’d taken Seth under his wing; now he was arresting him for the murder of a scumbag.
They’d descended on his restaurant right in the middle of the lunchtime crowd. The timing had been no accident. Now an already newsworthy arrest was even more sensational. The television news crews would be outside waiting for him, along with the Houston Chronicle and every other news source within the greater Houston area.
He could hear the newscasts in his head: Well-known businessman and restaurateur Seth Cavanaugh was arrested today for the alleged murder of Montgomery Jenkins, better known as Monty Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins was found dead in his apartment yesterday from a single gunshot wound to his head. According to sources close to the investigation, Mr. Cavanaugh had an argument with Mr. Jenkins earlier in the day. He was seen leaving Jenkins’s apartment moments after a neighbor heard a gunshot.
The Houston news outlets were going to have a blast with this one.
“Let’s go, Cavanaugh.”
Hands cuffed, with a cop on each side of him and one in front, they went through his office doors, down the hallway, and paraded him through the crowded restaurant.
Seth couldn’t resist an inner smile at their strategy. Could’ve taken him through the back door, where only a few employees would have witnessed this, or even through the kitchen, where maybe twenty or so would have been around to watch. No, they’d opted for the most visual and humiliating route.
Even when Ruth’s Place was empty, he didn’t think it’d ever been this quiet. Tables full of diners, every patron stopped in the middle of their meal to gawk. Oh yeah, Houston PD is eating this up.
“You’re a fool, you know that, Cavanaugh?” Greg Wallace snarled behind him.
So the man wasn’t unaffected by arresting a former friend. Well, he guessed that was something. Responding wouldn’t make a difference, so Seth remained silent.
Bright autumn sunlight hit him square in the eyes. Dammit, sunglasses would’ve been a nice touch, but he hadn’t bothered to ask for them. Besides, parading him in front of the half dozen cameras waiting for them to come out wouldn’t have near the impact if he’d been able to cover his eyes.
Five microphones were shoved toward his face. “Mr. Cavanaugh, what do you have to say about your arrest?”
“Mr. Cavanaugh, are you guilty?”
“Hey Seth, why’d you do it?”
Wonderful that so many people had faith in him.
Finished with their parade, an officer shoved Seth into the backseat and then slid in behind the wheel. Greg Wallace got into the front passenger seat, gave Seth a hard glare, and then turned his back on him.
As Seth settled back against the seat, the bite of the cuffs on his wrists and the uncomfortable wrench of his shoulders were mere annoyances. Weightier things occupied his mind.
His mother was just now getting the call . . . Sandra would be the one to call her. His sister was his senior by twelve years. The oldest of the Cavanaugh clan, she always took it upon herself to give the bad news to the family. For the first time ever, he wondered about that. Did she resent having to always be the bearer of bad news, or was this something she enjoyed? Guess it didn’t really matter, but wondering about it helped take his thoughts off the sheer agony he knew would be going through his mother’s mind right now. Her first question would be “What can we do to help?” Mama Cavanaugh always wanted to rescue her babies, whether they deserved it or not.
Then, after Sandra told her, it would go down the line. Sandra would tell Patty, the next oldest, Patty would tell Joel, and so on. Within five minutes, his five sisters and three brothers would know that their baby brother, the youngest and wildest of the Cavanaughs, had been arrested for murder. Houston news outlets had nothing on his family when it came to spreading news, both good and bad.
Someone else would tell Honor. Probably her supervisor. She’d be at her desk working, and the call would come for her to report to his office. There, she would be told that the man she was romantically involved with had been arrested for murder.
How would Dudley George tell her? “Honor, your lover has been arrested for murder. Now, don’t you wish you’d listened to me?” Dudley would want to pat himself on the back as he gave her the titillating news. Then he would sit back and watch her reaction.
He’d wanted to say something to her last night. Telling your girlfriend that you were going to be arrested for murder was one thing. Telling your girlfriend who happens to be an FBI agent was a damn sight different. Honor was too intelligent to be satisfied with platitudes and excuses. She would’ve skewered him with questions. Ones he couldn’t answer.
“You want me to call your lawyer?”
Greg’s voice stopped Seth from his never-ending obsession of thinking about his family’s and Honor’s reactions. That had been his one and only regret, but damn, it was a big one.
Pulling his gaze away from the window, he asked, with mild curiosity, “The laws get changed without me knowing? I thought I was allowed one phone call.”
“Figured you might want to use that to call your mother.”
Despite his need to stay in this cocoon of no emotion, Seth almost grinned. Greg really was a nice guy. Someday, he hoped to be able to thank him for his kindness. For now, all he could say was “Why call and tell her something she already knows?”
“You had everything going for you, Cavanaugh. How could you fuck it up so badly?”
No answer was better than the lie he’d have to give, so Seth went back to looking out the window at nothing. Might as well get used to it. For the next few years, that’s what his life would be. Nothing.
“Stone, got a minute?”
Honor jerked her head up to see Dudley George standing at her desk. Yes, she had a minute, especially since she’d been sightlessly staring at her computer screen for the last half hour, her mind occupied with Seth. Something was going on with him.
“Sure.” She stood and followed her supervisor. Several eyes bored into her back as she made her way into his office. At twenty-five, with just two years under her belt, Honor knew that some believed she was too inexperienced to be a field agent. A few thought her family had pulled strings. Telling them that she was mature enough to handle herself or that her family had no influence with the FBI would do no good. Proving herself was the only way to show them.
“Have a seat.”
The door clicked closed behind her. Honor sat in the uncomfortable straight-backed wooden chair in front of Dudley’s desk. Rumor was, he’d sent back the standard chair that came with his office furniture and bought this one on his own. Definitely set the tone for his meetings.
“I just got some interesting news.”
He looked at her, waiting for a response. Dudley had a habit of delivering one-line statements for dramatic effect. Since she had no idea what the news was, Honor waited, too.
Looking a bit disappointed that she hadn’t taken the bait, he said, “Seth Cavanaugh has just been arrested for murder.”
She almost laughed, the statement was so ridiculous. But from the grim look on Dudley’s face, this was no laughing matter. Besides, Dudley wasn’t known for his sense of humor.
“There must be some mistake.”
“The police don’t think so.”
Honor could feel her head shaking back and forth in denial but couldn’t seem to stop it. “Who . . . how?”
“Montgomery Jenkins, a.k.a. Monty Jenkins. Ever heard of him?”
Dread washed through her. “Wasn’t he an employee of Hector Clemmons’s?”
Dudley nodded. “Until a couple of months ago, when Hector fired him for stealing. Clemmons didn’t press charges. Probably figured that would mean an investigation into his own dirty dealings.”
Dammit, she’d warned Seth that having any connections with Clemmons would come back and bite him someday. The few arguments they’d had stemmed from his association with the man. Each time, Seth had shrugged off her concern, saying that Clemmons had a legitimate import company and Seth relied on their business arrangement for his restaurant.
“Seth isn’t capable of murder. I’m sure there’s a reasonable—”
“That’s not the point, Stone.” Dudley leaned forward, his mud-brown eyes gleaming. “Your relationship with a man who has such questionable connections and associations has been a source of gossip in this office for months. I warned you what could happen.”
Locking her jaw to keep from telling the asshole what she thought of him, she forced a calm response. “Then what is your point?”
“That if you want to advance in the Bureau, you keep your associations clean from now on.”
His point was clear: break it off with Seth. As much as she loved her job, she loved Seth more. Standing, she said, “Is that all, sir?”