Book 3 in the Deception Point Military Detective Thriller Series
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They called him a hero. They were wrong.
Mira Ellis began her career with the US Navy's elite nuclear power program, until a classified laptop went missing and Mira was left holding the empty bag.
Now a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Mira's past collides with her present when a commander is brutally murdered. As Mira follows the killer to a ship hijacked at sea, the ties to her past multiply—along with terrifying implications for the country's future safety…and her own.
Mira doesn’t know who to trust—including her new partner. A former Navy SEAL of Saudi descent, Sam Riyad has countless combat tours under his belt and even more medals jammed into his chest.
But Riyad lied to an Army investigator during a recent terror case, and he deliberately undermined the critical mission of a Special Forces major—several times.
Whose side is Riyad really on?
Mira needs an answer. The fate of the US Fleet—and the world—depends on it.
Written by a former US Navy Lt.
Please Note: Graphic crime scenes, the occasional sex scene and cursing abound throughout this series! If you're faint of heart, you may want to turn back now. But if you're not & you like strong, female protagonists and seriously gritty, complex suspense that twists and turns all the way to The End, you'll love Candace Irving's military detective thriller series.
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He should've killed himself when he'd had the chance.
A bullet to the brain, a makeshift noose about his neck—hell, even standing hip-deep in water and smashing his fist into a light socket. Anything would have been preferable to this. Definitely quicker.
His left leg was broken. At least, he was pretty sure. He'd lost count of the number of times that goddamned iron pipe had slammed into his shins, but he was fairly certain he'd felt the bone crack a minute ago.
Or was that an hour?
How long had he been dangling from his wrists inside this sweltering box?
He no longer knew. All he knew was pain. He welcomed it. It gave him something to concentrate on in place of their incessant questions.
One of the bastards was at his ear again, the man's foul breath spilling over the right side of his face. If only the fucker would whale that pipe into his stomach instead of his kidneys for a change. He just might be able to puke on him. He settled for second best. Gathering the saliva he'd hoarded, he turned his head and spewed it into that yammering mouth.
Too bad his eyes were swollen shut. What he'd give to see the turd's expression.
He felt it instead as another rib went the way of his shin. He inhaled sharply, then wished to heaven he hadn't.
Can't. Goddamn it, he'd lost a lung. No, wait—it was there. Merely collapsed, the air knocked halfway to Mecca.
The haji was in his face again. Taunting. "Save yourself, kafir. No one else will. Surely not Allah."
It was true. He had no illusions. They'd been shattered long before his leg and his ribs. Nor would God—this asshole's or anyone else's—deign to help. When push came to shove, the good Lord couldn't be bothered to save his own son.
No, it was up to him. And her.
It was all he had left to offer. To her and his country. He'd be damned if he'd held on this long, only to blow it now.
"This is the last time I ask, kafir. Where is she?"
He found another ounce of spit and used it.
A strangled groan ripped free as the pipe crashed into his collar bone. Unlike his lung, this dent wasn't popping back out. He dropped his chin to his chest, sucking in stale air and his own bloody spittle as he fought the plea clawing up his throat.
He was dimly aware of the scrape of metal on metal in the blistering existence that followed.
Perhaps the bastard was right and there was a God, because somehow, he found the strength to open his left eye. Just a crack. The haji on his far left was bending over a heavy-duty, deep-cycle battery, attaching a pair of jumper cables. The ends had been stripped down to bare, taunting wire. The man crammed his meaty fists into rubber gloves, then retrieved the cables and snapped the raw ends together.
Twelve chilling volts sparked and spitted to life. More than enough to stop a human heart. They wouldn't even have to douse him in seawater for max effect.
He was drenched in sweat and blood.
"Last chance, kafir."
"Go to hell."
The wires closed in. A split second later, his entire body convulsed—broken bones and all—as white-hot lightning ripped through his groin. And then his body went slack, twisting in the nonexistent wind…until the wires returned.
Again and again.
Somehow, the secrets he'd locked deep within escaped his splintered brain and invaded his tongue. He was pleading with them now. Shamelessly.
Another jolt, and the truth finally tumbled free.
That's when he knew it was over.
He never saw the haji move, only smelled the blessed absence of that putrid breath beneath the stench of his own burning flesh.
Then he heard the order. "Aqtalhi."
It was done. The most important mission of his life—and he'd failed.
Her reprieve came early. Thirty-one hours and eighteen minutes—and not a second too soon.
Air ripped through Mira's lungs as she vaulted down from her aerobic climber to follow the shrill of her phone out of the bedroom of her Washington, DC, sublet. The phone trilled again as she raced past the galley kitchen and into an equally cramped living room. Adrenaline surged, supplanting desperately courted, exercise-induced endorphins as she reached the coffee table and caught sight of her caller ID.
Ramsey. A case.
For a moment, guilt battled with her own desperate, selfish need.
Mira dragged in a steadying breath as she grabbed the phone. "Who died?"
"And hello to you, too, Special Agent Ellis. If I'm not mistaken, the clocks have ticked past midnight along the entire Eastern Seaboard. Odd time to work out…especially since you're supposed to be on vacation."
Vacation her ass. Try eight days of mind-numbingly slow, guilt-riddled leave. And the man who'd "suggested" she take it was on the other end of her line.
"Blame the neighbor's cat. He's still spending his nights trying to seduce the stone planter outside my window."
"This the cat that got run over last month?"
Silence more pregnant than the five remaining felines infesting the alley filled the line.
"Still having trouble nodding off, eh?"
Nodding off wasn't the issue. It was the inevitable waking up shortly thereafter that had her clinging to the outer edges of sanity—despite the shrink session that this man had also convinced her to attend. Not only had the session not helped, all the lengthy discussion had done was burn into her brain the very image—and guilt—that she'd give just about everything to excise.
Mira stared at the bottle of scotch that'd taken up residence on the coffee table following her return from the shrink's office. At least the glass beside the bottle was empty—and clean.
"You want to talk about it?"
She flushed, and not because of the offer. It was his tone.
The raw compassion infusing the line didn't belong to William H. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service's Washington Field Office. Hell, it hadn't even come from the NCIS agent who'd walked out of a senate committee briefing almost two weeks earlier to beat feet to Creighton Middle School upon learning that she'd discharged her service weapon into a depraved piece of shit bent on concealing his true nature behind a chest full of medals, his sixteen-year career as a Navy corpsman and a twelve-year-old boy.
No, the sympathy still oozing through her phone line had come from Bill, the closest thing to an uncle that she was lucky enough to have.
Somehow, that made it worse.
Mira turned her back on the half-empty bottle of scotch and checked the clock above the fireplace. Ramsey and her instincts were right. It was a quarter past midnight. Worse, though she'd been working out for nearly an hour, she wasn't breathing hard anymore. Amazing what a colossal case of remorse could do for the body.
At least on the outside.
Mira concentrated on the disembodied Arabic accent of a stewardess running through preflight checks as it spilled out of the phone and into her right ear. It beat focusing on those strangely silent, soul-stripping sobs that had been haunting her since she'd taken that shot with her service weapon—along with those huge brown eyes and the utter devastation that had been within.
Devastation that she'd caused.
And when she added on the old acidic shit that had been dug up as a result and publicly sprayed into her face via the local news…
"You want to tell me why you're calling from a runway halfway around the globe, or am I supposed to guess?"
The silence returned—even with that droning stewardess—and this time it was terse. Uncle Bill had left. Special Agent in Charge William Ramsey had taken his place, and he was not happy that she'd cut him off.
Mira clamped down on her phone, waiting for the reprimand she deserved.
Ramsey sighed instead. "There's been a murder. Commander Theresa Corrigan. She was a Navy JAG. I'm told Corrigan was a recent transfer to the Pentagon, dealt with espionage cases mostly."
Mira sifted through her memory. "Never heard of her."
Not surprising. She snagged a rumpled, but clean hand towel from the laundry basket she'd left beside the couch the night before. She might've been investigating the scourge of the Fleet for six years now, but there were over nine hundred lawyers hard-lined to the Judge Advocate General's office—and not only were those JAG lawyers scattered around the globe, but they also specialized in everything from Military Justice and National Security to Civil Litigation and Maritime Law.
Even during her initial tour with NCIS at the San Diego Field Office, she'd tended to focus on the former, investigating violent crimes almost exclusively. For good reason. She appeared to have a knack for solving them.
Mira mopped the perspiration from her face and hooked the hand towel over her shoulder. "What do we have?"
"Not much. It's not even our case. Yet. The commander's body was found earlier this evening—in her bed. Her townhouse is a couple of blocks northeast of Dupont Circle. As you can imagine, there are…issues."
She'd just bet there were. And every one involved jurisdiction.
Dupont Circle was located within spitting distance of the White House and a good three miles from the closest naval facility, the Washington Navy Yard. Not only did jurisdiction for the commander's murder not automatically fall within NCIS' purview, it fell squarely within the DC Metropolitan Police Department's. Nor was MPD's current chief known for passing off cases, especially when the victim was high-profile. A category for which a Navy JAG who worked terror cases definitely qualified.
The disembodied voice of the flight attendant saturated the line once more, asking passengers to turn off their phones. Mira ignored the request along with Ramsey as she headed out of her living room. "We could flash the national security card."
"We may have to. But, so far, we don't have cause. And if MPD finds out we pulled a fast one, it'll piss off their chief in a major way. I'd like to avoid that if possible."
So would she. Cops had long memories.
Mira reached her bedroom and culled one of the suits from her closet. The plane's engines cut in and began to whine as she turned to toss the dark-blue jacket and slacks onto her bed. "Who caught the case?"
"The one and only."
Mira grinned. She might not know why Jerry had abandoned his plan to join San Diego's finest after he'd retired from NCIS, but she knew exactly why Ramsey had phoned her tonight—despite Ramsey's directive that she ease her way back onto the case roster upon her return to the Field Office come Monday morning.
She and Jerry had history. The kind that made a cop grateful.
"You still out of town?"
She snagged an ivory blouse from the opposite end of the closet and added it to the growing pile of clothes on the bed. "I never left. The realtor called before I could hit the road. He had a potential buyer who wanted to fly in to see the place. Some captain with orders to teach at the Academy. I decided to stay here."
She'd told herself it was because there might be additional showings.
The real reason lay in those brown eyes and the silent sobs that had been dogging her every moment these past thirteen days—sleeping and waking. Imagine how much more gut-wrenching they'd have been if she'd spent the past seven incarcerated in the family mausoleum in Annapolis as planned, sifting through what was left of her and her brother's childhood memories stored up in the attic so they could finally unload the place?
"Did you get an offer on the house?"
"No. The guy changed his mind during the showing and asked to rent." And this time around, she was determined to sell. Even if she could reach her brother to discuss it, she knew Nate would agree. That said, the abode she was most interested in at the moment did not come with a prized sailboat slip within view of the US Naval Academy. "You got an address for the murdered JAG?"
"Yeah. I just texted it." The whine of the plane's engines increased in pitch as her boss' phone pinged. "Damn. I gotta go. Keep me posted."
Mira hung up, already forming her coming strategy as she tossed her phone onto the bed before heading for the bathroom to turn on the shower.
By the time Ramsey's plane touched down in DC, she would be working the Corrigan investigation. If she had to abuse her past with Jerry Dahl to get herself waved through the door, so be it. She simply could not take another night, let alone another week with nothing but Caleb McCabe's dark, devastated eyes filling her head.
Not if she wanted to stay sane.
* * *
The blue and red, strobe-lit circus was in full swing when she arrived.
Mira eased her black Chevy Blazer in behind the dozen-odd MPD cop cars, crime scene vans and unmarked SUVs clogging the townhouse-lined street. She was willing to bet her own federal credentials that at least one of those Explorers was registered to a colleague from the J. Edgar Hoover building across town. Confirmation came in the approaching clean-shaven, twenty-something Boy Scout sporting a red pinstriped tie and higher-end version of her JC Penney's navy-blue special.
Judging from the no joy stamped along the Feebee's jaw as he tossed his shiny, stainless-steel crime scene kit onto the rear seat of the nearest Explorer before climbing into the front to fire it up, Jerry had already won at least one pissing contest tonight. Fortunately, she'd long since discovered that the Scouts were only partially right. Sometimes it was prudent to come prepared…and sometimes not.
Or at least, to not look like it.
Mira retrieved the bare necessities from her own battered crime kit, secreting the protective booties, latex gloves and a few other crucial items she unearthed within her trouser pockets as she bailed out of the Blazer and into the unusually chilly late March night.
Suppressing a shiver, she headed for the blood-red brick facade of the JAG's Victorian townhouse, making it to the crime scene tape before an MPD uniformed patrol stopped her.
"Excuse me, ma'am. I—"
She flashed her credentials. "Special Agent Mira Ellis, NCIS. I'm here to see Detective—"
Jerry's stocky, rough-and-ready Irish form bounded through the townhouse's gaping door and down its trio of stone steps. Mira was still tucking her credentials home as Jerry elbowed the uniform aside so he could reach over the wrought-iron gate to haul her into his generous warmth for a soul-balming hug.
"Damned good to see you. Though, given the customer upstairs, I can't say I'm surprised." Jerry eased back, patting the side of her face as if he had forty years on her instead of twenty—and she let him. "You look great, Mir."
She laughed. "You look gray."
His grin deepened, splitting into the lines bracketing his lips. The same lines that stress had begun to carve in during the fiasco that had heralded the twilight of Jerry's own career with NCIS. "I see those manners and that mouth haven't improved."
"Not a chance."
The uniform cleared his throat.
Jerry spared the kid a glance as he swung the gate wide and waved her in. "She's with me, Mandello." Jerry hooked his beefy right arm about her shoulders and gave her another squeeze as they headed up the stone steps. "I'd heard you'd made it back to town. Meant to holler sooner, but MPD put me on the homicide roster the same day I swore in, and it's been a nonstop shitstorm since. Then the news broke about that goddamned pedo chief—along with the garbage his widow's been spewing into the ear of every reporter in town this past week." Jerry shifted his callused palm to the back of her neck and gently nudged her into the townhouse's narrow, empty foyer, his voice dropping low as they came to a halt midway in. "I left a message for you at the Field Office."
Mira focused on the closed door of the ground-floor condo, unable to deal with that all-too-seductive compassion face to face and from this man any more than she had over the phone with Ramsey. "I took some time off."
Not that it had helped.
"That's what Aisley told me. Figured I'd wait 'til you got back in the saddle before I reached out again." He gave Mira's arm a final squeeze, then dropped his hand. "How you holding up?"
"You know me."
His clipped nod was tempered by nearly three years of working together across abutted desks on the opposite side of the country…and a few stark confessions on both their parts as Jerry's mentorship had drawn to a close. "They suggest you see someone?"
"Go. It helped me."
"Yeah, I know. Back then, I'd have sworn that the only way you'd get me on a shrink's couch was if you marched me into the room at gunpoint and cuffed me to it. But things change. I changed. Blame it on Shelli. I never told you, but things weren't all that great between us before that Kelter witch accused me of blackmailing her for sex while her husband was on duty. And when it got out that Shelli and I had started dating before the ink was dry on the divorce papers with her asshole of a sailor? Let's just say it got a lot worse before it got better."
That surprised and infuriated her. "I could've sworn Shelli believed you."
"She did. It was everyone else who didn't—except you. Shell and I had other issues, ones there weren't easy solutions to. That witch's lies just made it all worse. And I don't have to tell you that exoneration counts for piss in this profession. Suspicion lingers—even after your electronic sleuthing blew the Internal Affairs investigation out of the water. Hell, it got so bad that I seriously considered bailing on eighteen years and a pending pension and heading off to parts unknown."
It was her turn to squeeze Jerry's shoulder. "I wish I'd known."
But she had. At the time, she'd simply respected Jerry's unspoken wish to leave it alone. The life-weary detective pulling a set of protective crime scene booties from the pocket of his own JC Penney's special had known it too. Just as Jerry had known that she'd received the same tainted kiss from her so-called colleagues and friends at the beginning of the end of her painfully short-lived career as a naval officer.
One false accusation and her Officer Candidate School graduation and three grueling months at the Fleet's nuclear power school in Goose Creek had been flushed down the tubes—though, unlike Jerry's, her charges hadn't been leveled maliciously.
Not entirely, anyway.
Not that it had mattered. Nor had her own subsequent exoneration. She'd still gotten those sidelong looks from her former fellow sailors. The whispers.
Worse, the three a.m., self-doubting what-ifs egged on by an increasingly empty bottle of booze.
Unlike Jerry, she had bailed.
Three years before Jerry's rude awakening in San Diego, she'd turned her back on the Fleet and applied to work for its watchdog agency, NCIS. But for her own fucked-up first career, she wouldn't have been able to salvage Jerry's.
The irony hadn't been lost on either of them at the time.
Guilt cut in over her willingness to abuse his old pain to snag a case…no matter how desperately she needed the distraction.
The guilt deepened as Jerry offered her the booties and an exculpatory shrug. "You needed to focus on yourself, not me. You deserved that slot in Yokosuka. You'd worked your ass off; I didn't want to see you blow it by looking back."
He was right. If she'd known he needed her, she'd have stayed in San Diego. Though she should've taken the time to check back in on him now and then.
Mira swallowed her regret. "So what happened?"
How had he gone from shrinks are evil incarnate to the poster cop for therapy?
"Shelli. It got to the point where I'd come home and dump everything on her. She finally had it. Said I had to see someone—with or without her—or else. Chicken shit that I am, I chose without. Damned if it didn't help. I still go now and then, to touch base and vent. We're both happier, and things have never been better between us."
"I can tell. You look fantastic."
Jerry grinned as he ran a hand over the silver that had firmly overtaken the ruddy thatch at his temples. "Despite the frost?"
"Absolutely. Makes you look distinguished." That couldn't hurt in this town.
"Plus, it scares off the pups. You should've seen the one the FBI sent to try and steal this gig."
"I did. He had his tail between his legs as he crawled into his SUV."
Jerry pulled a pair from his jacket, his gaze narrowing suspiciously midway to handing them over. "You have your own, don't you?"
"In my pocket. Booties, too."
"I'll be damned. At least you had the brains to leave your kit in the car."
She smiled. "I did learn from the best."
Presumption was more than a pet peeve with Jerry. It was a cardinal sin.
He tossed the gloves to her anyway and turned to the stairs that presumably led up to the JAG's third-floor condo. "Put 'em on. I left your partner in the commander's study."
Partner? Since when?
"The Field Office sent another agent?" Irritation surged as Jerry nodded. Why hadn't Ramsey mentioned it? "Who?"
"Guy named Sam Riyad."
She shook her head. "Don't know him."
"Me neither. But I've been retired for two years. He's FCI, by the way, and new to town."
That explained it. Still, "You left him in your crime scene unattended?" She didn't know whether to be stunned or impressed. As Foreign Counterintelligence, Sam Riyad was all but guaranteed to be a far cry from an experienced detective. Closer to a full-fledged spook. A category that fell somewhere below shrink in Jerry's book.
Jerry shrugged. "Wasn't my first choice. Someone busted the combination locks on the JAG's filing cabinet and safe. Dumped the contents everywhere. Appears to be casework mostly, but more than a few sheets are marked CUI/NOFORN. If there's higher sensitive or outright classified material lying around—much less missing—I don't want to know. Someone's gonna be navigating shit's creek before this is over as it is, and it ain't gonna be me."
A sage pronouncement if there ever was one. Controlled unclassified information that carried a no-foreign-nationals prohibition was bad enough. But if there were papers stamped higher in that condo, she definitely wanted to know. Unlike Jerry, she still answered to the brass at NCIS, so she had no choice but to grab an oar along with her fellow mystery agent and start paddling.
Not to mention, given Ramsey's revelation that the victim upstairs had worked mostly espionage, FCI's attendance would be expected eventually.
Mira was about to follow Jerry up the stairs when the MPD uniform poked his head into the foyer.
"The medical examiner's here, Detective."
"Damn. Okay, on my way."
Mira waited for the uniform to leave. "You want me to loiter outside 'til he's done?"
Jerry shook his head. "If you were gonna screw me over, you'd have done it long before now. Might as well stay for the main attraction. I'll work it out with my boss later."
"I appreciate it."
"So get your butt up there before I change my mind. She's in the bedroom at the end of the hall."
"Thanks." Mira was halfway to the second floor by the time Jerry headed out into the night.
Another uniformed cop stood guard at the third floor, just outside the JAG's open door.
She donned the protective booties Jerry had given her and produced her credentials. "Special Agent Ellis, NCIS. I'm with Detective Dahl. He's briefing the ME."
Mira added her name and stats to the crime scene roster and entered the condo's surprisingly chilly foyer. She swore it was colder in here than it was out front. Worse, an unmistakable odor tainted the breeze that drifted down the hall.
Had someone opened a few windows to combat that smell?
Or had the killer left them open?
Glancing into what was clearly the JAG's study, she caught sight of a set of oddly scarred, dusky fingers reaching for a sheet of paper on the desk with nothing but a folded over Kleenex between them and the evidence they were about to snag.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Fingers and tissue firmly clamped about the sheet, the man turned. A split second into her glimpse of the dark, distinctive features above that neatly cropped, mosque-ready mustache and beard, the surname Jerry had offered made sense: Saudi.
Irritation tossed another log onto the fire of her ire.
The source appeared impervious to both as he reached inside his suit jacket with his completely buck-naked hand, so he could flash his badge. "Special Agent Sam Riyad, NCIS. I'm assist—"
"Wrong. What you're doing is blowing this for us." If Jerry spotted that TV-detective, Kleenex stunt, he'd go ballistic—as Jerry should.
She flashed her own credentials for the third time that night. "Mira Ellis; I work out of the Field Office. Where are your gloves?"
"In my car. But this will suffice—"
"No, it won't." One look at the sheet of paper that had made it into Riyad's tissue-shielded fingers and the plethora of cross-contaminating fibers they were most likely leaving behind, and Jerry would toss them out on their collective asses.
Former colleagues, old friends and classified hot potato or not.
Riyad's cheeks flushed as he appeared to accept that he had indeed committed the most basic of procedural violations.
Mira ignored the man's embarrassment in favor of her surging panic as she caught the faint thump of boots climbing the stairs. Any second now and the ME would be passing this room—and Jerry would be with him.
Talk about shit's creek.
She tugged the spare gloves from her trouser pocket and tossed them to her de facto partner. "Hurry."
She'd deal with the fallout of extraneous prints and fibers with Jerry later.
The thumps reached the third-floor landing and came to a halt outside the condo door as her fellow agent blew precious seconds working the first of his "size-large" hands into her "size-small" gloves. The thumps resumed.
The boots reached the study door as Riyad complied, then continued on. Jerry's loafers did not.
Mira caught the soft snap of a successfully sheathed second glove as she pivoted to the doorway. "Yup."
Jerry nodded. "Let's get in there then. The ME's ready to do his thing. Name's Simon Kent—and by the way, he's got a bit of a complex. Prefers to work in silence, even at crime scenes. Talking's okay—just not with him. At least, not until he's finished."
Curiosity piqued, Mira abandoned Riyad to the study and joined Jerry in heading down the hall. They passed a meticulously pristine galley kitchen and followed the increasingly sickening stench of days-old death into a bedroom that was anything but.
Jerry cracked his gallows grin. "Ah, Mir. Didn't realize you'd found religion."
She shook her head. "I haven't."
Another few rooms like this, and she never would.
At first glance, the JAG's private sanctuary looked a lot like the floor of a halal slaughterhouse at the close of Eid al-Adha. Dark rust, almost black vestiges of the victim's blood were everywhere, staining damned near everything. The gauzy sheers bunched at the corners of the iron four-poster were splattered with it, as were the pale peach walls beyond. Hell, even the mint-green area rug was covered in smeared swathes and the distinct arcs of dried arterial spurts. Dozens of tented, yellow crime scene numbers were scattered about the room as well, some nestled in amid the blood, others marking remaining evidence of interest.
But that wasn't what drew her attention.
It was the body.
The victim was naked and tied spread-eagle atop a rumpled, once-white satin coverlet. It was a good thing they knew the JAG's name, because battered, bruised and painfully bloated forms did not make for easy ID's. But that wasn't the worst of it. The poor woman had been violated in at least two orifices. In the mouth—and lower. A filthy gag spilled from now blackened lips, while the bulk of the wine bottle that'd once complemented the shattered goblet on the floor was visible between the woman's legs.
Despite the amount of blood outside the body, the sheer extent of those bruises confirmed that the JAG had been alive for damned near all of it.
Mira turned to Jerry as the eerily mute ME leaned over the body to insert a thermometer into the JAG's liver. "Whoever did this wanted something. Badly." She had no idea what, but she'd also lay odds that the bastard also had a serious issue with women in general or this woman in particular.
Given that the woman was a lawyer, Mira's instincts were leaning toward the latter.
"But judging from the contusions—" She pointed toward the JAG's legs. "Not to mention the depth of that bottle, I don't think he got it."
Mira caught sight of an antiqued photo frame on the nightstand. An intriguing square of blood-splattered paper lay folded up beside it. But as she stepped forward to get a better look, the photo shanghaied her attention. The paper's mysteries on hold, she took another step. Like almost everything else in the room, the glass covering the photo was marred with splotches of dried blood. She could make out the outline of a man and a woman beneath the splotches, striking the standard female-hand-in-male-crooked-arm pose snapped at the beginning of countless formal military functions. Both the man and the woman in this picture were wearing Navy Service Dress Blues.
Something about the visible portion of the woman's deeply dimpled chin teased at the recesses of Mira's brain.
She arched a brow toward Jerry. "May I?"
"Go ahead. Initial photos are done."
She eased the frame from the nightstand, flipping it so she could unlatch the prongs on the reverse as the ME cut the scarf securing the victim's right hand to the bed. Mira slid the photo free, her stomach bottoming out as the couple came into view.
Mira held up the photo, drawing Jerry's attention to the impressive diamond and white-gold wedding band on the woman's left ring finger as the ME cut the second scarf from their victim's wrist. The JAG's swollen fingers came into view as the ME drew her arm down from the headboard.
The rings matched.
Disappointment bit in as Mira realized she'd lied to Ramsey on the phone earlier, albeit unwittingly. Not that it would matter. Nor would Riyad's procedural gaff. She'd lost this case all on her own and not because of what she'd done right here and now—but because of what she hadn't done…seven years ago.
"She got married."
"Who?" Jerry jerked his chin toward the victim. "Commander Corrigan?"
"That a problem?"
And then some. "You remember the lying witch who damned near killed your first career?"
Mira stared at the obscenely mutilated body on the bed. "This is the woman that obliterated mine."