Slave to Love(4)

By: Nikita Black


“Nothing we say leaves this room.” McGraw's rumbling voice came from behind her, where he'd propped himself against the wall by the door, arms folded across his chest. “Is that understood?”

She bit back her knee-jerk reaction to being treated like an idiot in front of the Chief. Wouldn't do to alienate McGraw before she'd even found out what they wanted her for. “Yes, sir, perfectly.”

“This guy's good,” Chief Trujillo said into the momentary silence. “No indication of forced entry. Hasn't left a single piece of traceable evidence at either crime scene. No weapon, no hair, no semen. Nothing except fibers from some absorbent material, a tiny residue of leather—probably from gloves—and the ligature marks. We haven’t had any leads on the killer, and as you probably know, other than the obvious we'd been unable to find a linkage between the couples, either.”

Hard to avoid knowing, since it had been plastered all over the papers for the two weeks since the second murders. She nodded.

“Until now, that is,” he went on. “A few days ago, Mick’s team uncovered an interesting lead, but he'll need some help running it down. That's where you come in.”

She caught her jaw a nanosecond before it dropped to the floor. She'd expected to land in the smoke-filled conference room with the other grunts, making the endless phone calls necessary to eliminate the thousands of dead ends generated by a special hotline they'd set up. Not tracking down important leads with the primary investigator.

She tried not to look too incredulous. “How?”

The quartet of men exchanged a brief look. An uneasy feeling suddenly tickled the hair at her nape.

Trujillo swiped a hand across his mouth. “Here's the deal. We have very good reason to believe both victim couples, the Atkins and the Connors, were into the leather scene. Aside from the leather glove residue, the forensics field unit—FIS—logged a few implements consistent with the BDSM lifestyle which were hidden in closets at both homes, and under the Connors' bed they found a leash and collar.” He looked up. “The Connors didn't have a dog.”

BDSM?

Bondage and domination?

She blinked. Ho-boy. “I see.”

“The task force has traced both couples through credit cards to a leather fetish club in West L.A. called Brimstone. It took a few days to track because the club masked the charges by using other company names. But the dates are all wrong for the murders, and LAPD—” he tipped his head at Detective Cody “—has hit a brick wall at the club. Everyone's clamming up. No one admits to seeing the victims or anything unusual, and we're getting nowhere fast.”

This time her jaw did hit the floor. She stared at the chief, dumbfounded. “Leather fetish club? You mean, like—”

He steepled his fingers over the desk. “Yeah. Whips and chains. That sort of thing. We want you and Mick to go in undercover. See what you can find out from the inside.”

He had to be kidding.

Her pulse kicked up. “Let me get this straight. You want me to go to this place with...Detective McGraw? Undercover?” She was totally knocked off balance for a second. “You mean, as in...dressed like that?”

“That's right,” Bobby said with a grin. “Just another couple from the 'burbs downtown for a night of fun, frolic and S&M bondage.”

“It shouldn't be too difficult for you, considering your talent for...costume,” McGraw commented dryly, eying her red mini-skirt and spangled top.

She spun to face him, quickly regaining her composure. Oh, she knew costume, all right. She hadn't spent the past year on the streets for nothing. It was what lurked behind those costumes she didn't know too much about, given her self-imposed restraint concerning relationships.

“And exactly what kind of costume did you have in mind, Detective?”

McGraw met her gaze levelly. “The leash and collar indicate they were into a Master-slave scene, which fits with the profile of the killer we've put together. Our guy will be looking for couples who practice that lifestyle.”

She should have reacted to the fact that he meant to use her as bait for a homicidal maniac. But her mind had snagged way back at the first sentence. “Master-slave?”

“Yeah.” He pushed off the wall. “And in case there's any doubt, I'm the Master and you're the slave. If I take you on, I want it crystal clear who's giving the orders.”

Of all the arrogant...

As if she had to be reminded. “I take it this wasn't your idea.”

“As a matter of fact, it was.” He took a step toward her. “But that doesn't mean I want some damned female rookie screwing up my investigation. Your job is to smile demurely and keep your ears open. You don't talk, you don't move, you don't even breathe without my say-so. Got it, Officer Palmer?”