Sari Montgomery opened her office door, moved inside, and shut it with a decisively quiet snap. Although she'd been a detective for eight years, few saw beyond the statuesque elegant woman with rich auburn hair and intelligent green eyes. Consequently, people tended to underestimate her abilities which worked in her favour, guaranteeing the breathing room required to gather pertinent evidence necessary in building a solid case to convict a perpetrator.
Walking toward her desk, her eyes were immediately drawn to the folder laying haphazardly across the corner; the sole reason she was here at the crack of dawn. It was a complicated ongoing investigation not because the accused, Jonathan Marks vehemently proclaimed his innocence, but because he was a close personal friend of Commissioner Henry Jakes. Jakes had dropped by her office "informally" confirming confidence in his friend's innocence while suggesting they solve the case speedily and without fanfare. He also assured her he'd be watching albeit distantly to avoid any suggestion of collusion or impropriety. No pressure! she thought.
Detective Sanchez originally caught the case but had recently moved to another department which meant divvying up his unfinished caseload. He'd dropped this particular hot potato on her desk, for which she'd snarkily thanked him. His response had been a grin and taunting salute. Smilingly admitting he was a great detective known for his thoroughness, she couldn't fault his initial assessment.
Still, something was off, just didn't add up, and after re-interviewing everyone involved she had some serious concerns. During Marks's interview, he'd presented a persuasive argument and facts that raised red flags too impossible to ignore.
He was right. Someone had deliberately led them directly to his office and straight to a little black book conveniently lying in the back corner of his desk drawer that once decoded, related times, dates, places, and people involved in the snuff industry. She had to ask why an intelligent businessman like Marks would carelessly leave incriminating documents in an unlocked drawer, accessible to anyone? Not only had he been out of the country during the commission of the crimes highlighted, but even more conveniently, when the anonymous tip had been received. Vice had actually laughed when she'd spoken with them refusing to give the tip a second thought since Marks didn't mix or even rub shoulders with the breed of lowlifes involved in these types of crimes.
After spending countless hours meticulously going over every statement, every aspect of the case, she'd found nothing to indicate Marks involvement even peripherally. In her mind, he had been exonerated which left dozens of thought-provoking questions unanswered. Questions like who hated and despised him so much they'd try to implicate him in this type of obscene crime? Not that murder and mayhem weren't nasty enough, but this was beyond the norm and took vicious to a whole new level. Who had the kind of access required to plant the incriminating evidence since she was pretty damn sure not just anyone walked unannounced into his offices? Tapping her pencil gently against tightly compressed lips she continued speculating - was someone from inside his inner circle - a former colleague, business rival, soured romance, or even a resentful relative responsible? It struck her as "vendetta run seriously amok". When she'd questioned Vice a second time, asking who could provide the kind of credible details they'd previously confirmed were true, they'd flat out stated someone with first-hand information and personal involvement had obtained the info, implying it was bought and paid for.
Gathering that kind of information was inherently risky. It wouldn't come cheaply suggesting deep pockets guaranteeing a nice wad of cash for the accomplice but leaving the perp open to blackmail...so yeah, serious hate to take this type of risk.
Meanwhile, unwilling to wait on the slow wheels of justice Marks began his own investigation. This was personal! He fully intended clearing his name, proving his unquestionable innocence by capturing the guilty party himself if need be. Witless dupes soaked up anything they read in print and he could care less. However, he cared passionately about close friends, family, and associates this had hurt. He wasn't the vindictive type, but his eyes, twin pools of fury, suggested someone was going to pay dearly!
His thoughts strayed to Sari Montgomery. She struck him as invested in both justice and truth and although she played it down, he figured she was shrewd and dedicated - attributes he admired and might need to rely on. After careful consideration, he'd placed all his cards on the table, hoping she'd connect the dots and realize he was innocent.
It all started in his office, so his search began there. Having acquired the best security money could buy, including camera surveillance throughout the building, someone had managed the impossible. That led to how, which led to when. A diligent search uncovered an unexplained power outage that shut down all surveillance both inside and outside the building giving him a pretty clear time frame. The disruption had provided enough time during which the book was surreptitiously planted. Unfortunately, he was none the wiser as to "who" which was frustrating and irksome.
Thoughtfully sitting back in his office chair, staring straight ahead, he mentally began compiling a possible list of people he considered capable. Hell, it could be any number of people. Marks was fair in all his business dealings, particularly going above and beyond during a takeover or when buying a struggling business. It was never easy for friends family and staff involved and he'd occasionally been forced to cut out the "chaff" the few individuals unwilling to cooperate with the necessary changes he'd often implement to improve that particular business.
His thoughts returned to Sari; the woman had managed to invade his thoughts regularly of late. She was intriguing captivating and interesting and he decided he'd thoroughly enjoy getting to know her personally. A genuine smile lit his face while admitting the heady attraction he felt down to his toes after it had slammed him up the side of the head first. He was certain he'd caught a glimpse of attraction in her eyes before she clamped down on her emotions. He was an expert at reading people, particularly their body language and that ability was part of the reason for his success. He looked beyond the poker face knowing the body always told its own story - the true story.
Giving himself a shake, he turned to his computer and pulled up a list of employees logged in during the time in question. Over 200 people worked in the office and that didn't include deliveries and visitors. It seemed he had a long night ahead of him if he were going to cull the numbers down. He was halfway through when the phone rang and he answered without thinking.
"Hello, Mr. Marks. Sari Montgomery here."
He sat up straighter in his chair, "Miss Montgomery, this is a pleasant surprise, what can I do for you?"
"It's more what I can do for you."
"You definitely have my undivided attention after that interestingly cryptic remark," he managed with an amused smile.
"Wasn't intended to be." She paused significantly. "I was hoping we could get together, soon. I have some information I'd like to run by you."
"Cryptic and intriguing. Where and when?"
"Now, if possible."
"I'm at the office, will that do?"
"Perfect, I'll be there in twenty."
"I'll meet you in the lobby."
"Fine. See you then."
Montgomery watched his approach, noting the long lanky determined walk and the relaxed flow of his body and couldn't miss the welcoming smile and twinkle in his vibrant blue eyes as he unlocked the door to invite her inside.
Following a silent walk to his office, he asked, " Care for a beverage?"
"Coffee if you have it."
"Certainly although I'm not sure how pleasant it will be."
On a laugh, she said, "Can't be worse than stationhouse coffee."
Once they were settled, she began, "It's highly unusual to collaborate with a suspect in a case, but after considerable deliberation, I'm positive you've been purposefully framed." At his nod, she continued, " Vice indicated someone with deep pockets was involved since somewhere in the neighbourhood of between twenty and a hundred thousand at least would be required to obtain the varified intel that was planted."
"I'd like to think I pay my employees fairly," he grinned before adding, "but that's a substantial amount of money I doubt any can afford to hand out."
Appreciating his humour, she added, "Logic suggests an inside source assisted in the implementation of the setup, but I suspect the leader has a hell of a hate-on for you. Can you think of anyone inside your inner circle that harbours that kind of animosity toward you?"
Together, they worked on the data she had gathered supplementing the information with what he had available. When they came up for air, they'd spent the better part of three hours nose to the grindstone and he was about to suggest they take a quick break when Montgomery said, "Wait, wait a minute." Her eagerness immediately captured his interest. "Look at this!"
Seconds before the footage turned to snow, they caught a glimpse of a woman's lower leg and a foot sporting an unmistakably expensive Jimmy Choo high heel. Marks straightened his back ramrod stiff, almost transfixed. "What the hell?" Montgomery waited for an explanation.
"I recognize the shoe. Damn it! I can't believe it!" Jumping up, he paced agitatedly before abruptly halting beside his desk, "That's my sister's shoe."
While noting his shock she suggested, "It's not inconceivable that a woman on your staff saved up to buy the shoes, others have."
Looking her in the eye he said, "Other than my sister, I haven't noticed any other women sporting Jimmy Choo shoes...and she has a fetish for them, one we've constantly teased her about." For a fraction of a second, deep hurt flashed across his face while his eyes mirrored concern and worry. "I can't imagine why she'd be involved in something like this though."
Montgomery invited him to accompany her to his sister's hoping his presence might garner an emotional response whether it be anguish, fear, or guilt - enough to encourage a confession. They got lucky. One look at her brother's face and she crumpled. "I'm sorry, Jonathan, truly, I'm so sorry!" He walked toward her and pulled her into his arms in a bear hug.
"It's ok, we'll figure it out," he assured her.
Then the story spilled out. She'd been having an affair. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous friend of the man she'd been amorous with, decided to cache in once he realized who she was and more importantly, who her brother was. Worse, yet, he'd threatened other members of their family and she was terrified he'd carry out those threats. She'd come clean with her husband and the affair had been over for months but the threats continued.
Montgomery walked away, placed a call, and after obtaining his location, had a fellow officer assist her in hauling him into headquarters.
He wasn't as hard-ass as he'd let on and capitulated almost immediately. Having run through his measly twenty grand inheritance, he'd procured a taste for the good life and realized he'd found his ticket through Maria Marks.
Over a dozen charges were filed against Mortimer Greggs; she watched with pleasure as he was led away in cuffs. Although Marks wasn't involved, she was sorry for the situation that created his discomfort and sighed.
Her cell phone rang and caller I.D. confirmed Jonathan Mark's number.
"Just wondered if you'd be interested in meeting me for dinner tomorrow night at Monty's."
Although she tried to keep her smile at bay, she didn't succeed and agreed, "I'd love to. Seven?"
"Sounds good to me. See you then." He smiled. Yep, life was very good.