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Dead Ringer (Cold Case Psychic Book 6) by Pandora Pine (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Ringer

Copyright © Pandora Pine 2018

All Rights Reserved

 

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental.

First Digital Edition: July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE


Massachusetts Correctional Institution- Cedar Junction
2000 Main Street
Walpole, MA 02070

17 October

Detective Ronan O’Mara
Cold Case Unit
Boston Police District C-6
101 Broadway
South Boston, MA 02128

 

Dear Detective O’Mara,

My name is Thomas Hutchins. My friends and family call me Tank. You might know me better as The Riverside Ripper. Around here, I’m just known as inmate 889345.

I’m sure you’ve heard this line a million times before but, I’m innocent. The problem is that I don’t have an alibi for the night Lorraine McAlpin was murdered. I was home alone watching the Sox get their asses kicked by the Yankees. My cell phone verifies that I was home, or at least near the cell tower closest to home. The only problem is that Lorraine McAlpin’s house is near that cell tower too.

“My” DNA was found at the scene of the crime. I use quotation marks over the word “my” because there’s a slight wrinkle in my story. My DNA isn’t just my own. I share it with my identical twin brother, Tim Hutchins.

I’m not throwing my brother under the bus here. I’m really not, but if I didn’t kill Lorraine McAlpin, then that only leaves one other option. I don’t want to believe Tim is capable of committing this crime. Worse, I don’t want to believe he’s capable of letting me take the fall for something he did.

According to the testimony at my trial, Tim was at home with his wife, Michelle, on the night of the murder. Would my sister-in-law lie for my brother? I can’t say for certain. They’ve got three small children under the age of six. Tim owns his own business and is the sole provider for his family. Life for his family would change greatly if he were sitting here wearing an orange jumpsuit instead of me.

I have a new lawyer. His name is Bradford Hicks. You may have heard of him. He successfully got Marco Bishop’s conviction in his triple murder case overturned. I’ve also hired a local private investigator named Jude Byrne.

I’m writing to you because I’ve heard of your success with your partner, Tennyson Grimm, in solving cold cases. It’s too late for your detective work to save Lorraine McAlpin, but it isn’t too late to save the next victim of her killer.

It also might not be too late to save me from twenty-five to life as a guest of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.

I’m enclosing Bradford’s phone number and email address. I would like to meet with you to discuss my case if you are available for a consultation. It would mean the world to me, Detective O’Mara, to be able to sit down with you and lay out the facts of this case. As I said, I’m innocent. I know you and Mr. Grimm can prove it.

Take care,
Thomas Hutchins
Inmate 889345

 

 

1
Ronan

 November…

“What the hell is all of this…Stuff?” Ronan shouted. He was trying to work on his vocabulary in an effort to become a kinder, gentler member of the Cold Case Unit. It was only half working.

There was an enormous pile of shit sitting on Detective Ronan O’Mara’s desk. “Stuff” was the best out-loud word he could think of to describe the stack of files, mail, newspapers, and other miscellaneous stuff that was piled on top of his workspace.

It was the second week in November and technically Ronan had been out of the office since August when he’d been shot by a suspect in a copycat murder case. He’d been a few days away from returning from his medical leave when his future father-in-law had passed away. After that, he and his fiancé, psychic, Tennyson Grimm, had been off to the great state of Kansas to bury the man along with the hatchet in an old family quarrel.

Ronan and Tennyson had ended up staying in Kansas for longer than either of them had expected and when they’d gotten back to Massachusetts, they were two weeks away from the wedding they hadn’t even started to plan. Not wanting to get married on the steps of Salem City Hall or at the Witch Museum, Ronan had taken two weeks of vacation time to help Tennyson plan the wedding of their dreams.

Thanks to help from their friends, they’d managed to pull off the perfect Day of the Dead wedding on November 1. The biggest surprise of the day had been the late-arriving Kaye Grimm. Ronan hadn’t been sure if his mother-in-law would choose to come to New England for the wedding.

Tennyson’s Baptist mother had spent the majority of her life believing homosexuality was a sin. He’d come out to his parents as gay and psychic in the fall of his senior year and Kaye and her husband, the dearly departed David, had kicked Tennyson out of their home on the day of his high school graduation. Tennyson hadn’t spoken to either of his parents until David’s spirit had paid Tennyson a late-night visit asking him to reconcile with his mother.

The newly married couple had taken a week off after their wedding for a quasi-honeymoon. They were going on a family cruise to Bermuda after Christmas, which would serve as their actual honeymoon. Ronan had figured the week after they got married would be filled entirely with sex and naked time, but instead it had been partially spent helping his boss and son move into their new house.

In truth, it was an offer Ronan couldn’t refuse. Captain Kevin Fitzgibbon had been his boss for a little over a year now. He and his adopted son, Greeley, had moved into their house with Tennyson while Ronan had been in the hospital recovering from being shot. The man who shot Ronan had a kill list and Ten, Kevin, and Greeley were all on it.  The captain had wanted them all under one roof to better protect them all.

Of course, having two extra people living with you when you were trying to get it on like Donkey Kong wasn’t the most convenient thing ever. What Ronan hadn’t known was that Kevin and Greeley had been waiting for a house to go on the market in their neighborhood. That very thing had happened when they were all in Kansas and Kevin had put an offer on the house, sight-unseen which had been accepted. The only problem was they couldn’t set up a date to pass papers until after the wedding.

They’d spent the first three nights after they’d been married in the Honeymoon Suite of the Hawthorne Hotel, courtesy of Jace Lincoln, Captain Fitzgibbon’s sort-of boyfriend. According to what Ronan knew, those two crazy kids hadn’t really been able to get a solid relationship off the ground.

“For the love of God, Ronan! This is a place of business, not Sesame Street. If you want to play Oscar the Grouch, do it at home!” Captain Fitzgibbon said from behind him.

“If I’m Oscar the Grouch, that must make you Big Bird!” Ronan turned around and looked up at his boss. Ronan was 6’3”, but Kevin towered over him at 6’6”.

“Funny! What the hell is all this shit?” Kevin peeked around Ronan’s desk looking at the odd grouping of things lumped together.

“I was just asking my esteemed colleagues the same question, but no one was answering me.” Ronan’s tone was a near-growl.

“Hmm,” The captain chuckled. “Guess you’re on your own then. I did bring you a coffee, but since there’s no place to set it down, I’ll just hand it to you. Carry on!” Fitzgibbon handed him the cup from the expensive place across the street.

Ronan was about to zing him with a parting shot when he noticed the name written on the cup. “Newlywed.” Fitzgibbon earned a reprieve from his razor-like wit over that one.

He turned back to his desk after taking a sip of the near-volcanic brew. Where the hell did he even start with this pile? Well, what would Tennyson do if he were here? Plopping back down in his chair, Ronan thought that question over.

“Organize it into same-sex piles!” Ronan nearly shouted hopping back to his feet. That’s exactly what Ten would do. He grabbed all of the brown accordion-style case files from under the pile and stacked them on his chair. Next, he wrangled all of the newspapers into order from oldest on top, to newest on the bottom. He also grabbed all of the mail addressed to him and made a pile of that.

The rest of the shit on his desk was just that, shit. There were sales flyers from Men’s Warehouse and old sandwich wrappers. There was even an ancient cup of coffee with his name written on it. Ronan shivered. That cup was from the day he’d been shot. Christ, couldn’t anyone have helped him out by throwing this away? Gathering up all the trash, he walked to the can and dumped it all in.

When Ronan got back to his desk, he organized the piles from tallest to smallest. The mail was the shortest stack sitting in front of him so he grabbed the letters and started flipping through them. What he was concentrating on were the return addresses. He sorted out all of the ones with addresses out of New England.

Notoriety from their reality show and news coverage by the Boston media had made him and Tennyson famous in crime circles across the country. Parents of missing children sent him letters all the time begging for his and Tennyson’s help. They were sure that Ten could find their kids like he’d found Michael Frye.

It killed Ronan to read all of the letters. What killed him more was showing them to Tennyson. Sometimes Ten got a lead on the letter-sender’s child just by touching them. If that was the case, Ronan took down all of the information and got in touch with local law enforcement and let them take it from there. If Ten didn’t get any additional information, Ronan wrote a personal letter to the family and let them know he’d be back in touch if anything changed.

Ronan was nearly finished flipping through the envelopes when one with a return address to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections caught his eye. This was definitely not a missing child letter. His curiosity piqued, Ronan opened the letter and started to read.

“The Riverside Ripper? Jesus Christ!” Ronan muttered, setting the letter down on his desk. He vaguely remembered the case from three years ago. A woman’s body had been found on the banks of the Mystic River in Charlestown in July.  She been beaten and stabbed. Her cause of death had been exsanguination.

One local news station, famous for their use of alliterative headlines, had dubbed the killer The Riverside Ripper, as if this had been an episode of Criminal Minds and not real life. Of course, the name caught on and soon every media outlet in Boston was using it, even though there had been only one murder with that MO.

There was one thing Tank Hutchins was right about, every con in prison proclaimed their innocence. That fact made him no different from the roughly eight hundred men housed at Cedar Junction. What did make him different was the letter sitting on his desk. Hutchins was the first inmate to write to him asking for his and Ten’s help in looking into his conviction.

What had really grabbed Ronan’s attention wasn’t the high-powered Boston defense attorney or the fact that this guy had a private dick working for him, but the fact that he had a twin brother. Twins were the oldest wrinkle in the detective genre. It can’t be me, officer, it was my twin brother… This, of course, spawned the whole idea of an evil twin versus a good twin.

Ronan was intrigued, no doubt about it. The problem was that he was a Cold Case Detective. There was no way in hell Fitzgibbon was going to let him run off on a field trip to Walpole to interview a man who’d been convicted of a crime. There was no cold case here. There was just a letter from a man desperate to get out prison any way possible and wanting to use Tennyson’s gift to do it.

Shaking his head, Ronan shifted his attention away from Tank Hutchins’ letter and went back to the rest of the unopened letters stacked on his desk.

 

 

2
Tennyson

Psychic Tennyson Grimm was looking at a masterpiece. The beef roast was done to a perfect 145°F. The tiny fingerling potatoes, which were Ronan’s favorites, were also perfectly roasted, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. The baby asparagus tips were steamed and artfully arranged on the plates. The only problem with the perfect dinner was that Tennyson’s perfect husband was MIA.

Ronan had sworn up and down that he’d be home by 6pm for dinner, but it was now 6:30pm and there was no sign of him. There had been no phone call, no text, no smoke signal, no message in a bottle, no passenger pigeon with a note tied to its leg.

Ten wasn’t worried about his husband. He had the television tuned to the local ABC affiliate and there was no breaking news about a member of the Boston Police Department being involved in anything newsworthy.

He was about to shoot off a text to Ronan when Dixie, their four-month-old Papillon mix puppy raced toward the front door barking her fool head off. That could only mean one thing: Ronan was home.

“Dixie, my little pixie! Daddy missed you, princess!” Ronan cooed.

Tennyson couldn’t begrudge Ronan a little time with the puppy. He’d been home most of the day with their little lady. After all the psychic readings Ten had to cancel after Ronan was shot, his calendar was very much open. He’d spent most of the day calling and emailing his client list letting them know he was home from his honeymoon and available to book readings. The rest of the day was spent doing mountains of laundry and making dinner.

“Ten?” Ronan called out.

“In the kitchen!” He lit the candles on the dining room table and waited for Ronan to be wowed by the presentation.

“You are not going to believe what happened in the office today. Some assholes-” Ronan stopped dead when he walked into the kitchen with Dixie in his arms and saw the candles and his husband. “Oh, man.” Ronan sucked in a deep breath before he set Dixie down on the kitchen floor. “I totally forgot about dinner. I just got so caught up in getting caught up.” Ronan shook his head. “You look…” He sucked in a rough breath.

Ten was dressed in a pair of tight fitting blue jeans that he’d had to work to shimmy himself into. He wasn’t sure how much of his perfect dinner he would be able to eat before he would be undoing the top button, but that was sort of the point anyway. Instead of a shirt, Ten was wearing a blue apron. “I look, what?” Ten stalked toward Ronan, his dark eyes never leaving Ronan’s blue ones. “Good enough to eat?”

Ronan nodded, looking too stunned to speak.

“Let’s eat before it gets cold.” Ten reached for Ronan’s hand and tugged his much larger husband toward the table.

“I can’t believe you did all of this,” Ronan managed to say as Ten pushed him into his usual seat at the table.

“It was your first day back at work. I wanted you to come home to a nice dinner. With our crazy schedules, there aren’t going to be a lot of nights when I’m going to be able to cook for you like this.” Before Ronan had been shot, they’d worked out a system where Ten would spend two weeks in the office with him working on cold cases and then the next two weeks working at West Side Magick, the Salem, Massachusetts psychic shop he co-owned with his best friends, brothers Carson and Cole Craig. Next week was when Ten was scheduled to go back to work with Ronan.

“It looks so good, Ten.” Ronan held up his water glass. “To you, babe. The man of my dreams. My husband!”

“Right back at you!” Ten clinked his glass against Ronan’s. “Dig in. Don’t be afraid to tell me if it sucks.”

Ronan shot him an are-you-nuts look and grabbed his knife and fork. He cut into the prime rib and slid a bite into his mouth. He moaned obscenely.

“Is that good or bad?” Ten narrowed his eyes at his newlywed husband. A moan like that in the bedroom Ten could decipher. Out of the bedroom, fully dressed, was another matter entirely.

“Oh my God! This is heaven!” Ronan didn’t even look up from the potato he was stabbing with his fork. “You remembered that I love these little finger taters too!” He didn’t waste any time shoving it into his mouth. He moaned again. This time more obscenely than the last.

Ten laughed. He had heard of food porn before but hadn’t believed the hype. He knew he needed to get eating if he was going to have enough fuel to get through what was to come tonight. It was all he could do to keep from moaning out loud when he took his first bite of the beef. He’d have to send Bobby Flay an email to thank him for the spot-on recipe. “How was work?”

Ronan frowned. He set his hand on Ten’s knee. “We’re having a romantic dinner. You don’t want to hear about that now.”

Ten raised his husband’s hand to his lips. He brushed a kiss over his knuckles before sucking Ronan’s index finger into his mouth and swirling his tongue around the tip. “Well, I’m sure as hell not gonna want to hear about it later, when I’m naked and my mouth is full of dessert…”

Ronan swallowed so hard his throat clicked. He shook his head as if he were trying to remember what they’d been talking about before Tennyson had let the dessert menu slip.

“I think you mentioned something about an asshole when you came into the kitchen.” Ten winked suggestively.

Ronan’s eyes bugged out. Obviously, Ten’s suggestion wasn’t helping Ronan’s memory. “Oh! Oh yeah, the assholes at work.” Ronan shook his head again. “When I came in this morning, my desk was piled so high with shit, I couldn’t see O’Dwyer’s desk if I was sitting in my chair.”

Ten snorted. “What kind of shit are we talking about? Real shit or metaphorical shit? I mean you were out of the office for a long time.”

“Funny, babe. There was a shit-ton of mail, newspapers that were deliberately left there as an act of protest, or laziness, and about ten case folders with a letter left on top of them.” Ronan leveled his gaze at Tennyson.

Ten stared right back. Without using his gift, he’d guess the files were the guys’ way of welcoming Ronan back to work. Opening his gift wide and giving his husband a quick scan, he could see there was more to it than that. He was intrigued. “What did the letter say?” Ten gave him a curious look to try to hide the fact he’d been reading Ronan.

“Don’t give me that look, Ten. I know you were using your brain powers to read me.” Ronan raised a quizzical eyebrow. “You’re lucky we’re stuck together forever and eternity.” He took a sip of water.

Ten noticed the way Ronan’s platinum wedding band caught the candlelight when he raised his glass to his lips. The band matched his own exactly, minus the diamonds. Ronan had said Ten sparkled enough for the both of them. It was true. Ronan shone like a diamond in other ways. He didn’t need to put it on public display. “Yes, I read you. You’re intrigued by what the letter from the rest of the Cold Case Team said. Obviously, I’m curious because you are. Spill it.”

Ronan laughed. He leaned over to kiss his husband. “You’re impossible. You know that? Forget it. That was rhetorical, but you knew that.” Ronan smiled brightly. “I brought the letter home to show you, but the long and the short of it is that the ten files sitting on my desk were cases that the other detectives worked as far as they could and now they want you to finish.”

Ten was silent as he thought that over. He knew what Ronan meant by saying the cases had been worked as far as the other detectives could take them. All of the old witnesses had been re-interviewed, the old evidence had been re-examined and if possible, re-tested. They’d been taken as far as police instinct and their five senses could take them.  What these cases needed now was Tennyson to use his sixth sense, speak to the victims, and get some answers. “How do you feel about us being the finishers, so to speak?”

“I’m fine with it since the other detectives are. You know how touchy cops are when it comes to other cops stepping on their toes in an active investigation, but in this case, we’re being asked to help. I say let’s do it.” Ronan sounded convinced.

“Hold on there a second, Columbo. I’m guessing this is in addition to your caseload, not as a replacement for what’s in your queue, right?” This would lead to overtime and a lot of late nights spent on cases, rather than naked and enjoying newlywed life.

Ronan nodded. “It would be a lot of extra work for us, but I think it’s worth it to help these families. I mean, my colleagues got their hopes up by reopening their case and now, unless we step in, the detectives are going to have to go back and tell them that their loved ones’ killers can’t be found.” Ronan grimaced. “I know not every cold case can theoretically be solved, but Ten, with you as our secret weapon, I feel like more of them can be.”

Ten hated to admit it, but Ronan was right. “Okay, I’m in, but we pace ourselves. We don’t do them all at once.”

A slow grin spread over Ronan’s face. His cerulean eyes sparkled in the candlelight. He set his silverware down against his plate with a clank and pushed back out of his seat. “Speaking of pacing ourselves, I’m full. How about you?” He held his hand out to his husband.

“Oh, hell yeah!” Ten’s pants were already starting to cut off the blood flow to his legs. Now was a good time to stop eating and start working off some of this meal. He placed his hand in Ronan’s.

Before Ten knew what was happening, he was being hauled over Ronan’s shoulder. “Oh, you beast!” Ten slapped playfully at Ronan’s shoulders.

Ronan growled. “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” He headed toward the stairs. “Come, Dixie.”

“Uhh, Ronan?” Why was Ronan inviting their dog to come upstairs with them?

“Don’t want her getting into our leftovers. Nothing ruins a night of hard fucking more than a trip to the doggie ER. We’ll move her bed into Fitzgibbon’s old room. She’ll be fine in there for a few hours.” Ronan slapped Tennyson’s ass as he started climbing the stairs.

Dixie barked sharply and raced up the stairs after them.

Ten’s little princess thought that Daddy Ronan was a threat to him. What the tiny dog had no way of knowing was Tennyson was turned on as fuck. His erection was digging into Ronan’s shoulder as he was being carried up the stairs by his newlywed caveman. Let the games begin.

 

 

3
Ronan

Ronan had to admit that telling Tennyson all about the stack of files on his desk at work was an effective way to keep his mind and the conversation off the letter from Tank Hutchins. To be honest, it was the only thing Ronan had been able to focus on for most of the day.

In fairness though, he had read every single accordion folder the other detectives had left for him, along with all of his mail, both physical and electronic. The last thing he’d done before he’d gone back and reread the letter from Hutchins was to check on his own work-in-progress cases. Predictably enough, with him on the shelf for the last two and a half months, there had been no movement on any of them.

Ronan didn’t want Ten to know anything about The Riverside Ripper’s letter. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do about it yet and he wasn’t in the mood to talk about it.

That wasn’t exactly true. Ronan knew what he was going to do about it and didn’t want Ten talking him out of it. 

“Here we go, little love.” Ronan set Dixie down in the spare bedroom that Fitzgibbon had occupied for the past few months. He could still smell his boss’s cologne if he took a deep enough breath. He put her pink princess dog bed down in the center of the room and started to back away. 

Dixie charged at him. Her black ears were perked up and she was whining for all she was worth. The look on her face was one of pure heartbreak. “Please don’t leave me, again, Daddy,” it said.

For some reason Ronan couldn’t quite figure out, the tiny puppy had chosen him as her person. She liked Ten but she loved Ronan. Fitzgibbon had been sure the dog was going to die from grief while Ronan had been in the hospital. It had been the nightly Skype calls between Ronan and Greeley that had saved a grief-stricken Dixie. 

Ronan had only been out of the hospital and back home with his one true love for about three weeks before he and Ten had gone to Kansas to bury David Grimm. What should have been a five-day trip, tops, had turned into a two-week odyssey, courtesy of Ten’s difficult mother and an even surlier tornado. Dixie was still gun-shy about Ronan leaving her alone for any length of time and they’d been home now for almost a month. 

“Daddy Ronan and Daddy Ten are gonna spend some quality naked time together, but I’ll be back to get you once we’re cleaned up and dressed. I promise.” Ronan crossed his heart and backed out of the room. He shut the door on Dixie’s cries. 

It hurt his heart to hear his baby cry like that, but it would hurt his dick more if it had to stay in this current state of hardness for a minute more without Ten’s plump lips wrapped around it. 

“Christ, Ronan! Are you coming?” Ten bellowed. “A man could die like this!”

Ronan poked his head around into their bedroom doorway and saw Ten in the center of their king-sized bed, naked as a jay bird, on all fours with his perfect heart-shaped ass perched high in the air. “Someone’s a little impatient.” Ronan slapped Ten’s right cheek. 

Ten howled. In pain or pleasure, Ronan couldn’t tell at the moment. He thought it was pleasure, but he’d need a second swat to turn his hypothesis into a true scientific theory. He slapped Ten’s left cheek a bit harder.

“Oh, fuck!” Ten moaned, burying his face into the comforter. 

Pleasure... Ronan grinned at the twin red handprints on Ten’s ass. “Sometimes I think you’re a mouthy boy on purpose.” Climbing up behind his husband on the bed, Ronan swiped his tongue over Ten’s eager hole. 

“Jesus, Ronan!” Ten was panting now. He pushed his ass back against Ronan, presumably hoping for a repeat performance.

“You’re awfully greedy for such a bad boy,” Ronan teased. He climbed off the bed. Shit, he was still fully dressed. He could feel his cock soaking his boxers. If he kept going at Tennyson like this, he was going to come in his underpants like a teenager.

“Teasing, bossy, asshole, bastard!” Ten bitched. 

“Ah, you forgot one!” Ronan waggled his eyebrows as he unbuttoned his dress shirt. 

“Ladies don’t say that word!” Frustration and need slashed through Tennyson’s voice. 

“Funny, I was thinking you forgot, ‘husband.’ What word were you thinking?” Ronan raised a questioning eyebrow as he painstakingly slid his boxers down past his aching cock. It had only been a little more than twelve hours since it had last seen action, but that was far too long where his husband was concerned.

“I, uh, ummm.” Ten was staring at Ronan’s drooling cock. “What were we talking about?”

Ronan grinned at his distracted husband. It was quite a thing to render your man speechless with your dick. “You want a piece of this?” He slid his hand slowly from root to tip.

Ten nodded. 

Ronan crooked a finger at him. He would have crooked his cock, but he wasn’t that talented. 

Ten sped off the bed in a blitz of color. He sat on his knees in front of Ronan, looking up at his husband, his dark eyes nearly black with need. 

“You’re gorgeous like this, babe.” Ronan ran a hand through Ten’s springy, dark curls. He’d never get enough of doing this. “Open up for me.” 

Ten obeyed, moaning when Ronan slid his cock into Ten’s willing mouth. 

Ronan hitched his hips forward, fucking himself deeper into Ten’s mouth, feeling his cock jerk when his husband gagged. He chuckled. Nothing stroked his ego more than his dick being too much to swallow. He pulled back and out. “You ready to get fucked?”

Ten nodded, wiping off the line of drool and pre-come that had landed on his chin. 

“On the bed or here on the floor?”

“Bed, remember the rug burn you got back at the Hawthorn Hotel?” Ten bit his bottom lip at the memory.

Ronan snorted. How could he forget his own wedding night? The rug burn had been epic, but it had been so worth it. He’d come so hard he’d blacked out and Ten spent the next morning feeding him breakfast in bed and sucking his cock.  He’d only ended up with tiny scabs on both knees.

Ten licked out at the head of Ronan’s cock, a look of longing in his dark eyes. He got back to his feet and walked to his night stand. Grabbing the lube from the top drawer, he snapped open the cap and went to work opening himself up.

“Jesus, Ten!” Ronan felt like he was rooted to the spot. His eyes were glued to Tennyson’s fingers and the way his body was responding to them.

“You gonna get your dick ready for me or are you gonna stand there with it in your hand?”

“Who’s bossy now, babe?” Ronan loved it when Ten was sassy in the bedroom. Not that he was going to tell his husband that. Oh, no, he had other plans for his mouthy man instead. He peeked into the nightstand drawer that Ten had left open and saw just what he was looking for, the red ball gag he’d gotten after their summer vacation at Sand Dollar Shoal. “You know what mouthy boys get?” Ronan asked, his voice low and menacing.

“Spanked?” Tennyson shivered as he spoke the word.

“We tried that. It didn’t work.” Ronan nudged his hard-as-steel cock against Ten’s loosened hole but made no move to breech his passage. “Open up,” Ronan commanded.

“Ronan, what?” Ten squeaked but obeyed.

“That’s better.” Ronan bent forward, the head of his cock slowly pushing past the first ring of muscle as he set the red ball between Tennyson’s teeth. It was hard to concentrate on securing the gag behind his husband’s head, but he managed somehow. “You good?”

Ten gave him a thumbs up, their pre-arranged sign when he was gagged and couldn’t speak.

Ronan pulled Ten up from all fours onto his knees, wrapping his left arm around his torso and holding onto Ten’s right shoulder. He used his right hand to grip Ten’s right hip. This left Ten’s hands free to signal Ronan or to take the gag off himself if the play got too real for him. “Ready, babe?”

Ten moaned and nodded his head.

That was good enough for Ronan. He pulled back and nearly out and slid back in slowly. Giving a bit of an evil laugh when Ten groaned. “Oh no, babe, this isn’t going to be slow and sweet. Bad boys like you don’t get that. Hold on, brat. We’re going for a ride,” Ronan growled low in his ear and set a punishing pace. The only sounds in the room were his own harsh breathing and the slap of his flesh against Tennyson’s.

Ten whimpered. His hand went to his cock. Ronan watched over his shoulder as he jacked himself off.

“That’s it, babe. Come for me. Paint your chest.”

Ten roared around the gag. Come ripped from his cock.

The first blast hit Ten in the face, triggering his own orgasm. Ronan held on tighter, digging his fingers into Tennyson’s hip. His cock continued to pulse deep inside Tennyson’s body long after Tennyson’s storm was over.

When Ronan could suck in a deep breath again, he released the gag.

Tennyson fell forward on the bed and started to laugh. “Holy shit,” he muttered into the mattress.

“You’re telling me.” Ronan backed off the bed and tried to catch his breath. “I keep telling you to be bad more often. I’m glad you finally listened to me.”

“I love you, Ronan,” Ten called after him as he headed toward the bathroom.

“Love you more, Nostradamus, but you already knew that.” Ronan winked at his husband. Round two would be sweet and gentle with Ronan taking his time to thank his man for the romantic dinner he’d taken the time to make for them.

 

 

4
Tennyson

Dixie walked into West Side Magick the next morning like she owned the place. Her ears were up as high as they could go, as was her head. She was queen of the store. 

“Morning Ten. Your highness!” Carson called out before he bowed to the tiny dog.

“Stop feeding her ego. Ever since Ronan started letting her sleep with us, she’s been acting like royalty.”

Carson bent down and unclipped her leash. “You are royalty. Aren’t you, sweetheart.” He scooped her up and cuddled her close. 

Ten watched while his dog loved on Carson. Dixie had stayed with Carson and his husband, Truman, when Ronan had been in the ICU after he’d been shot and also when they’d been in Kansas after David Grimm had passed away. Ten didn’t blame his dog for being especially close to his best friend. 

“You have a full day, my friend.” Carson grinned. He set Dixie down and swiped at the dog slobber on his face with the cuff of his grey shirt. “Totally booked thanks to the rerun of your Dateline episode on the Michael Frye case.”

“Seriously? I spent hours yesterday calling my client list to let them know I was back in town and it was the Dateline rerun that filled up my calendar for the day?” This happened every time some cable network aired that episode. Not that Tennyson was complaining.

“Not just for the day,” Cole Craig, Carson’s brother, chimed in. “For the rest of the week too. It filled up mine and Carson’s calendars with in person and phone readings as well.” Cole slapped a hand on Ten’s shoulder. “Can’t thank you enough, man. Laurel’s college fund is getting fatter by the day.”

“We wanted to talk to you about that, Ten, before our first appointments show up.” Carson wore a serious look on his face.

Ten looked back and forth between the brothers. He’d known there was something important they’d wanted to talk to him about for some time now. With Ronan being shot, then his father passing away unexpectedly, and then with his and Ronan’s wedding, there hadn’t been time.

To be honest, Tennyson hadn’t tried to read either of his partners. His best friends had repeatedly told him that he was the missing third Craig brother. Ten believed them. If it was bad news, he’d rather they just come out and tell him. “Okay, hit me with it.” He braced himself for the worst news possible: being kicked out of the Magick shop partnership.

Dixie growled. She ran to Ten’s side and stood in front of him. She barked sharply, staring Cole and Carson down. 

“Whoa, Cujo.” Cole grinned at Dixie. He turned back to Ten. “We’re not kicking you out of the partnership.”

Ten narrowed his eyes at Cole. He quickly scanned the other psychic and saw that he was telling the truth. Ten turned to Carson.

“On the contrary. We’re thinking of expanding,” Carson said.

“Expanding how?” The brothers had Ten’s attention now. 

“Well,” Carson said, his blue eyes twinkling, “For starters, I’d like to bring in another psychic or two. We were thinking maybe someone with a different talent than any of us have.”

“What, like Broughan Beals and his talent for energy healing?” Ten loved the energy healer. Broughan had been a big help when he’d lost the use of his gift a few months back.

“We thought about him, but we were also thinking about a talent who does astrological readings, birth charts, crystal work, past life regression, or something along those lines.”

Ten nodded. Those were all really good ideas. “What about house cleaners?” It was an idea he’d been kicking around in his own head for a long time now. Living in Salem, they would have plenty of clients who inquired about getting unfriendly spirits out of their house. Ten had a bit of experience with that kind of work, but not on the level of a professional ghost hunter.

Cole and Carson exchanged a silent look.

Dixie ran away from Carson’s side and happy-barked at thin air. She sat down, and her tail started thumping against the floor. 

“Damn, Ten. It’s like you read their minds,” Bertha Craig cackled. 

“Hi, Mom!” Carson and Craig chorused together. 

“Is that so, Bertha?” Ten grinned at his favorite mentor from the other side. “Seems like you’ve also managed to charm my dog.” He raised an eyebrow at the spirit. 

“Maybe this bit of fluff would love you more if you didn’t keep running off and leaving her.” Bertha bent down and ran her hand over Dixie’s back. The dog yipped and rolled over onto her back. 

“Can Dixie actually feel that?” Cole asked. 

“Sure looks like it.” Carson looked as stunned as his brother sounded. 

“Guys, the house cleaners?” Ten said, sounding more impatient than he meant to.

Carson turned away from his mother and Dixie and shook his head as if he were trying to remember the conversation. “We wanted to talk this over with you before we made any decisions about expanding the business.  We figured we’d talk to the vacuum cleaner repair shop guy next door and see if he’s interested in selling the space to us. From what we’ve been able to tell, he isn’t getting much business. People just go out and buy a new vacuum rather than fixing their old one nowadays.”

Ten had to agree there. “What would you put in that space if we could get it?”

“Private reading space for each of us.” Cole pointed back and forth between himself and Ten. “Since the reading room here was Mom’s I thought Carson should keep it.”

“No argument here!” Bertha called out from the floor where she was still playing with Dixie. 

“That goes double for me,” Ten agreed. 

“We’d also put a business office in there and any leftover space could be used for consultations for anyone else we brought onboard.” Carson shoved his hands into the front pocket of his jeans and seemed to be studying Tennyson.

Ten knew Carson was reading him or was trying to anyway. He was smart enough to have shut himself down when Carson and Cole had been laying the plan out. “I’m assuming buying the space next door would require some kind of a business loan that the three of us would need to sign together, right?”

Carson nodded. 

“I like this idea a lot, but I need to talk to Ronan about this now that we’re married.” Ten knew Ronan would support him in anything he wanted to do, but when it involved signing his name to a mortgage document and risking his credit, Ronan needed a vote in the matter. 

“Same goes for us. We haven’t mentioned this to Truman or Cassie yet. We wanted to hear what you thought first.” Carson grinned at Ten.

Tennyson was all for expanding and bringing in additional talent. It would be especially helpful when things got crazy with Ronan and one of his cold cases that pulled him away from his work at the shop. Things were quiet now, but Ten didn’t need his sixth sense to know they wouldn’t stay that way for long. 

 

 

5
Ronan

Ronan was back at his desk reading Tank Hutchins’ letter for what had to be the hundredth time in the last twenty-four hours.  He could recite it by heart. 

He wanted to jump in the Mustang and hightail it to Walpole, but before he could do that, he needed more information. Pulling up a fresh Google Chrome browser on his computer, he surfed to The Boston Globe’s website and did a search for The Riverside Ripper. Opening a second browser, he did the same thing on The Boston Herald’s website. 

With his cup of expensive coffee sitting next to his left hand, he began to read. 

It took nearly two hours for him to get through all of the articles from The Globe. What Ronan found most disturbing of all was that dead serial killer, Rod Jacobson had written an expose on Thomas “Tank” Hutchins that ran on the front page of The Sunday Globe back in August of 2015. He’d shivered reading that asshole’s byline on the article. As much as Ronan hated that motherfucker, his article had been the most informative and well-researched of everything he’d read. 

Born in 1986 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Thomas and his twin brother, Timothy, had grown up in nearby Methuen. They’d gone to Methuen High School where they’d been standout athletes, lettering in football, basketball, and track. Tank was a standout in the decathlon, while Tim had been a state champion pole vaulter and short distance runner. He still held a Methuen Rangers record in the 100 meters. 

The brothers had gone their own way after graduation. Tim had gone to a local technical college and had then apprenticed with Daly Brothers Construction out of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Tank had gone to UMass Lowell on a track scholarship and had majored in finance. He’d graduated near the top of his class and with honors. 

Life had gone on from there. Tim had married Michelle and had his three sons, while Tank had been married and divorced, with little drama. According to Jacobson’s interviews with the Hutchins family, Tank had doted on his nephews.

Where had it all gone so wrong?

Ronan finished off the rest of his high-test coffee while he read The Riverside Ripper articles in The Boston Herald. He didn’t learn anything in those articles that he hadn’t already read in the other paper. He hated to admit it, but the Jacobson article was the most informative one of them all. He wasn’t sure how he’d present that little nugget to Tennyson and Fitzgibbon when the time came. Carefully, he assumed.

His next step was to watch news footage from the beginning stages of the investigation through to the conviction and sentencing of Thomas Hutchins.

Ronan sighed. He picked up Tank’s letter. My friends and family call me Tank…  When had Ronan started thinking of himself as a friend?

None of this made any sense. He was a member of the BPD’s Cold Case Unit. The Riverside Ripper case was closed. Tom “Tank” Hutchins had been convicted and sentenced. He had appeals left to wend their way through the court system. He had a new lawyer and some hotshot private investigator. What did he need Ronan for?

For Tennyson. Obviously.

Tennyson was the ace in the hole. Ten would be able to read Tank and know if he’d committed the murder. It was possible that he could connect with Lorraine McAlpin and find out if Tank killed her or not. Although the problem with this case was Tim Hutchins. He and Tank were identical twins.

If Tank’s supposition that his twin was the killer was correct, how on earth would Lorraine know which brother had killed her?

Knowing that he’d lost his mind, Ronan grabbed the keys to the Mustang. Fitzgibbon’s office door was closed. His boss would never know where he’d gone if he left now. As casually as he possibly could, he made toward the bank of elevators.

***

Half an hour later, Ronan was pushing the Mustang past 85 M.P.H. down I-95 South toward Walpole, Massachusetts. Ronan had himself an appointment to meet with Tank Hutchins and his dream team at MCI-Cedar Junction.

He’d called the lawyer’s office from the parking garage and had been shocked when his legal assistant had put him right through to the big guy himself, no lines, no waiting. Bradford Hicks said he’d see what he could do about getting Jude Byrne to be there for the meeting too. Jude was a busy man, after all with cheating husbands to photograph and totally able-bodied people claiming to be disabled to catch in the act of moving pianos, and all that jazz. Ronan had absolutely no doubt the P.I. would be there today.

What was gnawing at Ronan was that he hadn’t told Tennyson about this little field trip. His husband had texted him earlier in the morning to let him know that his day was so overbooked with readings that he might not be home in time for dinner. The same went for Carson and Cole. Ronan would bet the house that their episode of Dateline had aired on some cable station last night. That always made appointments at West Side Magick book at lightspeed.

It was the perfect day to make the thirty-mile trip down to the prison to see Hutchins and his dream team. Ten would never know he’d left the confines of the precinct house in South Boston. With a little luck, neither would Fitzgibbon. He would have an easier time explaining this to Ten than he would to Kevin at this stage of the game, although he had a bit of wiggle room now that his boss was also one of his best friends. He hoped. Either way, it was always easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

Ronan saw the chain link fence and razor wire long before he saw the white-washed brick structure of the prison. Four guard towers were stationed around the property and he could see the officers manning them were well-armed. He shivered in the bright fall sunshine. It was the first time in his life that Ronan O’Mara had been to a maximum-security prison. 

After he parked the car, Ronan spent a few minutes getting himself together. He had spent the near hour-long drive figuring out just what it was he was hoping to get out of this meeting. As he climbed out of the Mustang, he still didn’t have a clear answer. The best he could do at this point was agree to sit and listen to what Tank and his people had to say. He’d use his gut instinct to figure out if he was being told the truth or being sold a line of bull.

After he signed the visitor’s log and turned his gun over to the corrections officer in charge, Ronan was led out of the main office and down a sterile looking hall. Ronan didn’t know what he was expecting, but this pleasant hallway wasn’t it.

His only experience with prison was what he saw on television or in the movies. Let’s face it, The Shawshank Redemption and Orange is the New Black didn’t really paint a realistic picture of what life was like in a modern-day men’s correctional facility.

“This is it, Detective O’Mara.” The guard stopped outside a normal-looking door. There were no obvious locks on it. There were no bars and no alarm.

“Where’s the security?” Ronan asked softly.

“This is a family visitor’s room. Inmates with the best behavior records and those with their attorney present are allowed to have visits in these rooms, rather than in the cubicles with inches of plexiglass and the connecting telephones. Mr. Hutchins is one of our best inmates. When your visit is over just come back to the main desk. I’ll sign you out and return your firearm.” The officer opened the door for Ronan by twisting the knob. No key was necessary.

Ronan had never seen anything like this on Law and Order, that was for sure. The visitor’s room had a large rectangular table in the center of it. Off to the side was a lumpy looking sofa and next to that was a bin with some toys.

Ronan wasn’t focused on the toys or the furniture though, he was looking at the trio of men sitting at the table. To his left was a man in what he’d guess was a five-hundred-dollar suit. That must be Bradford Hicks. The lawyer was clean shaven with close-set dark eyes and a receding hairline. The man in the center wore an orange jumpsuit. A dead giveaway for Tank Hutchins. The man sitting to his right, by default, must be the P.I.

“Bradford Hicks. You must be Detective O’Mara.” He held out his hand.

Ronan shook it, instantly noticing what a weak grip the man had. He hoped for Tank’s sake he was a better lawyer than his hand shake indicated. “I am. It’s good to meet you.”

“I’m Tom Hutchins.” Tank stood up and held out his hand.

He shook the offered hand. Ronan noticed he wasn’t handcuffed or shackled at all. He remembered the corrections officer saying that Hutchins was one of the best-behaved inmates at Walpole, but he still wished he had his gun clipped to his hip.

“Jude Byrne,” The last man said in a deep voice, making no move to stand or shake Ronan’s hand. His eyes were an odd hazel color. When he turned his head a certain way, they blazed golden. His hair was so dark it was ebony. He was, in a word, stunning.

Nodding curtly at the rude bastard, Ronan sat down at the opposite end of the table. He took a minute to study Tank. The man no longer lived up to his nickname. He was still tall, Ronan would guess he stood around 6’2” but gone was the bulk that had made him a state champion shot putter and discus thrower. His skin seemed to hang on his now lankier frame and his skin was sallow, having that dusky institutionalized pallor. This was not a man that saw much sunshine. “I got your letter, Mr. Hutchins.”

Tom nodded. “Thank you for coming to see me. I wasn’t sure you would.”

“Why did you come, Ronan? And where is your psychic? Or do you prefer to call him your husband?” Jude Byrne asked. His leonine eyes betrayed no hint of emotion. He leaned forward in his seat as if he were suddenly more interested in the Boston detective.

Ronan grinned at the private investigator. In his nearly thirteen years on the police force he’d learned that most guys who ended up doing P.I. work were the ones who’d washed out of the police academy, usually because they’d failed the psych exam. He’d bet a month’s pay that Byrne fell into that category. “As I’m sure you can imagine, Mr. Hutchins,” Ronan turned his attention back to the convicted killer, “my husband and I get a lot of letters asking for help in matters that require his particular skill set. To be perfectly honest with you, yours was the first letter that I’ve gotten from a convicted felon.”

“I told you I’m innocent,” Tank said simply. There was no heat behind his words.

“If I polled the other eight hundred cons in this building they’d all tell me the same thing, right?” Ronan kept his tone level.

Hutchins nodded. “I suppose they would.”

“I read your letter and then I read every newspaper article about your case that I could get my hands on. It’s obvious that you know who Tennyson is and what his gift has done to aid in other investigations I’ve been a part of.”

Tom nodded. “I believe in his gift enough to know that he’d see right through me if I was lying. If I were a guilty man, Detective O’Mara, I wouldn’t be wasting your time.”

Ronan raised an eyebrow at the con. “Here’s what I find interesting, Mr. Hutchins. You and your twin share the same DNA. There will always be room for reasonable doubt if you win an appeal and are granted a new trial. There was no fingerprint evidence found with the victim’s body, which really could have saved your bacon.”

The P.I. snorted. “And how exactly would that have saved his bacon, detective?”

Did the private dick even realize he snorted like a pig? It took all of his willpower for Ronan not to roll his eyes. “While identical twins share DNA, they don’t have the same fingerprints.”

Jude didn’t respond verbally, but Ronan saw his jaw visibly tighten. Touché, asshole! Ronan was glad he’d done a little research on twins while he’d been stuck in traffic on I-95.

“You’re saying one fingerprint could have set me free?” Tank shook his head. “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all here.”

“You do realize that even if Tennyson and I agree to work on this case there might not be anything we can do to help you.” This had been the one sticking point Ronan couldn’t seem to overcome. He was going to need to discuss this case with Ten and with Fitzgibbon at some point in time and this was the one reason both men were going to latch onto as why they should leave this one alone.

“Story of my life, Detective O’Mara.” Tank crossed his arms over his thin chest.

“Typical psychic bullshit.” Byrne clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “You have to couch your bets in case the spirits aren’t speaking that day.” He made air quotes over “the spirits.”

Ronan burst out laughing. He couldn’t help himself. This guy was such an asshole. Byrne also reminded him of himself on the day he and Tennyson met.

“My client is looking at twenty-five years to life for a crime he didn’t commit, detective. What could possibly be funny at a time like this?” Bradford Hicks asked.

“You’re obviously at the end of your evidence here, Mr. Hicks. That, or one of you really believes in psychics. I’m guessing it’s you, since Tank probably isn’t getting a lot of opportunities to watch Long Island Medium here at Cedar Junction. As I said earlier, your letter is the first one we’ve gotten from a convicted felon. Usually, we’re getting requests for help from bereaved family members of the victim in cases like this. I wanted to come here today to hear not only what you all had to say, but to look Mr. Hutchins in the eye and see if his story held up to my years of gut instinct.

“This isn’t a cold case. It’s been fully prosecuted and you’ve been convicted. It’s going to take a hell of a lot to convince Tennyson to come here and for my captain to agree to give us time to look into it. One member of your team thinks what we do is total bullshit and I get that. I was in his exact position a year ago. To answer your question, Mr. Hicks, there is nothing funny about this situation. Courts don’t like to overturn murder convictions, especially ones with iron-clad DNA. It takes a mountain of new evidence or a grievous mistake in the first trial for an appellate judge to even consider making that move. As I said, there might not be anything Tennyson and I can do to help.”

“What do you mean? All Tennyson needs to do is talk to Lorraine McAlpin. She will be able to tell you I didn’t kill her.” Tank looked confused.

“How, Mr. Hutchins? I told you that I read every newspaper article I could find on this case. I also watched news footage. I’ve seen so many pictures of you and Tim together and I’ll be damned if I could tell you who was who.  If Lorraine saw her killer, she saw your face.”

Tank’s eyes narrowed on Ronan. His eyebrows knit together. Dawning slowly lit in his eyes as if he hadn’t thought of that possibility before.

Ronan watched as all of the fight seemed to pass right out of Tank Hutchins. For some reason that made him want to pick up the baton and fight for him. The question was how to get Tennyson and Fitzgibbon to agree to help him.

 

 

6
Tennyson

Tennyson was worn to the bone. He’d done five in-person readings and seven more phone readings. He hadn’t gotten home until after 7pm. Thankfully, Truman had been able to stop by and pick up Dixie at the shop, otherwise his little lady would have had to go without her dinner until he’d been able to get away.

It wasn’t until Ten had gotten home and settled with Dixie that he realized Ronan wasn’t home either. He checked his phone for messages and saw there weren’t any. It wasn’t like Ronan not text him or leave a voicemail at some point during the day. So far as Ten knew, Ronan was going to spend the day in the office going through his caseload trying to figure out which cold case would be the next one the two of them would investigate together.

He dug into his back pocket for his phone when he heard Dixie bark and Ronan’s key turning in the lock. Seconds later, the house alarm started its set of warning beeps letting them know they had fifteen seconds to key the code before the real alarm started to wail.

“Ten? Can you get the alarm? My arms are full!” Ronan called from the hall.

Ten sure as hell hoped his husband’s arms were full with dinner. He was starving, and it was nearly 7:30pm. He raced from the kitchen through the living room, past his husband, who he noticed was not carrying take-out bags. Ten punched in the alarm code and locked the door.

After what had happened in the last few months with Ronan being shot on their front steps, it wasn’t like him to be too preoccupied to lock the door and arm the alarm. Whatever it was his husband was carrying had his full and undivided attention.

When Ten walked into the kitchen, Ronan was unpacking several large accordion folders. There were stacks of papers all over their dining room table. From where he was standing, one pile looked like newspaper articles. The next looked like police and evidence reports, and the last stack looked like a trial transcript. Why on earth would Ronan have one of those? Had he been asked to look into an appeal of some sort? “Ronan, what-?”

“Oh, good, you’re home,” Ronan said distractedly. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.” He went back to sorting through his ton of papers without even looking up at Tennyson.

Ten got his first good look at his husband and didn’t like what he saw at all. Ronan’s usually tame dirty-blond hair was sticking up all over the place as if he’d been carding his hands through it all day. His white dress shirt was half tucked into his pants and his tie was loosened crookedly. Ronan was a mess. Combine that with his near manic shuffling of papers and Tennyson was worried. He set his hands on Ronan’s shoulders and gently pulled him back from the table. “Ronan?”

“Ten, what? Can’t you see I’m busy here?” Ronan’s eyes flashed annoyance at his husband.

“You just said you had a lot to talk to me about. Why don’t you start with explaining what all of this is and why it has you in a near manic state. You’re a disaster. When was the last time you ate something?” Ten grimaced. There was probably a better way he could have said that, but there were also worse ways. His husband looked like he was homeless or like he’d lost his shirt gambling at the track. 

Ronan looked confused like he had no idea when his last meal was. “That’s not important right now. This is.”

Ten sighed. “Okay, what is this?”

“It’s The Riverside Ripper case.” Ronan fisted his hands on his hips.

“It’s the what?” Ten vaguely remembered that moniker, but for the life of him couldn’t remember what the case was about. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. When the word “Ripper” was attached to a murder, it usually meant the scene had been especially gory.

“The Riverside Ripper.” Ronan rolled his eyes as if Tennyson should have remembered the case off the top of his head. “Lorraine McAlpin was stabbed to death and her body was left on the banks of the Mystic River in Charlestown three years ago.”

Ten nodded. That name rang a bell now that he had a bit more context. “Wasn’t someone arrested and convicted of that crime?” It was all coming back to him now. A pretty brunette swam into focus in his mind’s eye.

Ronan nodded. “His name is Tom Hutchins.”

Ten frowned. “I’m confused then. How is this a cold case if someone has been arrested and convicted? Did Lorraine’s family reach out to you at the precinct?” Ten would be more than happy to reunite Lorraine’s family with the murdered woman.

“No, Lorraine’s family didn’t reach out to us. Tom Hutchins did. He sent me a letter. I drove down to see him at MCI-Cedar Junction today.”

Tennyson’s blood ran cold. Ronan spent the day in a prison filled with killers and rapists and hadn’t told him he was going? “You did what?” He took a deep breath hoping that would calm his racing heart down enough to hear Ronan’s answer.

“I went to see Tank Hutchins at the prison.” Ronan made it sound like going to a prison to see a killer was something he did every day.

Tank?” Ten shook his head, feeling lost. “I thought you said his name was Tom?”

Ronan rolled his eyes. “His friends and family call him Tank.”

“Oh, so you’re a friend now? You’re friends with a convicted murderer?” Tennyson felt like he’d walked into an episode of The Twilight Zone. What the hell was going on with his husband? For the last thirteen years Ronan’s mission in life had been to put criminal behind bars, now all of a sudden, Ronan was trying to get a killer out?

“It’s not a big deal, Ten. Tank wasn’t even in handcuffs.” Ronan shrugged.

“Not in handcuffs? He’s a convicted murderer!” Tennyson’s voice was shrill. He could feel his own panic rising. What the hell was going on with his husband? It wasn’t so long ago that he was lying in a hospital bed with three bullets in his chest. Was this a result of that? He hadn’t died so now he felt he was bulletproof? Unstoppable? Ten couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“He needs our help, Ten.” Ronan sat down at the table and looked up at his husband.

“And what, you want to give it to him? You want to use my gift to help this cold-blooded killer?” Tennyson’s head was spinning.

“Yes,” Ronan said simply. “He’s innocent. I don’t have your sixth sense, but I have thirteen years of my own gut instinct to follow and it’s telling me this man didn’t kill anyone.”

“If he’s innocent, who killed Lorraine McAlpin?” Jesus Christ, Ronan wanted him to use his gift to help a killer? What the hell was next? Ronan asking for this week’s Powerball numbers? Tennyson was beside himself.

“His twin brother, Tim, killed Lorraine. It’s the only other explanation.” Ronan pawed through the paperwork until he found what he was looking for and held it up.

“What?” This sounded like one of those Law and Order ripped-from-the-headlines episodes. Tennyson shook his head. He had no idea what Ronan was holding up for him to see. He assumed it was a DNA report or a birth certificate for the twin. It could be a report saying that fucking aliens had landed at Fenway Park for all the fucks he had to give at this moment in time.

“He has a twin brother named Tim. There was DNA found on Lorraine’s body. The killer cut himself during the attack. If it wasn’t Tank who killed her, it had to be Tim.” Ronan stood up. “Look, I brought everything home to show you.” He spread his arms wide. “Newspaper articles. Police reports. Evidence reports. I even called a buddy at the court and had a copy of the trial transcript sent over. We can call out for Thai and dig into this all tonight.”

Ten shook his head. “No!” The absolute last thing he wanted to do after the long day he’d had was to dig into evidence reports and a murder trial transcript. He wanted dinner, a bath, and possibly a quickie hand job before he fell asleep with his head on his husband’s shoulder.

“What do you mean, ‘no?’” Ronan growled, looking dumbfounded. “We need to help this man.”

“I don’t need to help anyone.” Tennyson shook his head.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ronan’s eyes narrowed at his husband.

“What’s wrong with me?” Tennyson shouted. “I’m not the one who spent the day in a prison without telling you. Did Fitzgibbon sign off on this little field trip?”

A guilty look flashed across Ronan’s face.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Ronan! You walked into a prison filled with the worst among us and no one fucking knew where you were? Are you crazy?” Ten was starting to feel like he was the one losing his mind. None of this made any sense. Why had his usually level-headed husband suddenly lost his marbles?

“Why are you so upset about this? I was perfectly safe.”

“Upset? Upset!” Ten’s head felt like it was going to explode. “Did you think for one second about all of the people you’re responsible for sending to Walpole? Not the least of which is your scumbag, child raping, murdering, ex-fucking-husband! Did it ever cross your mind that this was some kind of a set-up? That Josh arranged this to get you into the prison. Or that someone was lying in wait to shiv your stupid fucking ass, Ronan?” Ten knew he was screeching like a fish wife, but he didn’t care.

Ronan stared at him with his mouth hanging open. No sound came out.

“We’ve been married for nine days and you’re trying to widow me already.” Ten could feel tears streaking down his face. The shocked look on Ronan’s face told him that his husband hadn’t thought of any of the scenarios that Ten had just laid out for him. “If you had just told me about the damn letter or brought it home, I could have gotten a read on it. Found out if it was genuine or if you were in any danger. But no, you kept it from me intentionally. Why, Ronan?” Ten demanded.

Anger replaced the guilt in Ronan’s blue eyes. “I’m a grown man, Tennyson. I don’t need your permission to do anything.”

“Why did you keep this from me?” Ten asked, this time his voice was more conversational and less demanding. He hoped that would encourage his pig-headed husband to talk to him.

Ronan’s upper lip curled into a snarl. “Because I knew you’d say no. Okay? I wanted to hear what this guy had to say, so I went to see him.”

“Since when do we help the bad guys?” Ten heard the judgmental tone in his voice and instantly regretted it, but it was too late to take it back now.

“When they’re innocent,” Ronan gritted out.

“How do you know he’s innocent? Are you psychic all of a sudden?” Ten winced. He definitely shouldn’t have said that. 

“How do you know he isn’t innocent? You’re so damn stubborn, you won’t even read any of this stuff.” Ronan threw his arms wide to indicate all of the papers he’d brought home with him.

I’m stubborn?” Ten had reached the end of his patience. “You went into a maximum-security prison without telling anyone where you were, to see a convicted murderer who claims to be innocent like every other con who ever lived, and I’m stubborn?”

“You’re being unreasonable. Look at me.” Ronan thumped his chest. “I’m fine.”

“Jesus Christ, Ronan. This isn’t a fucking movie. You’re not Dirty Harry. In case you’ve forgotten you’ve got four bullet holes in you. We keep talking about our future daughter. If you keep up this kind of behavior, there isn’t going to be a daughter, or if there is, I’m going to end up raising her by myself. The only thing she’ll have of you beside your stubborn Irish DNA, is the folded flag draping your coffin that some officer in the BPD handed me at your funeral.” Ten got up from the table and walked toward the kitchen door.

“Where are you going?” Ronan demanded.

Ten turned around with a sour look on his face. “You don’t tell me where you were all day, but I owe you an explanation of where I’m going now?” Ten shut his mouth before the words, “How fucking dare you?” could slip from his lips. He turned from his husband and kept walking.

“If you walk out that door don’t expect me to be here when you come home,” Ronan spat at Tennyson’s retreating back.

Knowing he’d say something he could never take back if he opened his mouth now, Tennyson grabbed his keys from the table in the hall and walked out the front door.

They’d just had their first fight as a married couple and Tennyson Grimm-O’Mara felt like shit.

 

 

7
Ronan

The sound of the front door slamming echoed loudly in the empty house. Part of Ronan wanted to take off running after his husband, while the other part was glad the harpy was gone. At least now he could listen to himself think.

Even Dixie looked thunderstruck. She stared up at Ronan and then looked toward the empty living room where Tennyson had gone and back at Ronan again. She didn’t whimper, didn’t bark, she just seemed lost.

“Well, shit.” Ronan sat back down at the table. He really hadn’t expected Tennyson to walk out. He supposed daring him to do it by saying he wouldn’t be there if Ten left really was the last nail in his coffin.

What did he do now? Did he pack a bag and head over to Fitzgibbon’s house? Or, did he stand his ground and sleep here?  “What do I do, Dixie, my little pixie?”

Dixie, seeming to finally realize Ten was gone, let out a sharp bark and ran to the door. A second later, she let out a howl.

It sounded grief-stricken to Ronan. Not that he blamed her in the slightest. He wanted to howl for Tennyson too.

Step one was to pack up all of the Hutchins material. That was the last thing Tennyson needed to see when he got home. If he came home. Would he spend the night with Carson and Truman? Ronan had no idea. This was the first fight they’d had since they’d moved in together. Their first fight as a married couple.

In the past when they’d have a disagreement, they both had their own apartments to go back to and cool off. Now, they shared the same space. The rules had changed but neither of them had bothered to figure out what the new rules were. Why would they? They were newlyweds and so blissfully happy that the thought of this happening was never on their radar.

Ronan grabbed the printed newspaper articles and shoved them back into the first partition of an empty accordion folder. He hated to admit it, but Tennyson had made several good points while he’d been screaming like an Irish banshee. It had never once crossed his mind that Tank Hutchins’ letter could have been a set-up of any kind from one of the killers he’d sent to MCI Walpole or from his ex-husband, Josh Gatlin.

It had been more important to him to get out of the office without Fitzgibbon seeing him than it was for him to have given a thought to his own personal safety. Ronan rubbed a hand against the three puckered bullet scars on the right side of his chest. Three months ago, he was lying in a coma, not knowing if he was going to live or die. Tennyson had every right to worry about his impulsiveness today, but wasn’t an innocent man rotting away in a prison cell just as important as his safety?

Tennyson would obviously argue no.

Sighing, Ronan cleaned up the rest of the papers on the table and scribbled his husband a quick note.

He sprinted up the stairs and grabbed his rolling carry-on bag out of the closet in Fitzgibbon’s old room and brought it back into their bedroom. He packed for the night and for work the next day. With a heavy heart, he zipped up the bag and rolled it out of the room without a backward glance. He knew it would hurt too much to look back at the bed he and Ten had shared every night since they’d moved into the house.

When he got back down to the bottom of the stairs, Dixie was still sitting in front of the door, waiting for Tennyson. He sat down on the bottom step. “Hey, little girl.”

The puppy didn’t budge. She didn’t even turn around. It was like she hadn’t heard him at all.

If his life wasn’t lying in ruins at his feet, he would have laughed. Okay, well, this sucked. He picked up the puppy, who went limp in his hands, reminding him of the internet cat videos he’d seen of felines who went boneless after their owners dressed them up in costumes.

He shifted Dixie into his right arm, cradling her against his chest, and walked into the kitchen to pick up the Hutchins files. He walked back through the living room and to the front door. Picking up his keys and grabbing the handle to his suitcase, he armed the alarm and walked out the door.

It crossed his mind to walk three doors down to Truman and Carson’s house to speak to his husband, but he didn’t want to involve their friends any more than they already were involved. Instead, he walked across the street to Fitzgibbon’s house and rang the doorbell.

“Hey, Uncle Ronan!” Greeley Fitzgibbon shouted. He reached out to hug Ronan until he noticed Ronan’s arms were full and there was a suitcase sitting on the stairs. “Uh, Dad! I think Uncle Ronan’s moving in with us!”

“Funny, kid!” Kevin Fitzgibbon laughed. He came down the hall toward the front door wiping his hands on a red dish towel. He got one look at Ronan and the jovial look on his face sobered instantly. “Don’t you have that application to Salem State to finish up?”

Greeley shot his father a confused look, but he nodded anyway. “I’ll be upstairs if you need me.”

“Come on in.” Fitzgibbon grabbed Ronan’s suitcase and shut the door behind him.

“Thanks. I was starting to wonder if you both were going to leave me out on the stoop all night.”

“I assume there’s a story that goes with the suitcase?” Fitzgibbon asked. “Hello, sweetheart.” He plucked Dixie out of the crook of Ronan’s arm.

“Yeah and it’s a doozy.” Ronan shook his head, still not quite able to wrap his head around it fully.

“Follow me into the kitchen. I was making dinner for me and the kid. It’s no trouble to add another plate to the table.”

Ronan trailed behind his boss. He hadn’t been to Kevin’s house since they’d finished moving in all the boxes and furniture last week. Kevin and Greeley had wanted to set things up on their own. At least that was the line they’d sold Ronan and Tennyson. He’d had a feeling Kevin wanted them to get back to honeymooning. He and Ten hadn’t been in the mood to argue. They’d been in the mood for something else entirely that was clothing-optional.

“So, does the suitcase have to do with where you mysteriously disappeared to this afternoon?” Fitzgibbon raised a knowing eyebrow at Ronan.

“Shit, Cap. You should become a detective. Anyone ever tell you that?” Ronan sighed.

“Funny. Now talk. Don’t make me suspend you on principle alone.”

Ronan shivered at the tone in his voice. It was part disappointed father and part frustrated boss. He dug through one of the accordion folders until he found the cursed letter from Tank Hutchins. “Read this first and then I’ll explain. It was waiting for me on my desk when I came back to work after my honeymoon.”

Kevin silently took the paper and read it. His green eyes popped up over the top of it after a few minutes, but he didn’t say a word. Ronan assumed his boss was reading the contents for a second time.

Fitzgibbon sighed heavily and set the letter down on the kitchen table. “I’m not a psychic, but I’m going to play one in my kitchen. You went to see Hutchins along with his goon of a P.I. and his fancy lawyer. Not only didn’t you tell me where you were going, but you didn’t tell Tennyson either. Last and by no means least, there are approximately twenty-five cons in that maximum-security prison that you are responsible for putting there, including your ex-husband. Tennyson was upset because he didn’t know where you were and because you didn’t seem to have any concern for your own safety. Am I close?” Kevin crossed his arms over his broad chest. His smile didn’t reach his eyes.

“More or less,” Ronan mumbled. “He might have mentioned something about the letter having been a trap to shiv my stupid ass.”

Fitzgibbon snorted before he burst out laughing. “I’m taking it that was a direct quote from your newlywed and now estranged husband?”

Frowning at the word “estranged,” Ronan nodded. “Nothing happened to me, so why is he so upset?”

Kevin stared at Ronan like the man had three heads. “Did you really just ask me that ridiculous question or am I having a stroke?”

Ronan wasn’t going to answer that question.

“Three months ago you were lying in a bloody heap at the bottom of your front stairs, Ronan. I think Ten deserves a little slack for being upset over this. Hell, I deserve a friggen medal for not going off on you myself and suspending your stupid ass for running this errand on the department’s time. Not only as your friend but also as your commanding officer, I knew you were working on something and not out betting on the horses, but Jesus, can you imagine the fucking shit storm there would have been if anything had happened to you down there? I would have been standing in front of my superiors with my dick in my hand unable to explain to the brass why you’d gone to Walpole.”

Greeley walked into the kitchen and instantly turned back around. “My dad is talking about his dick being in his hand. Guess this is the wrong time to ask about dinner.” Greeley grimaced and turned to walk back out of the kitchen. “Wash your hands before you touch the food!”

Ronan snorted. It was the first time he’d laughed all day. It didn’t help the fact that he and Tennyson were fighting, but his chest didn’t feel quite so tight anymore.

“That kid.” Fitzgibbon shook his head. “I swear he’s got some kind of sixth sense.” He went to the cabinet to the right of the sink and grabbed an extra plate which he set down in front of Ronan. Silverware followed and then a glass and can of ginger ale.

It was odd to see Kevin making dinner in his own house. Ronan had seen him pitch in while he and Greeley had been staying at their house, but this was different. He liked this side of his boss. “You like being the country mouse, don’t you?”

“You’re changing the subject.” Fitzgibbon grabbed the oven mitts but kept his shrewd eyes on Ronan.

“Guilty as charged, Cap. There will be time after we eat to talk about The Riverside Ripper and what I’ve gotten myself into. I remember a time not so long ago when you swore you’d never be a country mouse, but here you are.”

Kevin pulled a steaming casserole dish out of the oven. “Being a father changed me. There was nothing I loved more than living in the city, but once I realized that it was a constant reminder to Greeley of his past, I knew we had to go. Even if you hadn’t managed to get your stupid ass shot, again.” Fitzgibbon raised a sardonic eyebrow at Ronan. “I still would have wanted to move in with you two crazy kids until we found a house here that we loved. Greeley loves Salem and I’ve loved watching him blossom here.”

Ronan nodded. The kid had been through a lot in his seventeen short years. He’d been taken away from his birth mother, kicked out of his foster parents’ house when he’d come out to them, nearly killed twice by a serial killer and once more by his proxy. Greeley was tough as nails but living here in Salem had brought out his softer side. Fitzgibbon was right, the teenager really was blossoming into a remarkable young man. “I’m glad it’s all working out for you both.”

Fitzgibbon pulled the tinfoil back on what looked like lasagna. “It’s all going to work out for you too, Ronan. After dinner, I’m going to sit and go through all of the shit in those files. Then, you’re going to tell me about your interview with the convict, the lawyer, and the P.I. After that, we’ll figure out how to save your marriage and maybe make some brownies. How’s that sound?”

“You know how to make brownies?” Ronan found a smile.

“Nope, but if you can read, you can cook. At least that’s what Greeley tells me.” Kevin slapped a hand down on Ronan’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He walked out of the kitchen and Ronan heard him call Greeley down to dinner.

He’d made an absolute fuck up of this entire day but felt better knowing that Kevin was going to help him set things to rights. He could only hope Tennyson would be ready to hear his apology when Ronan finally figured out the right words to say to the man he loved with all of his heart.

 

 

8
Tennyson

Tennyson was never so happy to hear the sound of crying babies in all of his life. It was 6:36am and he’d been lying awake in the guest bedroom at Truman and Carson’s house staring at the ceiling for the last two hours.

Fitzgibbon had texted him last night to let him know Ronan was spending the night in his spare bedroom. He could have just gone home after he’d had dinner with Carson and Truman, but he didn’t want to sleep in his and Ronan’s king-sized bed all by himself.

He was the one who’d walked out on his stubborn husband, but that didn’t mean his heart wasn’t broken over their fight. When he heard the sound of Carson’s voice cooing to the babies, Ten got out of bed and trudged down the hall to help.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Bertha Craig cackled. “You’re looking like you didn’t get any sleep at all, Tenny.”

“Good morning to you too, Bertha.” Ten grimaced at the spirit of his best friend’s mother.  He scooped a pissy looking Brian out of his crib and carried the smelly infant to an empty changing table.

Bertha had been the original founder of West Side Magick back in the 1980s. Neither one of her sons had shown any psychic ability when she’d been alive. On her deathbed nearly three years ago, she’d asked Carson and Cole to keep the store open as her legacy. It wasn’t until about a year after her death that Carson had his first vision. Cole started developing his own psychic powers after that. The brothers had brought Ten in to help them hone their skills and their partnership had grown into a friendship from there.

“Ten and Ronan had their first married fight last night, Mom,” Carson said gently, wiping a mess from baby Bertha’s bottom. The baby held out her chubby hands to her Mimi.

“I’m dead, Carson, not blind. I’ve seen that look before. I might have even worn it a time or two in the years I spent married to your father. That dirty son-of-a-…”

“Mom!” Carson barked.

“For the love of God, Carson. They’re haddock. They don’t understand a word I’m saying.” Bertha folded her arms over her chest.

Carson scooped up his mother’s namesake and cuddled the baby against his chest. “They are not haddock!”

“Who’s haddock? I like haddock. We should have that for supper.” Truman was all smiles as he breezed into the babies’ bedroom. “Stephanie, did these mean men leave you all alone with a poopie diaper?” He pulled the baby out of her crib and dry heaved. “Oh my God, child! What did you eat?”

Carson started to laugh. “Mom is here. She says she recognizes the look on Ten’s face because Corny put it on her face enough during their marriage.”

“Well, that explains everything.” The look on Truman’s face said that Carson’s words clearly did not explain anything.

“What happened, Tenny?” Bertha asked.

The last thing Tennyson wanted to do was explain the fight again, especially in the cold light of day. “Ronan got a letter from a convicted murderer asking him to come visit him in prison. He says he’s innocent and that I can prove it. Ronan went to see him yesterday and didn’t tell me or Fitzgibbon he was going.” Ten sighed.

Bertha frowned. “Surely you’re not this upset because Handsome went somewhere without telling you.”

Ten shook his head. “This killer is housed in the same prison as Josh Gatlin and about twenty other men who Ronan helped put away. I freaked out thinking the letter might have been a trap to get Ronan down there where one of those men could have attacked him.”

“Okay, that makes more sense. I’m guessing you lost your mind a bit and Ronan doesn’t understand why this is such a big deal.”

“Yeah. I see those bullet scars every day, Bertha. I was the one sitting by his side listening to that damn machine beep out his heartbeat day after day. We came so close to losing him. There are still days when I can feel that paralyzing fear again like a memory, you know? Ronan doesn’t know what that’s like. I pray he never does.” Ten hugged the baby closer to his chest.

“It’s like when your kid makes a break toward the street. You run like hell to save him and snatch him up just before he gets hit by a car. He’s safe, but every time you see that part of the road again, you can’t help but remember that day. That car. How close you came to losing the most precious thing in your life.” Bertha raised an eyebrow at Carson, whose mouth dropped open soundlessly.

Ten nodded. That was how he felt in a nutshell. “It’s stone cold fear in my heart, Bertha, but it came out as anger.”

“How are you feeling now that you’ve had a chance to sleep on your feelings?”

“I miss the stupid jerk.” Ten grinned.

Truman snorted and started to laugh. “What the hell question was that the answer to?” He picked up Stephanie and peppered the baby’s head with noisy kisses.

“Bertha asked how I was feeling after I slept on the fight.”

Truman frowned. “You cried on my couch for an hour. You picked at my world-famous chicken piccata and barely ate five bites. Not even baby love brought a smile to your face and all you can say after all that is you miss the stupid jerk?” He rolled his eyes. “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Truman turned to leave the room. “I’ll be downstairs making breakfast. You’d better eat it. That’s all I’m saying!”

“Someone’s grumpy when they don’t get any!” Bertha laughed.

“You don’t know the half of it!” Carson agreed.

“Ew, you talk to your mother about sex?” Tennyson couldn’t believe his ears. He looked down at Brian who was looking up at him, his big blue eyes were focused on Ten’s face.

“What do you talk to your mother about?” Carson grinned.

“Jesus. What else? She’s a Bible-toting midwestern Baptist who still thinks Ronan and are both bound for hell when we die. She’s eased back on saying those things out loud since she knows our little miss is on the horizon, but there are times when I know she’s mentally measuring Ronan and I up for asbestos suits.”

Carson burst out laughing. “I didn’t want to say anything, but I got that vibe from her at your wedding too. I was just glad she and your dad came. Did you tell her that David and her future granddaughter were both there?”

Ten nodded. “Sort of. She knows David is always with her. I didn’t tell her that you-know-who was also there too.”

“You can say her name Ten. We all know she has one.” Carson rolled his eyes.

“No, I can’t. Ronan thinks if we say it out loud we’ll jinx things.”

“What?” Carson half-shouted.

“Ten told Handsome what I told you about the future when you were little, Carson.” Bertha smiled fondly at her son and pressed a kiss to baby Bertha’s head.

“Oh, about the future being fluid and changeable?” Carson smiled wistfully at his mother.

Bertha nodded.

“This baby isn’t one of those changeable things. I’ve seen…” Carson stopped talking as if he didn’t want to spill the beans.

“I know what you’ve seen, Carson. I’ve seen it too.” Ten laughed. “I’ve tried not too, but my little girl is very persistent. She wants me to see this particular thing, so I’ve seen it. Several times now. I wake up crying happy tears. I think Ronan’s seen it too, but he’s never mentioned it to me.”

“He might think it’s just a dream or he might not remember when he wakes up.” Bertha hugged Tennyson and kissed her grandson. “Go eat my son-in-law’s fabulous breakfast and then go make up with your husband, Tenny. It’s not good to let these things go on for too long. Apologize for being overprotective and emotional. Make sure he apologizes right back for scaring the shit out of you. Then fuck like bunnies!”

“Jesus Christ, Mom!” Carson groaned.

“Eeeeeeee!” Baby Bertha giggled, reaching her chubby arms out for her Mimi.

“I love you too, precious!” Bertha kissed her namesake. “You’re gonna have to watch out for this one and Ten’s little one. They’re going to be formidable when they join forces.”

“Oh good. The psychic world’s version of The Wonder Twins.” Carson pinched the bridge of his nose as if he felt a headache coming on.

“Take my advice, Tennyson! I’ll kiss your daughter for you. Toodles!” Bertha was gone.

“You have to admit Mom had some good advice.” Carson wore a look on his face as if he couldn’t believe his mother had marital advice that was worth a damn.

Ten snorted. “The thing about the bunnies?”

Carson nodded.

Ten slapped a hand on his best friend’s shoulder. “Let’s go eat. I’m gonna need my strength.”

 

 

9
Ronan

Fitzgibbon was sitting at the dining room table drinking a cup of coffee when Ronan came downstairs. “Morning, Cap.”

“You look like shit.” Fitzgibbon grinned.

“Feel like it too.”

“Will it make you feel better or worse to know that your husband looks equally as bad as you?”

“You saw Tennyson? When?”

“About ten minutes ago. He was walking back from Carson and Truman’s house.”

“Shit! I told him if he left I wouldn’t be there when he came home.”

“Look, Ronan. I know we spent all of last night reading and talking about the Hutchins case, but do you really need me to tell you what you did wrong here?”

Ronan sighed and looked down at his bare feet. “I should have told you and Ten about the letter. I should have let Ten get a psychic read on the letter. I should have told him where I was going and I should have gotten your okay before I left the precinct instead of sneaking out like a booty call in the middle of the night.”

“Agreed, but Ronan?”

The exhausted detective looked up wordlessly at his boss.

“When you tell these things to Tennyson, look him in the eye and throw in the phrase, ‘I’m sorry.’ You’ll be surprised how far that will take you. Maybe promise never to go to bed angry again.”

Ronan chuckled. “Last night sucked. Not that I don’t appreciate your hospitality, but I missed falling asleep with Ten’s head on my shoulder.”

“Stop wasting time telling me that. Go tell him.”

“What are we going to do about the Hutchins case?” Ronan knew he was skating on thin ice just by asking the question.

Fitzgibbon drummed his fingertips on the table. “I’ll leave that ball in your husband’s court. Technically, there is no case. Tank Hutchins is just a convicted murderer who sent one of my detectives a letter. What that detective and his psychic husband decide to do with that letter in their spare time is their business.”

“What if we find something?” Ronan had expected that kind of answer from his boss. There really was no case. It was fine and dandy for Tank to have a new lawyer and a P.I., but until there was new evidence for an appeal, the case was dead in the water.

If you find something, you bring it straight to me. Do not bring it to the shark lawyer. Do not bring it to the sleazy P.I. Am I understood?”

Ronan nodded. “I can’t imagine this is going to go much further than this discussion, Cap. You didn’t see how upset Tennyson was last night.”

“The sunrise has a way of shedding new light on a problem, Ronan. Listen to him. Don’t talk over him. Hear me?”

“Yes, sir.” Ronan found his first smile of the day.

“Round the conversation out with that stack of dead files on your desk. Now, those are people the two of you can for sure help out. I’m assigning those cases to you since the other detectives have worked them as far as their five senses can take them.”

“I had a feeling you were going to say that.” The cases were tailor made for them. All Ten had to do was use his gift. All of the usual cold case legwork had already been done.

“I’ll set up a meeting to talk about this with the two of you on Monday when Tennyson is back in the office with us.” Kevin stood up. “Text me later to let me know how this goes.” He yanked Ronan into his arms and gave him a rough hug.

“What the hell was that for?” His boss had never hugged him. Not even after he’d gotten shot.

“For luck. I don’t want to play host to you for a second night.” Kevin laughed.

***

Ronan stood at the foot of his front steps. His house looked the same as it had yesterday and the day before. He sighed and climbed the brick stairs. He used his key to unlock the door. Dixie started barking and the alarm started chirping simultaneously. “Ten?”

“In the kitchen,” Tennyson’s tired voice answered.

Leaving his suitcase and the Hutchins’ files in the hallway, Ronan kept Dixie under his arm and headed into the kitchen. Ten was sitting at the dining room table with a cup of tea in front of him. Ronan could smell the earthiness of Ten’s preferred brand of green tea. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Ten stood up from the table. “I don’t need to be a psychic to see that you didn’t get much sleep.”

Ronan shook his head. “The spare bed at Fitzgibbon’s is too hard. You don’t look like you got a lot of sleep either.” He set Dixie back down on the floor.

“Truman snores, remember?”

“Yeah, how could I forget the night Truman spent in the hospital with me after he’d been attacked?” Ronan had nicknamed him Little Deuce Coupe because he’d sounded like a revving car engine.
“Beats me how Carson gets any sleep at all.” He’d had enough of this beating around the bush bullshit. He walked to Tennyson and pulled his husband into his arms.

“I missed you,” Ten whispered into his ear. “Even if you are stubborn.”

“Yeah, well we’re equally matched then, because you’re stubborn too, but I understand now where you were coming from.” Ronan pulled back, taking Ten’s face in his hands. “I love you. I’m sorry I was an inconsiderate asshole.”

“That’s not a half bad apology.” Ten shot his husband a shy smile. “I’m sorry too, for flying off the handle like I did even though you were safe. I just remember what it was like seeing you in that hospital bed, not knowing if you were going to survive. I’m not in any hurry to be back in a situation like that again.”

“I know, babe. To be honest. It never crossed my mind that the letter from Tom Hutchins could be anything but genuine.”

“It never crossed my mind that the letter could be anything but a ruse.” Ten shrugged. “This case is like a role reversal. Usually I’m the Pollyanna of the group, thinking everything is rainbows and unicorns. You’re usually the skeptical son-of-a-bitch.” Ten rested his head against Ronan’s heart as if he needed to hear it beating for himself.

Ronan wrapped his arms around his husband and held him close. He’d missed this last night. “You’re right. I can’t argue with a single thing you just said. The only excuse I have is that I read Tom’s letter. It was genuine. We talk all the time about your gift versus my years of gut instinct. I went with my gut.”

Ten pulled back from Ronan. “Did you explain all of this to Kevin?” He sat down at the table and took a sip from his tea.

“Yeah. I told him all about our fight and then after we had dinner, we sat down and went through the whole case file.”

Ten held up his hand. “I don’t want to hear any of it.”

Ronan’s brows knitted together. “Wait, I thought we were making progress here.”

“We are. If I’m going to come into this Hutchins thing, I don’t want to be influenced by what you or Fitzgibbon think.”

“Are you saying you want to read the letter and the file?”

Ten nodded. “I don’t have any readings scheduled until this afternoon, so I was planning on grabbing a couple hours sleep in my own bed. Maybe we could call out for pizza tonight and I could read the file after dinner?”

Ronan liked the sound of that. He only wished he could go back to bed too. “Yeah, that works. I’m gonna run up and grab a shower before I have to head in to the office for the day.”

“Are you really going to work or off on another wild convict chase?” Ten grinned up at his husband.

“I’m going to work. I swear.” Ronan held up his pinkie finger. “Cap has some new files he’s assigning to us. He’s going to meet with us about them on Monday when you’re back in the office.”

Tennyson perched on his tiptoes to press a kiss to Ronan’s lips.  “Can’t wait.”

Neither could Ronan.

 

 

10
Tennyson

Tennyson was pleasantly surprised to see Ronan was home when he got back from the Magick Shop a little after 5pm. Not only was Ronan home, but the house was spotless and so was Dixie.

“Shit, Fitzgibbon didn’t fire your ass, did he?” Ten asked as he scooped his fresh smelling baby into his arms. Dixie responded by bathing his face in her love.

“No, of course not. I hightailed it out of the city around 3pm after I spent the day working on the new cases the captain assigned to us. I also spent some time putting together bullet points for each one of them so you’d be able to catch up quickly and we could hit the ground running.”

“Sounds good.” Ten wrapped his arms around Ronan. “Why are you really home early?”

Ronan laughed. “Because my ass is dragging. I slept for like ninety minutes last night and O’Dwyer taped me snoring at my desk. He told me if I didn’t get my ass home, he’d put the video on Facebook. So, I packed up and came home. I’ve got my laptop so I can work from the sofa while you read the Hutchins stuff later.”

“You mean you’ll turn the computer on, open documents and fall asleep in front of an episode of Ozark?”

“Or Fuller House.” Ronan shrugged. “How many eighteen-hour shifts have we put in when we’ve been on a case? Plenty! It’s not a big deal for me to miss a few hours here or there because I was a big, fat jerk.” He pulled his phone out of his back pocket. “Hawaiian pizza from Greek Life?”

Ten shook his head. Pineapple wasn’t floating his boat tonight. “Why don’t we get the Mediterranean pie with the feta and plum tomatoes?”

“Sold!” Ronan punched the contact on his phone and placed their order. In addition to the pizza, he also ordered a Greek salad.

Tennyson loved ordering out from Greek Life. It was a small, family-owned place over by the Salem State campus. They did a lot of business over at the college and it was because they had the best pizza in town.

“While we’re waiting for the food, why don’t you show me the letter from Tom Hutchins.”

Ronan shot Ten a questioning glance then ran out of the kitchen. When he came back a minute later, he was carrying the two accordion files he had last night. He set them down on the kitchen counter and pulled out a single sheet of paper, which he handed to Tennyson.

Shutting his eyes, Ten set his right hand down on the piece of paper. He could feel desperation and sadness emanating from it. He wasn’t surprised. If he were facing life in prison, he’d feel those emotions in spades.

What was of bigger importance to him was what he didn’t feel when he touched the letter. There was no malice. No anger. No obvious signs of deceit. If Ronan had given him this letter the night before he’d taken his little field trip to Cedar Junction, he would have felt better about his husband making the visit.

“Well?” Ronan sounded impatient.

“I don’t feel any deceit or ill will in this letter.” Ten opened his eyes. “He’s not trying to snow you or trick you into coming down to meet him.”

“So, if I’d shown you the letter, you would have been okay with me going down to see Tank and his dream team?”

Ten raised an eyebrow. “I would have felt better if you were wearing a Kevlar suit and had Fitzgibbon and the nastiest Belgian Malinois on the police force with you, but yes, I would have been okay with you going down there to see him.”

Ronan let out a sigh of relief.

“You realize how many pitfalls there are with this case, right?” Ten shook his head. “Twins are never an easy thing to deal with. They have the same DNA, but not the same fingerprints. Not to mention the family dynamics.”

“I mentioned the twin issues to Tank. He’d already considered the DNA issue. It was a bit harder explaining what Lorraine saw, or more specifically what she would tell you she saw the night she was killed. If Lorraine McAlpin saw her killer, she’s going to say it was Tank, even if it was Tim. I’ve seen a ton of pictures of the brothers together and they’re impossible to tell apart.”

“That’s what the defense attorney is going to count on. I’m surprised he got convicted at all. Usually the explanation about twin DNA is enough reasonable doubt for any jury to acquit.” What was that old saying about putting your fate in the hands of twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty?

“Well, I won’t spoil anything for you then. You can decide how you want to look at everything I brought home.” Ronan was about to open his mouth again when the doorbell rang. He dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “What do you mean ‘family dynamics?’”

“If Tank didn’t kill Lorraine then that means Tim did. Tank’s own brother sat by and watched his twin get arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to twenty-five to life. Talk about tearing a family apart. How do you ever forgive your brother for doing that to you?” This was one of those moments Tennyson was thrilled to pieces he was an only child.

 

 

11
Ronan

Ronan had to admit the pizza choice was excellent. What wasn’t so excellent was the wait for Ten to read through all of the Hutchins documents.

Fitzgibbon had sped through everything last night. Ronan supposed that after nearly thirty years on the force you knew how to read evidence reports and trial transcripts quickly and in a way that you were able to cherry pick the relevant data. Knowing Tennyson, he was reading every damned word.

He was sitting on the living room couch, with Dixie curled up next to him, watching an old episode of Law and Order, of all things. Whatever network he’d landed on was showing a marathon of episodes. In the time he’d been watching, Detective Stabler had beaten up three suspects, chased another one down an alley, and had taken his shirt off twice. Ronan was beginning to see why Ten liked this show so much.

“Okay, I’m finished,” Ten said from the kitchen doorway. “I’m exhausted. Can we go to bed now?”

Ronan laughed and patted the space next to him on the couch. “You read it all?”

Ten nodded. He curled up next to Ronan and reached out to scratch Dixie behind her ears. The dog scrambled into his lap. “I could have never been a lawyer. What a boring-ass job.”

“Did you get anything from the trial transcript with your gift?”

“You mean aside from the fact that the judge is having an affair with the stenographer? No. Nothing that will help us figure out who killed Lorraine McAlpin.”

“Do you think it’s worth a trip to Walpole for you to meet Tank?”

Tennyson didn’t move. He barely breathed. “I’ve never been to a prison before.”

“Neither had I before yesterday.” Ronan didn’t want to keep harping on the fact that he’d been to the prison yesterday.

“Is it like Oz? With men getting raped and stabbed all over the place?” Ten shivered.

“I saw very little of the place. Just the main office, a hallway, and the visitor’s room where I met with Tank, his lawyer and the P.I.” Ronan hugged Ten closer. “Since when do you watch Oz?”

“When I was single and home alone on Friday nights. Detective Stabler was in it before he was on Law and Order.”

Well, that explained it…

“Speaking of Stabler, it looks like you’ve become quite the fan.” Ten pointed at the television.

“No way. That was Dixie. It was her turn with the remote. This is what she picked. Right Dix?”

Dixie’s head popped up from Tennyson’s lap. Her mouth dropped open and she yawned at Ronan. An obvious affirmative answer.

Ten raised an eyebrow. “Oh sure. Law and Order has a huge canine fanbase. What does Fitzgibbon say about this case?”

Ronan shook his head over Ten switching gears so quickly. “He said technically it isn’t even a case. Tank has been convicted and sentenced. He says the ball is in your court. If you want to look into it, he says we have his permission so long as it doesn’t interfere with our regular work. Anything we find though, he wants us to bring to him, not to the lawyer.”

“I get that you want to help but tell me you understand just how difficult this case is.”

“I do,” Ronan affirmed.

“If Lorraine McAlpin didn’t know either of the brothers, she won’t know which one of them killed her. The DNA evidence doesn’t differentiate between them. All we’ll really have to go on is my reading of them which is inadmissible in court. It sure as hell isn’t enough to get the original verdict overturned.”

“What if someone other than the Hutchins brothers killed her?” Ronan asked. “If that were the case Lorraine would be able to tell you neither of the brothers killed her.”

“Then how do we explain the DNA?” Tennyson asked.

“Cross contamination,” Ronan answered quickly. “You hear about that kind of lab mix up all the time in the news.”

“Christ, don’t tell that to Lyric Vaughn. She’d have a conniption fit if she thought her lab made that kind of mistake. After the lab passed the state exam with flying colors, rumor has it she’s in line for a big promotion.”

“There are other ways DNA gets to crime scenes, Ten. Maybe Tank or Tim knew this woman. Maybe one of them was having an affair with her on the down low. I know there was no evidence of either of them in her house, but maybe they met at hotels?”

Tennyson sighed. “Or maybe the evidence is right. Maybe the Boston Police Department and the Suffolk County DA’s office got it right. Maybe Tank Hutchins killed Lorraine McAlpin.”

Ronan had to admit Tennyson had a very valid point. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”

Ten rested his head back on Ronan’s shoulder. “Call his lawyer in the morning, Ronan. I’ll agree to meet with Tank and read him. Just promise me we’ll both be safe.”

More than anything Ronan wanted to make that promise, but he knew it was one he might possibly have to break. Things went wrong in maximum-security prisons all the time. Riots broke out. Prisons went into lockdown. Weapons were smuggled in or fashioned out of bed frames or toothbrushes. The only thing they could do to stay safe was to stay alert. Ronan hugged Tennyson tighter and kept his mouth shut. 

 

 

12
Tennyson

If Tennyson had to pick his least favorite month in New England it would have to be November. Even though he’d gotten married on November 1st, the rest of the month sucked with it’s cold, harsh rains. He would almost rather have December’s snow instead of November’s raw, bitter days.

He and Ronan were driving down I-95 South toward MCI-Cedar Junction in Walpole. He was staring out the window at the trees. Gone were the vibrant red and yellow foliage colors of October. What was left now on the trees that still had their leaves, was a rusty brown color. If he were being whimsical, he’d call it russet. All of New England was drab now and would be until the first snows of December changed the landscape from fall into winter.

“Penny for your thoughts, Nostradamus.” Ronan set a hand on Tennyson’s thigh.

“Just thinking about how crappy the weather is in November. What about you? You’ve been awfully quiet on this ride.”

“I was thinking about what you said the other night about our little miss.” Guilt tinged Ronan’s words.

“Ronan, I didn’t mean to scare or upset you about her.” The last thing Ten wanted was for Ronan to walk around acting like a China doll because he was afraid that Ten would end up raising their daughter as a single father. 

Ronan shook his head. A smile blossomed across his face. “I mean I agree with you that I need to think a bit more carefully about my actions and how they will affect the future of our family, not to mention my career. I got damn lucky that Fitzgibbon didn’t suspend my ass.”

“Yeah, you did.” Ten couldn’t disagree with him there. Investigating something that wasn’t a cold case on the clock was definitely cause for a suspension. “So, if you’re not thinking about how you need to change your behavior to be a better future-father, what were you thinking about.”

“That!” Ronan crowed. “That right there. You used the word future. You always use the word future. Future-daughter. Future-father. I’m sick of hearing that word, Ten.”

Ten shifted toward his husband. “What are you saying, Ronan.” He had a feeling he knew what Ronan was driving toward, but he didn’t want to read him. He wanted to hear Ronan say the words.

“Why can’t the future be now? I want the future to be now.” Ronan took his eyes off the road for a second to look at his husband.

Wow... Ten hadn’t been expecting Ronan to say it like that. He could see how serious Ronan was. “You want to have a baby now? We’ve only been married for eleven days.”

“I couldn’t sleep when I was spending the night in purgatory at Kevin’s house, so I did some research. From the time a couple with no fertility issues starts looking into in-vitro fertilization via surrogacy until the day their baby is born takes on average about eighteen months. That’s the average. So, it could be two years from now until we’re holding our little miss in our arms. I want her in our lives now.”

“I had no idea you wanted to start a family this soon.” Tennyson had been gung-ho about the idea from the moment he’d realized Ronan was the man he was going to marry. He figured that after Ronan’s rocky first marriage, he wanted things to go a bit slower. He guessed he should have asked the question instead of assuming.

“So many different things have gone into me making this decision.” Ronan flipped on his blinker and changed lanes.

“Like what?” Ten couldn’t wait to hear Ronan’s thought process.

“You know how much I love spending time with Truman’s babies. Even when all three of them are blowing chunks out of both ends at the same time, I love being with them. The first time they recognized who I was and reached for me, did something to my heart. I’ve also seen how much closer those little people have brought Truman and Carson.”

Ten couldn’t argue with any of the points Ronan had made. He’d seen all of those things for himself, not to mention the changes those babies had made in Ronan. “What else?”

“Fitzgibbon and Greeley. I know Kevin didn’t raise Greeley but seeing their father-son relationship from an adult level rather than from a child level is fascinating. I can’t wait until we can sit down and have conversations with our daughter.” Ronan shook his head as if the thought of that was too overwhelming for him to fathom. 

It had been an education for Tennyson watching Fitzgibbon and Greeley’s relationship as well. Kevin had met the boy at the age when his own relationship with his parents had ended. He understood where Ronan’s emotion was coming from. “Is there more?”

Ronan nodded. “The final straw for me was our trip to Kansas. Seeing the way your mother treated you was the deciding factor.”

“That makes no sense, Ronan. My childhood was so screwed up. I had to deny who I was on two levels for my entire life. When I had finally built up enough self-confidence to confess my secrets, both of my parents hated me for it. You want to have a baby with a man who has almost no good parenting experience to fall back on.”

“Bullshit, Tennyson Grimm-O’Mara. I’m throwing the bullshit flag on that one.” Ronan laughed. “Yes, your parents sucked. Obviously, you’re not going to model the parenting style you grew up with. You’re going to be the most loving father this world has ever seen. Our house is going to be the cool house. All of the kids are going to hang out with you. I can see it so clear in my mind. Laurel, Carson’s three kids, Fitzgibbon’s future kid, our kids, and all of the other neighborhood hellions, they’ll all be at our house because of you, Ten.”

Ten rolled his eyes. “I’m hardly Mary Poppins.”

“You’re better. You won’t fly away because the winds changed or whatever the hell the reason was she left. You’ll be the parent the other parents in the neighborhood come to for advice and cookie recipes and stuff like that. You watch. That’s my one and only psychic prediction.”

Ten leaned forward in his seat and shimmied around until he was able to pull his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans. He pulled out his grocery store card and then his CVS card until he found what it was he was looking for. He held up the grey business card for Ronan to see. “Carson gave me this when their surrogate was six months pregnant with the triplets. That was the October before I met you.”

Ronan absently rubbed at his left shoulder where he’d been shot by Manuel Garcia. His eyes narrowed with the memory of that day. “When in October?”

“You won’t believe it, but it was the day you were shot. The reason I remember it so clearly was because I was driving home from the Magick shop when the breaking news of a BPD officer being shot in South Boston came over the radio. I prayed for you, Ronan, and I didn’t even know your name.”

“Does it surprise you that fate working like that doesn’t surprise me anymore?” Ronan laughed.

Ten shook his head. “No. We were moving toward our future and we didn’t even know it.”

“We’ve got about twenty minutes until we get to where we’re going. If we agree about the future starting now, why don’t you call the number on that card? If they’ve got a redheaded surrogate who’s looking to carry a baby for a gay couple, then we’ll know our time is now, right?” The tone in Ronan’s voice was hopeful.

Butterflies rioted in Tennyson’s stomach. He knew without a doubt this was the right move to make. Having Ronan’s absolute vote of confidence in him as a father was the icing on the cake. He unlocked his phone and started to dial the clinic’s phone number. “Hi, my name is Tennyson Grimm-O’Mara. My husband and I would like to make an appointment to talk about having a baby.”

 

 

13
Ronan

Just knowing that they had an appointment at the fertility clinic on December 4th made Ronan feel lighter. Not even the sight of the razor wire coming into view could darken his mood today.

“Is that it?” Ten asked. His voice sounded anxious.

“Yeah, that’s Cedar Junction.” Ronan pointed to the building as it came into view.

Ten shivered. “Pull over. Now!”

Hearing the alarm in his husband’s voice, Ronan didn’t hesitate to obey.

Ten was out of the car before Ronan had put it in park. He ran into the grass next to the road and started throwing up.

Ronan could hear him retching from the car. Undoing his seatbelt, he ran to join his husband. “Shit, Ten, are you okay?”

Bracing his hands on his knees, Ten shook his head no. Physically, he was fine. Psychically was another matter. “It’s the energy from the prison.”

“What do you mean the energy? From the convicts inside or from the spirits of the dead ones haunting the place?” Ronan had no idea energy could do this to Tennyson. What had he done by bringing his husband here?

Ten retched again. His entire body shook with the force of it. “Both,” he managed to mutter before wiping the back of his hand over his mouth.

“I’ll be right back. Stay here.” Not bothering to waiting for an answer, Ronan ran back to the Mustang. Popping the trunk, he grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler he’d packed and grabbed the roll of paper towels he kept back there for emergency clean ups. Sometimes it paid to be anal about car maintenance.

“Here you go.” Ronan opened the bottle and poured some on a folded paper towel which he slapped on the back of Ten’s neck. He handed the rest of the bottle to Tennyson.

Ten nodded and washed his mouth out before taking a tentative sip. “Thanks.”

“Are you feeling better?” Ronan asked. In his opinion Ten sure as hell didn’t look better. He wanted to put his husband back in the car and drive home. This interview with Tom Hutchins and his team wasn’t worth Ten’s health.

“A little.” Ten managed a weak smile.

“Did you forget to shut your gift down?” It wasn’t like Ten to be that careless.

“This happened with it shut down.” Ten shook his head. “The prison opened in 1955. That’s sixty-three years of the worst of humanity being housed here. Leaving their imprint on this place, their energy, their evil.” Ten shook his head. He stuck his hand in left pocket and started rummaging around.

Ronan could hear the sound of rocks sliding against each other. “What did you bring with you?”

“Black tourmaline. It wards off negative energy and psychic attacks. I don’t think I brought enough of it with me.”

“Yeah, you’re still looking a little green.” That was an understatement. Ten could pass for the Wicked Witch of the West’s brother.

“That’s why I only had a piece of toast this morning.” He stood up straight and took a deep breath. “I’m ready to go. The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get the hell out of here.”

Ronan wrapped an arm around Ten and led him back to the car. He hadn’t even considered how hard this might be on him. He knew hospitals and morgues were difficult places for Tennyson to be because people had died there. It never occurred to him that a prison could be worse.

***

Twenty minutes later, they were being escorted down the hallway of the prison toward the visitor rooms. Today more than his first visit, Ronan hated being without his gun. It was safely locked in the main office. He had the key to the locker holding all of his and Tennyson’s personal possessions in his pocket.

Ronan could feel the nervous energy pouring off Tennyson. It was as if he were expecting cons with homemade shivs to be jumping out at him from around every corner.

“This is it, gentlemen.” Officer Thorne stopped in front of a wooden door with a rectangular window built in. “Check in at the main office when you leave.”

Ten nodded, looking too sick to speak.

“Are you going to be okay to do this? If you’re not, we can leave right now.” Ronan had half a mind to do it anyway even if Tennyson said he was good to go.

“For the tenth time, Ronan, I’m fine. I said we’d do this and we will. Just don’t expect it to be a long interview. In and out, okay?” Ten smiled.

“Just so long as you never say that sentence in the bedroom. I’m okay with that.” Ronan winked and opened the door. 

All of the usual suspects were in the room. Tank Hutchins was dressed in his usual gaudy shade of orange. Bradford Hicks was wearing another expensive suit and Jude Byrne was looking surlier than the first time they’d met. Ronan had no idea it was possible to look that pissed off and that drop-dead gorgeous at the same time.

“This is my partner, Tennyson Grimm. Ten, this is Bradford Hicks, Tank Hutchins and Jude Byrne.” He pointed to each man as he said their names. Ronan hated not introducing Ten as his husband, but for the sake of this investigation, he figured less was more. He took a step back while Ten shook everyone’s hands.

“Don’t you mean this is your husband, Ronan?” Jude asked. His typical sneer was back.

Tennyson took the seat directly in front of Tank. “You must have graduated top of your class in private dick school, Mr. Byrne.” Ten barely looked at the man, instead focusing on Tank Hutchins instead. “Tell me why you wanted to meet with me and Detective O’Mara, Tank.”

Ronan was impressed with Tennyson. He knew how hard being in the prison was for his husband, not only physically, but also knowing that Josh Gatlin was here too, along with the other men Ronan had a hand in locking up over his career. He was handling it like a champ.

Tank made eye contact with the psychic. “I’ve seen and heard about your work with the BPD on the news and I’ve read about you in the Boston papers. So has my lawyer. I believe in your gift and I know that once you read me, you’ll see that I’m innocent.”

Ten was silent. He seemed to be studying the man. He turned to Bradford Hicks. “I didn’t realize you were a fan of my work, Mr. Hicks.”

“I’m a fan of justice, Mr. Grimm. I don’t have any of your talents, but just sitting and speaking with Tom, I can see and hear that he was not responsible for the murder of Lorraine McAlpin.”

Ten turned to Ronan, making eye contact with him briefly. “I’ve read all of the evidence reports, as well as the trial transcripts. If Tom didn’t commit this murder then there is a good chance that his twin brother did. Are you prepared for those ramifications?”

Hicks nodded. “It’s something we’ve wrestled with, but we can’t worry about that now. All we can do is find the evidence that will clear Tom and get him the hell out of this place.”

Ten’s dark eyes moved to Jude Byrne who was slouching in his chair, a cocky look in his golden-hazel eyes. Ten frowned, giving a slight shake of his head. “I assume that’s where you come in, Mr. Byrne. What have you uncovered so far?”

“How is that any of your concern, ghost whisperer?” Jude shot back.

“Okay, so you’ve got nothing.” Ten turned back to Tank who wore a shocked look on his face. “Why do you look so surprised. I thought you said you believed in my gift.”

“I do, it’s just no one’s ever spoken to Jude like that before.” Tank grimaced, seeming shocked by his own candor.

“What? Like he’s full of shit and it’s overflowing?” Ten shrugged. “Okay, let’s get down to it.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

Ronan wanted to laugh out loud, but he kept his mouth shut. He could see Ten was trying to find his Zen and in a place like this, knew that was going to be next to impossible. He set his right hand on Ten’s thigh and started breathing with him in hopes it would help.

“The night Lorraine was killed you stopped off at a liquor store on Bunker Hill Street in Charlestown and got some beer and chips. You paid with your debit card. After that, you went home and called out for a sandwich. You paid cash, which is unfortunate. There’s no electronic record of the transaction. You spent the rest of the night watching the Sox on live television, which is unfortunate too. If you’d used the DVR or accessed the menu, the cable company would have a record of that.” Tennyson sighed and opened his eyes. “You didn’t kill Lorraine McAlpin, Tank.”

Tank nodded. His shoulders slumped while his right hand came up to shield his eyes.

“Hold on a second,” Ronan said. “Tank, you were watching the baseball game. I know when I get up to go to the bathroom or if someone,” Ronan inclined his head toward Tennyson, “starts talking to me, I hit the button on the remote to pause live TV. Do you remember doing that at all? Did you access the TV guide or the DVR?”

“I don’t know.” Tank’s hand fell away from his misty eyes. “That night was so long ago and so much has happened since then.”

Ronan pointed at Jude. “Start with that. Go to the cable company and get his records. There might not be any evidence there, but it’s a good place to start.”

A muscle started ticking in Jude’s cheek. “I don’t work for you, O’Mara,” he said from behind clenched teeth.

“No, you work for me, do it. What’s with the dick measuring contest anyway?” Tank had an incredulous tone in his voice. “I can’t remember if I used the remote for anything more than turning the television on, but if I did and the cable company has a record of that, it’s worth a shot to dig up the records.”

The muscle was still ticking, but Jude’s look softened. He nodded and started tapping the screen of his phone.

“What else did you do that night, Tank?” Ronan asked. “I know you lived close enough to Lorraine that your calls and text messages would have pinged off the cell tower closest to her house, so that’s moot. Did you play a video game online with friends? Did you surf the web on your computer? Look at porn? Buy anything on Amazon or eBay? Were you on Tinder? Or social media? Did you do anything on your work computer?”

Tank shut his eyes. The room went quiet. Ronan didn’t think this line of questioning was going to pan out when all of a sudden, Tank slammed a hand down on the table. Ten jumped and squeaked in reaction.

“I had a client who was looking into investing in Japanese textiles and electronics. Martin Penkis was his name. He was from Brookline. Big player in the U.S. Stock Market and wanted a footprint in Asia. I told him Japan was a good place to get his feet wet. Anyway, the Japanese Market opens at 8pm Eastern Time. I logged on to my work computer for about ten minutes to check the opening numbers for a few stocks I thought would interest him. Low risk, high yield options that would get his foot in the door overseas. I jotted down the prices and logged out of my computer.” Tank wore a hopeful look in his eyes. “I remember thinking I should have just written an email to send Martin those numbers, but the Sox had the bases loaded with no outs. I made a mental note to send the email in morning.”

Sending that email could have kept him from being convicted, but that was the last thing Ronan was going to say out loud. Water under the bridge now. “What did you write the figures down on?” Ronan asked. His mind was spinning, trying to remember the inventory contents of what had been seized from Hutchins condo.

“It was a yellow legal pad I kept on the coffee table. I never ripped pages off of it, just flipped over to the next page.”

Ronan frowned. He couldn’t remember if there was an item like that in the inventory. He turned to Tennyson. “Do you remember if we have that pad in our inventory?”

Ten shook his head. “I don’t remember reading about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not on the list.”

“Some psychic you are.” Jude snorted. The look on his face was pure annoyance.

Ten raised an eyebrow at the private investigator. “Being psychic doesn’t mean I have an eidetic memory.”

“Guys, enough.” Ronan wanted to punch the P.I in the throat, but they had bigger fish to fry at the moment. “We’ve got some good leads to go on here at the moment. Jude can get the information about Tank’s cable account while Tennyson and I look for the legal pad in our evidence log. Bradford, what happened to the rest of the things in Tank’s condo?”

“Tim boxed up everything and has it all in a storage locker somewhere. Somerville, I think.” Hicks started flipping through notes in his file.

Tank nodded. “He would have kept everything too, except for what was obvious trash.”

“Tank, do you think your brother would let me read him too?” Ten asked cautiously.

“Why would you need to do that? You already said that Tom didn’t kill Lorraine, that’s all we need to get him a new trial.” The sour look was back on Jude’s face.

Tennyson shot him an are-you-for-real look. “So, all you care about here is getting Tank off? It doesn’t matter to you that Lorraine’s real killer is still out there somewhere? It could be Tim, or it might be someone else entirely. They could be stalking their next victim right now. It’s been three years since Lorraine was killed. It’s possible this killer has already struck again.”

“What are you saying, Ten?” Ronan wanted to know if Ten was speculating here or if had some sixth sense knowledge.

“The one thing I didn’t really like about this trial is how little information was put out there about Lorraine and her lifestyle. I’m never one to blame the victim, but the prosecution was never able to explain how this woman would have come into contact with her killer. They seized on the fact that there was DNA and I’m convinced that was what convicted Tom. Well, that and the fact that Tom lived closer to Lorraine than Tim did.”

Tennyson had a good point. DNA was an awesome tool in the pursuit of criminal justice, but sometimes Ronan wondered if it was used as a tool to make arrests and convictions to the exclusion of all other evidence or lack thereof. Jurors heard the phrase “DNA match,” and that seemed to seal the deal for them in this case, even when there were two men with the exact DNA profile.

“I agree with Ten, we need to interview Tim as well. If the legal pad isn’t in our evidence, we’re going to need to meet with him anyway.” Ronan found himself looking forward to getting the opportunity to meet Tim Hutchins. It didn’t matter that the sleazy P.I. only wanted to clear Tank. Ronan wanted justice for Lorraine McAlpin and he was going to see that she got it.

 

 

14
Tennyson

It wasn’t until they were out of Walpole and driving through Norwood on I-95 North that Tennyson finally started to feel almost human again. The nausea was gone and so was the pounding headache at the base of his skull. He was starting to get his appetite back too. “Enchiladas!”

“What?” Ronan looked at him like he’d lost his mind completely.

“I just got out of prison. I want enchiladas.” Ten started to laugh. It wasn’t pretty to think about spending time in that place and he’d only seen a tiny fraction of it. Just walking outside and seeing all the chain link and razor wire, not to mention all of the guards armed with high-powered rifles was enough to make him never want to jaywalk ever again.

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