Billionaire Blend (A Coffeehouse Mystery) (2 page)

BOOK: Billionaire Blend (A Coffeehouse Mystery)
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“And so what? It doesn’t make me wrong.”

“Listen, sweetheart, it’s like I said. Nothing is definite yet. Time will tell. And right now time is telling me to give this a rest, literally. Let’s go back to bed.”

He rose from his chair. I sunk into mine.

“You go. I can’t sleep.”

“Why not? What good will it do you to sit here stewing in the dark?”

“None—but that’s not the reason I’m staying awake.” (I hated to admit this, mostly because it bolstered the man’s “overwrought” argument, but—) “When I close my eyes, I’m in that airport again.”

“What airport?”

I filled Mike in on the delightful climax of my nightmare: the exploding jet with my daughter inside, the terminal’s window shattering, glass shards raining down, and the pain in my back that was all too real.

In the flickering light of the votives, Mike pulled me out of the chair, pressed earnest kisses to my forehead, my cheeks, my lips—all while taking care not to press the wounds in my back (which reminded me, all over again, why I wanted to stay with this man forever).

“Let’s not fight anymore, okay?” he whispered.

“Sounds good to me—although this making-up stuff might be worth it.”

He smiled and touched my cheek. I hooked my arms around his neck and began to kiss him back, but as I closed my eyes, there it was again—

Tick, tick, tick . . .
“Oh, that stupid clock!”

“What clock?” Mike glanced around the kitchen.

“In my dream, before the bomb went off, a giant clock was ticking backward. I can’t stop hearing it, but it makes no sense!”

“Dreams never make sense. They’re mind puzzles with scattered pieces. What else do you remember?”

“There was an Air France steward. He pointed out the clock and told me that I missed Joy’s plane. So I failed to stop the bomb because I was early.”

Mike made a face. “You mean late?”

“No, early.”

“How can you miss a plane because you’re early?”

“I told you, it makes no sense.”

“Come on,” he said, gently guiding me toward the kitchen door, “you need to rest—”

I dragged him back. “What else is early?”

“I don’t know. It’s early now.” Mike pointed to the window. “Very . . .”

Outside, the world was cold and dark, a predawn January. I shivered at the black glass.

“In my dream, the airport steward looked like Eric Thorner, did I tell you that?”

Mike frowned. “That must mean something.”

I thought so, too—I also thought Mike was right about dreams being mind puzzles. I stared at the black, cataloging the pieces of my dream:

A bomb going off

A backward-ticking clock

Eric Thorner saying I was early

Scolding me for missing something . . .

I broke them down even more:
Bomb
.
Clock
.
Eric
.
Early. Me missing something . . .

Suddenly, I felt my jaw slackening. “Oh my God . . .”

“What is it?”

I wasn’t missing it now:
“Eric Thorner was early!”

T
welve

F
IFTEEN
minutes later, we were dressed and on the street. “Are you sure your friend is on duty?” I asked Mike, lips quivering from a full-body shiver. “It
is
the middle of a dark and frigid night.”

Okay, it was closer to 4:45
AM
—but it was darn cold.

My Greenwich Village neighborhood was deserted. The sky was rolling with low-hanging clouds, and the winter air was bitter with arctic blasts. Pulling me close, Quinn tried to shield me from a brand-new one. Grateful, I held on, clutching my tote bag (of culinary insurance) on one side, trying to leach a little of the man’s heat on the other.

“DeFasio’s in charge of the Bomb Squad,” Quinn explained, long arm around me, “so I guarantee he’ll be there. After the incident in front of your coffeehouse, I expect his ‘Italian Squad’ will be burning the midnight napalm.”

I hoped Quinn was right.

For weeks, Eric Thorner had come to my coffeehouse like clockwork. Every day, he arrived at the same time, except on the day of the bombing. My barista Esther had even pointed it out. “He’s early,” she’d announced in surprise, but with so much chaos after the car bomb, no one (not even yours truly) had managed to count that fact as important.

Yet it was
highly
important.

“If the bomber had counted on Eric Thorner to follow his usual schedule, then the car bomb should have gone off in some
other
location,” I’d explained to Quinn back in my kitchen. “Maybe there was another target—a specific building or office complex. Maybe other people should have been in that car. Wherever that vehicle
should
have been, the people there need to be warned. They need to take precautions.”

Quinn had played devil’s advocate, pointed out the explosives might not have been triggered by a timer. The Boston Marathon bombers had used a cell phone to detonate their pressure-cooker devices.

“How would that work?” I’d asked.

“The bomber would simply dial it up and
boom
!”

I didn’t know which trigger Eric’s car bomber had used and neither did Quinn. But we both knew one thing: if lives were still in danger, we had to do something
.

As we hurried along Hudson, I riffled my memories for any past dealings with the “Italian Squad,” as Quinn had called them. The moniker was no joke; it came right out of New York City’s history, when the Mafia used sticks of dynamite to terrorize and extort immigrant merchants and residents. An Italian-American police lieutenant had formed the squad to stop these outrageous acts, which made it the city’s first Bomb Squad.

Over the years, as the bombers’ identities changed, so did the squad’s nicknames: “Anarchist Squad,” “Radical Squad.” These days, members of this century-old unit were kept busy with all of the above: terrorist threats, gangland violence, and suspicious packages galore.

With their proximity to my coffeehouse, I sometimes noticed squad members stopping in. They always arrived in pairs, kept to themselves, and seldom socialized.

Unlike regular cops, who appeared constantly aware of their surroundings, Bomb Squad detectives always seemed preoccupied—and (frankly) their military tattoos combined with the insignia on their jackets gave me the shivers. All NYPD special units had their own patches, of course, but this one was the weirdest I’d ever seen. That recollection, along with a subzero gust, set my lips quivering again.

“W-would you tell me one last thing before w-we get there?” I asked.

“If I can.”

“Your friend, the head of the A-Team. What’s he like?”

“Dennis the Menace?” Quinn snorted. “I wouldn’t call him my friend; he’s more of a colleague. I don’t think DeFasio has any friends.”

Great, a hardcase.
“But you’ve worked with him?”

“Once, a few years back . . .”

As Quinn told the story, the two had first met over a car bomb case. Quinn had been running an informant undercover as part of his work investigating drug rings in the Bronx. One morning, the informant started his Caddy and the car filled with smoke; a fire erupted, and he barely escaped with his life. In the burned-out remains of his car, police found a bomb strapped to the starter.

“Lucky for Leroy, the device failed to detonate properly. But now I had a problem: someone knew my guy was a snitch and was trying to kill him . . .”

Other bombs began turning up—in a crack dealer’s van, a tricked-out SUV, and a bookie’s BMW. Only one of those devices detonated; it killed a freelance pimp. That death was what led to Quinn’s first encounter with DeFasio.

“By then, DeFasio had examined the unexploded bombs and noticed all of them used cheap, green wires to connect the explosive material to their timers. These wires were used mostly for teaching purposes, which is why DeFasio figured them to be the work of a trade school student . . .”

The two began canvassing schools and found one that used the exact same type of cheap, green wire, even handed out spools of it to its students. Quinn cross-checked their files with arrest records and within twenty-four hours, he had a dozen leads. In another twenty-four he’d scooped up a suspect.

“DeFasio had gotten me the best clue—from the bombs themselves,” Quinn explained. “The perp turned out to be a friend of some gang members who were angry about the invasion of their drug-dealing turf. When we raided the gang’s den, we found dozens of devices, all of them primed. They were constructed so poorly that there was no safe way to defuse them, so DeFasio and the guys in his unit put on bombproof suits and loaded them onto a containment truck.”

Quinn shook his head. “I was sweating, but DeFasio was
giddy
the whole time. I didn’t understand why until he took me up to the squad’s training field where we detonated the things, one after the other. He was like a kid with firecrackers, recording each explosion and chuckling with his guys over the instant replays. When the fun was over, DeFasio and his guys took me to a favorite hangout called St. Mulligan’s Pub for a supper of Frito Shepherd’s Pie—that was a first—and a long night of Irish Car Bombs.”

“Irish Car Bombs? I hope you mean—”

“Boilermakers made from Guinness stout, Baileys Irish Cream, and Jameson whiskey.” Quinn paused. “I was younger then.”

You were happier then, too,
I thought
.

Okay, so this wasn’t the time or place to discuss my observation, but I couldn’t help noticing how animated Quinn had been during his story, how alive and upbeat. For a few minutes, the beleaguered Washington G-man was gone and the vital New York cop I knew and loved was back.

I vowed to point this out to Quinn—later. Right now, we were turning onto West 10th Street, a quiet, residential boulevard where the lights of the Sixth Precinct burned brightly. This Bauhaus-style brick box doubled as the headquarters for Squad 228 (the A-Team’s official designation).

“A kid with firecrackers,” I murmured. “Well, at least you’ve answered one of my questions.”

“What’s that?”

I gestured to one of the precinct’s garage doors—the one standing next to a basement entrance labeled
Bomb Squad
. Painted against a sky blue backdrop was the unit’s insignia: The central figure was a mustachioed man, dressed in black, complete with eye patch and long, dashing scarf. Between his legs was a tubular-shaped bomb, which he rode Dr. Strange-love style. Under him floated a clock face set at five minutes to midnight. The iconic Manhattan skyline (including the now-annihilated World Trade Towers) stood in the background.

To me—and probably much of the general public—the insignia’s depiction of daring whimsy in the face of impending death was oddly confounding, even disturbing. In truth, it perfectly illustrated the squad’s worldview.

But their strange logo was quickly forgotten. Loud voices drew our attention, and they were getting louder by the second.

T
hirteen

“C
OME
on, Sarge, give the First Amendment some respect. People have a right to know!”

The speaker was a young news reporter, green parka too large for his small frame, press credentials swaying around his neck. He was being escorted—okay,
pushed
—through the precinct’s front doors by a beefy desk sergeant who hadn’t bothered with a coat.

“Sorry, pal. When Lieutenant DeFasio says you gotta go, then you’re outta here!”

Despite the frigid temperatures, the sergeant waited in shirtsleeves until the young newsman disappeared down the sidewalk. When he turned, the sergeant spied Quinn.

“Mike!” he said, greeting Quinn with a smile and a handshake. “Welcome back.”

“Trouble?” Quinn asked.

“Nah, just another newshound who thinks he can bypass Popeye’s press conferences. So what brings you here?”

“Same thing as that reporter,” Quinn replied, his breath fogging the icy air. “I want to speak with DeFasio.”

The sergeant nodded, and led us through the glass doors.

The lobby smelled of cleaning fluid and air freshener. Like many older city buildings, the steam plant was running overtime. Somewhere deep inside the precinct house, an overheated radiator clanked repeatedly.

We followed the sergeant to his desk; but when he reached for the phone, Quinn stopped him. “Do me a favor, don’t call us in. I’d like to surprise him.”

The sergeant shrugged. “Be my guest.”

A few steps away, we overheard the sergeant talking to a patrolman: “I told DeFasio the Feds would try to muscle in again, only a matter of time.”

Quinn didn’t appear bothered by the words, but it set me flashing on the sight of that reporter being physically thrown out.

“What if the lieutenant refuses to see anyone right now?” I asked Quinn as we moved down a cabinet-lined hallway.

Quinn waved aside my worries. “He’ll see me. I’m not just a former colleague, now I’m an agent of the U.S. Justice Department. That kind of clout will get us through the door.”

Maybe,
I thought, clutching my tote bag tighter,
but just in case I’m glad I brought some culinary backup.

At the end of the brightly lit corridor I spied a fire door with a not-so-friendly
Keep the Hell Out
sign taped over the official
NYPD Bomb Squad
plaque.

Quinn paused for a moment to consider the sign. Then he balled his fist and boldly pounded on the door. That persistently clanging radiator suddenly stopped (which led me to believe it hadn’t been a radiator after all).

Finally, a deep voice roared, “Who the hell is beating down my door?”

“Open up, you pyromaniac,” Quinn called. “It’s the
Federales
!”

“I dealt with your people already. Go join your posse at One PP.”

“It’s Mike Quinn—and a civilian.”

The lock clicked and the door opened inward. A stocky, broad-shouldered man in a form-fitting NYPD tee appeared. He ran a hand through spiky, salt-and-pepper hair. Then he folded his muscular arms and leaned against the heavy door, barring our way.

“Quinn,” he said with a cautious nod. “So it is you.”

Our human barricade had a generous mouth under a roman nose. He looked about forty with a rough complexion and dark, close-set eyes that went from suspicious to attentive when they met my wide-open, green ones.

“And who is
this
?” he asked with naked interest.

Quinn stepped forward. “Clare Cosi, meet Detective Lieutenant Dennis DeFasio, aka, Dennis the Menace.”


Buona sera
, Miss Cosi,” DeFasio said, gently shaking my hand. His gaze went from me to Quinn and back again. “By the possessive way the big guy is looking at you, I can tell you two are
close
. Guess this old firehouse mick is trying to improve his pedigree.”

“Watch it, Firecracker. Another ethnic slur will get you a mandatory seat at a sensitivity training seminar.”

“Nah. All that touchy-feely stuff is a Fed thing. But then, you’d know all about that now, wouldn’t you, Mike?”

“Easy, Dennis. I’m not here for a pissing contest—”

“Then why are you here? The FBI has come and gone. They know and we know this wasn’t terrorism.”

“How?”

“The type of device, the lack of chatter, no claim of responsibility, and a dozen other indicators, none of which I’m at liberty to discuss. You know I pull bombs off cars and trucks dozens of times a year. They’re planted by criminal rivals, disgruntled employees, angry business partners, and scheming spouses. And guess what, Mike: there’s a helluva lot more of them than there are jihadists. But then, their firecrackers hardly ever go off—or make the papers. So take a hike downtown and wait for the commissioner’s briefing at One Police Plaza like everybody else.”

I never saw clout wither and die before. It wasn’t pretty. Quinn raised his hands in surrender.

“Wait just a second, okay? I’m not here in any official capacity,
Clare
is. She’s an eyewitness to yesterday’s bomb blast and has information that may help.”

DeFasio seemed underwhelmed. “I have a folder full of eyewitnesses. I’ll be turning it over to the investigating officers first thing in the morning. Leave your name and address with the desk sergeant and—”

“And,” I sharply cut in, “how many of your witnesses were speaking with the owner of the car when it blew up? I was.”

“That’s right,” Quinn quickly added, “and Clare has pertinent information to the investigation. These statements are time sensitive, too, and may involve other victims.”

DeFasio didn’t budge. “Talk to the sergeant. He’ll get you in touch with the investigators.” He checked his watch. “In a few hours.”

“Oh, come on, Lieutenant.” I stepped closer. “We’re here now. Aren’t you curious what I have to say? What have you got to lose? Except the opportunity to sample a batch of my homemade fudge.”

“Fudge?” The stonewall weakened. DeFasio’s tight mouth loosened and his eyebrows lifted with interest as he watched me reach into my trusty tote. I pulled out a large plastic container and waved it under his Roman nose.

“This box is filled with freshly sliced squares of my special Baileys Irish Cream and Caramel-Nut Fudge. It’s absolute heaven with a hot cup of coffee.”

A groan echoed from somewhere beyond the door. Then a desperate voice cried out, “For God’s sake, Dennis, let her in! The lady’s got spiked fudge.
Spiked fudge!

DeFasio rolled his eyes—and waved us in. “Let’s talk in my office.”

Score!

I glanced at Quinn and he flashed me a look—half amusement, half admiration.

Fudge one, Feds none.

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. In my view, you couldn’t count on people to be hungry for justice. But you could always count on them to be hungry.

F
ourteen

A
S
soon as I stepped through the steel door, I had to make a sharp, right turn into a long hallway that led to the Bomb Squad’s HQ. In that shadowy corridor I confronted my second bomb in twelve hours.

I suppose I should have expected something like this. As my grandmother used to say (in Italian, of course), “You shouldn’t be surprised to find fruit at the fruit market!” Nevertheless, the sight of a missile-like explosive device dangling over my head by a few micro-thin wires was unnerving, and the shark teeth painted on the tube’s pointed snout didn’t help.

“Don’t let Minnie scare you,” DeFasio said, seeing my reaction. “Generally speaking, bombs only go off when someone wants them to.”

“But that thing is hanging from the ceiling by threads. What if it dropped?”

“Even if she fell”—he loudly clapped his hands—“this old girl still wouldn’t explode. A bomb is one of the most stable devices in the world, Ms. Cosi—”

DeFasio grinned impishly, his bright teeth flashing against his dusky complexion. “Until she isn’t.”

“Sounds like a teenage daughter.”

DeFasio snorted, glanced at Quinn. “I like her.”

“Yeah? Me, too.”

“Come on . . .”

We followed the lieutenant to a place few civilians, or even police officers, had ever been: the Bomb Squad’s inner sanctum.

The chaotic space more resembled a military arsenal than an office. Most of the desk, the shelves, the filing cabinets, and sections of the floor were cluttered with explosive devices.

Hand grenades lay scattered like overripe plums under a tree, each tagged with the country of origin. Among them were complex bombs with rainbows of colored wires attaching clocks to batteries or cell phones, missing only the explosives that would turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Artillery rounds lined one wall, placed short to tall. Above them, jars and vials of various sizes were crammed on a shelf labeled
Molotov Cocktails
.

Lining the walls were photographs of bombs, X-ray images of lethal devices, and notices from the FBI, ATF, NSA, and Homeland Security, some of which nearly papered over official portraits of the mayor and police commissioner—the man whom the rank and file had nicknamed Popeye, primarily because he resembled the sailorman, complete with a smile that looked like a wince.

DeFasio sat Quinn and me down in dented chairs across from his gunmetal-steel desk. Then the head of the A-Team sunk into a swivel chair and faced Quinn.

“So how’s the Washington gig?”

“Complicated.”

DeFasio briefly held his nose. “I’ll bet. Feds know how to pile it on, higher and deeper, until they stink up the room. I had my fill of G-man stuff in the army.”

Quinn had told me DeFasio was an ordnance officer during the Gulf War. He’d joined the NYPD right after the military and was sent to the Hazardous Devices School in Alabama—known in the trade as “Bomb 101”—before joining the A-Team. DeFasio, like every other member of the Bomb Squad, carried a detective’s shield, but they preferred to be addressed as Bomb Technician, or “Tech” rather than “Detective.”

With mounting impatience (and nervous leg syndrome), I watched Quinn and DeFasio dance around the reason for our visit. Just when I was about to scream—
Lives are in danger and we’re wasting time!—
we were interrupted by a third detective poking his head through the door.

“Yo, boss?”

“Something eating you, Spinelli?” DeFasio barked.

“More like something I’m
not
eating.”

Younger than his commander by at least a decade, the wiry newcomer wore an identical NYPD tee but with sleeves cut away to display sinewy arms etched with military tattoos. I later discovered that Martin Spinelli was a younger version of his boss, the difference being that Spinelli got his first ordnance training in the Marine Corps, and had served in Afghanistan.

“I heard a rumor that spiked fudge was on the premises,” Spinelli said.

I reached for my backpack. “If this officer could show me to the kitchen, I can brew coffee to go with the fudge.”

The Bomb Squad had a kitchen, a lounge, and a barracks, too. Like firemen, at least one of the city’s multi-man teams was on duty twenty-four/seven to answer emergency calls across the five boroughs—and I’d spotted the kitchen on our way in. The door was closed, but I noticed several cases of Brooklyn’s Best Sweet Tea (a pricey artisan beverage) were stacked outside. It struck me as odd.

“That’s an awful lot of sweet tea,” I noted.

DeFasio frowned and his animated arms went rigid. “Techs are trying to re-create yesterday’s bomb in the kitchen, so it’s
off limits
.”

That explained the noises I’d heard as we passed the door—a strange hissing rush that didn’t register as any pantry sound I’d ever experienced.

“Spinelli, grab a fresh pot and bring cups for everyone.”

“Roger that, boss.”

Minutes later, I was arranging two dozen squares of my culinary bribe on a platter. When the coffee arrived, I poured for everyone.

Soon DeFasio and Spinelli were cooing over my happy candy. Finally, DeFasio sat back in his chair and sighed, an expression of contentment on his face.

“Good stuff, Ms. Cosi,” he said before he gobbled up his fifth piece. “I’m glad you brought it.”

This hardcase was getting softer. It was time for me to strike.

“I came with more than snacks,” I said. “I’m here to help.”

I sat across from DeFasio and for the next fifteen minutes, described in detail the moments leading up to the explosion. DeFasio, Spinelli, and Quinn listened without interruption.

“So,” I concluded, “if the bomb had a timer, then it was supposed to explode someplace else. You saw the damage it did to my coffeehouse and the businesses around us. What if it was meant to explode in a crowd, or inside a building’s garage? You have to discover the real target before the bomber strikes again.”

Three heads nodded in agreement. DeFasio cleared his throat.

“We recovered fragments of an electric clock, so we know the bomb worked off a timer.”

Question answered,
I thought
. Now we need to know the real target.

Quinn spoke up. “You’d think a software billionaire would travel with some kind of security.”

DeFasio frowned. “Thorner had security.”

This was news to me. “I didn’t see a bodyguard with him.”

“That’s because his security was in the car. The individual who died in the front seat was a former New York City police officer.”

F
ifteen

A
FTER
DeFasio dropped that info bomb, he clammed up. The more I tried to pry details out of him, the more robotic the responses became. In desperation, I tossed a grenade of my own.

“Eric Thorner already told me the victim’s name was
Charley
.”

DeFasio said nothing, and the glances he exchanged with Spinelli were infuriatingly unreadable.

“Was he a detective? Was he retired?
Fired?
” Quinn asked.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the identity of the victim until the next of kin has been officially notified,” DeFasio replied, arms folded.

I was beginning to understand this man. When DeFasio lost the ethnic gestures or lapsed into bureaucrat speak, he was holding back. I pushed harder.

“So you’re working furiously on this investigation, you’ve got guys hammering away in the kitchen re-creating the bomb. Yet you’ve failed to make a phone call to a wife, or visited a family missing a loved one? I find that very odd.”

“Informing the next of kin is someone else’s headache,” DeFasio replied, robot voice in place. “Our job is to find out how the bomb was built, when it was built, why it was built—”

“And
who
built it?”

DeFasio nodded.

“Was that why you ejected the reporter from the
Daily News
? You already have a person of interest, and the journalist was getting too close for comfort.”

DeFasio glanced at Quinn. But if he was looking for help, none came.

“Clare’s got you,” Mike said with a half-smile. “In my experience, she’s better at ferreting out information than most of the people at Justice. You might as well come clean. She’ll find out sooner or later.”

DeFasio threw up his hands. “Okay, it’s true. We have a person of interest. But we can’t prove anything. It would help if we had Thorner’s schedule—”

“Then you’d know where the blast was supposed to have taken place,” I interrupted.

“We could also determine when and where the bomb was planted. And if it placed our suspect in the general vicinity.” DeFasio shrugged. “You get it.”

“Have you talked to Thorner’s people?”

“Person. The investigators are at the hospital, waiting for Thorner to wake up after surgery. They tried speaking with Anton Alonzo. He’s Thorner’s personal and executive assistant.” DeFasio rolled his eyes. “If you think I’m a blue wall of silence, you should see how
this
guy stonewalls.”

“Too bad you didn’t appropriate Thorner’s smartphone at the hospital,” Quinn said.

“Actually, we believe we have Mr. Thorner’s phone. Crime scene techs scooped it off the floor of the Village Blend while we were sweeping for bomb fragments—”

“That’s right!” I confirmed. “Thorner had the phone in his hand before he passed out. Then the ambulance crew arrived and he was off to the hospital.”

Spinelli flicked some fudge crumbs off his shirt, and reached for another square. “You didn’t notice the phone was left behind?”

“I was injured and worried about our staff and customers. Then firefighters told us to evacuate. I took my people out for drinks and left my business partner behind to deal with your forensic units.”

“Why was Thorner holding the phone?” DeFasio asked.

“He had it in his hand when the glass hit him. Then he was holding it out to me, asking me to call 911.”

“Wish we could access the data.” Spinelli shook his head. “But that phone’s locked up tighter than a virgin’s legs—uh . . . sorry, Ms. Cosi. What I meant was, Thorner would have had to give you the password.”

“So you’ve been trying to retrieve the data on that phone?” Quinn’s tone made the question sound more like an accusation.

“What do you think?” DeFasio said evenly.

“You
do
have a warrant?”

“We have yet to establish ownership,” DeFasio replied. “Why involve a judge at this point?”

Quinn’s eyes narrowed. “You’re pushing it, Dennis. You don’t want to poison evidence by gathering it illegally.”

Spinelli snorted. “Spoken like a Fed.”

“I thought we’d gotten past that crap,” Quinn replied.

“You’re the one who’s got to get past it.” DeFasio leaned across his desk. “You used to think like a cop, Mike. Now you sound like those FBI pukes my predecessor dealt with back in ’93, after the first WTC attack.”

Quinn’s blue eyes turned frosty. “That’s a low blow, even for you.”

“Yeah? I don’t think so.”

Now both men were on their feet. “You’ve got me all wrong, Dennis, and I don’t appreciate—”

“Wait!” I cried.

The two men looked at me.

Fearing fists would fly, I moved between them. “Gentlemen, I don’t understand your reference. Would somebody mind explaining what happened in 1993?”

Frankly, I didn’t care—but if it would get these guys to “chill,” as my barista Dante was fond of saying, I would listen.

“You see!” Now DeFasio was addressing his underling. “In a post–9/11 world, civilians like her have completely forgotten the World Trade Center was bombed once before!”

“And?” I prompted.

“And . . .” DeFasio threw up his hands and sat. Quinn settled down, too. Their stare-off continued, but at least both men were back in their own corners.

“. . . one of this squad’s technicians found the chassis of the van that carried in the explosives. The Feds told him not to touch the evidence, leave it where it was, but he was worried a cave-in might destroy it, so he violated every protocol and moved it. At the lab on 20th Street, our guys broke protocols again by dousing the chassis with acid so they could read the VIN number. When the FBI found out, all hell broke loose.”

“Why did they risk breaking protocols?” I asked.

“Because it solved the case!” DeFasio replied, spearing Quinn.

“It’s true,” Spinelli added. “Within twenty-four hours, that VIN number led to the rental agency that owned the truck, then to the bombers themselves. Arrests were made and the perps were in custody. Doing it the Fed’s way would have given the bombers time to escape and bomb again.”

“That’s why I’m pushing,” DeFasio said. “This bomber killed one of our own. Time is critical, and I don’t want the bastard who planted that bomb to get away with murder. Anyway, it’s a moot point. A warrant isn’t going to do us any good if we can’t hack the passcode.”

BOOK: Billionaire Blend (A Coffeehouse Mystery)
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