Cullen Ryder stared at the TV in the homicide detective bullpen at his station house. Bernard Houtz, media spokesman for the chief of the Chicago Police Department, was giving a press conference outside city hall.
"We don't have any suspects at this time, but I can't go into further detail."
The small group of officers surrounding the set murmured various comments, while their captain folded his arms across his uniformed chest. "We've called you down here to tell you we have nothing to tell you." He looked at Ryder with a wry smile. "He could have put out a press release, but no."
Ryder nodded and glanced back at the TV. Houtz was fielding questions in his own, inimitable style.
A well made-up blonde with a large microphone addressed the spokesman. "This makes ten murders. Are you saying the police don't have any leads on the identity of the South Side Cleaner?"
The media crowd snickered, and Houtz raised his hands to quiet them. "The Chief does not think labelling this person the 'South Side Cleaner' is a good idea. To clarify, the Chicago Police Department is giving full attention to this matter. Effective immediately, the Chief has assigned top agents from an elite Special Task Force to the case."
"Excuse me?" Ryder looked at his captain. "What 'Special Task Force'?"
Captain Grainger took Ryder by the arm and motioned towards his office at the end of the large room. "Let's talk."
"Fuck me." Ryder ran a hand through his shaggy mop of brown hair.
"Calm down." Grainger guided him into the office. He closed the door and pointed to a chair.
Ryder sat. "This is my case. I've made some headway. My team is interviewing local business owners as we speak."
"I was going to tell you about the task force. I'm not taking you off the case. You'll be working with them."
"With them or for them?" Ryder glanced through the large office window overlooking the bullpen and spotted three men in suits entering the station. The last two he'd never seen, but even though they'd never actually met, he recognised the large, black man in front. Trevor Stone. "No. Please don't tell me that's the task force."
Grainger followed his gaze. "Trevor Stone, the one in front, is the only guy I know. The other two he brought with him."
"Fuck me twice," Ryder muttered.
With an exaggerated roll of his eyes, Grainger stepped to his door and called out, "Stone, in here."
The detective nodded and headed in their direction.
"He's been on the Vice Squad for quite a few years," Grainger told Ryder. "He's gotten several commendations. I'm not surprised the chief assigned him to this task force."
"Oh, hell no." Ryder wasn't surprised, either, but he wasn't happy. Stone looked like a big shot with testosterone and attitude to spare. There was no doubt who'd be running the case, now.
The man stepped into Grainger's office, henchmen on his heels. "Captain."
Grainger extended a hand, and they shook. "Good to see you, Stone. We're happy to get your help here in homicide."
Happy. Right. Ryder watched the exchange with interest. Homicide and Vice cops only worked together when they were forced to, and it was never what could be described as 'happy'. He continued to study the two men. The captain stood six foot two but didn't tower over Stone. The darker skinned man wasn't as wide but looked buff and muscular in his crisp, stylish suit. Stone's closely cropped hair and chiselled cheek bones added to his cool facade.
There was something else Ryder couldn't quite put his finger on. When it hit him, the idea sank in his stomach like a rock. The man's hot. Ryder's cock twitched, confirming the thought he tried to ignore. His already snug jeans grew tighter. He swallowed nervously. What the fuck? It was no secret he liked men, but his physical reaction to this guy surprised even him. END EXCERPT