Fatal Justice (Chapter 21)

Sam and Jeannie pulled up in front of Devon Sinclair's swanky Dupont Circle townhouse just after one o'clock. She had two hours before the Internal Affairs hearing and intended to put the time to good use. Through a call to Devon's law firm, she had learned that he was on bereavement leave.

"Nice digs for an associate," she said.

"You're sure you're up for this, Lieutenant?" Jeannie asked as they climbed the stone stairs. "Tyrone and I could take the lead on this one." She referred to her usual partner.

"I keep telling everyone I'm fine," Sam said, exasperated.

"Just asking."

She turned to Jeannie. "What would you do? If it'd happened to you, would you go home and take to your bed?"

"I'd probably do what you're doing."

"Good, so maybe we can drop it now?" She missed Cruz who was a lot more fun to abuse than McBride.

"You're the boss."

"Lieutenant Holland!"

Sam spun around and groaned when she saw Darren Tabor, her least favorite reporter from the Washington Star, and several other reporters chasing after her. "Not now, Darren."

"Just a couple of questions about what happened with Reese."

"Not now." She pushed past them and went up the stairs to Devon Sinclair's townhouse.

"You're so popular," Jeannie muttered under her breath.

Sam made a face at her and rang the bell.

Devon Sinclair came to the door. An interesting mix of his parents, he was tall and handsome with close-cropped brown hair and devastated, red-rimmed eyes.

"Mr. Sinclair?"

"Yes."

"Lieutenant Holland and Detective McBride." Sam held out her badge for his inspection. "May we have a few minutes of your time?"

He ushered them into a stylish, contemporary living room where another young man was stretched out on the sofa. "My brother, Austin," Devon said, introducing them. "I assume this is about Julian."

"Yes," Sam replied. "Would you mind if we tape our conversation?"

With a weary gesture, Devon granted permission.

"We're sorry for your loss," Sam said.

"Thank you." Devon took a seat next to his brother who sat up to make room. Austin was blond and favored their mother.

"You were close to your uncle?"

"Very. This is just the most horrible thing." Devon's eyes filled. "I'm sorry. We're still in shock."

"I'm sure you are. Had you seen him recently?"

"We had lunch with him the day he got to town. He was so excited about the nomination – nervous about the hearings, of course, but mostly excited. We said later that he seemed truly happy for the first time in a long time."

"Did either of your parents know you had seen him?"

"We told our dad," Austin said.

"Did you know Julian's friend, Duncan Quick?" Sam asked.

"Yes, we knew him quite well. Julian had been really down since they broke up, but the nomination seemed to have lifted his spirits."

"I understand from talking to your parents that your father and uncle had been estranged for a number of years," Sam said.

"Since we were young," Austin said. "We'd always been very close with him, spent a lot of time at his house, went on trips. But that all ended after my mother saw him with Duncan."

"She totally freaked," Devon added. "We didn't see him again for years – until we were adults and could make our own decisions."

"Did you know the reason for the estrangement?" Jeannie asked.

Austin glanced at his brother. "We had our suspicions. We knew Julian was gay and that our mother didn't approve. It's not that she's a bad person."

"She has strong views," Devon said. "She's worked really hard for the career she has."

"And an openly gay brother-in-law on the Supreme Court might not help her ambitions," Sam said.

"While we don't necessarily agree with her, we admire her tenacity," Devon said, sounding more like a sound bite than a son.

"Was your mother ambitious enough to kill your uncle to keep the family's dirty little secret in the closet?" she asked.

Both men blanched.

" him?" Austin asked, his eyes wide. "She's a deeply spiritual person. She could never harm anyone."

"Were her ambitions more important than the two of you or your father?"

"Of course not," Devon said, but Sam detected a note of hesitation. "She's very devoted to her family."

"How would you describe your parents' marriage?" Sam asked.

"Loving," Austin said. "They're the best of friends."

"Would you say that your mother is in charge, though?"

"What does this have to do with Julian?" Devon asked.

"We're trying to determine what role, if any, the estrangement with your parents might've played in your uncle's death," Jeannie said. "This information helps us to paint a picture."

After a long pause, Austin said, "My mom was in charge when we were at home. I can't really say how it is between them now. She's pursued the goal of writing her book and having her own show for many years. It's taken a lot of her time."

"Is she a conservative Christian?" Jeannie asked.

"Yes," Devon said. "In recent years when Julian's name came up, she was fond of quoting Leviticus who preached that it's an 'abomination' punishable by death for men to have sex with other men the way they would with women."

"Do either of you believe that?" Jeannie asked.

"We came of age in a different time," Austin said. "A more tolerant time."

"So that's a no?" Jeannie asked.

"That's a no," Austin replied. "We loved our uncle and supported him the same way he supported us."

"But you did that behind your mother's back," Sam said.

"We love them both," Devon said. "We were in an awkward position. Our goal was to keep the peace. It was better that she didn't know."

"Can you think of anyone who might want to harm him? Any enemies or rivals?"

Devon shook his head. "We've been wracking our brains trying to think of who could've done this to him. He had strong opinions and ideals, but he had respect for other people's beliefs, too. That kept him from attracting a lot of overt enemies."

Unlike your mother, Sam thought, who has no respect for others' beliefs and has attracted an army of enemies.

"You said he was nervous about the hearings," Jeannie said, "but did he express any worries about his safety or the controversy surrounding his nomination?"

"Not about his safety so much," Austin said.

"He'd declined Secret Service protection," Devon added.

"It was offered?"

Devon nodded. "He had some reservations about the protestors. He was afraid they'd be disruptive, but I'm sure he never suspected someone would want to kill him."

"Where were you both the night before last?" Sam asked.

"' suspects" Devon asked.

"We need to rule you out," Sam said.

Austin sat up a little straighter at the talk of alibis. "I was with my girlfriend at her place."

"We'll need her name and number." Sam turned to Devon. "And you?"

"I was here."

"Alone?"

"Most of the night. My roommate got home from work around one. He's a waiter."

"And did you see him? Talk to him?"

Devon's eyes darted to his brother. "Yes."

Sam's radar went on alert. "Is there something else, Mr. Sinclair? If so, this would be the time to tell us."

Devon's entire body went rigid with tension.

"Tell them, Dev," Austin said softly.

"Shut up," Devon snapped. "It's got no bearing on what happened to Julian."

"Mr. Sinclair, anything you tell us will remain confidential unless it directly affects the case."

"We've told you everything we know," Devon said, sounding more desperate.

Sam stared him down. "Except?"

Devon glared at his brother. "My roommate, Tucker. He's my…We're involved."

"And I take it your parents are unaware of this?"

"Yes," Devon said through gritted teeth. "And so are his. We'd like to keep it that way."

"How long have you been aware of your brother's orientation?" Jeannie asked Austin.

"Always."

"And your parents have no clue?" Jeannie asked.

"I've gone to great lengths to keep my private life private," Devon said.

"Did your uncle know?" Sam asked.

"Yes," Devon said softly. "He was the only one in my life who understood. In a lot of ways, other than my brother, Julian was my best friend."

Austin rested a comforting hand on his brother's shoulder, the two of them united in their grief.

Sam stood up, and Jeannie followed suit. "Is your roommate home at the moment?"

Panic-stricken, Devon looked up at her. "No, why?"

"We need to confirm your alibi. A formality. Can we get his name and number?"

Reluctantly, Devon got up and wrote down the information. Handing the piece of paper to Sam, he said, "You don't need to tell him I told you about us, do you?"

"I don't see any need to mention it."

"Thank you," he said, relieved.

Austin handed her a sticky note with his girlfriend's name and number.

"One other question," Sam said. "Were you Julian's heirs?"

"Yes," Austin said. "We'll each inherit half his estate."

"I know I speak for my brother when I say we'd give up every dime we stand to gain to have him back," Devon said.

After witnessing their devastation, Sam believed him.

Outside, Sam released a long deep breath. "Wow. I don't envy that kid the road he has ahead of him."

"Me either. That mother is a piece of work."

"I'd like to dig a little deeper into Diandra Sinclair's background. We also need to take a closer look at Julian's cell phone and e-mail records. He had arranged a late-night meeting with someone. I want to know who it was."

"The cell records didn't show any activity after he arrived at the senator's house for dinner, so whatever he was up to, it was planned before he went to dinner."

"Let's find out what it was. I also want to know why the Secret Service saw fit to offer him protection." Sam checked her watch. "Damn it. I don't have time to do much of anything before that stupid hearing. I guess I'll run by and check on Cruz real quick."

"I'll go with you." When they were in the car, Jeannie looked over at her. "I hope you know everyone thinks this thing with IAB is totally bogus, Lieutenant. Stahl is out for revenge because they gave you his command."

Sam's stomach kicked into gear when she thought about the hearing. "He's had it in for me long before now. And let's face it, I handed him a gift by hooking up with Nick in the middle of O'Connor."

"It's going to be fine."

Sam wished she could be so confident.

"What does Nick say about it?"

"I haven't told him."

"Why not?"

Sam shrugged. "He's got enough going on without having to worry about me getting in trouble because of him. There's no need for him to know about it."

"If you say so. Besides, you're probably right. He's been through an awful lot lately."

"Exactly." But recalling their conversation in the shower, Sam couldn't help but feel guilty for keeping it from him.