Brass lowered his vision and brought it in line with his ex-partner's, and the men locked eyes.

'Sorry,' Champlain said, and looked away. 'Shoulda known better.'

'…Margie know?'

Champlain shook his head. 'Why?…You gonna tell her?'

'Not my place.'

'What are you going to do? I have a right to know.'

'The rights you have are to remain silent and to have a lawyer appointed for you if you can't afford one, though with the money Tom Dayton gave you over the years, I'm pretty sure you can get a decent one. Maybe even Carlisle Deams.'

The frown had anger in it, and disappointment; but also embarrassment. 'So…you're taking me in? My own partner?'

'Maybe I'm just reminding you. I don't know how you verified Dayton was CASt, or how you did that without the press…or me…tipping to it. But you had enough to put the squeeze on Tom Dayton, despite all his power.'

'When did you get so goddamn self-righteous?' Champlain said, stubbing out his smoke under a slipper. Without hesitation, he lit another one.

'Call it that if you want, Vince. I took an oath and they gave me a badge. I don't have a wife. I have precious few friends away from my job. So I don't have much but the ability to go to sleep, justified. It's enough.'

'Go to hell, Jim. Just a little goddamn money, is all.'

'If that's how you get to sleep, that's your business. But people died, Vince. Vincent Drake and Perry Bell were both killed by the real CASt, after you took Tom Dayton's money to look the other way. Those murders could have been prevented…. Why? So you could retire in comfort?'

Champlain tossed his cigarette into the night, trailing sparks. He gave Brass a long hard look. 'Yes.'

'That simple.'

'Simple choice: retire on Dayton's money and have a little something, or retire after thirty years on a pension I could barely live on myself, let alone support my wife. See, I do have a wife. And life.'

'A life that a couple of people had to die so you could maintain?'

Champlain stared into the dark. 'I'm not proud of that. I thought the son of a bitch was just another vegetable on the funny farm, never to be heard from again.'

'You were wrong.'

'You think I don't know that? But it was too late to do anything about it!'

'Yeah? Or did you just ask for a bigger stipend from Daddy Dayton…? What do these apartments run for, anyway? You get full health treatment here, too, right?'

'Right. What are you going to do, Jim?'

Brass thought about it. 'Give me a cigarette.'

Champlain did. Lighted it up. 'Thought you stopped.'

'I did. But you're not worth losing my sobriety over.'

The detective took several long drags.

Again Champlain asked: 'What are you going to do, Jim?'

Brass turned and looked hard at his former partner. 'I'm going to sleep on it. Who knows what the night will bring? You know the cop trade, Vince-never know what's coming next, when the next confession's gonna walk in the door, or when some poor bastard's gonna decide to eat his gun…. What are you going to do?'

Then Brass pitched the sparking cigarette into the night, rose, and began to walk away.

Champlain was on his feet, but Brass couldn't see it.

But he heard the man call out: 'Is that how you're gonna leave it? After all these years? After I watched your back?'

But Brass did not reply, just kept walking.

And Vince Champlain watched his partner's back one last time, until Brass had been swallowed by the darkness.

A Tip of the Test Tube

My assistant Matthew Clemens helped me develop the plot of Binding Ties, and worked up a lengthy story treatment, which included all of his considerable forensic research, from which I could work. Matthew-an accomplished true-crime writer who has collaborated with me on numerous published short stories-does most of the on-site Vegas research, and is largely responsible for any sense of the real city that might be found herein.

We would once again like to acknowledge criminalist Lieutenant Chris Kauffman CLPE-the Gil Grissom of the Bettendorf Iowa Police Department-who provided comments, insights, and information; Chris has been an important member of our CSI team since the first novel, Double Dealer, and remains vital to our efforts. Thank you also to another major contributor to our research, Lieutenant Paul Van Steenhuyse, Scott County Sheriff's Office; as well as Sergeant Jeff Swanson, Scott County Sheriff's Office (for autopsy and crime scene assistance), and Lieutenant Steve Johnson CLPE, Certified Forensic Artist, Davenport, Iowa, Police Department.

Books consulted include two works by Vernon J. Gerberth: Practical Homicide Investigation Checklist and Field Guide (1997) and Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Investigation (1996). Also helpful were Crime Scene: The Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science, Richard Platt; and Scene of the Crime: A Writer's Guide to Crime-Scene Investigations (1992), Anne Wingate, Ph.D. We would also like to acknowledge BTK by David Lohr, Any inaccuracies, however, are my own.

At Pocket Books, Ed Schlesinger, our gracious editor, provided solid support. The producers of C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation sent along scripts, background material (including show bibles) and episode tapes. In particular, I'd like to thank Corinne Marrinan, the coauthor (with Mike Flaherty) of the indispensible Pocket Books publication, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Companion. As I've told Corinne, how Matt and I wish we'd had her excellent book from day one.

Anthony E. Zuiker is gratefully acknowledged as the creator of this concept and these characters; and the cast must be applauded for vivid, memorable characterizations that influence every word we write. Our thanks, too, to the various C.S.I. writers for their inventive and well-documented scripts, which we draw upon for backstory.

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