There was only one light when he walked into the room and he raised an eyebrow, turning to the table, where an open briefcase sat.
“A little dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Well, you know me,” was the response. “I love a good drama.”
“You always have.” Drake LaBry nodded as he sat down, the scent of the cigarette he’d had before walking in still lingering around him.
“Yes, well, about that, I have to know whether or not you have everything.” The person lifted a cigarette and lit it, breathing deep before turning their head to make sure the smoke didn’t hit Drake.
Drake frowned and then nodded again. “Yeah, of course I do. I said I’d bring it, didn’t I?”
“And it’s a good thing. We’re going to have to take care of this quickly and quietly.” They tilted their head. “This will save us time. Specifically, it’ll save me some time.”
“You won’t have to search as many files to figure out who’s behind this?”
They smiled and leaned back against the table, reaching back into the briefcase and curling their hand around cool metal, picking it up and twisting it in their hands. “So I won’t have to search for the files that I need to destroy,” they said.
Drake didn’t even have time to open his mouth before the dagger slid into his chest.
Kris Allen hadn’t slept in almost forty-eight hours. He was tired, he was pissed, and all he wanted was a soft, warm bed and maybe a cold beer.
Instead, he had a report to write up and paperwork to fill out.
Sighing, he closed his eyes, knowing that even that simple motion wouldn’t tempt him to fall asleep just yet. Not with the images that were still fresh in his mind.
“Get away from me,” the man shouted, waving the gun at the young boy in front of him, eyes wild.
Kris stopped, gun raised and hands steady as he wracked his brain to remember what the man’s landlord had said his name was. “Ben,” he started, making sure to keep his voice low so as not to startle him, “why don’t you put the gun down?”
“Why don’t you go to hell?” Ben snapped. “Fucking cops, can’t ever just leave a man alone.”
Kris fought the urge to look down at the boy—Tim—and tilted his head slightly instead. “Ben, put the gun down and back up.”
“You’re here because that bitch called you. She wants you to lock me up.”
There was no room for the idea that, yeah, Kris kind of agreed with whoever she was. A man that was holding a gun to his son’s head wasn’t exactly sane after all. At least, not in Kris’s experience.
“I told you to get away from me!” Ben’s grip on the gun shifted and Kris moved forward a step.
Use his name. Make a connection. “Ben—“ He cut off, his eyes widening as Ben pulled the trigger. “No!”
Ben stared down at Tim’s body for only a moment before he lifted his gun and pointed it at Kris.
Kris didn’t hesitate as he pulled the trigger.
Four years old. Kris let out a breath and shoved back from his desk, moving out of the bullpen and heading for the coffee pot. The coffee would be absolute crap but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the fact that the caffeine might help him focus on something other than the fact that he hadn’t been able to save a young boy from his father.
Silently swearing, Kris turned and headed in the direction of the locker room instead. He nodded at a few familiar faces, careful to keep the nausea he felt from showing.
“Allen, heard you had a rough one.”
Kris glanced over, nodding at Matt Giraud. “Yeah,” was all he said. There was a moment of silence before he raised his eyebrows slightly. “How’s your case going?”
“Wrapping it up and bringing the guy in. I’m thinking of letting the kid take the lead in Interview.” Matt grinned slightly and Kris knew it was because some of his surprise was showing. ‘The kid’ was Matt’s partner, David Archuleta, or Archie as everyone called him, and he was a rookie officer that had worked his way up to Homicide. He was a sweet kid and he put people at ease quickly. Kris had always thought he’d had a baby face but he’d more than proven himself in the field when he’d almost become a victim of a serial killer a couple of months ago and had to hold his own against the man until they’d shown up.
Matt nodded. “Yeah, I think it’ll be good for him. He’s ready.”
“Let me know how he does,” Kris said, bumping Matt’s shoulder.
“Will do.” He didn’t say anything else as he walked out and Kris closed his eyes again before he steeled himself against the way his stomach turned and headed directly towards the sinks. He stared at his reflection, looking for anything that someone might be able to take as a sign that he was anything less than okay.
It was no surprise that there wasn’t one. He’d learned to mask those feelings years ago. Rather than linger on the thought, he turned on the water, splashing his face and reveling in the quick shock to his system from the cold water.
He took a few more moments to himself before nodding at his reflection and then walking back out and into the hall.
He stopped and turned. “Commander Cowell,” he acknowledged. He thought of the report he had yet to type up and bit the inside of his cheek. “My report—“
“—will have to wait,” he interjected. “Homicide over at Asper. You’re going to be primary.”
Kris frowned. “Sir, Gokey’s up to take the next available case.”
Cowell nodded. “I know that, Allen. That doesn’t change the fact that you’re now primary on this. You’re discreet and I have no doubt you’ll get the job done.”
He isn’t sure what that says about Cowell’s faith in Gokey, who might be a bit of an asshole sometimes but is also a good cop, but it’s not his place to say anything. “Yes, sir,” he said instead.
“Good.” Cowell didn’t say anything else, just continued down to his office.
Kris blew out another breath and then swung back into the bullpen, grabbing his keys off of his desk. He glanced over at his partner, Anoop Desai, and jerked his head towards the exit.
“We’ve got another.”
Anoop frowned even as he stood. “Isn’t it supposed to be Gokey?” he asked as they headed down towards the parking garage.
“Yeah, well, there’s been a murder at Asper and Cowell insisted.”
“Somebody get stabbed to death with eyeliner?” Anoop’s lips twitched and Kris couldn’t help but remember a time when he’d have scowled at the remark instead of being amused. He and Anoop had only been working together for a little over a year and it had taken months before he’d begun to trust Anoop on a personal level and confessed that he liked both men and women. Anoop’s reaction had been to simply raise an eyebrow as if he was waiting for Kris to get to saying what the big deal was.
Kris snorted and shook his head. “Shut up, Desai.”
Kris nodded at the officer standing near the backdoor of Asper. “First on scene?” he asked.
The officer nodded. “Yes. Sophia Bush found the body and called the police. She was here to set up some of the displays.”
“Was she able to identify the victim?”
Again, the officer nodded. “Drake LaBry,” he said.
“Good.” Kris gestured to the door. “Scene secure?”
“Yeah. Once we got here, we were able to secure the scene and make sure that no one disturbed anything.”
“Good job, Officer.” Kris moved passed him, eyes scanning the room as he and Anoop walked further into the room. Ahead of him, he could see Jensen Ackles taking pictures of the crime scene. “Ackles,” Kris greeted.
The clicking of the shutter didn’t pause. “Allen,” he replied. “Surprised to see you here.” Finally, he glanced over. “Weren’t you and Desai working another case?”
“Wrapped it. Commander sent us over for this one.”
“And now Gokey gets a vacation,” Anoop added. Jensen grinned and then turned back to take a few more photographs.
“Single stab wound,” Kris muttered as he and Anoop moved closer to Drake LaBry’s body. “Through the heart from the looks of it.”
“Had to be quick,” Anoop agreed. “It doesn’t look like there was a struggle and there are no defensive wounds. Considering he got stabbed with a dagger, that’s unexpected.”
“Which could mean any number of things,” Kris sighed. “Could mean that he knew his killer, could mean that the killer surprised him.”
“I’d say he was surprised either way,” Anoop muttered. Kris raised an eyebrow, making sure to keep a straight face and Anoop shifted before returning the look. “Well, you don’t think he was expecting to get killed, do you?”
“People usually don’t.” He let out a breath and looked over at Jensen. “Did you get all your pictures?”
“That’s everything. Scene’s all yours.”
Kris looked over at Anoop. “Start bagging evidence. We need to get him to the ME so we can get an official ID.” He turned back to look at Drake LaBry, thought of the lack of defensive wounds as well as the dagger protruding from his chest, and wondered just how well he’d known his killer.
Sophia Bush was a gorgeous woman, Kris thought to himself, even with red eyes and tear tracks staining her cheeks.
“Sophia,” Kris said, making sure to keep his voice low so as not to startle her. Even then, she jerked as if he’d fired a gun in the silent room. He’s always had a way with witnesses so he sits across from her, making sure she can see each move he makes. “I’m Lieutenant Kris Allen.”
“You’re the cop that’s going to find...” She paused and then swallowed. “You’re going to find who killed Drake?” she asked.
Kris nodded. “Yeah, I am.” He glanced over to where Anoop was, nodding at him as he got closer. “This is my partner, Detective Anoop Desai.”
Anoop sat near Kris and smiled at Sophia. “Sophia,” he greeted. She let out a breath and nodded in return.
“We need to go over what happened,” Kris told her. He waited until she had nodded before leaning forward. “What time did you get here?”
“About 5:30,” she said after a few moments. “I said I’d come in early, before we opened, so I could go through the store and make sure everything was set up and so I could set up the big display that’ll go up front.”
“Did you come to the back right away?”
She shook her head. “No, I stopped to check the two other displays and make sure that they didn’t need any adjustments.”
“And then what did you do?” Anoop asked.
Sophia let out a breath and scrubbed at her face, smearing her eyeliner even more. “That’s when I went to the back. The light was on and I saw...” She trailed off and closed her eyes.
“You’re sure the light was on?” Kris said, hoping to distract her.
She frowned and opened her eyes. “Yes. I remember because I was kind of annoyed and wondering who had left the light on in the first place.” She swallowed. “And then I turned the corner and there was Drake, just there in the chair.”
“This is important, Sophia. Did you touch Drake or anything at all?”
She thought about it for a few moments. “No, I don’t think I did. I just pulled out my phone and dialed.”
“Did you hear anything?” Anoop shifted so that she focused on him and she let out a breath.
“Other than my own scream? No.”
“And you didn’t see anything either?”
She shook her head. “No, there was no one there. Just Drake.” Her breath hitched. “He was going to help me redecorate my apartment.” It was as if that one comment was enough to break her. “I don’t understand who would do this.”
“Sophia, is there anyone that can come get you?” Anoop pulled out his phone. “Someone we can call?”
She nodded. “Yeah, my roommate, Katie. She’ll come.”
Kris put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed lightly. “You did good, Sophia.” When she looked up at him, she looked just a bit relieved and he nodded at her before giving Anoop a look that his partner easily interpreted and nodded.
Quickly, Kris walked out of the room, already pulling out his phone to call the lab and see if he could put a rush on the dagger.
Word had already spread throughout the bullpen by the time Kris and Anoop returned to the station. Kris spared only a few glances towards the other cops, staring at them until they looked away. He knew exactly how bullpen gossip worked and the fact that he’d been given this case over Gokey would start rumors about the Commander having favorites.
“Let’s get started. We’re going to need to get everything down to the lab so that Misha can get started on analyzing for any trace of DNA or fingerprints that might have been left behind by the killer.”
Kris turned to see Megan Joy motioning towards the hallway. “Yeah, Megan?”
“The Commander wants to see you. Right away.” She made an apologetic face as he turned and walked towards her. They were silent as they walked down the hallway and then she finally spoke, “Are you okay?”
He didn’t answer right away, pausing to really consider the answer. “I’m fine,” he said.
She scoffed. “Right.”
Kris nudged her in the side with his elbow. “I will be.”
Megan studied him for a moment as they came to a stop outside of Cowell’s door. “You just might be.” She nodded towards the door. “No need to knock, he’s expecting you.”
Kris didn’t respond as the phone on her desk began to ring and she moved to answer it, choosing to just walk into the office instead. He inclined his head as Cowell looked up and nodded at him. “Commander.”
“Allen,” he greeted. “Sit down.”
Part of Kris wanted to protest and say that he didn’t need to but he also knew that this definitely wasn’t the time to argue, so he sat, waiting to see what it was that Cowell had wanted to see him for.
For the next few moments, Cowell was silent as he studied Kris. Finally, he spoke,
“You know that it’s policy to go talk to the shrink after you’ve killed a suspect,” he said. Kris nodded.
“Yes, sir, I can arrange to make an appointment—“
“I’m postponing yours,” he interrupted. Kris’s eyes widened slightly though that was the only sign he gave that he was surprised.
“I need you to get as far on this case as you can over the next forty-eight hours, which is about how long I’ll be able to postpone that appointment.” He gave Kris a hard look. “Are you going to be able to handle that?”
Kris straightened his shoulders. “Of course.”
Cowell nodded. “Get going, Allen. I want as much information as you can get on this case before your appointment.”
Nodding, Kris moved towards the door, already trying to think of what he needed to do next. “Yes, sir,” he said, just before he left the office.
He needed to see the ME.
There was the sound of upbeat music blasting through speakers and Kris couldn’t help but let his lips twitch as he listened to the song. The twitch of his lips turned into a full blown grin when he saw the medical examiner, Jared Padalecki, bouncing in place to the beat, mouthing the words as he looked over a set of results.
“Tell me that’s my man,” he called out, smirking slightly when Jared jumped. He turned towards Kris and raised an eyebrow.
“You know it, Allen,” he said brightly. “Your man is top priority at the moment. But it hasn’t even been a day, I’m not going to have much for you.”
“Enough to confirm that it’s a homicide, I hope.” Kris raised an eyebrow.
“Obviously. Not many people stab themselves through the heart.”
Kris immediately focused on that. “So, LaBry was stabbed through the heart? We weren’t positive that it had gone that deep.”
Jared nodded. “Oh, it did, believe me.” He gestured for Kris to follow him over to the table where Drake LaBry was laid out and Kris vaguely noted that Drake looked much more peaceful than he had earlier. The expression of shock was no longer visible on his face and, had it not been for the absolute stillness in his face, he would look like he was simply resting his eyes instead.
“Can you give me anything else?”
“Another few minutes and I’ll be able to tell you if he was on anything and what his last meal was. The results are almost ready.”
“I put a rush on it.”
Kris smiled, letting his gratitude show. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”
“They’re going to be riding you over this one, Allen. You’re going to need as much as you can get and as fast as you can get, I know that.” As he talked, he walked over to his computer and typed in a few things, studying whatever popped up on the screen before he nodded and turned to Kris, motioning him forward. “Here are your results. Drake LaBry had no drugs in his system except for a few that indicate he was a smoker. Some alcohol but nothing that would raise any eyebrows so it’s likely that he had that with his dinner, which was a big helping of manicotti.” He glanced at the results again. “He’d already been dead about four hours by the time he was found, so I’d say he was killed around 1:30.”
Kris frowned slightly as he considered the results. “Okay, so that rules out the fact that his killer took him by surprise because he was too intoxicated to fight back. It doesn’t mean I can fully rule out some sort of drug deal gone bad but it’s a definite start in the right direction.”
“What do you think it was?”
Kris turned and stared down at Drake, studying his face. “I don’t know,” he said after a few moments. “But I’m definitely going to find out.”
And he fully planned on finding out soon.
Kris let out a slow breath as he let himself in to the back room of Asper. He could still see all of the evidence that they’d been there. Nothing had been disturbed and he couldn’t help but be satisfied at the fact that someone had kept people away from the crime scene. The tape was still in place and though they’d removed anything they thought the killer might have touched, Kris knew there was still a chance that something might still be there.
A slight movement had his hand automatically going to his gun even as he turned. He paused when he saw who it was.
Despite what Anoop liked to claim, Kris didn’t live under a rock. He knew who Adam Lambert was. Most people had, ever since he’d practically exploded on to the scene and knocked the fashion world on its ass with his designs. Follow that with a successful makeup line that was advertised in magazines and on billboards as well as television and, even without Megan and other women drooling over his clothes, Kris definitely knew who Adam Lambert was.
The man was taller than Kris had been expecting but then he only really had pictures to go off of. Still, the rest of him lived up to his image, from the black hair falling into clear blue eyes to the eyeliner and smattering of freckles that his foundation couldn’t quite hide.
It was still the most natural look that Kris had ever seen on Adam Lambert, pictures or not.
“What are you doing here?” Kris finally asked, even as he continued to study the way Lambert seemed to hold himself and making note of the slight twitch of Lambert’s fingers.
“It’s my store,” he said, voice softer than Kris would have expected. “What are you doing here?” His eyes flicked down to the gun that Kris still had a hand on.
Kris raised an eyebrow. “It’s my crime scene.” He tilted his head, studying Adam Lambert. “I’m Lieutenant Kris Allen, Mr. Lambert.”
“The man that’s going to figure out what happened to Drake.”
Something in Lambert’s voice caught his attention and he made a mental note to look into the relationship between him and Drake LaBry.
“Yes,” was all he said. He shifted slightly so that Lambert’s gaze was focused on him rather than the crime scene behind him. “Actually, Mr. Lambert, I was going to contact you about this anyway but if you’re up for it, I could ask you a few questions now instead.” It was extremely likely that if Lambert really was the killer that he’d already worked out an alibi for the time in question. Hell, Kris was betting on it. It’d be his job to find out whether or not he was actually telling the truth.
Lambert stared at him for a few moments before he nodded slowly. He motioned to the hallway behind him. “This way. We can talk in my office,” he said.
Kris glanced around as they walked down the hall, taking note of the fact that these were pictures of people hanging out at parties rather than the promotional photos that were typical of most places.
“A bit late to be here, isn’t it?” he asked as they walked into an office that Kris would never have been able to call plain. Clearly, this was Lambert’s office.
Lambert raised an eyebrow, one corner of his mouth lifting as he sat. “As I said, it’s my store.” He motioned for Kris to sit. “I can be found here at strange hours on any given night.”
Kris kept his gaze steady as he sat down across from Lambert. “Was last night one of them?”
Something flashed through Lambert’s eyes as he stared at Kris. Rather than look away, Kris continued to stare back steadily, waiting for an answer.
“No,” he said, sounding as if he were forcing the answer out through clenched teeth. “Last night was not one of them.”
“Simply a question, Mr. Lambert.” Kris smiled slightly, keeping his voice even. “I have to ask.”
Lambert studied him for a few moments, eyes narrowed before he nodded. “Understood.” He leaned back, looking more in control than he had only a minute before. Kris fought the urge to shift in his seat as Lambert’s eyes ran over him from head to toe before smirking slightly. “Would you like to know if I was alone as well, Lieutenant?”
Heat moved through Kris at the look in Lambert’s eyes and he sent up a brief prayer that his response wasn’t showing on his face at all.
“Yeah,” Kris said, allowing himself to shift slightly so that his badge would be just barely visible. “I would.”
“Yes.” Lambert leaned forward. “I was alone. I stayed home for the night, made a few phone calls, watched a movie and went to bed.” He smiled. “It was a tame night for once.”
Part of Kris was sorely tempted to wipe that smirk off his face by making a remark about how the night hadn’t been tame for Drake but he stopped himself. It wouldn’t do anything but piss the man off, he bet. Instead, he nodded.
“What movie?” he asked.
Lambert frowned. “What does it matter what movie?”
Kris’s lips twitched slightly. “It’s a simple question, Mr. Lambert.” He allowed himself the smallest of smirks. “It should be a simple enough answer.”
Eyes narrowed, Lambert leaned back and muttered something that Kris couldn’t quite make out. He raised an eyebrow again and watched as Lambert clenched his jaw.
“Gigli,” he spat. “I watched Gigli.”
Kris’s lips twitched again and he nodded, trying to keep his expression as serious as possible. That definitely hadn’t been the answer he’d been expecting.
“I’ll make a note of that.”
“I’ll bet you will,” Lambert muttered. When Kris stared at him, he simply stared back, unapologetic.
“Did you see anyone last night?”
“No.” Lambert stared at him. “I talked to a few on the phone.”
Kris fought the urge to roll his eyes. If he were cynical, he’d say something about how convenient that was.
He wasn’t though, so he didn’t say anything. Out loud, at least.
“I’ll need names.” He reached into his jacket, pulling out a small notepad, noticing the way Lambert’s lips seemed to twitch at the sight.
Lambert nodded. “Kara DioGuardi, Michael Sarver, and Brad Bell,” he said with no hesitation. Kris didn’t let any reaction show but he felt pleased at that. There’d been no signs of lying when Lambert had answered and while Kris wasn’t much of a betting man, he’d bet money that Lambert was telling the truth. Before Kris could ask his next question, Lambert continued, “Kara called to go over some business. She wanted to make sure I didn’t forget about any of the meetings I’ve got coming up next week.” He smiled slightly. “She also wanted to remind me that she’d found someone that she thought would be a good addition to the company. Michael is head of my security; he simply called to check up on me.” His smile grew. “Brad called to bitch about his latest man.”
Kris nodded and flipped the notebook closed. “Thanks.” He glanced back up. “Did you talk to anyone else?”
“No,” Lambert said, shaking his head, the smile from earlier still there in his eyes.
Standing, Kris held out a hand, surprising himself slightly. Lambert was still a suspect and this wasn’t how he acted with suspects. Still, he trusted his gut and his gut was telling him that Lambert hadn’t done it. “If there’s anything else I need to know, I’ll be in touch.”
Some expression that Kris couldn’t identify passed over Lambert’s face. “I’ll walk you out, Lieutenant.”
Kris shook his head, stepping back. “I know the way.” He didn’t wait for a response as he turned and walked out the door. He didn’t let himself relax until he was completely outside and getting into his car. With a sigh, he started the car and began the drive home.
Trying to do anything else today would be pointless until he’d gotten some sleep. Kris knew his limitations and he was rapidly reaching the point where he’d be useless.
Sleep and then he’d start over again.
Kris hated this place. He looked around the neighborhood and scowled before he turned to look at the house. There was a tricycle on the porch, bright red and with only one scrape on the side. Swallowing, he watched as a car pulled up to the curb. He shook his head, watching the little boy scramble out of the car and wait for the woman to get out as well.
“Don’t go in,” he said. The little boy looked up and Kris stared down into his own face when he’d been four.
“I have to.”
Kris closed his eyes and followed the boy and woman inside. He knew what was coming but a part of him hoped that it would have changed.
Every single time, he hoped that it had changed. It never worked.
There was no answer when the woman knocked on the door and Kris watched as he simply reached out and turned the knob, running inside.
“Momma, I’m home!”
“Kim?” the woman called. “Kim, it’s Lisa, I brought Kris home.”
Kris knew what was coming next. Shaking slightly and hating himself for it, Kris followed himself into the living room and watched as he stopped and stared at his mother’s body on the floor.
“Momma?” The younger Kris ran over and shook her shoulder. “Momma, wake up.” He looked over and Kris followed his gaze, taking in the way his father’s body was laid out, as if he’d been trying to protect his mother. He looked down at the younger version of himself, his stomach churning. “Momma, why won’t you wake up?”
“She had to go away,” Kris said softly.
He looked up at Kris. “I don’t want her to go away. She was going to give me a baby brother. Where’s he?”
“He had to go away too.”
“Daddy will wake them up.” He stood and moved further into the room and Kris wanted to grab him and stop him from looking. Instead, Kris watched and wished that this would stop as he reached out and pushed at his dad’s body until he turned over.
Red, dark red, stained the front of his shirt from where it had flowed out of his throat. Vaguely, Kris registered the woman walking in to the room and screaming, grabbing him and pulling him away as he sobbed and screamed, insisted he could wake Daddy up.
“Always were a spoiled little shit, weren’t you?”
Kris choked on nothing but air and turned around to see his dad shifting and sitting up. “You’re dead. You’re not real.”
The laugh that his dad let out was wet and gurgled and Kris felt like he was going to scream and throw up all at the same time. “You really think that makes a difference? I’m not really dead, son.” His lips twisted. “You know you should have been here with us but you just had to go to that birthday party.”
“Selfish,” his mother added, moving and pushing herself up. “You were so selfish, Kristopher. If you hadn’t begged to go, you’d be with us. The family would still be together.”
“You left behind your little brother. He never even had a chance, Kristopher. If you’d stayed, maybe you could have played with him.”
“I was four. I was four, what was I supposed to do?”
“That’s no excuse,” his dad said, dragging himself so that he was standing. “No excuse at all, young man.” He walked closer and Kris took a step back, wondering how the hell he could get out of this. He watched as his mother heaved herself to her feet, his father taking the time to make sure she was standing on her own, and it was all so normal that Kris could scream.
“You can still join us, Kristopher. You’re just running a little late, that’s all.”
“No, I can’t. I have a life that I have to go back to.”
“Running around and pretending to be a cop?”
Kris swallowed at the sound of his dad’s voice. He’d never seen his dad look like that. “I am a cop.”
“You think you are but you’re not. You don’t do any good.”
“I help people.” Kris wondered if that desperation in his voice was obvious or if he was just imagining it.
“You couldn’t help us.”
“How could I? I was—“
“Four, so you’ve said. That doesn’t matter.”
“You couldn’t help him either, Kristopher,” his mother interrupted. She nodded at something behind him and Kris slowly turned to see what she was nodding at. He let out a breath at the sight of Tim, the young boy that he hadn’t been able to save.
“You let him die. You knew that his dad was ready to snap but you just kept pushing. It’s what you do, isn’t it, Kristopher?”
“I think it’s time you learned your lesson.”
Kris’s eyes widened when he felt a hand grip the back of his neck tightly and he felt the old, familiar panic well up inside him as he opened his mouth to shout—
Kris’s eyes flew open and he jerked up, shoving at the covers as he frantically sucked in a breath. He practically fell out of the bed, swearing when the sheets tangled around his legs, causing him to stumble.
“Lights,” he muttered, slapping at the light switch and squinting as the room was flooded with light. His breath slowing slightly, he went into the bathroom and turned the cold water on, letting it run for a few seconds before splashing his face. The cold helped wake him up completely and he took a deep breath, looking in the mirror to watch the way the water ran down his face and dripped on to the counter. He shook his head and closed his eyes, pushing away the nausea that always came with the nightmare.
“Just a dream,” he told himself, making sure to keep his voice steady. “Just a dream.”
He took a deep breath and then turned the shower on, twisting the handle to make the water as hot as he could handle it.
He wasn’t going back to sleep any time soon, after all, he might as well get a start on the day.
“You look like shit.”
Kris raised an eyebrow as he paused in the doorway of the lab. “Thanks, Misha. I’m touched, really,” he said. Misha smirked in response and lifted a shoulder in a half shrug.
“I just call it like I see it.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Kris fought the urge to roll his eyes. Coming to the lab was always an experience. Misha Collins was brilliant in the lab and always blunt with a sense of humor that usually snuck up on a person.
“Let me guess, you’re hoping I worked miracles for you.”
“It’d be nice,” Kris admitted. “But I’ll settle for whatever you’ve got right now.” When Misha opened his mouth to answer, Kris quickly added, “In terms I can understand.”
Misha smirked. “You spoil all my fun, Allen.”
“I feel horrible,” Kris deadpanned.
“You should, I control what you know.” Misha turned and gestured to the objects that he had laid out in front of him. “There were bits of thread that caught on the dagger. At first, I thought that maybe it was from something that had been used to wipe any fingerprints off. But the threads didn’t match any of the fabric that was lying around or that you brought me. The fabric that those threads came from is something more common, like cotton.”
Kris nodded. “Okay, and you don’t think it was used to wipe off the fingerprints, why?”
Misha smiled slightly and leaned forward. “Because I found a fingerprint, one that was clear enough for me to run and I was even able to get a match.”
“Who?” Kris straightened as he asked.
Misha smiled slightly. “Adam Lambert.”
It felt like a punch to the gut and Kris gave himself a mental slap. “Are you sure?” he asked, voice low.
Misha stared at him for a few moments, studying him, before he nodded. “I’m sure.” He straightened and looked back at Kris. “Allen.” He didn’t say anything else.
“I’m fine.” Kris took a deep breath. “I need to go, check into a few things.” He nodded at Misha as he turned and walked out of the lab, feeling the anger beginning to build up inside him.
He thought of the day before and Lambert’s alibi, how he hadn’t tried to come up with something that other people could totally confirm. His gut had told him that Lambert was telling the truth and damn it, he hated to think that he’d been wrong.
Kris let out a slow breath as he walked outside and closed his eyes.
Lambert’s fingerprint was on the murder weapon.
Lambert claimed that he’d talked to three people the night before and then gone to bed after watching a movie alone.
His gut was still telling him that Lambert was telling the truth.
Kris closed his eyes and took a deep breath, pushing the anger to the side. He had to think about this calmly if he was going to get anything done. He couldn’t run on emotions when it came to this, hell, he shouldn’t even have emotions when it came to this. He barely knew Adam Lambert.
He was going to treat this the way he would any other case. He’d follow the evidence and he’d find a way to follow his gut and he’d make sure that Drake LaBry got justice.
Anoop looked up when Kris leaned against the side of the desk. “I was able to trace some of LaBry’s movements from yesterday,” he said. Kris looked up.
“What’d you find out?”
“He worked only part-time at Asper but was always willing to work hard. He also had his own small business that was picking up.”
“What kind of business?”
“Interior design.” Anoop nodded at the paper in front of him. “That’s just the start of the background, really.”
“Give me the basics,” Kris said.
“Age, twenty-four. He’s been living in the same apartment for the last year and he used to work at Asper full-time before he went part-time and started his own business about a year and a half ago.” Anoop paused and raised an eyebrow, drawing out the moment. “That’s not the best part though.”
Kris simply turned to face him more fully. “I’ll bet you’re just dying to tell me.”
“Drake LaBry and Adam Lambert dated for over a year before they broke up last year.” Anoop waggled his eyebrows as Kris leaned back and took in the information.
“Well, that’s very interesting,” Kris muttered, thinking back on his meeting. “Lambert failed to mention that.”
“Maybe there’s a reason why.”
Kris returned the look. “Let’s find out.” He pushed away. “We’ll start by verifying Lambert’s story. But first, I’ll fill you in on what we’ve got so far.”
Kris had no problem admitting to himself that Kara DioGuardi was the type of woman who completely creeped him out. She was sharp, in the way she dressed, hell, even in the way she looked. Kris couldn’t help the thought that if he got too close, he’d start bleeding from a cut.
He stared at her, taking in the way her eyes moved over Anoop before they moved to him and he fought the urge to shift. She made him feel like she was trying to decide just what exactly she wanted to do to him.
Definitely not the most comfortable feeling in the world.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet us, Ms. DioGuardi,” Anoop said. She turned her head slightly to stare at him for a moment before her lips curved slightly and she nodded.
“Of course, Detective.” Her gaze shifted back to Kris. “Though I’m not quite sure what I can possibly tell you about that night.”
Kris returned her smile and inclined his head slightly. “Why don’t we start with where you were early yesterday morning around 1:30?”
Surprise showed clearly on her face as she glanced between the two of them. “Am I a suspect?” she asked. Kris held back the urge to snort at such a typical question coming from a woman that he was fairly certain made sure she was anything but predictable usually.
“It’s just routine,” Anoop assured her, picking up on Kris’s thoughts easily with only a glance. They watched as she relaxed slightly.
“Oh,” she said. Kris watched as she considered her next words with a slight frown. “I had a dinner party last night.” She smiled again. “You know how those can get. I don’t think I got home until close to 3:00 this morning.”
“Must have been one hell of a dinner party.” Kris merely raised his eyebrows when she looked at him.
“It was,” was all she said, a slight edge to her voice.
“While you were at the party, did Adam Lambert ever show up?”
“Did you speak to him at any point?”
“Yes.” Once again, she didn’t elaborate.
Kris nodded. “When?”
She thought about it for a moment. “It was before the party had really started. I wanted to talk to him about someone new that I thought he needed to consider for the company.”
“Thank you.” Kris offered her a smile that he knew for a fact relaxed people and let them think they were off the hook. “Ms. DioGuardi, what exactly is it that you do for Mr. Lambert?”
She met his gaze with one of her own. “I suppose you could say I’m a recruiter or a scout. I look for designers that I think would be a good match with the company and that I think Adam would enjoy working with.”
This time it was Anoop that smiled at her. “Thank you again, Ms. DioGuardi.” He and Kris stood up. “If we have anything else, we’ll let you know.”
“Thank you.” She stood. “I’ll walk you out.”
“So,” Kris said as he and Anoop got into the car.
“She’s hiding something.” Anoop nodded. “Not sure what but she’s hiding something.”
Kris nodded in agreement. “Exactly.” He didn’t look back, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of seeing him wonder if she was looking out the window. “The question is, does whatever it is she’s hiding have anything to do with the case?”
Anoop considered this. “It could. Hard to tell after just the one meeting but I’m thinking with a lady that sharp, it definitely could.”
Kris snorted as he pulled into traffic. “You thought so, too, then.” He grinned when Anoop settled back and made a Duh motion with his hand.
“Yeah.” He frowned slightly. “I don’t know how to explain it, really, but there’s something about her that just says we need to keep an eye on her.”
“Maybe you’re just being paranoid,” Kris suggested, deciding to play devil’s advocate.
“No,” Anoop said, shaking his head. “I don’t think I am. It’s not just a random feeling. Did you hear the way her tone changed slightly when you asked about talking to Lambert? There’s something there, I just can’t place it. It was almost like she was smug but that could be chalked up to the business she called him about.”
Kris smiled. “Good.” He glanced over as he switched lanes. “That’s good.”
Anoop stared at him for a few minutes and then narrowed his eyes, lips twitching. “You were testing me.”
“Was I?” Kris raised his eyebrows slightly.
“Yeah, you were, despite the fact that I’ve long since passed my detective’s exam and earned that promotion.”
Laughing, Kris lifted a shoulder. “Yeah, well, I can’t help it.”
Anoop settled back in and smirked at Kris. “So, admit it, while you were in there, you wondered what she’d be like in bed.”
Kris winced. For being one of the smartest people he knew, Anoop took extreme pleasure in talking about his sex life in front of Kris just to get a reaction. Not to mention the fun he had asking about Kris’ sex life.
“I really didn’t.”
“I think she’d be bossy. Very into bondage and things like that. Total kink.”
“Why are you talking?”
“You know, Megan and I talked about it—“
“Finish that sentence, Desai, and they’ll never find the body.”
Turning back to look out the windshield, Anoop snickered.
Brad Bell was glittery and loud and just a bit too much for Kris’s tastes but that didn’t change the fact that one of the first things Kris did was notice his eyes and check out the man’s cheekbones. He didn’t think it was conceited to say that Brad was checking Kris out right back. Anoop had looked like he was fighting not to start laughing since not long after they’d walked in.
“Well,” Brad dropped gracefully to the couch, in a way that Kris knew he’d never manage, “it’s not every day that two sexy cops appear on my doorstep.” He smiled slightly. “So, what can I do for you?”
It was a simple question and one that was nearly word for word what Kara DioGuardi had asked earlier but there was something about the way Brad said it that made Kris want to shift in his seat and possibly cross his legs. From the corner of his eye, he could see that Anoop was in a similar situation, which was a first. For a moment, Kris had to fight back the amusement he felt at that before he turned back to Brad.
He made a face. “Please. It’s Cheeks.” He laughed at the look Kris gave him. “Fine, I’ll let you call me Brad.”
“Generous of you,” Kris said.
Brad grinned. “Oh, Lieutenant Sassy, I like you.”
Next to him, Anoop snorted and Kris turned to give him a hard look. Anoop simply smiled.
“Brad,” Kris started again, fighting back a sigh because, yes, he already liked the guy but this was still a murder investigation, “can you tell us where you were yesterday morning? Around 1:30 to be exact?”
“Drowning my sorrows.” He tilted his head. “Well, it was more I was flaunting myself to show my ex just what he was missing. Bastard.” He sighed. “I didn’t get home until a little after 3:00.”
Anoop nodded. “Were you alone?” he asked.
Brad didn’t even blink at the question. “No,” was all he said.
“We’ll need the name of the person who came home with you.”
Brad gave them a pained look. “Are you serious? You go and interrogate them and I’m never going to convince them to see me again.”
“We’re not going to interrogate them,” Kris assured him. “But we do need to verify your story.”
Brad sighed. “Fine. His name is Mark Salling.” He held out a hand for Kris’s notebook, wiggling his fingers. “Well? Don’t you want his number?”
Kris studied him for a moment before turning to a blank page and handing over the notebook. He knew that Anoop would understand the gesture for what it was—a sign that he believed Brad hadn’t had anything to do with the murder but that he wasn’t going to fully eliminate him from the list of suspects until they’d talked to Mark Salling.
Brad smiled brightly as he scrawled Mark Salling’s number on the paper before handing the notebook back. Kris glanced down and his lips twitched at the note beneath the number.
You want my number, you just let me know, Lieutenant Sassy. You can frisk me.
Clearly, Brad wasn’t shy.
He lifted his gaze and let one corner of his mouth lift before he turned back to the previous page. “Thank you, Brad.” He twirled the pen once. “Just a few more questions and we’ll wrap it up.” Off of Brad’s nod, he continued, “Did you know Drake LaBry well?”
“Not well but we had some mutual friends so I’d definitely met him a few times.” After a moment of looking between the two of them, he added, “If you’re trying to ask if we were ever involved, the answer is no. I don’t poach and I’m nobody’s rebound.” He nodded. “And since you’re not asking me to elaborate, I’m guessing you already know what I mean so why don’t we get on with the questions?”
“Did you talk to Adam Lambert last night?”
For a moment, Brad’s surprise at the question showed and then his expression smoothed out and he simply nodded. “Yeah, I called him.”
“And what did you talk about?” Anoop asked.
Brad laughed. “Oh, I spent most of the time ranting about what an asshole Chace was.” He waved his hand through the air. “Adam was nice and supportive and all that crap by completely agreeing with me that Chace never deserved me. Then we made plans for the weekend and after we hung up, I found Mark at the club and,” Brad slowly grinned, “I think you can guess where it went from there.”
“I’m sure we can,” Kris said. “No need to go into details, Mr. Bell.”
Before Kris or Anoop could continue, Brad gave them both an appraising look. “So, are you trying to figure out if I killed Drake or if Adam did? Because I could see you questioning me for either one even if I don’t quite understand why you would even suspect me in the first place.”
“You dated Adam Lambert as well, didn’t you?”
Brad stared at him for a moment and then threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, Lieutenant Sassy, if you think I’d kill over a man, you’re very much mistaken,” he finally said. “I might threaten to kill him but kill over him? No.”
Anoop raised an eyebrow. “No jealousy at all?”
Brad gave him a knowing smile. “I never said that. I’m a jealous bitch. Adam and I were intense and we had to work damn hard to remain friends but we eventually managed it. But just because we managed to become friends doesn’t mean I didn’t want to go after the new guy he was getting serious about. Still, I wouldn’t kill him.”
Studying him, Kris couldn’t find any signs that he wasn’t telling the truth. Maybe he was off but he didn’t think so. Instead of continuing with more questions, he nodded. “Thank you, Brad. We’ll be in touch if we need to ask you any other questions.”
The smile on Brad’s face turned into a slight smirk. “Oh, anytime. I mean it.” He stood at the same time that they did and then walked them to the door. “That goes for you too,” he told Anoop, waggling his eyebrows. “I like a tall man.”
Anoop’s eyes widened briefly even as he glanced at Kris, who merely smirked before they left. Neither of them said anything as they walked down the stairs of the apartment building until they reached the lobby.
“So, I didn’t think tiny and looking like they could be related to you was your type.” Anoop grinned when Kris faltered for a moment before he turned and narrowed his eyes.
“It’s not.” Eyes glinting with sudden mischief, Kris let his eyes rake over Anoop. “He’s not the only one that likes his men tall, you know.”
Anoop’s jaw dropped. “What? Sir,” he said, slipping in to the habit from when he’d first started working with Kris, “you’re kidding me, right?”
Kris merely looked at him before turning back to the car, fighting not to laugh.
He loved when he managed to get that reaction from Anoop.
“You can’t still be going on about that,” Kris said, glancing up at Anoop.
“You hit on me.”
“No. I implied something. I never actually hit on you.”
Anoop stared down at him. “You hit on me,” he repeated. “It was strange and I’ve processed the fact that you, of all people, hit on me. You, who usually keeps to himself rather than going around flirting with people.”
Kris let out a sigh and shook his head. “Impressions?”
“Well, I think if you looked at any self-respecting gay man the way you looked at me—“
Blinking, Anoop stopped and then ran a hand through his hair, immediately switching to business. “He’s telling the truth.” He settled back in his seat. “About all of it. He wasn’t bullshitting us when he told us that he’d been with Lambert and that he was jealous.”
“You think that makes him innocent.”
“No.” Anoop shook his head. “I think that means he’s telling the truth and that makes him smart. He could be innocent but not lying to our faces doesn’t mean anything.”
Kris couldn’t stop the small burst of pride at that. When he’d started, Anoop had wanted to look for the best in everybody and while Kris understood that, he’d also wanted Anoop to remember that, sometimes, people knew exactly what buttons to push. Anoop had had more book smarts than street smarts at first and Kris was just happy that Anoop had learned how to combine the two so quickly. It made him a hell of a detective.
“Good.” Kris nodded in approval and glanced over at Anoop out of the corner of his eye. “For the record, I think you’re right. We’re going to look more into Lambert’s story and see if the rest of it adds up.”
“So far, it does.” Anoop shrugged. “I guess the ex-boyfriend doing it was too obvious.”
Kris shook his head. “Don’t assume that. Just because it seems too obvious doesn’t mean it could be exactly that.” He glanced at the clock. “Come on, we have enough time to go see Michael Sarver.”
Michael Sarver was, to put it simply, a big guy. He looked like the football players that Kris had always tried to avoid in high school and there was something that he just didn’t want to think about.
Except that it’s pretty clear that while the man is tough and definitely capable of being Adam Lambert’s head of security, he’s also a bit of a teddy bear, which becomes obvious in the way he acts around his kids before he sends them to another room to play.
Still, even teddy bears can get violent so Kris was going to reserve judgment.
“Mr. Sarver, I’m sure you already know why we’re here,” Anoop said.
Sarver nodded and leaned back against the table. “Yeah. I’m guessing you’re here about Drake.”
“We need to ask you a few questions,” Kris told him, pulling out his notebook and flipping to a blank page. When Sarver nodded, he continued, “We’ll start with the obvious one of asking where you were at 1:30 yesterday morning?”
“I was with my wife,” Sarver told them. “Asleep in bed, here at home.”
“Mr. Sarver, how long have you worked for Adam Lambert?” Kris asked.
There was a few moments of consideration before Sarver said, “About five years. I’ve been working with him since the beginning.” His lips twisted into a small smile. “Since Asper was nothing more than half a floor in an anonymous office building.”
Briefly, Kris thought of a younger Adam Lambert, one who hadn’t been through the ups and downs of Hollywood just yet before he gave himself a mental shake. That kind of stuff didn’t matter.
“Would you say he was serious about Drake LaBry?”
Sarver tensed slightly. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
“You don’t need to,” Kris said, voice even. Beside him, he could tell Anoop was surprised though he didn’t show it. Hell, Kris was already mentally swearing at himself. He didn’t need to know how serious they’d been, just that they’d been dating before and he’d already had that confirmation before they’d gotten there.
Though he clearly wasn’t happy about it, Sarver still answered the question. “Yes,” he said. “Adam was serious about him. Maybe not as serious as he could be but he was serious enough.”
Kris told himself to move on and let out a breath. “Okay, and did there seem to be any hard feelings after the break up? Beyond the usual awkwardness that usually happens,” he added.
Shit, he’d meant to move on from that.
“At first, of course. But Adam’s the type of guy who somehow manages to stay friends with his exes. It’s weird but it works for them.” Sarver smiled. “He even helped Drake start up his own business.”
Anoop nodded and, before Kris could say anything else, asked, “Mr. Sarver, did you speak to Mr. Lambert last night at any time?”
“I did. I called to check that everything was okay at his apartment around 11:00 after I’d made my final rounds at Asper. I always call to let him know how things at the store are and to make sure that there’s nothing else that needs to be taken care of.”
Kris remembered how Adam—Christ, when had he become Adam?—had worded it when he’d questioned him.
“Michael is head of my security; he simply called to check up on me.”
Kris had the feeling that Sarver did that a lot while pretending to just be letting him know what had happened.
“Did you know Drake LaBry very well, Mr. Sarver?”
Sarver thought about it and then gave a slight shrug. “I knew him well enough. He was dating Adam so he was around a lot, you know? If you’re asking me whether we were friends, then no. But we didn’t hate each other either.” He sighed. “I’m not explaining it right, I don’t think, but I guess you could just say we only knew each other a little. Friendly acquaintances would probably be the best way to describe it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Sarver,” Kris said. He stood and motioned at Anoop that they were done. “If we have anything else, we’ll contact you.”
Sarver stared at the two of them for a moment before nodding, a look of suspicion in his eyes. They began to walk to the door and Sarver walked ahead of them to open it and let them out.
“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again,” he said as they walked passed him. Rather than answer, Kris just gave him a look before continuing outside.
He could feel Anoop looking at him and he deliberately kept his gaze trained forward. He refused to give Anoop anything else to think about.
“I thought I told you a long time ago not to call me that,” Kris interrupted.
Anoop narrowed his eyes briefly. “Allen,” he said, emphasizing the name, “what was that?” When Kris didn’t answer, he reached out and pulled him to a stop. “Allen.”
Kris wrenched his arm out of Anoop’s grasp. “It was nothing,” he snapped. “I asked some questions to get a better idea of what might have happened. It’s called investigating, Desai, maybe you’ve heard of it.”
“What I heard was you asking personal questions about the victim and our number one suspect.” He turned to face Kris more fully. “And I get that that’s what we’re supposed to do but I think we both know that there was more to it than that this time. Don’t tell me there wasn’t, I could tell.”
“Well, I guess that’s where you need to work on your observation skills because there was nothing different about the questions I asked. Now, if it doesn’t interfere with you trying to read something in every little thing I do, we’ve got a murder investigation to get back to.” Kris didn’t say anything as he turned and cut his way through the people on the street as he headed to the car. Behind him, he knew Anoop would be following him and he fought the urge to sigh. He knew that Anoop’s questions had been valid but he wasn’t going to think about that right now.
Right now, he was going to concentrate on the fact that while Adam’s story added up, it didn’t change the fact that he would have still had time to kill Drake and leave the store with no one seeing him. To top that off, the murder weapon had his prints on it.
Still, Kris’s gut told him that Adam was innocent and he couldn’t be sure if that was because it was true or because he wanted it to be true.
Something wasn’t adding up and Kris was going to find out what.