The rain hadn’t let up much, so it was no surprise that after spending more than an hour ‘pounding the pavement’, both Thomas and Miroslav were very damp. Walking into the seventh hotel they had on their list, Miro cursed the idea of walking, regardless if his back was actually feeling a little better. Instead of his back, his feet were now hurting and his shoes would not stop squeaking. It was annoying, even more so than Thomas’ chatter. Speaking of which, Thomas seemed to be of the same opinion, if the look on his face was any indication.
Miro had noticed that, like himself, Thomas’ suit was sticking to his frame as well. It appeared that the younger man did in fact have some muscle underneath his clothes and wasn’t just a lanky, gangly young man.
Miroslav noticed the look on the receptionists’ faces and felt his agitation stirring. That wasn’t the first time they’d received that look since they had started this venture. That fact probably made his temper flare a little more than it would have otherwise. Nevertheless, Miro was still polite as he always was. He’d been conditioned from an early age to show respect to everyone and to keep his temper in check. It took a lot to get him angry.
“Good day. We’re looking for a group of young men that were with this gentleman,” Miro supplied the photograph that Thomas had of Kevin to show the receptionist. “We were wondering if they had been through here in the past day or so?”
The pristinely dressed blonde receptionist looked him over in his dripping suit. If looks could kill, Miro thought. “We aren’t allowed to give out guests’ information, sir.”
She didn’t even bother to glance at the photograph.
Thomas leaned against the counter and flashed her a smile. It didn’t seem to do much. At first.
“How about now?” Thomas asked, showing his badge, which was clipped to his belt buckle, smile still in place. Miro rolled his eyes and didn’t bother to hide it. With their clothes still wet from having walked so much in the rain, Thomas’ trousers were clinging to his body a little too well. The positioning of the badge on his belt meant she—and he, because Miro had looked too—had to look at Thomas’ crotch. Thomas’ smile had morphed into a grin when he noticed that seemed to have rattled the lady behind the desk a bit.
The woman snatched the photograph from the counter where Miro had left it and stared at it; Miro noticed her cheeks a little redder than when they’d come in a moment ago. Miro shook his head as he glanced over at Thomas and saw the cheeky grin still there. Thomas met Miro’s eyes and winked. Miro shook his head but a smile played at the corner of his lips before he cleared his expression again.
“Do you recognize him?” Miro asked, his temper abated for now.
The woman nodded. “Yes. He checked in with some friends the day before yesterday.”
“How are you so sure it was them? I’m sure you have a lot of guests…” Thomas asked, cheeky grin still in place.
The receptionist huffed a sigh, her blush fading. “They were noisy, loud. They almost knocked over one of our statues! Security had to threaten them with being kicked out before they went upstairs.”
Thomas raised his eyebrow and shared a look with Miroslav.
“Sorry to hear that. Do you happen to have a room number where we can find them? We’ll make sure we mention how to behave in public for you trouble?” Miro asked, happy that their trek through the weather had actually yielded some results.
The woman nodded and provided the information they needed before the pair of detectives went over to the lifts. Miro slipped the photograph into his pocket and looked at Thomas after the younger man hit the button for the elevator.
“Do you always flirt with receptionists?”
Thomas grinned but didn’t look over. “Only the ones that need to loosen up.”
“So that’s a ‘yes’ then.” Miro returned as they entered the lift once it arrived.
Thomas merely laughed.
By the time Thomas and Miro returned to the office with their guests, Jürgen already had the Großkreutz in his office. Miro recognized the closed door and the uncomfortable look on his boss’ face. It wasn’t a hard deduction when he noticed that Jürgen also had two occupants with him.
“To the interrogation room, sir?” One of the junior officers, Podolski, Miro thought, asked. Miro nodded.
“Keep them separated as well.” Miro instructed and watched Podolski and Thomas steer the misfit trio towards the private rooms.
Miro let out a long breath and went to his office. He saw a note from Torsten asking that he call and Miro decided he could wait until after he’d spoken to Kevin’s friends and his parents. He retrieved something from his coat cupboard and went to the lavatory. Once inside, he checked himself over in the mirror and then he sighed, heavily. He looked little better than a soaked rat. Fortunately he had a change of clothes that he kept in his office for various reasons and he undid the dry cleaner’s packaging to change.
Once that task had been completed, Miro reentered the main office and saw that Jürgen was finishing with Kevin’s parents. Thomas walked back from the interrogation rooms and stopped short once he’d seen Miroslav. He huffed as he stood next to him.
“You should have told me. I’ll bring a suit to change into next time.”
Miro looked at his partner out of the corner of his eye. “A piece of advice for you: always be prepared, regardless of the situation.”
“And how many things are you prepared for?” Thomas asked with a raised eyebrow.
Miro regarded him with a cool look. Now wasn’t the time for petulance. “Many.”
While he had been looking over the boy, Miro couldn’t help but notice the way the boy’s hair was starting to fluff out, finally starting to dry out from their little jaunt in the rain. His suit was still damp though; Thomas had to be uncomfortable. Miro made a mental note to send him home early, but once they had talked to the parents and wrapped up their other loose ends.
At Jürgen’s beckoning, Miro advanced with Thomas slightly behind. His expression had cleared form the annoyance to sympathy and he greeted Kevin’s parents as politely as possible.
“Mr. and Mrs. Großkreutz, you have my sincerest sympathies for your loss.”
Pia nodded and Miro could see why she had been so famous in her younger years, and why the scandal surrounding her marriage to Martin Großkreutz had caused such a wave in Berlin when it had happened. While her beauty may have faded slightly, she still had some of the same spark that had brought her to attention in the gossip and society columns all those years ago. Even now, when she looked heartbroken, Miro could still see it. He refocused on the case in hand.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but may I ask you a few questions about Kevin?” He asked gently.
Both Martin and Pia nodded affirmative and Miro gave a brief nod of thanks. “Thank you. Can you think of anyone who may have wanted to hurt Kevin at all?”
Pia’s face crumpled as the tears began afresh while Martin shook his head. “No one. It was supposed to be a few days’ respite from his studies in Dortmund. He’d come with some friends…”
Martin paused a moment there and Miro watched him, studying his expressions. Martin seemed to get lost in a train of thought somewhere. He doesn’t seem overly upset that his son is now dead. Pia spoke then, interrupting his study and he looked over at her quickly, noting her reactions as well. Now she looks far more devastated.
“Are they—were they hurt?” She asked, eyes wide as if something had occurred to her. A mother’s concern. “Was it just Kevin, or were the rest hurt at all?”
Miro swallowed, trying to find the words that would relay to her what she wanted to know. How do you tell someone that their son was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and was the ‘lucky one’ who had been chosen to be murdered instead of his friends? Miro was about to reply but Thomas did so first, offering a fresh handkerchief that he had pulled from God-only-knew-where as he spoke. Miro’s expression cooled slightly for the interference, but the Großkreutz and Jürgen didn’t seem to notice.
“They are doing about as well as can be expected given the circumstances, ma’am. I’m so sorry about your son.” Thomas replied, releasing his grasp of the handkerchief as she took it from him.
“Thank you,” she started, dabbing her cheeks, “inspector…?”
Thomas shook his head. “Komissaranwärter Müller, ma’am. Thomas Müller.”
“Thank you, Mister Müller.” She replied again, softly. She kept his handkerchief; Thomas didn’t seem to mind.
Miro looked back to Martin. “Did your son know anyone in Munich?”
Martin shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. Perhaps you could ask his friends that came with him? Surely they would know. I’m afraid we hadn’t seen Kevin in quite some time.”
Miroslav nodded. “Yes, of course.”
Curious expression he’s got there. As if he was upset about Kevin’s choices in friends. Miro was about to ask about it, when Martin spoke again.
“You have found them, I presume?” Martin asked. Miro didn’t quite care for the man’s tone. This is why I hate bankers. Miroslav nodded once.
“Yes, sir. We are waiting to speak to them. If I may ask, sir, when was the last time you had seen your son?”
Pia sniffled hard and answered the question. “We hadn’t seen him in weeks.” She started to cry again.
Martin took up the slack she had left behind. “He was studying for his finals. He was just completing his last year at university.”
“Oh? What was he studying?” Thomas asked, tone light but still concerned. If he was acting, he was doing a damn good job of it.
“Business, of course.” Martin replied disdainfully, regarding Thomas as if he were a bug that he now had to scrape off of his shoe.
Martin sighed and pried the handkerchief away from Pia’s hands before handing back to Thomas with a look of annoyance that Miro found particularly interesting. “Just find out who did this to my son. And sooner, rather than later, won’t you?” Martin looked at Miroslav before looking at Jürgen again. “Come, Pia.”
The three policemen watched as Martin steered his wife by her elbow out of their offices. Shaking his head, Miro looked at Thomas who was putting the handkerchief on his desk. Miro looked back to Jürgen; his boss looked tired. More so than usual.
“Just find me something, Miroslav.” Jürgen stated before going back to his office. “Anything.”
Miro didn’t even have the chance to reply before Thomas returned by his side. Miro sighed.
“Müller, go home and change your clothes. I don’t want you getting pneumonia. Then return here straightaway.” He said, looking at his partner.
Thomas hesitated, watching him for a moment, before speaking quietly. “Yes sir.”
At least he wasn’t going to argue this time. Miro waited until he heard Thomas’ footsteps leading away from him before he walked over to another Hauptkommissar's office. The small man that called it home along with his partner was hunched over a folder, reading it intently. Miro smiled a little and knocked on the door.
When he looked up, he smiled.
“Miroslav,” he greeted and leaned back in his chair. His partner turned at the greeting, only he didn’t smile.
Miro looked at his partner and smiled a little. “I was wondering if you, Michael, and you, Philipp, would do me the honor of helping me with my current case?”
They both raised their eyebrows.
“Don’t you have a partner for that now?” Michael asked. “Or have you run him off too?”
Miro watched Philipp. It was Lahm that he wanted to help him, but he knew Ballack wouldn’t leave it alone if he wasn’t invited too. Besides, Michael’s technique may come in handy on some of the more stubborn companions of Kevin’s.
“He’s indisposed at the moment on other business for our investigation.” Miro replied cordially.
“I don’t see why we can’t assist you. What do you need, Miro?” Philipp asked, standing up from the desk with a polite, friendly smile.
Miro smiled. It was good to have friends in the department still, even if one of them was partners with a giant ass. Miro moved closer into the office and folded his hands behind his back.
“You see, my partner and I are on a new case. And since he is currently unavailable, I need your help interrogating a few suspects…”