Thomas had been lectured before, many times, especially in school. But this was different. Anxiety at possibly being fired or written up, swam in his mind. He had just publically verbally argued with a senior officer in front of not only his boss and his boss’ boss, but the very top of the chain. A man who could fire all of them, if he so chose. He was screwed.
Jürgen was looking away from him now, focused on Joachim again and now was apologizing for his behavior. I am so fired. Miro wasn’t looking at him at all and that was the worst. He had finally just started getting along with his boss, the man was starting to trust him a little, and what did he do? He just completely fucked that up. Perfect.
“I promise you, Joachim, this department doesn’t operate this way. This behavior will not be tolerated.” Jürgen looked at Thomas again and there wasn’t any patience in that steely gaze either. “Do you have anything to say for yourself, Müller?”
Remembering what Miroslav said about excuses earlier and humility, Thomas swallowed hard. He could try and defend himself, say that he was trying to stick up for Miroslav but the other man probably wouldn’t appreciate being talked about that way. Never mind the fact it would be he-said against he-said, and he was the junior officer. It would be a lot easier to dismiss a young, untested officer fresh from the academy than terminate a seasoned detective with cases under his belt.
He really didn’t have much choice in the matter. He really didn’t.
“Only that I wish to convey how terribly sorry I let my temper get the better of me, sir. I misspoke.”
Jürgen watched him for a moment before shaking his head. “Müller, you’re on suspension until I determine what to do with you beyond that. That is effective immediately.”
Thomas felt his world tilt a little and his stomach began to knot. He was suspended, possibly permanently. Oh, no.
He nodded, accepting his punishment for now. Thomas glanced over at Miroslav who was watching him with an expression he couldn’t quite place. At least he didn’t look disappointed, that was some comfort, right?
It wasn’t fair, though. He had done well up to this point and now he was going to miss the questioning. He was going to miss a possible confession. He was going to miss seeing Miroslav take Bastian to the cleaners and catch their killer. His first case, and he was going to miss all the truly good stuff.
Thomas turned to leave the office after giving an apologetic look to Jürgen and Miroslav. He opened the door and walked out, ramrod straight and with his chin up. He wasn’t going to give Ballack the satisfaction of seeing him defeated, even though he was. He was going to march over there, gather his things, and leave the office for hopefully not the last time, and then he’d go home and have a beer and consider only then about jumping off a bridge into the Isar.
“He’s a good constable,” Miro supplied quietly once the door had shut behind Thomas.
Joachim looked at the detective. “I’m sure he is, and I see that Ballack still hasn’t changed.” Jogi then turned to look at Jürgen. “It’s a shame I had to come down here and see that. Tell me, what would you have done, Klinsi if I hadn’t been privy to what we witnessed?”
“Written up Müller for misconduct to a superior officer, warned him about it, and then let him go. Ballack would’ve gotten a talking to as well.” Jurgen shook his head as he sat down at his desk. “But that isn’t the situation we found ourselves in.”
“Klose,” Joachim turned to face the other man, “it was Müller who discovered this text message clue, was it not?” When Miro nodded, Joachim considered that a moment. “Would you find your investigation hindered if your partner was unavailable to you due to this suspension?”
If he was honest, Miro knew he could finish the case without him. He had already done so a hundred other times and cases while he’d been waiting on the office to send him a new partner. But that wouldn’t be fair or right, and Thomas was a good man. He just needed refinement. Besides, Joachim was giving him a way out, a way to do the right thing. Miro was grateful.
“Extremely so, sir.”
Joachim nodded and then turned to Jürgen. “It’s your choice, of course, my friend. However, I don’t see any reason why this suspension cannot be delayed. I am here to make sure this investigation runs smoothly. I find it would be beneficial if a vital member of the investigative team remained on the case.”
Jürgen smiled a little at Joachim and nodded. “Very well sir. Miroslav? If you’d like to catch your partner before he leaves…”
Miro nodded and looked between both men and spoke truly sincerely. “Thank you.”
He then left the office and Miro paused when he saw Thomas’ empty desk. Didn’t take him long to clear out. Miroslav went towards the corridor that housed the elevators and saw Thomas just walking into one. Moving quickly, Miroslav managed to slide in before the doors could shut.
Thomas looked surprised when he saw him. His mouth had started to open but Miroslav spoke before the boy could.
“You’re still here, good. We have work to do.”
“But the suspension?” Thomas asked, confused.
“Has been delayed. And if we do well, particularly if you do well in this case, Thomas, it may be revoked completely.” Miro gave him a small smile. “Now tell me, has your friend brought in our suspect yet? I need to find Philipp as well…”
Miroslav and Thomas waited in the viewing room, watching as Bastian rested his elbows on the table in the interrogation room; his head was in his hands, fisting his hair. He looked like a troubled man, that was true, but did he really look like a murderer? Miro had long ago trusted himself to disregard who did or did not appear to be a murderer. He had learned that the hard way and he regretted it ever since. No, he wasn’t going to base it on looks anymore. It would be fact, as it should always be.
Miro turned to face Thomas.
“I know I promised—”
“Technically, I’m on suspension. I understand.” Thomas didn’t even look over to speak to him. Miro shook his head.
“We’re going to talk about that later. But for now, just watch his reactions. And for God’s sake avoid Michael at all costs.” Miroslav patted his shoulder as he walked out of the viewing room to take the corner to go into the interrogation room.
Bastian didn’t even look up when Miroslav entered. He remained as he was and Miro shook his head a little.
“Mr. Schweinsteiger, I have a few more questions for you.” Miroslav stated as he took a seat across the table. “Actually, I would prefer if you could explain a few things to me. Do you think you can do that?”
The man slowly lowered his hands from his face and nodded a little. He looked exhausted, tired. He looks guilty of something.
“Can you explain the meaning of this to me?” Miro showed him a photocopy of Sarah’s text message that implicated him. Bastian lowered his elbows to the table, clasping his hands together as he exhaled.
“That’s not what it looks like.” Bastian started before he stopped.
“Will you please explain what it is then?” Miro asked patiently.
Bastian shook his head, an unamused laugh leaving him. “We were having a small disagreement earlier in the day. She’d misplaced her trainer shoes again. She thought I’d hidden them from her, like I do sometimes. She must have found them or something. That’s all that was about.”
“Training shoes?” Miro repeated and Bastian nodded. The level of incredulousness on Miro’s face was immeasurable. “How did you know our suspect was wearing a hoodie?”
“Sarah told me the night it happened. She came home and told me. I didn’t kill my girlfriend, detective. I loved her, I still do!” Bastian looked at Miroslav imploringly.
“You said she had asked you to meet her at the Schadenfreude because she’d followed ‘him’ there. I don’t see any record of such a conversation. No text messages, no phone calls in her log. How did you come by this information?”
Bastian paused and looked as if he was trying to find a way to escape the predicament he found himself in. Thomas watched through the glass and couldn’t wait to hear the man’s reply. Miroslav was keeping his cool, asking questions in his patient, gentle tone, as if he were coaxing the truth from a startled child. No wonder he was so effective. He could get you to believe that he cared for you, cared what happened to you, as if he really just wanted to know what happened and why something so bad as murder had occurred. Thomas shivered a little and wondered how many confessions Miro had received based on just his tone of voice.
Thomas’ phone started to buzz in his pocket and he pulled it out to see that Philipp was calling. He answered quickly enough and listened to the short, informative sentences from the other man and Philipp hung up as soon as he had relayed what they needed. Thomas lifted his hand and knocked lightly on the glass with his knuckles and waited until Miroslav excused himself from Bastian and came over to answer the door. Thomas’ phone buzzed again, this time with a picture message that Philipp had sent.
“What is it?” Miro asked after he shut the door to the interrogation room behind him and returned to the room with Thomas.
“Philipp found this in Bastian’s apartment.” Thomas turned his phone to show Miroslav what they had discovered. He watched the older man’s face grow pensive and then a darker emotion clouded his eyes.
“You know,” Miro started, “I almost believed that he hadn’t done it. Have this printed out and then sent to me at once. Thank you, Thomas.”
Thomas nodded and rushed to do as he had been asked. Miroslav waited for the picture to print before taking the newly printed photo along with two other pictures that they had had of Kevin back into the interrogation room. With awed fascination, the way someone watches a charmer with a snake, Thomas watched as Miroslav approached their suspect.
“Mr. Schweinsteiger,” Miro placed the photos along the table, face up. One was a picture of a crucifix, the other of Kevin’s sheet-covered body, and the last was one Pia had brought in of a smiling Kevin. “Can you please explain why this,” he pointed to the photo of Kevin’s crucifix, “showed up in your apartment when it belonged to our first victim?”
Thomas watched as Bastian’s face turned ashen and then completely devoid of any emotion whatsoever.
“I…I’d like an attorney, please.” Bastian managed after several attempts of speaking and also after swallowing stiffly.
Miroslav nodded and then stood up, taking the photos with him. “Yes, sir, I would say that you need one. I’m placing you under arrest for the murder of Kevin Großkreutz and Sarah Brandner.”