It was a boring case; it was simple, easy, easily solved. To have been put on it was laughable. They trusted you to work it alone. That’s something. Thomas told himself and he had to admit, that was true. He was doing a case alone. Because Miroslav didn’t want me around anymore.
He didn’t want to believe it. It hurt. Then again, what did he expect? The man was quiet, so quiet that he probably didn’t like to cause waves in an ocean, never mind the workplace. It probably really was a bad idea to sleep with his boss; how many movies and books had he seen and read where that scenario ended well for everyone involved? Never.
Thomas nodded to Torsten as he released the body. It was fairly simple enough, hell he could probably get a confession out of the kid that shot the lady if he wanted to. Even if he didn’t, there had been plenty of witnesses that had seen it happen. It was easy.
His phone went. Thomas reached into his pocket and he almost didn’t answer it once he saw who was calling. Probably calling to check up, no doubt. Thomas sighed but answered it anyway.
“Yes, Sir?” He asked and waited for Miroslav to speak. He frowned when he heard sirens in the background.
“Where are you?” Miro asked quickly, dispensing with any form of pleasantries. That wasn’t normal.
“Checking out the case you sent me on.” Thomas replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “What’s going on?”
“No, I mean literally, where are you?”
Thomas glanced to the nearest street sign he could. “I’m just off of Herzogstraße in Schwabing-West. Why? Where are you?”
He heard Miroslav curse and his eyebrows shot up. Miroslav doesn’t curse.
“Sir?” He asked, hesitatingly. Something was going on. Something important.
“Listen! I need you to listen to me Thomas.” Miro started and then rephrased more gently. “Philipp and I are in pursuit of the suspect who killed Kevin and Sarah. He’s likely to be in one of three places and you’re close enough to one of them that you can get there before we do. All you have to do is go back to Schadenfreude and the alley. If we’re right then we’ll get to him first, but you’re just needed to see if he’s there. Understand?”
Thomas nodded. Then he remembered he was on the phone. “Yes, sir. I understand. Just tell me who I’m looking for first.”
“Thomas, you’re not to engage the suspect. Just stay back and let us know if he’s there. You have to promise me that.” There was something in his tone. Thomas’ rebellious streak wanted to flare up and throw a party, show the boss man how things could get done. But something in Miro’s tone erred on caution. After all this person had killed two people already.
“Yes, Miro. I promise.”
“Good. Now the person you’re looking for is—”
Philipp and Miroslav checked the second of the two places they thought the killer could be and Miro angrily kicked at a can lingering on the pavement. He wasn’t there, at the address Seb had dug up for them: his grandmother’s old house. And he wasn’t at Sarah’s apartment either.
“He’s got to be at the Schadenfreude then. There’s no other place for him to go back to. He wouldn’t have lingered in town anywhere else.” Philipp said as they stood by the car.
“The hotel! What about the hotel? He could’ve stayed there and planned and schemed.” Miro said, refusing to believe that he could’ve sent Müller into danger.
Philipp shook his head. “We would have heard something by now. The staff would’ve let us know…”
Miro nodded and sighed before getting in the car. “Let’s go then. To the club. I hope Thomas actually listened to instructions and waited.”
Philipp looked out of the corner of his eye to Miro and raised an eyebrow. “You really think he waited? That’s kind of you.”
Miro kept his jaw line tense and shook his head. He refused to believe that Thomas would’ve disobeyed him this once.
Thomas arrived on scene and made sure to park a couple blocks down the road. He noticed nothing unusual for the time of night that it was. Foot traffic was minimal, no one appeared overly suspicious. He thought one or two lads may be swapping a few euros for some weed, but that was there business. He wasn’t going to stop a good time and ruin a perfectly good case.
Having already planned ahead, Thomas made sure to lift the collar of his coat as he got out of the car. He was going to walk once past the alley as casually as he could, just to make sure all was well. That’s what he’d told himself anyway.
He put his hands in his pockets and walked down the pavement of the sidewalk. It was damp, having rained earlier. Thomas kept himself alert as the sound of the club grew steadily louder and louder. At least it was a good song, Thomas thought as he came up to the alley. He started to continue past as if he was a normal pedestrian.
And that’s when he saw it. Or rather, he saw them.
Thomas knew right then and there that he was going to have to defy Miro’s direct order. He didn’t have a choice. Swallowing hard, Thomas made sure he turned the safety off on his weapon and he took a deep breath before he turned and walked into the alley next to the Schadenfreude.
“Why the hell is traffic so bad on a Sunday?!” Miro demanded, his temper flaring up.
“Relax, Miro. We’ll get there soon. We’re only a few miles away.” Philipp said, watching his temporary partner with concern. “Müller will be fine for a few more moments.”
Miro looked like he wanted to protest that point but he didn’t speak. Instead, his eyes glared at the car in front of them as if he could burn a hole through it and all the way through the stop-and-go traffic that separated them from their youngest partner, from Thomas.
As soon as they were back in the office in one piece, he and Thomas were going to have a nice long chat about trust and following orders. There is no way in Hell he waited. That would’ve been too easy. Thomas’ had a natural curious streak that would serve him well in the inspector position he was going to end up at one day. However, on days like today, it was most decidedly not a good thing. If curiosity gets him killed…
Miro shook his head. No. He couldn’t go through the death of another partner. Not again.
“Just hurry up, Fips.”
Philipp looked at Miro again, concern on his face. This was clearly more than just worry over a partner. Quietly, Philipp spoke.
“I’m trying, Miroslav.”
Thomas quietly advanced, hand on still in his pocket but it was wrapped around the handle of his gun. He wasn’t going to startle anyone into anything stupid. He wasn’t that crazy.
Cautiously, he approached, eyes taking in the scene in front of him. One of them was on the ground, legs splayed as their body was unmoving. Their head was cradled in the other’s lap and Thomas shook his head. So that was a third victim, then. Only this time it was different. The figure cradling the head of the other man’s shoulders were shaking.
He was sobbing.
“Marco?” Thomas called quietly, hopefully not startling him too badly. Crazy crying people wasn’t a good thing, ever. “Marco, it’s Thomas.”
The other man sniffled. “I know who it is. Your cologne gave you away.”
Thomas remembered the few times he and the other man had traded some banter and a joke over the past few days. He’d had no idea that this man was the killer. He felt sick knowing it now.
“I’ll remember to wear less next time.” He replied, watching him warily.
“Do that.” Marco replied, another quiet sniffle as he cradled the dead man’s head.
Mario. Another stab wound to the chest scenario, Thomas thought as he shook his head.
“Marco, tell me what happened. Tell me what really happened.” Thomas spoke quietly, carefully moving into Marco’s line of sight. This time, unlike the other times, the knife was still in Mario’s chest. Thomas didn’t see any other weapons.
Thomas stayed on the perimeter of Marco’s sight and he moved to sit on a crate on the other side of Mario. He kept himself low, level and equal with Marco. This was a delicate situation that brute force would decimate. Someone would end up hurt that way, and Thomas didn’t want anyone else to suffer.
Marco watched Thomas, tearstains on his cheeks. His eyes were dark, darker than they’d ever been that Thomas had seen him. There was a small smudge of blood on his cheek. Thomas guessed that’s from where he’d cradled Mario’s body against his own.
“I didn’t have a choice, Thomas.” Marco said distantly. “I had to do it. I had to kill them.”
“Why?” Thomas asked softly as he sat on the crate.
“Kevin knew. Kevin knew what I’d done and he was going to tell.” Marco’s eyes seemed to fill with tears again as he looked down at Mario with every look of a heartbroken man. “I couldn’t let him tell.”
Thomas watched as Marco started to cry again. He waited a few moments to see if Marco was going to speak again. When he didn’t, Thomas gently prompted further.
“What was he going to tell?”
Marco’s shoulders continued to shake with his sobs before he sobered enough to reply.
“About the first time.” Marco sniffled and looked at Thomas. “Haven’t you ever done something, something you regretted but it made things so much better? It gave you what you wanted? Haven’t you ever done something like that?”
Thomas didn’t know what the hell Marco was talking about. He was talking in riddles and it didn’t make any sense. He wanted to say enough of this and to have some sense start being made, but he couldn’t. He was knee-deep into some super kind of crazy and for a moment he wished he had just listened to Miro and waited.
That’s when he saw the gun.
Next to Marco’s knee, a small pistol waited for someone to pick it up and use it.
Scheiße. He should have waited.
“Yeah, yeah I have.” Thomas replied to answer Marco’s question. “I slept with my boss once.”
Thankfully Marco didn’t appear to care about what he said, only that he had said something in agreement to his own belief.
“Then you understand! It’s okay to do a bad thing if it makes things better, right? It’s okay to make yourself happy. Isn’t it?” Marco looked imploringly at him.
Thomas nodded. “It is okay to make yourself happy, Marco. But you can’t go around killing people to do it.”
For the first time since he’d arrived, Marco looked malevolent then. Something dark flashed across his expression and Thomas’ grip instinctively tightened on his pistol.
“I didn’t have a choice. Mario was going to stay with Him and they were going to be together. Mario didn’t see, he didn’t know. He had to go.” Marco’s tone had grown cold, angry. Thomas felt the hairs standing up on his neck.
“Mario was with someone else?” Thomas asked. Marco nodded, eyes still almost black with rage.
“Manuel, Ducky everyone called him. He was perfect. Mario thought so. I heard about him often enough. ‘Ducky did this’, ‘Ducky did that’. He was wonderful, perfect, never could do anything wrong, unlike me. He was funny, smart. He would’ve been somebody one day, you know?” Thomas nodded despite having no idea who this ‘Ducky’ was. Marco continued ranting.
“I didn’t mean to kill him. Honestly, I didn’t. I went to talk to him. I wanted to convince him that Mario and I could be happy together. I loved Mario for so long,” the tears started again as Marco held tighter to the body of his dead boyfriend. “I just wanted to be the best for him. Neuer laughed in my face. He told me that he and Mario were going to be happy and that Mario didn’t need me to be happy. He turned to walk away from me and I hit him. I couldn’t stop. I just kept hitting and hitting and—”
Marco looked down at Mario and his lip trembled. “I’m so sorry, Mario. I just wanted you to myself.”
Thomas thought he could start piecing the puzzle back together. But that didn’t explain why Sarah had died.
“What about Sarah?” Thomas asked quietly, snapping Marco’s attention straight back to himself.
“Sarah? I hadn’t wanted to hurt her either. I wouldn’t have. But she saw me with Kevin and the fight we were having. I didn’t mean to hurt him either, Thomas.” Marco looked at Thomas earnestly then. “You believe me don’t you?”
Thomas wasn’t stupid enough to disagree right now. So he nodded. “Of course I do.”
Marco looked relieved. Thomas thought he heard a car down the road but he couldn’t tell. The song had changed in the club right next to him and it was full of low-bass drops. It would be hard to tell much of anything that happened in this alley, whether he called for help or if someone fired a gun. Unless the song changed, no one outside the alley would hear anything about it.
“Why here? Why this alley?” Thomas asked just out of curiosity. Two murders in one alley. Coincidence or was there something more?
Marco shook his head. “This club, it’s where me and Mario met for the first time. Where I first knew I loved him. We had one dance, and I knew.” Marco smiled then, and Thomas felt the goosebumps run across his skin from the shudder he had. “I knew no one else would be the one for me.”
Marco looked down and smoothed Mario’s hair, looking lovingly at the boy in his arms.
“No one else but you for me.” He repeated again and Thomas saw him reaching for the gun.
“Marco! Marco,” he said again, softer. “Mario wouldn’t want this. He wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”
Marco laughed but there was no humor in it. “He wouldn’t want anyone else other than Manuel either, but that’s not where we are, is it?”
He looked at Thomas then. They watched one another for a few moments and Thomas wondered where the hell Miroslav was. How long did it take to figure out their killer was right here?
“I don’t want to live in a world without Mario in it. I didn’t mean to do it, Thomas. Kevin, Sarah…I didn’t mean it. I just loved him.”
“How did Kevin find out about Manuel?” Thomas asked as Marco’s hand closed around the handle of the gun by his knee.
“I don’t know. He said someone from the police in Berlin told him. It didn’t matter. He knew enough that I knew he wasn’t lying. I’d just wanted him to believe that it was all old history; that it didn’t matter. Everyone had moved on. He wouldn’t stop. Sarah was on her way to talk to us when she saw it. I ran off but she saw me anyway.”
Thomas nodded understandingly as he glanced up and saw two figured enter the alley. Finally. At last.
“Marco, let’s go back and talk about this.” Thomas suggested in the same gentle tone he’d used all encounter. Marco shook his head.
“No. I’m not going anywhere.” He raised the gun then, but he was pointing it at himself instead of at Thomas. “I told you. I don’t want to live without Mario.”
Thomas took both hands out of his pockets and held them up cautiously. “Marco, please. Don’t do this.”
Marco shook his head, but the gun lowered slightly at an angle. “I don’t have a choice. I never had a choice.”
Several things happened in that moment. Several very important things that caused the chain of events that followed that moment.
First, Philipp announced their presence behind Marco and the scene. Second, Marco’s head turned to look at them, startled that someone else had arrived. Third, Thomas decided to take advantage of the fact he was surprised and lunged forward.
And fourthly, finally, and most importantly: a gun went off.
Miro watched it happen as if it were some great film playing in front of him instead of real life. He saw what Thomas was going to do and his voice called a warning too late; the warning echoed around the brick walls of the alley as the gunshot went off. His heart stopped a moment later as Thomas fell forward onto Marco’s body. Philipp had rushed forward and Miro was only a moment behind him.
Marco had pushed Thomas’ body off of himself and Philipp was right there to catch Marco’s hands before he had a chance to fire the weapon again. He kicked the gun that Marco had used out of the way and took his hands and struggled for a few moments before he got the other man on his stomach and in hand cuffs.
Miro made sure their killer was secure before he moved to Thomas’ side and knelt down next to him. When he saw the entry point of the wound, his stomach dropped. Oh no.
Thomas was watching him, his blue eyes wide in surprise.
“I should’ve…” he said, gasping from the pain. “I should’ve waited.”
Miro nodded in agreement, no smile in his voice. “You should have, you stupid ass.”
Thomas smiled a little and he took Miro’s hand tightly. Miro squeezed it and kept a tight hold. He heard Philipp calling for an ambulance from what seemed like a thousand miles away.
“Miro…we caught him. He confessed.” Thomas whispered and Miro smiled slightly, his thumb brushing along the back of Thomas’ hand.
“I know. I’m proud of you.” Miro said and Thomas’ smile stayed in place, though the grip on Miroslav’s hand had loosened a little. His eyes weren’t as clear as they had been a moment ago.
“Thomas? Thomas!” Miro squeezed his hand as tightly as possible; it did no good. Moving quickly, he moved to staunch the blood flow from Thomas’ wound by using his coat. “Thomas, stay with me now. I don’t want to have to have this conversation again. You’re staying my constable until I say so, all right?”
Thomas’ voice was faint, smile slipping from his mouth. “Of course, Sir.”
Miro felt his heart squeeze. “Good. So stay awake for me. Just stay awake, Thomas.”
Sirens could be heard in the distance but Miro kept his eyes focused only on Thomas. It had taken him a long time to realize that he did like his constable, his partner. Maybe liked to the point of loving him a little bit. He wasn’t one-hundred percent sure yet, but with time, he was sure it wouldn’t be hard to love the goofy man that rushed into situations without proper back up or a fully formed plan.
Miro shook his head. This wasn’t going to end this way. He couldn’t do it again. He’d held one dying partner’s hand; he wasn’t ever going to do that again. Not ever.
“I’m not going to lose you now.” Miro murmured and hoped Thomas could hear. “I just found you.”
Thomas’ smile returned to his face, even as his eyes closed and the grip on Miroslav’s hand went slack.