To say that the commissioner’s visit to Meg’s office was unexpected would have been an understatement. You might as well say that the Brooklyn Bridge was large, or that an amp turned up to eleven was loud. No one came down to Internal Affairs unless they had to, and pretty much no one had to. Even the handful of investigators working down there did whatever they could to escape the dank basement quarters assigned to the department, up to and including reviews of parking meter revenue.
Meg had audited parking meter revenue ten times in the past five years.
She held it together, though, when she saw Luc Milton’s tall form filling the doorway into her office. “Commissioner Milton! How can I help you today?” She rose to her feet and hoped that it wasn’t too ass-kissy; the commander hated sycophants, but she had to say something, right? Just looking up and saying, “What do you want, I’m surfing the Web for porn,” would be too casual and besides, this was Luc Milton.
He offered her a thin, gentle smile. “Detective Masters. You’ve worked in Internal Affairs for what, five years now?”
“Yes, sir.” It had been four years, seven months and twenty-six days but Meg wasn’t counting. It wasn’t as though she was bitter or anything.
“Since Crowley took over in Major Crimes.”
“Sir.” Literally anyone would have been a better choice than Crowley. She hadn’t been a fan of Lilith, but Crowley was just a disaster. The solve rate had gone down by fifty percent since he’d moved over from Vice, and that was without considering the disciplinary problems and community complaints. Meg couldn’t say anything about it, though. The one time she had her office door had been filled with unripe grapes.
Milton’s smile shifted slightly, took on the characteristics of a smirk as he produced a thick accordion file from somewhere. She hadn’t even seen him carry the thing in here, that was how badly her skills had deteriorated since getting banished to the basement. “It seems that Crowley’s record has attracted some attention.”
She took the file. Funny how much paper could weigh; the record required both hands to hold. “If it has you down here, sir, I’m guessing that he’s not getting an award from a group of concerned citizens.” She glanced quickly at the first page of the file and put it back. “There is… there’s a lot in here, sir.”
“Well, when the head of major crimes sparks not one but two outside investigations it tends to generate a lot of data,” her superior retorted. His voice didn’t change, didn’t grow harsh or anything like that, but he had to be angry about that. It was outsiders coming in and poking around the San Francisco police. The last time that had happened….
Well, the last time that had happened Meg’s father had been taken down.
“Two outside investigations, sir?” She raised an eyebrow.
“The state has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the officer-involved shooting death of those supposed human traffickers last month.” Milton snorted. Meg kept her composure, but she couldn’t help but agree with him. The chances that those guys were involved with human trafficking were about one in half a million. Ion had sworn up and down that his life had been in danger, that he’d seen these guys killing the trafficked victims, and Crowley had just accepted it. “And the Justice Department, in their infinite wisdom, has opened up a civil rights investigation into the major crimes unit as a whole.” He rolled his eyes on that one.
“The Justice Department? What, the Justice Department is sending people here?” She couldn’t keep herself from looking up. “That – that’s absurd! We haven’t done our own investigation, the state hasn’t had their own chance to look into it –"
Milton held up a hand. “I’m aware. I’m sure that the feds walking all over everyone, jurisdictionally speaking, will do wonders for the state attorney’s disposition. I hear she’s all charm.” The corners of his mouth quirked up. They could have been a smile, perhaps. “And that, Detective Masters, is why you’re going to be masterminding the investigation.”
She put the file down on her desk. “Me.”
“Well it’s not as though we can have two external investigators show up and not involve Internal Affairs.” He raised his eyebrows, hands still on the desk.
Her body went cold. She hadn’t been singled out; this wasn’t any kind of real job. This was for show. She wasn’t expected to make anything of this. “Of course, sir.”
He caught her eye; held it. “This isn’t some joke. You know the history. You know the personalities. These outsiders – sometimes it’s an outside force that can get things done. Sometimes that outside force needs a little direction.” His blue eyes twinkled like the sun on an icicle. “You’re going to be the one keeping that powder keg contained until the right moment, Meg. Don’t blow it.” He straightened up. “The DoJ guys are already in town. The lady from the State will get here sometime tonight; your meeting is tomorrow. You’re meeting with them first thing tomorrow morning.” He offered her a polite, official grin. “Enjoy.”
She sank back into her chair once her most senior superior left the room, legs suddenly too weak to hold her up. She’d always admired Commissioner Milton. He’d been a friend of her father, one of the few who had somehow managed to stay untainted by his downfall. When he’d come to San Francisco she’d hoped to somehow earn his respect, maybe get a ticket out of Internal Affairs. When he showed up in her office she thought maybe today was the day – but no. Instead she got a joke of a case, kicked to IA for no reason other than the fact that outsiders were looking at them and they couldn’t get away with ignoring the accusation.
She picked up the file again. “Begin at the beginning,” she muttered. She could sit around and feel sorry for herself all day if she wanted to, but the fact remained that Milton had brought the case to her personally instead of to the head of Internal Affairs and letting him delegate. He’d chosen her, and he’d done so for a reason. People had been protesting police brutality and corruption all over the country lately and San Francisco had not escaped, but Meg had to admit that some of the local cases that drew the ire of the protestors had merit. Ion’s story certainly didn’t wash with members of the community who had something to say about police violence, nor did it seem to impress people who were affected most heavily by human trafficking.
She buried herself in the case files. Ion, who had transferred to Major Crimes from the Schools Unit about a year ago, had been chasing after two males of East Asian descent. The men had been dragging two much smaller women who, upon autopsy, had been discovered to be adolescent girls of Southeast Asian origin – these facts were not in dispute. Ion followed the men into an alley and, after an interlude that was not directly witnessed by anyone, shot them. The girls, too, were shot by guns that were found near the men.
Meg frowned at the reports. She started typing, searching for records in the coroner’s system. The autopsy reports had to have just been made in error, right? They wouldn’t have just failed to swab two dead men, accused of having killed two teenaged girls and taking aim at a cop, for gunshot residue? Apparently they would have failed to do exactly that, and failed to do it twice because there was no record of the decedents having been swabbed at all. No one swabbed at the scene – understandable, she supposed – and not only had no one swabbed them at the medical examiner’s office but the crime scene technicians hadn’t even bagged their hands. Ion’s word had been enough. He’d claimed that they’d shot the girls, so they’d shot the girls.
Meg didn’t know Ion. He’d been in the Schools Department, for crying out loud, and anyone who thought about putting Meg near a school needed to take a good long look at their life and their choices. But she knew that years of breaking up fights and looking at the metal detector probably wasn’t cause for a whole lot of faith in Ion’s judgment when it came to knowing who’d shot the girls. Who was to say that he was even on the scene yet? The coroner put the time of death for the girls and the men at roughly the same time, and time of death was kind of an inexact science. He was probably a good enough guy, with plenty of good intentions, but her job wasn’t to consider good intentions. Had Ion even been on the scene yet when the girls were killed? How could he possibly know who was there?
She frowned and picked up her phone. Internal Affairs wasn’t well regarded but she did have some friends in the department, even after all this time. She dialed a number and let herself grin when she heard the familiar gravelly voice respond. “Schools. Lt. Castiel Speaking.”
“Clarence,” she purred, twirling a dark lock of hair around her finger. She could just imagine him squirming with discomfort. “It’s Meg Masters. How are you?”
“Detective Masters. Hello.” He dropped his voice, and she could tell he was cupping his hand around the mouthpiece for increased privacy as though he wasn’t in an office of his own. “I thought we agreed to keep things professional at work, Meg.”
“I’m always professional, Clarence,” she grinned. “And believe it or not, I’m actually calling about work.”
“Oh. Oh,” he repeated, as he remembered why she was hidden away in the basement. “How can I help your department today?”
Can’t even say the name, can you? The thought was spiteful, and she didn’t care. “You worked with Joshua Ion before his promotion, didn’t you?”
He cleared his throat. “I did,” Clarence admitted. “It’s a shame about that shooting. I’m sure that it must be eating him up inside.”
“So you’d describe him as scrupulous? Not the type to take a life unless he absolutely had to.” She made some notes on paper, so he wouldn’t hear her typing.
The taller cop paused. Once upon a time he’d been a detective himself, but when he’d been offered the opportunity to get off the streets and take a more administrative position he’d jumped at the chance. While he was a good tactician and great in a fight, he’d decided he just couldn’t handle the stress. He wanted nine-to-five, hobbies. He kept bees, for crying out loud. “He’s a good cop, Meg.”
“I’m sure he is. I’m positive that he is.” She let out a little chuckle, not bothering to hide the bitterness. “Believe me, if anyone thought that he was anything but a good cop I wouldn’t be on the phone, I’d be in your office recording this. It’s just with all the protests and everything, all the attention that all police departments are getting – not just ours – we kind of need to be able to dot our t’s and cross our I’s and be able to show due diligence. Trust me. I’m not worried.”
He stayed quiet for a moment, and then she could almost hear him relax. “He was a good cop. He had a good rapport with the kids in the three schools to which he was assigned. His service record will show that there weren’t any disciplinary problems but that only tells half the story. Crime rates in those schools halved. Drug arrests of kids in those schools, outside of school hours, decreased dramatically and his testimony as to the character of those children helped to get reduced sentences for those kids. He cared about them. They cared about him. The students in his last school threw him a party when they heard about his last promotion.”
Meg scribbled as fast as she could. “That was nice of them; I bet that made him feel good.”
“I was surprised when he decided to go for the detective position,” Clarence confided. “Not that School Resource Officer is an easy position.”
“Hester Holmes was stabbed by a student at her assignment just a few days ago, wasn’t she?” Meg recalled, reaching out for her coffee. It was cold now, but it still had caffeine.
He didn’t hesitate, not even a little bit, when he replied this time. “She got between two students who were fighting. It’s one of the risks of the job, and we know it when we take on the role. Fortunately it was a glancing blow; she should be back in the corridors in a week or two.”
So he was hiding something, something about Ion. There were ways to get that information out of him, but somehow the thought of seducing him now just made her skin crawl. She knew that he thought of her as dirty, tainted by her father’s crimes. Good enough to mess around with, but not someone he could really be seen with at the office. “Right. Well, that’s a relief. I’m glad it wasn’t more serious. But you didn’t think Ion had any real interest in getting into detective work?”
“No, I didn’t. But he seems to have an aptitude for the work. Crowley tells me that he’s been instrumental in bringing a number of cases to a close since his start.” He cleared his throat again.
“Do you have a cold, Clarence? Are you coming down with something?”
“No. I am perfectly healthy.” He coughed, a dry, forced sound. “I am as healthy as a horse. I’ve never understood that phrase. Horses come down with all manner of diseases, and they develop abscesses in their noses –“
“Got it. Thank you, Clarence. I’ll make a note of it in the file. Thanks for your time.”
“It was good to hear your voice, Meg.”
She let herself smile, ever so slightly, for what she once thought might have been. “It was nice talking to you, too. We’ll have to meet up sometime. Soon.” She hung up before he could ask what she meant by that.
So. Clarence hadn’t copped to anything with Ion, but he’d dropped a fairly strong hint about the kid’s sudden trajectory change. Crowley had gotten involved personally. Since when did Crowley get involved personally in moving someone from policing middle- and high-school kids to investigating serious crimes in a major city?
Her father would never have stood for it.
Not for the first time, she wished she could just call her father and ask him about this. Sure he’d been dirty. He’d been more than dirty – he’d done terrible, awful things. He’d also been the absolute best at playing these kinds of games, and after all if you wanted to catch a crooked cop, who better to use than a crooked cop?
Was that why Milton had dropped this case in her lap? Did he think she was dirty too?
The question was, what would a guy like Crowley – who made Captain A. Z. Azel look like a jovial patrolman who occasionally took a donated stick of gum from neighborhood children - want with a school resource officer like Ion?
She probably wasn’t going to find the answers tonight, and the idea of finding any justification for a civil rights investigation in one night was just laughable. She made a few attempts to take a look at the Major Crimes unit’s recent caseload, but couldn’t see anything glaringly obvious. They seemed to have an unusual fixation on human trafficking but that didn’t seem all that unreasonable to her. Human trafficking was filthy business; it was worth fixating on.
She deeply suspected that anything she found would be connected to the human trafficking issue that had culminated in a rookie detective shooting two men in an alley, and left two teenagers dead besides. Still, she needed to stay objective about this. She had a personal axe to grind against Crowley. That didn’t mean that she couldn’t do her job, get to the bottom of whatever was going on and try to keep the Department’s image at least on this side of respectable.
She brought the file home with her and read it long into the night, both because it made for fascinating reading and because with Milton’s commentary about the State investigator’s disposition ringing in her ears she wanted to be as well-informed about the case as she could possibly be. Only when she realized that showing up looking like she didn’t get the memo about goth makeup not being proper workplace attire did she realize that getting a decent night’s sleep would be equally in her best interests and retire.
She made it to headquarters bright and early the next morning, early enough to be the first one to get to the conference room. Nancy, the civilian admin who handled the bookings, had a big smile for her as she brought a box of doughnuts into the space. “Wow,” she gushed. “It’s not often that I get to see you outside of your department, Meg. You look good!”
“Thanks, Nancy. So do you! It’s nice to see you, too. Have they been treating you well up here?” She put her things down at the head of the table – making it obvious, just in case – and went to help the smaller woman with the coffee urns.
“Well, the work isn’t quite as, uh, exciting as it was in Major Crimes but I can’t say that it’s not a little bit calmer. Lilith didn’t care for me much.” She lowered her voice as they entered into the more private space. “And Crowley doesn’t either.”
“He sure shook things up when he took over, didn’t he?” Meg muttered, at least as much to herself as to her companion. How many good people had been shooed out the door when Crowley had taken over?
“I guess most people would, when they’re coming into a new job like that, right?” Nancy bit her lip and looked up, wide-eyed. “I mean, there was a lot of bad stuff happening around there, not just with your…”
“Yeah. I know, Nance.” She sighed. “Dad wasn’t a saint. Some other people saw it as license. I get it.”
“I know. But you’re doing okay in Internal Affairs, and I’m doing much better where I am.” She smiled, gold cross at her neck catching the light just enough to glint. “I think your guests will be here soon.”
She made herself grin. “I hope so. Otherwise there won’t be any doughnuts left for them!”
Nancy left, and Meg sat down at the head of the table to watch the door and wait. After five minutes, she got up and poured herself a cup of coffee.
The first “guests” to arrive showed up five minutes after she filled her mug, and she heard them before she saw them. “I’m telling you, Sammy,” came an aggressive male voice that cut through the ever-present din of elevators and telephones and people trying to find loved ones, “The Giants aren’t going to do squat this year. I don’t care if he is almost as tall as you are.”
Meg paused. Tall guys named Sam weren’t exactly rare, but they weren’t exactly a dime a dozen either. It was probably a coincidence, though.
“Dean, it’s not about his height, it’s about his mechanics.” This voice was softer, quieter, and Meg froze. The voice was definitely older, but she knew him. She’d know that voice anywhere. It belonged, after all, to the person who was responsible for her father’s downfall. “And his mechanics are the best in the game. There’s no one else you’d want out there. There’s no one else you’d ever think of calling to pitch two days in a row, not a starting pitcher. And he pulled it off.”
“Yeah, sure, last year,” the other voice – Dean – scoffed. Now the door opened. “Now watch, his arm’s going to fall right off. Hey, look. Doughnuts.”
Dean proved to be a tall, solidly built man with short, dirty-blond hair. He was handsome enough, in a “Federal Agent Please Take Several Thousand Giant Steps Back” kind of way, and his smile was genuine when he reached out a hand to shake hers before he reached for the doughnuts so he at least hadn’t been raised in a barn. “Dean Winchester, Department of Justice. This is my brother, Sam.” Winchester. Of course, he’d have brought another Winchester with him. The bastards ran in packs, or maybe nests. Like roaches.
She’d had enough time to compose herself and managed to twist her lips into a smirk. “Hiya, Sammy. Long time no see.”
Was that guilt, somewhere up in the corners of his eyes? “Meg. It’s been a long time.” His lips relaxed into something like a smile. “You look great.”
“Thanks.” She searched for something to say. “Did you get even taller?”
“Uh, yeah. I think I did.” One corner of his mouth twitched. He wasn’t lying, either. He had gotten taller, and his hair had gotten longer too. How he managed to have hair that long and work for any Federal law enforcement agency was beyond her, but hey – it was a different administration these days. The suit was a nice look on him, though, better than the polyester uniforms they had him in back in the day.
“You two know each other?” Dean blinked, looking from Meg to Sam and back again. “What, is she an old girlfriend or something?”
Sam sighed. “No, Dean. Nothing like that.”
“Me and Sammy go way back,” Meg pointed out, sipping from her coffee. “Don’t we, little brother?”
And wasn’t that a funny thing? Sam closed his eyes in the most exhausted, despairing expression she’d ever seen on him. Dean’s face moved from confusion to comprehension to red-faced rage in the span of about three seconds. “Wait – is she –"
“Meet Meg Masters,” Sam sighed. “We have the same biological father. So yeah. Meg, this is Dean. Same mother.” He stalked over to the coffee urn and poured himself a coffee.
“Did you set this up?” Dean demanded, wheeling on his brother and pointing. “Did you make this happen? Trying to connect with them again? Is that it?”
Meg stared at them, unable to keep her jaw from hanging open. This wasn’t what she’d expected from the family that had fought so hard to keep little Sammy from them. “No, Dean. I didn’t even know about the case until we were assigned last week.”
“And I wasn’t assigned to the case until yesterday, so there wasn’t some kind of conspiracy,” Meg added, watching the brothers carefully. “I’m pretty sure we had a mutual desire to never see each other again the last time we saw each other. And that was okay.”
“I’m sure we can all be professional about this,” Sam insisted, sitting down. He took a seat beside Meg, sitting on the edge of his chair but pulling out his laptop nevertheless. “We’re all here to do a job.”
Dean glowered, both at Meg and at Sam, but he sat down beside his brother. “This ain’t over,” he muttered to the latter.
“When is it ever?” Sam shot back, equally quiet.
Meg sat back and contemplated. She’d figured that Sam would be the golden child in the Winchester family once he helped to put Dad in San Quentin, but apparently that wasn’t the case. She wasn’t quite ready to let go of all of her bitterness, or even much of it, but it was an interesting dynamic to note. “So,” she commented. “You’re with the Justice Department now. I guess San Fran PD was just a stepping stone for you.”
“I did have a goal in mind,” Sam admitted, looking her in the eye. “But I was always going to be a lawyer. You knew that, though. Once I finished my degree I joined a firm and did some private practice for a little while. That’s when the Office recruited me.” He glanced at Dean. “Dean came in through the military.”
“And now they spend their days wandering around the country minding everyone else’s jurisdiction for them.” The door, which had been left open, now filled with the shape of a tall, strikingly beautiful woman. Her suit had been impeccably put together, so perfectly that even a big-screen hit from the Forties couldn’t have done it justice. Her make-up was flawless, to the point that Meg suspected it had been tattooed on, and there wasn’t a single red hair out of place in that perfect coiffure. It was probably afraid to move.
The woman strode in, heels beating out a staccato rhythm on the faux marble floor, but neither of the men seemed intimidated. “I prefer to think of it as looking out for the rights of people whose rights have been ignored or worse for a very long time,” Sam told her, rising to his feet with a polite little smile. He extended his hand. “Sam Winchester, Civil Rights Division. We’re not so much looking to intervene in anyone else’s jurisdiction as to…”
“Investigate,” Dean supplied.
“Right,” Sam added. “Supply a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes it can be easier to solve a problem when someone who isn’t immersed in the culture is looking at it.”
The woman – easily the most beautiful woman Meg had ever seen in her life – took Sam’s hand, but her expression didn’t change. “Abaddon Sands, Special Prosecutor for the State of California.”
Sam glanced over at Meg, just once. “Let me introduce Detective Meg Masters, from Internal Affairs. We’ve only just arrived but I’m guessing that Detective Masters was assigned to the case because of her extensive familiarity with the inner workings of the Major Crimes unit.” Dean cleared his throat, loudly. “Also this is Special Agent Dean Winchester, from the Department of Justice.”
“Howdy,” Dean waved.
Meg met the prosecutor’s eyes as she transferred her hand from Sam’s to Meg’s. “Pleased to meet you,” Meg greeted. “Honestly, this is probably an unpopular opinion around here but I think it will be good to have an impartial third party to take a look at the evidence and decide if there’s a reason to pursue disciplinary charges against Joshua Ion or something more.” Oh, you want her to pursue something more all right, her brain mocked her. She shushed that part of her brain. It wasn’t even ten o’clock in the morning yet, far too early to be thinking about those lush, red lips against hers.
Abaddon turned to Sam and Dean, still holding Meg’s hand but much less welcoming when looking at the boys. “What exactly do you think that the case of Detective Ion has to do with civil rights violations?”
Dean closed the door to the conference room. “Well,” he began, “community activists pointed out that all four of the deceased were of Asian descent.”
The lawyers and the cops settled themselves back around the table, with Sam and Abaddon facing off on either side of Meg. The brunette envied her half-brother yet again – he got to look directly at Abaddon. Of course, he spent the whole time looking at his laptop whereas she would probably have been drooling into her accordion file, so maybe it was for the best. “That’s not exactly unexpected,” Meg pointed out. “I mean, a good portion of the human trafficking business in this area is kind of… focused in a certain community.” She winced.
Sam looked up and rocked his head gently from side to side. “Valid. The two men killed by Ion, though, had no history of ties to human trafficking.”
Dean glanced at him. “Maybe they were just smart enough to not get caught.”
“Or maybe they were part of an organization devoted to ending human trafficking.” Sam turned his screen around, revealing a web page with a bio of a man by the name of William Liu. William was described as a “tireless worker to end the exploitation of women in San Francisco,” a “lifelong resident of the city” who had “always put his community first.”
The face at the top of the page matched one of the men that had been killed.
“I’m not saying that this means that the guy couldn’t have been caught up in human trafficking,” Sam continued. “I’m just saying that it warrants further investigation.”
“As an internal affairs issue,” Abaddon told them, leaning forward. “Or as an issue for the state. Not as a federal problem.”
Sam cleared his throat. “So… community leaders provided evidence of a number of occasions when detectives from the Major Crimes unit displayed a complete disregard for their identities, a lack of respect for them as Americans or as human beings and specifically singled them out for questioning or harassment because of their ethnic background. At the very best, we think this may have played a role in Detective Ion’s actions when he killed Mr. Liu and Mr. Cho. At the worst, there may be something more systematic at play here. I hope not,” Sam continued, holding up his hands. “I remember the Department as having been pretty diverse when I was here, so I hope that we find that any problem is relatively minor.”
Dean’s smile was nasty, condescending. “Send everyone for diversity training, maybe have some milk and cookies.”
“All that we’re here to do right now – all that we came here with the intention to do,” Sam corrected, “is investigate. We have a mission of our own, it’s true, but it isn’t incompatible with a mission to investigate the shooting death of two suspects or any other matter that may come up that interests Internal Affairs.” He met Meg’s eyes squarely. “We have resources that we are more than happy to bring to bear for you if you need them. All that we ask is that you do the same for us. Equal sharing of information. Does that sound fair?”
Abaddon frowned. “How do we know that we can trust you?” she demanded. “It would hardly be the first time that the feds got in the way of an investigation, or pulled out when they decided that a matter was ‘beneath them.’”
“Yeah, Sam,” Meg sniffed. “Can you prove you’re not going to dine and dash?” Abaddon threw her a glance, but Meg kept her eyes on Sam for this.
“What, you mean show you a secret document saying that the President himself signed an executive order saying to take down the Major Crimes unit by any means necessary?” Dean huffed out a laugh. “No. Because we don’t have that. But what I can do is give you the promise that we all want the exact same thing: the truth, no matter what it is. Meg, you’ve already seen that Sammy’ll do whatever it takes to get that truth.”
And that was true, she had. She didn’t like to admit it but she’d seen that drive in him first-hand. It wasn’t pretty. It had left a lot of shattered lives in its wake – hers, and his, included. But he’d done it, and if the deep sadness she saw in his face was any indication he’d probably done it again too. “Yeah,” she sighed. “You’ll do it.”
Dean grinned. “All righty then. Let’s kick this bad boy off.” He reached for a doughnut, sprinkling powdered sugar over the table.