He had been hoping that after the death of Kate Argent, and at last linking the six year old arson case and the recent killing spree to her, that there would be fewer murders in Beacon Hills. Just from the voice of his deputy, the way he stumbled over the words through the five o'clock in the morning phone call, he knew that wouldn't be so. He donned his uniform, poked his head in Stiles' room and saw that his son was still sleeping peacefully with his limbs sprawled in every direction, and made a cup of coffee before he left for the address his deputy had given him. Days that started with murder before the sun rose were always long.
The scene was bloody and reminded him all too much of what the so-called 'animal attack' scenes had looked like; he didn't want to consider the possibility that Kate Argent hadn't somehow been involved with those and they had the wrong person entirely. With a gloved hand he reached to the wallet-shaped lump in the man's pocket. The entire upper half of the body had been torn open, starting with his face and ending just below the ribcage. "Theft wasn't the motive," he said to himself, flipping through the man's wallet and finally coming to the driver's license. It took him a moment to connect Paul Lahey to the man who owned the local cemetery, a man he'd spoken with only a week prior regarding the theft of a liver from one of the graves. It only took a second after that to remember the man's son, Isaac, and he stood for a moment in the rush of regret that he was going to have to tell another child that their parent was dead.
"Get me everything we have on Paul Lahey, surviving relatives in particular," he ordered over the radio as he turned the crime scene back over to the deputies that ran the small, local analysis lab. He kept Lahey's drivers license, sealed in a small evidence bag, and drove across the town in the morning sunrise. The streets were just starting to fill with people on their way to work and school when he pulled into the driveway and he frowned as his eyes caught on the front door that was cracked open a few inches. The medical examiner had put the time of death around eight or nine the night before, but he wasn't sure who lived in the house other than Lahey and his son. For all he knew there could be the rest of the family in the house at this very moment. It didn't feel like that though; deep down he knew that the open door was a sign of bad things to come.
He locked his patrol car and walked up the steps to the house, stopping at the threshold and knocking on the doorframe. "Hello? Anyone home?"
There was no answer and after calling once more he stepped inside, immediately wrinkling his nose at the slightly off-putting smell that was coming from the room to his left. The front door opened directly into the living room, a lamp on a table throwing bright illumination over the clean space. There was very little decoration to the room, functional but seemingly hardly used, and he moved on into the kitchen, stopping when he heard something break under his step. He picked up his foot and bent down to examine the shard of glass that had shattered further at his weight and slowly looked around the kitchen.
Where the living room had been clean, spotless, the kitchen was similarly put together except for the table and the space surrounding it. What he'd smelled earlier was clearly the remains of a meal, probably dinner judging from the plate that remained on the table, and as he walked around the mess of broken dishes on the rug he got a better idea of what had likely happened. A chair pushed away, a titled frame on the wall, and a discoloration where something had shattered upon impact finished the picture and he could clearly envision the movements of someone scrambling to get out of the line of fire. Isaac's tense shoulders, his distracted and nervous gaze, and swollen black eye came back to him as he stared the mess and he had a pretty good idea of who had been attempting to flee.
With a new heaviness to his steps he finished walking through the upper levels, noting from the bedrooms that it was likely that only two people occupied the house. Hopefully Lahey's wife was somewhere, divorced maybe, though he wasn't sure that Isaac would be any better off there if he had been left behind. He opened the last door, expecting another closet, and instead found steps leading into the basement. A string hung from the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs and he pulled it to illuminate the space, looking around the graveyard of objects as he reminded himself that this was a murder investigation and he shouldn't be hoping that the evidence wouldn't lead him to Lahey's son.
He wound his way through the path that the assorted objects made and noted where things had been knocked over during a struggle of some sort. "Aw crap," was all he would let himself say when he reached a freezer with a padlock installed and holes drilled in the lid. He opened the lid and felt his stomach roll slightly as he stared at the bloody scratch marks that had been left behind; seeing a dead body with its face torn off hadn't made him nauseous but imagining a kid, a child the same age as Stiles, fighting desperately inside the enclosed space because his father had locked him in left him cold and dizzy. He shut the freezer and walked away, knowing full well where his next stop had to be.
He guided Isaac into the station, not handcuffing the boy or even taking him by his arm like he might with other suspects, but he stayed close and ready to move if Isaac showed any signs of fleeing. Isaac looked back as the door to the building fell shut, his mouth twisted briefly with indecision, but he didn't try to run. "Room one is prepped for you," the deputy at the front desk said and he nodded his gratitude to her for not using the phrase 'interrogation room'. The room was only two hallways away and he held open the door for Isaac to go inside and didn't comment when Isaac took a full minute before he stepped inside the small, almost claustrophobic room.
"Do you want something to drink? A soda? Water?" he asked when Isaac was seated at the table. Isaac shook his head, shoving his hands deeper into the pocket of his black hoodie. "Something to eat? Are you hungry?"
Isaac shook his head again, glancing up briefly with his eyes wide before he dropped his gaze to focus on the edge of the small table.
He sighed and pulled out the chair opposite Isaac, sitting as far back as he could in the small room so that Isaac wouldn't feel crowded, and he considered taking out the small notebook he carried for note-taking. He decided against that, wanting to keep the conversation as low key and unofficial as he could under the circumstances. The oath he'd taken bound him to upholding the law, to investigating crimes to the best of his ability, but he still hated dragging in kids for questioning. He couldn't in good conscience say that it wasn't possible that Isaac had killed his father, the motive was certainly there, and he'd seen any number of murderers who had seemed completely harmless and innocent when they were anything but.
"You don't have to talk to me," he started. "It's completely within your rights for you to have an attorney present to advise you. I'd even recommend it."
"I don't want a lawyer," Isaac said. It was the first thing he'd said since he'd been told that his father was dead.
"Are you sure?" he asked, knowing that he was he was pushing his own luck here. Isaac nodded, the impatience so obvious in the movement that he was briefly reminded of Stiles rolling his eyes when he thought he was belaboring a point or being unreasonable with his curfew. "Alright. But any time you don't want to answer any more questions or if you decide you want an attorney, just say so."
Isaac glanced up again, swallowing visibly, and he nodded as he bit down on his lower lip.
"Alright. Can you tell me about what happened last night?" he asked. He'd learned that with some interrogations it paid to leave the questions non-specific, at least to start. Sometimes the information he got in return was relevant, sometimes it wasn't, but it almost always let him get a more complete picture of the circumstances.
"I don't know," Isaac said, barely audible. "I wasn't there."
"Okay," he said, not missing Isaac's twitch of surprise at his easy agreement. "What about before? Can you tell me what you did after school yesterday?"
Isaac frowned but he withdrew his hands from his hoodie pocket and bundled his hands up in the ends of his sleeves instead. "Lacrosse practice. I had lacrosse practice after school."
"Good, that's good," he said. Getting a recalcitrant person-of-interest to answer the first question was always the hardest part. Once he got an answer, any answer, he just had to keep them talking until answering was more natural than not. "What about after lacrosse practice?"
"I went home. I did homework and studied in my room for a few hours. My dad came home from work. He works-" Isaac stopped suddenly and his eyelashes fluttered before he closed his eyes tight for a moment and took a slow breath. When he opened his eyes again it was like all emotion had been wiped from his expression. "He worked in the office at the cemetery during the day doing the business stuff."
He felt his mouth tighten in a sympathetic grimace. He remembered his own difficulty with verb tenses during those first few weeks, when it seemed like she was still alive and if he just waited long enough he would hear her steps on the staircase or her voice calling from the backyard. "What happened after he came home from work?" he asked, echoing Isaac's word choices.
Isaac shoulders pulled in and one of his hands rose, still caught in his shirt sleeves, and ran through his unruly hair. "We had dinner," he said, his voice back to barely rising above a whisper.
He thought about the mess he'd found in the kitchen, the indent on the wall where something had been thrown with enough force that it had shattered. Then he thought about what Jackson had told him about the Lahey household, how Jackson had made a point to say that Lahey wasn't just hitting Isaac but that he was 'kicking the crap out of him'. If Jackson knew enough to be able to comment on how bad the abuse was, it was likely that the rest of the neighbors in the area knew as well or at least suspected. Isaac had probably known that people knew what was happening to him and yet no one had even tried to help. After all of the years he'd spent in law enforcement he knew far too well what happened with kids when they didn't think they were important enough to be saved.
"Isaac, what happened at dinner?" he pressed, keeping his own voice pitched low and calm.
Isaac swallowed again and shook his head.
When Isaac didn't say anything for a minute he nodded. "Okay. Can you tell me what happened after dinner?" he asked, able to fill in the general idea of what had happened at the Lahey kitchen table if not the specifics.
"I left," Isaac said. "I grabbed my bike and I left. I think he followed me, but I don't know how far."
"Do you know what time you left the house?" he asked.
Isaac shrugged. "Maybe around eight? We sat down for dinner around quarter to eight."
Which placed Isaac right in the probable time slot for his father's death. Even if Isaac hadn't killed him he had most likely been the last person to see him alive. "Did you go back home last night?"
"No," Isaac said. He leaned forward, his fingers slipping out of his shirtsleeve to thread through his hair. Isaac stayed like that, hunched over on himself and his hand almost brutal with the way he pulling at the hair right next to his scalp.
"Where did you go? Did you stay over at a friend's house?" he asked, resisting the urge to reach over and stop Isaac from hurting himself.
"No, there isn't anyone. I don't," Isaac stopped and sighed. "I went to the cemetery. There's a gardener's shed and the spare key is kept on a beam over the door. I stay there sometimes."
He sighed again and nodded. It must have been cold considering it was still February but it was survivable and, more importantly to Isaac, it was safe. "Is there anything else you want to tell me, Isaac? Anything at all, about your dad or about what it's like at home. Anything?"
Isaac sat up straighter and shook his head. "Isn't really anything to say. Doesn't really matter now, does it?"
It would matter if the case wound up going to trial. At the moment Isaac was still his most likely suspect - no alibi and nearly overwhelming motive - but he was almost positive that Isaac hadn't killed his father. There was nothing in Isaac's words or demeanor that suggested he had been ready to even defend himself, let alone attack. "I suppose it doesn't," he said, not really agreeing. "I have to hold you here overnight while the investigation is ongoing."
Isaac squeezed his lips together in lieu of biting them and if possible looked even more worried than before.
He resisted the urge to tell Isaac that everything would be alright, because if he was being honest with himself he doubted that things would ever be alright for Isaac. "Come on, let's get you settled and I'll get you something to eat. We've missed lunch." he said, standing and then guiding Isaac back out to the holding cells.
"Sit," he said, raising his gaze enough to stare at Stiles until Stiles sat back down again. He sighed, watching Deputy Thompson on the surveillance system enter his office and then exit into the hallway minutes later with the keys to the holding cell clutched in one hand. He scanned down the list of cameras on the side and selected the one for the holding cell area, slamming his hand down on the desk when he got the generic 'camera disabled' message. The footage ended shortly after the time stamp when Deputy Thompson entered his office and he nodded grimly because it made sense if you were going to kidnap or kill someone that you would turn off the cameras first. "Okay, from the top," he said to Stiles, leaning back in his chair so he could see Stiles better.
"So, I was coming to see Isaac," Stiles said, his hands twisting on his lap.
"How well do you know Isaac?" he asked, suddenly uncertain. Stiles had never mentioned Isaac before, that he remembered, but he knew the guys on the lacrosse team hung out together sometimes.
Stiles shrugged, using his entire body instead of just his shoulders. "Not that well? I mean, we sit on the bench together, but Isaac doesn't really talk too much."
He resisted the urge to ask if Stiles knew about Isaac's home life because Stiles had come to him more than once over the years to tell him about a kid in his class who was getting knocked around at home. If Stiles had known he would have said something, he was sure of it. "Alright, so you came to check on your teammate," he prompted.
"Exactly. And I'm in the hallway and suddenly I'm being grabbed by the deputy and he has a freaking syringe of something," Stiles said, on his feet now with his arms windmilling to illustrate the struggle.
"Which hallway?" he asked, feeling his blood pressure rise. Stiles had left that part out in the brief summary he'd given while Deputy Thompson was being taken by the paramedics.
Stiles pointed. "Right outside your office," he said and leaned over to take control of the computer mouse.
He batted Stiles' hand away and selected the camera in the hallway, watching with an increasingly grim expression as the deputy grabbed Stiles in a chokehold and dragged him down the hall. There was no way to miss the syringe in his hand, probably the same one that was shattered just inside the holding cell area, and he nodded to himself as he saw Stiles scrambling to pull the fire alarm. "Good thinking," he said, turning to where Stiles had stepped around his desk to watch with him. "Are you alright? Did he inject you with anything? Does your neck or throat hurt?"
Stiles shook off his father's worried hand and managed to look a little bit embarrassed. "I'm fine. He let me go as soon as we reached the holding cells. He was going after Isaac! To kill him!"
It was circumstantial, at least until they knew what was in that syringe, but he had to admit that it was incredibly troubling that one of his own deputies would attack his son and then attempt to murder or kidnap a teenager from a holding cell. He had hired Deputy Thompson around three months ago and the man had come highly recommended from a precinct in LA. Thompson had told him he'd moved there to be closer to family and he had bought it hook, line, and sinker. "Alright. What happened after that?" he asked, touching his forehead as he tried to fathom why anyone would want to kill or take Isaac. Had Thompson had some kind of connection to Lahey and was looking for revenge?
Stiles bit his lip and nodded suddenly. "Derek came in-"
"Derek. As in Derek Hale?" he asked, frowning when Stiles nodded. "Why was Derek Hale here?"
"Because he's friends with Isaac?" Stiles asked, his mouth twisting and then he shrugged again. "They hang out at the school sometimes."
"Uh huh," he said, suddenly a lot more worried for Isaac. "Derek Hale hangs around at the high school. And talks with Isaac. And this hasn't raised any concerns to anyone?"
Stiles shrugged again. "No?"
"Anyone else Derek has shown interest in?" he asked, the throbbing just above his left eyebrow increasing. Somehow when Derek Hale was involved everything became ten times more complicated.
"No?" Stiles asked, looking increasingly uncomfortable.
He shook his head; he'd have to deal with a man in his mid-twenties hanging around the high school later. "Alright, so Derek Hale came, and then?"
"And then he knocked out the deputy and took off with Isaac. And then you showed up," Stiles finished and sat back down in the chair, his legs stretched out in front of him.
"Took off with as in kidnapped or..." he trailed off, hoping he wasn't going to be sending his men out on another manhunt. He wasn't even sure who he could trust in his department right now.
"No, not kidnapped!" Stiles jolted up in his chair. "Uh, rescued, I guess? Isaac went willingly. Seemed safer than staying here."
He sighed, knowing he was going to have to put out a BOLO for both Isaac and Derek and not knowing what he was going to do if he managed to bring in either of them.
"Dad?" Stiles asked, his voice uncertain for the first time since this entire mess had started. "You don't think Isaac killed his dad, do you? I mean, it looks bad with what people are saying at school, but even if he did kill him, then maybe that's not a bad thing?"
He stood, motioning Stiles to come over to him. A moment later he had Stiles in his arms, holding him tighter than he usually would. Dual images clouded his mind; Stiles struggling helpless in Thompson's arms and being dragged down the hall, and Isaac's black eye, the damage in the Lahey's kitchen, and the horror of the locked freezer in the basement. "I don't think Isaac killed his father," he said and it was the truth even if he couldn't legally declare it to be so.
Stiles shoulders and chest lifted and fell with a sigh and he rested his forehead on his father's shoulder for moment. "Good. That's good."
He was forced to let go of Stiles sooner than he liked when the phone rang and he answered it with a frown. "Sheriff Stilinski," he said, falling silent as he listened to the deputy who had accompanied the paramedics and Thompson to the hospital. "Search the immediate area and get the surveillance footage from the hospital," he ordered and then hung up before he could say anything else.
"Dad, what is it?" Stiles asked when a long moment of silence had passed.
"Thompson disappeared from the hospital," he said, not missing the way Stiles' mouth tightened in worry. He didn't have to say that it was particularly concerning because there was no way Thompson could have left under his own power. Whatever was going on, he had help, which meant that Isaac was still in danger. "Why don't you go on over to Scott's tonight? I've got some things to finish up and I'll be late. Will you be alright?"
Stiles nodded. "I'm fine. Anything I can do?"
"If you see Isaac, or Derek, call me immediately," he said. "And try not to wander around alone. I don't know who is working with Thompson or who they might be after."
Stiles gave him another quick hug and then left, seeming to bounce back fairly well considering the fright he'd just had. That was Stiles all over though, always the one trying to take care of him even when Stiles himself was frightened or in pain.
He sat down and flipped through the surveillance footage again, pulling up the last minutes of the recording on the holding cell area. Isaac was at the cell door, his eyes scanning back and forth. Had Isaac already known that someone was after him, someone who could get him even when he should have been safe in the holding cell? He frowned, leaning in as the lights seemed to reflect strangely off Isaac's eyes for just a brief moment before the footage cut off. The past three months of cases had been strange and it seemed like this would be no exception.