Chapter 1: Start of Something
Ever since Jessica Angell was a little girl, she had dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and joining the police force.
As she grew up, her ambitions became more defined, until her dream was set in the homicide department of NYPD.
As an officer in New Jersey, she became forced to face the reality of the ‘locker room culture’, making it hard for her, as a female, to get respect and, indeed, to get anywhere.
In June of 2006, when she was twenty-four, everything changed.
A bomb blast in Manhattan left NYPD racing to pick up the pieces and, when the dust cleared, one of their own was in hospital.
His future seemed bleak, but Jess’s had never been brighter.
Despite her lack of experience (her workload seemed to consist of cats stuck in trees and the lady three blocks over who thought her TV was out to get her), Jess was transferred over on request, and found herself being trained as a homicide detective.
It was a dream come true, if a little awkward.
Everyone in the department knew why she was there, which meant that everyone was a little stand-offish towards her.
And her training officer, Detective Benson, whilst perfectly nice and very supportive, seemed to have subconscious issues with women in the force, so she had yet to leave the precinct, except to collect a case file from the crime lab.
Jessica sighed, pulling another piece of paperwork towards her, telling herself once more that things would get better.
They had to – Captain Gerard had confided in her that, while she was technically a temporary replacement, NYPD had no intention of losing her, even if the injured detective returned.
As he crossed her mind once more, Jess automatically glanced at the desk opposite hers. It was still empty, paperwork piling up in the in-tray, although she had seen colleagues stop by and complete what they could.
He must be well-liked for them to do his paperwork for him.
She didn’t know his name, what he looked like, even how bad the injury was, but she still couldn’t help feeling for the man.
A set of keys landed in front of her and she jumped slightly, looking up to see Benson grinning at her. “You’re actually letting me drive?”
“Don’t get your hopes up, Angell.” Benson said, chuckling. “We need you to drop something off for us.”
Of course. Jess sighed mentally, and stood up, automatically retrieving her weapon from her desk drawer. “Sure. What and where?”
“Trinity General.” Benson answered, handing her a card. “Flower’s are in the car already. You’re looking for Detective Flack.”
Jess frowned slightly as he walked away. She’d met almost everyone on homicide, but that name was unfamiliar. Unless …
As she passed the empty desk, she glanced at the plaque. Sure enough, it read Don Flack Jr.
Jess left the precinct, pressing the button on the keys and following the noise to find the right car. Getting in and starting the engine, she dropped the card on the front seat, with the flowers.
Now she knew his name, she knew a little about him – at least, she did his father. Her own father had nothing but praise for Donald Flack Sr., although the two had never worked together. The only thing she knew about Flack Jr. was that he was a first grade.
Her father’s success, far from what everyone else thought, was a curse more than it was a blessing, constantly pushing her to do better and prove herself a good officer in her own right.
She wondered if her colleague had the same problem.
Trinity General wasn’t far from the precinct, and Jess soon found herself pulling into the parking lot outside reception. She cut the engine, and took a deep breath.
Jess hated hospitals – always had, since she was a little girl. It wasn’t a phobia, she told herself time and time again, but she hated the sick feeling she got in the pit of her stomach when she walked through the door.
Alright, Jessica, get over it. She told herself firmly. You’ll have to get used to hospitals as a detective, talking to victims and so on. Besides, this guy got blown up and you’re replacing him at the moment, no matter what Gerard says. The least you can do is go in and say hello.
With that in mind, Jess retrieved the flowers and card, and made her way to the front desk, where the receptionist was on the phone.
Jess waited patiently for a few minutes, until she realised that it was not a business call. “Excuse me?”
The receptionist ignored her. “He said what?! Girl, tell me she chucked his ass on the street!”
Shifting the flowers to her other arm, Jess unhooked her badge from her belt and held it up. “Detective Flack?”
The receptionist looked up, sighed, and pressed a few buttons on her computer. “Fourth floor.”
“Thank you.” Jess said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She did give in to the urge to roll her eyes, but managed to wait until she’d turned away.
She took the elevator up to the fourth floor, squeezed between the wall and a man in a wheelchair. She emerged on the recovery ward, which was a relief – if he was in recovery, he was more than likely awake, which meant he was no longer in any danger.
She stopped a passing nurse and asked again, this time receiving a smile and a room number – 415.
Jess thanked her and rounded the corner to find the room in question, stopping in the doorway.
Having met the rest of the first grade homicide squad, she had been expecting someone her father’s age, or at the very least a good ten years older than her, who’d clearly had one too many donuts.
They don’t really do much to change the stereotype.
The man lying in the hospital bed was her age, maybe a few years older, which reminded her of her earlier thoughts about her father. He’s either riding on his dad’s success, or he is one hell of a detective. She ran another eye over him. Please let it be the latter. I’d hate for a guy that good-looking to turn out to be a jerk.
Because he was good-looking – dark hair, straight nose, and what promised to be a dazzling smile. His eyes were closed, and she hesitated, wondering if she should come back when he was awake, when he spoke.
Don Flack was fed up with being in the hospital.
He accepted – just – that he needed to be there, but he half-wished he could just ban visitors. It was nice to see people, to have contact with someone who wasn’t a doctor or a nurse, but he wished he could do it without the pity.
Yes, he’d been caught in a bomb blast.
Yes, he nearly died.
He didn’t. And he wasn’t about to fall apart.
He had taken to feigning sleep when people visited, because at least then they said what they were thinking, instead of hiding behind false smiles that wavered whenever they looked at him.
So when female footsteps interrupted his dozing, he didn’t bother opening his eyes, because it was either a nurse, who would check his stats and IV and leave again, or Stella or Lindsay. He hoped it was Lindsay – Stella, as much as he loved her, was the worst for hidden tears.
Lindsay was much more brisk about everything, which Don had found grating at first, but found himself appreciating now. He wondered if maybe Lindsay had gone through something similar – maybe not a bomb blast, but the reactions afterwards.
The footsteps came to a halt in the doorway, and he mentally crossed the nurses and Stella off his list. “You can come in, Monroe, I don’t bite.”
Jess raised an eyebrow. His eyes were still closed, explaining his error, but she couldn’t help wondering why he’d jumped to that conclusion. “Sorry. Good guess, wrong detective.”
Flack’s eyes opened and she found herself gazing in to blue, a very sharp blue that seemed to pierce right through into her soul and paralyse her for a few moments.
Don wasn’t sure what he was expecting when he opened his eyes, but the woman in front of him surpassed all of his expectations.
Damn … she’s gorgeous …
His gaze travelled from her feet, clad in heeled boots (classy, but sensible), up her legs (since when did black work pants look that good?) to rest momentarily on the gun and badge attached to her belt.
She’s a cop. Detective, I’m guessing, since she’s not in uniform … Must be the new girl Danny’s been trying not to tell me about.
His visual sweep continued up to the gentle swell of her chest (generous, but not out of proportion to her size, like some women seemed insistent on), almost obscured by the flowers she was carrying, and finally landed on her face, meeting dark eyes, filled with gentle concern, unlike the fear present in everyone else’s, a single curl of dark hair adorning one cheek while the rest was pulled back to tumble over her shoulders.
Fleetingly, he wondered if his injuries had actually killed him, because no real woman was this beautiful, but the hustle and bustle of the hospital continued behind her, and the wound in his stomach, starting to heal but still very much in evidence, still stung, so he gave her a smile.
“I heard female footsteps. The nurses never stop in the doorway, neither does Detective Bonasera. Lindsay was the only other option.”
She was right about his smile. If Jess was one of those overly sentimental women, it would have reduced her to a puddle of goo on the floor.
As it was, her knees felt a bit wobbly. Forcing movement into her legs, she took a few steps into the room. “I’m Detective Angell.”
Flack raised an eyebrow. “Angell, huh?”
“If the next words out of your mouth are anything to do with any injuries I may have sustained falling from heaven,” Jess said flatly, “you can save your breath. I’ve heard them all before.”
“I bet you have.” Flack muttered, almost too quiet for her to hear. He shifted the pillow behind him to sit up, grimacing at the movement. “So? What have I done that warrants a visit from a beautiful woman?”
Jess was slightly irritated that her cheeks began to heat at that. She wasn’t one to blush easily, never had been – four older brothers, with friends who teased her relentlessly, had cured her of that habit in her teens.
Taking a breath, Jess held his gaze, knowing from experience not to show weakness to male detectives (very few believed women truly belonged in the force, and they could be like hyenas, picking off the weaker members of the herd). “I got sent by the precinct.” She answered, holding up the flowers as proof. “Shoulda known something was up as soon as Benson gave me the keys.”
Flack chuckled, though not maliciously. “You got stuck with Benson as a training officer? What did you do to piss the captain off?”
“Starting to wonder that myself.” Jess tilted her head curiously. “How’d you know he was my training officer?”
“The CSIs have been trying to avoid telling me I’ve been replaced.” Flack explained, with less bitterness than she expected. “Haven’t met you before, so I’m assuming you’re it, and you’re a third grade. And Gerard doesn’t like assigning partners, so you shouldn’t need him to give you the keys.”
Jess frowned. “How’d you know I’m a third grade?”
Flack shrugged with one shoulder. “Just a guess. It’s unusual for detectives to cross state lines, and there aren’t any Angells in NYPD, so I’m guessing you just moved up from uniform.”
“In New Jersey.” Jess confirmed. “I was a uni until two months ago.”
“In which case,” Flack said, “give it a week or two. Then the training wheels’ll be off and you’ll be on your own.”
“Thank you.” Jess extracted the card from the flowers and handed it to him. “I think. Right now, I’m not sure if that’s comforting or not.”
Flack flipped the card open and promptly rolled his eyes. “It was supposed to be comforting. This, I’m not so sure of. “Don’t worry; we saved most of the shrapnel they pulled from your gut.””
“I suppose it’s the thought that counts.” Jess pointed out, setting the flowers on the table and tweaking them slightly. “Oh, and I’m not replacing you.” She added. “I’m sticking around regardless of whether you come back. And you are coming back. By all accounts, you’re too good not to.”
Flack observed her for a few minutes. “You got a first name, Detective?”
Jess smiled to herself. “Of course.”
There was a brief pause, then he prompted, “And?”
“Nice try.” Jess said with a laugh. “I find it easier to maintain a professional front if people are stuck using my last name. It’s not easy being a woman in this line of work.”
“I can understand that.” Flack said to her relief. He was the first male cop she’d met in a long time who didn’t seem to take her as a challenge, even though the once-over he gave her when he’d first opened his eyes told her that he found her attractive. “Speaking of last names, any relation to Detective Sergeant Angell, over in Jersey?”
Jess grimaced. “My father. Although I don’t like to mention it. I just … I don’t …”
“You want any success of yours to be your own work, not anything to do with who your father is.” Flack finished quietly. “I get it.”
“I thought you would.” Jess agreed softly. “Well,” she said with a sigh, “I’d better get back to the precinct before Benson files a Missing Person report.”
Don laughed. “Yeah, I can see him doing that.”
Dave wasn’t chauvinistic intentionally – he was nowhere near as bad as some of the others – but a mother who had died when he was young, a younger sister who had wound up in an abusive relationship, and a daughter he doted on, all added up to a subconscious need to protect women, even if they could do it themselves.
And although he hadn’t seen Angell in action, he had a feeling she could.
He watched her stand and make her way to the door, and his gut lurched. “Hey, Angell.”
Angell turned to regard him curiously. “Yeah?”
Flack mentally berated himself. You can’t ask her to come back, you idiot, you hardly know the woman. But, deep down, he knew it wasn’t that.
It was nice to have a conversation that didn’t centre around the bomb, with someone who wasn’t treating him like he was about to collapse any second.
But pride is a detective’s first weapon in his arsenal, and he grinned at her. “Good luck with Benson. Tell him I said to let you into the field once in a while.”
Angell smiled at him, in a way that made him think that she knew what he’d really wanted when he called her name. “Will do. Feel better.”
Don leaned back into the pillows as she disappeared down the corridor, smiling to himself. Maybe she would come back later. Maybe she wouldn’t.
Either way, she’d make things interesting. And he was right.
Her ass did look just as good as the rest of her.
The second Jess entered the precinct, her co-workers descended on her, all talking at once, demanding information.
“How is he?”
“Was he awake?”
“Did he talk at all?”
“Did he mention the bomb?”
Jess took an automatic step back, brought two fingers to her mouth, and whistled sharply, effectively shutting them up. “Thank you!” She squeezed through a gap in the crowd and made her way to her desk, tossing the keys to Benson as she did so. “Right, in answer to your questions: He seemed fine to me; yes, he was awake; yes, we had a conversation about just how comforting the thought of you lot saving shrapnel that had been pulled from his gut could possible be; and, no, he didn’t mention the bomb. At all.” She resisted the urge to suggest that, if they were that worried, they could have visited themselves, instead of delegating to the one person who had never actually met him.
Instead, as the others dispersed, muttering to themselves, she turned to Benson with a smirk. “He did, however, tell me to tell you to let me into the field once in a while.”
“I take you into the field!” Benson protested.
“Yeah?” Jess raised an eyebrow. “Name one case I’ve actually worked on since I got here.” She held up a hand to stop him. “Paperwork doesn’t count.”
Benson shut his mouth again and thought for a few seconds. “Alright, so I haven’t, but …”
“Benson!” Gerard called from his office. “Homicide on 33rd. Take Angell with you.”
Jess rolled her eyes. Even with an explicit order, Benson had always found some reason to leave her in the precinct.
“Got it.” Benson called back, tossing Jess the keys again. “You’re driving.”
Jess stared at him for a moment, before breaking into a smile. “I shoulda talked to Flack earlier.”
The actual crime scene was in an alleyway off of the main road and, when the two detectives arrived, it had already been roped off with crime scene tape, and the Crime Scene unit was already there.
“Victim’s name is Isabelle Carter, according to her ID.” Lindsay Monroe told them, as they approached. “28-years-old, worked in an advertising company. Hey, Angell. I was wondering when I’d see you out here.”
Jess had met Lindsay only a few days previously, when she’d gone to the Crime Lap to pick up a case report. Lindsay was about Jess’s age, light brown, almost blonde, hair curled down to her shoulders, with a no-nonsense attitude and a strong accent that betrayed her Montanan heritage.
“Yeah, so was I.” Jess muttered, observing the dead woman. She was dressed quite smartly, in a dress suit and heels, lying face down, her blonde hair fanned out like a halo. “Cause of death?”
“Not sure at the moment.” The other CSI stated. “Montana, give me a hand, let’s turn her over.”
“Danny, stop calling me that.” Lindsay sighed, kneeling beside the body. The retort seemed to have slipped from her mouth automatically, because it didn’t sound heated and her colleague paid no attention to her.
Isabelle was duly rolled on to her back and a wound became very evident, blood spreading across the front of her white shirt.
“Stabbed.” Lindsay concluded. “Time of death …”
“Under an hour.” Her colleague finished, straightening up.
“Detective Angell,” Benson said, “this is Detective Danny Messer. I’ll have uniform canvas the area; see if anyone heard anything.”
“How you doin’?” Messer shook her hand, his blue eyes lighting up behind his glasses. “So did it …?”
“Don’t even think about it, Danny.” Lindsay interrupted, beating Jess to it. “I’m sure she’s heard that line too many times, and she’s out of your league anyway.”
Jess couldn’t hold back her snigger, hearing the slight note of jealousy in Lindsay’s voice, and Messer gave his partner a wounded pout. “I thought you never met Aiden, Montana.”
“No, I’ve never had the pleasure.” Lindsay responded, photographing the body. “Why?”
“Because I swear that was her talkin’ just now.” Messer turned back to Jess. “First of all, just call me Danny, we don’t tend to stand on ceremony at the crime lab like you do down in homicide. Second of all, what I was going to say was did it take you long to convince Benson to bring you into the field?”
“Two months.” Jess answered. “So what’s your opinion?”
Messer – no, Danny – turned back to the body. “Well, this alleyway’s popular with junkies and her money and credit cards are missing. I’d say a robbery gone wrong. But that’s your job, Detective. We just use the science to back it up.”
Lindsay straightened up and handed the camera to Danny, before smacking him over the head. “Just process the scene.”
“Now I know you’re channelling Aiden.” Danny muttered, rubbing his head, but he followed her instructions regardless.
Lindsay shook her head, stepping closer to Jess. “He was so gonna use that line.”
“I know.” Jess muttered back. “I can see it coming a mile off.”
The case had taken a ridiculously short time to solve. Lindsay had pulled prints from Isabelle Carter’s purse that matched John Peters, a heroin addict who was in the system for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon – namely a knife, and one that was very similar to the one that Dr Hammerback said had killed the victim.
Benson and Danny had gone to pick him up, sending Jess to talk to the last person to see Isabelle alive – an old friend, who worked as a nurse in Trinity General and was unable to go home until the end of her shift, bereavement or not.
Jess offered her sympathies, got the information she needed, and left the woman to it, thanking her quietly. As soon as she was out of earshot, she pulled out her cell-phone and dialled Benson’s number.
“Hey, it’s me. She remembers a man of Peters’ description talking to Isabelle just after she said goodbye to her this morning. Says she could pick him out of a line-up.” Jess sighed. “Looks like Danny was right - just some junkie who needed a fix and stabbed her when she wouldn’t hand over her purse.”
“And we have Peters’ in custody.” Benson concluded. “Go home and get some sleep, Angell. The guy’s wasted, we won’t get any sense outta him until tomorrow anyway.”
Jess narrowed her eyes, ignoring the fact that he couldn’t see her. “Alright. But if I’m not there when you talk to him …”
“Gerard’ll have my guts.” Benson finished. “That is, if you don’t get there first. See you tomorrow.”
Jess flipped her phone shut and was just about to call for the elevator, when the familiarity of the witness finally made itself clear in her mind.
It was the same woman who had directed her to Flack’s room that morning.
And she was on the fourth floor.
Her fingers wavered over the ‘call’ button for a few seconds longer, before she turned on her heel and made her way to Room 415.
Flack was sitting up properly when she reached him, watching a hockey game on the small TV in the corner of the room.
“Who’s winning?” She asked.
Flack glanced over, and smiled when he saw who it was. “Rangers. You a hockey fan?”
Jess shrugged. “When you’re the only girl in a family of boys, you don’t have much of a choice.” She sat down in the chair beside the bed, deciding not to mention that she wasn’t a Rangers fan – according to squadroom gossip, Flack was the biggest fan out there. “No one coming here to watch it with you then?”
“Nah.” Flack pulled a face. “Why come here when you can drink beer at the same time?”
As much as he tried to hide it, he sounded thoroughly miserable, and Jess smiled slightly. “Well, I never liked drinking alone, and I have no one else to watch it with. Mind if I stick around?”
“Sure.” Flack looked curiously at her. “You’ve got no idea what happened to me, do you?”
“I read the overview before I got to New York.” Jess admitted. “But I don’t know any specifics. I didn’t need to know, and it didn’t seem any of my business. How could you tell?”
“You’re not treating me like I’m about to fall apart.” Flack answered, looking back at the TV.
Jess shrugged. “Hey, I’m sure what you went through was awful. But me constantly reminding you of it isn’t going to change that.”
“I’m not complaining.” Flack said. “It makes a nice change. Hey, c’mon, man, what was that?!”
Jess grimaced as one of the players on the other team slammed his opponent into the side of the rink. “It’s not hockey without a fight or two.”
“Damn straight.” Flack agreed. “Benson let you out yet?” He asked, once the two players had been dragged apart.
“Yeah, but our suspect’s in the drunk-tank.” Jess explained, rolling her eyes. “He sent me home.”
“But you’re here.” Flack pointed out, smirking.
“I was following up a lead when I got the call.” Jess said, trying to ignore the jolt his smirk had sent through her stomach. “One of the nurses was a friend of the victim.”
Another nurse appeared in the doorway. “Detective.” When they both looked up automatically, she smiled sheepishly. “Oh, sorry – Detective Flack. It’s time to change that bandage.”
“I should probably go.” Jess said, moving to stand up.
“No!” Flack said hastily. “Sorry, I …” He sighed, apparently giving up on pride for the time being. “Could you stay?”
Jess glanced at the nurse. “Is that alright?”
“Perfectly fine …” The woman trailed off, looking at her questioningly.
“Detective Angell.” Jess filled in, reading her expression. “Alright, I’ll stay.”
“Thanks.” Flack muttered, reaching out and grasping her hand. “It’s gonna sound crazy, but I really hate having my bandages changed.”
“One of my brothers hates peanut butter sticking to the roof of his mouth.” Jess retorted. “I know crazy.”
“Okay, that’s just weird.” Flack’s hand tightened around hers, as the nurse peeled away the hold bandage. “I don’t … I don’t like other people touching my injuries, that’s all.”
“Neither do I.” Jess confessed quietly. She shifted her grip to make his a little more comfortable, refusing to think about how her hand fit perfectly in his. Right now, he might be a very good-looking man in hospital, but he’d be her co-worker soon enough, and she couldn’t afford to think of him anything more than platonically.
Her gaze drifted down of her own accord, landing on the now-exposed wound on his stomach. It was still quite nasty, and promised to be quite a scar when it had healed properly.
“The phone that detonated the bomb hit me.” Flack said quietly.
Jess snapped her eyes back to his. “Sorry, I …”
“It’s fine.” Flack told her. “They thought it was going to kill me. That’s why everyone treats me like I’m made of glass or something.”
She could hear the resigned note in his voice that said he believed she would now do the same thing. As harrowing as it was – and the wound was worse than anything she’d imagined – she laughed. “Grip like this? No way.”
Flack’s eyes searched hers for a few seconds, and she fought not to look away. Clearly, he found what he was looking for, because he smiled softly. “Thank you.”
“All sorted.” The nurse announced, breaking their eye contact. “Just remember …”
“No unnecessary movements.” Flack finished, giving her a charming smile. “I know.”
The nurse smiled back, a slight hint of pink in her cheeks. “Then I wish you’d pay attention.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Flack called after her as she left, releasing Jess’s hand as he did.
“And you’re a homicide detective.” Jess said, shaking her head in mock-sorrow. “Are we sure this city’s safe?”
Flack grinned at her. “You haven’t seen much of NYC, have you? Compared to the rest of them, I’m perfectly normal.”
Jess sighed. “Unfortunately, I have seen enough of NYC to believe that. It can’t be that bad, can it?”
“Oh, it can. We once had a victim who was killed by being force-fed live octopus.” Flack told her matter-of-factly.
“Live octopus?” Jess repeated incredulously. “Where did they get that?”
“The guy worked for Exotic Cuisine.” Flack explained. “Really expensive place, specialises in really strange food – deep-fried spider, mealworm spaghetti, grasshopper chutney …”
Jess raised an eyebrow. “You really expect me to believe that?”
“It’s true!” Flack insisted. “Ask Danny Messer if you don’t believe me.”
Jess snorted. “I’d be more inclined to believe you.”
“Then ask Lindsay.” Flack suggested. “She actually ate the stuff.”
“Speaking of Lindsay, is something going on between her and Danny?” Jess asked, changing the subject, but making a mental note to talk to Lindsay next time she saw her. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one for gossip, but they were kind of …”
“Obvious?” Flack finished. “Yeah, I know. I’m glad someone else sees it. Apart from Stella. But she sees that kind of thing everywhere, even when it doesn’t exist – I think she’s a conspiracy theorist.”
“You mean, they’re not together?” Jess asked. “But they … I mean …”
Flack shrugged. “I know. Try telling them that though.”
“Someone should do something about it.” Jess said, more to herself than to Flack. “The tension was unbearable and I was only with them a few minutes.”
“No, I’ve thought about that.” Flack sighed. “But Danny hates being pushed into things; he’d end up hurting her, even if it is unintentional. And Lindsay’s like my other sister, so that means I’d have to kill him, which creates a lot of paperwork.”
Jess sniggered. “That doesn’t mean we can’t drop hints.”
Flack grinned at her. “You know, Detective Angell, I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Chapter 2: People With Money
In which Jess solves her first case, despite the leering co-worker. Too bad it's not the co-worker she wouldn't mind leering at her ...
Maybe Flack had some kind of psychic ability, maybe the precinct was just predictable, but exactly three weeks after Jess had first visited him at the hospital, she found herself ducking under crime scene tape by herself. Once she had introduced herself to the woman who had called 911, who seemed to be recovering from a fit of hysteria, she made her way over to one of the officers. “So … where’s the body?”
The officer pointed to a flight of stairs. “Down there.”
Jess peered over the railing, spotting a young woman lying on her back. “Ah.” She returned to the witness. “Margo Demme, is that right?”
“Miss Demme, can you tell me what happened?”
She sniffled. “We had a spa day planned – long week, you know?”
Jess nodded, although she had a feeling that her definition of a ‘long week’ and Margo’s differed drastically.
“I rang the doorbell, but she didn’t answer, but …” Margo hesitated. “I have a key, so I let myself in. I figured maybe she was sleeping in … I knew she wouldn’t mind. I’m her best friend. Then I saw her and …”
Jess flipped a page back in her notebook to the scribbled information she’d taken from the captain. “Is this Vanessa’s apartment?”
“Yes,” Margo answered.
“She have a room-mate?” Jess pressed. “Boyfriend? Girlfriend?”
Margo wrinkled her nose, but made no comment. “No. To all. She was seeing a guy about … six months ago, but it ended.”
“Did she end it?” Jess asked immediately.
“No, he did,” Margo said, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. “He got this offer to go on an expedition to Peru.”
Well, that put paid to that theory. Jess glanced over the balcony railing once more. “Did you touch the body at all?”
“I … I tried to revive her,” Margo said, her voice trembling. “I took a class once, I know what to do. But I … I couldn’t, so I … so I called 911.”
Jess couldn’t help feeling sympathetic for the poor girl, but she still had to do her job. “But other than trying CPR, Vanessa is exactly as she was when you found her.”
Margo nodded, a tear slipping down her cheek.
Jess motioned for one of the uniforms to come and take a full statement, leaving Margo in their capable hands. She made her way down the stairs to where Vanessa May’s body lay stretched out on her rug. She was dressed in lingerie and, bizarrely, had a pillow on each hand.
Her body was covered in bruises.
Jess stood back, surveying the body. She didn’t need to ask what Vanessa did for a living – everyone in Manhattan knew the woman’s name. She was part of a group of young, rich socialites who made their names going to parties, getting drunk, getting high and getting into trouble, before buying their way out with Daddy’s money.
Now, it looked like the party had caught up with her.
Jess glanced up to see Danny and Sheldon Hawkes leaning on the balcony railing, looking down at her.
Well, for her first solo case, she could do a lot worse. “Messer. Doc.”
“What happened?” Danny asked. “I don’t see Benson breathing down your neck. He take the training wheels off?”
Jess pulled a face. “You come all the way up here to bust by balls or to work, Messer?”
Hawkes chuckled at the look on Danny’s face. “Ooh, Angell got her wings, huh?”
Jess couldn’t help laughing. “Gimme a break.” She stood back as they made their way down the stairs so they could examine the body.
“Anybody noticed she’s got a pair of pillows on her hands?” Danny asked, setting his kit down.
“Don’t look at me,” Jess warned. “I was always a couple years behind on fashion trends.”
“What do we know?” Hawkes asked.
“Vic’s name is Vanessa May,” Jess said, seeing recognition flare in both faces. “All this glass and marble belongs to her. She lives alone; between fiancés. No sign of forced entry or burglary.”
Hawkes nodded, kneeling beside her, gently feeling her stomach with gloved hands. “Contusions … possible fractures … significant amount of secondary trauma consistent with a beating. Danny, give me a hand; let’s get these pillows off her.”
Jess found herself leaning over to get a better look as the girl’s hands slipped out of their covers, but it was entirely anticlimactic.
“Nothing on her hands,” Hawkes murmured. “Thought if we had something, it might explain her interesting taste in gloves.” He examined her fingers. “Rigor’s barely set in. TOD is less than four hours. Lividity is consistent with body position. She died right here.”
Danny frowned. “Who found her?”
“Margo Demme,” Jess said, pointing up towards her. “Claims the title of best friend. These girls are major players in the party circuit. Regulars in The Post.”
Danny snorted under his breath. “All for being born rich.”
“Margo came over to take Vanessa for a spa day,” Jess continued. “Found her like this.”
Hawkes stripped off his gloves and went back upstairs to talk to Margo.
“Interesting first case,” Danny commented, shining a flashlight over the body. “Could be high profile.”
“Only once it gets out that it’s murder,” Jess said. “Feels like one of these party girls OD’s at least once a week.”
While Danny and Hawkes worked to analyse the evidence they had collected at the scene, Jess set about trying to track down Vanessa’s last movements, which was proving harder than expected.
All of Vanessa’s friends swore they hadn’t been with her the night before, except Margo, who claimed she remembered starting the night at one club, but then got too drunk to remember much else.
Danny’s call was a welcome distraction, both from her search and one of her colleagues, who was leaning against her desk in an attempt at conversation.
“Messer, tell me you have something?” She asked, spinning her chair away from Detective Thacker so he would stop trying to look down her shirt.
“No luck yet on any of the trace; Hawkes is still working on it. Autopsy results came back though – definitely blunt force trauma, small fists. Also, Sid pulled a tongue print off her naval – looks like she was doing tequila body shots.”
“Our vic had quite the night then,” Jess commented.
“Yeah, and then some. Sid also found evidence of one of those LSD blotters on the roof of her mouth, left an impression of a winged unicorn.”
Jess straightened up, digging through her desk for the memo she had seen a few days ago. “Winged unicorn?”
“Yeah, I’m thinking if we can find the dealer, maybe we get a lead?”
“I can do you one better,” Jess said, finding what she was looking for. “I know who it is.”
Jess and Danny found the dealer leaning up against an old closed-up comic book store.
“There’s our drug store,” she said. “Specialises in unicorn blotters. Street name is Picasso – he’s tied into the high-society club scene.”
“By the looks of those bruises, maybe murder,” Danny said grimly.
Picasso glanced up as they approached and Jess held up her badge.
“Store’s closing early today, Picasso.”
He made to bolt, but Danny grabbed him and slammed him back against the store front. “Easy! Take it easy. We’re just gonna ask you some questions, alright?” He bent down to pick up the backpack Picasso had dropped when he tried to run. “There you go.”
“Come on!” Picasso whined, as everything fell out onto the street.
“Oh, man, look at that, huh?” Danny picked up a sheet of unicorn blotters. “You’re going out of business, kid.”
Up close, his battle wounds looked worse. “Where’d you get those bruises, Picasso?” Jess asked.
Picasso scowled. “Some dude beat me up.”
“You sure it was a dude?” Danny asked, showing him Vanessa’s picture.
Picasso shrugged. “So? Yeah, I’ve seen her around.”
“You won’t anymore,” Jess said.
Picasso stared at her. “What? She’s dead?”
Danny tucked the picture away again. “Yeah, what do you know about that?”
“Nothing, man! I … Nothing, I swear.”
Danny smiled humourlessly. “You got small hands, my man. About the same size as the bruises we found on her body.”
“Along with your trademark,” Jess added.
“Yeah, alright!” The dealer shook his head. “I seen her last night, okay? She was at Prowl, the dance club on 13.”
Jess grimaced. Anywhere else and she could at least, as a last resort, subpoena credit card receipts and work out who had seen their victim last night. But Club Prowl had only been open a few weeks and had a cash-only policy, something that had infuriated the NYPD Brass when it opened.
“She came in with some caveman who didn’t seem into her, so I made my move. You know chicks with money; they like bad boys. She was feeling good, I was feeling good, then …”
“Then?” Danny prompted.
Picasso sighed. “And then the dude put the brakes on. The hard way, if you know what I mean.”
Jess exchanged a glance with Danny. Jealous boyfriend sounded promising.
“You know this dude?” Danny asked.
“No idea,” Picasso muttered. “What? Check the club; they’ll tell you I left solo! I had nothing to do with your girl’s murder, man; that’s God’s honest!”
Jess chuckled and Danny pulled out his camera. “Picasso, I don’t really peg you as the religious type, so I’m gonna need something else, alright? Stick out your tongue, and say ‘ah’.
Within an hour of returning to the lab, Danny called to tell Jess that Picasso was off the hook, at least on the murder charge.
However, Hawkes was able to pick up the trail from there – DNA from the salt-rimmer and dried blood on Vanessa’s jacket led them to ex-con Clarence Rome, who insisted that he had been in a fight outside a night club and that she must have been hit by spray.
Jess wasn’t convinced, and she knew the CSIs agreed with her, but they had no evidence so far to link him to her murder, so all she could do was leave him cooling his heels in interrogation.
Eventually, she left the precinct in favour of the crime lab, searching for Danny or Hawkes, finally finding them in one of the layout rooms.
They were with one of the lab techs she had yet to meet, a young man with scruffy brown hair and a slightly nervous air about him.
“Hey, Angell.” Danny greeted. He gestured to the lab tech. “Adam Ross, this is Detective Angell.”
“Hi.” Adam smiled, nervously at her. “I’ll, er, check with those pharmacies.”
“Pharmacies?” Jess repeated, as Adam hurried out.
“The swab from the tongue print we recovered from Vanessa’s stomach contained trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.” Hawkes explained.
“It’s used to treat an STD called donovanosis.” Danny elaborated, seeing her perplexed expression. “Since it’s so rare, Adam’s gonna make some calls, see if he can find out who prescribed it. You got anything?”
Jess sighed. “I was hoping you did. Clarence Rome is threatening to lawyer up – have you got anything I can hold him on?”
“Nope.” Hawkes sighed. “He was definitely lying about how his blood ended up on our vic, but there’s no way he beat her to death. The bruises just don’t match up.” He looked at her curiously. “Did you come all the way down here to ask that?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” Jess admitted, with a shrug.
“You know, there’s such a thing as a phone.” Danny told her, grinning.
Jess grimaced. “Yeah, I know. Thacker hasn’t got a case today.” She explained reluctantly, when the two men still stared questioningly at her. “I just spent at least twenty minutes pretending he wasn’t trying to stare down my shirt. I had to get out of the precinct, or I was gonna deck him.”
“You tell the Captain?” Danny asked, frowning. “I mean, checking out the new girl’s one thing – that’s out of order, right there.”
Jess shook her head. “I don’t want to start my time here like that; he’ll write it up and I’ll be ‘that cop’.” Inside, she was just relieved that she had taken her seriously – that kind of behaviour was almost expected in New Jersey, and complaining about it would have only earned her a scathing retort.
“Tell Flack.” Hawkes suggested. “He doesn’t like Thacker at the best of times.”
“Or just tell him where to shove it.” Danny added. “Worked for Aiden.”
“No, what worked for Aiden was the fact that you had to hold her back from punching the guy.” Hawkes reminded him.
“Oh yeah.” Danny nodded. “Go with Flack – it’s your best bet, and you keep your hands clean.”
Jess laughed, unable to help it. “Thanks, guys.”
Danny caught her arm before she could leave. “Hey, he keeps bothering you, let us know – we’ll take care of him.”
Jess was perfectly able to take care of herself, but she couldn’t help feeling touched by the offer. His voice held a protective note that reminded her of her older brothers. “Thanks, Danny. But he’s gotta get tired of it eventually, right?”
The two men exchanged a glance. “… Sure.”
Not completely reassured, Jess wished them luck with the evidence, and headed back towards the elevators, when a familiar profile caught her eye.
It only took her a second to weigh up her options, and decide that hanging around was preferable to returning to the bullpen, even if she did need to cut Rome loose.
Flack was flicking through the crime scene photos, enlarging them one at a time, and examining them closely before flicking to the next.
As she leaned against the doorframe, Flack moved to the next photo, apparently oblivious to her presence. The view from the Brooklyn Bridge appeared, one of the buildings’ windows alight in a very specific pattern.
“Marry me.” Jess read aloud, raising an eyebrow. “I’m flattered, Detective Flack, but we really haven’t known each other that long.”
Flack turned to face her with a grin. “Ha-ha. I’d ask why Benson was making you do legwork, but I heard a rumour that you caught your first solo case.”
“And I heard a rumour that you’re officially back on duty.” Jess shot back. “Apparently, the rumour mill’s on the ball for once.”
Flack snorted. “Will wonders never cease.”
Jess grinned. “What’s with the lights?”
“Our vic had a proposal planned.” Flack explained, looking back at the photo. “But it’s starting to look like it wasn’t aimed at his girlfriend, whose father, by the way, owns this building. The vic worked there.”
“He used his girlfriend’s father’s building to propose to another woman?” Jess concluded, shaking her head. “That’s suicidal bravery, right there.”
“Yeah.” Flack agreed absently, frowning at the lights. “Do women really want something like this?”
“What, a proposal?” Jess asked. “Most of us eventually, yeah. Depends on the situation, though.”
“No.” Flack corrected. “I mean, a proposal in this way. You know, public display and everything.”
Jess pulled a face. “Depends on the woman. Me personally, I’d hate it. You’d have to judge her. Why, you have a girlfriend you’re thinking of proposing to?”
Flack chuckled. “Nah, just thinking aloud. Commitment’s never been my strong point, but this wouldn’t appeal even if it was.” He turned his back on the screen, switching it off as he did. “So what brings you to the lab?”
“Our suspect was threatening to lawyer up, so I came to see if we had anything to hold him on.” Jess answered. “You?”
“Murder weapon came back to a body in the morgue.” Flack said. “Suicide, no relation. I ran out of witness reports – figured I’d take another look at the crime scene photos. I might not be a scientist, but I am schooled in the art of good old-fashioned observation. Now …” He leaned against the layout table, folding his arms across his chest. “How about the truth this time?”
Jess raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“You came by to see if you had anything.” Flack repeated. “Means you were at the precinct. Why would you come all the way across town when you could call?”
“You’re good.” Jess muttered, rubbing her temples. “I needed to get away from Thacker.”
Flack frowned. “He botherin’ you?”
“Put it this way,” Jess said wryly, “this entire conversation has been a great relief.”
Flack’s lips quirked into a smile. “Yeah? Why’s that?”
“It’s reassured me that my eyes are on my face and not on my chest.” Jess answered. “I was starting to worry that I needed a new bathroom mirror.”
Flack chuckled, his eyes dropping to her chest for a split-second. She didn’t blame him entirely – she had just drawn his attention to it, after all – and his gaze immediately returned to hers, so she didn’t really mind.
In certain doses, the attention was flattering.
In Thacker’s case, it was persistent, borderline creepy.
“You talked to the captain?” Flack asked.
Jess sighed. “You’re the second person to suggest that today.”
“Well, it’s inappropriate to start with.” Flack pointed out. “If it’s gettin’ to the point you feel you need to leave the precinct to get away from him, it’s bordering on harassment.”
“I know.” Jen ran a hand through her hair distractedly. “Thing is … back in Jersey, if I’d complained about somethin’ like this, I’d get laughed outta the room.”
“Why?” Flack asked.
Jess was about to retort, when she caught herself just in time. He wasn’t being flippant, he was genuinely confused. “Well, the general feeling I got was that women didn’t belong in the force, so the very fact that we were allowed to be there was a privilege. If we did get any unwanted attention, it was …” She took a deep breath. “We were supposed to take it as flattering.”
“Were you …?” Flack cleared his throat. “I mean, did they …?”
Jess laughed humourlessly. “Not as badly as some of the others. Detective Sergeant’s daughter, remember?”
“Right.” Flack said quietly. “So you’re not going to the captain?”
“I’d rather try to handle it on my own first.” Jess said, heading for the door. “If it doesn’t stop, then I’ll go to the captain. If it still doesn’t stop …”
“I’ll hand him his ass for you.” Flack finished. “That is, if you don’t beat me to it.”
Adam came through big time with the trace from the tongue print. The list of prescriptions was small, but one name stuck out – Asad Jamilla, who worked for a private security firm.
The same security firm, incidentally, that Clarence Rome worked for.
The firm told them that Asad Jamilla had been assigned as bodyguard for Vanessa May the night she died, and that he would be with another client at Club Prowl that night.
So Jess and Danny headed off again, this time fighting their way through the drunk, high thongs of people to get to the suited man standing against the wall.
“You’re the private muscle working for Vanessa May?” Danny asked once they were within earshot.
Asad glanced at the badge on his hip. “Maybe.”
“Maybe?” Danny repeated. “We found trimethoprim on the glass at the scene of her murder. Comes back to you.”
“Vanessa’s dead?” Asad asked. “How?”
Jess narrowed her eyes. Picasso’s surprise had been palpable. This guy sounded like he was going through the motions. Then again, maybe that was just his personality.
“Why don’t you tell us?” Danny asked. “She’s got the same type of closed-fist bruises you have.”
Asad scowled. “That was a money fight. Vanessa’s idea.”
“She told you to fight so you did?” Jess asked.
“Whatever the client wants, the client gets,” Asad stated.
“That include sex?” Danny asked. “Cause we also found your tongue prints all over her stomach.”
“That was a body shot; nothing more,” Adad said. “I told Vanessa I couldn’t have sex with her. Personal reasons.”
Danny rolled his eyes. “So tell us how the rest of the night went, player.”
“I picked Vanessa up at 9; I took her here. She wanted a little bit more excitement so she went looking for it.”
“In the form of an LSD blotter?” Jess guessed.
Asad shrugged. “Whatever the client decides to do, it’s their business. I just make sure they’re not hassled by the lowlife.”
“That include using her stomach as a margarita glass?” Danny asked.
“If that’s her wish.”
“Was that here or in her apartment?” Jess asked.
“That was here,” he answered. He seemed to be responding to her, far better than Danny, which made a nice change.
“What happened next?” She prompted.
“After the fight, my client wanted to thank me for a job well done. But it was more like window-shopping – I didn’t get the goods.”
“Why don’t you tell us how this romantic evening ended?” Danny asked.
“My client was wasted,” Asad said. “She pulled the plug on the night. So I dropped her off and went to get some eggs.” He smoothed down his suit. “Now if there’s anything else, I’d like to get back to my job.”
Jess thanked him and she and Danny began to fight their way out of the club again.
“You know, the blood on Vanessa’s jacket was a secondary transfer,” Danny said, raising his voice to be heard over the music. “Asad had it on his hands when he was messing around with his client.”
Jess shook her head. “You see the size of the mitts on that guy? There’s no way he beat our vic to death.”
“But he was in her penthouse,” Danny said.
“We have nothing to confirm that,” Jess reminded him.
Danny caught her arm and pulled her to a quiet corner. “No, I think we do. This place only serves martinis, not tequila. Asad said they did the body-shot here.”
Jess looked over at the bar, scanning the bottles above it. Danny was right. “Asad lied.”
As first cases went, it was a fairly clean one.
Once they had worked out the various twists and turns of the three suspects’ stories, they had finally reached the truth.
The sad truth that, had Margo Demme just called an ambulance straight away, she would have avoided a murder rap.
Involuntary manslaughter, yes, but not murder.
The two men probably would have avoided prison altogether, but, as it was, they were facing a charge each of accessory after the fact.
All in all, though, Jess was feeling pretty good about herself. The case was closed, her paperwork was done, and she was good to go, in time to catch the Devils game that night.
Damn it. Talk about a mood-killer.
Jess pulled her jacket from her locker and slipped it on, not bothering to turn around. “Something I can help you with, Detective Thacker?”
“Yeah, I was thinking, since we’re both off-shift, we could go and grab a drink … get to know each other a little better.”
“Thanks for the offer.” Jess said, lying through her teeth. “But I have plans.”
“Nothing you couldn’t brush off, I’m sure.” Thacker shifted behind her, and she stiffened slightly. She was fairly sure she must have imagined the soft touch against her lower back, further south than she was comfortable with. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
This one, she definitely didn’t imagine, and this one dared lower, more firmly and certainly not accidental.
Grabbing his arm, she turned, twisting his hand behind his back and pushing him face-first against the lockers, harder than was probably necessary.
“Let me get one thing quite clear right now, Detective Thacker.” She said conversationally. “I am here as a Detective, not as eye candy. I’m very aware that women aren’t a common sight around here, and I’d even go so far as to say that I’m quite attractive with it, but it does not mean that you have the right to stare at me all day, and it certainly doesn’t give you the right to touch me like that. If you do not possess the ability to think with more than one brain at any one time, I suggest that you avoid me as much as possible. Clear?”
A strangled ‘yes’ floated back to her, and she released him, watching him disappear back in the direction of the squad room with no small amount of relief.
For a few minutes, Jess stood stock still, trying to get her racing heart under control. Shutting her locker, she left the locker room, prepared to stand up for herself when she reached the squad room.
She was slightly disappointed not to see Flack at his desk when she walked past, only – she told herself firmly – because she knew she had an ally in him.
To her surprise, however, none of her hastily prepared arguments were needed. No one even took notice as she past, aside from a few colleagues who caught her eye and waved as she left.
In fact, she didn’t really encounter anyone at all, until she reached her car, whereupon she ran into Thacker, again.
This time, however, he looked rather sheepish, and didn’t seem to want to meet her eye.
“Detective Angell, I’d like to apologise for my behaviour today. What I considered an acceptable level of … well, flirting obviously wasn’t, and upon reflection I realise that. I’d really like it if we could let today become water under the bridge and make a fresh start tomorrow.”
Jess hesitated. On the one hand, she really didn’t want to spend the rest of her career at NYPD in a permanent disagreement with a colleague, no matter how justified it was.
On the other, she hadn’t known him long enough to judge whether or not he genuinely meant what he said.
Thacker seemed to sense her hesitation. “One chance. That’s all I’m asking.”
“Alright.” Jess agreed finally. “One chance. But only because maintaining a professional relationship would be really difficult otherwise.”
Thacker breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Angell. See you tomorrow.”
After that, her journey home was fairly unremarkable, unless you counted a ten minute wait in traffic as ‘remarkable’ (which, in New York, it was – the wait was usually at least twice that long).
Her apartment was dark when she got home, and she hit the lights as she passed, sinking on to the couch with a sigh.
Dimly, she realised she should probably make dinner, or at the very least order take-out, but for the moment, she couldn’t bring herself to move.
She hadn’t realised how tired she was until she had sat down.
After a few minutes, she became aware of a blinking light coming from the phone, and she stood up, removing her gun as she did.
On her way over to the lock-box, she pressed the button on the answering machine, letting her mother’s voice fill the apartment.
“Jessica, it’s your mother. Would you please call and let me know you’re alright, dear? I’m not one to complain, but …”
“I’m getting as bad as my brothers.” Jess finished, in time with the voice. “I know.” Says something about my social life when my only missed call is from my mother.
Even as she deleted the message, she felt guilty for it. Her brothers, as much as she loved them, were terrible when it came to touching base every so often, and her mother wasn’t one for exaggerations generally, so the comparison had to be at least a little accurate.
Ever since she joined the Academy, Jess had found it difficult to call home, for the very reason she rolled her eyes every time someone accused her of using her father’s name to get ahead.
She’d never get away with it.
Not just because Cliff Angell was a stickler for the rules, but because Retired Detective Sergeant Angell couldn’t be less pleased that his daughter was following in his footsteps.
Growing up, Jess had known, of course, that her father had strong views about women in the force. They didn’t belong, he said. He had no issues with women working, with women becoming lawyers and doctors and architects – good for them, he said.
But police work?
It was dangerous, risky; best left to a man, he said – women had no business in a squad-room unless they were manning the reception desk.
Perhaps naively, Jess had assumed that he wouldn’t reflect that view on to his own daughter, especially after all four of her brothers had avoided the police route altogether.
But after six years, Jess had given up on making her father proud.
Growing up, she had been the dictionary definition of a daddy’s girl, and it hurt more than anything to phone home and listen to her mother make excuses as to why her father couldn’t come to the phone.
Wonder what it would be this evening. “He’s out with the boys, Jess. You know how caught up he gets.” “He’s got another old wreck in the garage – I can’t tear him away from it.” Wouldn’t kill her to say “He doesn’t want to talk to you, Jess. You’ve disappointed him.”
Her somewhat dismal train of thought was interrupted by a knock at the door, and she doubled back to answer it, finding a boy in his late teens standing outside.
He was wearing a delivery uniform, although the logo was unfamiliar to her, and holding a clipboard, which he peered at before addressing her. “Miss Angell?”
“Yes.” Jess answered, not bothering to correct him.
“Delivery.” He held out the clipboard. “Sign here please.”
Jess hesitated for a second, but the logo was definitely that of some sort of flower shop, so she took the offered pen and scrawled a quick signature on the dotted line.
“Thanks.” Tucking the clipboard under his arm, he bent down to pick up the flowers that had been sitting just behind him.
“Oh wow.” Jess breathed, accepting them. She may have been a homicide detective with New York’s finest, but she had always loved getting flowers.
Her brothers, of course, teased her about it, saying it just proved that she ‘really was a girl’ inside, but she laughed them off.
Her mother had provided the flower arrangements for their local church and, as a little girl – perhaps feeling a bit guilty that she didn’t enjoy any of the other things Marie Angell had so looked forward to doing with her only daughter – Jess had decided to help her, making it a mother-daughter time that they both cherished.
Jess herself didn’t have the affinity for the art that her mother did, but it didn’t mean she didn’t appreciate a beautiful arrangement when she saw one, and this was a stunning one – yellow roses and pale pink lilies, all lifted up with leaves of dark green.
“Do you know who ordered these?” She asked.
“Erm …” He consulted his clipboard again. “No, ma’am. But I can tell you that this particular arrangement is our ‘congratulations’ package, so there should be a card in there somewhere.”
“Thank you.” Jess said absently. “Have a nice evening.”
“You as well, ma’am.” He responded, as she closed the door.
Thankfully, the flowers came in their own vase, so Jess didn’t need to try to find one – never being home and needing to build up her apartment from scratch meant that she had aimed for the necessities first, and she was fairly sure she didn’t even own a flower vase.
As she set the flowers on her kitchen counter, the card shook free and fell from the leaves. She caught it automatically, her eyes falling on the printed text.
Congratulations on solving your first case!
Jess smiled slightly, her guilt over her mother’s message heightening slightly, until she realised that she hadn’t told her mother about her first case.
So it can’t be from Mum … or any of my brothers …
Now completely confused, Jess flipped the card over, hoping for some clue to its sender, and was rewarded with a scribbled message.
Rangers’ll still kick your ass tonight though.
Jess couldn’t help the incredulous laugh that escaped her. It had only been a matter of time before Flack figured out where her loyalties fell when it came to hockey and, to her surprise, he didn’t seem to care.
But he was the only person who knew, both that she was a Devils fan and that she had solved her first case.
They had to be from him.
“What are you up to, Detective Flack?” She asked aloud.
She supposed that she should probably be a little wary about this – it definitely crossed the boundary of ‘just co-workers’.
But then, if she was going to look at it that way, she had already crossed that boundary – ‘just co-workers’ didn’t visit each other in the hospital that regularly (especially when the visitor had not-a-phobia of hospitals).
And Jess had visited – frequently. It was what had led to their earlier banter being so … easy.
And, as much as Jess wanted to pretend that it was simply professional courtesy, she knew better – she genuinely liked Don Flack, and gaining him as a friend was hardly the worst thing that could happen to her.
“Okay,” she murmured, a smile crossing her face, “so we’re friends.”
It sounded casual and unimportant, which was how she intended it, but she had a feeling that this particular friendship would be anything but unimportant.
She had no way of knowing that her life would never be the same again.
d never be the same again.
Chapter 3: Not What It Looks Like
In which Don’s had a bad day and Jess steps in to help.
As Don handed Beth Larson over to one of the nearby uniformed officers, the door to the precinct closed heavily behind them, seeming to echo his feelings about the entire case.
He just about fell into the chair behind his desk, his head dropping into his hands as he tried to fight off the growing migraine.
For a few moments, the hustle and bustle of the precinct moved around him without really reaching him, then the scent of coffee caught his attention. “Black, three sugars, right?”
The cup landed on his desk in front of him and he looked up to see Detective Angell leaning against her desk with her own coffee in hand.
“Right now, I’m not sure which of you is the better sight.” Don said, taking a grateful gulp. “Thanks, Angell, I needed that.”
“Bad case?” Angell questioned.
“Diamond smugglers, hostage situation and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Don listed tiredly. “Not as bad as yours, apparently. Heard you got your first mummy.”
Angell pulled a face that he tried not to find adorable. “Pauline Rayburn. Victim of domestic assault. And if I never see a body like that again, it will be too soon.”
“Well, you’re better off with a mummy than a decomp.” Don told her. “The smell’s better for one.”
Don groaned, seeing the captain making his way over. “Oh, here we go.”
Gerard glared at him, either missing or ignoring his muttered comment. “Do you want to tell me why you just sent an untrained CSI into a hostage situation as an undercover?!”
Angell choked on her coffee and stared at him in disbelief.
Don sighed. “Mosi Ghedi was a dangerous man, who had a hostage he was threatening to kill if her partner didn’t deliver his diamonds in twenty minutes. There was no way I could get an undercover there in under a half hour and we couldn’t let SWAT move into a hostage situation. Detective Monroe volunteered to do the drop, knowing that Ghedi had only ever seen the jewel thieves in wigs. I made the decision that would create the most favourable outcome. We placed a flash grenade in the base of the bag and Detective Monroe was wearing a Kevlar vest. SWAT was through the door seconds after she was made and all suspects were apprehended.”
“You should have called in a superior.” Gerard told him angrily. “You cannot make these split-second decisions and expect to get away with it, regardless of who your father is.”
Don opened his mouth to argue, a haze of anger descending upon him. Anyone he worked with knew that he hated using his father to get anywhere, and loathed the fact that he bore the same name. He was acutely aware of the noise in the precinct falling, as his co-workers stopped talking to see his response, but, as usual, not one stepped forwards to defend him.
“Captain Gerard?” Angell asked. “Sorry to interrupt, but you asked me to tell you if Councilman Rayburn turned out to be his wife’s killer.”
The mention of the politician was an effective distraction, and Gerard turned his attention to her. “You sure?”
“Dr Driscoll found evidence of a strike ante-mortem.” Angell explained, showing him the file. “And she matched the indent to the matching wedding bands they wear. Either he hit her hard enough to kill her, or she did. And I highly doubt it was suicide.”
“No.” Gerard agreed, taking the file from her. “I think I should handle this. Good work, Detective.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Don let out a relieved sigh as Gerard walked away, and stood up himself, heading into the locker room.
Unlike the crowded predict, it was empty and he sank onto the bench, burying his face in his hands to muffle the groan that still echoed off the metal lockers.
Of course he had hesitated out there. It was never going to be a split-second decision, sending Lindsay in like that.
“You would’ve been wrong whatever you decided.”
He lifted his head to see Angell leaning against the lockers opposite him. He hadn’t noticed her follow him, but managed a weak smile. “I know. Believe me, I know. He worked briefly with my father. Under him. And he hates me because of that.”
“I had the same problem in Jersey.” Angell said, sitting down next to him. “It wasn’t the captain, but he was still my superior. He felt that I must have used my father’s name to get a job, mainly because I was a woman, but partly because I was just better than him.”
Don chuckled. “And modest too.”
Angell rolled her eyes with a smile. “Whatever. The point is, I know it’s irritating, but you just have to ignore him.”
Don sighed. “Angell, I’ve been ignoring him since I started working here, it just … he’s waiting for me to lose it.”
“Alright, I’ll make you a deal.” Angell suggested. “Whenever he starts with you, I’ll distract him.”
“And I’ll …?” Don prompted.
“You owe me.” Angell said, smirking. “I’ll think of something.”
Don eyed her warily. “I’m not sure if I’d rather take my chances with the captain.”
“Oh shut up!” She laughed, swatting his arm as she stood up. “Come on, don’t you have paperwork to fill out?” When he didn’t move, she fixed him with a stern – yet caring – look. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Don lied. Her expression didn’t change and he sighed. “I am fine. I just … I didn’t want to send Lindsay into that building. I had no other choice and that he’s making it out to be some split-second decision, that I risked her life on a … on a whim … I exhausted every other option before I made that call.”
“I know you did.” Angell said, and he gave her a genuine smile, because her sincerity was clear. She tilted her head curiously. “Is Danny gonna kill you?”
“Well, I thought so.” Don said. “He was almost shitting himself when we were waiting in the van, but the last time I looked, she was still clinging to him like her life depended on it.”
“Maybe they’ll finally stop dancing around each other.” Angell suggested.
“I wish.” Don muttered. “Messer’s getting unbearable at the best of times, and then I have to deal with the crap that comes with babysitting him drunk.”
Angell sniggered. “I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s a chatty drunk.”
“He’s always been a chatty drunk.” Don grumbled. “Wasn’t until Lindsay that I realised he’s a sappy chatty drunk.”
Angell winced. “Oh, those are the worse kinds. Here’s hoping this lit a fire under them then.”
Don glanced at her, contemplating whether to give voice to the thought in his head. Their dynamic had changed since he had returned to work – now they were officially working together, any mild flirtation that might occur had been steadfastly avoided. “You know,” he said cautiously, “if it does, the rumour mill will start churning about us instead.”
Angell didn’t bat an eyelid. “Start? I thought the day I arrived in New York, you swept me off my feet and we’ve been inseparable ever since.”
Don winced. “Sorry, Angell, that can’t be helping you.”
“It’s fine.” Angell said with a smile. “That one’s easily debunked. You were in a coma the day I arrived in New York.”
“Huh.” Don said thoughtfully. “I think I should be quite flattered that they think that highly of my charms that they think I could manage that in a coma.”
“Why it’s still going though, I don’t know,” Angell continued thoughtfully. “I mean, we don’t interact any more or less or differently than any other detectives in the bullpen. What’s the difference between us and everyone else?”
Don grinned at her. “No one else has a partner as pretty as you.”
Angell rolled her eyes, but he swore he saw a blush rise in her cheeks. “You know, the longer we stand here debating which rumours may or may not start, the more it looks like said rumours could be true.”
“Unlikely,” Don said. “I don’t even know your first name.”
Angell opened her mouth, paused, then smiled wryly at him. “Nice try, Detective.”
Chapter 4: Love Runs Cold
In which Jess tries to work out what’s going on with Lindsay. Includes a moping Danny Messer and a shirtless Don Flack …
In the few months since she had joined NYPD, Jess had quickly found her place among her colleagues in a way she wouldn’t have believed possible as a female cop in Jersey.
Still, however well she got along with the other detectives, she had soon come to realise that the crime lab was a much tighter group that, despite working closely with all the detectives, had only truly accepted one as one of their own, at least until Jess had arrived.
Maybe it was due to the fact that she and Flack got on like a house on fire, maybe it was due to her visits when she was in the hospital, or maybe there was something different in the way she interacted with the CSIs than her co-workers that she hadn’t seen – but they seemed to have adopted her as well.
Danny’s assertion that they would deal with Thacker if he kept giving her a problem cemented her place in that family.
She was a little sister again, but this time she had another ‘little’ sister in Lindsay to share that experience, and an older sister in Stella to ask for help, and these brothers trusted her to take care of herself and were only there for back-up if she needed it.
This time, she didn’t mind so much.
So when she left Mac’s office after dropping off paperwork and saw Danny standing by one of the windows, staring out at the city and looking utterly lost, she didn’t hesitate to head in his direction,
Danny glanced up and relief crossed his face. “Angell! Thank God! You’re a woman, right?”
“Thanks for noticing,” Jess said dryly.
Danny waved a dismissive hand. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. What does it mean when a woman says ‘it’s not you, but I need to be by myself to work some stuff out.’?”
Jess raised an eyebrow. “Generally that it’s not you but she needs to be by herself to work some stuff out.” She leaned against the window. “Is this Lindsay we’re talking about?”
“Jeez, Messer, what happened to you?” Don asked, approaching them.
“Lindsay,” Jess answered, when Danny just groaned. “That’s all I got.”
Don sighed, patting his friend on the shoulder. “Alright, normally I’d take him to Sully’s so he could get over it, but I think we’ll need a woman’s intuition. Care to join us, Detective?”
“Love to,” Jess said with a smile. “I just need to grab my stuff from the locker room and …” The foul odour emanating from his shirt suddenly hit her as he moved and she coughed, her eyes watering. “My God, Flack, what happened?!”
“Oh.” Don glared down at his shirt as though it were creating the stench all on its own. “Some drunk kid threw up on me as they were dragging him through the precinct.”
Both of them looked at Danny, waiting for the reaction, but he didn’t move.
“Alright,” Jess muttered, clearing her throat. “And you thought that, since you had puke all over you, you’d come here and share it with the rest of us?”
Don rolled his eyes. “When Gerard tells you to get something to the lab, you don’t wait around to change your shirt.” He clapped Danny on the back. “So, Danno, meet us at Sully’s in 30, alright?”
Danny nodded morosely. “A’right.”
Five minutes later …
“Remind me again why I let you talk me into riding with you?” Jess asked, opening her locker.
“You had no other way if getting back to the precinct,” Don said.
“Thacker was at the lab,” Jess reminded him.
Don sniggered. “Oh, like you’d take him over me.”
“Smellin’ like that?” Jess smirked. “Every time.”
“And here I thought what we had was special,” Don retorted.
Jess laughed, closing her locker again to find that he was halfway through changing his shirt. His gaze was averted, which gave her the opportunity to covertly admire the sight of him shirtless, something she hadn’t seen since his time in the hospital.
It had threatened her composure then; now he had had a chance to get back into the game and physique was back (she presumed) to its pre-bomb state, she had to take a deep breath and remind herself that, no, slamming him against the lockers would not be professional and, yes, she should care.
As his clean shirt slid down, concealing his skin from her view once more, she pretended to be looking through her bag for something, hearing his locker door close and feeling his eyes fall on her.
Jess glanced up. “Waiting on you.”
“I just don’t get it.”
Don rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you said.”
Jess leaned past him to grab her drink. “I’m just glad you’ve limited how much he’s drinking,” she muttered, “or this would be a lot harder.” She sat back, patting Danny’s hand. “Alright, Messer, that’s enough. Tell me exactly what Lindsay said.”
Danny sighed, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. “She said that she likes me a lot, but she can’t be in a relationship right now and she needs to be by herself to work some stuff out.” He paused, brow furrowing in thought, and Jess waited patiently for him to finish. “To work some stuff out,” he repeated slowly, “that she thought she had put behind her.”
Jess nodded thoughtfully, her mind ticking over everything she knew about Lindsay Monroe. It wasn’t much, as it turned out.
“I’m lost,” Don stated.
“So am I,” Jess admitted. “One thing’s obvious though. Something happened in Montana.”
“What?” Danny asked immediately.
Jess shrugged. “I don’t know, I’m not a mind-reader. Maybe a bad relationship or … Whatever it is, she thought she had dealt with it, but she hasn’t. She doesn’t want it to get in the middle of her relationship with you, so she’s stepping back until she can work it out.”
Danny shook his head. “I will never understand women.”
“What, you’d rather have a girlfriend who’s still stuck dealing with whatever it is?” Jess asked.
“Well, no,” Danny admitted, “but I don’t like the idea that she thinks she needs to deal with it by herself.”
“Maybe she doesn’t think she has to,” Jess said quietly. “Maybe she wants to.”
“Yeah, but why?” Danny asked.
Jess shifted in her seat, her eyes darting away from him and Don, and focusing on the glasses above the bar. “Rule of thumb: if a man in the force shows weakness, it’s an exception; if a woman in the force shows weakness, it’s proof we can’t handle ourselves. We have to work twice as hard to be thought of as half as good.”
They had both quoted the second half of that sentence with her.
At her questioning look, Don gave her a grin. “We do have other female co-workers, Angell, and you and they have a point. Doesn’t mean we like it.”
In Jersey, she would have been laughed out of the room. She smiled and turned back to Danny. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for Lindsay to deal with this by herself, but pushing her is not going to work.”
Danny frowned. “So what do I do?”
“Nothing,” Jess insisted. “You do nothing, and wait for her to come to you.”
Danny sighed again. “A’right, a’right. I hear you.” He glanced at his watch and finished his beer. “I better get home; I got an early shift.”
“You gonna be okay?” Jess asked softly.
Danny gave her a shadow of his usual grin, but it was genuine. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“You stickin’ around, Angell?” Don asked. “Or am I drinking alone?”
Jess grinned into her glass. “You’re pouting.”
“I’m not pouting,” he said.
“Yeah, you are, Flack,” Danny said, tossing some bills on the table. “See ya, Angell.”
Jess waved a hand in acknowledgement, still smirking at her co-worker. “Well, I guess I could stay a bit longer, seeing as you’re so opposed to drinking alone.”
“You hate it too,” Don reminded her.
“True,” Jess conceded.
Don tapped a finger against his beer bottle. “So what do you really think happened in Montana?”
“I don’t know,” Jess repeated. “And it’s none of our business. If Lindsay wants to tell us, she will.”
Don nodded absently, worry creasing his face.
“How was your case?” Jess asked, trying to change the subject.
“Man stabbed his girlfriend with an ice-sceptre filled with vodka,” Don answered, “because she’d dumped him after he got back from telling his parents they were getting married.”
Jess winced. “Ouch. Serves him right for not asking her first.”
“Who poisoned your marathon runner?” Don asked.
“One of the volunteers,” Jess answered. “Turns out he was responsible for a car accident that left her brother paralysed.”
“Not sure which one’s worse,” Don said. “Yours was in Central Park, right?”
Don smirked. “I had to spend two hours interviewing witnesses in an ice-cold bar. I win.”
Jess sniggered, raising her glass in a toast. “Next round’s on me then.”
Chapter 5: Hung Out To Dry
In which we answer the question: What makes a homicide detective like Don Flack lose his cool? Jess gets a little too much information and finds out why Don’s temper is so feared.
New York City was a crazy place.
Anyone working in the precinct could attest to that.
So why, Jess wondered, had Don Flack just staggered through the front door, looking like he was about to vomit all over the place?
She watched him head into the locker room and returned to her paperwork, her pen tapping against her desk.
No one else seemed at all bothered by his appearance, but she was sure he counted them as friends. He had drinks with them after work, played basketball with the boys … Would it look strange if she went after him to find out what was wrong?
After five minutes of staring at her paperwork and getting no more done, she decided that enough time had passed for it to be overlooked, so she got up and wandered off in the direction he had disappeared.
He was sat on one of the benches, leaning back against the cool metal of the lockers, taking deep breaths.
Jess crossed her arms, frowning at the sight. It didn’t seem like him not to bounce back. “Bad case?”
Don shook his head slowly. “Worse. Our perp … cut a woman’s head off … burned the neck … and strung her up from a ceiling fan.”
Her arms falling to her sides, Jess felt her legs begin to shake and she collapsed on to the bench opposite him. “Wha … What? Oh my God …”
Don nodded. “Yeah. Do that for another couple of hours and you might be where I am right about now.”
“Well, someone must’ve really wanted this girl dead, right?” Jess asked. “Ex-boyfriend or … something?”
Don sighed. “Everyone I talked to said that everyone loved her.” He pulled a face. “Course that does include someone with beer bottles taped to his hands.”
Despite the nausea churning in her stomach, Jess couldn’t help sniggering. “I would’ve paid good money to watch you conduct that interview.”
“He called me ‘bro’,” Don said. He was starting to sound a bit better, at least until his phone beeped and he checked the message. “Gotta go. They’ve found her head buried under a rock.” He got up and sighed heavily again. “There’s a sentence I never wanted to say.”
Jess stayed rooted to her seat, her expression carefully masked until the door swung closed behind him. Only then did she get up, stumbling to the bathrooms, where she emptied her stomach into the nearest possible receptacle.
Splashing some cold water on her face, she rested her head against the mirror, praying for the mental image to leave her.
“Angell?” Gentle hands pulled her away from the sink and turned her to face Detective Kaile Maka, who pressed a cool hand against her forehead. “I don’t think you have a fever. You alright?”
“You see Flack just now?” Jess asked weakly.
“Yeah,” Maka said with a frown. “He looked like hell.”
Jess took a gulp of air. “I made the mistake of asking what happened.”
Maka somehow managed to pull a face and smile at her at the same time. “Oh, Angell – you never ask.”
“Yeah, I got that,” Jess said with a grimace. “You got any gum?”
“Here.” Maka handed her a stick and squeezed her arm. “Just remember – it’s not your case.”
Jess managed to muster up a smile. “True. Thanks.”
Over the next few days, Jess tried to take Maka’s advice. It wasn’t easy though, when the details kept trickling down the grapevine.
There had been a second victim now, a young man found impaled to a tree in Central Park by two railroad spikes driven through his eye-sockets.
Danny had been through once or twice, looking for Don, and he had told her about the strange shirts found with the victims and how they seemed to hold cryptic clues.
He had even invited her to swing by the lab if she had a spare minute to see if she could make head or tail of them.
Jess had declined – if the CSIs were having trouble, she was almost certain she would have no luck.
She did, however, end up at the lab, looking for Hawkes.
Even though he was no longer a Medical Examiner for the crime lab, his office was down in the morgue, which was Jess’s least favourite place.
She paused outside the door, listening intently, before walking in, mercifully finding Sid alone with paperwork, but no bodies laying out.
“Hey, Sid, you seen Hawkes?”
“He just left with Mac,” Sid answered absently. “Apparently, he’s pretty popular today.” He glanced up, seeing her eyes wandering around the room. “Are you still mad at me for that little trick we pulled?”
Jess smiled weakly, trying not to remember the lab tech suddenly popping out from under a sheet. “No. But I’ll be eternally grateful if you never do that again.”
Sid chuckled. “Duly noted.”
The door swung open and Hawkes strode in. “Hey, Angell.”
“Hey, I need to …” Jess trailed off as he vanished into his office. “Never mind.” She jogged after him, catching the door before it could swing closed again. “You got the write-up for the Miller case?”
“Huh?” Hawkes paused in his pace around the office. “Oh, yeah. Sorry … Um …” he rummaged through his desk, pulling out the file. “Here.”
“Thanks.” Jess tucked it under her arm, tilting her head curiously. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said dismissively.
“Oh, okay,” Jess said. “And the real answer?”
Hawkes gave her a weak smile, sinking into his chair behind the desk. “You hear about Flack’s serial?”
Jess grimaced. “The headless woman? Been trying not to. You get the guy?”
“An ID,” Hawkes said. “Shane Casey. Amy Fiedler was the forewoman of the jury that convicted his brother of murder. Kenneth Chandler was the sole eyewitness.”
“You figured out the shirts?” Jess asked. “Who were the other two?”
“Hypnos, god of sleep, and Hades, god of the dead.”
Jess took a step towards him. “God of the dead – the ME? That was you? He’s not getting in here, doc.”
“I know that,” Hawkes said. “I’m not worried about that. It’s just that … I’ve testified in hundreds of cases. And his brother’s case was routine – nothing in the autopsy that could pinpoint Ian Casey as the shooter. It was just on the word of the eyewitness.”
“Well, if that were the case, the defence attorney should have been able to …” Jess trailed off, the meaning of the other t-shirt suddenly becoming clear. “He was asleep at the wheel, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah. Mac and Danny have gone to check on him now.”
Jess shook her head. “No evidence, just one eyewitness … that’s tough. Where’s his brother now?”
“Hanged himself on the day of sentencing,” Hawkes answered.
“Christ,” Jess muttered. “You can’t blame the guy for being angry. I mean, his method’s flawed, but … that’s tough.”
Hawkes chuckled. “You’ve been spending too much time with Mac. That’s what he said about the bombing.”
Jess found herself having to hold back a shudder at the reminder. It had been just under two months since Don had returned to work, but already it was difficult to reconcile the man she worked with at the precinct with the man she’d visited at the hospital and she was starting to realise why everyone had been subdued when they visited him.
“I never knew you drank until I saw you sober,” she thought wryly. Then suddenly, the name Hawkes had given her rang a bell in her memory. “Wait, Shane Casey? The guy Danny was telling me about with the T-shirts? Mr He-was-the-only-sane-one-at-that-party? That Shane Casey?”
“The very same,” Hawkes said with a grin. “Danny’s gut struck out again.”
Jess chuckled. “Still, they’ll probably have Casey in custody before long. I don’t think this guy’s gonna just give up because we’re on to him.”
Before Hawkes could respond, Jess’s radio crackled into life. “10-13, 10-13. All units, all units. 13625 Fourth Avenue.”
“That’s him,” Hawkes said immediately. “That’s the attorney’s office.”
Jess spun on her heel without bothering with any niceties. She made it to the front of the building in record time and jumped in her car, hitting the button for the sirens.
She had barely made it a few blocks, when her radio crackled again. “10-13, 10-13. 10-4 copy that. All units, all units. Suspect in custody. Repeat: suspect is in custody.”
Jess cut her speed, turning the sirens off again, breathing a sigh of relief.
When she arrived back at the precinct, however, the scene she was greeted with was not what she expected. The entire bullpen was subdued and quiet, certainly not the atmosphere she’d been expecting after the capture of a serial killer.
Danny was stood near the door, his face like thunder, and she jogged over to him. “Hey, what happened?”
Danny just shook his head and stormed out of the door.
“What happened?” Jess repeated, to the room in general. “Where’s Flack?”
Maka gestured towards the break room. “In there. I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Angell.”
Jess paused with a hand on the door-handle. “Why not?”
“You ever seen Flack when he’s pissed off?” Martinez asked.
Jess shook her head. “No.”
“That much is obvious,” Vacari muttered, “or you wouldn’t even be considerin’ it.”
“Trust me, Angell; you’d wanna do that,” Martinez warned.
Jess rolled her eyes and pushed the door open.
Immediately, she realised that what she had assumed was exaggeration on her colleagues’ parts most definitely wasn’t.
The temperature in the break room seemed to be several degrees colder than the rest of the precinct, although that might have had something to do with the pure fury in Don’s eyes.
Arms folded and jaw set, he stared down four uniformed officers, all of whom had their eyes fixed on the floor.
Jess faltered in the doorway, but then he turned to her.
“Detective Angell. Thank God. Maybe you can tell me if I’m going crazy.” Don glared at the uniformed officers once more for good measure, then focused on her. His gaze seemed to pierce straight through to her soul and her step backwards was only partly to close the door.
“If you have a serial killer in custody, at what point do you remove the cuffs?”
Now was not the time to decide that, yes, Don was intimidating when he was pissed off, but that actually ‘intimidating’ was a good look for him.
“I’m not sure what you mean, Detective Flack,” Jess said, her voice just as falsely calm as his. “You don’t remove them. Those cuffs stay on until he or she is in a 6x8 cell. Same as for any criminal.”
“What if that killer wanted to use the bathroom?” Don asked.
Jess frowned. “You cuff him to an officer and accompany him at all times,” she answered slowly. “I appreciate I haven’t been here very long, Detective Flack, but this is basic Academy training. I would hope that you have enough faith in me to realise that I at least knew that.”
Don didn’t smile. “I do, Angell, but I also thought that these four knew that, before they let a serial killer escape from under our noses!”
The last half of his sentence was directed at the officers, and they shrank back as one.
“They did what?!” Jess demanded, horror coursing through her veins. “What the hell happened?!”
“I don’t know, but I now have to explain it to the captain!” Don’s sigh of frustration sounded more like a growl. “You four just … get the hell outta my sight. Now!”
With tangible relief, the officers leapt to their feet and scuttled out of the breakroom, past Jess, who took a tentative step forwards. “Long day, huh?”
Don sank into a chair, burying his face in his hands. “You can say that again.”
Jess patted his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
Don lifted his head at that. The anger had mostly drained away, but there was still a fire in his eyes that almost took her breath away. “It’s not your fault, Angell. I shouldn’t have dragged you into it just now.”
“You didn’t; I dragged myself into it,” Jess said. “The others warned me and I didn’t listen.”
Don shook his head. “I got people at all bus terminals, train stations, airports …”
“That won’t work,” Jess interrupted. “I don’t think this guy’s done yet. He’ll stay in the city until he’s avenged his brother.”
“And that means Hawkes is still in danger,” Don said with a scowl.
“Maybe not,” Jess said slowly. “I mean, those murders … Yes, they were horrific, but they were calculated. Those shirts were the work of a psychopath, not an idiot. He’ll know we’ll be waiting for him to go after Hawkes – I think whatever he does will be more subtle this time.”
“You sure that’s not just wishful thinking?” Don asked.
“Probably,” Jess admitted. “You okay?”
“No.” dHe He let out a short, humourless laugh. “No, I’m not okay. I got a psychopath roaming the city, and now I gotta explain to the captain how I let him escape.”
“Don, this is not your fault!” Jess protested.
“You wanna tell the captain that?” Don asked rhetorically, standing up. “This is not gonna be fun.”
“Good luck,” Jess called after him, before sitting down herself, realising that her legs were shaking too much to bear her weight anymore.
How could this happen? What’s gonna happen now?
Jess took a few minutes to compose herself, before getting up again and re-entering the squadroom on admittedly shaky legs.
No one took any notice of her reappearance, except for Vicari, who muttered, “Told you so.”
Jess ignored him, dropping into the seat behind her desk and pulling out the report Hawkes had given her. She read it three times before she had to concede that she hadn’t actually processed any of the words. She felt like she was in a particularly unpleasant dream, but no one else seemed the least bit bothered by the fact that Shane Casey was back on the streets.
“Nothing we can do, Angell,” Maka said as she passed, apparently reading her expression. “It happens every so often; we don’t like it, but it’s part of the job. Just let Flack worry about it for you.”
Jess smiled weakly. “Right. Got it.”
But she didn’t.
Of course, she knew it wasn’t her problem, but she had a feeling, deep inside, that this was no ordinary serial killer.
Ordinary serial killers would either keep killing or fall off the radar altogether.
Shane Casey didn’t want to kill anyone else, except the two people they knew about – Jerry Ganville, the defence attorney, would have round-the-clock security until Casey was caught, and Sheldon Hawkes was a CSI, who was surrounded by cops all day long.
No, she had a feeling that her ‘wishful thinking’ was also their biggest danger – that Shane Casey’s next move would so subtle that they would never see it coming.