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White Knight

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Five days after putting out the state-wide APB on Ledoux, they’ve gotten nothing in return. It’s days now of driving, squirreling out old KAs and Reggie’s few childhood friends, some who knew the family way back when. Rust drives some days; Marty others. The days blend together.

One night, Marty goes out and gets fuckin’ smashed. He stumbles home at one, maybe two o’clock; strips; sleeps. In the quiet before fallin’ asleep he thinks about the words inscribed in Dora Lange’s journal. They blur with the glimpses he’s caught of the drawings in Rust’s taxman ledger until suddenly it’s Rust in his mind, naked, pale dead hands held up in supplication, antler crown perched on short dirty-blond hair.

Marty wakes up barely a half hour before he’s got to be at the office, swears over a still-sleeping Maggie, showers, ignores the fist smashing repeatedly into his brain, and leaves.

He’s a little on edge when he arrives, near twenty minutes late. Maybe it’s the nightmares. Rust’s nowhere to be seen; probably hid away in some tiny, dark room staring down pictures of Reggie Ledoux like he can see into the man’s soul. The boys are there, though, all gathered together around Steve, who gives Marty an ironic salute as he walks to his desk.

“Mornin’, sunshine,” Steve calls to him. The fellas all turn to him too, but Marty’s too tired to be the charmer today.

He just tries a tired smile, rubs his face again. “Mornin’,” he says.

Doesn’t stop Steve from striding over to Marty’s desk, leaning against the side. “What’ve you got the Taxman up to, Marty?” he asks conspiratorially, leaning down so Marty can smell the sour stench of coffee on his breath.

Marty pretends to busy himself with some files. “Eh, nothin’ much,” he hedges. “We’re tryin’ acquaintances now, for that lead we - Rust - got a few days back.” He takes a few sips from his own mug; hopes the caffeine will jolt him into being’ able to deal with this shit.

“Fuckin’ Taxman, huh,” Steve comments, obviously unhappy with the level of response he’s getting from Marty. He’s been after Rust harder since the Texan did his little show with the slap. Steve glances towards the file rooms, which suggests that they’re Rust’s current location. “Fuckin’ weirdo,” he says, more forcefully, looking at Marty.

Marty keeps his expression neutral, but man, is he fuckin’ tired of office politics. “Look, man, I - I really appreciate your interest in our case, but I’ve - “ he gestures what he hopes is apologetically at a pile of papers on his desk - “I’ve got a fuckin’ mountain of shit to get done before the chief checks in, and - “

“Yeah, yeah.” Steve doesn’t move away; instead, he straightens up; looks Marty square in the face. Marty’s not playing, and Steve doesn’t like it. Fuckin’ too early for this shit, Marty thinks. “Why’d you not hand it off to the task force, then?” Steve asks, hint of accusation hiding in his tone.

“Well, you know,” Marty says. “We’re makin’ progress - “

“Man’s fucked up, Marty,” Steve cuts him off, lookin’ serious. “Fucked up. You see him? Spent the whole fuckin’ night in the file rooms, probably jackin’ off to them pictures of all the dead girls. He’s got nothin’ and nobody. Freak. Don’t know how Quesada still lets him catch with all of us.”

Throughout the speech Marty feels himself getting angry. Not like he’s mad on account of Rust’s reputation, can’t pretend he cares, as he thinks the same way sometimes, but the mention of Rust’s life, his personal life - “got nothin’ and nobody” - makes Marty remember how true it is. But the difference is he knows it’s not Rust’s fault, there’s the thing. Rust didn’t make his daughter go away, couldn’t help his wife leavin’ either, and Steve fuckin’ Geraci standing there, making hay about Rust Cohle like he knows him, got some fuckin’ right - yeah, Marty’s angry.

“He’s got a mean slap, though, don’t he?” Marty asks, slow, innocent. He lets himself smile a tick. “That hurt, didn’t it, Steve?” Watches the other man’s face turn red, fingers clench up into a fist as the other fellas titter behind him.

Steve tugs himself taller, crosses his arms. The guys still over at his desk are watchin’ like it’s a rodeo show. Marty feels contempt, suddenly, thick and surprisingly vicious, and a bit of regret for turning on his fellow detective. He’s an okay guy, really, just a fuckin’ moron. Marty turns back to his desk, hoping that the situation’ll just go away on its own. Steve’s near all bluster, anyway, and Marty breathes a sigh of relief as the other man starts walking back to his own desk.

He thinks he’s gotten away free from the comment, but then he hears Steve murmur - low, but clearly meant for him to hear - “Good thing Marty’s suckin’ Cohle’s dick, I guess.”

Marty’s up out of his chair before he even realizes it, has grabbed Steve by the collar and shoved him down on his desk, papers flying to either side of him. The other guys scatter like the wind. Marty feels red in the face, a haze of bloodlust come down over his eyes, blood thunderin’. He holds Steve down on the desk and shakes him a little, feels vindicated by the show of fear in the big guy’s eyes. Gone’s any kind of regret from before. He wants to kill this man, wants it so bad -

That’s when a hand lands on his shoulder, light but firm, a voice in his ear goes, “Marty. Marty. Come on,” tugs him back from his prey. He releases the larger man; steps back reluctantly.

Rust stays next to him as Steve straightens up, still lookin’ at Marty with the same traces of fear in his ugly little eyes. Marty stares at him until he sits, busies himself with some bullshit. Other guys settle, but Marty feels eyes on him still. He’s comin’ down from the high of the fury, anger’s fading, leavin’ the old weariness in its place.

Cohle’s still got his fuckin’ hand around Marty’s forearm. Marty shakes him off with a lot more force than what’s appropriate; heads to the file rooms; doesn’t look back to see if Rust is following. He does feel his partner’s gaze on him, though, a peculiar burn on his neck that comes specially from the silent fuckin’ judgement of Rust fuckin’ Cohle.

Marty wonders how long Rust was standing there before he slammed Steve down. How much he heard. Tries not to think about it.