Santana shifted behind the wheel of her blue rusted Honda. She cringed, twisting her torso to the left, and pressed her back into the stiff cushion. She hated stakeouts.The stale air, the cold coffee she left in the cup holder, everything about it irritated her. She felt the muscle in her upper back pinch, sore from the strain of the upright chair. Santana held her cannon camera into her left hand, the only modern and expensive item in this car, while she pressed the shutter button with her right finger. She heard the device flutter as it snapped three shots of the restaurant across from her. The ambiance had been formal, with waiters that whisked through with suits and bow ties, while the guest wore black gowns and tux of their own. Santana cringed, watching them chatter and laugh as they enjoyed their meals from portions that were much too small for Santana's liking. She fiddled with the lens as she zoomed in closer to a booth at the corner of the restaurant. The man with greying hair stroked his partner's hair with his finger, who looked much younger than him and blonde. Santana watched a waiter place a wine bottle on the table.
“Come on,” Santana whispered.
Santana glanced at the digital blaring clock on the dashboard and sighed. She had been sitting in this car following this man around for five hours. She checked the battery life, it was half empty. She had a few more hours. This was a typical case, common housewife suspecting their husband for cheating. Santana sighed. She watched the pair talk five minutes longer before he leaned in and kissed her. Santana took several shots and shut off the camera. It would be enough poof to bring to the client. A mother of three. Santana frowned and shook her head. Guaranteed to ruin a 25 year marriage. She stuffed the camera back into its case and dropped it in the passenger seat. She needed a drink.
Santana groaned, hearing her cell ring from the nightstand. She fumbled from underneath her quilt and patted her hand along the edge of the table three times before finding it. She answered without reading the caller ID.
“Hello?” She said, her voice raspy and low.
“Are you going to show up to the office some time today or should I reschedule your meeting with Mrs. Anderson to 10am?” Her secretary, Marley said.
Santana scoffed, picking up the hint of sarcasm in her voice and pushed herself up. She rubbed her eyes and brushed away her tangled hair from her nose. She groaned. A sharp ache between her head throbbed from her night of binge drinking. She never been a morning person, evermore with a painful hangover. Her head swirled, processing the conversation and Santana felt her hand clench the edge of her bed.
“Mrs. Anderson.” She bolted out of bed. “Fuck. What time is it?”
“8 o'clock.” Marley said. “Were you out drinking again?”
“Shut up kid. I'll be there in an hour with the photos.” Santana said.
Marley laughed. She showed little bother to Santana's name calling or rude behavior in the one year of knowing each other. It made Santana much more irritated. Marley had patience and Santana was one to show it.
“I'll have a cup of water and Advil waiting for you when you get here. See you in an hour.” She said.
Santana hung up and sighed. She stretched her arms out above her head with a grunt. She rubbed her strained and tired eyes a second time. The haze of alcohol lingering through her thoughts. She ran her tongue along her bottom lip. A cup of water sounded a lot more exciting than it should.
The time spent with the client turned into an awkward two hour meeting with her crying once Santana showed the pictures and explained her findings. She cried through it and Santana had contemplated taking an extra two pills for Mrs. Anderson's wailing and insistence that Santana was lying. Marley comforted Mrs. Anderson the best she could. When the crying settled and she handed Santana a check, a little over a thousand dollars. She charged by the hour, but it had been an easy 24 hour case. Mr. Anderson didn't bother to cover up his tracks nor make things less obvious once out of the watchful eye of his wife. Santana thanked Mrs. Anderson and walked her out. She returned to her desk and Marley handed her a styrofoam cup of hot coffee. She took a sip from a cup of her own. Santana took a long swig and sighed.
“That's awful.” Marley said. “Her husband is such a jerk.”
Santana shrugged, watching Marley enter her office. Across from Santana's.
“People are assholes.” She said.
Marley scoffed. Of the things she's said and behavior Marley put up with Santana in the past year, her skepticism had been something Marley refused to believe. And Santana found it just as difficult for Marley to be that kind about people. They balanced each other out, which again, Marley had seen as a good thing between them.
“Of course you would say that. You're jaded.” Marley said.
“I prefer the word cynical.” Santana said.
She leaned back into her chair. She watched a commercial about car oil flicker on screen to the TV ajar from her desk, mounted on a wall. It cut off and panned to the latest news report. She put up the volume. Marley entered, picking up the trail of the report.
“Hey it's about Mr. Fabray again.” She said.
She picked up the remote and increased the volume. Santana raised a brow before rolling her eyes. She had no interest in Mr. Fabray. He had been the man she expected, a wealthy prick who had enemies against him for crimes that couldn't be linked to him.
“In other news, the funeral to late oil company owner Russell Fabrary has been released. I've also received information that there will be an announcement whom will gain the rights to his company, once his will has been read. Police have ruled out his death, earlier last week, to be of natural causes. There is no evidence of foul play.”
Santana lowered the TV. She picked up her bagel and took a bite. Marley tisked. She lowered the TV again, enough to have a white noise through the office. Santana hated to sit in silence while at the desk.
“That's sad.” Marley said.
Santana glanced at her wristwatch. She didn't have another client after this. She clenched her fist. For once she wanted another case to keep the adrenaline down.
“Why do people care so much about rich people?” She said. “Him and his daughters have been born with a golden spoons in their mouths. That asshat is a billionaire.”
Marley gave her an irritated stare.
“It's still sad that he passed. That was their father.” Marley said. “Didn't you lose someone?”
Santana's jaw tightened. Marley's expression softened and her eyes casted-downward. She knew Santana wanted little time spent speaking with Marley about the past. That had been clear the day they meet each other. She glanced back at Santana through her lashes, her blue and brown eye darkening.
“I lost my dad when I was 10.” Marley said. “It's just been my brother, mom, and me since.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Santana said.
A moment of silence washed over them and Santana's leg fidget under the desk, trying to wash away the bitter memory of her family. She pulled out her fiance book from the top drawer. Marley took it as her cue to check today's mail. She sorted through a pile of mail on nightstand at the entrance door and placed it on to Santana's desk.
“More mail today.” Marley said. “It's bills again. All due next week.”
Santana groaned. Bills had been another thing she rather avoid with the handful of clients she's had. It had grown since she first started and she doesn't want to admit it, when Marley came around she got more cases. Her fiances have been a lot more organizes since too.
“Tell me you have something better to say other than that.” She said.
“You don't want to be behind again.” Marley said.
“I know.” Santana said. The phone on her desk rang. “You gonna answer that kid?”
Marley rolled her eyes and reached over her desk.
“Detective Lopez's office.” Marley said.
Santana flipped through the pages of her book.
A dozen of calls and appointment bookings later, Santana closed the office. Many were infidelity cases like the last dozen. It was easy money. She agreed to split them with Marley. That left Santana open for longer more complex cases, should that happen.
“You're not going out drinking again are you?” Marley said.
Santana paused at the door of her car and chuckled. She had to find a way to pass the boring time spent in the office. And she'd hate to admit it, but a few drinks before sleeping had become the best way to knock out.
“What, you're my mother now?” Santana said.
“You have early cases tomorrow.” Marley said.
“You won't mind switching would you?” Santana said.
“Of course. I'll handle it.” She said.
“See you tomorrow.” She said.
Her cellphone went off at 7am sharp. Santana groaned. She slammed her hand on to the nightstand and picked up her phone. She felt the bed to her left shift. Santana squinted and pulled back the sheets to see another woman beside her. She rank more than she expected last night.
“Fuck.” She said. “I told you Marley I-”
“You have to come to the office, now.” She said.
Santana opened her eyes, sensing the sternness of her voice. She hasn't heard her this serious, even during the night when they met and Santana saved her from those black market poachers. Santana sat up.
“I'll be right there.” She said.
Marley approached her with a stoic face and her steps quick and uneven in pace. Santana fought to stop throwing a witty remake, being that she rather be home sleeping in as planned. She had skipped getting a coffee coming here.
“What's the big deal Marley?” Santana said. “I had a-”
“Detective Santana Lopez I presume?”
Santana stopped in the door way of her desk. Standing in the room had been a blonde woman with a bob and in white summer dress and sleek heels. The entire outfit looked expensive of some designer brand and she had a posed stature. Coy hazel and green eyes peered at her, unaffected from Santana's scowl.
“Santana this is-”
“Quinn Fabray.” Santana said, staring at Quinn as she entered her office and took a seat. “Marley get us some coffee.”
Marley left and Santana watched Quinn for a moment. She tried to keep calm while the feel of shock settled through her. She wouldn't have expected a Fabray to enter her office. Why would the child of billionaire Russell Fabray come to a low-cost PI? A high profile client such as Quinn meant more income.
“Have a seat.” Santana said.
She took note of the room and titled her head, saying “No bodyguard?”
Quinn smirked. Santana considered it a smirk, refusing to believe the rumors of Quinn being the complete opposite of her family. Less of a conservative Christian and definitely not racist.
“They're outside.” She said. “I would have expected you to be up earlier than your assistant. You don't pay Ms. Rose enough.”
“I don't pay her much to begin with. Still, the girl won't leave,” Santana folded her arms across her chest. “I'm sure you could afford a more established investigator if that bothers you.”
She kept a stern expression. Her face shifting between frowning and desperation. Quinn had been exactly the client she needed to make the rent and have a salary left over for Marley and her both. But pride had been her downfall. She can picture Marley giving her looks of disappointment for being rude and unfriendly to potential clients. Quinn remained emotionless to her brass behavior. She crossed her legs and leaned back, trying to be comfortable with the cheap chair Santana could only afford. The contrast of the pleather against high quality cotton seemed unfitting.
“The king told me you are one of the best.” Quinn said.
Santana felt her shoulders tighten. She bit her bottom lip to fight the urge to grimace. She's had even less people come to her mentioning the king.
“I haven't done any business like that for years.” Santana said.
“But you are the king's bounty hunter.” Quinn said.
“I was.” Santana said. “Past tense. Did you get that? I work as a freelance bounty hunter now.”
“I'm willing to pay.” Quinn said.
Santana heard the door slam and Marley entered the office, handing them both a coffee and a scone to Santana and an English muffin breakfast sandwich for herself. Santana eyed Quinn for a moment.
“Did I miss something?” Marley said, watching the staring contest.
Santana took the first swig of her coffee, keeping her eyes on Quinn over the rim.
She placed the cup back on her desk and said, “ Why are you here?”
“Before I tell you, you both must swear to secrecy that this news stays within this room.” Quinn said. “I have no problem making a contract.”
Marley fixed her already neat bun and bit her bottom lip.
“Yes, of course.” She said.
Santana rolled her eyes.
“I have reason to believe my father's death was not an accident, but an assassination attempt.” Quinn said.
Santana's jaw clenched and her fingers dented into her coffee cup. Marley gasped. Santana looked Quinn over, not a single deter of guilt or fear to her statement. The same poised outer exterior. Quinn was either a good liar, or Santana could no longer detect a lie and she doubted the latter.
“Marley, reschedule my meetings today for tomorrow.” Santana said.