She was absolutely ready for this case to be solved and done with, even if “done” meant a trial months down the line. Anything that would allow her to send her team home after the hellish week they’d had. She could handle murder cases, God knows they had their fair share, but it was the rape cases and murders involving kids that stuck with her and haunted her dreams. She’d barely slept in a week, and she knew the squad was no better off.
“Are you sure you want to be in the interview?” She was grateful Andy asked the question privately in her office, but her answer was the same as if it had been with an audience.
“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll be fine in there with Hobbs; we’ll get his confession and get out of here.” She offered him a tired smile, but gently batted away the arm he tried to wrap around her.” I want to wrap this up sooner, rather than later.”
He nodded his understanding and reluctantly pulled back, busying himself by fixing his tie. Sharon took a deep breath and grabbed her blazer off the back of her chair. She pulled it on and worked on the buttons as she hurried down the hallway toward the interview room, her thumb idly fiddling with her wedding ring as she slipped her hands into her pockets.
She met Hobbs outside the room; they shared a look of mutual understanding that faded to a firm expression as they walked through the door. Their suspect sat on the other side of the table with his lawyer, and his expression sent a shiver down Sharon’s spine as she sat down.
“I see they sent in the prettiest the LAPD has to offer,” he sneered, turning his on Hobbs.
“I’m Deputy District Attorney Hobbs and this is Commander Sharon Raydor,” Hobbs began, loudly dropping her files on the table and thoroughly ignoring their suspect’s gaze. “We already had enough evidence to take you to trial for three sexual assaults and one murder.”
“Thanks to one of your former accomplices, we’ve also found evidence of seven further sexual assaults and another murder.” Sharon helped spread their evidence across the table in front of the suspect, forcing herself to meet his seedy eyes. “Now, we didn’t really want to give you the offer of a deal, but a death penalty trial takes so long.”
“So, with your confession to all ten sexual assaults, I can drop the charges from murder one to manslaughter and give you life in prison.” Hobbs shoved the pictures toward him, her voice as firm as her face.
“Life in prison?” He scoffed and shoved the pictures away, scattering several on the floor.
His lawyer reached his hand out toward him. “Jeremy, we can fight this, but fighting it will mean fighting the death penalty. This keeps you alive.”
“Yeah, so does proving me innocent.” He shot his lawyer a scathing look and flicked another picture off the table without looking. “I ain’t dying and I ain’t taking life in prison.”
“With this evidence,” his lawyer began, gesturing to the scattered papers, “and a jury sympathetic to the victims, it’s a rocky case.”
Their suspect was quiet for several long seconds, his gaze slowly moving from the table to Sharon’s chest to Hobbs’s chest, and then finally to his lawyer. “You’re a shit lawyer.”
“Are you going to take the deal?” Sharon interjected, leaning forward against the table.
“It’s on the table for the next ten minutes, otherwise we go to trial,” Hobbs added.
The suspect rolled his eyes and picked up one of the pictures remaining on the table. Hobbs pulled a pad of paper from her bag and slid it across the table; Sharon passed over a pen. He picked it up and fiddled around with it for a few moments before he set the picture down. Sharon watched as he traced the dead woman in the picture, his tongue darting out to wet his lips.
“It was worth it,” he finally murmured, a vile grin twisting his lips. He moved the pen to the paper and started writing, describing in excruciating detail as he wrote.
Sharon’s back ached from how stiffly she sat upright in the chair, but she refused to give in and tune out their suspect’s confession. When it was finally over, her and Hobbs scanned it to ensure it contained the information they needed. Feeling nauseated, Sharon nodded her acceptance and stood up, already pulling out her handcuffs.
She read the suspect his rights as she approached him, her already-twisted stomach flipping more as she got closer and smelled the rank stench coming off him. As he stood up, he started to move his hands behind his back. Halfway there, he stopped, and his hand instead lunged out and grabbed Sharon by the hip. He yanked her closer and curled his hand around to her ass, easily pressing her up against him.
Hobbs and the lawyer were on their feet instantly, but they couldn’t do anything to pry the suspect off Sharon as he backed her up against a wall. She squirmed and pushed at him, the handcuffs falling uselessly to the ground by her feet. The door yanked open and Andy rushed in, Julio and Provenza barely a step behind him.
Andy grabbed the suspect and had him thrown against the table, one arm pressed over his throat while his other hand fumbled for his own handcuffs. His face was red, barely holding himself together as he handcuffed the suspect and roughly pulled him upright.
“Don’t you dare,” he growled, holding the man inches away from his own face, “think about laying a hand on another woman.”
“I won’t have to.” Their suspect’s sickening grin returned, contorting his face. “I’ll have that to think about the rest of my life.” He nodded his head toward Sharon who was being helped out of the room by Hobbs and Provenza.
Andy let out a noise just below a snarl and threw the suspect to the ground. He pressed him down with his weight, arm pulling back and ready to let his anger fly. The suspect’s lawyer shouted, but his words were lost to the roar in Andy’s ears. Before he could let go, one voice cut through the rush.
“Lieutenant! My office, now!”
He turned back to see Sharon standing in the door way, but kept his hand firmly on the suspect’s back. He didn’t know if it was his anger, her professionalism, or a combination of both, but she looked formidable and not shaken in the slightest.
“Lieutenant Tao, please escort our suspect to the waiting deputies and inform them there will be an added charge once he’s through processing.” She directed the words over her shoulder and stepped back from the door so Tao could enter.
Once Andy was sure Tao had control of the suspect, he reluctantly left the room. The roar in his ears had dulled, but he could still feel the runaway pounding of his heart. Something in the back of his mind told him he really needed to calm down, but he could only focus his thoughts on Sharon now that the suspect wasn’t his responsibility. Wordlessly, Sharon walked between Provenza and Hobbs, both sending worried glances at her.
“Sharon, are you—”
“I’m fine,” Sharon cut off Provenza’s question and barely glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “I’m sure you can handle finishing up the paperwork?”
“Of course, Commander.” He cleared his throat and shot Andy a warning look as they walked toward Sharon’s office.
Andy followed her inside and shut the door behind him; she pulled the blinds shut and sat behind her desk. Her movements were calculated and controlled, and her expression gave away nothing.
“No.” Her voice was firm, filling the room in its power and not its volume.
He stopped and stared at her, thoroughly silenced by her one word.
“Your job is to investigate major crimes. To compile evidence, interview witnesses, and arrest suspects. Your job is not,” her voice crescendoed and then fell again, “to intimidate suspects or exact revenge for their words or their actions.” Her gaze was completely steady, turbulent green eyes boring holes into him. “Do you understand?”
“He—” Andy forced himself to stop and take a breath before he tried to continue. “He assaulted an officer.”
“We are not having this discussion because you rushed in to save a fellow officer, we are having this conversation because of your overuse of force after you already had the suspect handled.” She folded her hands on her desk and the movement caught his attention; the uncontrollable shaking of her hands sucked any remaining anger out of his body and left him cold and worried.
“I’m sorry,” he managed, his eyes trailing from her hands to her face.
“You should get off lucky with this one.” Her voice softened a little. “Keep it under control, otherwise you’ll find yourself chained to a desk every time I go into an interview. Understood, Lieutenant?”
He nodded his head and clasped his hands together in front of him. “Yes, Commander, I do.”
She let out a long breath and sank down in her chair. “Go make sure Provenza is wrapping up the case and then take me home.”
“Is that an order?”
“Yes, it is.” She gave him a look he couldn’t interpret but left when she waved her hand toward the door. “Go.”
Whether or not Provenza had the situation handled, Andy didn’t argue when his partner redirected him back to Sharon’s office and a direct order to “take her the hell home.” He made sure he had his things before he knocked on her door and stepped inside once more. Sharon was still seated at her desk, looking like she hadn’t moved in the several minutes he had been gone.
“Sharon?” His voice was soft as he approached her, but her head still jerked up and her body tensed. “Let’s go home.”
He gathered her purse and gently took her arm, silently supporting her as they walked through the thankfully empty corridors. She allowed his touch, his closeness, even accepting his help into his car. He set their stuff in the backseat before he climbed in, silently driving them home.
Once they stepped inside the condo, she dropped her badge and gun on the side table, her shoes in the hallway, and her jacket on the bed before going into the bathroom. The door didn’t shut behind her. Sighing, Andy gathered her things and put everything in their proper places just as he heard the shower start. He checked to make sure Rusty wasn’t home, relieved when there was no sign of their youngest son, and set about undressing himself.
He was done long before the shower shut off and had ended up in bed after laying Sharon’s pajamas in the bathroom. He flipped through the book on his lap, twenty pages further than where he had started and no idea what any of them had said. He heard the bathroom door creak shut and then back open and looked up to see Sharon emerge with her robe tied tightly around herself.
“Hey…” He managed a small smile as he took in her damp hair and tired face behind her glasses. “I made you a cup of tea.” He gestured to the “Mrs.” mug on her nightstand and held up his matching “Mr.” one.
“Thank you…” She cautiously perched on the edge of the bed, her movements so startlingly different to when she was in her office. She took a small sip of tea and returned the mug to her nightstand but didn’t move from the edge of the bed. “I’m trying to… process what happened.”
He sat up but didn’t move any closer to her, abandoning his book to focus entirely on her.
“I can picture it so clearly, yet….” She stopped, and he noticed how badly her hands were shaking; he wondered if they had ever stopped. “It’s almost a blur.” She shook her head and shifted to look at him, one bent leg on the bed and her other foot on the ground to support herself. “He didn’t even do anything. Definitely nothing like he did to the other ten women. What right do I have to… to feel like this?”
He felt the roar of his anger starting to return but forced it down and away. One look at his shaking wife made it easy to quell the anger.
“He touched you without your permission, Sharon. That enough is going to have an effect, but knowing what he could do, what he wanted to do, only makes it worse.” He stood up and crossed to her side of the bed, gently sitting next to her. He bent down, both to make himself smaller and to meet her downcast eyes. “You have every right to feel like this, but also to feel safe. He took the deal for life in prison with no parole, and the last charge of assaulting an officer will guarantee that, okay?”
He took her hands in his, safely burying them between his palms. His eyes never left her face, taking in every line her years of life had worn and every teardrop as they started to fall.
“You’re always safe with me, my dear. You’re safe at work with an entire team ready to defend you. You’re safe by yourself; god, you’re the best shot in the entire LAPD.”
He lightly tugged her hands into his lap and kept hold of them with one hand. He reached his free arm around her shoulders, encouraging her to lean into him. She did after a moment, her head finding its way under his chin and her legs curling up beneath her. He held her close and pressed a firm kiss to her hair. He lingered there, breathing in the scent of her shampoo for several seconds.
“You’re safe,” he whispered. He knew neither of them would sleep, but he was more than happy to stay up all night to ensure his wife was safe, whether from physical or mental demons. He may have stumbled in his job as a lieutenant, but he would never waver in his job as her husband.