This didn’t seem like their scene. The Detroit Institute of Arts had been robbed, somebody made off with a 150 million dollar Van Gogh and left a perfect copy behind. Gavin didn’t know shit about art, but it looked pretty convincing to him. He figured nobody would have noticed, if it hadn’t been found in the hands of a dead man, laying in the middle of the room.
That’s what made this their scene.
There were also two dead androids, the night time security. But the human had no affiliation with the museum, so he was the one they were looking at right now.
“Theodore McVeigh, wanted for several charges of thievery,” Nines said. He was kneeling beside the body, checking it over.
“You aren’t gonna list em all off?” Gavin teased.
“It’s such a long list,”
“But you make bullshit details sound so hot,” Gavin was in a good mood, despite the current circumstances. There wasn’t a specific reason, stuff had just been good lately. His life hadn’t been flipped upside down in months. It was about damn time they caught a break, honestly.
Yesterday had been a day off and he and Nines spent the evening wandering around downtown Detroit for fun, drinking something with tequila in it and joking and throwing coins in fountains and kissing. So much kissing. Gavin never got out like that, never really considered it something he liked, but he liked a lot of things he didn’t think he did before now that Nines was involved.
“His weapon is unregistered and also unfired.” Nines went on. Gavin loved to watch him do his thing, he was so fucking smart, Gavin was gonna marry the smartest android on the planet.
Nines fished the guy’s wallet out of his pocket and flipped through it.
“He has several IDs and cards registered to various pseudonyms. None of them are associated with any residence in Detroit,”
“One less place to visit,” Gavin shrugged, turning away from the body to look around the room. There were no other evidence markers around, this guy and whoever killed him had been careful.
“There are no prints on the fake painting, however there are traces of latex, which suggests human involvement,”
“Makes sense, I cant picture a lot of androids looking to score a hundred million bucks,”
“We can be greedy too, you know,” Nines sounded playful rather than offended.
“Oh yeah? What would you do with a fat stack of benjamins, huh?” Gavin looked back down at him, raising an eyebrow.
“Spoil you absolutely rotten,” Nines replied smoothly, standing up. What an asshole, making Gavin want to kiss him like that while they were on the clock, standing by a dead guy.
“Cool it, Casanova. We got any surveillance footage?”
Nines’s LED spun yellow. Gavin was pretty sure they were supposed to ask the museum before they went looking through their records, but he wasn’t gonna complain.
“That would be too easy. The cameras appear to have been hacked. However...there’s footage from a nearby traffic cam of a van leaving the museum at around the time that McVeigh and these androids were murdered, one of the museums own transports, and footage from a week ago of McVeigh, probably casing the museum.”
“One of the museums vans? Sounds traceable. You think it was an inside job? Everything seems too clean...” Nines gave Gavin a smile for that that made him shiver in a really good way.
“He appears to have purchased a private guided tour. His guide was Elizabeth Howell, hired a week prior to his visit.”
“So we should go find out whether the museum tracks its vans and talk to Ms. Howell,” Gavin concluded. Sounded like this one was gonna be easy.
He took another look around the room. It was pretty, and just cause he didn’t really get art didn’t mean it wasn’t fun to look at. There used to be a lot of the stuff around his house when he was really little. Did Nines like art? His brain was basically Google, he probably knew everything about every piece. It seemed like the kind of thing he’d be in to, walking around a place like this holding Gavin’s hand and telling him how historians speculate this piece showed the artist was gay as fuck because something about sight lines and phallic symbols.
“Think they’ll give us free tickets for coming down here?” Gavin asked casually.
“Perhaps. Why? Suddenly taken an interest in fine art?” Nines asked, clearly playing coy.
“I’m marrying a fine ass piece of art, so I guess you could say I’m a fan,” god, that was cheesy, but it made Nines smile, so Gavin didn’t care.
“We’re already here for free,” Nines said, sliding up next to Gavin and taking his hand, the left one. Gavin liked how their rings clinked together when he interlaced their fingers. “After we address some more immediate priorities, it wouldn’t be imprudent of us to investigate the rest of the grounds more thoroughly.”
“Just a quick look around,” Gavin agreed, grinning.
Elizabeth Howell wasn’t at work today, surprise surprise. She hadn’t picked up any calls or responded to any emails. If the van turned out to be a bust, maybe they’d swing by her address and see if she was home.
Gavin glanced over her desk. It was pretty clean and orderly, nothing stood out too sorely. There was a little plant that seemed to be thriving alright, paperwork in neat stacks, a cup full of pens, a postcard from New York taped to the computer monitor. Gavin turned it over.
‘See you soon, babydoll,’ was all that was scrawled on the back, no signature. It felt kind of weird, too short, not sentimental enough. The handwriting felt a little familiar, but Gavin couldn’t place why.
“Some of the most recent files accessed on this computer concern the building’s layout and security,” Nines said, his skinless hand resting on the monitor.
“Why’d she even need McVeigh? it sounds like she could have pulled this shit off on her own,”
“Perhaps she intended to use him as a scapegoat, and upon realizing it he confronted her, so she killed him,”
Sounded reasonable to Gavin. “Did McVeigh have a place in New York?” He asked, looking back at the postcard.
“No...” Nines glanced at the card curiously.
“Don’t you think it’s weird?” Gavin asked, meaning the postcard.
“I do...Perhaps there were more accomplices involved?” Nines LED spun yellow one time.
“More than two people...they took off in a van, that had to be planned...maybe they meant to steal more shit, but things went wrong and all they got was the Van Gogh,” there was that smile again, god, it made Gavin feel so good.
The van, sadly, gave them nothing. They were tracked by GPS, but that function had been disabled in this one. Gavin figured it would be like that, but it never hurt to hope. Now Elizabeth Howell was their only lead.
They did sneak off and wander the museum a little before leaving. It was pretty irresponsible of them, goofing off on the clock like that, but it felt worth it to Gavin.
‘Animals in Landscape’ was the name of the painting they were looking at. Nines seemed transfixed by this one, staring at it with his LED yellow.
“Whatcha thinkin’ so hard about?” Gavin asked, bumping their shoulders together.
“Art from this era was intended to be...subjective. I suppose I’m trying to...interpret it, without referencing art historical databases,”
The idea of Nines trying to understand something emotionally rather than logically got Gavin feeling some kind of way.
“Well? What do you think?”
Nines tilted his head to the side a little. “The colors are quite jarring, but...happy, I think,” the way he scrunched his brow made Gavin die, “but the diagonals and the fragmentation of space are...unsettling. I don’t know if I like it.”
Gavin stood up on his toes and kissed Nines’s cheek. “You’re so fucking cute,” he said. Nines hummed pleasantly and tugged Gavin along to the next piece.
Ms. Howell wasn’t home, of course. No car in the driveway, door locked up tight.
“Should we actually get a search warrant this time and call it a day now?” Gavin asked, peeking in the little window beside the door. People who stole 150 million dollar paintings didn’t stick around the crime scene and hide, this lady was probably half way to Paris by now. (Would Nines wanna visit Paris? Or someplace else? Gavin had never really traveled for fun before, maybe Nines would like that kind of thing) Gavin was feeling suspicious that the FBI was gonna show up and snatch this case at some point, honestly.
“I suppose we should follow the rules occasionally. We still have to report on all of this, anyway,” Nines replied.
Gavin absently checked the mailbox as they left. That wasn’t following the rules, but whatever. Another postcard from New York, nothing written on this one but it smelled like cologne.
“Do these have any prints on them?” Gavin asked, holding it up by the edges like a CD.
Nines hooked his arm with Gavin’s and tilted his head to look at it. Absolute professionals, they were.
“The mail person’s, obviously, and Ms. Howell’s, strangely. She must have picked it up and then put it back.”
“Weird...no return address. Does she have any relatives or anything out east?”
Nines took a second to search. “None. And...none of their personal social media accounts indicate a recent vacation to New York either. The fragrance is Bleu de Chanel, by the way.”
“Chanel cologne sounds like high profile art thief material. I wonder how many more of these she has...” Gavin trailed off thoughtfully. It was kind of a familiar smell, but it had been around for forever.
Nines kissed his cheek. Gavin grinned and put the postcard back in the mailbox. “Jesus, you’re so needy, I can’t stare into space for one minute,” he teased.
“Stare at me, I’m pretty,” Nines said, dragging one finger along Gavin’s jaw, guiding his head to turn for another kiss. Professionals. The DPD’s finest.
They spent the rest of the day at the station writing reports, and flipping through evidence, and applying for a search warrant. It was the most boring part of the job, just sitting around typing while his muscles and skeleton took irreparable damage from his shitty posture and his eyes burned out from staring at his computer screen.
Gavin scribbled ‘coffee?’ on a sticky note and folded it into an airplane, then nonchalantly launched it at Nines.
Nines caught it, of course, without even a glance away from his computer. Information was flashing across the screen so fast it hurt to look at. Gavin knew it could go faster, but the computer would actually start to seize up. The impatient look Nines had about it sometimes was so precious.
The party stopped when Nines took his hand back to unfold Gavin’s note. Gavin pretended he wasn’t watching. Nines wrote something- Gavin loved to watch him write. His hands were so pretty, and the way they moved a pen was so measured and sure, it was like those videos of people writing ‘fuck’ or whatever in fancy calligraphic script. Sometimes he played around with what his handwriting looked like, and Gavin thought that was really cute, too.
He flinched when the tiny airplane almost crashed into his face.
Nines stood up and made for the break room as Gavin unfolded the airplane.
He’d written ‘no.’ Cheeky bastard.
He was back in a moment with a fresh cup of coffee that he put in front of Gavin.
“Thank you gorgeous,” Gavin hummed, propping his chin up on his hands and batting his eyelashes.
Nines just pinched his cheek fondly and went back to his desk. Weren’t people supposed to act like this at the beginning of a relationship and then hate each other at the end? They did this backwards, somehow. Gavin wasn’t complaining.
He never cared much for grocery shopping, it was a chore, and he always got lost and bought shit he didn’t need and forgot stuff because he never made a list, and waiting in lines sucked, and small talk with cashiers was painful for everyone involved. But again, Gavin liked stuff he didn’t like before with Nines in the picture. It was kind of fun, seeing what new way Nines would find to light up something mundane. It made him want to try stuff, like going to art museums and traveling.
Nines’s chosen method of making Gavin’s whole fucking life wonderful at the moment seemed to be buying little unexpected things. An obscure fruit, Lay’s latest potato chip flavor experiment, drinks from the international section with absolutely no English on them.
“Are you bugging out? What is this stuff?” Gavin asked. He wasn’t mad, he was intrigued.
“I’m just curious what you’ll think of them,” Nines said, side-eyeing Gavin coyly.
“So I’m your guinea pig because you can’t eat, huh?”
“I can put them back if you want,”
“Dont you dare, this is cute as fuck, you know I would put anything in my mouth for you,” Gavin really liked the smile Nines gave him for that.
“The chips are pretty good,” Gavin said, before popping another one in his mouth while he watched Nines cook. Nines didn’t cook all the time, but it was fun when he did, cause Gavin got to sit back and stare at his ass and be a pest. And the food Nines made was always great, and Gavin loved how he looked when he was told so.
“Don’t ruin your appetite,” Nines chided over his shoulder fondly. God he was so cute.
Gavin was perfectly content to sit there and think about how fucking cute his fiancée was and how he couldn’t wait to take his cock later like it was all he lived for, but his phone rang and interrupted him. Fucking rude. It wasn’t a number he knew, but whatever, he was in the mood to mess with a telemarketer.
Gavin hung up the phone and put it back down on the table. Nope. Fuck no. His heart must have done something or whatever, because Nines turned and looked at him.
Gavin picked up the phone and called the number back.
“Hey, kid, you-“
Gavin hung up the phone again. What the hell was he doing? Trying to make sure it was real, maybe.
The phone rang in his hand again.
Gavin met Nines’s eyes across the kitchen. Shit was so good right now, he could just let the phone ring, he didn’t need to let it get complicated.
But he was trying all kinds of new shit and doing all kinds of stuff he thought he’d never do, so why not? If this exploded in his face, at least he had Nines to make it better. He answered the phone.
“Gavin. Something wrong with the cell service in Detroit?”
“Nope. What do you want?”
“I can’t call my kid just cause?”
“Alright, bye,” Gavin pulled the phone away from his ear to hit the end call button.
“Hey, hey, hang on- I heard you’re getting married,”
Who the fuck told him that? Gavin put the phone to his ear again.
“Don’t see how that’s your business,”
“Gimme a break, kid, I’m tryin’ to tell you I’m happy for you. Listen, I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’m in the area on some business, do you want to meet up sometime?”
“Oh, Jesus, are you trying to get into witness protection or something? Who’d you piss off, huh?”
“Nobody, I’m serious, what do you say?”
Gavin had a lot of shit to say. Things like ‘fuck you,’ and ‘no, goodbye, I hope you choke,’ and ‘I’m not seven-fucking-teen, you don’t get to call me up and try to be involved or whatever whenever you feel like it, take your new conscience and fuck off.’ But he didn’t say it, cause things were so good, and he didn’t want to be angry. He didn’t want to let this asshole make him angry. And he was trying stuff, and getting better, maybe he could use this kind of closure.
“Sure. Text me. Bye.” He hung up before he got an answer. Nines put a pretty pasta dish on the table in front of him and sat down, quietly waiting for Gavin to talk first, if he wanted to. God, he was so good, Gavin loved him so fucking much.
“Are you proud of me?” Gavin asked, rubbing his hands over his face. Nines didn’t need him to explain, he could hear the whole conversation, and they’d had the 3 AM ‘my childhood sucked and my daddy issues are the source of all my problems’ talk already.
“Yes, though I wouldn’t have been disappointed in you if you’d told him to fuck off and die.” Gavin giggled a little at his choice of words. Blunt and crass sounded so funny from him.
Nines reached across the table and took Gavin’s hand.
“You don’t have to see him if you don’t want to, Gavin, it’s okay,”
“Yeah, I know, I just...” Gavin ran his thumb over the ring on Nines’s finger. God it was so pretty on him, he fucking loved Nines’s hands, “maybe it’ll be good, you know? At the very least I can punch him in the face.”
Nines leaned over the table and kissed him, and then stood up to go start on the dishes, leaving Gavin to eat.
God, he was gonna see his dad. He was marrying an android and he was gonna see his dad. Fucking wild.
Gavin almost dropped his fork.
He was gonna see his dad.
His dad was in town? On business?
His dad was like Indiana Jones’s evil twin. His business was the black market. He hadn’t grown a fucking conscience, he wanted something.
The museum, the Van Gogh piece, the postcards, the handwriting, the cologne, it all clicked.
“Hey, babe, can you track that number?”