Gavin wrinkled his nose at the report he was reading to catch himself up on the facts of his new case. Were they actually calling it Pink Ice? A date-rape drug targeting omegas really shouldn’t have such a cutesy title attached, but he guessed there was no controlling the street name of a substance.
“Are you all right there, Gavin?” Connor asked as he rolled his chair over from his desk so he could sit at Gavin and Nine’s.
“Yeah, just, they couldn’t have given it a better name? It’s not even pink, and forcing omegas to go into a heat so they can be raped and or killed more easily isn’t exactly cute or romantic.”
Connor nodded with a thoughtful look on his face. “This is true. But it’d be advantageous to the sellers to make their product sound innocuous to those who aren’t in the know.”
Gavin hummed in acknowledgement of his words as he flicked the page over. The drug’s composition had been listed. Connor or Nine had probably given it a lick and figured it out pretty quickly. But the production method and the group responsible for it were both unknown. The most likely suspects were those who’d invented Red Ice, but there was no evidence any of their old facilities had been reopened for a new line of production and distribution.
Gavin flipped the page again to find details of the crime report that had prompted the response in the first place. A photo of a young blonde omega woman accompanied the dry description of her forced drugging and subsequent rape. Her attacker was still unknown and on the loose.
At least she was still alive, and had been able to provide them with samples of the suspect’s DNA, as well as of the drug itself. It was awful it’d happened, but at least they had what they needed to start doing something about it.
Gavin jumped slightly when a hand landed on his shoulder, but he recognised Nine’s scent before he glanced up. Both of the androids had been built to present as alpha, but they were also capable of neutralising their scents entirely. That seemed to be Connor’s preferred mode of operation, most of the time.
“Another spate of cases was reported last night. Most of them were downtown, relatively close to Wayne State University,” Nine reported even as he gave Gavin’s shoulder a gentle squeeze.
Of course both of them could tell the circumstances of the case were bothering him. Apparently they could tell someone’s key vitals just by looking. But fortunately they also knew him well enough to not confront him about it just yet.
No matter how disconcerting the thought that he could be affected by something like this was, he had to be one of the people to deal with it. Human alphas, and even betas, couldn’t just turn their noses off like androids could. They couldn’t enter crime scenes or speak to victims without getting inappropriately aroused, or at least distracted.
And that was why Gavin had finally been given a chance to lead an investigation. While he ranked as a fairly senior detective, pervasive prejudice against omegas meant his role generally resembled that of a junior detective’s. While the circumstances of this case were awful and personally confronting, Gavin was keen on a chance to do his actual job.
And androids alone wouldn’t be enough. This was a very human problem, and a personal one. Omega males made up a small percentage of the population, but they were disproportionately likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
And back when he’d been younger and stupider, Gavin had been one of them.
“Well, I think I’m getting a bit old to be blending in with the university crowd,” Gavin began. Somehow he’d ended up much closer to forty than thirty-five without even really noticing the years passing. “Was there a particular location we should start looking at?”
“No, the locations were seemingly random, and there was only one reported instance at each. Roux Lounge Bar, Wired Nightclub, and the human edition of Eden Club,” Nine replied dryly.
Gavin rolled his eyes. “The strip club you mean? What would be the point of using something like that when you’re at a brothel?”
“Apparently it’s expensive and complicated to purchase time with an omega in heat, but yes, this time it involved two patrons at the strip club.”
“Perhaps the proximity of those locations means someone was selling the drug in that general vicinity last night?” Connor suggested. “Couldn’t we get patrols down there to look for them?”
“The second they think we’re onto them, they’ll move to another location for a while. This should probably be an undercover operation for now, or at least a plainclothes one. Maybe we should put up the appearance of going bar hopping and search the area in the meantime?” Gavin suggested. They should agree on a strategy before approaching Fowler to get him to sign off on it.
Connor tilted his head. “You’re right, of course. I just can’t stand the idea of letting this go on any longer than it has to. The longer we take, the more victims there will be.”
“I know,” Gavin acknowledged. “Obviously I don’t feel any better about it. Not when it’s something that’s such a danger to me, too.”
Gavin missed the look Nine and Connor shared because he was too busying trying to visualise what he knew about the area, how close the specified locations were to each other, and what was in between them. They were already aware the strip club was owned by someone connected to a crime syndicate, so it was possible that location was linked to the distribution. Though if they were smart, they’d know the police were aware of their activity and just go for the shady stranger on a street corner approach so they could stay on the move.
Given the fast uptake of the drug, they had to have advertised it somewhere. It seemed unlikely they’d put it up anywhere public and open, but it was worth checking all avenues to be sure.
“All right, I’ll put in a request to Intel to search the dark web and more anonymised social media for anyone advertising this stuff in Detroit,” Gavin began, but both Nine and Connor seemed to have a problem with this.
“We’re going to be out all night, and probably well into the morning,” Connor said gently. “You should go home and get a head start on sleeping. We can deal with the request and planning a search route.”
Gavin naturally wanted to protest being made to warm the bench while they did all the preparation, but he couldn’t exactly argue with that logic. They could go into stasis anywhere and only needed to be in that state for a few hours a day to maintain normal functioning. He was used to getting his back up over the way he could be treated as an omega, but he knew if anyone didn’t mean it like that, it was these two.
“Before the night is out you might need to end up playing the bait, yet,” Nine murmured and squeezed his shoulder one last time before finally letting go. “You should do everything you can to maintain your alertness overnight.”
“All right, all right,” Gavin agreed as he got to his feet. “Let’s take the idea to Fowler first, then we’ll start preparing.”
It had been easy enough to convince Fowler that their plan was a good starting point. As soon as they’d managed to herd Gavin out the door and into his car, the two of them had sat down to start writing emails to the various Intel teams. Neither of them wanted to risk their systems by looking on the more illegal side of the internet with their own hardware.
“It’s been more than six months since Gavin’s last heat,” Connor commented directly into Nine’s processor. “Is that healthy?”
Omegas usually went into heat about four times a year. There were suppressants on the market, but it was generally recommended they weren’t used continuously since the fake hormones in them were so potent.
“He told me he only lets it happen once a year. With everything that’s going on with this new date-rape drug, I don’t think it’ll be any time soon.” Nine performed a quick look up in the back of his mind as he continued to work. “This frequency is considered safe by the manufacturer of the brand of suppressant he uses.”
“His last heat, the one the three of us spent together… was that the first time you two had been together in that way too?”
Connor turned to face him. They were both done with their email requests. “Yes, you know he doesn’t trust easily. And that’s when he’s at his most vulnerable. You know his pride is important to him, particularly in his professional life.”
Connor smiled somewhat grimly. “Yes, even better than you do, I’m sure. I have been on the pointy end of Gavin feeling existentially threatened by modern technology,” Connor reminded. Gavin had apologised for trying to destroy him multiple times, but it was his change in behaviour that had mattered to Connor most.
“And… Gavin has been taken advantage of during a heat before,” Nine decided to add. “This case is going to hit close to home for him, and I suspect things are only going to get a lot messier before we can make them better.”
He was sure Gavin wouldn’t mind him mentioning it, given the circumstances. It just wasn’t the sort of thing that normally came up in conversation.
“So I propose we be strategic about what we’re going to do tonight. We should both present as alpha to dissuade anyone from approaching us. If we do end up seeing a seller, I’ll try to engage them. You should stay close to Gavin and protect him from unwanted attention. It can play into the cover story I’ll use.” That he was trying to steal Gavin from under Connor’s nose, or something.
“Ok,” Connor agreed. Nine received a sense of irritation from him, but knew it was directed more at the way Gavin had to navigate the world to stay safe than anyone in particular.
“Ok,” Connor added, out loud this time. “We should go home and rest before tonight.”
Nine nodded and stood up. They’d have to be careful not to disturb Gavin’s sleep.