“Where is Detective Reed?”
Hank glanced away from his monitor, focusing first on Connor before his gaze fell on the empty desk across the walkway. He took in Detective Reed’s blank monitor and untouched workspace before Hank shrugged and went back to his own work.
“How should I know where that asshole is?” Hank clicked at the windows on the screen, continuing to sort through the crime scene photos Connor had provided. “Reed’s a grown man. If he’s late, he’s late. Who cares why?”
Connor tapped his finger ring finger on the desk.
He should have predicated that answer.
The Lieutenant and the Detective had been on poor terms since he saw the footage of Reed attempting to kill Connor in the evidence room.
Hank did not seem to share Connor’s opinion that beating the man in combat had been punishment enough.
“It is unusual for him to be late,” Connor said, weighing his words. He turned back to his screen, ignoring the way the empty desk out of the corner of his eye picked at his insides. “The man is too ambitious to risk future promotions with small infractions such as tardiness.”
“What’s your point?” Hank rubbed between his eyes, looking at Connor with an unreadable expression. “Reed hates you and you certainly don’t owe him any worry. Why do you care if he’s late?”
“I am not worried, exactly,” Connor said. He put his hands in his lap and stared at the desk. “My feelings on Detective Reed aside, he is a constant in our environment. His absence is noticed and it’s more distracting than I’d like to admit.”
“Ah, I get it,” Hank said. He snorted and got up from the desk. Hank stretched, cracking his spine and straightening out his pressed shirt. “With jerks like that, it’s better to know where they are so you can keep an eye on them.”
Connor did not answer.
The truth that he found comfort in the familiar atmosphere of the precinct would be too difficult to explain.
Unlike the wild and changing world outside, Connor felt safe in a place that was predictable. It had essentially replaced his Zen Garden as a place to retreat where he could feel comfortable.
Detective Gavin Reed was an annoyance, but he was a reliable annoyance.
“Perhaps he overslept,” Connor offered himself an explanation. He went back to his own caseload, though his eyes continued to linger on the empty desk in his periphery. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
“Knowing our luck, you’re right,” Hank said. He patted the desk and walked away. “I’ll be right back. Going to get a cup of coffee.”
Detective Reed did not arrive at the precinct for the rest of the day and he did not answer any calls from Fowler or any of the other officers.
“I can’t believe you volunteered to check on that asshole,” Hank grumbled, slamming his car shut. “It’s been a day. He’s probably passed out drunk and he’ll come crawling in tomorrow with a headache and a worse attitude than usual.”
Connor bit back the “You’re one to talk” on the tip of his tongue.
Hank had been much better on that front thanks to Connor’s intervention, but the man was not completely free of his past lifestyle and relapses were unavoidable.
That Hank had reserved his bad days for the weekends was a small blessing Connor did not intend to impede with a witty retort.
“I believe our bromance is the closest thing that man has to a friend,” Connor said, smiling as Hank winced at the term “bromance.” He took a few steps down the path to the apartment complex and buzzed the main office to let them in. “It made the most sense for us to come.”
“I’m not sure threatening to turn you into scrap metal on a daily basis is a good foundation for a friendship,” Hank snorted. He stepped through the unlocked door with Connor and they went for the elevator. “Should have sent Chris or Tina. At least they have a civil conversation with the jerk once in a while.”
“Perhaps,” Connor said. He left the elevator and strode down the hallway. “But I’d prefer to look into it myself.”
As they approached the apartment listed in Detective Reed’s personal file, Connor slowed his steps. He reached a hand up and knocked twice on the door. According to the building schematics, the apartments in the building were small with a single bedroom and a small living space with a kitchenette. The man should hear a knock if he were awake.
Connor knocked louder. “Detective Reed? Are you there?”
“It doesn’t look like he’s home,” Hank said. Connor noted the change in tone, turning from irritated to something more serious. He appreciated the concern—Connor had a bad feeling about the situation, too. “Reed hates you, but he’d never miss a chance to yell at you.”
“Unless he didn’t hear for some reason,” Connor said. He knocked once more and tried calling out again—there. A sound. “I heard something.”
“Good enough for me,” Hank said, voice soft. He raised it and shouted, “We’re coming in, Reed!”
Connor slammed his hand on the electronic lock on the door and hacked it in a fraction of a second.
The skin returned to his hand as he pushed the door open and entered the apartment. The living room area showed no signs of struggle or break-in. Connor scanned the area and headed for the door that led into the bedroom.
“Detective Reed!” Connor called, hoping to get the man’s attention in the best case scenario that the man was indeed passed out drunk or had merely overslept. Connor didn’t believe himself, but one of the benefits of deviancy was hope. “Are you there?”
“Well, shit,” Hank said, vocalizing Connor’s thoughts. “Reed! Hang on.”
Connor had already made it to the bed and worked on untying the gag stuffed in Detective Reed’s mouth. The man coughed as he was freed, almost choking on the oxygen as his lungs inhaled the stale air. He went for the ropes around his arms next, though not before taking pictures as evidence.
Hank helped Detective Reed sit up and took over the human element of comfort while Connor scanned the room for any sign of an intruder. “What the hell happened?”
“Fuck if I know,” Reed said, breathing hard. He coughed again to clear his throat, reaching up to rub it with swollen hands marked with rope burn. “I barely had time to throw my keys in the bowl when I walked in the door and the next thing I knew I was tied up.”
Connor left the bedroom and returned to the living room. He scanned the area once more, but did not see anything that appeared misplaced.
The lack of evidence concerned Connor more than if he’d walked into clear signs of a fight.
“We shouldn’t stay here,” Connor said, returning to the bedroom. “There’s no telling when your assailant will return.”
“I won’t disagree with that.” Hank helped Detective Reed to his feet and kept the man steady. “Can you walk?”
“I’m fine,” the man said. He shoved at Hank, though Connor saw the shake in his limbs and the pallor of his skin. Detective Reed hugged himself and snorted. “Why are you two here, anyway?”
“You did not arrive to work and were not answering your calls,” Connor said. “We came to check on you.”
“I get that,” Detective Reed snorted. “I want to know why you two specially are here. Did you piss Fowler off again?”
“Nope, Connor volunteered,” Hank said. He stayed close to Detective Reed in case the man fell as he walked toward the door, still fully dressed in his clothes down to the boots on his feet. “He missed your annoying face, what can I say?”
Connor felt Detective Reed’s confused glare on his back, but neither commented.
“Let’s get out of here,” Hank said. He rubbed his arm and looked around. “Something is giving me the creeps.”
Detective Reed was the first out of the bedroom and Connor followed just in case. There had been no one in the main living room, but he had learned not to underestimate an opponent.
“Shit,” Detective Reed said, standing over a small end table near the door. He pushed at the small bowl and scowled as he turned it over, letting a few loose pieces of change clatter on the surface. “The fucker took my phone and keys.”
“That may be in our best interest,” Connor said. He stood next to Detective Reed and looked at the man. “If the phone is still on, we should be able to track it.”
“We can, but right now we need to get back to the station and report what happened,” Hank said. “Let’s move.”
“Yes, Lieutenant.” Connor nodded in agreement, already compiling a to-do list for when they got back.
Whoever assaulted Detective Reed in his home would regret attacking Connor in the one place that he felt safety and comfort.
He would not forgive the disturbance of his peace.
The men who activated him were not his owners.
They had said as much when he asked for his designation and registration information.
He was to be a gift.
“Gav’s going to love you,” they had said, holding up a picture of the man to be his future owner. He registered the man’s name and left the spot for his designation blank. His owner would assign it later. “The guy lives all alone and heaven knows he can’t take care of himself.”
He would be needed.
“I look forward to meeting him.”