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L.S. Noire

Chapter Text

Let's paint a scene.

Dawn is just the sun's greeting to those who survived the night. Taxi driver's eyes water as they're greeted by their patrons breath, the weak retire to a bed in their Downtown apartments, often accompanied, while the brave swallow coffee thick as tar and down greasy food that sticks to their gut, hiding bloodshot eyes behind expensive sunglasses. 

In Vinewood, old and young money rise to sunlight filtering through designer curtains, stretching their muscles to tackle a weekend of watching television inside home theaters, lounging by decadent pools, doing yoga and drinking alcohol in it's various forms. An older woman reflects on her estranged children as she watches the gardener prune the emerald hedges. A teenage girl muses over the complexities of a television celebrity who's become the subject of many of her bedroom posters. A middle aged retiree takes a swig of whiskey, wondering where things went wrong. 

In the streets of the hood, a young man curses at the sun for being so goddamn fuckin' bright. A feral cat jumps the fence and finds itself face to face with a dog kennel whose owner is yet to eat. A dented navy blue car's door opens to reveal a woman with sparse clothing, counting the notes in her hand, thanking Jesus she isn't dead.

This is Los Santos, the city of the damned.

Midday peaks over the golf coarse, the sun is high in the sky. Joe Evergreen is lining up his club, savoring the early spring air. It felt like a good day, a lucky day, hell maybe this would be the day he'd pull off the coveted hole-in-one. Behind him, his business partner Collins Gold shifted from one foot to the other, the sound of his shoes sinking into the grass below signalling his impatience at Joe's calculated poise.

"You know, Evergreen, I might go down to the club and order something, though I wouldn't be surprised to come back to you still with that look of pain on your face,"

"The staff here aren't nearly that good, you and I both know that,"

Collins gave a snicker, running a tongue over his chapped lips. He needed a smoke, it was proving a whole lot harder to hide the fact he'd regressed from his wife. She had the nose of a sniffer dog, and she knew the small ticks that denoted his lying. He thanked god he'd never been stupid enough to conjure up an affair; she'd have known in an instant.

"Yeah, well, all I'm saying is, time's a wastin',"

"I know what you're saying, Gold, but perfection takes time,"

"Perfection, my ass,"

Joe smiled ruefully, before inhaling deeply and raising the club. A swift arch and the ball was sailing into the sky; up, up, up.

"Missed by a hair,"

He'd landed the ball on the recesses of the shrubbery, the small white object having disappeared under the shadow of a tree. Joe straightened up, rolling his eyes, he'd never been cut out for golf. He raised his hand before the other man could utter another word.

"I know, I know, I'm not going to live this down,"

"Right you are. Now let's go get your damn ball, Tiger,"

A slight breeze began to pick up as the man disembarked from the golf buggy, Collins at the wheel, giving a small smirk as his friend began to paw at the soil. 

"You having fun in your element?"

"I'll have your head after this Collins," Joe shot over his shoulder, feeling his cheeks alight. He was sure this would quickly spread through the workplace. He didn't have the best reputation already, but when the guys at the firm found out that he couldn't golf to save his life? He was sure to be the butt of several jokes. The man's hand pushed past the foliage, clearing away the brush. Damn ball, probably disappeared off the face of the earth. 

"You lookin' for the meaning of life down there, Joe? C'mon, just tee off at the edge, it isn't worth getting your knickers in a twist,"

"Give me two seconds,"

Collins sighed, "Stubborn as ever,"

Through the foliage, deeper within the tree line, something pale had caught the man's eye. "I'll have you know I fo-"

Collins, who'd lost interest in looking at Joe as he scrambled about making a mess of himself, had been instead admiring the new watch he'd purchased for himself just the other weekend. He didn't often buy his own things, but new beginnings meant celebration, and he'd brought the watch on the way home from Velma's. Velma. Her name rolled off the tongue, and she was just as smooth. He'd always judged men who held affairs, after all a real man would come clean, men weren't built for keeping secrets. But the thought of paperwork made his head throb like it did when he went a day without a good lungful of tobacco, and thus he'd readjusted his view on monogamy.

As he was studying the watch, a silver affair with exposed clockwork and a nice leather band, he heard the other man's voice abruptly cut off. Collins glanced over at the other man, whose figure was positioned half crouched, facing away from him, appearing as if someone had pressed the pause button on a remote. He couldn't be that thrilled to find a golf ball, right? 

"Evergreen?"

Collins had swung his body out of the buggy, the vehicle giving a small sigh as if relaxing. A frown creased his skin, leathery skin that had seen it's fair share of tanning and sun burn. Now, for what felt like the first time, the heat on the back of his neck was wholly unwelcome. A slip of perspiration ran down the crease of his spine. 

"Joe?"

No response came from the other man. Collins was in arm's reach now, not quite spooked but wary all the same. For all he knew, Joe could be pulling some sort of stupid game, though then again, in broad daylight? While trying to find a golf ball? Then again, it could be some stupid form of retribution. Collin's hand connected with the other man's shoulder. As if broken from a trance, the man whipped around, almost knocking out his colleague in the process.

"F-fuck..." But Collins hardly heard the stuttered words; his eyes had found the golf ball. It had rolled into the matted, bloody strands of hair that were sprouting from the fresh corpse of a naked woman.

The older gentleman clutched his stomach as he turned to the side and puked the contents of his breakfast.

Chapter Text

Let's paint a scene.

Cole Phelps looked up from his computer screen as the light thump of paper hitting his desk drew his attention. Upside down, the copy of the Los Santos Meteor yielded a headline that, even at a small glance, turned the man's blood cold. WOMAN, BUTCHERED, FOUND IN LOS SANTOS GOLF CLUB. Above his desk, Captain James Donnelly held a chagrin expression, his brow deeply furrowed as he let the news sink in.

"Surely not," Cole managed, his voice rife with confusion. Hadn't they put the hammer down on the Donaldson guy just the month before? The perp who'd murdered three times, all in brutal ways, both to cover up an apparent enjoyment of purchased sex from his wife. Gregory Donaldson had crumbled in an interview room and agreed to the charges, citing things that hadn't been released to the press, things that only the killer would have known. 

"Almost identical in appearance to the first two victims, this is truly no copycat. Carruthers is down there collecting evidence; he vouches for this," Donnelly gave a tired sigh, a weathered hand kneading his temple. Cole knew this killing would mean hell to pay for the man, after his victorious speech about the Donaldson conviction, it meant the press would want blood.

"I expect you want me down there," 

Donnelly gave a curt nod, "You and Bekowsky too. He knows already, he's pulling up a car in front right now," he gave another deep sigh, picking up the paper from Cole's desk and looking at it with disdain. "I don't want you to think this discounts your work on Donaldson, Phelps, that was truly skilled. But I fear that we may be dealing with someone who is far above the caliber of a fearful husband,"

Cole stood from behind his desk, raising himself to the height of his superior. "I understand sir,"

"Good lad,"

Despite not wanting to admit it, Cole's mind was reeling as he made his way down to the LSPD car park. The press had coined the recent killings of young women as The Black Dahlia Redux; all were found butchered and near unidentifiable physically, much like Elizabeth Short, with their bodies displaying signs of both torture and rape. Cole couldn't hide the fact that the cases on surface level had gotten to him in a way that no others had, they even rivaled the horrors of the war that he'd witnessed. It was no secret the killer had a deep revile for women, he'd truly desecrated the corpses and memories of the women he'd executed. The first two cases, Sandra Grace and Debra Gulley, had left little clues save for the mutilated women's corpses, and for the a long time both bodies had remained nameless. That was how it went in a town like Los Santos, where hookers were little but landfill and one in the ground was seen as hardly a change to the sprawling city. 

But it had taken until the third killing of Penelope Lord for the loose ends to start, very slowly, becoming tied. Penelope had been blackmailing Donaldson, something that was traced back via her mobile, and soon Penelope was linked to the other two women. Donald had no alibi, a clear motive, a wife who was threatening to take most of his money, and a career left in ruins after the papers got a hold of the news that a CEO was spending company money on sex. From the moment the link was traced to him, it was practically open and shut; the LSPD could breathe easy, journalists no longer hounded Phelps and subsequently his family, demanding answers that seemed, at the time, impossible.

This death, though, changed everything. 

"You doin' alright, pal?" Bekowsky's voice was somber as he clamped a hand on Phelps' shoulder, his feet kicking a loose piece of the pavement. The case had effected the other man as much as it had him, that was apparent. Unlike his usual jovial disposition, Stefan wore a lackluster expression. Cole managed a weak smile of false confidence.

"Yeah, but there's not much standing around and feeling sorry for ourselves is going to do,"

"Ah, nose to the grind stone, even in the face of opposition," he said, giving a small smirk, though the vigor his voice usually boasted was not there. 

"You know me, Bekowsky. Let's get this crime scene done,"

"Take the wheel, maestro, we'll get this show on the road,"

Cole gave a rueful smirk at this, catching the keys from Stefan and unlocking the vehicle. The detective's car was comfortable enough, a sleek silver sedan with seats that didn't smell like sweat and a screen that was usually free of the carcasses of small insects. He drew the seat belt across his chest and pushed the key into the ignition, the car growling to life. As Cole reversed out of the driveway, Stefan began to speak of the case, a note of annoyance heavily accenting his voice.

"Y'know the media's going to have a field day over this, despite this being none of our faults. We both saw Donaldson in the interrogation room; the guy was sweating bullets and stuttered out a confession he could hardly keep in!" 

Cole considered this as he weaved through the early morning traffic, "I know, Bekowsky, but the thing is, the media doesn't know that. Hell, it isn't too wild to look at the whole case as the LSPD's attempt to cover their asses. Get some cheating bastard with no alibi into an interrogation room and grill the shit out of him, how do you think someone would come out? They'll probably assume that we fed Donaldson his confession,"

"I hope you're not right, Phelps, for the sake of our careers,"

"I'm sure everything will be fine, we just need to keep our heads down and nab this motherfucker," Cole murmured, gripping the wheel tightly, hoping Bekowsky didn't notice the nervous energy bleeding from him.

This case was his first serious one; he didn't discount the ones he'd had before it, but never had an assignment held so much weight. It had always been apparent that the killer was intelligent, someone who chose the information he left behind, someone who knew how the police thought. Not only that, but the killer posed a truly real threat to the women of Los Santos. He shivered inside to think what could become of his own wife, or even his two young daughters if they happened to fall into the line of fire. He didn't blame the media for it's field day, the danger was real, and the more people knew about it the better.

The suburb of Richman was a short drive from the station, and the mid morning traffic managed to ease up as they grew closer to the golf course. As the two detectives pulled into the parking lot, it was already apparent that the atmosphere at the crime scene was feverish. Journalists and civilians alike lined the police boundary, several cops stationed behind the yellow tape. The two men exchanged a look of knowing, before disembarking from their car.

"Don't let them get to you, Phelps," Stefan cautioned as the two men made their way towards the fray.

"Wasn't planning on it,"

Stefan began to weave through the crowd, Phelps following in the man's wake, trying to keep his eyes locked in front of him. A familiar female voice caught his attention, and for a split second, his sights wavered, glancing to his right. Samantha Steele from the Los Santos Meteor was staring at him pointedly, a timid looking camera man barely out of diapers standing behind her. Cole tried not to wince. Sam Steele had been on his case the very moment he'd been assigned to the case, her dogged approach to investigative journalism was notorious in the LSPD, and she was exactly who the young detective didn't want to see before looking at a crime scene.

"Cole Phelps," she said, grasping at his forearm before he could pull himself away, her grip vice-like despite the dainty appearance of her hand. Her other hand held a microphone below scarlet red lips, "How is your department currently dealing with this latest killing? How will your allegations against Gregory Donaldson hold up now that the killer appears to have struck again?"

"Good morning to you too, Steele," Stefan Bekowsky shot at the woman, yanking at his partner's shoulder. The young woman's lips pouted into a small scowl before recovering, pulling back to reveal pearly white teeth.

"Well, Detective Bekowsky, if you're feeling talkative, how about you answer the questions I've posed?"

Bekowsky gave a small snort, "If you'd quit the pestering and let us get to the crime scene, maybe we could give you some educated answers,"

This silenced the woman, returning her face to the glower. Cole wondered if the woman acted the same in her day to day life as she did when she was opening a dialogue with people of interest. Stefan flashed the woman a final smile before motioning to the front of the crowd and continuing forward.

"You both have my number, the Meteor will be waiting for an answer!" she called out as one of the police men lifted up the tape slightly for the two detectives to duck under. 

Stefan shook his head, muttering, "Piece of work, that one,"

"She's just doing her job," Cole replied with a small shrug, "It's all anyone can do," he turned to the policeman who'd let them through, "I'm guessing we're making our way to the green?"

"Yup," the young man replied, "First reporting was Olivia Shacher, she's with the two men who found the body now, they're seated on the edge of the green, making a recovery," 

"Understandable, thanks for that," Cole replied with a nod, "I didn't catch your name, by the way. Cole Phelps, this is my partner Stefan Bekowsky,"

The young cop gave a curt nod, "I've heard of you both through the grapevine. The name's Haywood, Robin Haywood,"

"Well, take care of yourself Haywood, this crowd's a rough one," Phelps replied, giving the man a polite smile.

"That's for sure. Good luck down there yourself,"

The two men made their way down the the slope towards the golf course, spotting the trio that sat on the wooden benches close to the start of the green. Two older man were sitting as Olivia Schacher stood, her hands folded against her chest in her usual manner, dark hair pulled into a ponytail that Cole was sure was so tight it tugged at her brain. Stefan made a small noise of amusement. 

"Schacher was first reporting, huh? Not surprised, this is where her sort of men hang around,"

"Down, boy," Cole chuckled, giving an eye-roll, "You don't want to let on that you're bitter,"

"I'm not bitter, Cole, I just don't get the girl,"

Cole shook her head, "You never hear of 'men are from Mars, women are from Venus'? Think we're not supposed to understand women,"

"That's easy for you to say as a married man," Stefan lowered his voice as they drew closer to the three. Olivia's eyes had glanced upwards, a slightly disgruntled expression crossing her face. She unfolded her arms from across her chest, instead they moved to the sides of her hips. Olivia Schacher was pretty, that was true enough, but despite her many feminine attributes, she held herself like a man. There was hardly a minute where she wasn't frowning, her blue eyes filled with some sort of annoyance, and she could out-swear a sailor. Bekowsky had held a flame for her upon her admission to homicide, however despite a few casual attempts from the man, she had never actively reciprocated his advances.

Cole wasn't surprised. Several men around the office had dedicated her first few months to harassing the young woman, though she'd held a steely resolve through it all, not speaking to Donnelly throughout it all. The man got it; running to the captain would likely only have made the whole thing worse, however despite the fact she never let slip the words and actions disgruntled her, her closed off nature was a by-product of the harassment. Even now, a year later from the incidents, she was a mystery within the LSPD. 

"Phelps, Bekowsky," her manner was pure business in front of the witnesses. Cole noticed one of them, the younger of the two, was crying. "These two gentlemen both found the body. I've already taken their statements, you won't have to worry about speaking to them,"

"Woah, hold up Schacher, we're the detectives assigned to this case, we'll be talking to the witnesses,"

Cole watched as the woman uncharacteristically smiled, and felt his stomach twist. "You haven't been told? The captain's assigned Earle and I onto this one as well, because apparently this is too big leagues for just the two of you,"

The two men could only stare at the woman in shock for a minute or two. A deep, penetrating sense of foreboding began to shadow Cole's thoughts, feeling himself bristle as the news sunk in. Stefan exchanged a silent look with him, opening his mouth to speak before Cole's own voice intercepted him, "Well, welcome to the team. Glad to have you on board,"

This didn't seem to be the answer Olivia had wanted, but all the same she kept the small smile glued to her features as she waved them both away, "Good to be on, boys. Now get yourselves down to the crime scene, you'll make Carruthers impatient,"

Cole moved past the woman, Stefan following in his tow, uttering no words. The man figured his partner's mind must have been reeling as much as his own at the announcement, and despite his shock, annoyance was already flooding into his thoughts. How come Donnelly had let him step into a trap like that? He could only thank his lucky stars that it had been Schacher to announce it instead of Earle; in Cole's mind he could see the look of glee on the other detective's face as Donnelly told him the news. Roy had wanted this case, and now he was getting what he wanted, humiliating Cole and Stefan in the process.

"Well isn't this just fucking dandy," Stefan muttered when the two of them were out of earshot from Olivia, heading down the slope and towards the crime scene in the distance. Cole gritted his teeth.

"Maybe this isn't as bad as we think it is," Cole reasoned, shrugging his shoulders, "I mean, their help isn't exactly a backhand from the captain. Besides, Earle and Schacher are both good detectives,"

"Roy's going to have a field day, coming in as the shining white knight to solve the crime. Cole, you can't be taking this without a fight," Stefan's voice had raised an octave or two. Cole sighed, he wanted to be more stubborn about the issue, to agree with his partner, but his reservation won out. 

"We've just gotta roll with the punches, Bekowsky, and this is just one of those. We just can't come off bitter,"

"That might be true, Cole, but if Roy plays dirty, don't expect me to hold myself back,"

"I don't, believe me," there was a note of amusement overlaying his voice, "I'm not your keeper,"

"Well, you sure fooled me,"

The crime scene was a crowded affair; a smattering of uniformed policemen, a few medical staff to transport the body to the morgue, as well as Malcolm Carruthers, stooped over the body of the victim. Talking to one of the policemen was an older gentleman whom Cole assumed was the owner of the golf coarse. At what he guessed was five foot six, the partially balding man's slate grey eyes reminded the detective of a hawk. He struck Cole as the sort of man to sip whiskey and smoke cigars while bad mouthing his wife.

"You take the corpse, Cole, I want to keep my breakfast," Bekowsky chuckled, though Cole suspected some truth to his words.

"As long as you speak to the self-appointed silver-fox over there,"

"Will do,"

As Cole approached Carruthers, the coroner looked upwards, a grim smile crossing his features. "It's been a while Cole," he stood up, stepping over the side of the body and began removing his bloody gloves. From his coat pocket he pulled a pair of clean gloves, handling them to Cole, "This one's messy,"

Phelps had already noticed. The air was rife with the scent of stale blood, a rusty tint to the otherwise sunny day. The detective steeled himself, and knelt next to the corpse. "Yeah, a real piece of work," he muttered, surveying the woman from the top down. The woman's dark hair amassed from her head in harsh clumps like patches of grass on a drought-stricken field. Dried blood had begun to roll down her pale skin at the time of the attack, having dried on her bruised her forehead. Cole gave a small wince at the cut that ran diagonally across her puffy eye, mirroring an equally painful looking split lip. 

"She died from a subdural hematoma, caused by blunt force trauma. All her wounds, however, happened before she died. The broken nose, cracked ribs, the internal bleeding from being bludgeoned; possibly by a baseball bat. This one's far worse than the other three,"

Cole Phelps sighed deeply, "Signs of sexual assault?" he ran his fingers along the woman's wrist, before turning her hand to reveal no obvious wounds caused by removed jewelry.

"From the bruising, yes, we'll be testing for substances,"

"She doesn't appear to be missing any jewelry,"

Carruthers let out a long sigh, "That's because she was too young to marry, from the I.D. we found the girl was only a few weeks off of eighteen. Though you wouldn't be able to tell from the way she is now,"

Phelps scowled, "Fucking bastard,"

"Mm," Carruthers murmured, "we found her purse with her identification. Jessica Stevens. Went to the local high school... Found quite a large sum of money in her purse as well. Weird for a seventeen year old to be carrying close to five hundred in cash,"

"That'll probably be worth running for prints," Cole stood up, snapping off the gloves and letting Carruthers take them, "Did you find anything else?"

"Red lipstick, it rolled out of the purse when it was discarded, don't think it'll give us anything. A mobile phone, with a passcode, being sent to the lab for unlocking. Shouldn't take too long, it's an iFruit phone," Malcolm chuckled lightly, "And, well, we found an Impotent Rage action figure head,"

Cole raised an eyebrow, "Impotent Rage...?"

"You don't get up to much, do you Cole?" Carruthers chuckled, "It's just some cartoon. Weird though, it's target audience isn't exactly teenage girls," he reached into his pocket, pulling out a bad with the small plastic head, "We dusted it, it's been wiped clean,"

Cole took the head and studied the plastic head. Was this what this really what the killer had left behind? It seemed almost mocking, the notion of leaving a riddle behind with the mutilated teenage girl. The man felt his stomach shift, he knew this would keep him up at night.

"Anything else?"

Carruthers gave a concise nod, "A photography of her, pretty recent if I were going to give it a guess. Her and an older girl, might be a sister. We'll try to get a number off the phone and contact you with it,"

"Sounds good," Carruthers had retrieved a photo from the purse, a snippet of a roll of novelty photobooth pictures. The detective felt himself internally flinch at the image. Two happy, smiling young girls, a false mustache on one, a pair of over-sized glasses on the other. The younger girl, Jessica, had glossy hair that fell past her shoulders, hair the same shade of brown as his wife's, a waterfall of femininity. Smile lines were rampant on her features, her eyes shining not just with the bulb of the flash but a happiness. 

Cole folded the picture, stashing it away and sighing, feeling a chill through his spine.