Beneath the Surface
Chapter 1- Bloody
"Jesus Christ," Mickey exclaimed, eyes a little too wide as he tried to process what he was seeing.
"Yeah, it's pretty gruesome." Marlowe said back, wiping the sweat off her forehead with her shoulder as her hands were gloved. "Brutal."
She was not wrong. Mickey tried to take in as much of the crime scene as his sleep sloshed brain would allow. He'd barely been at home in bed for two hours before his captain called about their latest murder scene.
Not that home was much better than a crime scene. At least there were people around, unlike his empty two bedroom townhouse just three blocks short of being back in the South side. His apartment was more of necessity then actual want.
Decked out with only the shit he needed to live. Four dead bolts on the door, a couch in front of a big screen t.v. mounted on the wall, a bed big enough to sleep four people and a coffee maker.
Of course there were more items in his place, but really, he really only used the ones he listed. He either worked, or he slept. No time for anything else.
Mickey Milkovich was a homicide detective in Chicago, along with his partner Marlowe Summers. She was fresh from Los Angeles and his captain paired her with him for a trial run. So far she was doing pretty damn well.
Unlike most of the other women that worked closely to him, she had a strong stomach. Didn't get a case of the queasies when dealin with blood or any other bodily fluids. She was rather quiet, but it was more to observe then it was being shy. She was witty, strong, a damn good shot.
Not bad for a new partner and Mickey wasn't going to question it until he had to.
"I don't even know where to stand." Mickey looked down at his plastic covered shoes that were already splattered with blood. "It's everywhere."
Their current crime scene was a fucking disaster. Smack dab in the suburbs, one of those cookie cutter houses where each one looks the same. Manicured lawn, immaculate paint, pricey cars in the garage.
It looked very normal until you stepped inside. The rather normal, everyday items you'd find in a house like that were caked or splattered with blood. You couldn't walk without stepping on it or in it. It soaked into the carpet, on the hardwood floor, smeared up the walls.
It was messy.
Marlowe nodded and sidestepped a rather large puddle by her feet. "It's contained in this room, so the rest of the house is clear, but in here there is no safe space to step."
They were currently in the living room. Surrounded by pricey furniture with those annoying plastic covers on them, a bunch of photos framed on the cream colored walls and the two bodies as the centerpiece.
"Okay," Mickey pulled the gloves on Marlowe gave him as he looked around. "So, lay it out for me yeah?"
Marlowe nodded. "The call came in this morning, about two hours ago. The front door was left open and a delivery driver dropped off a package and saw them."
"We talk to the driver?" Mickey asked, staying as still as possible.
"The boys are doin it now. I glanced at his schedule and he was where he was supposed to be. He did have a package to deliver here so I'm sure he'll come back clean."
"The victims the owners of the house?" Mickey asked, eyes looking over the photos on the walls.
Some showed a smiling couple in various stages of their lives. Different places and occasions. Some older, some younger. After awhile, a third person was added. A kid, with red hair and an effortless smile.
"Yes," Marlowe flipped through her small notebook. "Mister and Missus Jim Moore, wife's name is Sarah. Lived here for the last twenty five years or so."
"Kids?" Mickey asked as he turned his attention to the bodies.
"Not sure yet. No kid rooms or anything but as you can see from the photos show a kid at some point."
Mickey bent down as much as he was able to, to get a closer look at the bodies. It was bad. Like too much blood and no faces bad.
The bodies were a few feet apart, looking like they got interrupted in the middle of coffee. Two broken cups lay close to them, empty.
"I know we haven't let the coroner in yet, but what do you think was used as the weapon?" Mickey asked, looking around for what might have caused the damage. "This looks too damn bloody to be just fists."
Marlowe nodded. "No weapon found, yet. But they're on the lookout for it." She backed away, leaning against a clean part of the couch. "Whoever did this knew them."
Mickey arched an eyebrow and stood, slowly backing away. "No signs of forced entry?"
"None. No scuff marks, no broken windows. The alarm wasn't triggered so either he either knew the code or it wasn't set."
"Not only that, but this much damage, has to be personal." Mickey felt his stomach churn, making him regret that second cup of coffee. "But they look to be in their early 50's maybe, so I doubt they had a lot of enemies. Should be easy to find out who was closest to them."
Murders this messy, this gruesome, seemed to always be linked to a loved one. A family member, a friend, work buddy. Anyone who had personal contact, someone who knew their everyday schedules and routines.
"So, they had a decent alarm system, ADT I believe." Mickey nodded to the open curtain and pointed to the sign in the yard. "They might have had one of those security cameras, could be worth a try."
Marlowe smiled. "Damn good idea Mick. You can't even walk down the street without fifteen different cameras on you at all times. I'll call the alarm company for the details when we get back."
Mickey grinned. Marlowe wasn't the only smart one. Occasionally he had some ideas worth their trouble too.
"Anything else I need to see before we send the coroner in here?"
Marlowe nodded. "Look up."
Mickey looked up to the ceiling just in time for a drop of blood to fall on his face, just under his eyelid. As much as he wanted to wipe it off, he couldn't yet.
"What the fuck?" Mickey said quietly.
The word LIAR, was written in big block letters just above the position of the bodies.
Marlowe quickly handed him a napkin to wipe his face. "Yeah, and that's blood by the way, not red paint."
Mickey wiped his face with a grimace, then handed the napkin off to a crime scene tech that passed by. "Liar, huh?" He looked down at the bodies. "As in only one or both?"
"One, I assume or it would be Liars."
"So, the question is, which one?"
"Knock, knock! Any chance I can squeeze in there!"
Mickey glanced to the door, seeing their geeky coroner standing there with his assistant behind him. "Come on in Jerry, but watch where you step."
After their time with the bodies, the house became alive with activity. Crime scene techs going over every inch of the two story house. Gathering any evidence that could help them. More were outside, doing the exact same thing.
Mickey glanced behind him to see one of the crime scene guys trying for his attention. He moved towards him, treading lightly. "Hey, what's up?"
"Got something you should see."
At that, Mickey arched his eyebrows, a bad feeling creeping up his spine and followed him towards the kitchen. It looked rather normal, clean and homey, like a grandparents house.
"Okay, so what am I looking for?" Mickey asked, not seeing anything out of the ordinary.
"Take a look at the cabinets."
Mickey walked closer, tired eyes focusing on the cabinets. It took him a second to realize that some of them had tiny locks on them. So small that even his keen eyes missed it.
"The fuck." Mickey touched one, tugging a little to see that it really was locked. "Why the fuck would their cabinets be locked?"
The tech shook his head. "Not all of them are, but most. And those aren't just child safety locks or it would be just the bottoms."
Mickey nodded, releasing the lock to look at more, oddly placed around the entire kitchen. Some on bottom, some up top. There was even one on the fridge and freezer.
"Yeah, not for child safety." Mickey shook his head. "Any chance you can break the ones that have locks? Just to see what they are keeping locked away?"
The tech nodded. "Yeah, as soon as I get the go ahead."
"Let me know then yeah? I'll be walkin the house."
Mickey clapped the helpful tech on the shoulder, for once not annoyed by their presence. He moved out of the kitchen, in search of his partner and found her outside, scanning the windows.
"You see this?" Marlowe pointed.
Mickey squinted against the bright sun. More locks. Hardcore ones that probably locked from the inside. "Jesus. That's not part of the home alarm shit, that's custom and expensive."
Mickey shook his head, that bad feeling churning in his gut again. "I don't think so. There are locks in the kitchen. On some of the cabinets and the refrigerator."
Marlowe's eyes widened. "So no, not for security. Keeping someone out? Or in?"
"But who? As far as we know, they lived alone. No signs of that kid." Mickey questioned as they walked all the way around the house, all the windows had locks.
"I got a bad feeling Mick." Marlowe lowered her voice. "I've seen stuff like this before. Locked cabinets, refrigerators, windows and doors with high alarm systems."
Mickey narrowed his eyes. "You mean when you were in sex crimes?"
Marlowe nodded sadly. "More like special victims, but yeah. I've seen them before during Stockholm Syndrome cases, lock up the food so the people in charge get to manage and be in control."
Unease washed over him so fast he became dizzy and had to lean against the house.
"But I've seen it in domestic situations too, normally ones with children involved. The parents keep the food locked up too, they usually give them the minimum amount of food to survive and that's it."
"Fuck, I seriously hope we aren't dealing with that shit." Mickey saw her nod as well, probably feeling just as uneasy as he was. Maybe more so. "We have to check into it. I got a tech bustin locks just to check, maybe it's not food they lock away."
Marlowe gave a sad smile as she walked away. "Yeah it is Mickey."
"Early this morning, we received word that a two story house in quiet suburbia, was host to a brutal attack. Local police are on the scene now but haven't given us any information…"
Ian tuned out the tv as he washed dishes, the soap stinging the small cuts on his hands. It was on for noise more so than him being interested in anything that went on in quiet suburbia.
The South Side had enough crime daily to override shit that happened half an hour away from him. It wasn't like he lived in that area anymore. Not for a very, very long time.
Probably just some gardener fucking the wife of the house and her husband happened to come home early on a business trip, or some sort of other cliche. Ian was sure the husband kicked ass, called the cops and looked for a good divorce lawyer.
With the dishes done and the kitchen spotless, Ian poured himself a fresh cup of hot coffee and walked through his small apartment barefoot. He continued to ignore the news lady or the flashing red and blue police lights and moved into his bedroom.
Crime in the uppity parts of Chicago or not, he still had to go to work.
Ian sipped his coffee as he flipped through shirts in his closet. All dressy shirts that had to be dry cleaned. His fault really for working in any government job, even when he only handled the paperwork.
This time he chose on a new pair of blue jeans, forgoing his normal choice of slacks, the shirt he chose was a soft cream color, silky and light. He wanted to be professional and comfortable, especially with how odd he was feeling lately.
Moody and withdrawn, exhausted although he slept a solid 8 hours at least every night. Muscles aches, like in his hands, his shoulders too. He should have woken up feeling fresh as a daisy, not run down.
It had been happening more over the past week or so. He had awful dreams, which could account for his exhaustion in the mornings. His mind felt foggy at times, like he was trying to recall something important but couldn't put his finger on it. Gaps of time missing, and not to mention the muscle aches. Like he over exercised at the gym.
Something was definitely off lately.
Suddenly, as if his body knew he was trying to discover the deep seated issue behind it all, his head started to pound. Making him instantly back off of whatever he had been thinking, just so the pain lessened.
Ian rubbed his temples, squinting at the dim light in his room, the overly loud tv seemed to be blaring right in his ear. The fan above him, lightly spinning air suddenly felt tornado strong. "God." He groaned, rubbing furiously until it didn't hurt so much.
Whatever was happening, he had to get to the bottom of it, or he'd have to see a doctor about the headaches. It was too much.
When it eased up enough and his coffee was long since cold, Ian dressed quickly. He needed to go or he'd be late for the L and the walk and the fresh air would certainly help with his icky mood.
Dressed and ready, briefcase and all, Ian stepped out of his apartment and locked the door. The same sound echoed behind him. He turned to see his friendly neighbor Lauren, a very kind but almost senile old lady who had a habit of over sharing.
"Ian dear, nice to see you. Off to work?" Lauren asked, slowly making her way over.
Ian smiled, not wanting to be rude but he was already late. "Yes ma'am, off not or I'll be late." He turned to leave and she followed. "Off to bingo so early?"
Lauren chuckled. "Oh no. It's much too late for that. But I did hear of a rather morbid attack uptown, did you hear about it?"
Ian watched her closely as they took the stairs down. "I might have heard something. But I didn't listen too hard. Lately the news makes me a little nauseous."
"Well, as awful as it sounds, I am dying to know what happened. You never hear about crime in those parts of Chicago. Too uppity and classy for such awfulness."
Ian narrowed his eyes, wondering exactly what type of awfulness she was meaning but he wasn't sure he wanted to ask. "Maybe you shouldn't go alone." He offered, smiling. "I know it's normally a safe part of town but you can't be too careful."
As Lauren started to ramble, Ian momentarily tuned her out, falling into those dark places of his mind that he thought he overcame years ago. Funny how one mention of an area of Chicago you lived in as a kid brings out every single bad memory from that time.
It had his skin crawling, his head pounding worse than before. Ian tried to not listen, to ignore the sounds and voices of his past coming back for him and tried to focus on now. On the cool autumn breeze or the sounds of crunching leaves.
When a soft hand landed on his shoulder, Ian jumped like a cat. His feet clearing the ground. He pushed the hand away as the air in his lungs rushed out, leaving him breathless.
"Oh, I didn't mean to scare you."
Shaking his head, Ian tried to get control of his shaking hands. It wasn't often that he had a freak out moment like that, it had been years since the last one. But the talk of that area of Chicago and the sudden touch had his mind and body racing to his past.
"It's okay." Ian faked a smile and hitched the strap of his briefcase higher up his sore shoulder. "I just kinda spaced out for a moment."
Lauren nodded, her hand hovering over his arm but she put it back down. "I'm sorry all the same. I hope you have a good day Ian."
"Thanks," he smiled as he walked further away. "You too Ms. Walker."
He couldn't walk away fast enough. Not to get away from her, but from the memories and the emotions a simple conversation had brought back. He felt raw, exposed. Like he was under a microscope.
"Just get it together." Ian muttered to himself as he stopped at the station. His hands were still shaking, and not from the cold. "It's just a coincidence."
It didn't matter how many times he repeated the words, it felt like a lie. It felt like he was back in that other life, back with those people. Back where he was trapped and alone, scared.
When the train stopped, he couldn't even recognize his own face in the glass. He was as pale as a ghost.
"Is that the file on the Moore's?" Mickey asked when Marlowe walked in. He was neck deep in paperwork at his desk and needed a break before his eyes bugged out of his head.
"Yeah, it is." Marlowe took a seat opposite him at her own desk. She set the file down and rubbed her eyes.
"That bad?" Mickey asked, afraid of what might follow.
"Honestly, I have no idea. From the outside, they seem normal." She flipped through the file, even when she had it memorized. "Jim Moore owns his own high-end hardware store, works 40 hours a week. Sarah, is a stay at home wife. Which is a little odd because they have no children living with them and she's too young for retirement."
Mickey nodded. "Maybe Jimmy boy is one of those old fashioned guys who want their lady at home."
"Yeah, that's possible. Which I never understood, but I guess it's normal for some couples." Marlowe shivered. "They have two cars, both drive Caddy's, both paid off. No outstanding bills or debts."
"What about kids?" Mickey asked, grabbing for his 5th cup of coffee that tasted worse than tar. "That kid was in almost all of those photos. Maybe a relative?"
"They have no biological children according to public records. But they are listed as foster parents. Or were."
"Were?" Mickey asked, not liking the tone she used. "Did they suddenly stop for some reason or did they adopt a kid and got taken off a list?"
Marlowe dug through the papers. "They were listed as foster parents around 15 years ago. All legal and above board. Everything checked out with them. Nothing fishy. No criminal history, both had good jobs, decent income."
"Well now I'm even more confused." Mickey groaned, hanging his head back.
"I'm getting to that." Marlowe shot back. "They got taken off the list because the foster child they adopted ran away when he was 16."
Mickey snapped to attention and took the missing persons report she held out. It was old, definitely dated over 7 years ago. The kid was young, 15 maybe, with red hair and no smile, just like the pictures on the walls in the Moore house.
"Ian Clayton Gallagher." Mickey read the name. "They reported him missing when he was 16. Told the cops they took him to school and never saw him again."
"Some foster kids are known to run away, but the foster parents are made out to be the bad guys because they are responsible. So they take them off the list, at least for a certain amount of time to launch an investigation."
"You have his file?" Mickey asked, setting the paper aside as she handed the very thin file over. "Okay let's take a look here."
It took him a moment or two to look away from the pictures of a freckled face kid with no smile. Mickey noticed right away that he was sad. His eyes were sad, even when he did smile.
"Okay, it says Ian came to them when he was around five years old. They didn't adopt until he was nearly eight years old though."
Marlowe spoke up. "The first few years are hard. Some fosters don't even make it that long. There could be underlying problems or past trauma."
"Well, they did adopt but Ian wanted to keep his last name. School records look okay, although the nurse reported a few bruises." He narrowed his eyes, not liking the feel of this still. "The Moore's chalked it up to him being a boy. Little rough housing, boys will be boys type deal."
"I can't tell if the school was trying to create a problem because they are taught to look for such things or if something more was going on."
Mickey nodded. He understood too well about the school system. One bruise and they assume abuse. But if they ignore it, or when they do, abuse is happening right under their noses. It was hard to pinpoint which was which and when.
"Later on as Ian got older, around 12 or so, the school did that bruise talk again." Mickey read through the information quickly. "This time Ian told them it was from messing around with his friends, so they didn't push the issue."
"That doesn't sound like normal stuff though. Not if the reports kept coming." Marlowe added.
"No, it doesn't. Something feels off." Mickey dug through a few more papers. "Because now we have several hospital visits."
Marlowe held her hand out for the papers. "Says here that his arm was broken at 15, Ian claimed it was another accident with his friends. Then another time his rib was cracked, then a badly dislocated shoulder."
Mickey pushed the file away, that unease he felt earlier was just. He wanted to be sick. "Jesus Christ, they were abusing him."
Marlowe tossed the paper back. Then held her head in her hands. "Yes they were."
"Well, that explains the locks in the kitchen and on the windows." Mickey added, pushing aside the papers to get to the stack of photos he hadn't looked through yet. He opened them, took one glance and handed them to her. "Just like you said, locking away food. Locked the windows so he couldn't just sneak out. Alarm system makes sense too."
Marlowe let out a nasty curse as she filtered through the pictures. "No wonder he went to school and never came back. Did you see the x-ray of his arm?"
Mickey nodded, teeth clenched. "One of 'em, probably Jim, twisted it behind his back so hard it broke."
"I suddenly don't feel bad that someone decided to off the both of them." Marlowe closed the pictures, setting them aside. "They didn't seem in a hurry to find him though. They didn't pester the cops, just that one flyer and that's all."
"Because they knew he wouldn't keep quiet for very much longer." Mickey suggested, rubbing his pounding head. "The older he got, the less control they had over him. He probably realized that he could easily take care of himself."
"No one has heard from him since then. But considering the Moore's didn't prompt them, local cops probably didn't try too hard."
Mickey sat forward, moving the papers away enough to reach his keyboard. He pulled up the Chicago DMV database and typed in Ian Gallagher's name, date of birth and social security number. It took less time to find him then it did to type in his name.
Mickey smiled. "Ian Clayton Gallagher, currently 22 years old, lives at The Avenue Apartments. Apartment A24, Canaryville Chicago. Kid lives in my old neighborhood."
Marlowe blinked slowly. "How long as he lived here?"
"Changed his licence when he updated his address over four years ago." Mickey quickly printed out his address, along with an updated picture. In this picture, Ian was smiling. Mickey caught himself fighting a smile. "He's been there for nearly four years. Means he lived somewhere unlisted for around two years after he went missing."
"If Ian was 15/16 then, he probably jumped from shelter to shelter until he got a job, saved up some cash." Marlowe got up, moving to Mickey's side to read over his shoulder. "His working address is close to his home. Works at a social services office?"
Mickey's eyebrows went up. "Well, I can see why. He could have used more help when social services had him under their control."
Ian had been through the wringer. His biological parents weren't around. Spent five years in an orphanage, got adopted by abusive parents, ran away. Lived in squalor until he managed to get himself a place downtown. Which was not as nice as it sounded.
The kid had one hell of a hard life and yet he worked for social services, probably doing his best to help kids. Kids like him who could have used outside help. Someone to read between the lines and know he was lying as a kid.
"Well, considering it's almost noon, should we assume he's at work?" Marlowe asked as she moved to her desk to grab her gun.
Mickey nodded and stood also, grabbing his gun from the locked drawer to his right. "It's a safe bet. Noon on a Thursday probably means work." He grabbed his jacket, both the Moore file and the Gallagher file. "If not, we can swing by his house."
"Somehow I don't think he's going to give a damn either way." Marlowe shot Mickey a look as they walked out of the precinct. "He got away from them for a damn good reason. He might end up being a suspect."
Mickey paused by his car, jaw locked. "You think he's a suspect?"
"You don't?" Marlowe asked, surprised. "Crime of passion, right? Personal connection? What could be more personal than an abused son?"
It was hard to argue with that, so he didn't. Ian Gallagher was their most likely suspect. What better way to get a read on him then being there when they break the news to him? Emotions like that, fueled by anger and hatred, by fear, are hard to hide.
The news from his murders were all over Chicago. From the news on tv he heard this morning, to the headlines in the local newspapers, to the talk on the radio.
He was everywhere. His work.
It was glorious. Every single moment the world talked about what he did, talked about those poor people, the more he smiled.
Justice was sweet.
They were liars, the both of them. Living in that immaculate house, wearing designer clothes, driving luxury cars. The happy little couple.
Not. Lies. All of it.
It was time he put a stop to it. It was up to him alone because only he knew the truth about them. Only be knew what they were capable of. He saw the way they treated Ian, the bruises, his arm in a cast.
He saw the sad smiles, forced by a heavy hand. Forced to lie and smile about it. Forced to see the sad smile from a social worker who knew, who knew all along but didn't help him.
Ian lived through all of it. That poor, helpless boy.
Unlike the rest of the children like Ian, the ones who suffered well past their teen years, Ian got away. Ian got himself away with no help, no money and no place to go. Ian left when he knew the beatings were getting worse, when the only other way to inflict pain, was to kill him.
He protected Ian from the time he was seven. As much as he could have, being a few years older. As much as anyone should have. And it was enough. His help, helped Ian survive. Ian never knew of his help, he still didn't know.
But it had always been there.
Now they were dead. Ian was safe. He did his job, it took seeing the Moore's try and adopt another kid to set him off enough to end it, but it was over.
There would never be another child hurt under that roof. That was all that mattered as he smiled at the t.v., as they showed Jim and Sarah Moore being carted out of that house.