"You can do what?" Marcus hisses. He slams down his mug hard enough that it makes an audible thump. Their booth table wobbles under the force of it. Good thing it's busy enough that Sal's Diner is filled up with noise from the Saturday regulars, loud enough that everything they say is swallowed up in the din.
Josie grits her teeth and focuses on the warmth bleeding through the ceramic of her own mug. "It's like, I know where things are, where they came from." She avoids his eyes. "I've been able to do it since I was a kid."
He's staring at her. She can feel the intensity of his gaze, a detective's razor-sharp focus. It's a lot easier to deal with when they're facing down perps. "Prove it," he says.
Josie takes a deep breath. "This mug," she says, holding it up. It's a dull beige color, on the small side, looks like pretty much every other mug on the premises. "It's been here for decades. Some of the other ones are newer than that, but this one has been here forever."
That earns her a snort. He doesn't want to believe her. Most people she tells, it's the exact opposite. "Yeah? Good story. Sounds reasonable enough, could be true, no good way to verify it." A table behind her starts laughing uproariously at a joke.
"That's how I got my hunch about the necklace. It's how I find my mug every week," she explains. The surface of the table is a dull yellow. There's an ugly brown coffee stain in the middle of it. A pen in Marcus's pocket once belonged to Captain Sawyer. "Think about it. You're a better detective than this."
Marcus leans back and lets out a breath. "Shit," he says. When Josie looks up, he's rubbing a hand over his face. He does that when he feels like he's hit a brick wall on a case and needs to sleep on it. He stands up and pulls on his coat. "I'll see you on Monday, okay?"
"Sure," Josie says. "Monday."
Josie tries to distract herself by straightening up her apartment. She throws out some old catalogs, sweeps the floors, waters her plants, dusts the surfaces. She needs to keep herself focused and busy. The police station always feels like a buzzing hive of activity, and while it's nice to come home to an empty apartment after her shift, the silence can get overwhelming on the weekends.
Her apartment isn't that small, but it feels that way, cluttered with the things she can't quite bring herself to get rid of. There are bookshelves that have been threatening to collapse under their weight since the mid-90s, a few broken easy chairs whose footrests won't pop open any more, a ratty old blanket that her mother loved hanging over the back of her couch. Sometimes, if she closes her eyes, she can still feel traces of them left behind, her mother and father and the brother she barely got a chance to know. She can never tell if it's because of a packrat nature handed down to her by her father or if it's a by-product of her gift that she finds it hard to let go of things.
But this is her living space the way she likes it, piles of accumulated detritus from both her and her parents, with pieces of them still left behind.
Josie doesn't spend her day lingering by her phone, but she's aware of it and the fact that it could go off at any time.
In the best possible circumstance, it'll be Marcus wanting to talk it out some more because he's come around to it. But Marcus would much rather stoically stew in things than talk about it -- Josie knows her partner well enough to know that -- so there's no point in waiting for it.
There's a slight possibility that he might have told someone else about what she told him, and in a unit as tight as the MCU, the rumors would circulate fast enough to get back to her as soon as they got out. Cris would probably be the one to give her the friendly heads up that they're talking about her, as a courtesy to a former partner. Stacy might send her a friendly e-mail about it. Captain Sawyer would probably have to figure out how to note her powers on her official record. Josie is not looking forward to any of those.
But there's no phone calls, no e-mails to her work address. Josie has the free time to curl up with a good book in one of the broken easy chairs and get lost for a bit.
Right now, she's in the middle of re-reading some of the classics she loved as a kid, Huckleberry Finn and Lord of the Flies, Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Great Gatsby. Gotham City keeps its schools afloat through charitable donations from the Wayne Foundation, and Josie's high school had a new set of books nearly every year, their pages fresh and crisp, untouched by other hands. She'd sit at home and read them as fast as she could, and her father had to drag her away for family dinners.
She's halfway through Animal Farm when her cell phone buzzes. It's a text message from Sarge.
u no what's up w/driver?
Josie has to laugh at that. Sarge is kind of a curmudgeon, but he texts like a sixteen-year-old girl. She makes sure to respond promptly. Romy must have said something to him, and she wants to make sure that the corresponding rumors don't spiral out of control. Next thing she'll know, people will be asking her if she really did try to stab Marcus in the face Saturday morning.
we're working it out. nothing to worry about.
When Sarge gets back to her, he only sends one word:
On Sunday morning, Josie feels more settled. She's always more settled on Sundays. By then, she's had a day to shake off the worst of the week, the dead bodies and the mourning families, the piles of evidence screaming for her attention, the latest convoluted scheme from whichever psycho has it out for Batman this week.
She spends her morning re-twisting her dreads. She's got enough new growth that it's starting to look messy, and she wants to make sure she doesn't have to deal with it during the week. She likes the routine, mechanical nature of it. There's no evidence to unravel, no witnesses to interrogate, no Lieutenant Cornwall demanding updates every ten seconds. Her hair tends to behave itself -- her friends in high school were always complaining about having to get their own straightened or figuring out if they wanted to get a weave -- but it still requires maintenance every once in a while. She needs to stay on top of it or it will bite her in the ass later.
After she's done, she stares at herself in the mirror. She doesn't look any different than she did yesterday or the day before. This is her face, her eyes, her nose, her lips, her ears. She still knows who she is. It's the rest of the world that gets confused sometimes.
Winter sun is cold and bright, and Josie layers up, wrapping a scarf around her neck and pulling on her heaviest boots before sliding on a pair of sunglasses. The worst of the recent snow has been pushed back to the edges of the sidewalks, so the pavement is clear of ice. Josie waves at a few of her neighbors on the street, and they wave back.
Mary has been behind the counter of the corner store since Josie was a girl. She used to slip Josie candies from her stash next to the cash register and wink at her while Josie's dad pretended not to notice.
"Josie!" Mary says as Josie pushes the door open. "I've just the thing for you today." She's grinning, and with her dark, nappy curls cut short, she reminds Josie of her grandmother on her father's side.
Mary shoos Josie towards the back of the store with a broad grin on her face. Nothing slows Mary down. Not when a few of her grandkids got caught in the Joker's crossfire eight years ago and spent three weeks in the hospital before Batman managed to find a cure for whatever toxin they were poisoned with. Not when her basement cracked open during the big earthquake a few years back. Not when some crooked cops tried to shake her down last week and Josie had to step in. Mary knows how to take Gotham's punches and keep going. Josie wishes she were half that tough.
"Things going well?" Josie asks. It's a small store, so the space between the shelves is narrow, but Josie likes the way every object in the place gives off a sense of perfect belonging, like they've always been here.
Mary's smile is fond. "Could be far worse," she says. "Ah, here it is."
She reaches into the freezer and pulls out a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cheesecake Brownie. One of Josie's not-so-secret weaknesses is ice cream in the winter, and she loves Cheesecake Brownie best of all. She's not always in the mood to go through twelve different supermarkets in order to find one particular flavor, even when she's craving it. Josie says, "You have no idea how much I need that this week."
Mary just raises her eyebrows. Sometimes, Josie wonders if she might not be the only one in her neighborhood with secret powers.
In the evening, she does her laundry in the laundry room of her apartment building while listening to NPR. She still uses the old Walkman she used back in high school. The cassette player broke a few years back, but the radio still works fine.
There's a story on This American Life about the mysterious and contradictory stories of the Joker's origins, and Josie considers turning it off. She spends enough time in Gotham that sometimes she just doesn't want to deal with it anymore. She's too tied to the city to leave it entirely, but she doesn't have to sink into it, doesn't have to let it get into her head and live there. Most of the people in Gotham, they keep their heads down, they focus on one day at a time. But as a cop, Josie doesn't have that luxury. She has to live Gotham day in and day out.
She flips the radio over to the Top 40 station, which is playing something bright and peppy and cheerful. Marcus grumbles over how overproduced and upbeat pop music these days -- he's something of a 60's-70's rock music snob -- but Josie's of the opinion that there's a magic to the heavy bass beat of a perfect dance song that he just doesn't know how to appreciate.
As she pulls her clean clothes out of the drier, she shakes her hips and moves her feet and lets herself dance, even though no one is watching.
She's on second shift these days, which doesn't start until four PM. The hours are odd, but it's not like she has kids to pick up or send to school.
First thing Monday is the remaining paperwork from the Pressman case. Jose retrieves her mug from where Cohen hid it in Montoya's desk drawer. She wonders when they'll try sneaking it into Cornwall's office. That's probably the one place they haven't had the guts to hide anything in yet.
Marcus comes in, gives her a nod, and then sits down at the desk across from hers. He doesn't say anything about her or her mug, but she notices the way his eyes flick towards it.
"Hello," Josie says. Normally, she'd be more than happy to dig into small talk about their weekends, but she's not sure how far she can push.
"Hey," Marcus says, and that's it.
The silence isn't awkward. The squad room is always humming with ambient noise. There's a few open cases, but it's not the chaos of the last Joker rampage, where it was all hands on deck, nor is it the tense awkwardness of Montoya being on leave. As far as the MCU goes, this is a pleasant day. They don't get as many of those as Josie would like.
Josie knew it wasn't going to be an easy thing, becoming Marcus's partner. He and Charlie were close, before Charlie got iced by Mr. Freeze. Almost everyone on the squad has a story about the guy, that he was the kind of person who ran the department food drives and who was a sloppy drunk whenever they went out to a bar and who would flick rubber bands at Marcus if he thought Marcus was getting too worked up over something. Josie isn't any good at flicking rubber bands.
When Josie joined the MCU, she was the newbie, the interloper, the spare passed around from partner to partner amongst the squad. She and Cris got along fine, but she knew he resented her for not being Montoya, who was still out on leave after the Two-Face debacle.
She had done plenty of time before joining the MCU, but the MCU was another class entirely. They were known throughout the GCPD for being tight-knit and insular, mostly as a reaction to the corruption that pervaded the rest of the force. Josie had seen plenty of that corruption while working in Missing Persons Unit, cops who were willing to do a little extra work on the side and a city that was more than willing to pay them for their trouble.
With Commissioner Gordon retired and no longer around to personally select people to join the squad, Josie's promotion hadn't exactly been welcomed with open arms. But she had fought her way to a grudging sort of respect amongst the detectives. She held her shit together through the Joker's rampage, and she was racking up solved cases, same as the rest of them.
When she was assigned to work with Marcus, he hadn't given her any crap, the way Cris had. He had just handed over the files of the latest case he had taken on and filled her in on the details. His smile had been thin when she tried to joke around with him, and she was glad that she didn't resemble his last partner at all, that he couldn't look at her and see Charlie's face.
A new case comes in early in the evening. Someone calls in dead body in Burnside that seems to have signs of the Scarecrow's fear gas. It's Josie's case because Pressman was Marcus's, and it goes up on the board under her name, written with the red dry erase marker, still unsolved. When she solves it, it'll go back up on the board in black marker. And they will solve it. No one likes carrying red names around.
Marcus lets Josie drive. That's not unusual in and of itself, but his lack of comment about it is. The police radio is quiet. There's the buzz from dispatch about rowdy teenagers and domestic disturbances and the occasional bout of gang violence, but nothing so bad that the MCU needs to be called in.
"Good weekend?" she asks.
Marcus nods. He's staring at the window, distracted. "Yeah, it was fine."
So they aren't going to talk about Josie's confession now. Okay, Josie can deal with that. "Good," Josie says. "Good."
The crime scene is already being processed when they get there. Jimmy isn't working this particular scene today, which is probably good. Josie knows that most of the squad doesn't like him, and it would make Marcus even more touchy and difficult than usual if he were around.
The body was dumped in a back alley behind a bakery. One of the guys in the sanitation department found it during his morning rounds. Josie gets a good look at it, a white man in his mid-forties from the look of it, the mouth gaped open, eyes wide, frozen in fear. She's a cop, and so this is what she deals with, but she hates these ones most of all. No one looks great at the scene of their murder, but sometimes, they'll at least look peaceful, eyes closed, face slack.
Some of the cops on the scene are already collecting statements. One of the forensics guys, a new one named Minh, comes up to greet them. "We've got most of the interesting incidental stuff bagged already, but we haven't started on the body. You guys want to take a look before we start cleaning up?"
"Yeah, I think we'll circle around for a bit," Josie says. "Thanks." She's always believed that it's a good idea to be polite and friendly with the lab techs. You never know when you'll need a late-night favor.
Marcus isn't paying any attention to that. He takes a pair of latex gloves out of his jacket pocket and leans over the body. The man died wearing a coat, at least, heavy wool, expensive but tattered. Not stolen, though, just old. That's one of the things Josie can tell.
Marcus lifts up the lapel of the coat, reaches for an inside pocket and pulls out a wallet and a cell phone. The wallet is as worn as the coat. Also not stolen. It feels faint, insubstantial, untethered from its owner. Marcus flips it open and takes out the driver's licence.
"Thomas Marino," he says. "Address puts him about three blocks away from here." He rifles through the wallet, looking for other clues. "Money's gone, probably stolen."
Josie nods. She looks over the scene. The Scarecrow is still in Arkham, so that counts him out as a suspect, but the GCPD has known that there's still of canisters of fear gas that are still floating around the city for a few months now. "Who would use fear gas for a simple mugging?"
"Nobody ever said criminals were all that smart," Marcus says. He checks the other pockets. He pulls out a old pocket watch. round and ticking. There's something about it that feels… different from the other things they've found. Josie can't quite put her finger on it.
"Marcus," Josie says, pitching her voice low so that she won't be overheard. "I think that's--"
He holds up a hand to cut her off. She can't read his expression because his back is to her. "Later," he says. There's a coldness in his voice that she doesn't want to think about too deeply.
Josie snaps her mouth shut and does her best not to grimace.
After they've finished casing the crime scene, they walk the three blocks to the address on the driver's license. They don't talk. It's mid-winter, and it gets dark early, but the way is lit by street lights. The streets are mostly quiet. It's cold enough that they can see their own breath in the air.
"Look, about that watch..." Josie starts. She tries to gauge Marcus's reaction, but his face is turned away from her, focused on tracking the building numbers as they walk past.
Marcus sighs. "We'll talk about it when we're not in public. Let's just focus on this right now." It's such bullshit, the way he can shut down like this. This is the first time Josie's been on the receiving end of it, and she doesn't like it at all.
She grits her teeth. "Fine," she says.
Thomas Marino lived alone, apparently. They'll have to dig up family, coworkers, associates, anything they can find, but the apartment Josie and Marcus arrive at is lonely and quiet, too small. It's clean and functional, but it's too utilitarian for Josie to pick up on much, like trying to read a blank page.
There's always something specific and distinct that happens to a living space after the person who lived there passes away. Josie doesn't know how to put it into words, but everything feels faded, drabber, until someone else can claim ownership to the objects and the space.
They don't find much in their first pass. Some leftover utility bills laid out on the only desk, several dull suits in the bedroom closet, exactly one set of silverware in the kitchen. Nothing obviously stands out.
"We'll have to do more research," Marcus says. "Come back when we know what to look for."
Josie says, "The clock." There's an antique clock sitting on the mantlepiece, and it's beautiful. The housing is made out of a dark wood, carved into detailed pillars and scrolls, and the face has been cleaned recently, free of dust and dirt. It's been taken care of. It's still there, ticking away, and something about it calls to her. She's not sure if it's welcome, using her powers to unearth evidence, but she's a cop. She's here to get the job done. There's a dead body out there, and she has a mystery to solve.
"What about it?" Marcus says.
"We should take it in. There's something about it, like the watch we found earlier."
He grimaces. "How are we going to explain this?" he asks. He clenches and unclenches his fists. "You can't just--"
"Can't just what?" Josie says. "Use whatever tools I have at my disposal to solve crimes?" She stares him down. He may have a decade of seniority over her, but she's been going toe-to-toe with older white men who underestimate her since her academy days. Sometimes, it makes sense to play nice, to give in, but you can't back down on your convictions. That'll just give them a reason to ignore you the next time or the time after that.
Marcus shakes his head. "Fine. Let's have the guys bag it. We'll come up with an excuse for why later."
Her shift ends at midnight, late, and she doesn't get home until half an hour past that. Gotham's a little like New York in that doesn't quite ever settle down. There's still the steady hum of traffic and people outside her window.
She places her keys in the dish by the door, peels off her clothes, and takes a shower. It's impossible to ever fully shake off a case while you're still working it, but this is the closest she gets, when she can close her eyes and feel the warmth of the water on her back, her face, her shoulders, her neck. Washing away your troubles, her mother might have said. Josie knows better than to think that she can make anything disappear that quickly, that easily, not if they're things that are important.
There's a case to be solved, a dead man who deserves justice. This is Josie's job. She can find out who killed Thomas Marino. She can turn this case black on the board.
She knows she will.
"So, you want to tell me what this is about?" Marcus asks.
They're alone in the evidence room, hidden away between the stacks of high shelves. The watch and the clock had been bagged, but they're sitting in front of her right now, the faint impressions of Thomas Marino still lingering on them. But there's something else underneath that, something deeper and more complicated. She can't quite figure out what that is.
Josie sighs. "I don't know."
"I managed to dig up a bunch of his records yesterday. He's been running a clock repair shop about five blocks over from where we found him yesterday. Maybe they're connected somehow." Marcus shakes his head, and Josie doesn't know why he looks so frustrated.
She makes the best educated guess she can. "Look, there are things that are easy to tell, and there are things that are a lot harder. It's not like I got a guide book when I realized I could figure this shit out."
Marcus frowns, but he also nods. "I'm still getting used to it. You know, it's not every day you find out your partner's one of the freaks."
It stings, but Josie knows not to let it show. "It's not any different now. I'm still me," Josie says.
That gets him to crack a half-hearted smile. "Yeah, you're still a pain in the ass."
"Very funny," Josie says, but at least he's willing to joke about it. "Let's go check out his store."
Marino wasn't married, and he had no children. His brother was listed as next of kin, and he lives out in Star City. He's going to be flying into Gotham on Friday to get preparations set up for the funeral.
Marino's store reflects his solitude. It's small, musty, dimly lit. There are stacks of old, discarded, half-broken clocks spread across every surface, and old, faded newspaper clippings and photographs are hung up on the wall. A few working clocks are arranged into displays in the windows and surrounding the main counter, some newer, some older, but as decoration they don't do much to change the overall tone of the space. It feels like a relic from another time.
Despite the disarray of most of the store, it's easy enough to find the main workspace in the back. It's an organized desk space, cleared of everything except a neatly arrayed set of tools. His last project is still laid out, opened up, its guts exposed for the world to see.
"Hmm," Marcus says. "I guess we should find his records, see whether or not he has any sort of debts someone else might want to collect on."
"That sounds like a plan," Josie says. She takes one final look-over the space.
A glint of silver catches her eye. It stands out from the dark wood of the clock opened up on the workspace.
"Wait," she says to Marcus. She pulls out her own set of gloves and gently pries the object free with her fingers. It feels wrong, different from the rest of the clock. It's a small thing, about the same size as an inhaler, made out of metal, and it's been wedged into the gears. The inside of the clock is pretty cramped, but there was some space beneath the gears for it to rattle around a bit before getting stuck.
"That looks like a cannister," Marcus says.
Josie turns it to the side, revealing a crack in the exterior. "I think we've found our murder weapon."
They take the cannister and the rest of the dissected clock in for lab processing. They also bring in the last few weeks of Marino's books so that they can figure out who it belonged to. The books are all written in ugly chicken-scratch handwriting, and they use a shorthand that is probably only familiar to Marino himself. It'll take a bit of time to decode them.
"Good catch," Marcus says on their way back to the station. He's behind the wheel again, watching the road intently.
There's always street traffic in Gotham, but it's always more manageable after. Josie has learned how to be patient with it. "Someone would have caught it eventually."
Marcus shakes his head. "But you were the one who caught it this time around." He hesitates. "Was that because--?"
Josie laughs. "Nope, that time it was just my eyes."
"Good to know it's not just all magic tricks with you," Marcus says, and he's grinning. They're not quite as smooth as they were before, but they're joking with each other again. That means something.
Back at the station, things are subdued. About half the squad is out hunting down their own leads on their own cases -- three new names have gone up on the board in the last day -- and the other half are in the middle of paperwork or grumbling about paperwork.
Josie doesn't waste any time. She gets to work. It takes Josie and Marcus a few hours, but they do manage to decipher enough to get the names of the three open work orders that Marino was working on when he died.
"We will catch the fucker that did this," Marcus says, as they're about to leave for the night.
He says that about every case, even the ones that go cold, and Josie's never quite sure who he's trying to reassure when he says it.
In the quiet of mid-morning, Josie makes a visit to the firing range. Her qualifications are up to date, but this is what she does to keep her head together in the middle of the case. Some people go running. Josie shoots bullets at paper targets.
Doug, the guy at the front desk, always smiles and flirts with her when she comes in, and depending on her mood, she'll flirt back. Today, she's not feeling it, so she gives him a half-hearted smile and doesn't stick around to talk. He doesn't push it, just nods and hands over a pair of earmuffs.
She finds her usual spot, always empty at this time of day. She checks over her gun, makes sure it and its clip are clean and in working order, disengages the safety, and settles into a solid stance before lining up the shot.
She pulls the trigger, listening for the comforting, familiar bang of her weapon, feeling the recoil reverberate up her arms and into her shoulders and back.
Who would rig up a tear gas cannister just to kill Marino, a man with no wife, no kids, and no criminal record of any kind? Most of the mob types in Gotham don't bother with the fancy stuff. They're more than happy to use a gun or if a knife if need be. If one of their resident non-locked-up freaks did it, they'd take credit for it immediately. They like to show off their handiwork. Something is not adding up here.
She finishes off her clip and waits for the paper target to swings toward her so that she can see the results. Her shots were pretty good. There's a decent spread over the center of mass, but more of them went wide than usual. Her head isn't in it today.
It's okay. She'll get through this. One day at a time.
Their three suspects are Maria Mendez, Troy Winterbottom, and John Flips. It takes a little bit of digging, but Josie and Marcus manage to line the names up with addresses, so they can get a read on who owned the clock and why they might have wanted to kill Marino.
Both Mendez and Winterbottom are local to Burnside. John Flips lives clear across town. That makes him enough of a suspect that both Josie and Marcus agree that they should talk to Mendez and Winterbottom first, just to make sure their suspicions are correct.
The lab comes back with confirmation that the cannister did hold fear gas before, and it seems like the crack in the side was accidental, not part of its regular functioning. It sounds like they have an accidental manslaughter on their hands, but Josie isn't ready to jump to any conclusions until they have the whole story. The lab hasn't been able to find any clean prints on the cannister or the clock itself besides Marino's, so they'll have to do this the old fashioned way.
Maria Mendez doesn't answer her door when they come by, but Troy Winterbottom does. He's an elderly white man, and the way he seems confused about Josie's presence sets her teeth on edge. It's nothing too obvious. He'll only answer questions when they come from Marcus, and he barely seems to notice that she's in the conversation. Josie can swallow this bullshit when she needs to. She just hates that it happens so often.
"Yes," Winterbottom says, "I do recall what I brought to Thomas in order to be fixed. It was a clock, a lovely one gifted to me by my late wife." , He leads them into his living room. It's tastefully decorated, if old fashioned. Lots of expensive wood furniture, lacy curtains, a darkened, worn-in rug that has seen brighter, better days. Winterbottom sits down on the loveseat. Marcus and Josie both remain standing.
Marcus pulls out the pictures they've taken of the workspace. "Can you pick it out of any of these pictures?" There are five of them, from varying angles of the space. They've tried not to draw the eye to any particular clock on display.
Winterbottom studies them for a few moments, squinting at the effort. "Ah. There it is." He points out a particular clock in the background, its face cracked, still waiting for repair. Josie's not the best at picking up liars, but he doesn't seem to be particularly tense or uncomfortable.
"Thank you for your time," Josie says.
Winterbottom smiles, a polite, thin thing that does not convey any sort of genuine emotion. "Of course. I always have time to help the police."
It takes up a good chunk of time, tracking down Mendez. She's a delivery driver for a local Chinese takeout place, and they need to wait for her to finish her rounds before they can talk to her.
Josie eats some egg rolls while they wait it out. They're pretty good.
Mendez shows up at the end of the hour. She looks tired and cranky, wearing jeans and sneakers and a faded Gotham Knights baseball cap that's fraying at the brim. She vaguely reminds Josie of Montoya when she's dressing down for training, except even meaner.
"Shit, what are you guys wanting now?" Mendez asks, when Josie and Marcus flash her their badges.
"Marino Watch and Clock Repair. You were having them do work for you." Josie says. Marcus pulls out the photographs they showed Winterbottom already. "Can you pick out the object that you gave them?"
She flips through the photographs before shaking her head. "No, it was just a watch. Broke down a few weeks back. Changing out the battery didn't fix it the first time around so I brought it back."
She looks annoyed enough that Josie believes her. Another dead end, but them's the breaks when you're doing detective work. "Thank you for your time," she says. "We won't take up any more of it."
John Flips lives clear across town in Cherry Hill. It's a nicer neighborhood, cleaner, wealthier. Even the street lights look brighter. Out here, it feels almost wholesome. A pleasant-looking middle-aged white woman answers the door when Marcus rings the bell. She's dressed for bed in fuzzy slippers and a dark blue evening robe.
"Hello," Josie says. "I'm Detective Josie MacDonald, and this is Detective Marcus Driver. We're looking for John Flips. We'd like to ask him a few questions." She flashes her badge, and Marcus does likewise.
The woman gives the two of them odd looks. "He's been away on business for the last month. I'm his wife. I should be able to answer any questions you have."
"Mrs. Flips," Marcus says, "Have you or your husband visited Burnside to get a clock repaired?"
She frowns, her forehead creasing in confusion. "No, I don't recall anything like that. All of our clocks are digital, and we tend to just throw them out when they break down."
"What exactly does your husband do?" Marcus asks.
"He works for Wayne Enterprises as a supply chain manager." With every question she seems to close up even more.
Josie raises her eyebrows. "No idea why his name might show up on a work order for a place called Marino Watch and Clock Repair?"
"No," Mrs. Flips says, shortly. She pulls her robe more tightly around her shoulders. "I have no idea what that is."
Marcus shifts on his feet. He's doing a terrible job of hiding his restlessness. "Do you have the contact information of his reporting manager at Wayne Enterprises? We just have a few more things that need to get cleared up."
"Of course," Mrs. Flips says. "Can I know what all this is about?"
Josie tries to smile at her. "It's possible that it's nothing. Just need to make sure that we're not missing anything."
Mrs. Flips doesn't look all that reassured, but she lets them into the house and hands over the information they're looking for. Josie doesn't linger on it or anything, but she does take a quick look around. Mrs. Flips is right. All the visible clocks in the house are digital.
They get back to the station, and Josie takes on the responsibility of making a few calls.
John Flips' boss at Wayne Enterprises confirms that the man has been in Tennessee for the past month at one of Wayne Enterprises' factories, and that doesn't match the date that the item was turned in for repair.
It could be that Mendez or Winterbottom lied to them about the items they turned in, but this is still a frustrating missing puzzle piece. Who is John Flips really? And what was his goal here? He's almost certainly their murderer here, probably also the one who moved the body.
Josie considers whacking her head against a wall, but she doesn't need Marcus thinking she's any weirder than she already is. It still sucks any way you cut it. They've been chasing ghosts all night, and they're not any further than they were yesterday.
Dead ends. Josie hates those.
She goes up onto the roof for a quick break. A lot of the other people who work in the building come up here for a smoke, and it always smells vaguely like discarded cigarettes, especially in the muggy heat of summer when every smell of the city seems to linger. Even though she's a non-smoker, Josie kind of likes it, the trail of things that people leave behind.
In the winter, her trips up to the roof are more helpful. The air is icy, chilling, helpful for clearing out the noise downstairs at her desk, and at night, the city is always awash in white snow and bright lights. There's an odd gap on the roof where the bat signal used to be. Some of the metal supports are still screwed into the building, sticking up out of the thin remaining layer of snow they don't bother shoveling anymore.
She hears him before she sees him, the crunch of heavy boots on snow and ice. He's feeling generous tonight, she can tell, letting her hear that at all. She turns. In the darkness, he's not much more than two pointed ears and a strong jawline, but she knows who he is.
"John Flips is a pseudonym for the man you're looking for," he says without preamble.
"We figured that out already," Josie says.
"Cobblepot's men like to use it when they don't want people to track things back to one of them specifically," Batman continues. "I'd look there, first."
It's not a whole lot to go on, but Josie knows that Batman has plenty of other things that are keeping him busy. The fact that he knows this much about her case is miraculous in and of itself.
"Thanks," she says. She looks away for a moment to grab her notebook out of her jacket so she can write all of this down.
When she looks up again, he's already gone.
"Where'd you get this again?" Marcus asks, scratching at his chin and narrowing his eyes. "I thought you only could do, you know, objects." They're in the evidence room again so he doesn't bother lowering his voice.
Josie bites at her bottom lip and debates whether or not to tell him. It's pretty obvious that Marcus has no love of capes, but she's told herself that she'll be honest with him from here on out. It'd be too easy to slip into old habits and start hiding things from him again. "Batman. Saw him last night on the roof."
Marcus raises an eyebrow in her direction. "And he didn't even bother to string up this guy for us and save us the trouble? Jeez, what kind of crazed vigilante service is that?" His smile is thin, but it's welcome.
"I guess he didn't get the memo," Josie says. She knows there's cops that love the guy and there's cops that hate his guts. Josie gets why the others feel that way, but she's always going to come down on the 'love' side. It's hard to make a difference in this city sometimes. She can respect Batman for doing it his own way.
Marcus sighs. "Well, it's a lead, at least. We should probably get to work."
It's not enough to get a warrant to drag Cobblepot in, and his lawyers would probably take great joy in shredding anything they would attempt to do about it, so they need to find the specific person who turned in that clock. Cobblepot's always been more willing to throw his employees to the wolves. He considers everyone other than himself replaceable.
At least the MCU's list of known associates of the Penguin is kept up to date by some of the CIs that they're running. Cobblepot's the kind of kingpin who doesn't really give a shit about secrecy. Half the fun for him is seeing how much he can get away with before Batman tries to bust his ass again.
Josie spends a good few hours going through their existing files with Marcus's help, trying to make a list of the best possible suspects.
By the time they're done, they have a list of ten names. These are the most likely culprits based on a few select criteria: who isn't currently in Blackgate, who handles low-level grunt work, who's new enough to be so careless with the body, and who seems to do work most often in East Gotham.
"Another long day," Marcus says, staring down at his notebook. Their desks are strewn with paper reports and file folders. Josie can't wait until all this shit is on the computer. He shakes his head and runs a hand through his hair. "I feel like we're missing something here."
Josie drinks the last sip of her coffee and looks balefully down at her cup. "Like what?" she asks.
"What's the motive here?" Marcus picks up the case file and starts flipping through it. "Why is Cobblepot fear gassing clock repair guys? That doesn't sound like his M.O. at all."
"Maybe it's a frame-up? Trying to throw blame on the Scarecrow instead?"
Marcus says, "But why even this guy? He's a nobody. And we know the Scarecrow is in Arkham anyway."
"Gambling debts? Not paying protection money?"
"Pretty elaborate scheme for some protection money. It couldn't have been easy to rig all of that up. Might as well have strangled him and made it look like a suicide."
Josie sighs. Her case, her decision, and it's as good a lead as any. "I guess we could make a trip down to Arkham, see what the Scarecrow has to say for himself. At least he'll be able to give us information on where Cobblepot got the fear gas."
Josie hates going to Arkham. It would be tolerable if it were just a drab, gray building, with cold and impersonal concrete. But it's an old building, a repurposed mansion that's been painted black, surrounded by wrought-iron gates, and there's something about the architecture that makes the whole building look crooked, as if it's as dark and twisted on the outside as the people are on the inside.
The staff there are used to detectives coming in to talk to their patients, so the whole visitation process runs smoothly, and before Josie knows it, they're being shown into an meeting room where they can wait to speak with Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.ka. the Scarecrow.
As they're waiting for Crane to show his face, a blood curling scream echoes from somewhere deeper in the asylum. Josie flinches. Marcus shakes his head.
They bring Crane in wearing an orange jumpsuit that hangs loose off his skinny frame. Josie hasn't seen him in person before, but she's seen more than enough of him plastered all over the TV. He looks smaller than she thought he would, paler, sadder. His eyes narrow when he sees Marcus and Josie sitting there, and she can tell he's sizing them up. "Detectives," he says, sounding exactly like the professor he used to be. "What can I do for you today?"
"Information," Marcus says, settling his elbows on the table. "We want to know how the Penguin might have managed to get his hands on some of your fear gas. Have you been working with him?"
That earns them a scoff. "Don't insult me, Detective," Crane says. "We haven't been friends for quite some time."
Josie leans forward. "But you were friends once."
Crane looks bored, but he indulges their curiosity. "That backfired on me, I'm afraid. As retaliation, I did attempt to kill him once. I gifted him with a beautiful antique clock. The gas was supposed to have triggered when the clock struck twelve, but nothing came of it."
Josie can feel her blood run cold as he says it. She glances at Marcus, who glances back at her. They don't have to say anything to one another. They both know what this is.
"That's all we'll need," Josie says. "Thank you." Even if he is a criminal guilty of more than a few murders, she feels like he deserves her respect.
"Oh, I am always happy to help the police. It's so dull in here. All that wailing and raving," Crane says. "Do stop by more often."
It's late enough that the Arkham Asylum parking lot is mostly empty, unnervingly silent. The dark shadow of the building hovers behind them. The lights in its windows have been dimmed.
"It really was an accident then," Marcus says. "The clock stops working; they bring it in for repair; the watchmaker turns up dead; they freak out and hide the body."
"Shit," Josie says. "We should at least be able to pick up whoever was pretending to be 'John Flips', get the whole story out of him." This is the best part, when they have threads still left to tug on as they unravel the chain of events. But the big picture is clear enough. They know enough to make the case to the D.A.
Marcus nods. "We've got a list of names. We can probably narrow it down further to the ones who would be sent out to handle routine repair work."
Josie unlocks the car and settles into the driver's seat. "Let's go round up some perps, then," she says as Marcus slides in next to her, riding shotgun.
Marcus laughs at that, and in the tiny, enclosed world of the car, it's infectious. Josie finds herself laughing, too.
Josie almost doesn't believe it, because she never has luck this good, but the first lackey they pick up is one Davis Azzarello, who confesses to everything as soon as they put him in the box. He's a brawny white guy, with dark hair and an Italian complexion, more clean-cut than Josie would have expected, and he's twitchy and nervous under the force of Marcus's glare.
"I didn't do it!" Azzarello says, blinking heavily in the cold fluorescent lights. "The clock just up and stopped, and we figured it'd be a nice gesture to the boss, you know, for Christmas. We were just going to get it fixed up as good as new. And then I found the guy slumped over, and I just freaked out and dumped the body. It was an accident! I didn't mean nothing. You gotta believe me."
He's a new one on the Penguin's crew, barely older than eighteen, and not quite hardened yet by his time on the streets. Some of the thugs who come by have juvenile records as long as their arms, but he's not one of them. He probably grew up in one of the heavily Italian neighborhoods watching The Godfather and Goodfellas and thought it would be a cool to be a gangster when he became an adult. Josie almost pities him. "Well," she says to Marcus. "I guess that's it."
"Guess so," Marcus says.
"I have no idea what I'm doing here," Marcus grumbles. He squints in the sunlight. At midday, the sun reflects off the snow and ice still piled up by the streets, and it can be blinding. When you work the night shift, it's easy to forget what the sunlight is like.
Josie rolls her eyes. "Patience," she says. "I just wanted to show you something."
They're standing outside a thrift store, Josie's favorite, about two blocks away from the station. It can be overwhelming inside one for her, all those things that been places and have changed hands and have so many stories to tell. But that's what she likes about it, too. Most stores feel bland to her, rows and rows of things that have come from the same factories, gone through the same warehouses. Every item in a thrift store has a different story.
For this particular item, she thinks Marcus might know that story better than she does.
She leads him inside. It's dimmer than it is outside, though sunlight still pours in through the windows. She knows exactly where to go because she found this thing last week, but she can hear it calling to her, too. They walk past the dining and kitchenware circle the furniture section, through the many racks of clothes.
She knows which hanger it's on without having to shove her way through the racks of clothes. She grabs hold of it, separating it out from the other t-shirts.
Marcus has been rolling his eyes this whole time, but his mouth drops open when she holds it up. On its face, it's innocuous. Just another boring GCPD t-shirt with the four block letters stamped out in the front. But at one point, it was tie-dyed into a rainbow of different colors.
"Jeez," Marcus says. "That belonged to Charlie. I remember when his niece tie-dyed it for him as a birthday gift. He wore it to work one day, and the Captain chewed him out real good. His wife must have given it away when she was clearing out his things."
"Yeah," Josie says. "I found it last week. I didn't know the guy, but I could tell it was his."
Marcus takes it out of her hands, holding it up to the light, and he lets out a low whistle. He's somewhere else right now. "You would have liked him," Marcus says. "He was the nice one out of the two of us."
"Yeah," Josie's heard all the stories. "So people tell me." She finds herself smiling, really smiling. "I figured you might want to know about it."
He shakes his head, clearing out whatever memory he was lost in. "Let's get out of here, Mac," he says. He takes the t-shirt with them.
Work starts off with a lot of paperwork. They hand the case and evidence over to the DA's office, including Davis Azzarello, who also decides to take his time in custody as a chance to confess to every minor misdemeanor that he's ever committed. Josie would find it almost kind of sweet if it weren't for the fact that he's a total scumbag.
Marcus figures they might as well write it all down, get it all filed and on record. The Penguin's men tend to have long rap sheets anyway, and the longer they are, the easier it is to get them sent down later. They're going to try to get the guy on tampering with evidence, though it's a bit of a stretch, and Crane is going to get another attempted murder added to his long list of crimes.
Sarge gives Josie a squeeze of her shoulder and a thumbs up for completing the case, but Josie can't quite take comfort in it yet. The case may be black on the board, but there's still the hard part left to do.
Thomas Marino's brother, Daniel, arrives in the evening. He hasn't been able to get the time off to visit until the weekend, and he's flying in from Star City, so this is the first time Josie's going to be meeting him in person. Marcus offered to help out with this part, but Josie can handle it herself, and she figures that that it'll probably be easier on Daniel this way.
He shows up at the station looking harried, red-eyed and messy-haired. His glasses keep trying to slide down his nose. He looks a little like Thomas. The two of them have the same mousy brown hair, and there's something similar about their ears.
"Hi, Mr. Marino," Josie says, as kindly as possible, leading him towards her desk. "I'm Detective MacDonald, one of the detectives in charge of your brother's case."
"Oh, yes, thank you," Marino says. He slumps in the nearest free chair like he isn't sure how to keep himself upright anymore. "Has there been any news?"
Josie slides a pre-prepared cup of coffee across the table. Just the look at his face says that he probably needs it. "We've got the timeline of events worked out and the people responsible in custody. Unfortunately, your brother got caught in the crossfire between the Scarecrow and the Penguin. A clock he was working on repairing was also housing a cannister of the Scarecrow's fear gas."
"Ah," he says, looking down at the floor, ignoring the coffee. He takes his glasses off and rubs at his eyes. "The store belonged to our family, you know. Tom was always the one who was excited by the prospect of following in our father's footsteps. I always told Tom that he could move out if he ever wanted to. People all over the place need to get their clocks fixed. But he was insistent on staying. Said he loved it here, no matter how many new super powered psychopaths would show up out of nowhere."
Josie lets him talk. She's a detective, not a counselor, so she's never been great at knowing what to say here, at knowing how to deal with messy parts that are leftover once a case is solved. "Gotham's a hard city to love," she says eventually. "We all learn that the hard way."
The city wins. The city always fucking wins. Marcus doesn't quite understand that. He's lived in Gotham his whole life, and he still gets angry when it steals things away from him. Josie knows he hasn't hit his breaking point yet, but one day, he will. One day, he's going to leave. On that day, Josie will give him a hug and send him on his way, but for her, this is it. This is where her home is, no matter how many holes it carves into her.
Marino lets out a shaky sigh. "Yeah, I guess we do."
Josie takes out the watch and the clock, still in their evidence bags. They didn't end up being relevant to the case, but they are probably still relevant to Marino. "We found these among his possessions."
She watches the shift in Marino's expression. His eyes widen in recognition; his mouth drops open in surprise. "Oh," he says. "I haven't seen these in years."
"They weren't important to the case, so I thought that perhaps you'd like them back."
Marino says, "Yes. As you can probably tell, we've been a family of clockmakers for quite a few generations. They were made by our great-great-grandfather, back in the old country. Tom was the one who inherited them from our father when he passed. He loved the damn things like they were his children." Josie nods at that. That's what she must have felt, the many hands that have touched and loved and owned them, handed down from one generation to the next. It's kind of beautiful, in its own way.
She tries to give him an encouraging smile. "And now they're yours."
He tries to echo it. "Yes, I suppose they are."
"Family heirloom, huh? That was what screwed up your magic object-senses?" Marcus asks. They're standing in the kitchen together, enjoying a mid-shift coffee break. It's nice to get the chance to stretch out their legs after so much sitting. There's no one else within earshot, but Marcus still pitches his voice low so that only the two of them can hear him.
Josie shrugs. "It's not like that," she says. "Just because I can pick up that kind of stuff doesn't mean that I'll always have all the answers."
Marcus raises his eyebrows. "That explains Corrigan, then." He tries to hide his smirk behind his coffee mug, but Josie can see right through that.
"Very funny," Josie says. "With jokes like that, you should look into quitting your day job."
The settle into an easy silence, both of them focused on finding the right amount of sugar and milk to cover up the toxic sludge that Crowe likes to pretend is coffee.
"Thanks for finding that t-shirt," Marcus says. He glances at her out of the corner of his eye.
Josie shrugs. "It wasn't a big deal. I was going to tell you sooner, but I didn't know how to explain how I knew what it was."
Marcus nods, frowning a little. "I won't pretend like I was okay with all of it when you told me last week," he says. "But I get it. I'm not the most tolerant person around here about all the weird shit the world wants to throw at us. But I'm okay with it now."
"Yeah?" Josie asks. She doesn't want to say too much too soon and make things weird.
"Yeah," he says. "As long as you use your freaky powers to close cases and not to start them, then we're still on the same side, and I'm okay with it."
"I can deal with that," Josie says. She feels lighter now, a weight lifted off her shoulders. "Got any plans for the weekend?"
Marcus shrugs, a grin tiling up on corner of his mouth. "That diner we went to last week was pretty damn good. Want to do some breakfast tomorrow morning?"
Josie laughs. "Sure thing. Sounds like a plan."