Rating: M, for Murder
Pairing: Look, do you want the various hook-ups or the true-love destiny, because either way I'm not telling you.
Sent to San Francisco to eradicate a leak, Jill, Emily and Claire wind up on the trail of a serial killer that leads them into the dark depths of the Connecticut Mafia.
Emily staggered down the stairs right as the coffee machine finished the first pot. Jill poured her a cup and handed it over, black with about two tablespoons of sugar. She wouldn’t get a word out of her otherwise. Emily was a vampire who ran on coffee.
“Sooo, Sara didn’t stay the night?” Jill knew that already. The car was gone by the time her taxi pulled up, and she had checked on Emily, who was already sleeping, her hair spread out over the pillow, lipstick worn off her face.
Emily blushed. Jill pretended to grin and hoped to god that Emily would remain true to form and change the subject.
“Isn’t Claire here? She’s usually the first one up.” This wasn’t their first away mission together, but usually it was somewhere trashy like Atlantic City. And it was true, Claire was usually waiting down in the kitchen with a pile of papers and a frown for being so lazy. Sometimes Jill doubted that she actually slept.
“I didn’t hear her come in last night.” This time it was easy to grin. “I think she’ll be late.”
But right then Claire strode in the front door, looking as orderly and well put-together as always. Except, Jill noticed, there was lipstick on her collar (which was so cliché!) and she thought she saw the hint of a hickey on her neck.
Claire scowled at her, but took the proffered coffee. Emily started making toast and they settled around the table.
“So what’s the plan for today?” Jill wasn’t going to ask Claire for details just yet. It was clear that it had gone well, if the hesitant way she took her seat was any indication, and it would be more fun to watch her stew.
Claire frowned. “My notes are upstairs, but I was planning on checking out his precinct.”
“Sara ran his phone records,” said Emily from the refrigerator. “She has a list of everyone he’s called in the past six months. I could play insurance salesman.”
“I was thinking I could go visit Heather,” said Jill.
Claire stared at her blankly. “Heather?”
“His wife. I think we’ve had this conversation before. Do you think she’s been informed of his death yet?”
Claire frowned again. It looked like she hadn’t prepared her checklist this time. The woman-loving had obviously interfered with her control of the situation. That rocked.
“I suppose if anyone knew about what he was doing, it could have been his wife.”
“She would at least have had suspicions,” added Emily.
“And know who he was close to.”
“Fine!” Claire sounded irritated. “Go see Heather. But be careful. I don’t know if his body’s been found and identified yet.” She scowled and held her head. “I didn’t get a chance to prepare.” She glared and then mumbled something that Jill translated into; “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, either.”
Jill did an internal end-zone dance. “Okay, the plan’s set then. You’re on precinct duty. Em’s got phones, and I’m chatting up the widow. Now we can dish. Spill, honey, I can see the hickey on your neck.”
Claire glared at her, her hand involuntarily going to her neck. “If I say you were right and I should have tried girls years ago, can we never mention this again?”
“Oh no. I want details!”
* * *
The dead man’s house was a charming bungalow with a white picket fence and a dog in the yard way up in the Berkeley hills. The woman who answered the door was pale and drawn. She had gotten the phone call.
“My condolences,” Jill said, unable to think of another opener. Heather just looked at her blankly. “I’m from New York.”
“Oh… Come in.”
Jill sat down at the kitchen table as Heather automatically went through the motions of making tea.
“Thank you for coming out so quickly.”
“This must have been a shock.”
“Yes…” Heather stared vaguely out the window. “And no… yes. I mean, it’s always a shock, but I was aware that his job was dangerous. I just never expected it to be like this, a random mugging. I thought he could handle that sort of thing. He was so strong. He always seemed so strong.”
“I understand. Actually, we are investigating the idea that the stabbing may have been mob related, rather than a financially motivated mugging.”
Heather seemed to go limp and Jill jumped up, helping her into a chair. “But how? I thought it had been closed. The detective who called… He seemed so sure.”
“I would appreciate it if you did not mention our suspicion to any of Detective Hogan’s colleagues on the force. We are afraid that there may be an internal connection.”
“Oh no.” Heather was very pale, but she seemed firmer now. “Tom was visiting New York on a special investigation. Do you think someone could have told and had him taken out?”
“It’s very possible. Can you give me the names of the people he worked closely with?”
“I- as many as I can remember…”
“Thank you so much, Heather.”
After a second cup of tea, Jill had a list of names and a description of Heather’s life with Tom. Her work as a teacher took up much of her time, but she was always regular, and Tom’s odd hours were hard on the family.
“Does he keep any files in the house? A computer?” Finally Heather looked worried.
“Do you have ID?”
Jill liked that, inviting her into the house, giving her tea, telling her every intimate detail of her life, but asking for ID (not even a warrant, one of which she had spent nearly fifteen minutes preparing that morning) before she showed her the computer, which, if connected to the internet, Jill could probably access from the moon.
Jill gave her best secretive smile and then pulled out one of her fake ids. She hesitated between IAB and FBI for a moment, but went for the Feds instead. Heather looked surprised at knowing it was a federal investigation. That was probably good.
“And you- I didn’t even ask your name.”
“Heather Hogan.” Jill gave her best cop-smile and took Heather’s hand. If she really was a fed, going for the victim’s wife would be totally not okay. She tried her best not to imply anything with her smile except empathy.
On the way to Tom’s office they passed the nursery where a four-year-old girl was napping. Heather paused outside the door and Jill looked in, hiding a grimace. Children were really not her thing.
“I haven’t told her yet, little Lindsay…”
Something was bothering Jill. She fished the photo out of her pocket.
“Do you know this woman? The photo was on his desk.”
“Oh! How strange.” Heather looked at her. “Tom always kept that photo close to him, but there’s no reason to look into it. That’s Lindsay Boxer, Tom’s first love.”
“Your child’s namesake?” That was one well-adjusted wife to name her child after her husband’s ex.
“Yes. She was a cop too. They were in the academy together. She was murdered.”
“I see.” Somehow that news hit Jill far harder than she had expected. She didn’t even know the woman.
“A serial killer. Tom’s first big case. It catapulted him to detective. I don’t think he ever got over the injustice of it.”
“I can see why.” Jill sighed and followed Heather into the office. Lindsay Boxer… “Was she Texan?”
Heather blinked. “Yes. How did you know?”
Jill frowned, staring at the photo before shoving it back into her coat. “I have no idea.”
* * *
Emily stood outside of Cabot headquarters in San Francisco and stared upwards in shock. The building was massive, shooting upwards in a vast tower of glass and chrome. She pushed through the revolving door, passed security and into one of the twelve elevators. Sara was waiting for her, when the doors opened on the thirtieth floor. She gave her an awkward smile, but Emily was too distracted by the building. Even on the inside the glass and chrome continued. Apparently floors thirty and up were all Cabot offices, and they had their own dedicated elevators, capsules of glass with gold trim moving up and down to reach irregular balconies. The vast room was open to the huge arched roof, also glass, that showed a panoramic view of the sky.
“You’ve come on a good day. We’re usually shrouded by fog.”
Finally Emily looked at Sara, and blushed, more for ignoring her than anything else.
“It’s incredible. New York offices are crap in comparison.”
They stepped into a glass elevator and started up to a mid level balcony. “We have a direct tie to the casinos up in Vegas. This is all casino design: bullet proof glass.” She rapped on the side of the elevator. “The fixation with gold and chrome.”
“You seem pretty well funded.”
“We should be. We’re technically the number 2 Cabot headquarters in the States. There’s been some information that the Gilmore main offices moved to Oakland, so the top has been giving us even more support.” They stepped out of the elevator and started along the glass railing towards a glass door that led into a well-appointed office. Sara glanced over the railing and paused. Emily stopped to see what she was looking at. “Not that we were ever strapped for cash, thanks to her.”
Sara gestured towards a blonde woman, rising through the air in an elevator across the divide. She was standing in front of a tall black man and seemed to be giving him a dressing down.
“Catherine Willows, the head of our branch, and daughter and heir to Sam Braun, the casino magnate.”
Sara’s voice was sharper than usual and Emily looked at her, surprised. Was their bad blood between them? But Sara was moving again and she trailed her into the office.
“So I printed out the records for Hogan’s cell phone and his house phone. We have names, addresses, dates and times. We also have lackeys if you need any help with this.”
Emily sat, paging through the notes. “No, I can handle it.”
“The phone in here has scatter on it. Can’t be traced.”
Sara was still hanging around. “Do you want coffee?”
Emily looked up and gave her a smile. “That sounds great.”
“Okay, I’ll just-.”
“So you’re New York.”
It was probably impossible for anyone to sneak around in this building of chrome and glass, but Catherine Willows had managed to arrive without warning. Up close she was a petite woman with a sharp glare and high, strong cheekbones.
“Um, Emily,” she stood, like her mother had taught her. “Emily Prentiss.”
Catherine didn’t smile or offer to shake hands, she just gave her a long appraising look, succeeding in making Emily feel more awkward and gangly than she had since she left her mother’s house. Then Catherine glanced at Sara with narrowed eyes.
“I know you’ve gotten used to Sara waiting on you hand and foot, but I need her, so you’ll have to do without.”
“That’s… fine.” Emily was pretty sure Catherine was talking to her, but she wasn’t looking at her.
“I promised to get her coffee. It would be rude to not keep my promise.”
There was a challenge in Sara’s voice that Emily hadn’t heard the night before. She glanced between the two women, unsure of what would happen next. Their eyes were locked and the air seemed to retreat in fear as the silent battle was waged.
Catherine made a tactical retreat with a parting blow.
“Report to lab two immediately after you’ve finished… servicing our guest.”
Emily restrained her snort. Catherine stalked away, and Sara seethed with anger, glaring at Catherine’s figure until the elevator had disappeared beneath the floor.
“Oh my god,” Emily squeaked, and fell back into her chair. “Her?”
Sara looked at her, her eyes wide. If Emily was Jill she would have said something like, ‘How can you stand the tension?’ or ‘Why haven’t you just shoved her up against one of these bullet proof walls yet?’ But she was Emily.
“I bet it’s hard to find a private place in a building made of glass.”
Sara just looked confused and a little worried. “I’ll get your coffee.” She left.
Emily rested her head on the desk and gave into the laughter.
* * *
Claire parked the third black sedan a few blocks away from the precinct and walked in. It was pretty empty. She approached the receptionist.
“I’m looking for Detective Tom Hogan.”
The receptionist was a frazzle-haired blonde, with too heavily made up eyes and a pout that probably got her the job. She said something, and Claire realized she had been too busy staring at her lips to listen. That was a bad sign. Denial had been a good place, and she missed it.
“What did you say?”
“He’s not here. But I could put you through to his partner, Detective Jacobi?”
Claire nodded. “Who’s his supervisor?”
“It’s Captain Logan.”
“Is he in?”
The receptionist flipped through an appointment book. “No, he had a meeting with the board of Chilton Investments at ten and he hasn’t come back yet.”
Claire froze. She knew that name.
“Oh! There’s Jacobi! He’s leaving, I could-”
Claire covered the girl’s mouth with her hand to make her shut up. A large, powerfully built black man was leaving the building.
“I’ll go after him,” she said, still covering the girl’s mouth. “Thank you for you help.”
She tailed Jacobi down the sidewalk. He was bellowing into his cell phone. “Well! What am I supposed to do about the brat! If she doesn’t want it, she doesn’t want it. Either you wait it out, maybe she’ll grow into the idea, or you find somebody else to take over in her place!”
Claire frowned. The conversation meant nothing to her. Jacobi stormed down the sidewalk, clearly more and more irritated by whatever the other person was saying.
“I’m sorry if I can’t say it with any more of that deference crap, but my partner’s just been killed, and I don’t have a lot of patience for your family issues anymore!” He was silent for a moment. “Yeah, I’m coming in. What? No, I thought it was just an accident. The poor fool. What do you mean, Logan?”
Claire was just about to dart across an open alleyway. Jacobi was heading into a twisty area of the city and she needed to get closer or she would lose him. There was a pile of crates on the other side of the road by a fish market that would serve as cover. She stepped out from behind the flowerbox and crashed into someone coming out of the alley.
To her humiliation, she lost her balance and fell in the gutter.
“Oh shit! I’m so sorry.”
And then she was even more humiliated, because it was Lori, the bartender, from the night before.
“You. What are you doing here?” Claire heard her voice come out even nastier than usual as she tried to repress the upside down feeling in her stomach.
Lori looked awkward, shrugged, and tucked her thumbs in the pockets of her jeans. “My mom lives around here.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Claire sighed took Lori’s hand to get to her feet. She brushed herself off then looked around for Jacobi. He was gone. Shit.
“And what’s a pretty girl like you doing, skulking behind flower boxes.”
Claire gave her a sharp look, but Lori seemed more pleased by the words she had picked than the implications of her question.
“Well, if it’s nothing, why don’t you join me for lunch.”
“Are you sure? The fish market right there makes a battered cod that would lure an Englishman.”
Claire frowned, scanning the street. She had lost Jacobi, but if he came back this way she could see him from the window. But why was she even considering it? She would just get the woman to leave, and scout out the area to see if she could catch him again.
“But you can even pick out your own crab.”
Unexpectedly Lori had tucked her arm through Claire’s and dragged her across the alley to the fish market, which had a tank in front of it, full of Dungeness crabs. Lori leaned close enough to press her nose to the glass, her firm grip forcing Claire to lean in too.
“Oooh, that one looks like an Albert. Do you think he looks like an Albert?”
Claire eyed the crab. It looked like all the other crabs, if a little nervous of being the focus of the crazy bartender’s attention. But he couldn’t be nervous. She was personifying a crab. The crazy was rubbing off.
“I think he’s a Prince Albert, actually. The royal bearing, the proud claws.” Claire was looking at Lori, feeling somewhere between unnerved and irritated. Lori met her eyes and flashed a grin, then caught the back of her head and pushed her nose against the glass. The grin had some strange effect on her muscles, and Claire couldn’t resist. “That’s his wife, Lady Jane. Did you know Lady Jane Grey was only queen for nine days? And we still drink tea named after her. That’s immortality.”
Claire looked at the crabs. She was sure she was projecting her own feelings on them, but she couldn’t help think that they looked utterly terrified. “Are you going to eat them?”
“Of course! The life of a royal is a bloody life to live!”
Claire let herself be dragged into the market, having entirely forgotten why she was supposed to be resisting lunch at all.
* * *