Michael heads through the front door and down the porch steps. He waits in the driveway for his partner, Vick, to finish up. He should help but he wants to climb in his car and not look back, yet also turn around and march back to Valerian. What’s wrong with him? Walking away from someone has never been physically taxing. He feels agitated and antsy.
He’s never been so forward with someone he’s just met, either, and certainly not while still in uniform. But he couldn’t help it. Somehow, he knew Valerian was hurt, lonely, and he wanted to help, wanted to fix it. He still does, he just doesn’t know how, so he did what he could to get close. He was ready and willing to do anything, and that startles him. For a moment, he felt like he lost time or wasn’t consciously aware of things happening around him, makes him think they did something.
Well, at least the guy’s nice to look at; he could be obsessed with something a lot worse. ‘Course Valerian’s a little pale, sickly looking, to be frank. The guy looks like he just walked out of a morgue, to be honest. Still, there’s something appealing about him. Michael noticed when Valerian first walked in. The guy’s gaze is also seriously nerve-wracking; at times he felt like a piece of meat.
A forensics van pulls up sporting the same symbol as Valerian’s badge. A couple of the team glance at him as they unload equipment. What’s keeping Vick? He’s probably trying to flirt with that woman in the dress.
There’s something going on with this case, and those “detectives” know something, are probably hiding something. He’s gonna figure out what. Gives him an excuse to get close to Valerian, maybe find out what was done to him. If he can get close; the guy had claws, but some kind of cover-up seems to be going on, and Valerian looks like a good way to get in. Hopefully, they’re not involved with the murder and are really investigating it, like how it looked. He’ll ask Captain Mendez when they get back to the station. What the hell is going on that made the captain just hand their case over?
“What’s got you frowning so hard?”
Michael looks to his partner, Victor Morrison, a short, middle-aged man turning soft around the middle. He didn’t even hear Vick's approach, but it’s about time. It takes him a second to come up with a good excuse, his mind feels jumbled. The truth would just sound insane. “The… case—having it yanked out from under us.” That sounds plausible. “You’re not okay with it, right?”
“Hell no.” He jabs a thumb back towards the house. “You notice the zombie they got working?”
Michael glances around at their vehicles still present: two patrol cars and his own. Forensics has already left, probably without any evidence, along with detectives Henders and Armany. “I doubt he’s a zombie, probably has the flu or something. It’s getting close to flu season. Besides, figured you’d be more interested in that woman.”
Vick jabs a finger at him. “Calypso. And she’s more than just a woman.”
Michael huffs out a laugh, heading for their car. “All right, no need to get defensive. I knew that’s what was taking you so long. Did she turn you down?” He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jacket. Now that the sun has set, it’s chillier.
Vick struggles to keep up with his longer strides. “This time.” He drags a hand over his thinning hair, trying to smooth it back. “But she won’t be able to resist my charms for long.”
Michael shakes his head. “No offense, Vick, but she’s kinda out of your league.”
“Just you wait.”
Michael opens the driver’s door of their car. “Come on, let’s head back to the station, doubt there’s anything left for us.” Michael climbs in with Vick climbing in beside him.
Vick puts on his seatbelt. “What gives, anyway?”
Michael shrugs, clicking in his own seatbelt and starts the car. He opens his window a small margin. It’s too cold to roll it down all the way, but that dollar store cologne his partner wears reeks, and Michael needs fresh air. Doesn’t matter how vehemently Vick argues women love it. If that was true, he wouldn’t be single. Well, it’s one of the reasons.
The drive back to the station is mostly spent listening to Vick rant about a bunch of kids stepping all over their case and the shit he was going to give their captain, which is a load of bull. Vick is all talk. When Michael parks the car behind the building, he can’t get out fast enough. He enjoys Vick’s company well enough, usually while drinking; sober, the man can get on anyone’s nerves.
Michael makes a beeline for the captain’s office while Vick heads for a beat cop, Jules. She’s young, blonde, and sweet, and still new to the precinct. He’s told her countless times there won’t be any backlash if she just told Vick to shove it. One would think after two months of constant ‘no’s he would take the hint that she’s not interested. It’s probably because she’s too polite when turning him down. Vick can be a little hard-headed and aggressive. Maybe Jules should sic her girlfriend on him, bet he’ll get the hint then. For being so tiny and looking so sweet, Lily is savage.
He knocks on the captain’s door, hearing a loud ‘enter’ and steps through, closing the door behind him. The captain is an older man with dark hair speckled gray and a neatly trimmed mustache. He’s soft around the middle but stands at 6’3” with large arms giving Michael the impression he must have been a force to reckon with in his youth.
“Mike, what can I do for ya?” Captain Mendez seems stressed, on edge. He keeps dragging his hand down his mouth, smoothing out his mustache, an action Michael recognizes as a nervous tic. He’s standing like he was pacing but sits down, offering the other chair.
Michael accepts the offer and sits across from Mendez. “What happened?”
Captain Mendez takes a deep breath, letting it out in a long, drawn-out sigh, abandoning the file he was pretending to read and meets Michael’s gaze. “I assume you’re talking about being pulled from the case.”
At Michael’s nod, Mendez’s expression tightens, looking pinched. “Forget it, it ain’t our problem anymore.”
What the hell happened that could cow Captain Mendez? “Rick, seriously, talk to me.”
The captain huffs out a short breath. “Honestly, I don’t know what happened. I got a call from a precinct talking about special forces and some kinda trained team wanting to take over the case.”
“And?” Michael prompts, leaning forward in his seat.
“And I agreed. Gave them everything.”
“Why?” Michael watches the captain rearranging items on his desk, fidgeting almost. He looks stunned, confused.
“I don’t know, the whole conversation is a blur. I don’t even remember who I was talking to. It was like I was in a daze.”
“A daze? You know, those detectives were pretty weird.”
Mendez looks at him from under bushy eyebrows.
Michael drums his fingers against his thigh. “They were up to something—or knew something. Could they have somehow hypnotized you over the phone?” That could be a plausible explanation. What else could make him act so odd at the scene? He’s never been hypnotized, so he doesn’t know the routine or of any lingering symptoms, if there are any. But why not send him away?
A finger is thrust into his face. “It’s over, Mike, don’t even think about stepping into this!”
The vehemence in the captain’s voice has Michael leaning back. Mendez drops his hand, looking as shocked as Michael feels.
Mendez drags a hand through his hair. “I dunno what the hell’s wrong with me. I haven’t felt right since that phone call.”
Michael knows that feeling all too well. He stands to lean across the desk and clasp Rick’s shoulder. “Why don’t you head home. Sullivan can take over for a while.”
Mendez nods, standing. His face looks sallow and drawn.
Michael heads back to the detectives’ station, Mendez close behind. The captain yells for Sullivan, an older detective responding, and they disappear into his office. Well, now what? The case is out of their hands, or at least it is on record. Doesn’t mean he’s gonna sit this one out.
Someone claps him on the back, and he looks over, Victor standing next to him. “I know that look. You’re gonna investigate this, aren’t you?”
“You know it.”
Vick rests a hand on his gun holster. “I’d ask if you need a hand, but—”
Michael huffs out a laugh. “I got it. I don’t want us both getting suspended.”
Vick jabs a thumb at the captain’s door. “You notice he’s acting kinda weird?”
More than just weird, and not just the captain, something’s up, and he’s positive it involves those other detectives. Michael scratches his chin. “Yeah, and I think it has to do with the case.”
“Huh, well don’t let me know what you find.” Vick offers another pat to his back.
He chuckles, more exasperated than amused. “I won’t keep you posted.” With nothing else to do and the clock pushing eight, it might be time to call it a day. He’s been here since six anyway. “I’m gonna call it a night.”
Vick nods. “Was planning to myself. Henders and Armany are on night shift, anyway.”
Michael grabs the file for the Willoby murders from atop his desk. “See ya tomorrow, Vick.”
Vick offers a wave.
Michael heads for his car, and home.