Wednesdays were always a circus in CID. They always had just the right mix of case momentum without the steam loss of Thursdays and before the desperate scramble of Fridays.
Wednesdays and Fridays were also Chase’s consistent overtime days and this Wednesday wasn’t shaping up to be any different. It was already well past lunch by the time he managed to tear himself from his desk.
He had been nearly out the door when Cagg called after him and pointed to Spenser meaningfully.
Chase sighed and tucked his lip, letting out a sharp whistle in Spenser’s direction. “Here, boy!” The dark haired junior detective looked up in questioning disapproval. “Daddy says I have to take you for a walk.”
“I have a name,” Spenser scowled, getting his things together.
“Sorry, Davey.” Chase only beamed in response to the glare.
“Are you this much of a dick to everyone?” Spenser asked as they crossed the parking lot.
“So this is the new guy treatment?”
Chase shrugged. “Cagg clearly keeps putting you with me to see if I will force you out, I’m just obliging.”
“I’ve put in my time in patrol, just like everyone else,” Spenser protested, sliding into the passenger seat of the grey fiat.
“Cagg seems to disagree.”
Spenser glared at the passing scenery for a moment. “So you’re the attack dog he uses when he wants people out?”
Chase laughed suddenly. “No. If he wanted you out, he’d put you with Hernandez. I’m the guy he uses when he wants people to learn. And he thinks I need guys like you to make me a ‘team-player’.”
“Yea?” Spenser snorted. “What am I learning by you treating me like a dog?”
“You’re learning that your ego distracts you. You haven’t even asked where we’re going.”
Spenser blinked and shifted in his seat. “Where are we going?”
“Pusher shakedown bingo!” Chase exclaimed excitedly. “You been keeping up on the 15 kilos case?”
Spenser nodded. “The two suspects transporting the drugs independently named Lorenzo Mora as the dealer they were working with. I know Detective Caceda thinks there’s more to it.”
“So do I,” Chase added. “We’re going to see if we can get some local info on Mora. Patrol hasn’t been able to flush him out. If it’s a legit lead, he may have bolted when the shipment didn’t turn up. If it’s not, we’re likely to get a bunch of blank stares. It would be pretty damn suspicious if someone who’s supposed to have 15 kilos coming to him is a ghost on the street.”
“Want to know what I think?” Spenser began.
“No,” Chase cut in curtly. There was a moment of stunned silence. “You’ve been on CID for a month and five minutes ago you didn’t even know what case you were on. So, no, I do not want to know what you think.”
The rest of the ride was quietly tense.
“Predictable little bastard,” Chase muttered as he slowed to park on the curb in a questionable neighborhood. He tipped his head toward the other side of the street. “See the guy in the white shirt?”
“The black guy?” Spenser asked.
Chase looked back at him with slight annoyance. “Do you see any white people over there, detective?”
“Uh . . .” He scanned the area in front of the small strip mall. “. . . no.”
“Then his race isn’t particularly helpful or relevant is it?” Spenser only shook his head. “So, do you see the guy in the white shirt??”
“Yes,” Spenser answered.
“He goes by Richie Smooth. Which is only slightly improved by knowing his real name is Eugene Turnbuckle.”
“That’s really unfortunate,” Spenser mused.
“It’s a damn shame,” Chase agreed.
“Eugene there sells weed. Stays out of everyone else’s game unless he sees an opportunity. If someone was making noise about that much powder hitting the street, Eugene will know about it. We’re going to have a friendly chat with this upstanding citizen of Mesquite.”
Spenser looked around uncomfortably when Chase made no move to exit the vehicle. “. . . are we going to talk to him?”
“You’re an impatient little jackoff, aren’t you?” Chase tipped his head toward ‘Richie Smooth’. “We wait until we know he’s holding. He’s not going to give us shit if we have nothing to lean on him over. He has a street rep to maintain, can’t be seen rolling over for the cops every time we show up.”
They sat in silence, watching Eugene until Spenser decided it was awkward conversation time.
“Have you and Caceda ever . . . ?” He let the pause speak for itself.
Chase slowly slid his eyes toward him in what he hoped was clearly baffled annoyance. “Is this somehow relevant?”
The younger detective decided that was an affirmative, his brows furrowing. “Has everyone fucked her?”
Chase’s lips curled back from his teeth in a snarl. “Detective Caceda’s personal life is none of my goddamn business, and it’s sure as hell none of yours.”
“Hand off,” Spenser announced, thrusting his chin toward the scene across the street.
They were across the street and half way through the parking lot by the time Eugene’s “associate” noticed them and quickly moved on.
Eugene turned on heel, took one glance at Chase and dropped his shoulders with a grimace. “Man, come on.”
Chase grinned at him. “Morning, Eugene.”
Eugene clicked his tongue and averted his eyes, dreadlocks draping the side of his face. “You all up in here usin’ a nigga’s slave name and shit.”
Chase frowned. “Your mother would weep.”
Eugene shifted his weight. “Damn, son, now you bringin’ my moms into it. Whatchu want?”
“Need to know if you recognize someone.”
Chase had been reaching in his pocket for the booking sheet when Eugene turned away dramatically, voice rising. “I ain’t gotta tell you shit, dawg.”
Chase rolled his eyes with a sigh. “You know I just watched you deal, Eugene.”
Spenser cut in; “We can always continue this conversation down town.”
Eugene turned to the junior detective as if noticing him for the first time. He gave him a quick once over, then turned back to Chase, pointing indifferently with his thumb. “Who’s this punk ass?”
“Be nice, he’s new,” Chase supplied. “He’s still learning. He doesn’t know you like I do.”
Eugene laughed abruptly, suddenly looking very young. “Don’t no body know me like you do, dawg.”
He sidestepped to Spenser, rubbing his hands. “Real talk, yo. Imma hit you up with some life saving intel.” He thumbed his nose and looked about briefly. “It’s all about respect, you feel me?” Spenser nodded uncertainly. “You ain’t gettin’ shit you don’t give. Me’n my homeboy got a system. We both got a rep. He can’t just let shit go cuz that’s his job, but I can’t be out here givin’ him shit for free, naw what I’m sayin? But he knows the deal.”
Spenser’s original air of professional annoyance had given way to genuine interest.
“Me’n him go way back. I was just a lil’ niglet when he rolled up in the hood. He was just on the beat in them days. Didn’t do none of this detective shit. Didn’t no other cops give a shit bout no dyin’ niggas. This dude be buyin’ lil’ kids ice cream and shit. Knew us all by name. He wouldn’t just lock yo ass up for doin’ no stupid shit neither. He be sittin’ your ass down askin’ whats up witchu. Actin’ all disappointed and shit.” Spenser side glanced at Chase, whose discomfort was becoming apparent. “His Aryan ass the closest thing half us got to a daddy. Didn’t nobody do no crazy shit in front of him cuz it’s about respect, feel me? This dude bled for us. ’Bout died right over there.” The junior detective turned with shocked interest as Eugene pointed. “We got his back down here.”
Spenser whirled back toward Chase. “You nearly died?”
“He’s exaggerating,” Chase replied curtly. “All of it.”
Eugene clicked his tongue again. “Nigga, please.”
Chase thrust the booking photo at him. “Just tell me if you’ve seen this guy.”
The young man looked at the photo for a moment, lips pursed in a frown. “Nope.”
“Hear anything about a load of powder hitting the streets?”
Eugene looked up sharply. “I don’t touch that shit, man. Not since Reggie died. I gave you my word. That shit’s gold.”
Chase’s expression softened, a dull ache settling in his chest. “I’m just asking what you know.”
The man shook his head, dark eyes distant. “I ain’t heard nothin’.”
The older detective folded back up the photo. “Alright. Thanks. Stay safe and say hi to your mom for me.”
Eugene tipped his head back, expression somber. “Gonna be another year before you come this way again?”
Chase snorted, a bitter smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Been stuck behind a desk. Stay out of trouble. I don’t want to see you again unless I come looking.”
Eugene waved him off.
“Reggie?” Spenser asked on the way back to the car.
“His brother. Got involved in some hard shit. Ended up dead. Their mother,” he paused. “Didn’t take it well. Told him not to make her have to bury both her boys.”
The drive was quiet. The kind of quiet that comes with someone reevaluating their initial summation of you. Chase hated it.
“Was hoping to get enough out of him that we wouldn’t have to go where we’re going.”
Chase’s statement pulled Spenser out of that annoying silence. “Where are we going?”
“MS territory,” Chase replied. “It’s dangerous. Keep your mouth shut and maybe you’ll get to go home tonight.” He tried not to smirk as the familiar air of unease settled into Spenser’s shoulders again.
“Should we call for a unit?”
Chase winced. “You’re going to learn fairly quickly that black and whites aren’t an advantage. You’re not one of them anymore. You can walk in places plain clothes with far less flack than in your blues. You’re going to have to stop thinking like a uniform, or that’s all people are going to see.”
Spenser considered this as they passed walls of graffiti. “Do you miss it?”
“The beat? Every day. Not as much politics. I miss the days when all my papers could fit in a clip board. But I don’t miss having my ass dangle in the breeze while the brass congratulates themselves for better numbers.” Chase wrung the steering wheel. “I don’t miss dead kids and crowd control. Dragging screaming parents out of bloody crime scenes.”
The younger man mulled over this for a moment. “Why Vice?”
Chase snorted. “Seemed simpler. Find the guy with the drugs. Kids stay out of body bags.” He slowed the car onto a crumbling curb. “Shit’s never simple.”
The house across the street couldn’t have been more than four hundred feet square. The yellow side paneling looked new. The small yard was neat, the grass strictly manicured. It was the only house on the block that seemed to have any care put into it. Many of the others could scarcely be called “houses” for all the shelter they would afford.
“Seriously?” Spenser asked, eyeing the neat little home.
“Keep your mouth shut,” Chase reminded, turning off the engine.
The scent of honeysuckle reached across the street, cutting through the ammonia of cat piss. Or a meth lab. Or both. By the time they had reached the porch, only the sweetness of the vines could be detected.
Chase rapped twice on the sturdy storm door.
“Entra,” answered a voice from somewhere within.
Spenser shot the other detective a cautious look, but they went in all the same.
The interior matched the same level of meticulous care. The carpet was new. The molding was pristine. A can of paint sat on a folded down card board box, dried stains of blue the same hue as the walls running down its side.
A shuffling toward the kitchen drew the two detectives through the narrow doorway, facing the back of a large, heavily tattooed man who was much older than his musculature suggested.
“What can I do for you, Detective Chase?” He spoke without turning, accent thick, voice deep.
“Information,” Chase replied.
The man finally turned away from his task at the counter, a large sturdy mallet firmly in his right hand. Chase saw the flinch out of the corner of his eye and snatched the junior detective’s arm before it could instinctively move to his side arm.
No one moved. Small brown eyes glanced at Spenser the way an eagle would look at a fly, they then focused back on Chase.
“Your dog is jumpy. Maybe next time leave him in the car. Crack a window.” The man gestured to the small round wooden table. “Sit.” He himself sat at one of the two chairs opposite of the detectives, hands folding over the mallet on the table.
Chase released Spenser’s arm with a sigh and sat. Spenser stood, looking as useless and dumb as Chase hoped he felt.
“The house is looking great, Roman.”
A smile swept across the man’s tattooed face, wrinkles appearing all at once. “Retirement is good for me.”
“Your retirement seems to be good for a lot of people. Like this guy.” He pulled the photo from his pocket.
Roman pulled wire frame glasses from where they hung on his working tank top, sliding them on his weathered face. He looked at the photo for less than a second, recognition subtly marking his face before looking back to Chase. “Explain.”
Chase considered carefully for a heartbeat. “Word has it he’s come into some lucrative business.”
“Word is wrong,” Roman interjected, returning his glasses to hang on his shirt. They only looked at each other for a still moment before Roman continued. “His employment recently came to a close.”
Chase’s heart leapt and he leaned forward. “When?”
There was a quiet sound as Roman’s feet shifted under the table. His lips tightened slightly. “A month or so.”
Chase kept his breathing even, his face placid as his mind raced. “Is there any way I could confirm that?”
Roman’s eyes crinkled slightly at the edges, apparently pleased with the question. “I hear he likes to swim down at the reservoir.”
“Who else knows that he was,” Chase tipped his head slightly. “Let go?”
Roman turned his hands up with a small smile. “The people in this room and his--” He mimicked the head tip. “Manager.”
“No one else in your organization knows of his sudden unemployment?”
“No.” The large man’s lips tugged down slightly as he shrugged. “He was not with us long enough to earn a retirement party.”
Chase smiled warmly. “I’m glad you were seen off with more generosity.”
“My loyalty was never questioned,” Roman replied, smile equally warm.
“I should leave you to your projects.” Chase placed his hands on the table and pressed up casually. Roman followed suit.
“Thank you for your visit, Detective. I hope you, too, know retirement some day.” His large hand was open in offering and Chase took it in a firm shake.
Spenser followed him to the door, out onto the porch and across the street before he finally spoke. “Why the hell did you hype me up for no reason? You had me thinking he was about to take that mallet to both of us.” Chase said nothing until they were in the car.
“Fucking Christ, rookie, how did you make it through the academy without managing to shoot yourself?” Spenser only looked back at him in confused annoyance. “I told you he was dangerous because he is. That man could bludgeon both of us to death, feed us piece by piece into the garbage disposal and have time to clean up before anyone knew we were missing.”
“And then he goes to prison,” Spenser protested.
“Does he look like he gives a flying fuck?” Chase shot back, voice rising in frustration. “The only thing that has ever kept me on his good side is knowing what not to ask and being polite. He kept his hands over that mallet the whole time and the moment I started pressing for information he flattened his feet on the floor. He was one insult from flipping that table and beating both of us to death.” Spenser worked his jaw and looked away.
“Now, if you think you can manage a phone like a big boy, call Caceda and have her meet us at the reservoir with a unit. We have a body to find.”
Wisps of clouds made purple streaks across the sky, the promise of stars barely starting to twinkle as Caceda and Chase stood shoulder to shoulder on the muddy embankment.
Two officers with rubber waders tugged a bundle of landscape fabric the rest of the way onto land, a pale blue arm jutting from the mass of rope and black fiber.
“We should hear back by morning about the ID.”
Caceda didn’t respond immediately. Her nostrils were flared and she swallowed a number of times, fighting down the reptilian instinct to vomit and run away when faced with the dead of her own species. If it was a struggle for her, it didn’t show.
“We need to pull the runners back under our roof before they join him.” She turned to Chase, glimmering, dark eyes betraying her solemn expression. “I was right.”
Camera flashes strobed in the growing darkness as the landscape fabric was carefully peeled away from the body.
“Not yet,” he replied absentmindedly. “Cagg is going to want an ID before he goes dancing on desks.”
The renewed chorus of Spenser’s retching pulled Chase’s attention back to the bushes behind them. He smirked at Caceda. “You never forget your first soggy body.”
“Mine was a floater,” Caceda scoffed. “He’s getting off easy.”
“Mine was a baby,” Chase muttered, staring out at the dark water.
“Jesus,” she breathed.
“What about a baby?” Spenser asked as he approached, wiping at his mouth and looking pale.
“Nothing. Next time puke outside the crime scene tape.”
Groans of complaint drew their attention to the crew attempting to load up the body. Someone had hastily grabbed an arm and the skin had peeled down the limb.
A choking gurgle rose in Spenser’s throat and he abruptly turned and ran for the tape line.
“Attaboy,” Chase called after him.
“Don’t be so hard on him,” Caceda gave him a nudge with her elbow. “He was a good officer. He’ll be a good detective.”
“You just think he’s cute,” Chase scoffed. “Pukey lips and all.”
She bit her bottom lip with a smile, glancing back at Spenser’s egress. “Being cute definitely doesn’t hurt.”
“Cute isn’t bullet proof,” he grumbled, shoving his hands in his jacket pockets.
Her russet lips peeled away from her teeth wolfishly. “Is that jealousy, Detective Chase?”
“Yes,” he pouted. “He never asked me to dance.”
She threw her head back in a laugh, dark hair falling behind her shoulders. “I’ll let you have my sloppy seconds.” Her dark eyes gleamed as she turned back to her car.
It was nearing midnight when Chase made his way home, and past that when he left his car in the driveway.
The lights were off. The fish had been fed. The tank’s gentle bubbling and Felix’s quiet breathing were the only sounds in the blackness of the living room. Dorian let his eyes adjust until the teen’s pale features bloomed out of the darkness. He was on his side, hands curled under his chin, lips parted. It was becoming a familiar sight for Dorian and he suddenly felt guilty for making him sleep on the couch this long.
Before he could over-think it, he bent and gingerly scooped Felix up from the couch. He stirred for a moment, an exhale fading into a mumble as he nuzzled against Dorian’s chest. He carried the younger man down the dark hallway, to the unused room and nudged open the door he had nearly forgotten was there.
The room was bare but for a small twin bed, a lamp and a small desk. It had clearly been intended for a child that never was. Dorian had thought to use it as an office or study, but there was something sad about the little empty room that made that seem an unjust use of the space.
Felix stirred once more as he was lowered on to the bed, a soft sound in his throat as Dorian brushed a black curl back from his forehead.
“Hey,” he whispered in greeting, rosy lips melting into a smile.
“Hey,” Dorian answered.
The moment suddenly felt as fragile as their whispers. Felix’s pale skin—blue in the darkness—threatened to dredge up images of cold flesh in muddy waters. Dorian found the younger man’s lips with his own in the dimness. Warm and alive and smiling. Soft fingers found his face, the smile under his lips deepening for a moment before Felix turned onto his other side and slipped back into sleep.