The tech dry run was taking too long. Budget was never very roomy for the PD and even less so for CID. Half of the equipment had been in service longer than Chase.
The equipment room was one of many basement rooms under the PD. Like all of them, Tim Williams’ little alcove smelled faintly of mortar and mildew, though he had imposed a strict sense of order that was lacking in the rest of the building.
“I’ll have to rewire it,” the technician mumbled, turning the fake glasses—affixed with a camera—around in his hands with a frown.
“Tim, buddy, pal, bro,” Chase forced a smile. “We need this perfect.”
“I know,” Tim replied dispassionately.
“You don’t want Davey here to get shot, do you?”
Tim finally looked up, scratching his thinning hair. He blinked pale brown eyes at Spenser. “Who are you?”
“I’m new,” Spenser replied simply, shifting his weight in agitation.
“You won’t get shot,” the tech supplied, tone as indifferent as ever. “I’ll fix it.” He turned back to his desk and started taking apart the glasses.
“How long do you think—”
Chase placed his hand on Spenser’s shoulder, shaking his head. “We have ceased to exist to good ol’ Timmy. Observe; Tim! Fire!” Chase flailed his arms, but Tim only grunted, eyes fixed on the parts in front of him. “See? Don’t worry, if he says he’ll fix it, he’ll fix it. Come on.”
“You’re not the one who has to wear them,” Spenser complained as they made their way back upstairs.
“Right, because after they figure out you’re a cop, they’re just going to let me go. And we’ve discussed this. My hair isn’t dark enough to hide the wire.”
“You could dye it.”
Chase turned to him with a gasp. “Mar these golden locks? You shut your whore mouth.”
Spenser sighed. “I’m building my sexual harassment claim.”
“Good for you,” Chase patted his shoulder. “I’m sure it’s class-action by now.”
They stopped in the hall and Chase started thumbing quarters into a vending machine. He gave the dark haired detective a look. “Why are you following me around? Go ask Caceda to lunch or something.”
“Er, what?” The junior blinked. “I don’t think she’s interested.”
“Hah!” The older detective barked, punching his selection into the machine. “Trust me, just ask her. Tonight may be your last night on Earth. Go! Be fruitful!” He retrieved his bag of chips and left Spenser standing there.
Mandy was the only one at her desk in the hallway that passed as their office. She looked up at his approach, but said nothing. He passed her on the way to his desk, sighed and turned.
“Yes, OK? I have a walk.”
Dimples erupted in her round cheeks. “Bartlet owes me and Caceda twenty bucks each.”
He grunted and slumped into his chair, prying open the bag of chips. After a moment of uncharacteristic silence, he slowly looked back over at her. Her expression hadn’t changed.
She pursed her lips and looked around pointedly. “No one else is here.”
He snorted and shoved a chip in his mouth. “You don’t want to know.”
She twirled a pen in her hand casually. “Oh, I so do.”
He cleared his throat and looked around before putting down the bag of chips. He crossed his wrists and held them over his head, raising his eyebrows at her.
“Wha—oh! Oh, wow.” Her mouth was stuck on syllables and he went back to his chips. “Wait, you?!”
“No,” he drew out the vowel dramatically. “Not me.”
“Wow,” she repeated, staring into space for a moment. “Handcuffs don’t hurt?”
“Didn’t need any,” Dorian replied, crunching on a chip.
Mandy eyed him, mischievous grin pulling the corner of her mouth. “Oh, really?”
He interrupted with a sharp cough just as Hernandez came through. The stocky, muscled detective stormed straight to Chase’s desk.
“You and Caceda trying to make a fool of me?”
Chase regarded him carefully and put his chips down. “No, I think you’ve got that covered all by yourself.”
Hernandez balled his fists and swiped his hand across Chase’s desk, a stack of papers fluttering harmlessly to the floor. “They took me off the case and put your fucking name on it. This is my job, pendejo. I don’t need you sticking your nose in it just because you want a piece of her.”
Chase sighed and rolled his eyes to Mandy. “Why is everyone obsessed with who I am or am not fucking?”
“I have three cats, Dorian. Let me have this in my life. Are those Bar-be-Que?” She thrust her chin at the bag of chips.
Hernandez shifted on his feet, deflating over the lack of response as Chase held out the bag for Mandy to take a chip.
“Look, man, I’m not trying to step on your toes. Fact is, Caceda saw it and you didn’t. I understand you feeling a certain type of way over it, but that has nothing to do with me. Or Caceda. And I really don’t want to be punched in the armpit today.”
Hernandez’s nostrils flared. “You’re a real funny-man, Chase.”
The riled up detective was too distracted to notice Cagg in the doorway of his office.
“Chase. In my office.” Hernandez jumped at the Sergeant’s voice and took a step back from Chase’s desk.
The blonde detective shoved himself to his feet and casually stepped around the papers on the floor. “No eating my chips.” He pointed to Mandy with narrowed eyes.
“Close the door,” Cagg ordered as Chase stepped in. “Was that something I need to know about?”
Chase latched the door and sat. “Nope.”
The Sergeant met his eyes for a moment then only nodded.
“Spenser got more information through Hawthorne’s lawyer, no thanks to you,” he paused pointedly.
“All part of the plan.” Chase wiggled his fingers mysteriously. A grunt was his only response.
“He got you a meeting with this man.” Cagg handed over a DMV photo of a slightly overweight, balding man in his mid 40′s with a mustache. “Jason Mink. Nine p.m. tomorrow night. Hawthorne gave us a name to use. Marsten. Small time MDMA supplier. You met at the baths, if he asks, but he won’t.”
Chase frowned. “Why won’t he?”
“Marsten is in a coma,” Cagg explained. “AIDS complications. According to Hawthorne, he referred all his ‘clients’ to Mink.”
“Spenser got all this?”
The Sergeant grunted. “Seems your influence is paying off.”
“Seems so,” Chase mused. “He’s still shitting himself over the idea of going on an op.”
“Good. It’ll keep his head on,” the Sergeant replied gruffly.
“Why the hell are you sending him on this, anyway? He misses big things, he wears his mind on his face and we don’t exactly have a rapport.”
“Anyone else would get him killed,” Cagg said flatly. “And he needs to learn.” He went quiet for a moment and leaned forward. “You should know Lieutenant Howard didn’t want to approve this. At most he was willing to let me send Bartlet.”
The detective’s nose curled. “Bartlet? He’d never make it in the door. Everyone knows his face after the press relea—” He stopped in realization. “Ah. Well, that’s worrying.”
“Don’t fuck this up. Dot your i’s. Watch your ass.”
Chase nodded seriously. “Understood.”
Tim came through by the time Caceda and Spenser got back from lunch.
The scrawny tech was fitting the glasses onto the young detective as if he were inanimate.
“What if they pat me down at the door and find the transmitter?” Spenser asked apprehensively.
“Yes, that was a problem,” Tim excitedly pushed his chair to his work bench and then back. “I put it here.”
Spenser looked down at the flip phone. “In a phone?”
“Yes. You plug it in the charging place.” He demonstrated. “It goes in your pocket. The wires will be under your shirt. Keep the phone in your pocket and don’t plug it in until you’re through. If you are scared someone knows—” He reached around to the back of Spenser’s head, gripped the wires and yanked. “You unplug. Drop them down your collar.”
“Holy shit, Tim.” Chase whistled in appreciation. “You MacGyver’ed the hell out of those things.”
Tim ducked his head and hunched his shoulders, smiling slightly. “Davey won’t get shot.”
Chase stifled a laugh. “Damn right. Are you on the surveillance team?”
Tim nodded, pulling the glasses off of Spenser. “I’ll be behind the building. In the van. It’s blue this time. Like robin’s eggs. Bill will be with me.”
“Bill Boswell? You’ll be in good hands. He’s a nice guy.”
Spenser had clearly had his fill of being the willowy tech’s mannequin and skirted toward the door the moment he was clear of the equipment. “So, uh, thanks. We’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
“OK,” Tim responded, turning back to his table and immediately consumed in a task.
“That guy is weird,” Spenser whispered as they climbed the stairs.
Chase leveled him a look. “He’s autistic. Or Asperger’s. One or the other. He’s a good guy. And a great tech. It’s just easy to hurt his feelings.”
The younger detective said nothing for a moment. “Now I sound like a dick.”
“Don’t worry, Davey,” Chase clapped his hand on the other man’s shoulder. “You always sound like a dick to me.”
Spenser shrugged off his hand with an annoyed sigh. “Do you just enjoy pestering me?”
“Yes,” the older man responded simply. “And I’m going to keep doing it until you learn how to hide that it bothers you. You are way too goddamn expressive.” He waved a hand in the junior’s face. “All this you got goin’ on here is going to make your job a lot harder.”
Spenser frowned and peered into the distance for a moment, expression going slack.
“Now you just look constipated,” Chase remarked. “You and Caceda got a date tonight?” The older detective pried.
Spenser managed his lack of expression for less than a second. “As much as I’m capable of making her forget you, that’s not my job,” he snapped.
Chase stopped in the hall before they were in ear shot of anyone. “Dude, seriously, I have not been with her. I’m pretty sure I haven’t banged anyone in this building.”
Spenser narrowed his eyes. “‘Pretty sure’?”
“Tequila does strange things to me,” Chase replied simply. “She thinks you’re cute, you idiot. Go crawl up her skirt or whatever.”
The other man crossed his arms. “Why are you suddenly so interested in me getting laid?”
“I’m hoping she’ll wiggle that stick out of your ass.” Spenser nearly glared. “In all seriousness, she’s had a crap week. She could use the distraction.”
“Are you asking me to fuck the tension out of her?” The younger man couldn’t quite conceal a smile.
“Take one for the team, buddy.” Chase gestured with an encouraging fist.
Spenser was long gone by the time Chase composed himself over the memories the familiar phrase dredged up. Suddenly the day was entirely too long.
Shaw intercepted him on the way to his desk. “Been looking for you. They need you for an interview. Your contact on eighth got picked up.”
“Eugene? What happened?”
Shaw shrugged. “Typical gang banger shooting bullshit. Perry thinks he might know something.”
“He OK?” Chase gathered his note book and pen before following the uniformed officer.
Shaw’s broad features screwed up for a moment. “Didn’t ask.”
Shaw had a low tolerance for any form of criminal conduct and judged anyone who partook with some measure of ire. Eugene was no different.
Chase checked his gun outside booking and did a once over on the sparse report.
“He’s in four.” Herring pointed with her pen from behind the booking desk.
“Thanks, Kathy.” She only hummed a monotone response.
Eugene Turnbuckle was seated slumped at the interview table, handcuffed behind his back, his leg bouncing impatiently.
Chase whistled low. “That bad, huh?”
Eugene struggled to sit up and sucked his teeth. “Nigga, I ain’t seen shit.”
“You talked to your mom yet?” Chase sat down.
Eugene shook his head and slumped further.
“Anyone offered you a drink?”
Eugene looked up, mouth skewed sarcastically as he leaned to wave his cuffed hands. “That big ass angry nigga act like I’mma start some shit. Shawshank or whatever the fuck.”
Chase sighed and fished out his handcuff key. “Just don’t get all irate and make him run in here to taze you.”
“I ain’t doin’ shit, dawg,” Eugene grumbled as Chase removed the handcuffs.
“Now,” he made a point of dropping the cuffs on the table as he sat back down. “What happened?”
“I. Aint. Seen. Shit.” The dark skinned man thumped the flat of his hand on the table with each word.
“I’m not trying to trip you up, man. No one has told me a thing.” The detective turned his palms up at the other man.
Eugene sighed and leaned back. “Some punk-ass from the hood tried to roll up to East side and set up business. They took him out. Real slick like.”
“East side? That’s bold.” The upper East side was well-known for catering to posh foreigners and their off-shore bank accounts.
“For real, though. I didn’t see a damn thing. Was just one pop all quiet and this big ass black car pulling away all slow and easy like they was leavin’ McDonald’s or some shit. They found that nigga dead across the street, man. In the back of the head. He didn’t see that shit comin’.”
“You didn’t see anyone in the car?” Chase asked, writing in his notepad.
Eugene shook his head solemnly. “Windows was up by time I saw. Tinted too. For real, though, that nigga was a good fifty feet away. In the head, dawg. That’s all I got to say.”
“Know anyone who might have seen more?”
Eugene worked his jaw, shaking his head slowly, suddenly distant. “I gotta watch my own, man. I can’t be getting’ killed for this shit. My girl is pregnant, dawg.”
Chase’s shoulders slumped. “Jesus Christ, Eugene. You need to stop this bullshit.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’! I ain’t gonna be like my daddy. I got a job interview n’ shit. Then Shawshank’s bald headed self gotta snatch me up when I’m tryin’ to get me a work shirt. I can’t be up in this shit, man.”
Chase looked at his notes for a moment and sighed. “Sit tight.”
Shaw always hung around booking whenever he was the arresting officer. Finding him was the easy part.
“Shaw, let me talk to you for a second.” Chase angled his head in invitation to the officer who stepped away from Kathy’s desk suspiciously.
The detective offered his notebook. “He told me everything he knows. If you need more info from him, I know where to find him, but he’s not going to give you anything in a cell.”
“He had marijuana on him, detective,” Shaw responded seriously, hooking his thumbs in his gun belt.
“Less than distribution?” Chase raised a brow. The officer’s shoulder came up in acquiescence. “Look, he’s got a job interview. His girlfriend is pregnant and he’s trying to clean up his act. I know I can get him to work with me if you cut him loose.”
“It’s your ass,” Shaw grunted disapprovingly. “But I’m ticketing him for possession.”
“I would expect no less of you,” Chase gave the officer a sharp salute before returning to the interview room.
He held the door open and tipped his head. “Get your shit together. Shaw is going to process you, then get the hell out of my building.”
Eugene happily launched to his feet. “That’s my nigga!” He ambled over and bumped his fist against Chase’s.
“You’re going to call me if you hear anything, you understand?” He eyed the younger man seriously.
“I feel you, dawg.”
Chase managed to slip out early given that Saturday would be dipping into the over-time clock. He didn’t waste a moment in the driveway and was pleased to find that Felix hadn’t yet returned from the store. Chase had ample time to research and print out things on his laptop.
He was sitting at the seldom-used dining room table between the couch and his desk, feet up on a chair, when the door opened.
“You’re home early,” Felix remarked, hefting bags to the island counter.
Dorian peered at him over the papers in his hand, watching him put away food. “Lucky you, since you locked yourself out.”
Felix was still for a moment, then looked at the door thoughtfully before turning back to Dorian. “You, uh, have a spare key?”
Dorian ignored the question. “What did you get?”
“Milk, butter, rice, chicken, beef, bread, orange juice, pasta, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes,” he trailed off while putting things away. “Other stuff I’ve forgotten. I would have gotten more but I didn’t know how much you wanted me to spend and it’s a lot to carry.”
“No beer?” Dorian teased.
“Give me your ID next time,” Felix responded, sitting down at the table with him and sliding his credit card back.
“I don’t think you’d make a convincing six foot blonde.”
“I bleached my hair once. My mom freaked out. What’s that?” The teen craned his neck at the papers.
“Rules,” Dorian replied with a grin. “But first.” He held up his spare house key between middle and index fingers. “You get this on one condition.”
“OK . . .” Felix narrowed his eyes, leery.
“This is not a halfway house. I don’t do charity. You get a job or you go to school. I’d prefer you went to school. You’re too smart not to.”
Felix only stared at him for a moment. “Seriously?”
“That’s my condition.” For a minute Dorian was actually concerned the young man would say no.
“Let me get this straight.” Felix leaned forward on the table. “You’re going to regularly feed my fantasies and I get to go to school? You had me at ‘blind-fold’.” He went to grab the key but Dorian pulled it away.
“And no parties. I’m prone to shooting strangers I find in my house.”
“Done.” Felix snatched the key and gripped it with a grin.
“Which brings us to item two.” Dorian dropped the papers on the table and spun them toward Felix. “I already filled out my part.”
The teen’s brow furrowed as he looked at them. “I, blank, do of my own free will, being of sound mind and body, offer myself in consensual submission to—whoa.” Felix suddenly looked up, eyes comically wide. “Is this a kinky contract?”
Dorian only grinned in response and Felix started flipping through the papers. “Holy shit, there’s a check list.” He frowned and tipped his head. “What’s scat play?”
“No,” the older man cut in abruptly. “You’re going to check no.”
The room was tense as the teen read through the papers silently. Dorian ignored the fact that his heartbeat refused to slow. Felix could always rip up the papers and run out of the house screaming, but that would mean he read the pale boy wrong. Unlikely. So why was he so nervous?
He jerked himself out of his thoughts when Felix suddenly put his hand out. “Pen.” He made a slight grabbing motion, eyes still fixed on the contract. Dorian passed him the pen, watching him hastily fill in his name, sign, and flip to the next page.
“Dom will be referred to as Sir or Officer.” Felix flicked his gaze up and grinned. “I thought it was ‘detective’?”
“I don’t nitpick your fantasies. Just don’t make me call you Bitch.”
Felix grimaced. “You don’t have to worry. Do you care what the safe word is?”
The older man shrugged. “Long as it’s not something you’d usually say and you’re not going to forget it.”
“The section to write in hard-limits is entirely too long for my needs.” Felix scribbled shortly, signed it and moved on. “How does this check list work?”
“One for don’t like. Two for will tolerate. Three for might like. Four for turn on. Five for hell yes. Write ‘no’ if it’s absolutely non-negotiable. You fill out the sub column. I already did mine.”
Felix started reading and marking. “Blindfolds. Yep. Bondage, five. Public bondage, under clothing.” He looked into space for a thoughtful moment, color making its way into his cheeks. “Three. Being locked in a cage.” He eyed Dorian while slowly filling in a five. “Aw, you said no for choking. Cattle prod?! No. Collars. Five, five, five, fivety-five. Wow, you put a five for orgasm denial.”
Dorian pinched the bridge of his nose with a sigh. “You don’t have to do it out loud, you know.”
“I’m not going to be coherent for much longer anyway,” Felix muttered, cheeks in full bloom. “What if we both put five on something?” Felix’s voice had gone heady.
The older man smirked. “Then things get interesting.”
“Exhibitionism, it is!”
By the time Felix had finished filling out everything he was clearly distracted, squirming in his chair.
Dorian reviewed the paperwork in what he hoped appeared to be professional indifference.
“You sure you want to be called ‘kid’ and ‘boy’?”
Felix chewed his lip. “It’s different when you say it. It doesn’t sound all creepy.”
“Fair enough. Your safe word is butterfly?” He raised his brows at the teen.
“You said you didn’t care.”
Dorian shook his head slightly to himself and moved on. “Uh, you put a two for sexual experience.” He turned the paper toward the young man. “Virgin is supposed to be one.”
“I’m not,” Felix said flatly.
Dorian blinked at him, head tipped in a moment of dazed confusion. “I’m not sure you understand what that word means. I’ve been back there and you—”
“It was with a girl,” Felix cut in curtly.
“Wha-at?” Dorian’s voice cracked mid-word. “How? When? Again, what?”
Felix sighed. “I think you already know how. It was like three years ago. I knew her from church group. I thought that . . .” He closed his eyes, shaking his head slowly. “I thought I could . . .” He went silent.
“Make yourself straight?” Dorian supplied.
“Yea,” the young man’s voice was small and distant. He forced a smile. “It didn’t work, obviously.” He looked away. “I just ended up ruining our friendship and hurting her feelings.”
“No, but seriously, how?” The older man pressed. “There’s no way I’d be able to keep it up.”
“I thought about someone else,” Felix muttered. His lips tugged into a frown, shame stealing the warmth from his face. “She thought we were going to get married. Be together forever. That sort of thing.” He hugged himself tightly. “I was just using her. Trying to fix myself.”
“You’re not broken,” Dorian said firmly. Felix snorted dismissively. “Hey.” The older man reached across the table, taking Felix’s chin in his fingers and pulling his gaze. “You’re not broken.” He held his eyes for a moment until the slight boy let out a deep sigh, lids fluttering shut.
Without a word, the teen suddenly pushed himself back from the table and disappeared down the hall. There was a moment of rustling before he returned, casually took Dorian’s hand and dropped something across his palm.
The smooth, cool weight drew Dorian’s attention down to an unremarkable black leather collar with a steel ring on the front.
“I’m all yours, Officer.”