Standing in between his boss and the unrelentingly happy woman standing at the door, Danny couldn't shake the feeling that this arrangement was entirely unfair. It felt like he was being punished for wanting to excel. Mindy had only been around for eleven days, max. How was she already getting the chance to work on such an important case when he had to fight tooth and nail to be offered the same assignment? Everything in him wanted to argue against the captain's decision, but he harbored enough sense to know that now was not the time for further opposition.
He almost forgot that Mindy was standing there until she spoke. "Just to be clear, you just said I was his partner, right?" She was pointing her manicured finger towards Danny while stepping further into the room. "Does that mean you're giving me an assignment right now?"
"Indeed I am," Captain Shulman confirmed. "I'm putting you on the Daniels case alongside Detective Castellano. I think you two will make a great team." His purposeful glance towards his veteran detective was as pointed as it was brief.
Danny couldn't help but look at the jubilant woman and wonder if that was actually true. He was stricken with the sudden image of them riding in their cruiser with her chattering incessantly in the front seat. The scene in his head changed to them at a nondescript crime scene with her palming the evidence and asking a litany of irrelevant questions. He was already irked and they hadn't even left the office.
"Wow, this is…" Mindy sputtered for a moment as her joy seemed to be clouding her ability to select the right words. "This is a huge honor, sir. Thank you so much! And Danny!" She pivoted her body just enough to be able to playful smack the back of her hand on his upper arm. "Working with you is going to be really cool! Maybe you can show me some of your scary interrogation tactics!"
"I don't know if I'd call them scary," Danny quickly corrected her, fearful that his superior might mistake it as some sort of abuse of power.
"That's not what I heard," she continued with an impressed grin. "I heard you made the Cordello killer cry a little, guilt-tripped him with his dead grandmother –"
"Hey, Mindy!" Danny interrupted with a raised voice. "Do you mind if I talk with the Captain for a quick second?"
Though she looked briefly taken aback, Mindy shrugged and agreed. "Yeah, sure."
"Uh, Decetive Lahiri?" Marc interjected kindly. "Go ahead and ask Betsy to make you a copy of the Daniels file. You can look over the contents before you and Danny decide on an approach."
Mindy nodded and flashed one more bright smile before exiting the office, making sure to close the door being her. Danny could already feel some of the anxiety easing off of him. Before he could say anything, the captain was already glaring at him expectantly.
"She hasn't been assigned to the case for more than a minute. You can't possibly already have a complaint, Castellano."
He did. Quite a few, in fact. Nonetheless, he decided to choose his words carefully.
"I have no complaints," he lied, "but I'm…curious as to how you know you can trust her to handle such an important assignment after only knowing her for two weeks."
Shaking his head, Marc replied, "She may be new to our precinct, but she's not exactly fresh out of the academy, you know. Mindy is preceded by a sterling arrest record and is quite an accomplished detective. And my memory may be a little hazy, but I seem to recall me putting you on a major case not long after your start. How is this any different?"
Both men knew there was no answer for that. Marc continued.
"I'm taking a chance on her just like I took a chance on you. And as cliché as this may sound, both of you could actually learn from each other. Seniority isn't everything."
Danny's opinion on that sentiment differed greatly, but he chose to keep that to himself. His superior was resolute in his decision.
"Alright, I understand," he conceded. "Thanks again for the opportunity. I'm gonna take a look at this stuff and see just where we are."
"Good man," Marc replied dismissively. "Oh, and tell Lang that I don't need to see him anymore."
The reminder of his initial hurdle uplifted him just enough to give a little smirk. "Will do, sir."
Danny poured over the few items in the case file once more, paying close attention to the photographs of the scene and body. The early moments of an investigation inspired the same feeling of standing next to a blank canvas, unless there was an overwhelming amount of evidence. The possibilities were endless, especially for someone who was a public figure like Josh Daniels. He'd start at the Grandview Hotel, the location of the fundraising gala the victim hosted for himself hours before his death. It was going to take a while to whittle down the number of possible suspects, considering the amount of people he had interacted with that night as well as on a daily basis. With a total lack of witness accounts this was going to be significantly harder than his previous case. He wished that he had infinite time alone to collect his thoughts and really focus on an approach. A sigh hissed from his lips as soon as he realized that it wasn't a possibility this time around.
"So I was thinking," an excited voice materialized, cutting through his concentration. Startled, he looked up to find Mindy at his desk, a brand new file in his hands. She already looked mildly apologetic. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
"You didn't scare me, alright?" Danny insisted, slightly out of breath and unable to filter out the annoyance in his voice. "You briefly startled me, but it's fine. What do you need?"
Mindy gave a slight shrug. "I just thought that we could grab a quick celebratory coffee from that bakery a few blocks south of here. You know, Trinity Bakery? I have it on good authority that they give the biggest muffins to all law enforcement. We can stop there real quick on our way to the Grandview Hotel."
"Okay, we definitely don't have a ton of time to stop –" Danny cut his sentence short and furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. "Wait, how do you know that we're starting there? I never told you that."
It was Mindy's turn to look confused. "Well, we'd obviously start there. That's where he was not too long before he died, right? Clearly, we'd need to look at the security footage."
It was a fairly obvious start, but Danny still felt a twinge of shock that she felt comfortable enough to assume the reins. Frankly, he felt that she was a little too comfortable.
"That's pretty presumptuous of you, newbie," he countered. "What makes you think we shouldn't head to the actual scene and check things out for ourselves?"
"What point would there be to that?" Mindy retorted as she pulled a nearby chair from an empty desk closer to him and sat down. "The one report mentions that the security cameras in that particular garage were old and not maintained, so it not like there's any footage to commandeer. The pictures tell us everything we need to know right now."
Mindy narrowed her eyes at her partner suspiciously. "Okay, I can't tell if you actually can't see what I'm seeing or if this is a 'test the new girl' mind trick, but I'll play along either way. Okay, if you look at the picture of the body, there's a ton of gravel and dust surrounding him. No footprints, no real signs of any sort of tussle or struggle. If he were shot then that would be excusable, but come on, a knife? The killer would have to get close enough and actually work a little to do any damage, especially since the wounds are in the front. Plus, the blood is a dead giveaway." She pointed out the mass of red staining the side of Josh's shirt. "This was definitely a dump job. Look at how the blood from all the wounds gathers at his side. He was clearly laying on that side originally, then dumped on his back later."
Danny was not only speechless, but annoyed beyond reason. How dare she be gratingly optimistic and competent? He especially didn't like her ability to spot details that he had managed to overlook a number of times.
"So did I pass your cryptic-y test?"
Danny rolled his eyes. "My test wasn't weird," he argued, choosing to keep up the façade. "It was my way of making sure you were paying close attention."
"Which I think I proved pretty well. So I did pass, right?"
"Yeah, kid, you passed."
Mindy's eyes widened and an amused grin swept across her face. "Uh, did you just call me 'kid'? I can't be more than a few years younger than you. That's so weird."
"Are you always this combative?"
"I dunno. Probably. Are you always this inexplicably grumpy?"
Danny squeezed his eyes shut and exhaled slowly in an attempt to tamp down his mounting frustration. Admittedly he wanted her to be more of a timid pushover in order for him to easily gain control. He was quickly realizing that she was nothing of the sort. It was something that he was already growing to loathe, even if a tiny part of him respected her for it. He stood with a groan and grabbed his leather jacket off the back of his chair.
"Look, let's just head to the hotel and get the security footage."
Mindy nodded her head and stood quickly. "And how about the coffee?'
"I don't really drink coffee," Danny replied abruptly.
She followed closely on his heels as he slipped the jacket on and headed out the door towards the small parking garage. "Okay, then how about a celebratory slice during lunch? I haven't narrowed down my favorite place yet, but I can't shake the feeling that you know just where to go."
"Why are you so hell-bent on celebrating the opportunity for us to do what we're paid to do?" he challenged gruffly. "What's there to celebrate?"
They reached his department-issued Chevy Trailblazer, splitting off to their respective sides. The loud click of the locks masked her scoff.
"Excuse me for wanting to interrupt our hunt for a possibly crazed murderer with a little positivity!" Mindy called out haughtily from the other side. "Besides, partnerships are a big deal. That's the person you spend most of your day with, support, argue with...we could come out of this becoming best friends!"
Rather then let the words "I doubt it" slip through his screwed lips, he settled into the driver's seat and slipped the key into the ignition. Mindy continued her thought as she entered the SUV.
"Like my last partner, Maggie. One solved case led to another, then another, and the next thing you know, I'm a bridesmaid at her wedding! Working partnerships are important."
"I can guarantee that you won't be a bridesmaid at my wedding, should that day ever come."
"You don't know that. I could totally be a female groomswoman. That's a thing now, you know."
He shook his head as he pulled out of the darkened parking garage and into the mid-morning light. In the short time he's known her he'd already managed to develop a Mindy Lahiri-specific migraine - a dull ache that existed just at his left temple and slowly crescendoed until it reached a sharp, painful climax just before backing off. The occurrence, Danny observed, was much like the source: short, but mighty bothersome. What he found even more groan-inducing was her intense energy that came across as a blaring interruption to his routinely quiet day. He liked silence and routine. Why couldn't he get a partner that understood that? Charlie might have been a nightmare to work with in just about every other aspect these days, but at least he was a man who also appreciated a quiet environment.
Danny did little to disturb the silence in the car as he navigated through a number of back roads leading to the hotel. Mindy looked straight ahead, not saying a word. Maybe she got the hint, Danny thought.
"So, do you usually ride in total silence?"
Danny rolled his eyes. Of course she didn't. "Yeah, usually."
"I listen to music at the end of my shift as a reward for a hard day's work."
When there was no follow-up sound, Danny peered over quickly to see a pair of brown, stunned eyes. Her mouth was ajar until she finally let out something that sounded like a cross between a cough and a laugh. "You are a strange, strange man."
"Well, I'm sorry if I'd rather not pollute my car with the annoying, toothless pop I'm sure you're into," he fired back. "What, with your Catherine Perrys and your Justin Biebers and such."
"Okay, I'm fairly certain you meant Katy Perry," Mindy corrected firmly. "She's everywhere and I find it very hard to believe that you don't know her actual name. And who's being the presumptuous one now? I never said I was into any of that!"
Danny held onto any remaining biting remarks as the hotel came into sight. The canopied walkway and the doorman stationed at the entrance represented an end to a fruitless conversation. He said nothing as he eased the vehicle next to the curb.
"Do you want to know what music I actually listen to?" Mindy pressed, utterly indignant.
"Sorry, working here," he replied, a smug grin playing at his lips as he parked in front of the hotel. Getting the last word at thirty-six years old still felt as good as it did when he was a teenager. He exited the car and immediately headed inside without waiting for Mindy to catch up. He attributed some of his haste to his eagerness to get to the task at hand, but he mainly wanted to put some distance between himself and the woman who had been unceremoniously dropped into his world and seemed to have so much to say. Mindy's quickened footsteps could be heard behind him as she worked to keep up with his authoritative pace. The uniformed man at the door flashed them both a smile and held open the door gallantly.
"Welcome to the Grandview -"
"Thank you," Danny interrupted almost curtly he as strode into the lobby.
"Thank you, sir!" Mindy's voice exuded false cheer, more than likely overcompensating for his bluntness. Her already constant need to balance him out - be it the silence in his car, his lack of pageantry regarding their new partnership, or even his tone of voice when speaking to others - irked him to his core. None of this was an issue when he worked alone and now he had somebody latched onto him, questioning every little decision has worked with him for over a decade. While he never intentionally set out to be rude to her, he could still feel a gnawing resentment towards his new partner.
Danny had no time, however, to address any of it as they steadily approached the front desk. An older woman in a dark business suit stood next to a younger uniformed man while pointing something out on glowing computer monitor. He tapped on the marble counter with his fingertips while he dug into his back pocket for his badge. Both the woman and the young man looked up with welcoming expressions.
"Good morning, uh..." Danny searched the nametag of the woman, who had a look of authority about her. The word "manager" was engraved in dark, loopy letters under her name. "Doris," he read as he finally pulled out the simple wallet containing his badge. "I'm Detective Castellano. Your hotel hosted a fundraiser event last night and I need to take a look at your security footage."
Some of the cheer drained from Doris' face and was replaced by pity. "Oh, yes. We were certainly sad to hear about his tragic murder. How awful! Yes, of course you can look at our cameras."
"And I'm Detective Lahiri, by the way," Mindy piped up loudly. Danny turned and immediately noticed the tight-lipped smile on her face pair with steely eyes. He had known her for less than an hour, but he already recognized this as the expression she donned while struggling to hold back her aggravation. Despite his own stubbornness, he couldn't deny that it was a little intimidating. "I will also be taking a look at this footage, alongside my colleague here." She clapped him on the shoulder aggressively, adding more force than necessary. Touching, he remembered, was another thing he managed to avoid with the absence of a partner.
"Of course," Doris responded with a look of confusion. "Let me take you both to the security office. Give me just a moment. I'll meet you around the desk." She disappeared through the door behind her while Danny and Mindy maintained their forward gaze. The gentleman stood awkwardly at his computer with a faltering grin as if he were trained to smile, no matter what. Though he wasn't looking directly at her, he could still feel the tension emanating off of Mindy. He hoped that the discomfort would manifest in a silent car ride back to the station.
They hear a door click open to their left. Doris's head popped into view from the doorway before waving the pair over. Danny and Mindy followed silently.
"The room is this way, in the back," she informed them as she led them in a quick pace. Her sensible heels clicked against the linoleum. "I can our security go on break if you'd rather view the video in private."
"Private would be best," Mindy confirmed. The professionalism in her voice was something of a surprise to Danny, who was already used to the excited squeak that was prevalent when she spoke.
Danny could see Doris shaking her head from behind. "That poor man," she said ruefully. "He seemed like such a nice gentleman. And the night was so beautiful and without incident…a perfect evening! Truth be told, I still probably would have voted for Christina Porter, but still…what a nice, handsome young man."
They reached the penultimate door at the end of the hallway. Doris announced their arrival as she keyed into the room. The wall of small monitors bathed the dimly lit room with a grayish glow. A guard sat at a small switch board, eating a bagel and glancing back and forth between screens.
"Evan, these are Detectives Castellano and Lahiri," she introduced, stepping aside to allow them to enter. "They need to take a look at the video from last night. None of it's been archived yet, right?"
The guard quickly swallowed his breakfast before replying, "No, ma'am."
"Good, then please show them how they can review the different cameras…" she trailed off for a moment, then turned to Danny. "I'm sorry, which surveillance would you need to look over?"
"Anything that shows us who was in and out of here during the gala," Danny clarified. "If there are entrances that vendors or guests used then we would need to look at those. The ballroom, the main entrance…anything that relevant to the victim's event, we need to see."
Doris' eyes grew a little rounder. "That's a lot of cameras. And the set up took almost all day. You'll be here for a long time, detective."
"You're right, it is a lot of video," Mindy affirmed. "Which is why we're going to take just a few minutes to look through some of it now, then we're going to take all the video in as part of the investigation. We won't be more than half an hour."
Though Doris still looked skeptical, she had Evan the Guard cue the different videos and promised to talk to the head of security about ways of getting them the documentation they needed. Even gave a quick tutorial on navigating the switchboard before he followed Doris out of the room. Once the door clicked shut, Mindy immediately rounded on Danny with a look of fury.
"What the hell is your damage, man?" she hissed, obviously not wanting to be overheard by the staff.
Danny immediately went on the defensive. "My damage? What the hell are you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about! I've been nothing but nice to you from the moment we met and you have been an absolute dick the entire time! I get it, you're the tough Long Island cop –"
"Staten Island," he corrected protectively.
"Staten Island cop who's neeeever had a partner and oh no! Here's some woman crouching in on your territory –"
"Okay, enough!" Danny intercepted with a raise of his hand. "This has nothing to do with you being a woman and everything to do with you busting my balls about every little thing I do!"
Mindy rolled her eyes and threw up her hands. "Danny, questioning in no way equates to ball busting! Look, you don't want me here…whatever. Point is, the captain assigned me to this case the same way he assigned you. I'm here. I'm not fucking going anywhere, so deal with it and stop being a baby about it, partner."
Danny's jaw clenched as he took a long, deep breath. It had been a long time since anyone has told him off the way Mindy just had, so he really wasn't sure just how to react. She wasn't wrong; he had been pretty rude to her. But he didn't feel like anything he said nor did warranted an apology.
"Look, let's just take a look at the surveillance, alright?" he posed through clenched teeth.
"Fine," Mindy hissed, taking a seat before one of many monitors. "You skim through the entranceway and lobby stuff and I'll scan the ballroom."
"Fine." Danny situated himself next to Mindy with a huff before training his eyes on the screen. A majority of what he viewed looked like the general bustle of setting up. He fast-forwarded through dead air while he noticed the silent focus of Mindy (aside from the occasional comment on somebody's attire). Every once in a while she would press her button to speed up her footage.
"Looks like a pretty standard night," Danny said out loud, not necessarily to Mindy. His observation was returned with nothing more than a small grunt of acknowledgment. Did he mean for that to come across as an olive branch or sorts? He wasn't sure, but if it was then Mindy had essentially rebuffed it. That didn't sit well with him. Before he could evaluate his intentions, be spoke again a little more decisively than before.
"I wonder how much money was raised at this thing, y'know? Daniels must have made a killing."
"Probably," she replied shortly.
Feeling sufficiently rejected (Which is fine by me, he thought. The less conversation, the better), he returned to his screen and watched silently. A few moments passed before Mindy spoke again.
"Oh, wow," Mindy blurted loudly, causing Danny to lean over and peer at the seemingly calm cluster of party attendees on the video.
"What? You see something?"
"Nothing major," she replied with a sarcastic wave of her hand. "Just the sleazy would-be-could-be Mayor totally scamming on this woman on the sly!" She pointed at the screen excitedly as Danny slid his chair over to get a closer look. "Check out where his hand is! You can't place your hand that low on someone's back and still call it a friendly gesture. Where's his supermodel of a wife?"
Looking at the screen Danny could immediately see her point. Though the chatter looked fairly innocent, the hand was damning. "I can't argue with that."
"And his pinky his grazing her ass!" she continued to squeal. "God, does every politician have to be such a slime ball?"
At that, Danny leaned forward and took a closer look at the woman. He could only see her profile, but the face definitely looked familiar. And her hair was the same shade of red as…
"Hey, I know that woman!" Danny cried with a point. "She works at the Calico Club on 30th!"
"Ew, that swanky bar where all those gross sugar daddies go?"
"They have a really great Reuben. Anyways, she's a hostess there. Her name is Heather. What the heck is she doing at a politician's fundraiser? There's no way she can believably be hobnobbing with these snobs."
Mindy finally turned her head towards him with a judgmental tilt. "I don't think it's fair to judge a woman you barely know. Why is it so hard to believe that a server could be invested in local politics?"
"She actually asked me if Shaun of the Dead was based on a true story. I'm not questioning the credibility of a server being interested in politics. I'm questioning this server, specifically."
"Okay, fair," she conceded. "Well, judging by that wandering hand, I think we can guess why she's there. God, how cliché is the whole 'politician and a mistress' thing?"
Then it clicked. Danny knew who killed Josh Daniels. Sort of.
"We've gotta find Heather," Danny stated.
"So you think she might have done it, too?"
Mindy's head snapped back in surprise. "Huh? Did I miss something, like her suddenly wielding a butcher knife in the middle of a photo op? Here, let me rewind –"
"No, but c'mon…dead, good looking politician? This screams murderous jealous mistress. If it wasn't her, then it was the murderous angry wife. I guarantee it."
"Okay, buddy." Mindy stood. "Where did you get that sweeping, slightly misogynistic generalization from? Was it the slew of murdered politician cases you've had to solve throughout your career or a recycled plot from the Young and the Restless?"
"Hey, I've seen plenty of powerful men go down this way in our line of work," Danny defended. "They all end the same exact way. And I'm going by my gut, which hasn't failed me yet, alright? I say we track her down, take her in and sweat her out until she eventually confesses. Trust me, my killer intuition has solved the last six cases."
Mindy closed her eyes and exhaled gently. "Look. At my last precinct, one of the detectives 'followed his gut,'" she emphasized with air quotes, "just like you. Someone was stealing cows from some of the local farms –"
"Cows?!" Danny exclaimed incredulously.
"Shut it, I'm telling a story," she commanded. "There were all these cow thefts and one of the detectives, Casey, overheard this man at a bar threaten to take his neighbor's cow if he continued to let their dog poop on his doorstep. Casey took the guy in for questioning because, you know, his gut and all, interrogated him, found out that had a solid alibi, then got fired when the man sued the department for trauma. Yes, we're talking about cows, Danny, and even he had more evidence than you do right now. Don't you think we should take a little more time to discern possible suspects with a murder?"
Once again, Mindy was questioning Danny on his method. This time he was less upset. She may have had a point, though he was reluctant to admit it.
"I'm telling you I'm right, but whatever," he argued half-heartedly.
"If I'm wrong and she turns out to be crazy guilty, I owe you a drink," Mindy promised. "But let's not be so hasty to name a suspect, just because. I mean, a smug politician with that annoyingly perfect face? Not trying to disrespect the dead or anything, but I'm sure there was no shortage of people who wanted him dead. I've seen pictures of him that have made me want to punch him in his face, you know?"
The corner of Danny's mouth quirked upward involuntarily. He never minded a little dark humor. "Yeah, you might be right on that one."
Mindy nodded proudly. "All I'm saying is that we should definitely talk to Heather, but let's not go in there guns blazing, so to speak. We'll move in if she begins to look guilty, but let's not jump to that, despite what your gut might be saying. Fair?"
He looked down to find her holding out her hand for a deal-solidifying shake. She wasn't proposing anything outrageous. With a sigh, he shook her hand firmly.
"Fine," he agreed. "Let's talk to Heather."