Brass and Blue

Chapter 7

Danny managed to glean a few things about Josh Daniels through the lengthy bank and credit card statements. For starters, the man spent an exorbitant amount on footwear. There were at least two transactions each week that were linked to different men's shoe stores within the city, each number larger than the last. The second trend he noticed: the abundance of hotel charges, all stemming from a small variety of hotels in different neighboring cities. Danny assumed that he would meet other women there to remain out of the prying eyes of his constituents. The image of Josh engaging in whatever escapades he involved himself in while his wife remained at home wasn't new. In his line of work he'd encountered more than enough scorned spouses. Still, the idea made him sick.

The third and most important standout detail was an exact transaction of $46.28 that occurred exactly seven times, one of them charged on the Wednesday that Morgan identified. It was one of only three charges listed for that particular day. The source was The Grape Leaf, a Greek restaurant that was well known throughout the precinct as "Shady Central." The establishment had become popular amongst the city's more troublesome demographic due to its lack of sufficient surveillance. There was only a single camera in the entire dining portion of the restaurant and it pointed directly over the register. Many of the shadier patrons opted to enter via the back door to avoid it. While there were plenty who were there simply to dine, the majority of their customers were believed to meet there to conduct business. The charges on Josh's statements reflected a bill for at least two people.

"So who were you eating with, Josh?" Danny mumbled as he highlighted the transactions under special scrutiny. For a brief, daunting second he considered the possibility that Josh had actually spent that time with Tamra. What if this turned out to be nothing but a desperate grasp at something that meant very little, if anything? Where exactly would they go from here? He'd seen cases with far more substantial evidence grow cold.

While he didn't deny the temptation to seek Mindy's perspective and optimism, he did ignore it. He purposely sat far away from her during the morning briefing and didn't respond to the (admittedly very funny) joke e-mail she had forwarded to him. While he never intended to avoid her, the distance helped to cast aside the romantic thoughts that managed to plague his entire weekend. Monday progressed much more easily when he chose to focus on other cases on his own. It was now Tuesday, however, and the necessity to actually interact with her was looming. For a moment, he genuinely wished he could be like Peter and have reckless flings with his co-workers (he still laughed whenever he remember Shauna angrily dumping cereal on Peter's head just before lunch) instead of being bogged down with all the possible consequences. If he wasn't so certain that pursuing Mindy would ultimately end horrendously, he might actually consider loosening up around her.

Did I really just wish to be more like Peter? he cringed. No, surely things aren't that bad.

With a desperate shake of his head he picked up the phone and dialed Mindy's extension, blowing out an exasperated sigh.

"Hey," she answered plainly. The shuffle of paperwork in the receiver served as a workable distraction from the flutter in his chest at the sound of her voice. God, this is ridiculous.

"Hey, I took a look at those records. I think we should stop by The Grape Leaf."

"The Grape Leaf?" she repeated. "That hole-in-the-wall Greek place across from the hole-in-the-wall Thai place?"

"That's the one. Daniels went there a few times and the bills are kind of large for one person."

"So he did have a lunch date," she mused. "Just not Tamra."

"I don't think so, no. I have a few acquaintances there that might help us out. We can leave in fifteen minutes."

"Sounds good!" she confirmed with her typical zeal. "And afterwards do you think you can treat your favorite partner to lunch? There's a future bagel in it for you, and I might even throw in a mildly embarrassing Good Morning song!"

Why does she have to be so damn charismatic? Danny lamented inwardly as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'll meet you at the car in fifteen," he responded, sounding brusquer than he intended.

"Oh. Um, okay."

While he never minded taking on the title of "jerk" before, he began to feel the rare pang of guilt as he disconnected the call.

Three sent e-mails later, Danny walked through the parking lot as he finished putting on his jacket. He could already spot a pair of shiny turquoise flat shoes by the passenger door before the rest of her came into view. Once closer he noticed her leaning against the driver's side.

"You're not driving, if that's what you're thinking," he called out, his voice echoing off the concrete walls of the garage.

"I didn't plan on it...but now that you mention it, it's a little presumptuous of you to take the wheel every single time. Furthermore, you're not my boss! You can't command me to the passenger's seat!"

"What, do you want to drive?" he asked with raised eyebrows.

"Not right this moment, but maybe later!" she replied, seemingly flustered.

It was hard for Danny to ignore the adorably tiny flare of Mindy's nose whenever she got flustered. He cursed himself at his inability to control such wandering thoughts. As his head dropped he could clearly hear Mindy take a calming breath.

"Danny, are you okay?" she asked, concern replacing indignation. "You've been really weird since Friday night. I know you got my text on Sunday about the founding fathers documentary series on PBS."

"And I still don't understand why you thought I'd need to know that."

"Hey, I took a shot in the dark. Sue me!" She crossed her arms over her chest. "Then you don't say a word to me all day yesterday and today you're this strange breed of grumpy-sullen. Did I do something?"

"No," he quickly denied. "You didn't do anything."

"Are you scared that I'm gonna tell people what you told me about Charlie?" she asked in a low voice, as if she were fearful that the other vehicles might hear her.

Danny rolled his eyes. "No, that's crazy. I'm not…I'm just a little stressed out, okay?"

Mindy's eyebrows knitted together as she tried sympathize. "Like, you're stressed about the case?"

"Yeah," he lied. "Yeah, the case has got me a little bugged out, I guess."

"Okay, but you've solved tons of cases."

He shrugged. "Sure, but this one's different."

The relevance of that statement – though wrapped in farce – struck him rather abruptly. It was then that he recognized why his evolving feelings for Mindy were so daunting. She was different. This wasn't a fleeting attraction with a woman he spotted at a loud bar or someone he had grown to like over a period of time. This was Mindy. The majority of his days were spent with her. While they had only truly worked together for less than a week, she supported him like they'd been friends for ages. He reasoned that all of this was why, for the first time in a very long time, her incredible beauty was an afterthought to him. She was absolutely different. She was his partner.

"I just think I'm a little more invested in this than I meant to be in the beginning," he continued with a hint of a croak.

Mindy's head swayed while she considered what his admission. "Well, I think you'd have to be, man. That's our job."

Danny nodded. "Yeah, you're right about that."

"And you're not the only one whose credibility is on the line here," she continued. "I'm the newbie, remember? It'll be much worse for me if this gets screwed up. But I'm treating this like every other case and I think we're onto something. We're good detectives. We're even a pretty good team, don't you think?"

Her hand found his upper arm in a gentle squeeze before falling back down to her side. Her gaze was simultaneously penetrative and comforting. He wished he could explain to her that treating the case - her - like all the others was not going to work. He couldn't, though. Not yet.

But Danny could still feel his anxiety towards her begin to ebb. The newfound comprehension of his feelings, while still nerve-wracking, made him feel like he still had some control. The distance no longer felt necessary.

"You're right," he agreed. "I'm being stupid."

"Alright," Mindy nodded with the barest hint of a smile. She started to move out of the way and over to her usual side of the car. "So you'll suck it up long enough for us to do our job?"

"Hey, don't use my words against me," he commanded with a smirk. "I don't like that."

"I bet you don't. Oh, and I wasn't kidding about lunch today."

"We can discuss a possible hot dog."

"Hey, I love hot dogs!"

After parking the Trailblazer along the side of the road, Danny led them down the path and maneuvered their way through a busy stream of people.

Mindy maintained her stride close behind him. "So you know somebody here?"

"The guy that buses tables and I go way back," Danny answered as they approached the entrance. "Hopefully he can give us something good."

He swung open the door and was immediately satisfied with the sight of a bushy-haired man wiping down the surface next to a foggy glass dessert display case. True to form, the man recognized Danny, rolled his eyes, and groaned with a level of exasperation that Danny just knew wasn't at all exaggerated.

"Mr. Kleinfeld!" he boisterously greeted. "It's always a pleasure running into you here."

"Tell me something," the man's tone was clipped as he tossed the rag onto the counter. "How is it that I see you more now than when I was actually committing crimes and stuff? I thought going straight meant no more 'run ins.'" His eyes darted towards Mindy. "And you've made a friend? Since when have you ever needed help harassing the innocent?"

Danny nudged his head in her direction. "Sam, relax. This is my partner, Detective Lahiri. We're investigating a murder that occurred last week and we think you can help us."

"Are you talkin' about that dead politician guy?" Sam inquired.

"Josh Daniels, yes. You know him?"

"I didn't know him," he emphasized, "but I saw him here once. Maybe twice."

"Only twice?" Mindy piped up. She stepped forward until she was standing beside Danny. "We believe he was here at least seven times."

"He might have come in while I wasn't working, I dunno."

Danny leaned forward against the counter, crossing one leg in front of the other as he tried to get comfortable. "Sam, we've known each other for a while, right? I think we have a pretty good rapport."

Sam cocked his head back and narrowed his eyes. "Admittedly, it's much easier to deal with you when you're not shoving me into the back of a squad car. Not by much, mind you."

"I'd agree. And you've been bussing tables here for...what, four years?"

"I've since been promoted to server-slash-host, thank you," Sam corrected, indignant.

"That's wonderful. That really is. Either way, we both know that you know more than you're letting on. You're here almost every day. You mean to tell me you only saw him possibly twice?"

Sam blew out a sigh and looked towards the ceiling before squeezing his eyes shut, as if he were mentally willing Danny to leave. "This is why I can't stand when you come by. You come in here, shittin' all over my day, insisting that I know about aaaallll the murders in town - "

"-not all. That's ridiculous," Danny deadpanned.

"-and you accuse me of lying-"

"-because you always lie."

" - and then you bring your very beautiful partner here to what, play Good Cop/Bad Cop? You beat it out of me while she offers me a soda?"

"Sam, when have I ever beaten you?" Danny asked with raised eyebrows, daring him to respond. "More importantly, what's to beat out of you, exactly?"

"Nothing!" Sam exclaimed a little too loudly. He looked around to find that he had garnered the attention of the only two customers in the dining room. He leaned forward and continued in a lower voice. "Look, I don't know what you want from me. I didn't see the guy here much at all. As you can see we can barely fit more than seven people here at once, and even that's pushing it. I think I'd know if I saw a big shot politician here seven times."

Danny looked towards a wood partition in the far right corner. With a point he asked, "What about the private room? Maybe he was in there?"

Sam kept his attention staunchly forward, refusing to look in the direction that Danny was indicating. "What private room?"

"Don't do this right now," Danny snapped as he stood up straight. "I mean it! Don't jerk us around; we don't have the time."

"Okay fine, fine!" He nervously readjusted the stained blue apron tied around his waist. "I'm sorry for -"

"-lying?" Mindy interjected, which made Danny want to smile rather hugely for one reason or another.

"Playing dumb," Sam insisted. "I'm sorry for playing dumb, but in a way I kind of am when it comes to that room. Milo, the owner, insists that he's the only one allowed to serve those guests. His son fills in for him when he's not here. Me? I'm not allowed in there."

"What kind of guests usually use that room?" Mindy asked, beating Danny to the question.

Sam shrugged. "I don't know. Celebrities?"

"Celebrities?" Danny repeated skeptically. "What kind of celebrities?"

"You know, celebrities. Your Ben Stillers and your Kim Kardashians."

"Okay, I'm sorry. There is no way Kim Kardashian dines at the Grape Leaf," Mindy stopped to squint and read a framed certificate on the dingy wall behind the register, " 'named Honorable Mentioned for Most Decent Gyro in the City.'"

"You don't know! She might!"

"She only wants the best! Every time!"

"Okay, enough!" Danny barked. "Sam, where's Milo?"

"In Toronto. Visiting relatives, I think."

"What about Beverly?"

Sam nodded his head towards the same corner as the private room entrance. "In the kitchen. You know she never leaves here."

Rather than wait for Sam's permission, Danny walked towards the kitchen's swinging doors with Mindy close behind. He hadn't stepped into this kitchen since an investigation two years ago, yet it still retained the same stench of stale dishwater and raw meat. Thankfully there were no roaches this time. The sound of clanging stock pots preceded the sight of a wiry woman with her hair in a large bun, hunched over a stove. Danny always liked Beverly, but never ate here when she was cooking - mainly due to her lack of a hairnet or standards when it came to cleaning the grill.

"Beverly," he called out over the clatter. She turned around at once, her face maintaining a look of determination. Her brows shot upward when she recognized him.

"Well, hey there, handsome!" she greeted in her raspy voice. "Long time no see...which is a good thing, I guess."

"How are you, sweetheart?" The smile he gave her was genuine. Beverly was a firecracker of a woman. He told her on more than one occasion that she reminded him of some of his older aunts: blunt, full of attitude, and with a laugh that sounded like a mischievous roar.

"Same ol' aches and idiots," she sighed as she moved the undoubtedly heavy pot to another burner. "But I know you didn't come all the way over here to talk about my new boyfriend and my raging bunion. What can I help you with, Danny? And who are you, lady?"

Mindy blinked, caught off guard by the sudden acknowledgment.. "Uh, Detective Lahiri. I'm Detective Castellano's partner."

"Oooh, 'Detective Castellano?' Fancy." Beverly gave a knowing smile as she grabbed a nearby cloth and dried her hands.

"Can you tell me what you know about Josh Daniels and any of the times he visited the restaurant?"

"The pretty boy with the nice chompers? Yeah, he liked to eat in the private room. Two men used to meet him and they'd all order the same thing: Shawarma, two bowls of chicken-lemon soup, potatoes, and a gyro. Beers all around."

Danny nodded and caught Mindy taking notes out of the corner of his eye. "Any clue who they were?"

"Well," Beverly groaned, slinging the cloth over her shoulder, "there was a squat guy with a mole under his nose and a bad comb-over. Then there was the good-looking guy with long hair. Rumor has it he was an ex-cop. Logan something. Or maybe his last name was Logan."

"Graham Logan?" Mindy spoke up and her note-taking ceased. Danny's head snapped in her direction. With a frown he silently mouthed "How...?"

Beverly looked utterly disinterested as she rose and dropped a single shoulder in a half-shrug. "Probably. He was gorgeous. That's all I know. I only saw them twice, but I can recite that order in my sleep. Nobody else is brave enough to eat the soup...or the shawarma...the beer's a little suspect, too. Nobody should eat here."

"How do you know about Graham Logan?" Danny immediately asked once they reentered the car.

"Gwen told me about him my first week!" Mindy quickly buckled her seat belt. "We were talking about corruption and hot cops. Logan was a cop out of Jersey, right?"

Danny nodded. "Yeah, and he just kind of faded out."

"Well, the major rumor is that he was found accepting bribes from local drug dealers and when his captain found out, Graham was kind of ushered out quietly to avoid a serious backlash. Then he supposedly fell into this major drug cartel, but I don't know how true that is. But if any of it is even remotely true, then Daniels meeting with him regularly means something major."

"We're obviously closing in on something. There's no way Graham's just gonna meet with us and spill his guts, though."

He watched Mindy chew on the corner of her bottom lip while her face was screwed in deep thought. "Hmm...we should sleep on this one. I mean, I hope we get to go undercover. That would be amazing."

"No, it's not," Danny countered. "The paperwork, the silly costumes..."

"I have never met a detective who didn't like undercover work."

"Well, I guess I'm enigma, then," Danny smiled. Mindy smiled back.

"Well, that's one way to describe you."

"Oh, yeah? How else would you describe me?"

Mindy laughed. "Oh, there's not enough time for that. But there will be plenty of time tonight when you come to my trivia night."

Danny had forgotten about her party entirely.

"Uh, I – um," he stuttered, which made him immediately want to slam his head against the steering wheel. Smooth. Before he could continue, Mindy held up a hand.

"Before you give me some awful excuse, save it. You're coming. I bought you some gross beer and if I have to hear Maggie's husband complain that he's the only guy there all night, I'm immediately taking it out on you tomorrow."

She stared at him with raised eyebrows and the slight upturn of her lip. He could tell that she was already internally celebrating her victory over him and simply waiting for his acquiescence like a wave of a white flag. He dropped the back of his head against the headrest in defeat.

"Do I need to bring anything?" he asked.

If he hadn't found Mindy's smile so beautiful, he would have considered it mocking. "Just your winning attitude…and maybe some dip."

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