Brass and Blue

Chapter 9

"So, Castellano…I'm hearing around the office that your case is at a standstill."

Though he was in no mood to think about the current hurdle in his investigation, Danny was at least appreciative of the fact that Gwen had the decency not to sound smug. Defending his and Mindy's modest progress so early in the morning was going to require more sustenance than a bowl of oatmeal.

"Are you hearing this 'around' or from Mindy?" he mumbled. Mentioning her name –especially her full name - out loud after the previous night somehow felt odd. Also, knowing that she was somewhere around the headquarters and hadn't talked to him yet caused a curiously nervous flutter in his stomach. They seemed to be on good terms when he left (and he could punch Carl and his low alcohol tolerance for making it impossible to talk to Mindy at the end of the night. He'd never witnessed someone vomit so much after only three beers). Now he was worried that a night's rest had somehow made her reconsider their new development. The only thing that managed to change for him since their kiss was his steadily mounting desire for her. It may have been way too early to tell, but there was still the possibility that Mindy was planning to avoid him out of regret. This, Danny concluded, was easily the worst part about finally getting what you wanted: waiting on some sort of confirmation that you get to keep it.

"Mindy?" Gwen repeated with an expression of keen interest. "Did you just call her 'Mindy?' What, no 'Lahiri' or "Dead Weight?'"

"Mindy's her name, isn't it?"

"It is," she agreed reluctantly. "And yes, she did tell me this morning that things were at a temporary halt."

"So I'm guessing you're here to gloat?"

Gwen began to pour herself a mug of coffee while giving a slight shake of her head. "No, I'm actually kind of impressed! By now you'd be chewing off your hand to keep from arresting someone as a last ditch effort. Hearing that you're actually taking your time with this one is pretty impressive."

Danny shrugged. "Well, it's not like we're left with a whole lot of options. Nothing on tape, no murder weapon, no solid motive…"

"So, what's your next move?"

Danny leaned back in his chair and thought about the question for a moment. "Well, we've gotta talk to that Graham Logan guy eventually."

"And actually get a straight, honest answer out of the guy? Good luck with that."

"Well, we don't have a wealth of options here aside from waiting for the toxicology reports in a few weeks."

Gwen nodded automatically as she sipped. "So you're pretty much idle for the next couple of weeks, basically."

"Well, I wouldn't say idle," Danny stressed. "Min and I will just use the down time to review the evidence and witness accounts we've got."

Peering over the rim of her large mug, Gwen looked at him pointedly. "Hold on. 'Min and I?' Seriously? Damn, it's worse than I thought!"

"You thought nothing."

"Oh, yes I did! I thought all the things!"

Much to his irritation, her contagious excitement elicited a very reluctant grin from him as he stood to make his exit from the break room. "Go do some work, Grandy."

"Whatever, Castellano. Shauna's gonna have a field day with this one."

The morning dragged considerably. By 11:00 a.m. Danny had spoken to literally everyone but Mindy. Even Charlie had approached him about the details of a solved case from the previous year. With each passing moment he could feel the pressure to come up with a reasonable excuse to see her that wouldn't feel like some sort of trap. They could discuss the evidence they were already very familiar with, or he could ask for her help on another case that was already ninety percent solved, but it all seemed so transparent. This state of limbo that they had created for themselves in her bedroom made her harder to approach than ever before. The shadow of a possibility that she would label the kiss a mistake seemed to be enough to keep him at bay.

After writing a final report for another case file, his desk phone sounded with a sharp ring. He picked up the phone immediately and just barely managed to give a distracted greeting into the receiver.

"Daniel Castellano."

"Mindy Lahiri, Mr. Formal."

Though it took a moment for him to register the spirited tone of her voice, he felt his earlier anxiety begin to dissipate as he let out a shaky chuckle. "Sorry. I was distracted and didn't check the ID."

"Were you planning to work on the case today?"

"Uh, I wanted to," he answered optimistically while silently berating himself for not sounding more confident. "What, did you have something in mind?"

"I don't know, I figured it might not hurt to look at the surveillance from the fundraiser again. Now that we've met a few of the major players, maybe some things might stand out within a new context?"

It was a good idea, and it sounded just productive enough to not come across as an excuse to be alone with her. "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. When did you want to take a look at it?"

He could hear Mindy consider the questioned with a nondescript hum. "How about in the next hour?"

The time intersected with his lunchtime. "That's perfect. I've got nothing going on."

"Cool. I meet you in Room C in an hour."

Danny was amazed at how quickly time could pass without the handicap of uncertainty. He felt free to focus on other matters in the meantime, busying himself until the arrival of noon. By the time he made it to the room Mindy was already sitting in front of the television patiently with her legs crossed. She turned around and smiled brightly.

"I got us lunch!" she announced proudly. "Ned from Dino's Deli says 'hello' and put extra sauerkraut on your Reuben. Also," she leaned over and pushed a small bag adorned with glittering stickers into view. "You bolted without your goody bag last night, which I obviously blame Carl for. You helped me make it; I figured you might want to enjoy the fruits of your labor."

"Thanks," he smiled. "I love Dino's."

"I know that now!" Mindy exclaimed with a laugh. "I walked in and saw a picture up with you and the owner. Did you really win a pastrami eating contest?"

Danny took a seat next Mindy, graciously accepting the bag containing his lunch. "That was a good day."

"So gross," she groaned, though still smiling. "So what should we take a look at?"

"I'm thinking we should just look at the ballroom footage again," he answered decisively. "If there was any funny business at any of the points of entry, I think someone would have mentioned it by now."

Mindy thumbed through the number of disks sitting on top of the DVR player. "Ballroom it is."

The start of the surveillance was dull with only a few people trickling in. Jason Richmond could be spotted walking around with a young volunteer, presumably giving last minute orders. Nobody else in the frame looked familiar or remotely notable. Danny tried to maintain his attention on the video, but occasionally glanced at Mindy through his periphery. Her focus served to solidify his own. If she could manage to concentrate on their task without making a fool of herself, so could he. His resolve lasted for less than four minutes until Mindy suddenly leaned forward and paused the video with a push of a button.

"We should talk about last night, right?" she blurted while not exactly meeting him eye-to-eye. Admittedly, it was nice to see her nervous.

"We should," he agreed. "Look, Mindy-"

"Min," she corrected softly. Danny beamed at the significance of it, even though she was still reluctant to look up at him fully. Had they not been at the station he would have grabbed her then and kissed her soundly. Instead, he just turned his body a little more towards her, opening up to her.

"Min," he began again. "I don't want you to think that me kissing you was a spur-of-the-moment thing."

"And I don't want you thinking that it was just some side effect of being hella vulnerable in that moment," Mindy replied, chancing a glance at him. "Though I'll admit that talking about my divorce can do that sometimes. I saw a therapist for a while and she said that it was natural for infidelity to trigger this need to feel desired."

Danny nodded, knowing that feeling all too well. "I get that. The one serious girlfriend I had cheated on me, actually."

Mindy looked interested and remorseful at the same time. "Oh, really?"

Danny shrugged it off, not wanted her to get consumed with pity. "Yeah, but Alex was kind of unpredictable to begin with. She liked to travel, get immersed in new crowds…her settling down felt more like an experiment, you know? I was hurt, but I got over it quicker than most would."

Mindy nodded. "Well, that's shitty. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I just wanted you to know that I would get it if you just wanted to feel wanted for a little bit."

"But I didn't!" she insisted, not faltering at his gaze this time. "I mean, yeah, feeling wanted rocked, but that's not why I kissed you."

The assurance felt great. The burden that weighed heavily on his chest lifted with the knowledge that she truly wanted him. He didn't bother to prevent the impending heavy sigh from escaping his lips. "That's not why I kissed you either. I did want you, though. I still do."

He expected her to shy away from the honesty, but she didn't. In fact, she sat a little straighter at his admission, maintaining a glare that almost seemed daring as her lips curled in a smirk. "Well, as tempting as that is…we've got to get a date or five on books before we can really talk about…moving forward."

"Five?!" Danny challenged, only half-joking.

"And sandwiches while we play Where's Waldo with boring security footage doesn't count, Dan."

Danny laughed while scratching the stubble on his chin. "Wow, okay. Well…this Friday. Instead of hanging out with the squad, how about you and I break away on our own? I know this really cool Cuban restaurant that has incredible beer. No crowds and we can talk about whatever you want to talk about."

The smile on Mindy's face was radiant, and it took an award-worthy amount of restraint to not yank her close and kiss her fully. "Okay!" she agreed cheerfully. "It's a date."

"Good. That's really good, actually." He couldn't find it in him to be embarrassed by his eagerness. He was simply ecstatic that their partnership was moving in such a great direction. Settled, Danny eased back into his chair while Mindy leaned forward once more to resume the recording.

"I hope you bring a lot of money with you, Castellano," she joked, then continued in a melodic voice. "Because I'm craaaazy high maintenance."

Danny laughed boisterously as the people on the screen started to mill about again. "Don't you worry about it, Lahiri. I've got this."

Twenty minutes passed and still nothing looked even the least bit noteworthy. Danny did, however, pay special attention to Tamra this time around as she gave her short speech. Within those few minutes she looked unflinchingly supportive and loving.

"Wow, she really played her role, didn't she?" Mindy sighed before taking a bite of her sandwich.

"I was just thinking that," he agreed. "You'd never know from the outside looking in." Shortly after, Josh took the podium and immediately hypnotized the crowd with his glossy smile. As he spoke, Danny couldn't help but feel slightly repulsed by now-apparent phoniness in his delivery. Dead or not, it was hard to be on the side of a man who could have been potentially harboring some potentially dangerous secrets. To his credit, the man knew how to command a room. While he spoke, nobody moved about or even talked amongst their table.

"Do you think he would have won?" he pondered. He was embarrassed to admit that he hadn't kept up with the campaign as much as his coworkers. He looked towards Mindy, who was nodding shallowly.

"Yeah, he probably would have. Classic popular guy syndrome: all the women want him, all the men want to be him…that sort of thing. That usually amounts to a lot of votes, politics be damned."

"How about Christina Porter?"

"Kind of cold, severe…but she knows what she's talking about. Have you been following the election at all?" Before he could stammer for an excuse, Mindy's eyes widened before dropping her sandwich onto the nearby table. "Oh my God!" She pointed at a man sitting at one of the tables. "That's Graham Logan!"

"Hold on. What?" Danny inched his chair forward and squinted in order to make out a gentleman who seemed to blend in, aside from his slicked ponytail. "Are you sure?"

"Gwen and I googled him last week. I can spot that bone structure anywhere. Trust me. That's Logan. What the hell is he doing there? You'd think someone that shady wouldn't be at a publicized event like this!"

Looking at the man sitting dutifully on the screen, Danny replied, "Unless he's trying to look like a man with nothing to hide. Some like to hide in plain sight, you know that."

"True, but shit," she marveled. "Way to incriminate yourself. Popping up right before Daniels gets taken out? That's not a great look, even at a charity event."

Danny quickly came up with an idea. "Hey, we should get a hold of the donation records from that night. I wouldn't be surprised if he gave Daniels some money."

Mindy looked rightfully skeptical. "Do you really think he'd leave a trail like that? In his actual name, no less?"

"My guess is that if you and Gwen can easily find him during some horned up Google search," he said, ignoring the affronted scoff of his partner, "then he wouldn't bother hiding his identity. With his rep, it's way too late for that anyway. We can look at the list of donors and maybe pull an address. Even if it's a dummy address, it might tell us more than we know right now."

Considering his point, Mindy nodded in agreement. "Okay, so Jason Richmond again?"

"Yeah, but hopefully not for long."

"You're already working for another campaign?" Mindy asked incredulously the next day as she stood next to the impeccably dressed campaign manager. He diligently dug through a box of files.

"I still have some hefty bills to pay, so yes," he replied in exasperation. "Not to mention, I have a brand new gin habit to fund because Paul Leotard is a fucking train wreck to manage." He whispered the last few words while extracted a thin file. "The man is unelectable. If I can manage to get him to one interview without him being high as a kite, I'll consider it a victory."

"Where is the new golden boy?" Danny asked, getting a little joy out of seeing Jason so frazzled.

"Morgan was supposed to drive him to breakfast, but rushed off to see his grandmother about a heart thing," he said dismissively as he handed over the manila file. "So Paul drove himself. That was two hours ago. He could be anywhere. Literally. I bet he's high."

Mindy didn't wait to enter the car in order to view the ledger of donors. She carefully read the tiny print, line by line. "Jesus. Daniels made some serious bank."

"Not shocked," Danny murmured as he keyed into the vehicle. "Anything out of the ordinary?"

"Not really. A-ha!" She slid into the vehicle as her finger singled out a name. "'Logan, G' donated…GODDAMN! How does he have THAT much money just available to give away?!"

Danny reached over and took the ledger. Searching the print, he quickly spotted Graham's name across a documented gift of ten thousand dollars. "What the hell? That's a lot of cash for a disgraced cop. And the address he listed isn't exactly a neighborhood that screams 'disposable income.'"

"Should we head over there?" Mindy asked. He shook his head.

"Let's maybe scope the place out first."

"Stake out?"

"Yeah. Shit, I really didn't want to, but yeah."

Mindy let out a brief squeal and quick clap of her hands. "Okay, I know you're the too-cool-for-school detective that doesn't get a kick out of stuff like this, but I'm excited."

Danny chuckled. "I'm not gonna be the one to burst your bubble and tell you how boring these stake outs are at night. You'll come to realize on your own." After a dismissive wave of Mindy's hand, Danny came to a disappointing realization. "You know, if we have to do this, that probably means we'll have to postpone our date."

Mindy shrugged. "Do we? If I bring snacks it'll kind of be like dinner and the most realistic-looking movie ever."

"We can do waaay better than that, Min," Danny laughed. "But please bring the snacks, anyway."

That night, the address on the ledger led them to a rickety and seemingly abandoned house sitting in the middle of a shabby neighborhood street. Danny assumed the location was either a decoy or a meeting spot.

"Nobody lives here," he announced as they drove further down the street and parked a few houses away. "Tall grass, cobwebbed garage door...we could be staking out absolutely nothing."

"Are we sure it's not the house next door?" Mindy asked as she went over the address once more. "At least there's a van parked in the drive. Wait, is that a food truck? Man, I love a good food truck."

"No, we've got the right house." He stretched his back before resettling into his seat. "Who knows, maybe he'll turn up with some friends. We've just gotta sit tight for a few hours."

Mindy pulled a pair of binoculars from a small duffel bag at her feet and held them out for Danny to take. "How very patient of you, Danny."

"Yeah, I'm still not a fan of that concept."

The night dragged, the snacks eventually ran out, and the energy drinks wore off far too quickly. All they had to show for a night spent in an SUV was a litter of empty Red Bull cans and a renewed appreciated for their beds. Graham Logan hadn't made a single appearance.

In fact, Graham Logan hadn't manifested once during the three subsequent stake outs that followed.

After a week with no luck, Mindy declared defeat with the rising sun.

"Let's call it," she huffed. "It's getting to a point now where I'm growing angry with every sunrise. It feels like it's mocking us, in a way."

Danny agreed, revving up the engine as he stifled another yawn. "Yeah, this was a bust. The only thing remotely interesting was the sight of that food truck peeling out of the drive the other night."

"Yeah, that was weird. Do you think there was a barbecue emergency?" Mindy joked. "That would be thrilling and delicious."

He knew that she expected him to laugh back, but he was momentarily captivated by her falling ponytail and her cheerful eyes to respond. He leaned across the middle arm rest and laid a gentle kiss on her lips, lingering for a moment before retreating back to his side and securing his seatbelt. Mindy looked stunned, but pleased.

"What?" Danny fired in jest. "A guy can't kiss his partner every once in a while?"

Mindy giggled, shaking her head and retouching her ponytail. "I don't know. Let me ask Lang and Prentice."

Danny headed straight for the station, steeling himself to write another anticlimactic report. They were accosted by Peter the moment they entered the facility.

"Captain wants to see you both," he informed them as he bit loudly into an apple. Danny rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his tousled hair. "Dammit, right now?"

"Yeah, bro, he seemed pretty insistent." Peter walked away, leaving the pair to look at each other curiously.

"We've followed protocol so far, right?" Mindy asked.

Danny recalled their process quickly as they walked towards the captain's office door. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure we've been careful. There might also be some new evidence. It's not necessarily bad."

Shrugging, Mindy replied, "Well, if we're in trouble, I'm pulling the newbie card with little shame. Just a warning."

Despite his confidence that they weren't in any real trouble, Danny did prepare himself for a possible reprimanding. If Captain Shulman asks to see you at the top of the morning, that's typically an indication of something major. Danny's knock was immediately returned with an invitation to enter. When he opened the door, he was greeted with the last sight he could have ever expected after such a fruitless week.

Sitting across from Captain Shulman was a young-looking man with thick curly brown hair and sharp, pointed features. He wore dark suit and his face appeared to be stuck in a permanently smug state.

Next to him was Graham Logan. He didn't look anxious or the least bit dangerous. Actually, he looked rather professional with the exception of his loose hair that fell effortlessly around his shoulders. He looked weirdly pleased to see them...or, Danny considered, he was amused by their sleepy state. Either way, he wanted nothing more than to drag him to the interrogation room.

"Good morning, Detective Castellano, Detective Lahiri," Shulman greeted. "Danny, I'm sure you already know Sergeant Cliff Gilbert from the Narcotics division. And this is Detective Graham Logan."

"Detective?!" Danny repeated, almost shouting. The lack of sufficient sleep hampered his ability to filter disbelief properly. The surprise of hearing this seemingly suspicious man being introduced with a professional title, however, outweighed the need to be polite.

"Danny, good to see you." Cliff extended his hand for a shake, which Danny accepted slowly. Cliff offered the same hand to Mindy. Logan smiled and waved kindly from his seat.

"They've been working undercover for months on the Deslaurier Cartel case," Marc explained, "and stumbled upon some information that they thought was pertinent to the Daniels investigation."

"Wow, you've been undercover?" Mindy asked Graham. "For how long?"

"Almost three months," he boasted. "We finally took the operation down two nights ago. We actually spotted you staking out the dummy house late last week."

Danny leaned against the door with his arms crossed over his chest. "You saw us? From where?"

"You were in the food truck!" Mindy accused. Sargent Gilbert nodded.

"The house behind our decoy house was used as their headquarters of sorts."

Mindy looked as if she were trying to wrangle one of the many questions running amok in her head. She turned to Graham. "Okay,'re not a corrupt cop."

"Not at all," he denied vehemently. "We just had to put that story out there so the Deslauriers' would trust me. It took a while, but it eventually worked. The rumors spread a little too wide, though. The lady at the laundromat still gives me dirty looks. She used to love me!"

"What exactly did you find out?" Danny asked in an attempt to redirect the conversation. "How deep was Daniels' involvement?"

Cliff blew out a deep sigh, as if he were about to unload some major information. "Pretty deep. It looked like your typical symbiotic relationship: the cartel essentially floated his campaign financially while Daniels promised to put measures in place that would allow the Deslauriers free reign."

"Measures?" Mindy pressed.

"Back in the day the force had a major issue with corruption," Captain Shulman explained. "There were a number of beat cops, detectives, even a chief – across various department - who were called to the carpet for accepting bribes, turning a blind eye to a lot of stuff, there were even a few who were under the Fishman cartel payroll."

"Wow," Danny mused. "I never knew that."

"Not many did and the mayor at the time wanted it that way," Marc sighed. "Mayor Menken cleaned up everything and barely made a peep doing it."

"We're pretty certain that Daniels' plan was to reinstate a lot of the cops that were ousted under Menken," Graham added. "We'd met with one of the cops quite a few times, actually. They didn't talk too in depth about the future, but they were pretty chummy."

Even with the onslaught of new information, Danny was still having a hard time arriving to any real motive. "It sounds like the Deslauriers needed him if they wanted to have any type of real pull in the city."

"They did," Cliff confirmed firmly. "And once they found out that they no longer had a Trojan horse, things fell apart from within. Finger pointing, backdoor deals...the whole thing imploded."

"We finally managed to catch one of the deals at the headquarters," Graham said. "They got desperate enough to actually involve me. We took 'em down right then."

Marc stood from his chair and began to wander from around his desk. His hands rested on his hips, pushing the flaps of his suit jacket back. "You mentioned finger-pointing..."

"Yeah, a lot of accusations flying around about Daniels' murder," Cliff responded. "All the claims were far fetched and none of them had any sticking power. Watching them for so long, we can vouch that none of them did it."

"So this was an outside job?" Mindy guessed. "If none of them wanted him dead, it would have to have been someone outside of the cartel, right? Are there any notable enemies?"

Graham gave an unsure shake of his head. "To be honest, they kind of just hate everyone. Really arrogant, the Deslauriers. They don't perceive anyone as actual competition. Plus the job looked so sloppy, I doubt it was anyone who was a real threat to their operation...or at least nobody that should have been a threat."

Danny could see the familiar symptoms of a dead end. The bad guy wasn't really a bad guy. A clear enemy couldn't be found anywhere. Even the cartel had an alibi, courtesy of the NYPD.

A harsh exhale came from Mindy's direction, but when he looked at her he saw a tight lipped smile. "You know, this is great," she said brightly, though the enthusiasm seemed forced for the very first time. She nodded as her gaze fell to the floor, appearing to be convincing herself of her optimism more than the others. "No, this is good. It all has to be connected somehow, right? We've just gotta do some serious research and go from there. Maybe we can talk to the medical examiner, uh...shit, what's his name?"

"Reed," Danny supplied automatically. "Jeremy Reed."

"Yes!" Mindy cried. "Let's see if he can rush the toxicology results, just so it's out of the way."

Cliff checked his watch quickly. His eyebrows shot up immediately. "We've gotta go," he announced as he stood, prompting Graham to stand up as well. Cliff handed Danny a file that had been wedged between his thigh and the seat. "Here are some of the particulars regarding our bust, as well as correspondence between Daniels and the Deslauriers that we recovered from our searches. Hopefully it helps."

Danny thanked Cliff with firm handshake. "We appreciate this, Sergeant."

"No problem. Just catch the bastard."

The visitors left the captain's office (not without the rapt attention of Gwen and Shauna) with Danny and Mindy just behind them. Danny tossed the file onto his desk with little regard. "We're screwed."

"We're not," Mindy countered gently. "We just need to hit this from another angle. We know a lot more than we did an hour ago. That makes a huge difference, doesn't it?"

"I don't know, Min," he sighed, settling slowly at his desk. "I really hope it does. We've gotta figure out something."

"We will. What other choice do we have?"

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