C A I N
You ok? You're quiet babe.
I'll feel better once I've seen him.
Are you sure you don't want me to come? I can wear a disguise?
I trust Andy. Do you?
I pause, my heart rate increasing with the pressure of telling my girl I trust someone. She'd been through so much, I just wanted to protect her. Which I couldn't do whilst I was in this godforsaken office.
Andy is a good guy. As soon as he was released and all charges were dropped, he'd moved away from here. His house was still on the market, so he came back every now and then to check on the place. Today was one of those days, and Max had asked him to meet for coffee. She truly wanted to apologise, and I love her for it. She was such a pure soul, and I knew Andy would appreciate it. We'd kept in touch recently, and he even supported my relationship with Max.
Strange how things turn out.
"Ready for the latest bombshell?" Harry smirks, sitting on my desk.
"No," I huff, picking my phone up to reply to Max.
CAIN: Yes. Just turn your location on, and text me when you meet him. Don't forget we have plans this evening…
MAX: Yes dear, see you at seven.
"It was a rhetorical question you plumb," Harry taps his newspaper on my head lightly. He was one of the only guys I know that carries the paper around with him like an old man, but as he reminded me when I needled him about it; it never ran out of battery. "Alex George has been shagging Yan on a regular."
I lift my eyes up to his, my brow furrowing with disbelief. Max will go fucking mad.
"Yup," Harry looks pleased with himself as he slumped into the chair before me, lacing his hands behind his head. "When Yans old lady found them together, he made out it was to pay a debt off. One dickhead plus another dickhead equals…?"
He cocks an eyebrow at me and I drop my phone with a clatter.
"Two dickheads? I dunno, Harry, for fucks sake."
"Tired again? I need your brain working, Harvey," Harry pulls his lips into a disapproving smirk as I shrug my shoulders.
"Maybe. Can you blame me?"
"She's good for you," Harry says, drumming his fingers on the desk between us. "But if you can't figure shit out because you two are busy fucking all night long-"
"Nah, man, it's not like that. We were binge watching this documentary on Netflix about a guy who killed his missus by throwing her down the stairs. Great drama," I fill him in, grinning with enthusiasm.
"That's lovely, Cain," Harry smiles, before his expression turns stony. "But we got real police shit going on here so if you'd get some shut eye at night-"
"Harry. Shut up."
Harry huffs, tapping a pen against his lips. "Alex knew they were blackmailing her family for money."
My blood ran cold, and I closed my eyes in response.
"She was happy to pin it on Andy, and carry on her torrid affair with Yan. What she didn't plan on, was them taking Max."
"No fucking shit. That stupid bitch," I mutter, slamming my fist down on the desk. Harry doesn't flinch, he just continues.
"She went along with their story, of course, so Andy is in the slammer, and she can go back to her lover. Max is fine, the money isn't recovered-"
"All that to avoid fucking Hailey finding-"
"Well, not exactly. Alex and Yan were going to run with the money."
My breath comes out in a whoosh of disbelief then, and Harry shakes his head at me.
"But, why would someone steal from their family-"
"Yan threatened Frankie-"
Harry raised an eyebrow to me, before turning his attention back to the paper. His voice is low when he speaks, but every word sends shivers down my spine.
"No, Hailey did. She thought Yan was in on it, remember? But he is in love with Alex, Cain."
I slump into my seat, my head reeling. Alex had fucked her family over to be with some skanky ass drug dealer? Not only that, but she had been happy to send an innocent man to jail.
The room is silent as the news sinks in, the only sound is the occasional flutter of pages as Harry reads his newspaper.
"Yep," Harry agrees, looking up at me. "She's nothing like Max."
Max, my gentle, sweet Max. She would move mountains for anyone, and even now, she was going out of her way to apologise to Andy for something that hadn't been anything to do with her. She thought she had dragged Andy into this, but all along it was because he was Hailey's ex.
"I take it no one knows?" I ask quietly, my thumbs pressing against my temple as though it would alleviate some pressure.
"Alex confessed not long ago, sighed a statement and everything."
"In exchange for what?" I blink, perplexed.
Harry exhales, grimacing as he closes his newspaper.
"Time off that pricks sentence and confidentiality from her family," Harry whispers, confirming my fears.
The bureau are involved. Only they could allow such heinous shit to go unanswered.
The chair I'm sitting on scrapes along the floor as I stand, my hands slamming down on the desk. My eyes feel like they're going to fall out of their sockets, my jaw clenching together as I stare at Harry.
"You didn't agree to it, did you?" My voice is barely audible, but when Harry lifts his sad gaze to mine, I know he heard me.
"No, but it went over my head. They want this wrapped up, Cain. Too many mistakes were made. The bureau-"
"He deserves to die," I grit out, tugging my jacket from the chair.
"Cain, you need to move on from this. We all do- especially Max," Harry's eyes glitter with anger as he studies me, his hand on my arm. "Alex isn't going home. She's moved away."
"Yeah? Where to?" I bark, shrugging his hand off me. "She's never coming anywhere near Max again."
"She'll be wherever Yan ends up, I guess. None of us want Max near Alex, Cain. But her parents-"
"Still hate me and you for letting the innocent man go. And what, we have to pretend we don't know their daughter was fucking the cunt that did this-"
"Cain," Harry swallows, his eyes on mine as he pleaded with me. "You cannot tell Max about Yan and Alex. It's worth more than your entire career."
"Is this some kind of sick fucking joke?" I hiss, my hands clenched into fists by my sides. "Her fucking sister stitched her up-"
"Cain, you'll be dismissed. Instantly," Harry warns, shoving his hands in his pocket. "I can't tell Charlotte either. But you know, Cain. You can protect her. So can I. We just need to make sure Alex George never darkens her doorstep again."
I stare at him, my best friend for as long as I can remember. He knew me better than anyone, but he clearly didn't predict I'd react like this.
I tug off my badge, letting it fall to the table between us. Harry lifts his gaze to mine, shaking his head in alarm.
"To protect and serve," I swallow, tapping the badge with my fingers. "Protect the innocent, not the villains. Serve the innocent. I'm not lying to Max about something so important. I can't, Harry."
"Cain, don't be stupid, take some time-"
I open the door, halting when he calls my name again.
"Cain, don't throw everything away over Max. You don't know for sure that you and her-"
"Fuck you, Harry," I mutter, refusing to meet his eyes.
I exit the station, inhaling deeply as I make my way to my car. Poor Max. The law would keep something like that away from her, putting her in danger just to tick their boxes and file their paperwork. Welll fuck the law.
I was doing this my way.