Wait and See - pt. 3
Chicago, July 25th, 7:59 am
His cellphone was what woke them up. They were naked and draped across one another like a dustcover over an endtable, smelling of sweat and one another. Her bed was a sprawl of kicked-off sheets and haphazard pillows.
Trebuchet rolled over to claim the phone from his pants, which were pooled on the floor by the bed. He looked at the time as he did. It was 7:59 in the morning. Why did he still have his watch on…?
"Hello?" he asked, looking at Tiana's legs as she lifted them, one at a time, and stretched them until they popped.
"Is this Agent Froud?" asked someone with a very gruff voice.
"Uh, yes… this is," he said, the last trace of his dream fading.
"This is Chief Hardesty," the gruff voice announced: "I was told to call you at this number and reschedule our appointment."
"Ah," Trebuchet said, looking over at Tiana and giving her a thumbs' up. She grinned, flicking her tongue out to one side of her lips.
"What time do you want to come by the office?" The Chief asked.
"Well… the appointment."
"Yes. The appointment."
"When will you be there?"
"Well," he looked over at Tiana. Nine? he mouthed.
She shook her head. Ten, she mouthed back.
"Make that ten?"
"I've got a meeting at ten."
"How about eleven?"
"I can do that. Eleven. My office. And don't tell anyone you're coming."
"Well, thanks for-" Trebuchet began, but the Chief hung up on him.
"Hmmm," he said, looking at Tiana: "I think we're only half-welcome."
"Dragon ate his ass," she chuckled, getting up and heading for the bathroom: "I gotta shower."
"Wanna join me?"
He smiled, thinking of last night… this morning… a few hours ago. Whatever it was.
"Actually, I'm gonna get some sleep," he smiled, closing his eyes a bit: "Gonna need some."
"I'm gonna turn my stereo on," she laughed, batting her brown eyes at him: "You ain't gonna get no sleep at all, honey."
He chuckled, falling right back under again. He didn't notice when she shook her ass at him, trying to get a rise. And he didn't even twich when she put on the techno CD, blared it, and got in for a long, hot shower.
He was somewhere else, then.
Chicago, July 25, 8:00 am
The man they called the Full Moon Killer turned in his sleep, body covered up with seven heavy layers of blankets so no one could ever see his dreams.
He turned once more, feeling someone else in there with him. There, in his head.
"Who are you…?" he mumbled in his sleep.
'I'm Brian,' the voice said, warm and expectant.
In his mind's eye, the killer saw a young man. He was perched right at the moment when childhood left and adulthood began. Loose shirt and tight jeans. Hair tousled like a little boy's. His hips and jawline set just so. He had the look of a gay man on the make, and his eyes…
'Are you Agent Froud?' the manboy asked, eyes flashing. Where were they? He didn't recognize the place. It was fancy, with whitewashed, wood paneled walls hung with family photos he'd never seen before.
"Yes," the killer replied, even though that was a lie. He'd never even heard of anyone named Froud, but…
'I'm her brother,' the boy said, walking closer: 'I heard you wanted to talk to me.'
"Where… um…" he said, feeling a stiffening he really shouldn't: "Excuse me. It must be the flu."
'Yeah. Something's going around.' The eyes flashed.
"I need to know where you were that night," the killer said, hearing someone else's voice come from his mouth as he did.
'I was out…' the manboy said, getting a little closer. The smell of him was comforting, like a grandfather's aftershave. 'There was a mixer out at the frathouse. I was there until four. Maybe five.'
"You've got… witnesses?"
'Am I a suspect?' the manboy asked, looking somewhat bemused.
"Well… um…*cough*" the killer said: "At this point… um… what I mean to say, is… well… I'm sorry, it really must be the flu-"
'Here,' the manboy said, handing him a can of Sprite: 'I know just what you need.'
"Ah, thanks," the man saw a hand - not his - reach out and take it: "It's my favorite, actually."
'I know.' The eyes flashed again. Their fingertips touched as the phantom hand took the can.
And in that moment, the killer's eyes snapped open. There, under the sheets with him, was the manboy.
He looked terrible, the manboy did. His skin was pale and taut, and his eyes were rolled all the way back up into his head. He was naked except for a pair of silky boxer shorts.
"He's coming for you," the dead manboy told the killer, a slick of blood-drool coming from the corner of his mouth as he did: "But you know that, already."
"Yes," the killer replied calmly, as though this sort of thing was to be expected: "I've seen it."
"I know what you're planning," manboy continued, sitting up a little: "It isn't going to work."
The killer closed his eyes, shutting them so tight he could almost imagine them bursting under the pressure.
"Go away," he said: "Go away. Go away. Go away…"
"I know what you need," the dead kid whispered lovingly, right into the killer's ear: "I know what you really need. Let me help you-"
"Go away!" the killer screamed, leaping from the bed and out into the bedroom: "GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY!"
And the manboy did, leaving the killer alone in his room. It was cluttered with astronomical charts. Moon maps. Dreamcatchers made from hemp, shells and dull, glass beads. Jars full of his own shit and piss, all screwed tight.
The killer curled up into a fetal position, rocking on the floor.
"I don't belong here," he chanted: "I don't belong here…"
Chicago, July 25th, 8:35 am
"… I don't belong here," the voice on the stereo was chanting to loud techno accompaniment: "And I will not stay…"
There was a muffled, white noise as Tiana turned the CD player off. Trebuchet opened one eyelid, and then the other.
"Hey lover," she said, standing there naked with a towel in her hand: "Your turn."
"What music was that?" he asked, sitting up: "Front 242 got a new CD out?"
"Nah. It's C-Tec."
"Really? Sounds like the Front."
"Yeah. You oughta hear them doing Dorothy Parker's one poem. 'Epitaph'. It's amazing."
He rolled over and looked at his watch. He hadn't remembered taking it off after he'd woken up…
"Half an hour. Shit."
"Come on," she said, getting a bra and putting it on: "Some cheap-ass coffee and you'll be back up, same as always."
"So why don't you like rap?" he asked: "Why the techno?"
"Same reason I don't like men. Too much macho bullshit."
He got out of bed and walked towards her, his penis bouncing in an arc between his legs: "You don't mind mine."
"You ain't macho."
"Well, yeah," he smiled, hugging her. She smelled of freshness: soap and shampoo. He ran a hand over her ass, feeling the muscles tense and relax at her touch.
"No luck with men?" he asked, a bit concerned: "None at all?"
"Just you… yeah, and Gary."
"Gary?" Trebuchet blinked as she squirmed away to get dressed: "Who's Gary?"
"What, you getting jealous on me?"
"No…" he lied: "Seriously, though."
"Don't worry. He's gay, too."
He laughed, shaking his head: "How'd you meet him?"
"Friend of a friend," she said, putting on a shirt that was a little more professional than what she'd been wearing yesterday, but in no way restricted her free movements: "We went to see 'The Magic Flute,' since I couldn't find no one else who'd go. We did dinner over at that one place… the one from the Ferris Bueller movie?"
"Really? Was he sausage king of Chicago?"
"Mmm-hmmm…." she nodded, remembering.
"That good, huh?" he asked, getting up and walking over to where she was, pulling jeans on with no underwear, as usual.
"Well, it's been off and on," she said, casting him a sly look: "Always catch him on the rebound. He just has the worst luck with men… you would not believe."
"Sounds like someone I know," he said, patting her butt and heading into the shower: "Everything still where it was?"
"Haven't touched it," she said.
'Everything' was the mens' toiletry stuff she'd gotten, that one time she'd tried to get him to move in with her. That'd been a total disaster. That'd also been… how many years ago, now?
He turned the hot water on and stepped in, rubbing the stubble on his face. His cock was slimy with her, and he had to soap himself up three times to get it all off.
"Still no luck in the guy department?" she asked from the door as he was about to get out of the stall.
"Nope," he said, exiting: "My social schedule is as empty as my condom box is full."
"You been trying, right?"
He shrugged, grabbing the guest towel and drying off: "The New York scene sucks."
"That ain't what I heard."
"Well, it sucks for me. All the real interesting folks hang out the sort of places that I'd get fired for going into. All that's left is boring, old fern bars full of boring, old guys who want to talk about Stonewall and the time they fucked Freddie Mercury. Boring, boring, boring."
"You oughta work for the Post Office, honey," she said, coming in and draping an arm around his waist as he dried his knees: "We don't care about shit like that."
"Yeah, well…" he got back up and shrugged again: "I wouldn't give up my job for anything."
"Even after that?"
He paused, but he nodded, looking at her: "Even after that. What about you?"
She put her hands on the sink, looking at the mirror.
"There's days that I can't even remember what happened, you know?" she said: "S'like it happened to someone else. And then, I'll just be minding my own business, and then something'll happen, or someone'll say something, and It'll be like it's just happened all over again."
"Lucky you. I remember mine too often-"
"Fuck it," she said, turning to go: "Let's get some coffee or something."
He blinked, but then he remembered: she really, really didn't like to even think about it. That he'd gotten that much out of her was something akin to a miracle.
When he got out she'd put a change of clothes on the bed. They were also leftovers from his brief experiment in reheterosexuality. And they still fit, oddly enough.
"You've gotta tell me how you save old clothes so they don't smell old," he said, looking at the upside-down 'T' around her neck again. She popped her pink-tinted shades at him and grinned.
"Cleaned 'em when the dragon said you were coming in," she chuckled: "Gotta be a good hostess once in a while."
Chicago, July 25th, 11:01 am
This time, there was no bullshit at the front desk. They were let straight upstairs, around the stairwell, and down a hall to the Chief's office.
It looked a lot like Chiefs' offices tended to, these days: good, soundproof walls, a heavy door and a desk that was a little too clean and neat, considering what went on in the stationhouse outside. Trebuchet had seen a lot of them in his time, and this one was no different. He even had the padded chair that couldn't have fit anyone really well.
The Chief was all smiles until the door closed, and then the slow smolder came back to his gaze, looking at the two of them. Trebuchet could feel the hate the man was trying to hold back. The dragon had bit his ass a little too well…
"So you're FBI?" the man said, hands on his hips.
"Yep," Trebuchet said, whipping his badge out. It was a younger him, taken before that whole mess in Nantucket. The smile was more real.
"Johnathan Froud," the Chief said: "Nice to meet you. You can call me Chief."
"As you like, Chief," Trebuchet said, smirking and giving him a salute.
"And you're…?" the Chief asked Tiana without looking at her.
"Denice is with the Postal Inspection Service," Trebuchet jumped in. He could feel her confusion, but it wasn't tinged with hate. She wouldn't kick him, thank god…
"That's nice," the Chief said, obviously unimpressed: "You think the guy's a mailman?"
"She's here because I asked her along."
"Why?" Chief asked, still not looking at her.
"She knows every inch of the city, and it's been a while for me."
"You used to be local," Chief said. It wasn't a question.
"Yeah. Bureau relocated me to the East Coast a couple years back."
"And they sent you on in, instead of someone from the local field office?"
"Yeah, well…" Trebuchet shrugged: "It's a mess, I'll admit. The alphabets are all scrambled into soup right about now, what with the emergency. Maybe someone got their wires crossed. All I know is I got a job to do."
"Yeah…" the Chief said: "So do I."
He turned to go back to his desk. Trebuchet looked at Tiana and tipped her a wink.
Trust me on this, he mouthed. She nodded.
The Chief sat down at his desk and got out a thick manila folder that was filled to the point of bursting open at the sides: "This is the copy of the case file. Every fucking thing we've got is in here, and there's a lot of fucking around, too."
"Six months' worth, huh?" Trebuchet said, stepping forward to take it: "I guess we got a lot to read in less than a week. Too bad we couldn't have started last night."
The Chief just looked at him. The hate was close to popping out, now.
"I'm not in the mood for a laugh, Agent Froud," the man said, leaning forward in his chair: "There's a lot riding on this one."
"I know," Trebuchet said: "Sorry, I was just a little put out."
"Yeah, well… we're all a little put out right now, trying to save our asses. At least you can go back to your job."
"Don't you worry," Tiana said, fingering the 'T' around her neck: "We'll get him. Fucker just don't know he's gotten, yet."
"Talk is cheap, lady," the Chief shot back: "And I've had enough of cheap. Especially the threats…"
He shut up, then, but just barely. Trebuchet nodded.
"I think we'll go get to work, then," he said: "Oh, there's one other thing-"
"You want to talk to Willers," the Chief said: "Yeah. I can't give you his phone number because he doesn't have one. He just sends in his stuff… copies of the tapes are in there. If you need to talk with him, I can call his social worker, and he can get in touch with him… somehow-"
"Call the social worker," Trebuchet said: "See if you can set up a meeting for tomorrow. Noonish."
"Not. Here." The Chief insisted: "Anywhere but here."
"No problems. I know a good spot… tell him Nando's, over on 4th."
"And you don't show anyone what you've got in that envelope."
"Hey," Trebuchet said, opening the door so Tiana could leave ahead of him: "Take it easy, Chief. We're professionals."
Chicago, July 25th, 11:32 am
"What an asshole," Tiana spat as soon as they were out the front door: "What was up with all that he-man bullshit-"
"Misogynist," Trebuchet said, making sure the envelope was nice and closed before tucking it under his arm.
"Like I didn't notice."
"Yeah, well, it's pathological with him. Probably got dressed up like a girl when he was kid."
"Ewww. I don't even wanna go there…"
"Yeah, well you meet all types…" he started to say, and then stopped, feeling something else right in front of them. Something had an overcoat, a receding hairline and a bad case of redeye.
"And where do you think you're going with that, my friend?" Lt. Meyer asked, looking at the bundle in Trebuchet's armpit. He had a big cup of coffee and a nasty look on his face.
"Ah, you must be Lt. Meyer?" he said, extending a hand: "FBI Agent Johnathan Froud. Just call me John-"
"I'm gonna call you my lord and savior if you're telling me the Bureau's getting involved," Meyer said, the frown turning into a smile as he pumped Trebuchet's hand: "I could sure use the help."
"Well, it's just preliminary, right now," Trebuchet said: "More of a look over the shoulder than anything else. But hey… if we catch the guy…"
Right about then Trebuchet noticed that Tiana was looking away: doing her best to not let this guy have a good look at her.
"Uh," he tried to say something else, but he felt the fear rolling off of her like rain off a steep roof.
"And who's your…" Meyer asked, and then he looked at her. He blinked.
"Denice?" the Detective asked.
"Uh… yeah," she said: "Frank. Hi."
"Shit," Meyer said, just looking at her with a weird smile: "It's been a long fucking time."
"Oh, you two know each other…?" Trebuchet asked, stating the obvious like a total moron.
"Yeah," Tiana said, trying not to look directly at Meyer: "You saved my life, didn't you, Frank?"
"That's right, I did…" he said, looking her up and down: "Jesus… such a long time ago."
"You look like you done alright by yourself…"
"Yeah. Look, John, I gotta go…" she said, giving Trebuchet a kiss on the cheek and heading off: "I'll… uh… I'll call you. I'll call."
"Space," she said, simply, holding up a hand. Trebuchet knew better than to press further.
And with that she walked off. It was the walk you made when all you wanted to do was run before the tears blinded you.
"Wow," Meyer said, sipping his coffee: "Talk about a weird fucking day."
"You two know each other?" Trebuchet asked: "Well, I mean… obviously you do, but…"
"Yeah," the Detective said: "Weird case, about ten years back. She your girlfriend?"
"Yeah. You could say that."
"Well, you fucking hang onto her, John," he clapped Trebuchet on his free arm: "That's one tough lady you got there."
Trebuchet looked at the man, wondering how much he knew: "Yeah. Tell me about it."
"She told you all of what happened?"
"Well… if you don't know maybe she ought to be the one to tell you."
"Yeah, I guess…" he replied: "Hey, you want to walk me through this shit? I got six months to read in five days."
"Absofuckinglutely," Meyer said: "Come on, let's get you some coffee. You like Starbucks?"
"Sorry… hate it."
"Man after my own heart," he laughed: "Come on… there's a local guy around the corner. Makes stuff like it came from heaven."
Chicago, July 25th, 12:04 pm
Seven gangbangers walked out of a back door in the middle of a trash-strewn alley, passing a single spliff around from hand to hand. Most of them had stocking caps down to their eyebrows and almost all of them were living large. It was a shit day, so far, and they were all wired and bored.
"Hey, man," one of them said, spotting something nearby: "Check it.":
They all looked that way, seeing a woman on the ground, near the door. It was a black lady, gorgeous as hell and balled up on the floor of the alley, eyes screwed tight and whimpering.
"Crack ho," the leader said, spitting in disgust.
"Oooo. Bitch having a fit," said a third.
"I bet she need some," said a fourth.
"I bet I got some," the fifth laughed, and the sixth and seventh all laughed with him.
The thought all crossed their minds at once. Big old alley, no cops around, no struggle at all from the looks of it. And they'd all stuck it in worse things at one time or another…
So they started walking towards her. At some point someone started singing 2-Live Crew and they all picked up the tune.
"Pussy ain't nothing but meat on the bone," they chanted, walking down towards her: "Suck it or fuck it or leave it alone - yeah - Pussy ain't nothing but meat on the bone…"
They encircled her, looking down at her. She hadn't even noticed them, yet. She was on the ground whimpering, saying something too softly to be understood from up high.
"Aww, man, I think she shit herself"
"You fucked worse."
"Fuck yo momma."
Flies started unzipping. Someone flicked out a knife, just in case. One of them couldn't stop laughing, all high pitched and goofy.
That's what finally brought Tiana out of it.
She looked up. There were seven guys in gang wear around her, fingering their substandard whangers.
"Hey, it's like a seal, man," one of them said: "Like in the fucking circus."
"Yeah… be our love seal, bitch," another laughed.
She just looked at them.
"Backdafuckup," she said, quickly looking around for her shades. They'd fallen off when she'd collapsed in the alley.
One of the bangers had his foot on them, threatening to crush them. His smile was as empty as a broken TV.
"I. Said. Back. Da. Fuck. Up." She repeated for the hard of hearing.
"What if we don't wanna?" Said the one with the knife, twirling it in his free hand: "Huh? Huh? What if we don't wanna?"
"Then I kill yo ass," Tiana replied.
"How you figure that, cunt?" the leader asked.
"'Cause I gotta lot of anger to work out, right now."
"Huh. Thas cool," the one with his foot on her shades and the empty smile said. He went on to try and say something about what his social workers were always telling him about anger, and how to work it out.
But by then she wasn't listening. She was hearing the music in her head. The same music she was listening to this morning, there in the shower. The same mental loop of music she always broke out when she needed a soundtrack…
She looked up at the guy who couldn't stop talking. Something about her eyes made him shut the fuck up…
Chicago, July 25th, 12:14 pm
"…so I'm coming up to the house," Meyer was telling Trebuchet: "It's this big, old place way out of town. I didn't have my partner with me, that day. He didn't want to know about it."
"Why not?" Trebuchet asked, sipping the indy coffee. Meyer hadn't been lying; It did taste like it came from Heaven. And the pity was that the little hole-in-the-wall place was almost deserted: just the tables, the Italian machine, one college kid cleaning his glasses and them, off in the far corner.
"I don't know. I was going on instinct, more than anything else. We'd interviewed the guy before, and even though we didn't have a thing on him, something just wasn't right."
"Like the fact that he was running the nastiest porn store in town, and all the churches that had gotten mail bombs were ones involved in the local anti-porn drive," Trebuchet said, remembering small details of the case.
"Right," Meyer said: "I know… circumstantial as hell, wouldn't stand up in court if you sucked it off. But I just had this feeling. So, I figured, hell with it. Federal matter or not, no partner or not, I'd just go up there and pound on his door and see if he gave something up."
He took a sip of the coffee, shaking his head: "I get in about a hundred feet away, and I see there's smoke. The place is on fire. I pull over, run up to the front, and I see Denice. She's staggering out of the front porch without a stitch of fucking clothing. Her hands are all bloody and there's this nasty, huge red hole in her shoulder… the sort of thing they call… uh…"
"Sucking wound," Trebuchet said, wondering about something…
"Yeah. Sucking wound. Well, I run up to her and she just collapses in my arms. I'm saying 'What the hell's going on? What happened?' And she just keeps whispering 'I got the fucker. I got the fucker.'
"And then, it's like I'm on autopilot. I picked her up and carried her off to the car, and as soon as I got around to the driver's side the house exploded. Poom. Just like that."
He sipped the coffee again: "If I'd been a second later getting there she'd have been dead. A second later carrying her off and we'd have both been dead."
Trebuchet nodded: "She says Freya was looking out for her, that day."
"Well, I don't know about that," Meyer said: "I've been thanking God ever since then, myself."
"Well, thank you for saving her life," Trebuchet said: "I owe you."
"Ah… all in the line of work."
"What happened to the case, then?"
Meyer shrugged: "Well, most of the proof went up in smoke. Gas explosion. The mains were faulty and the inevitable happened. But the Posties found enough bomb-making material in a shed out back to connect the fucker to it.
"As for us…, well, she went off to the hospital, and we got shut out of the official inquest. I gave my statement to some guy and that was it. Case closed."
"And you never saw her since?"
"Ah, probably once or twice, just crossing paths," Meyer said: "She was good to work with, though. I just wish she'd told me she was going out there. I could have gone with her or something."
Trebuchet smiled, and Meyer coughed: "Ah, I'm sorry… I don't mean to be getting all knight in shining armor on your girl."
"That's okay. I understand completely. She just… hasn't said much about it. Not that I blame her. She's put it all behind her… as much as you can put something like that behind you, anyway."
"Well, you can't completely escape it."
"Not completely, no…"
"I mean, she's gotta still have that scar," Meyer said.
"You know… that's the funny thing," Trebuchet said, remembering kissing that shoulder the evening before, when they were pulling each other's clothes off: "She doesn't."
Chicago, July 25th, 12:17 pm
"Blurrrrrgh!" the leader of the gang was saying. Tiana was sure it was actually "bitch," or something like that. But it was hard to talk and puke at the same time.
They were all crawling away… well, most of them, anyway. The one with his foot on her shades had been right in front of her, so she'd broken him from a prone position: not quite driving his nose into his brain. He was sprawled in a heap at her feet - down and out and not going anywhere anytime soon.
The others she'd been a little slower with, and she was glad she had. It was fun watching them try to crawl off with their balls kicked into paste. They'd probably be pissing blood for weeks, but at least she'd left their dicks attached.
"You all go home to momma now," she'd commanded as they dragged themselves through their own puke: "And you tell her a bitch-goddess of the Aesir kicked yo fuckin rapist ass!"
With that she turned, put her shades back on and walked off. Another one tried to say something else, and puked himself into a near choke. She laughed and left the alley, grinning widely, all anger gone.
And slowly, over the course of an hour, her eyes turned brown once more.
Chicago, July 25th, 5: 30 pm
"Oh god," the skinny woman said, poking her eyes and nose out from behind the door of the flophouse. She looked like she hadn't eaten in days, but there was a brand new TV blaring kids' cartoons in the living room. Her smashbrained son sat an inch from the screen, amazed.
"Well, it's been a while since anyone called me that, Rosie" Trebuchet said, smiling: "I got a job for you."
"Is it another one of your fucked up weirdo friends?" She whined.
"Well, he's not a friend, and I don't know if he's a weirdo… but he is fucked up."
"I ain't doing it," she began to close the door.
"Come on now," he said, putting a foot into the crack: "We both know you need money."
She sighed. She did. And he knew she did. Of course, it was an educated guess, looking in this sorry dump. But he'd smelled it on her the moment she'd opened the door and looked at him. That sick desperation that comes from not having enough money…
"Joey's got to get books for school, next year's books…"
"Well, gotta start saving up…"
"Yeah," Trebuchet said, not really interested in the story. Joey went to state schooling for the mentally incapacitated and got a free ride, and she still had needlemarks on her visible arm. That said it all right there.
"Two hundred for an hour's work. I've got the script all prepared."
"Yeah," he handed her a piece of paper: "Be at Nando's, tomorrow. Noonish. Wear a long sleeve shirt. And keep that in your head."
She nodded, taking the paper. Then she shut the door.
He left the flophouse, not feeling very good about himself just then. Rosie should be in a rehab program and her son should be in foster care, but the way the city worked she'd be long-dead and he'd be an adult before social services even looked at the paperwork. At least this way she got some money she didn't have to do anything stupid to get, but still…
Trebuchet sighed. This is why he'd left Chi-town. It was a great place to visit and fly over, but you didn't want to live there for long. The city ate people.
Take Lt. Meyer, for instance. He'd spent a good, long time with the guy, back at the station after they'd had their coffee and gotten one more to go. They'd gone over the case files, and it'd looked about as bleak as Trebuchet had heard it was. Hardly any real leads to go on, nothing to do but wait until the killer struck again, or tipped his hand.
Still, he'd gotten a measure of the man, and figured he was alright. Not only did he actually care about this case - apart from having the threat of being fired hanging over his head - but he was also the only Detective he'd ever met who was actually glad at the thought of the FBI muscling in. He saw it as help, rather than a chance to lose a bonus or something.
He stank of hope and relief. But there was something else edging around the corners of it all. That little whisper of "I don't care" that starts worming its way in after too long in the trenches. Trebuchet had seen it happen to all the senior Agents he'd worked with: one by one, they saw every case as a set of facts rather than some poor person's life, and before long they started getting sloppy. Making mistakes. Losing it.
Meyer had been a cop for twenty years. Trebuchet gave him another five before the thread of "I don't care" knitted itself into a straitjacket.
Sometimes he wondered how long he had left…
New York/Chicago, July 25th, 6:30
Back at the hotel, Trebuchet's cellphone rang. He answered it, wondering if it was Tiana.
"Have you any ropes of silver?" asked a voice he'd never heard before.
"They may one day overshadow your temples," he replied, figuring it was another one of Tiamat's voice-scrambling programs.
"Nikolai" he chuckled: "What's up, Dragon?"
"Your meeting happened."
"With the Chief, yeah. I'm gonna meet our man tomorrow. It's all set."
"Keep focused," Tiamat said: "Remember you're just there for Willers."
"You worried I'm not?"
"I know you too well."
"Well, okay," Trebuchet said. It was fair comment.
The line went dead. Trebuchet grumbled. The phone rang again.
"Hey," he said, hearing Tiana's voice on the phone.
"Hey," she said: "How you doin, sugar?"
"Alright. How about you?"
"Better," she said, and he could hear the smile in her voice.
"I was kinda worried, there."
"He tell you?"
"No…" Trebuchet lied.
"You comin' back to my place?"
"Actually, I'm back at my hotel, trying to get some of this case straight. Wanna come on over?"
"You gotta ask?"
He laughed: "No. Just don't throw me on the bed first thing, okay? We got a lot of stuff to cover, here."
"I thought we were just here for the guy?"
"Well, we are… but…"
He didn't need to say it.
"I'll bring a pie, sugar," she said, chuckling, and hung up.