Only the sharp click of Cabanela's shoes betrayed any sign of his mood as he approached the interrogation room. When he entered he gestured toward the door at the guarding officer.

"Be a goood boy and stay out there, would you?"

"But detective…"

"I can haaandle it. Shoo."

The officer nodded and hurried out of the room. Cabanela turned his attention to the man sitting at the opposite end of the table. He felt caught in a constant cycle of fury, despair and confusion and now all three were trying to win dominance at the sight. He relished the chase, loved a good puzzle, but not this. Never this.

A hard step carried him to the opposite side of the table and he set down a cup of coffee with more force than he intended, causing some to slosh out onto the table unnoticed.

"Jowd."

Jowd's face was expressionless and his voice too calm. "Detective."

Straight to the impersonal, was it? It wouldn't help. It didn't get more personal than this.

"What happened?"

Jowd raised a questioning eyebrow. "I'm sure you know. You're here after all."

"They're tellin' me you claimed to shoot Alma, but we both know that's a lie, baby." An absurd lie. What was he thinking?

"It's the truth."

Deep breath. That wasn't entirely unexpected, was it? Maybe a little… to him, a stupid lie right to his face. Jowd should know better.

"I want the real truth, Jowd. You owe me that much. You owe her that."

"You have it." He took a sip from the coffee. "Hm, I think I'd forgotten how bad the stuff from the canteen was."

"Give me the truth and I'll make you the beeest, baby." Petty maybe, he thought faintly, but in truth it had mostly come down to a matter of haste, and if it served as payback for the lies, well that was a small something.

"Then I guess I have to pass since you seem to refuse to believe it," Jowd said with a shrug.

Cabanela leaned against the table with an attempt at a casual air. "Not in the habit of accepting blatant lies, my friend."

"You wouldn't be starting now."

"Alma is dead," Cabanela said flatly. Detachment – anything else was too much at this point. He focused on Jowd, watching for any hint that might shed some light on the terrible situation. "We both know you would never kill her, so what did happen?"

Jowd cocked his head and a small smile played about his lips. "I think you need to work on your interrogation style. Constant denial of the truth isn't going to get you anywhere."

Cabanela shot him a sharp stare. "You miiight want to take that statement under consideration baby."

Jowd only chuckled and took another drink of the coffee. Cabanela bit back a sigh. He didn't want to do this. This shouldn't be happening and he most especially wanted to avoid the step he was about to take. If he never saw the damned thing again, it would be too soon.

"I have to step out for a moment."

Now Jowd's smile took on a mocking edge. "Oh? Keeping your gun this time?"

Cabanela's teeth clenched. Low and well calculated to throw him off or get him angry. Well, he wasn't going to let him win that easily. He rallied; two could play at this game.

"Might leeeave it if I thought it'd make a difference. But you wouldn't take it, would you? You want to be here. Why?"

"It's where I belong. Last I checked criminals were meant to be in prison."

"Criminals, yes. You, no."

"One and the same, Detective, one and the same. Even you're allowed to have a simple case sometimes. I'm sure it won't tarnish that sparkling reputation."

"Can't saaay puttin' an innocent man in jail will do me much good."

Jowd laughed and Cabanela knew he'd never heard it ring so hollow. "Good thing I'm not then!"

Dammit Jowd. He spun around.

"I'll be back shortly. Give this some real deep thought, baby."

When Cabanela exited the officer gave him a questioning look that Cabanela waved off.

"You just keep doin' your guarding thing. I'll be back soon."

He made his way swiftly to his desk where he picked up Alma's case file. He should have brought it to begin with. He'd only hoped he wouldn't need it. Surely Jowd would have said something to him at least. A clue? The barest of hints? He gave the folder a last look of distaste before making his way back.

The walk to the interrogation room felt far too long, but he made it at last and shut the door heavily behind him. Jowd hadn't moved and wore a neutral expression.

Cabanela threw the folder on the table where it fell open to Alma's picture and the report. Jowd barely looked at it.

"What happened?"

"I told you." He nodded toward the folder. "And the rest should be in there, simple enough to read."

Cabanela planted a hand on the folder, pushing it closer to Jowd. His voice was a deadly calm. "Look at her. She's dead and whoever did this is still out there. Look. What happened?"

Jowd's glance flickered toward the files. "That's not the case. After all I'm here."

"What happened?" Cabanela repeated tone unchanged.

"I shot her. There's nothing more I can tell you," Jowd said, returning his attention to Cabanela with another small smile. "No amount of stubborn demands will change facts, even coming from you."

Cabanela's effort to keep his composure was cracking and the smiling face across from him wasn't helping. Gods above was he getting sick of that false smile. He tried to avoid looking at the nightmare on the table, but found his gaze inexorably drawn to her picture.

This was all wrong. They should be out there hunting down her murderer together. Grieve her death together. He dragged his eyes back to Jowd, fixing him with a searching stare. Could he pin him to that cheap plastic chair? Never let him leave until he spilled the real truth? A nice thought, but the twisting in his gut told him of a different rapidly approaching future.

"Give me a reason. One reason you would do this. Please."

Jowd remained silent.

"I know you didn't kill her. Why are you taking the blame? Who shot Alma?"

"I shot her. That is the simple fact of the matter."

Cabanela's hands clenched, nearly crumpling Alma's photo underneath, and the reports, the papers of lies that were wrong, wrong, wrong.

"Let me help you."

They locked gazes. Jowd's eyes were unreadable – no help to be found there. If that was how Jowd wanted to play it, fine. He wouldn't win this one.

"Blackmail?"

"No."

Jowd was lying through his teeth, but that, Cabanela sensed was true. Then what?

"Protecting someone." It wasn't without precedence, was it? But who one earth could result in this? It didn't make sense.

Jowd shrugged. "In a manner of speaking I suppose. Kamila can hardly have her mother's murderer around, can she?"

"Why are you doing this?" Cabanela demanded. He pushed himself back and in his force some of the papers slid out across the table. Alma's photo stopped at the puddle of coffee.

Cabanela and Jowd both stared at it in a sudden frozen silence as the coffee slowly seeped onto her picture. Her bloodstained shawl, Cabanela remembered seeing, no longer only the pretty blue he knew. Her too pale face in the morgue. What was it Jowd saw, he wondered.

Jowd broke the silence first. "I think we're done here."

Cabanela's hands fell at his sides as he met and held Jowd's gaze one more time. "We're not finished. I'll fix this myself."

"Don't waste too much of your time now," said Jowd with a shake of his head and his smile returned. "You're always busy as is on more important matters."

Cabanela turned on his heel. "Don't worry my friend. I won't." And exited the room in a swish of coat.

He waited until the guard was gone before his hand slammed the wall and he leaned against it with a hard swallow. How did everything go so wrong?

He wouldn't let him get away with this. He would uncover this secret, on that Jowd could rely.