Sorrow is held the eldest child of sin John Webster - Duchess of Malfi

CHAPTER THREE Truth is its [justice's] handmaid, freedom is its child, peace is its companion, safety walks in its steps, victory follows in its train Syndey Smith - Lady Holland's Memoir vol 1. P. 29

"Just so you know, if this goes bad, I'm telling the Brass you went nuts and I was playing along until it was safe to restrain you."

I gave my partner a look of pure vinegar. She just snickered. "Thanks for the support, Nami."

"Hell, you're the one who has us out here looking for more work, as if we don't have enough already." Nami flipped her raven hair back. It just brushed her shoulder and had a wispy quality to it that reminded me of a dandelion. "And all you'll tell me is you have an anonymous tip saying there's a woman's body walled up in a theater. That much won't even get us a warrant. I hope your sweet-talking skills are up to snuff."

"Between my skills and your beauty how could they not give in and let us tear up their walls?" I grinned at her and Nami slapped me.

"I'm not joking, skinny ass. There's definitely something not kosher about this. You're holding back." Nami glowered at me.

'You have no idea,' I thought. I so hated keeping things from Nami. "Me?"

"Don't even try the innocent eyes on me." Nami patted my head. It sort of sucked that I was shorter than my partner. "It doesn't work when they're all puffy and you look like you haven't slept all night. So, did you finally get a date? You need laid in the worst way."

I could always trust my partner to speak her mind. She reminded me of Cordy in that respect but she was usually a little kinder than I've been told Cordy was wont to be. And Nami was right. I did need laid. "I was with Kate all night working."

"So, that's what we're calling it. What's it with you and mommy figures? I'm going to start calling you 'Oedipus'."

"Don't you dare." I wagged a finger at her, visions of me verbally sparring with Angelus surfacing for the first time in forever. "I don't have a thing for mother figures."

"All the women you date are older than you," Nami shot back, "when you actually find a woman nuts enough to want you." "Oh, you're a barrel of laughs, Nami," I said, going into the theater. It was nearly our quitting time, such as it is. No one was at the theater until now. There was no getting a warrant with what we had, as Nami pointed out. The best I could do was talk to the director since the actual owner was a Japanese businessman in Kyoto who wanted a tiny piece of the action in L.A. I knew the director had no right to do what I was going to ask of him but I'd ask anyhow.

The actors were already on the stage running their lines. Something told me this would be as close as they'd ever get to the big time. A roundish man with a grey pony tail, sitting third row center with a note pad on his knee, was most likely Mr. Graham, the director. He shot a look over his shoulder, hot at being interrupted then smoothed over as he most likely remembered inviting us here to talk.

"Take five," he snapped at the actors, levering himself up with effort. "Detective MacDermot?"

"Yes." I gestured at Nami. "This is Detective Asakura."

"I'm curious why you called me and asked for this meeting." He waddled out of the row, coming over to us.

"My partner can explain better than I." Nami gave me a look saying it had best be good.

I took a deep breath. I had rehearsed what I was going to say. I just hoped I was a better actor than this crew. "I know this is going to sound a bit bizarre but we received an anonymous tip stating a young woman was walled up in this theater after she was killed. We couldn't contact the owner of the building but we were hoping..."

"That I'll allow you to tear up this theater," Graham interrupted, his ruddy face going sweaty. "Are you nuts?"

I resisted the urge to smile. It's been pointed out to me my smiles just make me look insane. "We do have good reason to believe the tip is accurate. The victim is a bonafide missing person."

"And you have a warrant?" Graham asked, lucky me.

I couldn't let him know that if he said no I'd have to turn around and leave. If I kept talking, I might be able to convince him to do things my way. That was a cornerstone of interrogation but it had places outside of the police station. "No, but we were hoping you'd be willing to assist us to help finding closure for her family. She has a young son."

"I don't think-"

"Oh, come on Graham," one of the young blonde actresses said, tossing her arms open wide, grinning. "It's an adventure." "It's dramatic," her shave-headed companion said, his mocha skin glowing under the lights. He jumped off the stage.

Graham whirled on his actors, his belly jiggling. "I can't just tear down the walls."

"We can," a third actress said firmly, turning directly to me. "Where is she?"

I glanced at Graham whose porcine face was even ruddier then when we first saw him. He didn't like the loss of control but in his pale eyes gleamed something I would have qualified as rebellion. My pulse quickened just a bit with anticipation. I loved getting pieces of the mystery and putting them together. This would be the second and biggest part of this puzzle.

"What the hell but let's do it carefully, everyone. We need to put it back the way we found it in case this is nothing but a circle jerk." Graham's grey piggy eyes pinned me, trying to bully me.

"Thank you," I said and I meant it. I gave a little ground, let him think he won the point. Somehow I knew Ms Nyhammer's psychic was going to be right. I'm not sure why, other than between Cordy and Lorne I knew what a real psychic could do. Of course, some fraud could be taking advantage of Nyhammer's desperation but if my gut, backed up by a little research, was telling me the truth about her then the psychic was as real as they get and Ms. Nyhammer had some explaining to do.

"So where do you think this poor woman is walled up?" Graham asked.

"In hell," I said. To anyone other than a theater person, I'm sure I sounded facetious. Nami was giving me a look that said as much, but Graham's people moved into action. He bellowed a few names and a couple of men and a lady appeared from back stage.

The young African-America actor who Graham called Arnick undid a clasp in front of the stage's base. The clasp, like all the walls, was painted a flat black. Tonya, an actress I had had a fling with years ago, had told me it was to keep the background neutral, to help shield the movement of the stage crew and to keep light from reflecting. It was almost depressing to look at, unbroken as it was now by a lack of props and backdrops.

Arnick got the hell open and the stage hands Graham had sent after tools returned. Graham went under the stage first. I followed him into hell. I was surprised at the narrowness of the trap door that led from the stage into this hell. I'd hate to trust that if I were on stage. The room was musty, filled with cobwebs. It didn't appear it was used much.

"Any ideas where to start?" Graham brushed a cobweb from his pony tail.

I pointed to the far left corner. "There."

"You heard the man."

I watched the stage hands start trying to pry the boards free with the actors offering encouragement like this was some odd role-playing game.

Nami leaned close and whispered, "I can't believe you got them to agree." "Didn't even need your beauty," I whispered back. The fire in her dark eyes promised when we were alone I'd be wearing my ass as a hat. I was surprised at the enthusiasm they put into removing the boards. I guess I should have anticipated the flare for the dramatic in theater people. Three boards came off before I said, "That's enough. I should be able to see in."

The blonde actress, Penny, moved away quickly. "Good...I was afraid...I wanted to see but now, if she's really in there, I'm not sure I could handle that."

"And it smells funny," Arnick said, wrinkling his nose.

"I wouldn't want you to see, Penny." I pulled out my flashlight. Nami had her camera ready. She had gotten it herself, the most recent digital camera she could afford. It wasn't that we didn't trust the CSU's photographer. It was just ingrained in us, 'do for yourself.' It never hurt to have back ups. I crouched by the opening and shone the light in. I didn't have to, to know she was behind the boards. I knew the smell of decay even if it was old. Bones gleamed as my light hit them, brown bits of flesh clung to them, adipose tissue that had turned to soap, more or less. I traced the bare arm to where her shirt covered it, black with white roses. I moved the light up, highlighting her skull. A shock of matted black hair had slid back off her head to puddle like a ragged halo.

"She's in there, isn't she?" Nami tried not to sound shocked.

"Call CSU," I replied, turning away. "Mr. Graham, I'm going to have to ask you and your people to please leave this area."

Penny was already gone, nearly knocking herself out cold on the low door of hell.

"You're going to close us down, aren't you?" Graham herded his people out from under the stage while Nami took my spot at the hole so she could take some preliminary photos. Accusation rang in his voice.

"Hopefully you'll only be down for tonight," I said. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience."

Surliness descended on him momentarily. "I suppose I can't complain too much. You said she had family who've been wondering all this time."

"Exactly. Thanks for your help."

His porky lips perked up. "If nothing else, it's publicity for the theater."

Morbid, but true. "The informant said the victim's been dead for five years. Do you know who might have been here at that time?"

"I've been the director for twelve years." He thought for a moment then added, "Some of my crew has been here nearly that long."

"Do you have any employee records five years back? Actor names, too." I sounded eager and I was. No one just wandered into an unknown building and walled someone up. Dump yes, took the time to conceal, doubtful. The killer might have some connection to this place or its people. He felt comfortable here, at home enough to sneak under the stage and do his dirty work.

"That's all in my office. I'll look for it. The quickest way would be to get the playbills from then and go off of that," Graham said.

"Perfect, thank you. I'll be waiting here for the crime scene unit. You might want to let your people go once my partner and I get everyone's name and number so we can talk to them if we have to," I replied.

That done, I waited for Nami to crawl back out of the hell, camera in hand. She dusted off her suit, a dark, understated blue. Neither she nor I would give in to fashion and wear the too-popular ice cream colored suits on duty. I don't care what Don Johnson did nearly forty years ago. That was tv and this is reality and I don't look good in peach. Teal's another story according to Kate. Nami agrees. I still say it isn't happening.

"Why can't you ever get a hot tip on the races or something?" She brought the camera over for my inspection.

"I was born under an unlucky star," I replied, taking a look at the photos. The camera's flash had highlighted even more detail. "Looks like she took a hell of a beating."

"Plenty of broken bone, just from what little I can see," Nami said, sitting beside me. This close, I could see the sprinkle of freckles on her cheeks, which always seemed odd to me on an Asian face. Having met Nami's mother, a retired Air Force colonel, it made sense. Kirsten was six foot and so blonde she was nearly albino. Even her eyes were nearly colorless. Nami took after her father with some of her mother's height.

"Abusive relationship."

"And you'd know that how? Care to tell me about this tip that never existed?" Nami's eyes slitted.

My phone saved me. I held up a finger to her as I answered it. "You got it? Thanks, go ahead." I listened to the report on the searches I had initiated. It was just what I suspected. Now I had some hard questions for Ms. Nyhammer. I pocketed the phone.

"Speak," Nami ordered.

"I was approached by the victim's friend. She's been trying to get law enforcement to listen to her about her friend's disappearance for five years. No one paid her any mind. She's always maintained that her friend was murdered. She complied one hell of a file on it. But she had no idea where to look for the body until a psychic told her." I prepared myself for the punch I rightly deserved for keeping my partner in the dark but it didn't come. "Psychic?" she hissed. "Connor, are we suddenly in an episode of X- Files:Rediscovered? You came here, tore this place up, because a psychic told you too?"

I shrugged. "She was right."

"We're not waiting until tomorrow to talk to this tipster," Nami said and the look in her almond eyes said she thought the obvious. My tipster knew where the body was because she put it there. "I don't care if we work all night."

"Agreed."

As we waited for CSU, we went back to Graham's office to check on his progress on the paperwork. Once CSU was done and copies of all the playbills and employee records that hadn't been tossed were made, we made sure our victim was loaded onto the bus with a note to the medical examiner to send for the dental records of Maribel Garza. Too bad Dawn didn't know the victim's social security number, to help insure we got the right Garza's dental records, but did give me her last place of employment and the phone number for the girl's sister, Lissette. Between them we should be able to get that critical piece of information. I led the way back to my car. Nami was still quiet, a sure sign she was mad at me. After a while, she noticed I wasn't driving back to the station.

"We're not going back to the house?" Her voice snapped like a whip.

"I know where Ms. Nyhammer is, or at least I think I do."

"You have her phone number. You're not going to call and have her meet us at the station." Nami's brown eyes sparked. "Or are you hoping catching her off-guard will shake things loose?"

I gave her an air point. "That's the plan."

"Do you think she killed her friend?" Nami's voice carried doubt like a shroud.

I wagged my head, dodging around a little old blue hair's car which was puttering down the road. "No, it would be crazy to point out such a good hiding place. The victim could have been there for decades otherwise."

"So this psychic is the real thing?" Nami rolled her eyes at me.

"Is that so hard to believe?" I asked. "You believe in ghosts and all sorts of other silly stuff you see in horror movies."

"I believe in ghosts but not things I see in horror films, like vampires for example," Nami corrected me.

I tried not to laugh. "Fine. Anyhow, I've done a background search on both Nyhammer and her psychic. I don't think the psychic has ever been on the west coast. I have Nyhammer's records that she compiled in the trunk. I'll give it to you later. It'll explain it better."

"So why does this neighborhood look familiar?" Nami pointed out the window.

"You came out here once with me when my sister-in-law got hurt badly and Wes and I came out here to bring her some get-well goodies." I wasn't sure when Buffy decided that she was my sister-in-law and Angel was my brother but it worked should I ever be so unfortunate to be around Angel in public.

"So we're coming here because?" Nami's lip was curling. She was losing patience.

"Let's just say Nyhammer is close to Buffy."

"So why the subterfuge? Why not just ask you straight out for help?"

"Don't know." I shrugged watching two young boys dart out into traffic on their bikes. "Probably because I hate my brother and my sister-in-law knows it. They'd never think to just give me the benefit of the doubt when it comes to doing my job."

"If she's family, Connor, you're the last person who should be investigating this," Nami said, reminding me of proper procedure.

I shook my head, trying to find the right road. It had been so long since I'd been to Dad's. "I've never met Nyhammer until last night. She's Buffy's sister if the background check is correct but she's a complete stranger to me."

"I'm not liking this."

"You're not alone."

Nami fell back into a moody silence which lasted until I pulled up in the drive to Dad's house. I got out first, made sure my badge was out and visible on my belt. I wanted to give them no doubt I was there on business. The 9mm I had would probably do that on it's own. I pushed the door bell. It was dark so either of them could answer the door but it opened to Buffy. Her eyes widened, her lips parting in shock. I hadn't seen her since Giles' funeral or should I say one of the viewings. I didn't make it to the grave side ceremony because of an invasion of Child Guzzelers that I had to deal with along with two of the other Slayers.

"Connor, what are you doing here?" Her eyes canted over to Nami but she didn't look too surprised to see my partner.

"I think you know, Buffy. Is Ms. Nyhammer here?" I asked.

Buffy bit her bottom lip and nodded. "Come in." "You remember my partner," I said, going into the foyer with Nami following.

"Yes." Buffy gave me a questioning look. Her expression said she knew it was bad news but I volunteered nothing nor did Nami.

Buffy led us into the living room. Angel was in a chair and he saw us first. He seemed surprised but I'm sure I did, too. What the hell had happened to his hair? Dawn trailed off whatever she was saying, following his gaze. She got up, casting wary looks between me and Nami. I could tell she wasn't expecting us and was off-balanced. Good. That was exactly what I wanted, hoping she'd be less guarded and more open to the hard questions.

"I...I thought you were going to call. How did...you know, don't you?" She trembled. I could see the stress in her eyes and it was mounting quickly.

I didn't bother to answer the obvious. "This is my partner, Nami Asakura. I'm sorry to tell you this, Ms. Nyhammer, but we found a body exactly where you said we would."

Her knees went a little weak and Dad was on his feet, catching her before she collapsed. She covered her mouth with a shaking hand.

"We're very sorry," Nami repeated.

"Thank you for coming out here to tell her in person," Buffy said, moving past us to take her sister in her arms.

I wrinkled my nose, suddenly a little less happy about having to do my duty. Damn it, it was proper procedure, to hell with the fact Buffy and Angel wouldn't like it much that I was upsetting Dawn. "We would like you to come with us to the station and answer some questions, Ms. Nyhammer," I said and the reactions were immediate and exactly what I expected.

"What?" Dad barked, his arms enclosing Dawn and Buffy tightly. "Why?"

"Dawnie, you don't have to go anywhere." The look of loathing in Buffy's eyes for me was more than the situation warranted. What had I done wrong now?

"She's absolutely right, Ms. Nyhammer," Nami said. "You aren't under arrest. It's just a request."

"Why?" Dawn managed to squeak out. I felt sorry for her.

"You are the closest link we have to the victim, if indeed this turns out to be Maribel Garza," I said, taking a few steps closer, half-expecting Buffy to break free of Dad and hit me. "And if nothing else, you had knowledge of where a body was disposed of. You've come this far to help your friend. Surely you're not going to stop now," I added.

"Can't you talk to her here?" Angel asked. "We could but it would be more conducive back at the station," I said. "We have to get the whole chain of events down and input the details into the computer. It'll save time we could use for investigation if we don't have to do it twice."

"Does it have to be now? You just told her her friend is dead," Buffy snapped, smoothing Dawn's hair.

"That is the unfortunate part of our job," Nami said. "It's best done when fresh in one's mind."

"What fresh? Maribel disappeared years ago." Buffy stalked up to me, daring me to naysay her.

"We just need clarification on some of the details in Ms Nyhammer's file," I replied.

"Dawn, her name is Dawn and you damn well know it." Buffy shoved me and Dad reached out to pull her back. Buffy escaped his questing hand. Technically I could take her in for that but I let it pass, holding a hand up to keep Nami quiet.

"Really? She did a good job of only giving me half a story. Now I'd like the other half if she doesn't mind. I know it's hard right now but it's needed," I said that directly to Dawn.

"It's okay." Dawn broke away from Dad. "I want to help. I'll go with them. They're right. It needs to be done. It's not like I didn't know this was coming."

"Thank you." I waved a hand toward the front door. Dawn came with us willingly much to Buffy's ire, I don't doubt.

We let her sit and cry silently in the back seat of our car. We escorted her into the station to an interrogation room. Dawn squirmed in her seat. The room was dull grey and mostly empty except for a computer chained to the wall, a table and chairs but still managed to be intimidating.

"Is there anything we can get for you, Ms. Nyhammer?" Nami asked. "Something to drink?"

"Could I have some water?" She rubbed her reddened nose with a tissue. "And could you please call me Dawn?" "Of course." I passed the file I had rescued from the trunk to Nami.

Before I could go get her some water, there was a knock at the door. It opened immediately. A man, barely taller than me, came in. He ran a nervous hand through his brown hair. It had gotten more streaked with white this past year than ever before. I could tell he didn't want to be in here from the look in his blue eyes.

"Counselor?" I asked.

"Um, sorry," Lindsey McDonald said. "Dawn, your sister asked me to get you some help. I'm going to send for Liz Silberman. She's an excellent defense attorney."

"Why? She's not under arrest. Dawn can walk out of here any time she wants. She doesn't need a lawyer," I said, wanting to put my fist through a wall, a perfectly good substitute for my family.

"She wants to talk to us," Nami added.

Lindsey looked at Dawn who nodded. "It's okay, Lindsey. I don't need a lawyer. I'm not a suspect, right?"

"Right but she does know who the primary suspect is and she's here to tell us about it. You bring in a lawyer and an already cold case is going to get a whole lot colder," I growled.

"Fine." Lindsey seemed relieved. He passed a card to Dawn. "That's her number if you change your mind."

Lindsey let himself out and I followed, shutting the door behind me.

"What the hell was that about?" I asked.

He turned to face me, his shoulders slumping. "Look, Buffy called me and said you dragged Dawn out of her house and that she needed help."

"That's because Buffy's being an overprotective bitch. She was the one who sent Dawn to me in the first place."

Lindsey shook his head. "Actually it was Kate. Buffy wanted Kate to do it."

My eyes narrowed. I knew Kate had been acting funny yesterday. "Whatever. You tell Buffy you did your best. Dawn neither wants nor needs a lawyer and if she gets in the way of my investigation again I'm going to knock her down."

"Look I want out, too. I'm the riding D.A. on this and I don't need any conflicts of interest as it is," Lindsey said and I didn't blame him. I've worked with Lindsey for the last five years. He had retrained or whatever lawyers did when they changed directions and now he was a prosecutor for L.A. county. "You really have a suspect? This case is over five years old."

"I know. I'm still waiting on the M.E. but if that body turns out to be Maribel Garza's then yes, I do, her husband. Dawn told me Garza's husband was abusive and she was trying to leave him when she disappeared. He told anyone who'll listen she ran off and left him and their son. Once I get confirmation on the victim's identity, I have a trail to start down."

"Good," he said, heading down the corridor.

"And Lindsey, for interfering with my case I'm going to get Kate to kick your ass," I said.

His blue eyes widened. "Don't do that." I just gave him one of my flat, cold smiles and went into the break room to get Dawn a bottled water. I got two for Nami and me. By the time we were done questioning Dawn, we'd all be tired and thirsty.