Winter is something Sara Pezzini hated with a passion. Not simply because of the weather, though the cold chill wind that blew through the gravesite did nothing to alleviate the memories of the past. Stock still, Sara stood beside the grave of her former partner, one of her closest friends, Danny Woo, as the wind gusted behind her.
I don't know if I can do it anymore, Danny. I've lost so many people. Sara lay a white rose against the tombstone, almost missed against the white snow that blanketed the ground, were it not for the dark green of the stem. It was true that she'd lost many. She'd lost her parents due to untimely deaths, her former partner and best friend was killed in the line of duty and her former Captain – Joe Siri – was being forcibly retired. And a lover, with a strange connection to the past.
And this thing, this bracelet, this blade…it's taken on a life of its own. I become it, it becomes me. It's saved me more times than I can count. I see visions of the past, not mine, but it's all so familiar, like I was there. So vivid and real. God, what's wrong with me, Danny?
Gently, Sara's gloved hand reached out and touched Danny's tombstone before she turned to walk back to her car. She shook her head. It was time to put some ghosts to rest. Which was all well and good, until they start showing up and giving their two cents worth.
"Something wrong, Pez?" her partner, Jake McCartey asked her.
"Not really," she lied.
"Don't tell me that. I know it's the anniversary of Danny's death. You two were close."
"Jake, I don't really want to talk about it right now. Just drive, please?"
Jake put the car into gear and pulled away from the cemetery. After a few moments, he spoke. "Well, you know I'll be here to listen when you do."
"Thanks." Sara looked down. Her wrist beneath the witchblade bracelet was itching. She looked to the scars on the inside of her wrist where the bracelet had dug in. She clenched and unclenched her hand several times then shook it.
"You hurt your hand or something?" Jake asked briefly as he glanced over.
"I don't think so. Just itches."
"You never did tell me where you got your bracelet."
"Family heirloom." Not exactly a lie, but not exactly the truth either. But how could she tell her partner the peculiar nature of the witchblade. More than once she'd had to fiddle the truth when it came to suspicious deaths, especially as a result of the blade. Sara looked out the window of the car at the fresh snow that had fallen through the night. She needed a distraction. "Come on, Jake. What's with all the sensitive chat stuff anyway?"
"Trying to help. You seemed rather down lately."
"So now you're trying to psychoanalyse me? First Nottingham, now you. The world is seriously in trouble if its got nothing better to do than check my sanity." Sara smiled, hoping to take the sting out of her words.
"When did you see Nottingham?" Jake had been less than thrilled with Nottingham's interference in their work, specifically because he worked for Kenneth Irons and Vorschlag Industries. The NYPD had been building a case of illegal weapons smuggling between the United States and Syria by way of the United Kingdom recently and Irons name came to the top of the list of suspects. The only reason it ended up in NYPDs laps was that one of the underlings from Vorschlag was murdered on their turf. The problem was, because it reached international levels they were getting a run around by the Feds. Every angle they tried ended up being stonewalled. The fact that Nottingham was raising his head to contact Sara was puzzling. Jake still didn't trust the man, but if he could provide her with some details, it might prove worthwhile.
"He dropped by this morning. Unannounced. Very vague as usual. Spouting all about some philosophy. How I need to help him with something. Never did get what he was pissing on about. I suspect if I don't just drop everything at once, he'll come back later today. Hopefully I can get him to be a bit less cryptic. Anyway, something I'd said started him off with this real concerned line of questions. I swear, if Gallo gets all 'touchy-feely' at the office, I may reconsider my own sanity."
"Did he say anything relating to the case?"
"Not that I could pick out. Like I said, he was vague. I'll work on it later. So, what's the game plan for the rest of the morning?"
"Gallo wants us in his office this morning to discuss the case as it stands at the moment."
"That'll be a quick meeting. Aren't you quite the computer whiz? Any chance you can pull up what the Feds are getting?"
"It's not that easy. But I do have a contact in the local field office that might be willing to give us some information."
"So, what are you waiting for?"
"A little thing called traffic lights," Jake quirked.
At the change of light colour, Jake was off, headed towards the precint where they worked. Midtown traffic was its usual busy self as he navigated the streets. Before too long they'd arrived at work and headed to the office. Before they'd even settled, Captain Gallo was calling out to them to come into his office.
"Pezzini, McCartey, what have you got for me?" Gallo sat behind his desk, looking up at his officers.
"We're still getting nothing so far, officially, from the Feds on the Hanson murder. There's a possible chance at a contact there which Jake's going to hunt down this morning. Otherwise we keep getting stonewalled." Sara didn't want to mention her contact with Nottingham yet. One she wasn't sure what he would reveal, if anything. The other, she didn't trust Gallo. He'd wormed his way into the precint, forcing out Siri, and he had possible connections to her father's death. She suspected more, but had yet been able to prove much.
"Just tracing down leads. Vicky's said she might have gotten some new information from forensics for us. Called this morning before we left. Going down there next."
"Keep me apprised." He dismissed them to the door before turning back to the papers on the desk.
After they'd left, Sara quipped, "Gee, that was illuminating."
"What did you expect?"
"Nothing. That's the point. I'd be more surprised if he was actually helpful at getting inroads into the investigation where we've been drawing blanks. Instead he just seems to be adding to the road-blocks. Come on, we've got to get down to Vicky. See what she might have for us."
Forty-five minutes later, Sara and Jake left Vicky Po's office not much further ahead of where they'd been, with the exception that now they had the forensics on the two bullets that pierced the deceased's chest cavity and the single entry to the skull. The matching casings had been recovered from the scene of crime. Thus far, no matches had come up through the FBI and ATF databases. However, at least they might have a possible M.O. with which to match up with once they returned to the office.
When they'd returned to the office, a group of four men in well tailored suits left Capt. Gallo's office, breezing past Sara as she crossed the precint's floor. They looked remarkebaly pleased with themselves.
"Shit, that can't be good," Jake commented as he pulled up to his desk, dumping the forensics report on his desk. He spared a quick glance into Captain Gallo's office. "He doesn't look too happy."
"My guess is that it's another nail in our coffin." Before she had a chance to explain herself further, Gallo emerged from his office.
"Pezzini, McCartey. My office. Now," he bellowed.
"What's up, boss?"
"We're off the case." Sara said plainly, having a strong feeling that's what was happening.
Gallo nodded. As much as he disliked Pezzini, he resented when other law enforcement agencies swooped in and took over their cases more. "Feds have come up with some evidence that they've indicated makes this a federal case, not one for the NYPD. So you two have some other work to do."
"Do we even get an explanation aside from the usual crap?" Sara asked. "What the hell do you want us to do with the investigation work we've done so far?" She had a feeling she knew the answer but waiting for Gallo to confirm.
"Reports on my desk by the end of shift."
"That's it?" Sara stared at him half with disbelief by his capitulation to the feds, and also with frustration by the fact that he seemed to enjoy thwarting her investigations.
"Come on, Sara. This isn't getting us anywhere." Jake led her out of the office before Sara could say something that either she'd regret or tget hrown out by Internal Affairs. Several painstakingly boring hours later, they'd compiled their form reports, along with the various forensic notes and interview statements and put them into a banker's box and putting it on Gallo's desk.
"Buy you a drink, Pez?" Jake asked as he was pulling on his jacket.
"Sorry, not tonight. I've got some things I have to take care of. But I'll take a raincheck if the offer stays open." Sara grabbed her leather jacket and keys before heading towards the exit. "See you tomorrow, Jake."
"Hey, isn't Nottingham coming round later?"
"Yeah, don't remind me. Maybe I can get some information out of him. Though I'm not counting on it. Night."
They parted ways and Sara took off for the nearest subway entrance. She had no desire to walk over the crowded sidewalks, still slippery from the early morning snowfall. Some time later, she entered her small studio apartment and ditched her jacket and changed into a pair of sweats. Turning the music up, she started to stretch. Sara had hoped that a good workout with the punchbag would help ease the tension that ran through her body. She flipped her hair up into a ponytail and put her boxing gloves on. She'd been so intently working out, she hadn't seen her visitor make an appearance. It wasn't until a few moments after the music had stopped that she herself stopped punching the bag and looked up.
"Jesus, Nottingham! Don't you ever knock?" She glared over at him as she pulled the gloves off and tossed them on her bed.
"I did. You didn't hear me."
"Yeah, well I was busy."
"So I see."
"Did you come here for something constructive or just to make idle chit-chat?"
"You're frustrated," Ian said calmly.
"And whatever gave you that idea?" she responded quite sarcastically. "Could it be that we had our latest case taken away from us by the Feds or that you keep showing up unannounced in my apartment?" Sara headed over to the fridge and pulled out a gallon container of water, took the cap off and drank heartily before placing it on the counter. Taking a few breaths, she turned around. "What did you come here for, Nottingham?"
"The Hanson case. I know it's no longer yours, but I thought you might be interested to know that the Federal Agents have dropped my master from their list of suspects, in relation to the murder investigation."
"Why might that interest me? What about the smuggled weapons?"
"We may be many things, Sara, but we are not terrorists. We do not sell weapons to terrorists. It is not our way."
"Not your way?"
"No." Ian Nottingham moved quietly through the apartment to stand near Sara.
"Care to elaborate?"
"Not now. Everything works out in its own time and place. We are all but pawns in a much larger game."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Life, Sara. It has twists and turns. Life and death. Entwined. Perhaps Hanson was murdered to protect truths best kept secret from the general public. Sometimes we're not meant to know the true reasonings of everything in the universe."
"It would make my job a whole lot easier though."
"Perhaps. Good night, Sara." With that farewell, Ian left via the same way he entered, via the rooftop door. Sara turned and spun a high kick at the punchbag, before collapsing on the couch. She tried to relax, flipping through the various channels on the tv, searching for various news broadcasts. Not much interested her, but it was better than the quiet that otherwise permeated the apartment.
When the hell did life get so complicated, Danny?