Disclaimer: Don't own Dark Angel
A/N: Many thanks to Shywr1ter for sacrificing her time for suggestions and boring error-finding. All remaining oddities are mine.
Yes, I know I should finish other stories first, but this is just what happens when my bored brain starts imagining how Logan and Matt Sung might have met the first time… (I'm by no means an expert on antique jewelry or computer-things, hope I didn't mess up)
The Cale Mansion, Sunday, August 5th. 2012
Officer Matt Sung had never imagined he would ever be a guest in the Cale mansion, sitting on their huge leather sofa and drinking genuine, strong coffee that could almost made him forget the depression.
Of course he wasn't their guest, strictly speaking: he here for an investigation, but still, they almost treated him like one of them. Matt, however, with his old, battered wristwatch and tiny two-room flat, was far from belonging to their carefree circles. He didn't even work up here regularly, only volunteering to do extra shifts on Sunday afternoons like this to save the extra money for his little one's first birthday.
The Cales, on the other hand, weren't like most of Seattle's wealthy families, struggling but still so much better off than everybody else. Always influential and with enough resources to help them through the first months after the Pulse, now the they were even better off as Cale Industries provided the technology for the new sector passes.
Politely declining Mr. Cale's offer strengthen his coffee with some liqueur, Matt's expression remained neutral despite the cynical thought that work must be quite a bit more pleasant for those colleagues lucky enough to work in this district. Others might have liked the glimpse into this better world, but to Matt, the demonstrative affluence of the large, nearly flawless Pre-pulse rooms only brought out the bleak, narrow hopelessness of his usual clientele's homes. And while others just might have fantasized about living in this luxury, to Matt it only made harshly obvious the chasm between those who blithely enjoyed cake while all the others hungered for bread.
Yet here he was, investigating a cook accused of having disappeared with a piece of family jewelry while the desks at his precinct were overflowing with the files of gang shootings and armed robberies. Had the call come from any other part of town, like from Matt's regular, run-down, gang-dominated district, they just would have added it onto the growing list of minor incidents never to be looked at. But if the call came from Seattle's high and mighty, dining with the chief of police, you'd better not make them wait.
Even after three years of watching corruption corrode the police department, the thought made Matt flinch. He still couldn't get used to his own ambivalent role in this failing system, protecting those who had the money and power – and still he sat here, a delicate china cup in his hand as he faced the family behind Seattle's most influential company.
"So, Mrs. Cale, last night you discovered that a golden brooch was missing from your jewelry case…" Matt glanced down at the notes he'd taken at the station. "It was late, so you decided not to do anything yet and went to bed. But when your cook,. Rita Mendez, was absent this morning and couldn't be found anywhere you suspected that she must have taken it."
Mrs. Cale's critically appraising look wasn't that of a woman who hesitated to speak her mind, but nevertheless it was her husband who answered first, folding his arms over a body that still took good food for granted. "That's correct."
Even if he hadn't occasionally spotted Jonas Cale's self-important face in the media, being praised about his company's exceptional success, there wouldn't have been any question about him being the master of the house. From the very moment Matt had been led into the room the scene had been dominated by the half-bald man who was clearly used to giving orders.
"And you say the stolen object was…? " His professional tone never failing, Matt took up the questioning again, the short pauses between his questions deliberately stoking his interviewees' vague discomfort.
This time the wife answered. Unlike Mr. Cale's matter of fact tone, her words were drawn out, as if suffering from the state of the world.
"A golden brooch with rubies from the early 1800s, inspired by Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. This alone makes it extraordinary, irreplaceable… but you need to understand, officer," her sternly admonishing tone revealed that she didn't expect him to, "this isn't just some ordinary antique jewelry, it's an important part of the Cale family heritage. The brooch has been passed on for generations, ever since William Cale bought it for his wife when he was over in Europe1906, visiting the Milano world exhibit."
Looking for confirmation, she glanced over to her husband who nodded with the cool confidence of the business man, to failing to bring up the economic aspect. "Before the Pulse its worth was estimated around ten thousand."
Outwardly unfazed by such a sum that was enough to buy a new life in Canada for a family of four, Matt went on, "And apart from her disappearance, is there any proof that Mrs. Mendez has indeed taken it?"
Cale uttered a long, suffering sigh, glancing at his watch in demonstrative impatience. "Trust me, Officer, we would have liked to believe in her innocence, we really would…but then we found this…"
His manicured hand with the golden signet ring reached behind his back, putting a slim CD case on the coffee table between them. "This is from the surveillance camera in the upstairs corridor leading out of our private rooms. You'll see how it clearly shows Rita coming out of our bedroom – where she had no reason to be at all, I may add. Her hand is hiding something small… like a piece of jewelry…"
Matt had heard enough peculiarities over the years to maintain his politely blank expression, only a subtly lifted eyebrow indicating his surprise at the unusually intimate placement of the camera.
Cale's smirk at Matt's faint irritation was almost triumphantly amused. "Not quite as neurotic as you might think, Officer Sung. As you may know," his tone made clear that he expected Matt and the whole Northwest to do so, "my company is in the electronics business… we develop microchips and processors for computers and electronic devices of all kinds."
All hint of amusement gone, the other man fixed Matt with a cool, calculating stare, his low voice demanding respect. "For the sake of my company, I have to ask you for strict confidentiality on this. Only my family and a few researchers at Cale Industries know… but that camera is the very first, very basic prototype of our new face recognition product. A micro version was installed into a lampshade just this week."
Before he could control the impulse, Matt's head went up in surprise. It wasn't the first time he'd heard of the combination of video surveillance and face recognition software, even though in the last few years the idea had been forgotten. Early in 2009, though, Seattle's mayor had gone public with his vision of building a seamless surveillance network that would use the countless cameras in stores and public places, train stations and airports to make it possible to track everybody, everywhere. The project had been heatedly discussed, drawing the protest of those who feared misuse as they warned the public of a "Big Brother" state.
But before any decision had been reached, the Pulse had wiped out all those high-tech applications, throwing police work back to the very basics. Only this year, with the arrival of a new mayor, famous for his corrupt manipulations and ruthlessly brutal approach to running the city, law enforcement officers like Matt had seen their equipment slowly start to improve again.
"We had a bit of a setback with the Pulse, of course, losing most of our data and research as well as the initial prototype, but we're at it again and we're expecting to go on the market in about five years."
Momentarily distracted from Cale's droning voice, Matt lowered his gaze to his notebook, not thrilled at the notion that the people now ruling the city, with no other interest than filling their own pockets, might be getting their hands on such a system.
Unaware of Matt's discomfort, Cale continued, the unconcerned pride in his scheme giving an involuntary insight into the family dynamics. "And this new model… it's supposed to recognize persons even from older photos, so it was a logical choice to first test it in our house, where we have some privacy and only a few people, together with lots of photographic material for comparison from family albums…"
Matt was itching with the temptation to find out more about possible buyers, yet knowing that any additional questions would seem suspiciously out of place, he moved on. "Would Mrs. Mendez, be able to sell the brooch. Could she even find a buyer?"
That from all the valuable and more inconspicuous items in the house Rita Mendez would have taken such a rare piece, so obviously connected to the family, puzzled Matt. Not only was it odd for a long-time employee to risk her secure job, moreover the deed spoke of contacts to Seattle's more dubious art dealers that seemed unfitting for this apparently ordinary cook.
To Mrs. Cale, however, this oddity seemingly hadn't occurred yet. Frowning slightly, she instead steered the focus back to her own issues. "Of course it hurts me to lose such an unusual piece… but what's just as bad is the broken trust, the idea that all these years we had a thief under our roof. It's the ingratitude that bothers me, Officer Sung, the knowledge that someone we've had in our house for more than 20 years just walked away with our possessions."
Mr. Cale felt obliged to chime in, sharing his wife's aggravation. "Someone whom we offered a shelter in these dangerous times, trusted with our children... I'm asking you, officer, where can we feel safe now if not even in our own houses?"
The other man's tone was firm and accusatory, his question rhetorical … but Matt wasn't fooled: There was a flicker of disturbance in Cale's eyes, revealing that fear seen now in the faces of the privileged when venturing out of their secured neighborhoods. It was the old story, the few fearing the many, the many despising the few, the system held together by repression and violence.
Matt let Cale talk, not so much listening to his demands to clean up with Seattle's 'mob of beggars, squatters and shoplifters' but to the undertones and gestures, waiting for anything that might give substance to his edgy gut-feeling. As he leaned back into the stiff sofa, Matt widened his focus to gauge the reaction of the two young men remaining in the room after the maid had hurried in and out with their coffee.
Keeping in the background as he casually leant against the bookshelves that spanned the far end of the room, the older of the two naturally stood out in this environment of smug satisfaction. About Matt's age but half a head taller, he had that kind of attractiveness that couldn't be just explained by simply the good looks of his lean, athletic built and blond, unruly hair.
There was a vibe of reigned-in energy in the way he kept his gaze to the floor, his eyes behind the silver-rimmed glasses refusing to make contact as if afraid that somebody would read his mind, be drawn into his intensity.
Just by standing there he set himself apart from his parents and had been silent so far, only the occasional tense twitch around his mouth giving away his disagreement. Even though he hadn't acknowledged Matt apart from his short, polite greeting, Matt had no doubt that this guy was the one observing the scene most closely, the only person here that was his equal and might be able to see behind his neutral 'officer face'.
Then there was the younger son, not quite yet grown out of his lanky teenage features. Even though he shared the easy handsomeness that had skipped their father, his agreeable niceness put him at risk of going unnoticed next to his brother's upright absoluteness. Folded into an antique armchair, his glance kept going to the tall, blonde figure next to him as if looking for the guidance of the older one who seemed deeply centered in himself. Unlike his brother, the brown-haired son observed the officer in their living room with silent interest, his gentle eyes the only genuinely friendly expression Matt had encountered in the Cale household.
Unable to resist his kindness, Matt gave the boy a half-smile, wistfully amazed at the sheltered innocence lingering there in someone only a few years younger. Then he interrupted Mrs. Cale's ongoing laments about how difficult it would be to find a replacement with Rita's experience for a final question. "So Mrs. Mendez seems to have disappeared Saturday night and nobody has heard of her since?
Cale nodded. "We even called her home number and we asked Tilda, the maid, who seems to know her quite well. But nobody has spoken to her since around five in the afternoon yesterday."
Having heard enough, Matt decisively closed his notebook, not allowing himself a single crack in his professional demeanor. "Alright then… I'd like to talk to all of your household, one by one, just to make sure nothing is missed."
"Whatever you think is necessary." Cale's tone was polite, carrying the suave demeanor of somebody used to dealing with the authorities. Only that fine line on his forehead now tensing into a frown indicated that he considered further questioning a nuisance after his opinion had been heard.
xxxx to be continued xxxx
Extra points to those who found the reference to that alleged Marie Antoinette quote:-)