Disclaimer: Don't own Dark Angel
A/N: Apologies for the unlikely case that there's still anybody out there reading. I just couldn't get myself into that creative, imaginative writing mood the last year. This chapter though has been sitting on my computer for almost two years, occasionally being rewritten and never really what I wanted, but... I'll just throw it out now.
The Cale Mansion, Sunday, August 5th. 2012
Matt had to admit that the the Cales put up with himself with smug, impeccable politeness. He had no illusions though that it had anything to do with his unimpressive young cop self. They simply knew it was easiest to just go along with his interrogations... just as they knew that the chief of police was only a phone call away.
Leaning back for a moment into the sofa's stiff, unyielding leather, he tried to ignore how out of place he felt on this oversized thing that probably was worth more than he'd earned in the last five years. He needed to focus on the interviews... There had been something about that older son, Junior, some kind of vibrating unrest in the way his hands had been crammed into his pockets, annoyed almost. As if he was holding back while his uncle was there...
A knock resonated through the subtly rose-scented air and Matt looked up expectantly to see the heavy door slide open. Junior's tall figure entered with purposefully determined steps that had already grown out of his teenage brother's lankiness.
Matt gestured for him to sit down, pretending to go through his notes as he observed the other's reaction to having the police in his home. There was a lot to notice about the young man who settled into the antique armchair with careless, unthinking familiarity: The clothes, new and of pre-Pulse quality yet without the the signs and labels that distinguished the better-off, the way he moved so naturally among the antique furniture, his carefully spiked hair that reminded Matt of pre-Pulse commercials.
Must be nice to live here... No worries about grocery bills and the rent... no two months and three weeks of giving up the after work beer for buying a toy truck...
It would have been easy to dismiss this guy as just another spoiled rich kid, sharing is brother's protected innocence … and yet there was something about him that wasn't as easily deciphered as his younger brother's curiously smiling sweetness.
Alone, without his aunt and uncle's loud dominance, Cale seemed less tense, even though he was still guarded, still observed Matt wordlessly. Where his father had treated Matt with calculating arrogance, not seeing much more than a faceless uniform, this guy seemed to take in every detail of Matt's appearance, every small movement… almost as if Matt was the one to be interrogated.
His observing alertness disturbed Matt's routine and made him change his tactic in the last, unthinking second. He could have just gone through the basic questions with the usual detached professionalism … yet something told him that he would be rewarded for a more personal tone. "I figure Junior isn't your real name?"
His intuition was right. Cale acknowledged the question with a quick smirk, wry and resigned as if he'd long given up rebelling against a name that must be belittling coming from his self-important father. "Logan."
The smirk didn't linger, but his face eased up, appreciating being treated with less formality than Cale senior. Matt's next question was absent routine, wondering what it was like to grow up with this father, with the company's responsibilities. "So… you're Mr. Cale's oldest son?"
Cale's head jerked up.
"I am not his son." The answer was immediate, every word fierce and deliberate.
Bemused Matt watched as the other man's face slipped out out of the Cale household's mannerly nonchalance to reveal the anger and hurt usually safely bundled away. So that's why he'd kept apart earlier...
It didn't last. Before Matt had chance to react, Cale's emotions once again were safely covered up by that mask of blank politeness that seemed to be second nature. "Jonas is my uncle."
Matt nodded slowly, his expression calmly interested. A missing cook, disappeared jewelry and a nephew who doesn't want to be his uncle's son... Unwanted, he felt himself slipping into empathy, offering an apology for his rash assumption. "I'm sorry. For some reason I thought that Mr. Cale had two sons..."
The other man didn't ask how Matt knew. Cale Industries was known to everybody who followed the city gossip about the high and mighty, about the mayor and those making sure he was reelected, about money changing hands when the bureaucracy didn't work fast enough.
"He does." Cale's tone had softened, a tired apology for his outburst. "You mistake me with Jonathan, my older cousin."
"Sorry about that." Matt offered again, even though he didn't feel sorry at all about his useful misassumption. "I haven't seen him yet, your other cousin… Doesn't he live here?"
"Oh, he does. Some years ago Jonas and Margo turned the gardener's house, back there", Cale's nod pointed to the green peeking through the crème white of the curtains, "into a loft..." He shrugged and as if talking about the next-door neighbor added, "I don't know where he is though, haven't seen him all week."
Matt was silent, waiting for more. He seemed close enough to his younger cousin to make me think they're brothers... but doesn't care at all about Jonathan's whereabouts?
"I think my uncle mentioned something about a business trip to Canada, but you'll have to ask him for the details on that." The last was offered almost reluctantly, as if wasn't his place to reveal it.
Business trips to Canada, in these times... Again Matt didn't press Cale, giving him time to sort his thoughts. But the other man remained silent, his focused face not giving away anything and so Matt went back to his usual interrogation routine.
As their conversation went on, standard questions being countered with standard answers, Jonathan's existence remained the only interesting information Matt could draw out of the young Cale. Logan himself had spent the weekend at a friend's, trying to manipulate a home-built satellite dish into letting them watch the Canadian ice hockey finals. In consequence he hadn't seen anything, neither the cook nor the brooch nor anything else even halfway useful.
Disappointed Matt stood up, signaling the end of the interview. Something feels off here, Cale Senior's boisterous loudness, Junior's reserved distance...
Everything, he tried to convince himself as Cale turned around and headed for the door, points to the cook, everything but my own gut-feeling… And that very gut feeling had been wrong before, almost costing him his job once.
I should be home with my family, not wasting time on such a clear-cut case. Just because they're not all happy family doesn't mean they hide some dark secret...
"She didn't do it. Rita… she didn't take the brooch." Cale's hoarse voice cut into Matt's self-reasoning. Standing there with the barrier of the coffee table between them, Junior's confidence sounded defensive with pessimistic mistrust.
Matt almost grinned. Finally... Hiding his surprise, he challenged Cale's conviction. "Proofs say she did."
Something in Cale's composure changed, losing that impenetrable absoluteness that had raised Matt's interest in first place. Now, he appraised Matt with unfocused eyes, his indecision obvious. Finally though, as his fidgeting hand absently ruined the roughly combed hair, his sense of justice seemed to take over.
"That brooch…. it belonged to my mother. That story my aunt told you about it being an old family piece…, she 'forgot'," the tired sarcasm hid years of contempt , "to mention that it's always passed on from mother to oldest son when he proposes to his future wife …"
"So it would have been yours, one day?," Matt inquired in a reflex of professional suspicion. What if he took the brooch himself, only taking what was his by tradition? Still, that didn't explain the disappearance of the cook...
Rubbing his forehead with long fingers, Cale massaged away a frown as Matt's inquiry brought him back from the tangle of hurt and loyalties that was family. "I guess… ," a tired sigh, as if not reclaiming the brooch was his own shortcoming, "Should still be, actually."
Silent for a moment, he stared down at the ebony coffee table as Matt pondered this new constellation. Why would he just give up his mother's belonging? He sure doesn't seem to lack the backbone to stand up against his uncle.
With a decisive move of his head, Cale caught himself, continuing his initial thought." But Rita… she never would have stolen anything that belonged to my mother. My mum, she used to spend a lot of time there in the kitchen, back when it was still our house, when she expected guests or just wanted company. Except for me, she used to have all the house to herself, when my father was working late."
He smiled, slipping back into his boyhood-self as he recalled those faraway memories, some reaching back even before his time. Matt knew to sit very still, listening and observing how Cale's vigilant rigidness softened. "And I remember… when the two of them were together, there was always joking and laughter… And then, after my mother's death, Rita used to tell me stories about her… "
Simply the way his features softened now after the careless indifference for his aunt and uncle told Matt more than Cale had meant to reveal.
Interesting loyalties, speaking up for the the cook, against his family... Not quite the right way to make his uncle happy.
Abruptly looking up, Cale's stare fixed Matt, defiantly open. "She didn't take it. Rita didn't take the brooch."
There it was again, that pure conviction, paired with the trust and loyalty of a lifetime. It would be so easy to believe him, not to question that alluring sincerity...
But Matt didn't fail to see that other part of Cale, the barely grown-up young man who judged the present by brittle, fading childhood memories. In the end, reduced to bare facts, his claims weren't different from those Matt heard day after day, from people who in their denial clinged to old beliefs and loyalties.
But still, everything Cale said confirmed Matt's vague suspicion that this apparently so simple case was a bit… too simple. So far though, as long as there was nothing substantial, it was too early to share his doubts with anyone. He offered Cale his hand again, ending the interview. "Thanks for your help, Mr. Cale. We'll do our best to find out what happened."
"We'll do our best…" Matt would have uttered the words with the same sincerity to the next homeless guy on the street as he had to Cale... and yet this was their standard phrase, synonymous with the fact that they were too overworked to keep up, too understaffed to fight the epidemic of crime.
My intuition and the young Cale's word against the accusations of the almighty Jonas Cale. Smartest thing would be to just look the other way...
"I appreciate it." Cale's serious tone wasn't that of someone who had grown up carefree and sheltered, used to getting his way. His eyes, sober and restrained, had the piercing serenity of someone who'd seen too many people capitulate.
This time it was Matt who turned first and headed for the door, feet sinking into the thick, soft carpet. He left young Cale standing there, his hands again hiding in his pockets.
xxx TBC xxx