One Eyed Jacks

"With deepest gratitude and appreciation to Ms. Ellen, who got me through this thing."

Chapter Seven: Dead End Streets

"Get anywhere with the witness?" Maggie Sawyer called, as Renee and Velma entered the MCU squad room.

"Nowhere; She didn't see anything, she didn't hear anything," Renee replied, as she shrugged out of her coat on her way to her desk. Velma was close behind, having claimed the desk opposite Renee's for the duration.

Bullock was leaning against the water cooler, a mostly empty paper cup in one hand. "Hollywood's in Interview Two; the Commish said to wait for you. Guess you're making points in life."

"What do we know?" Velma asked, draping her coat over the back of the desk chair.

"Hollywood's a decorated officer; the Commish pinned the last one on him his'self." Bullock crushed the cup and dropped it into the garbage.

"Three commendations for valor, injured in the line of duty—that last bit was what landed him in the property room." Maggie recited the highlights.

"He took a bullet in the brain, standing off against a bunch of Burnleytown bangers, back when the Bat got all the gangs riled up and trigger-happy," Bullock sniped as he crossed the room.

"I remember him." Renee's eyes narrowed as she pictured his face. "Wears an eye patch, right?"

"That's the one." Maggie sat on the edge of the desk across the aisle from Renee. "The bullet cost him the sight in his left eye."

"He caught that bullet pulling a wounded officer out of the line of fire," Bullock grumbled.

"Any connection to the victims?" Renee ignored the comment, pushed the sleeves of her sweater up to her elbows, and grabbed her coffee cup from amid the clutter on her desk.

"None that we can see." Maggie crossed her arms and frowned.

"Where's Hollywood?" James Gordon barked as he burst into the squad room.

"Interview Two," Maggie responded, rising to her feet out of respect.

"Sawyer, Montoya, you're with me. Bullock, I want you and Dinkley in observation." Gordon shook free of his overcoat and barely slowed down enough to haphazardly land it on the coat hook by the door. He was across the floor and opening the door to the interview room almost before any of them could react. Renee cast the coffee pot a longing look as she sat her cup back on her desk, and moved to keep up with Captain Sawyer.

"Commission Gordon!" Sergeant Anthony Hollywood stood as Gordon entered the room. He was in uniform, and looked every inch the professional. He'd surrendered his weapon when he'd been brought into the squad room; an empty holster was testament to the situation in which he found himself. "What's this about, sir?"

"Someone's committed three murders in my town, Sergeant." Gordon leaned against the table, his palms on the edge, his feet apart and his gaze fixed on Hollywood.

Renee moved past the commissioner and into the far corner opposite Hollywood. Maggie closed the door and stood near it.

"What's that got to do with me, Commissioner?" Hollywood sat down slowly.

"They're using a weapon that's supposed to be locked up in my property room, Sergeant." Gordon's cards hit the table abruptly. He studied Hollywood for any tell, any hint of reaction, any sign of guilt, as he waited to hear what the officer had to say.

Hollywood's gaze jerked up from the table and focused squarely on Gordon. "And you like me for it?"

"No, you've got an airtight alibi for the killings themselves: you were on duty at the time. But someone put evidence on the street, and I'm starting my investigation into that with you." Gordon held the sergeant's gaze.

"Why me?" Hollywood's eye narrowed.

"We found the murder weapon in the property room, exactly where it belonged. That means that somehow, our shooter got the weapon out of evidence, used it to kill three people, and then put it back-maybe once, maybe after each killing."

"I'm on shift, so I must be loaning evidence out to murderers. That pretty much it?" Hollywood asked, leaning back in his chair almost casually.

Gordon nodded slowly.

"That's a pretty big leap, Commissioner. Who's to say that it didn't leave and come back on a different shift? Hell, who's to say that it was even a cop that took it out of the lock-up? What, with all the freaks out there, I mean."

"A freak. Is that your story?" Renee asked.

"I ain't got a story, just thoughts is all." Hollywood replied. "You're looking at a cop for your shooter and ignoring the obvious."

"Obvious?" Gordon snapped.

"It didn't have to be a cop that took the weapon is all I'm saying; not in a world where there's freaks that can walk through walls, turn invisible or control someone's mind. Hell, even if you are looking for a cop, what's to say the poor sap even knows that he did something?"

"You know, it's interesting." Renee stepped closer to the table. "We were looking at a freak angle from the start. Our shooter wanted us looking at freaks. And now, here you are, singing a familiar song."

"Look, as much as I'd like to trade meaningful glances with the detective here, I want my PBA rep." Hollywood straightened in his chair and folded his hands on the table in front of him.

"Alright, we'll do it your way then." Gordon stood and stepped back.

Maggie opened the door and left the room. Gordon motioned for Renee to follow her.

As soon as the door closed again behind the two women, Gordon stared down at Hollywood. "Hear me good, Sergeant. If you're involved, this is your last chance to salvage your pension. You come clean now, and I'll see to it your family collects, out of respect for who you were. But if you fight this and I find out that you're dirty, I'll burn you to the ground."

"I want my PBA rep." Hollywood spoke the words slowly, but choppily.

Gordon turned on his heel and left the room. The door closed with thunderous finality.

Interlude

"Tell me you've got more than this." Gilbert Lieberman looked at James Gordon with a mix of irritation and confusion. The young assistant district attorney had just finished going through the case file and hadn't been pleased with the answers he'd gotten from the officers.

"Sergeant Hollywood worked with two officers who have a direct connection to two of our victims," Gordon responded.

"Sergeant Giovanni Perulfi was the arresting officer in Robert Mayfair's last arrest; the collar was good, but Mayfair beat the rap due to errors at the lab." Renee stepped forward and placed an open file in front of Lieberman. "Hollywood was his training officer."

Maggie Sawyer placed a second file in front of the A.D.A.. "Detective Ronald Martin worked a rape in which the victim, an 18-year-old high school student on a class trip from Wisconsin, claimed Forrest Jacks raped her in a private room at the Silhouette club. Jacks beat the rap when the victim recanted. There's reason to suspect she was coerced; no proof. He and Hollywood were partners in a patrol car for over five years—until Martin made detective."

"I understand your logic, officers: good cops get tired of watching the bad guys walk so they take things into their own hands. Maybe Hollywood passes the weapon to one of these two and they take out each other's perp, sort of a 'Strangers on a Train' pact. I see it, I really do, I just don't see a path to a successful conviction." Lieberman pushed the files toward the middle of the table. "The only real evidence you've got is the bullet from the Pervenesch shooting. I won't even go into how problematic your source on that is going to be. The Dark Knight's stock isn't what it used to be; he has no standing, so there's no chain of custody as far as the law is concerned. Beyond that, where's the link between Hollywood and Pervenesch?"

"We don't have one." Gordon's shoulders dropped slightly as he answered.

Lieberman stood, adjusted his suit coat and pressed his lips together in a sympathetic grimace. "You put that weapon in someone's hand and link them to either of our victims, and we'll move forward on this, Commissioner. Until then, there's nothing we can do."

Gordon stood politely, hands stuffed in the pockets of his slacks. "You heard the man," he turned and started for the door. "Find me a shooter."

Interlude

It was raining again, and Renee was huddled up in the overstuffed chair by the picture window, barefoot, her knees drawn to her chest. The drapes were pulled back and the streetlights danced across the liquid prisms that ran down the outside of the glass. She watched them the way a little girl might marvel at a kaleidoscope. The picture of her and Daria at the Shore was on the coffee table. She couldn't bring herself to look at it. The rain was a welcome distraction. The bottle of Maker's Mark was gone. In fairness, she'd drained it the last time she'd watched rain sweep over the city. But she was proud of herself for not replacing it, yet.

Amy and Emily sung softly in the darkness. "…There's not enough room in the world for my pain. Signals crossed and love gets lost and time passed makes it plain. Of all my demon spirits I need you the most. I'm in love with your ghost. I'm in love with your ghost …"

The rain was soft and gentle and soothing. 'God washing the sky,' her grandmother had always said. Nothing would wash away the emotions with which she struggled. How could she claim to love Daria if she could so easily fall into the next pair of convenient arms? Whatever hope there had been was gone, she'd thrown it away. There was no explaining, and there would be no forgiving.

She'd spent the evening cleaning up, reclaiming the sofa for its original purpose. No one would ever guess that she'd been sleeping –practically living- on it for months. The kitchen was presentable again. It hadn't been the dishes but the collected weight of she didn't know how many fast food wrappers that had made it look like a cyclone had hit. The potpourri was gone, along with its little bowl. It wasn't her style; it had been Daria's touch. She had to reclaim her home. She had to become comfortable being just herself, again.

She finally allowed herself to look at the picture on the coffee table, to see how happy she had been, once. Gently, she picked it up. Her fingertips brushed the glass as if she could caress the past. Daria had changed her world, allowed her to grow into the woman she'd so long denied . Daria had made all of it, the snide comments of her co-workers, the hostility of her parents, and the derision of the parish, all of it worthwhile. But she was the past. There would be a future. Some day. She knew that if she wanted to see it, she had to let go of that past. Of Daria.

The knock on the door snapped her from her reverie. She placed the picture on the coffee table, stood up, and crossed the room.

The knock came again. She opened the door.

"Hey." Velma stood in the hallway, her hands in the pockets of her heavy overcoat.

"Hi," Renee felt her face grow warm.

"I know I should have called; I hope I'm not interrupting something." Velma glanced at the candles in the darkened apartment.

"No, nothing important."

They stood silently for a moment.

"Can I come in?" Velma smiled awkwardly.

"Yeah," Renee blushed deeper. "Yeah, please."

"Candles." Velma stopped at the end of the sofa. "Are you sure I'm not intruding?" Her eyes moved curiously through the apartment.

Renee shut the door and turned, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear as she did so. "No, I was just cleaning up a little."

"I'd say a lot," Velma chuckled, taking off her coat. Renee politely took it and moved to the closet by the door, where she hung it up.

"I'd come to see if you'd be interested in getting a bite to eat, but it looks like you're pretty set for a quiet night in." Velma's gaze settled on the weapon on the coffee table.

"I'm not sure I'd be good company for you." Renee shifted awkwardly.

"Let me be the judge of that," Velma took the photograph from the table, smiling at the happiness it conveyed. "This must be Daria."

Renee's eyes widened and her jaw went slack.

"Cops talk," Velma shrugged. "And men are bigger gossips than women ever dreamt of being. They wanted to make sure I knew you liked women, in case it made me uncomfortable." Velma smiled an almost wicked smile.

Renee was speechless.

"I didn't see any reason to tell them I found it quite comfortable, in point of fact." Velma returned the photograph to the table and moved to Renee's side. She placed a supportive hand on Renee's arm.

Renee brushed her palm across her cheek, wiping away a tear that threatened to escape.

"If I had known it was so soon, I would have never…" Velma's word trailed off.

"It wasn't just you." Renee bit back the tears. She was a tough as nails cop, damn it. Wasn't she?

"It wasn't a betrayal, Renee." Velma squeezed Renee's arm gently. "It was just... moving on."

Renee looked for words, and was relieved when the phone rang. She moved away politely to answer it.

"Hello... Yeah, she's right here… Give me the address." Renee moved to the stand by the table.

Velma was studying the photograph.

"Got it, we'll be right there." Renee hung up the phone and placed it back in its cradle.

"Something up?" Velma asked, looking from the picture back to Renee.

"Yeah, Bullock says the commissioner wants us over in Bryant, as soon as we can get there." Renee moved to the coat closet. "We've got a break on the shooter."

Interlude

It was a quarter to nine, and the rain was threatening to turn to sleet by the time Renee and Velma ducked under the police tape and approached Bullock. He was standing in the harsh yellow porch light of an aging 'painted lady' turned apartment building, three blocks west of Robinson Park, at the edge of University Town. It was a lower-middle-class neighborhood, made up of working stiffs and college students. The street and sidewalk were choked with police cars, an ambulance and a thickening crowd of reporters, who were shoving themselves past the late-night revelers that had been drawn to the circus.

"Commissioner's inside-apartment 3C-top of the stairs, second door on the left; watch your head." Bullock kept his hands in the pockets of his trench coat and never even looked at the women as they climbed the stairs and went through the open foyer door.

Renee and Velma climbed the worn stairs to the third floor and a tight hallway with a low ceiling that bisected what had once been the attic of the old Victorian. The apartment wasn't hard to spot; it was the one with the knot of uniformed officers and crime scene technicians at the door. The sea of bodies parted as Renee approached. It wasn't her personality, but the knowledge that Gordon wanted to see her that opened the way ahead of her. She went through the door and into the attic room-turned- apartment. Her breath caught.

"No one's touched anything, yet," Gordon said softly, respectfully, when he felt Renee sidle up beside him. His eyes never left the figure hanging from the rafters at the center of the room.

Renee's carefully studied the body. It was young and physically fit; dressed in a clean, white t-shirt, jeans and running shoes. She'd only seen a few suicides, actual suicides at least. The rope was looped over an exposed rafter and the knot was perfectly placed just behind its left ear. A kitchen chair was tipped over on the floor beneath it. There was a half empty liquor bottle on the coffee table.

"Commissioner-"

He waved her to silence. "Meet Officer Daniel Malinski, formerly of the Gotham PD," he said, indicating the corpse. "He worked patrol out of Third Precinct."

Renee studied the crime scene as Gordon spoke. Maggie Sawyer was standing at a battered kitchen table at the far end of the apartment. She was sorting through a mass of paperwork that might once have been well-organized. When the captain saw Renee, she picked up three files and crossed the room toward them.

"Officer Malinski was no-call, no-show at roll call. He hasn't missed a day in seven years. His partner came by after their shift to check on him and found him like this." Gordon's gaze never left the body. "The partner's outside."

"I'm afraid I'm not following." Renee opened her overcoat and tucked her hands into the pockets of her chinos.

Gordon started to continue, but stopped when he spotted a crime scene technician approaching.

"We're ready to take him down, Commissioner," the technician said respectfully.

"Go ahead," Gordon nodded. Then he turned back to Renee as Maggie joined them.

"I'm not following how this relates to my case, Commissioner." Renee said.

"Officer Malinski's our link to Hollywood," Gordon answered.

"Officer Malinski was engaged to a woman named Audra Costello; her family owns a bakery not far from here. Her father wasn't interested in paying for protection, so Anatoly Pervenesch sent him a message through her-cut her face pretty badly. She could have helped us put him away, but she broke inside. Jumped from the eighth floor of Gotham General." Captain Sawyer held one of the files up. "It's all in the report."

"Malinski had a copy of the police report?" Velma asked.

"He had a regular library of case files, including several on Robert Mayfair and Forest Jacks. All of them illegally obtained, from the look of things." Maggie frowned, her lips pressed together thinly.

"How does that connect him to Hollywood?" Velma asked.

"The officer Hollywood pulled out of the line of fire, the one he lost an eye saving?" Gordon watched as the corpse was neatly wrapped on the gurney, "It was Officer Malinski."

"Can we tie him to the weapon?" Renee asked, watching as the medical examiner's people gently moved the gurney toward the door.

"We found a home-cut copy of a security key along with several photocopies of an actual one and a how-to guide printed out from the net... details how to clone a key from a tuna can..." Maggie answered.

"Creative." Renee said flatly.

"We'll rush processing on the note, sir." The senior technician paused on his way out with the body.

Gordon nodded wordlessly.

"Note?" Renee asked.

"Malinski left a full confession in his suicide note." Maggie shook her head. "He said he couldn't live without the Costello woman-or with his conscience-after he'd killed 'so many people'."

"The press is going to have a field day with this," Gordon grumbled.

"Doesn't this all seem just a little too convenient, Commissioner?" Velma asked.

Gordon didn't answer. He just shot the fed a glare, turned on his heel and left the apartment.

Epilogue

The wind was howling on the roof of Gotham Police Headquarters. Jim Gordon, Maggie Sawyer, Renee Montoya and Velma Dinkley had been standing silently, almost reverently, in the freezing rain for nearly forty-five minutes. A brilliant light illuminated the sky above with a familiar symbol. Renee was ready to call it a night, when the silence was finally broken.

"Commissioner." The voice was dark and hard, and it carried a mix of confidence and brutality that made Renee glad she'd kept herself on the right side of the law. The shadows first moved, then parted, and then, the Batman was on the roof. "Captain Sawyer, Detective Montoya, Agent Dinkley."

Velma tried not to be surprised that he knew her name.

"We're dead on the One-Eyed Jacks shootings." Gordon was blunt. He'd learned to make the most out of these conversations, which typically ended with little notice.

"Word on the street is that you like a cop for them." The new voice was softer and lacked the brutality of the first. Velma caught the briefest glimpse of red and green at the edges of the shadows.

"We did, we do," Gordon replied. "But we'll never make a case."

'Why?" the Batman asked.

"We've got a dead patrolman with a strong tie to one of the victims, and evidence that he had knowledge of the others," Gordon answered, adjusting the collar of his trench coat against the wind. "There was a suicide note. He admitted everything, claimed he acted alone."

"Handwritten?" the Batman asked.

"Printed and signed," Maggie answered.

"This is all pretty neatly packaged for you," the younger voice challenged.

"It's a frame-up, but a good one." Renee agreed.

"Maybe Malinski was our shooter, maybe he was just one of them. Maybe he was innocent in the whole thing. Either way, we'll never make a case against anyone else- not with the evidence he left behind," Gordon growled.

"Even I can only reach so far, Commissioner." The Bat stepped further into the light. "Your department is dirty; you know that. You have to clean it up yourself. I can't help."

"You're right, of course." Gordon huffed.

"I'll be in touch." The Batman stepped back into the shadows. Within a few moments, the rooftop was empty again, except for the sound of the wind and the rain.

Credits

The lyrics of "Ghost" are copyright Emily Saliers and appear on the 1992 album 'Rites of Passage' by the Indigo Girls.