"Your friend is stable."
The words weren't as comforting as I had hoped; I was still shaking something fierce. Fortunately the only person around to witness my breakdown was Spock, who was acting more considerate than I had ever seen him before. Even he could tell I would be having nightmares about Bones and that autopsy room well into the next century.
I slouched forward in my chair, resting my head in my hands. "This is my fault."
"We have already gone over the evidence," Spock responded, taking a seat on the hard plastic chair next to mine. "Emotionally, it is unhealthy for you to persist in this belief that you are in some way personally responsible for the untimely attack on Doctor McCoy and Mister Chekov."
"That's just it," I sighed, rubbing my eyes. "This attack was personal. If I hadn't stuck Chekov with Bones, if I had actually taken responsibility for once and been there for the kid and been considerate of my closest friend instead of lollygagging at the station …"
"Then this case and perhaps the entire police workforce would have suffered," my partner finished. "You were merely performing the duties requested of you by Captain Pike."
"Don't kid me, Spock. The squad would have been just fine without me. Probably better off, even." I looked at my shoes, scuffing them on the floor a few times. "You know how suspicious everyone down there can be. I'll bet by now some of them think this whole missing hostage situation is my fault."
"Did I not suggest we use the kid as bait? Did I know when and where he would be alone with Bones? This case didn't really go to hell until I joined."
Spock shifted in his seat. "I concur that it would make a plausible story… but anyone who has been in recent proximity with you must be aware of your character, even in passing."
"Let's hope." I turned to meet Spock's gaze. "They have to know… they have to understand I couldn't do that to him, Spock. Not Bones, not the kid…" I covered my eyes again, Spock watching me in silence. "It's just… God, this looks so bad. I mean, I pulled all the strings. It's my fault your case is unraveling."
"It is your case as well. Do not be upset with yourself for my sake."
"I'm not," I lied, standing up, "I just…"
Spock watched me pace the waiting area with dark eyes. "Perhaps you are frightened," he concluded. "It is not uncommon for those close to a victim to feel their safety is threatened even if the act of violence perpetrated was random and the victim's contacts are in no way significant to the crime. The attack is also alarming since it has jeopardized your position within the investigation, upsetting your natural ease whilst at work." He took my silence as an agreement. "This is an acceptable reaction."
"Is it now?" I practically laughed. I wanted to scream, throw something at him. Instead I continued pacing, running my hands roughly through my hair.
"Indeed. Fear is necessary for improvement. You must use the unfortunate to your benefit."
I stopped pacing, standing directly in front of the impassive inspector. "I'm not scared. Stop telling me what I feel."
"And yet your actions prove otherwise. Or rather, your inactions."
"My inactions?" I huffed, crossing my arms.
"You are paralyzed, letting your fear run control your countenance. Instead of further investigating the true nature of what happened, you are pacing, waiting for something to happen for you rather than making said abstract ideal occur."
"Yeah, well, I'm sorry. I'm not born programmed to be so… Vulcan," I snapped. "I can't just turn off what I feel because it affects every single thing I think and do. So stop talking," I seethed, noticing Spock's jaw tense, as if he wanted to protest. "Stop talking to me I'm a fucking six-year-old, like I'm some dumb hick. I'm not scared. I'm… shit!"
I kicked over a waiting room chair, barely causing Spock to flinch. Whipping around, I made the mistake of lunging toward what I thought was the exit. Instead I crashed into a now-standing Spock, who had his hand on my neck before I could throw a real punch.
You have got to be kidding me was the last thought to drift through my anger-addled mind before everything went still and black.
I came to several minutes later on the linoleum floor feeling much like a boulder had just been rolled off my head. I tried turning my neck and ended up facing my reflection in Spock's shiny shoes.
"What the hell was that?"
"A nerve pinch," Spock answered from somewhere above, "typically used by Vulcans to incapacitate humanoid beings as well as other large mammals achieved by applying pressure to the base of the neck."
"You don't say…" I kicked my left leg out straight so I was lying flat on the floor.
"Are you in need of assistance?"
"No, no, I'm good down here." An awkward silence followed; I used the time to count ceiling tiles but gave up since they kept multiplying. I was about to ask Spock how many light fixtures there were compared to how many I was seeing when he resumed talking.
"I'm afraid I have not been completely honest with you, Mister Kirk." He drummed his long fingers on his right knee before continuing. "A few days prior to our partnership I requested a background check regarding your professional history."
"Yeah," I said, licking my dry lips, "I know."
I could now move my next enough to see Spock's face. Sure enough, one eyebrow was raised. "You were aware?"
"Not until recently," I replied, folding my hands on my stomach. "Why'd you do it?"
My partner's eyebrows knitted together as he lost himself in his thoughts. Glancing back down at me, he finally leaned forward, meeting my gaze.
"You were not brought in solely for your additional knowledge of the case, nor was it because of your father's connection to Captain Pike. Your presence was necessary to reestablish personal relations as well as to alleviate negative public reactions."
A knot started forming in my chest. "The families weren't comfortable with a Vulcan handling the case."
"You weren't the first alien hired by the PD," I pointed out.
"That is a fact, as is the detail that I am the 'alien,' as you say, who has served on the force for the longest period of time."
"And humans still don't trust you." I had meant it to be a question but it solidified into a statement as I spoke.
Another silence formed, allowing me to absorb this information, my head heavy once more.
Again, Spock spoke. "Researching a fellow detective without suspicion was perhaps uncalled for, irrational at best. However…"
Slowly, I raised myself up on my arms, ending up in a sitting position to meet my partner's gaze, which had once again wandered. " 'However?' "
Spock's eyes darted back, reading my expression as if he was afraid that what he would say next would offend me.
"I had to analyze your personality for myself to ascertain whether you were enough of an individual, whether you would be accepting of my behavior as well as my companionship."
I straightened my back, folding my arms across the tops of my knees. "You wanted to make sure I wasn't like everyone else."
"And I can assure you," Spock replied with perhaps a hint of amusement, "you most certainly are not."
I smiled slightly, considering my next question. "Would you… would you have been offended if I wasn't? I mean, you seem so… indifferent most of the time, and I just thought…"
Spock's expression grew stony. "Outward appearance notwithstanding, I assure you I am quite capable of human levels of emotion." Placing a hand over his abdomen, he added, "Some matters must be felt not with the brain."
I frowned. "You felt it in your liver?"
"Vulcan hearts are located on the right side of the torso, above the pelvis yet below the ribcage, which I suppose is in approximation to the location of the human liver," Spock explained.
"Huh," I said, mimicking his action. "Kind of reminds me of…"
Realization struck. "It reminds me of our case." The pieces that had started coming together when I was on the phone with Sulu yesterday fell into place. I grabbed my head, meeting Spock's curious gaze. "I didn't connect it because I was too focused on Chekov, too focused on being human."
Spock's silence prompted me to sit up and continue. "The kids were stabbed in the torso. Due to the… chaotic nature of the wounds, I didn't even realize some of their organs were rearranged."
"To mimic Vulcan physiology," Spock concluded for me. "That's how these cases are connected?"
I nodded, jumping up on wobbly legs. "We have to get to Bones' files, now."
"Blond hair, black hair, blond hair... It doesn't make sense…"
I concentrated on the files spread out on the dented desk, squinting in the dim light. We had relocated to Bones' filing room, a cramped basement closet lit by one spare electric light bulb.
Spock stood in silence, waiting for the rest of my thought.
"It doesn't make sense," I continued, "but this is about you and me."
I pointed to the second picture in my lineup. "The blond kids, those are me, I think. Nero knew how the people around here were wary of you handling the case, so he must have assumed I would be brought in one way or another. Shit, he must have heard me talking about my cases at the bar way back before this all spiraled."
"So it would be natural then to assume the odd numbered victims –"
"The dark-haired ones, right."
"– who have had their viscera rearranged, are representational of myself, although I have to ask why did he not kill actual Vulcan children?"
The light flickered. "To throw us off. Vulcans would have connected too easily to Uhura's case. Besides, there aren't that many in this area. They needed to be here since he's sending such a specific message."
The Vulcan flipped a few of the photographs over, examining the information Bones had scribbled on the backs. "The victims accelerate in age."
I inhaled sharply. "I think he's working his way up to us, but I'm not sure why."
"I think it's safe to conclude that his intentions are unrelated to our connection to law enforcement."
I stared at the open files, avoiding my partner's eye contact. "I hate to say it, but since this boils down to Nero's obsession with Vulcans, why is he targeting you? Can you think of something you or even your parents might have done to offend someone?"
Spock folded his hands, staring at the wall in avoidance of my questioning gaze. "My parents have done something that offends everyone. They created me."
I inhaled sharply. "That's right. Sorry, but would you run me through how exactly that scenario came about?" I figured going about things in a no-nonsense way might help Spock deal with his predicament better. At any rate, my request garnered me a weird look from Spock, as if I'd grown another pair of arms.
"My father, Sarek, was appointed ambassador to Earth by the Vulcan council a number of years ago," Spock began, my technique apparently working. "The Vulcan race had been studying the culture of humans from afar, but past attempts at contact had been unsuccessful. Vulcans are a highly advanced race, so it was decided a party would visit Earth 'in person,' as it were."
"What, no pomp," I teased, "no circumstance?"
Spock looked flustered. "We Vulcans are… not particularly extravagant people."
"So I gathered."
"During their initial phase of exploration, my father and his team encountered a human woman. Amanda Grayson."
"Your mother," I inferred.
"For reasons still not entirely discernable, this human woman agreed to keep the Vulcan visit a secret," Spock continued. "Eventually, she and my father married, and the rest…"
"Right." I cleared my throat as Spock stared at me with dark eyes. "So, now that everyone on Earth knows about Vulcans, how many people know about this specifically, and why does it piss them off so much?"
Spock seemed to frown in the flickering light. "All Vulcans know, obviously. The Council practically made it public knowledge."
"Do all Romulans know, too?" I prompted.
Spock considered my question. "I could not say one way or another," he said hesitantly. "I doubt it yet cannot assume it to be so." Assuming a much more authoritative tone, he continued. "As for your role, Detective Kirk, I believe you are, as they say, a fall guy."
"Shit. You're right." Spock and I both knew I had an alibi, but it was looking weaker by the moment. If Pike hadn't already fired me, he was bound to the moment I stepped foot back in the precinct. I blew out a breath I had been holding and squared my shoulders. "How are we going to fix this?"
"That, Detective Kirk, is simple."
I met Spock's determined gaze, breaking eye contact only when I felt the keys to the police cruiser being pressed into my hand.
"We convict the true culprit."
"When you just ain't got nobody, since you gone and lost your head," Jordan Louis crooned from the Stylemaster's speakers, "Rigor mortis has set in, daddy. Jack, you're dead."
I turned the radio off, squeezing my eyes closed, and listening instead to the rain drumming the outside of the automobile. I heard the passenger's side door open, Spock sliding into the seat while shaking excess water off his overcoat.
"Take the next left onto Broadway then turn right on Hyde Street," my partner commanded, fastening his seatbelt.
"I take it the search warrant went through," I mused, recognizing the directions would lead us from here to Nero's apartment.
"I have no doubt Mister Nero and company are gone by now," Spock said in reply as I pulled away from the curb, "but I believe looking through the apartment in any condition would be beneficial to our investigation."
"Agreed." I swung to a stop opposite an early-20th century gray brick apartment building. A balding man – undoubtedly the building's super – was waiting for us on the landing, wearing a tired expression and toying with a ring of keys. "Let's see what we can find."
"I probably should have asked this earlier," I grumbled after ten minutes of rifling through old newspapers, "but what exactly are we looking for? I seriously doubt Nero kept mementos of his crimes."
"I concur, it seems unlikely unless he desires to taunts us in our investigation," Spock said from across the room. My partner was currently engrossed in the contents of the kitchen's garbage bin, which he had spread out on the linoleum floor.
"Maybe he didn't want reminders of the 'filth' he killed," I muttered, slamming down a stack of old bill payment receipts on the scuffed coffee table.
"Maybe he didn't kill actually anyone at all," the super countered, craning his head around the doorframe to glare at me from the outer hall. Though his face was unfamiliar, I recognized the disgruntled expression – I had reputation of not formally asking for permission before going through someone's place for my cases. Apparently, I had crossed one man too many in San Francisco.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "You're not helping."
"Neither are you, Mister Kirk," Spock added, passing through the apartment behind me. "Might I suggest you begin going through the trash receptacle in the bathroom instead o just standing there?"
With a huff, I turned and instead followed Spock into the bedroom, where he began pulling out empty drawers from the dresser. "OK, really, how are you – I mean, we going to prove Nero is connected to this case?"
Spock stopped rummaging to raise a disparaging eyebrow at me. "You now doubt your intuition, the strong feeling you've had about the investigation leading up to this?"
"No," I lied. "I've decided to use logic instead." Spock cast me what I interpreted to be a doubting look before resuming his search efforts, running his long, thin fingers under various furniture pieces. "OK, let me think about connections," I continued, pausing to think. "I guess the car is his, but this whole kidnapping deal hinges on Chekov, who's missing – "
"And if you were a plane mechanic holding someone hostage," Spock began as he stood up straight and turned to face me with wild, excited eyes, "where would you take them?" Before I could consider his question, the detective held up a ring of keys and shook them once.
I grinned in response. "A spare hangar at the Bay Meadows airport." Before Spock could answer I bolted from the apartment, taking the stairs two at a time to get back Spock's cop cruiser.
As my feet hit the sidewalk, I glanced up in time to spy a tall, shadowy figure running away from the car.
"HEY!" I darted down the alley after the masked man, nearly catching the back of his jacket before he turned a sharp corner. Before I could catch up, the saboteur scrambled up an open set of fire-escape stairs, pulling the ladder up behind him. "Shit," I hissed, watching him crawl through a broken window into the third floor. Bouncing back and forth on my feet, I debated running back to the front of the building and demanding to be let in.
Instead, I returned to the block Nero's apartment was on, to an expressionless Spock standing near the hood of the car. "The engine is dead, isn't it?" I asked him, scowling.
Spock rapped twice on the windshield before turning to face me. "Indeed. I suggest our new imperative would be to find a functional telephone in the neighborhood."
"Agreed," I panted. "We should get someone out here to look at the car so we can get it fixed quick and make it out to the Bay to bust Nero."
Spock blinked back at me. "You merely want our car to lead the cavalry. I believe it would be better for everyone involved to call the station and inform the other officers of our breakthrough, allowing them to respond more efficiently while my automobile gets fixed."
I checked my watch, ignoring Spock's accusations. "It's 2:03. Based on the previous T.O.D.s, we've got about two hours before they off Chekov, and it will take us half an hour to get there." Sighing, I glanced around the rain-dampened streets. "Now the stores are all closed, but I'm pretty sure I saw a payphone back the way we came."
"Your memory could be faulty," Spock replied, staring past me into space. "The downtown district is in the opposite direction and more likely to have available payphone booths."
I looked both ways down the darkened street. "We have to split up."
"Spock, we need a telephone. We also need to keep an eye on Nero's place but –
"We can't be in two places at once." Spock looked at me in silence for a moment, slight traces of recognition then resignation passing over his face. "I suppose it would be asking too much of you to stay out of trouble while I am gone?"
I gave him my best Vulcan salute. "I'll do my best."
Spock continued glaring at me.
The detective looked no less convinced but nevertheless turned away, heading toward the main street to begin his search.
I waited until he had turned the first corner before sprinting off the opposite way. "Who are we kidding," I laugh to myself, "I was never a Boy Scout." There was a phone booth back this way, had to be one, I knew. Even if it wasn't as close as I remembered, I convinced myself I was helping Spock. This way our search would go faster and cover a larger area. Odds of finding anything improved with two people looking, right?
Slowing to a stop, I spied my Holy Grail on High Street – a deserted telephone booth. "Of course right," I reassured myself as I jogged over to make my call.
"Hello, Operator?" I asked, not waiting for a reply. "I need you to put me through to Archer's Autos." I realize the odds on this shop being open this late are slim to none, but Mr. Scott had said anything ever and I was holding him to his word.
"Hang on just one second, dear," the woman on the other end replied.
I slumped forward in relief as the line went quiet. Running a hand over my face, I happened to catch a glimpse of my disheveled reflection in the glass paneling.
At the sight of another man standing behind me, my blood ran cold.
Any hope I had of the lurker being Spock dissipated when I turned around. The goon was tall and muscular – as they usually are – with murder in his eyes and a lead pipe in his hands. He moved three steps closer, trapping me in the phone booth.
Panicked, I smacked him in the head with the telephone receiver I still clutched. The mook grumbled a few choice words before dropping the pipe and grabbing both of my wrists and squeezing.
I dropped the receiver as my attacker shoved me backwards, my elbow cracking a pane of glass. Picking up the telephone, the thug smirked at me. "I guess we'll do things your way, detective," he said in a voice so deep I nearly his mocking comment. Before I could ask what the hell that meant, the man had the telephone cord wrapped around my throat.
I felt my feet leave the ground, felt my legs kicking, hoping to strike something, anything to give me some sort of leverage. Just when I was starting to see stars, a familiar voice piped in, brash and tinny, separated from the action by a series of metal wires.
"Ello?" the phone blared. "'Ello? Speak up, I kinna hear ya'!"
A gurgle escaped my throat before something solid connected with the side of my head and sent me spinning into blackness.
A/N: Reboot!Kirk just can't catch a break, can he? Also, I learned that yes, there were Boy Scout organizations in the 1940s. You learn something new every day. As always, let me know if I missed a note or goofed on a detail.