Disclaimer: Nikki & Nora are the property of Nancylee Myatt and Warner Bros. Television. No infringement intended.
A/N: This story idea belongs to docwho2100. She asked for a co-writer to help out and didn't know what she was getting when I agreed. I'm posting it here under my name with her permission.
Nora pulled along the curb, shutting off the car and leaning back in her seat so she could look at the house across the street. "Remind why again we are here," she called over her shoulder as her eyes had just finished taking in the solid row of bushes that blocked most of the house, a high stone and steel fence creating a massive barrier as well.
"We could have gone to the gate and pulled into the driveway." Nikki said, watching her partner as she surveyed the house.
"You know I don't like to do that."
"It's a long walk to the front door."
"Well, if people did not put up such a "keep out" attitude," She waved at the dark, imposing yet ornate gate complete with a small guardhouse.
"Then they would be just like regular joes?"
Nora turned to look at Nikki, "And what is wrong with a regular joe?"
"Nothing, and there is nothing wrong with a regular Nora either." She held up her hand to ward off the storm she could see brewing. "And regular Nikki and even regular Philip and Tamarkia Franklin. Some people just prefer privacy."
"Yeah," Nora cut short her reply and turned back to continue scanning the property. "Regarding the break-in, I don't see how it could be easy to get in there. And still waiting for the why am I here answer."
Nikki huffed a small laugh, "Because Santiago and Arcadian were more than happy to give us this case."
"Yeah, they were certainly all smiles and giggles. Couldn't wait to dump the files on our desk."
That was actually a literal statement as the two detectives had come up earlier in the day and physically dropped a stack of folders on Nora's desk. The action earning a grumble and stare of death as it caused the paperwork Nora had been working on to flutter to the floor.
"Why is it Dan agreed to the transfer?" Nora turned, pinning Nikki with a glare.
"Well the Franklins have a reputation for being... temperamental."
"I believe Arcadian used the terms hell hounds on wheels and woe to any standing in their way."
"He did, didn't he," Nikki gave her partner a wan smile. "They are very business oriented. Type A personalities, they just appreciate hard work and hate when things do not go exactly right."
"That is the biggest load of bull---" Nora was cut off as Nikki impulsively leaned over, placing a quick peck on the blonde's lips. "What was that for?" Nora managed, nonplused by the kiss.
Nikki leaned back in her seat, running her tongue over her bottom lip. "Thank you for agreeing to take this case Nora. The Franklins apparently were stalling Santiago and Arcadian's investigation and had already made a few calls and asked the case be reassigned. Apparently the Superintendent stopped by Dan's office earlier and made the request personally. Oh, the media may have been called in as well. I know Tamarkia knows the owners of the local affiliates as well as a couple of other media connections. She thinks this might be good PR for the company and their image..."
Nora's eyes widened, "What? So this is the little... "Oh Nora dear, I'll explain everything later" bombshell you were waiting to drop when you agreed we'd take the case. You know I hate attention... and picking up a case that was reassigned. Come on Nikki, that's like putting a little target right on our foreheads." Nora sighed and unconsciously moved away from Nikki, as if already creating more personal space and switching into high gear in terms of making sure no connection could be made between them.
Nikki managed to catch her frown, noticing the way Nora tensed and immediately shifted into that aloof, stand-offish mode she so often adopted at work or when she thought they might be watched. She hated the see-saw and way the blonde would swing from mood to mood. She often had a hard time knowing when it was ok to be casual and when she had to be secretive and stand back. That's why she'd been daring and kissed Nora; sometimes she just got so tired trying to remember to keep things secret.
"Alright, give me the skinny," Nora opened her car door then, getting out and leaning against the the car, waiting for Nikki to join her.
"Always business," Nikki grumbled as she too exited the car, pulling her blouse into place before joining her partner.
"Philip Franklin is a third generation New Orleans resident. His family has held assorted dealings and companies; Franklin Senior having jumped into the shipping business during the Depression years. Riding the backs of those swept under by the times, they built quite an empire and managed to push through legislation to give them prime holdings. They continue to be very influential in the political arena, not just local and state but all the way up."
Nora grunted her displeasure, arms crossed, gaze fixated on the little statues that were atop each of the main steel posts of the wall. She leaned forward a bit, squinting trying to see what the statues represented.
"They are alternating devils and angels," Nikki offered, breaking from the back story as she noted what her partner was doing. Catching the blonde's curious gaze, she answered the unspoken question. "I know for a fact as I have seen them close up. My father and I have been frequent guests at many of their events and private dinners."
"Figures," Nora mumbled, then seeing the disapproving look on the brunette's face, she quickly added. "I mean that they would have a lot of large gatherings and be active in the social thing." She dropped her arms trying to appear less defensive, something Nikki was constantly chiding her about.
"I know, they had the statues installed a few years ago as a joke, Tamarkia Franklin has a wicked sense of humor. Humor that tends to not care if someone is being hurt or belittled by the attempt. As such she put them there to let people know exactly who lived beyond those walls. There are more devils than angels."
"How poetic," Nora quipped, her wry statement revealing how much she appreciated being given this case. "This is going to be one of those cases where I'm going to have a hard time telling who is the victim and who is the criminal, isn't it?"
"Fine, fine," she held up her hands in a resolved gesture. "Please, continue, no more chiming in from the peanut gallery."
"Do not make promises you can not keep Nora dear," Nikki teased, grateful for even the small brief chance for a lighter moment. Sighing, she looked at the statues.
"About ten years ago, maybe more shy to twelve, Philip had some dealings in Africa, something to do with the medical field as I recall. While there on business, he met Tamarkia. They hit it off and married. The Franklin estate jumped in value under her watchful eyes adding a few more zeros to their bank accounts. Everyone thought they would last a year at most, both micromanagers, temperamental, prone to violent outbursts and very, very selective in every aspect."
"You know, I love the way you always know the most graceful and eloquent way to describe someone who I would basically label as a bitchy ass of a person." Nora said, letting a smile slip through to show she was joking.
"And that is why I duct tape your mouth when we go somewhere," Nikki returned the tease, sliding along the car to bump her hip against Nora.
"But as to the couple, they surprised everyone and seemed to be just what the other needed."
"I bet they have separate bedrooms."
"Actually separate houses."
"Oh yeah, my Aunt June and Uncle Gregory just sleep in separate beds, I should know for the next level up they move to houses." Nora's lips twisted to the side in a familiar wry frown.
"Yes, well, whatever keeps the wheels turning I suppose. But that is the basics, there is of course much more, but I know you'll either nod off, or disregard anything else, so I'll save my energy."
"Wise woman. From the files, it seems there have been a couple of break-ins. The last time two of their servants were assaulted, one bad enough to be in the hospital for a couple of days. What exactly was stolen however has been a mystery... if anything has..."
"Santiago did seem to turn a nice shade of red as he described how the Franklin's story kept changing and how they kept coming up with multiple excuses and reasons to duck out of interview after interview. It's been what, three weeks since the first theft?"
"And three days since the last one and still no solid interview with the Franklins... yet they've been already chewing out Santiago, Arcadian and everyone else about how bad the NOPD is and how lazy and incompetent we all are." Nora's tone was filled with bitterness, which she had no compulsion to even try to mask, hide or damper.
"Which is why the baton has been passed to us? A win-win for everyone else but us... if we get the interview, then the department gets a reprieve. If we go down in flames, well we are the sacrificial lambs and the department gets a reprieve." Nikki supplied, pulling her blouse back into place, then reaching up to tuck the tag of Nora's shirt back under the collar, deftly avoiding Nora's wiggle and half-hearted slap at her arm to stop her action.
"Thanks mom," Nora's wry comment end-capped her wriggly movements.
"I swear I can not take you anywhere. You are like that Peanuts character, what was his name... mudpig or something."
Nora rolled her eyes, "Pigpen. You realize we will now have to sit down and watch every Charlie Brown special made to aid your flighty memory."
"As long as you bring the popcorn," Nikki teased and checked the street for traffic before heading toward the main gate.
Nora stomped down the sidewalk in a stiff, almost Spartan mode of marching. Huffing with each step, she crossed to the car, unlocked it, got in, slamming the door behind her. The detective immediately snapped the seatbelt over her shoulder; all of her motions rigid and mechanical. She started the car, stared ahead a moment and then gunned the motor, just as Nikki had reached the end of the Franklin's main driveway.
Nora stepped on the gas, shot a little ways down the street before turning the wheel tight, completing a tire-screeching, rubber burning 180 to bring the car to the other side of the street. She slammed on the brakes so the passenger side door was now right in front of Nikki; the brunette having watched this little display without a single change in her body language or facial expression.
Nikki got in without a word and fastened her seatbelt, holding her tongue until Nora had taken off and gotten a few blocks from the Franklin house.
"Deciding to go into NASCAR?"
"Considering I am going to strangle a prominent New Orleans citizen, it might be wise to have a back up career in hand."
Nikki puckered her lips, laying her elbow on the window edge, using her index finger to play with her lips some as she nodded at the answer.
"I mean come on, I was being good and not saying a damn word as you did your little social tete-ta-toto," Nora huffed, gunning the motor a bit as she made a turn, "She was the one that dismissed me."
"Tete-a-tete," Nikki absently corrected, using the proper french inflection. "We did get the interview and the reason for the conflicting statements," Nikki replied in a calm tone, although she was seething as well regarding Nora's treatment.
The comments the Franklins had made about not trusting most of the NOPD and certain types of people had struck a chord of disgust in Nikki, but she already knew they had those views. The Franklins seemed happy to champion the class structure of society, working to reinforce the concept, assessing anyone they met so to place them according to class status. There was a positive spin to this, dealing with the Franklins could be quite easy. They had very specific ideas and rules and followed them, rigidly and to a fault, but at least you could count on their reactions. Nikki had known this going in to the case, she had seen it in action so many times, her father often dealing with the Franklins through the political connection. What stoked Nikki's inner ire was how the Franklins had immediately placed Nora in a lower class, followed by their treatment of her partner based on that assessment.
She'd considered asking Nora to let her take this one alone, but the fall out from explaining why would have caused many headaches. Yes, she was going to have to deal with headaches caused by Nora's treatment, but at least the culprit was not her, rather the Franklins. Sure she was being a bit sneaky, but it beat having to go through a whole make-up ritual. Now she could pull out the making the blonde feel better routine instead.
"Ok, yeah, maybe having her trash the department, then go off about second class citizens and overlooking certain "types"," Nora took her hand off the steering wheel to make quote marks, an action Nikki nervously watched considering the blonde's current frame of mind, "could be stomached since we got the info, but what she did to those poor staff..."
"Oh, look, there's Capachie's, right over there. Let's go grab a coffee and then you can really let the Franklins have it. The interview write up can wait." Nikki hoped Nora would buy into the coffee as it would give her partner time to calm and collect.
The detectives now found themselves sitting and waiting as Dan read over their report. At the coffee house Nikki had been able to calm Nora's fury, but now, here next to her, she could feel her partner's irritation as though it were a physical thing sitting between them.
Dan finished reading the report and threw it on his desk. He looked up, first at Nora and then Nikki. "So..." he drew out the word to give the detectives the opportunity to jump in, the Lieutenant hoping to receive the short version just to make sure what he had gathered from the report was accurate.
"So, someone's been yanking our chain," Nora said, not caring to keep back her disgust. Nikki laid a steadying hand on her partner's arm.
"She means Dan, that apparently the Franklins had a few items taken during the break-in's that they didn't wish to report as well as some vandalism. I can understand not wanting to always report certain acts, like a fender bender. Sometimes it's easier and less costly to take care of it on the side than let the insurance know. Premiums can rise."
"Topics people want to keep hidden might leak out," Nora interjected, trying to rain on Nikki's more positive spin of the circumstances.
Dan simply raised an eyebrow looking to Nikki as it seemed the explanation ball was batted back into her court.
"We found out from some of the hired staff that a few words were spray painted in one of the rooms and a number of files and photos were stolen."
"Information that when Mrs. Franklin found out a housekeeper told us, she fired the woman." Nora's voice rose in anger as she stood up, her agitation forcing her to her feet.
"Really?" Dan reopened the file, looking over the case notes.
Nikki was struggling, trying to find a more neutral take on the events and couldn't. "Yeah, Tamarkia cited breach of confidentiality, which, in one aspect was the case. I did make sure to pull the housekeeper aside, she'll be taken care of; my daddy has a neighbor who has been looking for help."
Nora looked at Nikki, "Yeah, that was good thinking, thanks, still... it's one thing to want to watch premiums, it's another to go all out. I mean talk about mixed signals. They are all over our asses to get this solved and the perps found. Then, when we are trying to do our job, we get blindsided with this shi..."
"Nora." Nikki cut in, trying to calm the detective. "We have the spray painted words and numbers and will start working on that tomorrow. I do agree there seems to be something cutting under all of this."
"I think they are hiding something and want us to do their dirty work and shut this person up before all their soiled laundry is strewn all over." Nora huffed, heading to the door and storming out, not bothering to wait for an official dismissal from Dan.
Both officers stared after the retreating blonde. "She gets like this sometimes," Dan broke the silence.
"Yeah, it's like riding a riled up bull bare back."
Dan grinned at Nikki as he handed her back the file, "Now how would you know what something like that might feel like?"
Adopting an innocent look, Nikki began to stroll out of the office. "You sir obviously have never gone toe to toe with a room full of drunk frat boys who have their sights set on you and your money."
"No, can't say I have, been enough to be Nora's partner."
"I think it is safe to say I'd prefer to stare down the room of boys over a stubborn, disgruntled, fed-up Nora any day."
"Here, here. One of these days we need to have a drink and swap Nora stories."
Nikki just nodded her head and uttered an agreeing, Mmmhmmm," as she grabbed the handle to his door. "That we do, that we do, good night Dan."