"What d'you got?"
"Male, mid-twenties, no ID, shot once. Coroner's not done yet, but it was a clean shot, point-blank range and up through his neck; cause of death's not really a mystery."
"And two boys. Students here." Rigsby hesitated. "One's an Honorary Britannian."
Lisbon sighed. "And the local police…"
"They would've hauled him off before we got here if his friend hadn't stopped them," Rigsby said. "He quoted procedure at them until they called us in."
Lisbon tried to hide a smirk. "A wanna-be cop?" Her smirk faded. "Or a wanna-be lawyer?"
"Uh… no." Rigsby shook his head. "I… honestly, boss, I don't know what to make of him."
That was a surprise. A school kid unnerving Rigsby was unexpected. Well… a male school kid unnerving Rigsby, at least. If it had been a girl, there would at least be a chance for the overly provocative precociousness that unnerved even Lisbon on occasion. A quick scan of the crime scene located the two boys, one huddled in what looked like guilt and shame, the other standing between him and the policemen on site. Lisbon preferred catching murderers to framing Numbers, but this picture really looked like an open-and-shut case. "Are you sure the Eleven didn't do it?"
"Honorary Britannian," Jane corrected her cheerfully. "And he might have, but that's not why he looks like that."
Lisbon wasn't in the mood. She didn't ask the question he so clearly wanted her to, quickening her pace instead towards the two boys.
"Hey. I'm Theresa Lisbon from the local ABI. Do you have a moment?"
The Eleven didn't look up from the ground. His friend answered instead. "We're minors. Don't we need someone here while you interview us?"
"You sure as hell weren't talking like a minor before," one of the local cops grumbled. The teenager smirked slightly.
Lisbon smiled her talking-to-kids-smile. "You're what? Seventeen?" The teenager hesitated, then nodded, apparently figuring that was safe information to give out. "That's pretty darn close to adult. You're not being accused of anything. We just want to know what you saw."
"Nothing," he answered. "We were in the chapel when it happened."
"And your friend?"
That made the kid bristle. "We were both in the chapel when in happened. I thought I made that rather clear with my pronoun choice."
"No, she meant to ask if he saw or heard anything you might have missed." Jane grinned cheerfully. "But your reflexive defensiveness is noted and reflects rather badly on your… friend."
Lisbon bit her tongue as Jane's tone turned snide at the last word. The boy flushed with anger, but he took a deep breath before speaking. Better control than most adults had when dealing with Jane.
"My attitude shouldn't reflect on him at all." He bowed slightly to Lisbon. "My apologies for my rudeness."
"Not a problem," Lisbon said graciously, over Jane's softer "Interesting…". She ignored him. "Would it be okay if we asked you and your friend some more questions?"
The boy frowned thoughtfully for a moment. Lisbon tried not to laugh at the image of a seventeen-year-old boy trying to decide whether or not to agree to an agent's request. "Can we stay together?"
"Sure." For now…
"Then we'd be more than happy to cooperate." The boy smiled, suddenly charming. He held out a hand. "Lelouch Lamperouge."
Lisbon took it. "And your friend?"
"Kuru…ah, Suzaku Kururugi," Lelouch answered. "Oh. You might need to contact his commanding officer before asking him any questions."
Lelouch's smile turned almost sweet. "Didn't you speak with the other officers? He's a Warrant Officer in the Britannian military. Isn't that why you guys were called?"
Lisbon could practically hear Jane smirking. "And that's why a single death wouldn't be enough to make him react like that."
"No, I suspect not." Lelouch's smile dropped off his face as he faced Jane. "How did you know?"
Jane cleared his throat. "Well, there are a lot of little signs. Subtle to the common eye, but apparent to those of us with experience…"
"Did you recognize him from TV?"
Lisbon frowned at Jane. "What?"
"Uh, well. This is Suzaku Kururugi. He was accused of killing Prince Clovis earlier this year." Jane shrugged. "Local politics are rarely that interesting."
Lisbon recognized him now. He was unbruised, unchained, and his eyes were haunted instead of resigned yet hopeful, but it was the same boy. "Zero killed Prince Clovis."
"So he claimed," Jane… sort of agreed.
"Uh, guys?" Rigsby interrupted. "We found the gun."
"Excuse us." Lisbon waved vaguely at Lelouch and followed Rigsby. Jane stayed behind.
"Don't you have to go with them? Look at the gun or something?" Lelouch demanded, his polite voice replaced by a hard tone.
Jane shrugged. "I've seen guns before." He shuddered lightly. "Horrible things. Created to kill people with no other purpose."
"Not so. There's hunting, intimidation, style, fashion…" Lelouch argued. His friend made a soft sound and suddenly, Jane felt Lelouch's attention shift away from him.
It left him feeling oddly… deprived.
Lelouch knelt by his friend's side. "Suzaku?"
Suzaku blinked and raised his head. "Lelouch? I didn't… Ore wa…"
"Shh…" Lelouch reached out and stroked Suzaku's hair. "Mou daijoubu… s'okay, Suzaku…"
"Should you really lie to him like that?" Jane asked curiously.
"Shut up." Lelouch's voice never raised above a soothing whisper. "It's okay, Suzaku. You're safe, I'm safe, Nunnally's safe… we're all safe. You did it. You protected us."
"I… did?" Suzaku looked into Lelouch's eyes. "I didn't want to, Lelouch, but I had to. Japan, you, Nunnally… I had to protect you all."
Lelouch nodded encouragingly. "And you did. I'm so grateful, Suzaku…"
"Hmm… no, you're not," Jane said. He didn't flinch at Lelouch's glare. "You're… resentful? Something like that in any case."
Lelouch stood suddenly, seeming taller than his actual height. Jane blinked, not used to those techniques working on him. "You have no idea what you're talking about." The barely suppressed rage nearly scalded the air between them. Jane nearly took a step back, intimidated by this slim boy. "This is private and none of your business. Get out."
It was almost enough to get through Jane's layers of mental protection. Not quite, though. He stepped closer to the fiery fury. "Listen, kid. You're the one who has no idea what you're talking about. This is a murder investigation, and you'd be doing everyone a favour if you'd just smarten up."
One more step and Lelouch was directly in Jane's personal space. "If this is a murder investigation, find the damn murderer and leave us alone!"
Jane blinked and stepped back. "I am. What?"
Lelouch was knocked off balance by Jane's sudden withdrawal. "I… you… just go away." He was no longer a tower of righteous anger. Now he was a seventeen-year-old boy, just trying to get an older and more powerful man to leave him and his friend alone. The transformation, even though Jane had provoked it on purpose, was still stunning.
"Sure." Jane grinned and turned away. "You should ask nicely next time."
He left Lelouch sputtering and unsure, strolling to where Lisbon and Rigsby were standing by the corpse.
"Hey, what took so long?" Rigsby asked, almost nervously. Before Jane could answer he continued, just a beat too quick to be as casual as he tried to make it sound. "Something's off about that kid, isn't there?"
"Who, Lelouch?" Jane asked. "Nah, perfectly normal high school junior. What's with all the bandages?"
"What banda… oh, the dead guy. Dunno. Coroner says he's covered head-to-toe in injuries. Recent and severe, but well treated." Rigsby laughed. "Actually, it looks like he was in a firefight a few weeks ago."
"Huh." Jane looked at him. "Any gang connections?"
"No tats." Which ruled out the traditional Eleven Yakuza gangs. "He was carrying; the gun was in the chapel, but the caliber was wrong. This is the gun that killed him."
Jane took one look at the gun and shrugged. It was a standard handgun with a silencer. It could easily be the victim's as well. The victim himself was more interesting, but not particularly helpful clue-wise. His clothing was odd – hat, cloak, headphones, very odd sunglasses…
"What's with the sunglasses?"
"They're not glasses. It's some kind of visor that blocks light nearly completely." Rigsby shrugged. "Maybe he was blind or something."
There was nothing obviously wrong with his eyes. Maybe the autopsy would show something. Jane picked up the headphones and fiddled with the knobs.
Are you awake Mao? Forgive me, Mao…
Lisbon looked over from where she was talking to the coroner. "Van Pelt's running it through the system. There's no last name."
"Whose voice is it?"
Rigsby laughed. "Maybe it's the killer's." No one joined in. "What? Seriously? But it's a girl's voice. Like, almost a kid's."
Jane shot a look at the two boys talking softly on the chapel's steps. "Kids can be more than they seem."
Lloyd Asplund was a genius. Everyone agreed with this. He was also eccentric and his priorities were skewed. Everyone agreed with this as well. Unfortunately, in addition to all that, he was an Earl, so it didn't matter what other qualities he had. He was nobility.
Lisbon hated dealing with nobility.
"Please call me Lloyd." The man was dressed like a mad scientist. It was hard to remember that he was a peer of the realm. He scowled suddenly. "Unless you're here to take away my devicer."
"Warrant Officer Kururugi." Lord Asplund's assistant came by with tea. "He's the Lancelot's pilot."
Lloyd cackled. "The one and only pilot! He's the perfect part! Ninety-four percent, my dear, ninety-four!" Lisbon also hated being called 'my dear'. "No one else comes close. He's vital and you can't have him."
"Nevertheless, My Lord…" Lisbon kept her tone calm. "We're investigating a murder. If he's guilty…"
"Pfft, murder," Lloyd scoffed. "Suzaku and the Lancelot have killed dozens of men. It's what they do. You accept that, it comes with the job. Build a better mousetrap; kill more mouses. Mice. Elevens. Whatever." He shrugged. "Can't I just say it was on my orders and let's leave the whole thing there?"
Jane leaned in closer. "Did you order the killing?"
Lloyd blinked. "Um. Yes? No? What?"
Jane leaned back, laughing lightly. "Very good. Has anyone ever gotten a decent read on you?"
"Once," Lloyd answered promptly. "When I was younger and even being the son of Lord Asplund wasn't enough to get me out of trouble." He winked awkwardly, like someone who wasn't used to winking. "Girl troubles, you know."
That didn't quite fit. Jane quirked an eye up at Lloyd's assistant, who was blushing furiously. "Girl troubles, huh?"
"…she was Indian." The assistant shifted uncomfortably. "It was a minor scandal."
"Cecile, right?" Jane beamed at her. "Were you there at the time?"
"Excuse me, what does this have to do with the murder?" Lisbon asked. They weren't here for anything other than permission to interrogate the Kururugi kid. Jane shrugged and she took over again. "Lord… Lloyd, your devicer was present at a murder and we need your permission to talk with him. If he didn't do anything we'll have him back within the day."
While Lloyd hummed in thought, Cecile smiled nervously at Lisbon. "Suzaku's a good boy. He wouldn't hurt a fly."
"Unless the fly was a member of the Black Knights," Jane corrected.
Cecile's smile twitched. "Well, of course, he does his duty to the Empire, but he's really very gentle. Loves cats."
"Huh." Jane filed that information away for later. "So can we talk to him?"
"Sure!" Lloyd agreed. "He had today off anyways."
Lisbon was a bit taken aback by the quick, easy answer. "…thank you, My Lord."
"No worries." Lloyd drained his cup and stood, stretching. "Now if that's everything, we still have work to do."
Lisbon knew a dismissal when she heard it. "Of course. Thank you again for your time."
Lloyd had already walked away. Lisbon set her cup down and turned to go.
"Now about that Indian girl…"
Jane sighed. "She's always in such a hurry." He handed his mostly-empty cup to Cecile. "The tea was delicious."
"Coming!" Jane trotted up to Lisbon, almost thrumming with cheerfulness.
Lisbon managed thirty seconds before caving. "Well?"
"Purely platonic relationship. The Indian girl wasn't romantic or sexual either; I'd be surprised if our dear Lord Asplund has even a whiff of a libido. All he cares about is Knightmares, which means…"
Lisbon regretted asking. "Is this relevant to the investigation?"
"Prooobably not," Jane chirped. "She was either a pilot or an engineer. Probably an engineer since he sees pilots as parts. Now you hear 'Indian' and "Knightmare engineer' together and what pops up?"
"Of course!" Lisbon stopped dead in her tracks. "That explains everything!"
Jane stared at her. "What?"
"Exactly." Lisbon glared mildly. "If it's not relevant, keep it inside your head."
Jane pouted, his previous good mood evaporated. "Fine, be that way." He trailed after Lisbon, significantly less bouncy than before.
Lelouch held Suzaku's hand lightly. He wasn't usually this touchy, but Suzaku wasn't usually this broken. They hadn't had a moment to talk about Mao's revelation that Suzaku had killed his own father to end the war. There had been the minutes after C.C. shot Mao, leaving them alone in the chapel, when Lelouch verified that Suzaku really had done it, but before he'd been able to offer any true comfort, the police burst in, and his priority had immediately shifted from comforting Suzaku to protecting him.
He'd managed to get the Area Bureau of Investigation involved, knowing that they were less likely to scapegoat Suzaku for being an Honorary Britannian, but that hadn't bought them any privacy, just time. There was always an agent with them, although the one with long auburn hair (who sort of reminded him of Shirley, as much as he didn't want to think of her) had been surprisingly gentle and considerate.
This agent was less so. Perhaps it was that he'd been called with the go-ahead to interrogate them, maybe it was the simple fact that he was male, but Lelouch suspected it was mostly that he was clearly not Britannian. Not that that made him any less of a person, just that for someone like him to rise to this rank he had to be better, more vicious, more successful than his Britannian peers.
And he clearly was.
"Given where the victim fell, it's clear he'd just left the chapel. What was he doing in there with you?"
Lelouch decided to tell the truth. "Playing chess."
"It's a long story," Lelouch admitted.
"We have time."
Suzaku shook his head. "Just tell him, Lelouch."
Lelouch sighed. "The whole story is that 'the victim', as you call him, kidnapped my sister, challenged me to a chess match with her life as the forfeit, and was a sore loser. But we didn't kill him."
That was a really good question. Lelouch decided to go with a half truth. "To be honest, Agent Cho, I'm not exactly sure. But I'll admit that it might have been my fault. I've occasionally gambled over chess games before. He might have been from one of my previous opponents."
"Gambling, truancy…" Cho stared at him. "You're not exactly the typical honour student."
Lelouch smiled. "I don't think my marks are that good either." Cho continued staring. "None of it's technically illegal. The wagers are agreed on beforehand and the matches aren't organized by any corporation or individual other than the participants."
"You're still underage."
"…true. I don't suppose 'I needed the money' is a decent excuse."
"No. And dabbling in illegal activities isn't convincing me that you didn't shoot your sister's kidnapper."
Lelouch bit his lip thoughtfully. "I would have." Suzaku whimpered and Lelouch stroked his hand soothingly. "Nothing makes me angrier than threats or insults to my sister. But she was safe by the time Mao was shot."
"How did you know his name?"
"He told me." Lelouch answered immediately. "And to answer your next few questions, he didn't tell me who hired him, I'd never seen him before in my life, I don't own a gun, and if he had left alive, I might have tracked him down and killed him, but he didn't so it doesn't matter. Anything else?"
Cho turned to Suzaku. "And you?"
"I…" Suzaku remembered as best he could everything that happened after he broke in through the stain-glass window into Lelouch and Mao's chess game. "I was going to arrest him. For kidnapping Nunnally. He had a gun." His green eyes locked with Cho's. "Did you find his gun?"
"That's not important. How did he leave if you were about to arrest him?"
"He… he said…"
"Suzaku." Lelouch placed a finger gently over his lips. "It's okay." He turned to Cho. "He made some accusations. Suzaku was shaken."
"They were pretty horrible." Lelouch smiled in an entirely unpleasant way. "Too bad we can't remember any of the details."
"Huh. Too bad." Cho's expression didn't change. "So you let a dangerous kidnapper go because he hurt your feelings?"
"Pretty much." Suzaku laughed softly. "Pitiful, huh? Sorry Lelouch. I let you and Nunnally down."
Lelouch shook his head. "You did not. You saved us. Again."
There was a knock at the door before Cho could react to that. It was the nice agent from before. "Boss needs us."
Cho closed the file and left without another word. The female agent smiled at Lelouch and Suzaku. "Did you boys need anything?"
"We're fine, thanks…" Lelouch wracked his brain for her name. "Agent Van Pelt. Thank you."
"No problem." She flashed another smile and left.
Lelouch sighed. Shirley was barely tough enough to survive the student council; imagining her as a cop was unthinkable. Maybe this Van Pelt was the team's soft touch, their eternal 'good cop'…
"Hey, Lelouch didn't you say that the kidnapping had nothing to do with your gambling?"
Well. This was a fine time for Suzaku to develop a good memory. "I might have been in denial. After some thought, though, what else could it be?" He hoped Suzaku wasn't so stupid to answer that in an interrogation room where anyone could overhear them.
He wasn't. His face screwed up in a half-apologetic, half-irritated grimace. It was funny enough to make Lelouch laugh. "Don't worry, Suzaku. I've stopped now, I would never do anything that might place Nunnally in danger."
"I know," Suzaku said softly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you'd lied to me…"
"It's fine," Lelouch interrupted. "Just stop apologizing. You didn't do anything wrong." He hesitated, knowing that anyone could be listening in, but it had to be said. He leaned in and lowered his voice. "You didn't do anything wrong. Not today and not then. You've always done what needed to be done, and nothing will change between us."
Suzaku closed his eyes and bit his lip as a tremor ran through him. "Lelouch… thank you. Thank you so much…"
Lelouch reached out and held him, as he'd wanted to hold him in the chapel. Suzaku buried his head in the crook of Lelouch's neck and breathed unsteadily as Lelouch carded his fingers through his unruly hair.
On the other side of the mirror, Jane watched the private moment, frowning slightly.
"We don't have any hits on 'Mao' or anyone matching his description." Van Pelt sounded irritated. "Not even a passport or driver's licence." She wasn't used to coming up empty handed. "Australia and the EU are balking at sharing information and China's just flat-out refused."
"Great." Lisbon sighed. "What about the boys?"
"Lamperouge and his sister are under the guardianship of the Ashfords. He has two accounts – one for the household and one for, I presume, his gambling." Van Pelt handed Lisbon a few sheets of paper. "His gambling account has been steadily growing since it was opened two years ago with a few massive withdrawals that I've tracked to various investment accounts."
Rigsby snorted. "So he's good."
"Generally," Van Pelt agreed. "There were a few large withdrawals a few months ago that just disappeared so I guess he loses sometimes. Other than that, there's no record of him before he was ten. They were probably lost during the war."
That was the irritating thing about working law-enforcement in war-torn countries. No continuity of records. Lisbon sighed. "And Kururugi?"
"He's a little more interesting," Van Pelt said. "Apart for the incident when he was accused of killing Prince Clovis, he had a spotless record in the military. Joined as soon as he could, on his fourteenth birthday, has consistently practically perfect scores, no charges of insubordination. The first Eleven to pilot a Knightmare, promoted to Warrant Officer by the Viceroy herself. But…" Van Pelt grinned. "Before all that he was Genbu Kururugi's only son when the man was Prime Minister."
Lisbon blinked. "Genbu Kururugi had a son?"
"I know!" Van Pelt nearly crowed. "He was hidden from the public until Genbu's suicide, then when he joins the military, he just writes his father's name on the form. No one even caught it; Kururugi's not that uncommon a name, and what would the Prime Minister's son be doing in the army?"
"Apparently getting perfect scores." Lisbon frowned. It didn't make Kururugi any more likely a suspect unless Mao had known… "Keep looking into this, Van Pelt. I want to know how the former Prime Minister of Japan's son got access to a leading-edge prototypical Knightmare."
"You might also want to ask how the former Prime Minister of Japan's son became such close friends with a Britannian." Jane suggested.
"Where have you been?" Lisbon demanded. Jane had disappeared somewhere between the car and the office.
Jane shrugged. "Spying on the kids. They've got history. Mutual secrets, past shame… plus, I think they might be gay."
"Jane, what did I tell you? If it's not relevant, keep it inside your head." Lisbon sighed. "Alright I want more info on Lamperouge too. There has to be something from before the war."
"Yes boss." Van Pelt returned to her computer.
Lisbon sighed. "Oh, and tell the EU and Australians that we're trying to convict a Britannian for murdering one of their own. That might get them to open up a bit."
"Rigsby, we're going back to the school to talk to the girl about the kidnapping. Maybe she heard something while in captivity. Cho, get the kids to sign their statement and let them go."
Jane wavered for a moment before grabbing his coat. "I call shotgun."
Lelouch signed with a flourish and handed his statement to Cho. Suzaku's blockier, messier signature on the other paper joined his. Cho filed them away. "The bureau will contact you if we have any follow-up questions."
"Thank you." Suzaku bowed as he left. Lelouch followed him, pausing with his hand on the door.
Suzaku whirled in alarm at Lelouch's quiet, polite question. "Oh, Lelouch, don't…"
"Yes?" Cho answered.
Lelouch ignored Suzaku. "I was wondering if you were posted here because you look like an Eleven." Cho's expression didn't change. Lelouch's smile widened slightly. "Were you?"
"Possibly." Cho said.
"Oh." Lelouch didn't look like he'd been expecting the affirmative answer, but rallied quickly. "You don't though. Not really. Your features are too coarse and your nose is all wrong."
Lelouch shrugged. "It just strikes me as a typical bureaucratic decision. You're Chinese aren't you?"
"I'm Britannian," Cho intoned. "Second-generation."
"Hmm… and yet still a second-class citizen." Lelouch said thoughtfully before Suzaku grabbed his arm and yanked him through the door.
"So-sorry, Agent Cho. He talks too much sometimes," Suzaku apologized, bowing repeatedly. "We're really, really sorry. Um. Have a nice day?"
Lelouch wrenched his arm free the moment Suzaku let him. "You didn't need to apologize for me, Suzaku."
"What the hell were you thinking?" Suzaku hissed. "So what if he doesn't look Britannian? He's still part of a team that's investigating us for murder, remember?"
"But we didn't do it," Lelouch said reasonably. "So there's no reason not to have a high-stakes, emotionally wrought political discussion with someone who's been personally harmed by Britannia's xenophobic policies is there?"
"Your logic is so insane I don't even know where to start." Suzaku sighed. "Listen, the last thing I need is another murder investigation. If I keep missing work, I'll be the next dead body found."
Lelouch snorted. "Don't worry. If you're falsely accused again, I'm sure Zero will ride to your rescue like last time."
"That's not funny." Suzaku scowled. "How can you even joke about that? He killed your bromgph–"
"Suzaku," Lelouch said sincerely. "Honestly, sometimes I think you're too stupid to live."
"Mgh forry," Suzaku mumbled from behind Lelouch's hand.