As Maura stepped out of the elevator into the precinct lobby, she caught a glimpse of the morning sun angling through the front doors, casting bright triangles across the scuffed tile floor. It had been just on the verge of dawn when she'd made the short walk from the parking deck to her basement lab, and the sight of sunshine finally cued her synapses to begin processing the idea of coffee. She had dredged herself out of bed earlier than usual, although whether it was the Landon case nagging at her or the empty space beside her she couldn't be certain. After only a week of sleeping with Jane next to her, she realized she had gotten used to having her warmth nearby.
Heading towards the cafe, she fidgeted nervously with the ring on her finger, a sign that her nerves were exacerbated enough without the addition of caffeine. As Chief Medical Examiner, her duty was to supervise medico-legal investigations, perform autopsies, and meet with family members of the deceased. It was this latter duty, however, that she was poorest at, and it was made even harder when the details surrounding a case weren't altogether clear. Which is why her consult with Todd and Jessica Landon later that afternoon would be even more difficult than a usual.
The scent of bitter coffee and sweet syrup of the cafe contrasted greatly with the smells that wafted through her lab, and a familiar voice pulled her from her thoughts. "Hey, Maura."
She glanced up, finding Frankie perched a few feet away at a high-top table. "Good morning," she greeted him, her pleasant tone clearly at odds with the few grumpy officers just ending their overnight shifts, who grunted as they angled their heads further into their coffee mugs.
"You're here early," he observed, stuffing a large bite of pancake into his mouth.
"I needed to get some work done downstairs," she explained. "Are you finishing up a shift?"
He shook his head. "Nope, finishing up a gym session. I'm trying to bulk up a little." He reached for a glass of chocolate milk, taking a quick sip and leaving a fine, brown mustache across his upper lip.
"Ah," Maura nodded. "The carbohydrate levels in chocolate milk are quite exceptional at restoring fibrous muscle proteins." She angled her head curiously down at his plate, studying it. "Your pancakes are shaped like tortoises," she observed, pointing toward them.
"Yeah," he echoed, chewing. "TMNT."
Maura leaned in curiously, studying the syrup-drenched layers of his breakfast. "I don't think I know that species."
Frankie paused, glancing up at her with his fork halfway to his mouth. "It's the mutant species." When Maura's eyes darted from one side to the other, clearly attempting to apply her arsenal of biological knowledge to his response, he quickly clarified: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
"Ah," she said with a nod. "Of course."
Frankie slid his plate toward her. "You can have some of Donatello if you want."
Maura gave a slightly disdainful look down at the offering, and politely shook her head. "No thank you. You know, I used to room with a girl named Donatella at my boarding school." She smiled at the recollection. "No relation to Versace, of course. The two of us used to skinny - " she stopped, the memory suddenly blossoming fully again in her mind. "Never mind," she said hurriedly, waving it off, avoiding Frankie's curious stare.
"So," he said, clearing his throat in hopes of clearing the inappropriate possibilities that her words brought to mind. "Was there a homicide or something I didn't hear about? Were you down there autopsying a body?"
"A brain, actually."
Frankie's eyes narrowed, his fork hanging over his plate. "Ah."
"Andrew Cushing's brain, to be specific," Maura continued, taking a seat in the chair opposite him. "I couldn't do it earlier because the saline solution hadn't yet leached enough viscous fluid from the folds." She leaned into him. "Brains can be a bit slippery."
Frankie looked uncertainly at her, his mouth suddenly slack. "Oh."
Maura continued, unaware that her notion of appropriate breakfast conversation differed drastically from his. "With the results from his blood coming back positive for both Xanax and alcohol, I didn't think I needed to take a sample from it. But something about the chemical makeup of what we found didn't add up; literally, it was missing a hydrogen molecule. So I had a meeting of the minds." She chuckled at her pun, but Frankie didn't seem to catch it, and her smile faded as she continued. "Would you like to know what I found?"
The side of Frankie's lip twitched as he contemplated shaking his head. "What?" he asked warily.
"A subdural hematoma."
He raised an eyebrow. "I don't think Cushing cares about that kinda thing anymore, no?"
"A bruise," Maura clarified, gesturing enthusiastically as she leaned across the table. "And do you know what's in subdural hematomas, Frankie?"
"No," he said again, even more uncertainly, letting his fork sit on his plate with a small clink.
"Brain serum," she replied triumphantly.
"Ah." Frankie pushed his plate gently away from him, finally giving up on the idea of his pancakes. "Serum. Sounds so much like syrup."
Maura glanced down at his plate, as if weighing his remark. "It's a bit more viscous than syrup, more like thickened blood."
Frankie cringed, but kept his slight disgust to himself, unwilling to hurt Maura's feelings. "It sounds like you're... happy about this?"
"Well, we'll see. I took a sample and am testing it as we speak. The blood metabolizes slower in a hematoma, so it's a more genuine portrait of what was in Cushing's blood when he died." She paused, clearing her throat. Jane would never agree to the idea brewing in her mind, but she possibly had a shot with Frankie. "Which brings me to my next point. I have a favor to ask you."
She was more than aware of Frankie's desire to be a detective, and knew she had captured his full attention. Sure enough, he raised both eyebrows at her, curious and flattered. "Shoot."
"I need to get back inside Andrew Cushing's house."
Frankie glanced suspiciously at her, leaning back in his chair. "Why aren't you asking Jane to take you?"
"Because she wouldn't," Maura replied simply. It was true, but she was also intent on not upsetting the balance that she and Jane had struck after their argument at the crime scene. So far, they weren't doing an exceptional job at keeping their personal and professional lives separate, and Maura had no intention of ruining their first actual date.
"Then why not Frost?" Frankie asked, still unconvinced as he took another sip of his chocolate milk.
Maura fought the urge to hand him a napkin for his growing milk mustache. "Because he's her partner."
"But I'm her brother."
"Exactly," Maura said, momentarily brightening, as if Frankie were finally grasping her point. "I thought that you could utilize some competitive sibling rivalry that would be buffered by unconditional love."
"Sounds like you've given this some thought." Frankie's forehead crinkled as he finally swiped the back of his hand over his upper lip. "Jane can be harsh, but she's a good cop. Why don't you just trust her on this one?"
"Jane is an excellent cop," Maura agreed, her eyes flashing with pride. "But I'm a good scientist."
"Do you think we overlooked something at the house?" Frankie asked. "I was with the techs all afternoon." He rolled his eyes, remembering how it had been his sister who had prevented him from tagging along for questioning. "Thanks to Jane."
"I don't think you would have known what you were overlooking," Maura replied thoughtfully. "If the tests I ran come back with something other than an aneloid, then that means something else was in his bloodstream, which only imitated a Xanax-like compound."
"The bottom line is that you think someone murdered Cushing."
Maura bit her lower lip, once again fidgeting with the ring at her finger. "I don't know what I think yet. But I do think there may have been someone else in the house the night he died, which means there has to be something we've overlooked. Locard's Principle, after all."
Frankie snapped his finger. "Right, uh..." he began, as if catching on to her reference. "This is in the detective study guides..." His face finally brightened, the equivalent of a light bulb going off in his head as he raised his finger victoriously. "Locard's Principle: No matter how careful someone is, they always leave something of themselves behind or they take a part of the scene with them."
Maura smiled, refraining from correcting his misalignment of pronouns. "Correct."
Frankie glanced over at his mother, who busied herself behind the counter, then leaned across the table toward Maura, lowering his voice. "Alright, I'll help you. How about right before lunch? No one will miss us."
"Oh, thank you!" Maura exclaimed, clapping her hands once before leaning over and giving Frankie an awkward, jovial jab on his shoulder.
"What are you going to tell Jane?" he asked, resuming his breakfast.
Maura frowned, the question instantly leeching the mirth from her face. "I'm simply going to tell her I have plans for lunch," she replied casually. Before she could adequately convince herself she was capable of such a white lie, Jane loped into the cafe, fumbling with the collar of her gray suit jacket.
"Did I miss the memo?" she asked playfully as she walked over to them, placing a gentle hand on Maura's shoulder in greeting, a far cry from the kisses they had both grown accustomed to in private. "You guys doing breakfast dates now?" She gave Frankie a playful squeeze on his bicep. "Ooo, feel that chocolate milk muscle."
Frankie inched out of her grasp, giving her a frown. "Results take awhile," he replied grumpily.
"It's true," Maura confirmed, nodding. "The scaffolding within the muscles are tightening first, and won't bulk up for at least the first week."
"Thank you, Maura," Frankie said, giving Jane a pointed stare. "Some people understand what it means to add muscle." He glanced at his sister. "You know, you could stand to bulk up a little, too," he observed, squeezing her arm. "These string beans over here won't help you take down a perp."
"Actually, Jane's trapezius is quite defined," Maura pointed out, her eyes grazing over Jane's form. "Not as prominent as her abdominals or pelvic - "
"Maura," Jane cut in, giving her a quick warning glance, thankfully cutting off the diatribe before it went any lower down her body.
Maura lowered her head slightly, aware of her mistake. "Frankie's pancakes are in the shape of tortoises," she said meekly, a thin attempt at changing the subject.
"Ooo," Jane muttered, picking up his abandoned fork. "I call Michelangelo."
Frankie rolled his eyes. "Get your own breakfast," he said, yanking his utensil back from her.
She rolled her eyes back at him. "As a matter of fact, I am," she rebutted, waving at her mother. "You want a cup of coffee?" she asked Maura, glancing over at her.
"I'm not sure," Maura replied uncertainly, shaking her head.
"It's not a life or death question, Maur."
"I'm meeting with the Landons this morning," she explained. "My Gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors are already restricting."
"Is that a 'yeeeesssss' or a 'noooo'?" Jane asked, more than familiar with her roundabout answers.
Maura fidgeted again with the ring on her finger. "I'm just not cut out for this part of the job."
"What, the part that has to do with live people?" Jane asked with a grin.
Maura's nose twitched slightly, indicating that she fully understood the implied jab, but she couldn't quite disagree. "Yes. I don't see how you can sit down with living people day after day and talk to them about these types of tragedies."
Jane shrugged, not at all comfortable with that part of the job, either. "It's tough, sure. But, it comes with job, right? At the end of the day, whatever you do isn't going to bring anyone back from the dead, but you can at least help them find a little justice."
Maura nodded, but was still unconvinced, her fingers tapping repeatedly against the table. "People can be... quite daunting. The synapses of grief and anger prompt remote synaptic firing that isn't based on linear or logical thinking."
Jane smiled sympathetically down at her. Maura was indeed socially awkward, and at times, downright inept at the finer points of human emotion, but her insatiable curiosity for life instilled some warmth in her; it just took a little while to find it. "I'm sure you'll be fine," Jane said easily, placing a comforting hand over hers. "Beneath the scientific exterior - " she paused, backtracking - "deepbeneath that scientific exterior, you're one of the most compassionate people I know. Your love for all things moleculed and compounded is just a way for you to help these families, and that will come through today with the Landons."
Maura stared up at her, and for a moment Frankie and the rest of the cafe melted into a one-dimensional backdrop. "Thank you for the positive psychological stimulation."
"The cool kids just call it a 'pep talk'." Jane smiled, giving her hand a squeeze. "And afterward, if you do a good job, I'll take you to a place with cloth napkins for lunch."
Maura's eyes darted towards Frankie's, panic already tightening her throat. "I can't do lunch today," she squeaked, slipping her hand back into her lap, a smile stretching awkwardly across her face.
"Okay," Jane shrugged, seemingly unbothered by the quick decline. "Why not?"
Maura's hand moved reflexively to her neck as she delayed her answer, her gaze darting across the table. Frankie slowly shook his head at her, familiar with her biological penchant for telling the truth. "I'm... running an errand," she offered, hoping it was a vague enough answer to dissuade any more questions.
Jane darted a look at Frankie, who simply shrugged up at her, clearly more than used to telling a white lie or two to his sister. "Uh huh," Jane said, returning her gaze to Maura. She may have only recently began to get to know the ins and outs of Maura's body, but she was more than familiar with her mind. "What sort of errand ya runnin', Maur?" Her tone was casual enough, but her eyes were taking pleasure in busting open the lie that she felt weaving itself around her.
Maura bit her lip. "I am... returning something." She swallowed, once again irritated by her inability offer a convincing lie.
"This can't end well," Frankie mumbled as he stood, chugging the last of his chocolate milk. "See ya." He gave Maura a sympathetic frown, quickly slipping out of the cafe.
Maura waved stoically, hoping that his exit would at least halt the casual, but effective interrogation Jane was performing on her. She tried vainly to change the subject, offering the first truth that popped into her head. "I missed you last night," she said, smiling slightly. The smile faded quickly, however, as she realized Jane wasn't buying it. Instead, she took a step closer to Maura, looming over her with a small, knowing grin.
"You're not telling me something."
"There's nothing... not to tell..." Maura said slowly, as if stretching out the lie would make it seem less like one. "Why don't you sit and have breakfast with me?"
Again, her attempt at distraction didn't work, and Jane took another step closer, pressing one hand firmly against the table and the other along the back of Maura's chair, effectively pinning her in place. "You are going to get one whopping case of hives along that beautiful neck of yours if you keep lying to me." She raised her eyebrows playfully, waiting for Maura's response.
Whether it was the swell of the lie finally bursting in her chest or simply the feel of Jane's lips that close to her, the gates of truth suddenly swung open: "I asked Frankie to take me back to Andrew Cushing's house this afternoon."
Maura fully expected the darkness that flashed across Jane's eyes as she processed the confession, but she decidedly didn't expect the laugh that bubbled up from her throat. "Oh, wow," Jane sighed, her chuckle fading into a curved frown, a glint of hurt in her eyes. "That is so not cool."
"I didn't want to bother you until I had hard evidence," Maura blurted, speaking fast as she tried to explain. "But, I found a hematoma this morning in Cushing's brain, which could prove that it was another substance that killed him, not a prescription overdose. I just wanted to see if we missed anything at the house."
"So you go over my head?"
Maura cocked her head thoughtfully. "Technically, Frankie isn't 'over your head'," she clarified, aware that her correction was only making things worse.
"I'm about to have yourhead," Jane said. "What, the two of you were down here eating your Honey Bunches of Hematomas and decided you would bust this case wide open?"
Whatever response Maura was about to offer was cut short by Angela, who sidled over carrying two full plates. "Good morning," she said brightly, unaware of the cloud slowly settling over the table. Maura's eyes raked over the dish in front of her: three pancakes in the shape of stars, scattered with blueberries.
"Angela, this looks lovely," she gushed, always polite, even in the throes of argument. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me, thank this one," Angela replied, jerking her thumb towards Jane, who had already placed a hand to her temple, a frown curling her lips.
"Ma - "
"Apparently Janey here thinks this is a call-ahead kind of joint," she continued with a laugh as she patted her daughter on the shoulder. "Next thing I know you'll be making reservations."
"Ma - " Jane tried again, this time attempting to wave her mother away, but with little success.
"It's been years since you requested pancake shapes."
"Ma!" Jane exclaimed. "Will you just give us a minute?"
Angela shrugged, chalking her daughter's attitude up to her usual morning crankiness. "Bon appetivo," she offered with a quick smile before heading back to her post behind the counter, where a short line was once again forming.
Maura looked curiously up at Jane. "You asked your mom to make these for us?"
Jane didn't answer, instead staring grumpily down at her pancakes. "Maybe," she grumbled.
"Are these in the shape of asteroidia?" Maura asked, receiving only a blank stare in response. Whether it stemmed from residual anger or sheer incomprehension, she couldn't tell. "Starfish," she clarified. "Part of the echinoderm phylum?"
Jane rolled her eyes. "Stars, Maura. They're just stars. Like 'twinkle twinkle'."
Maura's smile came easily, but she couldn't resist a quick correction. "Technically stars don't 'twinkle', they simply - " she had the wherewithal to cut herself off, focusing instead on the sweet gesture lying on her plate. "Why the lovely breakfast?"
Jane leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms noncommittally over her chest, still harboring some annoyance. "It was supposed to be a clue to our date tonight."
Maura's eyes flashed upwards, her lower lip dropping in surprise. "What?"
Jane waved her hand harriedly towards the two plates. "A clue. To what I have planned for us tonight."
"Oh, Jane," Maura sighed, dropping her fork and putting a hand to her chest. "That is so sweet."
"Yeah, well, I'm surprised you aren't already down in the lab testing the syrup for forensic evidence," Jane replied tersely. She angled her fork over at Maura's plate, stabbing it into a pancake and piling it onto her own stack.
"Why are you taking my pancakes?" Maura asked skeptically.
"After that stunt with Frankie? You don't deserve a pancake star."
Maura sighed, tucking her napkin into her lap and picking up her fork once more, hovering it over her plate. "Jane." She didn't get a reply, but instead Jane reached over, attempting to poke her fork into another pancake. "Jane," Maura said again, this time brushing the intruding hand away. "Taking my pancakes isn't going to make you feel any better."
"Yes it will."
"I'm sorry, okay," she tried again, sincerity seeping from her tone. "I'm not questioning your investigation, I'm just attempting to tie up some loose ends, that's all."
"You tie up loose ends on the body and in the lab, Maura, not at my crime scene."
"Technically, it's my crime scene."
Jane raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you're going to go textbook on me? Fine. The crime scene is yours until you call time of death, and then it's handed over to the lead detective on duty, which would be me." She knifed through one stem of her pancake. "Chapter Fourteen, Boston Criminal Procedure Protocol."
Maura sighed, unable to argue, and more impressed with the correct notation, which she knew by heart. "Jane, I'm sorry."
Jane caught the sincerity behind the words, made more sound by the fact that Maura clearly couldn't lie to save her life. Still, the mistruth stung. "Why would you even go behind my back? And then try to lie to me? Is it worth a case of hives?"
"You know I can't take it when you're angry at me. I didn't want you to be mad at me."
"How'd that work out for you?"
"Not quite as I'd hoped."
"Uh huh." Jane sighed, plunging her fork into another pancake. "And you thought you and Frankie could pull a Sherlock and Watson? What were you thinking not coming to me?"
"I don't know!" Maura exclaimed. "I don't know what I was thinking, but I know that this case is all I've been able to think about since we found Cushing. And I keep waiting for the science to convince my brain that it's taking things too far, but it's not working and I don't know what to do other than to keep reaching for every rational explanation that I can because there has to be a rational explanation for why nothing about Cushing's death makes any sense to me. One hydrogen, Jane - chemical compounds make a difference!"
Jane raised both eyebrows, surprised by both the speed with which Maura's frustration spewed towards her and the vehemence with which she shared it. "Whoa, whoa, okay. It looks like your chemical compounds are about to explode." She thought for a moment. "When did you hatch out this plan with Frankie?"
"Just now, before you got here."
Jane glanced up at her, surprised, but also a bit sated. "So, you had this sneaky plan of yours thought up a full ten minutes before you broke down and told me about it?"
Jane smirked at her. "God, you'd be horrible at undercover."
"No, I wouldn't," Maura protested. "That's different. It's a professional truth, uncharacterized by the usual synapses of lying. It's a different brain engagement entirely."
"I guess there are worse things than dating a girl who can't lie," Jane offered. She gestured down at their plates, making the most out of Maura's unique inability. "Do you like the pancakes?"
Maura smiled over at her, aware of the test she was being given. "I love them."
"Do you like this suit jacket?"
Her eyelid twitched. "I think you look beautiful despitethat suit jacket."
Jane couldn't hold back a laugh, but her face quickly turned back to a frown, and she waved her fork threateningly at her. "Don't ever lie to me again."
"Never," Maura promised.
Jane nodded, satisfied, and vaguely aware that when it came to Maura, she couldn't stay angry for long. "Look, if it will help you face the Landons, how about we take another look at the house before they get here? Do we have enough time?"
Maura's eyebrows rose, as if unsure of whether Jane was genuinely offering help. "Really?"
"Yeah. I never get a chance to see the logical, rational Maura Isles acting on her gut instinct." She nodded down at Maura's plate. "Finish your stars, and we'll go."
"You took one of my stars," Maura pointed out, motioning between their plates. "I had three and now I have two."
"Who are you, Count von Count?" Jane asked as she reluctantly handed back the pancake in question and one more. "Look. Now you have four."
Maura disregarded the dig, and gave her a concentrated frown. "Let me tell you about the brain autopsy I did this morning."
Jane glanced up at her, gesturing to her plate. "Maura, I'm eating."
"Well, you're not eating brain," Maura rationalized. "Although many cultures do consider brain and other internal organs a delicacy."
Jane sighed, her appetite all but disappearing, and she plopped the rest of her pancakes down on Maura's plate. "And now you have six."
For the third time in less than a week, Jane navigated the narrow streets of Andrew Cushing's neighborhood, dodging stodgily parked cars and the occasional abandoned trash can. "Frankie, you ever had a beat around here?" she asked, glancing at her brother in the rearview mirror.
He met her eyes coolly. "Nah." He paused, but Jane could tell by the way his lips pursed that he was clearly annoyed at being brought on their excursion. "I don't know why you wanted me to come along," he huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was impinging upon your lunch plans," Jane replied airily. "Oh, wait, this was your lunch plan, wasn't it?"
Maura rolled her eyes at the banter, having already heard most of it back at the precinct when Jane dragged Frankie along with them. "I think you've made your point, Jane. Frankie and I have both apologized profusely. And I agreed to buy you one of those gargantuan Pennsylvania submarines you enjoy so much."
Jane's eyes brushed over her. "A Philly cheese steak, Maura. And you don't know what you're missing."
Maura shrugged, turning her nose up at the crumpled wrapper that sat in the middle console, evidence of her contrite apology. "I can smell what I'm missing, thank you very much."
Jane pulled her squad car along the curb in front of Cushing's small house. "Oh, I didn't think you could smell it over the scent of lies and betrayal," she quipped, getting in one more jab as she flicked off the ignition.
"Just like Ma," Frankie sighed. "Always a martyr." He shook his head, grinning, knowing that by comparing Jane to their mother, he indeed got the last word. He shut his car door quickly, cutting off any attempted response, but Jane managed a quick glare.
Maura used the brief moment of solitude to reach over and squeeze Jane's thigh. "Are you quite finished?" she asked with a smile.
Jane eyed her hand carefully, sneaking a glance at Frankie as he rounded the back of the car, peering up at Cushing's house. "I don't know," she answered slowly, testing her boundaries. "I think maybe you'll have to make it up to me... later tonight...?"
Maura chuckled at her reticence. "Is that a question or a command?" she asked, her innocent expression turning suddenly primal as she nibbled her lower lip.
Any response Jane concocted in her head lodged in her throat as her eyes ran over Maura's lips, but it was the quick knock on the trunk made her jump, and she glared at Frankie out of the back window. Maura's face quickly morphed back to its professional state as she climbed out of the car, clearing her throat and bypassing Frankie with an overly professional nod.
He watched as Maura marched towards the house, then turned back to Jane, his forehead wrinkled in thought. "If I remember correctly, you're weaving your own lies," he said lowly, tossing his head toward Maura. "Case in point: how long are you going to lie about the fact that you and Maura are actually together?"
Jane craned her neck at him with a force that almost pulled a muscle. "You'd be better off if you put those detective skills to use on this case, and not on my private life, little brother."
Frankie sighed, shrugging. "Whatever. If I were with a girl like Maura, I'd be telling everyone."
"Which is probably why you'll never be with a girl like Maura."
"Jane, you have the key!" Maura called, and for once Jane was grateful for that polite, if bossy tone.
Jangling the keys in her hand, she tossed her head back at Frankie, the responsibility of being an older sister preventing her from completely ignoring the truth he had brought up. "I know where you're coming from, Frankie. Let me do things in my own time, okay?"
"Fine," he said, seemingly satisfied. "But until then, I"ll just keep telling Ma that you like it when she sets you up with guys from the neighborhood."
Jane reached out and pushed his shoulder before walking briskly toward Maura, who stood impatiently on the front stoop, a hand on her hip and the other holding her black medical bag. "I'm giving us half an hour," Jane reminded her as she dangled the keys in front of her. "That's all."
"Of course," Maura replied absently, slipping past her as she opened the door. Her eyes grazed the room, much as it had the night they had found Cushing, but this time she was unsure of exactly where to begin. "When we processed the scene before, we looked at it from two angles," she said slowly.
Jane stepped in behind her, pulling a pair of gloves from her pocket. "Right, we confirmed that there was no forced entry and no foul play, so then we made the logical assumption that it was a suicide." She tossed another pair back to Frankie, who kept the door propped open, allowing some additional light into the room.
"So now," Maura continued, turning towards the front door, her own hands already gloved, a finger in the air as she paced thoughtfully. "Now we need to look at it as if someone were deliberately making it look like a suicide." She walked over to Jane, pushing her back out the door and toward the wooden porch.
"Maura - " Jane protested, but the door closed in her face with a hard clack.
"Role play," Maura explained through the wooden barrier. "Pretend as if you're the supposed perpetrator." She motioned towards Frankie, who watched her with a wary eye. "Frankie, you act as Cushing."
Jane sighed. "We're assuming the killer knew Cushing, then, since there were no signs of a break in?" She leaned closer to the door, straining to hear Maura's response, but when she didn't get one she raised her hand to the doorbell. It had been dusted the night Cushing was found, and had yielded a kaleidoscope of half-prints. If she were a killer, she wouldn't want to ward Cushing off by wearing a pair of gloves, but she wouldn't want to leave her prints, either. She bypassed the doorbell, and instead raised her hand to knock.
As the door swung open, she stared at Frankie, who raised his eyebrows at her. "Why hello, psycho killer," he said deeply.
"Frankie, invite her inside, as if you know her," Maura guided. "The swelling I found in Cushing's brain wasn't consistent with a traumatic injury. He had to have known the person at his door, and then let them inside." Frankie extended his hand towards the entryway, stepping back to allow Jane to enter. "Good, now Jane follow him toward the living room."
Jane rolled her eyes, following directions, but turned to look at Maura expectantly. "Who are you, Scorsese?" she asked. "Would you like to enlighten me on my motivation and have hair and makeup come powder my nose?"
"Your snarkiness isn't helping," Maura chided, but her attention wasn't deterred for long. "Now, if the poison wasn't delivered intravenously, it had to be ingested or inhaled. "How?"
"Didn't you say he died at around 2:30am?" Jane asked. "Who would he know well enough to let in that late? And again, who would have motive to off Cushing? He didn't allude to the fact that he knew anything about Landon's death."
Maura shook her head, seemingly at a loss. "I don't know," she replied, disappointment edging her voice. "Depending on the half-life of the substance, it could have entered the body before 2:30am. We may not have an accurate time of death."
"So, he could've let someone in at a normal hour, and the poison wouldn't have kicked in until hours later?" Frankie asked. "So the person had to wait around right, to make it look like a suicide?"
"If he was even poisoned," Jane pointed out, playing devil's advocate. "Your tox results haven't come back yet."
Maura's eyes met hers, the sudden ambivalence in them almost palpable, and Jane resisted the urge to put her hand on her shoulder. "Hey, but we're here, right?" she asked lightly, hoping to assuage Maura's frustration with what little answers they were offering. She gave her a small, confident smile before moving back into her assigned place, turning her attention back to Frankie. "Might as well continue this little role play."
Frankie nodded, appeasing Maura by moving towards the recliner where Cushing's body had been found, seemingly ready for his next command.
Jane smiled, opening her mouth to offer another supportive word, but it caught in her chest as a scuffle of papers sounded behind her, making her jump and reach automatically for her gun. As she caught sight of the scaly blue end of Cushing's lizard, however, all pretense of bravery failed her, and she made a bee line behind Maura. "Holy crap!" she yelled. Frankie laughed, but took a strategic step away from the lizard at it shimmied behind another tower of stacked magazines.
"Oh, hello," Maura cooed lightly, concerned as she bent toward it. "What are you still doing here?" As her gloved hand reached down for it, the animal slid down the table and toward the back hallway, it's tale sashaying behind it. "You would have thought the landlord would have called animal control," she said, cocking her head and starting after it.
"Maura, forget the lizard," Jane called, waving her hand at her. "Remember, we have work to do here? Your vision, and all that?"
"I just need to get him into his cage," Maura replied. "He can't stay here."
"Oh no," Jane said, wagging her finger. "That thing is not coming with us."
"Yes, he is," Maura argued, continuing down the hallway. "And it's an Agame Mwanzae, not a 'thing'."
"That thingis not slizzarding around in my car!" Jane called after her, shooting Frankie a look. "Why can't she be like other girls?" she mumbled. "Puppies and kittens."
"Well, you wouldn't be dating her then," Frankie reminded her with a grin.
Jane opened her mouth to give him another verbal warning, but a loud thud echoed from the back hallway, followed by a quick, surprised scream. Before her brain registered much more than those two sounds, which caused her heart to leap fully into her throat, Jane had her gun raised and was halfway down the hallway. "Maura!" she yelled, her face hardening as she followed the sounds of shuffling footsteps coming from a back room. She poked her head in, aiming her weapon, and was met with the sight of Maura untangling herself from a somewhat short, balding man.
"Hands up!" Jane commanded.
"Whoa, whoa," the man called, raising his hands and taking a wide step away from Maura. "Calm down, I'm Jay Winston."
"Who?" Maura asked, still somewhat frazzled, a hand over her heart. "Why were you in the closet?"
Jane cocked an eyebrow, not immediately placing the name, but she grimaced as it pinged somewhere in the back of her brain, lighting up a memory. "Todd Landon's private investigator?" she asked, not bothering to lower her gun.
The man nodded, his tiny brown eyes still on the barrel that was aimed at him. "Technically, I work for Jessica Landon," he clarified. "But hey, you're the one holding the gun."
"I'll lower it when you tell me what the hell you're doing here."
He shrugged, as if weighing his options, the wisp of hair covering his bald spot shaking with the movement. "That's privileged information between me and my client," he replied. "You want details, you'll need a subpoena."
Jane rolled her eyes, lowering her gun back to her waist and taking a step toward him. His khaki's were rumpled, his shirtsleeves rolled up just below his elbow. Jane could practically envision the fast food wrappers that more than likely covered his dashboard; he was everything she imagined a private investigator to be, which did nothing to raise him any higher in her regard."You don't want me to book you for interfering at a crime scene, you'll start talking." She turned to Frankie. "Do me a favor, and ask Frost to get another car here."
He nodded, giving once last uncertain look at Winston before exiting, his phone already at his ear.
Winston rolled his eyes at the formality, but answered her question. "I'm here recovering some stolen documents," he offered cryptically.
"What documents?" Jane asked.
"Unfortunately, that's privileged information between my client and me," he responded, the same excuse rolling easily off his lips, as if he were used to using it.
"DNA results?" Maura asked, glancing at him.
"You think Charles Landon would have submitted to DNA testing?" Winston huffed. "You're living in a dream world. You and Andrew Cushing. Only he finally woke up from his little dreamland." He shook his head. "Only it drove him crazy."
"If Cushing didn't know the truth, then why would he kill Charles Landon?" Frankie piped up from behind Jane. "If he wanted the truth to come out, it seems like leaving Landon alive would be the best thing for Cushing to do."
"Charles Landon would never divulge that information," Winston responded, giving Frankie an up and down. "The rich have a way of keeping this kind of thing a secret."
"What, like getting you to stealing documents for them?" Jane asked. "What exactly makes you think Cushing had anything incriminating, anyway?"
"Recovering stolen documents," he corrected. "Look, you want to clear this up, you can give the Landons a call, alright?"
"Oh, I will," Jane assured him, nodding as she took a step closer and grabbed his elbow. "Until then, you'll be hanging out with me at the precinct, how's that?" She smirked at him, glad she had the foresight to call for her partner. Packing Winston into a car along with Maura, Frankie, and an exotic lizard was not exactly the professional gesture she was shooting for; her squad car would resemble a clown car more than an official BPD vehicle. "It must feel good, leeching money from the wealthy?" she asked as she guided him to the living room, chuckling as he wrenched his arm away from her and sunk into the couch like a petulant kid.
"Feels just as good as leeching money from Boston taxpayers," he replied evenly. "Look, you and me are both shooting for the same outcome. To prove that Andrew Cushing murdered Charles Landon."
Jane shook her head, eyeing him suspiciously. "That your official opinion?" she asked.
"What other option is there? A man like Landon didn't always make friends everywhere he went, but he certainly didn't make any enemies. You've talked to his friends, family, you know that. Cushing was the only one with any motive, and the break-in at the Landons proves he was desperate to get the last piece of evidence proving that Landon was his father."
"Was Landon his father?" Jane asked.
Winston kept quiet, refusing to answer. "You're a detective," he replied. "What do you think?"
"I've got him," Maura said pleasantly, walking into the living room and holding up a small carrying case, where a scaled tail peeked out of it. "The poor thing hasn't eaten in a couple of days, which is unfortunate considering his digestive system metabolizes at the rate of two thousand kcals per day."
"Are you animal control?" Winston asked, looking up at her, dumbfounded.
Maura balked, pursing her lips together, seemingly offended by the conjecture. "No, I am not," she replied testily. "I am Dr. Maura Isles, Chief Medical Examiner of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
Jane smirked. "She only volunteers at animal control on the weekends."
Maura rolled her eyes towards her. "Once," she emphasized. "I did once."
Frankie poked his head in the front door. "Frost is here," he called.
Jane glanced down at Winston, smiling winningly at him. "Your chariot awaits." The begrudging smack of his lips didn't bother her, and she smirked as she followed him towards the door, a saunter to her step. She glanced back over her shoulder as she fished the keys from her pocket, but Maura wasn't behind her. "Maura, come on!"
"I'm just grabbing his food," Maura called, her voice trailing from the kitchen, where she was busy fishing through several cluttered cabinets. "You have no idea how expensive mulberry mulch is at the specialty stores." She pulled open a storage bin near the trash can, where she found a small clear container filled with mulched leaves and berries. "Aha. Mulch." Popping open the container, she caught sight of a plain white envelope nestled inside, half-buried. She cocked her head, curiously nudging it with her still gloved hand.
Jane's voice echoed impatiently from the living room. "Maura, let's go," she called.
"Jane?" Maura returned, her tone bewildered as she peered into the envelope, where a wad of cash rested abandoned inside it.
"What?" Jane asked, exasperated, as she clunked into the kitchen, impatiently throwing her hands up in the air. "We can buy that lizard all the weird leaves you need after I get Winston to the precinct." She stopped short at the spread of cash that Maura held out in front of her, and her eyes widened. "Whoa, does it eat dollars?" she asked incredulously.
"Not that I know of," Maura replied tentatively. "This certainly is a unique deposit method."
"Cushing had a bank account," Jane said, kneeling. "Frost and I checked his accounts, but he hadn't withdrawn anything in the past month aside from a few measly amounts. Where the hell did this come from?"
Maura peered at the container where she discovered it, still dumbfounded. "Why did he store it in his lizard mulch?"
Jane turned her head toward the living room, where Winston had sat only a moment before, and felt a new suspicion creeping up her spine. "I wonder if this is what Winston was looking for?"
Maura sniffed the envelope, her nose scrunching in thought. "Do you smell that?" she asked.
"Probably not," Jane replied uncertainly. "You're the one with a nose like a search dog. You tell me."
Maura looked as if she were going to counter the canine comment, but instead continued. "It's smells like nicotine," she replied, eyeing the envelope.
"Are you telling me the lizard has a smoking habit?" Jane asked incredulously. She reached for the envelope, but Maura pulled it quickly back from her.
"No, no, don't touch it!" she said harshly.
"What are you, playing 'Finders Keepers'?" Jane asked, reaching for it again.
Maura kept it out of reach, pushing away Jane's reaching hand. "Not without gloves," she explained, her mind already lurching forward. "Liquid nicotine can be used as an acute poison. I think I may have found what I was looking for."
Jane's mouth dropped, but she put a hand to her temple. "So he was poisoned? Intentionally?"
"We'll see if the sample I took this morning matches this," Maura replied, holding up the envelope before placing it back inside the container in which it was found. "But why would his money be doused in nicotine?"
Jane shook her head. "At this point, I don't think I know much of anything anymore. Come on, let's get Winston to an interview room and you back to the lab." She reached a hand down, helping Maura to her feet and took the container from her. "I'll carry this. You get the damn lizard." This case was becoming more than burdensome; it was becoming downright bizarre.
Thanks for reading... and reviewing... :)