"Alright," Lestrade growled into his coffee cup as he slid around the corner of his desk to sit down, "let's get this done."
Donovan nodded soberly and turned to the miniature murder board that was always in Lestrade's office when they were on a case. "Okay, this is our victim." She pointed to a picture of a slightly plump man with a receeding hairline and mournful puppy-dog eyes. "He's Fredrick Neeson, a private security consultant. He was shot, point blank, in the chest at roughly two thirty-ish. He was working on upgrading the works, lived in Sussex, getting a full biography now."
"When was he last seen?" Lestrade asked her.
Donovan drew out a timeline on the bottom of the murder board. "Neeson was last seen at twelve thirty, leaving the building, the security guard saw him leave and logged him out."
"Was he with anyone?" Lestrade flipped open his police notebook.
"He left alone, but he was there for business. One of the security guards mentioned hearing some arguing going on behind closed doors." Donovan informed him.
Lestrade perked up. "Who was arguing?"
Donovan smiled. "I hoped you'd ask." She put up another profile picture on the murder board. "Neeson was there to visit the building operator, Mister Daniel James." She pointed to the picture she just put up. "However, this was not who he was arguing with."
"Oh God, the suspense." Lestrade mock groaned, clutching his chest as he waited for Donovan to pin another picture up on the board.
"He was arguing with one of the curators, Annabell Stuart." Donovan said. "Nobody heard what was being argued about. And, when questioned about the arguement, Ms. Stuart denied that the arguement ever took place."
"Alright, you keep investigating our victim." Lestrade ordered. "Find out if he had any enemies, money problems, police records. I want this man's life under a microscope." He got up and grabbed his coat. "I'll go back to the crime scene and poke around in that environment. Maybe someone will know something they're not telling us."
Donovan nodded and they split.
"Mister Daniel James." Lestrade greeted the building operator.
"Inspector, I was told you were coming." James smiled back, shaking his hand. "Agent Barnhart was here earlier."
"Was he?" Lestrade smiled, feigning surprise. "I really do hope he found something that would help us with this case."
"Ah, yes." James nodded. "He took a look around, asked the pretty standard questions; where was the entry point? How did the thief get past the security cameras between the air vent and the painting? And such."
"Well, I hope you had alot to tell him." Lestrade smiled back thinly. "But I'm here on a murder investigation and I think my questions will be a little more different."
James's face suddenly clouded. "Yes, of course. If there's anything more I can do to help..."
"'Anything more'...?" Lestrade asked, brow furrowed.
"Yes, I just finished speaking to one of your sergeants..." James seemed to sense that something was off. "Is something the matter, Inspector?"
Lestrade shook his head. "I'm forgetful." he lied. "When did my sergeant turn up?"
"About half-an-hour ago. He took a short tour as he questioned the staff... he left just five minutes ago, I think." James replied.
Lestrade faked a smile. "Well, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll consult with my sergeant before I ask any questions and waste your valuable time."
Then he turned and walked out.
"You. Are. A. Disease. I can't get rid of you! What the Hell are you doing?" The thief, dressed in a non-descript work suit and black-rimmed glasses, glanced up from where he was sitting on a park bench, bent over a police issued notebook. He could pass as a college student.
Said college-student-looking thief leaned back leisurely in his seat and pulled his glasses up, propping them on his slicked back hair, now dyed black instead of its natural auburn hue. "Inspector." He smiled. "Fancy meeting you here. And, in answer to your question, I was investigating the murder. I do have a reputation to keep, I would so hate being pinned as a murderer. It's bad for business, you know. I broke into your flat to offer my assistance on the case like I told you, unfortunately, I was not expecting to get pelted with ham sandwiches." he joked. "There is always some variable to a situation that I cannot predict, it seems. I felt the sudden urge to retreat for the time being and regroup my moral."
Lestrade growled under his breath, hands in pockets, feet planted firmly apart in his usual longsuffering/businesslike stance. "So, mind telling me what your Halloween costume is?"
Thin still-gloved fingers dipped smoothly into a breast pocket and a police ID was whisked into existance. The thief made a show of replacing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. "Um, yes. I would be Detective Sergeant Jason Raffles." He smiled sheepishly.
"J. Raffles." Lestrade deadpanned incredulously.
"No relation to the fictional gentleman thief A. J. Raffles, I assure you." Jason droned. "Although, I was slightly surprised that you managed to recognize me." He sounded a little put out.
"Are you kidding?" Lestrade groaned. "Every cop within a five mile radius would see that you don't belong. There's no way you could afford a watch like that on a copper's salary." He lifted Raffles's hand for a closer scrutiny.
"Perhaps I come from a rich family?" Raffles smiled back, plucking his hand away.
"Then everybody would know that you are some rich bloke's brat. You'd be infamous for it." Lestrade shrugged. "As it so happens, nobody recognizes you."
Raffles sniffed and removed his watch, slipping it into his trouser pocket. "Very clever, that was."
"Well hey, they don't pick your name out of a hat and issue you Inspector, do they?" Lestrade smirked back and began walking away.
"What?" Raffles stood, brushing away imaginary lint and smoothing out wrinkles in his suit. "Not going to arrest me?"
"I'm not naive enough to hope that my cuffs will hold someone who makes a living of opening locks, and I think it's better to keep you where I can see you." Lestrade sighed back, he spared a glance over his shoulder. "Coming, Raffles?"
Raffles seemed to contemplate the pros and cons for a moment before complying.
"But, don't misunderstand me." Lestrade continued when Raffles fell into step beside him. "I'll snap the cuffs on you when you least expect it."
Raffles's eyes lit up and a smile curved his mouth. "Oh, really?"
"Now don't get too excited." Lestrade rolled his eyes and huffed. "You didn't stick around long enough to hear last night, but I've got a boyfriend."
"Oh, don't worry." Raffles waved him off breezily. "I don't really care for monogamy. By the way, I believe our killer is Brians."
Lestrade blinked. "'Brians'?"
"Yes, one of the security guards." Raffles smiled serenely at Lestrade. "If you'd like, I've got proof. I think I'm quite good at this policeman business. I think you've inspired me. Maybe I should make a separate identity for an art theft prevention agent. That way, I'd have full access to the building blueprints, security protocols, and such before a heist. What do you think?"
Lestrade ignored Raffles's grand idea and thought instead about the new information Raffles gave him for a moment. "Legal, or illegally obtained evidence?"
"Very astute, Inspector." Raffles chuckled quietly. "But let's pretend you didn't ask that. As far as I'm concerned, I found the murder weapon in a garbage disposal in a back alley near Brians's flat."
"Brians is the curator's - Annabell Stuart's - significant other." Raffles told him. "Our unfortunate victim, Fredrick Neeson, found out about a certain theft of his own, you see. Ms. Stuart was forging a few artifacts that were not in her custody, and replacing the originals. Not alot gets past me in the world of stolen artifacts, you understand." Lestrade nodded absently. "And when Neeson found out about it, he threatened her and tried to blackmail her."
"So, to keep him quiet, Ms. Stuart got her boyfriend to kill him." Lestrade finished. "That's why Ms. Stuart made such a commotion when arguing with Neeson. To keep the police's suspicion on her, knowing that she had a solid alibi for the time of death, but Brians didn't. And, being security, Brians would know how to slip past the other guards after his shift was over and he made sure he was seen leaving the premises."
Raffles smiled at him admiringly. "I see you're keeping up."
Lestrade looked at him oddly, then stopped walking abruptly and dropped his head in his hands. "Oh-... oh God." he groaned in despair. "You're one of those."
Raffles looked a little uncomfortable with all the strange looks they were recieving. "What do you mean, Inspector?"
Lestrade pulled out his phone. Sherlock, got a minute? -Lestrade
Matters. On a case for Mycroft. Bloody National Security. Be free by tomorrow. -SH
Okay, make it quick. I want you to meet somebody. -Lestrade
"Okay, here's what we're going to do." Lestrade said to Raffles as he put away his phone. "We're going to go down to the station - you can come in with me if you'd like, though I can't promise you won't be arrested - and I'm going to run ballistics on the gun you absolutely did not B&E to get, we're going to check Brians's alibi, we're going to tap an inside source to get proof of Ms. Stuart's fraudery... and then we'll figure out what to do with you."
"Sounds like a plan, Governor." Raffles smirked, firing off a leisurely salute.
"Don't 'Governor' me." Lestrade glowered.
Raffles threw his hands up in the air. "First I can't 'Darling' you, and now I can't 'Governor' you?" he said, aghast. "You take all the fun out of life, Inspector."
"What can I say?" Lestrade rolled his eyes. "I'm a cop."
Raffles smiled back. "Touche."