A/N: Jane's POV. Sit back for ridiculous noir cliches and '40s slang. Also, there will be more movie quotes in this fic than I could possibly ever cite properly in author's notes. I try to give credit when I appropriate something, so just know that if you read any fantastic zingers, I probably didn't write them. Lines from this chapter reference The Women, The Awful Truth, and The Glass Key... strangely, only that last one is a noir.
When Maura Isles walked into my office on a rainy day in February, I knew three things right away: she came from a family wealthy enough to own a private island, she could turn heads faster than a struck match could make fire, and she was almost certainly the woman who had tried slipping a gorgeously manicured hand inside my pants in the back of a taxicab three weeks ago.
I was excessively grateful that I had lived to see the end of the war, when silk was allowed to be put right back where God intended it to be—showcasing the legs of women like Maura Isles, who was now strutting towards my desk in three-inch red heels, leaving a trail of fire in her wake.
"Detective Rizzoli?" She sounds a little surprised. I can't help wondering if she's thinking back to that taxicab ride as well, because even with just two words, I know I recognize that voice.
"Miss Isles." I don't stand up. I stay safely in my chair, safely behind my desk. "Won't you have a seat?"
She obliges, shrugging off an enormous mink coat that probably cost more than four years' rent on my apartment. The action causes her perfume to waft over in my direction, a delicious scent of fresh peaches mixed with… lavender? Whatever it was, it definitely belonged to the woman who had split a cab with me those few weeks ago. With the coat no longer obscuring her frame, I saw Maura's dress: deep red and sleeveless, held up by a thin strap of fabric that came up from her ample chest and encircled her neck. Tossing her golden hair back with a feline sense of casual pride and indifference, she crossed her legs and arched one finely trimmed eyebrow.
"How did you know my name?" she asked. "You don't have a secretary who could've announced me."
I nodded at the old newspaper on my desk. Maura would be looking at it upside-down, but I figured she'd be able to recognize her own picture on the front page. Her face and name were splashed across the paper like a gallon of pink paint on a black top: impossible to miss and all over the place. It was last Sunday's paper, but the article had had everyone in town buzzing like flies over a fresh cut of road kill—Fairfield's Fling Gives Way to a Ring!
"Not a bad headline," I said, and I sensed Maura detected my sarcasm. "I mean, it's no 'Hix Nix Stix Pix,' but still. Really grabs the eye." Not unlike the ice rock on her finger, which looked big enough to have its own mailing address. "So," I said, picking up the paper and giving it a needless shake. "Which Fairfield is it?" I asked, scanning the article for a first name and looking at his picture. "I always get those fuddy-duddies mixed up."
"If you are asking which one was enough of a nut to propose to me, it's Adam, the oldest."
"A nut, huh?" I asked, smirking. "Hm. Millions of dollars and no sense?"
She returned the smirk, shrugging and leaning forward, pressing her breasts together. "That's right."
I folded the newspaper, keenly aware of the fact that she was observing my every move. She wasn't just idly watching me, waiting for my attention. She was scrutinizing me. She was tracking the smallest of my movements for any tell-tale details. If she hadn't placed me yet, I knew she would, soon. After leaning over to toss the paper in a trash bin, I straightened up and opened my desk drawer, pulling out a cigarette case. "Smoke?" I offered, opening it over the desk.
"Thank you," she said, uncrossing her legs and leaning forward a little. Rather than take the case, she slid out one cigarette. "Got a light?"
Pulling out a cigarette for myself, I flipped open a box of matches and struck one, holding it out to her. Maura took my hand and brought it closer, igniting the end of her cigarette, and her eyes burned like embers when she looked up at me. She did not release my hand right away, and after holding onto it far longer than was necessary, she gently pushed it back towards me before releasing it. I could feel her eyes on me as I lit my own cigarette, and she took a regal draw on hers. I put the case back in my drawer and looked up to see her handling her cig in a way that should be illegal. It looked obscene. She issued a steady stream of smoke into the space between us, just softly enough that I couldn't have accused her of trying to breathe in right into my face.
Once most of the thicker smoke had cleared, I could see her eyes again and now I knew she recognized me. That night we split a cab, she had been wearing a mask which concealed half her face, just as I had been. We had left the same costume party at a very secret, very underground bar. I had been sober and she had been too drunk to have hit the far side of a barn. Or at least she had seemed that way. Maybe she just really let loose when she hit the hooch even just a little bit. She certainly seemed very cool now. Aloof.
I knew she remembered me. It was probably my voice that did it. And now I knew she knew that I knew. Just as much as I knew neither of us were going to bring it up… directly. Yet.
"So what brings you here?" I asked.
Her voice is smooth as glass when she replies, "Adam's gone missing." For all her emotion, she might have just announced that her maid had switched to a new starching brand.
"Adam's gone missing."
"My fiancé. Nobody has seen him for five days."
"And you waited until now to report it?"
She appears unfazed by the accusatory bite to my tone. I know she'd have been expecting it. "Adam likes to sail. He's often away for a few days at a time without sending word, but this is the longest it has ever been."
"Five days ago, did he tell you he was going out sailing?"
The pause was only a second too long to be entirely convincing. "Yes."
"Did he say how long he planned to be gone?"
"No. But he's never been gone longer than three days without docking somewhere and calling."
"Or one of his brothers."
"If I may ask, Miss Isles… why didn't you go to the police?"
She shrugged and crossed those gorgeous gams again, knowing I would be unable to resist watching. "His family didn't want a scandal. If we went to the police, word would get out. It was their and my understanding that a flatfoot would be more discreet."
I wouldn't have resented the word "flatfoot" if she hadn't curled her lip when she'd said it, like it was even more disgusting or amusing than a cuss word. Her hand rested on her knee, the cigarette tucked between two fingers and untouched since that first draw. I nodded at it and said, "Them gaspers don't come cheap, Miss Isles." Raising an eyebrow, she obligingly brought the cigarette back to her lips, rolling it between her fingers and keeping her eyes on mine. "How did you find out about our office?" I asked.
We were a small operation: Korsak, Frost, me. And Jo Friday, if you counted the company dog. Nobody ever seems to count the company dog.
Maura thoughtfully pulled her cigarette out from between those perfect, glaringly red lips. "You have quite a reputation, detective. In certain circles." She let the words linger, gazing at me, waiting for a reaction. She wanted me to know she was being oblique on purpose before clarifying. "I hear you're good. Very good …at what you do." Her legs uncross once more and she leaned back in her chair, now shifting her legs to the side and crossing them at the ankle. "Anyway. Cavanaugh sent me."
I snorted. Cavanaugh and Korsak used to work as cops together before they both quit the force. Well, Korsak had quit; Cavanaugh had gone corrupt and been in the big house for a decade. He was a good man at heart, but a pushover when it came to bribes. If Maura knew him, that meant her family had probably relied on his services at some point.
"So," I said. "You'd like me to find Mr. Fairfield."
The dimple on the right side of her mouth deepened as she smirked. It was inexplicably stunning. "Yes, I'd like you to find Mr. Fairfield."
"You don't seem terribly fussed about it, if you don't mind my saying." I didn't care if she did mind, and besides, I could tell she wasn't the type who would. "You're a hard one, aren't you?"
She shrugged and rubbed her knee. "Oh, I can be soft…on the right occasions."
I walked right into that one, but did not want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she'd pulled the rug out from under me. Clearing my throat, I leaned over the desk and very consciously blew some smoke in her face. I wanted to see if I could get that composed demeanor to crack. No dice. She didn't even blink. She just kept smiling that tight-lipped, cat-like smile. "And did Mr. Cavanaugh mention my fee?"
"He did." Not that it mattered. Finding the money to pay me would be about as difficult for Maura or the Fairfields as affording a candy bar. "Half up-front?"
"On your way out," I said, nodding at the door. "Give it to Frost. He's good with money."
"Better than you?" she asked, and God, why was she fighting the smirk? Let it out!
I knew she was remembering how I had fumbled with my wallet in the cab, how I had shown about as much dexterity in pulling out some bills as a kid trying to remove a dame's bra for the first time. Clumsy. Flustered. Eyes everywhere but where they should be. It wasn't really my fault—I had been distracted by the things Maura was doing to try and get me to stay in the car with her.
Usually I don't get ruffled so easily. In any area of my life, professional or private, I like to be in control. It's why my mother and I butt heads so often—I guess it's a trait I picked up from her. No man or woman of any level of sobriety had ever been as forward with me as Maura had been that night. Men respected that I wasn't a doll. They knew what they were getting involved with when they took me out. Women were cowed by me. I don't have to say or do a thing except give one look, most of the time. That's why it had taken me so off guard when Maura became aggressive in the backseat of that cab. Nobody ever got aggressive with me. If they did, they got squirted metal to the chest or a slap to the kisser right away. All Maura got were some pennies accidentally spilled onto her lap before I managed to stumble out and pay the driver my share.
Now we sat separated only by a desk, both of us calm and collected, maybe trying to impress each other. I was merely remaining professional, but I can't speak for her. She seemed too on top of it.
"Well?" she asked. "What do you say, detective?"
"I just want to make sure you understand what you're in for," I said, clasping my hands together and leaning forward enough for her to look down my shirt if she wanted to. I saw her eyes dart downwards just for a moment before meeting mine again. "If it turns out something has happened to your fiancé, we're going to need access to things. I know how your type is. Your families, yours and his. You like protecting your assets, your self-interest."
Maura nods in understanding and there is a purr in her tone when she volleys back, "I assure you, detective. If you agree to help us, I will make sure you have access to anything you need."
My eyes narrowed and I could see her biting her cheek, still smirking. She was challenging me. "Let me tell you something, Miss Isles. We're not a legitimate establishment here. We don't play by the rules if we don't want to. We work by our own code of conduct that shifts on a case-by-case basis. You're here, and that means two things: you're desperate and you don't want word to get out. I gather you don't like sharing secrets. You don't like letting people in. That's all right. You just need to be prepared to accept that if I get the low-down on Mr. Fairfield's disappearance and don't like what I find, you may have some explaining to do. You may have tell me everything about yourself. All of it. Savvy?"
Again, composed. Again unfazed. "That's a big little word, 'all,'" she whispers. Her counter-offer: "Let's make it mostly all."
"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, take a powder and I'll be in touch with you. Don't forget to leave the dough with Frost on your way out."
She slid a card out of her purse and onto my desk before she stood up and turned around. I about had to bite my fist to keep from groaning out loud: her dress was backless, exposing a V-shaped section of delicious-looking skin from her shoulders to just above a very firm ass. Once, Korsak showed me an issue of his National Geographic magazine that had a photograph of a lioness tearing into a fresh piece of prey. That's the image that came to mind when Maura turned her back on me: I wanted to tear into that dress for a slab of that red meat.
And when she glanced over her shoulder to make sure I was watching her walk away, she saw that look.
I had never been caught staring before.
She didn't turn all the way around. She just finally addressed the elephant that had been taking up half the room: "Detective. If you don't mind my asking… that night…"
A long pause followed this, and I got the impression she was hoping I would step in and finish the thought for her. "Yes?" I asked, folding my hands on top of my desk.
Perhaps it's the fact that she was looking at me over her shoulder. Perhaps it was the fact that she no longer seemed to be smirking. Perhaps it was the fact that her tone was flat. But for the first time, I couldn't tell if she was being funny or sincere when she asked, "Were you at that bar for work or pleasure?"
I took my time formulating a response. Make her wait, for a change. Finally I said, "This job is my life, Miss Isles. I don't have time for fun. If a case happens to land in the general vicinity of pleasure, it's a happy coincidence."
With that, she left, letting the door snap shut behind her, and I let out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. I listened to the click-clack of her heels as they walked down the hall outside my office, sounding like Chinese water torture.
There was now one more thing I could add with certainty to my list of known facts regarding Maura Isles: she was going to make this case the death of me.
A/N: And so it begins. For the next chapter, I was thinking of a good old noir-flashback of the night Jane and Maura met.