The Croaking Raven

The Croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.



After exchanging himself for her and disappearing into Roman Nevikov's pristine white SUV, Dani Reese never thought she'd see her partner Charlie Crews alive again and she wanted to see alive again. She had never had anyone sacrifice themselves for her; she had never had someone love her that much. The feelings she was having for Charlie Crews were strange and unwanted, but she couldn't help herself. The man had willingly gotten into Nevikov's vehicle for her.

When she did see him again, he was standing in the orange grove he owned looking up at the sun, like some kind of mythical warrior resting after a hard fought battle. After all those years in Pelican Bay, Charlie loved the sun. It symbolized freedom for him. Agent Bodner was about to stop and let her out to talk to Charlie when all hell broke out. Police sirens and vehicles invaded the area and Charlie was handcuffed then he was put in the back of a patrol car.

Reese would never forget the look on his face as they put him in the back of the car. He looked like a caged animal wanting to escape or die. Her heart broke, but there was nothing she could do except watch. By the time the dust cleared, a strange turning wheel of events occurred: Nevikov's vehicle was found burned to the ground with a charred body in it; Charlie called an expensive lawyer; his former lawyer and current ADA recused herself from the case and warned them to be cautious as he already won one fifty million dollar case from the City of Angels; Charlie was released within twenty-four hours from lockup; and then he placed on indefinite suspension.

Dani was told by her erstwhile boyfriend and superior officer, Captain Kevin Tidwell, that she was ordered to stay away from her partner. He was off limits until IAD completed their investigation. The man was as hot as fissionable material. She had no intention of listening to any of them, though. Once cleared by a doctor and interviewed by Captain Tidwell, as well as an IAD officer, she immediately got in her car and headed off to his Bel Air Mansion in the hills of the Westside.

As she pulled up, she saw no cars in the driveway. Getting out she walked up to the front door and tried it. It opened. She walked in and started a room by room search and there were a lot of rooms. Charlie Crews was gone. She didn't know if it was permanently or temporary, but for now he was gone.

Chapter One

Newly promoted to detective sergeant, Dani sat at her desk with rookie detective Tanner Mann sitting in what used to be Charlie Crews' desk. IAD had finished their investigation and found no evidence that Crews killed Nevikov. They did find he had gone rogue and worked an investigation outside of chain of command and regulations. However, this was Charlie Crews and the City of Los Angeles didn't want to give him any more money, so he was suspended three months without pay and an official reprimand was placed in his file. Today was his first day back at work.

Detective Mann looked up from his paperwork and ran a hand through his brunette hair. He was a bit of pretty boy and new it, which made Reese dislike him even more, not that she needed a reason to dislike him. She wasn't going to accept anyone as her partner after Charlie Crews, even if they wouldn't let him be her partner anymore.

"Is that him?" Mann asked.

Reese raised her dark chocolate colored eyes and looked at who had just entered Homicide and Robbery's Squad Room. It was Charlie Crews. His copper hair was perfectly cut; his grey tailored suit fit his trim athletic body just right; and his green eyes had a hint of a feral animal walking into a dangerous lair. Crews was back.

After scanning the room, quickly catching Reese's eye then breaking contact, Charlie rolled his head in order to get rid of some of the tension in his neck then proceeded into Captain Tidwell's office. Through Tidwell's office window, Reese watched her boyfriend and the man she thought of as her partner, and maybe more than that, talk. She watched as Tidwell's face reddened with frustration and Crews stood there calm and cool. Their discussion went on for several minutes then Tidwell walked to his door, opened it, and called out, "Seever!"

Reese internally clenched. She looked over at Detective Sergeant Jane Seever. A highly attractive African American woman with an eidetic memory, law degree, an Olympic background, and a fifteen year plan that would make her mayor. The same situation that got Crews suspended and reprimanded got both Reese and Seever promotions. Every time she thought of this, Reese seethed.

Seever, who was impeccably dressed, stood up and walked to the captain's office. He motioned her in then shut the door. Reese continued to watch as Seever smiled brightly, Crews stood there without reaction, and Tidwell looked frustrated. Finally, Crews and Seever exited. Her eyes followed Crews as he sat down at his new desk across from his new partner.

"You didn't answer me," said Mann. "Is that Crews?"

"Yeah, that's Crews," Reese said.

"Nice suit. I think it is a Tom Ford. I bet that cost him a bucket load," said Mann.

Reese snarled at him.

"What do you think? $1500 or $2000?" asked Mann.

"What the hell are you talking about?" growled Reese.

"His suit. How much do you think it cost?" asked Mann.

"How the hell should I know?" Reese growled again.

Mann shrugged and smiled then went back to his paperwork. Reese pried her eyes off Crews and Seever and forced them back on her work. He left town and never called me. He decided to leave and not talk to me. I'll let him make the first move. I am not going to make the first move.

For the at least fifteenth time Crews glanced at Dani Reese. On the day he entered Nevikov's SUV to get her released, he discovered something important: one plus one equals one. He had fallen in love with Dani. Of course, that meant he had to stay away from her. When you become you, Zen becomes Zen. When you become you, the whole world falls in love. Charlie had forgotten where he read that but it made sense. He had yet to become himself.

He was still two people. On one hand he was con Charlie, who did things in prison to survive that were cruel, heartless, and morally wrong. Yet, he was also Detective Crews, and Detective Crews kept and enforced the law. Both the con and the detective still wanted revenge on all the men involved in the death of his friend and his false imprisonment for twelve years. He had not become himself yet. No, he was still a man at odds at himself, which made him dangerous, not only to himself but to others. Dani Reese didn't need a dangerous man in her life.

"Crews," Seever said his name again.

Charlie broke out of his reveries and looked at Seever with a fairly blank expression on his face.

"Lost in thought?" she asked him.

"Just thinking. How can I help you, Seever?" he asked.

"I wanted to talk you. I know you had a hard time the last three months or so, and what turned out bad for you, turned out good for me," she said.

"Sergeant, huh? Is that part of your fifteen year plan?" he asked.

"I know a got promoted for just going with the flow," she smiled.

"And I got suspended," Crews smiled but it was without humor.

"Well, your career should be able to get back on track now," Seever said.

"Career? I don't' have a career. If you want peace, the first requirement is to drop all ambition. A career and ambition go hand in hand. I'm just a detective," Crews smiled this time he meant it.

Seever's telephone rang. She answered it. After nodding a few times and asking a couple of questions, she hung up.

"We have a case," she said.

She gathered what she needed then stood up. Charlie slowly stood. Everything he needed was in his locker. He'd grab his gun, notebook, and handcuffs before they got on the elevator.

"What is it?" he asked.

"A double homicide in Silver Lake," she said.

From her desk, Reese found herself once again watching Crews and Seever as they prepared to leave for a case. She was never too fond of Seever, but suddenly she outright disliked her. Was it jealousy? No, it couldn't be.

The apartment building was closer to Sunset Boulevard. The two victims looked to be white male drug dealers who were counting their money when they were robbed. Charlie kneeled beside the body with the hole in the forehead and the back of his skull blown off. He observed that the man a gun stuck in his pants and was still holding on to a Zippo lighter. Looking up, he saw that he was facing the front door, which was not forced open.

"He knew the robber," said Crews.

Seever looked at him and blinked. She remembered from working with him before that he had an uncanny of looking at a crime scene and guessing right.

"Why do you say that?" she asked.

"No forced entry. This one was the muscle, yet his gun is still stuck in his pants and he's holding a Zippo lighter like he was going to like someone's cigarette," he told her. "He knew whoever it was who came in here and knew them well enough not to be afraid of them. I'd say a friend. He was killed by a friend. I wouldn't want to be killed by a friend, would you, Seever?" Charlie asked.

"I'd rather not be murdered at all," she said.

"I think a friend doing it would add more pain," said Charlie.

He stopped talking, stood up, and looked at the table the victim was sitting at. There was blood splatter but in certain areas of there wasn't. The blood landed on the money.

"Blood money," Charlie said as he looked at the table with his head turned until it was almost resting on his own shoulder. He straightened his head.

"Blood money?" asked Seever.

"Yeah. There is blood on the money. I bet our killer uses the money to buy something with the money," he said.

"Why do you say that?" she asked her partner.

"Well, they would have had enough money to satisfy a local junkie, though I'd say our perp was a functioning junkie or someone with another habit that needed money to fund it, like gambling," said Charlie.

"I'll have some uniform officers check around at the local stores to see if anyone used bloody money," said Seever, who then looked at her partner.

Charlie continued to stare at the body he examined. His green eyes seemed to have darkened and his face hardened.

"Seems a sad thing to kill a friend over money," he said.

"What would be something worth killing a friend over?" Seever asked trying to get further insight into her new partner.

"Dessert," Charlie said then he turned and walked away leaving Seever to realize that she truly had a difficult to understand partner.

"Officer," Seever called one of the uniformed officers over to her.

"Yes, Detective," he said.

"I need you to take another officer and canvas the stores in the area checking for someone who paid in cash and the cash had blood on it," said Seever.

"Gotta, detective," said the cop.

Charlie drove his black Maserati GranTurismo home and parked it behind Rachel's blue Mini-Cooper Cabriolet in the driveway. He no longer could park in the garage as it had been turned into a small home while he was drive across the country trying to decide what he would do if IAD decided to bring serious charge up on him. Ted Earley, follow con and financial whiz, lived in newly renovated garage with Charlie's father would be bridge, Olivia Canton. In the house in one of the rooms lived Rachel Seyboldt, the only surviving member of Charlie's friend who died along with his son and wife because some men were going to use him against Charlie.

He entered his mansion, which was bought with money from false imprisonment case, and saw what looked like a grunge rocker walking down the marble steps. One looked at him told Charlie that he had just had sex and was self-satisfied.

"Can I help you?" Charlie asked with fake smile and threatening tone.

"Um, yeah, Rachel invited me," he said.

"That doesn't answer my question. Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yeah, where's the kitchen?" he asked with a smug smile.

Charlie stood up straight to his full six foot one inches and put his hands on his hips exposing his sidearm and badge hanging from his belt. The smug smile disappeared.

"The kitchen is in your apartment," he said.

"Rachel said I could…," he started to speak then finally decided that the cold fury look he was receiving was a good indicator to leave. "Tell Rachel I had to go."

"Sure," said Charlie.

He started towards the front door then stopped and looked at Charlie.

"Rachel drove me here," he said.

Charlie reached into his pocket, took out a money clip, removed a hundred dollar bill, and then tossed it to him.

"Take a cab. Now go," he said.

The rocker left. Charlie headed into the kitchen where he found Ted and Olivia eating at the kitchen table with boxes of Chinese food spread out on the table.

"Hey, Charlie," Ted said. "I have some papers for you to sign."

"For what?" asked Charlie.

"The organic farm you wanted to buy," Ted said. "Now you'll own an orange grove, solar farm, and organic farm. It's a unique portfolio."

Charlie searched each box of Chinese food until he stopped at a box full with Chicken Lo Mein noodles. He grabbed a fork and the box then smiled at Ted and Olivia.

"I'll sign them later," he said. "I'll be upstairs."

"Charlie, how was your first day back?" Ted asked.

"I've got Seever as a partner and have been told I'm on a short leash," he said.

"How's Reese?" he asked.

"Beautiful," he smiled then brought the food with him up to his room.

He unlocked his walk-in closet and entered. Walking to the back of the closet, he stared at his wall of conspiracy. At the top was Mickey Rayborn. Right below him was Jack Reese, who Nevikov said was dead but Charlie knew otherwise, and below Jack was his remaining SWAT team members who helped him robbed the Bank of LA. Underneath them came Sgt. Karen Davis, Amanda Puryer, and ADA Constance Griffith, his former lawyer.

Standing in front of his wall of conspiracy, he shoveled a mouthful of food into his mouth and stared at the wall. He needed to take most of the men and anyone who helped or covered up for them on this wall down because they were involved with his imprisonment.

"And Mickey Rayborn and Jack Reese are at the top," he said to himself.