"Hey, Janet, Janet!"
Rob tends to take on the appearance of a hyper squirrel when he's excited, twitching and fidgeting with things and moving just a little too fast. It's a pretty entertaining sight considering he's 6'2 and built like a linebacker. And when Rob's excited, it's usually about a case.
"What is it?"
"You know the Christmas eve murders back in 2002?
"At the shipping company. Guy was obsessed with one of his coworkers, killed her and some other people he didn't like during the night shift."
"Well, we've got something. Someone came forward after all this time with a physical description. No name, said she didn't have one, but it's a pretty decent recollection otherwise."
"It's been more than 10 years, she's getting old, and the guilt is bothering her. Whatever. Doesn't matter. Point is, I did some digging. You know that mess at the Arcadia building in '06?"
"My memory's better than yours, Rob."
He gets like this when he's hyper, everything is a question. I blame his Italian roots.
He hand-waves me impatiently.
"Turns out that bastard also used to work for Turner's shipping company. Not very long, but long enough. You know when they both happened? Christmas eve."
I can't say I'm a fan of the boundless energy (and superiority) he gets when he has a lead but I'm itching for a new (old) case. A side effect of being a cold case detective.
We spent what feels like hours looking at nothing; both cases have so little actual fact attached, the only saving grace is that the latter actually has a perp attached to it.
"We need to find witnesses that are still around. Most of the people involved are, well…"
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
"Bridges already gave a statement and she's not good for much anyway, she has no tie to the previous case."
"What about this guy? Only real contact the suspect had on paper. In fact, I can't believe they didn't interrogate him at the time. There's barely a statement here."
"I guess they had no real reason to look for any connections at the time. What's his name again?"
I double-checked the address. Only out of habit. I've never got one wrong before but the one time I don't check could be the time I screw it up. Start a whole chain of screw-ups. It's right, as always.
Rob knocks on the door, sharp and loud, like he means business. I can manage the same authoritarianism but I rarely take the same pleasure in it that he does anymore. I've yet to figure out if that's a good thing or not. The guy takes a little longer than average to come to the door. Maybe we caught him on the john. Usually people know what that knock means. Usually, they move.
When the guy finally does get to the door, I can't say it's not what I imagined when I picture a guy named 'Sebastian'. It has a feel, the name. Anybody with the balls to name their kid that must have given them the balls to carry it off. Not that he looks tough necessarily. He's not very tall but I couldn't easily call him short, either. Narrowly built, though mildly athletic. It's the kind that's acquired in gyms, not fights. It's in his face, though, the steel in his eyes and tautness in his mouth, that tells you he doesn't want to be messed with.
Most people at least offered a 'can I help you?' or 'what seems to be the problem?' The sight of cops tends to force out hidden politeness in drug dealers and rapists, let alone what it does to normal people.
This guy looks like he's in no mood to help anyone and never has been.
Between his education, his employment record and the fruity French name, I was expecting some pompous stuffed shirt who wore clothes with unpronounceable name brands, someone who shit money and sweat privilege. This guy…the way he holds himself definitely speaks of cultivation, grooming and he looks at you like he has somewhere, anywhere better to be but aside from that he's…muted?
Fallen from grace?
At the same time, he doesn't look like he allows things to happen to him.
Somehow I feel like his life only consists of the things that he 'allows'.
His clothes are normal, if a little too put-together for casual wear. Banana Republic but not Armani.
"Are you Mr. Favreaux?"
He nods like wasting more breath is simply unnecessary.
I indicate myself, then Rob.
"Detective Dixon, detective Chambers. We'd like to ask you a couple of questions about someone you used to know. A Mr. McKnight."
Normally, people get nervous. You can see it in their eyes or the twitch of their lips or the way they start to fidget.
Others brace themselves, a clumsy mask of indifference slides into place, cracked by its own self-consciousness.
This guy doesn't move a muscle, a level of composure I've only seen on sociopaths.
"I'm sorry," he says, though somehow I doubt that he is, "Could you give me a moment?"
I don't know what for but I'm inclined to give it to him for reasons I'm not sure of. Maybe he needs to get rid of his booty-call or whatever was making him take forever to get to the door.
He shuts the door and we wait. We wait. We wait for a long damn time.
Rob looks at me.
I pound on the door.
"We're still out here, you know."
He opens it again.
He's not smug or self-satisfied. Just matter of fact. As if this were the perfectly logical thing to do in this situation. He is ballsy. Or a complete idiot. I'm not going to give him more credit than he deserves.
"We need to ask you a couple questions."
Repeat it like it's the only option. It is the only option.
He sighs and shakes his head.
"I'm sorry," he drawls sarcastically, "Where are my manners? Please do come in." There's no fear in his eyes, nothing to suggest that this is some kind of act, some confident posturing. Just irritation and resignation, as if this were something long expected and unpleasant that he'd rather avoid.
Both the reason for the visit and the actual conversation itself. Like talking is too much effort for him.
His home looks like a catalogue, everything clean and new looking and in its proper place. A super-anal type-A, everything needs to be just so. This explains the clothes.
Gay. Must be. No woman would put up with that.
I park myself on his overstuffed couch and hate it for being so. Too comfortable, more than it should be. It makes you uncomfortable for drawing you in against your will. I really don't need to be getting comfortable on some suspect's couch. He's facing me in the armchair opposite. Not a recliner. An armchair. He would.
"So," he says, like he's the one in control here, "why, exactly, are you here?"
"We've had information come to light in an old case that connects it to the murder your friend committed around 10 years ago."
No point in sugarcoating it. He must know he was the guy's only connection. I think he was even questioned at one point.
He doesn't flinch.
"And what would this be?"
"There are similarities in the victims; fellow employees, a potential sexual motive and taking place at the same time of year. There's a pattern."
"How exactly do you think I can help you with this?"
He's really starting to piss me off.
"You can't be surprised to know that you're the only person McKnight had extended contact with. All his family is on the other side of the country and the security job was the longest he'd had. Maybe you've got something to say on the matter."
"You didn't know anything about any criminal activity?" Rob decided to use his words, finally. Sometimes I think all he's good for is looking intimidating.
"Like what? You think I made a habit of asking him if he'd snuffed anyone recently? We had more normal weekend plans than that."
This is interesting, this we. Obviously a mistake. A slip-up and maybe a rare one. I try a different tack.
"You spent a lot of time with him?"
"Define 'a lot'."
He must realize that he's made a mistake but he stays smooth, like there's no way in hell he's acknowledging it.
"You associated with him on a regular basis? In your free time?"
"I'm not convinced that I have to answer this. I'm not connected to the case you're working on now and criminal justice isn't my specialty but I know for a fact that it takes more than two incidences to be considered a pattern. If you don't mind, hell even if you do, I buried this-" a wince creases his face, as if this means something, the first real emotion I've seen, "a long time ago. And you're digging it up again. Unless you have any real reason for questioning me, I've got nothing else to say."
It takes me a second to realize that I'm getting the bum's rush from a potential accomplice to murder and something starts to snap but I hold, steady, steady and spew something vaguely face-saving about further contact as necessary and leave like it's what I meant to do all along.
The door's barely shut when Rob voices the overwhelming impression I'd maintained since I originally laid eyes on the suspect.
"Arrogant little prick, isn't he?"
Whatever he had to do with this, he's going to pay for it.
It's been a few days of fruitless digging when Rob brings up the issue of the destroyed security tapes.
"We don't know what happened near the end but we do know how it ended, right?"
"The testimony just specifies that that it was self-defense. Some kind of car
"In a garage?"
"A car chase, followed by a wreck, a fight and by the time the authorities got there, he was a hunk of burnt meat."
"The car didn't do that…"
"She did. Who knows how, though. She confessed and I can't blame her for wanting to kill the sonovabitch. Got some kind of manslaughter pass, I'm guessing. Seeing as he was probably trying to kill her at the time."
"You remember, the other guy, he burned up his victims. Just fillet'd 'em –"
"You know 'fillet' refers to boning, right? Like, de-boning?"
"Fine, he grilled 'em then. Whatever. Question is, why?"
"To get rid of them? This isn't a hard concept."
"He didn't reduce them to ash."
"There's nothing to suggest he was the brightest bulb. Maybe he was just trying to muddy their identities."
"It was a pretty visible murder, considering they were his coworkers. He wanted them to know it was an inside job, too, considering he did it on the clock."
"What are you saying?"
"Maybe the fire was the cause of death. Maybe he's a 'twisted firestarter'."
My eyes instinctively roll at the reference (Rob does the 'snarky cop' thing like he believes his life is an ongoing audition for CSI) but he's got something.
"It would explain where the handcuffs came in. Maybe he got impaled upon by his own sword or some shit."
"Can you imagine if this fuck actually wanted to burn people alive? Shit, he deserved what he got."
I'd say I can't help but agree but that would imply that agreeing actually bothers me.
"Causing pain was the motive. That and the girl."
They will always be girls. Rape victims. No matter how old they are.
"We can only assume that the first set of murders involved rape."
He says it like he's reading my mind and that's pretty good for someone I was never convinced had made it to a high school reading level.
"It's only reasonable. And it gives him another reason to burn the bodies. What else was he doing with her?"
He smiles a grimaced smile that makes me cringe.
"Who knows? Maybe he was just lonely."
It took maybe a week to get Favreaux in for questioning. That's how long it took us to get our hands on the tapes.
He looks as annoyed as ever, as if this was a gigantic annoyance perpetrated for the sheer purpose of irritating him.
He has no idea what he's about to see.
"I told you already that I had nothing to do with this," more condescension then anger, as if he's speaking to a stubborn child. He sits in the flimsy chair like it's a throne, on arm on the plastic table, legs spread, feet flat on the floor, taking up all the space he possibly can.
"We've got something. Security camera footage."
"I wasn't there. The cameras should be able to tell you that, at least."
"That doesn't mean you weren't involved."
"Why are you opening this up after so long? Are the police finally ashamed of the way they swept it under the rug after it happened? It's too little, too late."
"We're considering a connection to a pre-existing cold case." Rob is staring at the guy like he's trying to figure him out.
"I know all about the case you're looking at and your connection is weak. Tom stopped working for that company a month before the murders took place. I didn't know him then but any idiot with his employment records could have figured it out."
If he's doing research, he's worried.
"That's no indicator of anything. The place had bad to no security and it's entirely possible that he had copies of the keys. No one would have known. And someone matching his description was known for making advances towards Truman."
"They didn't have a name for him?" He's questioning without asking. He's trying to prove a point and I hate to let him do it but there's nowhere else to go, verbally. Plus, he might spill something.
"It's not uncommon. It's shift work. Most of them didn't really know each other. None of them lasted long either."
"That doesn't mean that Tom's the guy. There must have been other people who sound enough like they look like him."
He makes a wry, bitter smile.
"Tom has a tendency to run a little invisible."
I don't know what that means but I don't like it. I go back to my original script.
"You were completely unaware of his intention to commit murder?"
"Of course. I didn't know anything until after it happened."
"That's a little odd, don't you think? Your best friend?"
He looks angry for a second, but his face smoothes back into general irritation. He crosses his arms over his chest defensively.
"I guess we weren't as close as all that."
"The people you used to work with tell it different. He used to be in your office all the time…"
"Doesn't mean I knew him any better than anyone else. Sometimes people just lose it. I couldn't see what he didn't show me."
"Or maybe he showed you a lot more than you're telling."
"Don't you think it sounds a little suspicious that he lived here for years and only had one contact, one friend?"
"Maybe that's the reason he lost it." The pained smile is back.
He is one cold fish.
"We've still seen nothing to suggest you didn't give him outside assistance or advice and there's no evidence at all to suggest you didn't participate in the first set of murders."
"Is "I didn't" not good enough? I didn't even know him back then."
"Can you prove that?"
He doesn't yield.
"I hate to poke a hole in your theory, but serial murderers generally go after the sex they're attracted to. Where do I fit in here?"
He is gay, then? Go figure. …
"Men were killed as well, you know that. And there's nothing to suggest that the murders were sexually charged, unless you wanted them to be."
He winced. Good, I've got something.
"You could have easily taken out his other victims while he worked on her. Maybe that's why he failed the second time, because you weren't helping him."
"He failed because it was the first time. How often is it, really, that victims manage to kill their abductors? You can't tell me you think he was some kind of mastermind."
"You have a lot of opinions for someone who wasn't there."
"I know him. At least, I thought I did. He was a spaz but he wasn't Hannibal. Besides what do you think I would have gotten out of helping him, if it was some kind of serial thing?"
"You would have gotten him, maybe," Rob chimes in, "There's a lot of these type of murders that go unsolved. Maybe you two were some kind of modern day Johnny and Clyde. Some kind of messed-up sexual thing."
His face hardens.
He's glaring daggers, maybe bullets and it looks like he's about to start spitting obscenities when he swallows and calm, firm words are released instead, in a tone that says he's used to people listening to him.
"I wasn't there. I wasn't involved. It's been almost 11 goddamn years but I could still find people who could tell you where I was and what I was doing that night, and the night of the other murder too. I can't make you believe them or me but you know for a fact that you have no evidence and no case."
"We've got something though."
"Oh, and what's that?"
"You mind watching something for us?"
I could swear he turns milk-white for a second when we tell him about the tapes but he nods, shrinks in the chair a little while sitting up straighter and pushes his legs together, crossed arms turning into more of a self-hug as he watches.
He watches their first interaction, McKnight and Bridges. A faint smile with something like fondness stretches his tight mouth just a bit. He flinches as McKnight knocks the girl out, fidgets and grimaces through the dinner with an awkward not quite smile emerging every so often, clearly because of something McKnight did. That's not unheard of; we've had nervous smilers and laughers who were perfectly innocent—these things aren't easy to watch and the mind rebels a little bit.
While McKnight is giving her 'the present', Favreaux murmurs something that sounds like "you idiot". His eyes flash with alarm when McKnight hits the television screen. When it comes to the murder itself, his eyes are glued to the screen, panicked like he wants to look away but can't. His fingers twitch, move to the sides of the chair like he needs to grasp something but can't. He flinches in time with the blows and when the car hits the body he raises his hand like he wants to cover his face but stops too low, making a face of disgust as the man's organs hit the ground. He watches the car drive out of the parking lot like he's riveted. I switch off the TV and he's still staring.
"He looks happy." The words sound strangled, like he's trying hard to get them out.
"What was that?"
"He looks really happy."
Favreaux looks suddenly diminished in chair, as if the hour or so he's been sitting there has drained the entire ego out of him. His confidence is gone and he's still staring; forlorn, sad and a little scared. Everything about him has made my skin prickle with irritation but the pissy, arrogant man is gone and the only thing in his place is a hurting child and I'm suddenly very sure that whatever else is wrong with him, he had nothing to do with this.
"You're free to go. We've got nothing else for you. Thanks for your time."
I'm still not apologizing to the twerp.
Rob pulls me off to the side.
"We've still got one more tape."
I try to burn Favreaux's haunted eyes out of my mind.
"Does he look like he understands any of this to you? I guess he was telling the truth."
Favreaux shuffles out without speaking or looking up and I half wonder what's going to happen to him.
Rob looks at me like he expects me to know what to do now. We'll have to go back to the shipping place, talk to everyone again. There's got to be someone who could help us find out who our guy was. Strangely, that's no longer the question that's concerning me right now.
I get my answer not a few days later when I go out to have a drink at some little place where they play loud music softly and people don't bother each other.
There he is, table in the corner, his attitude and moodiness surrounding the entire thing like the proverbial personal bubble.
I decide to take a risk and pop it.
He doesn't even notice me.
"Detective Dixon." He tries to hide the surprise in his voice, "This isn't a cop bar."
"It's not. You think we're all contained to certain places?"
"You should be," He takes a sip out of his surprisingly full drink.
"I understand that what we did was harsh but we needed to. I'm…I'm sorry."
"'We were only following orders' is a pretty famous sentiment, detective."
"You're not seriously implying that we're Nazis, are you? You must realize how that situation looked."
"How it 'looked' doesn't matter. Even rent-a-cops like you are aware of circumstantial evidence."
"People make mistakes." Why am I explaining myself to him?
"They sure do. Ask Tom."
"Like you're so high and mighty. I know what you do for a living. You're a corporate lawyer, mergers and acquisitions. What do you do all day, find air-tight ways to bully and screw people out of their businesses?"
He looks down at the table self-consciously, and I realize how uncommon it is to see him expressing a feeling that isn't anger.
"Not anymore. I did, for a while, but now I'm internal. Hirings and firings, stuff like that. Made the switch a year ago." He raises the glass that he hasn't been drinking from since I sat down in mockery of a toast.
"You changed jobs after…" I don't need to finish that sentence, "You have to realize that looked suspicious." I'm not really pleading my case anymore. I'm just looking for words to say.
"It reminded me of him." He says simply, and I don't ask further.
His phone breaks the silence with a quick, obnoxious beep. He checks it, smiles slightly, and turns it off.
"This person from work. He worries." His mouth twists ironically, like this means something I'm not getting. It fades as quickly as it came and he switches gears again.
"I can't help you with your case. The only stuff I know about it is the stuff I need to know and given what Tom managed to do right under my nose, I'm pretty sure I shouldn't claim to be an expert on that one either-"
He fixes me with a straightforward stare and I realize that he has bags under his eyes I don't remember from the first time I saw him. He's supposed to be hovering somewhere around forty but he's got the kind of face that makes it hard to tell, though it's marked with a bit of stress; neither forever old or forever young, just somewhere in between as if it decided to stay at one arbitrary point in time for the rest of his life. His entire face seems permanently shaped with a discomforting seriousness that never changed even when he was mocking me earlier. It's not authoritative, the look in his eyes, but I wouldn't think of looking away. There's no angle, no attitude, just honest confession. And I would know.
"-but know some things about Tom. Like you said, we were friends for a while and I think, I know…Tom was a murderer…Tom was a murderer, but he wasn't a killer."
He pauses, like he thinks I'm going to say something, and then realizes that I'm not.
"He did it, he committed the act, I know that for sure now," He laughs bitterly, "But killing's something you do often, out of habit; a drive, a passion for causing pain. And that wasn't Tom. As much time as I've spent thinking about it, I think I can tell you that the first and last time he killed someone was December 24, 2006. Tom was my best friend. He loved animals and crappy jokes and sometimes if you said something he didn't like he'd get this stupid, dopey look on his face like he was gonna cry unless you took it back. He was also a murderer. After it happened, that's all I could see every time I closed my eyes and sometimes without closing them. How he did it, why he did it, what it really meant. And now I've seen it, more or less, and now I know…he didn't become a monster or a raving lunatic. Still just Tom, with something inside a little bit broke. I still don't know why, really. And I couldn't even save him-" his voice cracked a little "-it took eleven long years but now I know."
I don't know what to say.
"I'm sorry. I'm boring you." The bitter smile's back.
"No, you're not. You're hurting and it's difficult and I'm not good at this. We don't pick up the pieces."
"You can say that again. It's okay; I'm not so good at that either, apparently, the comfort thing. Obviously."
I can only guess what he's talking about.
"It's not your-"
He holds up a hand.
"You don't believe that and I don't need to hear it. I don't want sympathy, I just…I don't know what I want. I want something I guess it wasn't possible to have. But thanks, honestly. Now I know and that's better than nothing."
He looks into his glass.
"I'm not gonna enjoy this now. Not that I was anyway. You mind if I go?"
I can't do anything but nod.
I watch him leave, thinking of all the things I said to him. Realizing how rarely I've thought of the people left behind. I can't help him. I can't help any of them. But maybe I can solve this case. I drain my glass and think about tomorrow.