2. It Feels Alright, But Never Complete (Without Joy)
On the rainy nights, even the coldest days,
you're moments ago, but seconds away.
The principal of nature, it's true, but it's a cruel world.
He's thinking about chords when it happens. Music chords, that is. Even as he serves table 4 their starting salads, he's really thinking about different ways to play a G Major chord on the guitar. As he makes his way to table 7 to take their order, he hums a song under his breath.
A loud bang suddenly echoes through the restaurant, and Jesse bends down, hands over his ears, and squeezes his eyes shut on pure instinct. He hears the sound of glass shattering and tinkling along the tile floor. It's not until he opens his eyes a few seconds later that he sees red blossoming from his customer's shirt.
"Officers Beale and Mitchell, do you copy? Over."
Beca has no idea how she's supposed to answer, so she picks up the radio, and pressing the red button, responds, "Copy. Over?" It's just like she's seen on TV.
"Calling all officers to location transmitted on display, over."
Luckily Chloe snatches the radio from her and responds, "Wilco, out."
"Wait, what?" Beca asks as Chloe pulls on her wrist, leading her out of the station.
"Come on, slowpoke."
"So, we just stand here?" Beca looks around, leaning casually on the hood of the car.
"It's a blockade," Chloe says, one hand held up to shield from the too bright sun. "We're just making sure no unauthorized person goes through to the crime scene."
"Ugh, I'd rather be at the crime scene."
With a sharp laugh, Chloe tells her, "About everyone here probably thinks the same thing."
"And do you think that too?"
Chloe shrugs. "I'll do whatever they need me to do. That's my duty."
"Whatever, Princess Perfect."
They're not given any information about the case, much to Beca's displeasure, but are sent back to the station after a few hours (three hours, twenty-three minutes, and seven seconds to be exact). Later, as they enter the station, the TV in the corner of the lobby displays a reporter covering the story. Beca plops down on the couch, next to another officer, who shifts over imperceptibly to make room for her. On the other hand, Chloe doesn't bother, and heads straight to her desk.
"…of Bryan Herrera, the spokesman for Naja, a company known for their specialty lotions. It has been confirmed that Mr. Herrera was shot-"
Captain Dunner strolls in and switches the television off despite the immediate protests from the watching officers.
Looking them over, he says, "Get back to your desks, there's other investigations and cases that need your attention. We already have people working on the Herrera case." A few grumbles are heard, but Dunner silences them with a mean glare. "Go on!"
Beca crosses her arms, unimpressed, but heads back to her work station where Chloe is already hard at work, filling out some forms left over from the previous week. She watches as Chloe's now-familiar loopy handwriting fills the page. "What do you think of the Herrera case?"
The pen in Chloe's hand never stops and she takes a moment before looking up at Beca questioningly. "Hm?"
"The Herrera case," Beca repeats, clicking her pen repeatedly, her thumb moving rapidly. "The dude that got shot at Star Bistro."
Momentarily taking a reprieve from the paperwork, Chloe sets down her pen and looks at Beca blankly, "It's a good restaurant."
"Really," Beca deadpans, rolling her eyes.
"They serve the best steak," the redhead replies seriously. "Like, the best ever."
"No, I mean, who do you think killed Herrera?" She honestly can't believe she has to spell this out for Chloe.
Shrugging, Chloe says, "Not my case."
Beca emits a high-pitched gasp, mocking and insincere. "But it's for the good of the people!"
"And since when have you ever been interested in the 'good of the people'?" Chloe makes two quotation marks in the air.
"And what if there's a mass murderer out there, dropping people like-"
"I doubt it's a mass murderer, Beca," Chloe replies amusedly, eyes dropping back to the paperwork.
At this, Beca's fingers fumble with the pen and it drops to the floor with a clatter. "So you do have ideas about the case."
"It doesn't matter," Chloe turns her chair away from the brunette and towards the computer, typing Brandon's information in quickly.
Beca spins the chair back, and traps Chloe there with both hands on the armrests, "What if I told you I think I know who is involved, or at least, who might be able to know?"
"I would tell you that you should tell the detectives who are actually in charge of this case what you know," Chloe's eyes narrow. Great, she's back to being all about the rules.
"You're no fun," Beca sighs forlornly instead and reverts back to her default mode of bored. She begins to sort through the various papers on her desk, grumbling under her breath.
"Did you say something?"
They continue working in silence.
And really, no one should expect Beca to back off a case this big. Crimes are her thing. It's like telling a bibliophile to not touch anything in a library.
She doesn't trust that Chloe will keep her mouth shut in regards to anything they might discover, so she decides to go it solo. After work, Beca changes and walks briskly to the small shack where the minor operations of Snake take place, flipping her hood over her head. The sun has completely set when she reaches her destination.
Grizzly lets her in after she knocks (elaborately, because to hell with the codes today) and she nods at him curtly. He mumbles something that she doesn't quite catch, his slight accent not helping either.
"Wanna get Bumper or Donald down here for me, big guy?"
He lumbers away, and Beca takes that to mean yes. As she waits for his return, she swivels around, examining the main room. The wood looks like it's rotting away, and the supporting beams (five of them, which should be comforting, but curiously isn't) seem less than stable. She suspects they'll be relocating any day now.
"Mitchell," Bumper's voice comes from behind her. He knows how much she hates being called by her surname.
"If you keep coming down here, I'll think it's 'cause you're missing me," he says, his expression calculating.
"Not a chance," Beca replies stiffly, leaning against the nearby wall, causing the building to groan alarmingly.
"So you're down here for what…old times' sake?" He circles around her to the bench and sits, patting the seat beside him patronizingly. "Or perhaps, for more investigating?"
Beca's lips thin out, and Bumper has all the response he needs. Her foot takes to tapping against the base of the wall.
"But tell me one thing," he holds up a finger. "How are you going to explain where your information is coming from? And what are you going to do when you have to investigate Snake?"
"That's two things," she retorts smugly, the corners of her lips curling upwards.
"What can I say? Math was never my strong suit."
"You give me far too little credit," she finally pushes off the wall and settles down beside him, hesitantly. "But I suspect the Herrera murder will already bring the investigation to Snake."
"Let's not play dumb here."
Bumper shrugs, his mouth contorting. "I don't know anything about it."
"Star Bistro is our- your turf," she stumbles over the words.
He's amused by her slip-up, but lets it pass. "Not anymore. A lot of things happen in six months, Beca." Digging around in his pocket, Bumper fishes out a packet of cigarettes and nonchalantly offers her one. She waves a quick refusal that causes his eyebrows to fly up. "It's Volkov's terrority now."
"If you're so interested, you should come back," he says. "Always need more women to pour coffee and make us sandwiches around here."
"I'd be alert for arsenic if I were you" says Beca snidely.
"You want to know about Herrera? Ask Volkov." He lights up, and then mocks, "Oh wait, I forgot, he'll most likely kill you on the spot."
"Thanks for your concern."
"Yeah, well," Bumper exhales, smoke filling the air. "Shitty thing you did to his daughter."
Of course he'd bring it up. She bites the tip of her thumb.
"Yeah. But I paid for it."
He tilts his head to the side, but doesn't disagree.
At approximately five minutes past noon, Chloe and Beca tag along with Detectives Moran and Paley to collect the evidence at Star Bistro. Detective Moran is a tall man with blonde hair and blue eyes, and he flips his hair to the side every four to seven seconds. His partner, Detective Paley, is a little shorter than him, with black hair and a mustache curling obscenely over his upper lip. Chloe directs Beca to the counter, where they scour for glass pieces.
It becomes evident within a few sentences that Moran and Paley are absolutely useless.
"Does this look like his hair?" Paley grunts.
Beca rolls her eyes; it's the wrong color. Chloe nudges her, with a disapproving frown.
"He was sitting here," Moran squats next to the booth, facing the table, and pats a hand onto his chest, "And he was shot in the front."
Honestly, Beca tries not to listen to him blabber, but eavesdropping is sort of second nature to her.
"And the shattered window was behind him…" Moran points back and forth. "Hm, that's odd."
"Obviously, whatever shattered the window wasn't what killed him," Beca mutters under her breath, as Chloe shoots another glare.
"Did you say something?" Moran asks, turning to her, his brow furrowed.
"She said, the counters don't have anything on them that could be construed as evidence," Chloe interrupts her before she can repeat herself.
"Oh, well, you can leave us," he says, turning around, a clear dismissal.
Ready to give him a piece of her mind, Beca begins to charge forward, but Chloe's arm bars her stomach, preventing her from moving forward. The redhead is surprisingly strong, pulling Beca out of the restaurant easily, even though she digs her heels into the ground.
Once they're outside and the door slams shut, Beca turns on Chloe, "What the hell? Were you listening to him? Detective Moran? More like Detective Moron."
"No matter what you say, he won't listen to you," Chloe advises her, still as calm as ever.
"Jesus Christ," Beca fumes, "Jesus fucking Christ."
"Shut up," Beca snaps on instinct, nearly regretting it when Chloe flinches. "God, that was the most ineffective, most useless, most worthless person I have ever met."
Despite Beca's obvious foul mood, Chloe rubs soothing circles against her back, and although Beca can feel her fingers clenching erratically, on some level it's helping.
"I think you were right," Chloe whispers cautiously, "Maybe we will have to take this into our own hands."
Shocked, the brunette looks at her disbelievingly, not completely confident that her hearing is working properly.
"I assume you have a lead," she continues, waiting for Beca's verbal reaction.
"Yes," Beca nods dumbly. "But you'll have to investigate it without me."
Two favors in two days is not how Beca typically likes her odds with Bumper, but given the circumstances, she figures she has no other choice. She dials his number, letting it ring twice before hanging up, and redialing.
"I think you've forgotten how our business works," Bumper says, his voice filled with derision after she explains the delicate situation to him. "It's give and take, not take and take and take. Besides, if I side with the cops and rat out the Volkovs, you know what will happen."
"So the Volkovs are involved in the murder," she surmises.
He laughs (like a bark), "Please, we both know it's them. So, why should I arrange this for you? The way I see it, all I'll get for my trouble is a bullet in the back of my head."
"Nah," she remarks, "It'll probably be in your chest if Herrera is anything to go off of."
"Volkovs would never target you, that'd be open warfare on Snake. And like you say, I'm with the cops now. Let's say you or one of your girls gets into a little trouble…"
There's a pause (of about four and a half seconds), and Beca knows she's won.
"That's more like it, Mitchell."
She sighs. "Don't call me that."
Donning a casual dress, sea blue and to the knee, Chloe waits in the lobby of Volkov Industry Headquarters, wobbling dangerously on her heels. A few minutes before the scheduled time, the secretary, Jessica, calls out, "Ms. Rose?"
She pivots carefully on the carpet (it smells suspiciously like lavender) and executes a small wave.
"Mr. Volkov will see you now," Jessica informs her, holding one arm out. "This way."
When they enter the main office, Jessica leaves, shutting the door behind her. Chloe clears her throat to draw the attention of the man at the desk. He looks up, his hair greying visibly (but not yet balding), and she notes that his eyes are a special shade of green, chartreuse perhaps.
"Ms. Rose, I take it?"
"Call me Stefan." He gestures towards the two armchairs in front of his desk, "Please, have a seat."
The pot of mints is pushed towards her. "How can I help you?"
She politely refuses and says, "I made an inquiry a couple of weeks ago about buying the Star Bistro, but never heard back. And this week…well, that terribly unfortunate accident." Chloe worries her lip purposefully, her tone light, as if the murder is simply a small mistake.
"I do not own the Star Bistro, Ms. Rose," Stefan holds out his hands as if to indicate that the matter is unrelated to him.
"That's quite odd," Chloe notes. "As I spoke to Sasha Malyshev and he told me he would redirect my inquiry to you."
Stefan's eyes narrow as he watches her expression carefully. "Mr. Malyshev perhaps meant to confuse you, as I hear he has trouble saying no to pretty women."
"How interesting," she continues, trying not to let any weakness show in her tone. "Both men I have questioned try and distance themselves from Star Bistro, as if then maybe I will forget that they are both likely linked to Bryan Herrera."
"Ms. Rose," Stefan says coolly. "If that is really your name, I seem to have underestimated you." He pauses, waiting for her reply, but she wisely keeps her mouth shut. "You're doing a dangerous thing here, playing with fire, I hope you're prepared for the consequences."
"I am not made of ice," Chloe replies, just as evenly. "But water. And water does not burn easily."
"What is it, exactly, that you want?"
"I want to know who murdered Mr. Herrera, and I want the murderer brought to justice. Then, I will want to buy Star Bistro." Her fingernails are digging into her knees viciously, but she steels herself to reveal nothing.
"You are an intriguing woman, Ms. Rose," Stefan decides, one hand reaching towards his file cabinet. Chloe stiffens, preparing for the worst, but he simply pulls out a manila folder and tosses it towards her. "There's fifty thousand dollars in that envelope."
"And you're proposing…?"
"Fifty thousand to realize that perhaps Star Bistro is not the ideal purchase you initially thought it to be," he replies smoothly. Ah bribery, just like Beca told her would happen. "If you still find the restaurant to your liking, perhaps your instinct to run just now was correct." And there's the threat.
"No need," she stands, smoothing her dress down. "I know you're not the murderer, so I will stop wasting your time. Thank you, Mr. Volkov."
"How do you know it's not me?" He stops her with one hand raised.
"Because if you had murdered him, you wouldn't have bribed and threatened me," Chloe tells him. "Too obvious."
"Then if I was the murderer, what would I have done instead?" He seems genuinely curious as to what her answer will be.
"I think you would've tried to misdirect me, or you would've killed me on the spot."
Stefan laughs, a hollow one, but it raises goose bumps along Chloe's arm anyway. "So you knew there was a possibility that you wouldn't make it out of here alive, and yet, here you are."
Swiftly, Chloe pulls up the right side of her dress, and fingers the trigger to the gun strapped around her thigh. "I'm not as helpless as you think."
Clearly a little surprised, he shrugs, "I could have you arrested for carrying that onto this property."
"But you won't," Chloe tells him confidently.
"I won't," he affirms, "Since you are obviously with the police."
It seems she's underestimated him as well.
"Then we have a mutual interest in this case, Mr. Volkov. We both wish to find the murderer, so I suggest you-"
"But you see, my people will find him before you do," he says. "And when we find him, we will punish him with our law. I tell you this because you already know it."
Chloe chuckles. "We'll see. Don't be so confident that you'll get to the killer first. Especially since you have mistaken her for a man."
"The Volkovs don't know who the murderer is, but I'm fairly sure Herrera was on their side," Chloe drops down on Beca's sofa with a hard exhale. "These heels are killing me."
Taking in her partner's glamorous appearance, Beca comments, "That dress suits you."
"Thanks," Chloe says, a little taken aback by the sudden compliment. She scrutinizes Beca closely, attempting to figure out what she's after exactly.
"The Volkovs would be stupid to take out an enemy in such a public matter, especially on their own turf," Beca agrees with her assessment, completely oblivious to Chloe's examining gaze. "So it could be that someone's trying to frame them, or just a regular murder, the fact that it took place in their restaurant is just a slap in the face, or…?"
It appears that perhaps Beca has no ulterior motive here. Chloe files away this memory under "free once in a lifetime compliment from Beca Mitchell".
"Or it's all completely unrelated," Chloe offers, redirecting her attention to the case. "But Stefan seemed bent on getting the murderer before us, so I'm thinking it's from a rival organization."
"Well the Volkov family has had a sort of cold war, if you will, with Havek."
She's not sure how much she can reveal to Chloe. "It's a low tier crime organization. They usually provide monitoring services and technology, which is just a nice way of saying they spy on people. You've never heard of it?"
"Never heard of it. Organized crimes are usually dealt with by senior officers." While Chloe is obviously curious, she doesn't press Beca for more information. "So they don't typically murder people?"
"No," Beca says, biting her fingernail. "What did Volkov say exactly when he said they wanted to find the murderer first?"
"He said he was only telling me because I already knew, and that when they found the killer, they'd punish him with their own law, and-"
"Their own law?"
"Yeah," Chloe confirms.
"I think maybe…the killer is a Volkov," Beca taps her fingers along the edge of the table. "Gone rogue."
"A Volkova even, perhaps."
Beca looks up, "What makes you say that?"
With a shrug, Chloe responds, "Just a hunch."
"Where do we go from here? We can't just go around questioning various Volkovs, that'd be too suspicious."
The redhead tosses a file at her. "Autopsy showed Mr. Herrera was killed in close range."
Beca pulls out the evidence, "Interesting, there's threads of cloth on the bullet, threads that don't match Herrera's coat."
"I think we can start by asking the waiters and waitresses," says Chloe. "I have the shortened interview notes on some of them already."
"How did you get this stuff?"
There's a mischievous twinkle in Chloe's eyes that astonishes Beca, "You're not the only one who does slight of hand tricks."
Beca gapes, before smirking, "I'm proud."
The young man with short brown hair looks up as he wipes the table, "Just Jesse, m'am."
"I'm Officer Beale, and this is my partner Officer Mitchell," she introduces, shaking his hand firmly. He straightens his collar out and nods in acknowledgement. "We have a few questions for you if you don't mind."
"I already answered that other Detective's questions," Jesse says, slinging the towel over his shoulder. "Detective Moran, I think."
"We just have a few more," Beca interjects. "A bit more detailed."
"Yeah, sure, go for it," he replies, crossing his arms, looking her over. Chloe notices the way his eyes linger on her shoes and ear spikes particularly.
"Did you see anyone wearing a big coat?"
Jesse raises an eyebrow, "Like a suspicious person? Because Detective Moran asked me that already."
"No, just someone with a big coat, or maybe a puffy skirt?"
"Table 6 had a gentleman that I was serving, and he had a brown overcoat and black hat," Jesse recalls.
"Did you happen to see where he was when the shooting happened?" Beca scribbles his answers down hurriedly.
"It all was so fast," he grimaces, probably remembering the blood. "I just knew that one moment I was on my way to that booth," he points, "And the next there's a loud bang, I look up and the man is clutching his chest, his blood is like overflowing. Then there's lots of screaming and the glass shatters."
"Wait," Chloe interrupts, "The window shattered after he was shot?"
"I don't know, I heard the bang first and then realized there was glass flying everywhere," Jesse says, his face looking a little pale. "Like I said, everything happened so fast."
"The man in the overcoat," Beca redirects, "Do you know his name?"
"I think we still have his receipt."
"Could you give us a copy?" Chloe requests.
Beca takes a step closer to him, one arm on his shoulder, her head barely reaching that height anyway. "Are you okay? You look a little shaken."
Perhaps it's because Chloe's never seen Beca look so concerned, but her brow furrows immediately. It seems a little odd that the brunette starts caring about others now.
"Just can't get Mr. Herrera's expression out of my face," Jesse admits, biting the inside of his cheek.
She nods understandingly, and tells him, "It's gonna be okay, dude."
Back in the patrol car, Beca tosses something square shaped into Chloe's lap. Chloe picks up the wallet questioningly.
"The waiter's," Beca says as explanation, her pinky drumming on the radio panel. "He seemed a bit off to me, so I just wanted to see if he was hiding anything. All the people who work directly for the Volkovs have a patch with the insignia of a wolf on it." Chloe opens her mouth, no doubt to protest the snatching of the wallet, but Beca merely interjects, "I'll return it to him. We have to cover our bases. If he's with the Volkovs, then we'd be unwise to follow the trail he's set for us."
Fine. Chloe empties the contents of the wallet onto her lap. Library card, Blockbuster card, Walgreen's, coupons for the grocery store, a few dollars, driver's license, insurance card, debit card, and on and on.
"I don't think he's affiliated with the Volkovs," Chloe finally says.
"Looks that way," Beca says, a little disappointed. "Let me go return this to him now."
When she's out of earshot, Chloe laughs a little. Of course. Of course Beca would feign sympathy to steal something.
When Beca returns, Chloe pulls out the copy of the receipt Jesse offered over and searches the name on it. Pulling up records from the database they're able to find his address.
"That's Kevin McHollow's house," Beca points to the right as they arrive. "It looks kind of deserted." The five windows (something that reassures Beca that they're on the right track) of the white bungalow are all shut, and it's completely dark.
"Come on, then," Chloe steps out of the car with an air of false bravery.
"By all means, just charge in," Beca mutters under her breath.
The doorbell echoes clearly throughout the house. No answer. Peculiar, Beca thinks, scrunching her nose.
After the fourth attempt, Beca suggests, "Maybe he's not home."
"He's at home," Chloe insists. "His car is still in the garage, and his bike is locked to the fence. If he were out walking, he would've left his porch light on, so he could see the keyhole when he returned."
Beca opens her mouth, but finding nothing to retort, she closes it again.
"I think he's dead," Chloe whispers, her tone sad.
"Well," Beca decides, "If he's dead, then I guess he won't mind me picking his lock." She squats down and does just that.
Chloe turns and blocks Beca from the street view with her body. "I hate it when you do that."
"When I show off, or when I show off my blatant disregard for the law?"
The pins click and Beca shrugs, "I can live with that."
Stepping in, Chloe feels along the wall until her fingers hit the light switch. The moment the apartment fills with light, Beca grimaces.
"I hate it when you're right."
Kevin McHollow, 5'9 with dark chestnut hair, lies prone on the floor, his eyes staring off into the distance. His blue plaid shirt is stained with flecks of white and a light liquid, his top button is open, revealing a black vest underneath. But he is unquestionably dead.
"So how shall we explain this to the Lieutenant and to the Captain?" Beca slams the door shut hurriedly with her elbow.
"Only thing I can think is that…we don't," the redhead decides, her eyebrows drawing down in concentration. Beca decides she likes how Chloe looks when she's focused (sharp eyes, like a hawk). "If this is the guy who killed Herrera, then whoever killed McHollow thinks she's gotten away with it."
"I'll see if I can find his overcoat, why don't you see if you can tell what killed him?"
"We shouldn't tamper with evidence," Chloe says, her voice suddenly small, her intent mask falling away.
For fuck's sake. Beca sighs. "If we hand this over to the Captain, he'll send Moran and Paley to investigate this, and we both know that we can do more with this evidence than they can. Do you want to find McHollow's killer, and the story behind all of this?"
"Is that how you see crimes?" Chloe's eyes shine with unhidden interest. "As stories?"
"They're mysteries, aren't they?" She fiddles with the zipper of her jacket nervously. "Most people, when they see a blood stain on the floor, they think, oh god, how terrible. When I see a blood stain, I think of all the possibilities, all the ways it could've gone down, all the reasons why." Beca pauses. "I see Kevin McHollow here, for example, and think he pissed someone off, and I want to know why."
For a moment, she thinks Chloe is going to object to her mindset.
"I'll check the kitchen," Chloe says, nodding, and walks briskly past Beca.
Walking into the living room, the first thing Beca sees is the overcoat that's been thrown over the sofa carelessly. She picks it up, fingers dragging along the inside until she finds the hole she's been looking for. It's about the right size, and still coated with a black powder. Yep, he's the one who murdered Bryan Herrera. Shifting the jacket in her arms, Beca realizes there's another hole on the other side.
She calls out for her partner as she makes her way back to the entrance of the bungalow.
"I've found his coat which he must've used to conceal the gun, and there's a hole in the pocket of the right side, where he must've shot Herrera through it. Weirdest thing is there's another hole too."
Chloe turns the corner, her lips pale, and expression a tiny bit nauseous, "Well, I figured out what killed McHollow."
"He vomited in the sink," Chloe informs her, grimacing at the remembrance of the stench. "And there's a bottle of wine on the counter that smells a bit like almonds. I tasted a little, I'm pretty sure it's cyanide."
"Don't you typically lose control of your bowel functions when poisoned by cyanide?" She remembers quite vividly a man who died of cyanide poisoning. Not a pleasant sight or smell.
"I'm thinking he realized what it was after a few gulps and tried to force it out," Chloe thinks aloud. "The cabinets are clawed open in various angles, showing he was trying to stop his flailing limbs. The vomit must've burned through his esophagus, or caused an airway obstruction. We'd need an autopsy to find out."
"We shouldn't stay here too long," Beca decides, observing her uneasy expression. "Let's meet up tomorrow and try to figure out how McHollow and Herrera are linked."
"Okay," Chloe looks at her thankfully. "That sounds good."
The ride to Beca's apartment is quiet save for the brunette's occasional murmur of, "Bear, Hawk, Tiger, Snake, Wolf."
Although Chloe wonders exactly what importance those words hold to Beca, she wisely doesn't ask.
That night is a sleepless one for Beca; she feels so close to the answers that she knows she can't stop her search. A quick Google search identifies Kevin McHollow as an employee of Naja, and most fascinatingly, identifies him as a former candidate for the spokesman position until Bryan Herrera was imported from Argentina specifically for the job. Great, now she has a vague motive. But why would McHollow wait three years to strike?
Searching through various news archives yields no additional information, something that she finds quite frustrating. A long overdue visit to Naja is in order, she thinks. Pulling up all articles about Naja from the past six months, Beca begins to read.
Absentmindedly, she realizes the sun is rising and she's gone the entire night without a break. Falling into bed thankfully, Beca is asleep the moment her head hits the pillow.
What the fuck is that sound?
Ding! Ding! Ding!
Five rings within the span of a few seconds. Beca rises from the bed, the springs creaking, and stretches, her muscles screaming in protest. "Yeah, I'm coming!" She yells at the door.
Swinging open, the door reveals Chloe standing outside, unimpressed.
Dying of starvation isn't how Beca imagines she wants to leave the world, so she convinces Chloe to accompany her to a local bakery. They walk, so as to draw less attention to themselves (they are out of uniform after all). Beca fills her in on the details on the way there, also throwing in some personal theories of hers regarding the motives of McHollow.
"What do you think?"
Chloe looks at her, entertained, "Since when do you care what I think?"
"Since your hunch of Brandon Childs turned out to be astonishingly accurate," Beca replies without missing a beat. "You're more useful than the majority of the people at the station, even if you don't seem it."
"Thanks," Chloe replies dryly at her backhanded compliment.
"What do you think were his motives?"
"Based on what we know, I think there's something more personal to this," Chloe muses, her mouth quirking to the side (something Beca now understands is an indicator of deep thinking on Chloe's part). "It's not just about the position. He killed this man in public, McHollow wanted people to remember this, or wanted it to hurt someone."
"Okay," Beca nods. "I get that. But who could he hurt? Herrera wasn't married, has no family in the United States, and according to his maid, had no close friends."
"That's pretty sad if you think about it," Chloe muses. "Being all alone in a foreign country, knowing no one, having no ties."
"It's the same with McHollow, he doesn't seem to have any close friends or family in the area."
At that moment, Chloe stops abruptly.
"Isn't that Mr. Swanson?"
Beca follows her line of sight to the entrance of the subway. Lo and behold, it is the waiter dude, strumming away on his guitar and singing. While Beca tries to steer Chloe in the opposite direction, the redhead is especially determined to approach Jesse.
"No," Beca pleads. "Why? There's no reason to. Chloe. Chloe? Chloe!"
Still, she ignores Beca and drops a dollar into Jesse's opened guitar case. He smiles and nods at her, "Thank you, Officer Beale."
"I thought you were a waiter," she says.
"I am, I just play on my days off." He admits bashfully, "I'm trying to start a band actually."
"That's really cool," Chloe gushes, and Beca nearly rolls her eyes at how enthusiastic her partner actually sounds. "Would you maybe want to get coffee with us right now?"
Of course he would.
"So did you always want to become a police officer?"
Sipping her hot cocoa, Chloe nods, "Since I was nine."
Feigning disinterest is what Beca is best at, so she plays with the stirring stick as she waits for Chloe's reasoning. They really need to get back to the case, but for some reason Chloe just isn't budging despite her obvious cues.
"Oh, any particular reason why?" Jesse asks, his arm resting casually on the table, a little too close for Beca's taste.
"Not really," Chloe replies evenly, but Beca notices that she plays with her hair as she says that. "I just wanted a chance to be a superhero I guess."
"That's cute," Jesse grins. "And how about you, Beca?"
"I never thought about it until recently," Beca replies, "When my dad decided it would be a great way for me to pay penance to society."
"Warren Mitchell," she says, her expression still cool.
She nods in confirmation.
"That must've been rough," Jesse concedes to her surprise.
"Yeah, it was okay," she falters a tiny bit.
Suddenly, Chloe's phone sounds, the familiar tune of Titanium playing as her ringtone. Beca raises an eyebrow, silently approving of her taste in music. Chloe swears quietly as she picks up, making an apologetic face at her two companions.
Jesse and Beca watch her talk, momentarily silent.
"Right now?" Chloe groans. "Okay, okay. I'll be there. Okay." Turning back to the two of them, Chloe apologizes, her fingers twirling in a strand of hair, "I have to go, family emergency. Keep her company for me, okay? Talk to you later, Beca." And then she's gone before Beca can object to her decision-making.
Chloe doesn't turn back. Great. Now she's alone with Jesse.
"So, do you like music?" He asks her.
She mumbles, "Yeah, I do."
"There's a pop-rock band playing in town this afternoon, would you maybe want to accompany me?" His eyes are shining brightly, as if hopeful. "No pressure, just sucks to go to concerts alone."
Really, how can she refuse him after a pathetic statement like that?
Meanwhile, Chloe rushes out of the coffee shop and flags down a taxi. Settling into the back seat, she asks, "Can you take me to this address?"
The taxi driver nods, "Of course."
She steps out of the taxi and out towards the front of Naja Headquarters. It's a tall building, massive and looming overhead.
"Excuse me, may I speak to John Menon?" She requests of the secretary in the front office, as she flashes her badge. "I'm with the police department."
"Let me see if he's busy," the secretary, Marsha, complies. "Hello, Sir? There's an Officer Beale down here who wishes to speak with you." After a slight pause, "Of course, Sir, right away." Hanging up, Marsha points towards the elevators, "His office is on the sixteenth floor, last door on your left."
"Thanks," Chloe smiles widely.
Following the secretary's directions, she reaches the last office, the plaque clearly introducing Operating Chairman John Menon. She knocks on the open door to give fair warning and steps into the vast area of his office.
"Mr. Menon," she greets, shaking his outstretched hand.
"A pleasure, Officer Beale," he nods. She takes in his appearance, slightly curled brown hair, amused grey eyes, and pleasant demeanor. "Please, sit down. I assume you're here about Bryan."
"Yes, I just have a few additional questions."
"Ask away," he invites.
"How many female employees do you have at this company?"
He chortles, "Not exactly what I expected, but about 34% of our employees are women, and around seven women worked closely with Mr. Herrera."
"How about women working with Kevin McHollow?"
"Kevin? What does he have to do with all this?" Mr. Menon asks.
"We suspect he is tied to the case, but cannot release any specific information at this time," Chloe explains, raking her fingers through her hair.
"Well, Miranda is his assistant, and Sydney is his marketing advisor," he lists off. "I think that's about it."
"Thank you, Mr. Menon, you've been extremely helpful. Is it possible I could spend maybe five or six minutes with Miranda and Sydney?"
"Of course," he nods, "We want to find Mr. Herrera's killer as much as you do, maybe even more."
She doubts it's more.
"So this band has been my favorite for about seven years," Jesse yells over the pandemonium of the crowd. "They formed in Vancouver and relocated to Chicago just recently!"
Grudgingly, Beca admits that he also has good taste in music; the clanging bass line and high guitar riffs are matching perfectly with the rhythm of the drums and the singer's hoarse voice. Jesse sings along with the chorus, as do the majority of the people in the crowd. Though she'd really rather be getting back to the Herrera-McHollow case, Beca can't deny how much she enjoys the music scene, or how much she enjoys feeling invisible and being part of a crowd (a mob, the more cynical part of her claims).
When that particular song ends, the crowd whistles and cheers wildly, the surrounding adrenaline sweeping around so deadly, that Beca finds herself clapping too.
"They're good, right?" He's yelling over everyone and into her ear.
Beca unintentionally laughs. "Yeah, okay."
Right at that moment, the guitarist begins an intricate solo that causes her jaw to drop. And she suddenly forgets about murder and crimes and the Volkovs and everything. All that exists in that one moment is the music.
The instant that Chloe's eyes fall on Sydney, she knows she's onto something. Quickly excusing herself from the conversation with Miranda, she approaches Sydney, a tall and beautiful woman with extremely pale skin.
"Ms. Johnson, hi, I'm Officer Beale, I have a few questions for you."
Their eyes meet, and Sydney's brown ones quiver a little, "Nice to meet you, how can I help?"
"I understand you're Mr. McHollow's marketing advisor."
That one statement causes Sydney's right hand to fly up to the back of her head, "Yes, but I haven't seen him in a few days."
Suspicious. Too suspicious.
"How long have you and Mr. McHollow been seeing each other?" It's just a hunch, but it's proven correct, when Sydney's eyes widen.
It all clicks suddenly. "And how long had you been cheating on him with Mr. Herrera?"
Sydney's surprise drops like dead weight, and calculatingly, she confesses, "From mid –March until he was murdered."
"And where were you at 1 P.M. on Thursday?"
"On the roof of Chaplin Church," she replies immediately. "With a .308 rifle aimed at Kevin's head."
"I see," Chloe drawls. The whole thing is just so off. Why is Sydney telling her this?
Sydney clears it up with a quiet whisper, "The Volkovs arrived before you did."
"What did they say?"
The woman ignores Chloe and continues, "If you can guarantee that I'll be sent to Bayside Prison, I'll go to the station and confess my crimes."
"I can't guarantee it," Chloe admits, "But you'll be safer at the station than you are here."
Sydney's eyes flicker downwards, "That's good enough for me, I suppose."
As Beca and Jesse are getting refreshments, her phone vibrates insistently against her thigh.
"Hold on," she lifts a finger, and hands Jesse her cup of soda. "Hello?"
"Beca, this is Chloe."
"What's up?" She tries to contain her laughter as Jesse nearly collides with a woman pushing a stroller. Suddenly her face shuts down, "What?"
"Come down to the station, I'll explain everything here."
"Sorry, dude," Beca runs up to Jesse. "Duty calls."
He shrugs, "I totally understand. I hope you had fun at least."
"Surprisingly yes," Beca calls as she walks away, backwards. "Yes, I did."
"Okay, so what exactly happened, Beale?" Beca tosses her jacket across the desk, sending a few loose papers flying.
"I thought it had to do with the Volkovs," Chloe groans, covering her face in her hands. "And I knew you wouldn't want me to go alone, so I lied about the family emergency."
"I know," Beca reveals. "You play with your hair when you lie."
Twirling a pen between her fingers, Beca continues, "You could've just said told me, you know."
"I'm sorry," Chloe says sincerely, biting her lip. "I should've trusted you."
The brunette's thumb bounces erratically against the tip of the pen, "Water under the bridge." She half means it. After all, she can only kind of blame her partner for trying to protect her, no matter how misguided those attempts are.
"So, fill me in."
"They won't let me watch the interrogation," Chloe glowers. "And I'm pretty sure Captain Dunner is going to skin me alive later."
"Nevertheless," Beca leans against the edge of the desk, pushing it back against the wall slightly. "Tell me what you think happened and what you think will happen."
"I don't know, just something about how distant and detached the killings were, even though they were obviously personal, led me to believe it was a woman who orchestrated the entire thing. The shattered glass confused me at first, but it's obvious now that they weren't aiming for Herrera, but McHollow. He was wearing a vest, a bulletproof one I'm sure."
Beca listens in rapt concentration, trying to concoct the scene in her imagination.
"A sniper must've hit him from across the street, because there were no other bullets found at the crime scene. It must've lifted him off his feet and down onto the floor, so no one even suspected him of anything. That would explain the second hole. But the thing is, the sniper knew he had gone there to kill Herrera. She had to. And so given the assumption that the killer was a woman, and that McHollow killed Herrera for personal reasons, it was only a small leap for me to assume she had been seeing both men."
"Why would she kill McHollow and let him kill Herrera then?"
"I couldn't figure that out either at first," Chloe looks at her carefully. "You mutter things under your breath a lot, did you know that, Beca?"
Raising an eyebrow, Beca replies, "I didn't realize this had become a criticism of me."
"No," Chloe shakes her head. "Not like that. You like to repeat stuff over and over, usually five times. Most people wouldn't pay too much attention to it, but you sit right across from me all day long."
"You kept mumbling, 'Bear, Hawk, Tiger, Snake, Wolf. Bear, Hawk, Tiger, Snake, Wolf.'"
Clenching her fingers does nothing to alleviate the sudden pressure Beca feels against her chest. "Chloe, it's not-"
"And I thought it was just another quirk of yours," Chloe says, scrunching her mouth. "But then I remembered Volkov comes from the Russian word, volk, which means wolf."
Beca looks around in alarm, before stepping closer to Chloe and whispering, "Don't talk about it so loudly."
"And Havek, which you mentioned the other day, is an old English word for hawk. So you were reciting the names of crime organizations."
The brunette looks up at her, a little afraid. "Are you going to arrest me?"
Chloe snorts. "That was honestly the last thing on my mind."
"Then why bring this up?"
"Because Naja is a type of poisonous snake."
"Naja isn't owned by Snake though," Beca shoots quick glances around the room to make sure they're not being eavesdropped on. "What use would they have for lotions?"
"It would make sense though," Chloe shrugs. "Herrera worked for the Volkovs and was spying on the people in Naja. Sydney would've been ordered by Snake to kill him, but she had McHollow do it instead. And just to cover her tracks, she shot him too."
"That's far-fetched, Chloe," Beca says (even though it sounds exactly like a Snake operation). "That would mean Sydney was working for Snake."
"Jesse said he only heard one shot, and no one at the Church heard anything either," Chloe recounts. "So I'm thinking Sydney used a rifle silencer, but you can't just buy them, that's illegal for civilians. She must've obtained it illegally, and that would mean she was working with or for someone."
"Why would they let her get caught then?"
"I was kind of hoping you could tell me that."
At that moment, Captain Dunner strides into the room (Chloe and Beca halt their conversation) and looks at the two of them through narrowed eyes. "I don't know what to say to you girls," he starts.
"You could start off as calling us women," Beca replies sarcastically.
"You've disobeyed orders again," Captain Dunner continues. "Even after the warning last week."
"We also discovered who killed Herrera and McHollow," she points out.
"You're both suspended for two weeks," he raises his voice, causing heads to turn. Then quietly, he tells them, "Upon your return you'll be promoted to Detectives, since it seems you're the only two people in this entire hellhole who know what they're doing."
Chloe exchanges a surprised look with Beca before turning back to the Captain, "Sorry for causing trouble, Captain."
"Yeah well," he suppresses a smile and replies gruffly, "I see it's becoming a habit."
They leave the station in high spirits despite the suspension, laughing a little at how the events have unfolded. But as they turn the corner towards Chloe's patrol car, Beca catches sight of someone familiar. She stops in her tracks and stares at an Asian woman with an emotionless face.
"Something wrong, Beca?"
The Asian woman stares at her back, unflinchingly, before walking away.
"I don't think Sydney was the killer after all," Beca blurts, internally frustrated with how stupid she's been this entire time.
"What? What do you mean?"
"Just forget it," she fiddles with her collar uncomfortably. "You're better off not knowing."
Chloe's forehead creases as she accosts Beca, "We're partners, Beca. In this together and all that."
"Didn't stop you from ditching me with the waiter earlier," Beca retorts, still pulling at her collar.
"Yeah, because I wanted to protect you," the redhead shakes her head angrily. "Listen, I know you have a shady past and that you still have connections with these criminal organizations. But I trust you enough to not panic and flip out." There it is, trust. Beca is liking the word less and less. "I thought we had something good going on here," Chloe finishes, slightly disappointed.
"We work pretty well together," Beca admits with a sharp tilt of her head. "I guess."
"So tell me then, Beca. Just, please."
Beca's lips ache for a cigarette for some odd reason, but she wearily gives in. Jabbing her thumb in the direction that the Asian woman had left, she says, "That woman is one of Snake's most highly regarded assassins. She didn't show up here by accident."
"What are you saying?"
She watches as Kimmy Jin takes her eighty-ninth step away from them before answering, "Sydney took the fall. It was planned that she would, so the case would be closed."
Chloe shoves a hand into her pocket, shivering slightly, "But why would she be willing to do that for Snake?"
"Why does anyone join them?" Beca asks rhetorically. "They find lonely people, people like Herrera and McHollow who have nothing in their lives, and they give them a purpose." She dimly remembers something, a dull glimmer of memory, "We all have something we want. Snake was able to provide whatever that was to Sydney, and this is the price she paid for it."
The ride home is in silence again.
Jesse receives a text at about midnight.
I have next week off. Let's go see the Killers play at the Cultural Center downtown.
He smiles, recalling Beca's alive expression as she listened to the music. He can't deny how that made him feel: coiled too tightly and lips itching to feel hers. It's crazy, but he can't stop thinking about her, not after that concert.
Just as he's texting back in the affirmative, his phone jangles notifying him of an incoming call. Private caller. Hm, who could it be?
"Mr. Swanson, correct?"
"Who is this?" It doesn't sound like anyone he knows.
"We're looking for a guitar player for an up and coming band," the person says (a female, he notes). "Would you have any interest in auditioning?"
"What? Yeah, definitely!" His voice cracks from excitement, and if this wasn't such a great opportunity he'd be embarrassed.
"Great. The producer's office is on 5th Street, largest building there, Cobra Entertainment."
It's a cruel cruel world to face on your own.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading. A special thank you to all those that followed/favorited and reviewed. You're all rock stars. Leave a review if you're in the mood and see you next week or so!
1. Disclaimer: I do not own Pitch Perfect (the universe or the characters), nor do I own the song Heavy Cross (from which the beginning and ending lyrics and chapter title come from), same goes for The Mystery of You (from which the overall title comes from).
2. We have guests over, so I've been unable to write lately. Apologies.
3. Massive massive thank you to Desi (lescousinsdangereux) for beta-ing. If I had any cookies, they would be all yours.