Lou wasn't sure his full skepticism was into what Donald was so devoted to. Of course that didn't mean he wanted to see Ivan locked up somewhere that was obviously not right for him. Prison was for the immoral people that have full control and understanding of their questioning choices. One look at Ivan was enough proof of the fact that he didn't fit into that category. He was a jittery mess; flinched when voices were raised, avoided eye contact like the plague, and always looked around himself in paranoia.
But that didn't direct them anywhere near the case of the missing woman. There wasn't even a case to begin with. Yet, he kept enabling his partner's insupportable accusations by helping him interview the woman's neighbors and employers and anyone who knew her. They even searched the woman's house which had turned up nothing but a memory box that was as useless as wisdom teeth. If anything, that box could be used against them to show that at least Mr. Valentin had once loved her enough to keep priceless mementos. On top of that, the accusations against Lavi were a little too farfetched.
Mr. Valentin was part of that "I didn't see it coming" or "he couldn't have done it, he was too nice" type of abusers. He had graduated from a prestigious Ivy League school and became an attorney before leaving that area to become a professor. During holiday seasons, he could often be found volunteering at soup kitchens; raising toy, school, and food funds for the less fortunate; and building homes for the homeless. Had they lived in a smaller community, he'd be known as some kind of leader, or hero by the young; the most kind, popular person anyone's ever come across. If accusations had been roused while he was alive, the community would be in a huge uproar declaring his innocence for him while blaming whoever had doubted Valentin of being some kind of jealous, sick whore that was desperate for attention. The police wouldn't look deep into the accusations and he would be a free man in no time.
That was another reason the neighbors kept to themselves the fact that Benny Nakamura wasn't alright, wasn't living a safe life. Lavi Valentin had a reputation that wouldn't stain no matter how many people would come forward against him. But the fact that he was placed on such a high pedestal to the point where he was worshiped was in direct relation to why no one ever dared question him. Blaming him of some type of horrific act such as domestic battery was incorrigible. The life you knew would be dismantled so quickly and so brutally that no one would take a chance on it. It would never have happened in a million years. His literal fanbase would protect him otherwise.
No one knew what happened behind closed doors, though. The Valentin's didn't live in a glass house; their life wasn't on display showcasing them as the dream life everyone had to aspire to become. But that was how many viewed them as. They attended extravagant galas, school meetings, city fundraisers, and the like; and were often plastered on the front page of the city newspaper, detailing their most recent donation or selfless put on and pulled off the act of a perfect family perfectly.
Even Nakamura's refusal to change her maiden name was something everyone overlooked. Although, some looked up to her for daring to be so modern; a feminist icon, she was. Her ideals were ones that common folk thought needed to be followed. She was idolized just like him.
The epitome of beauty, brains, good fortune, and luck.
She was often told she was so very lucky.
She had beautiful, Asian features, skin as clear as a summer's night out in the country, and a body that was slim, toned, and tall. A superstar, she was often mistook for. Her age wasn't even a deterrent for modeling agencies to try and recruit her. Jealousy was a stark emotion in every woman's head whenever they got a glimpse of her; doubled when they saw her with Lavi and her son. The perfect family. The perfect life.
But it was all a lie.
Outside the precinct, they organized their suspicions and offered it to the A.D.A. Robert Finch, whom they caught just in time, leaving the building.
"You're telling me you've got nothing against this man and you want me to prosecute him, even though he's already dead?"
"We've got leads," said Donald.
"Leads are insubstantial. Without solid evidence, you have nothing. No judge wants to hear this, no jury will convict."
"But, the neighbors said that the woman was constantly abused; Ivan has a mental disorder because of it! She wouldn't have left her son. The husband had to have taken part in her disappearance," argued Donald.
"There is no disappearance, Donald. She wanted to leave an abusive relationship before she got killed, it happens.
"And you know how easy it is for people to fake mental disorders, and how tricky it is to try them."
"You're still pressing charges against Ivan?" Lou said incredulously.
"I can't just let this slide, you know that-"
"But he's sick and he attacked the man in self-defense!" Donald interrupted.
"I can't just drop it like he hasn't committed a wrong, even if he is sick," Finch replied defensively. "Next thing you know, other crooks will want to use the same excuse, and we'll have to listen because we let that kid go.
"If his defense team is any good, the jury will see to it that he isn't wrongly convicted."
"Are you at least offering him a plea bargain?"
"I can lower it Voluntary Manslaughter; if he takes it, I can put in a request to the judge for him to spend his sentence in a medical institution. But that's only if his defense is reason of insanity. Now, if he pleads self-defense, I can't offer him anything. He continued to stab his father, even after he was no longer in danger; that's murder and they'll find him guilty faster than the judge can bang his gavel. It would be idiotic to even think of using that excuse, in my opinion, but I've seen stupider claims."
"How long is he looking at?" Donald asked.
"Ten years in a medical institution, or fifteen to life...
"Now, back to the original point: I can't prosecute a dead man, no way how. He can't face his accuser, and the whole thing will end up being a trial for breaking constitutional rights. It'll all be way too troubling and time consuming; pointless.
"Now, arraignment is on Friday, go finish writing your reports," with that, Finch walked away.
For some strange reason, Lou felt disappointed. He understood that Ivan wasn't going to get off scot free, but he had actually found himself hoping that the case wouldn't stand trial. Whether from Ivan actually failing his competency test, or not, he just filled himself with inadequate optimism.
"You were right. It was a waste of time and Ivan will never get closure," Donald said from beside Lou; sad and regretful. Like the domino effect, Louis's frustration suddenly slithered out of him and in its place sadness and regret took place. He sympathized with Ivan, but most of all, with his partner.
But, Lou still didn't know why his partner was so committed to this case. He knew every detective, in his career, has a case that they simply cannot give up on; they work on it day and night, for years, until they can maybe find something that wasn't there before, or they pieced together a puzzle that hadn't formed before, until it, hopefully, was solved. But this meant that it must have meaning behind the case itself. Whether from a similar experience the detective went through, or being closely related to the victim themselves. Lou figured this was Donald's "Elizabeth case"*.
Lou had also had a case like that, years before. The case was about a child that was kidnapped, and, unfortunately, killed. He felt strongly linked to the murder, because when he was a child, his best friend and neighbor was, too, kidnapped. She had been fifteen, three years his senior, and was going to be sold into sex slavery. By some miracle, she managed to get access to the internet and contacted her family, which then contacted the authorities. She returned safely two days later, but it impacted them both so deeply, that Lou strived to become a detective working with human trafficking cases, while the neighbor, became the voice of the girls and boys who were stolen and sold. She became a spokesperson and an FBI agent.
It might have been intrusive to even ask about his determination, but Louis didn't want Donald to work on this alone, like he had, long ago.
"...Can I ask you something, Don?"
The chubby detective sighed and said, "you were bound to ask sometime. Better sooner than later," as if he knew what the question was about. It made Louis feel guilty, though not long or deeply enough to take back the curiosity he'd let out. But still, the lanky detective said nothing more.
Time stretched on, both of them rooted to the floor, staring out into the busy road ahead of them, observing the daily life of many, milling about in the large city.
Finally, Donald exhaled then slowly began answering the unasked question, "when I was sixteen, my mom left.
"I would ask my father when she was coming home, but he would never give me an answer. He grunted and turned away from me, avoiding me just so I wouldn't ask.
"Time passed and I still kept asking, and he just wouldn't give me an answer! It was undeniably frustrating.
"Then one day, he finally told me that she ran away with another man. I didn't believe it, so I still kept pestering him day and night, demanding an answer I liked or just asking for her return.
"I eventually became angered with his lack of response and I stopped talking to him. I blamed him for making her run from us.
"Anyways, when I was twenty-two, I came home for the holidays. Though, it wasn't really home, not to me, not for many years... And, well, he told me he was dying from lung cancer. He said doctors told him he only had a couple months left to live.
"And, me being the childish, immature, stupid son I was that was still holding onto that irrational grudge, said 'good'. The first word I had said to him in years, and I was telling him how grateful I was that he was dying. 'Good'. I might as well have said, 'I wish you'd die already, but soon enough you will, and that's good'," he sighed, and stopped talking for a couple minutes, staring at the street while staring at nothing at all. His mind replaying tough memories, like a broken record, running over a specific area of the disk, repeating the same lyrics and beat, repeating the same memories. Donald had long grown used to retelling his pain, from therapists to friends to significant others; with it, came the practice of holding back the waterworks. This didn't mean that it didn't hurt every time he had to think about it, let alone say it out loud for another person to listen to.
He went on, "when that day finally came, when he passed, he left me a note. He said that my mother was actually in a car accident. She was running away with her lover, to live in the south but instead they both died.
"I don't know and will never know why he had lied rather than told me about it. I wouldn't have-
"...It made me feel guilty and bitter and awful because I blamed my father for something he had no control over...
"So that's why. That's why I have to make sure Ivan doesn't spend his life feeling guilty...
"Because it wasn't his fault and I will never get to say sorry."
That last sentence was obviously Donald's innermost feelings regarding his father's lies, but Lou didn't say anything. Instead he offered Donald a trip to the coffee shop a block away, his treat, and asked if he wanted to visit Ivan afterwards. Even if they couldn't do anything against Lavi Valentin, perhaps by talking to the teen, the woman's whereabouts would be discovered.
It was far past noon, when they knocked on the Valentin's front door.
Knock, knock. No answer.
Knock, knock. "Ivan?" No answer.
"Ivan, it's Det. Stein and I."
Still no answer. Det. Phạm reached for the doorknob and twisted. It was locked.
The worst possible scenarios weaved into their conscience. The male could be lying on the bathroom floor unmoving, or perhaps bleeding in his bedroom. It would be understandable, yet tragic; and the detectives didn't want to see that happen to Ivan. He was damaged but not unfix-able. He needed to get better, he had his whole life ahead of him. And it wasn't impossible to see that happen.
Dr. Castillo, the psychiatrist that evaluated Ivan, informed the detectives that they had referred the teen to another psychiatrist who had offered his services pro bono. Everything would change for Ivan; for the better, no less.
And would he be willing to throw it all away?
Louis knocked once more, while Donald went around the house in search for another entrance. When he reached the wooden fence that lead to the backyard, he heard something clatter. It came from beyond the barrier, inside Ivan's yard, but was it some intruder? Or was it Ivan himself?
He took out his gun, just in case, and open the door slowly and noiselessly. To his immense relief, it was Ivan noisily running amok in his backyard, aggressively relocating and clearing objects, for reasons unbeknownst to the detective. Donald placed his weapon back in its holster and cleared his throat, but Ivan didn't stop moving; it seemed like he hadn't even heard the officer.
He cleared his throat again and said, "Ivan."
Ivan looked up, his expression bewildered and desperate. Why did he look so flustered?
"Ivan, we came knocking at your front door, but you didn't answer and… well, we thought the worst, so I came to find another way in..."
Ivan's expression changed quickly, looking wild; like a feral child, scared, yet defensive. And he looked at Donald with a peculiar challenging gaze.
"What are you doing? What's wrong, Ivan?" the detective continued. But Ivan only stared back.
"You thought I was going to kill myself?" he finally exclaimed sardonically then laughed maniacally, like it was the funniest thing he'd heard in a very long time.
"Wha-" but the detective cut himself off, effectively causing the teen in front of him to smile a large Cheshire cat smile, stretching from one ear to the other, teeth baring, and his eyes laughless. The detective, then, realized that the Ivan in front of him wasn't Ivan at all. Which of the teen's personalities had taken over, he didn't know. All he understood then was the unreasonable fear that coursed through his very being, chilling his hair to its ends. This Ivan looked inhuman, murderous, diabolical and so on, but most of all, determined.
The other detective walked in then, seeing Donald with unadulterated fright written across his face, eyes locked onto a cruel-looking Ivan that seemed to challenge the officer to something which Lou couldn't place.
He watched Ivan step toward the rotund officer with a manic smile, stopping when he heard the slim officer sneeze. As soon as Lou's presence was discovered, the hostile teen seemed to snap out of it.
Ivan looked around himself in confusion then at the detectives in his backyard. Detective Stein stood by the fence, looking confused, though defensive; while Detective Phạm stood right in front of the kid, looking absolutely petrified.
Nobody said anything, nor moved, for a full minute, merely stared on at each other in complete bewilderment.
"We came to check on you," said Det. Stein walking forward.
"O-oh?" Ivan said back.
"Yeah. I think one of your-" Did Ivan know about his condition? Louis thought. "You didn't answer the front door, so we were coming around from the back, to see if you were alright," he said instead.
"Oh… I-I don't-... My apologies. I guess, I was out of it… I'm taking some anti-depressants and next week, I'm going in for my first psychotherapy treatment. So I still can't….They still…I still get… yeah," he said lamely.
"Arraignment is on Friday. Has your attorney contacted you?" said Donald.
"Yes. I went over this afternoon, to the… the other guy. My attorney said that I should take the deal."
"... I did… I don't want to be like this anymore. If I go to a looney bin, I'll get better, right?" he asked, looking up to Donald with hopeful eyes.
"You will, Ivan. You will," Donald whispered and brought Ivan in for a hug.
Friday came quickly and soon it was time for Ivan to take the stand. He stood next to his attorney, and beside the prosecutor, Robert Finch with the Judge sitting in front of them.
Det. Stein and Det. Phạm sat behind them along with a few reporters and a couple law students observing real life court cases.
"File 32452, Defendant Ivan Valentin, one count Voluntary Manslaughter, how do you plead?" the judge said.
"I-" Ivan looked down and said no more.
The seconds ticked by.
"What was that?" the Judge said impatiently.
"I-" He kept looking down.
"Ivan speak up," his attorney whispered harshly from beside him.
"Not guilty." Ivan spoke up and met the Judges' eyes with confidence. "I plead not guilty."
His attorney gasped and whispered, "no, that's not what we decided on Ivan." Turning to the Judge, she said, "He pleads guilty, Your Honor."
"I'm sorry, but you know he needs to plead for himself, Ms. Dufort."
"My apologies, but you see we agreed on a plea deal. He has a… mental disability."
"Nothing is wrong with me!" Ivan roared, and slid his arms across the table they stood behind, making the documents slide off of it.
"Ms. Dufort, calm your client!" Judge boomed and banged his gavel.
"Ivan, calm down. Alright? You can plead not guilty, just stop messing up the courtroom," she spoke to him, reassurances that calmed Ivan enough to continue the proceeding.
"We request remand, Your Honor," Robert Finch said soon after Ivan was composed.
"I don't think that's necessary, Your Honor. My client and I have settled on a deal, and he backed out on the last minute, unwittingly. He's obviously incompetent to stand trial," Ms. Dufort argued.
"Just because your client has a personality disorder, doesn't mean he doesn't understand the full effects of his own actions."
"Dissociative Identity Disorder is not a personality disorder, Your Honor. He has a mental disability that causes him to blackout and become someone else, which is not the Ivan you just witnessed."
"The prosecution wishes to move the charges from Voluntary Manslaughter to Second Degree Murder," Finch said impassively.
"That is uncalled for, Your Honor," Ivan's attorney called out.
"I'm sorry, but if he didn't take the plea then I need to change the charge."
"Very well," the Judge said. "Ms. Dufort, how does your defendant plead?"
"Not guilty, by reason of mental disease or defect, Your Honor."
"We demand bail to be set at $200,000."
"Request for my client to be released, due to his psychotherapy treatments, Your Honor."
"Do you object, Mr. Finch?"
"No, Your Honor."
"Very well. I release him to state custody. I'll see you, on the 25th, for the preliminary hearing. Next case, file 32478..."
With that, they walked out of the courtroom. Lou and Donald followed close after, with Finch walking out lastly.
Robert called out Ivan's attorney to have a word and left the detectives with the teen. They tried to talk to him, but Ivan defiantly kept his mouth shut. But it wasn't really Ivan, was it?
"See you on the 25th," they heard Ms. Dufort say to Finch, walking back to her client, while he walked away.
"Ivan, let's go prepare for your defense and your therapy treatment next week, okay?" she said. She led him out of the courthouse, a hand on his shoulder, Detective Stein and Detective Phạm
watching them go.
"Do you think he'll be alright, Don?"
Donald contemplated the question… Was his partner asking about the trial or about the general well-being of the child? What did he even think about both those two questions? The trial will, undoubtedly, be long, but how would they find him? Guilty or not guilty?
Would he get better? All that trauma he endured as a child… Would it leave a permanent stain in the child's mentality. Or is there hope for redemption? Would he get better?
"I don't know, Lou. I don't know."
*I don't quite remember where I got this name from, but it might have come from someone else's story, about how every detective will have a case that they obsess over and can't give up on. It might've been a label the author created themselves, and it might have been a totally different name, so I apologize and mean not to steal credit.