Eli Doyle woke with a beam of sunlight shining directly into his eyes and a smile playing across his face.
His new apartment was awesome, and it gave him a little thrill of happiness every morning that he woke up in his cushy king-sized bed instead of on his shitty box spring mattress. He was happy even when he forgot to pull the curtains closed on the frankly ridiculously huge bay windows in his bedroom, and he ended up waking with the sun.
He rolled onto his side away from the irritating light and tried to go back to sleep, hauling the down comforter over his head. It was no use, he was wide awake.
"This hour should be illegal," Eli grumbled under his breath, and gave up and climbed out of bed.
He'd crawled into bed around 1 AM thanks to his late shift at The Jade Dragon, Summerport's shittiest fake Chinese food restaurant, so he wasn't at his best that morning, and was entirely focused on getting coffee. This was why he didn't notice the other occupant of his apartment, until there was a loud thud.
Eli jumped about a foot, shrieked, and, due to being a private detective's assistant, immediately hurled the closest object in the direction the noise.
Alec Barrington-Johnsen ducked Eli's empty coffee cup with a hissed curse and snapped, "Watch it!"
"Why are you in my apartment?!" Eli yelled back, voice just a little squeaky with fear, clutching still at his own chest. A distant part of his brain pointed out that the apartment was in fact technically Alec's, since Alec had only strong-armed Eli into living in it, instead of forcing him to take actual ownership. Eli told that part of his brain to put a sock in it, he didn't need its obnoxious logic so early in the morning.
Alec bent to pick up the book he'd knocked off the top of one of the many precarious piles that were scattered around the apartment, which had been the sound that had startled Eli. "Walsh sent me to get you," he said calmly, like it wasn't the crack of dawn and Eli hadn't just thrown a mug at his head,
"No," Eli said stubbornly, even as despair welled in him like a never-ending fountain of disappointment. "It's my day off! My first day off in like a month! I don't have to scrub plum sauce off of any plates today, so I'm damn well not poking around a corpse either!"
"It's Walsh's first case in ages," Alec pointed out, a familiar look of resignation on his face. It was a common expression one had while working as one of Walsh's assistants. It was the expression of a man pushed to the breaking point of his patience while dealing with a woman of genius intellect, but who became cranky as a toddler when she was without something to keep her occupied. "If you have any ounce of compassion for me, you will help with this case."
"Walsh can solve it by herself," Eli grumbled and got out a new coffee mug and tried to force the single serve machine to cooperate. It was even worse than the one at Walsh's house, since it was more temperamental and had more unnecessary buttons. He seriously should not have thrown out his old coffee machine, even if tossing out the majority of his crappy furniture had been sovery cathartic. The daily fight for coffee was torture, but the thought of wasting money on a new coffee machine when he theoretically had a perfectly good one in the apartment was even worse.
"Walsh can certainly solve it by herself," Alec agreed and then elbowed Eli away from the machine, rolling his eyes. "Walsh cannot, however, solve this case by herself without driving me insane. And probably driving half the police force insane along with me."
He hit a few buttons on the machine and stuck Eli's mug under it, just in time for it to start obediently spitting out fragrant-smelling coffee. Eli glowered at the machine. Damn traitorous technology, always cooperating for Alec while spurning Eli. Without even looking at Eli, Alec got out the cream and sugar and stirred it in before passing it over.
"So, you want me to suffer along with you?" Eli asked and traded Alec an empty mug for the steaming cup. "I'm not seeing why this should compel me to sacrifice my day off." He took a sip of coffee and was faintly irritated to find Alec had added the perfect amount of cream and sugar. Stupid courteous jerk.
"There's strength in numbers," Alec said darkly. "You'd also be preventing a second murder, so you'd be doing a good deed."
"What, I'd stop you from killing Walsh?" Eli asked, raising an eyebrow. Of the two of them, Alec got along better with Walsh, since he was more of her yes-man than Eli was, due to Eli's unfortunate stubborn tendency to not endure being treated like a tool rather than a person.
Alec shook his head and slugged back half his cup of coffee like a shot, not seeming to care it was still scalding and black as an oil slick. "No, you'd stop Dr. Mullins from killing me for trying to kill Walsh."
Eli considered this solemnly, tapping his fingers against his mug of perfectly brewed coffee. "Well in that case... I like Dr. Mullins. I'd hate to see her go to jail for murder."
Walsh was irritating at least three separate police officers when Eli and Alec arrived at the crime scene, the sun still depressingly low in the morning sky. The three officers looked exhausted with dark rimmed eyes, while Walsh was in prime form, given she was secretly a human android that lived off of murder mysteries in place of sleep or any form of sustenance.
This wasn't an uncommon occurrence, so Eli turned to Alec and asked, "Who's the client?"
Alec shook his head. "No client," he replied, he glanced around and then leaned in towards Eli and continued in a low voice, "Someone tipped Captain Ye off, on his personal line."
Eli's eyes widened and he nodded his understanding. It was a poorly kept secret that Captain Ye was one of the few cops in Summerport not in the mob's pocket, so if one wanted something done on the level, he was the one to contact. If someone had called him at his home, that meant that not only were they in the know, but that they also suspected that Summerport's extensive underground had its fingers in the murder, along with the cavalcade of dirty cops.
"So, Ye called Walsh?" Eli asked, in an equally low voice, eyes darting around looking for any eavesdroppers, but he only saw the officers Walsh was arguing with nearby.
"Not officially," Alec replied. "If anyone asks, we're supposed to say my parents asked Walsh to stick her nose in."
"Your parents?" Eli asked, surprised. The Barrington-Johnsen's weren't shy about their disdain for Alec's new profession given its propensity for danger and, worse, bad press.
"They know the victim," Alec replied. "Old money friends." He didn't make a face, his expression remaining perfectly neutral, but his voice dripped with disgust.
They stepped inside the enormous mansion, the sound of the nearby road fading away abruptly. It was like stepping into another, much more luxurious, world, Eli reflected as he eyed the marble staircase and the fashionably minimalist foyer. A more luxurious and murderous world, he amended when he noticed the drying bloodstain, just visible through an open doorway.
Just as they approached the door, Captain Ye appeared through it, expression grim.
"CSI is almost done with the scene," Ye said, his lips pressed into a tight line below his awful, patchy moustache. "Where's Walsh?" he asked, looking around suspiciously, like he half expected to find Walsh already in the crime scene, harassing the technicians. It was something that she'd done before.
"Outside, terrorizing your newbies," Alec replied with a sigh.
"Of course she is," Ye grumbled, not even remotely surprised. "She had better not scare any of them off, it was hard enough convincing the Commissioner I needed more personnel without Walsh making them quit in protest."
"Who's the victim?" Eli asked, eyeing the bloodstain. It looked recent, though the edges were already starting to grow tacky looking.
"Lydia Fukui, age 42, presumed cause of death is fatal bullet wound to the neck," Ye said, the corners of his mouth twitching downward. He was a hardened police officer with years of experience with homicide, but Eli knew that Ye's wife was around the same age. "Her housekeeper found her this morning. No official time of death yet, but she was last seen at a meeting at city hall around nine PM last night."
"Any suspects?" Alec asked, jotting everything down in his little notebook in his incomprehensible scrawl. It was good that Eli had an excellent memory, since Alec's notes were never legible to anyone aside from him.
"Quite a few," Ye said, frowning. "Mrs. Fukui was running for office and the election is only a month away."
"Politics," Eli said, making a disgruntled face. "So, I'm assuming there were a few people pissed about a woman of colour potentially winning a seat in the senate in a red state?"
Ye nodded. "More than a few. There was at least one threatening letter sent to her office. I'll have Sergeant Castillo get you the file."
Alec hummed in agreement, but looked troubled. "What about anyone with a personal vendetta?" He asked, looking up from his notebook. "A smart political rival would find a way to get her tangled up in scandal, rather than stab her in her own home. Or at least not have her killed so obviously." There was a twisted expression on his face, disgust tempered with shrewdness. Eli belatedly remembered that Mr. Barrington-Johnsen had been a state attorney general at one point, and had expected Alec to follow in his footsteps, all the way up until the point when Alec had enrolled in medical school. He'd been raised on politics, and it had been part of his life even into medical school and afterwards in his career, until Walsh had dragged him into her world and Alec's parents had given up trying to maintain any sort of leverage over him. The whole thing made Eli feel immeasurably grateful for his own family. Even if they could be a nosey, obnoxious, and exhausting lot, at least he knew they'd always have his back when it mattered.
"At the moment, our prime suspect is her husband, Chanda Chlebek," Ye said. "He's been charged with assault twice before."
"No jail time?" Eli asked curiously. Something niggled in the back of his mind- he'd heard that name somewhere before...
Ye shook his head. "No. The first was from a protest that got rowdy when several drunk men began harassing women. Chlebek found himself one hell of a lawyer and the charges were dropped. The second one was a bar brawl, but video surveillance proved that he wasn't the one to instigate the fight and the guy who charged him decided it wasn't worth the court case."
"Why does his name sound familiar?" Eli asked, giving up. He might have an excellent memory, but it wasn't infallible like Walsh's.
"Chlebek is an MMA fighter," Ye explained. "Not a big name, but he's only just entered his peak in the last few years and he became more of a public figure after he married Ms. Fukui."
Before either of them could think of anything else to ask, Walsh entered the foyer, the newbie officers trailing after her, looking completely worn down.
"Walsh," Ye grumbled, moustache twitching in irritation. "You had better not be harassing my officers."
"I was merely inquiring about the housekeeper who found the body," Walsh said, her words clipped. "I require every detail since you won't let me interview her."
"The poor woman is in the hospital. She took a bad fall and injured her hip when she found Ms. Fukui, she doesn't need you pestering her," Ye said, crossing his arms. Everything about his body language was saying that Walsh, for once, wasn't going to get her way. The three newbie officers swiveled their eyes from Walsh to Ye and back again, like spectators at a particularly aggressive tennis match. "And she has an airtight alibi for last night, so I hardly see why interrogating her would be necessary," Ye added.
"You wouldn't," Walsh said curtly, but she seemed to accept that Ye wasn't about to budge, and she let the argument drop and carefully stepped over the bloodstain on the floor, entering the crime scene.
"Walsh-" Ye started to snarl, but was interrupted by Sergeant Castillo exiting the crime scene room.
"CSI is done with the crime scene, they're sending a few samples to the lab," Sergeant Castillo said, making Ye grumble wordlessly, but he allowed Alec and Eli to follow after Walsh.
The room proved to be a rather spacious home office, large windows letting in early morning light along one wall. It probably had been very beautiful at one point, but the room was a disaster. Papers were strewn across the floor, chairs were overturned, a painting had been torn from the wall, it's frame reduced to splinters of wood and glass, a potted plant had been smashed to pieces, dirt speckling the expensive wallpaper.
And of course, there was the body lying on the floor near the door.
Lydia Fukui had died laying on her side, her small body curled into itself, one hand pressed against the fatal wound on her neck. Her other arm was outstretched, her hand positioned like she'd been clutching at the floor. Blood had pooled under her body, but enough had spilled on the doorway to form the puddle that had been visible from the foyer.
Alec and Eli looked to Walsh expectantly, but she waved them off, implicitly telling them to report their findings back to her first.
Eli carefully stepped through the mess on the floor, trying not to disturb anything as he took in the disaster around him. He carefully photographed the room, mentally trying to recreate what had happened.
He was betting Mrs. Fukui had been working at her desk when her attacker had entered the room... But she was lying on the other side of the room. Maybe she'd been going to bed? Or leaving the room for some reason... But if her attacker had a gun, why hadn't they just snuck up on her and shot her? The house had been empty apart from Mrs. Fukui, if the attacker could easily sneak into the house without detection, surely they could have found a way to shoot her without instigating a fight. And the room made it clear there had been a struggle first, so simply killing her couldn't be the motive behind the murder, there had to be something more...
"Well?" Walsh prompted when neither of her assistants said anything useful for several long minutes.
"Hear me out on this one- I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the victim died from a bullet wound to her neck," Alec said, looking up from the body, his voice paper dry.
Walsh was not amused, though Eli had to hide a snort behind a fake sounding cough.
She didn't say a word, but her steely gaze said enough as it was. Alec sighed and turned back to the corpse. Sometimes he missed the days when his job involved living bodies.
He stared down at Fukui for another long moment and sighed deeply again. "She died quickly, though not instantly," he said at last his voice soft. "Even if paramedics had been called, I doubt she would have survived." He gently moved one of her arms and examined it, before setting it back down as it had been before. "No signs of any defensive wounds or bruising. Nothing else interesting about the body. I'd say estimated time of death is around midnight."
"You're sure there's no defensive wounds?" Eli asked with a frown, looking down at the body. "Obviously there was a fight of some kind," he said, gesturing at the disaster that encompassed the entire room.
"Not one that left her with any injuries," Alec retorted, voice tart. He hated being questioned over his field of expertise, especially since he worked with a pair of forensic geniuses and this was his specialty. "This woman died of a single bullet, small caliber- maybe 9 millimeters. Going by the blood splatter, it was fired from several feet away, without much of a struggle. We're looking for someone who's a crack shot, since that wouldn't have been an easy one to make."
"It's weird though," Eli said, turning around the room slowly. "The entire room is trashed, not just at her desk or something. It's a huge room. How do you have a fight with someone with a gun, and there's only one shot, and you don't get any injuries aside from the one bullet wound? She should at least have a few scratches from some of this debris."
"Maybe the mess was from her trying to get away?" Alec suggested, standing up and stepping away from the body.
Eli frowned. That didn't seem quite right. There was only one door, and it wasn't like there was anywhere to hide in the office. If someone was pointing a gun at him, he'd stay still. If they were trying to subdue him, he'd try and get away, maybe head for the door. He wouldn't upend three separate book cases in three different corners of the room and then go to the trouble of smashing a picture frame to tiny pieces. An attacker wouldn't do that either, if their goal was murder. But if they were only trying to scare someone...
Eli made an aggrieved noise and ran both hands through his tangled hair irritably. Even if the attacker had been trying to put the fear of god into Mrs. Fukui and had accidentally killed her, he'd think she'd have at least a few scratches on her. Her smart pantsuit wasn't even disheveled, apart from all the blood soaked into it. For god's sake, her hair was barely even mussed!
His eyes landed on the puddle of blood at the door way.
"I'm guessing she was shot her here, then she stumbled and fell over there," Eli said, gesturing at the two spots. "And then the killer stepped in her blood," he added, eyes widening when he noticed the edge of what looked like a boot print a few inches away from the puddle, nearly hidden by an overturned chair.
"These papers are all to do with Mrs. Fukui and Mr. Chlebek's upcoming divorce," Walsh added, gesturing to the papers strewn about the desk.
"I guess that's it then," Alec said, eyes on the papers on the floor. "MMA fighter finds out that his wife is getting a divorce, they argue, he shoots her."
"Mrs. Fukui does have a gun registered under her name," one of the young police officers piped up from the open doorway.
The three of them turned to look at the door. The police officers Walsh had been interrogating were all crowded in the doorway, silently watching Walsh do her thing. The one who'd spoken smiled eagerly. Behind them, Ye scowled in irritation. And to think, he'd been the one to call Walsh in.
Theirs was a complicated relationship, Eli reflected absently.
"I presume it's a handgun, and that it's currently missing," Walsh said directly to Ye, who nodded.
"Yes, it seems like the obvious murder weapon. Mr. Chlebek lived here until recently, so he would have known where Mrs. Fukui kept it."
Walsh nodded, but there was a look on her face that said she wasn't convinced, if one was fluent in her micro-expressions like Eli was.
She carefully stepped through the crime scene to where Eli was photographing the footprint in the blood.
She gave it a single glance before pronouncing, "It was planted. No person would have stepped at that angle towards the wall."
"Seriously?" One of the young police officers said, the same one who'd spoken up before. Her voice filled with disbelief.
"I have to agree, Walsh," Ye said, one eyebrow ticking up slightly. "You take two seconds to see a footprint and decide it's a fake?"
Walsh made an irritated noise and gestured at Eli, saying, "Stand up. Now position yourself like the footprint would have you stand."
Eli eyed the print and lined his foot up next to it, careful not to touch it. The print was from a left foot, and was angled with the toe pointing towards the wall. It was also very close to the wall, forcing Eli to wobble precariously with his right leg bent awkwardly behind him so that he could match the print without standing fully pressed against the wall.
Walsh looked at the officer who'd questioned her and demanded, "What's your name?"
The officer was wide eyed with nerves, but she bravely said, "I'm Officer Skalicky."
Walsh eyed her up and down. She wasn't impressed. Skalicky was the only woman out of the new officers. Out of the half dozen CSI techs who had been swarming the house, there had been one other woman. It had been a good fifteen years since Walsh had been that newbie officer, alone amidst a sea of men, and she doubted things had much changed. Skalicky was wide-eyed and desperate to impress anyone who so much as looked at her. She still probably thought she could make a difference, for herself and for women willing to follow after her.
Walsh wasn't about to baby her.
"Well, Skalicky, unless you're suggesting the murderer was pirouetting through the crime scene, there is no way they would have unintentionally leave a footprint like that. It is an obvious attempt to frame someone else." She shot Ye a dour look and added, "Next time you hire new officers, try not to choose the uselessly stupid ones."
Officer Skalicky went red from the collar of her uniform all the way up to her hairline and bit her lip, eyes trained on the ground in humiliation. The other two officers inched away from her, like earning Walsh's ire was contagious. Ye only sighed and shook his head.
"I should have known better. Alright, Walsh, you were right. And quit insulting my newbies, not all of us are instant forensic geniuses."
Walsh didn't say anything condescending like Eli suspected she wanted to, but the look she shot Ye said more than enough.
They took a cab to the police station to get Chanda Chlebek's records, with Walsh going inside and leaving her assistants to wait in the car. It seriously made Eli feel like a kid waiting for a parent or something, but he was happy to avoid going into the station. He did not have many happy memories in that place, not to mention the awful smell of body odor and stale coffee that pervaded the very walls of the place and hung in the air like an omnipresent miasma.
There was a sudden loud ringing, and Eli automatically patted his pockets for his phone- though he belatedly realized it couldn't be his, since his was old and cranky and generally made a strange garbled beep when he got calls. It really hadn't appreciated that trip into the river on his first case with Walsh seven months previous.
"What?" Alec asked into the phone, his voice tightly clipped.
Eli raised an eyebrow at him, but Alec turned his face away, expression tight. It was strange for Alec to get a phone call from someone who wasn't Walsh or Eli. He was pretty close mouthed about his past before coming to work for Walsh, but the few bits he'd revealed to Eli suggested that he no longer spoke to any of his old coworkers at the private hospital where he'd worked, nor any of the people he'd gone to school with. Or really anyone who wasn't Eli or Walsh.
"No, I won't be there," Alec said curtly. "I told you months ago that I wasn't coming. I don't see why this is a surprise, mother."
Eli stared at him in shock. Alec might have been reticent about his past, but he'd been clear about one thing: his parents did not approve of his change in careers, trading in a respectable rising position in the city's private hospital for what was a mix of secretarial work and babysitting of a woman on the wrong side of eccentric in polite society.
"I don't care if Ashley will be there, I won't be," Alec continued, his tone only growing more clipped with each word. "Well you shouldn't have told her that. It's hardly my fault. Because I'm busy. Goodbye." He jabbed a finger at the touch screen angrily to end the call and sighed deeply, rubbing a hand over his face.
"What was that all about?" Eli couldn't help but ask. He and Alec might not always get along, but he couldn't help a little curiosity over his somewhat mysterious companion. It was all Walsh's nosey influence, really.
Alec rolled his eyes, irritation written across every feature on his handsome face. "Mother was trying to pressgang me into going to some obnoxious fundraiser later this week," he said, sneering. "Which I won't set foot in. If I wanted to listen to pompous jackasses pat themselves on the back for throwing money they don't need at causes they don't care about, I'd just visit my father's office around Christmas."
Eli was startled by the bitter note in Alec's voice- he could be a prickly, sour jerk when he wasn't hiding behind his mild mannered public face for clients, but he never sounded quite so jaded.
"Who's Ashley? Wait, let me guess- secret fiancée?" He asked, trying to make Alec roll his eyes or something, because the aggrieved look on his face was just so off putting and out of place that it made Eli feel like the world was off kilter.
It worked, to an extent. Alec snorted, his expression turning wry, though his voice still held a bitter edge to it. "My mother wishes. No, she's some politician's daughter, one of father's cronies. She took a liking to me when we were teenagers, and it would make both of our parents happy if I hooked up with her. Unfortunately, she has all the common sense of a brain-damaged Yorkshire Terrier, and I can't stand to be in the same room as her for more than a few minutes at a time. Not that that's necessarily a deterrent for my parents- when I was growing up I only ever saw them in the same room at society parties."
"Stupidity does seem to be contagious," Eli said with a grin, feeling a little surprised to have gotten a straight answer. He'd half expected Alec to sneer and tell him it wasn't any of his business.
"And yet, I still spend time with you," Alec said, but there was a hint of fondness in his voice that warmed Eli to the core.
Walsh climbed back into the cab, holding a thin file in one elegant hand.
"Captain Ye needs to train the idiocy out of his staff," she said in a disgusted tone. "It took far too much effort to get the information I needed."
"I mean, not giving out police information to whoever asks for it is probably a good trait for police officers to have," Eli said and then ducked his head at the look Walsh shot him.
Their next stop was at the gym where Lydia Fukui's husband Chanda Chlebek trained. When they arrived, it seemed to be mostly empty, given there were only three cars in its large parking lot.
Eli held back an automatic shudder at the sight of the exercise equipment through the front windows- being slightly scrawny, openly gay and possessing more snark than common sense in high school had given him a healthy phobia of any place occupied by muscle-y guys.
Walsh lead them inside, making a beeline for the very back of the place without hesitation, like she'd visited a thousand times before. The gym was divided into two sections, a traditional gym area with cardio equipment and weights, and an open area obviously meant for sparring or whatever MMA fighters did for training. Eli had no idea, but he assumed it had to do with punching each other a lot, since that was what the two dudes in the roped off area seemed to be doing.
They stopped though, when they spotted Walsh skirting around the ring, heading towards what looked like an office, the blinds pulled shut across the window.
"Hey!" One of the guys called after them, stepping around his partner. "You can't be in here!"
Walsh didn't even look back at him, just continued towards the office.
"We'll just be a minute!" Alec called back, a pleasantly bland smile on his face. Eli just eyed the two men warily. Obviously there was no incentive for two strangers to beat him up, but he couldn't quite drop the old paranoia.
The office was small and made smaller by the disorganized stacks of paper that overwhelmed two desks crammed into the space. A young black man was seated at an ancient-looking office chair, scowling at a laptop propped on one of the smaller piles of paper.
"Chanda Chlebek?" Walsh asked. The man turned and looked at her, raising an eyebrow. Even seated it was obvious that he was very tall and was all but made of muscle. One of his hulking arms looked like it might weigh twice what all of Eli weighed. He had a handsome face, though his nose was a little crooked, and his face twisted into a scowl at the sight of Walsh. He was also a solid ten years younger than Lydia Fukui, likely closer to fifteen, which made Eli raise his eyebrows.
"I've already spoken with the police," Chanda said, his voice filled with irritation. "I didn't kill my wife. I shouldn't have to prove my innocence when there's no evidence against me, aside from my profession."
"And your upcoming divorce," Alec said casually, crossing his arms and leaning against the door frame.
Chanda stared him down, his brown eyes flinty. "I think you'll find that I was the one filing for divorce. If you'd bothered to spend more than thirty seconds before deciding that the black MMA fighter had to be the murderer, you would know that."
"I don't think you killed Fukui," Walsh said bluntly, not seeming to notice the startled Chanda and both of her assistants shot her. "I believe someone else did, and is attempting to frame you."
Chanda stared at her silently for a full thirty seconds.
"If you're trying to trick me into saying something..." he said warily, but Walsh waved him off impatiently.
"Hardly. It's obvious, looking at the crime scene. The divorce papers were planted after the room was destroyed, given that they weren't damaged like the rest of the room was. There was also a footprint that was made to look like it belonged to the culprit, which was poorly planted. I expect you have a pair of shoes that went missing recently?" Walsh inquired.
Chanda's face lost some of its wariness, looking surprised as he said, "Yes. A pair was stolen out of my locker last week. I assumed it was one of the guys pulling a prank on me or something. These things happen."
"Last week?" Walsh asked, eyes narrowing. "Unexpected. Having the foresight to steal your shoes that far ahead does not match how sloppy the planting of false evidence was."
"Well, I mean, how sloppy is it really, if the police didn't notice it wasn't real?" Eli asked hesitantly.
Walsh shot him a dour look. "I suspect even Captain Ye have would have noticed the irregularity of the footprint, given time," she said to Eli, clearly displeased with being questioned. Eli shrugged apologetically and Walsh sighed and turned back to Chanda. "Is there anyone who'd want to frame you for murder? A rival perhaps?"
Chanda appeared unimpressed. "Look, whatever you've heard about my profession, it isn't accurate. Sure, there are rivalries, and plenty of the guys can be real dicks- but murder? No way. I mean they make more money if they have someone to fight. It wouldn't be anyone I know."
"Where were you on the night of the murder?" Alec asked. Chanda shot him an unimpressed look. "Not because we think you killed your wife, I'm just trying to establish the sequence of events," he amended quickly.
Chanda didn't seem appeased, but he still replied, voice curt, "I was at home."
"Alone?" Alec asked. "You don't live with Mrs. Fukui anymore, correct?"
Chanda sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose, looking irritated. "Yes, alone. I left the gym at seven, got groceries at eight. I have an apartment near the gym; I moved out of the house last month when we decided to get a divorce."
"And why was that?" Walsh asked.
"This is sounding less and less like you think I'm innocent," Chanda said, his expression darkening further. Alec didn't say anything, so Chanda pursed his lips, exhaled sharply, and said in a carefully controlled voice, "Look. I care about Lydia, she's- she was a great woman. We agreed that our marriage wasn't working for either of us and so we decided to end things."
"Even though the election cycle was nearing its end?" Walsh asked, her expression was mild, but Chanda only grew more defensive, eyes narrowing as she continued, "Getting a divorce at this time would be impractical for a woman fighting an uphill battle into a senate seat."
Chanda stood, his chair scraping loudly against the floor. "Look," he all but snarled, "If you think I killed my wife then just get out and stop wasting my time."
"Mr. Chlebek, this information is all things the killer would know and will manipulate to make you seem all the more guilty," Alec said, shooting Walsh a look that told her to stay quiet. "I understand if Walsh isn't being... sensitive in her inquiries, but we need to know everything that could be used against you if we're going to prove you aren't the person who did this."
"And I'm telling you that it was an amicable divorce and that my wife decided that she'd rather do what was right for both of us, rather than what was advantageous for her career," Chanda said, eyes staring holes into Alec's face. He stood very still, his expression hard, but after a moment his expression became almost resigned as he added, "Whoever killed her, they did it because they were worried about her winning election. She had a lot of opinions that weren't popular with a lot of powerful people, and the polls were saying she was going to win by a landslide. They probably took one look at me and assumed her death would be easy to pin on me."
Walsh examined him closely and then concluded that, while Chanda was still hiding something from her, it wasn't homicide, and continuing her line of questioning would not be fruitful and only make him less prone to trusting them. She nodded sharply and left the office.
Eli watched her go and sighed- some days playing social cleanup for Walsh could get really annoying.
"Sorry about her. I swear, we really do believe you're innocent," he said to Chanda, and then quickly followed after Walsh.
"If you can think of anything that might be useful for us to know- particular political enemies of Lydia or the like, please contact us. Here's my card," Alec said, and left the card on the table when it was clear that Chanda wasn't going to make a move to take the card.
As he left the office, Alec could feel the heavy weight of Chanda's eyes on his back and held back a shiver.
"Well," Alec said as they left the gym. "I'm not so sure that guy's innocent."
Eli gave him a flat look. "What, so he murdered his wife and then purposefully planted evidence to make himself look like the murderer?" He asked as they climbed into a cab. "Because that is easily the stupidest thing I've ever heard. And I used to live in a building haunted by Banana Jones."
Alec rolled his eyes and said, exasperation evident in his voice, "No, but that was a man being accused of murder by the police and we show up saying we believe him when he says he's innocent. Normally that would make someone incredibly cooperative with us, if only to prove their innocence. That guy was only slightly less of a stonewall when we told him we didn't agree with the police."
"Well spotted," Walsh said with a nod. "He is hiding something, but I doubt it's murder."
"I mean, he could just not trust us," Eli pointed out. "Three strangers just showed up at his workplace and were like 'hey buddy we totally believe you when you say you didn't shoot your wife! Tell us all your secrets!' It might seem a little too convenient to him."
Eli grinned when Alec didn't have anything to retort back- he was totally right, and Alec new it. Even if it meant their best resource was going to be about as useful as a concrete lifejacket. Sometimes being right sucked.
"So, what's next?" Alec asked Walsh. "We didn't get any suspects from what Chanda told us."
"It's time to take a closer look at Ms. Fukui's political agenda," Walsh said.
Eli barely held back a sigh- that could mean only one thing. Talking to politicians. Ugh.
They were into hour one million of the arduous process of weeding through the many political enemies and adversaries Lydia Fukui had picked up during her career and there was a distressing number of names left to go through. Well, for Eli to go through. Alec had long since abandoned him to go do something in the kitchen, and Walsh was doing the much more interesting job of going through the file they'd gotten from the police.
"Anything interesting?" Eli asked, slumping on the couch. He was supposed to be calling some of Ms. Fukui's opponents to carefully ask them if they'd had Ms. Fukui murdered, but he was procrastinating because he honestly would rather go for a swim with a live shark. It would be less stressful.
"There was a break-in six months ago," Walsh said, flicking through the file. "The intruder tripped the silent alarm getting into the house. By the time Officer Skalicky and Officer Brant arrived at the scene, they found Ms. Fukui holding the intruder at gunpoint waiting for them to arrive."
"And what happened to the intruder?" Eli asked with a faint spark of hope. If the intruder had been taken off the hook, they might have found their killer- or at least a man paid to kill Ms. Fukui.
"He was charged with breaking and entering, and, due to several outstanding warrants out for his arrest, he's still in jail."
"Darn," Eli said, and then felt like an absolute shitheel because a part of him had been disappointed that a criminal had been arrested for a crime, just because it would have made their case simpler to solve. He sometimes worried about what his job was doing to him.
"It does raise the question of how the killer got into Fukui's house without setting the alarm off last night," Alec pointed out from the kitchen. "Since it was the housekeeper that found her this morning. The killer must have known how to disable the alarm."
"Which means the killer is close to Ms. Fukui, close enough to know the code to get into her house. That alarm system is one of the most expensive ones on the market, it doesn't seem likely that the killer would be able to disable it," Eli added, and mentally started trying to make a list of anyone who'd know how to disarm the alarm system. Unfortunately, that put Chanda Chlebek at the top of the list.
Walsh shook her head, still reading the file. "No. The housekeeper told the police that Fukui only set the alarm right before she went to bed. The alarm wouldn't have been armed when the killer broke in."
"Well, there's that lead down the toilet," Eli said despondently, and picked up his phone with a sigh. He had politicians to offend.
Walsh eyed the slowly dwindling list of known political associates of Lydia Fukui. She and her assistants had gone through the bulk of it the past days, without much to show for it. It was aggravating to know that Chanda Chlebek was holding back important information from the investigation, but she knew better than to try and shake it out of him so early on. It was a matter that would require patience. Something that she was sorely lacking. Especially when she still had another ten politicians to carefully question without allowing them to grow overly suspicious.
Thankfully, she was given a respite in the form of her cell phone ringing.
She eyed the number displayed on the screen- she didn't recognize it, though it was clearly a local number. "Walsh," she said, deciding to answer.
"Ms. Walsh? This is Officer Skalicky, I'm one of Captain Ye's new officers," the woman on the other end said. Walsh recognized the voice as belonging to the female officer with the doe eyes. Interesting.
"I presume you didn't call me just to introduce yourself, so get to the point. I'm rather busy," she said, unwilling to waste any more time. People we so obnoxiously roundabout with their pleasantries on the phone.
"We've found some interesting evidence, Captain Ye suggested we tell you about it- though the District Commissioner isn't happy that you're involved in this case," Skalicky said, lowering her voice as if she were worried about being overheard.
"And?" Walsh prompted, beginning to grow irritated.
"We found Mrs. Fukui's cellphone, left outside her home, likely let by the killer. There weren't any fingerprints, but there was a message from a man that appears to have been her lover. It was left at ten pm, before the estimated time of death. We traced the call to a man named Giovanni Quinn. He might be the suspect, he was very aggressive in the message," Skalicky said. On the other end of the line there was a shuffling noise and indecipherable raised voices, someone was clearly displeased about something.
"I'll need to hear the message myself," Walsh said, but at the same time, Skalicky hissed, "Sorry, gotta go!"
Walsh glowered at her phone, the screen showing that Skalicky had ended the call.
It appeared she needed to have a chat with Giovanni Quinn and find out if the police had actually found a new suspect.