Chapter XI: Inheritance
As it turned out, getting back into Lawrence's apartment undiscovered hadn't been all that easy. In fact, a more honest way to put it would be that he never had half-a-chance of accomplishing it. His best bet would've been to use a ladder, but he would've had no way of then getting rid of the tool either quietly or satisfactorily.
Of course, even if he had managed to do so somehow, it wouldn't have eliminated the much larger issue that Lawrence had already been awake as he re-entered the apartment. The sight of the police detective, dressed in pajama pants, a long t-shirt, and with her hair loose about her face had seemed harmless enough at first. Then had come the yelling, and dishes started flying like a hurricane had gone off in the armchair she rested in.
"Complete! Inconsiderate! Jackass!" she shouted, hurling a fork at him and he only just dodged as it went clattering off the countertop. "Didn't even think! Not for one moment! You could've been killed! You could've been captured!"
This time a coffee mug exploded over his head.
"No mention of where you went or what you were trying to do! Did you think I was kidding when I told you to do nothing? Do you have any clue how dangerous that was? You risked your life against a homicidal manic, not mention blowing the entire case for what?"
"I only wanted…"
"Shut up!" she shouted, and Conners would've sworn he heard a dog bark above them. "You are the biggest, most egotistical ass I have ever met! Do you even think how much risk that put me in? You were released into my custody, Conners. If you'd gotten hurt…"
She collapsed into her armchair and Conners slowly peaked out from the tray he'd been using as a make-shift shield. He felt a stab of guilt as he saw the pained expression on her face. The truth was that he hadn't thought of the risk she'd been put in. After all, they weren't all that close and he'd been so focused on Bill's murder that he hadn't really taken the time to process how much she'd helped him. She'd been nice enough to help him avoid being put under a proper watch and his weak thanks had been immediately made invalid by his actions. Bill would've been disappointed in him for it.
Thinking of Bill made it so that he could almost hear the old man's voice again.
That woman saved your life while you were being an idiot and this is how you want to repay here? That's poor form, kid. You need to do better. Now, pull your head out of your ass and apologize to her like a man.
"Lawrence… I'm sorry," he said, putting as much earnest into his words as he could. "I didn't think about what it would mean to you. I know you did this to help me and I hurt that by acting. But, please tell me you can at least understand why I did it."
She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling it back.
"Of course I get why," she said. "It doesn't change the fact that you almost gave me a heart-attack. You're… good at investigation work and honestly… I want you to succeed. Bill sent a note to my lieutenant about you and he spoke highly of you. It's why you were allowed in the case and you were what he said you would be. I guess I just wanted you to be a success story."
"It's a part of being a cop," she said, almost staring into the distance. "You see so much crap and so many lies that it's easy to become jaded and feel like everyone's going to let you down. My counter to that is to try and find the good where I can. It's the best way I have to staying human, and it makes it hard if someone betrays that. You did what you did, because you wanted to do right by Bill. I get that… more than you might know. Still, if you really want to do the right thing, I need you to work with me."
Conners considered her words. It was a fairer deal than he deserved and honestly, why shouldn't he work with her? She was already a better cop than most he'd met and he could deny that she had earned the right to his trust when she'd saved his life and then spoken up on his behalf to her lieutenant.
"Ok, deal," he said, sitting on the couch. "I promise. Just please keep me in the loop as much as I do for you."
She nodded and looked around at the mess.
"Got a bit of a temper?" he asked, smiling softly.
"I get it from my mom's side. My grandparents on her sides are both hispanic. Bit of latino temper, I guess."
"Well, I'll help you clean up and share what I found."
So they began to sweep up the shards of china and recovered the pieces that were still whole. Meanwhile Conners told Lawrence everything he'd been keeping to himself about Bill's death. He told her about the note, and about Richards. To her credit, Lawrence never interrupted, instead logging away everything he said. After he finished, she then asked a few clarification questions. She never once criticized him or berated his actions.
"I'll see what we have on Kelsey Richards. I know a bit about her business, but no more than the next person. Supposedly, she'd very well connected. I think they do business with Kingston Inc. right now."
That name sent a flash through Conners' brain. It was like suddenly getting bashed in the back of the head by a baseball bat. Yet, in the flash of pain his brain dug up a single name.
He had no idea who that was or why he would've remembered the man's name. However, he mentally made sure to file it away and look deeply into it later. Something from his past was related to James Kingston… but his mind would give him nothing more. Conners growled slightly and rubbed his temples, unsure if he were more trusted at his own locked-off memories or at his behavior towards Lawrence.
"I appreciate that. I can't look any further into her at the moment anyway. I've got to give this some space before I act, or she'll outsmart me."
"I'm surprised you're willing to admit someone can outsmart you."
"I know I'm not always the smartest person in the room," he said, smirking slightly. "Just most of the time."
She rolled her eyes and held up a butter-knife threateningly. Conners held his hands up in a mock-surrender.
"I do have to make the arrangements for Bill's funeral though. Most of it should be all covered, but can't trust them not to screw something up. Is your custody of me relinquished or are you going to put me in cuffs?"
She looked at him critically for a long time, as if weighing the options. Finally, after a pause that was more than long enough to make him uncomfortable, she nodded.
"If I find out you go after her without our say-so I will arrest you."
"I promised," he said simply. "Besides, I sort of liked working with you. Can't have us at opposite end of things, can I?"
He adjusted his coat and walked out of Lawrence's place, so tired that he could've slept on the cab ride home.
The next week was extremely busy for him. This was largely due to two separate issues. The first was Bill's cremation and funeral service. While the old man had planned a fair bit of his funeral out, there were still a ton of details that had to be ironed out, and Conners had never discovered how little he cared about several things. He spent the next few days answering questions on things like catering, cloth colors, pictures for the bulletin, and seating arrangements, and it was all just so incredibly tedious. It was as if Bill's actual death came second to his funeral.
The second issue was his moving into a new apartment. He had no question now that he wanted to continue the detective work, which meant he would need an office. Even with the old office gone, he still had a few offered cases that people had mailed in, both on in Internet and through snail mail. So, that meant he had to get a new apartment and turn it into an office.
The place he eventually chose wasn't as drab as Bill's office had been. The walls weren't lined with filing cabinets for a start. That was one advantage Conners' understand of technology brought him; everything he documented was very contained within a computer the had a couple backup drives.
So instead of a desk and computer, his office featured a couch opposite a couple armchairs with a few pictures of the city sites around. Personally he didn't care for them but the decorator had assured him that it would make the office a little more relaxing. There were a couple features of his office room that he really liked. Firstly, there was the large roaring fireplace that he'd used everyday since moving in. The second was that, after recovering Bill's badge from his body, Conners had framed and hung it over his new fireplace. It was a small act, but one that made him feel that Bill was not forgotten in his work.
His living quarters were smaller, but as large as he needed them to be, boasting many things he deemed useful, such as a large glass case filled with several different bullet casings from all sorts of handguns, rifles, and sub-machine guns. He'd intended to actually have the bullets and several of the guns to match, but Chicago's anti-gun laws made it almost impossible and he'd been forced to settle in the end.
The one thing he had yet to do was decide on a name for his business. There was a large open window that looked into the office and he intended to have the name painted on the windows, but he just couldn't settle on one. Sure, he'd been through a dozen odd names, but somehow it never rang as well as Knighthawk Investigations.
As Wednesday the 20th finally arrived, Conners dressed in a good pair of jeans and his grey shirt with his black trench coat. Most people dressed up for a funeral, and Conners had no doubts that those who did show up that day would do so. However, he found the idea offensive. After all, Bill had never dressed up for anyone and this was the uniform he'd worn with the old man for well over a year. It seemed only fitting to wear it to his funeral. It vaguely reminded him of the soldiers who wore military dress to a funeral of one of their platoon mates.
Bill's wake was a relatively small affair. His body had been cremated before the ceremony and his ashes were place inside a pewter urn, which now sat beneath a large picture of Bill. Bill's life, focused as it was, had left him with only twenty or so people who attended his wake. Most were older men, involved in some branch of law enforcement. There were a couple policemen, an FBI agent who sat towards the back, three people who Conners could only surmise were clients who had read his obituary, and others of a similar caliber.
As the person who was closest to Bill in the end, Conners stood to deliver a speech. He didn't intend to go on for very long, and already knew what he wanted to say. Still, the demand on his emotions was something he hadn't completely anticipated. As he stood, he felt tears leaking from his eyes and a lump formed in his throat as it became harder to focus or speak.
I'm going soft, he thought, morbidly. I never would've been like this before Bill. It's weird, but I guess it's better. It's what Bill would've said was better anyway.
As he acknowledged that in his own mind, he could almost hear Bill's voice again.
You can do this, kid. It's part of humanity. You connected to me deeply enough to miss me. That's a good thing.
It made it just a little easier to focus his mind. Just a little easier to know what he had to do now. He wiped the tears away and pulled out his speech, clearing his throat.
"Bill was many things in his life. He was a cop, a husband, and eventually a private detective, and one of the smartest men who ever lived. However, he was consistently a man of faith above all else, and that showed in everything he did. He affected the lives of those around him, and refused to accept a comforting lie. He was also a man who cared more about the caliber of a man's character than his achievements. I can remember meeting a physics professor who was supposed to be at the forefront of his field, and Bill told him he was a incompetent with a ego that would dwarf the entirety of the United States congress."
He chuckled softly at the recollection, and could hear a few of the people in the audience laughing along with him. It made things a little easier: a breath of reprieve in the sorrow enveloping the room.
"Bill was a better man and a better friend than I deserved, or could've asked for. I will always be grateful to him for that."
With that, he nodded slightly and pocketed his speech before returning to his seat.
The ceremony was wrapped up shortly afterwards and they were released. Many head to collection of beers or food. Conners found that he didn't have the inclination to join them. He'd never been drunk and the idea of making his own mind sluggish didn't appeal. Besides, it felt like his stomach could turn and force him to be sick at any given moment. A few of the attendees came up to him, mumbling their condolences. Conners shook their hands and promptly forgot their words. It wasn't like they would help anything now.
What was a little odd was when a man in a brown suit with a bad hairpiece came up to him, examining a piece of paper.
"Are you Michael Conners?"
"Yes," he said, curiously.
"Sorry, Hugh Windsor. I'm part of the legal team who handle the matter of the last wills of the deceased. We were part of the team who handled Mr. Scott's last will and testament."
"Oh… thanks?" Conners said, having no clue what the man wanted from him.
"Well, I'm here because you are listed as a beneficiary in Mr. Scott's will."
"Oh!" said Conners, again, suddenly understanding. "Sorry, what do you need from me?"
"Well Mr. Scott left several items to you, which I need you to sign saying you consent to their ownership and delivery."
Conners accepted the piece of paper and saw a small inventory of items. He didn't give the list more than a passing glance before signing at the bottom.
"Finally, this letter was untrusted to our firm to pass along to you."
He handed Conners a thin letter with Bill's handwriting on it. He accepted it as carefully as he could, his hands shaking as if he had tremors.
"I'm sorry for your loss," said Windsor before turning and heading out.
Conners ran his hands rhythmically over the note, as if he could commit the feel of it to memory. He held a piece of Bill's life in his hands. Somehow, it felt that by not opening it, he could extend the old man's life. After ten minutes of standing comatose in the corner of the room, logic and curiosity superseded his reverence and he opened the letter, immediately seeing his name at the top. It was almost like walking into the office and hearing Bill's voice all over again.
If you're reading this, seems like time or someone finally got me out of the game. I want to tell you a few things and for whatever reason, it's easier to do it like this. Maybe it's because I don't know how you'll react. I hope they mean something to you. I want to tell you that I'm proud of you. I know you never did the work for my sake, but I've seen you grow in your skill, your drive, and your heart over our time together. I hope you continue all that. Heaven knows, there's more than enough crap in the country to use a good detective like you. Trust your instincts and you'll end up alright kid.
That having been said, don't do as I did and lose yourself in the work. I was so destroyed by my marriage that I ended up bitter and alone until the day a strange kid made his way into my business looking for a job. You may be unsure and unused to others, but you do have a decent heart. I hope you find friends to share it with. Life is too short to live it all alone. Take that from an old man who learned the hard way.
I also hope you can find a way to cleanse your own soul. I always have hope for you, kid. I like to think that regardless of what you say, you're searching for God… albeit in your own way. I just hope that you end up finding him. Just know that if you do, I'll be waiting to join you in heaven. It's one wild trip up here, kid.
Conners slowly traced the lines of the letter, feeling the effort that had gone into the handwritten note. Each slash on the paper felt like just one more second where Bill had not died, instead had only gone on a trip for a while. Moving slowly and carefully, Conners folded the note up just as it had been presented, and placed in his inside pocket, already knowing that this would be the most important thing he could receive from the old man.