THE WOMAN IN THE ALLEYWAY
This was not specific to Central Jamrock, or even the city proper—every city began to smell like meat when you were in this business long enough. But Jamrock was unique in one regard. Whether it was the winding layout of the streets, or the austere buildings, it had a suffocating effect. Scents lingered, seemingly embedding itself in the concrete until the stench of decay permeated the air.
Kim Kitsuragi breathed out through his mouth, and stepped unhurried past the mounds of garbage and down towards the dumpster. The dead end of the alleyway was cordoned off with reflective tape, where Officer Judit Minot stood vigilant with her hands shoved into her jacket pockets. Rats skittered in the shadows, and bills posted along the walls fluttered where they’d ripped against the breeze. It was already getting dim as the sun lowered in the sky.
“Hello, Lieutenant,” she said. Her eyes crinkled at the corners as she attempted a smile.
“Just you then?”
Kim looked over his shoulder. There was no one else, save for a few passersby rubbernecking down the alleyway where the two RCM officers stood in their uniforms.
“It would appear so,” Kim said. “What’s the situation?”
Judit motioned towards the dumpster at the end of the alley. Kim followed.
“At 4:30 in the afternoon, we received a call from the owner of the Fritte around the corner. He was taking out the trash when he found the body behind the dumpster. I got here around a half an hour ago, and waited for you and the lieutenant double-yefreitor to arrive. I haven’t touched the body.”
“Thank you, Officer Minot.”
“Just doing my job,” she said, with a weak smile. “Anyway,” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “I’ll give you space to work.”
Judit stepped away, leaving Kim to the body.
The smell was stronger here, near overpowering, and it was only going to get worse. Still, it was by no means the worst corpse he’d ever smelled. (He’d smelled a lot of corpses.)
He crouched down to get a better look, then pulled out his journal.
Body discovered at approximately 1645. Called into the station approximately 30 mins later. Officer Minot dispatched and stayed with body until homicide unit arrived.
Female victim. Appears to be mid twenties. Occidental. Decomp rate suggests a death of over 24 hours ago, at least, but was not here previously—body moved? Multiple stab wounds through anterior thorax. At least twenty. A crime of passion?
No signs of scene disturbance. Body was likely to be left here sometime the previous night. Body is wrapped in a blanket, as some kind of protection against the elements.
Victim wearing black tights, blue dress, red jacket. Brown hair, long. Well maintained. Her nails are polished and clean. Boots with heels—possibly designer? The blanket itself is a wool blend. Possibly handmade, with a lot of detail. This woman does not look as though she belongs to Central Jamrock.
“She looks like she had an even worse day than I did.”
He paused, standing to turn to where his absent partner had materialized. Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor Harry Du Bois stood behind him, his stance unsteady as he wavered. He had his fingers pinched over the bridge of his nose, and the smell of alcohol wafted off of his breath. Past him, Judit looked on with a strained expression.
“Good evening, detective,” Kim said, in the most neutral tone he could muster.
“Sorry I’m late,” Harry said. (He looked very sorry.)
“Well, you’re here now.”
There was no sense in playing into Harry’s self-loathing. At the very least, he’d showed up with gloves he’d started to put on, and had most of his uniform on, his tie, and *both* shoes. Of course he hadn’t even showed up to the station in the morning. He smelled a bit, however, like body odour and mildew, the odour only slightly less offensive than the corpse.
“So what do you think?”
“I haven’t gotten very far,” Kim said, “Based on an initial look, the victim was stabbed several times. I don’t believe she was killed here.”
“You might be right. No blood pooling beneath her. She’s maybe been dead, what, two or three days?”
“I believe so.”
“Someone would’ve noticed her body if it had been here the whole time.”
They crouched on either side of her. Kim started to rifle through her jacket, looking for identifying material that was more than unlikely to be there. You didn’t just kill a woman like that and leave her with ID.
“Hmm. Kim… do you think it’s kind of weird that she’s propped up like this?” Harry said.
Kim glanced over, where Harry was merely staring at her face instead of doing any meaningful investigation. “What’s your theory?”
Harry sniffed, moving the girl’s limp hair off her lifeless face. “So much damage done to her body, but her face is pristine. Someone even went to the trouble of closing her eyes.” He gestured. “The way she’s mostly upright, tucked back here. There’s a dumpster they could’ve thrown her into, but it’s almost like whoever did this cared that she got found.”
“I had considered a crime of passion, yes. More than likely she was killed by someone who knew her.” Kim pulled out his camera, checking the ampoules. “I’ll have Officer Minot take her body to the station so we can more thoroughly examine her later in processing. You and I should go do some interviews—see if anyone in the neighbourhood knows anything about her.”
He raised the camera to his eye. Harry moved back, letting him get a better picture. The flash was blinding, and next to him, Harry flinched.
“Ow—fuck—I forgot how bright that was. Not the greatest thing for a real motherfucker of a hangover.”
Kim stayed silent, instead shaking out the photograph. He glanced at it to make sure he’d gotten a good photo—the lifeless visage of the woman peered back. He tucked it away, looking at the woman before him. He could feel Harry studying her, as well, even as Kim leaned in to press his gloved hand to silently perform the Stations of Breath. The poor woman at least deserved a proper send-off.
He pulled his bloodied hand away and rose to his feet. Harry followed.
“She looks like she doesn’t belong here,” Harry commented. “Like someone put together a puzzle and jammed in an end piece from… from, uh—”
“A different puzzle?”
“Yeah, let’s go with that.”
“I agree.” Kim waved Judit over. “Let’s take her away.”
They bagged the body with only a little difficulty, and put it into the back of Judit’s station issued motor carriage. She waved them off with only a slightly worried look in Harry’s direction.
Standing on the edge of the street, Kim watched the motor carriage disappear around the next corner. The denizens of Central Jamrock seemed not to notice the commotion, or care. Just another dead body on a Tuesday night.
As the afternoon descended into the evening, the last stragglers of the workday disappeared to their bars and cafes, the air scented with the heavy breath of smokers and boozers. Central Jamrock came alive—homeless doing their sweeps along the gutters for bottles and cans, workers hurrying along to their bartending shifts, dealers making their rounds as the daytime drunks decided whether to go home or commit to another bender. This was the shit heap, the street with the bars and strip clubs, and Harry Du Bois fit the puzzle with his unkempt hair and perpetual squint from what had to be a blistering headache.
They had been working together for the better part of a month now, enough time to prove whether the Martinaise case was a miraculous fluke or not. It *felt* like a fluke. He couldn’t seem to come up with any explanation as to Harry’s efficacy, and it was better not to dwell on it. His partner certainly seemed to live up to his name—the Human Can-Opener. The cases flew by, Kim filling out notebook after notebook, Harry finishing bottle after bottle.
*Captain Sober.* That was another name, a name Harry could only live up to ironically.
This was definitely the worst Kim had seen him in awhile. It was cause for concern, but he didn’t let it show.
Kim clasped his hands together behind his back. “I believe the Frittte will be the best starting point. The clerk called it in.”
He nodded his head towards the aforementioned shop. Harry slowly followed his gaze. “Great. I need something for my head anyway.”
Kim motioned him forward. “After you.”
The following interviews were conducted sequentially between 1730 and 2100.
FRANCOIS PRICKETTE, the clerk at Frittte. Witness initially phoned in to report the body. RCM arrived at the Frittte to conduct interview, and witness graciously gave Lt. Double-Yefreitor Du Bois some Magnesium free of charge. A supporter of the RCM. Unlikely to be involved in the murder. His shop is very clean and orderly and exactly like every other Frittte in the area.
According to the witness, he initially discovered the body and called it in shortly after the fact.
“Ain’t out of the ordinary,” Prickette said. He sniffed, leaning over the counter to look out the window. “I find a lot of bodies in my dumpster, call ‘em in every time. This was the fastest response I’ve ever gotten, but I assume it’s because of how fancy that girl’s looking. She was sat up all nice. I felt a bit bad for her, actually.”
“And you did not hear or see anyone leaving the scene?” Kim asked.
“I just work here, pal. I got to work and she was already dead.”
Harry chewed his Magnesium thoughtfully. “Are you sure you’ve never seen the woman before?”
Prickette shrugged. “A girl like that, you’d notice down here. I never seen her before, but there’s all sorts of folks outside who might’ve.”
“Such as?” Harry asked.
“Y’see that apartment building across the street? Has a pretty good view of the alley. The old woman on the second floor wakes up to feed the pigeons from her balcony, she might’ve seen something.”
Kim followed his line of sight over his shoulder. He nodded, then turned back to make a note of it in his ledger. “Ah. Nosy old women are indeed reputable sources.”
“Sure is. Oh, you could check with the street kids outside, them too. Always loitering around trying to steal shit from my store, but they see things.”
Kim’s brow rose. “Thank you.”
“Yeah, thanks for the pills. Headache’s already better,” Harry said, shaking the pill bottle before he pocketed it.
He paused, and already Kim dreaded the next words out of his mouth.
“Actually, would you give me free cigarettes, too? Cigarettes help me solve crimes way better.”
Prickette made a face. Kim pocketed his ledger.
“I believe it’s time for us to go,” Kim said. He grabbed Harry by the elbow, and began nudging him towards the door. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
The RCM were allowed access to the apartment building by the superintendent. JULIE FIORESSE, elderly woman and second floor tenant. There are many cats in this apartment. At least four but less than six (probably). MS. FIORESSE appears to be very nearsighted, and very, very old. Unlikely to have witnessed the crime as it occurred before the sunrise.
“Um,” Harry offered lamely, as he and Kim sat snug on an overstuffed couch that must have dated well before the revolution.
The rest of the furniture was similarly old and musty, but there was no unifying set or aesthetic—likely collected from a variety of antique shops over the years. A thick layer of dust coated every surface, including an extensive tape collection that seemed to span wall to wall. It was cold and drafty, the woman draped herself in so many layers of clothing she looked a bit like a willow tree with her skinny legs poking out at the bottom.
“We would like to ask you some questions relating to a murder investigation,” Kim continued.
“Ooh, a murder! How exciting,” Ms. Fioresse said. Her aged body shook with the vigour of a child’s. It was likely she didn’t see much action anymore. Or see much of anything. Her glasses were thicker than his own, perched precariously at the end of her upturned nose.
“I know, right?” Harry said, matching her enthusiasm.
Kim hummed quietly.
“Can I get you anything? Not much in the house I’m afraid. Since my husband died, it’s been a bit difficult. We didn’t have children, and I don’t need much. So many rooms and just little old me here.”
“It’s quite alright, ma’am, we wouldn’t want to trouble you,” Kim said.
“Oh nonsense. I never have company. Would you boys like some tea?” asked Ms. Fioresse. She stood, and tottered towards the kitchenette, flicking the overhead light on where it made pinging sounds as it flickered on. “I made biscuits.”
Harry looked at him.
“Kim, do we have time for tea?”
“I believe there is time for tea.”
“And biscuits!” Ms. Fioresse exclaimed.
The RCM were offered tea and biscuits (shortbread) by the witness. Her generosity is appreciated by the RCM. The witness reported hearing the sound of an engine early in the morning while feeding the pigeons, but was too visually impaired to have seen the suspect.
(The pigeon’s names are FOOFOO, BISOU and JAMES. It was vital to the witness that this information be reported to the RCM.)
Witness could not identify victim but said that she looked very beautiful in the photograph—even in death. Fancy, like she should be on a magazine cover.
The witness also voiced concern for the local youth down on the street.
Harry reached across the table for more shortbread. Kim nodded, going back to his notebook.
There are drugs everywhere in Jamrock, but worth following up?
RCM officers exited the apartment to question the homeless youth loitering under the streetlight.
Youth would not offer their names, and will be referred to as A (mid-teens, female, likely Mesque), B (mid-teens, on some sort of upper, male) and D (LT. DU BOIS insisted he did not seem like a C, for some reason).
“Cop-esque,” added D.
“Cops copping a feel,” said A, in a shrill voice.
They laughed. Kim was already tired of this conversation.
Kim schooled his expression, even as Harry planted his feet. It was probably to seem authoritative over these brats, but it came off more like he was trying to avoid passing out. The extended hangover had made him a bit green around the gills, even if the combination of the tea, shortbread and magnesium had abated the symptoms of his indulgence somewhat. (Still, it wasn’t like Kim hadn’t seen him pouring whiskey into his tea from a flask hidden in his sleeve—hair of the dog only made the bite of a hangover worse.)
Kim stood silent, his hands clasped behind his back.
“We are investigating the murder of a young woman,” said Harry. “Her body was discovered in the alley this morning, and we were hoping one of you had seen something. We’ve been told you know the area well.”
“Even if we did, why would we tell you anything?” asked D. He spat on the ground, some of the spittle clinging to the ring through his lower lip where he licked it away.
“Why *wouldn’t* you tell us?” asked Harry.
“Why would we want to tell the pigs anything?” retorted D.
“Why wouldn’t you want to tell the pigs anything?”
“Why would I want to? Why what?” D said, confused.
“What does it mean to want?” Harry continued. “What do you want? What do any of us want?”
Kim stood silent. He was more than used to his partner’s ersatz form of questioning.
D seemed perplexed. “Er…”
“What is it that your soul is wanting?” Harry asked. He took a step closer. “When you speak to your soul, what does it call back?”
“Whoa,” B muttered. “That’s deep.”
There was a silence. Kim cleared his throat, stepping forward.
“Do you know this woman?” Kim asked. He pulled the photograph from his jacket, and turned it to face them.
A’s eyes widened. “Oh…”
She covered her mouth. Kim’s eyebrow raised. It was clear she hadn’t meant to react. He exchanged a look with Harry, who turned to the girl.
“So you have seen her?” Harry asked.
Harry gestured. “Was she here doing anything illegal?”
“We aren’t narcs,” D said, inflamed.
“Definitely not narcs,” B replied. There was a bit of hesitation there.
They seemed tense, like they were about to bolt. Kim pocketed the photo, and decided to redirect the conversation.
“Don’t worry. You aren’t the focus of our investigation, and any information you offer won’t get you into any trouble.”
“But if you don’t help me get some drugs, you might be,” Harry said, sternly.
Kim closed his mouth.
“Cop does drugs!?” B exclaimed.
“Cop does *lots* of drugs.” Harry grinned. “I’m a dirty cop, jonesing for some hardcore drugs.”
“Yes…” Kim deadpanned. “*Hardcore* drugs.”
“They’re just messing with us, don’t say anything,” said D.
B frowned. “I don’t know. Look at this guy, I think he does more drugs than *I* do.”
“It’s true,” Harry said. “I’ve done *all* the drugs. So if you have drugs, you should give them to me.”
He jabbed himself in the chest with his thumb. Kim looked on, patient as ever.
“We don’t sell drugs,” A said. “If we did, you think we’d be standing around here starving?”
“Where would one get drugs?” Harry said.
“What will you give us if we tell you?”
“What are your thoughts on shortbread?” Harry asked.
LT. DU BOIS, using his quick thinking, introduced the witnesses to the old woman on the second-floor apartment. The shortbread was highly appreciated, and B had already taken it upon himself to begin sorting MS. FIORESSE’s extensive tape collection.
A chewed her fifth piece of shortbread thoughtfully, glancing back to her friends, who appeared to be already settling in. “Well…”
The witnesses assisted the RCM in their search by directing them to an alternate location in Central Jamrock where illegal activity regularly occurs. To protect the witnesses, the location has been redacted.
The witnesses gave a name in possible connection with the case. THE MAN.
Both lieutenants are armed with their issued service weapon and on the defense. Down a long hallway and—
Kim shut the notebook. He tucked it into his jacket, then clasped his hands behind his back. “Of course. How rude of me.”
Their ‘tour guide’—a rather large man named Bruno in a muscle shirt and ripped jeans—led them down the next dingy hallway. The series of tenements where they’d been directed had taken them underground. Some careful questioning (not really that careful, really—Harry had just given them wild eyes and under some kind of what had to be hypnosis, they’d given him whatever he asked for), they’d ended up in a trap house with a lot of unsavoury folk hanging about.
Inside, there were people using and laying dazed along the floor. It was eerily quiet. The building had probably been respectable at some point, before getting shelled to kingdom come. A web of tarps covered the gaps in the ceiling, shielding the sedate party below from the elements. The inner walls bore the thick scent of incense, and the carpets squished with rainwater underfoot.
Bruno led them to a corner apartment, the door opened in anticipation of their arrival. He stepped aside to let them pass.
“Go ahead,” said Bruno. “You know where to find THE MAN.”
“I do?” Harry said. Any confusion was quickly masked. “Yeah, I do.”
Bruno gave him a look. Kim stayed silent, and followed as Harry stepped through the threshold. Behind them, an audible click of the door, and no sign of Bruno.
“What the fuck kind of name is THE MAN anyway?” Harry muttered.
“And how do you know him, I wonder?”
Kim straightened his glasses. Harry gave him a puppy dog look that Kim was more than immune to.
It was dark in the apartment. Blackout curtains choked out all the light, save for a balmy red glow emitting from the kitchen. It smelled sickly sweet, like burned sugar, and it almost hurt to breathe. Music drifted in from another room, something slow and sad and warbling.
There were tables set up inside, and girls with masks weighing powders on scales. At the back table sat a tall, older man with a cigar, and a dark haired Seolite girl sitting with her feet in his lap. He seemed distracted by the phone on the table, but he raised his head and motioned them forward without looking. The girl couldn’t have been older than seventeen, (though Kim had looked “young for his age” until his hair had finally started to recede at thirty eight—it was hard to say), her dark eyes watching carefully as Kim and Harry approached.
“Ah, *Harrier*. And I see you’ve brought a friend with you,” said THE MAN. He tapped his cigar against the ashtray, smiling upward as he gripped the girl’s ankle. “One of your countrymen, Rina.”
Rina looked up at him, and her eyes narrowed. Kim looked back, but didn’t react. She quickly diverted her attention to the table.
“You know me?” Harry blurted.
THE MAN blinked. “We’ve done plenty of business together. Don’t tell me you’re playing coy, now, policeman. Here for your usual?”
“My partner has had a recent memory episode,” Kim said. “Please forgive him.”
He snorted. “I’m not surprised. The amount of shit I was selling him, it could’ve taken out the entire Coalition.”
“So I’m a *regular*,” Harry murmured. He seemed at least a little sheepish about it.
It was concerning to know his partner was caught up in illegal activity, but not anything unexpected. At the very least, it appeared he’d abstained from buying narcotics since their return from Martinase.
“Something for you, then?” THE MAN said, turning to Kim.
“We have some questions pertaining to a murder investigation.”
“I’m always happy to assist the RCM if it means you’ll allow me to continue my business in peace.” THE MAN flashed a toothy grin. “I bring a lot of work to this neighbourhood, and I don’t tolerate crime or violence on my turf.”
“Of course not,” Kim said, dryly. “No crime here.”
THE MAN nudged the girl’s legs off of his lap, and then leaned forward to thread his fingers together on the table. “So... tell me about this murder.”
Kim pulled out the photograph and handed it over. “This afternoon we discovered the body of a woman in an alley in this neighbourhood. We have been told you may be able to identify her.”
“Quite the looker, isn’t she? Or was,” said THE MAN. “Shame when a beautiful woman has to die—and so violently, too.”
He put the photo down onto the table. Rina leaned over to look, her inky hair swinging with the momentum. When she laid eyes on it, she froze. Her breathing picked up, though she tried to repress it.
“I’m afraid I can’t place her, though.” THE MAN stroked his chin, as if reminiscing. “I remember everyone who passes through here, and I would *definitely* remember a pretty mug like that.”
Kim carefully watched Rina. Beside him, he could sense Harry doing the same.
“We’ll take our search elsewhere, then,” Kim said, carefully.
“Sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you, officers,” THE MAN said. He waved a hand at his drug lab. “You’re still welcome to purchase some of my fine product, of course. We’ll keep it between us.”
Kim opened his mouth to object, but Harry jumped in.
“I’d *love* to buy some drugs!”
“I knew you would, my dear Harry.” THE MAN patted Rina on the knee. “Sweet girl, help the customer with his purchase. Your usual?”
“Yeah, gimme that.”
Rina nodded. She kept her head down as she reached into a kitchen drawer, her quick fingers picking through baggies and bottles. She turned back to them, and extended her hand. “Forty reál.”
“No wonder I’m broke.” Harry dug into his pocket for the money, and quickly exchanged it with the girl. “Thanks.”
Her eyes flicked towards Kim briefly, as if to gauge his reaction. Harry pocketed the drugs.
“If I think of anything I’ll be sure to contact the RCM,” THE MAN said.
“We appreciate any help you can give,” Harry said, with a shit-eating grin.
They left the tenements the exact way they came. Bruno escorted them down the steps, and shut the door behind them, before resuming his place standing guard.
The walk back to the Kineema felt very long. Kim held his tongue, waiting for Harry to explain himself, as he always seemed to.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Harry said, finally.
“You have that look?”
“What look?” Kim asked, perfectly aware that he was indeed giving *that look.*
“The drugs aren’t for me! I swear. I bought them to test against whatever’s in the victim’s system.”
“Ah.” Kim’s ‘look’ receded, slightly. “Quick thinking, detective.”
“You aren’t just saying that to make me feel better, right? You can take them if you want—keep ‘em safe.”
“No, that’s all right,” Kim said. “I believe you.”
Harry breathed an audible sigh of relief. He wasn’t used to being trusted, that much was clear. Even if he hadn’t particularly earned that trust. There was still whiskey on his breath, after all.
“Still,” Harry continued. “They obviously knew me. I’d met THE MAN before. I don’t remember fuck all about that.”
“Perhaps it’s better that way.”
At least, it meant he hadn’t been using (or buying, at least) since Kim had joined the precinct.
“That girl—the young one,” Harry said. “I think she knows something.”
“She certainly seemed to have a reaction to the photograph.”
“Yeah… she’s hiding something. We need to talk to her alone, somehow. I’d say we could bring her in, but I’m not sure that would fly with THE MAN and I think we want to be on his good side, for now, at least.”
“Perhaps we can dispatch a junior officer to follow her tonight, and find out where she lives,” Kim suggested. “We can return to question her tomorrow.”
Harry stroked his chin as Kim fished for the keys to the Kineema.
“So… what do we do now?”
“We should return to the station and take another look at the body,” Kim suggested. “A more thorough examination may give us some leads.”
He looked nauseous all of a sudden. Kim watched him carefully. He knew Harry tried to avoid the station at all costs. It wasn’t exactly a friendly environment for him.
“Perhaps some dinner first?” Kim suggested.
Harry’s eyes brightened. Kim thought, somewhat guiltily, that Harry was a bit like a dog.
“*Fantastic* idea, Kim,” Harry said, slapping him on the back hard enough to take the wind out of him. “What would I do without you?”
They scarfed down cold cut sandwiches and drank black coffee in paper cups before shuttering themselves into the Kineema. A real meal returned some much needed color to Harry’s face, perking him right up. He even made a call to the station to put a tail on the Seolite girl without making a complete ass of himself.
Kim drove them back to Precinct 41 in mostly companionable silence, before Harry started fucking around with the radio and turning the volume up on Speedfreaks FM to his extreme embarrassment. He always got tense when listening to his music within earshot of the other officers, but Harry just drummed his hands on his thighs and made obnoxious guitar sounds and looked out the window at every car that passed like an excited dog. It was enjoyable.
The station was as busy as ever. Jamrock was too small for the amount of ground it had to cover, and there were people constantly going in and out, standing around the sidewalk. The old silk mill with its domed skull towered on the street where it lived, and Kim parked the Kineema along the other rows of horse stalls and motor carriages outside.
They went through the front entrance and through to the bullpen, where officers looked and jeered like they always did whenever Harrier Du Bois showed his face at the precinct. Kim made eye contact with anyone who dared look, successfully cowing more than a few lesser officers into their place.
He knew there was a betting pool going behind his back about how long he would last as Harry’s partner. He’d heard Elfboy and Torson laughing about it in the coffee corner. Kim Kitsuragi would last. He was no quitter.
“Look who finally made it to work,” Jean Vicquemare said, snidely.
He stood at his desk near the edge of the bullpen. After the hubbub in Martinaise, Harry had lost his task force, even though his officers elected to stay in the C-wing. He’d been allowed to keep his job, but only Kim had stayed on as his partner. Officers Minot and Vicquemare helped where they could, but their resources were already stretched to begin with.
“Satellite-officer,” Kim said, in greeting.
“Do you really need to give me shit right now?” Harry said. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Vicquemare tsked. “Am I supposed to be impressed? Shit, Harry, it’s almost quitting time.” He turned to Kim. “How are you dealing with this?”
“The detective and I work well together,” Kim said and left it at that. He wanted no part in this conversation.
“Really?” Vicquemare scoffed. “Wait til you have to pull him down off a street lamp when he’s tweaked out of his head or wake him up in a puddle of his own piss, then we’ll talk.”
“Can we *please* not talk about that?” Harry snapped.
Vicquemare shut his mouth abruptly. He shuffled some papers, and went back to his desk, where Harry unfortunately followed, dogged as ever. Kim merely clasped his hands behind his back. Out of the periphery of his vision, Judit walked over to the desk with some folders in hand.
“Ah, just the people I was looking for.” Judit forced a smile. “Shall we head down to processing?”
There was an awkward silence. Kim raised his hand to cough.
Harry leaned forward, planting his hands on Vicquemare’s desk.
“Come on, Jean... Can’t we go back to how it was before—”
“*Before*?” Vicquemare laughed. “Don’t give me that bullshit. You don’t even remember what before was like—” Harry opened his mouth, “—and if you do, it won’t be long before you drink and cry yourself into oblivion and forget it all *again.* ”
Vicquemare and Harry glared at each other for a long, tense moment.
Kim lowered his voice. “This isn’t the venue for hashing out personal misgivings.” People were starting to look. “That’s enough.”
Viquemare sighed, and pretended to read a report. Judit looked tired, older than her years. Kim wondered how many arguments just like this she’d witnessed in her short tenure.
Kim patted Harry on the shoulder. “I think we should focus on the case, yefreitor.”
“Sure, Kim. Let’s solve us a case— because I’m a good cop, and it’s my *job* to solve the hell out of this case.”
Vicquemare didn’t bother to spare him a glance. Judit motioned, with a strained look. “Shall we, then?”
“Yes,” Harry declared. "We *shall.*” He didn’t seem altogether convinced, himself.
Processing happened in the basement of the old silk mill, down a set of service elevators that felt like a descent into the pale. It was a place out of time, with great looms along the walls that had gone long since retired. It was quiet, the metal ceilings causing echoes as the service elevator clanged to a stop. Dust fell from above, and Harry coughed loudly without covering his mouth.
It smelled like death. There were bodies on gurneys and people in white jackets milling about. Bright lights lit the corpses like some kind of macabre tableau. Judit led them towards the third body on the gurney, sliding a mask over her face as she went. The smell down here was dreadful.
The alleyway woman had been stripped out of her expensive clothing, and laying under the sheet she looked much more fragile. Her skin had taken on an almost grey pallor, and her dark hair fanned out beneath her head like a dark ocean wave.
“I did an examination to save you two some time,” said Judit. “I finished with her about an hour ago.”
“And what are your initial findings?” Kim said. He took out his notebook.
“The twenty-eight stab wounds to the anterior thorax appear to be the most obvious cause of death,” Judit said. Her voice was slightly muffled. She passed Harry a pair of gloves, and put on some of her own.
He snapped them on, wriggling his fingers. “Anything less than obvious?”
Judit pulled the sheet down to reveal her chest and abdomen, and reached across to pick up one of her arms. “Contusions along the upper arms. Hand shaped. Some of these look older.”
“So she was abused?” Harry asked.
Judit nodded. “It’s likely.” She moved lower, and manipulated the fingers of the dead woman. “There are defensive wounds on the hands and fingers. Slash wounds all over her forearms. This woman fought tooth and nail for her life.”
“Were there injuries indicative of sexual assault?” Kim asked.
“There was no bruising or tearing. There are, however, signs of a sexual encounter under 48 hours ago. No DNA, but I’ve still swabbed her.”
Harry hummed thoughtfully. He examined the knife wounds on her limbs with a careful eye. Kim watched him through his glasses, flicking back to make notes periodically.
“Kim,” Harry said, motioning him over. “Look here.”
There were fine, white lines along the inside of her arm. Almost imperceptible. “Those look quite old,” Kim commented. “Likely self-inflicted.”
“Why would she do something like that?”
Harry’s expression had slipped into a frown. Kim didn’t comment.
“There are fresh ones along her inner thighs,” Judit said, her eyes going soft.
Kim turned his pen to the page.
Victim has signs of self-injury and self-injurious behaviour. Typically such behaviour comes with a penchant for getting oneself into dangerous situations. Possibly what led her to Jamrock.
It seems as though the more recent wounds she was hiding. If not from a lover, then who?
“Her blood may still hold some information,” Kim said.
“Is there a narcotics sample?” Judit asked. She opened her palm the way a teacher would upon discovering their student with a wad of chewing gum.
Harry almost seemed reluctant. Kim didn’t look at him, and kept writing.
With a sigh, Harry handed the baggie over.
“Thank you.” Judit’s eyes crinkled in what was a genuine smile hidden beneath the mask, then turned to put the sample away.
Harry looked to Kim like he was expecting some kind of praise. What did he expect? A pat on the head? Kim raised an eyebrow, but didn’t otherwise react. He kept his mind on the task at hand, instead refocusing his attention to a detail on the woman’s left hand.
“That indent there, on her index finger.”
“She was wearing a ring. Whoever did this to her probably took it.”
Kim nodded. “I don’t believe this crime was entirely drug related. I think it’s—”
“Personal?” Harry interjected. “Yeah, me too.”
“A controlling spouse, perhaps. Jilted ex-lover?”
“Whoever it was,” Harry continued, “We need to find out what that girl Rina knows. She could probably help us identify her.”
Kim nodded. “Let’s finish up with the body. Then, we will debrief.”
“Great! I could use a cigarette.”
Harry pulled off his gloves and waved Judit back over. With a sweep of the sheet, she covered the girl’s face from view for the last time.
It was honestly the part of the day that he looked forward to most. Not just his single cigarette, but the quiet of nighttime, his partner standing beside him in thought. The Jamrock precinct had a second floor balcony, and this time of night, it was usually just the two of them.
The balcony overlooked an empty grey yard that mostly held impounded vehicles, and beyond that were the tenements with its scattered lights. Back here, the sounds of the city could only be muted so much—traffic, the throng of the late night crowds—there was no way out of it. They both belonged to Revachol.
He still only smoked his solitary cigarette, but he’d be lying if he didn’t carry around a few extras. Harry always ended up bumming his, even if he complained about the menthol taste.
“I don’t know why he says that kind of shit right out in the open,” Harry said. He took a long drag, shoving his hand into his pocket as he shuffled his feet.
“Satellite-officer Vicquemare, you mean?”
“It’s like he’s trying to humiliate me.”
“Do you think he would’ve said that if you had been here on time?”
Harry frowned. “Not you too.”
Kim smiled, leaning on his elbows over the railing. “There is no place for personal quibbles in the precinct. Besides, he’s not your keeper.”
“Pretty sure *you* are, Kim.”
“Ah, is that what you call this?”
“Anyway…” Harry tapped the ash off his smoke over the ledge. “This case—what do you think?”
“We made a good start today. We have a person of interest, a lead to chase, a cause of death,” Kim said. He planted his foot against the railing, cocked his hip. “I would’ve liked to have learned the victim’s name. We can resume our investigation in the morning. I have a long way home.”
“How long does it take you to drive, again? Like an hour on the highway?”
“Yes, but I don’t mind.”
“You thinking about moving closer?”
Kim put his cigarette between his lips. He leaned over the railing, looking down at the concrete.
“Man, Kim… how do you look so cool just doing nothing?”
He looked over his shoulder, where Harry had an almost pained look.
“You’re so mysterious all the time. I’ve known you for how long now and I don’t know where you live. You stand there smoking like that and—” Harry spread his palms out for effect, “—like *that!*”
“You think I’m mysterious because I don’t overshare, detective. I’m not that complicated.”
“So you think I’m complicated?”
“That’s one word I’d use.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or a criticism.”
“It is neither. It is merely a fact.”
“Tell me one thing about yourself.”
He raised an eyebrow. Harry practically flinched, but seemed to find his footing, steeling himself. He killed his cigarette, then pointed a wide finger at Kim’s chest.
“I’m a cop. A damn good cop. Sooner or later I’m going to suss out every little thing there is to know about you.”
Kim leaned back against the railing and scanned Harry’s face. Of course he’d let things slip over time—Harry knew more about him than almost anyone, though it was only little crumbs of information. What kind of music he liked, his background, what he looked like in sheer terror, even his sexuality. His last partner hadn’t known about that at all, and Kim had never got the chance to really tell him. Not that Eyes would’ve wanted to know. They had a perfectly professional relationship up until Kim had his blood all over his hands.
Here Harry was asking for one thing. One little thing. Where was the harm in that?
“All right. You can ask *one* question.”
Harry’s face lit up, then immediately fell again. He stroked his chin. “That’s a lot of pressure. Now I have to ask something important...”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
“Let’s have it,” Kim said, playing along. He took one last drag off his cigarette before flicking it away, then turned to face Harry, smiling ever so slightly.
“Okay, Kim. And you have to be honest.”
“Why did you join the 41st precinct when I asked you to?”
*Ah.* Of course he’d ask that.
Kim adjusted his glasses. He could feel the weight of Harry’s gaze as he took his time finding the words.
“I liked the idea of a larger district to take care of. Bigger caseload. A more central station… there is certainly change in the air, and I wanted to be closer to the core of it when the time comes. That, and working under Captain Pryce, of course.”
Harry regarded him silently for a moment. He crossed his arms, as if physically walling himself off.
“Is that it?”
“Yes,” Kim said, with a degree of finality. It was the truth, yes—but not the entire truth.
“Pryce and his stupid piebald,” Harry muttered, to himself. Seeming deflated, he looked up to Kim. “I guess Pryce is as good a reason to be here as any.”
“Yes,” Kim said, with a tiny smile. “He is.”
He pressed away from the railing, then smoothed down his bomber jacket. It was late.
“Need a ride home?” Kim asked.
Harry waved a hand. He looked dejected, where he’d slumped over the railing. “It’s fine. I’ll walk.”
“Of course. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then. We have a lot of ground to cover.”
“Sure. Whatever you say.”
Kim stood unmoving for a moment. Then, he stepped closer to Harry and raised his hand.
There was a brief moment where he thought Harry wouldn’t react, but a wry grin pulled at his mouth, and Harry slapped his open palm against his. When Kim went low, Harry followed through without a second thought. He could always trust Harry not to leave him hanging.
“Goodnight, detective,” Kim said.
He slipped through the balcony door, and left Harry to the call of the night.
The drive home was unremarkable. The highway was empty this time of night, no one to worry about as he floored the gas pedal, his music blaring loud enough that he didn’t have to think.
Kim’s apartment was a little one bedroom in the industrial harbour. He’d bought it primarily for the garage space on the ground floor. The water pressure was terrible, but it was clean and his neighbours kept to themselves. He’d been coming home to an empty house for as long as he could remember, and so the relative quiet, the solitude didn’t bother him. It was almost a relief—noise seemed to pervade every corner in Jamrock. Just like the smell of meat.
Kim closed the door to his place behind him, flipped the locks, and turned on the light.
Everything was organized as he liked. He took off his shoes and jacket, and put them in their proper place. He padded in socked feet to the kitchenette, and poured himself a tall glass of water that he quickly drained. Harry liked to run everywhere all day, and it always left him exhausted and dehydrated by the time he got home.
He sat down by the window at the part-time kitchen table/part-time desk, the only part of his living space that got a little bit messy. A tall stack of folders, notes, and pencil shavings littered the surface. The folder at the top was on Wild Pines, and another in the corner was his notebook he’d used in Martinaise—”The furies are at home in the mirror,” the case where he’d met Harry, hid within. His fingers lingered over the journal as he pushed the stack to the side. He opened his ledger, flipping pages. Still no title for the woman in the alleyway. No name.
Kim chewed the end of this pen. He knew another who’d taken time to find their name. It had been right in front of him, too.
His thoughts drifted to Harry’s look of disappointment. Perhaps he should’ve been more forthcoming. Kim leaned forward over his notebook, his eyes lowering. He trusted Harry, of course, but it was a whole other story to tell him outright how much he enjoyed his company. It was embarrassing, of course, and even more difficult was how much Harry obviously wanted to hear it.
It had to mean something. He couldn’t just say it to soothe a bruised ego. It mattered to him more than that.
With a sigh, he closed his notebook. It was late, he wasn’t going to get any work of value done. He took a quick shower, perfunctionally jerking himself off, then brushed his teeth and dressed for bed.
As he slipped between the sheets, he took off his glasses and deposited them on the end table by his alarm clock set for five o’clock in the morning. It was already long past midnight.
Kim stared at the pipes running along the ceiling. The groan of water, and the sounds of the cars outside. Suddenly, all he could hear was his breathing. His heartbeat in his ears.
He listened and listened until even that steady beat made way for blissful silence. Still, Kim Kitsuragi did not sleep that night, thinking of smoke, the balcony, the city below, and of words unsaid.
THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Kim Kitsuragi watched the hands of the clock land on the ten and twelve, then flicked his eyes back to the empty desk beside him. Still no sign of Harry. Two hours late already.
He drummed his fingers on his desk. He wasn’t about to waste another day waiting around for his partner when they had a case to solve. The junior officer had already come and gone after a long night spent staking out the drug house with nothing to report, so it was on them to get the legwork done. They had to find that Seolite girl, alone.
He stood up, tucking his notebook into his jacket. He knew where Harry lived, but it wasn’t exactly like him to drop in unannounced. They didn’t ‘hang out’ outside of work, even though they spent most days attached at the hip working cases. Going to Harry’s house would cross a boundary.
Kim knew the other officers in C-wing were watching him as he pushed his chair in. Satellite-officer Vicquemare in particular. Kim wasn’t entirely surprised when Vicquemare got out of his chair, and cut him off as he walked towards the exit.
“Excuse me,” Kim said, his face as neutral as possible.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m sorry, I must be mistaken. Do I report to you, now, Satellite-officer?”
Vicquemare pulled a face. Kim merely waited.
“You *know* what I am talking about,” Vicquemare said, lowering his voice. “If you go to him, you’re giving him the exact kind of attention he wants. You are *feeding* into his illness.”
“I don’t recall asking for your opinion, but I will take it into consideration,” Kim said. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have an investigation to continue.”
Vicquemare grabbed his arm as he attempted to walk past. He looked down at the hand and Vicquemare pulled it away like it had been moved for him.
“He isn’t going to get any better. He isn’t going to change. I thought that maybe, after Martinaise—” His eyes softened. “Look. I’ve been where you are. Save yourself the trouble.”
Kim’s eyes narrowed.
“I’m going to say this one more time, because I respect you,” Kim said. “Back off.”
Vicquemare looked crestfallen for a moment, then stepped back. “Of course. My apologies.”
“I appreciate your concern. I will speak with you later.”
He gave Vicquemare a polite nod out of courtesy, then let Kim pass.
The apartment complex where Harry lived was a shabby, unkempt mess of a building. The narrow three floor structure bore half-moon windows, with pipes and loose wires running along the sides. The facade was an awful shade of infant shit green, and the whole thing listed to the side like it had given up on its existence, much like the lieutentant-yefreitor himself.
The buzzer didn’t seem to work, and the lobby door wouldn’t budge. Kim glanced around, ensuring there was no one keeping too close an eye, before jimmying open the door with his standard issue knife and a good wiggle of the knob.
He knew Harry lived on the third floor, but he wasn’t sure which apartment. A narrow, curved flight of stairs took him up, where he was presented with three doors. The first one, no answer. The second one, an irritated woman with a screaming toddler shut him out.
The last door opened when he knocked. It had been left open. Concerned, Kim put a hand over his holster, and nudged the door wider to peer inside.
“Detective?” he called.
There was no response.
The apartment was an absolute disaster. Narrow shafts of light slipped through the curtains, pulled tight, but the room was dim otherwise, save for a fallen corner lamp that cast shadows over the walls. Bottles and cans were stacked high in the kitchen and living room. There was broken glass everywhere, paper all over the coffee table and floor. Blood on the counter.
He pulled out his service weapon, and cautiously entered the apartment.
He stepped into the living room. The familiar sounds of the city faded away, giving way to the creak of the hardwood floor underfoot, his heartbeat. A thorough corner check revealed no-one. The balcony was empty. The bedroom, the same, even though the mattress had been dragged down onto the floor, the curtains ripped from the window in a tangled web on the ground. There were holes in the wall likely put there by a fist.
All that was left was the bathroom. Light shone from the bottom of the closed door. Kim tried the handle, but there was resistance when he pushed. Dread coiled in his gut.
He pushed hard at the door with his shoulder, and with great effort it groaned wide enough that he was able to slip through. Harry lay before him, face down on the bathroom floor in a puddle of vomit and blood, his head wedged up against the door.
Kim didn’t have time to think, he acted. His hands shook as he holstered his weapon, and he got to his knees so fast that a shot of pain went up his leg. He took his glove off with his teeth, pressing his fingers to Harry’s neck.
There was a pulse.
He rolled him over onto his side, facing him. Harry’s eyes were open halfway, rolled up into his head, while spittal and bile leaked from his open mouth. Kim swiped two fingers in between his lips to clear out the vomit, then leaned down to make sure he was breathing.
There—the sound of breath. It wasn’t the worst case scenario, at least.
Kim leaned back onto his haunches. There was sweat under his armpits, at his hairline. He forced himself to catch his breath, to regain his composure. The fear drained out of him, followed by pure and utter rage as he spotted the baggie on the floor by Harry’s head.
He gave Harry a shake. “Detective!”
A vague grunt emitted from the lump of meat below him. Kim shook him harder.
“Lieutenant Du Bois!”
Another groan. His eyes closed, and started to move rapidly beneath their lids. Kim slapped at him fruitlessly.
Then he leaned close.
He started with a snort. Harry’s eyes flew open, and seemed to float around in his head, until he looked up high enough to see Kim’s face.
“F-Fuck,” Harry groaned. “Kim?”
Kim looked down at him, unimpressed. “Yes.”
“What…” Harry pressed a fist to his forehead, wincing. There was blood all over his hand. The broken glass in the kitchen was the likely culprit. “What are you doing here...? Where am I?”
“You are on the floor of your bathroom passed out in a puddle of your own vomit,” Kim explained. “You didn’t show up on time for work this morning, so I came to check on you.”
“*Fuck,*” Harry repeated, softly.
He started to sit up, his hands slipping in the puddle beneath him. Kim grabbed him by the upper arm, and hauled him into a seated position. The last thing he wanted was for Harry to slam his head into something—they still had a job to do, after all.
Kim held onto his shoulders and waited for Harry to stabilize somewhat. He was still groaning, holding his skull in his hands. While he waited, Kim did a visual assessment—no blood or bruising on the back of his head, no other obvious signs of trauma aside from the hand. His eyes trailed lower, and Kim pressed his lips together as it became evident the puddle beneath them wasn’t just vomit.
He could hear the change in Harry’s breathing when he realized it, too. He hid his face in his hand, releasing a low sob. “Oh, God...”
Harry hit his head once, twice.
Kim didn’t say anything, for a moment. He waited for it to pass. Harry slouched forward, his feet sliding against the tile.
“That’s enough, detective,” Kim said. He squeezed Harry’s shoulder. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
There was a moment where he thought Harry was going to pull away in shame, but instead, he nodded. Kim got up to a crouch, his knee complaining where he’d hit it before, sliding one arm under Harry’s shoulder and heaving him upright.
Harry swayed, his bulk knocking Kim off-balance, and sent them both crashing against the sink. He managed to keep them at least vertical, hitching Harry up against his outer leg. They stood like that until Harry finally managed to raise his head, only to rest it against Kim’s shoulder, taking deep, heaving breaths.
Kim ignored him and looked towards the bathtub. It would only take a bit of effort to move Harry towards it, and put him down inside. He could at least sit under the shower, wash the vomit and urine off. He smelled like death. It was all over Kim, too—at least he always had a spare change of clothes out in the Kineema.
“Detective,” Kim said, quietly. He could feel the brush of Harry’s facial hair against his neck. “The bathtub—”
“Why are you so nice to me?” Harry slurred.
“You need higher standards.”
“What I *need* is attention!”
“This is not how you go about getting it.”
“Are you kidding? This is the nicest anyone’s been to me in years.” He laughed, under his breath. “Heh, maybe I should try to off myself more often.”
Kim grabbed him by the jaw, pushing him back enough that he could look him dead in the eye. Harry met his gaze with watery eyes, drooping downward like the rest of his rapidly aging visage.
He didn’t say anything. He stared Harry down.
A horrific, smarmy grin spread across Harry’s face. His brows rose, like this was some sort of *joke* to him.
“You’re so cool, Kim,” he rasped out. “You’re cool even when you’re mad.”
“I’m not mad,” Kim tightened his grip. “But you will never say anything like that to me again. Do you understand?”
Harry didn’t have a response. The grin seemed to falter, though, like his face didn’t know what expression to make anymore.
“Why don’t you ever tell me how fucked up I am, Kim?” Harry tilted his head. “I deserve it. I wouldn’t even be upset—I’d *like* it if you told me I was a fuck up.” Harry lowered his voice. “If you punished me for the shit I put you through... I wouldn’t even mind.”
Kim opened his mouth to speak, but the words didn’t come. Harry laughed.
“Shit, I’m really fucked up,” he said.
Letting go of his neck, Kim’s hand shifted to Harry’s shoulder. “The bathtub is right there, detective. Perhaps you should sit down.”
He clinically helped Harry out of the tangle of his clothing. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen him in a state of undress—the last time had been so frantic, blood everywhere and his vision swimming from the concussion, that this time almost seemed routine. He isn’t going to get any better. He isn’t going to change. Vicquemare’s words echoed in his head. How often had he done this for Harry? Was this *routine* for them? How long before Kim started associating the smell of piss and vomit with his partner?
He had to admit it was a little eerie. Vicquemare warned just yesterday about this very scenario. Had Harry taken it to heart? Did he want to spite him? Make a point? See, Jean? Kim wouldn’t mind! Kim *cares*!
Kim clenched his jaw.
He left Harry in his underwear, sparing his dignity, but the bullet scar on his inner thigh stared back at Kim as he set Harry down in the base of the tub.
Harry could barely sit upright. He kept holding his head, hunched over.
“Kim… I’m sorry.”
Eyes narrowed, Kim reached over and turned the shower full-blast. Harry started in surprise, his arm knocking against the ceramic edge of the shower wall. “*Fuck!*”
He grabbed for Kim’s shirt, jerking him into the spray as well. Kim gripped Harry’s hand, disentangling his fingers, and stepped back.
“Stop apologizing, detective,” Kim said, bluntly. “Get your shit together, and then we’ll talk.”
Kim slid the shower curtain shut. He wasn’t going to stick around to clean up after Harry’s mess. There was vomit all over his gloves and arms, the knees of his pants were wet and stank of piss, and his shirt had gone see-through from the burst of water. Kim frowned at himself in the mirror, and set about cleaning up as best he could. He’d still have to change, but it could wait.
The bathroom floor was a lost cause, for now. He simply laid down one of the grungy looking towels hanging on the rack down over the mess, stepping around it as he exited.
He left the bathroom door open a crack, his ears piqued as he went back into the living room. From there, Kim hung up his jacket to dry, and set about cleaning up the broken glass, pouring Harry a tall glass of water, and put down some magnesium tabs on the coffee table.
Then, he sat down on the sofa, put his elbows on his knees and caught his breath.
God, he needed a cigarette.
Kim sat like that, still as a statue. After what felt like too long, he heard the water shut off. He waited patiently for his partner to emerge.
Finally, the door opened. Harry stepped out on unsteady feet, with only a towel around his waist. He gripped the doorjamb like a lifeline, then took a few tentative steps forward, finally letting go. He’d attempted to bandage the hand, at least.
“Sit down,” Kim said.
Harry obeyed. He sat down beside Kim, close enough that their shoulders touched. Kim leaned forward, taking the water and magnesium, and handing it to Harry. He took it wordlessly, draining the entire glass. He put it back on the table, next to an empty bottle of whiskey, with a decisive thump.
Leaning back, Harry smoothed down his beard. He took a deep breath.
“Shit is together,” he said.
“Super fucking together. My shit.”
“I hate that you had to see me like that.”
“Let’s move past it,” Kim said. He didn’t particularly want to think about it anymore. The image of Harry facedown like that was already seared into his mind.
“You don’t want to talk about it? Tell me that I need to do better, or something?”
“How you conduct yourself in your off hours is none of my business. All I expect from you is a degree of professionalism.” He fixed Harry with a sharp eye. “We have a case to solve, detective.”
Harry paused. He seemed… confused.
“So,” Harry started, slowly, “You don’t care that I got loaded and went back to THE MAN to get more drugs after you left? Possibly incriminating myself and negatively affecting our case, and—”
“—potentially leading a person of interest in our investigation to your domicile to be murdered in cold blood, and leading me to believe that was the possible series of events finding your door unlocked, blood all over your kitchen and you face down in your bathroom? You’re asking me if that is within my realm of caring?”
Harry flinched like he’d been hit. Kim forced himself to calm down, resuming his normal demeanour.
“Yeah,” Harry mumbled. “Plus I got your shirt wet.”
“Yeah… that too,” Kim said, pulling at the sagging vee of his t-shirt. “I’ll have to get my change of clothes from the Kineema.”
He stood up, starting towards the door. He glanced over his shoulder, where Harry was still slouching on the sofa. “Get dressed. We need to go, get boots on the ground.”
Kim reached for the door handle, where it was left open. “We need to find that—”
The door opened, nearly catching him in the face. Kim caught it, and found himself staring into the dark eyes of the Seolite woman. Rina.
“I didn’t know where else to go,” she said, sitting on Harry’s couch with a mug of weak tea.
Kim sat uncomfortably across from her in a kitchen chair, notebook open in his hands. He could hear Harry shuffling around, getting dressed and likely trying to clean up some of the destruction in the bedroom.
“Is that why you came here?” Kim asked.
“I followed him here after he picked up last night,” Rina admitted. She glanced to the door where Harry clamored within. “So I knew I could go somewhere if shit got worse.”
They sat in the midst of Harry’s filth and violence. Kim wondered what could be worse than *this.* He frowned to himself at the thought. This wasn’t the time to mull over the state of his partner’s life and let it affect how he managed a potential witness.
“THE MAN doesn’t know of this location?”
“No,” Rina said. “I’m not a fucking moron, of course I didn’t tell him. I had to make sure that the cop wasn’t involved with La Puta Madre.”
“I can assure you that he isn’t. You were right to come here. We can help you.”
She peered through him with narrowed eyes. She doubted that claim, that much was clear. He knew he looked less than ordered, with his wet shirt and the scent of vomit wafting off of his clothing.
“So... wild night, huh,” she said. “Did you guys fuck on like, every surface? Should I have put something down before I sat here?”
Not a muscle moved in his face.
“Speed makes me horny too,” she said, with a sweet smile.
He opened his mouth to form some kind of response, when the bedroom door flew open, crashing into the opposite wall with a bang. Harry stepped through, now dressed, smoothing back his hair (or attempting to soothe his headache).
“Yeah, you’re right. He can’t be working for Madre,” Rina said. “That guy’s a *freak.*”
Harry stopped, mid-step, pointing a big, square finger at her. “Hey!”
Kim and Rina waited for his follow up. Nothing came.
“Come sit down, detective,” Kim said.
Harry sighed, then shuffled over to sit down heavily next to Kim. He was starting to sober up, at least.
“Are you guys gonna be able to help me at all?”
“You said you didn’t have a choice,” Kim said, with an arch of his eyebrow. “So I believe we are the *only* ones who can help you.”
Harry ran a hand over his beard, then forced himself with some considerable effort to sit up straight. “Kim’s right. You’re here because you’re outta options. So spill it—what do you know?”
“And you’ll protect me?”
“We can take you to the station into—”
“*No*,” Rina interjected. “That’s out of the question. I can’t be seen there, or THE MAN will have me put down. Believe me, he has his ways.”
Kim looked into her eyes and saw sincere panic. “We’ll do whatever we can to keep you safe.”
She seemed to relax, somewhat. “Okay…”
Kim tapped his pen on the page. “So, what do you know?”
Confirmed identity of victim. JULIETTE D’ARGENT. Information provided by person of interest, RINA REN (23).
REN indicates that she has known the victim for some months now. She hid her knowledge of this person due to fear for her own life, and has chosen to voluntarily come forward in exchange for protection.
“I called her Juli,” Rina said. “She was a nice girl. She had problems, but doesn’t everyone?”
“How did you meet her?” Harry asked.
“The same way I met you.”
“She couldn’t have been investigating her own murder,” Harry said, with distressing sincerity. “That’s impossible.”
Kim coughed. “I believe the witness means she was buying narcotics, detective.”
“What was your relationship with the witness?” Kim asked.
“At first she was just another uptight rich bitch who liked to come down to Jamrock and slum it. She came once a week to pick up, always by herself. After awhile, we got to be more friendly, she didn’t seem so bad, so we’d get high together sometimes.”
Rina finished her tea, putting the cup on the coffee table. She sat back and crossed her arms, and avoided looking at either of them. Kim watched for a long moment, waiting for her to continue, but was unsurprised when she didn’t.
Witness is likely withholding information. Detectives will need to build rapport and trust over time.
“So, if she was just some chick you got high with, why come forward? You’re putting yourself at risk that way, aren’t you?” Harry asked. His brow was furrowed, and he leaned forward. Whenever there was a case at hand, it was like he became an entirely different person.
“Because whoever did it could come after me, duh. I talked with her all the time. She told me all kinds of shit.”
“Such as?” Kim asked, dryly.
“Her last name, to start with?”
“Is that supposed to mean something to us?” Harry asked.
Kim scrawled the name down, suppressing the urge to be giddy at the lead. “D’Argent—they’re a well-connected family in Grand Couron, detective.”
Rina frowned. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard about them. They’ve got loads of money. They used to host these fancy parties.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of them,” Harry covered, quickly. “I prefer not to acknowledge those vultures. Their money wasn’t earned by honest labour, only by profiting off of the worker.”
Rina snorted, looking at Harry with some surprise. “Yeah—eat the rich.”
“When was the last time you saw Juliette?” Kim asked, moving the questioning right along.
“Two days ago,” Rina said.
“And was she acting any different than normal?” Harry asked.
“She was a mess. But she was always a mess. She was good at covering it, because her family was hell, and her job was like *straight* and shit, but she seemed more of a mess than usual.” Rina bit her lip, looking down. “She said she was going to call me, but she never did.”
Kim jotted the information down, then adjusted his glasses. “Do you think she was afraid for her life?”
“Yeah. She said she wanted to leave.”
“To leave? Where?” Harry asked.
“She wanted to get on an airship,” Rina said. “To disappear completely.”
Harry went quiet. His chin jutted out, and he stroked his beard in thought.
“She had an impression of a ring on her finger. Someone had taken it,” Kim commented. “Do you think perhaps it was whoever gave it to that she was afraid of?”
“She told me about her fiancé. He was horrible to her. They were only getting married because he was loaded—this is Revachol, nobody gets married.”
There was a genuine look of disgust that crossed her face. She crossed her arms, like the mention of him upset her.
“I have to ask,” Harry said, “You didn’t kill her, did you?”
Rina shook her head, adamantly. “I would never do anything to hurt her.”
The wording was curious. Kim put a pin in it, for now. They weren’t done with Rina, and now, she relied on them.
Kim set down his pen, looking at Harry. “Now that we have a name, we’ll need to inform the victim’s family.”
“And speak to the fiancé,” Harry said.
Rina looked at the two of them. “Before you two do that, can I get a cigarette?”
Kim sighed, and reached into his soggy jacket for his smokes.
She played with it in her hands, glancing at Harry. “Actually, I could use a bump, if you’re still holding.”
Harry’s eyes appeared to light up, but Kim cut him off. “Absolutely not.”
He passed the carton of smokes over, effectively ending the conversation.
While Rina burned through the rest of his cigarettes as she sat by the window, Harry and Kim stood in the kitchen and discussed their next move.
“Well, we can’t leave her here,” Harry whispered. “There’s a chance someone could’ve tracked her.”
“The 41st must have a safehouse we can use.”
Harry rubbed the back of his head, glancing over to Rina. Her back faced them, a wash of dark hair draped over her shoulders, her knees tucked to her chest where she perched.
“She could still be a suspect,” Kim said. “We’ll need someone to watch her. Someone we can trust.”
Harry got a look on his face. “No…”
Kim nodded. “It’s the only way.”
It was raining by the time they made it to Boogie Street to meet Vicquemare. Kim had changed his clothing for naught, soaked to the bone in a matter of minutes, but Harry had put on a hideous, wide-brimmed hat and an obnoxious yellow rain jacket that made him a little less than conspicuous. The hat he’d given to Rina within a few minutes, at least, which she accepted with a girlish smile. It kept sliding down her forehead, far too large for her.
They walked the cobblestones, weaving through people standing in circles smoking and talking. It was crowded and noisy—the perfect place to get lost in the thrall, to make someone disappear. Kim knew people came to Boogie Street to drown themselves in sex, drugs and liquor, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Harry was a regular staple at every bar along the strip.
Vicquemare stood beneath the umbrella of a food cart, the air smelling like charred mystery meat and pickled onions. He looked like a drowned rat, his arms crossed as the three of them approached.
“You’re late,” Vicquemare said to Harry. It was like Rina and Kim weren’t even there.
“Jean, come on,” Harry pleaded.
Vicquemare opened his mouth to retort, but stopped when Rina started laughing.
“This guy?” She said, looking at Kim. “That’s the best you’ve got?”
Harry hacked out a laugh, saw Kim’s face, then stopped.
“Does he know how to party? Does he know how to get down?” Rina asked.
“Does he *look* like a guy who knows how to do either of those things?”
“He looks like the saddest man in all of Revachol.” Rina cackled. “No, wait, in all Le Caillou.”
“The saddest man in the whole isola.” Harry made a great sweep of his arm.
“What’s sad is that you didn’t know what an isola was less than a month ago!” Vicquemare barked.
“Yes, this is all very sad,” Kim interjected. “Unfortunately some of us have a murder investigation to return to. Satellite-officer Vicquemare, if you could escort the witness to—”
“Do you ever pull the stick out of your ass? Seriously,” Rina said. She looked to Harry, tipping the hat he’d given her back. “Maybe you and I should ditch both of them. I bet we could have fun together.”
Harry reached for her waist. “I’m sure we could.”
Kim pressed his mouth into a very flat line. He took Rina by the shoulder, moving her towards Vicquemare.
“Great,” Vicquemare said, clearly sounding like it wasn’t great. “I’ll take her to the secure location and call you with updates. Oh, and here’s the address you asked for.”
Vicquemare handed over a slip of paper that Kim accepted with a nod.
“You trust this guy?” Rina asked. “What if he just takes me in and throws me in a cell?”
Kim turned to Rina. “He’ll keep you safe. You’re in good hands with the satellite-officer, I assure you.”
At the mild compliment, Vicquemare seemed to beam with pride. It was clear that he didn’t receive many of those anymore from his superiors, even if they mattered to him a great deal.
Rina, however, smiled weakly. It didn’t seem to meet her eyes. Kim wondered how much of her bluster was covering up fear.
“What’s wrong with *my* hands?” Harry asked.
Kim stared at him. “Let’s go, officer.”
“Good luck,” Rina called after them, as they walked back towards the motor carriage. Soon enough, she and Vicquemare disappeared from sight.
Once inside the Kineema, Kim wiped off his glasses with the edge of his shirt. The morning had been somewhat of a tribulation, to say the least, and they still had a whole investigation ahead of them. He felt exhausted. It wasn’t like him—usually police work invigorated him.
Harry put a finger to his chin. “Something is off about that chick.”
“Oh? And here I thought you two had a lot in common.”
Kim started up the engine. The motor rattled to life behind them, the heat kicking in and fogging his glasses all over again. He removed them and set to cleaning them once more.
“There’s a lot off about me too, Kim. But she’s got a lot more information than she’s willing to tell. We’ve got the address, at least. We’ll have to question the family and cross-examine her story.”
He slid his glasses back onto his nose, and then took the Kineema out of park. “Yes. That’s generally what police officers do.”
As they pulled out onto the road, Kim could feel Harry examining the side of his face.
“Did she piss you off?”
Kim scoffed. “I’m not so easily taken in by the whims of a young woman.”
“Or any woman. Must be easy being you.”
They continued down the winding streets of Jamrock, until they turned onto the highway towards Grand Couron.
“She is interesting, though. Exotic. Not many girls like her around here.”
“You mean Seolites. We are few and far between in these parts, I suppose.”
“Yeah, but you’re only half, right? She doesn’t look anything like you.”
“We don’t all look the same, officer.”
Harry got a look. “I didn’t mean it *like that.*”
“Like what?” Kim said, eyebrow piqued.
“What I mean is, you’re—well—*you*, and she’s like a dangerous sex kitten type. Too hot to touch. You can tell just by looking at her that she’s trouble, but when I’m with you I feel—”
The colour drained out of Harry’s face. He fumbled with words fruitlessly for a moment.
“What I mean to say is that I’m a *giant* asshole, and you—you’re the best cop I’ve ever met, Kim.”
Kim relaxed his eyebrow marginally.
“Thank you, detective,” he said, after a moment. He meant it.
He shifted gears, picking up speed on the highway. They were passing other MCs easily, and Kim found the speed almost meditative. It was easy to let any irritation drain away with the road disappearing beneath the tyres, and the city on the horizon.
“How long til we get there?” Harry asked.
“Twenty minutes, give or take.”
“How fast can this thing go?”
Kim passed another MC.
“If you can do it in ten, I’ll buy dinner.”
Kim smirked, and floored it.
It had been some time since he’d ventured as far as Grand Couron. The skyscrapers were staggeringly tall overhead, the streets a wash of blue and gold from the hanging banners. Well-dressed men and women hurried along under large black, uniform umbrellas, moving like a sea on the sidewalks. The scent of coffee was ripe in the air, the surroundings bright and beautiful from the florist they’d parked the Kineema beside.
“Man,” Harry said, falling into step beside him. His face was craned upward, his hands on his hips. “This place looks so familiar.”
“We’re in Couron,” Kim said. “Didn’t you teach gym here?”
“I taught gym? Oh, yeah.”
Before he’d been shot, Harry had told him that it was a lie. He hadn’t lost his memory. Maybe he’d only said it out of guilt—with him it was hard to tell what he honestly believed and what was the self-loathing speaking. Kim put his hands behind his back and nodded.
“The D’Argent family home is a block away. Perhaps we should discuss how to handle this before we proceed?”
“What’s to discuss?”
“Firstly, there’s the case of jurisdiction. Technically we’re investigating in another precinct’s territory.”
“The murder happened in Jamrock, though.”
“Yes, but I’m sure they would love to take this case off our hands should we mishandle any aspect of our information gathering. So let’s use some discretion.”
Harry grinned. “Kim, you magnificent bastard.”
Kim smiled back.
“As for handling the interview,” Kim continued, “We should be sensitive when discussing the murder. These people were her family, after all. Even if we’re suspicious, putting them on the defensive right away isn’t a wise course of action. I also have to ask that you please keep your personal opinions to yourself.”
“So you’re saying I *shouldn’t* call the family of the deceased a bunch of parasitic motherfuckers?”
“I think ‘parasitic’ is a bit strong for a first impression.”
Harry laughed, and off they went.
The D’Argent home was a startlingly blue building, three stories at least, with a roof so pointed that it almost seemed to be reaching towards the sky. Immaculately trimmed hedges lined the property, along with a soldered iron fence and a gate at the entranceway. It didn’t appear to be locked, so Harry flipped it, barrelling onward.
There was a bird fountain in the yard that had spilled over with weeds. The grass had overgrown the front walkway, and there was a dead tree in a planter near the porch. Kim adjusted his glasses, filing that information away for later. It was clear that appearances were being maintained from a distance.
He let Harry ahead as they stepped up on the porch. Harry looked to him, and Kim gestured, Harry ringing the doorbell and then stepping back. The sound of a dog barking was audible behind the wood.
“One last thing,” Kim said, “You have your badge, right?”
“Yes, I have my fucking badge.” A pause. Then, Harry patted his pockets down rapidly, a brief look of panic crossing his face before he located it in his jacket pocket. Kim pretended not to notice.
A moment later, the door swung open. A young man, probably not any older than eighteen, with dark chestnut hair and big blue eyes peered back at them. He was wide, with broad shoulders, but the rotund face of a toddler. He wore a sweater the same shade as the house, and seemed to blend in with the exterior as he crowded up the entrance.
“Who are you?” he asked, his expression souring. He glanced to Kim. “We weren’t expecting the help today.”
Kim’s maintained an extremely neutral expression. He looked to Harry.
Harry pulled out his badge, showing the boy. “I’m Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor Du Bois. This is my partner, Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi. We’re with the RCM.”
“We don’t give charity and we don’t accept solicitation.”
The boy went to close the door. Harry stuck his hand out, forcing it open.
“Hey, kid, you can’t just close the door on a cop!” Harry barked.
“I can do whatever I want, it’s my house!”
“Excuse me,” Kim interjected. “Are your parents home? This is a serious matter.”
“Can’t be that serious if they sent one of *you* people,” the boy said, looking squarely at Kim.
“*You* people?” Harry replied, flabbergasted. “The fuck does that mean, *you* people?”
Kim took a steadying breath through his nose.
“It’s regarding a criminal investigation,” Kim said. “We can wait outside for you to get your parents, but we need to speak to them.”
The boy gave them a snotty look, before slamming the door in their faces. Harry yanked his hand back, narrowly avoiding having his fingers crushed.
“I’m gonna do it, Kim, I’m gonna fight a kid.”
“Relax,” Kim said. “He was trying to get a rise out of you. Don’t take the bait.”
“How does that not piss you off?”
“I never said it didn’t.”
Harry shifted from foot to foot, then exhaled slowly. Kim checked his watch as the moments passed, before the door opened once more. Instead of the large, burly frame of the boy, a slip of a woman stood at the door, dark haired like her children. She was tall and willowy, in a floor length gown that seemed as if armour, holding a distressingly small dog in her arms that yapped and struggled as it caught sight of them.
“Bonjour, officers,” she said, her voice almost melodic in its tone, “I apologize for my son’s eccentricity—he is naturally suspicious of strange men. Protective of his mother.”
“It’s no trouble,” Kim said. “My name is Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi. This is my partner Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor Harrier Du Bois.”
“Imanuelle D’Argent. Always pleased to meet the loyal civil servants of the RCM.”
“May we come in?”
She stepped back, extending her arm. “Of course.”
The foyer of the home was wide, with tall, white ceilings, and a mahogany staircase heading up to the second floor. Family photos lined the wall to the top of the stairs, where the boy stood, sour faced. In the photos near the threshold, the nervously smiling face of Juliette D’Argent stared back, sandwiched between Imanuelle, her brother, and the thus far unseen patriarch of the family.
“Genie, come back downstairs and introduce yourself.” Imanuelle readjusted the dog in her arm. “This little darling is Manon.”
Harry leaned down, reaching to shake the dog’s paw. “Nice to meet you, Manon.”
There was a startling banging as the boy stomped down the stairs. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he approached, his shoulders pulled high giving him the effect of his round head collapsing into his neck. “I’m Gene.”
“Now that we’ve all made our introductions, can I offer you gentlemen something to drink?” She smiled, politely. “Tea, coffee?”
“We’re both fine,” Kim said. “Perhaps we can sit down somewhere to talk?”
“Yes, of course.” She started forward, but stopped to look at Kim. “By the way, you needn’t remove your shoes inside, lieutenant. I know that’s customary in your culture, but there’s no need.”
Kim took a moment to realize that she was talking to him. It was going to be one of *those* visits, clearly. “Ah. Of course.”
Imanuelle put her hand squarely between her son’s shoulders, leading him towards the sitting room. Kim and Harry lingered behind.
“This is really weird, isn’t it, Kim?” Harry whispered. “She hasn’t even asked why we’re here.”
“I believe she thinks we’re about to ask for charity,” Kim said.
Harry shook his head. “We’re about to completely fuck up their whole world, aren’t we?”
Kim’s eyes softened. “Yes, that’s likely.”
“Detectives?” came Imanuelle’s voice from the other room. “Are you coming?”
Harry and Kim shared a look, before continuing into the sitting room. It was a wide open space with a large bay window looking out to the unkempt garden, mostly concealed by gauzy curtains. An impressive portrait of the family from years gone by hung over the mantle of a brick-lined fireplace. The young Juliette smiled down at them, the anxiety so clear in the photos absent in this rendition. He wondered how much time the artist had spent on every brushstroke smoothing out the worry lines between her eyes.
Imanuelle sat in an ornate chair near the bay window and gestured at the two plush sofas in the room.
Her dog jumped out of her lap as Kim and Harry took a seat on one of the sofas, Gene sitting across throwing them suspicious looks. The dog wandered up to sit at Kim’s feet, and he ignored it.
Kim pulled his notebook out of his jacket, flipping it open. He looked to Harry to lead.
“Please, enough with the formalities. Ma’am makes me feel a hundred years old. Imanuelle is fine.” She smiled pleasantly.
“Okay—Imanuelle,” Harry said. He clasped his hands together on his knees. “You have a beautiful home.”
“Ah, isn’t it? It was built by my late husband’s great-great-grandfather before the Revolution. Luckily it survived the artillery fire, but we’ve done some renovating since. We’ve hosted a number of galas here over the years.” Her eyes practically sparkled. “We do so love a good dinner party.”
Kim filed that information away—dead husband. His eyes flicked to the other sofa, where Gene was bouncing his leg, and growing noticeably more irritated.
“How much money do you want?” Gene spat. “Stop trying to butter her up and say it outright.”
“Genie!” Imanuelle said, with a soft laugh. “He’s a spirited boy, you’ll have to forgive him.”
“We aren’t here for money.” Harry drew in a great breath. “We have to tell you something, and it isn’t good news.”
Her brows knit together. “What? What is it?”
Harry glanced at Kim. Kim nodded.
“It’s regarding your daughter, Juliette,” Harry said. “Her body was discovered in an alleyway yesterday. We’re here investigating her death. We suspect foul play.”
The room went silent, save for the panting of the dog on the floor. Imanuelle’s eyes had grown very wide, and she sat there, shocked. After a moment, Gene let out a great wail, throwing himself to the ground. He shuffled over on his knees until he was draped over in his mother’s lap.
She didn’t even seem to react or acknowledge her son’s presence. She merely stared at Harry, her lower lip quivering.
Her words were barely audible over the sound of the boy’s wailing.
“I’m sorry. She’s dead,” Harry said.
It seemed to register for her, then. Tears started falling, and she covered her mouth with her hand.
“Perhaps we should give you a moment,” Kim murmured.
Imanuelle shook her head furiously. “No! No, I need to know who did this to my daughter. I need to—I want to see her. Where is she? I need to… no. I need to call Olivier. I need to call him and tell him she—oh god.”
“Juliette,” Gene moaned. The sound of his wet sobs filled the room. Imanuelle put her hands on his shoulders, comforting him.
Next to him, Harry leaned forward. Kim stayed silent, a quiet presence in the room. He usually kept his mouth shut when breaking the news, these days. Harry was really rather good at this part of their job, and Kim wasn’t sure what that said about him, really.
“I think… I think I’ll take Gene upstairs. Then I’ll tell you anything you need to know,” Imanuelle said. “Anything that will help you catch whoever did this.”
“Yes, of course,” Kim said. “Take your time.”
She rose out of her chair, drawing Gene up with her. He could barely walk, he was so upset, and so the two of them stumbled out of the sitting room, and out of earshot. The dog stayed put where it laid on the carpet, wagging its tail as it looked up at the two of them.
Harry released a low breath. “At least that part’s out of the way.”
“The afternoon isn’t over yet, detective,” said Kim. He pulled out his notebook, and prepared himself to be there for a long time.
The following interview was conducted at the residence of IMANUELLE D’ARGENT at approx 1500.
IMANUELLE D’ARGENT, mother.
Witness reports seeing victim two days prior. Victim did not appear to be in distress, but was somewhat anxious over impending move to fiancé’s (OLIVIER LEDOUX) home.
Witness describes victim as a professional, goal-oriented woman focused on building a new life with her fiancé. Indicates that victim would be unlikely to be found ‘getting into trouble’ or participating in illegal activity.
JULIETTE D’ARGENT was a full-time employee of MOREAU BROTHERS INVESTMENT BANK. She was well liked, never missed a day.
“Where was she found?” Imanuelle asked, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. Manon, the dog, sat perched in her lap, and she pet him with her other hand almost compulsively.
Harry started, “Behind a—”
“In an alleyway, in Jamrock,” Kim interrupted. He tapped his pen against the notebook. “She was placed very gently, as though someone intended for her to be found. We think this crime was personal.”
Imanuelle shook her head. “I don’t know who could’ve done this to her. Everyone loved her. Her and her brother are so close, and Olivier loves her so deeply. Or—oh, god,” She pressed her face into her hands for a moment, before recovering. “She’s really gone. I can’t believe I have to tell him that Juliette is gone.”
Makeup ran down her cheeks, rendering her face drawn and gaunt.
Harry reached across to take her hand. “We’ll find out who did this. I know it won’t bring her back, but at least her killer will be brought to justice.”
“He needs the electric chair.” She spat out, emotion overwhelming her voice. “A firing squad. Who could *do* something like this?”
Kim held his words. There was no point in telling the woman what her daughter had really been up to. Not yet, at least, not until they knew who all the players were. Sullying the memory of her daughter wouldn’t help at this stage.
“My daughter is a good girl, officers. Even when she was a small child, she always listened and took care of everyone around her. She is—god, she *was* growing up to be such a lovely woman. She would’ve made a good mother, and now…”
Her words died off. Another sob.
“Did she ever mention receiving threats, or feeling afraid?” Kim asked. “She was very beautiful. I’m certain it’s possible that someone would take an unwanted interest in her.”
“She—um, well she did have a coworker who didn’t take no for an answer, a year or so ago. But once she was engaged, he seemed to back off.”
“Do you think we could take a look at Juliette’s bedroom?” Kim closed his notebook. “Perhaps we could find something that would lead us to a suspect.”
“It’s half in boxes, though. She was supposed to move out in only a few days.”
Imanuelle rose, leaning on Harry’s hand as he stood beside her. She went ahead, leading them up the stairs.
The sound of Gene’s sobbing was still audible through the walls as they arrived on the second floor. Manon walked past them to go and sit by his door, whining.
“This is her room,” Imanuelle said. She reached for the doorknob, but stopped. “I… I don’t know if I can go inside yet.”
Harry put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay… you don’t have to do anything. We can go in and take a look.”
“This house already has so many memories.” Imanuelle sniffed. “My husband killed himself in this house. In that bathroom, right over there. It took me a year to go inside. I couldn’t stand it.”
“That’s horrible,” Harry said.
“What’s horrible is that my son had to find him like that, and now… now Gene is all I have left. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said, squeezing her shoulder in comfort.
They waited for her to take a breath. Then, she reached for the handle once more, opening the door for them.
“We won’t take long,” Kim said.
Imanuelle nodded stepping back. A fresh round of tears started, and Harry and Kim went inside, closing the door behind them.
The room was clearly designed with a younger girl in mind. The whole room was a pale tone of purple, and there were some kind of sparkling star decals against the ceiling. A large four poster bed sat in the corner, and there was a vanity table beside the window that had been cleared of most of its contents. A closet with the door half-opened waited for them along the wall, where there were boxes and crates stacked in the corner. It was clear that Juliette was on her way out of this childhood room.
The lone window in the room let the grey of the storm perforate the innards of the home. Outside, it was storming, dark enough that it felt like nighttime. Lightning cracked down somewhere far away, washing the walls in a bright blast for only a moment.
“This room is bigger than my whole apartment,” Harry said, turning on the lights. “Think I could convince the lady of the house that I could be her replacement daughter? She wouldn’t even notice the difference.”
Kim stared at the stars dangling from the ceiling. “I’m not certain you’d fit her clothes.”
“What? Purple isn’t my colour?”
Flipping open his notebook, Kim made it clear that was the end of that particular line of conversation. He started forward, beginning with the vanity table.
Kim went through the drawers, while Harry rustled in boxes behind him. There wasn’t anything apparent, and the room seemed like half its contents had already been moved.
“What are we looking for here exactly?”
“A lead,” Kim said, crouching to open a drawer. “Anything that may give us information on Juliette’s inner life. We still don’t have a crime scene, a definitive suspect, a motive, or a murder weapon.”
“I highly doubt that the killer would just leave the knife in the victim’s bedroom.”
“Yes, that would be *highly* unlikely.”
“I doubt the murder happened here.”
“I also doubt the murder happened here.”
“There’d probably be more blood if that were the case.”
“You would likely find blood at the scene of a stabbing, yes.”
“A stabbing, where the victim was stabbed with a knife.”
“There may be blood from being stabbed with a knife twenty-eight times.”
“Just a little bit.”
“At least one drop.”
A brief pause. Harry chuckled to himself. Then, Kim resumed his search. Harry rustled through boxes.
“Nothing but old cameras in here, some books,” Harry said, shaking them. He started with the next box. “Mostly math books, banking shit. No diary or anything.”
There was nothing in the vanity aside for some dirty old hair brushes. He closed the final drawer, and went towards the bed. One half was made very neatly, and the other looked recently slept in. Kim checked the pillows for hairs, only finding long brown ones that seemed in line with Juliette’s, and short ones that were probably her brother’s.
“I think her brother has been sleeping here,” Kim said.
Harry glanced over his shoulder. “That’s kind of weird, isn’t it?”
“Their mother said they were quite close.”
He crouched, peering under the bed. There was nothing down there. He set about sticking his hands under the mattress. With a bit of digging, the back of his gloved hand hit something. He lifted up the edge of the mattress, then pulled out his findings.
“Detective,” Kim said, motioning Harry over.
It was a small, black leather case. Kim put it atop the bed, and then undid the fastenings. Harry stood next to him, hands on his hips as Kim flipped open the case.
Inside was a small collection of razor blades at the top, a roll of bandages and a container of antiseptic.
“That’s so fucking sad,” Harry said.
A great feeling of emptiness washed over Kim. For some reason he found it hard to respond. Holding the evidence of the length of Juliette’s self-destruction in his hands seemed suddenly too much. She’d met her end before she even had the chance of getting better.
Kim put the case down, nudging it towards Harry. “You look through this. I’ll check the closet.”
He rubbed his neck as he went to the closet. He didn’t know why it was bothering him. Cases usually didn’t affect him, he’d been doing this for too long now. Kim opened the closet door, trying to focus on the task.
“Hey, Kim, I’ve got a question for you.”
“Yes?” he asked, in the steadiest voice he could muster.
“Why do you think Juliette would have a picture of Rina with her razor blades?”
Kim turned. Harry stood there, holding the photo between his index finger and thumb. Rina’s face stared back at him, an intimate picture taken in low lighting, her eyes hiding secrets she had yet to tell.
“Bag the whole kit,” Kim said. “Let’s talk to the mother.”
They reconvened with Imanuelle in the foyer downstairs. Harry handed over the photo, and she frowned as she looked down at it.
“No, I don’t know this girl. Who is she? Where did you get this photograph?”
“We’re investigating a possible connection to the case,” Kim said, easily. He took the photo back when offered.
“You think she’s responsible?”
“We’re investigating,” Harry said. “We still have a lot of leads to track.”
“Talk to her fiancé!” came Gene’s voice, from the stairs.
Kim and Harry both turned. Imanuelle shook her head.
“He did this! I know he did!” Gene leapt off the stairs, stalking towards them. His childlike face was near purple from crying, and he could barely stop the sobs to speak. Even slouching as he walked towards them, he was taller than all three of them.
“What?” Imanuelle said. She reached upwards for her son’s face. “Olivier? What are you saying, Genie?”
“S-she told me not to say anything.”
“Gene, please tell us,” Kim said. “It’s imperative to the investigation.”
Witness, GENE D’ARGENT, reports extensive physical and emotional abuse enacted upon victim by fiancé. Witness reports that fiancé frequently belittled the victim when no one was watching, called her names, and would frequently grab her to stop her behaviour. Indicated that victim called her brother frequently in a state of panic saying that she feared for her life.
Questioned him about the photo. He could not identify the woman in the photo.
Investigate fiancé—plant officers to ensure he isn’t a flight risk. RCM have been given a photo to confirm identity.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Imanuelle said. “I’ve never seen Olivier behave this way. He’s always been a good man, and he comes from such a good family.”
“Because he told me he’d kill *me* if I did!” Gene choked out. He burst into tears, covering his face with his hands.
Imanuelle let out a shaky breath. “If I would’ve known… I would’ve never pushed her so hard to marry him. What have I done?”
“This isn’t your fault,” Kim said.
“What do we do?”
“Well, don’t call him and tell him, to start,” Harry said. “We’ll have a couple of officers tail him for the night, see what he does. Then tomorrow we can go have a little chat.”
“Whatever you think is best, detective,” Imanuelle said. She put a hand on her son’s back, pulling towards her in an embrace.
“We’ll come to you if we learn anything.”
Kim nodded, looking to Harry. It was time to move on.
“Wait… detectives. My daughter—where is she?”
“She’s at Precinct 41, in Jamrock,” Kim said. “We’ll keep her safe for you there until you’re ready to bring her home.”
Imanuelle nodded, her eyes filling with tears. “Thank you.”
They left, shutting the door quietly behind them.
They ended up at a cafe named Belle Vie on a sidestreet in Couron. It was full of locals in the evening, packed wall to wall with people spending their excess cash on too many drinks. Cigarette smoke filled the air, and the lighting was low and balmy. They sat in the back corner of the cafe, tucked away from the rest of the customers. The windows were fogged over from the warmth, making the misery of outside seem far away. Kim had taken off his jacket as he’d started to sweat under his collar. Harry had done the same, the fabric beneath his arms transparent in his white shirt, drops of sweat on his brow.
He barely seemed to notice, concentrated as he was on scrawling down information in his ledger in that messy hand of his. The other hand held a burger, dripping mustard onto the page.
Kim had his cigarettes and his lighter on the table, but he hadn’t lit his smoke yet. Instead, he watched Harry chew like a half-starved animal. Kim didn’t find himself with much of an appetite, instead sipping coffee, despite knowing it would keep him up all night.
“So first thing tomorrow, we’ll hit the fiancé’s house. We’ve got Officer Horse—Officer Minot on it, make sure he isn’t a flight risk,” Harry said. He shoved the burger into his mouth, taking an excessively large bite.
Kim raised an eyebrow, passing him a napkin. Harry accepted it with a grunt.
“I think we should be pragmatic about how we handle this, detective.”
“We have two people who’ve both said they suspect this guy. Rina’s hard to read, but the kid just seems like a typical spoiled rich brat,” Harry said. “What do you think?”
“I think finding this photograph of Rina in our victim’s personal effects changes how we should approach our next interview.”
Harry let his burger fall back to the plate with a meaty plop, then reached for his drink. It was a whiskey, a double, but so far his only one of the night. “Yeah, I was wondering about that. Weird, right?”
Kim smiled, faintly. “You think so?”
“Why the hell do you think she had it in there, of all places?”
He played with the lighter on the table, wondering not for the first time how his partner could be such a good investigator and yet so impossibly thick when it came to matters of human behaviour. “As a deterrent, likely.”
“For slicing herself up?”
“Why Rina? Why not her fiancé, then?”
“What do you think, detective?”
Harry sat back in the chair, slinging his arm around the back. Kim crossed his legs under the table and waited.
Then, it crept into Harry’s eyes. He opened his mouth, nodding.
“Interesting. This changes things. Our victim, a part of the homo-sexual underground.” Harry rubbed his chin. “I was curious, actually, is this a thing you guys notice in one another?”
“Yes, we all have a built-in radar,” Kim said, in his driest voice.
“But you immediately recognized it.”
“I’m an officer of the RCM, detective. It’s my job to interpret evidence, and that’s the most obvious explanation for that photograph to be in that particular location, as well as the initial reaction of our witness. They were in love.”
Harry leaned back towards the table, planting his elbows hard enough that the silverware rattled. He rubbed his chin. “Now you’ve got me curious.”
Kim’s eyebrow rose. He reached for his coffee, taking a sip. It wasn’t the first time a sexually confused man had asked him too much information about his personal life, nor was it the first time Harry had tried prying.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” Harry asked.
“Perhaps we should focus the questioning on the task at hand, yefreitor. If you haven’t noticed, we’re working a case.”
“We’re always working a case, Kim. We spend every goddamn day together working a case. Just let me ask one question, like the other night.”
Kim’s eyebrow raised further, and he fixed Harry with a look. Harry physically recoiled.
“Okay, okay. No personal questions.”
A smile threatening, Kim relaxed his face, then reached for his cigarettes. He would usually wait until later, but he enjoyed smoking with Harry. He offered one to him first as a kind of peace offering, then pulled his own from the carton. Sliding it between his lips, he watched Harry snatch his lighter off the table, sparking his own smoke after three clicks. He extended the flame for Kim, who glanced at Harry’s face, before bowing his head to light up.
“So, do you have a—a *Sunday friend?* Or a lover, a boyfriend, or whatever homo-sexuals call it? I’m curious.”
Kim’s eyes widened. He’d *just* said no personal questions! But Harry’s mouth stretched into a shit-eating grin at Kim’s reaction.
“No,” Kim snapped.
What he meant to say was *stop* or *enough* but ‘no’ was what came out.
“So you’re single?” Harry continued, leaning closer. The cigarette stuck out the side of his mouth, lazy plumes of smoke rising along the edges of his face.
Kim’s gaze flicked around the room. Luckily their table was a fair distance from the fray, and no one seemed to be paying attention to them.
“Now is not the time—or *any* time, for that matter—to be discussing my personal life, officer.”
“Come on, you can tell me. I’m not going to rat you out to the captain, Kim. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Though not really policed due to lack of resources, it technically wasn’t legal for him to even be this way in Revachol. He could count the number of people who knew about his sexuality on one hand, and half of them were dead. He didn’t even *know* why he’d told Harry so candidly after only knowing him for a matter of days at that point.
“Kim, come on, I really don’t care that you’re—”
“That I’m what? That I refuse to let you interrogate me about my private business because you can’t seem to keep yours from infecting every other aspect of your life?”
Harry sunk down in his chair, as if about to crawl under the table in shame.
Kim put his cigarette between his lips and sucked on it like he was angry with it. He hadn’t meant to show how irritated he was. He prided himself on his composure, and lashing out at his partner wasn’t acceptable.
“I’m sorry.” Harry ran a hand through his thinning hair. “You’re right—it’s none of my business. I’m sorry that I’m a nosy piece of shit who asks you too many personal questions, and I’m sorry that I don’t know how to take care of myself, and that it affects our work.”
Now he felt bad. Kim sighed, pressing a finger into his temple to try to ward off an oncoming headache.
“Stop apologizing,” he said, softly.
“Sorry,” Harry said, one last time.
“It’s… fine, it’s just—” Kim closed his eyes, knowing that he was immediately going to regret saying this, “—no, I don’t have anything like what you asked. Does that answer your question?”
“No wonder you’re wound so tight, Kim. When’s the last time you got laid?”
He nearly bit off the end of his cigarette. Harry was already raising his hands, his grin spreading.
“Kidding! Kidding, you don’t have to answer that.”
“Good, because I refuse.”
Harry laughed at him, and even though Kim had half a mind to storm out, it wasn’t that bad. He watched Harry as he finished off his cigarette, the way one hand dipped under the table in a way that made it obvious he was adjusting himself. Kim brushed his thumb against his lower lip in thought.
Harry *was* curious. His reaction to that ostentatious smoker in Martinaise, the sometimes awkward (or outright offensive) way he talked to women. Maybe it was desperation or loneliness. Kim had seen more than his own fair share of that, and he wasn’t going to unnecessarily complicate their working relationship by letting Harry work out his own insecurities through him.
He’d had more than enough of that, before. Kim had *rules.*
He crushed his cigarette out into the ashtray. “We should get going.”
“Yes, already. We have work to do.”
Kim waved the server over for the bill. Then, he looked expectantly at Harry, who pulled out his wallet in defeat.
The Kineema rolled to a stop on the street Harry lived on, Kim throwing it into park as he sat back. It was late—they’d spent a few more hours working at the precinct, bouncing ideas off one another and taking down notes. Kim knew he had kept it going on later than intended, long past other officers had left, even though they had another long day tomorrow.
A strange sense of dread crept in as Kim sat back in the driver’s seat, looking at Harry. Even Harry seemed reluctant to leave. It had only been a number of hours since Kim had found him face down in that same apartment. Leaving Harry to his own devices was dangerous, sometimes.
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning,” Kim said. “We’ll head back into Couron first thing in the morning to interview Olivier Ledoux.”
A lengthy pause. Harry seemed to be deliberating something, like he was going to ask Kim to come upstairs or something.
Kim reached across Harry, popping the door for him. “Goodnight, detective.”
Harry grabbed his arm as he went to pull back. Kim tugged again, but Harry held onto his wrist tight. They were close enough that he could smell the whiskey and cigarettes on Harry’s breath. He averted his eyes, looking to where Harry’s fingers pressed divots into the skin of his wrist.
“I’m not gonna black out tonight. I promise you won’t have to find me like that again.”
“Show me you can keep it together day to day before you make a promise like that, detective.”
Harry’s expression weakened. Kim gently withdrew his arm.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” Kim said. He offered a consolatory smile.
“In the morning, then.”
With that, Harry got out of the Kineema. He shut the door, giving it a solid tap before shoving his hands in his pockets. Kim put the vehicle into drive, and pulled away.
The highway back to the industrial zone was quiet this time of night. He turned up the radio louder, until the sound was enough to mute the noise in his brain. It usually managed to calm him, but tonight it wasn’t enough. His mind wandered—wandered back to the blood on the floor, the piss and vomit, Harry’s unmoving body. It was a possibility that when he went back tomorrow he’d find Harry dead for real, this time.
His grip tightened on the wheel. He knew he was speeding, but slowing down meant more time on the road to think. More time to change his mind and turn around.
He couldn’t make it personal. He couldn’t make Harry’s life his own life. He didn’t have a fucking life, his entire life revolved around his work and the pitiful handful of hobbies he’d managed to acquire over the years. He didn’t have a lover let alone any *friends.*
He’d resigned himself to never having a partner again, too, had preferred it even. Because…
The MC rattled around him.
He couldn’t get this invested. After what happened last time—no, he couldn’t think about that. He didn’t want to think about that.
Kim jerked the wheel, taking an offramp into only god knew where. He pulled off the first sidestreet he could, throwing the car into park and clambering out of the vehicle so he could pull himself the fuck together.
He barely even knew where he was. Somewhere nobody lived, among burned out buildings, where the only lights were the stars and his own fading headlights. Kim leaned against the door of the Kineema, taking off his glasses to run a hand over his face.
This was beyond stupid. He was Kim Kitsuragi. He was a fucking *professional.*
He forced himself to take a deep breath, putting his glasses back on. He reached into his jacket for his smokes. He only ever allowed himself to have one, but today had been *a day.* Smoking a second cigarette was hardly the worst he could do.
He opened the carton to find—nothing. Fucking Harry had smoked his last cigarette. Bastard. He crumpled the pack in his hand, smiling to himself.
Kim got back into the Kineema, and started the engine. He still had a long way home.
THE MAN IN THE TALL TOWER
They’d picked up coffee that Harry had sorely needed, and Harry had crammed two pastries into his mouth by the time they’d walked down the street. He’d made it to the precinct on time this morning, and not showing any visible signs of a hangover (a small miracle, in itself).
They stopped in front of the building, Kim checking his notebook for the address Judit had given him. She’d called earlier confirming that the fiancé had not left the building. And what a building it was.
Next to him, Harry looked up and whistled, powdered sugar on his lips. “This guy must be loaded.”
“That’s likely,” Kim said. He glanced at Harry. “Oh, you’ve got something—” He pointed to his mouth.
Harry wiped his lips off. “Better?”
The sugar had spread to his beard. Kim fought the urge to wipe it off himself.
With a copious amount of dragging over his face, Harry managed to void the powdered sugar from existence. Kim nodded his approval.
“I must look like a fucking disaster to you all the time.”
“Actually, I think you look nice today,” Kim said, mostly meaning it. He’d even worn his RCM jacket. “Very professional.”
“I’m trying.” Harry smoothed his hands down his jacket, then looked to the doorway of the building where residents were coming out, likely heading off to their jobs for the day. It was early in the morning, after all.
“Our suspect lives on the nineteenth floor.” Kim slid his notebook into his jacket. “Remember—we don’t have a warrant yet, but we’ll see how receptive he is to some questioning.”
Harry started walking towards the entrance. “Who needs a warrant? I’ll get it out of him.”
Kim fell into step beside him. “I’m sure you’ll get something out.”
The interior of the building was as ostentatious as the exterior would lead one to believe, done up in royal blues and golds. The doorman gave them an apprehensive look as they came into the lobby, but a flash of their badges gave them floor access with little fanfare.
With a ding, they stepped into the elevator. There were mirrors on every wall, and it was just the two of them within. Kim leaned against the brass handrail, watching the numbers rise. Harry looked at himself in the mirror, checking his teeth and smoothing back his thinning hair. It was clear from the look on his face that he didn’t exactly like what he saw there, but he kept it to himself this time, at least, as he turned back towards Kim.
“I could never see myself in a place like this,” Harry said, under his breath.
“Me neither,” Kim admitted.
They got off on the nineteenth floor and found suite 1904. After a firm knock, the door opened wide, and a tall, handsome man with a bright shock of blonde hair greeted them. He looked tired, offering a weak smile as if to placate them. He wore tasteful neutral colours, casual wear that looked relaxed and comfortable. Kim spotted the watch on his wrist and a shot of envy went through him—it was easily worth more than he made an entire year.
“Olivier, I presume,” Harry said. He extended a hand to shake.
Olivier took it in a firm grip. “Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor.” He took Kim’s hand next. “And you must be Lieutenant Kitsuragi. Come in.”
The apartment was wide, spacious, with a sparse amount of furniture and a large bookcase along the back wall. The walls held large floor to ceiling windows, the morning light washing in stripes of gold along the hardwood floor. There was a drafting table in one corner, where there sat an empty bottle of whiskey. In the other corner, a spacious kitchenette, with copper pots and pans hanging from a ceiling rack above a gas range, and an ornate wooden knife block on the counter.
Kim paused in the entryway, letting his eyes linger, before moving to the fresh pot of coffee on the kitchen table, along with three cups. “You were expecting us?”
Olivier shuffled forward and practically collapsed in one of the chairs at his kitchen table. “I got a call late last night.”
Harry glanced towards Kim, before they both took a seat opposite the suspect. Kim put his notebook on the table, opening it as he and Harry waited for Olivier to continue. He didn’t say anything, instead leaning forward onto his elbows, head in his hands.
“I…” He swallowed. “I can’t believe she’s gone.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Harry said. He sounded like he genuinely meant it. “We’re here to get to the bottom of this.”
“Thank you… but it’s hard to feel like it’ll matter,” Olivier muttered, then offered a weak apologetic smile. “She’ll still be dead.”
“I know nothing will bring her back, but we can at least bring her killer to justice.”
Olivier nodded, then he dragged his hand down his face, sitting back in his chair. He slumped over, defeated. “She was supposed to move in here in a few days. We were starting our life together.”
“You said you got a phone call,” Kim started. “Who was it? What did they say to you?”
“Eugene. I could barely understand him, he was crying so hard—he kept saying it was my fault. My fault that she died.”
“Did he tell you what happened, exactly?”
“That someone had killed her,” Olivier said, choked up.
“It’s true,” Kim said. “I’m sorry.”
Olivier’s face fell. “I don’t want to know, but—how?”
“It was a fatal stabbing.”
The empty look on his face and the grief there meant that this interview could end up being a short one. Kim elected to keep him in the conversation. “How did you meet Juliette?”
“Oh, um,” He tried to collect himself. “At one of her mother’s parties. The architecture firm I work for hosted a gala at their place, celebrating historical buildings of Revachol. Their house is ancient… I did some renovations on it, and I first met her there. In the garden.” Olivier’s eyes filled with tears. “And I just *knew*… you could immediately tell she was something special. I had to be with her.”
Harry glanced at Kim, then back towards Olivier. “You said Eugene called you. What’s your relationship like with him?” Harry asked.
Olivier wiped the tears from his face and cleared his throat. “Eugene was really close with his sister. He didn’t like the idea of her moving away from home, but we got along well enough.”
“That so?” Harry asked. “Because he said to us that you hit your fiancé, and that you threatened him to keep him quiet.”
Olivier blanched. “W-what?" He sputtered. “Why—what kind of interview is this?”
“This is a routine questioning to clear you as a suspect. Answer the question, please,” Kim said.
“Look, I don’t—I don’t know what you found out when you went back to that house, but Eugene is *severely* traumatized. Did they tell you he found their father dead? Slit his wrists and bled out in their bathroom?”
“We heard about it, yes,” Kim said. “Go on.”
“Juliette had to take care of him after that. Their mom checked out emotionally and started throwing garden parties all the time, while Juliette took care of everything in the household. It was always Eugene this, Eugene that.” He waved a hand noncommittally. “We even hung out together, all three of us, so that he could see that I was good to her. Still, I was hoping moving her here would give her a fresh start, where she could focus on herself, focus on *us.*”
“Did you and Juliette ever get into it? Any fights?” Harry asked. He reached across the table for the coffee, pouring himself a cup. Kim shook his head when offered, turning back to his notebook. “Bust her face up a little to put her in her place?”
Oliver’s pale face went red with rage. He stood up. “I would never lay a *hand* on her.”
Harry sipped his coffee, brows flaring.
“There were bruises on her arms,” Kim said. “Some were older than the estimated time of death.”
“You find the cuts all over her wrists and legs, too? Look, Juliette had issues. Who doesn’t? Sometimes she would start to, I don’t know—go crazy—and I’d have to hold her down to keep her from hurting herself. She pulled a knife on me once, for fuck’s sakes, she’d threaten to throw herself out the window, she tried to kill herself with pills. She went on a drug bender and went missing for a weekend. But I didn’t hurt her. I tried to get her *help*. I tried to *be* there for her.”
“So you didn’t kill her?” Harry asked.
“No!” The anger seemed to recede from his face a little. Tears welled up again in his eyes. He sat back down. “Why would I kill her? I love her. I wanted to marry her.”
“Then why would Eugene point the finger at you?”
Olivier covered his mouth. “Juliette had a drug problem. A few nights ago we got into a fight, where I told her that she needed to get clean before we got married. I told her that I would help her. She told me to stop trying to control her, and took off.”
“When was the last time you saw her?” Kim asked. He turned to his notebook.
Suspect reported last seeing the victim on Sunday evening at around 2100H. Victim was said to be wearing the same clothing she was found in on Tuesday afternoon.
On the evening of the murder, suspect was allegedly working from home. Suspect alleges he has not left the apartment since the disagreement, except to purchase alcohol.
Olivier pushed back his hair, the stress evident in his face. “I don’t usually drink that much. I just… I feel so lost when I’m not with her. That’s the only reason I left the apartment, I was waiting for her to come back.”
“Is there anyone who could corroborate your story?” Kim asked.
“The guard, downstairs. He might’ve seen me. I don’t know, I was pretty drunk, honestly.”
“It sounds like your relationship with Juliette was pretty volatile,” Harry said, now halfway through his cup of coffee. “Why didn’t you just drop her? You could find any other girl. Look at this apartment! You must be fighting the ladies off.”
“Because when things were good they were *good.*” Olivier stared down at his cup. “She made me see the world for what it was—broken, but still worth fixing. Every morning I woke up next to her was a good one, even if we fought the night before. She didn’t treat me any differently because of who I am, or the money I make. That’s all I wanted to be, treated like everyone else.”
“Yes, it must be difficult to be so well-liked, handsome and wealthy.” Harry scoffed under his breath. Kim fought the urge to kick him under the table.
“It is. People always want things from me. I can’t trust anyone,” Olivier said. “Where did it get me? I was going to spend my life with her, and now she’s dead. What am I supposed to do now?”
He slumped forward on the table, head in his hands. Kim sat silently while he started to cry quietly, watching his body language for any indicators of falsehood. He didn’t entirely trust the display, but it didn’t seem insincere, either.
“Did Juliette have any enemies you knew of? It sounds like she was mixed up in some dangerous shit,” Harry said.
Olivier looked up, eyes red and puffy. “I… I guess there’s no sense in hiding it anymore, but… two weeks ago my apartment got broken into.”
“Did you file a police report?” Kim asked.
“What happened was, I came home after work, and there was a woman—a girl, really—here. She had a gun. I thought she was trying to steal my things, at first, but I realized she was trying to threaten me. She said Juliette owed her, then she scared me half to death with that gun, and just took off. She said she had pictures she’d release if I went to the cops, so I didn’t say anything. I paid her, then I changed all my locks. I bought a gun. I had no idea who she was.”
“Did you tell Juliette?” Harry asked.
“No. God, no. I didn’t want to scare her.”
“What did this girl look like?” Kim continued.
“Like you, actually. Seol, I mean. She was wearing a mask on the lower half of her face, but her eyes were visible.”
Kim pulled the photograph out of his notebook. “Do you think this could be her?”
Looking at the photograph, Olivier frowned. “Where did you get this? Who is she?”
“Juliette had it with her stuff at her mother’s,” Harry said.
Olivier stared at the photo for a long moment, unspeaking. He smoothed a hand over his mouth, then shook his head. “I don’t understand. So… Juliette knew her?”
“Yes.” Kim watched the man’s reaction, carefully.
“What are you saying? That she did it?”
“We have another person of interest in this investigation, yes,” Harry said. “Now, if you’d let us search your apartment, we can clear you and focus our energy on finding the real killer.”
“Fine,” Olivier said, dropping the picture on the table. “Search it. I have nothing to hide.”
Harry slapped his palms on the table, pushing himself to his feet. “Great.”
Detectives searched premises for possible evidence of wrongdoing.
Master bedroom contained many of victim’s personal effects (mostly in boxes, clothing, framed photographs, a surprising propensity for stuffed animals) as well as suspect’s mementos. A photo of the suspect and victim on the nightstand. The bed is perfectly made, suspect’s clothing neatly hung.
Master bathroom. Scented candles. Many of victim’s personal toiletries here. Despite not officially living at this residence, there is much more of ‘her’ here.
Nothing of note in the guest bedroom or bathroom. Very clean (a bit musty).
Living room. Eclectic collection of books. Nothing raising red flags (a red flag in itself).
Kim looked up from his notebook, where he stood next to the window. He pressed his glasses up where they’d started to slide down his nose, the world outside refocusing beyond the window. Up this high, he could see the airships hauling freight along the skyline, and the veins of the highway twisting down below. It almost dazed him, looking down that far.
What was it like to have this kind of life? He’d never know in a million years. He’d probably never set foot in an apartment like this ever again in his life.
A sharp bang startled him out of his observation, Kim spinning to where Harry was trying to drag the gas range out of the space between counters.
“What are you doing?” Olivier said, at the table. He’d sat motionless near the entire time they’d looked around.
“Kim, come help me,” Harry said, motioning him over with a hand.
Kim put his notebook into his jacket, then went to Harry’s side. The kitchen tile was spotlessly clean, save for where Harry was attempting to drag out the gas range, leaving smudges along the floor.
They pulled it out a few inches, and Harry leaned over. “Look at that.”
There was a pool of blood beneath the appliance. It looked as if it had been at least a litre. Enough to severely wound someone if not outright kill them.
“Good catch—what made you look here?”
Harry pointed to the kitchen floor. “You see how clean it is? It’s only this spot. Only two of the cupboards have been wiped only next to the range, not the others. Hasty cleanup job, but they missed a pretty big spot.”
“Then, this is likely our point of origin.” Kim glanced back to where Olivier had started to come towards them, then flicked to the knife block on the counter. “Mr. Ledoux, please stay back. This apartment is now an active crime scene.”
“You did a pretty good job cleaning up, but not good enough,” said Harry. “Missed a spot. A *big* spot.”
Olivier’s face went impossibly blank, before his mouth twisted into an ugly snarl that washed away any semblance of civility from his face.
“I didn’t kill her!” Olivier yelled. “I didn’t kill Juliette! This is a mistake!”
“Cuff him, Kim.”
He took his handcuffs out, stepping forward. Olivier stuck his hands out in front of him.
“I’m innocent. I’ll prove it. Take me in, rip my house apart, question me, whatever you want! But I didn’t kill my fiancé. What reason would I have to kill her? I loved her.”
“Caught her cheating? Got tired of her shit? Men have killed for less,” Harry said.
Kim cuffed Olivier’s hands behind his back. Olivier shook his head. “You’re going to regret this.”
“Don’t worry about me, I’ve got plenty of regrets.” Harry grinned. “As for this one, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Detectives took suspect back to the station for holding. Detectives also recovered every knife from the apartment to send to processing.
Detectives returned to the scene of the crime for a more thorough examination, and did not discover any additional evidence. Samples of blood pool were taken.
Guard corroborated suspect’s alibi. He did not leave the home, nor did he see suspect moving anything the size of a body.
Confirmation: there is a stairwell around back. Conceivable that a body could be moved out this way.
Questioned guard about the break-in. Showed him the photo of person of interest.
“Oh, I’ve seen her here before a few times. She always came with Mademoiselle D’Argent. She said it was her assistant,” the guard said. “They were always together—except the last time. She left in a real hurry after Monsieur Ledoux arrived.”
“And you didn’t tell Monsieur Ledoux about his fiancé’s earlier meetings with this woman?”
“None of my business,” the guard said, with a shrug. “As a doorman, you learn to keep your nose out of peoples’ private business. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe.”
“You sure about that? I’ve seen shit. *Real* shit. You believe in the end times, friend?” Harry asked.
“The what now?”
“It’s coming.” Harry’s expression went grave. “There’s a 2mm hole in the world, and—”
“When did you see the girl alone?” Kim interjected.
The guard gave Harry a last look of confusion, before turning to Kim. “About a week or two ago, I’d say? Give or take.”
Confirmation: RINA REN broke into OLIVIER LEDOUX’s apartment. What for?
“Anyone else suspicious?” Kim asked. He ignored Harry’s mildly put out look.
“Not that I can think of. Just the Mademoiselle’s family—her brother helped her move boxes.” He frowned, shaking his head. “A real shame about her death. I can’t imagine what her mother must be going through. She’s a lovely woman.”
“Thank you for your assistance,” Kim said. “We’ll be back if we have more questions.”
Detectives returned to the station for a further two hours of questioning. Suspect’s story did not change or alter. Suspect shows visible signs of distress after questioning, and finally requested a lawyer. Detectives were forced to discontinue questioning.
Suspect has posted bail and is currently residing at LE GRAND COURON HOTEL, while his home is an active crime scene.
By the time they made it out of the interrogation room, Kim had filled out several pages of his notebook with thoughts, tapping his lower lip with the end of his pen as they walked through the precinct.
“That was frustrating,” Harry said. “Guy’s certainly got his story straight. It didn’t budge.”
“Perhaps he was telling the truth—that he didn’t do it.”
Harry stopped in the hallway, crossing his arms. “He’s got more than enough motive. Fiancé cheating, he stabbed her to death in a jealous rage?”
“He has a motive, yes, but we have a guard who gives him an alibi, and another suspect to question.”
“Yeah, but I *want* the rich sexy guy to be our perp. Fuck him for being so rich and sexy.”
“Regardless of what you want, detective, we still have another person of interest to question.”
“I don’t think it’s Rina,” Harry said. “I don’t think she did it.”
“What’s your reasoning? She also has motive, we can place her in the apartment. The guard corroborated the story.”
Harry shifted from foot to foot. “This is gonna sound insane but—Juliette told me.”
“Ah. Of course. The dead woman told you.”
“I told you it sounded bat shit crazy.”
*Most* things Harry said sounded crazy. He was right more often than not, but it wasn’t like Kim to give salt to Harry’s frequent delusions. He simply nodded.
“I think we should interview the suspect before we move towards making any charges.”
“Oh yeah,” said Harry. He scratched his chin. “Where was that safehouse again?”
Kim sighed. “Maybe Judit knows?”
“You mean you don’t remember?” Judit asked, when they approached her desk in C-wing to ask. She glanced at Harry, her eyebrows drawing downward.
She looked exhausted from her night spent staking out Olivier’s apartment. Every second she spent looking at Harry made the effect worsen.
“It’s a safehouse, right? Probably changes from time to time, to keep it *safe*,” Harry said, going slightly ruddy in the cheeks.
“I don’t think our precinct has the money for that,” Judit murmured.
Harry put a hand on her desk, leaning over. “Look, could you write down the address?”
She nodded, glancing around for a pen. Her desk was in a state of disarray with so many reports and papers. Kim handed her his, and she smiled thinly, then started jotting it down on a notepad.
“Jean’s been there the whole time looking after that kid,” Harry said. “I’m sure he’ll be thrilled when we show up.”
“Have you been making good progress on the case, at least?” Judit glanced at Harry, and back to Kim. She gave him the address and a set of keys, and Kim nodded his thanks. “I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear, if so.”
“I could solve every open case in this precinct and he’d tell me I wasn’t doing it fast enough. He hates me,” Harry said.
“I don’t think it’s that.” Judit shuffled papers, clearly not wanting to go down this particular path again.
Sensing Harry was about to launch into histrionics, Kim set his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “We have all we need here, detective. Thank you Officer Minot.”
She gave them a little wave as they started off. “Good luck.”
The safehouse was hidden on the edge of Central Jamrock, near where the streets converged into Villalobos. There were ramshackle rows of tenements that all looked virtually identical, the brick the same shade of burnt orange, with children running and playing on the streets, their mothers and siblings calling them in for dinner as as the evening set in.
They’d parked the Kineema a ways back, taking the rest of the way on foot. Harry had his hands shoved into his coat pockets, taking long steps as they continued down the cracked sidewalk. Kim re-checked the address, starting to slow as the house numbers ascended.
“Hey Kim,” Harry said, into the relative quiet.
“Think there are any cryptids out here?”
“How can you still be such a skeptic? You met one. We got a picture and everything.”
That had been a once in a lifetime occurrence. Even with the photo, he still didn’t wholly believe he’d seen it with his own two eyes. A lot of things had happened to him since he’d entered the orbit of Harry Du Bois, and somehow meeting the Insulidian Phasmid was the thing he was least skeptical of.
“There are a lot of people living here. If I were a cryptid, I think I’d pick somewhere less conspicuous, don’t you think?”
“Hmm, good point.”
They came upon the house address faster than anticipated. The only indicator that it was the right address was the crooked number on the entryway. “This one,” Kim said, glancing over his shoulder. It didn’t appear they were followed, but they could never be too sure.
“What if it’s an invisible cryptid?” Harry asked.
“Enough for now,” Kim said, approaching the building. He paused, glancing at Harry. “If it was invisible you wouldn’t see it anyway.”
They used the key on the outer door, then entered the hallway. It was stuffy, warm, the air smelling like cooking oil that seemed to permeate the walls. The floorboards creaked beneath their boots as they made their way to the end of the nondescript hall.
Kim didn’t knock, using the key to quietly enter instead. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but didn’t quite anticipate the full weight of a woman thrown into his arms as soon as he made it through the door.
“Thank god you’re here!” Rina cried. She hung off his neck like a noose. “I thought I was going to *die* of *boredom.*”
Kim detangled her hands from their grip, gently but firmly moving her back. “Rina.”
He got a good look at her, then. Her hair was hanging long in her face, still wet from a shower. Without that thick coating of makeup on, she looked younger and older at the same time.
“Ugh, I forgot you were *like this.*” She rolled her eyes. “Did you at least bring any booze?”
“Kim doesn’t like me drinking on the job. He won’t even have one with me when we’re off duty.”
A sour expression overtook Kim’s face. He refrained from making a comment about enabling Harry’s alcoholism, but only just. It wasn’t the place.
“Yeah, because he’s boring!” Rina took Harry by the hand and attempted to drag him into the room. “Not like you.”
Harry grinned. “Hey, I’m sure we can still find some way to make the party happen.”
Only slightly put off by his partner’s unprofessionalism, Kim flipped the lock, then walked further into the suite. The walls were a scuffed white, and with the windows covered, the only light source was a lamp in the room that washed the whole place in the same shade of orange as the brick outside. It gave the effect like the room was about to catch fire. There were two mismatched chairs in the living room, and a loveseat where Vicquemare sat in a slump, like he was a piece of furniture rather than a person. An oblong coffee table sat in the middle, riddled with wrappers and bottles.
There was a small kitchenette, a bedroom, and a stack of blankets in the corner that made it clear Vicquemare was sleeping on the couch, at least. He gave Kim a nod as he approached.
“Thank god you’re here,” Vicquemare said. He leaned back, raking a hand through his ruffled hair. “She’s driving me insane.”
Kim took a seat in one of the mismatched chairs. Harry let himself be led next to Vicquemare on the loveseat, and Rina dropped herself right into his lap.
Harry’s hands shot out like she’d burned him. Rina laid back against his chest, smiling coquettishly at Kim across the room.
“I’m not touching her. Not doing anything,” Harry said, displaying his palms. His face still looked guilty.
“I can see that,” Kim said, coolly. “Rina, perhaps you’d like to take a more appropriate seat.”
“I’m fine here. He’s got a lot of cushion.”
“You see what I’ve been dealing with?” Vicquemare said. “She’s a menace.”
“This is serious, Rina,” Kim said. “We need to ask you some questions.”
“I’ve got some questions for *you,* actually,” she said. “Have you arrested him yet? That piece of shit who killed her?”
“We can discuss that,” Kim said. He gestured to the chair beside him. “If you please.”
Rina sighed heavily, then rolled herself out of Harry’s lap. She made a point of sauntering over to the chair, then bypassing entirely to drop herself onto Kim’s lap instead.
Their eyes met, and she had that same devious look, though there was an edge to it. She was testing her limits with him. Kim had the feeling she tried this on many men, and usually succeeded. Of course, she had never tried it on Kim Kitsuragi.
“Are you finished?” Kim asked.
“Finished with what?” she asked, her fingers tickling along the back of his neck. “We’re just getting started.”
He could feel Vicquemare staring at him in a mix of shock and discomfort. Kim glanced at Harry, and saw him practically squirming, his cheeks and nose a ruddy shade—clearly, dare he say, hot and bothered. Kim’s eyebrow piqued. Interesting, but that would be something to deal with later.
For now, he turned his attention back to Rina to deal with his current predicament. “I’m afraid distraction won’t work on me.”
Rina touched his chin, tipping his face up towards hers. He looked at her through his lenses, unimpressed.
She bit her lower lip, her eyelashes fluttering. “I don’t believe you, officer.”
“Rina, come on,” Vicquemare pleaded. “Enough with this.”
“Don’t be jealous, Jean.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder, then leaned closer until she could whisper, “How ‘bout we ditch these guys… talk, just the two of us?”
Kim reached to tuck her hair behind her ear, then leaned in close. He kept his voice low. “You’re making a fool of yourself, Rina. I have no interest in your immature sexual posturing. Now, get off me, sit down and *behave.*”
Kim smiled to himself as she immediately shoved him away and scrabbled off his lap, instead taking the chair that had been offered for her. She crossed her arms, furious.
“Are you going to let him talk to me like that?” she said, turning to Harry and Vicquemare who had watched the entire exchange gobsmacked. “He said you three were going to take turns with me if I didn’t confess!”
Vicquemare started. “Miss, I’m sure—”
“Fuck, lady, would you quit the shit already?” Harry interjected. “Kim wouldn’t say anything like that, he doesn’t even like women.”
In what felt like slow motion, everyone turned to Harry, then back to Kim.
Kim sighed. Vicquemare’s eyes bugged out. Harry apparently realized what had come out of his mouth at that moment, and scrambled.
“I mean—Kim doesn’t like women of his own race. He likes ‘em blonde and tall with a *huge* rack—” He made a cupping motion in front of his chest, “—that’s what I meant! He’s a huge self-hating *racist.*”
Everyone in the room stared at Harry, silent.
“Yes, well,” Kim pulled out his notebook. “Now that we have all that cleared up, I’d like to start with the actual police business.”
“I don’t know why you need to question me,” Rina said. “I already told you who killed Juli. It’s your job to arrest that fucker and to make sure I’m safe. And I can’t stay here hiding for the rest of my life—I need to get out of the city.”
“For that to happen, you need to work with us,” Kim said, evenly, “And to quit wasting our time. Can you do that?”
She pouted and looked anywhere but him. Finally, Rina nodded. “Sure. Whatever.”
Kim started taking notes. He could feel both Vicquemare and Harry burning holes in him with their twin gazes, but he focused on the task at hand.
“During our questioning with a person of interest, we were told you had committed breaking and entering in his place of residence,” Kim said.
“Of course he told you that. He lies about everything.”
“The front guard said he’d seen you several times at the Ledoux residence, posing as Juliette’s assistant,” Kim continued. “Would you like to explain that?”
“God, okay!” Rina flung out her hands, flustered. “Sometimes when that shithead was at work, Juliette and I would get high at his place. It’s not any more complicated than that.”
Harry leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Olivier said you broke in alone. Said you threatened him at gunpoint and told him Juliette owed you.”
“She gave me a key! I didn’t break in, and I sure as shit didn’t threaten him at gunpoint. He burst in, scared the shit out of me and I took off.”
“Then why were you there, Rina?” Harry asked. “Why did you have her key?”
“Just answer the question,” Vicquemare added, “Or he’ll be at this all night.”
“Did she trust you enough to let you in? Did you kill her in a fit of jealousy?” Harry continued. “Why was there blood all over the kitchen, Rina?”
“Rina, you have to tell us,” Harry demanded.
Rina shifted nervously in her seat, before she shoved her fist in her mouth and bit down hard enough her fingers spasmed. She hissed, clutching her fist in her hand.
“I don’t want to talk to you! I only want to talk to him!” she said, pointing squarely at Kim.
Kim sat back. He glanced at the other officers in the room, before nodding. “Perhaps you two should take a walk. Give us some space.”
“Thank god.” Vicquemare shot out of his seat, already beelining towards the door.
“Sure, I could go for a drink,” Harry said, although he didn’t make any attempts to move.
Harry kept looking between him and Rina. Kim could feel the uneasiness coming off Harry in waves. Kim nodded. “I’ll be fine. Give us twenty minutes.”
Standing, Harry edged around where Rina was sitting, stopping on his way to the door next to Kim. He patted him on the shoulder, looking to where Vicquemare had already vacated the apartment. “Twenty minutes.”
After that, he left, leaving Rina and Kim alone.
With only the two of them, she deflated. “Why didn’t you just say in the first place that you were a cocksucker? God.” Her perpetual smile shifted to a look of misery, and she leaned over in the chair, her hair draping to cover her face. “Hey, do you have any cigarettes?”
He took the pack out of his jacket, offering it to her. She accepted, lighting one as he set the pack down on the corner of the table.
“You don’t smoke?” she asked, scratching the tip of her nose with one long nail.
“Let me guess, that part of your life is as controlled as the rest of you. You don’t drink, you’ve never done a line, you try to be the perfect little pet so that everyone can look to you as an example for how we should all be.” She blew out smoke. “Doesn’t mean they don’t still think of you as another animal doing tricks.”
Kim regarded her evenly, not rising to her obvious bait. A counter attack would be wise. He made his move.
“You and Juliette were lovers, weren’t you?”
She hesitated, then shrugged.
“We fucked sometimes, I guess.”
“We found a photo of you in her things.” He shuffled it out from his notes, passing it to her. “You meant more to her than just a fuck.”
Rina looked at the photo, biting her lip. She blinked rapidly, tears threatening to spill. “It was with her razors wasn’t it? Fuck… Juli.”
He let her sit with the feeling for a moment, wiping at her eyes as she tried to hold her feelings in. Kim could be patient. He knew the more he waited, the more she would be forthcoming.
She sniffed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, before returning the photo to him. She took another drag off her cigarette, shaking her head. “I can’t believe she fucking died on me. After all the shit I did for her.”
“What did you do for her?”
“Broke into her fiancé’s fucking house, for one.”
“To steal her passport. We were going to run away together. We were scrounging up money to get out of Revachol, so we could leave and get away from her useless, mooching family and that piece of shit rich guy telling her what to do all the time.”
“Why did you have to steal the passport?”
“Because he kept all her identification away from her. He didn’t want her taking off. He tried to keep her locked up there, like she was some kind of fragile little songbird for his amusement. He didn’t know about the shit we got up to. He didn’t see us run wild.”
Kim nodded, adjusting his glasses before writing the information down in his notebook. He could feel Rina next to him leaning over to look.
“Do you believe me?” she asked.
“I believe that you loved her.”
Rina sat quietly, for a moment. She sighed.
“I never told her that, you know. And now it’s too late.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“Because,” Rina said. “I was worried she’d back out last minute and stay. I wish I could’ve believed her. I wish I was that naive. But everyone else in my life has screwed me—why would she be any different?”
“She didn’t leave you of her own volition,” Kim said. “Please, Rina. Give me any information you can to solve this case.”
Rina looked at him reluctantly, then started talking.
Person of interest RINA REN reported the following information. Victim was involved with REN for upwards of seven months. Reports using narcotics together and a sexual relationship beginning several weeks after initial meeting.
REN indicates that they made a plan to leave Revachol via airship by the fifth month of meeting. Situation with fiancé was volatile, constant fights involving victim frequently leaving the premises for the night.
“If she wanted to run, why did she fight him? Why not give him no reason to suspect?” Kim asked.
“She thought if she made him hate her enough, he wouldn’t come after her. Maybe he’d let her go.”
“Do you think it’s possible he either found out or Juliette told him about the two of you?”
Rina considered. “Maybe… I don’t know. She didn’t want anyone to know about us, or about her drug problem. She was good at keeping secrets, and we were careful. She never wanted her family to find out. It was why she wanted to run so badly.”
“What about her family?” Kim asked.
“They’re dirt broke,” Rina explained. “Her mother wasted all their money on those stupid parties and keeping up appearances with that big house, and spoiling precious Genie out of his mind—just because he saw one dead body. I’ve seen like thirty. She was banking on Juli marrying rich, or getting promoted at that bank job and investing all her money.”
“It sounds like she was under a lot of pressure.”
“No shit,” Rina said. “Nobody cared about what she wanted. She was always doing everything for everyone else—first her brother, and her mum, and then her fiancé. Then me. And I went and got her hooked on drugs, so what the fuck did I do for her anyway?”
“Was it only you who sold her narcotics? What about THE MAN?” Kim asked. “You haven’t said much about him.”
“What’s to say?”
“How did you get involved with him?”
“It was a few years back—I was a runaway. He liked the way I looked in a short skirt.” She gave a noncommittal shrug. “Easy access to as many drugs, money, whatever I wanted. All I had to do was keep him company. A mutually beneficial relationship.”
“He didn’t have anything to do with it. He didn’t even know Juli that well, I mostly dealt with her,” Rina said. “Leave it alone. If you start snooping around, he’s going to come after me or kill the both of you. But… if you get me on an airship out of Revachol, and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
“We’ll get you out.”
“Promise me,” she said.
Kim nodded. “I promise.”
Looking at him, she eventually relented. “I don’t have any reason to be here now that she’s gone, anyway.”
She leaned over, killing her cigarette in an old soda can, then reaching for another out of Kim’s pack. Her hands were shaking, somewhat.
Kim closed his notebook, regarding her patiently. “It wasn’t your fault, Rina. She made a choice.”
“Yes, it *was* my fault. The night I met her, she turned up and asked me to hook her up and—I should’ve looked at her and seen someone who needed help, or needed—fuck, I don’t know. Something I couldn’t give her. But I just… liked her. I wanted to know her. And the only way I’ve ever been able to get anyone to like me is sex or drugs.” She smiled, a little sadly. “So I gave her both.”
Rina tucked her hair behind her ear, fidgeting with the cigarette between her fingers. “God… she told me I was the only person who’d ever made her happy. That I was the only person that didn’t try to make her into something she wasn’t. Maybe that’s all she really wanted, was for someone to let her be. But I guess I got there too late.”
He watched her light up again. He wanted one, badly, but reigned in his desire for the time being. He would smoke with Harry when they were doing their final briefing. He forced himself to stop thinking about that, finishing up his notes.
It is my belief that RINA REN did not murder the victim. There may be more that she is not telling us about the victim’s activities, but I do not believe she is our killer. Keep this girl on our side.
OLIVIER LEDOUX is still the prime suspect.
Follow-up interview with THE MAN necessary, though this may be dangerous. May need backup.
“So,” Rina started, “What’s the deal with you and the other pig? You suck his dick?”
Kim stared at her. “I think we’re getting offtopic.”
“I can see the way you look at him, you know. It’s obvious to me.”
His pen froze mid-stroke. Rina laughed, but he continued on like he hadn’t heard her.
“I think he’d like it if you sucked his dick, actually,” she continued. “He couldn’t wait to tell everyone how much you like sucking dick, so he’s been thinking about it.” Rage flared in Kim’s chest—he would have to speak with Harry regarding that later. “I wonder if Jean will still look at you the same way? He’s so close-minded. I got him drunk and he didn’t even want to let me play with him a little.”
“Satellite-officer Vicquemare is a consummate professional,” Kim said, flatly. “It’s why we entrusted him with caring for you.”
Rina rolled her eyes. “What if I want him to *consummate* something else?”
Moments later, the door opened. Vicquemare and Harry slipped back inside, bickering under their breath. Vicquemare was red in the face, like he was so angry that it was starting to come out of his pores, and Harry had that same hangdog look he always had when in orbit of his satellite-officer. Their relationship had clearly deteriorated to the point where spending even twenty minutes together alone was sheer misery.
“I think I found our cryptid, Kim,” Harry said, snidely as he jerked a thumb at Vicquemare. “A real nasty one.”
“Fuck off,” Vicquemare spat.
“Welcome back, Jean,” Rina said, cheerily. It was like a switch flipped in her when the other officers were in the room. “I missed you *so* much! Don’t ever leave me alone again.”
Vicquemare visibly shuddered.
“Come sit down,” she said, beckoning him. He didn’t move, sticking close to the wall like a skittish cat.
Kim tucked his notebook away. “Detective,” he said, addressing Harry. “I believe I’m finished here, unless you have some more questions to ask.”
Lingering near the door, Harry shook his head. “No, Kim. I trust you.” He rubbed a hand over his cheek, like someone had punched him. “And frankly I don’t want to spend more than another second with this asshole.”
Standing, Kim smoothed down his jacket. He gestured to the cigarettes. “For you, Rina.”
She smiled up at him adoringly. “Thank you, lieutenant. And think about what I said.” She winked. “Our little secret.”
Kim decided to ignore her, instead going to Vicquemare and extending his hand to the satellite-officer. “Thank you for all your work. We’ll communicate further with you soon.” Vicquemare looked at the hand for a moment like it was diseased. Kim didn’t budge, never breaking eye contact. Eventually, Vicquemare relented, shaking his hand quickly.
“Lieutenant.” He let go, lowering his voice as he addressed Kim. “Watch him—he’s been drinking. Fucking waste of time.”
“Noted. Thank you,” Kim said.
“Don’t leave me here too long!” Rina called.
“We won’t,” Harry replied. “Promise.”
Kim left first, not bothering to hold the door open for Harry. He didn’t check to see if he was following, walking steadfastly down and out of the apartment, leaving his partner to his own devices.
They walked back towards the Kineema in near silence. It was late out, with all the kids gone inside in the neighbourhood. There was a crow somewhere overhead cawing along the power lines, but Kim stared straight ahead as he sped past the lines and lines of row houses.
Unluckily for him, Harry had stamina, keeping pace. He kept looking over at Kim like he wanted to say something.
“You want to tell me what Rina said?”
“Of course,” Kim said. He rattled off the information mechanically; “Rina still points the finger at the fiancé. She admitted to having broken into his apartment to steal the victim’s passport. They were planning to leave Revachol via airship. She confirmed they were lovers. She told me she has been involved with THE MAN for five years. She told us she would gives us more information if we got her on an airship out of Revachol.”
“Okay. Makes sense,” Harry said. “Thanks.”
Silence, aside from the sound of their shared footsteps. They sounded like a lame horse, out of sync.
Harry moved ahead of him, cutting him off. Kim stopped abruptly, his feet planted together. He looked Harry in the eyes, and Harry practically flinched.
“Are you pissed at me for some reason, Kim?” Harry asked. He was standing close enough that Kim could smell the booze on his breath. “Would you just talk to me?”
“We’re working, detective. My personal feelings aren’t relevant at this moment.”
“Bullshit. I know I fucked up, but I think I covered up what I said back there pretty good—about you not liking—”
“Enough,” Kim said, sharply.
Harry reached to grab his arm. “It was an accident. You know stupid shit comes out of my mouth all the time, and you know I don’t have a problem with you people, so—”
Kim smacked his hand away. “Officer, you are welcome to overshare the details of your personal life with anyone who’ll listen but stay the fuck out of mine.”
The colour drained out of Harry’s face. Kim sidestepped him, then continued walking. He had to get back to the Kineema, and then he could go home, and be mercifully alone. And for a moment he was, walking alone as Harry presumably stood in stunned silence, but soon enough Harry’s footsteps sounded at a respectable distance behind him. “Harry you’re such a fucking moron. It’s no wonder everyone hates you,” Harry muttered.
Kim ignored him. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with Harry’s self-deprecating bids for attention.
Once they got to the motor carriage, Harry had gone quiet, trailing behind him at a fair distance. Everything was quiet, so quiet that it was almost uneasy. He shrugged it off. He was getting too used to the noise of Jamrock.
Kim was almost relieved as he put his hand to the driver’s side door. Just about to unlock it, he froze as he felt what had to be the barrel of a gun at the back of his skull.
Slowly he raised his hands. He had his service weapon, but going for it was risky.
“Easy,” Kim said.
Hands patted him down, confiscating his gun. Shit, where was Harry? He didn’t want to turn around and risk startling whoever this was and painting the door of his Kineema with his own brains.
“Kim!” came Harry’s voice.
Kim strained to look. Harry was standing behind the Kineema, his hands up, with another thug with a gun at his head. Ah.
They were so fucked.
They were put in the back of a motor carriage and driven somewhere, bags pulled over their heads. Kim tried to follow the turns of the streets, but he wasn’t as familiar with Villalobos as he wanted to be. He could feel Harry trying to struggle out of the bonds beside him, but the muscle in the middle gave him a good knock to the head for his efforts.
Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes passed. Eventually, the vehicle slowed to a stop on what sounded like a gravel road. The muscle hauled them out and escorted them indoors. The air was musty, smelling like dank wood. It was hard to breathe, made all the worse with the bag over his head.
Kim was forced into a chair, his wrists tied behind his back, and next to him he could hear Harry swearing and struggling as the same thing happened to him. Soon, the bag was pulled off his head, and Kim winced as the light hit his eyes. His glasses had miraculously stayed on his face, but were crooked, leaving his sight somewhat askew.
There was light coming from a dingy hanging bulb overhead, casting a yellow wash over the table buzzing out an incessant hum. Harry was thrown in the chair next to him. At least they hadn’t separated the two of them.
He did an inventory of the room. Two men—one of them he recognized as Bruno, from the trap house—on either side of them standing guard. A gun on the table. One man sitting across from them, encased in shadow. Not just any man—THE MAN.
“Detectives,” THE MAN said. He leaned forward, his face in shadow. He was impeccably dressed, a nice suit, a clean shirt. Kim wondered if he intended to cover it in blood. “How fortunate for us to run into one another.”
“Fuck you,” Harry spat. “Untie us!”
Kim took a steadying breath. This was their own fault. They’d gotten too tied up in personal issues to be aware of their surroundings. A mistake. But there was no time to beat himself up over past fuckups. He had to think quickly.
“Why have you brought us here?” Kim said, in a neutral tone.
“I wanted to have a little chat on my own terms. As much as I so enjoyed the both of you dropping in on me the other day, unannounced, I’ll admit you left me wanting more.”
THE MAN picked up the gun, weighing it in his palm. A six-shooter. Illegal. Dangerous. Their own service weapons had been confiscated. They were vulnerable.
“How can we help you?” Kim asked.
Harry looked at him sidelong. “Help him?”
“Yes. How may we help you?”
THE MAN leaned heavily on the table, cupping his chin in his hand. He gestured with the gun in the other. “Ah, you RCM officers. Always so selfless. Let’s cut to the chase, then?”
“What, where you fucking kill us?” Harry asked.
“Now, now, Harry,” THE MAN said, with a put-upon expression. “Let’s not get so grim. I want to talk.”
“Then talk,” Kim insisted.
“Ah, so the dog *does* bite! I see you have no appreciation for drama, Lieutenant.” He put the gun on the table between them, then laced his fingers together. “My sweet little Rina has gone missing. I’m wondering if you two have something to do with that.”
“It’s not like you own her,” Harry said. “She can go wherever the fuck she wants. She was probably sick of your shit.”
“Of course she can! She’s hardly my slave—well, except for when she wants to be.” He winked salaciously. “But I’m missing her dearly, and all I want is for her to come home.”
Kim deliberated. There was a chance that they’d only been tracked by the Kineema, and THE MAN hadn’t seen the safehouse location. There was a greater chance he *had* seen it was trying to fuck with them, to figure out what she had told them.
“Even if we knew where she was, why would we tell you?” Harry asked. He was still fighting his bonds, his face red with the exertion.
“Well, Harry, if you haven’t noticed, you’re kinda fucked..”
“Like you’re gonna murder two cops.” Harry snorted. “Not unless you want a lot of attention that you don’t need on your little operation.”
“Oh, please. You think I don’t have connections? I could get this covered up faster than you could chug down a bottle of vodka, *comrade*! Think about it—you’re an alcoholic, a drug abuser, a man with a *real* temper. You lost your mind, shot your partner and killed yourself.”
Harry blanched, shutting his mouth. Kim took over. “She’s important to you,” Kim said. “A core part of your operation. Or perhaps more than that.”
“Now’s not the time for psychoanalysis, detective. I want to know where she is.”
“And if we tell you, you’ll release us?” Kim asked.
“Of course! I’m a man of honour.”
“He’s full of shit, Kim. He’s not gonna let us go that easy,” Harry said. “Look, we have no idea where she is.”
THE MAN nodded for a moment. “You see this gun?” He flicked open the cylinder of the gun, turning it outward so Kim could see. “It’s only got one bullet in it.” He snapped the cylinder shut, spinning it. “So that means you’ve got a pretty fair chance, Lieutenant.”
He raised the gun, pointing it squarely between Kim’s eyes. He took a sharp breath, forcing himself to stare straight ahead. “I know she’s not at the precinct,” THE MAN continued. “I know she didn’t kill that girl, either. So you’re going to tell me where she is right now, or we’re going to even the odds.”
He moved his finger from the guard to the trigger. Kim started to tremble. If they revealed Rina’s location, there was a chance that he’d kill the both of them, go to her location then kill her and Vicquemare, too. If they lied, there was still a chance they’d kill them. There was no way out of this. God, they’d been so *stupid.*
“Man, did you tell that chick everything? Is that what you’re afraid of, us finding out all your secrets? She played you,” Harry said. “Or is it worse than that, you’re—oh, don’t tell me, you’re in *love* with her.”
Only Harry could wear calm with frenzied desperation.
THE MAN’s eyes flicked over to where Harry sat. Harry was firing on all cylinders next to him, and there was no stopping him now. Harry lived for this shit.
“Oh, yeah, that’s it isn’t it? You thought she *cared* about you. You thought she was a real one? That she wasn’t just there for the drugs or the money. You trusted her. You were practically a father to her.”
The two guards that THE MAN had brought shifted uncomfortably, as if they could feel the tension distorting the room. It became a whole other kind of animal, not loyal only to THE MAN. That was the thing about Harry Du Bois—he always seemed to command attention, no matter the cost.
“You took her in. She was just a kid, nobody to care for her. You thought you could turn her into some kind or protege. You thought—”
“Harry, my friend, you have a big mouth,” THE MAN said, tersely. “You might think about using it more wisely before we have a little accident on our hands.”
“I’m just saying, do you think she wanted to be your lapdog forever? No wonder she was trying to get away from you.”
“All I want to know is where she is, Harry,” THE MAN said.
“You want her back. I get it. But she’s not coming back.”
THE MAN looked at Harry across the table, and Harry met his gaze defiantly. Kim stared at the gun being pointed at him, watched THE MAN pull the hammer back, shift his finger to the trigger. His heart thundered in his chest. Oh, god, he was going to die. He clenched his eyes shut.
“Fuck,” Kim gasped. He clenched and unclenched his fists in their ties.
“Ah, seems like you got lucky this time, lieutenant. Your partner seems to have no trouble playing with your life.”
Kim’s heart thundered in his chest. He opened his eyes and was met with Harry looking at him sidelong with a twisted expression.
“You’re right, I don’t give a fuck about him,” Harry turned back to THE MAN, dismissing Kim like he wasn’t even there. “Not like *you* care about Rina. I get it, she’s wicked—I loved her, too. And I fucked her like I loved her, and she pulled the exact same shit on me, man.”
That seemed to give THE MAN pause. He pulled back the gun, crossing his arms and letting it hang for a moment. “What, you think I’d really believe Rina’d slum it with you? Come on, Harry, this is getting sad.”
“I told her I would get her out. Where do you think she was running off all those nights? She was with me.” Harry grinned. “Slumming it. Getting her rocks off with an old, dirty cop.” He cocked his chin. “Yeah, I fucked her all right. Those tight little tits, that sweet ass. She rode my dick like it was the only one she’d ever had. Maybe you weren’t giving it to her hard enough.”
Kim bit the inside of his cheek, his blood thrumming under his skin. He felt hot all over. He was going to have a heart attack.
THE MAN stood up then, his chair clattering back. He moved slowly as he raised the gun to Harry’s forehead. He pulled back the hammer.
“Where is she?”
Click. Kim gasped. Nothing.
He pulled back the hammer. “I’m waiting.”
There was a bead of sweat trickling down Harry’s temple. Kim watched it disappear beneath the collar of his jacket, before his eyes moved back to where THE MAN’s finger was firmly on the trigger.
“I have no fucking clue where she went. She took off, like they always do.”
“It’s true,” Kim interjected. He twisted his hands, trying to loosen the rope. “She ran off before we could take her into custody.”
“Women, right?” Harry continued on, like he hadn’t even heard him. “I get it. I had it happen to me, too. You can’t trust ‘em, not even for a second. Even if you train ‘em up young, you can’t—”
Click. Harry flinched, but didn’t close his eyes. His grin crawled wider.
“Stop this,” Kim said. “It’s the truth.”
“You’re running out of chances, Harry.”
He pulled back the hammer once more.
“I don’t care. Kill me, I don’t care if you do—she left me. All the other ones left me. I’m alone... God, I’m so alone...”
Click. Kim’s leg spasmed. Nothing.
He fought the ropes—yes! One was loose enough that he could get a hand out. He’d hated his skinny wrists when he was younger, but here they were a benefit. He started on the other, frantic. He had to wait for the right moment.
“You understand, right? Don’t you? You said it yourself. I’m a drunk—a loser. Why would a girl like that ever want me? I’m a shitty cop... She fucked me, man. Sucked me dry until I was used all up...”
With that, Harry broke into great, blithering sobs. Snot and saliva leaked from his mouth and nose. Kim could only look on as THE MAN lowered his gun. He made a noise of disgust, and looked to Bruno. “Pathetic. This is a waste of my time.” He handed the gun to Bruno. “Kill them.”
Bruno looked at the gun. Then, he looked to Kim, then Harry.
“But… there’s only one bullet.”
THE MAN patted him on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
With that, THE MAN gestured to his other guard, and walked off into the darkness, leaving Harry and Kim alone with a man with orders. Kim listened to the footsteps disappear, his mind already turning as he got the other wrist out. He held them there, the rope between his hands.
Bruno looked past him, to where Harry continued to wrack with overdrawn sobs. A distraction.
“Just shoot me,” Harry moaned. “Shoot me in the fucking head, put me out of my misery.”
He put the gun to Harry’s temple.
Kim threw himself at Bruno’s back, sending the both of them clattering down to the ground. He threw the rope around Bruno’s neck, pulling as hard as he could, the rest of his weight on Bruno’s shoulders. Bruno thrashed, the gun going off before Kim slammed his foot down and kicked it away.
He kept pulling, putting his back into it as he leaned back. Slowly, Bruno went limp beneath him.
He panted as he stood up, the rope hanging loosely from his hands. He dropped it to the ground, then looked at Harry, who beamed up at him. “Nice work, Kim.”
Kim placed his hand in front of Bruno’s mouth. He was still breathing. Probably wouldn’t stay knocked out for too long, though. Mechanically, Kim walked behind Harry’s chair and untied him. He moved back as Harry wiped his face and stood up. He collected the revolver and holstered it before coming back to where Bruno was laid out on the ground.
“What should we do with him?” Harry asked.
“Arrest him,” Kim answered, flatly. He was exhausted, his nerves utterly shot. He put a hand to his forehead, trying to calm himself down.
Harry put a hand on his shoulder. “Kim? You okay?”
“I’m fine.” He stood up straight, putting his shoulders back. “Let’s get out of here.”
BRUNO GACH arrested and taken into custody by RCM officers. The suspect is charged with the attempted murder of two RCM officers. Hold for information in connection with THE MAN.
Officers recovered weapons and keys for COUPRIS KINEEMA. No injuries other than minor bruising and chafing to report. Location where officers were held hostage is being monitored in the event that assailants return to the scene.
Location of person of interest was not revealed during interrogation. Due to information leaks, arrest of GACH is contained within C-WING.
With all the paperwork that had to be filed for intake, it was nearing three o’clock in the morning by the time they made it out of the precinct. The short drive to Harry’s place was completely silent, Harry stealing glances from time to time. Kim didn’t humor him.
He parked the Kineema a few blocks from Harry’s house. If they were still being followed, he didn’t want to risk leading anyone straight to his partner. Wordlessly, he waited for Harry to get out of the car. He was ready for the day to be over. Then he could blast his music, drive the whole long way home, and pass the fuck out. But before then… He patted down his jacket—shit. He’d given his cigarettes to Rina.
Harry looked over at him. “You’re quiet, Kim.”
“It’s... been a long day, detective.” He sighed, and slowly lowered his head down onto the wheel. Nothing would be open this late. “And I don’t have a cigarette.”
“I, uh… I have a pack up at my place.” Harry scratched his chin. “Besides, it’s late. If you drove home now, you’d have to turn around and come right back in only a couple hours or so. Might as well crash at my place.”
Oh, Harry. That was a bad idea. He could barely make out the sheepish look on Harry’s face, backlit as he was, but he knew it’d be there. He’d had more than enough of Harry Du Bois for a day, a week.
Still. His fingers twinged.
“I’ll come in for a cigarette,” Kim said, with a degree of resignation.
Harry grinned. “Cool. Great. Let’s go.”
When they made it up to Harry’s place, it was in reasonably better shape than the last time he’d seen it. There was a genuine effort to put things in their right place for the most part, though nothing could save the holes in the wall, or the air of depression about the place. There wasn’t any blood or any other bodily fluids, at least.
Harry took off his jacket, his shoes, started making himself at home. Kim lingered in the doorway. He really shouldn’t be here.
“Fuck, would you relax? We made it out alive today!”
“We shouldn’t have let them get the jump on us in the first place,” Kim said.
“Yeah, well, shit happens. Cop shit. You can’t be perfect all the time.”
Kim’s frown deepened. He took the blame for what had happened. He hadn’t meant to let Harry get to him, hadn’t meant to let it affect him personally, but it *did.* He was still angry. Mostly at himself. Which also made him angrier at Harry somehow.
And so he stood in the doorway, watching Harry bumble about the apartment in that shuffling way that most of the cops in Jamrock had mastered. He just needed a cigarette and then he could leave.
Instead, Harry reached into his breast pocket, pulling out his flask. “You know what you need? A drink with your pal, Harry.”
That was what finally made him move. Kim reached past Harry and ripped the flask out of his hand. Harry looked on, dumbfounded, as Kim unscrewed the cap and downed the contents himself.
“Whoa, Kim! Easy—”
Kim ignored him, instead polishing off the liquor then childishly throwing the flask hard at the wall.
It left a not insignificant dent.
He stood there, staring at the dent in dawning horror of what he’d done. Then quietly, Kim reached down to pick up the flask, and marched to the sink to rinse it out clean.
He felt Harry approach him. “Holy *shit,* Kim, I can’t believe you did that.”
Neither could Kim, honestly. It was definitely not very age appropriate. “Shut up.”
“Okay,” Harry said. He looked over his shoulder at the new dent in the wall. “That was pretty disco though.”
It *was* kind of disco, not that he’d ever admit it.
“And,” Harry continued, “That’s also unfortunately all the booze I had left in my house.”
“Good,” Kim said, extremely satisfied that he had spoiled Harry’s evening. He calmly finished rinsing the flask then set it down gingerly on the counter.
“You should let loose like that more often.”
“Detective, forgive me, but you let loose enough for the *entire* precinct.”
Harry hesitated. “I’m gonna slow down. I mean it, you know… After—”
Kim adjusted his glasses. He didn’t really drink that often, and here he’d downed a third of a bottle of spirits on an empty stomach. Perhaps that was a bad idea.
His stomach turned. He didn’t know why he’d had to drink it. He could have poured it. But drinking it simply seemed like the most logical choice at the time. Make Harry put up with someone else’s liver-destroying bullshit for a change and know what it felt like.
“There was a lot more in that than I anticipated.”
“Yeah, I just refilled it... Here,” He grabbed Kim’s shoulder, manually steering him to the destroyed sofa. “You should sit down.” Then, he had the gall to laugh. “Man, this is weird. *I’m* the sober one, for once.”
“I’m not drunk yet,” Kim said.
“Oh, trust me, you will be in about five minutes. That shit was sixty proof.”
Kim sat there, as Harry climbed over the sofa to mostly fall in place beside him. He produced a crushed carton of cigarettes and a lighter, pulling one out for himself, then passing the other to Kim.
“Thank you,” Kim said.
“Don’t mention it.”
Harry lit his cigarette for him. It was clear he delighted in it, so Kim allowed him this little moment of servitude. The first mouthful of smoke was heavenly, and Kim leaned back and let his legs spread, feeling himself start to relax for what felt like the first time in three days.
He hadn’t meant to get so comfortable. He was only going to have one cigarette but—oh, shit, he’d gone and gotten himself blitzed. He couldn’t drive home like this. No one could blame him if something happened. It was dangerous to be here in this predicament, and he’d already made enough mistakes today.
Harry was a steady presence beside him, their shoulders pressing together. The couch had enough room for three, he didn’t have to be so close, but he just had to go and take it one step further, draping an arm on the back of the sofa behind him.
“Look... I know I pissed you off today. We should—”
“Let it go, detective,” Kim said. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
Harry chewed on the end of his cigarette. “So, does that mean you forgive me?”
“It means I simply haven’t got the energy left to care.” Or more realistically, the alcohol was starting to kick in. He felt warm all over, like sliding into a big, cozy bed. He leaned his head back, the cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. He could feel Harry’s arm grazing the back of his neck.
“So…” Kim started. “Blonde, and tall. With a *huge* rack.”
Kim chuckled. “You have quite the imagination, detective.”
“I’ve heard it’s one of my best and worst qualities.”
This was bad. He was starting to feel the booze. He could feel the heat rolling off of his partner, sitting so close to him. And Harry was *interested* and Kim very unfortunately had a proclivity for exactly Harry’s type. Mostly hetero-sexual and mostly in denial about it.
He took a slow drag, looking sidelong at Harry. That was a mistake waiting to happen. Harry was outright staring at his mouth. It would be so easy to kiss him, smoke lingering between their lips.
Kim looked away. That was a stupid thought. He probably needed to get laid, to go out and find some eager twenty-something who wanted someone experienced to boss them around for a bit. He only did it once or twice a year to manage the physical urgency. He usually wasn’t like this. He leaned forward, tapping his cigarette into the ashtray on the table. He crossed his legs, putting a bit of distance between them.
“I have another personal question to ask,” Harry said.
“Detective, don’t you ever get tired of me telling you no?”
“I could never get tired of you, Kim.”
That was just unfair. Kim pressed his mouth into a very flat line.
“Just one little question, then I’ll leave you alone.”
Kim glanced back. “You’d like to know what kind of men I fuck, I suppose?”
Harry’s mouth shut with an audible sound. His brows flew to his hairline. “No, that wasn't what I was going to ask because I thought you’d never tell me in a million years, but *now* I’m really curious.”
Kim’s face felt very hot all of a sudden. He turned away, covering his embarrassment with another puff of his cigarette. He seemed to be finishing it very quickly.
“That’s funny,” said Harry. “You know when you’re embarrassed you don’t really blush or anything, but the tips of your ears go all pink.” There was a tickle at the shell of his ear. Kim put a hand over to cover it, and Harry laughed as his fingers drifted down Kim’s neck and then away. He tried not to chase it.
“Ask your question, already,” Kim said.
“What kind of—”
“Not that one.”
Harry scratched his cheek. “Okay, then. My original question was—why do you hardly ever call me Harry? It’s always detective or officer or yefreitor or lieutenant.”
“You didn’t know your name was Harry when I met you. And then you came up with Raphaël Ambrosius Cousteau, so ‘detective’ seemed like a safe bet.”
“That was a cool name. I *wish* that was my name.”
Kim smiled. “Let me guess—another one of your aforementioned best and worst traits.”
“Yup.” Harry snickered, then his eyes grew more serious. “Still, you’re still not really giving me an answer here, Kim.”
Kim’s smile receded.
Because it was professional to refer to him by title. Because Harry was his superior. Because it was easier. Because keeping Harry at a mental distance made him feel better. Because the word ‘Harry’ on his tongue too often made the taste more palatable. Because he wanted to call him Harry, and pursuing the things he wanted meant he rarely acquired those things.
Some people just weren’t meant to get what they wanted. That was the way the world worked. Some people had, and more people had not, and he and Harry were never going to be those kind of people. Certainly not *together.*
He realized that he’d been sitting there silent when Harry leaned over to snuff out his cigarette. His had mostly gone to ash, but he took a last few sips of smoke before killing it off as well.
“I grew up in a Dolorian orphanage. It was a sign of respect to refer to the church elders with their titles—they would punish you if you didn’t. I suppose it’s a habit, borne of respect, and perhaps fear.” He looked at his hands. “I got a lot of rulers over the knuckles to know better.”
“Yeah, but you were a juvie cop for years. No respect to be found there.”
Kim’s face soured. “You’re correct. There wasn’t.”
“Ah—forgot you don’t like talking about that. It’s hard to imagine though, young rookie cop *Kim Kitsuragi*.” He waved his hands in the air, his voice filled with wonder as he uttered his name with utmost gravity. Then he broke out a boyish grin. “I’d have liked to see it.”
Another awkward silence. The sounds of Harry’s steady breathing beside him filled up the enclosed space. What would it mean to be like this, all the time, instead of staring at the pipes along the ceiling, waiting for the same day, the same morning, every day?
The room had started to spin, a bit, for Kim. He put a hand to his forehead, trying to make it stop. He had to make these thoughts stop. “Tomorrow, first thing—we should follow up with Imanuelle D’Argent,” Kim said. “She’s—we should talk to her. Update her on the case, and surrender the body to her.”
“Are you seriously still thinking about work?”
He massaged his forehead. “I’m having trouble thinking at all, actually.”
There was a hand on his shoulder, gently pushing him down onto the sofa. He resisted, grabbing Harry’s wrist as he tried to sit up.
“Lay down, Kim. It’s an order.”
Well, Harry had pulled rank on him. He laid down, his head uncomfortably propped on the headrest. Harry stood up, and Kim listened to him meander around, before a pillow and blanket were unceremoniously dropped into his lap.
“Thank... you,” Kim said, glibly. He set about making himself comfortable. It was fine as long as he didn’t breathe too deeply. The pillow didn’t smell great.
Harry put his hands on the back of the sofa, leaning over. “Try to get some sleep, Kim. You’re in for a rough morning.”
He gave the fabric a pat for good measure, before turning. Kim’s hand snapped out, like it had a mind of its own, grabbing Harry’s wrist. “Wait—”
He paused, turning. “Yeah?”
Kim’s fingers slipped, his index and middle pressed to Harry’s palm. “Ah,” he said. He didn’t know what he was asking. Maybe to come to bed with him, but, what came out was— “Have you thought of a name?”
“For the case.”
Harry paused. His eyes lowered, and he reached for Kim’s glasses, pulling them off his nose gently. The world turned into even more of a blur. He couldn’t make out Harry’s face, but he could hear the click of his frames setting down on the coffee table.
Kim sighed. “Ah. Good one, detective.”
He thought Harry would have smiled then, a little sadly, if he could see it. He couldn’t see much of anything but smudges of colour.
“Yeah. It’s good,” Harry said. “Night, Kim.”
Footsteps. The lights turned off, shortly after. The sounds of a man undressing, then mattress springs groaning. Harry’s steady breath from the other room.
Kim covered his face with his hand. It would be so easy to go to him.
But he didn’t. He just laid there.
He let his hand fall over his head. He looked up and saw nothing.
“Goodnight, Harry,” Kim said, under his breath.
THE SHOT IN THE DARK
He massaged the bridge of his nose, sitting back in his desk. Even the dim glow of his lamp seemed to be too much. The noise of the precinct in the morning was near unbearable, and as he reviewed his notes, the words seemed to blur together. There were people talking about deaths and stolen lawn ornaments, break-ins and drugs, and it all overlapped into the slush of his mind. Cigarette smoke wafted through the air, and he wanted a smoke. He *really* wanted a smoke.
He hadn’t been hungover in literal years. Last night was a mistake. What was he thinking?
Closing his eyes, Kim took a deep breath. He had to get this—whatever it was—under control.
The scent of coffee woke him out of his reverie. Opening his eyes, he found Harry standing with a steaming mug extended towards him.
“Ah,” Kim said, reaching for it. “Thank you, detective.” The first sip was extraordinary. Kim practically groaned with relief.
Harry leaned against his desk, drinking his own cup. “Rough morning, huh?”
“I’m fine,” Kim said.
“Sorry, Kim, I just don’t think you’re cut out for partying as hard as I do.”
“I don’t think *anyone* is cut out for that. Even you.”
“Hasn’t stopped me yet.”
One day it would. It could’ve, only two days ago. Kim sipped his coffee in silence.
The sound of boots approaching made him wince. Judit approached the C-wing, offering a little wave to the both of them.
“Good morning, detectives,” said Judit. “We have some visitors.”
She walked towards them with familiar faces in tow. Behind her stood Imanuelle and Gene D’Argent, huddled very close together as if under some great threat out of their element.
They were both dressed in black. Imanuelle wore a hat with a veil, and a long flowing dress that gave the impression that her feet were two little mice peeping out from the bottom. Gene wore an ill-fitting suit, small in the shoulders giving him a hunched posture, and a long black tie with a pattern that gave the impression of some kind of posthumous tongue.
Judit offered her usual strained smile as she stepped aside to let the D’Argents approach Kim’s desk. Kim stood, setting his coffee aside. “Madame.”
Harry reached a hand out to shake. “Imanuelle, Gene. How are you two holding up?”
“Horribly,” Imanuelle said. She didn’t take it, and Harry coughed, tucking it back. “Can I sit down?”
“Here you are.” Judit was already rolling over two chairs. “I’ll head down to processing and get everything ready for you.”
Neither Imanuelle or Gene acknowledged what she said. Judit took her leave silently.
They took the chairs offered to them on the opposite side of Kim’s desk. Harry remained leaning, while Kim took his seat. We’re here to pick up Juliette,” Imanuelle said. “We have all the arrangements made for her funeral.”
“Of course,” said Harry. “We’ll—”
“Why did you let *him* go?” Gene interrupted. “You arrested him, didn’t you? Why isn’t he in here?”
“It’s part of the legal process,” Kim said, evenly. “We did not have enough evidence to formally convict him of a crime.”
“What? There’s plenty of evidence,” Gene spat. There were furious tears rising, his round cheeks reddening. “I told you everything he did. Maybe you’re just not very good at your jobs!”
Kim waited patiently for the boy’s tantrum to stop. He could feel Harry shift from foot to foot next to him. He was more than comfortable letting Harry manage this particular family.
“Now, now, Genie,” Imanuelle chided, patting her son on the arm. “The police are doing their best, I’m sure of it. Don’t give yourself a fit.”
“He called us, you know!” Gene beat his hand against the arm of the chair. “Called us to slander my sister after he killed her! It wasn’t enough for him to take her life, he has to spread lies about her after she’s gone. He made my mother cry!”
“Lies?” Harry leaned forward. “What exactly did he say?”
Imanuelle’s face soured. “Awful things. I don’t want to speak of them.”
“Madame, it may be relevant to our investigation,” Kim said. “We can only help you if you tell us what happened.”
She looked down at her hands for a moment. “It’s disgusting. I hardly want to repeat them, let alone around my son.”
Kim was silent. He waited, patiently. People would always talk if they had the room to. He glanced over to Harry, who was stroking his chin in thought.
“Well,” Imanuelle said. She turned to her son. “Genie, cover your ears.”
Gene shot her a look of clear disobedience. “I heard what he said—that my sister was a psycho and a junkie. He said she was whoring herself on the street for drugs behind his back.”
“Lies,” Imanuelle said. “All of it. And I thought him a man of such high class.”
“Why do you think he would lie about something like that?” Harry asked.
“Stupid cop. It’s obvious,” Gene said. “He’s trying to save his own skin. Act like this was something Juliette did to herself. Like she deserved it.”
“Did he say anything else about Juliette during this call?” Kim asked.
“He mentioned some girl—the foreign one from the picture. He implied my sister was some kind of d**e with her.”
Kim didn’t react.
“She would never, of course. I didn’t raise my girl up to be some kind of degenerate,” Imanuelle said. “She had her girlhood experimental phase, of course, but her father put an end to that before his death. She would’ve never done anything to dishonour his memory. It would be shameful.”
“Ah,” Kim said, in the most neutral tone he could muster.
“It’s all lies,” Gene repeated. “All of it. My sister would never do something so disgusting.”
“And then he had the gall to suggest that it was *our* fault that she was like this.” Imanuelle pressed a hand to her chest. “Can you imagine? Our Juliette was a law-abiding citizen.”
“That’s one hell of a story,” Harry said. “He must be really pissed off to call you up with something like that.”
“He’s guilty. Those are the words of a guilty man, detective.” She sniffed delicately. “Who is that girl anyway, really? Some street-walker he was cheating with?”
“We can’t discuss details of the case,” Harry said. “We’ll let you know when we have a formal conviction to make.”
“Of course. I’ve seen those girls around this wretched neighbourhood.” Imanuelle shook her head. “Jamrock… a disgusting place. It should be burned to the ground.”
Judit stepped up behind the two of them, and Kim was never more grateful to see her face. “Officer Minot.”
“Your daughter’s been cleared from processing. We have her ready,” Judit said. “If you’d like to take her now.”
Imanuelle and Gene stood up, immediately clustering together the same way they had before. Kim barely had it within himself to stand again, but he managed, coming around his desk to Harry’s side.
Imanuelle regarded them sharply. “When I see you two again, you’d better have arrested that pig. I know people in the Moralintern, and I will see to it that justice for my daughter is served.”
“Of course,” Kim said. “We’re doing all we can.”
She nodded, though she didn’t seem all that confident in their abilities. Kim could see it in her eyes. This was not going well. She patted Gene on the hand, tears threatening once more. “Let’s take our girl home, Genie.”
Judit led them off towards the exit. As soon as they were far enough away, Kim leaned back on the desk, letting out the sigh he’d been holding in the entire time.
“That was interesting,” Harry said. He crossed his ankles out ahead of him, still looking to where they’d exited the building.
“Yes… interesting,” Kim said. He paused, considering his words carefully. “Thank you for using discretion when speaking to them about the details of the case.”
Harry nodded. “I can learn. See?”
“I’ve seen you take to a lot of things, detective.”
“Things you like, I hope?”
Kim‘s eyes narrowed. “Can we get back to the case now?”
Harry gave him that dogged look at his non-answer, but Kim did his best to ignore it. Everything was harder with the hangover. He reached for his coffee, trying to give himself something to occupy his hands.
“Anyway,” Harry continued. “Something that kid said got me thinking.”
“He said there was ‘plenty of evidence.’”
“I caught that too,” Kim said.
“The kid was in the apartment, right? Doorman said he was helping move boxes.”
Kim’s eyes narrowed. “Correct.”
“Maybe he wasn’t just moving boxes in. Maybe he was moving boxes *out.*”
“Ah,” Kim said. “We don’t know how our killer removed the body from the suite.”
“The back stairs would work for the fiancé, but moving it out in plain sight is a great way to shake off any suspicion. And what with him bringing up Ledoux right away—sure sent us running in the other direction.”
“We should question the boy sooner than later,” Kim said.
“Yeah, but first we’ll have to cut that eighteen year old umbilical cord. Getting near him with a mother like that isn’t gonna be easy.”
Judit returned to the desk, then, heaving a sigh of relief. “Those are two very colourful characters.”
“They are,” Kim said. He looked to Judit. “Did they say anything of note as they were leaving?”
“Just how awful they think Jamrock is. More of what they were saying before.” Her nose wrinkled as she frowned. “Also, we finished testing the knives you pulled from the apartment.”
“Anything?” Harry asked.
“If one was used to murder your victim, it was cleaned. It could’ve been any one of those knives or none of them.”
“Well, shit.” Harry pushed away from the desk, then ran a hand through his hair. “No murder weapon. We should—”
The phone interrupted them, ringing loudly where it sat on the receiver. Kim put down his coffee cup, leaning over to answer it. “Kitsuragi—”
“—It’s Jean,” came Vicquemare’s voice. His breathing was strained and ragged. “The girl—she’s been taken. Shit.”
The blood drained from his face. He gripped the receiver, dread settling like a weight in his gut. “Satellite-officer, are you injured?”
Harry turned his head at the question. The room seemed to come to a standstill around them. Judit’s face went a ghastly shade of white, her mouth snapping shut as they listened in.
“Well they shot me so consider me not ‘all right.’ Probably won’t die.” A pause. “Probably. Shit, that’s a fuck ton of blood.”
Harry was standing closer now, so Kim pulled the earpiece away so they could share it. Harry turned the mouthpiece towards him. “Jean, what the fuck happened? Who was it?”
“Some… some asshole calling himself THE MAN, and his cronies. There were too many of them.” Pained breathing. “Couldn’t stop them.”
“*Shit*.” Harry had begun to visibly sweat. “Keep pressure on that wound. We’ll get an ambulance to you.” Kim waved down another junior officer, relaying the address to him hurriedly. “Stay on the line with Judit, don’t fall asleep.”
“Better be quick,” Jean wheezed.
He handed the phone to a pale Judit, then stood back to look at Kim. “We’ve gotta find out where they took Rina.”
Judit had a grim expression, her brow knit with concern. She covered the receiver as she whispered: “What about Jean? Aren’t you going to make sure he’s okay?”
“What about him? I’m not a doctor,” Harry said. “Shit, I’d probably make things worse showing up.” There was a flash of uncertainty in his eyes. “I’d—I’d just get in the way.”
Kim stayed silent. He didn’t disagree.
“We have an officer down.” Judit’s voice was level but there was an unmistakable undercurrent of anger. “The girl’s not even a suspect anymore, is she? We don’t have the resources to deal with this.”
An uneasy silence descended as Harry and Judit stared each other down.
“Hello…?” Vicquemare croaked on the other end of the phone.
Judit turned back to the phone. “I’m here, Jean,” Judit replied softly. “The ambulance is on its way.”
As Judit comforted Jean in hushed tones, Harry turned on his heel and made off in the direction of the holding cells. Kim hurried after him. Harry seemed downtrodden, guilt plain on his face where he was staring straight ahead.
“How did they find the safe house?” Kim muttered. “And where would they have taken her?”
“We have one of their guys in custody,” Harry said, voice low. “I think it’s time for a chat.”
RCM officers took person of interest BRUNO GACH to interrogation to determine location of RINA REN.
Initial offers of a lessened charges for information unsuccessful. Offers of better treatment also unsuccessful.
“Even if I knew where they were holding her,” Bruno said, “Why the fuck would I tell you people?”
“I don’t know, man, you’re kind of in custody for attempting to murder two cops,” Harry said. He gestured, leaning back in his chair. “Might help you to be a bit more cooperative.”
They sat crammed in a cramped, stifling interrogation room, with Kim and Harry across from Bruno, with his hands chained to the table. Kim tapped his pen on the paper. They were getting nowhere, fast.
“I’m not telling you shit. You’re wasting your time.”
“You’re wasting your own time,” Kim said. “I’m sure your boss is aware that you’re in RCM custody. I can’t imagine he’d like leaving loose ends.”
Bruno snorted. “Yeah? What are you gonna do about it, binoclard?”
“It’s not what *I’ll* do,” Kim said. He crossed his legs, leaning back.
Harry glanced at him sidelong. Kim gave him a look. Play along.
“I’m not scared of you.” Bruno’s chin jutted out defiantly.
“Me? Of course not. But… you seem to be important to THE MAN. His right hand, one of his most trusted associates. I’m sure you have a lot of valuable information, and I’m sure he knows that you failed to kill us.” Kim made a show of looking around the room. “There are eyes everywhere in here.”
That seemed to get to him. Bruno leaned forward, the chains jangling as his hands tightened into fists. “So what do I get out of helping you?”
“It’s what you lose if you don’t,” Kim said. “It’s up to you.”
Bruno’s eyes flicked to Harry. “What have you got to say about this?”
Harry grinned. “Nothing. I’m having a great time watching you piss your pants, though.”
There was a moment where the fear seemed to set in, and Bruno opened and closed his mouth. Then, he leaned back in his chair, obstinate. “You’re bluffing.”
Kim stared him down. He barely moved, barely breathed, waiting patiently for him to crack.
“Fuck you!” Bruno yelled. “I’m not telling you shit!”
“You can’t watch your back all the time. You need to sleep sometime,” Kim continued. “You’re locked up with a lot of well-connected criminals, and you’re handed off to many different members of the RCM. Who will it be, I wonder? Someone below, or someone above?”
Bruno stared down at the table. “Fuck.”
Kim cocked his head. He waited.
“You’ll protect me if I tell you, right?” Bruno asked.
“Probably.” Harry grinned.
Kim nodded. “We will. Now please, Mr. Gach. Where would THE MAN take Rina?”
Bruno drew in a deep breath. Harry leaned forward.
“There’s an old meat packing warehouse by the docks,” Bruno said. “At the edge of the Industrial Harbour. It used to be abandoned, but he sometimes uses it for… activities. I’m sure he’ll take her there.”
“Huh,” Harry said. He looked at Kim. “Isn’t that in your old precinct?”
“Yes,” Kim said, grimly. “It is.”
RCM officers headed to INDUSTRIAL HARBOUR. Signs of criminal activity in the vicinity. Known location for drug based activity. Any information gathered in pursuit of RINA REN will be passed along to narcotics division.
Detectives arrived on premises without discovery. No signs of THE MAN or REN.
Officer staked out the site for approx
3 4 5 6 hours.
The sky was the same shade of grey he’d left it. Great plumes of smoke belched from the factories in the distance, and cranes stretched overhead as far as the eye could see. On the ground further away from the water were rows upon rows of warehouses. For the most part, they were abandoned, left behind when Wild Pines, ZAMM or Moriyn bought out their companies. Most of the buildings had been burned out, or had junkies and squatters living in them like rats.
Dead in the middle of all the refuse was the meat packing warehouse. On the roof was a sign that had probably lit up at some point, but had since had all the copper ripped out, and now proclaimed itself as ‘Amour & Co. M*ats.’ (The E was too damaged to read.)
They had set up on top of an old textile factory for a stakeout. Someone had clearly used this as a roost, previously. There were bottles and dirty needles riddled around, and the remnants of some kind of fire pit.
With the Kineema safely tucked behind the building, they had a clear shot at the Amour & Co. Meats building from the roof. It was getting colder as the sun set, and Kim huddled into his jacket gazing out as they watched the door.
Harry lowered the binoculars, leaning forward over the brick ledge. They were on the second floor, and were getting less visible as dusk set in. “I don’t see anyone going in or out, still.”
“There’s a light on the second floor,” Kim said. “So we know someone is in there.”
“What if he was lying to us?”
“You did scare the shit out of him, though, Kim. I thought he was gonna completely lose his shit.” Harry looked sidelong at him, passing the binoculars. “It’s crazy how you can just turn that on.”
Kim smiled. “It’s come in handy every now and then.”
Hours passed. They waited out in the cold as the sun gave way to the moon overhead, full and round in the sky. He’d barely noticed it as they watched, but he’d crept closer to Harry for warmth, until their shoulders were pressed together.
“You cold?” Harry asked, after an extended silence.
Kim sighed. “We’ve... been out here a long time.”
Off in the distance, the engine of a motor carriage kicked back. Headlights flooded the winding alleyways below, before stopping in front of the meat packing warehouse. Kim lowered to a crouch behind the guard wall, Harry peering over the top.
“Yeah, well,” Harry said, “You might’ve just got your wish, Kim. No more standing around.”
“What do you see?” Kim asked.
“It’s our guy all right. And he’s got Rina.”
Kim raised his head slightly to look. He could barely make out anything in the dark, save for silhouettes against the headlights. Not for the first time in his life he cursed his terrible vision.
“How many of them do you see?”
Harry counted under his breath. “Two MCs. At least five or six guys. They’re taking her inside.”
“Any other exits or entryways other than the front door?”
“There’s a staircase near the back that leads to the second floor. Looks like it leads straight towards the office, though—maybe better as an exit route.”
“Most of ‘em are boarded up. Unless you want to try to crawl through broken glass.”
“Hm. Not really,” Kim said.
Lowering the binoculars, Harry crouched down. He glanced at Kim. “So… how should we do this? Guns blazing through the front entrance?”
“There are only two of us. I don’t think that’s our best option.”
“No, but it would be *cool.*” Harry stroked his chin. “No backup, either?”
“What if we start a fire? Smoke ‘em out.”
“I’m generally against arson as a concept. Most of these warehouses are tinderboxes. We don’t need another entire district burned out.”
“Although…” Harry peeked out again. “They’ve only got one guy posted at the door. He looks kinda green. We could take him.”
“A distraction perhaps?” Kim asked. “If we get him out of the way we can get inside. Try to sneak in.”
Harry glanced at the bottles on the ground, then back to Kim. He grinned. “I have an idea.”
It wasn’t much of an idea. Most of Harry’s ‘ideas’ were half-developed, but they tended to work out all right, so usually Kim went along. Once they were down on the ground, hiding in the shadows, Harry hurled a bottle in a clear arc into the darkness. The noise alerted the guard enough to move from his post, and Harry went after him with his gun drawn.
“Freeze,” he said, pressing the muzzle against the back of the guard’s head.
Kim stood behind him, gun at the ready. “Put your hands behind your head.”
The guard did as he was told. He really was just a kid, and started shaking as he got down onto his knees. Kim cuffed him, and Harry started peppering him with questions.
“How many guys you got in there, huh?” Harry asked, pressing the gun against his temple. “If you play nice I might not have to kill you.”
“No, no, no, hey wait—don’t kill me!”
“It would be advantageous of you to be forthright,” Kim said, crouching beside him. “My partner is somewhat of a loose cannon.”
“Th-there’s about a dozen guys.”
“What are they doing in there?”
“Moving a shipment from Martinaise. There isn’t much coming through with the union shutting the gate down anymore.”
“What about the girl?” Kim asked.
“They tied her up in the office. Asking her questions, what she told the cops and shit. She’s a narc.”
“Where would they be keeping her?”
The kid fumbled for a moment for words. “In the office on the second floor, probably.”
“Is there another way in?” Harry asked.
“A cellar, in the back,” the kid said. “I have a key for it in my pocket.”
Kim fished the keys out, then looked up to Harry. “Let’s go, detective.”
They gagged the guard and left him cuffed and concealed near the Kineema. Then, they went around to the back of the building to look for the cellar. It was so dark out that Kim had to focus on Harry in front of him, rather than his surroundings. He watched Harry stumble as they found the entrance, producing the key as they opened the cellar to go inside.
It smelled like earth, the floor unfinished as they walked down below. Harry pulled out a flashlight, sending beams bouncing along the wood panels. Old refrigeration equipment from what was likely before the war, and meat hooks lay abandoned. Dirt fell from the ceiling, where people walked along above.
“They must’ve figured out another way to move product out of the harbour,” Harry murmured.
“Perhaps,” Kim said. His words sounded shaky. This was a very dangerous situation. “We can’t be distracted by that now.”
“You’re right. I’ll distract myself by not getting shot.”
They found a set of stairs with light peeking through the door above. It likely led to the main floor. Getting up there would be a risk. They couldn’t account for the layout or who would be lingering nearby.
Harry went up first, cracking the door open to peer through. Kim waited for him to motion him forward, and advanced.
The inside of the warehouse was massive, with tall ceilings and hulking machinery that lay dormant for years. Parts of the metal floor had been broken through, with greenery stretching up to the sky tangled into the mechanisms. A layer of rust and ruin covered every surface, and in the center of it all were a few rough looking men standing around smoking cigarettes and laughing, holding guns and watching over a few crates of what was likely contraband. They had a radio playing some tinny music, and they were drinking—likely halfway to plastered, by now.
The only source of light were a few old, crackling bulbs dangling from the roof overhead. Most of the equipment created enough shadow for them to conceivably sneak through unnoticed.
Peeking his head out around the corner, Harry motioned to their right. “Kim, this way.”
“On your lead,” Kim whispered, with a nod.
They crept forward, past the guards milling about the center, concealed behind the monolithic equipment. Kim kept his head on a swivel, listening for any sounds of movement. It seemed as though the bulk of the men were on the first floor, but they hadn’t seen a trace of THE MAN or Rina yet.
Harry led them down another darkened corridor, where hooks hung from the ceiling. Kim wondered how many pigs had died here, and if they would see a similar fate. He would hardly be any use if some kind of gunfight broke out.
They were almost at the stairs when Harry stuck an arm out, stopping him. Harry stepped in, turning to press Kim back against the wall. Kim went stiff, his shoulders flattening out as Harry moved into his space.
“Quiet, Kim,” Harry said, focusing on something beyond him.
Kim shut his mouth and listened. Around the corner were the low voices of two men, the scent of their cigarette smoke wafting into the hall. The sounds of boxes shuffling was audible over the sounds of the radio further down inside the warehouse.
“Think he’s gonna kill her?” one of the men said. He grunted as he lifted something, out of Kim’s line of sight.
“I don’t see why he wouldn’t. Little bitch going straight to the cops. That’s gotta hurt.”
His heart quickened. Shit, they had to move quickly. They had to get around these men, somehow.
Harry shifted, planting his arm against the wall beside Kim’s head. Kim turned away, breath catching. Heat rolled off of him, and when Kim looked up to his face, he could see Harry’s face of concentration. Police work really did suit him—he was like a bloodhound with a scent.
Another grunt, the sound of a box dropping. “Between you and me, I hope he doesn’t kill her. She’s a nice kid.”
“Oh shut up. You just like looking at her.”
“I’d like to do more than just look.”
Laughter. Then, they walked off, the sounds of their heavy footsteps echoing off the walls. Harry waited for a moment longer, until it was almost unbearable, before starting off once more.
Kim took a deep breath. He followed.
They went up the set of steps leading to the second floor balcony, dropping to a crouch as they reached the railing. It mostly protected them from view, as they carefully sidled up to the office. There was a window, the only one in the building mostly intact, but the door was closed up. Kim knelt under the window next to Harry, waiting.
“What now?” Harry asked. “We can’t just bust in there.”
Kim risked a glance. Inside the office, THE MAN was standing over Rina, where she was chained to a metal pipe in the room. Her clothes were dirty, and she had blood on her face, but she was mercifully still alive. One other guard manned the door—another young but well-built man with a face full of freckles.
There was a sudden shift where THE MAN leaned over, uncuffing Rina to pull her up to her knees. There were tears running down her face, as THE MAN pulled out his gun.
“Kim, we have to—”
“Wait,” Kim said, motioning with a hand.
The sound was muffled in the room, and he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Harry looked like he was contemplating knocking the door down.
He practically jumped out of his skin when the door opened. Luckily, his partner was quicker to the draw, his gun pointed squarely at the groin level of the guard coming out.
“Don’t move,” Harry said, softly. The guard froze. “Or I’ll shoot you in the dick.”
There was a flurry of movement as Harry got to his feet, swinging behind the guard to press his gun to the man’s head. He gripped his wrist behind his back, jerking his chin. “Kim, get behind me.”
Kim fell in line, his pulse heavy in his throat. What was he even doing here? This was risky. They didn’t even have a real plan.
“Easy,” Harry said. He pushed the guard back through the door, and Kim shut it behind them.
THE MAN turned, frowning as he faced them. He kept his gun leveled at Rina’s forehead. “You two don’t know when to give up, do you?”
Rina was gagged, but she threw them frantic looks.
Kim raised his gun, pointing it squarely at THE MAN’s head. “Let her go.”
“Or what? You’ll shoot me?” He chuckled. “She’ll hit the ground faster than you can pull the trigger.”
“Nobody has to die here,” Harry said. “She didn’t tell us shit. She just wants to leave Revachol. Let us go, and we’ll send her on her way. You can get back to business as usual.”
“How am I supposed to trust you, Harry? You said you had no idea where she was, when my people told me *all* about that RCM safehouse. You lied to me.”
“I told you! She’s got her hooks in me just like she does you!” Harry said.
Kim looked at him sidelong. This charade wouldn’t work a second time. It had barely worked the first. Still…
He turned back to THE MAN, standing there with his gun to Rina’s forehead. “You don’t really want to kill her,” Kim said, evenly. “If you did, you would’ve already.”
THE MAN looked at him. “Enough mind games, Lieutenant. You should—”
The words were cut off as Rina threw herself at his knees, toppling him over onto the desk. A shot rang out in the room from THE MAN’s gun, the bullet striking the overhanging light which exploded into a burst of shattered glass, raining down from overhead. The guard launched forward knocking Kim onto his back, throwing both of them to the ground. His gun went spiraling away from his grip, the air knocked out of him as he fought to catch up.
Pain exploded behind his eyes as a fist struck him, his glasses knocked off his face. His world became a blur of colours and shadows, and Kim threw his arms in front of his face, twisting his body so that he didn’t take another hit. He opened his hand, catching a fist, before headbutting the man on top of him.
He tasted blood in his mouth, he couldn’t see, scrambling to his knees as he went for his gun. Someone got there first, a smudge of colours picking it up in tied hands.
“Get back!” Rina yelled. She pointed the gun squarely in his direction.
The guard raised his hands. Kim squinted, trying to make out anything more than shapes. Someone hauled him up by the jacket—Harry—before shoving him towards the door.
“Move it, Kim!”
“I can’t see.”
His voice came out more panicked than he’d meant for it to.
“Hang onto me, then.”
Harry grabbed his hand, forcing it to grip his jacket. He hung on, trying to focus on where Harry had his gun moving between THE MAN and the guard on the ground. Rina, her long black hair, her body quivering with tension.
“You’re not going to shoot me, Rina,” said THE MAN. “Even if you do, my men will come tear you to shreds without me to protect you.”
“Fuck you!” she shouted hoarsely. “You call this protection?”
There was yelling out below on the floor. The sounds of heavy boots coming up the stairs.
“Detective, we must leave *now*,” Kim urged.
“I gave you *everything* you have!” THE MAN yelled.
“Not everything,” Rina said, before another gunshot went off, a blast of light in the dark room.
THE MAN crumpled with a shout of pain. Kim didn’t know if he was dead or wounded, but Harry was already grabbing Rina by her tied hands, pulling her away. He didn’t know where his gun had gone. He couldn’t see a fucking thing.
“Shit, shit, we gotta move,” Harry said.
“My hands!” Rina cried. A shuffle of movement and she was freed.
The three of them ducked as a bullet ricocheted off the wall near their heads. They’d sounded the alarm. Harry grabbed him by the arm, and started running.
He couldn’t see a thing, running on adrenaline and blind trust that Harry was leading him in the right direction. Rina was ahead, her hair a black wave, as she flew barefoot over the scaffolding and down to the other end of the second floor.
“This way!” she yelled. There was a ladder at the end of the platform, and she went hurtling off, disappearing to the first floor below.
Harry manhandled him ahead. “Ladder. You go first Kim.”
It was shaky, but he somehow made it down. He could hear Harry returning fire overhead, could see men with semi-automatics gaining on them only meters away.
A hand grabbed him, and he startled, realizing it was Rina. She tugged at him, her face a mess of blood and two black eyes looking up at him. “Come on!”
Harry was still on the floor above, Kim could hear his voice. He didn’t want to leave him, but with Rina pulling his hand he had no choice but to move. He pulled her behind a hulking machine as more bullets flew wild, only to find a man at the front door ahead of them. He couldn’t see for shit, but it was a big target and he didn’t appear to have a gun. A gleam of metal, the sound of a blade from a sheath, and Kim pushed Rina out of the way.
He couldn’t see, but the other man didn’t know that. He could anticipate the movements. This was no trained merc, only a thug with a knife. A wide arc towards his belly, and Kim slid back, then threw himself forward using all he had in him to knock the assailant to the ground.
There was a sharp pain in his arm, and he didn’t look, but already knew that his jacket had been sliced through. Rina yelled out, and then Harry was next to him, kicking the man on the ground with a solid boot to the head.
“Get up, Kim, come on.” Harry dragged Kim up by the jacket, and threw him forward.
Kim stumbled, trying to right himself.
They barreled out the front doors. The alley was pitch black, Kim going on mostly instinct and memory and praying that he didn’t fall flat on his face. The Kineema! They were close now, but there were men at their backs, and Rina was panting hard enough that it seemed like she was pushed to her limit.
“I won’t be able to drive!” Kim yelled, over the sounds of men yelling and errant gunfire. He reached for his keys. “Harry!”
He threw them. Harry caught them in midair, just as they got to the motor carriage.
It felt alien riding shotgun, but right now, he didn’t have a choice. Harry started up the motor with Rina pressed between the seats throwing frantic looks out the window. He could hear the gunfire out the window, the yelling, the sounds of the other MCs starting.
The headlights kicked on, and Kim wincing at the sudden change. Rina leaned over him, slamming her hands against the window. “Fuck! He didn’t die?”
Harry shoved her back into her seat. “Hang on, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
“Rina!” came THE MAN’s voice from outside.
Kim looked, but he could only see the jagged shape of a man clutching his arm where it was bleeding. He could see his men escorting him into a MC, just as Harry hit the gas and sent them flying out of the harbour.
Gripping the dash, Kim braced himself. The roads out here were damaged, the potholes sending both him and Rina flying towards the ceiling as the wheels dipped down. They were going so fast that he could feel the carriage chattering, and Kim’s heart was in his throat every time they veered too close to anything else on the road.
There was a sudden explosion of noise to their right and Kim lowered his head as the side window shattered. Harry jerked the MC hard to the left, gripping Kim’s shoulder so that he didn’t fly to the other side as they flew down another alley with THE MAN and his men close behind.
“The highway,” Kim said. “We can lose them.”
It would help if he could see where the fuck the highway *was*. He could practically feel the frantic energy rolling off of him, the nervous terror of Rina. The bounce of the wheels beneath them and the sound of revving engines.
Harry rode the Kineema until it clicked, until Kim knew it was at its limit. More gunfire behind them, further away, but he still pushed Rina’s head down. There was a pop of a tire exploding, but mercifully it wasn’t theirs, the vehicle next to them spinning out as it braked hard. Still, Rina screamed.
They flew left, then right, and Harry put his foot heavy on the gas, pushing it as far as they could go.
Though traffic was thin at this time of night, Harry weaved in between MCs, until the sounds of gunfire and squealing tires had quieted. The wind through the broken window was freezing, Kim struggling to catch his breath, and soon enough Harry took them off a sideroad and down into the underground where the Kineema slowly rolled to a stop.
“Think they shot out the fuel tank,” Harry said, throwing it into park. “We’ll have to go on foot.”
A pang of sadness went through Kim’s chest. At least none of them had been hurt irreparably, but the Kineema was one of his most prized possessions. Leaving it on the road like that in the middle of nowhere, bleeding fuel onto a deserted road. Nevertheless, he kept his expression bland, popping open the dash to dig out his backup glasses and a first aid kit now that he had a moment to breathe.
“They took my shoes,” Rina said. “How the fuck am I supposed to walk out here?”
“One of us will carry you,” Harry said. “But we gotta get the hell out of here.”
Kim got out of the Kineema, his feet hitting the gravel beneath him. He tried to look around, get a bearing on his surroundings, but his old glasses weren’t anywhere near as strong as his regular pair. As far as he could tell, they were under some kind of bridge, their surroundings all blocked out by stone and concrete. The scent of desolation was familiar. He couldn’t place it.
Harry glanced at him. “Those are different.”
“Old pair,” Kim explained. He felt silly, standing there half-blind. “The prescription is outdated, but it’s better than nothing.”
Crawling out of the driver’s side, Rina uneasily set her feet down on the gravel. She seemed oddly subdued as she observed her surroundings.
“Where are we, anyway?” she asked.
“There’s a fishing village about a half an hour walk that way,” Harry said. “A place we can get a room at another twenty past that. Probably. If I’m not permanently banned by now.”
“It’s really gonna take that long?” She sounded small, distant. “I’m so tired…”
“We’ll have to call in to the precinct,” Kim said.
“What we need is to lay low for the night. Let’s worry about that when there aren’t guys with guns chasing us.”
Harry knelt down, motioning Rina forward. She clambered onto his back, and he stood up to his full height. “Stay close to me, Kim.”
Kim nodded. “After you.”
They walked under the bridge, into the reeds. The scent of the ocean was stronger as they waded through mud. Kim could make out stars in the sky, bright points—but they could’ve been lights in buildings far away for all he could see.
There was a steady trail of blood oozing from his arm that he was certain would need stitches, but they’d made it out alive. Somehow.
“Think we’ll see the Insulidian Phasmid out here again?” Harry asked into the darkness.
“Unlikely,” Kim said.
“Come on, Kim. We got that photo. You know it exists.”
“I know it exists, detective, but frankly I couldn’t see a phasmid or *fuck all* right now.”
Harry laughed. “Oh, right. You’re really *that* blind, aren’t you?”
“Yes. I’m currently using all of my focus to not fall on my face, so perhaps we should cut the conversation on cryptids.”
“You could hold my hand. I’d make sure you wouldn’t fall.”
He faltered at that, his boot skipping on a stone. He barely kept his balance, managing to cover the move by running ahead a few steps. He already felt like a burden with his bad eyesight.
Harry glanced at him. “Kim?”
“I believe you have your hands full.” He reached to adjust his glasses, recalling why he’d replaced these ones. They had a propensity to slide down his nose. “Let’s keep moving.”
“Hm?” Rina said, sleepily. She didn’t even raise her head.
Harry hefted her up on his back. “We’ve only got a little ways to go.”
By the time they hit the boardwalk, Kim had gained a sense of footing. He had memorized this path from that week spent in Martinaise chasing Harry around as he ran virtually everywhere. To his credit, even with Rina on his back, he didn’t seem to be breaking a sweat. It was out here in the cover of darkness, unable to see his face that Kim could really admit that Harry was at times impressive.
The village was empty so late at night. The old drunks in their makeshift camp didn’t even seem to recognize them as they passed, and the lights weren’t on inside their shacks. With Joyce’s boat long gone, it was empty and lifeless, and Kim couldn’t make out the island. He couldn’t make out much of anything.
Rina’s head bobbed as Harry walked. Kim did his best to keep his eyes on the path ahead as they headed towards the water lock.
“I wanted to thank you for helping me back there,” Kim said. “Usually my glasses stay on my face.”
Harry was quiet for a moment. It made things so much more difficult not being able to see his face.
“You would’ve done it for me.”
Kim didn’t respond, but they both knew the answer was yes.
They crossed the water lock, past the pawn shop and towards the Whirling-in-Rags. The lights were still, mercifully, on inside.
“They didn’t even fix the fence,” Harry said. Kim couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see anything beyond the welcoming beacon of the hostel where they’d met.
“Probably not one of their priorities right now.” Kim nodded. He gestured to the doors of the Whirling. “We should go inside.”
He started to walk, but Harry stood there, silently as he looked on to the yard where the hanged man had met his fate. It was quiet. Kim stepped closer to Harry, looking at his profile, trying to see what he might be seeing.
Ah. Of course, Harry’d taken a shine to that horrible child and his equally terrifying female counterpart. Kim turned to the yard as well. There was no sign of them. He wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but their absence seemed to give Harry pause.
He almost said something. That maybe the kids were better off not being there. It was a lot to hope for, though, so Kim didn’t speak on it.
Instead, he took Harry by the shoulder, gently steering him towards the Whirling. “Time to go, detective.”
It was warm inside, the same dancing lights from the disco ball sparkling along the walls. It smelled like old fry oil and cigarette smoke, the floor sticky with spilled beer. The union box was closed for the night, and the only hangers on were so drunk they could barely sit upright. Music played at a low level, probably the same tape he’d heard a dozen times over.
Only then did Harry let Rina slide off his shoulders. She got to her feet, rubbing at her eyes. “I feel like shit,” she mumbled.
“Almost there,” Kim said, with a consolitary pat to the shoulder. “It’s been a long day.”
Luckily enough for Harry, Garte was nowhere to be found with a rather bored looking young man at the register instead. Kim paid for their rooms, the same two with the conjoining door that they’d shared all that time ago. He didn’t have the money for three, and so he and Harry would have to make due.
He took a slight detour to call into the station. The phone lines, luckily, had been fixed since March.
“Satellite-officer Vicquemare is at the hospital, and will make a full recovery,” Kim said, hanging up the phone. “I’ve updated our status, and we will reconvene at the precinct in the morning.”
“Great,” Harry said. He had his arm around Rina, where she was sagging into his side. “Let’s get her to bed.”
They headed up the stairs, Rina stumbling a bit at the top as she rubbed her eyes. Kim opened the door to the first room, the one he’d used once upon a time. It was orderly inside, almost cleaner than he’d left it. Kim stepped inside after Rina, and Harry lingered at the door.
“The bathroom is connected to our room,” Kim explained. “If you need anything, we’re right through there.”
Rina sat down on the bed, crumpling like a dried flower. “I really need to get out of Revachol. Now more than ever.” She put her head in her hand. “I wish I’d killed him.”
Kim’s eyes narrowed. “You mean, you weren’t trying to?”
She sniffed. “Even though he hurt me… even though he wants me dead, he’s the only reason that I made it this far. He’s the only person left who knows me. I couldn’t do it... I don’t want him dead, I just don’t want him near.”
“We’ll get you out of here,” Harry said. “Tomorrow. You on an airship.”
“Juliette left me a safety deposit box, just in case,” Rina mumbled. “I have a passport there, and money.”
“That’s great,” Harry said. “We’ll make it happen. Right Kim?”
“Right,” Kim said, somewhat doubting it. They could only do so much.
“I just… need to be alone,” Rina mumbled. She laid down, turning her back to them.
Kim left, closing the door behind her. He followed Harry out into the hallway, where Harry stopped dead in front of the room.
“Detective?” Kim asked, quietly.
Harry shook his head. “It’s nothing. I just keep thinking I’m gonna walk in there and find it trashed or something. Like I did it and I didn’t even remember it.”
“We haven’t been here in months. I’m certain it will be fine.”
Taking a deep breath, Harry unlocked the door. A perfectly acceptable hostel room greeted them, with all windows intact, a shared bathroom, two chairs, and one bed.
Kim followed him inside, shutting the door behind them. He exhaled slowly, the stress of the last few hours finally starting to bleed out of him. Speaking of blood, his arm had steadily oozed all down the sleeve of his jacket. He set about peeling himself out of it, wincing where it had dried down enough to stick.
A quick detour to the bathroom to wash his face, wash out the wound. He looked at himself in the mirror, finding an aging, haggard expression staring back at him in crooked, outdated glasses. Kim squinted, and left the bathroom, closing the door behind him. After a moment of deliberation, he clicked the lock shut as well.
Harry was standing near the window that he’d broken, looking at him with an illegible expression. When he caught Kim’s eyes, he turned his gaze down towards the outside. The traffic jam that never ended still lingered down there, the burnt remnants of the message painted in red seared into the cobblestones.
“What a day, Kim.” Harry rubbed his temple. “What a fucking day. I wish I had a drink.”
“It’s too late to buy anything. You’ll have to go without,” Kim said. He went to sit on the bed, rolling up his sleeve enough to further inspect the damage. It wasn’t that deep, but it needed stitches.
Harry glanced back at him. “I said I *wish* I had one, not that I’m going to get a drink.”
“Of course.” Kim looked at Harry. “This needs stitches. Do you think you can manage?”
He eased his gun holster off of his shoulders, hissing as the skin of his arms pulled. He deposited it along with his gun on the table, and started peeling out of his gloves. When Harry didn’t respond, he glanced up, to where his partner was blatantly staring at him.
“Detective?” Kim repeated. “Can you manage?”
Harry wiped his hands off on his pants, and came towards him. “No, but I can try.”
With Harry next to him on the bed, fumbling with rubbing alcohol and a needle, Kim went for his cigarettes. His hands trembled as he tried to light it, and Harry all but reached over and did it for him.
“Thank you,” Kim said, gruffly. The taste of tobacco helped calm his nerves, somewhat.
Harry grinned. “Never seen you this shaken, Kim.”
“I’m tired,” he admitted.
“Yeah, me too.”
Kim rubbed his forehead, cigarette between his two fingers. “We still need to question the son. The fiancé—we’re no closer to an arrest on this case than we were before. This business with THE MAN has cost us valuable time.”
“Yeah, well.” Harry wiped at his arm with alcohol. “We could’ve let Rina die, but we didn’t.”
He cut off as Harry pushed the needle into his skin. It was tender, and Kim forced himself to breathe through his nose.
“I wasn’t implying that,” Kim clarified. He took another drag on his smoke. “I suppose things could’ve gone worse.”
“You had a blind, unarmed knife-fight with a guy and only wound up with a little scratch. We evaded like ten guys with semi-automatics. Things could’ve gone a lot worse.”
Harry finished up the stitches with only a bit of tugging. By the time he was wrapping the bandages, Kim had burned the cigarette to the filter. He snubbed it out between his thumb and forefinger, returning the butt to the carton for disposal later.
“Looks good.” Harry tucked the bandage in, and gripped Kim’s bicep to ensure it was wrapped tightly. “That should hold.”
Kim rolled his sleeve back down. “Thank you, detective.”
Sitting back, Harry put his hands on his thighs. Kim started cleaning up the first aid kit, even though his fingers hadn’t quite stopped shaking.
“You saved my life in this room, Kim. Least I could do.”
“I was doing my job.” He pressed up his glasses where they slid down his nose, then pawed around for his ledger. “Speaking of, I should take some notes.”
“Could you even read your own writing right now?”
Kim paused. His glasses *were* truly horrible. “Likely not.”
“I’ll do them for you.”
He sat there, feeling rather useless. He *always* took notes. The last time he’d let Harry use his ledger he’d spent two hours rewriting the report. ‘Fucky-fucky’ would’ve been rather difficult to explain to his precinct captain, after all, even if it had made him smile.
Kim sighed, handing over his ledger. “Please no more profanity than absolutely necessary.”
“That could be arranged but—” Dramatically, Harry flipped open the pages, “—only if you tell me another secret about yourself.”
“Ah. Of course. You and your secrets.” Kim started to toe off his shoes, shuffling back until his spine hit the wall. He leaned his head back, closing his eyes. His arm hurt. “What is it this time?”
For a moment, there was only the sound of Harry’s pen moving on paper.
“You ever been hurt bad?”
Kim blinked. “As in… physically?”
“I mean have you ever had your heart broken.”
“Why do you ask?”
Harry shrugged. “Because I want to know.”
“Or… because I’ll write stupid shit all over your notes.”
Kim scowled for a moment, but it softened. He let his head rest against the wall, feeling the exhaustion set in. He knew where this was coming from. He knew about Harry’s heartbreak. He recognized the need in Harry to see the same damage in others that he had in himself. If there was a person shaped hole in Kim the same size his ex-wife had left in him.
“I think everyone has been hurt to some degree,” Kim answered, neutrally.
“But I’m asking about *you.*”
“When I said ‘everyone’ that implied myself, as well.”
“Still not an answer. I’m writing so many naughty words in your report, Kim.”
He chuckled. “I’m sure.”
As he listened to the scrawl of the pen, and the soft sounds of the ocean outside the window, Kim laid down on the bed. He rubbed at the bandaging on his arm, rolling his shoulder a few times to reassure himself that he’d have full use of his arm. Harry had done a half-decent job.
Eventually, the scrawling stopped. Harry closed up the notebook, setting it on the end table near the window.
“We should get some sleep,” Kim said. “We’ll likely have another long day tomorrow.”
Harry seemed to hesitate, at that. He shuffled off the edge of the bed, onto the floor. “Could you hand me a blanket?”
Kim frowned, pushing up to his elbows to look at him. “You’re not sleeping on the floor.”
“There’s only one bed. I’m not gonna make you take the floor.”
“There’s more than enough room for the both of us.”
Harry looked away. “It’s—I’m not—I don’t need it, Kim. You take it.”
“Harry,” Kim said, bluntly. “Get on the bed. Now.”
He hadn’t meant for it to sound like an order, but he was tired enough that it came out that way. Harry was his superior—he shouldn’t be talking to him like that. Still, Harry stood up without any further argument, and Kim slid over to the side closest to the wall.
Kim took his glasses off, depositing them on the end table, then pulled the threadbare blanket over his legs. He just wanted to sleep and not overthink this. He’d been in tight situations with other partners before. He was a professional.
He heard the clink of a belt buckle, and opened his eye a crack. Through his blurred vision he could see Harry taking off his overshirt, and then his pants. He glanced back, and caught Kim looking.
“I overheat easily,” Harry explained, sheepishly.
Kim said nothing, and stared resolutely at the ceiling.
He left on the undershirt and briefs, at the very least. Kim breathed steadily through his nostrils as Harry slid under the covers with him. They laid on their backs side by side in the stillness of the room.
There was a very safe gap between them. More than a few centimeters. Eventually, Kim turned his back to him. This was nothing more than a situation borne of necessity. He could manage.
Harry moved too much. He readjusted his pillow, he scratched his cheek, he cleared his throat several times. Kim tried to close his eyes and ignore it.
“I can’t fucking sleep,” Harry said, after twenty minutes of this.
“Try,” Kim insisted.
“You can’t tell me you don’t feel the same. You’re so tense, Kim.”
The frame creaked as Harry rolled onto his side, facing him. Kim didn’t move, but perhaps held his breath for a moment longer than needed. Then, Harry set a hand on the center of his back.
His shoulders pulled up to his ears, tensing. Harry backed off, sprawling out on his back like a corpse.
“Shit, I‘m sorry. I’m making you uncomfortable. That’s what I always do, I just make everyone around me—”
“I should just get on the floor,” Harry continued. “I belong there—”
“Stay,” Kim ordered.
Harry stayed. He was quiet for a moment, before murmuring, “Kim…”
Kim opened his mouth to explain that this wasn’t going to happen. Harry was his partner, he was sexually confused, he was a (barely) functioning addict, and he was still hung up on his ex-wife.
He wasn’t going to be the next of his midlife crises.
None of that came out. Instead, he rolled onto his back. Slowly, he reached for Harry’s wrist, dragging his hand towards him until his fingers just grazed the hem of his t-shirt.
For a moment, Harry didn’t move. Kim drew his hands back, and only then did Harry’s fingers start their slow ascent up his shirt. His stomach pulled in at the touch, lighter than he assumed it would be. He was too sensitive. He’d gone too long without seeking out the touch of another to keep the edge off.
Harry’s palm flattened out against his breast-bone, big and masculine, before dragging to one side of his chest, his thumb grazing a nipple. Kim gritted his teeth. Harry moved closer.
He could feel Harry’s breath against the side of his face, the scent of him stale with old sweat, but not off-putting. His thumb had started to slowly circle his nipple, and he could feel it hardening to the touch.
Kim turned his head to face him. His features were blurred at the edges, but his eyes were very clear, the desperation evident in his heated expression. Kim raised a hand, his thumb at Harry’s chin, his fingers curling around the sides of his throat.
“Why do you always have to ask me so many personal questions?” he asked. “What do you get out of me refusing them?”
Harry tipped his chin down, until Kim’s thumb grazed his lower lip. “Even when you don’t tell me anything, I learn something.” He could feel his tongue against it as he spoke. “I want to know everything about you, Kim. I wanna know all your worst moments.”
“Is this one of them?” he murmured.
“If it’s with me? Probably.”
Kim pressed up onto his elbow and kissed him. He swallowed the sound of shock out of Harry’s mouth, lapping it out of him with his tongue. It was messy as they adjusted to each other, and he wondered if he was the first man that Harry had ever kissed. Or remembered kissing. The idea that this could actually mean something beyond releasing tension was a dangerous one.
Content to let Kim set the pace for this, Harry was surprisingly gentle. His fingers kept tracing Kim’s nipples, sliding up to occasionally run along his collarbone, down his sternum. It made him excited too quickly, and Kim pulled Harry halfway on top of him, until their legs slotted together.
Harry was heavier than he was used to, his gut practically crushing the air out of him as he put his weight down. He didn’t make a point to go after men his own age or older, for the sole reason that he might like it too much.
Hands carded through his thinning hair, Harry’s nose sliding along his until he pulled away to look down at him. Kim schooled his expression, not wanting to look too flustered, although he was certain Harry could feel his cock where it was pressed along his lower belly, could see his kiss bruised lips. Harry was looking at him with the same fascination he did analyzing a corpse.
“Why are you so fucking sexy?”
An unexpected laugh bubbled out of him. “What?”
“Sometimes, the way you look at me—God.” Harry’s head dipped down, his mouth dragging over Kim’s throat, down to the neck of his shirt. “I thought about making a move last night, but I pussied out. I thought you’d shut me down.”
He craned his neck up, wanting more kisses. Wanting Harry to touch him. He started moving his hips, his dick pulsing as Harry rocked into him. “You should’ve.”
Harry’s eyes widened. “You were drunk.”
“Yes. And I would’ve let you do whatever you wanted,” Kim admitted, his face heating.
He released a low groan, and Kim pulled him up for a kiss. It had been so long since he’d properly kissed someone, he could feel himself losing control. He didn’t like the feeling.
Kim started to slip his hand down between them, his fingers curling around the bulge in Harry’s briefs. He was only half-hard, which made him hesitate. There was still the likelihood that Harry was only doing this to feel close to *anyone* without necessarily being into him or men at all.
As if sensing his questioning, Harry pulled back enough to speak. “Takes a minute for me sometimes.”
He slid his fingers beneath the waistband of his underwear, freezing as the light flicked on in the bathroom. Shit. The door was locked, but the walls were thin. Harry silently slid off of him, but his hand stayed low on Kim’s stomach.
The sound of Rina padding around in the bathroom was audible. Kim forced himself to calm his breathing, waiting for her to finish up and go back to her room. Instead, the sound of the shower curtain being pulled, and the water turning on.
A moment. He knew they should probably stop. Be respectful of the client. Neither of them moved.
Then, Harry’s arm slipped beneath his neck, pulling him into his arms. Kim looked at Harry’s face, his desperate expression. “She won’t hear us. I can be quiet.”
“Can you?” Kim cocked an eyebrow.
Harry grabbed for his wrist, pulling it back down to his dick. He was harder now, like there was some kind of thrill going through him at the idea of being caught out. Kim cupped him through his underwear beneath the blanket, massaging.
Leaning his head back, Harry sucked a breath in through his nose. “I’ll try.”
He eased the briefs down and tucked them snugly under Harry’s balls, then fisted his hand around his cock. He was wet at the tip and leaking, and it was easy to start slowly jerking him off. He wasn’t trying to be torturous, but he enjoyed seeing Harry struggle to keep himself together.
This was beyond inappropriate. What was he thinking? Still, Kim’s hand seemed to move of its own volition, steadily moving back and forth over him.
“Can you be fast?” Kim murmured.
Harry nodded. Kim picked up the pace, twisting his hand at the top as he pulled his foreskin over the head. His own hips pressed against Harry’s flank, desperate for some kind of stimulation.
Steam from the shower drifted into the room, making it muggy, hotter than it was. Kim felt himself start to sweat under his collar, as Harry groaned audibly. His free hand pressed over Harry’s mouth, silencing him, and Harry’s dick twitched in his hand.
He felt the wetness from Harry’s mouth against his palm, his ragged breathing in his ear. He kept his hand moving, wishing he had enough time to suck him off, to do more than a quick and dirty handjob in the bed that Harry had almost died in. He could feel the scar near his groin against the back of his hand on every downstroke.
Harry peeled the fingers away from his mouth, pulling Kim closer, breathing into his mouth rather than kissing him. He could feel the movements of Harry’s hips growing more frantic against his hand.
“Who broke your heart, Kim?” he mumbled. Kim tried to pull away, but Harry didn’t let him go. “Why is it so hard to let me in?”
“Shut up,” Kim said. He pressed his forehead against Harry’s, his arm starting to ache where his stitches pulled. “Stop talking.”
“Tell me. Please—please tell me.”
He felt his partner start to come apart in his hands, God, only Harry Du Bois would get off to thinking about how exactly Kim was wounded, if their scars matched. Kim held him down, silencing his moans with a firm hand as he came. Watching the draw of his eyebrows, Kim analyzed every micro-expression, every movement. There was a high chance that Harry would want to forget this had ever happened in the morning. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Harry started to relax next to him. Kim raised his hand, sucking the ejaculate off his fingers. He was efficient if nothing else, and he enjoyed the resulting expression on Harry’s face.
His own cock was insistent, pressed against Harry’s side, ignored as it was. He wasn’t certain the protocol here with Harry. Most primarily hetero-sexual men he’d dallied with in the past hadn’t been especially reciprocal.
Harry’s big hand cradled his hip, encouraging him to move. “Yeah, come on, Kim.”
“Be quiet,” Kim growled, almost embarrassed at Harry’s eagerness. He pushed Harry onto his side, who naturally resisted, but Kim didn’t relent. He grabbed Harry’s hair, shoving his face into the pillow, his body slotting up behind him until his hips were pressed up tight against the cleft of Harry’s ass. He kept moving, breathing hard through his nose, trying to get off in the most base way possible. He hadn’t been like this since he was a teenager, sneaking into the beds of other boys at the group home at night. He didn’t know why he was acting this way. He wasn’t used to being wanted.
He dug his teeth into the back of Harry’s neck to silence his own noises. He was close.
The room filled only with the muffled sounds of running water, their shared breath. Soon enough, the water turned off. His ears piqued at the sound of a towel, of shifting clothing. He waited for the door to Rina’s room to open, but nothing came.
Kim stilled. Harry squeezed his hip, before there was a knock at the bathroom door.
He pulled away. Harry sat up, going for his pants.
“Just a sec, Rina,” Harry called. He jumped to his feet, motioning for Kim to move. “One sec.” He reached across Kim on the bed for one of the pillows, a blanket, and tossed them on the ground where he’d originally intended to sleep.
A weight settled in his stomach. Of course. Harry was destroying the evidence.
They righted themselves in record time. Kim’s arousal had faded entirely, silent as he sat up against the wall. He put his glasses on as Harry did up his zipper. Harry smoothed down his hair as he went to the door, and Kim stared at the wall.
“Hey,” Harry said, opening it. “You okay?”
She came into the room without invitation, her hair wet and leaving droplets along her shoulders. Even in the moonlight, Kim could see the bruises, the exhaustion in her eyes.
“Rina, what’s the problem?” Kim maintained the most dull expression he could manage. His body felt as taut as a bow. “Do you need something?”
Rina looked at him, his disheveled appearance. Her eyes flicked to Harry.
She wasn’t stupid. It had been completely irresponsible of him to lose control like that. This was why he had *rules* to avoid situations like this.
When neither of them spoke, Harry put a hand on her shoulder. “You know you can talk to us.”
Rina shifted out of his touch, holding herself. She averted her eyes to the ground.
“I can’t sleep,” she admitted.
“Ah,” Kim said. “It’s difficult after a day like today.”
“I wish I had a drink. Or something harder. Something to knock me out.”
Harry rubbed his chin. “Me too, honey.”
Kim pointedly ignored him. He didn’t want to think about what Harry wanted to numb or forget with alcohol.
She took the chair nearest to the window, looking out into the streets of Martinaise. Her eyes welled up with tears.
“I miss Juli. I wish she was here. I wish I could talk to her one more time.”
Harry sat down on the bed next to Kim, elbows on his knees. “I’m sorry, Rina.”
Kim shifted towards the edge, imperceptibly. Being too close to Harry seemed to hamper his judgment. That wouldn't be happening again.
“It’s nothing you did.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “It’s nothing any of us did. It’s this horrible place. I hate it here. I just want to go away.”
She was quiet, then, looking out at the night sky. Kim glanced at Harry, finding him already looking at him, confused. Kim averted his eyes.
“Would one of you talk?” Rina asked. “I can’t stand the quiet.”
“About what?” Harry asked.
“Anything. Tell me a story.”
Harry paused for a moment. “Have you ever heard about the Insulidian Phasmid?”
“No.” She looked at him. “What’s that?”
“Well—uh, it happened around when Kim and I met for the first time…”
Harry talked, and Rina listened, hanging onto every word with weary desperation. Kim half-listened, ignoring Harry’s attempts to catch his gaze. His fingers itched for a cigarette.
He had the self-discipline not to reach for another.
The aerodrome was quieter than he expected this early in the morning. Kim had barely slept a wink between Rina falling asleep on their bed, and the strange sort of tension that blanketed over him and Harry.
That was to be expected, of course.
But it had happened. And here they were standing waiting on the lower deck for the ship that would take Rina away from Revachol for a very long time.
Earlier that morning, they’d returned to the Kineema with some equipment to patch the fuel tank. Then, a brief detour to Kim’s apartment to pick up another set of glasses with the correct prescription, so he could retake the wheel to guide them through back alleys into Jamrock. Afterwards, Harry slipped into the bank where Rina had her security deposit box to pick up her documentation and whatever cash Juliette had managed to hide.
It wasn’t much, but it would at least get her out of danger and headed on her way to Graad.
Harry shoved his hands in his pockets, looking over his shoulders as they waited on a wooden bench near the terminal. Revacholian flags flew proudly overhead as station attendants wandered and janitorial staff picked up garbage. The cafes hadn’t even opened yet. Nobody would listen in on them here.
“It’s strange,” Rina said. “I’ve never been out of Revachol before, and now I’m probably never coming back.”
Kim glanced at Harry. This was a risk, letting a potential suspect go without their investigation reaching a natural end. But it was true—she would die if she stayed here any longer. Miraculous she’d stayed alive at all. He leaned forward on his knees, looking at her next to him on the bench.
“Rina, a deal is a deal. You have to tell us what you know.”
“It better be some good shit,” Harry added. “This is so above and beyond I don’t even know how many rules we’re breaking. Not that I care.”
At least he hadn’t begged anyone for money this time, or completely lost his mind. Kim considered the investigation to be a step up, really.
Rina drew in a deep breath, fidgeting with the sheaf of papers in her fingers. “It’s... such a mess. It’s the real reason THE MAN didn’t want me getting away. What I know about his operation, and about what Juliette had to do with it.”
Kim took out his notebook. “Go on.”
RINA REN indicates that the true reason JULIETTE D’ARGENT was in connection with THE MAN was a money laundering scheme through the place of her employment.
REN provided a list of names involved. Further investigation required—will pass this off to narcotics & financial crime.
THE MAN suspected that D’ARGENT was skimming funds off the top greater than her cut of profit. Indicated to REN that he was going to dispose of her.
Kim stared down at the words and realized that there were angles to this case that they hadn’t even begun to tap into. Above him, Harry made a soft sound.
“Did the investment firm uncover what she was doing?” Harry asked.
“I don’t think so. I don’t know for sure,” Rina said. “She hid her tracks well. But the things she told me… I don’t understand money very well, but she kept saying there was some kind of market crash coming to Revachol.”
Kim chewed his lip. That would track, what with the union locking down the harbour, the general unrest in the city.
“She started taking more and more from him,” Rina said. “She got more panicked.”
“THE MAN couldn’t have killed her,” Harry said. “He has no connection with the fiance. There’s no reason for him to break into the apartment to kill her, or leave her body the way we found it.”
“It wasn’t him. I would’ve known if it was,” Rina said. “But she was frantic… we were going to save more money, but then all of a sudden with what she knew, she wanted to leave right away.”
“When she moved into the fiance’s house.” Kim tapped his pen on the page.
“Did she ever talk about how Gene felt about her moving out to live with him?” Harry asked.
Confused, Rina made a face. “Only that she couldn’t wait to get away from him. After their father died, she became like his other parent. Gene… he needed her too much.”
Harry stroked his chin. “Do you think it’s possible that he wanted to kill her?”
Realization slowly dawned on her face. “What—why do you say that?”
“It was something he said the last time we spoke to him.” Harry started pacing, gesturing as he spoke. “That there was evidence on the fiance, that he had to have been the one. We know Gene had access to the apartment, and was helping move boxes—it would be the perfect way to move a body. He’s just a kid. The cleanup job wasn’t very thorough, so it tracks for what a teenage boy would do in a panic. It gives him a person to point the finger at, one he clearly didn’t like to begin with.”
“He killed her for leaving him?” Rina murmured. “But, her fiance—”
“Has a fairly strong alibi,” Kim said. “We need to question the brother more thoroughly.”
Rina’s eyes welled up with tears. “You mean all this fucking time, I’ve been mad at the wrong person?”
“We don’t know for certain. At this point, it’s conjecture.” Kim jotted down some more notes. “We’ll need a confession.”
She covered her face with her hand momentarily, trying to pull herself together. “God, it feels wrong running away without even getting justice for her… I’m such a coward.”
“We’ll catch him for you, Rina. Don’t you worry about that,” Harry said. “Besides, she’d want you to go. She’d want you to be safe.”
“I don’t want to forget about her,” Rina said. “I don’t want to forget her face. I don’t want to forget the way she sounded.”
Harry crouched down in front of her. He took her small hands in his own, smiling up at her. “You won’t forget her. Trust me.”
Looking at his partner, Kim could see the phantom handprints on Harry’s skin, the ones that had touched him and left him this broken man. He was right. There were things one could never forget, not with drink, with drugs, nor with self-flagellation.
On the horizon, the lights of an incoming airship. A crackling voice on the intercom speakers overhead filtered through, announcing its arrival.
Harry stepped back, allowing Rina to stand. She clutched her papers to her chest, her eyes growing frantic. “This is it.”
A small cue gathered around the gate, people with morning coffees, people saying their goodbyes as they went off on business trips. Rina started forward with Kim following, but Harry lingered back.
Kim glanced over his shoulder. “Detective?”
“I’m not so good with goodbyes,” Harry said, looking out at the sky where the airship gently descended into the docking station. He turned to Rina. “So… guess I’ll see you around?”
She ran back to him, stealing a hug. “Bye Harry. Tell Jean I said bye, too, won’t you?”
“Bye, Rina. Stay out of trouble.”
“No promises,” she said, with a grin.
Kim met Harry’s eyes and gave him a nod, before turning back towards the cue, getting into the short line beside Rina. He clasped his hands behind his back, while Rina fidgeted from foot to foot.
“Do you think there are a lot of Seolites in Graad?” she asked.
“Likely not anymore than there are here.”
She nodded, and went quiet for a moment. More people joined the queue.
“Do you think I’m going to be okay?” she asked, in a smaller voice.
He smiled down at her. “I think you’ll be just fine, Rina.”
“What about you?” She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, turning to him. “Will you be okay?”
Kim’s smile receded. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
She looked at him, then turned back to where they’d left Harry.
“Look, you helped me, so I’m gonna help you.” Rina tugged his arm out of its deathgrip behind his back, her bare fingers tangling with his gloved ones. “Don’t wait. Don’t end up like me.”
Too late, he thought, and too young to say something like that with her whole life ahead of her. Ahead of them, the doors out to the dock opened. Staff moved to the desks, and started moving passengers through, onboarding them. Rina’s hand tightened around his.
They stepped forward as the cue moved. “What am I going to do?”
“Whatever you want. It’s a new start,” Kim said.
They got towards the ticket taker, and Rina sniffed, her eyes watering. She practically threw herself at Kim in a hug, and he grunted in almost surprise.
“Goodbye. I won’t forget you.” Rina stepped back, her eyes bright with unshed tears. “Get into some trouble for me, okay?”
Kim smiled. “Be safe.”
He watched her get onto the airship, feeling a strange sort of loss in the bottom of his chest. It had only been days of knowing her, but here he stood, letting a person of interest escape the city on an airship. What kind of cop was he? Since meeting Harry Du Bois, perhaps he had changed a little.
He started back towards his partner, a strange tension tightened his gut. This would be their first moment alone since the tryst in their room at the Whirling. If Harry wanted to talk about it, it would have to wait until after they were finished with their work.
Or forever. Never would be fine.
As he approached, Harry stopped pacing the floor, his hands shoved in his pockets. He had beyond a five o’clock shadow at this point, the beginnings of a beard growing in, and there were circles around his eyes. He had showered at least—they both had, awkwardly, stepping wide circles around one another that morning. He gave Kim a ragged half-smile as he caught sight of him, a small wave. Kim almost stopped dead in his tracks.
Ah. How unfortunate that Rina Ren had been extremely accurate in her intuition.
“Hey,” Harry said. “Is she all good?”
“I think she’ll be okay.” Kim fell into step beside him, composing himself. He adjusted his glasses. “What next, detective?”
“Food. Coffee. Getting the hell out of this place.”
They left the aerodrome and hit a nearby cafe, taking an outdoor table where the morning light had warmed the iron furniture. Coffee was a welcome addition to Kim’s bloodstream, and Harry seemed to get some colour back in his face after they couldn’t see the airfield any longer, and once he’d wolfed back a greasy egg sandwich. Harry wiped his fingers off on his pants and left smudges in their wake, then sucked them the rest of the way clean.
Kim averted his eyes to his notes when Harry caught him looking. “I think it would be a good idea to check on Satellite-officer Vicquemare. He’s at a hospital in Jamrock. It’s not too far of a drive.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he’ll love that.”
He tapped his pen against his lower lip. Of course he had an ulterior motive of smoothing over Harry’s earlier infarction—he didn’t need Vicquemare spreading his business around.
Next to him, Harry ran a hand through his hair. He could feel him nervously fidgeting, the same way he got whenever he was gearing up to ask something massively inappropriate.
Harry looked out at the street, where motor cars passed and one lone tree grew on the other side of the road.
“You wouldn’t get on one of those airships, would you?”
Kim thought for a moment. He looked at Harry, at the worry he tried and failed to hide.
“I don’t think so,” Kim answered.
Harry’s relief was palpable. “Good.”
Kim belonged to Revachol. There was no leaving, not for him.
The hospital where Vicquemare stayed had withstood the war in Revachol. Many of the moorings had been kissed by mortar fire, so half of the building was new, done up with glass and concrete rather than brick. The new side of the building felt bright and well-kempt, where the older side smelled strongly of mildew and disinfectant, with iron pipes lining along the ceilings.
They walked down the hall in the old wing, Kim following the ascending numbers until they came across Vicquemare’s room. They stopped at the closed door, Harry smoothing back his hair in attempts to put himself together.
“He’s gonna be pissed we got him shot, isn’t he?” Harry asked.
“Likely.” Kim took the door handle, opening it.
Vicquemare sat propped halfway upright in the hospital bed, his hair slick with grease and laid flat over his head. He wore a hospital gown, blanket draped over his lap, covering the heavy bandaging. He looked like a miserable cat left out in the rain overnight, and his frown only deepened as Harry sheepishly walked into the room.
“How ya holding up, Jean?” Harry asked.
“Never better. My liver was only mildly perforated, I am on some truly fantastic opioids and I will live another day.”
Kim linked his hands behind his back and remained standing, while Harry took a seat in a wobbly chair beside Vicquemare’s bed. This was already awkward. He would let Harry flounder for a little while.
Vicquemare shook his head. “I almost thought you weren’t going to show up.”
“Why wouldn’t I show up? I give a shit about you.”
“Do you?” It seemed like an honest question. His eyes flicked to where Kim stood. “Or did he put you up to this?”
“No,” Kim lied.
The suspicious expression on Vicquemare’s face receded slightly, but didn’t disappear altogether. He crossed his arms with a wince, addressing the two of them. “So, what happened with Rina? Judit said you *abandoned* me to go after her.”
“She got on an airship earlier this morning. She’s safe,” Harry said.
“You let a person of interest get away?” Vicquemare asked.
Harry’s hackles raised, but the anger quickly disappeared and gave way to regret. “We couldn’t just let her get killed.”
“Unlike ole’ Jean, eh? But I suppose I am not a beautiful woman.”
Silence. Kim awkwardly coughed into his hand. “It was not his sole decision, Satellite-officer. We eliminated Rina as a suspect, and made the executive decision to assist her. There’s no sense in endangering her life anymore than we already have.”
“Besides, we have a credible suspect,” Harry said.
They spent some time explaining Juliette’s connection to THE MAN, her covert dealings, as well as their suspicion with the brother. With this, Vicquemare relaxed in increments. It seemed, indeed, that Harry Du Bois was doing actual police work and not passed out in a ditch somewhere.
“Well,” Vicquemare said, “It seems as though you still have a lot of work to do on this case. No one charged, no murder weapon.”
Harry sighed. “Are you ever gonna give me a break?”
Vicquemare looked at him. “No,” he said. “Asshole.”
Still, he smiled a little. Harry smiled back, however brief.
“Then we should return to our investigation, detective,” Kim said. He adjusted his glasses. “We have a murderer to catch.”
Harry stood up, then reached to grab Vicquemare’s shoulder. It turned into an outright hug, Vicquemare grimacing while Harry crushed him in his arms. “Don’t you get shot on me again, asshole! You’re not allowed to die!”
“Let go of me, you absolute idiot!”
Vicquemare pushed him off, flustered, but not actively angry. Harry had tears in his eyes and sniffled as he stood back.
“Detective, I’d like a moment alone with the satellite-officer, if you would,” Kim said.
A shared look between them, and Harry went towards the door. He paused, turning back to Vicquemare. “Oh—Rina told me to tell you she said goodbye.”
“Ah,” Vicquemare said. He did look genuinely sad. “Goodbye and good riddance to the little menace.”
Harry smiled, and left. The door clicked with a quiet noise, and Kim sat down in the chair at Vicquemare’s bedside.
“What can I do for you, Lieutenant Kitsuragi?” Vicquemare said in a neutral tone. “I’m afraid I won’t last a hell of a lot longer with the drugs in my system.”
“Of course. I won’t trouble you for more than a moment.”
Vicquemare’s eyes narrowed. He scoffed. “If this is about—I don’t care. I don’t want to know. As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t hear a damn word, as long as it doesn’t affect your job.”
Too late. Still, Vicquemare didn’t have to know.
“What I wanted to say was,” Kim said, “thank you for watching after our witness. It’s unfortunate you were injured in the process, and I wanted to let you know I’m at your disposal if you need anything.”
Vicquemare’s eyes lowered. “Well… keep doing what you’re doing, lieutenant. I haven’t seen Harry sober for more than a few hours at a time in years. I didn’t smell any booze on him. What have you done with him?”
Jacked him off with a witness in the next room.
“Nothing you didn’t already try, I’m certain. Perhaps he’s finally ready to change.”
Perhaps not. It had only been days since he’d found him on the floor in the throes of an overdose, but Kim wasn’t the type of person to be needlessly pessimistic. At least not out loud.
“I think he likes you more than me,” Vicquemare said, with a sniff.
“You were his partner for a long time. You mean a lot to him.”
He didn’t seem so convinced. Kim nodded, standing up. He waited patiently, and Vicquemare reluctantly extended his hand.
“I appreciate you checking in, lieutenant,” Vicquemare said.
Kim shook his hand. “Anytime, Satellite-officer.”
He left Vicquemare’s room, finding Harry loitering around outside. With a single look, they were off, headed out to the Kineema in the parking lot. Kim honestly felt bad. He never treated his motor carriage this poorly, but they couldn’t afford to stop now. There would be time after to manage the disarray this case had left in his life.
He needed a break. He could feel the threads at his self-control pulling in a way they rarely did. He wanted to be alone, not crowded in the Kineema with Harry and the memory of last night smothering him.
Sliding the keys into the ignition, he started when Harry’s hand grabbed his wrist.
“Hey—maybe before we go anywhere,” Harry started. “We should talk about last night.”
Kim kept his eyes forward. “Detective, we are working. If anything, we should be discussing how we’re going to accuse our suspect instead.”
“Kim, we can take a few minutes to talk about this, or I’m gonna lose my fucking mind worse than I already have.”
“I believe it’s conducive to focus on the case then, don’t you?” He glanced at Harry, raising an eyebrow.
Harry kept looking at him in the passenger seat. It was obvious he wasn’t going to let this go. “Kim—”
Kim sighed. “Alright. What did you want to say then?”
“Fuck, why are you acting like—what am I to you?”
Kim found himself lost for words. What *was* Harry to him? The way Harry looked at him, the expression on his face strained with nerves—the answer was important to him.
“You’re my superior, lieutenant double-yefreitor,” Kim answered, carefully.
Harry sat back in his seat, wiping his hand over his mouth. Not satisfied, then. Kim felt a little twinge in his chest over disappointing him, but he was already mixed up in Harry’s life as much as it is. Any more and he would start to seriously compromise his already compromised values. It was easier this way.
“Yeah, and I’m also the same guy you pulled off the ground like two days ago. It didn’t seem to fucking matter to you when you were covering for my shit, or getting drunk at my house, or letting me pry into your life. Kim, you don’t fool me for a second—”
His temper flared. He couldn’t help it, he was at the end of his rope. “What would you like me to say, detective? That coming onto you was extremely unprofessional? That fraternizing with you could cost me my job and my reputation? That you get to go around being a human *disaster* with little consequence because of the matters of your *race* and your presumed *hetero-sexuality*, but I have one little slip up and it could effectively end my life as I know it?”
He gripped the wheel, struggling to maintain his composure. “You think you understand, Harry, but you don’t.”
Kim closed his eyes. He didn’t want to be cruel.
Beside him, Harry struggled to keep still. The Kineema seemed too small to contain this awful tension between them.
“Help me to understand, then, Kim.”
He said nothing. He didn’t owe Harry an explanation. Getting into the specifics of his history of botched relationships, and his lethal inability to separate his personal life from his private one would only lead to more questioning. It was in his partner’s nature to push every possible limit with him, but some things were still too personal. Even thinking about Eyes made him go somewhere dark, let alone saying it aloud.
After a moment, Kim cleared his throat and spoke in a very small voice. “I—we have a case to solve, detective.”
Harry stared at him. Kim turned the ignition, praying that the engine would turn over and start. Mercifully it did, and without another word between them, they continued on.
The D’Argent home was exactly how they’d left it, only Imanuelle opened the door when they knocked this time. Dressed from head to toe in a gauzy black gown, complete with mourning veil, she floated into the sitting room ahead of them, an eerie repeat of their first interaction.
“How are the arrangements coming?” Harry asked. His gaze tracked around the room, as if looking for a way out.
“As well as they can be,” she said, in a solemn tone. “At least she can be put to rest. She’ll be with her father.”
“Would you please call Gene down?” Kim asked. He remained standing, even as Harry took a very stiff seat on the sofa.
“Of course,” Imanuelle said, softly. “My apologies—he’s been locked up in his room most days. He misses his sister desperately.”
“We can only imagine,” Kim deadpanned.
She went to the banister and called for her son. He came down, his shoulders slumped and lacking the haughtiness that so defined him that first meeting. She led him into the room past where Kim stood, the little dog Manon trailing after him only to jump up into his lap when he sat down in one of the armchairs.
“Would you like to sit down, Lieutenant?” Imanuelle asked him.
“I would prefer to stand.”
Imanuelle glanced at Gene, who’d started to shift uncomfortably in his seat. “Have you found my daughter’s killer?”
For the duration of their short conversation, Harry stared at Gene. The boy only seemed to notice after a moment, clutching at the dog in his lap. “Why are you looking at me like that? What’s your problem, pig?”
“What happened between you and your sister, Gene?” Harry asked.
“Excuse me?” Imanuelle flew to her feet.
“We’re here to take him in. We know what happened,” Harry continued. A lie. “We just want to know why.”
Kim waited for a reaction. Gene’s hands dug into the dog’s fur, but he didn’t speak. Instead, his mother swooped in once again. She put herself physically in front of Harry, and he sat up straighter to look up at her.
“What proof do you have exactly, then?” Imanuelle’s hands balled into tight little fists at her sides.
“The doorman noticed your son leaving with boxes,” Kim added. “We deduced that was how the body of your daughter was carried down from her fiance’s apartment unnoticed.”
“That proves nothing,” Imanuelle said. She turned back to her son. “Genie, you don’t worry now, dearest. Mummy will get rid of these awful men.” Fixing her eyes on Harry and Kim, there was nothing but derision there. “Get out of my home.”
Harry stood to his full height, taller than her, forcing her to crane her neck up. “Getting a little too close to the truth, are we?”
The dog yelped as Gene squeezed too hard, then scrambled off his lap. “Shut up,” Gene said. “I didn’t—I would never do *anything* like that.”
“She was moving out. She was leaving you behind in this mausoleum, leaving you all alone,” Harry continued.
“Don’t talk to him. Get out of my house,” Imanuelle said, forcing him to back up.
“It would benefit your son to be honest.” Kim linked his fingers behind his back. “Cooperating with us would make this process smoother.”
“He won’t speak to any of you without a legal representative.” Imanuelle crossed her arms. “Now get out of my house.”
Harry kept looking past her, to where Gene wrung his hands. He avoided looking at any of the other people in the room. Kim watched the side of Harry’s face, not moving an inch.
“It was an accident, wasn’t it?” Harry asked, softening his voice. “You were mad at her.”
“Enough,” Imanuelle insisted.
“After your dad died, she was the only one there for you. She took care of you. You used to sneak into her bed at night, even when you grew up and got bigger than her.”
Imanuelle physically shoved him. Harry didn’t budge.
“You knew about the cuts on her wrists. You knew that she wanted to get away. I wonder, did you two have a fight? Did you beg for her not to go? Did she throw it in your face?”
“I didn’t mean to.” Gene’s hands tensed.
Kim drew in a quiet breath.
“You had a fight, like siblings do. In the kitchen, in her fiance’s apartment. She picked up a knife, didn’t she? Held it to her wrist, trying to get you to back off, and you just—got mad. It wasn’t fair that she was going away like that. You loved her more than anyone ever could, and she was going to take it away from you.”
“She told me she would never leave me!” Gene shouted. His eyes filled with angry tears, and he slapped a hand over his mouth as soon as the words had come out.
“Gene,” Imanuelle said, her voice razor sharp. “Shut up.”
Gene shut his mouth. He sat there, nervously fidgeting in the seat.
Neither Kim nor Harry made a move. Imanuelle stared them down with the contempt that only a mother could hold for someone threatening her child.
It was a confession. Kim steeled himself, pulling out his cuffs.
“I’m not certain what you’re expecting to accomplish here,” Imanuelle said, tightly. “You have no proof. My child lost his sister. He’s distressed.”
“We’re taking him into the station,” Kim said, simply.
“So?” She sniffed. “I have friends in the Moralintern. If you attempt to charge my son, the case will simply be thrown out. Gene D’Argent is a good boy from a prolific family. You’ve wasted your time chasing after the wrong suspect.”
Harry stroked his chin. He didn’t say anything.
“Gene, you are being charged with the murder of Juliette D’Argent,” Kim said.
Imanuelle’s eyes blinked rapidly. She stood up very straight, as if someone had rammed a steel rod up her spine. She motioned her son over. “I’ll take him,” she said. “You will not *handcuff* my boy.”
“How long did you know?” Harry asked. “Did you help him clean it up?”
She stared back at him defiantly, refusing to answer.
“Long enough for you to have already forgiven him for it,” Harry murmured.
“You don’t understand what it’s like to be a mother,” Imanuelle said. “My son is all I have left in this world. What would you have me do? Abandon him?”
She clutched at her son’s shoulders. Gene trembled, his lower lip sucked between his teeth. He looked like a doughy toddler despite being taller than her.
“My daughter didn’t appreciate everything this family gave her. She was never pleased with anything, even before her father passed.” Imanuelle shook her head. “Her pain has finally been taken away. That doesn’t mean we should all stop living.”
Kim stood very still for a long moment. A surge of disgust went through him. He wisely kept his mouth shut.
“You never gave a shit about her, did you? Your kid cared more, and he killed her.” Harry shook his head, reaching to take Gene by the shoulder despite his mother’s protestations. “Come on, we’re going to the precinct.”
Gene resisted, starting to whine high in his throat. Imanuelle took his other arm.
“Don’t worry, darling. I’ll fix this.”
Harry led the boy ahead with his mother tight to his side. Kim watched them go, and took one last look back at the foyer. The painting of Juliette stared back at him with her false smile, and Kim turned away, heading out the door behind his partner.
GENE D’ARGENT taken in for questioning. Process interrupted by MORALINTERN agents at the behest of IMANUELLE D’ARGENT. Case is now in their jurisdiction and out of the 41st’s hands.
RCM officers unable to continue questioning. Bail posted.
This was an utter waste of—
Kim downed a coffee, rubbing at his eyes under his glasses as he reviewed notes. They weren’t even done for the day and he already felt a headache coming on. Across from him, Judit sat at her desk, writing down her own report with bleary eyes.
“You okay?” Harry asked from where he sat at his desk.
“Yes,” Kim said. “It’s... been a trying week.”
Harry regarded him for a moment. “Yeah. I’m pissed off, too.”
“There’s simply nothing we can do. This is out of our hands now.”
“I’m still fucking pissed off.”
“At the very least, we got Rina away safely.”
“Yeah. Although we gotta tell that sad rich fuck that he’s off the hook.”
“Ah. Yes, we do.”
Harry scratched his chin. “You sure we can’t let him squirm a little longer?”
Kim smiled, shaking his head. “That would be unethical.”
“We can get dinner first, can’t we?”
He seemed hopeful. That was far too endearing for his own good.
Kim looked over to Judit. “Officer Minot, head home after you finish that report. Thank you for all your hard work.”
“You’re sure?” She appeared almost relieved. The exhaustion she’d been warding off with coffee and a strict resolve had crept into her face.
“Yes,” Kim answered. “You did well.”
She almost smiled, but caught herself. Looking back at her notes, Kim wondered how much taking Harry’s side had damaged his reputation in her eyes. Even though the case was solved, there would always be another.
Kim rose, gesturing to Harry. “After you.”
Kim parked the Kineema near Harry’s place, leaning back in his seat. The engine sputtered, on its last legs—he would have to do some serious body work on it when he got it back home. Probably have to buy a whole other gas tank, and the window would need to be fully replaced. At least it hadn’t been raining, a cool breeze blowing in through the passenger’s side.
They had stayed late back at the station after tying up threads with the fiancé and clearing him of all charges. It was done now. They’d turned in the last notes from the case to Captain Pryce, who had neither congratulated nor condemned them. Not a satisfying end to the case, but it wasn’t unexpected. This was Revachol, after all. At least they’d identified the suspect in the first place. Unsolved murders were the norm here.
The streets were empty, but the bars were crowded in Jamrock. Noise filtered from underground, but there was otherwise a sense of calm outside. Kim felt the same way, looking over to his partner, who seemed reluctant to get out of the vehicle.
“Thank you for your hard work, detective,” Kim said.
He paused. He would very much like for Harry to get out, now.
“So that’s it, then, huh?”
A pause. Kim hesitated, adjusting his glasses—a nervous habit—but speaking as to what he wanted couldn’t be called one of his strong points. He had no idea what to tell Harry, other than the two of them becoming more intimately involved than they already were was a mistake.
“What would you like me to say?” Kim asked.
“That you’re gonna come in, and have a drink with me,” Harry said. “Or not a drink, if that’s what you want. I promise, I can—I’ll quit drinking and using dope. I’ll change. If that’s what it takes.”
“You can’t promise that for my sake.”
“Oh, don’t give me that. When has anybody ever done anything like that for themselves? Quit doing all the shit you like and that makes you feel good for the sake of self-improvement? Doing something for you, after everything you’ve already done for me is *bad* somehow?”
Kim shook his head. “That’s not how it works. You—”
“What do you want, Kim? You never come right out and tell me what you want.”
“I want to do my job, and I want things to not be any more complicated than they already are,” Kim said, bluntly.
“So what was last night, then?”
“A momentary lapse of judgement, detective.”
Harry looked at him, that same distant way he’d stared after finding his badge and the sinking remnants of his past life off the coast of Martinaise. Kim looked away. It felt too much like loss. It couldn’t be losing anything if it hadn’t been anything to begin with.
He had to protect himself.
“Okay,” Harry said. “See you at work. If I make it.”
With that, Harry popped open the door to the Kineema, and got out. Kim sat there in the driver’s seat, heart pounding, watching Harry walk off.
He gripped the wheel. The temptation to follow after him was strong. But he was Kim Kitsuragi. His iron will had gotten him this far in life. He would do what was best for him rather than what he wanted.
He started up the engine mechanically, and began to drive home.
Kim cranked the radio. Fuck thinking. He wanted to drive through a wall of sound. The silence would only make him wonder, what if.
Harry was an alcoholic who abused drugs and had attempted suicide twice within the short time of knowing him, and was liable to try it again. Possibly even *tonight*. He was his partner for fuck’s sake. He was a piss poor choice of romantic interest even aside from the fact that having sex with him—hell, falling in *love* with him—would certainly end his career.
Besides, Kim could do better. He knew he could.
He passed by the alleyway. The scene of the crime, the same kids hanging around outside. Juliette had been left there not long ago. She’d died without knowing Rina had loved her. Her life had been short and cruel, with only brief brushes of joy.
He got to the end of the street, hitting a red light and pulling deep breaths in through his nose.
A carriage behind him honked as the light turned green. Fuck it. Kim turned the Kineema around, and went right back in the direction he came.
He parked near the Frittte they’d visited that first day, and went inside. Mercifully, a different employee manned the till. He picked up cigarettes, condoms and lubricant and paid for it staring him straight in the eye.
Upon leaving, he began the walk to Harry’s; past the kids on the corner smoking cigarettes, the old woman’s house with her gaggle of orphans, the bars full of drunks and men trying to get laid and failing, and the underground clubs. A very long walk gave himself more than enough time to turn back to his Kineema. To do the smart thing.
He didn’t. He arrived at Harry’s doorstep in record time, panting slightly with the exertion.
Kim faltered. He didn’t even know the buzzer—they weren’t labeled. Should he just… go up? He adjusted the collar of his jacket, attempting to feel somewhat casual. He really did not feel casual. He felt like a fool. Swallowing, he struck up his courage, he glanced over his shoulder, and jimmied open the door with his knife.
A bizarre repeat of his first venture to Harry’s place, Kim took the stairs two at a time to the third floor. He smoothed back his hair, ran a finger over his teeth, drew in a breath. Then he poised his hand, and knocked at Harry’s door.
Kim took a step back, knitting his hands behind his back as he waited. Harry’s heavy footsteps sounded from behind the door, before Harry opened it, one hand high on the doorjamb as he leaned his head out. He had a crooked grin on his face and a glass in his hand. It made Kim a little flustered.
“Let me guess… RCM business?”
“Actually, I changed my mind,” Kim explained. He kept his voice steady, though he could feel the heat on his face. “About that drink, I mean.”
“Good, because I picked up a bottle of the good shit.” Harry stepped back, leading him through. “Well—better than what I usually drink, anyway.”
Kim followed Harry through the threshold, hands behind his back, his fingers digging into his wrists. They both knew what he was here for, and he could tell Harry tried to play it cool by the way he kept rubbing the back of his neck. His hair was far too long. He hadn’t even changed his shirt, evidenced by the sweat stains under his armpits.
The bottle on the counter that Harry purchased was fuller than Kim thought it would be. He raised a brow, and Harry caught his gaze.
“I wasn’t gonna finish the whole bottle. I promise,” Harry said. He seemed almost earnest, until he took a mouthful from the glass that was more of a gulp. Nervous, then.
“Of course not, detective.” Kim smiled softly.
Harry wiped the whiskey off his lips, and then seemed to come back to himself. “Oh, you wanted—just a second.”
Harry turned to the cupboard, but stopped when Kim stepped closer. He could feel Harry go rigid, not expecting it as Kim entered his personal space. He reached forward, gently disentangling the glass from Harry’s wide fingers. He turned the glass in his hands, and brought it to his lips where Harry’s mouth had been, taking a drink.
He watched Harry over the rim of his glasses. The fact that he was blurry made it easier to pull off this ridiculous move. He had never been particularly good at flirting, but the sharp inhale that Harry took told him that he’d achieved his desired effect. He pulled his mouth off the glass with a glance of his tongue, turning his chin up as Harry’s face came into focus once more.
Harry gulped. He stepped closer, his hand closing over Kim’s hip, pulling him in.
Setting the glass down on the counter, Kim looked up at his partner. He’d thought about what he’d want to say, or if he should say anything at all. If it would be easier to just say nothing so that he could put his mouth all over Harry and get this out of his system, somehow.
“I thought you said last night was a ‘momentary lapse of judgment,’” Harry said.
“I’ll admit…” Kim slid his hand up Harry’s chest. “The moment lasted longer than I thought it would.”
“How’s your judgment now?”
Harry kissed him. His mouth was overly wet, and it was somewhat sloppy. Kim’s lips were thin and dry, and he didn’t think of himself as an overly enjoyable person to kiss. Still, Harry cornered him against the counter, Kim’s hand slipping and knocking the glass of whiskey to the floor.
Kim pulled away, looking down. “Shit.”
“Fuck it.” Harry grabbed his jacket, started dragging him to the bedroom. “That floor’s seen worse. Trust me.”
He didn’t doubt that. If anything, Harry’s place was the one thing he could mess up. He could *be* a mess here, because no matter what he did, he could never be a bigger mess than Harry. His mussed hair and his swollen mouth only made Harry’s pupils expand, his hands tightening their grip as he pushed Kim towards the bedroom.
The bedroom was no cleaner than he’d seen it the last time, the holes in the walls and the general state of disarray, but at least the mattress was on the bed frame. He got about two seconds to look at it before Harry shoved him down onto his back, and got on top of him.
Harry was heavy, crushing the air out of his lungs. He could hardly breathe normally with how intensely Harry kissed him, his tongue in his mouth as if trying to take him apart. He’d seen him do the same thing with crime scenes—trying to find every angle. His hands were creeping under Kim’s shirt, his touch too rough to be explorative.
Kim pushed him back, but held onto his shoulders. His glasses were slightly askew, Harry’s face blurry in front of him. He licked his lips. “You’ve never had sex with a man before. Correct?”
Harry’s face went slightly red. “I’m, uh—I’m a quick learner. Plus, you’re really hot, Kim.” He lowered his head, his mouth hot and wet against Kim’s pulse. “I wanna do all kinds of freaky shit to you.”
“Ah…” Kim quieted for a moment. He wasn’t normally a passive partner. He didn’t *like* laying back and taking it. He hadn’t bottomed in over ten years for a reason. It was too… vulnerable. Still, Harry pulled at his jacket like he wanted it off immediately, and to be honest, Kim wanted to be naked too.
He sat upright, and emptied the contents of his jacket onto the bed, before taking it off. Harry backed off onto his knees, then started helping Kim divest himself of his clothing. Shirt went next, shoes, pants, underwear. He leaned back onto his elbows, naked, catching Harry looking between him and the pile of objects he’d left.
“Condoms, lube, smokes.” Harry had reached down between his legs, grabbing himself through his pants. “You always come prepared.”
Kim adjusted his glasses. “I assumed you’d like to fuck me.”
“Really? I kinda assumed—do you like to get fucked, Kim?”
His mouth flattened out. The back of his neck felt hot at Harry’s words.
“No?” Harry asked.
“It’s... been awhile,” Kim admitted.
“Take your clothes off,” he countered.
Harry started, but his movements were fumbling. Kim reached for the collar of his shirt and helped him along out of his shirt. He went for Harry’s belt, but found himself distracted with a kiss, his hands pinned to the bed.
“How long, Kim?” Harry held him down, but Kim didn’t fight it.
“Do you want me to fuck you?”
Kim didn’t speak. Admitting it out loud embarrassed him. Maybe if Harry fucked him and it was as humiliating as he remembered it being all those years ago, he could get this desire out of his system, somehow.
Harry lowered down, his breath hot against Kim’s face. “You want me to put my cock inside you?”
His dick gave an interested twitch. He was already hard, and had been since practically the moment he’d entered Harry’s apartment, but having it said like *that*— his hips bucked, pressing against Harry’s solid body above him.
“Or do you want to fuck me?” Harry asked.
Kim actually choked. Harry backed off, looking him in the eye.
Kim freed his hand from Harry’s grip, then raised it to cup Harry’s throat. “Harry, if I fucked you tonight, you would actually have a heart attack.”
He felt Harry swallow against his palm. Then he was being kissed again, his arms released so Kim could tangle them in Harry’s overlong hair.
“You’ll fuck me,” Kim said, more to reiterate to himself what would happen. He could do this, and he could pretend to like it.
They made out for a little while. Kim hadn’t had the time to really kiss someone like this since his teenage years, and Harry seemed to really enjoy kissing him. He wondered how long it had been since Harry had really held someone, because he didn’t seem to want to let go of him now that he had Kim in his bed.
Kim snaked his hand down between them and cupped the bulge in the front of Harry’s pants. He was a little surprised to find him not as hard as he would’ve assumed. Harry seemed to be enjoying himself, but perhaps that wasn’t the case.
“Sometimes takes awhile,” Harry said against his mouth. “My dick doesn’t always work right. Sorry.”
“Ah. It's no problem.”
Honestly, it was a little endearing. It made Kim want to work harder. He rolled them over, so that Harry laid on his back, before starting to move lower on his body. He’d been told he could be often detached or clinical in bed, so he did his best to go slowly.
He ran his hands down Harry’s chest, his fingers carding through the chest hair, and down over the curve of his belly. Harry sucked in slightly, almost looking embarrassed of the state of his body. The flesh of his gut had hardened, the way that late stage alcoholics usually got, but Kim merely filed that information away for later rumination like he did everything else.
He undid Harry’s belt, only stopping when the other man started to help him. Those dreadful shoes were kicked to the floor with a heavy thunk, then the pants soon after. Kim lowered his head, hooking his fingers underneath Harry’s briefs to peel them down himself.
Though he’d felt it the previous night, he hadn’t really gotten a proper look at it. Semi-hard, Harry was only perhaps slightly larger than average, wide at the middle and narrower at the tip. His pubic hair was as unkempt as the rest of him. It made Kim’s mouth water, and he reached to take Harry’s cock into his hand.
“Have you ever had a man use his mouth on you?” Kim asked, neutrally.
“Honestly, I couldn't tell you. I’ve spent a lot of nights blacked out, so let’s say—maybe, but I don’t remember?”
“You don’t have to—”
Kim ignored Harry, instead lowering his mouth to take the head of his cock between his lips. He very much wanted to do this. He’d been thinking about it since that awful morning he’d met him. Kim closed his eyes, focusing on the task at hand. Harry was still mostly soft in his mouth, and the taste of him was strong but not overpowering like Kim thought it might be.
Above him, Harry lowered back on to his elbows. Kim adjusted himself to push Harry’s legs wider, on his knees between them. He glanced up, wanting to gage his reaction, to see if he enjoyed this. Harry’s face reddened, his hair a mess, but he stared at where Kim’s mouth wrapped around his cock.
Starting to bob his head, Kim pressed his other hand around the base of his partner’s cock to give him something tight to fuck into. He was methodical. Consistent. Even though typically he did this to get someone off as fast as possible, he took his time here, feeling Harry harden against his soft palate.
He saw Harry’s hand start to move to his head out of the corner of his eye and pushed it back down to the bed. He *knew* what he was doing, he didn’t need someone trying to control him. He raised his mouth, working his hand over the length of Harry’s cock.
“Relax,” Kim said, neutrally. “I’ll do the work.”
“I’m so relaxed. Never been more relaxed. *Hardcore* relaxed.” Harry’s dick pulsed in his hand as Kim stroked him. His head fell back against the pillows. “But I like touching you.”
Kim faltered, slightly. He hadn’t expected Harry to say that. He pushed his glasses up his nose with his knuckle, and took Harry’s cock back into his mouth.
At first the hands didn’t move, but then the back of Harry’s hand grazed his bare shoulder. Kim didn’t push it away, instead letting him stroke his shoulders, his neck, his face. He felt Harry press his fingers against his cheek, so that he could feel his cock inside his mouth through the skin.
“Your mouth feels fucking amazing, Kim,” Harry said. “You look so good.”
It was just a blowjob. Kim focused himself, because of course Harry would be vocal. Of course he would say these types of things. Harry had been open to a fault about every other aspect of his life. Still, Kim couldn’t deny that it made him feel powerful and a little cocky. He excelled at everything he put his mind to.
He didn’t expect it when Harry grabbed his arm, and started to drag him back up his body. Kim settled over him, his knee slotting between Harry’s spread legs, as Harry wrapped him in a bear hug and pulled him down to kiss him again. Kim reached down between them and took both their cocks in hand, stroking them together.
Kim pulled away with a wet sound from their joined mouths, looking down at Harry through his slightly smudged glasses. He observed for a moment, the contorted expression on his partner’s face, the mottling of his skin. “You really like me,” Kim said, almost to himself. He hadn’t meant to say it.
“I like myself around you, Kim. That doesn’t happen a lot for me.”
That was *too* much. Kim wanted to cover Harry’s mouth again, to stop him from saying something else to embarrass the both of them. Harry talking like that made him feel too much, made him liable to do stupid, embarrassing things. He needed to get this over with already.
He pressed one last kiss to Harry’s mouth, fully intending to take control and move things along, but instead Harry manhandled him back onto the bed, face down. Kim pressed himself up onto his elbows, starting a little as Harry dragged him onto his knees.
“Just—one moment,” Kim said, unable to keep the edge from his voice. He’d been in this position before, and this was why he didn’t pursue predominantly hetero-sexual men like he had in his youth. It led to a lot of pain and gritting his teeth—he was older now, he knew how to conduct himself, and it wasn’t like *this.* “Harry, I have to—”
A wide hand pressed between his shoulders, until he was back down on his chest, his hands curled in the bedspread. “I know what I’m doing. It’ll feel good.”
“Hey, come on. Used to do this a lot with—she liked it in the—I’ve never done it to a guy, but I *do* know what I’m doing. You can tell me to stop if you don’t like it.”
Kim hesitated. Then, he drew in a deep breath. “Fine.”
He still couldn’t help but be nervous. Plenty of hetero-sexual men thought they knew what they were doing. Kim grit his teeth, feeling Harry’s hand slide down his back and over his ass. His shoulders tensed, even as he saw Harry reach for the lube and condoms out of the corner of his eye. He wanted to prepare himself, to ensure that he truly felt ready to take a cock. He didn’t like not being in control.
He forced himself to focus on the feeling of Harry’s hands massaging his ass, down to his outer thighs, even taking a moment on where his calves had tensed against the bed. It at least grounded him somewhat, even though he mentally prepared for pain or discomfort at the very least. Somehow his dick was still rock hard, heavy with blood between his legs. Kim knew somewhere deep down that he liked a little bit of punishment.
Harry grabbed one cheek of his ass, spreading him open. Kim felt his face heat, staring down at the bed. It didn’t matter how old he got, this made him feel strange and shy all over again to be exposed like this. He felt Harry’s thumb press at his hole, and he did his best not to tense further.
He started as something wet and slick swiped from his balls to his tailbone, his brain kicking in a moment later to recognize that it was Harry’s *tongue*. He hadn’t expected that. He started to open his mouth to say no, but all that came out was a low sound as Harry pressed his tongue inside.
“You don’t—you don’t have to,” Kim said, breathlessly. Despite the desire to end this, he very much wanted to reach back and hold Harry’s head where he wanted it. His ass wasn’t even anything to write home about, but it felt so damn good.
“Yeah, but I *do.*” Harry bit him on the cheek of his ass, his stubble dragging over the skin. “I’m kinda wondering if I can make you lose your cool, Kim.”
Behind him, Harry chuckled, and went straight back to work.
He usually knew exactly what to say in bed, but with Harry tonguing him like that in such an intimate place, all that came out now were breathy sighs. His eyes closed, the frames of his glasses pressing into his cheek. He reached down between his legs, shuffling his knees wider, curling a hand around his cock. He almost had to hang onto himself—he didn’t want to come too quickly. That would be embarrassing.
Kim swallowed, feeling the pad of Harry’s finger next to his tongue. He had thick fingers. It had been one of the first things Kim had noticed about him, shaking his hand that morning at the Whirling. Slick with saliva, the finger pushed into him easily.
“That’s it,” Harry said. “Shit, you sure it’s been awhile? Or maybe you just really want me to fuck you.”
“Shut up,” Kim muttered. He didn’t need to be debased anymore than he already felt, even as he pushed back against the intrusion. A bit uncomfortable, but not painful. Still, he wanted this to be over sooner than later. “Use your fingers. Get me ready.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry answered, in a joking tone. Still, it made Kim bite his lip. How far could he get, telling Harry what to do?
Behind him, Harry backed off onto his knees, keeping the finger inside of him but reaching for the lube with his other hand. Kim looked over his shoulder, eyes half lidded as he watched Harry fumble, finding a surprising showing of nerves on his face.
“Are you trying to impress me?” Kim asked, mildly.
“Maybe,” Harry answered. He opened the bottle with his teeth. “I don’t want to fuck this up.”
“You won’t,” Kim assured him. He didn’t feel fully assured, himself.
He drew in a shaky breath as a second finger pressed at his entrance, before sliding in to the second knuckle. The stretch became a little more intense, but not unbearable. Kim bit the inside of his cheek, pressing back onto Harry’s hand.
“Fuck, Kim. You’re so hot. I want you so bad right now.”
He didn’t want to hear it anymore. Harry was *trying* to embarrass him. He turned his head into his forearm, rocking back onto Harry’s fingers. He moaned as a hand curled around his hip.
“You’re doing good,” Kim admitted. “Keep going.”
Harry did. His fingers moved, stretching Kim, fucking in and out of him. Every so often, his fingers would curl downward and set his nerves on fire, from his neck to his tailbone. He hadn’t felt that way in years.
Eventually, it got to be too much. The slick sounds of his own body, his own strained breathing and soft moans. Kim reached back, taking Harry’s wrist and pulling it away, the fingers slipping out of him. He turned around onto his back, up on his elbows, his legs spread.
“Like this,” Kim said. He wanted to see Harry’s face.
“Yeah,” Harry answered. He laid over Kim, pressing him down onto his back. His gut laid over Kim, the breath squeezed out of him from Harry’s weight. “Yeah, okay...”
Between them, Harry reached for his cock, guiding it beneath Kim’s balls. Kim pressed a hand at his shoulder, clicking his tongue to catch his attention. “Harry.”
He reached for a condom, handing it to him. With only a bit of hesitance, Harry took it.
“I might lose my hard-on because of this,” Harry said, sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“You’ll be fine.”
He didn’t seem all that confident. Still, Harry sat back, putting it on with only a slight grimace. After that, he leaned down on one hand, the other at the base of his cock, pressing it inside of Kim. It was intense, but he breathed through it.
He glanced up at Harry’s face, a little thrill going through him at the lust blown expression in his eyes. Even if getting fucked didn’t often do it for him, it clearly worked for Harry. He breathed in steadily as Harry pushed his cock in further, the stretch intense as he bottomed out inside of him.
“Holy fuck,” Harry groaned. He lowered his face into the crux of Kim’s neck, pressing his mouth against his throat. “Kim.”
Kim’s arms wrapped around Harry’s back. It had been a long time since he’d felt this close to anyone else. Harry was heavy on top of him, a solid weight, a reminder that he was here and now. Kim pulled his knees up, letting him sink deeper inside, letting out a punched out groan.
They stayed like that for a moment. Then, Kim nudged his heel against Harry’s ass. “Move.”
Harry obeyed. He started rocking into him, and Kim covered his face with one hand. It felt better than he remembered. Harry had actually taken his time with him, unlike the frantic fucks with older men he’d had in his twenties. He still didn’t like being on his back like this, but he could take it.
Kim tried not to be too loud as Harry picked up the pace, fucking into him eagerly. Harry pushed up onto his hands, taking some of the weight off of him, his lower belly pressing against Kim’s cock. The friction was nice, helping him further along, and Kim peered through his parted fingers to look at Harry’s face once more.
He wasn’t exactly handsome. Maybe twenty years ago, before drugs and alcohol and heartbreak took hold. Dripping sweat, he paused every so often to wipe his face with the back of his hand. His eyes, bloodshot and haunted as they were, fixated on Kim’s face.
Kim lowered his hand. He put his arms over his head, looking up at Harry, letting all the pent up longing bleed through his expression. He couldn’t keep the wall up, being at his mercy like this.
“God, you’re so good, Kim. Letting a fucked up guy like me do this to you.”
Kim bit his lip. “This isn’t charity. I came to you, didn’t I?”
“Why?” Harry hooked his hands under Kim’s knees, pulling them wider. “I’m a mess, I’m—I’m disgusting.”
He reached up for Harry’s jaw, pulling him down for a kiss. “I like it.”
It should’ve been revolting, kissing him after where his mouth had been, but Kim revelled in it. Sometimes, lowering himself to Harry’s level wasn’t that bad. Perhaps he’d wanted it all along.
He reached down between them to touch himself. He’d gone a little soft during the initial penetration, but he got himself hard and dripping soon enough. Harry backed off, looking down at him for a moment, before switching to his face. Maybe it was too much, seeing his dick. Kim smiled to himself.
He put a hand on Harry’s chest, pushing him back. “I’ll drive.”
For a moment, Harry hesitated. Then he relented, rolling off of Kim and onto his back. Kim straddled his waist, reaching back to take him by the base of his cock, sinking down onto it.
Harry grabbed for his hips, his neck straining. Kim watched him eagerly for a moment, before starting to move. Harry dug his heels into the mattress, thrusting up into him, but Kim grabbed his hands, holding him there.
“Don’t move,” Kim said, breathlessly.
To his credit, Harry didn’t. He clearly liked having Kim tell him what to do, even if the obvious conflict showed on his face. Kim took his time, set his own pace, letting his hand slip down between his legs to jerk himself off while he fucked himself. This was more familiar.
“Kim,” Harry said. “Come on…”
Kim raised an eyebrow, planting one hand on Harry’s chest to balance himself. He kept his pace slow on purpose. “Quit whining.”
He felt Harry start to soften inside of him. He wasn’t lying about the condom, it seemed, truly high maintenance in all regards, but he supposed he liked that about him.
Kim slowed his pace as he rocked on top of him.
The hands at his hips dug in, but still, Kim didn’t go any faster. He leaned down, looking Harry in the eyes. His glasses slid down his nose until his vision blurred. Harry leaned up to try to kiss him, but Kim just wouldn’t give it to him.
“Do you deserve this?” he asked.
“I don’t deserve shit, I’m—I’m worthless.”
“Deep down, I don’t think you believe that, Harry.”
Harry got a twisted look on his face. His hand switched to the back of Kim’s head, attempting to pull him down, but Kim resisted. He watched Harry’s expression, the raw desire there, sparring with his own self loathing. Inside him, Harry’s cock surged. Maybe he was getting off more on the vulnerability than the sex itself.
The hand tangled into his hair, pulling his head back. Kim gasped, his throat exposed. “H-Harry—”
“Keep saying my name like that.”
“Harry,” he repeated, as Harry pressed up onto his hands and stole a kiss.
The room spun for a moment, and Kim struggled as Harry hastily rearranged onto his front, manhandling him onto his knees. A groan he didn’t mean to come out left him, as Harry gripped his hips and started to fuck him hard. He’d lost his glasses somewhere in the mix, the world gone blurry around him. It didn’t really matter, his entire body a raw nerve as Harry pounded him.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Harry breathed hard behind him. “Touch yourself, Kim, wanna—wanna make you come.”
Kim reached his hand between his legs. He pressed his forehead into the mattress, pushing back against Harry’s thrusts. It didn’t take much longer for him, the steady pressure inside, his hand on his cock. Harry talking behind him, touching him. When he came it felt ripped out of him, his toes curling as he ejaculated into his hand.
He panted as Harry’s movements slowed, before he pulled out, leaving Kim empty and raw. He sagged down onto the bed, and Harry laid next to him, pulling the condom off his still hard dick.
Kim turned on his side, hazy in post-orgasm. He had no idea where his glasses had ended up. He reached to touch Harry’s face, wiping the sweat from his brow.
“Jack me off like last time,” Harry said. He pulled Kim’s hand to him, and Kim got the message quickly. “Kiss me again.”
Kim kissed him. He rocked his hand steadily over Harry’s cock, using his own ejaculate to slick the way. It took longer than he expected, his wrist getting sore from use. Eventually, Harry pressed his forehead hard against his own with a groan, and came all over his hand.
“Shit,” Harry muttered, slumping back against the bed. He looked as wrecked as Kim felt, at the very least.
“Good?” Kim asked, dryly.
Harry nodded. His eyes closed, as he caught his breath. Kim sat up, wiping his fingers off on the sheet, then searched for his glasses. He always felt awkward after sex. He was never much of the type to bask in the afterglow.
He didn’t expect to be dragged back down to the bed. Harry wrapped an arm around him, drawing him in. The other hand procured his glasses, only slightly bent from their disappearance.
“Ah. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
They laid there for a little while. Eventually, Kim got restless, shifting in the hold. Harry looked at him.
“Cigarette?” Harry asked.
Harry took his time dressing, while Kim got his shirt and shorts back on and escaped to the bathroom. He had to clean the rest of the lube out of his ass, wash his hands, and fix his hair. It made him feel a bit in control, and at least Harry hadn’t left any visible marks or anything. He did look well-fucked, though.
He made it back out to the living room, where Harry stood on the balcony with a drink in his hand and a cigarette. He’d put a tank-top on, and some misshapen shorts that had stretched out around the waistband. He was handsome.
Still, Kim felt awkward. Normally he would leave by this point, but Harry handed him the cigarette. Kim murmured his thanks, then leaned over the railing next to him.
“Look at you, Kim. All dressed down,” Harry said.
“Would you like me to get dressed?”
“No, this is good. I could get used to it.”
Kim smiled. They smoked in silence for a long while.
“I didn’t think you’d come back,” Harry admitted.
“I didn’t think I would either.” Kim put the cigarette between his lips. “I’m quite often a coward.”
“Kim Kitsuragi? No way.”
“When it comes to personal matters, yes.” He watched the end of the cigarette burn, the length of ash slowly increasing.
“So why did you come?” Harry asked. He tried to seem casual, but his open curiosity showed through.
“Is that your burning question for the evening, detective?”
“I’ve got a lot of questions, Kim. If I only get one a day with you, it might take the next twenty years to get through ‘em all.”
Kim chuckled. “If we live that long.”
Next to him, Harry leaned in. Their bare shoulders grazed, the cool night of the evening forcing them closer. Kim craned his head, looking down. With only three floors, it paled in comparison to the view in Grand Couron, with the city below. Nothing down there but cold, hard concrete and people less fortunate sleeping on the street. If he threw himself over the railing, he would probably live.
“Hell of a week,” Harry muttered.
“A waste.” Kim tapped the ash over the rail. “Well, not a waste. A shame. We caught our perp but absolutely nothing will happen to him. He will walk away. The rich will keep their coins, Juliette will live on as a lie. All those lives destroyed. I suppose that’s just how things are.”
“At least we got Rina out.”
“Yes,” Kim said. He didn’t think she was necessarily any better off out there on her own, but he kept that to himself.
“You’ve really never thought about leaving?” He passed the glass to Kim, took the cigarette for himself.
Kim thought for a moment, taking a drink. Then, he shook his head. “Never.”
“Why not? All that stuff you told me. How can you stand it?”
He looked to Harry, his disheveled appearance. All of his promises of change, all of his lack of follow-through. He had scars that would never heal on the surface, and seeping wounds underneath. Kim could trace every vein, every borough in him, and find a story—everyone in their city had one.
“Revachol is my home,” Kim answered, simply. “And I will be here until the end.”
Harry’s face cracked with a crooked grin. “Kim, that’s pretty fucked up.”
“You don’t have a monopoly on being fucked up, detective.” He pointedly finished off the rest of Harry’s alcohol. He knew he’d get more, anyway.
They finished the cigarette in silence. Harry crept closer, his arm slinging around Kim’s back. Even though he didn’t much like touching, it felt good.
“I lied to you,” Kim murmured.
“Lied to me?”
“When you asked why I joined the 41st.” Kim looked over to Harry. “It was because of you.”
Harry looked genuinely flabbergasted. “Because of *me?*”
“I… like myself more around you.” Kim exhaled, watched the smoke twist in the air. He felt Harry grow very still next to him. “You make me want to be more optimistic.”
“Everything, I guess. That we can make a difference. That we’re good people.” He paused. “That this is all worth it.”
“Do you think you’ll ever get there?”
Kim took one last drag.
“No.” He snuffed his cigarette out. “But it’s a nice thought.”
He glanced at Harry and smiled at him for a moment. Then he looked down, over the edge, at how very close they were to the ground below.