About Bone Wires
In the wasteland of commercial culture that is future America, police are operated not by government but by private companies. In Seattle, that role is filled by Civil Protection, and Daniel Gray is a detective in Homicide Solutions. What used to be considered an important – even glamorous – department for public police is very different for the corporate species, and Gray finds himself stuck in a dead end job.
That is, until the Spine Thief arrives.
Bone Wires is a dark, brooding cyberpunk noir set in the same dystopian universe as the full-length novel, Shadow of a Dead Star, and is serialized and published right here at Curiosity Quills, every Thursday.
Story Based On:
Lindsay Yin and Tony Bradstreet had died on a Thursday. By the following Tuesday, Dan Gray had become a household name, at least in the city of Seattle. It had taken them two days to go through the scene, and every minute of it was scryed out on camera. NewsNetNow, which had been happy to wait for Gray to call them that evening, had not been happy to spend that time ignoring him; whatever deal it had made with Murdock and Bradstreet that afternoon, it had kept the press off the site.
It did not, however, keep them from watching. Once Gray had torn off for the Donner Gallery, they’d sent a flyer in to watch from above; the whole thing had been witnessed, the officers going in, Kate running back outside to call for backup, puking behind her car, and then Gray’s wooden, stumbling exit from the building after shooting Yin in the face. He had watched himself on television a hundred times since then, how he slumped gray-faced on the curb and looked as though he were lost to the world until Kate had come out and collapsed next to him. Gray hadn’t remembered it, but he had held her while she cried. Her flirting had apparently been a nervous action and nothing serious, because she and Bradstreet had secretly been lovers for years. Kate was about to quit Civil Protection, in fact, because they had recently discovered that she was two months pregnant. She had lost the man she wanted to be her husband, and because she had fraternized with her partner – her subordinate – she was also going to lose her career. The whole thing was a goddamned mess, and Gray was sick that Kate and Bradstreet had been dragged into it. For local markets, who were growing tired of fireworks and Tricentennial jingoism, it had been the best television all year. They had no problem making her into an unethical harpy that had destroyed the lives of three different people, and Civil Protection was going to make an example out of her.
For Gray, however, it was a huge fucking gold star. The bodies of no less than twelve women had been found in the killing room attached to the gallery, all of them young and extremely beautiful. They had all been butchered in the most terrible of ways, and like Anderson, Askew and Cuaron they had their spines removed. It really was perfect, especially when it was discovered that Anderson and Yin had been dating previous to his relationship with Angie. Maybe he had saved her from joining the other victims. He didn’t know, but it sure as hell seemed like that was the case.
Evidence collected all kinds of things from the gallery, as well as Donner’s and Yin’s apartments. Documents, diaries, scrapbooks that could make the blood curdle and clot in mid-flow. These were collected, analyzed by hand and by computer by the entire department at the expense of everything else, and were woven together and presented to the media thus: Donner, who had been moving around over the last twenty years, had originally been known as Klaus Alexis Muller. Muller was a commander in the Bundeswehr twenty years ago during the European War, when the EU split up into blocs and everyone hired private military corporations like a bunch of fucking idiots – you don’t put a corporation in charge of waging a war, after all. Police were bad enough.
Muller was one of the officers giving the PMCs directives on behalf of the Eastern Mercantile Bloc, of which Germany was the core nation, and pointing them toward targets westward. His orders saw some of the worst abuses the Bloc had been responsible for, especially the rounding up and torturing of civilian prisoners taken from French border cities. Muller liked to have French girls flown into Munich where he was based, then cut them up while recording the whole thing on holo. The collection he’d gathered by the time the war was over was staggering; he’d bugged out and left them all behind when the UN was looking for him. Twenty years ago he’d disappeared, and apparently turned himself into Muller. Nobody knew what his artficial eyes were for, or where he got the work done – he’d just vanished, and in the meantime was apparently still cutting up girls for fun. They’d found the murder records of almost two hundred young women in his apartment, every one of them done in the gallery – or that is, wherever he’d set the gallery up in the cities that he’d been.
As for Lindsay Yin, she’d turned out to be one of his victims at first; he’d tortured her for weeks, but she’d never buckled or cried. Muller was impressed by that, apparently, and according to his holos decided to turn her into his protege. That had been in Detroit, where he’d last been before coming to Seattle. In Seattle Muller befriended Cuaron, who was so overrun with surgery patients since opening Atomah that he’d started cutting dangerous corners; young women who had come threatening lawsuits over botched work were dispatched straight away to Muller, who set Yin on them with her knife. That knife was very interesting, too, being a rebuilt industrial cutter with an extremely high-powered, miniaturized cell. Rare, but mundane enough – and it followed the wound patterns on the victims closely enough that Evidence declared it an extremely probable match.
Anderson, as it was discovered, was just a victim of Yin’s displaced rage at being ditched for someone else; it wasn’t likely she’d known about Angie, otherwise she’d have gone after her. And then there was Askew. The artist, who was already crazy as fuck, was hired on to make the holographic sculptures in Atomah’s showroom – but having his mad obsession with industrial cleaner, he was being paid primarily with a stock of expired DermaKnit that had been procured by Old City salvagers from Renton General Hospital. This was a calculated move on Cuaron’s part; having long spoiled, it was only halfway healing Askew’s skin irritation, which made him come back to Cuaron with increasing frequency. Pretty soon Askew was filming the murders himself and capturing the gut-sculptures that Muller was having Yin make in the wee hours of the night. The whole fucking thing had turned into a knot of evil like nobody could believe.
With a single hunch, and a hastily-procured warrant, Grey had managed to solve a string of murders that had gone back twenty years and nearly three hundred victims after counting Yin’s work and Muller’s wartime offenses. It was incredible, really. So neat, so tidy, and with twelve hours of alotted resources unspent. It was like going to take out the trash and finding a mass grave in your dumpster next to a big pile of unmarked cash. Even though Muller had again disappeared, Interpol had been called and the hunt was on. The company was of course leading the manhunt in Seattle, but they’d kept Gray at Central instead of in the field.
The reason, of course, was the press; they’d gone absolutely apeshit. They’d dubbed the whole thing the ‘Spine Thief Murders’, with Muller as the ‘Spine Thief’ himself. Despite being the primary killer in this case, Yin had already been eclipsed. There was some irony for you – but then again, Charlie Manson never had a knife in his hand either. On top of the firestorm of press coverage on the murders themselves, the press was keeping a very solid eye on Gray himself. Between his actions at the Gallery – both going in during the aftermath – and his slick, ultra-fashionable exterior, Gray was the boy of the moment. NewsNetNow had had two separate interviews with him, one of which had been with Maya Frail herself, and Trans-Global Tonight had interviewed him on Monday evening. Now it was Tuesday morning, extremely early, and though he needed sleep so very badly he found he couldn’t close his eyes. Gray lay there, staring at the ceiling in the dark. He had scored the homicide case of a lifetime – maybe two – and now he couldn’t sleep. What the hell was the matter with him?
“Hey,” came a sleepy voice beside him. Heavy curls brushed cool and soft over his shoulder as Angie pulled herself up onto his chest. He felt her warmth against his skin, the thin fabric of her nightshirt brushing against him.
“Hey,” he murmured, and he leaned down to kiss her temple. She’d been staying over all weekend, having come over to his place as soon as the news hit the network. They hadn’t slept together, at least not in the sexual sense. He hadn’t seen her in anything less than pajamas, and he was okay with that. Right now he still saw the bodies hung from hooks in the gallery kill room; he felt that if he saw her naked his mind would place her there as well, and he didn’t want to deal with that.. “Am I waking you up?”
She made a soft sound and nuzzled his shoulder. “No,” Angie murmured, draping a long leg across his hips. “I was just having a dream, that’s all.”
“I know how that goes.” Gray was shocked at the flatness in his tone. He hadn’t expected the butcher scene at the gallery to have affected him so much, especially when dealing with Angie. He’d…expected to be happy. He’d wanted to sleep with her – well, fuck her into the ground, really, but there’d also be breakfast and cuddling and whatnot. He slid his arm around her, resting his hand on her shoulder.
She sighed. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, nuzzling his shoulder a bit before lifting herself lightly on an elbow. He felt her eyes on him in the dark. “You all right, Dan?”
“Yeah.” Gray drew in a sigh, let it out all at once so that it came in a gush. “I just close my eyes and see it all over again, that’s all.”
“I heard it was really bad,” she murmured. Nails scratched gently on his bare chest, twirling about the slight thatch of blonde hair there. “You want to talk about it?”
“Christ.” He let his head lift, then fall again on the pillow. “The last thing I want to do is talk about it, Angie. I’ve been talking about it all weekend.”
“I saw you on NewsNetNow with Maya Frail.” She laughed softly. “I think she liked you. She didn’t try to blow you in the green room, did she?”
It was a distraction tactic, playing jealous a bit. He was grateful for it. “Now why,” he said, trying to summon a smirk in his voice, “Would I want her to do that, when I haven’t even gotten my hands on you yet?”
“I dunno…” Her nails drummed against his chest, five teasing points in rhythm. “Seems to me that she’d be awfully hard to resist. And besides.” She reached up and took hold of his hand, moving it from her shoulder to her ass. “You got your hands on me now, don’t you? Anytime you want, honey. I’m yours.”
I’m yours. The words shot a thrill through him like an electric current. I’m yours. Nobody else’s, and for damned sure not creepo executive in the VIP room of her club. “I wonder,” he murmured. “You thinking of leaving the club?”
Angie snorted a little at that. “I think Benny would have a coronary,” she said. “You’d have to come out and have the wagon pack him away. Besides, what would I do?”
“…well, I mean…I’m getting a promotion tomorrow. Maybe you could stay with me for a bit. Until you get back on the horse with your classes.”
She laughed. “Oh, you’re being cute,” she said, patting his chest. “And if you’re not, let’s talk about it later. You’re not in the right place to be making major changes, baby. But don’t you worry…” Angie took his hand from her rump and wrapped his arm around her, cuddling up. “I don’t have any interest in doing private dances for anyone else.”
“Yeah,” he said gently. Gray felt his heart warm with those words, with her presence against him, the sweetness of her voice. He could get through this. Luck was just with him, that was it. He had the girl, he had the case, he had exposure, and tomorrow he was going to have a whole new level of respect at Civil Protection. Tomorrow his every goal so far would be realized. Tier IV. The Amber Shield. It would all be his.
Angie had drifted off, cute little snores curling up into his ear. He smiled, and his uncertainty slid into the back of his head. Luck was with him, and if there was anything to believe in, it was that. Luck was always with the winners. As he fell asleep, there was no question for Gray that this was exactly what he was.
“…and I don’t think that there’s anyone in the city of Seattle today who will say that he is not the model of what we’re trying to do at Homicide Solutions, and at Civil Protection in general. So without further ado, here’s the man of the hour. Daniel Gray, everybody!”
A wave of applause rolled toward him, and with it Gray found himself on his feet. It was the next day, and he was sitting on the stage of the Alex Hegas Convention Hall on the bottom floor of Central, surrounded by the company brass and faced by employees and press alike. Calvin Mendoza, the VP of operations here in Seattle, stood by a podium and had summoned him with those words. Mendoza clapped along with the crowd, his expression one of plastic pleasure and definite expectation as Gray stepped up.
Gray looked out across a sea of faces as he stepped forward, a sea from which the flashing of holographic imagers and still cameras glittered like a wall of jewels in the relative dark, and felt the curious mingled stab of pleasure and anxiety that all people who come out on a stage to speak for the first time tend to feel. What to say? What to do? What to think? But there was no thinking here. He couldn’t afford to think. Best just let avarice take over and do the talking for him.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen – my fellow employees and members of the press. It’s been a long couple of days, so I’m not going to take much of your time here today – honestly I don’t know what I could say that hasn’t already been said better by Mr. Mendoza . I think the important thing here is that this whole thing has been discovered, and the culprit exposed – and I can tell you that I know that wherever he is, whatever skin he decides to wear, Klaus Muller will be found and he will be brought to justice. I believe in that, and so should you.”
You don’t believe that, a voice whispered in the back of his head. You don’t believe that at all.
Shut up, brain, he thought to himself. Don’t fuck this up for me.
Why? Because you have everything you want? You’ll just want more. You know very well this has been all tied up way too neatly.
“You should believe in Civil Protection, because without it, this man might have continued to murder its citizens – your sisters, your wives, your girlfriends, your mothers.”
Like he will now that he’s out and loose, you mean.
“We’re here to make sure that people like him are found and punished, and you can bet that Homicide Solutions will never rest…”
Unless the market share will climb because of it.
Shut up shut up shut up! Gray took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment, burying whatever the hell it was saying in the back of his head before continuing on. “…never rest in its commitment to the people of Seattle to keep them safe and to hunt down those who would commit such outrages against them in the future. And on behalf of Civil Protection, let me say that I thank the citizens of Seattle and the administrative council in giving us the opportunity to make this city a safer one for everyone who lives in it.”
All hail the bottom line. You fake bastard.
Gray was sweating by the time he was finished, partially from the lights overhead and from the anxiety that was inexplicably building in his gut. What the hell was this? What the hell was he feeling? He gave the assembly a fragile smile, and Mendoza – who, like all corporate executives, could smell potential trouble from a hundred miles away – stepped up to applaud him off the podium.
“Dan Gray, ladies and gentlemen,” called Mendoza, all smiles and light while he nodded Gray back into line – and into the line he went, sweating still, wondering what the fuck just happened to him.
He stumbled through the rest of his day, thinking about what had happened. Pictures were taken, for which he tried his best to smile and look dapper. Later on he visited Tommy LaRazzo, the Vice President of Homicide Solutions, in his big office with the giant wraparound monitors that he often used for windows, who congratulated him and exchanged his Blue Shield for the Amber. Gray sat numbly in the H.R. office as his new payscale and benefits package was spelled out for him, as well as his new options for housing. He felt nothing but a kernel of sweating shame inside him, even when he went to his new office which was an enormous change from the cubicle he had used just the day before.
Why did he feel this way? Why wasn’t he dancing on the fucking desk, high-fiving the other Homicide guys that were grinning and offering to take him out for drinks? He sat in the chair behind his new desk, looking straight ahead at the large display that set in the opposite wall like a porthole, and stared at its blank surface for a while. At his reflection in it.
“It’s your conscience,” came a voice, and for a moment he was about to mentally admonish himself before he realized that the voice did, in fact, belong to a human being. Gray looked to the doorway, and saw Carter lingering there. He was wearing his nice suit, having been there for the presentation and all. Wouldn’t do to look rumpled for the press.
Gray stared at him a moment before saying, “What?”
“It’s your conscience.” Carter walked in and dropped into one of the two chairs facing Gray’s desk, crossing his legs as he did so. His hands folded over the topmost knee. “I mean what you’re feeling. Why did it have to be so many, why didn’t I see she was alive. You never lost a man on duty, I know.”
“No.” Gray drew a deep sigh. “It was pretty bad. I’ve never seen a murder actually happen, you know. And there was all that blood, and the bodies…and then…”
“And then you shot that girl in the face,” Carter said. “Listen, I know they say it’s easy when you’re righteous, but I’ve certainly never felt that way.”
It was strange, because he’d never shot someone either and Gray had thought over the weekend that maybe that would have been a problem – but it wasn’t, not really. He really didn’t feel badly about it at all. “I dunno,” he said. “But Bradstreet’s dead, and Muller’s gone, and then there’s Kate Murdock…”
Carter let out a low whistle at the mention of Kate’s name. “Better not let LaRazzo hear you say that,” he said, and he got up to look outside into the hallway for a moment before closing the door. Gray watched as Carter came back to his seat, crossed his legs again, and gave him a square look.
“Now listen, Dan,” he began, “I’m going be straight with you. All right?”
“All right.” Gray leaned back in his big padded chair, unsure of what was going to happen next.
Carter took a deep breath before speaking. “Now listen,” he said, the words coming out on exhalation, “Murdock knew what she was flirting with when she and Bradstreet hooked up. I mean don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she should have gotten the axe either, but this sort of thing blows up in your face. It was the same way when the Department was still in operation. You don’t fraternize, especially now. I’m surprised you’re worried about her at all, to be honest, considering what damage she could have done to the company if this had come to light all on its own.”
“Yeah, but it wouldn’t have,” said Gray. “And what would be the problem? It’s not like they were breaking the law.”
Carter was quiet for a moment. “Are you talking about Kate Murdock here, or are you talking about yourself?”
Gray looked at him. “I’m sorry?”
The other man grunted and shook his head. “I should’ve known that you were more worried about your own ass than someone else’s,” he said. “You’re afraid they’re gonna find out you’re fucking that little bumba from the strip club, aren’t you?”
“I told you not to call her that,” Gray said, and was a bit shocked at the edge he found in his own voice.
“Oh yeah?” Carter’s brows arched. “She gonna quit dancing now that you’re her new hero?”
“I think we should talk later,” Gray said, while the blood in his head started to heat up quick. “I don’t – I mean I know what you think you’re saying, but that’s not what’s going on here, all right?”
Carter have him a look that would have shamed a cat with its sheer lack of approval. “Uh-huh,” he said. “Well, I guess that’s all I got to say about it, then. Congratulations on your promotion anyway, Dan. You might not have the ethics you seem to think you do, but that was some damned fine police work anyway.” With that he got to his feet, looking like he’d just smelled something nasty, and closed the door behind him once again as he stepped out into the hall.
Gray sat there at his desk again, staring at the closed door, and drew a deep breath. Carter didn’t understand, he wanted to say, but the truth was that he was absolutely right. Gray was worried. He was worried about what people would say about a Tier IV detective sleeping with a stripper, at least while the cameras were on him. Still, he was far more worried what they would say if they knew what he did, deep down, despite the badge that he now took out and looked at. The shield glowed serenely, like a carved piece of a distant sunset long past, and shook his head. It was fake, he knew, the resolution of this case. He didn’t know why he knew, but he knew it. Balls to bones. Civil Protection was happily wrapping it up without asking all the necessary questions. Burning stored bullshit and other people’s careers to create a big enough smokescreen to hide…whatever it was that he was missing.
He took a deep breath and reached out to pick up the phone. He’d have to call Angie and tell her he’d be home late. He had to visit the bank.
Gray arrived at the apartment of Candy Chambliss at eleven thirty that night, late enough that he could sneak into the building without attracting the attention of the press vans that were lurking outside its walled-in courtyard. It took some doing, but he’d stopped by a high-dollar costume store and picked up a holographic mask that he then fed a generic facial profile downloaded from a do-it-yourself costume node on the network. The face he wore was bland, something he hid under jeans and a hoodie, and while it wouldn’t fool a police scan it wasn’t likely a reporter could spot it as a fake from a distance.
The apartment building was in Queen Anne, which made it fairly expensive; Chambliss was a corporate lawyer for an uptown firm. She was also Murdock’s sister. Gray took the mask off when he got to the door and knocked three times, waiting for someone to answer. He stared into the camera eye set into the door, making sure whoever was on the other side had a good look at him. He was hoping that it was Murdock there alone, since in his experience a sibling that was also a lawyer was just going to be a lot of trouble. But whatever kind of a problem her sister might be, something inside him told him that this was the right thing to do. To talk to Kate, and try and get some kind of closure for the two of them. Maybe there was even something he could do for her.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” The voice that came out of the lockplate speaker by the door wasn’t Murdock’s, but it was very similar. “Leave us alone.”
Well, shit. “Look,” he said, heaving a sigh. “I just want to talk to Kate for a minute. The press isn’t with me or anything.”
“It’s your fault my sister’s getting grilled over the fucking coals right now. You get the fuck out of here before I have a complaint slapped on your ass.”
Gray took a deep breath and counted backwards from three. “You and I both know that’s not got anything to do with me,” he said. “I know that’s not what you want to hear, and fuck knows I don’t want to cause her any more grief than she’s got already. I just need to see her, all right?”
“She’s got a baby she’s got to take care of, do you know that? Or maybe you don’t, since you’ve been spending all your time on the news this weekend. They don’t seem to understand that she was there doing her job as much as you were, you shit.”
“Hey.” His fists clenched momentarily at that, but he took another deep breath instead of saying something unproductive. “Look, I know the situation she’s in. I want to help, you know?”
“If you want to help you’ll get the fuck out of here and leave us alone! You…what?” There was a mumbling from behind her, someone else’s voice. Then, “Oh, fine. Jesus, come on in.”
The door hissed open on its magnetic track, and Gray stared into the startling gray eyes of a very angry Kate Murdock. Or no, not Kate – her hair was different, and she had a bit more weight on her. Curved, not lean like Kate was, but the face was the same. Candy Chambliss, nee Murdock, was Kate’s identical twin.
“She’s in here,” Candy nearly snarled. “Come on, before someone sees you.”
Gray stepped inside. Chambliss’s apartment was a nice as her address suggested, wide and spacious with bone-colored walls and mimetic pile carpet the color of oatmeal. The furniture was spare and elegant, the organic curves of a gray Bulotti living room suit forming a half-circle around a glass table. The windows would have opened up on a magnificent view of the Sound, but they were tightly shuttered against intruding eyes at present.
Kate sat on one of the two sofas of the living room, looking miserable in her oversized t-shirt and athletic pants. Her hair was down, a tangled mess of copper that hung in her face, and her eyes were rimmed red from crying. She looked very fragile like this, something Gray had expected but was very sorry to see.
“Hey,” she said softly, and gave Gray a little wave.
“Hey,” he said back, and walked across the floor toward where she sat. He hunched down by the end of the sofa so he could look into her face. “You doing all right?”
“Yeah, she’s doing just great,” said Candy from her spot by the door. “Just look at her.”
Kate made a little sound, but she shook her head. “I’m all right,” she said, her voice thin but brave. “I’m just…it’s really hard right now, you know. For me.”
“I can only imagine, Kate.” Gray shook his head. “I just…I’m sorry, I am. I don’t know why they’re doing this to you. You don’t deserve it.”
“Damn right,” said Candy.
At that, Kate shook her head. “No,” she said, “I do. I mean, from the state of the regulations anyway. I knew what I was getting into when I started to go after Tony, I mean…he resisted me for a long time.”
“Must have been hard for him,” Gray said with a soft smile. “You’re a hard lady to resist.”
Kate laughed a little at that, but the sound turned into a sob and she had to hold it back after a moment. “I don’t think I can talk about it,” she said. “Him, I mean. Not now.”
“I understand.” Gray got up and moved to sit next to Kate, something that made Candy come around and sit down on the sofa opposite them. Her stare bored through him, daring him to do something to upset her sister more. Hell, he was halfway convinced that she would throw him through those shuttered windows if he did so much as make a single tear fall. “Listen…I’m going to talk to H.R. tomorrow, see what I can do. I mean, right now they have listen to me, right? And I’ll speak out in your presence the next time I talk to the press.”
“You could have done that today,” said Candy. It was more like a growl than anything else. “But you didn’t.”
Gray looked at her. Candy’s eyes were smouldering, gray flames that were begging to burst forth and burn him alive. “You’re right,” he said. “I didn’t….think. I completely choked up there.”
Candy scoffed at that. “Not enough to keep from towing the party line.”
“I locked up,” said Gray, and he felt that kernel of shame start to blaze inside his gut again. “I just…I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep, and I…of course, that’s nothing compared to you, Kate, I know, it’s just…” He felt hopeless, like nothing he could say would help even a little, and it only made the shame inside him worse. “I’m just so sorry it happened to you both.”
Candy looked at if she were going to lash out at him again, but Kate spoke up. “Detective,” she began.
“Call me Dan, please,” he said.
“Dan.” Kate nodded. “Look, this hasn’t got anything to do with you. I read your report, and I was there when we found her. We all thought she was dead, and I don’t blame you. Do you hear me?” Her eyes lifted, but it was on her sister that her gaze was trained. “I don’t blame you.” Then she looked to Gray, and he saw how empty they were, how glazed with loss, and he felt the shame erupt into a yellow flame inside of him. “I don’t want anyone else to damage their career over it. I’ll just find something else to do, that’s all. Maybe I’ll go back to school.”
He stared at her, unable to say anything. Gray knew very well that she wouldn’t get any kind of a decent corporate job in Seattle after this, not after the kind of ethics violations that the company was leveling at her. This was just a ticket into obscurity – or worse than obscurity, she’d be living in the Verge after this. Probably squatting, or some other godforsaken thing. “Listen, you let me worry about that,” he told her. “You know the position I’m in right now, they’ll listen to me. You’ll see. In the meantime…” Gray took a deep breath, then, and reached inside the pocket of his hoodie. “I know that they’ve suspended you without pay, and if the charges carry through you won’t get your stock options or future benefits. So I wanted to give you this.”
Gray took out a fat envelope, inside of which were a collection of paper bills. “This is the bonus money they gave me for case completion,” he said in measured tones. “As far as I’m concerned, it belongs to you. You were on the scene, and you should have gotten this as much as I have. Now there’s fifteen thousand in there, enough to keep you and the baby comfortable while waiting for this thing to shake out. If you need any more, you can talk to me and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime…” He let it go at that, holding the envelope out for her to take. Kate stared at the envelope for a long time. So did her sister. Gray’s arm was starting to get tired when she finally spoke. “I don’t know what to say,” Kate whispered. “That’s…it’s…” And she looked up at him. “I can’t, Dan. I can’t.”
“The hell you can’t.” He shook his head. “Either you take it, or I’m gonna burn it. This money doesn’t belong to me, I said.” Gray held the envelope out a bit farther. “Please. I need to know that you’re going to be okay. Do it for me, if nothing else.”
Kate looked between him and her sister, who looked very grave. Candy nodded, and she looked at him with muted confusion in her gray eyes. Kate took the envelope then, clutching it in both hands which had begun to shake. “I just…I don’t…” She lowered her head, and tears began to glitter on her blotchy cheeks. “I’m sorry!” With that she got to her feet and ran into the next room, where the sound of muffled crying began in earnest.
Gray stared after her for a moment before looking back to Candy. “I’m sorry,” he said, and he expected her to tear into him – but instead she was looking at him with an expression that was mingled disbelief and curiosity.
“Don’t be,” she said. “You did something very good right there, Detective. Very…right. I don’t know if you’re doing it to help her, or make yourself feel better, or what – but it was the right thing to do.”
He nodded. “I should go,” said Gray, and he got to his feet. “Can I call here if I’m able to make something happen at the office?”
“You can,” Candy said with a nod. “But call my office line instead.”
“All right.” Gray took the mask out of the pocket of his hoodie and fit it over his face; the flat gray membrane shivered and took on the blank features of the generic model. “I’ll talk to you soon,” he said, though the lips of the false face didn’t move. “I’m sure I can do something.”
“Well.” Candy got up and escorted him to the door. “I won’t forget this, that’s for sure.”
Gray nodded goodnight, then walked out into the hallway. He felt a little lighter now, and though he probably did do this to make himself feel better the result could not be denied. Now he could go home. Now he could see Angie. Now he could feel a little bit like the hero people had been saying he was. Call it vanity, but it would help him get along.