“I’d like access to his home. I’m hoping you have a key so I don’t have to break the door down or get myself a locksmith,” Russell said.
Dani, Vince’s daughter, sniffled. “I don’t. But he always left one out, tucked under his car. In the, umm, the tire well? Tucked up in there. He said those fake key rocks were begging for someone to break in, but I lose things, so…” She cleared her throat. “They should still be there.”
“Thank you, Dani,” Russell whispered.
She nodded. Before he could stand up, she grabbed his arm. “You’re gonna find the bastard who did this, aren’t you, Russ?”
He searched her eyes, that familiar sting burning in his own. “Yes. I’m not gonna let him go without justice.”
“Good.” A pause. “A-are you really going to be able to do this? Dad loved you like his own, Russ. I can’t… even begin to imagine what this will do to you.”
“I can’t hand this over to someone else. I can’t hand Vince over to someone else.” Russell laid a hand over hers and gave it a quick squeeze. “I’ll manage, Dani. I just gotta find the person who did this, and then I’ll be okay. Then we can heal. Okay?”
Thankfully, she nodded and let go of his arm. “Good luck, Russell.”
“Thank you.” Though he kept it to himself, he knew damn well he really needed that luck more than ever before.
Just as Dani had predicted, the keys were still tucked into the tire well of Vince’s car. Russell closed his eyes as he held the keys to his chest. “Thank you,” he whispered, head tilted back toward the sky. Though most of the time, he’d be thanking God, this one was for Vince’s ears only. If the man hadn’t loved his daughter so damn much, he never would’ve left them out for someone to find. That had nothing to do with God and everything to do with Vince’s heart of gold.
Russell walked up to the house and, for what would be one of the last times in his life, unlocked the door and stepped inside. He let out a shaky breath as he closed the door. He flipped on the light and, out of habit, kicked off his shoes.
Vince’s badge hadn’t been in his wallet. The only other place he ever kept it was in his bedroom. If it wasn’t there… Russell shook his head. He needed it to be there. He didn’t want to think about what it could mean if it wasn’t there.
On his way down the hall, Russell couldn’t help but be distracted by the photos on the wall. One of them, the one that had caught his eye, was the day Vince pinned Russell’s detective badge onto his chest. Russell smiled, sniffling as he stepped away from the photo. Christ, he couldn’t believe Vince was gone. The man had taught him so much about police work, so much about life. And now he was just… gone.
Russell cleared his throat, doing his best to keep his eyes off the other photos as he made his way back to Vince’s bedroom. He edged the door open with his foot and peered inside. The room was tidy, the bed made. That didn’t surprise Russell in the slightest. Vince had always been an organized man. His house, as far as Russell had ever seen, had only ever reflected that.
He flipped on the overhead light and stepped into the room. He checked every place the badge could’ve been: on the dresser, on either of the nightstand, in either of the nightstand drawers, on the top shelf in the closet, in the detective memorabilia box under the bed.
But it was nowhere to be found.
Russell’s gut twisted as he took a step back toward the door. He hoped to God he was remembering the details of their last off-duty cop shooting incorrectly. Hell, he prayed he was remembering them incorrectly.
If he wasn’t, Vince wasn’t the first cop this bastard had shot in cold blood.
Russell stopped in front of Emelia’s desk, clearing his throat.
She lifted her head, expression softening as soon as her eyes met his. “You look like hell, Russ.”
“Been a long day already,” he said quietly. “I need you to check out a file for me.”
“Why… can’t you?”
“Because I know they won’t let me.”
“My dead partner.”
“Oh, Russell,” Emelia whispered.
“They never caught the bastard that shot her, Emey. You know this could be the same guy. I just need to see the details, the ones that I never heard about through casual conversation.”
“What makes you think it’s the same guy? I mean… aside from the fact that they’re both cops. We know wearing a badge makes us a target to a lot of people, Russ, not just one guy.”
“If I’m remembering things correctly, they were both shot off-duty–”
“Vince was retired, Russ.”
She held up her hands. “Okay, I’m sorry. Continue?”
“They were both shot off-duty, they were both shot several times–overkill–from behind, and their badges were stolen off their person. Vince was shot on the sidewalk, and i-if I recall… correctly, Lauren was shot in an alley four blocks from her house. Vince was shot on his way back home. I’m certain of it. He always walked that road on his route when he wasn’t able to sleep.” He clapped his hands together, tipping his fingers in her direction. “Please, Emey. I just gotta know.”
“This isn’t good for you.”
“Not looking for good or bad. I’m looking for fucking justice.”
“Okay,” Emelia said softly. She pushed herself to her feet. “Sit down. You need to just… sit for a moment. You don’t look okay, seriously.”
Russell dropped into the chair in front of her desk. She patted his chest as she walked past him. Russell bowed his head, closing his eyes. It wasn’t even noon yet, and he already wanted to be done with the day. He wanted to pack up his shit and go home for the day. Or to the bar. The bar sounded good.
He scrubbed his hands over his face. That wasn’t exactly a great line of thinking. Undercover work in Narcotics had gotten him to a bad place in life, especially with alcohol. Drinking it in moderation nowadays was fine, but when he was already having a bad day, there was absolutely no chance at ‘moderation’.
Emelia sat down at her desk, a folder in her hand. Russell leaned forward to grab it, but she held it out of his reach. “Russell, I have seen you in a lot of bad places. Recovering from the terrible undercover job, after Lauren was killed, after your mom–”
“And I came back every single time,” Russell said. He held out a hand. “Give me the folder, Emey. Please.”
“I just need to know that you won’t go into a bad place this time. You’ve recovered from the others. I’m willing to admit that. But you shouldn’t have to go through another.”
“I won’t.” Russell wiggled his fingers, leaning forward even further. With a sigh, Emelia handed the folder over to him. “Thank you.”
“Sure, Russ. You… you keep your head on straight, okay?”
Russell nodded. “Yeah. Do my best.”
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