A/N: The character introduced in this chapter, Sam, is non-binary and uses the pronounces they/them. ‘They’ in reference to them in the story is on purpose and correct, but I wanted to make sure you weren’t confused when you got there 🙂
Russell pressed a kiss to Theodore’s forehead and thanked him for what felt like the millionth time before heading back out to the parking lot. Though the last thing he wanted to do at that very moment was work on the case, he had to. He had to work on it. He had to make progress.
He had to find the bastard who shot Vince, who shot Lauren. He simply had to.
He drove out to the gas station, specifically configuring his route to avoid driving past Vince’s house. Seeing the house, all the lights off inside, made him sad, and he had to be a cop for the rest of the day. That sadness needed to stay inside and off his face.
Russell parked his car in front of the gas station and cut the engine. He leaned back in his seat, giving himself a moment to breathe, a moment to think. Satisfied that he wouldn’t break down, he climbed out of the car and headed inside. He walked up to the counter, folding his arms over top of it. “Hey.”
The cashier, a young gal, lifted her eyes to his face. “Hey, Russell.”
He smiled. “Hi, Becky. Any chance you were working Sunday night?”
The woman, Becky, shook her head. “I wasn’t. Why? Did something happen?”
“I’m sure you’ve seen the shooting on the news.”
“Vince,” Becky said quietly. “Yeah, I’ve seen that. I’m sorry about him, Russell.”
“Thank you.” Russell cleared her throat. “So… Vince was on a late night jog when it happened, and I know he came in here on his way back home. I was wondering if you’d let me take a peek at the security footage from Sunday night.”
“I’d like to see how he was behaving. Did he look nervous? On edge? Stuff like that.”
Becky nodded. “Okay. Come on back.”
The gas station security footage hadn’t revealed much to Russell. Vince had looked calm and collected the entire time he was inside. He hadn’t looked to the windows or doors to see if he had been followed inside. He hadn’t looked over his shoulder at every turn.
He had come in, gotten a bottle of water, chatted with the cashier, and been on his way. If anyone had been following Vince, he hadn’t known until after the gas station. If he had known, he wouldn’t have gone back out without calling someone at the station. Russell was certain of that. Vince had been an incredibly intelligent man, and if he had feared someone had been following him, he wouldn’t have taken the risk.
Russell slid into the driver’s seat of his car, closing the door behind him. Tilting his head back against the seat, he let out a heavy breath. Despite everything he had done, he was still at square one.
It wasn’t as though this was the only case in the world that hadn’t moved past square one during the fourth day of investigation, especially since Sunday had hardly been day one, but that knowledge didn’t make it any easier on him. He always did his best on his cases. He always worked his ass off to make sure justice was served. But this one was still different than any of the others he had ever been assigned.
This one, he had a personal stake in. This one only existed because some sick fucker had killed the man he had seen as a father for the better part of a decade. Most of his cases were about serving justice.
This one was about avenging Lauren and Vince. This one was one hundred percent personal.
Russell had driven around Rustin for nearly an hour before working up the guts to drive out to Lauren’s partner’s house. As far as he knew, they hadn’t remarried. The part that always ate away at Russell, however, was that they still lived in the same house they had when Lauren was alive.
He couldn’t even imagine living a whopping four blocks away from where your wife was ruthlessly gunned down. Hell, even now, the very thought of it made him sick to his stomach.
Letting out a slow breath, Russell dropped his hands from the steering wheel. The longer he put it off–the longer he stayed in the car–the longer it would take to find the bastard who had shot Vince, the bastard who had shot Lauren.
He climbed out of the car and made his way up to the house. Forcing himself not to hesitate, he knocked on the door. It wasn’t long before it opened. Lauren’s partner, Sam, offered a smile. “Hey, Sam.”
“Russell,” they greeted. “Is everything all right?”
“I’m actually here on a case. One of our retired… boys in blue was shot and killed on Sunday. I’m currently working that case, and I have a few questions about what you remember from when Lauren was killed.”
“Jesus,” Sam whispered. “Wh-why do you need to get into that?”
“I have it on good authority that the two shootings are related.”
“You think it’s the same guy?”
“Given everything I have so far? Yeah, I think so.”
Slowly, Sam nodded. “Okay. Umm… come on in. I-I can’t promise that I’ll have a lot for you, Russell. It wasn’t easy when she died.”
“I know. It was hell.”
“Yeah,” Sam whispered. They stepped away from the door, holding out an arm. “I’ll see what I can do. Just don’t get your hopes up.”
Russell offered a smile as he stepped into the foyer. “Anything you can provide holds the potential to be helpful, even if it seems pointless to you. Don’t worry so much about it. I’ve just got a few questions about how the investigation was carried out that day.”
Finished up with a two and a half hour conversation with Sam, Russell sat in his car outside the station. Finally, Russell had an answer as to why the cops had checked Lauren’s car in search of her police badge.
After work, she had gone home first. A refresher from Sam had reminded Russell he had taken Lauren home that day. He had picked her up that morning, too. They carpooled most days, and Russell had thought nothing of it at the time. What he hadn’t known was that Lauren had needed a ride that morning in particular because her car suddenly wouldn’t start.
When Sam had gotten it looked at in the weeks following Lauren’s death, they had been told that the ignition cable had been missing.
Someone had purposely sabotaged Lauren’s car that day. The bastard had known with absolute certainty that he was going to shoot Lauren. It hadn’t been a coincidence that he had crossed her path and gunned her down. It hadn’t been because she was the only cop walking along that sidewalk that night.
He had known he wanted to kill Lauren, and he had known it for a long damn time. If Russell had to guess, the bastard had known he wanted to kill Lauren at least three months before her death, when he had stolen the gun in Oklahoma.
Russell just… didn’t know why.
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