After lunch with Theodore, which had turned out to mostly be a long hug on the hood of his car with Theodore instead, Russell had headed back to the station. Now, he sat at his desk, flipping through Lauren’s folder. Sam had told him that they couldn’t remember if they had told the cops about the missing ignition cable or not. For obvious reasons, they had been grieving, and their mind had been foggy for months following the shooting. Russell hadn’t been able to fault Sam for that.
When it came to the case file, there was no mention of a missing ignition cable. There was no mention of the car past the fact that they had checked it for Lauren’s detective badge. The problem was the lack of information. Had Sam told the cops about the ignition cable and they chose not to write it down? Or had Sam forgotten to tell them?
Russell pushed himself to his feet, folder in hand. He made his way back to a set of desks and dropped the folder in front of the only detective seated there.
She stared at him for a moment before looking down at the file. “What’re you doing with this case?”
“Working my case. You and Derek checked Lauren’s car for her police badge. You knew the car hadn’t started that morning. You ever bother to find out why?” Russell asked.
“The ‘why’ wasn’t our biggest concern, Russ. Cars stop working all the time for non ominous reasons.”
“Missing ignition cable.”
“Yeah, Sam told us that.”
“They…?” Russell couldn’t help the scoff that fell from his lips. “You knew and didn’t even bother to write it down?”
“It wasn’t something we wasted our time looking into. Lauren knew cars, Russell. If she had been concerned about why she couldn’t start the damn car, she would’ve told someone. She would’ve told you.”
“She didn’t check why it wouldn’t start. She called me to come get her.”
“She told Sam she didn’t check why it wouldn’t start.” She cleared her throat, closing the file. “Russell, do you know why we started looking into you as a suspect?”
“Because Lauren and I used to sleep together.”
“Mm. And because that ignition cable was found in the glovebox of her car when we were searching for her badge on the night of the shooting. She removed the cable, Russell. She wanted a reason for you to come pick her up.”
“I picked her up from the house nearly every damn day, even when the car was working,” Russell said through his teeth.
“Yeah, and maybe Sam was starting to get a little jealous, so maybe Lauren needed an excuse.”
Russell snatched the folder from her desk. “Fuck you. Sam wasn’t jealous that I slept with Lauren before they ever even met each other. You bastards just needed a suspect so it looked like you were working the case instead of sleeping around.”
She snorted, shaking her head. “Careful, Russ. I’d hate for you to need another mandatory ‘vacation’ from work.”
“Fuck. you.” He pointed at her with the case file in his hand. “If this ignition cable turns out to be something, and it will, I swear to God, I will have you and Derek fired.”
“Good luck, Russ. Convincing Loo of your delusions? Good luck.”
Russell had accomplished next to nothing throughout the workday. Aside from his conversation with Detective Clouse pissing him off, his mind had been foggy all day, and his headache had kicked his ass most of the afternoon and into the evening.
He had made the executive decision not to go over to Theodore’s. In combination with his anger, his anxiety sat on his chest heavier than it had in damn near two years. He couldn’t handle Theodore and Vera that evening. Or, more appropriately, they didn’t deserve to have to handle him.
The knock at the door surprised him, to say the least. He liked Theodore, he really did, but it would still be nice to get a heads-up before he and Vera dropped by. He at least wanted a choice in the matter.
Russell pushed himself to his feet and made his way to the door. After unlocking it, he pulled it open. “Andrew?”
The man in question smiled. “Hey. Hope you don’t mind me dropping by, but you looked like hell today. And after this morning, I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m all right. You… can still come in, though, if you’d like.”
“Awesome. I brought snacks and games.”
Russell stepped to the side, allowing the man into his house. “Just you, huh?”
“Em’s staying with her friend tonight. The one that was in the hospital for the burns?”
“Helping her out?”
“Yeah. Her family headed back home, but…” Andrew shook his head. “Imagine being all by yourself after that kind of thing. Being in that kind of pain with no one there for you?”
Russell nodded, clearing his throat as he closed the door. “Yeah. It’s good Emey’s there for her.” He rested his head against the wall. “Is that ‘cause of me?”
“That you guys are having a night apart? Or is it just because of the friend?”
Andrew laid a hand on Russell’s shoulder. “Em and I are fine. I talked to her about you, but we didn’t fight over it. We had a discussion, and her friend called her while we were in the middle of making supper. We agreed that she’d go over there and I’d finish up food and bring some of it for you and I to have. We’re fine, Russ. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Russell closed his eyes, laying a hand over Andrew’s. “Thank you. And… I’m sorry. It’s been a long fuckin’ day.” He offered a smile. “Guess I’m reverting back to the me that thinks everything’s my fault.”
“Your father was a piece of shit, and none of it was your fault.”
“Of course.” Andrew kicked off his shoes. “Come on. Let’s get some food warmed up for you and me before we plug in the Xbox and take out the day on Left 4 Dead.
One corner of Russell’s mouth quirked up. “Sounds good to me, Andy.”
After supper and two levels of Left 4 Dead, Andrew cleared his throat, eyes still on the television. “So, do you wanna talk about today?”
“What about today?” Russell asked, fingers tightening briefly on the controller.
“I saw you talking to Clouse.”
“What about her?”
“I know she’s one of the detectives who worked Lauren’s case.”
“Yeah. I was investigating my case.”
“Of course, which also means you were talking to the woman who insinuated you killed Lauren.”
Andrew cleared his throat. “I’ll rephrase. Wanna talk about anything you found out about the case?”
“Now that, I can talk about.” Russell shifted on the couch, pulling a leg to his chest. “Uh, did I tell you why Lauren was walking that day?”
“Her car wouldn’t start.”
“Do you know why?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah. Missing ignition cable. Sam found out eventually, when they had a mechanic look at it after Lauren’s death. So… I talked to Clouse to see if Sam had ever told them about the ignition cable. Clouse says they did, but nothing was looked into. Apparently, the cops or the forensics or… I don’t know. Either way, someone else had found the ignition cable in the glovebox of the car the night of the shooting. So, uh… they assumed she did it so that she had a reason for me to come pick her up without making Sam jealous.”
“Sam was never jealous of you.”
“Yeah, well, tell that to Clouse. Apparently, that’s the whole reason she and Derek cooked up the idea that I gunned Lauren down. Because whoever tampered with her car put the fuckin ignition cable in the glovebox.” Russell cleared his throat. “I wanted to accomplish a hell of a lot more today, but Clouse ruined every damn idea I had, every plan I had. She wished me luck with convincing Loo of my, and I quote, ‘delusions’.”
“Jesus Christ. I hate that woman.”
“You and me both. I’ve tolerated her previously, but if the missing ignition cable turns anything up for me, I’m getting her and Derek fired. If this turns up something, then these fuckers could’ve put the guy in jail a long time ago, and they could’ve stopped him from killing Vince, too.”
“If it turns out that you can find this guy because of the ignition cable, I’ll be right there at your side to make sure those fuckers never work at our station again, brother.”
Russell leaned to the side just long enough to touch his head to Andrew’s shoulder. “Thank you, Andy.”
“My pleasure, Russ.”
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