Monday: February 22, 2016
On their lunch break, Hilo and Tahki had decided to stick to their newest plan and head over to James Fletcher’s house. Tahki couldn’t help but hope this plan came through better than their ‘fingerprinting on our own’ plan. “Are you sure this is still our best plan?” Hilo asked as they walked up the driveway.
Tahki nodded. “Fletch is our best bet for keeping this away from any of our superiors. He’ll do a favor for just about anyone at the station, and in return, anyone would do a favor for him. You know, like a forensic analyst agreeing to run some prints without reporting the letter to Sarge. And it’s not only our best plan. Right now, it’s our only plan.”
“Okay,” Hilo said quietly. “This is… this is what we’ll do, then.”
When it came right down to it, Tahki wasn’t certain that it was their best plan, either, but she was pretty sure it was their safest bet. James Fletcher would do a favor for anyone, so long as the ‘favor’ wasn’t illegal.
Letting out a harsh breath, Tahki lifted a hand and knocked on James’s door. Several seconds of silence followed before the door opened. James’s brow furrowed as his eyes quickly scanned over the detectives. “Hey, Fletch,” Tahki greeted once his eyes settled on her face.
“Hey, Tahki.” He cleared his throat. “Is everything okay?”
“Of course. Can we come in?”
“Seems… contradicting to me. I don’t know if you guys know this, but I don’t get many visitors when I’m not actively at the station. So… something must be wrong.”
“We can, uh, do our best to go into the details of what might be wrong, but not until we’re inside,” Hilo said.
After a moment, James nodded and stepped away from the door, allowing the two detectives into his home. “Shoes off, please,” he said as he closed the door. Tahki and Hilo both complied without complaint. “Would you like coffee?”
“If it’s no trouble.”
“I just made a fresh pot about half an hour ago. No trouble at all,” James assured. “This way,” he said with a little nod. Tahki and Hilo followed him into the kitchen. He poured three cups of coffee and slid two of them over to the detectives. His own held to his chest, he leaned back against the counter. “Creamer’s in the fridge. Sugar’s on the counter. When you’re ready… go ahead and talk.”
“Thanks, Fletch,” Hilo said, squeezing the man’s bicep as he grabbed the glass sugar canister from the little wire rack above the bread box.
While he waited for the detectives to make up their coffee however they liked it, James set his own on the counter and rubbed the knuckles of one hand with his other thumb. On occasion, it completely spaced Tahki’s mind that the man had been living with arthritis for decades. It was part of the reason their chief always suggested he could be a danger in the field, as if arthritis made him entirely incapable of doing his damn job. It had always been quite the opposite, though. James was by far the best detective on the force.
“Have you watched the news today?” Tahki asked, looking down as she stirred the creamer into her coffee.
“Let’s pretend I’ve only been awake for forty-five minutes and haven’t done much more than shower and make coffee just yet,” James said.
Tahki smiled faintly, lifting her head to meet his eyes. “Sure, Fletch. Today’s the twentieth anniversary of our bank heist massacrer.”
“The unsolved case you two worked?”
“All right. Far as I know, that’s been rotated to another detective. Several times, actually.”
“It has. But the case itself isn’t the problem. It’s the letter that Hilo and I received this morning that is the problem.”
James lifted his head. “What kind of letter?”
“The… sender claims to be our bank heist shooter,” Tahki said. “And, uh, if we let our superiors know about this letter, he claims he’ll do it again.”
“And this time, he wants to do it without any survivors, and maybe not at a bank,” Hilo added.
James looked between the two before taking a small sip of his coffee. “I need you to be straight with me for a moment. Are you serious, or is this a ploy by Chief to prove I should be forced to retire?”
“We’re serious. We’d never take part in anything like that,” Hilo said. “As soon as we force you out of the station, I’m next, and then Tahki. Believe me, we want no part in Chief trying to prove you aren’t qualified for a detective position anymore.”
“Appreciated,” James said quietly. “You said the sender claims to be your bank heist gunman. So you don’t know for sure. What makes you uncertain?”
“Personally,” Hilo started, “it’s the letter itself. It has no details in it. Killers like this, they send notes to taunt the investigators. Jack the Ripper did that. Talked about double murders before it hit the news, added his little ‘ha ha’s, mocked the cops and reporters for thinking he was a surgeon or a doctor. Whatever it was. But he said things that let them know it was really him. He wanted them to know. He craved that. If you send a letter, it’s because you want to taunt the reader, and you want the receivers of that letter to know it’s you, not just some imposter. But this guy, he gave us no real clue that it’s him.”
“That… does seem a little out of the ordinary,” James agreed. “Why send a letter if you don’t want to rub it in the detectives’ faces that you’re the real deal?” A pause. “Unless… he thinks it’s more torturous that you don’t know if it’s real or not.”
“Why would that be more torturous than knowing it is real?” Tahki asked.
“Because if it’s real, you know why you can’t show it to your superiors. If you don’t know if it’s real, you’re living with the guilt of hiding it without knowing if it’s really the right thing to do, if it’s the only thing to do. You guys aren’t rule-breakers. You never have been. Real deal or not, the author of that letter knows that, and he’s using it against you,” James said.
Tahki let out a breath, but she couldn’t bring herself to respond. She didn’t have anything useful to say, anyway. James wasn’t wrong, and that was the only thing she was certain of now.
“What is it you guys need from me? What kind of favor?” James asked when the silence had gone on too long.
“The letter we have. We want to pull prints from it and see if any of them are in the system.”
“Smart. You guys had prints for the guy. So if it’s him that did send it, you’ll have a match,” James said.
“How do you know that?” Tahki asked.
“I’ve seen the file more recently than you guys probably have. You haven’t seen it since it went cold and was handed off to someone else, right?” James asked. Tahki nodded. “Since Chief doesn’t want me working on most of the cases that come in, Loo lets me look at old files when I’m bored. I looked at this one just a couple weeks ago. Hell, I’ve still got a partial copy of it at the station.”
“You do?” Hilo asked.
“Far as I know. I haven’t been there in a few days, so it’s possible Loo took it out of my desk, of course,” James said. “I’ll give you guys the keys to my office so you can check. If you’re not allowed to tell any superiors, it seems like he’s watching you. Or, at least, he’s pretending to be. Since I’m not scheduled to work today, I don’t want it to be suspicious for you guys to leave here and then for me to go into the station alongside you. Okay?”
“Appreciate that, Fletch,” Hilo said.
James nodded, took another sip of his coffee. “Well, in relation to this letter… you guys know I don’t pull fingerprints, right?”
“We know. But we know you can ask Jade to do it without her asking a ton of questions about where it came from. I’m pretty sure you can get her to pull prints without her even reading the words written on it,” Tahki said.
“Probably,” James said after a moment. “So it’s because the people at the station like me that I’m being asked to be involved, right?”
“That and… because we know we can trust you with it,” Tahki said.
“Right. The letter says he has his sources. I don’t know how true that is, but if he has ‘sources’ that would tell him what the superiors know, he has to know someone inside the station, and we know that’s not you,” Hilo said. “You love and honor the badge far too much for that.”
James nodded, but he didn’t respond.
“Look, Fletch, for all we know, this letter was written by some dumbass who’s lurking around out there with a camera so he can put his cool ‘social experiment’ on YouTube. But right now, we can’t take that risk,” Hilo said. “We’re coming to you because you’re one of the only people we know for sure we can trust. Please, can you just… ask her?”
“Yeah,” James said quietly. “I will… go ahead and give her a call, and then I’ll call you, let you know what she said. All right?”
“Thank you, Fletch. Really,” Tahki said.
The older man nodded. “You’re very welcome. Let’s just hope those prints match someone other than our unknown gunman.”
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