Russell stood several feet away from the car, arms crossed over his chest as he watched Ellie dust the inside of the car for prints. “What, uh, what do you think, El? Finding anything?” he asked.
“Well, there are definitely fingerprints here on the steering wheel and on the dashboard. I’ll be able to tell you if they match anything in the system once we get back to the station,” Ellie said.
Russell nodded, fingers biting into his upper arms. “Hey, El?”
“You, umm… You wouldn’t be able to, like… buy out the FBI, right?”
Mid-dust, Ellie froze. After several seconds, she turned to face Russell. “What does the FBI have to do with a stolen car, Russell?”
“They don’t. But the person who stole it, if I’m right, is more than willing to step around the law to benefit themselves, and I know their prints are in the system. So again… would you be able to pay the FBI to remove those prints from the system?”
“No. There are too many people at the FBI, too many requirements, too many checks and balances. They wouldn’t…” Again, she shook her head. “No. I don’t think one person would have enough money to buy out everyone they would need to in order to get away with it.”
“Awesome,” Russell whispered.
Ellie watched him for a moment. “Are you okay, Russell?”
He offered a smile. “Little bit of okay, little bit of not okay.”
“Because of who these prints will match to?”
“Yeah, and because of what it’ll mean, what it will… tie together.” Russell cleared his throat. “I’ll explain it to you once this is all over, I promise.”
Ellie nodded. “Okay, Russ. I’ll hold you to that. Just, you know, let me know if you feel like you’re gonna pass out or something.”
Russell couldn’t help it–he chuckled. “I will. Thanks, El.”
Back at the station, while Ellie ran the prints through the system, Russell paced the floor, one hand resting on the gun holstered at his hip.
He stopped, eyes on the wall. “Did you get a match?”
“Got a name?” Russell turned his head toward her. “El?”
“Clouse?” she asked in a whisper. “H-how does she tie into Vince’s case?”
“I found that stolen car on a security camera. The person who got out of it took the ignition cable from Lauren’s car before she was killed, the cable that Clouse and Derek claimed Lauren must’ve taken out herself so she had a reason to ride into work with me that morning.” Russell crossed the room. “Derek and Clouse are corrupt, they killed Lauren, and they killed Vince. That’s how they tie into this.” He nodded toward her camera. “I need you to print that off for me. I’ve got a warrant to get my hands on.”
Much as Russell wanted to be there for Clouse’s arrest and the search of her house, he knew his lieutenant was right. If they found any evidence to use, her lawyer could argue that Russell had planted it there as some sort of revenge for when she and Derek had investigated him for Lauren’s death.
The last thing Russell wanted was for either of the fuckers to slip through the cracks now.
So, while Andrew, Emilia, and a few uniformed officers searched Clouse’s home, Russell sat in his lieutenant’s office, flipping his phone in his hand, waiting.
He’d been alone for nearly an hour, sitting and waiting, waiting and sitting. He was incredibly used to being patient, and he was more than used to sitting around and waiting, but this ate away at every damn fiber of his being.
He twisted in his seat to meet his lieutenant’s eyes. “Yes, Loo?”
“Clouse has been arrested and brought into the station. For the purposes of… a trial, I don’t want you to interrogate her.”
“O-of course. What about Derek?”
He stepped into the office, closing the door behind him. “Ellie went through a burner phone that was found at Clouse’s house. She found a lot of text messages with a ‘Derek’ in the phone. The number doesn’t match his real phone number, but the judge has signed off on a warrant to search his home for a burner, as well. I’m sure it’ll turn up, and when it does, they’ll bring him in, too.”
“Thank God,” Russell whispered.
Marcus shook his head and lowered himself into the chair beside Russell. “Thank you, Steele. Christ, you outed two horrible corrupt cops, Russell. You outed two murderers. You worked your ass off to bring justice to Lauren and Vince. Thank you.”
Russell offered a smile. “Thanks, Loo.”
Marcus gave Russell’s knee a quick squeeze. “If you’re okay with it, I’d like you to stay in here until after they’ve found enough to bring Derek in. It makes sure you’re on time-stamped security cameras at the time of the search of his home. It shows you didn’t have contact with any of the cops performing that search.”
“As long as I’m out in time for trick-or-treating, I’ll stay wherever you need me to, Loo.”
“Good.” He squeezed Russell’s shoulder, pushing himself back to his feet. “I hope it’s not much longer before they find a phone or a certain handgun. But I’ll let you know. I can’t have you questioning them, but I won’t let you be stuck without any updates on it.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.”
“You’re welcome, Steele. You did damn good on this one. Vince would be proud.”
This time, Russell’s smile was genuine. “Thank you,” he whispered. Marcus nodded, patting Russell on the shoulder on his way out of the room. Russell bowed his head, closing his eyes. Marcus was right. He had done well, and Vince would be proud.
He couldn’t ask for anything more.
Russell pushed himself away from his car as Theodore walked out of the bookstore. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Theodore laid a hand on his chest, fingers wrapped loosely around his suit jacket. “So… wh-what’s the verdict?”
Russell couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. “They’ve both been arrested. They found the gun’s at Derek’s place, and Clouse’s prints were in the car. I got ‘em, Theo.”
“You got ‘em,” Theodore whispered. He threw an arm around Russell, free hand still wrapped around his cane. For the first time in what felt like forever, the tension seeped from Russell’s body. He wrapped his arms around Theodore, burying his face in the crook of the shorter man’s neck. “I’m so proud of you, Russell.”
Theodore patted him on the back before pulling away, hand moving up to his cheek instead. “I am so proud of you.”
One corner of Russell’s mouth lifted. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Theo. You held me together when the only fuckin’ thing I wanted to do was crack and crumble. I am so proud of you.” Russell leaned down and pressed a kiss to Theodore’s forehead. “What do you say we go pick up an excited little girl, change into some awesome Mario costumes, and go get ourselves some candy?”
Theodore smiled, teeth and all. “I like the sound of that.”
Russell reached back and pulled open the passenger side door of the car. “Then your chariot awaits.”
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