**I just finished this one, so belated Wednesday update! Thank you for your patience with this book. Things have been slow-going across the board, so I appreciate it.**
After dropping Theodore off at work, Russell headed to the police station. Inside, after topping off his coffee mug with the less-than-good coffee in the breakroom, he sat down at his desk. Before he could even turn on his computer, his lieutenant stopped in front of his desk.
“Morning, sir,” Russell greeted.
“Morning, Steele. How’re you doing this morning?”
“Been better, been worse. What’s up?”
“Got a case downtown. Could be a suicide, could be a homicide, could be an accident. Responding officers have requested a homicide detective to be safe. If you’re ready for it, I’d like to send you down there.”
“I’ll definitely take a case.”
“Thought you might. Follow me?”
“Of course, sir.” Russell pushed himself to his feet, grabbing his coffee mug. On the walk to his lieutenant’s office, he asked, “So what do we know?”
“Woman fell to her death from a window at BuzzCorp. Don’t know her name or age yet, but it’s assumed she worked there. She had a lanyard around her neck for a nametag, but the nametag itself wasn’t found attached to it.” He grabbed a folder from his desk and held it out to Russell. “Initial dispatch call transcription and audio recording. There are about seven of them that came in within seconds of each other. One of the calls was from someone inside the building, and the other six were from people on the ground.”
“Thank you, sir.” Russell held up the folder as he backed up toward the door. “I’ll do you proud.”
“After your work with Vince’s case, I’m already more than aware of that. Keep me posted, Steele.”
“Will do, Loo.” Russell walked out of the lieutenant’s office, closing the door behind him. He hadn’t hoped his next case would be a possible suicide, but he’d take it. He needed work. He needed something to make his mind focus on, something that wasn’t his father, abuse or his time undercover in narcotics.
Yeah, he’d definitely take it, possible suicide or not.
By the time Russell got to BuzzCorp, the place was packed. Civilians swarmed the barricades, phones out and filming. The reporters hung further away from the scene, but it meant very little for their integrity. One of the cameramen for Channel 7 stood atop their van for a better angle on the scene.
Russell shook his head, his jaw tense. He had a general distaste for most journalists, but flocking to a possible suicide just because it was probably trending on Twitter felt like a new low for them. Using someone’s death–whether it be a homicide or a suicide–for clicks and views had always been despicable to Russell. Reporting the news was one thing. Climbing atop a van to try and film the victim’s corpse was another.
He managed to find the only remaining place to park on the side of the street about two blocks away from the scene. Hands shoved into his pockets, he walked back toward the BuzzCorp building. He did his best to keep his head up rather than bowed away from the cameras. He wouldn’t dignify their questions with any answers, but he hated the way they framed articles when detectives and officers from RPD shied away from the cameras.
Untucking his hands, he ducked until the yellow police tape framing the scene. “How bad is she?” he asked.
“Pretty bad, but… not as bad as you’d expect from the fall, I guess,” Officer Miller said, his voice quiet. “Blood all over the pavement. Head caved in. Broken banister pieces all around her. Which, uh…” He cleared his throat. “All I’m saying is, if she jumped, I don’t know why she chose the only window on that floor where she would’ve needed to climb over a wood banister.”
Russell nodded. Looking up at the BuzzCorp building, he couldn’t help but wonder the same thing. “Thanks, Miller.”
“Yeah. Good luck, Steele.”
Russell clapped a hand down on the officer’s shoulder and made his way back to the small white tent that had been set up over the victim’s body. “Morning, Ellie.”
The forensic analyst lifted her head before pushing herself to her feet. “Morning.” She looked over at the crowd of people beyond the police tape, shaking her head. “God, can you believe this?”
“I… unfortunately can. Anything for a damn click,” Russell said. He cleared his throat. “Do we know anything? Other than, uh… where she fell from.”
“She’s an intern. I didn’t quite catch his name, but the coworker that was, umm…” Ellie wiped her forearm down her cheek, keeping her gloved hand free of contamination. “The coworker that was coming back with coffee when she, uh, fell, is inside. I got in before any of the officers, so I sent him back inside and asked him to sit on one of the benches in there.”
Russell nodded. “That’s helpful. Thanks, Ellie.”
“Of course.” A pause. “You don’t think she jumped, do you?”
“Not on her own, no.”
“Good. Me neither.” Ellie bumped his shoulder with her own. “Go interview the other intern. I’ll let you know what I find when I know more.”
“Sounds good. Thanks, Ellie.” He patted her on the back and made his way up to the BuzzCorp building. Inside the lobby, he found the other intern sitting on one of the benches against the wall. He sat hunched over, face buried in the heels of his palms, fingers pulling at his hair. The cardboard cup holder sat beside him on the bench, all six spots still filled with a coffee cup.
“Excuse me, sir?” Russell asked. The man lifted his head, but not enough to look at him. Russell squatted down in front of him. “Hey. How’re you doing?”
“Not great,” the intern whispered. “So… so not great.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry you had to see what happened out there. I wouldn’t even wish it on a cop, let alone a civilian.” Russell cleared his throat. “I hate to ask this, but I… I do have to know. Have you spoken to anyone about what happened?”
The intern shook his head. “No. I-I’ve just been sitting here like that lady out there told me to. Is that okay?”
“That’s more than okay. Preferred, really. Thank you for listening to her.” Russell pushed himself to his feet, unable to handle the burn in his knees any longer. He sat down beside the man instead. “I’m Detective Steele. Can I get your name?”
“Jack. Umm… Jack Lawrence.”
“Do you prefer Jack or Mister Lawrence?”
Russell nodded. Clearing his throat, he reached into the inside pocket of his suit jacket and grabbed his notepad. “Jack, do you know who fell?”
Jack nodded, fingers twisting in his hair. “Mya.”
“Do you know her last name?”
“Mmhmm.” Jack hunched forward just a little further. “Bradley.”
Russell wrote the name down and made a note to find her next of kind. “How well did you know Ms. Bradley, Jack?”
“We both were accepted into an internship position after college last year. So, umm…” Jack swallowed, scrubbing both hands over his head. “I knew her for about six months, I think. We’ve been… seeing each other for the last three weeks.”
“You were dating?”
“Seeing each other.”
“I’m sorry, Jack. I’m not sure I know the difference.”
“Dating is, like, dating. Seeing each other is, umm… is when you can still see other people without it being cheating. I-if I took her out for lunch, she could still get coffee with someone else the next day. If she liked coffee guy better than me, we don’t have to keep seeing each other, and we go our separate ways, no hard feelings.”
“Do you think everyone she was seeing understood it that way?” Russell asked.
“What?” Jack asked, his voice barely above a whisper. “Y-you think someone…?”
“I’m exploring our options.”
Jack sniffled. “I, umm… I know there was a guy who didn’t wanna see her once she explained they weren’t actually dating. I-I don’t know how big of a problem he was. I think she only told me about him the one time.”
“Do you know his name?”
“She might’ve told me his first name. I can… I can check our texts.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Russell said, his voice soft.
Jack leaned up to pull his phone from his pocket, and he used the back of his free hand to wipe his nose. Russell had no problem with who chose to ‘see’ someone or ‘date’ someone, but he had an unfortunate feeling that the person who had actually pushed Mya to her death had been someone who hadn’t taken the ‘seeing’ label so well.
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