"Chief," Sharon stood at the door of his office and waited for him to gesture her inside.
"Commander, please take a seat," Pope walked towards his conference room table. "So I hear you're getting married soon?"
Sharon silently cursed herself for being prompt. Mason wasn't there yet and now she'd have to endure the awkward attempts of Will Pope pretending to care about the personal lives of his staff. "Uh yes. The end of November after Thanksgiving in fact."
Pope took a seat at the end of the table, the power seat they say, "Good, good. Kids all coming out I suppose?"
Sharon plastered on a smile, "Yes. My daughter will be in the wedding in fact. That's partly why we picked that date she has a small break before the holiday shows begin."
"Ah right, right. She's still in New York then?" He asked twiddling his fingers.
Sharon had to hide the look of surprise from her face that Pope remembered anything about her kids, "Yes. She still has another two years on her contract then I believe she's coming back to Los Angeles. Ballet is hard on the body and you can only do it for so long. She's talking about getting her masters. We'll see, it'd be great to have her back in town again." She paused looking at the door hoping that Mason would arrive soon, she didn't want to have to keep up the charade much longer, "And you how are your children?"
"Oh well the oldest leaves next week for college. Freshman at UC Davis," the man may have a number of faults, but by the grin on his face and the gleam in his eye there was no doubt he was a proud father
"Oh congratulations," her voice was full of sincerity.
"Yeah, I'm not keen on her being so far from home, but it might be good to have her away from her mother's influence for awhile. My youngest has another two years of high school to finish. Can't believe I'll have two in college at the same time," his expression changed to concern. Sharon knew how hard it was to finance two kids at university together, thankfully with Ricky and Emily being three years apart it didn't last that long, but that year felt like a decade.
"Tao, has all three boys in college right now," she said in an effort to cheer him up.
He let out mouthed wow, but before he could say anything in response the door opened. Sharon couldn't help but feel relieved when she saw Mason at the door.
"Apologies, still dealing with some transition meetings," Mason offered up as he quickly found a seat across from Sharon.
Pope waved him off, "Ok Sharon what's going on that was so important that you meet with us together?" Will never had any problems switching gears and jumping straight into business, Sharon was surprised that he held off as long as he did.
Sharon cleared her throat, "Major Crimes picked up a case Saturday afternoon in the Hollywood Hills. A young African American woman was assaulted two days earlier and left to die. We struggled initially to get an ID on our victim, but yesterday Tao was able to confirm the prints —" Sharon turned her attention to Pope, "It's Ann Mason."
"Who?" Chief Mason asked clearly not able to recall the woman's name. There's no reason he should, he wasn't even running CI five years ago.
Pope leaned back in his chair, eyes wide as he brought his hand to his face, "And we are 100% sure?"
"We would need DNA to be completely certain, but yes the DMV print matches our victim and the prints we lifted from her car which is also registered in Ann's name. It's her Chief," she replied, they both continued to ignore Mason's confusion for the moment, he'd catch up eventually.
He got up and moved to the window and looked back at Sharon, his mind running through the entire situation, "Do we have any leads on suspects yet?"
"Unfortunately no. We are bringing in the homeowner," she looked at her watch, "within the hour once he lands at LAX. Ann was housesitting for him while he was away on business. At this point we have very little to go on. The killer wore gloves, we are sending CID back to the house to check for any DNA the killer may have left, but I'm not hopeful that we will find any."
Mason raised his hands, "Can someone explain to me why this victim is such a big deal? I've never even heard of her. Is she supposed to be famous or something?"
Sharon looked up to Pope who gave her a nod, "Back in 2012, I was following Major Crimes around conducting an audit around the Shootin' Newton case—"
"I remember, we were being sued by the victim's family. Baylor right?" He asked trying to quickly catch himself up.
"Right. Well it became obvious to me and Chief Pope that the Baylor's attorney, Peter Goldman, was privy to details about the case that were never made public. We suspected a mole in the division. I stayed on with the team to figure out who the leak might be, and that summer I caught a lead. Detective Gabriel was dating a young woman, a recent law school graduate, that turned out to be a spy for Goldman. He hired her to get information out of Gabriel and pass it to him. That woman was Ann Mason," she gave a nearly imperceptible shutter, still despising that case.
Light bulbs immediately went off for Asst Chief Mason, "Ok, caught up. Have you notified the family yet?"
"No, we are holding off as long as possible. No missing persons has been filed with her yet. We would like to get a better handle on this before we share any details with the family. Considering her relationship with a former LAPD detective we have concerns that they might go to the media and turn this case into a bigger nightmare than it already is. Based on what she told a friend about the break-up, I don't think anyone in her circle knows the truth about what really happened," she clasped her hands in front of her, "Chief," she turned back to Pope, "I'm going to bring Hobbs in this afternoon, but I think we need to give Brenda a courtesy call."
Will nodded in agreement and looked back out the window.
Mason was thoroughly surprised by both their responses to handling this case. "Wait," he scoffed, "you're going to tell former Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson that the woman that helped bring down her career is dead. Isn't she a suspect?"
Sharon jumped to the woman's defense, "Chief Johnson retired, and it wasn't due to the Baylor case. Not that it helped anything, but she was cleared —"
"Except that they created a rule for handling suspects because of her and even named it after her. How can you say she wouldn't what revenge for what happened?" He asked annoyed with how keen they were to eliminate her as a potential suspect.
Sharon looked up to Pope figuring he would jump in to defend his former lover's honor, but none came so she continued, "That's true Chief, however, the real reason she left was because of Stroh. Brenda is not the type of person to seek revenge for something that happened five years ago. She's moved on—"
"Besides, she was in Atlanta last week," Pope offered out of nowhere.
Sharon had no idea that the two stayed in touch after she left, their split was less than amicable at the time. She and Brenda stayed in touch professionally, occasionally their cases bumping into the DA's Investigative team, but they were never on more friendly terms. "Visiting family?" she inquired.
Pope moved back to the conference room table, but remained standing, "Her father passed away, she went back for the funeral," his voice was somber and layered with unrelated regret.
Her heart immediately went out to Brenda, Willy Rae died five years ago around the same time and she knew how hard Brenda took the loss. It's never easy losing a parent, but when they're both gone you suddenly have this strange overwhelming sensation that you've been orphaned. She couldn't explain it, but she'd talked about it with others who described the same feeling. She looked across at Mason who had a look of self-deprecation for jumping to conclusions. He was great when it came to tech stuff, but he still had a lot to learn about solving murders. A smile came to her face as she recalled their first case together and her reminding him to call the victim by name, instead of the "subject" a hold over from his Criminal Intelligence days — how life comes full circle.
"In any case," Sharon redirected in an effort to wrap up the meeting and get back to her team, "We need to let her know. We're holding off telling Gabriel or anyone else until deemed absolutely necessary."
Pope nodded in agreement, "Fine," he stepped towards his desk clearly done with the briefing and ready to move on to his next appointment, "Whatever resources you need Commander, don't worry about the overtime."
Taking her cue she stood up, "Thanks Chief."
"Please keep us informed," he gestured at both himself and Mason.
"Will do," with that she collected her things and excused herself from the lion's den and headed down two floors to the murder room. She enjoyed the momentary solace the short journey on the elevator. She laughed when the doors opened, unsurprised by the face standing in front of her.
"I hope you haven't been standing there all morning," her voice was cheeky and playful.
Andy rubbed the back of his neck, "Of course not, I was just passing by and saw the elevator open and there you were."
Sharon nodded with doubt, "Uh huh, we can talk about that later."
Andy followed her into her office, "So how did it go?"
She took off her blazer and hung it behind her, "About as expected. We have the Chief's full support, any resource."
Andy shrugged, "Well that's something. At least you won't have to beg for overtime for a change."
She let out a soft hum as she moved to the window staring out at the view. She could see City Hall across the street. She felt Andy move up behind her, "What is it?"
"Did you know the Chief's dad died recently?" She didn't need to preface which Chief he'd know who she was talking about. Even though she retired, she would always be the Chief.
Andy shook his head, "No, I haven't heard but to be fair I haven't really kept in touch lately. We've been so busy here and with the wedding. Howard didn't say anything?"
She gave a subtle shake, "Now that he's back working in SOB we don't see each other as much. We haven't had a case where we needed his team. I saw him in a budget meeting a month ago, but I gather the death was more recent." She turned back around to face him.
He moved away to the other side of her desk, to give her some space, it was time to get back into work mode, "I'll tell the team. Maybe we should send some flowers or something?"
"That would be nice," she said taking a seat, "Anything to report," she inquired switching gears.
"Julio and Amy just left for the airport, the flight in from Vancouver is running a little early. Buzz and Paige are working backwards on the traffic cams to help put together a timeline and whereabouts before she went to the house." He moved towards her open door, "We'll let you know when Micah arrives. When are you expecting Hobbs?"
She glanced at her watch, "Around lunch time. She is in court this morning."
He gave the door jam a pat in acknowledgement "If you need me I'll be RACR going through the painstakingly slow click-through traffic cam angles." He gave a small pout as he stepped out of her office.
She smiled as she watched him walk away, he might joke about being annoyed with the work, but she knew in reality he was glad to be doing something useful again. It wasn't out with the team, but he wasn't just a glorified desk monkey any longer. It brought him new found satisfaction, running his own team, delving into surveillance, she saw the fire returning to his eyes and was glad to get her old Andy back. For months after his heart attack it seemed like he was always shuffling a step behind, not really here, not really engaging. His mind was elsewhere, torn between reminiscing the old days and pondering retirement. She knew he loved his job, but it wasn't until after the explosions, then reshuffling that he began to really mentally recover from his heart attack. Like anything else he needed to grieve the loss of what was, and accept what is — he spent months in complete denial that he even had a heart attack, let alone why. Sharon chuckled for a moment when she thought back to the countless conversations they had about him not experiencing any stress, if it wasn't so serious she'd say it was adorable. When he was finally out of view, she turned her attention back to her laptop and the work ahead, leaving thoughts of Andy for another time.
An hour later Provenza's phone buzzed. Micah cleared customs at LAX. Julio and Amy picked him up and were headed back. Given traffic at 10 in the morning, it would take them a little while to get back. He set his phone down and got up to give the Commander a status update when he noticed Orderno walking into the murder room. Provenza was still feeling grumpy from his ruined weekend and couldn't help but vent his frustration on the unsuspecting man, "What are you doing back up here?"
Nolan looked up from his desk to see him hand Provenza a file folder. "Another missing persons report came in earlier this morning. It matches your victim. The original report came into the LA County Sheriff's office. I put a flag out on anyone matching the description, which is how it landed on my desk."
Provenza was surprised when he opened the file, the name was a match, "Who called it in?"
Robby put his hands in his pockets and stared at the murder board, "The victim's brother. Said he tried calling her several times this weekend, they were supposed to meet up on Sunday. When she never showed up he stopped by her condo, but she wasn't home. So he called it in. LA County was going to slow walk it, less than 72 hours, but when they saw my flag they went ahead and rushed it over." He pointed to the DMV picture Nolan printed and posted earlier, "Looks like your victim."
"Because it is," Provenza sunk back in his chair. He knew they'd have to deal with the family sooner than they wanted, but now that a report had been filed. "I want you to call the sheriff's office and tell them to transfer the case over to you." Provenza turned around and pointed, "Nolan, I want you to go down with Orderno and call the brother. See what kind of information, background we can get on her."
Nolan got up from his chair and grabbed the coat hanging off the back. He didn't mind gathering intel, but wasn't sure why they needed Orderno to stay involved, "And he's just gonna buy LAPD working the case because?" Nolan asked getting up from his chair.
Robby turned at stood next to Wes, he could see the man was sizing him up, "Because his sister lives in our jurisdiction."
Wes couldn't offer a response, so he smartly kept his mouth shut and followed Robby out, while Provenza looked towards the Commander's office. Reluctantly, he got up and knocked on her open door.
"Come in," she said without looking up.
"Uh, Commander," he paused.
"Are Julio and Amy on their way back?" Knowing that she should be expecting their return soon.
"Yes, yes they are. Julio just sent a text that they were on their way. Probably 30 minutes out." He said moving towards the chairs in front of her desk.
She closed the lid of her mac book, "Is there something else? I saw Robby stopped by."
"Yes there is, Ann's brother has reported her missing," he said handing her the file.
"Dammit," she rarely swore, but nothing about this case was going the way she wanted. She took the file out of his hand and began flipping through it, "LA County?"
He nodded, "We're getting it transferred. Nolan and Orderno are going to go collect background."
"Sounds like he didn't know she was housesitting if he went by her condo," talking to herself, "Maybe they weren't all that close. Ok, let me know what Wes comes up with. When Julio arrives I want Amy and Paige to conduct the interview."
Provenza gave her a quizzical look clearly surprised by her selection and let out a long and drawn out, "Ok" before stepping out of her office. Sharon worked in strange and mysterious ways, but her methods were usually the right ones.
Paige shot off a quick text to her supervisor when they pulled up to PAB, letting them know they'd arrived. Andy made his way back into the murder room with Tao and pulled the projection screen down over the board to hide the case details from Micah.
Andy went to meet Amy and Camila at the elevators, while Provenza and Tao headed to electronics. He want to hold back and wait for Sharon, needing the opportunity to size up their homeowner for himself. Vancouver was a 20 hour drive from LA, not impossible for Mr. Williams to drive down commit the murder and drive back while maintaining his alibi. The scenario was doubtful, but until they talked to him they couldn't rule anything out.
When Micah arrived in the murder room, he looked around the room clearly baffled why he was brought here. Sharon stepped out of her office and made her way to him, "Mr. Williams, thank you for coming in today."
"Your detectives didn't really give me much of a choice in the matter," he said coming to a stop in the middle of the room.
She opted not to respond, "Amy will you take him to the conference room? We'll have everything straightened out shortly and then you can be on your way."
Andy followed Sharon as she turned around and walked towards the electronics room where the rest of the squad, except Nolan, stood. They watched as Amy stepped into the conference room where Det. Paige was waiting for them.
"Please take a seat," Amy gestured.
"Can someone please tell me why I've been taken from LAX to the police station? Customs said I was cleared to enter the country, was there some issue with my passport?" The man asked still trying to piece together the strange events of his morning.
"Can you tell us where you've been?" Paige asked.
"Canada," he placed his hands on the table, relaxed "Vancouver to be more specific."
"For vacation?" Amy asked as if she didn't already know the answer.
"No work. I work for a movie studio and they were having some issues filming on location. I flew up to sort out the legal problem on set. I don't normally travel for these kinds of things, but it's a big movie and doing it in person seemed easier," he was animated as he spoke and everyone could tell the responses were honest and forthcoming.
"Hmm what movie?" Paige asked, it wasn't relevant but she was hoping to make him more comfortable.
"I can't really say, but it's got a big named action star in it. Big deal for the studio. So is that why I've been brought in because I was in Canada?" He replied still confused.
Amy switched gears, "How long have you been living in the Hollywood Hills?"
He leaned back in his chair, "Not long, I just got the house actually. The commute is a bitch, I used to live closer to the studio, but my business analyst said this would be a good investment. Why?" He asked beginning to grow suspicious of their questions, "Did something happen to my house is that why I'm here?"
"Can you tell us how you know Ann Mason?" Paige asked knowing they were running out of time before he asked for a specifics.
The question caused his posture to change, he straightened up in his seat, ""Yeah she's an old friend. She's between jobs at the moment, so I'm having her housesit while I'm out of town, give her a little extra cash," he looked between the two women, "Did something happen to Ann? Why aren't you telling me anything?"
"Do you know if Ann had any enemies?" Amy asked as a follow-up, continuing to tag team with Camila.
"Everyone loved Ann. Well everyone, but that ex of hers from a few years ago," he caught the shared look between the two, "he was one of you, you know."
Back in the electronics room, concern grew as Micah brought up David. Sharon looked towards Andy who was standing, as always, behind her right shoulder. He gave her an I know how it sounds looks. She spun back around in her seat, folding her arms.
"You knew Detective Gabriel?" Amy asked, neither she or Paige ever worked with David which was one of the reasons Sharon wanted them to question Micah.
"Oh yeah a few times, she brought him to a party I threw at my condo. Seemed like a nice guy, but looks can be deceiving. They move in together and a few weeks later he kicks her out of the place. She showed up on my doorstep, poor thing, didn't know where to go. Worst break-up I've ever seen. Anyways, besides him everyone got along well with Ann. Now can you please tell me why you are asking me all of these questions. Do I need to call my lawyer?" Micah pulled his phone out of his suit coat pocket.
Amy put her hand up, "We will explain in a moment. When is the last time you heard from Ann?"
He set his phone down for a moment, and rubbed his cheek as he thought about it, "I guess it was last Tuesday. She called, we didn't chat long but I remember her saying that she was going to stop by a party at one of my neighbor's houses later that week. Apparently he came over to extend an invite to me, and they hit it off. Oh and I guess a quick text on Thursday saying an offer came in for my condo," he turned his eyes back towards the detectives, "I haven't heard from her since, but I was so busy that I guess I didn't notice that it's been a few days."
"What's your neighbor's name, the one that threw the party?" Paige asked, they knew a party was held because the neighbor that called it in mentioned it and it's why her car was so far from the house, but they didn't think it was pertinent to the case at the time.
"Oh, uh, Logan Seager, he's an investment banker. Works downtown, odd hours, I think he's on the Singapore desk." He watched as the two took notes, but remained silent, "Now I'm done answering any more questions, until you tell me what this is all about," his hands hit the desk with a bit more force than he likely intended but the effect was the same.
Amy gave Paige the go-ahead, "A missing person's report was recently filed by Ann's brother. We are speaking with everyone who was in contact with her leading up to her disappearance."
It was a last minute change in tactics, Sharon decided that the missing person's report could be used to their advantage. It was a half-truth, a report was filed, but no one needed to know just yet that they already found her.
Everyone watched his reaction carefully, gauging whether the news came as a surprise. "Oh god," he brought his hands to his face, "She's missing? For how long since when?"
Amy spoke calmly, she could tell this was the first he was hearing of the news, "Well, her brother tried calling her several times over the weekend, and was supposed to have lunch with her yesterday, but she was a no show. He called it in this morning."
"Have you, uh, talked to her roommate?" He said his voice shaking.
"We plan to bring her in as well," Paige said leaving the answer as vague as possible.
"It sounds like the last place she was seen was your house. We've sent crime scene techs and patrol to your house," Amy added as nonchalantly as possible, they needed to make sure he didn't go home and find the bloody crime scene.
"Sure of course, I can swing by my condo and shower before I head into work," he tried to pull himself together, "If there's anything I can do—"
Both women stood up, "Thank you, we will be sure to be in touch," Amy said ushering Micah towards the door.
"Well that went better than expected," Tao offered, "The missing persons report really played into our hands there."
"Indeed," Sharon shook her head, "We've managed to buy ourselves a bit more time. Julio, go see if you can talk to the roommate again. I don't want her getting suspicious if Micah or the brother call her."
Julio pushed back from the cabinet he was leaning against and walked out of electronics. Sharon turned towards Provenza "Anything from Wes yet?"
"No, nothing yet," he said checking his messages once more.
"Andy please have Amy and Camila go back to the house and follow-up on this Mr. Seager. See if there's anything more to the story about a possible love interest."
He said "Ok" and stepped out.
Sharon returned her attention to Tao and Provenza, still thinking through the information they'd collected to date, "Well," her thoughts were interrupted when Hobbs opened the door.
The surprise of a new visitor caused them Sharon to turn around, "I thought you were in court this morning?" Sharon asked puzzled at her friend's early arrival.
"I was. Defense asked for another continuance," she huffed clearly annoyed that she wasn't going to be doing verbal battle today, "You wanted to chat, so I figured I'd cross the street and see what new things Major Crimes had for me today."
Sharon stood up, "We do." She gestured for Hobbs to step out and join her in her office, "Keep at it. Interrupt me if you find anything."
Once Hobbs stepped into her office she turned around and closed the door behind her. Hobbs set her briefcase down, but waited to sit, "So what's going on? You've got that look."
"Do you remember a few years ago, before I was with Major Crimes, investigating Brenda for that Baylor case?" Sharon asked pointing to the chairs in front of her desk, wanting her friend to get comfortable it was going to be a long chat. Hobbs nodded and she continued, "Well then, you might, uh, remember an Ann Mason—"
Before Sharon could even finish her sentence Andrea let out a guttural moan, "Please don't tell me this woman has lodged a complaint?" She groaned again, "I've got both of them across the street with us now, the DA's office really can't get saddled with any scandals right now Sharon."
"Well, she didn't lodge a complaint, exactly" Sharon said a bit sarcastically. Andrea gave her a curious look, "She's our victim. She was assaulted and died last Thursday night."
Andrea stood up from her chair so quickly she almost knocked it back, "Last Thursday and I'm only just hearing about this?" She began to pace, "My boss is going to lose it."
Sharon held up her hands, "Hang on, we didn't get a positive ID until yesterday. Her face was badly beaten in and there was no ID left with the body." Andrea stopped pacing and seemed to calm down at the realization that her friend did not conceal information for the last four days. "We are still trying to piece together a timeline and figure out what happened."
"Please tell me you have some lead on a suspect," she implored.
"Possible lead on a neighbor. Ann's friend said she mentioned that she and the neighbor recently hit it off, might be something there," Sharon tried to sound hopeful, but she knew in reality they didn't have much to work with at the moment.
"Ok, walk me through everything. I'm going to need to brief the DA when I get back," Andrea returned to her seat concerned, but more calm than before.
It took nearly an hour to bring Andrea up to speed with what happened five years ago, and with where the case stood now. When she finally left she took the free moment to go to the break room and grab some lunch. Andy thankfully remembered to bring their leftovers from the night before when they rushed out this morning. She found her Tuscan kale salad with grilled chicken and returned to her desk.
"Ma'am," Buzz paused waiting for the Commander to look up from her computer the remnants of her half-eaten salad sitting next to her, "I think you need to come see this."
Sharon looked around and noticed the rest of the team heading down the hall towards RACR, "Did you find something?" She got up and put her blazer back on as she stepped out of her office through the side door.
"Uh, maybe," he fell into step behind her.
When they reached RACR she noticed that the traffic cam video was still up on the screen from the night before. She turned to Andy trying to read him, his face was neutral but his eyes were full of concern. "Okay what do we have?"
Andy gave Buzz a wave of the hand to go ahead with playing the video, "Well I was going back through the traffic cam video working our way forward since we tracked her back to the freeway and then lost her." Andy gave him a pointed look to get on with the point, "when I got back to the intersection in front of the market I realized that I didn't check the video when she left. Because she pulled out of the lot directly onto Canyon and didn't go through the intersection, but—"
Andy cut him off tired of dragging this out, "Take a look at the car turning right onto Canyon from Franklin shortly after our victim leaves the store."
The first angle Buzz showed was a side view and there was nothing to tell except the make and model. It appeared to be a two-year old dark blue Lexus IS. "What's so significant about this car?"
Buzz turned the camera on from the opposite direction.
"It isn't about the car, it's about who is driving the car," Andy replied cautiously.
The whole team turned their attention to the monitors. The video was grainy, but it was still fairly obvious who was sitting behind the steering wheel.
"Oh," Sharon let out.
"Yeah, so things just got way more complicated," Andy shook his head and looked across the room at Provenza who appeared just as stunned as Andy was a few minutes ago when he saw the video for the first time.
"Do we have any idea where he goes from here?" Provenza was trying to be hopeful despite the evidence in front of him.
Buzz shook his head, "No, he's two cars behind our victim as they drive up Canyon. Maybe it's just a coincidence."
"Buzz didn't they teach you anything in your reserve officer training?! There are no such things as coincidences," Provenza barked out. It had nothing to with Buzz, but the case was becoming more tangled than a mangrove root.
"We need to bring him in," Sharon stated somberly.