Sharon looked at the clock, it was only half-passed two, but it felt much later. This case was moving quickly, but with little results to show for it. Every time she turned around there was another complication, another stumbling block in their way. She couldn't believe their rotten luck when she saw the video footage Buzz pulled off the traffic cameras. Sharon let out a frustrated groan, wondering why on earth it had to be him of all people.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on her door. She didn't need to look up to know by its sound that it was Julio. For such a strong, and often angry man he also had the ability to be unbelievably gentle. It reminded her of the old boxing phrase, "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," that was most certainly Julio.
Julio waited until Sharon looked up and acknowledged his presence before stepping partially into her office. "Ma'am patrol found the car."
Sharon couldn't help but show her surprise, "Already?" She immediately pushed back from her desk and stood up to follow Julio, "Where?"
Julio stepped back into the murder room before pointing out the window, "It's parked across the street at the courthouse."
Across the room Nolan shouted, "What's he doing there?"
Completely deadpanned Julio shrugged and responded, "Traffic ticket?" causing the room to break out in snickering laughter.
Sharon raised her arms gesturing to bring the professionalism back to the room. She looked out the window, "Okay, we need to get on this now before he goes anywhere." Turning around she walked towards the rest of the team "Buzz can you fit one of your button cams onto Amy's blouse?"
"Of course Commander, it'll just take me a few minutes to get it set-up," Buzz pushed back from his desk and walked out into electronics to get his equipment.
"Mike, I want you to go with her," Sharon said going back to the window as if she could see his car parked across the street. "I don't want you to get him too riled up. See if he will agree to come back to PAB to talk to us. If he refuses find out what you can about why he was in the area. He doesn't live in that part of town and as far as we know he doesn't know our victim, so we need to find the connection to Canyon Drive."
The mood in the room seemed to shift as Buzz returned and began fitting the camera onto the lapel of Amy's jacket.
Julio raised his hand, "If I promise not to throw the first punch can I go with them?"
Nolan was all to happy to join in on the fun. In the almost twelve months he had worked with the team he was finally starting to settle in and feel part of the family. Taking part in the jokes and camaraderie that he missed being an undercover unit of one, "Maybe we should all go with them, like a class trip it could be fun."
Sharon leaned against the desk and as she watched their playful banter, they needed a few minutes of laughter and until Buzz was ready to go they could spare the time.
"I refuse to be the chaperone," Provenza said keeping his eyes on his crossword.
Andy stood up and quickly fired back, "You've never chaperoned anyone a day in your life."
The comment got him to look up, "What are you talking about, I chaperone you every day," Provenza shot.
When she saw Andy ready to respond she put her hands up, "Enough," calling an end to things before they had an opportunity to spiral out of control.
After checking the video monitoring and readjusting the flag pin with the mini-cam Buzz gave a thumbs up, "Okay, the camera is working. Good to go."
Sharon pushed herself off the desk, "Remember ignore his taunts, we want to get as much information out of him before he gets suspicious."
Amy and Mike nodded before making their way down stairs and across the street towards the courthouse, while the rest of the team filed into electronics to watch the live video feed from Amy's button camera.
It only took them a few minutes to reach the parking garage next to the courthouse. "Patrol said it's on the third level of the parking garage, second aisle," Amy said as they stepped onto the elevator.
They walked up an down the rows looking for the blue Lexus. Amy was the first to spot it, "That's definitely our Lexus." They walked closer to double-check the license plate, "Is it just me or does that seem way out of his price range."
"I guess nothing is out of your price range when you're a dirty cop," Mike retorted clearly annoyed being sent to talk to his ex-partner.
Mike knelt down to take a closer look at the car, looking to see if there was anything that might be important to the case. Amy checked the windows, verifying the car was empty when she heard a familiar voice call out, "What's the problem now Honor Roll?"
She looked up a found the inspiration for several disturbing sex dreams walking towards her. Even in a suit he had a rugged, bad boy look about him that seemed impossible to pull off. Amy knew it was wrong on so many levels, but she could deny the fact that he was attractive. She pushed away the body shuddering thoughts remembering why she was here in the first place, "We'd like to talk to you about where you were three nights ago?"
Mark continued walking towards Amy, not noticing Mike kneeling next to the front bumper. His grin was mischievous and full of a familiar cocky bravado, "Not until you tell me why once again the LAPD is following me around like I'm some kind of criminal. Or maybe it's because you've got some kind of crush on me? Is that it Honor Roll?"
His remark caused Mike to stand up, the moment of surprise on Mark's face when he say Mike wasn't lost on either detective. Tao ignored his old partner's attempts at some form of sick and twisted flirting, "When did you get the new car? A bit pricey for an ex-cop."
Mark continued to stare directly at Amy as he replied, "Working as an investigator for the defense pays better. Now why do you care about what car I drive?"
It was clear to both detectives that Mark wasn't going to respond to Tao, he wanted to talk to his play thing. While Amy didn't have any desire to engage with this reprobate she also knew they needed some answers. Swallowing her disgust she took a step closer to him, "Where were you three nights ago Mark?"
He shrugged his shoulders and simply replied, "I was out."
"Maybe we should ask Sherry where you were?" Amy threw out knowing that mentioning his wife would immediately rile him up. She knew that was the exact thing the Commander didn't want, but in her experience with Hickman he only gave them something if he was fired up.
"I doubt that my ex-wife is still keeping tabs on my every move," he replied stepping closer to Amy. His grin made her feel uncomfortable. Tao watched the exchanged and was ready to call an end to all this nonsense.
"Sherry finally dumped your ass. Well good for her," Mike's voice was full of a unique brand of glee, "So if she can't tell us where you were then why don't you?"
He leaned against the trunk of his car a foot away from Amy, but staring down his ex-partner, "Like I said I was out. Probably having a drink," he paused looking back at Amy, "Maybe you should try it, you could certainly loosen up a bit."
Tao was officially annoyed. He walked up to Mark, getting in his face, "Try again." Mike held up a screen grab of the traffic camera, "Why were you headed up Canyon Drive in the Hollywood Hills around 7:30?"
There was no missing Hickman's annoyance, his posture changed, "This is harassment." He moved towards the driver side of the car, "Don't have enough cases of your own to work anymore?"
Amy stepped aside as Mark clicked the remote to open the car doors. Her voice was unnervingly calm, "Are you sure about that? Maybe we should arrest you for murder?"
"What?!" Mark spun around almost knocking Amy over.
Mike moved to Amy's side, "Yes Mark, murder," he pulled out the cuffs from the back of his waistband, "unless of course you'd rather tell us where you were going and why."
He scoffed at opened the door, calling their bluff, "If you had any real evidence that I did do something you would've already put me in those cuffs. No, I think you have nothing but some picture of me driving to a neighborhood at night, nothing more." He slid into the driver seat and turned the car on, "I'm done." He slammed the car door shut and rolled down the window, "Oh and tell Sharon that if you bother me again you better have more than that or I'll sue you for harassment."
"Dammit," Sharon muttered under her breath as she watched Mark drive off. They got nothing whatsoever from him.
"Well I thought that went well," Provenza rolled his eyes, sarcasm dripping from his voice.
Picking up their banter where they left off awhile ago, Flynn doesn't hesitate to respond, "Yeah so good I think we can go home early tonight."
Sharon shoots them both an annoyed look, "Not helpful." She rubs her temples feeling a headache coming on and whats worse is she isn't sure whether it's from the case or from her two Lieutenants acting like five year olds.
"Oh but we live to be helpful, don't we Flynn," he says patting his old friend on the back.
Before Andy can say anything else he sees the look that Sharon is giving him, it was clearly a "you won't have sex for days if you even think about continuing" looks. He wisely shut his mouth before he could put his foot in it and let her speak.
Sharon leaned back in the chair, crossing her arms facing away from the monitors. "At this point we have no evidence or reason to bring him in for more formal questioning. Just because his car was in the vicinity of our victim around the time of death doesn't mean there is a connection. Have we been able to figure out where their paths might have crossed?"
Andy rubbed his chin and looked up as he thought about her question, "Hickman works with a lot of defense attorneys it's possible that they met while Ann was working for one of the law firms," he looked back at Sharon and his partner, "We do know he has a tendency to stalk the women he's in love with, or at least thinks he's in love with. Maybe they dated for awhile, she broke it off and he became obsessed with her."
Buzz turned off the video feed as Mike and Amy began walking back across the street towards PAB, "You know the victim, Ann, she does look a bit like Amy, we've certainly seen the way he looks at her." No one could miss the way Mark leered at Amy a few minutes ago, or during any of their previous encounters, he certainly seemed to have some sort of odd interest in her.
"But murder is still a big jump from stalking an ex. I'm not sure I see it." Flynn moved away from the wall and stood behind Sharon, he could sense her frustration and was hoping to get a free moment with her to check in and make sure she was doing ok. She frequently would forget to eat or take a break when they got too involved in a case, it made him worry.
Flynn zoned out and almost missed Provenza's wise and seasoned thoughts on the case. "Well it's like I always says, it's always the ex-boyfriend—"
As much as it loathed Sharon to admit it Provenza was often right, in part because most cases were personal and it was usually a loved one or an ex-loved one at that the committed the crime, "You could be right about that Lieutenant," her voice dropped an octave "but the question remains which ex."
No one said anything in response, it wasn't necessary. Everyone knew that they were spinning their wheels trying to figure out who was important from Ann's past and might be relevant to the case. She let out a sigh ready to switch gears and hoping to have something more tangible to work from, "Have we heard anything else from CID?"
"Not yet ma'am." Julio shook his head, "But I can call downstairs and see if they managed to collect any new samples to test."
"Please," Sharon gave a nod to the order as Julio left electronics and headed to his desk to check in with the criminal investigative division.
They were grasping for straws. They had no witnesses and little to no evidence. It was looking like they would have to bring in friends and family soon. Based on the background that Nolan collected with Orderno earlier in the day, the family wasn't close. Father was dead, mother lived up north in Santa Clara. She only had the one sibling. Most of her aunts, uncles, and extended family lived out of state. They knew she stayed in close contact with several friends from college, but without having any ties to social media it was hard to figure out who else might have been in her orbit.
She stood up and walked out of electronics headed for her office, with her two Lieutenants in tow. Sharon directed her attention to Provenza, "Let's see if we can pinpoint, if and when Hickman and Mason could have met. Look through the cases that went to trial at those firms during the time Ann was working there compare that against any cases we know Hickman was investigating, perhaps we can find where they overlap."
Provenza gave a silent nod and walked back to his desk to update Nolan and the rest of the team on their next investigative project. He rubbed his hands with as much glee as Provenza can get, at knowing that he had so many minions to do this work while he labored away on his crossword — he was still stuck on Sunday.
Sharon didn't often go out in the field anymore, between her promotion and the added team members there was plenty of coverage. Unless her presence was required she spent most of her time in meetings and at her desk. Some days she found that a bit depressing, she enjoyed being outside and working a case, seeing her team in action, "Andy why don't you and I pick up where Amy left off and speak to the neighbor, Mr uh, Seager. While I have no idea why, it's possible Hickman was going to this party that he was throwing."
A filthy grin spread across Andy's face at the invitation to spend some alone time with his fiancé. It was work time, not nearly as fun, but these days he enjoyed any time they got to spend together. "Eager to spend some time out of the office with me?" He couldn't help but tease her.
One look at his face and Sharon regretted making the suggestion. She couldn't count the number of times he had suggested that they make-out for a few minutes before interviewing a suspect. For some reason that she never understood, knowing that he was going to watch her interview someone made him hotter than Hades for her. She guessed it was similar to the way she felt the heat rise up her chest when she saw him catch a suspect in a lie. She shook her head, either way now was not the time for any of that, "No, just figured if I was going to send you out into the field that I better come along to provide the necessary supervision. After all there are cars every where." She walked away smiling at the fact that she managed to slide in a jab when he was least expecting it.
He followed behind her, "Real funny Sharon. One time, and I never hear the end of it."
Andy drove the dark grey Ford Explorer across downtown to the investment firm that Seager worked for. As much as he wanted to chit-chat about family and non-work stuff he could hear the wheels grinding away in Sharon's head. He knew it was better to keep focused on the case for the time being, there would be other moments to really be together.
When he reached a stop light he turned to face her, "Well we know that Ann never made it to his party because she was attacked as she was putting away the groceries. It wouldn't have taken her more than five minutes to get up the hill once she pulled out of the parking lot. Another five to find parking on the crowded street. And maybe what another five to gather the mail, walk inside and set the groceries down. So she had to have been attacked about 15 minutes after she left the store."
Sharon hummed in agreement, "It fits the timeline. He would have arrived at the same time as she did."
The light turned green and he turned into the parking garage, "But we don't know for sure that Hickman stayed on Canyon. There's several side roads he could have veered onto. Just because he was on Canyon Drive at the same time as our vic doesn't really mean anything. Hell we saw ten cars before and another ten after Mason left the store."
Andy was right, they had nothing on Hickman. The only reason they flagged him for questioning was because they knew him, but any of those other cars could have been driven by the real killer who wasn't known to them. She touched Andy's arm as he put the SUV in park, stilling him from getting out just yet, "Everything you said is true, but I can't help myself from going back to something that Micah said during his interview. He said her ex was one of us and messed her up really good. I know he brought up Gabriel, because he mentioned him by name, but what if there was someone else that was a cop that also ended badly, what if she did go out with Hickman?"
He agreed it was in the realm of possibility, but something about the theory rubbed him the wrong way, "I thought about that too, but Hickman and Sherry were still married, until recently it sounds like, living on that boat. It doesn't fit."
Sharon smirked, "Just because you're married doesn't mean you can't date or have girlfriend, they don't seem to have the happiest of marriages."
Andy returned the smile, "No they don't." He squeezed her hand, "But we will, won't we." Sharon gave a nod and placed a peck on his cheek as they both finally stepped out of the car. Going straight back to the case Andy asked, "So, do you really think Hickman is our guy?"
They walked side by side towards the elevators, "Honestly I'm not sure. My gut says no, but nothing about this case feels right to me. I'm not sure if I can trust my instincts."
He bumped her shoulder, "Well I trust them. 18th floor," he said gesturing to the buttons.
Sharon leaned back against the steel wall, letting it bear in some small way the weight of this case, "What do you think?"
Andy remained by the doors, but turned to face her, "I think the guy is a creep, a sleazy dirt bag. A stalker definitely. Murderer doubtful."
The elevator chimed as the reached their floor. They walked to the the cherry wood receptionist desk and found an impeccably dressed young red-headed woman answering the phones. She held up her finger as the phone rang again, "Thank you for calling AJC Partners. Can you please hold?" She glanced at Sharon and Andy, giving a polite but curt greeting, "Can I help you?"
"Yes, we are looking for Mr. Seager," Andy said flashing his badge to the receptionist.
"One moment please. If you'll take a seat I'll let him know you're here." She got up from the desk and disappeared down the hall.
Sharon and Andy took the opportunity to take a look around the office. The firm wasn't huge, it took up half of the 18th floor. The offices were all glass, showing off the stunning views of Los Angeles. The lobby was full of pictures of non-profit work presumably designed to make potential clients feel better about investing with them. When they turned around they saw the receptionist walking back to her desk followed by an older gentleman. He looked to be Andy's age, but with more pepper than salt in his hair. Sharon gave Andy a quick look, this man looked nothing like the DMV photo they pulled of Logan Seager.
They kept their distance, as he approached and offered his hand to greet the officers, "I'm James Clayton, this is my firm. Can I ask why the LAPD is here looking for one of my employees?"
Andy took the lead, "This is Commander Sharon Raydor and I'm Lieutenant Flynn. We just need to ask him a few questions Mr. Clayton. Would you mind telling us where he is?"
Mr. Clayton ushered them into an empty conference room next to the lobby, "He flew to San Francisco today, we have offices there." He gestured towards the seats, but they waved him off, "Why are you looking for Logan?"
Andy ignored the man's questions and continued trying to get information about Seager's whereabouts. "When do you expect him to return?"
"Thursday," the man replied but offered nothing further.
Sharon could tell that Clayton wasn't going to give them anything else and interrupted before Andy could ask anything else, "If you could have him give us a call when he gets in." Andy handed him one of his cards and followed Sharon out of the office. They remained quiet as they rode the elevator back down to the parking garage.
Andy walked around to the passenger side door and opened it for Sharon. As he held it opened he asked, "I think we should confirm that Mr. Seager is indeed in San Francisco, don't you?"
Sharon climbed into the SUV, "It is certainly convenient timing. Ask Camilla to check with the airlines, then have Buzz pull video."
It was dark outside. Only a few lights remained on inside PAB. On the 9th floor, only Provenza, Buzz, Camilla remained, everyone else had staggered away at various intervals a few hours earlier. Provenza knew he should get home to Patrice, but he wanted to wait for Paige. Although he would never admit it aloud he was a big softy and Paige held a special place in his heart. She was doing good work now and he wanted to make sure she continued. He was about to tell her to leave it for the morning when she walked over to his desk with a stack of papers.
She sat at Amy's desk, clearly exhausted, "Lieutenant, I pulled the flight details for Logan Seager like Lieutenant Flynn asked. I've been checking them over and well there's something odd."
Paige was used to his grumpy and gruff manner and couldn't blame him for his shortness at this hour, "What?"
She handed him the papers and got up to stand behind him, looking over his shoulder as she pointed, "Well according to this he flew to Singapore over a week ago. He landed at San Francisco International this morning. He hasn't been in Los Angeles since August 5th."
Provenza spun around in his chair so fast he nearly knocked Paige down, "Are you sure?"
Paige jumped back avoiding Provenza's chair acrobatics and returned to Amy's desk. She rubbed her eyes, dry from hours of staring at the computer screen and pouring over information, "Buzz and I pulled the video of him going through customs at SFO and compared it to his DMV photo, it's him. We're are still going through the TSA video at LAX to confirm he did leave when the ticket claims he did, but yeah Seager hasn't been in country to talk to anyone let alone throw a party."
"So who the hell hosted a party at his house last Thursday night?" Provenza said rhetorically knowing that no one knew the answer to that ten dollar question.
Across town, Sharon stood in front of her dresser taking off her watch and getting ready for bed. It was nearly ten o'clock and despite having started the morning with two possible leads they were no closer to solving the case. She slipped on her silk robe and walked into the bathroom. Andy was in the shower, singing as he often did when he didn't think anyone was around to hear. Tonight it was quite fittingly Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" that he was serenading himself to as he shaved. She leaned against the door frame watching him from a distance as she rubbed moisturizer into her hands and arms. When Andy finally turned around and spotted her standing there he wiggled his eye brows at her and began swaying his hips, "Care to dance?"
She chuckled, "Maybe when you are less wet, dear."
"Your loss," he replied and turned around to wash off the remaining shaving cream.
Before Sharon could reply she heard the soft vibrations of her phone ringing on her night stand. Andy continued singing, even louder now that he knew Sharon was watching him. She gave the sight another smile before retreating back into the bedroom to answer her phone. At this hour she knew it could only be work. She let out a groan when the caller ID confirmed her suspicions.
Provenza skipped any greetings or awkward jokes, "I know it's late Commander, but I think you and Flynn need to come back to the station. Paige found something, or rather didn't find something she should have."
His comments were cryptic, but enough to raise cause for concern. She let out a groan, which Provenza thankfully ignored. "Okay, we'll be back in a half hour."
She set the phone back down and for a moment lay down on the bed, enjoying the stillness and comfort of being horizontal. If she didn't get up right away she knew she'd fall asleep in minutes. Reluctantly, she sat up and shrugged off the robe and returned to the bathroom. Andy was drying his hair when he looked up and saw her in just the silk nightgown, "Getting undressed without me?"
"Not tonight I'm afraid. We both need to get dressed." She ignored the moaning and groaning Andy made, "That was Provenza on the phone, he needs us to come back."