Provenza immediately smelled the scent of fresh coffee and bagels and looked up for the source of such a heavenly fragrance. When Rusty turned the corner into the murder room he was surprised to see Provenza practically jumping up from his chair, especially that the man in addition to not running never ever jumped.
"Is that from Wexler's?" Provenza inquired already grabbing at one of the bags Rusty had in his hands.
Rusty chuckled as he sat the box of coffee and other bag down on Amy's desk, "Only the best, for the best."
Without waiting for a formal invitation Provenza began rummaging through the bag searching for his "everything" bagel when Rusty's remark finally registered, "What do you want? Getting a jump on your Christmas list already?" He looked ready to put the bagel back if it came with strings attached.
He took a seat in Amy's empty chair and stared at the semi-lovable uncle in his life, "No, Lieutenant, just thought you guys could use it." He cast a glance towards his mom's empty office, "Mom and Andy have barely been home since you caught this case."
There was no missing the loneliness in his tone. Finally putting his detective skills to use, for more than rooting out truffles like a well trained hog, he noticed Rusty was wearing his suit. It was odd. Well not too odd in that he often wore a suit around PAB now. Even though his internship with Hobbs concluded two months ago, he seemed to be interested in dressing the part. What made it odd wasn't just that he wore a suit when he didn't need to, it was that he was there at all, "I thought you were visiting Gus this week?"
His fidgeting was immediately noticeable. He spun around in the chair, raising his feet so it would go all the way around, buying himself a moment to respond without sounding like a Coldplay album, "Yeah, didn't end up working out. We're going to try again next month." Rusty reached for a blueberry bagel and began picking at it, throwing out a question of his own before Provenza could interrogate him any further on matters of the heart. His mouth was full as he mumbled, "Where's everybody?" causing crumbs to fall into his lap.
Provenza shook his head, you could put a kid in a suit, but he'd still be a kid. He saw through the cool hand shuffle he pulled getting off the Gus topic, but vowed to revisit that at a later moment. For now he'd indulge Rusty, let him think that his stomach had greater control over his brain than it really did, "Your mom and Flynn are off giving Mason an update. Sent everyone else home a few hours ago to shower and get some clean clothes. Should be back soon."
He looked around the room again, sometimes it was weird being back here. So much of his growing up had taken place in this space that the idea of leaving it some day in the not so distant future was uncomfortable. Rusty pulled his mind back to non-adulting matters, "Mom hasn't mentioned anything about this case yet," he said finally taking a grown-up bite of his bagel.
Provenza brushed some of the crumbs off his desk once he finished devouring the bagel. He was tempted to have another, but Patrice was watching his weight like a hawk. Ever since Andy had his heart attack she'd been all over him to eat better, drink less, and all other kinds of nonsense. He argued that it wasn't him that had the heart attack, so what if Andy had to change his lifestyle, didn't mean he did. Then she said she'd count sex as exercise if he'd make a few changes, and well that quickly changed his mind about a great number of things. He turned his chair slightly to avoid staring at the bag of bagels, hoping that their sweet and savory deliciousness would stop calling out to him. It wasn't working, so he stared at Rusty instead, "Well we've been trying to keep this out of the media, but that's all about to change. We have to bring the family in and all hell might break loose after that."
Rusty's eyes wandered up and down the murder board, "I've never heard her name before. Why does this case have everyone so worried?"
Provenza turned around and not for the first time that morning found himself staring at Ann's picture. She was a beautiful girl. It was a shame what happened between her and Gabriel, but like he told David at the time, better it comes out now then ten years into a marriage. That's how one stacks up the ex's, David hadn't found the advice helpful at the time. He shrugged finally returning his attention back to Rusty, "Besides the fact that after four days we are no closer to finding the person responsible? Well, I guess you could say that this woman was responsible for bringing down two good cops, she could bring down even more than that this time."
He waited a second before giving a cheeky smile and changing the subject, "Now enough about that, tell me what's going on with you and Gus—"
"The video evidence is pretty clear Chief, Seager was out of the country at the time of the murder." Sharon handed Mason a stack of stills from the cameras at SFO and LAX catching their potential suspect leaving nearly three weeks ago and returning on Monday. The evidence was clear, they needed to move on.
Mason handed the images back to Sharon, "And we still don't know who threw a party at his house?"
Andy stepped forward and shook his head, "We tried calling him at the office in San Francisco he says he will answer our questions when he returns to LA tomorrow, but only with his lawyer present."
"Lawyer? Well that sends up red flags." Chief Mason rubbed the back of his neck, this case was going to give him a permanent headache. He now understood why he found a a large bottle of aspirin in the desk drawer. He'd asked Howard if it was his, and he said no, a hold over from Taylor. It seemed prudent to have it on hand. One day he flipped it over and saw Flynn and Provenza scrawled on the back, he wasn't entirely sure he understood the reference. When he mentioned it in passing to Pope the man immediately began rubbing his head. It didn't take a stellar detective to catch on.
Sharon gave a polite nod, "We thought so, but Seager left before Ann began housesitting, it's doubtful they had an opportunity to meet," she didn't think Seager was directly involved in the murder or even a conspiracy to commit murder, but the likelihood that he knew who did and was covering seemed to be growing by the hour.
"And in the meantime what are we doing about Hickman?" His voice was resigned, he didn't like having to walk away from a prime target like Seager, but there were other leads to follow - none better than the last unfortunately.
"We're still combing through past cases to see if there is a connection, if we can't find it we may have to accept that it was a very odd coincidence," Andy replied knowing that at the moment they had less than nothing on both Seager and Hickman. This case was threatening to go cold by the moment.
"Two bad pennies from our past showing up at the same time, in the same area, seems hard to believe that it isn't related," Mason said rhetorically, "Anything else?"
Sharon shook her head, "The family will be here shortly, we need to be prepared if they contact the media."
"Keep me informed," Mason returned to his chair determined to finish sorting through candidates for his new office assistant. It was a task as onerous as buying a new car, no one seemed to fit right and he was loathed to think he needed an assistant at all, but two weeks into the job he realized there was no way to manage without one. He looked up at his officers stepping out of his office and for a moment wished he could go with them, back to the sanctuary of working a case and not working resumes.
Sharon and Andy walked back to her office, taking their time, enjoying a moment to themselves even if it was at the office. Sharon hadn't relaxed her rules regarding their office place romance, but she had grown more understanding to their needing time to just be Sharon and Andy. Secretly Andy hoped that after they were married that she might at least let him give her a peck of a kiss now and then. He knew it was a pipe dream, but the man dreamed nonetheless.
Today he settled for having his hand rest on the small of her back, "You think there's any chance of us getting out of here before 8 tonight?"
Sharon paused in the hallway and let her back get flush with his hand deepening the contact, "I'm not sure. Why?"
Andy shrugged, pretending to ignore what she did just there, "Just thought we could use a real dinner together."
She waited another moment to enjoy being close to him, feeling his touch on her before deciding that decorum would have them move, "Hmm, that does sound lovely. I suppose if things with the family don't spiral out of control, we might be able to make something work."
They remained walking in tandem until they reached her office. He let his hand drift up her back and finally come to rest on the door jam. He gave her a final Flynn grin, "Fingers crossed then," before returning to his own pile of paperwork.
"Let me know when the brother arrives," the comment went without saying and falling in the empty space between her office and his desk.
Sharon looked out the window of her office, the sun was already beating down on the city. It was nearly noon and already she could feel the heat radiating from the windows. Reluctantly she stood up and reached for the cords to close her blinds. If she didn't her office would feel like a sweat shop by three, and as much as Emily tried to encourage her to try hot yoga she didn't need to do it in her office.
Her back was turned as Nolan lightly rapt his knuckles on her open door, "Commander, Ann Mason's brother is here. We're taking him to the conference room." The last bit came off sounding more as a question that a statement causing Sharon to smirk internally. Wes was still learning her and what to expect and anticipate.
Sharon gave him a small nod letting him know she approved of putting him in the conference room, "Good." She finished closing her blinds and followed Wes out of her office. The rest of the team was standing waiting for her instruction, "Wes I want you and Amy to handle the initial discussion. I'm not sure what if anything Ann shared with her family about her time with Detective Gabriel and for the moment, I'd like to keep things as neutral as possible."
Amy grabbed her notebook and Wes took the missing persons file that Orderno created and walked down the hall while the rest of the team moved in the opposite direction towards electronics. Wes wasn't sure what he was expecting when he walked into the conference room, but it wasn't that. The was short and significantly overweight. His face and body looked quite the opposite of Ann's trim and athletic body. He couldn't see any relation to Ann whatsoever. Amy gave him a pointed look when she noticed Wes seemingly stuck at the door.
Quickly getting back with the program Wes held out his hand and introduced himself, "Mr. Mason, thank you for taking the time to come down here and speak to us," before sitting down on the other side of Amy.
The young man sat down and replied, "Of course, anything to help you guys find my sister. Have you found her yet?"
Since Wes handled the initial call with the brother and developed a rapport, albeit brief, with the man they decided to let him take the lead, "When we spoke on the phone you mentioned that your sister was between jobs. Do you know if she could have been working somewhere off the books?"
Ann's brother looked at his hands, the distress obvious in both his body language and his less than crisp voice, "No. I mean we were all surprised when she changed her mind about being a lawyer. If it hadn't been for the fact that she had that scholarship to pay for law school, I would have pushed her harder to stick with it. Student loans can be a real bear to pay back. I work in accounting," he offered at the end as a way of explanation.
They both nod as Amy gave a friendly remark, "That's why I went the military route. Tuition is expensive these days."
Andy and Provenza shared a look, before Andy shouted out to the group a reminder that none of them had forgotten, "She didn't get a full ride. Goldman paid off her loans for spying on us!"
Sharon didn't bother to look back at her fiancé she could imagine his face and that of her Lieutenant. The lack of knowledge that her family and friends had about the true workings of Ann's life was sending alarm bells in her mind, "Yes, it seems there is a lot that Ann didn't share with her friends and family,"
Wes continued with the interview, sharing the latest in the search for his sister, "We stopped by your sister's condo and spoke to her roommate—"
He looked at both Amy and Wes dumbfounded by this information, "Roommate? Ann isn't living with anyone."
Amy flipped open notebook, "The condo is owned by Jordan Hall. She says she's an old college friend." She didn't need to check her notes, it was committed to memory, but the show helped sell the version of cops that people watch on scripted cable, the version people seemed to believe and expect to see from cops.
"That's news to me." He couldn't help wringing his hands still clearly surprised by this revelation about his sister, "Ann told me she bought the place a few months ago and was moving in. I was surprised at the time because, you know she's been a bit spotty on employment recently. I wonder why she didn't tell me?"
Wes saw this as their opening, "Are you and your sister close?"
He leaned back in his chair, head tilted to the right as if to better recall past memories. His voice was forlorn and tinged with regrets, "Not like we used to be. We started drifting apart when she went off to college. I started to settle down, got married and she was well, off living her life. She didn't want her big brother nosing in on her life. We still try and talk once or twice a month and we get together one Sunday a month. That's why I was looking for her this weekend, she's never missed one of our get-togethers, in fact I've never gone this long without hearing from her."
Amy picked up the thread hoping that they might find something out that they didn't already know, "I know you've gone through this again, but when was the last time you spoke to your sister?"
He pulled out his phone which the detectives thought was odd. He began scrolling through his history, "It was Wednesday. I was driving home from work. Traffic was awful getting across the valley, so I called her. We usually chat on my commute."
"How did she sound?" Wes asked.
"Happy actually," he replied with a tint of astonishment.
"You sound surprised?" Amy asked not missing the man's tone.
"Well to be honest I was," he said looking up at Amy "she's been so lost for such a long time that I can't recall the last time that she was genuinely happy."
Amy quickly followed, "Did she say why she was in a good mood?"
Once again the man leaned back in the chair this time he seemed a bit annoyed ,"She met some guy, said they really hit it off." He gave a look to Amy like she would understand his sister's track record with men, "She thought I might like him, actually, said he was an actuary. I didn't get much more out of her, she said she'd tell me more on Sunday."
Wes opened the file, "You didn't mention this before. Do you know when or how they met?"
The man shrugged, "It sounded like a next door neighbor, so her complex I assume. It's been awhile since she dated anyone, I know she wasn't on one of those dating sites or anything."
The victim's phone still hadn't turned up and given her lack of social media presence they couldn't disprove the brother. Sharon turned towards Buzz and Mike, "Let's double check that. Given that we know she's kept so much of her life a secret it's possible she was using a dating service,, and nobody knew."
Amy took advantage of the moment and decided to play a little bad cop with the brother. They need to get more information out of him, it was time to speed things up, "Do you know anyone who might have reason to hurt or take your sister? Maybe an ex-boyfriend?"
He was noticeably taken aback by her direct line of questioning, "No, everyone liked Ann," his voice stuttered before continuing, "She was easy to get along with, very bubbly personality, giving. I mean, maybe her former boss, it didn't sound like things ended well. She never told me, but I think she got involved with the guy, I think he's married. My sister sure knows how to pick'em."
Wes once again flipped through the folder and stopped at the page with Ann's employment history, "Was this when she was working for Sterns, Morgan, and Jacobs?"
"No, she hasn't been there for awhile," he said pointing at the file folder, "No she got a job as an investigator working for a few law firms in town. Mostly she handled case filings, chasing down paper, that kind of thing but she worked with someone. He wasn't her "boss boss" but oversaw the investigations."
Andy put his hands in the air and turned the rest of the team watching the interview, "Sound familiar? Married. Works as an Investigator? I think he might be our missing boyfriend after all."
"Well as I always say—" Provenza was cut off from his tirade.
"We know sir," Julio started to say, "it's always the boyfriend," Julio and Paige said together sharing a smile as they spoke.
Amy turned to Wes letting him know she'd take it from here, "Do you know if she was working with any law firm in particular or the name of the other investigator?"
The brother once again shrugged and leaned back in his chair, "No, sorry never met him. You might check with her old boss though, Peter Goldman, he helped her get the job. I think the lawyer was a friend of his."
A slew of groans rumbled from the room at this latest revelation. The last thing they needed was to have Goldman anywhere near this case. It seemed despite their best efforts that their prayers were falling on deaf ears. Provenza was the first to mutter it aloud, "I know we've held off talking to Goldman, but it may be time to pay our friendly lawyer a visit." He was clearly hoping for a 'not it' situation, maybe making one of the newbies go and talk to the weasel instead of him. He couldn't guarantee if he saw the guy again that he wouldn't have to talk to Professional Standards about appropriate work place language.
"I'm not sure how any of this is going to help you find my sister though. Have you tried using the GPS on her car or phone?" He was clearly growing anxious from their intense questioning and eager to get down to the real reason he came in today, to find his sister.
Wes looked at him, trying to hide the fact that he knew more than he was about to say, "We found your sister's car. It was parked at the house of a friend of her's a Micah Williams. Do you know him?"
"Yeah, I met him a few times. I always thought that he had a crush on her, hoped one day they might get together. He would be good for her." Suddenly the realization of what he was saying and what it meant dawned on him and he lost his cool. He leaned forward and placed both hands on the table shouting, "Why, did Micah do something to her?!"
Amy placed a hand on his in an effort to calm him, "No, Mr. Williams was out of town. Your sister was housesitting."
He started fidgeting in his seat, they could feel the table vibrating as his leg bounced up and down nervously, "So if you found Ann's car then you must know where she is? Why aren't you telling me where my sister is?"
Amy nodded to Wes, it was time for him to give the notification. They got everything they could from him and there was nothing else left to do but break the bad news, "Mr. Mason, I'm sorry to inform you that your sister has passed away. Her body was found by police on Saturday afternoon—"
He jumped up from the table, the chair falling back with a loud clatter, "You knew she was dead before I made the missing person's report! Why didn't you tell me?!"
Both Amy and Wes stood up, not sure what other actions he might take in his volatile state. Amy put her hand out towards him and spoke softly, "Mr. Mason, please calm down. Unfortunately, your sister was badly beaten and we could not immediately identify her body."
He started to pace. He turned his face when the words registered, his voice was soft, eyes filling with tears, "Beaten? She was beaten to death?" When the impact fully hit him the anger returned to his voice, "Who did this?!"
"We aren't sure yet Mr. Mason, we are currently looking for her killer—" Amy started to say.
"Killer?" It was clearing just now dawning on the brother that his sister was murdered. He collapsed back into a chair, body beginning to convulse with sobs. Amy pushed a box of Kleenex towards the man and looked towards the video camera. They wouldn't get anything else from him today.
Andy gently touched Sharon's shoulder to get her attention without scaring her as he often did when she was deep in thought like she was now, "Who do you want to send down to talk with Goldman?"
She spun around in her chair to face the rest of the team still crowded into the tiny electronics room, "Buzz, check the docket. Is Goldman trying any cases today?" Buzz typed away on his computer as Sharon continued, "We aren't going to get him to come down here and I don't want him to have the upper hand. I'd rather catch up with him at the court house instead."
A minute later Buzz found the court schedule and began scanning it for Goldman's name, "Let's see, he doesn't have anything on the docket. Let me check the judge's schedules."
While Buzz continued to search away Sharon turned attention back to their glaring issue from yesterday, Mark Hickman. She hated that despite having fired him she couldn't fully get rid of him and his influence in the justice system. She couldn't quite put her finger on why he gave her the creeps, but watching the way he looked at Amy made her stick to her stomach. Unfortunately, right now they couldn't walk away from Hickman and his potential involvement, "Andy where are we with collating cases between Hickman and Ann?"
Andy leaned back against the wall and looked towards Paige as he spoke, she was doing a lion share of the digging on the Hickman/Mason connection, "We've gone up through 2015 and so far nothing, but given what the brother just shared I can't say I'm surprised. It sounds like any involvement with Hickman came after she worked at Madeline Morgan's firm."
Ignoring the present conversation entirely Provenza went back to the issue sticking in his mind, "Who could be friends with Goldman?"
"Another slime ball," Andy said with such distain at both the thought and the question.
Provenza grinned widely, "They would tend to stick and slime together."
Sharon gave her Lieutenants a look, the truth was she'd love to join in with them sometimes, she found the bantering could be invigorating but far from professional for her to play along. Andy stared her down, sharing a silent conversation about his partner's bickering, causing her to shake her head but before she could remark Buzz spoke up, "Commander, it looks like Mr. Goldman has a meeting in chambers with Judge Grove at 3:30 today."
The team could see the wheels turning as Sharon's eyes darted back and forth, "Okay that gives us a few hours to sort through our notes and see what else we can dredge up from Ann's past." She wasn't sure who she was going to send over to the courthouse yet, but was tempted to send Provenza just because it entertained her.
"Jack!" She exclaimed when they finally found the privacy of their car, "Of all the lawyers in all the world it had to be Jack!"
He put the car into drive and started driving towards the condo, trying to give her a few minutes to calm down before he said anything. It had been months since he last saw his fiancé this riled up. Every time it happened he couldn't help but smile. She was so cute when she was freaking out, as long as it wasn't because of something he did or rather didn't do. He put his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. He liked feeling the ring on her left hand when they sat in the car. It was partly a chauvinistic male territorial thing, but nonetheless it made him happy to see it there on her hand. He squeezed it again to get her attention, "I know it's upsetting sweetheart, but haven't you always wanted a reason to put him in your interview room?"
Sharon let out a loud annoyed groan. Clearly no amount of hand holding was going to bring her back down, she needed a minute to rant and rave, "Not with my entire squad listening in, god knows what he would say just to get back at me. You know he's still upset that Emily and Ricky opted to stay with us last Christmas."
Andy returned his focus back to driving them home. If ever she needed a glass of wine it was going to be tonight. When they reached a stoplight he tried in his own Andy-way to make her feel better about the fact that her deadbeat ex-husband may or may not be a suspect in a murder case that her team was working. As usual his tone was a bit off the mark, "I know, the guy's a jackass, uh I didn't mean it like that, you know what I mean. Besides it's probably innocent. She worked for him for a little while when he was here in LA and then she realized he gambled away her paycheck and she quit. End of story."
Sharon didn't miss the obvious dig at her ex-husband's past, but couldn't shake the feeling that there was a lot more to this story, "I'm not so sure about that Andy. How could it be innocent if he wasn't the one sleeping with her? Oh God, what if he was sleeping with her! He kept going on and on about some French girl he met and then that seemed to end as quickly as it started - as usual - the timing is right. She left Morgan's firm in the spring of that year. Oh God!"
"Sharon, calm down, it's going to be okay," Andy realized that he needed to get them home asap she was bordering on full tilt Darth Raydor and despite not being directed to him he didn't want to be trapped in the car with her and nowhere to go, "Whether he slept with her or not," probably the wrong thing to say at that moment he knew, so he continued talking to gloss over the reference to Jack and sex, "we need to talk to him - well maybe not you or me - but someone needs to talk to him. It'll all work out."
Sharon hit her head against the headrest a few times out of frustration, "I don't see how," she groaned, "Either he slept with our victim or he hired Hickman who then slept with our victim - I don't see a way that this isn't bad." She stared out the window watching the traffic move by trying to wrap her head around their conversation with Goldman, but there was no way to put this Pandora back in her box. The images flashing through her mind of the victim and her ex caused her body to involuntarily shudder, the whole thing was ridiculous until it wasn't.
"I'm not saying it isn't, it's just that there's bad and then there's more bad. And until we know which it is we shouldn't freak out." The moment the words left his mouth he regretted it. He tensed up bracing for impact.
Sharon turned to him wide-eyed at his slip, "I'm not freaking out. I don't freak out," she replied haughtily clearly freaking out.
He winced at her words. There was nothing he could say right now that would bring her back to planet Earth, it was best to just let her ride the wave out and touch base when sanity and rationality eased back into her orbit. Taking the high road he opted to disengage, something that he struggled to learn during his first marriage, but in old age was learning to perfect, "Right, okay, so tomorrow we will regroup. We'll track down Jack and have him stop by the station. Mr. Seager gets back to town and we can finally find out who our friendly Mr. X is and maybe then we'll have more reason to bring Hickman in for formal questioning."
Sharon didn't reply. He wasn't sure whether it was because she was mad at Jack and by extension the world or if she was chewing on his last statement. He opted for the latter and moved on to more important things, Jack no longer had a place in her life and by extension their soon-to-be marriage. The best thing to do was to focus on the fact that they were going to be home early enough to have a real meal together, "Now how about we go home and I make us some of that mushroom risotto that you love?"
Sharon took a deep breath and let it out slowly before responding. She knew that he was trying to redirect and she loved him for it, but it was going to take a lot more than making her favorite dish to get her to unwind tonight. She squeezed his hand, nonverbally letting him know that she was done ranting about Jack for now and ready to focus on them, "That sounds divine Andy it really does, but—"
"No buts Sharon," he shook his head and smiled, "We've yet to have a good night sleep since we caught this case, aside from lunch the other day we've hardly seen each other, it's time for a break."
She started to protest, "But I have so much paperwork to do, and—"
"And it can wait until morning," he grinned when he looked over and saw her face. They both knew she was defeated, they'd be enjoying a relaxing evening together and even if she didn't want to admit it that second, she loved the way Andy knew her, and took care of her when she didn't even know she needed it.
"Can I help?" Her hair was still damp from her shower. She took her time, enjoying having more than five minutes to stand in the hot water and relax. After taking a few minutes to just stand in the hot water and breathe in the steam she felt herself calm down. She knew she freaked out earlier, she wasn't in denial about it, but that didn't mean she was going to admit it aloud to anyone else.
Andy looked up from the dish he was stirring when he heard her walk into the kitchen. He checked the clock and was surprised to see her looking so relaxed already, "I see you've taken my advice and gotten comfortable," he pulled her to his side and kissed the top of her head.
She smiled as she nuzzled into his side, peering into the pan, "Why do you always say that with such doubt, as though you think I wouldn't listen to your advice?"
He squeezed her closer and shrugged as he continued stirring with his other hand, "No reason, just half expected to walk in the bedroom and either find you passed out on the bed in your work clothes or with legs folded in the center of the bed surrounded by stacks of papers."
"When have you ever known me to bring work into the bedroom?" She scoffed.
Andy started, "Do I need to remind you—"
She interrupted him with a kiss, "point taken. So when's dinner?"
"Five minutes." He pointed towards the counter where he had left some glasses and plates, "Why don't you pull the salad out of the fridge and set out the plates while I finish stirring this?"
Sharon wasted no time getting the dressing and salad from the fridge then setting it with the plates on the table. Her stomach began to grumble as she inhaled the delicious scents of Andy's cooking, "Oh Andy it smells so good, I can't wait to sit down and have a real meal. Sometimes it feels like weeks when I know it's only been days since you cooked for me. Who knew that I was landing such a catch when I decided to marry you. My mother always warned me about boys that could dance or cook."
"It's a good thing I do both," he caught her lips in kiss, "What did your mother say?"
She came up behind him, "Marry'em quick!"
"I would have loved to have met your mother then," he laughed.
"She would have adored you, but then I would have worried about her trying to steal you away," there was a small tint of seriousness in her humor filled voice.
Andy scooped her up in a large hug before putting her back down, "Nah you're the only O'Dwyer girl whose got her hooks in my heart. No one could ever steal me away from you."
"Such the sweet talker," she gave his butt a squeeze before peering into the pan, "Is it ready now?"
He gave her a disappointed look that was a complete farce, "Why is it your never this eager about anything else I do?"
She wrapped her arms around his middle, "Do you want me to answer that?"
"Probably not, no, on second thought forget I said anything. Your dinner awaits." He brought the pan to the table and scooped out a healthy portion for both of them before returning it to the stove, "Where's Rusty?"
Sharon stepped out of the kitchen, following Andy to the table. He pulled out her chair as he did every night and waited for her to sit down before pushing her in and settling in his own seat. It was a small, largely unnecessary gesture that she adored. Every time he did it she smiled, still surprised that even after all this time he could be so chivalrous with her. She placed her napkin on her lap and took a sip of water before responding, "Out with Provenza. I overheard them talking about Gus this morning. I think he wants some advice about what to do."
"I thought he might ask you," Andy said genuinely surprised that Rusty would not have consulted Sharon on the latest issue of the As Rusty Turns saga. He certainly had heard plenty over the last three-and-a-half months and knew Sharon had weighed in on the issue before, but him going to Provenza first was a bit of shock.
Sharon bit into her salad, enjoying the delicious cool crunch contrasting the soft, warm risotto. Andy was right, a real meal together was exactly what they both needed. She enjoyed these moments around the dinner table, talking about their children it was a refreshing change that she had been hungry for throughout her first marriage. She smiled, "I'm neutral, like Switzerland, as he might say. I don't want him to go, I don't think he's ready for that kind of a relationship just yet, but I also know that he needs to figure things out for himself.
Andy moved his head side to side trying to weigh things out, wanting to give the right response. When it came to Rusty he kind of felt like he was also a little bit his son now too, but felt uncomfortable voicing that idea at times. He was especially careful when it came to any kind of parenting conversations with Rusty, he didn't think Sharon would think he was overstepping, but he really didn't want to mess things up. His track record as a dad to his own kids wasn't great, and with Rusty he knew he had to walk a fine line. He opted to interject this time, but kept his voice light and with a touch of humor, "Well be happy that he's at a point in his life where he's going through the regular life things that we all go-through I know there was a time you worried, hell we were all worried, that he might not ever get there."
Despite Andy's attempts to lighten his remarks she couldn't help but let her mind drift to the unpleasantness that still swirled around them as the manhunt for Stroh continued. Rusty of course knew by now, but as had been the case four years ago he didn't want to live like a prisoner. She could appreciate the sentiment even if it broke a tiny bit of her heart. Sharon's voice dropped an octave, "I think my heart always knew, or at least wanted that to be the case, but you're right he's had a bumpy decade or so." She refocused her attention on what was now a half-eaten plate of risotto and smiled, "Anyways I imagine he and the Lieutenant have found the greasiest burgers on the planet to eat while neither us nor Patrice is there to object."
Sharon noticed Andy pushing around the same tomato across his salad plate. She waited for him to speak and was a bit surprised with what came out. "You know, I was kind of hoping he might ask me," his voice was so soft that Sharon almost didn't hear him. It took her a moment to process what he said. At first she thought that he was hoping he would ask him to go out for burgers, but he never would because Andy didn't eat burgers. Once she finally stopped focusing on the burgers her heart sunk at the realization of what was making Andy feel hurt.
Sharon set her fork down and reached her hand across the table and grabbed his. She waited until he looked up at her, "Oh honey, don't think that because he's talking to Louie that he doesn't value your opinion on things. I think you two have really gotten a lot closer especially this last year. Please don't think anything of it," she gave it an encouraging squeeze.
"No, I know that," he said with a shrug "it isn't so much that he's talking to Provenza about relationship stuff. He comes to me about other stuff and that's good. I'm glad he's realized he's got a support network of people in his life."His fork pushing tomato race finally coming to a stand still as he looked up at Sharon, "I just meant that I had a pretty good idea on how he might handle this stuff with Gus."
Sharon continued to hold his hand while she ate with her left, thankful at that moment that she was a bit ambidextrous because although this was a very poignant discussion she was also ravenous. After enjoying another bite of her now nearly gone risotto she tried to provide him with some reassurances, "Oh Andy, I'm sure he'll come to us, or rather to you in his own time. I'm not sure if there's any right answer, but I know you've done well with him in the past." She paused and took another bite before asking, "Out of curiosity what was your solution?"
His face lit up at her question, that she wanted to know what idea he had for Rusty. He really thought it was a good one and hoped Sharon did too. Even if he didn't get the credit for sharing it, he wouldn't care if it worked and helped the kid out, "Well, I got to talking with Ricky. Well he's got an extra bedroom in that apartment of his in Palo Alto. I know that's not Napa, but it's only an hour and half drive and he would still be living with family as opposed to living with his boyfriend. He could test the waters, ease into the idea of being away from you, from all of us, and figure out if that's what he wants."
Sharon was silent, she nearly dropped her fork onto her plate.
Andy took her silence to mean that what he was thinking was a terrible, completely idiotic idea. He immediately began trying to back pedal and talk his way out of such an outlandish suggestion, "It was probably a stupid idea. I'm sorry I mentioned it, forget all about it. It's probably better that he talks to you or even Provenza I guess,"
"Andy, no, that's a wonderful idea," she exclaimed when oxygen finally returned to her brain and her mouth resumed functioning. She couldn't believe that the thought never crossed her own mind, but it was brilliant.
"Yeah?" said the surprise evident in his voice, but his eyes beaming from the knowledge that Sharon, super parent extraordinaire, thought he had a good idea for their son.
"Yes," she patted his hand encouragingly, "In fact, If I wasn't Switzerland I would suggest it myself. I can't believe I didn't think of it, but it would be a great baby step for Rusty. Besides I think it would be nice for my boys to spend some more time together, he missed out on so much of that sibling stuff." She smiled again when she saw how happy Andy looked in that moment. It made her treasure their time together even more, and very thankful that they were making time for that tonight. "Speaking of our children, did Nicole make it back ok?"
He took a sip of water as she transitioned the conversation. It was one thing that he quickly got used to when they began their non-date dates. Sharon was the queen of moving to a completely new topic of conversation with little to no warning. While this wasn't as unrelated switching as she's done, he was a bit caught off guard, not realizing they were done with the Rusty portion of the evening, "Yeah, apparently there was a delay in Chicago from thunderstorms, but she made it back last night."
"I'm sure the boys are glad to have her back," she smiled thinking back to the pillow fort they made in the condo a few nights before. She really loved having "adopted" grand kids, she knew it would be a few years before her own kids ever got around to make her a grandma, if ever it seemed.
"I think Dean more so," he chuckled recalling how bad the house looked when he picked the boys up on Saturday.
"I'd probably agree with that," knowing exactly what kind of mess waits only for a mother's attention.
Andy finished up his dinner and grabbed his empty plates and moved back into the kitchen. He grabbed some containers from the shelf to spoon out the leftovers for their lunches tomorrow, "Well what can I say it's the women in our lives that make each day worth living, well that is when you aren't mad at us"
"And here I was going to offer to clean the kitchen tonight," she said pretending to sit back down in her chair, in mock-protest.
He left the dishes in the sink and walk back to her and whispered low into her ear, "How about we both clean the kitchen and then we catch-up on some other activities that we've gone without for a few days?"
Sharon looked at him pretending to be unconvinced.
He nibbled at the base of her neck, behind her ear where it drove her crazy, "C'mon, how often do we have an empty house?"
He knew he had her when he noticed her shifting uncomfortably in her seat. He went in for the kill "You can be as loud as you want," his voice rumbling in her ear.
That was the final undoing. She got up and followed him into the kitchen. They cleaned as a team. He washed, she loaded the dishwasher. When he pushed the button to start the machine she grabbed his free hand and dragged him down the hall towards their bedroom. The case could wait until morning.
Sharon knew the exact moment when he arrived at PAB. The clouds moved in the sky and for a moment blocked out the sun. That was an over-exaggeration and she knew it, but she couldn't help but believe God had a hand in warning her when her ex-husband was around. The real moment she knew he was here was when he beckoned for her, using his own annoying brand for her name, "Oh Shar-ON," he said it that way on purpose because he knew that it grated on her.
She stepped out of her office and took her wide stance, glaring at him in greeting. He ignored her lack of pleasantries, he was used to it by now, "Why have I been summoned? You know if you wanted to discuss getting back together, there are better, more inviting places to do it?"
She felt Andy come up behind her and she briefly closed her eyes hoping he wouldn't take the bait. She opted to beat him to it and take the upper hand, "Maybe you haven't heard, but in a few weeks I will be able to finally shed your name and all the baggage that has come with it." Ever since her interview room scuffle resulting in a lovely bruised cheek the shade of aubergine she'd been looking forward to address her "type" once more. Her voice was low and full of power and sarcasm, "No? "Darn I guess the post office lost your invitation—" she knew the team was biting their tongues wanting to cheer loudly for her killer comeback.
"Well since I don't currently have any cases—" Jack started to say but was immediately cut off.
Provenza pounced, "You don't, but I thought you were a great attorney? The best?"
Jack dramatically rolled his eyes at the older Lieutenant and kept his attention focused on Sharon, "As I was saying, there's no reason Major Crimes would be interested in anything I'm working on at the moment."
Sharon turned her body sideways and her sweetest Brenda like tone she responded, "Oh we aren't interested in your cases Jack, we're interested in you."
Her voice took Jack surprise, it was a tone we was less family with. He opted not to respond and just get this done and dusted. Andy took a step blocking his way towards Sharon's office where he assumed he would be going. Sharon walked up behind Andy, "We won't be meeting in my office today, Jack," she said closing the door, "We'll be in one of my interview rooms down the hall."
Once again she could tell he was caught off guard and she was glad, she wanted him to be uneasy before they started the interview. Jack followed the team down the hall to interview room one, "I thought this was just a friendly chat?"
The team surrounded Jack as Sharon walked behind everyone else, "You did? Oh, well that would be the wrong assumption." Jack spun around, but Sharon ignored the look on his face and held her hand open pointing towards the door, "This way please."
Jack had never seen his wife, err ex-wife, like this before. Mean sure, ice queen definitely, but this was a whole new brand of uppity, pissed off, bitch that he was unprepared for, especially since he was nursing a small tiny little hangover. Jack knew the best way to rattle Sharon was first her children and second that dog she kept around, Andy, without the kids around he went after the boy toy instead, "Why is he coming in here with us?"
Sharon remained standing, waiting for Jack to sit. Her tone stayed sickeningly sweet as she replied, "Well you see Jack, Andy wouldn't let me come in here and interview you without him. Something about being concerned about safety of the father of my children. I argued they had no father and therefore you were safe, but anyway I digress. He's here because we are a team and this is how we run things in my division. Now sit down before I have Sanchez come show you how."
"Fine, but I demand an explanation," Jack forcibly pulled out the chair and sat down like a petulant teenager.
"So would we pal," Andy finally muttered. They talked in advance about their game plan. They knew that Jack would try to unnerve them, pit them against each other. Sharon would keep her thumb on the personal situation while Andy focused on the case. His voice was gruff as he asked his fiancé's ex-husband about his whereabouts, "Where were you last Thursday?"
He leaned back cockily in his seat, "Well I met this Japanese girl recently, very bendy you see, does lots of yoga. In fact I'm thinking about giving it a go—"
"What happened to the French girl?" Sharon asked recalling his detailed show nearly two years ago about the girl he was dating and the french classes he was taking for her.
"Ah, that, that didn't work out. She went au natural and well you know how much I despise that look," Jack stared at Sharon waiting to see if she'd say anything about his low brow remark.
Sharon ignored him and let Andy press on with the case. Andy waved his hands to get Jack's attention, "You still haven't told us where you were last Thursday?"
Jack intertwined his fingers and remained relaxed in his chair as he thought back to last week. His voice attempted to match the overly sweet tone Sharon was using on him, "Let's see. I went to court, as you'd know if you'd checked the records, working out a plea bargain with the DA. She's nothing like Hobbs or that wickedly sexy Rios gal, but she gets the job done. Then I went back to the office until about six when Umi came and picked me up. We got sushi and came home."
"You were home all evening?" Andy continued taking notes as he waited for a response.
Jack remained quiet until he knew he had both their attention, and smugly replied, "Yeah well when your girlfriend serves you sushi on her stomach well I can't think of a better reason to not leave the house. Never had a girl do that for me. What about you Flynn? You've been out with a lot of women any of them do some kinky stuff like that? I can't imagine you've convinced this one to," he thumbed his finger toward Sharon leaving no hint at who the dig was directed.
Andy couldn't help but let a tiny smile flash across his face, thinking back to last night, Jack clearly didn't know his ex. Sharon, in his opinion, had no problems in the bedroom she was quite the tiger and he often struggled to keep up with her. Sharon for her part ignored him, she knew Jack's playbook by heart and like Andy she knew the real truth about who she was and was happy to keep that bit of information between the two of them.
Andy stared at Jack who was still clearly looking to get a rise out of them. As flat as possible he told Jack what they wanted from him, "We'll need Umi's last name and a phone number to reach her."
Jack was finally catching onto the fact that this wasn't just some little sadistic game that his ex wanted to play, this was serious whatever it was. He leaned forward in the chair, "This is sounding an awful lot like I should be calling my lawyer. Why do I need an alibi? What have I supposedly done this time?"
Sharon replied "Murder," devoid of any emotion. She was surprised how perfectly it came out and was sure that if she was asked to repeat it she wouldn't be able to.
"What?! I didn't kill anyone. That's a stretch even for you Sharon," Jack was officially in Jack-mode, deflecting and weaving around the room, metaphorically speaking of course.
This time Sharon took the lead. She knew it was going to be a bit more personal than she intended, but with Jack it was unavoidable. She stepped forward, still standing, and placed her hands on the table getting inches from his face, "Is it Jack? When things don't go so well with an ex you do have a tendency to get drunk and end up in places or houses you shouldn't."
He put his hands up and tried to distance himself from Sharon, "Listen, I didn't kill anyone and if it happened last Thursday I have an alibi, so you're barking up the wrong tree as usual, trying to railroad the innocent. Not that it matters since I didn't commit a crime here but who is it that you think I allegedly killed?"
Andy held up a picture, "Ann Mason?"
"Who?" Jack's eyes squinted together as he looked at the picture without his glasses he couldn't see much. The name didn't ring a bell and his puzzled expression wasn't missed by anyone in the room or back in electronics.
Andy continued with the questions even though they already knew that Jack had nothing to do with Ann's death. They still needed to know whether he knew Ann and what his connection was with Hickman, if any. Andy pressed, "The investigator that Peter Goldman recommended to you?"
"Peter? I haven't talked to him in months," Jack scoffed and once more leaned comfortably in his chair, crossing his legs.
"According to Goldman you needed an investigator for a case, you wanted a woman for who knows what reason, and asked him if he could give you a list of names. He told you about Ann. You then hired her last summer," Andy closed his notebook after he finished speaking.
Jack laughed, "I didn't hire anyone last summer, if you'll recall I was in Vegas."
"So hard to keep track of your whereabouts Jack?" Sharon immediately shot back.
Jack ignored Sharon's attempt to verbally jab him, "Besides I already have a great investigator, as you might recall from that Fitbit case with Ken Song. When you've got Hickman in your pocket why call anyone else?"
Sharon crossed her arms, So you are working with Hickman?" It was the confirmation they were looking for, "That Hickman was making the rounds with other firms and therefore may have crossed paths with Mason, most likely off the books. The fact that her shady husband was working with a man of such few scruples as Hickman came as no big shock to her.
"Yeah why not. He's a former cop, knows all the places to look, and most importantly we have something in common," he said with all the charm a southerner would offer a lady, but none of it sincere.
"And what's that," Andy asked regretting it the minute he did. His brain took a second to catch up to his mouth, he already knew why.
"A past with her," he said smacking the table hard causing them to jump at the sound.
Andy tried to shrug off his slip and get back to the point of this interview, the case, Ann's death. "Going back to Ann, why would Peter tell us that you were looking for someone?"
"No idea," it was probably the most honest thing Jack said all day, it was clear from his tone that he had no clue why Goldman would have brought him into any of this, "but I've never met your victim. So if that's it I think I'll be going now."
Sharon and Andy shared a nod that Jack took to be an acknowledgment that they had nothing and he could leave. He stood up and walked across the room, as he opened the door he stopped and looked back at Sharon, ready to throw one last barb, "Oh and Shar-ON, next time you want to relive our marriage let's do it over dinner and maybe without the boyfriend."
Sharon touched Andy's shoulder and muttered, "Leave it."
As soon as he was out of their line of sight he got up and responded to Sharon, "I can't wait to correct him when I'm your husband."
She offered up a weak smile. Sparring with Jack was exhausting. She could scarcely remember why she thought this was fun when they were younger, she guessed its because it often led to sex, now it still made her want to shower but for different reasons entirely.
The rest of squad filed out of the electronics room and reconvened in the bull pen.
Paige was the first to speak up, "So he didn't hire her?"
"No," Provenza said shuffling to his desk.
"Are we sure he isn't lying to us?" Wes asked as he came up behind Paige, waiting for her to step aside so he could return to his own desk.
Sharon nodded, "I'm sure. Jack doesn't lie well. He didn't fool me when we were married and he doesn't fool me now. It's why he will never hit it big as he says, his tell is too obvious."
Provenza gave her a hopeful, but mischievous look, "I don't suppose you're going to share with the rest of the class?"
"You're elite detectives, you figure it out," she quickly replied as she leaned against the edge of Andy's desk.
"So another dead end then," Amy said what the group was already thinking.
"It would appear so," Mike said as he returned his attention to sorting through the evidence that CID collected from the house.
Andy walked up behind Sharon and added, "It also means that if Jack is telling the truth that our favorite slimy lawyer didn't."
"Goldman lied?" Provenza stated with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
"Why would he lie about something like this?" Paige asked a bit too innocently given her years on the force, but the team gave her a pass because she didn't have to work with lawyers as much as everyone else did given her time in missing persons.
"Because he's a worm," Andy said returning to his chair, he paused and added "that or he killed her."
Before anyone else could say anything, the desk sergeant called Amy, "Commander, Mr. Seager and his lawyer are downstairs."