Jared had been sleeping peacefully when Mike had headed out to work at 8.30 that morning, so he'd written him a note and left him to it.
It was nice to see the other man so relaxed, especially after the trauma he'd seen. Jared had been carrying a dark cloud around with him for the last few days, and it was an uncomfortable thing to witness.
As he slept, the lines and pain in his face smoothed out. It made him seem more like his old self. It was good to see him look so calm.
Mike shakes his head for a moment. Not the time. He focusses back on the thing he's drawing in his notebook. It's the murder weapon, or thereabouts – an approximation of an arrow, a foot long, with a widened edge. It's familiar, somehow, but he can't place it.
“Angela's out.” Kristen says, and moves her picture and Rory's to the side on the blackboard. “And so's her boyfriend. Neither of them were in town during the window of the death – they were in the City having a weekend away. Security cam footage places them at the Grand Windsor Saturday night and they didn't leave until midday Sunday.”
“Saucy.” Breen says, and raises his eyebrows at her.
“Mmm, and especially with that price tag.” Kristen remarks. “That place is expensive. I guess they got their money's worth.”
“Good.” Mike says, going back to his doodling. “What about Wiremu?”
“No idea. He's not answering his phone, but we did have trouble sourcing a number for him in the first place, so it could just be an error on my end.” Kristen hmms. “Maybe ask Jared? I think they're cousins.”
“Well, he's asleep at mine at the moment,” Mike says, absent-mindedly, stifling a yawn, “but I'll pop by at lunch. See if he knows anything.”
There's silence, for a moment, and Mike looks up at the other two, who have a strange mixture of pride and amusement on their faces. Kristen looks a little like she's trying to hold back a laugh.
“Nothing.” Kristen says, and goes back to the whiteboard. She moves a few things around, but nothing that actually means anything. “Nothing at all.”
“We're very pleased for you.” Breen says, and goes back to doing absolutely nothing at all.
“You two are incorrigible.” Mike says, finally getting it. He's more than a little embarrassed at the thought, not because it's a problem, but because he actually considers the possibility for a moment. “He fell asleep on my couch. I left him there because he's not been sleeping, and he was asleep when I had to leave.”
“Sure thing, Senior.” Breen says, clearly not buying it. “Sure.”
Mike sighs. “Get back to work.”
“It's your turn, Mike.” Kristen points out, obviously hiding a smile behind the edge of the board. “Talked to any of the suspects yet?”
“I'm still trying to figure out what the murder weapon is.” Mike says, “Gina doesn't know. I was going to chat to Rory today, but since he was out of town, I'll leave it unless something else comes up. Breen?”
“Both sisters seem harmless.” Breen shrugs. “Didn't get much off them. Far too clever for their own good, though, that's obvious. Beth might fit the height profile, but her sister is too short.”
“Good.” Mike sets them new tasks – Kristen's heading back to Josie's apartment to take a fresh look at things, and Breen's going to hunt down Tom.
On a whole, the case could be going better, and now he has his colleagues speculating about his love life.
Mike gets back to the house at about 12.30 and Jared's up and about, already fossicking about around the grapes.
He trots over just as Mike parks the Kingswood and steps out.
“Cheeky trick letting me sleep in this morning, eh.” Jared says, and leans up against the other side of the car, but there's no malice in it, none at all.
“I figured you needed your rest.” Mike replies, because he doesn't regret it. Considering the way Jared had dozed off, it had been obvious. He wishes he could have relaxed as much as he had seemed to, but it was too late now.
“True, true.” Jared shrugs. “Thanks. What about you? Did you manage to-”
“I'm fine.” He had slept, after a while. He'd done some work and gone to bed about midnight. It hadn't been the best sleep, but it had been enough.
Jared purses his lips but doesn't go into it. “Sure. What are you doing back so early? Don't tell me that you lot exploded another microwave or something.”
“No, no.” Mike says, with some amusement. The whole microwave thing was funny. In hindsight. “I was looking for you, actually.”
“Me?” Jared asks, and comes around the other side of the car. He leans up against the driver's door, next to Mike. “Why?”
“Wiremu Taylor? He's a relative of yours, isn't he?”
“There's a lot of Wiremus in my family.” Jared muses, “But considering the case, yeah, I know the one. My cuzzie. Why'd you want to get hold of him?”
“We're looking for all the members of Josie's gaming group in connection with her death. He's been a little hard to get hold of.”
“Oh yeah.” Jared's face clears. “He doesn't have a phone. He doesn't like technology all that much.”
“He's part of a gaming group.”
“Yeah, he might like his computer a lot, eh, but he doesn't like being contactable. Bloody nightmare trying to get hold of him, believe me.”
“Do you have his address?”
“Mmm, think so.” Jared fumbles around with his phone for a minute, seemingly swiping through emails. “Yeah. Gotcha. Last place he was staying was that new subdivision up by the edge of the forest? Clareville Crescent?”
“I've never heard of it.”
“It's very bougie. I think his girlfriend's got a place up the top.” Jared squints at his phone, barely illuminated in the midday sun. “Number 17. You heading along there now?”
Mike wasn't, really, but it's a good a start as any. “Yes.”
“Can I come with? I've not seen him in a while, and if we can't find him then I'll have to update my address book. Might as well do it on the go.”
“You're done for the day?”
Jared shrugs. “Not really, but I'll get it done. The frost didn't hit the grapes, so my job's a little easier than I expected.”
In the Kingswood, Jared fumbles through his tapes, occasionally pulling one out and chortling at it. “You are an old soul, bro, and I mean that in the nicest way. I don't even think my koro used to listen to this stuff.”
“I have refined taste.” Mike replies, though he knows that's not exactly how most people would describe it.
Jared sideeyes him, and slides the tapes back into their container. “Sure, bro. Whatever you say.”
The silence is comfortable on the way up to Clareville Crescent. They don't really talk, and Mike puts on a country record that's a little more mainstream than the others, so Jared can't complain.
It's just... nice, is all. Comfortable. Something he could get used to.
Clareville Crescent is a new housing subdivision, and rather too modern for Brokenwood. There's no heart to the houses – they're all seamless and beautiful, far more suited to the City than their little side of the world. Mike doesn't like it.
Even the City has heart, but these buildings feel alien.
17 Clareville Crescent is all gleaming walls and clear glass. At the very top of the three storey structure, Mike can see a couple leaning over the edge of a balcony, enjoying their time in the mid-afternoon sun.
“What does Wiremu's girlfriend do?” He asks, because he could never afford a place like this, even if he committed himself to a desk job for the rest of his career.
Jared shrugs. “Will's got a lot of stuff tied up in wine. No idea about his missus. It's pretty nice, eh? That's them up the top.”
Will Taylor has an easy-going smile, the tan of an East Coaster, and an affable demeanor. Mike likes him immediately.
His partner, Elise, is bleached-blonde and stunning as well.
It is all terribly well-to-do, and he feels thoroughly underdressed.
“Jaz, my bro.” Will says, and pulls his cousin into a hug. “How you doing, cuz? Enjoying that new product I sent you? Who's this?”
“This is Mike Shepherd.” Jared introduces him with a odd note of praise in his voice. “He's a detective with the Brokenwood Police.”
“A detective?” Will holds his hand out for him to shake. “'Suppose I should keep the more illict conversation under wraps then. Wiremu Taylor. Will, to my friends.”
“Mike.” Mike replies, and shakes his hand.
Will has a strong handshake, and is really quite charming. He's quite unlike the other gamers he's run into so far, but Mike supposes that the hobby draws in all types.
“Elise Johnson.” Elise shakes his hand as well. Her hand is cool, well-manicured. “I'm his better half. Can I get you anything, Mike? Jared?”
“We've got a lovely Malborough red if you're interested?” Will asks. “It's a good vintage, but not even on the shelves yet.”
“I wish.” Mike holds up a hand. “Unfortunately, I'm here on business. Do you mind if we have a chat? Somewhere private?”
“Not a problem.” Will takes off his sunglasses and leads them inside. “I hope that I'm not in any trouble, Detective.”
“We're just making some enquiries.” Mike replies, because he's not even spoken to the man yet, but his gut instinct is telling him that he's harmless. Very rarely his gut instinct is wrong, too.
“Of course.” Will says, smoothly. “Well, if you won't have wine, how about some elderflower cordial? It's alcohol-free and we brewed it ourselves.”
“It's real good.” Jared adds, from where he and Elise are chatting, across the other side of the elaborate living room.
It is a very hot day. “Well, go on, then. Thank you.”
“Not a problem.” Will says, and smiles brightly. “Let's go into my office.”
Will pours two glasses of elderflower cordial and leads them into his office, which is, like the rest of the house, full of shining surfaces, large windows, and feels very modern.
“So, Mike.” He says, and sets his glass down onto his desk. “How can I help?”
“We're making some enquiries about a recent incident that happened at the Massey Apartments.” Mike says. “Your friend, Josie?”
“Oh yes, it was awful.” Will replies, shaking his head slowly. “I always worried for her, especially after... everything, but – I never thought she would take her life.”
“We have reason to suspect her death mightn't have been a suicide.” Mike says, gently, though he files the remark about 'everything' to ask about later. “Could you think of anyone who might have reason to take her life?”
Will's face drops, immediately. He looks devestated. “Who'd hurt Josie? There's no-one who- ...wait.”
Mike doesn't say anything. He just waits.
“Where was her boyfriend?” Will grips his glass with one hand. “That guy – he was real weird, and we all hated him. If anyone did it it would be him.”
Mike takes a sip of his cordial. He supposes their next port of call is Tom – if they can find him. He's got a headache. This damn case.
Back in the car, Jared is subdued. “I've never seen Will look that angry before. Josie's... ex must be a real piece of work.”
“Did you ever meet him?”
“Nah. Never went into that shop unless my uncle wanted something. It was never for me.”
Jared disappears off into the grapes as soon as they arrive back at Mike's place, looking pensive and a little annoyed. Mike can't blame him. His headache's blossomed, too, and he kneads at his forehead, a little annoyed at himself.
He hadn't known Josie, but it was clear that she had been well-liked.
“Tom's missing.” Breen bustles up to him as soon as he gets back to the station, in a different suit that he had been wearing earlier in the day.
Mike's not even going to ask. “Missing?”
“Since Sunday morning. His flatmates haven't seen him, he's not been into work-” Breen shrugs. “It's not a good look. I put out an APB and Comms is getting onto the airports, seeing if he's left the country.”
“Good.” Mike replies, though there's something still nagging at him, but he can't quite figure out what.
“Kris followed up on that phone tracking too.”
“Find anything interesting?” Mike swipes his card and leads Breen back into the main centre of the office to where Kristen is sitting, staring at the whiteboard.
“Jameson wandered about town on Tuesday night before he tried to break into Brokenwood Motel. He spent a bit of time wandering around town on Saturday too, before he went home at eleven. His phone was stagnant all night, and his mother was sure he was in bed, because she checked on him.” Kristen explains. “And we've checked the road cams all around his house – there was no sign of his car on the roads until nine the following morning.”
“Tom, then.” Mike replies, and does his best to hold back a yawn, pain spiking behind his eyes as he does so. “Follow up with Rory, too – when you get hold of him. My head is killing me, so I'm going to go home. Give me a call if anything changes.”
“Mrs Marlowe dropped this off too, while you were out.” Breen fetches an envelope from his desk. “I think it's a funeral invitation. For Josie.”
Jared doesn't come over that night, obviously too irritated by the day's events to make an appearance, and that's entirely fair enough.
Mike calls him, asks him if he wants to come to the funeral the next morning, and Jared says yes.
His temples still throbbing, he takes an early night, and he feels bad about it. There's something missing about the case – something he can't quite reach, but he doesn't know what it is.
He hammers on Mike's front door, breath coming out short in the cool night air.
He's horrified. It's horrifying. Why does this keep on happening?
“Jared?” Mike blinks at him, like he can't quite believe what's happening, as he opens his front door. “What's wrong?”
“There's a body-” He gasps, uncharacteristic but completely taken aback. “In the river.”
Mike's moving faster than he anticipates, grabbing a coat, and sliding his feet into some boots. He's already got his phone gripped in his hand, but then again, nobody opens their door at three in the morning expecting good news. “Show me.”
The walk to the banks of the Mahurangi is quick, their breaths coming in short puffs and misting up in the cool air. He leads Mike down, underneath the bridge, and across, slightly.
Jared shines his torch out into the river, towards a bank of mud and weeds about halfway across its width, and he doesn't want to look again, though he has to. “There. I saw him from the bridge.”
The body is bloated. Damp too, but it doesn't look like it's been there too long. At least, Jared thinks so. He doesn't really know, but through his hazy, strange delirium, he's willing to try.
It does, however, look like it's shifting around in the current. A few minutes more and it could be swept down the river. Its position is precarious, dangerous.
Mike takes a moment, and dials. He says his officer callsign, then, “10-9, Comms. Body in the Mahurangi, near 157 Arthur's Line. Due process requested.”
After a moment, he sighs, hangs up, and hands his phone to Jared, who fumbles, but manages to grab it. “Hold onto this, would you?”
“What are you-” Jared starts, but Mike's already stripped off his jacket and is wading into the water, torch held high. “... Shouldn't have asked.”
“Sit down.” Mike replies, in lieu of a proper answer. “You look like you're about to go into shock.”
Jared sits down, heavily, on a rock, and grips tightly onto his knees. It's like a bolt of exhaustion has finally hit him, draining all his energy down into the earth below. “I was just... looking at the moon, y'know. Couldn't sleep.”
“Then you saw him.” Mike replies, and he's waist-deep in water, but it probably doesn't matter because they're just down the road from their houses.
“Yeah.” He doesn't need to say any more, because the feeling is enough. Another person, another soul, lost to Brokenwood. He's tired. His body feels heavy. “Why are you in the water?”
“It'll be a few minutes until the officers get here.” Mike says patiently – too patiently. “I don't want him to be swept away.”
And faintly, Jared supposes he knew it was a him. “...mhmm, good point.”
“Just relax.” Mike says, and in the distance, he grabs onto the shirt the soul is wearing, white nearly transparent with the water. He pulls, the body flips over and he- stops.
Instead of answering, Mike just says, “Tom Riggs – he was Josie's boyfriend, wasn't he?”
“Yeah, and he was an arse.” Jared replies. “Why?”
Mike doesn't answer, just grasps the body gently and starts pulling it towards the riverbank.
It doesn't take Jared long to realise who it is.
“He didn't do a runner.” Mike sighs, and tugs the body up onto the bank. “He must have been here the whole time.”
Jared didn't like Tom, couldn't even stand to be within the sight of him at the best of moments, but he doesn't deserve this, his corpse horribly bloated, disfigured by the weight of the water, his soul present no longer.
He gags, and presses back against the rock a little.
Mike just looks displeased.
Jared doesn't protest when the paramedics wrap him in a blanket once they arrive. He's shivering a little, not from the cold, and the reality of the whole thing only finally seems to hit once he's in the middle of a mug of tea, sitting on the edge of an ambulance, being questioned by an officer.
“You're sure there's no-one who can account for your wearabouts this evening?” The officer asks. She's young, probably younger than him, and has a brusk demeanor. He knows she's only doing her job, but even so.
“I was with Mike- uh, DCI Shepherd – for some of the afternoon.” He replies, neglecting to mention the sleepover. The Brokenwood rumour mill doesn't need anything added to it. “Then I came back, worked on the grapes, had dinner, couldn't sleep – so I went for a walk? The security cameras on the highway might have caught me?”
“Thank you.” The officer says, stiffly, and closes her notebook. “You've been very helpful.”
“Anything to help.” He replies, and rests his head against the edge of the car's door. “Can I go home now?”
“Well, I'll have to-”
“I'll take over from here, Officer-” Mike says, shuffling up gently beside her. He's wrapped in a towel, but he still looks bedraggled and a little damp.
“Lyons.” Officer Lyons replies, looking a little taken aback at Mike's appearance. “Are you su-”
“Yes.” Mike replies. “DC Jones needs some help over by the riverbank, if you wouldn't mind?”
“Sure, boss.” Lyons replies, then blushes heavily. “Uh. DCI Shepherd, sorry – Yes.” She shuffles away.
“Do you have that effect on all women?” Jared teases, though his heart isn't really in it. He can still see Tom's face, just on the edge of his consciousness, all bloated and rough and tragic.
“Reputation proceeds. Unfortunately.” Mike sighs, and sits down next to him. “How are you doing?”
“Could be better.” Jared stares out at the waters of the Mahurangi again. He looks over after a moment, nudges Mike in the ribs. “If I'm not mistaken, this puts you right back to square one with the case, eh?”
“I can't discuss it.” Mike replies, but there's something heavy in his expression which makes Jared sure he's right.
“And you're going to go right down to the station now and sit in your office with it weighing on your conscience until something hits different, right?”
“I was planning to, yes.”
“I'm not knocking the job, bro, but- that's not healthy.” Jared lays his head against the side of the ambulance with a sigh. The Mahurangi laps in the distance, whispers in his ears, makes him sleepy and malleable, all at the same time.
“You should go home.” Mike says, and looks over at him, a gentle look in his eyes. “You look exhausted.”
“Your officers seem intent on interrogating me. Apparently being in the wrong place at the wrong time twice in a row seems... suspicious?” He's trying to be teasing, but the words come out a little more harshly than he intends. It's not Mike's fault – Jared is just all too familiar with the New Zealand Police, and he knows that a lot of them aren't nearly as leniant as those in Brokenwood.
And he's just seen a dead man. It's no time for comedy.
Mike huffs, looking displeased, and stands. “Come on. You're not a suspect. I'll walk you home.”
Jared stands, stumbles immediately, and Mike reaches out, as though on autopilot, to steady him.
He catches the younger man by the elbow, and they both waver, just for a second, breathes mingling in the night air.
“Nice of you to do the gentlemanly thing,” Jared murmers, quietly, under his breath, amd looks up at him, “But you're not looking so hot either, Mike.”
“Come on.” Mike replies, though he knows it's true. It's been a long night for them both. “I've got to get back to work, but I'll walk you home first.”
And so he does.
They shouldn't really be discussing the case – for confidentiality reasons, but also for the sake of their sanities. It's five am, maybe five thirty, and if it was summer, the sun would be peeking over the trees.
But it's not, and it isn't.
The walk back isn't hurried, but quiet. The river, and the murders, feels so far away.
“I'm sure I'm missing something.” Mike says, breath hanging in the air. “But I can't-”
He doesn't finish his sentence. What's unsaid is said. Jared blinks away the tiredness in his eyes, and tries to focus. “No suspects.”
“We've still got options, but none of them fit. Their alibis are too strong – it could have been a stranger, someone we don't know – but statistically, that doesn't check out. I'm sure it's someone we've talked to, but...”
It's not often that Mike is lost for words, but it's obvious that the case is weighing heavily on his conscious. That, and Jared's sure that he's still dealing with the events of a few weeks previous. He knows Mike well, and he knows that he'd not have put his own mental state in enough of a mind when working on a new case.
That's Jared's problem – his uncle always says – he's a little too perceptive.
His lights are still on when they get back to his place. He supposes he forgot to turn them off in his wandering.
That's another one of his problems – he's definitely left the house unlocked.
“This is me.” Jared says, yawning, and turns to Mike, who's eyelids are definitely drooping in the faint light from his kitchen window. “You're going to be alright?”
“And tell me the truth, ow. I know you.”
Mike reconsiders, for a moment. “I'll feel better once the case is solved.”
“Yeah.” Jared hums, faintly, under his breath. “Yeah, I figured you'd say that.”
“Night, Jared. Get some rest.” Mike says, softly, which is all very hypocritical of him to say. “You need it.”
“Yeah. Will do. Cheers.” Jared says, though he doubts he will. But Mike seems distracted, and if he can do one thing to allay his melancholy, he'll do it. He squeezes Mike on the bicep gently, and heads towards his house.
Things feel... unfinished, in a way, but he doesn't know how to broach it.
“Yeah?” He turns back, about a foot from his front door.
Mike looks even more fatigued, if that's at all possible. “Knowing what you know about this case, and obviously this is completely off the record – who do you think-”
“Jameson.” Jared replies, without even having to think about it.
“I mean, I don't know him well – and his mum's a bit weird – but he's always rubbed me the wrong way. Bro's way smarter than you'd think, too. He did some tech work for Kahu when he got real into geocaching a while back. It's a shame his-”
“Jared.” Mike stops him, eyes gleaming. He looks more awake than he has in hours. “I could kiss you.”
And Jared's smooth usually, eh, but he's tired, and a little anxious, and more than a little bit taken aback, though his heart does an odd little beat at the thought. “Say that again when we've both slept, and I'll take you up on it. What is it?”
“The case.” Mike gasps, hand obviously itching to go for his phone. “I've got to go. I'll- see you- later?”
“Yeah.” And he swallows heavily, heart still thudding heavily in his chest, and it feels right.
In the end, it's all wrapped up rather nicely.
Jameson Rannells had been more onto it than they had all thought, but he'd not been good at keeping his mouth shut. It hadn't taken him long to confess, once they'd had the details.
He was madly in love with Jocelyn, and had been rejected. He hadn't thought her boyfriend was good enough, and had killed him – pushed him off the Mahurangi bridge one night under the cover of darkness.
He'd met Jocelyn, in her apartment. Confronted her, strangled her, stabbed her in the back with a makeshift metal tool – styled somewhat like the Aztec weapons he'd always played with in his Civ sessions – and pushed her off the balcony.
Jameson had noticed his mother prying into his life, and he'd planned the murders. He left his phone at home the night he'd killed the players, hid himself as he'd walked around Brokenwood, and had returned home before she'd even noticed he'd been missing.
But he'd been found on a highway camera, crossing State Highway 2, right when he'd said he'd been at home the night of the murders.
It hadn't been hard once they knew who they were looking for.
Love, Mike muses, once he's written up the bulk of his paperwork. It always seems to come down to love.
He ducks out of work just before five, sleep pulling at the corners of his eyes. He's been up for fourteen hours, and he'd not slept well before he'd been woken by Jared, but he feels... satisfied.
It's not like the case feels good, because it's a murder, and they never do, but it's done, and it's over, and it's out of his life. Jameson will be convicted easily, with his confession and the evidence, and though it will never bring Jocelyn and Tom back, it'll give their souls some peace.
That's all he can do.
He drives the Kingswood home.
Can I come over? Jared texts, three or four minutes after Mike's stepped in his front door.
He's sleepy, yes, but it's a comfortable kind of tired. He's also more satisfied than he has been in days. The couch is comfy, and he's got no plans. Yes.
“Jameson?” Jared asks as soon as he steps in through the door, a bottle of red in one hand, and elderflower cordial in the other.
“How'd you know?”
“The look in your eye when you left this morning.” Jared says, and then backpedals a little sheepishly as he slumps down onto the couch next to him, “And I ran into Mrs Marlowe when I was at the supermarket. She expressed concerns about the welfare of Mrs Rannells' dog?”
“I'm sure the dog is fine.” Mike replies, dryly, with an edge of a yawn, “Probably more than fine. I suspect that dog got more love than Jameson ever did.”
“Gift from Will.” Jared places the bottles down on the low table in front of the couch. “He said something about 'being happy for me', or what have you – I didn't stick around to find out.”
“Nice of him.”
“Yeah.” Jared replies, “and I wasn't sure if you'd want to drink after... everything. So, here? Consider it a gift, or something.”
They sit together in silence for a moment or two. It's not quite comfortable, because it's obvious that Jared has something on his mind.
“You know...” He says, after a few moments. A little slyly, he looks up at Mike through his lashes. “I think I remember you saying something interesting before you ran off this morning.”
“I have no idea what you mean.” Mike replies, though he knows, and he's sure, and his heart doesn't leap at the thought, but it does shudder a little.
“For all your merits,” Jared replies, looking up at him wide-eyed and cheeky, “you're a really bad liar.”
And he pulls Mike in and kisses him, and it's not quite perfect, but it's certainly something he wants to get used to.
It'd be a little poetic, he thinks, if he wasn't on the verge of falling asleep, but there's time for romance later, and right now, they both need to rest.