“So let me get this straight. Your father was forced to point a gun at the SWAT team by...”
Zeke rubbed his eyes, suppressing the need to groan in frustration. “By William Schenk.”
He'd been in this fucking interrogation room for the past six hours and they still weren't done asking questions he'd already answered a million times before.
The guy from internal affairs, and Zeke really, really couldn't be bothered to learn his name, nodded slowly. “The same man that was assigned your partner less than a week ago. Who you identified as dead only hours before your father was shot.”
This time, Zeke really did groan. “Yes. That's him. He tattooed some other guy to trick me, or some other bullshit. He's a fucking Jigsaw copycat, of course he'd try something like that.”
“...Right. Listen, I'm not saying I don't believe you-”
“But you don't, right? And that's why I'm still here, and why you still haven't let me see my father's dead fucking body !” Zeke shouted the last part right into the other cop's face. Let him see what this shit was doing to him.
Zeke didn't even care if he was losing his job any more, now that Angie was dead. She'd been practically the only reason he hadn't been fired yet, and now that she was dead...
So many had died. Zeke couldn't even pretend he particularly cared about Fitch, but Boz, Angie, his father... it left a bad taste in his mouth every time he thought about it.
“I'm sorry for you loss, Zeke, your father was an inspiration to most of us and I can imagine how hard this must be for you, but until this is settled I can't let you leave. Every single one of the copycat's victims has been connected to you, no one else has seen even a trace of William Schenk since his death-” “Which he fucking faked, didn't you listen to me??” “-and you're the only other person who's been identified at the crime scene, which were covered in your fingerprints, by the way.”
The guy from internal affairs leaned across the table, in the same way Zeke had seen cops do millions of times before when they were interrogating someone particularly stubborn.
“Just tell me the truth. You're a good cop, Zeke,” Zeke snorted, since when did that even matter anymore, “and I don't think you're the one who did all this, but you have to admit it's not looking good. Give me something to work with or I'll have no other chance but to arrest you until we have forensic evidence, for real this time.”
Whatever Zeke might have come up with was interrupted by a harsh knock on the door, which was thrown open only a second later to reveal O'Brien, who was replacing Angie while there was no official replacement yet. Zeke couldn't stand that bastard and it made him sick that it was him the commissioner had chosen for this role.
He seemed tense, even more so than usual.
“O'Brien, how can I-” “I need Zeke, right now.” “We're in the middle of an investigation, I can't-” “I don't care.”
O'Brien took a deep breath and turned to address Zeke directly. “There's been another one. We...” He grit his teeth. “We need your help.”
It took all Zeke had not to laugh into his and the interrogator's face. So they mistrusted him enough to keep him locked up for literal hours like a common fucking criminal, but as soon as they got stuck they came running back to ask for help. Typical.
Judging from the look on O'Brien's face he could tell exactly how Zeke thought about these developments. He sighed. “Please, Zeke. It's Kraus.”
Sirens were blaring in Zeke's ears as O'Brien drove him to the crime scene, nearly deafening him.
Kraus. Fitch's partner. Apparently she had joined his fate only an hour before O'Brien had shown up at the interrogation room, judging from the lack of decay on her body.
O'Brien hadn't told him any specifics yet, but Zeke could already picture what had happened to her. He wasn't an idiot, he'd known about her own, personal brand of corruption of course. She hadn't killed anyone innocent like Fitch or Dunlevy had done, but Zeke knew all about the methods she used to get the witnesses she needed to finish a case. Years ago, he'd caught her pay off some kids to testify against their school teacher, something about drugs, if he remembered correctly. He'd disapproved, of course, but he already had to deal with enough dirty looks from his colleagues to do anything about it, and so Kraus had gotten away with it.
Until now, apparently.
When the car finally stopped, Zeke could already smell the blood even before he stepped out onto the scene.
The place was covered in it. The copycat- no, William Schenk had chosen the backyard of the city's poorest public school to enact his schemes. The same exact place Zeke had once watched her bribe her way to an arrest.
The victim herself was hanging from one of the hoops in the schoolyard's broken basketball court, dangerously denting the rusty metal to the ground. There was some kind of contraption around her stomach, razor wire connecting it both to a small battery motor on her back and her shoulders, from which she was hanging. A thin trail of blood, which, judging from the amount of blood covering the ground below and around her, and even across one of the walls of a nearby building, was likely the only blood left in her body, ran down the side of her leg and onto the floor below.
Zeke took a closer look at the contraption on her. It ran around her entire waist, but only in the front did it seem to actually have a purpose. Carefully pulling it away from Kraus' body with his glove and a permission from the forensics, Zeke could just make out spikes, kind of like those he'd seen before on those goth kids. The only difference was that these were covered in blood and pieces of guts, much sharper and longer than what Zeke would assume you could easily buy at Target, and, judging from the wires connecting them to the motor on Kraus' back, were able to easily drill into someone's flesh. That, combined with the sharp wire around her shoulders certainly explained the amount of blood.
Zeke shook his head and turned away. It was almost poetic, even if he hated to admit it. He could almost hear the distorted version of Schenk's voice say some bullshit about how she'd gutted others with her bribery, and now it was her turn to be gutted. Or something like that.
“Any ideas who did this?”
O'Brien's voice came out of nowhere, almost making Zeke jump. Thankfully, he'd spend enough time mistrusting his colleagues to never let his guard down around them.
He shrugged. “Like I told you a million times before, it's William Schenk. Not my fault if you don't believe me.”
Rolling his eyes, O'Brien mumbled something about waiting for the forensics to finish clearing the crime scene in the old factory Schenk had escaped from and waiting for their results, but Zeke had stopped listening already, too occupied with Kraus' body and the trap William had put her in.
He honestly couldn't believe he'd gotten away with all this. Murdering several police officers and framing his own death so damn convincingly... When he'd first figured it out, leaving Dunlevy's dead body behind and finding William waiting for him, he hadn't believed it. He'd agreed to work with him only half-heartedly, hoping he'd lead him to his father more than anything else, still not quite believing that the rookie he'd gotten along with surprisingly well had planned everything that had happened up until then, but now....
Looking at Kraus' body now, remembering everything William had ever told him, he couldn't deny it was kind of a work of genius. It made him feel sick to his stomach, but in the part of his mind that had persuaded him to say yes to William's offer in the first place, he couldn't help admiring the guy just a little bit.
He hadn't lied when he'd said he knew a way out, a way to get away with it.
Just over an hour later, Zeke was waiting with O'Brien and the guy from internal affairs for the forensic results from his father's crime scene. Apparently, any claims of his involvement in Kraus' death had already been proven false simply due to the fact that he'd been interrogated the entire time she could have been kidnapped and tortured, and at least O'Brien seemed to be warming up to the idea (the fact!) that it was Schenk pulling the strings all along.
Still, for some reason they weren't convinced he was innocent in his father's death, which annoyed Zeke more than anything else.
Finally, the door to the forensics lab opened and they were let in.
The lab tech was a small guy, almost unhealthily thin. Zeke was pretty sure he'd seen him in passing but he'd never bothered to learn his name.
Now, he was nervously rattling down the results his team had brought. “We've found DNA evidence from several people, including Mr. Banks. Uh, both of them” he stuttered, realising his mistake. “We also found traces of William Schenk's DNA, but no fingerprints or anything more conclusive. It could have been carried there by you,” he gestured towards Zeke, “on accident when you discovered his body.”
Zeke was about to protest, but the lab tech continued. “However, several of the guys from the SWAT team claim to have seen him leave Mr. Banks' crime scene, and we've also tested his corpse for DNA. Its identity isn't conclusive yet, but it's definitely not Mr. Schenk.”
Zeke let out a long breath and suppressed the urge to pump his fist in triumph. Around him, the conversation continued, but he knew everything he needed to know now.
Finally, no one would suspect him for the Spiral killings or his father's death any longer. He hadn't always gotten along with his father, but he did love him, and the idea of even one person truly believing he'd killed him made him feel sick.
William was the perfect person to blame, not least because it had actually been him that had done it. Hopefully, the worst Zeke would have to deal with from now on would be the judgemental glances and gossip he'd long since gotten used to.
With a glance towards the security camera in the corner, he sighed. It wouldn't take long for the whole city to be on the lookout for William Schenk now.
The door to his apartment closed behind Zeke with a heavy thud, and he let out an exhausted sigh, leaning against it for just a moment. Was it just him or was this job becoming harder and harder every fucking day? He could have sworn it had only been yesterday when all he'd had to deal with were dirty looks from his colleagues and maybe a bruise here and there from a fight with a drug dealer gone wrong. How had it all gotten this out of control??
The smell of fresh take-out pulled Zeke from his thoughts. In a scene that was weirdly reminiscent of that last time he had seen his father, sitting in his apartment like he owned it (which he technically did), he tensed up, carefully making his way through the hallway, one hand on his gun.
Finally, he reached his kitchen.
And there he was. William Schenk, leaning against the counter, a bag of what smelled like Italian food next to him.
Everything inside Zeke was screaming to pull out his gun, prepare to fight, to do something. This man had killed his friend, his boss, his father, and so many others. He'd been behind everything that had happened the past few days, that had let his life run so out of control. If Zeke pulled out his gun now, arrested him, his life could go back to normal. No more Jigsaw copycat, no more guilt over his father's death.
But he didn't.
Zeke relaxed, and although he couldn't answer William's warm smile with his own, not yet, he nodded slightly and reached for the take-out.
“How did it go?”
Zeke snorted. “As if you don't know. You were there for most of it, remember?”
William's smile brightened and he opened the drawers, knowing exactly where the plates and cutlery were.
Sometimes, Zeke wasn't sure why he had let this man into his life, after everything he'd done. He hadn't moved in, that was too risky and apparently he had his own perfectly safe hideout, but now and again he'd show up and make himself at home.
At first, Zeke hadn't been too happy with the idea of revealing what William had done to the others when he was still presumed dead either, unwilling to admit it even to himself but too worried he might get caught, but William had convinced him otherwise. It was only a matter of time before his colleagues would realise he was still alive, DNA evidence on a corpse couldn't be faked after all, but at least this way no one would get the idea Zeke was working with him. Now, Zeke had to admit it had been a great idea.
“Sure, I had my cameras, but I want to know what you think. That was a creative trap, right?”
Zeke took a bite from his pasta, knowing William was eagerly awaiting his answer. Kind of like a puppy, if he was honest. A puppy that had killed more people than most serial killers he knew.
Still, he couldn't deny it. “Yeah, it was. You sure you didn't pick it up from somewhere else? The old Jigsaw case files? Or one of those fucking fansites online? I hear that one of the science guys downstairs is a real big fan.”
William snorted and shook himself in disgust at the same time. “Nope, all mine. Those people don't really understand the original Jigsaw anyway.”
They fell into comfortable chatter at that point. They hadn't known each other for a long time before William had faked his death and emerged as the new Jigsaw, but even then, when William was still hiding a major part of his personality and when Zeke was still bitter and angry at everyone in the world including himself, they had already started to become friends. Kind of ironic that this friendship would become as strong as it had been in in as fucked up circumstances as these.
As the night went on, Zeke couldn't help but become more and more comfortable around this weird, fucked up guy. Despite everything, despite the fact that Zeke should hate him with every fibre of his being, it truly felt like he was the only one who understood. Who understood his frustration with the other cops, and the whole fucking system. William had put into words what Zeke had been thinking but could never manage to really voice before, and despite what the rational part of Zeke was screaming at him, he was right.
God, he really was fucked up, wasn't he? Then again, weren't they all.
“-so I think it would be really kind of poetic to put the trap on his legs, and-” With a start, Zeke realized that he'd zoned out most of William's sentence.
“Whoa, don't tell me that!” He stopped him just in time. “You can't just tell me your plans, dude!”
William frowned, looking disappointed.
Zeke sighed, almost regretting what he'd said. “I agree, okay? What you're doing is probably the only way to change the department and yes , your traps are creative and they're great,” he added when he saw the dejected look on William's face, “But just. Don't tell me before it happens. I just can't...” He trailed off, unsure of what to say.
“It's too early, I guess. I'm still a cop, you can't just tell me that stuff and expect me to let it happen.” Zeke was fully aware of how illogical that was. He'd agreed to help William, fuck, he was currently sharing pasta with him like they were best friends even though half the city was hunting for the guy, but somehow that was still different from knowing how he was going to do what he did. He couldn't explain it any better than that.
A warm hand on his shoulder broke through his thoughts and he jumped slightly before relaxing into this warmth. Since his divorce, he'd forgotten how nice it could be to just... be close to someone. In any sense of the word, if he was honest.
“Hey. It's okay, I won't push you to do anything you can't do, and if you don't want to hear about it I won't tell you.”
William was smiling slightly, understandingly, and it was just so fucking comforting. It felt like he understood exactly what Zeke was thinking, and what he was still struggling with. Zeke should hate him, but he just couldn't. It was impossible.
When William pulled him in for a hug, Zeke didn't resist. It was unexpected, but nice. Comforting. William was warm and Zeke welcomed the weight of his head on his shoulder and the heat of his hands on his back.
He took a few, slow breaths and relaxed again. It was fine. Or at least as fine as it could be right now.
Finally, Zeke pulled away, careful not to look into William's eyes. He knew what he'd see there, he'd seen it before, but he wasn't ready to think about that yet. Maybe he'd never be.
Instead, he smiled slightly and patted his.. (what was William to him? A friend? An accomplice? An enemy? Zeke couldn't even begin to put into words how he felt about him) William's back like he did with everyone in his quickly shrinking friend group and stood up, ready to go to sleep for the night.
“Are you going to be here tomorrow?” He still wasn't looking at William. His back still felt like it was burning right where his hands had been.
William sighed and shook his head. “Too much to take care of, sorry. But I'll be back soon.” He walked past Zeke and towards the door.
Finally, Zeke managed to look at him again. William wasn't smiling, but his expression seemed ever so slightly brighter than it normally did. His eyes were shining with what Zeke could only interpret as anticipation and excitement, and it made Zeke want to see him smile in earnest.
“...See you then. Don't get caught or I won't share my pasta with you again.”
William snorted and grinned back at him. “Don't worry, that's a very convincing argument.”
He closed the door behind him, and then he was gone.
And Zeke was alone again. No doubt he'd panic about all this later, wonder how he could let this happen, how he could betray everything he'd stood for for so long. But now, he just huffed out a quiet laugh and put the leftovers in the fridge for next day's lunch.
He almost couldn't wait to see what William would think of next. To see what he'd planned for the rest of his crooked colleagues. But most importantly, he couldn't wait to see him again, to share his food with him, and to just.. talk to him. He missed him already.