When Mal arrived back at the office, Des and Rose were already busy digging up the details on Sydney Parker's life as Mal had called them after leaving Jake to give them head start. While he didn't appreciate how close Leslie had apparently come to not only killing Jake, but also to seriously injuring Tinny and Des with her actions, Mal was convinced that she wouldn't have done so if she had had any other choice.
Still, Sydney Parker's alibi appeared to be iron-clad. Then why was Leslie lying about who had forced her into all this? One possibility that had occurred to him but that had had taken care not to mention in front of Jake was that the person who was really behind it all was still somehow having a hold over Leslie, thus forcing her to lie. But what could be used to blackmail someone like Leslie into something like this?
Of course, everybody had secrets, but in order for such blackmail to be successful, it had be a very big, very damaging secret. Or maybe it wasn't blackmail, maybe he was holding someone close to her hostage and was forcing her hand that way? Mal wondered if Leslie had any family. He couldn't recall her ever mentioning anyone. He made a mental note to ask Rose to check into Leslie's family history and see if she had any relations in the area that might have been targets.
"Hey Mal," Rose greeted him.
Mal took off his jacket and hung it up, then took a seat, still feeling somewhat short of breath after his encounter with the fire at the cottage.
"How's Jake doing?"
"Oh, he's his old self again, more or less. Have you found out anything yet?" he asked.
"Sydney Parker is indeed currently in jail pending further investigation on a laundry list of charges stemming from his part in organized drug distribution and prostitution. According to one of my sources, he is even suspected of having ordered to murder of a cop from the organized crime group, one Sergeant Burton Kelly."
"Do we know anything more about that?" Mal asked.
"I've been digging into that," Des replied. "Sergeant Burton Kelly was found dead in the early hours of yesterday morning at a parking garage downtown. He was shot to death. They..."
"Do you know which parking garage?" Mal interrupted, having an idea.
"The one near the bus terminal," Des replied, slightly bewildered.
"In my day, that used to be a popular spot to meet up with informants. Or undercover for that matter," Mal said slowly. "Does it say when he was killed?"
"Between 1 and 2 a.m. Do you think his own informant killed him?" Des asked.
Mal ignored him and pulled out his cell phone instead. He dialed Hood's number.
"Dan? It's Mal. Listen, I got a question for you."
"Mal, good to hear from you. They let you go already?"
"Yeah, you know me. Hard head and all. I need to know if Leslie Bennett has been an any undercover assignment lately?"
"You know I can't tell you that," Hood protested on the other end of the line.
"That's never stopped you before," Mal pointed out.
"Do you think you can help her?"
"To be honest, I don't know yet. But we're working on it," Mal said. "It would really help if we knew what Leslie has been up to these last few days. Might help us figure out how she got into this mess in the first place."
"Okay, but you didn't hear this from me. She was undercover for about a week, something to do with the organized crime group. That's all I know."
"Thanks, that really helps," Mal said and hung up. Des and Rose were looking at him with curiosity, clearly having listened to his end of the conversation.
"Leslie was on an undercover assignment run by the organized crime group," Mal relayed the information he had received. "Unfortunately, that doesn't get us any further."
"How so?" Rose asked.
"It only supports Leslie's version of events, which as we know, cannot be true," Mal reasoned. Rose nodded, understanding. "There has to be a reason why she would lie about something like this."
"I have been thinking about that," Mal said, "the only reason I could think of why she would lie to the police is that whoever is really behind this still has something to threaten to her with. We should check into her family, see if she has any relations in the area and if so, if any of them might have been used as leverage."
"I'll get onto that," Rose promised. "Des, you keep digging into Sydney Parker. The more we know about him, the better."
Des opened his mouth as if to protest, but seemed to think better of it and turned his attention back to his laptop.
"I'll have another look at those image files," Mal announced. "Maybe Jake and I missed something the first time 'round." The guy's handwriting had been pretty bad after all and the other pictures had also been taken in a hurry from the looks of it. It was a minor miracle that Hood had managed to get his hands on this material at all, but then Mal had always known that he was craftier than most people would give him credit for.
Leslie felt like slamming her head against the wall. Not that she could have, since she was still handcuffed to the rail of a hospital bed, but right now she wasn't sure who the crazy one was, she or everyone else around her. After a nearly sleepless night, she was talking to the lawyer assigned to represent her. Initially, she had been looking forward to the conversation, thinking that someone was finally going to listen to her, but her tentative hopes were being shattered rapidly.
"Really, the best advice I can give you is to co-operate fully with the investigation," the woman dressed in a dark grey pinstriped suit was saying.
Leslie took a deep breath, trying to reign in her temper. "I already told all I know to Inspector Beech yesterday. There is nothing else to say."
"Surely, you're aware that the facts disprove your version of what happened?" her lawyer pointed out.
Leslie didn't know what else to tell her, so she said: "Yes, I know and that's what I don't understand. It's the truth. There must be some mistake somewhere." It sounded unconvincing to her own ears and if a suspect tried to sell her a story like this, she wouldn't have believed it for a second. But she couldn't deny what she had seen with her own eyes and what she had heard with her own ears. The man who had kidnapped her had been Sydney Parker, of that she was absolutely certain.
"I have reviewed the files in question and there is no mistake. Look, Sergeant Bennett. I'm here to help you, but I can't do so, if you won't help yourself. Frankly, the evidence against you is very damaging and people take pretty a dim view of terrorists these days. It's only fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured. That's about the only thing that will work in your favour at this point. However, your refusal to co-operate definitely won't impress a judge. It's extremely unlikely that you will be granted bail."
"So, what can you do for me?" Leslie asked pointedly with barely suppressed irritation.
"Well, I'll continue to follow the progress of the investigation but since the facts of crimes themselves aren't in dispute given your admissions to Inspector Beech yesterday, I'll mainly keep an eye out for any elements that might be useful in your defense."
"Such as?" Leslie doubted that she would like the answer.
"The possibility of post traumatic stress for example. I read in your statement that you witnessed the murder of your handler, Sergeant Kelly. I doubt it will do much good, since the bombing was clearly planned in advance, but I could still conceivably argue that the shock of witnessing his murder is what drove you over the edge to the point where you were willing to do what you did."
Leslie didn't have the energy to argue the that was exactly the point, she hadn't been willing to do it, she had been forced into it, so she remained silent.
Her lawyer seemed to take that as a gesture of agreement.
"It's early days yet, but if you agree, I think it might be a good idea for you to be evaluated by a psychiatrist at some point down the line."
"You think I'm crazy?" Leslie asked. Privately, she had been wondering about that ever since she had been told that Sydney Parker had an iron-clad alibi.
"No, no, I didn't say that. I do think you are an intelligent woman who has gotten in way over her head and has been manipulated by someone into doing something she would normally never even consider doing."
Leslie didn't have the heart to ask the woman if that meant that she didn't believe her either. She didn't need to. It was obvious that while her lawyer might see her as a victim of some sort of brainwashing or manipulation, she didn't believe for a moment that Leslie might be telling the truth. Not that Leslie could really blame her.
"Do you have any other questions so far, Sergeant Bennett?"
Leslie shook her head. She knew what was going to happen next. A judge would decide whether she would be released on bail pending the outcome of the investigation or whether she was to stay in custody until then. With not even her own lawyer confident of her being released on bail, Leslie felt nothing but dread about the upcoming heating.
"Your bail hearing will be at two this afternoon. I spoke to your doctor and he's okay with you being released to appear at the hearing, but he did make it pretty clear that no matter the outcome, your injuries will need to continue being taken care of and you'll also need some physiotherapy for your arm. With your permission, I'll get you something to wear to the hearing from your place."
Part of Leslie couldn't have cared less how she looked at the hearing. What use was it going to be, if nobody believed her anyway? But the larger part of her refused to give in completely to desperation. What she had been through had been real, Sydney had been there and she was going to find a way to prove it, she told herself firmly.
"Yes, that would be a good idea," she replied. She doubted that a favorable impression would compensate for the weight of the evidence against her and her lack of a believable explanation, but it couldn't hurt either.
He was going to go stir-crazy, he could feel it. Being stuck here on hospital with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling all the while knowing that Leslie needed his help was driving Jake crazy.
The knowledge that Mal and the others were doing what they could helped, but it didn't soothe the feeling of powerlessness that he was rapidly growing to hate. He had called twice for a status update, but last he heard, nothing probative had turned up. Mal's theory that someone was threatening a member of Leslie's family seemed to be moot, at least Rose hadn't been able to find any indications of it yet and their attempts to retrace Leslie's steps leading up to her pulling a gun on Jake at the hospital weren't coming along very well. Des was now trying to get his hands on security footage from the garage in the hopes of getting a glimpse of whomever Leslie had met after the murder of her handler. If they could find that out, there was a chance that they could fill in the missing hours when Leslie claimed she had been held prisoner by Sydney Parker at an unknown location. Des had promised to ring him back as soon as they knew anything, but an hour had passed since then with no news whatsoever.
Jake could stand it no longer. If he stayed in bed, he would go insane. He didn't dare call the office again, as his father had already threatened to leave him out of the loop completely if he didn't let them do their jobs in peace. He might as well get up to something a little more useful, he decided. Granted, not as useful as helping to prove Leslie innocent, but certainly important in the long run as well. The sooner he got back on his feet, the sooner he could get out of this place. His mind made up, he gingerly sat up, mindful of his healing ribs. When he managed to reach a sitting position without too much difficulty or pain for that matter, he decided to have a go at standing up, without help for once. It would be much less annoying if he could move around on his own and it would give him something with which to occupy himself. It probably wouldn't take his mind off Leslie Bennett, but maybe if he managed to wear himself out sufficiently, he would actually be able to get some rest.