Yeah, and while you’re at it, you’d better have a good cover story for why you’ve lost your gun, and hope that they’re willing to loan you one.
I groaned at the very thought, then froze as I caught sight of something resting on my pillow while reaching to turn out my light.
Something that looked very much like my S&W .40.
“Holy shit,” I muttered as I approached the gun. It was sitting, along with a small bouquet of white roses, on top of a card the color of yellow custard. As I carefully lifted the gun out of the way, I saw that the center of the stationary was stamped with a relief of the Tremaine Enterprise logo.
My fingers itched to open it, but before I did that, I sat down and took the gun apart, making sure that it hadn’t been tampered with in any way. It seemed fine, all parts accounted for, not even a single round missing from the magazine. So I put it back together, carefully returned it to my hip holster, and then reached for the card.
Welcome to Salem, the card read. Stay out of my business, stay out of my club, and if you’re lucky, you just might stay alive.
I’m not even remotely ashamed to admit that I spent an hour inspecting every nook and cranny of my apartment before going to bed, or that I jumped and twitched at every creak and whisper of wind I heard for another hour as I lay in bed trying to sleep. You would too, if someone had broken into your place and left a gun and a note on your bed without a single trace of other evidence to indicate that they’d been there.
It took me two more cups of coffee than usual to muster up the energy to walk into the precinct without a cloud of grumpiness hanging over my head, and even then, it was a near thing. But I smiled and greeted everyone I met, then braced myself for a scolding from my partner or the Captain for ditching him in the middle of an arrest.
Strangely, I got no complaints from either man. I wondered if someone upstairs was looking out for me…or if Maddock’s orders for his guard to “take care of it” had anything to do with the distinct lack of consequences.
Unsettled, I went to knock on Captain Randall’s door. Maybe I could coax some answers out of him that would help me determine whether he’d been bribed or magicked in any way.
“What is it, Chandler?” the Captain asked after he’d given me permission to enter. Annoyance rang clear in his tone as he looked up from the report he was reading. “I don’t have time to hold your hand today.”
It took great effort not to react to the barb. “I’m not here for hand-holding,” I said, folding my hands behind my back as I came to stand in front of his desk. “I just came to check in on that drug-dealing case that Detective Baxter and I caught yesterday.”
Captain Randall frowned. “The perpetrator was sent to booking last night and is currently awaiting arraignment. You don’t need to concern yourself further.”
I straightened my shoulders. “I appreciate that, Captain, but after the amount of time Detective Baxter and I put into the case, I’d like to know what happened. We hadn’t even had a chance to question Remy Vox, so I don’t have a lot to—”
“This sounds a lot like hand-holding, Chandler,” Captain Randall interrupted. “And I’m not interested in hand-holding. If you want to know about the particulars, look it up in the database.”
“I tried,” I said as calmly as I could. “But the case file was locked.”
Captain Randall arched an eyebrow. “Is that so? Well, then, I imagine that means it’s above your clearance level.”
Heat flushed my cheeks, and my hands tightened into fists behind my back. The bastard was hiding something; I just knew it. His expression was hard as ever, but there was just the slightest hint of smugness in his eyes. I didn’t know why, but Captain Randall was playing with me. And it was really pissing me off.
“I realize that, Captain,” I said tightly. “But I don’t understand why a simple drug-dealing case that I was assigned to yesterday is suddenly too high above my clearance level now.”
Captain Randall’s face turned ugly. “It’s not your job to understand, Detective Chandler. Your job is to work on open cases, and right now, it sounds a lot like you’re pestering me about a case that’s already been closed. Does the Chicago PD usually pay you to work on closed cases??”
“Then stop worrying about it.” The Captain slammed an open palm on his desk, and if I were a lesser detective, I would have flinched. His dark eyes glittered with barely restrained fury. “I feel like we’re having the same conversation we had yesterday, Detective, and that’s not a good sign. You told me that you’re an excellent detective, and I expect my detectives to understand the pecking order around here. This precinct doesn’t have the manpower or the resources for me to allow detectives to pick at and fuss over cases that have already been closed. If you can’t understand that, then you’d better hop onto a plane back to Chicago because I’m not interested in helping you if you’re going to waste my time. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” I said through gritted teeth, and I really did. It meant that Captain Randall didn’t want me poking around closed cases because he didn’t want me to expose whatever he was trying to cover up.
But if I couldn’t tackle him head on about this matter, I was just going to have to dig around behind his back until I exposed the truth.
The rest of the morning proved just as frustrating as my conversation with Captain Randall. He’d given me Tom’s file, but it was full of dead-ends. There were notes on witnesses who had been spoken to, all of whom had claimed to see nothing, and I spent the morning making phone calls.
Since Tom had died at a motel, all of the people who’d been interviewed were long gone, and I was stuck trying to squeeze information out of them by phone. By the time lunch rolled around, I’d gotten absolutely nowhere and was so antsy for progress that it was all I could do not to jump out of my chair and race for the exit.
“Hey,” Baxter said as I shrugged on my jacket. “You wanna go grab a bite? The Lobster Shanty serves some pretty great clam chowder.” He pronounced the word ‘chowdah’, in true New England fashion. Just like Tom would have done.
My stomach perked up at the idea, and I told it to pipe down. “Thanks, but maybe next time. I’m still settling in at my apartment, and I thought I’d use my lunch break to catch up on things.”