Prompt: Things happen in the background and Schanke never notices...maybe.
Characters: Schanke and Nick, with appearances by Natalie and Janette
Warnings: Highlight to view: * There are a couple of OC deaths, violent but not explicit. There are also hints of both Nick/Natalie and Nick/Janette, but no more than seen in the show. The ending edges just a little toward crack. Kind of. *
Summary: Nick and Schanke investigate the murder of a young environmental engineer.
Schanke gazed down at the still form sprawled carelessly across the cracked pavement of the alley. "Poor kid." He crouched down for a better look, ignoring the crime scene technicians working around him. The victim was a young man, slender and sharp-featured, clad in dark jeans and a still-crisp white shirt. What Schanke could see of his clothing was free of blood, but his head was resting at an unnatural angle, and his stylish glasses were bent and knocked half off his face. "I bet you weren't expecting your day to end like this."
His reverie was interrupted by the echo of a car door closing, followed by the distinctive lilt of his partner's voice greeting the officer who was guarding the alley against the ghoulishly curious crowd that was gathering on the sidewalk. Schanke gave the broken body of Thomas Cheung one last look and rose to his feet as Nick approached. "Hey partner! You're late."
Nick cocked an eyebrow in a look that was half apology, half rebuke. "The sun was still up when you called."
Schanke snorted disbelievingly. "Right. Your 'sun allergy.'" The last two words were accompanied by exaggerated air quotes. He looked over his shoulder at the photographer who was diligently snapping pictures of the body. "I'll bet you twenty bucks that a certain coroner was late for her shift as well." Ignoring the photographer's sceptical eye-roll--what did a mere technician know about a police detective's personal life, anyway?-- he turned back to Nick and added in a conspiratorial tone, "Or maybe you were at the Raven. Visiting with a certain ex-girlfriend?" He smirked at Nick's slightly guilty flinch, and couldn't resist pushing it a little further. "How do you get away with that, anyway? I mean, do the two of them even know about each other?"
"I'm not getting away with anything.”
Schanke's smirk widened at Nick's carefully enunciated response. It was, he assured himself, good for the younger detective to be reminded not take his situation for granted. Nick only had so many years left before women stopped flocking around, and if he played the field too long, he'd find himself alone. What he really needed was to settle down with a good woman...
"So what do we have?" Nick asked briskly.
"Have? Well, I'd say you have a--"
Nick gave him a warning look. "The case, Schanke."
He gave up with a sigh and glanced down at his notebook, though he'd already memorized the few facts they had. "Right, the case. Thomas Cheung, twenty-six. We're still waiting on Nat for confirmation, but at first glance I'd say his neck was broken."
Nick surveyed the crime scene. "Sounds about right." He jerked his head toward the crowd of people milling at the end of the alley. "Any witnesses?"
"None that we can find. The body was found by a group of university students heading toward the Green Room. I've got uniforms taking their statements, but I don't think we're going to get much from them. They're just your standard bunch of kids."
"The Green Room's a popular spot," Nick observed. "There's a lot of foot traffic through here. The killer would have had to have been quick."
"And the vic's still got his wallet, so it wasn't robbery. Well, unless the mugger was interrupted."
"Yeah, but if you're going for money, why kill someone in a busy Annex alley in broad daylight?"
"Maybe someone had a grudge?" Schanke suggested. He glanced toward the alleyway entrance to the Green Room, where a group of uniformed officers were inside taking statements from numerous frightened and excited patrons. "Still a bad place to kill someone, though."
"We need to talk to his family. Find out if he had any enemies," Nick said. He paused, and his face brightened almost imperceptibly. "Right after we talk to Nat." He nodded in the direction of the approaching coroner, who smiled a greeting at them as she pulled out her gloves.
"What have you got for me tonight?" she asked cheerfully.
"Just one," said Nick, stepping aside to let her pass.
"And not even too messy," Natalie said. She knelt down beside the body, eyeing it professionally. "Definitely looks like a broken neck. No defensive wounds. I don't think he had a chance to put up much of a fight. No other obvious injuries either, but I'll know more after a full examination. I don't think he's been dead long--not more than a couple of hours. Maybe less."
Schanke consulted his watch. "The body was found just over an hour ago."
"So he was probably killed here, and not just dumped here," Nick said.
"Could be," Natalie said, glancing up. "If he was killed somewhere else, I don't think it was far away."
"I don't think anyone could have carried a body through the Annex without being seen," Schanke said. "Not at this time of day."
"You'd have trouble even in the middle of the night around here," Natalie observed. "Bloor Street at three a.m. is still a pretty busy place."
"And just what have you been doing out at three in the morning, Doctor Lambert?" Schanke teased.
Natalie rolled her eyes in amused exasperation. "I work the night shift, remember?" She shifted the victim's head gently. "Huh."
"What?" Nick asked.
"Take a look," she said, tilting the head further to the side. Nick and Schanke both stepped closer, bending down to see. On the right side of the neck, just above the collar, were two small, neat puncture wounds.
Schanke's inhaled sharply at the sight, earning him a concerned look from Nick. He forced a thoughtful frown onto his face. "Some sort of two-pronged weapon?" he suggested.
Natalie, he noticed, was aiming at Nick what Schanke mentally dubbed "A Significant Look." It was the same look Myra gave him when she was waiting for him to remember that he'd forgotten to pick up milk, and he wondered what exactly Nick had done--or not done--to earn it.
"I don't know," said Natalie, attention still on Nick. "Whatever it was, it doesn't seem to have caused much bleeding. Probably inflicted post-mortem. I'll take a closer look during the autopsy. Come by in a few hours and I should know more."
"Right," Nick said, straightening up. "Schanke, you ready to go?"
Sarah Cheung bore a startling, almost eerie resemblance to her brother. In better times Schanke thought her chiselled features were probably striking, but right now shock and grief had overrun everything else.
"It was Eric Jenkins, wasn't it?" she said.
Schanke recorded the name in his notebook. "Who's Eric Jenkins?" Nick, he noticed, wasn't writing anything down. He almost never did. Schanke hadn't figured out how his partner managed to keep up with the paperwork when he kept so few records of their investigation, but he knew that one day, that lack of recordkeeping was going to get Nick in serious trouble. It was a fact he'd pointed out to Nick--several times--to no avail.
"Tommy's boss." Tears tracked down her cheeks as she spoke, and she wiped at them futilely with her fingers.
Nick picked up the box of tissue from the side table and held it out to her. "Why would your brother's boss want to kill him?"
She paused to dab at her eyes before responding. "I don't know, but Tommy's been worried for a while. He told me he'd found something out at work. Something bad was happening."
"He didn't give you any idea what?" Nick asked.
Sarah shook her head. "Tommy's an environmental engineer. He's not--he wasn't the type of person to get involved with dangerous people. But something was going on." She wiped her eyes again, then stood up and crossed the room to the sideboard. She returned with a small, folded slip of paper. "He gave this to me yesterday. He said that if anything happened to him, I should give it to the police."
Nick opened the note and read it aloud. "463A. 43, 25, 07."
"That's Tommy's locker and locker combination at the gym at Hart House," she said. "He graduated from U of T a few years ago, but kept his alum membership."
"We'll take a look," Schanke said, pocketing his notebook.
Nick stood. "Thank you, Ms. Cheung," he said formally. "We'll be in touch about your brother's case."
She stood with them. "Tommy was a good guy," she said, still fighting back tears. "Whatever was going on, he wasn't doing anything wrong."
"If Eric Jenkins killed your brother, we'll get him," Nick promised.
Sarah nodded dutifully. She may even have believed him. Schanke didn't think it brought her much comfort.
Schanke gazed around at the faded brick and exposed pipes of the men's locker room at Hart House. "You'd think a university with the kind of money that the University of Toronto has could afford nicer facilities," he muttered.
"Oh, I don't know," said Nick, eyes focused on the locker numbers. "I kind of like it. It looks well used."
"You would, living in that converted warehouse you call a home," Schanke said. "Give me a modern, new facility any day."
"Well, maybe it's nicer upstairs," Nick said absently. He stopped abruptly. "463A." He spun the dial on the lock and popped it open.
"Oh, will you look at that," Schanke crowed. Inside the locker was a small stack of file folders, each stuffed thick with papers. Schanke pulled the top one off the pile and flipped it open. "It's an invoice from a company called Foresight. Looks like Jenkins spent a bundle on them. I wonder what they do?"
"Corporate espionage," Nick replied matter-of-factly, leaning in to read the page over his shoulder.
Schanke looked up, brow furrowed in surprise. "How the hell do you know these things?"
"I read a profile in a magazine," Nick replied with a dismissive wave. He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "You know, if Tommy's boss is spying on his competitors and Tommy found out, it could hurt the company’s reputation. Maybe even cost them some clients. That might be worth killing over."
Schanke closed the file folder and put on his best g-man look. "I think maybe it's time to pay Eric Jenkins a visit."
They nodded to the desk staff on their way out. A few steps into the parking lot, Nick suddenly halted and looked up at the bell tower, head cocked as if he were listening for something.
"What?" Schanke looked around for whatever had caught Nick's attention. He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary--just the ivy-covered building behind them, and in front, a single row of cars separating them from a wide grassy field. He turned back to his partner questioningly. "Nick?"
"Hmm?" Nick looked over at Schanke as if surprised he was there. "It's nothing," he said. "Come on."
"I'm very sorry to hear that," Jenkins said over his shoulder as he led them through the wood panelled hallway into the living room. "Tommy was one of my best employees." He gestured politely toward the matching dark leather furniture. "Please, sit down."
"We heard he was having problems at work," Nick said, settling into a sleek armchair. Schanke took the seat beside him, the better to face off against Jenkins.
"Problems?" Jenkins said, tilting his head quizzically. He stepped past the empty couch and took up position at the front of the room, leaning casually against the fireplace mantel. "What do you mean? Tommy's work was always exemplary."
"What exactly did Tommy do for you?" Schanke asked, trying not to let his annoyance at their relative positions show. He didn't normally allow himself to be manoeuvred this way by a suspect. At least Jenkins had gotten Nick too, although Nick didn't look particularly discomfited by the set-up. Of course, Schanke had seen Nick intimidate suspects into confessing with nothing more than a low voice and a slight growl, so he probably didn't need to worry about minor disadvantages in seating arrangements.
"He was an environmental engineer," Jenkins said. "CASE is an environmental consulting firm. We work with developers and local governments, assessing the impact of development projects. And we also do research into new waste management technologies, but Tommy mostly worked on the consulting side."
"What do you know about a company called Foresight?" Nick asked, switching tactics.
Jenkins shook his head. "I've never heard of them."
"Really?" Schanke said, leaning forward a little. He always enjoyed this part. "Because we have a copy of an invoice they sent to your firm, and your name is on it."
"They specialize in corporate espionage," Nick added pointedly when Jenkins didn't respond.
Jenkins sighed and stepped away from the fireplace. "Everyone does it," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I haven't broken any laws."
"We'll see about that," Schanke said.
"Even if you haven't, public knowledge of your practices could hurt your firm's reputation," Nick said. "Especially if you're working with the government. And Tommy Cheung found out."
"Tommy was...idealistic," Jenkins said with a shrug. "But he would have come around. Or he would have been asked to leave. And even if he had gone public, we would have recovered. As I said, I haven't broken any laws."
"Where were you six and eight this evening?" Nick asked.
Jenkins' lips curved in a satisfied half-smile. "I was at the Granite Club for dinner. I'm sure you'll be able to find people who saw me."
"What an ass," Schanke proclaimed as they headed back to the street. "'I haven't broken any laws,'" he mimicked. "What ever happened to common decency and good old-fashioned honest competition?"
"Yeah, but his alibi's going to hold up," Nick said. "He wouldn't have given it to us otherwise."
"Maybe he slipped out partway through dinner," Schanke suggested as he slid into the passenger seat of the Caddy.
"And made it all the way from North York to the Annex and back without anyone noticing his absence? He couldn't have done that even if it hadn't been rush hour." Nick shook his head as he shut the driver's side door. "No, he didn't kill Tommy Cheung. At least not himself."
"You think he hired someone?" Schanke asked, surprised. It was a thought that hadn't occurred to him--nothing at the crime scene had suggested a professional. Although now that Nick mentioned it, he could see the possibility.
"He seems like the kind of man who contracts these things out," Nick said. "Espionage, murder...."
"Kind of an odd approach for a contract killer, though," Schanke said. "High-risk setting, breaking the neck. Not the usual MO." He wasn't really fighting the idea--just probing for weaknesses.
"Well, breaking a neck is quieter than shooting someone," Nick said. "Maybe the killer needed that because he couldn't wait to get Tommy alone. Maybe Jenkins was in a hurry."
"Yeah, but why? That invoice was from two months ago. Why rush now?"
"I don't know," Nick said. "We need to look through the rest of those files from Tommy's locker. And we need to see if Nat's found anything that might tell us more about the killer."
"Sure. But first, I need coffee," Schanke said. "Mind making a quick stop at Timmy's?"
"There's coffee at the precinct," Nick pointed out.
"Yeah, but who can drink that sludge? Besides, I want to grab something to eat too."
Nick hesitated. "I don't know. I promised Myra I'd try to limit your doughnut intake."
"Come on, Nick. A small double-double and a couple of Timbits. That's all I'm asking. We've been running around all night. I need fuel."
"All right," Nick said reluctantly, turning on the engine. "One small coffee and a couple of Timbits."
Schanke caught a flicker of movement from the corner of his eye. He twisted his head quickly, trying to catch sight of whatever it was, but the street looked empty.
"What is it?" Nick asked.
"Nothing," Schanke said. He studied the shadow on the lawn of a nearby house, trying to decide if it was just trees, or something more. "Thought I saw something. You know, this is a pretty neighbourhood. I wouldn't mind living here. Looks like a nice place to raise kids, especially with the park right here."
"Hillcrest?" Nick laughed. "It'll be a long time before either of us can afford a place here on our salaries."
"I guess so," Schanke agreed, eyes still on the window. He was sure he'd seen something...
Whatever had been out there, there was no sign of it now. "Yeah." Schanke settled back in his seat. "Let's go."
Nick frowned as Schanke climbed back into the car. "How did a couple of Timbits turn into a whole pack?" he asked, eyeing the small box disapprovingly.
"I thought Natalie might appreciate an evening pick-me-up," Schanke replied defensively. "It's important to maintain relations with our colleagues at the Coroner's Office." He dropped the box on his lap and looked around for a place to put the coffee while he did up his seat belt, wishing not for the first time that Nick drove a more contemporary car with some modern amenities. Like cup holders. He settled for moving the Timbits to the floor and propping the coffee between his legs.
"I suppose that explains the extra coffee too? "
"Nah, Nat takes her coffee black. This is for you." Seat belt fastened, Schanke retrieved both cups and held one out to Nick. "My way of saying thank you for letting me have my caffeine fix." He nearly laughed at the slightly panicked expression that crept across Nick's face as he eyed the small red cup.
"I appreciate the thought, Schanke, coffee doesn't really agree with me."
"Yeah, I suppose it wouldn't go with that macrobiotic health food you eat," Schanke said. "I guess I'll have to drink both of them, then." He shook his head in mock-regret.
"Oh, that's okay," Nick said, deftly relieving him of the second cup. "I'm sure I'll find someone else who wants it. As you said, the coffee at the precinct isn't great."
Schanke turned toward him in protest. "Oh, come on, Nick! Have a heart! How's a cop supposed to live off of one small cup of coffee a night?"
"You shouldn't be consuming so much caffeine. Myra says you haven't been sleeping well."
"That's because I spend half my nights chasing around the city with you," Schanke said. "I'm supposed to be on days, you know. And since when do you and Myra discuss my health?"
"Since your latest physical. She's worried about you, Don. High cholesterol and blood pressure are dangerous things in a man your age. And you have to admit that you're carrying a few extra pounds."
"She's over-reacting! I feel fine! And all the Schankes run a little stocky. It's those sturdy peasant genes."
"Yeah, well, Myra would like you to stay sturdy for a while. And so would I." Nick started the car. "I'll drop you off at home after we make a first pass on those files. Then you won't need more coffee."
"Oh, come on! You know I'm not going home in the middle of an investigation."
Nick gave him a quick smile. "I know."
The coroner's office was mostly deserted, with only the late night skeleton staff still on duty. Natalie was waiting for them with Tommy Cheung's body.
"Quiet night?" Nick asked as they entered the autopsy bay.
"It's been peaceful," Natalie agreed. "Apart from the two of you, of course."
"We live to enliven your life," Schanke said. He offered her the Tim Horton's box. "Timbit?"
She waved him off. "No, thank you."
"Nick won't eat them either," Schanke said. He pulled out a chocolate glazed Timbit for himself and popped it in his mouth. "He has the strangest tastes for a cop. Good thing I got the smallest pack."
"What did you find in the autopsy?" Nick asked. "Anything unusual?"
"Not really. Well, other than those marks on his neck. I'm still working on what caused those."
Nick gave her an odd look. "There was nothing...missing...from the body?"
Schanke snickered. "You've been watching Silence of the Lambs too many times, Knight. Professional killers don't take those kinds of trophies."
"Unless they need proof of death," Nick said quickly.
"Ever hear of a photograph?"
"Well, this killer didn't take anything," Natalie said. "The body was completely intact." She laid a gentle hand on Tommy's shoulder. "So you're thinking Tommy Cheung was killed by a hit-man?"
"Our most likely suspect has an alibi for the time of the murder," Nick said. "And he has the money to hire someone to do his dirty work."
"Huh. Well, I'll tell you what I can." Natalie picked up a clipboard and began reading off of it. "The cause of death was a broken neck. It's a spiral break, like someone twisted. Other than that, the victim was healthy. I'm still waiting on the tox report, but there are no obvious signs of poison, or drug or alcohol abuse."
"So he was definitely murdered," Nick said.
"Oh, I'd say so. You don't break someone's neck like that by accident."
"And there's nothing else significant about the body?"
Natalie looked up from her notes. "Why? Are you expecting me to find something significant?"
"If Tommy Cheung was killed by a pro, we were hoping he might have some sort of signature. Something that would let us identify his other kills."
"I'd call those marks on his neck a pretty unique signature," Natalie said.
"You know, they look kind of like those marks we saw on that security guard from the museum," Schanke said, leaning over the body. "Remember that? That was the first case we worked together."
"I remember," Nick said. "But the museum guard was drained of all his blood."
"While Mr. Cheung still has all of his blood," Natalie said.
"Could be the same tool, though," Schanke said.
"I'm not sure that helps since we never figured out what made those marks on the security guard either," Natalie said. "But I'll pull out my old notes and compare. See if they're similar. I'll let you know what I find."
"Thanks, Nat," Nick said. He turned to Schanke. "Ready to hit the books?"
"Come on," Nick said, wrapping an arm around Schanke's shoulders and urging him forward. "The sooner we start, the sooner we'll finish."
Schanke yawned widely. "I'm going cross-eyed here, Knight," he said. "One more file and I'll be permanently blind."
"We're almost done," Nick said reassuringly, head still bent over the file in front of him.
Schanke watched him for a minute, amazed at his unflagging concentration, then stood up and stretched. "I'm going to check whether Norma has had any luck digging up other cases." He took Nick's distracted "huh" as assent and wandered slowly across the squad room. He paused to pour himself a cup of coffee, wrinkling his nose at the taste, and then made his way over to Norma's desk.
"Any luck?" he asked.
"I think I've found something," she said. "A case in Ottawa, two days ago. The body of an environmental engineer named Kate Sharma was found in the Glebe. Someone broke her neck."
Schanke looked down at the computer screen in front of her. The picture of a serious-looking woman with dark, level eyes stared back at him. "Could be related," he said. "Can you print that off for us?"
"Sure. And I'll keep looking in case something else turns up."
Schanke carried the pages back to Nick. "Norma found something," he said. "Could be the same doer." He held out the printout.
"Kate Sharma," Nick said, reading the page. "I know that name...." He rifled through the papers on his desk, coming up with a copy of The Globe and Mail from the previous day. He flipped through the pages rapidly. "Ha!" he said. He pointed at one of the articles. "Kate Sharma."
"So what?" Schanke said, skimming the article. "There's nothing new here. We already know how she died."
"But what if Tommy learned about it from the paper?" Nick asked. "His sister said he gave her his locker combination yesterday...the same day the article was published."
"Wait, you think--"
"She died the same way Tommy did," Nick said.
Schanke felt the familiar excitement of the hunt rise as realization dawned. "Same killer, same employer?"
"And if Tommy figured that out...." Nick glanced down at the article again. "It says she worked for a company called Lefevre. Was there anything in Foresight's reports about them?"
"Yeah..." Schanke sat down and began sorting through the files on his desk with renewed energy. "I know I saw something...here it is. Lefevre is a major competitor--they're doing research into the same hazardous waste recycling technologies that CASE is. And it looks like they're ahead in the game."
"What do you want to bet that Kate Sharma was a key member of the research team?"
Schanke leaned back in his chair, hands resting on the incriminating report. "And Jenkins had her killed for it."
"And then killed Tommy Cheung to cover it up."
"So now we know why. But how do we prove it?"
"Start with his financial records," Nick said. "This kind of service doesn't come cheap."
Schanke nodded. For a moment his mind flitted to the short list of judges who might be sympathetic to their case despite being woken in the middle of the night, and then reason took over. "We're not going to get those records tonight," he said. He suppressed a yawn as fatigue started to creep back in, and grimaced at his own weakness. Fifteen years earlier, he'd have been twitching with impatience, waiting for the courts and banks to open, waiting to continue the chase. What he wouldn't give some days to be that young again--like Nick, whose energy never seemed to flag.
"You can pick them up tomorrow," Nick said. "It's time you were heading home anyway."
"Give me a ride?" Schanke asked. "My car's in the shop."
"Sure. But I have a stop to make first."
Schanke pushed the glass of water along the bar despondently, wishing that he were already home and crawling into bed beside his wife. Fatigue had long since given way to the full-on exhaustion of a shift-and-a-half of work, and the music at the Raven was starting to give him a headache. He glanced along the length of the bar to where Nick, his back to Schanke, was engrossed in conversation with Janette. From the way Nick was leaning into her space, Schanke didn't think he was anywhere close to wrapping things up. He turned back to the bar with a sigh and took a sip of his water, then shoved it aside impatiently. After another minute, he slid off his stool and began making his way resolutely toward the other end of the bar. He was a few feet away when the sound of Janette's voice drifted back to him though a sudden lull in the music.
"I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't him. We both left shortly after you did, and the girl was fine."
Schanke paused and cocked his head, listening curiously. It wasn't often that he got any sort of insight into Nick's past. Or his relationship with Janette.
The music picked up again, drowning out Nick's response, but whatever he said seemed to annoy Janette, who plucked her gloved hand out of Nick's grasp and turned away from him, pouting. He suspected Nick said something, because a moment later she seemed to relent, turning smoothly back to Nick in what to Schanke's eye resembled nothing so much as a practiced dance. He strained his ears to hear what they were saying, but only caught a few words over the music.
It wasn't enough for him to piece anything together, but whatever was going on, it was clearly bothering Nick. Even from behind, Schanke could detect his frustration.
Janette seemed to notice it too. She laid a sympathetic hand on his arm, and leaned closer, lips brushing first against Nick's ear, and then his lips--a gesture that Nick was apparently happy to reciprocate. She was, Schanke thought appreciatively, a beautiful woman. Not exactly his type, if he was honest--his taste ran more to the girl-next-door than French exoticism, and she struck him as higher-maintenance than he had the time or patience (or money) for--but she was certainly stunning in her own controlled and sometimes terrifying way, and he could understand why Nick was drawn back to her. Given the choice, Schanke thought he'd choose Natalie for the long-haul, but he wasn't sure what Nick was going to do if and when he was finally forced to decide.
The two of them pulled apart after a final, lingering kiss and Schanke breathed a sigh of relief, hoping it was a sign that Nick was finally ready to depart. He was about to step forward and announce himself when Janette's eyes flicked toward him, pinning him to the spot. Her lips were curved in a knowing smile, and Schanke wondered nervously when she'd noticed him, and what she might do to him if she realized he'd overheard any of their conversation. Sweat prickled along his back as Janette studied him coolly, and then she jerked her chin toward him, prompting Nick to turn around. Schanke breathed out slowly and walked over to join them.
Nick looked apologetic. "Sorry, Schank. Let's get you home."
Nick turned back, and Janette leaned forward and kissed him once more, very slowly.
"Be careful, cheri. He's looking for you. And he sounded very...determined."
It was a relief to step out of the Raven, into the cool night air of early spring. Schanke's thoughts drifted toward home and bed, but the conversation in the Raven nagged at him. Something was going on with Nick, and as Nick's partner, it was his duty to find out what it was.
"Everything okay?" he asked as they made their way to Nick’s car.
"Yeah," Nick said shortly. "Everything's fine."
Schanke's next question was interrupted by a flutter of movement above. He swung his head up quickly, scanning the night sky, but there was nothing there. After a minute, he gave up. Maybe he was just on edge from the night's murder, and more importantly, Natalie's revelation of what had been done to the body. Twice in one night, though--that had to mean something.
He kept a close watch on his surroundings all the way home, peering out the windows and keeping an eye on the sky. Fortunately, Nick seemed too distracted by his visit to the Raven to notice Schanke's unusual attentiveness.
Once he was home, Schanke spent a long time staring thoughtfully out the window before he joined his wife in bed.
Schanke had already scoured Jenkins' bank statements for the previous two years when Nick arrived the following evening.
"There's nothing here," he said, looking up from the new stack of papers. "I've got the forensic accountants combing through the company accounts, but they haven't turned up anything either."
"There has to be something," Nick said, leaning on the edge of Schanke's desk. "He got the money from somewhere."
"Yeah, well, good luck in finding it. He's covered his tracks."
"Was there anything in Tommy's files about the company's finances?" Nick asked.
Schanke scowled at the memory of ploughing through the files. "I don't think so," he said, already knowing what Nick was going to say. Even so, his heart sank at the words.
"Let's take another look."
They traded piles this time, which made the task marginally more bearable than rereading the same papers he'd read the night before. Even so, Schanke was twitching before he was a third of the way through the stack. He was ready to suggest another coffee run when Nick looked up with a triumphant smile.
"Jenkins spun off a research subsidiary about a year ago. There's a note from Tommy saying he suspected it was being used to hold company debt, but what if Jenkins created it for a different purpose""
"Like hiding a slush fund for assassins?" Schanke asked.
"We need to find out if there's any sign Jenkins transferred money to them from the main firm."
A quick trip to the forensic accountants confirmed a slow, steady trickle of money from CASE to the subsidiary over the past year.
"But we're going to have to wait until tomorrow to find out where their money went," Schanke said glumly as they returned to their desks.
"Let's try another direction," Nick said, leaning back in his chair. "How did Jenkins contact the assassin?"
Schanke rested his elbows on his desk. "Well, you don't just look up 'assassin' in the phonebook. He must have heard about him somewhere."
"Yeah, but from whom? And how did they communicate?"
"We haven't really looked at Jenkins' associates yet," Schanke said.
"Or his phone records."
Schanke gave him an incredulous look. "You don't think he was stupid enough to call from his home, do you?"
"No, he's arrogant, but not that careless. He could have used a payphone, but he would have run the risk of being overheard." Nick stared off into space for a moment, and then straightened up abruptly. "Didn't he say he was a member of the Granite Club?"
"A place like that, they must have phones for members," Schanke said.
"The assassin would have had to contact Jenkins to tell him the job was done."
"And he was there that night."
Nick stood up and grabbed his jacket. "Let's pay them a visit."
"Mr. Jenkins was here last night," the concierge told them. "He had dinner."
"Did he receive any phone calls during dinner?" Nick asked.
"I don't..." She hesitated, looking at them with sudden wariness. "I'm sorry, but do have a warrant?"
"We don't need a warrant," Nick said in the odd, low tone that seemed to compel cooperation from reluctant citizens. The concierge relaxed, as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
Schanke wished, not for the first time, that he knew how Nick pulled that off.
"He received a call around 7:30," she said. "It lasted about two minutes."
Nick nodded his thanks and turned to Schanke. "We need to find out who placed that call."
A quick visit to a judge and a few phone calls later, they had a name.
"Frederick Lang," Schanke said in satisfaction, setting down the receiver. He held up a slip of paper and waved it victoriously. "And we have an address."
"Doesn't look like Lang spent much time here," Schanke said, wandering through the echoing apartment. The walls were landlord beige and studded with holes from previous tenants; the floor was covered in dull pink carpet. The only furniture was a cheap pressboard table and a single straight-backed chair, both of which looked like they had been salvaged from someone's curb.
"In his line of work, it's a good idea to be in a position to walk away," Nick observed. "He probably didn't keep anything here that he didn't mind losing." He ran a latex-gloved hand along the scarred tabletop, and then underneath, looking for anything hidden beneath it.
"That means there probably isn't much here for us to find," Schanke said, disappointed. He should have known that this was too easy.
"Well, let's see if he slipped up," Nick said. "I'll take the kitchen and you start with the bedrooms, okay?"
Schanke shook his head in protest. He had to confirm his suspicions and he wasn't going to be able to do that in the bedroom. "Oh, no. I've seen your kitchen, Knight, and you clearly have no idea what to look for in a regular kitchen. I will take the kitchen and you can start in the back."
Nick protested, but Schanke was already halfway through the kitchen door. After a moment, he heard Nick's footsteps retreating toward the bedrooms.
Schanke searched through the cupboards quickly--as he'd expected, they were nearly bare of dishes, and held even less food than Nick's kitchen. He moved next to the oven--empty--and then to the refrigerator, which contained a collection of unlabeled wine bottles. Schanke pulled one out and cautiously sniffed the contents. His heart sank at the smell--he'd so been hoping that he was wrong. Holding the bottle well away from himself, he recorked it and returned it carefully in the fridge. Let the lab boys make of it what they would--he doubted they'd figure out the truth.
He shut the door and opened the freezer. It was empty apart from a pale blue envelope bearing Nick's name. Schanke stopped, startled by the unexpected sight--what could Lang possibly want with Nick?--then grabbed it and skimmed the handwritten note quickly. He scowled at the contents, grateful that Nick was still in the bedroom, and quickly shoved the whole thing in his overcoat pocket. That taken care of, he continued his search. Once he was satisfied that the kitchen and living room were clean, he headed toward the back of the house in search of Nick.
"In here," Nick called from the bathroom.
"Any luck?" Schanke asked, poking his head through the door.
"Yeah." Nick turned away from the medicine cabinet and held out his hand. A small cassette tape rested on his palm.
"You only charged me ten grand for Sharma," Jenkins' voice said, tinny through the speaker.
"The second one is a rush job. That increases the risk," the second speaker said. Schanke thought he could detect a slight German accent.
"I thought you were a professional," Jenkins said. "Capable of dealing with professional risks."
"You should have planned better."
"I only found out this morning that he knew about Foresight. It won't be long before he puts together those reports and Sharma's murder. And if he does..."
"That's your problem, not mine."
"All right, fine," Jenkins said, defeated. "I'll pay twenty for Cheung. Just take care of him. Today. "
Nick hit stop on the tape recorder. "I think you'll find that's all we need to secure a conviction, Mr. Jenkins."
Jenkins stared straight ahead, expression stony.
"We might be able to persuade the Crown Attorney to show some leniency if you confess, and tell us how to find the assassin."
Jenkins stirred at that. "If I had hired an assassin, do you think I would have hired one so inept that he could be tracked down that easily?"
"You hired one stupid enough to record your conversation," Schanke said.
Nick tilted his head as if something had suddenly occurred to him. "Not stupid," he said. "Security. Or blackmail." He turned his focus on Jenkins and lowered his voice in mild threat. "Both of which suggest that you have some way of getting in touch with him."
They were treading dangerous territory now--with what he'd found in the apartment, Schanke couldn't afford to have Nick track down Lang. Before Jenkins could respond, he spoke up. "Nah, this guy's too stupid to help himself," he said, deliberately provocative. "I mean, he's too stupid to even earn an honest living without killing off his competition. Or to keep his records locked up so that his junior employees can't stumble across them."
Jenkins flinched as if stung. "I'd like my lawyer now," he said coldly, as if realizing he was treading on the edge of another bad decision.
Nick turned slowly and stared at Jenkins for a long moment with a predatory expression--Schanke could almost hear him growl. Schanke held his breath, waiting to see what Nick would do. Then Nick relaxed, and the tension in the room faded. "Come on, Schanke," he said, popping the tape out of the player. "We have the tape, and tomorrow we'll get the financial statements with proof of payment. That will be enough to get a conviction."
"No, it won't," Jenkins said calmly. "But you're welcome to try."
"He's right, you know," Schanke said as exited the interview room. "Without Lang to authenticate the tape and verify the contract, we're going to have a hell of a time getting a conviction."
"That's all right," Nick said, smiling a little. "I think a night or two in jail may persuade Mr. Jenkins to change his mind about confessing."
"You never know," Schanke agreed. He suspected it wasn't jail that was going to change Jenkins' mind. It wouldn't be the first time that one of their suspects suddenly confessed with a little encouragement from Nick. Well, whatever got the job done, and he was fairly sure Nick wasn't actually hitting the suspects. Besides, it wasn't as if there was any doubt that Jenkins was guilty.
His eyes fell on his overcoat, and the letter inside. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. He should just have enough time.... "Listen, do you mind if I knock off early tonight? I've got an errand to run."
"Go ahead," Nick said. "I'll finish up the arrest report."
Schanke stared down into Lake Ontario with a contemplative expression, shivering a little in the breeze that blew in off the water. He heard a rush of wind and the sound of footsteps behind him, and turned around, keeping one hand behind his back. A tall man in a flowing black coat stood a few feet away. He looked very irate.
"Where's Nicholas?" he growled.
Schanke shivered under that cold gaze despite himself, but he kept his expression schooled into one of world-weariness. Never let them see that you're afraid, he reminded himself. "Funny thing about that," he said, palms sweating. "He didn't get your message."
The figure took a step forward, fangs elongating and hooded eyes shifting from brown to gold. Schanke felt his heart speed up. He resisted the urge to wipe his palms on his pants. Instead, he spoke again.
"You can't get me, you know." He used his free hand to pull open his coat, revealing a huge wooden cross, and a long string of garlic. "I've got holy water too. I'm no amateur." Which he figured was true, after a fashion. He may not have ever actually killed a vampire before, but he'd heard plenty about them as a child, and he'd watched his uncle kill one. Once. Which, if he was honest, was the only reason he actually believed his grandmother's stories.
"I figured it out early. I mean, what kind of professional assassin favours brute strength over a gun? Or kills in a busy alley? One who's strong enough that breaking a neck is as easy as pulling a trigger. One who can fly away afterwards and so who doesn't have to worry about getting caught. And of course, the bite marks on the neck were a dead giveaway, even if you didn't take any blood. Seems like kind of a risky signature, but I thought maybe you were trying to send a message. The only thing that really puzzled me was that the murder was committed during the day. But then I realized just how dark that alley is. No direct sunlight. And you probably slipped into the Green Room afterward, didn't you? And then flew away before we started questioning people."
Lang glared at him menacingly, but didn't try coming any closer. "My quarrel isn't with you, mortal. I want Nicholas."
"Yeah, so what's the story there anyway?" Schanke asked, proud of how steady his voice was. The answer to his question didn't really concern him--he was just delaying the end. Putting off what he wasn't sure he could do. Afraid of what would happen if he failed. "Why this whole elaborate set-up? Did one of Nick's ancestors chase you down or something? Maybe there was a real knight in his family somewhere? One who tried to kill you?" He shrugged when Lang didn't respond. "Doesn't really matter. You see, the thing is, Nick's a modern guy. He doesn't know anything about monsters like you. But me, I learned plenty from my babcia. They knew how to deal with things like you in the Old Country." Then, with his heart in his throat and desperate prayers falling from his lips, Schanke pulled the Molotov cocktail from behind his back, lit the fuse with the lighter clutched tightly in his other hand, and hurled it at the vampire.
He was shocked when it actually made contact.
Frederick Lang died screaming, burning brightly against the abandoned stretch of shore that had once housed a long row of factories. Schanke watched until the vampire was reduced to ash, hands shoved deep in his pockets to control the shaking. Afterward, he walked back to his car, where he sat for twenty minutes before he finally managed to get the key into the ignition without trembling.
He wondered, as he drove, whether Nick would manage to extract a confession from Eric Jenkins. He felt a little bad about killing the one person who could have made their case. But of course, there was no way they would have been able to hold a vampire in prison, even if he had managed to convince anyone that that's what Lang was. No, there was only one way to deal with those kinds of monsters. Schanke nodded in growing satisfaction. One way, and he'd done it. And saved his partner's life while he was at it, though Nick would never know how close a shave he'd had. The night was a little safer now, and it was all thanks to him. "Don Schanke, vampire slayer," he whispered. It had a nice ring to it.
Tomorrow, he decided, hands firmly gripping the steering wheel, he'd find out what was going on with Nick. If he was capable of killing a vampire, he was certainly capable of effectively interrogating a single man.
Heart filled with pride, Schanke drove on into the night.
- Norma is, of course, Norma Alves (played by Rachel Lutrell of SGA), the computer tech who nearly blows Nick's cover in "Hunters" when she helpfully runs a background check on him to try to find common links between Nick and Schanke.
- All locations mentioned in the story are real. The Green Room is very popular with University of Toronto students and local hipsters, the Hart House gym is open quite late (fortunately for Nick), and Hillcrest is an absolutely lovely neighbourhood.
- I've played around a little with the location of Nick’s and Schanke's precinct by having them assigned to deal with a murder in the Annex, which might be a little outside of their fictional territory. In reality, the Toronto homicide squad works out of a single building on College Street, along with the rest of the city's detectives. Happily, the homicide rate isn't so high as to require homicide detectives at every Division.