Title: Dead Reckoning
Recipient: Greer Watson
Characters: Nick, Schanke, Captain Cohen, Dr. Lambert
Prompt: a police plot, seen from the perspective of someone other than Nick (any vampire complications on the side, if at all).
Length: c. 4600
Summary: Ernie sits at the precinct waiting to be interviewed, but is totally ignored by all the police. Takes place primarily inside the precinct. We get somebody else's view of Nick and what's going on.
- - - - -
Left here on my own or so it seems
I got to leave before I start to scream
But someone's locked the door and took the key
. . . .
Feelin' alright, (uh oh)
Not feelin' too good myself, (uh oh)
--Feeling Alright, Joe Cocker
The scene is a college dormitory common room with a bunch of A-list, preppy types sitting around a card table and at different levels of dishevelment and drunkenness. They had been playing long and intensely.
One finally jumped up and said, "That's it! I'm broke! If we're still going drinking, somebody else's gonna have to pick up the tab!" He and most of the others laughed.
The kid raking in most of the winnings, plus several obvious IOUs and a few other papers, looked a little sour at that. They all got up and left the room in good humor, looking forward to some good, healthy carousing.
Two somewhat rough-up and ragged looking men were sitting in a row of chairs in the bullpen and along the wall outside of the captain's office. They were near the desks of Detectives, Nick Knight and Don Schanke. One looked rather like a refugee from a discothèque, a blousy, flowered shirt, striped pants, and a haircut that made him resemble Sonny Bono. The other was dressed in a more modern style, but he looked as though he had been through a bar fight – there were a few rips in his shirt, some scrapes on his hands and face. He had seen better days.
The first man sitting, waiting, turned to the new one, held out his hand, and said, "Hi. I'm Bert. So, what are you in here for?"
The other man nodded, shook Bert's hand, and replied, "Ernie. Not sure really. Bar fight; I guess they need a witness statement or something. You?"
"Ha! Ernie. Cute. Bert and Ernie. Yeah, I gotta give a statement. I was mugged outside of the disco. I been waitin' an awful long time though. I hope they get to me soon, I'd kinda like to get home."
"Geez," said Ernie, "I hope *I* don’t have to wait long."
"What happened?" Bert asked him.
"Me, my college roommates and a couple of friends decided to go bar hopping. Found this really funky place called the Raven. We ordered a few drinks, but as cool as the place was, we could see that we weren't really wanted there. Joey was two and a half sheets to the wind already, and when the bartender wouldn't serve him anymore, things began to get ugly. One thing led to another and, man-oh-man, did we ever get our rear-ends kicked?"
Bert said, "Those bruises look like they hurt."
Ernie smiled at this, and winced, too, because they did hurt. "It was worth it though. It was a good fight even though we were outclassed. God! that cop over there, the dark-blond one? He's a helluva lot stronger than he looks. Picked my friend up with one hand. But, you shoulda seen the owner of the place. Drop dead gorgeous: long black hair, these thin, lacy gloves that went up above her elbows. She looked like somethin' out of a 1890's New Orleans jazz club." He smiled and sighed at the memory.
"So, how come you're here," said Bert.
"I don't really know. Like I said' give a statement."
Captain Cohen came out of her office and went over to Knight and Schanke where Nick was filling out his report.
"You were there, detective?" she asked wonderingly.
"Uh, yes, Captain. I happened to be in there. I'd stopped by to ask Ms. DuCharme something," Schanke looked up at Nick and smirked, "and these college kids came in. They were already too inebriated for their own good and when they couldn't get served, one of them started a fight. Actually, I think they wanted one. It looked like they were looking for action."
"College kids!" Schanke mumbled.
Ernie, turned to Bert and said, "Yeah, he's right. To be honest Joey wanted to start a brawl. He thought it'd be fun; something we could brag about later.
"It's a good thing that you were there then," Captain Cohen said.
"Maybe," said Nick, "but there didn't stop a tragedy from happening."
Cohen looked at Nick waiting for more details.
"One of the kids caught a punch just wrong, and smashed his head on the floor. I think it cracked his skull, but Dr. Lambert will have to give you the details. He was dead right there, no chance for first aid or anything."
"Dead!" Ernie said surprised, "Who died? Jesus, I haven't seen any of the other guys. This is awful!"
"Easy, kid, take it easy." Bert said to him.
"That's a shame," said Cohen, "but there's no criminal activity as far as you know?"
Ernie started to get up, " I've got to ask who died."
He was blocked from going over to the detectives by another precinct policeman who walked up to him and Bert. Ernie looked at the out-of-date uniform of the youngish constable who himself looked like he'd been in a fight and needed to get home and change into a clean outfit.
The constable said to them, "It's alright, gentlemen, the detectives will be with you as soon as they finish up with the others. Just be patient, please," he said, and walked on along.
Ernie sat back down, and said to Bert, "Geez, that detective there-- Knight's his name?-- sure swung into action fast. Never seen anybody move that quick. And strong. Like I said, he picked Joey up with one hand. But I gotta ask him who got hurt."
Bert interrupted him and said, "Don't bother. They won't talk to you. They don't want to 'influence' your statement, and they got better things to do. They won't even tell me where the bathroom is."
"Well, that's not nice," Ernie agreed, shrugging his shoulders.
Schanke asked Nick, "It was really just a couple of kids looking for a fight?"
"Seems to be, Schank. They were drunk. I checked the one who smashed into the floor, but I could tell he was already gone."
"How could you tell!" Ernie said, starting to stand again, "You were too busy trying to stop the fight." But he ran out of steam, and sat back down, hard.
Nick ignored him.
"CPR wouldn't have helped?" Don said.
"No, Schanke. I knew he was gone – no pulse, no heartbeat, he wasn't breathing. There was nothing to do but let the Coroner take care of it," Nick continued.
"No, it was one of the other staff that came over to pick him up, but I'm sure Nat will do the autopsy."
Ernie said pointedly, "Who Died!! Autopsy? Geez, we just threw some punches around. It wasn't serious."
Schanke continued, "Holy, moly, be careful what you ask for." Schanke picked up a folder from Nick's desk, "This the kid?"
Ernie said, "Hay, lemme see it, lemme see it!"
Schanke put the folder down before Ernie could get a glimpse of it.
"Good looking kid. His parents been notified?"
"Not yet," Nick said –
Ernie's ears picked up at this, and he leaned in to hear more, maybe he could find out which of his friends had died. But just as he did this, the young constable who had passed them earlier came by again, saying, "It's alright, gentlemen, the detectives will be with you as soon as they finish up with the others. Just be patient, please."
Ernie jumped up and caught the constable's arm, but couldn't hold on, and the young policeman continued on his way.
Bert piped up at this time and said, "See, they just ignore you. I been trying to catch someone's eye for I don't know how long."
"-- they live out west. I'll give the locals a call later for notification." He shook his head with a sad expression, "For someone so young to die so pointlessly."
Ernie turned to Bert, "That guy Knight seems to know what's going on. Look at the pain in his face. He's been there before."
"Well, man, he's a homicide detective, whaddaya expect? I'll be he's had to do this a lot."
"Why didn't you just hypnotize him, Nicholas?" Feliks, Nick's fastidious vampire friend asked.
"Believe it or not, Feliks, I was three sheets to the wind." Nick sat dejectedly on a bench inside a small police station just outside the French Quarter of New Orleans. They could hear the revelry of the Mardi Gras crowds in the distance.
"Where is Janette?" said Feliks.
"Getting the rest of my bail."
Feliks chuckled. "My dear boy, you really should plan these things better -- "
"My pockets were picked!" Nick said, outraged.
"Tsk, tsk," clucked Feliks. "You are very lucky that Janette knows where she can pawn some of her jewels for cash at this time of night and this time of year. Between her efforts and my reserves we should be able to get you out of here before sun-up. A bar fight indeed."
Nick though back to the scene of a bunch of Victorian dandies throwing their fists around, smacking each other, turning fancily decorated tables over, and creating simply appalled looks on the ladies in attendance. He had a smile on his face as he was throwing a few punches. He knew that most of the other patrons were vampires as well and could withstand the blows. The one with the most appalled look, however, was the establishment's owner, a Mamselle Janette DeMond, a raven-haired beauty with a glare that would scare the bravest of men.
Janette bustled into the small holding station, looked over at Nick and saw Feliks standing there, "Oh, so he contacted you, too. How much IS his bail?" She looked at Nick. Nick tried to look sheepish, but Janette continued, "Oh, no, that hurt little boy look will do nothing for you."
She turned to Feliks, "Pardon my manners, Feliks. How do you do? It's so nice to see you again," (and here she turned her glare back to Nicholas) "although under the circumstances …. (then back to Feliks) I did not know you were in town," she continued.
"I hadn't planned on it. Our friend here has incommoded us both it seems."
"Indeed. I am glad you are here. I will need your help in refinancing my little restaurant. I'm sure that Monsieur deBrabant here will be happy to reimburse you along with a fair rate of return." She glared at Nick again. "A bar fight! What were you thinking."
Nick really had mixed emotions about the whole matter. He hadn't started the fight, but he had partaken of it whole-heartedly.
Janette was angry.
He was going to have to pay for all the repairs, Feliks would make him pay through the nose (and other orifices if necessary) while being amused at the whole thing. Worst of all, Janette would tell LaCroix, and, rather than be angry, LaCroix would be amused and dismiss the matter as child's play.
What really bothered Nick, beyond the cost of repairs, both to the establishment and to his relationship with Janette, was that LaCroix would be right. It was childish.
"Oh, Nicola', what am I to do with you," our glamorous and real lady of the night sighed. "For all your concerns for your precious 'umanity! How many of them were killed while you pretended you were driven by testosterone? You do realized you might have called the enforcers" – and here she shuddered slightly – "down on us. Tcha! I leave this mess to you; I expect it to be cleaned up when I return." She left the room in a visible huff.
"My dear boy," said Feliks, "I think you have irritated her."
"Feliks, did I ever mention your irritating habit of understatement?" Nick said gloomily.
Natalie Lambert, the night Coroner, walked into the detective's bullpen, nodded to Nick and Schanke, and entered Captain Cohen's office. A moment later, the captain came to her door and asked the two detectives to come in.
"I'm going in there; I gotta find out what's going on." Ernie said to Bert. He then went and stood in the doorway to the office. No one paid any attention to the young collegian.
Natalie said to the assembled group, "You're not going to like this. It's straight-forward alright, but his death was caused by a broken neck, not the blow to the back of his skull, although that didn’t help any. Basically, he choked on his own blood."
"So, then it is murder?" asked Cohen.
"It would seem so," Natalie replied.
"Damn," said Schanke.
"It seemed awfully quick," Nick said, nodding in agreement. "We'd better get back and interview some of the Raven's patrons."
Natalie looked up at this and over to Nick.
Nick said to her, "It was a sudden bar fight at the Raven. I happened to be on the premises."
Natalie looked at Nick, pursing her lips a bit, and raising her eyebrows slightly.
"Wow," said Ernie; "Gee, what does this mean?" He looked puzzled and scratched his head. He went back to his seat next to Bert and told him, "My friend was murdered."
Bert said, "That's gonna through a wrench into things. It's gonna be days 'fore you get outta here, man."
Captain Cohen said to the two, "Well, you two had better get on with it, and the sooner the better. Are the young man's friends still here?"
Schanke said, "No, the constables took their statements at the Raven and took them home. We'll have to go and bring some of them back. It's not going to be the simple open and shut case we thought." He asked one of the constables standing around to get hold of the "students" and bring them back to the precinct.
Nick and Schanke got up to leave.
Nick pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, "Janette? Hello. Yes. No, there's a problem, I'll explain when we get there. Thanks," and hung up his phone.
Ernie stood and said, "I'm coming with you!" It was a demand, not a statement.
Bert put his hand on Ernie's shoulder and chimed back at him, "Hey, kid! They ain't gonna let you. You’re here to give a statement or under house arrest or something."
As they left the squad room, Nick turned to Schanke and told him, "She'll be waiting for us."
"Any ideas?" Nick asked Schanke.
"Well, your car could really use a heat–"
"About the case, Schank!"
"Follow the money? That always seems to work," Schanke replied.
Interviewing the bar's patrons had produced nothing out of the ordinary. The bar fight started so quickly, proceeded so fast, and ended so suddenly that even those right next to the events couldn't follow them with any certainty. Nick asked Schanke to interview the few bar patrons still there while he talked with Miklos, Alma, and the other Raven staff.
Getting back to the stationhouse, Schanke went to his desk, Nick sat at his, and they both wrote up notes on their interview at the Raven. Officer Lewis came over to them and told them the vic's roommates were in the interview rooms and that their possessions had been collected and were ready in a near-by room.
Ernie walked over to the two and deliberately read over their shoulders. Schanke shuddered as if a cold wind had just blown up the back of his shirt. Nick looked up and looked around as if he had felt Ernie close by.
Ernie went and sat back down next to Bert.
"Nuthin' happen, dint it." Bert said.
"Nope. Totally ignored me. But I'm not givin' up"
The young disheveled constable came by again, "It's alright, gentlemen, the detectives will be with you as soon as they finish up with the others. Just be patient, please," and continued on his way.
"What is it with him?" Ernie asked. Bert just shrugged.
They sat quietly for a moment.
Bert asked, "They find anythin' at that bar?"
"No. Too much going on. That Knight guy though, he uses his own shorthand. I can sort of follow it, but . . . . And, geez, he writes fast. That other cop came over and he'd got three detailed pages down. How does he do it?"
Nick interviewed each of the roommates and friends of the deceased individually.
Ernie stood out side the rooms watching as his friends were interviewed. He was impressed with Nick's technique. He saw that Nick had a way of compelling the truth out of his friends.
Nick glared at the kid he was interviewing. "What were you thinking? The bar's owner is out a couple of thousand in damages, several people were injured, and one of your friends was killed!"
The young man blanched at this, "K- Killed? What? No!" He started to stand up; Nick reached across the table with one long arm and pressed the boy back into the seat.
Schanke watched through the large window-mirror. "That's it Nick, sock it to 'im."
Ernie saw that Nick's eyes seemed to glow when he talked with the boy. Several times he found himself about to answer Nick's question. He mumbled, "That Schanke guy is right; this guy is good!"
The fact was that unless Nick was careful, the interogatee would start confessing to anything. The young man would gulp, beads of sweat would start to form on his forehead, and he would blurt out an answer to anything the detective asked.
Schanke said to anyone who was listening, but mostly to himself, "I don't know how he does it, but he gets results. It's amazing."
Ernie nodded agreeing.
Captain Cohen came up to Nick who was back at his desk, "Have you gone through their things? One of them," she looked down at the paper she was holding, "had a bunch of IOUs, dollar bills, and such. Can you glean anything from it all?"
Schanke looked up and said, "I'll go over it. It may have been just a quick bar fight, but money can screw up the best of friendships."
A bit later:
"What have you found out, gentlemen?" asked Cohen.
"According to his friends, the vic was as rich as Midas. Money may have been a motive," Nick said. He turned to his partner and said, "Schank?"
Schanke spoke up, "Yeah, look at this," and he handed the captain a sheet of paper.
"Yes," he replied, "in addition to all the drinking and a bar fight, they'd been playing poker earlier and the dead kid had lost a bundle. One of the other kids admitted needing more dough for college, and I've asked Lewis to pull all of their financials – heck, even college kids have credit cards these days. With a little luck, maybe their bank records'll tell us something."
Ernie who had been eavesdropping said quietly, "They won't tell me anything and I'm the only one who lost a bundle playing poker."
Ernie watched Dr. Lambert come into the bullpen. He eavesdropped again on the conversation:
Natalie entered the bullpen, motioned to Nick to follow her, and the went into one of the small interview rooms where she unloaded some bottles and boxes of stuff, and handed Nick what looked like a strawberry milkshake.
"Hi, Nat. I hope that isn’t what I think it is," he said.
"Oh, c'mon now. It's not that bad –"
"You don't have to drink it."
"—and I think I've found some additives that might help the taste."
She dropped the container as she handed it to him, but with his swift vampire reflexes he caught it before it could drop more than a foot.
"Dirt would help the taste."
"Don't be negative. You know, I think half your problem is attitude."
Nick sighed, "You may be right, but honestly . . . ." He took a healthy sip.
Natalie said, "Swallow!"
He did, and made the most atrocious face and his eyes began to glow.
"Oh, stop it!" Natalie said, "That doesn't scare me and it doesn't change the taste either. And, besides, it ought to help."
Ernie watched the two of them and said to himself, "These two are more than just colleagues. And what is it with his eyes?"
There was clearly a lot more to Detective Knight than what appeared on the surface. Ernie thought of asking them what was up, but since they had studiously avoided talking to him – heck, they even avoided eye contact – he decided to keep it to himself . . . for now."
He went back over to where Bert was sitting.
"Didn't find anything out, didja?" Bert said.
Ernie looked at Bert and thought a minute, "I did, but nothing useful. This is a very strange place." Bert nodded in agreement.
Schanke stood and walked over to Nick as he came back into the squad room.
"Got the financials on the college kids. His friend Joey needed money or he was going to be kicked out. And, listen to this: the so-called "will": 'My last will and testament. I leave everything to Joseph' and it's dated early yesterday. That's a motive if ever I saw one. The kid's dead and this could be legal. I always say: follow the money!"
"That's a stretch," Nick said.
"I know, but it's what we've got. Joey could have realized that our vic here, being out cold, was pretty vulnerable, and took advantage of the situation. Why don't you use some of your intensive questioning to see if you can get a confession out of the guy?"
"You know that doesn't always work, Schank."
"Yeah, but it's worth a try, and it *is* the money trail."
Ernie listened to that exchange and thought it was very interesting and rather disturbing. Of the group, he knew he was the one with the most money. He was beginning to get an idea of what had happened and what was going on. It would explain a lot.
He went over to Bert and asked him point blank, "Just how long have you been here, Bert?"
Bert looked back at him blankly. "A long time," he said slowly. "I don't really know."
"Have you eaten at all?"
"Naw, not hungry. Why?"
"Just an idea."
Ernie went over to Detective Knight, who was sitting at his desk going over Natalie's Coroner's report, and practically shouted in his ear, "Hey, listen to me!"
Nick looked up and over at Schanke and said, "Did you say something, Schanke?"
"No. But listen, I think we've got enough that we should be able to pressure this Joey guy. The other guys in the group have said that he and the vic didn't get along that well."
"Is he still here?"
"Yeah, Interview 2."
Ernie went back over and sat in the chair next to Bert. He put his head in his hands.
"You o.k.?" Bert asked.
"Not really, but don't worry about it. I think Detective Knight over there is going to figure out what happened in that bar fight, and I'm not going to have to make a statement after all."
"Well, hey, that's good. Then maybe you can finally get out of here. I'm still waiting for someone to come and talk to me," Bert said.
Nick got up, took some papers with him, and headed to the interview rooms where Joey had been brought back.
Ernie got up and walked over to Nick's desk and looked at the report he had left open.
"Damn," he said to himself. "Thought so. Geez, life's a bitch, then you die," and he started laughing.
Then he went over to the interview room and watched Detective Knight. He wondered if the detective might 'whammy' his 'friend' Joey into telling the truth. It was sordid.
Brief, short, to-the-point: "I thought I could get away with it," Joey said. "With all the confusion in the fight, what's a twisted neck here or there? He didn't need all that money anyway, and I could use it."
'But you broke his neck!" Nick said.
Joey shrugged, " 'S not that hard when you know what to do. I had some training in – ah, what's it matter now?"
Nick shook his head and had the young man write it all down and sign it.
"Well, Mr. Knight, it seems you have some magic powers in addition to a good deal of smarts. I'm glad you're using them for good," said Ernie to himself. "It does put a different perspective on crime fighting though. Hey, maybe if you can't hypnotize a confession out of them, you can scare it out of them. Jeez, but I'd like to know what you really are. The eyes and the compelling voice are giveaways, but I'd like to stick around till morning just to make sure."
Bert walked over to Ernie and said, "You find out what you needed to know?"
"Yeah, I did. Now what happens?" he said dejectedly.
Just then, the persistent constable came by them again, "It's alright, gentlemen, the detectives will be with you as soon as they finish up with the others. Just be patient, please. And you, sir, yes, Mr. Ernest –" he looked at some papers he suddenly had in his hand, said Ernie's last name, and continued -- "come with me, they are ready for you now. We are going up to the 5th floor," which was an odd thing to say because the building had only four floors..
Ernie gulped, and said, "O.k, I guess. Good luck with your doctor friend's potions, Detective Knight; Bert, I hope they come to interview you soon," and he gave Bert a short wave of his hand. Ernie and the officer then left towards the elevator banks.
Bert waved back looking a bit puzzled, but not much.
Nick looked up again, "Did you say something, Schank?"
"Hmph. I think I've got to get my hearing checked. It’s like I can almost hear something, but it's so faint that it's like it's not there." He shook his head as if to clear it of cobwebs, and went back to finishing his report.
Ernie smiled at that, "Maybe he did hear me a little," then he stepped into the bright, white light of the elevator.
Schanke said, "Bar fights are dangerous, stupid, and expensive, but they shouldn't cost a life."
Nick, thinking back to the one years ago in New Orleans, said, "You can say that again."
Schanke started, "Bar fights are dangerous, stupid, and – "
Nick shouted, "Schanke! Look, go let the captain know we got a confession?"
"Oh, yeah, thanks, Nick. I like that 'we'. Will do though."
Schanke spotted Captain Cohen coming out of her office, "Hey, Cap! We got --"
Captain Cohen said, "Detective! I've told you –"
"I know, I know, but we got a confession!"
She sighed. "Good job. See you tomorrow then."
After she had gone, Schanke looked after her and said, "Yer welcome, sheesh."
He turned to Nick and said, "Hey, Nick. We got this in less than a day, you think this might get us Partners of the Month?"