2010-09-19: Complaining Witness




AgentHamm_V5icon.png, Agent Ritter, ???

Date: September 19th, 2010


Continued From: Entertaining Theories

There's a witness in the latest Execution Style cases, and nobody's happy about it — except maybe the witness. Composure on all sides is ruffled, and everything inches closer to finality.

"Complaining Witness"

* * *

Another street, another dinghy apartment. It's barely a standard above the rat-hole hotel the other bodies were discovered in and filthier besides — having been allowed to gather trash and belongings from residents who stopped caring about the smell. Now there's a different sort of scent in the lovely mix; the body's evident across the way, positioned near a wall and a fire-escape visible out the open window. Drag marks in blood mark a progress towards that same perch. Though figures in familiar dark blue jackets and lighter blue gloves stand in points like a constellation around the room, nothing's being touched; the crime scene looks more like a museum. It's clear they took Hamm's instruction utterly serious.

There's a ripple effect among those present when the agent crosses over the threshold and into the scene, one hand in front of him for absent balance as he picks across a bag of garbage that didn't ever quite make it to the dumpster they saw outside by the carpark. Hamm is greeted almost immediately by the forward paces of a young woman, the taut lines of her face as crisp as her suit — though a feminine cut softens the impression some. Her mouth opens to speak to the federal agent, but her eyes have found Maggie, instead. The lips hesitate; the eyes pass from face, to badge, to Hamm. He nods. The woman: "Neighbors," in indication of the two people floating by the couch who look nothing like they belong here, except a clear immunity to the smell. "They called it in. Came to check. Apparently, our guy takes off," on Hamm's sharply critical eyebrow, she shakes her head, beginning to direct him — and, by proxy, Maggie — towards the kitchen, "That's not even the weird part…" — though Hamm's outstretched hand behind him gives Maggie a stay of movement — "He leaves a survivor." And she gives a nod around the corner, leading into Hamm passing through the arch to meet this oddity.

Maggie has a businesslike nod for the woman in the suit; the detective adopts a don't-speak-until-spoken-to approach, her eyes quickly averting to continue her study of the crime scene. The showpiece — the body — the blood, the neighbours, but a particularly curious look tilts toward the kitchen that purportedly holds the "survivor". She doesn't follow Agent Hamm, per se, but drifts in that direction, pausing to linger near the archway.
As they did before, everyone does a spectacular job of pretending Maggie doesn't exist. Besides, it's hard not to be drawn to that kitchen — listening, waiting. "Hello, sir, my name is Agent Hamm," announces the federal man, as his soft footsteps mark him as entering the floor change from carpet to linoleum.

There's a light squeaking of metal — parts working together toward a purpose. And a righteous sneer. One that the lingering detective was last to here under the crackling of collapse, as she left him to his fate half-crushed in a burning building. "Oh, joy. Here's the FBI to make it all better." The Weasel is not impressed.

The second that distinctive voice so full of sneering reaches her ears, just as she was about to fold her arms and wait through her mostly sanctioned eavesdropping, Maggie just … closes her eyes. Only for a moment, while she hangs her head in reluctant recognition— afterward it's a snap up with renewed determination. The limits of her "best behaviour" will tested. She strides straight into the kitchen, though her steps purposefully slow as she closes in on its occupants. Detective Powers positions herself parallel to Hamm — at a distance — for this cheerless reunion. "Hello Mr. Creevey…"

All eyes on the detective: the woman agent, from her stance with hands folded near the back of the table, Hamm, clutching the chair he meant to set in front of his witness, and Wilbur Creevey, himself, already seated — it's difficult to separate oneself from the strict metal confines of a wheelchair. Lifeless knees knock together, as useless as the ones torn by bullets on the body in the room beyond. His fingers curl with wretchedly unmasked anger at the mere sight of Maggie, not to mention her greeting. The sneer creases and deepens, his sarcasm cutting off at a biting edge, but mocking still. "Fuck, copper— this pretty much amounts to stalking."

The next squeal is not from Wilbur's new trappings but Hamm as he settles that chair out of his grasp and, with a hard press that carries the weight of the gravity of his words — or word: "Detective…"

In defense, Maggie innocently lifts both hands up a few slight increments away from where they hang near her thighs. No harm meant — to anyone. Today. Looking from Creevey to Hamm, she takes a step backward along the linoleum for good measure. "I know him," she explains for her intrusion that caused such a strong reaction in the wheelchair-bound man. Looking back to him darkly, the sight of him brings about a small frown that sticks there unwittingly.
Hamm's hand tucks under his nose, as he gives what could be a considering sniff — that ends up full of dismissal. "Okay," duly noted, but assigned no weight, "Thanks for telling me."

It's as much a goodbye as anything; the attitude suddenly bolstering Creevey with some of his own. He takes inordinate glee out of Maggie being shuffled off so smartly, and it's enough to turn his frown upside-down. Though, there lingers a good set of ill-will behind those beady eyes. "Yeah, detective," there's power in knowing her real title, and menace in the way he uses it now, "shoo fly." Snug as bug in this role, he asides privately — but not at all lowly — to Hamm. "She ain't wanna hear this anyway. Might make her cry."

Or — it might spur her to leap across and hit a man in a wheelchair. That's the look of intent the detective certainly possesses now, but she remains still. Still, too, to Hamm's dismissal. After a few moments of silent smoldering, however, she gives a subtle shake of her head and turns on her heel to head back the way she came — but her retreat is misleading; she goes as far as the kitchen entrance. There, she positions herself just inside, in sight, and slides her hands halfway her front pockets. It isn't as if they don't know she'd be around the corner listening anyway.

But — no. Creevey wanted her to get kicked out. Some of the pleasure leaks off his face like dripping grease. His hand jumps off his lap, pointedly stabbing every finger at Maggie; if only gestures could kill. "Hey, big daddy," he refers now to Hamm, staring with overt expectation at the federal agent, "What are you gonna do about that shit?"

It's vaguely unclear whether Hamm's long-suffering sigh, complete with raised and falling shoulders, is for a mouthy witness' antics — or a fully badged detective's. Whichever, he sets himself with gentle ease onto the chair, wrapping an arm around the back, his fingers twining to the cheap plastic as his gaze roams the floor and then rises with precision to Creevey. "I'm going to ask you to tell me what happened."

Intent distracted by Maggie's presence, Creevey is drawn to round on the agent at this question with the full filth of his disgust. "What happened? How 'bout the utter failure of your shit system? You let a maniac off the reservation and now you ain't gonna take care of it right— " his eyes roll dramatically, "Like always."

The patience of a saint allows Hamm to regard Creevey with nothing more than polite and professional curiosity. His hand not on the chair comes to lay passively on his thigh as he lifts one leg to cross the other. "So you're saying you recognized your attacker?"

"Yeah," Creevey snorts, letting snot dribble before he swipes at it with a hand. "I— what's the word," pure sarcasm, as his head drapes against his shoulder, following the shift of his gaze to Maggie at the door, "Know him."

The glance to the detective finds her perfectly still and unmoving; the only thing that intrudes into the questioning besides her mere presence is her vested stare. What anger she may still possess is already largely out of sight. Maggie is a statue with her hands almost casually in her pockets— who happens to look straight into the beady eyes of the apparent witness — straight into him and right through him — the second he looks her way.

Hamm draws his hand under his nose a second time; it almost seems like an unconscious retaliation to Creevey's own neglect for his own sniveling, as the agent runs the three fingers past and then down, again, to his leg. There's a very long moment from him — he lets everybody get their stares out. Then demands full attention with a sudden lean in and loud snap of his fingers; Creevey leaps to attend to the noise, then flashes anger and embarrassment at having been so obviously directed. He eyes the agent less than receptively when it's asked, "Could you please identify where you know your attacker from?"

"Sure," even Creevey's fake compliance is laced with too much poison. "But couldn't," his shoulder takes all his weight against one side of the wheelchair as he arcs a finger dramatically in the air until it lands, end of the pendulum's swing, on Maggie, "fuck-buddy tell you just as well? I mean… I assume she's seen his face while he's plowing her but— hey, you never know." His lips draw back like an animal, revealing a horde of yellowed teeth, "Sometimes they're kinkier than they look."

Despite herself, Creevey gets to Maggie more than she'd undoubtedly like. Luckily for him, it's not enough to actually leap toward him, but tension strikes out past her willpower after the crude slurs, escaping past her neutrality to lash her features tightly together in resentment. "O-kay," she exclaims through a breath, affronted and raising one hand out of her pocket to spread open fingers stiffly in a gesture: that's enough of that. Fresh off of being slandered in such a way, she's just as easily a rational voice of reason a second later. "Let's not get carried away," she says, smooth with warning beneath. "Why don't you just tell the agent what happened."

"Oh, so you're not gettin' any?" loosely translates Creevey off of her reaction; he's clearly a little something of his own from being able to induce a rise in the woman. "Ya jus' want it, then? Sniffin' about at each other like that— but yer gettin' all dry and desperate down there," he doesn't need the visual; he looks anyway, "When he's gone all these long nights gettin' his rocks off a different way," pointedly, he eyeballs Hamm, whose face has gone dangerously stony. Creevey fails to see the danger, working himself into a froth by his own storytelling, "Do you like dangerous men, copper? Gets you a little— hot," a twisted hand rises; now he's not just looking, he's making as if he can feel her across the way, "when they've got blood on their ha— "

Several things happen at once; Creevey's sentence comes to a sputtering close as Hamm bolts from his seat, hand grabbing the side of the man's wheelchair to spin him away from Maggie. But he's saying, "A little respect—" At the same time as his colleague suddenly asserts, "Agent — you should come see this."

Hamm takes a nice, good moment, but, inevitably, work tops earning lawsuits. "We'll come back to this," he informs Creevey with all of that patience slipping back in, "But if you decide to continue in this vein, I'll have to consider you hostile to the case and, therefore, take all of your testimony— considerably less seriously." Slipping around the wheelchair where he's spun it, Hamm marches through the kitchen and straight past Maggie — as if she weren't even there and he's forgotten he left her so.

By this time quite prepared for the continued onslaught from Creevey, Maggie's barrier is built up and, though Creevey is eyed, no interaction passes it. Steely of gaze and pressing her mouth into a thin, hushed line, maybe even biting her lip within it, she stands firm until Hamm whisks out. She follows suit after a polite delay and the remaining man in the room is granted the sound of her boots on the kitchen floor as she leaves it, fast enough that her oversized outer shirt flags out behind her.

As it is, Hamm hasn't whisked very far at all. He's stopped fast and well enough near the doorway that Maggie's following nearly trips up him, and the woman standing next to him; both eye the detective with similar intent short of surprise. Hamm, eyebrow arched so tellingly, passes his look from Maggie to the kitchen she's left, back to her — so distinctively that he makes a question out of merely doing so. It's followed by an agreeable glance shared with his colleague and then, staying now, on Maggie. He shrugs lowly. "We were going to let you punch him…"

As she stops, the glances of the agents are followed by the detective, a look back into the kitchen lingering with overdrawn consideration. "It's tempting," she replies, folding her arms rather tightly just beneath the hanging badge, "but he'd just get a kick out of my reaction. I'm not engaging him any more than I already have just by being here. He hates me almost as much as he hates Miles."

"He wouldn't get a kick— if you punched him," advises Hamm, in a light and yet serious tone unbefitting of the encouragement of violence. It's set aside quickly enough. Widening his stance, he crosses an arm over his midsection, cupping the elbow with his other hand across. "His prejudice doesn't make him a very reliable witness," he opines carefully, "Then again— it also makes him a very likely target. I'm told the scene so far," he bends a shoulder back to look over it at the mentioned scene; talking about it like that makes it seem further away than just right behind him, "supports the story of how it was going down. Creevey has a panic button on his wheelchair; he left the receiver with his neighbors— incase of emergencies."

"He's a terrible witness," Maggie adds to the statements as soon as she's absorbed them (immediately). "He has a documented history of doing what happens to work out for him a the time." She, too, looks into the crime scene they technically stand in. Her study of it draws her closer, and she maneuvers around and past the agents to get a better look, carefully making her way toward the dead body by the wall, naturally avoiding the trail of smeared blood. She studies the fire escape nearly as much as the body. "And the victim…?" she ventures quietly, politely not wanting to monopolize the crime scene. A glance back; there's contemplation in her eyes, distinctly and darkly weighing of something beyond the simple questions she's asking now. "Do we know who he is yet…?"

After — and only after — Hamm's go-ahead nod, the woman near him registers the detective's explorations. "Another Irish face," she explains, warily, "We— don't actually have an ID on this one; he wasn't in our line-up." With Hamm looking settled as to Maggie's evaluation on Creevey, this woman — name-tags should be fashionable at crime scenes, but hers is Ritter: Nancy — she grows increasingly narrow-eyed at her fellow's ease. "He's still a witness, Hamm. And the only lead we have right now. There's absolutely no record of the Irish and the Italians ever cooperating — in fact, the complete opposite. Where's his motivation to not put fingers at the right man? If he has any sense of self-preservation, like you say," she angles a look, not skeptical but measuring, at Maggie, "he doesn't want the actual killer out there to have a second chance at him, does he?"

"You have a point…" reassures Hamm, but not with the commitment Ritter seeks. The federal agent in charge has become occupied staring at the floor where Maggie's gone — the body, the blood. He edges off from the wall space and into the room; since his arrival, the neighbors have been escorted out for official questioning, and most of the other bodies have removed themselves to make the open, undisturbed, space Hamm utilized at the first scene Maggie saw him in.

"A point," Maggie agrees with Nancy Ritter— to a point. She's as noncommittal as Hamm. "if he knows who the actual killer is. Or if self-preservation //is/ his motivation… it's not called cooperation if you sell out." But her remarks are detached, lent no particular conviction, her focus angled down toward the unnamed victim, his unfamiliarity narrowing her eyes. Her hands travel to her hips overtop the length of her shirt, which she grabs slightly. Another moment is spent silent, the detective looking only to the agent in charge when her head does raise. "So," she says, grim, "What's next?"

Ritter's voice gets very low for the next — not threatening; she doesn't want the person inside the kitchen to hear. To this purpose, she also comes closer in on the two investigating the scene. "As far as any of these thugs ever knew, your guy is the sell-out. The FBI never chose to release his identity to the public. To them, he could just as well be doing Italian work here."

Seeking consolation, confirmation — contradiction — anything from Hamm, Ritter falls short of receiving. The agent appears to have been absorbed in utter completeness by that rash of red on the floor, staining the carpet like motion blur. Where there is, at first, no reaction, his features steadily begin to wrinkle with the evidence of his puzzlement. Until, finally, lifting his head sharply with no regard for the women's conversation, he projects: "Whose blood is this?"

Maggie is rather silent to Ritter as well, but she does regard her now, accepting the facts given. Hamm's puzzlement over the blood draws her eyes down, but she gives the floor no deeper study than she did before. "Someone's," comes the ambiguous answer. "It doesn't quite add up. Not with this." A look to the dead body completes her "this" before she thoughtfully follows the uneven drag-marks, inasmuch as she can — they don't go far but they do go near the window, and — an uneasy shift of one shoulder slowing her for an instant — she leans out the open space to look along the fire escape. And down.

"Maybe it's Miles'— " Ritter's observation, meant to be helpful, earns her the focus from Hamm she had been asking for — but not quite how she wanted. Off his sharp expression, she backpedals, " — the suspect's. Killer's." Mostly, she sounds like she's saying the same thing. And only a few seconds off of this correction — she backsies with an inhale of courage. "Agent, with all due respect— you can't ignore that we could have a positive ID in there."

"I'm not ignoring it," Hamm insists, not impatience — in fact, more patient than before, or than his look just recently to her would suggest. "I'm attempting to figure out if there was another party in this room." His voice grows fainter as his gaze veers to the door, undamaged, "I come in… here's this sucker," the body, "he must've answered it— he never had a chance as soon as he had the door open. No weapons," the kitchen, "Creevey's in a wheelchair. He might as well already be bound, not even worth the time— no weapon," the body, "Sucker goes down," Hamm mock shoots the already dead with his finger, "No dragging…" and then, inescapably, those blood marks on the carpet. "Drag marks in blood."

Maggie has progressively leaned further out the window as Hamm puzzles out the mystery blood. "The suspect could have gotten hurt… or he already was," she theorizes in a murmur. "Or— " She interrupts herself suddenly, grabbing onto the edge of the open window. Her sleeve is just long enough to use it as a protective pseudo-barrier against crime scene contamination as she braces herself and starts to hoist herself outside.

"Hang on," the detective explains when she's already halfway out, "there's something down there." Climbing outside is a slower process than it would be another day, but it's still not long before her boots clang onto the fire escape and start the rhythmic descent to the alley toward what looks like— a crutch?

Staring down the mystery blood trail like an enemy, Hamm's head suddenly lifts brightly over to Ritter, just lightly tilted with the force of his revelation: "… I don't think he's coming in the door at all."

Clang. They're both startled to hear that Maggie's excused herself out the window; Hamm's at the sill in fantastically quick strides. "Detective," he attempts to reel her in with his voice alone; his hands stay at his hips unobtrusive to descent and scene, "Come on back in. We can send a man down there." To this intent, he gives a nod inside and Ritter, herself, twirls to enter the corridor and find a more proper way to the item needing to be discovered.

Too late now! Maggie does not heed the call at all. She's out here — she sees something — she's going for it. "It's okay," she calls back, her focus making her voice clear with how unconcerned she is about Agent Hamm at the moment. The criss-crossing, spidery metal stairs of the fire escape might not be the best course for her recently battered body, but that doesn't stop her from descending them step after step in order to hit the pavement. Five floors isn't too many. Eyes on the prize.

The prize, as it were, is not very shiny. Or victorious. Or really very rewarding. It's actually sort of pathetic— a thick silver physical therapy crutch abandoned in the middle of some dank, unfitting alleyway. And on its bottom edge: blood.

Above, his hands never off his hips, leans out over the grating and area Maggie has landed in. Patient? Yes. But patience as a parent to a wayward child. "Need I remind you, detective, that any okayness at this crime scene is not actually your call?"

The sad prize isn't one Maggie especially wants — it causes her a frown as she nears it to study the bloodied edge from afar; she doesn't crouch down. She takes a few steps to position herself exactly under the fire escape's grating and looks straight up through the metal pattern at the agent above. "I can handle myself in a crime scene, agent!" she reminds him in turn, cool reassurances just touching the corners of her mouth for Hamm's grid-work view of her. Her voice is raised just to the precise amount to carry alright without outright yelling. "I didn't touch anything!" But onto what's more important: "There's blood on it— on this crutch. There might be a match up there; it's adjusted for someone about Creevey's height." Or Hamm's. She considerately doesn't compare the two outloud.

Consideration aside, Hamm's view of Maggie is sketchy even without the aide of the grate that separates her into shifting parts below. But observations and reassurances are nothing to the even cooler decisiveness with which he regards her after that reminder. And it's to this which he refers: "I'm sure that will come very in handy for you when you're back on one." Pulling his balance into the room, Hamm orchestrates his sleeve over his hand so that he can get a palm stuck on the top edge of the window. "Someone'll be down for that." He pushes down with palm and hand; the window whines and then definitively slams. Hamm's silhouette is gone from it even before the last click has echoed out over the empty alley.

Someone'll be down, like at the behest of Nancy Ritter— where did she go? Essentially unmoved by the closing of the window, Detective Powers is left blinking only for a moment before she simply turns and strides slowly through the alley, looking for anything it may hold; of course, if it holds nothing, it might also wind up as her path to departure.

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