2010-09-09: Depths



Guest-Starring: Zach Dayton

Date: September 9th, 2010


Previously: PooledWavelengthTidalWashed Up

In the end, all roads still lead back to Dayton, Dayton, Dayton.


* * *

The Standard

With preparations underway for the small list of campaign donators and volunteers planning to honor the woman who died in their midsts without warning, the hotel and the guests are less than hospitable towards the approach of the detectives who harassed them the first time. Combined with work and press, it becomes quickly inevitable that accessing the Rolands for a little private chat is next to impossible in the then. Though a red-headed media woman propositions being told the details so she can use her own talents to get them told, she's bypassed for the winding route that is going through the Roland's staff, instead. With none others able to account for Zach Dayton's comings and goings during Teresa's estimated nap time, his alibi thins to nothing within the first half hour.

All signs, as it were, continue to point towards the handsome campaign manager.

Accordingly, Miles and Detective Powers get themselves pointed in his direction a last time. He's in the rooms upstairs, they say; he said that he had a few things to bring down for the service.

Fitted in one of the fine, but non-glass windowed, back elevators, the comfortably rocking on his heels consultant jabs at the button for the fifteenth floor, humming thoughtfully into the small space as the box rockets imperceptibly upwards. "Respectfully," he says, aside, "I think I should take this one."

"Dive right in," Maggie encourages complaint-free from where she's stepped back to situate herself toward the rear of the elevator, hands in her back pockets. Making an otherwise quiet presence of herself, she watches more the ceiling — and up, beyond, to the fifteenth floor — than anything else. Her gaze, while a calm one, hangs onto some skepticism — pointed above as it is, it could be attributed to criticize Zach Dayton and his seemingly well-meaning intentions with the memorial.

There's silence in the little elevator, skeptical or anticipatory or companionable — just left to sit there as both team members acknowledge the tiny lights above them hailing their progress, and eventual destination. It's after a bit of this, as the fourteen dims and the fifteen glows into view, that Laurie announces, "I believe I shall."

It's only a few yards from exit of elevator to the room suggested, but in this space of time, a change overtakes the consultant, transforming his entire demeanor in a way too subtle to really see and yet is sensed. As he comes right up to the door, he finishes straightening his coat and raises knuckles to knock even though it's been lightly propped open by the bolt.

"You can come in; it's open," calls Dayton's purposefully friendly voice.

Right before addressing that welcome, Laurie pauses, glancing around to Maggie not so optimistically. "I don't suppose you'd… stay out here and press your ear to the door…"

The response from Maggie is not so optimistic, either: "… Why, what are you planning to do in there." Pausing in the hallway as well, her hands still poised in her back pockets, she stands eyeing the consultant, dubiously on the fence and tipping toward the side of 'no'. Yet a hand frees and she gestures at the door in a well, go ahead manner at the same moment that a briefly light smile and roll of her eyes says the same.

"Toss him out the window," Laurie hisses conspiratorially and utterly serious in return. But then, lighter, he reveals, "I don't think an intense female authority figure is the way to come at this." So saying, he tips his head along with her gesture, both guiding his hand to the doorknob which he uses to push into the room. A glimpse of Dayton making himself busy with a few things on the table before he glances up and the door, anyway, begins to close. "Laurence Miles, you remember…" the consultant greets, approaching and offering out his hand.

It's with vague hesitance that Dayton accepts with his own, but it's a firm, professional shake. "Yes, Laurence, I do. One of those hired to— make sure this all went smoothly. You two certainly seem to have smoothly irritated everyone— if this is more story-telling, I have things to prepare— "

"Laurie, really," he blocks, very subtly shifting his body in Dayton's way towards more of the items the manager might want to gather. "Only a moment of your time, Zach. The memorial will get on. And you've done so much already." The slow, open gesture also slows Dayton, and he drops a stack of file folders onto the coffee table with a stiff sigh.

"Yes. I have done a lot— but my job description doesn't exactly include 'take a break'. It includes— take care of everything."

Intense female authority figure that she is, Detective Powers stays on the outside — but she's ever-present on the outskirts, out of sight; she doesn't press her ear to the door, however. With a hand on the doorknob — gently caught after Laurie's entrance — she keeps it open a tiny amount (if it can be called open; only unsecured, really, just vaguely ajar). Keeping a touch to that doorknob, she turns to stand closer, at the side the door opens; there, she leans against the frame, listening like a spy.

"Oh come on, I thought the mode of operation was to take breaks once in a while or you'll— I don't know, drive yourself crazy." Dayton flinches, miniscule, to the word. "Isn't that why you made Lisa take lunch breaks? Took her out, yourself, when you found out she wasn't going?" Laurie's voice and face are soft — a companion — an easy ear; he puts no pressure or inflection on any of his words.

And Dayton eases some into that friendliness, his body weight shifting towards Laurie though he keeps fingers planted tensely against papers he might pick up again any second. "It was just once— or twice. I already told your cop friend that I wasn't sleeping with her which, I'm pretty sure, Laurie, you informed us all wasn't a lie. So."

"Ohhhh," drags out of Laurie with a sigh as he turns about in the room, abandoning his station blocking Dayton to flop heavily onto the couch, "My cop friend. My cop friend?" His tone of don't get me started is all for play — a play in a play — as he goes on quite readily, "That Powers, I swear. The only time she sees lunch is when it's killed somebody. There's the nagging," slightly slouched, his legs spread in a relaxed sit, Laurie lets his head fall against the back of the couch as his hand whips in the air to tick off the complaints, "The constant-rulemaking. We have to be on her schedule, with her organization— did you know?"

His hand turns into a gesture forward; entranced by this personal sharing, Dayton instantly obeys, striding over and dropping into a chair nearby. Laurie pushes up in order to lean towards him, voice lowering in laughing conspiracy, "She totally color codes her notes, too." A dramatic nod and then he falls to the couch, his hand up and bracing wearily at the side of his forehead. "You've seen her, right?" His head drifts to the side, eyes catching Dayton, "Hot, yes?" He waits for affirmation, weighing his own decision with a back-and-forth of his head against his hand, "I mean— in a strict school-teacher sort of way— but I swear to God she is cold inside."

Amusement, bitter but pitying, plays along Dayton's face as he stays there, gaze drifting downward. But he can't help but challenge to this story of woe, his fingers fiddling together as he poses, "Oh yeah? She ever accuse you of a felony you didn't do?"

The room's spy — and topic of conversation — blinks, several times; mostly, she hardens, her mouth straightens into a thin line. Maggie presses her head against the doorframe — close enough, now, to literally pressing her ear against the door. She watches the space in front of the room as intently as if she were in the room herself, waiting with something of a bated breath for an answer from within. That last question.

It's this vested eavesdropping that a passing housekeeper, pushing a cart of neatly arranged items, sees as she comes down the hall. The cart's steady rattle stops, but, on a reassuring don't worry, I'm supposed to be here smile from the spy, who turns slightly to reveal her detective's shield, the hotel employee carries on, skipping that particular room entirely. Despite the tiny distraction, Maggie barely misses a beat in her listening.

For all the important merited inside and out on that particular question — hovering in the air for a moment — Laurie doesn't expressly answer; he tips his head forward more attentively, though still braced on the fingers of his raised arm. Maybe a noise or a suggestion of a noise, some subtle thing his face does gives the subliminal suggestion that he answered. He didn't. He only said: "Do tell."

But even then a waver in Dayton. Competition can't add up to some moral conflict he bashfully wipes away with a hand along his cheek and jaw. "It— no. There's no reason to bring it up now."

"Oh, come on!" protests Laurie, throwing up his arms now in disbelief, "After I just railed on about a woman who could kick my ass and get me fired…"

"Which I promise not to tell, but I just…" he thinks about it a long second and then Dayton shrugs, plain and simple, "I don't think it's right to talk about her badly— now that she's gone. I wish you luck with your Powers, though. Sorry to hear she's as tough as she seemed— watch those ones, though, the tense ones, they— " In the middle of standing, Dayton cuts himself off awkwardly, making him also hesitate in his movement. Aiding in that, Laurie also pushes off from his seat and lays a quick but caring hand on the man's shoulder.

"Zach." It takes a second, but the man meets Laurie's now serious gaze. "When I said that Lisa being too good at her job concerned you, it wasn't defense or self-preservation… it was— it is," staring at him eye to eye, Dayton can't seem to look away even when it's clear he opposes these observations, "Guilt," carefully measured, "And sadness. There was something— you should've been able to do for Lisa, and you failed that. Am I right?"

Lips press tightly together, then his teeth grind over his lower as he holds it all in. But, eventually, Dayton slips away from Laurie's grip— into the chair again. "I knew she'd get too close, she was a bright girl, but there was no reason I could give Senator Roland to pull her from the work. So— I thought— you know, I could just tell her. That'd it all be fine. I— didn't realize how far she'd take it."

The expectancy one has when they're watching a movie, waiting for the next big scene, or when hooked on a thrilling book, barely able to wait to turn the next page: it's the sort of impatience that Maggie has now, in non-fiction reality out in the hallway. Not impatience to act; impatience to know, amplified far beyond the norm by her distance from the men inside. She's completely unmoving, save for a small, reflecting frown and a few soundlessly shifting fingers on the doorknob.

"Why don't you start from the beginning."

"All right," Dayton reluctantly agrees, even as the decision appears to physically lift a weight off his shoulders. As he runs his hand preparatorily over his face, smoothing his silky hair, he adds, "You have to promise not to tell anyone." Again, a hint of an affirmation from Laurie: a little nod or flicker. "Lisa— was a good girl," the campaign manager starts out adamantly, jabbing both of his hands in the air in front of his knees to emphasize, "But she was wound extremely tight. Everything in order, everything the way she wanted it. Half the time we'd leave the office with her there alone because she would rather do it all herself than have us do it not the right way. Her way. It was.. fine. I was busy with my own things, Melissa and Teresa answered phones. But I— " he rolls his eyes upwards, wondering perhaps to Heaven if he could somehow warn his past self, "I saw her there all the time and I thought she could use a break. Get her mind off things. Be a person. So— I took her out to lunch. Twice."

Sighing again, Dayton pauses to slip up against the back of his chair, eyes glued to the table as he sees his own reminiscence come to life, "At first it was great. We laughed, we had things in common. I talked a bit more about myself than she did, but I figured she was just shy… but then. A few days later— " He grimaces, "She saw me go out with Melissa, instead. It was— maybe I should have been more clear with her, but I didn't think anything of it. We were grown adults, enjoying each other's company. To me, there was no reason for things to be more complicated. But to Lisa…"

"Lisa was an extremely controlling personality," fills in Laurie when Dayton hesitates too long, "She'd probably dictated the beginning and end of every relationship. Then you come along— a surprise. Something completely new. She lets herself out of her strict habits once, even— she becomes so fragile that, seeing you with another woman would've felt — to her — like you'd ripped something away."

"… Now I feel worse," groans Dayton, his weight all falling to one side as his head falls into his hand. "I just thought she was— I don't know. Stressed out. Flipped. She started calling me, following me. She'd— " His face comes away from his fingers, scrunching up in his inability to comprehend, really, what this woman had been going through. "I thought she was doing it because she'd already found out about the money from the funds, so when she started accusing me of things, I let her. I just kept it quiet, and I let her."

"She was accusing you of… outrageous things— you'd never done?"

"Yeah. I thought maybe she was just trying to rattle me, but then, after a while," the stress begins to show on Dayton's face, recounting this — remembering how long the hounding lasted, "She saw nothing was changing, so she told me she was going to tell Senator Roland. Well." He clears his throat, awkwardly, "I— I sat her down. And I told her the truth."

"The money. Who was it going to?"

"The money— " Pain, actual pain, wrinkles Dayton's forehead as he grits down, fingers twisting, "It's for Mrs. Roland's alcoholism treatment." Then everything relaxes in a long exhale. He puffs out a second one, already more relieved. "She didn't want the Senator to know her problem was back, so we made a deal. She promised me she was going to get better this time. But— I don't know," another confused shrug, "Lisa had always been very attached to the Senator. It must have really hurt her to think people were going behind his back. I wish I'd just kept my mouth shut and let her think I was thieving. That I was capable of whatever she wanted to say I was."

The voices, muffled to the detective outside, are no less concise, and function as delicately shifting puzzle pieces. To her concentrated face that no one can see, no surprise comes; only steady, studious thought, that need-to-know, and … something else, something slightly off target, guilt and some uneasy sentiment she points down at the floor. It's pushed past to glance at her left wrist, the simple thin black-strapped silver watch there, to note the amount of time before the prompt memorial.

"Anyway, she became very quiet after that. So, once again, being the fool I am, I thought it was over and she was going to accept that Mrs. Roland — bless her soul — needs thousands of dollars of people telling her to put down the drink," the first sign of clear bitterness in Dayton not towards himself is towards this expenditure. But he shakes his head and moves on from it. "Naturally, I was wrong. About both of them. While I'm off gallivanting with a beautiful woman, Mrs. Roland gets piss drunk and Lisa tries to out one and all." As his sentences bring him closer to the fateful night, Dayton begins to retreat physically into the chair, eyes pinned to some far point. "It's not… I was wrong…"

Quiet but for prompting, Laurie now nudges himself forward, his arms coming to rest along his knees, hands clasped just beyond them. "You're holding onto this, Zach. You were with Teresa. Lisa went out to the poolside. Everyone else was in the party having a good time. People laughing, drinking. Mrs. Roland fudges her toast, but no one really cares. This is a triumphant night. You celebrate in the arms of a beautiful woman; it feels good. Now she falls asleep… you get up… you want to return to enjoy your night a little longer. This really is your night— something happened tonight."

Throughout, Dayton's gaze slowly shifted from faraway drifting to faraway focused. "What," Laurie's low, hypnotic voice encourages, "are you holding onto so tightly?"

"It's Lisa." His head raises right to the door, but he's looking beyond it — and in the past. He can see her; he's surprised to see her. "She's got a martini in her hand. I've— never seen her drink before. She sees which room I'm coming out of. She knows it's Teresa's. She's upset already and I'm tired of it, I just want to go to the party and celebrate all this hard work, but she's out of her mind." His eyebrows narrow, impatiently, then darken further but with concern, "I don't know what she's doing until she does it— suddenly, she's on the railing. Sitting there. She's got her hands at her side. She almost drops the martini glass like that and I see how far the drop would be but I… I just don't think. I tell her to give it up and that things would never work out, but she tells me she can be a 'fun girl', too. Look at how fun, she is, look at how wild…"

A twitch on the side of his face; his eyes begin to come into some focus, "She… she starts to drink…" His hands curl, rebelling against events that have already passed, "I think— God, I'm stupid— I think maybe if I don't let her have attention…" Dayton's neck tightens, his pulse and breath increasing, "I turn around— I'm almost to the hallway and— I hear this noise. Like she's hacking or something. And when I turn around again— she's already falling. I tried. I tried so hard." It all wells up in his throat and Dayton pushes suddenly against his chair, eyes darting to find Laurie there — the room. Breathing heavily, he stares bewildered at his hands — at how empty they are. The fingers flex curiously. "I managed to… grab her shoe. As she fell. But it just— it came right off. I couldn't save her, Laurie. I just turned away and all I had to show for it was her shoe. So that's," and his mouth thins determinedly, "Why nobody needs to know. Because if I couldn't save her, then I could at least stop them from seeing what she'd become."

Void of judgment, Laurie's face has never left Dayton's, but his hand comes up to his own jaw, bracing, as he clarifies, "So you would let the police think you were capable of whatever they wanted to," to Dayton's quick, beginning to compose nod, "You have to let go of her now, Zach. Of Lisa. You can't hold on anymore… — tell me where the shoe is."

To this, incredible shame resurfaces on Dayton's face and he shakes his head, "I— panicked," his hands rub against his pant legs, trying to relieve some of the sweat on his palms, "I tossed it away and I went back to the party…"

But it doesn't seem like Dayton is in any shape to be going to further parties — or memorials — in the near future, as he continues to knead those dreadfully empty hands together. "You cared, Zach," voices Laurie, patient, but growing more distant in its note of experience, "And you tried— and those two things together can be more destructive than any attack. It's not going to go away right now, except by your own hand," the ones the manager is so unhappy with. Laurie, picking himself up and away from the couch, pats Zach on the shoulder as he passes, "When you trust that again."

Spotting the movement too late, Zach jolts harder to the side to compensate finding Laurie where he's moved almost to the hallway, "What else could I have done?!"

Laurie, biting down on an initial, shakes her head quietly before picking up, "Don't think about it." Striding towards the door, he turns the opposite way now to gesture at the man sunken into his chair, "The police will be up soon." And it's said so soothingly, so factually, that the previous privacy promise is all but forgotten as Dayton gives only a nod of his head and sinks further against expensive black leather and replaying thoughts.

His hand on the doorknob now, Laurie pulls it open, skirting around what gap his appearance allows Maggie to create, putting his back to the elevators and face across the distant hallway towards the courtyard. His arm pulls by, gently closing the door behind as he steps around. "He's not going anywhere," he tells Maggie solemnly, pausing enough of a gap to separate it from his next quiet sentiment: "— I'm sorry."

"I'll give him some time," Maggie says solemnly in return. The truths spoken inside and the sense of finality as Laurie reappears to her — though for some, like Zach Dayton, it isn't not over yet — have left Maggie with a gentler frown. It curls into a sad smile of her own empathy, and it doesn't go anywhere when, as she takes another step back, she regards Laurie. At first, her only reply to his second statement is to search his face.

"What are you sorry for?" Her head turns to the side, toward the door, only to look up and down at Laurie with rare evasiveness of gaze. She speaks up again before he can answer, reluctant and quiet. "How much of that was true in there… about what you think of me." Maggie's smile flickers, forcing a lighter, joking grin, just for a second, for, "You know— except the part about how I could kick your ass. I know that's true."

The little tug between Laurie's eyes persists in the space of time he's not allowed to respond, but only watch her own glances. "Ohhh, rough," he finally groans for her lightness, having remained peaceably still and neutral for all the rest; he ruins it now by grimacing exaggeratedly. "Would you like to include how you could get me fired? You know— pad your obvious dominance in this relationship some more?" Having rocked backwards for his performance, his head turning with his grimace, he goes to look back at Maggie — and is caught by something over her shoulder. His expression twitches, creasing with distraction — "Ummm…" Glancing down for her, he backtracks up once to find that there's nothing there, so his face evens out again.

Now he pushes forward idly, a nod in that direction inviting her to follow as he wanders the corridor towards the railing — that railing — but he contemplates Maggie more than their destination. "Actually— I meant that it turned out this way. For you. Sometimes," his hand gestures openly in front of her then pockets, "it's easier to have a clear cut bad guy that you can grab, handcuff— lock away— than… emotions we can't grasp tearing a young woman apart."

Off of a shake of her head and a briefly concerned look over her shoulder at the nothing which Laurie spotted, Maggie heads down the hall. Her head hangs down in thought toward the floor, her hair following in a slide of blonde-on-blonde that obscures the sides of her face. Her slow paces keep her just short of catching up to Laurie's side. Both hands slide into her back pockets again as she walks — toward that railing, though she doesn't look at it.

"I'm glad I have no one to arrest," Maggie quietly admits in all earnestness. "People could be blamed along the way, or Lisa for tearing herself apart… but in the end, what happened… it was a tragic accident. There's no justice in the end, and it's not fair, it's not black and white, and— maybe this will sound strange, but … that's still easier to reconcile than murder."

As that singular railing is reached, so identical to all the others except for the invisible last handprints of a fallen woman, Laurie's pace slows to a stop, allowing Maggie to catch up to him if she will. He rotates what difference is needed, smiling a strange little smile down at the blonde detective in the sweet stillness of the open courtyard atmosphere. There's no one else there to disturb them, and that's fitting to the private way he studies her. "You know, you're not the usual homicide detective mold." Slowly, fingers drag out along the insides of his pockets, finding air and— stopping there. He only flutters in a soft gesture at her. "You're one of a kind, Powers."

Sweetness — curbed by a sudden glance over her shoulder — and this one far less critical than the one earlier, but no less interfering with the moment. Really, more. Because, putting a hand on her shoulder, he steers himself around Maggie quite abruptly, "Hmm! Hold on. I've terrible munchies," he explains, searching now those pockets for loose change as he approaches the side-by-side vending machines with snacks, drinks and, apparently, swimsuits. "Hey, you want anything?"

Maggie, quietly accepting, seems to take not being of the usual homicide detective mold, of one of a kind, as a compliment, because she smiles; her smile is tinged with a somewhat awkward humility that doesn't really appear until Laurie's off to appease his stomach.

The railing where Lisa met her end is wandered away from, given an instinctively uneasy eyeing by the detective before she shifts herself just a few paces away to the center of the open corridor. A glance to Laurie catches the unusual offerings of the vending machines. Why— swimsuits. Once that is given the weird look it deserves, she answers. "No — but thanks. I'm going to call the Sergeant." Quickly, in not-quite-serious defensiveness, she adds for good measure, "I swear I actually eat all of the time. A lot!"

She means to focus on dialing the phone she pulls out; instead, Maggie only watches Laurie at the vending machines, drifting almost instantly into weightier thoughts.

"You're not still on that, are you?" Laurie's voice has to raise to cover the distance of being at the end of the corridor on the one side, but it carries fairly well over the open space, and with his little turns of head where his eyes don't follow, pinned as they are on the contents of the vending machine. Decisions, decisions. "I didn't think you were that insecure…" as the first coin is brought up to slide into the payment slot. "And, anyway, if you wanted to know if that's how I really feel, well— " Off this, or perhaps because he felt the weight of Maggie's thoughts as they're projected onto watching him, Laurie lifts his head truly now, his mouth spreading into another sweet, but now rather goofy smile her way.

It only takes an instant for the expression to freeze. To follow his transition from contentedness to distress. "Powers— !"

Suddenly into Maggie's periphery is visible the arm that was slinking around hers during her distraction. A person, a rugged man in blacks, whips his hand in a completion towards his goal: the policewoman's shoulder holster, and the weapon lodged there. It's a bold grab, fitted with the elbow he throws up from the same arm for her chest and chin, pushing her backwards.

It's hard to tell the exact moment Maggie realizes there's someone coming at her; is it the second Laurie shouts, or does the warning come when she sees the arm in her periphery? Her thoughtful gaze is completely torn away — it happens so fast, all that matters is that she wasn't fast enough. It's like he came out of nowhere. She shouts, defensive, hostile as she's hit, pushed, forcing her head sharply to one side and forcing her backward on feet doggedly reluctant to move. In the midst of it, she quickly realizes the man's intent: her weapon. He's likely to get it, too — that doesn't hinder her fierce, physical reaction in grappling for him and his soon-to-be gun arm.

Against the attempts of the original wielder, and the neat fitting of the holster, the gun begins to wiggle its way into new ownership. It's aided ultimately by the shove backwards, the same motion that captures Maggie separating her from her weapon. But this goal and his intent may not intersect so simply, after all. The man utilizes his grip on the gun mainly to keep it away from her, with no precise aim compelling the detective stop her grappling — attacks that weave their arms together, letting him continue a forward press that shifts their struggle back and back — closer and closer to the edge where, just over, is a fifteen story drop to a pool covered with a tan tarp all over like the grave it has become.

But, in the end, the man seeks a fast escape from retaliation. And that arm snuck under hers, the elbow maintaining a dangerous control over her midsection — when push comes to shove — are there to see if Detective Powers can fly any better than Lisa Olsen.

Pressed back and back in an all-too-real threat toward the railing, Maggie's bared teeth clamped down tightly in a ferocious resolve. Her wrestling doesn't quit, fearless until that shove: because she knows full well what's behind her.

The rail, so near that very spot Lisa fell from not even twenty-four hours before. Maybe within inches. She's not counting. All she's counting is the distance down and the depth of the water below. Her shove isn't a clean thrust back— her fight against it whirls her stubbornly around as she sails toward the railing, giving her an increasingly nearing view of the drop. It's rocket-fast seconds— her legs hit the rail but she can't stop, helped not at all by her height— she chaotically, shouting her wordless opposition, hurdles over.

A grab for the rail somewhere in midair— her hand, from below, dangling, circles around it— short fingernails scrape against the slippery metal— she falls.

Lisa couldn't scream; Maggie can, and she does.

A more alarming sound might be — eventually, after fifteen stories — the loud crack that follows.

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