2011-02-14: My Bloody Valentine



Guest Starring:

Detectives Kotowski & Jordan, Detective Ryan, Officer Parker, Officer Bench, and Captain



Date: February 14th, 2011


No one here is having the best Valentine's Day ever, least of all the absent liaison. Meanwhile, the station must sit through the consequences of a certain complaint, and they receive a special Valentine from Laurie's captors.

"My Bloody Valentine"

NYPD Station

Sexual Harassment Seminar — #2

"I know you all want to get out of here, you all have important jobs to do," a short man with red hair circling around a balding head addresses a room full of law enforcement personnel who are either desperately wishing they were somewhere else, bored, or more entertained than they should be. "So I'm just going to ask you to review the examples of sexual harassment outlined in your guidebooks." They have to have guidebooks. "Offensive jokes and gestures, unwanted flirting, repeated requests for dates that are turned down…" Their educator would appear almost cheerful if it weren't for the subject matter it is his job to train on. As it is, his voice has been droning on as dully as the dim light shines down on his reflective head.

Detectives sit on one side, officers on the other, along with various technicians and clerks — some are standing; there's not enough room. Each and every one is wholly unaware of the strange events happening to a certain consultant FBI liaison. No one seems to have thought anything of the fact that Laurie hasn't been around this morning. He probably doesn't have to be.

"Sending, sharing, or displaying messages, e-mails, music, pictures or videos of a sexual or harassing nature… now, now, I know it's Valentine's Day, but you should not use this as an excuse for impropriety…" Someone yawns.

The only kind of predator Detective Powers has resembled so far this morning is the type which might kill anything that comes into her territory.

Her poker face is on overdrive to a point at which it fails, going beyond unyielding into a rigid expression, perpetually distantly incensed by something in silence. She watches and listens attentively, but does so with a clamped jaw and hardened eyes. She's an unwilling participant who sits dutifully regardless, arms and legs crossed in a stiff arrangement of jeans, blue blouse and black vest. Every so often her foot swings back and forth in the air in a gesture of an impatience she rarely possesses before she puts a stop to it.

"Touching and any other bodily contact such as patting a coworker's back, grabbing around the waist, or interfering with an employee's ability to move…"

Maggie's eyes unwittingly drill into the ceiling and wall. She tries to stay perfectly still, but winds up slumping down ever-so-slightly in her chair and pressing her knuckles to her mouth; all under the keen bespectacled eye of medical examiner Dr. Bonham who probably doesn't even have to be there.

When the gathered adults are allowed to file out like schoolchildren at recess toward the welcoming bustle of the bullpen, Maggie is among the quickest to march back to work, but she does brake slightly upon hearing her colleagues' commentary. She slowly turns her head closer to her shoulder, seeming to only debatably be listening.

"New policy my ass," Officer Sung complains offhand, sending a look of blame to Detective Kotowski. It's contagious; Sung's partner Shumack lazily rolls the same assuming look to the same detective before wandering off.

"I'm pretty sure that just killed my will to go out for dinner tonight," bemoans another, relishing the feel of affixing his police hat on as he veers away from the cage of a room they've been stuck in, slapping his hand against his partner's back so they can — rather happily — get onto patrolling. His action is followed by carol of voices accusing him of 'harassing' the unfortunate female rookie, who flusters easily to the attention.

"Yeah, you've done some things in your time," mentions an not-oft seen face; Polland, detective investigating burglary cases, gives a companionable jostle to Kotowski's shoulder as he passes, "But ruining Valentine's Day is extra special, bud." Kotowski's hand bats at the interfering one too late, as he spins to confront the accusatory passer-by with a blank look that always naturally tends towards anger.

"What— what are you sayin'?"

"Don't be dim, Kotowski, we all know this is your doing." A couple of vague, less mindful gestures at the classroom; these few don't particularly care, they just don't need to hear the excuses, either. The rustle of papers begins to take up its role in keeping the station constantly noisy. "Yeah, and thanks."

"Dammit, guys, shut up," grumbles the accused, though, after a moment, his huffing and puffing isn't quite so defensive. That dig in his forehead begins to accept the possibility, and its probability, though his frown becomes somewhat more urgent. "If Tina hears about this, I'm fuckin' fried."

"Ooooo~, Tina~~~"

Laughs and prods worthy of letting any teacher know that his lesson has been attended by a bevy of prepubescent bullies dressed as policemen.

"Guys…" The voice of maturity is gentle but firm — Detective Powers, who turns to face Kotowski and the others, despite the fact that many are gradually wandering off to what they no doubt perceive as much more productive duties than sitting in a seminar. She might share their general mood of discontent at having to attend the things, but it should be to no one's surprise that she doesn't join the laughs or prods. "Guys, come on," she says more resolutely. Despite her hard-edged eyes, subtle lines of hesitation linger at the corners of her mouth, easily missed, before goes on to advocate: "It's not like we all haven't sat through these things before. It's good that they're being more firmly organized." Which doesn't explain why she pauses to nearly bite her tongue for a moment. She situates herself to walk next to Kotowski en route to waiting desks. Hers, as always, has work to be done on it (though the pile is never allowed to get too high). "This new policy, it's not your fault," she tells just him more quietly, seeming compelled to do so, sympathetic, even, speaking as fact rather than just reassurance. "I'd tell Tina myself if I thought it would help."

Mashing his teeth down on his lower lip, Kotowski isn't the picture of convinced, strolling next to Powers, with his hands stuck sullenly in his pockets to dissuade the rude gestures he was compelled to. "That's great," he advises on part of her reassurance, removing on hand as they reach an edge of desks coming before hers down the line. In both cases, work and its partners wait — Ryan, awash with neither considerable productivity, nor guilt, slides files past his hands. Behind them, Jordan is done sorting his own; as he lays a capless blue ball-point on top of the desk, he eyes the two conversing with his quiet kind of observance. "But you don't have to look after me, Powers," Kotowski is going on, gracelessly bordering both a flush under the stiff collar of his workshirt and an actual blundering gratefulness. "I may be a lot of things, but I ain't so dumb as to not know what kinda guy I am." A tug of a smile on his oft annoyed face. His eyes flicker past them. I lied: "Now go on to your boring as ass partner, and try to resist the urge to play footsie." He wastes no additional time in rejoining his, and the two share softer words over paperwork not being touched.

Maggie folds a hand over the back of her chair before she quite reaches it, distracted by watching Kotowski join Jordan. She stands reluctant to let it be; it's clear she wants to say more to the other detective, no matter what kind of guy he might be, but her words on the tip of the tongue expression is out of his sight. It's only in Ryan's sight, if anyone's, and she only glances transiently at him. She pulls her chair out and flicks her computer monitor on in passing; her attention is on the more hands-on files and paper on her desk. Before she even sits down and finishes her sentence, however, her department e-mail account catches her attention. New e-mail; blank sender, no subject. Strange for this account, and she clicks it idly while she sits down. "Ryan, did you run plates for the Robins c— "

The body of the message begs to be given attention, announcing itself right there in the middle of the large, vivid screen in giant, bright red front with hearts dancing every which way. In a second, it takes over the entire screen.




A blink— "Uh," Maggie hesitates softly into her words to Ryan, immediately eyeing the message skeptically, not to mention suspiciously, like it's going to explode or, the more likely scenario, that someone will see it before she can make it disappear. Her efforts to do so in the first few seconds of its enthusiastic appearance, thus far, prove futile. She goes on as if she isn't engaged in a small battle with her computer— " — Robins case this morning?" Her screen starts flashing. It seems to have no purpose thus far beyond that single, flashing message. Why won't it go away!

"I already put them on your desk." Ryan's eyeball deep in the work spread over his lap, a report against his knee with the front page flipped over his leg to reveal the rest. The clipboard this all is presented on is tapped thoughtfully with a finger. He doesn't fidget much; it's just here and there. Otherwise, his avoidant intense look on the papers might be considered embarrassed, keeping from looking over at the partner he last accused of improper behavior. No shame shows in his stature; he's only busy. And a little, with a secondary glance after the fact, surprised she didn't already notice.

Maggie dismisses the domineering message on her computer by turning the monitor off for the time being, sorting through the things on her desk instead, although it's with minor distraction. The hardened edge she emerged from the seminar with (and, truly, entered with) sharpens ever-so-slightly in Ryan's presence, but mostly, she just focuses on her work. "Oh— " There it is, indeed, under a newer addition to her work. She's simply glad to have the paper, and her response — "Excellent." — is sincere as that. As she settles in to carefully review it, an elbow on the edge of the desk, another hand reaches for a file to cross-reference from. Her dark screen is peaceful; she can figure that out later.

Or now. The message flashes onto Ryan's instead. And Jordan's. And everyone else's on the network who happens to have their computers on, jolting their screens into life, flashing red, white, red, white, red— ~*~HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY~*~I'LL MAKE IT ONE YOU NEVER FORGET — theirs is slightly less personalized, but otherwise identical. Red, white, red, white, red—

Murmurs of annoyance, confusion, and amusement begin to spring up around the bullpen, but it's the undeniable flashing that catches Maggie's eye and sets her study on pause.

All of the screens go black. A single, colourless still frame appears. Three anonymous faces in masks, eerie in black-and-white, stare out as they surround a seated figure. The picture is shadowy; all that can be made out is a bare male chest. His face is obscured in blackness, covered. There's a chain around his neck and affixing him to the chair.

"What the— " is a rallying call amongst others, softer than the initial protests, but picking up heat after the shocking opener. "Are you seeing this?" Glimpses from one screen to another prove that the ominous image has spread like a virus — possibly because it is one.

Instantly, the afflicted computer of Jordan's is the first to see responses more intelligent than smacked space-bars and persistent mashing of the 'esc' key. His keystrokes are reminiscent a hacker's, willing the strangeness reveal its origins. Or at least, its purpose.

"Is this still part of the seminar?"

Not possessing of his own screen, Officer Parker lingers at the edges of the bullpen, sheepishly spying on everyone else's. His blue uni jacket is halfway pulled over one shoulder and frozen there.

Even with her own screen dead, it's not difficult for Maggie to ascertain that something is amiss. Her thumb jams hard enough against her monitor to jar it when she turns it back on. Her message has caught up: there it is, the strange, ominous picture. Her gaze affixes like glue, increasingly sharpening all the details. The dead-eyed, sculpted masks are secondary to her study of the apparent prisoner. Even black-and-white it's clear that he's been wounded somehow; not all the patterns of hurt on that chest are new, however. Maggie's brows begin to lower, pinch; while speculation over the image increases all around her, she's silent, staring, blue to greyscale.

She's up out of her chair in a flash of her own. "It's Miles," she announces in a breath, confirming outloud to whoever's listening. Is anyone listening? One hand leans hard into her desk, her form leaned toward her computer while she throws her suddenly adamant gaze over her shoulder. Louder, with increasing command and urgency: "Do we have somebody trying to figure out where this thing came from?" Get on it is just implied. "It's Miles."

"Hold on," comes Ryan's similarly strong voice — directionally and directly oppositional to hers. Getting to his feet, the imposingly bland detective releases two hands out to his sides, paperwork slipped onto his desk when he noticed his completely application-less computer had started acting up. The calm he purports stills some of the instinctually hectic motions following Powers' words. The flutter of surprise, aghast. Even the huddled group of clerks ready to return to their basement dwellings — M.E.s included — have hesitated. "What's Miles? Is he the one doing this?" This being the finger jutted at his possessed computer screen.

Pitter-patter of urgent keyboard strokes has not slowed — is not affected by Ryan's position of taking this slow. Jordan's hands fly to his mouse, one, two click. Kotowski's already shoved from the chair, half standing and agape; some sly remark frozen on his tongue by the declaration of the movie star's identity. His partner, quiet, expressionless Jordan, opens his mouth around the time everyone else gains theirs.

"We can get a tech up here. Call 'em— "

"Why won't it quit? Are they— moving?"

"How can you be sure?" This one, timid, is Parker on the approach. Eyebrows raised, and clearly struggling through a clear distaste for what's displayed on the screen.

Then a shrill, unavoidable, ear-bursting whistle breaks through the chatter, the doubts — and points straight around to its originator: Detective Jordan. He folds against the back of his chair, fingers pulling from his mouth for having caused the sound. Eyes, dark and often studious, bore into Powers across the way. "It's you," he mentions, factual, "You're the source." A beat. "Is it alright if I break into your computer now?"

Maggie immediately locks onto Jordan, immediately the most important to respond to. She stares, sharp but not wholly comprehending, for a moment before, realizing, she curtly but gratefully nods. "Yes— yeah, of course. Do it," she grants. "I opened an e-mail. It was blank— the message just popped up."

Her attention swivels to Parker and Ryan, lingering on neither of them long; the interfering picture hasn't changed, but it's hardly been any time at all in the grand scheme. She eyes it distrustfully. "He didn't send it," she says plainly; it's unmistakably clear to her as the truth. She sounds just as absolutely certain of that as everything else. Urgency plateaus, seeking answers, not panic. "But that's him. In the picture, it's him. I— " The detective pauses to further regard the rather familiar patterns of scars and definition of muscle that identifies a faceless figure to her eyes. " — can tell." She glances away from the screen. "…It said his name at first. It said that it was from him. Whatever— this is? He wouldn't do this. Not of his own accord." A glance away is a second to lose; the picture has vanished, leaving the screens in persistent blackness. It could be over. Or it could be that moment of waiting before a film starts.

With a swift rustle of clothes, his chair spinning vaguely in his quick getaway, Jordan strides the space between detective's desks speedily enough that he merely appears as Powers' side, gently sidling around her to slip into her chair, begin smoothly hammering away at her keyboard like he did his own. "While the virus that jumped to ours is definitely from your computer, any email is going to be a lot harder to trace. Even your basic spam programs know how to hide these days… and when you have constantly renewing IP addresses…" A shrug; that's it; a shrug. Silently, he swivels the mouse against the persistent grayscale screen. They'll have to talk amongst themselves.

"You talk like you know him," pipes up Ryan, not exactly admonishing, his level eyebrows seek a deeper clarification than I just know out of the woman — so recently involved in fishy behavior. "But this could just as easily be some sort of publicity— like the other thing— " Pertinent expression, his voice lowering privately. Unfortunately, Maggie's unmistakable announcement of authority has placed her as the center radius of the room, except those slipping by on the perimeters, scurrying to inform others, or searching out those elusive techs in their basement dens.

Not two steps behind his partner, Kotowski rounds on the new command center that's become of Powers' workstation. "Shut up, chowderhead. Everybody with a real badge can tell somethin' is goin' on here." Ryan straightens, his jaw clenching to keep from the bait. His hand on the desk grinds into an old memo, about the Vice unit that had been taped on that invaded computer screen earlier.

"It'll…" it's Parker's voice at Maggie's shoulder, tugging verbally at her like a toddler to his mother. His eyes are glued morbidly on the image— that's imprinted only in his mind. It's vanished off the screen already. "It should tell us what it means— how are we— something else'll happen, right?"

"What's going on?!" wants to know a voice far less close to the source of know-it-all. A few others are in agreement. Enough to drive open that authoritative door. Phone plastered to his ear on call as urgent as the growing concern outside his office, the Captain's mere presence drives a discipline through the uproar even better than Jordan's. Unflappable. "I'll have some order in here."

Maggie, stepping out of her lean to give Jordan all the space he needs, acknowledges each and every person clustering around her workstation, prepared to address everyone, even — especially — the Captain. Ryan is the only one given a particular look, unequivocally disagreeing with his train of thought. Before she can respond to a single thing she's eager to, however, something else happens. Parker was right.

Without further suspense and no fanfare, a video centers in the middle of the screens and begins to automatically play.

The police station viewers are blessed — or cursed — with a special presentation. Black-and-white gives to way to colour in a well-lit room. Light glints off chains and a knife the shorter, feminine captor holds. The rustle of sound kicks in, the shifting of bodies and a quiet hum. Not every computer has their speakers on — if they have them at all — and the sounds are distant until volumes are turned up all around. The new relative silence is broken by a very particular voice.

"Alright, let'see… Just do whatever they want! Please, I promise I won't say anything if you just let me go. You have twenty-four hours to get them the money! I won't cooperate until I know my daughter's alive— wait, hold on…"

Maggie is averse to taking her eyes off the screen once it's come to life, but she does, to briefly pay mind to Ryan, watchful and anticipating.

"I'm overreaching a bit…"

"It's not for publicity," Maggie says, quieter now, her voice tight. Neither was the other thing; she regards Ryan pointedly for all of a second. Eyes ahead. "No. He has too much publicity as it is. He…"

"Hey, so— am I being the scared or the defiant type?"

A flash of red on the screen. It brings a flame. Maggie instantly tenses when she sees why — the knife. Whatever else she might have said is put on hold further. Her jaws are held shut as though by steel. There's only one basic reason why someone would be heating up a knife for a man restrained to a chair, and as the video unfolds, everyone can bear witness to it— clearly and with sound.

"Why's he…" echo, echo, echo. Parker, needfully disbelieving, trails off with a loosening of his jaw, slacking to almost comical lows as his wide, boyish eyes bask in the shadow of his thick eyebrows. Like moths to that flame, every eye becomes simultaneously glued to picture. Ryan, twice, breaks theme to meet Maggie's eyes across the way, willfully sharing his rising skepticism, a sort of righteousness that is a protective wall against what the opposite would mean. That particular voice is making a mockery of the process…

Hiss. The weapon's. Skin's. The victim's. It travels in uneven surround sound through the whole captivated bullpen.

"What the… fuck." It isn't naivety; Kotowski's not, but he stares uncomprehendingly at the proceedings still, squinting as if the whole spectacle offends him. Positioned behind his partner, he's the eyes for both of them. Through renewed picture, clichéd speeches, and the foreshadowed rending of flesh, Jordan's steady focus is technology, though his current procedure seems to render no interruption to the police screening.

Laughter, breathless, fills the room as well as the violence did.

"N-now, I'm really toast!" Nobody laughs. "Who's, ah— who's going to tell me I'm still useful even if I only have nine fingers?"

Ryan's face nearly mirrors Parker's, tight in distaste, and slackened in disbelief. "He's insane— "

The knife deviates. Now Parker hisses. The chain is tightened: bad dog. Somebody shifts weight, coughing uncomfortably.

No one's laughing, but Maggie — not, per se, surprised by Laurie's illogically cheerful joking under what appears to be grim circumstances — almost smiles. It's tight, and strained, and more sad more than amused, but strangely warmed; she' seeing something familiar. It straightens out while the knife moves. She flinches in time with the nearby hiss of the officer, but she's so rigidly tense that it's restrained to restless twitches at her mouth.

One of the darkly dressed captors grabs the covering over Laurie's head pulling—

She steps here and there around at her workstation to be able to oversee both the screen and everyone around it. She arduously tears her eyes away from the video for a moment, gesturing lightly as if she wants to either herd or comfort her colleagues. "We don't— " She pauses with her tongue pressed to her upper teeth. Her own stiff tension strangles her words, but they're rational when they make it. " — all have to be watching this." She looks sympathetically at Parker and manages a quick glance around to note how many eyes seem to be on the exposed, restrained Laurie before motion on the screen captures her with increasing worry.

The video has skipped oddly, jumped ahead to a smashing fist to his hidden face, jerking into the hood being whipped off with more force and backlash than seemed necessary at first.

If there was ever any doubt— it's vanquished when everyone can clearly see Laurie's face. "Fine! Fine, have it… but that thing makes a really fantastic sleep mask— have you guys ever tried one? Guys— girl?"

Closeness between the female figure and Laurie; she's leaning further in at his shoulder. Her expressionless Roman mask is at his ear. The recording transmits no sound from her, but the intensity of her pose, the fact that Laurie seems to be listening, suggests whispered words, and Maggie is suddenly closer, too, wholly intent on staring at the secretive communication.

It wouldn't seem that anyone heard Maggie's words; the important ones are straining from the computer. Captain's the quiet hurricane that brushes several lingering clerks near the bag from stasis to action. "Move on, people," he's commanding thickly— unflappable. "You all have cases to attend to." And, reluctant, stiff, the outer rims of the audience break off, find some ritual to melt into to avoid thinking about what's happening. Monitors around the outside are switched off, volumes turned to low. Surround sound vanishes, giving a more personal viewing air to the select few remaining.

By the time they're done, there'll already be a room waiting. Monitor. Recording. A huge expanse of white-board too eagerly displaying all of nothing that is known.

Parker, his fists thick into the bunches of his unadorned jacket, doesn't — can't? — budge. Figures made of pixels and flashes of light have captured his eyes and aren't letting go. It isn't until the flap of black makes the truth inescapable that the officer heaves what sounds like his first actual breath. "It's Miles." Not that he ever doubted Powers. He just really, really wanted her to be wrong. Reality thumps against his chest hard; he sways backwards at his frozen post.

Up close, Jordan's isn't the face that Maggie is examining, but a simple glance would mean watching the smooth, so familiarly neutral face showing evidence of recent hard lines around his mouth and eyes. His jaw makes tiny manipulations back and forth. Leant only slightly less than her, he modulates what he can on the computer, attempting to glean what audio they've been denied.

Some instinctive reflex has Maggie's hand near Parker's back, brushing his uniform, without her regard moving away from the screen. Whatever her slightly strange past with the officer, it's protective. "Jordan," she addresses the hard-working detective, her voice steadied and seeming too loud in the newly personal viewing space despite its quiet tone, "do you think we'll be able to save this and enhance audio later?"

On-screen, the silent woman wants Laurie to look at the camera, the knife threatens, and the silence quite unrelatedly ends, lending insight into the taboo topics.

"Hmm— ? Oh, you mean Gigi? She transferred. I really would've thought you'd known that."

Well, that was unexpected; Maggie's isn't the only brow that quirks. Previously wide eyes narrow ever-so-slightly, thinking up possibilities for a fill-in-the-blanks guessing game, but then, she realizes, she's looking into familiar blue eyes all of a sudden: narrowing in on Laurie narrowing in on the camera.

"Possible," is Jordan's short, utilitarian response. "Not guaranteed." Unlike the last time, he's paused somewhat — not quite in working, one hand is directed at a personal device he's been brought by the hand of a very out-of-place looking tech who hovers nearby. But now he's glancing up. Everyone is. It's hard to look away from those blue eyes, and no one's really trying.

"But this is going to the station! Is that right. A shout-out to the NYPD. La vie! I suppose there will never be a better time to get a few things off my chest…"

The NYPD is paying attention. Every man and women in blue, each one shooed away by the captain, even two in the back caught mid-way escorting an equally discomfited suspect, have answered the call of that shout-out, radiating in on that alluringly violent screen.

This time, Captain doesn't even try and tell them off.

"— Kotowski."

Called out, the detective starts.

"It's true; I stole your pen. I'm sorry. Parker— "

As if called to salute by the President, himself, the boyish officer stiffens, his heels knocking together in a stance only certain to make his swaying worse. Guilt — being called out, duty — he's been chosen — at war in his eyes. But he's listening, so attentively—

"— ah, no, it's nothing. Umm… let'see…"

And is stunned, wide eyes watering with the strength of his stare as the words hit anticlimactically. Nothing.

"Officer Sumner— you said if you didn't leave the police you'd regret it with every breath, and I'm… feelin' you right now, buddy. Oh, and somebody tell him I have his Nabakov. And— officially — I'm responsible for this whole PR debacle. It's true. Check the texts."

Something startled slides one of Ryan's shoulders back, as though he'd been physically hit. Nothing righteous quite takes his features now; he's fallen into a firm, and decidedly displeased study, his hand wrapped about the most of his mouth. "Powers…" the authority; she knew him by a torso, "What he's doing…" It sounds like a will.

"Ahh, that feels so much better. Okay! Hood me. Or— do the knife thing again? I don't actually know what's next… Should I keep guessing?"

Detective Powers is perfectly still throughout the message, and she remains so after Laurie's words end. She couldn't be more locked on the screen. Her concern is vivid, powerful, but no more than her wondering, searching study— attuned to every detail, as if the tiniest thing could be the most critical. As the screen comes alive with more movement, the past few moments are simultaneously replayed with her own mind's rewind. And so she doesn't move, and she doesn't answer right away. Her mouth opens, her hand lifts, a steadying gesture to all of the gathered watchers; she has a thought. Just give her a second.

She doesn't have a second.

On-screen, the familiar face has tape over his mouth to prevent him from voicing his guesses, the female captor is up to something, and Maggie doesn't want to miss it. The fire returns, flickering hot blue and rollicking orange from the hissing lighter, a beacon of what's to come. The lighter flame reflects in Maggie's fixed eyes as a flash of anticipation and alarm— reactions, here in the police station, making up for what's been missing in Laurie's own so far. As the masked figure so fond of fire and knives lets the lighter get close to him — hesitating here and there, as if she doesn't know which spot is the best, and so trailing wandering fire along skin — Maggie's brow furrows, set to a disturbed wondering. The fire plunges toward what looks like a stab wound at Laurie's shoulder.

Interpretations of his shout-out are put on hold as Maggie, breathily, voices the simple, raw question she's not been alone in wondering since the video began. "Wh— whhyyy— ?"

Why? What is the point of it all? Why is the captor on-screen burning him, for all appearances just because, why is the tall masked man behind him tightening his grip on the chain around Laurie's neck? A fierce tug is given. The metal loops cinch around his throat and the violent strangle only continues. Gaining violence, strength, it's not a chokehold that particularly looks like anyone is meant to recover from.

The video stops in place, freezing the star in a chokehold, hovering without a grand finale.

Somewhere along the way, Maggie's crossed her arms. They wrap her like a vice until they blast apart. She briefly seems not to know what to do with her hands; they clench, drift quickly, restlessly together by her face, at her chest. When it becomes clear that the video is not going to give up any answers right away, she whirls around. Emotion, frustration, work the detective's jaw. Of all the intensities in her gaze, the one that's most discernable is sharp and clear with thought.

She picks up her place in addressing the others. "He was talking to us." Of course; that's obvious. What she means is: "It might be a message. It's nothing." She turns slightly toward the unsteady Officer Parker, a hand around his shoulder trying to ease him to steadiness and attention. "It's nothing," she repeats purposefully, trying to look him in the eye importantly. "He told you that last week. Didn't he? The eighth. He called you; you called him back. He said it was nothing. It wasn't nothing. He was attacked, after his lecture. I had gone back after— to get my phone." Phone — texts — PR debacle… a solid look swings to Ryan, bearing only more of that sharp, considering thought.

After she nods to Parker, her gaze intently acknowledging — he did well to remember, they'll need that information, and that professor — Maggie switches tracks to Ryan to give her head a slow, decisive shake no. Her hand meanwhile pats the officer on the back as warned against in the recent seminar that did not take into account days like today before it falls into her pocket.

"It wasn't there, I figured someone must have picked it up." Not the first phone she's lost, but perhaps the first under seemingly mundane circumstances. Out of her pocket comes the phone she's been using all week instead. It's obviously a cheap pay-as-you-go, and a bland silver; her last one was black. "Miles remembers everything." The temporary phone bobs thoughtfully in her hand under a grip too tight. "There were— texts… from him, from during the lecture," she admits (a touch reluctantly, though she spares no time for guilt over her texting during class), "but evidence— ?" She looks over her shoulder at the screen, meeting Laurie's frozen image there. It stalls her for a moment, but her momentum can't be denied for long. "Unless it's his fault for existing, this — nothing — " glance to Ryan, " — could be completely his fault." Maggie's voice is almost tone-to-tone almost identical to her similar words earlier: it's not your fault, Kotowski. "I can request the record from my phone company. Parker, can you get the statement from the professor? And does anyone know an Officer Sumner?"

Ryan follows, mostly with his eyes. Creases at his mouth suggest he isn't on the same track as Maggie, though he bites down hard on a lip in trying. Perseverance to this endeavor shows in lines across his forehead, but not necessarily in word. "So, he's— remembering the lecture. The phone, there was texting," he reserves, just barely, a judgment deliberating over this fact; considering the surrounding events, there's very little to negate what improper nature these texts contain. His arm branches away from the tight hold near his face towards Parker, lingering in that face-off with the screen of Maggie's, "The professor who called nine one one on some— attack, you said."

Mumbling a positive — but not sounding much of it — Parker detaches from the impromptu investigative unit to sort out the location of that suddenly important paperwork, probably shoved aside in importance by the other beat cops of the time.

"Impossible." It's the Captain's voice, snuck behind the others, and earning only a triad of glances; Jordan's gaze fixates on the screen, where he's managed to get the frozen image to slip away, hiding violence behind the minimalist professionalism of Maggie's desktop set-up. Then the programming screen that he summons — rudimentary. The tech who's stayed nearby points him through a few shortcuts, but they quietly agree together that the detective's computer isn't suitable for long-range technical work. Meanwhile, Captain, calm and steady outpost, rocks heavily onto his heels, "There is no officer by that name, nor has there ever been." Karen Bench's face, cinched against tears, slackens and then redefines into contemplation, too hesitant to be revelation. She holds onto it with a set of knuckles against her mouth as if to hide the thought, stopper it from exposing her. "So we can all ponder that later. I want a team on what we do have now. We need to know what we don't. Ransom, purpose…"

The splitting silence he leaves, not out of any hesitance, yet begs to fill the mind with the worst. And, previously, uncharacteristically, stiffly quiet, it's Kotowski that has the lack of grace to define it. "Fine! I'll say it," he introduces with a fling of his hand into the air, tense, around them, "We don't even know if he's alive after that." His point is somewhat anticlimactic; the screen is gone. Somewhat poignant remains — is Laurie?

Captain suffers no shift in his great weight, he's standing exactly how he wants, precisely when he wants to. But there remains an air of settling around him as he announces, "And we'll work as if he is." Unflappable. "Jordan, Emerson. Tell the team in 11 what you'll need for this fancy computer stuff. Kotowski, find an officer to ride with you. I'm tapping Landry and Polk on this, so get them up to date. Polk'll take point; she has experience in kidnapping." Now get on it doesn't need to be said.

For Detective Powers, the silence that passed weighs heavily afterward (and after Kotowski puts words to it). Hard, strong lines mark her face rather than the near tears of Officer Karen Bench, who she looks at with a reserved sort of longing to comfort, and then a inquisitive one for the officer's following expression.

With the video gone, and the more technology-minded requiring a more suitable station to work at, Maggie moves away from the center her desk has become, but perhaps no longer needs to be, gently ushering those — like Bench — to do the same, not that anyone is likely to need it after the captain spoke. But she doesn't go far, and her momentum hasn't stopped. She approaches the captain for an aside, though not a private one.

"Sir," Maggie addresses the captain with respect atop a quiet urgency. "Where am I on this." A hand gestures back at the computer where it all started. "There are a few more things I know for certain here." Input she would very much like to give.

"Hey— what the hell— " is Kotowski, heels parallel to hers where he digs them in versus the captain's request that he kindly back off — with an officer. "Our boy's out there somewhere gettin' his ass handed to him by an overeager theatre club."

"Why are you telling me." The Captain inputs instantly on Maggie, "Get Polk and Landry up to date." Intentions clear: he isn't going to say it again. His perhaps controversial ruling is overseen by several lingering law officials who haven't seen fit to budge yet, invading the aside, so long as Maggie left it thusly not private. "As for where you are— " he swivels his balding head to include Kotowski on this one, eyes narrowing for the second detective in a way they didn't for Powers, "You're in Homicide," though when he's back on her, it's no less determined. "Get back to your homicides. Didn't you have plates coming in this morning?" Turning, he aims himself on a straight path towards his office, requiring the phone that sunk off his ear from where it started; questionable whether the person on the other line has been on it this whole time. He nearly barrels into Officer Bench, whose strange starting and stopping pace gets her in the way before she scurries off at the near miss.

Maggie gives an efficient nod to the Captain, obeying — but not entirely accepting, as her intense stare after him suggests. It's a growing dispute that she turns to share with Kotowski, who's been similarly positioned. She spends a moment standing stiffly in place yet looking like she's primed to move while her hand is still caught in a frozen gesture back toward the computer. Following the gesture with a glance, an uneasy look hits her eye, bringing with it a distinct wave of sickness that seems to come over her — only tensing features double afterward. Her hand plants at her belt.

Though she doesn't say a word to her fellow detective, she looks at him with determination, sends a pointed look the way of the busy Captain, and marches straight after him. "Captain— we always have plates coming in," she says behind him with that same urgency, no more an argument than it is a fact. The pace of her steps only seems to amplify her perseverance. "And we juggle them with all of the rest. I will gladly bring Polk and Landry up to date, but I have to be active on this."

Kotowski's face is a mirror of her own, nudging his head in follow-up to hers; they march on the same beat, tailing the captain to his doorstep. "With all due respect," pipes in his brazen voice on the last breath of the other detective, "Powers here has got all this freaky insight because she speaks Miles' loony language. More importantly— " as they all, full-steam, cross from the bullpen to the captain's office, him all the while walking purposefully ahead, unheeding to his new heel-ornaments, "if you expect me to just wait in my car while Jordan busts his balls on that computer with my dick and some uni— "

"Pick Parker."

There's an almost audible squeak to the brakes setting into Kotowski's furious thinking. "Wait, what?"

One of them's closed the door — or maybe it happened automatically — it doesn't matter; Captain only checks that it is before he rounds behind his desk on them. Anger doesn't check in his eyes, not even impatience. He regards his two arguing detectives with a conspiratorial readiness, irritation reserved for the perpetrators hunted— if he even bothered showing that much bother. "Pick Parker as your temp, Kotowski. Honestly, I thought you would just to spite me, but let's be clear, then. For some reason, you two have been called out in Miles' message. And for some reason," his eyes land on Maggie heavily, "You haven't. But this whole spam-storm came from your computer, so you've been singled out all the same. Which is expressly why, to every public eye, you're going to appear to be as far from this massive calling out as possible. Somebody got into my station. My computers. Mocking my detectives. Hell if I'm going to appear to give them what they want."

Maggie comes to a slow stop inside the office — the conspiratorial switch only helped by her ever-ready nearness. She's a hundred percent intent on the Captain even while there are a hundred thoughts already spinning in every direction behind that strong blue gaze of hers. There's a rapid, incisive blink of surprise for what he has to say, but her hard-set expression doesn't exactly change save to shift from one kind of determination and need to another, perpetually ready, perpetually on the very edge of action. "And away from the public eye? How are we going to work this?"

"Pass notes in the hall. Send text messages under the desk. I don't care. Officially— you two are off this case." With a heavy fall of his weight, the captain takes a seat. "I figure it's not a matter of 'if', but how many hours until that ridiculous press gets a hold of this, and that's about as far as I'd like to think about them. Anyway, Jordan's been assigned, and it's not like you've lost his number, Kotowski. Who's going to look twice at you two knuckleheads talking to each other, you're practically attached at the groin. And if you guys happen to all have lunch, or swing a case together… who am I to monitor what you're talking about? Hmm?— Now do you really want to spend more time just thinking about technicalities, or do you want to get our liaison out of there?"

"We're on it, Sir," Maggie is quick and concise to reply. "I've played 'Where's Miles' before. If he's out there— " No weight is given to her if. It may as well be nonexistent. He's out there. She promptly glances with resolve. " — we'll find him." Her need to move finds purpose; she's practically at the door already, reaching for the handle and the secret mission of sorts that lies beyond. She doesn't wait until she's out to start, turning back to voice some of her unremitting thoughts aloud. "Someone needs to put a BOLO out for his motorcycle, check impounds," she says, "there can't be that many bright green — Ninjas? — in NYC that are out in February." With that, she's out the door at a brisk pace — appearing fiercely determined, but just as unsettled, as she addresses her 'off-the-case' colleague, "So Kotowski," her voice would be humoured if it weren't so steeled, focused, "how do you feel about stealing me away from Detective Ryan today…"

Judging by the look evolving on his face, Kotowski's retort concerning Detective Ryan wouldn't have been altogether nice. He's interrupted when a third, unexpected presence appears to their twosome. Having been hovering by the door, Officer Bench flitted between changing her mind so often that, as the two detectives marched out, she was on her way to retreating. But the sight of their backs reinforces her with a sudden burst and, bustling, she catches up to walk as purposefully by Maggie's side. "Detective Powers," she announces, shoulders squared, her body tense with both this purpose and the breath she's sucked in to steel up, "Umm… it may be nothing, but…"

An all-too-knowing but otherwise reserved look for Kotowski's preemptively interrupted answer disappears in favour of addressing reason for the disruption. The appearance of Officer Bench is not unwelcome at all to Detective Powers; the steeliness of her own face opens up just a little with an encouraging lift of her eyebrows above attentive gaze for the officer. She keeps walking without a change in pace, flanked by the two. "Nothing— or it could be something," she reassures before quickly compelling the point: "What is it, Officer Bench?"

A smattering of reservation shows on Bench despite — or perhaps because of — encouragement, her expression and eyes briefly bashful. "It's, umm— not much, but… Agent Miles— " she hesitates on the name; it summons up instant recollection of that video, even though a happy memory breaks through and she's shy to smile, "we spoke a bit back… I'm surprised he— would remember something like that, but— see, it was about Sting." Embarrassment is clear, but she plows on, "The singer. He had it on his iPod, and well, I'm a big fan and we go to— " a look she catches on Kotowski's face schools her into the sternness of her uniform. Business-like, she eases out of whatever friendliness this remembered conversation put her back to, "His real name, detectives. It's Gordon Sumner. Before he did singles, he was in a band called The Police."

"Okay…" Maggie says slowly as she attempts to figure out the relevance — relevance she immediately accepts, whatever it may be, having simply been patient through the hints of the officer's embarrassment. "The Police," she repeats, and a smile ghosts her face, but can't stay. That's almost too obvious." Her steps slow; they're nearing the desk they left. She stops entirely, and a gesturing hand immediately makes up for the movement she's ended. "So, Sting, Sumner, The Police; Miles is trying to tell us something there. He's trying to tell you something," she amends, tipping her head, and eyebrows, to Bench: she's now the expert on this hidden message. "What about the other part. Russian. Nabokov…?" A thoughtful wrinkle joins those on her brow, mining information slightly more familiar than Sting. "He's an author…"

Through hands out between them, the fingers lightly curled, and the mouth that opens but tightens in her pure desire to say something— where she has… no clue. "I— I don't know," she laments, Bench's hands becoming little fists of wrested disappointment, "I didn't possibly think it could matter, but then it just seemed like such a coincidence that they were all adding up— Every Breath You Take is one of their albums. But the author…" She shrugs, surrendering unhappily to a helpless that is eating at her brain as badly as her attempts to wring out some — any — explanation. "I've never heard of him," squinting apologetically at Maggie, "Has he written anything— …"

"That normal people would know?" supplies Kotowski, with his own special brand of helpfulness. Hey, he's just hovering; why not.

"Uhh," Maggie says softly — she's thinking on it, but the full works of Vladimir Nabokov are not exactly sitting on her bookshelf at home to easily recall. Her eyes grow distant into the bustle of the station. Its habitual rhythm is noticeably different, wrong, even where it's perfectly productive. Nothing about today is normal, and Maggie stands thinking about a Russian author because of Sting. "Wait, wait, hang on, " she says, with a bob of her hand for every word, "Yes." As if it should have been obvious— "Most people know it even if they haven't read the book. It's literally a noun by now. Lolita. It's about a schoolgirl and an older professor, seduction, obsession— I think there's a movie." Or two. But more to the point, between Kotowski and Bench — the latter moreso — she darkly adds: "Today, there are no coincidences."

"Isn't that a Japanese thing?" queries Kotowski.

"O-oh!" interrupts Officer Bench, clapping her hands with the force of her recollection — which started somewhere between professor and obsession. "Detective, detective— Don't Stand So Close To Me!" Around Kotowski's flustered well excuse me, she goes on: "No, no. The song. You know— " humming, "'Young teacher.. hmmm hmm… schoolgirl fantasy.' You know the one? 'She wants him, so badly'…" Catching looks, the officer stops her half-singing, her hands folding in front of her modestly. "That's— gotta be it, right. He was pointing us to… a… Sting song. About teaching?" Her mouth tugs down and up at the same time, displaying obvious hesitance over the oddness that sounds from her words.

"Hey," mentions Kotowski, eyeballing Bench but flinging that sour gaze over to Powers more strongly, "Didn't you say the Parker— phone shit— was about this lecture he gave, too? And some professor's statement? Sounds like he was just telling us the same thing three different ways."

Thus, Maggie's sober — and more than a little bit heated — conclusion: "Someone who was at the lecture is responsible for the video." Her pressed lips harbor strong resentment for said mysterious someone (or someones). "Miles did have a lot of … fans there, and most of them were students. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was obsessed; we've seen his … fan mail," she glances to Kotowski, "but what kind of schoolgirl makes a video like that?"

It's a mystery they can keep puzzling; she doesn't skip a beat: "Alright, we— " Until she does, in fact, skip a beat. Maggie reluctantly reroutes her intent to make things happen, literally biting the tip of her tongue and suppressing a very quick sigh. " — we aren't officially on the case, so we'll have to fill in Landry and Polk," she redirects. "Bench." A nod; she can head that up. "You should probably skip the rendition of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' for them, though." A small, good-natured, reassuring smile manages to peek through before all trace completely vanishes.

"But what about the rest of his shout-out," Maggie keeps on, back on Kotowski, taking a step towards the desks and starting and stopping. "The beginning. What about your pen? Everything else is turning out to be a message. Now it's entirely possible he really just stole it," this is Laurie they're talking about, who makes grand sculptures out of office supplies, "but if there aren't any coincidences…"

Kotowski — harboring no less than an agreeing, "You're telling me some girl in a plaid skirt designed this? That's four times crazy." — switches tracks to shake his head, "It's entirely possible it's nothing. He didn't take no pen, my lucky pen, I had this morning. I have it every morning, and every morning I stick it in my gum. You know. A lucky ritual."

"And every morning," pipes in Jordan's voice, where he's appeared in the hall, halfway to beckoning them but naturally overhearing his partner, "I move that pen to the top of your due paperwork in the vain hope you'll do it." In Jordan's pause, Kotowski weighs this measure along his eyebrows, one narrowing in and the other raising skeptically. Oh. Jordan pushes it along, strictly business — characteristically neutral: "I find the source of the video," he announces, giving it the gravity of no more than a YouTube craze — or maybe… gravely doing just that, "It's a website. You should see this."

* * *

The website, as websites go, is simple. Its purpose, however, is as dark as the black background it sits on.

The front page — the only page — contains the already too familiar video. It's playable now, free to be stopped and paused and played over and over again, but it's side-by-side with another that is perhaps more eye-catching at this exact moment. It's a live feed. A current timestamp ticks away in the corner. The masked figures are not featured; Laurie is alone. The chain used to choke him hangs looped loosely around his neck like the leash of a lost dog, but he has certainly not been allowed roam free. The light in the room shifts here and there, making branch-like patterns on the floor. Sunlight. What first sounds like static in the audio continues as a dull, technological drone.


TIME UNTIL POLL LAUNCH: 1:57:19 It's counting down. 18… 17… 16…

Beneath that, a chat room box is already active, sparsely populated with a few vague, anonymous-as-possible screen names. This is no longer a special message for police eyes only. It's public. Even as it's watched, more names log in. Who is that? one says; another, lawrence miles. Suggestions in text ring out into the internet: burn him!!!where did they goWE WANT THE KNIFE BACK

Gathered 'round the computer claimed by Jordan to seek out this very thing, and leaning in to not miss a single detail of it, Maggie is lost for words. One palm is pressed to her chest, in the collar of her shirt above the buttoned vest, flung there at some point during her relief upon seeing the live video — he's alive — but the gesture's been forgotten in her dismay. Disgust trumps anger in the moment as an appalled realization cinches her brow darkly and opens her mouth. When words do eventually force their way past her frozen state — and force they must — they're just as deeply disgusted. "…who would…"

"Currently, we have no way of knowing…" marks Jordan, his passive tone now a result of regret towards her appeal. Seated at a technological array still being built around him, and assisted by two others whose jobs more closely reflect this, the unofficial hacker detective swings a mouse ineffectively over the page, watching time and comments ticker by. Each is referred to. "The website, itself, is programmed to be untraceable. It's behind what is basically a firewall of false addresses, constantly changing. As for these…" the mouse trails over to the chatroom box. Underneath its little white cursor, a new message already pings: omg is that blood real??? "As far as I can tell, they're real people." His head swivels over his shoulder, landing his eyes on Maggie, "I'm setting up a program to try and separate them from the website, but… I'm rusty."

"You got this," the reassurance comes from his partner, slapping a hand onto Jordan's shoulder. Kotowski's gaze racks indecisively between the feed of Laurie, and his anonymous jury, a half-balled fist used to indicate the both, "Boy's alive, anyway. Always knew he was." Spying along the meant-to-be-comforting fingers of his long time teammate, Jordan spares him the correction. Giving the collar of his shirt a fierce, loosening tug, Kotowski goes on, a sneer morphing his baffled mouth, "You just find these schmucks and I swear I will put a bullet into every one…" The two extra techs glance over, flagged with some shared concern over the detective's questionable gumption. "How sick do you have to be…"

A strict line dominates Jordan's face, making discontented levels of eyebrows, and mouth, the point of his gaze back to the screen, business, at hand. "It looks like," he declares somberly, swinging the mouse point to those highly capitalized words below the time-stamp of Laurie, alone. "We have a little under two hours before we find out."

Ding: Make him scream.

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