2010-09-08: Pooled



Guest-Starring: Sergeant Gartland, Senator Roland, Zach Dayton

Date: September 8th, 2010


A real detective's work is never done; and Detective Maggie Powers is a real detective. But she's immediately presented with several more challenges than she'd like on a case requiring discretion… for more than one problem.


* * *

The Standard

848 Washington Street, New York

Starting at three hundred a night for the cheapest, The Standard is a leap and a bound ahead of Luffert's, not to mention several stories and a severe alteration in neighborhoods. The clientele of each also shares few common traits — except an inherent dislike of being told where they can and cannot go. But those of the upper crust are twice as perfect at turning up their noses to scandal and refusing to touch their business. So a crime scene such as this could have gone on invisible — except for a few complaints about inconvenience — and a very public benefactor leading the charge.

Where Maggie's been led as she arrives is a hallway taped off so far ahead of the actual investigation that it's a trek through a ghost hotel towards those pin-pricks of figures at the horizon, congregated near where the hallway warps into a square allowing a view into the beautiful courtyard below — fifteen floors below. They're talking, the three men: "… I'm only glad you took an old man for his favor," a familiar voice: the kind of familiarity from hearing it too much, even if never in person, "This kind of thing needs to be wrapped up with as much confidence as possible. Don't you agree, Sergeant? — Ah! Is this the detective, then?"

On cue, the other men also turn. Back to her, Sergeant Gartland looks over his shoulder completely, turning halfway and then — on recognition — giving a nod back towards the first. "Yes— I'll just get her." Unnecessary, but the Sergeant strides as quickly as possible to have a space of time between Maggie's current position and when she'll reach the men beyond. "Detective Powers," he greets, focused but graceful enough to sound sheepish, "I know this isn't usually your suit, but we're in a very delicate situation here and I felt I could trust you to be— " he grasps for a word, perhaps flashing through the roster of detectives he didn't call, "— diplomatic."

Without letting her respond, they're here, and, hand on the detective's back, Gartland leads her straight up into the waiting handshake of Harry Roland, candidate for office. "Detective Powers, perhaps you know the district Senator…" Roland's hand covers hers, enveloping in the warm touch of a political man.

The long strides of Detective Powers, relatively quiet considering the silenced hotel much lovelier than the last, take her where she's led, as is her duty — but not without question. Though the sergeant gives her exactly no time to ask, the look she gives him sidelong an instant before turning to regard the unexpected senator asks it all: what did you just get me into?

Nevertheless, in this case, throw her in and she'll swim. The greeting she gives Roland is nothing but warm, though the friendliness is kept in small, professional doses. Her handshake is warm as well, firm, and for as long as it lasts, so does Maggie's smile. "Senator Roland," she greets pleasantly, though it's here that the friendliness edges into a more down-to-business attitude. "Detective Maggie Powers," she adds her own introduction, withdraws her hand, and glances around at the other man, around the square, and down below (way, way below to the courtyard). "I'm sorry if I kept you waiting. What's going on here?"

The arc of men now standing about her keeps Powers from seeing much of the view beyond them except across to the other side of the fifteenth floor — the glass-windowed elevators — but she's able to get a good examination of the man beside the Senator in his brown suit, his hair swept aside as dashingly as to say he's fully aware of the young and good looks of his face. He's introduced in a wind-about by Roland, "The pleasure's all mine, Detective… but I'm afraid I'm no use in these things— can I leave you in the capable hands of my campaign manager?" Cue to Dashing, "He'll answer all your questions."

"Zach Dayton," the manager introduces: another hand-shake, this one a bit more grippy than the fatherly presence of Roland. "Senator," he glances that way, in those quiet managing asides these types are good for, "Your wife asked that you speak to her when you could…" An affirming nod from the Senator and he gestures forward, something that Sergeant Gartland accepts, rightfully, as an invitation for him also to follow.

They are suddenly halted in their bid to leave Maggie on her own to work when the entire courtyard echoes with a piercing — edging on frantic — "HEYYYYYYYY!"

All the figures dash to the edge of the railing in surprise, staring over as the view goes down, down, down the floors to where the courtyard is split right in the middle by the hotel's magnificent pool. Heads pop up from a few other floors — all greeted by the blond consultant all the way below staring expectantly right back up at them. "Oh," his voice reverberates in the open air, reaching them despite the distance, "So you did hear that."

"Ohhh…" The Senator echoes, pulling away his hands from the railing — a railing covered in protective wrap — his own voice a single note of delighted curiosity, "I wonder what that was about…" He turns to Maggie informatively, "Laurence Miles. I asked him on personally to make sure we had the best minds to put this terrible affair to rest. I'm sure you'll get on just fine— Excuse me." Gartland's look to Maggie is less so, and more something, before he's forced to follow alongside the senator down the hallway.

"Yeah, well…" Dayton mutters, one hand lingering on the railway where he's peering at the pool, the consultant — where the crime scene can now be seen as its set, "He sounds like a kook… Shall we?"

Maggie doesn't have to add herself to the figures at the rail to recognize the source of the voice. Mid-way through shaking the hand of Zach Dayton, it reverberates up fifteen floors and through her like foreboding at this particular moment — evidenced by the fingers, reclaimed from the campaign manager, that swipe slowly over one of her eyes, closed, and furrowing brow, as though she has a headache. But that tired hand is dropped and she smiles, briefly, to the leaving Senator, and in turn to the man she's left with.

"Mr. Dayton. If you can answer all of my questions— " She steps up to the rail to glance down from a distance, ready to be on the move. "You can start with telling me what's happened?"

"Of course," it takes a second more to pull him away from staring, but then Dayton is narrowed in, "We — the Senator's close friends and supporters — were having a small party to celebrate his decision not to retire. Some of the guests came outside to enjoy a little open air, and that's when they saw the body…" His hand tightens briefly on the rail, helping him in an extra glance over to the cool picturesque waters of that swimming pool, "She was in the pool," a thought that ruins some of that perfect image, "Lisa," his gaze tightens, but he speaks smoothly and professionally, "She must've jumped, poor thing. Nobody even saw her leave the room." Spoken with as much confidence as if he'd questioned them all himself — maybe he did. "You understand," and he looks deeply at the detective to impress that, if she doesn't, she should now, "Something like this hanging over the Senator's announcement could be detrimental to the cause. Your Sergeant assured us you would get this case closed swiftly and decisively." In other words: discreetly and right now, please.

"We'll do everything we can as well as we can," Maggie tells the man confidently; as reassuring as it is, there is an undercurrent of correction. She can use discretion, she can work with a delicate case; she'll do her job, but her reply holds no promise of treating these people more special than anyone else. Detective Powers gives a small nod and starts to head away from the railing — to make the trek down, down, down to the crime scene. "Lisa," she says, immediately glancing back to watch Dayton's face, prompting, "You knew her. What can you tell me about her?"

"I didn't really," Dayton corrects instantly, an inch or so of his stride leading the way for the detective to where they can cut around the courtyard and use the elevators opposite. "I mean— clearly not— since I had no idea she'd…" eyes on the pool, he's ashamed, the gaze jumps quickly to Powers, "But also because it's been busy, I've been busy, trying to keep Roland in the game and— well. I'm afraid I don't get to know all the volunteers as well as I'd like…" His face shows true regret, mouth thinning out into a grimace for the reality. With a hand, he beckons Maggie get into the device first.

Her view is instantly of across where they'd just been standing and, as the doors close, descends to the pool level — now things look more like they should. And what it says about Maggie's life that should means: crime scene tape, a layer of forensics experts picking at things here and there. The body's already been moved, rested on several of the pool's towels, but this woman clearly was not meaning to go swimming. Her water-logged dress was once soft, black, just the playful side of revealing, and the lone visible shoe on her foot probably cost as much as the rest of the outfit.

And then Laurie. Standing near the edge of the pool, as center as he could get without diving into the actual waters, the consultant glances the half length of the room to watch Maggie's downward approach with unabashed consistency.

Bearing no judgment for how little Dayton apparently knew of Lisa's personal life, or life at all, while she had one, Maggie's descent in the elevator is, at first, silent. For a number of floors, she watches only the pool — the scene of the crime and symbol of so much water — and then, as it comes into focus, the body. "What about Senator Roland," she breaks the short silence, "did he work at all closely with Lisa or know her outside of her volunteering? You said some guests found the body. I'm going to need the names of everyone who was attending the party."

Almost as soon as the detective espies the staring form of Laurie — or rather, acknowledges the presence she knew to be there already — through the crystal clear glass doors, she turns to Dayton to address him in private, important tones. "You have to understand, Mr. Dayton… we'll go about this as quietly as we can, but until — if — it's officially determined, we can't immediately treat…"

When the doors re-open, the words that drift from it — audible to ears very attuned to Maggie's now even more quiet voice — are the less-than-cheerful continuation: "… an unattended death like a suicide."

"Harry — Roland tries to get to know everyone, bless him," the manager explains endearingly— but— "He might've known Lisa by name only if Mrs. Roland whispered it to him right before. She looked over the day to day affairs of the volunteers. It leaves the Senator free for those things that should really concern him, you see."

Dayton's face sours some at her conclusion, however softened the voice might be, but he clears it up with a bit of a shrug and sigh, "Of course. The police know best…" His own voice, smooth, is not altered at all from a typical speaking volume, "I don't know if it's worse to think there's some monster out there who'd do this, or… that a nice young woman would end her own life." Having been staring out to where it all happened, he glances back last for Maggie, a severe bit of movement in his mouth — not a smile, but a twitch kind of like one to accept the morbid irony.

As they're stepping out of the glass box, "I'll get you the names… but everyone's been gathered into the room upstairs. All except Mr. Lorne, who had an important meeting before the police arrived… otherwise, the— " It doesn't take him long to find a more diplomatic word, but he uses the time to eye in on Laurie, "consultant insisted everyone stay. Understand, detective, these are all important people with full schedules…" This time the trailing, the lowered and meaningful glance speaks of: surely you can reasonably overrule this silliness.

Or not. "Good," Detective Powers says decisively, and those very important people gathered into the room upstairs will just have to alter their very important schedules. Just a few steps outside of the elevator, she stops. "Thank you," for your time, Mr. Dayton, you don't have to go any further, says Maggie's impersonal thank-you. "Stay close-by. But there's no need for you to see the crime scene again. Maybe you can go wait with the others," she says like an offering and not like an order. "That way we can find you, if we have more questios. If you can't find me— " He can use her card, which she hands him from a pocket.

A short-lived later — thinned by circumstance and professionalism and tense by distraction — Maggie strides along the edge of the crime scene. It is the path that ultimately takes her to Laurie, for whom she doesn't look at but gives a smooth, "Miles," as she moves in closer — stepping over the tape — to crouch near the body. Logistically, her chosen point next to the victim is on the furthest side from the edge of the pool.

Clear-cut resistance marks Dayton's face around his political pleasantries; he takes several disobedient steps with Maggie away from the elevator, but it's her delivery of the business card that ultimately stops him in his tracks. Lingering some, he inevitably turns about, immediately going for the cell-phone in his pocket — and probably not to hurriedly input the detective's number.

Laurie has since found his own distraction. Planted in the same place, his feet poised at the very edge of the pool Maggie avoids, he stares ever upward towards the ceiling — the skylight that rains the outside world upon them, untouchable by height and through glass. Every floor rises around him, and on each one the faces that appeared have since returned to their lives. On the beat of his name, he does turn, but to glance in an unwavering line down from the heights to the grounded body, staring at her frozen features. "… nobody heard you scream…" Dreamy, distant, he stares into her shocked eyes before his head swivels to the fifteen floor railing. "Everybody heard me…"

The deceased does not respond; she only lies there, spread out for everyone to see and prod at her pale skin, her still-wet but now drying appearance. "They took her out of the pool before we arrived," a crouching examiner informs Maggie when she joins him there. "The cracked rib…" he draws a line with a protected hand across the air above the woman's chest and stomach, "is from when they tried to resuscitate her, but," a sad shake of his head, realistic, "There was never really a chance based on how long she'd been face-down."

"So she couldn't have screamed," Maggie murmurs thoughtfully, considering the body until a new line of questioning is brought about and she tips her head to look up, sideways, at the examiner. "How long had she been in the water? Do we know what time it was when she was found?" Her own attention shifts to the sky above and the levels of the hotel, floor after floor, studying across the lofty distances under a furrowed brow. "If she fell from up high… she would have still made a tremendous noise. Maybe not as startling as a scream, but… a splash like that…"

"The guests weren't sure, nobody could tell me when she'd left— here," the examiner leans in to grab the body by the elbow, flexing it in and out, "No rigor. It wasn't hours. But," setting the part aside, he puts her hands to his knees to steady his crouch, "It only takes six minutes for brain death." With his palms squeezing his legs, he can take a glance with the rest of them to the point of falling, "After about… twenty or so stories, water can feel just like concrete if you come at it the wrong way. She definitely made an impact…"

"Mmmm mmm," Laurie's noise of protest is only on the verge of that, but it quiets the examiner and the consultant lets his own silence sit in till there can be heard distant chattering, perhaps a television and, further off, music. "The kind of people who stay at a hoity-toity hotel just to sit in their room are exactly the kind who wouldn't budge for anything less than an emergency." He whirls on the two below him by the body, face and finger caught poised in deliberation, "… maybe not even that. So…" Rather than stay on Maggie, his eyes fall more comfortably to the bulging, glassy ones of Lisa's and he drops fluidly to join in all the crouching, speaking again to the corpse as expectant of an answer, "You didn't scream. You only splashed… is it because you wanted to? Did you want to… drop and splash and be free, Lisa…?"

On the used to it side of wigged out, the examiner watches this sixth sense exchange before he straightens pointedly. "We'll know more when we get her to the lab and I can run a few tests… but, based on what I see her, she definitely asphyxiated. Really, she admirably survived the fall. It wasn't broken limbs that stopped her from getting to the surface."

A frown ghosts into existence across Maggie's features after the consultant's — thankfully one-sided — conversation with the dead, bringing her attention back down to the asphyxiated Lisa. After a look of acknowledgement to the examiner, her hands push against her knees as she straightens again, her arms folding as she returns to height.

"Falling all those floors only to survive and then drown — she could have done the same just from stepping in from down here…" Contemplation purses the detective's lips and, again, her head cants backward to look up. More quietly added is her unsettled opinion more than an observation: "This is the wrong place for a pool…"

Maggie's eyes narrow, then, becoming more focused on various points above. "I wonder what The Standard's security camera system is like." All in due time. As for the very present, a glance is sent to Laurie, there and away. "We should check out the room she was staying in. According to Roland's campaign manager, no one even saw her leave."

"Maybe she thought it'd be easier to fall…" That's the examiner's last input before he strides towards his fellows to arrange for the body to be eventually moved. Another day, another body bag.

Laurie's fixation on Lisa's dead body might suggest more than silence on her end for him — but he regains his upward persuasion in time to following the path of Maggie's own gaze towards ceiling. "There's cameras there," his hand detaches from his side to point towards the hallway branching off to their right, "and there," the ceiling above the pool is implicated, though no obvious attachment or red light betrays the equipment. Right off of this investigation, he swivels to spy on the detective as though she were a third camera to call out. But for her, bluntly: "I didn't ask to be here."

Maggie's gaze doesn't leave the last security camera indicated, each having been duly noted and accepted to exist, whether she can see them with her own eyes or not. "I know." As fast and as simple as that. A step is taken back, followed by two more, and she turns to, quite swiftly, make her way toward the shining glass of the elevator. "We have a job to do."

* * *

The Standard

Room 1510

The key card gotten from the otherwise steely-faced employees from the security booth turns the forbidding red light on the door panel to green; inside, a magnetic lock clicks. Pushed the door reveals the makings of a room precisely worth the upwards of a whole grand it could've cost. A Superior Queen — there's the appropriate size of thick, luxurious bed framed by white window-seats and excessive mini-bars with modern art furniture — all placed near wall-to-wall windows displaying the bright buzz of the city below as it gets on with its own life, neverminding that a woman has lost hers somewhere in it.

Signs of short living inside include a pair of jeans flung over the top of the plasma tv, a few amenities from the bathroom have been brought out onto the oval couch-front table. Lipsticks, a torn pair of nylons. Upon strolling in, Laurie maneuvers around the bed to reach at its opposite side where has been left a small red clutch purse, its wallet peeking out. Flipping the side open with two fingers, he reads briefly. "Teresa Havens." Then pulls away from the item, coming alongside the huge windows and their gaping view. "Staff said Roland only reserved all the rooms incase things went over at the party. He wanted to make sure everyone had a safe place to crash." And, apparently, an absurdly expensive one. "Looks like they went with the buddy system."

"It's no wonder, this is a massive room for one person." After spending a moment taking said room, and spending another quick moment on the expansive windows with a few blinks for the lack of curtains covering the famous view, Maggie takes to wandering. Calmly, this and that is honed in on. "Looks like Teresa forgot her purse," she comments, somewhat skeptically, with a glance to the red clutch. A brief pause at the table, she touches the tear in the nylons; then to the closet, the bathroom; aside from that which is provided by the hotel, everything is sparse. Having drifted back into sight, to appear by the bed and fold her arms, Maggie concludes, "But Lisa didn't seem to leave much behind."

Her conclusion finds Laurie seated upon the edge of the bed, his knees half of the way between bent and extended, hands dropped against his lap. His staring, as far as can be told, has never left the skyline of New York. "She didn't plan on staying." It's a certain conclusion disguised as a uncertainty — which makes it even odder when followed by its antithesis: "Or someone didn't want her to stay." A glance to the detective misses, finds the coffee table, rebounds to the window. With a shrug to dismiss all manner of observations, he bounces back an inch and then drops to the bed with a lazy flop. His body sinks vaguely into the three-hundred thread count Italian sheets. "There's no color in this room," he declares much more adamantly than when referring to the case. "If you spilled something, you'd never be able to hide it."

"Everything is exposed." Maggie adds her own commentary in a voice too distant to be invested in room design. Her arms shift across her body, tightening their fold, and she looks over her shoulder to the door they came through — waiting for a cue that doesn't quite arrive yet.

That gives them a few minutes, here, waiting for the investigation to continue. A temporary halt between one thing and the next.

She commandeers it.

The hint of movement behind Laurie precedes Maggie's walk around the bed; shortly, her weight impresses upon the edge of the mattress next to him, give or take a few spaces. Her whole presence is palpably heavy with thought, but she carries the weight well. As she stares directly ahead into the lights of the city, hands on her thighs, she is very quiet — calm — sitting poised and confident. Her voice, when it breaks her self-made silence, shares her quiet poise. "I'm not something that needs to be absolved." Maggie lets that sit for a moment. "I'm allowed— to have— my own thoughts and to choose my own responsibilities. I am not naive. The idea that I have to in some way be protected… is offensive." Only then does her head turn, that steady blue gaze moving into direct line with Laurie. "Protected by you, I can deal with. Not from you."

More sinking when her weight redistributes some of the mattress; no conscious movement from Laurie, whose arms remain crooked, palms pressed lightly against his chest and stomach covered, in turn, by the smooth forest green of his shirt. Reverently quiet for the sanctity of her gathering herself, the confession by which she then breaks the air. She gives a moment between commandments and he takes it, passively. His own blues shine to a blandly white ceiling, the recessed lighting that settles down over their widely still forms. Even when he's being watched. Just a peaceful spot, resting on the bed and staring above it. Unmoved and unbothered, he remains in this way a long tick after she's done. Patience will have to be employed.

But a deep breath is pulled in eventually, raising his chest, lifting his hands and, reactionary, his fingers angle up and then pat down to their places. Soft thump on his body. "Thought it might be soon." Bland, no prejudice. If anything at all, he might be glad — but he isn't that, even at a stretch. "Wondered for a little bit, though…" his head drifts to the side in what, if he were standing, could have been a more definite demonstration of thought. "You let me get away with it for a while."

After a second of this one out there, his hands slide to his sides and he pushes off both, elbows bending, to be sitting up. Now, side by side, he finally returns the gaze — blue to blue if she holds. Light, secretive — and bashful to distract from those secrets. "Had to have at least tried."

She holds. Wholly, in fact, eyes locked like a steadfast trap. Hers is a gaze that holds secrets of her own, disguised only by its own commonplace familiarity — Maggie's knowing stare. "Well," she starts on the pleasant side of neutral; her features remain unchanging, static, "I must have the patience of a saint." After all… "I got used to having you around. So. You tried…" Now what?

Now it's time to get back to work, investigators: a knock sounds on the door. It seems almost distant — faraway from the two figures on the edge of the bed, across the space of the expensive room.

"Time for interviews." Maggie's last word is even through, she rises without pause, her hands sliding briskly off the tan fabric of her pants before she goes for the door to deceased guest's hotel room.

A hand lifts, fingers curling — into nothing. She's already gone.

(TO BE CONTINUED in Wavelength)

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