2010-07-01: The Inquiry, Part 3



Date: July 1st, 2010


One side of the story deserves another.

"The Inquiry, Part 3"

Office of Internal Affairs

* * *

A door opening. Release for one. Prisoner transfer.

The hallway is not empty as it is offered to Detective Powers. Steps from one side line up with those from the other. Led on by the strict messenger, Laurie strolls steadily for that beckoning doorway from which Maggie exits. His gaze fixated on where he's going with long, even steps and his eyes never stray — not even when, paths crossing, Maggie and Laurie are, for three paces, next to each other.

One beat, she's ahead.

Second beat, they align.

Here, in that moment, a hand drifts in its otherwise typical swing. Something nudges Maggie's almost secretly, almost intimately. It's a book; Stephen King's The Stand.

Third beat, he's passed her.

Fourth beat, Maggie pauses.

By the fifth beat, when, book snugly in hand, she looks back down the hall, the door to the office is already closing.

* * *

On the desk beside an imposing stack of files all marked MILES, LAU by a colorful filing system that, somehow, does nothing to cheer up the manila, sits the tape recorder. Put to dogged use today, it quietly, judgmentally chronicles this, the second of interviews in the Internal Affairs inquiry regarding Detective Maggie Powers and — here, most notably — Laurence Miles.

The strict messenger turns out to have authority above Ms. Patty Bush, who sits instead in a chair just off to the side and behind the desk, unenthusiastically organizing her notes and preparing to take more, while the man in the clean-cut pale suit has taken over the desk's main throne. The man whose ID names him Drew Hellman holds the recorder neatly without lifting it from the desk, seeming to take great care that it's functional.

Meanwhile, his monotone voice drones on as if reading from an invisible page: " — acknowledge that you understand the situation and the serious consequences that could result from any misconduct exposed as well as any dishonesty discovered after the fact here now. If there is anything you'd like to state for the record, Mr. Miles, now is the time to do so before we start…"

Having taken the chair designated him, Laurie watches his would-be questioner with a look angled a touch, chin aligned to the resting spot of his hands as they, at first, settle entwined on the table. But, upon prompting, he does not so much speak as swish one arm behind him, flaring away his coat from his pants so that the pocket is easily accessed. From it, with a telling rattle, comes a white-capped bottle whose bright orange coloring is all that's needed to identify it, even without the attached label — officially giving the room a fourth name — SAQUINE, CARL — for only its three occupants.

The record receives a very distinct pop for its consumption and then the noisy clatter of pill against pill while the consultant skillfully distributes one and then two into his hand. That palm snaps to his mouth and his head jerks backwards for a quick practiced swallow as the bottle drops away from the table and vanishes whence it came.

Both hands lift to the table, slide into place where they started.

The woman relegated to note-taker takes a note.

Taking that as a no, and satisfied with the tape recorder, Hellman adjusts his own jacket as he sits back, preparing to be in this for the long haul. "Monday the 28th of June you were involved in…" He takes a moment to eye the vicious cuts that mar Laurie's face. "…an encounter with suspect Mandy Larson. As police on the scene understood it at the time, this was part of an endgame to ultimately lead to the suspect's arrest, without the knowledge of the New York Police Department — which you are no longer officially hired by — leading up to the event, or the knowledge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Correct?"

Laurie and his decorated face exercise thinking to its fullest extent in the wake of Hellman's question, narrowing eyes and working lips together for each twist, turn, and comma. After this extremely thorough debate over every element, his deliberating countenance changes only slightly to one of somewhat sheepishly forced acceptance — where the sheepishness is clearly for show. Similarly, his shoulder bunch up in a somewhat committal shrug as he gives several nods back and forth to demonstrate the general — in surrender — allowing of this summary.

The tape recorder isn't granted a thing from Laurie, but from Hellman it's granted a sigh — and they've only just begun. "Please state your answers out loud for the record. You agree that is what happened?"

Oh! Well, when you ask — "I agree," Laurie states quite readily, inching his behind backwards in the chair but tipping forward over his clasped hands to put himself biased quite close to the tape recorder. "To the specifications of that statement as you exactly described it."

The thinning line of Hellman's mouth is his only thanks for the clarification. "Let's start at the beginning." He sorts through a few of the nearby files until he comes up with one to flip through importantly for a detail or two. "You hadn't been in the game, so to speak; you haven't been working for the police department for number of months — since May." A glance to confirm even though it's on paper. "You were involved in a classified investigation and Larson's case holds no official concern of yours — at what point did you try to become involved unofficially?"

The interviewee's eyes narrow calculatingly, silently judging by look the one who's doing the same of him by words. Laurie's eyebrows dip in, finding a niche against that diagonal cut making an X of his nose. "Exactly at what point should we be expected to have become uninvolved in a case presented us?" Almost scornful in its factuality, the statement sees Laurie pushing away from the table, leaning into the support his chair, one arm slung around it as he crosses a leg. "But, all right. Did I try? Never." His hand flaps towards the recorder. "Unofficially. For the record."

To the tune of Patty's "hrm" in the background, Laurie's interviewer leans ahead over his spread of papers, a neat thumb trailing along information contained on them; perhaps a rough timeline of sorts. "Then at what point… did Detective Maggie Powers contact you during your — continued! — stint working in an undercover capacity?"

Laurie's spreading grin is decidedly cheshire — if the cat was Freddy Krueger. He can't help it, the scarring, and his tone is certainly more nostalgic than wicked to fit the original intent.

Nostalgic and—

His distraction to eye her is somewhat of an undoing, as he doesn't spot Roberto until he's much closer. Flickering gaze to the boss, the hand on Maggie slides to her side, bracing there as if to give her a hearty push in the other direction. But the eye contact, Roberto's focus, has him relaxing the touch against her more naturally.

… a touch, to her. His palm press at the thigh is not shy, even passing indulgent to be rather utilitarian…

"A very interesting — though vaguely inconvenient — one."

"Yet she knew about your classified operation — enough to contact you," Hellman says promptingly, stern-faced to the Cheshire grin. "Can you explain how that is?"

"It's a little uncomfortable," is the decision after a second of Laurie's shifting, his hand resting on his knee with a certain solemnity as he picks at the fabric of his pants, "I already used 'inconvenient'… — but, you know, workable."

Hellman and Patty exchange a bland look before attentions go firmly back to the consultant. "Did you knowingly give Detective Powers any classified information — or any information that would have led to unauthorized contact between you?"

Laurie opts to think over this one as well, the arm around the chair twisting to put his fingers splayed just along his chin. One begins to rub absently along the cut beside his jaw there; it's already redder than the others.

He thinks…

When Laurie's arm reaches out, it brushes right past her. "You're going to have to be more specific," he speaks low, but only to be quiet; he's still casual. "I think I might work for them or something." Arm retracting, "Now don't be short with me. I got you a present." Voila, his hand is in front of him but now he's brandishing an envelope at her, stuffed to each edge with three blank VHS cases. "O'Meara's favorite," he informs, though with no intention to specify for which element of this strange package being handed to her.

"By the sheer act of allowing such information to exist, I have thus made it available to anyone who has the means to look. And those who strongly want will always find a way within."

"That's true, Mr. Miles," the man replies with growing impatience. "Let's try purposefully, then," he says, neutrally — but it's starting to sound not unlike a cross-examination. "What I'm looking for here is whether or not you, on purpose, led Detective Powers to knowledge of your operation, whereabouts, or details she would not have otherwise known — or found — without you, or if, as far as you're aware, she acted on her own in contacting you."

There's a flicker of — what — apology? It's at least a tone of regret on Laurie's face as he stills fingers, curling them against his roughened cheek, knuckles into soft stitches. "I'm aware that's what you're looking for," he replies with the suggestion of an honest sigh without actually giving one. "But I'm being an ass about it."

"…Need I remind you that not cooperating with this investigation will have consequences?" Hellman raises a splayed palm immediately after the question; don't answer that. "It'll go more smoothly if you answer our questions. So— explain— the process, here. Explain the events that led up to your encounter with Larson. You were in contact with Detective Powers and…"

— stopped just short. As one can imagine, Laurie was fully prepared to give an answer the rhetorical clearly needed but his jaw eases shut at the hand — a feat in itself. He's not immediately compliant, he has to delve back into the thinking process of all those angles; but he eventually adjusts in the chair another time, now straightening and folding hands forward to transform from relaxed participant — in pose only — to engaged storyteller. "I recalled that she had once made a mention of Thailand…"

* * *

"As a matter of fact— I do. And you're not going to like it."

Laurie delivers to her expectance, "But you are going to agree to it. Around the time I say 'Amber will not be in any danger'— give or take a sentence."

Maggie steps back far enough to lean against the side of the fridge. Casual, comfortable, at home, only marred when she folds her arms tightly, forearms — bare from the elbow-length cuff of her red sleeve down — tense. "You sound confident!" she calls him out from her new spot. That would be a hint of challenge from the detective — for Laurie to prove his proclamation right.

As much as she clearly wants to know what he's cooked up — figuratively and literally — Maggie has just as pressing topics on her mind, all related to the same dilemma: the murderer at large. She goes oddly quiet, however. A darkened gaze drifts off into an uninhabited corner of the neat kitchen until the scents and sounds of cooking draw her back, and she says: "Can I help?" Not with the plan, though that certainly applies; it's the stove she's looking at.

There's a possessive bit of glancing between the two stove-top dishes but then, glancing with a slight backwards lean over his shoulder, Laurie decides, "If you wish. Noodles go in there," he crosses a hand over the one holding the saucepan to point to the larger water-filled pot, "When it boils. Get 'em tender. Drain." Returning to his own matter at hand, the impromptu cook actually gives the sauce a rest, instead stepping backwards to lift a hand and roll the fedora off his head. It's gripped with two fingers while the others pluck at his coat sleeve, tugging one off then the other. Both articles he drapes in temporary storage over his arm to approach the stove again.

Detour to the plastic bag one last time reveals a wooden spoon which he dips to the sauce. Bringing it shoulder height, he turns directly to his side near the pot Maggie's now been asked to watch. "And taste this." Timely waiting for her to be involved in reacting to that, then added, just as casually: "You set up a statement saying the police department no longer believes the cases to be related."

She's there, after a brief detour to diligently wash her hands at the sink. The package of noodles are in hand, prepared to meet the gradually boiling water when the wooden spoon is suddenly there for testing. Maggie takes it — though her grip is light, only enough to draw it in for a quick taste test rather than steal the utensil. It prompts a raise of her brows and a quick but honest smile. "Well whatever it is — it's good."

The wonders of the sauce postpone her reply for a moment — long enough to run knuckles past mouth and return her attention to the stove. Maggie seems at ease with the practice of preparing the noodles, of cooking; it's familiar, if not often put to use. "To draw the attention off Amber? Or to make a narcissistic murderer angry? Either way— " She opens a drawer on her side of the stove … and then the one underneath to successfully retrieve a slotted ladle to gently stir the noodles with. Look, she has utensils! "Setting up a statement would be hard. I don't have authority in the case. The best I could do would be to tell the press…"

Humming a soft contented noise — not egotistical enough to be pride, not quite energetic enough to be satisfaction — Laurie lays the spoon aside where it's propped to keep the end dabbed with lingering sauce off of the clean counter top. Stepping around her, with one glance for the pot and noodles, his goal is to toss his coat over the back of her couch, lay the hat upon it. The scarf remains on, his fingers running over the fabric idly while he lingers in the living space. "You'll get authority," easy as that. "Go around our friend the sergeant. Get people to listen."

Approaching the kitchen, he draws right up behind her, hovering at her shoulder in familiar pose to see exactly what she's doing with the food, that ladle she so proudly owns. "I believe in you." Without thought, his hand wraps about hers with the utensil, maneuvering it through her to experimentally get a feel for the noodles' state. "Drain." Then the fingers are gone, and he's returned to his own spot, absently passing a tall bottle of peanuts between his hands. "Accusing some lowlife of the crime is the worst insult you can give an unsub who takes pride in his work. They finish the job," wagging of the bottle at her provokes a rattling sound of nuts jumping about the container, "And they go after whoever's stolen their due credit."

Maggie, in the midst of considering the likelihood of this plan — hedging on her authority — working, is prompted to smile by Laurie's apparent belief; then eyes him almost contrarily over her shoulder, perhaps noting his possessiveness of the cooking process as her hand is guided. She does turn the burner off and heft the pot from the stove and heads to the sink with it.

"And the person who gets the credit…?" she raises her voice over the sounds of splashing water and lightly clattering metal.

But, from one thought right onto the next, she keeps speaking. "Is she still an 'unsub' if we know her name?" More or less deciding yes for herself, she adds, on her way back with the noodles, "Doesn't it bother you that she's just a name and the crimes she's committed? What do we know but part of a profile and a meeting. It's like Mandy Larson didn't exist before a certain point. There's so much unknown. Gaps leave room for error. Like where she's been until now. Murderers like Larson… I mean, besides the fact that she's…" Impossible? "…they don't just stop killing. They have to be stopped, right? Only she did stop. It's been almost five months, what changed? If she killed again we'd know about it. She's always made a spectacle." Throughout these dire criticisms, the noodles are brandished toward Laurie in a metal strainer.

"They have to be stopped," Laurie near leisurely agrees, turning from where he'd been biased towards the counter to accept her offering of noodles. Simultaneously as he reaches for the strainer without allowing Maggie to quite yet remove her hand, his other dabs at her nose — dabs peanut butter there, in fact — like it's a completely natural thing to do. Then the noodles are quite taken to be distributed in the prepared sauce.

Between thoughts, he tosses the mixture with an experienced hand, saturating one with the other. "Serial killers are marked by their cooling off periods, during which they can return to states of masked sanity. Some are satisfied to merely relive their crimes until," he shrugs, "it becomes too much and they kill again. Something changed for Larson — right now it's less important what as how we can use this time before she possibly vanishes for another five months." Critically eyeing the now covered noodles, he glances left and right in search of something unvoiced. Instead, he's backtracking: "Some schmuck with priors gets the credit. And as he's quietly escorted from holding to maximum…"

The peanut butter is met with a quick jerk back after the fact. Maggie spends a moment wiping it off while giving into her first instinct, which is to give Laurie a chastising — but unabashedly and completey silly — roll of her eyes and matching smile, in the midst of all the dark insight into the mind of a serial killer. "Okay," she grants to what he's said, nodding, considering; filling in the rest in her head, maybe. There's more on her mind, dark dilemmas that don't seem apt to say when sucking peanut butter from her thumb. That in itself turns into a thoughtful gesture as she bites down beside her nail and stares at the stove. "There's just one problem."

Laurie most conveniently misses everything that she's doing over there — what peanut butter? Maggie's a silly goose — with his studied and upmost important concentration on the balancing act of getting noodles from pan to the plates he's procured from a rather good guess of where they'd be in her kitchen. Each portion set down is then garnished with a sampling of green onions, a bit of those peanuts he'd been juggling. For being something that was basically slopped about in a saucepan for ten minutes, it looks not bad at all set out there.

Contemplatively popping one of those spare peanuts into his mouth as he goes to regard her, Laurie's chin lowers, lending to the dark pull of his eyebrows shadowing blue eyes. Another peanut is tossed in. He swallows it most seriously. "… You're not going to handcuff me again, are you?"

"I hadn't been planning on it," Maggie chirps casually — and for all the serious escapades the handcuff comment hearkens back to, now she only gives a dimpled smile. She reserves even more amusement that stays hidden away behind her smile and moves to — with a daring half-arch of one eyebrow — take both plates and carry them off to the small dining area next to the kitchen, efficiently setting them down on the pale wood of the circular table.

Curling her hands over the curving metal back of a chair, the off-duty detective — seeming more off-duty and at home now than she did when she walked in, despite the purpose for Laurie's visit — starts to regain her seriousness. What she has to say warrants it. It comes back quickly, but reluctantly. It's obviously forced, like she'd rather not bring up the subject here, now, but she's pressed on by a sense of an impending time limit. "I'll do … almost whatever it takes to bring her in," Maggie says lowly, full of conviction, side-glancing Laurie's way. "I made Amber a promise. But when we find Larson… or if she comes to us— however it happens, and it will happen— what then. I've been trying to figure it out. Thinking about what she's capable of, however it's possible… it's… speaking of handcuffs, I'm not sure she'd stay in them."

Laurie's wary hrrrmmm'ing follows her as she takes the lead with the food out into the dining area, away from him as he lingers kitchen-side, lidding and replacing all of the various ingredients to be tossed into the bag whence they came. Squeaking of cupboards and he, squinting some, procures two regular but mismatched glasses. Pot and pan are also handled, one rinsed, and both settled into the sink neatly before he even thinks of skirting around the island counter to watch her across the way. Almost anything… the sentiment weighs his gaze away from her — for a brief moment, he could be said to be conflicted.

But in the time it takes for her to wonder out the rest of her worries, he's straightened. What he might have said is boarded up by what he says instead. "Then," described in a plain and unwavering manner, "You will prosecute her to the full extent of the law." He pauses, tongue pushing out cheek before he concedes, "Well, maybe not you…"

The final item to be revealed out of plastic is a bottle of wine — German Riesling — and it's this and the two glasses that he carries to the table, apparently unperturbed by the cups' contrary nature to the expensive drink. "Certainly a SWAT team would do everything in its power to make sure the situation is handled efficiently and in accordance to standards. Larson will be caught in the act. Amber," gentle clinking of glasses as they're set down, "will not be in any danger." Pop of the wine opening as a celebratory punctuation to the sentence.

Maggie's knuckles tighten over the chair, release, tighten again until they're white. She starts to relax over watching the unexpected and expensive wine being uncorked and straightens, letting go. "You brought wine?" she says instead of replying; that it's made a question gives her voice a vaguely conflicted tone. "Sorry I don't have any wine glasses. I didn't bring them." When she moved here. Two years ago.

The table's set-up is missing the crucial element of utensils and, realizing this, Maggie whisks away into the kitchen. "I think SWAT could take her down," she concedes, with some reservation, over the rattling of a drawer. "I don't know how long the law can keep her down — do you want a fork or chopsticks? But I will absolutely try to keep her out of the way of the public."

"A recent business acquaintance," so probably a gangster, though he doesn't use the term at all sarcastically, "reminded me of this fine variety," Laurie excuses the somewhat fancy drinking choice with, lifting the bottle half a dozen inches from the center of the glass into which he pours. Proper drinking ware or not, he indulges in certain fine dining habits. "And with Thai food — chopsticks — there's really nothing else." Lifting up one of these now a third full glasses, he spins it idly in his hand, "I like it. Besides, if we had wine glasses, it might be like we were having dinner together and that just shouldn't happen until you invite me to visit your home." Current record: Breaking In (1), Window (2), Invite (0).

"Chopsticks it is," Maggie calls from the kitchen. The sound of the drawer closing precedes her returning in short order, the chopsticks added neatly to both place-settings. In apparent contrast to the rest of her kitchen supplies, these happen to be rather fanciful, well-made and covered in artistic Asian designs. The ones she deigns to be Laurie's are largely pink. Not a coincidence, if the glance to his scarf as she puts them down is any indication. "If I never invite you, will you keep breaking in and climbing through my window?"

A couple of smoothly timed steps put Laurie alongside Maggie when she returns where she's placed the chopsticks that are decidedly less pink. Hand on the metal of the chair, he navigates it away from the table, turned slightly towards her, in anticipation of her being seated. He's at this post when she poses her question, one to which he has a simple and ready answer in such a light manner as its language deserves, but with the sincerity of an amount of honesty to which he doesn't entirely cop thanks to a somewhat too airy and affected expression. "Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike."

The chair — so politely pulled out for her — is given a … look, by Maggie, a double-take that can't entirely be called grateful. She sits down, settles in and seems content there, though she tips a look up to Laurie, a studying gaze searching not him but her own mind. The result: realization of the quote's source, a faintly incredulous raise of her eyebrows, a fainter smile— almost a smirk, then gone. And no answer. Instead, she picks her wine up, uncaring about its unlikely glass. It's lifted a touch, but it's not a toast that she makes. "Thanks, for this. For coming out and doing this." Not to be confused with: "And for dinner."

All of these nuances, these looks and studies, Laurie absorbs without reaction as he gives a pat to the back of Maggie's chair and then meanders around to the one designated for him. It's not to immediately sit that he goes there; first, his hand lingers against the top of this chair also, gliding over the metal, stalling. "I am but at your service." Smiling, good and simple. He swings a leg around the seat, watching the smooth colorful liquid of his own glass, "… Powers— " Bzzztt. The sound is nearly a buzzer — bzzt wrong answer — but it is, in the end, only the loud irritable summoning of a cellphone, muffled but clearly audible from the back cushion of Maggie's couch where Laurie's coat has been strewn. Bzzt — time's up.

As though he always meant, Laurie's leg switches around the seat, instead, carrying him across the chair and, eventually, he strolls with some measured purpose to where the coat and phone wait. Fishing a hand through the black material, he pulls out the phone and deliberately counts out several more seconds before popping it open with a thumb to answer. At the same time, he backs turn on Maggie, but his projected voice is difficult to miss anyway. "What is it this fuckin' time?"

The expectant stare of Maggie is also interrupted by the phone — the rude buzzing and the ruder answer it gets. Her stare follows, but changes, darkens. A thrum of tension brings an uneasy twitch to her mouth, the muscles of her neck— after which she brings her glass in for a drink of wine. They say alcohol's a sedative. What starts as unabashed eavesdropping takes a fast turn; she brings a hand to the back of her neck and looks away, as if trying not to listen.

"I believe I recall you sayin' you had this under control— " In looking away, Maggie misses the surreal contradiction of Laurie's carefully controlled lack of emotions between bursts of angry speaking; though a bit of a frustrated growl fixes the sneer on his face for longer. "Uggg — you — whimpering — piece'a — alright, listen up, dipshit. I'm gonna come over there, like you askin', but you ain't gonna be glad when I do." Click. Thump. Phone tossed to the couch. Tension has vibrated from Maggie's spot at the table to Laurie standing there, his hands settled over his face as he breathes in. Just… stands there.

The end of the … conversation … pulls Maggie back from her ignoring (note: it was unsuccessful). She blinks, on seeing Laurie just standing there as he is. Slowly, she sets her glass down in its place. "Miles?" is queried in a slightly high pitch. Anybody home? There's a bit of shuffling under the table, as if Maggie very nearly gets to her feet, though she otherwise stays still. "Is— everything okay?" comes the dubious line of questioning. "Do you need to go?"

"Ah— !" A second ticked by, but not another before Laurie turns his foot to the side and then lets the rest of his body following, spinning to see her — smiling. But darker distraction pulls his gaze occasionally to the side now, a plot for somewhere else far different from here tugs at the mind and his head makes to follow at times. "Just can't find good help anywhere these days, it seems. No commitment to the job anymore," the words continue unheeded, however, as he bends to the side to scoop up the phone, the coat. The one is draped over his arm for holding as he slides the cell back where it belongs into some invisible pocket; he does this all while approaching the table with a carefulness he didn't even use waltzing through her window earlier. This Laurie — the one coming back from that phone call — pauses for permission.

"If you have to go…" Maggie slowly rises by the edge of the table, her voice even and made to be reassuring — encouraging. "Go. Duty calls," she says casually; no big deal! "This is why you should always be ready, isn't it? To go back in." In others words — why he probably shouldn't be here. Yet the crackle of tension, on the part of the detective, seems to be gone. After moving away from her chair, she pauses. "Or." Measured, purposeful, she says also

… "Stay. If Roscoe's reputation can handle it— start dinner. Then go. You can use the door." But with question to her voice, option, it isn't so much a command or a even a suggestion, as much as it seems, instead, to be an open-ended experiment. It's not even really a veiled one, to the observant — her gaze is as steady watchful as it often is, if not even more gauging of Laurie.

To the level, even, tones of her double-sided proposal, Laurie offers only his ability to quietly scoff at each remark, beginning with a weary mutter of, "Duty, duty…" But accepting, not rejecting — opposite to the way he later slips backwards on his heels, pulling indignation and dismissal, "Pssh, me? I'm never ready… complete slacker." It's when she poses that non-judgmental or that he's briefly quieted. And then, softly, smiling. Certainly the consultant's smiled before, but the touch of bafflement here lifts the facade of playfulness for a true, meant expression.

When his mouth tugs just slightly upwards in thought an instant later, it all could've been just a trick of the soft apartment lights. Drifting forward one step than another, his hand trailing behind him for that fedora, which he traces along the upper creases in the same air of unfolding contemplation. "'Have to' is a tricky thing…" An allowing eyebrow raise, tip of the head — on the other hand, "… as is reputation." He gets his way to the table, his seat he has yet to ever get to sit on — the food — her.

It's to the second to last of these — the steadily cooling noodles — that he gives a nod of the hat towards. "So, do I only get to use the door if I start this?"

The only reply — for awhile — is Maggie's tiny smirk, just that little hint of something realized and amused, and her regard of consultant in this temporary limbo, too nonchalant to be vested, too observant to be indifferent — yet not conflicted. To say she has a way with looks would be an understatement.

She folds her arms easily, lacking any strong defense, and shifts her shoulders in a kind of shrug. That would be her answer: maybe. Without complaint, prompting one way or the other, she notes, "Dinner is going to get cold."

Things have cleared on Laurie's side as well; as he gets a good lean over the table going, he's able to slip fingers around the mostly pink chopsticks and wave them quite gamely at her. "I believe it's already on its way," he mentions, letting sticks touch plate, "So you'd better get on with it." For himself, he secures a loop of saucy noodles, bouncing the chopsticks once in the air to get the best grip on the stretch of distance between the table and his mouth, even with leaning. Even before the first slurp, he's abandoned the utensils to the plate and grabbed the makeshift wineglass instead. Its turn is barely after he's swallowed the first — and the wine he completely finishes.

"Started." So the declaration as glass is set at the table, released before its fully down, getting it to wobble indecisively before sitting flat. "I've done better," he mentions calculatingly, half-gesturing to the actually tasty food while one arm is already entering a coat sleeve, "It's terrible of me to prejudice you before eating but — mmm, yeah." His mouth curls unhappily, matching a squint to show his rejected thought. By now, the black fabric settles over his shoulders and he stretches arms forward, one waving the hat at her in wordless farewell. As he makes the first stride to take him at angle away from the table: "I'm using your door anyway."

She did say start dinner, and when that's exactly what Laurie does, it comes as no surprise — though she does blink when the wine is started and finished. "I'm sure it's fine," Maggie reassures lightly over the food. She has some certainty, she did try the sauce. Without protest, she heads away from the table herself, intent on striding past Laurie; if he's going to use the door, she'll be polite and see him out of her home. "Just look out. Your handler knows where I live," she warns on her way, unabashedly begrudging of the latter fact.

A few locks click and slide open at the apartment door, and she turns around out of its way. "I'll do what I can at the station," she states, back to business, "this is going to have to happen fast, so check in soon."

Laurie neither speeds up nor slows, allowing Maggie's intent to put her there in front of him, switching locks while he takes the last lazy stride to at the door. There's a bit of a nod — all she's going to get for the business side — and then he takes a stretched step to the threshold, hovering there momentarily with a narrow glance at her now behind him.

"In all fairness, I also know where you live," not exactly bashful; it's as unfortunate sounding as hers had been, "And where he lives. And you know where I live." A hand comes to point to himself in distracted thought as his eyes wander similarly to the ceiling. "As does he…"

And so on and so forth down the hall.

* * *

" — a lot of people don't appreciate is the intricacy of sauce. They'll buy it lump sum from the store and never give a second thought of what goes into it. I think now, that we're looking back, I went for Detective Powers tasting it and then I just left it alone. That's terrible, Drew, why would I do that? We can both clearly see that I wasn't on the top of my game that evening."

The consultant is met with a long stare from the investigator who has had to sit through this unexpected cooking lesson of sorts. "…I'm sure you weren't."

At long length, Hellman narrows his eyes through the pattern of criss-crossed skin that ages his critical clean-cut face. He opens his mouth and closes it. "Clarify, for the purposes of the interview, the plans you laid out with Detective Powers regarding Larson."

"Thank you," The cooking consultant rolls out at the end of Hellman's more hesitant words.

During the drawn out span of time, there's what seems like an inhumanly little amount of movement from Laurie; it's possible he didn't move at all, in fact. Just eyes on Hellman — he waits. It's not until the interviewer's mouth opens that Laurie's eyebrows raise to coincide. Then lower. Then he open his own mouth: "That she should instruct the station to hold a staged press conference and then create a false arrest."

Hellman nods, glances to his colleague; she's already taking notes. She barely stopped, even during the segue into the culinary adventure. "And during the staged arrest — while that was going on, on the police side — what did you do?"

That's easy. Laurie spreads his hands, bringing fingers in with a soft clap of skin against skin. "I started home."

"You started home." Hellman waves his hand impatiently in prompt. "Then what?"

Laurie presses his lips together and lets out a soft hum — his thoughtful fare, but it manages to sound almost like a warning to that hand-wave. "I took a shortcut."

Hellman considers Laurie in a skeptical manner, clearly wondering if he's being led on a wild goose chase. "A shortcut where?"

If Hellman is skeptical, then Laurie is wondering if, perhaps, the man has stopped paying so much attention to this clearly important interview. He enunciates: "To home."

Hellman's skepticism heightens, but his features also hardens and harden. He counters pointedly, "Did you get there? More importantly, did you encounter Larson during that time?"

"Ah ah~" Revelation spikes Laurie's eyebrows again, pointedly shifting several of the sewn slices on his face, evidence enough on their own if they could only be heard on a tape. But the owner, this consultant, only brings a finger up to wag it slowly, tick tock, tick tock, not so fast, sir. "I think you already know the answer to that, Drew."

"The police and EMTs on scene also know the answer to that," Hellman states. Flatly. "Are you admitting to manipulating circumstances so that the suspect would, in fact, come after you instead?"

"Yes, I imagine that'd be how you got yours," there's a helpful little wave and wiggle of fingers towards the papers which Hellman has been lording over. The next question also flattens him, against the chair after he'd been leaning. There's another trace from cheek to jaw through the very definition of that one very particular, and now very swollen, cut. "Everything," his voice slows, deliberately pronouncing each word with an ego-less finality, "went… off— exactly as it was going to."


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