Chapter 16: Chapter 16

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 69

Alex was at the end of a rope. She was hanging on by the thinnest thread and it was beginning to tear from her weight. She felt stuck in a cycle of defeat and by the way things were panning out she felt it all weigh heavier. All eyes were on her as she entered the Bullpen, but it was Luke that had the most concerning look. She looked past him to the interrogation room and turned her focus to getting inside. Before she reached the door Captain Peterson was interrupting her progress.

“You’re not going in there.”

“Why not? “ she asked and looked directly at the Captain, “I just want to understand.”

“On top of the fact that I’ve made it clear you were to not be involved, he was at your apartment with unknown and possibly dangerous intentions.”

“But I wasn’t-“ Alex paused mid-sentence not wanting to admit where she had actually been.

“You have a choice, go back home or sit down,” he said pointing to her desk. “Ryan has O’Hara covered.”

Alex reluctantly complied, but she hated being held at a distance. As much as she understood why it only pushed her stubborn rebellion further to the surface. She walked past Luke’s desk and noticed a tablet with Forensics labeled on it. She scooped it up before pulling her chair out and falling heavily into it. She turned the tablet on and looked back up to observe Luke and the Captain converse further, both taking turns eyeing her. She assumed that Luke was filling him in on what had just occurred with Damian. It was inevitable but she didn’t care at that point. She looked back down to the screen and clicked open the first file. There were images from a journal and the cover had a Quest Medical logo on it. She figured there really wouldn’t be anything incriminating, being it was a part of Jeremy’s cover profile. As she scanned the journal she realized her initial inference was wrong.

“What are you doing?” Luke asked coming in over the top of her.

“Reading lists of drugs, combinations of drugs, and I assume dosages,” she answered ignoring his authoritative tone. She swiped the tablet to keep reading. “I don’t even know what most of these drugs are, but I do know what Potassium Chloride is.” She looked up to Luke like he’d have an answer then looked back to the ledger. “Ridgemont Prison is listed as a buyer. Isn’t that drug used in lethal injection?”

“But this state has taken away the Death Penalty.”

“Yeah,” she responded quietly. She took note of the drugs and pulled out her phone as she rose to move away from Luke. “Maybe Hazel can help.”

“Alex.” Luke protested but she waved him off not caring what consequences came at her. The walls were closing in and she’d push back until it completely collapsed on her, and even then doubted it would stop her. 

When Hazel answered Alex spoke directly to her query, “What is the purpose of Pentobarbital, Succinylcholine, and Potassium Chloride?”

“Good morning to you too, Alex.”

Alex looked at her watch and a surge of guilt flooded her for possibly waking Hazel. “I’m sorry, I forgot how early it is.”

“It’s okay, I can’t sleep anyway. So, list those drugs again.” 

After Alex repeated them Hazel made a curious sound before she responded. “Those are the three drugs used in the cocktail for lethal injection executions.”

“Is there another reason for them to be used together?”

“For those three specifically, no. Why do you ask?”

“What do they do?” Alex asked quickly hoping to bypass Hazel’s question.

“Phenobarbital sedates, Succinylcholine is a paralytic, paralyzing the muscles, while Potassium Chloride stops the heart.”

Alex thought about the three drugs and something stuck out. “Wait, this might be a long shot, but could someone use the paralytic to control someone from moving?”

Hazel was silent for a moment before she answered. “It’s used for surgeries all the time, but the person would have had to be intubated or they’d die of asphyxia.”

As she listened she watched as the Bullpen began to buzz with more activity. Alex didn’t like the thought that began to formulate from the information. “Could there be a dosage that could paralyze muscles just enough but not need the intubation.”

“I’ve never heard of a way, but maybe.”

“Can you be tested for the drug?”

“No, it’s fast-acting. The body’s enzymes break it down quickly.” She was quiet again and then spoke quickly. “Are you talking about Kate?”

“Kate was stabbed precisely and she said she couldn’t move. It makes sense.”

“Have you found something?”

“I always appreciate you, Hazel.” Before Hazel could press more Alex politely ended the call. As she moved to her desk she saw Luke examining the tablet and he was shaking his head.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s a detailed account with photos of everything Kate’s done in the last month at least.”

That was the final nail. Alex began to laugh.

“What? Alex, what’s going on?”

“Seriously, how convenient that he had all of this in his car?” 

With a strong arm, Luke moved her outside and away from the listening ears of the other.

 “Alex, you need to take it down a notch, what the hell is going on with you?”

“None of this looks too perfect?” She pointed towards the direction of the interrogation room. “He just folds after like an hour with you and just happened to hold onto crucial evidence in his car?” 

Luke’s scowl deepened. “Alex, it doesn’t matter the convenience, the evidence is here and Michael O’Hara gave a full confession. He recounted specific details only we knew.”

“So, tell me how Kate was wrong with who she saw?”

“I don’t know, but could it be possible she saw an opportunity.”

“An opportunity for what? Do you really believe in her physical and mental state she thought, yeah I’m going to just throw Sloane out there.”

Luke’s lack of response and the idea of his accusation was almost enough for her to lose any patience she had left. But, she needed to be there and get a moment with Jeremy. 

“All of this was planned and meticulously executed. How does he suddenly not have a plan to cover his tracks?”

“Apparently he didn’t,” Luke answered. “Tyler and the dog threw him off, and he floundered. I think he was trying to cut loose ends and that’s why he was at your apartment.”

 “This doesn’t add up. Let me ask him a few questions.”

“It’s not my call, Alex.”

“Then you ask him how he did it. How he was able to keep Kate paralyzed without dying from asphyxia. Ask him about the human anatomy. The man that did this will want you to know how smart he is.”

The blank stare she received from Luke made her suddenly remember she hadn’t disclosed all of the information Hazel had provided. She quickly filled him in, only to have him turn away in frustration. 

When he directed his attention back to her, his anger was no longer contained. “I swear to God, Alex, what part of not on the case have you missed?”

“Does it matter? Ask Jeremy.”

“Jeremy? Who’s Jeremy?”

Alex tried to recover from her slip and rubbed her head.

“I’ve never seen you like this. You need to seriously stop.”

“No, I have to see this out, please. What will it hurt if I just ask him a few questions?” 

She didn’t want to believe that what Byron had told her in so few words was actually happening. She had a swiftly closing window to find out why Jeremy was such a willing patsy. She was acutely aware that proving Jeremy innocent meant that the truth behind Achilles had to be exposed, as well as what had occurred at the dock. But, Byron also made it clear no one was safe from what ‘they’ would do to keep it under wraps. This was also coupled with whatever Sloane was doing to keep his involvement separate. All the current events were clearly evident of a cleanup and a cover-up. At that moment she resolved that she was willing to risk it all to not allow Tyler just to be an innocent caught in the middle. 

“Please.” She made no attempt to conceal that she was now pleading with him.

“Fine, give me a minute.”

Alex nodded and followed Luke back into the Bullpen, but stopped at her desk and took a seat again. She watched her partner’s interaction with Peterson. Finding the moment she needed she brought the tablet back to life and opened the notepad application. She frantically typed the questions she intended to show Jeremy. It didn’t take long before Luke emerged and gestured for Alex to join him. She felt her heart skip a beat. She tried not to let her sudden excitement become too obvious. As the entered the small space between the office and holding room Alex was immediately taken aback at Jeremy’s physical state. He had a clearly bruised and swollen cheekbone, a split fat lip, and two healing scratch marks that started at his temple and crossed his face. 

Alex stopped Luke. “How did he get those?”

Luke looked at the man then back to Alex and gave a simple answer. “He says, Quinn.”

Alex swallowed and tried not to let the building doubt muddle her thoughts.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You haven’t exactly given me a chance to tell you anything.”

“Can I go in alone? I’ll behave, I promise.”

Luke hesitated but then opened the door for her. 

Jeremy’s expression remained neutral as she entered, unfazed by her presence, evident hehad been expecting her. His hands rested loosely on the table and his only movement was a finger lightly tapping the metal. With a deliberate scraping of the chair along the cement, Alex took a seat across from him. She continued to look him over, unsure where to actually begin. His eyes were red-rimmed in pain and exhaustion. His usual confident stature sunken in clear defeat. She felt it all too deeply. She knew she was being watched carefully so all of her movements and words were calculated to not expose her plan to have an honest interaction with Jeremy. 

With a clearing of her throat, she began. “I just want to know one thing.” 

Jeremy tilted his head in curiosity. “You’re wasting your time, Detective. I’m done with questions, I’ve made my statement and ready to just move on with it.”

“Humor me,” she said and slid the tablet towards him. Not taking his eyes off her he lifted it. Slowly he looked down. She knew what he was reading. ‘I know you didn’t do this. Why are taking the fall?’

 He flipped the tablet over and slid it back. Alex skillfully deleted the entry and moved it next to her before she clasped her hands in preparation for his answer.

Jeremy looked her over, but gave nothing away, he expertly knew how to control all aspects of his behavior. She began to doubt that she ever knew the man across from her. She remembered when they met, that despite the role he took on, he was always kind and forthcoming. Now, she wasn’t sure who she was facing as his steely eyes pierced hers. 

Jeremy interrupted her thoughts when he began to drum his fingers harder to get her attention. “Have you ever been so invested in something that it consumes you?”

“As of recently, yes.”

“Then you can understand when something or someone gets in your way.”

“Again, yes.”

“Katelynn Quinn, you,” he continued, “Maybe wrong place, wrong time, but once our paths crossed as they did I couldn’t focus on anything else.”

Alex was trying to read between his words and see past the obvious, but he wasn’t giving her anything. He was holding onto the fictional plot. It was a maze of twists and turns and the extremely well-planned cover was laid out in front of her, she just couldn’t accept that Jeremy would go to prison for murder to protect Achilles, or possibly the Sloanes. The family he was once risking everything to help expose. There had to be more, and she couldn’t see it and he wasn’t giving her any plausible answers. 

She kept it simple. “Why?”

He leaned forward getting as close to Alex as he could and whispered, “To end this.”

There it was, his first honest answer. She was ready to push further when a knock from the mirrored window reverberated in the room.

“Looks like your time is up,” he said leaning back. 

Alex didn’t budge. She needed more, more details, more proof that her friend wasn’t wrong. She needed to hear him say he was put up to taking the fall and why. But, he didn’t, he sat in the silence with her. 

The dead air was broken when the door opened and Luke leaned in. “Alex, let’s go. You’re needed in the Captain’s office, now.”

Alex rose but held back; still reluctant to leave. It was Luke’s impatient grunt that had her finally moving. She was almost to the door when she stopped and looked back. Jeremy nodded and smiled. It dug at her.

“One last thing, since you have all this scientific knowledge of drugs and how they interact in the human body,” she said tapping the tablet. “I’m curious, what’s the safe dose of Phenobarbital to paralyze muscles but not cause respiratory arrest?”

“What does that matter?”

“Just curious since in my understanding is that in any realistic circumstance it’s not possible, yet you did it. I mean by the looks of your face Katelynn was kicking your ass and probably would have continued to do so. Yet with drugs, you got the upper hand, took your time stabbing her not worried about the effects of the drug finishing her off before you could.”

Jeremy’s eyes widened briefly but then settled on a hard glare. His lips pierced and cocked his head in defiance. 

“You know the answer since it’s probably in your little file,” he said and pointed to the device clutched against her chest.

Alex continued to wait; actively ignoring Luke’s constant push to get her out of the room.

Jeremy groaned in annoyance, she assumed it was in the realizion that she was going to remain in the room until he gave her something. 

“I guessed her weight and did some math. Got it right, apparently.”

Alex smiled and pushed through the door and immediately addressed Luke, “He’s not our guy, I’m telling you.”

“What? He just answered your question.”

“Not correctly. I told him the wrong drug. The man that did this would know the answer without skipping a beat because it’s a specific science.”

“You’re really trying to give circumstantial evidence over our substantial pile and not to mention his confession?”

Alex hadn’t heard Luke, she felt a surge, a feeling she hadn’t felt yet, one that hit her when she knew a case was about to bust wide open. “We need to look deeper.”

Luke just watched her. His expression wasn’t of support or even doubt. It was almost sorrow filling his features. 

“What?” she asked and shifted her weight to look around him and towards the Captain's office. 

Through the open blinds, she could make out Caleb Sloane. Her only surprise to his appearance was the early hour but assumed it was because of her interaction with Damian. She figured he needed to make a point in person. She straightened and stepped out into the open space of the Bullpen. As exposed as she felt she actively ignored the curious stares from her co-workers. When Captain Peterson saw her, he immediately waved her his way. She stole a glance to Luke, but didn’t wait for a reaction and moved to the office.

Once fully in the room, she closed the door and looked over to Caleb. His piercing blue eyes felt as cold and empty as she figured he was inside. He proudly sported graying hair that was thick but cleanly trimmed. She couldn’t look away from his smile. One that victoriously mocked her.

“So nice to finally meet you, Detective Cruz. I was just congratulating your Captain on such a swift conclusion to a horrific case.”

“Conclusion?” she asked with shock and looked to Captain Peterson.

Caleb ignored her and continued his facade of sincerity. “My nephew has been through so much, watching his father die in front of him was traumatizing. He’s been in mourning since. The allegations being proven wrong have encouraged healing.”

He stepped over and extended his hand to the Captain. “I want to make sure this entire department gets credit for such great police work. I know it has to have touched everyone’s heart.”

Captain Peterson returned the gesture. “Thank you, Sir.”

Caleb let out a satisfied grunt and turned to leave but not before he patted Alex on the shoulder. She immediately tensed at the contact and the fire within began to burn darker.

“Don’t leave, Cruz.”

Alex complied and slowly turned, and then looked directly into his eyes. They were clear and serious. She didn’t flinch at his stone hard-look as she was holding her own.

“Captain,” she acknowledged abruptly. “Allegations have been proved wrong and closed case? What have I missed?”

He held himself strong and breathed through his own irritation. “It’s taken almost every ounce of pull I have for you to keep your badge.”

“Thanks,” she snorted.

“I told you to stay away from Damian Sloane.”

“I just wanted to ask him the few questions that no one else would.” 

“You pushed him against a wall and threatened him.”

“He’s a baby,” she said with pure contempt in her voice.

“This isn’t a game, Cruz. Ryan can confirm the altercation.”

Alex shot a look out to her partner but tried not to let the betrayal affect her. “To Caleb it is, and you’re letting him win.”

“The Sloane family has cooperated from the beginning and Damian had rock-solid alibis. We’re lucky he’s not pursuing any legal actions.”

Alex scoffed in disbelief. “Photoshopped images and people paid off to collaborate his whereabouts is the new rock solid?” 

“Do you honestly hear yourself right now?”

“The clearest voice in this place.”

“There is nothing linking Damian Sloane to Katelynn Quinn. The fingerprints found belonged to Michael O’Hara. The video surveillance places him at Quinn’s home only days before, the journals, and a confession. Shall I go on? If it was any other case you’d be calling it a day and success.”

“What about the DNA?”

“Maybe you should have consulted with your partner or even Dr. Lee before you went off and attacked Damian. The DNA was contaminated so that isn’t even a factor now.” He paused momentarily to make sure she was taking in what he was saying. “There is no reason to look at Damian beyond Quinn’s allegations.”

“This is insane. Give me time, I have something that could prove it was Damian.”

“I get it. You feel like you’ve failed your friend and want her to be right. It’s too personal. I think you even being here was a mistake, but I trusted the results over any emotional attachment.”

“Emotional attachment? Did you forget Kate’s one of us? I believe her. If she was drugged by the paralytic it wasn’t mind altering.” 

“The drug is a non-factor. There is no way to test for it, but I’m done going in circles with you about this. Bottom line, Sloane’s off the table. This case is closed. We move on.”

Alex began to protest more, but he put his hand up to stop her. “It’s over. Period.”

“Unbelievable! Sloane’s a manipulative, murdering coward and you’re bowing down to him because he has friends in high places. You’re either blind or deep in his pocket too.”

 “Watch yourself, Cruz, you’re already on thin ice.”

“Thin ice? Then let’s break it!” She reached across his desk and grabbed his keyboard. She swiftly raised it above her head before she brought it down with such force against the desk’s edge that keys flew in every direction. Peterson stepped back in shock and in an effort to avoid the flying parts of his keyboard. 

“That’s it. You need to take some time,” he ordered. His voice shook with his attempt to control his own anger. “Don’t come back until you can be rational.”

“So, that’s it?”

He nodded as he dropped into his chair. It snapped with his weight as he leaned back. Seeing that he was done interacting she charged from the room. She cut a sharp corner to avoid Luke as he approached and headed to the door.

“What was that all about?” he called behind her.

She pulled up short and glared into his eyes. “Caleb has a long reach. If you don’t see it seeping into the department then you’re not as observant as you think you are.”

“Do you know how you sound right now? Like everyone in this department is dirty.”

“Maybe everyone is, it’s not just money. Caleb Sloane uses everything. Intimidation, blackmail, murder. I’d go on, but you know this.”

“If this was any other case you’d be sealing the deal, the evidence is there. You’re hung up on one person’s word. The victim is the-”

“Usually the least reliable witness, I know, Luke. But, this is different.”

“Why? Because she’s your friend?” He crossed his arms waiting for her sharp response.

“Because she’s right!” She didn’t give Luke a chance to engage any further and continued her retreat.

“Where are you going?”

“Home.”

“What happened?”

She ignored him and picked up her pace to create more distance from him and the building.

“Alex, stop,” he called out as he jogged to catch up to her. When he was within reach he grabbed her arm and spun her to face him. “Talk to me.”

Alex tried to look away knowing Luke could break her at that moment. All of her anger and fight began to tip closer to exposing her guilt and sadness, but she pushed it back down.

 “It doesn’t matter now. I know what I look like to everyone, but I haven’t lost my mind.”

Luke shook his head. “No one thinks that. I just don’t understand why you are fighting what’s right in front of you.”

“The truth you think you want isn’t that simple.”

“Try me.”

“Would you be willing to throw everything presented with this case out and start over?”

“You know that’s not going to happen.”

“Ask him about the drugs, Luke. His supposed medical training. Call Hazel, talk to her and then ask him.” 

When he didn’t respond right away Alex used the opening to make her final escape.

 

 


Submitted: September 28, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Kathrynmp. All rights reserved.

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