Everyone just wanted Natalia dos Santos to go on maternity leave. She was 30 weeks pregnant and annoying the entire precinct; though, truthfully, annoying people was probably more her style than a leave of absence that would take her away from the job she loved. Cranky and always tired, she wouldn't listen to them when they said that she could go.
She was a homicide detective.
A stubborn one at that.
Natalia sat at her desk, rereading her paperwork from the previous night. Since she made the mistake of telling her captain that she was pregnant, she was on desk duty, not that she could really hide it being as far along as she was. For the most part. Each time she went out she insisted that she was merely ‘supervising’ her partner. Unfortunately for Natalia, the captain wasn't buying it. The night before, as part of her ‘supervising’ duties, she somehow received a small hit to the head, a single punch among the many she'd landed on the assailant.
Her partner, Emerson Mackabe, had tackled him to the ground moments after she'd dazed him. He'd scolded her the entire way back to the precinct. “What were you thinking, Nat? You could’ve gotten really hurt! You’re supposed to be staying in the squad car! That was the plan.”
“That was before you needed my help! Just because I happen to be growing a human, doesn’t mean I’m blind, or stupid, or incompetent. Relax, Mackabe, it’s just a little hit.”
Emerson had shaken his head. No point in arguing with Natalia, he’d never win.
Emerson poked his head into her office. He'd been checking on her constantly since she'd gotten hit, worried for her health as well as her unborn child. Natalia had tried to tell him that she was fine, she'd taken hits from criminals before, and she had to shoo him out of her office so she could finish her paperwork. Her forehead was bandaged, but otherwise, she was perfectly fine; and, she'd styled her raven black hair to hide the bandage anyway, so she was doing well. Though the injury report was a must since she'd sustained it on the job, it wasn't that significant an injury. The Captain wouldn't be pleased when she got to that report, that Natalia knew for sure. Natalia had tried to convince Emerson to pretend he'd hit her with the car door by accident, but he wouldn't go for it.
Natalia was now just re-reading the report, making sure every detail was as accurate as possible when Emerson returned. Again.
Natalia sighed at the interruption and rolled her hazel eyes. "Got another homicide, fifty-second and- whoa, have you gained weight?" Emerson asked with a smirk.
"Wasn't funny yesterday, or for the last seven months, and it still isn't funny today, Mackabe," Natalia replied, looking up from the papers pointedly. "And another one? What the hell?"
"Yeah. And from the sound of it, we've got another nasty one on our hands," Emerson replied, walking into Natalia's office. He leaned against her desk, shoving his free hand into his pants pocket. He was wearing a charcoal vest that matched his pants and a white button up shirt. A black tie was pinned underneath his vest and matched his shoes. He prided himself on looking good, even if the guys in precinct gave him a hard time. "We gotta get down there right away, are you alright to go?"
Natalia shot him a stone-cold glare because she knew exactly what he was hinting at. "Are you seriously asking me that? I'm pregnant and got hit once, I am not useless, Mackabe. If you treat me like I can't do anything one more time, I will cut your balls off and hang them from the flagpole. Have I made myself clear?"
Emerson chuckled, but moved slightly farther away from Natalia, pressing his lips together. "Crystal." He side-stepped away from her, motioning towards the door with his arm. "Shall we go?"
"After I hand this in and hope that Captain doesn't stop me. This is entirely your fault, by the way," Natalia stated, looking pointedly at Emerson as she stood up and grabbed her completed injury report.
"How is it my fault? I told you not to get out of the car," Emerson asked. He managed to actually look offended.
"You wouldn't let me write that you hit me with the car door," Natalia snapped as she went through the door and passed him.
Emerson followed her heated walk towards the captain's office. "I wouldn't let you say it 'cause it's a lie. Bridges needs to know what happened because you didn't listen to me," Emerson protested.
"She doesn't need to know, and you're just going to get me in trouble for going out of the station," Natalia replied, rolling her eyes.
"You're on desk duty," Emerson replied. "You're not supposed to be out of the station. I let you come with me with your promise you'd stay in the car. You're the problem here, Nat."
Natalia stepped into the captain's office, not even bothering to give Emerson a reply. She quickly placed the report on top of the other files on the desk, hoping she could scamper out before the captain had registered what it was. Unfortunately, Natalia wasn't quite fast enough. Captain Jacqueline Bridges never missed anything, despite Natalia's greatest efforts.
"What's this, detective?" Captain Bridges asked, raising a perfectly plucked eyebrow. She placed her small eyeglasses onto the bridge of her nose as she scanned the report.
Natalia froze mid-stride and slowly turned around. She mustered up a fake smile and turned to face the stone-cold gaze of the Captain. Nothing ever prepared her for the beady black eyes of her boss. She gulped only slightly. "Sir, how are we this fine morning? I'm sorry for the late paperwork but I thought that handing it in bright and early would be just as good as late at night. Now, I really gotta go-"
"Detective dos Santos," Captain Bridges barked, peering over her silver eyeglasses, "If you're on desk duty, why are you filing an injury report?"
"Well you see, the main purpose of the report is that by reading it, you find out what happened. I can save you the trouble though, if you'd like me to just verbally tell you-" Natalia started, pinching the report between two fingers and attempting to pry it from the Captain's iron grip.
"Why were you out on duty with Detective Mackabe if you were supposed to be at your desk?" Captain Bridges pressed sternly. As a woman of the law, the rules were the rules. Natalia, as a bender of those rules, was rarely on Captain Bridges's good side.
"I was supervising him," Natalia replied nonchalantly, hoping the excuse would be accepted. "And you should see the other guy," she pointed in the direction towards the precinct’s overnight cells. "Seriously, he's just down there."
"Supervising? You two are the same rank, detective. Detective Mackabe doesn't need your supervision," Captain Bridges snapped, tearing her eyeglasses off of her face as she ignored Natalia's other comment. Her harsh tone was enough to make Natalia flinch. "Mind telling me what really happened?"
"I mean, I could," Natalia slowly started backing away from the desk and towards the door, "but I feel like the report says it all, because, I mean, I was incredibly detailed. Also, I really need to go-"
"You're not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on, detective."
"-supervise my partner, because there's been a murder and we should already be on our way," Natalia finished, nearly out the door, despite the Captain's best efforts to make her stay.
"Detective, I'm not done talking to you!" Bridges shouted at her as Natalia slipped out the door. “You’re lucky you are damn good at your job dos Santos, or I’d send you on maternity right now!”
"I'm only supervising!" Natalia protested, quickly walking back to her own desk as the Captain rose from behind hers. Her dark stare followed Natalia as she walked past the office window.
Emerson followed after her as she returned to her office. "What the he-?"
"Not now," Natalia replied, cutting him off. She pulled her desk drawer open and grabbed a pair of keys. She looked at him, taking her gun off of her cluttered desk and tucking it into her holster. "I'm driving, any objections?"
"Nope," Emerson replied immediately as Natalia strode past him.
He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head in her direction as he followed her out the door. He jogged slightly to walk in stride with Natalia. Even at seven months pregnant, she could still beat Emerson to where they were going when she wanted. Her over-sized beige trench coat billowed out from behind her as she hurried out of the precinct.
"We're talking about this little excursion you are going on as well, dos Santos!" Captain Bridges yelled after Natalia as she scurried out of the door. "You too, Mackabe!"
Emerson's eyes widened, "I didn't even do anything." He looked to Natalia, dumbfounded.
She shrugged slightly. "You should be fine. After all, I'm the problem, right?" Natalia looked pointedly his way.
She unlocked the squad car when they reached it and hopped into the driver's seat, pulling her seatbelt over her enlarged stomach and tucking it underneath. Emerson walked over to the other side of the car. He'd barely had enough time to fasten his own seatbelt when Natalia floored the patrol car out of the parking lot. She flashed the sirens on, but Emerson wasn't going to point out that the murder had already been committed and therefore they didn't need them on. He wasn’t stupid. He didn’t need to be the next murder victim.
The car was dead silent, the tension more than evident as Emerson avoided saying anything that would set Natalia off.
"So..." he began, trying to break the ever-thickening silence. He stole a glance at Natalia.
"Don't," Natalia snapped, never tearing her gaze from the road.
"Fine," Emerson replied, crossing his arms and shifting slightly lower in his seat. He stared out the window at the buildings whizzing by. Natalia drove well above the posted speed limit, taking some of her annoyance out on the pavement. With each block away from the precinct, the tension in her shoulders eased just a bit. Speed was always therapeutic for Natalia.
They reached the scene of the crime quickly for Natalia knew exactly where she was headed. She was the kind of person that knew every street by name and 100 block, and knew every building by its second floor, first on the right window. At times such as this, extremely convenient, at other times, namely the ones where she spat out random pointless trivia about said buildings and 100 blocks was kind of annoying for Emerson. He had decided he was done with learning the moment he'd graduated from the Academy of Justice.
The two detectives emerged from the car, which was haphazardly parked in front of the apartment building. The doorman quickly ushered them to the scene of the crime. The glittering lobby and shiny floors that met them surely did not properly prepare them for what was behind apartment 24's door. Then again, were they ever really prepared to see a usually bloody corpse? After many years on the force Emerson still almost lost his lunch if the crime scene was too disturbing. The scene in front of them was one of those scenes.
Covered in his own blood, the victim stared at the ceiling with a blank expression. There were scratch marks lining his chest, bright, red and raw, indicating they were relatively new. Bite marks were imprinted on his neck and collarbones as well. Photographs had already been taken of the victim, and they were preparing to tape around his corpse. Natalia crouched down as she slid a plastic glove on, closing the victim's eyes. The medical examiner, recently married Gabriel Sampson, walked over to the detective duo with a clipboard in hand. Natalia continued prodding the corpse for any signs that perhaps someone had missed. While it wasn't hard to figure out what had happened to the poor man, she always double checked the scene, making her own observations. That’s just who she was.
"Hunter Paxton, male, early thirties, multiple stab wounds to the chest and abdomen. My best guess would be that he died between midnight and two last night. And as you can probably tell from those scratches and bite marks he’s sporting, he wasn't alone. His wife insists it wasn't her. We've swabbed the dried saliva around the marks as well as found some other DNA follicles on the body that could lead to at least someone; they've been sent in for testing already. Neighbors say they didn't hear anything out of the ordinary and that Mr. Paxton was here all night. Wife came home and found him like this," Gabriel explained, reading off of his clipboard. " She's in the living room waiting to be interviewed further. Take it easy though, she seems reluctant to talk about much, it's kinda hitting her hard. They just recently got back from their honeymoon."
"Gotcha, thanks, Gabe," Emerson replied, looking to Natalia as she continued to poke at the corpse. "You done there or should I leave you two alone?"
Natalia rolled her eyes and stood up as Emerson chuckled at his own joke. The two walked to the living room where the victim's wife was being consoled by another police woman. The wife had dirty blonde hair tied back into a tight ponytail. She wore a simple white polo shirt and blue jeans. The other cop nodded when she saw Natalia and Emerson approach, then walked back to the body, leaving them alone with the victim's wife.
"Hello, Mrs. Paxton," Natalia said in an uncharacteristically gentle voice, sitting beside her on the leather couch where the other officer had been. Emerson had gotten used to her soft tone when it came to talking to victims, but it still surprised him that she was capable of sympathy. All he ever got from her were snide remarks for the most part. "I know this must be hard for you, but we have to get through these questions. Did Hunter have any enemies who might be responsible? Anyone mad at him for any reason that would want to cause this kind of harm?"
"You can call me Sabrina," she replied through wet tears. She blew her nose into a tissue that was clutched tightly in her balled fists. "But no, he didn't. He... he is... was a great guy. I don't understand why it had to be him, everyone loved him. He was always smiling and made everyone around him happier."
Natalia's eyebrows knit together as she placed her hand on the other woman's shoulder, trying to console her. Emerson recognized the look in Natalia’s eyes and knew that it was up to him to ask the next question, she was too deep in thought to continue with her interview.
And when Natalia was deep in thought, something was going on.
Whether it was a lead she thought she could grab, something on the corpse she'd noticed that corresponded or contradicted what had been said by the person, Emerson just knew. He'd been partners with Natalia since he'd joined the squad, and she was the only one that had a higher grade than him when they were at the academy. He'd known her too long not to know every telltale sign that Natalia had when it came to most things in their lives.
"Mrs. Paxton, I'm sorry to have to ask this, but where were you between the hours of 12 and two last night?" Emerson said, still standing in front of the two women.
"N-no, I understand," Sabrina replied, drawing in a deep breath. "I was at work. I work for a crisis hotline and I worked a shift from ten to four. I can give you my boss's phone number if you need to check out whether I'm telling the truth o-or whatever. But I promise you, Officers," she drew in a shaky breath as she looked between the two detectives before continuing, "I didn't kill my husband."
Back at the precinct, Natalia was reviewing the case for the thousandth time, determined to find a viable lead as to who had killed Hunter Paxton. His wife wasn't much help, though, Natalia wasn't convinced that she was truly out at work for the entire night. She also had pressed the issue of infidelity, as evidenced by the love-marked corpse in the morgue. Natalia’s sympathetic tone quickly become accusatory causing Mrs. Paxton become even more emotional.
Natalia’s short temper reared its ugly head and she eventually left Emerson to finish the interview.
"Did the wife really not give you any leads? What the hell, Emerson!" Natalia asked as Emerson set up a board with pictures of the crime scene. She hit the papers with her free hand in frustration. Most of the interview was just standard replies that Natalia had grown to expect from the relatives of the victims.
Emerson looked up from his task and drew in a breath. Patience. She’s pregnant. Just be patient. "No, Mrs. Paxton didn't give me anything, Nat. Really, I wouldn't hold information from you, despite what you may think. You kind of freaked her out, she really didn't give me anything after you left-" Emerson replied
"After you made me leave," Natalia interrupted, out of sheer spite and an uncontrollable urge to put Emerson in his place each and every chance that she got.
"Oh please, Nat, who are you kidding? No one can make you do anything! Anyways, I don’t think she had anything," Emerson continued. "She seemed pretty insistent that she was at work and just walked in to find the body. Why don't you believe her?"
"The bites on his neck," Natalia answered, walking over to the board. She grabbed a pen in her hand and circled the photograph with the capped end. "Two people just got back from their honeymoon, and she’s insisting that she didn’t give them to him? Seems kinda suspicious, if you ask me.”
"You know, there's a thing called cheating. Even people who are married do that, we don't all have the perfect marriage and babies thing that you've got going on," Emerson commented. "But, her response seemed genuine, don’t you think? She was angry and upset to learn her now dead husband was having some kind of mysterious affair.”
"I don’t know. Something just doesn’t ring true for me,” Natalia replied. "It might turn into some kind of lead and Gabe said they sent in some DNA from the marks. The results should be here soon-"
"Speak of the handsome devil, Nat. Here I am, the test results came back and we have an ID," Gabriel cut Natalia off as he walked over to the two detectives. "Jane Paxton. Name ring any bells?" he asked as he put a woman's picture up on the board beside the crime scene photos. She had long dark hair and intense brown eyes. Porcelain skin was contrasted with dark black eye makeup. Her gaze was deadly.
Natalia frowned and looked at Emerson, who shrugged. She looked back to Gabriel, "That's the same last name as our vic... is it a sister? It’s definitely not Sabrina, his wife."
"You're right there, Nat," Gabriel replied. "But this is the good part-"
"Please tell me that this case isn't complicated," Emerson complained, rolling his eyes slightly. “I have vacation time coming up soon.” He took the photo off of the board to look at the woman, raising his eyebrows. "Jeez, if looks could kill..." he muttered softly to himself.
"Sorry chief, you're not going to like this," Gabriel replied, ignoring his second comment and handing him another document.
Emerson replaced the photo on the board and took the paper out of Gabriel's hand. "What's this?" His eyes scanned the words printed on the photograph. Natalia leaned in closer to Emerson to read what it had to say.
"That, my friend, is Jane Paxton's death certificate," Gabriel answered, looking between them. "The DNA found on Hunter Paxton's corpse was from his ex-wife, Jane Paxton, who died two years ago."
Should Emerson and Natalia look further into Sabrina’s alibi or should they follow the lead of Jane and see where it goes?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.