Drake scratched at the beard that was starting to grow on his face, the length of which surprised him.
“Yeah, I don’t know about that.”
Chase squinted up at him, her manicured eyebrows knitting.
“You don’t know about that? Well, here’s what I know: there’s a dead body here,” she sighed, as if this whole interaction was an incredible bore. “If this is going to be a problem, take it up with Sergeant Rhodes.”
And with that, she spun on her flats and started down the alley. Drake watched her go for a moment, trying to catch his bearings.
Partner? No one told me about a partner—shit, nobody told me about anything. Just, “take six months off, get cleared by the head shrink, then come back”.
That was it.
Not, hey we are going to team you up with some rookie homicide detective, a replacement for your partner. Shit, he’s been dead for a half year now, isn’t that long enough? Aren’t you over him yet?
He cleared his throat, and then wished that he still had another sip of Johnny to get him through what was already turning out to be a bumble fuck of a day.
With a shake of his head, he hurried after Detective Adams.
“Wait up,” he said, but she didn’t slow. It was only when he made it up next to her did she start speaking, only she didn’t look at him this time.
“White male, mid- to late-thirties,” she said, her voice flat, even. “Naked from the waist up, hands bound behind his back.”
Drake’s brow furrowed.
“Shirtless? What about the shoes?”
Chase hesitated, but only for a moment.
“Ah, dispatch,” she said with an air of understanding. “Yeah, dress shirt, suit jacket. Laid out nicely on a chair. Was still wearing his shoes; looks like they’re made of snake or alligator skin. Expensive.”
Drake nodded. Clearly robbery was not the motive.
“Cause of death?”
Chase shook her head.
As they walked, Drake was keenly observing his surroundings, trying to piece together what had happened. The alley was narrow, devoid of street lights. A place to be avoided by a man wearing six or eight hundred dollar shoes. Clinton Hill was known for its junkies and the occasional prostitute, but mostly the former.
Alligator shoes was a new one for him.
“Is the medical examiner on the way?”
“A senior medical examiner by the name of… Dr. Beckett Campbell? Yeah, I think that’s it. You know him?”
Something happened to Drake’s face then, something so foreign that at first he thought he was stricken by some sort of palsy. But after a moment, he realized what it was: a hint of a smile.
Beckett was young, with bleach blond hair and tattoos covering both arms, which Drake suspected extended to his back and chest too, although he hadn’t had the opportunity to confirm.
Beckett Campbell was pretty much the antithesis of Drake himself, but maybe that’s why he appreciated the man as he did. That, and Beckett had a way of speaking that made Drake feel like he had been to medical school, and not a fucking idiot who squeaked through high school by the thinnest of margins. In fact, it was probably this attitude and approach that had made Beckett so amenable to both his peers and to homicide, which had in turn more than likely contributed to his rapid rise to Senior Medical Examiner.
“Yeah, I know him. Good guy. Better doctor.”
Drake allowed his eyes to drift as he spoke. The alley was long and narrow, flanked on one side by a chain-link fence, and a row of buildings on the other. There were doors marking the building, all of them handleless and flush with the brick wall, mostly as a deterrent to burglars, although Drake hadn’t an idea what a potential robber would hope to steal here.
All the doors looked the same, except for the red one that he didn’t need his detective skills to know that they were headed towards. That one was covered by yellow crime scene tape.
“Who discovered the body?” he asked, eyes drifting to the windows that started ten or more feet up, all of which were covered with bars.
“A junkie—Rachel Adams, no relation.”
Drake waited for her to continue, but when she offered nothing else, he prodded. It was like pulling teeth.
He shook his head and resolved himself to starting over.
“Look, Chase, I think—”
Chase suddenly stopped and turned to look at him. He expected coldness based on the abruptness of the maneuver, but was surprised by the solemn, almost sad expression on what he now conceded wasn’t just a face, but a pretty face.
“Please, just call me Drake.”
She raised an eyebrow as if to say, oh, so now we’re chummy, but then the look vanished.
“Okay, Drake. I just want to let you know that I’m not here to replace Clay. I heard that you guys were close, and I’m sorry to hear about what happened to him. I know…” her eyes became vacant for a moment, then she shook her head briefly. “I just want to solve this crime, and move on to the next, you know?”
Drake nodded and then surprised himself by holding out his hand. She looked at it, and he instantly recognized the expression.
It was the same one that he had given Chase when she had offered her hand to shake. But unlike him, she grabbed his and pumped it twice.
Her hand was soft and strangely cool to the touch despite the sun beating down on them. Drake went to pull his hand away, but she held firm, and then drew him closer. The act, as well as the strength in her small frame, surprised him.
“And don’t drink next time you come to my crime scene, alright?”
Drake’s eyes bulged slightly, and he looked away, feeling his ears go hot again. Chase released her grip and a smile returned to her face.
Then she turned and continued down the alley, and Drake followed.