Summary: A mugger attacks random disconnected people, leaving clues written on the victim's hands. This starts Shraeger and Walsh on the path to find a killer who seems to know all of Second Squads secrets. Meanwhile, Dr. Crumb decides to take matters into her own hands with Delahoy, wrecking Banks' illusions of a calm, normal life in the process.
Disclaimer: For Fun and Fun Alone!
Spoilers: References to all 10 episodes of The Unusuals.
Pairing/Characters: All canon pairings, including Shraeger/Davis, Walsh/Beaumont, Delahoy/Crumb, and Banks/Demopolis
Word Count: ~10,000 (split between posts)
Second Squad, this is dispatch. The mime on 4th Avenue who locked himself in an invisible box is now presenting a real traffic hazard. Be advised, he does not respond to invisible keys.
“Shraeger,” Walsh said, catching her arm as he rushed in. He pulled her into the break room.
She protested, “I was just heading to the hospital, Nicole’s awake...”
He closed the door. “They’re gonna hit the wedding,” he said. “While we were out searching trains, they were busy setting up something at the chapel.”
Shraeger was nodding. She said, “How do you know?”
“Hunch. But if they’ve got a beef with the Second and they’ve been targeting our loved ones, wouldn’t it make sense—”
“—To hit us when it would hurt us most,” Shraeger said.
Walsh said, “Beaumont says the church is literally around the block—”
“—He said they wanted it close by so we’d all have a chance to attend,” Shraeger said. “And our perps definitely tracked the details for this wedding. It’s in the surveillance files they kept on Amy. It’s, um, First Chinese Baptist, right?”
“Yeah. So Beaumont called Cole. He’s at home with Amy, but he’ll meet us at the church once Hancock gets there.”
“Okay, we’ll check it out and talk to Nicole after,” Shraeger said.
Eric Delahoy leaned against the headboard. Leo had called twice, but Eric put the phone on vibrate and left it on the bedside table.
His head ached less. His nose was tender to the touch so he resolved to not touch it. The hotel pillows felt soft against his shoulders, and the starched sheets smelled faintly like the sea. He was tired, but oddly rested, like he was in some kind of limbo state. He decided not to examine it too closely.
They’d managed to scatter Monica’s printouts across the floor. He thought about at least moving them to the table, but moving meant he’d have to expend energy, and for the moment, he was against that.
The shower shut off. Moments later, Monica appeared in the doorway, wrapped in a towel.
“Hey, Mamma Mia,” he said. He wondered if that was weird. She cut her eyes at him like she wondered the same thing. “I was about to call down for some juice, you want anything?”
She moved through the room, snatching up her clothes, snapping the creases from them with quick, efficient motions, which made him wonder, Was she angry? Had he screwed up again? Really it mystified him; what could he have done this time?
Then she said, “Tea would be nice. Hot tea?”
As he reached for the room phone, she kissed his forehead, pulled her bra from the lampshade, and returned to the bathroom.
He called in their order. When he hung up, Monica was at the mirror, flossing.
He watched for a minute, then said, “Hey-a, you floss every night?"
“I’d better,” she said. “My father’s a dentist.”
He chuckled softly.
He scratched his ear. “I don’t know which is more endearing – the fact you floss ’cause your Dad says so, or that when we said to pack in a hurry, you remembered to grab that.”
She met his eyes in the mirror. “Are you just gonna watch me?”
“Yeah, you mind?”
“A little,” she said. “I’m flossing.”
He bit his lip. “Yeah you are.”
She tossed the spool of floss onto the sink and leaned against the door jamb.
“Your Dad’s a dentist,” he said. “That explains it.”
Monica came to the end of the bed. “What’s does that mean?”
“You got a nice smile. Y’know, when you show it.”
She folded her arms. “You can talk.”
“Just a guess, could be the headaches,” he said. “Here, wait, I got one. Ready? It’s too bad people can’t donate teeth ’cause mine are still in pretty good shape.”
“—Wait, wait, one more.” He coughed a laugh. “Make sure you teach our kid to floss, ’cause I read once it’s linked to a long and healthy life.”
Monica tilted her head. “You done?”
He glowered up at her. “Yes.”
Clinging to her towel, she kneed across the bed and knelt beside him. “You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself,” she said. “It’s very unattractive.”
He rolled his eyes to meet hers. “You really wanna go there, Miss I’m-Nobody’s-Type?”
“Okay.” She re-tucked the top of her towel. “It’s just... you seem pretty alive to me.”
“Yeah, do I?” He grabbed the towel front and pulled her into his arms. She folded herself against him. Her hair clung damply to his chest and the towel was wet and cold.
“’Kay, this has to go,” he said, attempting to unwind her. She struggled playfully and futilely, but before things could get sexy, his phone hummed on the tabletop.
She’d been ready to bite his forearm. Instead she said, “Shouldn’t you get that?”
“Right,” Monica said. “Your partner. He might have news about the case.”
Eric rubbed his forehead. “If I answer, I’ll have to go.” He sighed. “I don’t want to go.”
“Answer and tell him,” she said. “He’ll worry.”
Eric considered a moment, and then nudged the phone further from reach. “He’ll worry either way,” he said. “Now. Where were we?”
“Right... here,” she said. She grazed his arm with her teeth.
“Okay.” He switched off the light.
Leo hung up. It was late. Eric was probably asleep. He decided to let the man rest. He wondered how physically taxing a brain tumor must be. He realized he didn’t know much about it, or even cancer in general. He’d always been more concerned with contagious diseases, the kinds that sneak in on improperly sanitized drinking glasses or on the grubby fingers of under-washed toddlers.
Meanwhile his partner walked around with a cancerous lump in his brain. Leo tried to imagine what the tumor must look like and came up with a gelatinous mass of blood-red tentacles clawing through Eric’s brain.
Leo shook himself. Why would he even try to imagine that?
“So the guy needs rest,” Leo said to himself. “That I can give.”
A moment later, Leo saw Shraeger and Walsh pull into the fire lane in front of the church. He got out of the car and jogged over to them.
Shraeger said, “We called ahead, the caretaker’s meeting us. She said there have been deliveries for the wedding, but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. Also, big surprise, the church doesn’t have security cameras.”
“Of course,” Banks said. They started up the front steps. “Now get this. Got the fingerprints back from the fingers—”
“—And?” Walsh said.
“They’re not Ryerson’s,” Banks said.
“Whose are they?” Shraeger asked.
“Guy named Benjamin Yuri, no known address, no living relatives...”
“Homeless guy,” Walsh said.
“Another sad New York statistic,” Banks said.
They huddled against the cold under the glare of the streetlight outside the chapel door.
“Okay,” Shraeger said. “Our perps kill a guy no one will miss. They then lop off his fingers, stab out his heart, and scrawl the badge number of a police detective into his chest.”
“That’s a brand new level of twisted,” Banks said.
“But then our guy Zimsky fakes the autopsy report,” Walsh said. “Says the body is Ryerson’s instead of Yuri’s. Why?”
Shraeger’s brow creased. “They wanted us to think Ryerson is dead?”
“But Ryerson isn’t dead,” Walsh said.
“Right,” Shraeger said.
“So Zimsky was right when he said he didn’t cut off Ryerson’s fingers,” Banks said. “But I don’t get it. Why would Ryerson fake his death?”
“And why would Zimsky help him?” Shraeger asked.
“Maybe Ryerson’s part was done,” Walsh said. “Maybe he wanted out?”
Cole and Beaumont pulled up then. They joined the others and Banks brought them up to speed on the new information.
Beaumont said, “Ryerson’s the third guy from the traffic cam footage. He’s gotta be.”
“It would make sense,” Walsh said. “Blanch knew Ryerson. This connects Ryerson to Zimsky. They’re working together.”
“The way Zimsky talks about Blanch and Ryerson, plus the carved badge number on the body... it’s starting to sound like a cult,” Banks said. “Very Manson family, and every bit as morbid as that comparison would entail.”
“And they’ve targeted us,” Shraeger said. “We think they’re gonna try something at the wedding. I mean, it fits their pattern. And while we were all out this afternoon searching for Nicole, they had the perfect opportunity to slip under our notice.”
“Let’s go in and search,” Walsh said. “Cole, you’d be the one to know if anything’s out of place.”
“Well,” Cole said, coloring slightly. “Amy did all the planning herself. She’ll be so upset if anything goes wrong.”
Beaumont patted his arm. “That’s what we’re here to find out.”
The caretaker was a middle-aged Pakistani woman named Dari Anjum who let them into the storage area in the basement level beneath the chapel.
“This is where we keep our standard wedding equipment,” Ms. Anjum explained as she led them down a narrow hallway lined with collapsed banquet tables. “We have an arbor, a chocolate fountain, a buffet service. Mr. Cole, your wedding is the next on our calendar, so we’ve moved all of your materials to the staging area, this way.”
They continued through a semi-dark reception area that looked as though it may once have doubled as an indoor basketball court. Banks and Walsh split away from the group and searched the perimeter of the room. Shraeger and Beaumont investigated the stage area on the opposite end.
“Just so we’re clear,” Banks said to Walsh. “We’re searching for...”
Walsh trained his flashlight beam into the corner and shrugged. “Could be anything. Could be a chess piece. Could be a bomb.”
Banks sneered. “Thanks for that.”
Cole followed Ms. Anjum into the staging area, which was basically a glorified pantry. “Ms. Anjum,” he said. “You mentioned deliveries over the last few days. What sorts of things are we talking about?”
“Linens arrived this morning. The caterer dropped off serving pieces at 11,” Ms. Anjum said. She pulled a clipboard from the wall. “Here’s the manifest. The pages in back are the invoices. The companies have us sign off on anything we receive. Security against theft.” She smiled and bowed her head. “Even though we’re a church, we are still human, no? We check everything according to the list.”
Beaumont and Shraeger appeared in the doorway. “Stage is clear,” Beaumont said. “Walsh is checking the rigging.”
Cole scanned the manifest. “This one here,” he said, pointing. “The hand-written one – Special Instructions. Can you show me what that is?”
Ms. Anjum’s forehead wrinkled. “Well, I—” She flipped through several pages on the manifest. “—Here it is. Listed under During Ceremony. I suspect they would have delivered that to the chapel.”
Shraeger asked, “Who signed for this delivery?”
“Reverend Chin,” Ms. Anjum said.
“Check the time,” Beaumont said.
Cole nodded. “12:14 p.m. I was with Amy...”
“And we were searching for Nicole in Queens,” Shraeger said.
Walsh and Banks arrived. “Backstage is clear,” Walsh said.
“Nothing unusual in the reception area, either,” Banks said.
“We found this,” Shraeger said, passing the manifest to Walsh.
“Recognize the handwriting?” he said.
Shraeger swallowed. “Yep. Same as the vics from yesterday.”
“You say this – whatever it is – it’s upstairs in the chapel?” Walsh asked Ms. Anjum.
She touched a hand to her forehead. Flustered, she asked, “Is it something dangerous? Has someone done something to our church?”
“We don’t know that, ma’am. Not yet,” Walsh said. “How long have you been on duty tonight?”
“Oh, I live here,” she said. “But I do the Meals on Wheels until 5 p.m. What could be in the chapel?”
“There’s no description on the manifest, so...” Walsh said. “You’re gonna go outside now with Detective Banks, all right? We’ll go search the chapel. Leo, check your radio.”
Banks plucked the walkie from his belt and tested it. “We’re good,” he said with a nod.
“Okay, let’s go.”
She ordered hot tea, then wanted ice.
Eric thought about pointing out how illogical this was, but dismissed the idea, feeling that some unspoken rule for honoring all post-coital requests had been invoked.
This is how he wound up in the vending area of the seventh floor of the Belvedere in his boxers, socks, and his blood-stained, half-buttoned shirt... much to the amusement of Officer Maynard, who’d switched off with Dobbs at 8 p.m.
As the ice bucket filled, Eric pressed his forehead against the cool metal and listened with muzzy satisfaction to the drone of the machine. The door opened, snapping him back to reality. He gave the woman an apologetic grimace before taking ice bucket from the hopper.
Then he realized he recognized her.
“Hey I know you,” he said.
She cast an uncertain glance over her shoulder, checking her exit in case she had to run. Good girl, he thought. She was under protective custody, after all.
He held up a hand. “Ms. Kowalski, I’m Eric Delahoy. I work at the Second Precinct. I knew your husband.”
She uttered a relieved laugh. “Of course. From the funeral. You were there with your partner. Was it...Larry?”
“Leo,” Eric said.
“Right. Leo Banks.”
“You, uh...” she pointed at his collar. “You’ve got blood on you.”
He grinned. “Hit in the face.”
Her forehead creased in sympathy. “Occupational hazard, right?”
“Sure,” Eric chuckled. “So, uh... who’s on your watch tonight?”
“Officer Hanover,” she said. She inclined toward the door to peer out into the hallway. “He’s just there. I had to stretch my legs and move around a bit. It’s so uncomfortable, being cooped up under lock and key.” Then her eyes widened. “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m grateful, really. You’ve all done so much for me. It’s just... That tiny room, it’s... well, it’s not home.”
Eric felt the embarrassing sting of tears in his eyes. He blinked to clear them, hoping that she wouldn’t comment, that she’d simply fill her ice bucket and go.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Allergies.” He cleared his throat. “We’re gonna catch this guy, Ms. Kowalski. Soon, so you can go back home.” His voice broke on the last word.
“I know you will,” she said.
He stared at her, wondering, how could she know that? What faith could she impart in him, when here he stood, basically in his underwear, hiding out from the implosion that was his life? She didn’t know him. She certainly wouldn’t know that in his thirteen years on the force, Eric had never met a bigger dick than Burt Kowalski, that he and Leo actively avoided working with him, that the one time they did get snagged into Kowalski’s dirty little cobweb, well, Eric was pretty sure Leo never fully recovered.
Then Eric struggled then to put Hannah Kowalski into a context with Burt that would make any kind of sense. Here she was, homemade-cookie nice, while Burt was more the club-you-in-the-face-with-a-service-revo
Hannah interrupted his thoughts. “You know, I remember you,” she said. “You’re the one who took the shotgun blast. The kid who stabbed Burt, he also fired on you...”
“No, he missed,” Eric said, his usual protest.
“He didn’t miss,” she said. “He killed Burt. He would’ve killed you.” Her eyes glistened. “You’re lucky to be alive.”
Eric found himself paralyzed. Lucky, he thought. Lucky?
She squeezed his arm. A heartbeat later Hanover’s face appeared in the oval window behind her. He opened the door and acknowledged Delahoy with a nod.
“Detective,” he said. “Everything okay?”
Eric straightened. “Oh yeah, we’re good,” he said. “Machine’s slow.” He took Hannah’s empty ice bucket and placed his full one into her hands.
“Thank you,” she said. Officer Hanover escorted her back down the hall.
Eric filled the ice bucket and returned to their room.
Monica sat at the table, stirring her tea into the steaming water. She had the TV on – some romantic comedy about a couple in Paris. She’d neatened all the printouts into a stack and placed them under his phone on the endtable. When he came in and set the ice bucket aside, she talked to him as he crossed the room, some light remarks about the rain on the windows, but the blood was rushing in his head so he didn’t hear them.
He bent and kissed her, fiercely, breathlessly, like it was the last thing he’d ever do. She brought her arms around his neck and he lifted her. She made a muffled sound of surprise, and he realized he’d always wanted to do that, to sweep a girl off her feet and into his bed. It was everything he hoped it would be, and couldn’t think of why he’d never tried it before.
Stupid reasons, probably. Fear, and the persistent belief that there would always be another opportunity.
He eased onto the bed with her. She stared up at him, all solemn-eyed and somber, one eyebrow quirked like a question mark.
“I like you,” he said.
“I gathered,” she answered.
“When this is over, we should spend more time together.”
She groaned. “More time?”
“Stop it, I’m serious,” he said. “I can never tell if you’re joking.”
“Could be the tumor pressing down on the humor sensing center of your brain...”
He narrowed his eyes. She narrowed hers back.
“Could be you’re perfect,” he said.
So maybe he was lucky, he decided. Lucky to have found what some people wait their whole lives to find but never do. And he had only waited most of his. With that realization, he figured they could hide out together for just a little while longer.
They entered the chapel, guns drawn but held low. It was a modest space, clean, unadorned, with accents of matte black and gold. The pews were upholstered with worn velvet that matched the threadbare rugs. At the back of the chapel stood a simple wooden altar, and behind it, a piano, a raised dais for the choir and an antiquated sound system.
“NYPD,” Walsh called into the gloom. “Come out now, show us your hands.”
They waited in tense silence. After a thirty count, Walsh gestured to Shraeger. She turned on the lights, and they entered the chapel with Walsh and Shraeger taking the flanks and Cole and Beaumont heading up the center aisle.
The place was empty. They met at the altar and Beaumont headed into the choir loft while Walsh checked the piano.
“I don’t see anything out of place,” Cole said.
“Another diversion?” Beaumont said, coming alongside him.
“Please Lord, I hope not,” Cole said.
“No, something was delivered here,” Walsh said. “Could be small, a device, maybe?”
“Wait, wait...” Shraeger said. She pointed to a legal-sized envelope on the pulpit. “The manifest said During Ceremony. What if it’s this?”
Cole stepped forward. He lifted the envelope like it was a loaded gun.
“Gloves,” Shraeger said. Beaumont passed him one and he slipped it over his hand.
He worked the clasp on the envelope withdrew a Hoyle playing card of the Queen of Hearts onto which a brass key had been taped. Under the key, in neat hand-written letters, were four words:
Cole trembled. He sent a frantic look to Walsh and Shraeger, who could say nothing at all to ease his mind. Into the anxious silence, Beaumont said, “Who’s Navan?”
Walsh shook his head. “No idea,” he said. “Maybe another riddle?”
Cole breathed out a barely perceptible sigh of relief. “Maybe,” he agreed.
Beaumont’s attention lingered on Cole a moment more before she said, “Okay, now we have a card and a key?”
“Another piece of the game,” Shraeger said. She raked her hands through her hair. “During Ceremony,” she muttered. “What does that mean?”
“Maybe something timed to go off during the wedding?” Beaumont guessed.
“Yeah, but what?” Walsh asked.
Shraeger scanned the windows and the ceiling of the chapel. “Why can’t it be an automaton in a cake or surprise musical guest?”
“With our luck, it’d be Creed,” Walsh murmured.
“It would have to be something close to here,” Cole said. “Did we miss anything? Any closets or compartments?”
Shraeger’s eyes settled on a section of paneling above the main doors. It was grated like a pair of shutters, and she could just see a tiny hook latch keeping them closed. “Walsh,” she nudged him and pointed.
He saw it, nodded, and then his eyes drifted as he turned to find a point behind the altar, above the choir loft.
“There,” Walsh said, indicating a long, horizontal cylinder suspended from the ceiling. “It’s a screen, right?”
“Must be a projection booth,” Cole said. “But I didn’t see any access...”
Walsh unclipped his radio and paged Banks.
“Hey, ask Ms. Anjum where the stairway is to the projection booth,” Walsh said.
After a few moments of static, Banks came back. “She says the booth’s been broken for years, they used to show Kung Fu missionary movies...” He paused while she spoke again. Then, “There was a staircase in the closet between the restrooms, but it’s been sealed for as long as she’s been here. There’s no key—”
“—Yeah, we got a key,” Walsh cut in. “Thanks, Leo.” He turned to them. “And we have a door.”
No one moved.
“We gotta decide,” Walsh said. “Are we going to call in the tech unit or check this out on our own?”
Beaumont balked. “Jason, if it’s a bomb, we got no business charging up there—”
“—It’s not a bomb,” Cole said.
“How can you know that?” Beaumont asked.
“It’s meant for me,” Cole said quietly. “I’m Navan.”
Beaumont’s brows knitted in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
Color drained from Cole’s face. He backed away from them, shaking his head as he retreated down the aisle. Then he ripped the key from its card and ran.
By the time they caught up to him, he’d unlocked the door but stood frozen on the top step into the projection booth.
“Henry!” Beaumont said. “What’s going—?”
“—Listen,” Walsh said, holding up a hand.
Strained seconds passed before they heard a lilt of female laughter, followed by a man’s voice.
“Is someone up there?” Shraeger whispered.
“We don’t have to go any further,” Cole called down to them, his voice hitching over the words.
Walsh headed up the stairs, only to have Cole block his entrance into the booth. Walsh caught a flicker of light from the top corner of a monitor, and then a man’s voice spoke again. After a handful of syllables, Walsh recognized the slurry drawl of the voice.
Cole’s eyes were wide and wild. He said, “Jason, we can go back downstairs and close the door and pretend...”
Walsh shook his head. “Cole, we can’t...”
Cole’s forehead creased. The female voice was talking now, and though the words were unintelligible, the light tone of enjoyment was unmistakable.
“They don’t know each other,” Cole muttered. He looked over Walsh’s shoulder at Shraeger, and his eyes filled with tears. “They don’t know each other...”
“That’s Amy,” Beaumont realized.
“And Frank,” Cole said, nodding. “Amy and Frank?” His knees buckled and he sat down hard on the step.
This gave them the full view of the video playing on a computer behind Cole. The camera angle showed a wrought-iron bed frame, a mattress bare of everything but one scraggly quilt, under which two people lazily entwined in each other’s arms. Amy Burch and Frank Lutz.
“Oh no,” Shraeger breathed.
Beaumont leveled her eyes on Walsh’s. “Jason, what is this?”
Walsh rolled his shoulders and shook himself. His expression hardened as he stepped past Cole and turned off the video. “It’s evidence,” he said.