“Morning,” Korsak said as I stepped off the elevator into the dimly lit hallway of the homicide floor. The dull paint on the walls was a comforting sight after being gone for the first time for more than just a few days at a time.
“Morning. We have a new case this morning?” I asked, coffee in hand as the two of us entered the bullpen together.
He headed directly to his desk, taking a seat in his worn out chair. “Not yet, but there are a few that we are wrapping up. You want to help me with the paperwork you missed out on?” Korsak chuckled, smiling his crooked grin that always settled my nerves. Having just returned from a two week vacation, something I had never before treated myself to, I felt slightly unsure walking through the door this morning. It wasn’t that I didn’t love and miss my job. I most definitely missed it so much, I almost canceled my trip to Europe, but Maura coaxed me onto the plane and in the end, it was worth the trip. This morning though, something just felt different. Something about the energy in the bullpen, almost like it was the first day of school where everyone knew each other, but had a lot of catching up to do.
“You solve that many cases without me? Maybe I should just sit here with my feet up. Looks like you all have it down,” I joked, eyeing the stacks of files on Korsak’s desk. Compared to the two files left on my desk, both of which were just waiting on final sign offs, it appeared that the team had been busy during my absence.
I took a few more steps into the bullpen and my eyes were drawn to the desk directly across from mine, the one that had been Frost’s all those years ago. My heart ached, just remembering his infectious laughter and his perfect smile that could brighten anyone’s day. The very desk that was cleared and looked ready for a new detective to take over.
“We expected a new guy?” I asked, turning to Korsak.
He shrugged, acting as though he didn’t know what I was talking about, but I saw the nervous glint in his eyes that passed instantly. If I wasn’t as good a detective, I would have missed it, but given the fact that the two of us had worked together for so long, I could recognize the emotion even as quickly as it passed. “I heard something about they might be bringing someone new in. Don’t know much about it though.”
“What are you keeping from me?” I asked, wanting to get to the bottom of the situation. Nothing good came of Korsak keeping secrets from me.
When his eyes connected with mine, he said, “Nothing. Now drop it. We have plenty of things to do this morning.”
Just as he finished, our phones began to ring in sync. Swiping my finger across the screen, I brought the phone up to my ear and said, “Rizzoli,” at the same time he answered his with a swift, “Korsak.”
The dispatcher on the other end of the line read off the details of the homicide we were bring sent to and within a minute, Korsak and I were gathering our badges and guns and heading for the car.
“You’re really not going to tell me what you know about the new guy coming in? When did you start keeping things from me?” I knew he had told me to drop it, but if I was going to be working with whoever it was, I wanted all the information up front. I didn’t want to be blindsided. I guess that came with the territory of being a detective.
“What are we looking at?” Korsak asked Maura as we came to a stop beside the body she was currently examining.
“Male, appropriately forty-five years old, burn markings around the mouth, no other obvious injuries,” she spouted off, motioning to the guys lips, which appeared dark red with hints of brown.
“Any idea what caused the burns?” I asked, wanting to narrow down the possible causes of death. As I waited to see what she would or would not say, I surveyed the room. The warehouse like building was set up with a small platform in one corner and several of rows of chairs facing it. Off to the side of the room was a small table filled with cheap cookies, crackers, and a coffee machine.
“I really can’t say. I’ll have to run a few tests once we get back to the lab,” she said, looking up from where she was squatting beside the body.
I nodded my head, unsure why I always felt compelled to ask when I knew it was going to be the same answer every time. If she would just say what she thought, nine times out of ten, she would probably hit the nail on the head.
I took one more look around the crime scene, noticing a few things amiss. The chairs that appeared to be in perfect rows were askew just beside the victim. There were several people standing off to the side, beside the caution tape put up by some of the crime scene techs. Surveying their faces, I saw looks of shock on most of them. None of them really seemed to pop out to me as I scanned down the line. I felt my heart lurch on the man standing at the end of the line.
“Pops,” I called out, already closing the distance between the two of us.
“Janey,” he said, a small smile spreading across his face as his eyes connected with mine.
“Wh-what are you doing here? I thought you were in Florida?” I said, not able to put the pieces of what I was seeing together. Why was he in Boston? And why hadn’t he told me he was coming to visit? Not to mention, why was he at my crime scene at eight thirty in the morning?
“I got back into town late last night and crashed at a motel. I was going to come see you this morning, but I needed to stop at a meeting first, so that’s how I wound up here,” he said, eerily calm considering this was likely his first active crime scene.
As my brain played catch up to what he was saying, one thing stood out, “Meeting?”
“AA. I’ve been trying to kick the drinking and it’s been helping. Sober eight months.”
“Pa, that’s amazing. I’m really proud of you. That’s a great accomplishment,” I said. A beat passed between us before I switched from surprised daughter back to homicide detective. “What can you tell me about what you saw?”
He straightened his posture as he answered. “The guy was sitting just a few rows ahead of me and all of a sudden, just started twitching, almost convulsing. Next thing I knew, he was laying on the ground. By the time anyone got over there to help him,” he paused, “he was gone.”
“Did anything weird happen this morning? Anything that seemed strange or out of the ordinary? Anyone that seemed out of place or nervous?”
“You just described half of the people here, including myself. It’s an AA meeting. No one really wants to be here and everyone is nervous. We are all fighting a terrible illness.”
“Thanks Pops. I’ll try and catch up with you later, but I have to solve this case first.”
“I completely understand. Maybe we can get lunch. There’s something important that I want to talk to you about.”
“We’ll see. I’ll call you when I get a chance.” With that, I turned and headed back to where Maura and Korsak were still hovering over the body.
“Any leads?” Korsak asked.
“Other than my father being a witness, not much. AA meeting. Guy goes down. No one can get to him before he’s dead. How long will it take you to determine cause of death?” I asked, turning to Maura.
“I’ll run a tox screen as soon as we get back to the lab and perform the autopsy. Should be able to tell you within a few hours.”
“As fast as you can. Without a cause of death, we are grasping at straws.”
“I have uniforms taking statements from all the witnesses. Hopefully someone will have seen something that will be helpful,” Korsak added.
“Hopefully. Until then, we need to at least try to figure out who this guy is.”
“We sent fingerprint scans to Nina. I’ll let you know as soon as I have something,” Maura said, as the technicians approached with an open body bag and a stretcher.
“I guess we are done here. Uniforms will secure the scene, but until we know what we are dealing with, we will just have to head back to the station.”