"That would be cheating," Jim chided. What he didn't admit, was that he had completely forgotten that possibility. Of course, it really would be cheating, which is why, he told himself, he didn't do it. Now, learning someone's habits during a bluff, that was just good poker playing. Although there was one thing he didn't understand... "Okay hotshot. Just how do you read me?"
Blair stopped for a moment during his cleanup and smiled. "Uh-uh, no way," he said, waving a hand at Jim as he walked across the room to the kitchen. "I'm not giving up the only ace I have up my sleeve."
Jim was curious, but the phone rang before he could ask. He knew his friend had trouble reading his expressions, and he sometimes used that to his advantage. Although he never meant to intentionally mislead Blair, it could be useful when he needed to get the upper hand now and again. Blair was just so expressive at all times, it wasn't too hard for Jim to pick out the one that would give away his poker hand. Although he often thought Simon could use a dictionary when it came to Blair's library of facial expressions.
"Jim, it's Simon." Blair handed him the phone and he stood.
"Jim, there's been a body found at the top floor of the new Conner tower. Looks like a suicide, but you'd better get up there and check it out."
"The Conner tower? I didn't think that was open yet."
"It's not. Not officially, anyway. The body is that of Mr. Conner himself. Security found him in his penthouse office a half hour ago. I'm on my way there now, I'll meet you."
"Yes sir. We're on our way." Jim hung up and grabbed his coat. "Come on, Chief, we've got some work to do."
"What's up?" Blair caught the coat Jim tossed him and started putting it on.
"I'll know when we get there," Jim replied. He picked up the truck keys and waited for Blair to leave the loft so he could lock the door.
They drove across town through the thinning evening traffic and worked their way towards the brand new 52 story monolith known as the Conner tower.
"Look at that thing." Blair was leaning forward, trying to see the entire building they were approaching.
"Pretty impressive," Jim replied, glancing around for a place to park on the street. He couldn't find an opening nearby, and noticed the parking garage for the tower was open. "I guess we go inside." He glimpsed two patrol cars in the garage and decided to drive in.
"Yeah, impressive if you go for that kind of thing," Blair said as they entered the garage. "Me, I prefer the older buildings. Nothing over 20 stories. They had character then. Art." He shook his head. "Today, it's just metal and glass. And the taller the better."
"Now, you're not going to get all hippie anti-establishment on me here, are you, Chief?" Jim parked the truck and climbed out. Blair crossed in front of the truck, shaking his head. "You know Jim, we need to broaden your vocabulary, if not your mind." Jim rolled his eyes as he searched for the entrance to the building they had just parked under. "First of all, I spent what little was left of the sixties in diapers, man. So hippie I ain't. Second of all, anti-establishment is far too broad a concept. No, what I mean is these buildings just aren't being built with any personality anymore. In other cultures, they incorporate art into everything they build. And here we've almost lost that completely for the sake of size." Jim had found the elevator and they started up for the lobby. "Now, what's anti-establishment about wanting to see more artistic, aesthetically pleasing buildings?"
Jim just shook his head and waited for the elevator doors to open. When they did, he stepped out, quickly scanning the lobby. The sole occupant was the security guard standing in the middle of a rounded desk, watching the multitude of computer monitors that Jim could see poking out from behind the raised desk. He looked up from the monitors and focused on the security guard who was now watching them.
"Why don't you wait here? I'll see what floor this is all on." Jim gave Blair a gentle push towards the row of elevators opposite them before walking to the security desk. He recognized the guard on duty there, and didn't want Blair to.
"They're waiting for you in the penthouse. You'll have to take the far left elevator when you reach the 40th floor, these only go up that high. Then I can give you clearance for the private suites."
Jim was clenching his jaw, and he knew his disgust at seeing former Patrolman Ron Nelson was not being hidden well. "Has Captain Banks arrived yet?" He had to force his voice to remain calm as he looked at the officer directly responsible for Blair being severely beaten in a holding cell.
"He just arrived," Nelson replied, looking up at the taller man with the same contempt in his eyes that he'd had the morning Jim testified at his Internal Affairs hearing. He glanced behind Jim at Blair. "Still choosing the wrong company, I see."
Jim moved slightly to the left, blocking Nelson's view of Blair as he waited by the elevators. "I'll need you to stay here until you've been questioned, Mr. Nelson." Jim gave his civilian title some emphasis. "Until this investigation is concluded, you should be aware that you can be called on at any time to answer questions." With that, he turned and walked back to the elevators. When he arrived, one in the middle had opened and Blair was waiting for him before stepping inside.
"Is that Nelson?" Blair asked in a quiet voice.
Jim put a hand on his partner's shoulder and ushered him into the waiting car. "Yes, it is." They stepped inside and Jim pressed the button for the 40th floor. "I wondered if he was still in town. After IA dismissed him, I thought he'd move back east where his family was." Jim didn't add that he had wished Nelson would move. Having bad cops in the city was bad enough, but having bad ex-cops still hanging around, working as security guards, was an embarrassment to the Precinct. He glanced at Blair, noting the look in his eyes. "I know what you're thinking, and it's not true."
Blair looked up, raising his eyebrows, but didn't say anything. The elevator stopped and they stepped out, looking for the one on the far left they were supposed to take to the 52nd floor. Jim spotted it with the doors already open, and led the way. Once inside, he punched the top floor button and they started up.
"Must control these things from downstairs," Jim commented, noting the control panel on the inside of the elevator, and its small surveillance camera.
"That doesn't make me feel better," Blair replied. "Is Nelson the only one down there running these things?"
Jim glanced at his partner for a second, realizing what he had said. "This is supposed to be a completely modern building. Electronic everything. That's what Mr. Conner was in, I think."
Blair just nodded. The elevator came to a slow, easy stop and Jim had to force his ears to pop at that altitude. They stepped out into a wide, quiet hallway carpeted in a thick, soft maroon that complimented the slate-grey walls. A uniformed officer met them at the elevator.
"Detective, the body is down this way, in Mr. Conner's private suite." The officer glanced at Blair and smiled congenially.
Jim took note of the look as they followed the officer down the long hallway. Ever since Blair's night in the holding cell, Jim was sensitive to the reaction of other officers to his partner. Mike had told him the animosity towards Blair came mostly from the uniformed officers, but he didn't like the idea of it coming from anyone in the Department. Until then, he had assumed they all either thought as well of Blair as he did, or just gave him no thought at all. He shrugged off those memories as they continued down the corridor. Jim took note of each door, as yet unmarked in the newly-completed high-rise office complex. There were few doors along the hall, leaving room for some extremely large offices. He assumed each one would continue back as far as the windows, leaving some incredible space for occupants of the penthouse along with Mr. Conner himself. At the end of the corridor, they approached a huge double door made of glass that was propped open. He and Blair stepped inside, followed by the officer who had shown them the way.
The office had a huge entry way, leading off to the left into an even wider private office. Jim adjusted his eyesight easily to the dimmer light of the office, and saw the body slumped over the enormous walnut desk that dominated the center of the room.
"Jim, over here." Simon waved to the pair from beside the desk.
"Captain. What have we got?" Jim approached, followed by Blair, and took a closer look at the body. It was that of a middle-aged man, greying, well-dressed. He was lying over the desk from his leather chair, blood staining the wood and the carpet.
"Looks like a suicide. We've got the weapon here." Simon moved over so Jim could see the small caliber pistol lying on the floor next to the desk. "No note, but according to his secretary, Mr. Conner here was in it for several million after getting this building up."
"This is Mr. Conner?" Blair asked, glancing again at the dead man but trying to keep his distance.
"That's right," Simon replied. "No one saw anything. The security cameras are still being hooked up, and apparently hadn't gotten this far yet." Simon pointed to the camera in the corner of the room, then glanced back towards the foyer where another camera was mounted. Neither one had a red light on top indicating operation. "He was here doing some last minute legal stuff before the building opened for occupation next Monday. We've called his secretary, and she says he's been nervous lately, but she assumed it was due to the opening. But, as with any public figure like this, we want to be sure before the press finds out."
Jim was listening as he examined the body and the area around it. Mr. Conner was well-known in the city as a risk taker. Having more than three towers built and occupied already, this latest tower was to be his crowning achievement, and thus named after him. It boasted the most state-of-the-art equipment that money could buy. The entire building was wired, plugged in, hooked up, and logged on. Then why would a man whose life's work has just been polished off and filled up, suddenly decided to kill himself?
Simon, hand me that pencil, would you?" Jim looked up, waiting for the pencil,
then pulled an evidence bag from his pocket. "Thank you." He took the
pencil and lifted the gun by the finger guard, giving it a closer inspection before
bagging it. He handed the bag to Simon, who was holding his hand out for it, and
returned to his inspection of the carpet. In the corridors, the carpeting was
maroon, but in this office, it was grey. It was dark behind the large desk, and
Jim had to focus to see clearly what he was looking for. "Well, Simon, I
think we can be sure." Jim straightened and glanced at Blair, then back to
Simon. "It was murder, all right."
"Are you sure?" Simon moved closer and leaned down, trying to see what Jim had seen.
Blair knew from experience to stay farther back whenever Simon was checking something
out. He could get close to Jim, and know instinctively when to get out of the way. But with Simon, it seemed sometimes there was just no getting out of his way. Blair found a better vantage point from the other side of the desk, and got a good look at what Jim was pointing to without having to get any closer to the dead man.
"Right there." Jim pointed at the carpet. "He shoots himself in the head, then his arm falls down, and the gun slips out." Jim was mimicking the actions as he spoke. "The blood goes that way, away from the gun, at first. After a few seconds, blood starts to drip down here. Then how would blood get under the gun?" He reached out for the evidence bag and re-examined the weapon. "And here, see this? There are drops of blood all over this area, but none on the gun."
Blair was impressed, but just watched for now. He could see Simon begin to chew his cigar, a clear indication he was anything but happy.
"Damn. I knew this wasn't going to be that simple." He stepped back and called for the forensics team that had just arrived. "Go over this place with a fine-toothed comb. I don't want anything missed, you got that?"
Blair took a few steps back and one of the forensics men looked at him questioningly. He shrugged and looked at Jim.
"You mean someone killed him, and made it look like suicide?"
"Looks that way, Chief." Jim moved away from the back of the desk and stood next to Blair, glancing around the rest of the office. "Someone either doesn't want us to start looking too soon, or just isn't very good at covering his tracks." Jim shook his head and pointed towards a filing cabinet. "Let's see what this guy has that might be worth killing for."
"Other than his millions, you mean?" Blair asked, standing next to the cabinet as Jim opened it. It was empty. Jim opened another drawer, and then another. All empty. Blair glanced around the room again, noting that this was the only file cabinet in the entire office. "Maybe he didn't finish moving in himself?"
Jim shook his head, walking around the rest of the office. "No, he's supposed to have been working from here for the past month."
"That's right." Simon had joined them and was glancing into the empty cabinet now. "His secretary says he's been working out of this office for the past 40 days or more."
"Probably keeps everything in the computer," Blair offered, pointing towards the desk Mr. Conner was still lying over. He had seen the recessed computer monitor the body was half-covered, set inside the walnut desk. Pressing into the stomach of the former architectural icon was a large keyboard.
"I'll have to contact his secretary again, find out if Mr. Conner did all his business that way. We'll need to subpoena his files." Simon glanced around the office again, watching the forensics team at work. "I want a list of everyone who had access to the building and to these top floors." Simon motioned to Jim and started to walk towards the hallway. Blair followed, taking one last look at the pristine office. It was so new and clean, there weren't even any pictures or artwork on the walls. Unless that was Conner's style. The walnut desk, and lone, empty file cabinet were the only pieces of furniture, aside from the one leather chair the body was still in, and a matching leather couch along the far wall to the left of the desk.
"Also, find out who all was in the building today, and see what tapes they have on these security cameras. Some of them are working, and some aren't." He stopped beside the elevators and glanced at Blair for a moment. "Listen, I'm sorry about Nelson. I didn't know he was still in town." He looked back at Jim. "But we'll need to question him."
Jim nodded, glancing quickly at his partner before answering. "I'll take care of it, Simon. What about family?"
"Not married, and from what his secretary says, his only relatives are on the east coast, and not all that interested."
"Not interested? Isn't this guy worth millions?" Blair asked. He didn't know much about Conner, but he was known as one of the wealthiest men in the country.
"Rumor has it his fortune is gone," Simon replied, pushing the elevator button. The doors opened immediately and he held them. "There's some scandal about Conner having used non-union workers to put up his towers, and I believe the IRS is investigating him right now. That's what I need to get back to the station to find out about." He stepped into the elevator, then held the doors open for the coroner, who wheeled in Conner's body on a stretcher. "I'll get that subpoena, but it's after 7:00 now, it might take some time. Keep me informed."
"Right, Simon." Jim waited until the elevator doors had closed before turning back to Blair. "Listen, you hang up here for a bit. I'll go talk to Nelson."
"No, Jim. It's all right, I'll come with you," Blair said. He wasn't about to go through life afraid of some bully. It wasn't his fault Nelson had been dismissed, it had just been the final incident in the eyes of Internal Affairs. He wasn't going to let it interfere in his helping Jim on this case, or any other.
Jim paused, watching the forensics team at the opposite end of the corridor. "Okay, come on."
They had to wait for the elevator to return, and Blair realized it was one of only two that reached the penthouse. The second one seemed to be shut down. On the ride back to the 40th floor Jim examined the camera in the elevator.
"Doesn't seem to be working yet," he said after a close scrutiny . "I can't hear anything inside." He looked around the car. "This building was scheduled to open for occupancy on Monday, I wonder what the time frame was on getting the rest of this gear on line?"
"Didn't you say Conner was into high tech buildings?"
"Yeah. The other two are as secure as Fort Knox, with security cameras and personnel. They even have a pressure pad at the entrance that counts how many people come and compares it to how many people leave at night."
"Geez, that's a bit anal, isn't it?"
The elevator opened at the 40th floor and they got out, then entered the one at the far end of the row that was open and ready for them. "Not in this day and age, Chief. Just look at the Oklahoma bombing. And the Trade Center."
"Yeah, but those didn't happen inside the buildings."
Jim pressed the ground floor button and glanced up at the camera in the car. "No, but there's always a next time."
Blair could tell Jim was focused on the camera, and he looked up at it. "This one working?"
Blair raised his eyebrows and looked away from it. He might not be afraid of Nelson, but that didn't mean he was going to enjoy talking to him. "Picture only, or voice?"
Jim looked at Blair. "I'd say both. I can hear static." He didn't say more and neither did Blair until the elevator stopped at the ground level.
When they stepped out, Nelson was still the only occupant of the lobby. He was standing inside his circular desk, watching them. Jim took the lead and Blair fell into place right behind him as always. There wouldn't be any reason for Blair to talk to Nelson, but he wasn't going to let the man's presence here, after the terror he had felt that night in the holding cell, intimidate him away from Jim.
"All finished, Detective?" Nelson's emphasis of Jim's title wasn't lost on either of them.
"I'm going to need the log book for the entire day, plus any film you have on visitors to the building, any occupants that might be here setting up, and an accounting of your whereabouts for the past 8 hours."
Nelson just stared back at Jim, glancing occasionally at Blair. He tried to return a blank, nonchalant gaze. From where he stood, he could see the monitors behind the desk and decided that would be a better thing to look at. Nelson was slowly looking for the log book, and Blair watched as the forensics team entered the elevator he could see on one of the monitors and began to descend. Two other monitors were blank, but from the other three Blair could see there were changing views of hallways and elevators.
"Here's the log. We only have two other visitors in the building right now. In fact, one just left a minute ago after your officers questioned him. Mr. Bright. He's a lawyer, just took possession of a 43rd floor suite this afternoon. And Ms. Simms is upstairs on the 49th, getting her office ready." He tossed the log book towards Jim and looked up. "I thought it was a suicide?"
"And can you account for your whereabouts, Mr. Nelson?"
Blair returned to his scrutiny of the monitors. Having heard Jim's tone, he didn't need to look at his partner to know his jaw would be clenched. The bunching of the muscle along his cheek was better than Mike's stroking of his chin or Jeff's hangnail examination as they were bluffing through poker. It was the only sign Blair could read from Jim, so far.
"I checked in here at 2:00pm, and work till 11:00pm. What I did before coming to work, is none of your business."
"You can be brought in for questioning if you'd rather not cooperate here."
"Listen, Ellison, don't think I don't know what you're doing here. I know my rights. And until I see a warrant, those security tapes stay where they are."
Blair looked at Jim then, unconsciously taking a half step behind the taller man. Jim's jaw flexed again and he nodded, glancing behind him as the elevator doors opened. "You'll get your warrant, Nelson. Until then, you can consider yourself a suspect." He turned then and motioned with his chin for Blair to precede him back to the elevators where the forensics team was waiting "All finished?"
"Not much up there," the officer replied. "That place was spotless to begin with. But we got some decent prints, blood samples, a few fibers and hairs. The place is all yours."
Jim nodded and hit the elevator button. The doors opened immediately and Blair stepped
inside, followed by his partner. "We're going to take a look around, see if we can get into his files."
"What about the warrant?" Blair asked as the doors closed. He glanced up at the camera in the car, then looked at Jim.
"Simon will have that in an hour or so. It might take us that long just to get inside. If you're right, and he keeps everything in the computer, we could be here all night."
"Unless the secretary has the access codes. Assuming there are any."
"Simon will handle things at that end, we'll see what we can find here." They rode to the 40th, then switched elevators, and Jim pressed the 49th floor. "Let's go talk to Ms. Simms."
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