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22 October 2011 @ 01:05 am
Refuge at Sea [Part 5]  
Part Five
Vermillion City in the morning could be described as nothing but ‘bright’. The sun wasn’t very high in the sky when Looker and Surge hired a cab to the police station, but the day was completely cloudless, and in the centre of the city, the pale stonework reflected the light and seemed almost white. The effect diminished as they moved away from the city centre, but it was still there, and the police station was almost blinding under such conditions. Once again, Looker had to curse the architect who had designed it.
Before they’d left the Gym, Looker had finally received a message from Kinney about which jurisdiction the Jamison fell under. After everything, it turned out to be under American law, and so Captain Forde had acted completely legally after all. If he was going to bring him in, it seemed like it would have to be done the hard way.
Looker found that he wasn’t that surprised, or even very disappointed. Nothing about this case had ever really been particularly easy anyway.
He was a little confused when the receptionist - a different one from yesterday - checked his ID, and blinked in surprise. “Oh, Agent Kokinos - go straight upstairs. Detective Yamato said he was waiting for you.”
He frowned.
“I take it that’s a bad sign?” Surge said, as they walked towards the stairs.
Looker blinked and shrugged. “Well - possibly. It may be that he simply wants an update on the case.”
But Yamato had been about to ask Mihara about that yesterday, and he had seemed content - or at least resigned - to leaving the whole thing to Looker before, so he suspected that it might be more than that.
It was.
 “Have you seriously wasted so much time?” Yamato demanded, as soon as they stepped into his temporary ‘office’. Mihara was there too, in the background. She offered Looker an apologetic expression.
He nodded at her first with a small smile, and was relieved to see her relax, and only then did he turn to her superior. “What is it that you have problems with?”
“Veronica Matthews is no longer a suspect.”
Oh. Detective Yamato was one of those detectives: by the book, kept strictly to regulations. The type, in short, that Looker never got along with. “Detective Mihara did not inform you of why this was? I had the impression that you were to discuss it yesterday.”
“He didn’t let me finish,” Mihara chipped in, straightening her back and meeting Yamato’s gaze defiantly when he turned to glare at her.
Surge raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Lt. Surge, with all due respect,” Yamato said, in a tone which suggested he was currently due very little, “This is a police issue. Please refrain from comment.”
Surge held up his hands peaceably, but Looker didn’t think that anyone, least of all Yamato, would buy that Surge meant the gesture. Yamato didn’t push it. “Agent Looker, maybe you’d like to explain this.”
“I would not have to, if you had listened to Mihara yesterday,” Looker said, because he couldn’t resist. Yamato grit his teeth and, disappointingly, held back whatever remark he had wanted to make. “But in any case, it is quite simple - Miss Matthews must have to be far less intelligent than she truly is to have poisoned her brother.”
“I don’t know what sort of ‘crimes’ you investigate in Interpol,” Yamato said. He wasn’t even bothering to disguise the disdain in his voice, something Looker thought was probably either a sign of stubbornness or stupidity. “But in the real world, people do stupid things sometimes.”
“But it is not normal to plan out the stupid thing in advance,” Looker pointed out. “That would be foolish.”
“Depends how far in advance you planned it,” Yamato countered.
“She planned the murder before she came to Japan and did not think that poisoning her brother would make her the obvious suspect in that time?” he asked.
Yamato simply shrugged. “Sometimes people are so caught up in the details they miss the obvious. It wouldn’t surprise me if she did just that.” He scowled. “That isn’t the issue. The issue is that you gave barely given the main suspect a second glance when all the evidence points to--”
“If you wanted me to waste several days investigating a dead end, you perhaps should have informed me at the beginning,” Looker snapped. This sort of people always irritated him; sometimes it was appropriate to do things exactly by the book, but some of the time a detective could afford to get away with a few creative interpretations of the normal procedure - operating strictly by the book would probably lead to the same conclusion, but it would take longer to get there. “As the situation currently is, it seems as though I have been proven right. Which you would know, had you listened.”
“I had more important things to think about yesterday than your relative successes.”
“I believe ‘relative success’ is an understatement,” Looker said sharply. “I can tell you who did it and how.”
Yamato raised a sceptical eyebrow. “And you can prove this?”
“If I could prove it, I would arrest him,” Looker said, through gritted teeth. The fact that he couldn’t prove it remained a sore point. “If you also obtain a package of the paracetamol the same as Miss Matthews had, I can probably also prove that she at least is unlikely to have done it.”
He seemed to consider this for a moment. “Mihara, go get us a copy of these pills.”
She looked a little put-out, but said, “Yes, sir,” and left with no complaints.
“I still don’t like Interpol methods,” Yamato continued, turning back to Looker and fixing him with a hard stare. “You’re too inclined to throw proper standards out the window when they don’t suit you, because it’s not your home, so why should you care if the criminal gets off on a technicality? But I wouldn’t be a Detective if I couldn’t listen to other theories, so you’ll get your chance to convince me, same as anyone. If you can’t, then I must insist that we at least bring Veronica Matthews down here for questioning.”
“That would be entirely your decision,” Looker said coldly. “As I would not be doing it for you.”
Yamato regarded him with something very much like amusement, but did not comment. Looker had to swallow an insult. He did not like being underestimated. He might be younger than Yamato, but he’d been an Interpol Agent for about six years now and had worked with the police force in Greece for seven before that. He was far from being a rookie, but this sort of thing always seemed to happen when he ended up working with someone older than himself.
“How have you been getting on, Lt. Surge?” Yamato asked politely.
“Not so bad,” he said, although Looker thought there was something mocking to his tone. Yamato must have thought so too, because he frowned slightly. “He’s better than I thought.”
“Thank you,” Looker said dryly.
Yamato considered him for a moment. This time Looker found himself unable to read his expression. “So, how do you intend to show that Miss Matthews didn’t do it?”
“An experiment,” Looker said. Yamato blinked, and he smiled thinly. “Nothing extravagant, I assure you. All I will need is a glass of water.”
“I think we can allow that,” Yamato said, attempting in vain to mask his confusion, as Surge raised a questioning eyebrow at him. Looker shrugged back.
It would have been an awkward and almost silent twenty minute wait for Mihara’s return, but Looker didn’t care for such lengthy silences and he knew Surge didn’t either, so he took it upon himself to fill the silence with a rather drawn-out explanation of what they had worked out so far.
Surge chipped in occasionally, and gave Looker a significant look when he concluded without mentioning yesterday’s investigation of the Jamison, but, well - what was he supposed to do? Yamato had already expressed his disapproval of Interpol taking shortcuts, as it were, and that was about as blatantly ‘shortcutting’ as it got - even Looker would admit that. He would probably end up having to share it, in any case, but he’d rather do that after he first convinced Yamato that he was on the right track.
“It would never hold up in court,” Yamato said, almost as soon as Looker had finished. “It’s all too circumstantial.”
Looker had known this for a long time now. The reminder, again, was not what he wanted right now. At least Yamato hadn’t dismissed the evidence out of hand. “That does not mean that what the evidence is saying is any less true.”
Yamato inclined his head, and he held back a sigh of relief. Despite his earlier words, Looker had been worried that he would be less open to ‘other theories’, as he put it, than he said.
He didn’t have to worry about keeping any conversation going, either, because a few moments later Mihara burst through the door panting. Looker blinked and wondered how much she had rushed herself. “Er, it was not that urgent.”
She waved him off, and threw the packet at him. He caught and inspected it critically, but it seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be exactly the same as the one Miss Matthews had been carrying on the day of the murder.
“What do you intend to prove?” Yamato asked.
“Well, I cannot be certain yet,” Looker began to explain vaguely, casting about for a glass; there must be one somewh-- ah, there! He picked it up and turned to Mihara, frowned, and handed it to Surge instead. “Please go and fill that with water.”
“Oh, sure,” he said sarcastically. “Because the Gym Leader has nothing to do but run errands.”
Looker could recognise when he was joking by now. “Being fair, taking turns - is that not one of your American things?”
“As long as your turn’s next,” Surge muttered, without venom.
Yamato interrupted with a scowl. “My question still stands.”
“What? Oh.” Looker had almost forgotten. “I cannot be certain yet, but this brand of the tablets - it is described as fast-acting, yes?”
“You would know better than me.”
Looker almost frowned. He wasn’t sure how he ought to interpret that. Did it matter? Hopefully not. “Well, that is what it claims, in the least. Cyanide, it is also a fast-acting poison, it is absorbed rather quickly, we all know this, do we not?”
Nods from Mihara and Yamato, interested and exasperated, in that order. Surge returned with the glass of water and handed it to him. “Gotta say, this isn’t shaping up to be the most exciting experiment I’ve ever been a part of.”
“You underestimate the thrilling properties of water, my friend,” Looker told him. Yamato was looking impatient, so it was probably time to be serious. “But, what I am getting at, if the brand lives up to its advertising, it should dissolve very quickly.”
“This means... what, exactly?” Yamato asked.
“Well, I am no scientist,” he said, “But if it dissolves quickly in water, then we can say that it would be many times faster again in stomach acid, yes?” He frowned. “If we were lucky, we would have a comparison to be made with the others which the victim took, but unfortunately that is not so. We must assume that they were slower-acting.”
“Why--?” Yamato started.
Looker held up a hand to stop him. “Please, you must allow me to demonstrate. Although, I could be wrong, and this will prove nothing.” And wouldn’t that be embarrassing.
He quickly picked a capsule out of the packaging, waited until the second hand of his watch was approaching 12, said, “I will be timing, so someone must inform me of when it is gone,” and dropped it in the water.
Exactly 49 seconds -- and possibly the longest 49 seconds of his life -- passed before Surge said, “I’d call that dissolved.”
Looker glanced at the ‘capsule’, which was actually now mostly powder, and tried to conceal a sigh of relief. “Yes, I would too.”
“I don’t see what this proves...” Yamato said pointedly.
He reigned in the urge to give a rude response. Not everyone put things together like he did - which was probably a good thing, because Looker reached some bizarre conclusions sometimes - and he knew what he was trying to prove, so the conclusion was easy to reach. Being abrasive would help nothing.
“It proves that the capsules would have dissolved almost immediately, and the cyanide would have been released very quickly,” he said, “So, the question is then, for what reason did Matthews take so long to collapse?”
Silence fell for a moment.
“I see why you said the other painkillers must have been slower-acting,” Yamato said. “But it doesn’t really prove anything about which one delivered the poison; they could have been taken at any time.”
“Not so!” Looker said. “We have very specific testimony from the hotel staff, and also Miss Matthews herself, about the timing of that evening.” He gave Yamato a pointed look. “Perhaps you are not trusting of Miss Matthews’ testimony just yet, but you must agree that the victim would be unlikely to ask for water for his painkillers if he had not planned to take them right away, yes?”
Yamato nodded slowly. He didn’t seem very dismisssive, which Looker hoped was a sign that he was becoming more convinced. He certainly didn’t want Yamato to waste his time on the wrong suspect, not after Looker had spent so much effort trying to find the right one.
“Then of course there would be the wait for desert to be prepared, and we know that Matthews, he collapsed part-way through. So, maybe it is not definite proof, but it seems highly likely he would have collapsed before he actually did so, had the tablets which Miss Matthews possessed been the method of administration.”
Silence fell again, and Looker waited tensely for Yamato to say something whilst trying not to fidget. It was true that this was his investigation, but on a case like this Interpol never had anything better than partial jurisdiction, and it was still the detective in charge who was responsible for making the actual arrest. If Looker couldn’t convince him, he might well arrest the wrong person.
After what seemed like a long time, Yamato sighed, and Looker’s heart instantly sank. “Perhaps the idea has some merit, but there’s no way I can make an arrest on flimsy, circumstantial evidence like this.”
Looker let out a frustrated growl. “Miss Matthews could not have done it! Captain Forde is the murderer!
Yamato frowned at him “Agent Looker, I agree it’s a possibility, a very unlikely possibility, but that’s all. You haven’t proved anything. This would get laughed out of court.”
“It does not have to be admissible in court to be true!” he argued desperately. “If you do nothing, he is just going to get away with it.
“Agent Look--”
“There is something suspicious going on aboard that ship!” he snarled. What was Yamato doing? Was proper procedure really that much more important to him than catching the murderer?
“You’ve been on board?” Yamato demanded, rising out of his seat. Looker knew instantly that he should not have mentioned that yet. “That could ruin the entire case! I knew Interpol were sloppy but--”
I have not!” Looker exclaimed, meeting his furious gaze without flinching. He tried to force himself to calm down, or this was going to escalate into a pointless argument, but he only succeeded in removing part of the frustration from his voice. “It was legal, only--”
“Oh, of course it was legal,” Yamato snapped, lip curling. “By how fine a margin?”
“Does it matter?” he asked. “If you could just get for me a warrant, I could--”
“You think I’m going to let you touch anything else in this case, you worthless sonofa--?”
He is going to get away with it!
“If he even did it in the first place, and you didn’t just want to let the pretty woman off the hook--”
Looker was suddenly so furious that the point of the argument left his head completely. He probably would have punched Yamato had Surge not hauled him away. He still managed to spit out, “I. Would. Not.” before Surge pushed him, none too gently, toward the opposite wall.
“Calm the fuck down,” Surge said, glaring at both of them in turn. “You’re supposed to be god damn professionals so why don’t you take five minutes to chill out and then act like it!
Looker made an effort to control his breathing, which had responded to his pounding heart, and carefully pulled his coat back onto his shoulders. He did not take his eyes off Yamato for one second, and didn’t soften his glare, either.
He was so focussed on the idiot who wanted to let a murderer go free that he didn’t notice that Mihara had left the room until she slammed the door to the next office shut behind her. Both Looker and Yamato started at the loud bang. Surge didn’t look surprised, so he must have seen her leave.
She was carrying a small collection of papers in her arms, which she handed to Yamato with an icy expression and a very curt, “Perhaps this will convince you more than a petty argument.”
The missing ‘sir’ said more than her words did.
“What is this?” Yamato asked, flicking past the first page.
“It’s a report from forensics that’s been sitting in your inbox since late last night,” Mihara told him, clipping all of her words, as though she couldn’t bring herself to waste any more breath on him than necessary. “But you obviously didn’t read it. I think you will find that it confirms traces of cyanide on the outside of an old medicine bottle that used to belong to Captain Forde, which was found at the crime scene, and overlooked initially.”
Yamato paled slightly. Looker felt like a total idiot. He had completely forgotten about that report. If he had remembered, it would have saved the shouting match. Not that he wouldn’t have said those things to Yamato, but he would have preferred not to have said it. It certainly wouldn’t make working with him any easier.
Mihara held her hand out for the report, and Yamato quietly handed it back. She turned to him. “Perhaps you would care to peruse it, Agent Looker?”
He winced. She was speaking to him in much the same tones as she spoke to Yamato. Whatever good grace he might have had with her, it was probably gone. “No. I trust you have understood what it says.”
She tossed the report onto Looker’s desk with no more theatrics, and the frosty demeanour suddenly seemed to melt away. She sighed, pulled out the chair that Surge had vacated, and collapsed into it. “This is also after they’ve dusted it for fingerprints, so it has the same problems as anything else we’ve got.”
Yamato nodded. “Lawyer’d tear that apart.”
Looker bit back a comment that would be retreading the argument they had just had, although he was getting sick of hearing ‘it would never stand up in court’ as an excuse. “Probably, but no one has to tell Forde that.”
“What are you suggesting?” Yamato asked suspiciously.
“The evidence would not need to be so sound if he had confessed to the murder.”
Yamato gave Looker an appraising look. “And you can get a confession out of him?”
He hesitated. The truth was, he honestly didn’t know. Looker hadn’t met Captain Forde, and could only make guesses based on his past cases - the problem was that he didn’t have the whole picture yet, and until he did, it would be difficult to say what sort of man he was. “It would be easier if I had some idea of a possible motive.”
“Of course it would be,” Yamato said, rolling his eyes. Looker kept his mouth firmly shut. “But the only one with a motive is the sister, and you refuse to suspect her.”
“And you seem to be refusing to use common sense,” he answered bitingly, but a warning look from Surge stopped him from continuing that line of thought. Maybe they were now... friends... but Surge wasn’t going to let him get away with starting another argument, even though it had been Yamato who escalated it. Americans.
He let out a deep breath, because letting his anger get out of control would help no one, even if Yamato was a-- that was another line of thought he probably shouldn’t follow. “We must at least be able to narrow down the motive. He can not have simply committed a crime for nothing.”
“But we’ve seen all the evidence,” Mihara said, frowning. “There’s nothing to suggest a motive.”
“If he set up the poisoning the way Agent Looker says he did, then it’s something that he has to distance himself from...” Yamato mused.
“That does not say much,” Looker said, mostly to himself.
This was ridiculous. He’d worked on crimes far larger and more complex than this. How could something like this elude him? It was like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without all of the pieces and no picture to work from. That room on the Jamison was a piece he kept turning this way and that, but no matter where he put it, it just didn’t seem to fit.
Maybe... it wasn’t relevant after all. All of Looker’s experience in Interpol told him it was suspicious, but it could be something entirely separate. Or something entirely innocent. Or...
“It says something,” Yamato said, startling Looker after the lengthy pause. He was biting the inside of his cheek, staring at nothing in particular, and frowning to himself.
Looker also frowned. He’d thought of something that Looker hadn’t? If he had, then what was the big delay in sharing it?
“He didn’t hit him over the head and throw him overboard,” Yamato said, still sounding distant, and seemingly barely realising that he held everyone’s attention. “He didn’t do anything to him on the ship. Unless whatever his motive is suddenly arose when they reached port, that means he wasn’t trying to distance the murder from himself. He was trying to distance it from the ship.
“Is that any different?” Surge asked.
“...Yes...” Looker said. He might have been annoyed that Yamato had come up with that first, but the pieces suddenly all started to fall into place now and the prospect of completing his puzzle had him too excited to get more than slightly irritated. He was barely aware of what he was saying, and his words came out in a rush. “If he had staged an accident at sea, that would have been easy to cover -- but there may have been questions raised about safety procedures, especially if it came about that Matthews was the son of an important politician. The ship would come under scrutiny. Places would be searched...”
Including, maybe, the inexplicable room that Dolos had found. Even if he didn’t know what it was for yet, that was how it fit.
“He had something to hide,” Mihara concluded. “But what?”
The triumphant feeling faded a little. Looker didn’t know what he’d had to hide. The room was crucial enough that Forde would kill to keep its meaning secret, and he still couldn’t figure out what that was.
“You said you had seen something suspicious on board, Agent Looker,” Yamato said, almost reluctantly.
But now, at least, he thought he understood Yamato’s behaviour of a moment ago. By pointing out that Forde seemed to be trying to divert attention away from the ship... he was also acknowledging that whatever ‘suspicious’ thing Looker had uncovered was crucial, that his less-than-by-the-book Interpol methods had done something that Yamato’s own couldn’t accomplish.
Speaking up anyway... probably made him a better man than Looker would like to admit. And, frustratingly, he didn’t even know if he could reward Yamato’s decision.
“I did,” he said slowly. “But I do not know what significance it has.”
He told them anyway, in as much detail as he could remember, although there wasn’t much of that. Inevitably, Stacia came to mind, but he was proud to say that his tone didn’t falter and Mihara and Yamato were apparently too distracted by what he’d said to notice any need to clench his fists and take calming breaths.
Surge watched him carefully, but Looker shook his head at him, and after a moment of frowning he decided to let it go.
“...A child’s handprint?” Yamato was saying. “Are you sure, Looker? It couldn’t have been a small adult’s hand?”
“No,” Looker said, a little offended that Yamato thought he would be able to confuse the two. “It was definitely a young child’s.”
Yamato frowned.
“There was a young boy at the illegals’ camp yesterday,” Mihara said suddenly, sitting up a little straighter in the chair. “We know they were new arrivals. Where was the Jamison in port last? Kenya, wasn’t it?”
“Close to Somalia?” Yamato asked.
“Yes,” Looker said slowly. He was beginning to see where they were going with this. “They share a border.”
Mihara got up from her chair. “They had to come in by ship, so why not by the Jamison?
By now even Surge knew what they were talking about. He was no longer relaxed. “So Forde has been...?”
“Smuggling illegal immigrants into the country,” Looker finished.
It explained the room, although Forde certainly couldn’t have done it alone -- there must be confederates amongst the crew, not to mention his contacts in other countries... that was going to become one hell of a headache for Interpol.
Of course, with who Matthews’ parents were - assuming Forde knew - there would have been no way he could have let him in on the secret. And as navigator, Matthews would mostly have been in one area of the ship - he wouldn’t have had reason to go anywhere near that room.
But if, by chance, he for some reason did...
Surge broke out into a grin. “Looks like you got it, Mihara.”
She flushed slightly and started to stutter out an excuse, but Yamato cut her off. “We still need to prove it yet.” He turned to Looker. “If you wait half a day for us to get a warrant for the harbour master’s records, I can give you specific dates, numbers, drag out someone who might be willing to be a witness...”
Looker considered it. He honestly considered it. He could almost certainly get away with it. Forde was unlikely to act now, especially since he was no longer in danger of being discovered, after dropping off his ‘cargo’.
But he’d felt so sure that Ioanna wouldn’t kill anyone again, either.
“I do not need so long,” Looker told Yamato. “This is enough.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re pretty confident.”
Looker shrugged, but didn’t say anything. He didn’t dare.
Yamato regarded him steadily for another long moment. Looker held his breath and thought at first that he was going to pull rank and force him to sit and do nothing about the murderer who was practically right on their doorstep -- but then he sighed, and said, “Alright. Fine.”
Looker couldn’t quite hide his surprise, and blinked. Yamato gave him a dry smile. “Just take Mihara along and have her put the handcuffs on him, alright? I don’t want him getting off on a technicality after all this.”
Looker frowned. What did Yamato think he’d do? “Of course.”
“Sir?” Mihara said. “Won’t you need me for...?”
“The boys can do the legwork just as well as you can, Mihara,” Yamato said dismissively.
She was quiet for a second. “Yes, sir,” she said eventually, struggling to hide a large smile.
Looker thought he might have missed something in that exchange.
“I’m coming too,” Surge said, in a voice like steel.
He was reminded, for the first time in a while, that Surge had first joined the case not to annoy him, but because one of his friends had died. If Looker had held any objections to him tagging along, they would have disappeared then.
As it was, he only nodded.
Looker was just relieved that his part would end here. He certainly didn’t envy whichever Interpol Agent got to deal with the aftermath of this.

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