Meeting the Suspect

Author’s Note: So today I pulled a snippet out of my backlog, from a story that I wrote a while ago, one that I finished and started a sequel to but found myself writing them out of character and shelved. Still, I like this particular mistake. It amused me.

Meeting the Suspect

“You Corbett? Not like… Richard, Robert, Rudy, Roscoe, Russell—”

“Yes. Like them. You don’t have to list them off. There was a Corbett on the police force when this was just a homestead over a century ago, or so the legend goes,” she interrupted, not wanting to hear the names. That was a long legacy full of pain, and she didn’t want to remember it, not now. She’d have to make a trip to the graves, make sure they were being maintained, try not to think about the empty plot waiting for her. It was only a partial joke when Robbie had bought it for her after she joined the academy. He’d placed it next to his and laughed.

He was already in it, the bastard, and she wasn’t sure if any of them was noble—just masochistic—or unable to turn away from the inevitable.

“Agent Bulloch told you we needed a tech for this, right? You have one you can spare us?”

“Maybe. ‘Fore we settle that, better deal with the guy we have in interrogation. Found him nosing around your latest crime scene—I figure you’ll want to get out there soon enough, but you should have one of yours talk to him. He just keeps calling us a bunch of idiotic feds. Maybe your boss there can get more out of him.”

“Usually works,” she agreed, taking the file that the other agent held out to her. This field office was looking like a joke, and she was no longer surprised that they’d gotten this call. How many people did he have under him? One? So, two feds for the entire area. Great.

She crossed over to where her supervisor stood with Ducas. She gave the profiler the file—he’d end up getting the interrogation. He always did. He was supposed to know people’s minds, after all. “Bull, they’ve got someone they picked up at our new crime scene. Who do you want to talk to him and who’s going over to the site?”

“You and Ducas go in. We’ll keep me as bad cop when we need it.”

She nodded. Ducas stepped around her, opening the door to the interview room for her. She shook her head at his patronizing act.

“What is it with you feds? Is it something about working higher in the government that rots out your brains and turns you into complete morons? No, I know. It’s the suits. Sucks the soul right out of you, doesn’t it, Chel?”

She leaned against the wall, shaking her head. She couldn’t help the smile. He hadn’t changed one bit. Oh, his hair was just a fraction longer than the last time she’d seen him, and he’d gained weight—he wasn’t fat, but he’d been so gaunt the last time that she could have been the one knocking him over with a tap, not Bull.

“You know him, Rachel?”

Frowning, she shot Ducas a dirty look. She just told him not to use that name. She was not a Rachel. She’d gotten stuck with it to carry on the tradition, but it never fit.

The handcuffs rattled, drawing her eyes back to the “suspect.” It was almost laughable, the mistake that they’d made, but then again, it wasn’t. He still dressed like a damn bum, and she’d always hated that about him. This time he’d shaved, but the hair was a mess, and those old clothes of his had to be part of his latest act.

“He one of your CIs or something? You going to give me something to work with here?” Ducas turned to the file. “You got a real name somewhere? I see a bunch of aliases. T, Trey, Main, and so on… Multiple busts for possession, possession with intent to sell, aggravated assault… He’s a petty little hood, but since none of these were prosecuted, I’m guessing CI.”

“You’re as much of an idiot as the rest of them.”

Ducas sighed. He put the folder on the table and looked to her. “You mind helping me out here? I know this is a joke to you, but it doesn’t seem all that funny.”

“Please tell me the two of you aren’t dating.”

Though she figured the question was for her—and since when did he have her so damn wrong?—the profiler’s head jerked up. “Excuse me? Just because she’s a woman and I’m a man doesn’t mean that we’re dating. That presumption is—”

“Full of crap. Fine. I’m just saying, if you’re dating, this is going to get very awkward, very fast.”

Ducas frowned. “Why?”

“I’m her husband.”

Assumptions and Appearances

Author’s Note: So today I went looking for something for a Friday Foible. I had no idea where I was going to find one. My characters do make mistakes, plenty of them, but usually there’s a lot of context around those things (or the whole story revolves around a particular mistake in some cases,) and so that left me kind of puzzled as to how to snippet something like this.

I searched my documents for “mistake,” and after browsing a few stories where the word came up, I picked this particular one from a historical fiction. Verity makes an assumption she shouldn’t when she meets the inspector, and it makes for an interesting dynamic between them.

Assumptions and Appearances

Verity knew herself to be ill-mannered, even disgraceful. She paced about the drawing room with agitation—no, excitement. A part of her had been wanting something like this to happen—not a murder, no, even she was not that perverse, but she wanted something beyond the dull existence of tea parties and beautiful gowns and her father’s suitors.

She had wanted something beyond Penbrooke for a long time now, something far greater than the role of her father’s heir. He indulged her, and she was grateful for it. She knew she would have been fortunate to have even half his forbearance and the freedom that came with it, but it was not nearly enough. If her father was more willing to spend time in London, even, where she might have more of a chance to do something, but he wasn’t.

She knew why her father had gone to retrieve the policeman himself, claiming his duty as the major landowner, but she knew that what he wanted was to interview the policeman, to send him straight back to London if he was found lacking.

She didn’t know why he got that role, as he had always said she had better sense and understanding than he did, and she should like to have been there when the inspector arrived to form an opinion for herself. She heard the carriage pulling to a stop out front, and she rushed to the window, peering through the curtains. She could see nothing from here save the back wheels.

She frowned, turning away with unfortunate timing, the door opening in time for her to have been seen prying. She pulled her skirt free from where it had caught on the chair, smoothing it down as she faced her father and the inspector. No, impossible. How on earth had this young man escaped his valet in such a state? His clothes were not cut to fit properly, done in a colour that did not suit him, and his hair was not styled.

Her father had lied, then? It was not the police he’d brought here but a suitor for her? Yet—he was in such a state as to make that nearly unthinkable. “Father, I thought you had gone to meet the policeman’s train.”

“Of course I did, Verity.” Her father used that old tone—a warning to stop whatever game she thought she was playing, but she played no game. He did.

“You cannot possibly expect me to—do you take me for a fool all of a sudden? What, were the clothes meant to trick me? You will not convince me that Lord Rathmore’s son is a policeman.”

“This is Inspector O’Hallaran,” her father said, but she saw new consideration in his eyes as he turned again to their guest.

“You are mistaken, milady,” O’Hallaran said, his eyes drifting to the part of her skirt that had been caught earlier. “I am indeed a policeman, and I have never had the undoubted pleasure of meeting Lord Rathmore.”

She looked at him and shook her head. She knew faces, and there was no mistaking that sharp brow, those clever yet stormy grey eyes. True, he did not share the expression that the baron did—one of a rather scandalous nature—but O’Hallaran was related. He must be—Oh. She’d made a terrible mistake, as usual. She flushed. Good heavens, she’d the bad sense to call attention to the fact that he was a by-blow.

She swallowed down her embarrassment and made herself face him with a cool and pleasant smile as suited the occasion. “I am certain that you wish to begin your investigation, Inspector. What can we do to assist you?”

He smiled, and she could see touches of the woman that his mother must have been, for O’Hallaran’s nose was not quite as angled as Rathmore’s, his jaw not as rigid. She noticed him fidget, thinking him possessed of a restrained vigour. Tidier clothes would certainly have revealed a fine physique. Was that because he was a policeman?

“I should begin by asking you and your father some questions.” O’Hallaran’s speech was beautiful, precise but tinged with with the barest hint of an accent.

“Please sit down,” she said, gesturing to the chairs. She knew she should sit next to her father, but she would rather not at present. Her father took the armchair, and she frowned—why did he force her to sit next to O’Hallaran? To punish her for her mistake earlier? “I suppose that this is—I do know that this is no social occasion, but you have had to travel, so perhaps refreshments are still in order.”

O’Hallaran sat down on the other end of the divan. He seemed as though on the brink of refusing—someone of his station ought to refuse—but he nodded instead, another smile coming to his lips. “Yes, please. Coffee, if you have it.”

“You are fond of coffee?”

He shifted in the chair, and when his eyes turned their attention directly to her, she felt her stomach twist. She was as lost as a foolish débutante at her first ball. “Rather say I am Irish and have not the same affection for tea as the English.”

She had to bite her lip to keep herself from reminding him that a part of him was very English. “Father does not care for coffee, you see. It is my vice, not his, and I am forced to import it rather against his wishes. Everyone advises him that it is not a proper thing for a woman’s delicate nature.”

“Is there much of you that is delicate?”

She shook her head. “I fear not.”