Brinkley didn't touch the newspaper Captain Walsh threw across the desk at him and Kovich. He'd been shown it by the old man at his newsstand, the uniform at the desk downstairs, and the guys on the squad, who taped the photo to the wall in the coffee room. Somebody had drawn a mustache on him and had given Kovich a kielbasa dick.
'Explain this to me, you idiots!' Captain Walsh shouted, over the tabloid tenting his desk, where it had landed. The Cap was so pissed he could barely keep his seat. Dwight Davis, freshly shaved and suited, leaned against the credenza behind him. His expression was grave, and even though he was in the right, Brinkley still wished he could pop him one.
'I'm very sorry about this, Cap,' Brinkley said, and met his boss's eye. Captain Derrick Walsh was a big man with curly black hair. A merlot-colored birthmark crept across his right cheek and bled into his right eye, but Brinkley always figured the Cap owed his toughness to growing up with that birthmark. 'I take full responsibility for it, sir. It's my fault.'
'It's my fault, too,' Kovich added, but the Cap exploded.
'Goddamn right it's your fault! Who else's fault could it be? Mine?" The Cap's barrel chest heaved in his starchy white shirt, which bore the stripes of his rank and an ornate gold badge. It was the only decoration in the office, which was bare of the citations, awards, and honors the Cap had received on the job. Brinkley had always respected Walsh for not being a show-off, so his criticism landed hard. It didn't help that Brinkley was completely ashamed of his conduct.
'I lost control,' he admitted. 'It won't happen again.'
'Goddamn right it won't! You think we got the wrong guy, Reg? Article says so, somebody overheard you. But your girlfriend here thinks we got the right guy. Ain't that fuckin' terrific? First off, how can you be so stupid as to discuss an open case on the goddamn street?'
'Sorry, Cap.' Brinkley wanted to hang his head, but he'd be damned if he'd do that in front of Davis. It was police business, and the lawyer had no right being here anyway.
'And on this, of all cases? What are you, stupid?'
'It was my mistake. I started it. I'm sorry.'
'Not good enough, Reg. You know an investigation is completely confidential. Not only are you broadcasting it, you're fighting about it. In public!'
'It's my fault, Cap.'
'So then this scumjob of a reporter goes and talks to the security guard at the desk, and he finds out that you roughed him up over who signs the logbook at the daughter's apartment. Now they're callin' you -' The Cap grabbed the newspaper and flipped the pages madly.
'A hothead,' Davis supplied.
Brinkley sighed inwardly. He had to hear it from the Lone Ranger now. He could tell Walsh didn't like it either. He had embarrassed the department in front of the D.A.'s office. Half those lawyers thought cops were stupid anyway. Shit.
Kovich cleared his throat. 'Just for the record, the security guard wasn't roughed up, Cap.'
'I don't give a fuck!' Walsh arched a furry eyebrow that lay beside the birthmark like a wooded border. This never should have happened! None of it! We got elements of our investigation, whatever this logbook shit is, out in the open!'
Behind him, Davis crossed his arms. The reporter called me to verify. Of course I didn't give him anything, but I know this guy. He covers the Criminal Justice Center. He
told me off the record that he's got more than he reported, he just couldn't get the second source to confirm.' Davis hesitated before telling more, but Brinkley knew it was just for show. 'Said specifically that the two detectives were fighting about whether Trevor was involved, with the daughter.'
'Jesus H. Christ, Reg!' Walsh yelled. 'You're killin' me here! You're killin' me! What the fuck were you thinkin'
'It's me, too, Cap,' Kovich interrupted, but Brinkley waved him into silence. He had to defend himself. It was now or never and it couldn't get any worse.
'Cap, I'll tell you, I'm worried that Newlin's setting himself up. I think he's covering for the daughter or the boyfriend, or both.'
The Cap's eyebrows flew heavenward. 'What the fuck is goin' on here, Reg? I read this file, I saw the lab work! The prints, the blood work, the whole shebang. We charged the father. What are you talking about?'
'The boyfriend had some trouble in juvy and we were about to follow up on that. We found an earring back near the body that may belong to him. We were about to check his whereabouts the night of the murder.'
'You're tellin' me you're runnin' down another suspect, when you already got one in custody – who confessed?'
'He's the wrong man,' Brinkley said, and the more he said it the stronger he felt.
The Cap turned to Kovich. 'Stanislas. You don't think we got the wrong man, do you?'
'I'm willin' to check it out with Mick, Cap. I trust his judgment.' Kovich nodded, and Brinkley kept his face front. If Brinkley weren't Brinkley he would have hugged his partner.
'That's very touching,' the captain said. 'Now what do you think?'
'It doesn't matter what I think. Brinkley is the assigned. It's his case.'
'Christ, you people!' Walsh jumped to his feet. 'Kovich, answer me! Did Newlin kill his wife or not?'
'Yes,' Kovich said, after a minute.
'Good! Now you're the assigned, and that's an order!' Walsh shouted, and both detectives looked up. The assigned was chosen by wheel; it was whoever's number was up when the job came in. You couldn't start mickeying with that. Most of the detectives thought it was magic or fate whose number was up when the call came in.
'Cap, it was my call, and it's my case.' Brinkley kept a civil tone, but Dwight Davis frowned and folded his arms.
'Reg, no disrespect, but you know what you're doin' here? Masterson's on record saying we make no deals, the case is so airtight. I'm on record saying it's a lock. It's in the same goddamn paper as this story.' Davis gestured to the messy tabloid. 'Then you come along and make us look like smacked asses. I gotta explain to Masterson, he's gotta explain to the mayor, the mayor's gotta explain to the public and the media. You know, Reg. The thighbone's connected to the hipbone.'
'I know/ Brinkley said, only because he was in the wrong.
'I got a prelim in Newlin today, in case you forgot. I gotta make out a prima facie case of murder, which in this case I could have done with my eyes closed, until today. If you're the assigned, how am I gonna put you up there? What are you gonna say? The defendant is innocent? Or is this gonna be the only case in history where the assigned does not testify at the prelim?'
Brinkley had considered it. 'I'll have it sorted out by the prelim, one way or the other. You can count on me.'
Davis raised a palm. 'Not- since this article. Now you're gonna get crossed like nobody's business. Now even DiNunzio will know what to ask you. You're fucked, Reg. You can't testify.'
Brinkley felt it slipping suddenly away. His case. His life. His wife. Forget the D.A.; he faced Walsh. 'Cap, listen to
me. I'm not about to do anything that would hurt the department.'
'You already did,' the captain said sternly. 'This is the problem. You shoulda come to me before.'
Brinkley knew it wouldn't have helped. It was just something to say later, at times like this. He couldn't say anything that wouldn't get him in deeper, so he didn't say anything. He knew the way this was going, the way it had to go.
'I know you were only doin' what you think was right, Reg, but you're on suspension. You're off for a week, no pay, and you're off the Newlin case, too. I'll take whatever heat the union gives me, grieve it if you want to, but I can't have this, in the papers.' Walsh pointed a thick finger at Kovich. 'I'd suspend you, too, if I didn't need you at the prelim.'
Neither Brinkley nor Kovich replied, but stood up in unison without a word. Brinkley flipped open his jacket for his badge, slid his gun from his shoulder holster, and set both down on the tabloid, covering his own photo. The department was taking guns ever since a suspended cop shot his wife two months ago, and he didn't want to make the Cap ask for it. It was bad enough.
This should go without saying, but don't talk to the press, Reg,' Walsh ordered. 'You neither, Stan. Got it?'
'No comment,' Kovich said, with a weak smile, but Brinkley wasn't about to make jokes.
He wasn't about to be stopped, either.