Warnings: Possible violence, dark themes and sex in later chapters.
Pairing: Crawford x Schuldig.
Summary: A self-professed boy genius invites himself onto a high-profile murder case and is drawn to the darker world he discovers.
Notes: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Thanks to everyone who has been commenting so far. I originally lost this chapter in a computer crash, which is why it took so long to come out. Anyway, hope it's okay. Constructive criticism is always fine.
Professional // Chapter Three
Monaghan greeted Wolfe at the station with a handshake. “Sorry to drag you out at such short notice like this, but you were the best choice at the time.”
Wolfe raised an eyebrow. At the time? Not now? He let the minor slight slide and wondered if he had ever been the best choice. In any case, he wasn’t sure this lie of acceptance had been what he’d been looking for after all.
“I want to look at hotels first,” he said, choosing not to respond directly to Monaghan. “I think he’s a businessman and he’s staying in one of the very best hotels around here, possibly on expenses. He’ll be staying a while longer, because he won’t want to attract attention by leaving immediately.”
Monaghan looked at him with a doubtful look on his face. This was, of course, going against everything he knew. Wolfe couldn’t blame him for it; he was just describing what he expected Crawford to do and then creating a bullshit explanation to justify it.
“Well, the best hotel is undoubtedly Hotel Schwarzwalden. If that doesn’t turn up anything, then they probably have a range of brochures for lesser hotels in the area.”
“All the really expensive ones will. You’ve never travelled in luxury, have you?”
Sure he had. A mind like his simply didn’t need money or reservations. He’d once tossed a Hollywood couple out of the King Suite in a famous Parisian hotel because he’d wanted it for himself. Instead, he shook his head in confusion at Monaghan’s suggestion. He was welcome to interpret it as the inexperience of a kid straight out of university.
“The doorman at a good hotel is always available to direct you to another hotel if theirs is full or outside your price range.”
“So they really are the best in town? Our man will be there then.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“It’s exclusive and he thinks he’s special.” Even Wolfe had to admit that one sounded plausible.
Monaghan crossed his arms and Wolfe realised he didn’t want to know what he thought of him now. He couldn’t bring himself to find out whether he believed in him or not and to what extent.
“Let’s grab a—” Wolfe was going to say ‘coffee’, but the taste had lost its appeal recently. “Let’s grab some breakfast. You can tell me more about the case.”
“’Breakfast’? You didn’t eat on the train?”
“I had a snack, nothing special.” It was mid-afternoon and Wolfe had only just stopped thinking about Crawford and the case and started thinking about food. His stomach growled in confirmation.
“That reminds me, by the way. We really need to see about getting you a mobile phone. We couldn’t contact you at all en route.”
“Mm… That sounds good.” Wolfe’s tone indicated just the opposite.
“I see definite disadvantages to being contactable all the time.”
“Better than being incommunicado when we need you.”
“I guess.” He didn’t. He didn’t agree at all. “Look, I’ll think about it. We’ve got plenty of time before we’re due back in Berlin.”
“True enough. Hm, what about that place over there?”
Wolfe followed his index finger to a nice-looking café. When he looked closer, he could see all the waitresses were wearing large hats with giant red pompoms.
“They’re not. Do you see anyone else wearing them?”
At that moment, a group of Americans walked past, talking in hushed tones. Wolfe overheard mental fragments, just as he would a conversation. There had been another murder and they were only too aware of it. They weren’t quite ready to give up all the comforts of tourism, however, since every one of them wore the same hat as the waitresses.
“You see?” said Monaghan.
“You can’t use that against me. They’re tourists. American tourists.”
Monaghan shot him a filthy grin. “Tell you what. If you can crack this case, you get one of those hats alongside your Christmas bonus.”
“That’s not an incentive,” Wolfe growled in mock-anger.
Monaghan laughed and grabbed his upper arm. “Let’s eat.”
Breakfast was excellent. Apart from traditional German foods, there were full American, English and Continental breakfasts. Wolfe ordered the American, horrified and curious in equal measures as the maple syrup from the waffles pooled around his fried egg.
He’d meant to go to the U.S. this year, but he’d got side-tracked by his spur-of-the-moment decision to join the profiling team. It had only taken a couple of weeks to get accepted as the rigorous physical training and years of service weren’t for people like him. He figured that he’d solve a few crimes and go to America a year or two later. Being a telepath meant you never had to plan anything.
“This café is pretty quiet today,” Monaghan observed. “I don’t suppose I need to tell you there was a murder in this town yesterday?”
He had hinted here and there, but Wolfe had forgotten he wasn’t supposed to know as many details as he did. “I thought so,” he said and left it at that.
Monaghan frowned at Wolfe’s apparent lack of intuition. “You’re here because the time and presentation matched the last murder. But not the method.”
Wolfe recognised the feeling he had deep down. That excitement and anticipation that came with doing something a little bit naughty. Like staying up late at Christmas, hoping to catch Santa. But he wasn't a child anymore and he didn’t believe in Santa.
He leaned forward, hoping to hear Monaghan’s description of what he had already overheard that morning. He wanted to hear it said aloud and feel it for himself. That direct connection that someone like himself craved.
“At about 11.45 yesterday, Gianetta Romano left her hotel—“
“Gianetta Romano? Was she a tourist?”
“Right. She was on a trip with her husband to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.”
“So, Hahn’s theory about the killer making appointments with would-be suicides doesn’t hold up?” Wolfe placed an elbow on the table and, with his free hand, speared a slice of sugary bacon. “You wouldn’t agree to kill yourself on your wedding anniversary. Well…” He was going to add ‘not unless the sex was really bad,’ but caught himself just in time.
Wolfe might have believed that the killer was just fucking with him, if it weren’t for the fact that “Crawford” was obviously a powerful telepath like himself, and much more besides. They had something in common that the other man had recognised and the question that Wolfe needed answering was whether he had seen it as he loitered around the crime scene or well before he’d even peeled his first victim.
“Alexander? Alexander? You okay?”
“Fine,” he muttered. How long had he been staring off into space?
“You want me to call Hahn?”
“Sure,” he said, not even thinking about the question.
It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t see beyond the physical world. For all he knew, he and Crawford were the only ones on Earth who could. He was thinking more deeply about the benefits of involving her. She could prove very useful and he could even manoeuvre her into a position to catch their man, plant some fake evidence and leave the credit to her while he took on a case that hadn’t started to relate directly to himself.
“That’s really what I should apologise to you about. It took so long to get in contact with you because I was trying to get it approved. The higher-ups wanted to look over the reports you’d handed in first. You could have got the overnight train and been here this morning. The real morning, I mean.”
Wolfe sipped the coffee that had come with his breakfast, trying not to slide backwards to the five minutes he’d spent with Crawford. He mentally checked off all the things he could’ve done differently, wincing as he went.
“Anyway, the details as we know them. Romano left her hotel and stood in the town square of Baden-Baden with her arms outstretched.”
Wolfe was paying attention now.
“At twelve noon exactly, she was lifted off her feet and pushed towards one of the huge trees that mark the start of the Black Forest. Out of nowhere – and this is important, Jodie, because there wasn’t any other way these things could’ve appeared – these huge wooden pegs jutted out of her wrists and ankles, pinning her to the tree.”
“Exactly. Which is why I’m able to call Hahn after all. When the newspapers printed the details this morning, politicians were falling over themselves to give us extra money for the case. So we have enough money to bring Hahn along too.”
“Just us? What about the rest of the force?”
“The police are getting extra funding too, of course. But we’re the magic ones. We can predict exactly what the killer will do next.” He laughed, showing he didn’t really mean it.
“And Schmitt? Wagner?”
“Not yet. There’s still a case to be looked at in Berlin. As it is, our resources are spread too thinly. Schmitt’s also talking about profiling some pretty serious crimes up north. Serious enough that they would’ve got our full attention if it weren’t for this case.”
“I think our guy wants to be a movie serial killer. He’s not acting on his own compulsions, but what he thinks the standard compulsions usually are.”
Monaghan was silent for a moment. “You express yourself in riddles and I’ve no idea how you get to the conclusions you get to.”
“But they’re always right.”
“Yes. Yes, they are. So, you’re saying we’ve got a serial killer posing as a serial killer?”
“Yes, something like that.”
“Hahn and Schmitt both said something quite similar in their reports and suggested areas around the former site of the Berlin Wall as places where he might strike next. You, however, suggested he would target someone in the countryside and even wrote further details in your report that said it would be in the Black Forest.”
That was true. He had. Despite his native accent, Crawford had felt like an outsider and he was reasonably certain it wasn’t just because he must be a powerful telepath. He couldn’t quite pin down the precise reasons, but he didn’t seem as if he was from this world. That was the best way to describe it. If Crawford was going to the countryside, he’d definitely want to see the Black Forest. All tourists did.
“Yeah, it just seemed obvious.” Wolfe couldn’t actually remember the exact justification he’d written in his report. Most of it had been about the killer wanting to be a ‘movie serial killer’ and talking about how he saw his kills as ‘scenes’, but the more he did this to explain what he really knew, the more he led them away from Crawford’s real motives. Already, he could picture them arresting all the failed stuntmen in Germany.
And yet, if they were submitting reports that said Crawford’s next target would be around the Berlin Wall, he could certainly send him their way. It didn’t really matter how they caught him, or on what evidence, just as long as they did. Once Crawford was in custody, he could quit and lead prosecutors and jury around by their own minds. Over the course of the trial, he would burn himself out. There would be few to mourn his death at a tragically young age, and none would know the sacrifice he’d made.
He really didn’t like that scenario.
He tried to imagine an alternate one. Could only a small mental prod here and there really change the course of a trial where there really was no evidence to speak of? Crawford was the kind of villain that only turned up once every fifty years. Even with what he’d done already, they’d be making the Hollywood movie within the year. He was already immortal, while Wolfe… Wolfe was planning his own funeral.
“Alexander? Alexander? You can take yourself off the case any time you like.”
He couldn’t even begin to imagine the look on his face right now. “Sorry. I was thinking too hard about it.”
“Don’t believe your own hype,” said Monaghan, punching him lightly on the arm.
In a fluid motion, Wolfe drained his mug of coffee and stood up. “I’m going to the hotel. See you later.”
“You’re not going without me,” Monaghan complained, the strain evident in his voice. He was trying too hard to keep the mood light. “I haven’t finished my lunch yet.”
He had no intention of taking Monaghan along with him, although he was out of all plausible justification for it. He bent down to the other man’s level and rested a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m always right.”
A kind of numbness crept into his arm. He hated this part.
“I’m always right and I’m going in alone.”
Monaghan looked across at him with wide eyes that suddenly made him seem a lot younger.
“I… I… No.”
“Yes,” insisted Wolfe, his knuckles white from his tightening grip on Monaghan’s shoulder.
“I don’t feel well…” Monaghan’s eyelids flickered. “What did you just do to me?”
“Nothing.” Wolfe could hear every beat of his own heart. “I guess this case is getting to everyone, huh?”
“No. No, you tried to do something to me.”
“I didn’t!” Wolfe held up his hands as if to show he wasn’t holding anything. “I didn’t! Swear to God himself!”
Monaghan stood up. Standing next to Wolfe, he was taller by just a few centimetres.
“How little we know about you, Wolfe. How little we know.”
“Maybe you should have a rest?” Wolfe pleaded, his lower lip trembling. His mind pushed against the other man’s as hard as he dared. Suddenly, it gave way to nothingness.
“Maybe you’re right. I think I should have a rest.” His intonation matched Wolfe’s precisely.
He shuffled away, as if whatever it was inside that had made him human had been stolen.
Wolfe sank back into his seat and stared at the grain of the wood in the table, tracing the knot holes with his forefinger. He felt so dark inside that he was sure others would be able to see his guilt too. Surely there would be enough people around, even now, who would see this man stumbling to his hotel room and wonder what he had done?
No one looked up. Wolfe wondered if he was responsible for that too.
He got to his feet and left enough money on the table to cover both meals. He couldn’t look the waitresses in the eye.