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Chapter 4: Why Now?
If the Intelligence Team had thought about it beforehand, they would've expected the eventual reunion between Voight and Lindsey to be awkward at best, hostile at most. In reality, the meeting happened so fast and impromptu due to the events that transpired at Erin's house, that no one really had time to process this was the first they had been together since Erin left Chicago until the meeting was well under way.
They handled it in their usual professional manner, if their manner's could be called that. Voight seemed interested in watching Phillips handle Erin, who's professional manner Vanessa had been reliably informed could often be seen as incensed even at the best of times.
''Someone was at my house,'' Erin was saying, ''threw a rock through my window. And you're telling me my bust is being called off because I'm under suspicion?''
Phillips was rubbing his forehead. ''You seem to get it, yet you keep yelling.''
''This bust has been planned for months. Rizzo is going to be at Glide Lodge right in the open. We don't get him now-''
''It won't matter if we seize all his product if it goes missing right under our noses, does it?''
''I hand over all the evidence properly. It is always accounted for when it leaves my hands. If something happens to it when it's passed down-''
''We've followed every other lead! There's no else it could be!''
''Then either arrest me or let me handle this bust! There is no reason why my CI's should pay for your sloppiness!''
''My sloppiness?'' Phillips's tone changed dramatically. Erin did not back down. Vanessa could see the shift in her partners, Kevin and Adam looking worried, Jay entertained. She exchanged a look with Hailey, who simply shrugged.
''Until we find the person responsible for stealing evidence and leaking god knows what info out of this unit,'' Phillips continued, ''nothing is happening, especially not led by you. For all we know, Rizzo knows what we have planned, and you're sending your CI's into a slaughter.''
Erin did not back down at this insight, but neither did she contradict it. She leaned across the desk, voice low. ''This is the closest we've gotten to Rizzo. He slips through our fingers, it's on you.''
She marched out then. Vanessa's eyes followed her. There was something in her manner, her phrasing, her anger, that struck her as not quite inline with their work. There was something more here to this bust.
And all at once a thought stuck Vanessa so sharply, she wasn't sure why it hadn't occurred to her before;
Evidence has been building for a year. Why now? Why investigate during this bust?
She didn't have the answer. Maybe one of her partners did?
''So, nothing on Carmen?'' Kim asked.
Kevin shook his head. ''He's clean,'' he replied, ''like everything else we've found.''
''This should be reassuring,'' Adam said, ''and yet, I don't feel reassured.''
''If product like this has been going missing, you'd think we'd find something,'' Kevin agreed. ''Something either pointing to or away from Narcotics.''
''Exactly. The lack of anything is disturbing.''
''Disturbing because you think it indicates an inside job?'' Kim asked. The boys shrugged, clearly not wanting to vocalize the name that was on all their minds. Erin.
Vanessa entered the office. ''Hey,'' she said, ''um, is Hailey here…?''
''She and Jay are looking through Narcotics files,'' Kim explained. ''Why? What's up?''
''Umm…'' Vanessa scratched the back of her head, looking hesitant. Kim stepped toward her, curious. ''Well, I had a question about Lindsey, actually.''
''I just…I wondered if there was anything about this case that you guys might know that I wouldn't have been told.''
''No,'' Kim replied. ''Why?''
''Well, I'm still new. She was your partner. I'd get it, is all.''
''No, you know what we know.'' The girl's face still showed hesitancy. ''Why would you think that?''
''Something doesn't make sense,'' Vanessa confided. ''Why now? Evidence on this case has been building for how long? And now, Lindsey has all the makings of this big bust ready to go, but now's the time we're called in to see if she's clean? It just doesn't make sense. It's not as if she hasn't been making strides in Narcotics, right?''
Kim was beginning to see her point. ''I thought it was the magnitude of this bust that was the reason we were called in,'' Kevin admitted, chiming in. ''Because if Lindsey isn't clean, they don't trust her to pull it off.''
''And do what instead?'' Vanessa challenged. ''If she is taking product, it's not out in the open. Certainly not to cops or whoever is getting their hands on it after her. Evidence has been building slowly. So why in light of this particular bust, are we here? What changed?''
Kim, Adam, and Kevin exchanged looks. ''Maybe Jay and Hailey will come across something in the files,'' Adam ventured. ''You're right. Something must've changed.''
''Unless Phillips is holding out on us,'' Kim remarked.
''Or Voight?'' Kevin ventured.
No one liked that idea.
Deciding to personally convey Vanessa's thoughts to Hailey and Jay, Kim departed from the office and walked through the station. They'd be down in the file room, which she'd been told was located in the basement.
As she turned down into the hallway, she was surprised to see Erin, sitting on a bench with Vivian in front of her. ''Carmen is going to take you to school,'' she was saying. ''I'll pick you up later.''
''What are you going to do?'' Vivian inquired.
''I,'' Erin said with importance, ''am going to go to work, find the guys who came to our house, and make them pay for that window.''
''I wouldn't accept a check from them,'' Vivian advised, ''it'll probably bounce.''
She playfully flicked her hair from her face before dropping her hands and urging her on her way. The little girl obediently followed Carmen and walked out the door with him.
Kim watched Erin's face fall ever so slightly as Vivian walked away, it hardening back into the face Kim herself was so familiar with.
Or, had been, at one time.
She began walking again, and Erin spotted her. ''Hey,'' Kim greeted first.
''One way of putting it,'' Erin admitted.
She was looking back at the door. Kim followed her gaze. ''V.V seems like a good kid,'' she said.
''She is,'' Erin admitted. ''With her own brand of strange.''
''My daughter's around her age.''
''That's right, you have a kid,'' Erin remembered.
''Two,'' Kim corrected.
''Really?'' Erin leaned back, interested. ''Well, that maths not mathing.''
Kim laughed. Sitting beside her, she pulled out her phone. ''This is Makayla and that's Rueben,'' she explained, showing Erin a picture.
Erin peered at the screen. ''Cute,'' she said, smiling. ''Of course, this picture raises more questions than answers for me.''
''I met Makayla through a case,'' Kim explained patiently. ''She…well, she's been through a lot. I adopted her. She's the best thing to ever happen to me.''
Erin seemed amused at the expression on Kim's face. ''She's V.V's age, you said?''
''And just for clarification sake's, Rueben is Adam's, right?''
Kim felt her face go red. ''Yes?''
''Just checking. I had money riding on you two getting your act together.''
''Not a lot,'' She admitted. ''Don't worry. I'll cut Makayla in. She deserves it.''
Kim laughed. There was a pleasant feeling in her due to reuniting with Erin. She'd forgotten what an interesting person she was, her own brand of 'strange' that she probably passed onto her daughter. It was a shame it took this circumstance of suspicion to see her again.
The case seemed to be on Erin's mind as well, for she was studying Kim with intention. ''You're a mom too,'' she stated. ''So then, you get it.'' Kim waited for her to elaborate. ''You get that…that I'd do anything for V.V.''
Slowly, Kim nodded. ''I do get that.''
''So, do you think I did it? This whole betrayal thing? You think I'm guilty?''
There wasn't accusation in her tone, but genuine curiosity as to where Kim's opinion lay. After a moment's thought to her words, Kim replied;
''I think you would do anything for V.V. But I don't know what anything looks like for you.''
Erin didn't seem surprised, rather thoughtful. ''So, you think I could've done it?''
''Honestly? I think if you had…we wouldn't be here.''
Erin puzzled over her phrasing. ''You think if I was stealing evidence and moving my own product, I wouldn't get caught. Huh…'' she was quiet a moment. ''I'm going to take that as a compliment.
''Listen,'' she confided, ''I don't claim to be perfect. I know I am probably providing V.V with plenty of material to discuss with a therapist one day. I can screw her up in a myriad of ways. But the one thing I don't want is to lose her.'' Kim could see the earnestness in her eyes. ''My mom lost me. I don't want me and V.V to go the same way. Taking drugs, let alone selling them, is a one way ticket to that happening. I don't want that.''
''I believe you,'' Kim promised.
''But you don't trust me.'' Erin sat back against the bench. ''I guess I wouldn't either.''
''Do you have any idea who it could be?''
''If I did, I'd already have caught the bastard,'' Erin said. ''I've turned my department upside down. Thought about it in every which way. I don't see how it's being done. I truly don't.''
''You don't think it's an inside job?''
To Kim's surprise, Erin shook her head. ''No, I agree with Phillips. It has to be an inside job. But I don't know who's doing it. I don't know how they're doing it.'' She laughed. ''Maybe I'm the one who's lost my touch.''
Kim didn't understand her phrasing, so refrained from commenting on it. ''We'll figure it out.''
In her hand, Kim felt her phone buzz. She saw a message form Adam. ''I have to go,'' she excused herself.
Erin nodded. ''Kim?''
Kim paused, waiting.
''If nothing else, please believe that when it comes to V.V…''
Kim nodded. ''You'd do anything,'' she finished.