Outside the Smith Residence
Ashley avoided Michelle's gaze on his trek back to the car, but he felt it boring holes into him all the same. He focused on the squelching of the freshly watered lawn beneath the soles of his shoes. The interior of the '47 Chevrolet was quiet following the clang of the shutting door. Upon further inspection, he found Emerald asleep next to him, only slightly disturbed by the sudden noise. He gently reached over and brushed a stray lock of ebony hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear. The small action was comforting in its own way, steadying his nerves.
The sputter of the car as it rumbled to life woke her, and the next time he looked over he was met with curious, green eyes. "Everything alright, Detective?" She inquired with a delicate yawn. He briefly wondered if she practiced yawning, if only to obtain one so gentle and feminine. It was a ridiculous thought and he shook it free with a gruff grunt.
"Fine." He lied. She accepted it and cast her gaze back out the window, ruby lips pursed.
Gilded Heights Apartment Complex, Room #67
The door puttered open with a creak. “I didn’t clean,” He grumbled, though it was clear by his tone that he didn’t truly care. “Wasn’t expecting company.”
Emerald swept into the apartment with the tap of her heels slipping the gloves from her hands and giving the place a once-over. It was quaint, dusty, cluttered, and so undeniably Ashley. At least, the little bit of Ashley she knew. He hung back by the door like a haunting ghost, a silhouette backlit by the dimly illuminated hallway.
“Clean for me? Wouldn’t think of it.” She trilled with a falsely sweet tone. The humor was easy, it masked the fact that fear still clung to her spine like a spindly spider, crawling up, down and around within her. She didn’t see the body, didn’t let herself, but she almost wished she had. It would have prevented the pure cruelty of her own imagination, spinning up creative depictions of the gore that no doubt lay splayed out across her apartment.
She appreciated the offer of a place to stay, she really did, but she did not feel safe here. She wasn’t even safe in her own apartment. She wrapped her arms around herself, turning to face the detective. “The apartment of a bachelor if I ever saw one.”
He let out a ‘hmph’ of what she suspected might be agreement and finally entered, gesturing about with a sweeping arm. “Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. Make yourself at home.”
“You’re leaving?” A pit of something akin to panic settled in her stomach. She wasn’t ready to be alone.
“I’ve got to work this case, the faster I catch the killer the faster you can get your life back. You’ll be fine.” His tone was final, but unconvinced.
“If he got into my apartment he can get into this one. — What if he comes here looking for you? You’re related to the case!”
“He’s only ever killed at night, Emerald. I doubt he would be stupid enough to break into an apartment complex in the bright light of day. I’ll be back before dark.”
It was a fair point. Who would be stupid enough to commit such an open murder?
“If I take you with me, you’ll only be more involved.” He added, and she knew he was right.
“Fine, fine. Go do your detective work. I’ll wait here.”
“Thank you.” He expelled with an exasperated breath, heading back for the door.
The club was dead. There was nothing else to say about it. It was a hollow shell of what it was supposed to be. Even the lights seemed dimmer and drier than before. It didn’t take him long to locate Lovegrove, seated alone in the middle of the club.
Ashley had always thought he looked powerful, but even moreso now. It was as if the empty table were his throne, and the club his kingdom. It made him nervous, on edge as he approached the man and slid into the seat across from him. “What’d I miss, Cal?”