A nasty feeling settled in Deeks’ stomach as he turned down a dark alley, and stepped around a pile of garbage. About an hour ago he received a voicemail from one of his informants, Tiffany Williams. The message was nearly unintelligible, but he’d clearly heard the terror in her voice.
Even though it was the middle of the night, he’d immediately left for the tiny, rundown apartment she shared with several other girls. Deeks had worried about the teenage prostitute from the moment he ran into her during a case.
Earning her trust was difficult. Tiffany trusted almost no one and for good reason. Although she was only 17, Deeks could tell she’d been through hell. He recognized the guarded way she held herself, the constant vigilance in her eyes.
Using her as a confidential informant never sat well with Deeks. She was too young, too innocent and fragile. Yet it was the only way he could think of to avoid arresting her on drug and prostitution charges. He’d tried to convince her to go home more than once, but Tiffany adamantly refused. In her words, she’d rather die in prison than see her parents again.
Deeks knew that if he pushed too much, he would lose her trust completely. So, he convinced her to be a confidential informant, helped her as much as he could financially, and tried to keep her away from the more reprehensible types who loitered in dark alleyways. There were a dozen other girls just like her, but for some reason Tiffany sparked his urge to protect even more than usual.
Her apartment was not much more than a couple of beat up rooms with a malfunctioning bathroom at the end of a long, dingy hallway. At this hour it was empty, though he could hear sounds of less than savory activities behind closed doors. He’d been here a couple times before when she had a tip. Or to bring food when he knew things were especially tight.
He knocked a couple times before trying the doorknob and felt an extra wave of concern when it opened easily. Tiffany might be young, but she wasn’t stupid and always kept the door locked and bolted.
“Tiffany,” he called out softly, slipping his gun from the back of his jeans as he walked through the cluttered front room. There was a collection of random furniture, a broken-down refrigerator and stove, and several freestanding shelves. Otherwise, the room was empty.
As he walked towards the bedroom, he heard a soft, muffled sound coming from the bathroom. This time he didn’t bother knocking before he walked in. The lights were off so it took him a moment to find the dark figure huddled up against the tiny vanity.
“Tiffany,” he repeated quietly, not wanting to startle her. When she didn’t respond, he flicked on a light. It flickered a couple times before casting a dim glow over the center of the room and Tiffany’s hunched body. Her face was pressed into her knees, arms wrapped tightly around her legs.
It reminded Deeks of when he was a little boy, trying to block out the sounds of screaming and breaking glass. Shaking off the memories, he knelt beside Tiffany, and gently touched her shoulder. She jerked and then slowly lifted her head, keeping her face downwards. Her thin pink dress was ripped in several places, one strap completely missing.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” she whispered, voice ragged.
“Of course, I did. You sounded like you were in trouble.” When she didn’t answer, he gently brushed her hair back from her face, moving slowly so he didn’t startle her. “Oh my god, Tiffany,” he murmured.
Her right temple was bruised and raised, extending around her eye socket, and there was dried blood beneath her nose and swollen lip. She let out a sob then, collapsing into his chest.
“I thought I was going to die, Marty,” she gasped. Her fingers bit into his jacket as she clung to him. “He wouldn’t stop hitting me and…and he was shouting.” She pulled in a ragged breath, sounding close to hyperventilating. “I was so scared.”
“It’s ok,” Deeks assured without having any idea of the exact circumstances. It wasn’t hard to guess though. “You’re safe now.” He held her for a few minutes until the shudders running through her body eased some. “Tell me exactly what happened.”
Tiffany rubbed the back of her hand under her nose, and eased back. Her face was smeared with makeup and she looked so incredibly young, but she squared her shoulders, forcing a veneer of strength.
“This cop, his name is John Quinn. I think he said he was with Internal Affairs or something. He told me he would pay me if I did a job for him,” she began, licking her dry lips.
“I know Quinn.” Deeks felt growing unease in his stomach. If the situation hadn’t worried him enough, having IA involved was even worse. It usually didn’t end well for their confidential informants and Tiffany was even more vulnerable than most. “What did he ask you to do?”
“He told me to go to this particular street and let this other detective with a bad reputation pick me up. They were going to set up a sting, catch him in the act. All I had to do was go with him and Quinn would do the rest.” She paused and chanced a quick glance up at Deeks, suddenly self-conscious. “Quinn didn’t show up though, so I had sex with the guy and then he left.”
“I tried calling Quinn a bunch of times, but um, he didn’t pick up. That’s when the other detective came back. He started shouting at me, asking where his stuff was. I didn’t know what he was talking about and when I told him that, he just started hitting me.” Tiffany let out a shuddering sigh, twisting her fingers into a knot.
Deeks felt anger slowly filling him as Tiffany spoke. The urge to hunt down the cop who had hurt her was so strong his fingers were shaking. He fought it down, not wanting to scare Tiffany. She took another shuddering breath before continuing.
“He said he’d kill me if I didn’t tell him the truth so I told him about Quinn. After that he pushed me on the floor and called someone, I think it was a partner or something. I took a chance while he was distracted and ran out,” Tiffany finished, wincing as she shifted.
“That should never have happened,” he said, between clenched teeth. Tiffany gave him an odd look and he clarified. “Quinn shouldn’t have involved you in something so dangerous without any backup or a reliable way of contacting him. I promise I’ll report him and make sure the other cop pays for this. Do you remember his name?”
Nodding, Tiffany wiped at her nose, coming away with a mixture of tears and blood.
“Yeah, um, his name is Boyle,” she answered, visibly flinching at his name.
“Boyle,” Deeks repeated sharply, sure he’d misheard her. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Like I said, he’s got a reputation.” Tiffany gave him a dark look. “We all know to stay away unless we have no other options.”
Inhaling deeply, Deeks turned around, trying to control his anger. He’d known Boyle was involved in illegal activity and had a thing for prostitutes, but he’d never imagined his violence trickled down that far. He should have known better. Should have done more to stop him when he had the opportunity.
Turning back to Tiffany, he saw that she’d grabbed a tissue and was trying to wipe her face.
“Here.” After a second, Tiffany took hold of his hand and he helped her stand, guiding her to sit down on the toilet. He rifled through the cluttered cabinet under the sink, looking for first aid supplies, and tried to slow his anger. By the time he’d gathered a mismatched collection of band-aids and antiseptic, Deeks felt slightly more in control of himself.
Tiffany hadn’t budged other than to wrap her thins arms around herself. As he knelt down in front of her with a damp washcloth, Deeks was once again taken back twenty years or so when he was in a similar position. His hands had shaken a lot more back then and his poor attempts at bandages were little consolation to his battered mom.
When he reached towards her, Tiffany flinched, visibly forcing herself to remain still as he gently wiped away the blood beneath her nose. They didn’t speak as he carefully cleaned the blood and tears away. The swelling was worse than he’d originally thought; her right cheekbone was bruised and swollen.
“Tiffany, you really need to get checked out at the emergency room,” he said, quietly. “I think something might be broken.” That and he was sure there were more injuries hiding beneath her clothes.
“No!” she bit back sharply, surprising him. “If I go there, they’ll insist on calling the police and I’ll probably end up in jail.”
“Not if I’m there with you. I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.” It was a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep, but he refused to abandon her.
“No, I’ll be fine. I’ve been through worse.” Deeks seriously doubted the truthfulness of that statement. A fine, constant tremble vibrated through her entire body. He started to object again, but she grabbed at his jacket, fingers clenching in the fabric. “Please, Marty.”
“Ok,” he relented, closing his eyes briefly. “I’m going to take care of Boyle and Quinn. You won’t have to worry about either of them ever again.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked, sounding almost worried. After a second, he realized it was on his behalf. “I don’t want you to get in trouble with your boss because of me or anything. And Boyle is an animal.”
“I know and I promise I’ll be careful.” Her fingers were still clenched around his jacket and he gently eased them free, squeezing her hand briefly, hoping to reassure her. “But I’m not going to just let them go free after this.”
“Thank you.” She hugged him, pressing her face into his chest for a few seconds before she pulled away again. “For everything.”
“Of course. Get some rest and call if you need anything,” he told her.
Tiffany nodded stiffly and he suspected that she wouldn’t be sleeping much for some time to come. After he checked that the single window in the bedroom was locked and there was enough food for a couple of meals, he reluctantly left.
A part of Deeks wanted to hunt Francis Boyle down and release some of his considerable anger. He would gladly treat him to the same beating Tiffany experienced. Maybe it would even be enough to make him back down, but Deeks doubted it. Based on his experience, Boyle feared nothing. He fully believed he was invulnerable which was part of the reason he’d managed to get away with his crimes for so long.
It was common knowledge among the force that Boyle was involved in illegal activities, including solicitation and assault of suspects. Deeks had suspected Boyle and his ex-partner, Bruce Steadman, were involved in more and Quinn’s attempted sting confirmed it.
Stopping at home before he headed into LAPD, he grabbed a file containing several dozen reports against his ex-partner. He’d started it the day after Boyle shoved a gun in his mouth. Ideally, he’d been hoping to gather more evidence before he filed his official and comprehensive report, but he couldn’t afford to wait any longer.
Tiffany’s swollen jaw was a stark reminder of the violence Boyle was capable of.
“Cynthia, is Bates in?” Deeks asked the on-duty desk officer. Technically his shift hadn’t started yet, but he tended to come in early so she didn’t question it.
Before he brought his case to Internal Affairs, he wanted to guarantee that he had Roger Bates’ support.
“He’s actually in an interrogation,” Cynthia told him, grimacing. “Detectives Steadman and Boyle both decided to call in sick today, so he’s stuck covering for them.” She made a disgusted sound. “I bet they’re at the damn casino again.”
An alarm went off in Deeks’ head and he distractedly thanked Cynthia. Ducking into the nearest empty room, he dialed Tiffany’s number, silently begging her to pick up. It was completely possible that she was just sleeping or, deciding to ignore his suggestions, was with a client. His intuition was telling him that something more was going on. At the moment, Tiffany was even more vulnerable and likely to make rash decisions.
“Answer the damn phone, Tiffany,” he muttered, grabbing at his hair in frustration. Eventually the call went to voicemail and he hung up, sinking onto a chair.
Maybe she was completely fine and had simply turned her phone off. He knew better. Tiffany had been too scared when he left to cut off contact with him. It was possible her injuries were worse than she’d let on, but the more likely answer involved Boyle or Quinn.
Standing abruptly, Deeks retrieved his gun and badge from his desk. He’d spent more than enough time waiting for someone else to fix this mess, now it was time for him to take matters into his hands.
Before it was too late.
After returning to her apartment and finding it empty, Deeks drove to the area where Tiffany usually worked. It was a busy, seedy spot where no one blinked an eye at the half dozen or so young women being picked up by significantly older men. A few girls saw him and immediately walked in the opposite direction. Finally, he spotted a girl in a shiny blue top, leopard print skirt, and fishnets. He waited until she finished talking to a guy in a black SUV to discreetly get her attention.
When she noticed him, she waved, jogging across the street at a surprisingly fast speed on her platform stilettos.
“Kara,” he greeted her, going for a casual tone despite his increasing urgency.
“Hey Marty, you need a date?” she teased, winking as she playfully stroked his arm.
“Sorry, no time. Have you seen Tiffany around?” Her playful attitude vanished and she nodded, rubbing at her arm.
“Yeah, I saw her earlier today.” She hesitated for a moment, looking back across the street. Her eyes set as she apparently came to a decision and leaned closer. “Honestly Marty, she looked real bad. Tiff tried to cover it up with makeup, but I could see the freaking bruises from a mile away. Some a-hole beat her. She wouldn’t tell me anything, just kept saying everything was fine, but I know she was scared and hurting,” Kara said.
Deeks didn’t take her honesty lightly. Even though Kara trusted him, he knew she still regarded him with slight suspicion.
“Do you know where she is right now?”
“No. But this creep called Frank was asking about her too. I told him I had no idea and he left. Probably picked up some other poor girl to beat on. He’s bad news, Marty.”
“Where does Frank take his girls?” he demanded, belatedly seeing the surprise and beginnings of fear in her eyes. He quickly released her, taking a step back for good measure.
“Starlight,” she whispered, looking away. “He always uses the same room, 5B. Rents it by the month.” Something told Deeks she was speaking from direct experience. She squared her chin defiantly, obviously expecting condemnation, but he only felt anger and revulsion. The first directed at himself for not doing something sooner and the latter towards Boyle.
“Thanks, Kara,” Deeks said, quickly grabbing a $50 from his wallet and handing it to her. Hopefully it would make up for scaring her, and gain her silence if anyone else came asking questions.
He headed back towards his car, mentally calculating how long it would take him to make it to the Starlight Motel.
“Marty.” He turned back as Kara tugged at his sleeve, bright pink nails contrasting sharply against his jacket. “Is Tiffany ok?”
“Yeah, she’ll be fine,” he assured her, hoping it wasn’t a lie.
The Starlight Motel consisted of a single rectangular building with two floors, accessible by a rickety flight of stairs, and a small office that was separate from the main complex.
Deeks had been here on several occasions, none of them ever pleasant. It was the kind of place that attracted people like Boyle, just nice enough that working girls wouldn’t run screaming, but no one would blink an eye at the various illegal activities occurring behind closed doors.
He parked on the side of the building where he wouldn’t be visible from any of the rooms. His gun dug into his back as he tucked it into his waistband and got out, heading towards the front of the complex. Fortunately, it was still early enough that there weren’t many people around and those who were barely acknowledged his presence as he climbed the stairs to the second floor.
Stopping in front of 5B, he pressed his ear to the door, hearing nothing. He pulled out the lockpicking kit he kept around for his less than savory undercover ops and then grabbed his weapon before turning the knob. It swung open unimpeded and Deeks stepped in, immediately turning to the left.
There was a single bed against the back wall, the flowered bedspread on top pulled back and rumpled. Wedged in the tiny space beside the bed, Tiffany sat with her back against the wall. Her hands were bound with handcuffs, a piece of duct tape covering her mouth. She whimpered when she saw him, nearly falling over as she surged towards him. Deeks caught her before she fell.
“It’s ok,” he murmured, grasping the edge of the tape and slowly peeling it back. She gasped several times, choking, and taking deep breaths of air. Deeks noticed bruises on her face and arms that hadn’t been there earlier, easily visible through her torn dress.
“No, Marty, you need to‒,” she gasped hoarsely, choking again before she could finish her sentence.
“I’m going to get you out of here,” Deeks assured her as he unlocked her left wrist.
“Behind you,” Tiffany managed and he turned just into time for something hard to whip across the side of his face. He fell to the ground, barely catching himself on his forearms, blinding pain arcing through his skull.
“I should have known you’d be here, Deeks. Everyone knows she’s your little slut and you never can leave well enough alone,” a deep, familiar voice drawled from above him. Rolling onto his side, Deeks squinted up at Francis Boyle, his gun loosely clasped in his right hand and resting casually against his thigh.
Blood dripped into Deeks’ hair, around his ear, but he ignored it, forcing himself onto his knees. Behind him, he heard Tiffany softly whimper.
“I’m sorry. I’ve just always had a problem with people beating up teenagers. I guess you could call it a character flaw,” Deeks responded, not hiding his contempt for Boyle. The other man chuckled softly, almost soundlessly, and unexpectedly knelt beside Deeks.
“You’ve always been a pain in the ass, Deeks. From the moment you showed up in the department.” He grasped Deeks’ chin, roughly forcing his head back. “It’s almost perfect cause now I can take care of two problems at once.” He yanked Deeks’ gun from his hand, tucking it into his pants.
“You really think you can kill an LAPD detective without anyone figuring it out? They’ll trace it right back to you.”
It was a desperate move to keep Boyle distracted long enough for Deeks to think of a plan. Boyle stopped, turning back to Deeks with a smug expression.
“I doubt it. Everyone knows you spend your time with hookers and drug dealers. It was only a matter of time before it got out of hand,” Boyle said, smirking for a second before his face turned flat and unamused again. “Now tell me everything Quinn knows and I just might go easy on the girl. Keep being a smartass and I’ll make it painful. And you know I can, Deeks.”
“He has nothing to do with Quinn,” Tiffany cried out unexpectedly. “Just let us go. I promise I won’t say anything.”
Glancing up at her, Boyle regarded Tiffany with derision.
“You’re even more of an airhead than I thought you were.” Deeks saw her jaw tighten at Boyle’s comment and silently prayed that she wouldn’t say or do anything to draw his anger back to her. He didn’t think she could handle another beating.
“That’s pretty rich coming from the guy who conducts all his criminal business from the same motel room,” Deeks commented sarcastically.
Boyle’s hand stilled on Deeks’ jaw and then he suddenly punched him, whipping his head to the side. Deeks felt the inside of his mouth split and choked as blood filled his mouth.
“I’m going to enjoy killing you,” Boyle growled, grasping a handful of hair. His nails dug into Deeks’ scalp as he tugged, mouth curving with dark amusement. “Pathetic.” He let go abruptly, pushing off his chest to stand, and Deeks took his chance. Kicking out with both legs, he nailed Boyle in the back of the knees.
Boyle stumbled, catching himself on the foot of the bed as Deeks stumbled to his feet. His head spun, but he managed to stay upright and moved towards Boyle again. Before he reached him, the other man threw himself at Deeks, knocking him back to the ground, trapping his left arm. Deeks punched him in the stomach, following it up with a knee to his ribs.
Boyle grunted, loosening his grip just enough for Deeks to free his other arm and ram his fist into the side of his head. At some point during the struggle, Boyle had lost his gun and Deeks strained to reach it. His fingers just closed around the handle when an arm tightened around his neck in a chokehold. It was fierce and unrelenting and Deeks knew Boyle had no intention of stopping.
“Boyle…” Deeks gasped, voice coming out strangled and distorted as the man increased the pressure even more. In a few seconds he would be unconscious.
Dimly, he heard an enraged cry and Boyle released him. Deeks dropped to his knees, gasping and choking again as he tried to clear the ringing in his ears. When he turned around, he saw what had stopped Boyle. Tiffany was on his back, legs hooked around his middle as she used every bit of her strength to hit and punch him. The handcuffs dangling from her wrist clanked with every blow, but it wasn’t enough. With an enraged roar, Boyle hurled her off him and onto the bed. He crawled over her, jerking her into a sitting position, wrapped one hand around her neck, and pressed Deeks’ gun directly to her forehead.
Deeks snatched Boyle’s gun off the floor, pushing himself to his feet again. As he caught Tiffany’s terrified expression, heard her frightened pants, he aimed and fired. The bullet pierced Boyle’s temple, exploding through the back, and landing in the wall above the headboard. Tiffany made a horrified noise as his hands fell from her neck and he slumped onto the bed.
“Oh my god,” she whispered, covering her mouth with both hands. “Oh my god, you killed him, Marty.” She knelt at the end of the bed unmoving, gaze fixed on Boyle’s body. Rushing to her side, Deeks grasped her hands, and gently turned her face away. Her entire body was trembling, shaking uncontrollably, and he could tell she was close to hyperventilating.
“Tiffany, it’s going to be ok,” he told her. “Just breathe with me. In and out.”
“He was going to kill me.” Tiffany glanced at Boyle’s body again before quickly turning back to Deeks.
“Now he can’t hurt anyone.”
“What are we going to do, Marty? He’s dead. We’re going to be arrested,” she rambled, clutching at him. There were dots of blood sprayed across her face and in her hair. Tucking his arm around her, Deeks brushed her hair back, and faced her as calmly as he could.
A million thoughts were racing through his head, many of them the same ones as Tiffany had voiced.
“I’m going to get us out of here, just do what I say, ok?” She nodded, trusting him completely. As he helped her off the bed, she stumbled a little, her left ankle unsteady. She stood behind Deeks, silently watching as he retrieved his gun from Boyle’s lack hand and tucked it into his jeans again.
Although there wasn’t much in the room besides the bed, to any investigator it would be obvious there’d been a struggle. He shifted the bed back into place and wiped his blood from Boyle’s knuckles, feeling slightly nauseous.
“Here,” Tiffany whispered, offering him Boyle’s gun in the palm of one hand. Although her hands were still trembling, her gaze was completely steady. “I wiped all the fingerprints off so they won’t know it was you.”
“Tiffany…” He shook his head, horrified that she willing to do such a thing. It was bad enough that he was making her complicit in this crime.
“You saved my life. It’s the least I can do.” Eyeing him with slight defiance, Tiffany wrapped the butt of the gun in her tattered dress and carefully placed it back on the ground.
“C’mon,” he said, gently taking her arm and leading her toward the door. “We already stayed here way too long.” She was barefoot and it would be blatantly obvious to anyone who saw them that they were both in a fight. Hopefully anyone who did would have their own reasons to avoid messing with them. Tiffany stumbled as she stepped over the threshold, so Deeks looped her arm around his neck, practically carrying her down the stairs.
Somehow, they made it into his car and drove away without anyone stopping them.
“Where are we going?” Tiffany asked after several minutes. Deeks glanced at her, wincing at the blood, her own and Boyle’s, smeared across her skin. It was obscene and the nausea he’d felt earlier threatened to overwhelm him.
“I know someone who will take you in for a couple days so you can lay low and get medical attention,” he answered, knowing he’d be calling in a lifetime of favors to pull this off. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.”
“I know. I trust you.” Tiffany’s upper lip curved with something that might have been a smile if the situation wasn’t so horrible.
A part of him knew he should turn himself in. Although he hadn’t set out with the intent to kill Boyle, and had done so in Tiffany’s defense, he would likely be charged with second degree murder given his history with the victim. In the extremely unlikely event he was charged with a lesser crime, his career, his life as he knew it, would be over.
Brushing a hand through his matted hair, he glanced over at Tiffany again. She had her legs tucked beneath her; body curled in on herself. She was so fragile, so vulnerable. If he confessed, there would be no one left to protect her.
He was doing it to keep her safe, Deeks told himself. No matter the fact that she hadn’t actually shot Boyle and was unwillingly caught up in his illicit schemes, Deeks was almost certain she would be tried as an accessory. He had no other choice. He needed to conceal the truth to have any hope of keeping them both out of jail.
As he drove, Deeks thought of everything he would need to account for to conceal Boyle’s death. Concealing the true reason behind his injuries and absence from work would be easy enough; he kept odd hours most of the time and ran into trouble while undercover frequently. The difficult part would come with establishing Tiffany’s cover, hoping that no one along the way talked.
He ignored the voice telling him he had become everything he’d always feared: a liar, a coward. A killer.
A/N: Thanks again to Lyssa for her invaluable assistance with this story!