Antje Traue photographed by Naj Jamai for Bullet Magazine, August 2013
"You hush now, my work is…well…it. Hush." she said with a quiet laugh, bringing their joined hands up to brush a kiss over Maria’s knuckles. She gasped softly against Maria’s hand, giving it a little warning squeeze, her head turning just enough to glance at Maria from the corner of her eye, "Maria Hill, I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with a client, don’t you dare mark me.” It was weak, Victoria had bought makeup and more scarves for these sort of happenings, given on how keen her..person was on biting on her neck. It was almost pointless to argue against it now (not that she ever felt inclined to, she just didn’t want the questions in case anyone saw them).
She’s quiet for a beat, moving their joined hands across her lips gently, “Pussy cat, I’m talking when we’re good and old. The world’s going to have to throw something real big at me to take me out before I’m sure you won’t always go for a quick meal down to that little bodega on the corner.”
Maria loved it when Victoria uses pet names. She loved even more when Victoria gave her false pleas. Maria loved most disobeying them so she nipped again, a smirk on her lips.
"Mark you? Would I ever do that? It’s not as if I want the entire city of New York to know exactly who you belong to… Or to know that you’re taken and absolutely off the market."
Her smirk deepened and she bit again, sucking lightly before smoothing her lips over the reddening area.
"I never go to the bodega. Even a lawyer of your standing could never prove it," she lied easily. Jokingly. Taking her hands to Victoria’s hips, she turned her around so they were facing each other and kissed her gently.
"Even when we’re good and old, I’ll never want to lose you. Even then I’ll be nothing without you."
She jumped just the tiniest bit, spooked far too easily for her liking and for a moment, she looks to the curtains in the kitchen to check they’re closed before allowing herself even a moment to relax. Maria had always been more fearless than her, at least with her affections. It made Victoria a little..jealous, in that she wasn’t the same way, but she was simultaneously pleased because at least one of them could act so easily in their own home.
Victoria releases a pleased little sigh, eyes fluttering shut as she allows her more access. With a little hum, she smiles, peeking out from beneath her lashes as she reaches for one of Maria’s hands. “I’m pretty sure I said that to you not even a night ago, Maria.” she laced their fingers together, “By the time I keel over, you’ll know how to make more than just soup, sweetheart. You’ll do fine.”
Maria smiled as Victoria thread their fingers together. Always a little hesitant, Victoria was probably the smartest between the two of them. Maria was fierce in places and to people who she shouldn’t be and rarely quiet or willing to back down. There were times when she wanted to race down the streets proclaiming her love for Victoria, a woman. But that’d be foolish and more than a little dramatic. Most of the time, Maria was just as content here in there cozy little brownstone within the privacy of their own home.
She kissed her more wherever there was skin exposed and sighed.
"True, you did say those words to me and yet here we are, ever the hypocrite."
She frowned briefly, a flitting thought of a world without Victoria and decided those thoughts weren’t welcome so she brushed it off and grinned, nipping at her neck and bit firmer.
"I could never do fine without you. Don’t you ever think otherwise."
Victoria ran a hand through her hair, grimacing at the piles of work scattered around their apartment, “Does coffee during all meal times count as food?” She said, looking at her from the corner of her eye, a tiny smile on her face.
She sighed and nodded, “Soup sounds good. I had the girl down the hall do the shopping for a couple of cents, so we have a little more than some spuds.” Victoria chuckled quietly and for a moment she just looked up at Maria before catching herself staring a beat too long. No matter how much time passed, it still felt a little surreal that they had this.
Carefully moving around the boxes, she brushed her hair back and headed towards the kitchen, gathering up whatever files it was that somehow made their way there and moved them out of the way before she started on collecting the vegetables needed for soup.
Maria followed her in, genuinely just happy to be home and with her. She moved swiftly, stepping up behind her and putting her lips to her neck.
"You work too much, you know that right? It’s bad for you."
She let her lips roam from behind her ear to her collarbone, inhaling her.
"Who’s going to take care of me if you keel over from all the work you bury yourself in?"
On a good day, Victoria loved her work, she embraced it really. She loved creating arguments and building up cases, doing what needed to be done to help out her client. Today was not a good day. She had several cases going on at once, mostly for clients of the gang mentality. It was for lack of a better word, horrible.
So when she heard her name, her head popped up from behind a precarious stack of boxes, looking as frazzled as one would after digging through paperwork for the better part of the day, her curls practically forming a messy little halo. She shot Maria an embarrassed but genuine smile. “You’re home early! I’ll go get dinner set— wait is the table cleared..” she frowned slightly and realised that no…no it probably wasn’t. “Have..you…eaten yet?”
It was easy to keep up the semblance of roommates with Maria. Both of them had such hectic schedules the majority of the time that no one really suspected a thing. They had started off as just that, roommates. But over time it just seemed to evolve and eventually the second bedroom became the spare room, only given the appearance of use when company was over. It was…it was nice. Maria was her one constant, her fixed point and despite the stress of their respective jobs, she felt tethered to the world whenever she came home to her. Except today. Sort of. The files made it a touch difficult was all.
Maria set down her notepad on the couch, one of the only places where there was actual room for something not to get lost. She’d come home annoyed with no leads and no real facts outside of the obvious which meant she’d been prepared to sulk. But with Vic looking at her over stacks of papers and boxes everywhere was too adorable a sight to stay angry with.
"I had a few crackers at the office. Something tells me that you’ve probably had even less." She makes her way through the mess and stands over her with a grin.
"Why don’t we both head to the kitchen and whip something up? Looks like a rough day for both of us and I could really go for some soup, so how ‘bout it doll?"
Jane lowered her voice, quirking an eyebrow at the detective. ”Didn’t think you’d let me walk off so easy with it,” she murmured. ”And I have plenty of authorization to do it. Tell me, would your boys know what to do with a vial of the man’s blood or the temperature of his body? If you let me, I’ll finish up here and get a whole load of evidence we can use to solve this.” She glanced over at the reporter he had indicated, and then turned and nodded.
She wouldn’t say no to meeting him, if it meant she had a chance to do her work. But Jane hated the notion that she had to earn her respect by working with a man, and maybe then she’d only get a shred of recognition, and that the others would realize she maybe wasn’t as crazy as they thought. ”Thanks, detective,” was all she could manage as she watched him walk off and into the club. She’d stick around the alley for a little longer, see what she could learn. Taking the reporter’s notepad, she scrawled a few things out for herself and tore the sheet of paper, stuffing it into her coat pocket.
"Mm, is this yours?" she asked the reporter woman with a hint of teasing in her voice. "Whatcha saying about all this, hm? Oh, that’s not nice. Neither is that. Look, let me just do my work, and if I get anything of use to you, I’ll maybe drop you a line. No good to publish anything slanderous or false and risk the wrong people seeing it…" Of course she wouldn’t give the woman any leads, but in her mind, this was ‘shaking her’ as best she could.
Maria watched them closely. She wasn’t an idiot, but she’d let them keep their secrets. She had her sources and when the up-front approach like this one failed, she was never afraid to utilize them. It looked like this time around she’d be relying on them.
She snatched her notepad from Foster and raised an eyebrow. Conversation was unnecessary now that she had her property back and if the page the woman took was important, Maria would be fine. She didn’t get where she was today without a good memory and an eye for the facts. She turned up her nose.
"Yeah, thanks. Look, cut the crap lady, you’re not going to drop me a dime. But that’s just fine with me," she said, pocketing the pad. "You should know by now that I always get my facts correct, nothing false or slanderous about it. With your help or without it, you’ll see. The fact that you can work so closely with these dirty cops and try and patronize me makes me sick. See you around, Foster. If I were you, I’d look a little more closely at your so-called colleagues. They’re not who you think they are."
Uninterested in anything further, she turned on her heel and left.
Maria dredged her way into the house, happy to get out the brisk New York air. She was even more happy to get into the bed of her live-in girlfriend—although, to outsiders, her roommate—Victoria Hand. But upon walking in t he house, Maria could see already that getting in bed wouldn’t be happening any time soon.
There were files and paperwork everywhere. Maria normally kept a neat workspace, her typewriter at the desk, her notepad and the occasional case file here and there. But Vic was a lawyer, one of the best in town and that means loads of cases and a lot of work.
She had files all over the place, the couches, the desks, everywhere.
"Vic…?" She called out. "Are you here?"
Lester stood to block Maria from seeing the body further. ”Foster, shut up before you give her her too much information.” He looked Maria dead in the eye, his arms crossed and stood in a wide stance. ”Thank you, Hill but we already knew who this is.” He held up the I.D quickly and stuck it back in his pocket before taking her note pad and walking back over to Jane.
He stood next to her and looked at the can. ”So, any idea what the imprint on the guy was?” He paused for a second. ”Look, I get I’m not gonna get rid of you so I might as well use you. What do you have for me?” He tossed his cigarette butt back towards Maria.
Walking back towards the trashcan, she kept one ear on the side conversation the detective was having with the reporter. Absolutely charming, the both of them. “Coulfied, huh? Oh boy, this could get interesting.”
A few bills littered the ground around the trashcan, and a few- hello, what was this? Bullet marks in the wall? No bloodstains, though. Empty shells a foot or so from impact site. And just what she was looking for- a big metal ring with what appeared to be a hammer and some Celtic runes on it. Jane picked it up, punched herself in the forearm with it, and watched the mark that reddened her skin. It matched the distinct, strange bruises on the body. ”I think I’ve got something here…” But why did she have to share with Lester? Huh?
"You’re not gonna get rid of me, how generous," she chuckled, rolling her eyes. "I don’t know what I have for you, detective, but I’ve got plenty of stuff for myself. Real interesting. Gonna run some tests, but I can’t do it without some of my gear. Asked your boys for help, but they just stood around.”
Jane pocketed the ring and the shell casings- she’d look at them closely later. Find out who owned the ring, find out what kind of gun held these bullets, and who around here had any access to it. It wasn’t the murder weapon, but knowing whose it was would probably help. The ring, though. That was the real ticket. And if she didn’t get any compliance, she’d walk off with it. ”If no one’s gonna help me do my job properly, I’ll just have to head out, I suppose. Take what I have and that’ll be it.” She hoped the man would cave. She was rather proud of her nickname- if they thought she was bossy, then damn it, she’d be the boss around here.
Maria gasped and balled her fists at her sides.
She sidestepped and sneered at Lester as he tossed his cigarette butt. Honestly, she’d like nothing more than to get out of here before one the detectives tried to find a reason to snatch her up and take her in for messing up their crime scene or something mundane like that.
She took a step back as she watched Jane prepare to leave. She’d probably make her exit soon after—as soon as she got her notepad back—and get a few questions in with the detectives and get back home to compile her notes. For now, she remained silent, eyes taking in everything her fingers couldn’t jot down without something to write on.
"Oh he’s stiff alright," she said, rolling her eyes and putting her hands on her hips. Rigor mortis joke, hah. Dumb detective wouldn’t get it anyways because he clearly didn’t understand the intricacies of her work. "But I’d say he’s easier to work with than you, deeetective. You think it was a simple back-alley brawl? Hah. Now excuse me.” Jane crouched back down as she noted a reporter sauntering down the alley. Great. Those folks at the Bugle had dirt on everyone anywhere. She wouldn’t be surprised if the papers read tomorrow- ‘Crazy Dame Digs Around Dumpsters at a Murder Scene’. They were never very kind to anyone, even if Jane was the only one doing her damn job around here. And a good one, at that.
Though the body was stiffening and the skin was pale, she could make out marks on the body, from various thrown punches and kicks and all sorts of beatings. A wrist watch had been torn from the guy’s wrist, she could see as she gently lifted a bruised forearm. Knuckles scraped. He fought back. And what was this welting pattern she could see in the skin? There were four or five of the marks on his body- neck, face, chest, shoulder, each one bruised around the same tiny mark. It was a pattern of some sort. ”Our guy hit him with something that left an imprint,” she muttered, turning the man’s head gently to better match the impressions on the neck and chest. ”Yep, same pattern.”
Jane looked over to the officer as he spoke, with a gentler tone, to her. ”You got this covered, huh?” she asked softly. ”Yeah, this looks real covered.” She gestured to the whole of the naked man’s form. ”And I’ll bet you’ve got blood scans, ballistics, DNA swabs, alcohol testing, and body identification covered too, hm? I want a full level analysis of the drink in his system, how much, when and what he was drinking tonight, find his tab, find out who he was with tonight. You got that covered too, detective?”
She made a move to stand, walking a few paces down the alley, away from the body. ”We got any ID on this guy?” she asked no one in particular, walking towards a trashcan that looked like it had been knocked into once or twice during the scuffle.
Maria snorts at the insult. “Bugle call girls? Is that the kind of half-assed insults you’re throwing at me now? I’m more insulted that you can’t come with anything better. And I don’t give a crap what you’ve got the patience for, especially when we both know how you boys in blue do it these days.”
Maria used Foster’s rambling as an in to get closer and jot down notes and details. She paid close attention to the woman’s words, looking up and down from her notepad to the body, to Foster. This was good stuff.
"I know ‘im," Maria answered before Lester could. "His name is Ozzie. Ozzie Coulfield. Plays in the band over at The Black Cat. Probably offed by one of your guys,” she throws at Lester from behind Jane.