After changing into her civilian clothes, Tulip comes back to the interrogation room with two cups of coffee. She holds out the cup to Krista, who only belatedly notices the proffered caffeine. Wordlessly, she took it. Tulip frowns as Krista looks into the styrofoam cup dejectedly, swirling the hot liquid around a few times. When she imagined beginning to take Pablo Parrott down, she thought she would feel a lot happier. Instead, Tulip feels a wave of dread.
"As according to your plea deal, you're going to leave with me and Officer Sterling in a few hours. I need to brief you now."
Krista continues to look into her cup.
"...do you understand?"
Tulip scratches the back of her neck. "Let's finish the coffee first. It'll be easier once we're both more alert," she decides. Krista doesn't even nod.
Tulip faces away from her sister-in-law and takes a gulp of her drink. She grimaces; Keith had a point about the coffee being shit.
Krista wordlessly consumes her beverage. Tulip looks down pensively. After Krista helps with this task, she'll be going to jail. As their agreement outlined, she's looking at a minimum of six years, a maximum of ten.
Tulip shakes her head. Krista made her choices. Nothing can change that.
And Pablo will finally go to prison. With him gone, the entire organisation will collapse.
And I can move on to other cases. The other work awaiting her in neighbouring cities flashes through her head; bringing down the drug rings, stopping human trafficking, eradicating the bigger criminal empires...
She takes a final, long swig from her cup. She's ready to work the case.
After throwing the coffee cups away, Tulip reenters the interrogation room. She then perches herself on the edge of the table and pins Krista with a hard stare. There is no room for misinterpretation now.
"We need you to set up a meeting with Pablo," she says, simple and blunt, "Today, if possible."
Krista's eyes fly to Tulip's in surprise, "W-why?"
"You were going to deliver some harvesters to him this week, right?" Krista nods, "We need to find out exactly who's going to be using them, and for what. You can say you need to know for...technical reasons, to fiddle with the holding capacity or something like that."
Krista looks down at her hands, "Will he even trust me? I've been in here all night, he might think I've betrayed the organisation already..."
"If you were that important, he would have bailed you out by now."
Tulip sighs. "This might be a test of trust on his part; to see if you'll crack under pressure."
Krista laughs bitterly, "Looks like I make a terrible criminal."
Tulip's stare remains steady, but inwardly she can't help but agree. Krista does make an awful criminal. She wouldn't be here otherwise.
"You'll go and meet him," she repeats, "And get the names of his associates, the ones who will be using the harvesters." Keith could do this, but the department has him on other, more important matters. Getting this information would help to show how they've been stealing, and who exactly is guilty of illegal harvester use. The metaphorical icing on the cake, as it were.
Krista finally meets Tulip's eyes. She looks close to tears.
"What if he doesn't want to tell me?"
"Tell him that after being interrogated by the police all night, that you need to know who you're supposed to be protecting. You're the only inventor in Appaloosa Plains- you may not be hugely important, but Pablo's lazy and the 'empire' has shrunk under him- he prefers using family members and locals to help him. He won't take the risk of losing someone he has under his sway already."
"But...what if he gets angry, threatens my family if I ask too many questions?"
"Stick to your point. Even if you hadn't been arrested today, you would need to know who you're selling to anyways. The organisation is too small to keep everything impersonal. You can use this as a starting point to move up in their ranks, in a way. Pablo can't rely solely on Keith forever."
Krista looks down, a watery smile on her face. "You guys really thought of everything, huh..."
"We've been investigating your brother for a long time. We had to plan thoroughly."
Captain Sterling and the undercover operative had to plan thoroughly. Tulip was really only included here at the demand of Keith Chandra. She still can't figure out why. It shouldn't bother her.
But it does. Immensely.
"I...I'm ready," Krista's soft voice breaks Tulip out of her musings, "Let's do this."
There is no time to waste.
The operation is simple; Krista has a wire under her sweater. She will meet Pablo at his house, and discuss the details of the harvester sale. She will press for the names of Pablo's associates. After getting the names, Krista will leave the house and go to the junkyard, ostensibly to collect scrap. There she will meet Sterling, who will "menace" her, get into a fake fight, and be arrested again. Then she will wait in jail for her sentencing hearing, during which time Captain Sterling hopes to use the other evidence gathered by Chandra and the agent undercover to not only find Pablo, but his associates. Thus the already fading criminal element in Appaloosa Plains will be more or less eradicated.
Tulip and Captain Sterling are at the consignment shop under the guise of visiting his wife who works there. In reality, the consignment shop is close to Krista and Pablo's meeting point. If something goes wrong, Tulip can be there in a supernaturally-speedy flash.
"Do you think she'll be able to get those names?" Tulip asks. There's a certain anticipation in her tone that makes Sterling furrow his brow.
"I hope so. We'll have to see."
Pablo is, to put it mildly, furious.
"Hey, dip-shit Krista," he taunts, using Keith's well-thought out teenaged 'nickname' for her, "Are you fucking stupid? Coming here after being interrogated by the police all night- you must think I'm an idiot." The town is small enough that Krista's early evening arrest did not escape his notice, even without an inside man in the police department.
Krista flinches, but then looks him in the eyes. She and Tulip went over this; Pablo doesn't know about the attorneys and the plea deal. He will give her another chance, if she's convincing enough.
"And why do you think they took all night to interrogate me? Because I wouldn't tell them anything. Paolo came in later and demanded a lawyer- they had to let me go."
At Pablo's silent enraged expression, Krista's thin veneer of calm begins to crack. She remembers how strongly his emotions ran as a teenager. She doesn't want to make him angrier.
"I-I know what you would do to my family if I snitched. I'm not that stupid, Pablo."
His expression remains steely, but some of the fury seems to dissipate. "That's right. Now, what do you want? I haven't got all day."
"Who do we sell these things to? If I'm going to be interrogated for their sakes, I'd rather know who I'm supposed to be covering for."
Pablo scoffs, "You don't need to know. It's not like you'll ever meet them."
Krista wracks her mind for what Tulip told her to say- how can she counter that? Pablo's eyebrow arches.
"Why do you need to know?"
Krista's eyes widen in alarm at the suspicion in his voice. "I-I thought I could sell them directly myself. It's pretty inefficient having to do this whole run around with Keith- he picks them up, has to give them to you to give to your associates, or he sells them. I know the products, I could present them better, probably could sell them for a better price from them too."
Pablo rolls his eyes, "You? A saleswoman? Please. I'm fine with our arrangement for the time being, I suggest that you become fine with it too."
Krista begins to panic. "Just let me help out more, Pablo. I know that you've been struggling. You can't depend on Keith to help you forever. If the business goes under, I'll have no way to support my family."
"Who says I've been struggling!?" he explodes, "I don't need your fucking help!"
Krista flinches at the volume of his voice. She knows she shouldn't provoke him further, but she can't afford to fail.
"I've heard things Pablo, even if I'm not that high up... Ethan's kids aren't in the business, yours aren't interested in helping out either, Tula's too young.... We're the last Parrotts working together. Dad had all of us, you just have Keith." She tentatively places a hand on his shoulder, "If something doesn't change...we're finished."
This...was the wrong thing to say.
Pablo's fists usually solved his problems. This time, however, the problem seems to be stubbornly clinging to life.
"I already told you, be quiet," he growls. His hands are strong enough to silence and crush, but Krista keeps on trying to pry them off of her throat.
"Pablo..." her voice is nothing but a gurgling whisper. Pablo presses harder.
"I don't need anyone's help. Not yours," he tightens his grip, "Not Keith's, not even dad's. You say the business is going to fail- what the fuck do you know? You got to grow up on that tropical island with your mom. You get to play house with Mr. Stand-up-Military man. What have you ever known about our business?"
Krista's hands fall away, but her eyes stay trained on his. With a frustrated growl, he grabs a fistful of her hair and slams her head on the floor.
Everything...is finally quiet.
Her eyes are still wide open, boring into his. He sighs with disgust and flips her over, her face finally out of sight. He looks down at his hands, which are slick and red.
He has a mess to clean up.
And he needs to clean it quickly.
Krista's screams of pain suddenly fill Tulip and Captain Sterling's ear pieces. Their eyes snap to the other's.
"I'm on it."
In a blur, Tulip speeds out of the parking lot. Sterling stays behind and radios for assistance. He will follow later.
Tulip's face contorts into a snarl as Pablo's low growl comes through the wire. Her muscles burn as she forces them to pump harder.
She can't let him get away.
It's only minutes later that Tulip catches Pablo slinking back into his house, his hands still covered in blood, but the sun disappears quickly.
Tulip's heightened senses pick up on the scent of Krista's blood long before she actually sees it. To anyone else it might have been repugnant, but in a young vampire like Tulip, it awakens a deeply buried hunger. The alien sensation makes Tulip uncomfortable and fills her with a vicious anger. She launches herself at Pablo , knocking him down with a loud and resounding thud.
"You're under arrest," she grits out at him, pinning his arms behind his back.
With his breath knocked out of him, Pablo doesn't respond or resist. There isn't anything he can say.
Inside the house, Captain Sterling watches silently as the paramedics descend on Krista.
"I don't feel a pulse," Sameh Miller says. His voice is controlled, but Sterling notices how blanched his skin is. Since moving to Appaloosa Plains, Sterling knows that paramedics are rarely needed. Even though Sameh has been in the medical profession for years, this could be the first time he's ever been called.
Sterling also knows that Sameh is Ethan Parrott's son. Like his other siblings, he did not follow his father into a life of crime. This could very well be the first time he's been to his uncle Pablo's home.
Lakeisha Sheperd-Pinkerton, who's at Krista's head, nods tersely. "Not here either. She's not breathing. We need to get her on a stretcher."
As Krista is carried out of the room, Sterling sighs deeply. More and more often, he's been remembering the words of his last captain.
You can't save everyone.
Sometimes it feels like he can't save anyone at all.