DETECTIVE ANTHONY FAVIO squinted at the laptop he was examining, clicking through several different screens as he worked the eraser end of a pencil into his left ear.
"Ok, that's gross, Anthony," Linda Matthews said.
"What?" Favio asked.
"You're disgusting," the Dispatch Officer responded.
"Oh relax, Linda," Favio said. "I have to watch you put Chapstick on your lips every ten minutes. So what if I take a little wax out of my ear every now and then? Same difference."
"Actually, it's not really the same, Anthony," Marsh McDonald chimed in. "Unless you are thinking of using earwax as Chapstick?"
"Hmm…interesting thought," Favio said, as if he was considering the idea.
"Oh my God, ewwww," Matthews groaned. "Seriously? I need a raise if I'm going to continue to work around you two knuckleheads."
Delaney entered the front door in time to catch her last comment.
"Are Frick and Frack at it again?" he asked.
"Hey boss, I thought you told us to be here 'bright and early?'" Marsh asked.
"I did," Delaney responded. "But I never said that I'd be in early, did I?"
"Nice one," Favio snorted.
"You guys both look like hell," Delaney added. "Did you sleep here last night?"
Marsh and Favio looked at each other sheepishly.
"And where did you sleep?" Favio retorted. "Your place or hers?"
"None of your business," Delaney said.
"You know, it must be kind of weird, dating a coroner," Favio said. He looked over at Marsh, lifting his eyebrows. "I mean, think about it."
"I have a better idea - don't," Delaney said. "Tell me what you found on Finley Sparks' laptop."
"Oh, there were lots of goodies in here," Favio said, eagerly pawing at the keyboard. "Other than the video that Marsh already told you about, the best part of the treasure trove are Finley's text messages."
"They were recorded on his laptop?"
Favio nodded. "Total rookie mistake, syncing them up to his Mac. Unless, of course, he did it on purpose."
"So who was he texting with on the night he died?" Delaney asked.
"Bit of a surprise there. See for yourself," he said, spinning the computer around.
"Sheldon Sparks. I'll be damned," Delaney said, looking over the texts. "Well, this certainly changes things."
"I'd say so," Favio agreed. "Talk about an Oedipus complex."
"Who's got an Oedipus complex?" Chief Ed Martinoli asked, emerging from his office with a Dunkin Donuts coffee in one hand and a half-eaten cruller in the other.
"Probably every guy in this room," Linda Matthews quipped.
"Very funny, Linda," Martinoli said. "Okay, team. Big day, right? Where are we?"
"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Sparks should be arriving any minute now," Delaney said. "The crew coach spent the night here with us."
"He's not a happy camper," Favio added.
"I wouldn't be either, if I'd been arrested three times on suspicion of murder," Marsh pointed out.
"So what's the plan of attack?" the chief asked.
"Marsh will take one last crack at Masterson, just to make sure every bit of his story checks out. You and I can handle Sheldon and Maya Sparks."
"Don't you think we should split everyone up and talk to them separately?"
Delaney shook his head.
"My instinct is to put them together in the same room and see what happens."
"That sounds like the recipe for a barroom brawl," the chief said.
"I was thinking more in terms of a bullfight," Delaney said. "And to do that, we need to provoke the bull."
As if on cue, Sheldon Sparks came barging through the front door with Maya Sparks following closely at his heels. They were wearing their matching shearling coats, each one worth more than a month of Delaney's salary.
"Thanks for coming in," Ed Martinoli said, stepping forward to shake Sheldon's hand.
"What's this all about, Ed?" he said. "And why do you need to talk to my wife?" He scanned the room with a jaundiced eye, barely acknowledging Delaney and Marsh.
"Everything's fine, we just need to clear up a few last things. Come on into the conference room and Detective Delaney will get you some coffee."
Delaney exchanged a sharp look with his boss. As he dutifully fetched two cups, he overheard Martinoli exchange pleasantries with the Sparks:
"How's the baby coming along? What is it now, six months?"
"Eight, actually," Maya corrected.
"She's barely showing," Sheldon said. "But the bun is definitely about to pop out of the oven."
"Such a romantic," his wife replied. Delaney tried to hand her a coffee, but she gave him a dismissive wave.
"So, Mr. Sparks, you got a vasectomy in 2005, correct?" he asked.
"What does that have to do with anything?" Sheldon barked. He took a sip of his coffee and frowned. "This is a far cry from Starbucks," he added.
"I'm just curious how you and your wife got pregnant," Delaney persisted.
"None of your damn business," he said.
"Now, Sheldon," Ed Martinoli interrupted.
"Now what? If you two read your biology textbooks back in high school, you'd know that a pregnancy can still occur after a vasectomy," Sparks said.
"Unlikely, but true," Delaney said.
He beckoned to Marsh, who was waiting just outside the conference room door.
Marsh escorted Ed Masterson into the room, holding him by the back of the arm. The former crew coach was wearing handcuffs, but there was a defiant look on his face.
"What's he doing here?" Sparks said. His wife shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
"Relax, Sheldon. Sergeant Delaney just needs to clear up a few details about the night your son died."
"You mean the night he was murdered by this hoodlum?"
Masterson shook his head and scoffed.
"Mr. Sparks, you told us that you were at home with your wife that night," Delaney resumed. "Is that correct?"
"Yes, I've told you that already. What the hell is this, Ed? I feel like I'm the one being interrogated here."
"You're not being questioned under caution," the chief clarified. "But if you want a lawyer, we can easily arrange it."
Sheldon Sparks shook his head dismissively.
"Can you confirm that your husband was home, Mrs. Sparks?" Delaney continued.
"What do you mean?" Maya asked.
"It's a simple question. Were you at home with your husband all night?"
She lowered her head as Ed Masterson glared at her, waiting for her response.
"Well, I'm not sure. I had to run some errands at the college early on."
"I take it you mean Harvard University?" Delaney asked. "So, what time did you actually get home?"
"Again, I'm not sure," she said. "Maybe 7 or 8 pm?" She glanced over at her husband for help, but Sheldon just shrugged.
"I don't keep track of my wife's exact movements, and she doesn't keep track of mine."
"I beg to differ, but let's save that for later," Delaney said. "Mrs. Sparks, isn't it true that you met with Finley that night in Harvard Square, where the two of you often met for romantic dates?"
"What?" Sheldon erupted. "This is outrageous? Let's go, honey, we're out of here."
He stood up, but his wife remained seated.
"Yes," Maya finally whispered.
Sheldon sat back down, slack-jawed.
"And isn't it true that you were also having an affair with Ed Masterson at the same time?"
Maya Sparks grew quiet again.
"Yes, she was," Ed Masterson said, answering the question for her.
"So you were still stringing Ed along, until somehow he found out about you and Finley. He called you up and confronted you about it on the night of Finley's death, didn't he?"
Masterson nodded eagerly in agreement.
"I think I want a lawyer now," Maya said. "Honey?"
Sheldon Sparks didn't respond. He pursed his lips together in silent contempt.
"So how did you feel about that, Ed?" Delaney said.
"I was pretty damn upset, as you might imagine."
"Enough to push Finley off the Eliot bridge?"
"No way. I was mad at Maya, not Finley. She kept telling me I was the father of her child."
"So you felt used?" Delaney asked.
"Exactly. She clearly just wanted to have sex with me to get pregnant. The big man over there apparently couldn't produce."
Sheldon flushed a shade of crimson which nearly matched his Harvard tie. The big muscle above his jaw began to twitch. Then suddenly, he seemed to control his anger.
"Is this an interview or a group therapy session?" he scoffed.
"Yes, get to the point, detective," Chief Martinoli urged.
"Okay, here's what I think, Mr. Sparks. You already knew that your wife was having an affair with your son's old crew coach, didn't you?" Delaney continued. "You'd been having her tailed for weeks, and even put a tracking device on her phone. Unfortunately, your son found out about it."
Maya looked over at her husband, with her mouth open.
"So what?" Sheldon Sparks replied. "When you've been around the block as many times as I have, trust is hard to come by. I mean, a man like me needs some sort of insurance."
"Really?" Maya Sparks said, with a tone of disgust in her voice.
"Yeah, really," Sheldon fired back. "Good thing, too, because you were setting me up like a chump."
"Welcome to the club," Ed Masterson chuckled.
"Okay, okay," Delaney said. "Let's get back to the night in question. And now I am placing you under caution, so think carefully before you respond. Mr. Sparks, you knew that Maya was planning to meet Finley at the Eliot Bridge, correct?"
Sheldon hesitated for a second, then shrugged his bear-like shoulders in acquiescence.
"But Maya never made it to the bridge, did she?"
"That's right," Maya said. "I got stuck talking to him." She shot an angry look across the table at Masterson, and he glowered back.
"So here's what I think happened," Delaney continued, keeping his focus on Sheldon Sparks.
"You showed up at the bridge, expecting to confront your wife about her infidelity, but you found Finley all by himself. You started to direct your anger at him, and the two of you got into it."
"I didn't mean for anything bad to happen," Sheldon sputtered. "Yes, I found Finley on the bridge. He and his friends were in the middle of some sort of college prank, and he told me to leave him alone. I was angry and I tried to question him, but he just laughed at me and called me an idiot. Then I completely lost it. I started yelling and tried to pull him off the parapet…"
Sheldon Sparks stopped talking and covered his face with his hands.
"Go on, tell us the rest, Sheldon," the chief said. "Get it off your chest."
"…he pulled free and fell backwards. I—"
"Oh my God," Maya said. "You killed your own son."
"But I don't understand, Sheldon," the chief said. "If this whole thing was just an accident, why didn't you call 911 right then and there?"
"I don't know," he sobbed. "I guess at first I didn't think he was hurt. I heard shouting below the bridge and the sound of a motor launch with his teammates in it. They were laughing, so I figured everyone was ok."
"But what about afterwards, when you knew that he was dead?"
Sheldon shook his head, trying to wipe the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.
"I can't believe it. You killed your own son," Maya Sparks repeated.
"It's manslaughter," Martinoli concluded. "And a rather big mess."
The chief motioned to a few duty officers, who came into the room and began to handcuff Sheldon Sparks. Delaney quietly read him his rights.
Ed Masterson sat and watched patiently as Sheldon Sparks was led from the room.
"Can I get out of these now?" he finally asked, holding up his hands.
As soon as Delaney was by himself, he retrieved his cellphone and dialed Sue Chasen.
"Sorry I haven't called," he said. "I just got through with the interrogation."
"How did that go?" she asked, tentatively.
"Pretty intense. I got Sheldon Sparks on a manslaughter charge. He'll probably beat it, but at least it's done."
"Well, now that it's over, I have a confession to make…" she said.
"You can't live without me?" he joked.
"How did you know?" Sue laughed. "Seriously, though, remember those lab samples that showed Fentanyl in Finley's system?"
"Oh no. What about them?" Delaney said.
"As it turns out, they were totally irrelevant. Somehow Finley's results got mixed up with another cadaver."
"So what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that Finley didn't die from a Fentanyl overdose. He must've hit his head on the bridge as he fell."
Delaney paused, taking it in.
"So this whole case was initiated on a false premise?"
"Pretty much," she admitted. "Then again, if we hadn't considered the death suspicious, you would never have caught Sheldon Sparks."
"Wow. I think I need a drink or something," Delaney said.
"I know just what you need, and I'm right outside."
"You're here? At the barracks?"
"Yup. I wanted to tell you everything in person."
Delaney walked out into the parking lot and immediately spotted the red Ducati. The engine was still running, with its low, throaty growl.
"C'mon. Get on," Sue said, handing him the extra helmet.
He smiled and clambered onto the back of the bike.
"Where should we go?" she asked.
"Anywhere but here," Delaney said.
"Do I need to stick the speed limit, Sergeant?"
As they pulled away from the state police station and swung onto the Mass Pike, Delaney felt the sudden adrenaline rush flood into his veins as the bike began to accelerate. Sue opened it up, and the bike went faster and faster. Soon they were flying. It felt good to simply to be alive, Delaney thought, holding onto another decent human being that he could trust completely. He didn't know how long it would last, and he really didn't care.