i was not naked (antistar_e) wrote in veritasrecords,
i was not naked
antistar_e
veritasrecords

Fic: A Dead Fish Gains the Power of Observation [The Social Network][1/2]

Title: A Dead Fish Gains the Power of Observation
Fandom: The Social Network
Characters/Pairings: Sean, Erica, Mark/Christy/Eduardo, appearances by ensemble
Summary: Today, Sean has had more espresso than the average university student who finds she doesn't have enough time before the end of the semester to convincingly fake her own death. But that's okay, because today, they're going to make an arrest.
Word Count: 12,000
Notes: Voila, an incredibly self-indulgent polyamorous criminals-in-love AU that was supposed to be for Valentine's Day, what do you mean it's not mid-February anymore, je refuse. Why this AU? I don't even know! I got the idea originally when des_pudels_kern announced the TSN Rare Pair Fest, but because I was lost somewhere in a crater on Mars, apparently, I missed the sign-ups ;___; So this isn't officially for that, just done in the spirit of it, because Mark/Christy/Eduardo is my OT3 and I need more of it.

Title comes from this piece by The Books, if you want to spend thirty seconds with your head tilted confusedly to the left. But really, this was pretty much written with this song on repeat.

Warnings: Criminal activity in a manner that hurts innocent bystanders. I really was aiming for this to be a light-hearted lovey piece about the trials and tribulations of criminals in love and the cops that chase them, though, so I made an effort to tone it down. Nobody dies! This is progress, for me!








***


They're going to make an arrest today. The energy in the air is palpable, a buzz like the kind Sean remembers from elementary school, when snow started coming down in thick, wet flakes that stuck to everything and nobody in the classroom said the words snow day but everyone was thinking it. It's that kind of energy; a lot of people are staring at the radio in Summers's hand, like if they're not looking right at it, they'll miss something.

It crackles. Static bursts out, obliterating the beginning of "-- clear. Begin ascent of back stairwell, ETA two minutes."

"Ten-four," Summers says. His shirt puckers where it meets his belt, stretched too far over his paunchy stomach, and it's a nice shade of lilac: the kind of shirt a wife buys. Behind him, Narendra cracks his knuckles against his palm.

The schematics of the apartment building are maximized on the big screen. The only blueprints they could find was a JPEG file with low resolution -- Sean can barely make out the numbers that mark the Zuckerberg apartment; 603, three doors down from the back stairwell, on the east side of the building with kitchen windows that face the rising sun. Besides the front door, there are two other methods of escape: the fire escape and the trash chute. Officers are getting into position at both of these exits, and there's nowhere else to go.

This is it. They'll have the Zuckerbergs in custody in --

"One minute," crackles the radio.

The seconds tick down, and in the space of one beat to the next, Sean abruptly realizes he doesn't want them to get caught at all.

He blinks, and then leans back in his chair, which tips back obligingly. He looks around, expecting to find everyone looking at him, like the force of his epiphany should have somehow made the ground shift two inches to the left. But no, no one has moved. Anne's watching Summers, phone to her ear and one finger plunged into the cradle, poised to make the call. Narendra pivots impatiently on his heel, jacket flapping as he puts his hands on his hips and glares determinedly at no fixed point. Only Erica looks back at him, and when she sees the look on his face, she lifts her eyebrows, like, what's wrong with you?

He shakes his head, with no idea how to articulate it, the fact that he is regretting something as it's happening.

It's an entirely foreign sensation for him, a dark sinking inside his gut.

He looks back at the big screen. Apartment 603 is officially leased to a Conor Oberst; Sean, who went through a Bright Eyes stage in '98 just like everybody else and later contributed to their Wiki page because what else were you going to do when you were bankrupt and sitting in an unemployment office, had blinked and frowned at the listing until Summers came over and snapped his fingers in front of his face and drolled out, What, Parker, is her period late? What's got you so distracted? and Sean said with no small amount of surprise, I might have something.

He went and checked the cassette tapes out of Evidence and sped-wound through comically high-pitched conversations until he found what he was looking for.

-- and if anyone tries to tell you indie can't be defined and therefore has no beginning, fuck them. Indie music started with Letting Off the Happiness in some basement in Omaha, and nothing's ever going to be that substantial. I was a clerk at Saddle Creek when they signed, you know.

And Erica's voice, startled and gleeful both: You've met Bright Eyes?

Met? Please, Conor waited, like, five days before trying to stick his tongue down my throat.

You're Conor Oberst's ex-girlfriend?

Erica sounded impressed, doe-eyed, and even Sean would admit to being Conor Oberst's ex-girlfriend if it meant he got that kind of tone out of Erica. It's young, idealistic awe at its best: Sean hasn't met anyone who can fake that earnestness as well as her, not even people who stand on red carpets and get paid millions to spend five seconds doing it. He's never understood why the police don't hire her on full-time, but Erica says freelancing is best because she doesn't have to blow her cover to make an arrest: she can make the men do it.

Because she wasn't immune, either, Christy laughed in a burst, cracklingly loud in Sean's earbuds, and said --

Oh, god, who isn't?

And, standing there in the hallway outside Evidence with the cassette player in hands and his thoughts firing fast and loud as a pinball machine, Sean had realized, Ding, ding, ding, I found you. I found you. I found you.

"Shit," he mutters out loud, spinning his chair around and pushing out of it with a feeling like he's got ants crawling up and down his legs.

Sound erupts out of the radio like a punch, and he freezes. Summers lifts it towards his mouth, eyes ticking back and forth like he's trying to read the situation from the sound alone. Sean hears yelling, banging, the crunch of hinges breaking and doors slamming dents into plaster walls, and swarming cops identifying themselves in an overlapping cacophony -- "Police! Police!" and "Clear!" -- until that fades.

Then, almost hesitantly --

"All clear, sir."

Slowly, Anne lowers the phone, and for a long moment, Summers does nothing. Then, in a very controlled way, he radios back, "What was that, Singer? Repeat."

"All clear, sir," Stuart says again. It's hard to tell through the static, but Sean's pretty sure he sounds nervous. He would too, in Stuart's position: Summers has a way of making you feel about two inches tall and whereas Sean has never met an authority figure he hasn't wanted to piss off, Stuart hasn't met an authority figure he doesn't want to instinctively please. "It's empty. If they were here, they're gone now. The whole place is stripped and wrecked."

A stifled noise comes from Erica's desk. Sean sits down, fast.

"What about the computers?" Summers demands, undaunted. "Do we at least have those?"

Nothing. Then, Stuart comes back with, "They put the hard drives in the bath, sir. Al-Assad fished them out as soon as he saw, but --" he hesitates. "But there's at least three inches of some very syrupy drink in here. It smells like Red Bull, sir. They're … they're pretty ruined."

At that, Summers hisses furiously through his teeth, turning sharply and raking a hand across his skull in a bid to keep his temper. For a beat, nobody else dares to do anything, and then one of the Winklevoss twins voices what they're all thinking: "Somebody tipped them off." His face is very still. Sean could probably chisel a topographical replica of the California coast out of that jawline. "They knew we were coming."

Without warning, he turns and drives his fist into the nearest filing cabinet with a bang like a gunshot.

"Ty!" his brother gets out through gritted teeth, but it works to break the spell, and the office leaps into action.

Narendra materializes at Sean's elbow, glaring at the big screen and saying grimly, "They're running for it."

"Yeah," goes Sean, and takes a gulp from his mug so he doesn't do something stupid like grin.

"Detective," Summers snaps his fingers in their direction. "Get over there and see what you can get out of the apartment, find out where they're going. Take Albright with you," which is redundant, because she's already on her feet, satchel thrown crosswise across her chest and phone clutched like a small, paint-chipped grenade in her hand. Then he adds, "And Parker," like an afterthought, and Narendra, Erica, and Sean all stop what they're doing to stare at him, like he suggested that perhaps they ride a banana to the scene.

He's oblivious, standing over Anne and listening to the one-sided conversation she's having with the airport, which right now is a lot of verification of police code. He nods sharply, and then sees them still standing there.

"Yes, what?" he snaps, tetchy. "Do you need me to sign your permission slips? Go, or we'll lose them and these fuckers won't surface for another fifteen years!"


***


It's one thing to look at the schematics, it's another thing to step over the splintered remains of the front door lock and find himself in a railroad apartment, and realize that this is somebody's home.

There's a long hallway, rooms tacked onto either side like compartments on a train carriage; he supposes that's where the name came from.

The air smells sour, like energy drinks and gone-off coffee, and the mirror at the end of the hall is startling: around it, low-maintenance succulent plants grow out of film canisters nailed to the wall in bright blooms of green.

It's funny, he thinks as he steps into the kitchen with its east-facing windows. He can recite three of the Zuckerbergs' credit cards numbers off the top of his head, list dates and locations of all their suspected felonies, as well as a majority of their misdemeanors, but none of that prepared him for the fact that Mark and Christy like hardwood floors, that there's an exposed nailhead right on the threshold of the bathroom that has to be balls if you catch your foot on it stumbling in to piss in the morning. It didn't tell him that there'd be empty bottles with imported beer labels lined up in neat rows in a little green recycling bin in the corner of the kitchen, that there'd be Cinnamon Toast Crunch stacked with the Whole Foods brand of corn puffs on top of the fridge (Sean doesn't eat from Whole Foods, usually, but he likes the way all their brand cereals have jungle animals on them,) that there's a build-up of grime on the stove but no dirty dishes in the sink. There’s a pot on the back burner, filled with beans that are soaking: somebody obviously counted on coming back to make stew for dinner.

Sean's name hasn't been on its own lease in at least ten years, so he's something of a connoisseur when it comes to navigating other people's spaces, balancing that fine line between making himself at home and not disturbing another person's comfort zone. He walks in and out of rooms, taking everything in.

In the sunniest room, Narendra's standing with Stuart and Bob al-Assad and a few of the squints from Crime Lab, inspecting the soaked remains of the hard drives laid out in pieces in front of them.

"-- be submerged?" the detective is saying.

"It wouldn't take that long, sir," says Bob ruefully. "Red Bull baths and computer hardware just don't go well together."

"Fuck." He turns around and sees Sean standing there, watching them. "What, Parker?" he snaps out.

"Jinkies, sir," Sean smirks at him, because his sense of self-preservation has been shot pretty much since he hit puberty, and the only thing he wants to do is take a stick and poke the angry policeman in the eye. "Just looking for clues. You wouldn't happen to see any big blue paw prints stuck to anything, would you?"

"I think that's mixing up your 90's children cartoons a little bit," Bob interjects, looking up from his evidence bags, and Stuart smacks his shoulder.

"Whatever," Narendra grunts.

The room is largely dominated by the bank of computers against the wall, tucked out of direct sunlight; all of them look like they've been done in execution-style, their consoles tipped and ripped open, spreading guts of wires in every directions, keyboard tipped and dangling from the desk. Sean looks away from it the way you would roadkill.

It's crowded in here with all the squints, but he circulates anyway, taking in bits of the Zuckerbergs' life the way someone might absorb something new at an art opening: a menorah on the windowsill, either three months late or seven to eight months early; on the well-worn, secondhand-looking sofa, an Ayn Rand paperback rests opened spine-up over the arm -- Mark's, he assumes, although when he picks it up, the bookmark that falls is a take-out menu for a restaurant off Addams St., which Sean can't read because it's in Portuguese.

He flops down onto the sofa and, in the next beat, notices that they've make a makeshift end table for themselves out of a stack of CDs and -- never one to turn down the opportunity to judge other people's music tastes -- he immediately hangs himself off the arm of the sofa so he can read the titles. He sees Diplo, Prodigy, and three different Best Of: Metallica albums, a couple baile funk titles that bemuse him, and several They Might Be Giants that Sean thinks are probably courtesy of Mark and Christy's younger siblings, of which they have a combined total of seven.

Most of the CDs are unmarked, clear plastic cases, though, and Sean feels a twinge of regret, because they've been here long enough to accumulate this many mix CDs and now they can't ever come back. There's something about abandoned mixtapes that's really depressing him right now.

"That's not an attractive view," Erica tells his upturned rear.

Sean straightens up. "Highlight of your day, don't lie to me," he says loftily.

"That's how they met, you know," she continues, and when he frowns at her, nods to the stack of music.

"I thought they met at the Bill Gates conference at Harvard in 2004."

"I'm sorry, which one of us has known Mark Zuckerberg since she was six years old?" Erica drops onto the sofa next to him, incurring the glares of at least two different Crime Scene techs, which, whatever, what do they think they're going to find: we went to Russia written in invisible ink on the sofa cushion? Really, if Sean's holding out for any secret messages left behind in the apartment, he's hoping for a suck it, Summers! in soap on the bathroom mirror. "Christy knew who he was long before they went to school together, because of that p2p music sharing program he did in high school."

Sean nods. "Piracy is romantic," he says with all of his Napster pride, and she rolls her eyes.

Excepting their marriage in June, which they did legally, Mark Zuckerberg's paper trail officially ends a few months after he dropped out of Harvard, when he received and activated credit card #3. His wife's footprint is a little wider; she graduated with a 3.9 GPA and worked steadily as a DJ right up until the week of the Winklevoss heist. She has two albums of her samples and mash-ups available for free download online, and she has an Etsy store where she sells vintage jewelry. Sean added her store to his Favorites, because he could.

The next room he goes snooping through is the bedroom. There's not much in it except the bed, and like most beds in the first apartments of newlyweds, it’s large, hedonistic, messy, and completely dominates the space.

A laptop sits abandoned at the foot, though of course when he goes and idly picks it up, he finds the hard drive ripped straight out. Still, he can't help but smile a bit: that was always his favorite thing about cybercrime, the fact that you didn't even need to put on clothes or leave your partner to do it. He tracks eyes from the bed to the window, which has no blinds or curtains and looks straight into the apartments of the neighboring tower. And yeah, that's a little unsurprising: they did strike him as the exhibitionist type. He makes a mental note to, if he gets the opportunity, go over there and ask the residents as many uncomfortable questions as he can get away with.

He finds the bedside table tucked ashamedly off to one side, and looks over it curiously (he's not hoping to find condoms, or sex toys, or handcuffs. Of course not. That would be unprofessional.)

There's a photo frame, yanked apart and disassembled and dumped in its component parts, and Sean frowns, wondering why, if they opted to trash thousands of dollars worth of computer hardware in a hurry, would they stop for a picture?

As he sets the pieces back down, a flash of orange catches his attention, and --

Yes, that's a prescription pill bottle. Grab the picture, but forget the pills?

He turns the label towards him and stares at it until the generic translates into the name he knows: Adderall. A beat later, it clicks: this is Christy's, though of course hers isn't the name printed on the bottle. She was diagnosed at seven and those things don't go away just because you change identities. He's impressed she pulled that off: the rampant abuse of Adderall by students looking to get an unfair advantage around exams meant there's a chronic shortage for the people who legitimately need it to function.

He rummages further, finds the prescription folded in a larger sheet of paper. It's unfilled.

He frowns again, unfolding the other sheet, and finds himself scanning a list marked: Category C: Considered Harmful. Adderall is circled.

Slowly, he drifts out into the hall again, turning this information over in his head, and spots the reflection of a woman in the mirror, seemingly close enough to make him jump. It takes him a disoriented beat to reconcile the reflection with the reality and remember which way to look.

She stands barefoot in the doorway to the apartment, frowning deeply, wearing a university sweatshirt with the neck cut out. A laundry basket sits tucked against her hip.

He casts a quick look into the other rooms, but Narendra’s busy with the hard drives and Erica’s nowhere to be seen. Excellent. Sean’s day just got about twenty times better.

Grinning, he saunters over and greets her with a, “Hello, you are?”

She flicks her eyes up at him distractedly, then away, then back again, longer and unconsciously appreciative. Sean grins wider.

“I’m Amy, I live in the 600 apartment,” she makes an absent gesture down the hall with her free hand. “What’s going on? Are those cops?”

“Nice to meet you, Amy,” he responds, not an answer. He extends a hand for her to shake, which she does, eyebrows ticked up like she can smell the charm he’s exuding in her general direction and isn't impressed. “I’m Sean Parker, I’m here as a consultant.”

“Oh, yeah?" Her tone is politely dubious. "What do you consult?”

“Cybercrime, mostly,” he says cheerily. “I’m kind of the leading expert on a certain demographic of online scammers."

To her credit, Amy doesn’t need it spelled out. Her eyebrows climb further upwards.

“Mark and Christy?” she goes, her dubiousness edging right into scornful. "So, like, what, they pretend to be Nigerians and send out e-mails advertising a get-rich-quick pyramid scheme that you can get in on with a down payment of only $100?" her voice lilts up like an informercial.

"No, more like they developed a program that, when implemented on other people's computers, registers their keystrokes. They used it to steal online banking information and empty out people's accounts."

"Huh," Amy looks surprised. "All of that with a virus?"

"A virus doesn't need to be really sophisticated. It just has to infect as many people as possible."

"Sounds like a job for the FBI. Why aren't they involved?"

"They will be once we call them," he says casually, and smirks when she scoffs. “It's not polite to make other people do the job when you're capable of doing it yourselves."

"Yeah, great job." She's definitely being sarcastic now. "You're doing fantastic. Don't let me get in your way. Hey," she adds, before he can do something stupid like doodle little hearts on the bare skin at her collar or ask for her phone number. She hikes her basket further up on her hip. "If you're looking for people who might know where they've gone, you should ask Eduardo."

Sean blinks, thrown. "Who?"

"Eduardo."

"Never heard of him," Sean says blankly.

"I don't know his last name, but I think he's, like, their dealer or their boy-toy or something, I don't know. He's ridiculous. They think I don't know about him, but please, it's not like they're very subtle. I ride the elevator with the dude sometimes in the morning, and either he is permanently baked or he just died and found himself in heaven with 72 virgins. He is fine," Amy adds as an afterthought, musing.

I don't like him, Sean thinks immediately, and that thought slots into place, and --

"Oh holy shit," he says out loud. “That bastard.”

Spinning on his heel, he leaves Amy standing baffled in the doorway to the apartment. Narendra's got Summers on the radio, and Sean comes in right on the tail end of, “-- our best bet is still probably the airport, sir."

"Ten-four. International?" Summers crackles back.

"That's likely --"

"No," Sean cuts in. "They won't risk flying."

The detective blinks at him, like Sean's the last corner he expected an interruption from. "What? Why not?"

"Because Christy's pregnant. If anything, Amtrak's their ticket out of here, you should get on that."

Narendra looks furious. "How long have you been sitting on that information?"

Sean holds up his hands. "Woah, bro, I just figured it out, like, twenty seconds ago, there was a list of prohibited food and medication on her bedside table. It wasn't hard to put two and two together, even you could have done it. Listen, if you want to know who tipped them off that we were coming, I think I got our guy. It's the banker."

Diverted, Narendra blinks again. "Eduardo Saverin?" he goes, as bewildered as Sean had been a moment ago, and he feels a twinge of sympathy: Saverin isn't really the kind of dude that sticks in your mind. "But we took him into custody this morning."

"What?" says Sean, simultaneous with a stifled noise that turns out to be Erica, hovering in the background. "But then who --" he sticks his head out into the hallway, but Amy's gone.

There's a pause, and then Narendra breaks it, snapping his fingers to get Stuart and Bob's attention and gesturing at the mess. "See what you can get out of this," he says, missing the way KC, one of the squints, glares up at him, like, no, sir, we were just going to sit here with our thumbs up our asses. "Parker, Albright, with me."


***

Some weeks previous:


"Mark Zuckerberg?" Eduardo Saverin is all brisk efficiency, walks and talks at the same time, and the look he gives Sean is scrutinizing and dismissive in turns, like he's more concerned that Sean's going to ask him for money or if he wants to hear about Lord Jesus, Our Savior, than anything. "You're talking about the same Mark Zuckerberg that cheated me out of $19,000 of start-up capital and then when I sued him for it, got off on a technicality? Yeah, I remember him, what do you want to know?"

"Heard from him lately?" Sean asks mildly, sticking his hands in his pockets and following a step behind.

A scoff. "Please. I don't make a habit of keeping backstabbing bastards in my life."

Says the competitive banker, Sean thinks, dry enough to sandpaper with, but he holds his tongue. See? He's getting better at this code of conduct thing.

It's a bright day, high noon, and the sun comes straight down in between the skyscrapers, catching on jewelry and sunglasses of the lunchtime pedestrians and winking off the cars as they flash by, and when Saverin casts a look back at Sean over his shoulder, he has to squint.

"Why? What does he owe you?"

Sean puts a bounce in his step. "Jail time," he says brightly, and Saverin halts in surprise.

"You're kidding," he sounds delighted. Sean would too, he supposes, if their roles were reversed: who doesn't enjoy watching the old high school bully flunk out of all their classes and wind up a cab driver with athlete's foot and a beer gut at thirty? It's a wonder Saverin isn't suffocating under the weight of schadenfreude he must be feeling right now.

"Yeah," he goes, suppressing a smirk. "I'm a cybercrime consultant for the police department, and Mr. Zuckerberg is suspected for bank fraud, money laundering, identity theft, and a number of misdemeanor crimes. We're confident we can convict him for the bank fraud, but if you have any information that might help us, it'd be appreciated."

He has Saverin's attention now; an open, curious look that widens his eyes and makes him look like a child. "Is that so?" he says, seemingly unconsciously, and then switches his briefcase to the other hand so he can check his watch; heavy, chrome, identical to the kind Sean used to wear. It’s still sitting in a deposit box somewhere, waiting for his next court date, maybe. If he hadn’t pawned it already.

“That’s a shame to hear,” Saverin’s saying. “I liked him a lot in college. What about, um --“ he inhales, eyes ticking around as he racks his brain. “What about his girlfriend? Christy Lee?”

“Christy Zuckerberg?” His eyebrows tick up, and Sean elaborates, “They married in June.”

“Did they really?”

“Mmhmm. Lovely ceremony, there were some sample photos from the album on the photographer’s website. They look happy,” he shrugs. “The couple that crimes together and all that, I guess.”

“They always did feed off each other,” Saverin says, a little contemptuously. “Especially when it came to ganging up on me. She’s a programmer, too, you know, but,” he shakes his head, stepping out of the way of a jogger going by. “I thought she had better taste than that. She, ah, never struck me as the marrying type, if you know what I mean.”

Yeah, Sean thinks. I can tell what you think of women pretty easily, bro.

Saverin’s wearing a sleek, trim button-up that’s a shade off violet, undone at the cuffs and open far enough at the collar that it shows a ring of perfunctory posy-marks just north of his clavicle -- not the kind of shirt a wife buys. He buys $5 cappuccinos from Starbucks and seems to genuinely enjoy them, which puts him in Sean’s ill graces. (He was once evicted from a perfectly lovely girl’s house because he brought home a Starbuck’s cup and apparently supporting the conglomerate destruction of the private enterprise just to drive down the price of coffee beans in the growers’ own nations was legitimate grounds for booting him to the curb, so he has a vendetta against people’s taste for sugary coffee drinks, because it’s easier to hate Starbucks than it is to hate Sharon. Please, Sharon’s amazing, and Sean’s not disposed towards hating people who let him have a guest room rent-free for a year.) He looks, in short, like the kind of guy who would chew up a girl’s self-esteem and act like the injured party when shit when down, drink with his friends and talk about how women are psychotic and crazy, am I right, guys?

“Right,” is what he settles for saying instead of any of that.

He fishes a business card out of his wallet, trusting a born-and-bred businessman like Saverin to do exactly what he does: accept it, take a moment to read the name, and nod before tucking it into his own wallet.

“If you happen to remember anything, Edwaardo, you can call Detective Divya Narendra with the police department at this number. We’re looking for anything that can help us find these two before they ruin anybody else’s lives.”

“Wait, what --“ Saverin’s head jerks up, startled. “What do you mean?”

Sean raises an eyebrow at him. “How do you think scammers like them get rich, man? I mean, yeah, they can pull off some pretty big heists,” and the Winklevosses will probably never forgive them for it, and now they’ve got a bloodhound like Narendra on the scent, too. “But really, their easiest targets are little old grandmothers who’ve just made the switch to online banking and don’t know to check for a secure https:// on their web browsers. Just empty out some retirement funds, college savings for the kids … all to support,” he waves a hand, absently, like he was never a part of that lifestyle and doesn’t remember it with semi-hazy clarity. “Whatever sybarite things young newlywed criminals get up to.

“Anyway, I gotta go,” he adds, because Saverin’s looking a little like he’s been smacked in the face with a fish, like “criminal” has suddenly stopped meaning something harmless, someone who tries to hack into the FBI website or someone who pirates copyrighted materials but mostly just runs around being smarter than everyone else and looking attractive (okay, Sean's back to talking about himself here,) and started meaning something with consequences for other people, and this is a good juncture to leave him stewing on it. He starts to walk away, turning around long enough to remind him, “Be sure to give us a call, yeah?”

When he next looks back, under the pretense of looking both ways to cross the street, Saverin’s right where he left him, staring after him.

“Well?” Erica demands, offering him the pickle from the wrapping of her Jimmy John’s sandwich as he slides into the passenger seat. She drives a mint-colored station wagon, it’s all very private eye. “Does he know anything?”

Sean crunches on the pickle and thinks about it. “Nah,” he decides. “Eduardo Saverin? He’s never going to do a single exciting thing in his whole life. Trust me, twenty years from now, he’ll be accounting for Gary’s Tuxedos or Snookies Cookies. He won’t take a risk on someone like the Zuckerbergs, he doesn’t have the balls. Sorry,” he adds, when Erica grimaces. “Not a big fan of balls, I take it?”

“I don’t know what you mean, they are absolutely delightful when crushed,” she says sweetly, wadding up the wrapping and tossing it into the backseat.


***


Back at the station, an aide meets them on their way up from the parking garage.

"How long has he been in custody?" Narendra demands of her, striding fast enough that she has to walk double-time to keep up, heels clicking hard against the linoleum and her mouth set into a firm line. Sean doesn't know her name. He considers this a tragedy.

"Since eight this morning, sir," she replies.

"So we can only hold him for another twelve before we've got to charge him or let him go," he concludes. "Shit."

"Contempt?" Erica supplies from the rear of their procession, her voice blithe. "Aiding and abetting? Hindering an investigation? There are a whole bunch of excuses you can use if you're desperate."

"Charging is different than holding someone on suspicion of, Ms. Albright. Even private dicks know that."

"Oh, my mistake." Erica's tone is lofty, and Sean darts a curious look at her over his shoulder, because he's known Erica for a lot longer than Divya Narendra has, and what she is radiating right now is borderline hostility. He likes her for not liking the cops, but even she's got limits when it comes to purposeful antagonism.

Erica heaves a sigh, pulling an apologetic face at him. He spreads his hands and lifts his eyebrows, meaning, what's wrong?

She just shakes her head and looks, for a moment, frightfully tired.

"I don't suppose," Narendra's saying to the aide, as they round the corner and come to an abrupt halt outside the door leading to the interrogation rooms. "The arresting office bothered to fill out the paperwork?" She produces a folder like magic, passing it over. He flips through it. "Excellent. Which room is he in?"

She points. "Four."

"Good." He juggles for a second, then passes her his radio. "Can you take that up to Director Larry Summers and tell him we've got an accomplice to the Zuckerberg case and to meet us down here, please?"

After she leaves, Narendra keys them through the door. Because nobody stops him and specifically tells him he isn't allowed, Sean follows. Room 4 is at the end of the hall; on the other side of the two-way mirror, a man in cuffs has folded a paper hat out of what looks to be the remains of one of the little cups from the water cooler. He settles it on top of his head and balances it there, looking supremely proud of himself when he accomplishes it.

Sean clears his throat.

Before he can come up with something polite to say, Narendra throws open the door and stalks into the room.

"Who are you?" he demands in a bark that hits like a punch, and the man jolts upright, paper hat tumbling off his head and skittering across the floor. The lights throw his face into sharp relief. His hair is brownish-red and sticks straight up the same way Saverin's does, and his eyes are large and expressive, but he's about three shades whiter, and has a more angular face.

Narendra decides to go ahead and state the obvious. "You are not Eduardo Saverin."

A look of profound relief crosses the man's face.

"Oh my god," he goes. "Is that what this was about? Holy shit, you had me terrified out of my wits that I'd done something seriously wrong! You should have said something, freaking warn a guy or something!"

Leaning against the glass, Sean takes another, longer look. The suit's similar to Saverin's taste; fine, tailored almost to douchebag levels, and with the hair, from a distance … maybe they could be mistaken for one another.

Narendra seems to arrive at the same conclusion, because he thins his eyes dangerously and says in a very loud, very constrained kind of way, "Did you deliberately misidentify yourself?"

"No!" the man yelps. "I had no idea you were looking for Wardo. You just arrested me!"

"Who are you?"

"My name's Dustin Moskovitz. I work with him. I'm in HR. We get lunch together sometimes and occasionally I fetch him a coffee when he's swamped. Guy's a lot less likely to bankrupt your financial empire if he's got Starbucks. But he's really nice, what do you want him for?"

Narendra sets the report down on the table and scrubs at his face frustratedly instead of replying, and just like that, it sinks in for Sean: they've lost them.

Mark, Christy, Eduardo, all three of them are … gone, vanished. Water through their fingers. And they've lost their only lead.

They've got nothing.

Sure, there's the possibility they might catch them stopping for milkshakes at Arby's on their way out of town with all their misappropriated millions, but what's the likelihood of that? Essentially, it's back to square one, and Sean can see that everybody knows it: apartment cleaned out, hard drives trashed, the banker gone, and Narendra looks like he swallowed a wriggling fish. He laces his fingers behind his head and faces the wall, taking a couple deep breaths. While he's turned away, Sean swears he sees Moskovitz wink at Erica.

"Hey, Erica," he says a beat later, with a friendly nod in her direction. Narendra turns around again, scowling.

"Hey, Dustin," she returns warmly. "Nice suit."

"Thanks! It's new," he goes, in a way that sounds a lot like subtext.

Erica clears her throat. "How's Stephanie?"

He beams. "Great! She just finished laying some sample tracks, she's going to mix them into her usual playlist that she does at the Reptologique on Friday, see what the reception is. You coming?"

"I'll try. She owes me a drink."

"Or ten."

"Or ten," Erica acknowledges, rueful, in a way that makes Sean feel like he's missing the joke. Or, rather, missing the years of history that can exist between people. "Sorry about the mistaken arrest."

"Yo, I'm just glad my ass isn't going into the fire. I don't even illegally download music, man, I wouldn't dare, not when all my friends are DJs -- I've never done anything worth getting arrested for. Hey," he drums his palms against the tabletop. "Does this mean I can leave? I've been here for, like, ever."

Narendra responds with something sharp, but Sean isn't listening anymore. Carefully, he starts to edge away from the glass, one step and then two, and then sets off back the way they came. Nobody yells after him, and he pulls his phone from his pocket, thumbing it awake.

It takes him four tries to type out the text message, deleting and reshuffling while his heart pounds and around him, the police station hums like a hive of suspicious hornets.

Finally, he hits Send and exhales. There’s no coming back from that.

don’t go amtrak!! they’re watching u. take greyhound bus north they changed northbound lines. new scheduled hasn’t synced with police system yet, no 1 will be looking 4 u there.

Okay.

Okay, now he needs to go.






continue on to part two -->



Tags: character: erica albright, character: sean parker, fandom: the social network, pairing: mark/christy/eduardo, rating: pg-13
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