waltzforanight: (Default)
[personal profile] waltzforanight
*

Talking to the rest of Nick's friends and peers doesn't really get them anywhere. They split the list Mrs Powell gave them in half in the interest of saving time, and Brian ends up talking with a bunch of kids who don't seem to be very friendly with Nick at all, though they have no problem paying him to do their homework. Which explains where the money in Catch-22 came from, if nothing else, but doesn't fit with the way Mrs Powell describes her son.

By this point, word is spreading like wildfire about Nick's disappearance, and Brian spends a lot of time dispelling rumours before he actually gets anyone to talk. One of the kids he talks to is a loud, obnoxious jock named Jimmy. Mrs Powell had said he and Nick were friends who often worked on school projects together. Jimmy describes Nick as totally pretentious, man, you know - a writer in a way that makes Brian think he just learned the meaning of the word and has been using it as often as possible in hopes of impressing someone. Brian isn't impressed, but he takes note of it because Jimmy isn't the only one to describe Nick that way. They use a bunch of different words - some call him self-righteous, others call him a show off, and one particularly enlightened kid calls him a total douche - but it all boils down to the same thing.

The misunderstood artist, Brian thinks as he heads downstairs to talk to the last person on his list: Suzie Pierce, Nicholas' not-girlfriend. The secretary tells him she's in P. E., and that her class is in the pool this week, then gives him directions to the very back of the school.

Brian thanks her and heads towards the pool, wondering what Suzie is like. He imagines a girl who is ambitious, someone who aims high and will do anything to get it. She's probably the picture perfect definition of beautiful, he thinks, blonde and tiny with not a hair out of place. A 'good girl', as Mrs Powell would likely put it.

Outside the door of the pool area, Brian stops to slip off his shoes and socks, then rolls up his pant legs. Glancing down at himself, he realizes that he looks ridiculous, but chlorinated pool water is hell on a good suit and on expensive shoes, so he doesn't have much choice. He doesn't really care about that anyway, though he almost appreciates the fact that Scott isn't around to mock him about it.

Inside, the scent of chlorine is almost overwhelming, as is the echoing sound of whistles blowing and water splashing. Suzie is in the pool swimming laps, but the coach tells Brian that she's almost done, so he walks over to the edge and waits. A couple of the other girls are staring at him, but he's focused on Suzie. She hasn't said anything yet - though he knows she's seen him, as she falters ever-so-slightly - but already Brian is certain his assumptions about her are correct. She radiates practiced indifference, which is emphasized by the fact that she does another five laps before climbing out of the pool.

"Could you please?" she asks, nodding towards the towels. She's trying for the cool, calm, collected thing that trophy wife moms teach all their pretty little daughters, but she can't quite pull it off. Still, she reminds Brian so much of Mrs Powell it's almost eerie, and that gives him a good idea of how to approach this conversation. Like Mrs Powell, Suzie doesn't waste time, doesn't want to be bothered with superfluous talk when there are more important things to worry about. Brian can appreciate that personality trait, and can maybe concede the fact that he shares it.

He grabs a towel off the bench and tosses it at her, mildly impressed when she catches it with ease, then cuts right to the chase. "He left you a little after midnight. What was his frame of mind?" He doesn't need to be any more specific than that. They both know why he's here. Going through the preamble would be a waste of time for both of them.

Suzie gives a short, humourless laugh before she answers. She describes Nick as being moody, uninterested in sex - even though she can't actually say that word. Brian wonders if it's because she doesn't think it's proper or because even underneath all that confidence she's still an awkward kid. Either way she doesn't appreciate his suggestion that she may not be Nick's type.

"Do I look like I'm not his type?" she challenges.

Brian doesn't answer her. He's about thirty years too old to be noticing anything like that about a seventeen year old, for one thing, and for another he has very little patience for that kind of vanity. One day Suzie Pierce will learn that type has very little to do with physical appearance, even if that day isn't until she's old and grey, but it's not his place to be the one to teach her that lesson.

"You may have been the last person to, ah, see him, Suzie," he says instead. "Anything you think I should know?"

It turns out that Suzie is actually more helpful than anyone else when she answers. Nick was drunk, extremely so, which Brian knows all too well can cloud your judgement and weaken your reflexes. It's been a long time since Brian was that drunk for a bad reason, and even longer since he was an overly emotional high school kid, but it's the kind of drunk you don't forget easily.

He thanks Suzie and turns to leave, still mulling over what she said about he might not have gotten very far, when she speaks up again.

"Do you think he's dead?"

Brian hears the nervous falter in her voice and stops in his tracks. He turns around briefly, unsure of what to say. The immediate thought is no, but he's not confident enough in that belief to say so. He's not sure why he believes this is more than just a runaway case, yet he can't shake the feeling, deep in his bones, that somewhere Nicholas Powell is in trouble.

After a moment of indecision, Brian decides to be evasive. "Do you?" he asks simply.

Suzie doesn't answer him, and that's all the answer he really needs.

*

Brian meets up with Kate outside, and they head back to the Powell house to touch base with everyone else. Kate didn't have much luck talking to the kids on her list, either - the most she got was confirmation from Ava Lee that yes, Nick was at her party, she saw him leave around midnight. The frustration Kate feels over their lack of progress is written all over her face, but by the time they make it to the Powell's house again, she's back to business.

Brian can understand her frustration. Talking to Nick's friends got them nowhere, and their earlier search of the house turned up nothing other than the book of money. Brian's not even sure that means anything. It was a lot of cash, sure, but if he was planning on skipping town... having a stash made sense. But the fact that the money is still there makes Brian think that Nick didn't end up going anywhere. Not of his own free will, at any rate.

What it means beyond that, he has no idea.

Mrs Powell is sitting in the living room, her hands folded neatly in her lap, staring out the window. Officer Chen is sitting next to her looking very uncomfortable and out of her element, and looks up with relief when Brian and Kate come in.

"How are you holding up, Mrs Powell?" Kate asks softly. She's a lot better at this part than Brian is.

Mrs Powell looks up with a start. "Pardon? Oh. Yes, fine, thank you," she replies blankly. "Have you-"

She can't seem to finish the rest of her question, but they all know what she's trying to ask. "Not yet," Brian answers. He thinks Mrs Powell is going to say something, yell at him again or demand they do more, but all she does is nod tensely and go right back to staring out the window.

Brian and Kate exchange glances. Kate shrugs slightly, and he nods. "Mrs Powell, we're going to talk to Officer Chen for a few minutes," he continues, glancing at Chen and nodding towards the dining room, their de facto headquarters. "Do you want someone else to come sit with you?"

Mrs Powell shakes her head. "No, no, don't trouble yourselves," she says. Brian wonders how the hell she manages to sound so polite and so calm when her son is missing. If it were his kid...

Well, he doesn't really know how he'd react. How could he? He doesn't have kids, has never had kids. Alice had gotten pregnant once. It hadn't been planned, but once the shock had worn off, they'd both been excited about it. She'd had a miscarriage, though, and they hadn't - it had been too hard, too painful. They'd never tried again, and she'd left for good about a year later.

So Brian has no idea how he would react if it were him. Briefly he wonders what Kate would do, if it were Madison, but he feels guilty for that and pushes the thought out of his mind. He forces himself to focus on Nicholas Powell, who actually is missing. In the dining room, Tannen has a map of the city spread out across the table and is using a Sharpie to mark places in the neighbourhood.

Brian stands behind her for a second, watching. "This is where you've talked to people?" he guesses, pointing at a seven-block radius surrounding the Powell house.

"Yes, sir," she replies, stretching across the table to grab her notebook. She tears a sheet out of it and hands it to him. "These are the addresses we got no answer, but - I doubt they'll have anything new. Everyone we talked to had pretty much the exact same things to say."

"And what's that?"

Tremblay makes one last mark on the map, then caps the Sharpie and straightens up. "Nicholas Powell is a nice boy, very polite, never causes any trouble. Several of the older residents said that in the winter he shovels their driveways for them, free of charge." She says that part with an air of disbelief. "Not many kids would do that. Anyway. None of the neighbours saw Nicholas last night - one or two saw him leave home after dinner, but none saw or heard him come back."

Brian nods, thinking. Everyone they've talked to that is over the age of twenty-five has described Nick in a way that's almost picture perfect. He's a nice boy, never gets in trouble, wouldn't hurt a fly. And then there's the Nick that his friends and classmates describe, the pretentious kid who runs a cheating ring out of his locker. It's a fairly large disconnect, but not uncommon for someone who has grown up in a high pressure environment. The question is which of Nick's personalities got him in trouble, or whether this was simply a random act.

"Okay," he says finally. "Tunney, I need you to call the principal again, see if he's heard of any confrontations that Nicholas may have had in the last few days. If he can't think of anything, get him to ask the teachers. Anything they can think of, no matter how trivial it may have seemed."

Kate stares at him seriously. "And you?"

"I'm going to start walking," he tells her. "The party was here." He points at a spot marked in red Sharpie, then puts his other finger on the black circle that signifies the Powell house. "He was heading home, probably on foot. I'll take the most likely route Nick would have gone when he left and go from there. See if I can dig anything up. Give me a call when you're done with the principal and I'll let you know where I am. And get ahold of Lopez, see where he's at with the missing persons report."

"You got it," Kate agrees. She had her cellphone and radio out before he even finished talking.

Brian just stares at her for a second, which she is already too caught up in her task to notice, then turns around to leave. He stops in the living room to check on Mrs Powell, who is still staring out the window, looking shut off and emotionless. A defense mechanism, one that Brian knows well. He tries not to be that way himself, but he knows that's easier said than done, and Mrs Powell barely looks up when he says good-bye to her.

At the end of the driveway, he pauses to decide which direction Nick would have likely been coming from. Left looks faster, but more complicated. Right is a little out of the way but more direct, probably easier to navigate when you've been drinking.

Brian turns right.

As he walks down the street, he looks around, studies his surroundings intently. Scott calls this the "rich bitch" part of town, and it's a pretty apt description. Large, sprawling homes and perfectly manicured lawns, fancy cars in the driveway that are either expensive classics or whatever happens to be trendy this year. An idyllic suburban bubble with not a single thing out of place - no rust, no litter, no dirt to be seen except in the lush, vibrant gardens. The only sign of choice or individuality between each home seems to be in what shade of neutral is preferred. People like Diane Powell were made to live in places like this, but Brian's not so sure about Nicholas. Nick is a writer, an artist, and this is the most uninspiring place Brian can think of.

Brian turns left about three blocks down the road, onto a street that intersects with one of the busy roads heading out of town. More of the same houses, lawns, cars. It's too picturesque, makes Brian think there's something dark lurking in the non-existent shadows. By the time he gets to the main road, he's convinced that there is something off. Nowhere is this perfect. It's not normal.

The sound of a dog barking shakes Brian out of his thoughts, and he turns his head towards the woods at the side of the road, just in time to see an older gentleman leave the walk path, golden retriever in tow. A sharp, tingling feeling pinches at the back of his neck, urging him to go that way. Brian's been a detective long enough to trust his instincts when he gets that feeling, so he walks over to the edge of the woods and looks around. There's a broken sign post, the top laying abandoned on the ground next to the base, and tire tracks clearly visible in the surrounding mud.

The sunlight catches something large on the ground, sending a reflection of light straight into Brian's line of vision. Curious, he carefully makes his way through the wet, muddy grass to the edge of the creek. Crouching down, he picks up a broken-off side-view mirror, silver. The tire tracks match those by the broken sign, the pattern erratic but the marks themselves recent. He's not an expert at identifying this kind of thing, but knows enough to guess and he's almost positive that whatever happened here happened with the last 12 hours.

This is the last place Nicholas Powell was.

Brian's cellphone rings, startling him out of his musings. "Yeah," he barks into the mouthpiece without looking at the caller ID.

"It's me," Kate replies, completely unfazed by his tone. She knows it isn't personal. "Where are you?"

Standing up, Brian looks around. "Glendale. The woods. I think I've found something."

"Really?" Kate sounds surprised, but pleased. "I'll be there in three."

She hangs up on him before he can answer, but that's okay - he, too, knows that it's not personal. He puts his phone back in his pocket then starts on a quick walk through the immediate area of the woods, looking for something, anything, that might give him a clue as to where Nick is. There isn't much, or at least nothing blatantly obvious, but he finds a cluster of footprints nearby, and a short patch of mud that looks like it's been smoothed over.

There's blood in some places, and while it could belong to an animal, Brian doubts it. The more he sees, the worse he feels about the situation and the more certain he becomes that this is where Nick is, or was. Hopefully is. But he and Kate (who, true to her word, arrives about three minutes after she hangs up on him) aren't going to find anything here on their own. The woods are too large, too dense, and time is wasting.

"We need to get a search party up here," he says as he jogs back to where she's waiting for him. "Comb these woods."

She nods. "I spoke with the principal. Nick had a run-in yesterday with a girl at school."

Brian waits for a few seconds, then makes an and? gesture with both hands. Kate has a habit of that, of not explaining everything, and usually he has a lot more patience for it, but right now he doesn't have time. Nick is in these woods, somewhere, Brian knows it in his gut.

"Sorry," Kate says, flashing him a tight, apologetic smile. "Newton. Annie Newton."

Fuck, Brian thinks. He can feel himself go tense as this information works its way into his mind, and he comes to a stop at the edge of the creek. Because Kate really is a good detective, she doesn't miss this. "Anything I should know?" she asks, a hint of stubbornness in her tone.

He shakes his head. "No," he replies, not sure whether it's the truth or not. He knows Annie, sure, but he doesn't - before yesterday, it had been years since he last saw or even thought about her, or her family. "We arrested her yesterday. The jewellery store thing."

"Right. I forgot about that," she admits. "Do you think she might have something to do with this, too?"

Brian really wishes he could say no to that, but he can't. "Maybe," he says flatly. "Let's go find out."

*

The drive over to the apartment building the Newtons live in is a tense one. Brian is quieter than usual; Kate keeps trying to fill the silence but she gets annoyed after his fourth one-word answer, which he does feel bad about. He's just preoccupied thinking about the case and how Annie fits into it. Before they left, he called Richmond to get the search party set-up underway, then called Mrs Powell to ask if Nick had a history with Annie beyond yesterday's fight. She told them that she had never heard of Annie, wasn't aware that Nick knew anyone by that name. And she certainly hadn't been aware of the altercation between the two of them.

It doesn't make sense. It's obvious that Brian is missing something, he just has no idea what it might be.

"What's she like?" Kate asks after another few minutes of silence. Brian is certain she's only been quiet that long because she was thinking of a question to ask that would force him to use at least one complete sentence when he answers.

"Who, Annie?" he asks. It's a joke, albeit a lame one, but the look of don't act stupid with me Kate gives him is almost comical. She's such a mom. "She's... different," he says after a second. It's the truth; Annie is different, but there's a dual meaning to his words. She's different from the other kids they talked to today, but she's also very different from the girl he remembers.

"Different how?" Kate asks. She can be remarkably persistent when she wants to be, but Brian still doesn't answer right away. He likes Kate, but he's not sure if he wants to get into the entire history of it.

Brian doesn't spend a lot of time wondering about the whys or hows of the universe, but he can't hep but wonder why it is that after eight years, he's suddenly found Annie Newton back in his life. Maybe he wouldn't wonder about it if it were under better circumstances, but this is a weird coincidence, no doubt about that. All things considered, he'd really have preferred not to have ever seen her again if this is how it has to be.

"She's angry," he says after a minute. "I don't know how people get that angry."

The rest of the drive is quiet except for the radio. (Classic rock. Brian's always been impressed that Kate genuinely likes the same music he does, though he cringed when she said it was the same stuff her dad used to listen to.) He parks across the street from the address Chen dug up for them, and lets out a low whistle as they climb out of the car. "Nice place," he comments dryly, surveying the peeling paint and dead grass. There are weeds growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk, and one of the windows is boarded up with graffiti-covered plywood.

As they get closer to the building, they can hear a lot of screaming through one of the open windows on the top floor. Kate winces when a woman yells something about a stupid bitch whore. She hates that word - whore - Brian knows that from a rape case they worked on awhile back, though he hadn't asked why hearing their suspect call the victim that had gotten her so worked up. They hadn't been working together all that long then, and he hadn't wanted to push too hard too soon, but now he's wondering if maybe he should have. Kate looks like she's ready to scream.

At the front of the building, Brian glances around for an entrance system. All the apartments he ever lived in had some kind of buzzer system, but this place doesn't seem to. In fact, it doesn't look like there's any security in place at all, which maybe shouldn't be surprising given the neighbourhood. The most Brian can gather is that there used to be a security door, but now the lock is broken off and getting in is as simple as pulling the door open.

"How does anyone feel safe raising their kids in a place like this?" Kate asks in a murmur, the sound echoing in the hallway. She's a lot calmer now that they can't hear any of the fighting, but he's still curious about it. He doesn't ask, though; he just shrugs and knocks on the door to apartment 103. He can hear the blaring TV and some loud shuffling through the thin door, and it only takes a few seconds for the door to open.

"Jack." Brian smiles and keeps his tone friendly, familiar, hoping to set the man at ease. There's a long, uncomfortable silence in which it obviously doesn't work, but he just keeps smiling and says, "We're here to see Annie."

Another long silence. Jack rubs at his balding head, not really looking at Brian at all. It's hard to read the expression on his face. Shame, maybe, or disgrace. Hell, for all Brian knows it's just apathy. "She's on the roof," Jack says firmly, then shuts the door in Brian's face.

Brian stands there for a second. He's honestly surprised that just happened. Not that he'd been expecting a friendship bracelet or anything, but at least a hello, how are you. Then again, it's been a long time.

Brian gives his head a small shake, then starts towards the elevator. As they round the corner, Kate speaks up. "Some history there?"

He's not surprised she's figured him out now. "He used to be a cop," Brian explains.

"What happened?"

"Oooh, it's a long story." One that he's still not interested in completely divulging, but Kate is giving him an odd look and he knows he should say something. Talk to her, a voice in his head says. Treat her like your partner. "I knew Annie when she was just a baby," he adds with a smile as they walk into the elevator. He reaches over and pushes the button to the highest level. "She liked my ties."

He glances at Kate with a small smile on his face. At first he's not sure how she's going to react to the fact that he wasn't exactly forthcoming about knowing Annie, but she just smiles back. "You do have nice ties," she says.

"That's because I let other people pick them out," Brian replies, turning back to the door. "Never could figure out how to make them match shirts on my own."

"Larry's the same way," Kate says after a moment. "Except that he solves the problem by never wearing them."

Brian smiles again. "Wish I could take that route."

The elevator comes to a stop and the door dings open, revealing a sign on the wall opposite with an arrow pointing towards the roof exit. They walk down the short hallway in silence, then Brian pushes open the roof door. He sees Annie, who is sitting on a chair near the edge of the roof and idly playing with what looks like a necklace, flinch at the loud screeching sound that came with opening and closing the door. She turns her head to see who it is, and when she sees Brian, her eyes immediately go to his neck before she turns back around. It takes him about two seconds to figure out she was looking for his tie.

He can't help but smile a little at that. Annie remembers him now, and it's probably because Jack reminded her in the midst of all the yelling and screaming he surely did the night before, but she still remembers. It's nice to know that the sweet little Annie he remembers is still there.

"Hey, kiddo. What's up?"

*

The search party comes together quickly. By the time Kate and Brian get back to the station, Richmond has assembled a team of cops to help search, including a couple of guys from the Canine Unit. There's a news bulletin out about the search, with an estimated 2:40pm start time, being played on television and radio every 15 to 20 minutes, and Chen put up posters about it in the Powell's neighbourhood. Word is out as much as it's going to get on such short notice, and so far things are going off without a hitch.

Richmond leaves the station to oversee set-up of a command post near the woods, just in case, and to arrange to have the road blocked off on one side. Kate takes off for five minutes to call home and talk to her husband and daughter, and Brian thinks about calling Scott, but it's still early and he's probably still at work. Instead, Brian goes over to his desk and runs a search on Marcus Bohem, Annie's boyfriend. Unsurprisingly, the guy has a record - a pretty lengthy one, too, considering he's only 26. Numerous arrests and convictions, including time served for armed robbery. Currently on parole.

Brian picks up the phone on his desk and quickly dials the number of Marcus' parole officer. She doesn't tell him much he doesn't already know, but she does say that Marcus has been out for eight months and that he's been good in that time. He hasn't been arrested, or even questioned, on any crime, and that his employer has had no complaints whatsoever about his job performance. Marcus Bohem is, as far as she can tell, a positive example of post-prison behaviour.

Brian thanks her for her time and hangs up not believing a word of it. Marcus is Annie's boyfriend (Brian is overlooking the suspicious age difference for the moment), and he has a history of grand theft auto, which makes him the perfect person to have stolen the car while Annie grabbed the jewellery. Being employed at an auto repair shop would work to his advantage, too, especially if his employers are as morally ambiguous as Marcus himself seems to be. There is no doubt in Brian's mind that that's what happened, but he has no way to prove it.

Yet.

He scribbles down the address to the garage that Marcus works at and shoves it in his pocket as Kate comes back. She seems reinvigorated after her phone call - either that or she found a caffeine drip that she's not sharing. "Ready to go?" she asks, almost brightly.

Brian nods and stands up, pausing to grab the half-eaten granola bar out of his desk, then follows her out of the office and downstairs.

*

Night falls and they still haven't found- Brian hates thinking Nicholas' body, but he's pretty sure that's what they're looking for at this point. The closest they'd come to a lead was when one of the dogs sniffed out Nick's watch, and that was hours ago. (It is possible that he's still alive, but finding that watch destroyed any hope Brian had of finding Nick safe and sound somewhere.) They haven't found anything else to link Nick - or anyone else - to the woods. It's going to be next to impossible in the dark, even harder now that it's raining. They have flood lights and seemingly endless technology, but the woods are deep and dense, and Brian is realistic about their chances.

Most of the volunteers have gone home, soaked to the skin and frustrated by the lack of progress. There's a crowd of curious people watching from behind the police barricades, craning their necks to see around the ambulances and squad cars, and a local news crew setting up for a live report. Brian walks past them all towards the tent, where Richmond and a couple of uniform cops are hunched over a grid map of the woods, marking areas that have already been searched.

Richmond looks up when he hears Brian come in. "Anything?" he asks tensely, visibly deflating when Brian shakes his head.

Brian heads straight for the back of the tent, where a beat-up old card table is set up with coffee, donuts, and a fruit tray that has seen better days. He grabs a cup of coffee and an apple fritter, then goes back to where Richmond is waiting.

"Where's Tunney?" Richmond asks.

"Tailing someone," Brian replies, taking a sip of coffee. It tastes horrible, like he imagines old, dirty socks would taste if you boiled them and added sugar.

Richmond looks surprised. "You have a suspect? Who?"

Brian shrugs. "Suspect? I don't know, maybe." He glances around to make sure no one is listening in who shouldn't be. When he's sure the coast is clear, he continues. "Pete Egan, Nicholas' best friend. Tunney thinks he knows something he's not telling us."

"What do you think?"

"I trust her judgement," Brian says simply. He lifts the apple fritter to his mouth and gives it a dirty look before dropping it without taking a bite. It probably tastes worse than the coffee, anyway. Richmond is staring at him, waiting for some further explanation, but Brian doesn't have one. It really is that simple.

After a moment of silence, Richmond clears his throat. "Right, well." He turns back to the map on the table, gesturing for Brian to come closer. "We've barely scratched the surface of the woods. It would take days for us to get through the whole thing, and even the-"

The end of that sentence hangs unspoken in the air, neither of them wanting to be the one that says it. Brian drains the rest of his coffee, throwing the cup and the uneaten donut into the garbage. "We'll keep looking," he says firmly. He glances at his watch and is surprised by how late it's gotten. "As long as it takes."

There's nothing more to say about it, so Brian gives Richmond a respectful nod, then leaves the tent. It's not raining very hard anymore, which he is grateful for but knows probably won't last. Taking advantage of it while he can, he walks as far away from the noise as possible, but between the ambulances, the police sirens, and the helicopters overhead, it doesn't do much good. It'll have to do, though, because there's nowhere else to go. He digs his cellphone out of his pants pocket and hits speed dial one.

It only rings twice before Scott picks up. There's a loud banging noise on the other end of the line, and a broken-off curse of motherf-, then a breathless, "Hello?"

"Hey, it's me," Brian says, ducking his head and smiling a little to himself. Christ, just hearing that one word has made him feel a thousand times better about everything. "Are you getting into trouble without me or something?"

"Maybe," Scott replies, then laughs. The sound is low and warm, and Brian shuts his eyes and lets it wash over him. "Nah, we just need to find somewhere else to put this table. I keep running into the damn thing." There's a brief pause, and Brian remembers his grand plan for redecorating the living room that included moving that very table. He's going to say something about it when Scott speaks up again. "Where are you? It's loud."

Brian sighs and opens his eyes. "Search party," he replies flatly.

"I figured," Scott says gently. Always so gentle, especially when it's horrible things like this. "The kid on the news?"

Brian nods, even though Scott can't see him. "Yeah. Nick Powell."

"I heard about that earlier. Wondered if it was going to be yours. How's it going?"

"Not so great," he says, taking a deep breath and pinching the bridge of his nose. "We found his watch, but- Look, I'm going to be awhile. Don't wait up, okay?"

"Okay," Scott agrees softly. "Let me know if you need anything. Good luck."

Brian swallows hard, suddenly emotional about- jeez, everything. "Yeah," he says thickly. "Yeah, thanks."

He can practically hear Scott's smile on the other end of the line. "I love you."

"Love you, too," Brian replies, then hangs up the phone before he loses it. He can't do that, he doesn't have time. He needs to get back out there and search for Nick Powell. Everything else can wait.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, Brian walks back through the throngs of people until he reaches an EMT. He's just patched up one of the volunteer officers, who fell and scratched his arm on a loose tree branch, and is checking around to make sure no one else is hurt.

"How long do we have?" Brian asks him. The helicopter is rising behind them and he has to shout to be heard.

The EMT shrugs. "Depends on his injuries. Two, three days tops."

*

It's after one in the morning when Brian finally makes it home. He's exhausted, but the kind of exhausted where his brain is still running at a thousand miles an hour and he's not sure whether he'll ever get it to stop.

He walks into the kitchen and drapes his jacket over the back of a chair, then goes to the fridge, more out of habit than any desire to actually get anything out of it. He opens the door and reaches for a bottle of water and his eye catches on a tinfoil covered glass baking pan. There's a note stuck to the top that says nothing more than EAT!! in large, bold letters. Brian sets the water on the counter then takes out the pan and straightens up, lifting the tinfoil off the corner. Lasagna, his favourite.

He's not hungry but knows that he needs to eat - half a granola bar and countless cups of coffee isn't enough for anyone. Brian steps back and lets the fridge door shut as he puts the dish in the microwave to heat up, then leans against the counter to wait.

His mind wanders, inevitably, back to the case and everything they know about Nicholas Powell's disappearance. Kate is convinced that Pete Egan has something to do with it, or at the very least knows someone who does, and Brian is inclined to agree with her. He was passing off Pete's nervousness during their talk as being worried about his friend, but the kid's behaviour during the search party was suspicious. Admittedly, Brian himself hadn't been paying a lot of attention to Pete, but Kate had, and her conviction on the subject was enough for him.

But he's equally convinced that Annie has a hand in this. He doesn't want that to be true, but his gut and his brain are both telling him that she is. She's hiding something, and so is her boyfriend, but other than being classmates and the fight she and Nick had at school the day before, Brian can't find a single connection between them. Maybe it has something to do with the smash and grab at the jewellery store; Brian doesn't remember seeing Nick at the school that day, though he must have been somewhere. The anonymous caller who tipped them off had been male - it could have easily been Nick.

What that has to do with Pete Egan, why Nick would have ratted her out in the first place, or what it is Annie might have done to him if that was true - Brian doesn't know about any of it.

The timer on the microwave beeps three times, and Brian pushes himself off the counter. Using an old towel instead of an oven mitt, he takes the dish out and sets it on a wooden cutting board, then carries that over to the kitchen table. He sits down and props his feet up on the chair opposite, relieved to be able to rest them for a few hours. His appetite is still lacking but he has to admit that the lasagna smells delicious, and he knows that it will taste the same way. Scott is a fantastic chef - he's always testing out fancy recipes of things with unnecessarily complicated (and often French) names, and they always taste great. But nothing beats the classics.

Brian just wishes he were in more of a position to appreciate it tonight. He manages to eat about half of the lasagna, too caught up in his own head to really enjoy it, then re-wraps the rest of it and sticks the container back in the fridge. All of a sudden he is bone-achingly tired, and he briefly considers sleeping on the couch so that he doesn't have to climb up the stairs to go to bed. That part does sound appealing, but the couch is cold and lonely and his bed is warm with Scott, so in the end, it's really not a hard decision to make.

Brian yawns loudly and shuffles his way towards the stairs, then climbs them slowly. His legs feel like lead, but eventually he makes it to the top. After a brief stop in the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face, he shuffles into the bedroom and flicks on the light. He knows Scott won't wake up from that - the man could probably sleep through the apocalypse if he felt like it - and Brian is already pulling his shirts off over his head as he does it. It's a few moments before he actually gets a good look at the bed, but when he does his breath catches in his throat.

Scott is fast asleep, laying on his side with one arm tucked under his head and the pillow, and the other draped across Brian's side of the bed. His hand is splayed protectively over the spot where Brian's chest would normally be.

A flood of warmth rushes through him at that. For a moment Brian just stands there, watching with a tiny smile on his face. He finishes undressing until he's only wearing his boxers, then flicks off the overhead light and walks over to the bed. There's enough moonlight coming through the window for him to see what he's doing as he gently lifts Scott's arm and the blankets up, then slides into bed and drops both back over his chest.

He feels immediately calmed, almost as if it were as simple as flipping a switch. His brain is still whirling, but Brian can feel himself settling as the faint scent of vanilla that Scott uses to mask the smell of raw fish on his hands after catering a seafood menu fills his nose. Brian has associated that smell with home for almost six years now, and he hadn't realized how much he'd been craving that all day. Not until he had it.

Brian holds tight to Scott's arm and lets his eyes fall shut. It's still a long time before he falls asleep, and when he does it's fitful and light, but at least he feels safe now.

Part 4
From:
Anonymous
OpenID
Identity URL: 
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

August 2010

S M T W T F S
1 2345 67
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags