Hello! Welcome to a new story! This is a sequel, of sorts, to my very first story - Walk Through the Shadows - published exactly 10 years ago (2nd February 2008) which is kind of scary. Ten years. Wow. There's been an awful lot of danger and drama since then...
Thank you to Ballettmaus for editing and Strandstorken for the cover art!
This can be read as a stand-alone story, but some things might make more sense if you read the original :) Either way, please enjoy!
They were gone.
I was the only living soul in the room.
The only living soul…
I jerked awake. Only realised I'd shouted out loud when I saw everyone staring at me.
'Aww, had a bad dream, Flack?'
'Want your blankie and teddy bear?'
'Yeah, real funny, O'Dowd,' I shot back over laughter.
'Need someone to read you a bedtime story?' someone else jeered from across the bullpen. More laughter.
I told them where they could stick their bedtime story and tried to compose myself. Man, I felt shaken. Bad dream wasn't so far from the truth; not that I was going to let anyone know that. I'd only closed my eyes for a moment; next thing I knew, I was in the middle of a nightmare.
Grabbing the takeaway cup on my desk, I took a sip. Still pretty hot, so I hadn't been asleep for that long. Weird. It felt like a huge amount of time had passed, the dream had been that detailed. Honestly, it had freaked me out.
Even though I really wanted to forget it, it flashed back through my mind… my heart started pounding in my chest and my hand shook as I tried to take another sip of coffee. Why in hell had I been dreaming about two of my best friends dying, and dying in the most horrible circumstances?
Still wrestling with that, I realised I was sitting with my coffee halfway to my mouth, totally zoned out, and half the cops in the bullpen were staring at me again.
'Hey, none of you got any real work to do?' I glared round at them all. 'So I nodded off at my desk, big fucking deal. Get over it.' Soon as I'd said it, I realised how harsh it sounded. Guess I could blame that on the dream, too. Anyway, few more jeers followed, but they soon lost interest and I was left in peace to toss another mouthful of coffee down my throat, and try and bring myself back to reality.
It wasn't the first time I'd experienced some seriously screwed-up nightmares. After Jess had died… yeah, after that I'd pretty much kissed goodbye to sweet dreams. Even when I'd drunk myself into oblivion, I'd still relive what had happened: finding her, getting her to the hospital… over and over, always with the same outcome. Each time I'd wake up and realise, through a fog of alcohol, she still wasn't there with me.
So I'd drink some more.
More than a year on, I'd stayed on the wagon, more or less, and although I wasn't sleeping great, at least the nightmares had stopped, until now anyway.
Taking another slug of coffee I tried to focus on the report I'd been working on. But as much as I tried, that freaking dream wouldn't let go of me. Bits of it kept playing back in my mind as clearly as if it had just happened.
Seriously, my subconscious had to be messed-up big time. Maybe alcohol was to blame for that, even if the last alcohol I'd had was a single bottle of beer two nights ago.
'Get a fucking grip, man,' I muttered to myself, right before I heard the sound of heels approaching… Oh crap. I'd been supposed to meet Stella at the lab – I glanced at my watch – almost twenty minutes ago. Terrific.
'Hey, there you are,' the voice of the lady herself rang out. She came striding over to my desk looking pissed. 'Where've you been? I've been waiting, and you weren't answering your phone.'
Hadn't even heard my phone…
'Yeah, I know, Stell. I'm sorry.'
I mentioned something about getting caught up in paperwork; not hearing my cell; yada, yada, yada.
'Paperwork's a bitch, isn't it?' she said, folding her arms across her chest and studying me in a way I didn't like. 'Your paperwork must've been really extreme, seeing as you've got what appears to be dried drool on your chin, your hair looks like you've been resting your head on your arm, and you've got the imprint of a shirt button on your cheek.' She tipped her head on one side and stared at me.
Busted. Damn forensic scientists.
I lifted my shoulders. 'What can I say? My reports were exhausting.'
Stell, the woman with a built-in bullshit detector, pressed her lips together, but there was definitely a twinkle in her eye. Something must have put her in a good mood. Interesting.
'Right,' she said. 'Anyway, I was calling you to tell you that what we found on the CCTV tapes in Earl Greyson's building has given us a new lead, so our plans have changed. Want to come talk to the original witness again with me? If you're not too exhausted from your paperwork,' she added with a smirk.
'Think I can manage that,' I said. 'I'll drive.'
'It's only a few blocks away, we'll be quicker if we walk.' She was already turning to leave.
Now, normally I wouldn't argue with her, but the fact we'd been walking in the dream… I don't know, it seemed like a good idea to take a car this time.
'Nah, let's drive,' I reached for my jacket.
'At this time of day? Are you kidding me?' Stell stopped and raised her eyebrows. 'We're going to be right in the middle of rush hour. It's two blocks, Don. It'll take us longer to get a car out of the parking garage.'
It was a stronger argument than I could offer, which was nothing but mental indigestion. So I shrugged. 'If you say so.'
Stella clapped me on the shoulder. 'Some fresh air will do you good.'
I grunted as I pulled my jacket on. Likely Stell was right.
I'd stepped away from my desk when I remembered my half-drunk coffee. Unluckily, while stretching for the cup, I managed to knock it over. Luckily, Stell's reflexes were faster than mine and she grabbed it and set it upright before all of it went on the floor. Even so, coffee spilled all over the place and all over my hands.
Watching it dripping and pooling… I couldn't stop staring at it. For a second, I was seeing again what I'd seen in the dream: Stella's blood over my hands, seeping between my fingers while I tried to put pressure on the wound; trying to stop her bleeding out...
'Don?' Handful of coffee-soaked Kleenex in her hands, I realised Stella was staring at me in confusion, and I was staring at my hands. 'Something wrong?'
I blinked. 'Uh, no. No, nothing's wrong. Come on, let's go,' was all I said before heading out of the bullpen, scrubbing my hands dry on a piece of Kleenex. 'Don't want to keep our witness waiting, do we?' I called over my shoulder. Stell frowned, but tossed the tissue in the trash and followed me without another word.
Couple minutes later, I had to admit, it was pretty nice being outdoors on a clear, dry day, with enough of a breeze to blow the sleep out of my eyes. Although it didn't manage to blow away that unsettled feeling I still had.
Man. I really needed to get a grip. It was a dream. Bat-shit crazy dream, sure, but a dream nonetheless. Don't know why it had got to me like that.
Guess I was tired, that was all. Tired and in need of using up some of the vacation days I hadn't used for the last year. Last time I actually took a vacation and left town was when, yeah… when Jess was alive. Two of us took off for a weekend to Coney Island.
Hadn't felt like taking off on vacation anywhere after her death. I don't know, seemed wrong to be enjoying myself without her.
My thoughts must've shown in my face as I caught Stell looking at me seriously.
'You don't seem yourself today,' she told me, before asking in a gentler voice. 'Something on your mind?'
'Nope.' I lied. Actually, I was tempted to tell her there and then what I'd been dreaming about, maybe to have her laugh about it and dismiss it, reassure me by doing that, but… I didn't.
Instead, as we passed a pretzel cart I decided to change the subject, 'Hey, you know what?' I slowed down, feeling genuinely hungry, 'Seeing as it's way past breakfast, and you made me walk, maybe we ought to stop for a little something to eat.'
Stell shook her head. 'If you're lucky, I'll buy you a pretzel later.'
I grinned. 'Hey, I'm lucky.' And felt the grin freeze on my face, 'cause I got the weirdest feeling of déjà vu, like I was repeating words I'd already said. 'No, wait…'
'What? No? You don't want a pretzel? Since when are you refusing food?' Stell demanded. 'Are you sick?'
'No! I mean, yes, I do, but… Could've sworn we had this conversation already.'
She looked confused. 'We definitely didn't.'
'Forget about it.' I shook my head and kind of grimaced at her. 'Must be feeling faint from hunger.'
Stell rolled her eyes. 'Nice try, but we are not stopping for food until after we've seen our witness.'
So we carried on and the feeling passed, mostly. After Stell teased me a bit more about food, the conversation turned to the Jets game last night. I'd heard from Messer that she and Mac were going to take Hammerback again.
Not for the first time, I tried to picture the ME at a game, and failed. 'You know, I never had Hammerback down as a Jets fan.'
Stell laughed. 'He's not. At least he wasn't, but Mac and I finally persuaded him to go a few weeks ago and he loved it.'
'So what'd he think of last night's game?'
'Actually, he couldn't make it last night.' Stell glanced at me. My spidey sense tingled.
'Oh? He couldn't? So what, you and Mac go by yourselves?' I slowed my walk, very eager to hear Stell's answer.
'Yes, we did. We weren't going to waste the tickets. I mean, obviously we missed Sid being there,' she added hastily.
'Oh, obviously.' I nodded vigorously, while I smiled to myself. So that was the reason for her good mood – she and Mac had been spending a lot of time together outside of work recently. Good on 'em. We all knew they'd had a thing for each other for a long time. I'd tell Messer soon as I saw him. Might even question Hammerback about his real reason for cancelling last night. Could be enlightening.
'So, you two going to take Hammerback next time, or go by yourselves again?' I did my best to ask innocently
Stell flicked a sideways look at me. 'Depends whether Sid can make it or not.'
'Uh huh, sure.' Keeping a poker face was harder than I thought (don't know how Mac does it) and Stella gave me another, suspicious look just as the breeze caught her hair, lifting and swirling it. She swept the curls back off of her face and as small as the gesture was, it triggered a memory… no, not a memory; déjà vu. Again. This time I couldn't just dismiss it.
I was absolutely positive I'd experienced this moment before.
'Flack?' Stell stood there, her blazer flying open in the breeze. Aware I'd stopped walking and was gaping at her, I started to answer her, and then stopped. And – okay, I admit it, it sounds insane - I swear the whole street went into slow motion. I saw everything in weirdly vivid detail, the sun appearing from behind clouds to light it all up. Strangest of all, I recognised it. All of it. Because it was the same as I'd seen it in the dream. Even down to the blouse Stella was wearing. Exactly the same.
It had to be a coincidence, right? I mean, what else could it be? Either I'd developed psychic abilities, or I really was going insane…
No. No way was I going to accept either that I'd had a dream predicting the death of two close friends, or that I was insane. No way.
I blinked. Found myself staring at Stell, who looked concerned.
'Are you OK? I lost you for a second there.'
'I… Yeah, I, uh…' I thought rapidly, finally deciding to tell the truth, kind of: that I'd been freaked out by a bout of déjà vu. Stell was sceptical, but didn't say nothing else, so we carried on.
But that uneasy feeling just wouldn't go away.
Many thanks for reading! Any and all reviews are hugely appreciated :D Lily x