Chapter Nineteen – Progress
Casey took her time dressing the next morning. She was going into Derek's office for the first time since her accident, and she was going in as Derek's partner, his girlfriend. She expected to be scrutinised.
Scrutiny wasn't something Casey was comfortable with since the events of five years ago. She was aware of every scar the accident and its aftermath had caused. Some were visible outside of her clothing, but the majority could be hidden beneath long sleeves and trousers. Now she could also acknowledge, some scars were invisible. Her grief over Charlie, for example. She wasn't ready to share those scars, either.
Casey was particularly grateful to Bea for her attention to detail with Casey's new wardrobe. She found something to wear with more ease than she would have expected. Even the new make-up was appreciated for its ability to cover her grief, hiding the puffy eyes, the pale skin and the drawn eyes. Her friend's contribution to Casey's recovery made Casey feel guilty. So far, Bea and Casey hadn't had chance to catch up following the revelations. It wasn't through a lack of feeling on either part. With both George and Casey absent from the office, Bea was covering for both. But, the two women had exchanged text messages frequently over the past day or so, and they had made plans to meet up properly just as soon as possible.
Today, Casey dressed in a smart pair of navy pants and teamed it with a navy and cream sweater. It was a new look for her, and it made Derek stop and take a second look, but it was different than the last few times. Now he knew where they stood as a couple, it didn't make him feel as though she was moving away from him, more like she was re-joining life – their life. A broad smile crossed his lips and he nodded.
"You look good." He complimented her. Casey smiled.
"Will I do you proud?" She asked.
Derek chuckled. "You could wear sweats and I'd still be proud of you." He told her, feeling just a little sappy. "Of course, then none of the bastards would get any work done. So, it would be counter-productive. Are you ready?"
Casey nodded and grabbed her purse and laptop bag. "Lead on." She instructed.
Jazz greeted them in reception. He held out a hand to Casey, and when she took it, gently pulled her into his arms. But he said nothing and just held her for a moment. Derek turned away, appreciating the gesture but unable to watch.
"You ok, Angel?" Jazz asked as he released Casey. Wordlessly she nodded, and then mouthed, "Thank you."
Jazz coughed to clear the lump from his throat. "Right. Now the gang's all here, let's go find the fucker who caused all this." And he led the way to the stairs for the upper floors.
No one had warned the other police officers in the station that Casey would be visiting. Only a handful of the current officers had been around five years ago, and then Casey's interaction with Derek's colleagues had been limited to just a few close colleagues. It didn't stop the gossip factory, however, and pretty much everyone in the place knew of Casey, though she hadn't been well enough to visit since the accident. To Derek's fellow officers, Casey was a picture on his desk, part of a family group, part of the lie Derek told himself. The Step-sister.
Today, however, she became real. The 2D picture come to life – and then some. As Jazz had pointed out a few days ago, despite everything, Casey had lost little of her beauty in five years. And today, she entered the office hand-in-hand with Derek, her slim figure accentuated by Bea's outfit, her make-up skilfully applied. The domestic partner of DS Venturi, whose recent dating history was so quiet there was an office pool on his sexuality.
Everyone stopped as Derek, Casey and Jazz entered, and they stared. Someone made an off-colour joke, and Derek exchanged a look with Jazz who shook his head and shrugged.
"Yes, Robinson…a real-life female. In the flesh. Maybe when you've grown up a little, you'll be lucky enough to touch one." Jazz told the Joker. Casey grinned at Derek's friend and noticed some of the female officers were laughing at their colleague.
Derek squeezed Casey's hand and then addressed the whole department.
"Not to deprive the rumour mill, but I'll save time and introduce you. This is Casey MacDonald, my…" He glanced at Casey. She shrugged.
"Better half?" She suggested. There was a giggle from a couple of the female staff.
Derek shrugged in return. "Fair enough." He agreed and then became serious. "Five years ago, someone caused a car crash which nearly killed Casey," he paused. "The current case you are all working on is related. The recent victim was also in the car at the time of the crash, but unlike three other…souls, she and Casey survived. It's possible that the original car crash was also an attempt on Sophie's life, and I believe that the same perp is behind both attacks. We are going to expand our search for him or her by re-opening the investigation into the original crash. The common factor to both is Sophie Gardine. She was a dancer back then, she is a mother now, and the current whereabouts of her child is unknown. This makes this, not only a homicide investigation, but also a child-at-risk investigation. We close this case, we are potentially solving three counts of homicide, a grievous assault and a kidnapping. Sophie didn't have any family, so it is left to her few friends to care about the conclusion of her case. Casey and I would like to thank you for the hours and effort you are putting in. The work you have been doing is vital to a quick conclusion to this, but make sure you are thorough.
Because Casey was one of the few people left who knew Sophie, she will be joining us in the office over the next few days. If you come across anything you think might benefit from being looked at by someone who knew Sophie, please let me know. Right…let's get to work."
Spike shook hands with Casey as she entered the former's office.
"Miss MacDonald…" She began. Casey shook her head.
"Casey." She insisted. "We are going to be delving into my past life. It seems ridiculous to be so formal."
Spike smiled and motioned for Derek and Casey to sit down. Jazz hovered in the background. "I'm grateful to you for coming in." Spike told Casey. "You're looking well."
Casey shifted awkwardly in her seat. "I'm getting there." She told Derek's boss. "One day at a time."
By mutual agreement, Jazz, Derek and Casey were not going mention Charlie. Derek knew the moment his boss found out about Charlie, his – and Casey's - association with the case would end. Spike would fear Derek was in this for revenge, yet she couldn't be more wrong. Derek had had a long time to think about his feelings over the past few days. Surprisingly, anger wasn't the primary emotion. Now that Casey knew and was working on dealing with her grief, Derek felt an overall sense of healing, rather than a need to exact revenge.
Of course, that may all change when he knew who and what lay behind the death of his child, and the injury to Charlie's mother.
"You really think the two cases are linked?" Spike asked Derek as Jazz accepted a tray of coffees from Agatha at the door and proceeded to distribute them. He motioned to the junior officer to join them in the room. Casey exchanged a brief smile with the young woman.
Derek nodded and sipped his coffee. "Jazz and I have re-examined the report from the original crime scene and spoken to Casey. Sophie Gardine was supposed to have been in that car."
Casey sat forward. "Sophie was in that car. I can remember looking at her in horror when the other vehicle hit." Derek flicked anxious eyes towards her.
"You didn't tell me that." He complained.
"I haven't had chance to." Casey reminded him. "We've been…busy."
Across the other side of the room, Jazz chuckled softly. "I'll bet." He murmured. Casey caught his eye and blushed. Derek was still back in the car with Casey's comment.
"You remember the other car hitting?" He asked.
Casey looked less certain. "I remember an impact. Flashes of light and the sensation of being tossed around in the car like a washing machine. I remember Sophie screaming at me." She frowned. "No…wait…that was later." She blinked and held up a hand as Derek began to interject. "Wait, D. I'm trying to process the images."
They waited in silence as Casey tried to recall the exact order in which things had happened.
"We were on our way back to Toronto from our dance tour. We'd been gone several days." Casey reminded Derek. He nodded.
"I remember." He'd missed her that week. Casey and the bump. Missed them both so much he'd spent the morning of the accident in the jewellers looking at rings. He'd bought one too, though subsequent events meant it had been placed to one side, more in desperate hope than expectation.
It was currently sitting in his gun safe at the apartment. Derek swallowed his coffee and tried to concentrate on what Casey was saying.
"Sophie was driving. It had been her last tour with the company as her baby bump was really showing, and we'd had to write the pregnancy into the show. Sophie had been in a strange mood, which I put down to Jesse teasing her about not being able to fit behind the wheel before long. Her tolerance levels were definitely reduced and Jessie had a peculiar sense of humour at times. But in retrospect, it may have been more serious. She'd not been herself for the whole of the trip." Casey glanced at Derek. "Sophie kept giving me funny looks too. I thought it was about…but maybe it was something else entirely." Derek smiled sadly. Casey took a deep breath.
"About an hour before the accident we stopped at a coffee place so Sophie could use the washroom. We got talking to a young girl who was trying to hitch a lift. She was our age, but she looked so vulnerable and none of us liked the idea of her travelling alone with a stranger. So, we agreed to take her to Toronto. She didn't really have anywhere to go, but Sophie said it didn't matter as she knew a place of safety when we got there. I guess she saw something of herself in this girl." Casey paused. "Derek, you need to find out who the girl was. She may have had relatives who have been waiting for news about her all this time."
Jazz nodded. "Don't worry. I got Marie to apply for an exhumation when we realised the body wasn't Sophie. They'll do a more in-depth identification. Facial reconstruction etc."
"Thank you. It won't help our case, but it may give someone peace of mind." Casey acknowledged Jazz. "The girl and Jesse were asleep in the back of the car when the impact came."
"In the back?" Jazz queried. He glanced at Derek. "I thought we found them in the front?"
Derek looked thoughtful. "Maybe Sophie tried to get them out. We thought they weren't buckled in by choice, but I guess maybe they had been and that's what made it so hard for Sophie to get them out. It was a small car, wasn't it? A three-door?"
"I don't remember." Casey told him. "And I don't remember Sophie pulling me out of the car. Although that's the only thing that makes sense." Casey told them. "I have a vague memory of her crying above me and seeing trees. But the pain…I must have passed out."
Derek shook his head, in disbelief. "We thought you'd been thrown from the car, but you are right, the only thing that makes sense is that you were held in place by the seatbelt and then she released you to drag you clear. Then I think she went back to the car and tried to pull the others clear. When she couldn't get them out and she realised you were unconscious, she performed CPR on you."
"Why didn't she hang around?" Casey asked. "Why didn't she stay?"
Jazz leaned forward. "She couldn't get Jesse and your hitchhiker out of the car. You were alive and she could hear sirens approaching. She probably knew that the crash wasn't an accident and she was worried that the person who caused it was going to come back. As soon as she knew she had done everything possible for the people in the car, her survival instincts will have kicked in. For her and her baby. I wonder how she got away from the scene? The person who dialled 911 was a driver who passed shortly after the accident, there weren't any houses nearby." He shook his head. "She must have walked at least a mile!"
Casey nodded. "I owe her my life." She said simply. "I just wish I'd known that she had also survived. I could have…"
Derek pulled his chair closer to her and took her hand. "Sweetheart, there was so little you could have done. You were in a coma, and weren't even conscious for weeks, and then your rehab was the best way to honour Sophie. She fought for your survival, you helped her best by doing exactly that…surviving."
Spike had listened carefully to Casey's story and now she put her coffee down and sat forward.
"Tell me about Sophie's baby."
The question caught Casey by surprise, and she stuttered. "I…I…"
Derek rubbed her hand. "It's okay." He murmured with a quick look towards his boss. Casey understood and nodded. If Spike knew what the crash had cost them, their involvement in the case would end.
"Sophie wasn't a particularly close friend of mine originally." Casey told Derek's boss. "She was a regular in the dance company, a full-time dancer. I was a newly-qualified lawyer. I had a job I had just started, but I had committed to join the dance company for a couple of tours over the course of that year. Much of it was at weekends, but this particular one was booked for during the week. I told my new firm about the tour at the interview, they honoured the time off when they hired me. In some respects, I was an interloper as far as the dance company were concerned. But I got to know Sophie." She glanced up at Derek. "After she fell out with Mimi, I think she needed a new confidante. I don't remember her telling me about the baby's father, but I do remember her telling me about the baby. I'd found her in the washroom during a rehearsal one time. She was throwing up from the morning sickness. She swore me to secrecy and then eventually I persuaded her to tell Jesse. I knew he would be understanding. I was right. He was." Casey smiled softly and Derek knew she was thinking about Jesse's reaction to her own pregnancy. Jesse had been ecstatic when Casey had confessed. Even when he found out who the baby's father was!
"After that, we spent time together during the show rehearsals. You have to understand I was between two worlds and they rarely mixed. I wasn't ashamed of the dancing, but it wasn't something my lawyer colleagues would have been interested in. And my dance colleagues weren't interested in my day job." Casey squeezed Derek's hand. "You were working long shifts. Our time together was too precious to spend talking about dancing. Anyway, Sophie shared the pictures of her ultrasounds, told me her options for baby names, and I was the first to know she was expecting a girl. But I didn't go with her to appointments the way a close girlfriend would. Sophie was too private for that."
Jazz's ears had perked up halfway through Casey's last few sentences. "Hang on." He interrupted. "Say that again. She showed you her scan pictures? You knew she was having a girl and she told you her options for baby names?"
Casey nodded. Derek and Jazz exchanged a look.
"Can you remember the baby name options?" It was Derek who asked. This was another way to narrow down the criteria for finding Sophie's baby. Casey was thoughtful.
"There were a lot of names." She admitted. "I don't think I can remember them, however. We had fun searching for the meaning of names on-line." Derek nodded.
"Where did you search?"
Casey shrugged. "Google mainly."
Derek chuckled. "I meant did you search using your phone or your laptop?" He reached down to the place beside her chair where they had rested Casey's laptop. Casey's eyes widened.
"Laptop. But my old icloud account wouldn't have my bookmarks and history."
Derek had the laptop out now. "No. But you might have screenshots or emailed links to names." They waited while the laptop booted up and then Derek handed it to Casey for her to log in. Edwin had provided a helpful shortcut to Casey's old icloud account and Casey double-clicked to enter it.
"Where am I looking?" She asked. Derek leaned towards her and made a gesture with his hands, so she handed him the laptop back. His technology nerdiness kicked in and Casey watched in amusement as his fingers danced over the keyboard. His thumb clicked on the trackpad as he navigated her old data, her memories. Agatha and Spike watched on in silence.
"Perhaps we should do this in our office." Jazz suggested.
Derek waved him off. "In a minute." He promised. "I just… Ah!" his thumb double-clicked again.
They all waited expectantly but Derek was now silent. After a moment, Casey grew impatient.
"Derek…" She whined and then she met his eyes and saw a flash of pain. "What?" She asked with concern.
Derek shook his head. "Later." He promised, quietly. Then his fingers were clicking on the keyboard again and this time when he double clicked, he smiled broadly. Then he laughed.
"You never could stop being a keener, could you?" He teased.
"What?" Casey frowned in confusion.
He grinned. "You didn't email it or save a screenshot." He told her. "You created a spreadsheet of all the possibles. It's indexed by first name, middle name, country of origin, meaning…preferences" He turned the laptop around and showed an Excel spreadsheet entitled "Baby Names – Sophie".
Sophie apparently liked European names, old English, Welsh and so on. Casey nodded.
"I think she believed her family came from the UK originally."
Derek glanced over at Agatha. "You got a pen? Try looking for 'Morgan', 'Jenneth', Cerys, Edith." He rattled off a few more names and Agatha scribbled them down. This was good news. As Jazz explained, they had a rough age of the missing child, the blood group of its mother, the child's sex - and now they had potential first names.
"It's probably nothing, if – as you say – there is a possibility the child was born in the convent." Jazz pointed out. "Hospitals won't know about the birth, only the civic registrar."
This time it was Spike's turn to frown. "But surely, that's impossible?" She queried. "Didn't you say that Sophie had a caesarean scar? Isn't that how you know that the baby even exists? How can the baby have been born at the convent if it was born by caesarean?"
The other occupants in the room groaned in disbelief that they had missed the obvious. But their disappointment in themselves was short-lived as they each individually realised this was really good news as it meant Sophie's child would have been required to be registered somewhere in the hospital system.
"Unless," Jazz said thoughtfully. "Unless it was a back street caesarean."
Agatha winced. "Is that kind of thing even possible?"
Spike shrugged. "Contact the coroner and find out. But I'd say the balance of probabilities says not. Every case I've ever heard of where someone tried to attempt to deliver a baby surgically outside of a hospital, either the mother, the baby or both died. Usually the mother." She paused. "What about the baby's father? What do you know about him?"
Derek stood up and began to pace. This was the part he had to handle very carefully.
"That's a sticky one." He admitted, giving his boss a nervous look. Spike was a stickler for doing things by the book. It had taken a lot of fast talking for her to agree to Derek remaining on the case when Casey's involvement came to light. So, after their meeting with Mimi, Derek and Jazz had given Spike only the bare details to gain her permission to visit with Councillor Sutton. Despite their resultant certainty that the alderman was the most likely father, in all the personal crisis of the past few days, they had decided to keep things simple and uncomplicated by not updating their boss with the full details.
Derek didn't have to say anything else. Spike wasn't stupid and she had worked with him and Jazz for long enough to understand the silence.
Spike groaned. "Please tell me this has nothing to do with your request to talk to Trent Sutton? You told me he was just someone who attended the party. I wondered why you were only asking about one guest!"
Derek winced. "I wanted to get a read on him before I pushed further with this." He admitted. Spike sighed. "Go on. Tell me why you think he is the baby's father."
Between them, Jazz and Derek explained about Mimi, the friendship she had had with Sophie, and the falling out between the two girls.
"Is this sour grapes?" Spike asked after a few moments. "Does this Mimi resent the break-up of the friendship? Could she be trying to get back at Sutton?" Jazz shook his head.
"Not that kind of friendship. Too much water under the bridge and Mimi has moved on. She didn't know about the baby when she first identified Sutton. I spoke to Stuart Lewis as well. He agrees, Sophie wasn't the sort of girl to go straight from one relationship into another. If she was dating Trent Sutton at roughly the time she got pregnant, then the balance of probabilities is that Sutton is the father."
His boss nodded. It might not be what she wanted to hear, but she understood their logic. "What did he say when you went to see him? I assume, as I've yet to have a call from the floors above, that you managed to keep the interview this side of civil. That's not entirely in character, so I'm impressed."
Casey smiled a small smile. Derek put on a look of mock innocence as he answered Spike. "We were grace itself." He insisted. "Sutton didn't acknowledge the relationship or even that he knew her…openly at least. A guy like that is well-practised in keeping his emotions from his face."
"But there was something." Jazz interjected. "He didn't look surprised about the crash, but he wasn't expecting us to tell him she was still alive until recently. That was a shock and it threw him."
"How so?" Spike prompted.
Jazz grinned. "He accidentally told us where the photo was taken."
Spike made a gesture that showed she conceded the point.
"And he knew nothing about her baby." Derek pointed out. "That was a shock…a well-concealed shock, but it rattled him. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall of that office as soon as the door closed behind us."
There was a moment's quiet while they all pondered the information. Agatha shifted in her chair and Casey sat forward. "But what does this give us? Trent Sutton is a powerful man with a powerful family. I get that. He will want to keep his dirty little secret from the press and the public in general. He could be entirely innocent of the crash and the murder, but I still wouldn't blame him for wanting his involvement kept out of the papers. We have nothing that says he is involved."
Derek nodded in agreement. "More than that, like I said, the fact he didn't know she was alive or had had a baby says to me he shouldn't be on our suspect list at all."
Spike pulled a face. "I'm not ready to discount him. Power is a strong incentive behind a person's actions. And anything that erodes a powerful man's standing in the community – I'd say that was a strong motive for murder."
Later as they settled themselves in Derek's office, Casey put a hand on his arm and met his eyes with the same look of concern from earlier.
"What upset you on my laptop?" She asked.
Derek took a deep breath. "There were two spreadsheets." He told her. "The other one was called 'Baby Names – Casey'. Top of your list was 'Charlotte'."
"Niiiiice!" Bea's eyes were darting about the room the moment Casey opened the door to the apartment. "A definite upgrade on sleeping in your parents' garage!"
Casey laughed. "Actually, it's Derek who slept in the old garage. My room was an extension. But they both served their purpose. Neither of us would be able to afford this apartment if it hadn't been for the long period of time we've spent living at home. We didn't exactly live rent-free, but saving was a lot easier. Can I get you a drink? We have wine." She held up a bottle of red wine to illustrate her point.
"Wine will be lovely, thank you." Bea's voice was distracted as she walked around the living area opening cupboards and trying out the furniture. "It's much less…boys club than I was expecting. Did Derek let you do all the decorating?"
Casey rolled her eyes at her friend. "It was a joint effort. He's more domesticated than you might think." She slid the wine glass across the work surface. "Much of this was in place before I stepped over the threshold and we've discussed everything I've added since." She opened a nearby cupboard, pulled out a bag of potato chips and poured them into a bowl. Bea stopped prowling and joined her at the kitchen island.
"I want the full tour." She announced, pulling out a bar stool and sitting down. "But it can wait." She reached across and took Casey's hand, her expression more solemn and her movements gentle. "First, I want to know how you are doing."
Casey sighed and pulled up her own stool, she picked up her wine glass thoughtfully and took a sip.
"I'm still here." She said with a catch in her voice. "But then, where else should I be?"
Bea said nothing, just squeezed Casey's hand and waited. Casey sipped her wine again and put it down.
"Look at me! Haven't had much alcohol for five years and now I can't have this conversation without a glass of wine." She shuddered and rubbed at her temples. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you in person…and sooner, Bea. I just…"
Bea paused in the act of lifting her own glass. "You have nothing to apologise for!" She protested. "You didn't know."
"I didn't remember. There's a difference, and with that comes a layer of guilt. How the hell did I forget my own child?!"
Bea sipped her wine. "The mind has curious ways of protecting our heart." She commented. "My grandmother retreated into a strange kind of parallel universe after my grandad died. In her mind, he was still alive, just away visiting his side of the family. Everything she did for the remainder of her life had to be 'run past Grandad'. My parents thought she was ga-ga, but, it was just her way of stopping the pain. You should have called me though, when you left the clinic. I would have taken you anywhere you wanted to go."
Casey shook her head. "I have no recollection of leaving the clinic." She told her friend. "Derek tells me that I told him I walked to the apartment in the sleet and snow, but I don't remember doing it. I'm not even sure how I remembered that I had the key to this place. And then when I got here, apparently, I bribed the concierge to stay quiet about me being here. I really was on auto-pilot."
"And now?" Bea pressed. Casey picked up her wine glass again, but she just looked at the red contents and placed it on the counter.
"How we feel is still something we are exploring. Derek and I." She confessed. "I understand why he kept quiet about Charlie. Even our parents admit he's right, they probably would have cut off his access to me." She sighed. "Neither of us would have handled that very well. Almost as soon as I came round from the coma, I wanted him there. I didn't remember about the baby, but I did remember our relationship." She took a mouthful of wine. "I needed him there, even though he had to step back and pretend like nothing had changed between us in the months leading up to the crash. If there had been total honesty, our parents would have reacted and we would both have been alone, hurting. Although our grief is different in many ways – he lost the prospect of his child, I also lost the physical connection I had with my baby - it's still very much the same pain. Bizarrely, that helps. He expected me to blame him, and that was part of the reason for the delay in telling me, but I've tried to work out in my own mind how he could have behaved differently, and I just can't see how. You have to understand our history, how our family saw us, but… there is too much there for me to point an accusing finger at him. And in the same way, I can't blame my mom and George. For them, it feels as though the accident happened last month."
Bea ran a finger around the rim of her glass. "So…Derek huh?" she led with a grin. "I told you…"
Casey snorted. "You were implying a new attraction. I was anticipating the death of the old one." She smiled. "But, yes, Derek."
"Still?" Bea pushed.
Casey nodded. "We've always understood each other better than anyone and we learned how to fight our battles a long time ago. It really wasn't a sea change when we finally clicked and got together. Just like putting the keystone into an arch. We are better together than apart."
Bea took a drink from her glass. "And the sex is good?" She quizzed her friend with her eyes as much as her words. Casey laughed.
"I wouldn't know." She pointed out. "It's been too long since I had anything to measure it against. A donkey is impressive until you meet a horse." Her eyes twinkled as she spoke.
Bea spat out her wine, unused to "cheeky Casey". "Are we speaking literally or figuratively here?" She gasped. At that, both girls snort giggled until Bea had a coughing fit. Casey refilled their glasses while her friend cleared her throat.
"Seriously, Case. My own love life is woefully inadequate right now. I need to live vicariously. Are you having some fun amongst all of the tears?"
Casey chuckled and reached for a crisp. "As Derek and I see it, our sex life is like my driving right now." Bea frowned.
"You lost me."
"I haven't driven for so long I need a driving refresher course. And Derek agrees. Once around the block won't get me very far. He has me practising my manoeuvres intensively for an hour every day!"