Me: Love Murder Call. Enjoy this short story!
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
Just as a case is wrapping up, Tessa goes missing. When they find her again, she's not herself. Much to the benefit of the murderer she was trying to put behind bars.
Tessa felt stuck. She didn't like feeling stuck.
A man named Robert Young was murdered in his laundry mat Saturday evening. Mr. Young was in business with a crime ring of money launders, and when he was prepared to end their business relationship, he was killed, all for the purpose of one last turnover so misters Silas Watterson and Micky John could make their separate getaways.
But- as so often with murder- one led to another, and another body showed up, this one belonging to Robert Young's daughter, Sonia.
So, after Micky John coming clean about his participation in the events, Steve and Tessa were now chasing after Silas Watterson, who was (very annoyingly) making one last bid at escape.
But the question was 'where is he?'
''You alright, Tessa?''
Tessa snapped out of her thoughts. She realized the cashier was talking to her. ''Oh, yes. Sorry.''
''It's alright,'' the woman assured her as Tessa rifled for her change. ''Sometimes we lose our trains of thought.''
When you lose something, what do you do?
You go back for it.
''Um, I have to go, can you hold these?'' Tessa asked, already running to the door.
''We don't really do that-''
''Thanks, T!'' Tessa was already out into the street.
She dialed her phone. ''Steve! Yeah. We need to go back to the laundry mat. Silas is going to escape!''
Not doing a too good job of it, thought Steve. Going up to the rooftop.
Silas, upon seeing them arrive at the laundry mat, had run through the building that Mr. Young's laundry shop was in and up the stairs. According to Tessa who had-in her strange way- arrived at the answer, Silas had to find the money Mickey hid for himself. They were now all on the roof, Silas' back against the low ledge.
''It's over now, Silas,'' Tessa told him. ''Micky's given you up.''
Silas laughed. ''I'm afraid Micky don't know everything,'' he taunted. ''He might be a coward, but I've come too far to lose it all just cause of a couple of detectives.''
''Coming in willingly works out in your favor,'' Steve explained.
Micky spat at the ground. ''Don't think so, mate.''
His hand went to his pocket. Tessa noticed first. ''Steve!''
They both acted. Steve withdrew his own weapon and Tessa ran at Micky. Micky aimed and fired, but Tessa pushed his arm.
The next few seconds would replay themselves slowly in Steve's mind later, and for many months after. But in reality it happened so fast he barley knew what occurred.
The kickback from the gun, and Tessa redirecting it, caused Micky to lose his balance. He was falling over the edge, and he grabbed the only thing he could in his panic; Tessa.
They went over the edge, down the building, and into the dark alley below. Steve ran for the stairs.
''A lot of blood,'' Fisk noted. ''Some fibers embedded in the pavement here…Constable, get a shot of this.''
Dee snapped the photo. ''There's no bodies,'' she said shakily.
''Very astute of you, constable.''
''So that means she's alive, yeah? Right?''
No one answered her.
Steve watched Fisk and Dee from behind the tape, his mind racing on what could have happened.
''You saw them fall,'' Malcom repeated. ''Nothing else?''
''I ran down here. Dialed my mobile as I ran, called back up, and got here to…this.'' He gestured at the empty scene in front of them. ''I might've heard a car- maybe he got away in that…''
''A man can't fall off a bulling and bring a car around to drive away in,'' Malcom challenged. ''Let alone take a hostage with him. He wouldn't have had time if you got down here right away.''
Steve took a breath, the answer coming to him. I'm afraid Micky don't know everything. ''Then he had to have had help,'' he said to Malcom.
''No!'' Micky John insisted across the table, ''It was just me and Silas. We never worked with anyone else!''
''Maybe Silas was working with someone behind your back,'' Steve suggested. ''Maybe he never meant to kill Sonia at all. Maybe that knife was meant for you.''
Micky paled at the mention. ''Silas and I were never close,'' he explained. ''He might've been getting some more business on the side. I don't know! I already told you everything I know!''
Steve leaned forward, glaring at the man. ''Silas has escaped,'' he said, ''He's run away. Where would he hide out?''
Micky actually laughed. ''Silas ain't stupid, mate. If he knows I've given him up, he won't risk going anywhere I know about. I'd bet on that.''
''Tell us anyway.'' Steve tossed the note pad in front of him. Micky rolled his eyes, but began listing addresses. Steve could've screamed at the slowness of his pace.
Where was Tessa? Was she bleeding to death somewhere? Was she already dead and Silas was coming up with some way of disposing her body?
The second Micky lifted his pencil, Steve snatched the pad up and walked out the door. He met Malcom in the viewing room. ''He won't be here,'' he admitted, handing the paper over.
''We'll still check for anything hinting at another area Micky doesn't know about.'' Malcom sighed at the locations. ''A third person… does that change what we already know about the crime?''
Steve considered it. ''We know it took two people to kill Robert Young and put him in that drying unit,'' he said. ''Micky said it was him and Silas, but there's nothing to suggest someone else couldn't have been there.''
''And the death of Young's daughter?''
''Micky retracted their alibis, but this other person could've done the deed, and Micky's just continuing to keep him in the shadows.''
''Too many 'coulds', Hayden.'' Malcom went to the door. ''I'm going to start organizing teams to search these premises. You start circulating Tessa's and Silas' pictures, see if we get any hits. I want this case over and my detective back.''
The locations turned up nothing. The news reels of Tessa and Silas received no responses. The days went by and the trail got colder. And the moments of that fateful day when Tessa went over the roof's ledge began haunting Steve's dreams.
When Micky John was only charged with accessory to murder due to no one to corroborate or contradict his story, Steve thought he would be sick. But his disgust at the situation was put aside when a horrible task was assigned to him.
Telling Mary Vance what happened to her daughter.
Malcom went with Steve. He knew Tessa's mother quite well, having once been very close with her husband, Charles Vance. Mary Vance was a tall, stern looking woman. There wasn't much of Tessa in her appearance, but the way she took the news of her daughter's disappearance showed where Tessa got her temperament from. Mary Vance's body was still, eyes hard, her mind probably racing like Tessa's did.
She asked one question; ''And what are you doing about it?''
''Everything we can, ma'am,'' Malcom assured her. ''Everything.''
Mary Vance was silent. She dragged her thumbnail across her lip, an action Steve attributed so much to Tessa it was like being slapped in the face.
Everything was what they always did when a missing persons case occurred. The more you did the sooner you did, the more likely the missing person would not turn up dead. But there was only so long one could do everything. Eventually, resources had to be turned away to new cases.
Unless new evidence showed up. Which is what exactly Steve was afraid of when he got the call of a body being found along the highway just a few meters from Mr. Young's shop.
He approached the scene slowly. Fisk had already set to work. ''It's not her, right?'' Dee was asking earnestly. ''God, just tell me it's not her.''
Steve wanted to shout at her why she would assume that, when he saw the blonde hair. Fisk caught his expression. ''It's not,'' he said, looking back at his work. ''Fingertips have been cut off, her face mutilated, including her teeth. Someone doesn't want us to identify her.''
''How does that make it not Tessa?'' Imogen asked, with more calmness than Steve could've mustered.
''If Tessa were dead, I think our killers would want us to know without a doubt so we'd stop looking for her, don't you?'' Fisk explained.
That was the most logical thought to the whole thing Steve had heard in many weeks.
The body of the young woman they found was indeed impossible to identify. Other than the fact she was around twenty-five to thirty years of age, dyed her hair blonde, and was frequently seen biking on the bike trail by an old woman's house- information curtsy of the old woman, who had never spoken to her, just knew she hadn't been by in a couple days- they knew nothing. Another case gone cold, and added to the pile right above Tessa's.
Tessa, missing. Tessa, gone. She had to be dead. There had been no reports of a young woman matching Tessa's description being treated at hospital for injuries consistent with a fall. But then again, neither had there been reports of Silas. Maybe the mysterious third person was someone with medical knowledge, and he treated both Silas and Tessa. Or maybe he killed them both and hid the bodies so well no one would ever know.
Steve thought back to the case of the young woman locked in a cupboard for years, mummified there. That could not happen to Tessa. He could not let it.
Then what do I do?
The complaint came from Kathy Wilson, Tessa's neighbor.
''Someone's been in Tessa's house.''
Steve didn't hesitate to show up at the scene, much to the confusion of the local boys. ''It's just a regular breaking and entering,'' said one, wondering at the detective's appearance.
Steve glanced around the apartment. Apart from being dusty, nothing too obvious was disturbed. ''I want everything photographed and marked,'' he ordered. ''If something was taken, it had to have meant something.''
A long shot, he knew. But why break in now? There had to be something missing.
Tessa didn't have much in the way of valuables. TV was gone, her jewelry box empty, but the place hadn't exactly been searched as one would expect with a regular robbery. Not to mention Tessa's apartment complex had a locked gate. It would take effort to break in, and then once broken in why Tessa's apartment?
They had to have known she wasn't there. They had to have been looking for something in particular, something Steve didn't know was there. But what and why?
Another week went by. Another cold trail. No finger prints, no leads on the break in, nothing.
It had been a long time since Steve prayed. He still believed in his faith, though at times he wished he didn't. It would make his line of work a hell of a lot easier. But he was prepared to try anything. Everything, as he had promised.
He was walking down the street, struck by how many people were around him in the city this busy time of day, and how none of them were Tessa. She had to be here, she had to be alive.
His prayer was just a fleeting thought. Please, let me find her. Please.
He waited for the light to change at the cross walk. He glanced around his surroundings, mentally deciding the best route for getting home, when he spotted someone across the street. They were looking at him. He squinted in the bright sun.
His heart stopped.
The light changed. People jostled in front of Steve to cross. He pushed past them, trying to get to the edge of the road. The woman was still there. ''Tessa!''
Goddamn the sun. It was in his eyes. But he thought he saw an alarmed expression come over the woman's face. And then she turned, walking swiftly away.
Steve was already aware by the time he got to where she had been it would be hopeless, she could be anywhere. But he went anyway, standing at that street corner, wondering whether he had finally lost his mind, or God had granted him a miracle.
Steve believed in miracles. He also believed in cause and effect, and that sometimes miracles were effects with causes they didn't yet know. But when he entered the station, he was beginning to get a picture.
''Guess who's trial is next week?'' Malcom greeted him with, looking chipper than he had seen him in weeks.
''Mickey John's.'' Like Steve needed to be reminded. The date was circled in red on his calendar. ''What about it?''
''Now guess who turned themselves in to help the proceedings along.'' Malcom gestured to the interrogation room.
Steve glanced at the monitor. For the second time that day, his heart stopped.
For a moment, his mind went blank. He saw himself marching in there and screaming at him to tell him where Tessa was. Throwing the evidence in his face, telling him he knew she was alive, and that he had better tell them now or-
Steve came back to himself. No, jumping the gun was a Tessa move. And he lacked her elegance and snap judgement that made her able to pull it off. He had to do this slowly and carefully.
He turned to Malcom. ''I think I saw Tessa.''
When he was done explaining, he was pretty sure every ear outside the door was straining to hear. All except Dee, who did not attempt to hide her eavesdropping presence. ''She's alive, then?''
''Maybe.'' Steve frowned at the man sitting in the interrogation room. ''But it can't be coincidence.''
''If she's alive, why run from you?'' Malcom asked.
''Maybe he can tell us that.'' Steve glanced at Malcom and, with a nod of agreement from the man, he went into the interrogation room.
''Mr. Watterson,'' Steve announced cooly upon entering. ''To what do we owe the pleasure?''
''You're gonna prosecute my mate, Mickey, yeah?'' Silas said. ''Now, I don't think you should put in jail the wrong man, y'know?''
''How nice your public duty.''
''It's true we did that Young fella in, but it was self defense, I swear it.''
''Self defense.'' Steve folded his arms. ''That's quite a different story than Mickey gave us.''
''Mickey told you he helped me put him in the dryer, and he did,'' Silas went on, ''But he came in after Young was already dead. The man attacked me! He was trying to pin his little crime ring on me! I had to hit him. I had to. My friend was there, he can attest to it.''
''There was another person at the crime scene?''
''Not at the scene,'' Silas clarified. ''But he knew that was what Young was getting at. I told him everything at the time, before the horrible, horrible night.''
The man was good. A complete manipulative liar. ''Mr. Watterson, you were trying to evade arrest, and have succeeded, for over three months. And all this time you were an innocent? That doesn't quite add up.''
''You'd convinced yourselves I'd done it. What was I to do?''
''Where've you been hiding out all this time?''
''Various places. I can give you a list.''
''Ah huh. And what prompted this…desire to come forward?''
''I can't let Mickey get charged with helping a cold blooded murderer. That's not what happened!''
''Is that all? Just…deciding to help your friend?''
Silas sighed with the appearance of someone reluctantly confessing. It made Steve's blood boil. ''My friend, the one I mentioned? Well, he heard about the trial. He found me and- well, he persuaded me to do the right thing. He's a good man, my friend. A great friend.''
''I'm going to need the name of this friend.''
''Donald Jones.'' Silas shook his head. ''He's been such a good friend, anyone will tell you that. Hell of a year for him, too. His wife got in a horrible accident, hasn't been the same since. Brain injury. Left her all jumpy.''
''Speaking of jumpy.'' Steve leaned forward. He studied the man across from him. Open body language, low voice, eye contact…yes, an excellent liar if there ever was one. A completely different man from the one who'd jumped off a building three months ago. ''How did you survive your injuries from the fall of your escape three months ago?''
Silas blinked. ''Well, I got off pretty well. There was a sort of dumpster there, cushioned the fall you know. I ran from you and your partner, got in a car, and left.''
''Ran from my partner?'' Steve reminded himself to go slow. He had to play this carefully. ''My partner chased you?''
''Yeah. I mean, I assume. I just pushed her off and got in my car and left.''
''There was no car in the alley. It had to have been brought around.''
''I'm afraid you're wrong about that,'' Silas challenged. ''I think I remember my own getaway, thanks.''
''I was there, Mr. Watterson. There was no car in that alley unless someone else brought it around.''
''Does your partner agree with you?''
The son of a bitch. He wasn't really going to pretend, was he?
''My partner has been missing from the time of your disappearance, Mr. Watterson.''
The look of shock on the man's face was complete overdone. ''Oh my god! Are you saying she- she might've died in the fall?''
Steve entertained a fantasy of killing the man right there. He took a deep breath. ''Mr. Watterson, we have forensic evidence that you and Detective Vance went over the building, and sustained injuries that could not have allowed you to go in search of a vehicle. You didn't have time.''
''The car was already there!''
''Then why didn't I see it?''
''If you didn't see it, you're wrong.'' Silas Watterson leaned back in his chair. ''After all, you're only one person. I'm sure if your partner were around, she'd tell you the car was there.''
There was too much triumph in the man's eyes. He had a plan, and it was going swimmingly. Steve just wished he could see the ending.
''He says he escaped via a car that was already in the alley?'' Malcom asked.
''There wasn't a car in the alley,'' Steve repeated. ''I would've seen it.''
''But as you were the only one there, it's your word against his.''
''Tessa was there,'' Steve reminded Malcom.
''And he's gotten her out of the way,'' Malcom pointed out.
''Don't say it like that, it makes it sound as if he killed her,'' Imogen said. Dee stifled a squeak.
''He did something with her,'' Steve insisted. ''Something to make it so it would be just my word against his. His entire story could be seen as plausible, especially if this 'Donald Jones' is in on it. He could be our third person.''
''He helped Silas escape and took Tessa with them.'' Malcom shrugged. ''Reasonable. If we can prove it. But what good does it do for Silas to show up and turn himself in?''
''Maybe it really is for Mickey's benefit,'' Imogen suggested. ''Perhaps they had a deal. A 'all of for one', mentality.''
''Don't really strike me as the musketeer types.''
''A deal in which they all have apart of the money, and they can't get Mickey's cut without him.''
'Sounds better.'' Steve drummed his fingers. ''But then where is Tessa?''
''I suppose this Watterson has an explanation on what happened to this invisible car?'' Fisk asked, turning way from his work and setting his attention on them.
''Ditched it the first chance he got,'' Steve said. ''Why?''
''Because if I could see the car, I could probably prove whether or not he was driving, and if Tessa were in the car as well.'' Fisk snapped off his gloves. ''Find that car, we'll have something to go on.''
Steve was nervous the entire way to Donald Jone's house. He didn't get nervous, especially since becoming a detective. He had seen it all, or so he thought.
But the idea of this trail going cold was haunting him. What if Silas Watterson's act was too good? What if he fooled a jury? Was if Tessa was never found?
Maybe that person on the sidewalk that morning was Tessa. Maybe it was a goodbye.
Steve slammed on the brakes too hard. She's not dead.
He and Malcom walked up to the front door and knocked. As they waited, Malcom nodded to the car parked in the driveway. Steve glanced at it. It was too nice. He would've remembered seeing it that day.
The door was opened by a man of about thirty, short brown hair, unshaven, regular clothes. He didn't seem surprised to see them. ''Yes?''
''Homicide,'' Malcom introduced, ''Detective Inspector Throne and Detective Hayden. You're Donald Jones?''
''Yes.'' He looked worried. Steve wondered if it was genuine or if he was even a better actor than Silas. ''Is- is this about Silas? Did he turn himself in?''
''May we come in?'' Thorne asked.
''Yes, of course.'' Donald opened the door wide. ''The living room's right through here. My wife's home, too. Theresa! ''
Donald led the way. ''Esa! Detectives are here about Silas.''
Footsteps upstairs made both Steve and Malcom stop. They watched as a woman descended halfway, before pausing to look at them, expression stern and eyes snapping.
Steve lost his breath for a moment. She was thinner, her makeup was different, her hair was dyed brown, and she was looking at him as if she'd never seen him before. But it was her. He knew those eyes anywhere.
''Tessa,'' he said.
She descended another step. ''Theresa,'' she corrected. She looked to Donald. ''Do I know these people, Donny?''