|The Monster Under the Bed
Author: BeyondTheSea13 PM
When a case takes a personal turn for Mike, the three-year hunt for a serial killer becomes a race to save a young girl's life.Rated: Fiction T - English - Crime/Drama - M. Cutter & C. Rubirosa - Chapters: 6 - Words: 10,946 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 12-07-12 - Published: 06-23-12 - id: 8247564
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Hey, guys. So, as you may have guessed because of the month delay, this was a really difficult chapter to write. It just wouldn't come out. The fact that I've had my wisdom teeth out, moved, and started school all in the last month didn't help either. Anyway, hopefully it was worth the wait. Sorry about that.
It was the portion of Mike's brain that still cared about Connie's wellbeing more than his own that directed him to a restaurant from the precinct, rather than a bar. Being honest with himself, there was nothing he would rather have done than make this entire evening disappear with a couple of strong drinks, but he knew Connie would follow him, and there was no way he was going to make her watch as he did the one thing he'd spent the last year trying to prevent her from doing. The French fries Connie had ordered for him were a poor substitute, but he was eating them in the hopes that it would lessen her concern.
At first, Mike had been annoyed at the prospect of being supervised all evening. This was probably exactly how Connie had felt, he reasoned, those first few months after he'd found her at that bar, when he'd insisted on taking her to dinner after work every evening and dropping her off at home afterwards, just to make sure she didn't go out and drink. She was returning the favor, he realized, paying off a debt on which he hadn't intended to collect. Now that they'd been sitting at the restaurant for three-and-a-half reruns of Friends, he was becoming grateful for her company, even though they'd hardly said three words to each other since arriving. Her presence was comforting. He set down the fry he'd been nibbling and look across the table at her.
"Are you finished?" she asked, frowning. "You barely ate half of them."
"We've been here almost two hours," he replied. "I've eaten all I can."
She sighed. "Ready to go then?" He could hear the exasperation and worry in her voice.
Mike hesitated. The sun had long since disappeared behind the high rises of the west side, and the restaurant was bright and filled with people, but he knew Connie would insist on walking him home regardless of when they left, and when he thought about it that way, the earlier, the better. Reluctantly, he nodded.
"Are you coming into work tomorrow?" Connie asked as they stepped into the cool night air. "I'll cover for you with Jack if you want to be with your family."
"We have to be in court at eleven," he reminded her. "Besides, there's nothing more I can do." He didn't have to finish. He knew she'd heard the implication. He'd left early. He hadn't been there. He'd done enough already.
"Mike, you know—"
"I couldn't have known," he answered.
"It's true," she replied. "This wasn't your fault. Don't punish yourself."
"When you've had a niece abducted by a prolific serial killer, then you can tell me how to feel," his tone was cutting, and he wanted to take it back as soon as he'd finished. She dropped her gaze, hurt. "I'm sorry," he hurried to add. "I know you're just trying to help."
"You're tired," Connie met his eyes and he knew he'd been forgiven. "It's been I long evening." Mike silently agreed. He was fighting to keep his eyes open. It was a good thing they were near his apartment, because he would definitely have fallen asleep in a cab, and it was all he could do not to laugh, picturing her trying to drag him up two flights of stairs to his door.
"It looks like rain tomorrow," Connie stated off-handedly as they walked.
"How appropriate," Mike replied dryly. He paused. "Did you know he kept Olivia Nealon alive for eleven days before he killed her?"
Connie was quiet for a moment. He could hear her sharp intake of breath, and he could almost feel the gears turning as she decided how to answer. "You know that I do."
"She was ten years old," he continued. "The things he did to her…"
The street was noisy, but the silence between them was almost tangible. Mike had realized back at the precinct that Elizabeth may never be found alive, but the other implications of her capture, the terrible things that were probably being done to her right now, were just beginning to dawn on him.
"Hannah Bianchi was only seven," Connie suddenly said.
"What?" Mike asked, taken aback. He'd expected her to listen, to indulge him in his morbid thoughts, but he'd never expected her to participate.
"His sixth victim," she reminded him. "The one who was snatched on her way home from school last April."
"What was a seven-year-old doing walking home from school by herself," Mike wondered.
"She wasn't" Connie replied. "She was with four other kids, most of them older."
Mike shook his head. "It's been a while since I read the case file."
"The oldest," she paused to think. "Matt Dillon. He lived the closest. A couple of them ran the two blocks to his house to get help, but when they got back, she was already gone."
"He grabbed her in front of all those kids?" Mike furrowed his eyebrows. "And we don't have a description?"
"They said he wore a baseball cap pulled low over his face," Connie shrugged. "Not much to see." He ran his fingers through his hair in dismay. "I'd tell you not to worry…" she trailed off. Except that there actually is something to worry about. "It's not hopeless," she added. "There were two dozen people in that restaurant. Someone must have seen something. And at least…" she hesitated. "At least we know we've got a couple days." She looked nervously up at him before continuing. "I mean, he always keeps them alive for about a week."
Mike squeezed his eyes shut. She'd managed to bring up the one thing he'd been trying not to think about. "Is that really such a good thing?" he asked, his voice so quiet he wasn't even sure Connie would hear. "Think about what he does to them."
"I know," Connie answered. "But at least she'd be alive."
"They used to call it the fate worse than death," Mike pointed out.
Connie sighed. "They don't anymore. Mike, think about what you're saying."
"I don't want her dead," Mike explained hastily. "I want to find her alive, I want it more than anything, but assuming we don't…when we find her body, I'd rather learn that she died quickly and painlessly." It sounded callous, Mike was aware. Years of looking at crime scene photos, of dealing with these kind of criminals and these kind of victims, had done that to him. He envied Connie, who had been in the field nearly eleven years and had managed to retain a touch of the naïveté and idealism he remembered in his law school classmates. It was one of the things he'd always admired her for, whether or not he wanted to admit it. He couldn't even remember looking at the world that way. Of course, absent a father for half of his childhood, he'd grown up a little faster than most of the boys he knew, and maybe that was a part of it. Connie's way of looking at life, halfway between himself and his ten-year-old niece, was like a breath of fresh air.
"I understand," she replied softly, placing a hand on his arm. She cast him a reassuring smile. He remembered back to earlier that day, how lucky he'd felt to be with her, not just to be seen with her, but to know her. His biggest problem had been the prospect of accidently saying something inappropriate. How things had changed in the space of a day. He noticed that she hadn't removed her hand, but noticing was the extent of his reaction. This afternoon he would have been over the moon. Now it was merely a passing thought. He longed for this afternoon.
Connie did not allow her hand to drop back to her side until they had arrived outside Mike's apartment. "You'll be okay tonight?" he asked. If she left now, this would mark the first time she'd seen herself home since the evening she'd passed downtown. She would walk directly past six bars. He knew because he'd counted as he took her back to her apartment the next morning.
"I should be asking you that," Connie replied. Mike stared at her, as if searching her eyes for the answer to his question. "I'm sure I'll be fine," she finally assured him. "How about you? If you don't want to be alone, that's fine," she laughed bitterly. "It's not like I've never slept on your couch before."
Mike couldn't help himself. "Actually you've never slept on my couch. I slept on my couch. You had the bed, remember?"
"I don't," she retorted. "I was passed out, remember?"
"I couldn't possibly forget," his tone was serious again. It wasn't for lack of trying, but up until today, he'd never been more terrified than when he'd spotted her haphazardly perched atop that bar stool, slumped over the counter.
"Well, I wouldn't dream of stealing your bed from you tonight," Connie said in an attempt to lighten the mood again. "If you want me to stay, I mean."
It occurred to Mike that all he had to do was say a word and he would be able to enjoy her company all night. Heaven knew he wasn't sleeping. If he really, really wanted her, this was his chance, maybe his only chance. He shook the thought from his head. He couldn't use her kindness like that. He wouldn't. She was his friend. Besides, sex wasn't what he wanted, not really. Not to mention they worked together—he was her superior—and even if all she did was spend the night his the couch, it would be too much. They would be crossing just another line that, despite himself, Mike knew they shouldn't cross.
"I'm fine," he answered. "I'll be okay. Thanks."
She hesitated, but finally seemed to take his word for it. "Okay, I'll see you tomorrow morning then. You know you can call me if you need anything," she smiled sadly. "I know I've called you at some pretty atrocious hours."
"I will," he nodded. "See you tomorrow."
She turned and shoved her hands into her pockets as she began to walk. Mike stood at the bottom of the stairs watching her retreating figure. With a last look back at him, Connie rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.
A/N: We're back to the facts of the case next chapter. Hopefully I'll have it up kind of soon. However, as you may or may not know, I'm running two fics simultaneously (which was such a smart idea), and that one it equally as neglected, so I'll have to tackle that first.
Anyway, hope you all enjoyed. Please review and let me know. I'll see you all next chapter!