"Swan, I've told you time and time again, I don't feel comfortable putting you back in the field yet, for your own safety."
"Captain, please. A cold case, a missing persons, anything. Just please give me something to do around here that doesn't involve sitting behind a desk all day.."
Captain David Charming strides across his office and closes the door. "Emma, please. It's only been two months since Neal's death, and you haven't been cleared for the field yet -"
"Because you haven't let me take the psych exam!" Emma turns and looks at the closed door. "Why did you fight so hard to get me back to the precinct, back on my feet, if you're not going to continue to fight for me, dad? You know that I want to spend my time solving mysteries, arresting criminals and bettering Boston, not sitting behind a desk all day, making coffee and doing other people's paperwork."
"Emma, you know I can't promise anything."
"Fine, dad. You know what, never mind. Forget I even brought it up, again."
As Emma turns to storm out of her father's office, another detective knocks on the door, then opens it.
"Captain, uh, Detective. I'm sorry to interrupt, but, uh, Mr. Gold is back. Again."
"And there are still no leads on where his wife has disappeared to?"
"Wait, Mr. Gold, as in the mayor of Boston?" Emma asks.
Sergeant Locksley gestures to Emma with his eyes. "Should we be discussing the specifics of the case with her in here, Captain? She's not technically back in the field, and you said yourself that you didn't want word of this getting out"
"Detective Swan works for this department the same as you or I do, Robin. There's no reason to withhold any of this from her. Besides, I trust her more with information like this than I do some of the men outside this door"
"But nothing, Locksley," Emma spits back. "You heard what he said."
"Emma, please," David says quietly, before a screaming match breaks out in his office. Again. "Robin, go on."
His jaw tightens, and he swallows hard before he finally answers David's question. "No, sir. We've been trying to contact Miss French's family, companions, anyone who has been seen with her recently, but so far we have been unable to reach anyone."
"Put your best people on this, Robin. I want his wife found before anything is leaked to the press. Start by searching their house again."
"Yes, sir. We'll begin right away."
David turns to his daughter, thinking, then calls out, "And Robin?"
"Let Detective Swan ride with you. Do everything as you would do, just with her beside you."
"That's an order, Robin."
With no further objections, he turns and leaves David's office. Emma's eyes are wide, full of excitement, and she quickly embraces her father.
"Oh, thank you! Thank you! I won't let you down!"
David gently kisses her temple.
"I know you won't." As she starts out of his office, he calls her name once more, and she turns back.
"Try not to fight with them, okay? For me."
"I'll try my best."
The smile on her face makes David sure that he made the right decision - hopefully his superiors will have at least a partially open mind.
On the way to the crime scene, the awkwardness hangs in the air through a silence so thick that Emma can feel it between her slender fingers. She purposefully hadn't spoken to Robin since he poured her pot of coffee down the drain and told her she was "good for absolutely nothing" since she "can't make a goddamned pot of drinkable goddamned coffee" on her first day back, knowing full well that it had only been three weeks since her husband died and she was, as expected, a little frazzled.
But Robin's partner, Augsut, was even more of an issue, and a face that she had been trying her best to avoid since the night of Neal's funeral, when they found themselves at the same bar, almost entirely blackout drunk, and heavily made out in the alleyway before Emma's conscience caught up to her and she lost the contents of her stomach all over the pavement - and his shoes. She was mostly ashamed of herself, for letting herself get that bad that quickly, but deeper down, she was also embarrassed to be seen by him, and had, for the most part, succeeded at avoiding being in the same room as in since she returned to the precinct.
Yet here she was, riding along with the two men that she had been trying her best to avoid. But none of that mattered to her - all that mattered was that she was back in the field, with the permission of the Captain, working on a case that was actually important: the mayor's missing wife. And she was thankful.
She had met Miss French once, personally, at one of the mayor's many charity dinners, many of which she accompanied her father to, but some of which she went to with Neal, when they were both home from work at the same time. By the time they finally got married four years ago, though they had been together since they were teenagers, Neal had become editor of the Boston Globe, and Emma had just made Detective, so the time that they had together was already stretched thinner, and only made thinner when you factored in whether they were free long enough to go out for the whole evening, not to mention awake enough to attend an event as important as the mayor's dinner.
But during the few chances she did have to attend, she was always surprised by just how different the mayor and his wife seemed. Where Mr. Gold was quiet, only speaking when necessary - and sometimes even not then - his wife was friendly and open, willing to not only speak with anyone that would have her company, but converse with them, allow them to take part in her conversations. Growing up, Emma had met so many snooty old rich women, women who either stuck to their circles and never left them, or who loved the sound of their voice so much that they would talk to whoever they thought was listening just to talk. Miss French was far from being categorized among these women.
There was one time in particular, the dinner held just after her father had been made Captain of the Boston Police Department, that she had been seated next to Miss French because her father was the guest of honor. She remembers the night well - she was very proud of her father, and he deserved the position he was given. And she told Miss French this in passing, a comment made merely to be polite - and then spent the rest of the evening talking with her of her own time at the academy, of what it was like being raised by a policeman and a kindergarten teacher, her college days spent in the heart of Boston, when Neal was merely an intern with the Globe. No one else had ever really taken that much of an interest in her, especially not anyone near as important as the mayor's wife.
And now, she is missing.
As much as she has come to be comfortable in the awkward silence of the car, she must know more about this case before they get to the mayor's house, so she breaks it. "What do we know about the case?"
"Emma, come on, we can't just - " August starts, but Robin stops him.
"No, August. She's coming with on the case, she at least deserves to know something."
Emma swallows, thankful. "I appreciate that, Robin."
He smiles at her through the rear-view mirror, a smile that reminds her of her father and his protection.
August lets out a very audible sigh, not trying at all to hide his anger at the sergeant, but tells Emma what he knows anyway. "The mayor came to use four days ago for the first time, worried about his wife. He said he came home from a meeting and she wasn't at home, which is where she was every other night when she got home. We told him that he couldn't file a missing persons until she was gone for 24 hours, which she was not. But your father - uh, the Captain - had us look through his house anyway, for any kind of sign of struggle or anything, but we came up with no avail. He's been back at the precinct every day since then, though, and we talked to her family that we could contact and the people she worked with at the library, but this is the first time your father sent us to his house since that first day."
Robin smiles at her again. "Maybe he assumes you'll see something that we missed the first time, Emma."
"I doubt that," August says, scoffing.
Robin slaps his arm with the back of his hand. "One day, August, she will outrank you and kick your ass."
"I can kick his ass now, sarge, no problem."
Emma and Robin laugh together, but August just mopes in his seat, and they pull up in front of the mayor's house: a large, Victorian-style mansion on the outskirts of the city, brick and maroon with bright white trim. The house seems to be three stories, but Emma notices small windows at ground-level - a basement, not that odd for a house from this time period, but not very common, either.
The house had never been empty in the few times Emma had been there before, and while the lack of company makes it seem larger, the silence gives it another feel: abandoned, haunted, somehow stuck in the past. Robin leads her through the large, echoing house, and there is something about it that, to her, just seems… off. As if, without the parties - or maybe without Miss French herself - the house is asleep, turned off, without movement within. Even the parlor, the room that held the most life during the dinners held by the mayor, is eerily silent.
The rest of the house is the same, seemingly asleep without its matron. She follows her sergeant through the house, searching everything - though she has no idea what she is looking for. They search in silence for near an hour, ruffling through desks, books, chests of information.
"Is this everything?" she asks, finally, in the furthest upstairs chamber.
Robin's eyes widen at her, as if he does not understand her question, before he says, "Well, yes, this is everything. Mayor Gold led us through himself last time."
"What about the basement?"
"Houses like this don't have basements, Emma," August spits at her, and she whips around to face him.
"I take it you failed the notice the window wells, then, Booth?"
"The - the window wells?" August looks hurt, as if her realizing something he missed physically pains him - and this thought makes Emma smile.
"Yes, but I take it your superior detective skills failed to detect something as simple as windows." She does not give either of them time to respond, but instead rushes out of the chamber and back down the stairs, searching for the door to the basement. In the kitchen, she finds a single maid that was not there before, an older blonde woman sitting with the newspaper and a cup of steaming tea.
"Excuse me, miss?" Emma asks, quietly knocking on the trim of the doorway, and the woman looks up in alarm, almost spilling her tea all over her pressed white apron.
"Oh, I'm sorry, dearie," the woman responds, her voice thick with an English accent. "Master Gold is not on the premises right now."
"No, no," Emma replies, pulling her badge out from under her bright red jacket. "You misunderstand, ma'am. I'm - I am a detective, looking for Miss French. Actually, right now, all I am looking for is the basement?"
"Aye, it's about time someone asked about it." She sets her tea cup on the saucer, and the newspaper down next to it on the table, then leads her out of the kitchen and down the hallway to the library. "So, now that you have asked, I see no reason to keep this from you, for you must be smart enough to have seen something that led you in the right direction." She runs her finger along one of the shelves, then takes out a book from the shelf. And another, from the shelf below it. Leone came and asked the right questions. I was wondering how long it was going to take."
"So is that where the answer is, Miss…?"
"Potts, dear. Mrs. Potts. And yes, the basement is worth a search, at least."
"Why have you not brought it up to the police before, Mrs. Potts?"
"I swore to Master Gold that I would never bring it up, though there was no stipulation for someone that came and asked about it." Emma has nothing to say in response to this, so she just watches as the lady sets her tea cup down on the saucer and folds the paper down next to it. Standing up, she slides past Emma in the doorway and leads her down the hallway and into the library.
Running her index finger along the bookshelf, she removes a single book from the shelf, then one from the shelf below it; lastly, she walks over to the fireplace and places her palm on the mantle - and the bookshelf slowly begins to slide backwards, then open inwards as a door, something right out of one of her father's spy movies. Emma does not believe her eyes, but the woman leads her down the stairs anyway, torch in hand, and the bookshelf slides back into place. For the moment, she has forgotten about her companions, but over the sound of the sliding bookcase, she can hear them on the steps above her, especially the thudding of August's clunky boots.
"They are not worthy of this secret, madam," Mrs. Potts said to her, obviously also hearing them on the steps. The last things she hears before the bookshelf snaps back into place is August, calling out her name.
At the bottom of the steps, the stairway opens into a single very large room, `which illuminates itself when they cross through the doorway. Emma takes a moment to look around the room, and realizes something:
"A library," she whispers, and Mrs. Potts turns to her, smiling.
"Yes, dearie. Take a look around. I'll wager you've never seen a library like this before."
Emma does just that, taking a stroll around the perimeter of the room, gently touching the bookshelves, taking a look at the titles, but nothing sounds familiar to her. All of the books look old, worn, as if they are hundreds of years old, but still well taken care of. On the opposite side of the room, where she thought the wall was lined with shelves, she discovers that there are, in fact, rows of shelves - at least ten of them. And in the very corner, hidden from the world, sits a lone, old-fashioned roll-top desk. Emma looks around, though she does not know why, and then sits down in the chair in front of it. It is packed full of papers, notebooks, and books, but it is all so very organized. Emma is almost afraid to touch anything, it all seems so perfect, but she can't stop herself: she runs her hand across the bare wood of the work space, then against the row of matching hardback books on the top shelf.
And then the weirdest thing happens: in the farthest corner of the basement, far away from any doors or windows, Emma feels a breeze, just enough to rustle the ends of her hair and prove to her it was real. She looks around for any logical explanation, but sees none. Jumping up, she walks back to the bottom of the steps, only to find that Mrs. Potts standing there, smiling at her. She leads Emma up the steps, and to her surprise, they find an open doorway where before there was only the back of the bookcase.
She doesn't notice at first, but the room is entirely different than the one that she left, though the shelves of books are all the same. Where before there were light fixtures, sconces against the wall, there are now torches of fire; the floors, which were worn and scuffed, now look brand new. But she does not notice any of this. Instead, she is only asking herself one question: "Where the hell are August and Robin?"
She makes it back down the hallway and into the kitchen before she realizes the most obvious difference: where before, the only person in the house was Mrs. Potts, the kitchen is now alive with movement, almost a dozen women of all ages scattered throughout it.
"Mrs. Potts," Emma says finally. "What - What the fuck is going on?"
The old woman smiles at her. "Welcome to the nineteenth century, Detective Swan."
Emma has no response. She feels her mouth hanging agape, but she cannot even find it in herself to snap it closed.
After a moment, Mrs. Potts takes her by the arm and pulls her up the stairs. "Now, my dear, we must find you more appropriate clothing for the time."
Though she is still beyond confused, Emma follows her up the stairs and into the farthest chamber, where she knocks on the door. After a moment, it is opened from the inside, to reveal the mistress of the house, the missing Miss French.
"Why, Detective!" Miss French greets her, and Emma is even more surprised, first by her being there, then again by the fact that she remembers her name. "What brings you to my house? Something important enough to allow you to search the basement, I assume?"
This is enough to finally break Emma's silence. "Well, yes, Miss French. Your husband reported you missing, and my father sent me to search the house for you, because the men I work with are apparently not thorough enough to notice your house has a basement."
"Well, yes, my dear, that's because not everyone can see the windows," Mrs. Potts says.
Miss French is the one who responds: "My husband has the house protected by spells, Detective. Spells that no one should be able to break through, though why you were able I am unsure."
"How do I get back?"
"Oh, my dear, it doesn't work like that," Mrs. Potts says.
"What does that mean? How do I - I need to get back."
"It's not so much like a portal as it is like a… a rift, I guess is the right word for it."
"A… a rift? So you're saying I'm - I'm stuck here, in the nineteenth century, until… the house feels like sending me home?"
"Yes, that is exactly what I am saying."
Emma takes a deep breath, still trying to wrap her head around everything that has happened over the past few minutes, then comes to a conclusion in her head: "I need something to drink, badly. Where is the nearest bar?"
Miss French smiles at her. "Just down the road, but you're going to have to change first."