"We've got a problem." Sam dropped a folded newspaper onto Jane's desk and leaned against the edge, his lips pressed together in a thin line. Jane picked up the paper, her forehead creasing as she read the headline.
"Butcher stalks NY women." She shook her head. "How'd the press get hold of this?"
"Emily Rosa's roommate was talking to someone she thought was a cop."
Jane pinched the bridge of her nose. "I hate reporters."
"Hey, Sullivan, Porter," a uniformed cop called from across the bullpen, "you got a statement for the press?" He looked at them expectantly, covering the mouthpiece of a phone with his hand.
Jane and Sam exchanged glances. "Uh, the usual, we can't comment on an ongoing investigation, yada, yada, yada."
"In other words," Jane said under her breath, "we're nowhere."
Sam sighed in agreement. "You know, Gene had this case before us."
Jane looked up at him. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"That we go back—"
"To the beginning." She stood and picked up her jacket. "Let's do it."
Kathleen sat at her desk, making notes in her day planner. She saw a movement out of the corner of her eye and looked up, relaxing when she saw her nephew. He approached the desk slowly, then leaped over the back of a chair before sitting in it. The chair was arranged at an angle, so he had to twist slightly to be able to look directly at Kathleen. When she realized that he wasn't going to say anything, she smiled.
"How was your date? I didn't hear you come in."
John's face lit up in a smile. "Good. Great. She let me stay the night again."
"So, Romeo, looks like things are going well."
Kathleen laughed. "Never mind. So you spent the night, huh? This is becoming a regular thing."
"She lets me hold her while she sleeps." John's eyes had a faraway look, a mixture of childlike innocence, pure delight, and something else. "I like waking up with her."
"Well, Jane's a lucky woman."
"Because you're a great catch."
John's forehead creased in confusion. "A great catch?"
"It's a figure of speech." Kathleen waved a hand dismissively. "Doesn't matter. Have you had lunch yet?"
John shook his head.
"Good. Neither have I." She rose and waited while John did the same. They walked side by side to the kitchen, John's step so light that he was practically bouncing. Kathleen held back a smile.
"Kathleen, why did you never marry?" John turned his head to look at her, his expression curious.
She shrugged. "I guess I never met the right person."
"I think," John said slowly, "that you would be a great catch, too."
Kathleen stopped, touched at the tenderness in his words. For the thousandth time, she wished she'd had a chance to watch John grow up. And for the thousandth time, she wondered at how remarkable his survival actually was.
"Thank you, John."
Cas had her back to the door when the bell jingled, announcing the arrival of a customer. She turned, her smile dying on her lips when she saw who had entered: the redhead from her dream, accompanied by a strange black man. For a moment, she was frozen in position; then she picked up two menus and walked up to them.
"Table for two?" Though her voice was strained, the couple didn't seem to notice.
The redhead exchanged glances with her companion, then smiled. She moved her jacket to reveal the gold detective's shield on her belt. The man did the same.
"I'm Detective Porter; this is Detective Sullivan. We're looking for Bill Styler. Is he around?"
"He's in the back. Have a seat; I'll call him for you." Cas looked back over her shoulder before going around the counter and into the small office. Yesterday she'd seen the blond man, and today, the redhead. Maybe she'd been wrong; maybe this was more than just coincidence.
They need you.
"Cas? Something wrong?" Bill stood as she entered. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"There are some cops here to see you."
Bill's smile faded. "Did they say why?"
Cas shook her head.
"Bring us some coffee, won't you?" He held the door for her, then crossed the room to where the cops sat. Cas watched him. When he pulled out a chair and sat, she took out three mugs from under the counter and picked up a pot of coffee.
"I don't understand," Bill was saying as she put the mugs on the table, "that other detective was here months ago about Stella. Are you saying you still haven't found anything?"
"No, the previous detective in charge," Detective Sullivan glanced at his partner, "is no longer in charge. We're just trying to get a feel for the case."
Detective Porter continued, "We're also hoping you might have remembered something that didn't occur to you the first time."
Cas poured coffee into each of the mugs, unashamed that she was eavesdropping. For all she knew, the information could be important later on.
"Thanks," Detective Porter said, then looked up at Cas. "Did you know Stella Di Fabrizi?"
Cas shook her head, breaking eye contact. "Sorry. I just started here."
"Cas, can you bring more sugar?"
She nodded and went back to the counter. Fortunately, the lunchhour rush had passed, and she had no other patrons she had to worry about. She kept her eyes on the detectives, but they were speaking too low for her to hear anything.
She hadn't expected the redhead to be a detective. Did that mean the blond man was a criminal? Somehow she knew that wasn't the case.
A chill ran up Cas' spine. If Abby was right, both Detective Porter and the blond stranger were in danger, and Cas didn't know enough to help them.
"Thanks for your time," Jane said. She stood and shook Bill's hand.
"If you remember anything," Sam added.
"Yeah, I'll call."
Jane followed Sam to the door, then felt someone watching her. She turned; surprised to see the waitress' gaze fixed on her. Cath? No, Cas. Something had spooked her, but Jane wasn't sure what. Jane wondered if she'd been lying about when she started working there.
"Hey, Sam, go on ahead. I'll be out in a minute." She walked up to the counter. "Hi."
Cas wouldn't meet her gaze. "Um, did you want something else?"
Jane took a card from her pocket and passed it to Cas. "If you can think of anything that might help."
Cas studied the card, then finally looked at Jane. "I hope you find him."
Jane nodded and turned to leave. As she reached the door, Cas called out, "Detective Porter!"
She looked back.
Cas knew something, Jane was sure of it. She decided to give her a day or two to call. If Cas hadn't contacted her by then, Jane would pay her another visit.
When Cas' shift ended, she waved goodbye to Bill, glad he was on the phone and wouldn't give her trouble about walking home. 'Home' was a motel three blocks from the coffee shop, nicer than a lot of other places Cas had stayed, but nothing like the house she had grown up in.
Cas didn't want to think about the life she'd left behind. She hadn't thought about her family in weeks. Abby wouldn't leave her alone, but she had learned to live with that. She shoved her hands into her pockets, and her fingers curled around the card Detective Porter had given her.
The black curtain fell across her vision. The dull, familiar roar of the ocean rose in her ears.
Detective Porter. The blond man. He looked angry, and she seemed . . . scared? Of him? She reached for him, saying something Cas couldn't hear. He pushed her hands aside, and she stumbled, falling to her knees.
Someone bumped into Cas, pulling her out of the vision. The sudden return to reality was jarring, and Cas looked around her in confusion.
"Hello, Cassandra." The voice was low, deceptively warm, just the slightest hint of a Southern drawl.
Cas turned around and began to run.