A/N: This fanfiction will try to stay as in-character as possible, but is exploring the characters of Ingrid and Fillmore in more detail. It may also touch on subjects of a more adult nature, such as sexual abuse. There will be no graphic sex or violence, but the rating is there for author safety. Warnings will be put at the top of chapters where necessary.
Chapter One: The Fall.
It was a rainy day at X middle school: definitely not my kind of day. The rain was collecting on the steps in puddles, and rushing in torrents towards the storm drains. It was going to be another dismal fall, but at least that meant crime was at a low. On days like today forgery and extortion were non-existent. People kept their heads down and tried not to forget the long hot days of summer, or think about the hours of school that lay ahead.
Most kids don't care about crime, but I'm one of the few. My name's Fillmore, Cornelius Fillmore, X Middle School Safety Patrol. Vallejo once said my partner Ingrid Third and I were the best he had. He hasn't said it since, but Vallejo's never been loose with his praises.
The corridors were quiet at this time of day. Twenty minutes before the bell rang for lessons others were either still in bed, wishing it were Saturday, or were sitting in a school bus watching the rain. The only sound I heard was of Principal Folsom in her office humming to herself as she dosed up on her early morning three cappuccinos and a pop tart or two.
I took the key out of my pocket and slipped it into the lock of the Safety Patrol's office door. We all had one. It was understood by now that being an officer was what made each of us who we were. This was where we came between lessons and after school. This was where we hid behind paperwork when life got a bit too rough. It was kind of like family. A diverse and highly suspicious family.
I was the first one in, which was unusual. Ingrid normally beat me by ten minutes or so. It wasn't like her to be late. Third is, as many have said, a genius. She has a photographic memory, an advantage to any crime solving team, and she aces every test she takes. She has Ivy League written all over her and she is the best friend I've got.
I grabbed the purple mug, the one with the rabbit on the front. It's the only one left so there's always a queue for drinking hot chocolate in the morning. Ingrid had left a lipstick print on it. I always wondered if her lips are stained that dark from wearing that stuff. Maybe one day I'll catch her without it on and find out.
I caught sight of myself in the window to Vallejo's inner sanctum and frowned. Strange thoughts had been popping into my head about Ingrid recently. Thoughts that didn't belong in a partnership like we had. Not to mention the fact that I knew it was against Safety Patrol policy to get involved in anyway. It was just over-familiarity, that was all. I spent every day with her, so of course I'd think about her a lot.
'Hey, you okay?'
'I'm fine. I just wish the rain would stop.' Karen Tehama smiled in a vague Monday morning way and brushed aside her fingerprint kit and microscope slides, picking up textbooks and assignments as she went. 'I have to get to class. I'm surprised Ingrid's not in yet.'
'I was just thinking the same thing. Have you heard anything?'
'No.' She wiped her pink bangs away from her eyes and I could see a regretful frown on her face. 'It's not like we stay in close touch though.'
'But you're the only girls in the squad!'
'But Ingrid's different. Surely you know that, Fillmore? She's my friend and everything, but she's never been overwhelmingly social has she, even with you?'
I gulped down the last of my hot chocolate and left as the bell rang in my ears. Third was probably in class, putting the finishing touches on another top grade essay. I traversed the treacherous morning rush and slid into Chemistry. There were times when I'd have skipped this class. There was a time I would have had better things to be doing. Now I knew lessons mattered, even if I hated Chemistry.
The hours until lunch idled away, minutes going as slow as years. Every class I would reassure myself that Third would be there, attentive as always, but she didn't show. I was walking back to the office in a daze when Joseph Anza rushed up to me.
'Is Ingrid with you?'
'No man, she hasn't been in all day. Why?'
Anza had rolled his eyes and heaved as sigh. 'Vallejo's going nuts because there's nothing to do, so he's treating Third's absence as though it's worth expulsion or something.'
I shook my head and walked into the office in time to catch Tehama's words of reason.
'It's probably the 'Flu, Chief. Everyone's entitled to get sick sometimes.'
'Do you remember the bronchitis epidemic, Tehama? Ingrid had it full-blown. She was a coughing, spluttering, feverish ball of pus and she was still at that desk. Heck, she still aced that Biology paper. Ingrid would have to be dead and buried before she missed a day at school.'
As soon as Vallejo said it a strange hush filled the room. Danny stopped swiveling on his chair and stared in horror. I felt a sweat break out across my forehead as Anza staggered backward.
'You don't think?'
'No, no.' The Junior Commissioner was waving his hands and shaking his head but even I could see he was pale and worried. 'She'll be here tomorrow. Fillmore, you make sure of it. Go round to her house. You know where she lives; I know you do. See if she's okay - if you can help her.'
'Are you sure? I mean, I thought we weren't supposed to?'
'This is important, Fillmore.'
I narrowed my eyes and tried to read Vallejo's features. His eyes were darting around in his chubby face and he was wringing his hands. I peered over his shoulder to the desk in his office. It was littered with paperwork, including file photos and a letter on the Principal's personal stationary.
'Anything we should know?'
'No, just - just see if she's all right.'
The rain was running down the back of my neck and my t-shirt was soaked through by the time I reached the Third residence. It was a non-descript detached house. It looked pretty much like every other in their street. There was a neat front yard and a clean, swept driveway. It was void of any cars. I knew from Ingrid's frequent complaints that their garage was converted into an office for her mother. Ingrid had wanted it to be her study, but her parents had decided her bedroom would have to do.
The front door was locked and I huddled in the small overhang of the front porch as I waited for someone to answer my frantic ringing of the doorbell. It soon became apparent that no one was home. This morning's paper was still wedged in the letterbox. The print was smudged and illegible from the rain.
I stepped backwards and felt something under my shoe. Looking down I saw a rose. The petals were brilliant, blood red and the raindrops clustered at the flower's core. Someone more poetic that I may have likened them to diamonds or something. I saw it as sinister. Someone knew something. Red roses were a Valentine's day thing, but this bloom was eight months late.
I pulled a tissue from my pocket and wrapped it around the stem, frowning as tiny scratches of red marred the blank white. There was blood on the thorns, or perhaps a dye of some kind. I'd better get it back to Tehama.
I looked back at the house as I walked away. Ingrid's window was blank and gloomy. No light shone through the rain-streaked glass. The house was vacant and to me it seemed chilling in its neglect. Still, I told myself that there was nothing to worry about. Ingrid would be back tomorrow. Of course she would be.
'It's dye, not blood. There's a high sulphur content to it. That suggests it was mixed up at home. Sulphur is yellow. It looks like someone made this out of food coloring. Look at the slide, it's more orange than red.' Tehama motioned me towards the microscope and I squinted down the tube. I didn't know how she did it, but when it came to forensics Karen knew what she was doing.
'Who would leave a rose with dye on its thorns on Ingrid's doorstep?'
'Who knows? There are a lot of weird people around, Fillmore.'
'It's not just that, it's creepy.' O'Farrell muttered. 'It's like someone knows something we don't. I don't like that. I'm worried about Ingrid.'
'So are the rest of us, Danny.'
There was a knock at the door and for a second I felt a thrill of relief before my heart slumped again. It was Third all right, but not the right one. Ariella, Ingrid's older sister, stood at the door. Her eyes were bloodshot and bleary behind her glasses and she looked as though she'd been crying. Her hair was disheveled; as were her clothes but she still walked with the confidence that both the Third daughter's possessed.
'Hello, Fillmore. I'm afraid I need to talk to the Junior Commissioner.'
'Yes, about Ingrid.'
'Is she all right? What's happened to her?' For a minute I thought she wasn't going to tell me, but she sunk into a chair and began to speak in a level and carefully moderated voice.
'She's in hospital. She sustained head injuries during a car crash the night before last. The doctor's think she'll be all right but she hasn't shown any signs of waking up.'
'Was anyone else involved?' I asked, only to stop when a tear tumbled over Ariella's lashes. I handed her a box of tissues and waited until she her composure under shaky control.
'You have to understand, Fillmore, that the accident was nobody's fault. Ingrid was hurt, but she survived because she was in the back. Our parents… they weren't so lucky.'
'Oh, no!' Tehama whispered, her face pale.
'We're orphans now. Ingrid doesn't know yet, that's why I'm here. I don't know how long she'll be away for, or what's going to happen to us.' Another tear fell and Vallejo ushered her into his office and sat her down, closing the door quietly behind them and leaving the office to sink into the silence of grief.
End of Chapter One
Author's Notes: This is a Fillmore! fic I abandoned long ago, and decided to resurrect, and complete. It was published under the name Kasari, with the title "The Ivory Touch". Just a quick note to say that I'm British, so 'these speech marks' and any strange spelling is probably a result of that. Oh, and I'm not sure what ages Middle School encompasses, so for the purposes of this story Ingrid and Fillmore are in their early teens.
Feedback is always appreciated, but no flames please! Let me know if you think this is worth continuing.