DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters. No profit is being made. It's all for fun.
Part One: Out in the Cold
In the end it was simple. Not easy. Not with Jordan. Not with him. It probably never would be. But there was an elegant simplicity to it all.
December had snuck up on Boston after a gentle fall and almost balmy November. Woody had returned to work, desk duty first of course and, eventually, back into the field. Though he couldn't make himself ask if Jordan was avoiding him, he'd been struck by the fact that the responding M.E. on his first three homicides hadn't been her. Eventually though she'd appeared. Woody had seen her get out of the car, watched her scan the scene with a gaze that would have appeared casual to those who didn't know her. He'd caught the slight hesitation when her sightline had taken him in. Had he been closer he'd have noticed the momentary twitch at the corners of her mouth and he'd have heard the soft, but deep breath she'd forced into her lungs. He'd broken off his own examination of the scene and made his way toward her.
Her mouth had turned down briefly at the slight limp that slowed him down (though time would take care of that) and then the walls had gone up, solid, impassive, impenetrable. She'd kept here eyes carefully hidden behind dark sunglasses appropriate to the brilliance of that late summer day. The only emotion Woody had found on her face was a generic mixture one that revealed nothing of what went on beneath her skin. She'd been professional, thorough, competent. Jordan.
Any curiosity, any theories she'd had, she'd kept to herself on that case and most of the subsequent ones on which they had to collaborate. Woody wondered, looking at today's body, if she would be able to do that with this one. As much as he missed the Jordan Cavanaugh who had, at times, plagued him, he hoped maybe she could.
"Detective?" Woody looked up at the uniformed officer in front of him. He grunted. "M.E.'s here." The young woman gestured.
Woody watched her as he had so many times. She got out of the car, took in the setting in front of her, found him. The day was bleak and grim, December snow threatening to start spitting at them any time. No sunglasses today and Woody found himself studying her. As always, her professional demeanor didn't falter, but the ache in her heart - the ache he'd put there - thudded over him. The pain, doubt and anger had tapestried themselves into her soul, and at the moment she had finally learned to unweave those ugly, garish threads, he had reminded her to tighten them instead. She drew closer and the mask went down. Her gaze was nothing more than appraising and if she sensed any of what he'd been thinking, she ignored it.
"What do we have?"
Woody took a breath. "A baby."
Jordan's eyebrows went up. "In there?" She gestured to the dumpster.
Woody could only nod.
"Damn," Jordan breathed. She inhaled and swallowed past the lump in her throat. "All right. Show me."
Jordan had nearly finished her preliminary, on-site routine when the anguished screams of a woman caught the attention of everyone in the area. Struggling, slapping, almost biting, a young woman dragged one of the uniformed officers with her toward where the baby lay. Jordan hastily covered the tiny cold corpse.
"OhmyGod! OhmyGod! OhmyGod! Noooooooo!" The young woman kept howling. "Is it Evvy? Is it? OhmyGod! I only went to do the laundry!"
Woody and Jordan exchanged glances. His eyes pled with her in spite of the fact he knew he should approach the woman first. Her raw agony and fierce anger cowed him, spoke to him of some gender bond he could never fathom, never hope to have. An excuse, maybe, but Jordan's expression let him off the hook. Her face soft, but neutral, she approached the woman, a hand outstretched.
When Jordan's fingertips brushed the woman's shoulder, the woman slapped at the tentative touch. Woody re-evaluated the woman. A girl, really. Maybe twenty, unless she looked a lot younger than she was. A lot.
Jordan tried again, drawing closer to the girl, keeping her gentle hand on the other's shoulder this time. Murmuring soft, meaningless words until the girl finally stopped screaming. The officer holding her relaxed his grip. She sagged slightly and Jordan was there to hold her up.
Now the girl began to babble.
Through the hysterics, Jordan's calm voice cut a delicate path. "Tell me your name. I'm Jordan. What's your name? We need to know your name. We can start to help you when-"
"Karen. Karen Devaney," the girl spit out. "Is that Evvy?" She pointed, her finger shaking, toward the pitifully small mound so tactfully covered by the M.E.
"We don't know," Jordan told her. "We need you to help us and we can help you."
Slowly, the girl's breathing slowed. Her face had taken on a waxy pallor, but some color returned to her cheeks as she let Jordan's voice soothe her. Wordlessly, Jordan motioned to Woody. She introduced the detective to Karen, standing by as the mechanics of investigation and law enforcement began to grind away.
Her eyes kept cutting to the covered body - so cold, so tiny, Jordan kept thinking - but she was able to tell Woody her story. It wasn't terribly unique. She was nineteen, got pregnant before she finished high school. She and the guy - Mike O'Neal - stayed together, for Evvy's sake more than anything. When they didn't get married parents on both sides cut them loose. Since then they'd lived in a succession of cheaper and cheaper apartments, barely making ends meet, getting public assistance - just for the baby, you understand, the girl insisted with pride. Mike started drinking a few months ago. He lost the job he'd had. She'd been trying to work to get some extra cash. A neighbor watched Evvy for her. Mike wouldn't. It wasn't his job, he said. A bitter snort. Not much was Mike's job these days. Last night, after working all day, Karen had come home to piles of laundry Mike hadn't taken to the laundromat that day. After Evvy had gone to sleep, Karen had drug herself down to the laundromat - the one three blocks over. She must have fallen asleep there. When she got home, Mike was gone and so was Evvy. Karen thought she was at the neighbor's. The manager came up as she was putting away clothes. They were being evicted - the baby had disturbed too many people the night before. Crying, Karen had gone down to get the little girl. The neighbor didn't have her. But, oh yes, Evvy had raised a fuss in the night. And then she'd just stopped. After that the door had slammed and the neighbor had heard Mike go down the stairs. No, he hadn't been back.
And at that moment one of the officers had knocked on the neighbor's door, canvassing for witnesses to a baby that had been left in the dumpster.
Jordan bit back the tears. Woody sighed heavily as he closed his notebook.
Karen looked at Jordan. The M.E. felt her heart twist at the girl's tear-washed face. "Is it Evvy?"
"I - um...," Jordan hesitated, hating her job at the moment. "I don't know. We - um - we - that is the baby..."
"We need a positive id on the baby that was found," Woody explained. Jordan shot him a grateful look.
Karen swallowed. "Do I have to - to look at the baby?"
Another exchange of glances between Jordan and Woody. Jordan struggled for words. "Um - maybe you could tell me how old Evvy was. What she was wearing when you - um - when you put her to bed."
"She is- is- is - um - elev- eleven months." The girl's eyes filled with more tears. "Her birthday is in three weeks. She can almost walk. That's pretty good, isn't it?" She looked desperately at Jordan and Woody.
"That's great," Jordan assured her. "Um - and what was she wearing?"
"Oh. Um - yeah. Um - I put her in her little pink footie suit. You know the kind? She loves that one. I know it's probably stupid, but I think pink is her favorite color."
Woody spoke gently. "It's not stupid." His eyes sought out Jordan's. In a motion only he could catch, she nodded. He knew about the pink footie suit of course. Based on Jordan's examination, the baby girl was between ten months and a year. Woody's shoulder's sagged.
Karen sniffed. "It's Evvy, isn't it?"
Taking the girl in her arms, Jordan told her that most likely the baby was indeed Evvy. Karen sobbed, clutching at Jordan. The girl spoke convulsively. "It was hard. Really hard. But - but I love her. Loved her" A freshet of tears as the realization snuck up on her again. "I did. I do. I - She - She always smiles. And laughs. And - and - and..." Jordan stroked the child's back, for this girl was little more than a child herself, caught in a vise that now threatened to crush the life from her. Her sobs slowly, Karen looked up. "Why didn't he just leave her? Bring her to me? Or to Mrs. Shirley? I - I wouldn't have been mad- well, I'd have been mad, but it would have been okay. Why did he do this?"
Woody looked at Jordan.
Jordan looked at Karen. "Karen, we don't know what happened yet. I - I'll have to do an autopsy to find out. In the meantime, I think Detective Hoyt will - uh - look after you."
After some reassurances, Woody was able to hand Karen to the young female cop who had been first on the scene. He followed Jordan as she walked toward the dumpster once more. "Can you rush this one, Jordan?"
She nodded. "I think it's pretty clear this is Evvy, but I'd like to do a DNA match just in case."
"I'll get some hair or something when I take Karen to her apartment." Woody scuffed his shoe against the pavement. "Any idea what happened?"
"Woody, I won't know until I - oh God - until I start - start the procedure. It's hard to tell with babies."
"I'll put an APB out on the boyfriend, check Karen's alibi. You find out how this baby died. I'm going to nail the boyfriend to the wall."
Jordan thought about cautioning him not to jump to conclusions, but she had already made that leap herself. "I'll bring the nail gun," she told him grimly.
END Part One