Title: Red Headed
Goddess, 1/?Author: Goddess Evie
Date: March 23, 2007
Category: JJHR, Angst
Summary: Jessie gets a call from the police and finds out she's become a victim of a very sick crime. But who's been stalking her all this time?
Disclaimer: I do not own JQ. I am only using the characters for my own unique story. I also do not own "If", David Gates does or "Blowing in the Wind" which is owned by Bob Dylan. I merely use them to enhance my humble writing.
Author's Notes: It's been a while since I've put out fic. I've had this one simmering for quitesome time and it's still not finished. But I thought I'd give it a chance. This is the prologueand first chapter. It's pretty long. But subsequent chapters are shorter, I promise. I only hope that my writing style and plot structure has improved. Although, it should come as no surprise that I'm writing JJHR. Some habits never change!
Red Headed Goddess
Prologue: A picture paints a thousand words.
She was the most beautiful girl in the world. She was unreal. A muse, an angel, a Goddess. But best of all she was his best friend, his confident, his sharer of secrets, his shoulder to cry on. He could count on her for anything, talk to her about everything, depend on her to get him out of trouble, rely on her to take the blame with him whether she deserved it or not.
And he would do the same for her, without thinking twice, without worrying about the consequences, without caring about what happened to him or what came out of it. She was all that mattered, making sure she was okay, unhurt, alive.
He could picture her at anytime, sometimes without realizing what he was doing. Her hair, rippling down her back, or pulled up in a sloppy bun that he could never resist pulling the hair band from. He loved to watch all that glorious hair spill down in waves of that perfect color of red that reminded you of fire trucks and apples and cherries and roses and fire. But the real fire was in her emerald eyes that shone with her sense of adventure, her love of turning the unknown into the known, her passion for life, and most of all her love for her family and closest friends.
And he could just picture, with a flush of jealousy to his cheeks, all the men eyeing her slender, athletic six-foot frame. Admiring the way her jeans snugged around her slim figure, noticing the fit of her shirts. Then with pride he noted that all they could do was look. She'd hurt them if they tried anything more, and then he would. You had to be special to lay anything more than a gaze on her.
And he was lucky enough to be one of the "chosen few". He loved creeping up from behind and slipping his arms around her waist, resting his chin on her shoulder. Somehow she knew it was him, and not some random jerk trying to make a pass at her, and she would pause in whatever she was occupied with at the moment to flash him the most dazzling smile.
That was another great thing about her: she had her priorities.
Nothing was too important to cause her to ignore her family. They were the most important thing in her life. Nothing came before them. Nothing was too special to not put aside when she was needed by them. Nothing stopped her from standing by their side.
There wasn't a bad thing he could find about her. She was perfect, in his mind, in every way. He idolized her, kept her on a pedestal, placed her in a temple, worshipped her like the Goddess she was. Not to say they didn't get into arguments, but even then he admired her. The way her eyes flashed with passion and anger. How she would get so frustrated when she wasn't winning, and the way she looked so smug when she was. And he couldn't help but admire someone who had saved his life numerous times, and not love someone whose life he'd saved numerous times back.
And he did love her, though he wouldn't ever tell her.
He couldn't tell her, couldn't take the chance of ruining the great thing he had with her. He knew that if he ever did let their relationship go farther than friendship, he would never be able to live without the touch of her kiss, the closeness of her embrace, and the loving look in her eyes-a look that wasn't hard for him to imagine-if it didn't end up working out. And then where would they be? Stuck trying to live together after that. It may be a big house, a mansion even, but it wasn't that big. And college was still a year away...
He didn't want to think about that anymore. It hurt too much. He just wanted to think about how beautiful and talented and funny and gorgeous and perfect she was. And that she would be his best friend forever, no matter what...
Chapter 1: The answer is blowing in the wind.
Jessie Bannon was more interested in listening to the music floating from her stereo then she was in reading the magazine she held above her head as she lay on her back on her bed. It had been made for her personally by Irena Kaufka, a friend of hers and Jonny's from Prague. The sheet music itself was Anya Kaufka's, Irena's ancestor, played expertly by the young woman herself. Jessie had every note of every song memorized, could pick out either melody or harmony and hum it perfectly, name the title of each piece from just a few measures. Not even Time magazine could compete with the genius of Anya Kaufka.
The ring of the phone touched her ears faintly; just barely audible over the volume level she had the CD playing at. She lowered the magazine to her side, though hesitating to rise. The look on her face obviously showed that she didn't want to leave her sanctuary for such a droll chore.
Come on, Jonny. Pick it up, pick it up... she thought, trying to avoid having to pause the music in the middle of a movement.
She smiled as she heard the door to his room bang open after the second ring, and the phone silence mid fourth. Still grinning, she picked her Time magazine back up and began to flip through it again, forgetting about the phone as she lost herself in the serenade.
Jonny Quest heard the phone ring, the sound making its way through the soft drone of classical music coming from Jessie's bedroom and the MP3 music and sound effects coming from his own computer. He groaned as he paused the game he was about to win and rose from the desk in his room. He knew Jessie wasn't going to answer it if she was listening to that CD of hers, and no one else was home. His father, Dr. Benton Quest, his best friend, Hadji Singh, and their bodyguard, Roger "Race" Bannon, were all off at some convention. Jonny was slightly surprised that Jessie had not opted to go, but he also couldn't help but be glad. That meant that he wouldn't be home alone and totally bored like he usually ended up being. Or worse, dragged along.
The phone rang again, reminding Jonny that it still waited to be answered. Running out of his room, he winced as the door banged loudly against the wall. But he didn't slow down as he started along the hallway, the phone ringing for a third time. He slid to a stop, displacing the rug underfoot, and picked up the receiver for the hall phone in the middle of a ring. He placed it to his ear as he used his stockinged feet to try and straighten the rug.
"Is this the Quest residence?"
The official sounding voice coming over the line made Jonny frown, his feet slowing their work on the still somewhat rumpled rug.
"Yes, it is," his reply was hesitant.
"Is Mister Race Bannon available?" the voice inquired.
"No," Jonny answered.
There was a pause before the other person continued. "When will he be available?"
"Not for a few days," Jonny informed.
Another pause before the voice went on. "Is Miss Jessica Bannon in?" the voice next asked.
"May I talk to her?" the voice was now beginning to get that impatient tone to it.
"May I ask whose calling?" Jonny replied in the same mocking, impatient tone of voice.
"This is the police. I'm Detective Dougan. We really need to talk to Miss Bannon, it's urgent. Please, put her on," the policeman demanded, sighing with frustration.
Jonny held the phone away from himself as if it had a deadly disease, staring at it in wide-eyed disbelief. He more felt his way to Jessie's door than anything else, knocking on it, then opening it without waiting for her to reply. Ignoring the annoyed look she gave him, he held the phone out to her, stretching the cord to its limit.
"It's for you. It's the police," he explained.
She rose quickly from her position on the bed, her face echoing the frown on his as she grabbed the receiver. He watched her, chaotic thoughts running through his head as to why the police would be phoning her. Followed her as she stepped back out into the hall to give the phone cord some slack. Continued to watch her as she returned to the phone table, where lay a small pad of paper and a pen, and scribbled down a note. Waited impatiently, as she thanked the officer, said good-bye and hung up the phone.
"So, what was that all about?" he asked immediately.
"I dunno," she replied, chewing on her bottom lip thoughtfully, and, Jonny thought, maybe a little worriedly as she ripped the piece of paper off the pad and stared it. "He didn't say, just requested that I meet him at this address." She showed the paper to him, holding it up in front of his face, the top of it between thumb and forefinger. "He said they had something to show me."
Jonny frowned deeper as he read the address jotted down in her neat handwriting. "What could they possibly have to show you on the other side of town?"
Jessie shrugged, pushing the paper into the pocket of her jeans and heading back into her room. "I dunno," she repeated her earlier reply, turning off her stereo and grabbing the keys for her jeep.
"Well, I'm coming, too," Jonny told her.
"If you want to," she said with another shrug as she began her descent down the stairs.
"And I do," Jonny assured as he joined her.
Jonny could tell that Jessie was trying to be nonchalant about the whole thing, trying to act like it was no big deal that the police had called her to come take a look at something, as if it were an everyday occurrence. But he had known Jessica Marie Bannon for five years-ever since they'd been twelve-and he knew that she was just trying to hide the fact that she was worried, maybe even scared, like she always did.
She was always trying to prove that she wasn't the weakest link of the group, that she could hold her own, that she was just as capable as the rest of the team. He wanted to tell her that she could drop the act, that she'd proven herself time and again. If only she knew that she didn't have to put on a front for them. But at the same time he knew that if he told her it would only make her mad, and even worse than that, make her try harder.
And Jonny couldn't help but admit to himself, in a small voice, that he was hiding his own worries. He wanted to be strong for her. Neither of them knew what awaited them, what it was the police wanted to show them. But whatever it was, Jonny wanted to be ready with a shoulder for her to cry on, and strong arms to wrap around her. He didn't like always imagining worst-case scenarios, but he figured if he did that and something good happened, or at least what happened wasn't as bad as what he imagined, than he could be relieved that his imaginings hadn't come true.
By the way the momentum of the jeep slowed until it came to a halt, and the rattle of keys as Jessie turned off the ignition, Jonny deduced that they had arrived and pulled himself from the reverie he was in. He looked around as he climbed out of the passenger side of the jeep, coming around the front of it to meet Jessie. It was a normal enough neighborhood, except for all the police officers and the yellow tape warning the crowd that had gathered that it was a crime scene and to stay out. There were small houses lining the streets, some with lawns strewn with toys, others well kept and neat, while still others looked like they needed a total overhaul.
The lot they were parked in front of, the same one that was surrounded by police officers, patrol cars, and yellow tape, held a modest apartment building. It was a couple of stories high, actually taking up two lots, covered in tan stucco that wasn't in too bad shape. Jessie and Jonny approached it, being stopped, as they knew they would, at the yellow tape by a youngish looking police officer.
"Please step back from the line. There's nothing to see here," the officer informed them dutifully.
"My name's Jessica Bannon. I was asked to come here by a Detective Dougan," Jessie informed him.
They both watched as the officer's face took on a look of recognition, then as he dashed off, yelling for "Detective Dougan".
"Well, that was...interesting," Jonny said, using the politest word he could think of.
"Did it seem like he recognized me? Cause I know I've never seen him before in my life," Jessie asked, turning to look at Jonny.
He shrugged at her. "I don't know. Maybe he just recognized your name because 'Detective Dougan' had told him to expect a Jessica Bannon."
Jessie gave her own shrug, a kind of "oh well" gesture. "Guess we'll just have to wait and see."
"Guess so," Jonny agreed as he turned around and checked out the neighborhood again.
Nothing had changed, except maybe the crowd was beginning to dissipate. Jonny was a little surprised to see that none of the local news crews had shown up. Unless they had already been there, gotten their story and left.
"Miss Bannon! Miss Bannon!"
The calling of Jessie's name caused both teens to turn around, searching the crowd with identical gazes. It wasn't long before they spotted the man who was calling out to them, waving to them frantically. He wasn't wearing a uniform like most of the other policemen around, but he was being escorted by the officer from earlier.
Jonny and Jessie only had to glance at each other before he grabbed the yellow tape and she ducked under it, her stride saying she would wait for no one, no how. Jonny was quick to follow, his own long legged stride quickly catching him up to his red headed friend. Together they reached the man who was obviously Detective Dougan, both ready to start prying answers from him.
"Miss Bannon, I'm Detective Dougan," the man introduced himself, pulling a badge and flashing it at them, a formality both of the teens ignored, having witnessed it more than enough times.
"We know, and please, just Jessie," she assured him, squaring her no non-sense gaze on him. "Now, let's get down to business?" she requested in a very demanding sort of tone.
"Alright…Jessie, but first, who's this?" Dougan's gaze was taking in Jonny, who was standing beside Jessie, as if her guardian.
Jessie glanced at Jonny, with a special smile just for him, a smile that made his heart skip a beat, or five, and sent him, for a few moments, into his own little euphoric world.
"This is Jonny, a friend," Jessie informed the Detective, then added curtly, "and that's all you need to know."
Dougan looked a little incredulous at Jessie's boldness, and he needed to take a moment to take her in, while she and Jonny exchanged a secret smile.
"So," Jessie finally said, having grown impatient of waiting for the Detective to continue, "what did you call me down here for?"
Detective Dougan suddenly seemed nervous, darting his glance around as if he was now avoiding having to actually look at Jessie.
"Well, it's kind of hard to explain. It'll probably be better if you just come see."
There was no time between the moment he rushed out that last sentence to the moment he turned on his heel and began to walk, at a quick clip, toward the entrance to the apartment building. Jessie and Jonny had to jog to catch up to him, and then had to keep their strides up so they wouldn't lag behind. They passed a group of civilians, no doubt tenants of the apartment building, on their way in, a couple of police officers working on interrogating them. Jonny tried to catch what they were saying as he passed by, for some chance of a clue as to what was going on, but he didn't have enough time to hear much. And what he did hear was no help at all.
Detective Dougan continued past all the doors on the first floor for the stairs leading to the second floor. He took them two at a time and Jessie and Jonny easily followed him, not tiring as he did halfway up. Jonny thought it odd that Dougan was so quiet, not even looking to see if they were still following him. He was used to policemen talking as they went around their business, preparing him for what was about to happen, explaining as much as they could. But Dougan was eerily silent, and to Jonny, that wasn't a good omen.
The inside of the apartment building was no better or worse than the outside. The walls were all painted a bland white and showed some signs of wear and tear. Underfoot was a carpet that looked both like it got regular care and that it had been there since the eighties, at least. There were cheap light fixtures stationed along the ceiling, which was in the same condition as the walls, giving light to what would otherwise be a gloomy hallway. The carpet continued up the steps that led to the second floor, the inch or so gaps left on either side showing the wood flooring underneath.
The second floor was much the same as the first, with intervals of doors leading to the apartments, all a dark brown, the numbers posted on them with little black on white numeral stickers. The only difference was at the end, where more policemen were milling around, some taking statements from some of the other renters. Detective Dougan led his charges into the apartment, pushing through the officers to get there. Jonny couldn't help noticing the furtive glances that they threw at Jessie. Some of them almost seemed sympathetic in nature.
Detective Dougan continued to lead Jonny and Jessie through the sparsely furnished living room. Cameras, film and negatives were strewn everywhere and some of the officers, wearing latex gloves and armed with plastic baggies, were collecting the items, carefully labeling each one. Directly adjacent to the living room was the kitchen, the countertops piled with junk food and wrappers, the stove looking like it hadn't seen use in a long while.
After the front rooms, Jessie and Jonny were led into a short hallway that offered three more doors to choose from. One led to a bathroom, dingy and smelly, that neither teen took a very good look into other than to know that it looked like it should be quarantined. Another door was obviously a bed room turned dark room. Unlike the other rooms, it was immaculately clean, the chemical trays lined up tidily, the pictures hanging on the line straight and neat. Both Jessie and Jonny tried to see what the pictures were of, not because of snoopiness, but out of general curiosity. However, the pictures were facing the wrong way, toward the room, not the doorway, and their curiosity was soon returned to the as yet unknown reason that Dougan had requested Jessie's presence.
The last doorway at the end of the hall was closed, and mostly devoid of the policemen that had been so smothering the whole way up. Jonny and Jessie couldn't help the look of apprehension that passed between them as they neared the only option left, still trailing the eerily silent Detective Dougan.
Curiously, when they reached the last door, Detective Dougan stopped and turned to face Jessie and Jonny, finally addressing them. He hesitated before he spoke, taking a deep breath and running a hand through his hair. Jonny watched Jessie, out of the corner of his blue eyes, as her impatience and annoyance level rose, and as she tried to keep those easily flared traits of her "Bannon-ness" in check.
"There's really no way to prepare you for what's behind this door," Dougan's voice was slightly shaky, and he glanced over his shoulder at the door waiting to be opened. "Maybe it would just be better if I showed you," he hesitated.
"Maybe," the tone of Jessie's voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Jonny reached over, taking Jessie's hand in his and giving a small squeeze. She glanced over at him with a slight, repentant smile, though Detective Dougan would see neither sight nor sound of an apology.
The detective was too busy forcing himself to open the door to notice the exchange between the teens, who now watched as he placed his hand on the doorknob. Slowly, Dougan began to turn it. Jonny wondered whether he did this for suspense, or if what was behind that door was really as bad as Dougan claimed it to be. Jessie was sure he was just doing it to get revenge on her for being so disrespectful to him, but how could she show respect for someone who was taking up her time and accomplishing nothing more than being an annoyance?
And then the door was opened and Detective Dougan stood aside to allow the two to enter. From what they could see standing in the doorway, the walls and ceiling were filled with pictures, so completely covered that not one sign of white showed through. There was a tall bureau with a mirror topping it, covered in candles and more pictures that seemed to be some sort of shrine. The only form of bedding was a mattress on the floor, blankets strewn across its otherwise bare cushioning in a tangled heap, looking like they hadn't seen a washing machine in quite some time.
With a quick, unsure glance at Dougan, Jessie strode into the tiny room, her head swiveling around as she took in all aspects of it. Jonny followed, more slowly, eyes moving from one wall of pictures to another to the shrine and back to the walls. He wasn't as quick as Jessie to move toward one of those walls and inspect the pictures more closely. Not until her gasp caught his attention, snapping his gaze in her direction. He listened as she uttered an "Oh God," watched as she took a few steps back, turning her head away, her eyes closed, looking as if she was trying to regain composure.
That was all it took for Jonny to rush up past her to see what the pictures contained. And when he saw, he gave almost the same reaction as Jessie-almost. But he controlled himself, steeling his emotions the way he'd seen Race do so many times. His eyes roved over the walls; anger, rage kindling itself inside of him. He balled up his fists, knuckles a yellow white, fighting the urge to start ripping pictures off the wall.
"They're all of me," Jessie's quiet, small voice caught him off guard. "Every one of them."
Jonny turned instantly, pulling the red head who had moved forward again to stand at his back into an embrace. He felt her shivering, and pushed his arms even tighter around her, stroking her red hair in an effort to comfort her. But how could she be comfortable in a room like this? Not even he was comfortable.
He watched her as her eyes continued to slip over the walls, her complexion gone white. He found his own gaze starting to return to the mass of pictures. They seemed to have a hypnotizing affect on him, taking a hold of his attention and refusing to let it go without a fight.
Detective Dougan's sudden interruption, though he kept his voice soft, was a startle to both Jonny and Jessie. They jumped, both glad and angry, though neither showed it. "I wish I didn't have to show you this," he spoke directly to Jessie, "but it was necessary, and we wanted to ask you some questions."
Jessie nodded, pulling from Jonny's arms, putting on her mask once again. "What do you need me to do?" she asked, amazingly cooperative compared to how she had previously acted.
"There're a lot of pictures here," Dougan stated, glancing around. "It'd be nice to know how far back they go. That's going to take some time and we'll need help contacting your parents. I assume they aren't in town since they didn't come with you."
Jessie nodded to Dougan, showing only strength and confidence to the policeman. But Jonny knew better. He saw way the way she tried, and failed, not to glance around the room, how she shifted her weight from one foot to the other, and how she was constantly tucking her hair behind her ear though it was already locked firmly in place there. The telltale signs were all there and he knew that she was ready to run from this room and get as far away from it as possible.
With her act of strength and a face like stone, Jessie followed Dougan to the other side of the room, next to the mattress, where the pictures were yellowed and the edges of them curling. These were obviously the oldest of the pictures, a fact easy to guess by how much younger Jessie looked in them compared to her now. It didn't take her long to deduce how long ago they'd been taken, and Jonny knew that was partly because she didn't want to have to look at them much longer than she really had to. A few seconds of forcing herself to stare at them and she threw the answer at Dougan, turning violently away from the wall and closing her eyes.
"About two years."
"Are you sure? Maybe you should take one more good look," Dougan asked, and though his tone was soft Jonny wanted to strangle him.
"No, I'm positive," she growled.
She was losing her control. It wasn't hard to tell. She was on the verge of tears. Her body was shaking, her arms were wrapped around herself. The room was taking its toll on her. It was taking its toll on everyone.
"I'm sorry," Dougan said, sounding sincere. All three of them were silent for a beat and then the detective took a deep breath before breaking into the tense silence. "Alright, that's all we need here. I'll have a patrol car escort you to the police station."
Jessie nodded, then turned and walked out of the room. Jonny followed with a concerned sigh, his expression one of worry as he trailed his red headed companion. And for once he didn't try to hide his worry from Jessie like he usually would. When she glanced over her shoulder at him, he expected her to give him a reproving frown, but she just turned back around without any scolding whatsoever.
And that scared Jonny.
He watched her as she fought to remain composed, in control. But it was a fight she was loosing. She almost ran out of the apartment, through the halls, down the stairs, past all the policemen and on-lookers. She didn't stop until she had reached her jeep and stood leaning against the hood.
"Jessie?" Jonny approached her tentatively, not sure how she would react.
"All this time...and I didn't even know." she spat.
"They're just pictures. People take pictures all the time," Jonny tried to rationalize, knowing her anger wasn't for him.
"Not thousands of pictures of one person," Jessie's stiff reply came.
Jonny sighed, reached out to her. She moved away, fumbling with her keys. Tears welled along the bottom rim of her green eyes, and one or two tumbled down her cheeks though she tried to hold them back. Jonny strode forward and grabbed the keys from her, nudging her in the direction of the passenger seat. She began to protest, but Jonny had been expecting that.
"I'll drive," he told her softly, but firmly.
And somehow that was all he had to say. She didn't argue, didn't sulk, just slumped into the passenger seat absolutely listless.
"Officer Ladden will escort you to the police station. I'll follow behind and meet you there," Dougan said to Jonny, patting him on the shoulder and heading for his own vehicle.
Taking the driver's seat, Jonny slid the key into the ignition, but didn't turn it to start the engine. Instead, he leaned over closer to Jessie, putting one hand on the back of the seat, and the other one on the edge next to her legs.
"Jessie, are you gonna be okay?" Jonny knew that his voice was conveying every ounce of fear and worry he held for her. He had never seen her act like this since he'd known her. It was like little by little all her strength and stamina and just everything were fading away.
She looked at him, her wide green eyes telling all for once, her face a tumult of emotions all fighting for space, instead of being steeled to the world. She could bluff her way out of anything if she wanted, but at the moment her eyes showed straight to her soul.
"I'll be fine," her words lied, though her voice was tiny and almost inaudible, a reflection of her expression.
She continued to look straight into his eyes with her own, her arms folded across her stomach, feet propped up on the dash board. And Jonny continued to search her eyes, waiting for her to speak truth.
A horn honking startled Jonny, and he looked over the back of the jeep to see Officer Ladden waving at him. He looked back at Jessie again, whose gaze was on the floor mats of the jeep, then sighed as he turned himself forward and started the engine, pulling out behind the waiting patrol car.
Softly, as the police car began to head off, Jessie uttered, "Thanks for coming with me..."
Jonny nodded his "you're welcome" back to her, but found he just couldn't make himself speak. You will be fine, he silently promised his companion as he drove off behind the policeman.