Summary: Jordan and Woody learn – the hard way, of course – that they can never escape work. Even when they're vacationing in another state. Murder just seems to follow them wherever they go. Those crazy murderers do, too.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. What a shame.
"People who do not understand themselves have a
craving for understanding."
- Wilhelm Stekel
Jordan Cavanaugh leaned close to the body opened before her, taking a closer look at the man's stomach. A strange odor wafted up from the thin walls of the organ, making her wrinkle her nose in disgust. "Hey, Nigel, come smell this for me?"
The man in question glanced over at her from where he was standing before a computer. He'd been in the middle of perusing the list of missing people in an attempt to identify the victim Jordan was autopsying and seemed a bit annoying at being pulled away from his work. "This isn't some kind of joke, is it?" he queried, giving her a pointed look before moving an inch.
"Of course not." She grinned as she set down the instrument she'd been holding. "I just want a second opinion."
Nigel walked over to her and gazed at the body. "Okay, what am I supposed to be smelling?"
"Lean a little closer." She stood back and watched as he did so, waiting for him to have the same reaction she'd had. When he too wrinkled his nose, she asked, "It smells musky, doesn't it?"
Nigel nodded. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he weighed their options, his brain quickly putting everything together. "I think you've just found the cause of death." He gave her a lopsided smile. "Hemlock poisoning."
Jordan raised her eyebrows. "Hemlock, huh? Doesn't that stuff grow in the springtime?"
"Yeah," he confirmed. "But that just means that it takes a larger dose to kill a person if it's not fresh. Might wanna run a tox screen, though, just to be sure. Killer might've used the hemlock to paralyze him, then used something else to finish the job."
She pursed her lips, once again lost in thought as Nigel went back to his station at the computer. "I guess I should learn a little more about plants," she mused out loud as she crossed her arms over her stomach. "But then again, that's your specialty. So, any hits from missing persons?"
"Not yet." Nigel hit a few keys, attempting to narrow their search. "I don't think he's from Boston. Maybe not even from Massachusetts at all."
Jordan pulled off the bloody gloves and ran a hand down her face. "What about fingerprints?"
He shook his head. "Nothing."
"And he didn't have any personal affects on him?"
Nigel shook his head again. "Police found him completely naked, save his boxers. A search of the area turned up nothing. Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah." Jordan blinked heavily before meeting his eyes. "Yeah. I'm fine. Just a little tired."
"Aren't we all?" He gave her a sympathetic grin. This was only their second case since the plane crash. Garret was still in the hospital, and Bug had requested a week of vacation time to spend with Lily and her daughter; he was given two, no questions asked. Nigel had also taken a few days off, but was anxious to get back to the morgue. Kate had been in and out, taking charge like nothing had happened. Jordan, though, had delved right back into work. Although she had mostly just been behind the desk, she spent the time catching up on paperwork and refreshing her memory of current cases. And thinking about Woody. She had only seen him once since they were all released from the hospital, and that was when he had given her and Nigel the hemlock victim.
"Have you heard from Bug?" she asked suddenly, worried about her friend. Of them all, he'd probably had the roughest time emotionally up on that mountain, the one with the most to lose should he die. She couldn't help but tear up when he and Lily were reunited.
"Yeah," Nigel said as he brought up a new list of missing people and typed in the proper age range. "He said he's feeling a lot better. And he misses you. And me, of course." They both laughed, very ready for the mood to be lightened. "He'll be back soon. Oh!" The computer beeped at him, screaming that it had found a match. "Michael Burdette, aged fifty three. Reported missing less than two months ago. He's from New York."
"Wow." Jordan joined him before the computer, her interest peaked. "What's he doing here?"
"That's Woody's job. We've finished ours." He put an arm over her shoulders, squeezing them gently. "What do you say we call it an evening and grab a drink?"
Jordan smiled up at him, her features weary under the fluorescent lights. "Not tonight, Nige," she told him forlornly. "I'm gonna run that tox screen and sew Mister Burdette here back up, then I'd really just like to go home and crash."
"Of course, love." Nigel returned her smile. "Why don't you give me a blood sample and I'll run the tox for you? Cut the time in half."
Her face softened, struck once again at just how sweet he could be sometimes. "Thanks." She walked back to the corpse and pulled on another pair of gloves. The latex snapped against her skin as she surveyed the body before her. "Is hemlock poisoning a painful way to die?" she asked softly.
Nigel stopped what he was doing and looked at her, concerned. "Why do you want to know? Not getting suicidal on me, are you?" He laughed nervously, not quite sure what was going on.
Jordan shook her head, not able to meet his penetrating gaze. She wasn't suicidal. Not really. "Just curious," she told him. And a little hopeful, she added to herself.
"So, got an ID on our guy yet?" Woody asked from the doorway of Jordan's office the next morning.
Jordan startled at his sudden voice, nearly dropping the file she had been studying. "Woody, hi. You scared me." She gave him a light smile before going right into business. "Michael Burdette, fifty three. Cause of death was hemlock poisoning. And," she added, "he's from Queens."
Woody just stared at her, surprised. "Queens? As in New York?"
Jordan nodded, raising one eyebrow. "Yes."
"What's he doing way down here?" He leaned against the doorframe, the gears in his brain already starting to process this new information.
"That's what I asked." She set down the file and slapped a pale pink post-it on the top paper, scribbling something across it before she closed the file altogether and put it away.
"And I may have your answer." Nigel had appeared behind the detective, a sheet of paper in his hand. "He works for Markel Construction. They just got hired to tear down a huge apartment complex and he was sent down from their headquarters to direct the building of a mall in its place."
Jordan held out her hand for the paper, curious. Nigel pushed by Woody and gave it to her, only to be met with an icy stare from the detective. "Shouldn't I see that first?"
Nigel was about to retort before Jordan interrupted. "Cool it, Woody. It's just a timesheet." She waved a dismissive hand in his direction and turned to Nigel. "Why do you have this?"
"Look at the last date," he said in way of an explanation, eyes shining with his discovery.
"Three months ago," she read. At Woody's questioning look, she said, "He was reported missing about two months ago." Then, to Nigel, "Was the project completed?"
Nigel shook his head. "I did some digging and found out that they had to abandon the mall due to legal issues surrounding the apartments. Turns out they're used to house the needy and financially unstable. Michael should have returned home, but it seems he never did."
Woody finally went to stand behind Jordan's desk so he could look over her shoulder at the paper she was still holding. He gave Nigel another angry stare as he did so. "Why are you doing my job?" he asked before taking the timesheet right out of her hand.
"Don't answer that, Nige," Jordan warned, her joking voice belying the implication of her words. "Woody just has territorial issues. Issues he seems to have suddenly blown way out of proportion." She gave him a purposeful glare.
Nigel snorted. "You're telling me. Keep the print," he said less than enthusiastically. "If you suddenly decide you do want my help, don't bother asking."
"You really are an ass sometimes, you know it?" Jordan pointed out rather harshly as her friend left and walked back down the hallway. "Nigel was just trying to help. He's good at that, remember?"
Woody's face fell. He folded the paper awkwardly and stuck it in his pocket. His body seemed to deflate as he sat on the edge of her desk. "I'm sorry," he mumbled dejectedly, not enjoying the anger she was showing him. "It's just been a difficult few days."
Jordan stood from her chair and put her hand on his cheek, all semblance of irritation gone. "I know," she said reassuringly, rubbing her thumb across his skin. "And it's okay. But I'm not the one you should be apologizing to."
He leaned into her palm in acknowledgement, closing his eyes. Comfortable silence fell, broken after a moment by his sigh. "How much vacation time do you have?"
She was taken off guard by the question. "A few weeks," was her vague answer as she pulled her hand away. "Why?"
Woody shrugged. "A friend of mine lent me the keys to his summer house near the coast. Says I need a break after the, and I quote, 'stressful event I have recently suffered through.' I was wondering if, um, you'd like to come with me?" He glanced at her warily, his eyes already expecting a negative reply.
Jordan was quiet, mulling over the invitation. "Where?"
"Warwick, Rhode Island. A few hours' drive, is all." He reached out and wrapped his arms around her waist, dragging her closer as he spoke. "Come on, Jordan. It'll be nice." His heart was pounding in his chest, terrified that she might say no. That she might pull away again, as she had done every other time they had started getting intimate. He pressed his lips to the side of her jaw in an attempt to calm himself, taking strength from the fact that she didn't shove him back.
Another long moment passed before she finally asked, "How long?"
"Just a few days," he answered quickly as he buried his face in her hair, breathing in her thick scent. "We don't have to be gone long. I just thought it'd be good to get away for a little while."
She didn't wait as long before she spoke again. "What about our case?" Of course, leave it to her to think of work over a vacation.
"I'll pass it to another detective," he offered without hesitation. "I rarely ask for any time off; it's a sure thing I can get at least a week. I'm pretty sure the same goes for you, right?"
Jordan nodded and moved her head so it was leaning against his. "Right."
"Hey, if you guys are going to be…like that, at least close the door." The two of them jumped away from each other and looked over to see Kate standing in the doorway. She averted her eyes, glancing down the hallway.
"I heard what you were saying about time off," she said almost nervously, "and since I'm the one in charge for the time being, I guess you can have a week." Jordan was about to interrupt but Kate held up a hand. "Nigel was telling me about your hemlock guy, and he seems rather interested in the case. I'm sure he won't mind taking over." She met the other woman's eyes and something passed quickly between them. "Besides, you could really use a break."
Woody studied Jordan's expression, shocked at what had just been exchanged. Maybe something had happened during that time on the mountain to change the way Kate saw the world, but whatever had happened was just strange. Neither of them was used to this nicer, understanding side of her. They both watched as Kate pulled the door closed and walked off in search of Nigel.
"What was that?" Woody asked, confused.
Jordan turned to him, a smile spreading across her face. "That was me somehow getting a week off. Now, about this summer house…"