A/N: Here's a new one to start off the New Year. Enjoy :-)
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum cam balance his worth.
Cora Richards held her coffee cup in both hands as she stepped off the deck while her two-year-old charge Teddy ran in circles in the big yard, chasing the dog and giggling. Gordon, the big golden retriever who was Teddy's best friend, dropped to the ground and rolled onto his side. Teddy hugged him and Cora smiled.
"Cora! Firsty. Wanna jooooos, peez!"
"All right, honey. I'll get you some juice."
She went into the house, walked across the kitchen and pulled the orange juice out of the refrigerator. Filling Teddy's sippy cup, she opened the refrigerator door to place the juice back on the shelf. A noise behind her caught her attention and she smiled, turning toward the little boy, and everything went black.
Out in the yard, Teddy continued to play with Gordon. As the day wore on, he got hungry and climbed up onto the deck to go into the house, but he couldn't get the door open. When he banged on the glass and called for his caretaker, there was no answer. So he crossed the yard, managed to get the gate open and wandered out of the yard. With a bark, Gordon ran after him.
Senator Todd Harriman sat in his recliner with his newspaper. It had been a long day of deliberation and he was tired and frustrated. The several votes they had taken over the course of the day had not gone the way he wanted. He'd enjoyed a good dinner, however, and he was beginning to unwind. He took a drink of the bourbon and coke from the glass on the end table, and his wife Sandra sat across the room from him with her daily crossword.
When the phone rang, the senator smiled. His daughter called them every night so Teddy could tell them good night. He loved his little grandson dearly. Picking up the phone from its cradle he brought the receiver to his ear. "Hello."
After listening intently for several moments, the color drained from his face. "All right, honey. Calm down. Did you call the police?"
His wife looked up from her puzzle, alarmed. Harriman nodded slowly. "Vicky, is Chris home? Okay. I'll make a call myself and we'll be there in a half hour."
Hanging up the phone, he looked at his wife. "Something horrible has happened. Vicky just got home from work. Cora..." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Cora has been killed and Teddy is missing. I'm going to call the commissioner and get someone out there to help with this. Then I'm heading out there myself. Vicky is hysterical."
Sandra sat there for a long moment, shocked by the news he had just given her. Cora...the sweet woman who had helped Vicky with Teddy after he was born and stayed to care for him when she went back to work at the advertising agency...sweet, loving Cora, loved like a member of the family...
Sandra set her puzzle aside. "Should I call Steven when you're done?"
"Sandy, leave the boy at school."
"But Teddy is his nephew, Todd."
Harriman braced the receiver with his shoulder. "Let's find out what's going on first. Hello? Commissioner? This is Todd Harriman. I'm sorry to bother you at home but..."
Alex Eames had taken advantage of a light day to leave early and head to her sister's for dinner. When her phone rang in the middle of the meal, she sighed as she pulled it from her pocket. Her partner knew she was having dinner with her sister's family; it had to be a call-out. Sure enough, the captain's name appeared on her caller ID. With a heavy sigh, she flipped the phone open. "Eames."
Call your partner, Eames, and head out to Long Island. We have a situation out there and I want the two of you to handle it.
"What kind of situation?"
Senator Todd Harriman's grandson is missing and his caretaker has been murdered. This is high profile, detective. Keep an eye on your partner.
"Don't worry about him," she answered, annoyed, as she wrote down the address he gave her.
Keep me informed.
"Don't I always?" she replied sharply.
Terminating the call, she offered a contrite look to her sister and brother-in-law. "I have to go. Thanks for dinner."
Rising, she kissed her nephew and carried her plate into the kitchen. Her sister met her there. "Maybe you can come back out on Sunday? It's Aaron's birthday."
"I'll try, but no promises. I'll call you tomorrow."
One quick hug and she was gone.
Goren was laying on his couch, one foot flat on the floor, one on the couch. The television was on, but he wasn't watching it. An untouched drink was propped on his chest, the fingers of his right hand curled around the glass while his left hand was tucked beneath his head. He let his mind wander and he mused over how dissatisfied he was lately with everything. Ever since his mother died, he felt everything else in his life slowly spiraling out of control. Only one thing kept him grounded, and that, as always, was his partner. They had hit a few rocky patches lately, but he found that when he needed her most, she was always there. Everyone had bad days. His just seemed to stretch into weeks, and he was in the middle of one now. Tipping his head up, he brought the glass to his lips as the phone rang.
Deciding to ignore it, he took a drink and let his head drop back. The ringing continued. After it stopped, his cell phone began to ring, buzzing on the counter as it vibrated. He let out a slow, weary breath and got up. Eames cell, the caller ID displayed.
Fuck, he thought. "Goren."
Is everything okay?
"About as okay as it gets. What's wrong?"
We have a call out.
"We're not on call."
This is different. Senator Harriman's grandson is missing and the boy's caretaker was killed. Ross wants us on it.
Another weary sigh, this time in resignation. "Where?"
Long Island. Do you want the address or do you want me to pick you up?
He shook his head as though she could see him. "It's out of your way. Give me the address." He wrote it down and tore the page off. "I'll meet you out there."
What is it, Bobby?
He hesitated for a moment before saying, "Be careful."
A pause, then, I will. You do the same.
He closed the phone and slid it into his pocket. In the bedroom, he grabbed his off duty weapon and slid the holster onto his belt, refastening it as he returned to the living room. Grabbing his badge, he added it to his belt, snatched the keys from the counter and headed toward the couch. For a moment, he studied the glass on the coffee table. Then he reached out, hit the off button on the remote and, grabbing his coat, left the apartment.
The scene was in chaos when he arrived. Dogs and their handlers were traversing the yard before heading out the gate and down the street. A uniformed man approached him. "Can I help you?" he asked, trying to sound official.
Goren's eyes swept the yard as he moved his coat and slid his badge off his belt, showing it to the officer as he clipped it to the lapel of his coat. His dark gaze returned to the young officer, who did not appear to be more than twenty years old. The young man shifted uncomfortably as Goren spoke. "Goren. Major Case. My partner will be here soon. Have you found any leads?"
The officer shook his head. "Not yet, sir. We have four K-9s out trying to find the scent trail and a chopper with infared up in the air. It's only been twenty minutes since we got all that rolling. The vic's name is Cora Richards, 58 years old. She was the little boy's caretaker."
Goren turned his head when Eames' car pulled up, and he waited. Once she was at his side, he repeated what the young officer had told him and they entered the house. The CSU techs were already combing the scene. In the kitchen, Goren's eyes took in the surroundings quickly and he let his mind gather its first impression. Then he walked to the body as Eames went into the living room to talk with Vicky Yarborough, her husband and her parents, who had already arrived. He heard a voice that carried the tone of an experienced speaker. The senator. Let Eames handle him. It was much safer for him to be here, with the body, someone he couldn't piss off..
He saw no signs of a struggle. Whoever had done this must have taken her by surprise. Turning the head, he studied the blood that matted her gray hair and pooled, now tacky, around her head. Blunt force trauma. With a tender touch, he parted her hair to study the wound and he frowned deeply. He'd hit her more than once, and there was an odd crosshatching at the edges of the wound. His eyes scanned the surroundings, wondering if the assailant had brought his own weapon or if he'd grabbed something that was convenient, not intending to run into anyone at home. He continued to examine the body, then stood, walking around the kitchen to the far counter, then to the sink. Reaching into the sink with a gloved hand, he pulled out a meat tenderizing mallet, blood and hair caught in its teeth...the crosshatching... He motioned to a nearby CSU tech. The tech noted what he was holding and grabbed a large evidence bag from a nearby case. He held it open so Goren could lower the mallet into it. The detective continued to wander around the kitchen, noting the spilled orange juice on the floor by the body and the sippy cup on the ground beside it.
Eames came into the kitchen, holding her notebook in her left hand. She stepped up to his side and spoke softly. "You are not going to believe this. You need to come into the living room for a moment."
He hesitated. "I really should finish here."
"Did you find something?"
"Whoever did this was nice enough to set the murder weapon in the sink for us after he beat her with it."
"What did he use?"
"A meat mallet, something close at hand in the kitchen. He did not expect anyone to be home."
She said, "Usually Cora took Teddy for a walk after breakfast, but he had a cold, so his mother said just to let him play in the yard and not to go for a walk." She looked at the body of the woman on the floor. "There's something to be said for routine."
His eyes returned to the victim and he said, "This happened this morning. Did anyone talk to the neighbors?"
"I think the locals are doing that. Mom got home about an hour and a half ago. Found the body and no little boy, so she, in her own words, 'panicked' and called the police and then her father. Her husband got home while she was talking to the police. She is an executive at an advertising agency in the city; he works as a broker on Wall Street. The senator and his wife came right over after he called the commissioner and requested assistance for the local cops. The commissioner called the captain and he called us."
He shifted against the counter, eyes once more perusing the area, making certain he had not missed anything. "Done?" Eames asked.
"I guess so."
"Come in here with me, then. There's someone in here you've got to meet."
Unable to find another excuse to avoid it, he followed her into the living room. The senator and his wife flanked their daughter on the couch while a man he assumed was Teddy's father paced in front of the fireplace. Goren sympathized. That was what he would be doing while the preliminaries were taken care of before he could leave to help in the search for his child. He met the father's eyes briefly, and the man must have seen his understanding. He nodded, a gesture Goren returned.
There was another person in the room who drew his attention from the distraught family, a woman seated in an armchair, removed from the family unit. She was compelling, though not in any obvious way. She wore jeans and a loose cotton top, and her sandy hair, shot through by a streak of magenta, was pulled back in a ponytail. If she wore any makeup, it was impossible to tell. Four earrings traced the curve of one ear while two adorned the lobe of the other, and a single curved stud graced her eyebrow. She shifted in the armchair with the fluidity of a cat, drawing random gazes in her direction. Once their gazes touched her, they shifted away, only to be drawn back again after a few moments. But placing a finger on what drew them to her was impossible. Her appearance was not unusual, but there was a presence about her that drew attention, something ethereal that she seemed utterly oblivious to.
Eames walked over to her and addressed her in a tone Goren recognized and always dreaded to hear when it was directed toward him. "Miss Chambers, this is my partner, Detective Goren."
The woman rose smoothly and extended a hand toward him. "Marcy Chambers," she said by way of introduction.
Eames noticed the way her partner studied the woman as he accepted her hand, but his expression was guarded. Somewhere in the back of her head, an alarm went off, but she quickly silenced it. "Miss Chambers was contacted by Mrs. Yarborough about an hour ago and she came right over."
A puzzled look replaced the guarded look on his face and Marcy elaborated. "I moved to New York two years ago from Tulsa, where I was a consultant on missing child cases for seven years."
"A consultant? What kind of consultant?"
"I have a rare ability to read people, places, objects..."
Eames knew the exact moment that her partner understood what the woman was reluctant to say. Quietly, he said, "You're a psychic."
"I try to avoid using the term 'psychic' to describe what I do, to prevent people from shutting down under the force of preconceived notions, detective. But essentially, yes, I am. When I worked with Tulsa law enforcement, 132 of the cases I worked with them reunited the children with their parents. Our efforts were investigated by both Sixty Minutes and 20/20. I am not a fraud, and I want to help. I came right out when Mrs. Yarborough called me."
This was neither the time nor the place to question Marcy about a frantic mother's misplaced faith, so Eames simply said, "When you have a chance, we would like to speak with you in more private surroundings, Miss Chambers."
"I would be happy to, Detective Eames. But right now, I simply want to help these parents find their son."
"Of course you do," Goren said in a tone that carried no judgment. He handed her his card. "Call us if you need us. We are going to help in the search."
With a nod, Marcy placed his card in the back pocket of her jeans, and he left the house with his partner. He did not have to look at Eames to sense her anger. Once they were clear of the house, she snapped, "What the hell is the matter with you?"
He raised his eyebrows. "It's not our call, Eames. The family brought her in. The least we can do is cooperate."
"But a psychic? Give me a break."
He shrugged. "If it makes them feel better..."
"False hope, Bobby. It gives them false hope."
"Look at it this way, Eames. Whatever happens, as long as we cooperate with their efforts and do everything we can to find this boy, it can't come back to bite us in the ass. If we let her work with them, it keeps them busy while we do our job." He looked away and rubbed the back of his neck, stopping in mid-stride to turn to face her. "What harm can she do?"
She studied his face, and she got the impression he'd call in fairies and leprechauns if he thought they would help. "All right," she conceded, but only because he asked her to. She raised an index finger. "But the instant she says he's huddled in a cave, I'm done."
She shook her head and began walking again. "A psychic..." she muttered.
The local police were still canvassing the neighbors, trying to find someone who had been home and might have seen something, but so far they'd had no success. So the detectives left them to their jobs and walked down the street to a trailer that had been moved into the neighborhood to serve as a base for the searchers. Goren held the door open for Eames, then followed her up the three steps into the trailer to see what they could do to help.
Goren and Eames spent the rest of the night helping the searchers, to no avail. They dragged themselves back to the squad room to inform the captain of their lack of progress, clean up and then head back to Long Island. Ross studied them as they came into his office. Eames was obviously exhausted, but the captain couldn't see much difference in Goren. That only fueled the captain's suspicion that the man regularly got little sleep. "Go home, you two. Get a few hours of sleep before you head back out there."
Goren shook his head. "There's a missing boy out there. He's been gone almost twenty-four hours and there is no indication that whoever killed his caretaker abducted him. If that's the case, he wandered off and he's cold, scared and alone. If Eames wants to take time, that's fine. I'm heading back out there as soon as I shower and change."
"You, detective, are the one who needs the rest the most."
Goren waved him off and Ross knew there would be no forcing him. As long as there was any energy in his body, he was going to put it toward finding Teddy Yarborough. Ross had no doubt he would drive himself to the point of collapse. His eyes shifted toward Eames and he saw the same worry in her tired eyes. "Just...be careful."
It was the best he could come up with, but he gave Eames a meaningful glance that he knew she understood. She nodded and turned away from the desk, knowing Goren would be right behind her. They had pointedly avoided the topic of the psychic Vicky Yarborough had called. Eames still wondered what he thought, though. She had made her feelings clear, but as time passed, she realized that he had not let his own feelings on the matter be known.
She left the squad room for the locker room, where she showered and changed into clean clothes, bagging her dirty outfit and putting it in her car before she returned to the squad room. She was surprised to see Goren at his desk, in a clean suit, his hair damp. He was engrossed in something on his computer. "What are you up to?" she asked as she approached.
He shut the computer and stood. "Nothing. Are you ready to go?"
Frowning, she looked from him to the laptop and back, nodding her head at the computer. "Does that have to do with the case?"
"Indirectly. It can wait. Let's get going."
He seemed to have gotten his second wind and he wanted to take advantage of it. Finally, she nodded, turning to walk away.
He turned back to the laptop, opened it and powered it off. Then he joined her. The last thing he wanted was another argument with her. There had been enough tension between them lately and he did not want to contribute to more. She did not trust Marcy Chambers, but he did not have the same skeptical approach. He was wary, but willing to give the woman the benefit of the doubt, at least for now. He had not gotten far in his research, though, and he'd made a note to call the Tulsa police department and the Oklahoma State Police about her. He was curious now, and he wondered why she'd left Oklahoma.
The ride to Long Island was quiet. Eames was tired and Goren was thinking. Before they got to the neighborhood where the Yarboroughs lived, she glanced at him. "So what were you doing that indirectly has to do with the case?"
He paused. "Research," he answered.
"That psychic," she said, disapproval in her tone.
He nodded. "So far, what she's said has been true."
"That doesn't mean she has any business being part of this case."
"It seems we have no say in that."
"And if we did?" When he didn't answer, she glanced at him again. He had returned his attention out the window. "Are you going to sit there and tell me that you believe all that psychic mumbo-jumbo?"
"No, I'm not. But this woman has a solid track record with reputable law enforcement agencies, and right now we have nothing to go on. I don't see the harm if the family wants her help. We have nothing to do with it."
"And I don't want anything to do with it, do you understand that?"
"Yes, Eames. I get it."
She sighed softly. This woman had roused his interest and his curiosity, and that, she knew from experience, could spell disaster. She parked the car down the street from the Yarborough's home. "Just be careful, will you?" she said as she turned to look at him after turning off the vehicle. "I don't want another Nelda."
She got out of the car, leaving him. He sat there for a few moments, trying to understand how she meant that. With a heavy sigh of resignation, he got out of the SUV and joined her on the sidewalk, where she was waiting with her arms crossed, obviously annoyed. He decided his best bet was simply to remain quiet as they walked down the street to the command post.
Marcy was sitting on the steps of the trailer, waiting for them. She rose as they approached. "Hello, detectives."
"Hello," Eames answered, determined to be polite because Senator Harriman's daughter had called this woman, and the senator knew the chief. Since the chief already had it in for her partner, she decided it prudent not to make waves. "Have they made any progress?"
"Not yet." She hesitated before venturing, "Teddy is still alive."
Eames looked away and rolled her eyes but Goren looked at her with interest. "How do you know that?"
Marcy sighed, seeking the right way to explain what she knew. "Sometimes, I can see things in my dreams. Sometimes, I feel them when I'm in contact with a cherished item. And sometimes, if I look at a picture of someone, I can see their fate. I've never been wrong. His mother gave me his favorite stuffed animal, a raccoon, and when I was holding it, I got the sense that he's terrified, lost...but alive. And when I looked at his picture on the mantle, I didn't see him dead. What I did see was a field near a stand of red maple trees. That's where he is."
When she stepped up into the command post, Goren looked at his partner. "It's not a cave," he pointed out.
She tried to hide a smile of amusement and smacked his arm. "Shut up," she growled as she moved past him into the trailer.
He sighed as he hid a smile and followed her.