Summary: A child goes missing, Danny struggles with his own parent-related issues, and there's at least one area in which Nicholas isn't being completely honest.
Danny stared at the photograph on his desk. It had a crack through the glass, and the frame looked worse for wear. It was probably the cruddiest thing in the new station house, barring its occupants. Danny's own, youthful face smiled back at him. The photo had sat on his father's desk in the past, and on the mantle piece at home before that. Danny had thought it lost in the explosion, just more rubble. But Nicholas had slid quietly over to him on Danny's first day back on duty, and pressed it into his hands. Most days Danny wished he hadn't.
Nicholas was on the phone, his voice blending in with humming computers and ringing phones as part of the background score. Every now and then Danny could make out words, questions like "when" and "how". Nicholas wasn't writing anything down, no sloping scribbles in his notebook, which meant that it probably wasn't anything important. In fact, judging from the way Nicholas was slumped in his chair, staring at a point somewhere along the top of his office wall, it was probably just London calling.
Danny stared at his mother's face. He'd stopped mourning her for a while. For most of his twenties, actually. But not all things have the decency to end and stay ended.
"Is it stupid for me to hate her?" Danny had asked Nicholas once, "I mean, what with everything that's happened because of her?"
"I think it's stupid to hate anyone," Nicholas had replied. "But just because it's stupid doesn't stop it from happening."
That had been a while ago, a month maybe. Last week Danny had put flowers on his mother's grave for the first time in years. It was symbolic, not that Danny knew exactly what it meant. In the background, the murmur of Nicholas on the phone was ended with a click that was distinctive only in that it was caused by Nicholas, and replaced by the comforting rhythm of a call being answered at the front desk. The same "when" and "how" questions were asked, with the occasional "what" thrown in as well. Danny chewed idly on the cap of his pen, and wondered what his mum would have thought of Nicholas.
The sound of Turner passing on some news, and Doris and Tony swearing in response brought Danny back to himself. Nicholas, having hung up the phone and gotten halfway through scribbling something to himself, looked up and tensed.
It was Tony who spoke up. "That were Mister Tanner. Their youngest has been snatched."
Nicholas stood up so fast that the feet of his chair scraped harshly against the floorboards. "Get the Andes down here. I want Doris and Wainwright to go talk to the Tanners, and I need Cartwright, Walker, and Danny to go scout the area and talk to neighbours."
There was a loud clatter as the Andes nearly fell down the stairs in their haste, the pair of them struggling to stand tall and look professional once they were in Nicholas' line of sight. The painful straightness of their spines was partly a matter of taking the piss, but mostly because Nicholas could be damn scary once he started yelling.
Get a map of the area, get a description of the kid, of anyone seen, of any suspect unseen. Timeline, profiles, no sirens, yes to the fluoro jackets, find a motive, find a suspect, do your jobs.
"Well then?" Nicholas said expectantly. "Get moving!"
There was a mad scurry, but it was organised. Danny was out of his chair and halfway to the patrol car, keys in hand and hat on head before he realised it. Being a police officer was more instinctive now, his hands knew what to grab and his eyes knew what to take note of without patient prompting. The thoughts of moments earlier were firmly pushed to the back of his mind, where they belonged.
One of the big differences between the old style of policing and the new style of policing in Sandford was the amount of paper used. The old way involved one or two people making a note, losing the note, and then photocopying said note if it was, firstly, ever seen again and, secondly, a bit of a giggle. The new way involved maps with all sorts of lines – that were completely relevant, but also mostly squiggly – drawn on them, a timeline written out on the whiteboard, and photographs and post-it notes with relevant names stuck in loose conformations on the walls.
Danny suspected that the only reason that the new style yielded more efficient results than the old style was because the main room looked so busy and full that everyone assumed that everyone else was working like mad on the situation. And because no one wanted to be caught slacking off, the end result was that everyone did work themselves to near-exhaustion because they were all competing. When Danny posed this theory to Nicholas, Nick had given him a panicked look, and then made Danny swear to never share his conclusions with anyone else. "It'll stop working if they know what's going on."
One Turner was attempting to correlate the statements of neighbours with the initial recount of events provided by the Tanners – Betty Tanner was bathing little Lynda Tanner, left the bath house to get more soap and came back to find her gone. Doris was in interview room three taking the statements from said neighbours while the Andes stood at the door, frowning and occasionally making notes.
The other Turner stood in the middle of the room, hands on hips. "The general gist that I am getting from all this," he said tiredly, "is that no one knows nuthin'."
"Which means," Nicholas said, scrubbing a hand over his short hair, "that we're missing something, someone is lying, or a baby got lost behind the couch."
"That hasn't happened around here for a good seven years or so," Tony replied. "Little Tommy Wilshire crawled inside his parent's fold-out couch and couldn't get back out. Only found him when his uncle came up to look and nearly mushed him getting the couch open for a snooze."
Nicholas blinked blearily at Tony for a moment. He still struggled a bit with just accepting about eighty per cent of the station house anecdotes. "How long will it take to organise a warrant to search the property?"
"Ooh, well, we don't really need one, see, since the Tanners have opened their place up and all."
Nicholas' mouth became a hard, patient line. "We don't need a search warrant at this juncture to look for their missing child on their property," he conceded. "But we'll need one in order to perform an adequate search for a body."
There followed the kind of pause that liked to convey that yes, everyone had heard that, and no, no one liked the implication behind it at all, and that even though the warrant was now already in the works, no more of this avenue of thinking is to be discussed again. Ever. It was a highly communicative pause, and others like it had confused Nicholas for a long time when he first came to Sandford. Danny could tell by the tight line of Nick's shoulders that he had understood this one.
While London policing often involved addressing the most distressing possibilities as early in the investigation as possible, Sandford policing relied on an optimistic outlook and a lot of denial.
It was late afternoon by the time Nicholas had everyone he could spare back out searching. Danny was on phone-and-whipping-boy duty, which meant that he got to reassure the few curious people who called and go chasing after anything that Nicholas needed and couldn't find. Andy was hunched at a corner computer, transcribing the few recorded statements they had, and Nicholas was stalking around the office, passing information through the radio as it was needed. Nicholas had thought to make Danny look up everything from a topographical map of the Tanner farm, to historical records and building permits. None of which were much help, but it did mean that every time Tony fell down a ditch Nicholas knew exactly which ditch it was.
"Anything if interest yet, Andy?" Nicholas asked, pouring over one map and ignoring the mug of tea that Danny had pointedly set down next to it.
"Yeah, I happen to find it really interesting that you have all the bobbys out there detecting things, and me in here playing secretary. But aside from that," he added hastily in the face of Nicholas' glare, "the only thing that really stands out is that no one's heard or seen anything. Not until Greg Tanner started yelling all over the place. He rang us once Ethyl Mitchell calmed him down."
Nicholas bit at his lip, pausing in his sharpie-fuelled interpretative cartography. "That is interesting," he said softly.
"Your tea's getting cold," Danny replied.
The search got called off at nine, after Tony twisted an ankle in a ditch and Andrew fell in after him from laughing so hard. Another hour was spent full of ruling things out and listing new places to look and people to canvas before it was conceded there was nothing more that could be done without a few hours sleep, a fresh outlook, and other such buzz phrases. Danny walked Nicholas home.
"So, what was that call about then?" Danny asked after a comfortable silence that lasted five blocks.
"The one you had in your office, just before we got word…"
"Oh," said Nicholas, suddenly finding a stretch of wall to be interested in. "That was nothing. Just a family thing."
Danny went still, and held his breath for a moment. "Didn't think you talked much."
"Letters, mostly," Nicholas replied absently. "Actual speaking is reserved for emergencies."
Danny licked his lips. "And there's an emergency?"
"Well I should think so," Nicholas said with a snort. "We do have a five-month old child missing."
Danny rolled his eyes. "I meant an emergency with your family."
"This is me," Nicholas said nodding at his front gate. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Danny stood at the fence until the green front door was closed and a light was on in the kitchen. When he went home he fell into an awkward sleep, pretending that nothing was wrong.