A/N: Yes, it does say that this story is, in fact, complete. HOWEVER, my plan is this: after penning ten one shots, I'm going to offer my readers a poll where they can choose which story will be continued on into a full length piece. (We've done this before as some of you will remember.) With that said, not all of those ten one shots may be included in the vote. Much will depend upon how well received each story is. There would be no sense in me continuing something that was not well liked. Also, depending upon response, it could be possible for a past one shot or two to end up on the voting ballot. Time will tell. As for now, just enjoy this little ditty. It's a slight departure for me, but I definitely had fun writing it!


Beneath the Buckled Walkway

A One Shot
FNF#35: Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but keeping its dream,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

I couldn't even tell you how many times I have stepped over, walked upon, and even stopped to stand directly on top of this one particular bulge in the city's sidewalk. It wasn't so much a noticeable, memorable flaw in the winding pathways that made me remember it, but the fact that, just a few years ago, a city ordinance was passed to reconstruct the walkways, rendering them practically perfect, made me easily recognize the buckle. In the effort to aid the unemployed, the city of Port Charles, New York, just like practically every town across the United States, had been busy spending government allotted money to provide income for those displaced from their jobs because of the depression and to, at the same time, modernize our bustling, lakeside metropolis.

There had been a damn built on the opposite side of the lake, further south of the city, in order to help alleviate flooding during the rainy seasons and to create a hydroelectric power plant to serve the Port Charles suburbs. There had been new roads put in, paved ones at that, in order to make traveling from the local, surrounding areas into town far more easier, and telephone lines now stretched out even to the most rural of homesteads. However, the project that had most greatly affected my own way of life was the rejuvenation of the downtown sidewalks, something my heels had been grateful for ever since.

As a single, independent, working woman, something not quite yet entirely acceptable or common in my hometown, I choose to walk almost everywhere that I need to go. While I could take a taxi, I suppose, such excess seems to be a waste of my hard earned money, and, after the economic plight that has befallen many of my former chums and school mates, I feel the need to be as frugal as possible. So, with that in mind, I walk. I walk to work, I walk to and from the store, and I walk to the post office. Being unattached and practically married to my work, I don't socialize much, so any other excursions I may find myself upon are few and far between.

You see, I work as a police sketch artist, an albeit strange and uncommon job for any person, but it is especially rare for a woman to be appointed to such a position. However, and I say this with a sense of humility that was instilled into me as a child by both my parents and my siblings, I am the best, and, therefore, the detectives seem to not only put up with my female presence but they also seem to like it. I am, to them, in essence, their little sister. Because I have proven myself, they respect me, and some of them even seem to look out for me, taking it upon themselves to make sure that I am not taken advantage of or spoken to rudely. Despite the fact that my own coworkers acknowledge my skills as a sketch artist, some of the criminals, witnesses, and attorneys that float in and out of our precinct don't, but their detractions are soon met with heavily opposed force, and they are quickly silenced or, at least, curtailed.

So, that's why I find myself here, elbow deep in a crime scene, shuffled to the outside corners yet still welcomed under the figurative protection of the ubiquitous yellow tape. That bulge that I had meandered my way by and across time after time in the past, this morning, was actually proven to be not a crack in the sidewalk that was made worse by the harsh cycles of winter weather that assault our upstate New York climate but a dead body, forcing and moving its way to the surface once again, the late winter thaws and subsequent refreezing of the ground helping its cause.

As I stand there, sketching the eerie discovery, I'm caught by my own sadness. What a pitiful way to perish, tossed aside and buried under wet concrete only to disappear beneath a hardened sidewalk where thousands of people will pass unaware, ignoring both your hidden form and the crimes visited upon you. It was painful to imagine dying in such a way.

While I am, by no means, close to my own family, they would, at least, realize it if I were to suddenly disappear. I think… I hope. At least, I am confident that my grandmother would. You see, my family, and I don't say this to fault them for I could certainly be described the same way or even worse, is rather self-involved. Fascinated by medicine, my older brother is a third generation physician, and my older sister is a third generation nurse. If you're a Hardy or a Webber, it is expected that you will grow up to somehow, someway work at General Hospital, the establishment my chief-of-staff grandfather helped to create and then build before he passed away several years before. It's the very same hospital where my grandmother, father, mother, brother, and now sister work, and it's the very same hospital whose existence has made me the black sheep of the family.

Never, not even as a curious child, did medicine appeal to me. I found the rigidity of the schedule choking and claustrophobic, the work staid and repetitive, and the idea of being cooped up in the same place day, after day, after day practically nauseating. I love the freedom of the outdoors, and my greatest passion in life is my art. Whether I am drawing, painting, or even toying around with the camera I inherited from my grandfather, capturing real life forever in a moment fascinates me.

At first, my dream was to become a world-renowned artist, but then I grew up, and then I became practical, and that's when I went out and found a real job. For the past three years, I have worked for the Port Charles Police Department. Not only am I their primary sketch artist, but I also take pictures of their crime scenes as well. I am indispensible… or so I have been told, and the fact that, in my own, less boring way I am helping people helps me to forget the horrors that I see on a regular basis. When I leave work at night, I go home, and I paint beautiful things, beautiful emotions to erase the ugliness that permeates the rest of the world I live in every day.

Despite my success, in a world where most families are struggling to hold onto their homes, I live in a comfortable, two bedroom Brownstone apartment and support myself in a rather modest yet still secure way, occasionally splurging on small, weekend getaways and expensive art supplies, my family does not approve of my lifestyle. They consider my job as a sketch artist for the police to be a waste of my mental talents (oh, how easily they forget my pitiful grades in both math and science during high school when it is convenient for them), an embarrassment upon the good Hardy-Webber name (let's blatantly ignore the fact that both my grandparents and my parents have each had multiple while still discreet affairs), and an unseemly occupation for a young lady (but weren't they the ones to say that I wasn't a lady in the first place?). But, yet, when push came to shove, if it was me my fellow coworkers were digging up from underneath the city sidewalks, I have faith that my family would come forward, they would mourn my loss, and they would lament that such a crime was both a tragedy and a travesty. However, still, no one has come forward to claim or grieve for the man an unsuspecting newspaper delivery boy found this morning.

Upon first arriving at the crime scene, I hurried and snapped a proper amount of photographs. These I will develop later when I return to my basement office at the precinct, but, before doing so, I wanted to sketch the sight as well. Don't misjudge my motives, though, please. The fact that I stayed there, standing beside a dead body longer than was actually required, did not denote of a nosy, curious streak that ran through me. Rather, I'll admit that I can be somewhat old school. While photographs are quick, and easy, and perfectly adequate, I personally do not feel as though they capture the true essence of a crime scene. They're too sterile, too unattached, so, even though it is not expected of me, I still sketch all the crime scenes as well.

I sketch the surrounding neighborhoods, using the details of the crime's location to help fill in missing pieces to the victim's story. I sketch the officers and detectives who crowd around and swarm over, in this case, a dead body or, in others, a robbed building or a traffic accident. And, of course, I sketch the injured party or parties, attempting to bring to life in their faces what the camera simply can't see.

Eventually, the evidence is exhumed, though the body still remains partially covered in concrete, and my fellow coworkers start to canvas the neighborhood, looking for eye witnesses or parties who could shed light upon the man found murdered earlier that day, and I get the chance to take a closer look at the body. I move in, crouch down beside his awkwardly situated neck, and, for the first time since I have arrived, I really, truly look at the man's face.

Objectively, as a sketch artist, I take in several important details – how well preserved his body is thanks to the fact that he has been buried underneath hundreds of pounds of concrete for several years, how young, how virile he once was when still alive, and how he was probably still alive yet just unconscious when his body was dumped in his shallow grave and then covered by wet cement. These things, as a professional, I need to recognize, but they're fleeting thoughts, quickly disappearing in a matter of seconds when I belated realize another important fact.

Falling back onto my haunches, I scurry away from the body, suddenly filled with a revulsion I haven't experienced since my very first corpse. Scrambling several feet away, I turn around just in time to vomit onto the street instead of onto my own lap, and, even after I have emptied my queasy, rolling stomach, I still feel dizzy and unbalanced. But I force myself to stand, I force myself to move back towards the crime scene, and I force my pencil to slide across my sketch book, rendering the victim's forever frozen face into a charcoal drawing. After all, this is my job, and, if nothing else, I am, as I have already said, quite good at it.

However, even as I am working, I realize that I am just as detached now as the camera always is. I can't focus on the typical details that I always see under normal circumstances, because this isn't a normal case for me. Instead of just being about the buckle in the sidewalk outside of Kelly's diner, it's about a boy I once dated, a boy I once fancied myself in love with, a boy who I now realize did not run away to the west as I had been told but who, instead, had been murdered. This case is now personal, so, in order to do my work, I have to distance myself from it, at least, for now.

When I eventually return to the station, I make a vow to myself that I will immediately seek out the police commissioner. If nothing else, Malcolm Scorpio is a fair, just man that I trust implicitly. I have no doubt that he will listen to me without interruption before he weighs in on whether or not I should continue to be assigned to Lucky Spencer's case. If so, I'll deal with my grief, with my sorrow, with my confusion in private. I'll go home this evening, paint my emotions out of me, and then go back into work tomorrow as decisive and as professional as always, and, if not, I will help my fellow officers find my own temporary replacement. Because of my interest in the arts, I know several of the art professors at the local college, and I'm sure they'll be able to direct me towards a student who would be both willing to earn some extra money and who would have the stomach for police work.

But, for now, I finish my sketch. After closing my notebook, I slowly and without bringing unnecessary and unwanted attention upon my person remove myself from behind the yellow tape, going to stand outside of it next to the brick building that houses the famed Port Charles' diner. While still close enough to witness the hustle and bustle of the crime scene, I'm still far enough disconnected from it that I will no longer be in anyone's way. There, I will remain, quietly, patiently waiting until my ride is ready to return to the precinct, and, in the meantime, I simply focus on my breathing, on keeping my face as blank and as remote as possible. While it is one thing to confess my connection to this case to my superior, I do not want all of my coworkers aware of just how related to the victim I am… or, well, was. Some things, no matter how close you are to someone or a group of someone's, should just remain private, and this was one of those such things, in my opinion.

However, the routine of the crime scene was disturbed just a few moments later when a speeding, blaring cop car pulled up recklessly to the curb and out stepped a man I had never seen before. He was tall yet not abnormally so, well built, and extremely attractive. I wasn't too shy or too traumatized to notice that fact. His murky, blonde hair was worn longer than was either fashionable or commonly accepted as being polite, and his eyes, steel blue, even from several yards away, I could tell were sharp and almost physically piercing in their intensity, and, as soon as they swept across the crime scene, I could feel them land directly upon me.

With a booming voice, the man I could only assume as being the new, hotshot detective Scorpio had brought in from the west coast in order to crack down on our town's notorious organized crime problem demanded to know, "what the hell is someone's secretary doing at my crime scene?"

All gazes instantly ricocheted in my direction, exactly the opposite of where I wanted them to be. I could hear several men around me jump quickly to my defense, explaining to Detective Morgan that I was their expert, crackerjack sketch artist, but the man either seemed not to listen or not to care, because he continued to fume about my presence. Immediately, I knew him to be a narcissistic, sexist ass, pardon my language, and I hated him upon sight.

No matter what Malcolm said, I wasn't backing off this case, my personal involvement be damned, and I sure as hell wasn't going to let some California golden boy order me around. If Detective Morgan wanted an immediate adversary in the department, then he had one… whether he liked it or not. Suddenly, I knew what I had to do: I had to be the one to solve this case before Morgan had a chance to; I had to be the one to figure out exactly why Lucky Spencer, my own ex-boyfriend, had ended up beneath a buckle in the city's walkway. Never before had I been so determined.