five facets of a metro homicide detective
prompt: [Forever Knight] Tracy Vetter—Nick Knight
word count: 5066
author's note: written for bop_radar's character study challenge on livejournal; thanks to Amy R. for her excellent beta skills and observations, mistakes that remain are entirely my doing.
disclaimer: they don't belong to me, no money is being made. I'm only borrowing them. Forever Knight was created by Jim Parriott & Barney Cohen.
summary: nick knight, through the eyes of tracy vetter
Tracy Vetter needed a desk. Correction, she had a desk—the desk of a dead man—complete with all the minutia of Don Schanke's time in the 96th precinct. It wasn't exactly what she'd consider a desk of her own. Tracy felt like a trespasser sitting in what used to be Schanke's chair, sitting among the items he used every day. A partners of the month plaque honoring "the investigative team of Nicholas Knight and Donald Shanke" was perched modestly on the desk in front of her. She'd found it during the course of the recently closed Vudu case, and Tracy had been unsure what to do with it. Nick Knight, Schanke's partner and her temporary partner, had just resigned and the unsuspecting piece of wood and bronze further added to her feelings as an interloper.
The bullpen around her bustled with activity. She hoped no one would notice if she opened the desk drawers to take a peak. Cassette tapes to Bachman Turner Overdrive, several polka groups, and a Faustian opera were stacked up inside one of the side drawers. A punch card coupon for Woodbridge Bowl showed that Schanke was one visit shy of a free chili dog and soda. A week old section of the newspaper was folded to show a sale on children's bikes and a lime green yo-yo sat among the paper clips and extra gun clips. Tracy reached down to open the lower left drawer only to find it stuck. Would it be considered bad taste for her to get on her knees and try to dislodge the damn thing?
"Let me get that," came a quiet voice from behind her. Busted. She turned to see the blue eyes of Nick Knight looking at her. He'd withdrawn his resignation after Vudu targeted police precincts citywide, including the 96th, with Semtex bombs. "It's a stubborn drawer," Nick added before placing the box he held in his hands on the desk. "You have to have just the right touch. Pull up and then down and then to the right," he continued as he effortlessly demonstrated. The drawer screeched open to reveal an assortment of department issued forms. Tracy idly wondered if the department kept some WD-40 lying around to treat the drawer.
"Thanks. I'll remember that next time."
It occurred to Tracy that if Nick ever doubted what his partner-less status meant for him, her words must have added further confirmation. She was here to stay. Don Schanke was dead and in his place he got her. Rather than respond, Nick's attention was back on the box. He was here to pack up Schanke's things and she was in the way. Why oh why didn't the Academy teach us how to handle the awkwardness of these situations? Pick a happy memory Tracy, she silently admonished herself.
"So I noticed that you and Schanke were named partners of the month a while back." She gestured towards the plaque inscribed with their names.
"Yeah, he really wanted this thing," Nick began quietly as he picked up the award. "Schank would say that come promotion time it would look good on the personnel file. Truth of the matter is, he didn't care about it as much as he led on. He just wanted someone to notice that he was working towards making a difference. Although, it did annoy him that they misspelled his name on the plaque."
On closer inspection, Tracy could see that the deceased detective's unusual last name was indeed misspelled. When Tracy looked up towards Nick she could see an easy smile on his face. There had been too much loss of life in the last few days. Understandably, Nick needed to mourn his partner, but remembering the good times they shared also helped the healing process.
"Well, I'm gonna go," she announced, wanting to give Nick some privacy. "There's still some transfer paperwork I need to take care of. Thanks for the tip on the drawer, and I'll see you tomorrow night."
"Sure thing, Trace," he said carefully, and with a more subdued version of his earlier smile, but a smile nonetheless.
Tracy had every intention of leaving but something nagged at her before she mentally kicked herself for her thoughtlessness. "Hey Nick," she started and felt the heat from her blushing cheeks. "I just realized, with all the confusion and stuff, I never told you how sorry I am about Schanke and Captain Cohen."
She hadn't known Nick Knight very long, but the brief look of surprise told Tracy that her words of condolence had caught him off guard. It was the briefest of expressions, but Tracy saw it.
"Thanks, Tracy. I appreciate it. The Captain—at the end of the day she went to bat for us and Schank…Don Schanke was a good partner…he was also my friend."
The small Italian bistro was one of her dad's favorites and his regular table was tucked away near the back of the softly lit room. "The Commissioner is a valued customer," Tracy had heard the concierge say on numerous occasions, and that afforded him a certain amount of privacy and privilege.
On her approach to the table, her dad rose from his seat and greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.
"Tracy, sweetheart, you made good time," he said after placing a firm hand on her upper arm and led her to a waiting chair. "The way the Gardiner gets at this hour, I thought you'd be much later, but it was getting late so I took the liberty of ordering for you. Remember the lemon rosemary chicken I had last time? I'm sure you'll love it."
Richard Vetter's declaration left Tracy somewhat dumbfounded. It wasn't so much that he ordered for her, because that in itself was a considerate gesture. However, there was a dish at this restaurant that she particularly enjoyed and her dad knew that. Then again, maybe she shouldn't be so surprised.
"Dad, thanks but I'm actually in the mood for something a little lighter," she addressed both her father and the waiter by their side.
"Honey, if you change the order now it'll be time for your shift before you get dinner. Stick with the chicken. You'll like it."
A muffled trill broke the impasse and the waiter looked at Tracy expectantly while her father busied himself with checking his intrusive beeper. His mannerisms told her that the matter of her culinary decision had been settled as far as he was concerned.
"All right, all right, you win, but if I doze off in the middle of a crime scene, it's on you," Tracy commented while trying to keep the disappointment in herself from seeping into her voice.
"So how's the partnership with Knight going? Any problems?" her dad asked, forgoing any father/daughter pleasantries.
"Hey, I'm doing great Dad. Thanks for asking," she remarked with a mixture of bemusement and sarcasm.
"Tracy, I already know how you're doing. I have it on good authority that Detective Vetter is turning quite a few heads. My concern lies with your partner dynamics. They can be problematic, so I want to look out for my girl."
Tracy couldn't help it, really, but the parental concern, however unnecessary, was a bit of an ego boost. She'd always been aware of her father's influence on her prospective career choices, even before she entered the police academy. Once upon a time, Tracy had tried to distance herself from the world of law enforcement and the family "business" and that was a source of frustration for her police commissioner father. Given her history of resistance, it was difficult admitting to herself that her father's words of praise and fretfulness were a welcomed and expected stamp of approval on the new direction of her career. Now if only mum would come around.
"We're still feeling each other out a bit, trying to find a balance, but things are good," Tracy answered. "Nick's a good guy…a little on the private side. I do think it amuses him, though, that he finds himself paired up with a rookie."
"I've heard about Knight," Her father's voice was unusually muted, even with the restaurant's low and intimate ambiance. "He's a hotshot, Button. He gets his guy but his methods are a bit cavalier. You watch yourself out there."
His warning barely had time to settle before he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a folder emblazoned with the department's insignia. He placed it firmly in front of her and when she read the name on the flap her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Dad what are you doing with Nick's file? This is an invasion of privacy."
"Tracy, you need to know what to expect from your partner. It's important. That and trust are the cornerstone of any partnership. I just want you to know what you're dealing with out there. I'm not saying Knight is going to get you killed. He's done sound police work. I just want you not to be surprised when he launches into one of his supercop modes. Don't let him run the show. Step up and take control. He worked alone for a while until he got paired up with Schanke. God only knows why Stonetree permitted it, but he did and that gives Knight the edge. He got used to getting his way. Make sure he knows there's a Vetter onboard now and, his days of calling the shots are over."
"Dad, he's not like that. He's solid and he doesn't treat me with kid gloves or like he's better than I am just because he's been at it longer. I'm not looking at this." She pushed the unread file back towards her father.
"Knight's just one of those cops. The lone wolves who march to the beat of their own drummer. Every department has them, but when my baby girl gets paired up with one of them, I go into 'Dad' mode. You can't blame me for that, can you? It's one thing for the man to be on high profile cases, it's another if and when he starts putting you in danger. Not to mention drawing attention away from your abilities. You're an excellent officer, Tracy, and I don't want you to deal with any unnecessary aggravations. They'll only slow you down on your way to the top."
"Well 'unnecessary aggravations' or not, I'll deal with them should I have to, and in my own way. And please, let's not get into the career advancement discussion. I've only been on the job a month and you're ready to ship me off to an administrative position. Who knows," Tracy smiled, hoping to take the sting out of her words. She would not let dinner with her father turn into a heated debate. "I might have the makings of a pretty damn good detective. Maybe I'm here to stay."
"You're too smart for that, Tracy. You're not the type to throw away a perfectly good career move when it hits you between the eyes. Homicide is a good place to get your feet wet. They need detectives with intelligence, but it's not the place to spend your entire career. The job can take its toll. I've seen far too many cops broken because they never moved on and I'll be damned if I'm going to see you make the same mistake. You've got too much promise."
As much as Tracy fought it, she flinched at his last statement and it killed her that he saw. Although it was hard to say for what reason—fear of disappointing him or because she didn't want her father to know the impact his words had on her.
"Ask yourself this, Tracy: in a few years, where do you want to be? Nursing a cup of bad coffee and poring over the records of recently released violent offenders or enjoying the career benefits of someone who kept their eye on the ball?"
Is that what all this boiled down to? Who was enjoying better perks fifteen years after the Academy? What Tracy wanted was the respect of her peers and the skills of a seasoned detective. Climbing the police department ladder wasn't what this was about. She'd find success on her own time and on her terms. She'd seen what happened when career single-mindedness took over a life—and a family. Tracy wasn't going to let her adult life turn into a carbon copy of her life growing up.
The silence between them stretched out longer than it should have. She was surprised at the look of fragility she saw in her dad. The gray hair at his temples was more pronounced. The lines around his eyes were deeper. Her father was a formidable man, but she knew his weakness—her. He was proud of her, but he wanted his daughter out of harm's way as soon as possible.
A shadow fell over the table and Tracy turned to see their waiter carrying a tray with their table salads and a pitcher of water.
"Maybe I don't see it as a mistake, Dad." She delicately but pointedly used his chosen word from earlier. "Shouldn't I be allowed to determine for myself what career I want? I want you proud of me, but I need to see this through on my own."
Tracy reached across the table and clasped her hand around his. For now, this would have to do.
There she went again. If Ms. Wallace got any more obvious, Tracy was going to have to physically peel her off of Nick.
A quick glance at her partner revealed amusement shining in his eyes. If it wasn't for the need to wrap up their abbreviated report, they wouldn't even be here. Unfortunately, even possible homicides turned heart attack victims had their share of paperwork. All they needed was for the deceased's not-so-bereaved daughter to stop interrupting. Coming in person, to stretch their legs, rather than phoning, had seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, one more second with Ms. Wallace and her collection of Darling Minutes figurines was one second too many as far as Tracy was concerned.
Thankfully, they managed to extricate themselves from the clutches of Ms. Wallace and quickly fled to Nick's awaiting Caddy. The occasional crackle of the police radio provided the only interruption to the interior's silence and their own thoughts.
For his part, Tracy could see that Nick took female attention in stride. He got this on occasion. She'd seen the way women sometimes perked up when he entered a room. Sure, he was a good-looking guy, but Nick always remained a respectful distance from those with amorous intentions and politely deflected romantic advances. Though that's not to say that Nick hadn't used that boyish smile of his and considerable charm to win over the occasional work-swamped lab technician or conveniently forgetful witness. Tracy, as his partner, and the investigation, only stood to benefit when Nick used his powers of persuasion, for lack of a better word, for the forces of good.
However, when it came to women, Nick was still something of a mystery, and that's a subject that certainly couldn't be delved into without mentioning Natalie Lambert. It didn't take Tracy long to realize that Nick and Natalie were close. Why else would someone willingly choose to hang out at a morgue? Because Dr. Natalie Lambert worked there, that's why.
Yet her partner's personal life was his business, so any of the quiet rumblings she'd picked up from the department's rumor mill were set aside in the name of privacy. Were Nick and Natalie involved? Tracy didn't think so, at least not in the strictest sense of the word. They cared and respected each other. She'd seen that first hand. They'd silently confer like they were members of an exclusive club and only they were allowed admittance. But she doubted that they'd crossed the threshold into romantic involvement. Nick's emotional flirtations with Marian Blackwing and his concern for her friend Jody early on in their partnership said as much.
But sometimes she thought that she should have given a little more credence to office scuttlebutt. In some ways cops were professional gossips. Differentiating rumor from fact out on the street was a big part of the job.
Nick and Natalie were both private people but Nick could at times be a little on the intense side and that intensity caused people to steer clear of him for a while. That is, everyone except Natalie. It probably took a lot to keep up with him but even she seemed frustrated at times. There was an unseen weight between them and it seemed to be taking its toll. "All used up" is how Natalie once described it to her and shortly thereafter the department whispers spoke of a "lovers' quarrel" after a small blowup near the bullpen.
At least for now things had settled down between them, but one could never tell when trouble was going to flare up again. At the very least, going back on full rotation after Nick's shooting was going to help things go back to normal. What they needed was a homicide to help shake out the cobwebs that had settled in after two weeks of desk duty.
"What we need is for cops to stop wishing for more deaths in this city," Nick quietly said from his spot in the driver's seat, but not reproachfully.
"Oh God, I said that out loud didn't I?" When had she started taking on some of the macabre personality traits notorious among homicide cops? A few months ago a flush of embarrassment would have colored her fair complexion. Embarrassment at what her partner might think of her and her remark. Now she was only feeling a bit sheepish. It's a far cry from the Tracy Vetter who had stumbled over her condolences to Nick just a few months ago. She idly wondered if it had taken Nick and Don Schanke the same amount of time to sync up with each others rhythms and idiosyncrasies.
"Sorry, cabin fever, you know, and geez that so-called case didn't help," she chuckled.
"I'll admit it wasn't my first choice, either," Nick replied with amusement as they turned onto Spadina.
"So are you saying that you're not going to take Darlene up on her offer to sample her 'world famous' rum cake? You know I like cake. I wonder why she didn't ask if I was interested?"
"Probably because she thought you were after her collectables. I noticed you were more concerned with her knickknack collection then with her answers."
Tracy shrugged. "You were the primary. I was just letting you get back on the saddle…partner."
"Oh, is that what you call it? That's not what it looked like to me. You know, for your birthday, partner, I'll get you all the cherubic ceramic children I can lay my hands on," he announced as he slipped the Caddy into an available parking spot at the station house.
Tracy wasn't the only one the forced desk duty had agitated. Nick was climbing the walls in boredom. There were only so many times they could rearrange the things in their desks. And background checks were so dull.
She suddenly had a vision of the onslaught Nick was hinting at. They were everywhere—on her desk, in her locker, at home, in her car—she shuddered at the thought. Nick's wicked smile, as he rounded the Caddy and walked with her towards the station entrance, gave her pause. She'd noticed that Nick had a devilish streak to him and she certainly didn't want to be in his crosshairs.
"You do that and I swear, Nick, I'll make your life hell," she threatened as he held the door open for her. A gust of cold wind whipped her blonde hair around her face. Nick's only response to her threat was to chuckle softly in amusement and it mildly exasperated her that he could be so mercurial.
While Tracy sought out the warmth only a cup of coffee could provide, Nick settled into his desk, but rather than start typing up his report he struck up a conversation with Sergeant Miller.
"Hey!" Tracy said, slapping her meager notes in front of him and bringing his attention to her. Her coffee threatened to slosh over the sides of her mug. "That report isn't going to write itself and I'm certainly not gonna do it," she concluded by flashing him her sweetest smile.
Nick barely got a word out when the sound of the Captain's door opening caught their attention. Detectives Osborne and Booth emerged with poorly contained excitement. Inside, Natalie was visible talking to Captain Reese before she too made her exit.
"Hey there strangers," Natalie said in greeting as she walked up to them. Desk duty meant no new cases so there was no official need to visit the Coroners Building.
"What's with the shotgun exit from those two?" Tracy asked, nodding in the direction of the detectives' speedy departure.
"The McDonald case. New evidence. Forensics just got the results on blood typing from fibers found at the scene. It was a match to their suspect."
"McDonald?" Nick asked, his interest piqued. "That case is a few months old. Is the lab still backed up?"
"Isn't it always?" Natalie deadpanned. Frustration crept into her eyes. "Forensics is still having problems interfacing with the new provincial computer system. It aggravates an already slow and painstaking process and we're all feeling it."
"Well, hopefully it works out," Nick remarked, his voice soothing and warm and his attention focused solely on Natalie. Tracy may have been present, but his words weren't meant for her. Actually, the words didn't really matter, but their delivery did. She marveled as the tension apparent on Natalie's face quickly dissipated, as if never there.
Tracy would have loved to have silently slipped away and given them some privacy, but Nick was leaning on her desk and at this rate his report would never get done.
"Anyway, I'm sure Osborne would appreciate the bump to his clearance rate, if things go well. He's had a tough time lately."
"We all have lulls," Nick nodded knowingly. "You headed out?" He asked Natalie when she glanced at her watch.
"Yeah," she managed out as she shrugged into her heavy coat and adjusted her hair. "This was just a small reprieve. I've got a couple of fellows back at the morgue demanding my attention. I've got a long night ahead of me."
"Wait up. I'll walk you to your car." Nick said as he grabbed a hold of Natalie's satchel and started to lead her towards the station's entrance. "I'm calling a time-out. I'll be back," he directed towards Tracy, indicating he hadn't completely forgotten about the report.
"Later Trace," Natalie said with a smile over her shoulder as they walked away.
What she should have done then was sit down and pull all of her remaining notes for their not really a homicide case. Instead, Tracy's eyes tracked Nick and Natalie's progress to the main doors where they now stood. They'd stopped so that Nick could adjust Natalie's scarf. She'd need it for protection against the biting cold just outside the station entrance.
With the distance between the door and her desk, there was no way Tracy could have known what they were saying, but she didn't need to. The mutual smiles between them and Nick's lingering hands on Natalie's scarf told Tracy everything. For being in such a public place the simplicity and sweetness of the act was surprisingly intimate. The activity of the precinct's bullpen provided the tableau with an unconventional soundtrack. And then just like that that they were gone—into the cold night.
At the Police Academy, Tracy, like all new recruits, was taught everything from legal matters to basic hand-to-hand combat. Upon graduation, she was expected to be competent and efficient. Standard rules and investigative procedures were paramount and drilled into everyone who completed their training. However, in the end, there were certain intangibles that couldn't be taught. Either you had them or you didn't. So against her better judgment, Tracy's gut was telling her that something about Nick just wasn't right.
For all his reclusive nature, Nick was a stand up individual and an excellent police officer. Not a single person in the department spoke of any incidents that weren't above reproach. Nick was not a man who abused the authority given to him.
From working alongside Nick, Tracy had observed that a detective's instincts were an asset and they should not be viewed as a liability. She'd played the instinct card herself, but Nick had it down to an art form. Their tendency to run in two different directions caused their partnership its share of growing pains.
Over the last few months Tracy would like to think that she and Nick had begun to paddle in the same direction, as the Captain had once colorfully put it. Respect for her partner had always been present, and over the course of their partnership, it had grown. But despite all that, Tracy had to reconcile that respect with what and where the facts were leading her, and she didn't like it one bit.
The young ward of her murder suspect had a photograph of his guardian and a man who looked remarkably like Nick. The boy claimed they were siblings. Rational thought told her that there was no way the man in the photo could actually be Nick, but he'd been noticeably absent these last few days with little to no explanation.
Natalie was the next best person to talk to other than the source himself, but the coroner had rushed through her attempts at getting information. Rushed, or skillfully evaded, she wondered. How much did Dr. Lambert know about Nick? How deep was her role as confidante and what were the lengths she'd go to protect him? The alarming number of questions that were popping up was dizzying and it troubled Tracy that she might not truly know her own partner. The same man who had saved her life on several occasions in their still-short partnership.
So much of this just didn't wash for her. She once told her father that she wasn't going to invade Nick's privacy, but now here she was accessing his department profile. Nicholas B. Knight was born in Chicago and everything in his personnel file indicated that he spent his formative years in the American city. So where did Janette de Brabant come into the picture? Did she have history there as well? The 'B' in Brabant and in Nick's middle name was certainly an interesting coincidence.
Tracy knew Nick didn't have any immediate family. Natalie said as much and if Tracy needed further confirmation, Nick's official file reported the same thing. Nick never mentioned any type of family situation and with her never-ending family dramas he certainly had ample opportunities to, but that didn't preclude the existence of surrogate, especially for a private person like Nick.
Perhaps Nick and Janette de Brabant were surrogate family or next-door neighbors or childhood sweethearts or something. Maybe that's where their paths converged. They grew up together but she hung out with a bad crowd and Nick eventually went into the police academy. Tracy stopped herself right there. Anything that she came up with was just guesswork and the product of an overactive imagination. There was nothing to back it up and Nick's personnel file wasn't as illuminating as she'd like. Or maybe that was something in itself. What if Nick hadn't always been on the straight and narrow? Juvenile records were sealed but that didn't mean they couldn't exist. Nick had always had a keen understanding of society's darker side—its excess, its depravity, its violence. Tracy had chalked it up to his years of experience on the force but it was plausible that first-hand exposure played a role in Nick's profound knowledge.
If anything, it was time to extend her background search on Janette de Brabant to the states, especially the Chicago area.
But what then? What if she found a connection between Nick and her murder suspect? Tracy trusted Nick to watch her back, and she respected him. The past was the past, even if Nick once walked on the wrong side of the law. What mattered was that he was on the right side now. But if Nick had broken the law to help Janette de Brabant, whoever she was, what would Tracy do? The law Tracy --and Nick-- had sworn to protect was quite clear on that matter, but there was a part of her that wanted to protect her partner, and she wasn't sure which side would win if she were confronted with the question.
The pain lacerated her abdomen. Her head hurt and she could hear Nick bellowing for help. God, I've just been shot. Dawkins shot me. Nick's cool hand held her neck. His eyes…Nick's eyes, they weren't normal. She'd seen eyes like that before…on Vachon. And now she'd seen them on Nick. Nick Knight was a vampire. Her partner was a vampire.
She hadn't followed protocol. She'd gone in alone without backup and now…now, God it hurt. What happened? Dawkin's gun went off and she got shot. He'd meant to shoot Nick and she got hit instead. Stupid Vetter. Or did Nick get hit anyway? She wasn't sure what happened. Nick had lifted Dawkins liked he weighed nothing at all. That's probably because he didn't. Vampires had super strength, super speed, super healing. They weren't human. But she was. Neither Vachon nor Nick were human, but she was, and she was paying for it.
Nick was a blur but she could still make out his features. The last time she'd seen that look on his face was months ago while they stood amongst the wreckage of a downed airplane. An airplane that had held his then-partner. "You could have trusted me," she managed to get out. She was cold and she hurt. Sleep would be good. Sleep would be very good. She and Nick had to talk later. 'Trust is the cornerstone of any partnership'. Someone had told her that once. She and Nick definitely needed to talk. Those were her last thoughts before the world went black.