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Ria couldn't seem to get out of her own head. Sleep wouldn't come and the more she lay there the more memories from the past flooded her mind. And not exactly happy memories either. Memories that she usually pushed to the farthest recesses of her mind and refused to think about or dwell on because they wouldn't get her anywhere, except exactly where she was – miserable and sleepless.
Her alarm went off the next morning at 6 a.m., just 45 minutes after she had finally fallen asleep. Groaning at the blaring noise (she had picked out the loudest alarm clock she could find at the market because being a heavy sleeper didn't bode well for being a good employee), she climbed out of bed and headed for the shower.
She stood under the hot water an extra ten minutes, hoping it would wake her and make her look fresher than she felt after a week's worth of sleepless nights and being over-caffeinated. As last night's thoughts started to creep back in she fought hard to push them out, choosing to focus on this week's case and what she needed to get done today to keep Cal off her back. She would need to be in top form for the interviews she would be working on and she knew that being tired would make her reflexes and intuition a bit fuzzy, as well as making it more difficult to mask her own face from the prying eyes of Cal, Gillian, and Loker - though she never seemed to be very good at hiding her thoughts from them anyways. But that didn't stop her from trying.
She walked into the Lightman building a few minutes before 8 a.m. and was glad to see that no one was around just yet. She made her way to one of the computers outside the Cube and opened an interview Cal and Gillian had conducted the day before that Cal wanted her to analyze for their case. She had been watching the interview of a sixteen year old girl and jotting down notes for a half hour when she sensed another person enter the room. She kept her eyes on the screen, intent on maintaining her focus which seemed all too easy to lose in the past couple days – again, probably from lack of sleep. Cal sidled over to where she was working and watched for a moment while she analyzed the interview and took down notes.
"Fear." Cal said rather forcefully, causing Ria to look up at him abruptly. He read the confused look on her face and his impatience got the better of him. "That was fear on her face. You wrote down 'sadness'. It was bloody obvious, Torres. You've been working here for 6 months and you can't even spot that? Have you learned nothing?"
He turned to go, but stopped at the door and looked back. "Look. I don't bloody well give a damn 'bout what you do in your own free time. But when it starts interfering with your work here, then you're no use to me."
He scanned the look on her face, noting various emotions among the creased eyebrows, the tensed mouth, and her eyes that seemed to convey a myriad of emotions all at once: Confusion. Shock. Anger. And what was that last one? Shame?
"What is it then? Bar hopping? Drugs? Sex? Whatever it is, you'll be lookin' for another job if it keeps on interfering with your work. Got it?" And with that he turned and left the room, not waiting for a reply.
Despite Cal's typically incisive manner, Ria had never felt quite so humiliated in the 6 months she had worked for The Lightman Group. Shaking from an intense surge of emotions, she made her way to the bathroom so she could gather control of herself in private. Her hands gripping either side of a sink to steady herself, she kept her head down, afraid of what she would see if she looked up into the mirror, and began the pep talk that she'd given herself at least a thousand times before.
"It doesn't own me. It doesn't control me. It's in the past. I'm strong. I'm independent. The past is the past. I have a job to do and I'm going to do it." She finally braved a look into the mirror and was startled to find the reflection of Gillian standing behind her. Shit, she thought to herself, making sure she cleared her face of all expressions. Steeling herself, she turned around to face Gillian, but felt too embarrassed and ashamed to meet her eyes. I can't believe she caught me like this. Of course, I should have checked to see if there was anyone else in the stalls. I need to get my head on straight, I'm losing my cool. "Hey Gillian."
"Ria?" She shouldn't have been surprised at the sound of concern in Gillian's voice – in the 6 months she'd known her, Gillian had easily taken on the appellation as the most compassionate person she'd ever met. She knew that when she raised her eyes to meet Gillian's, the concern in her voice would be reflected in her eyes – and when she did, it was.
"It's nothing. I'm fine."
She had managed to keep her past hidden from The Lightman Group thus far, and she had no intention of giving in now. A little bit of comfort in the present was not worth the stares and whispers she'd have to endure later. She had learned this the hard way.
Gillian could see by the resolve on her face that Ria had no intention of talking, so she nodded and said "Well, my door's always open if you need someone to listen." and walked out of the bathroom, giving her the privacy that she suspected was needed.
It was this new case they were working on that tormented her day and night. It had brought up too many memories; it was too close to what she had experience herself and finding objectivity and putting distance between the case and herself had gotten harder to do each day. She heard a knock and then Loker's voice coming through the bathroom door, "Hey Ria, you in there? Cal's got the father in the Cube and he wants to start the interview right away. Wants you in there to do the talking while he observes."
"Coming." She called, wiping away the tears that had started streaming down her face. When she exited the bathroom, Loker gave her a questioning look, but said nothing as they made their way down the hall.
When they arrived, Cal and Gillian stood outside the Cube, while a white man in his late forties waited inside. "Right, then. Took you long enough," came Cal's response to their arrival.
"Let's just go over what we know about this guy, so everyone's up to speed." Gillian cut in, aware of how on edge Ria already was and not wanting to give Cal the opportunity to start interrogating Ria about where she'd been or the fact that her eyes were a bit watery.
"Right to the chase, then, eh? Okay, well, Daddy here's a copper – Chief of Police, to be exact - Mum passed away somewhere 'bout 3 years ago, and the daughter's sixteen. She goes to a guy on the squad she thinks she can trust, says daddy's been beating her for years, she wants out, wants to press charges, yada yada yada. They don't wanna accuse the Chief of Police without hard evidence, y'know? Scandal an' all that. So like everyone else, they come to us for the truth. That everythin', luv?" Cal summarizes, looking over at Gillian.
"Right then. Change of plan, Torres. I talk, you watch. Got it?" She nodded then followed him as he turned and walked into the Cube. The cop had been waiting for over an hour and his annoyance was very obviously plastered on his face.
"Alright. Out with it then. Come on, I haven't got all day." Cal practically shouted at him the moment they entered, trying to startle the guy. It would give him a better read if the guy was already on edge when he started in with the questioning.
"I, uh, what? Out with what?" Cal's plan had clearly worked – the guy was visibly flustered.
"Well surely you can figure out why you're here. You're not exactly innocent, are ya?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Right. That's a lie." Cal stated, noticing the higher pitch in his voice and the slight flare of his nostrils. "So who told you then?"
"Told me what?" The guy feigned innocence.
"Who told you that your daughter made a report to a police officer about the fact that you've been beating her since she was twelve?"
"I've never touched Amy. She's lying."
"And why would she do that?"
"She's a trouble maker. I can't handle her, haven't been able to since her mother passed."
"Right. So how often do you beat her? Couple times a week? Or every day?" Cal observed the man's reaction. "Right. Every day it is then."
"This is ridiculous. I'm not putting up with this bullshit." He got up to leave and Cal forcefully gripped his shoulder and pushed him back down onto the metal chair.
"You're not going anywhere. So tell me, what's your weapon of choice? A belt? No, you prefer using your fists, don't you? Make you feel like a man, that? Does it? You catchin' all o' this, Torres?" Cal glanced over in Ria's direction to see if she was seeing what he was seeing and was surprised at what he saw on her face, as she glared at the cop. There was definitely a lot of anger there, but it was more than that. Hatred. Pure, unadulterated hatred. She nodded, implying she was seeing what he was seeing, but never taking her eyes off the guy.
When he asked his next questions, he kept his eyes trained on Ria instead of turning back to the guy. "How many times did you put her in the hospital? How many bones have you broken? How many bruises has she had to hide?" The emotions that he saw flicker across Ria's face when she didn't know he was watching her made him feel sick to his stomach. But, as though she could sense his gaze, she looked over and saw that his eyes were focused on her – and it made her run. She fled the Cube before Cal could say anything, though he had no idea what to say anyways. She passed Gillian and Loker on her way out the door, ignoring their calls after her and their questioning looks.
Cal followed her out, saying as he went "Loker, stay here, make sure this scum doesn't go anywhere. Gillian, come with me."
Ria ran down the hall, slipping into the first empty office she could find, and slamming the door behind her. She barely had time to register that she was in Gillian's office before she slumped to the floor, just a few feet inside the room. When Cal opened the door, they found her there, with her knees drawn up to her chest and her head down, her body shaking in quiet sobs. Cal took a seat beside her on the floor, not really sure what to do or say, which is precisely why he brought Gillian along. After all, she was the psychiatrist, not him. Gillian shut the door quietly, and took a seat on the floor as well, silently thanking the stars that she had chosen to wear jeans that day instead of a skirt. She placed a hand on Ria's back and began rubbing it in circular motions.
"Want to talk about it?" she asked. Ria lifted her head, tears streaming down her face, and just shook her head.
It wasn't like Torres to keep so quiet and not vocalize her thoughts. And this, more than anything, was what worried Cal. "How bad was it?" He wasn't sure it was the right thing to ask, but he had to draw her out somehow. She glanced over at him for just a second, allowing him to see the pain in her eyes, and then looked down in shame.
"Luv, it's not doin' you any good to bottle it up, so why don't you tell us?" He encouraged her in an uncharacteristically kind and quiet voice. He could sense the exact moment when her resolve crumbled, but wasn't really prepared for the words that came next.
"Bad. It was really bad. I almost died. Twice."
Gillian winced, but didn't say anything, knowing that she had to give Ria the time to find the words. They waited, and eventually the words came. Finally giving herself permission to reveal the secrets that she had fought for so long to hide from everyone, she started spilling her stories: Stories about the many times her father had beaten her – about the bruises she tried to hide from the teachers and the school nurse, about the frequent trips to the emergency room, about the six broken bones, about cigarette burns that she still had scars from, about the first time she almost died when he stabbed her 7 times with a kitchen knife, and about the second time when she had technically died for 47 seconds because he had shot her just over the heart with his .38 revolver, and how Child Protective Services had finally taken her away from him after that.
Tears endlessly streamed down her face as she shared her secrets. She continued to keep her head down, afraid of the judgment and the pity, or even the shock and disgust that she would see on their faces if she looked up. When she finished sharing all the details of her sad story, the sobs started again and she fought hard to control them. Other than her silent sobs, the room went quiet for a moment that seemed to stretch out like an eternity. Cal didn't have the slightest clue of what to say, so instead he pulled Ria into his arms and let her cry out the rest of her tears in silence. It was a full ten minutes before she had calmed down completely, and when she did, she realized that she was gripping Cal's shirt with both hands and that her tears had soaked his front. Embarrassed, she pulled away.
"Sorry," she mumbled, though not sure if she was apologizing for the shirt or for having unloaded her baggage onto him, onto them.
"What, the shirt? Yea, I s'pose you'll have to buy me a new one now. Don't worry, I'll just take it outta your paycheck," he said in a joking tone. Seeing a slight hint of a smile on her face at the jest made the knot of tension and worry in Cal's stomach ease up a bit.
Then, in a serious tone, he continued on, "Actually, luv, should be me who's apologizing." The startled look on both Ria and Gillian's face was priceless. Cal, apologize? That would be a first.
"Wait, let me get the video camera." Gillian quipped, and it was reassuring to hear Ria actually laugh out loud at the dig aimed at Cal.
"Hey now! Be nice." He mock glared at Gillian.
The corner of Gillian's mouth lifted in a slight grin, and then she nudged him "You were saying?"
"Right." He resumed looking at Ria. "This mornin', I was a bit of an ass." Ria bit her tongue, as Gillian gave him that knowing look. "Okay, yea, more than a bit. Sorry. Anyways, without getting too psychological, I think you were projecting your feelings onto the daughter we interviewed." Ria raised an eyebrow, giving him a look that said 'What are you getting at?' but didn't say anything.
"Well, see, that girl's still living it, ya know. She's still terrified to go home at night, still very much within the grasp of her father's wrath. So she was feeling fear. But you…see, I think you were seeing sadness in her because it's what you were feeling when her reality drew out your memories." He paused, scanning her face for signs of understanding. "What I'm trying to say, luv, is that you've already conquered your past, so don't start the battle all over again. You've made your life a success story, after all the horrible stuff that's happened to you. So don't give it power over you now. Don't let it torture you, don't let it control you. And stop letting it keep you up at night. You're stronger than that, Ria." The use of her first name didn't go unnoticed, seeing as Cal always used her surname, but it took a back seat to the fact that he thought she was strong. Just knowing he thought it, it made her feel stronger than she'd felt in the past week, maybe in the past month.
"Ria, why don't you take the rest of the day off? Go home, get some sleep, and then see how you feel in the morning." Gillian offered.
"Yea, that sounds like a good plan, luv, why don't you do that?" Cal seconded.
"No!" Seeing that her forceful reply startled both of them, she explained, "I'm not going home. Going home is like giving in to it, like saying I'm weak, I can't handle it, that it's got the best of me. I'm staying. I'm staying and we're gonna nail this bastard, and then I'll go home and I'll sleep better than I've slept all week." She picked herself up off the floor, wiped away the tear streaks from her face, and gave a pointed look to both Cal and Gillian, who were still sitting on the floor. Noting the look of resolve on her face, they knew it would be useless to argue, so they got up and followed her out the door.
Just a few hours later, they had all the evidence they needed for a conviction, and could rest assured that the soon-to-be ex-Chief of Police would be spending the next seven years in jail. The daughter would be moving in with her aunt on her mother's side who had decided to find the girl a therapist to talk to after Gillian's recommendation.
After her breakdown, Ria started to worry about how she would be treated now that her secret was out. Would they look at her with pity? Will she become the center of office gossip? Will they trust her to do her job? She had once told a former employer and friend about her past, and found that the relationship wasn't strong enough to handle her baggage, forcing her to give up a good job. She didn't want to walk away from this job, it was the most intriguing work she'd ever done. But as she continued her work throughout the day, intent on doing her best, everything seemed to go back to normal. Well, normal except for perhaps Gillian seemed to be smiling at her even more than usual, and Cal had taken to calling her Ria instead of Torres. But for the most part, he was back to his cocky self, which was more reassuring than one might think.
The only one not acting himself was Loker. She wasn't intentionally leaving him in the dark – they had developed a deep friendship over the past 6 months, both snarky and flirtatious – but she couldn't bring herself to retell the whole horrible story again. So instead, she pleaded her case to Gillian, asking that she be the one to tell him when he started questioning everyone as she knew he was bound to do. Gillian was hesitant at first, but knowing how difficult it had been for Ria to tell the story the first time around, she relented and agreed to fill him in.
Tired at the start of the day and absolutely exhausted by the end of it, Ria headed home, looking forward to a hot bath and confident that she was about to get the first full night's worth of sleep that she'd had in a week. And confident that she'd still have a job and friends in the morning. Perhaps it would even be better, now that she didn't have to hide her past from them anymore.