(Just realized, I mangled the re-post of this and posted Chapter Two as both One and Two. So, hopefully I didn't mess up anyone's reading, if so- here's the real Chapter One. Hope you enjoy, and I apologize.)
The case had gone cold. The man that defiled and murdered Detective Ryan's sister would be left free and justice would go un-served. Everyone had to admit, a lot of time and manpower had been put into the nearly year-long case and there just wasn't much more that could be dragged up. The evidence had been looked at and nothing new was found. Their leads had run up dry. Everyone was exhausted from the effort they'd put into chasing down a killer of cop-family. They all begrudgingly went along with the orders from Montgomery's boss to move onto cases that were more recent and had a chance of being solved if they had the proper attention.
Montgomery had walked out of his office one day and passed around folders of crimes having taken place early that week but lacking the presence of enough detectives. That was when the watching began. Everyone, Becket especially, knew what a cold case dealing with family members would do to a cop. They expected Detective Ryan to have a hard time dealing with this. Esposito most of all watched Ryan. His presence was warmly close and respectfully distant, a perfect mixture of comfort and breathing space.
Needless to say, everyone expected the office to be more than tense for at least the next few weeks. Even Castle stopped spewing his nonsensical madness and tried being more attuned to what Ryan might be feeling. Becket took control of the awkward quartet and plunged into their newest case with fervor the team hadn't seen before. Esposito was quiet, watchful and always there. Montgomery wasn't yelling so much. The others in the office spewed their clichéd words of regret and sadness to the blue eyed detective. Ryan- Kevin Ryan reacted in a way none of them had expected.
7:00 A.M. Tuesday- Case 4 days cold.
Detective Kevin Ryan lay on his back in bed, comforter draped mostly to the ground at the foot of his bed. He held a picture frame loosely in his hands at an awkward obtuse angle and uncomfortably tilted his head to stare at it. The simple black painted wooden frame encased a photo of a younger woman clad in jean shorts and a bikini top perched on the edge of a boat with Kevin sitting next to her in swim trunks that were bright yellow with orange tropical flowers. They were both smiling brightly.
But this was just another memory. It was one that would never be built upon, never be followed up; there would never be an attempt to recreate that weekend. His sister was dead and the man who'd killed her was out there living a life he didn't deserve. Dropping the picture on the side table by his bed, Kevin sat up and set a hand down on the alarm clock, hitting the off button before the clock could screech out its five minute snooze. Placing his bare feet into the warm carpet, Kevin sucked in a deep breath and rubbed his face with the butt of his palms. It was another day and some other family needed his help in getting the peace and finality that he was denied. He had to be strong for them, and for Esposito.
Getting out of the bed and heading for the bathroom he thought of his partner. The man was stressed and worried for Ryan's sake. It was flattering but Kevin didn't want him torn up over this. It wasn't in any way Esposito's fault and he certainly didn't want the man suffering on his behalf. That would break up Kevin even more. Turning on the water he watched it quickly get warm enough to spew steam in the porcelain bowl. Cupping his hands he collected the hot water and splashed it on his face. The sudden heat on his skin woke him up pretty effectively. Blinking some drops of steaming water from his face, Kevin grabbed a washcloth and his face wash and scrubbed himself cleanly ready for another day.
Standing a few minutes later in his kitchen, grabbing his badge and car keys Kevin looked at the bread box and toaster next to it but shook his head. Either Castle or Esposito would have brought in something to eat. That's what they did now. With a little smile he headed for the front door in time for his cell phone to go off from the kitchen table. "Shit…" he turned around and jogged to pick up the nearly forgotten item.
"Detective Ryan," he answered without looking at the caller.
Javier Esposito's deep and smooth voice poured through the receiver. "Hey man, we've got a body. Neighborhood with the arson case last week."
Kevin let out a silent sigh and nodded despite knowing that Javier couldn't see it. "I'll meet you there." He hung up before his partner could start in on the 'how are yous'. Snatching an apple from the fruit basket he decided that would have to do for the morning and coffee be damned, he could function without it. He hoped.
Pulling into a parking space just outside of the yellow tape, Detective Ryan climbed out of his car and looked around for his partner. Javier was standing next to Kate and Richard, all three looking down at something- which was probably a someone. Walking over Kevin looked down at the body splayed on the driveway and gritted his teeth. Fuck.
The girl lay out before a house in a cookie cutter neighborhood, grass kept short and prim, fence painted a pristine white, and probably a little dog running around inside. Her blonde hair was tossed around her in perfect mounds, face pale and set in restful sleep, little sweater hugging her in a mother's grip. "She could be sleeping…"
The three glanced at Kevin after he spoke and nodded silently. "Her name is Tiffany Aleksaundra. She was identified by her parents. They said last they knew she was tucked into bed for the night then this morning she didn't get up for her morning classes and they found her in their driveway."
Ryan was sure that Becket was saying more but he was too intently staring down at the girl to actually hear any of the words. She had to be about his sister's age- or his sister's age a year ago. Life was never fair so it made sense this would be the case that his quartet stumbled upon. Pulling his little notebook from his back pocket he listened long enough to find something useful to do. "Esposito, you want to come help me take interviews?" he asked. Teaming up for the hard questioning was always easier than going it alone.
The brown eyed Hispanic nodded and tucked his hands into his front pockets as he followed after. "Yeah, sure. The beat cop that made it to the scene first took interviews from the parents but didn't go into much detail. We should probably start with them unless you wanted to leave that for Becket and Castle."
Kevin looked around the group gathered around the scene and noted a couple of teenage guys. "I think they might have something to say about this. They're trying real hard to get a look…" Swinging bright blue eyes towards his partner, Kevin waited for a confirmation.
Javier looked at the young group. "They could be friends of hers." One of the guys made a run to jump the tape only to be grabbed roughly around the waist by a cop. It took a couple of them to hold the boy back from the crime scene. "Or boyfriend. We should get over there and help out," he said jutting his chin towards the boys that were wavering at the tape, looking like they were about to jump it and help get their friend out of the cop's hands.
"Mm, agreed." Kevin walked beside Javier, noting the close and strong stance his partner kept when they walked together. There was warmth that washed off of Javier, a protectiveness that was really brought out these last few days and it truly was a comfort to Kevin.
"Hey," Esposito was in detective mode now and he stepped up next to the struggling teen and stared down his friends. The other three took a few steps back from the tape and Javier turned his attention on the could-be-boyfriend. Ryan walked over to the other three to get their story on all of this.
Kevin looked at the tallest of the three, he was standing without shrinking. "You know her?" he asked softly, glancing back to where Lani was crouched over the young woman. He caught a quick snatch of Javier dragging the other guy by the front of his shirt and pushing him to sit on the curb of the street to talk and calm down.
"Yeah we know Tiffany. Everyone at school knows her." It wasn't the tallest to speak up, it was the dark haired brooding one next to him. "Bryan and her just broke up two days ago." The brooder had looked over at the boy Javier was talking to when he mentioned "Bryan". "What happened to her?"
Looking at the one speaking, Kevin gave a light shrug. "We're not sure yet. You know anything that could help me figure that out?" he asked leaving the question open for now to see what the boys would say.
The interviewing seemed to drag. Each person that Kevin talked to expressed outwardly the grief that he was feeling within. His chest was taut and lungs heaving by the end of it all. Kevin was sitting in his car before leaving the crime scene staring down at the notes he'd written. It was messy, like his hand had been shaking the whole time he'd been writing. He figured that wasn't much of a leap to assume. Tossing the book to his passenger seat, Kevin drove back to the precinct where the team would regroup and share notes.
Pulling into the parking lot, Kevin watched Javier walk over to him and wait for him to climb from the car. Shutting the door, Kevin leaned against the cool siding of his car and looked at his partner knowing that he wanted to say something.
"You good?" Javier asked stepping up close to him and grabbing his shoulder in a tight but comforting gesture. The mixture of coffee and spearmint washed over Kevin's senses.
Kevin rolled his head around in what was supposed to be a nod but came out as some dance between yes and no. "I'll live. The interviews just took a while." Taking a moment to look down, close his eyes for two beats, he looked back up with a smile and bright eyes. "The leads seem like they're going to be solid though so we should get up there and follow this up." He reached out and clasped Esposito's upper arm, returning the reassuring touch.
Javier nodded his head upwards in a half-believing way and turned around to walk beside Kevin up to the office space. "A'ight, but if you need to talk about it, I'm here man."
"I know, thanks Javi." Kevin pulled open the door and the two headed in.
3:00 P.M. Thursday- Case 6 days cold
Kevin stood with his shoulder against the doorframe, gun in both hands and pointed down at the ground. He was staring Javier in the eyes and breathing in deep even breaths. Javier was poised two steps from the door, his own gun settled at the fading brass numbers on the motel's door. "Ready?" Kevin whispered pulling his hand from his gun and slowly wrapping long fingers around the door handle.
Javier nodded once and Kevin twisted the handle throwing the door open and letting his partner barge in first. Pulling up his gun, he aimed it around Javier who was yelling for whoever was inside to put their hands on their heads. Blue eyes were trained on a man in the far corner who had wild eyes and twitching jerky movements. Pulling his gun around, Kevin stepped further into the room and pointed his weapon at the man. "Hands on your damn head!" he yelled to the twitcher.
The man, clad in a dirty oil stained t-shirt pulled his hands up, a bottle in one and a gun in the other. "Drop it!" Kevin yelled and almost simultaneously fired off three precise rounds when he watched the man leveling the weapon off towards himself and Javier. The gun fell heavily to the floor, the man followed, and the ringing of a fired gun bled into Kevin's ears. "I got him," Kevin said to Javier and tucked his gun away. Moving over towards the fallen man he heard Javier gathering up the woman and younger man who were obediently kneeling on the ground, hands on their heads.
The man with the gun was lying, gasping up blood, between a bed and the wall. The gun was a few inches away and Kevin moved quickly to grab it. Tossing it on the bed, he looked at the gunshots in the man's torso. They were low in the abdomen so he might have a chance. Grabbing a small throw blanket from the end of the bed, he stuffed it to the man's bleeding wounds to try and stifle the blood flow. "Javi, call an ambulance."
"On it," the Hispanic's voice came from behind him followed by the crackle of a radio and the call out for a bus. "You all right Ryan?" he asked moving to stand beside him as a couple other officers moved into the room to take the two cuffed persons from the room.
"Yeah, I'm good." Kevin was busy looking down into the frightened face of the man he'd shot. This was the one they were after. This was the suspect who they very strongly figured at having killed Tiffany. The urge to lift that blanket from the man and walk away was strong but Kevin fought it, reminding himself that he was raised with morals.
A warm hand resting on his tense shoulder made the decision easier. Esposito was there to support Ryan and he was making the correct choice in trying to save this dirtbag. He let his shoulder visually relax under the touch but tensed up quickly when the man started coughing in a rough fit. He pressed down a little harder and looked up at Javier with furrowed eyebrows and a twisted frown.
"Here, let me help," Javier said bending down and applying pressure to the man's abdomen. "Listen to me." The detective was now focused on the bleeding man. "Take slower breaths, work on slowing your heart rate and you'll slow the bleeding."
Kevin backed up far enough to lean against the far wall and watch what was going on around him. The sound of an ambulance siren sounded from down the road a ways. There was blood on Kevin's hands and up his arms a bit. He was beginning to shake a little and his breath was hitched. Javier was still talking to the man, his voice smooth and easing both suspect and partner's nerves. Ryan had protected his partner, which was what mattered. If this guy didn't live- he didn't deserve it anyway. Sucking in deep gulps of stale motel air Kevin managed to ground himself once more and got himself outside where he could breathe and clean up.
A while later Javier was standing outside with him and they both stood looking at one another. "Thanks, Kev. I'm glad you've got my back." Javier reached out and pulled Kevin into a quick, hard, and warm embrace, clapping him on the back a few times. Kevin awkwardly gripped his partner back, perhaps letting his arms linger a beat longer than he should have.
"Always, dude. That's what we're here for." He smiled that tooth-showing grin of his that crinkled his eyes. Jerking his head towards their car he turned on his heel and strolled for it. "I'm sure Becket's gunna want to know what went down since she was stuck re-interviewing that brat teenager," Kevin said, his smile turning to a smirk.
Javier scoffed with a slight flare of his nostrils. "Yeah, I'm sure she and Castle are having a hell of time with that one." He chuckled a little. "Actually, I'm willing to bet Becket has killed either Bradley or Castle."
Kevin laughed, not quite the whole body laughter he normally shared but still a genuine laugh. "Probably Castle." He glanced over at his partner. "They need to break all the tension and just do it already."
"No kiddin', it's messing with team dynamics," Javier laughed pulling open the driver's side door and climbing in.
Kevin walked around and got into the passenger's seat. "It's his rugged handsomeness; she's intimidated." He sank into the seat, lazily stringing the seatbelt over himself and watching his partner.
"Bullshit!" Javier said turning on the car and listening to the engine rumble for a few seconds. "Castle's just too blind to see she wants him to ask her."
With a shrug Kevin kept it going all the way to the precinct and the light playful conversation felt good. God knew there was a lot of tension back at his place with Jenny. She was not as supportive through this as Kevin would have thought, or would have liked. He knew that what he was going to do tonight might upset her but it was something he felt he needed to do. Girlfriend's happiness aside, Kevin couldn't let this go, not just yet.