Chapter 7

Edward was blown away by the choices of cold-cases, there were dozens and dozens of them. He looked over the labels and it was hard to get a feel for them. Every so often he'd glance over at Bella, her search appeared to be much more determined, he'd seen her like this before. It's how she was when she was on to a lead in a case, once she'd set herself on a path she was relentless.

Edward debated internally, he was intrigued as to what she was looking for, but at the same time he didn't want to overstep the mark. They'd been doing so well at keeping work and personal lives separate and he didn't want to jeopardise that.

After a few more minutes of observing he decided to leave Bella to it and resumed his own search. He pulled out a few of the boxes and reviewed the summaries, he was drawn to a case of the death of a number of poker players in a localised area. The mentions of organised crime and even the local casino's being involved piqued his interest. All of the victims shared one common denominator, they had all been winning big.

He took the box over to the desk and then decided to search a little longer, he found Bella crouched down pulling out one of the boxes, from the layer of dust on top of it, it looked like it had been here for some time. As Edward approached, he watched as Bella looked up and reacted somewhat oddly. She moved to obscure the box from his view. The motion was so quick and she soon relaxed he almost let it slide.

"Don't worry, you can have it!" he joked.

Bella bit at her lip and smiled, but the smile didn't reach her eyes.

"Sorry, you just startled me, that's all."

Edward chuckled and turned his attentions back to the boxes, he had to admit though he was very curious as to what she'd chosen. His search had been so random, he was just browsing, but Bella seemed to know exactly what she was after.

"That looks like an old file" he murmured.

"It is, second oldest in here." Bella responded, but she didn't look up, she was transfixed by the boxes contents.

"Starting big then"

"Something like that..."

Edward continued to scan the boxes, inching his way closer and closer to Bella.

"What made you choose that one. I would love to tell you that I had a system, but really i'm just looking for something that intrigues me."

Bella closed the box and sighed, looking up at Edward her gaze seemed a little stern, but after a moment or two her gaze softened.

"Well you know how much I like a challenge, this case intrigues me and I remember hearing it mentioned before. It's a case that's perplexed many."

"Oh!" Edward added.

He was starting to feel like he was a little paranoid. It was just like Bella to go for a challenging case and gossip about cold-cases isn't rare, especially the older ones.

"I'm sure if anyone can solve it, you can."

"We'll see."

Bella pulled the box off the shelf and stood up, she blew at the dust that coated the lid and moved towards Edward, he watched how held onto the box. It was clear that there was no indecision on Bella's part, she'd chosen her case and if he knew Bella as much as he thought he did, she'd be relentless.

"I'm gonna go make some notes, before the chief gets back to see what we've chosen."

Edward smiled warmly and moved aside to let Bella pass, as she did he glanced a look at the label. 'The collector' was the name of the case, he chose not to question Bella any further for now.

Once Bella had disappeared, Edward knelt down and took a look at the boxes either side of the one she'd chosen. Their was only one cold-case older than 'The Collector' case. A quick glance and Edward felt a little sick. The case was a serial killer, who targeted men. He was referred to as 'The slasher'. All of them mens bodies were found with stab wounds around the torso, it was expected that each victim died slowly and over a prolonged time. A friend, family member or colleague of the victim was always contacted and taunted for some time, all cases ended the same way. The slasher seemed to get tired or his victim succumbed to his wounds and the body would eventually been found.

As Edward continued to read through the file, the location of his stab wound started to throb. Either he was putting too much pressure on it, crouching down like this, or it was just the sheer thought of what these guys went through. Could he really delve into this case and do it justice, when the few bits he'd looked at made him feel sick. He thought of Bella and her brave choice and gave it some thought.

As he was deliberating he heard footsteps approaching, turning around he expected to find Bella, but instead he saw the chief gazing down at him.

"That's quite the case, Cullen."

Edward grimaced.

"That's an understatement."

Edward stood up, groaning as he did so and holding on to his side, he saw the chief studying him warily.

"I'm fine. I probably shouldn't have crouched down so long."

The chief continued to gaze at him, his eyes drifting down to his side, Edward started to feel a little uncomfortable.

"Chief..."

The Chief's gaze was interrupted and he returned to meet Edward's eyes.

"Just be careful, Cullen. I want you fit and well. We want you out on the field sooner rather than later."

Edward, pushed the cold-case box back with this foot and could feel the chief watching his every move.

"Too big a case for you, huh?"

Edward disliked that implication very much. It wasn't too big for him, just seemed like too big a choice for his first cold-case.

"Not at all, I think i'll come back to this case sometime soon, but another case has already caught my eye, one in which I think my modern ways of thinking may genuinely help to solve it."

Their was an awkward silence between them and Edward wouldn't quite decipher the look on the chiefs face. Was it uncertainty or disappointment?

"Very Well, Lets go see what Swan has chosen, shall we?"

The chief held out his arm towards the end of the corridor and paused, Edward followed his instructions and walked past, he flinched as the chief patted him on the shoulder as he passed, but he didn't react beyond that.

They found Bella sat at the table, the cold-case box was open and she was busy making notes, as she heard them approaching she gathered up the files and photos she had on the desk and put them back in the box. Her head snapped up and she flashed them both a warm smile.

"I see you've made your choice Swan. Nice to see someone being decisive. "

The chief beckoned for Edward to join Bella at the desk, as he did the chief pulled out some paperwork. He led them through the process of booking out a cold-case, explained that once the paperwork was filled in, they kept the white copy, gave him the pink copy and the blue copy had to go through to admin.

The chief took a cursory glance at the cold-case that Edward had chosen over 'the slasher' case. Edward watched as the chief opened the box and glanced through the summary then chuckled.

"Interesting choice, Cullen. Good luck."

The chief guided Edward through his paperwork, took the pink copy and sent Edward back through to the department with his chosen case. As Edward headed to the exit he hesitated, he looked back and saw that the chief was beginning to go through Bella's choice. He wanted to stay with them, didn't like the chief leering over Bella, but inside his head he could hear Bella laying down the law.

If this is going to work, then we need to keep our work and private lives separate. At work we're just Cullen and Swan, partners. No-one should know.

Edward walked out to the department, resisting his urge to look back again. Whilst he didn't like the way the chief looked at Bella, he had to trust her.

Back in the cold-case room the chief was taking a look at Bella's choice. She sat patiently as he looked over the summary.

"This is one of our oldest cases. Many have tried and failed in the past, including myself. It's a brave choice, Swan."

Bella took time to consider her response, fearful that he may suggest she take something easier, like Edward had. She had overheard their conversation earlier.

"Well Chief, you said we could choose from anything in this room. I'd heard mention of this case whilst I was in uniform and I like the challenge. I may just add my name to the long list of people this case has beaten, but without trying - i'll never know."

Bella looked up at the chief, working hard to keep her emotions in check. She'd spent most of her adult life working to this point, she had finally gotten access to the case she'd sought for so long, she couldn't bear the thought of it being taken away from her now.

The silence in the room was thick and Bella could feel the chief scrutinising her, she did her best not to react, she didn't want to appear to aggressive, but she also wanted to make it clear that she wouldn't back down on this either.

"Give me a summary, Swan."

"The Collector hasn't been active, to our knowledge for almost twenty years. Prior to that he abducted at least eight women that we are aware of. In the first seven cases the M.O. Was the same. He'd take the women, their loved ones would report them missing, they'd near nothing for some time then they would start to receive photographs of the missing woman. 'The Collector' would taunt the victims loved ones, make vague demands, but then never follow it up. It seemed like he just enjoyed giving false hope. In the first seven caes when 'The Collector' got tired he'd kill the woman, when found her body would be in almost peak condition, no bruising, cuts or damage. The body was clean, hair was well tended to and cause of death was almost always a single pinprick behind the hairline. The collector would poison his victims. Death was quick."

"The eight victim?"

Bella sighed and nodded.

"She was the last known victim of 'The Collector' before he went quiet. She broke the mould. It started off the same, she was abducted, her current partner was taunted with the images, but for some reason 'The Collector' was angered by this victim. Her current partner was never given false hope like the others and when she was found she was covered in bruises and cuts. She had changed the pattern. Then the trail went dead. Either he just stopped or he changed his ways. Whilst there have been no further murders following 'The Collector's' usual pattern, there's nothing to say he didn't continue to kill, just without the fanfare.

"Interesting. Remind me, that last victim.. It's been so long..." The chiefs voice trailed off.

Bella swallowed thickly, she looked up to the chief, he was gazing off into space.

"Renee Dwyer..."

Bella was about to give more details, but when she looked up at the chief barely he reacted to what she had said. It was almost as if he wasn't all that interested in what she said. Bella watched as the chief, shrug his shoulder and pick up the notepads she'd been scribbling on. She couldn't help but think that he wasn't paying much attention to what she'd written, he seemed like his mind was a million miles away.

After what felt like an eternity, the chief handed her the notepad back and passed her the acquisition forms.

"Ah Yes! Renee Dwyer... Well best of luck, Swan. I'm sure you'll give it your best. Don't beat yourself up if you don't get anywhere with it though. This case has confounded us all. It's not often you hear me admitting that something is likely to stay unresolved for good. 'The Collector' is much too careful to ever be caught."

Bella smiled up at the chief and quickly filled in the forms. She passed the pink copy back to the chief and started to gather up her notes.

"Well chief, I don't believe in defeat. Sure 'The Collector' has never been caught so far, but i'm sure he's got a weakness somewhere. All we need to do is find one mistake he made and we can get a lead. There has to be a reason why his M.O. Changed so drastically with his last victim and there's been no movements from 'The Collector' for so long, he may have tried to start a new life. He may be lying in wait for his next victim, either way, he's spent twenty years hiding. I think he deserves to be caught now. All we need is a lead."

The chief smiled brightly at Bella, he seemed very pleased with what she'd said.

"Well Swan, who knows maybe you'll get that lead someday."

The chief turned on his heals and left the room, leaving Bella to centre her thoughts.