A/N: This is the sequel to "The Face of Evil". It's helpful to have read this, but not absolutely necessary. I tried to give a quick backstory/summary in the first chapter.
My writing goal with this story is to be less procedural and more descriptive. I also want to infuse some hope and spiritualism. Reviews are welcome. Thanks to all who have been very supportive.
These characters are not mine. I make no profit nor do I have any intent of doing so. All is done for fun and skill improvement.
SOSF SOSF SOSF SOSF SOSF
Bureau of Inspectors Office
"Bill, did you get the coroner's report on the Valdez case?" Lieutenant Stone queried from the door of his office.
"It's not finished yet, Mike," Detective Tanner replied.
"Alright. When it's done, let me have it first thing."
Mike returned to his desk and faced a stack of files and reports. He sighed heavily. Since Steve's departure three weeks earlier, Mike and the Bureau of Detectives kept busy. Four murders occurred during that time; two of which were still unsolved. Mike and his team actively pursued the open cases.
An attempted liquor store robbery was the backdrop for the first unsolved murder. According to witnesses, the owner refused to hand over the day's cash to a kid who was out of his head on drugs. The kid, looking not a day over sixteen, appeared harmless enough to the storekeeper. But then the delinquent quickly pulled out a .22 and shot his victim once through the heart. The juvenile took off and hadn't been found.
The second unsolved killing occurred on a parking lot outside a bar on the city's east side. It was late at night. Two men got into a heated argument with the victim. One of the men pulled a gun, fatally shot Hernando Valdez, a young father of two, and injured an onlooker. The injured man refused to give a meaningful statement while another witness declined to provide any information.
Both cases left Mike and his team scratching their heads.
The older detective looked out his office door to the empty desk normally occupied by Inspector Steve Keller. He wondered how his partner was doing. He spoke to him only once since the young man and his sister, Maya, returned to her Tahoe area home following the funeral of Connie Mathers.
Connie was very special to Steve. Many friends and colleagues, including Mike, thought that she really was 'the one'. Mike, in particular, saw a new emotional side to Steve. This new side portrayed a caring, loving young man who was beginning to let his private feelings show about the girl he loved. He imagined Steve would have fought to the death for his beloved Connie had he been given the opportunity.
But sadly, she fell victim to a sadistic serial killer hellbent on enacting societal revenge for what he figured to be injustice and mistreatment endured in his life. The fact was that because his murder spree was so vicious, no one really cared about his reasons. His destructive path was nothing more than evil, and no amount of explaining mattered.
Mike insisted Steve call him a week after the funeral to let him know how he was fairing. Mike also wanted to understand how more much time off Steve thought he needed. True to his word, Steve called, but left only a short message stating that he wanted to take his remaining vacation time to figure out what he should do next.
Connie's murder left the twenty-nine year old little more than an empty shell. He felt guilty about her death and had the mistaken feeling that if he had done things differently, she'd be alive. He began to doubt everything he believed in - his job, his faith and his direction in life. And while he resigned himself to the idea that justice doesn't necessarily prevail, the overarching problem was that he just didn't seem to care anymore. The whole situation left him unmotivated and depressed.
Mike looked back at the files on his desk. In addition to the four recent homicides, there was still quite a bit of work to close out King's case even after Officer Brown pulled the trigger on the murderer. With Officer Hanson injured and Steve's role in the final confrontation, Internal Affairs launched an investigation.
Mike called Steve to tell him that someone from IA would be out to see him for a statement. They spoke only briefly, but Mike noted that Steve still didn't sound like himself. The animation and spark his partner once had was gone. After Steve gave his statement, the investigation was open and shut. It was a mere formality with no recourse against any of the officers involved.
Mike looked out his window again at the empty desk. He simply wished that Steve would walk through the door and announce his return. He wanted his old 'Buddy-boy' back, but now as the days passed, he began to worry that would not happen.
At any rate, Mike realized 'the boss' and 'the worker' needed to talk. The topic would be what would happen now that his vacation time was running out. Since Steve refused to talk to Lenny, the department psychiatrist, or ask to be considered for a leave of absence due to emotional stress, he was limited to only his earned vacation time and that was soon coming to an end.
In the coming days, Steve would be placed on unpaid leave and, at some point, possibly fired.
SOSF SOSF SOSF SOSF SOSF
Office of Lieutenant Stone
The phone rang at Mike's desk. "Stone," Mike answered.
"Is this Lieutenant Mike Stone?" the female voice inquired.
"Yes, it is. How can I help you?"
"Sir, this is Maya, Steve's sister."
Mike was both relieved and concerned that some connection had been made. "Maya, it's good to hear from you. I've been wondering how Steve's been doing. I have hardly talked to him. Is everything okay?"
"Well, yes and no. Physically, Steve's doing okay, but I'm very worried about him emotionally. I'm afraid the longer he stays away and doesn't face what happened, the greater the chance that he's not going to return to be the Steve we both know and cherish. I'd like to talk to you more about this."
"Absolutely. You must realize how highly I think of your brother. If he's in trouble or having some difficulty, I want to help."
Maya replied, "Steve has told me how close you two were."
"Yes, I'm glad you picked up on that. Herein lies the problem: everything is past tense with Steve right now. "Were", "was", "had" - that's how he refers to his life. He just doesn't seem to care about the present."
"That doesn't sound like him at all. I'm sorry that it's come to that for him."
"Please call me Mike," he interrupted.
"Certainly…Mike. I have an idea, but it's asking a lot from you. I thought it might be best to talk face to face. A friend of mine is going to Sacramento the day after tomorrow. I can ride along and perhaps meet you some place there."
"Maya, I've had half a mind to head out your way and drag that boy back for quite some time. So for me to meet you half way to talk about how we can help him is certainly not asking too much."
"Okay, my friend's business meeting is near the Capitol. I'm sure you can find that landmark easily. Across the street from the south side of the building, there's a diner called Mattie's. I can meet you there the day after tomorrow at 11am. How does that sound?"
"Perfect. I'm assuming that Steve doesn't know that you called me."
"You are right on, Mike. Steve's become a bit of a night owl. He goes out with his old crowd in the evening and doesn't come back until the early hours. He's usually sleeping it off until the afternoon and then it starts all over again."
"More than I like. And he's back to smoking again. He nearly kicked that habit, but it's back with a vengeance."
"Aw, no. I'm sorry to hear that. He's had a tough time with smoking, but I thought he'd made it."
"No, and I'm afraid if we don't do something, we'll see him slide even further."
"Okay, Maya. I'd do anything for that boy. I'll see you the day after tomorrow, 11 am at Mattie's. Thanks for calling."
"No, thank you!"
"You tell that brother of yours that I'm going to…," Mike was going to end the call on a light note, but couldn't. "You tell that brother of yours to be careful. You tell him we're all thinking about him and praying for him."