"Any news on the other vehicle?" Carrie asked as she hobbled into the office.
"Carrie," Al said. "You're back."
"No shit, Sherlock. Well?"
"Uh, it was bought in a store in Ohio two days ago, but the miles on it don't tally up to here, so it was on a flatbed or something for a while. It's fully armoured and it has bullet-proof glass, cages in the back... it's better reinforced than what we've got," Nina filled her in.
"Okay... I thought it was pretty built up when I first saw it. What about the family? Have you heard from the hospital?"
"Yes, Alisa's fine, Johnny's in intensive care and Frank, the passenger, is being prepped for theatre. The wife only just made it into the ER when I spoke to the nurses," Roe said.
At that, Carrie had to take a seat. She set her crutches against Al's desk. "Okay," she said quietly.
"They'll be able to tell us more in a couple of hours," Mike said.
Carrie replayed yesterday's events in her mind, looking closely at the young boy in the car. "His head," she said. "It's dented."
Her company nodded and murmured in agreement as she looked closer. "Wait..." she stood aside and watched herself pulling Alisa away, then diving back for the boy.
"None of their seatbelts held, they all slid around," Carrie said, snapping back to the present. "Someone messed with their safety."
"But who would want to kill a family like that?" Nina asked.
"That's our job – to find out. Get to it, everyone," Al instructed.
Nina, Roe and Mike left the room and each sat at a desk, pursuing files and databases, besides Mike, who went to talk to another of his teams.
"Carrie, are you sure you're alright to work today?" Al said as Carrie reached for her crutches.
"Yeah, I'm absolutely fine. This is itchy, but I'm fine," she answered, pointing to the bandage on her head which she'd covered with a cream knit beanie hat.
"You don't have to work this, just because you helped them."
"I know that," Carrie said defiantly. "I'm not doing this 'just because I helped them,' this is my job, remember?"
"Alright, alright," Al put his hands up. "Just making sure you're okay."
"I appreciate it," Carrie said as she left the room, meaning it more than either of them probably realised.
Al leaned against the front of his desk for a few moments longer before he sat behind it to get to work.
"Got a lead on the SUV, we're going down to the garage, then to the retailer, okay? Grab your gun," Carrie explained as she popped her head around the glass door into Al's office.
"Whoa, whoa, Carrie," Al called before she could disappear again.
"Yes?" Carrie said, annoyed she hadn't got away quickly enough; she'd been expecting this.
"You want to do the field work? I can take Nina – you don't have to put all that pressure on that ankle–"
"Two minutes – meet you down there," Carrie interrupted before returning to her desk and grabbing her jacket. She picked up the files on the SUV before heading to the elevator that would take her to the basement garage.
Al caught up with her just as the doors were closing. His tie was a little skew-whiff. Carrie reached up with her right hand and straightened it as best she could, but she needed her other hand to hold onto her crutches.
"I can't stand being a freaking invalid," she moaned.
"Yeah, never was you're thing, was it?" Al said and they laughed.
"This is a joke," Carrie complained as Al helped her out of the car and onto her crutches.
"It's necessary," Al said.
"It's a freaking sprain! What's necessary is a Tylenol and a pressure bandage! Urgh!"
Al chuckled, frustrating Carrie even more. "Cool it, Carrie, it's nothing."
"Yeah, maybe to you. How am I meant to do anything like this?!"
"Carrie, you can do practically anything you normally would. It's not like you're bedridden. You'll be fine."
Carrie glared at him, but couldn't keep a straight face for long. She looked down as she tried to hide the beginnings of a smile, then looked up again and smiled at him brightly. She leaned in to kiss him and he responded accordingly, kneading the muscles around her shoulders as he explored her mouth.
When she pulled away, she looked up at him, unintentionally seducing him, before turning and hobbling off on her crutches. Al pulled at her hips and she squealed. He caught her before she could fall and she laughed as he supported her. She kissed him upside-down before gripping his elbows and pulling herself back up.
Al retrieved her crutches and handed them too her.
"Stupid crutches," Carrie complained one last time before they entered the Syracuse PD offices.
"Oh I agree," Al said, his voice thick with sarcasm, "damn awful."
Carrie elbowed him for good measure.
"Okay, found anything for us?" Carrie called as they strode into the garage. Her voice was a little uncertain as the elevator doors brought her back to the present. She had to blink a lot to add moisture to her eyes; she knew she tended to stare into space when she was experiencing a memory.
"Oh, you'll be surprised," Roe said, ambling into view. "Fake number plates, fake serial number, shassy and body don't match, cheap tires, jammed steering... tons of parts have been removed. It's just armoured and bulletproof – protected from missiles, I expect. It makes no sense. There are a few polyester and cotton fibres here and there, some cigarette smoke residue, condensed water... Absolutely no DNA, not a hair sample, a fingerprint. Some guy, possibly guys, wanted to kill a perfectly harmless family and they went to extremes to do it."
"Okay, so there's not so much we can do right now," Al allowed.
"Let's research the family – see if they had any debts owed or relatives who were in trouble, someone they've testified against and cheated or whatever – every family member and family friend, businesses and finances," Carrie instructed quickly and efficiently.
"When did you become boss?" Al joked.
"Problem?" Carrie said coldly, her mind on the family she'd seen broken apart.
"Naw," Al said, knowing exactly how she was feeling and why she was reacting this way. He'd become attached to cases before: A girl he'd pulled out of a fire, his great aunt's murder and subsequent insurance fraud and his biological father's habit of killing other people.
"Retailer's garage. Or possible retailer, at least," Carrie ordered and she led Al out to the unmarked car, pretty fast for someone on crutches. She climbed into the front seat and told Al which way to turn first.
They were quiet in the car as Carrie watched their route on her cell phone and Al watched the road.
"You know, I never really say this, but it's really nice to have you back, Carrie," Al said softly, taking a moment to look over at her.
Carrie didn't say anything, though she met his gaze.
Al smiled. "How do you feel about that?"
"I'm not sure yet. I suppose it's... good to be doing something legal as a profession... it takes my mind off my mom... pays my rent... it's weird, though, remembering how it always used to be. How work used to feel to me. It's completely different here, like every detail's been reversed. I still don't know what to make of it."
"That's... honest," Al said, for he couldn't think of another thing to say.
There was silence again besides Carrie relaying basic directions.
"How are you and Elaine getting along?" Carrie asked politely.
"Oh, yeah, we're fine," Al said.
"You don't sound so sure?" Carrie said.
"Well, I enjoy her company very much. She's a psychologist; sometimes she comes into the office to work with a suspect or a victim. She's great. But sometimes I wonder if she's too smart for me, or her family don't like me – which they don't, really – or whether we're actually going anywhere. I mean, we don't even know what we hope to achieve as a couple; we're not even talking about moving in together yet. Gah, I feel like I'm in high school."
Carrie smiled sadly. "There's always a 'but,' huh?"
"Not with us, there wasn't," Al said quietly.
Carrie looked up at him, pain warring with regret on her face. "Of course there was. We were great together, but I was... too scared to commit," she said, barely whispering the last part.
"We both were. You were scared because of your past. We both know that. I was scared because I'm a lousy guy."
"We both know that," Carrie chimed in. They laughed a little.
"I hope you're both very happy together. Left," Carrie said.
"Thank you," Al said as he turned the car.