What if:
Mick hadn't followed his victim as closely as shown in the TV show?

What if his victim never mentally recovered, if she was effected differently by event and her Mother didn't have the resources or the understanding to repair her daughter?

What if Mick manifested mixed feelings for this child and held some guilt for NOT following her the rest of her life? What if his solitude manifested the sweet child grown in love with him?

What if there ARE several different people out there for you? Looks...names...they can all change and we could still be very much in love with a number of people especially if we didn't know who we may meet tomorrow...

The Beth that Mick rescued has grown up as "Caroline", a name her mother allowed her to choose when they fled their old lives to get a clean start.

Just looking to another plane of existence. In a world with a few Beth Turners...Beth Turner the victim fled from the kidnapper AND the guardian angel. Beth Turner the stranger is the opportunity Mick doesn't know he is seeking.

Yes the child that grew from the kidnapping adopted the name Caroline...
Did she hear Mick say Coraline and in childlike wonder like the name? Who knows?
Perhaps the strong woman in white fascinated her more than the lonely single mother she had. Maybe the child didn't want to have the man take her back to her little home...perhaps the thought of a grand room and having a Daddy thrilled her.

This is possibly the most convoluted story I have written and I invite any other questions or discussion about it...you can even send in the psychologist!

Glad to get this story out of my mind and into the world..

This is an exercise to see how far I can stretch my muse... Thank-you for being my personal trainers!
Rusty


The AU SERIES…..LOVE

Thank-you for reading and leaving comments!

I do not own the known Characters of ML.

Chapter 1-LOVE MISPLACED

Mick's POV:

When I was a teenager I remember Sadie Hawkins Day. Those of us with no steady girl would be a sitting duck at the H.S. Dance after the basketball game. Depending on the hubbub, we'd know which girl had our name on their lips. I just prayed it wasn't Gretchen with the older brother who wrestled for State. I never wanted to parlay my basketball skills against his take-down skills. It's something I think about every Leap Year since 1939.

I didn't associate this day with anything metaphysical until today. Friday's I generally finish my in-office work, sorting, billing and wrapping up the week. I had the 1980's file drawer open to scan the remainder of my archaic files. Josef kept after me, telling me I was an analog man in a digital world. I worked my way to 1982 and the Turner file was empty save for the single sheet with the bare facts.

There was the 1 page with a copy of the LA Police Report. Not much there...where were the photos I had accumulated at a 50 yard distance from Beth?

I figured Beth had taken the photos to scan or regard more closely, Ill mention it to her tonight. Initially she had been a bit shocked, then she saw the sequence of her life's events and how I was always within a "vampire jump".

I thought my cover had been blown at the fountain that night last fall. I seemed to be familiar, and I was glad she didn't recognize me. Neither of us would have been ready for that. We had come to terms on many things in 2008, so many things that stand between Vamp and human happiness. With that, I wanted to hear her voice... I hit her number and waited for the phone to dial. "The number you have reached is not in service at this time". Ok, let's try the next number, Buzzwire. Her number rang to the main board, so I followed the directory and requested Beth Turner. No Beth Turner...no Beth at Buzzwire.

So finally I dialed the apartment number. "Beth Turner" a dry voice answered.

"Hey" I was hoping to soften the edge on her late afternoon string of disasters...phone service down, job gone...(?)

"Who is this?" She curtly asked.

"Babe, This is Mick" She plays a good game...

"You must have the wrong number" then click...dead line

Well, that went well...I sat back and drew my hand over my face...let's do this again.

"Beth Turner" same tone.

"Beth, this is Mick - don't hang up on me, please!" I begged.

"Mick Jackson, class of 99?" she was curious now.

Class of 99? Ah... no... "Not exactly" I eased into the conversation.

"I'm sorry, who were you calling?" she asked.

"Beth Turner, web journalist" I replied.

"Well, that was a long time ago" by the tone of her voice she was waxing almost nostalgic at the title.

"Really?" I played along.

"That was in college, excuse me, do I know you?" she softened as we talked.

"I thought you did" Realizing this was worse than the smack in the head I took after feeling up Gretchen in Senior Year.

"Since this is the most pleasant wrong number I've had I won't hang up on you again, I'll say good-bye first" I could hear almost a giggle.

"Beth, wait, I'm Mick St. John, a private investigator" (Vampire, all around swell guy and guardian angel I wanted to add).

"Is someone looking for me?" She was stilling smiling, I could tell.

"You could say that", I eased a bit, juggling my thoughts to keep her on the line.

"What would anyone want with a Kindegarten Teacher?" she demured.

My dead heart sank. One hand worked the keyboard to check the date..."Miss Turner, would you mind if I asked you a question about your childhood? I want to make sure I am speaking with the right Beth Turner".

"If it's no too personal" the lightness left her voice.

"Were you kidnapped in 1982?" and I knew as soon as my words left my lips she cringed, as I did. What if she had lost her job, her phone service and she had gone into some fugue, what if this pushed her over the edge?

"Kidnapped, Oh no, my God, what a horrible thought, what was your name again?"

"Mick, Mick St John" I swallowed hard.

"Mr. St. John, my name is fairly common, I'm sorry I can't help you, good luck with your search."

I jumped to keep her on the line, so I repeated her address and she confirmed although the address I had was hers, she was not the kidnapped child all grown up. I wanted to stretch the call out, just to hear her voice. Where was my Beth?

The call ended without her divulging more about herself or her recognizing me. I googled Beth as I knew her and found just threads of the girl I knew and adored.

I was losing my mind and I wasn't about to share that with anyone. I did position myself in the darkness near the apartment by the date on the calendar Josh was dead and buried, unless I had slipped into an alternate universe. No auto traffic to speak of, no visitors to apartment #5, all night it was somber. I watched the night melt into a morning as the building came to life, residents leaving to start the day.

I watched Beth Turner, Teacher, leave her building with a brightly patterned tote and matching lunchbag. She climbed into a light blue Prius and I followed her to a small private school near her apartment. Since she didn't know me I figured I'd walk in and inquire about the school, hoping to steal a glance at the teacher. I was walked through the impressive school while they asked me questions about my incorrigble child, Elliott. I stood, unhearing while we watched the class progress through their morning routine. Smiling lips, apple cheeks, sensible ballet flats and a Laura Ashley jumper with a dazzling white blouse underneath. Her Blond hair pulled back with a clip, hands finding a tissue for a runny nose or a sticker for correct answers.

There she was, living the normal life she deserved. I honed in on the photo on her desk, an extended family portrait from her college graduation. The tassles and honor cords stopped in mid air by the camera shutter. My blond angel beaming as she held up diploma portfolio.

My psyche was dissolving as I was trying to understand the situation. I politely thanked them for the info and excused myself, citing the need to consult with my "wife". The ride was lonely and harsh and the sub-zero oblivion looked good. Would all "snap back" by sundown?

My non-dreams deterred me from the dead calm of my icy refuge. Flashes, images on loops ran non-stop. Coraline with the child, our fight, my staking her, flinging the lantern, flames crawling across the floor, licking at my ex-wife while she lay with a stake in her chest. The most painful image, my fleeing with barely an armful of a tow-headed prescooler, her lucid round blue eyes focused on the burning building as the Benz lumbered away from the scene of my crimes of murder and arson. I killed for that child. Where is the child now? If the child wasn't Beth Turner now, who was that child?

Part 2

Mick's POV:

The evening took me by surprise. I had not rested and I rose fitfull and anxious. Neither a cold shower or double shot od A+ restored me to who I wanted to be. Beth's Cell # was still not in service. I was still in a Bethless limbo.

I resumed my position outside Beth's apartment building listening for pieces of why and how. I haunted the web for paranormal oddities, endangered and missing children from 1982. The LAPD report was useless, regurgitating what I already had. I researched the address and found the house changed names within the year, Nancy Turner evaporated.

I had slipped Logan a few hundred in cash and he showed me the dead ends of Nancy and Beth's existence. Social Security numbers dormant, no credit activity for Nancy...I remembered Nancy's plaintive blue eyes, just like Beth's. She was a Waitress at an all-night place. Would it still be there? I hadn't thought about it all these years. I slipped the key in the ignition and left the parking lot for the restaurant.

I parked around back under a floodlight, a brute of a guy leaned on a pushbroom at the back door. My deliberate breath told me he was one of the Tribe. He nodded to me as he sucked the end of a small cigar. I nodded back and extended my hand. We were silent as we shook hands and then he nodded again with a grunt. "You out looking for a meal? We don't serve your kind here".

"Don't you mean our kind?" I smiled, returning my hands to my sides, in plain sight.

"Right, yeah, right. What are you looking for?" smoke escaping his leathered lips.

"Nancy Turner, worked here in the 80's. She was single, had a daughter, both have blue eyes, Nancy's hair a little dirty blond, her daughter would have been about 4, bright blond hair. Were you here then?" the words tumbled out of my mouth, pinning my hopes on this old vamp.

"I was here, you got to understand...lots of single Moms work the tables here. Some for a night a few for years. Ya' got to be more specific to the year..." He leaned on the broom for artistic expression, not support.

"1982 or earlier, she disappeared the end of 1982. Her daughter had been kidnapped, I found the child. I have to find them now, can you help me?" I looked like a goof, begging a stranger in an alley to help me find Beth.

"That was strange...I do remember the child, a little thing, big blue eyes, liked to sit with her chocolate milk and color on the placemats real quiet like" He nodded as if he could see her in the back booth. We had entered the back of the quiet restaurant, surveying the view of just a few customers stiring sugar into heavy china mugs of coffee. He pointed to the back booth, still upholstered with the glitter blue vinyl with the formica table worn from plates sliding to the guests. "Nancy was upset, the child wasn't gettin' back to sleep, it was upsetting their home, bad nightmares." Rollo nodded as he recounted the days.

"One day she was gone, called that she was leaving, gave me an address to forward her last check and never saw her again" he folded his thoroughly muscled arms over his barrel chest. "I suppose you are gonna want me to look up that address, aren't you?" he looked down at me, even though I stood at 6'2".

"I'd really appreciate it, may I help you? We'll be quick..you know we can be quick" I pushed a bit.

Part 3

Mick's POV:

The house had new shutters, the shrubs had grown up past the window sill and a yellow bug bulb glowed for all it's 60 watt's worth. The house looked closed for the night. I sat across the street, knowing it it was where they fled to and they had fled again. I wondered where they had run.

I had given Logan a "smoke and mirrors" job when I asked him to run the requested data. No one could know what I was doing; delusional vampires have very little credibility, especially when they are P.I.'s. Had I ever really known Beth?

Another night of digging just fatigued me, no revelations, not so much as a snail trail to follow. Each day at 4 pm I rose early to call BuzzWire. By the 3rd day the unlucky guy answering the line just chuckled, "Look, buddy, every woman wants to be an onscreen personality. This girl gave you a bad number. Go back to the bar and see if she's there" and he hung up...It wasn't like that. Then at twilight I dialed the cell phone, still not in service.

Finally I thought of facial recognition programs, if Logan could locate Nancy Turner from her 1982 license we could run the subsequent years to see if she changed ID or did evaporate.

August 1982 Nancy's face smiled from her license. By January 5, 1983 her image turned up as Louise Bishop. She moved 40 miles in another direction, cut and dyed her hair to match her daughter's. With the address in hand I headed out, too happy for words, I could have run the 50 miles.

On a dusty county road sat a white stucco cottage stained with 20+ years of dampness, a carport protected a late model brown Ford Fairlane. Mrs. Turner had a Blue Ford in the drive the night I brought Beth home. I sat in my car while Logan confirmed the auto was registered to Louise T Bishop. My throat tightened.

If Nancy Turner is Louise Bishop, who is Beth Turner?

I almost chewed my fingers debating how to knock on the door. I'd like to think the Mick St John who could talk the panties off an USO Donut Dolly or the perpetually cool vampire inside me could walk right up and enthrall her to spill the story. I simply did not know how to face the woman who ran after I returned her kidnapped daughter to her...so I prepared to lie.

It was a decent hour after sunset, I pulled on my black baseball cap and duster and headed for the blue wooden door and knocked, standing back for her to peer at me thru the security peephole.

I sensed a heartbeat spike behind the door and the darkness of a face against the viewfinder. Did she jump at seeing a ghost? The door opened on a chain and she peered at me. It was Nancy/Louise greyed and worn past her 50 years.

"What do you want?" she was cowed.

I held up my credentials, "are you Louise Bishop? My name is Mick St. John, P.I."

"Yes, I am, what did you want?" quietly calmer.

I wanted to put a boot thru the front door and run from room to room to find my Beth, only I took two unnecessary deep breathes and answered her. "Would you have a few minutes Mrs Bishop? I'd be happy to sit on the porch here if it makes you more comfortable". She slid off the chain and came out with a sweater over her shoulders, eyes bearing down on me not wanting to mention recognizing me.

"What did you want Mr.? She played with the grosgrain in the placket of the sweater, watching an ant carry a crumb across the porch cement.

"I believe you engaged my, " I was stumbling "er...the services of my father in 1982 for your daughter's kidnapping".

She nodded, "Yes, why did you father send you? I guess it never goes away" and her lips drew up in a pucker as she bit her lip on the inside.

I just went and said it..."I was looking for Beth".

She gave a grim grin and looked me in the eye with a bit of venom, "What has she done now?" as she shook her head.

"Gamma?" a little voice called from the window behind us. I turned to see a little boy of 3 or 4 in Disney pajamas patty caking the glass pane. Blond floss fell in his robin's egg blue eyes and a grin made two dimples in his cheeks. He danced from foot to foot as he patted the glass and repeated "Gamma".

"Just a minute, buster...Gamma's got company...hold your horses" She turned to me to hear some bad news as she rose from the "vintage" metal porch chair.

"No, it's not that, I, au... "there I was stumbling again anticipating what Beth could have done. I did some quick math in my head. The Beth I rescued was an only child, so if this child called Louise "Gamma" This was Beth's son.

Part 4

Mick's POV:

Louise excused herself to return to her grandson inside. I heard her get his cup and blanket and asked him to sit on the sofa where he could watch us through the window, "You lay there nice and Gamma with rock you when I am done talking to this man, OK?". He accepted the blanket as he slurped the cup and got comfortable in the corner of the small sectional.

"OK, Ok, I will wait...good." He giggled enunciating the "wait ...good".

She stuck her head out the door, "Mr. St John, would like to come inside?" and I accepted, just to see the sanctuary they had clung to all these years. Hopefully there would be photos on the walls.

The nod to modern life was a flat screen TV on an "Ikea" style low slung table. The rest of the home was small in scope and close by the nature of the older furniture hugging all the walls. The scent of lonely meals hung from the ceiling fan in the dining area. The colors of the basic 8 crayolas covered papers taped to small child's easel, too young to draw, he made Jackson Pollack type efforts to cover the entire page.

Mick sat across from Louise as she gazed at the window, still not comfortable enough to look straight at me. Then out of the blue...

"How is your father, Mick Sr.?"

I was expecting that..."He passed away a while back".I lied. How would she receive the news that the person who rescued her daughter from a Vamp was also a Vamp and by the way they had formerly been married?

"So, is Beth having problems?" trying to steer the conversation back to my original agenda, finding Beth.

"She had horrible nightmares for a few months, then I noticed she'd zone out. She began having problems with sleeping and old fears returning. She was a behavior problem once she was in public school, so I had to ask for help to put her in a program for children with issues" She sat nodding her head as she spoke to no one in particular.

"Did she ever snap out of it?" I found myself picking at imaginary lint on my dark trousers.

"She got through the private school and graduated, just barely. It was all I could do to keep her in school. She went to junior college for 1 semester and said it was boring; there was nothing she wanted to do from the choices at the local CC. Then she spent more and more time with a young man, I didn't like him and I figured if I said a thing it would drive her right to him. I kept my mouth shut and he still became her savior."

Who was she talking about? What kind of savior leaves you with a child? "So does Beth live here with you?" I asked...

"She hasn't been Beth since the incident. When we ran I let her pick her name, figured she'd remember it better if she chose. She goes by Caroline now".

"So, does Caroline live here with you?" I asked, as if to play "Mother, May I".

"Off and on. She had some problems after Micah was born. She didn't like the responsibility and I tried to get her to let a family adopt him. She'd have no part of it and now Micah spends more time with me that his Mom." she was poised with that ache all over her face.

We talked about her habits, where she hung out when she ran out to the car that picked her up 3 or 4 nights a week. She worked at the local newspaper production facility, operating an inserting machine 4 days a week until the bell signaled the end of the shift. Didn't date regularly, but like to dress for a date when she left the house. Louise pegged all their misfortune on the night she disappeared, if only she hadn't been traumatized, life would have been different for the both of them

I made mental notes of the places Caroline frequented, when she worked. Louise was concerned for her safety, being out late, hanging in clubs. I watched Micah as he twisted a lock of hair and soothed himself to sleep while we talked. It was almost 10:30 when I excused myself, leaving a business card and asking Louise to call if she got concerned about anything. She walked to the door with me and then out to the porch, as I returned to my car she recognized the Benz.

"Oh you have your Father's car...Isn't that wonderful? You know to have a piece of him?" and she waved and disappeared into the house.

I started the engine and pulled around the corner and into a parking lot. My eyes opened up and tears ran down my cheeks. Salty, rugged tears flowed for a few minutes. The radio played as I sat shaking with my head in my hands.

A song began and I realized it was one of the first songs I had heard in this car back in 1965 when I drove it off the lot...The Zombies, She's Not There. I remembered how happy I was that Coraline wasn't there...how I thought the song was about our situation then...

I remembered singing along as I drove to Josef's to show him my new "baby", the first new car I had even bought.

Well no one told me about her, the way she lied

Well no one told me about her, how many people cried

But it's too late to say you're sorry

How would I know, why should I care

Please don't bother tryin' to find her

She's not there

I cleared my eyes and gathered my thoughts, pulling the car back onto the road, making plans for my night, where I've watch her, just to get a glimpse of her, was she light or dark haired, styled long or short? I'd just hang back; I didn't want to frighten her...

Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked

The way she'd act and the colour of her hair

Her voice was soft and cool

Her eyes were clear and bright

But she's not there

So now, some 23 years later I'm "singing" the same song in the same car for a different woman.

"Well no one told me about her, what could I do

Well no one told me about her, though they all knew

But it's too late to say you're sorry

How would I know, why should I care

Please don't bother tryin' to find her

She's not there"

I caught a glimpse of Caroline, and that really stuck in my craw...how did she chose that name? To a little child, to Beth did "Coraline" sound like Caroline?

She frequented a bar near the newspaper, wedged between the courthouse and the newspaper it was called "The Sidebar", it had lost some of it's luster and it satisfied all the requirements of the working person now, dim lighting, naugahyde booths that withstood spills of drinks and other fluids, a digital music system that beat a second rate band all to hell.

She liked the attention she got from her crew of post work revelers. Shaggy bleached hair fell from the clip as she pulled herself on the stool, "The usual" and there was an irish whiskey with a water back. I listened for that Buzzwire voice... it wasn't the same.

Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked

The way she'd act and the colour of her hair

Her voice was soft and cool

Her eyes were clear and bright, But she's not there

I left her that night, the crowd was thin and I stood out, over dressed and too brooding to fit in. I relinquished myself to my freezer and let the world spin. When I rose it was late, about 10pm already...the exhaustion of my situation was beginning to show, I avoided Josef, Simone, even Logan. Guillermo noticed it and suggested a "buffet" of blood types to brighten my spirits...If he only knew why I wasn't myself.

At the end of the week I got a call from Louise, Caroline had mentioned she thought she was being followed from the pancake house around 4:30 one morning. Louise thought it was me and since it wasn't I was disturbed. I set out with a general idea of where she was headed, waiting to see if this specter would show himself again.

The nights spent in my undead rest were wearing me out, I sat in the car without the concentration skills I usually have. I fidgeted, zoned out and even swore that I had actually dozed off once. I shook alert when the door opened and the music's volume shot of about 300 percent. Something wasn't right, whether it was the dumpster from the side alley masking it or my fatigue that I had not caught the odor until it was happening. Caroline walked from the bar, alone, dialing her phone and digging for car keys. She never saw the attacker dart from the alley. He menaced her like a punk does, made threats and was so very uncool his vamp card was going to get punched. Tonight.

Her scrappy nature couldn't hold this young jackass of a vamp and by the time I made it to them he and I were in full tilt mode, I didn't want to kill him in front of humans, so I grasped him in a neck hold and spoke subsonically in my best menacing voice. "leave the girl alone...go now or die". We met eyes and he let out a shiver as a crowd from the bar gathered. I released him and he spun on his heels and disappeared. I gathered up Caroline and attempted to dust her off and see her home.

But it's too late to say you're sorry

How would I know, why should I care

Please don't bother tryin' to find her, She's not there

"I'm OK, I'm OK..please enough, don't hover over me" She fussed in annoyed voice as all her friends from the inside crowded around us.

She didn't want to appear "rescued".

"I mean I know I probably owe you my life right now, but ahh...you don't need to hang quite so close." a little too briskly for someone who has just faced death at the hands of a vampire.

She didn't even appear to have increased her heart rate much, in fact the more I stepped back from her the happier she was...

Someone from the crowd had called 911 and a squad car flipped its lights on illuminating the alley, annoying my eyes. We answered the officer's questions and I had to create a few answers thinking on my feet.

This was not the Beth I loved, not even a quarter of her. Of course one of the journalists from her paper snapped a photo of the two of us and I'll have to thank them for that. It ended up on a syndicated news wire and I was grateful my name never made it painful to be famous. Whatever idea I had about this girl, this grown young woman had to be vanquished...she was not my Beth. I had to get over this...

Well let me tell you 'bout the way she looked

The way she'd act and the colour of her hair

Her voice was soft and cool

Her eyes were clear and bright

But she's not there

I never heard from Caroline again...not even a solid "Thank-you". Two days later I was mindlessly cruising the internet at home when my phone rang.

"Hello, is this Mick St John, PI?" I wasn't in the mood to work yet so I sat there wishing they didn't need me, even though the voice was delightful...

"Yes, it is and who is this?"

"I saw a photo of you and a girl you rescued, well, if I'm right I think you rescued her. We haven't formally met" she had the voice of an angel.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Well now, you finally get to ask me that...Mr. St John, this is Beth Turner.

And that was how this guardian angel met his guardian angel...

tbc...in Love Denied