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Fear Itself

Chapter 7

"No, you are absolutely not performing the autopsy. If you ask me again, I won't even let you in the room."

Garret fixed Jordan with a firm stare that she just shrugged off, but she knew he was right. Victim number three was being wheeled into the autopsy bay, where Bug and Claudia were already prepping. Macy had conceded to Jordan's insistent request to be included in this part on the condition that she wear a hazmat suit and not touch the body. She had a feeling Woody would have loudly protested this, had he been there, but he had taken off to meet with his chief about an hour before they had gotten the call.

"Fine," Jordan mumbled behind him as she followed toward Autopsy, giving up on making another grab for the files in his hand. "But I mean, if I'm going to be in the room anyway…"

"Drop it."

"Whatever." She clapped him on the back in good spirits, hiding how frightened she was feeling. A small part of her wished Woody was already back, but that was irrational, she knew. All he would do was tell her what a bad idea it was to be so close to another infected body – much less all three at once, which was what they were preparing now. "Do we know who this is?"

Garret shook his head and held open the door to the ladies' locker room to make sure she actually went inside to shower and get a clean hazmat suit. "Jane Doe right now. Nigel is running her prints as we speak."

Jordan started to go in, but then she stopped suddenly and turned to her boss. "Hey, come in here with me for a second. I, uh, I need to talk to you." He gave her an odd look that said he was about to refuse, so she grabbed his arm to forcibly drag him inside and locked the door behind them.

He glared at her, shaking his arm out of her iron grip in mild annoyance and slapped the files he was holding down onto one of the benches. "You're certainly happy to be out of your cage, aren't you?" he muttered under his breath, knowing it was useless to try to get past her back out into the hall. "Can this wait? You have an autopsy to observe, remember?"

"No. This can't wait." She leaned back against the door to make his escape even more difficult.

"Fine, Jordan. What do you want?"

"I…" But then she paused and dropped his gaze, finding the words much harder to say than they had seemed in her head when she had planned them out earlier. "I need you to promise me something, Garret."

"And what would that be?" She didn't answer right away, and Garret took a step forward when she wouldn't meet his eyes this time, instead staring blindly at the sinks. "Jordan?" he asked softly, growing worried. "What is it?"

"If…if something happens to me – if I die, I need you to promise me that you'll look after Woody. That all of you will."

"Jordan -"

"Promise me, Garret."

"Come on -"


He just stared at her, his mouth falling open as tears welled in her eyes with her raised voice. She clenched her jaw stubbornly, not wanting him to see her cry even as she looked at him again. Her fear for the detective was palpable. "You're actually serious."

"Yes, I'm serious! Why would I joke about something like that? He's going to ask me to marry him," she spilled suddenly, wringing her fingers. "So when I die -"

"If," Garret interrupted, taking her shoulders in his hands and shaking her once. "If."

"- it will be his wife who leaves him, Garret. Not his girlfriend. His wife. And…and I'm afraid that might kill him, unless he has you guys to take care of him after I'm gone." The tears leaked down over her cheeks then, and she let Garret pull her into a tight embrace without argument. "Please. I need to hear you promise."

"Of course I will, Jordan," he whispered into her hair, his throat tight. "We all will. But you're not going to die. Not from this virus, and not from the meningioma. You're going to get old enough to be put into a home where you can verbally abuse your nurses with your husband at your side asking you to calm down because his pension won't cover another home when they kick you out of that one, too. Jeez."

"Oh, so you won't be paying me enough to pad my retirement fund? I thought we talked about this."

Garret just held her tighter and laughed when she used the sleeve of his shirt to wipe at her eyes. "So when's the big day?"

"There isn't one," she told him firmly in a voice that said she'd deny everything if he said a word to anyone. "He hasn't actually proposed yet. I think he's waiting to make sure I won't turn tail at the very thought of a permanent commitment."

"And you won't?" her boss asked, rather surprised. "I seem to remember your relationship with JD deteriorating quickly as soon as things turned serious. You told me way too much about all that."

Jordan pulled away and swatted his arm, but then she gave him a small smile. "This is different."

"Maybe because you were in love with the detective while you were with the reporter?"

"Shut it, Mister Psychoanalyst." The breath puffed out of her lungs and her eyebrows scrunched in reflection. "I was actually thinking of just asking him myself. He's so nervous."

"Don't," Garret warned seriously. "Let him figure it out in his own time. It'll be sappy and romantic, and everything you both want it to be."

"You're right. And besides, I think he's going to ask me to buy a house with him first. I guess that's a good first step." She moved away from the door, finally giving him access to an escape route. "Just a warning – I'll be coming to discuss a raise soon. With a new house in my future and all."

"Yeah, that's not going to happen."

"Hey, it was worth a shot." She shrugged and grabbed a towel from the linen closet. "Guess it's time to go do some observing, huh?"

"Jordan -" Garret stopped her retreat to the showers, not sure yet if this was a good idea but not wanting to let her just leave with it left unsaid. She needed another friend through this. "Woody told me. About the…complications with your medications. How are you doing?"

She stared at him with a blank expression on her face for a long, silent minute. Then she pinched her lips in a mixture of stale anger and renewed fears and turned away. "I'm fine. He shouldn't have told you that."

"He wants you to talk to him, Jo."

"And what am I supposed to say?" she suddenly snapped, her playful mood from before gone in a flash as she spun back around. "'I know you love me and I love you, but I can't give you the one thing I know you want'? Or how about 'if I stop taking these meds that are preventing me from getting pregnant I could keel over and die'? Or even better, 'why don't we call it quits now before you start to resent me'?"

"Oh, Jordan…" Garret took a step forward, only to stop when she shook her head vehemently and held up her hands. "Why on earth do you think Woody is going to start to resent you?"

Tears sprung to her eyes again, and she wiped at them with the back of her hand. "Like I said – he's going to ask me to marry him. Everyone knows it, right?"

"So? What does that have to do with resentment?"

"Woody wants kids, Garret! Kids that I can't give him! He can say now that he's fine with that, but what if…what if he…I don't want to lose him over this. Not after everything we've - "

"Jordan, stop." Her friend came forward despite her protests and took her shoulders like he had done before, forcing her to look at him. "That man loves you more than life itself. He has for years. Right now he's scared – scared of losing you, too, and scared that you are pulling away from him for reasons that he can't understand because you're not talking to him. So stop bottling all of this up and tell him. Now seems like a pretty good occasion, being stuck together for an undetermined amount of time, don't you think?"

He gave her a small smile that she tentatively began to return. "Fine. Now can I get ready for my autopsy?"

"To observe the autopsy. Yes, you may."


Woody returned a little over an hour later to find Jordan's office empty. The break room, the lab, Garret's office, he even risked poking his head into the locker room to try to hear water running. Returning to the vacant office to set down the bags of takeout he had brought for their dinner, he went off again on a more thorough search. He knew she could drop off the face of the earth when she didn't want to be found, but now?

With everyone in the clear to leave – everyone but Jordan, and Bug unable to actually go home so he was likely still here somewhere as well – the morgue was like a tomb and just as quiet. He was tempted to call out her name, but he felt silly. She was here. He just couldn't find her. Which was probably why his heart was starting to feel tight. Right? Right.

He felt a brief wave of relief when he found Nigel in Trace running a set of fingerprints. The analyst gave him a nod before turning back to his bank of screens. "Detective."

"Where's Jordan?"

"Hello to you, too," Nigel muttered, giving him another glance with a playful grin. "I thought you two were joined at the hip. Is such a pithy separation really giving you so much anxiety? Perhaps some space would do you good."

"Nigel, I'm serious." Woody came to stand next to him, his eyes wide. "I can't find her. It's not like she can leave."

"Relax, mate. She's in Autopsy."

That took the detective by surprise. "What? Why?"

"You don't know? Well, no, I guess not; it all happened so quickly." Nigel stopped what he was doing and turned on his stool. "Another infected body came in not long after you left. Those are her fingerprints I'm running," he added with a gesture toward the computer. "Bug and Claudia are doing the autopsy, but Garret is letting Jordan observe. Well, I use the term 'observe' rather loosely. He's in there with her to make sure she's not doing the autopsy herself. We pulled the other two bodies from the crypt for comparison."

"She's in there?" he yelped, jumping back and almost making for the door. "But – but – what about contamination or, or the bacteria or whatever it is?"

"She's wearing a suit," the criminologist explained dismissively, going back to his work when the machine beeped. "Doctor M. wouldn't let her be that close if it were dangerous. Say, do you recall the occupation of our lovely lady's victim, Mister Hertz?"

Woody shrugged, trying to calm himself down. "He was on the board of directors for Boston U.'s hospital. Why?"

"The newest poor soul to fall prey is one Vicky Stephenson," Nigel said softly, turning a screen to face him. A DMV photo of a middle aged brunette was staring back at them. "She was also on the Board at the hospital."

Woody was silent for a moment, his brain whirring. "Where are her next of kin?"

"I don't know. They didn't come in with the body. As far as I know, they may not even be aware she's passed. This thing kills pretty fast."

"Does Boston U. keep any kind of photo records on file of their board members? Like, something online?"

Nigel didn't answer, instead rolling his chair over to another computer and pulling up an internet browser. A few skilled keystrokes later, he beckoned Woody over and had him peer over his shoulder at website with a list of board members for local hospitals and how to contact them.

"Oh, my God," Woody whispered, pointing at the screen. "There's the first Jane Doe, the one I found in the park. Katie Andrews. I need to go tell Jordan."

"Let them finish the autopsies first."

The warning stopped him short, and Woody turned back around. Nigel was right; he didn't want to risk getting the bacteria on him, and then onto Jordan. He sighed heavily and ran his hands over his face. "Please tell me she's going to be okay, Nige."

"O'course she is, mate. After everything our Jordan has been through, I doubt a little outbreak is going to slow her down. She'll be back to her usual self before you know it." He stopped talking then, though, not sure what else to say when he was just as worried about the whole situation as the other man was. Instead he just let the conversation drop and turned back to the computer. "We can fill everyone in once they're finished. The hospital will have to be notified as well, as it's likely the contamination began there."

Woody nodded in agreement. "While we wait, would you mind tracking a number for me?" he asked suddenly, pulling out his wallet and digging around for the slip of paper he had found in Jordan's bedside table.

"Sure." Nigel took it from him and glanced at the string of numbers and the word scrawled above. He recognized the handwriting and raised his eyebrows. "Is this something you were asked to do or are you working as your own agent?"

"She asked me."

Without another word, he rolled back to the first bank of computers and opened a different program to enter the phone number. After a moment, the computer beeped at him. "This number isn't in use anymore. But if you give me a little bit of time, I can do some work on it."


"The link is seriously through the hospital?" Jordan asked later that night after they had eaten. Or at least, he had eaten. She had mostly picked at the food listlessly. "How weird."

"I thought it was pretty common for there to be infections and stuff in hospitals," Woody mused as she leaned back against him on the couch. They had finished the autopsies about an hour before, and Garret had made her shower again as a precaution; her hair was still wet, and he was enjoying running his fingers through it and watching the water-dark strands fall down to her shoulder.

Jordan sighed when his fingers brushed against her scalp. "It is," she said in answer to his question. "Among patients. But Y. pestis is extremely rare, and to see it pop up among board members who are almost never in the hospital, much less around people who are sick? Like I said – weird."

"Claudia and Nigel are all over it," he whispered, lowering his head to press his face against hers. "Would you like to go to bed? I bet you didn't rest well last night."

"Neither did you."

Woody chuckled. "Yeah, well. I'll sleep great tonight in here with you. I've got my pillow so I'll just need to find an extra blanket. Then I can sleep on the floor holding your hand."

"That's not gonna happen," Jordan said with a small shake of her head. "You really think I'm going to let you sleep on the floor? We can both fit on this couch." She left out the rest of the thoughts going through her mind – that the only thing keeping her grounded right now was him, and that she wanted to feel his arms around her for as long as she could. The world around her was spinning out of control as her conversation with Garret echoed in her mind. If only kids were the least of my problems. Why do I feel like everything is about to end? "Hey, Woody…?"

"Yeah?" His fingers made three more leisurely passes through her hair.

"Nothing. I'm, uh, going to go change so we can get to sleep." She extracted herself from her grasp and started to stand before turning back to kiss him gently on the lips.

He cupped her cheek when she pulled back, keeping her gaze locked with his. "Take your time, Jo."