"So what's today's case?" Audrey asked, taking a sip of her coffee.
Nathan gave her a glance from the corner of his eye as he drove, briefly noting in his mind that that was most likely her third cup of coffee, and tried not to grin as he answered her.
"A few people down at Rosemary's came down with debilitating stomach cramps, and they've already checked the food. The health inspector was here and, as far as the health inspector can tell, it isn't food poisoning or any kind of bio-toxin either…so…"
He let it dangle, and she immediately picked it up.
"Trouble. Got it."
He nodded and they pulled into the small parking lot next to the favorite small-town bakery.
Claire watched the two of them for a moment as they all got out of Nathan's truck, curious at their interactions, but then both of them turned to look at her, as though feeling her gaze on them, and she quickly averted her eyes, focusing instead on the bakery in front of them, but letting the two agents take the lead.
Audrey walked in, her eyes alert and scanning the room, reading the body language of the few people that were still inside.
From the back, Rosemary herself walked through and Claire watched as the woman sighed in relief at seeing the chief of police in her establishment.
"Oh, thank God...you're here."
Nathan gave her a nod, and then began to ask questions.
"Rosemary, when did you notice people were sick?"
The older woman shook her head. "I, I don't know. I'm not entirely sure when it started; I was in the back, keeping an eye on some cream filed croissants that are a part of a new recipe I'm making. You should talk to Karen, she would know. She works the front."
At this name, Nathan looked up at her in surprise from the notebook that he'd been writing notes in, his hand stopping on the page.
"Karen? As in, Karen Rayne?" Rosemary nodded, and Nathan let out a short bark of laughter and then put his notepad away, leaving both Claire and Audrey looking confused, but he simply said to them, "It's okay…I know what the problem is."
At that cryptic statement, the female detective and psychiatrist shared a look of confusion, but followed the chief anyway as he walked over to a corner table where a young woman about their age sat all alone, her hands fisted in her lap.
She had dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and was pleasing to look at, but she wouldn't have won any beauty contests. She was wearing a green sweater, blue jeans, and an apron that said "Rosemary's" on the front of it.
Nathan dropped to his knees and gently grasped her hands, causing her to look up.
There was a long moment of silence, until…
"Nathan? Is that you?"
He nodded and gently helped her into a standing position, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, and then helped her outside where he had her sit on a bench. He sat down next to her and gave her one of his looks, and she crumbled.
"Okay, okay…so it was me," she admitted, a few tears escaping a corner of her eye. "I didn't mean to, Nathan, I swear it!"
He just nodded and rubbed her shoulder reassuringly with one hand.
"It's okay," he said in a soothing voice. "I know you didn't. Just…well, I thought that I'd give you a moment to collect yourself before I take you down to the station."
At hearing that, Karen's eyes snapped up in surprise. Her hazel eyes caught his and a faint look crossed her face, her mouth twisting slightly in a moue of confusion at his words. Claire and Audrey stood to the side, still waiting for him to introduce them, but he didn't.
Finally, the young woman's eyes lit up in comprehension.
"You're the chief of police?"
"Guilty as charged."
She smiled and started to reach towards him for a congratulatory hug, but then realized that she probably shouldn't, and pulled back. She gave him a solemn look and brought her hands out in front of her, wrists together, palms up.
"Do you need to cuff me?"
Nathan shook his head and laughed. "No, I don't need to cuff you. You just have to come down to the station with us so that you can answer a few questions…" He then cast a look up at Audrey and gave her a slight nod of his head. "…and so that we can talk someplace more, well, private."
At hearing that, Karen nodded in understanding and stood, following the three of them back to Nathan's truck.
Claire watched the two of them with interest, wondering how Nathan knew Karen and whether or not it would upset the balance of his and Audrey's tenuous relationship.
They arrived back at the station without incident and went into Nathan's office and locked the door.
Karen sat down across from Nathan and next to Audrey, who sat in the other chair opposite the desk, while Claire stood in the corner and carefully observed the girl's body language, while at the same time sneaking discreet glances out of the corner of her eye at the other two.
"Karen," Nathan started off, "Why are you back in Haven?"
She gave a vague shrug and let out a small sigh, not quite meeting anyone's eye, instead looking around the office.
"I just felt like it was time to come back, you know?"
Nathan then saw Audrey giving him her classic look. The one that said, Are you getting to the point anytime soon?,and he finally explained.
"Karen and I were friends in high school. Her dad was a local fisherman that regularly supplied the Grey Gull before it was, you know, the Grey Gull. When we were kids we liked to play down near her dad's dock," he looked pointedly at Karen, and she squirmed in her seat with what Claire could tell was embarrassment. "One day her dad was just getting in off of a job and a winch came loose and hit him hard enough to knock him out…but it didn't. Instead, myself and several crewmen fell unconscious. I didn't feel a thing, of course, but the other crewmen all ended up with partial concussions."
Audrey took a moment to figure it out, but when she did, her look was her usual one of surprise.
"Wait…you mean, that instead of him feeling the pain, anyone around him felt it instead?"
Nathan nodded, as did Karen.
And then Audrey added, pointing at Karen, "But you didn't, because you had the same trouble."
"Yeah…I thought it was gone now, you know? That things were finally back to normal. So, I decided to come back. It's, uh, my time of the month. Cramps."
The sheepish look appeared on her face yet again, but she quickly replaced it with a blank look and cast her eyes once more around the office, and then let her eyes rest once more on Nathan, her look becoming soft.
"I remember when we used to play in here…when it was your dad's office." She paused and then grinned. "Remember the time when he caught us with some of the files while you pretended to be a cop and I pretended to be a suspect and you were pretending to interrogate me?"
He smiled and let out a small laugh, something that was rare for him.
"Yeah, yeah…I remember. He was so mad I wasn't allowed back to the station for over a month."
She gave him a look, an eyebrow arched.
"You weren't allowed back? I believe he punished both of us."
She was now smiling as well. Claire was happy to see that Nathan still had friends, but she could also tell that Audrey was still slightly uncomfortable by the easy banter between the two of them. Claire decided to quickly dispel Audrey's discomfort and asked, "So, you and Nathan were…uh, just friends?"
At that, Karen laughed out loud, and Claire was unsure of how to take it, until she said,
"I had my own boyfriend, thank you very much. David Lynch, running back for the Haven Mud Dog football team. Nathan's like a brother to me. Always has been."
She flashed Audrey a slight smile, knowing exactly why Claire was asking her the question. Karen had seen the way that Audrey had reacted when Nathan had first put his arm around her shoulders.
Karen then stood and then noticed a flier on the back wall and let out another small laugh, this time one of incredulity.
Nathan nodded. "Yeah. The ball's back on." He then gave her a sly grin. "You want to be my partner again?"
Audrey looked about ready to murder someone, but then Karen laughed and shook her head.
"Hell no, Wournos, our one time was enough! I felt like an idiot with more than two left feet. Find yourself a new partner." Her eyes flickered briefly to the female agent, and then she walked towards the office door.
"Am I free to go now, Chief?" she said, a humorous glint to her tone.
He gave her a dismissive nod.
"Yeah. Just…you know…use painkillers?"
She nodded, and the three of them were alone again. Audrey lifted her hands from her lap and dropped them on the arms of her chair, letting out a long sigh. She cast her eyes towards Nathan, a smirk at the corner of her mouth.
"So…she has pain, and instead of her feeling it, other people around her feel it?" He nodded. "What's her range?"
"About forty, fifty feet. We were friends as kids, hung out together all the time, and it worked out pretty well."
Audrey nodded and he continued. "Whenever she got hurt by anything, the pain would go to me…" "And since you couldn't feel pain, you were pretty much immune," she finished for him.
Claire felt as though she were practically invisible…which, she thought to herself, smiling inside her mind, was a very good thing. Seeing this, she slid behind Audrey's chair and slipped out of the office, closing the door behind her. Now it was time for the two of them.