A Normal Day in Haven
As Nathan Wuornos shifted his truck into park outside the yellow tape of the crime scene, he was wondering if this was what life might have been like if he'd grown up to become a cop in some town that wasn't Haven, Maine. He had barely even crawled out of bed that morning before the police radio on his bedside table had crackled into life and informed him of the car versus pedestrian accident on Oak Street. Normally the prospect of such a normal job would have been like adrenaline to him, but that morning he was mostly just exhausted and wanted to drag himself back beneath the covers. So he'd dressed slowly, lingered in his kitchen long enough to get a cup of coffee, and then finally jumped into the old Ford and headed to the scene.
He was pretty sure that he felt just like every other person in the world on a Monday morning; tired, irritable, and very reluctant to go to work.
There were a few curious people hovering around the tape, peering in at the scene while the other weary looking officers tried to keep them back. The ambulance was parked on the opposite side of the scene, and in the middle was a car with a blood-stained, cracked windshield. His eyes lingered for a moment on the human-shaped chalk outline etched onto the asphalt.
"You look terrible." Nathan glanced up to see that his partner, Audrey Parker, had walked around the edge of the scene to meet him. She looked a lot more conscious than he felt.
"Good morning to you, too," he replied dryly. "So what've we got?"
"Jenna Brooks, over there," Audrey pointed to the open back of the ambulance, where a blonde young woman was being looked over by an EMT, "was driving to work. Says the guy just bolted out in front of her car, and she didn't see him in time to stop."
"The guy?" he asked.
"Is already bagged up and headed for the morgue," she said. "He didn't have any ID on him. They said they'll get back to us when they ID him and finish the autopsy."
"Why are they even doing an autopsy?" Nathan asked, arching an eyebrow. "He jumped in front of a car. Or are you creating a supernatural suspect list again?"
Audrey gave him a pointed glare. "Someone's testy this morning," she remarked. He ignored the jibe, waiting for her to finish. "They're running tox screens to check for alcohol or drugs. It wouldn't hurt to figure out why exactly he decided to become a hood ornament."
"Sure," Nathan said with a shrug. "As long as vampires aren't involved." He caught Audrey rolling her eyes and tried not to smile. "So did you get everything done before I got here?"
"I probably could've with how long it took you," she said, shooting him a questioning glance. He didn't respond. "But no, I haven't talked to Ms Brooks yet. I saved it for last; I know just how much you love it."
He smiled sarcastically and followed her as she set off across the scene to the ambulance. The woman sitting there looked to be in her early twenties, and she probably would've been pretty if she hadn't looked so terrified. She was pale and sweaty and had obviously been crying. When she saw them coming she flinched and her eyes began watering again.
"I didn't mean to, I swear it," she stammered out in a shaky voice. "I didn't see him!"
"It's okay, Ms Brooks, we know," Audrey said calmly. As usual, Nathan stayed a few steps behind her, watching the interaction for any signs that his partner might miss while she was interrogating. "We just need you to tell us what happened. As detailed as you can."
The woman nodded and swallowed hard. "I was on my way to work and I'd just come around the corner from Park Street," she said slowly. "It was still kind of dark, I couldn't see much. And then he just was there, in front of my car. I – I don't even know if he saw me before it – before I – it was so terrible." She stopped, shivering madly and seeming to retreat in on herself.
"You say you don't think he saw you?" Audrey pressed gently.
"No, he was looking out that way," Ms Brooks said, pointing at an angle across the road, away from her car and in the direction of a stretch of ocean visible over a rail fence. "I hit the horn, but he didn't even turn around. Just staggered there and then –" She trailed off again but Audrey just nodded in understanding.
"Okay, thank you, Ms Brooks," she said. "If we have any more questions, we'll call." When the shaken woman nodded, Audrey turned around and gestured for Nathan to join her as she headed around toward his truck again. "So, what do you think?" she asked once they were out of earshot of the ambulance.
"She's definitely rattled," Nathan said with a small shrug. "I don't think she meant to hit anyone, if that's what you mean. Sounds like she was just the unfortunate weapon in some guy's suicide."
For once, Audrey didn't argue with him on it. "Imagine that, a normal case in Haven," she said.
"We do get those occasionally," he supplied and plunged his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "Less often since you've shown up, but it's been known to happen." They stopped in front of his trusty Ford and he leant against the grill lazily.
"How nice. So we can go back to the office and write up our prelim reports while we wait to find out whatever drug of choice John Doe used to give himself the guts to play chicken with a car," Audrey said, and Nathan couldn't help but smile slightly at the matter-of-fact tone of voice she used to talk about these sort of things. "Cheery morning."
"On the way to the station, we should stop for pancakes," Nathan put in abruptly. She looked up at him in that same awed and amused expression that usually preceded a comment about how strange he was. "I'm hungry," he said simply and shrugged again.
Audrey shook her head and laughed. "A bit early in the day for you to be taking pancake breaks, don't you think?" she asked. "How about just stopping for coffees so we can get this paperwork done today?" Nathan grudgingly agreed as they climbed into his truck and started off towards the station.
The rest of the day was delightfully uneventful. Nathan and Audrey spent the majority of it locked away in their office as they carved their way through the mountains of paperwork that had grown on their desks over the last few weeks. Even after his third cup of coffee, Nathan was having a hard time focusing on what he was doing which resulted in a lot of annoyed grumbling as he scratched out mistakes on his files.
It wasn't until four o'clock that evening that Audrey finally confronted him about it. They had only just gotten back from responding to a possible burglary, which had turned out to be a false alarm triggered by a cat, and Nathan had crumbled up the incident form he'd been working on with a groan and tossed it into the nearest dustbin. He sighed under his breath and rested his forehead on his hand, propping his elbow against the desktop.
"Okay, Nathan, what's up?" Audrey asked abruptly, setting down her pen and twisting her chair to face him.
"What do you mean?" he asked innocently, lifting his head just far enough to glance across at her.
"Don't play dumb with me," she said, shaking her head. "You've been acting weird lately." He raised an eyebrow and she amended, "Weirder than usual."
"I'm just tired," he said off-handedly, and then pulled a fresh incident form toward him to start fixing his mistakes.
"Nathan," Audrey said wearily, and a bit impatiently. "You know you can talk to me if something's bothering you. That's what friends do, right?" When he didn't respond she added, "I'm just worried about you. You've been stranger ever since Jess left."
Nathan tensed slightly but didn't look up from the line he was supposed to be filling in. She was right, that was about the time where things had changed, but it wasn't Jess that was keeping him up at night. It was Audrey. Audrey and a kiss on the cheek that had set off an explosion inside of him. He had thought at first that his sense of touch was coming back, but he hadn't been able to feel anything else since. Nothing except her.
Before his partner could bully an answer out of him, the phone on his desk rang and they both jumped at the noise. "Saved by the bell," he said with a short smirk in her direction, and then he lifted the headset. "Detective Wuornos."
"Wuornos, it's Gary Jorgenson from the morgue," came the response.
"Alright, just a second," he said and pressed the speaker button before setting the earpiece down again. Audrey came over to lean against his desk so she could hear. "Okay, Jorgenson, we're both here. What've you got?"
"I IDed your guy, his name's Jeffrey Halter, 43," Jorgenson explained in a lazy drawl, and Nathan quickly scrawled out the name onto a notepad. "Cause of death was definitely the car. He's got a serious case of the blunt force traumas. We ran a tox screen and it came back clean, zero alcohol and the only drug in his system was amoxicillin."
"Which is?" Audrey prompted.
"Used to treat ear infections," Jorgenson answered, a bit patronisingly. Nathan bit his tongue to stop himself from commenting on the guy's attitude. He wasn't a huge fan of the new guy from their previous interactions and this certainly wasn't helping any.
"So our guy jumped in front of a car because his ear hurt," Audrey said sceptically. "That's a little melodramatic, don't you think?"
"I thought so too, so I looked into it a little more," Jorgenson said. "I checked his ears and that's when I found something a little strange." Great, Nathan thought unenthusiastically. "There were trace particulates in his ear canal and all the way through his sinuses. Nose, eyes, throat. There was something off about the sensory nerves too, so I decided to give his brain a bit of a peek. Found the same particulates inside of his skull and even throughout the brain stem."
"Okay, so these particulates, did you figure out what they are?" Audrey asked.
"Uh, duh," Jorgenson said. "Sand."
"Sand," Nathan echoed blankly. "We do live on the coast, any chance that's how it got into him?"
"Dude, I don't care if this guy lived in a little cave on the seashore his whole life, that wouldn't be enough to get sand into his brain. That stuff definitely did not get there by accident," Jorgenson said and Nathan bit back a groan. Double great.
"Alright, thanks, Greg," Audrey said and she leaned over to hang up the phone. Nathan didn't comment on the name mistake, well used to them by now, as he scrubbed a hand over his face and then looked up at his partner. She had that familiar look in her eyes, the one that always seemed to be followed by them nearly getting murdered by something supernatural. This was so not what he wanted to deal with today. "So where should we start?" Audrey asked.
"I guess we should try to find out a little more about this Jeffery Halter and find out if there's any reason someone would want to build a coastline inside his skull," Nathan responded and stood up. As he grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and slipped into it, he added, "So much for a normal case."