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Faint sun rays, followed by the lively chirps of the birds seeped through the cracked stingy blinds, serving as a useless makeshift shield upon the small window from the outside world.

It was one of those nights, where James had no other choice but to crash on the grimy couch of his smothering low-profile apartment, just by the outer borders of North River Road Street. After the unsettling call from Vincent the other night, he was strictly instructed to remain rooted in their little dingy dwelling. Sleep didn’t come to James if it wasn’t for a few strong beers, which lay by the foot of the khaki wide daybed; Vincent rarely ever panicked, which was more than enough to install the same feeling in James, as well.

The young officer was more than happy to abandon his spot on the sofa, leaving a noticeable dent his weight had imbedded into the surface of the furniture. James shuffled awkwardly towards the few-feet excuse of a kitchen to fix himself an edible breakfast. He settled for a couple of boiled eggs, with a mushy tomato he found along his way while scanning the practically empty refrigerator.

With the hopeless attempt to decipher the meaning behind Vincent’s insistence and urgency circulating inside his mind, it distracted him from how poorly his meal tasted. After pouring himself a second, less warmer cup of coffee, he realized the overwhelming pressure of the horrible possible scenarios about to happen. Hastily, he grabbed the blue burner cellular, dialing the recent digits to contact his partner.

He listened intently to the ringing line, as if the ringing was some sort of a secret code that could possibly have the answers to his problems. On the fifth ring, Vincent finally relieved him from the torturous familiarity of the dialing tune.

“Got somethin’ ya’ wanna tell me, Vinnie?” James laughed anxiously into the speaker, his voice still groggy from the restless slumber.

Shuffling was the only reply from the other end, frenzied and thunderous shuffling. Vincent’s silence unnerved James deeply, feeling the few egg bites rising to his throat out of anxiety.


“Please tell me you have the fucking PC, James.” Vincent’s husky voice slurred through the speaker. James couldn’t register what his partner

had said; didn’t he have the PC with him? Wasn’t Vincent the one supposed to keep it with him?

His knee caps gave under him, forcing him to sit down in the same spot that served as his bed for the night, struggling to think of an explanation as to why Vincent didn’t have that damned device that wouldn’t mean their absolute closing stages.

“W-why would I fucking have it, man?” James tried to laugh through his words, in denial of such thing happening to them – at such a sensitive instance. “Because I don’t fucking have it!” Vincent shouted furiously. He obviously unable to maintain the façade of nonchalance any longer, and neither was James.

“It’s-it’s cool, man. It’s cool—“

“Nah, James. It ain’t fuckin’ cool, buddy; because everything’s gone, too – everything.” For a moment, James completely forgot how to simply breathe. Words were not only caught in his dry throat, but every thought he ever had when he woke up, seemed to be screaming at him like a fucking Banshee that he felt lightheaded. How could that idiot lose that computer?!

“It’s gone, man.” As if James needed one more reminder. His large grip upon the flip phone was so intense; it could crush it if tightened any further. His lips curled in a brutal snarl – a look that could turn any living being that came across it into undying stone.

Vincent had never allowed a single sentiment to surface past the thick, scarred skin of his, let alone something related to panic; fear. That fact alone infuriated James beyond mere words, and with the matter at hand, James had never been devoured by an animalistic rage such as that.


“I’ll call you later.”

- - - - - -

Fifteen minutes fled by, as both Sherrie and Elliot sat like statues in the stuffy atmosphere of the Mitsubishi. Elliot was reluctant to utter a word, fearing the worst from the ticking time-bomb sitting to his right. the past hour he spent with Sherrie, from catching up to her on the street, to the quick hospital run, and their brief visit to Clara Aniston – he hoped it might provide him with a strong lead to the latest case which got the entire police department chasing its tail. And it did.

However, the young widow revealed something which further complicated the initial case, rather than making matters simpler. Thanks to Sherrie, Elliot was able to understand the vague patches he lost so much sleep over.

“Mitchell killed Devin.”

These three plain, uncomplicated words had the spontaneous ability to transform everything to something utterly different. Elliot was surprised how he was able to drive with the haze his mind was clouded by. Suddenly, like flooding water overcoming his body; the reason why Deputy Myers refused to allow Sherrie to speak, and why she was so invested in the Willows’ fire incident, right back to the time when Sherrie asked him gather the info about Clara Aniston. Realizing how it all had some kind of a connection to Mitchell Jefferson sent a shiver up his spine.

Why would Mitchell Jefferson have a part in this mess? But that wasn’t the question which should be asked; ‘how?’ was the right phrase. Then came another realization to him – he didn’t need answers from Sherrie anymore; he needed confirmation. He needed to ask her if his speculations were true, or only the results of sleep deprivation.

“Are you sure you wanna stay there? Alone?” he tipped his bearded chin towards Sherrie’s house, located a few steps away from them. Sherrie followed his gaze, unsure how she felt about it either. “I am.” She wasn’t. He wanted to oppose, ask her how she could feel any sort of safety knowing that the lunatic who shot her husband, was still out there. Elliot was still having a difficulty believing something so insane; Mitchell Jefferson being the only one surviving, out of the thirty-six casualties of the Willows’ fire.

Perhaps it’s just the lack of sleep. Yes, that might be just it.

“You can call me anytime, you know that, right?” he assured her with a smile, placing a large hand on her much smaller shoulder. She merely nodded, giving Elliot the impression that she wasn’t quite convinced. “Hey,” He tried to get their eyes to meet. “I’m serious, Sherrie. You call me, and I’ll drop anything and everything, and I’ll come to you right away.” She wanted to return his sweet and warm smile, but she couldn’t bring herself to; she didn’t find it in her.

“What if you don’t make it on time?” she asked, biting her lip to conceal the noticeable quiver from showing. Elliot opened his mouth to speak, to tell her that there was nothing he could possibly ever arrive before - before it hurts her. But the look in her glistening eyes prevented him from doing so. He slumped back in his seat, sighing quietly.

“Sherrie… I know things are very confusing and there are a hundred possibilities that are causing you to think like that. You’re scared and paranoid, not because you should be, but because you’re lonely. That’s making you feel like you have to do something about it, when it’s really not your job – it’s mine.” The memory of these same words was raw in his mind; the words Sheriff Myers said to him when he needed them the most – when he lost his wife to the shooting at the school she used to teach at, in Washington. He was filled with raging anguish that clouded his vision – he was unable to do the right thing even though he knew what it was, he just didn’t know how.

Devin might not have been ‘Husband of the Year’, but Sherrie seemed to see past that. Elliot seemed to be the first to notice.

“Go home, Sherrie. Go back to your family and friends, to your job at Buckley’s Memorial… to life. Open up for new opportunities and give chances, not just to people – to yourself, too; give yourself the chance to move on, because time does heal when you let it.” He almost found it ironic; telling her to allow time to heal her damaged soul, when he never did. Hell, he didn’t even believe in his own words of wisdom to begin with.

He felt the tears pricking in the corners of his eyes at the memory of the man he used to be; a man that used to believe in time’s ability to heal.

The man he lost alongside his late wife.

“I can’t do that, you know.” She croaked, shaking her head profusely, not wanting to even entertain the mere thought. “I can’t do that to Arnold, to Devin, to dad.” Preventing the tears from streaming felt like a chore, so she allowed them to freely run down her cheeks. It wasn’t like Elliot was a stranger, anyways. “I’m not upset about what you just told me, I’m upset about the fact that no one seems to believe me, not even you, Elliot.” She struggled to speak while swallowing her sobs, trying to muffle them inside her lungs.

“No, no, no… it’s not like that, I-I swear it’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s just that… I’ve been there, Sherrie; I’ve seen the fire, and I’ve seen them loading thirty-six burnt corpses, for the thirty-six patients that were there. I tried, I-I fucking tried, but no one could identify a single body.” He tried to convince her that what she feared was charred into the dirt he was made of, and could no longer hurt her. But the image of Devin’s glassy, hazel eyes was just too much for Sherrie, it wasn’t allowing her to accept such thing.

“I know what you’ve been through, I was there, too. I saw it all. But you need to let go, let it die, Sherrie. You need to leave what happened to Arnold behind, leave Arnold behind, because he’s just gone and nothing’s gonna bring him back. And… and-and I think Mitchell is, too.” His voice quitted down to a soft whisper, reaching his hand to hold Sherrie’s to give her a sense of comfort. But she resented his gesture, yanking her hand away while trying to forcefully cut the stream of tears.

Feeling like his attempt at hopefully make things less complicated, confusing and painful to Sherrie was futile, he decided against going further into the matter. “I’m here, Sherrie. I always was, always am, always will be.” He settled for a subtle effort to make up for what he said.

The strawberry-blonde woman nodded her head, but Elliot had an intuition that she was really just humoring him.

“Let me walk you to the door.” Elliot offered with a smile so sweet and genuine, it could have melted her heart in another life. With Elliot insisting on carrying her luggage, Sherrie stuffed her hands under her armpits, crossing her arms over her body in a poor shot at warming herself.

They reached the front porch of her house, with Sherrie recalling the previous location of the ‘special delivery’ being right where she stood.

She fished the pairs of keys from her jacket pocket, her keychain rattling as her trembling fingers struggled to insert the tip inside the keyhole.

“Let me, sweetheart.” Elliot placed the suitcase down on the wooden porch, taking the shivering keys out of Sherrie’s grip and unlocked the door with ease. What the wooden portal revealed beyond it rendered both Sherrie and Elliot speechless.

The living room was the only portion of the house visible to them from where they didn’t dare to step any further, and the state of it was devastating. Every piece of cushioned furniture was ripped open to reveal its cottony stuffing, knocked over, or broken to pieces – or all at once. Sherrie’s little collection of antique statues was shattered beyond recognition. Her own little corner which once housed her favorite collected books was thrashed, each volume carelessly tossed about.

It was as though a storm broke out in her home. It robbed her of breath, leaving her wondering if it was the work of the man she suspected.

Elliot was never a man easily convinced of anything; he always searched for tangible, as-real-as-the-sky substantiations to believe. Just a moment ago, he was sitting in his car, trying to sway Sherrie into believing that she was safe – with nothing to lose sleep over any longer.

However, the scene which might have unfolded just a few hours ago from their arrival, served as a bitter reminder of how wrong he can be at

times. And he wasn’t ready to accept that fact. He felt a vast amount of shame and guilt burdening his entire being; he cannot believe that he let his stubborn, severely skeptical nature cloud his better judgment – he was putting Sherrie’s life on the line.

“Change of plans; you’re coming with me.”

The shocking panorama of a single room in the house was enough to throw Elliot into a fully alarmed state. He quickly pulled Sherrie by the arm, and bolted out of the house, not wanting her to remain another second in the midst of the unmoving chaos. When they entered the comfort of the vehicle, Elliot brought the ignition back to life, pulling out of the street of Sherrie’s residence.

She couldn’t believe what her eyes witnessed. She kept clawing at her clothed knees, in hopes of snapping herself out of what she wished to be a nightmare – someone was inside of her house, not long ago. Trying to stop her mind from racing with the terrifying possibilities, were a futile attempt; she could have been caught in the middle of that rampage, had she gone back to her house before Elliot had stopped her.

And she wondered what if she was there, really? Would she encounter the intruder - encounter Mitchell?

By the span of a few seconds, Sherrie was hyperventilating and in hysteric tears. Elliot had to pull over in order to calm her down. “Sherrie,” he began sternly yet evenly, succeeding in masking his own distress. “You’re gonna be okay, I promise you that you’re safe with me.” He assured her. She shook her head in refusal to his comforting promise; because he was out there, and he knew where she lived.

There was nothing that could keep her safe, anymore.

“H-he’s back, Elliot! He’s back and he’s coming for me!” she sobbed continuously as she grabbed a handful of Elliot’s coat, her lips curling inwards as she cried uncontrollably, her tears felt like steaming drops of boiling water against her frosty cheeks. The upsetting state of the female before him rendered him speechless, managing to only gaze at her blankly, not knowing what to do.

She kept constantly sobbing incoherently, telling him how Mitchell would never stop until she was dead, too. Her weeping, strained voice became too much of a pressure to the young investigator’s ears and mind.

“GODDAMIT, SHERRIE! I WON’T LET ANYTHING HAPPEN TO YOU!” He boomed straight into her scrunched up face, successfully silencing her wailings. He hadn’t realized how intense the grip he had on her shoulders was, until he snapped back into his senses again.

“You’re safe,” he stressed again, loosening his grip on her. “And for the time being, you’ll be staying with Scott and me, while I fix this shit.”

The darkness of his brown eyes allowed no oppositions from Sherrie’s end, not that she had a better idea in mind, either.

The drive to Elliot’s residence was silent, except for the bothersome rumble of the engine which had seen better days.

To Elliot, Sherrie was as silent and still as an ancient statue, gazing out of the closed window vacantly. However, she was never louder in her entire twenty-seven years of life. Despite the young detective pledging to protect her and sort the chaos out, she never felt more threatened.

What was frustrating her most was that she didn’t know if the thrashed state of her house had convinced Elliot into finally believing her; Mitchell was alive, and he couldn’t have done a better job at proving it.

The Mitsubishi Lancer soon pulled into a driveway, somewhere in Mason Avenue, and where she assumed was Elliot’s house.

Sherrie remained inside the vehicle for an extra few seconds, while the older man was kind enough to unload her baggage from the rear trunk.

She tried to observe as much as she could, of the humble residence sitting in the middle of a slightly overgrown, dull lawn of grass. A wellused wooden skateboard was tossed mindlessly on top of the monochromatic grass, alongside a bicycle with a flat wheel. She figured both might belong to Elliot’s son, Scott.

At last, Elliot opened the door for her, making her feel obliged to leave with him. As they made their way towards the front porch, Sherrie saw a petite wooden swing, painted with an angelic white shade that seemed to make it intentionally stand out, from the rather dreary atmosphere the residence had. The wooden seat swayed with the wind elegantly, and appeared to be the only piece which Elliot tended to, out of his entire property.

The widowed man noticed Sherrie’s fascination with the white swing, a faint smile creeping to his lips.

“It was Lana’s.” he said, fishing his keys out. Sherrie turned to face him, knowing that nothing she could say could mend the grief for his late wife. “She used to sit there every night and morning, with her mother’s light shawl, even if it’s minus-twenty degrees. She used to say that her Bible had all the warmth she needed.” He reminisced the old days with a faint smile, which was anything but of happiness, unlocking the front door absentmindedly.

“It’s beautiful.” She said with sincerity.

He opened the door widely for Sherrie to step inside first, glancing at his watch. “Scott’s gonna be really happy to see you.” He smiled

reassuringly, stepping inside after her.

“Scott! I’m sorry, buddy, but we’re gonna be sharing a bed for a while!” Elliot called out humorously, gaining a barely audible chuckle from Sherrie. Elliot felt a tinge of embarrassment when he received silence in return, but quickly brushed it off when he recalled how his son was feeling ill and was probably still asleep.

“Scott’s, uh… he skipped school today, playing sick n’ all.” He explained, rubbing his neck sheepishly. She smiled back, while recalling her own memories of faking a stomachache to avoid going to school, herself.

“Come on, I’ll show ya around.” He urged, smiling to himself, heading straight into the kitchen with Sherrie following closely. The darkhaired man proceeded to introduce her to his humble kitchen. It wasn’t as tidy and spotless as hers, but otherwise, it had a cozy design.

“This is Scott’s. That’ll be yours, and the one with the broken handle is mine.” He gestured to the hanging cups on top of the kitchen sink.

Elliot added a third, floral mug to the other two plain ones. It was subtle, something that wasn’t really worth mentioning – but to Sherrie, it was one of the kindest gestures someone had ever done to her, in a very long time. It made her smile faintly, almost forgetting the looming threat.

Sherrie stood by the small dining table, situated in the middle of the kitchen. She mentally noted to herself that she will need to do a bit of cleaning during her stay – as a gesture of a ‘thank you’. The dark haired man stood by the entrance, leaning his shoulder on the frame, smiling to himself for no logical reason.

“I’m really happy to have you here.” He grinned, shrugging away from the doorframe and making his way towards her. Surprisingly, she didn’t feel as estranged –as she would normally- in Elliot’s house. She was beginning to feel the temporary comfort before she was introduced to the rest of the house. So, she smiled back – genuinely, if you may.

“Hey, dad! Can you come here a sec’?”

A voice called from the top level of the house, causing Elliot to drop his wide grin to tighten his jaw. “I told you he was playin’.” He grumbled in reference of his son’s attempt at faking an illness to skip yet another day of school. As Elliot started his way up the set of stairs, he stopped mid-way up when he sensed the absence of the female behind him. With a shake of his head, he looked over his shoulder to find Sherrie lingering by the same spot in the kitchen.

“You know that you’re making things even more awkward, by acting like a guest?” it sounded more like a statement, rather than a question.

“I just don’t wanna intrude on…”

“—don’t sweat about it, please. Now do you wanna see Scott’s face when I tell him that I’ll be sleeping in the same bed as him, or not?”

Sherrie felt a great urge to laugh – a genuine one, a laugh that flowed naturally and uncontrollably out of her heart, lungs and lips. At that moment, Sherrie threw behind her back what she had been stressing over for the recent years, and focused upon the possibility that Elliot might possess the ability to make things alright again. And so she did, laughing.

The pair made their way up towards the upper level of the O’Malley’s residence, stopping in the midst of a plain hallway when they spotted the door to Scott’s room was wide open, with no sign of life inside. Elliot exhaled loudly out of annoyance, marching to the farthest end of the corridor, in the direction of a closed door.

“Scott, I thought that we made a damned deal that you stay the He—“

For some reason, the broad-shouldered man halted in place before he was about to bolt through the now open door. Sherrie sensed the tense vibrations radiating from Elliot’s being and into the air, before she began to feel the tension in her own muscles as well. Reluctantly, she treaded closer behind the towering figure of Elliot, unsure if she wanted to know what got him so dazed and alarmed.

“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” Sherrie felt the rumbling voice of Elliot through the palm she laid upon his shoulder. She was

hoping to ease his distress, and by the sound he was emitting, she knew of nothing that would assist in so. She wanted to ask about whom was

he addressing, and about the reason behind the intense animosity he was radiating. However, fear gripped her by the throat, causing her mind to go wild with ridiculous guesses.

You know what I like about you O’Malley?” the voice of the other man was successful at rendering Sherrie speechless, stealing the oxygen

not only from her lungs but from the air, as well. However, she didn’t have the time to allow herself to hyperventilate, because her feet were much faster to react at the sound of the familiar voice.

How much of a good fucking multi-tasker you are.” James snarled. “Anyways, I didn’t come here to appreciate that. I came here to ask you

the same fucking question; why in the fuck were you in my house, Elliot?” he asked back.

As if James’ completely uncalled for visit wasn’t enough to knock Sherrie out of consciousness, the ludicrous accusation almost did the job.

When James crept closer to the doorframe Elliot stood by, it was impossible to deny the truth that none other than his little sister was present in his colleague’s house. The sight of the strawberry-blonde woman triggered a twitch from the corners of his mouth, resting his hands upon the holsters housing his pistols.

“Of course, you’re here; where else would you be?” He muttered knowingly to himself, “Actually I’d be surprised if you would’ve stayed

home, even relieved.” He started pacing around the office, palms aggressively gripping his weaponry. “Now why would you worry about me, James?” Sherrie rebuked venomously, her gentle features twisted with animosity.

And just as Elliot had thought that Sherrie was his ally, she retreated a few steps backwards, as to keep a safe distance between them. At that moment, the young woman considered none to be worthy of her trust, as she kept expanding the distance between the two men she was obliged to confront for answers.

“What house?” she directed the first question which popped into her head, but unfortunately, said question had bred yet another; an inquiry

which held something much more sinister behind it.

“And why would Elliot want anything to do with it?” this time, she was aiming it at her brother whom was as ready as an alarmed predator.

Elliot was just as confused as Sherrie. However, James refused to believe that the two of them were anything but innocent and he was growing impatient, feeling the walls around him beginning to close in on him. “Don’t play that fucking card with me, Sherrie. I know you fucking have it.” James practically growled, sending cold shivers down his sister’s spine.

The chills rattling her bones weren’t caused by the cold-blooded look in James’ blue eyes, nor that his hand was dangerously choking his

firearm in a ready stance – rather what he was accusing her of possessing.

Whatever it happened to be – the raw panic portrayed in James’ pink, sleep-deprived blue eyes spoke louder than words ever could of the possession’s importance.

“Now why the fuck would I want anything to do with your shit, James?” Sherrie spat in her brother’s direction, feeling tears of frustration burning her eyes.

The whole ordeal was beginning to weight down her shoulders, as she realized that whatever was unfolding is something much more intricate and bigger than her. It made her feel like a fool; aimlessly stumbling around, only relying on her troubled intuition and zero concrete evidence.

Just as she was nearing the brink of consciousness due to her overwhelming calculations, she felt a pair of large vice-like hands, clutching her frail shoulders and violently shaking her body.

Snapping back into reality, Sherrie was met by the blood-shot eyes of her brother, which were nearly bulging out of their sockets. With boiling blood pulsating to his head, the veins surfaced in his forehead, bearing his yellowing teeth like a wild animal.

“WHERE’S THE FUCKING LAPTOP?!” He roared with a hostility that poorly managed to mask the sheer panic, which took over his mind.

In a split second, James was overthrown by none other than Elliot, his heavy and sore body slammed against the wooden floorboards mercilessly. Sherrie barely had the time to register what happened – she was thrashing her mind to know what ‘laptop’ he was talking about.

Furthermore, why would he accuse her of keeping it?

And just why was it so important to him?!

When James managed to refocus his thoughts and eyesight, he was greeted by the pitch black barrel of a gun. Elliot had disarmed James of his firearm and was using it against him. James helplessly stared wide-eyed back at Elliot’s darkened orbs.

The unreadable darkness pouring out of Elliot’s unrecognizable eyes left no room for any act of retaliation from James’ side.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, or if it was really worth trashing your sister’s house and terrorizing her like that.” He began,

finger treacherously pressuring the trigger.

“But mark my words, Myers; I will find out.”

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