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In Plain Sight

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8:17am, Friday, April 8

After the car shifted into park, it took Pam a few seconds to collect herself enough to muster a weak smile for her mother. She pretended to check the messenger bag that was squeezed between her ankles on the floorboard for her planner and folders that she already knew were there. With a final deep breath and adjustment of her blouse, she turned toward the driver’s seat with the corners of her mouth slightly upturned. Helene was trying her best to school her expression as well, keeping the pity and concern out of her eyes for as long as she could before glancing at a sleeping CeCe in the backseat.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked carefully, “I’m sure they’ll understand the circumstances.”

Pam shook her head weakly, her fake smile falling to a flat line.

“I’ll just sit around stewing at home. At least this will be a nice distraction for the tim-“

Helene whipped her head back to face her daughter and cut her off.

“A distraction? Pam, sweetie, your husband is missing and isn’t answering your calls! You don’t even know if he came home last night and the SUV you two share is gone too.”

Pam’s head thudded against the leather headrest as she counted to ten and focused on breathing evenly before she responded.

“Mom, Jim’s not a minor so I can’t file a missing person’s report for another twelve hours. And I don’t even know if he’s in danger. He could’ve gone out drinking after working overtime and is sleeping off a hangover somewhere.”

God, you’re in denial, Pam.

Her mom could apparently read minds.

“Honey, you know that’s not like him at all. And you don’t need to believe the person’s life is in danger. Not knowing where he is will be enough.”, Helene said calmly and matter-of-factly. “You need to report this to the police.”

Pam nodded quietly, swallowing a sob. While she hadn’t known all the specifics of reports for missing children versus adults, another possible reason for Jim’s sudden disappearance was weighing heavy in her brain.

He disappeared barely a day after I told him about the pregnancy. He had concerns about how we would handle two kids under age two. He never replied to my text last night and isn’t answering his phone now. He took the car.

Pam couldn’t decide which possibility was worse; her husband abandoning her and CeCe or someone else stealing him away from her. She wiped the tear that had slipped out of the corner of her eye away from her cheek and sighed heavily.

“I’ll do it at lunch, okay. I just…. I want to keep trying to contact him, look around his desk for clues, just anything. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I just need to be sure that there’s no other possibilities.”

She knew being vague was just frustrating her mother further, but Pam really didn’t think this was the best time to share the news about grandchild number two.

Helene sighed and looked back at CeCe briefly to collect her nerves before flicking her eyes back to Pam.

“I’ll be at your sisters until then. I will hang over your shoulder to make sure you file the report when I get back if you haven’t found anything else out. Okay?”, Helene pointed her finger at her for emphasis.

“Okay. I’ll do it by noon.”, Pam repeated back, nodding her head.

She hugged her mother, kissed her baby, and then headed inside to begin her impromptu investigation.

X*****X*****X

Her curt replies to Michael and Erin’s inquisitions to Jim’s whereabouts were enough for everyone else to quickly figure out that she in even less of a mood than she normally was for small talk. She ignored the confused glares and concerned glances that she could feel boring into her back and multitasked.

She logged into Jim’s email at her desk and checked messages dating back several months back for anything suspicious; threats, romantic advances, shady business propositions. No such behavior was observed. She then checked his credit and debit card records and found no activity in in the last 36 hours. Her flimsy “gone out drinking” theory had officially fallen apart, and she quickly switched to office busy work so she could maintain her composure and not devolve into a panic attack in front of everyone. She reread the final text she sent to him last night glumly.

“Hey, I’m going to bed. Dinner is in the oven. Love you.”

She swallowed and turned back to her computer and confirmed an order for more ballpoint pens and finished a questionnaire for the emerging leaders seminar she did at corporate last weekend before writing and sending another text asking about his whereabouts. She dropped off Jim’s list of new clients and their orders to a concerned looking Oscar for the monthly expense reports and then went to the women’s bathroom to breathe deeply and stare at a crack in the stall door for ten minutes.

There was still no reply when she emerged and returned to her desk.

In a final desperate attempt to find answers, Pam sat at Jim’s desk and looked through the side drawers as calmly as she could muster, silently hoping for evidence of infidelity.

I take it back, I would rather my husband be cheating on me than be in any danger, please God, Jim just be fucking Karen or something, anything but this.

Her shuffling of papers and the folders had become frantic enough with the downward spiral of her thought process to draw the attention of at least one person nearby.

“Pam, as much as your impish husband irks me, you really shouldn’t be rifling through his paperwork. It’ll just make him more unorganized than he already is.”, Dwight scoffed loudly as he set down the receiver of his phone, going to quickly type something into a spreadsheet.

She kept rifling faster, trying to tune him out.

“I hope you find your PMS pills in there soon because this is getting old quick,” Dwight glared at her from the side. “Try as you might, no one will be as unpleasant a desk mate as Jim Ha-“

Pam slammed the drawer shut and hunched over Jim’s keyboard, gasping out a sob. At this point all heads had whipped around to watch her barely contained breakdown. Her body shuddered a few more times before she could speak again.

“Where is he?” She moaned, the last syllable fracturing into another sob.

Dwight’s eyes were the size of dinner plates. Angela was up from her desk, peering over the cubicle wall with her hand over her heart. Michael and Holly stepped out of his office at the disturbance and began asking what happened. Pam shoved herself away from the desk in the rolling chair and took off for the back stairs, whipping her phone out as she went. Once she got halfway down the stairs and had punched in Jim’s number, she slid down the wall and waited. It went to voicemail as she had expected it would.

“Jim, honey, I love you and I’m so worried about you. I don’t think I’ve ever been this scared in my life.”

Pam’s voice began to crack.

“I j-just wa-want to hear your voice again. I’m s-so sorry that I-I thought you had just left m-me and CeCe. I’m so so sorry. God, please please be okay. Ohmygodicantbelievethis. Babe please, please call me please…”

She continued rambling and sobbing long after the machine beeped telling her the message was too long. Her head hung in her hands and her knees were tucked into her chest when she finally let the phone slip from her grip and gave up.

That’s how Holly and Gabe found her five minutes later.

“Pam, honey, I need you breathe slowly for me okay?”, Holly said gently as she descended the stairs and crouched down in front of her, still avoiding contact.

Pam continued to sob. Holly turned her head to glance a Gabe, who remained halfway up the stairs, looking tired and clearly uncomfortable with the situation. She turned back to the shaking woman with determination.

“Okay just join me when you’re ready.” She whispered before beginning to take slow, measured breaths, counting to four in her head for each inhale and exhale.

Holly made sure her breaths were loud enough to be heard over Pam’s whimpering. She gradually lowered their volume as Pam’s panic began to die down. She lowered her hands to the floor and raised her head, eyes still closed. Holly slowly reached for one of her hands and put hers on top of it, squeezing awkwardly as a sign of support. Pam’s breathing gradually slowed, eventually matching the pace of Holly’s. Slowly, she flipped the hand covered by Holly’s to a supine position to squeeze her hand back. Only then did Pam open her tightly clenched eyes and look at Holly.

“Jim’s missing.”, She whispered.

Holly nodded, stroking Pam’s palm with her thumb.

“When did you last see him?”

“Last night around five. My mom picked me up because he had to stay with the car. Overtime assignment.”

“He never came home?”

“I don’t know, I went to bed around 9. Our car is gone too.”

Holly’s eyebrows shot toward her hairline and she turned back to look at Gabe for input.

“He le- um, you think he skipped town? Is that why you still came into the office this morning?”, he asked cautiously.

Pam nodded, feeling ashamed.

“It made sense with the timing, even though I know he would never do that. I just... I didn’t want to admit he might have been hurt and him leaving us seemed like the most terrifying possibility but now I’ve wasted so much time and he might be d-de-“, her words sped up as the guilt hit her like a semi-truck and she fought not to lose her composure again.

“Okay, okay, let’s find our breath again right now, Pam. It’s okay.”, Holly quickly intervened and began to squeeze Pam’s hand in time with her own inhales and exhales.

Holly talked her down as her breathing got back to a normal pace.

“Pam, we’re going to help you with this. We’ll all help look for him, you and CeCe are not in this alone. We’ll help you file the missing person’s report right now, and the car might even help find him faster okay?”

Pam nodded slowly and Gabe finished his trek down the stairs when Holly gestured to him for help. The two helped Pam stand and walked her back up the stairs to the bullpen. Most of the staff was out of their desks near reception watching their entrance from the back stairs. Michael had successfully talked them down during Pam’s absence so that they didn’t all react at once with questions and unwanted touching.

“Erin call the police, we need to file a missing person’s report for Jim.”, Holly said loudly, wincing and squeezing Pam’s waist when she gasped a sob in response.

Gabe and Holly helped her down into Jim’s pushed out desk chair that she had been using minutes earlier, somehow knowing that it was the only form of comfort that could lessen her despair. Gabe moved to join the loosely scattered crowd while Holly remained with Pam, hand rested comfortingly on her shoulder. She stared blankly at their framed wedding portrait taken after their impromptu boat trip on Niagara Falls perched by Jim’s desk, taking in every detail of her husband’s face.

He’s so handsome and happy in that picture. I just want to see his face again.

Her eyes began roaming to different parts of his organized chaos of Jim’s desk as Erin continued her phone call with the authorities and Holly began to address the staff.

“Jim Halpert has been missing for over twelve hours, is not answering his phone and their car is unaccounted for as well. Pam believes he never made it home. It is unlikely that he left of his own free will and-“

Pam easily tuned out her coworkers as she lowered her gaze after memorizing every detail of the desktop. She noted some red ink smeared on the very edge of the desktop surface, scuffs on the metal drawers, blood on the carp-

Her breath hitched.

That is definitely blood.

It would have been well hidden if the desk chair was pushed in, but here she was pushed far away from her husband’s desk staring at the small dark brownish puddle on the carpet. It couldn’t have been bigger than the size of a quarter, but it was enough for her to recognize it for what it was. Still staring at the incriminating stain, Pam slowly reached her hand up and tugged on Holly’s sleeve.

Her speech jolted to a stop and she turned to look at Pam in concern.

“Pam, did you want to add something?”, Holly whispered quietly to just her.

Pam shook her head, the tears welling and falling down her cheeks again as she raised her other arm and point to the carpet by Jim’s desk.

“That’s his blood.”, she whimpered.

Holly’s gaze followed her finger and her breath faltered briefly.

“My God.”, Michael rasped before he grabbed the phone from Erin nearby.

“You need to send officers here right now,” he told the dispatcher, “there’s a potential crime scene here.”

Pam genuinely wished she was dead in that moment.

X*****X*****X

Jim Halpert’s desk was in fact a crime scene.

The puddle on the carpet was confirmed to be blood and so was the “ink” she had seen on the edge of the desk. The blood collected from the carpet was compared to that of Cece’s when Helene arrived shortly after the police were alerted. The results indicted an over 99% RCP.

The staff was sent home and the office was closed for the rest of the day.

Several employees agreed to make statements for the Scranton PD.

Pam was questioned the most intensely for obvious reasons; she was the spouse of the victim, had delayed in reporting his disappearance, and had disturbed the crime scene, whether or not it was intentional.

Her alibi checked out after scrutiny, as her father and sister vouched that they had dinner at Pam and Jim’s house the night before, Jim was last seen at the office with their shared car and none of the employees working for the taxi services in Scranton could verify Pam as a customer the previous night.

The Halperts, the Beeslys and their lawyers secured an interview for the local news for that evening. Pam, CeCe and Jim’s parents would be featured during the segment, with advice from criminal psychologists to repeatedly use Jim’s name so that his captor might become sympathetic towards his victim and to overemphasize Pam’s new pregnancy and their young daughter. It wasn’t hard for the family to become emotional and plead for Jim’s safe return once the cameras had begun rolling and they began talking about their current situation.

It felt like the longest minute of their lives.

The Halpert house was crawling with supportive family members and friends. Holly, Erin and Penny were helping distract Betsey Halpert with large scale meal prep so food for the foreseeable future would not be a concern. Michael, Andy, Jim’s father and brothers, and (surprisingly) Dwight were clustered near the bar by the dining room sharing funny stories about Jim throughout the years to calm the tension. Pam sat in at the breakfast nook with her mother and father. CeCe napped in her highchair nearby. Pam had just finished the most amount of talking she had done all day, consoling Jim’s apologetic sister, Larissa, for not being able to come to Scranton on short notice. Somehow, Larissa’s panic about the situation had allowed her to seize the opportunity to comfort someone for once today and talk her down from her hysteria over her missing brother and coax her into promising she’d be well rested for the drive here in the morning.

Pam sighed as she hit the END button and smiled weakly at her parents in reassurance. They nodded and went back to making awkward small talk in an attempt to come together for their daughter in her time of need. Pam went back to looking at the poster that would soon be up all over Lackawanna county by morning.

The investigators scrambled and constructed a profile for Jim, as he had now been unheard of for nearly 24 hours. Like the news station and psychologists, the police had emphasized certain aspects of Jim’s life; the pictures used focused on Jim’s likeability and role as a doting dad and husband. Being on the inside of this kind of situation made Pam feel like her husband’s image was being twisted into something more palatable so that more people would care more about his fate as she examined the poster for the 726th time.

 

Jim's Poster

 

The word “ABDUCTED” written in red ink across the top never failed to make her shudder.

“Pam, honey, you don’t need to be driving yourself crazy staring at that all night.”, her dad soothed as he gently tugged the flyer out of her hands.

She let him but continued staring at the space where Jim’s smiling face had been. She was a little upset that one of their engagement photos was going to be plastered across the area for everyone to see in this context.

“I want him back.”, she said angrily, like a petulant child.

“We’ll get him back. We will.”, her mother didn’t waste a second to firmly reassure her.

Pam looked up from her hands and into her mother’s eyes for a brief second before nodding resolutely. She then stood and announce her plans to retire for the night. She hugged her parents, her sister, the Halperts and the nearby coworkers before grabbing CeCe and heading to her room. It went smoothly enough, with only Erin stopping her briefly to reassure her that the other staff members had signed up for shifts to come help her on other nights and that they weren’t abandoning her and Dwight knocking on her door to request a meeting with her a next day to “analyze the potential suspects”.

Pam agreed to, of course.

Somehow, Pam got herself and CeCe through their respective nightly routines before she collapsed onto the bed and cried herself to sleep hugging Jim’s pillow to her face.

X*****X*****X

10:24pm, Thursday, April 7

Jim’s forehead fucking hurt.

It felt like a spike had been driven through it and then continually tapped with a sledgehammer, reverberating pulsing waves of pain throughout his entire skull. Every breath was agony for his throat and chest.

When he opened his eyes, he saw nothing and had no sense of direction, space or time which only caused him to breathe heavier and frantically try to move his limbs. Bending his left knee sent an excruciating stab through the top of his head and he whimpered, clutching his head with both hands and slowly lowering his foot back to the….

Pillow? Couch?

He was laying across something soft, he realized suddenly.

At the same time, he realized his shoes were off.

And that someone was speaking quietly to him.

“Hey, Jim, it’s okay. You’re okay. You hit your head but you’re okay.”

It was a male voice, slightly gravelly, hovering near his head. At least he thought so, his eyes had been squeezed shut in pain. Taking a deep painful breath, he lowered his hands to his stomach and opened his eyes. The dark vision slowly gave way to blurriness and then it cleared enough to see the person looking down at him.

Gabe Lewis

What the fuck?

“Gabe?”, he rasped, furrowing his brows.

“Hey uh yeah. You’re okay.”, he said nervously, eyes widening slightly. “I’m pretty sure you have a concussion, but that’s no biggie really. It’ll just leave a nasty bruise for a bit but you’ll back to your usual stunning good loo-”

“What happened?”, Jim cut him off. “Why does my throat feel like it was dragged through glass.

“Well uh…” Gabe stuttered, staring at Jim’s wrists as he rubbed his neck. “You were attacked by a mugger in the parking lot. Yeah, uh, as you were getting the keys out of your bag. It happened as we were leaving the building. You know, after overtime. I saw him come up from behind and slam your head into the car but I guess he must have tried to strangle you before I got there and scared him off. Anyway, we’re at my apartment now. Just wanted to give you the chance to rest before I took you to the hospital.”

Gabe rambled on nonsensically for several more sentences, but Jim didn’t hear or process any of it.

He’d all but stopped breathing.

His brain had stopped feeling like scrambled eggs enough for him to realize that his wrists were duct taped together in front of him. He just lay there trying not to tremble and waited for Gabe to stop talking.

“What do you want from me?” He whispered.

Gabe frowned, clearly trying to feign cluelessness.

“Um, nothing. Just for you to feel better I sup-“

“WHY THE FUCK DID YOU ATTACK ME AND TIE ME UP IN YOUR APARTMENT GABE?”

All pretenses of niceness were suspended when Jim angrily interrupted him. Gabe’s nervous expression shifted into one of cold determination as he threw his body on top of Jim’s and pressed one bony hand over his mouth and the other one pressing firmly into his throat, shoving his hyoid bone upward and blocking his already damaged trachea. Jim struggled frantically and choked weakly but Gabe remained firmly on top, pressing his beaten body deeper into the loveseat that he’d sat on with his wife and coworkers not that long ago for the Glee watch party. Jim was red in the face from his second strangling of the night when the hands lifted from his face and neck. He coughed and gasped, eyes rolling back into place, hands shaking and clenched into fists.

Gabe reached for Jim’s neck again, with both hands this time and he began struggling anew. That earned him a slap across the cheek and a split lip.

“Jim, I will choke you unconscious this time if you don’t cooperate with me and listen to me.” Gabe scolded as if he were talking to a child. “I have something to say and then I’ll leave you alone for a while.”

Sobbing quietly and afraid his windpipe wouldn’t be able to take anymore, Jim nodded weakly. Gabe lifted his weight of him and kneeled by the couch. He reached down, loosened Jim’s tie, slid it up around his face and proceeded to retighten it, gagging him with his own tie.

Tears of pure terror leaked out of the corners of his eyes as he stared up at the ceiling to escape this nightmare.

Gabe clasped his hands around Jim’s shaking fists that were tucked into his chest and used them as a lever to jerk him up into a sitting position. He tugged him to face him, socked feet now contact with the carpet. Once Gabe was satisfied with how he was positioned, he moved to sit on the coffee table across from Jim.

The silence continued for a little bit longer, grating on Jim’s already shot nerves, before Gabe finally spoke.

“Look I didn’t intend to attack you at work tonight. I obviously have some anger…. Issues.”, he awkwardly twirled a piece of hair with his pointer finger as he spoke, staring at the outline of the watch on Jim’s duct taped wrists and not into his eyes. “I’ve been going through a lot with getting dumped and humiliated by Erin and Jo’s increasing list of demands from me and normally I manage it well. But there was an unfair amount of shit dumped on me today and your comments and criticisms about how Sabre runs things to me were just…. A tipping point.”

What, so you decided to try and kill me? Do you think this is a therapy session? Why are you telling me this? IT DOESN’T EXCUSE ANYTHING.

Gabe finally looked into his eye and laughed nervously, opening his arms as if it was so obvious.

“You just challenge authority too much Jim, and when you did it to me again after Jo gave me that ridiculous after hours assignment...”

Gabe swallowed awkwardly and rubbed at the hair on the nape of his neck before he continued.

“…I, uh, I just took it out on you, you know… tried to strangle you at your desk as you were leaving and banged your forehead into the edge of the desk when you lost your footing.”

The way he talked about and tried to downplay the attempted murder was genuinely disturbing.

“You didn’t die, obviously, I figured I would take advantage of the head injury I inflicted and try to manipulate the situation so we both can move on and act like nothing happened. But you’re observant even with your brain getting knocked around between your ears.”

Jim cocked his head to the side and narrowed his eyes.

This is hardly my fucking fault, you prick.

The switch flipped at Jim’s change in expression, and Gabe became aggressive and defensive.

“LOOK! All you had to do was go along with it! I would have taken you to the hospital and you could have been discharged home by now. We wouldn’t be having this discussion!”

You threatened to choke me out and then gagged me, how is this a discussion?

Gabe sighed and dropped his head into his hands, exasperated with his unwilling houseguest. Jim slowly turned his still throbbing head to the hallway that he knew lead to the front door. If he wasn’t so disoriented and had his hands free, maybe he would have tried to make a run for it. He had seen himself that this complex was big, he was bound to catch the attention of at least one person if he made it out.

Even if you made it out the door, could you even call for help? He’s done serious damage to your throat, Halpert. You could barely talk before he tried to strangle you the second time.

Jim let out an exasperated breath as he came to realize escape wasn’t an option right now, still staring helplessly at the wall concealing the front door. Gabe was clearly having an internal moral struggle about his next course of action and there was no way anyone knew he was missing yet.

He’d have to bide his time and play off Gabe’s conscience and hope it bought him enough time to be found.

 Gabe picked that moment to speak up again.

“I don’t want to kill you. I know Pam, the baby, and the staff would be devastated.”

But not because you don’t like the idea of murder, interesting.

“But I have worked so hard to get where I am in the company and to manage my personal issues, and letting you go will only end that for me. It’s delusional to think we could continue to work together in the future.”

He chuckled humorlessly at the last sentence. Jim swallowed around his soaked tie before turning to look back at the living room. He was met with Gabe’s cold stare and instinctively pushed away from him, deeper into the cushions.

“We’ll figure out a solution. We’ve got the whole weekend to weigh out our options.”

Jim’s inner monologue couldn’t come up with a one-liner in response to that chilling promise.

Chapter Text

10:49pm, Thursday, April 8

Despite the pain in his chest and how bright the kitchen lights were to his fuzzy vision, Jim sat tall and stared pointedly at the taller man as he worked at the kitchen bar. Gabe had moved Jim to the countertop too, having him sit on a bar chair at the end of the island with his hands rebound behind his back as he focused on crushing up a mix of pills to dissolve into some of that gross coconut water he insisted on drinking to “help Jim relax”. Gabe seemed to glance up out of habit but quickly looked down when he made eye contact with Jim. A capillary had burst in Jim’s left eye because, wouldn’t you know, violently choking someone can do that.

Looking at his half red eye clearly made Gabe uncomfortable and the sound of him grinding melatonin and maximum strength Excedrin into a powder had replaced the pathetic attempts at one-sided small talk with a man that he was literally hold here against his will. He angled his head toward the TV so that the lights overhead would highlight the hand shaped marks starting to form on his neck should Gabe choose to glance up again. Making him minorly uncomfortable was the only small amount of power Jim had right now.

Look at what you did to me, you psychopath….

Gabe sighed as he poured the powder into a large glass of coconut water and stirred vigorously, clearly ready to get this over with. He added a straw once he was satisfied with the mixture and set it on the counter in front of Jim. The tie was loosened and sagged from around his face to dangle around his shoulders. Jim licked his dry lips and worked his jaw experimentally.

He stared ahead and ignored the glass in front of him.

“Please drink that. You need to rest.” Gabe practically begged as he rubbed his forehead in exasperation.

“Why? For my busy day at work tomorrow?”, Jim rasped as sarcastically as he could, glaring at his captor out of the corner of his red eye. “Still trying to make that mugging story work?”

Gabe thumped his head against the fridge that he was leaning against.

“Why are you being so difficult?”

Ohmygoddidthisfuckerseriouslyjust….

“You attacked me. You kidnapped me. I have a concussion and you’re trying to get me to overdose on like ten extra strength pain killers. THAT’S WHY I’M BEING DIFFICULT!”

Jim made the mistake of raising his voice above a conversational level and subsequently dissolved into a painful coughing fit. Gabe waited until it subsided before he replied.

“So you’d prefer being kept up all night by the pain?”

“You know you’re not supposed to sleep when you have a concussion, right?” Jim whispered, throat burning. “I thought you were still undecided on the idea of killing me.”

Gabe scoffed.

“The science on that is bunk. It was proven recently that sleeping it off actually helps with the symptoms.” He said matter-of-factly.

“You could just take me to the hospital so a doctor can take care of me. Please, I won’t tell them that you did it.” He hammed up his desperation for more effect.

“That’s not an option anymore.” Gabe replied coolly.

Jim’s jaw clenched in frustration.

It was worth a shot, I guess.

He did NOT want to take his eyes off this man; he was at risk of getting beaten to death at any moment if Gabe’s mood fluctuations so far in the evening were anything to go off of. He glanced down at the glass in front of him, weighing his options.

If you drink it, it might please him and make him more sympathetic to you... Or he’ll kill you in your sleep…

Jim quickly decided that only one of the options had any real chance of reducing the pain inflicted on him.

“Can you, um… lift the glass for me? My neck… it hurts to bend down like that.” He muttered, dejectedly.

Gabe picked up the glass and held it close enough that Jim could reach the straw without assistance. The first sip hurt way more than expected, and he hissed, as his damaged throat muscles fought to swallow the slightly thick water.

“Take your time. You won’t be in pain by the time you’re done.” Gabe encouraged quietly.

Jim nodded, eyes squeezed shut, and leaned back in to keep drinking. He slowly sipped, one tiny gulp at a time. A little over halfway through he could feel the drugs starting to take effect. His body was sagging forward over the bar counter, eyes drooping. Gabe maneuvered himself around behind the chair so he could hold Jim’s torso up against his and make sure he kept sipping the mixture.

“Come on, you’re almost done. Keep going.”

Jim nodded weakly, the left side of his face pressed against Gabe’s button up. He only managed a few more sips before spitting out the straw.

“Jim you’re not done, keep drinking.”

“I can’t... I hafta… read CeCe a story. I promised.”

Gabe thought quickly and sat down the glass and adjusting them both so that Jim wasn’t on the verge of sliding off the side of the seat.

“Okay, well she’s ready for us now. Let’s go read her a bedtime story!” He added an excited tone for good measure.

Jim nodded, smiling weakly with his eyes half lidded. He let Gabe slide him off the chair and slip an arm between his bound arms and back for support. They stumbled awkwardly for a few steps towards the hallway with all the bedrooms before Gabe got impatient and adjusted to hook his arms under Jim’s armpits and clasp his hands across Jim’s chest. He could drag his weight reasonably comfortably without stooping and moved quickly to the bathroom before he lost his nerve.

He set Jim on the toilet, leaning his torso over the back to keep him from slumping forward or falling off to the side, before quickly running back into the kitchen and grabbing cleaning gloves, a garbage bag and a knife. He set everything down on the vanity, put on the gloves and then turned on the water to fill up the tub. Jim was tugging at his taped wrists and growing restless.

“Where’s CeCe? I want my daughter.”

Gabe turned back to him and put a gloved hand on his chest to prevent him from trying to stand again.

“She’s with Pam. You can read to her after your bath.”

He was literally pulling off Jim’s socks and unbuttoning his pants as he tried to placate him. Jim started to drowsily kick at him when he sliced the duct tape away from his arms and began unbuttoning his dress shirt. Gabe slipped his arms underneath his knees and back once Jim was stripped down to just an undershirt and boxer briefs.

“Get the fuck off of me, Gabe.” Jim muttered as he was lifted from the seat.

He didn’t reply, just focusing on moving as quickly as possible to get this over with. The tub wasn’t quite as full as he liked but it was nice and warm so he lowered Jim into it anyway, head resting on the edge. He grabbed a caddy from under the sink and set it down within reach and got to work.

He did everything he could think of to scrub his DNA from Jim’s body; cleaned underneath his fingernails then trimmed them, scrubbed his neck, face, arms and hands with soap and rubbing alcohol, thoroughly washed his hair. Gabe debated throwing his clothes away but decided against it. He hid the used pieces of duct tape at the bottom of the caddy, not knowing what to do with them but afraid of throwing it away since Jim’s DNA was on it. Jim stared blankly at the ceiling, not really reacting even when Gabe scrubbed at the swollen cut on his forehead but fighting to stay awake. As Gabe began putting his supplies up, he finally spoke.

“Don’t mutilate my body.”

Gabe whipped his head around from putting the nail tools back under the sink back to Jim. He had shifted his gaze from the ceiling and was staring right at Gabe.

“What?”

“You’re gonna kill me.”, he said slowly and matter of factly. “Don’t cut me up or-or anything. My-my girls…. Don’t need to see me like that.”

He lolled his head towards the wall as a few tears escaped his eyes.

“I’m sorry CeCe…”

Jim sighed and his breathing slowed as he finally succumbed to the pills.

The bathroom was dead silent. Gabe had to do it RIGHT. NOW.

He bit his lower lip nervously as he loomed over the prone form in the tub. All he had to do was push down on his shoulders and hold for a minute, a minute and a half, tops. Jim had already slid down a little when he passed out, his chin half submerged already. Just push him in a little further, and this will all be over…

His hands were quaking as he placed them on Jim’s collarbone.

“Come on, Gabe. Just do it.”, he muttered to himself, a hysterical twinge developing the more he spoke. “Just do it. It won’t take long, just don’t think about it.”

He adjusted to square his shoulders for a powerful shove but stopped himself at the last second, groaning in exasperation. He began hyperventilating, putting his hands on the back of his head to try and steady his breathing.

“God, why is this so hard? Why can’t I just kill you?”

Gabe genuinely seemed to be looking for an answer from Jim’s limp body. His hyperventilating intensified as he stared angrily at his unconscious victim. He suddenly twisted and drove his fist into the cabinet under the sink with a painful grunt. The wood splintered and barely scraped his knuckles through the gloves. Almost instantly, Gabe’s racing thoughts cleared, and his heart rate began to drop. He retracted his hand methodically and pivoted back to face Jim, wrapping both hands around Jim’s neck. He stared determinedly at Jim’s face, mouth twisted into a scowl, and willed himself to start squeezing.

He couldn’t. It was like his limbs were locked in place. He knelt there unmoving over Jim, his life literally in his hands, until the bathwater became frigid.

X-----X-----X

Opening his eyes slowly and seeing the tacky katana display on a shelf out of the corner of his eye told Jim that he hadn’t been murdered yet, he was just sleeping on the bed in Gabe’s “Man Cave”.

He wasn’t sure which was the worse deal.

All he could remember from after drinking the crushed pill solution was that at one point, he was certain Gabe was going to kill him and that he had asked (way too politely) for his body to not be desecrated. He didn’t all remember being moved to this bedroom, having his forehead bandaged, being untied and changing clothes. He still had his Philadelphia socks and work slacks, but his work shirt was replaced with an oversized diamond knit sweater (that was of course a turtleneck, because it’s Gabe’s). After shifting away from the light streaming in the window, he realized what he had originally mistook for his briefs was a pair of leggings or long johns.

Jim sat up quickly once it clicked.

WHY DON’T I HAVE MY UNDERWEAR?

He began to frantically checked his hips and arms for bruising when Gabe unlocked the door and came in. Jim shoved himself back against the headboard and tucked his knees up to his chest while looking at Gabe with wide eyes. He was already dressed for work but seemed exhausted and didn’t notice that Jim was distraught. He simply walked over to the window to shut the blinds and close the curtain before offering Jim a drink.

“It’s a smoothie with bananas, pineapple and strawberry. I hope you’re not allergic. I don’t think you should be eating solid food yet given that…”, he paused and pointedly stared at the purple bruises forming on Jim’s neck before continuing. “…given that you’ve been choked a lot recently.”

Jim didn’t take the glass, he just glared up at him.

It triggered Gabe’s “switch” again.

“Look I’m running late and was up practically all night covering my tracks so no one traces me back to you. I’ll give you five minutes to drink this and then I have to lock you up for the day and you’ll have to wait until I’m off work to eat anyth-“

“Did you touch me?”

Gabe blanched, eyes narrowing and tilting his head at the question.

“Excuse me?” There was a dangerous edge to his voice. Jim gulped before speaking again.

“You changed my clothes while I was drugged. I’m not wearing my briefs anymore. Did you r-ra…”

“Did I rape you?” Gabe spat, finishing for him.

Jim nodded, trying not to hyperventilate while waiting for his response. He delicately sat down the smoothie on the nightstand and turned back to Jim.

“What if I did?” he asked ominously, shifting closer to his captive’s huddled form. “What are you going to do about it?”

He was kneeling on the bed, palms on either side of Jim’s knees, leaning over him. He fought against the urge to turn his head away.

“Cry? Make some snarky little comment? Complain to your supervisor?”

Jim let out a small sob, the irony not lost on him that he was in this predicament because of that last one.

“That’s what I thought.” Gabe muttered, drawing back and standing up again. “You have about thirty seconds to drink that. I‘m going to get the tape.”

He strolled out casually, rubbing at the bags under his eyes. As if it was a normal thing to start your day tying someone up after threatening to rape them.

Jim sipped at the smoothie just to give himself something to do and not think so much about what could possibly happen to him while trapped here over the weekend.

“Give me the glass. I’ll refrigerate it and you can finish it later.” Gabe set the tape down briefly to snatch the glass and set it off to the side before turning back to Jim. “Foot of the bed, hands behind your back.”

Jim followed the instructions numbly, scooting away from the headboard and letting his feet hang off the edge. Gabe moved to kneel in front of him quickly binding his ankles. Jim kicked at his face once, but it was caught effortlessly, and the glare Gabe sent him made him want to curl up in a ball and disappear. He shifted to sit behind Jim and bound his wrists before excessively gagging him by wrapping the tape around his head several times. Jim rolled his eyes; he was ready to be left alone to stew about his fate for an entire workday.

But Gabe didn’t get up, just yet.

He scooted closer, unfolding his long legs and bracketing Jim’s with his. He wrapped an arm around his waist and the other around his neck, pulling Jim’s torso flush against his chest.

“I was planning on drowning you, so I gave you a bath in your underclothes.” Gabe whispered in his ear slowly. “I didn’t rape you last night.”

Gabe squeezed Jim’s neck slightly and sighed before he continued.

“But that doesn’t mean I won’t.”

Jim couldn’t breathe, even if Gabe’s forearm hadn’t been compressing his trachea.

Gabe released him and stood up, smoothing out his shirt and adjusting his tie.

“I’ll try to be home early. I’ll grab us a bite to eat. Hope you like veggie pot pie!”

He cannot be this psychotic. He cannot just be acting like we’re roommates…

Gabe grabbed the smoothie glass and turned to him one last time before locking the door.

“This’ll be in the fridge. Don’t try anything while I’m gone.”

Jim waited for the lock to scrape closed and the sound of Gabe’s footsteps to fade away into silence before letting the breath he’d been holding out his nose and pressing his forehead into his knees to try and control his growing panic and will himself to stop shaking.

Please, God, somebody find me. Pam. Dwight. Just anybody….

Chapter Text

2:39pm, Friday, April 8

All things considered, Gabe was handling things well today.

He made a joke to Pam about her lateness in his usual awkward, eager-to-please manner instead of accidentally blurting that her missing husband was not only tied up and locked in his bedroom, but he had sexually harassed him right before leaving for work that morning.

He drew minimal attention to himself during her subsequent meltdown later that morning, the initial investigation and shut down of their building, and his statement to the police.

From what he understood of this workplace so far, he would be overlooked over several members of the staff that were considered to have motives to hurt or abduct Jim. Toby and Ryan had openly pined for Pam and had acted hostile to Jim as a response. Meredith was an unstable alcoholic who had sexually harassed him multiple times. Creed was just a mysterious person and several employees weren’t entirely convinced that he was mentally stable. All this led to him not being treated as or considered a prime suspect.

He was honest. He told the investigators that he and Jim had butted heads over Sabre setting a commission cap for the sales team and that their personalities clashed in general. His alibi of going home around 5pm checked out, since most of the employees didn’t know him well enough to know if his car was still there after hours and his “overtime” work was unpaid and therefore off-the-record.

Not only that, but Hank the security guard had left early and gave Jim the keys to lock up and shut the gate; allowing for the possibility of Jim being abducted by an intruder to remain open.

He was the one in hot water. Not Gabe.

He was dismissed quickly after some of his statements were compared with other employees that were interviewed before him and went to join the small crowd of employees that were conversing in front of the police station.

“Jim is literally harmless, I can’t picture anyone wanting to hurt him.”, Kelly explained matter-of-factly as Gabe walked up.

“He’s bothersome but that’s about it.”, Dwight agreed.

“Mmmmmm, nah, he’s really funny, Dwight.”, Erin countered with a small smile.

Dwight rolled his eyes at her but didn’t push it further.

“I really think it was Karen. I know it’s been a while, but he did dump her out of nowhere and she seems like she holds grudges. There’s no way she moved on that quickly after what hap-”, Ryan began to throw his two cents in but was cut off by Kelly.

“Oh my god, stop projecting, Ryan.” she blurted as she applied Chapstick.

“Projecting?”, Gabe interjected, curious and wanting to direct attention away from himself.

“Yeah, Ryan likes to pretend that he didn’t actively try to get Jim fired when he was at corporate,” Kelly ignored Ryan’s eyes narrowing as she filled him in. “It was stupid. Pam rejected him because she was dating Jim. It’s not like she didn’t express that she didn’t like you multiple times before that.”

“Okay, well, that was a long-“

“Don’t worry, Ryan, I don’t think it was you,”, Gabe chuckled as he interrupted Ryan’s defense. “The guys interviewing me implied that they thought a stranger coming and taking him was a possibility. The security guard gave Jim the keys to lock up because he didn’t want to stay late and wait.”

“Holy shit and I thought I was a screw up.”, Meredith muttered with raised eyebrows.

“Alright well this getting counterproductive and hostile. We should start to head out instead of engaging in gossip over what happened to our missing coworker.”, Holly piped in from the outside of the circle, stepping into the middle of everyone.

“Before you all leave, please email or text Michael the names and contact information of the clients that you were scheduled to meet with tomorrow. He has agreed to let them all know for you of our situation and that you will reschedule with them on Monday. Be safe, enjoy the impromptu three-day weekend, everyone.”

Most of the other employees left the circle and headed for their cars, with just Holly, Erin and Darryl staying in place and continuing to talk. Gabe moved a little closer to them and waited for the conversation to die down. He spoke up when Darryl waved goodbye to the women and started to walk away.

“Hey Erin!” He said with a neutral smile, trying to contain how excited he was to be talking with her.

“Hey, Gabe!”, she smiled back, turning her body away from Holly slightly to be polite.

“I was ju-“

“So Holly and-“

They both stopped, releasing they were interrupting one another.

“Oh, you go first.”, Erin smiled, nodding for him to continue.

Gabe nodded too, letting his smile grow a little.

“Right, um, I was just thinking that, since we have the rest of the day off, that we could go grab a coffee and talk things out. Maybe if things go well, we could get some dinner later too.”

Erin’s smile faltered. She shifted her head slightly to the side, analyzing him. Off to the side, Holly was biting her lower lip and looking at him funny too.

“Gabe, um…. Our coworker is missing. That’s why we have the day off. It’s not like a holiday or anything.”, she sounded disappointed in him as she said it.

“And, not only that, I’ve made it clear that I don’t like you and I don’t want to be with you. It’s not happening, okay?”

Even though she had just plunged a knife into his heart and he could feel this self-control slipping, he smiled as best as he could.

“Yeah, uh, sorry. I just wanted to air my thoughts. My bad.”

Erin nodded.

“It’s not a good time at all. I’m actually going to be with Pam tonight anyway.”

She pulled out a sheet of notebook paper with names written on it from her purse.

“We’ve made a signup sheet for the staff members to go over to Pam and Jim’s to help them and keep them company. We still need a few people for all day Saturday and Monday night, if you want to come help. I’m sure their family would appreciate it.”

He could think of nothing that he wanted to do less.

“No. I’m busy.”

Gabe barely contained his scowl; he could feel Holly watching his reaction with her pointer finger on her chin.

“Sorry, maybe another time.”

“Okay, well, I’ll send you the Google Doc link for signup sheet via email.” Erin, called as he stalked away and got in his car.

And here he thought things were going well for him today.

X-----X-----X

3:44pm

“…. taking a break here at Rock 107 to inform you of an emergency bulletin for the Greater Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazelton area. The Scranton PD is investigating the disappearance of thirty-one-year-old James Halpert from his workplace in West Scranton yesterday evening. Investigators found evidence of a struggle at his cubicle this morning and believe he was abducted from the building. James is a white male with brown hair, hazel eye-“

Gabe shut the radio off quickly.

It was too eerie to him that the announcement came on as he was driving by where he had left Jim and Pam’s SUV to see if anyone had noticed it was the car that was being broadcast as missing all over the Wyoming Valley yet. It was still unbothered in the lot he left it in.

He headed back to his apartment, stopping for vegetable stir fried rice in Dunmore. He flipped through other radio stations the rest of the way home, listening to discussion over the emergency alert as he sipped on a soft drink.

“…I think he bolted and ditched his wife and baby because the car is missing too, it’s so obvious!”

*CLICK*

“Does anyone know if this fits the M.O. of the Scranton Strangler? Call in and let us-“

*CLICK*

“…. hope nothing bad happened to him and that he’s found safe. That poor little family.”

*CLICK*

“… I’m saying is that if a six-foot three dude can get snatched up and disappear like that, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.”

Gabe rolled his eyes as he parked and turned the car off, gathering the food and his backpack and heading into his building. He smiled in acknowledgement of people passing by, but offered no other greeting. He unlocked his apartment door and quickly locked it behind him. Checking the time and seeing it was just before five o’clock, he put the take out in the fridge and headed back to his bedroom.

He thought Jim wasn’t in the room at first glance, but then spotted him huddled in on himself on the floor by the desk chair. Gabe stalked over and stood over him.

“What’s your issue?”, he asked, nudging Jim’s thigh with the toe of his shoe.

Jim didn’t respond. Irritated, Gabe stooped to grab him by his hair and was hit with the smell of ammonia.

“Oh goddammit.” He stood up quickly, covering his nose with his sleeve.

He stormed to the bathroom for the knife and then came back. He sliced the tape covering Jim’s mouth and unraveled it from his face. He grabbed Jim by the chin and made him look up at him.

“Did you actually piss your pants?”, Gabe drawled, barely containing his rage.

“You fucking locked me in here all day, what did you think was going to happen?” Jim rasped, tears in his eyes from the shame and the smell.

“God fucking dammit.”

Gabe stood and leaned on the desk, rubbing his temples. Jim just sniffled from the carpet.

“I could be getting coffee with Erin right now.”

“I’m so sorry that being your prisoner is so inconvenient for you.”

The two men briefly glared at each other before Gabe grabbed the knife and knelt to cut the tape around Jim’s ankles.

“Come on.” he jerked Jim up by his arm. “You need to take a shower. When did… this happen?”

“I have no idea. There’s no clock in there.” Jim allowed himself to be roughly led into the bathroom.

Gabe shoved him in and quickly grabbed more towels from the linen closet nearby before coming in after Jim and shutting the door. He sliced the tape on his wrists and then handed him a towel.

“Get undressed. Those clothes are ruined.”

Jim didn’t move, just stared uneasily at Gabe as he sat on the vanity and watched him.

“No, you can’t shower alone. We both know you’ll try to turn something in here into a weapon. Now strip.”

“Do you have to watch me get undressed?”

All Jim could think about was that disgusting threat Gabe had made that morning.

“I’m in here to make sure you don’t do anything stupid, not ogle at you. That’s it.”

Realizing that pressing the matter further might lead to getting assaulted again, Jim reluctantly began stripping, trying not to think about how uncomfortable the soiled clothes were as he peeled them off. He threw everything in a heap by the sink except his 76ers socks, which he squeezed briefly for luck before folding them and setting them down by the sink. He could feel Gabe staring at him as he leaned into the tub and turned on the shower and it was absolutely humiliating.

Don’t think about it. Don’t say anything.

He adjusted the water to his liking and then stepped in, breathing a sigh of relief once there was a shower curtain between them.

Don’t provoke him. Just do what you need to do to stay alive. Pam has to be looking for me by now.

He thoroughly washed his entire body, wincing when he scrubbed at the rashes beginning to form on his legs. He truly had no idea how he’d been able to hold it for as long as he did, since the last time he remembered going to the bathroom was at the office around the time Pam left. He paused and let his mind wander to his poor wife and daughter until Gabe knocked on the edge of the tub.

Jim jolted. He had moved and was sitting a few feet away still holding that knife and Jim didn’t even realize it.

“Your towel and a bottle of lotion for rashes are on the counter with your socks.”

Jim sighed and turned off the shower.

“Okay.”

He stepped out and began to dry off, zoning out and ignoring that Gabe was sitting within arms reach of him, cleaning underneath his nails with the knife. Jim had accepted his embarrassment with being a thirty-year-old man who had just wet his pants and sat down on the edge of the tub and grabbed the bottle of lotion.

“Make sure you get in all the nooks and crannies.” Gabe interjected without even looking up.

Jim closed his eyes and counted to ten before continuing to apply the lotion. He stood and wrapped the towel around his waist and went to look at himself in the mirror for the first time in over a day.

“Oh my god.”, he whispered while delicately touching his neck.

Purple bruises littered his throat, some forming the shape of fingers, while others were just splotches. He’d never seen so much bruising on a person, and his brothers had been football players. Eyes roving up from his neck, he saw another bruise on his cheek and his slowly healing split lip from when Gabe slapped him last night. Glancing at his forehead, he delicately peeled the soaked bandage off of where he knew there was a gash from his head slamming into the desk. It wasn’t that long and didn’t look infected and his skin around it was a discolored yellow, but it didn’t look like it was going to close on its own.

“I’m going to need stitches.”, he murmured while feeling the tender skin around the cut.

Gabe made a face and stood up from the toilet and went to the linen closet for something.

“There’s bandages and Neosporin in here,”, he set a first aid kit down on the vanity. “I’ll go get you some clothes.”

Jim couldn’t even entertain the idea of trying to escape. He was too transfixed by the injuries to his face.

How could he even look at what he did to my face and not be ashamed? I look like I should be dead.

Gabe came back in and Jim refocused on bandaging his forehead. He stood awkwardly close to Jim as he applied the cream and then gently covered the gash again. Jim repacked the first aid kit and readjusted his towel to cover more of his body before turning to face Gabe.

“This might be a little tight on you.” he said as he handed Jim a large white Henley shirt and some black leggings. “Your boxer briefs are there too. They’re still a little damp from last night.”

Jim barely suppressed a shudder as he took the pile of clothes.

Oh yeah, you fucking gave me a bath when I was unconscious…

He numbly changed while Gabe stood in the doorway. The shirt was a little loose and the leggings fit just fine. He sat down on the toilet to but on his socks and saw Gabe roll his eyes out of the corner of his eye. He stood and hugged his elbows, still looking at his battered face in the mirror. Gabe moved out of the doorway and gestured for him to go first so he walked to the living area with Gabe following closely behind.

Jim’s ankles were taped to the front legs on the bar chair. He absentmindedly rubbed at his neck while Gabe made dinner. The TV was on a local channel for background noise while he worked and occasionally made comments to Jim.

“I got fried rice and vegetables instead. Hopefully, it won’t hurt your throat.”

“Sounds good.”

“You need to at least try to eat something. It’s been at least a day since you had a full meal.”

“That’s not really my fault, Gabe.”, Jim barely had the energy for that sarcastic remark.

Gabe raised is hands in defeat and went back to working in silence.

“Your eye looks better.”, he said after a while.

Jim didn’t dignify that stupid observation with a response.

“So, Pam genuinely thought you had skipped town for a while this morning.”

Jim bit his lip to contain himself.

“She might actually have still thought that if I had seen that your blood got on the carpet and cleaned it up.”, he continued casually while making Jim’s plate and setting it in front of him.

Jim started to eat but everything tasted like rubber as Gabe kept talking about the events of his terrified wife’s day at the office.

“She had a full-blown panic attack when the blood test they did comparing yours with CeCe’s showed that it was from the baby’s father. About four people had to talk her-“

Jim dropped the fork into the bowl and buried his head in his hands.

“Gabe, stop talking about my wife and daughter please.”

“Alrighty then…”, Gabe raised his eyebrows as if Jim was being unreasonable and went to make his own plate.

They ate silently for a while with just the 6pm news filling the dead air. Gabe was leaning against the fridge and Jim sat with his head propped up on one hand while he picked at his plate with the other, taking a bite occasionally. Gabe watched him thoughtfully for a while before he asked what was on his mind.

“Were you abused as a child?”

Jim froze midbite, looking up at his captor in confusion.

“What?”

“You’re incredibly antsy at the idea of being in any state of undress around me,” He explained while picking at the last of his rice. “and you absolutely flipped out this morning when you realized I changed your clothes. Did like an uncle molest you or something?”

Gabe was clearly trying to be casual while picking at Jim’s brain, but he could see a kind of hopeful glint in his eye. As much as Jim wanted to deny his implications and explain why Gabe’s threatening behavior and lack of boundaries was the reason he didn’t want to be vulnerable around him, he played along.

“Um kind of.” Jim said hesitantly while wracking his brain trying to remember the story Mark had told him back when they were roommates.

“It was my science teacher. I was eleven.”

Gabe snorted.

“Lucky. At least you got a woman. Mine was my stepfather.”

What the fuck is wrong with you…

“Uh no. Not really.”, Jim countered, trying to keep his voice subdued. “A thirty-something adult still took advantage of a sixth grader.”

“Jim, that’s a totally different thing.”

“Yeah, it’s really not.”, Jim argued back, narrowing his eyes. “Someone in a position of power took advantage of me and hurt me and that person is disgusting for abusing their position like that.”

Gabe either didn’t understand or was being blatantly ignorant of the double meaning in his counterpoint.

“I get where you’re coming from. All I’m saying is that I’d rather it was a cute teacher than my awful mean stepdad.”

Jim stared at the wall and didn’t bother replying.

I am not spending my Friday night explaining why sexual abuse is bad to a grown ass adult…

“You don’t have to talk about it.”, Gabe called over his shoulder as he put up the leftovers and began to clean the kitchen.

“Just had a hunch that we had something in common and wanted to know for sure.”

Jim glared daggers at his back.

Keep calm. Play into his sympathies.

“Maybe I’ll talk about it more one day.” He said neutrally, schooling his expression as Gabe turned back toward him and smiled weakly.

“Great!”

They went back to contented silence after that. Gabe finished putting everything up and grabbed the half-finished smoothie from that morning and added some more fruit to it. Jim watch dispassionately as he blended it and then grabbed the pills used to knock him out last night. Right as he started grinding them up, Pam’s voice came from the living room.

“My husband, Jim, never came home from work to me and my daughter last night. Jim would never leave CeCe and I like this so we know he was forcibly taken.”

Jim whipped his head around and stared at her tearful face on the TV screen. She sniffled and readjusted CeCe on her hip before continuing.

“To whoever took Jim, if you’re watching this, please, please give him back to us. CeCe and our baby that’s due in November need their daddy. Please, Jim, hang in there, we’re going to find you. I love you so much, honey.”

Pam’s voice cracked at the end and she stepped aside so his parents could say their piece. Jim’s resolve broke when they started offering sums of money that he knew they didn’t have for his safe return.

“Oh my gooooood.”, he wailed while reaching down and ripping desperately at the duct tape around his feet.

“Just let me gooooooo.”

Gabe came around behind the chair and grabbed Jim’s hands as they scrambled at the tape. He yanked his forearms behind the chair and forced him to sit upright.

“Calm down.”

“No, fuck you! This is insane! I’m going to start screaming if you don’t let me go ri-“

Gabe cut him off by wrapping an arm around Jim’s bruised throat, squeezing just enough to make breathing hard. Jim clawed at his arm with his free hand and tried to wriggle his other one free of Gabe’s grip.

“I can’t just let you go right now. I’ve got to have plenty of time to cover my tracks and come up with a believable story for you to tell the authorities. We’ve got the weekend to figure it out. Your family won’t have to wait much longer.”

Jim’s struggling was getting weaker, so Gabe decided to release him. He gasped and slumped onto his elbows on the island. Gabe quickly went over to the blender to add the pills to the smoothie. Jim had his head in his hands when he came back to set the glass down.

“Just dump me in a field or something.”, he whispered frantically as Gabe pull him to sit upright by the shoulders.

“I won’t tell them it was you, I swear. I’ll say complete gibberish and make things up. Everyone will think I’ve lost my mind. Please, Gabe, I need to be home with my wife and baby right now, please just-“

“Drink this so you can rest. We’ll talk about it in the morning.”, Gabe cut him off.

“Gabe, please, just let me go!”

The hysterical twinge in his voice was unmistakable.

“Drink it or I’ll choke you out.”

Realizing that Gabe was getting closer to physically harming him and that he literally just wanted to sleep so that he wouldn’t feel like he was dying, Jim picked up the glass and downed the smoothie as fast as his damaged throat could handle. He set the glass down and put his head in his hands again. Gabe put the glass away before grabbing a knife and slicing the tape at Jim’s ankles. He waited until Jim began to sag over the counter before helping him up and a walking him to the couch facing the TV.

“Just lay down and get comfortable. Count to four with each breath in and out, okay?”

Gabe pushed Jim to lie on the sofa and headed back to the kitchen to grab the tape. He was starting to mutter incoherently.

“I want to be with my baby, I miss her so much.” Jim breathed quietly as Gabe bound his wrists in front of him.

“Her first word was ‘meow’ and she mispronounced it and it was so cute…..”

“Here she is, give her a hug.” Gabe slipped a couch pillow under Jim’s arms and stood up.

He maneuvered to the other end of the couch and rebound Jim’s ankles. He was running low on tape and would need to get more soon.

“CeCe, daddy will be home soon…. Promise.” He heard Jim mumble into the pillow as he walked back to his bedroom to clean the carpet.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as he had set it up in his mind and only took a few minutes to clean with a handheld rug cleaning machine. He peeked over the sofa on the way to dump the dirty water in the kitchen sink to see if Jim was passed out. He was, face buried in the pillow Gabe had handled him.

Knowing that he’d be out cold until at least the morning, Gabe popped a few melatonin tablets and downed them with some coconut water so he could catch up on some much needed sleep.

X-----X-----X

9:37am, Saturday, April 9

“Dwight, Meredith does not deserve to be on any suspect list of any kind.”, Pam scolded as she looked at the PowerPoint slides he had made for her.

She knew he was genuinely trying to be helpful and the reasoning for some of these was pretty funny, but it still could make her forget that the topic at hand was HER MISSING HUSBAND.

“Why not? She’s said and done really inappropriate things to him and she drives one of those vans that only sex offenders have.” Dwight argued around a mouthful of eggs.

“Or, you know, single moms.”, Holly butted in from making more eggs at the stove.

Her, Dwight, Michael and Erin were over for the morning, keeping Pam and the baby company and helping her field phone calls from the police and/or the public. Jim’s parents had taken it upon themselves to start a donation fund so they could offer a cash reward for information or Jim’s return.

“Pam, I thought you would be taking this more seriously. The culprit is right under our nose.”

“It’s really just a waiting game at this point, Dwight.”, she sighed, glumly flipping through the rest of the presentation.

“The police are the ones that are going to be doing most of the digging….. why is Creed listed as a prime suspect?”

“He’s the most likely to engage in organ harvesting.”

Michael laughed as Erin made a disgusted face from their spots on the kitchen floor playing with CeCe.

“Okay, but Dwight, one off-putting thing or quality that a person has doesn’t make them a monster.”

“What if everything about them is off-putting?”, Michael countered. “Like Toby. He’s literally the worst.”

Pam snorted and didn’t respond.

Toby doesn’t have the spine to do something this awful.

“While I don’t think Michael is explaining himself very well, I think there’s something to what he’s saying.”, Holly stepped over the adults and CeCe on the floor and made her way over to sit down with Pam and Dwight, carrying plates of eggs and bacon for all three of them.

“Sometimes there’s something so off or bizarre about how a person behaves that you kind of have to start keeping tabs and making connections. Like Dwight was saying about Meredith. She’s incredibly self-destructive and borderline unstable and you can’t help but connect it with how she acts around and toward Jim.”

“Oh my god, Meredith did not kidnap Jim, you guys.”, Pam stabbed her bacon in exasperation.

Implicating my coworkers isn’t going to make this any better…

“That’s not what I was saying.”

Erin stood up and walked over to the table.

“Are you talking about how Gabe was acting yesterday? And how weirdly hostile he got?”, she asked coming to stand by Holly.

“Oh thank god, I’m so glad I don’t have to explain to you how inappropriate that was.”, Holly sighed in relief.

Pam and Dwight whipped their heads around to look at the pair of them.

“Did he bring up his Asian fetish again?”

Pam rolled her eyes and waved him off.

“Sorry guys, what exactly did he do?”

“He asked Erin out for coffee and dinner when we were outside the police station. Literally right after the group was talking about what might have happened to Jim! And he was smiling and talking about how they should go out since we had the rest of the week off.”

“Uhhhhhh, that is really weird.”, Michael chimed in while bouncing CeCe on his knee.

Pam looked up at Erin for conformation. She nodded and continued where Holly left off.

“Yeah, I very politely told him that I wasn’t interested and that it wasn’t like it was Memorial Day weekend, you know; like, we’re off work because the office is a literal crime scene. It’s really messed up to be happy that we have a long weekend if that’s the reason. And then when I told him about the signup sheet for people to come help you, he got really curt and said he was busy tonight before storming off.”

Pam bit the nail of her pinkie finger and contemplated this information.

Bad at handling rejection or closet psychopath?

“Also, he and Jim have argued about some of Sabre’s policies.”, Dwight piped in. He’d been scribbling notes about Erin and Holly’s story the entire time.

“Okay Dwight, you can make a PowerPoint slide on him.”, Pam conceded, still looking to keep talking with the other two women.

“Would there be a way for us to look into people at work that the authorities aren’t necessarily concerned about? Just to you know cover our bases?”

Holly nodded.

“Yeah, can use the office admin software to look at everyone’s digital footprint, maybe even inquire a more detailed report on employee’s history in the company.”

“Okay well if that is something for us to legally do and it would make you gu-“

The doorbell rang. Dwight leapt up to go answer it. Everyone other than Pam gave his retreating form a weird look.

“I know he goes about it in a bizarre way, but he’s just trying to be helpful and make me feel better, okay?”

Holly shrugged and Erin smiled understandingly. Dwight quickly came back to the dining area with a female police officer in tow.

“Mrs. Halpert?”, she inquired.

“Um, yes?”

“We have an update on your husband’s disappearance. Is it alright if all these people are here or would like to speak in private?”

Pam waved her off.

“Here is fine, they’re all family.”

The officer squared her shoulders and kept her face neutral.

“We got a call from the owner of a bar in Carbondale saying that the car you and your husband share was in the very back of the parking lot behind his building. The light teal 2006 Subaru Outback?”

Pam nodded, her throat dry.

“There were some…. Items found in the car that we need you to identify.”

“What items?”, Her voice cracked pathetically.

The officer swallowed nervously and looked at her apologetically.

“Um, clothing and images on what we believe is your husband’s phone.”

Pam was grateful that she couldn’t breathe; the wail that was trapped her throat would have been heart wrenching.

Chapter Text

Thank you for reading my work!

The main characters

Close up: Jim and Dwight

Close up: Pam and Holly

Chapter Text

10:24am, Saturday, April 9

It had been over 14 hours since Jim had taken the pills and he was still out cold, laying on his side and hugging a throw pillow. He was a little pale but was breathing regularly and had a strong pulse. Gabe had been up for over an hour, checking on him every so often in between pacing and making something for breakfast. He decided to call Erin for something else to do to take his mind off the fact that he might have made Jim overdose.

The call was going well. He apologized for his behavior yesterday and to offered to come by her place to bring the last of her stuff that she had left in her room. She accepted his apology and conceded that he didn’t know how to act in the wake of Jim’s disappearance given that he wanted to air his thoughts with her and make sure they were on good terms as coworkers.

Gabe gritted his teeth as he lied in agreement with her that he too just wanted to move on and be friends.

They moved on to other topics of discussion and that’s when Erin mentioned that she was watching the baby while Pam, Dwight and Holly went with the police to identify items left in what was believed to be Jim and Pam’s missing car.

Gabe’s interest piqued at this information and he sat down on the couch to flip through the local news channels while asking Erin questions he already knew the answer to.

“So, wait, was it in the area?”, he began, briefly leaning over and checking Jim’s pulse.

Still steady. He sat back up and moved Jim’s legs to rest on his lap while Erin replied.

“Um, kind of? I think Carbondale is in a different county, but it’s like 25 minutes away from the office.”

“That’s not that far away. Did they find…. anything, or anyone?”

“From what I heard, just some clothes and a phone. I heard the cop telling her partner that the forensics unit was already in the area with cadaver dogs. God, I really hope Jim’s okay and that they don’t find him out there…. you know…. It’s just so unfair. Pam literally just found out she’s pregnant again and…”

Gabe let her ramble just so he could listen to her soothing voice. He began absentmindedly stroking the calves resting on his legs.

“I’m sorry I kind of went on a tangent there, Gabe.”

He snapped out of it and stilled his hand on Jim’s calf.

“You don’t have to be sorry. It’s obviously gotten a lot crazier over there and nobody knows what’s going on yet. Why don’t you just call me when you have more information and let me know when I can come to Pam’s and help out. I’ll even bring your stuff you left here.”

“Okay, I’ll do that. Thanks for calling Gabe!”

“Not a problem. Bye Erin.”

He hung up and sighed, looking down at Jim.

“I would do literally anything for her.”, he said rather ominously to no one in particular, smiling thoughtfully.

Once Gabe stood to head back to his kitchen, Jim released the shudder he’d been containing while Gabe had been sitting at the other end of the couch and touching his leg. He did have a headache but had been feigning unconsciousness all morning, biding his time to make his move. He shifted and peeked over the couch to see Gabe cooking eggs and checking on something in the oven.

He counted slowly to ten before speaking up.

“Gabe….”, he called weakly, “… I feel sick.”

“Give me a second, the biscuits are almost done.”

Jim didn’t reply. He shoved his right pointer finger as far down his throat as he could, heavily exaggerating the gagging noises that followed.

“Oh shit, no no no no no no….”

Gabe slammed the oven door shut and came sprinting over to the couch right as he was able to lean over the side and spit out some vomit while hiding his right hand.

“What the fuuuuck….”, Jim moaned while pretending to dry heave onto the carpet.

Gabe was frantically trying to placate him while pulling his knife out of its holster and cutting the tape off him.

“You’re going to be fine! Just come with me. Don’t throw up on the carpet anymore.”

Gabe shoved his knife and holster into his jeans pocket and jerked Jim up by his arm led him towards the bathroom. Jim made sure to exaggerate his disorientation and hysteria.

“Oh my god, I knew it! You poisoned me!”, he slurred out for dramatic effect.

Gabe steered him into the bathroom and lifted the toilet seat right as Jim collapsed to his knees down in front of it, leaning on his elbows and continuing to feign dry heaving.

“No no no no no no, this doesn’t make sense! You’re about the same height and weight as me, that dosage shouldn’t be causing this reaction.”, Gabe tried to rationalize while awkwardly rubbing circles on Jim’s back.

Jim slowly winded down his fake gags and pressed his forehead onto the edge of the bowl, now reverting to exaggerated deep breaths. Gabe whipped around the second he appeared to be done puking and grabbed a pain killer bottle from the vanity and was desperately reading the back.

“It says no more than six per day and I gave him four... plus the… Shit! How much melatonin did I put in there?”

Jim watched Gabe from the toilet, still pretending to be gasping for breath. His phone rang right then, and he startled, dropping the pill bottle and ripping at the contents of his jeans pocket to pull the phone out.

He set his knife on the vanity and turned to stand in the doorway to answer the phone.

No way, it cannot be this easy….

Jim stood and pivoted, grabbing the knife and unsheathing it.

“Hey Erin, I-“

Gabe’s breath halted when he felt a something sharp pressing into the side of his neck and someone standing close behind him.

“Uh hello, Gabe?”

“Give me the phone.”, Jim snarled, his hand shaking with the adrenaline of Gabe being at his mercy for once.

“Who’s that? Gabe what’s goin-“

Gabe ended the call and slowly turned his neck to look angrily back at Jim, not caring that the blade was nicking his skin as he shifted.

“You were faking that?”, he asked, eyes narrowing.

“Give me the phone, right now.”, Jim raised his voice for effect while being mindful of his damaged vocal cords.

“I was genuinely concerned for your health, Jim.”

Gabe actually sounded betrayed and it was making Jim’s blood boil.

“I wouldn’t even be here if that were true, so give me the phone so I can call the police and go home.”

“You’re just like Erin. Both of you are so ungrateful of the efforts I have gone to to control things and keep you from getting hurt.”

Jim balked, his grip faltering slightly on the knife.

“WHAT?”, he blurted angrily.

He’s actually psychotic if he thinks what he’s doing is an act of kindness.

“Did you forget what all you’ve done to me just because of that conversation last-“

Gabe used Jim’s moment of confusion to throw his phone toward Erin’s old room and elbow Jim’s midriff with his other arm. Jim reacted quickly enough to jolt away from the blow and swipe the knife at his attacker. His slice met his mark and Gabe yelped, clutching the cut on his cheekbone. His expression switched from shock to rage in a split second and he lunged right as Jim jabbed the knife at him.

The momentum carried them both back into the bathtub, ripping the curtain off the of the rod as they hit it. The force of the tackle had driven the blade into the right side of Gabe’s chest, but he barely reacted. He just locked his hands around Jim’s neck and snarled in rage.

“I don’t like having to resort to this, Jim!”

He shoved Jim violently, cracking the back of his head into the wall before rotating and slamming both of their bodies into the bottom of the tub. Jim repeatedly kneed Gabe in the groin while in this position to no avail.

“All you had to do was continue to cooperate with me!”

The insanity in Gabe’s voice increased as he uttered each word. Jim’s eyes were wide as he punched at Gabe’s face with one hand and clawed at the hands on his throat with the other.

“YOU MADE ME DO THIS!”

Jim’s struggles were beginning to subside and Gabe wanted in that moment to keep squeezing and end it. He was ready to be done with Jim and his attitude. As Jim’s eyes began to roll back into his head, the one voice that could ground Gabe pierced his rage from down the hallway and caused him to briefly freeze.

“Gabe, I have no idea what is going on with you, but you said you wanted to help so I’m calling you back. Please respond, I’m really sticking my neck out for you right now and you need to stick to your word. Talk to you later.”

Erin sighed as she finished leaving her message and hung up.

Gabe lifted and slammed Jim into the bottom of the tub one last time before coming to his senses and releasing him, jolting his hands away from his throat. Jim gasped and coughed underneath him, hands reaching up and clutching his abused throat. Gabe slowly raised his torso while still breathing heavy, staring down at the man he was pinning down with wild eyes.

“Jim, you brought this upon yourself.”, he hissed calmly as he reached for the knife imbedded his chest.

Gabe swiftly yanked it from below his right shoulder and stabbed the blade into the flesh above the knee Jim being jamming into his groin.

If Jim’s lungs and throat weren’t still absolutely reeling, he would have let out a bloodcurdling scream at the excoriating pain radiating from his right thigh. His hands flew from his throat to hover above where the hilt stuck out from his leg. His gasping warped into desperate breaths and occasional broken exclamations of shock.

“Oh-oh my god, why, Jesus Christ, oh my god, ahhhhh fucking hell….”

Gabe had risen to his feet and was standing above Jim in the tub, only moving to grab a towel to clot the blood from the stab wound on his shoulder. Jim wasn’t even paying attention to him, lost in his own pain. He slowly leaned back to rest his throbbing head on the edge of the tub in defeat, still cradling his knee to his chest as he moved.

 “You’ve completely destroyed m-my knee.”, he was staring at the ceiling and fully sobbing.

“Just your quadriceps tendon and the surrounding muscles.”. Gabe replied robotically, wiping his cheek and inspecting the blood on his hand. “You brought this on yourself.”

“What the hell does that even mean?”, Jim lurched his head forward to glare up at Gabe.

He was convinced that he was going to die by the end of the day. Gabe was certainly no longer entertaining the idea of letting him go after his failed escape attempt. There was no way he could get anywhere on his own with his leg as mangled as it was. He just wanted to understand what the hell Gabe was going on about before he met his end.

Gabe just sighed dramatically, dropping the hand he was inspecting, and looking down at Jim’s quaking body. He shifted to sit on the edge of the tub, legs angled toward Jim, dangerously close to bumping Jim’s impaled thigh. The smoke detector had gone off in the kitchen and neither one of them cared at the moment.

“I have emotional and anger issues.”, he confessed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“YEAH SO?”, Jim snapped back, infuriated that Gabe was acting like he was a therapist again. “Lots of people have-“

Jim’s breath got stuck in his throat as Gabe’s arm shot out and he wrapped his free hand around the hilt of the knife, applying a threatening twisting pressure to silence him.

“Jim, let me finish.”

He frantically nodded in agreement until the knife was released. Gabe sat back and glared at a spot above Jim’s head.

“As I was saying, I have issues from what I went through as a child. So far, I’ve been acting on them in a way that doesn’t effect people in my life.”

He’s done this to other people. Halpert, you complete douche, you pissed of a serial killer….

“I was being careful and containing it. Nobody I knew was being hurt, namely Erin, so I thought I was doing well. And then I just lost it on Thursday…”

The hand that had been gripping the knife was now squeezing his calf as Gabe shifted his menacing stare back to him.

“You’re just like Erin and my stepdad. You drive me to do these things. I don’t know how react to or handle being treated poorly so I just snap...”

He abruptly stood at the last part, gripping his hair, breathing heavily and squinting his eyes shut to try and calm himself.

Jim stared up at him with bated breath.

He’s really going to kill me. I’m never going to see my family again…

Gabe opened his eyes suddenly and looked down to address Jim.

“I’m going to take care of that alarm. Don’t move.”

Jim gasped in disbelief at that ridiculous statement as he stared back down at his leg. He knew enough about anatomy and arteries to be deathly afraid to move or touch the blade. He placed his hands on the sides of the tub and tried to slowly lift himself out. The slight shift in the position of his leg and his heel sliding on the floor of the tub was enough to send bolts of pain through his nerves and up to his spine. Jim bit his lower lip and shook as he tried to keep moving, but eventually he succumbed to the pain. His arms gave out and he collapsed back down with a gasp. There was no way he was going to do any more than just sit there and shiver while the knife was still in place.

In either an instant or an eternity – Jim honestly had no concept of time at the moment – Gabe was back in the room, acting like nothing happened.

“The biscuits burned, but nothing else caught on fire.”, he announced while setting the first aid kit and the last of the tape from the kitchen on the vanity. “I’ll clean us up in a second, let me go grab my phone.”

Jim could only swivel his eyes to stare at his retreating form. His whole body was rigid from the shock and pain; this man was going to continue to try and make small talk with him two minutes after they had stabbed each other.

Just when he thought things couldn’t get more unbelievable and insane.

“Erin called me three times I hope she isn’t pissed.”, Gabe muttered as he came in and sat down on the toilet, scrolling through his phone.

He casually texting her back while blotting his own stab wound and as Jim lay bleeding in the tub.

Once he was done, Gabe sat the phone down and opened the first aid kit to begin patching himself up. He ripped the hole in his shirt open wider and dumped hydrogen peroxide onto the wound, not even flinching at the sting.

“You stabbed me a little high and missed my lungs. That would have been devastating.”, he informed Jim as he put ointment on the wound and bandaged it up.

“I’m going to really work to come up with a believable story for this one.”

Gabe cleaned and wiped at the cut on his cheek, gently feeling the skin around it.

I hope that’s what gets you caught.

He dabbed at the cut a few more times to make sure the bleeding had stopped before grabbing the kit and reaching for Jim.

“Is your head bleeding?”

Jim flinched and punched at Gabe as he came closer.

“DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!”

He backed away slightly, hands raised. Jim’s posture resembled that of a cornered animal; shoulders hunched, hands gripping the sides of the tub, wide eyes and unsteady panicked breathing. He was a far cry from the normal calm and collected demeanor that he was known for.

“Jim, I need to clean that wound. Do you really want that knife to stay in your leg?”

Jim laughed brokenly after Gabe finished asking his question.

“Who put it there, Gabe?”, his laughs slowly morphing into sobs.

“You’ve ruined my knee.”

Gabe inched closer as Jim’s focus shifted to weeping over his leg injury.

“No, your leg will be fine! The muscle that connects your knee cap to your hip runs right down the middle of the front of your thigh.”

Gabe drew a straight line from knee to hip on Jim’s injured leg to illustrate this, ignoring the shudder and flinch in response.

“Where I stabbed you, was off to the side of that muscle. You’re just looking at a partial tear, really. Easily fixed by surgery!”

Jim somehow wasn’t numb to Gabe’s nonchalance when describing how he had harmed him. His chipper way of talking about it was never not going to be disturbing.

It’s like he’s pretending he isn’t responsible for this…

“As if you’re going to let me live long enough for that to happen….”, Jim blurted in between heavy breaths.

Jim and Gabe glared at each other for a few seconds before Gabe responded coldly.

“Is that what you want, Jim? To provoke me into killing you? After all that hard work you put into relating to me and making me feel bad for you?”

“I shouldn’t have to cry about my childhood and invoke the ‘I have a family’ card for you to feel remorse about killing me, you psycho.”, Jim snarled back, sitting up taller and leaning towards Gabe despite his excruciating injury.

“Don’t call me that.”, Gabe whispered, his mouth twitching angrily as he tried to contain himself.

“This isn’t my fault. You have no idea what I endured as a child. I don’t like that I turned out this way and that I have to-“

Jim’s fragile nerves exploded and he lurched his torso forward to get right in Gabe’s face, no longer considering his fear of what this unhinged person could do to him in his vulnerable state.

“Gabe, you are not a victim anymore.”, he hissed lowly, voice trembling in rage.

“Countless people who were abused as children don’t become violent like this. You’ve crossed a line. It doesn’t matter how you got there anymore.”

He was rewarded with a harsh backhand to his already bruised cheek and sank back into the tub, clutching the new cut and still glaring up at Gabe. There was no other reaction or acknowledgement of what was just said to him. Gabe just reached under the vanity to grab a clean hand towel and held it up to him.

“Put this on the back of your head to help clot the blood. I’m going to tend to your knee.”

Jim ripped the towel out of Gabe’s grip with his free hand and delicately held it to his newest head injury, relaxing to rest against the edge of the tub again. He maintained eye contact with Gabe until leaned forward and yanked the knife from his leg. He jolted and gasped, in equal parts agony and horror at the feeling of the blood leaving the wound. Gabe quickly set the weapon down by the sink and grabbed a gauze pad from the first aid kit and pressed it firmly into his thigh.

“We’ll just wait for this to clot and then tightly bandage it, no big deal.”

“You do this often?”, Jim retorted through clenched teeth.

Gabe lightly shook his head in reply as he lifted the pad slightly to check the clotting.

“Only once before.” he specified as he switched the saturated pad with a clean one.

“The cut was more towards the center though, so their muscles fared worse than yours.”

“Lucky me.”, Jim muttered.

As Gabe pressed one last pad onto the gash and ripped the hole in the leggings wider open so he could finish bandaging it, Jim discreetly reached the bloody hand from the cut on his face over his head and pressed it onto the side of the tub closest to the wall, out of Gabe’s line of sight.

If he’s going to kill me, I’m going to make sure everyone knows he did it.

Gabe finished tightly wrapping his leg as Jim lowered his arm back into the tub. He then stood and moved over to grab the duct tape from the vanity. He quickly bound Jim’s ankles and hands behind is back with the very last of the tape, deliberately being rough and forceful. He swore when he ran out of duct tape and got up to go find something in his room across the hall. Jim waited until he was out of sight from the doorframe before sitting up and leaning over to spit by the base of the toilet.

He sat back right as Gabe came back in brandishing his tie from Thursday.

“Ok, I need to make a phone call before I decide what my next move is and I can’t trust you to be quiet and let me talk sooooo….”

Gabe made quick work of leaning over and gagging him with the stiff and dirty tie. He sat down on the edge of the tub again and grabbed the bloody knife while pulling out his phone.

“For once in your life, Jim,”, the blade was pressed to his throat while Gabe dialed a number on his phone.

“Resist the urge to try something cute and shut the fu- HEY there Erin! Sorry I missed your calls. Did you get my text?”

“Gabe, what happened? Did you get my messages?”

“No sorry, I got distracted.”, He laughed.

“I burnt my breakfast so badly that the smoke detectors went off so I ha-“

“Gabe this is serious. Pam is with the police and her family is here trying to arrange another TV interview. Jo offered a $50,000 reward for information on Jim’s whereabouts on behalf of Sabre and we are getting flooded with calls and gifts.”

Gabe’s hand holding the knife faltered slightly and his face didn’t betray his panic at this news to Jim.

“Okay, uh well, what do the police think- er- who are they looking for?”

Erin lost the last of her patience at this.

“I DON’T KNOW GABE! I HAVE ENOUGH TO KEEP TRACK OF RIGHT NOW! IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE, ASK WHEN YOU GET HERE!”

Jim could hear her through the receiver and flinched involuntarily.

“Okay, okay, okay. I’m so sorry. I know you’re overwhelmed. I’ll be there soon, okay?”

“Fine, just hurry.”

*CLICK*

Gabe dropped the phone away from his ear but kept the knife at Jim’s throat.

“Right, obviously, that call didn’t go how I hoped it would so we’re going to have a little delay.”

Jim narrowed his eyes in reply.

“I’m going to go hang out with your lovely friends and family and figure out exactly what the authorities know and are theorizing so I know what direction to go in when I… get rid of you.”

He stood at went to the sink to wash off the knife and put it back in his pocket.

“I’ll clean up here really quick and then I’ll head over there. I shouldn’t be gone long.”

Gabe turned to look back over his shoulder as he walked out of the bathroom to start cleaning the kitchen.

“Think of yourself as being in timeout. Don’t leave that spot.”

Jim swore angrily at him through the tie and weakly struggled as he switched off the lights and closed the door.

X-----X-----X

11:39am, Saturday, April 9

The pictures that had been on the phone were creepy and Pam could not stop staring at them.

Once she had confirmed at the bar parking lot that the car that the owner called in was her and Jim’s, that the shoes and work shirt in the backseat were Jim’s and that the phone was Jim’s, the police had taken the evidence back to the department headquarters. Pam came along and Dwight and Holly followed behind the squad car. The photos were transferred to a computer to be blown up and enhanced before printing them out for Pam and the officers to get better look at.

The enhancing and the editing didn’t help with the colors or the details of the images. Whoever took them had used a black and white filter and reverting them back to their original quality was pretty much impossible. She’s already confirmed what was obvious, that the man in the pictures was Jim, and was still sitting there in shock after the investigators had given her their two cents based on the information they had.

Phrases like “we’re being realistic and keeping an eye out for a body” and “we can’t be sure if he was taken out of state” and “there’s an underlying sexual element to these photos, Mrs. Halpert” rang in her head as she stared at the pictures on the table, her head in her hands.

There were four photos total, all shot in a bathroom. The first photo was a profile of Jim unconscious in a bathtub, head resting on the edge with all his facial and neck injuries visible. The second was a bird’s eye view of him half submerged in the bathwater. Pam wasn’t really relieved to see that his underclothes hadn’t been removed. The third and fourth pictures were of him laying on towels on the bathroom floor, clearly still soaking wet. One was a profile and the other was from above. These two pictures made the cops come to the conclusion that Jim was alive for the bath, because his eyes are half open looking at the camera man and his facial expression changed in the third picture. His wrists had been tied behind his back in the forth picture as well, which is a weird thing to do if someone is dead. He looked cold, miserable and terrified and all Pam could think about is hugging him and never letting go when they meet again.

She was sitting off to the side of the conference room that police were using to lay out and look over all the information they had on this case. There were maps, interviews with witnesses and their coworkers, the bathtub photo shoot pictures and the beginnings of the results of the DNA swab of their car. Police believed that the kidnapper drove the car out to Carbondale from the office with Jim in the backseat, which is where they found droplets of blood.

Despite all this information, the motive of Jim’s kidnapper was unclear. Dumping the car near the interstate in Carbondale indicted this person took Jim and fled to New York or possibly New Jersey, possibly by a human trafficker. But then the unsettling photos that were deliberately left with it led the authorities to believe that serial killer or rapist was in the area and wanted to taunt them.

Holly sat nearby and looked at the photos out of the corner of her eye as Pam weighed in her head which possibility made her want to rip her hair out more; “alive and being exploited” or “dead and never to be found” are really shitty options to choose from.

All but one of the cops was on a coffee break, the last was at the map table with Dwight. He was explaining their analysis of what could have happened to Jim based on where they had found evidence in the area. Dwight was being quiet and reflective, asking questions when the deputy paused and occasionally giving some insight based on his experience as a volunteer and knowledge of Jim.

“Your mom and sister are about ten minutes away.”, Holly said quietly, reading the text that had just come to Pam’s phone.

“No reply from Jim’s parents yet.”

Pam nodded and sat back, wiping her tears from her face.

“Okay, thank you.”

“Are you sure you want to be here when they go over this stuff again? I know it must be horrible to listen to.”

“Yes. Maybe hearing it again a second time will jog something in my brain and I’ll realize something helpful.”

Holly nodded, staring at the image of Jim on his side on the floor, horrified at all the possibilities of what he was enduring.

“This is my fault anyway.”, Pam muttered after crossing her arms over her chest.

“What? How?”

“I should have reported this the second I woke up and realized he hadn’t come home. But I’m so fucking insecure that I immediately leapt to the conclusion that he was cheating on me and that’s all I could think about and-“

She stopped rambling and dropped her head in between her knees. Holly rubbed her back and began her four-count breathing technique. She waved off Dwight and the officer when they both looked over at them. She waited until Pam sat up again and was breathing normally.

“How you acted isn’t why this happened, Pam. That’s like saying Jim’s at fault for staying late to do overtime. This piece of shit that’s doing this to him is at fault.”

“But if I had reported it sooner, maybe someone would have seen the car sooner and we’d be closer to finding him.”, Pam sniffled sadly.

“Maybe. Maybe it would have changed things. But we can’t know that. We just have to go forward with what we know at this point.”

Holly’s words seem to be helping her a little. Pam nodded and wiped at her face with her sleeve, looking up at Holly again before she spoke.

“Speaking of which, I know for a fact whoever did this is artistic and a perfectionist.”

Holly furrowed her eyebrows.

“Yeah? How?”

Pam pointed at the two profile images of Jim.

“They know how to frame photos and they deliberately did that for these pictures. Like, Jim is the focal point but he’s kind of off-center and the shower curtain is set up as a frame or a boundary in the first one. And in this one, he’s the focal point again but things are in the background and are deliberately blurred so that only he is in focus.”

Holly was just now noticing all these details and it made the photos even creepier once she realized it. Dwight and the officer had perked up at her analysis and were walking over to look at the pictures with them.

“And the black and white filter? Yeah, it could be to conceal details of the room, but it’s also a stylistic choice.”, Pam sounded a little proud of herself by the end of her explanation.

“I may have failed art school, but photography class was a breeze.”

The officer was nodding as he looked over the photos with them again.

“We will definitely consider that when we revisit our interviews with suspects.”

Dwight and Holly whipped their heads around to look at him.

“Any new ones or just the employees that were interviewed?”, Dwight asked, speaking both their minds.

“So far just the employees and we’ll call in the ones that didn’t give statements. Jim’s ex-girlfriend and the ex-fiancé were cleared since they don’t even live in Pennsylvania anymore. This is all we’ve got so far.”

“Would it help if we found evidence on our own that helps narrow the search down.”

Holly was pretty sure she knew the answer but wanted to clarify anyway.

“Yes,” he replied, opening the folder with all the employees that were interviewed.

“As long as you obtain it legally so that it can’t be admissible in court.”

Dwight and Holly made eye contact once he finished answering. Once Pam’s family arrived, they knew exactly where they would start.

Chapter Text

12:42pm, Saturday, April 9

“Yes, Dwight. I’m sure that this is legal. 110 percent sure.”, Holly reassured with a twinge of annoyance as she swiped her corporate badge the gate of the Scranton Business Park.

They squeezed in as quickly as they could without waiting for the gate to completely open. Getting the building keys from Hank had been an ordeal, since he was already pending punishment from Sabre for leaving the keys with Jim and didn’t want to land in even more hot water by letting them into a crime scene. It took a while, but they got the set of keys after reassuring him that their suite was no longer closed off as a crime scene and that they were trying to legally obtain evidence to aid in the investigation.

“It’s not possible to be over 100 percent for anything, but alright.”, he muttered in reply as she unlocked the front doors to the lobby.

“I mean that you know for sure that paperwork exists saying that you have been given the log in information to sign into everyone’s desktop as an admin.”

“Yes, I filed it and got in approved through Gabe since I’m an extension of corporate. As long as I’m the one logging into the system, we’re not doing anything that will get what we find thrown out in court.”

Dwight nodded and seemed satisfied with her clarification. They took the stairs to the third floor quickly, using Holly’s flashlight in her phone to watch their footing in the dark corridors. Holly made quick work of the  lock for their office suite and Dwight barged in and turned on all the lights.

“Dwight, do me a favor and just go ahead and turn everyone’s computer on and make sure they all get warmed up.”, Holly instructed as she made a beeline for Jim’s desk.

“Are you going to check every one?”

“We have to. I want to be as quick and efficient as we can for this.”

Jim’s desk still had the bright yellow tape set up around it, despite having confirmed with the police that they didn’t need to preserve it anymore. She deftly stepped over the tape and sat down in his chair. Dwight came over with a pen and a legal pad from his desk as she logged onto his desktop.

“Okay so this is pretty simple, we just need to open the Event Viewer and check the last logged activity for Thursday. It should be the last thing he did before being taken.”, she explained briefly as she pulled up the application.

“The seventh.”, Dwight confirmed, writing down “Jim” at the top of the pad as the first entry.

“We should write out the activity as well as the time.”, he added.

“Sounds good. So Jim’s last action on this desktop was at 7:32:17pm and it was on spreadsheet in Excel.”, Holly murmured loudly enough for Dwight to hear and write down.

“He just edited it. He never saved the document. Someone took him while he was still sitting here working.”

Dwight’s face didn’t betray how unnerved he was by this, but his handwriting briefly faltered.

Now that they had an established timeline, Dwight and Holly moved to each individual computer to check the logs, write the information down and print a screenshot of the log in the Event Viewer. While they would have much rather just stuck to those that they believed were the most suspect, everyone had to be checked before they could be eliminated. Most people had logged out in between five and six o’clock, others forgot to log out but still weren’t there later than six. The only person to draw their attention before moving to check the annex was Ryan, who logged out of his closet/office computer around 7:12pm.

“That’s suspicious but I don’t know if that’s the time he told the police he left.”, Holly said to herself as she highlighted Ryan’s information.

She checked over the list of everyone’s last activity again while Dwight made quick work of turning on the computers in the annex.

“He’s a pretentious hipster, he probably spends all his money on rent for a studio apartment and overpriced Kombucha drinks and stays late to mooch off of our wifi.”

Holly was beginning to appreciate Dwight’s weird way of lightening the mood.

“Okay, I’ll start with mine so we both know for sure that the other isn’t the perp.”, she said with a weak smile before plopping down into her chair and signing in.

“Holly Flax, 5:21:52pm, logged out of system.”

“Got it.”

On the second to last computer, they came across another suspicious time stamp.

“Gabe logged out at 7:07:32pm on Thursday.”, Holly said, biting the side of her cheek as she doublechecked to be sure she read correctly.

“That’s a little bit earlier than Ryan’s.”, Dwight commented as she took a screenshot and sent it to the printer in the main office.

“This doesn’t tell us exactly when they left, it just gives us a better idea of when they might have.”

Holly nodded.

“They may have logged out but it doesn’t mean they didn’t wait around for a while…”

She briefly considered this and decided that the time stamps weren’t enough to make Ryan more likely to have done this than Gabe.

“C’mon.” Dwight prodded.

“Let’s do Kelly’s and then collect everything so we can turn in what we’ve found to police.”

Holly nodded numbly, moving mechanically through the login process on the last computer. She had her suspicions but hadn’t contemplated the reality of Jim’s attacker having been in plain sight this entire time yet.

X-----X-----X

12:39pm, Saturday, April 9

Gabe was going to be so late.

He had finished cleaning his disaster in the kitchen and the puke on the living room carpet and decided it would be a good idea to check on Jim before he left. He had only left him unattended for about 20 minutes but had a feeling that Jim’s desperation to escape was at critical mass.

Sure enough, when he went back to the bathroom, Jim had nearly freed his ankles. The light on the air freshener plugged into the wall was bright enough for him to see and he had slid down far into the tub and was slowly rubbing the bindings on his feet along the angular surface of the faucet. Once the lights had been turned on, he sped up his movements and grunted through the pain in his knee.

“Dammit, Jim…”, Gabe muttered as he stormed in and grabbed Jim underneath his arms to yank him out of the tub.

Jim had damaged the tape just enough to rip through it as he was being lifted and hooked his good leg inside the tub. After several minutes of struggling and manhandling him, Gabe managed to drag Jim across the hall and into his bedroom closet. Right as he was a about to slam the door on him, he saw red stains out of the corner of his eye. When he had grabbed Jim and dragged him by his uninjured leg, he had pressed his bloody cheek into the carpet, leaving streaks from the hallway to the closet doorway.

Gabe angrily slammed the door when he turned back around and saw Jim staring up at him defiantly with one eyebrow raised.

Now he was frantically scrubbing hydrogen peroxide and spraying treatment solution into the blood stains on his bedroom and hallway carpet, trying not to lose his temper at the banging on his closet door. Once he’d saturated the carpet with enough cleaning supplies, he stood and marched over to his closet and flung the door open.

“Knock it off.”, he hissed down at Jim.

Jim turned his torso to face his captor. He had been ramming his shoulder into the door repeatedly ever since Gabe had forced him into the closet.

“FUCK. YOU.”, he spat through the tie.

Gabe leaned against the doorframe and rubbed the bridge of his nose in exasperation.

“God, it’s like you want me to hurt you.”

He sighed and dropped to a crouch in front of Jim, hands clasped in front of him in frustration.

“Look, you’re a parent so you know how annoying dealing with temper tantrums is. So just take a break from doing an impression of CeCe and-“

Jim leaned back and thrust the heel of his left foot into Gabe’s face as soon as he was done saying his daughter’s name. Gabe landed with his back against his bed, hands over his nose. His fragile control over his temper snapped when he felt blood pouring from his nostrils.

“You little-!”

He stood and angrily stomped on Jim’s injured knee. Jim screamed and keeled over to curl up on his side, breathing heavily with his forehead on his knees.

“NOW, your knee is fucked, Jim.”

He slammed the door shut on the shaking man and barricaded it with his desk chair, leaving Jim in total darkness. He clogged his nose with tissues before finishing cleaning the carpet with the machine, and then washed his face and changed. He checked on Jim one last time before leaving. He hadn’t moved and was still sobbing into his injured knee while curled up on the floor.

Taking no chances, he blocked the closet door and locked his bedroom door before storming out to his car.

He checked his nose for the 18th time since leaving his apartment for any remaining blood and to make sure it wasn’t swelling as he parked on the side of the road near Jim and Pam’s house. The driveway was already full of cars, some he recognized, some he didn’t. Not that he would have been able to get a spot in the driveway even if he hadn’t had another serious inconvenience delay his departure and further piss off Erin.

Stepping inside was overwhelming. People were doing all kinds of things in the main common areas. A few friends and family were gathering up and dividing posters amongst themselves that boasted a $50,000 reward for information to be distributed in their neighborhood. People that he could only assume were Jim’s parents were in the living room holding a picture of him at his wedding in between them and talking into a camera for a local news station. His brothers sat glumly nearby, watching them from the couch. Two police officers were off by the foot of the stairs writing down statements from Kelly and Darryl. He walked casually by them into the kitchen.

Pam, her sister, another woman that somewhat resembled Jim and Erin were in the main cooking section. Pam’s mother and what looked like a lawyer were on their phones in the breakfast nook. Pam was sitting at the bar and talking with Erin who was holding and bouncing CeCe. Jim’s sister was pacing and consumed in an apologetic conversation with someone named Karen.

“Look, I’m really sorry this Brian guy sent you that video of people saying you did this to my brother, but we’ll sort that out later. Just know that literally no one here thinks it was you, Karen.”

He walked right past her to got to Erin.

“Hey Erin, sorry I’m late.”

She whipped around and looked at him coldly before registering the cut on his cheek and dropping into a neutral expression.

“Oh, geez, what happened to your face?”

He shrugged and laughed nervously, schooling his face and not wincing when it pulled at his fresh stab wound.

“Like I said, I had issues cooking breakfast today. I timed the biscuits for 30 minutes instead of 13 so they caught on fire. I slipped while trying to put them out and banged my face on the edge of the counter.”

She nodded a little sympathetically.

“Well that sucks, so I’m sorry for snapping at you. Did you bang your nose too? It looks a little swollen.”

“Uh, yeah. I guess I must have.”

One of the officers came into the kitchen looking at Erin.

“Hi, Miss Hannon? We’re doing another round of statements for all the employees. Can we talk to you since you’re here?”

Erin smiled politely and turned to hand CeCe to Gabe, thankfully on his left side.

“Here watch her for a minute, she’s a really happy baby!”

“I uh… okay uh sure.”

Gabe turned quickly to try and give the baby to Pam but she gave him a weird look and pointed to the phone at her ear that the lawyer had just handed her. He was forced to stand there and awkwardly smile at CeCe while her mother calmly scolded someone on the other line.

“Yes, I’m very upset that your panelists made those inappropriate comments about how they too would have kidnapped my husband while showing our engagement pictures on national television.”

Gabe bit his lip and bounced the baby to conceal his uneasiness at how much attention Jim’s disappearance was getting. CeCe looked up at him blankly as if she could sense his guilt.

He felt someone tap him on his shoulder and turned around expecting Erin but was greeted by that same officer that had asked to speak with her.

“Mr. Lewis? Can we have a word with you about your coworker’s disappearance?”, she asked neutrally. “It will only take a minute.”

Gabe swallowed and gave her a tiny smile as he quickly decided to refrain from passing CeCe to another adult for his moment alone with the police. Maybe she would make him appear less out of place.

“Have you folks met CeCe?”, he asked as he joined the officer’s partner by the stairs, taking CeCe’s hand and waving it at them.

“Yes, we’ve been on duty here since Friday afternoon. We know that she’s James and Pamela’s daughter.”, the male officer replied stonily.

“Okay, just trying to break the ice…”

The officers leapt right to the point.

“We’re contacting all the employees of the Scranton branch for follow up statements and interviews. We believe that James was abducted by someone he worked close with. You’re not under arrest nor are you a prime suspect, but we are going back and asking more specific questions.”

Gabe nodded, fighting not to gulp.

“Is there anyone that you believe would have a motive or a reason to hurt James?”

With the officers both boring holes into his skull, Gabe decided to lace his deception with some honesty.

“Well I can tell you up front that while Jim and I did have disagreements over some of the company policies that I had to enforce, I don’t think either of us took it to heart.”

He squeezed CeCe briefly and focused on the pulsing in his shoulder to calm his nerves.

“But I did have to mediate a conflict between James and his desk mate, Dwight, in December.”

The female officer perked up and her partner pulled out a legal pad.

“Dwight as in Schrute?”

He nodded.

“What kind of conflict?”

“Oh, Dwight assaulted him under the guise of a snowball fight. He had a bloody nose and a black eye at the end of it. The other HR rep and I had to basically host a therapy session with the two of them so he would agree to just a complaint and not press charges.”

They both nodded.

“We will definitely look more into him and that claim then. Can you come in for a full interview in the morning? 9am?”

“Yes, of course,”, Gabe agreed as he calculated the window of time that gave him. “Gladly, officers.”

He ventured back to the kitchen, hoping to run into Erin. He spotted her in the living room with Pam’s sister talking to Jim’s brothers and decided not to bother her at the moment, instead approaching Jim’s rattled-looking sister by the baby seat in the breakfast nook.

“I think she’s bored of me so let’s see if she finds any of these cool toys interesting.”, he plopped the baby down gently before turning to the woman and flashing her a small smile.

“Hi, I’m Gabe, Jim’s coworker.”

“Larissa. Little sister.”

She replied shortly and didn’t return the smile. Gabe decided to press further.

“You seemed upset earlier, are you better now?”

Larissa laughed bitterly and stopped picking at her nails.

“Uh no. Jim’s ex-girlfriend called and complained to me about some camera guy emailing her a video of the staff talking about her killing my brother, like I have any control over that crap… and she was being such a bitch about it. As if she is suffering the most in this situation.”

Gabe nodded so that she’d go on.

“I don’t know, I just always thought she was self-centered and not good enough for him.”

“You’re really protective of him, I take it?”, he prodded.

“Yeah, I’m the youngest of four but he’s the best big brother of all my big brothers.”, Larissa finally smiled as she finished saying it.

“We’ve always been really close and looked out for each other.”

Gabe nodded, considering this.

“You’ve been here longer than me and are way more in the loop. What exactly is everyone’s thoughts on who did this?”

Larissa’s smile fell a little before she replied.

“Well those officers have been saying that they think the car being dumped in Carbondale was an attempt to mislead the police and anyone looking for him. They still put a curfew over that are and are still looking for a… a body but they really think it was someone he knew.

The corners of Gabe’s lips quirked up slightly as she verified what he already knew as Erin came in from the living room.

“Hey, Gabe, we got a few more boxes of posters from Kinkos just now. Will you help bring them in and unload in the dining room?”

He stood eagerly to join her, turning back to Larissa as he walked off.

“It was nice meeting you! Are you okay if she stays with you?”

She smiled and waved.

“Yes, she can assist me with all of the phony calls we’re bound to get!”

There had been an error with the mass production of the posters and the phone number and website had been left off the bottom. He and Erin and a few other coworkers and family members sat down for the tedious task of writing the information out on each piece of card stock. It was the perfect opportunity to just sit and talk with Erin.

Everything was going well until something cued her memory and she asked him a question.

“Oh hey, before you leave tonight, can you let me know so I can go out to your car and get my stuff?”

Gabe froze and replied nervously.

“Uh, I actually forgot to bring your things…”

Erin stopped writing and looked up at him quizzically.

“Okay well if you didn’t round up my things, why did it take you so long to get here? Are you trying to get me to come over?”

“I uh, I just got distracted,” he licked his dry lips.

“Maybe I gave myself a concussion when I hit my face?”

Erin had begun rattling off concession symptoms right as Dwight and Holly came in from the garage and rounded into the kitchen to find Pam.

“Hey Pam, sorry that took us so long but we stayed longer to make copies of all this stuff just in case.”

“Oh that’s completely fine, have you talked to the sheriff or deputy yet?”

Gabe abruptly stood.

“I need some water. Want any?”

He was heading for the kitchen before she could even reply.

Dwight and Holly stood by the fridge and were talking to Pam and Larissa on the other side of the bar. He grabbed two glasses from the cabinet and eavesdropped while getting ice and filling them.

“We looked through the time stamps on everyone’s computer, yours included,”, Dwight told her proudly before hastily adding “No offense, Pam.”

“No it’s fine. Was it a lot?”

We printed off everyone’s log in addition to writing it down,”, Holly replied, waving the legal pad, “all the printouts are in Dwight’s bag.”

That was all Gabe needed to hear.

Dwight was standing nearby, his back and messenger bag to Gabe. He quickly slipped something out of his pocket and into the bag before grabbing the glasses and heading to the dining room. Holly noticed him and called out.

“Hey, Gabe. How are you?”

It was a loaded and suspiciously asked question. He paused and looked over his shoulder at her to reply.

“Hey, doing alright! We could use some help with these posters in here if you have some time.”

None of them moved to join him. He quickly rejoined Erin and changed the subject as he set their water glasses down. He kept an eye on the kitchen while letting Erin ramble. Larissa had gotten up to take a phone call and Dwight had set his bag down on the counter to go pick up CeCe and sit with Pam at the bar. Holly stayed standing but leaned in casually over the bar to talk to the other two. As much as he wanted to know exactly what they were talking about and if it was about him, he needed to stay in the background as much as possible. When the two officers came back in from their break in their squad car, the three of them hopped up to meet them in the living room. Erin stopped talking and was watching the exchange too.

 “Officers, we have some information that might be useful to you.”

Holly handed them the legal pad as she and Dwight explained what it meant.

“We just wrote this out to be able compare everything quickly, there’s copies of each desktop’s log in my-“, Dwight paused and handed CeCe to Pam and he turned around to look into the kitchen.

“Larissa can you grab those papers from my bag? They should be in the big pouch.”

He turned back as she nodded and set the phone down, heading for the bar counter. Gabe just smirked to himself and went back to writing on the posters as he waited for the other shoe to drop.

It took no time at all.

“Dwight,”, Larissa threw Dwight’s messenger bag onto the carpet as she stormed into the living room on the verge of tears brandishing something in her hand.

“Why are Jim’s car keys in your bag? Huh?”

Everyone whipped around to look at the set of keys she was holding within in an inch of Dwight’s face. Pam’s jaw dropped and Holly began to shake her head.

“No Larissa, this a mistake. He di-“

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY BIG BROTHER? HUH? WHERE’S JIM?”

She had grabbed the front of Dwight’s sweater and was traying to shake his massive frame.

“Ms. Halpert, step away from him and calm down.”

Larissa rounded on the two officers.

“Did you know that he attacked Jim at Christmastime? Huh? At work?”

CeCe had started crying in Pam’s arms. Erin gave Gabe an apologetic look and walked over to help diffuse the situation.

“LARISSA STOP IT, THIS ISN’T HELPING!”, Pam snapped at her sister-in-law over her daughter’s wails of “dada”.

Dwight and Holly were desperately trying to reason with the police officers who had decided two separate people detailing Dwight’s attack on Jim was enough to take him in for questioning.

“No, officers, please, Jim and Dwight resolved their differences. Someone put those keys in there, he didn’t do it. He’s been with me since…”

“We can’t take any chances, James has already been missing for almost 48 hours. I need a squad car to 2818 Rockwell…”

Erin and Pam had begin shrinking away from Larissa’s hysterical accusations.

“Dwight had nothing to do with this Larissa so just…”

“Pam, just give me the baby, she doesn’t need to be in the middle…”

“YOU BITCH, you’re defending him and he murdered your husband,”, Tom and Pete were having to restrain Larissa as she tried to advance on Pam, Erin and CeCe.

“Jim is not dead!”

“LET GO OF ME TOM, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

Gabe slipped out of the garage with a small stack of flyers in hand and headed to his car unnoticed amid the chaos. He had a lot to do before his 9am deadline in the morning.

 

X-----X-----X

Reward Poster

Chapter Text

5:12pm, Saturday, April 9

Gabe spent about ten minutes driving aimlessly to make sure he wasn’t being followed before stopping at Home Depot for duct tape and a new shower curtain. He also bought a glass vase, an energy drink, and a map of local attractions and paid cash at the self-checkout. He sat in the car for about ten minutes, sipping his Red Bull and reading as much about Schrute Farms as the pamphlet provided while also marking what all was nearby on the more detailed area map from his dashboard before he started to head back to his apartment.

Erin was calling and texting him the entire way there, but he silenced his phone and ignored her. He wanted to be done by midnight and didn’t have time to focus on trying to placate and please her.

 

He drove slightly above the speed limit the rest of the way there and tried to walk at a reasonable pace to his unit. He barely contained tapping his foot as he rode the elevator up to the fourth floor with the two girls that lived down the hall from him. Once inside, he set the vase and the posters he nabbed from the Halpert house on the counter by the door and headed back to the bathroom.

He finished ripping out the ruined shower curtain and installed the new one, folding the old one over his arm. He briefly inspected his slowly swelling nose in the mirror before turning to unlock his bedroom door. He set the curtain and the new roll of duct tape onto this bed before moving the desk chair away from blocking the closet and opened the door.

Jim had barely moved since he’d left over four hours ago. He was still on his side, but his legs had straightened away from his chest. Gabe raised his eyebrows and nudged his abdomen with the toe of his loafers. No response.

He turned on the closet light and Jim flinched, squinting and turning his head into the carpet.  Gabe squatted down by Jim’s head and grabbed him by the shoulders to rotate him onto his back. He groaned in pain as he was shifted. Gabe peeled back both eyelids and confirmed his suspicions.

“Yup, concussion.”, he said matter-of-factly as he shifted onto his knees and slid both arms under Jim’s back to slowly lift his torso up into a sitting position.

He undid the tie one-handed while supporting Jim’s back with the other hand, pulling it down around his neck.

“Is the pain in the back of your head?”

“Yes.”, Jim rasped, blinking slowly, the throbbing in his head further aggravated by the bright lights overhead.

“Can you sit up straight without my arm for support?”, Gabe asked, anxious to inspect the damage his had done to Jim’s knee during his outburst.

“No….”

Gabe sighed in frustration and stood up, hooking his arms under Jim’s to drag him out of the closet and lean him against the foot of his bed. Jim hissed in pain the entire time as his leg dragged on the carpet. Once settled, Gabe reached down ripped the hole in the leggings all the way open from past Jim’s knee all the way up to his hip.

The gash on his outer thigh had started bleeding again and the actual knee cap looked deformed, his lower leg twisting inward slightly and his foot trembling in pain. Gabe gulped as he assessed the damage his moment of uncontrolled rage had caused.

“Um, how bad is the pain?”, he whispered, pointer finger gently prodding above the knee cap.

“On a scale of one to ten?”

“A fucking fifteen.”, Jim growled after licking his dry lips.

“Shit.”

So much for the two of them walking out of the building later. There was no way Jim’s knee could support his weight; the tendon above it was definitely ruptured.

He stood and left Jim there to go to the kitchen for a glass of water, snatching the bottle of painkillers and the reward posters up from the countertop. He set the glass on his nightstand to unsheathe his knife and free Jim’s arms. Gabe pocketed the knife while retrieving the glass of water and sat by Jim’s left leg as he handed it to him. He waited until Jim had started slowly sipping the water before speaking.

“I’ve set something in motion and you’ll be out of here later tonight. Someone else is going to take the fall for your disappearance.”

“Who?”, Jim rasped, not lowering the glass, glaring at Gabe.

“Don’t worry about that.”, Gabe placed a hand on his calve in what was supposed to be a comforting gesture, but Jim jolted in response.

“You just go along with it, say you have memory loss or blacked out. I’ve planted enough seeds of doubt for people to draw their own conclusions.”

The way he danced around the subject only angered Jim more.

“Who are you framing for what YOU did?”

Gabe gritted his teeth in frustration.

“I could tell you, but then I’d have to rattle your head around like I did your leg to ensure that you forget.”

“I feel like you’re going to do that anyway.”

He hated how perceptive Jim was of his intentions. He stood to grab the bottle of pills.

“Look, you can be conscious and in pain or take some pain killers to take the edge off of everything. Either way, we’re doing things my way and this whole ordeal will be over soon.”

Jim didn’t react as Gabe squeezed his leg again, this time as a threat. He finished the glass of water.

“I don’t believe you. I think you’re placating me with this promise that you’re going to let me live and you want to make it easier and less messy. That’s not going to happen.”

Gabe’s lips pursed and his eye twitched as his temper began to flare up again.

“I’m going literally fight you kicking and screaming. I’m going to make it as difficult as possible for you to kill me and get rid of any evidence. You’re not going to get away with this.”

Gabe pulled out his knife again and pretended to be very interested in cleaning underneath his fingernails with it.

“Jim, do you want to be returned to your wife and daughter with minor amnesia, brain dead or in a body bag? Because all of those are equally possible under with your current attitude and the only way to guarantee the former is by going back to being civil with each other.”

Gabe shifted to snatch a poster from the top of the stack on his desk, showing it to Jim.

“This doesn’t say that you need to be among the living to collect the cash reward. Maybe I’ll switch things up, pretend to stumble upon your body and pocket your parent’s money.

Gabe relished in his lie as he watched Jim shiver. He stared at the picture of himself at a friend’s wedding underneath “$50,000 REWARD” in red lettering and clenched the glass in his hand. Somehow, he spoke up and stood his ground.

“It’s your own fault that you’re in this situation. You’re not going to get away with this.”

Gabe nodded thoughtfully and ripped the glass from his hands.

“You need to drink some more before you take the pills.”

He stood and walked leisurely to the kitchen, unbothered by Jim’s promise.

I’ve got to get out of this godforsaken apartment…

Jim feigned complacency as he was offered the second glass of water. He sipped it slowly, watching Gabe leaning against the doorframe out of the corner of his eye.

Gabe’s head whipped around as a loud persistent knocking came from the front door. Jim hurled the glass at his head without hesitation. It flew just past his nose and exploded on impact with the wall. Gabe yelped initially before the “switch” flipped and he lunged at Jim as he was attempting to stand on an unstable leg.

Gabe straddled his hips and began reigning blows down on him. He was slapped twice in the face before he landed a disoriented punch to the gash on Gabe’s shoulder, causing him to seize up to barely contain a scream. Jim ripped the knife out of Gabe’s jeans right as Gabe was and they were both fighting for their grip on the handle when a muffled but familiar voice yelled from the hallway.

“GABE, let me in! I know you’re home!”

Oh my god, Erin!

“Erin!”, Jim’s yell came out as a weak rasp as he abandoned the fight over the knife and fought wildly to shove Gabe off of him.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit….”, Gabe chanted as he kicked at Jim’s leg again, stunning him long enough so he could stand and grab a fistful of his hair.

Jim tried to scream in pain with his abused vocal cords and clawed at Gabe’s hand as he was dragged back into the closet by his scalp.

X-----X-----X

6:16pm

Erin Hannon had been dealt a rough hand as a child and she developed an overly positive and sickeningly polite personality as a way to cope. While it had helped her get past her childhood trauma, an unintentional side effect was that she sometimes allowed people to walk all over her and manipulate her. She had begun to grow past this after publicly dumping Gabe and expressing her unhappiness in her relationship with him, although she would regress slightly every now and then when it came to sparing his feelings. She truly felt bad that he had been humiliated in the process of her personal growth so she would still politely dismiss his increasingly obvious efforts to appease her, despite having absolutely no desire to get back with him.

This weekend completely destroyed the empathic side of her that allowed her sense of pity for Gabe to maintain their relationship. His actions had doused it in gasoline, lit it on fire and stomped it into the ground. Erin was frustrated, embarrassed and furious with every aspect of Gabe’s behavior. He had left Pam’s house in the middle of Dwight’s unjust arrest with no explanation and had been ignoring her attempts to contact him. She’s been calling him for the last hour and got no response.

She was done being understanding and patient with him and decided to voice it in case the pounded of her fist on the door wasn’t getting the message across.

“GABE! I know you’re here! Your car is in its spot! Let me in so I can get the rest of my stuff!”

There were muffled noises coming from the bedrooms but Gabe hadn’t emerged yet.

“I will call the police and have them force you to let me in! I’m done with your crap, Gabe. GIVE ME MY THINGS!”

She saw him dart into the kitchen and put something up before sprinting to the front door.

“Hey Erin.”, he had only opened the door halfway and was blocking it with his body, smiling nervously at her.

“Don’t ‘Hey Erin!’ me. I’m getting my stuff and leaving and don’t you ever call me again.”

She tried to shove her way past but he stood his ground, face turning more serious.

“Let’s talk this over, I have some leftovers. Veggie fried rice! Your favorite!”

She rammed the door with her shoulder and it flung out of his grip.

“There’s nothing to talk about. You’ve been acting selfish all weekend when your coworkers need you most. All you can focus on is trying to win me back.”, Erin stormed towards her bedroom, turning back to him to finish her outburst.

“I know you’ve been holding onto my stuff to get me over here to try and talk me into talking you back. It’s pathetic and manipulative and I’m not going to smile politely and tell you no anymore!”

She finished rounding the corner, wiping tears from her face as she made a beeline for her old room. There was a wicker basket with some of her stuff in it underneath the guest bed. She grabbed it and grabbed her knit blanket and throw pillow from the bed. She grabbed some things from the closet too and laid them across the sheets before turning back toward the bathroom.

Right away, she noticed her shower caddy was out and that Gabe had been using her things. Some of her nail supplies were out on the counter, as well as her first aid kit and her nearly empty bottle of rash cream. She bit her lower lip and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling as she tried to contain her anger and disgust at his persistent lack of consideration for boundaries.

As she brought her head back down, she caught a glimpse of the shower curtain that was clearly not hers.

“What the…”

He knew that was her shower curtain. He had insisted that she put it up in their shared bathroom to “make her feel more at home”. Did he hide it? Was he trying to upset her so he could act like a loving boyfriend and talk her down?

He was definitely succeeding at the former.

Erin shoved all her supplies back into the caddy and was peeling out of the bathroom with it to put Gabe in his place, she saw the familiar flowery pattern through the crack of the door to Gabe’s bedroom and stopped in her tracks. She backtracked and opened the door all the way, flicking the light on as she stepped into his bedroom. Her shower curtain was thrown carelessly over the comforter.

It was ruined, over half of the rings ripped out with tears traveling further down the curtain. This was the last straw. He had deliberately used her bath products and destroyed her things.

Shaking in anger and trying to compose her thoughts so she could chew Gabe out for treating her stuff with such disrespect, a groan came from the closet. Erin froze and turned towards the door, noticing the chair blocking it for the first time.

Just like Gabe’s behavior for the last day, it was really weird.

Eyes wide and praying she was wrong about the thought that had just entered her mind, she set her caddy on the bed and moved towards the chair. She slowly slid it towards the desk and opened the door with a shaking hand. She clamped her hand over her mouth and sank to her knees when she saw Jim on the floor in front of her.

He was lying on his side facing the closet door, clutching his right knee with hands that were duct taped together. He had bruises and cuts on his face and neck and was gasping as he looked up at her and squinted in response to the light.

“Oh my god, Jim, I-“

His eyes widened and his hands shot up to his mouth in a shush gesture.

“No, Erin, please go. Get help!”, he whispered frantically.

She was slack-jawed and immobile with horror and was torn between doing about nine different actions at once. She wanted to sprint out the door screaming bloody murder, attack Gabe, call the police and cradle Jim’s beaten form all at once. Since he had lifted his hands, she could see the blood saturating the ripped leggings and bandage on his right leg.

“You-you’re knee…. What did he do to your knee?”, Erin asked wetly, on the verge of tears.

Jim shook his head in desperation.

“Erin, please, it doesn’t matter right now! Please, calm down and get out of here, get away from Gabe and call the police!”

She caught her breath and frantically wiped at her eyes. Jim nodded encouragingly at her.

“You can’t fight him. Get out of here and call for help.”

“But what about you?”, Erin whispered, her panic coming back as she considered what could happen to him once she left.

“What’ll happen when I leave? Is he…. W-will he h-hurt…. Oh my god, Jim, I’m so sorry.”

She looked at the bedroom door frantically, making sure Gabe hadn’t come to inspect what was taking her so long. An idea popped into her head as she turned back around and saw her shower caddy in the corner of her eye on the bed.

“Oh wait I…”, Erin whispered as she scrambled up and grabbed for something in it.

“God, Erin, please!”

Jim was barely containing his voice, afraid that Gabe would hear them or that he already was suspicious based on how long Erin was taking. She whipped back around and sat on her knees next to him, brandishing a glass nail file. He pushed himself up to a half sitting position as she whacked the pointy tip on the doorstop a few times, shattering it into a jagged edge.

“Here, in case he tries to hurt you again.”, she slipped it sharp side down into the back of his leggings and then shifted to hug him tightly.

“I’m so sorry, I’m going to get you out of here, Jim.”

“Please be safe.”, he rasped back.

She nodded and brushed his messy hair out of his face before kissing his forehead. Jim melted a little at the first bit of gentleness he’d experienced in the last two days. Erin collected herself as she barricaded the closet door again and grabbed her shower caddy from the bed. Leaving the ruined curtain on his bed, she turned the light off went back to the bathroom and her old room to grab the things laying on the bed before heading to the living area to face her deranged ex-boyfriend.

X-----X-----X

Gabe’s rage was at its most volatile when it was onset by Erin, either indirectly or directly. He would become just as blinded by white-hot pulsating anger when she rejected his affection or was short with him as he did when he realized that Andy was showing interest in dating her. The only difference is that he would never hurt Erin for how she made him feel but he would have abso-fucking-lutely smashed Andy’s head into the mirror about 73 times in a heartbeat if he knew it wouldn’t upset her.

He never wanted to upset her, but he always did, no matter how hard he tried.

Gabe leaned against his kitchen island, eyes squeezed shut as he clenched the granite counter top and breathed deeply. He counted backwards from one hundred to control the intoxicating urge to storm into his bedroom and squeeze the life out of Jim Halpert, as if he were a voodoo doll of Erin and he could pretend that he was really making HER feel the wrath of his suppressed emotions.

Most people turned to drugs in times of stress or as a response to trauma, Gabe turned to inflicting pain.

He stood up straight and opened his eyes as he heard her footsteps nearing, schooling his face into a small nonthreatening smile as she came from around the corner with her things.

Erin’s eyes were trained to his the second he was in her line of sight, not too wide open but still unblinking.

She slowed her walk slightly, still maintaining eye contact, and he chose now to speak since he clearly had her attention.

“Erin, I know you’re upset with me and I want to hear what you have to say. I know I’ve been kind of consumed with our relationship recently and wanting to fix things, but I just care about saving our friendship.”

The lie was bitter on his tongue, but he would do literally anything just to keep her in his life.

“I respect you and your decision to end things and I just want you to understand where I’m coming from. I really do have some fried rice in the fridge, so why don’t we sit down and air our grievances and we can make a meal out of it if it goes well.”

Erin had paused about five paces to the door and was so transfixed by how quickly his demeanor shifted from barely concealed rage to that of a concerned guidance counselor that she didn’t realize that he was walking towards her until his hand was hovering over her bicep.

“DON’T!”

She jolted away at the last second, knocking the first aid kit off the top of the stack of the belongings Gabe had been holding hostage. Gabe’s mouth twitching was the only sign that his temper was flaring up.

She needed to get out of here NOW.

Erin barely controlled her breathing as he stooped to pick it off the floor and set it back in her arms. She gulped and tried to ignore the cold stare that looked down upon her.

“Gabe, you don’t respect me. You’re obsessed with me. You used my stuff in my absence.”

She paused before taking the gamble to continue with the next sentence in her explanation.

“That’s creepy and very disrespectful. I really would like some time away from you.”

Gabe nodded and went to open the door for her, imagining all that he would do to Jim in her absence to calm himself and offered to help her to her car like a gentleman.

“No. Please do not try to contact me.”

Gabe watched her retreating form, unaware that tears were streaming down her face as she stood tall, fighting the overwhelming desire to collapse in a heap, and pressed the down button on the elevator.

X-----X-----X

6:37pm

The second hour Dwight’s interrogation was wearing on Pam from the other side of the two-way mirror. Holly’s silent seething toward the detectives in the room with him and Larissa’s constant pacing with occasional pathetic apologies to her wasn’t helping either.

She had shouted to Dwight to not say anything and plead the fifth as he was hauled away and harassed her and Jim’s lawyer until he agreed to go the station and provide legal counsel for him. Pam practically threw the ten thousand dollar check he requested for representing Dwight at him as she scrambled into the passenger seat of his car. Holly and Larissa peeled out and followed them with Dwight’s bag and they hadn’t even gotten the opportunity to present the proof of his innocence that was literally in her fingertips.

“This is all my fault, I just panicked and a couldn’t control myself. Pam I’m so sorry.”

Pam threw her head back and stared up at the ceiling.

I swear, if she apologizes to me one more goddamn time….

Her phone rang right as she was contemplating the pros and cons of unloading all her pent up anxiety and terror on Jim’s sister. She quickly answered it without checking the caller ID, needing to get out of that headspace immediately, as the pro arguments of losing it at Larissa were winning.

“Hello?”, she replied tersely, playing with a loose strand of hair falling from her bun.

“Pam? Pam! Listen to me, right now!”

Pam winced and pulled the phone away from the loud, frantic voice on the other end.

“Erin? Where’d you and Gabe go? You both left as-“

“No, please, let me finish! Pam, I-god I’m so sorry! Gabe has Jim!”

It was as if every neuron in her legs was shut off to direct more sensory attention to the phone call. Her knees buckled and she collapsed forward, barely preventing her from faceplanting onto the tile floor with her free arm.

“W-w-wh-what?! ERIN WHAT?”, her voice escalated from a pathetic whimper to a hysterical shout in just a few syllables.

“I saw him in Gabe’s closet! It’s the Valley View Condo complex!”

“IS HE DEAD? DID HE KILL HIM?!?!”

She didn’t even feel Holly pull her up into a sitting position and Larissa clutching her other hand.

“Jim’s alive! He’s injured but he’s alive! Get here, now! I’m calling-“

Pam didn’t listen to the rest of Erin’s sentence after “ALIVE” was allowed to echo around in her head.

She dropped the phone and lunged toward the mirror.

“YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG MAN! MY HUSBAND IS ALIVE!”

She looked truly deranged to the men on the other side, banging violently on the window, screaming mutely at them with wide eyes.

 

Chapter Text

6:37pm

The pregnant pause that followed Erin’s dramatic departure made Jim’s skin crawl. He had dragged his battered body over to the wall closest to the main hallway, shoving clothing out of his way to desperately try to hear their brief conversation. He heard enough with his ear pressed to the wall to know that Gabe had no idea that she had stumbled upon him tied up in the master bedroom closet and was on her way to alerting the police.

He couldn’t find it in him to be relieved. He was still trapped here was a very angry, very unstable Gabe Lewis. Jim’s bound hands reached behind him to practice grabbing the nail file from the back of his leggings for the 28th time since Erin had left him in the dark to make her escape. He strained his ears desperately against the wall, hoping to catch literally any sound to indicate what Gabe was going to do next.

The front door was suddenly slammed shut so hard that it shook the wall he was leaning up against. Jim’s breath hitched and he froze, straining impossibly harder to hear what Gabe did next.

Another bout of deafening silence followed and then….

Footsteps…. Headed toward the bedroom hallway….

Right as Gabe walked by the wall he was pressed against, an awful scraping sound along the wall accompanied the footsteps. Jim jolted away from the wall once he realized it was the unsheathed hunting knife being dragged along the textured surface.

He shifted back into the middle of the closet, facing where the light was coming in from the crack of the door. His fingers were twitching with the urge to grab the nail file so much that he moved to support his upper body with his bound arms, leaning away from his injured leg.

Jim licked his dry lips and stared anxiously at the closet door as he listened to Gabe enter the bedroom.

He blinked and averted his eyes in response to the lights flipping on, despite his instincts screaming at him to keep his eyes on Gabe at all times. He turned back to look up at Gabe once he was confident he was used to the lights and that the pounding in his head wouldn’t induce vomiting.

He seemed to be ignoring Jim at first, just looking down at his knife as he leaned against the door frame. He took long, exaggerated breaths as he frowned down at his left hand as he traced each finger with the blade.

A shudder shot through Jim’s body when Gabe lifted his head and focused that dead yet angry stare on him.

“She will never know the things I have done to protect her.”

I think she has an idea…

“Everything I’ve done was to make sure that I never hurt her, no matter how poorly she treated me. I never mean to hurt Erin, really. I want to please her and make her happy but somehow I always upset her.”

Somehow, Jim suppressed rolling his eyes when he realized he was being treated like a therapist again.

“Gabe, you can’t make Erin love you.”, Jim explained through gritted teeth.

“Being with you doesn’t make her happy and no matter how hard you try, she has to-“

“WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT BEING REJECTED JIM? HUH?”

Gabe had thrust the knife toward Jim, blade to his throat, as he angrily interrupted him. His face was screwed up his as he glared down at Jim.

“You have a fucking sweet deal, with your wife and daughter! DON’T YOU DARE LECTURE ME ON DEALING WITH REJECTION!”

“Okay.”, Jim agreed in a small voice, beginning to subtly reach back for the makeshift weapon in his pants.

“You know she wouldn’t even sleep with me? Six months together, we lived here for most of it. We never had sex. She kept coming up with reasons not to and since I’m a gentleman…”

Jim’s hands halted their slow journey and he grasped at the carpet underneath uneasily. He did not like where this was going.

“I was so humiliated when she dumped me in front of everyone. Humiliated and angry at her and I just needed some kind of release. I went out to a few clubs, got away from our work group, eventually I found this woman that looked a lot like Erin and chatted and drank with her a while. I thought it would be close enough to the real thing. Ended up going home with her.”

Gabe paused to laugh bitterly. Jim gulped and glanced down at the blade quivering near his jugular.

“She and Erin had a lot more in common than just looks. Her husband came home not long after. He was devastated, and I just lost it. She’s just as ungrateful and selfish as Erin.”

Gabe had somewhat lowered the knife, lost in the rage that this confession was bringing to the surface.

“My only regret that night is hurting her husband too. He was just as much of a victim as I was.”

Jim’s head was positively swimming at all this information.

“That-that uh…. Married couple that was found de-dead in Clark’s Summit…. That was you?”

He couldn’t have sounded more pathetic if he tried. Gabe lowered the knife further and roughly grasped Jim’s jaw with the other hand.

“She was an adulterer and she betrayed her husband and she deserved what she got. I already said I regretted killing him too.”, Gabe was hissing this directly into his ear as if that would make him retain the information better.

“Erin is the love of my life but she makes me crazy. She riles me up and I just have to hurt or kill or fuck something. It wasn’t so bad, I could control it and only strangers got hurt. It was just her that would trigger me. But now….. now enough of the wrong things will make me snap.”

Jim’s eyes zeroed in on the knife Gabe had dropped in the middle of his rant.

“Why are you judging me like this Jim? You had that biology teacher or whatever rape you during detention! You know how going through that messes with your head. I can’t help that I turned out like this and you know that!”

“That never happened.”

Gabe pulled back to stare down at him, a hurt expression plastered on his face.

“What? You made that up?”

“I wasn’t sexually abused. I told you about my college roommate. And he’s a functioning adult who doesn’t hurt others and doesn’t use what happened to him to defend his actions.”

Despite his better judgement and anger replacing the confusion on Gabe’s face, Jim continued, hammering the final nail into the coffin.

“You. Have. No. Excuse.”

Jim braced for an attack. He thought his last sentence had triggered the flipping of Gabe’s “switch”, but he had just enough self-control to lean back in to Jim’s face and responded.

“We’re going to have to change that.”

Jim’s eyes widened and on instinct, he whipped both hands up from the carpet and swung at Gabe. He made contact with his cheek and knocked him off of his feet. They both lunged for the forgotten knife.

Jim was just a split second faster and he twisted on his stomach to strike at Gabe. After stabbing blindly in sheer panic, the blade impaled Gabe’s outstretched hand. Jim was already dragging himself up to limp out of the room, knife forgotten, as pained yell was ripped from Gabe.

FuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK get the fuck out of here!

His right leg was pretty much useless. The knee couldn’t flex or extend and it pulsed with a stabbing pain even when it was just his toes dragging along the carpet.

It exploded in agony when Gabe lunged at him from the closet and wrapped his bloody hand around his right ankle. He violently yanked several times, jostling the injury as he tried to pull Jim back onto the floor.

“ERIN!”, his voice cracked as he desperately clung to the edge of the desk.

“ERIN! SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

The police should be here any second, please please please god hurry!!!”

He was about to scream hoarsely for help again when Gabe used his grip on the ankle to pull himself up enough to tackle Jim into the floor. His head spun and vision swirled and by the time he was oriented enough to realize what had happened, Gabe had him pinned down on his back. One hand had a death grip on Jim’s bound wrists, the other on his jaw.

Gabe spoke with his dangerous “calm before the storm” voice into Jim’s ear.

“I thought we had something in common. I thought you knew what it was like to be taken advantage of and feel worthless. I thought you understood me!”

His voice was steadily rising. Jim tried to turn his head into the carpet but the grip on his jaw was like a vice.

“I can understand the escape attempts and attacking me…. But lying about your trauma? To get me to let you go? To manipulate me?”

“Gabe, Jesus, think about what you’re about to do, please!”

He began to hyperventilate as Gabe’s voice progressed to full on yelling in his ear.

“I’VE SPENT ALL OF MY LIFE BEING MANIPULATED JIM! I DON’T NEED ANY MORE OF IT FROM YOU!

He sat up, releasing Jim’s jaw but keeping him firmly pinned down with his body weight.

“Let’s see how you like just a fraction of the shit I’ve experienced….”

Jim blacked out when he heard the violent ripping of fabric and realized it was his clothes.

X-----X-----X

6:52pm

“My partner is talking with the ex-girlfriend. Not sure if this is a hoax. Over.”

The officer driving the squad car looked up at Pam and Larissa in the backseat for a reaction. They both shook their heads.

“The wife and the sister are pretty sure she’s not making it up. We’re a few minutes away. Over.”

“Okay. We’re close to the south entrance of the complex. See you there. Over.”

“Copy that.”

Larissa spoke up as soon as there was radio silence.

“I’m so sorry that you wasted your time interrogating Dwight!”

Pam cringed a little as her sister-in-law leaned into the metal barrier separating them as if to seem more sincere.

“I’m just very worried about my brother and the car keys were really damning and I just panicked and-“

The driver quickly interrupted her when her voice started to crack.

“Ms. Halpert, we would have had to detain him, no matter how upset you got over the key set.”

Larissa nodded and sat back, a little calmer at this news.

“Like you said, the keys being in his bag is damning. Now we know that they were likely planted.”

Pam waited a few seconds to make sure they were done communicating before she spoke up.

“Officers, Erin wouldn’t lie about this. She was telling us that Gabe was acting inappropriately the day Jim was kidnapped and he was there today when the keys were in Dwight’s bag.”

“Yes, but we can’t just barge into this woman’s ex-boyfriend’s apartment. We need probable cause and hopefully you two will help us determine if we do.”

That sicko has my husband, there’s your probable cause…

She bit her lip and contained herself the rest of the ride.

They pulled up to the other cop car that was down the sidewalk from Gabe’s building in a timely fashion. One officer was standing against the car so she could answer the radio and her partner was speaking with Erin a short distance away. While he was calmly asking her questions and writing her statements down, Erin seemed incredibly frustrated with their lack of urgency.

“He’s in there in my ex-boyfriend’s closet! I saw him when I went in there to get my things since we broke up. He used my bath supplies. Maybe there’s some kind of proof-“

She stopped talking to the officer when she saw Pam and Larissa exit the car out of the corner of her eye.

“PAM, THANK GOD!”

“Hey what’s the hold up? Erin wouldn’t lie about this.”

Pam tried to control her temper as she approached the officer.

“We need as much detail as possible to confirm what you’re saying and to call for back up. I understand that you’re anxious, Mrs. Halpert, but if your husband is here, then we literally have to shut down the surrounding blocks in this area. This is basically a hostage situation.”

Pam wracked her brain as Erin offered up suggestions to prove her accusations.

“You can test the stuff in my car for DNA! That’s probably why he used my bath products! I’m sure if you test that stuff Jim’s DNA is on it.”

“That’s an option but we’d have to call in a forensic specialist to the sight. It won’t be fast.”, female officer interjected from the side of the car.

Erin threw her keys at the officer that drove Larissa and Pam’s anyway.

“Okay, fine it’s something! You guys have to believe me! We’re wasting time, Gabe could be hurting Jim even more right now.”

Erin’s mention of Jim’s injuries caused a switch to flip in Pam’s head.

“WAIT! Officers, have you seen the photos that were found in my car?”

Two of them nodded.

“Erin, have you seen the photos?”

“No, you never showed them to me.”

Pam’s heart leapt with hope.

“What were his injuries, Erin?”

Erin pushed her hair behind her ears and stared wide eyed at the ground as she wracked her brain to picture Jim’s face.

“I uh, okay, there was a split lip, cut on his forehead and cheek, uh and, bruises on his forehead and cheek too…. He has these awful neck bruises, some looked like fingers… his knee was injured too.”

Pam had whipped out the phone and pulled up the first picture to show the female officer as Erin ran through the list.

“Shit!”, she blurted before lurching into the front seat of the squad car and grabbing the radio.

“All units to the Valley View Condominiums in Greenwood on the 6400 block of Lakeview Commons. We have a hostage situation. The victim is a high priority missing person. Need backup to shut down traffic in the area. Over.”

Larissa and Pam moved in closer to Erin and the other officers.

“What happens now?”, Larissa whispered.

The man questioning Erin looked worried.

“We need to come up with a way lure him out of the apartment and away from Jim. From what she’s told me, it sounds like he has no qualms about continuing to hurt him.

Pam’s pulse quickened, and she grabbed onto Larissa’s forearm as her knees began to shake.

God, it’s supposed to be over now, but we took too long. Jim can’t hold out for much longer, he must be so scared…

“I’ll… I’ll do it.”

Erin’s voice shook and she smiled weakly as she volunteered.

“I’ll be bait. Gabe has a soft spot for me. I think I can get him to come out.”

“Ms. Hannon, I wouldn’t-“

“I promised Jim when I was in there that I’d get him out. If this is what it’ll take to fulfill that promise, I’ll gladly do it.”

Erin looked and sounded more confident as she finished explaining.

“Just, tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it.”

X-----X-----X

7:14pm

Jim didn’t remember how he got there, but he was now on Gabe’s bed, huddled against the headboard in a kind of catatonic state. He also didn’t remember how he had gotten a nosebleed.

The period of time after Gabe tackled him to the floor was a mystery to him since he had involuntarily dissociated from the situation.

His limbs remained locked no matter how he tried to will them to move. Only his teeth chattered from clenching his jaw with a bone-crushing force and his wide eyes tracked Gabe’s pacing at the foot of the bed with blown out pupils. His fingers twitched as they clutched at his destroyed leggings.

getthefilegetthefilegetthefile

His state of shock was preventing him from responding to his brain screaming at him to grab his weapon that was somehow still in the back of the ruined clothes and undiscovered by Gabe.

“I’m so behind schedule because of all this.”, Gabe muttered as he wrapped the hand that Jim had stabbed with an old towel.

“I still have to scrub this place of evidence, scrub you of evidence, dump you on the outskirts of Honesdale….”

He stopped his pacing and thrust his injured hand at Jim.

“How am I supposed to explain this to the police, Jim? You’ve really fucked things up for me!”

Jim was present enough to stop the pathetic “I’m sorry” that formed instinctively from escaping his lips.

Gabe turned away from him and stared at the carpet instead, hands on his hips deep in thought. He chewed his lip and talked it out.

“I can’t afford anymore setbacks. I need to get him out of here ASAP….”

He suddenly jolted into action and headed to the kitchen. Jim’s posture slackened slightly once the threat to his person left the room. Eyes fixed firmly on the door, he shakily shifted his hands behind him and grabbed the glass file. Once he had it squeezed into his bound hands, breathing came a little bit easier. He sank deeper into the pillows and headboard, staring up at the ceiling fan blankly.

Gabe came back with something in his hands, probably a weapon, Jim couldn’t tell from the corner of his vision. He didn’t really care, he kind of wished he was dead at this point.

“It didn’t have to be like this, Jim.”, Gabe said as he stood above his limp form, nervously adjusting the huge pepper grinder in his hands.

“You were cooperating for a while and I was certain it wouldn’t have to end like this. I don’t like having to resort to this...”

Just bash my head in already so I don’t have to live with knowing all the sick shit you subjected me to…

“Besides, I told you too much. I shouldn’t have confessed to that woman and her husband’s murder earlier, but my head never works properly when I’m that angry.”

God, just get it over with.

“You have to die, Jim. I’m sorry.”

Gabe raised the grinder over his head, closing his eyes briefly to collect himself. When he opened them to take the first swing, Jim’s eyes were fixed on his and he paused. Neither of them breathed.

Gabe blinked a few times to collect his nerves and raised his arms again. Right as Jim closed his eyes, accepting his fate, banging rang in from the front door followed by a muffled voice.

“Gabe, it’s Erin. I’m sorry I stormed off. I think we should talk after all.”

Chapter Text

7:28pm

Erin’s head was still swimming from the brief explanation of how to conduct herself when confronting her friend’s mentally unstable kidnapper by the Lackawanna County sheriff and his deputy. She must have nodded at all the appropriate times because she was wished good luck and fitted with a small Bluetooth earpiece. She smiled encouragingly at Pam and Larissa as she was escorted by Pennsylvania state troopers from the van that law enforcement would be communicating with her. The limited number of confused tenants that had been evacuated from the fourth floor were ushered aside as she and the officers made a beeline for the elevators.

The end of the infamous “first 48” hours of Jim’s disappearance had come and gone, so only so much time could be afforded for each part of this complex rescue procedure. 

Erin was so lost in her head that she had to be nudged by an officer twice to be prompted to act- once when the elevator opened on Gabe’s floor and again when she froze and couldn’t bring herself to speak or knock as she stood at his door.

Erin bit her lip as the officer at the end of the hallway loaded his pistol and shifted back into a crouching position and counted to ten before she knocked and tried calling for Gabe again.

“Gabe, I know what I said upset you and I want to apologize.”

“That’s good, Erin, keep being understanding. That’ll help draw him out.”

She nodded in response to the deputy’s advice in her ear initially before she remembered that he couldn’t see her.

“Okay.”, she said loudly enough for the device in her ear to pick up.

There was still no response from inside the apartment. Her mind wandered to the possibility that one or both of them was already dead. It hadn’t been quite an hour since she’d discovered Jim, but that was plenty of time for a fight of some kind to have happened. Erin had to be snapped out of her panicked train of thought by the officer crouched behind a trash can two doors down.

“Psst. Hey! Deep breaths, stop tapping your foot.”

She nodded and went in to knock a third time.

“We can go get coffee or dinner, whatever you wa-“

She stopped when footsteps rapidly approached the door and it was yanked open. Gabe stopped it from slamming into the wall with his injured hand and bit his lip to contain his wince. He looked down at her blankly but she could see the barely contained anger in his posture and quivering shoulders. She stumbled over her words as she looked into the eyes of someone she now knew to be a psychopath.

“I uh, I really think we should talk about things, Gabe. Um, like I said, we can go get an actual meal-“

“This is not a good time Erin.”, he rubbed his forehead in exasperation as he interrupted her.

“I know, I’m sorry. Um, it’ll be on me this time. I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Keep apologizing, you’re doing great, Erin.”

“You shouldn’t have to pay for dinner. Besides, I really don’t feel well….”

Erin’s mind began racing as he began slowly inching the door shut.

“I overreacted and it upset you and I just want to show how sorry I am! Just let me be in the wrong for once and we –“

Erin’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of Jim quietly limping around the corner right as Gabe shook his head and interrupted her in exasperation.

“WHAT? ‘Let me be in the wrong for once.’ Is that really how you view everything I’ve done in our relationship?”

She caught a glimpse of the nail file in his hands before she shifted her eyes back to Gabe.

“I’m sorry I don’t know why I-“

“NO, you’ve always felt that deep down and you let it slip! Don’t try and deny it!”

Jim was leaning against the wall for support as he slowly approached Gabe from behind, right leg shaking as he quickly shuffled forward to make sure the bare minimum weight was placed on the ball of his foot.

“Erin, back away from him right now.”

She stood her ground. If Jim wanted to take Gabe down himself, she’d continue to distract him to make that happen.

“Do you have ANY idea what all I’ve done for you? To protect you? I’M NOT PROUD OF IT ERIN!”

Gabe couldn’t hear Jim’s steadily approaching labored breathing over his own raised voice just a few paces from his back.

“God, Erin, I am going through SO much shit right now and have so much on my plate, all while going out of my way to make YOU happy and-and- I just…”

 “I’m sorry Gabe, I just want-“

Gabe continued to stutter and interrupt her.

“You know what, no. I don’t need to hear about what YOU want, Erin. I’ve done nothing but try to consider what YOU want ever since I’ve known you and I just- I can’t – God, FUCK!”

He started to turn away right as Jim stepped away from the wall to approach Gabe standing tall.

“GABE!”, She screamed abruptly.

His angry eyes darted back to her and he opened his mouth to yell back but she cut him off.

“We know you took Jim.”, she blurted, fighting not to glance over Gabe’s shoulder at him.

The anger left his eyes and he stuttered as his imposing posture deflated slightly.

“I-what? Erin that’s just-I uh…”

“I saw him in your closet earlier. The police are already here.”

Once he realized he could no longer deny his involvement to her, his expression became desperate and imploring as he sought her understanding.

“Erin, sweetie, I never meant to hurt him. It-I- I was controlling myself and only lashing out at strangers. I just…. I handle things poorly because of what my stepdad did to me.”

Erin’s jaw tightened and she shook his head at his reasoning.

“SO? I got bounced around the foster care system for sixteen years, do I get a free pass to torture people now?”

“Erin, get out right now, we are sending more officers up.”

She couldn’t even hear the deputy over the rage headache that was pounding in her temples. Gabe moved to crowd her as Jim raised both hands with the jagged nail file over his head, teeth gritted with effort.

“Gabe, I’m sorry that you were abused as a child, but that’s no reason to be abusive yourself. Let him go; you’ll get a lesser sentence.”

He sneered down at her bitterly.

“You been hanging out with Halpert lately?”

They both jolted as Jim screamed from behind Gabe and lunged with the file. Erin startled more from the inhuman and desperate nature of his yell, Gabe from the fact that the jagged piece of glass had been driven into his cheek. Gabe spun towards him and as he ripped the file out to strike again. Jim’s blow landed in between Gabe’s shoulder blades as he ducked and rammed Jim into the open door.

“GABE STOP IT, HAVEN’T YOU DONE ENOUGH?”

Erin dived inside to use her body weight to help Jim shove Gabe back against the counter. He had abandoned trying to pull out the file for a third stab and was clawing at Gabe’s face. Gabe’s hands resumed their all too familiar grip around Jim’s neck as the officers leapt up at the commotion.

“I CAN’T GET A CLEAN SHOT THEY’RE BOTH IN THE WAY!”

“LET GO OF HIM, IT’S OVER!”

Erin yanked desperately at one of his hands as she begged, tears streaming down her face. Jim wheezed pathetically and his face was rapidly reddening. Gabe screamed as Jim’s fingernails dug into the gash on his cheek. He was growing desperate and released his grip on Jim with his left hand to scramble for a weapon on the counter top. Gasping in previously denied air, Jim shot his hands down to grasp Gabe’s neck.

“See how you like it, motherfucker…”

Gabe’s struggling and flailing against the wall got more violent. The sheriff and the deputy had abandoned their calm approach and were now full on yelling instructions at her.

“GET JIM AND YOURSELF OUT OF THE WAY OF THE GUNS, ERIN!”

Erin sunk her teeth into the hand still squeezing Jim’s throat hard enough to draw blood right as Gabe found purchase on the glass vase behind him and awkwardly swung it down onto what he thought was Jim’s left shoulder.

X-----X-----X

Pam took off in a full out sprint towards the building once she heard Jim’s first distressed battle cry transmitted from Erin’s earpiece. Larissa and the other officers screamed at her rapidly retreating back. She shoved past residents and dodged a few police officers as she made her way through the lobby and to the nearest stairwell.

She’d never climbed four flights of stairs so fast. Muffled shouting on the other side of the door on the fourth floor told her that she wasn’t to far off from the commotion. The door swung all the way open to hit the wall as she pushed into it while still running.

“GET OFF OF HER, LEWIS!”

Oh my God, Erin, pleasenopleasenopleaseno

Pam intended to pivot left and continue running once she got to the T-section that all the yelling was coming from but her legs stopped moving almost instantaneously and her hands flew over her mouth as she processed the horrific scene that had unfolded in front of unit 423.

“We need paramedics to the fourth floor, stat! A woman is bleeding to death up here!”

“Oh Erin…. Oh no no no no no, baby I – I didn’t mean to - I….”

Shattered glass and blood littered the carpet in and around the door of the apartment. Gabe’s bloody form was sprawled out on top of a body on the floor. His face was horribly marred and a long piece of glass stuck out from between his shoulder blades. He babbled hysterical condolences and squeezed the person he was crushing into his chest. Erin whimpered as she clutched at the doorframe, head barely poking out from under Gabe’s torso. Her hair was matted with her own blood and littered with shards of glass as she weakly made uncoordinated attempts to crawl out from under his weight and away from him. Further inside the door, another tall, bloodied form in 76ers socks was slumped against the counter by the entryway.

Pam saw red and her tunnel vision trained onto Gabe

HEKILLEDJIM

RIPHISFUCKINGTHROATOUT

KICKHISTEETHIN

HURTHIMLIKEHEHURTJIM

 “LEWIS, get off of her! She needs medical attention!”

“YOU’RE NOT TAKING HER FROM ME!”

She stalked forward to yank Gabe off of her herself, alerting the three panicked officers to her presence. She couldn’t hear their yells at her to step away and go back outside. The taller male cop holstered his gun to wrap arms around her waist and she fought him wildly when it happened.

Jim snapped out of whatever dazed state he was in and sat up, looking down at Gabe’s pathetic form in front of him. Both Pam and the cop stopped struggling and stared at his tired, half-lidded eyes. He deliberately reached to the side of him and grabbed a large shard of broken glass without even glancing away from Gabe, as if Pam’s tunnel vision had been instantly transferred to him. Just as methodically, Jim raised the shard and plunged it into the small of Gabe’s back.

There was no change in the blank expression on his face as Gabe screamed and contorted in pain and he drew his arm back again to continue stabbing. It was the epitome of the thousand yard stare.

Pam and the officer that had been trying to restrain her rushed forward and each grabbed one of Erin’s arms and pulled her out from under Gabe as he writhed in pain. Pam tripped as she scrambled backwards and clutched Erin to her. She continued to whimper and rested her bloody head on her chest while Pam watched her husband blindly continue stabbing Gabe, tears streaming down both of their faces.

Jim truly looked like the last surviving character in a slasher horror film, sporting torn clothing and countless injuries. The array of bruises on this neck trapped her in her own catatonic state, but she snapped out of it when Erin was lifted off her and onto a gurney. She blinked and shook her head before reassessing the scene.

In the time she had spaced out, Jim had stopped trying to paralyze Gabe and was leaning against the open door, eyes closed and breathing shallowly. Gabe had been handcuffed and his bloodied body was also in the process of having his spine stabilized and being carefully loaded onto a gurney by several medics. A police officer was crouched beside her, pleading for her attention.

“Pam? Mrs. Halpert?”

She tore her eyes from Jim’s trembling body over to the source of the voice.

“Why is he still sitting there? He needs to go to the hospital.”, Pam’s words shook in angry confusion.

That monster is already being loaded into an ambulance and Jim is still here….

“He panics and tries to stab any of the medics that approach him….”

Pam understood what he was asking of her immediately and shifted to her hands and knees. Jim cracked his eyes open as she crawled closer to him. She stopped just out of arm’s reach, glancing at the bloody jagged piece of glass clasped in the hands in Jim’s lap. Her voice broke when she finally spoke.

“Honey I’m – I…. why don’t you want to go to the hospital?”

“……. It’s not that.”

She clasped a hand over her mouth again after hearing Jim’s barely audible rasp.

“I just literally cannot handle being touched right now!” he blurted out in progressively more hysterical sobs.

Pam put her hands up in a calming motion and coached him on breathing deeply and evenly while the medics waited patiently off to the side. Jim sniffled weakly and gasped calmer breaths as he tightened his grip on the shard.

“Jim, please let go of the glass.”

“I can’t. My-my body just…. won’t listen to my brain….”

“Oh sweetie, your hands….”

“You should…. see the other guy.”

Dammit, how does he still have the energy to try and lighten the mood.

“Is it okay if I help you let go of the glass?”, Pam gently asked as she ignored his quip. She extended a hand to hover over the bound hands that rested in his lap.

“I just want to help you, Jim. Is it okay if I help you?”

Jim looked into her eyes as he processed the double meaning to her question. He shook his head imperceptibly, lip quivering.

“I-I want it to be…. I do. So badly Pam, I….”

Her fingers lowered to stroke his clenched bloody knuckles soothingly. He jolted but didn’t strike her. He squeezed his eyes shut and trembled like an abused dog, turning his face into the door in preparation for violence that would never come.

Not from Pam.

“I can stop anytime, okay?”

The quiet reassurance from his sweet wife instantaneously relaxed his shoulders that he had involuntarily tensed away from his ears.

“Okay.”, Jim’s face was still turned into the door.

She scooted a little closer to be able to hold his hands at a better angle. She stroked his right palm delicately while she slowly peeled each finger back to reveal the jagged shard.

“I’m not going to hurt you.”, Pam whispered as she shed a fresh round of tears.

Jim began to turn away from the door as she picked the piece of glass out of his now open hand and threw it down the hallway.

“Okay….”

“Can I untie your hands?”

Jim teared up again and repeated himself, this time in a shakier and weaker tone. She shifted again and her knees bumped his.

He didn’t flinch this time.

Pam stroked his knuckles this time as she unwrapped the tape. She looked down briefly to ball it up and throw it aside. Jim had turned his torso to completely face her when she looked back up, shuddering and biting his lip in a last-ditch attempt to contain his breakdown.

“Jim, can I hug you?”, She asked as she resumed stroking his hands.

As soon as her soft fingers touched his bloodied ones, he let out the wail he’d been trying to suppress and nodded. She scooted impossibly closer to him and wrapped her arms around his ribs and the back of his head. She crushed him to her, burying his powerful sobs into her shoulder. Jim’s forearms shook as he desperately tried to raise them and hug Pam back, but they only hovered slightly above her lap. She suppressed the urge to shudder at the blood she could feel in his hair and just soothingly stroked the back of his head. The sobs slowly died down and were replaced with brief statements gasped into her cardigan.

“He killed Erin.”

“No, she’ll be okay.”

God, please don’t make a liar out of me….

“I miss CeCe.”

“She misses you too, sweetie.”

“I can’t walk. He fucked up my knee.”

“We’ll help you walk. It can be fixed.”, Pam kissed his temple in reassurance.

Jim froze and then wrapped his arms around her waist immediately in response.

“Pam. Pam, I-I need the kit.”, he whispered desperately.

“What kit?”

He gulped before elaborating slowly.

“The kit… at the hospital… for when you’re ra-raped.”

This is so much worse then I could have ever imagined…

“He – he did this before. He can’t get away with it this time.”

Pam squinted her wet eyes shut and pulled herself out of her own racing thoughts to listen to the plea that Jim was muttering into her shoulder.

“I – I want to put him away. Lock him up and-and throw away the key. But I’m so fucked up right now…”

“Jim, you’re not…“

“No, wait, please. Tell them what happened and that I need the kit. I’ll just fly off the handle if I have to talk about it right now.”

She nodded quietly in understanding and waited until she was sure he was done talking to speak up.

“I’ll help you. I love you. You’re going to get through this.”

“He’s killed people. He told me. He’s a monster. He tried to kill me so many times…. I have to stop him.”

“You’re not going to go it alone, Jim.”

She felt a small smile form on her shoulder and he squeezed her waist a little tighter. They stayed that way for a little while, huddled together in a bubble of comfort amidst a bloody carpet and broken glass. She slowly pulled away and he followed suite.

“Are you ready to go to the hospital?”

Jim bit his lip and glanced up at the somewhat anxious looking medics waiting nearby.

“I can’t walk and th-they…”

“Jim, I’ll help you up. You’re just going to sit on the gurney.”

He looked back down at Pam in embarrassment.

“But they’ll brace my knee… I just can’t right now, Pam, I…”

When he began stumbling over his words, she nodded in understanding and looked over her shoulder at them.

“Can you walk me through stabilizing his leg? He doesn’t want to be touched right now.”

The medics responded in assent and took that as a cue to move closer to the couple on the floor.

“I’ll help you stand. It’ll be just me, okay?”

Pam started to shift to his right side when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked around to see the medic stopping her from standing starting to squat at eye level. with Jim and Pam.

“Hey uh, Pam is it?”, he asked politely.

“Yes?”

He glanced at Jim’s purple splotched neck before looking back at her.

“We need to brace his neck before we move him. He could have cervical fractures from the repeated strangulation attempts.”

Jim shuddered at the use of such a clinical term to describe the violence he had suffered during Gabe’s episodes of white-hot rage.

“Another medic is coming up with a cervical collar. If you could help him while we put it on, I’d really appreciate it.”

Pam immediately turned to face Jim when she saw him shake his head no out of the corner of her eye.

“Hey, honey, don’t move your neck right now okay?”

“Don’t make me put that thing on. It- it’ll be like he’s ch-choking me again…”

Pam cut off the medic before he could try to correct him, knowing that an explanation from anyone but her wouldn’t help.”

“No, Jim, it’s not going to squeeze your throat. It’s like…. It’s just a kind of stand for your chin to rest in to immobilize your head.”

The medic gave a tiny nod at her analogy. Jim was momentarily distracted by a woman returning with the brace in question, frowning as he tried to contain another sob. Pam reached her hands up from clutching his hands to place them on each temple.

“Hey, I’m here and I’m not going to let anyone hurt you, okay.”, his eyes shifted to hers at the reassurance.

“Just, look at me, sweetie, it won’t take long.”

He did, transfixed by her big eyes and thumbs delicately stroking the hair above his ears, and she was right. It seemed like a second later, the brace was situated and locked into place and the medics were backing away from their bubble again.

“Are you ready to stand?”

He jolted at the noise of the gurney being lowered but then nodded. Pam moved to squat by his right side and looped his arm over her shoulder. She talked him through planting his left foot and using the door for support before they stood together. His breathing rate rose as the two of them did, the right leg elevated slightly from the floor as it shook violently. Pam lead the way as they turned 180 degrees and sat down on the stretcher together. She kept her arms around him as she coached his breathing back down to a normal rate.

“Do you want the oxygen mask?”

Silence, and then a quick nod. A medic turned on the tank and handed the mask to Pam. She gently placed it over his mouth and nose, squeezing his hand in support when she was done. Jim squeezed back and then began to scoot into a lying position on the cushion. Pam took her cue and placed a hand behind his calf and thigh respectively, slowly moving the limb to fully rest on the gurney. He bit his lip and squeezed the railings along the side of the padding as pain from the torn muscles of his knee shot up into his spine.

“I’m sorry, it’s okay.”

Jim breathed deeply and nodded.

“Can I splint your leg now?”

He nodded again, this time with no hesitation.

While one medic walked through applying the medical splint with Pam, the other asked Jim yes or no questions about his other injuries. When she finished, she went to Jim’s other side and took the hand that was resting on his chest. They clung to each other’s hands as Pam walked alongside the gurney the entire trek back to the parking lot.

 

Chapter Text

8:18pm, Saturday, April 9

No more than 20 seconds had passed after Dwight had been cleared to leave when he and Holly peeled out of the parking lot in front of the police department and sped toward the Scranton Expressway.

The second Dwight knew he was free to go, he ripped the keys to Holly’s car out of her hand and sprinted toward the lobby. She practically threw his bag full of the documents they collected at the office at the officer checking them out as she turned and bolted after Dwight, trying to narrow the distance his long legs had put between them. Her shoe nearly flew off and she narrowly missed banging her forehead on the short roof of her convertible as she dived in through the passenger door that he had opened for her.

“Get onto southbound 81, his apartment is near the golf course!”, Holly barked as she ripped her phone out and tried to shut the door at the same time.

It wasn’t shut until Dwight ran what would be the first of many red lights.

“I REMEMBER!”, he yelled back.

They practically broke every traffic law as they weaved and sped around cars in the downtown area, desperately trying to get to the freeway. Right as Dwight sped up the ramp to the Interstate, Holly’s first call was answered.

“Holly, is everything okay?”

“MICHAEL! Yeah, we’re okay!”, she lied as she sighed in relief.

“Hey, are you home right now?”

“Yeah, you need something?”

Her heart leapt, and not just because Dwight had just drifted her car around two semi-trucks.

“Ok, babe, listen to me. In the top file drawer of the desk in our study, there’s a bulky accordion folder. It’s labelled ‘Contact information – Sabre’. I need you to get the name and the phone number of the regional manager from the file labelled ‘Tallahassee’.”

“Uh, okay, I’ll go do that…”

Michael muttered something about how weird HR people are as he quickly did Holly’s bidding. He seemed to have at least an idea that she needed the information for something serious as he read off the name and number to her twice without making any kind of joke or comment.

“Okay, thank you so much Michael.”, she gushed while repeating what he just told her over and over again in her head.

“I promise I’ll explain all this later. I love you.”

“Love you too, Nerd.”

She hung up right as Dwight weaved around several more cars.

“I think making a complaint to corporate about that freak’s unprofessionalism or whatever you’re going to say can wait, don’t you?”, Dwight snarked while still hunched over the steering wheel.

“That’s not what I’m calling her about…”, Holly finished dialing and pressed the phone to her ear as she replied.

It rang five times and went to voicemail so she quickly unjumbled her thoughts to try and best convey them for the recording.

“Hey, Stephanie, sorry to call you on a weekend like this but it’s an emergency. Um, I’ll just get right into it. My name is Holly Flax, I’m the HR representative at the Sabre branch in Scranton. Your former employee, Gabe Lewis, is the prime suspect of the kidnapping of one of his subordinate sales representatives here where he transferred last fall. We’re 99% sure he did it.”

She saw Dwight roll his eyes out of the corner of her vision.

“He has no police record or any prior convictions, though. You’re the next best resource for the police to check in terms of documentation of any disturbing behavior he might have shown. I’m going to give the police your information, but I would ask that you give me a call and tell me anything helpful as well. Please, this has affected our office substantially. Have a good night, sorry to bother you.”

They were turning off the highway and toward the golf course as she hung up.

“There seriously isn’t anything? No HR complaints? Disciplinary actions at work?”, Dwight asked in disbelief.

“No. I looked already. Squeaky clean record.”

Holly was beginning to wonder if there was truly no way to prevent what had happened to Jim.

Dwight sped up the windy Glenmaura Boulevard at a dangerous speed, weaving up on a curb and around the blockade of police cars that was set up at the four way intersection right in front of Gabe Lewis’ apartment complex.

“I’ll pay for that.”, he muttered dryly, referring to the damage he had inflicted to the tires and bumpers of her low-riding car.

“Thanks.”

Holly only halfheartedly acknowledged him as she realized they were one right turn away from finding out if Jim Halpert was dead or alive. Dwight had to come to a screeching halt as they turned into the south entrance. The gate to the complex was open but there was a cop car in front of the entrance lane. Dwight started to roll down the window to demand they be allowed in but Holly grabbed his forearm and rolled hers down as a young cadet approached her side of the car.

“I’m sorry guys but we have a hostage situ-“

“I’M HIS WIFE!.”, Holly cut him off in a hysterical bark, adding in some hyperventilation for good measure.

“LET ME IN SO I CAN BE WITH MY HUSBAND!”

The cadet jumped and backed away from her, clearly confused on how to proceed. Dwight took his cue and leaned out his own window.

“This is Pamela Halpert, the wife of the victim and mother of his children. Are you going to let us in so she can find out what happened to her husband or make her show you identification?”

He looked anxiously between the two of them before relenting.

“Okay, go ahead. Through the exit gate.”

Dwight threw the car in reverse and maneuvered to speed through the gate as the cop waved them on. The car landed hard as he flew over a speed bump and he looked over at her apologetically.

“I will actually pay for any damage, Holly, I swear on Belsnickel hims-“

He glanced back towards the buildings in the middle of his reassurance and slammed on the brakes as they both processed the scene in front of building four.

Flashing lights from the ambulances and police cars polluted the what would have been a beautiful late spring sunset from the complex’s location on the side of a hill. The vehicles in question were clustered near the side of the building that was furthest from Gabe Lewis’ unit, with the ambulances on the grass near the doors. Tenants that had been evacuated were scattered about in the parking lot as police tried to keep them away from the building and off the sidewalks, some in night clothes but all of them confused and scared. A few people in the surrounding buildings were watching the spectacle from their patio balconies. Dwight slowly pulled the car up closer and parked in an empty spot next to a haphazardly parked news van.

They both stepped numbly out of her car and were making their way to where what looked like a surveillance van was set up when something a reporter standing on the other side of the van from her car said snapped Holly out of her daze.

“Let’s just get a soundbite from the sister and interview as many people as possible so we can make the 10pm news. I heard on the police scanner that she was really distraught.”

Holly could feel the vein pop in her neck as she whipped around on instinct and strode towards the open doors.

“Get out of here and leave her alone.”

Her voice was a barely recognizable snarl and the news anchor and the cameraman jolted at her sudden appearance.

“What’s wrong with you people? You’re going to take advantage of a girl who thinks her brother is dead for an entertaining news segment?”

“Look lady, we’re doing our j-“

“NO. You aren’t. Telling the truth is your job and NO ONE knows what happened in there, yet. But you want to report it anyway.”

Holly’s shaming attempt was met with annoyed blank stares and she realized they weren’t going to budge.

“This directly effects my friends and I, not you two. Leave us alone and go home.”

She turned on her heel to go find Dwight as the woman started to frantically ask if she was close with Jim. She scanned the area by the police cars that was beyond a traffic barrier that was set up and quickly found him, his tall frame awkwardly hugging a smaller woman. Holly pushed her way past the barriers and heard the cries from her that were muffled by Dwight’s shoulder.

“….I’m so sorry, I slowed things down and-and I think we-we were too late. I basically ki-killed him, I-I…”

Dwight rubbed her back as he looked at Holly with wide eyes, clearly uncomfortable with Larissa’s unloading of tears and incoherent whimpers into his sweater. She looked around for Pam one last time before turning to try and console Jim’s sister.

“Larissa, honey, it’s okay. None of this is your fault.”, she brought her hand to join Dwight’s on her shoulder.

“Do you know where Pam is, sweetie?”

Larissa threw her head back and sobbed even harder after she finished asking.

“S-she ran inside after we heard Jim scream!”

Dwight and Holly made panicked eye contact that asked each other the same question as Larissa clutched at him harder.

How could his scream be heard from all the way out here?

Holly began to simultaneously ponder how it was possible for Jim to be in that much pain and where the hell Erin was when her attention was ripped over to the lobby doors banging open and her question was answered.

Paramedics came barreling out of Gabe’s building with a barely-conscious Erin Hannon sprawled on a stretcher. She was lolling her bloody head from side to side and moaning in pain. Larissa let out a wail when she realized what the commotion was about and Holly moved to follow the stretcher to the ambulance.

“…. Pulse is weak but she’s breathing okay. Let’s get her to Geisinger, ASAP.”

“…. Probably in the early stages of shock, definitely has a concussion.”

Erin was quickly loaded into the back while Holly hugged herself and waited patiently for one of them to notice her before speaking.

“Ma’am?”, a medic asked with a twinge of annoyance as he stepped down and out of the back.

“I’m Erin’s friend, what happened to her?”

The man’s face softened but he spat out his reply angrily.

“That piece of shit broke a vase over her head.”

Holly’s jaw slackened, blown away by the harsh reality of Gabe’s cruelty. If he could do that to Erin, there was no telling what kind of state Jim was in. The medic seemed to think there was nothing more he could say to her and turned to get in the passenger seat as she reached out and grabbed his arm. She paused, a million questions flying through her head in a split second before she picked the most important one to ask.

“Did…. Did Jim Halpert make it?”

She bit her lip when his posture deflated and prepared for the worst.

“He did, but…. He’s in bad shape. I’m sorry.”

Holly sighed and nodded her thanks. They both turned to leave at the same time, him to help get Erin proper medical attention, her to reassure Larissa that her brother would be okay.

She hoped that wouldn’t turn out to be a lie.

“Larissa, honey, the medic said Jim is okay. He made it.”, she soothed as she gently tugged at Larissa to turn away from Dwight and to face her.

“Pam’s with him right now. He’s going to be okay.”

She shivered, head bowed as Holly held her up by her shoulders.

“That man was being so nice to me today…. and he-he was doing this the whole time, I don’t…”

Larissa continued to ramble as Dwight stepped back in to put an arm around her. She slumped into him and Holly adjusted so that she was supporting her other side. The three of them stood huddled together and didn’t react when Gabe was wheeled out on a second stretcher. They were content in their silence for a few minutes more before Larissa spoke up again.

“Have Pam and Jim come out yet?”, she muttered dejectedly.

Dwight looked up to check and decided to spare her of knowing that a second person was being loaded into an ambulance and that he wasn’t her brother.

“No, they’re not out yet, monkey….”

The sun had finished setting and Larissa threw her head up to look at the stars in desperation.

“God, please…. I can’t take waiting anymore….”

Dwight’s uneasiness was rising as well. More people were coming out on their patios to watch what was unfolding and he really hoped that it was his preconceived negative opinions on people in general that was making him hallucinate that members of the crowd were pulling out their phones to film the scene and whispering bets amongst each other on whether Jim Halpert had lived or died. A third ambulance arrived soon enough and the three of them were allowed to migrate to wait nearby based on Larissa’s status as the victim’s sister.

They stood numbly staring at the doors, ignoring the chaos and the stares of other onlookers as best as they could.

Either several minutes or several years later, the doors were pushed open a third time. Dwight, Holly and Larissa all immediately lurched forward before they even registered who lay atop it.

Pam walked stiffly alongside Jim’s immobilized and bloodied form, sporting bloodstains from his and Erin’s injuries on her blouse, hands and neck. She seemed to be squeezing his hand as a comfort to herself as well as for him. Jim’s neck and right knee were immobilized, and his clothes looked like they’d been through a wood chipper. The couple exhibited the same blank far off stare.

“God, Jimmy, I….I-“

Larissa let out a sob and leaned into Holly’s side when Jim was close enough for them to see that his left eye had turned red. She wrapped her arms around the younger woman and tried to contain herself. The medics had stopped next to them to prepare to load him into the ambulance when Jim rolled his eyes from the sky to his sister and frowned when he saw that she was crying.

“Hey, ‘Rissa.”, he rasped weakly and stretched his other hand to her.

Larissa sniffled and wiped her face before she reached out to grab it.

“Why are you crying? Do I need to beat up Tom or Pete?”

She only began to cry harder when her injured big brother began to stroke her hand with his thumb as if she were the one that had been abducted and tortured for two full days.

“Jim… it’s just… you can’t joke your way through something like this…”

Jim’s lip quivered when he realized he’d only upset her more and Pam took it upon herself to speak up.

“It’s okay, Larissa, he’s had a rough week and is just trying to turn it around.”

“I didn’t mean to upset her….”, Jim mumbled into the oxygen mask and squeezed his sister’s limp hand tighter.

Pam wiped more tears from her eyes and didn’t comment on how he was more concerned about how he was affecting others than his own poor physical state.

“We know, baby. No one is mad at you. No one could ever be mad at you for any of this.”

Larissa shifted to lean onto Dwight as they moved to give the two medics that had returned to move the stretcher into the vehicle some more room. Jim began to shake with barely contained sobs when she moved beyond his grip. Holly and Pam didn’t move as he was maneuvered into the ambulance, reaching his hand back to try and stay in contact with Pam.

“I’ll be right in after you, honey.”, she explained gently.

“Pam, what do you need me to do? Anything at all, I’ll do it.”

Pam’s eyes lingered on Jim before she flicked them over to her sister-in-law who was squeezing Dwight’s waist like her life depended on it.

“Take her and follow us to the hospital. Be sure to call their parents and brothers before you get there; she might want to go right home. Jim and I both need a change of clothes.”

Holly nodded as she glanced down at her bloody blouse and waited for more instructions. Pam just shook her head lamely.

“I honestly can’t think of anything else. There’s about a million thoughts racing through my head right now.”

“I understand. I’ll make sure they bring some clothes.”

“Jim will want basketball shorts…. Probably a sweater too…”, Pam muttered thoughtfully to no one in particular.

She nodded with finality and moved to climb into the back of the ambulance. She paused with one foot raised and turned back to say one more thing.

“This is far from over. He’s going to need all the support he can get.”

Holly pursed her lips in determination and nodded in agreement.

“We’re working on it.”, she said vaguely.

That seemed to be enough for Pam at the moment. She gave Holly a quick hug and then turned back to be helped into the back by the EMS personnel. Holly moved to Dwight to help walk Larissa to her car. They walked past the same van and newscaster who tried to pester Larissa for a comment and piled into the convertible as the ambulance peeled out of the complex. Larissa was calm enough to call her mother on her own as Dwight followed a respectable distance behind the ambulance.

It was calm and quiet enough that Holly jolted when her phone vibrated in her pants pocket. She muttered a swear and answered it without even checking the caller ID.

“Yes?”

“Hi, is this Holly Flax?”

“Yes, who am I speaking to?”

“This is Stephanie Middleton from the main office in Tallahassee. I got your message.”

Holly’s eyes widened as she tried to remain composed.

“Oh, yes. I’m sorry to have called you on a weekend but it was obviously urgent.”

“It’s really not a problem. I want to help. Do, um, do you know for 100% if he did it, yet?”

Holly sighed.

“Yes. The employee was literally just rescued from Gabe’s apartment.”

Larissa’s breath hitched in the back seat and Dwight glanced at her.

“Okay, well, when you say “no previous records”, were you including complaints and reports that Sabre filed?”

“Yes, there was nothing.”

Stephanie sighed and was silent for a few seconds. Holly didn’t like where this was going.

“There was an incident back in 2008. It was serious and he had to be placed on administrative leave for a while. Jo told us she would handle and record it appropriately. She must have never put it on file.”

Being an HR rep for as long as she had taught Holly that the phrasing “there was an incident” was almost always indicated something horrific was to follow. She swallowed before pressing forward.

“What kind of incident?”

X-----X-----X

1:24am, Sunday, April 10

Pam barely heard the nurses excuse themselves and thank her for her patience in time to give them a small smile in appreciation before they quietly left Jim’s room. She held his hand and stroked his hair soothingly even though he was heavily medicated with painkillers and sedatives and wasn’t really aware of his surroundings. He furrowed his brows, pulling at the stitches in his forehead, and mumbled into her blouse.

“Is it over?”

She squeezed his hand tighter in lieu of letting out a sob.

“Yeah, they’re all done.”

He nodded and then stilled, relaxing at the fact that the staff had finally left them alone. She stroked his knuckles through the bandages on his hands as his breathing slowed. Pam retracted her hand from the back of his head once she was certain he was asleep to pull her phone out of her pocket and text his mother that it was okay for her and Larissa to come in from the lobby and see them.

She was sure they were out of their minds with worry after Jim frantically demanded they leave his examination room when they came in right as the medical assessment was beginning. She repressed the urge to try and overexplain Jim’s reaction in the text and just politely asked them to come back to the room for a visit and sent the text.

Her head swam with all that had been revealed about Jim’s treatment while being held captive by Gabe Lewis. She could still hear the doctor’s calm droning voice as he read off the long list of injuries to one of the nurses that had helped with the exam.

“minor concussion…. orbital hematoma – left eye…. lacerations on cheek, forehead, both hands…. contusions, face, neck, thighs and hips…. stress fracture to the hyoid bone, from repeated strangulations…. Communicated undisplaced fractures of right patella…. ruptured quadriceps tendon - right leg…. grade two tear - IT band and grade three tear - vastus lateralis, both on right leg….”

Pam stared at the leg in question. Jim’s old basketball shorts stopped just above his knee and she could clearly see it despite her half laying position near the head of the bed. It rested on a large pillow, wrapped with gauze above and below the knee joint and a sturdy plastic brace. Even though it was thoroughly bandaged now, she could still almost see the molted bruises and the deep gash that she knew marred his skin.

“Oh my god…”, their physician with thirty plus years of experience gasped.

He had cut the tattered remains of the leggings off to reveal the poorly bandaged stab wound and deformed knee cap. Pam physically recoiled and squeezed Jim’s shaking hand. He reacted just as poorly to seeing the extent of his injury for the first time, averting his eyes and squeezing them shut.

“Son, this is broken. Badly….”

The series of x-rays that followed immediately confirmed the doctor’s suspicions. As the staff moved on to address the more superficial injuries, Jim voiced his desire to be sedated. When a nurse shot her a puzzled look at his sudden aversion to being treated, Pam moved closer to be sure that Jim was out of earshot to explain.

“He uh- earlier he asked for a sexual assault exam.”

The blank stare she was met with made her realize why Jim did not want to ask them himself.

A brief argument with said nurse and the doctor over the morality examining an alleged rape victim who wasn’t in any state of mind to consent was ended by Jim explaining quietly that he wanted to do everything in his power to throw the book at Gabe.

“I’ll sign whatever you need me to…. Just… I don’t want to know what’s happening. I can’t handle it.”

They both signed a document agreeing not to sue if Jim regretted going forward with the procedure under the influence of prescription strength drugs. Pam sat numbly by his side as a sedative was injected into his shoulder, too emotionally drained and sleep deprived to express how she agreed with the staff that this was unethical.

However, she was soon relieved that he was so heavily sedated when she witnessed all that was done to collect evidence from his body.

She wiped at her eyes again as he squeezed her hand tighter and mumbled something involving the word “love”. She whipped her head up at the knock on the door before Betsy and Larissa cracked it open, feeling her walls start to crumble when they were close enough for her to see the looks of pity that were fixated on the two of them.

“Hey, I’m sorry about him earlier.”, she wiggled the shoulder Jim was leaning against to indicate that she was referring to him.

“He was anxious about the medical exams and just needed some space.”

Betsy looked knowingly at her from Jim’s other side like she knew she was deliberately omitting information.

“Why did it take so long?”

Pam gulped and wracked her brain for a reasonable explanation.

“Well uh, the x-rays do take a while and there were a lot of superficial injuries that needed to be treated and uh, the police came in for his statement and to ask questions about Gabe and-“

Larissa cut her off in the middle of her incoherent ramble.

“Pam, we asked the police in the lobby what they learned from Jim and they told us they were coming back in the morning for his statement. They were told that he was so distraught that he had to be sedated and they couldn’t ask him questions when he is in that state.”

Pam sighed and bowed her head to conceal her quivering lip.

“We know it’s bad. Just please be honest with us so we can help him, Pam.”

The desperate looks from Jim’s mother and sister broke the last of her resolve. Her need to share the horrific ordeal that he had endured so she wouldn’t have to bear the burden herself far outweighed the fear that he would be mad at her for disclosing his traumatic experiences.

Jim, I’m so sorry, please don’t hate me….

“He told me he needed a rape kit at the complex.”, Pam blurted as she cradled his head.

Larissa sank into a chair and rested her head in her hands. Betsy shifted closer and began nervously rubbing the sleeve of Jim’s University of Scranton sweatshirt between her fingers.

“He didn’t tell me anything more about what happened, so I thought maybe he was being paranoid, but… after seeing what they found during the exam… something happened.”

Nothing happened to you and you can’t even say it…

Jim turned his head away from Pam’s chest and drowsily looked at his mother when he realized she was pulling on his sleeve.

“Hey mommy…”

“Hey baby. It’s going to be okay.”

Larissa stood and came to stand by his side as he flipped his hand and sloppily grabbed his mother’s wrist.

“No. I-I’m so fucked up.”

Betsy paled and adjusted her grip to squeeze his hand as Larissa stepped in to reassure him.

“Jimmy, it’s okay. They’ve just got you on a lot of painkillers.”

He shook his head and grimaced before he explained himself.

“No, like fucked up… like dad after Nam. Just… staring at nothing for hours and hours…”

He chuckled and rolled his head back to rest on Pam’s shoulder.

“… But I guess I do that at work anyway soooooo...”

Jim drifted into a well-deserved sleep unaware of how disturbed the three women were by his drug-induced honesty.

X-----X-----X

7:19am, Sunday, April 10

The older man sitting by Erin’s wheelchair in the waiting area stood up and turned the volume of the TV up as loud as it would go. She played with a loose thread on the sweater Holly had brought her to change into to try and contain her temper.

She normally would not lash out at older men who were hard of hearing, but she had been desperately trying to tune out the news bulletin he was so fascinated in. It was now deafening and inescapable.

“….was rescued in the late hours of April 9th after being missing for 48 hours and was found in the apartment of his supervisor. James, his captor, Gabriel Lewis and Lewis’ ex-girlfriend, Erin Hannon, were all hospitalized in a rescue operation that turned violent.”

Erin may have had a black eye and bandages on her head, but she was still recognizable in the picture that appeared onscreen beside the news anchor. She bit her lip and waited for her nurse to come back as the older man and a nurse at the station stared at her in awe. She only looked up from looking at a chipped tile to her left when she realized two pairs of footsteps were rapidly approaching her.

“Hey, Erin, why are you up so early?”

Pam’s hand rubbed her shoulder soothingly and looked down at her with puzzled concern. The nurse assigned to Erin looked vaguely annoyed standing behind her. She had only agreed to roll Erin out of her room in the wheelchair after she had tried to drowsily rip out her IVs and walk herself out.

“Head hurts. Can’t sleep. Wanted to see how Jim is.”

She nodded thoughtfully at first before looking back at the nurse that had called her out of Jim’s room on Erin’s behalf.

“I’ll take her from here, we could use her company.”

“Great. Send for me when she’s ready to go.”

The nurse turned and stormed back toward the wing Erin had come from. Pam ignored her and unlocked the wheels to push her along the opposite direction.

“She was being so mean to me….”

“It’s early and she’s probably tired. She isn’t doing it to spite you.”

They meandered around a few corners in content silence. As they approached Jim’s room, Pam spoke up again.

“So, just a fair warning, he thinks you didn’t make it after the fight at the apartment.”

Erin jolted upright and whipped around to look at her.

“Wait, you mean… he thinks I d-di….”

“He thought the vase killed you immediately. We haven’t had a chance to explain what happened last night. Just…. Expect him to be really happy to see you.”

Pam moved to knock and push the door open so Erin could roll herself the short distance into the room.

The large room felt pretty crowded with the immediate Halpert family. Jim’s mother and oldest brother were sleeping leaning against each other on a futon in a small sitting area off to the side. The other brother that had been sitting by the hospital bed and anxiously playing with a pocket knife looked up and squinted at Pam and the unknown woman she’d brought with her. At first glance, Erin thought that Jim’s father was leaning on his elbows on the side of the bed, praying over his youngest son, but they were actually having a quiet conversation and looked up as the door shut behind Pam.

“Jim, Erin wanted to come by and see how you’re doing.”

Jim sat bolt upright once he heard her name and nearly elbowed his dad in the face.

“What? ERIN! Thank god, I thought he killed you!”

Erin ignored her pulsing headache and disorientation to stand up when Jim reached for her. She used the side of the bed for balance as she propelled herself forward so they could wrap each other in a fierce hug.

“’course I’m okay.”, she joked through the tears.

“If I can survive Dunder Mifflin, I can survive anything.”

Jim half laughed, half sobbed as he stroked her bandaged head.

“I thought he killed you…”. He muttered solemnly into her shoulder.

Jim seemed content with holding her into his chest so Erin scooted herself a little further down the bed so that he would be sitting a little taller and not leaning back at such an awkward angle. Pam moved over to the controls by the bed to raise the head of the bed to support Jim’s torso before she wrapped them both in a huge hug.

“You both are so brave.”, she whispered, stroking Erin’s back and kissing the part of Jim’s forehead not obscured by her shoulder.

Jim unwound one arm from around Erin to wrap around his wife and he squeezed them both a little tighter to him. They were content to stay huddled together for the foreseeable future, uncaring that all the other occupants of the room were watching them. Erin heard Jim’s mother say something about giving them some space and taking the opportunity to call or go check in on Larissa and the baby at the house. She and the older brothers had started to shuffle by when Erin opened her eyes and saw that Jim’s father was still in his seat by the bed and watching the three of them. When they made eye contact, he flashed her a small smile and stood as if to leave only to lean towards her and gently speak the first words he’d ever said directly to her.

“Thank you everything you did to save my son’s life.”

He squeezed her shoulder and ruffled Jim’s already chaotic hair before he left to give them more privacy. Erin waited until the door was firmly shut to blurt out the thoughts that had been eating her alive since she regained consciousness.

“I’m so sorry! For even considering dating him! For taking so long to come back up for you! For scaring you so much that you though I was dead!”

Jim and Pam squeezed her tighter and dispelled her rapid-fire apologies before she could finish.

“No, Erin, Gabe was a ticking time bomb. This side of him was going to come out no matter what. All of this would have happened, just to someone else.”

“Are you kidding me, Erin? You did so much to help get me out of there! You-you jumped in the middle of a fistfight between two 6’3” men and did some serious damage.”

“Yeah, I guess I did…. I drew some blood.”

Erin smiled through a sniffle.

“Hey, that was the first time I’ve bitten anyone in a fight too!”, she added a little too proudly.

Jim and Pam had drawn back slightly from their tight embrace and were now smiling weakly at her since she was no longer beating herself up. Erin’s swell of pride and realization of her worth quelled when she pulled away like they did and their surroundings came rushing back to her.

They were in a suite at the Geisinger Medical Center, huddled around Jim’s bed, awaiting the news on how and when his badly injured leg would be repaired, and right in the center of a media frenzy surrounding one of the worst crimes their area has seen in decades.

All because of Gabe Lewis.

“I’m just really sad that all this happened to you guys. You’re the nicest people and you didn’t deserve to go through any of this. No one does.”

Pam squeezed her again reassuringly and planted another kiss on her husband’s bruised forehead.

“Well because of your help, no one else will have to.”

Jim’s eyes flew all the way open and he sat up ramrod straight, accidentally jolting his right leg.

“AH! God… Pam, I don’t remember, did I talk to the police last night?”

“No, you were pumped full of morphine and sedatives so they couldn’t interview you.”

Pam and Erin both put their arms up to placate him as he moved to shift off of his bed and walk himself.

“Jim, honey, you’ve got several torn muscles. You don’t need to be walking right now!”

“Gotta find them…. They need to know about the murders…”

Erin’s heart plummeted into her stomach and her arms went limp from his chest.

“Murders? Jim, what…. what are you-“

“He was furious when you left so suddenly after finding me…”, Jim said through gritted teeth, the pain from trying to move his right leg catching up with him before the morphine drip could.

“He went on this…. psychotic tangent about how he’s killed to prevent himself from taking it out on you… he confessed that he killed two people to me.”

Erin was instantaneously struck numb with guilt and horror from her indirect involvement in the death of innocent people. Her palms shook in her lap as she processed just how obsessed Gabe was with her.

“Gotta tell them… their deaths are unsolved... the families should know… who did it.”

Pam nodded in agreement with him as he breathed through the pain.

“They said they’d come this morning when you were more aware, honey. Just be patient.”

Erin could only manage to flick her wide eyes frantically to the door as Jim’s mother poked her head in and knocked.

“Hey, Jimmy, there are officers here to talk to you about… what happened.”

Pam and Erin both snapped their heads towards Jim for permission to proceed.

“LET THEM IN RIGHT NOW!”

His voice cracked with desperation and his grip on Pam’s hand rivalled how she had squeezed his while giving birth. Betsy backed out and allowed the two detectives past her and into the room.

“Jim, we know you’ve been through a lot but we need you be calm and present for when we take down your statements.”, the woman detective explained gently as she sat in the chair his father had been occupying all morning.

He nodded and sank back into his bed, focusing on counting the dots on the ceiling, Pam’s squeezing of his hand, and Erin rubbing his left thigh to try to relax.

“Would you prefer that your wife and friend leave the room for this or-“

“No. No, it’s okay. They can stay.”

Once it was clear that Jim was steadily calming down, the other detective began to fill him in from the foot of the hospital bed.

“We’ve been able to interview and fingerprint Gabe Lewis since he was hospitalized last night. You didn’t paralyze him but you sure did a number on him.”

“Likewise.”, Jim muttered angrily at the ceiling.

The detective glanced at his immobilized right leg before continuing.

“He gave us very little to work with when we interrogated him. Flat out refused to reply or just pled the fifth. But the fingerprints did the talking for him.”

Erin bit her lip in despair as Jim sat up again to speak.

“You’re talking about the murders?”

“Yes. Did he confess to you?”

Jim nodded.

“He flew off the handle about Erin and revealed that he killed two people. He went out and hooked up with a woman after she broke up with him. It turns out she was married and he freaked out and killed both her and the husband.”

The woman detective leaned forward suddenly and stared intently at Jim when he mentioned the husband’s death.

“Wait, hold on. You’re talking about a married couple?”

Jim gave her a confused look and slowly continued.

“Yeah, he told me he murdered that married couple that lived by the Clark’s Summit Country Club, John and Emily something… it was all over the news… what are you-“

“Oh, Christ…”, the detective at the head of the bed blurted out and began rubbing his temples.

“What? Do you think he’s lying? I don’t understand…”, Pam looked back and forth between the two suddenly pale looking officers in desperation.

“The fingerprints that matched the ones we collected from Lewis’ weren’t at that crime scene.”, the woman explained dejectedly.

“They were at two separate women’s apartments who were apparent victims of the Scranton Strangler…”

Erin’s blood may as well have instantaneously frozen solid with how she collapsed bonelessly across Pam’s lap. Her repeated sobs of “nonononononono” into her thigh reverberated through her entire body. She gulped and stuttered out her thoughts to the officers that had basically dropped an atom bomb on any chance of anyone connected to this leading a normal life afterwards.

“So, we- this whole time, we’ve b-been working with… the Scranton Strangler. The Scranton Strangler came into MY house and held MY daughter…”

She looked away from their sad nods and turned to Jim, who hadn’t said anything yet in response.

He was bolt upright again, his right hand clutched over his mouth. His wide eyes leaked a single tear and he stared blankly at a logo on his Philadelphia Eagles socks that were poking out from under the covers.

He was breathing surprisingly calm for someone who had just learned that they had been kidnapped and subjected to the mercy of a serial killer for two whole days.

“Jim? Jim, honey, can you look at me?”, Pam’s voice cracked as she squeezed his other hand again to try and ground him.

No response.

The detectives apologized and excused themselves awkwardly, leaving as Erin’s distraught cries increased in volume.

They would have to come back a third time for Jim’s statement hours later, after he had finally snapped out of the very kind of stupor he had expressed being afraid of succumbing to earlier that morning.

Chapter Text

11:37am, Monday, April 11

For the first time in all his years as regional manager, Michael Scott was not the reason that the entire staff, sans Dwight, had abandoned any meager attempts to be productive and was currently crammed into the conference room and glued to the big outdated TV.

It was because of Gabe Lewis.

All the news stations in the area could not stop talking about how the Scranton Strangler was a meek middle manager at a struggling office supply company and how the police had linked him to a half a dozen deaths in the area since Sunday morning.

Meredith clutched the remote as she sat by the TV, taking her task of switching between the different broadcasts far more seriously than she did her desk job. People complained at first when she would quickly flip between the channels every ten seconds or so, but ceased complaining after she stumbled upon a FOX56 reporter trying to interview Pam as she and Jim’s father briskly walked across a hospital parking lot.

Michael retreated to the kitchen as she covered up and tried to consul her crying child and Gerald Halpert became hostile.

“DO NOT TALK TO HER WHEN SHE HAS THE BABY WITH HER!”

“It’s okay, honey, mama’s here...”

The kitchen offered some refuge from the now blaring news reports, but not from Kelly and Ryan’s conversation in his “office”.

“This girl I went to high school with lives in that complex and she posted pictures of Jim on Facebook. His face is just… he looks like a domestic abuse survivor.”

“Oh my god, babe, if you had stayed like ten minutes longer, it could have been you. You could have died and then been dumped somewhere disgusting like…. New Jersey.”

“God…”, Michael mumbled as he quickly dumped sugar and milk into his coffee mug.

His new plan to make a beeline for the back stairs to get to his spot on the roof and away from all this insanity was further validated as Kelly untangled herself from her perfectly fine boyfriend to offer to show him the aforementioned pictures. He stopped halfway to the door when he noticed something odd by the reception desk out of the corner of his eye. Dwight had given up pretending to work while shooting his coworkers disgusted glances from his desk and was leaning over the high counter. As Michael approached, he realized he was whispering to someone behind the desk.

“You shouldn’t have even driven here, let alone try to work at the computer. The brightness will just aggravate your symptoms more.”, he was explaining as gently as he knew how to while trying to discreetly reach for the off button on the monitor.

“I said I’m fine, Dwight!”

Erin swatted at his hand, trying to sound forceful through her sniffles. There were some bandages still on her forehead and her black eye had only darkened since Saturday. Michael crossed the remaining distance calmly and leaned his elbows on the counter next to Dwight’s. He waited a few seconds for Erin to acknowledge him and only spoke when her eyes narrowed at the screen in an attempt to pretend they weren’t hovering over her.

“Erin, honey, why aren’t you at home resting?”

She let out a sob and began to type out an email.

“I feel fine, it’s a minor concussion.”

Her slower speed and more frequent typing mistakes directly contradicted her as she spoke.

“Erin….”

She gave up typing and slumped her shoulders at his gentle fatherly tone.

“Why don’t you want to be at home resting?”

Michael circled around the desk to squat by her side as her crying intensified.

“I’ll- I’ll just… just…”

Erin took a deep breath and blurted her thoughts only after he squeezed her hand.

“If I just sit at home, I’ll drive myself crazy blaming myself for what he did to Jim and all those other people.”

The volume of and the hysteria in Erin’s voice increased with each word and Dwight whipped around to preemptively scold anyone that poked their head out of the conference room to observe her breakdown. Michael moved to crouch in front of her and allowed her to throw her arms around his neck.

“None of this is your fault, sweetie.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist to show he meant it with all his heart but he knew that she didn’t believe him.

“He killed to prevent himself from hurting me. Those women, that married couple, the man they found by the golf course…. they died in my place.”, she gulped into his shoulder.

“He chose to do those things.”

Michael had leaned back and held her by her shoulders at arm’s length, rubbing the sides soothingly with his thumbs to coax her to look up at him.

“Erin, he had endless opportunities to stop himself from killing. I don’t know the full story and I’m not any kind of psycho…. expert, but I know that you are not the reason for this. There…. There has to be so much more going on for a person to stoop to his level.”

She sniffled and begrudgingly nodded her agreement. She allowed herself to be pulled up with Michael as he stood.

“Let’s go to my office for a while.”, he adjusted to support her left side and began to walk them around the reception desk.

“We can talk for a little bit, let you rest, make you some of that chameleon tea that helps you relax…”

“It’s chamomile….”, Erin rubbed her wet eyes with her free hand as she corrected him.

Michael glanced at the conference room as they shuffled to his office, debating on if he should deliver an ironic lecture about tact to his employees. Thankfully, Dwight seemed to be able to read his mind.

“…. And lastly could you at least have some sense and turn the volume down!”

Erin flinched a little at his bark but muttered a “thank you” to both men as they hovered over her after she lowered herself into one of the chairs in Michael’s office.

“Dwight, can you heat up some water in the kitchen to make chami- uh… Cambodia…. herbal tea for Erin?”

“Yes, of course.”, he replied without a hint of his usual brownnosing tone and stalked off towards the annex.

Michael circled to her other side and plopped down in the other chair, grabbing a Kleenex box from his desk.

“No boy is worth this amount of tears.”, he said with a hint of smile as he offered the tissue box to her.

“Thanks, dad.”, Erin replied half-jokingly as she as she wiped at her eyes.

“Hey, be gentle. That eye looks really nasty and-“

“Jim looks way worse.”, she cut him off angrily.

“I got the better end of the deal.”

Michael stayed silent as she continued, placing his right hand over her left that was squeezing the wooden armrest.

“And I know that you’re right. I’m only part of chemical equation that caused him to react like this, but I can’t help but feel that if I stood up for myself sooner, I never would have been insecure enough to date him and a lot of this wouldn’t have happened.”

She paused her diatribe to thank Dwight as he offered her a mug and drizzled some honey into the warm drink. He squeezed her shoulder in response and excused himself to the conference room. Erin sipped lightly a few times before continuing.

“I don’t know, I’m just so mad at myself right now. I know it’s irrational and everything but…. I knew he was acting weird on Friday and I never said anything to the police. It’s just gut-wrenching to know that I could have ended this Friday evening, but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. Jim’s leg might not have been so badly hurt. He could have been home within twenty-four hours…”

She finally looked over to make eye contact with Michael.

“The ‘what ifs’ are what’s killing me.”

Michael nodded thoughtfully, and hesitantly replied.

“I don’t know what to say other than you can’t blame yourself for this. Like you said, it’ll just drive you crazy.”

“Maybe a stint in the psych ward will do me some good…”

“Or…”, Michael offered, trying to keep her thoughts from wandering down such a dark path.

“I can take the rest of the day off so we can head back to your place for ice cream and a Glee marathon.”

Erin took a sip from her mug before nodding in agreement, the corner of her mouth twitching up in a slight smile.

He stood to go collect her things from reception, shushing her when she started to protest and jokingly told her that not finishing her tea was a fireable offense. He quickly grabbed her coat and bag before moving to shut down her desktop. As it powered down, he pulled out his phone and began to text Holly explaining where he would be the rest of the day when-

“Hey!”

Michael looked up at Holly’s greeting, puzzled by her sudden appearance at the reception desk.

“Uh hey…. I thought you were taking the day off. I even let corporate know and they were completely understanding.”

She nodded while holding up a bulky accordion folder.

“I found some things out about Gabe.”

Michael’s heart skipped a beat, not liking the implications of how low her voice had gotten.

“It’s really bad isn’t it?”

She nodded again, biting her lip and sniffling to maintain her composure.

“Michael, some of those people could have been saved…. is everyone in the conference room?”

“Yeah, except for Erin, Kelly and Ryan.”

“Okay, well…. everyone needs to hear about this.”

“I’ll get Kelly and Ryan, if you don’t mind getting Erin from my office.”

She nodded in agreement and they went their separate ways.

Michael made his way to the break room to not-so-politely request Kelly and Ryan’s presence with the rest of the staff. Their annoyed looks at him for flinging the door open quickly faded when they were met with his stern face. As he walked behind them to the conference room, Holly and Erin exited his office, the latter still clutching her cup of tea.

“If someone could please give up their seat for Erin.”

Dwight firmly cut off the sudden barrage of questions at Erin and Holly’s unexpected arrival.

“I am not asking.”

Michael, Kelly and Ryan were the last to file into the crowded room. The couple inched toward the back of the room while Michael lingered by the door, anxiously looking at Holly as she stood by Dwight and the TV and surveyed the room.

“Holly, you didn’t have to come in today.”, Oscar spoke up over the light whispering that was still going on.

“We completely understand, given what happened this weekend.”

Holly shook her head morosely and smiled sadly.

“Really, we’ve all agreed to bombard corporate with our questions and concerns, you really should be resti-“

Holly cut him off abruptly.

“They’re not going to tell you anything.”

The edge in her voice snapped Kelly away from looking at her phone and Phyllis up from her knitting.

“They’re trying not to incriminate themselves.”

Michael’s stomach dropped. The nagging fear that corporate was being so lenient about the staff’s lack of productivity today was because they were somehow linked to Gabe’s actions had just been blasted from the back of his mind into reality. Dwight too looked anxious at what Holly was about to reveal. She remained unfazed as she continued.

“What I’m about to tell you is off the record and is still being investigated by the Scranton PD, but you deserve to know. I have this information because I am communicating with the person who gave this statement and these documents to the police. You did not hear this from me, understood?”

Holly made eye contact with everybody in the room as each one of them nodded their agreement. She ended on Michael and proceeded to pull a document out of her accordion folder to read off of.

“In November of 2008, Gabe assaulted an employee at the Tallahassee branch of Sabre Products LLC. He came up behind the employee at his desk and attempted to strangle him, the same way the police think he incapacitated Jim. It took three people to get Gabe off this man and by the time they did, employee had lost consciousness and had to be admitted to the hospital. Gabe nearly killed him.”

Erin bit her lip to contain her small whine and Kevin leaned over to put his arm around her shoulders.

“The manager and the employees of that branch that witnessed the incident all gave statements for reports by the police and HR and the victim had his medical expenses covered by the company. Jo Bennet told everyone that this was on her and that she would personally handle all the reports and deal with law enforcement so that the staff could move on.”

Her hands and voice shook as she shuffled through the stack of papers with each new claim, but Michael new it was from anger and not fear.

“She lied. To everyone. A police report on the company’s behalf was never filed and the statements made by the staff were filed as ‘REDACTED’ and therefore not on the record. All Gabe’s employee file says is that he had to complete an office management course because of a personal matter. Since there is no record from accounting of the company health insurance covering the employee’s medical costs, the branch manager and the victim, both of whom I have spoken to, speculate that Jo paid it out of her own pocket to avoid creating a paper trail. In addition to this, despite the manager at the Tallahassee branch being told that Gabe was on administrative leave and would be relocated to work at the corporate office, there is no record from payroll indicating he was paid from the time of the incident until the announcement that he would be transferring here in November of 2009.”

Holly took a deep breath after she read this information off the papers and looked up at the rest of the staff as they digested all the information that she had dumped on them. Dwight’s lip was curled in disgust as he leaned against the TV. Andy’s eyes were on the ceiling and scrolling left to right as if he were reading a transcript of Holly’s speech off the cork tiles. She spoke up again as questions began to form on several people’s lips.

“So with all of this in mind, I came to my own series of conclusions. Based on how I have seen Jo treat Gabe since he started here, I believe that for that year he disappeared off the company’s payroll, Jo concealed the documents of the assault as blackmail so she could have a sniveling personal assistant who would bend to her every demand. I think that’s what this referenced ‘office management course’ really was. I think she treated him poorly and held the threat of a police record and possible termination over his head to keep him in line, even after he transferred here. And while I am in no way making excuses for Gabe’s actions, I think Jo only poured fuel on the fire by emotionally manipulating someone she knew was violent and unstable.”

Oscar spoke up before she could continue again after pausing briefly.

“Why are you telling us this? What does this mean?”

Holly’s calm demeanor crumbled and she threw the papers and the accordion folder onto the floor in front of her.

“It means Sabre could have prevented this! If that police report had been filed, he would have had his fingerprints on record and the first or second murder in this area would have been linked to him!”

Michael stepped in rub at her shoulders when she kicked the folder at her feet. Angela shifted just in time to avoid being hit by it.

“Several of these people would still be alive if she had just followed protocol. Jim wouldn’t have had to fight for his life all weekend. She put all of us in danger by hiding this man’s past and messing with his head!”

Holly was getting progressively angrier to the point that Creed stood from his chair and walked it over to her. He, Michael and Dwight all carefully ushered her to sit down. As she relaxed her shoulders and Michael talked her through her racing angry thoughts, Oscar, the ever-present voice of reason, redirected her back to his first unanswered question.

“Holly, whenever you’re ready, we just want to know: why did you tell us this? What do you want us to do?”

The heavy despair that had settled over the room lightened and several people perked up, realizing that Holly had a reason for making them aware of this sensitive information. She swallowed and sat up straighter after nodding to Oscar in acknowledgement.

“I wanted you all to know before all this is released to the public so you can start researching legal resources. Once this breaks, the families’ of Gabe’s victims, our branch and the Tallahassee branch have a good case for a class action lawsuit against Sabre.”

“Holy shit.”, Darryl blurted.

“I don’t know, that’s a bit excessive…”, Phyllis began hesitantly.

Holly shook her head before she could finish.

“No, it’s not. I’ve seen what he did to Jim. I know what he went through. It’s not my place to go into the specifics and he’ll tell you all on his own terms, but what he endured was akin to torture. And Sabre could have stopped it. Not just what happened to him, but what those other people suffered too.”

Holly squeezed Michael’s hand and used Dwight’s shoulder for leverage to pull herself up to stand again.

“I know this is going to be a long and difficult process for all of us, but it needs to be done. They need to be made an example of.”

As she scanned the room again, most of the faces starring back at her were filled with determination.

“Burn Sabre to the ground.”

X-----X-----X

12:07pm

“How long has he been locked in there?”

Pam paced in front of her sister-in-law as she waited for an answer. She focused on CeCe’s cooing from Larissa’s arms and not at Jim’s father knocking on the door, pleading with his son to let them in.

“About fifteen minutes…. Pam I-“

“Larissa, why did you let him go into the bathroom by himself?”

Pam gritted her teeth to keep from yelling the question; CeCe had finally calmed down from the confrontation with the news reporter earlier and she was not about to be the reason the baby unraveled again. Larissa glanced at her dad as he rattled the handle in desperation.

“He said he had to go to the bathroom and when I offered to help him, he flipped out at me and when I tried to let myself in after a few minutes, I realized he had barricaded the door.

“Pam, the shower is running, I can hear it.”, Gerald interjected loudly, the panic rising in his voice.

Her mind was racing a million miles a minute.

He can’t really stand, how could he be taking a shower?

What is there even to barricade the door with?

OHMYGOD, DID I PUT THE RAZOR AWAY AFTER I HELPED HIM SHAVE?

She was at the door before the thought had finished forming, gently ushering her father-in-law out of the way to try and rouse her husband herself.

“Jim, honey?”, she kept her voice stern and her knocks calm.

No response.

“Jim. Please open the door.”

She counted to ten and then dropped the “love” part of her “tough love” routine.

“Jim, you’re scaring the shit out of us and if you don’t open the door in thirty seconds, I’m calling the nurses and we’re starting the protocol for putting you on suicide watch.”

Gerald threw his head back in exasperation and Larissa gasped.

Pam stared steadfastly at the door and counted in her head. At ten seconds she heard a heavy sigh and some shifting movements for the next twelve seconds that resulted in an abrupt scraping sound. Pam tried the handle again and it gave, allowing her to push the door open until it hit whatever was blocking it. She peeked around the half open door to see it was one of those hospital shower chairs and frowned before turning around gesturing to Gerald and Larissa not to follow in after her. She slipped in the rest of the way, careful to not step on the crutch that Jim had used to shove the chair out of the way.

She shut the door and turned off the shower at once before leaning against the wall and looking down at her husband.

Jim lay on the floor of the shower area, shivering and soaked to the skin. His right arm extended towards the door, still clutching the crutch handle, and his left was draped over his eyes. His left knee was tented up with the ball of his foot tapping aimlessly in a puddle of water. His right leg was still tightly wrapped and braced from his surgeries the evening before. Pam’s knees slowly lowered her to join him on the wet floor. She worried her lips and flickered her eyes around the room for what felt like an eternity before he finally spoke up.

“The razor is in the overnight bag by my bed. I’m not going to slit my wrists.”

Pam half laughed/half sobbed before replying.

“Can you answer my other twenty-seven questions about what the hell you’re doing right now?”

She knew it wasn’t fair to be angry at him for behaving bizarrely in response to his traumatic experience…. but so was being put in this position.

Pamela Halpert – the newly pregnant failed artist and soft-spoken wallflower – was coming to terms with the fact that being an emotionally stable rock for Jim to lean on was an impossible ask. Just as impossible as asking Jim to be his normal self to fight off his demons and the ever-present possibility of a mental breakdown.

“Like, how did I get here?”, he asked finally, breaking through the snowballing of Pam’s negative thoughts.

“Yes, Jim. Why are you on the floor of the shower in your clothes soaking wet?”

“Well, doctor….”, he started flatly.

“Jiiiiiiiiiiiiiim….”

Her voice broke and she crawled over to crouch over his head, removing the arms from over his eyes and staring down at him.

“Baby, we will do everything we can to make sure you’re protected from the journalists or TV shows or whatever. I’ll do anything to make sure no one bothers you and that you get to speak publicly whenever you want to on your terms. But we cannot protect you from you and your own mind.”

She was full on rambling and crying onto his face as he wrinkled his forehead in concern.

“You can’t just lock yourself away and try to drown in the shower instead of speaking because your dad and your sister and I and everyone who knows you loves you to the ends of the earth and we don’t want to watch you wither away…”

“Pam…”

“…and I’ve been reading about people who go through what you went through and they’re like twenty times more likely to kill themselves and you’re already…”

“Pam, I’m sorry...”

“…at an elevated risk because you’re a man and men just laugh everything off even when they’re dying on the inside and, Jim, I’m losing my mind thinking about…”

 “Just I…”

“… you being a robot or becoming a statistic because I didn’t do enough or I didn’t know how to help you and I can’t raise these babies without their daddy, Jim…”

He stroked the hand she had rested on his cheek as she sat back on her haunches and wiped at her tears with the other hand. Her sobs quickly subsided once she realized she’d gotten a response from him and that her worries were out in the open and not wreaking havoc on her brain. Jim’s other hand rubbed nervously at his purple-splotched neck before speaking.

“I found my Wikipedia page.”

Oh god, sweetheart….

“I know, I shouldn’t have been googling myself and I definitely won’t be doing that again… but um, yeah. Someone was nice enough to create a Wikipedia article about me since I’m now a ‘public figure’ or whatever… it actually says that. The intro is something like James Halpert is an American public figure and the only surviving victim of the serial killer dubbed ‘The Scranton Strangler’ and all I can focus on is…”

Pam’s shoulders deflated and she crouched over his torso to press her forehead to his as they uttered the same word at the same time.

“Victim…”

James Halpert is a victim… that’s what it boils down to. That’s my legacy. The worst thing that ever happened to me is what I’ll be known for forever and it’s so fucking unfair!”

Pam wanted to reassure him that this was far from the truth but she bit her lip and allowed him to continue unloading.

“As if I don’t feel pathetic enough already… being barely in my thirties with a damn metal knee and unable to do things for myself right now…. It’s humiliating! I just want to be a normal person and take care of myself and my family, but the whole fucking country is watching us and invading my privacy and these fucking weirdos who don’t even know me are wanting to express their condolences, as if being pitied on national television is going to make me feel less helpless.”

Jim sniffled and she leaned back a little so he could wipe his eyes with his free hand, sensing that he was getting to what triggered him to lock himself in the bathroom.

“And when I pull myself out of reading all these articles about me and realize I have to go to the bathroom, Larissa offers to help me and just way she looked at me… there was so much pity. I… I thought reading a stranger rambling about how tortured I must be was demoralizing…. But seeing my little sister look at me so sadly and volunteer to help me in the bathroom like I’m an invalid…”

He closed his eyes, catching his breath and trying to will himself to stop shaking in anger.

“So I just snapped at her and hobbled over here on my own after she helped me get to my feet. I really thought I could do it but… yeah.”

“Okay.”, she furrowed her brows in confusion and squeezed his hand to encourage him to continue.

“That, uh…. that first day I was missing…. Gabe tied me up and locked me in a room all day and, I just couldn’t hold it. He said it would just be for a few hours but he was gone a full work day and it feels like I sat in it for days…. It was humiliating and disgusting. And so earlier, when it happened again… I don’t know Pam, I just freaked out.”

She nodded her understanding and placed her free hand on Jim’s bouncing left knee to try and soothe his nerves.

“I was just… back there again and he was scolding me like I was an untrained dog and ripping at my clothes to throw them away and I felt safe for the five minutes I was in the shower that day….”

Pam gulped back the sobs that were creeping up her throat as she ran her fingers through his sopping hair and waited for him to continue. Jim slowly opened his eyes to look lovingly up at her upside-down face over him. He finally released the crutch handle to cup the back of her head and pull her down for a kiss.

She gasped into his mouth as she realized that this was their first real kiss in nearly five days and they were doing so soaking wet and upside-down. He led the way, tenderly licking and nibbling on her lower lip and rubbing his thumb delicately into the nape of her neck. She smiled at the knowledge that the romantic side of Jim Halpert had survived and was thriving.

“Thank you for making me let you in.”, he murmured into her lips, punctuating the end of the sentence with a kiss at the corner of her mouth.

“I’m sorry that this is how I found out about what happened, but I’m glad you told me.”

She shifted to kiss his forehead before rolling up to sit up tall again.

“I don’t want to be fucked up, Pam….”

“It’ll get better. Everything’s raw right now and neither of us know what we’re doing, but you’ll get through this. I know it’s hard, Jim.”

Her voice cracked again as she squeezed his hand and looked down at his sad expression.

“Please, talk instead of shutting down or hiding. We can’t lose you.”

He nodded, seeming to be deep in thought. Pam was beginning to worry if he was spacing out again. She rolled his torso up into a sitting position and moved to straddle his thighs and shake him out of it when…

“When I thought I was going to die in there, all I could think of was you and CeCe. I was afraid of the state he would leave my body in and… I would never do that to you two. And the new baby…”

Jim slid his hands up and down her biceps as he spoke, looking down at his lap.

“I’m not going to ever hurt myself, Pam.”

She furrowed her eyebrows nervously as she leaned in to kiss his forehead, unnerved that he still seemed to be motivated by protecting others and not healing himself.

Give him time… give him time…