Aerith's Church; Zackary Fair's Room
Friday, January 16th
Senior Homicide Detective Zack "the Soldier" Fair slept peacefully, for once, in his room in a dreamless deep sleep. It was the kind of sleep that allowed you to wake up refreshed and invigorated; something Zack had needed after the last case his partner and himself had. His sleep was disturbed however by the annoying screech of the cell phone lying on the bed side him. Complaining under his breath about being woken in the middle of the night, Zack quickly silenced the phone so not to disturb the others who lived in Aerith's -Now Tifa's- Church and answered.
"Fair." Zack greeted and silently yawned, checking the clock on his bedside table and groaning again as he realized it was two-thirty am. When no response came over the phone, Zack pulled the phone from his ear and checked it's caller ID.
Astrid Annabell Hofferson; A close friend of his and Tifa who also happened to be his partner on the force. Putting the phone back to his ear and listening closely, Zack to could faintly make out the sound of muffled crying.
" Astrid?" Zack questioned as he got out of bed and began to get dressed in his normal work attire. He laid his phone down on the dresser, putting it on speaker phone in case his partner -or whoever was on his partner's phone- decided to speak to him. A dark blue short sleeve shirt with his black jacket over it was thrown on as quick as humanly possible. Searching for a bit Zack found his all black gloves and slipped them on, making a fist and getting them comfortable. As he was pulling on his jeans, a door slammed over the phone and the person on the line squeaked loud enough that it echoed in his room. Kneeling down, Zack pulled on his boots and began tying the laces in tight and nearly impossible to undo knots. The person on the other line made another, very quiet, distressed noise and Zack grabbed his police issued gun and the sword he got from his mentor.
" Astrid if this is you, don't worry I'm heading over to your house now." Zack said, turning off speaker phone and placing the phone to his ear. "Just stay calm, partner, I'm heading-"
"Uncle Zack." A little girl's voice whispered over the phone, her voice shaking so much that Zack was sure she was trying so hard not to cry. "Uncle Zack, I'm scared." She told him and Zack swallowed thickly, dread settling in his stomach. He knew that voice, he knew it very well.
Heather Luci Hofferson; Astrid's daughter from a previous -complicated- relationship with some jerk who had been arrested after Alice Liddel had revealed a prostitution ring within his insane asylum. The little girl had taken to calling many of the adults in her life Uncle, Auntie, and -in the case Pitch- Grandpa; especially the adults from her mother's work. In fact Heather, along with several other officer's children, had grown up in the police station.
"Kiddo?" Zack questioned, now snatching his car keys up and running out of the church and to his car. "Kid, you still there?" He asked and she made a noise that sounded vaguely like a yes to Zack. "Good. Heather, kiddo, where's your mom?" He asked as he started the car, switched on his siren, and shot out of the church's parking like a bullet out of a gun. The question hadn't prompted an answer, like Zack had hoped for, but instead prompted loud heartbreaking sobs falling from the little girl's mouth.
"She, She, they and," The girl said in between her cries as Zack tried to sooth her with calm and reassuring words. It was working, sort of, as now Heather's sobs had subsided to quiet crying and painful sounding hiccups.
" Heather," Zack started off once he was sure she wouldn't go into another fit. "Is there someone else in the house with you?" He asked, almost fearful that the answer would be yes and that the young girl was currently trapped in her own house with someone unknown.
"I don't, I don't think so." Heather said to him and Zack nodded, speeding a little more in a hurry to get to the Hofferson household. Heather was only five years old and Zack had no clue where her mother was, for all he knew she could be -
"No." Zack whispered, his hands tightening around the steering wheel a little more now. Astrid was not dead; his partner was alive and probably well. "Heather where are you right now?" He asked her, turning into the small and spacious housing development named The Warren.
" In my closet." She answered, her voice still shaking but she didn't sound to be crying anymore. "Mom told me to hide and gave me her phone and, and she told me not to call you until I couldn't hear the bad people anymore." Zack could practically hear the steering wheel creek underneath his strong grasp. He pulled up to the three bedroom, two bath house and noted that Astrid's old beat up car was still in the driveway. Zack parked in the grass and turned his car off, grabbing his gun and making his way to the front door cautiously.
Just because Heather couldn't hear anyone, didn't mean that no one was there waiting for him. Zack pulled out the spare key he had to Astrid's house, something all partners shared with each other. It was a tradition of sorts at the Burgess Police Station; if you didn't have your partner's house key then you weren't really partners. It showed a level of trust between the you and the person who life you held in your hands.
Opening the door quickly yet silently, Zack surveyed the living room. Everything was in order it seemed; Astrid's ugly green couch looked -unfortunately- in tact, the coffee table was still standing, and there didn't seem to be any signs of a fight in the room. There was also no one standing and waiting for him or anyone else. Zack moved from this room and checked the rest; going first to glance in Heather's to make sure she was alone in there, next to the bathroom, and lastly to Astrid's room.
There was no one in there, not even Astrid or Lily -Astrid's hyperactive dog-, and the lights were strangely off unlike almost every other room in the house. Flicking the light on, the dread Zack felt earlier tippled and morphed into fear and a fiery anger. Astrid's room was a bit of a disaster zone.
Her gun was lying on the ground along with her badge, both were just barely peaking out from under the bed. It was almost as if her attackers had went to kick them under the bed, something which was highly likely. A knife, a hunting knife from Astrid's birth family, was also on the ground. As Zack looked at her bed, the blood drained from his face and his hand clutched tighter around his sword's handle.
A pool of blood had soaked into the sheets, staining them a dark red color and making the plain brown bedspread look even worse. Zack swallowed and took in a deep breath, checking the master bathroom for anyone before heading back into Heather's room.
"Hey kiddo," He said in a soft tone, opening the closet and kneeling down to get a glimpse of the child. Eyes that were blue with golden flecks looked up at him behind thick black hair, tear tracks staining her skin. She trembled in her Avenger's pajamas, a plushie penguin clutched tightly in her grip. "I'm here. Uncle Zack is here." Zack said and Heather launched herself at him, burying her face in his should and crying. The senior detective rubbed his "niece's" back comfortingly and stood up with her in his arms, holding her securly in his grip. He sat the girl down on her bed, prying her arms from around his neck and kindly hushing her crying.
"No! I don't wanna be alone!" She cried, trying to jump back in his arms desperately. Zack carded his fingers through her thick hair, trying to calm her down as much as possible.
"Shh, it's alright Heather." He told her, stepping away and going back to her closet to pull out her purple hoodie. "I'm not going to leave you, kiddo. I just getting you something warmer to put on over those pjs." He said and bent down, picking up the abandoned plushie off of the ground. He handed both objects off to her and she slipped the hoodie over her head and onto herself before grabbing the pushie and cuddling it closely to her chest.
Zack pulled out his phone and looked over at her. "Uncle Zack?" She said and he smiled reassuringly at her.
"Just stay here for a minute, kid." He says to her, stepping out of the room and closing the door behind him. "I'm gonna be right outside of the door, okay? I just need to make a call." Zack said and looked at his phone, typing in a familiar number.
"Chief Lunar." Chief Tsur Lunar -Manny, as he keeps telling his employees to call him- answered his phone, sounding much too awake for whatever time it was now.
"Chief it's me Detective Fair." Zack said solemnly, not wanting to have to deliver this news. "We've got a problem."
"What is it?" Manny said seriously and Zack could hear the sounds of things being opened and closed, obviously Manny was getting ready to meet him at the station. "And how bad is it?"
"Bad sir, very bad." Zack answered, pausing briefly to listen to Heather and make sure she was actually okay. "It's Detective Hofferson sir, she's missing. Possibly injured." Zack told his boss and he heard the older man cuss under his breath, obviously just as upset about Astrid's disappearance as Zack was.
"Right. I'm send Frost and Dracula to your location along with the CSI." Manny said before something had occurred to him. "Where are you and what about Heather?"
"I'm at Hofferson's house, Heather's here too." Zack answered Manny, cracking opening the door to Heather's room to peak in at the little girl. She was doing fine it seemed. "She isn't injured, at least it doesn't look like it."
"Good. Stay with her there until Frost and Dracula interview her then bring her down to the station." Manny ordered the ex-military soldier and Zack nodded, before answering verbally.
"Yes sir." Zack said and before he could hang up, Manny spoke once more in a serious yet concerned and sympathetic voice.
"Zack," Manny started off. "She's your partner, you've know each other and had each other's backs for a long time. If you need, you can take some time off if this is too much for you." He said and Zack huffed.
"No." Zack said. "No offense sir, but Astrid is my partner and partners have each others back." He said and Manny hummed, sounding exasperated yet pleased at the same time.
"Fine, but it's Frost and Dracula's lead on this. Not your's." He told him and Zack hummed. While Zack trusted Missing Persons Detectives Jack Frost and Mavis Dracula, he would much rather lead Astrid's case. "I'm serious Zack, this isn't your case. At least not now." Zack nodded, his breath caught and now Zack really didn't want Astrid's case to become a homicide case.
"Yes sir." Zack said and Manny hung up the phone, obviously going to call other detectives and CSI Wilbur Robinson and his team. Zack put the phone in his pocket and sighed, heading back into the little girl's room.
It was a long night after that phone call; a night filled with flashing red and blue lights, sympathetic glances, and endless amounts of questions. The night however, only went from bad to worse as it went on.
After the questions, Zack took Heather over to the bustling Police Station. Heather clung to Zack as tightly as she could, obviously scared and traumatized by what had happened during the night. Toothiana, the sergeant who worked at the front desk, looked up at Zack and gave Heather a soft sad smile. Heather gave the colorful woman a sad wave before going back to clinging to Zack as much as she could.
More crying sounded from farther on in the station and everyone subtly -well mostly subtly- looked over at the Chief's door. Exiting the room was Ex-Homicide Detective Aster Bunnymund, his wife Lucille Bunnymund, along with their toddler son Jake Bunnymund. Lucille was crying while her husband tried to calm her down and their son tried to understand why his mother and father were crying. Zack sighed and made his way over to the three.
Astrid had told him that Aster had adopted her when she was ten after her birth father had been killed. Zack wasn't sure what the whole story behind it was, but he did know that those two were as close as they could be. Astrid had once told him that becoming Aster's adopted daughter had been one of the best things that had happened to her; right along side Heather being born and being promoted to detective.
"Mr. Bunnymund, Mrs. Bunnymund." Zack greeted the couple; Zack hadn't met Lucille before and he really wished their first meeting hadn't been because of such a sad and serious affair. Heather smiled at her grandparents and laid her head on her uncle Zack's shoulder, her eyes fluttering a bit.
"Call me Aster." Ex-Homicide Detective Bunnymund said. "Or Bunny, at least that's what my girls call me." He says and Zack grins just a bit.
"You can call me Lucille." Lucille said to him and gave him a sad smile, before gently running her fingers through Heather's hair. "It's nice to meet you Zack, I've heard many good things about you." Zack was about to hand Heather off to her grandparents when the doors to the police station opened and a woman walked through the doors, marching straight over to the four three and flashing a child services badge.
It was a fight; one that the child service's lady had won in the end. Heather had screamed and cried for her grandparents, her uncle, her mother; she had screamed for anyone to help her.
Heather's screams morphed into something, someone else.
Zack watched as Heather was pulled away.
He angrily clenched his hand around his sword's handle.
Zack pulls himself from the memory and looks up from his paperwork, looking across from him at his partner. It has been two months since Astrid's kidnapping and rescue; a month since her return to the force, and a few days since Zack had visited her at her home and she had broken down into sobs about what had happened.
"Zack." She says again and Zack shoots her a lopsided grin, pushing his now abandoned paper off to the side of his desk. "Let's go." She says and picks up his key, dangling them with a big grin as she tosses them over to him. Catching the keys mid-air, Zack stands up and walks along side his partner to the entrance to the station.
"What do we got?" He asks, immediately assuming that they had caught a case and that Manny had briefed his partner before him. She looks at her with confusion, opening the police station doors and holding them open for him. "What?"
"To busy daydreaming about Tifa to listen to what I said?" Astrid jokes with a laugh and Zack gently pushes her shoulder in retaliation. "I said; I'm really hungry and it's your turn to buy lunch." She says and Zack unlocks the car, getting into the driver's seat as Astrid gets into the passenger's seat.
It was a short enough drive to their regular food joint, Marie LeBeau's Dinner; especially since Zack wasn't one for speed limits. They took a seat at a corner booth and a server came over to take their order; Astrid ordered a chicken sandwich meal with a lemonade while Zack ordered two all american meals, an extra side of fries, a coke, and finally a piece of apple pie to go along with it. It hadn't taken too long for the food to arrive at their table, Zack wasting no time to dig into his fries.
"What?" Zack's question was muffled by the fries shoved in his mouth as he looks at Astrid's jealous and slightly disgusted face look. Swallowing the fries and forcing them down with his drink, he asks her his question again.
"You and your extremely unfair metabolism." She says, looking at his three plates of food and at the pie on the counter. "You eat about four times as much as anyone I have ever met, yet you don't gain a single pound." She complains and Zack laughs, taking a large bite of his burger as Astrid ate her own food. "Actually, you eat enough to feed a small army." She amends and Zack grins.
"Speaking of feeding a small army," Zack starts off and Astrid raises an eyebrow curiously. "Tifa's hosting this thing, like a get together and she wants you and Heather to show up. She's inviting everyone on the force and a few others; she said Phil was even coming over for a while."
"Phil the EMT?" Astrid asks curiously and Zack nods, finishing off his burger and starting on the second one. He gives her questioning look she can read easily. "Yeah sure, you'll see us there. Should we bring something?" She asks and Zack chokes on his burger a little, shaking his head no. While Astrid was a great partner, a good fighter, and a close friend; she was not however, someone you wanted cooking for you. Even though Astrid and her older brother Lewis had moved here when she was ten, Astrid still remembered and often cooked foods from her home land Berk. Unfortunately foods of her home were very unique and more often than not, kind of disgusting.
"There is nothing wrong with my cooking!" She protests as she catches his look over horror, kicking him under the table. Zack swallows the mouthful of food and grins at her, much her un-amusement.
"You use goat, yak, and other things I can't even pronounce in your food." He says and his partner pouts childishly around her sandwich. "Besides you're coming over earlier to help Tifa cook while I grill." Zack says and Astrid nods, finishing off her sandwich as Zack finishes off his sandwich and fries. The rest of lunch was most silent with the occasional jokes between the partners and the server delivering apple pie to Zack.
The rest of day was calm for the Homicide detectives, for most of the station actually. The most exciting thing to happen was when the Narcotics Detectives Sanderson Mansnoozie and Rapunzel, no one was sure what her last name was, had apprehended a known drug trafficker.
Zack kind of felt bad for the long haired blonde; Narcotics Detective Rapunzel had been orphaned and grew up in an orphanage which hadn't bothered actually giving her a last name to use.
From then on, the rest of the day was calm, thankfully so. Most everyone was catching up on backed up paperwork, case work, and in the case of the Cold Case Detectives -Detectives Cloud Strife and Sephiroth- working on old cases. Zack was just finishing up the paperwork from his and his partner's last case, a gruesome double homicide.
"It's snowing. Again." Astrid complains from her desk, looking from the window to her partner across from her. Zack looks up from his paperwork, looking at his partner with a raised eyebrow. It wasn't often the blonde complained about the whether; something Zack finds weird since she basically wears the same thing every day she comes in. Studying his partner for a brief moment before looking towards the window curiously, Zack hums and nods.
Sure enough, it's snowing pretty hard outside.
"The kids will be happy about that, Marlene and Heather especially." He comments offhandedly with chuckle, thinking about the last time the girls had been let loose in the snow.
"Yeah." She agrees and reaches over to Zack's desk to grab one of his spare pens. She stops mid reach and pulls her arm back, winces a little and rubbing her left shoulder. Zack studies the shoulder, remembering how exactly it was hurt. Those bastards who had kidnapped her, had used some kind of cattle prod and burnt their insignia into her shoulder. Catching the look, Astrid waves off his concern and gives him a fake smile. "It's fine." She assures him and Zack nods, though he doesn't believe her.
Before he could try to push her and try to find out how she really felt, his phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling out the phone, his phone's alarm told him that the work day was over for him and Astrid. His partner's mood improved a bit and she stood up, cleaning up her work space and gathering her stuff.
"And that is most amazing sound I have heard all day." She says with a big grin and Zack laughs, following Astrid's example and getting ready to leave the station. Astrid pulls her keys out of her bag and all but runs to the station's doors. A few of the older detectives and employees chuckle at her childish behavior, wishing the two leaving detectives a good day.
"See ya tomorrow!" Astrid says to Zack, waving goodbye to him as she gets in her old car and starts it up. Zack waves goodbye to his friend and gets in his own car, driving off back to Tifa's church.
Tomorrow was going to be a long day; but it would be worth it to help get everyone back to normal after everything that had been happening, including but not limited to Astrid's kidnapping.