Six Weeks Later
The Homicide Division of the NYPD was a flurry of activity, with nary an empty desk in sight. Even though it was a joint effort with the FBI, the shooting at Emissary Medical Center had left every detective busy. A conference room off to the left, served as the temporary field office. Chief Conroy had set it up soon after the boxes of evidence began to pour in. He decided the FBI task team Quantico had sent up would be better served in a separate office.
Derek sat slouched in his chair flipping through crime scene photos. Across from him, parked in front of not one, but five computer monitors, each screen split into four quadrants, Argent was up to his eyeballs in hospital surveillance feeds. Since their triple homicide case had been successfully linked to the hospital shooting, both detectives had been moved over to the Organized Crime Control Bureau, or OCCB for the foreseeable future. Even worse? That triple murder was now six murders. Three more bodies had been found in Central Park yesterday.
Beside Argent, Detective Parrish was doing the same thing. “I think I’m going to go blind if I stare at these screens any longer. Remind me again what we could possibly find in these that TARU didn’t.”
“We are looking for the exact same things they were, Parrish. I’m sure you realize how valuable it can be to see it with your own eyes. Your interpretation of the evidence could be what busts this case wide open.”
His nose buried in photos, Derek smirked at her sass. He’d always liked that about her. In a way, she reminded him of Stiles, which was always a good thing. Or at least it was in his opinion anyway.
“That right there,” Chris said, tapping the monitor, “that’s Deucalion. Believe it or not, the case file on this guy is extremely short given the list of crimes he’s supposedly responsible for. Seems the guy is smart enough to keep out of the public eye, and dangerous enough to keep people from talking. Look at the way he moves, they way he sticks close to this woman.”
Without looking up, Derek said, “I’d bet money that that woman is La Bella Lupa.”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean, yeah, Hale, I think you’re right, but look,” he rewound the footage. “She has him by the elbow, the sunglasses, the subtle guiding. I think he’s blind.”
Derek shrugged. “I don’t see how that changes anything. I mean, he’s still dangerous and a murderer even if he’s blind. It just means--not that he ever would--but he won’t be going anywhere alone. A white cane would show weakness. Having a beautiful woman on his elbow just looks like fancy window dressing. The fact that she’s just as fucking dangerous is gravy.”
“ You think she’s attractive?”
Derek didn’t need to even look at the guy to see the disbelief on his face. His voice was dripping with incredulity. He tapped his pen on the table. “Aesthetically speaking, yes. I mean all that is based on the composite Braeden gave to our sketch artist. Good looking woman. Sure.” He
“How does that even work?”
He was only half listening. “She describes the woman to the artist and bam, we have a sketch.” He paused, Chris’ words having taken a moment to sink in. “Oh you mean the other thing? Allison ever tell you, ‘Aww, he’s handsome,’ and you knew she was merely appreciating a pretty face? Same thing here. Look, aside from her size, which might be seen as a bit intimidating, people are naturally going to be less suspicious of a pretty woman. Ridiculous if you ask me, because let me tell you, my former partner, was suspicious as fuck. I don’t care how pretty she was, but such is the world we live in.”
Argent turned back to his screens to watch events unfold. “Morrell was able to give our guys a lot of intel. So at least there’s that. We are still no closer to cracking our homicide cases t-.”
“Oh,” Parrish cut him off. “I took one of the recovery photos of Julia Baccari by and showed your witness. She didn’t even need a second before she confirmed that was the person she had seen the night of the first murders.”
“Fat lot of good that does. Last known address for Julia Baccari was a dead end.”
Why did Argent have to be such downer sometimes? “That was what the witnesses for the recent murders said too, Jordan. That her picture looked an awful lot like the woman they’d seen.”
“Yeah, but what I can’t figure out is...what the hell is her motive? I mean, these six victims have nothing to link them to Duke. Nothing. Why these people? Why not go after his lieutenants? Or his peons?”
“Yeah, I’m at a loss there.” He was, truly. With each new lead, they only found themselves asking more questions, following another evidentiary rabbit down a hole. Derek straightened up in his chair, setting the file down on the table.
He looked up just in time to see Stiles walk into frame on the closest screen. His pulse quickened in his chest, because this was the precise reason he’d opted out of reviewing the footage. Neither Argent or Parrish had even spoken a word of protest. Yet, he didn’t even have time to look away before Heather went down. Less than a moment later, he watched as Stiles glanced over his shoulder, and then her falling body collided with his.
Derek could pinpoint the exact moment Stiles had been shot, because his body lurched a bit to the side. Stiles hit the tile hard.
He stared at the screen unblinking for several minutes, his breath caught in his throat. Hell, he was even cognizant of the way his palms had begun to sweat. Argent and Parrish might not have recognized Stiles, but Derek would know that profile and ski-slope nose anywhere. As people ran around in panic, fleeing for their lives, he tried to force himself to close his eyes to know avail. In fact, he couldn’t even blink when the scene went eerily still.
Then, he watched Stiles drag himself out from under Heather’s lifeless body. Erica ran into frame, and his lungs remembered how to breathe. Though the video had no audio, he swore he could hear Stiles scream when Erica turned him over.
“Hey, what do you make of this?” Argent asked. Or at least he thought it was Argent. Honestly, Derek found his hearing a bit muffled by the sound of his pulse pounding in his ears. It was like watching a horror film, the sight of the blood, Stiles’ blood. So much blood, so very-
“Earth to Hale. Hello.”
Derek was vaguely aware of someone moving his hand in front of Derek’s face, but he couldn’t look away.
“Are you even listen…” It was only then, that Argent followed Derek’s line of sight. “Oh. Let’s just turn this off. You don’t need to be watching that.” He reached over and switched off the screen.
Derek blinked, but his eyes were still focused on the black screen of the monitor. He licked his lips. His chest heaved. “I...I…” He closed his eyes and pressed a balled fist to his mouth. He glanced over to see both Argent and Parrish staring at him, concern set into their features.
He felt like crying. He wanted to cry or shout in anger, anything to force himself out of the vice grip those images currently had on him. Derek could have gone his whole life without seeing that video. Burying his head in his crossed arms, he tried to calm down. Tried, and failed. He felt a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder. “I...shouldn’t be working this case.”
“No,” Chris said, “probably not, but your eye for detail would be missed. I will make sure to keep you from seeing anything else pertaining to Stiles.”
Derek sat back up in his chair and stared up at the ceiling, taking deep calming breaths. “Thanks. “I’m sorry what were you saying?”
“You know what? Forget it. Let’s go grab a slice. My treat, Hale. ”
Stiles jostled around a bit as the subway train rolled down the track. Though he could feel the now clammy metal of the pole he’d clasped his hand around and the warmth radiating from the travel mug of coffee in his other one, he watched around him, feeling oddly detached from it all. The sensation was nothing new, more the norm lately. It was hard to just go back to being the carefree and sarcastic guy he had been before when he had to live with the damage both physical and emotional.
Even harder still, was the way the guilt of surviving nagged him, scratching at the forefront of his mind every waking moment and then some. The shooting had been all over the news for days, weeks afterwards. Neither he nor Derek could turn the TV onto anything but Nickelodeon or the Cartoon Network without someone making a comment. ESPN was even out, because sports commentators seemed to find it necessary anytime a team from New York was competing to bring it up. There were some days he just wanted to curl up in a ball in the bathroom--or in one instance, under the bed--and pretend the outside world didn’t exist.
And there were some days where he actually did.
Twenty-one people had lost their lives that day, another thirty injured, himself included, and yesterday had been his first day back to work since the attack. It hadn’t gone well.
Sure, construction crews had come through and worked day and night to get the hospital back to working order, erasing any evidence that there had been a crime there at all. But Stiles knew. He saw the evidence clear as day in the fresh coats of paint he could still smell and new fixtures that seemed out of place amongst the old ones. Even though it was long gone, he could still see invisible pools and spatters of blood haunting him from every corner. None taunted louder than the red outside the locker room.
When he’d walked past it yesterday, he actually had to stop, turn around and walk back outside to take heaving lungfuls of fresh air, or as fresh as the air on the Upper East Side ever got. There had been something oddly grounding about the smell of taxi exhaust and too many food aromas coalesced together.
The disembodied voice of the automated announcements brought him out of his head, but only slightly. “Now arriving at 103rd Street Station. Number 6 Express to the Bronx. Next stop 113th Street. Please watch your step as you exit the train.”
He shuffled along, up the stairs and out onto the street, barely aware of much until he walked in the doors to EMC. The person they’d hired to replace poor Mary at the front desk, Stiles felt bad, but he couldn’t remember the man’s name. Paul or Pat or something. He supposes it couldn’t be easy for him either, knowing that the reason he had a job was because the person who had held the position before had been killed..
Coming back to an understaffed workplace didn’t actually surprise him. It was probably the fact that no one wanted to respond to the job postings. Who would want to work in a hospital where a mafia vendetta had spilled over, where assailants had shown up with assault rifles and killed almost two dozen people? He surely wouldn’t. In fact, he’d honestly considered looking for other jobs. Certainly, no one would blame him. So why was he continuing to work here?
He liked his coworkers, and that sort of thing went a long way.
Stiles pushed open the door and walked over to his locker. It took him four tries to get the combination today. Yesterday it was seven. He figured it was some kind of mental block, self-preservation sort of thing. If he couldn’t change into scrubs, then he couldn’t possibly be in the hallway to get shot.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The hard edge on the door to his locker bit into his hand as he gripped it tightly. In his sneakers, he curled his toes, digging them into the memory foam inserts he liked to wear. He clenched his jaw and released. In his head, he repeated his go-to words for grounding.
There are twenty essential common amino acids. They are: Glycine, Alanine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Proline, Phenylalanine,Tyrosine, Tryptophan, Serine, Threonine, Cysteine, Methionine, Asparagine, Glutamine, Lysine, Arginine, Histidine,
Aspartate, and Glutamate.
He ran through his list three times, before he was actually able to move. Changing into his scrubs pants was easy enough, but once he had his shirts off, he caught a glimpse of his torso in the mirror inside his locker...and then that was all he could see, the way the angry red scars stood out against his fair skin. They marred his skin, a constant reminder of the pain, the fear, the guilt. All his attempts at grounding were derailed in an instant, and he began to tremble.
Seconds ticked by. Hell, for all he knew it could have been minutes or hours. Time had this way of distorting itself for him in moments like this, where it either blended together, lines between minutes blurring like a camera out of focus, or just disappeared completely. He hadn’t lost days yet, but he dreaded the instance he actually did.
A gentle hand squeezed his shoulder, and he flinched so hard he thought he was going to jump out of his skin.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stiles, it’s me, Boyd. Dr. Boyd. You, Derek, Nurse Reyes and me have gone on a couple double dates. We watch Islanders games together. We’re friends. It’s okay.”
Erica. Oh. Erica, the way she held her hands to his bleeding torso. She’d dragged him down the hallway, dragged him.
Numb, he was aware of Boyd moving him to the bench to sit. “I...I… I shouldn’t have come back to work so soon.” He felt the damp chill of a wet washcloth against the back of his neck.
As Boyd sat down beside him, he took Stiles’ hand in his, squeezing it in the same gentle way he had Stiles’ shoulder. “You are in the doctor’s locker room. You’re safe. Can you do something for me?”
Stiles nodded. “I...I think...so.”
“Good. Describe the room for me.”
He blinked. “The walls are white. There are navy blue lockers and two rows of benches. The bathroom has three stalls and a urinal. Two sinks and one paper towel dispenser. Dr. Paolo left his boots on the floor again. The trash can needs to be emptied. Our scrubs are purple. I don’t have on a shirt, but I’m wearing black and cobalt sneakers.”
“Good. That’s good.”
Slowly, Stiles felt himself coming back to the present, where the images of horror weren’t haunting him.
Boyd handed him a scrubs shirt out of his locker. “Honestly, if you weren’t already in a committed relationship, I’d tell you to milk those scars for pity sex.”
Stiles barked out a wet laugh and shrugged. “I’m- I haven’t really been up for sex lately. I mean...I was only medically cleared to resume normal activities last week. But...I hate them- these scars. I hate them. They’re hideous.”
Boyd rubbed the top of Stiles’ head. “You may hate them, but I bet Derek doesn’t even notice them.”
Feeling a bit clearer in the head, Stiles patted Boyd on the shoulder, offering up a thanks as he grabbed his ID, white coat, and headed out to the hospital floor.
“Good morning, Dr. Stilinski. Nice to see you back.” Isaac said, handing him his tablet. “You have a fractured ulna in exam 4.”
A fractured arm he could handle.