It’s three weeks to the day they’d been taken when they go back to the farm.
Kristen’s had her statement taken, over and over from every possible angle. She’s been to counselling, and while she can’t say that she’s exactly fine in the head, she’s doing… better.
Recovery is a process - at least, that’s what all the leaflets people keep on giving her say.
They bump their way down a winding ungraded track, through an old train tunnel, and out into the north edge of the property. It’s surprisingly close to Brokenwood, looking at the place objectively, but she supposes it didn’t look like much from the air.
They’re back at the farm to see if they can improve on their statements. There’s going to be a trial, going to be everything - but there’s been… losses.
The reporter hadn’t made it.
They’d not been able to find her partner’s body.
They need more evidence, rather than just conjecture, to seal up the case - as, surprisingly, most people with the cult had actually been there willingly.
But then, they’re there.
The cabins stretch out to their left, the main buildings to the right. The grass is lush, dotted with frost, and it just looks like any other rural Kiwi hideaway.
Sam squeezes her hand and then steps out of the car.
She takes a second, just to breathe, and then steps out too.
They visit the main house first. It’s been cleared out, everything categorised and labelled and taken away for evidence. There’s still dried blood on the floor of the whipping room, and she swallows heavily at the memory and tries not to throw up.
The other main building is the one she woke up in, where everything started. They walk down the long corridor past all the empty rooms with beds in them, and Sam looks in, vaguely disgusted. “That’s where they watch-”
“Yeah.” She replies, “I got to see it, too. Voyeurism to the max.”
“What a weird, weird religion.” He sighs, and they continue their walk.
Their cabin is next. It’s also been cleared out, mostly, but their tailor-made uniforms and sheets still remain.
“ God, I hated this cabin.” Sam says, and looks around the room with some disdain, “I mean, look at it. Horrible.”
“The decor’s just awful,” she replies, and she’s only partially joking. “I think my parents had the same wood panelling in the 80s.”
“More like the 1880s.” He says, and she has to agree. “There’s nothing here, and I’m not getting any jolts to my memory or anything like that. Do you want to go?”
“Wait,” she says, and she looks over to the door. “I included it in my statement, but I don’t think they found it… that basement. Where I spoke to Amy the first time. Do you think…”
“Yeah.” He says, and together, they tread through the frost, collecting Mike along the way, and over to the fence line.
It’s not easy to find the hatch, considering the only time she’d been there had been in the middle of the night in almost complete darkness, but by the light of her phone, she manages to scrape the dirt away and pull the wooden cover off the hatch.
The wave of stale, vile air that hits her makes her gag.
“There’s something dead down there-” She gasps, and staggers back, trying to take in a breath of clean air. “There’s got to be.”
Mike shoots a look at Sam, and together, all three of them make their way down into the the basement. It’s harder, for Kristen, with her arm in a sling, but with Breen shining his light up from the bottom she can just make it one handed.
She needs to see it.
The air is even more choking at the bottom of the ladder. Kristen fumbles around near where she remembers Amy doing so, with the aid of her phone torch, and the lights flick on.
The first thing she notices is the body.
“Christ.” Sam says, and gags.
It’s got to be David. From the state of the decay, he’s probably been dead a couple of weeks. “He’s probably been down here since before you rescued us.” She says, quietly. “He wasn’t well - Amy thought he had pneumonia.”
“Awful.” Mike says, voicing what they’re all thinking. “I’ll go up, get CIB. Have a look around, see if you find anything useful, and then we’ll reconvene before you two leave.”
They’re not back at work, not properly, but it’s good to feel useful.
And so, resolutely ignoring the body in the corner, the pair of them start looking around. It doesn’t take long to find enough paperwork to at least get a better idea of the damages that have been done at the cult.
Amy might have lost her life at the cult, but her impeccable note-taking will save the case.
They’re climbing back up the ladder when Sam voices something she’s been thinking for the entire time they’ve been in the basement. “...that could have been us.”
Voice tense, she snaps, “Don’t you think I know that?” because it's been weighing on her ever since she saw the body.
They’ve about a K or so away from the farm when there’s a lurch in her stomach and she knows she’s going to be sick. “Pull over.” She gasps, and swallows back the nausea. “Now.”
And Sam does, immediately, and she throws herself out of the car and spreads her morning’s porridge all into one of Brokenwood’s many ditches.
Her head pounds, and she wipes back the sweat from her forehead and groans, sitting back on her heels in the damp grass.
“This is the worst.” She says, and gratefully takes a handful of tissues from Sam when he hands them to her.
“You okay?” He asks and offers a hand to help her to her feet.
“Could be better,” she replies, though her stomach’s stopped churning some now they’re actually away from the cult.
“Do you want to go home?”
Kristen takes a long, hot shower when they get home and scrubs the smell of death out of her pores. It takes about half an hour in the shower until she feels totally clean, and her bathroom reeks of coconut scented shower gel when she’s finished. She can't get the sight of David's body out of her mind, but the shower helps.
The showers always help.
“I thought you’d melted.” Sam remarks, as she passes him on his way into the bathroom.
“I came pretty close.” She says, “If you use up the last of my shower gel again I will grievously injure you.”
He pouts at her, “I would never. Have you so little trust in me?”
“It’s probably better that I don’t answer that.”
So they’re taking things slow. It’s a little weird negotiating a relationship around work - it’s not strictly speaking against the rules, but it is a little strange - and they’ve known each other for years.
It’s just… different, this way.
Not bad, just different.
But Sam understands her. He’s kind, a bit of an ass, but in a good way, and when he’s willing to move past the ‘cool guy’ facade he tries very hard to keep up, he’s just enough of a nerd to be worth knowing.
Sometimes he even plays chess with her - if she goes along with his D&D whims every so often - and that’s a whole lot better than a lot of her previous partners.
And he gets it.
The cult, the kidnapping, waking up in the middle of the night panicking because it’s too dark and she can’t see -
He gets it.
She’s ordered in noodles - something to get the taste of bile out of her throat, even though she brushed her teeth six times in the shower - and settled on the couch by the time he’s done. The movie that’s playing is old - something terrible from the 1990s that may or may not be illegally downloaded - but she’ll never tell.
Sam’s hair is damp and roughly towelled off, and he looks surprisingly alive and generally quite good.
He also smells violently of coconut.
“You’re a bastard.” She says, but doesn’t mean it at all.
“I know.” He says, and settles down beside her on the couch. “I’m just the worst.”
He leans in to kiss her, with a gentle, contented sigh, and yeah, despite everything, despite the trauma and the pain and the trial that will drag on and on for months - it is actually pretty good.