The snows were coming.
He knew it as clearly as he could see his breath. It was there, written on the bitterly cold wind that swept across the harbour. The wind billowed his coat, seeping between layers of wool until he longed for the warmth of bed. It wasn't entirely bad; it carried away the thick scent of death, leaving the air relatively fresh and Martin breathed deep before crouching down next to the body.
"How long has she been here?" he asked a nameless uniform, too caught up in the sight of ice blue eyes, locked frozen on the sky, to hear his response.
"We found her sometime after six. She probably washed up with the tide," the uniform informed him, sleeve drawn over his nose to block the smell.
Martin nodded absently, still staring at vacant pupils, their depths holding terrors Martin couldn't bring himself to imagine. Life was too short by far, sometimes.
"We'll take it from here," Martin said, his tone dismissal and the uniform looked only slightly relieved as he turned and disappeared back into the crowd.
Amy Wright. They'd been searching three days, countless hours of too much coffee and too little sleep and this was the last place he ever expected to find her. She reminded him of a porcelain doll; blue tinged skin cracked with frost, ice from the water still frozen in her hair. She looked younger than the sixteen-year-old they were looking for. Like a mere child and Martin had to ball his hands into fists to keep from reaching out, smoothing shut her eyes.
"That our girl?" Danny asked, stopping next to Martin, his long grey coat brushing against Martin's arm.
"Yeah," Martin replied, defeat heavy in his voice.
"I'll call it in," Danny stated, casting a final glance at the body before turning away.
And just like that the case was solved. Ended in frozen death and all Martin could think was, the snows are coming.
The pub held the scent of pine. Dead needles covered the floor, spilling from the potted tree in the corner. Haphazard decorations sparkled in the low light, twinkling every time the door opened and a frosty breeze whipped around the room. Christmas was still three weeks away and yet half the patrons had bags at their feet, overflowing with brightly wrapped packages, adorned with tinsel bows.
"You know, we can't save them all," Danny commented, his presence startling Martin from his thoughts.
He didn't say anything else as he slid onto the bench next to Martin, placing two glasses on the table before shrugging out of his coat. It was still cold, but warmth from the stove next to the makeshift Christmas tree took the edge off, making the room bearable.
"I thought you were trying to quit," Martin asked, not waiting for a response before downing his scotch in one long swallow.
"Doesn't really seem important, does it?" Danny asked, sipping his own scotch.
The table was small, their shoulders pressed together as they sat, backs against the far wall, staring out across the room. Most days ended this way, a warming drink shared under dim light in the smoke hazed pub beneath the office.
"I guess not," Martin replied, upturning his glass and watching as the last remnants of liquid spilled down the sides, pooling on the polished table.
It was a ritual of sorts, reminder that one was always the limit. Some days begged for more, but on those he merely slammed his glass a little harder, letting the resonate sound of ringing crystal echo in his skull.
"I think I'm going to head home," he said, standing and waiting for Danny to let him by before shrugging into his coat. "See you tomorrow," he continued, turning toward the door.
"Tomorrow," Danny agreed, and by the time Martin reached the front of the room, Danny had already ordered a second round.
The streets were still muddy, half frozen now and Martin knew it would only be a matter of time before he traded in his shoes for boots. The hour was getting late, the streets slowly emptying and by the time Martin managed the six blocks to his apartment, there wasn't another soul in sight. He hated this time of year; the long hours of darkness and the false cheer of storefront windows. It made him long for summer. Cases were always few and far between in the summer.
This summer had been short, lasting a mere twenty-eight months, not nearly enough to provide for the long winter to come. And it would be long, he could feel it in the wind, hear it in the hushed whispers on street corners. Winters were always long, but there was something different this year. Something that suggested this one might last an eternity. This one might never end. He knew it was only superstition, but as he pushed past the doors of his building, he wondered if superstition existed for a reason.
The stairs were dark, the lanterns unlit and the third step creaked as he passed it. It always creaked, letting out a low moan as his foot settled against it. He was convinced one day it would simply give way and send him crashing into the basement below. It never happened, but he still found himself holding his breath as he moved past it, up the remaining stairs and down the dark hall to his apartment.
The chill in the room was even worse than the cold outside. Stale and damp, seeping into his bones and his fingers trembled as he struggled to light the lamp. Soft, flickering light haloed out around him, casting long shadows against the walls. They used to frighten him, when he was a boy, young and innocent before years of death jaded him into indifference. Now they were a mere irritation, the desire for something better that felt more like memory than longing.
He shook the thought off, kneeling down to light the stove, enough to chase away the cold, but not enough to deplete his small supply of coal. He made a mental note to order more before the stock began to dwindle. There was never enough coal to last an entire winter.
Papers and old case files littered the heavy desk next to the stove, practically overflowing and Martin knew one day they would find the floor. None of it was particularly important, though, so he ignored the mess, crossing the room to change into a thick cotton night shirt. His bed in the corner looked cold and unwelcoming, still rumpled from the previous night's sleep. He didn't bother straightening it before burrowing beneath the covers, leaving the lamp burning as he drifted off to sleep.
A thin layer of ice covered the water in his wash basin. He broke it with his fist, splashing drops of water onto the counter where they beaded and slid over the sides, landing on the floor and he half expected them to shatter. They didn't, but it took effort to look away. The soft morning light streaming through the window caught each drop, the entire floor sparkling like tiny diamonds.
Shaving was never a pleasant task in winter, but his face was dark with shadow and he knew he couldn't skip it. The knowledge didn't stop his hand from shaking, pressing the straight razor close against his cheek until blood seeped to the surface. He ignored it, finishing the task before cupping icy water and washing his face clean. When he was done, the water in the basin was tinted in shades of pink and grey.
He still hadn't gotten around to digging out his winter clothes. Most of them were in storage, somewhere in the building's basement, and he doubted he'd have time to go looking today. Instead he chose a pair of thicker summer pants, the ones he reserved for particularly chilly days. It hardly mattered; he had his coat and a pair of newly bought gloves, they would do until he could get around to changing over his wardrobe.
The step still creaked on his way downstairs, groaning until Martin imagined he could understand its words. He laughed the thought away, nodding to the landlady as he passed her in the lobby. Outside, the wind was almost playful, swirling through the streets and dancing around the few pedestrians it encountered. Martin waited just inside the door until it subsided, pulling his coat tight before stepping outside and heading up the street.
The office wasn't far, seven blocks north and on most days it took him no more than twenty minutes. He had it timed, counted out on the seconds of the watch in his pocket that had been a gift from his father. It kept time well and only needed winding occasionally. He knew if he were to sell it, it would fetch a good price, but it had sentimental value, the last remnant of a man he barely remembered.
This trip took slightly longer, the streets filled with holiday shoppers trying to get in a few presents before the day began. Martin weaved his way between them, sometimes being forced to a halt as he waited out a particularly large group. By the time he reached the office, his feet were soaked through with mud and water.
The office was blissfully warm, so much so Martin immediately shed his coat, handing it to Vivian with a nod and a smile as he pushed past the heavy oak doors and into the main room. Samantha was at his side in an instant, handing him a manila file folder and coffee before disappearing back the way she came. The tension in the air spoke of urgency and Martin headed straight for the conference table, taking his seat directly across from Jack and next to Danny.
"Good, you're here. We have another case," Jack commented, waiting for Martin to settle before continuing. "Another girl, this time fifteen. She told her mother she was going to the library last night, but never came home," he explained.
Martin nodded before opening the folder in front of him, staring at the sketch of a girl who looked oddly familiar. When he couldn't place her, he closed the file, glancing first at Danny and then back at Jack.
"Where should we start?" Martin asked, hating the thought of spending yet another day scouring the streets in the cold.
"I want you two to hit the library, I've got the mother here," Jack replied, nodding his head in Samantha's direction to let her know they were done with the briefing.
Martin watched as Jack's secretary disappeared back into the lobby, most likely to retrieve the mother. Samantha never smiled and Martin had the sneaking suspicion she hated her job. He couldn't blame her, he'd spoken to her a handful of times and knew she was far too intelligent to be taking memos and fetching coffee. He hated the world sometimes.
"Martin? Are you coming?" Danny asked, his tone impatient and Martin shook his head before offering Danny an apologetic smile and crossing the room to join him at the door.
The walk to the library took the better part of an hour and, by the time they were inside, Martin was half frozen, his feet even muddier than they'd been before. He made a mental note to change over to his boots sooner rather than later.
"See if you can find anyone who was here last night, I'm going to take a look around," Danny said, heading off without waiting for an answer and Martin nodded at his retreating back.
The scent of old books hung in the air, so thick it tickled his nose, building into the threat of a sneeze. Martin sniffed once before approaching the main counter, waiting for the librarian to glance up and then thrusting the image of Jessica Mitchell under her nose.
"Was she here last night?" he asked, pulling out his credentials when the woman frowned.
That seemed to do the trick, the woman looking down, studying the sketch before shaking her head.
"I don't remember seeing her. And I would have, it wasn't very busy last night," she replied, still frowning and Martin wondered if it was just women in general that were incapable of smiling. Not that he would know.
"Was there anyone else here last night?" he continued, running through questions he knew by heart, all part of the process.
"No, just me," she answered, shaking her head as if to emphasize her point.
"Thank you," Martin replied, not waiting for a response before turning away and going in search of Danny.
He found Danny by the fiction section, fingers running along the spines of books Martin had read as a child. He smiled at the memory, clearing his throat until Danny glanced up, offering Martin a smile in return.
"Find anything?" Danny asked, his hands falling to his sides as he turned to face Martin.
"The librarian didn't see her, says she was the only person here last night and it wasn't busy," Martin replied, watching Danny nod as though he'd expected the answer.
"Something probably happened on the way here then," he said, turning back to stare at the line of books. "Have you read any of these?" he asked.
"Yeah, most of them," Martin replied, coming to stand at Danny's side, shoulders pressed together until he found a copy of Frankenstein. "This was one of my favourites when I was a kid," he explained.
"Yeah, me too," Danny replied, grinning for a moment before his smile vanished. "My dad gave it to me, before he..."
Danny never spoke of his parents. Martin knew they'd died, taken by the last plague, leaving Danny an orphan. He knew nothing of Danny's childhood, only that it had been troubled, filled with pain and suffering. It still amazed Martin that Danny had become the man he was today.
"We should head back to the office," Martin said, hating to break the moment, but they did have a case to solve.
Danny nodded, following Martin out the doors and onto the street. As they rounded the corner, the skies opened, tiny flakes of snow drifting down to settle on the ground. Winter was here.
His desk at work looked much like his desk at home, overflowing with papers, files and tiny handwritten notes that only he understood. He had a system, though, so he knew he could pick out anything that might help him answer his current question. Except his current question didn't have an answer and he knew he wasn't going to find it on his desk.
They'd arrive back to the office just over two hours ago, still nowhere near solving their latest case. He'd gone over everything, twice in some instances, and every answer had just led to another question. It was frustrating, annoying in a way he couldn't place. He knew he wasn't the only person to feel it, the atmosphere in the office was heavy, thick with tension and the looming knowledge that they were running out of time.
"Martin, come take a look at this," Danny said suddenly, his shoulders hunched as he leaned over his desk, papers spread out before him.
"Did you find something?" Martin asked, ignoring the sudden surge of hope tightening his chest at Danny's tone.
"Maybe. Have you looked at this sketch closely?" he asked, holding it up for Martin to see. "Does she look familiar to you?" he continued.
"Actually, she does, but I can't place it," Martin answered, his interest peaked as he crossed the room to perch on the side of Danny's desk.
"Try this," Danny suggested, holding up a sketch of Amy Wright, the girl they'd found by the harbour yesterday.
"God, they could be sisters," Martin exclaimed, grabbing the pictures from Danny's hands and placing them side by side.
"Could be, but aren't," Danny stated, "but that doesn't mean it's coincidence," he continued when Martin glanced up.
"Are you thinking we have a serial killer on our hands?" Martin asked, frowning when Danny nodded.
He'd never worked a serial case before, never even considered the possibility. They weren't equipped to handle cases like this. Their job was simple; find missing runaways and bring them home to their parents. Saving missing girls from the hands of psychopaths was beyond him. He didn't voice his apprehension as he stood, following Danny into Jack's office.
He knew he should be happy Jack trusted them with this. That Jack thought they were capable of solving this case, saving this girl and putting a man behind bars. And he would be, except they had no idea where to start and someone's life was at risk. It was the kind of pressure that made him think tonight would be one of those nights he was forced to slam the glass down.
Danny seemed a little more optimistic, already pulling out the files from their previous case to use as reference. He spread the files across the conference table, neither of them having any room left on their desks. The table became a mass of sketches, written notes and documentation. Ordered chaos and Martin found his eyes starting to blur as he stared down at the mess.
"I'm thinking, if we take this case, create a profile of the killer, it should give us insight into who he is, where he is, and what he's planning to do," Danny said, setting a coffee down in front of Martin before pulling up a chair and sinking into it.
"Okay, except we weren't looking for a killer in this case, so we really don't have anything to go on," Martin replied, reaching for his coffee.
"Why don't we start with what we know?" Danny suggested, waiting for Martin's nod before continuing.
As it turned out, what they knew wasn't much, at least, not enough to put together any kind of solution and find an answer to their problem. It bothered Martin, because he knew there had to be a better way. It was there, tickling the back of his skull, like the inkling of a memory. It lasted only a moment, replaced by the sight of too many papers and even more questions.
The pub was practically empty by the time they called it a night. Martin always felt bad leaving work before they'd found their missing person. He knew things like sleep and food were important, necessary even, and that they wouldn't find anyone if they burnt themselves out. Still, it left him feeling hollow, wholly unsatisfied in a way he couldn't explain.
"Martin, you need to eat," Danny scolded, reaching across the table to push Martin's plate under his nose.
The scent of boiled potatoes and spiced meat did little to wet Martin's appetite, but he knew Danny was right. Still, he only picked at his food, swallowing mouthfuls more out of necessity than want.
"I still think we're going about this all wrong," Martin commented, pausing long enough to sip at his drink, his second tonight.
"What we need is a trained investigator, like those guys from Scotland Yard that can find things like fingerprints," Danny replied, turning his hand over to stare at it.
It was a relatively new technology, something most of the modern world had yet to adopt. Still, it had proved useful, helping to solve dozens of cases, so Martin couldn't help but nod his agreement. Besides, at this point, they could use all the help they could get.
The rest of the meal passed in silence, interspersed with the occasional chit chat, mostly about the weather. They left together just as the stove's coal supply ran out, chasing the heat from the room. A light dusting of snow already covered the ground, reflecting the light from the street lamps until the road seemed to glow an eerie white.
Martin didn't really want to go home. Home was cold and lonely, his bed large and empty. He thought, not for the first time, about inviting Danny to join him, but fear held his tongue, so he nodded his goodbye instead and started off down the street alone.
Morning came far too quickly, the rising sun waking Martin from a fitful sleep. He hadn't slept much, spending most of the night searching through his clothes in the basement, bringing up thicker shirts and woollen pants. He found his boots, though, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. His summer wardrobe now sat in a pile, waiting to be taken back downstairs, hidden away until summer once again graced the city with her presence.
He made tea on the stove, his salary not affording for luxuries like coffee. He still didn't know how Jack had managed to convince the Bureau to budget for that perk. Still, it was nice, something he'd come to appreciate. But until he made it into work, he was stuck with tea, made weak because his supply of leaves had to last the winter.
Usually he would take his time, sipping his tea while reading the morning paper. It was a nice way to start the day, but today felt rushed, so he forwent the paper, drinking his tea fast enough to burn the roof of his mouth. Everything else was rushed, even shaving, despite the still present sting from yesterday's cuts.
His clothes were musty when he pulled them on, smelling faintly of earth and decay. He knew he should take them to be cleaned, but it would have to wait until another day. He seemed to be running low on time a lot lately. Besides, it was nothing a little talc couldn't hide.
Outside the snow had reached ankle level and Martin was suddenly thankful he'd thought to dig out his boots. He knew within days he'd be forced to wade through it --it always took them far too long to clear the streets. His boots were warm, made from seal skin and they kept his feet dry. The presence of snow also meant the mud had frozen, ensuring his feet would stay clean.
Jack and Danny were already sitting at the conference table when he finally arrived at the office. He wasn't late, early in fact, and it made him wonder just how long the other two had been waiting. He didn't ask, merely accepting the coffee Samantha handed him and taking his seat at the table.
"Morning, Martin," Jack greeted, glancing over at Danny before continuing. "Danny was just mentioning you two wanted to look into bringing in an investigator," he said.
"It might be a good idea, we don't really have anything else to go on at the moment," Martin replied before taking a sip of weak coffee. Apparently the Bureau's budget wasn't unlimited after all.
"Actually, it's a great idea," Jack began, holding up a hand at Martin's smile, "but it's not possible. This is the best I can do," he continued, handing Martin a copy of the London Science Journal. "It has an article on recent advances in investigative studies, it should help."
Martin wasn't entirely certain it would help, but it was better than nothing, so he accepted the journal, tucking it into his coat pocket before standing and following Danny from the room.
He knew it was just his imagination, but he swore he could still smell the stench of death clinging in the air. To anyone else, the harbour would look exactly like that, a harbour, but Martin couldn't help but picture the dead, lifeless eyes of the girl they'd found not two days ago. He stood staring out over the water, trying to block the image from his head when Danny's hand found his shoulder. It startled him, so much so he jumped before relaxing, turning to meet Danny's questioning gaze.
"What does it say we have to do?" Danny asked, pointing to the small bulge in Martin's pocket.
Martin pulled the journal free, leafing through pages until he found what he was looking for. There wasn't anything useful, at least, not as far as he could tell. From what they knew, the girl's body had washed up here, which meant she hadn't died here. She could have died anywhere, not to mention the thousands of potential locations she could have been put into the water.
"Have they buried the body?" Martin asked, bile rising in the back of his throat at the thought of seeing that pale blue skin a second time.
"You're kidding, right?" Danny asked, cringing when Martin shrugged.
He didn't say anything else, hanging his head in resignation as he took in Martin's words, and more importantly, their meaning. The morgue wasn't far, three blocks and even though there was a chance they were too late, it was worth looking into. They walked side by side, hands tucked into pockets as they shuffled through the snow and made their way north.
Martin could count the number of times he'd been to the city's morgue on one hand. They usually only came when someone matching a description of one of their missing person's turned up. And then it was only to bring a family member in, someone to identify the body. More often than not there was no one to identify the body and the body was shipped off to the paupers fields, buried alongside the other nameless souls.
"Martin Fitzgerald, with the Bureau, I'm here about Amy Wright. Is she still here?" Martin asked the woman behind the front desk, flashing his badge as they arrived.
For a moment, the woman looked confused, frowning like she was trying to place the name. It wasn't until Danny leaned forward, explaining Amy was deceased that the woman clued in, rushing off to find the information they were looking for.
They took seats against the wall, waiting with their hands folded in their laps until the coroner appeared, looking slightly frazzled and visibly disturbed.
"Are you the guys looking for Ms. Wright?" he asked, glancing between the two of them like he expected them to disappear at any moment. Martin didn't blame him for thinking they were crazy.
"Yeah, we need to see the body," Martin explained, swallowing hard while he waited out the coroner's nod.
"She's waiting pick up, but we've already sealed her," he told them, wringing his hands until his fingers pulsed white.
"Well, we'll need to unseal her," Danny said, glancing at Martin like he couldn't believe the words coming out of his mouth.
Even Vivian's vinegar trick did nothing to remove the smell from his hands. It clung to him, seeping into his skin until he felt certain he might never feel clean again. Amy looked nothing like she did when they first found her. Her body was bloated, more yellow than blue and Martin was certain her eyes were never that sunken. He knew the image would haunt him, probably for the rest of his life, but it was worth it.
Because alongside the decay and smell, they found bruises, wrapped around her neck, perfect finger-shaped marks that told them exactly how she died. There was no question she was murdered, and now they knew how. And granted, Martin still wasn't certain what to do with the information, but it was a start.
"It's been over a day," Danny commented, pausing by Martin's desk as he paced the room.
"And?" Martin asked, turning away from the journal he'd spread open in front of him and glancing up at Danny.
Right on cue, Danny started moving again, pacing up one side of the room, down the other. "Amy was missing, what? A night? And Jessica, almost two days? If there is a pattern, shouldn't we have found another body?" Danny asked, stopping again, this time in the middle of the room.
"Unless he put her in the water and she's still down there," Martin put forward, only just realize that they may indeed be looking for a body.
As soon as he thought it, Jack appeared, looking slightly upset and Martin braced himself for what was coming. Learning about the discovery of Jessica's body should have been disappointing, but as it was, Martin was almost relieved.
Martin was starting to hate the term jurisdiction, because as soon as they found Jessica, the case was no longer theirs. She was no longer classified as missing and everything they'd spent the last two days working toward got handed over to the police. Martin doubted they'd ever find the guy responsible and that meant more women were going to be targeted. New cases that were connected and they'd be forced to start from scratch all over again.
"Jack, I'm not asking for much. I just want you to let us sit in on their investigation. At least that way, when he does it again, we'll be better prepared and maybe even able to help stop him," Martin practically pleaded, wanting nothing more than a second chance to apply the things he'd learnt and contribute to something worthwhile.
"Martin, I told you, I tried. It's no longer our case, they won't let us," Jack explained, and Martin could tell his patience was wearing thin.
He knew Danny had been in with Jack a moment ago, probably asking for the same thing and he didn't blame Jack for being frustrated. Martin was frustrated, so much so, he practically trembled with it.
"Well try again," Martin all but demanded, clenching his hands into fists when Jack shook his head.
"I'm sorry, I can't and that's final," Jack stated, his tone leaving no room for argument. Martin was left with little choice but to turn around and leave.
He turned down Danny's offer for drinks, choosing instead to go home, wash away the stench of death and the images of the last two cases that were imprinted in his mind.
Martin couldn't pinpoint how long he'd been submerged, neck deep in the now tepid, murky-grey water. He only knew that it wasn't anywhere near long enough and regardless of how many layers of skin he scrubbed away, he still didn't feel clean.
The temperature in the room was starting to drop, the stove long since running out of coal and he knew if he didn't get out soon, he'd likely end up with pneumonia. It didn't make the thought of leaving the bath any more appealing and, for a moment, he considered boiling more water, staying there until morning. But he was already pruning, his skin shrivelling until his fingers were numb and practically useless. He forced himself to stand, water dripping onto the floor as he climbed out of the small copper tub that sat in the middle of his kitchen.
Goosebumps formed on his flesh the second he came into contact with the air, the fog of his breath visible as he wrapped a rough cotton towel around his waist before padding across the room. His clothes lay in a pile on the floor, wrinkled and worn and he wanted to throw them away. Instead he kicked them aside, heading in search of his night clothes. He found them on top of the unmade bed. The fabric was chilly, stiff with cold and he found himself shivering as he pulled his shirt over his head.
His apartment was modest by most standards, two small rooms, separated only by a small archway. The floors were rough, haphazardly placed plank that lacked any sense of order. The walls were horsehair plaster, rough and unfinished, stained with the thick soot of coal and lamp oil. Even his furniture was sparse, his bed nothing more than a pallet in the corner. Several reading chairs were spread out across the remaining space. Only his desk was of fine quality, imported from the old world, another gift from his father.
It was cozy, though, the cast iron stove easily warming the air, when he had coal. As soon as he though it, he crossed the room, kneeling beside the stove to pull open the small coal drawer. It seemed foolish to waste his supply when he knew he should be sleeping, but his body was oddly awake, despite the late hour, and he knew he'd likely spend at least a few hours reading beside the window.
The knock on his door took him by surprise and, for a moment, all he could do was stare across the room. Eventually he forced himself to stand, crossing the room to unlock the latch. He expected the landlady, maybe a neighbour come to borrow something. Instead he was met with Danny's frowning face, his eyes flashing with impatience as he waited for Martin to let him in.
"Took you long enough," he said, stepping past Martin into the foyer.
"Sorry, I wasn't exactly expecting visitors," Martin explained, shivering at the slight chill in the air as he closed the door.
He felt under-dressed in his night clothes, completely open and vulnerable, but Danny didn't seem to notice. He was too busy pacing the length of the room, the day's frustration obvious in the tight lines around his eyes, the stiffness of his shoulders. Martin ignored his restlessness as he crossed the room to the stove and finished adding coal.
"He's going to do it again," Danny said suddenly, stopping and sinking into one of Martin's chairs, placing his boot clad feet on Martin's rug.
"I know, and didn't anyone ever teach you to take your shoes off," Martin chastised, glancing over his shoulder to glare at Danny's feet.
"No parents, remember? And I'm serious, what are we going to do?" Danny asked, but he slid his boots off, placing them on the floor beside the carpet.
"What do you mean, we? It's not our case anymore," Martin replied, searching out his kettle to make tea.
"Maybe not now, but how long before it is again?" Danny asked, letting his head fall back to rest against the soft leather of the chair back.
Martin couldn't argue with that, but he couldn't agree either and he knew Danny understood that. Instead he busied himself boiling water, gathering two cups and collecting a handful of tea leaves.
Once the tea was made, he grabbed the two cups and joined Danny in the main room. He sank into the chair directly across from Danny's, offering him one of the cups before leaning back and staring out the far window. Snow continued to fall from the sky and he knew by morning the streets would be impassable.
"There is a reasonable chance the police will catch this guy," he found himself saying, despite his earlier resolve not to comment.
"Maybe, but what if they don't?" Danny asked, shaking his head before sipping at his tea.
Martin didn't have an answer for that. He lapsed into silence, still staring out the far window. There was something oddly comfortable about the silence, it felt right somehow, like they'd done this before. He still couldn't place it, but the more time he spent with Danny, the more familiar it felt, like they'd known each other for an eternity. Martin liked the feeling and, while tea wasn't their usual drink, he found himself suddenly glad Danny had thought to stop by.
He woke in his chair, a blanket tucked under his chin that he didn't remember fetching. The room was cold, the fire long since dying and it took Martin several minutes to figure out why he wasn't sleeping in his bed. The dim light in the room told him it was still early, that the sun wouldn't be up for hours. He pushed himself out of the chair, muscles stiff and aching as he made his way over to the bed.
Finding Danny sprawled beneath his blankets was only mildly surprising and Martin smiled before pushing aside Danny's leg and crawling in beside him. As far as Martin knew, they had never shared a bed before, and yet there was something oddly habitual about the process of fighting with Danny for the covers. Martin pushed the thought aside, too exhausted to make sense of it. He turned onto his side, away from Danny, avoiding the temptation to touch.
Even then he didn't sleep, replaying the last two cases over and over again in his head until he felt certain he might go insane. He knew he was missing something, something so obvious he knew when he found it he would feel foolish for not seeing it sooner. But try as he might, he couldn't seem to make the connection.
Sleep eventually came, bringing with it haunting dreams of broken dolls and faceless monsters. Eventually they gave way to other, more pleasant dreams, dreams of skin and sweat and Danny. When he eventually woke, the sun was just cresting the horizon and Danny was gone.
He was the first to arrive at the office, Vivian's front desk empty and none of the lamps lit. He took his time hanging his coat, sliding off his boots and heading into the back room Samantha usually frequented. When he didn't find her, Martin sighed, resigning himself to go without coffee until she got in. Jack was just arriving as he returned to the main room.
"You're here early," he commented, tossing his coat over Vivian's desk for her to deal with when she got in.
"I was having trouble sleeping," Martin replied, running a hand through his hair as Jack nodded.
"I know you're still upset about that case, but they set up these lines of procedure for a reason," Jack stated, ignoring his office and heading straight for the conference table.
Martin followed him there, sighing again as he sank into one of the chairs. It felt odd not having an active case open. From the look on Jack's face, nothing had come up, so Martin knew it could be a while before they actually had work again. It made him wish he'd thought to pick up a paper. The thought only lasted a moment, Danny's arrival distracting him.
He wanted to ask Danny why he'd left, if he planned on showing up again, but Jack was still sitting at the table, staring at the both of them like he knew far more than he was letting on. It was ridiculous, though, because as far as Martin knew, there was nothing to know.
"So what do we have to do to get you to spring for some more heat in here," Danny commented, rubbing his hands together before sinking into the chair across from Martin's.
"It's not that cold," Jack replied, shaking his head before standing and moving to the window to stare out at the snow covered streets.
It had taken Martin nearly an hour to reach work, the streets blocked by snow and ice. He'd seen several groups of workers clearing the snow, shovelling it away to make room for pedestrians and carts. It would take them days, and even then they'd just have to start at the beginning. Winters always meant too much snow.
He could feel Danny's eyes, staring at him from across the table, but before Martin had a chance to comment, Vivian was arriving, issuing several apologies for her lateness. She rustled about, hanging coats and making coffee, distracting Martin from Danny's eyes.
"Where's Samantha?" Vivian asked when she re-emerged from the back room, three coffees balanced on a small tray.
"She wasn't feeling well today, I told her to stay home," Jack replied, crossing back to the table to accept his coffee. The statement earned a raised eyebrow from both Danny and Vivian.
The news didn't surprise Martin. He'd long suspected Jack and his secretary were a lot closer than they let on. It still didn't explain why Samantha always looked so bored and frustrated, but at least he knew now why Samantha was only nice to Jack.
"Do we have a case this morning?" Danny asked, but his tone was bitter and Martin knew he was still upset about yesterday's events.
"Not yet," Jack replied, not waiting for a reply before turning around and heading into his office, his coffee cradled between his hands.
Vivian's coffee was nowhere as good as Samantha's; the entire bottom of his cup murky with grounds. It was also quite possibly the bitterest coffee he had ever tasted and Martin found himself choking as he swallowed the last mouthful.
"This is ridiculous," Danny stated, poking his head out from behind piles of old case files.
When a new case hadn't come in, they'd been left sorting through old cases, cleaning house as it were. There was something amusing about the sight of Danny with an ink stained nose and his tie hanging loose around his neck. It made Martin laugh and he had to fight against the sudden desire to cross the room and straighten Danny's clothes.
"What else are we supposed to do?" Martin questioned instead, his tone teasing.
"In case you've forgotten, there is a serial killer out there," Danny replied, running an absent hand through his hair and Martin couldn't help but remember the scent of Danny on his pillow this morning. Couldn't help but remember the taste of dream Danny on his tongue.
"Danny..." Martin warned, but Martin knew he was right.
They should be working on the case. They knew more about it than anyone and it wasn't like they were doing anything else useful. It was frustrating and Martin was half tempted to walk into Jack's office and demand he let them work on the case. He knew it wouldn't happen and no amount of arguing would change Jack's mind.
"I'm sorry, it's just..." Danny trailed off, sighing in frustration before turning back to the never-ending pile of work spread out before him.
"I know," Martin replied, offering a sympathetic smile.
It earned him one of Danny's soft smiles, the ones that always made Martin's breath catch in the back of his throat. He knew he was blushing, but if Danny noticed, he didn't say anything. Instead he turned back to their current task, sorting through the piles in front of him.
The sky still held the faintest traces of light when they finally gave up and called it a night. Vivian had left earlier that afternoon and, as far as Martin knew, Jack was still held up in his office going over God only knew what. He imaged it probably consisted of finding more make work projects for tomorrow.
"You want to grab some dinner?" Danny asked once they were outside, pausing to adjust his scarf and gloves.
"Sure," Martin replied, already turning to head toward the pub.
He sensed more than saw Danny fall into step beside him, his usual energy somewhat subdued and Martin resisted the urge to ask if anything was wrong. He knew part of it was the case, but there was something else and Martin wasn't certain he wanted to know what that something was.
The pub was surprising busy this early, so it took them several moments to find a free table. Eventually they did, one near the back, beside the kitchen, the rich scent of stew heavy in the air. It was only then that Martin realized he was hungry. His stomach growled somewhat loudly and when Danny glanced up, Martin shrugged and felt himself flush.
"Smells good," he said by way of explanation.
Danny nodded, smiling softly a second time as he slid into the bench against the wall. They ordered tea instead of scotch, the bitter taste reminding Martin of the previous night. They still hadn't discussed it and while Martin wanted to ask, he couldn't find the words. Even midway through the meal, when Danny pushed aside his bowl and leaned back, silence invading the space between them, Martin remained silent.
"Are you doing anything for Christmas?" Danny asked suddenly, folding his hands on top of the table and leaning forward.
"I might go see my mother," Martin replied, dreading the coming holiday season.
In truth, he didn't get along well with his mother. She was constantly badgering him about finding a respectable girl and settling down. Martin hated the reminder and while he understood her concern, he knew he would likely never settle down. He told himself it was just that the job demanded most of his free time, but he knew that wasn't entirely true. He didn't like to think about the other reasons.
"What about you?" he asked, pushing aside thoughts of his mother and the impending holiday.
"I told Jack I'd work," Danny replied, looking slightly uncomfortable and Martin cursed himself for asking.
By the time they left, the sky was practically black, smoke rising from the street lamps, making the air thick and hazy. Martin didn't question Danny when Danny fell into step beside him, shuffling through the knee deep snow on the way back to Martin's apartment.
The ever present chill of winter was finally beginning to seep into the room. He hadn't noticed it at first, despite not lighting the stove. He'd known the room was cold, but nestled beneath the covers, pressed against Danny's warmth, the sensation hadn't registered. They'd generated more than enough warmth between them, skin burning like fire and limbs impossibly tangled.
They hadn't talked about it. Not on the long walk home, pushing through snow drifts that came almost to their waists. Not when Martin slipped on a patch of ice, falling to the ground and dragging Danny down behind him when he'd tried to help Martin stand. Not when they scrambled to their feet, running the remaining distance to Martin's apartment. Not even when Danny followed him up the stairs, the third step creaking twice as Danny's foot followed like an echo.
It was strange, odd in a way that seemed familiar and yet Martin couldn't pinpoint why. Even stripping out of wet, half frozen clothes before climbing beneath the covers seemed natural. They'd fallen asleep, clinging to one another like it was something they did every night.
Danny slept now, his face pressed against Martin's neck, his breath warm against Martin's skin and his arm thrown haphazardly over Martin's stomach, fingers twitching as he dreamt. Nothing had happened, they hadn't even kissed and until now, it hadn't occurred to Martin that he wanted more. He'd known before, but in the moment he'd been content to merely drift off to sleep, surrounded by the scent and feel of Danny. Now that he was awake again, staring out over the dark room, listening to the soft sounds of Danny's breathing and feeling the cold, he wanted things he couldn't name. It felt more like longing than lust, something he'd been denied far too long and he craved it with his entire being.
He found himself tracing absent patterns on Danny's arm, goosebumps rising in response to his touch. Danny shifted, moaning something that was lost to slumber. Martin smiled and burrowed a little closer to Danny's warmth, hands still tracing across the soft expanse of Danny's skin. He wanted to say something, wake Danny up and question what it was they were doing, but before he could find the words, Danny was blinking up at him, glazed eyes reflecting what little light there was.
"Hey, sorry," Martin said, hands still moving, touch feather light and Danny shivered against him.
"It got cold," Danny commented, but his words came out jumbled, thick with sleep.
"I can light the stove," Martin suggested, but he made no move to leave the bed. It would be even colder outside the covers.
Danny shook his head, grunting something that sounded like dismissal. Not that Martin minded, the stove was on the other side of the room, far from the warmth of bed and Danny.
For a moment, he thought Danny had fallen back asleep, his breath once again low and steady. But as soon as he said the words, Danny pulled back, making eye contact and silently telling Martin to continue.
"Why'd you come here?" Martin asked, fear building in the pit of his stomach as he processed what he'd just asked.
The silence that stretched between them did nothing to ease his apprehension, nor did the frown that formed on Danny's face as Danny puzzled out his answer.
"I don't know. It just, it felt right," Danny finally replied, and Martin nodded.
"Yeah," he echoed, only just realizes that his hand had stilled, resting softly against Danny's shoulder.
His fingers trembled slightly as he began moving again, pressing a little firmer this time, watching Danny's eyes for some kind of reaction. He got a smile, soft and a little surprised before Danny leaned forward, pressing their lips together and just like that, they were kissing.
He expected to feel nervous, the kiss to be awkward, but he wasn't surprised to find it was neither. It began tentatively, Danny's lips brushing against his own, light and playful. It didn't last, need overwhelming intent and before Martin could register what had happened, his tongue was sliding into Danny's mouth, mapping teeth and tongue, drinking in sleep and darkness.
In that moment, he thought he'd always known, on some level, that this would one day happen. But this was never how he pictured it. In his mind it was always rushed, frantic kisses exchanged in dark alleys or against his front door. In his mind there was never enough time, everything happening within the span of a mere second. This was slow, lazy exploration that began with the first touch, ending what seemed hours later when they were both flushed, spent and panting.
Even after it continued, hands moving restlessly, tongues marking territory that was somehow both new and old. Eventually they succumbed to sleep, foreheads pressed together, their fingers linked and resting against Danny's thigh.
When he woke, the bed was empty and he couldn't remember if they'd taken the time to talk, give name to the subtle shift in their relationship. He didn't think so, but the room was warm, the stove lit and Martin couldn't help but smile at the thought of Danny lighting it before leaving.
Danny's absence was only slightly disappointing. He'd expected it, recalling that first morning with vivid detail, and yet he'd hoped this time would be different. He knew, logically, it would be impossible to wake up together and still have time to make it into work before the day began. It didn't stop the feeling of hollowness that came at the prospect of making tea for one.
His muscles protested movement, his limbs aching as he pushed aside the covers and stepped out onto the floor. It made him feel old, like a shadow of his former self and he wished, not for the first time, that they'd started all this sooner. He could still feel Danny inside him, moving against him, their bodies colliding with such force stars had danced behind his eyes.
It took effort to push aside the memory, but eventually Martin found himself falling into the steady rhythm of his morning routine. He washed and shaved, dressed and sipped at tea before finally heading out into the streets. They'd cleared the snow on the streets in front of his building, making the walk to work fairly easy and he ended up arriving early for the second day in a row.
Samantha was in this time, humming to herself as she made coffee and sorted through the day's mail. Martin nodded his hello, accepting a fresh cup before heading to the conference table.
"They found another body."
No good mornings, no hellos, just the day's paper slammed down onto the table, startling Martin from his thoughts and causing Jack to frown. Martin hadn't been in long when Jack arrived, a new case in hand, ready to begin the day. They'd spoken briefly about the missing boy, a nine year old this time, most likely a run away. They'd been running over a list of his friends when Danny arrived, looking tired and angry. He threw the paper down in front of them, the top headline telling the story of another murdered girl.
"Unless she's missing, I don't see how that's out problem," Jack commented, sipping his coffee and glaring at Danny until Martin wanted to hit him.
"It's connected, Jack. This girl and the other two girls that we let die," Danny all but shouted, hands clenching into fists and Martin couldn't help but wonder what had happened over the past hour to shift Danny's mood so drastically.
Certainly learning of another victim had something to do with it, but Jack was right, it wasn't their case and, hence, not their concern. It was frustrating, upsetting in way Martin knew all too well, but until someone else went missing, there wasn't anything they could do about it.
"Danny..." Jack got out before Danny was interrupting him.
"No, this is going to continue. The police can't stop him, but we can. You have to let us..."
Martin could tell, just by the slight twitch in Danny's jaw that he wasn't going to back down. He found himself tensing, waiting for the inevitable blow up. It wasn't until it didn't come that he realized he'd reached forward, wrapping his hand around Danny's wrist.
Danny was staring at him now, anger still flashing in his eyes, but it softened. He knew he was staring, silently pleading with Danny to let it go. He knew that Jack was watching them and somewhere across the room he could sense Samantha's presence. He let his hand linger, relaxing his grip until it was just resting there, soft and comforting and far too intimate for two co-workers.
"Sorry," Danny finally said, his body relaxing and his arm falling to his side, slipping from Martin's grasp.
He sank into his chair, defeat written across his features and Martin had to fight to keep from reaching out, smoothing away the lines beneath his eyes. Jack was still staring at them, brow furrowed and Martin imagined he could see the wheels turning in Jack's head. Putting together the pieces of some odd jigsaw puzzle until finally it clicked into place.
"We have a new case, I want you and Martin to go over this list, interview everyone on it," Jack said, waiting for Danny's nod before handing over the list of Jacob's friends.
As Martin stood to follow Danny from the room, he couldn't help but glance over his shoulder, meeting Jack's disapproving glance.
The case forced them to take the train across to Queens. The ride was long, the car covered with the thick soot of coal. The bridge rattled beneath them, swaying in the breeze like it was made of matchsticks. Martin half expected it to give way, send them plummeting into the icy black water below.
"He's wrong, you know," Danny said, still clutching the day's paper, the rough-sketched image of the girl staring back, stark black on white.
"I know. But he's not going let us work the case," Martin answered, tearing his eyes away from the image, turning to stare out the window at the passing landscape.
The train car continued to rock violently, shaking them until Martin felt certain he might just lose his breakfast. Black smoke rolled past the window, creeping in through cracks and crevices, so thick it was almost suffocating.
"That doesn't mean we can't," Danny replied, giving Martin a meaningful look. It was underlined with desperation; silent pleading that let Martin know just how important this was to Danny.
"Are you suggesting we go behind Jack's back, investigate this off the books?" Martin asked, and he knew he sounded scandalized, but his tone didn't seem to stop Danny.
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting," Danny answered, glancing once around the train before placing his hand on Martin's knee, squeezing just hard enough to make Martin twitch.
It was a dirty trick and judging from the brief flash of guilt in Danny's eyes, Danny knew it. He didn't pull his hand away and when Martin finally sighed and nodded, Danny smiled, bright and happy like Martin had just given him the world.
"Good, now let's go find this boy so we can get on with it," Danny said as the train lurched to a stop.
Queens was a maze of slums. Small shanty towns lined the waterside, the thick scent of fish clinging to the air until Martin was forced to cover his nose with his sleeve. They moved inland, past decaying buildings and broken streets. Clothing hung on lines, stretching across the spaces between the buildings, blocking lines of sight. Thousands of places to hide for someone who didn't want to be found.
It took them nearly an hour to get through the first three names on the list, no one particularly caring about the loss of one small boy. They were on their way to the forth when Danny's hand found his arm, his touch light and lingering.
"Hey, check that out," Danny commented, pointing down one of the narrow stretches of alley to the street on the other side.
He'd heard rumours, read things in the newspaper, but until now he hadn't really allowed himself to believe it was actually possible. The wires were complex, twisted and running in every direction. It took nearly eight men to lift the pole, cursing and shouting as they shifted it across the ground, lowering it into the pre-drilled hole.
"They say in a couple of years, everyone's going to have it," Danny continued, his tone filled with wonder and awe.
"It would be too expensive. I can see replacing the streetlamps, but putting electricity into every home? It's ridiculous, it'll never happen," Martin replied, already turning away from the workers and the rapidly forming line of electric street lamps.
"Actually, it's suppose to be relatively cheap," Danny countered, "well, cheaper than lamp oil," he finished, nodding his head like the statement was fact. Martin wasn't sure whether or not to believe him.
It hardly mattered, progress would come whether they wanted it to or not. The world was changing around them, fast approaching the turn of the century and it would only be a matter of time before the new replaced the old. Martin was fairly certain he qualified as old.
He ignored the thought, glancing down at the list in his hand to confirm the address before grabbing Danny's arm and dragging him up the steps to their next location.
They found Jacob just as the sun was setting. It sank over the western horizon, replaced by the sight of thousands upon thousands of hazy stars. Martin couldn't help but wonder if electricity would help clear the sky of coal smoke and bring back the night sky.
Jacob had spent the entire day hiding in the basement of his building, playing at making forts and pretending he could exist without the care of his parents. Finding him had been just as annoying as it was relieving and, by the time they found themselves making their way back to the train station, the day seemed nothing more than a distant memory.
They managed to catch the last train back across to Manhattan, arriving in the city too late for a meal or a drink. Danny bid him goodnight at the station, leaving Martin to head home alone and wonder what he'd done.
Silence echoed around him, interrupted only by the occasional hiss of the stove as it burned through the last of its coal. Martin turned back to the papers spread out before him, letting the steady scratch of pen against paper replace the eerie quiet.
He'd been near exhaustion when he'd first arrived home, worn from a long day on the streets and the overwhelming annoyance of a case that turned out to be little more than a hoax. But his bed was large and empty, the space between the sheets cold and void without Danny's presence. He'd lost track of the hours he'd spent staring up at the distant ceiling, loneliness settling in his chest until it threatened to consume him.
Eventually he'd given up on sleep, climbing from his bed and pacing the length of his apartment. Even that didn't help and he'd found himself lighting the stove, making tea before finally turning to his desk. Clearing it off had taken longer than he'd expected, his tea sitting untouched, becoming cold before he remembered it was there. He drank it anyway, cringing at the bitter taste against his tongue.
Most of the mess had ended up on the floor, papers and files spread out around him, boxing him in until the small space around his desk resembled a separate room. It trapped in the heat, though, creating warmth that was far more welcoming than his empty bed.
Light from the lantern flickered against the walls, tiny shadows dancing across the smooth surface until Martin was certain they'd taken on a life of their own. He watched them for a moment, finally finding the will to turn away, back to the science journal Jack had given him and the long, sprawling notes he'd spent the better part of the evening taking.
His hands were black, ink from the pen dripping, falling down to blot against the page, stain the desk underneath. He still couldn't figure it out. He'd been through article after article, reading until his eyes began to blur. It could have been written in Greek for all the good it did him. Without access to the crime scenes or the bodies, there was relatively little they could do. And yet, he'd promised Danny they would pursue this, figure it out on their own and the last thing he wanted to do was let Danny down, so he continued searching, trying to find anything that might help them put right the death of three young girls.
Thoughts of Danny made him glance up, across the room to the unmade bed in the corner. He couldn't help but picture Danny sprawled beneath the covers, head resting softly against Martin's pillow. It brought back the longing he thought he'd conquered the previous night. Apparently once wasn't anywhere near enough.
He was the last to arrive at the office, the night's snow quickly filling the streets, making walking all but impossible. He paused to brush snow off his coat before handing it to Vivian, offering her a friendly hello before pushing past the doors into the main room. The room was thick with smoke. It hung in the air, swirling in the breeze as the door swung shut. Martin coughed before placing his sleeve over his mouth, squinting as his eyes began to water.
"What's going on?" he heard himself ask, but the sound was lost to Jack's curses and Samantha's protests.
"Small explosion, apparently Jack's new lamp oil concoction wasn't as stable as he first assumed," Danny answered, appearing seemingly out of nowhere and it took Martin a moment to realize he'd closed his eyes.
He forced them open, blinking against the haze and blindly seeking out Danny's arm. Danny led them to the conference table, directing Martin to his chair.
"You'll get used to it," Danny commented, his own eyes wide open.
Eventually Martin's vision did clear, but the smoke still stung, making him want to rub against imaginary dirt trapped beneath his eyelids. Samantha and Jack were still dealing with the mess, arguing softly and Martin couldn't help but think they sounded married.
"You look like hell, Martin," Danny said, his voice soft and low, but it held the faintest hint of concern and Martin couldn't help but smile.
"I didn't get much sleep last night," Martin replied, turning away from the sight of Samantha and Jack clearing away broken glass.
"Me either," Danny replied, his tone hesitant and something unreadable flashed in his eyes.
Martin opened his mouth to say something, but before he could get the words out, Jack was returning to the table, leaving Samantha to clear away what little there was left of the mess.
"It's probably going to take the better part of the day for the smoke to clear. Why don't you guys head home, take the day off," Jack ordered, sounding somewhat embarrassed and Martin couldn't help but notice Samantha watching them from across the room.
Martin didn't say anything, merely nodding and heading back out into the lobby to retrieve his coat. Danny was right behind him, waiting until they'd reached the street outside to suggest they start working on their off-the-record case.
He'd never actually seen Danny's apartment before. It was cleaner than he'd imagined, tidy in a way that he wouldn't have expected from a bachelor. His own apartment was a mess of books and papers, dishes and clothes. Danny led them to a small table set up in the kitchen, several days worth of papers spread out across its surface. He sank into one of the chairs, waiting for Martin to join him before pulling out the first paper.
"This is the first girl, the one we found at the harbour," he explained, handing Martin the paper before turning back to the table to shuffle through the others.
He'd seen the article before, several times in fact and, by this point, he could practically recite the words by memory. He didn't say anything, though, accepting paper after paper while trying to figure out Danny's point.
"Danny, we know all this," he finally said, shaking his head and running a newsprint stained hand through his hair.
"Yes, but we don't know if there's more, which is what these are for," Danny replied, pointing out the small stack of papers on the end of the table.
"You want to go through all of those?" Martin asked, letting out a sigh at Danny's nod. "We're not going to find anything. God, Danny, I haven't even slept, how do you expect..."
The look on Danny's face froze Martin's words. Half anger, half hurt, bleeding together until Martin's breath caught in the back of his throat. He nodded once before grabbing for the first paper, ignoring Danny's stare as he opened it to the first page.
He must have fallen asleep. One minute he was staring at the paper in his hand, trying to keep the words from dancing about the page and the next Danny was shaking him awake. It took Martin several moments to bring Danny's face into focus, several more to finally realize exactly where he was and what they were supposed to be doing.
He stood, stretching his arms above his head as he listened to Danny suggest they get something to eat before heading out to look over the crime scenes. He seemed almost eager, like he was actually looking forward to traipsing around in the snow. Martin couldn't help but shake his head, fighting against the urge to roll his eyes.
Still, he found himself sliding into his coat, pulling on his scarf and gloves before following Danny down the stairs and out into the street. They walked in silence, Danny leading them around the corner, into a pub beneath another row of apartments. Inside the air was warm, the scent of food wafting out the door and Martin's stomach rumbled somewhat embarrassingly.
Danny didn't comment, leading them deeper into the back, finding an unoccupied table before sinking into one of the chairs and waiting for Martin to do the same. The silence continued into the meal, settling around them until Martin couldn't remember the last time either of them had spoken.
The food was mediocre at best, but it was cheap, and Martin was hungry, so he didn't complain. Instead he sat, staring down at the plate in front of him, listening to the soft sounds of the other patrons as he finished his meal. He could feel Danny watching him, but every time he glanced up Danny's eyes were fixed on his plate. It was unnerving and Martin found himself shifting restlessly in his seat.
Light trickled in through the window, casting bars of white against the rough floors. They made Martin want to hide inside, rest next to the stove and keep warm until summer finally returned. He knew it wasn't an option and besides, Danny seemed eager to hit the streets, hunt down leads that Martin was fairly certain didn't exist. He still didn't know what they were doing, or why this case was so important, but Danny seemed bound and bent on catching the killer and Martin knew nothing he could say would change Danny's mind.
"Danny, why are we doing this?" Martin asked as soon as the thought occurred to him.
For a moment, Danny didn't respond, instead frowning as he took in Martin's words. Martin could see him puzzling it out, trying to come up with an explanation that Martin would accept. In the end, he merely shrugged.
"Can I ask you something?" Danny finally questioned, waiting for Martin's nod before continuing. "The other night, with us, I mean, was that normal for you?" he asked, glancing across the table and making eye contact. His eyes reflected nothing but curiosity, open honesty that made Martin shiver.
"No," Martin admitted, feeling himself flush and he sent up silent thanks for the low light in the room.
"Me either, but there was something, I don't know, familiar about it, you know?" Danny replied, frowning slightly as he puzzled out his words.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Martin said, smiling softly as he processed what Danny wasn't saying.
"Well, this case, it's like that. There's just something familiar about it," Danny explained, his expression slightly nervous like he thought Martin might dismiss the feeling out of hand.
"Okay," Martin replied, not really understanding Danny's explanation, but he knew the feeling behind it all too well. Besides, it was important to Danny and that was enough for Martin.
Revisiting the crime scenes proved almost as useless as their earlier attempts to scan through papers. In the end they were left cold, wet and exhausted, with still more questions than answers and the looming knowledge that they might never actually help to solve anything.
When they finally got back to Danny's apartment, the sun had long since set and the atmosphere seemed almost oppressive. He could feel it, settling into his already stiff joints until he ached from it. Danny was just as bad, looking almost lost as he shed his coat, dropping it onto the floor by the door before heading into the main room and collapsing on the bed.
Martin wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to be doing. Technically Danny hadn't invited him here, but he hadn't said anything when Martin followed him up the stairs and he wasn't saying anything now that Martin was standing inside his doorway. It was late, too late for anything but sleep, so Martin was fairly certain Danny intended for him to spend the night. Except he hadn't said anything and Martin couldn't decide if that was because he expected Martin to know, or he'd forgotten Martin was even there.
"What are you doing?" Danny asked, lifting his head to stare at Martin from across the room.
It wasn't technically an invitation, but it was close enough, so Martin shrugged off his coat, placing it on the back of one of Danny's chair before crossing the room and joining Danny in the bed. Together they managed to rid one another of their clothes before sliding beneath the covers. Danny turned onto his side, pulling Martin flush behind him until they lay spooned together, heat creeping between them.
"Does this really feel familiar to you?" Danny asked suddenly, tilting his head back to glance at Martin over his shoulder.
"Yeah, it does," Martin confessed, stomach fluttering as he leaned forward and kissed the side of Danny's mouth.
"I thought it was just me," Danny replied, arching back until there was nothing between them, his hand seeking out Martin's and guiding it between his legs.
Martin's answer was lost to the taste of Danny's tongue.
This time when he woke, Danny was still pressed against him, nestled between Martin's arms like he belonged there. Martin stayed that way for a moment, relishing Danny's warmth and the soft slide of skin against skin as he shifted and stretched. Eventually the call the nature forced him from the bed, out into the cold apartment and the long day ahead.
The morning was rushed, frantic washing and dressing, interspersed with playful touches and long, slow kisses. It was strange in a way that Martin wasn't prepared for. They'd been affectionate before, but this went beyond that and Martin couldn't pinpoint what had happened to warrant the sudden change in their relationship.
By the time they made it into the office, the smoke had cleared. Samantha was still casting the occasional glare in the direction of Jack's office, but she took the time to bring them both cups of coffee, not commenting on their simultaneous arrival, or the fact that Martin was wearing yesterday's clothes.
"It's about time," Jack said as he entered the room, throwing two case files down onto the table before taking his seat.
It seemed an eternity since they'd last seen a case, even though Martin knew it had only been a day. Still, he'd been looking forward to continuing their independent research on the recent murders, so the last thing he wanted to be doing was hunting down missing boys who didn't like their parents telling them to wash behind their ears.
"Looks like you boys get your wish, she fits the profile and I've convinced the police to hand the entire case over to us," Jack continued, flipping open the file to reveal the sketch of another young girl.
He sipping his coffee as Danny and Martin exchanged looks.
A thin layer of ash covered the floor, interspersed by the countless footprints that criss-crossed the room. It was the only remaining evidence of the previous day's accident, but every so often the scent of burning oil would find its way to Martin's nose, so suffocating at times he'd been forced to open a window and let in the cold winter air. It forced them to work wearing their coats, scarves drawn up over their mouths.
Once, Danny had complained about the cold, but Martin had merely offered his scarf, thinking nothing of giving it over if it meant being able to breathe clean air. The gesture had earned him an eye roll, alongside the assurance that if Martin could handle the cold, so could Danny. They'd laughed about it before adding more coal to the room's stove. It hadn't been enough to chase away the cold, but they'd sat, side by side, shoulders pressed together, sharing body heat as they worked.
They'd spent the better part of the morning going over police reports, detailing the first two cases that had passed through their office. A third report included information on the girl from Danny's paper, a seventeen year-old named Catherine that easily resembled the first two girls. She'd been found strangled, dumped in the harbour, her body washed up with the tide.
Hannah, their current case, was a mere fourteen, looking nothing like the other girls. Her hair was darker, for one, as were her eyes and her complexion was much paler. Martin thought perhaps it was just the photograph. Until now they'd been working with composite sketches, drawn by the Bureau's artists. It made him wish the other girls' parents had thought to take photographs, but the technology was expensive, so he understood why they hadn't.
They'd pinned it against the far wall, pushing the conference table beneath it, spreading a map of the city across the top. Small bits of coal were used as markers, pinpointing all the locations that were relevant to the case. The girls' homes were marked, as were the locations of where their bodies had been found. In the end, they could have drawn a perfect circle, connected invisible lines into the centre to find Canal Street, the start of the Sixth Ward district.
It wasn't much, but it was better than anything they'd found so far. It took them several minutes to locate Jack and obtain permission to pursue the lead. They paused long enough to pull on gloves before descending down the stairs and heading out into the street.
The wind was coming off the water, snaking between the buildings and making it feel colder than it actually was. The walk seemed to take an eternity, forcing them to push through knee-deep snow and climb over drifts that took over entire streets. It brought them past the slums that lined the water's edge, the scent of garbage and human waste heavy in the air.
When they finally reached the start of Canal Street, they were no more than two blocks from where Amy's body was found. Another three blocks in the opposite direction from where Jessica had been discovered. The third victim had been found not twenty-feet from where they were standing.
"You'd think they'd clean these places up a bit," Martin commented, glancing at the squalor surrounding them.
"Who?" Danny questioned, smirking slightly, but Martin could tell he was trying to breathe through his mouth.
"I don't know, the people who live here," Martin replied, and he could feel them watching, hidden behind curtains and brick walls, wondering what two suits were doing in their neighbourhood.
"I'm pretty sure they're too busy trying not to starve," Danny answered, glancing out over the water before leading them up the street.
Around them loomed hundreds of tenant buildings, walls cracked and crumbling, smoke billowing out of the rooftops. Everywhere they looked, signs of poverty and despair, sunken faces that had seen more hardships than Martin could even imagine. This was where the city's poor gathered together, begging for bread in the streets and just trying to get by.
"You know, I grew up in a neighbourhood like this," Danny commented as they walked, eyes still focused on the buildings surrounding them.
Danny talking about his past was rare, so much so, for a moment, Martin didn't know how to respond. He wanted to know everything there was to know about Danny, but he didn't think Danny was the type of person that would let Martin ask. He settled on honesty, hoping it might help break down some of the walls Danny had so carefully constructed.
"That must have been rough," Martin replied, glancing out of the corner of his eye at Danny's profile.
In a way, it gave him hope for the city, because if Danny had survived, moved on and actually made something with his life, so could the people who lived here. He knew there were places like this all around the city, small makeshift towns that consisted of nothing more than shacks. Of the buildings that did exist, few were good repair and most were coated in so much soot, Martin could no longer make out the brick behind it. Dirty, torn clothes hung out of windows, children crying from behind broken glass. The air held the scent of decay and sickness, so pungent at times, Martin found himself gagging.
Danny didn't say anything else, but his expression told Martin everything he needed to know. Places like this weren't meant for children.
The worst thing about this place was how unwelcoming it could be. No one would speak to them, no one wanting to acknowledge two men in modest suits, two men who obviously could afford better. They stopped, several times, pulling out the photograph of Hannah, showing it to the people they passed, by no one recognized her. It was frustrating and by the time they'd hit the end of Canal Street, they were no closer to finding her than they were when they'd begun.
"It doesn't make sense," Martin said suddenly, staring down at the photograph in his hand.
"What doesn't?" Danny asked, pausing in the middle of the street to turn and meet Martin's eye.
"We know Hannah lived over the west side, and obviously her parent's have money," Martin began, waving the picture to demonstrate his point. "So why would she have come here?" he continued, gesturing to the surrounding slums.
Danny frowned for a moment, finally nodding his agreement before setting out again, leading them back downtown. As they walked, Martin swore he could feel hundreds of eyes watching them leave.
It was late afternoon by the time they made it back to the office. They'd stopped at Hannah's home, interviewing the mother for a second time. She knew nothing of Canal Street, or whether her daughter ever went there. Martin doubted it, though; it was hardly the type of place an upscale fourteen year-old would visit.
It led Martin to question whether the case was even connected. He knew, technically, she fit part of the profile, but her appearance, combined with the circumstances surrounding her disappearance made him doubt. He didn't say anything, not until they were back in the office, the window closed and the air stale.
"All I'm saying is that maybe we're looking at this wrong," Martin explained, tired of arguing his point with Danny.
"And what if we're not? What if we just give up, only to find out our killer is expanding his territory?" Danny asked, rocking restlessly in his chair and Martin wanted nothing more than to reach out and still his movements.
He balled his hands into fists instead, standing and pacing the length of the table before finally perching on the far corner. Tension radiated between them, crackling in the air until Martin half expected actually sparks. He knew they were both frustrated, angry at not being able to figure all this out. And he knew he shouldn't be taking it out on Danny, but Danny was there and their killer was not.
"From what I've been reading, it's highly unlikely this guy would cross across town just for another girl. You saw that place, there were tons of young women there, tons of teenage girls, he wouldn't need to look elsewhere," Martin insisted, hating that they were wasting time fighting about this.
"It's connected, Martin. I can't explain it, but I just, I know it," Danny countered, leaning forward to place his hands against the table, his eyes flashing with certainty.
"You keep saying that, but have you even considered that you might just be imagining it?" Martin asked, his tone harsh and he winced at the glare it got him in return.
Danny didn't answer, instead pushing his chair back, standing before moving across the room, disappearing into the back. Martin sighed in frustration, watching Danny leave and vowing not to follow.
They found Hannah just as the sun was beginning to set. Martin listened to Jack's words, expecting to spend the remainder of the night dealing with a body. Finding out she was alive was a surprise, the first pleasant one he'd had in days. The euphoria didn't last long, replaced by Danny's icy silence. Things had been tense between them all day, their earlier fight hanging in the air until they'd stopped speaking entirely, offering each other nothing more than glares, so hostile Martin's jaw was beginning to hurt from clenching so hard.
Martin knew it wasn't his fault he was right, and while he didn't blame Danny for being upset, Danny's sullen expression was starting to get on Martin's nerves. But Danny had been so sure the cases were connected and finding Hannah had only served to crush his theory, so Martin knew why he was sulking. It probably wouldn't have been half as bad as it was if Hannah had been taken, hurt or at the very least in danger. Instead she was found hiding out with a boy two years her senior, claiming they were to wed. Martin had to remind himself that she was alive and, in the end, that was really all that really mattered.
It was the third time Martin had said his name, and the third time Danny had ignored him.
"Look, I'm sorry, okay?" Martin tried again and this time Danny glanced up.
He still didn't say anything, merely glancing at Martin like Martin was the last person he wanted to see. Just as quickly, he turned away, back to the papers spread across his desk and Martin sighed in frustration. He'd been hoping they could resolve this, put it aside and focus on the case that was now theirs. Instead he found himself shrugging into his goat, gathering his things and heading toward the door.
He paused halfway there, turning to glance at Danny over his shoulder. Danny was still pointedly ignoring him, pen moving restlessly across the page in front of him.
"At least we got the case back," Martin said, not waiting for a response be turning back to the door, heading home alone.
He was met by his landlady in the front hall of his building. She handed a small envelope, mumbling something about the late hour and Martin's odd visitors before retreating back into her apartment. For a moment, Martin merely stared at the closed door, thinking he should probably apologize, even though he couldn't figure out why.
Instead he shook the thought off, climbing up the creaking stairs and heading into an apartment he hadn't seen in well over a day. The air was cold, his breath catching, streaming out before him like smoke as he dropped his gloves onto the closest chair. The envelope followed a moment behind, sliding off the soft leather to land on the floor. Martin ignored it and turned to the stove.
His hands shook as he lit a small pile of coal, his entire body numb with cold. It didn't help that he hadn't eaten, his fight with Danny sapping his appetite. The problem was he couldn't entirely figure out why they were fighting. He knew Danny was upset, but aside from a few misplaced comments, Martin was certain he didn't deserve Danny's anger. But it was more than that, he missed Danny's presence and the prospect of sleeping alone left his chest tight and aching.
Once the room was reasonably warm, he made tea, pouring a cup and carrying it back to his chair. The leather groaned as he sank into it, shifting and moulding around his body until he could have fallen asleep. He set the tea down on the table next to him, reaching for the letter on the floor and turning the envelope over in his hand. There was no return address, no stamp and Martin suddenly wished he'd asked his landlady who had brought it.
It was probably unimportant, though, so he pushed the thought aside, tearing into the envelope and pulling out a handwritten letter. The temperature in the room seemed to drop as he read it.
I saw you today, looking for me. You're really not very good at finding people, are you? We've met once, you know, a long time ago. Before. I doubt you'd remember, but I do. You couldn't hold me then, what makes you think you can this time? This time the world turns in my favour.
Do you ever miss the moon? The sky is so dark without it. You probably don't even remember it, do you? No one does.
There was no signature, but Martin didn't need to see one to know who it was from.
The wind had picked up, whistling through the streets and blowing about the snow until he couldn't see the buildings across the street. It seeped in through the windows, drifting across the room and the flame in his lantern flickered as it was caught in the draft. He didn't bother throwing on his coat as he headed out the door, taking the stairs two and time, clutching the banister to keep from falling mid-step.
The sound of his fist against the door echoed through the hall, so loud Martin half expected to wake the entire building. It didn't happened, but he kept knocking, pounding until the door finally swung open, the landlady looking none too pleased at finding him there.
"Where did you get this?" Martin asked, thrusting the letter under her nose.
"What? Mr. Fitzgerald..."
"Look, it's important, I need to know where you go this," Martin interrupted, his eyes silently pleading for her cooperation.
She paused for a moment, glancing down at her feet to process Martin's words before finally looking back up.
"Some kid brought it in. He said he was supposed to hand deliver it, that it was for you," she replied, watching Martin with a weary eye.
"Have you ever seen this kid before? Do you remember what he looked like?" Martin asked, knowing he was likely frightening the poor women, but he needed to know.
He got along well with Ms. Eldridge. She reminded him of his own grandmother, long since passed away, but the memory was still there. She'd inherited the building from her late husband and Martin always made an effort to help her out around the place. And he always paid the rent on time, one of the reasons she tolerated his odd schedule and frequent absences. He knew she'd accept this too, chalk it up to just part of having a Bureau agent living under her roof.
"I've never seen him, but he had money in his pocket, I heard it clinking around. I'm pretty sure someone paid him to deliver that letter. He couldn't have been more than eight, if that. I'm sorry, it was late, I don't remember anything else," she explained, looking genuinely remorseful that she couldn't be of more help.
Martin nodded, offering his thanks before heading back upstairs, leaving a bewildered old woman staring at him from behind her half closed door.
It had taken him relatively no time to slip into his coat and gloves, pulling his scarf tight around his nose before heading back outside. He knew Ms. Eldridge was still up, listening to him creep down the stairs and push past the heavy glass doors before heading out onto the street.
The letter sat crumpled in his front coat pocket, weighing him down until he was forced to place each step with caution, certain at any minute he would tumble to the ground. It didn't happen, but by the time he made it to Danny's apartment, he was stiff and aching, exhaustion very nearly overwhelming him.
He forced himself up the stairs, down the long line of Danny's hall until he was standing in front of Danny's door. He knew Danny was likely still upset, but he also knew that this was relevant, the first potential lead they'd found that might help them solve this case. So he knocked, his knuckles still raw and as he let his hand fall back to his side, his hand throbbed with pain.
Seconds seemed to bleed into minutes, an eternity passing before Martin finally heard shuffling on the other side of the door. He held his breath, tensing as he heard Danny unlatch the lock, the door eventually swinging open. He was greeted with sleep glazed eyes, blinking at him until Danny frowned and leaned heavy against the doorframe.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, staring at Martin like he expected Martin to disappear at any moment.
"He made contact," Martin replied, not waiting for an invitation before pushing his way into Danny's apartment, throwing himself down on one of the kitchen chairs.
"Make yourself at home," Danny commented, letting out a sigh before closing the door and making his way over to join Martin at the table.
The room was chilly, Danny dressed in his thickest night clothes and Martin couldn't help but once again regret their earlier fight. He didn't say anything, merely reaching into his pocket and pulling out the letter, handing it over to Danny and waiting for Danny's reaction. Danny took his time reading, his expression shifting instantly from annoyance to concern.
"Where did you get this?" Danny asked, glancing up, his eyes flashing with alarm.
"Someone paid a kid to deliver it to my landlady," Martin replied, letting himself fall back against the chair, the day beginning to take its toll on his body.
"What? How the hell does he know where you live, Martin?" Danny asked, standing and pacing the small length of the kitchen.
Martin had been wondering that exact same thing, playing over the possibilities in his head, but no matter what he tried, he always came up blank. He settled on shrugging, stifling a yawn as Danny reread the letter.
"What does this even mean? He knows you? You guys have met?" Danny continued, panic creeping into his voice until Martin had to fight against the urge to stand up and move to Danny's side.
"I'm a little more curious about what exactly a moon is," Martin replied instead, watching Danny stop in the middle of the room, his shoulders sagging as he reread the final line.
Danny crossed back across the room, pulling his chair along side Martin, placing the letter on the table between them. Gone was his early annoyance and anger, replaced by worry and concern.
"Martin, this guy knows who you are. He knows where you live. I think that's probably our biggest concern," Danny said, his words so sincere Martin's breath caught in the back of his throat.
"I know, but he's communicating, and that means he wants us to catch him. This is a good thing, Danny," Martin replied, leaning forward to place his hands on Danny's knees.
"Okay, but you're still staying here until we do catch him," Danny agreed, folding his hands overtop of Martin's.
Danny's clothes didn't quite fit right and Martin found himself wishing he'd thought to head home and grab some of his own clothes. He'd suggested it, but Danny had resisted, telling Martin they could share until they both had time to go over. He was being ridiculous, completely paranoid, but Martin hadn't said anything. Besides, this way he'd been able to sleep in Danny's bed, curled around a warm body. It made him almost glad the killer knew where he lived.
He tugged at his shirt collar, cursing Danny for having such a small neck before turning back to the books spread across the conference table. Vivian kept bringing them more, adding them to the pile until the table became all but invisible. None of them helped.
They'd referenced previous cases, searching for anyone they might have brought in over the last year. No one seemed to fit and it was starting to drive Martin crazy. They couldn't find any reference to the word moon, or what it might mean either. His eyes were starting to blur by the time the lunch hour rolled around.
"We're not going to find anything," Martin said, leaning back in his chair and letting out a frustrated sigh.
"We need to find that kid, Martin," Danny replied, slamming the book in front of him shut and pushing himself off his chair.
Martin nodded his agreement, following Danny from the room and back outside. They passed Vivian on the way out, her hands laden with more books. They didn't bother telling her they wouldn't need them.
They'd cleared the streets sometime over the night, the walk to Martin's apartment taking relatively no time at all. They found Martin's landlady sweeping the front lobby, her shoulders hunched as she moved about her task with an efficiency that made Martin wish she was working for them.
"Ms. Eldridge?" Martin called, waiting for her to turn around before continuing. "I was hoping I could ask you some questions."
She nodded, pausing to set aside her broom before glancing curiously over at Danny. Her eyes held recognition and Martin couldn't help but wonder when they'd met.
"Sorry, this is my partner, Danny Taylor," Martin said, watching her smile knowingly as she reached out and shook Danny's hand.
"Do you remember that kid that delivered Martin's letter. Do you think you could describe him?" Danny asked, sliding into his charming routine faster than Martin ever remembered seeing.
They listened as Ms. Eldridge went over what she remembered. In the end they had a fairly detailed description of the boy, everything from his hair colour to the clothes he was wearing. They thanked her before leaving, heading out to try to find one boy in a city of thousands.
Their search brought them back to the slums of Canal Street. People still shied away from them on the streets, but Martin couldn't help but look into every face, wondering if the man they were looking for was right in front of them. He could be anyone, anywhere and by the time they came across a small group of children playing in the street side refuse, Martin's neck hurt from constantly glancing over his shoulder.
"Hey, Martin, I think we may have found our delivery boy," Danny commented, pointing out a small child who came very close to matching Ms. Eldridge's description.
They pulled out their credentials as approached the group, waiting until they were within earshot to announce their presence. Martin had been half expecting the kids to take off, but instead they rushed toward them, hands reaching out as they begged for money. Martin didn't think twice before handing them each a copper, saving their boy for last.
"I'm not sure if you need this," Martin commented, kneeling down until he was at eye level.
He held the copper in one hand, using his free hand to fish out the letter, holding up the envelope for the boy to see.
"I wanted to thank you for delivering this to me," Martin continued, pulling out another copper and adding it to the one in his hand.
The boy didn't speak, instead staring at the money with wide eyes, hands twitching to keep from reaching out and taking.
"Do you remember who asked you to deliver it?" Danny asked, kneeling down next to Martin to join in on the game. He pulled a copper out of his own pocket, rolling it across the tops of his fingers while waiting for a response.
"The crazy guy by the water," the boy finally said, swiping the copper off Danny's knuckles. "He's always down there, he smells like fish," the boy continued, holding out his hand for Martin's money.
"Do you remember what he looked like?" Martin asked, handing over the first coin.
The boy shrugged before shaking his head, his attention still focused on the money. It was sad in a way, the life these children were reduced to. Martin eventually nodded, handing over the remaining coin before standing, watching as the boy took off to join his friends.
"So we're looking for a crazy man who lives by the water and smells like fish. That should narrow it down," Danny commented and Martin couldn't help but laugh at the sarcasm in his tone.
Everything smelled like fish. The scent hung in the air, permeating every surface until Martin couldn't think for it. Half the people they met were crazy, the rest suspicious and some openly hostile. It didn't make searching through the small tent village by the water any easier. Everyone was a potential suspect and by the time the sun was falling to touch the water, they still hadn't found their guy.
"Martin, this is ridiculous, we wasted three coppers on that kid," Danny complained, openly scowling now, nose wrinkling as he stepped in some kind of excrement.
"He's got to be here," Martin replied, pausing mid step to turn three-hundred and sixty degrees, taking in the sights around them.
Something nagged in the back of his head as he made a second turn, his entire body tensing as he scanned the crowd. He was halfway back to where he'd started when he saw it, eyes staring at him, a crooked toothed grin flashing before the man was vanishing into the crowd.
"Danny, that's him," Martin got out before he was running, pushing through the throngs of people as he chased after a blur of colour and motion.
Somewhere in the distance he heard Danny following him, his footsteps ringing out against the frozen ground. The sound vanished just as quickly, replaced by the pounding of blood, rushing in his ears until he couldn't think for it.
They moved south-east, deeper into the Sixth Ward, away from the water's edge. The makeshift shacks that dotted the shoreline soon gave way to worn, decrepit buildings, the scent of raw fish fading into the sour stench of distilleries and filth. Tenant homes loomed around them, broken windows and rotting wood passing in a blur as they ran.
The crowds were thicker here, slowing them down until they were forced to a walk. They fought against arms and elbows, pushing past prostitutes and passed out drunks before finally finding a relatively empty street. By the time they were free, they'd lost sight of their suspect.
"Do you see him?" Danny asked, panting as he caught up to Martin's side, his eyes wide with determination.
"He was here just a minute ago," Martin replied, turning full circle, his eyes scanning the streets to find nothing.
He heard Danny curse, saw the slight sag of Danny's shoulder before Danny started out again, wandering aimlessly through the streets, still searching. Martin took a deep breath before following behind, disappointment hanging between them until Martin could practically see it.
The scent of burning torches hung heavy in the air, oily smoke billowing up to the sky, the smell clinging to the air until Martin thought he might just drown in it. His breath was still erratic, coming in laboured pants and his body ached with age and exhaustion.
The sun had set hours ago, their search ending as the shadow of night fell over the city. They'd called in back up, turning over the search to New York's police force, setting loose hundreds of uniforms to try to accomplish what they couldn't. Ordered chaos swirled around them, uniforms with scent dogs scouring the waterside, tearing apart homes and lives in their effort to find a killer.
The hour was late and Martin could no longer pinpoint how long he'd spent watching the small army of blue sweep over the city. Even with a hundred men and several dozen dogs, they hadn't found him. Martin could still feel his eyes, boring into the back of his skull until Martin found himself casting nervous glances over his shoulder, searching for someone who wasn't there.
But he knew now what their suspect looked like, and that was more than they could say before. He could still see that mocking smile, tinged with desperation and something Martin didn't want to name. He'd given the description to the Bureau's artist, watching as a memory became a face, evidence that he'd been real.
The wind coming off the water was bitterly cold and, not for the first time, Martin wished they'd stayed deeper in the city, back where they'd lost their suspect. Martin knew finding him there was unlikely, but as the wind picked up, billowing his coat, Martin found himself longing for the protective cover of buildings.
"Martin, come take a look at this," Danny called, interrupting Martin's thoughts.
Martin glanced across the small expanse of shacks and tents, finding Danny partially hidden by a stretch of canvas. His face seemed caught between shadow and torchlight, his eyes bright with something Martin could only describe as excitement. Martin shuffled through the new fallen snow, brushing past several uniforms before ducking through the doorway of a makeshift tent, coming to stand at Danny's side.
"Look's like we're not the only one collecting papers," Danny explained once Martin was inside, pointing to a small pile of newspapers resting on the cold ground next to what Martin assumed was a bed.
This was where he'd first spotted their suspect. It seemed almost a lifetime ago, but despite that, Martin remembered it clearly. He'd pointed out the place without hesitation, ordering uniforms to cordon it off, marking it for later investigation. They'd left searching inside for last, long after the man's description had been captured on paper and orders for his search had been given out.
Martin stared down at the pile of papers, frowning as he noted the precision of the pile. There were four in total, each paper folded open to a single article. Martin didn't have to look to know they were about the girls. Overtop of the fine black print was more writing, notes and circles, written in sprawling writing that Martin knew would match the letter in his pocket.
"We only know about three," Martin said, bending down to retrieve the papers.
He sorted them into piles, putting the three they knew about to the side before turning back to the one they didn't. Martin read over the details, frowning as he tried to place the connection. She was nothing like the other three. She was older, found in an alley, not the harbour, but more importantly, her death pre-dated the others by months. The article claimed she was a mere prostitute, brushing aside her death like it was inconsequential. It was no wonder they hadn't discovered her disappearance until now.
"She doesn't fit, Martin commented as he handed Danny the paper before turning to survey the room.
It was neater than he'd expected; the entire place the picture of perfect order and cleanliness. The floor was swept clean, clothes folded into neat piles by the bed. A line of ink jars and pens ran perpendicular down the side of the canvas wall, each placed equal distance from the last. It made Martin shudder to look at too long.
"Are you sure this is where you saw him?" Danny asked, his gaze still fixed on the paper in his hand.
"Yeah, this is it," Martin replied, sighing in frustration as he folded the remaining three newspapers, tucking them under his arm before ducking out of the tent.
Once outside, he took a shuddering breath of cold, smoky night air, drinking it in until his lungs began to ache. Danny appeared at his side a moment later, the forth paper still clutched in his hand. He paused before turning to stare out over the water.
"The sun's going to be up soon," he said, his tone low and defeated.
"Yeah," Martin agreed, reaching up to place his hand on Danny's shoulder, squeezing gently before setting out, heading back toward the office as the first hints of light crept over the land.
He woke with his head on his desk, the scent of newsprint heavy in his nose. Shouts echoed from the street below, making Martin frown before he finally forced himself to stand. He moved across the room, joining Danny at the window to stare down at the crowd beneath them.
"What's going on?" he asked, watching the screaming mob, his entire body tensing with every cry.
"This," Danny replied, handing him the day's paper, the front headline proclaiming New York had a serial killer on the loose. "The entire city's in a panic," he continued, never once taking his eyes off the scene below.
Martin groaned inwardly, realizing just how difficult this made their situation. Not only did the killer know they were looking for him, but apparently now the entire city did as well. It would add hours, possibly even days to their investigation and Martin had a feeling they'd likely spend the next few hours fielding questions and calming nerves.
He couldn't pinpoint how long he'd been asleep, only that it wasn't anywhere near long enough. The sun was well over the horizon, shining down onto dirt covered snow, reflecting in shades of brown and grey. His entire body protested being awake, his head pounding and his limbs numb with fatigue. He forced himself to go in search of coffee, knowing sleep would once again have to wait.
Samantha handed him a cup without him having to ask, merely smiling sympathetically when he glanced at her curiously. She didn't say anything, turning back to her files as soon as she'd handed Martin his coffee. Martin didn't bother nodding his thanks before heading back into the main room, practically colliding with Jack in the process.
Martin knew the look on Jack's face, the one that suggested the day had only just begun and Martin had a feeling he wasn't going to like what Jack had to say. He followed Jack to the conference table, sinking into his chair and taking a moment to stretch while Danny crossed the room to join them.
"Lauren White," Jack simply said, tossing down two files before continuing. "Sixteen, and from the description, she's a match to the other girls."
"We saw him last night, Jack. When would he have had time?" Martin demanded, ignoring the file in front of him, anger clenching his jaw as he fought against the urge to hit something.
"Martin's right, this can't be related," Danny echoed, running a hand along the shadow across his face. Neither of them had found time to shave.
"Except for this," Jack replied, handing over a plain white envelope. "Someone left it in the mail slot last night."
Martin stared at the envelope in Jack's hand, fingering itching to reach out and grab it, but before he could, Danny beat him to it. Danny fumbled with the envelope, eventually sliding out another handwritten letter, reading over it before closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the chair.
"Read it," Jack demanded, anger bleeding into his tone.
Danny's eyes flew open at the order, blinking once before he turned back to the letter, holding it with shaking hands.
"That was close, wasn't it? I have to give you two credit, though, I didn't think you had it in you," Danny began, speaking in monotone.
He opened his mouth to continue, releasing a quick breath when Martin's hand found his wrist. Danny glanced up, noting the look in Martin's eye before handing over the letter, letting Martin read the rest of it in silence.
Can you believe I actually reconsidered that last girl? But then I realized, if I'd given her up, you would have won, and we can't have that, now can we? You're probably going to look for her too, aren't you? I'd tell you not to bother, but I know you won't. You're both too stubborn for that.
I am going to let you in on a little secret, though. This is hell. We made it ourselves, playing God like the fools that we are. But you don't remember that, do you? I sometimes think I'm the only one who does. I wonder if that's why I am the way I am. Why I do the things I do.
Or maybe I'm still angry with you for failing me.
Martin let the letter fall from his hand, watching as it fell onto the table, landing next to the day's paper.
They still hadn't found Lauren's body when Jack sent them home. Martin knew she was dead, there was no doubt in his mind, but he still needed to find her. It was like compulsion, sitting on his chest until it practically suffocated him. He knew Jack was right, though; they were both exhausted and wouldn't do the girl, or any other girl, any good if they burnt themselves out. Still, he doubted he'd sleep, not with the killer's words still dancing in front of his eyes.
He'd wanted to go home, make tea and spend the evening staring out the window at the sleeping city, but Danny wouldn't let him. Instead he let Danny lead him down into the pub, forcing himself to swallow dull, half cold food while the patrons stared at them out of the corner of their eyes. He knew everyone knew and he was almost certain most of them disapproved of their break.
Martin told himself it didn't matter, that they were never going to find any of the girls alive because he was killing them long before they knew they were missing. He told himself all he could do was concentrate on finding the man responsible and that they had the entire police force out looking. It didn't make him feel any better, or make his meal seem any more appealing.
"Martin?" Danny questioned, staring at Martin with a look of concern, his own plate still full.
"You should eat," Martin replied, pushing a piece of leathery beef around his plate with his fork.
Danny didn't answer, instead motioning for the bartender and ordering two drinks. The scotch was better than the food, so Martin didn't hesitate before downing the glass, relishing in the feel of burning liquid as it slid down his throat.
"Why don't we head home," Danny suggested, pulling out a handful of coins and dropping them on the table.
Martin nodded his agreement, pushing aside what was left of his food before standing and following Danny from the room. He could feel dozens of pairs of eyes watching them as they headed out the door and into the cold night air.
The sky was unusually clear, the day's clouds drifting away on the wind, replaced by thousands of flickering stars. It made the night seem darker, the city's light vanishing into the heavens above. It felt colder too, a deep, bone chilling cold that Martin could feel everywhere. He ached from it.
He followed Danny into his building, pausing to stomp away the day's accumulation of dirt and slush before trudging up a dark staircase. Danny's apartment was cold, the air holding the sharp bite of frost. It hurt to breathe and Martin found himself pulling his scarf tight as he watched Danny move across the room to light the stove. Danny didn't say anything once the task was complete, instead standing and moving to the bed.
He shed his clothes with methodical precision, climbing beneath the covers and turning to face the wall without checking to see if Martin intended to join him. Martin followed a moment behind, shivering when his skin came into contact with the frosty air as his clothes joined Danny's on the floor.
The bed was even colder than the room, but Danny was warm, radiating more heat than the tiny stove ever could. Martin shifted closer, linking an arm around Danny's waist to turn him and pull him close. Danny grunted at the sudden movement, struggling for a moment before finally settling against Martin's chest. He buried his head in Martin's neck, warm breath hitting Martin's skin, leaving goosebumps in its wake. Martin let his fingers trail over Danny's back, pulling him impossibly close before dipping his head and leaning down for a kiss.
"Don't..." Danny said, pulling away and shaking his head.
He didn't say anything else before burrowing back into Martin's warmth, his breath evening out, becoming deep and steady as he drifted off to sleep.
For a moment, Martin merely lay there, staring at the top of Danny's head and wondering what he'd done wrong. Perhaps Danny was simply tired, that Martin could understand. The day had been long, the night even longer and he could feel exhaustion settling over him. Finally he gave in, letting his eyes drift shut as he succumbed to sleep.
He woke covered in a fine sheen of sweat, his hair matted to his forehead and the bed cold and empty. He pushed himself up onto one elbow, eyes searching across the room for Danny. Martin found him curled in one of the chairs by the window, sipping tea as he stared out over the waking city.
It took effort to stand, his body still aching from the long week. The room was dry with heat and Martin didn't bother dressing before padding across the floor to Danny's side. He was still exhausted, dreams plaguing him throughout the night until his sleep was fitful and erratic. He remembered every detail, could close his eyes and conjure up every image. They'd felt so real; vivid, full colour dreams that were so intense, he could have easily mistaken them for reality.
They were different variations of the same, each revolving around their current case, their current suspect. He dreamt of chasing their killer through dark and twisted alleys, each ending in looming structures that were ensconced in shining metal. He dreamt of their suspect sitting on a wooden chair, false electric light flickering above them. He dreamt of tears and broken bodies splayed across the rocks on the beach.
The dreams of Danny were the worst. He saw Danny leading their suspect away in chains, only to release him back into the world without hesitation. He dreamt of Danny trapped within the belly of a steal beast, eyes flashing disappointment and anger as they watched their suspect disappear into a crowd.
He saw the world flicker, the sky fading to black as an explosion knocked them to their knees.
He pushed the images aside, pulling a chair next to Danny's and sinking down into it.
"Hey," he said, smiling softly at the sight of sleep rumpled hair.
"Good, you're up, we should get going," Danny replied, not waiting for a reply as he stood and brushed past Martin on his way to get ready.
Martin watched him go, wishing they had just a little more time before the day began.
He could feel the tension in the air, it was sharp and painful, hanging between them and Martin couldn't figure out its cause. He did his best to ignore it, walking at Danny's side, blinking against the bright morning sun as they rounded the corner and started toward the office.
They were met with the yesterday's crowd, larger this time, angry faces surrounding them as they pushed their way inside. Several times Martin thought he heard low whispers; angry, disapproving words that echoed in his skull. They taunted him, reminding him of his failure. Danny still didn't say anything, pushing through the crowd like a man on a mission before disappearing past the front glass doors.
They climbed the stairs in silence, the angry shouts of the mob picking up the second the door closed behind them. Vivian greeted them as they entered the lobby, accepting their coats with a soft, sad smile before retreating back to her desk. Martin couldn't help but wonder how she could be happy living the simple life of a receptionist.
Samantha appeared with two coffees as they entered the main room, disappearing just as quickly, leaving them to their work. Martin paused by his desk, just long enough to gather the papers they'd found at the killer's home, along with the two letters he couldn't bring himself to reread. He made his way to the conference table, Danny joining him a moment later.
"Where do you want to start?" Danny asked, his tone the epitome of professionalism and Martin couldn't help but frown.
"Are you okay?" he asked, ignoring the work in front of them as he turned to take in Danny's worn face.
"Fine, but the sooner we figure this out, the sooner we can put this guy behind bars," Danny explained, ignoring Martin's unspoken protest as he reached for the first paper.
He knew Danny was right, so he pushed aside the feeling of discomfort, reaching for one of the papers, comparing the writing to the letters spread out before him. They were easily a match, the same long, sprawling writing mirrored on both the letter and the paper. Most of what they found written made little sense, there was a sense of madness to the writing, arbitrary thoughts that only the killer could explain.
"Martin, check this out," Danny commented before leaning across the table, placing the paper in front of them.
Martin blinked before bringing the page into focus, staring down at the passage Danny was pointing to.
"Seven days, seven girls. What does that mean?" Martin asked out loud, not expecting an answer. He was only marginally surprised when Danny responded.
"It means he's killed five, we can expect two more victims," he explained, shaking his head.
"Okay, but what about the seven days? It's already been more than that. I mean, if you include the first girl, he's been doing this for months now," Martin replied, grabbing the first paper and pointing out the date.
"I don't know, maybe the seven days is in reference to something else," Danny suggested, running a frustrated hand through his hair.
They lapsed into silence once again, sorting through each paper, each letter, marking down words and sentences that could be connected. In the end they were left with nothing more than theories, each making less sense than the last.
Sometime before noon Danny suggested they dig out old case files, try to find some connection to a previous case. Martin agreed, not telling Danny about his dream or the nagging feeling of déjà vu that had plagued him throughout the case. They searched back almost three years, case after case that they set aside when they came up empty-handed.
It was late afternoon by the time Jack appeared, informing them of the discovery of their missing girl, her body found by the water.
Faces were starting to blur together, the body in front of him looking like every other girl they'd found. He forced himself to stare into her lifeless eyes, memorize the colour and the look of sheer terror still imprinted in her dilated pupils. Her body was still half in the water, her leg twisted at an impossible angle and Martin had to close his eyes to keep from being sick. Images of his dream flashed before him, dancing across the underside of his eyelids until he was forced to open his eyes just to escape them.
He turned away, staring out over the water and reminding himself to breathe. They were connected, he knew that, knew it as easily as he knew his name. What he didn't know was how, or more importantly, why. It left him feeling inadequate, hopelessly lost to the possibilities he couldn't seem to pinpoint.
Danny was still on edge, pacing the scene like a caged animal and Martin had to fight to keep from moving to his side, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. He wanted to, but they were surrounded by uniforms, sullen faces looking anywhere but at the body at their feet. Martin couldn't blame them; he couldn't bring himself to look at the girl for long.
He heard Danny curse, his foot striking against a rock, sending it flying into the water, landing with a splash that was lost to the waves. His entire body radiated tension, open anger and hostility that anyone could see. Martin understood, the entire case had become a series of dead ends, all ending by the water's edge. He knew there was a reason for the location, the answer resting on the edge of his consciousness, but regardless of how hard he tried, he couldn't make the connection.
He shook the thought off, ordering a uniform to retrieve her body before joining Danny on the small outcrops of rocks just off the beach. Danny was still staring out across the water, eyes fixed to the place his rock had submerged. Martin cleared his throat, waiting for Danny to notice and turn around before speaking.
"Are you okay?" he asked, sounding repetitive, but he was tired of Danny brushing off his concern.
"I told you, I'm fine," Danny replied, shaking his head before glancing away.
Martin didn't think before reaching out, grabbing Danny's shoulder and swinging him until they were face to face, their eyes locking.
"No, you're not," Martin repeated, his expression tinged with anger at Danny's dismissal.
Danny sighed, his shoulders drooping with resignation before he finally relaxed, leaning heavy against Martin's hand, shaking his head before answering.
"Do you remember when I told you this case was familiar?" he asked, waiting for Martin's nod before continuing. "But every instinct I've had has been wrong. I was wrong about that other girl and we wasted an entire day trying to find her," he explained.
"Danny, she was missing, it doesn't matter if it wasn't related," Martin interrupted, his attempt at dismissing Danny's concern halted as Danny held up a hand.
"That's not the point. The point is I can't trust anything anymore. I can't wrap my head around any of this. Not just this case, but everything, even us," he continued, making eye contact and waiting for his words to register.
The look on his face took Martin's breath away, pain creeping across his chest until he couldn't breathe. He took a hesitant step forward, hand falling to his side as Danny stepped back.
"What are you saying? You think this is a mistake?" Martin asked, gesturing between the two of them.
"I don't know, maybe," Danny answered, a frown settling onto his features as he glanced out of the corner of his eye at the girl.
"We’re going to find this guy," Martin assured, not waiting for a response before turning and heading back to the body. He swore he heard Danny's whispered maybe following on his footsteps.
A white sheet covered the body of the girl, four uniforms kneeling by her side, arguing softly over how best to move her. Martin rolled his eyes, fighting against the urge to tell them just to pick her up. He knew theory was always easier than practice, though, so he remained silent, not blaming them for not wanting to disturb her rest.
Images of his dream flashed before his eyes, the sight of pale white against the black of the rocks triggering something that felt like memory. It vanished just as quickly, replaced by nausea as the girl's arm slid out from beneath the sheet, pale limb dangling precariously by her side as the uniforms picked her up and carried her over to the cart.
The number seven kept playing through his mind, reminding him that they would find more. He wanted desperately to stop the count at five, but unless they had something else to go on, he knew they would never find their killer in time. It would be easy if there was some pattern, but every time he tried to find it, he kept coming back to the first, the prostitute. She stood out like a sore thumb, destroying all their theories and Martin still couldn't help but think she didn't belong.
As soon as he thought it, he was moving, crossing back across the beach to Danny's side. Danny hadn't moved. He was still staring out over froth-tipped waves, watching the rolling water like it held all the answers to their questions. Martin wasn't certain it didn't.
"Danny," he called, slowing as he took in Danny's hunched shoulders, his tense posture.
Danny turned at the sound of Martin's voice, red rimmed eyes meeting Martin's glance, his expression lost, questioning. The sight took Martin's breath away, his words forgotten as fresh pain settled in the pit of his stomach.
"Yeah?" Danny asked, his words whispered and Martin had to remind himself to keep moving.
He stepped forward, closing the distance between them until he was close enough for Danny to hear without having to shout over the sound of crashing waves.
"I... I think we're wrong," Martin began, watching Danny's brow furrow as he process Martin's words.
"What do you mean?" he finally asked, seeming genuinely interested.
"I think she's the forth, not the fifth," Martin explained, pointing to the covered body of the girl lying prone across the police cart.
"What are you talking about?" Danny asked, glancing between Martin and the girl, his eyes clouding with confusion.
"We've been looking for a pattern and until we found out about the prostitute we thought we had one. But what if she's not part of it? What if she was just, I don't know, practice? Maybe a fluke? A mistake?" Martin hypothesized, running a hand through his hair as he tried to process his thoughts.
Realization dawned in Danny's eyes, his frown fading to a half smile. He reached out, hand closing over Martin's shoulder and squeezing softly before he spoke.
"So we take her out of the equation, that leaves us with four young girls, all similar in appearance, all killed in the same way, all found by water," Danny stated, playing off Martin's theory, his earlier disappointment fading into excitement as he put the pieces together.
"It's connected to something, it has to be," Martin finished, turning to head back toward the street, Danny appearing at his side a moment later.
"Now we just have to figure out what," Danny said as they began walking back to the office.
The floor was littered with case files, papers spread overtop of desks and across chairs. They were lined along the floor, so many papers they could barely walk. Three years worth of files, everything they'd worked on since the Bureau had officially opened. They started at the beginning, discounting any cases that didn't involve a missing girl.
Martin sat cross-legged amongst the mess, setting aside the file in his hand, a missing boy who'd simply run away. He turned to the next, an eight year old girl who'd been discovered locked in a cellar. She'd died two days after they'd found her, her body no longer able to fight against the violence that was inflicted upon her. Martin added her file to the maybe pile.
Each case brought back a wave of memories, the pain and disappointment of each case gone wrong, the thrill and triumph of each case they'd solved in time. It was overwhelming, emotions flickering across his conscious faster than he could process them.
"I think I have something," Danny said, his voice breaking through the silence that had fallen over the room.
Martin pushed himself up off the floor, tiptoeing through the files still spread across the floor before sinking down to kneel at Danny's side.
"Twelve years old, we found her in the Hudson river. She'd been abducted, missing seventy-two hours before we found her body," Danny explained, showing Martin the sketch contained within the file.
She did look similar to the other girls, but the details weren't right. Still, Martin nodded, taking the file and adding it to their maybe pile. They fell back into silence, the only sound in the room, the shuffling of papers.
They hadn't slept, the morning sun just cresting the horizon by the time they'd cleared away most of the files. They'd enlisted Samantha and Vivian's help, having them carry away stacks of discounted cases back to the archive room to be filed away for future reference. In the end the conference table was overflowing with their maybe pile, the floors cleared and their real work began.
Martin could feel exhaustion nipping at his heels, threatening to overwhelm him until he was certain he might fall asleep right where he was standing. Danny was in just as bad of shape, his elbows resting on the table as he began narrowing down their maybes. He hid a yawn behind closed fingers, blinking back the need to sleep and Martin couldn't help but think the pace would end up killing them both.
He paced restlessly for a moment before approaching Danny's chair. Martin placed a hand on Danny's shoulder, squeezing until Danny glanced up, glazed eyes reflecting the light of the lamp they'd placed in the centre of the table.
"I'm going to go grab something to eat, maybe get some coffee, do you want anything?" Martin asked, waiting for Danny's nod before grabbing his coat and heading out the door.
They still hadn't talked about what was going on between them. Part of Martin wanted to hope that the turn in the case would take away Danny's doubt, but every so often he'd found Danny staring at him, frowning like he was trying to figure out how to end things before they even began. It made Martin want to ask, but he was terrified of the answer so he kept his mouth shut. Besides, he didn't trust himself not to say something he couldn't take back in his sleep deprived state.
There was a small bakery around the corner, the scent of freshly made bread making his mouth water. Inside the air was warm, the oven's fires still burning, pulling the moisture from the air. Martin stood behind the counter, relishing in the dry heat before finally ordering still warm biscuits and a loaf of bread. He paid for his purchase, taking his time counting out his money to avoid having to head back out onto the cold street.
Once outside, he paused to buy the day's paper from a boy on the corner before heading toward the office. His bread tucked under one arm, the paper under the other, he found himself stopping in the middle of the street as he took in the mob slowly forming out in front of their building. They'd become almost a constant now, but today was different. Today they seemed angry, more hostile and Martin had to force himself to walk through them.
He felt angry hands grabbing at his coat, more hands pushing until he almost fell to his knees. A woman screamed in his ear, crying about her daughter and the government not caring about the plight of the poor. Wetness hit his cheek and it took him a moment to realize someone had spit at him. By the time he was safely inside, he'd lost his scarf, his coat was torn and the loaf of bread was hopelessly flattened. He climbed the stairs with effort, the tension not leaving his body until he collapsed into one of the conference table chairs.
"Are you okay?" he heard Jack ask, his arrival unexpected until Martin remembered it was officially day again.
"Fine, they're just getting a little forward," Martin replied, dumping the baked goods and paper onto the table before shedding his coat.
"I'm going to see about getting some uniforms over here to run interference," Jack replied, patting Martin's back awkwardly before heading toward his office.
Martin continued to stare at the table, his vision swimming as he tried to remain conscious. The sudden appearance of a coffee made him glance up, words dying on his tongue as he took in Danny's concerned expression.
"I should have gone with you," Danny said, sinking into the chair next to Martin and looking just as lost for words as Martin felt.
"I'm fine, but the bread's ruined," Martin replied, reaching for the biscuits and unwrapping them.
They remained intact, surviving the encounter outside without harm and Martin handed one to Danny before picking at the other. It was still warm, though, filling the hollowness in his stomach.
Martin woke to the feel of Danny's hand on his shoulder. He was saying something, but Martin couldn't place what it was, his mind swimming in the hazy fog of sleep. It took him a moment to register he was still at work, spread out across three chairs someone had pushed against the far wall. His body still ached, but he felt better for having slept. His stomach rumbled as he sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes before turning to stare at Danny.
"What?" he asked, shifting in an effort to stretch.
"Here," Danny said, handing him a coffee, steam rising from the cup.
"How long have I been asleep?" Martin asked, pausing to take a sip from the cup, cringing as hot coffee burnt his tongue.
"About an hour," Danny replied, sliding into the seat next to Martin, leaning forward to place his elbows on his knees.
"Anything happen?" Martin asked, stifling a yawn as he tried to wake himself up.
For a moment, Danny didn't say anything, his expression bleak as he watched Martin out of the corner of his eye. Eventually he reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out another letter and handing it to Martin. Martin accepted it with shaking hands, not really wanting to read it, but knowing he needed to.
"When did this come in?" he asked, turning the envelope over in his hand to stare at the broken wax seal on the back.
"Vivian found it between two packages, she thinks it probably came with the morning mail, but she missed it," Danny replied, leaning back and letting his eyes drift shut.
"Have you read it?" Martin questioned, turning just in time to take in Danny's grimace.
"Yeah," he replied, shaking his head, his eyes still closed, his head swimming with dizziness.
Martin nodded, more to himself than anything before finally opening the envelope and pulling out the letter. He blinked until the words came into focus, his apprehension fading to confusion as he read the killer's words.
You still haven't figured it out, have you? I keep expecting you to show up, remember our time together, but I'm starting to see that's never going to happen. It used to bother me that I was the only one who remembered, but now I see it's a gift. The universe's way of giving back after taking so much away. I've become the key to the past, and the destroyer of the future.
An eye for an eye, isn't that what the bible used to say?
Martin let the letter fall to his lap, a dull pounding starting at the base of his skull, making him wish he could simply go home and forget this had ever begun.
Soft hints of grey crept across his vision, spots forming as he stared down at the letter resting on his lap. He blinked, shaking his head to try and clear his sight. It didn't help. He was vaguely aware of Danny's hand resting on his shoulder, his voice echoing in Martin's ear. He couldn't make out the words, they sound muffled, like Martin was trapped under water, pressure popping in his ears until his whole world started to tilt. Danny was panicked, that much Martin knew, and when he finally managed to glance up, he was met with worried eyes before they too faded to black.
He fought against the hazy fog of sleep, images dancing across his vision in real time, playing out before him until he could no longer convince himself they weren't real. He found himself standing in a windowless room, electric light flickering above his head, casting soft blue-white light into every corner. A table of shining metal sat in the centre of the room, the body of a girl he didn't know sprawled across the top, dark marks marring her pale, translucent skin. The sight of her triggered a memory he couldn't place.
He saw the worn face of their killer, tears bleeding down his cheeks before grief faded into anger. He watched him walk away, hands clenching into fists as he passed through a metal door into sunlight.
He felt himself flying forward through time, the world shifting around him, colours bleeding together until they made him so dizzy he was forced to close his eyes. When he opened them, he was standing above the body of another girl, her eyes wide open and staring up the heavens above. Sirens echoed in the distance.
He woke in Danny's bed, his head still swimming, his stomach lurching as he forced himself to a seated position.
"Whoa, easy, Martin," Danny said, appearing at his side in an instant, lowering Martin back down onto the bed.
"What happened?" he asked, his voice cracking and his lips suddenly dry.
"You passed out on us," Danny explained, still hovering, staring at Martin with wide, worried eyes.
Martin shook his head, the room once again spinning. He closed his eyes against the sensation, waiting for the world to stop moving before once again opening them.
"Here," Danny said, handing Martin a bowl of what Martin assumed was soup. "Jack thinks it's just exhaustion, he said you needed to eat as soon as you woke up," he explained.
Martin's stomach rolled at the thought of eating, but the look on Danny's face said he'd be more than willing to force feed Martin if Martin refused. He let Danny help him up until he was seated, pillows resting in the small of his back before accepting the soup. It tasted stale, lukewarm and Martin was half afraid he might not be able to keep it down. He forced himself to swallow, shrugging off Danny's attempts to help.
"How long have I been out?" Martin asked once he'd finished half the bowl, pushing aside the rest and glaring at Danny when Danny opened his mouth to protest.
"A couple of hours," Danny finally replied, taking the bowl from Martin's hand and setting it on the bedside table before standing and moving to the window.
The sky was dark, the stars out in abundance, shimmering down like tiny beacons of hope. Martin let his head fall back against the headboard, closing his eyes as he tried to process just how much time they'd lost.
"Why did you bring me here, instead of home?" he heard himself ask, not really wanting an answer, but needing it all the same.
"I told you, you're staying here until we catch this guy," Danny replied without hesitation, like he was genuinely surprised Martin had asked.
"Then shouldn't we be out there looking for him?" Martin continued, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and bracing himself as he tried to stand.
Danny was at his side in an instant, pushing him back down onto the mattress, anger flashing in the depths of his irises.
"Jack's taking over the investigation until you get some rest. You need sleep, Martin," Danny said, physically trying to force Martin back into the bed.
Martin fought against him, pushing Danny aside as he stood, his legs shaking beneath his weight.
"I told you, I'm fine," he said, taking a deep, steadying breath before crossing the room.
"No, you're not," Danny told him, following behind like he expected Martin to fall over at any moment.
"I didn't know you cared," Martin replied, tone bitter.
He knew it was a low blow, but the last time they'd spoken, Danny had made it clear that he thought this was a mistake. The last thing Martin wanted was to spend more time in Danny's presence, facing the constant reminder of what he couldn't have.
For a moment, he didn't think Danny was going to answer. But then Danny was moving forward, closing the distance between them, anger rolling off of him in waves. His hands found Martin's shoulders and Martin braced himself for the hit the never came. Instead he was met with Danny's lips, fierce and harsh against his own, the kiss rattling Martin's teeth and bringing on a new wave of dizziness.
There was nothing gentle about it, gone was their earlier tenderness, replaced by desperation and a need so powerful, Martin shook with its intensity. He couldn't remember moving, but when Danny finally backed off, he was clutching Danny's shoulders, fingers grasping Danny's shirt like it was the only thing keeping him standing. And it might have been, because Martin didn't protest when Danny led him back to the bed, forcing him back under the covers before perching at his side.
"I care, Martin. More than I want to. Now go to sleep," Danny said, leaning forward to place a kiss against the side of Martin's mouth before climbing off the bed and moving to sit in the chair he'd dragged alongside the bed.
Martin didn't bother arguing, instead closing his eyes and letting himself drift back to sleep.
The sky was still dark when he woke, but his vision had cleared and the feeling of exhaustion that had plagued him the last few days was gone. He was hungry, his stomach growling the second he started moving. He tossed aside the covers, letting his feet hit the floor with a resounding thud as he pushed himself off the bed, crossing the room to kneel at Danny's side.
Danny slept on the chair, his legs pulled up into his chest, his head resting on his knees. The blanket had fallen to the floor and when Martin reached out, Danny's skin was cold to the touch. For a moment, Martin considered letting him sleep, picking him up and placing him in the warm bed so that he could get a decent night's rest. But they had already lost too much time, so Martin shook him awake, waiting until sleep glazed eyes blinked over at him before offering his hand to help Danny stand.
"I thought I told you to get some sleep," Danny commented, his weight heavy as Martin slid an arm around his waist.
"I did, and now I'm awake," Martin replied, releasing his grip as Danny struggled in his grasp.
Danny blinked, hiding a yawn behind his hand as he shifted on the balls of his feet, trying to generate some warmth.
"We can grab something to eat on the way back to the office," Martin explained, already pulling on his clothes.
He expected Danny to argue, insist Martin remain in bed until he'd gotten a full night's sleep. Instead Danny nodded, pushing past Martin to cross over to the stove.
"Samantha brought us some rolls last night," he explained, pulling a cloth wrapped bundle out from beside the stove. "They're even warm," he said, handing Martin the package and setting the kettle for tea.
Part of Martin wanted to skip the process of breakfast, but skipping meals was what had gotten him into this mess to begin with, so he merely nodded, sinking down into one of the kitchen chairs and watching as Danny set about making tea.
They ate in silence, Danny radiating tension beside him. He kept stealing glances across the table, watching Martin eat like he didn't quite believe Martin was fine and expected to have to pick him up and place him back in the bed. Martin offered him a soft smile, reassurance that he was fine and that he wouldn't let it happen again.
They still hadn't discussed the kiss, or what Danny meant by it. Martin was tempted to just let it slid, push it aside until he could be certain of Danny's response. But he knew if they didn't talk about it, it would end up haunting him throughout the day. He waited until they'd finished the rolls, their second cups of tea half drained before speaking.
"Are we okay?" Martin asked, cursing himself for not being more specific.
Obvious Danny didn't need clarification. He frowned, considering Martin's words before shaking his head, a small smile creeping onto his face.
"Yeah, we're okay," he replied, glancing up and giving Martin a meaningful look.
Martin nodded, smiling softly before turning back to his tea. By the time they left for the office, the sun was just beginning to rise.
He'd been here before, seen it in a dream, but the buildings weren't quite right. In his dream there were glowing, flashing lights, towering buildings made entirely of glass and endless rows of shops pouring out onto the streets. Martin frowned, blinking against the afternoon sun as he tried to place what it all meant.
They'd spent no more than an hour at the office before heading back to the Sixth Ward. The region spanned several city blocks, filled with New York's unwanted, thousands of people society would sooner forget existed than try to help. They passed brothels and bars, broken homes and wooden churches. They searched small courtyards that were overrun with refuse and waste.
Uniforms walked beside them, searching each building, scouring every corner, but they still hadn't found their man. They knew he was here, somewhere. They'd given up trying to find a connection to a past case; if one existed they didn't have record of it. Even Jack had been perplexed, unable to make sense of the killer's letters, or Martin's dreams.
He still felt awkward about bringing it up, but it lent weight to his theory that the cases were connected to something. Gave proof that they had had prior interaction with the killer. He still couldn't pinpoint the hows or the whys, but it made sense, in a round about sort of way.
The tension that had settled between him and Danny had dissipated that morning, washed away along with their tea, disappearing and leaving them once again a functioning team. It gave Martin hope, anyway, a renewed sense of purpose and the blinding certainty that they could do this.
And so they'd set out, bringing with them an army of police, invading one of the worst districts of Manhattan on the largest manhunt the city had ever seen. But as the sun shifted across the sky, clouds rolling in from the north, Martin felt his earlier hope beginning to fade.
"We've been over this entire place, he's not here," Martin said, pausing to lean against one of the worn buildings, Danny joining him a moment later.
"I think we scared him off. What we need to do is disappear, pretend we've given up," Danny replied, his shoulder brushing against Martin's as he reclined against the wall.
"If we do that, he's just going to kill another girl," Martin replied, frustration slowly creeping its way into his chest.
"I didn't say we were really going to leave. But we have to get rid of our escort, pretend we're leaving so he will try going after another girl. We can fence him in, set up uniforms around the perimeter, seal him off," Danny continued, eyes still scanning the crowd as he spoke.
Martin had to admit, it was a good idea. He nodded his agreement, taking a deep breath before pushing himself off the wall.
It took longer than he'd expected to clear out the police. Even longer to convince Jack that they knew what they were doing. By the time they'd managed to set everything up, the sun had vanished into the west, leaving the sky dark and smoky.
Martin couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so awake, his body practically humming with unused energy, a sense of anticipation that he couldn't explain. He knew Danny could feel it, he could see the soft light flashing in Danny's eyes as he peered out into the dark street. They'd chosen to remain close to the water's edge, watching from a hidden alley. Every girl that passed became a potential target and each time a shape moved in the night, they found themselves tensing, ready to run at a moment's notice.
"What if he doesn't show?" Martin asked, hating to consider the possibility, but he knew they couldn't overlook it.
"Then we keep looking, but this guy wants us to catch him. I just know it," Danny replied, shifting a little in his place, his arm brushing against Martin's in the process.
It made sense, the letters, the taunting, even the odd questions no one had been able to decipher. Besides, nothing else had worked and they were running out of options.
Sometime past midnight, the sky opened, soft flakes of snow falling to the ground, bathing the landscape in white. Martin shivered against the cold, pressing a little closer to Danny's warmth. Danny didn't say anything, his steady breathing the only indication he was even still awake.
The small moment of peace lasted only a minute, replaced by the sounds of screams, distant and haunting. They were moving before they'd registered a direction.
He felt as though he was running in slow motion. Buildings passed in a blur, like a dream within a dream, not quite real, but not quite imagined either. Colours shifted, bending every time he turned his head, glancing back to ensure Danny was following.
Their footsteps rang out against the rocky ground, leaving footprints in the freshly fallen snow. The snow was heavier now, falling in a constant flurry, filling the streets until it hindered their progress, every step made with trepidation. They rounded the corner, the streets dark and deserted and it took Martin a moment to spot their suspect through the blinding snow.
"Danny, that's him," he said, or tried to say. His breath came in laboured pants, his words lost to the howling wind as he increased his speed, sprinting now.
His strength was waning and he only just managed to hear Danny's cry as their suspect spotted them. The man released the girl, taking off into the night, turning down one of the many dark, twisted alleys. Martin pushed on, passing by the frightened face of the man's intended victim, her hands pressed to the white of her throat. Still he ran, forcing himself forward one step at a time, never once looking back.
The sound of his heartbeat rang in his ears, so loud it seemed to echo throughout the narrow hall of the building. He'd seen their suspect duck in through the far door not a moment before, but by the time Martin had managed to make it inside, the hall was empty. It ran the entire length of the building, ending in darkness, apartment doors lining each wall.
He pulled his weapon from his holster, cradling it in his hand like it was the only tangible tie he had to this place. In all the time he'd been on the job, he could count the number of times he'd been forced to draw his Colt on one hand. It felt heavy against his palm, the metal cool against his skin.
His breath hung in the air, tiny wisps of fog rising to the ceiling, the only thing moving in his line of sight. He forced himself to take a deep, steadying breath, pausing to listen to the surrounding silence. He strained to hear even the faintest sound, but aside from the pounding of blood against his eardrums, there was nothing.
Danny wasn't behind him and, for a moment, Martin considered turning around, heading back out into the street to find him. He knew pressing forward alone could be dangerous, but leaving meant the risk of losing their suspect and they'd already lost him too many times as it was.
He moved forward one step at a time, eyes sweeping across the darkness in front of him. His coat made a soft whisk-whisk sound as it brushed against his pant legs, the sound breaking the stillness and causing Martin to tense. A door creaked behind him, metal hinges groaning as Martin spun around, his weapon raised to eye level as he searched for the source of the sound. His hand trembled as he lowered the gun, his eyes closing as he took in Danny's profile.
"What took you so long?" he hissed, glancing back to peer over his shoulder.
"Had to make sure the girl was all right," Danny replied, his words whispered, but they still sounded too loud in Martin's ear.
Martin nodded his response, tilting his head in the direction he'd been headed before making eye contact with Danny. They were experts in silent communication; speaking volumes with a glance, a mere shake of their head or even the occasional brushing of arms. He pressed forward, Danny trailing behind, the floorboards creaking beneath their feet. They eventually came to an intersecting hall, blackness obscuring their vision. Martin chose right, Danny taking the left.
Time seemed to stretch into eternity, each minute passing in a blur. Emotions began bleeding together; anger, fear, anticipation, one right after another until Martin found himself panting yet again. The hall became a tunnel before him, a narrow band of light and dark, twisting impossibly deeper. He focused all his energy on moving forward, eyes searching while he listened for signs of life.
The hall came to a dead end, another hall running perpendicular in each direction. He glanced first right, then left, finding nothing but the same dark and silence. He was in the process of turning right when Danny shouted, the sound loud and piercing in the otherwise still air. He didn't think before pivoting, turning back the way he'd come and taking off at a full run. He rounded a corner, very nearly colliding with Danny before skidding to a halt. He raised his weapon a second later, staring past Danny's shoulder at the same eyes he'd seen in his dream.
Martin paced the small length of hall, his entire body radiating tension as he waited for Danny to join him. They'd turned their suspect over to the police, letting them bring him into the office for later questioning while they'd secured the scene and interviewed the girl. In the end the process had taken hours, night fading into day and by the time they'd returned to the office, the sun was resting high in the sky.
Danny appeared in front of him, two coffees balanced precariously in his hand as he nodded to Martin. Martin took one of the cups, stealing his breath before following Danny into the small room adjacent to Jack's office. Their suspect sat slumped in a chair, his hands bound beneath the table, his expression almost manic.
"I understand you refused to give the police your name," Danny spoke, the first thing either of them had said since they'd found the man responsible for so many deaths.
For a moment, he didn't answer, merely glaring up at Danny in a way that made Martin shiver. Anger rolled off him in waves, accompanied by something Martin could only classify as delight. It was an odd combination, a sickening sense of pride and accomplishment that made Martin nauseous to see.
"The papers have been calling you the Harbour Killer, maybe I'll just call you H.K. for short," Martin joined in, playing off Danny's question like this was something they did every day.
"It's John, actually, but H.K. does have a rather nice ring to it," John replied, sitting back as far as his restraints would allow and glowering between the both of them.
"Well, John. Do you recognize this?" Danny asked, throwing down the first letter Martin had received what seemed a lifetime ago. "Or these?" he continued, adding the other letters to the pile.
"Or maybe you recognize her?" Martin jumped in, adding the sketch of the first girl to the pile. "Or her, or her, or her..." He continued, throwing down picture after picture, watching the brief flash of pain that clouded John's eyes.
"There were five," John said, calmly like the sight of his victims didn't bother him in the least.
He reached for them, wincing as his restraints caught, preventing him from getting close enough to touch. He pulled his hands back, letting them disappear beneath the table as he continued to stare at the pictures.
"The prostitute?" Danny questioned, perching on the side of the table and leaning down into John's face.
Martin knew how intimidating it could be, he'd seen more than one person break under Danny's questioning. John didn't seem disturbed by it in the least. He glanced up, actually smiling before licking his lips and opening his mouth to respond.
"Technically, although she would be six, but she doesn't really count. The first was Before," John replied, smiling a second time. This time his smile reached his eyes.
It was strange to listen to someone so calmly confess to murder. Most people, regardless of what they'd done, lied about it. Either that or they clammed up, refusing to speak all together. John spoke in monotone, his words dry like he was explaining what he'd had that morning for breakfast instead of running over his body count.
"So why her? Did she get in your way? Piss you off?" Martin asked, glancing at Danny at the corner of his eye.
"No, she was quite nice to me, actually, but I knew you wouldn't remember the first, and this is about you," John replied, his tone mocking and he smiled as he took in their exchanged glance.
"So she was what? A place holder?" Danny demanded, slamming his hands down onto the desk, hard enough that it shifted against the floor.
"Something like that," John replied, shaking his head and mumbling beneath his breath. "I told you, the first was before."
"You keep saying that, before. Care to explain?" Martin questioned, hands clenching and unclenching in time with his breathing.
In truth, he didn't really care what John was talking about, he'd killed six women in cold blood and as far as Martin was concerned, his reasons were unimportant. What was important was that they'd caught him. That the city would likely hang him and then he'd never be able to hurt anyone else again.
Martin sipped at his coffee, a fresh cup Samantha had brought him once they'd finished their interrogation. The police had already escorted John to the city prison where he'd await a trial and then execution. Martin had no doubt he'd be found guilty; he'd confessed to killing six women, showing only remorse for not reaching his precious seven.
John had told them about his daughter, about the case that they'd worked. About the seven days it had taken them to find her. About seeing her broken body lying on a morgue table, covered in a sheet of white. About his vow to make them pay for not being fast enough, for not finding her before it was too late.
It had never happened, at least, not to Martin's knowledge. They'd referenced every case that had come through the Bureau since it had opened and not one case matched the details John had given. It left Martin feeling frustrated, confused and defeated, despite having technically won.
"Hey," Danny commented, his words soft as he joined Martin by his desk.
"Hey," Martin replied, setting his now empty cup onto the desk and letting out a breath.
"He's crazy, you know that right?" Danny asked, his hand finding Martin's shoulder, squeezing softly while he stared into Martin's eyes.
"Yeah. But what if he's not?" Martin replied, not wanting to think about that alternative, but as hard as he try, he couldn't seem to get the killer's words out of his head.
"You keep saying that, before. Care to explain?" Martin questioned, hands clenching and unclenching in time with his breathing.
"Before. Before we decided it would be a good idea to put weapons into space. Before we used them. Before the force of the explosion altered the earth's orbit, destroying the moon while simultaneously tearing a hole in the fabric of space and time and bringing us here. Before everyone but me forgot what was once and what should be," John replied, his words calm, but his eyes spoke of madness and resentment.
"Before the winter's that never end."
The last had been barely a whisper, so quiet Martin had been forced to lean forward just to hear.
He shook the thought off, shivering in spite of the dry heat in the air. When he blinked, Danny's face came back into view.
"Martin, trust me, he's insane," Danny repeated, squeezing Martin's shoulder a second time before letting his hand fall back to his side.
"Yeah," Martin finally agreed, shaking his head as he stood, shrugging into his coat and following Danny from the room.
Danny turned to him once they'd reached the street. The earlier crowd was gone now, vanished as soon as they'd learnt of the killer's capture. Danny smiled, inviting Martin for a warming drink and, for a moment, it felt like nothing had changed. Martin nodded his agreement, following Danny around the corner and toward the pub.
"Are you still planning to work over Christmas?" Martin asked, stealing a glance out of the corner of his eye as they walked.
"No, I think I'm going to ask for it off," Danny replied, ducking down the steps that lead into the bar, pausing with his hand against the door before looking over at Martin.
"Do you maybe want to spend it with me?" Martin asked, swallowing against the sudden moisture in his mouth and when Danny smiled, Martin swore his heart started beating again.
"I'd love to," Danny replied, still smiling when he finally pushed past the door, into the warmth of fire and holiday laughter.
A warm, summer breeze made its way in through the open window, billowing the curtains and scattering the winter's accumulation of dust into the air. They caught the light, tiny particles reflecting as they drifted in the breeze, eventually falling to settle on the floor.
"I imagine it was like the sun, except darker," Danny said, shifting until they were spooned together, Martin's arm draped over his waist.
"What was?" Martin asked absently, nuzzling the back of Danny's neck and pulling him closer still.
"The moon. I think I remember it," Danny replied, arching into the sensation of Martin's lips, a low moan escaping his lips.
Martin smiled, shaking his head as he absorbed Danny's words. He didn't remember the moon, but he remembered this, the countless times they'd spent, just like this, spooned together, basking in the afterglow of sex and finding solace in one another. He knew it as well as he knew anything; this had begun a lifetime ago and would continue into eternity.
He never said anything, but he knew Danny understood. He spoke it in so many other ways. In every touch and each press of their lips. Every time they lay twined together, rocking into each other and creating their own light. The memory was hazy, but it existed, so Martin could easily imagine so too did the moon.
"I'll bet it was beautiful," Martin finally said, reaching a hand forward, inching up Danny's arm until their fingers were intertwined.
"It was," Danny agreed and Martin could sense his smile.