(Thursday 16th, April)
Leaning against the wall outside the police station, typing away at her phone, Tessa waited for her partner to be done getting debrief by the chief. She glanced at her watch. It was 8:39. She'd booked there meeting at the hospital for 8:45 as that was when her contact was free. She sighed and stood up straighter. Looks like they were going to be late. She finished typing out her text before sending it and putting away her phone, looking up at the sky.
It's was a shining blue with small white fluffy clouds scattered throughout it, no apparent pattern present. She felt a slight breeze blow by, making her hair tussle in the wind. She adjusted the black pins keeping her hair in place and looked at the front doors of the police station. Gavin was walking down, face stoic, dressed in a white shirt and denim jacket instead of the standard police uniform.
Tessa offered him a smile small as he drew closer "Everything all good?" She questioned, and he nodded.
"Yes. Nothing serious." He didn't expand, and Tessa decided she didn't need to know. If it had been about their partnership, she'd been asked to go too.
"Great," She glanced down at her watched. 8:40. "Well, we better get going. Your chat with the chief went too long so we won't get to the hospital on time, but we should still hurry, so we don't appear too tardy."
Gavin nodded and started walking towards the road, Tessa in toe. He led her to a motorbike parked on the sidewalk. He picked up a silver helmet and held it out to her "Here."
Tessa raised her eyebrows but grabbed the helmet, giving it a quick once over as Gavin grabbed his. "Your clearly not one for protocol, I see." He frowned at her and looked down when she eyed his outfit.
"My uniform is currently being 'thoroughly' cleared after my last assignment, and I prefer a motorbike to a cruiser." He clarified as he climbed onto the motorbike. He got comfortable before giving Tessa a small smile "Climb on."
She looked down at the helmet she was holding and quickly clipped it on before climbing onto the back of the bike. "Hold on tight." Her partner said, and she wrapped her arms around his waist as he released the stand, started the engine and speed off down the street. Tessa turned her head and watched the scenery rush past her violently, all blurry, and out of focus at the speed, the motorbike was going. She leaned her head against Gavin's back and instinctively clutched him tighter.
In no time at all, they reached the hospital, and Tessa loosened her grip around the man as they slowed down to a halt on the sidewalk. Tessa climbed off slowly, feeling a little light-headed, and glanced down at her watch. 8:44. What? But how was that even possible? The police station was at least 10 minutes away from the hospital by car. Tessa glanced at her partner as he took off his helmet. Could he be a...? She shook the thought away and took off her helmet. Now was not the time.
She gave the helmet to Gavin who secured it to the motorbike before he started making his way towards the hospital entrance, forcing Tessa to jog slightly to keep up. "Tell me about the case, I didn't get a chance to look the file over last night." He said, and Tessa reached into the messenger bag she'd taken with her, grabbing out the file.
"Two days ago, several cars crashed into each other on the highway. There were 15 victims in total, with 12 being sent to the hospital with severe or mortal injuries." Gavin stopped walking, turning to look at her.
"15?" Tessa nodded.
"Four cars and a truck were involved in the crash. One was a minivan carrying a family of 5, one was a sedan with a family of 4 inside, one was a coupe carrying an elderly couple and the last one was a pickup with two friends inside and the truck was carrying two drivers." Gavin frowned and started walking again, though at a much slower pace.
"That's pretty bad. Which ones didn't go to the hospital?" Tessa glanced down at the file.
"The two friends in the pickup truck, Mr Joe Can, 34, and Mr Gary Tancourt, 32. The pickup was the only car that hadn't rolled and had been the last to crash," Gavin nodded in understanding. "The other one had been Mrs Marie Bree, an aunt to one of the families. She'd gone to hospital but not to be treated." The two cops entered the lobby, and Tessa was immediately assaulted by the smell of disinfectant. She coughed and led Gavin towards the reception desk.
"Anyone found dead at the scene?" He asked, and Tessa shook her head.
"No, which is honestly surprising. I've seen the photos of the crash," Tessa stopped in front of the reception desk, eyes cast downward in gloom "Hard to believe anyone could survive something that horrific." She didn't see Gavin frown and raise his hand towards her shoulder before dropping it.
"Hello!" Tessa looked up at receptionist smiling plasticity at them. "Can I help you?" Tessa coughed and wiped her face of all sorrow.
"Yes, could you let Dr Nyla Correa know that Tessa Pace has arrived. We have a meeting." The blonde nodded and picked up a phone. After a short conversation, she put down the phone.
"Dr Correa is waiting for you in the E.R." Tessa nodded.
"Thank you." She said before talking off down the hallway, Gavin in toe. "Nyla is a trauma surgeon and treated some of the car crash victims. She can get us all the information we need about the victims." Tessa clarified to her partner who nodded, that same stoic expression on his face.
They made it to the E.R in no time, and Tessa did a quick scan of the room. It's was relatively quiet with only a few of the beds having patients in them and not many nurses or residents walking about. She dragged her eyes over the room, spotting the unmistakable long white hair of her friend near the reception desk. She was sighing a chart, looking totally relaxed like she wasn't in charge of everyone in the room. Tessa smiled a bright smile and walked over to the doctor.
"Nyla!" She called out, and the white-haired surgeon looked up, the small smile on her lips widening.
"Tessa! I was wondering when you'd get here." The two engaged in a quick hug, greeting each other like the good friends they were. "You're a little late."
Tessa pulled back, rolling her eyes "I'm not that late." Nyla smiled a teasing smile.
"5 minutes can be crucial to a surgeon. The meaning between life and death." Tessa scoffed.
"Then it's a good thing I'm not here for a check-up." Nyla's eyes gleamed, and Tessa stood up straighter. "Because I'm not!" She clarified, and Nyla chuckled in amusement. Tessa realised Nyla was only joking and cursed herself. A deep cough interrupted their conversation.
The two woman's eyes fell on Gavin. "Oh, Nyla, this is my partner, Gavin. He's showing me the ropes of being a city cop." Nyla held out her hand, and Gavin shook it.
"Thanks for helping with our investigation, Dr Correa." Nyla nodded her head in greeting.
"It's no problem, Officer Gavin." She let go of his hand and directed them around to the reception desk. "I had the information you need prepared and simplified for you." The doctor grabbed two files from under the desk and handed them to Tessa and Gavin. "It's all in there."
Gavin looked at the file in his hand, opening it up and beginning to read. Tessa looked at the thick file with hesitance before looking back up at the young doctor. "Do you have the time to tell us about the victims yourself?" She asked, and Nyla nodded with an understanding smile, rounding the reception desk.
"Of course, if you'll follow me." Tessa followed behind Nyla as she led them out of the E.R, Gavin following behind her. He gave Tessa a questioning look, and she gave him a small smile, suddenly feeling embarrassed. "Two days ago, we had the 12 victims of the multi-pile car crash rushed to our E.R. I, along with a few others, were called in to help." They boarded an elevator and Nyla pressed one of the patient floors.
"Unfortunately, over the last two days, we've lost 6 of those 12 victims, one as recent as last night, and there are still a few that are in critical condition." Tessa glanced at Gavin's file to see it was open to one of the victims, an old man.
"Which ones did you lose?" Tessa asked as they reached the floor and Nyla lead them out to the reception desk on that floor.
"Jacob Bree and Harley Davids died the day of the car crash. We lost the elderly couple Tony and Gabby McHens as well as Rufus Davids the following day, and just yesterday we lost Annie Bree, one of the child victims." Gavin's hands tightened on his file and Tessa closed her eyes.
"How old?" Nyla sighed with despair.
"Nine. She was 9." A heavy silence followed, and Tessa had trouble finding the courage to ask her next question. Luckily, Gavin did it for her.
"Who's still in critical condition?" Nyla turned and looked up at the patient board that held the data of the patients on the floor. "The two truck drivers and both Davids children."
"That leaves the mother, Natalie Bree and the other Bree child, Pete Bree the only ones in stable condition?" Nyla nodded at Gavin's question, and he took in a deep breath. "What are the conditions of the four that are still critical?"
Nyla smiled sadly and started walking again, leading them down a hall of patient rooms "The older truck driver, Charles Stout, is currently in the burn ICE and the other truck driver, Ronald Mclean, is currently having surgery done on his heart to repair a tear." Nyla stopped in front of a patient room and looked in. Tessa followed her gaze and gasped.
Two little girls, one with a bandage wrapped around their head and the other with a bandage over their eyes, were hooked up to machines. "The Davids children are worse. The one with the bandage wrapped around her head is Lillian Davids, she 6 and currently in a coma and the other one is Scarlett Davids, whose 10 and suffered severe eye damage in the crash, she most likely won't see properly again."
"And their the orphaned ones right?" Tessa asked in a quiet voice, gaze on the children. Nyla put a comforting hand on her shoulder, drawing her attention and offering her a small smile.
"We have called child service who have contact their extended family, all of whom are on their way to Loveland right now. We have the best doctors, nurses and equipment to nurse these two back to health, and while it looks bad, they are both fighters and have been beating the odds since they arrived." Tessa smiled at Nyla and nodded, feeling slightly better. Nyla always had been good at cheering her up, even when they were little.
"Do you know where Marie Bree is?" Gavin asked, breaking the two out of the moment. Tessa coughed and stood up straighter. Of course, she was in front of her partner, she couldn't get sappy now. They had a job to do. Nyla turned towards the other police officer.
"She's most likely in Natalie Bree's room. Last door down that way." Nyla pointed down the hall they'd just come down, and Gavin nodded. He looked at Tessa and offered her a small smile.
"Don't worry. We're gonna find the sick bastard who did this and make him pay." Tessa blinked then nodded as well, cheeks slightly red. Gavin bowed his thanks at Nyla before making his way down the hall. She watched him and once she was sure he was out of earshot, turned to Tessa, putting on a teasing smile.
"You know I've never seen you blush like that at a guy before, could it be that you like him?" Tessa stood up straighter, her cheeks going redder at Nyla's words "I don't blame you if you do, he is very handsome and has a sense of justice too. I bet he would make an 'awesome partner' right?" She inquired, and Tessa looked at her with embarrassment, not missing the meaning behind her words.
"It's not like that!" She yelled, incredibly flustered and Nyla giggled.
"Are you sure?" She poked, and Tessa nodded her head furiously.
"Of course, I'm sure! I don't even know him!" Nyla leaned in real close and whispered in the blushing cop's ear
"But you want to?" Tessa's red deepened even more, and she stepped away from the teasing doctor.
"Stop it!" Nyla laughed out loud at Tessa's reaction.
"Okay, I'll stop." Tessa huffed, closed her eyes and crossed her arms, trying to will the redness away. "Still, I'm glad to see that your partner seems like a good person." Tessa opened her eyes and watched Gavin's retreating back. An image of that same back walking away on a golden autumn day flashed behind her eyes, staying for only a second.
"Perhaps," Tessa said, and Nyla rolled her eyes. "Too early to tell." Nyla sighed and shook her head.
"What does your gut tell you?" Tessa looked at the white-haired surgeon and then back at Gavin, who'd reached Natalie Bree's room and was about to go in before realising Tessa wasn't behind him. He met her curious gaze with one of his own that soon turned to one of annoyance.
"My gut tells me I'm gonna be in trouble if I don't move my ass." Nyla chuckled and wrapped her arms around Tessa in a side hug.
"Then go. Don't keep the bad guys waiting. I'll call you with any updates on the car-crash victims." Tessa smiled at the older woman.
"Thanks, Nyla." The surgeon squeezed her tightly into her side before letting Tessa go. The cop waved at her before running down the hall to quickly get to Gavin. He was standing there, arms crossed, a scowl on his face, watching as Tessa quickly reached him. "Sorry, I had a few more questions about the victims I wanted to ask." He nodded before looking into the room they were standing in front of. Tessa joined him and saw a middle-aged woman lying in bed with a bandage around her forehead. She didn't have any machines connected to her like the Davids children.
"Remember? This woman has just lost her husband and one of her children, so gentleness is key." Gavin said quietly, and Tessa wanted to tell Gavin that she already knew that, but his tone stopped her. Instead, she nodded and quietly followed him into the room.
The motorbike went over a bump, and Tessa tightened her grip on Gavin once again. It wasn't that she was afraid of motorbikes, in fact, she knew how to ride one quiet well. Her skittishness was because she knew they were going extremely fast, way faster than they were probably meant to, Tessa still didn't understand how Gavin was doing it, and that it would be an incredibly painful way to die if she were to accidentally fall off. Plus, Gavin was warm, and the wind was cold.
They were heading to the Bree's household after getting permission from Natalie Bree to take a look in the way the Bree's had lived and to see if they were the targets of the multi-pile car crash and if they were still in danger. Tessa didn't think so, remembering the heart-wrenching pain that was present in Natalie Bree's eyes when she'd looked at her after Gavin had mentioned her husband and daughter. They were the eyes of a victim, an innocent victim who had just had her world ripped apart and burned.
But it was their job to explore every possible lead regardless of personal feelings, so here they were, travelling to Natalie Bree's house on the outskirts of Loveland City. Even with Gavin's strange travelling technique, it was still a long ride, and Tessa's bum was beginning to hurt from sitting on an uncomfortable seat for the past 20 minutes. Eventually, though, they began to slow down as they came across the Bree Household.
Gavin came to a complete stop, and Tessa quickly let go of him and got off the bike, groaning and rubbing her behind. "You know, Gavin, it's a great way to travel, but you need to invest in better seats if that's the only way we're going to be travelling otherwise this month as your partner is gonna be hell on my ass, uh, I mean bum." Gavin took off his helmet and secure it to the motorbike, ears slightly red.
"Noted. I'll, um, look into it." Tessa nodded and took off her helmet, handing it to the man who took it and secured it the motorbike. She turned around and looked at the house before them. It was simple yet modern, made out of brick and cement. It was a single story and looked well-lived in, the front yard had bikes and toys scatted about. Looked like the home of a perfectly happy and non-evil family. Tessa took in a deep breath. This was not going to be easy.
She started making her way up to the front door, looking around for possible areas someone would be able to watch them undetected. There wasn't a lot of them, and fortunately, the Bree family lived in a rather cosy neighbourhood, meaning an imposer would stand out and be noticed if he used a car. None of the bushes provided much coverage, and the trees were too hard to climb and get down from without creating too much noise.
"What are you thinking?" Gavin asked from behind her, and Tessa looked at him. His gaze was curious and open like he was generally interested in her thoughts. Perhaps, Nyla was right.
"Just trying to scout out any areas an imposer would watch the family from to learn their routine, and there are no easy options." Tessa started listing off her discoveries, pointing them as she did. "The tree's too tall and flat to climb and the bushes too thin and small to provide good cover. This neighbourhood is also small and familiar, meaning any unfamiliar cars and people returning night after night would be spotted."
Gavin nodded and looked at the house. "The house is pretty open to with large windows showing the dining room and lounge. Anyone from inside the house would have a pretty clear of the front lawn from all angles." Tessa nodded in agreement and looked at the surrounding houses.
"In fact, several houses would have a good view of this law." She watched a car drive down the street, the driver looking at her as they drove past. The neighbour was just too open to watch a family comfortably without getting spotted, at least the front of the house was. "We should check the back of the house." Gavin nodded, and they made their way to the gate. It was taller than both of them and made out of wood. Tessa touched it only for it to start barking violently at her. A dog.
Gavin jumped and gripped the top of the gate, pulling himself up to peaked over the top to have a look at the dog. He'd left his denim jacket over at the motorbike meaning Tessa could see his biceps perfectly and she watched them flex at the effort of holding Gavin up. Oh boy. They glistered in the sun with sweat covering them, and Tessa looked away, cheeks dusted with red. Now was not the time to ogle her partner. In fact, there was never a time!
Gavin let go and gracefully landed on the ground. "It's an Estrela Mountain Dog." Tessa blinked at him. She'd never heard of that breed. "Their big and fluffy and make great guard dogs." So the Bree family had a guard dog. Another reason it would be hard to spy on them.
"Did Natalie mention a dog?" Tessa asked, and Gavin shook his head. She probably wasn't really thinking when she gave them to permission to search her house either. "Doesn't matter. I'm great with dogs." Gavin raised his eyebrow but stepped aside. Tessa reached into her messenger bag, grabbing out the pack of dog treats she carried around. She likes to feed stray dogs, okay? She bent in front of the gate and opened one of the small windows at eye level.
The dog on the other side barked twice when it saw her but stopped when she held out the treat. It licked its muzzle, and she slowly moved her hand forward as to not startle the dog. It reached moved and sniffed the back of her hand before licking it in acceptance. Tessa smiled and feed the dog the treat. She did this a few more times until the dog was comfortable with her presence and was lying down. She then slowly undid the gate and walked into the yard.
The dog got up to sniff at her legs but didn't do much else. "Looks like it likes you." Tessa turned to see Gavin watching her through the gate. The dog moved away from her to sniff at Gavin and when it was satisfied that he wasn't a threat, came pouncing back over.
"Guess he likes you too," Tessa said as she gave the dog another treat. Gavin smiled and walked into the yard. He looked around while Tessa kept the dog occupied. She bent dog and patted the dog on the head before fiddling with its collar. She held up the tag to her eyes "Bongo." She muttered, and the dog started wagging its tail at its name being called. Tessa continued to shower Bongo with affection as Gavin continued to survey the yard.
"Even though it's much more enclosed and there are more areas to hide, Bongo would be able to detect if there was anything wrong." Gavin eventually concluded, and Tessa agreed with a bunch of swoons. She had Bongo on his back, because yes he was a boy, and was currently giving him a belly rub. She looked up at Gavin to see a small, amused smile on his lips and red dusted her cheeks once again. She coughed and finished off Bongo's belly rub.
"So then it's most likely that the Bree family were just in the wrong place at the wrong time." She stated, and Gavin nodded.
"There is nothing out of the ordinary here." Tessa gave Bongo another treat before standing up and brushing off the dog hair all over her uniform.
"Guess we should head back and report all this to the chief, then look into visiting the other victims' homes." Gavin nodded in agreement, and the two left the house, though Tessa made sure to leave Bongo the rest of her dog treats.
He started up the motorbike and sped off down the street, making his way back to Loveland City. Gavin felt Tessa clutch his waist tighter as he picked up speed and didn't fight his smile, knowing that she couldn't see him. Today had been an interesting day, to say the least. He hadn't expected the multi-pile car crash to be so huge and the fact that someone had felt the need to cause such an accident made his blood boil. He was going to give the victims closure by finding the bastard and making him burn.
Tessa had also been unexpected. For someone he didn't know, she relaxed him. The genuine sadness and anger she had felt at the victims suffering had really resonated with him like she was suffering along with them. The sister-like bond she had with Dr Correa had been an eye-opener, to see her relaxed when she'd appeared so tense the day before. And the way she'd made Bongo trust her so easy had been cool to watch. She was unlike any police officer he'd seen. There was just something about her...