In Seattle, it had taken some time before Alaric had managed to get some one on one time with the investigating detective on Charlie’s murder. By the time Detective Mills finally came to see him, he was all levels of annoyed and frustrated by the lack of professionalism of the police department in treating the victim’s family and could not help but wonder if they behaved that way frequently.
When a woman opened the door to the small room that the desk sergeant had stuck him in to wait, Alaric glared as he had not moved from his position. “Mr. Saltzman? I apologize for the wait. I’m Detective Mills,” the woman greeted as she held out her hand but he refused to accept, leaving her awkwardly holding her hand in the air. “Okay then. How may I help you?”
“I’ve been waiting here for nearly – four hours to speak to someone about my brother’s case,” he said after checking his watch to confirm the amount of time that he’d been in the precinct. Slowly, he stood up to his full height as he stared at the woman. “In that time, I was given the brush off by more than one officer, of rank mind you, shoved in this closet where I was told that someone would come talk to me shortly and that was hours ago. I flew here on the red eye from Virginia last night after hearing about my brother’s death. Drove all the way to Forks from Seattle to make sure that his daughter was alright with my own eyes before driving all the way back so that I can deal with the stuff that she shouldn’t have to. That’s eight hours of driving after an all night flight after finding out that your only brother is dead, only to be ignored repeatedly by the people who are supposed to be finding his murderer. Now tell me how you can help me?”
Mills took in a breath as she was clearly overwhelmed by his anger. “I understand you are upset but it won’t get you anywhere by taking it out on me,” she said as she resolved herself to stand her ground once she realized which case he was referring to. “I’m afraid there is little information about Chief Swan’s investigation that I can give you at this time.”
Alaric couldn’t help but laugh as he scratched at his brow before looking back at her. “Is that so? Or are you just saying that so that you can stonewall me. I don’t know what kind of place you people are running here but he does not deserve this kind of piss poor disrespect for a murder investigation. Perhaps I should go to the media and see if they are interested in a story of Seattle’s finest not doing anything in finding a small town police chief’s murderer while he was visiting his daughter for her graduation. What do you think?”
Detective Mills appeared conflicted but not in the way he thought she might be. “Sure, you could do that and while it would cause us grief with media relations for awhile, you may also want to take a closer look at your niece, Mr. Saltzman,” she said frankly before turning to peer out in the hallway. Closing the door, she set her case folder on the table and tried to find the words to say to the man. “The night of the break-in, we held off on questioning her as she was hysterical for the obvious reasons. We had transported her to the hospital with the body but also had her admitted for a twenty four hour hold for observation for her own well being after such a traumatic event. An officer had stayed with her the entire time until my partner and I could come interview her and by then she seemed like a completely different person. Your niece is holding back more about what happened that night and that is why we haven’t been able to do more about this case. Unfortunately, we also cannot prove any involvement on her part if she is responsible for her father’s murder. You wanted to know what we have. You got it.”
“That’s just insane! Bella loved her father and would never have – you’re sick to think that girl would have anything to do with whoever killed him,” he growled. “Pathetic that a good man might not get justice because you people are too narrow minded and focused on his daughter to look to other possibilities.”
Alaric pushed past her, throwing the door open, causing it to slam against the wall and leaving an indent in the panelling. As he stormed out, he knew he would have to end up looking into things himself and unfortunately, he knew he would need to ask those hard questions of Bella that the detective insinuated just to rule those possibilities out. Nearing the main desk on his way out, he overheard the desk officer finishing up a call he was taking, catching his attention.
“Hey Frank!” the man called out while he tried to listen on as covertly as he could. “We have another one! Pay up!”
Frank made his way over, much to Alaric’s disgust, and pulled some money out of his wallet. “What does that make the count at now?”
“In Seattle? Twelfth this year. I heard there are more in the surrounding counties though. If we were to total them, we could be looking at close to twenty missing over the last year and half,” the desk officer shrugged. “Thanks for the lunch money Frank!”
“Someone’s gotta catch this freak. Whoever this serial killer is, no one has been able to get close enough to even get a profile on them. I heard that the FBI might consider jumping in on it soon if it keeps up,” Frank replied, truly looking upset for the situation but Alaric stopped listening and left.
He was positive that Bella had nothing to do with the missing people, nor her father’s killer. The detective was full of shit, but he’d have to keep an eye on her anyway now that the insane woman had planted that tiny seed of doubt in him and he hated her for it. Heading over to his rental, he looked at the time again before deciding to just get a motel room for the night. He’d just drive back in the morning to deal with the funeral.
By the time he got to his room, he called up Jeremy as he sat tiredly on the bed, waiting for the teenager to pick up.
“Hey Ric,” Jeremy answered finally, after the man was beginning to think that the kid might have become the next missing person case.
“New rule while we are out here – answer the phone by the third ring otherwise we assume there is trouble. If you don’t make it in time, you must call back immediately,” Ric said firmly, giving the boy every indication of how bad the trip was going so far.
“Okay…So, then I shouldn’t tell you that Bella seems to not want me talking to her reservation friends without her around for more than a couple minutes?”
That caused him concern and he ran a hand over his face as he tried to figure out what his niece was into. “Try to stay close to her and see who she talks to. Keep an eye out on anyone around that might be watching her because the detective I spoke to thought at one point she was behind Charlie’s death but they found nothing. So now I don’t know what to think.”
Jeremy was quiet on the other end of phone for a moment before he spoke again. “She doesn’t seem so bad. I”ll work on getting her to loosen up and trying to be her friend. She seemed to be warming up some to me today, and that kid Seth seemed cool. Same with her best friend, Jacob I think. I’ll see what I can do here, but she seems innocent enough. I think she’s cool. I like her.”
“Yeah. Just – be careful. I think there is more going on out here than just random break-ins though. Don’t go anywhere alone, and definitely don’t let Bella go anywhere alone. There seems to be either a serial killer or someone kidnapping people because there are at least twelve missing in Seattle right now. Just keep your eyes open,” Alaric warned. “I’ll be back in the morning. I’m crashing here for the night.”
“Sure thing. Stay safe yourself. I’ll have some coffee ready for you when you get here. I brought vervain too – just in case, you know?”
Alaric pursed his lips as he eyed the newspaper that had been beside him with an article about a recent missing college student as he considered the vampire angle, but the vampires he was familiar with didn’t operate like that. “Sure. I’ll see you in the morning Jer. ‘Night.”
After hanging up, he stared at the newspaper article for a little longer, something about it gnawing at the corner of his brain like it was something he had read before. He was sure it was something to do with Isobel’s research so it was vampire related but he wasn’t sure just how. Until he knew more of what was going on, he didn’t want to involve anyone else, especially back home right then when he was supposed to be there just for a funeral. Turning out the light and settling into bed, he had a bad feeling that things were much larger than they seemed.
After Jeremy hung up with Alaric, he sent a few text messages back home, letting everyone know that things were okay so that Jenna didn’t worry about them. By the time he finished with his sister and returned inside, he couldn’t help but feel like something changed as Bella was a little more reluctant to talk with him while Jacob, who had offered to stay with them the night since Alaric was still in Seattle.
“So, Jeremy. Bella had said that your parents died as well?” Jacob asked curiously, seemingly trying to learn more about the guy.
He looked back and forth between the two, trying to understand the change but chose to just go with it with an easy shrug. “Yeah. They went to pick my sister up from a party where she got drunk at and ended up having an accident on the way home, running off an old bridge in town. They drowned. Someone was around to pull Elena out of the water but couldn’t get to my mom and dad in time.”
Jake blinked in surprise at the sudden and harsh way to lose one’s parents. Especially because of one’s own sibling. “Do you get along with your sister?”
“Elena – she’s alright. She handled it better than I did. I – didn’t care and just looked for trouble wherever I could find it, let’s just say,” he answered as he went to get comfortable on the couch despite his clear dislike for the obvious line of questioning even though he didn’t shy away from answering anything they asked. His face darkened at the memories of Vicky and how much he cared for her, but he knew that the feelings weren’t in a healthy form. In the end, she still lost her life but she had never wanted the help that she needed as she was hurting inside much worse than he ever was.
“You okay man?” Jake asked as he looked at him, concerned that he may have went too far with his own curiosity.
Jeremy smiled slightly and nodded. “Yeah. Just thinking about my girlfriend at the time. She, um, actually died not long after that as well. Just not something I like to talk about because it was all a part of that dark period that Alaric helped get me out of. Is still trying to keep me out of.”
Bella turned her attention from Jacob to her guest as she looked at him guardedly. “What did Uncle Ric have to say?” she asked.
“He didn’t say much. Mostly complained about how they kept him waiting for hours before anyone came to speak to him about nothing. Said he’ll be back in the morning and was staying in the city overnight.”
She got up to start the fireplace as the night had gotten chillier. Often, she would look out the window before and after checking to make sure it was locked which made him curious as to what had her so paranoid so far from the big city and had to wonder if what her uncle said the police claimed had any merit. As she returned and sat back in the armchair, she pulled the knit blanket over her legs and looked at Jeremy. “So how do you know Ric?”
“He’s our history teacher at school and my aunt’s boyfriend. Of course our family history crosses in a strange way,” he started to say as he made a face as he recalled learning more about Alaric’s history in the beginning. “It’s actually kind of weird because in a way – we’re sort of related.”
Both Bella and Jacob looked at him like he had lost his mind. “How do you figure?”
“Well Alaric was married to Isobel, who also happens to be my sister’s real birth mother. We learned not long ago she was adopted. She’s actually my cousin,” Jeremy explained as Bella nodded in understanding.
“So that’s one messed up family reunion. Who in the family did Aunt Izzy sleep with?” she snorted, clearly showing no love for the woman from the stories her father had shared over the years when she disappeared and left her husband without any answers to her whereabouts.
“My uncle. You’re right, it is messed up. Trust me that Elena isn’t thrilled either because he wants to be in the picture and she wants nothing to do with him now that she knows,” Jeremy admitted, although he said nothing about Isobel’s reappearance because he didn’t know how much about her supposed death she knew.
Bella just simply continued staring at him for a minute before letting out a breath after he had answered. “Okay. So Alaric’s ex-wife is your sister’s mother and now he’s dating her younger sister? Way to keep it in the family Ric!” she sarcastically jutted her thumbs up before turning to focus on the fire.
“What’s your hometown like? What was it called again? Misty Falls…?” Jacob started to say but trailed off.
“Mystic Falls. It’s a small town, though not like Forks here. Boring on one side, but has its share of problems as well. About the only thing to do is get drunk in the woods and have parties,” he said with a shrug.
“Pretty much what the guys do on the rez,” Jake grinned as he looked over at his friend before sighing. “What plans still need to be done for the funeral Bella? Anything you want me to do?”
She shook her head while she ran her fingers over the fabric of the shirt she wore that looked rather oversized and old to Jeremy. He assumed it was Charlie’s and lowered his head, unsure of what words he could say in support because he didn’t remember what was done for his parents’ funeral.
“Ric wants to do stuff so I have to hold off on things for him. I already got the funeral home, just need to give them a call for the services. Charlie wasn’t much for church but I’m sure Paster Webber would be willing to do something,” she sighed.
“Is there something that I could do to help?”
“You’re helping by not hounding me for information that I don’t have. By taking my mind off of my life, my problems that no one can fix for me,” Bella replied as she looked at him in the eye tiredly. Smiling gently, she continued. “But if you really want to do something, would either of you boys mind making some coffee or cocoa?”
Jacob shook his head as he stood up and headed into kitchen. She continued to study the boy who met her gaze unwavering, which earned her respect in a small way. “Do you watch sports?”
“I’m more into video games lately, but I like baseball,” Jeremy answered, slightly confused. “You like sports?”
“No. Charlie loved them. I just know that there is a baseball game on tonight that I can put on for you and Jake. I don’t mind,” she said as she went to turn the television on and flipped it to the channel that had the game on.
He smiled gently as he watched her for a minute but she was so focused on the television. He knew she was craving the distractions and begun a random commentary about the game of what he knew of the players that were on. There wasn’t much left of the game as it was fairly late and Jake returned soon with three mugs that he passed around.
As Jeremy took a sip of his, he looked up in shock. “Wow…this is really…wow!”
Bella snorted as she blew on hers. “I know. It’s my recipe that he stole. Jackass.”
“I’m not sorry. You can taste how great it is. I bet you want to take it back with you now, right?” he grinned.
Jeremy was contemplative for a hot minute as he looked at his drink before nodding. “Hell yeah. Jenna and Elena wouldn’t be able to make it, but I’m sure I can talk my sister’s dickhead friend to make it. He’s good in the kitchen.”
Jacob nodded. “She won’t give it to you, but I will be sure to write it down for you before you go. Just remind me. Um, Bella? I’m gonna stay the night here since it’s so late. I don’t know how you guys have the arrangements going,” he said as he met her eyes, causing her to stiffen slightly.
Setting her mug down, Bella stood from the chair and looked around. “Um. You’d probably be better up in Charlie’s room tonight Jake,” she said with a slightly shaky voice that made her company listen closer even though he kept his eyes focused on the game on the television. “We’ll be right back Jeremy.”
“Sure thing,” he said as he waved them off, watching them over his shoulder as they went up the stairs. Pulling his cell phone out, he was sure Alaric was asleep, but he sent him a text anyway.
She is nervous bout something. I don’t know what. She n Jake seem shady about something 2nite.
After putting his phone away and the two returned downstairs, they watched the rest of the baseball game together and chatted idly about random topics when someone would get some idea to talk about something. By the time they did call it a night, he was more than ready to go to sleep as it had been a long day. All he knew was that he hoped that Alaric was going to be back early like he promised as he set the alarm on his phone before setting it aside to sleep.
When Jeremy’s alarm went off, he groaned as he reached for the device to silence the thing. Lifting his head, he looked around sleepily, quickly remembering that he wasn’t home and sighed as his head fell back to the couch. Yawning, he had to slap his face a few times to really get himself moving for the morning before he could fully sit up and focus.
Behind him, he could hear a distinct female giggle that made him roll his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up. I’m seventeen and it’s my winter break. I am supposed to be allowed to sleep late,” he complained.
“But you volunteered to join your friend to fly across the country to the rainiest, most miserable place on earth to bury his brother. You’re a good kid Jeremy,” Bella smiled at him as she sat at the kitchen table. “Fresh pot of coffee is on. There’s tea in the cabinet if you prefer, and if you want hot chocolate, tough. There’s the boxed crap next to the tea.”
“Thanks,” he sighed as he scratched his head, unsure what to do because she beat him to getting things started for the morning. Grabbing his bag, he went to the bathroom to wash up and change before pulling out the small bag that contained several sprigs of fresh vervain.
As he joined her at the table with his coffee, he noticed her eyeing him as he added a pinch of the plant into his coffee, grinding it up between his fingers. “What was that?” she asked curiously.
“Uh, vervain. Just something a lot of people back home use,” he said as he took a sip, wincing at the temperature. “Usually we have it liquidized, but we couldn’t bring it on the plane so did the next best thing.” He held up the baggie with the plant to show her.
“What does it do?”
Jeremy looked up, unsure of how not to say that it was supposed to be a deterrent for vampires and to keep them out of your head. “Herbal. Just some craze in town that everyone is on that seems to work. Not sure exactly how it’s supposed to help your health, but I feel good,” he smiled.
Bella nodded and before she could ask further on the subject, the sound of car doors slamming from outside reached them, causing them to turn their attention to the window. “Uncle Ric is back,” she said before glancing at the clock. “He must have gotten up ridiculously early.”
“He said he was planning on being back in the morning,” Jeremy replied as he headed for the door to let the man in.
Alaric appeared quite tired still, but was more awake than he had been when they had arrived. After saying his good mornings to the two, his eyes zeroed in on the fresh coffee pot sitting on the counter. “Coffee,” he grumbled, moving towards the device as if it was the messiah. Jeremy had held out his baggie of vervain, which he grabbed as he passed, making the girl, watch on with curiosity. After he managed to get nearly a half a cup down, he was finally able to hold something of a conversation. “You two are up early. I was actually expecting Jeremy to still be asleep even though he said he’d get up.”
Bella smiled and watched as Alaric sat down, enjoying his coffee while opening up the morning’s paper. “I was going to go see Pastor Webber about holding service at the lakeside where Dad liked to fish. I know it isn’t conventional, but it’s who he was. The funeral home wants to know if we are going to bury him. I was thinking of cremating and scattering him at the lake,” she said hesitantly. “I didn’t give them an answer as I was waiting for you.”
He had been focused on the front page of the paper but had heard her suggestion. Dragging his eyes up from the page, he looked at her searchingly. “I think that’s a great idea Isa. Do you want me to handle the calls or do you want me to deal with the lawyers to get everything transferred over to you?”
“That – actually works out perfectly. I never really liked Dad’s lawyer friend. He got under my skin,” she said as she let loose a shudder.
“It’s not a problem. I was actually thinking about staying around a little longer than planned actually,” Ric said suddenly, causing Jeremy to look up at him speculatively but he only got a glance. “I’ll talk to Jenna about you and deal with the school. Maybe distance from Mystic Falls would do you some good.”
“Um, sure. Sounds great,” he said, unsure where these new plans were suddenly coming from until Ric pulled apart the paper and moved to a new section and set the one that he had been reading in front of him. Attempting to keep a passive expression on his face as Jacob made his morning appearance, and complaining about the lack of coffee in the now empty pot, Jeremy’s face paled at the thought of vampires in Washington to cause so much damage that would reach the news the way they were indicating. Nearly a dozen bodies had been discovered brutally mutilated in an abandoned warehouse along the waterfront, and another article revealing a missing teenage girl not far from the same area.
Bella had appeared happy with her uncle’s announcement to remain after her father’s service but her eyes expressed anything but as she tried to be casual in her leaving the table to start another pot of coffee. The two could hear the low whispers between the girl and her friend, but unable to make out the words, however the stressed tone was clear. She wasn’t happy about their extended visit.