2010-12-24: Beyond Missing Persons



Guest Starring:

Karen and Petunia

Date: December 24th, 2010


Back at the ranch house after their exhausting endeavour in the cold, unforgiving woods, Maggie, Laurie and Petunia are received warmly, and left alone with past, present and confessions.

"Beyond Missing Persons"

Forrester Ranch

Echo, Wyoming

To say it's been a long day would be an understatement. The only force that doesn't seem to be tired is that of nature; the snow just keeps falling, blanketing everything in a pure, clean slate.

While questions — from everyone else involved — still, and will likely continue to, circulate on what exactly happened out there in the woods, the important thing is that Alice is alive. Those responsible for taking her, and killing the others, are in custody. Outside of the Forresters', John's blue truck — again borrowed by Maggie — has been parked where before snowdrifts made driving impossible. A squad car waits out front, having followed, but it's only acting as a taxi for the resident Forrester. Stepping into the warm ranch house after roaming the countryside and woods all day marks, for the case's two bruised guest consultant deputies, the end of their work.

And it's Christmas Eve.

The fireplace is an immediate beacon of cozy warmth inside, and the evidence in the air of baking and cooking is immediate as usual; the only thing that's missing is the lights of the Christmas tree, turned off since the morning. A very wet, dirty, bedraggled looking dog is the first to wander inside; even Petunia finally looks tired. Wet, dirty, and bedraggled are fine descriptors for Maggie and Laurie as well. They've barely a moment to close the door to the outside world behind them when Karen, rushing down from upstairs, this time, barrels her narrow frame toward them. An overnight bag is slung over her shoulder, and she has her coat on. "John told me you found her," she cries out, a happy wash of emotion and overwhelmed tears. She doesn't stop there; flinging her arms out, she seems bound to simply collides with the pair.

She certainly collides with Maggie, who nearly knocks over the coat rack, but manages to stand firm enough to wrap an arm around the woman, whose smiling is instantly contagious. Maggie's face floods with a warmth not only due to the welcoming temperatures of the house that have her dirt and blood-smeared cheeks aflush with pink. "Well, you know, you really have Petunia to thank for that— "

Laurie chuckles softly to see the display between relieved mother and, possibly just as relieved, out of town detective responsible; his mild-mannered expression flickers in and out of a larger grin, tired, skinned cheeks needing to warm to movement the same as they melt in the new, comforting environment. Sidling around the shows of affection, he's got a nearly completely stiff right hand propping his sorest side, and the other hand carrying in the bandages — and replacement bandages — he'd been handed off with emergency services. A temporary towel has been bundled around the worst wound, to spare the Forresters that less than holiday-spirited trail of blood, to go with the heaping of mud and snow they track in, instead.

Still, he unfurls a couple fingers from this grip to extend to Petunia — as the dog surely makes a goal of food and fireplace, "Yeah, you're a good girl, aren'tcha…" he mutters affectionately on passing. More than hearth, he welcomes the scents from the kitchen with several deep, but staggered, inhales, highly appreciative of every second. But, in the grand scheme of things, a brief pause only, before he walks on.

Petunia livens at the attention, and clearly yearns to get in on the excitement; she forgets her apparent tiredness — and her manners. She jumps around the two women before bounding after Laurie, doing the same around his legs, bouncing in front of him and generally getting in his way for more affection. Then again, she could just be hungry.

"Well thank you, Petunia," Karen offers to the dog, but it's clearly the two-legged guests her gratitude extends toward. She leans back but launches again at Maggie, Laurie only spared because of his wander. "I just— " she wraps the detective tightly.

So tightly, in fact, that Maggie winces over the shoulder of the older woman, but her smile seems to have greater power than her bumps and bruises. It wins out. "You're welcome," she says simply in lieu of Karen managing to get anything out; her voice is soft, but heavy with knowing.

Finally — then, hastily — extracting herself, the teary-eyed Karen just nods and shuffles for the door, but not before pointing inside the house, and Laurie. "I'm sure glad you were both here, anyway," she says, "I'm meeting John at the hospital, we're— we're going to stay with her— you all have anything you want. You make yourself at home. There's— there's more soup in the kitchen." In a hurry, she's out the door, leaving Maggie to shed her coat, gloves already stripped, and wander inward herself. Her warmth rather quickly starts to drains into downright tiredness, but a certain warm gratitude for being in the safety of a home, even somebody else's, lingers. Also: "I," she announces, "am glad Karen likes to cook."

The tiniest bit of resistance for his legs threatens to stop them entirely, the labrador against his knees with the potential to tip him over completely, but a few borderline playful bumps and he's managed himself a couple more steps that get Petunia in line with the walking. "You know there's a bath in your future, right?" He warns the animal glibly, glancing off the tempting, so easily swung, doors of the kitchen. "But maybe food first…"

Jacket taken off with Alice to the hospital, his fingers linger on the reattached vest half doing his job holding the towel in place. He's a bit of wreckage in the welcoming home, every piece of clothes ripped or bloodied, and he floats around furniture noncommittally, choosing not to grasp the railing as he reaches the stairs, even as one leg proves more difficult to lift than the other. "Only the pure of heart," he mentions rhythmically, peering over his shoulder at the detective; his mouth turns up lightly for such a deep beginning, turned: "can make good soup."

After a bout of quizzical wondering makes its way past her tired expression for the quote, Maggie says with light consideration and a small smile for Karen's pure heart, "Then," her own path takes her toward the stairs; Petunia ultimately reroutes for the kitchen, "it should be good." Having abandoned her vest in the hands of its proper owners, she's free of all but her own worse-for-the-wear attire. Now out of place, she pulls the winter headband clear of her tangled hair. It's her who grips the old wooden railing with a hand not yet unthawed; she doesn't quite make a move to follow, though her upward glance says she might. It also appears distracted along the way. Words more muted than her last drift toward Laurie. "I didn't know— that this trip would be like this…"

Without Petunia, Laurie's hand drifts lonely, then returns to its full post bringing the medical supplies about with him. The right guard doesn't want to move much at all, vibrant in its splotchiness, and insistent in both stinging and stiffness. Balm that might be included in what he's carrying has yet to be applied. Only the house heat lends varying comfort and discomfort for the rapidly changing temperatures. Though he doesn't immediately turn again, his lower lip juts up to take account of the sentiment lifting up the stairs to him — and climbing, still; he doesn't pause. "Well, that's good," he deliberates, relief in his voice equally tiredness, "Otherwise you might owe me— for not warning," a wince on the next step interrupts him — briefly, "to wear a different sweater."

Maggie waits out a few of Laurie's steps, turning to plant a foot on the bottom of the stairs; it's only when there's a few more between them that she begins her own climb. She's slow, but less laboured in her ascent to what might be a similar goal. "You should always be prepared," she counters, a light humour that transcends exhaustion and the more serious note a moment before. It slips back over her, however, as she carries on. "Other… than… you getting bitten… and drugged… and shot and all… of that…" A significant amount of other thans, and Maggie sounds apologetic for all of them. "…being here, and helping out, it's gone better than I expected," she admits quietly.

The upstairs is built in the same sturdy, exposed cabin-like wood as the rest of the house. As the hallway at the top of the stairs, and all of the various top floor rooms loom, Maggie forces overworked and sluggish legs to quicken. She reaches out to Laurie in the same moment she comes up behind him, a quick brush toward that ruined sweater at his back, as if to grab his attention — lest he disappear.

When she says them, Laurie counts the incidents off on a few fingers, eyeing their number as if this representation is more sturdy than her words — or the numerous pains they've brought on. Each finger wiggles individually, waving the bandages, the small baggie of helpful things. He eyes, musing, a moment longer around the top step. "That's a lot to prepare for." Neither angry, nor defensive; he isn't blaming, but nor is he accepting of her apology. It's merely speculation, same as he shrugs, "I was much too lazy to form expectations; therefore, I am choosing retroactively to say they were all met." A firm nod. "Well done, all."

Disappearing was, perhaps, less his goal than trudging to his assigned guest room, but he is stopped in this as effectively. The brush is as good as a spin, turning him about the way to face Maggie below, and any reaches may be in her future plans. "Hmm?"

In stopping upon Laurie's spin, Maggie backs down slightly out of the way, spanning two steps, one foot braced upon the one below her. Her hand swings back, slipping into a back pocket of questionable solace for her cold hand. She's nodding to his comment, but what she says is: "You might have had expectations if you'd lived here most of your life and just left one day without telling hardly anyone." Her vague smirk is, for one quick second, a little self-deprecating, an expression suited well to her the fatigue that seeks to pull her down; but on Laurie, she softens, glances aside in eyebrow-raising contemplation of him, and determines: "Then again, maybe not."

She smiles and, quickly, moves on to her original point, which has her looking down and sliding her grip off the rail to tuck wisps of escaped hair — it's starting to curl — behind her ear. "I really threw you into the fire after you just getting … out— " Weary but no less sincere eyes look up. But… "I don't think I could have done this without you. And I know I don't work for the CPD anymore but I think I can speak for them when I say they couldn't have either. Not in time. There's a reason I didn't go into Missing Persons for good." Another glance down, dark; Maggie's lips move in silent, faintly troubled expressions before her returned regard of Laurie at the top of the stairs settles into a lingering apology for holding him up with all of her talking.

The tiny upward notch of his eyebrow, small but defined, might've been the beginning of a contradiction she quells by stating first. Lips nearly white with the skin peeling off get a hesitant wetting; it's almost a seal; when they work together next, they press, stopping up some response, or maybe nothing at all. He could be holding in a hard breath against a restrictive vest. A second eyebrow to join the other, higher, and with wry eyes suggest one thing: maybe she's right. Then again, the lift of his left shoulder is just as small a suggestion, and nearly contradictory, itself.

In this pleasant, and noncommittal, way he watches, waiting, without impatience to fuel her later apology. His shifted eyes to the side, tug of mouth to similar, seek to belittle her opinions, but when he looks back on her it's with a smile mustered out of weariness — no less sincere, just covered in dirt and thought. The smile swoops up, fades a touch, strengthens, and then vanishes. It goes the way of him, as he pushes off of that last stair without seeming acknowledgment to her except being dismissed by her apology. His whole body moves with a heavy hesitance — not a big surprise, considering — but it especially gets him just as he's got his back to Maggie, and that vital step forward would secure his leaving. There, he takes it. There, he rocks back onto his heel. A bit of a pause; he brings his left hand around to scratch around the bandages at the scratchy blotches forming along his recovering right knuckles. Away from her line of sight, conflict makes war on his face, as one choice forms expressions only to be branded by the second. He deliberates — unneeded; he's already grimacing at his own decision. Even before his weight has completely settled onto the back foot, he twists the way he'd turned before, planted to regard Maggie. With a strangely bland, and even more oddly bashful, empathy, he merely mentions: "I know."

Waiting, for him to move on up to the upper realm of warm beds, fresh clothes, and running water they both incidentally gravitate toward, Maggie stands grasping the banister in preparation to follow on up. She's caught unawares when Laurie turns; her eyes are wide as they point the short distance upward, fixed in a weightier, bothered thoughtfulness she hasn't quite let go of after her words. Her mouth tugs to the sides in a tiny expression that ought to seem heartened — acknowledging, at the very least; it falls flat instead. She shrugs slightly, as if giving him that deduction; the movement is rather stiff on the way down. Her eyes remain sincere in their upward stare — a look that turns inquisitive, above all. "It's…" she starts and stops quietly, forging on to a frank, curious question instead. "Do you profile me?"

Again, those lips. Pressing, smearing words; now, pulled all the way over so that the very corner of his mouth is forefront, thinned to complete closure. His weight shifts, between the foot committed to her and the one behind it. Not a sign of his necessarily leaving, but the same back-and-forth that isn't clear in his straight-forward gaze on her. When his feet stop warring, his eyes wander. Just a short while, darting above her head before meeting her blue to blue. "No— well, yes/," it's not stuttering — he isn't ashamed to say so at all; more, it's a correcting dedication to honesty as his hand drifts forward to open-palm gesture to emphasize. The bag of bandages and plastic crinkles softly, along for the ride. "Ah, but what I meant was— " now the darkening around the eyes as his eyebrows fold in for a fought back frown, a mastering of other expressions that don't make it by. Lips pucker thoughtfully, his left hand goes to meet his right one, crossed, to his side. "I //know." Pause, then his face winces — in silly guilt. "I— may have stolen your file."

Laurie's back-and-forth, and his whole lead-up to the confession that he may of stole her file, is regarded with a sort of questioning fascination until he speaks. Then: "You stole my file." The surprise Maggie experiences is short-lived, if only because a whole range of other expressions fight for top billing, flickering undecidedly across her face unmasked: offense, alarm, amusement, wariness, annoyance, criticism, and by contrast to the first, a clear lack of surprise, all flying by like stills in a View-Master.

The one she settles on is curiosity, however, not so far from the regard she started with. "…When?" She glances off to the side; from above, her head might as well be cast down. Her eyes happen upon her hand at the banister, and her thumb taps against it with a pale, blue-tinged nail under watch. "Not everything is in my files…" A pause. "Or in your profile."

Mmmhmm is drawn out of his mouth to help along the myriad of reactions. His own remains the same, poised in open sheepishness that tempers once in a while with a humor that makes the first emotion seem slightly less honest. Thinking, he clucks his tongue a couple of times; it's a consideration as false; since when has he had difficulty remembering a time. "March," he declares, triumphant in recall, only a tiny increment of embarrassment to acknowledge the weight of what he's saying. "Eighth." A bit of throat clearing is in the same vein. "Between the upside-down cake and the waffles." Seriousness dawns slowly on him as she looks away, and his eyes drearily follow down. Carefully, he shifts backwards, letting the retreat foot take the lead. "It never is."

"We've been here before," the medical bag is brandished at her — between them, connecting them together with an invisible, "I don't believe in reports, detective. They've never done me any favors— " he breaks off momentarily to squint calculatingly, easily enough allowing, "… though, I've never really done them any services in return…"

Though her gaze remains down, harboring just impressions of deeper thought under lashes, Maggie can't seem to help but smile eventually at the markers Laurie used to clarify the date. Delayed, lingering, and gradually fading. "Words on paper. There's nothing to fill in the truth," she agrees in this instance with a lift of her chin, remembering. "That explains why you don't do much paperwork," she points out matter-of-factly with a hint of a another smile. In a slow, prompting tone that trails off, she adds, "…it doesn't quite explain why you stole my file…" Her head tips to the right, as good as a shrug; still inquiring but unbothered, anyway, by past thievery. Heavy, her head seems prone to just stay there above her shoulder, but she demands herself to push her grip off the banister again and dips said head toward the hall. She plants the sole of her foot on the edge of the next step. "Okay," she says tiredly, barely more than thinking outloud, "I have to get out of these clothes."

Prior to that, she's already being given room by Laurie drawing himself up that last stair he'd been denied, and stepping to the side of the hallway that will eventually give him the doorway to his borrowed room. It's an extra effort to get moving after holding still, lending some varied slowness, sometimes casual, and sometimes more telling of his actual state. Hands at either side again, propped under his ribs, a couple of fingers squeezing the right side with a hazy grimace following. But, shining through, his eyes are bright as he looks aside to her — in an opposite room — while his hand comes to rest on the door. "Oh," he comments, milking the irony without shame, "says the woman so interested in the porn." A push, and he basically falls with its opening inside.

At her own borrowed room opposite, her hand having just grasped its door, already leaning heavily into it, Maggie has just the time to look suddenly over her shoulder on Laurie's comment. She catches his bright gaze for the irony before he's falling out of her sight. It takes her slightly longer to fathom what he's talking about, leaving her bewildered in the hall slowly mouthing the shape of the word what toward his door.

A few moments later, she calls out, to now distant ears — it is debatable whether or not her voice traverses door and wall at all: "That— … was different…!"

To their own, separate solaces, they disappear.

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