2010-12-23: Into The West



Guest Starring:

Tobias and Chief Bower

Date: December 23rd, 2010


Maggie and Laurie land in Maggie's home state, meet their sidekick of sorts, and pay a visit to her old station to get acquainted — or in her case, reacquainted — with the case at hand.

"Into the West"

Cheyenne, Wyoming

The very second they step of the airport, Cheyenne hits them square in the face without apology. Wind. It is undeniably cold and dry, cutting across the wide expanse of dull grey parking lot… and on, and on, and on — wide fields of dead grass stripped of snow spread out in every direction, so flat the impression of the city beyond can be seen plain as day.

The sky is bright only because it's mottled with big, pale clouds that appear full to bursting with snow, threatening with more than the tiny flurries fleck the air. Instead of falling lightly through the sky as it should, the snow is whipped at every emerging passenger. Maggie and Laurie seem small points in a huge expanse — the whole state spread out around them. Including, much closer, yet distant across the vast lot, beneath a towering flagpole bearing a proud wind-lashed American flag, a black-and-white emblazoned with the Cheyenne Police Department logo. Waiting like a taxi.

Their Wyoming destination is taken in with mixed feelings from its prodigal daughter. Despite herself, familiarity warms her gaze even for the dismal lot they stand in; it's tempered by a frown. All is literally blown off of her face with an icy gust of wind and snow that pitches her hair off the collar of her red coat and inspires her to squint cynically at the invisible force. "Why did I live here…"

Bundled up in all of his finery, Laurie basks in the wind and a view that lets his roaming gaze go on for miles upon dreary, snow-swept miles. His eyes only narrow against the elements as he peers onward, and when that particular gust lashes the cowboy hat straight off his head, he lets out a blatantly cheerful, "Fantastic!" A lifeline, the thin hide tie of the hat catches around his throat, the bloom of his scarf, halting the green article from becoming completely runaway.

Amusement battles past the wind to brighten Maggie's face for an instant, but mostly, she just looks at Laurie like he's nearly lost his mind as well as his hat. "I think that's for us," she notes of the police car with a raised voice to overcome the wind; prone, in this open space, to circulate noisily. Dragging her small suitcase on wheels behind her, she heads in the direction garnered to be the right one, where a figure is now emerging from the car. She squints at Laurie en route. "I didn't ask— is this your first time here?"

The figure leans the passenger side of the car, only to straighten to over-alertness upon spying the two arrivals approaching and walks hurriedly to meet them. He comes into view through the snowflakes: a brawny, broad-shouldered guy in his young forties with a few extra pounds stretching out the stomach of his dark blue officer's uniform, wearing a grey winter hat tugged down over his ears instead of police-issue, reddish hair poking out from under it. His small dark eyes seem friendly; his wide face textured by weather and hard work. A patch of wiry hair flashed with white gives his chin a beard that he scratches with a mitten while waiting.

The mitten then raises in hello — he's their ride. "Maggie Powers…?"

Matching the questioning tone, no look of recognition appears on the face of the correctly identified Maggie Powers — Cheyenne stretches familiarly all around her, but this guy is new, and so she extends a gloved hand. "Hi…"

"Detective! Nice to meet you!" A vigorously friendly handshake later, their chauffer peers at Laurie as if trying to summon up a name. "Aaand…"

"Not Maggie Powers!" supplies Laurie jovially, as if answering the same question were completely natural; and, perhaps, 'Maggie Powers' were if you wanted parmesan cheese on your pasta or not — his gloveless hands eagerly gliding in for their share of a similar handshake. Returning towards his body, one hand finds the extended handle of his luggage, letting him lean weight against it. While that, the other searches for the hat now being ferociously batted around against his back. A bit of twisting to untangle, and then it settles onto his head, shoved tightly to weather the— weather.

"Uhhhh…" Their new acquaintance gets a little caught up in staring at the newcomer that is not Maggie Powers, and his oh-so-striking hat, slack-jawed— until Maggie interrupts with a rather … understanding smile.

"This is Laurence Miles," she explains.

"Ohhhh," the man replies with an overzealous nod. He clearly still doesn't have a clue. He jovially plods a mitten to his chest. "Officer Tobias — Smith Tobias — I know, it's backwards — anyway, I'm supposed to take you over to the station. Everyone's there. Pile on in guys, your chariot awaits." The trunk unlocks and Tobias opens both the passenger door and the rear door— broad shoulder to the guests, the emblem of this police department greets them. It is rather different from the NYPD's judicious badge; an undeniably sign they're not in the east anymore. This is the west beyond a doubt. Here in Cheyenne, encircled in a seven-pointed star, is silhouette of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. "You can toss your stuff in the trunk."

With that, he offers a hand with Maggie's things— but a firm grip on her luggage and a polite dismissal later and she's hauling the small amount of it in the trunk herself — on top of a slew of police firepower stored there — before heading into the front of the car. For a very familiar ride with unlikely company.

"Pleasure, Officer Tobias," the consultant is only steps behind Maggie, luggage heaved up and tossed beside hers carelessly, "And it's Laurie, actually, please." Getting a steadying hand on the top of his hat, the thus named Laurie folds himself into the back seat — a distinct separation between those in the front causing him to brandish a wry reminiscence as he does. "This is a little familiar…" As for his company, however, he keeps his opinions to himself.

"… can just call me Tobias," the officer says moments later over the noise of shutting doors, including his. "Not Smith though, it's too boring. Thinking about changing my last name to And Wesson."

With everyone piled in, and Laurie in the back like a suspect — at least he's not restrained — the police car takes off. Parking lot to highway, the view is about the same, except the angular silhouette of the airport is gradually left in the rearview. They're not in for a quiet ride; Tobias is chatty. Maggie goes from regarding Laurie somewhat sympathetically as a poor caged animal to more attentively listening to the easygoing CPD officer.

"So this is wild, right? Big criiime… you two coming all the way from New York… there hasn't been a case like this around Cheyenne, hell, in Wyoming, for … God, what's it been, two years? Nah, had to be almost three, before I came on from Gillette. That was the last case you worked on, right? Walsh?"

An instant reaction is elicited from the former CPD officer: after a stiff "mmh" of agreement (paired, nonetheless, with a politeness to make up for it in the form of a smile), she switches her view to the historic buildings appearing already outside her window, springing up more colourfully against the grey day.

"Hey, and you know this family too — the girl's — who knows who's responsible right, that's why you're here — man, you must be cursed. I'm kidding…"

Kidding or not, Maggie murmurs, "That's the general idea…"

Cheyenne Police Department

The police station is right there with barely a turn between. In theory. What sparse traffic exists drives slower than seems logically necessary, even regardless of the snow, which seems, steadily, to be picking up.

The capitol's downtown is definitely a city with the necessary amenities, but its old-fashioned design certainly epitomizes Small Town, USA, and it streets holds the distinct impression they could be driven straight through in a few minutes, toward the mountain range in the distance.

The sky is getting darker. As Tobias, then, leads the way into the station, so too is does the mood darken. It's only now that he stops talking, entering those doors into the building of local law enforcement. Maggie's distracted over her shoulder on the way in, casting concerned looks at the weather until they're shut inside, sheltered from the wind and locked into their cause— and it seems, her past.

"This-a-waaay…" Tobias waves his mitten onward and guides the way through past the front desk.

It's not a bustling station — it's not small, it's not big. Those who are there, mostly uniformed officers, are keeping busy, every one edged with a certain grimness. It's contagious — slightly — even to Tobias. It sets upon Maggie even faster. There's no denying that all eyes are on them once they arrive: some stare at the new spectacle that is the consultant; most land on Maggie in instant recognition. The reactions are a mixed bag: unsure, expectant, surprised, warm, resentful. She acknowledges a few in glances — a woman a few years her senior heading in the opposite direction smiles and stops just short of saying hello — but overall, for now the former resident seems to remain impervious to the attention, keeping a straight face focused ahead. By contrast, however, she gravitates slightly closer to Laurie, an ally who seems just about as out-of-place now for the firs time as she does after a few years away.

Tobias, hauling off a heavy-duty mitten, knocks on a door that, if the proud plaque upon it is any indication, leads to the office of one CHIEF BOWER. Turning, he hooks a thumb at Laurie and stage-whispers to the detective. "He knows he looks like a tourist, right?"

Not only a tourist, but one who grossly miscalculated the culture clash of his entire outfit. Bludgeoning past several people's discomfort, Laurie appears immensely pleased to see everyone; despite hands buried deep into that designer coat, he radiates excitability, more palpable as Maggie hovers nearby. Not the most dependable of buddies, either. He weaves this way or that to peer unabashedly at others' work stations.

By the time they've reached the office, he's almost detached himself from the group — and their police tour guide — entirely. On the cue that whisper becomes, he rises out of leaning upon an unfortunate employee's computer to catch up with them at the door. "Tourism rates second in the state's economy, generating sixty-six million in state tax revenue two years ago, and predicated to rise despite economical hardships." Eyebrows raising, lips puckering, to honor this achievement; he adds more wistfully, "It'd be great to be a tourist, Smith Barney."

Tobias squints, unabashedly bewildered and amused at once; he's not alone, though most of the onlookers land on the former sentiment and stay there. "Is he always like this…?"

Before Maggie can reply, or get Laurie a leash, the distant buzz of a voice in the office stops, a phone is hung up, and the door opens.

Chief Bower is a great deal smaller than his strong name and bold office door would suggest. Narrow and wiry, he stands a couple of inches shorter than all three of the people at his door, but what he lacks in height, he makes up for in authority, military poise, and seniority — his silvery, buzzed hair and deeply, dourly etched face put him about twenty years beyond the others.

"I brought 'em in like you asked, Chief," Tobias announces as casually as if he were alerting the other man that the cattle have been rounded up.

"Chief." Maggie's respectful smile holds some warmth. However, the chief's assessment of Laurie and Maggie with steely eyes is critical; the creases it forms bring his tiredness comes to the fore. He's not the only one around the station who looks tired, either. "All right," is his gruff appraisal of the arrivals, less than sentimental. "Thanks for coming out on short notice, wasn't sure you would, it's a hell of a long way. Not that it was my idea, so I guess it figures on whose it was." Hands at his belt, Bower's assessment returns to Laurie. "You must be the Miles fella who worked for the FBI… well," he shuffles out of the office, "we got a sort of war room set up for all this down the hall."

On the very heels of the chief's words, Tobias pipes up to Laurie, "How did she rope you into this anyway?" He's also the first to lead the way, playing the role of the appointed chauffeur and guide — all the tourism Laurie will get today.

Laurie's face flashes guiltily — apologetic — to the identity this Bower has accused him of. Any response is swept up by falling into step beside Tobias, a task he takes to quite enthusiastically — though his initial reaction lines him more regretfully. "Oh, there wasn't any rope involved this time," he admits heedlessly. A hand sorts through the air in front of them, while the other on Tobias' side remains pocketed. "She wouldn't kiss, and then asked me very nicely. Also awkwardly," he pauses, evaluates — pulling from memory more than his requires, "And a little sad."

Humming escapes out his lips in a contented ending; the only problem is that this isn't all. "But, if we're being honest, it was probably through my ample curiosity— and that I still owed her for that time she gave me an unauthorized candy cane… Though since she then tried to pin it on you guys, I suppose the tables may have turned…" Thoughtfulness masks him, creating creases that the shadow from the hat greedily fill. He doesn't have a young face; he isn't young; but it's certainly alive. "So," All of this childish inquiry alights upon Tobias. "Does your war room have a Big Board?"

Maggie is well in earshot of Laurie and Tobias as she strides just behind. Though she seemed poised to speak to Bower, listening to Laurie's explanations prompts her to go rather quiet and press her mouth into a thin, reserved line until she pipes up. "Too much information, Miles," she warns him like a reminder. Her reminder only serves to prompt Bower's critical eye on her for her serious response to what sounded like complete nonsense to his ears.

"Uh, we have a board…" Tobias answers, his dark eyes flickering with curiosity, a grin to be found in his beard. "Did you say unauthorized candy cane…"

The "war room" Tobias strides them into is a small, utilitarian wood-paneled meeting room that could — and maybe does — pass for a break room. A small American flag stands in one corner; a mounted elk head decorates one wall, overseeing the comings and goings. Festively, someone has decorated him with jingle bells like one of Santa's reindeer. Maggie begrudgingly eyes it briefly upon entering, as if meeting an old enemy. As for her reply to Bower— she only nods curtly and whisks inward, glancing over her shoulder to ask, "Did you pull the files I mentioned on the phone?"

"On the table," indicates the chief. A round wooden table sits in the center, strewn with files and coffee cups— their owners missing. Beside it stands a large whiteboard is set up with a few scrawls and photos; its organization is minimal, and not particular. A photograph of a mauled blonde woman on the ground is pinned beside a smiling portrait of a brunette twenty-something who, at least in the picture, is much more alive.

"Yes, that I did." Absent-minded; Laurie crosses into the room and clocks a single sweeping gaze over the entire proceedings; now, they sit in his head as familiarly as a veteran — though it is a shallow, surface recognition void of the contents of drawers and quirks. To the purpose of rendering this moot, he strolls in, fingers trailing here and there. Mostly, a touch to the edge of the table — Maggie and her files given a fair berth, out of arms' length, but a drifting closeness all despite.

His head turns to the sins and smiles aligned; eyes flicker to the scrawls. Biting down on a portion of his lip, Laurie gathers the end of his sleeve into his palm and then swipes, eliminating whole words without discrimination.

"Whoa buddy— "

"Now wait a goddamn second— "

Officer Tobias and Chief Bower, in turn, express their surprise and — in the case of the chief especially — disapproval at the sudden disappearance of the board's information. Maggie, on the other hand, just looks up, sees the blank white space, and goes about sliding out of her gloves and winter coat: down to business. The coat is draped over the back of a chair. She appears out of place, without a badge here in her cozy blue sweater amongst the uniformed men (still not as much as Laurie); less than the least of her worries. She rifles through a tall stack of files, hauling them all off the top of a plastic container. Crucial evidence? No— peeling the cover back, it is revealed to be full of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies.

"Oh, uhh," Tobias jaunts to the table over-eager, getting conveniently in the way of Bower's continuously sternly considering eye on Laurie. "Yeah, from the missing girl's mother." He tugs the container out of the way of the files and flip the cover all the way off. "Who bakes at a time like this — but hey — who'm I to judge, I've been eating these suckers all day."

"Karen is a stress baker…" Maggie comments idly, sifting purposefully throuh files. Her focus shifts to the board; she moves to it. She completes the slate's blankness — the photographs are plucked off and set on the table. She pauses in doing so, wavering between a small smile and a frown at the photograph of the living, touching it with fingertips.

"The timeline has to start at the beginning. This didn't start three weeks ago. It started at least eleven years ago." She grabs a marker, pops the cap off, and drags a long line from one top corner of the board to — stretching with a lengthy lean — the other.

There's a glance for the one who's decided to buddy up to his board-washing — Laurie spared not an instant's pause for any sharply worded contradictions to the effort — but he goes about his merry way, and lets her about hers. There's a marker in his hand, though it's anyone's guess when he picked it up; trailing fingers are more dangerous than they seem, perhaps. Yet not his first task, no.

With a well-calculated turn based off the sounds of footsteps and plastic popping, the currently noncontributing consultant slips a hand in around a cookie as Tobias so readily presents them. The confection is transferred to his mouth where it shows, clenched by teeth but not chewed. Meanwhile, the marker top is wrenched away and clenched between two fingers so he can studiously reapply all the erased information into organized, and rather meticulously spaced lists — now coinciding with the end of Maggie's timeline, since, apparently, she decided the board was hers to command.

Maggie marks along the timeline: 1999, 2001, 2003. It meets up with Laurie's quite nicely where the timeline suddenly jumps to just weeks ago in 2010. "I was about to ask you to do that," she commends with a quick smile, a bright point in her otherwise stark focus. She clearly didn't have to ask; he's ahead of the game. He did start it.

But is the board Maggie's to command? That's the question presently in the chief's eyes, and he ought to be the one to answer it. For the time, however, his steely gaze remains stationary, contemplating, consistently on the verge of interrupting. Tobias only stands around, awkward in his lack of usefulness, eating cookies.

"A couple of years before I went to New York, I was working on a cold case," Maggie begins to explain to Laurie as she fills in the first mark on the timeline. "The body of a woman found in the woods in the middle of nowhere, half-buried under a man-made construct in the ground, exposed to the elements, shot." She twists, now and then, to flip a file open and consult its contents; times, names, and places are transferred to the timeline. "As it turned out, between nineteen-ninety-nine and two-thousand-and-two, the bodies of three women were found in the woods out past— well, I don't have a map here."

"Map!" Tobias is off in a flash of cookie crumbs, faster than his tough-guy-who's-gone-lazy shape would have suggested he can bolt out the door.

"… The point is that they were spread out," Maggie goes on, gesturing along the line with her marker, "not only over years, but space. One of them hadn't even been connected to the others the county was so far outside Laramie." She pauses, casting a vaguely unsure glance at the walking dictionary. "…the county we're in."

Laurie, thus glanced at, flicks his eyes to Maggie with drawn brows that might have been narrowed balking if not for a protruding chocolate chip cookie that ruins the shape of his mouth. Rolling both his gaze back to the board, and his arm to the side — crossing in front of Maggie, herself — he, having tossed the marker between hands, left-handedly scribbles in that new area. Not just scribbles; the horizontals and perpendiculars gradually become familiar as the immediate area. The hand-drawn, yet eerily to scale, map winds out farther and farther, with a second glance to Maggie that more asks questions: am I getting warmer?

"So why did you decline to tell me all this on the plane?" He queries out-loud, separate from the swiftly markering hand, "Cause I think the chief wants the floor now."

Maggie gives the growing map a little smirk, then turned to Laurie with a look that concedes to his knowledge. Okay, she gets it; he knows the county. "Because," she says plainly, "I didn't know if you wanted to listen then. And now it's all in front of us."

The chief pauses a thoughtful swipe of his closely shaven chin. His silence is on his own terms; bolstered out of it, he places his hands on his hips. He has Maggie's full attention. "Floor's yours," he states. "I want to see what you've got. We know all this. What I want to see is if you can connect it to these here tragedies and give us a smoking gun. Just remember you're not running the investigation. I got detectives working every hour out there. I'm not saying I'm not appreciative, but only reason I agreed takin' you in on this, Powers, is because John was refusing his or his family's cooperation without me at least calling you. I wasn't sure if one of the wisest men I know's turned into a damn idiot or not with his girl missing, but, well you do know these old cases. He convinced me."

Maybe Chief Bower did want the floor after all.

"We almost invited the FBI in. I'm not a fan of some downtown hotshot just rolling in here and taking over…" A warning eye levels on Laurie almost suspiciously; definitely skeptically. "So I don't know who you are," he nods to Laurie, "or what you've been doing that isn't here," a nod to Maggie, "…but if you can help at all, and be quiet about it, we're glad to borrow you."

At this moment, Tobias bursts back in with a giant, rolled-up map under one arm. As he sees Laurie's addition to the board, his enthusiasm wanes. "Do you still need a map…"

"I'm not a hotshot," assures Laurie, quick as can be, "I'm more of a— has been. So your skepticism is waylaid, but well earned." Maggie's answered one query and ignored the other, leaving him no choice but to detail additional areas surrounding Laramie. Only spare seconds remain to throw glances over his shoulder at the chief between boundary lines. "Oh, and I can't say I'll be quiet, either. In fact, I'll more than likely be brazenly annoying— ah! Wonderful," the last to Tobias; it's the officer for whom Laurie finally stops, turning off his heel to greet him. His hand swipes through his own work, tearing country asunder. "I meant to ask you— " a matter of severe importance, "— do you think Karen uses pudding in her cookie recipe?"

"If she does, she's a wonderful person," Tobias replies. He's already unloading the map and is at the cookies.

Maggie actually seems relieved by the chief's lengthy speech; she smiles warmly, reassured and reassuring in turns. "I just want to do whatever I can, as fast as I can," she says sincerely. "So … we can do our thing — and the department can do its thing — and we can meet in the middle and work together. Okay?"

"Sounds good to me, Powers… it is a funny thing seeing you here again— but remember you're not the police here anymore. I'm sending Tobias here out with you following any leads." Tobias raises his hand. That's him! The chief goes on. "Not that I don't trust you…" His sudden eyeing of Laurie is, again, skeptical — well-earned — and not yet reassured about this self-professed brazenly annoying man. He looks to Maggie instead, more confident with placing that trusting statement upon his former detective. "…but for safety reasons. You two will act like consultants to the CPD."

This springs an almost silly smile to Maggie's face, for as long as it lasts. Focus takes over; she goes back to the board. "It was a good map, Miles. I could have used all of it." Her eyes rove over the timeline; where was she… "Anyway— the first… shelter," a word chosen for the lack of a better one, "was more archaic. It just fell apart. Nothing was really connected together, not conclusively. It was just a theory back then, but I went back. I connected the dots." A modest statement; it's just what happened. "There was evidence in all three cases that correlated with the women being in rough conditions in the woods prior to their deaths. Up to a week prior — which is when they all went missing." She turns to search through the files, handing three toward Laurie, one for each old case. "In the oldest two cases, the victims had scratches, hypothermia, and were kept on the edge of starvation. The third was too decomposed to tell by the time she was found, but the location fit." And the fourth… "Is this the new coroner's report— ?" she asks the chief, touching a newer file upon the table. He gives a grim nod, and Maggie has another file to peruse.

"Huh? Oh…" It would seem Laurie was ignorant of his destructive rendering of Laramie, but before he can go about reestablishing state lines, he's handed some files. Since the cookie has vanished from his mouth, the marker goes there, tucked between teeth as he gets both hands around the paperwork. The first is thrown open. Flip. Flip, flip, flip, flip. Now, the back of the third file is face up. His falling grip slows, stilling near his coat pocket, where a thumb loops around the opening half-consciously. Eyes are pointed directionally at the paperwork still, but the words are all gone — hidden inside where he flipped by. And point does not necessarily mean focus.

While Laurie's eyes are pointed down at the files in his hand, Maggie's eyes are pointed down at the file in hers — and focused. Its contents prompt a regretful frown.

"No one realized. Not right away," the chief pipes up from his distance, bleak. "Coroner almost missed the gunshot wound. We thought she wandered off, got lost— thought it was a grizzly attack. Turns out the mauling was post-mortem. She must have been dragged out of the woods. Might never have found her body, weren't for that bear."

"Nell Woodhouse… she was a waitress at the Railway," Maggie says softly, a finger trailing slowly over the report.

"Was, 'til she quit. No family in town, co-workers weren't her co-workers anymore, so they didn't even know she was missing."

Maggie moves to Laurie's side to show him the file. "Look at this— this is new…" She becomes distracted halfway through her thought, her finger pausing on a line of the coroner's report — toxicity — a concerned look drifting to him. She studies him for signs that are now familiar, hints that he might have zoned out— or into the case.

Everything she looks for, she finds. He hasn't moved on her approach; eyes locked in the same spot dilate distractedly. In that mind, words have risen up, rooting and branching to become woods— a location: distant, foreign. Frightening. Branches tear by, gripping, each one dark, casting shadows and tearing at clothes until all that remains is a maze of potential attackers. Running; once a hobby, now a desperate plea. Pumped full of adrenaline, where fear fills in for nutrition… Running — because something is coming. Lurking. Hunting. There's another mind here— and he ENJO

Laurie's hand with the file has unconsciously fallen to his side, cupped near his ribs. It's this unintended, unstoppable, action that brings him around to his own physical demands — and those near him. There are tiny, telltale signs of faster breathing in him, but his look — though jerky at first — to Maggie is full of heavy-handed composure. "Toxicity," he reads aloud, following the lead of her finger.

Maggie keeps her regard steady on Laurie even after he's spoken; moments pass with no word from her until she repeats his. "Toxicity— " she says, looking back to the page, her finger picking up its trail along typed text. " — of her blood indicates she had ketamine in her system. None of the other victims were drugged. They were attacked; struck, from the front. But everything else— it matches. Every incident— so far… there's been a week between the time the woman goes missing and the approximate time of death. That means— " Dipping her head down, Maggie reaches across the table to draw the photograph of the other woman near, to announce what is not a new revelation to her; she is already saddled with it. Her voice quiets. "Alice has five days. I know her… at least— I know her family. Her father." Maggie's gaze, becoming troubled, rises to find the chief. "Has there been … anything new— "

"The only new development is the weather. There's a storm coming. It would be nothing short of amazing to survive outside for a week in December when there's not a snowstorm blowing cold holy hell in. She doesn't have five days." On that dire announcement, Bower leaves, saying, "I have a station to run."

"I've had ketamine," is tossed out as fun fact, Laurie's hand coming away with the marker he'd nearly lost when speaking around. "This change," his pinkie jumps to the text in Maggie's hand, now partially blocked by a smiling woman; he traces the related phrase, "isn't about her, it's about him. It's his change— and that identifies him." Something vague, generally unformed, slips his mouth into a straight line, then just as easily lets it go. Files propped against his side, he swings the arm forward, strolling up to the table where they came from.

The smack of paper against wood; "So!" Tobias: long ignored, not forgotten; Laurie graciously smiles upon him now, affecting need and a prepared thankfulness. But it's to Maggie that he turns, speaks: "What are you having for dinner? And do we need Tobias," head nod, "to chauffeur you to a bed…?"

Maggie's stare at the pages, at the picture, focused, full of thoughts, blanks when she looks to Laurie and Tobias. The lack of answers she immediately expresses is very quickly merited. One: she grabs a cookie from the container and takes a bite. Two: "There's no time to sleep. Besides, I slept on the plane." Not well, but that, to Maggie, is neither here nor there. "I do know where I want to go instead. First— "

Distraction; it seems easy to forget that outside of this one, small room lies a whole police station full of faces familiar to Maggie, but she hasn't forgotten. She catches glimpses of figures whisking past the open door, as they do now; an inadvertent pull of her attention. Uniformed men who, catching their own glimpse inside, look not like they've simply seen a former acquaintance in passing, but a ghost. In the quiet moment of their passing, and her own interrupted words, she looks down, her hair a shielding barrier against the nature of her expression. She picks up a delayed moment later. " — can someone bring up updated records of— " The folder and photo are slowly replaced with another folder — one that, when she opens it to confirm its identity, is full of her handwriting. " — my old suspects? I was almost convinced back then that it was one of these two. If they're still here, I still am."

"I do believe I saw print-outs already kicking around somewhere," offers Tobias, upbeat, then notes to the both of them, "By the way— not actually a chauffeur— can we settle on sidekick? I can swing sidekick. You know," he starts for the door, but turns to point at Maggie, "you're not as intimidating as I thought you'd be. Taller; not sure how that makes sense. Not that people say you're intimidating— but they do talk about you… sometimes… it's not like that photo of you on the wall is intimidating— that girl's father though," Tobias points to the photo of Alice, "every bit as intimidating as his reputation. All right. Recordsssss…" That's about enough from him, isn't it — he spins to dutifully head for the door this time.

Laurie appears — outwardly — neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with every response. He only waits out her instructions, Tobias' exit, then strolls up to the detective. Pluck — the file is stolen out of her hand, quite forcibly. It's not for him to peruse instead; only to be kept from Maggie — like any other she goes for after it.

"Hey!" Maggie exclaims instinctually as she finds her hands clutching nothing but air. She reaches for it with no success, and when the photographs are whisked away upon her reach as well, she spends a moment — which then turns into several — regarding Laurie with a blatant stare that steadily questions more than it defies. Reaching a hand into the deep pocket of her long sweater where the marker was stored away, she moves to the board; but all roads, for Maggie, seem to be blocked. Her low voice challenges this new reality. "What are you doing…"

"The way I see it," defines Laurie, shaping Maggie's brave new world in words; his hands in pockets, almost safe-guarding from the obnoxious, but separated distance he's set as blockade, "You'll end up wasting more time working against me than if you just conceded to one, little nap." His voice rises innocently; nap: it sounds so sweet, innocuous, when he says it — even while his mouth pulls off a smile more mischievous behind its shape. "I believe you know from experience, and otherwise imagine— " he leans in ever so slightly on the point, voice ominously quieter, "I can get very annoying…"

You say, "A nap. Where. On the table?" Maggie counters flatly. By the way she studies Laurie with a conceding tug of her mouth to follow, however, she takes his ability to get in her way — or, as he put it, be very annoying — seriously. Still, she pushes on. "I honestly don't need to sleep yet," she says with a smile that tries to be reassuring — at the very least, it's honest to match her statement, tired though she does appear up close. "I'm fine. And you can hang on to that file."
"Sure." By tone alone, Laurie is not being facetious; the table could do quite nicely. "But I didn't say it had to be now— only that you should concede to one," there's no notice given to his file; it's half squashed in his pocket, being pressed to his side while his hands are hidden. "The reason I asked if Tobias need chauffeur you is because I knew you'd never go, yourself. So, all you have to do is agree to go — when the time comes."

Although Maggie first prepares for a defense of her capabilities — somewhere around the word chauffeur — her study of Laurie begins to soften, agreement in her eyes before she voices it. "Okay," she calmly accepts. A slow blink, nod and tiny smile seal this deal. She reaches again, for the photographs — all the while watching Laurie, gauging whether or not her path will be freed.

Freed— and then suddenly not. Laurie looms forth into her path, blockading a second time, with eyes narrowed in serious intent. "The time is determined by me." No argument; no way out. Satisfied, he shifts from out of her way, this time for good — and some extra distance besides. Loitering around a ways of the table, he sets the file there then, one capped, the marker as well. His hands, now also freed, tap out a rhythm on the edge of the table; they hover, short through his mild contemplation. Decision: he pushes off from the furniture and strolls for the door.

Maggie's ministrations around the table and at the whiteboard are pre-plotted to be quick and efficient. She's aware of Laurie — glancing, now and then, in the really very short span it takes her to organize, chary when he heads for the door. She adds quick details in marker, and removes crime scene photos from each case file and gingerly pins them onto the timeline, along with the photos from the table. All this, performed while eating the cookie deemed to be her supper for now. She adds a new section for SUSPECTS: Bradley Curtis, Wes Langston — names from the file previously swiped by Laurie, which she now reclaims. She just seems to want to get it all in front of her: now she has, and she's done.

It's the file she put together about the cold case suspects that she's not done with: it's opened on the table, its contents spread out for to refresh her memory. Two men— with mugshots, both— no older than twenty-something at the time they were taken. One might be handsome, if he didn't look so sour; the other more resembles a starving puppy dog, yet the two bear a vague resemblance to each other. Even as she studies the files, Maggie is dragging her coat off the back of the chair, swinging it about over her arms.

Laurie's pace to the door slows under the attentions given to a pocket, from where he pulls out a cell-phone. It sits unfamiliar, cupped in his hand, as he walks to the room entrance. Swapping the phone over, his left hand makes it to the door edge, but, even so far as holding it, he gets stopped there. All function has zoomed into the tiny device; narrowed, overly serious concentration sweeps his forehead while there's the light click of thumb presses against buttons. Whatever he's doing, it has him occupied throughout Maggie's more pertinent studies.

Two points coalesce on Laurie — one is Tobias, heading in only to halt upon finding the consultant in the way. "Heeeey…?" he greets, peeking around Laurie to meander around him, print-outs in hand, only to have a another near collision (in his mind) with the second, Maggie, who has her sights locked into the file and is on the move with it.

"Thank you," she shines a polite smile on the officer, taking the papers for a quick scan. "I'd like you to look at these," she says, this time to Laurie, approaching him with the folder held out. She takes a moment to determine whether or not he's going to pay more attention to her or the phone more; regardless of her assessment, she says, "Bradley Curtis and Wes Langston. At the time, I couldn't pin it on either of them conclusively. Curtis had an alibi for one crime — his mother — and Langston was in jail on an unrelated charge by the time he became a suspect. There wasn't enough physical connecting evidence to do anything about it. It looks like… he just got out."

"And don't bother going to his new digs," Tobias interjects, "we got detectives who already checked. He hasn't even moved in. He ditched his parole officer."

The information is duly noted by Maggie with a nod. "Read fast," she goes on to tell Laurie, smiling a bit just then — as if she's made a little joke. When doesn't Laurie read fast? Seriousness settles in fast. "There's somewhere else we need to go."

Realizing quickly that this his cue, their new sidekick Tobias heaves his shoulders and announces, "…I'll warm up the car."

Meandering eyes occasionally pick up the bustle and flow beginning to orbit around him, as Laurie glances fairly frequently between that and his phone. His hand drops the door to take the file, and that, flipped open with a few attempts to spin his wrist, becomes the fourth on his wheel of things to eye. A second or so long after the announcement of movement and he puffs out a soft breath of achievement; the phone is dragged to his side, replaced into his pocket. Maggie he blinks at to catch up to this exact moment after his distraction. So, a pause, before, "… do I have to— ?"

Maggie's head tips to one side in a way that might seem contrary, if it weren't for the much calmer gaze she regards Laurie with. Her tone stretching toward easygoingness, light, a contrast to the seriousness her face expresses: "Have to what. Dooo… I have to say please?" The subdued smile that forms after isn't for that; it's distant — fond — a little sad. She steps to that nearby door all the same, pausing there, her hand touching its frame in preparation to go, but she's angled toward Laurie. "The missing woman. Alice Forrester. Her family… they'll be waiting for us. They'll have information about her. And her father … her father, he wanted me to be here. And he'll want to meet you. So — come on." Her head rolls the other way, pointing out the door, and she taps the doorframe with her palm. "Let's go see my old partner."

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