Wow, this scene was a doozy to write! It started out as two separate encounters, but I combined it. It turned out to basically be a chapter long excerpt, but I like how it came out. I think you’ll really get a sense for Stark and Evie. I still have some research to do on procedures and mental health facilities though. I want to be as respectful as possible to the process someone goes through during a missing persons case or when they get checked in to a mental health facility.
So, I made it, just under the wire, and I feel like this will set the stage the rest of the story. Hope you enjoy!
Detective Joshua Stark pulled into the parking lot of Tremaine Behavioral Hospital and gave himself a moment of contemplation. He wasn’t looking forward to this meeting. In fact, he’d done his best to explain to Bonnie and Alex Pierce that there was nothing he could do for their daughter at this point in the case. All the medical exams had come back mostly clearing her with a clean bill of health. She was iron and Vitamin B deficient, but as far as they could tell there were no recent signs of sexual trauma, no broken bones.
The only thing that wasn’t clear was her mind and his conscience for not being able to find her.
He grabbed his suit jacket from the passenger seat of the car and his notepad and tape recorder, then stepped out into the spring air wafting through the blossom covered trees and manicured laws. A strong gust blew his dirty blond hair out of place and into his eyes and as he smoothed it back, he looked up and saw a figure watching him from one of the third floor windows. Even from this distance he knew it was her.
He gave his credentials, checked in and got his visitor badge, and followed an attendant to a small room with glass panes that served as a quiet visiting area. He needed privacy but he also wanted her to feel safe and comfortable enough to stop things at any point. She was already waiting for him, staring out the window, frosting the glass with her breath and then swiping it away with bandaged hands.
“Morning, Evelyn.” Immediately the mask came down, his smile in place. Friendly but not too familiar. Sympathetic but not cloying. He straddled many lines as he took a seat across from her obsidian gaze. She managed to look so deceptively relaxed, but he’d bet his badge that it was a skill she’d cultivated since childhood. Put the person at ease, lull them into a false sense of security and then look for the upper hand.
“You can call me Evie. Everyone does.” The way she said it was measured, even cold, but she added a small smile of her own. Immediately he felt himself relax, as if she dropped a warm blanket around his shoulders.
“Well then it’s only fair that you call me Josh, right?” He set his notepad on the table wiggled his tape recorder. “Do you mind? It’s just so I have something to go back over later when I file my report.”
She nodded and picked absentmindedly at a string of gauze dangling against her right wrist.
He took this moment to assess her out of the corner of his eye. In many ways this girl was like a completely different person to the one he’d ushered into the hospital as she prepared for a rape kit and handed over bloody clothes to enter into evidence. That girl had been almost catatonic, crying one minute, staring blankly at nothing the next. This girl looked more like the pictures he’d studied, the ones with her smiling with her family, her kissing her boyfriend, stepping up on her toes to press her curves against Manny’s tall football player build.
“Your hands okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I just can’t be trusted around a glass of water. Promise it wasn’t a cry for help or anything.”
Long dark hair that shone a rich brown when it caught the light was tied in a messy bun on top of her head. A lean build, mostly from malnutrition, was in unmarked grey sweats, her feet in laces-free shoes. She wouldn’t be allowed to wear anything that might be used to self harm.
But though she looked weathered and troubled, she still had perfect skin in a rich creamy brown. Her face was a soft oval, still carrying the baby fat of youth even at 23. Like her mother, she’d probably grow to be a woman that always looked younger than her years. Her full lips and upturned nose made her look like the cute cheerleader, but she was actually more of a solitary athlete. Research told him that she was a straight A student that ran track in high school and was a part of various clubs. She still ran and he wondered if that endurance had helped her in hr fight to return home. She was considered kind by everyone he talked to. Not the sort of kind that people feel obligated to say when they have to do a sound bite. During all of his interviews he got the very distinct impression this was a pretty girl that inspired admiration rather than fear.
“I know you’ve answered these questions so many times now, but I need you to dig deep for me, just one more time.”
“Because after this you’re going to close the case. You need to stop wasting your time on this.”
He tilted his head. “What makes you say that?”
“What else can you do when you’re dealing with a crazy person?” she said. She held up her bandaged hands for emphasis. “No judgement. I’m not making life for anyone easy right now. So if you like, we can wrap this up now and you can go back to cases that will actually get solved. While you’re at it you can tell the news crews outside my house that the case is solved.”
A sharp cold wind of anxiety and rage made him shiver down to the marrow of his bones. She turned away from him, from the penetrating gaze that must have belied his laid back and congenial nature.
Despite the chill, he settled in, leaned against the contained tempest that was her dismissal of him. He pulled off his suit jacket, unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and exposed himself to the metaphorical cold.
“I’m fine where I am, thanks. Though I do appreciate you thinking of me.”
She gave him the strangest look. It was the most tightly contained withering glance he’d ever been given. Even her negativity and disdain had a mask.
“Look, I know this is hard, Evie,” he said. He countered her mask by removing his own. He let her see him, the shrewdness, the sensitivity, the death and tragedy he’d become seasoned at digesting in order to get to the truth.
In answer the cold chill dissipated, replaced again with a distant, superficial warmth.
“I know this is a strange case and I know that you haven’t been able to wrap your mind around all of this. But I’m in your corner. I’ve been in your corner since the day we found out you were missing, and I’m not going to stop now. I do think something happened to you and I want to make sure that even if we have to close this case, you know we did everything we could.
You don’t have to be afraid of me.”
She shook her head, tears beginning to shimmer in her eyes but refusing to fall. She had been asked the same questions, in varying ways, for three days straight with the same results. It was obvious she felt like a failure in that regard, though she tried to keep herself composed.
Finally she spoke and when she looked into his eyes this time, something vulnerable and soft was revealed to him. He swallowed, his blue eyes meeting hers with a fierce tenderness that scared him. He couldn’t look away. He realized in a startled moment of clarity that he didn’t want to.
“I remember being at the party,” she said, hands in her lap now, as if she were suddenly ashamed of her bandages. She sat rigid with her dark eyes focused on nothing in particular. “I remember that I had about half a beer and I stopped because I was feeling queasy. Not really nauseous, just…I don’t know, like my stomach was unsettled. Anxious. After about twenty minutes or so the feeling hadn’t gone away, it was getting worse. I asked Manny if we could go. We…we had a fight.”
He nodded and made note of the alcohol again. Maybe she’d been drugged.
“I had planned on being the designated driver anyway so I already had the keys. I didn’t need Manny to leave the party because he could have stayed in Laura and Ben’s cabin. I was just anxious and I was trying to force him to give up seeing his friends so that I wouldn’t have to walk to the car alone. It was stupid…”she took a pause and swallowed deep before continuing “Anyway, we were parked on the eastern side of the woods on the gravelly dirt plot by the side of the road. All you had to do was follow the path.”
Her face took on that distant look, and she literally seemed to curl back in on herself. Stark could literally see the shivers coursing through her.
“I was walking and…I remember feeling like I was being watched. I felt sick…I-I think I turned around. I don’t know why I can’t remember anything after that.”
She leaned forward onto her elbows, running her hands over her forehead as if she was suddenly flushed with heat. Something in Stark liked her better in that moment. It wasn’t a gesture of fear, but one of aggravation. She seemed pissed at herself for forgetting, even when the reason she had may have been the result of trauma too intense for the mind to carry.
“Well, how about going backwards now? You managed to find your house; your clothes were covered in blood. Do you remember how you got home?”
This was where things got tricky. It was one thing to block out the worst of a traumatic experience, another thing entirely to have no recollection of actually getting on the buss that carried her home. His partner Rainey wasn’t buying the whole traumatic experience routine and the media sharks were getting antsy for someone to blame. In Rainey’s very loud, very open opinion, they had wasted their time on what very well could have been a runaway seeking attention that got mixed up in something scary.
Evie looked thoughtful, though she did sigh in slight exasperation. She was searching for something she hadn’t seen before every time she told the story and to her credit tiny details here and there were won from that struggle. He just hadn’t put all the pieces together yet.
“There was the vague feeling of traveling, of dozing in and out of sleep. I could have been dreaming but I think I saw a stretch of farm land at one point. I know this sounds strange but I also remember dozing in and out in a car. I felt weak, drugged. But I think it’s all out of sequence.”
“What makes you think your memories are out of sequence? And do you remember what time you woke up at the bus stop in the shopping plaza around the block?”
“I don’t know. I just figured that if I woke up at the bus stop, then traveling in a car would have come before that. And I felt weaker when I think of the car. I was a little more lucid on the bus, like I was coming to or something.”
“During this time period did you ingest any substance that weren’t food? Do you think you might have been drugged?”
He was waiting on a few other tests to come back, but none of them so far had contained traces of illegal substances.
“No…” she said after a long moment. She began to squirm her mind filling in the blanks her memory had created. He knew because he’d had to think of these things too. Trafficking could have been a possibility and in that case she might be lucky she didn’t remember a thing. Later she would though, and she’d want answers, justice.
No,” she said firmly, shaking her head. She started to nibble on her thumbnail, then thought better of it. “I don’t know if I was drugged or not. I just felt tired and out of it. Like you do when you’re getting over the flu or you when you donate blood. There was blood on my shirt; did they ever find out if it was mine? I didn’t have any major cuts or anything… but when I dream, when I wake up…”
Evie felt herself break out into a fine sweat as her mind batted up against the mental block. When she looked up to face him her mind was momentarily caught up in the warmth of his features, the penetrating blue eyes, He really was good looking, in a conventional golden boy kind of way. The type had never really appealed to her. Manny was her type, tan skin, dark eyes, and a large build that he commanded on and off the football field.
Stark was tall, lanky yet well-muscled underneath his nicely tailored suits. Her guess was he made sure he visited the gym and ran to stay in shape like her. His jaw was strong and square, his lips pink and on the thinner side, and his hands were large and manly, yet somehow elegant looking. He put her in mind of those handsome, chiseled movie stars from the forties and fifties, like James Dean without the pompadour.
His posture was alert but nonthreatening, as if he were just some guy that was only a handful of years older than her, as if they were just having an interesting conversation over a cup of coffee. But she knew it was for show. She had been manipulating people to put them at ease long enough to recognize when someone was doing it to her. Somehow he seemed to understand that about her, he seemed to know that she wasn’t just another scared 20-something looking for a fix of positive attention from a handsome man.
She couldn’t explain it. She just knew it when she looked into those sky blue eyes that didn’t miss a thing. They both intrigued her and made her uneasy, and it was a welcome departure from the numbness she was forced to embrace during the day.
“This is my second stint in a psych ward,” she said finally. “Did you know that?”
She was silent for a moment, trying to gauge what would be smart to say and what to keep to herself. She had grown accustomed to this when it came to her dreams, or her feelings, to hiding the truth so that others wouldn’t think she was crazy.
But what could it hurt to tell him? She was already back in this God forsaken place, already relapsing into the nightmares she’d suppressed from her childhood. And in a way this was truly the last thing she remembered, this feeling of danger and the intuitive sense that something was out to get her, out for blood.
“I know. You went on medication when you were 8 years old and saw a psychologist for night terrors, nightmares. All of it was surrounding your cousin’s death,” he finished. At her startled expression he replied, “It was my job to know as much about you as possible. A lot of people that go missing just don’t want to be found, and you’d be surprised at how many cases like yours just get swept under the rug. We had to make sure that there wasn’t cause for you to run away, like a relapse that made you afraid to end up back in here.”
She recalled it like it was yesterday, the way she kept waking up with nightmares, screaming for the dead girl in her dreams not to go into the water. Her parents hadn’t known what she was talking about, but when her cousin Nora died a week later she had been hysterical.
“I know about, Nora,” he said delicately. “I know you tried to save her.”
Nora had dived into a nearby lake with her friends, just a dumb teenager doing dumb things at night. She had been taken away by the current, and her body was found days later. Evie had blamed herself, spiraling into a depression so deep that every night she dreamed of her cousin laying in the water with her eyes wide open and her arms reaching out to her. She had been eight years old and on various drugs. The ordeal made her realize that no one would believe her, that it didn’t pay to draw undue attention to herself. She hated feeling groggy and numb all the time, cut off from her feelings and from everyone around her and after a few months she was begging to be taken off the medication. It was like someone had taken away a piece of her, like her sense of smell, or her eyesight.
From then on she pretended everything was fine. She said all the right things, showed progress and was taken off her medication. She made sure to make lots of friends, date, and join as many clubs as she could at school. She wanted to be normal so badly she ached. She was so successful that after a while even the dreams lessened. She never forgot them, though. Never. And the worst part was that no one knew, no one could ask her what was wrong because no one could ever know, no one could ever truly see how deep that early wound cut. The loss of not just her cousin, but of her innocent understanding of the world had left her distrustful of her gift and yet reliant on it. It was exhausting.
She wanted so badly to have someone see her, to ask her how she was feeling and really want to know the answer, not just what happened to her, why she couldn’t remember. She wanted someone to want to see her, finally. In many ways she’d disappeared long before that April night.
“I didn’t run away,” she said softly. “I wouldn’t do that to my family, to my friends. I wouldn’t have hurt Manny like that.”
“I know, Evie. I couldn’t prove it, but I knew you were abducted.”
“If you couldn’t prove it, why wasn’t my case swept under the rug?”
He thought for a long moment and then said, “The evidence pointed to foul play, but when we ran into a dead end I kept pushing. My captain knows I get these… hunches. They’re usually right,” he replied with a shrug. “I’ve solved quite a few cases with my gut, and this time my gut was telling me that you were alive, moved to another location. I never got the feeling that you were completely gone, if that makes sense.”
She nodded. Feeling a strange understanding wash over her. Maybe this connection she’d been feeling towards him was more than just the by-product of him working on her case. Maybe he was like her?
“How long have you had these hunches? Did you get them a lot when you were little, like me?”
The sound of longing in her voice made her feel naked.
She asked tentatively, “Were you always able to trust your gut or was it something you just learned how to do?”
The words seem to leave his mouth without his permission, as if he didn’t know he was saying it until it was already out there for her to hear.
“I’ve always had it. My Babcia, my grandmother, she used to call it a gift, like a psychic thing. I figure some people just have a knack for reading others. I just called it intuition and left it at that.”
He smiled and waited for her to say something. But she didn’t speak, letting the silence stretch between.
“I had dreams and feelings about things ever since I was little. Sometimes I sensed things or…saw things that were going to…” She paused for a moment, shocked at her own honesty but recovered quickly. “This sounds ridiculous, I know it does. You and your entire department probably think I’m a complete fucking nut job.”
Stark almost laughed aloud though he knew what she was saying wasn’t funny. It was just the first time she sounded like a normal 23 year old instead of tightly coiled woman. Maybe she hadn’t turned to stone, not just yet.
“That’s not true. You’re not the first person to block things out after a traumatic event.”
“I’m just sorry I let you down. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to my gut that night. Maybe, if I just…”
Her voice was so quiet she could barely hear herself when she said, “I don’t know why, but… I’m so scared to remember. I just know…I can just feel that it was something bad, and I hate that I’m such a coward. But I don’t want to remember.”
She blinked rapidly a few times and Stark reached his hand across the table and covered hers. His fingers curled gently into her palm so as not to press on her wounds. She tried to get herself under control. She reach out with her other hand, touched her fingertips to the top of his to let him know it was okay.
The second she touched his bare skin a flash of raw, feral hunger hit her. The visions drowned her senses.
He was kissing her furiously. His fingers were tangled in her hair, tugging hard until delicious pain engulfed her. He was thrusting into her, every part of him hard and unyielding, exposing her to the elements. Turned, twisted, groaning, floating, shattering. Sweat and heat and blue eyes that wanted only her. She wrenched his blond hair back, twisted his neck to the side, sunk her teeth into the artery that was his lust for her.
The sound of a chair toppling over shattered the vision as Stark jumped to his feet, severing the link between. She was breathing hard, gripping the table with a trembling hand. She could feel her wounds reopening from the strain, and the pain reset her brain.
He looked positively spooked, but his breath came out in sharp huffs, and the outline of his pants showed an impressive erection that made her lick her lips. Her thighs clenched as she felt that phantom column of flesh plunge in her wet channel.
There was no part of him she hadn’t seen, no part of her he hadn’t seen and that wasn’t the scariest part.
They’d just shared the same vision. A vision of the future.