August 27, 2018 at 1:30 PM
Northwoods Mall, North Charleston, SC
Detective Derek Kyle
He pushed wearily up from his chair to toss his empty food container in the trash before plopping back down at the table with a dejected sigh. O'Shaunnesy just rolled his eyes.
"Shut it, Irish," he muttered in a way that he refused to call petulant. His partner just snorted at him.
"You'd think you'd be happy she weren't one of the Heartless' lot," the redhead replied around a mouthful of American Deli french fries. "And it's been over a month. Why are you still worked up over this?"
"I am happy about it but it's a catch 22," he rubbed a hand across his mouth and huffed. "On the one hand I'm glad she wasn't another one and that the Heartless ain't changed his M.O., but Jesus Christ, Irish, that means he's been quiet for months. And it used to be he'd drop one body a month if not more."
His partner nodded, green eyes dark as he chewed thoughtfully. "You always had a problem with not letting the why's and why not's get to you."
"Yeah, well, fuck it. I think I'm entitled at this point."
O'Shaunnesy rolled his eyes again and blew out a deep breath through his nose, the sound louder than was strictly necessary.
"Alright, DK, I'll bite. Why has the Heartless stopped leaving heartless victims all across the Lowcountry? It makes no sense for a killer of his caliber and drive to just stop."
Derek clicked his tongue and made finger guns at his partner. "Yup, right on the money. And I'm worried that the second the Lowcountry thinks he's gone and gets complacent and hopeful again he's gonna strike."
"And he was already as bad as Son of Sam," O'Shaunnesy shuddered. "If he's gone I hope he stays that way."
"If he ain't?" Derek countered.
"We'll catch him, DK."
Before he had the chance to call him on how shaky his conviction had sounded Derek's phone rang, startling the both of them. Grabbing it up from where he'd tossed it on the table while they ate, he answered without looking at the caller I.D.
"DK..." Even though her voice sounded off and wrong, he still knew it was her immediately and his blood ran cold.
"Bree? Where are you? Are you okay?"
"I'm... I don't... Something happened."
"Alright look around you and tell me what you see." He snapped his fingers at O'Shaunnesy who nodded and pulled out his own phone and called in a request for back up while they both moved towards the food court exit.
"I think... I think I'm in my apartment? Yeah there's His Majesty." He heard the sound of her dog's tags clinking against each other just before the corgi's soft wuff-fuff sounded across the line.
"Alright, stay right where you are. I'm sending a radio car and an ambulance to your place. I'll be there soon."
The line went dead before he could say anything else and he cursed, running the rest of the way to the car, his partner right on his heels.
Few things in life scared him after nearly a decade on the job, but the lethargic way Brianna had sounded? The idea of losing her?
That was at the top of the list.
"She lives close, don't she?" O'Shaunnesy asked as they slid into their unmarked car and Derek started it. He wasn't even out of the parking space before his partner turned on the lights and siren and then they were speeding out of the lot heading towards Rivers Avenue.
"Yeah, she lives off Greenridge Road," he answered as he blew the stop sign, then the light, and turned left on Rivers heading west. Just as he came up on the light, he saw two radio cars turn off Rivers coming from the opposite way onto Greenridge.
For long minutes as he weaved around traffic that didn't move out of his way quickly enough, O'Shaunnesy didn't say anything, but Derek didn't need him to. He knew what his partner wanted to say, knew it because it was the same thing his parents always said, same thing Darlene had said since he and Brianna were kids. But he wouldn't ruin their friendship by expressing his feelings, especially not when he knew she didn't feel that way for him.
God, please let her be okay.
He wasn't a religious man but he understood the appeal of it as he turned left onto Crossroads Drive and sped towards Planters Crossing Apartments and the first building on the left, joining the three radio cars and ambulance that had beaten him there.
Because never in his life had he had a reason to pray to a god he had never believed in until the moment he saw Brianna carried out on a stretcher, her face bruised and cut, bruising on her neck and wrists, blood smeared on her clothes, shaking as she tried to answer the paramedics' and responding officers' questions.
"Go, man, ride with her," O'Shaunnesy said before he'd even had the chance to turn and ask the question on the tip of his tongue as he threw the car into park. "I'll secure the scene. Just lemme know what hospital they take her to and I'll meet you there."
"Thank you," he replied breathlessly before getting out and running towards the ambulance.