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27 December 2008 @ 10:16 am
Vignettes - Eye Witness 1/2  
Title: Vignettes - Eye Witness
Author: ladygray99 
Chapter: 1/2
Pairing: Charlie/Colby, Don/OFC
Rating: FRT - PG13
Disclaimer: Not mine
Warnings: A little angst, maybe.
Previous Chapters: Part of Vignettes ‘verse after Don’s Surprise.
Summary: The Eppes have to watch an eye witness for the night.
Notes: I know Vignettes aren’t coming as fast and furious as the once did but they have not been abandoned. This is a little different. I guess you can call this a case episode but with heavy daddy!Colby overtones. Feedback Please
Beta(s): Let us all welcome
swingandswirl  as the new Vignettes Beta while irena_adler  is on maternity leave.

 


Eye Witness
Part 1

Colby ran his hand through his hair as he looked at the two bodies.

“Any word on the daughter?” he asked.

Don shook his head. “She didn’t make it to school, might be at a friend’s or something, we’re calling around.”

“Damn it. This has to be Richardson and his pair of thugs.”

“Of course it is,” Don snapped, “and I will authorize two weeks’ paid vacation to the first person who can find me a witness willing to testify or one shred of forensic evidence I can take to court!”

Colby rubbed his temples. “I’m going to do anther sweep of the house.” He turned and whacked the wall with the flat of his hand in pure frustration. There was a noise, the smallest of squeaks, that didn’t quite sound like it came from the plasterboard. Colby crouched down and peered into an air vent. A pair of blue eyes peered back then slid further into the vent.

“Don,” Colby said in a loud whisper and waved Don over. Colby shone his flashlight between the slats of the grating. The light reflected off perfect golden blond hair and bright blue eyes. The eyes were terrified.

“Hello,” Colby said. “My name is Colby. I work with the police. Are you Cindy?”

There was another whimper and the little girl tried to back up even more.

“Hey, it’s OK. It’s OK, I just want to talk. If I take this grating off can we just talk?” There was no response, which Colby took as a positive. The grate wiggled off easily, but before Colby could get a word out, the girl tried to curl into a ball. Colby had a sudden horrific image of her getting stuck.

“It’s OK. I’m not going to hurt you, no one’s going to hurt you.” Colby looked over at Don, who was already on the phone to child services. “Your name is Cindy, right?” There was a pause and a quick nod. “That’s a really pretty name. I have a little girl about your age, her name is Esther.” Colby pulled out his wallet and took out Esther’s most recent school photo. He slid it down the air conduit. “That’s her.” A small hand tentatively reached out and took the picture. “She goes to Morningside. Which school do you go to?”

There was silence before a small voice answered. “Redhill.”

“Redhill, that’s a very good school.” It had in fact been one of the main schools they had tried to enroll Esther in. It was eventually vetoed for the very long commute.

“Are you in the second grade?” Colby asked. There was another nod. Colby looked behind him. Don had managed to get the bodies quickly covered. Colby looked at his watch, it was after noon. The coroner had put preliminary time of death at about 8. The grate was perfectly lined up to see the bodies. The child had probably been staring at her dead parents for hours.

Colby knew he was thinking more like a parent than an FBI agent but he wanted that kid out of there and now. It was all he could do not to reach down and grab her and just run from the house with her. Colby also knew that forcibly removing her could do more damage than anything else. There was a good chance she saw what happened and there was a good chance she could finger Richardson’s two leg breakers and with any luck, they would roll over on Richardson.

“It’s afternoon. I bet you’re hungry?” There was another small nod. “I bet you like peanut butter and jelly, don’t you?” There was a noise in the affirmative. “Crunchy peanut butter?” There was a nod. “Crusts?” A shake of the head. “Me neither.”

Colby checked the progress of forensics. He wasn’t going to let anyone try to coax the kid out until the bodies were gone.

He reached into his coat pocket. “Well, I don’t have any peanut butter and jelly on me right now but I’ve got Reeses.” Colby waved the orange packet. “They’re a little squishy.” There was a hint of a giggle. Colby opened the packet and slid one half melted peanut butter cup to the girl, then ate the other. The candy was quickly devoured.

“You know, I bet my little girl would like to meet you. She’d be very jealous of your hair. All those curls of hers get all tangled up, especially in the mornings. She really wants straight hair like yours.”

Colby looked over his shoulder. One body bag was already being lifted onto a gurney and the other was being zipped up.

“Cindy, do you think you’ll be able to come out?” Colby asked. “We can find you some proper lunch.”

There was a mumble from the girl. Colby missed most of it but it was along the line of ‘not going places with strangers.’

“I know, Cindy, but I’m with the FBI. We work with the police and we need to make sure you’re all right.” Colby took out his badge and slid it down the air vent. “See, I’m one of the good guys.” Colby did a quick check on Don, who was talking softly to a woman Colby didn’t recognize but had that sensible, rundown look that meant she was child services. Colby reached out a hand. “Can you come out?” Very slowly the girl reached out her hand. Colby took it gently and with a couple of wiggles and a tug the girl was out of the wall and on her feet.

Colby kept her turned away from the main scene. “There, that’s better, isn’t it?”

Cindy’s face suddenly crumbled and she began to cry. Without a second thought Colby gave into every parental instinct he had wrapping his arms around her and carrying her outside to where an ambulance was waiting.

~

Don watched Colby pace outside the interview room. “What are we going to do with her, Don?” Colby asked.

“‘What can we do with her?’ I think is the better question.” Don turned to the woman from Child Services.

“Well, considering the circumstances, she’s in remarkably good condition, psychologically. Most children go into shock, blank things out. She seems to remember every detail. I don’t know how that’s going to work out for her in the long run but as far as your case goes, I’m sure she’ll have no problem recognizing your suspects but...”

“There’s always a but.”

“She’s running on I’m not sure what. Fear, bravery, intelligence, shock, she should actually be reacting much stronger. I’m afraid she’s going to crash, and probably soon. When that does happen her brain may begin to edit things, filter out the worst.”

“How soon?” Don asked.

“No way of knowing. I talked with her grandparents. They’ll be here by tomorrow night and they have every intention of taking her back to Seattle right away and there will be very little you can do to stop them.”

“So, we dig up these guys tonight, get her to finger them in the morning and hope they roll over on Richardson by noon.”

“Assuming she’s even still coherent by then.”

Don rubbed at his face. He did not need months of investigation hinging on a traumatized seven year old.

“Let me take her home, Don. She trusts me,” Colby said. “I already talked with Charlie. It’s got to be better than a group home, she’s the same age as Esther, it’s not like we’re not equipped for a little girl.”

The child services lady frowned. “It won’t be a sleepover, Agent Granger. She’s likely to severely lose her temper, have extreme nightmares...”

Don and Colby both chuckled. “You’ve never met my kid. Trust me, we’re equipped for temper and nightmares.”

“Okay. If you think you can handle it.”

“I’ll put an extra watch on the house, just in case.” Don said.

“Okay. I’ll go back to the scene and pack up some stuff for her, then come back and get her.”

~

Colby looked around the bedroom. It was pink and purple full of stuffed toys and dolls. Colby realized that this was what a little girl’s room was supposed to look like. Esther’s looked like a used book store had mated with a dress shop and then exploded. She was as bad as Charlie and had learned the word hypocritical very quickly.

Colby found a backpack packed up ready for school. He pulled out the lunch. No sense in letting it go off. Under the sandwich he found a note. ‘Have fun today. Love, Mom.’ Colby slipped the note into one of the outer pockets of the pack for Cindy to find later. He looked through the drawers of the pale pink dresser. Favorite jammies and most worn school clothes would be on top, soft from dozens of washings. Colby then looked around at the stacks of dolls and stuffed toys. He pulled back covers of the bed. Bingo. Second favourite toys were kept on shelves. The most loved got to sleep in the bed. Under the covers was a soft, battered, Raggedy Anne type doll. Colby packed it carefully into the top of the pack.

~

Colby opened the door to the house, his hand on Cindy’s shoulder. She looked around. Colby realized the warm antique wood was probably a major contrast in her mind to the cool modernism of her parents’ house. Colby could smell dinner wafting from the kitchen. It smelled like Alan’s lasagna. Colby checked the time. Charlie would be picking Esther up from her tutoring and should be home in five minutes or so.

Alan came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a dishtowel. “Well, hello.” Alan smiled, a warm grandfatherly smile. “Who is this, Colby?”

“Alan, this is Cindy. She’s going to be spending the night with us, if that’s okay?”

“Of course.” Alan crouched down and offered his hand to Cindy. “Hello, Cindy, I’m Alan. It’s nice to meet you.”

Cindy tentatively held out her hand as well. “Hi.”

“Cindy, could you sit in the living room for a minute while I find out what’s for dinner?” Colby asked. Cindy nodded and quietly sat on the couch while he and Alan went into the dining room.

“Who is she?” Alan asked quickly.

“Right now, a federal witness. She saw a hit carried out on her parents this morning.” Alan squeezed his eyes shut. “We know who did it. We just need to grab them and she needs to finger them but she’s barely holding it together and it was either here or some random foster home for the night.”

“Of course. Does she have any family?”

“Grandparents. They’re going to be in by tomorrow night but they want to take her out of state quick so we need to get her to finger these guys by tomorrow.”

Alan gave a serious nod. “Okay. Extra protection on the house?”

“Yeah. Don’s got units assigned.”

Alan gave another nod. Colby knew Alan was never going to be thrilled about his and Don’s and Charlie’s work, but at the same time he’d picked up more than a little procedure just by proxy and he was sure that Alan knew a heck of a lot more about every case they worked than he was ever going to let on.

“Okay. Do you want to put her in the solarium?”

Colby signed. “I hate to say this, but I don’t think she should be alone. I think the roll-out bed in Esther’s room is a better idea.”

“You better talk to Esther.”

“Yeah. I will. What’s for dinner?”

“Lasagna.”

Colby went back out to the living room. Cindy was looking at the picture of Don in his Rangers uniform in the little cabinet. “Is that Agent Eppes?” she asked, pointing to the picture.

“Yes, it is. He used to play baseball.”

“Why’d he stop?”

“He decided he would be better at catching bad guys. Do you like lasagna?” Cindy shrugged. “Have you ever had it before?” Cindy shook her head. “Well then you’re in for a treat.”

Colby heard a car pull up in the driveway. “I need to step outside for just a second. I’ll be right back.” Cindy nodded.

Colby quickly stepped outside and stopped Charlie and Esther.

“Hey, hon,” Charlie greeted with a weary smile.

“Hey.” Colby sat down on the front steps. “Esther, sweetie. Can we talk?”

“I didn’t do it and you don’t have conclusive evidence,” Esther said quickly.

Colby put his face in his hands. “Okay. Resisting interrogation 101, never answer a question before it’s actually asked, and whatever it is you did that I don’t know about I’m sure we’ll get a letter from your teacher. This is about something else.”

“Oh.”

“We’re having a guest tonight. Her name’s Cindy. She’s seven. Her parents were killed today.”

“She’s a witness?” Esther asked seriously.

Colby cringed a little inside. One of the problems of raising a genius was that they found out a little too much abut the job too early.

“Yeah. We need her to pick some guys out of a line-up tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“Sweetie. She’s only sort of holding together. She’s probably going to lose her temper, she’s probably going to have very bad dreams. I need you, please, to be nice to her.”

Esther opened her mouth and Colby gave her a hard look. Esther closed it again.

Where Charlie had dealt with teasing by hiding behind Don and clamming up, Esther, with her impressive multilingual vocabulary, had developed a whip sharp and lightening fast tongue that left her fellow students, and in one case a substitute teacher, in tears.

“I’ll be nice,” Esther said softly.

“Thank you. She’s really hurting and trying to be brave and I really need your help holding her together until tomorrow. Can you do that for me?”

“Okay.”

Colby gave her a hug before the three of them headed back inside.

Cindy was still looking at the family photos around the living room. “Cindy?” Cindy looked up. “This is Charlie. He’s Agent Eppes’ brother and helps out at the FBI too, and this is Esther.”

“Hello, Cindy,” Charlie said pleasantly.

Esther stepped forward. “Hi,” she said, holding out her hand.

Colby looked at the girls. They were studies in contrast. Esther was a couple of inches taller than Cindy. Colby was sure she’d end up taller than Charlie by the end. She had her father’s riot of dark curls and dark eyes complemented by a residual tan from a summer spent camping in the mountains with Uncle Don and Uncle Ian and Grandpa Alan. She also had a slight broadness already beginning across her shoulders.

Cindy, on the other hand, was blonde with skin so pale the blue of her veins was easily seen. She was petite in every way, her hands and wrists seeming like bird bones as she shook Esther’s hand. The haunted look in her eyes only added to her frail, porcelain appearance.

“Sweetie, I think dinner’s almost ready. Can you show Cindy your room then wash your hands?”

“Okay.” Esther took Cindy’s hand. “Come on. It’s upstairs.”

~

Esther lead Cindy upstairs. She didn’t have sleepovers very often. Her few sort-of friends were older than her, or boys. She wondered if Cindy would be her friend if they’d met at school or something. Esther decided probably not. She looked like the girls who got picked up by the nannies for ballet lessons and whispered to each other when Esther walked by. Esther opened the door to her room.

“This is my room,” Esther said. Just a statement of fact. “You can put your backpack there.” Esther pointed to her desk.

Cindy looked around. “You have a lot of books.”

“I like to read.”

“My daddy reads to me at night.” Cindy said softly.

Please don’t cry.’ Esther thought. She didn’t know how to deal with people crying. She could make them cry but that was different. She took the backpack out of Cindy’s hands and put it on her desk for the time being.

“We should wash our hands for dinner,” Esther said, trying to change the subject. “You’ll like Grandpa Alan’s lasagna. You can’t even taste all the vegetables.”

~

Colby knew he’d had more uncomfortable dinners but this was just hard. Alan was the savior of the night, carefully guiding the conversation away from dangerous territory. Esther was also unusually quiet and instead seemed focused on trying to get Cindy to eat, slipping her choice bits of lasagna and garlic bread and taking on extra vegetables for herself. Colby couldn’t help but be a little amused. If there was one constant learned Eppes family trait, it was that good food went a long way to fixing anything.

Towards the end of dinner, Colby noticed Cindy looking at the piano. Alan must have noticed as well.

“Do you play the piano?” He asked Cindy.

Cindy shrugged. “I’m supposed to practice every day.”

“Well, if you’d like to practice after dinner that would be okay.”

Cindy just nodded and picked at some garlic bread with her fingers.

After the table was cleared Esther set up her homework and Charlie set up to grade papers with much grumbling about budget cuts forcing him to lose more than one TA. Apparently a tenured professor should not be marking pop quizzes himself in a good and true universe.

Cindy sat down at the piano bench and began to do scales up and down. Colby winced a few times. The piano really needed tuning if he could tell when it was off, but Cindy didn’t seem to care. The scales continued methodically, going faster and faster until they stopped.

Colby looked over from the other room. Cindy’s shoulders were quietly shaking. Before Colby could make a move, Esther gave a quite melodramatic sigh, closed her book and moved to the piano bench next to Cindy. She put an arm around Cindy’s shoulders and just sat there until Cindy stopped crying.

~

Colby did a pre-bed check. Not that there was really much of a bed time routine, but they were making a show of it for company. A roll-out bed had been set up next to Esther’s. Colby had let Esther take care of showers and teeth and jammies and now each girl was being tucked into a bed. Colby looked around.

“Where’s Marat?” Esther pulled the faded yellow long-limbed rabbit from under the blankets. “Just checking.” The rabbit may have been named after a blood thirsty, revolutionary Frenchman but Esther did not get to sleep without it.

Colby turned to Cindy who was clutching her doll looking lost and scared at the prospect of sleep. “Is there anything you need right now, Cindy?” Colby asked

“Daddy reads to me at bed time,” Cindy said softly.

Colby tried to remember if they had children’s books anymore. Esther had read past them by age four. “What does he read?”

“He’s reading Alice in Wonderland.”

“We might have that somewhere.” Colby looked around at the stacks of books. He’d been informed that there was a system, but it was about as impenetrable as Charlie’s file system. Esther hopped out of bed, reached into a stack of books by her window and came back with a small paperback copy of Alice in Wonderland. She handed it to Colby and climbed back into bed.

“Okay. What part where you up to?”

“Tea party.”

Colby thumbed through the book until he found the Mad Hatter’s tea party and began to read.

~

Colby flopped down on the couch next to Alan.

“Are the girls asleep?”

“Well, the lights are out and they’re laying down. As for sleep...”

“Right.” Alan heaved a sigh. “Poor kid.”

Colby shrugged. “I’ve got a feeling she’s tougher than she looks.”

“She shouldn’t have to be tough.”

“Yeah, and in a perfect world there’s no need for FBI agents and I’m a golf pro and Don’s managing the Dodgers.”

Alan chuckled a little. “Here’s to a perfect world. You should get some sleep, too.”

“Don’s coming around at midnight. I’ll crash then.”

“Esther was well behaved tonight.”

“I know. It was a little creepy.”

“Margaret and I used to get calls to come in to the principal’s office when the boys were in school. Invariably Charlie would be sitting there with red eyes, Don would be sulking and there’d be some other boy with a bloody nose giving Charlie dirty looks. I guess Esther just doesn’t have a big brother to go running to.”

“I dread the day some guy dumps her and she calls Ian.”

Alan cringed at the thought himself. “That could get unpleasant.”

“You know, Charlie and I actually talked about having another somehow.”

“Really?” Alan had missed that conversation. “What did you decide?”

“That an infant would probably kill us at this point. A sibling would probably be good for Esther, but...” Colby shook his head.

“And a seven year gap is a bit large.”

“Yeah. Well, she can baby sit once Don’s shows up. It’ll be good for her.”

“Ah, but will it be good for him?”

Colby shrugged. “It’ll build character.”

Next


 
 
 
Falconfalconoflight on December 26th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
oh gods... poor ester. what a lovely addition to the vignettes-verse. *wipes away a tear*

Falcon
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 26th, 2008 10:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I've got a few vignettes backed up that I've been working on. with any luck they'll come out in the next month or so.
ninou1ninou1 on December 26th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy to have some news from Esther, such a great verse you have there.

It's sad for Cindy, she's in good hands but it's gonna be hard for her.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 27th, 2008 10:31 am (UTC)
She'll be ok but she'll never forget esther.
autumnwritingautumnwriting on December 27th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
I LOVE THE VIGNETTES. THEY'RE MY FAVORITE EVER.

“I dread the day some guy dumps her and she calls Ian.”

Will you marry me?

=D

ladygray99ladygray99 on December 27th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC)
There's kinda a guy in line ahead of you but I'll mention I'm getting other offers. :)
autumnwritingautumnwriting on December 27th, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
:)
riverotter1951: north American river otterriverotter1951 on December 27th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

This is a marvelous series and very different from Whitman. Uncle Ian is a wonderful image.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 27th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
I love Uncle Ian in this. I'm working on a story for Vignettes which is just focused on Ian and his past that I should have written my February.
fredbassettfredbassett on December 27th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
Poor Cindy! Love the bit about Esther getting dumped and calling Ian.
ladygray99ladygray99 on December 27th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
Well it's a reasonable fear for any father to have.
ikeepfishinmytv on October 28th, 2009 11:15 pm (UTC)
*LOVE*
ladygray99ladygray99 on October 29th, 2009 07:20 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)