After Bear Season



Also featuring: Detective Dennis Bishop

Scene Title After Bear Season
Synopsis Veronica Pratt is missing, and Agent Sawyer arrives to pick up the threads of the investigation into her disappearance.
Date October 8, 2009

Outside Searsmont, Maine

Less than a dozen miles from the Maine coastline, Searsmont can boast the freshest fish and a collection of inexpensive but good restaurants; lunch there does something to make up for the cold north-sea weather. Manhattan is a solid twenty degrees warmer this time of year, even if it has the same muggy air, the same sea-salt wind. There's trees, forest, substantial stretches of unbuilt land; it's into one of these that the squad car travels, slowing to a halt along the base of an earthen bank, pulling into a driveway just far enough to get out of the road; not so far that its front bumper might contact the vivid yellow crime scene tape walling off the property beyond.

The driver is young, for a detective on a small force; in his mid-30's, perhaps, presumably a little more flexible, a little more willing to work with his companion and what her presence represents than might otherwise be the case.

Homeland Security only shows up at a place like Searsmont when there are Evolved matters afoot.

Detective Dennis Bishop keys the engine off, slides out of the car; politely holds up the barrier tape for Veronica to pass beneath. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you to walk carefully and don't touch anything." Of course, by doing so he says it anyway. "It looks like the confrontation started inside and then progressed out the front door; I'm thinking we should go around back and do the same."

Agent Sawyer carries a camera and a tape-recorder, so she can record the conversation and photograph anything significant. Of course she will request all of the photographs and findings from the police, but one can never trust the local PD to give everything or to even know what's important. She ducks under the tape and chuckles a little softly at his unnecessary reminder. "Of course," she says politely, smiling at him as she stands straight once more. She's found you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. "How many assailants, from the looks of it? Any fingerprints?" She will be sure to get those even if they found nothing in the federal fingerprint system. The Company has their own, of course, that is more expansive than those in the LiveScan system used by most agencies. "Sounds good. Lead the way. I'll step where you step, don't worry." She smiles again, flashing those dimples.

She already has some of the findings, or at least has seen the reports; still, the evidence itself is not yet in Company hands. Detective Bishop lets the tape fall, leading the way up the driveway. It curves around through trees whose leaves attenuate the already-wan light from an overcast sky; there isn't much of interest on the paved route.

He shakes his head at her questions — or at least at the second one. "No fingerprints yet that didn't belong to either Pratt or the boy. Trace is still working through everything we collected, though." So there's still a slim thread of hope. "Assailants, either one or two. There was obviously a shotgun, but we don't think — well, it tells better when you're standing there," the detective concludes with a rueful smile.

The edge of the gardens that flank the cabin's other three faces rise along either side of the driveway's final stretch, wooden walls of the cabin itself standing tall before them. The small door, sans bell, decidedly isn't the building's main entrance. "Originally, the window by the kitchen door was left open. Current theory is that was the point of entry for the assilants; dirt inside suggested someone stepped in rather than the reverse."

"Shotgun, but no gunshot heard?" Veronica asks, raising a brow. She glances at the cabin as Bishop points out the various points of interest.

"Footprints near the kitchen window suggest one or two assailants?" she asks. "Sizes, anything interesting about size, make, anything along those lines?" she asks. It may have been in the reports, but she finds that sometimes what one person takes note of, another does not, and vice versa. Also, sometimes the reports the local police give to Homeland don't have all of the information — local agencies don't like their cases and files and evidence being swooped upon by the larger agencies, at least in her experience. Always better to ask twice. It's harder to evade in person than it is in paper.

"Not that was reported," the detective replies, as he opens the back door. "It's almost deer season; bear is in season, and gunshots carry. People out here don't mind them as much as you do in New York." Sometimes a handicap when it comes to recognizing and investigating crimes.

"No footprints," Dennis corrects with a brief grimace. "It's pretty clear someone stayed after and cleaned up the obvious evidence. Swept the prints — both kinds — took bleach or peroxide to bloodstains. We can find the stains but we can't type them, never mind DNA. We've got fibers that don't mean much without a comparison sample. Couple hairs that surely aren't Pratt's and aren't the kid's, but the analysts aren't sure there's enough to get DNA from."

The kitchen is relatively untouched, aside from a liberal dusting of fingerprint powder on surfaces, particularly the windowsill. It's the space beyond the kitchen that shows signs of a physical fight — scratches and scores on the wooden doorpost leading into the hallway on the right, pockmarks of shotgun pellets embedded in one wall. Left side is the living room, almost normal except for the scattering of potting soil beside one end table. "Seems like the intruders found Pratt, and maybe Jared, in the hallway. Front door was ajar, like everyone went out there. Wouldn't call this professional," Dennis continues, "but it doesn't feel like John Q. Public was behind it, either."

Veronica raises her eyebrows. "I didn't know there was a bear season," she says with a smirk. "City girl and all, though not from New York originally." She shakes her head as she looks over the nearly pristine kitchen. "Very thorough." She frowns at this. It doesn't feel like the others — one done in the open air, in view of surveillance cameras with no fear of being caught. This was clean, careful, thought-out. The kidnapping is also unique; the other founders were found dead. Why is Pratt different?

"Right. Very doubtfully John Q. Public." She shakes her head. "Any phone calls not fitting the typical pattern from or to this residence, or her cell phone?" she asks, as she moves to peer at the door post and then the shotgun pellets. "I still find it strange that no one would call in the gunshots. How far away are the neighbors?"

"Little ways down the road. Long ways for city folk," he says with a teasing grin. Searsmont itself is a small city, not a complete hole in the wall — but a little bit of self-deprecation tends to make effective humor. "If it was dawn or dusk, and there was only one shot — which seems to be the case — probably they would've assumed it was a hunter and paid it no mind." He watches as Veronica studies the rooms, the hallway. "Nothing unusual in the call logs, for any phone." The statement is a little glum — understandably. This whole case is somewhat discouraging in its lack of easy pointers.

Veronica nods. "I suppose it's far enough and there's enough woods between that shootin' a 'bar' would explain it," she says, teasingly slurring the word bear. "All right. So they went this way?" she asks, following the signs of fight and flight to the door, but waiting there for him to open it, lest she contaminate anything with her fingerprints.

The detective snorts, sharing a smirk with the younger woman, then leads the way through the front door. Down the front steps to a garden path, though not far into the winding course between flowerbeds and verdant vegetables. There's red on the walkway below, dried into darkness, something that wasn't troubling enough for whomever cleaned up the house to try erasing this also.

"Blood matched Pratt's. By the amount, figure she probably didn't survive to leave the property. There's no sign of shot — no casings, no pellets in the dirt or concrete — which suggests some other weapon. Second gunshot would've caught a little more worry, especially after the report of her missing went out, so we're guessing a knife." Dennis gestures at the beds and foliage to either side. "Whatever it was, doesn't seem to have been a scuffle; don't know if she was held in place or unconscious or just stood there to get cut and bleed out."

The agent kneels to look at the blood, and nods. "Hard to tell with no body, I suppose. Strange they took the body with, if she died here." It doesn't fit the other killings, making it an anomaly among the growing list of murders Monroe and his crew have perpetrated. This one — this one feels different. "Strange," she says with a shake of her head. "Any evidence of where the kid ran off to? His footprints around anywhere?"

Another shake of the detective's head. "Not a one. He's young enough he might've been carried out, particularly if he saw the intruders. Could be dead. Probably is if Pratt is," Dennis adds bluntly. "Could be their bodies were tossed into the ocean."

Veronica stands and nods. "Well. I guess there's not a lot to go by. Thank you so much for your time, Officer Bishop," the small agent says, offering her card to him. "If you find anything new of interest, I would really appreciate a call. Even if it doesn't seem important… you never know what little thing might connect to something else we already have on file, right?" She smiles again, all dimples.

"So tell me about the neighbors?" she asks, readying herself to go on the second part of the goose chase for information that probably doesn't exist. At least not here, in this small town in Maine.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License