Song for the chapter: Plumb- Cut
New cover art for TUS. Which one do you like better?
Natasha dropped the badge and her purse, gaping at Nathan. He avoided her eyes and sat on the steps leading up to her door.
“You asked me why I became a cop,” he said in a somber voice. Natasha, still in shock at his previous statement, didn’t reply but Nathan went on anyway. “It wasn’t something I ever thought of doing. I actually wanted to be a Doctor. Imagine that.” He let out a cold, humorless laugh that chilled Natasha to the bone. She had a strong urge to run away screaming but her nerves had her rooted to the spot, unable to move a single muscle.
“Fate really does have a crappy sense of humor. I wanted to save lives and instead I took one.”
Natasha was beyond freaked out now and she finally managed to take a single, shaky step back away from him. He looked up, cocking his head at her and she froze looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
“Am I scaring you, Natasha?” The way he said her name sent a chill down her spine and her heart beat so fast, the sound was drowning all common sense.
“I lost my father when I was 18. Robbery gone wrong,” he said looking away from her again. She breathed easier without his eyes cutting through her and even though she was scared, she felt compassion for his loss.
“Carey and I survived that loss. She was 12 at the time. We really didn’t have a choice but to be strong for our mother. She didn’t take it so well because she blamed herself for the whole thing and she wasted away in front of us becoming more and more a shell of the person she used to be.”
He paused and took off his bow-tie, unbuttoning the two top buttons of his shirt. Natasha wasn’t sure if she should speak or remain silent or run like hell but before she could decide, Nathan spoke again, still in his monotone.
“On most days, I blame myself for Carey’s death but sometimes I can’t help but think…mother killed her too.”
“Mum please open the door. I know you’re up,” Carey said knocking on her mother’s door. It had been three years since Jason Henderson had died and Catherine Henderson had not been taking the loss well. On some days she could cope and go about her business albeit sadly. On other days she could barely get out of bed. Today was one of the bad days and it was particularly hard because it was Jason’s birthday.
“Mum!” Carey yelled through the keyhole as she pounded on the door. Nathan heard the commotion and left his room to intervene.
“Carey you need to calm down,” Nathan said when he reached his sister.
“I am calm!” Carey hissed and resumed her pounding. Nathan caught her hands, effectively stopping her and he dragged her away from the door.
“Let go of me Nathan,” she said angrily trying to pull out of his grip.
“You are surprisingly strong for a fifteen year old girl. Are you sure you weren’t a professional male boxer in another life?” Nathan complained struggling to hold on to his violently squirming sister and avoid getting hit in the face with her flying, lightly tinted, golden-brown hair.
“Be serious,” Carey scoffed, tying her hair back up into a ponytail when Nathan finally set her down. “I just want to talk to her. She can’t lock herself away like that, she needs us. We need her,” she argued still trying to sidestep her brother and get back to pounding on the door.
“I agree with you but you have to let her come to that on her own. Going all wreck-it-Ralph on her door won’t help matters much,” said Nathan. Carey rolled her eyes at his cartoon analogy.
“I just don’t want to be alone today,” Carey explained. Nathan’s heart went out to her.
“I’m here for you Carey,” Nathan said hugging her tightly.
“I know but I wanted my whole family today. What’s left of it anyway,” Carey sighed burying her head in his chest.
“I understand, but if you don’t get a move on, you’ll be late for school,” Nathan said.
“Don’t you mean we’ll be late for school?” Carey asked as he led her to her room.
“When you get to college, attendance is optional,” Nathan shrugged.
“Really?” Carey asked turning to face her brother, eyebrow raised.
“Okay, not really but I don’t feel like going to class today and we can’t leave mum alone,” Nathan said.
“I can stay with mum. You go to school,” said Carey defiantly.
“Noo. You have a baseball final today that you’ve been working so hard for. There’s no way I’m letting you miss that,” said Nathan.
“But I…” Carey sulked.
“No but’s. Get your stuff,” said Nathan.
“I don’t wanna go,” Carey whined.
“But you’re going,” Nathan imitated her whiny voice.
“For a 21 year old you’re quite bossy. Are you sure you weren’t someone’s mum in a past life?” Carey mocked to which Nathan responded by pinching her and Carey stuck her tongue out at him. “How am I supposed to get to school anyway? The school bus left ages ago.”
“You can walk there, it’s not that far,” said Nathan.
“Not that far!” Carey exclaimed. “It’s close sure, but I’ll never get there in time for the match.”
“Okay fine. I’ll drive you there. Let’s go,” Nathan said. Carey got her stuff and got into Nathan’s car. She threw her sports bag to the backseat and jumped onto the passenger seat, sat cross-legged on the seat and leaned back.
“You always get dirt on my seats with that weird position of yours. Put your feet down,” Nathan playfully tried to yank her feet off the seat as he drove out of their driveway.
“Shut up Henderson. It’s not weird,” Carey said smacking his hands away. They continued bickering throughout the 5 minute drive to Crenshaw High.
“Are you staying to watch?” she asked as she grabbed her bag from the back.
“I already know how it ends. Spoiler alert, you win,” Nathan grinned at her. “I don’t want to leave mum alone too long today.”
Carey nodded. “Rather not have you here anyway. You distract Kim and she ends up ogling you instead of actually playing.”
“Tell her I said hie,” Nathan winked and Carey made a gagging face as she exited the car.
“So you’ll pick me up after we nail this game, right?” Carey said smiling sweetly.
“Now you’re pushing it,” Nathan laughed.
“Come on. I’ll take you out for some celebratory ice-cream. On you,” Carey said smiling slyly at him through the open window. Nathan laughed and nodded his consent.
“Great. Be here in 3 hours. Don’t be late,” Carey said narrowing her eyes at him.
“When have I ever been late for anything,” Nathan scoffed.
“When have you ever been early?” Carey smirked. Nathan leaned over and pinched her nose.
“You better get going or the match will start without you,” Nathan said.
“I’m serious Henderson. Don’t be late,” Carey said as she ran off. Nathan smiled as he watched her running and she turned round at that moment and blew him a kiss before carrying on.
When Nathan got back home he went up to his mother’s bedroom door.
“Mum I just want you to know that when you’re ready to talk we’re here for you,” he said through the door. He had walked a couple of steps away from her door when he heard it being unlocked. He turned and walked back and found his mum already back in her blankets. He went in to the room and pulled up a chair to sit next to her bed.
“Where’s Carey?” she asked, voice muffled by the covers she was hiding under.
“School. She has a baseball match,” Nathan answered.
“Why didn’t you go?” she asked again.
“I didn’t want you to be alone today,” Nathan replied.
“I would have been fine,” Catherine said.
“I wasn’t going to take that chance.”
“When’s her match ending?” she asked.
“In 3 hours. I’m going to go pick her up,” Nathan replied. Catherine nodded. They sat in silence for a little while until she spoke up.
“It was all my fault,” she said, green eyes glistening with tears.
“What was your fault mum?” Nathan asked.
“Your father’s death.”
“You need to stop thinking like that,” Nathan said but Catherine shook her head.
“If I hadn’t insisted on those stupid antibiotics, he wouldn’t have gone into that shop and straight to his death,” she said sadly.
“There was no way you could have known that those men would come in with guns and rob the place. You have to stop blaming yourself mum. Dad wouldn’t want you to live the rest of your life in self loathing over something you had no power over.” Nathan argued.
Catherine sat up in her bed and sighed.
“I really miss him,” she said.
“I miss him too. Carey and I decided that we would celebrate his life today and not dwell on the fact that he’s gone. So how about you get out of bed, dress up and dig out the albums then we get started on making some of dad’s favorite meals for the celebration,” Nathan suggested.
“Okay,” Catherine said with a small smile.
“Great,” Nathan said standing up and leaving the room.
Three and a half hours later…
“Have you seen my car keys?” Nathan shouted as he rummaged through the million items on the kitchen counter, “Carey is going to kill me. I’m half an hour late.”
“Just take my car honey. The keys are by the muffin tin,” Catherine said from the stairs. Just then there was a loud knock on the door.
“I’ll see who it is on my way out,” Nathan said taking his mother’s keys. When Nathan opened the door, two policeman were standing on the porch looking grim.
“Officers. Good afternoon,” Nathan said wondering why the police would be at their door.
“Good afternoon. Is this the Henderson residence?” one of the policemen asked.
“Yes it is,” Nathan said, “How can I help you?”
“May we speak to Mrs Henderson?” the policemen asked. Catherine who had been listening from the stairs, walked over to the door.
“Would you like to come in?” she asked the policemen. They nodded in response and walked into the dining room.
“Mum, I’ll just go ahead and get Carey,” said Nathan.
“Actually, you might want to wait and hear what we have to say. It’s about Caroline Henderson,” said one of the policemen. Dread instantly filled Nathan and he stood frozen at the door.
“What is it?” Catherine asked faintly, already fearing the worst.
“I’m really sorry to have to tell you this. Caroline was in an accident,” the officer said then he paused.
“An accident?” Nathan echoed in disbelief.
“She was hit by a car right outside the school gates. An ambulance was called to pick her up and rush her to the hospital,” the officer said.
“Nathan take me to the hospital now,” Catherine said urgently, standing up and heading for the door. One of the officer’s gently held her arm, stopping her.
“What are you doing? I need to see my baby right now,” Catherine screamed at him pulling her arm away.
“Mrs Henderson. I’m really sorry. Your daughter didn’t make it to the hospital,” the policeman said somberly.
“What do you mean she didn’t make it there?” she asked not wanting to acknowledge what the officer was implying.
“The car that hit her was going too fast and she was hit her with full force. She sustained a lot of serious injuries. The paramedics tried their best but it was too late,” the second policeman said.
“So. She’s. Gone?” Nathan asked saying each word slowly, feeling like each word tore a piece of his soul out.
“I’m so sorry,” the policeman said compassionately and Catherine fell to the ground, wailing as she clutched her chest.
“Mother tried to keep me from blaming myself. She said I couldn’t have seen it coming but I was practically in charge of it coming. I made her go to school that day. I’m the one who didn’t stay to watch her play. I was late to pick her up till she started walking back home and got run over.”
Silent tears fell from his blue eyes and Natasha’s heart broke for him. She finally gathered the courage to sit next to him now that she knew the truth.
“You didn’t kill her Nathan. It was an accident,” she said softly, looking sadly up at him. Nathan didn’t say anything but his tears kept falling as he stared blankly ahead into the night. Natasha took his hands firmly in hers, placing them on her lap.
“Look at me,” she commanded. Slowly, he turned his head till glistening blue eyes looked into hers. The depth of pain in his eyes alone made her want to cry too.
“You didn’t kill your sister. It was an accident,” Natasha repeated, willing him to accept that.
“Your hair is almost the same color as hers,” he said distractedly as his eyes roamed over her face. “You talk like her sometimes and you even do that weird cross-legged thing on car seats too.”
Natasha worried that she wasn’t getting through to him at all as he continued to list all her similarities with Carey. The tears never stopped and with each drop from his eyes. her heart clenched.
“Nathan,” she said desperately but he still had that vacant look in his eyes.
“I thought becoming a cop and catching people like the robbers who killed my father or the sick person who ran over my sister and left her to die would help me cope with the guilt but it was always there. And then there you were, a strong reminder of her. At first I felt like the universe was punishing me, giving me someone who would remind me of my guilt everyday. But then I thought maybe I was meant to save you and find my redemption through helping you.”
At this point, Natasha was fighting back her own tears. She reached a hand up timidly to his cheek and slowly wiped away his tears with her thumb. Her other hand came up to his other cheek and she did the same, now cupping his face. She moved to remove her hands when he grasped her arms softly, holding them in place.
“Don’t let go,” he pleaded and hearing his soft broken voice, she obliged. He leaned into her touch, closing his eyes as he breathed heavily. She leaned her forehead against his and closed her own as she whispered sweet words of comfort to him. They were so caught up in their little bubble of emotion that they didn’t hear the car that stopped by the driveway or the sound of heels clicking against the paved driveway, towards them.
She lifted her head looking up in surprise. “Mum!”
She and Nathan scrambled to their feet as Lily looked from one to the other, confused before training her icy gaze on Nathan.
“Detective,” Lily said in a venomous voice. She was still dressed in her party outfit and held the golden purse in her hand. Natasha vaguely remembered that her purse and Nathan’s badge were on the ground somewhere.
“Good evening, Your Honor,” Nathan said and Natasha was surprised at how composed he seemed.
“I’d like a word with my daughter, if you don’t mind,” Lily said in a tone that meant she wasn’t really asking at all.
Luckily, Nathan read her under-lying hostility correctly. “I was just about to leave. Good night.”
Lily watched him walk away before turning to Natasha. “Inside. Now.” She unlocked the door while Natasha gathered the purse and the badge and scrambled after her.
“What was that?” Lily dumped the purse on a couch and rounded on Natasha the minute she walked into the lounge.
“N-nothing,” Natasha stammered.
“It didn’t look like nothing to me.”
“I was just comforting a friend,” Natasha said.
“That man is not your friend. He arrested you for murder for crying out loud!”
“He was doing his job mum,” Natasha argued.
“I don’t want to see you anywhere near him.”
Natasha stared at her mother like she had grown a second head. “Why?”
“It doesn’t matter why, you’re not to go near him.”
“And we’re back to you ordering me around and keeping secrets,” Natasha said exasperated. “Nathan’s helping me with this case. He’s the one who convinced me to tell you about Max and the gun because unlike some people, he actually wants to help me.
“You told him about all that before you told me?”
Natasha detected a faint hurt tone in her mother’s statement. “I’m sorry mum, it’s just…”
Lily shook her head, halting Natasha’s words. “Detective Henderson will no longer have authority to know anything about your case or even talk to you.”
“You can’t do that!” Natasha exclaimed, shocked at her mother’s hostility towards him.
“Watch me.” Lily stomped off to her study leaving Natasha staring after her in disbelief. she took the purse her mother had left on the couch and after checking that her phone was inside, went upstairs leaving the other purse – her mother’s- behind.
She changed into pajamas and retrieved the card that Nathan had given her from her jewelry box before slipping into her blankets, card and phone in hand. She debated calling him to check if he was okay but chickened out and decided to text instead.
Hie. It’s Natasha…Just checking if you got home okay.
She was just placing her phone under her pillow when it vibrated, notifying her of an incoming text.
I did, thanks. And thank you for tonight. I’m sorry if I got you into trouble.
Natasha immediately typed out a response.
Don’t worry about it. But…Can we meet tomorrow? We need to investigate my mum.