I'm standing in the doorway of what used to be a normal home. The kind of home you saw on TV, kids' sneakers piled haphazardly beneath a coatrack festooned with jackets in varying colors and sizes. A small pink one, closest to the door, billows gently in the breeze from the open doorway and suddenly aware that the wind could be disturbing valuable evidence, I step inside and close the door behind me.
Jim's already ahead of me, walking through the detritus of this used-to-be-everyday home with all the surety born of years of experience. I fumble along behind him, my eyes drawn against my will to the bloodied corpse of a man in the hallway ahead.
"Go round, Chief," Jim warns over his shoulder, and I step wide, missing the splattered blood by mere inches in the narrow confines.
I stop and watch as Jim crouches next to the body, his gloved hands not touching, but his Sentinel eyes cataloguing everything. He looks up and nods at Dan Wolf.
"Cause of death was stabbing," Dan says evenly. "He's been dead about an hour. There's two more bodies upstairs." Dan looks up at me and I can see the sorrow there. "Kids, one aged about six, the other just a baby. Stabbed too."
"Stabbing as a cause of death usually means it's personal," I say, hating the logical way my voice explains this horror. "Usually means the perp is someone known to the victims."
Dan nods back over his shoulder. "The mother," he says. "She's in the living room with Captain Banks. She called 911, confessed over the phone, something about the whole family suddenly being possessed by demons."
"Jesus," Jim whispers. It's less of a curse than a prayer and I reach down and give his shoulder a gentle squeeze.
Jim stands up and heads towards the stairs, stopping as he reaches them and turns to find me at his back. "You don't need to come up with me, Chief," he says softly.
I shake my head. "Yeah, I do. This is our crime scene, Jim. I need to process it with you."
"Okay." He turns and walks up and I follow, my heart beating so loud I think he can probably hear it without heightened senses.
There's an open door directly ahead of us and I follow him through, reading the engraved name tag on the door as I pass. 'Taylor' is engraved above 'Courtney' and I guess these are the children's names and that they shared a room.
Inside there is a single bed and a crib, blankets and stuffed toys strewn about each like flotsam from a shipwreck. A small, crumpled body rests on each mattress, blood masking tiny delicate features that should be in peaceful slumber for the night.
My feet move forward automatically until I stand over the crib and force my eyes to focus on the child there. She's so tiny. I hear a sob escape my lips and then Jim's there, at my side, an arm around my shoulder. "Focus on the crime, Chief," he says steadily but I can hear the sadness in his tone beneath the professionalism.
I straighten my shoulders and nod, then turn away, pulling my notebook and pen from my pocket and begin to catalogue the evidence.
I stand in the doorway of the loft as Blair moves ahead of me, switching on lights as he goes. The glow illuminates the scene we left and a wave of sadness washes over me.
These are the delicacies of a ruined evening - champagne flutes, still half-filled, sit alongside bowls of chicken stirfry, a big dish of fried rice dominating the center of the table. There's a vase of red rosebuds on the floor, placed there to make room for the food when we sat down. Cheerful wrapping paper is strewn about the floor in front of the fireplace and our hastily discarded gifts sit side by side amongst it.
Our anniversary. I follow Blair into the loft and up the stairs to our bedroom to find him sitting on the side of the bed, his head buried in his hands.
He looks over at me as I sit beside him and pull him into my arms. "Tough night, " he says briefly.
"Yeah. Started out great though. I'm sorry. You had everything planned and then-"
He puts a finger over my lips. "This is so not your fault," he says. "That poor woman, what the hell can have been going on in her head?"
I shrug, push him back onto the bed and roll him onto his side, spooning up behind him. "At least she'll get help now," I say.
"Not in time to save those kids and her husband though," he replies sadly.
"Sometimes we can't fix it all, Chief." I rub my chin against the top of his head.
"No, we can't." He rolls over onto his back and pulls me down, kissing my mouth with such sweetness, it brings tears to my eyes. "We can fix tonight though. Not for that family, but for us. We can make a new memory so that this night won't just be about pain and loss."
I unbutton his shirt and kiss his chest, right over his heart. "Yeah, we can do that, Blair."