Erin came back to bed with two ice cold beers and handed one to Mitch. Something definitely wasn't right, considering how nice she'd been lately. A week ago she'd been in one of her moods, spoiling for a fight, and if he didn't give her a reason to argue, she'd have have no trouble making one up. Naturally, the resulting argument was all his fault, somehow. And they hadn't spoken for several days.
Normally, when she was officially avoiding Mitch, Erin found someone else at the lab to assist her on a crash scene investigation, but not this time. That alone should have raised a red flag. One minute she wasn't speaking to him, the next minute they were working a case together. A psychiatric consultant from Alpha sector had lost control of his private spinner (with his wife and two teens on board), colliding with an ambulance transferring a minister's wife with pregnancy complications to Alpha Sector General. There were no survivors: the spinner pilot and his family, the patient, two EMT's and the ambulance driver all died at the scene. Erin had taken the wrecked spinner and assigned Mitch to examine the ambulance.
Two days later, everything was going just fine. Mitch was about to finish his report on the ambulance. In short, the ambulance driver had done everything right, and gotten killed, along with everyone else in her vehicle, by an out-of-control private spinner. Case closed. And he was back in Erin's good graces, as evidenced by the fact that she had just invited him over to her place after work, cooked him dinner, taken him to bed, given him one hell of a workout, then brought him his favorite beer. Any minute now....
"Mitch, we need to talk." Damn, she was predictable. He took a long pull on the ice-cold Thirsty Bitch and took an even longer look at Erin as she lay there next to him. Eventually he got back up to her face and realized she wasn't angry—she was really worried about something. "Mitch? This is serious. I.A.D. called. I'm off the case."
They were both young enough for the mere mention of those three letters to make them panic—and Mitch nearly did. He sat upright and looked at her in shock "What! I.A.D.? Why'd they take you off the case? Erin, what's going on?!" He couldn't figure out why she was being so calm about it, at least not then. Later, once he figured it out, Mitch would understand both Erin and I.A.D. a lot better.
She reached out and eased him firmly back down, trying to get him to relax. "Take it easy, Mitch. It's just a little 'conflict of interest' problem and they don't want any appearance of impropriety. So, you're going to finish the case. It's mostly done already—you've practically finished the ambulance, and the spinner crash was due to pilot error. Just wrap it up quick so I.A.D.'s happy, alright?"
He lay back down and breathed a sigh of relief. I.A.D. wasn't investigating Erin, or him. They just wanted to avoid a... conflict of interest? "Erin... did you know someone involved in the crash? Doctor Meredith? His wife? Who?"
Mitch knew the answer before Erin said a word. Her face hardened, and the temperature in the bed seemed to drop several degrees. She rolled over, facing away from him. "They told me not to talk about it. Let's just go to sleep, okay, Mitch?"
There was no way he was getting any more answers from her after that. "Alright, sweetheart. Don't worry—I'll take care of everything tomorrow." He snuggled up against Erin, wrapped his arms around her. "I love you."
She relaxed a little, after awhile, and took hold of his hand. "My hero." She almost sounded like she meant it.
* * * * *
March 17th, 2111, 8:00 p.m.
Erin took the following day off, and invited him to join her for dinner after work again. Mitch had to work late—dinner was cold when he got to Erin's place, and so was he.
She wanted to warm him up. "So how did everything go today? Case finished?" Her smile and her arms were almost irresistible. Almost.
He nodded. "Just about done. But I need to talk to you about a couple of things." Mitch gave her the look—the one he used when he'd caught onto her one of her games.
She looked incredulous. "Me? They took me off the case, remember? It's got nothing to do with me."
"Your APD access code was all over Meredith's flight computer."
"Of course it was—I was assigned to examine his wrecked spinner."
"So why were were you 'examining' it a week before the crash, Erin? Or didn't you think I'd look back that far?"
Erin was silent for a long moment as she took in the question. She turned away and closed her eyes. A single tear streamed slowly down one cheek. She sighed softly as if being found out came as some sort of relief. "Shit."
Mitch's voice was completely flat as he recalled what he'd researched. "The patient in that ambulance was Martha Wilson, age 27. She was 29 weeks pregnant. Went into premature labor; they were taking her to Alpha Sector General. They have a 95% percent survival rate for premature births past 28 weeks. Kid probably would've made it. She's survived by the Reverend Damocles Wilson of Angelus Interfaith Ministries. I hear he's not doing so well."
Erin turned to face him, more in anger than in tears now. "Stop it, Mitch."
He didn't stop. "The ambulance driver was Anna Kim, single mother, age 32. Her daughter's going into foster care, starts kindergarten this fall, if nothing else goes wrong."
Erin slapped him. Hard. Mitch barely kept his footing. "I said stop it!"
"Dammit, Erin... what did you do?" He took hold of her hands so she wouldn't slap him again. It was pointless—she broke free easily and stalked away from him, gesticulating wildly as she ranted.
"This isn't what I wanted, Mitch! I spent weeks watching Dr. Meredith... studying his movements... " She paused, then turned and looked at him intensely. "For weeks on end, on any normal Thursday, he would've worked late, and driven that spinner home alone. It was all worked out so he'd crash in a low-traffic area. Nobody else should've been hurt, but something went wrong. I didn't want to kill eight people! Let alone his whole family, and a minister's pregnant wife. I am so screwed." There was an uncharacteristic catch in her voice, and tears running down Erin's face now.
Mitch looked at her sadly. "Yeah, something went wrong, Erin. He went home from work early, took the whole family out for dinner. It was was his daughter's 16th birthday. Now, you want to tell me why you had to kill the man? And why I.A.D. wants all this covered up? And why I should even consider going along with it?"
Erin's pistol appeared centimeters from Mitch's face before he could blink. "Don't even think about breaking your promise, Brogan."
Mitch refocused his gaze past the gun, to Erin's face, and spoke as calmly as he could. "First thing you learn in the Academy Erin—don't draw your weapon if you can't pull the trigger. You need me to cover this up. Put the gun down. Everything'll be fine." He could tell, she was really `losing it' here, but then, that probably meant he was close to the truth, so he had to keep working her. Erin hesitated a few moments, then put away her pistol.
"That's better." He spoke much more calmly than he really felt. "Let's talk about this, okay?"
"I.A.D. told me not to talk about it." She looked ashamed of something, and the expression looked rather strange on her. Mitch couldn't recall ever seeing it before.
He took her hand. "Erin. You know I'll do anything for you. But eight people are dead here. There's evidence you were involved. You're asking me to put my career on the line and make this go away—fine, I don't need threats from I.A.D. or a gun to my head. I just need to know why. Now talk to me."
She shook her head. "You're better off not knowing...."
"No. I'm better off covering my own ass, but it's too late for that."
"Okay... it's just... this isn't easy to talk about."
"Take your time, Erin. You expected Meredith to be working late... right?" He tried to get her started.
She replied with a sneer. "No, Mitch. I expected him to lie to his wife about working late."
She finally exploded. "Dammit, he wasn't working late... he was screwing his patients!"
Mitch realized he'd struck a nerve. "That's how you knew him... isn't it?"
Erin couldn't answer him for a several long moments. Finally she simply nodded, unable to look at him. Mitch didn't know what to say. He knew better than trying to comfort Erin when she was like this. All he could do was wait for her to continue. Eventually she found enough composure to go on.
"When I joined the force, Dr. Meredith did my psych evaluation. He said... I didn't quite pass, but he'd get me in, if I did him a few... favors. I thought I was over it, but after the Academy, I started having... problems. I went into therapy, and my counselor re-evaluated me. He said I was fit for duty, but that only made things worse—Meredith had lied just to get me in bed! My counselor recommended group sessions, and I heard a similar story from someone in narcotics. We compared notes. Mitch, it was Meredith—he'd done the same thing to her! There was no telling how many others he'd treated that way. So I decided to put a stop to it."
Mitch could hardly believe what he was hearing. Could someone like Meredith really turn Erin into a killer? Had he somehow underestimated her? "Erin, I'm sorry, I really am. But this has gotten completely out of control."
She looked at him and nodded. "You have no idea. My friend in narcotics reported Meredith to I.A.D. and didn't tell me. I completely screwed up their investigation and now they've got to make sure nobody knows what he was doing."
Now, Mitch was really lost. "Huh? I don't get it. Shouldn't they be exposing his activities, if he was corrupt?"
A small chuckle escaped from Erin's throat before she remembered how much trouble they were both in. "Poor little Mitch. How naive can you get? Look—if he was falsifying psych evaluations in return for... sexual favors, then every officer he ever cleared would have to be re-evaluated. And if their psych evals weren't done properly, then all their arrests would also be under suspicion! Convictions would be overturned—hundreds, maybe thousands. It'd be a nightmare, Mitch!"
Mitch looked up at her, his eyes wide. "Holy shit."
She gave him that 'I have to explain everything' look he hated. "Yeah. Now you get it."
"So I.A.D. wants eight murders written off as an accident to prevent all that. And if the truth ever comes out, you're going away for murder, and I'm an accessory."
She looked him in the eye, and took him in her arms again. "Just do it right, Mitch, and it won't ever come out."
"Don't you ever ask me to do anything like this again, Erin. Because I won't." His tone of voice made it clear that he wasn't bluffing. "And I don't ever want to hear about you pulling another stupid stunt like this. You got that?"
"I won't, Mitch... I promise." She wiped away a tear. "I can't go to jail. You wouldn't let that happen, would you?"
He pulled her closer. "No, I wouldn't."
"So you're going to do it?" She was leaning into his shoulder, speaking softly, almost begging him.
"I don't have much choice, do I? I filed the report before I left the station tonight. Pilot error."
She stood up and looked him the eye, feeling equal parts relief at having her name cleared and rage that he hadn't told her sooner. "So why in the hell did you have to drag that whole story out of me?"
"I'm entitled to know what I'm covering up, Erin. On the other hand, if I don't find out until after the report's already filed, then I can honestly say I had no knowledge of it at the time." Mitch felt rather mixed emotions himself—he was angry about having to mislead her, but relieved that it had actually worked.
"Mitch, you asshole! I love you."
"Yeah, I know." For the time being, it was enough. Eventually, Mitch knew, he'd have to get away, and start his life over without Erin. Mitch loved her, and he would truly do anything for her, but this was too much. Knowing what he knew about her now, and about himself as well, he doubted they'd be happy together in the long run.
Mitch tightened his arms around Erin, but he couldn't figure out what else to say. This whole situation was completely outside his experience, and more than a little frightening. He just stood there with his arms around her, feeling worried and guilty. He wondered exactly what he could do to console a distraught murderess. Eventually she made it clear what she wanted from him.
He agreed at first only because he had no idea how to refuse her, or what would happen if he did.
Get in bed with a cold-blooded killer?
The idea sounded like a non-starter at first. But slowly, reluctantly, Mitch came to the astonishing realization that now, after all this, he actually wanted Erin more than ever....
* * * * *
And Erin couldn't help but notice. They held each other in the dark afterwards, exhausted and sore, speaking softly, all tension gone from their voices. Both of them were barely awake.
"Maybe I should do something like this more often, Brogan...."
"Nope... never again, Erin. You promised." He reminded her gently, without anger.
"Admit it, Mitch... this whole thing really got you worked up."
"You pulled a gun. Never fails."
"Phooey... you hate it when I do that. Was it the murder, or the cover-up?"
"Risking my career didn't thrill me, so... I guess it's the fact that my girl's a killer."
"Mitch... after all this, we deserve each other, don't we?"
"I don't want to think about what we deserve."
She kissed him and put her head on his shoulder. "I know, Mitch. Shit happens. Love you."
"Love you, too... "
A minute later Erin fell asleep in his arms, as Mitch continued to lie awake for several long hours into the night, trying not to think about what they deserved.