Long Road To Ruin

He kills them all without remorse, but very much with reason.

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6. Gone

Jasper ground his teeth as he watched them from across the room; they were talking very friendly with each other and it made him angry when she smiled at him like that. He could easily walk over there and snap Samuel’s neck, but then he’d have to explain himself to not only Justine, but the Chief as well.

Emma was standing several feet away, her eyes taking in the exchange. Hesitantly, she said, “I thought you were supposed to be interrogating the guy that attacked me?”

“We don’t have much to go on right now,” Jasper said wearily, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. “Please, just go home and rest, Miss. Dobbs, and we’ll call you in the morning.”

As she exited the room, Justine finally managed to untangle herself from Detective Hale long enough to see Jasper’s expression as she wandered over toward him. “You sent her home? We need her to stay.”

“No, we don’t.” He sighed. “What we need to go is go home and get some sleep.”

“So you’re not too mad at me that you still want me in your bed?” Justine asked as she moved closer, brushing the hair from his eyes. She wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him.

“I always want you in my bed,” said Jasper, sliding his own arms around her waist and pulling her against his body. “I just hate the way Hale looks at you,” he replied.

“He’s just being polite.” Justine shrugged.

“Then why did I hear him bragging about how he asked you out?” Jasper wondered. “How come you didn’t tell me that?”

“Because it’s none of your business,” Justine snapped.

“You got asked out by another-”

“I told him no, Jasper! I would never, ever do anything to jeopardize us.” She was still holding him tightly, her head resting against his chest, and his heartbeat calm. “I love you,” she whispered into his shirt, her eyes shut.

He stilled for a moment before finding his voice. “You do?”

Her eyes widened and she stared at him, her arms dropping, and she stepped back. “Of course I do,” she whispered, the anguish in her voice very potent. “How could I not?”

He shrugged and placed a finger under her chin, lifting her eyes to his, and smiled. That was one thing that he had fallen in love with so quickly; her eyes – hazel with a hint of gold - he was fairly certain it depended on her mood – like a mood ring. He grinned to himself, at his stupidly, and brushed a hand through his dark hair, his blue eyes flickering across her face.

“You’ve never said it before,” he said simply. “So I was a little surprised.”

With her arms around his neck, Justine pressed her lips to his, nearly knocking him back into the wall. She felt him grin against her mouth, his hands on her hips, and his thumbs stroking the bare skin beneath her shirt. She squirmed and he smirked, holding her tightly against his body as he started to kiss her neck.

Jasper’s lips found the sensitive spot near her ear and he smiled softly when he tested it with his teeth, and she fought back a whimper, reaching up to curl her fingers in his thick hair. He held her tight and they swayed slightly, and she giggled. He pulled away suddenly, a look of confusion crossing his face.

“We’re still in the conference room,” she mumbled, untangling herself from him.

“I think we should head home,” Jasper said.

They barely made it to the car outside the station because Jasper had his hand on Justine’s shoulder, lightly running his fingers down her arm. He heard her sigh and knew she had closed her eyes. She tilted her head back and kissed him, her arms holding his waist so he didn’t move too much.

As he opened the backseat and pushed her inside, he closed his eyes, and slammed the door behind him. She twisted around to stare at him and he crashed his lips against her roughly, his hands cool against her skin as he removed her top, his fingers running softly down her ribcage to her stomach.

He slid his hands against her face and stared at her, his eyes softening from the lust that had been burning in them moments ago. He said nothing, simply stared at her, and then bent his head, his lips caressing her neck. She gasped and slid her hand down between them and grabbed him, squeezing lightly.

His eyes darkened as he growled, his lips now pressed to her collarbone, as he slid his hands against her thighs. She obeyed by wrapping her legs around his torso and bringing her mouth to hers. Her tongue slid against his and she unlocked her legs to allow him a few moments to undo his pants, which happened quickly; he wasted no time in burying himself deep inside her, very thankful that she had decided to change out of her uniform when they got back to the station.

With her legs around his torso once more, Justine bent her head so that the top of her hair brushed against his chest, like she was trying to hide herself. He groaned and nudged her so that she glanced at him and kissed her softly, his arms on either side of her, as much as a car would permit.

When she placed her fingers around his shoulder blades and dug her nails deep into his skin, Jasper smirked. She didn’t want to be the only one enjoying the sensation; he always felt so good when he was inside of her. Her fingers slid down his broad back and she felt his lips on her neck again. She let out a low moan, right against his ear, and he sank his teeth into her neck in response.

“You’re too soft,” he breathed into her skin, panting. “You could be louder than that.”

“I would if we were in our bedroom,” Justine whispered, her eyes flickering across his flushed face. “And as for the soft comment, I wish I could say the same for you.”

He grinned slightly as she reached up and brushed his hair away from his face. A bead of sweat slid down to his chin from his forehead and she slid her tongue across his jaw. He just stared at her.

“I love you,” he mumbled as he buried his head in the crook of her neck, and closed his eyes.

* * *

It was after midnight when they had finally gotten home and curled up against each other as sleep took hold. There was a sound – it was faint and annoying – and Jasper lifted his head, his groggy eyes focusing on the blinking light of his cell phone. It took him a few moments to realize that it was ringing. Yawning, he picked it up, flipped it open with his thumb and held it to his ear.

“Hello? Jesus Christ, Bailey, are you serious? How is that even possible? No, no, I’ll come. Oh, don’t call him, he doesn’t need to know about this. I don’t think now is the time to ask me that, Chief. Yes, I understand. How bad is it? Mother fucker.” He shut the phone and turned around to stare at his girlfriend who was sleeping soundly.

“Justine, babe, wake up.” He said, reaching a hand out to shake her. She groaned but didn’t open her eyes. “We have to get back to the station. Something’s happened.”

One of her hazel eyes cracked open and she stared at him. “What?” she mumbled. “Is it Bailey?”

“No, nothing like that,” Jasper said, “There’s been another murder.”

Justine bolted up, her eyes wide, and her hair tousled. “That’s impossible, Jasper. We got the guy.”

He nodded, his face grim as he walked to the dresser and grabbed a pair of pants, then turned back around. “Either he isn’t the guy, and the psycho is still out there, or he has an accomplice.”

Justine shuddered and slipped into a black shirt with black pants, her hand reaching for her cell phone when she felt Jasper’s hand on her back, holding her tightly against him. “What are you-”

“I want to keep you safe,” he whispered against her ear. “I always, always have. You’re everything to me and I love you.”

Justine’s eyes widened as she turned in his arms, and she muttered, “I love you, too, Jasper. What brought this on?”

“I just want to keep you safe,” whispered Jasper as he let her go. “I don’t even want to know how much worse this is going to be when we get there.” He said as he headed into the hallway, then into the kitchen to make some coffee.

“What else did Bailey say? Justine asked as she leaned against the counter across from him. She was in the middle of putting her gun in her holster when he spoke.

Jasper eyed the gun as he said, “He wants Detective Hale to stop in.”

“Really?” she murmured, crossing her arms. “What did you tell him?”

The coffee was done and in a styrofoam cup before he turned around to face her, one eyebrow raised. “What do you think I said to him about that?”

“That you didn’t want him there?” Justine guessed.

“Exactly. It isn’t even his case.”

“Well,” Justine said thoughtfully, “Samuel is very good at what he does, Jasper, and you know that.” She winced at the expression that crossed his features.

“He’s good at being a dick, too,” Jasper growled, tossing his empty cup into the garbage and grabbing his keys off the window sill. “He shows me up every chance he gets.”

“Are you jealous?”

The question stopped him dead in his tracks. He had been on the way to the garage. Now he stood with his back to her and he eyes shut tightly, going over the accusation in his mind before he whirled around.

“Of what?” he wondered calmly. “That he’s trying to steal you away from me? I’m angry at that as I should be.”

“He’s not-” Justine began, but was interrupted by the ringing of a phone.

“Hello?” Jasper muttered into the receiver of his cell. “Yeah, we’re on our way – just having a little trouble getting started. No, don’t send him, it’s okay. I know. We’ll be there soon.” He closed his phone and eyed Justine. “We don’t have time for this right now. Let’s go.”

* * *

They pulled up to the station and Jasper’s eyes narrowed; he was standing outside, looking around, and holding two cups of coffee. No doubt one was for Justine. He gripped the steering wheel tighter.

“Hell of a mess,” a voice muttered. Samuel Hale was now beside the car, staring down at Justine. “You look tired, Collins. Did Jasper keep you up late last night?” He smiled and mumbled under his breath.

“What’s going on?” Justine said, annoyed. “We caught the guy.”

“Not quite,” said Hale. “According to Bailey, Hastings isn’t the only one killing these girls.”

“Where’s Emma?” Jasper asked as he got out of the car and came around to where Sam stood. “She should be here.”

A strange expression crossed Samuel’s face and he looked down. “Bailey didn’t tell you. Jasper, Emma’s the reason you’re here. She’s dead.” He jumped when he heard something slam against the car.

Jasper felt like someone had kicked him in the stomach, and now his hand throbbed from hitting the car. He was looking at his bruised flesh when he asked, “Who was the last to see her alive?”

“Steve Miller,” said Samuel.

“The bartender?” Justine asked, surprised. The three of them were inside now, staring around the crowded station for Chief Bailey.

“You seem shocked,” the Chief muttered as he approached them. Charles Bailey was a tiny man with a round face. He had worked as a cop for sixteen years.

“Well, I am, a little,” admitted Justine.

“Detectives, you need to look at the bigger picture here. Steve and Emma were seeing each other. He is, right now, our only witness to where she might have gone when they parted ways.”

“They’re dating,” Jasper mused. “Why didn’t he tell me?”

“That’s easy,” said Samuel. “He didn’t want to be a suspect in her death had anything happened to her after the night you met her at the bar. Am I right?” he asked eagerly.

Bailey nodded. “He could have witnessed Vivian Harris in the bar before she was killed and not noticed. So when Emma came in covered in blood and carrying that weapon, it scared the shit out of him, needless to say.”

“But that would make him an accomplice, wouldn’t it?” Jasper said. “Because he knew that there was a possibility that his bar would be a pawn in the game. Could the killers-” He stopped talking, his eyes wide. “Could they be after Steve and killing these girls was just a diversion to get his attention, to get him out of the bar and into view?”

Samuel and Justine exchanged glances.

“Yes, that is possible.” Bailey said grimly. “But we checked his records and Miller has no previous encounters with Mrs. Harris.”

Jasper cursed.

“He’s devastated, of course, and he’s here.”

All three officers blinked.

“Jasper, I want you to talk to him, but be careful. He’s not in the right state of mind now and I don’t know what he’ll think or do when he sees you. As far as he’s concerned, he’s the prime suspect, and that isn’t true.”

“It’ll be okay,” said Jasper. He headed down the hall and stopped in front of the second room, his hand on the knob, and his heart pounding at what he might find behind the door. He pushed it open and his eyes widened.

Steve Miller was lying on the floor, his green eyes wide with fear, and his dark clothes covered in stains of some sort. He had his arms outstretched in front of him, like he was trying to grab something, and Jasper could see the freshly made slits on his wrists, the blood still dripping onto the floor.

“I need a paramedic!” Jasper shouted, drawing out of the room and hitting the opposite wall. He sank to the floor and sat there, his hand over his mouth to keep the vomit down. He shut his eyes as he felt someone’s hand on his shoulder. “It’s Steve…” he gasped weakly. “He’s…” He closed his eyes.

“Easy, Delaney,” said Hale, trying to get him up. “Is he dead?”

“Yes,” croaked Jasper.

“Jasper…” It was Justine. He was vaguely aware of her one hand on his cheek, her other locked around his hand. “Hale, what happened?” she demanded, her eyes glassy.

“Steve Miller is dead,” said Samuel. “Come on, Collins, we’ve got to get him up.”

“Justine,” her partner said weakly.

She pressed her lips to his cheek and he could feel the tears fall against his skin, her body trembling against his. “Yes, baby, I’m here. Please, pull yourself together. I know it hurts, but you’ve got to move, otherwise the paramedics wouldn’t be able to get the stretcher through.”

She pulled him up with Sam’s help and managed to get him into a chair as Chief Bailey came over, a cup of coffee in his hand, which he handed to Jasper.

“Drink,” he ordered.

“No,” he protested, his blue eyes flickering to the three concerned faces in front of him. “I don’t need it.”

“Like hell you don’t,” Bailey said anxiously. “Drink the goddamned coffee.”

His stomach churned as he watched the paramedics bring the stretcher in and go toward the back. He closed his eyes and laid his head against Justine’s as she bent to be level with him, his fingers lightly stroking her hair.

“We can go home, can’t we?” Justine asked.

“Please,” Bailey said. “Take care of him. We’ll let you know what we find, Detective Collins.”

As they exited the station, and walked into the cool air, Jasper suddenly collapsed, slipping from his girlfriend’s grip. He could faintly hear her frantic cries as she shook him. He didn’t want to wake up, he just wanted to see Steve again, and Emma.

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