Hey guys so this is the last chapter before the epilogue!
Thanks so much for reading I already have ideas for another story Ari and Dec will return.
Chapter Thirty-Six: Markers In The Water
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Dr. Suess.
Rafe and Nick eventually pulled apart helped in large part by the baffled demand of Ambrose who had come into the hallway and found them in a tangle of limbs, and demanded to know what the bloody hell was going on. The story emerged in breathless commentary from all sides though knowing her father as Ari did now she figured he got the whole thing in a glance better than any explanation given by them.
The story of how Rafe had watched the Lynx glide into the sea, of how he had searched the sea, the beach and the hospitals broke Arizona's heart. And, from the look of it, Nicky's too. Someone somewhere had simply not realised that the man the young SAR officer was looking for was in their care.
Eventually they pulled themselves off the floor and get back down to the business of why they were all gathered at Ambrose's house in the first place. Once they had Declan sat with Arizona on the sofa with Ambrose on the other side with Nick and Rafe facing her. Nick leaned forward. "Are you sure you're strong enough for this Ari?" His gaze was intense. "I know you're good at telling Detective Preston you can take it and probably Rafe," Here he glanced at his friend with a smile, "As well. But, your dad, Lori and I know you better than that." "I know," Arizona offered softly. "But I promise I can do this." "I have too." She turned and looked at Declan. "Do they know how far away they are?" Declan shook his head the fury clear on his face. "No but we have people looking." He went inside his jacket pocket and pulled out some things in evidence bags. He gave them to Arizona. "The techs have a copy and have no need for the actual hard disc. We thought you might be able to do something with it. Plus this." He pointed at what looked like a map." Declan handed it to Arizona. "We've looked at this map but we can't make sense of it. It goes up as far as the Farne Isles and down as far as Whitby. There is no sense in the markings, not that we can see anyway."
Arizona took the offered evidence and looked at Declan, "It's been processed right?" I won't screw up any evidence?" Declan shook his head. "We've got everything we could get off it, now it's your turn." Arizona nodded taking a deep breath. She decided to look at the map first. She spread it out on the floor and looked at the marked places along the coast. To her surprise Rafe and Nick got down with her. Nick grinned. "Coast Guard?" He said. "SAR?" Rafe said. "Have at it." Arizona said. Rafe frowned. "Nicky does this look familiar to you? There's something about it that's pulling at me." Nick didn't answer for a moment. Then he looked up. "You've been out of the sea too long Flyboy. It should, these markings are where the Boy's mark safe passage out into the sea. This map many of the boy placements along the coast." Arizona grinned and threw herself at her friend. "Nicky you are a star." Rafe looked down again with a smile. "He's right. These must be the passages they used." Arizona let go of Nick and put her hand down on the map. "Okay my turn."
The smell hit her first. Smell of oil and seawater. The drowning of the engine as they approached the open sea. Tom moved towards the back of the boat ready to unload their cargo. "How far out are we going this time?" He asked. "Same as always, we don't want to loose them." David's smile was shark like. Tom smirked. "You just like knowing where they are." "All part of the game my darling brother." Tom had never been good at waiting. Ever. But he knew soon it would be his hunt soon and he liked being the one that his brother allowed into his circle. They headed to the back of the boat as it stopped at the last buoy before the sea. "How can you be sure they'll never be found?" David looked at his brother and his eyes looked wild. "Because, my dear little brother who can seriously trawl the whole of the North Sea looking for an oil drum once we…" He pushed the drum into the sea. "Knock them over the side?" His laughter was cold in the night with only the waves against the side in the night…
Arizona gasped and coughed as she came out of it. "That…" She didn't have words. She put her hands down onto the map. He used the buoys as a way of knowing where the water was getting deep. Then he pushed the drums into the water." She looked at Declan tears in her eyes. "He always knew where he'd dropped them into the sea… but, God I'm so sorry Declan I don't think I can get them back." She looked down the failure almost crushing her but then Declan had her in his arms and he held her tight. "You found Esmee. You found Hayley. You found them out. It's more than anyone could have asked of you. If you can't get them back then at least we can tell their families what happened to them." "But…" "No Ari." Declan whispered. "The North Sea is too big for even you to search." "It's why he put them there." Arizona let out a little sob. "But I promised." "And you've kept it." Declan pulled her to him. "You've done way more than any of expected of you. More than anything I even expected you could do. Now it's time to let us do the rest. You've done enough."
"No." She whispered. "It isn't." Declan held her tighter. "Ari, you start thinking like that and it will never be enough." He glanced over her head at Nick and Rafe. "But there are plenty of people including every person in this room that think you have done more than enough. You're right there are things we can't change but damn it Ari Hayley and Esmee are alive because of you." He made her look at him. "Damn it even Nicky and Rafe have each other back. That's a win, and as for Jones we'll get him too. But for now just know you did enough."
That night back in her father's house, Arizona dreamed. But this time it was different. She was under the water staring directly at Scarlett all golden and beautiful even with blue tinged lips. They were floating under the water Scarlett had chains around her wrists that snakes away into the water away from Arizona's vision. Scarlett's eyes opened and the blue of her iris seemed to take over her eyes until there was no pupil left. "You're close." She whispered. Her voice shot through Arizona with a shot of adrenaline. She pulled weakly at the chains and looked up towards the surface of the water. Arizona followed her gaze and saw something... Something bobbing in the water the sunken bottom of the buoy... She looked back at Arizona and this time watched as the chain swayed with the motion of the buoy.
Arizona looked at Scarlett. "I got you now Scarlett. I get it." She nodded and pulled against the chain again. Arizona reached for her hand. "I'll find you. Soon."
As she looked more girls appeared behind Scarlett all beautiful with blue tinged lips and chained to the surface unable to escape. More than they'd known. God Jones, that bastard he hadn't lied. "It's okay girls. I've got it now. I'll get you all out. Soon."
Arizona woke with a gasp and a barely there scream needing to breathe from the horrible sensation of water lodging in her lungs. She coughed and wasn't surprised when she coughed up water. "Oh, God," She whispered. She threw back the covers needing to get out of bed even if she wasn't sure her legs would even hold her up.
She staggered along the landing and made it half way down the stairs before her legs called rebellion and she collapsed onto the sitars barely stopping herself from tumbling down the stairs. Then she started gagging. Every breath seemed to take forever get to her lungs and she couldn't breathe. Another bedroom door opened and Ambrose appeared on the stairs. "Ari? What the hell are you doing on the stairs?" "Can't breathe." Arizona gasped he felt like the water was clogging up her lungs.
Ambrose took the stairs two at a time as she gasped. He hoisted her off the floor and slammed his hand onto her back again and again until she coughed and coughed the water clear from her lungs. "Ari, damn it! Cough it up! Breathe!" She coughed again and then finally, finally it felt like she could breathe. She sagged back against her dad, tears in her eyes both from the coughing and from terror. "Daddy." She whispered. "I got you now baby girl." He said. Arizona curled into him holding his shirt.
"I feel stupid." She whispered. "You looked to be coughing up half of the North Sea." Ambrose didn't ask but Arizona could see he was worried. "Nightmare. But I think I know how to find the girls." Ambrose looked down at her. "After what those bastards did to you and your sister I should forbid it," Arizona went to argue but didn't get the chance.
"But apparently you and your sister have more of me in you than I ever imagined. So I''ll shut up. Besides if I know anything about how your powers work this won't let you go until you find them. I just wish it didn't have to hurt you so much to do it." "Apparently it's the price I pay." She went to get up and her dad was immediately there. "Let's get you downstairs I'll get you a drink." She collapsed into the sofa. "What time is it?" "0300." Her dad said sitting next to her with water for her and what looked and smelt like coffee for himself.
"Go back to bed Daddy I don't think I'll be sleeping much more now." "That's alright Ari I don't always sleep much either."
Arizona sat with her dad on the stairs for a minute and when she had her breath back she looked at him. "I know where they are." Ambrose looked down at her. "What?" "I need to ring Declan." She said struggling to her feet. "I know where the girls are."
Declan bolted awake with the sound of his mobile phone singing and vibrating across the floor. He glanced at the clock and saw it was 4 am. His heart lodged in his throat as he lunged for his phone. He wasn't surprised to see Arizona's number on the ID. "Ari?" He asked. "Declan," She said. "Get to Tabby. I've just called her I know where the girls are." Declan lurched forward. "You what?" "You heard me. It became clear in the last few hours," Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Scarlett showed me. I know where he hid her. Hid them all."
It took a moment to process. Declan had worked past midnight with the taskforce looking for Jones and Mason and fallen into a dead sleep. "Ari… are you?" "As sure as I'm ever going to be." Arizona said with a small smile. That was enough for Declan. "I'll come get you." "No need. Tabitha is on her way for me. We'll meet you shortly."
Declan threw himself out of bed and into some clothes though he couldn't have said which ones. Declan didn't think he'd moved so fast in his life. 30 minutes later he had pulled into HQ with very little idea of how he'd driven there and pulling a hand through his hair, he wouldn't have been surprised if he'd put his t-shirt on backwards. He glanced down and was relieved to find this wasn't the case. He took the stairs two at a time feeling too edgy to even contemplate waiting for the lift. He arrived on his floor in time to see Ambrose and Tabitha berating Arizona for trying to walk without her crutches. "You'll do more damage this way Ari and Christ knows I can't put up with another 12 weeks of you on crutches because you ruined their work. You're a menace as it is!" Arizona smiled. "Then we know where I get it from." Ambrose looked like he was going to say something else and then smiled back. "Touché!" They we're the only people in the room. Carter, Benedict and Joanne were there along with someone that looked like Coast Guard. "Declan!" Arizona smiled starting to get up. "Stay put!" Ambrose said gently forced her back into her seat. "You coughed up half the North Sea just over an hour ago and then tried to get somewhere without your crutches. Don't move!" Arizona threw her hands up in the air. "Fine. But I'm going to have to move soon." Declan hurried over to her before she could think about moving again. "What did you find?" "I wouldn't say found. More like realised what was already there." Declan couldn't help but notice that Arizona looked extremely tired and her hands were shaking.
"Ari." "Yes Declan," She said tiredly. "I am aware I look like shit. Please don't remind me." She looked at her sister. "Tabby I need the map." Tabitha spread the map out between them all and Arizona leaned over it. "They marked the buoys but not for passage like Nicky thought. They marked them because that's where the girls are."
The room was silent. She looked up. "All the girls are tied to one of the buoys. Jones is a control freak he could never just drop them into the sea and never know the exact spot they were. It was the safest bet but he's a narcasstic knob head and those girls in his mind were his. He wasn't going to let them go. So he sent them into the sea. Smart. But he tethered them to a marker. The drums are attached to the buoys. I'm sure of it." Joanne looked at Arizona; Arizona couldn't help think she looked like hell. And of course she would. She knew the whole unit was under the eye of internal investigation after Tia had betrayed them all and got Jones out and escaped with him. She knew Joanne had to be feeling the pressure the most. She had been Tia's partner. And Arizona didn't need to be a shrink to see that the betrayal had cut deep. Or that the guilt of not seeing it was tearing Joanne apart.
"Not to question you Mini Cross," She said gruffly. "Never stopped you before," Arizona said with a raised eyebrow. "Go ahead." "Are you sure? The water isn't always deep in the channels and if one of those barrels had got free it would have been washed in shore or up river with the tide." "It would have. And I know it seems stupid. I know it seems improbable and I didn't say all of them would be there. Some of them may have come loose." She looked at Declan apologetically. "But I think if you check directly under the buoys marked on this map." She tapped the map and the many markings, I know you'll find those girls."
Declan looked at Tabitha. Tabitha looked at Arizona and then round the group. She looked to the guy in the Coast Guard oils. "Doable?" She asked. "Time consuming as this stretches right up the East Coast but yes doable." Tabitha looked at her sister and then at her dad who offered her a little nod. She looked at Declan who said nothing. He was past the time that he would question a hunch that Arizona would have.
"Well let's get started then."
Arizona would have loved to be wrong. The next six weeks proved to be some of the most heart breaking of her life. They did pull barrel after barrel from under the buoys that had proved to be the last marker of the girls that had succumbed to the madness of David Jones and later Tom Lloyd.
David had said he had made his peace 22 times but in the next six weeks they pulled 18 barrels from the sea. Arizona's heart had sunk when the coast guard, after coming up clean in three consecutive sweeps of the area had called off the search. The wait had turned agonising as the coroner had the harrowing task of taking the remains pulled from the barrels to try and get some form of identification for the families desperately waiting for news. Declan and the Scarlett's parents among them.
Finally after nearly four months from the moment Arizona had triggered the initial search of the North East Coast the results were in. The coroner had worked tirelessly to put the names to the girls that had been found and finally Tabitha could stand in front of her exhausted Task Force with the results.
Arizona sat in the conference room with Joanne, Carter and Benedict watching Tabitha as she held the sheet with the identified girls names on it. Declan had been put on compassionate leave by Tabitha as the girls had been pulled from the sea. Everyone started at Tabitha.
"It's taken the coroner so long because she wanted to be sure of the results." She looked at them all and Arizona couldn't help but notice how exhausted she looked. She motioned at the list. I have here the name of the 18 girls we found. She looked down and closed her eyes. "Sydney Coe, Jenny Denters, Jessie Benton, Tammy Greg and Casey Thames were among them." Arizona closed her eyes. Fuck. No Scarlett. Fuck. Not again. She'd promised her. She'd promised. She felt Tabitha come round and kneel down in front of her and said, "Ari look at me." Arizona opened her eyes feeling close to tears.
"They found Kendra Holmes among them as well the young run away you were convinced set him off again." She blew out a breath. "Fuck." Arizona breathed. "I wanted to be wrong about her." "I know. Tabitha said. "But Ari, we found Scarlett. Scarlett Jones is one of the girls we pulled from the sea. You found her." For a moment Arizona couldn't breathe. Then the relief hit her so hard and fast she started to slide from her chair before Tabitha and Carter made a grab for her.
"We pulled her with the others?" She whispered. "No. She was one of the last pulled from the sea she was on her own. Obviously it took along time to get any kind of identification," Tabitha swallowed and we wanted to be sure before we told Dec. But Ari we've got them. We've got all the girls. And more. Their families can finally say goodbye properly."
"Have you told all the families yet?" Tabitha shook her head. "I'm starting the process now." "Tabitha I know…" "You want to come to Declan?" Tabitha asked. "If I can." "I think you've earned that right mini Cross." Joanne said looking more alive in the face of their victory than she had in weeks. There had been no sign of Mason or Jones but right now that was a battle for another day and they would celebrate the victory. Tabitha nodded. "I agree I'll get you when I go see him." "Thank you." Arizona whispered.
"I don't understand though." She said softly. "He said 22 girls. Yet we've found all the girls we knew to be missing plus 11 more." Carter winced. "That have may have been the point. Because how can we ever be sure that four girls aren't missing? How can we be ever sure there were only ever 18. In a way it's his way of keeping them even if we find them."
The team were quiet after that because really what was there to say? They knew he was right.
Declan would have never admitted it to Tabitha but he was pleased she'd removed him as soon as the girls started to be brought home from sea. He couldn't have been part of that wondering with every barrel pulled in by the Coast Guard if Scarlett was among them. He did that in the weeks he wasn't working anyway and the sparing conversation he'd had from an obviously exhausted Arizona had not helped. But he knew he couldn't have helped though he couldn't have said what he'd done in the weeks while he, along with the other families waited for news.
His sister had been a life saver, since he couldn't cope in the flat on his own and Lori seemed to have lost Tabitha to the search for the time being. Arizona also didn't return to the flat now after she'd moved back to her dad's and it was weird not having her there. Finally almost four months after Arizona had triggered the search he got a phone call from Tabitha saying she was on her way to speak to him. He didn't know whether he wanted to collapse or vomit. In the end he did both in a fashion and not really in that order.
After he'd cleaned himself up he rang Lori and his parents asking for the support he knew he'd need regardless of what Tabitha had to say. Lori and his parents were arrived at the flat the same time Tabitha and Arizona did. In that moment as he opened the door to the sisters he really saw them as sisters. Arizona offered him a small smile and said, "I wanted to be here for you but if you'd rather me not…" Declan didn't even let her finish the sentence before he pulled her into a hug, whispering "Thank you."
They settled themselves in the living room Declan's parents and sister beside him while Tabitha and Arizona took seats opposite. "I won't draw this out." Tabitha said, she looked at her sister. "Ari." Arizona leaned forward and grabbed Declan's hand. "Dec, we found her. Scarlett was among the girls we found. We found her."
Declan had never been sure what he would feel if someone had told him Scarlett had been found. It was pretty sure bursting into tears hadn't been quite on the cards but that was what happened. Suddenly he was sobbing so hard he just couldn't stop and then Arizona was there. Before anyone else had time to move Arizona was there, enclosing him in a hug and holding on. "I'm so sorry." She whispered as he sobbed into her hair. "Declan I'm so, so sorry."
For a few minutes he couldn't speak to her and then when the worst of it had passed he pulled away. "No Ari. You have no idea… You have no idea what this means to me. That she's home again…." He broke off and looked at the ceiling. "She's free now. That's all I care about." He looked at Arizona tears still falling down his face. "You brought her home." Arizona shook her head. "Declan I helped…" "No Ari. We'd have never found them without you. You brought them home." Tabitha looked at her sister then. "I have to agree with Declan here Ari. You did good little one." Arizona's smile was watery as she smiled at them both. "It seems like too little too late."
At this Mary sat forward. "It's more than some of those families would have ever had Arizona Cross. Don't you make light of that. You've given my son his life back. Cleared his name and gave him answers. For that I will never be able to thank you enough." Arizona smiled. "I promised her I would find her."
"And she'd be thankful that you can tell her parents what happened to her and bring her home." Sean said softly. Lori said nothing but the smile through her tears told Arizona everything she needed to know. Tabitha stood. "I'm really sorry I need to leave I have other notifications to make…" She looked at Lori. "Sweetheart I will see you tonight." Lori nodded. "Be careful."
Arizona stood with her sister. "I'd better leave too." Declan stared at her. "You don't have too…" Arizona gently put two fingers over his lips. "I do. But when things have calmed down you know where I am." She followed Tabitha out the door feeling, for the first time since this had started months ago, lighter. And she knew then, it would take time, but they'd be okay.