Missing Love

BY : SisterWine
Category: 1 through F > Cold Case
Dragon prints: 251
Disclaimer: Lilly Rush and the Cold Case team belong to Meredith Stiehm. I make no money from this nor do I wish any harm or slandre against this series. The OCs, including the ME and Tom Cort, are my own inventions. THIS WORK IS FICTION

Mount Tammany, 1981

Tessa Cort sat down at a picnic spot and opened her knapsack. She pulled out a can of soda and a saran wrapped PB&J sandwich. She exhaled and bit into her unwrapped sandwich as she stared out at the wooded area, around her. Chewing and swallowing her bite, she licked the grape jelly from the corner of her mouth and popped the can of Coke open with her free hand. After another bite and a good few swallows of soda, she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see other hikers out on the trail she had stepped off of. Once she finished her sandwich and soda, she brushed off the crumbs from her shirt and stood up to brush the leaves and dirt from her jeans.

The day had been just right for a long hike. There were a few clouds above but that didn't stop the sun from speckling the ground with bursts of golden puddles through the tall trees. A lush landscape of trees and waterfalls for as wide as the eyes could see whilst her ears filled with the sounds of birds and whisping leaves.

Tilting her head back to finish the last drop of soda, she leveled and looked around for the wastebin, chained to a tree, on the other side of the trail. Tessa packed up her knapsack and slung it over her shoulder before turning around and making her way over to the bin, jolting briefly to a stop as a Park Ranger appeared out of seemingly nowhere and stood next to it. Smiling and walking across the dirt trail, she kept eye contact with him. "You startled me." She said as she tossed the empty can into the near-full bin.

The ranger smiled back coolly. "Apologies. I was just about to empty this." He reached for the knot at the side of the bin and paused, looking around. "You shouldn't be out here, alone. It's dangerous. Hunters are starting to come in and we've been getting reports of some shady characters lurking around here." His voice was gravelly but soft tenored and disarming. Crystal gray eyes watched her as they chatted momentarily.

"I know." She smiled nervously. He stood a good six inches taller than her and she had to squint when she looked up at him, as a ray of sunlight caught a ranger pin on his ballcap. "It was just a gorgeous day and I was tired of being cooped up in my little apartment." Brushing a stray brown hair out of her eyes, she blushed as he smiled again.

The ranger nodded and looked over his shoulder as he heard gunfire from a nearby hunting party. "Well, if you run into trouble, I'm Vince." He looked back to her and held out a friendly hand.

Tessa smiled brightly and accepted the offered hand. "Tessa Bright. I should be heading on. Have to get back soon. Nice to meet ya, Vince." They parted hands after shaking and she turned to walk further down the trail.

"Likewise." Vince called up to her and returned to his duties before his shift ended. His sculpted bare arms caught the soft, broken sunlight as he finished his chore and checked his watch on his right wrist. It was almost quitting time but he had one more stop to make before he called it a day. Walking his few collected sacks and making his way back to his little jeep, he spotted her again, taking photos of the mountain ranges and trees, not paying any attention to what or who was around her.

As the sun set, Vince shut the tailgate to his faded blue '74 Ford pickup and made his way around to the driver's side door, that sat ajar and waiting for him to climb inside. Taking one last look around, he hopped in and slammed the door shut, turning the key in the ignition. A mile or so into his drive home, he saw a broken down yellow VW bug and the back of a woman, standing at the back of it with the hood raised. Vince pulled up behind her and stopped before getting out to see if he could help. "Hi, something wrong?"

Tessa turned around and smiled, glad to see the handsome ranger walking up to her. "Yeah, the dumb thing just quit. I don't suppose you know of any tow trucks, do ya?" The evening had gotten chilly and she shivered a bit as she hadn't brought a windbreaker to wear, just in case.

A corner of his mouth lifted as Vince shook his head. "Nope. Sorry. I tell ya what, though, There's a gas station down at the bottom. You can call for one, there. I'll even wait with ya and bring you back." He smiled and looked up and down the road for any other travellers.

"Thanks. Let me grab my pack. I can buy you a cup of coffee, for the ride." Tessa beamed and made her way around to the passenger door and reached in for her pink and gray knapsack on the seat. As she straightened herself from bending over, a hand grabbed her from behind and shoved a damp cloth over her mouth and nose and held it there. She struggled against the strong arm that held her middle but eventually, her strength gave out and she collapsed against the man holding her.

~~~

The truck pulled to a stop beside the large log cabin and Vince shut off the engine. "Boys!" He called through the open window on the door and waited to see his three teenaged sons come outside and stand on the porch, waiting for further instructions. Opening his door and climbing out, he made his way around to the passenger door and opened it, catching the still unconscious Tessa in his arms.

Justin and Nicholas hurried down to greet their father, with the youngest, Cory, trailing behind. Justin licked his lips and eyed the young woman. "A new one, Pa? We gonna share her?"

Vince shook his head and eyed Cory, who came to a stop behind his older brothers. "Nope. This one's for Cory." Handing the woman off to his second oldest, Nicholas, he gave direct instructions that both he and Justin were to ready the "bridal suite" for the lovebirds. Which meant to put the unconscious Tessa in Cory's bed and chain her to the head and footboards, whilst Vince and Cory had "the talk", prior to consummations.

"Me, Pa? B-but, but I..." Cory, the youngest and more stoic of the three boys, stared wide-eyed at the the limp woman in Nick's arms as they carried her off to his self-made cabin, to the far left of their 14-acre compound. Long blond hair blew in the breeze that chilled him to the bone.

Vince shut the door, after grabbing her knapsack out of the truck and turned to give a stern look to his son. "You backtalkin' me, boy?"

Cory swallowed and dropped his complaints. "No, sir." He stepped back, out of the way of his father, who passed by him and came back around to the driver's side. He followed closely behind but remained silent. He squinted at the bright porch light that came on and glanced up at his mother, standing in the doorway of the cabin.

Looking up at the doorway, Vince started up the stairs, the knapsack in hand. Tossing the pack to the woman who opened the door to welcome her husband, he growled his orders at her. "Shannon, get the bride ready. Your son's gonna be a husband, again. Get in here, boy!" He called to Cory as he passed the smaller woman, who stepped back to let him pass.

Lifting a hand to touch Cory's cheek as he stopped beside her, Shannon Parker let out an uneasy breath and turned to fetch her "wedding gown" from the trunk Vince had built years prior. She sombrely made her way outside and over to Cory's smaller cabin, where Nicholas and Justin were pawing at the now awake and struggling Tessa. Her light brown hair had been pulled back to a low, loose ponytail that had started to spill the hair out of its bonds as she walked. As she stepped up onto the top step, she heard the young woman screeching and the boys laughing as they played with her. "Boys! Leave her alone. She's your brother's."

Justin, the oldest, turned to see his mother standing in the bedroom doorway. "We're just gettin' her warmed up, Ma. Can't let Cor have a limp bride. Can we?" He laughed again as a hand trailed down to Tessa's white button up shirt and pulled the top button off.

Shannon swallowed. "Enough. Go help your brother get cleaned up." Her stern voice was enough to make the boys stop their teasings and walk casually out of the cabin and back over to their parents' cabin.

Heavy, ragged breaths came as Tessa watched the woman place the gown on the bed and step closer to her. "Please, let me go. I won't tell but please let me go. I don't wanna do this." She begged as Shannon took a small pocketknife from her ratty skirt's front pocket and began to cut the woman's jeans off of her. "Please, no." Her voice caught the strain of tears as she watched the older woman work. "I'll scream."

"You can scream all you want. We're on 14 acres of land, here. No one will hear you. Just be calm and keep quiet. He won't hurt you. But, if you get pregnant by my Cory, stay pregnant. If you don't, Vince will make sure you do." Shannon spoke softly, calming the woman. Her hands trembled as she replaced Tessa's clothes with an old wedding gown from Vince's first wife.

Tessa gave one last beg for freedom as Shannon fastened the sleeveless gown behind her. "Please, my father's a Highway Patrolman. He'll find me. Please don't do this." She cried as Shannon removed the ponytail holder from Tessa's hair and let it fall around her thin and shaking, naked shoulders.

Shannon sat back and sighed as she turned to look at the doorway, where Vince and a partially drunk Cory stood.

"That's good to know. My boy's gonna marry someone important." Vince laughed cruelly. He eyed Tessa, who stared at him in terror as he shoved a nervous Cory in front of him. Turning his attention over to his wife, he nodded. "Git on home. Fix me my dinner. This won't take long."

Tessa shook visibly now and cried out in horror as Vince grabbed a chair from the dining room and placed it in the doorway and sat down, facing the couple. The room was dark, save for the bright light of the kitchen, in the main room. A massive queen-sized bed and a three-drawer dresser occupied the most space of the small bedroom. With her arms and legs restrained apart, she struggled as Cory sat down on the bed, beside her.

~~~

The Pinnacle, 2006

Detective Lilly Rush ducked under the police tape that her boss help up for her and walked over to where the large hole had been dug. "What've we got?" She stopped at the edge of the hole and looked down to see her partner lightly brushing dirt away from dirt-caked clothes covering yellowed remains of a human. "Looks like they've been down there for awhile." She absently said it, quietly.

"Twenty-year-old female, Caucasian, Philly license." Scotty stood up and handed the bagged pocketbook over to Stillman, who put on his gloves before opening the evidence bag and looking at it. "Two hunters called it in when their beagle began digging, after bringing them to their game." He turned and pointed further down hill, a few yards, where a group of officers and the two hunters discussed what they had found.

Stillman watched what he was doing but asked the question of who the victim was. "Catch a name?" He unraveled the faded brown leather and slipped out the old bank cards and checked for money.

Scotty sighed. "Tessa ..."

"Cort." John Stillman finished the name before he had a chance to look at the license. "My God. We've found her. After all these years." Stopping what he was doing and raising his eyes to look at the partially exposed remains that lie face down in a shallow grave, in the middle of a wooded area, he took a deep breath.

Lilly turned to take the pocketbook from him and look at the faded and dirty photo on the ID. "You knew her, boss?" She looked back up at him to see utter sorrow and shock on her Lieutenant's face.

Stillman nodded. "She's been missing since '81. Her car was found just off the road in Mount Tammany. She lived around the area and always went for a hike or bike ride. At the time, her father was a highway patrolman. He's retired now but never gave up looking for her." He looked up to see the medical examiner making her way over to them with a gurney and bag. "Doc, how long 'til you know?"

The tired M.E. stopped beside Stillman and looked down at the scene. "I'll get started on it, right away. Tom's a good friend of mine. I should have your answers in a day or so." She turned and waved her assistant to follow her to collect the remains. She knew how long Tom Cort had been searching for his daughter and had hoped and prayed that she was still alive, somewhere. Her heart sunk when she got the call.

Nodding and sighing, John Stillman turned to head back to the car. "I'll make that call to Tom." He headed back up the steep hill. His mind blank from shock, except the single thought of how fitting it was to find a grim scene on such a bleak day. He made the drive in silence, stopping only to pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels to calm his longtime friend's nerves as he broke the news. Stepping up onto the porch and gulping down the lump that choked him, Stillman knocked on the screen door as the front door was open to let the cool breeze in. "Tom? It's John."

A haggard and wiry man came around the corner from the kitchen and waved him in. "John. You're here on a Tuesday morning, this better be good."

Stillman nodded briefly, opening the screendoor and stepped inside, motioning over to the old and ripped up La Z Boy chair. "It is. Have a seat."

"What is it?" Tom scrubbed a hand over his face and hobbled over to the chair and sat down. He had fallen and broken his leg, years prior, and was still healing from the wound.

Stillman stepped forward. "Glasses?"

"Cupboard on the left of the sink. What's this about, John?" A tired New York accent crowded his words as he turned to ask the question to the man that continued straight, into the kitchen. He asked again when John returned and sat next to him, on the adjacent faux-suede sofa.

Stillman placed the two drinking glasses down on the wicker end table, next to the chair and opened the bottle to pour more for his friend than himself. When he finished, he capped the bottle and sat back. "Have a drink, first." He spoke calmly, almost numbly but kept his gaze steady on his friend.

Tom glanced at the glass. "What's goin' on, John?"

"Just," Stillman closed his eyes and took a breath, "have a drink." He watched as Tom Cort picked up the glass with 3/4 full of amber liquid and drank most of it in one gulp before slamming it down with a bang on the glass top. "It's about Tessa." He started.

Tom picked up the glass and finished the last swallow and a half before he spoke. "Where is she?" He shook as he replaced the glass to the table. "That sonofabitch got her. Didn't he? He and his worthless horde of bastards got my little girl." His mouth pressed into a small round pout as his face reddened with the thought of Vince Parker having his daughter all these years.

Stillman took a drink from his glass and refilled Tom's empty glass before he answered. "Sherry's going to do an autopsy. Should be a couple of days. I'm going to need you to come down and give a statement." His tone never waivered from calm and collected as he sat across from his friend of 35 years.

"I wanna see her. I gotta see my babygirl." Tom's voice filled with anger-infused sadness and helplessness of a father than couldn't protect his only little girl.

Stillman shook his head. "I can't let you do that. Not right now. Right now, you and Karen need to heal from this." He spent the next six hours with his distraught brother in blue, looking a old photos and drawings and listening to stories Tom regaled him with of how Tessa wanted to be a photographer for a major scenic magazine. He had also witnessed a tough patrolman on the force break down into a sobbing heap on the kitchen floor, over the loss of his beautiful and talented daughter.

 

Continued.



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