BtVS is the creation of Joss Whedon and cohorts at Mutant Enemy. The Lovely Bones was written by Alice Sebold. Both properties are only borrowed for a brief time for this story.
****Norristown, PA, 2005
Some cases stay with you.
Detective Len Fenerman watched the crane lift its burden out of the old sinkhole. The forensics team took infinite care as the rusty safe was placed on a tarpaulin pegged out on the ground. The coldest of cold cases, perhaps. But one that had lived on in the department's collective memory; no one wanted to screw up on this one. The techs worked over every inch of the outside of the safe, in hopes that the son-of-a-bitch would have left behind trace. Wherever George Harvey was right now, everyone on the force wanted every chance they had to nail him when his devil's luck finally ran out.
A sharp intake of breath when the team began working on opening the safe. Abigail stood a few feet away with the others. Still beautiful after all these years. A part of Len wanted to go to her, the same one who had shared her pain and her bed. Instead, he stood respectfully off to one side with the other detectives who had worked the case. Abigail and her family stood a few yards away. Jack leaned against his wife as if she were a pillar of the world. Buckley supported his dad on his other side. Lindsey's spine was ramrod straight, though she rested in--what was his name, right, the younger of the Heckler boys--the arms of her husband. Watching in the funny-solemn way of kids, a young girl clung to Lindsey's hand as the safe finally was opened after so many years.
The low barrier put up around the excavation site stopped Abigail Suzanne what the team, piece by piece, recovered from the safe. The tomb of Susie Salmon. The rest of her family did. Len did not watch their reaction. He did not need to. There's a certain cry you hear if you put enough time into homicide investigations. Imagine a whimpering puppy. Then imagine it crushed by a car, yet still alive and begging. The keen of Abigail and Jack rendered afresh made the hot summer day even more obscene. The part of him that had loved Abby goaded him to comfort her. Discretion and simple humanity told him instead to turn away to leave the family to their mourning.
Police work. A lot like his dad had once called baseball: "A game of couldas, a game of shouldas, a game of might-have-beens." You took all your experience, skill ,and talent...and it still came down to luck and the smarts to connect up the evidence that came your way. Len didn't think he was a very good detective. The force thought otherwise, given the commendations and reports in his file. A detective judges himself harshly, though. There had been a few too many couldas and shouldas during the Salmon case that kept him up late at night. Well, he could lay that to rest now. Luck. A mysterious anonymous tip. A California billionaire who had donated the money and used his conections. And a set of bones--minus an elbow--that was finally seeing the light of day.
Len spotted her in the crowd gathered outside the second crime-scene barrier. He and other cops on site had glanced over the throng every so often. Just in case George Harvey decided to show up on Susie's big day. Never knew. A dog returneth to his vomit, and all that. Len did not see Harvey. He did see her. A detective's mind categorized the particulars: white female, blonde (maybe with a bottle's help), mid-twenties, high end clothing of maybe Italian cut. What struck Len as odd was The Face. It wasn't the gleeful interest of the ghouls who wanted a chance at glimpsing Susie's remains, or the sorrow of those who had lived her when Susie's disappearance had been fresh news. No, for such a young woman, the stranger had the expression of a veteran of twenty years on the force.
Softened only by the most beautiful smile.
"Ma'am," he said, approaching her.
"Detective Fenerman," she replied. "Don't worry, I know how this goes. A world of fun it usually isn't. Buffy Anne Summers."
"Followed the case?" Len asked, surprised.
"Not at the time." Summers lifted up fashionable sunglasses away from hazel eyes. "I heard about it from a friend."
"She from around here?"
"You might say that," Summers replied. "A-are the family--"
"They'll live. That's what's important." Len paused. "If there's any information you can give us--"
"John Doe, found in a ravine in New Hampshire." Summers handed him a card with an address scribbled on it. "Next to this diner. Something carried off his skull and fingers. You'll get DNA, I guess."
A game of couldas, a game of wouldas, a game of might-have-beens.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a fourth swing of the bat.
"How?" Len asked, hand numb around the card. The final bone in the set. "Are you psychic?"
"Or something. I wish it was that simple." Summers tapped the card. "Number on that? Call us if you ever hear of a case also not that simple. "
"Right." He should grab her and get her to the station. But...
"If you need to explain it, let's just say I heard it from a friend." Summers' smile faded a bit. Nostalgic. "Didn't spend that much time with her, though time wasn't exactly a factor. Met on a beach, can you believe it? She helped me find peace for as long as it lasted."
Then Summers did the oddest thing.
She didn't look up to the blue sky, as Len half-expected her to.
She didn't look at the shrouded remains born on a stretcher to an evidence van.
Buffy Summers glanced to her side. To a space Len realized that no other bystander seemed to go near.
"One last thing. Kinda of the important." Summers nodded. "Live a long and happy life. And thank you."
Detective Len Fenerman could only stand, mute, as Buffy Ann Summers disappeared into the crowd.