The Witness by: Lisa

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Distribution: Just tell me where itís going.

Rating: Iíd say R for this part. No bad words, just some violence (which is expected with a horror fic, right?)

Classification: P/J

Authorís Note: Wow. I was amazed at the response for part 7. Dozens of emails that all said the exact same thing: "Donít kill off Joey!". What was I amazed about? That people would actually think Iíd kill her off! Now, this is a p/j romance, right? Now, what sort of p/j romance would this be if dear old Joey died in part 7? Think about it!

Thanks to: Kilby (of course!) for her countless hours spent proofing and offering to be shot in the toe, Laura, for providing the cure to my seemingly endless writerís block as well as tons and tons of police jargon and plot lines, and everyone that urged me to hurry up and write this part! Thanks, guys. I couldnít have done it without you.

Once again, keep an eye out for two winners of the Unmask the Murderer Sweepstakes in this installment! Get ready to meet T.C. McGonigle, a young criminal psychologist from Boston, and Danielle, the head of the forensics team. Congratulations to T.C. and Danielle and keep looking for more winners!

* * *

The Witness

Capeside Funeral Parlor
Immediately where Part Seven left off

"BloodÖDeadÖbathroomÖJoey," Karen gasped. She leaned over, trying to catch her breath. Several of the other people in the room murmured in confusion.

Pacey raced over to Karen the instant the word "Joey" came out of her mouth. "What was that about Joey?" he demanded, his voice wavering. "Please tell me sheís okay," he begged. Karen shook her head sadly.

"Sheís okay," she managed to utter before collapsing in one of the folding chairs. Whatever had happened in the bathroom had shaken her up completely. She massaged her temples slowly, trying to relax. It didnít appear to be working, from what Pacey could tell. Her breath still came in ragged gasps and her arms were shaking.

"So Joeyís okay?" Dawson said, breathing a sigh of relief. Karen nodded slightly.

"Then why did you say Ďbloodí and Ďdeadí if Joeyís okay?" Pacey asked, confused.

"I said Joey was okay," she repeated. A look of understanding, followed quickly by fear, crossed the faces of everyone within earshot.

"What do you mean?" Dawson demanded. "Whoís not okay? Who are you talking about?" He grabbed her arm roughly. "Karen! Answer me!" She glared at him for a few seconds, then pulled away from his grasp.

"Some blonde girl," she said. "I wasnít in there long enough to check her wallet for ID, Dawson. I saw the blood and ran out."

"Jen!" Dawson cried. "It canít be Jen!" Paceyís eyes opened wide as the thought of Jen lying in a pool of blood in the bathroom began to sink in.

"Oh my God, they killed Jen?" he whispered in shock. Karen shrugged.

"I donít know if it was Jen; it could have been Jen. It could have been some other blonde girl, too, though. Donít go assuming that the dead girl in the bathroom is Jen just because sheís blonde," she told them. She was beginning to calm down, now that she was no longer anywhere near the dead body.

"What about me?" Jen asked as she pushed through the crowd toward her friends. Dawson whirled around to face her and crushed her in a hug. "Ooof. Let me breathe, Dawson."

"Thank God youíre not dead," he whispered into her hair. Pacey breathed a sigh of relief as well.

"Why would I be dead?" she asked, confused. She glanced around Dawsonís arm at Pacey and bloody Karen. "What happened?" she demanded.

Karen took a few deep breaths in preparation for the ordeal that lay ahead: describing the horrific scene in the bathroom.

"I went into the bathroom, and Joey was lying all crumpled up on the floor. I figured she had fainted, so I wanted to make sure that she was okay. But when I walked past the second stall, I slipped in . . . all the blood and I fell. God, there was so much of it," she trailed off.

She looked back at Dawson sadly. "When I looked over from the ground, I saw . . . I saw . . ." Karen choked on her last words, unable to continue. Tears started streaming down her face. Dawson placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and urged her to continue. She nodded and took a breath before continuing. "There was a girl . . . on the floor, and the blood, all that blood . . . it was hers. Iíve seen people like that in horror movies before, but never in real life."

"Was she dead?" a voice in the crowd asked. Karen shook her head.

"I couldnít tell. I just saw the blood and ran. But I donít think she could possibly be alive."

"Did someone call the police?" another voice asked. A shout in the affirmative rang out from across the funeral home.

"Is Joey still in there?" Pacey demanded, suddenly remembering the first part of Karenís story.

"IÖI think so," she said between tears. Jen handed her a tissue and she wiped her eyes.

"Iím going to go find her," Pacey said.

"Donít touch anything," Dawson warned. "Evidence."

"I know," Pacey said, exasperated. He knew that he needed to get to Joey.

* * *

As soon as he swung open the door, he wanted to throw up. The smell of blood was overwhelming and the sight of it on the white tile floor was even worse. Karen was right; there was no way that this girl could still be alive. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

"Pacey?" a weak voice asked while his eyes were closed. They flew open at the sound of her voice.

"Jo? Are you okay?" he asked, incredibly concerned. She was sitting up against the wall farthest from the blood.

"Iím just a little sore. I think I passed out and hit the floor pretty hard," she said, wincing in pain. "I donít think anythingís broken, though. Probably just bruises."

"What happened?" he asked as he gingerly made his way across the bathroom. He deliberately ignored the limp body in the second stall. Better leave that to the Capeside Police force, he reasoned.

"Iím not sure," she admitted when he had finally reached her. He squatted beside her as she tried to wipe some of the blood off her face. Pacey stood up and got a paper towel from the dispenser mounted above her head. He wet it and began to help her clean up.

"Donít worry about it, Jo. The important thing is that youíre all right," he said comfortingly. She smiled at him.

"Thanks, Pacey," she whispered. He smiled back at her. She raised her right hand up to his cheek and gently stroked it with her thumb. "You know," she continued. "I-"

"Everyone in here okay?" a voice called from the doorway. Joey removed her hand instantly from Paceyís face as five members of the Capeside Police force filed into the small bathroom.

"The two of us are fine," Pacey said, reassuring the team.

"Can you walk?" another one asked, motioning to Joey.

"I think so," she said, carefully trying to stand up. She teetered precariously for a few seconds, then grabbed Paceyís shoulder to keep herself from falling. "Can we leave now?" she asked the closest officer. He glanced up from his clipboard and shook his head.

"No. You need to go to the hospital and get checked out."

"Why? Iím fine. I just want to go home."

"Sorry, miss. Standard procedure. Follow that man over there and heíll take you to an ambulance," the officer explained, pointing to another bored-looking officer twirling a set of keys.

"Look, canít we go to the hospital later? Sheís had a rough time," Pacey interjected, trying to extract some sympathy. The officer glanced over the top of his glasses at the two teenagers standing before him. He rolled his eyes.

"Pacey, you should know better than anyone that we can't break protocol, even for the captainís son."

"But-"

"No buts about it. To the hospital, now." Pacey sighed, but led Joey to the waiting officer. He took one look at the crowd milling around the funeral home, then quickly took them out the back entrance to the waiting car.

* * *

24th Precinct, Boston, Massachusetts
Ten minutes later

"T.C.? Call on line two, someone from the Capeside Police Force," her secretary said. T.C. McGonigle sighed and threw the manila folder she was leafing through onto her desk. Capeside? Letís figure out where that is, she thought to herself. She glanced at the enormous map of Massachusetts behind her desk and quickly located it through the index on the left side.

"G and 5ÖG and 5Ö" she muttered, bringing her fingers together from the bottom and right sides of the map. "There we are. Capeside, Massachusetts. PopulationÖthis must be a joke. Did they leave out a few zeros?" she gaped, staring incredulously at the impossibly tiny population of the town. She shook her head, then remembered the waiting phone call. "Thank you," she said to her secretary, returning to her desk. She pressed the speakerphone button. "Hello?"

"Detective McGonigle?"

"Speaking."

"This is Officer Davis from the Capeside Police Force."

"Yes? Can I help you with something?"

"We were told you might be able to help us with a case we were having."

What, a lost cow? she thought wryly.

"Officer Davis, Iím sorry, my field of expertise lies in criminal psychology. I donít think that my services will be of any use to you."

There was a pause on the other line.

"Well, who should I contact for help in these murder cases? The first person I spoke to said you were my best bet," he asked, confused. "I mean, if-"

"What did you say? Murders? Human murders?" she interrupted, barely believing what he was telling her. This could be her lucky break.

"Yes. Two in as many days. In fact, Iím standing not ten feet away from the latest victim," he said. "Weíre at a loss in the investigation; weíve never had to deal with something like this before."

T.C. couldnít believe her luck. This was her ticket to finally getting some respect from the rest of the detectives in the precinct. They viewed her as nothing more than a novelty: the tall redhead in her early twenties with a degree in criminal psychology. She had almost no field experience to speak of but still managed to get preferential treatment from the superiors, undoubtedly due to the fact she had just graduated first in her class from one of Canadaís most prestigious universities. Understandably, she wasnít very popular among the older detectives that had earned their way to the top of the heap instead of having it thrust in their laps before legal drinking age.

"Iím on my way. How far is it by car?"

"Coupla hours. Two, maybe three, depending on how fast you drive."

"Iíll be there in one," she said, hanging up.

* * *

Capeside Funeral Parlor
One hour and seventeen minutes later

Detective Steve Griffen carefully walked into the women's bathroom, squeezing past two officers from the local police department that were chatting about a baseball game the night before. He cast a disdainful eye on the two of them, then moved into the bathroom where the corpse was. This small-town murder case was undoubtedly going to be one of the easiest he had ever come across and he might as well get to work. Stopping in front of the open stall, he surveyed the scene with detached interest, trying to keep his distance from the blood on the floor. The last thing he needed right now was to get down and dirty in an investigation...what he wanted was his evening off. He glanced at his watch. He had already been there for a good ten minutes and the forensics team was probably arriving now, since they tended to drive slower than he did. Now, where the heck is T.C.? If she would hurry up and get down here, he might still be able to salvage some of the bar-hopping he had planned for the night. He could take a few notes, then send T.C. to the coroner with the victim. She wouldnít question it, he had seniority. Have to love the ignorant new recruits, he thought wickedly to himself.

As the stretcher with the girlís body bag rolled past him and out of the ladies' room, he moved closer to get a better look at the scene of the murder. There was blood everywhere; on the walls and on the floor, dried between the small white tiles and smeared across the back wall. The toilet was practically covered in it and the toilet seat itself was almost wrenched right off its hinges, twisted off to the side. He raised an eyebrow as he pondered this oddity. At that moment, he heard the unmistakable clicking of high heels on the tile floor. Itís about time, he thought to himself.

"Excuse me, sir, but I need to get in there," T.C. said, tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around to face her and her jaw dropped.

"What are you doing here?" she asked in confusion.

"Having a cup of coffee and buying a yacht, you?"

"Seriously, why are you here, Steve? This is my case," she said angrily.

"Evidently itís mine too. Didnít the big guy tell you? He told me that you and I were assigned to a series of murders in Capeside, Massachusetts, and to get my butt down there as soon as I could. Frankly, I was a little upset, seeing as itís supposed to be my night off and all, but-"

"No, Chief Olsen did not tell me you were assigned to this case. I was under the impression that this was my case and my case only."

"Well, sweets, guess youíre wrong there. Now, have you seen the forensics team yet? I want them to check out these hairs," he said, pointing to a few blonde hairs that were firmly attached to the upper hinge of the door.

"They contacted the forensics team?" she asked in shock. This case must be bigger than we thought, if theyíd call them all the way down from Boston for a couple of murders.

"Yep, they should already be here. Why donít you go outside and find them?" he suggested, still examining the hairs. T.C. shook her head and opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the approach of Danielle Covington. The black-haired, brown-eyed head of the forensics team walked towards them, peeling off her plastic gloves as she dodged the puddles of blood on the floor.

"Quite the mess, isn't it? They're going to be cleaning that for months to come," she said, commenting on the blood in the stall.

"Hello, Steve," she said, nodding at him. "Hello, T.C."

"They called you all the way down here for this?" T.C. inquired.

She was still peeved how "her case" had quickly grown into something large enough to require the on-site talents of the forensics team.

"For this? I detect a hint of disdain in your voice, T.C.," Danielle teased. Although T.C. was new to the force, she and Danielle had become fast friends and often dined together outside of work. "Could it be possible that you and Steve have something better to do on a night like this?"

"Yeah, a 20 year old waitress," Steve muttered, still engrossed in the hairs knotted around the door hinge. "What are we looking at here, Danielle? A stabbing? Victim appears to have lost a lot of blood."

"Actually, this wasn't any ordinary murder, from what we can tell. Itís kind of interesting. The victim's head seemed to have been smashed against the toilet numerous times. As of now, it seems like death was caused by blunt trauma to the head, although we havenít gotten that confirmed by the coroner yet."

"The toilet? You've got to be kidding. Can't these small-town fools even murder someone right?" Danielle rolled her eyes at Steve.

"Watch your step, Steve, I used to be one of those small-town fools. Don't insult us...besides, we're not looking at any ordinary assailant here. This might be the second victim in what could possibly be extended to many more if we don't catch him.

"Or her," T.C. interjected.

"Or her," Danielle added. Steve looked up with new interest.

"Serial?"

"Looks that way."

* * *

Capeside Memorial Hospital
7:30 p.m. that evening

"114Ö115Ö116, here we go," T.C. muttered to herself as she scanned the numbers of the hospital rooms in the corridor. She compared the number to a list on her clipboard. "Occupant is eighteen year old Josephine Potter. You ready to go in?" she asked Steve. He shook his head.

"Look, thereís no point in the two of us being there and tape recording the entire conversation. Seems kind of wasteful, if you ask me. Iím going to go grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria, if you donít mind," he said, turning on his heel and quickly walking back in the direction they had just came.

"I do mind, but that doesnít matter, does it?" she said to herself.

"Somehow, I have a feeling Iím going to be handling most of the legwork on this case." She glanced inside Room 116, but her view of the occupants was blocked by the wall. Sighing, she walked purposefully into the room. A pretty brown haired girl, who she assumed to be Josephine, was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in a flimsy hospital gown. A very good-looking young man was sitting in a hard plastic chair, pulled up close to the bed. They both looked up, startled at the sudden clicks of T.C.ís shoes on the tile floor. Seeing the white lab coat T.C. was wearing in preparation for her next stop, the coroner, Pacey assumed she was a doctor. He quickly sprang to his feet and raced over to shake her hand.

"Oh, thank goodness youíre here; weíve been waiting for a while. Jo says she's feeling dizzy," he explained, obviously concerned. T.C. glanced back and forth between the pair, bewildered. She glanced down at her lab coat and realized what he had assumed.

"Oh, I'm not a doctor," she said apologetically. Pacey frowned and sat down again. "Iím wearing this coat because my next stop is the coroner."

"If you're not a doctor, thenÖ?"

"I'm T.C. McGonigle, from the 24th Precinct up in Boston. I was called down here by the Capeside Police department to assist with this case. And you are?"

"Pacey Witter, Joey's boyfriend. I mean, friend. I'm not her boyfriend. Anymore, I mean. I was her boyfriend, like, a long time ago, but we-"

"Witter, as in Police Captain Witter?" T.C. questioned.

"Yeah, thatís my father," he said, glad that she interrupted his nervous rambling. T.C. raised her eyebrows, shocked that the homely and unpleasant police captain could have produced such an incredibly handsome son. "You know him?"

"I met him briefly this afternoon at the murder scene." Pacey nodded in understanding, then returned his eyes to the girl on the bed. "And this is Josephine?" T.C. asked. Joey looked up at her visitor as she moved closer, her eyes distant and confused.

"It's...it's Joey, actually," she replied slowly and softly, still in shock over what had happened in the funeral parlor. She winced slightly and shifted to a more upright position.

"Hi, Joey," T.C. said warmly. "How are you feeling?"

"Not too great," she admitted. "My right elbow is really starting to hurt and Iím feeling awfully dizzy."

"Maybe I should get a doctor," Pacey said nervously, standing up. Joey shook her head.

"No, stay here. Iíll be fine," she said. Pacey arched his eyebrows in disbelief, but returned to his seat.

"Joey, I just want to ask you a few questions about what happened today. Do you feel up for that?" She nodded.

"Only a couple and, if she starts to feel worse, you stop. Got it?" Pacey ordered protectively. T.C. nodded. She sat gingerly on the edge of Joeyís bed and flipped to a blank piece of paper on her clipboard. She removed a small tape recorder from her pocket and placed it on the bed.

"Okay, Joey. Iím going to tape this, by the way, so I donít miss anything. First question: Why did you go to the bathroom in the first place?" Joey looked back and forth between Pacey and T.C., then cleared her throat.

"Well, actually, it started because of this girl that came up to talk to Pacey and Dawson at the viewing."

"Dawson?" she inquired.

"A friend of ours," Joey clarified. "Anyway, Pacey and I got into a little fight and he left to go talk to Kristenís family. Thatís the girl whose viewing we were at, by the way. Then Karen made some catty remarks about how Pacey and I should save everyone the turmoil and get back together or something and she was just being generally irritating.

So, to get away from her, I went to the bathroom." T.C. nodded in understanding and made a few notes on her clipboard.

"Who is Karen?"

"A friend of Dawsonís from college. Sheís spending the week here."

T.C. nodded again.

"Now, I need you to explain, in detail, what you saw when you walked in there." Joey looked at her hands.

"To tell you the truth, I donít remember very much. I walked in, saw the blood, and the next thing I knew I was lying on my back, staring at the ceiling of the bathroom," she said apologetically.

"Was there a lot of blood on the floor?"

"Oh, yes."

"Did you see the body of the victim?" Joey became incredibly interested in her fingernails.

"Like I said, maíam, I really donít remember very much."

"Did you see a struggle in the stall?" T.C. pressed. "Did you see the killer?"

"I donít remember. IÖI donít think so," Joey said, flustered. She winced in pain again as she shifted her position. T.C. rolled her eyes.

"Are you sure you didnít see the killer? Come on, think."

"I said I donít remember."

"Are you positive you didnít see anyone? See a figure rushing out of the bathroom as you came in?"

"I donít know!" Joey cried. "I donít know! I donít remember!" she said, burying her face in her hands. Pacey rushed over to Joey and wrapped his arms around her.

"Shh, shh, itís okay," he whispered. She sobbed quietly into his shoulder. "Itís okay, Jo."

"Joey, if-"

"Get out," Pacey ordered.

"What?" T.C. asked, shocked.

"I said get out."

"Look, Pacey, Iím sorry, but this is a criminal case and we need all the information we can get. It shouldnít take much longer."

"No. Get out. Sheís had enough trouble today; she doesnít need any more. Get out."

"PaceyÖ"

"Out." T.C. sighed, then turned off the tape recorder. She gathered her notes and quietly slipped out the door as Joey cried in Paceyís arms.

* * *

Who killed Kristen? Who's the dead girl in the bathroom? What's the deal with Steve? Is it really a serial killer? Find out all this and more in part 9...being released upon the receipt of feedback.

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