Fandom/Pairing: Community; Annie/Rich, implied future Jeff/Annie
Spoilers: Through 2.06
Warning: Implied minor character death
Word Count: ~2,000
Disclaimer: Community and the related characters are © 2010 Sony Pictures Television Inc. and Universal Media Studios
Notes: Based on the prompt "Jeff suspects Rich of being a serial killer, but no one believes him" by ravenecho and originally posted in the October 29 Ficcy Friday post at milady_milord. (There was more to the prompt than that, but this fic is based only on the part I quoted here.) Thanks to my nephew David for providing me with necessary background information for this fic.
Jeff stormed out of Group Study Room F, as angry with the group as he could ever remember being. He couldn't understand why the rest of the group refused to see the obvious truth about Rich: that he was almost certainly a serial killer. It was all so obvious once you looked past his charm and inoffensive good looks. No one liked to talk about it, but women went missing from Greendale all the time. Sabrina, Dean Pelton's assistant; Dr. Baker, the chemistry professor; Courtney, from Jeff's pool class; Dioni, who played Shirley in the Community College Chronicles: none of them had been seen in months. One week they were there, the next they were gone, never to be seen again.
What's more, Jeff's research had turned up a string of disappearances near Santa Fe that just happened to coincide with the dates of Rich's residency, and a number of unsolved murders in Tucson and Miami, where Rich had grown up and gone to med school respectively. And for Pete's sake, in his Campus Connect profile, Rich said that his favorite spot on campus was "the hallways of the Borchert Building at night." Who would describe a dimly lit and nearly deserted hallway as "magnificent"? A serial killer, that's who, which was why, Jeff had explained, they needed to do everything possible to bring an end Rich and Annie's nascent relationship, which had sprung up in the wake of the Halloween party.
But the group had let him down. Britta said she'd learned her lesson about interfering with Annie's love life. Shirley agreed in principle that Annie shouldn't date Rich because of the age difference, but was counting on the power of prayer to break them up. Troy had suggested that Jeff's long-standing hatred of Rich was coloring his opinions. Pierce had said that it was none of his business if Rich wanted to nail Big Boobs. And Abed had wondered if perhaps Jeff's concern was rooted more in jealousy than for any genuine concern for Annie's well-being, which had led Troy to nod thoughtfully and Britta to look sharply in Jeff direction, her eyes narrowed.
Which is when Jeff had stormed out. If they weren't going to take this seriously, he would have to go it alone. He didn't need them. Annie was the only one of them worth a damn, but of course she wouldn't be of any help, not while she was making goo-goo eyes with that turd of a doctor. Why did she always have to go for obvious douchebags? Of course, that was the problem; Rich was pretty good at hiding his douchebaggery. Not good enough to fool Jeff Winger, though.
Lost in thought, he rounded a corner and collided with someone coming the other direction, knocking him to the floor. "Sorry about that," Jeff said, extending his hand to help the guy up. Jeff sized up the stranger while he brushed himself off. He was taller than average, but a few inches shorter than Jeff; brown hair with longish sideburns; an expensive gray blazer with a black V-neck shirt under it. "Judging from that jacket, I'd say you probably ended up here by mistake. Where are you trying to get to?"
"I'm looking for the main administrative offices," the man said with a smile, "but I feel like I'm just going in circles."
"I'm heading that way," Jeff said. "Just follow me." Not being someone who particularly enjoyed small talk, Jeff didn't attempt to engage the stranger in conversation. The stranger likewise remained silent, and before long they found themselves by the door closest to Jeff's reserved parking space. He pointed down the hall and said, "the office is just down the hall here, second door on the left. And hey, sorry about knocking you over earlier."
"Not a problem." The man in the gray held out his hand for Jeff to shake. "Thanks for your help, Mr. ..."
"Winger. Jeff Winger."
* * *
Late that evening, Jeff emerged from his office at the Greendale Gazette Journal Mirror to find Annie sitting at her favorite desk, her left hand on her chin, staring vacantly into space. That explained why he'd not heard any typing for the last fifteen minutes or so. She seemed to take no notice of him as he approached. "All right, Ace, whatever you're working on can wait until tomorrow."
Annie gave a little shriek of surprise and sat bolt upright. "Jeff! What are you still doing here?"
"Oh, you know ... editor stuff," he said, using a loose but not indefensible definition of the term that included imagining the banner headline that would accompany the story exposing his star reporter's boyfriend as a serial killer, and preventing her from being murdered by same.
"In other words, you fell asleep on your couch again."
Jeff smiled. "You got me." The truth was that he actually did spend quite a bit of time reading and editing articles submitted by the newspaper staff--if his name was going to be on the masthead, he didn't want the paper to be complete crap--but Annie's work required so little editing that she didn't realize it. He firmly believed that if Annie ever found out that he actually cared about the paper, she would use that information against him somehow, so he let it slide. "It didn't look to me like you were too hard at work either."
Annie blushed. "I was ... thinking."
"You can think at home," Jeff said firmly. "Come on, I'll walk you to your car. I don't like the idea of my best reporter walking around alone this time of night."
"Could you walk me to the art building instead?" Annie asked. "Rich asked me to meet him in the pottery studio."
Jeff grimaced. "Yeah, OK." While Annie shut down her computer and tidied the desk, he returned to his office to turn off his own computer and grab his things. He panicked briefly on returning to the bullpen and not seeing Annie--had Rich snuck in while his guard was down?--but was relieved when saw her waiting in the hallway.
While he locked the door, Annie said, "you don't like Rich."
It was a statement, not a question, so he didn't bother denying it. "True."
"And I suppose you think I shouldn't be dating him."
"It's possible I might say something along those lines if you directly asked me for my opinion," he said, "but since involving myself in your love life generally leads to some combination of getting yelled at or punched, I figure I'm better off keeping my mouth shut."
"Well, I appreciate you not giving me a hard time about it." They walked a while in silence before Annie spoke up again. "I'm going break up with him."
"I'm breaking up with Rich," she said. "When we get to the pottery studio."
Jeff was thrilled, but played it cool. "You mind if I ask why?"
She didn't respond immediately. Jeff's first instinct was to press the question, as he would have in a courtroom, but he held his tongue and waited for her to respond on her own terms. "He invited me over to his place last night. Just for dinner," she added, so hastily and emphatically he wondered if he had unconsciously reacted somehow. "When he showed me around his house, I noticed there was one room we didn't go into. I got to wondering why we didn't go into that one room--"
"Good reportorial instincts there," Jeff said, earning a sharp glance from Annie. He wondered if maybe he'd sounded too much like an real editor just then.
"Anyway," she continued, "later, while he was busy in the kitchen, I excused myself and went back to check it out."
"And it was filled with clay pots. About two dozen of them, all the same style. Each one was on a little plinth with a brass plaque with a date engraved on it. The oldest one was from about 25 years ago, the most recent a couple of months ago."
"Pots." Jeff suppressed a shudder. He imagined Rich kept souvenirs from his victims in them. "Did you look inside any of them?" he asked, hoping she would say no.
"No. I was worried that if I touched anything he'd know I'd be snooping around. Kind of paranoid of me, I guess," she said, shrugging a little.
"Maybe a little," Jeff said, though if the pots contained what he assumed they did, he was extremely happy she hadn't left fingerprints on any of them. "It sounds pretty weird. But it doesn't necessarily sound like something worth breaking up over."
"It's just ... I remember seeing him making a pot exactly like the ones in the room in our pottery class last year. And it got me thinking, maybe you were right."
"I usually am, but about what specifically?" Jeff asked, wondering if someone from the group had told Annie about his serial killer theory.
"About him not really being a beginner," she said. "I mean, if he really made all those pots, he's been at it for a long time. And if he's lying about something as silly as how long he's been doing pottery ..."
"Then who knows what else he's lying about."
"Right." By this time, they had reached the pottery studio. "You don't mind waiting while ..."
"No, of course not. If you want me to, I could come in with you and glower at him. Just to make sure he doesn't try any funny business."
"That's sweet," Annie said with a sincere smile, "but I think it'd be best if I go it alone." She opened the door to the studio and walked in. A second or two later she was back. "He's not here."
Jeff followed her into the pottery studio to look around. "Maybe he went to the bathroom?"
"None of his stuff is here. I'm going to call him." While Annie placed the call, Jeff wandered around the studio. Something didn't seem right. It came to him as he idly dragged his finger across a table sitting alongside the kiln: it was too clean. There was normally a fine layer of clay dust covering every surface, but it was gone. Someone had mopped the floor and wiped down every surface in the room. He had seen enough episodes of CSI to know why someone would want to do that, and he shuddered at the thought.
Annie snapped her phone shut. "It just goes straight to voice mail," she said, frustration evident in her voice. She looked around the studio, as if she might spot Rich lurking in a corner somewhere. She came over to where Jeff was standing and pointed to a pot sitting on the table. "That looks just like the pots I saw at his house last night, so he must have been here. I can't believe he stood me up!"
"All the more reason to break up with him," Jeff said. "Let's get out of here. You can dump him tomorrow."
"I guess." She sounded disappointed. "I hate procrastinating, though."
"Hey, it's not your fault he ran out on you. Come on, let's go get ice cream."
"Isn't that what women do after breakups, eat ice cream with their friends?"
"First of all, you're lucky Britta didn't hear that," Annie said with a trace of a smile. "Second, that's really only when we get dumped."
"Eh, six of one," Jeff said with a shrug. "Come on, I've been yelled at by a lot of women I stood up, I can give you tips on what you should say next time you see him."
Annie laughed, and agreed, but never had the opportunity to use what she'd practiced on Jeff that evening, because neither she nor anyone else ever saw Rich again. Jeff occasionally thought of him, usually in comparison to Annie's subsequent boyfriends, all of whom Jeff hated (it would be another year before it occurred to him why he hated them all so much), but never as vehemently as he had hated Rich. But those occasions were fleeting and rare.
He never once thought of Dexter Morgan.
- Fin -
Comment here if you feel so inclined.