My phone was buzzing somewhere. I reached over the edge of the bed and sleepily grasped around the floor until I found my pants, exactly where they'd been discarded the night before. I searched the pocket until my fingers grazed the surface of the phone. By the time my vision cleared enough the read the Caller ID, the incessant buzzing had stopped. I was still debating the merits of returning the call when I felt the bed shift slightly. The sleep induced haze cleared and I grinned. I dropped the phone back into the rumbled pants and rolled over to greet her.
"Morning Detective" I said with a boyish grin. Her back was to me but I could tell she was awake. I traced my finger along her warm skin until I reached the hem of her nightie.
Felicia Gianni slowly turned over to face me. "Morning Nick." she said. I could see she was trying not to smile as well. "How is it, do you think..." she ran her fingers along my chest as she spoke, "That every time you come into town, we end up right here?"
"Good chemistry." I said with a wink. I laid back against the pillows; as I expected, Felicia repositioned herself so she was leaning against me. Her warm, chocolate eyes gazed into mine as she continued to trace her fingers along my skin.
She was the only woman I'd ever been perfectly happy to just lay in bed with. "Mhmm." she replied before laying her head on my chest. Her dark hair brushed against my skin and I couldn't hide the accelerated heart beat from her. Neither could she hide the broad smile I knew was on her face in response.
If my phone hadn't come back to life right then, I sighed heavily as she quickly moved away from me so I could dig the phone out of the pile of pants again. I flipped it open and smiled apologetically at Felicia. "Geirson." I said into the phone, instinctively grabbing a clean pair of pants and shirt from the closet. Before heading into the small hotel room bathroom, I looked over to see that Felicia was doing the same as I was and I couldn't help but feel a little sad about the lost chances.
When I reemerged from the bathroom, shoeless and tie-less, Felicia was the one on the phone this time. Unlike my fairly insignificant call, I could tell from Felicia's expression that she had a new case.
"Okay, I'll be right there." she said and clicked off the phone.
"Duty calls?" I asked while retrieving my shoes and tie.
"Yes..." she said; she looked at me and almost immediately looked away. "And I think you should come with me."
"Federal?" I asked; with a new sense of urgency I finished getting ready and grabbed the suit jacket.
"Not exactly Nick..." she didn't give me any more details until we were halfway across the small town of Adelbrook. She was giving me street by street directions even though I knew the town almost as well as she did but when we got well past the town center and were on an old road, everything clicked into place. I pushed down on the accelerator and sped the rest of the way. To her credit, Felicia didn't comment on my driving or speed. "Let me go inside and see what's going on Nicky." she said as we both climbed out of the vehicle.
I knew she was right but it was hard to watch her walk into the house, past the other cops and the coroner, and not follow her.
"Home invasion gone wrong, I figure." one of the cops said as he looked down on the crumbled body of the victim.
Felicia saw the blood before she saw the face of the victim. There was a large pool of blood - too much to hope that the victim was still alive. She was normally very good at this part - she'd seen enough dead bodies to no longer be particularly squeamish - but the coppery smell of the blood and the slight tinge of death stopped her in her tracks.
"Detective?" the cop nearest her asked. "You okay?"
Felicia nodded slowly and forced herself forward. "What do we know?" she asked as impassively as possible as she finally caught the first glimpse of the victim.
"Our victim is Prudence Wentworth, age 75. The house has been tossed - looking for jewels, money, valuables. I would guess Mrs. Wentworth woke up during the robbery and caught the guy in the act." the cop said.
"Anything taken?" Felicia said without looking away from Prudence Wentworth's face.
"Money is still in the purse." one of the crime scene investigators chimed in. Felicia raised an eyebrow and looked at the cop who had bet on home invasion. Why leave the money?
Almost an hour after Felicia had disappeared into Aunt Pru's house, the coroner came out. I recognized him and I could tell by the look of of sadness and pity in his eyes that he recognized me. "I'm sorry Nick." he said as he passed by me with the gurney and the body bag.
I may have replied, I'm not really sure. The realization that my Aunt Pru, the woman who took me in as an orphan and put up with all my crap, was in that bag sent a wave of nausea through me. I turned toward the flower bed and thought I was going to lose it right in her beautiful flowers.
After the coroner disappeared with Aunt Pru; I paced the front yard. Several times I started for the door, prepared to flash my badge and take over the crime scene. Only the fact that I knew Felicia was one of the best stopped me - any other detective and I would have thrown the full weight of the Bureau around - jurisdiction or relationship to the victim be damned. So I paced.
My phone rang a half dozen times but I couldn't answer it even if I did have my own case I ought to be working on. When it rang three times in a row, I forced myself to answer. "Geirson." I tried to focus on what the agent on the other end was saying but couldn't stop looking at the house; looking for Felicia for some sort of answers. I interrupted the other agent and gave him an abbreviated run down of my morning up to that point. The phone stopped ringing after that.
"Nick..." Felicia said as she walked up behind me. "I'm sorry."
"What happened?" I asked as calmly as I could manage.
"Well we don't know for sure yet. Single gunshot wound....she would have died quickly." Felicia looked uncomfortable as she tried to spare me the details.
"That's what we say to comfort the families." I said. "I know I don't have jurisdiction...and I'm related to her; but you'll keep me informed right?"
"Of course Nick." she said putting a hand on my shoulder. "Why don't you go back to the hotel and get some rest? I'm going to be here for awhile...I'll get a ride back to my car."
"Right...rest...that'll happen" I said sadly. I gave Felicia a quick kiss on the cheek before walking toward my car. With a lot of effort I managed to drive away from my childhood home - now a crime scene.
I was officially released from the case I'd been working on in Adelbrook that afternoon; leaving me with nothing to do but stew. When Felicia hadn't called by dark; I'd seen enough of the inside of my hotel room and decided to go out. Adelbrook had only one real after dark hangout - Shelby's Bar. The idea of seeing people look at me with pity was almost enough to make me stay in the hotel room; hidden from the world until Felicia called or I left town - whichever came first.
Twenty minutes later I was occupying one of Shelby's bar stools and working on my second drink. It was a slow night in the bar; a few strangers and Shelby mostly. Thankfully Shelby had owned her bar long enough to know how to read people. She hid her pity well and just brought me my drinks.
"So this is your plan? Getting piss drunk?" Felicia asked from just behind me. I could see her in the bar mirror, so I didn't bother to turn and look at her.
"That's a good theory for now." I said. "Why? You have a better idea?"
"You could help me solve your Aunt's murder." she said, patting her bag which I had no doubt contained the police report. That would be full of details and pictures from the scene.
"You know I am hands off on this one Felicia. Williams made sure to remind me of that when he called about my case." I motioned to Shelby for another glass.
Felicia nodded. "I know, and I don't want you to handle any evidence or even do anything but listen to a theory."
"A theory?" I said turning toward her. "I thought it was a bad home invasion..."
Felicia looked at me curiously and I just shrugged. I'd heard the talk at the scene; kind of hard not to. "Come on Nicky, just listen and conjecture with me." she grabbed my drink as Shelby put it down and walked toward a table with it.
She had my curiosity peaked so I followed her over to the table. "Okay, what's the theory?"
"Mob." she said bluntly.
"The Mob? Seriously?" I asked, surprised by the leap. She was digging in her bag as I looked at her baffled. To my greater surprise, she came out with not one file, but at least half a dozen. "What possible reason could the Mob have to put a hit on my seventy-five year old aunt?"
"Do they need a reason?" Felicia asked.
"Usually? Yes, they do." I said, I'd had enough dealings with the mob to last me my career and then some. "Explain please."
"These..." she held up the files "Are five other cases in this state alone that are identical to the victim's"
"Aunt Pru." I interjected even though I knew why she stuck with 'the victim'.
"Yes." she said apologetically. "Has all appearance of a home invasion gone wrong - except nothing is taken. At all. It's like he's looking for something in particular."
"He who?" I asked.
"I'm not sure. It's conjecture and no one else seems to think these are linked cases." Felicia said sounding dejected.
"Well it's a pretty big leap Felicia..." I said and she looked stung. "I mean, home invasions go south and maybe the crook lost his nerve after the..." I trailed off unable to finish the sentence. "What makes you think it's the mob?"
"Do you recognize this?" she asked, pulling out a picture of a small moon shaped sculpture. It had what looked like blood splatter on it.
I took the photo and looked at it closely, turning it couple times. "No. Why?"
"Because it was in your Aunt's house, on the table next to the couch. There was a moon knick knack in each of the others as well." she pulled photos out of each file until I'd seen them all.
"Well they could be connected then.." I said sorting through the pictures. "Or maybe the victims all just had a thing for moons."
"Did Aunt Pru?" Felicia asked; already knowing the answer would be no.
"Okay, I accept your theory that the cases are connected. It could be a serial though." I pointed out.
"True....either way, it's yours now - or it can be." Felicia said. She reassembled the files and pushed them over to me.
I tossed and turned for a couple hours that night before I gave up and packed up; eager to get out of Adelbrook. I checked out of the hotel in the middle of the night and drove back to Pennsylvania field office; a few hours from Adelbrook.
Gus, the security guard, was surprised to see me but just waved me through after I showed my ID and badge. Years on the job had taught him that the agents were erratic people and dealt with death differently than he could.
I went straight to my office to start looking over the files. I knew Felicia would hold off on her report until the morning, which is as long as I had before I'd be pulled from the case unless I had something - anything to merit overlooking the fact that I was related to one of the victims.
At some point, the son started shining through the windows of my office. I'm not sure how long I'd been sitting at the computer but I'd found at least a dozen other cases that fit the profile. For a decade he'd been going strong - whoever HE was - and then he'd stopped for almost five years until just picking back up in the last year.
Who was this guy?
I heard the door open but didn't look up. Deputy Director Williams was not known for being overly patient but he didn't push for several minutes. "Agent Geirson." he said finally.
I looked up briefly. "Yeah, I know; you are going to pull me from this case..." I kept typing on the computer.
"It's not that." Williams said, unusually subdued. I looked up from the computer concerned and curious. "Nick..." he never called the agents by their first names unless he was giving news he didn't want to convey. "Detective Gianni - when did you last see her?"
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.