Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Niko and Leni

Chapter 2

A crowd had gathered behind the police tape that lined the river bank. Curious onlookers, concerned towns people, even a few folk from the outer swampy area strained to see.

But there wasn't much to see yet. A pair of divers had entered the water almost a hour before and the only thing anyone on the surface could see was the occasion ripple or bubbles. Local cops milled about anxiously. They'd already had one murder that was unsolved - the thought of another one in their small community terrified them. But more than that, the body that the divers were looking for may be one of their own. What if it was? What if it wasn't?

I knew all the cops standing around the bank. He'd worked closely with Felicia enough to know her co-workers; I'd had drinks with him before and had been to the annual Christmas party a few times even. But I hung back from them. They'd looked my way a few times but since I was flanked by other agents, they'd made no move to join me or invite us to join them. For the moment, that was fine.

72 Hours Earlier
"I don't give a damn about that!" I shouted at his boss. Somewhere inside I knew I should just shut up and follow the rules but Felicia was missing, she'd vanished!

"You know I can't put you on this case Nick - it's too personal to you. A jury would..." Deputy Director Williams said calmly, rationally.

"Then don't put me in front of jury! I just want to help find her!" I leaned in closer and tried to calm myself. "Please" I said through gritted teeth.

Williams seemed to be considering for a moment. He stood and walked around his desk, placing a hand on my shoulder. "Agent Geirson, I think you need to take some time to..."

"Sir," I said, then paused, looking down at my hands. "I need to do something. Please - let me help find Felicia. I can't sit at home doing nothing..."

"I'll leave it up to Agent Ortega, he's heading the missing persons' team working on this." Williams said finally.

I nodded, content with decision. "Thank you sir."

Williams just nodded and returned to his chair behind his desk. I waited for a dismissal, anxious to track down Ortega. "Oh and Geirson?" Williams said as he settled back into his chair. He picked up the file that Felicia had assembled, with the notes I had made during my search. "Good work on this..."

"It was all Felicia's doing sir." I said thinking back to the night before, when she'd slid the file across to me. I'd been able to keep myself out of my aunt's case until that moment. I'd rationalized it all to myself - why I couldn't be involved - even if I'd wanted to be.

"Perhaps, but if she hadn't given it to you, we might never have made any progress." Williams said. "Alright, dismissed - Ortega's team is on the third floor."

"Thank you." I said. I walked quickly through the halls of the Bureau building and bypassed the elevator completely, taking the stairs two at a time until I reached the third floor.

A group of agents were crowded around a board, talking rapidly as I approached. Felicia picture was taped to the board and there were several scrawled annotations around her photograph and a map of Adelbrook.

"She left Shelby's Bar around 10PM." one of the agents said, another reached up to add it to the growing timeline.

"Ten thirty actually." I chimed in. The group turned toward me slowly and I saw a couple pairs of eyes look toward my ID badge.

One of them, I can only assume it was Agent Ortega, stepped forward. "And you know this because?"

"I was there." I said. "Nikolas Geirson, she was working my Aunt's murder case."

"Ah, did you two leave together?" Ortega asked.

"We left at the same time, but she went home; I went to my hotel room." I found myself looking at the picture of Felicia while speaking to them.

Ortega motioned to the other agent to make the appropriate note on the time line. "She was seen by one Sgt. Washington at the Adelbrook Police Station at eleven. She must have gone to PD after leaving the bar." he looked to me for confirmation but I could only shrug. "Right," he said, still looking at me with some suspicion. "She sent an email to Deputy Director Williams at 6:12AM, to confirm a meeting..."

"And then nothing." one of the other agents said as the agent with the dry erase marker continued filling in the time line.

"She often jogs before work, stops for coffee on the way back to her house. At a coffee shop called Soliel's Java." I offered.

All of the agents turned to look at me again. "What exactly was your relationship with Ms. Gianni?" one of them asked.

Ortega and his team were suspicious of me as I explained our relationship and Williams' decision regarding my involvement with the case. Despite his concerns, he ultimately agreed to let me assist - with the stipulation that I kept my mouth shut.


The plane touched down in Adelbrook an hour later and the team divided in order to canvas the town quickly. Dalton and Avery went to Felicia's house, Jackson went to question the staff of the coffee shop to see if she'd come in and Ortega and I went to the police station to talk to Sgt Washington.

"Hey Nick" Washington said with a weak smile as we walked in. "I'm real sorry about your aunt...she was a nice lady. And Felicia..." his voice caught and I nodded, cutting him off.

"Felicia came in last night?" I asked, earning a sharp look from Ortega.

"Yeah, she said she wanted to file a couple things and do a little bit of research. She was in one of the offices for about an hour or so, then left." Washington said, walking us toward the office in question. "She was supposed to be here this morning at 8 and when she didn't arrive..." he trailed off, looking worried. "Well you know how she is." he turned away from us as sadness passed over his face.

I nodded and Ortega looked between us. "How is she?" he asked.

"She's never late...ever." I explained quickly. Before Ortega could shut me down I turned my attention back to Washington. "Did y'all try calling her?"

"Oh yeah, a few times; cell and home and pager. She never answered or called back. Then we called you guys - mostly cause we're a bit overwhelmed here with your aunt and a few other cases....needed some back up." Washington said, he looked over at Ortega "We have a pretty small force here, Felicia is one of only two detectives so..." he tried to explained and Ortega simply nodded in understanding.

Unfortunately we didn't find anything at the police station except confirmation of the time line. Dalton and Avery found no sign of struggle or forced entry at Felicia's house either. Jackson discovered she had stopped by for coffee a little after seven, narrowing the time line further. "So she went missing sometime between seven and eight in the morning." Ortega said as we settled around a table at the Adelbrook Police station.

"Where were YOU at that time?" Avery asked, looking my direction. He seemed to trust me less than Ortega did.

"I was in my office at the Bureau building. Gus saw me come in and Williams saw me this morning around nine." I explained, slowly stirring my coffee slowly.

Avery looked a little disappointed that I had such a firm alibi; they all looked a little disappointed actually but I suspected it was because we had nothing. It was as if she'd simply decided to walk away after getting her coffee that morning.


The others were questioning everyone in Adelbrook as I approached my aunt's house. The crime scene tape was still across the door but I pulled it off and let it flutter away. I pushed the door open and took in the inside for the first time. There was a stain on the floor that hadn't been there before - my aunt was a meticulous cleaner - I imagined her standing beside me clucking about her floor being stained.

I took a wide berth around the blood stain and sat in a chair across from the fireplace. I remembered my aunt bent over the fireplace, starting a fire in the cooler winter months. The first winter I'd been here after my parents had died I'd scared her half to death shrieking when I saw the fire in the fireplace. We didn't have a fire at all that winter.

"What are you doin' here Nick?" a familiar male voice pulled me from my recollection.

I turned to see one of the cops...Jake I think it was. I shrugged and looked back at the empty fireplace.

"You shouldn't be here, it's still considered a crime scene." Jake said, taking a seat next to me. "Although I guess it's your crime scene now - I heard it was turned over to the Feds."

I nodded. "Yeah it has." I said, not looking at him. After several minutes I turned toward him. "Any thing on Felicia?" I asked, unable to think about my aunt any more. Jake just shook his head sadly. Time was slipping away from us - every hour meant it was more likely she was dead.


With little to go on, most of the team left Adelbrook. Avery stayed behind to question more people. The trail was cold and they all knew it. "It's not that we're giving up..." Dalton explained to me on the plane ride back. "It's just that a small town like that...lots of suits tend to make people close ranks...even if they have nothing to hide."

"Right" I said unconvinced. It felt a lot like quitting, not that we had any leads to follow.

She'd been missing for almost three days when the call came in. "Nick?" It was Jake's voice on the other end.

"Yeah it's me. What's up?" I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes with my free hand.

"We found something..." he sounded distressed as he said it and tried to explain in halted speech what had transpired.

"Wait, Jake - did you call the Feds?" I interjected.

"Aren't you the Feds?" he said confused.

I could have almost chuckled. "Yeah, I am...I meant Ortega..." I told him to continue and jotted down notes as he told me about some kids stumbling over something at the river bank. "Okay, we're on our way." I said running from my office. "Come on!" I shouted to Ortega and the other agents. "I got a call from Jake..."

They were all confused but moved into quick motion as I gave them the details. Kids. Foot. River. Ortega was on the phone with Avery, who was still in Adelbrook, and putting things into motion.

I was jittery during the short flight back to Adelbrook, the idea that Felicia might be in that water had me ill. If she was missing, then I could convince myself she wasn't dead no matter how much time passed.

A crowd had gathered behind the police tape that lined the river bank. Curious onlookers, concerned towns people, even a few folk from the outer swampy area strained to see.

But there was nothing to see. The divers had resurfaced a few times, each with a flurry of activity from the cops and the crowd but they didn't come up with anything until after dark. By then, much of the crowd had dispersed thankfully. "They found something!" Washington called up in my direction. I made my way down the small slope and waited with the cops and the coroner as we waited.

A bloated body was brought ashore slowly and carefully. Around me people were talking about the clothes, the timing, the science of it all "...I would estimated she was in the water three to five days" one person said as he crouched over the body. "Similar height and build as Gianni" another said.

I knelt over the body and looked over it quickly, holding my breath so as not to breathe in the smell emanating from the body.

I didn't have to look long, I didn't even have to touch the poor woman to know. "It's not her." I said quietly. Everyone turned to look at me curiously, "It's not Felicia." I said standing up straighter and walking several feet away.

End Chapter

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