I followed the girl from the river as she was taken to the morgue. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was not Felicia but I felt I needed the coroner to confirm that for me. Jake, from the Adelbrook police, came along as well. If I was right, they would have another case - as if they weren't strained enough.
By the time Jake and I got to the morgue, the coroner had started removing particulates from the body - most of it from the river I assumed. Without the dirt and vegetation clinging to her, she looked close to human than she had on the river bank. Her toenails were painted blue, though the paint had been chipped after her time in the water - or maybe it was chipped before she went into the water. An assistant brought in the foot that had been found earlier and placed it on the table along side the body.
The coroner turned on a small recording device. "The victim is approximately twenty-five to thirty-five years old, female. Found on the Adelbrook river bank after a cleanly severed foot was found. Aforementioned foot appears to match the victim on initial examination. No entrance or exit wounds, no apparent bodily trauma, cause of death unknown." he paused the recording. Jake and I hung back as he and the assistant peered over the body, looking for some sort of evidence. I saw Jake turn his head when they opened the mouth in order to look inside and water and muck seeped out of the opening.
They worked for several more minutes before the coroner looked over in our direction. "I estimate this young lady was in the water for at least seven days." he said. "And I'm not sure she's from around here either, may have traveled down the river from someplace else."
"Are you sure?" I asked. "About the timeline I mean?"
"Oh yes, this is not Felicia Gianni." he said with certainty. "As for the specifics, we'll have to see what the lab boys say." he said as he pulled some sort of bug from the victim's ear.
"Thank you." I said with a nod and turned to leave, my head swirling with emotion.
"Nick..." the coroner called my attention back. "The Bureau put in a request to examine your aunt's body; as next of kin we wanted to notify you..."
I nodded, not trusting my voice not to waver right away. "She's still here..." I said finally. He nodded back to the next room. "Can I?"
"Of course Nick." he said. He returned his attention to the victim and I walked slowly through the doors.
I spent several minutes just staring, trying to figure out what had prompted me to come in here in the first place. Finally, leaning against the table; "I'm sorry." I whispered. Another minute and I left the morgue, waving to Jake and the coroner on the way out.
I walked quickly for the stairwell, ready to get out of this place and back to tackling the mounting number of mysteries around me. I was in the hall before I heard the hurried footfalls behind me.
"Wait!" Jake called out. I slowed down so he could catch up to me. "How'd you know?" he asked.
"How'd I know what?" I asked, furrowing my brow.
"That it wasn't Felicia. You knew, at the river bank and we could barely tell the body was female let alone who...how'd you know?" Jake asked again.
"Felicia got a tattoo about three months ago, on her back. The victim doesn't have one." I said, I remembered the first time I'd discovered the tattoo of a water dragon.
"Oh." Jake said as I left.
Felicia's case was cold almost as soon as she'd gone missing. Most people assumed she was dead or had left town for some reason, though no one could formulate a logical reason why she might have left town. After awhile the team had moved on to other cases, myself included. But I kept on Ortega almost as much as I followed Hughes about Aunt Pru's case.
"Nick..." Ortega looked a little uncertain about what he was going to say that morning while we shared coffee.
"George." I said. "What is it you don't want to say?"
"They're shelving the Gianni case for now, unless some new evidence comes in." he said with a frown.
I nodded, almost as a reflex acknowledgment. I think I'd known it was coming but hearing it was official still burned. My next drink of coffee tasted bitter as I tried to accept the fact that they were essentially giving up. George watched me anxiously for several minutes, he knew how frustrated I'd become in the intervening weeks at the lack of progress.
"You know you can be pissed off about this Nick." Ortega finally said. "The fact that you're not is a little....disconcerting actually."
"Why'd you let me on this case?" I asked out of the blue.
George Ortega raised his eyebrows at the change of subject. "Because I suspected you might do something stupid if I didn't; keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
"So I'm the enemy?" I asked with a sad chuckle.
"No, not anymore but at the time - I didn't need some rogue fowling up my investigation so I figured it was better to have you on my side so I could keep a closer eye on you." Ortega said.
"Fair enough. Thanks for the coffee." I said dropping a couple dollars on the table for tip.
I didn't go back to the office that afternoon. Years of training and conditioning had were battling against an overwhelming surge of emotions inside me. First my aunt, now Felicia...all things out of my control. My cell phone rang, pulling me from the tidal pool like a flimsy life raft. "Geirson." I said.
For the first time in weeks, I felt confident as I walked into the building. A case I'd been working on was moving along quickly and we had a suspect in custody. Waiting for me in one of the interrogation rooms even. I was ready to be able to call a case solved after so many mysteries.
"Hello Ms. Vex, I'm Special Agent Geirson." I said as I strode into the room. She didn't look the least bit disturbed by being in federal custody but then they often didn't.
"So I met this guy, I don't know his name, at the Moonlight Bar..." she explained a half hour later.
"Moons? What do you know about moons?" I snapped. She looked at me wide eyed and sputtered several times but I didn't hear her explanations.
I lunged across the table to stop her blithering and would have had her in my clutches if two strong arms hadn't pulled me back and practically shoved me out the door. The last thing I saw of Ms. Vex was a look of terror on her face.
That moment was how I ended up standing outside of Dr. Flacks office. Dr. Flack was one of therapists kept around to help; although I'd never seen him, I was already confident that he wouldn't be of any use to me - because I didn't have a problem.
I knocked on the door and after hearing a muffled "come in" I opened it and stopped in the doorway.
Doctor Flacks smiled up at me over her computer. "Come in; Agent Geirson I presume."
"Um....yeah." I said trying to push my preconceived notion that Flacks would be a man out of my head.
"Have a seat." she said, close her laptop and motioning toward the chairs. I did as I was told and then stared at her. I'd come to her office only because I'd been ordered to, that didn't mean I had anything I needed to discuss.
Dr. Flacks, to my annoyance, was perfectly willing to let me sit in silence. She crossed her hands over he lap and leaned back a bit in her chair and waited.
"Isn't this the part where you say something?" I asked after ten minutes of silence was driving me crazy.
"Do you want me to say something?" she asked with a smile on her face.
"Um, yes?" I said awkwardly.
"Well what would you like me to say?" Flacks asked. My confusion must have shown on my face because her smile grew, probably in amusement. "Agent Geirson, you've had a busy few weeks lately with a lot of personal trauma. I figured you would need to do the talking here."
"But I don't have anything to say." I said frustrated. "As you said, I'm busy. But I'm fine."
"Really?" Flacks asked, eying me.
"Yes really." I said confidently.
"Well then we'll just sit here, until your time is up." she said and leaned back in her chair again.
The silence was aggravating!
I met with Dr. Flacks several times over the following weeks but we rarely said much more than hello and goodbye to each other. She never seemed phased by the silence between us while I was forced to stew in my own thoughts.
One afternoon following one of our less than satisfactory sessions, Williams came into my office and closed the door quietly behind him. "How are you getting on with Dr. Flacks?" he asked.
"Fine." I lied, not really looking up from my computer.
"She's recommended you take some administrative leave." his statement got the reaction he'd been expecting as I got to my feet quickly.
"I'm fine, there's no reason for any leave." I said.
"You're fine." he said; though I wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement, I could tell he didn't believe me.
"Yes - I'm fine." I repeated firmly. "I don't need to take any leave."
"It's not a suggestion Agent Geirson." Williams said. "You're hereby suspended from duty." he held out his hand and I knew he was expecting my badge and gun. "You need to get yourself together."
We stared at each other for several minutes before, fuming, I pulled out both and placed them on the desk. I brushed past him, grazing his shoulder and left the building.
Six Months Later
I heard the her cursing as she crossed the soft sand, her foot sinking deeply with each step making progress awkward. "Are you Agent Nikolas Geirson?" she asked, I could tell she was annoyed by her voice.
"No." I said continuing to pump iron.
"You're not?" she was frazzled and confused. She dug in her satchel until she pulled out a folder and looked at a photograph - I assume of me - and then looked at me again. "Because you look a lot like Nikolas Geirson..."
"I am Nikolas Geirson." I said sitting up and looking at her. Her mouth opened to retort, "But I'm not an Agent anymore." I said. "Who are you?"