I made it to my gate with only a few minutes to spare before boarding. It was just as well, there were far too many people and angles to cover in the open airport. As it was, I paced the waiting area as the groups boarded the plane ahead of me. I was in the second to last group of passengers on board.
When I got to my seat, I scanned the other passengers briefly and then sat down next to the window. I let out a slow breath and tried to relax. An older woman sat in the seat next to me and smiled at me. I smiled back and hoped she wouldn't try to strike up conversation.
"Excuse me ma'am" I turned to see Leni leaning into the row, over the person on the aisle. "I think you have the wrong seat." she said, holding out her own ticket and what looked like a fifty dollar bill.
The woman looked at the money and the ticket. "Oh...of course I do." she said snatching it from Leni's hand. She shuffled past the person on the aisle, then dug her ticket from her purse and shoved it quickly at Leni before hurrying into first class.
Leni looked smug as she settled into the now abandoned seat. "What are you doing here?" I asked, all sense of relaxation fleeing my body suddenly.
"Well going home of course....just like you." she said. I must have looked less than amused because her smile faded quickly. "Seriously...I realize that no matter where I go, this guy - whoever he is - seems to be on a mission to clean up evidence...that or he has some sick obsession with you but either way, he'll find me and kill me just the same, so I'd rather die at home than in like Kansas or something."
"You were going to Kansas?" I asked, sidetracked.
"Well no not really...my point is that 'laying low' isn't really my style and I do have clients to try to satisfy on this whole thing..." Leni said. "And I thought I might be able to recover something from this hunk of junk." she patted her laptop bag that contained her beaten computer with an almost loving touch. "And if you can remember anything at all from your files...maybe we can start again." I didn't say anything, she was such a confusing mess to me. One minute she was annoying me with her lost puppy dog routine and the next she was impressing me with her persistence. "Hey do you think any of your old FBI buddies might help..." she mused as the seatbelt sign chimed on and the plane started to back away from the airport.
"Do you really think this will work?" Leni whispered in the darkness. We were outside the state FBI building where I used to work and NOW she was having cold feet.
"This was YOUR idea!" I hissed.
"Yeah well...that wasn't my question!" she retorted. "It's just...it's a federal building..."
"Which I explained..."
"And I'm sure they have a lot of security..."
"Which I told you about..."
"So the chance of this working..."
"Are practically non-existent." I said through gritted teeth. "I told you that already, but we're here now and frankly we don't have anything else to go on right now. So it kind of has to work or we're back to bupkis." I grabbed her hand then and started for the doors.
"Bupkis? Did you seriously just use the word bupkis?" Leni asked, trying to yank her hand from mine.
"Leni, in order for this to have a more than zero percent chance of working you have smile and play nice and pretend to like me...like like me...remember?" I said, gripping her hand a little harder than absolutely necessary.
"Oh...right." she said, looking down at the ground. "Honey..." she added.
I rolled my eyes and continued for the door, this time she followed willingly, with a happy, flirty smile on her face.
"Nick!" Gus was surprised to see me...of course he was surprised to see me, it was almost one in the morning and I hadn't been here in six months. "When did you get back? Are you back?"
"Oh I got back about a week ago..." I lied as Leni laid her hand on my shoulder and leaned into me. "I start back on Monday." I said sparing Leni a small smile. "I was hoping that I might show my girl here my office..." I winked at him.
"Oh well..." he looked uncomfortable. "Have you got your badge...anything... I mean..."
"No, not until Monday..." I looked at Leni apologetically, "I guess we could just come back then right babe?" I said.
Her eyes were smoldering as I called her 'babe' but she gave me an Oscar-winning pout. "But Niii-iiiii-ckky...." she whined. "You promised..." I tried not to visibly cringe when she called me Nicky.
I tried to look embarrassed for Gus and he was silently chuckling. "Okay Nick....thirty minutes...you have thirty minutes or I'm coming in after you, you understand?" he nodded toward the elevator.
"Got it!" I said with a wink. "Thanks Gus!" Leni was still curled against me like a cat so I had to move her hand from my shoulder and guide her toward the elevator.
"Yes, thanks Gus, you're the best." Leni purred in his direction.
We waited for the elevator, trying to act the part while we knew Gus was in earshot. The doors to the elevator chimed and slowly opened, admitting us further into the bureau building. Somewhere in my gut, this all seemed entirely too easy.
I pushed a button on the elevator panel and Leni slid over toward me seductively, placing a hand on my shoulder. I knew...or I assume anyway...that it was all for Gus's sake but she really knew the part well.
"Thirty minutes Nick!" Gus called again, not looking back at us; I'm sure he had the show from the elevator camera's right there on his screen.
We rode the elevator up to my old floor - in case Gus happened to watch what floor it went to - and then took the stairs at a run down to the basement, Leni was only marginally winded by the time we got to the bottom which impressed me.
"Okay what now?" Leni asked. We were just outside one of the main evidence rooms; which was secured with a standard keycode dial pad. "Will your old codes work to get us in?"
"No." I said but stepped forward and punched in a code, praying under my breath. After a minute, the light turned green and we heard the click of locks. I tried the door handle while holding my breath; to my relief...and surprise, the handle turned under my pressure and the door swung open.
"Wha? How did you..." Leni said stepping into the room. Rows and rows of shelves, stacked with rows and rows of carefully placed black boxes greeted us on the other side of the door. "Oy..." she said, staring at all the boxes.
"That's a lot of boxes..." she said, sucking in a breath.
"You heard Gus...thirty minutes." I said. "Start over there." I pointed to a row and then took the one next to it.
"What exactly should I be looking for?" Leni asked even as she started scanning the boxes.
"F. Gianni or P. Wentworth. Of this year....anything before would be a different case...." I had already eliminated almost two full shelves on my row and was further along than Leni was. "Or Victor Luna I guess...worth a shot anyway...but his could be any year."
"Isn't there a log or something?" she asked, still scanning.
I pointed over my shoulder to a small single person desk in the corner where a computer sat. "Sure, but I don't have access."
"Maybe I can hack it..." Leni suggested.
"One, it's federal computer - I wouldn't advise that...and two you wouldn't have time even if you were a hacker..." I said.
"Okay first how do you know I'm not?" she said with a playful smile and a wink. "And two - can I just say how disturbing it is how easy one can sneak into a federal building like this?"
"Yeah..." I said quietly. "A little too easy." I added, with a glance at the clock on the wall. We were already halfway into our thirty minutes - if we even had that much time.
"Here!" we both said, almost at the same time. I'd found Felicia's box which told me that she must have found my aunt's. We met together in the middle and started going through the contents quickly. Things I could recall from the original case, I pushed aside for Leni to look at if she had time.
"Look at this." Leni said holding out a short report dated only two months earlier. "There was an anonymous tip - with just an address and said it pertained to Felicia's disappearance. Came in after a round of television ads I think..."
"Yeah but it says the address proved to be a fake." I pointed out.
"Oh." Leni frowned and jotted the address down anyway.
We only had a few more minutes to look through the files before I heard the locks on the door click and tell-tale squeak of the hinges as it opened. "Looks like time is up." I said, the clock told me Gus was a few minutes early. Leni shoved her scant notes into her pocket and tried to scramble to put everything back in the boxes.
I heard the click of shoes on the tile...harder soles than the boots that Gus would wear with his uniform. I knew without turning around that it wasn't Gus who had come for us.
"What do we do?" Leni asked, barely audible. I merely shook my head and waited as the click, click, click came closer.
"You know, I have two agents on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea looking for you....and here you are..." Deputy Director Williams' voice betrayed nothing. I got to my feet slowly and turned to face him.
"Here I am." I said simply, resisting the familiar urge to tack a "sir" onto the end.
"Well come on then." he said, motioning me forward. "Your friend too."
Leni looked to me for guidance, a look of fear on her face but I nodded to her and the fear disappeared, replaced with resolve. Together we walked out of the evidence room, with Williams close behind us.