Monday, April 23, 2012

S4: Chapter 04: Ghosts

– May 24, 2002 – 

“Dear God we ask you to heal the broken in their hearts and bind up their wounds. Mercifully look upon those who are at this time bereaved. Be near them in their sorrow, and let their sorrow draw them nearer unto you. Now that earthly joys and comfort fail, may the things unseen and eternal grow more real, more present, more full of meaning and power. Let your strength sustain their weakness; and your peace fill their minds with perfect trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.”
Heavy rain flooded the old cemetery as the procession slowly arrived to the Cedar’s Rest Memorial gardens. The minister delivered his sermon over the body and Katrina Rose Davis was laid to rest in an old family plot that included her mother, father and grandparents.
“Please rise.” The funeral goers all came to their feet and circled around the gravesite as the minister began his sermon once more. “Dear God, as we stand beside this open grave in this silent city of the dead we commit this body to the ground and we commit the spirit together with every sacred interest of our hearts into your keeping. We pray that you will deal graciously and mercifully with each of us until we too shall come to our final resting place through the riches of grace in Jesus our Lord. Amen.”
It was a beautiful service, she heard one of the attendees state near the end of the ceremony. A beautiful service? What the hell did that even mean? Her mother was murdered and shoved into a pine box and placed in the ground.
The circumstances surrounding her death were still a mystery and her daughter was left to mourn her and question why this had to happen. What was so “beautiful” about that? How could any of this be considered a “service” when it left those that loved her feeling cheated and angry?
Yvette dropped a rose onto the top of the box as it slowly lowered into the six foot hole. Scott’s warm hand rubbed across her shoulder and she sighed feeling that distinct tickle in her nose; just when she thought she was out of tears.
She moved away from the sitting area and stopped on the edge of another row of headstones and stared off into the distance. Fellow agents and friends of the family were expressing their deepest sympathies and offering their condolences and she was just tired of hearing it. Scott took over the hugs and handshakes brigade but kept an eye on her as she leaned against a tall oak shading herself from the drizzle that threatened another vicious torrent.
A man dressed in black and wearing dark shades introduced himself as Gerald Mercer and said he was on the mission with Katrina. He struggled to maintain his composure as he thought back to the shot that took her life and offered his servitude to the family. Pain and regret was apparent in the man’s expression and gestures; he’d blamed himself for what happened yet the whole matter was still painfully unresolved for Yvette and Scott. What did happen?
One thing was certain, the Bureau wasn’t talking and there weren’t any relevant whispers about the successful mission that cost her the life of her last bloodline. Everyone had their speculations and rumors but nothing had been confirmed. Yvette turned her back to the hole that was slowly being filled in with wet dirt and mud as another flurry of tears filled her eyes. She rubbed at the spilling water on her cheeks to try and stop them but they fought on harder. Looking up through the blurred haze of her soaking eyes she noticed a man around his forties standing alone across the way from her.
He was dressed in all black and appeared to be watching her and mourning a loved one at the same time which she found odd considering there were no fresh graves near him. Turning her gaze once towards Scott and noticing he was still occupied with well wishers she slowly started across the stone path towards the man curiosity getting the best of her. Making it to the head marker he stood beside she found a single rose and a small pink envelope with her name scrawled across it in a beautiful cursive font. Quickly she checked the area for the man hoping to get another glimpse of the stranger who seemed intent on retaining his anonymity before plucking the items from the ground.
She flipped the letter around in her hand a few times inspecting it and noticed it wasn’t wet sealed. Lifting the flap she pulled out the contents of the envelope and wailed harder seeing pictures of her and her Mom when they had just moved back to Katrina’s hometown of Bridgeport. She was maybe nine or ten years old in the shots and Katrina had taken her to the park for lunch on one of her “let’s go out” moods.
The shots were taken from a distance and she could tell whoever owned them looked at them often; the edges were worn and wrinkled and the color was fading a bit from one of them. She tucked the pictures against her chest and fell to her knees no longer caring how she appeared to anyone else.
“Yvette?” Scott had noticed her wandering off and hurriedly excused himself from the dispersing funeral goers to attend to his child. “What are you doing over here Angel?”
“I s-s-saw someone,” she sobbed and pointed to the tombstone. “He was standing here watching me.”
“What?” With his hand on his side arm, Scott moved in front of her and checked the path that led to the front gates through a thick underbrush and several rows of graves. He ducked his gaze and motioned to two other armed agents standing near the hearse to further check and secure the area. Instantly he had ideas of who the stranger was and anger arose briefly within him but he checked that emotion before moving back towards her. “Did he say anything to you?”
She shook her head and sniffled showing him the pictures and rose. “No, but I found these here.”
The sight of the shots filled him with dread and he looked around once again ensuring the stranger had indeed left the area. Reaching down towards her he lifted her into his arms and hugged her tight into his chest. “Come, I need to get you home.”
The wind howled behind her and bit at her bare back. Feeling her skin covered in goosebumps Scott rubbed a warming hand along her flesh, wrapped his coat over her and looked up. The sky was darkening and more threatening rain clouds loomed overhead. Though he enjoyed nursing his little girl when she was sick because she was the cutest stuffy-nosed Angel he’d ever seen he didn’t want her catching a cold on top of everything else that’s hit her this week. Pulling her back gently he hooked his arm around her shoulder and started for the gate. “Let’s get going. I don’t like the idea of this stranger hanging around waiting for the cover of night.”
“Why? Do you know who it was?”
“I think you do too Sweetheart.” She bit her lower lip and nodded avoiding eye contact afraid of hurting him with the fact that she may have actually wanted to see her father today. Of all days today was the day she craved contact with her bloodline.
– Present Day –
Daybreak came with the usual morning sounds of heavy traffic, car horns, blaring stereos and the occasional police siren; just another wonderful day in the city. Brett groaned as he pulled up from the bed, grateful that Yvette was still sleeping soundly beside him. He started for the kitchen to fix breakfast; he’d planned this in his head and if everything went as he’d hoped breakfast in bed wouldn’t be the last activity they did between those sheets.
Tossing the eggs again he tried to make as little noise as possible. Yvette hadn’t been much of a sleeper lately and was never a very heavy one when she did find respite. That alone made him very wary of every sound he made hoping to quickly finish and rejoin her before she came poking her nosy head out of the door. Smiling to himself he sliced up some fruit plated it and placed it on the tray beside the eggs, ham and toast.
The morning paper was on the front stoop and he quickly scooped that up and held it under his arm as he finished pouring the tea, gathered up all of the items and started back towards the room. Yvette stirred slightly at the sound of the tray sliding onto the bedside table but she didn’t wake. Moving cautiously to his side he slipped back under the covers and wrapped his arm around her waist rolling her towards him and nudging gently to awaken her.
“Mmm good morning,” she smiled seeing his face as she peeked between her narrowly cracked eyelids. “What’s that I smell?”
“I made you breakfast in bed,” he nodded towards the tray behind her. “I thought we could start the day right.” Dipping his head he kissed her lovingly along her cheek trailing his lips to hers before consuming her mouth into his. “Good morning Beautiful.”
“What did I do to deserve such treatment? Or are you buttering me up for something? What did you break?”
“Damn Yve can’t a guy do something nice for the woman he loves without her being so suspicious? Now sit up and eat before the food gets cold.”
She smiled to herself sliding her back against the headboard and sat the tray in her lap. Brett grabbed the newspaper and started reading listening to her enjoy her morning meal. He stole a piece of toast and gnawed on it slowly as he went over the metro section. “I don’t know why you even bother with that thing. We live the news there’s no need to read it also is there?”
“Well Yvette some of us like to keep abreast of what’s happening in the city especially when their favorite people occupy it.”
“Whatever Brett,” she laughed and sat the half eaten tray of food off to the side and took a sip of her tea. A large wrapped object caught her eye and she slid it from the tray and turned it around her hand a few times examining it. “What’s this?” Yvette asked bouncing around happily as she shook the large box around her hands. “Brett you really got me something? You didn’t have to do that!”
“I know I didn’t Yve but I wanted to.”
“Well what is it?”
“Open it and see,” he smirked mischievously and propped the pillow behind his back as he adjusted beside her.
Eagerly her hands ripped at the first layer of colorful paper only to be met with another layer of tape and wrapping bound tighter than the previous. Scowling towards the snickering man beside her she tugged at the adhesive with her front teeth tearing through the next level as well. Again she was stopped by a much tighter covering and sighed. “Brett this had better be worth it or I’m kicking your ass for the aggravation!”
He couldn’t contain his bout of laughter as she worked through three more layers of tightly taped and wrapped security to reveal a small velvet box that instantly took her breath away. “Oh Brett…”
Dropping to one knee before she could open the package he took one of her hands between his and ensured their eyes met before smiling warmly. “Since we met Yvette you have consumed my every thought, been my one wish and fulfilled my every dream and I would give anything to return the favor and make you as happy as you should be for the rest of your life. I love you Yvette and I want to make sure you know what we have is something that I treasure completely and I want you and this feeling to last forever. Will you marry me?”
Squealing she dove from the bed and into his arms nearly too excited for words. “Wow you must have taken that threat seriously. I wouldn’t have bruised your pretty face if that makes you feel better,” she laughed against his neck and slid her head around nibbling gently on his upper lip allowing him to take the lead and smoothly blend their mouths together in a kiss.
“Mmm wait, wait you didn’t answer my question.” He replied breaking away from the kiss and lowering her to the ground. His hand rubbed tenderly across her cheek as her smile increased in size once more. Yvette sucked her bottom lip between her teeth and turned instinctively into his touch.
Smelling the understated scent of his cologne she closed her eyes and a satisfied sigh blew through her nostrils. “You’re not being serious Brett! What do you think the happy jumping and dancing was about?”
“I don’t know. You could have been smashing a bug or something,” he grinned.
“WHAT? You REALLY want me to hit you don’t you?”
“Well before that happens, allow me to make my request again.” Getting back down to his knee Brett pulled the ring from the box and pushed it towards his smiling girlfriend. Trying best to hold back a laugh he glanced up into her eyes and slid his tongue over his lips moistening them. “Yvette Evans, will you take my last name and my ring?”
“Brett you are an incredible guy and I feel very blessed having met you. I think I would have to be absolutely mental to say no don’t you? Yes Brett, of course I’ll marry you! Now give me my damn ring!”
Laughing too hard he struggled to slip the ring on her finger. Her frustrated snort only heightened the hilarity and he kissed her knuckles after the jewel was finally in place.
Jumping to his feet he yanked her tightly in his arms and swung her around the room joyfully. “You have no idea how happy this makes me Yve. Man now we have so much planning to do!” He let her slide down his chest but never released his grip on her waist. Tucking his hands behind her neck he pulled her into another kiss smiling the entire time.
She laughed against his lips and pushed him away lightly only to be tugged back roughly into his body again. “We have work in forty-five minutes Mr. Knight. That’s nowhere near enough time for what you’re thinking but I promise to make it up to you tonight ok?”
“I’m fucking holding you to that Babe.”
Again she laughed and started for the shower feeling his hand smack swiftly across her ass.
“Blowing off steam?” Ryan chirped watching Victor toss the weights over his head with ease.
“Something like that. I was told by my little girl that I don’t have to worry about my looks so I can’t say I’m working on my definition,” he grinned. “Besides I always get a little antsy before gearing up. Have to find some way to control that itchy trigger finger or else there would be a lot less bad guys in prison.”
“I think we can all be grateful for that,” Yvette agreed joining the rest of the team on the training floor. New agents were nearby working out on the various machines or wrestling around the mats. Grunts, groans and heavy breathing resounded over the low melodic sounds playing from the overhead music system and she smiled as they brought back memories to her first day in training. She brushed her hair behind her ear and waved towards a man slowly making his way towards them.
“Yvette Evans; I heard you were back but just had to see it for myself.”
“Octavius Richardson. I thought you were off to the Louisiana field office, what are you doing here?”
“Well I got bored with all the constant parties, topless women and endless mugs of beer and decided to head on home again. That plus the promotion to head up my own special team,” he beamed.
“Ah congratulations on the promotion in that case. It’s nice to know there’s still funding for more teams.”
“Yeah I’m sure you could use the backup. Or rather we could…you’re looking at the new top dog in town.”
“Well I wouldn’t go that far; my team is still the Ace in this building. In fact I’d go as far to say the Ace in the entire bureau. Everything and everyone works together like a finely oiled machine.”
“Fine! If you’re that good prove it!”
“Excuse me?”
“On the wall. If you think you’re the better of the both of us I wanna see you prove it; test yourself in a little friendly competition on the rock wall just you and me.”
“What’s that supposed to prove?”
“Ah come on Vette, you scared? Huh? You chickening out on me?”
“What’s the stakes?”
“$100 to the first one to make it up and down the wall twice.”
“You’re on!”
Dustin and Ryan moved towards the edge of the exercise mats with Victor and Brett. “You got this Boss!” Ryan cheered as Yvette moved to the wall and felt for her first hand grip.
“On your mark, get ready, get set, go!” Like a bat out of hell Octavius zoomed up the first half of the wall gripping hand grip after hand grip with ease. By the time he’d made it a third of the way to the top, Yvette had just reached the halfway point slowly and methodically she chose her hand grips and ensured her footing was steady before moving to the next part.
“Come on Vette! Show him what you got!” Victor yelled from the sidelines. The members of Octavius’ SWAT team were all laughing and goading her about how slow she was and cheered as their team leader made it to the top and began his descent. “Hey man what’s that on Yve’s finger?” Victor turned towards Brett who smiled and crossed his arms over his chest. “You did it? She said yes?”
“Yep! You’re looking at the future Mrs. Brett Knight.”
“Dude! BK That’s great! There was no way she was going to say no anyway but man congratulations just the same.” Ryan gave him a hard pat to the back as they continued watching the race.
“I thought this was going to be a challenge for me!” Octavius laughed passing her on his way down.
Yvette finally made it to the top on her first climb and saw Octavius on the first half of his second as she started down again. She tossed a smile in her team’s direction as they continued cheering for her ignoring the jeers being tossed from the other side of the room.
Making it down she gripped a separate hand grip than the previous climb and started once again making her way to the top. Octavius turned back to laugh at her as he made it once again to the halfway mark. Turning back to move to another hand grip he lost his balance and faltered. Reaching frantically for a new one, his left foot slipped off the wall and he found himself slipping downward. “FUCK!” he cried as he slammed face first into the wall tumbling down until his ass hit the mat.
Yvette was now nearly at the top. She heard a grunt from the floor as she tapped the top of the wall and slowly made her way back down again.
Moving slowly towards him and biting back a smile, she knelt in front of Octavius as he sat in a huff at the foot of the wall. “You know how the tortoise beat the hare? Slow and steady. As can be said in the field you should never make a move unless you know you’re supported completely. If this weren’t a drill, you might have been burned.”
“So what if I didn’t make a mistake?”
“That wouldn’t have happened. You see that third hand grip at the top? It’s turned at a 45 degree angle and set against a foot hold on a slope. Moving too quickly in that section guarantees you’ll fall every time if you don’t place your body just right. On top of that you’re sweating and you tried to use the same handgrips as before but by this time they were already slick with moisture. I was watching you earlier and knew you’d choose that side and knowing your desire to win and that you’d place every effort into beating me quickly I was assured you’d slip up.” She pulled up from the ground, patted his head and collected her winnings from his shocked and disappointed team. “Maybe next time Tiger.”
“Yo Evans, the Director wants to speak with you and your team in debrief, says it’s urgent,” a suit called from the gym’s entrance. Quickly exiting towards the showers the team washed off the smell of their hard work, redressed and hurried towards the meeting room.
“Come in, take a seat and we’ll get started,” Scott instructed and waited for the team to gather around him.
He pulled up from his chair and stepped in front of the large screen starting the projector. The first picture that flashed on the screen was of a familiar looking blonde girl around her mid to late twenties in a bar with a few friends having drinks. “Melody Delaney, you may recognize her as…”
“The Mayor’s daughter?” Ryan cut in.
“That one indeed. Miss Delaney was reportedly on her way home on Tuesday night and never arrived. She was last seen here,” he changed the slide to a shot of a nightclub downtown known as Shooters Bar and Grill.
“Her friends state that they parted ways around 2:00 am and she seemed fine enough to drive herself home. Her abandoned but operating vehicle was found later that morning by a passing motorist on the 495. The keys were still in the ignition, her purse and all of its contents minus her wallet were on the passenger seat and the doors were all unlocked.”
“A kidnapping?” Brett asked sitting up in his seat and studying the case notes in front of him. “This happened two days ago; why are we just hearing about it now?”
“It was originally handed off to two upstairs agents with impeccable records for these types of cases. But it’s become apparent Special Forces will be needed which is why I’m bringing you up to speed now. We got a hit on one of her credit cards last night at a local gas station which leads us to believe she might be held close to the city or near bouts. The kidnappers have not made any type of demands and the family fears the worst.”
“That’s where you come in. We need to locate Miss Delaney, figure out the reason behind her abduction and put her kidnappers behind bars. I don’t have to tell you to be discrete and handle this case with urgency but just remember who the victim is and try and get her back safe and sound. You’ll find additional notes in the file folders in front of you. Get to work.”
“Congrats Boss,” Ryan whispered in her ear after Scott finished his debriefing. “It looks way better on you than that sales woman.”
“Aww Ry thank you,” she smiled warmly and gave him a quick hug. “So you helped shop for this gorgeous band huh? You’re becoming quite the clothes horse you know?”
“Hey hey, let’s keep that between us alright? I don’t need people giving me weird looks Yve.”
“It’ll be our little secret,” she motioned across her lips as she sealed them and placed the “key” in her pocket.
“I thought he was waiting for your birthday before he popped the question,” Victor laughed watching the exchange. “Glad he changed his mind because that was too far away.”
“You were in on this too?”
“Well he asked me about you a little and I tested the waters the night you came for dinner.”
“I KNEW IT! You sneaky little…” she looked towards Dustin who was barely hiding a smile and shook her head. “And what role did you play?”
“Who me? No I had NOTHING to do with any of this Vette!”
“No Babe he had NOTHING to do with that wrapping whatsoever,” Brett rolled his eyes and pointed the finger.
“THAT WAS YOU? You know I nearly chipped my tooth!”
“Whoa no I only gave him the NASA quality double sided tape it was HIS idea to wrap it airtight Boss!”
“Well one of you owes me a manicure either way!”
“Yvette?” Scott stood and approached her listening to their rambles. Gently taking her hand in his he ran his thumb across the ring on her finger and smiled in Brett’s direction. “When?”
“This morning. He proposed with breakfast in bed.”
“Well congratulations Tumblelina! We have to celebrate this! Dinner at my place?”
“Daddy! You just gave us a big case!” she laughed and looked at the folder on the end of the desk. “We have to get started on that ASAP.”
“Yeah well I’m sure your Boss will understand. Besides I’m not a slave driver. I expect that you’ll have time to eat and sleep you know? Ok, how about this weekend? We’ll do it big with a barbecue that I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer. I want everyone there.” He nodded at the rest of the team, hugged Yvette and started off towards his office.
“Well fellas, are you ready to crack some skulls?”
“Hell yeah! Let’s roll out Vette.”
“Brett, you and Victor go interview the gas station attendant and see what we can learn about those stolen credit cards and anything about who’s using them. Dustin, track down any information and background history on Mayor Alvin Delaney. I wanna know if he has any enemies that would come after him through his family like this; any recent disputes or past transgressions. If he even stepped on someone’s clean white sneakers without so much as an apology I want to know.”
“Ryan you and I are going to visit the family and redo the interview, I don’t like what the previous agents asked and there’s nothing about the fam’s activity that day anywhere in their case notes.” She sat the folder on the desk and looked at the clock. “Alright you boys have your assignments, let’s try and wrap this up quickly the clock is already ticking and there’s never much time on kidnappings.”
“So did she jump you when she saw the ring?” Victor asked pulling out onto 4th street and heading towards the gas station on Benning Road.
“Not yet. I kinda woke her late in order to get breakfast done so it left us with very little time for much else. I’m sure she’ll make it up to me tonight though,” he wiggled his eyebrows and received a playful punch to his chest.
“I know I don’t have to say anything but I feel it’s my duty as her longtime friend, you’d better keep treating her right Brett otherwise you and I are gonna have it out.”
Brett laughed and simply nodded. He understood Victor’s brotherly relationship with Yvette and valued him as a friend. He could take comfort in the fact that she had such wonderful people around her looking after her better interest at all times. “Feel better now?”
“Actually I do,” Victor smirked. “Did you get the talk from Scott?”
“Not yet but I’m looking forward to it. He mentioned once before that he missed out on getting to check out her romantic interests. I’m not sure what he has planned but I know I can handle it.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that. Scott’s a pretty clever guy.”
“And you’re saying I’m not?” Victor just smiled and Brett turned his attention to the bulletin they’d received on Delaney’s missing items. “Says here the card was used to make a $43 purchase for gas early morning.” Brett read over the case notes left by the previous agents. “It doesn’t say anything about whether they were able to speak with anyone that worked that morning or pin down the person using the card.”
“And these guys have impeccable records how?” Moments later Victor pulled into the Stop ‘N’ Go convenience store and parked near the far end of the lot. He hopped out and took in a large breath of air before starting towards the door. Entering inside Victor took lead with the interview and Brett hung loose near one of the small display cases.
“I’m Special Agent Murphy this is my partner Special Agent Knight. We’re investigating a kidnapping and hoping you could help us with a little information.”
“Uh…sure offic…detec…uh, sir Agent sir.”
“Agent Murphy is fine. We got a hit on a stolen credit card recently used to make a purchase here. Tell me have you seen this woman enter the store in the last two days?” he asked showing him a photograph of the missing girl.
“No sir, she hasn’t been in here.”
“What’s your shift?”
“Oh I work mornings, 8:00am until 4:00pm. I’ve been here since 8 this morning. I’m usually one of the closers too, haven’t seen her Sir.”
“Were you working Tuesday?”
“Yes sir.”
“Do you remember seeing any suspicious looking men or women in here say around 9:30 that morning?”
“There was one. A tall guy; he kept looking over his shoulder as though he were deciding whether he wanted to rob the place. I kept my finger over the silent alarm just in case.”
“Well did he say anything?”
“No, he just paid for the gas on 4.”
“Do you remember how much?”
The kid looked around behind the counter and pulled out a box of receipts. “Uh, $43.50. I asked if he wanted the receipt but he seemed in a rush and just left.”
Brett took the receipt and looked at Vic. “That’s our guy. 9:25 and the same amount.”
“That work?” Vic asked pointing to the security camera above the register.
“Not since last May,” the clerk whispered. “The owner’s been meaning to get it fixed but he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.”
“Fine then describe the guy to us,” Brett sighed, the frustration growing in his tone.
“He was tall, uh…Afro…Afri…,” he stammered looking at Victor. “Black, trimmed brown hair, goatee. He was wearing a football jersey with the Steelers logo on it. I remember because I mentioned that the Ravens would decimate them this Sunday, it pissed him off. Anyway he paid for his gas, grabbed a few drinks and left.”
“A few?”
“Yeah, I think there was someone else in the car with him but I couldn’t get a good look, the windows were tinted.”
“What type of vehicle was it?”
“A blue one; Dodge maybe. I don’t really know cars. I only got this job to keep my old man off my back.”
Brett glanced at Vic again and sighed. “Kid, you didn’t find it suspicious a man, a large African American man was using a card that belonged to a white female?”
“No. I figured she was in the car waiting for him or something. It happens all the time here; a couple comes to get gas, the guy pumps the lady pays with his card. It’s not unusual.”
“Well perhaps from here on out you might want to start checking IDs. There’s no telling the number of people that have crossed by here with a stolen card or two. Let us find out this happened again and it’s you we’ll be arresting. Let’s go,” Vic said leading the way back to the car.
“Awesome, gotta love dead ends!” Brett quipped as he slid into Vic’s Challenger. “Not only does the guy not have a working security camera he also never checks IDs on people that use credit cards in his store. I’m surprised you didn’t want to haul his ass in just for that.”
“Yeah well we have more pressing concerns. Let’s hope one of the others came up with something a little more than we did.”
“And when was the last time you spoke with her?” Ryan asked as Yvette circled around the room for the third time. She was reading their faces and determining whether or not they were hiding something, another helpful tool courtesy of “dear old Dad”. Physiognomy, the art of studying and learning about ones’ character through facial features and expressions.
“Monday morning,” Caroline Delaney, the victim’s mother, replied. “She was excited about her next assignment and said she was going out to celebrate with Becca and Lindsey. It’s never unusual for her to come in late mornings sometimes but when she hadn’t shown up by breakfast I became worried.”
“Her next assignment?” Ryan questioned as he continued his interrogation watching the way the Mayor’s aide remained at Mrs. Delaney’s side. She whispered something to her and he caught the tail end of it frowning but ensuring to straighten his expression before either of them caught hold.
“Melody is an avid photographer and works for the Examiner. Her editor Leonard Anderson had just given her a new assignment and she was paired with one of the top journalist to run down information regarding local businessmen.”
“Has she worked there long?” Yvette added as Ryan jotted down a note.
“Ever since Alvin took office for his second term. She’s never really had much work there though. It’s always been something light or ‘fluffy’ as she calls them. You know ‘stupid pet tricks’ or ‘state fair garden competitions’. She’s wanted to prove something to her father and kept pushing for tougher assignments. I knew I should have convinced her otherwise but Melody is such a strong-willed person.”
“Does she and her father get along?”
“Oh Heavens yes! Of course! They love each other dearly. Like most families they have their disagreements but nothing that can’t be resolved with a little talking out.”
“Do either you or your husband have any enemies we should know about? Anyone making threats against you since he’s taken office? Have there been any unusual interest in Melody by friends or family or strange calls in the middle of the night?”
“No nothing like that as far as I know. And Melody, she’s…” Caroline choked and batted her eyes a little as she stared up at the ceiling trying to battle the tears that were threatening to spill through her lashes. “She’s always been a people pleaser. Always the first to offer her assistance, always smiling and happy. I don’t know anyone that would want to harm her none of this makes any sense!”
Ryan looked towards Yvette and she nodded. They were rounding the end of the interview and running out of relevant questions to ask. It was becoming apparent the mother would start repeating herself and frustration would soon follow. They needed to get out before it came to that and get to work on the who and why. “I think we have everything we need for now Mrs. Delaney.”
“Please call me Caroline,” she stood. “And find my baby before…”
“We will do everything we can to bring her back home safely.”
He nodded and the two started out towards his truck. “So what do you think Boss Lady?”
“I think that someone knows more than they are saying.”
“The Aide?” he asked slipping behind the wheel. “Yeah I caught that too.”
“We need to find out everything we can about her and her relationship with Melody.”
Ryan drove quickly back towards HQ eager to get into the investigation and make good on his promise to Caroline about Melody’s return. Pulling into the parking garage he slipped the truck into one of three available spots near the elevator and jumped out. “And I’m sure the mayor has made his fair share of enemies with his ‘War on Drugs’ campaign. He’s hit some major players in the last two years. Any number of them could have come back looking for retribution.”
“Yeah there’s no telling who he might have pissed off in his six years in office.”
“Psst Yvette Evans?” a throaty voice called her from behind the shadow of a parked SUV. She turned towards the sound and squinted trying to get a better view. Ryan’s hand rested on his side arm as the man approached slowly. “You may not remember me but I’m…”
“Gerald Mercer; you were a member of my Mom’s strike team. I remember you from the funeral.”
“Yes that’s right. I am very sorry about what happened Miss Evans. I think about it all the time. Some nights I wish…” he paused as his voice began to crack and briefly rubbed at his eyes. “She was a dear friend and my partner for all of her time at the Bureau.” Finally able to look into her eyes he smiled seeing Katrina’s spitting image staring him in the face. “You have her eyes. You know she spoke of you often, she was very proud. The one thing she refused though was bringing you to the ugly side of her job. That’s why myself and a few others kept her confidence; kept you safe.”
“Me? What do you mean?”
“She didn’t want you in this business but she knew it was inevitable growing up with nothing but federal agents as role models. I made her a promise that I’d protect you if and when I could and that’s why I stayed away for so long even though it’s not what she wanted.”
“What she wanted? I’m sorry you’re not making any sense to me. What is all this about?”
“Black Veil; I spoke with your dad briefly at the funeral about that mission. At the time I couldn’t reveal too much because well it was classified. But I’ve had my suspicions for a very long time and I just can’t remain silent about it any longer. It’s been a rough couple of years coping with the guilt and…”
“Guilt? What are you talking about?” Yvette spoke through clenched teeth as his words angered her. Instantly she’d imagined he had a hand in the death of her mother. Ryan gripped her elbow and kept her feet firmly planted beside him watching her hands ball into fists and her shoulders tense.
“Your mother; going into the assignment she took out some insurances, locked them away and told me that if anything were to happen to her she wanted me to tell you where to find it. But after she was murdered I thought it was best to protect you; keep you from finding out what she learned that cost her her life. I’d like to think it was what she would have wanted but…I knew Katrina and she was nothing if not an advocator of justice. She would want this entire matter brought to light.”
“Do you know who pulled the trigger?”
“No but I do know he was a professional; perhaps from a rival black ops company or maybe even the CIA I don’t know. But I…I heard the shot, I saw her fall and I knew.” He bit his lower lip thinking back to the mission and watching his partner and friend take her last breath. “I want to see those bastards burn for what they did to her. She didn’t deserve this and you deserve to know the truth.”
“Where is the information?”
“It’s hidden…in a lockbox somewhere. She said that you’d find it by retracing the steps of your childhood. Here,” he handed her an envelope with her name written in Katrina’s writing across the center. “She said it will help you find what you need. Please be careful. I thought I was protecting you all these years but I can’t let her only child continue this way without ever learning the truth. Figure out what she knew, do your mother justice please.” He quickly disappeared from the direction he came and Yvette turned the note around in her hand.
“What is it?” Ryan asked watching her carefully examine every inch of the envelope corner to corner.
She peeled back the flap, removed the letter and began reading stopping cold at the first line:
“My Dearest Gumdrop if you’re reading this letter, then that means I am dead…”
**Author's note:** Funeral Sermon Courtesy of Sermonseeds

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