Standard Disclaimer Applies
There sits an empty desk in an empty bullpen filled with people. Eyes are cast to the floor as they file past unwilling to look at the vacant chair, the computer still switched on humming quietly as a model dances across the screen.
Papers still lay askew on the desktop and the edges flutter in the breeze of the air conditioning as they wait endlessly to be filed and finished.
A backpack rests against the file cabinet, one corner unzipped exposing the lettering of a well-worked baseball cap, the brim a worn rounded edge.
The voices in the room are muted; some speak in whispers while other refrain from all but the basics of communication, talking only when they need to talk. The quiet murmurs reminisce amongst those strong enough to relive the past without it forming more tears.
Amongst the deathly silence and downward glances sits an Agent whose eyes are red sore from tears that continue to shed, falling down her cheeks and rolling off into space until gravity splashes them against the pages of a worn art book.
The agent's lead dances across the page as she stares at the empty desk and tries to capture an internal image of the space's owner before it is altered by life's cruellest editor, memory. She sits and cries and tries to imprison on the page the lift in the corner of a smile, a cheeky grin.
The lights in the cool room are dimmed, the doors shut, the autopsy bay's empty except for one. The body lays clean a sheet covering the lower half. Two men stand besides the table each stares at the chest, one in a futile wait to see the diaphragm expand with a breath, but the ribs will never again stretch the skin to allow air into the lungs.
The second man visually examines a small hole in the centre of chest, the edges of the wound are puckered and the skin an angry red. Taking a deep breath the Medical Examiner looks up at the Special Agent and the two men nod to one another.
The scalpel bites into the skin easily and the Agent leaves as the tissue is pulled away to reveal tortured internal organs.
As the doors open and close the Agent turns and with a shake of his head he is gone.
A routine questioning in a case of stolen naval supplies, the door had opened the young agent had pulled his identification with a smile and had been greeted with a single gunshot to the chest.
Falling backwards down the steps the Agent bleeding and terrified held one hand to a wound on his chest that pulsed blood and had pulled his phone from his pocket with the other.
Speed dial. The usual greeting of a gruff superior officer. The stammered words of a man who was losing the battle to breath, a gurgle and the sound of choking and the officer in the bullpen had yelled for him to hold on, that they would get him help, that he would come for him.
The car pulled through the traffic at an erratic rate, turning nearly onto two wheels as it skidded into the street where they had received the SOS.
A similar parked car stood before them, the windows shut and intact, the doors closed and the motor off. Nothing untoward except that behind the rear tyre stretched a pool of deep rich blood.
The checked cowboy shirt is stained wet and the younger man's eyes are closed, a hand grips the fabric over the wound.
His other hand lies palm up on the road's surface, fingers curled holding a bloodied cell phone.
Trembling fingers stretch towards the prone man's neck and press against still warm flesh. Taken away the hand's move over the wound, ripping the ruined shirt and they reveal the wound. Blood oozes from the edges but doesn't flow.
The bullpen is empty now at the end of the day and hesitantly the backpack is collected from the floor and placed with care into a cardboard filing box, drawers are emptied, the paper's filed.
When it's finished the silver haired special agent sinks into the empty chair and hangs his head.
"Damn you Dinozzo."