Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
These flowers, which were splendid and sprightly,
waking in the dawn of the morning,
in the evening will be a pitiful frivolity,
sleeping in the cold night's arms.
--Pedro Calderon de la Barca (1600-1681)
The most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
--The Call of Cthulhu (1928)
AND THE GODS DANCED IN THE NIGHT
Chapter I: Twilight
My first impression of Forks, Washington: shithole.
I hadn't even arrived in Forks before I made this judgment. I didn't need to. After twenty plus years in my hometown of Arkham and eleven years working for the Bureau, I'd seen enough backcountry to smell places like the Forks from twenty miles downwind. They were always little podunk hovels in the middle of nowhere, home only to forgotten dreams and rampant teenage pregnancy. The kind of quaint, folksy place you passed through on your journey from somewhere to somewhere. Maybe you'd stop there to refill your BMW's gas tank and muse that, hey, this must be a nice place to raise kids, but then forgot it about when you got back on the interstate.
The truth was that anyone with half a brain wanted out of the sticks. I had, growing up. I saw my future in my parents and grandparents, who ended up drunk at their local dive bar of choice one a week with the same friends they'd hung out with in high school. If I hadn't made something of myself, I'd probably have a kid or five now getting wasted in the backwoods just like I used to, and I'd have taken my mother's stool at The Lantern or The Dog Pound.
Aside from being one of the rainiest places in the continental United States, the case file I reviewed on the drive there informed me that the Forks used to depend on timber for its economy, but since the decline in that industry the 'city' (and I use that term loosely) relied on jobs at two local prisons to support it.
The GPS on the dashboard chimed. "Finally," I grunted. "Thank God."
Andrew said, "I need to take such a piss."
My partner for this case, a twitchy-looking Agent named Andrew Legrasse, had been loaned to me by the Seattle office. Officially, this was his case. In reality, the freaks were all mine. He may have been in the driver's seat for all nine hours of the drive down to Forks but I was the one who'd cracked the New Orleans cannibal ring and put the Oklahoma Mounds Killer away. Legrasse knew it too; otherwise his bosses wouldn't have brought me in.
We exited the 101 and drove on in exasperated silence until we came across a dinged green sign posted along the road. It read:
Someone had defaced this part of the sign with an obscenity, scratching out the top part of the 'o' in Forks and scribbling a bit onto the 'r'.
Below this it helpfully informed passing motorists:
Not anymore, I thought darkly.
"Y'know," said Agent Legrasse, "my old man used to talk about Forks. He and his fishing buddies used to drive out here every season." Legrasse glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. "Used to say it was the best salmon and rainbow trout grounds in the state."
"I can't picture you Angling." Collecting matchboxes, maybe.
"My team placed Fourth in American Bass Tournament Trail at the Coulle Playland last year."
"Huh." That was almost interesting. "So is it?"
"Forks? The best salmon and rainbow trout...?"
"Dunno. Dad never took me fishing out here."
Agent Legrasse shrugged.
As we drove into the heart of Forks, I took note of the bewildering greenery of the locale. Living in DC, I viewed plants as something one visited in a park. The Forks was filthy with needles, leaves, lichens, and things I didn't even have names for. The greenness seemed not merely to be a symbol of fertility but a vibrant lifeform unto itself; if a color could take on thought and feeling, it did so in Forks, Washington.
I revised my opinion of Forks, Washington then and there: green shithole.
"Pretty country," said Agent Legrasse, bringing the SUV around a curve in the road. "Must be a nice place to raise kids."
"I bet Police Chief Swan thought the same thing."
"Probably," mumbled Legrasse. "Did the M.E. ever get off his ass with that report?"
"Yeah. The hospital emailed it to me about two hours ago." I fumbled with my Blackberry. Already at 33 my thumbs weren't what they once were. "Wild animal attack," I read off, scanning the rest of the email as I did so. "But he doesn't say how a wild animal locks the door on the way out."
I grinned. "Or that. God, what rubes. Do you know how many 'wild animal attacks' there have been in the last two years in or around Forks?"
I'll admit I was surprised he knew. Most tour guides I've been stuck with on assignment don't know their ass from their elbows. The freak cases always seem to attract the Bureau's resident fools. I can't tell you how many people I've worked with who've made it through Quantico but whose best instinct, upon investigating a ritualistic murder with occult overtones, is to arrest the first teenage Goth they come across in an IHOP at 2am.
"Yes." I put my Blackberry away. "Whoever this Dr. Cullen is, he's either a moron or guilty of something."
Around us, the woods began to clear, giving way to seedy-looking one-street kind of town. Legrasse looked at me and asked, "Do you think he's covering for the girl?"
Yes, actually, I did, but gut instincts weren't admissible in a court of law. "I don't think anything yet. I just want to stretch my legs, take a piss, and talk to the girl."
We pulled off to a dilapidated Mobile station and answered two of my wishes.
My third wish would take longer than I wanted to grant.
When we arrived at the police station, we were greeted by a small crowd of locals. It looked to be fairly representative of Forks in general: an unglamorous gaggle of pale teenagers, middle-aged women, burly-looking men, and greybeards with paunches -- blue collar, working class, salt of the Earth folk. All that was missing were the aging hippie liberal arts professors and college-age kids and it would have been just like going home to Arkham.
Most of the menfolk were wearing baseball caps. Lord knew why in this gloom.
My tour guide looked to me, "Uh-oh. Is this bad?"
"Maybe." I studied the faces in the crowd. They looked scared, hungry. At least there were no news vans. "You ever deal with small towns in murder cases?"
"One or two. They were nothing like those crime scene photos."
"Same principle applies. Just remember, we might be the Big Damn Government riding to their rescue but we're still outsiders."
"Fuck," he muttered under his breath as he slowly pulled the SUV into a parking space in front of the police station. The swarm of locals seemed to wash around us as Legrasse nudged the car forward. To his credit, Legrasse kept his face impassive.
The crowd remained utterly silent as we exited the vehicle, save for ragged whispers at the edge of swarm. Agent Legrasse and I walked with purpose into the crowd; towards the badge waiting for us at the station's entrance. As with our car, the good people of Forks parted before us as if we were Moses and they the Red Sea.
The deputy, Ed Burke, stood ramrod straight by the double-doors leading into the station. Like the rest of the residents of Forks, Washington I'd seen, the man was that watery-looking chalk-white pale that you usually only see in chemotherapy parents and nightshift workers. His flinty blue eyes, which rested in a face that had never lost that last softness of baby fat, studied us with naked anxiousness. Deputy Burke of course offered his hand to my partner, the man, presuming him to be the one in charge.
"Agent Andrew Legrasse, FBI," he said, shaking the lawman's hand vigorously. "My partner..."
Both men looked to me.
"Special Agent Roberta Greene," I said, taking up his clammy hand as soon as it shot out. The deputy looked befuddled. "We talked on the phone?"
"Oh! Yes." He flushed with embarrassment. "You'll have to pardon me, ma'am, but it's been, uh, a long week."
Deputy Burke had personally faxed me the crime scene photos taken of the Swans' kitchen. "Yes. I can imagine."
The local lawman stood there uselessly for a moment, then ushered us inside. I felt the keen eyes of the crowd bore holes into my back as we retreated.
"What was that about?" asked Legrasse, voice low but casual.
"Everybody's spooked," said Deputy Burke, leading us into the small, cramped office space of the Forks' police station. I noted the other deputy, who I'd yet to be introduced to but who looked more like a teenager than an adult male, stood sentry at the door to the station's cells. He held a shotgun. "There hasn't been a murder in the Forks in twelve years, back when Jane Morgan blew her husband away after he smacked her around too much."
"I wasn't aware there was such a thing," said I. Pointing at the other deputy, I asked, "Why the firepower?"
"I-It's just a precaution, Agent Greene."
Generally, two things require precautions in a prison: criminals and suspects breaking out and people breaking in. The crowd outside the station had me think the latter. I locked eyes with the deputy. "For what?"
The question hung in dead air for too many seconds before Deputy Burke lamely replied, "Everybody's spooked."
"So," my partner asked, rocking back and forth on his wingtips' heels, "has she said anything?"
"No." Burke glanced over his shoulder at the guarded door. "She's been quiet."
"Has her lawyer showed up?"
Burke shook his head "Her mother hired some big shot from Jacksonville. Mister and Mrs. Dwyer and their lawyer are flying in this afternoon. They should be in Forks by, oh, half past six, I think."
"Air travel," he shrugged, as if those two simple words explained all the evils of the world. "Mrs. Dwyer said she'd check in with us once their plane landed."
It was only a quarter to three. We had a hell of lot of time to kill. "Fine. When they call, tell them we'll give them ten minutes with the girl before we start." No need to piss off the ACLU or Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. "Have her stew in the interrogation room in the meanwhile."
"We don't have an interrogation room. We usually just use the bullpen."
I glanced back at the faces loom through the station's front door, faces in line-of-sight of the bullpen. I turned back to Deputy Burke. "I think it would be best if we conduct our interview somewhere more private."
He scratched his head. "We sometimes use Chief Swan's office, but... yeah. The break room, maybe?"
I nodded. "What's the suspect saying?"
"The sus-- She isn't saying anything."
"Then in the meantime keep her in her cell. Now, if you'll excuse us, Deputy. We want to have a look at the body and the crime scene first." Legrasse and I turned for the door.
"But what about Bella Swan?"
Andrew Legrasse fielded that question for me. "Do what you do for any murder suspect when you sweat them. Give her a cop of coffee and then let her rot."
The hospital in Forks looked fairly modern; its exterior possessing that lack of charm only new brick can exude, its hallways and elevators reeking of early Nineties styling when having lots of glass windows and glass balconies started to be an In thing. I later learned the old hospital had been retired not ten years past due to a large, anonymous charitable donation finally pushing the city's stalled fundraising over the top.
As we pulled into the hospital's modest parking tower, the overcast sky parted and let the sun shine in. Looking out on the newly illuminated landscape from the fourth story of the parking tower I was immediately struck by the brilliance of the warm, white light on the moist, green landscape. Every needle and leaf stretching out to the horizon blazed with life, contrasting sharply with the stark black shadows that sun brought out in the gaps between the growing things. This was no park, this was forest, mapped and surveyed, yes, but wild and primal nonetheless.
Forks, I also realized, smelled clean. The lack of local industrialization didn't harm the air quality much and the constant rains washed away any impurities that the city's residents kicked up. Breathing in a deep gulp of the air made me feel refreshed, almost young.
Like bait in a roach motel, it was this natural appeal that drew the unsuspecting into shitholes like Forks and trapped them there until they were old and tired.
Legrasse, who stood next to me on the overlook, said, "You ready?"
I tore my eyes away from the landscape. "Let's bounce."
"I'm sorry," said the nurse, her prominent shin jutting out with a dimple at the far end of it, "but Doctor Cullen isn't in today. He took a sick day."
"A sick day?" asked Legrasse, eyebrows raised. "He does realize we're the FBI and he's the Medical Examiner in a murder investigation."
"Y-yes. I'm sure he does. Doctor Cullen is very mindful of his responsibilities. However, he sounded quite ill over the phone."
I questioned, "Is the doctor not sick often?"
"Well, no," she admitted. "Not exactly. However, I have no reason to think he'd lie. Doctor Cullen's schedule, being a senior partner, is quite flexible. He and his wife like to spend a lot of time with their children. They're very into hiking and camping and that 'back to nature' sort of thing."
The nurse's swollen ankles and flabby midsection told me the closest she got to nature was the Discovery channel. "And how often does the Cullen clan get back to nature?"
"Oh, not that often. Usually he takes off work only when it's sunny out."
"Like today," I deadpanned.
The nurse hesitated, but then nodded.
Legrasse and I glanced at one another. Something was definitely up with Doctor Carlisle Cullen.
"That's too bad," I said. "If you don't mind, we'd like to see the morgue."
"Yes, yes. If you'll follow me."
In short order we're taken downstairs to the basement. The nurse leaves us with the morgue attendant, a man named Sam who is only notable for his overly hairy forearms and the two Peace Sign piercings in his left eyebrow.
Like the rest of the hospital, the morgue looked new. Aside from that fresh quality, it possessed nothing remarkable to distinguish itself from any other morgue: cool air, shiny steel, and respectful quiet. Blindfold me and spin me around three times and I could just as easily guess I was standing back in a morgue in Binger, Oklahoma or pre-Katrina New Orleans.
Police Chief Charlie Swan met us inside.
"Here it is," said Sam, tone quiet and measured. "No one's touched the body or moved it since Dr. Cullen did his report." He reached for the sheet covering Mr. Swan and pulled it back.
To my side, I heard Agent Legrasse suck in a gasp and turn away. Sam the Morgue Attendant took away the sheet and was careful not to look at the body.
I use the term 'body' loosely.
The remains of Charlie Swan amounted to a half a leg, his left arm, most of the meat along his collarbone, and everything above the neck -- save the eyes, which were little more than empty pits. The rest of what was left of Charlie Swan, Chief of Police for Forks, Washington, consisted of varying lengths of chewed meat and crushed bone, all covered in driblets of dried gore.
Though his jaw was bound shut with gauze, his face looked strained, leaving me to wonder if he had been found screaming even in death.
The evidence went either way, really. Not that it was important.
Just... interesting to know.
"No way an animal did this," I declared. "Whoever did just had too much fun." I looked to Sam the Morgue Attendant, who was doing his best to look stoic in the face of such savagery. "Anything come back on the tox screen?"
"You'd have to ask Dr. Cullen."
"I'm asking you."
"He had a couple of beers in him but nothing out of the ordinary."
"No narcotics?" asked Legrasse, apparently together enough to do his job. "No prescription meds?"
Sam shook his head. "Not even an aspirin."
I paced around the table, studying the body for... something, some hint of what would drive a person to do it. I stopped pacing when I saw a small tattoo on Charlie Swan's sole remaining wrist. "This wasn't in the M.E.'s report."
"Hm?" went Sam the Morgue Attendant. "Oh. Doctor Cullen must have forgotten to make a note of it."
Over Sam's shoulder, Agent Legrasse smiled wily at me. He moved around to my side.
"Looks like the veins of a leaf," observed Legrasse, pausing to copy down the tattoo in his notes. "Or maybe some kind of stylized tree. Have you ever seen anything like it?"
"No," I said, touching the necklace I wore through my blouse.
Sam the Morgue Attendant cleared his throat. "Um..."
"I've, uh, seen something similar to it."
I narrowed my eyes. "Yes? Out with it."
"La Push," he said.
"The Quileute tribe's reservation," supplied Agent Legrasse. "It's near Forks, along the coast."
Sam the Morgue Attendant went on, his eyes drifting towards Chief Swan's tortured face. "I go surfing with some friends from there. Sometimes they take me back to the reservation. I'm pretty sure I've seen some of the old folks there use it on signs and medals and crap." He stared at the empty eye sockets of Charlie Swan. "You should talk to Billy Black. He's an elder. Friend of -- was a friend of Chief Swan."
"Did Chief Swan have many friends?"
"Agent Greene, there wasn't a man nor child in this city that wouldn't have laid down life and limb for the Chief."
How predictable. "And enemies?"
"That would do this?"
Once I had seen enough to confirm that Dr. Cullen hadn't made any more oversights, Agent Legrasse and I thanked Sam the Morgue Attendant and left.
Andrew started the car and pulled us out of the parking tower. "Think the good doctor is hiding something?"
"If he's not incompetent, he's doing a crap job of covering his tracks."
"He's a family man," said Andrew Legrasse, smirking. "He likes camping. And if his photo ID on the computer was anything to go by, he's handsome as hell. What would an all-American have to hide?"
"Yes. Obstructing justice is all-American as hell."
"Think he murdered Swan?"
"No," I said, checking my Blackberry for new emails. I had two memos from Seattle and a chain letter joke forwarded from DC. "Either the Chief's daughter did it or she knows who did."
"Because of those cold cases?"
"Want to talk with her now?"
"No. Let her crack up a bit more."
"Right. Crime scene it is."
If not for the bands of yellow tape that read DO NOT CROSS, the Swan residence would have been the picture of lower-middle class Norman Rockwell respectability.
Nestled between amongst drooping deciduous trees heavy with leaves, the modest house sported a muscle-powered garage door and a rust bucket of a pickup truck in its driveway. The house's siding looked old and weathered, ten years past the point a decent washing would have been good enough to class it up. Small trees and shrubs and ivy had moseyed up the four walls over time, resulting in a building that seemed less at home with the natural world around it then as some dead beast the forest was slowly consuming, keen to absorb it back into itself.
"Nothing," he said. "Thought I saw something for a second."
"Second floor window," he said, tone level. "Two over from the left."
I made a mental note of the window's location. "Come on," I said, at once acutely conscious of the sidearm in my shoulder holster.
"You know," said Legrasse from behind me, "ever since I watched The Navidson Record, quaint little backcountry houses like this give me the heebie-jeebies."
"Never saw it myself. Too much hype."
"You should try it. Scary as fuck-all."
"Well," I said, fiddling with the keys Deputy Bruke had given us, "if I find any Five and a Half Minute Hallways, I'll tell you."
"Why thank you kindly, Agent Greene."
The front door moved with a bit of grit but didn't squeak. Legrasse and I strode into the small foyer. The house wasn't abnormally silent. It groaned a bit in that distracting way that people who live in a place for long enough mentally filter out. The floorboards creaked under our feet. Still, something tickled my Sixth Sense.
"Upstairs?" he asked.
The kitchen, like the foyer and the staircase that led up to the second floor, was economical with its space without feeling cramped. Chief Swan and his daughter were the only ones who lived here so personal space probably hadn't been much of a pressing issue. The late Eighties décor and the three chairs at the table told me that the late Charlie Swan hadn't refurbished the place since his divorce.
Had he been holding out hope for his ex-wife to see the light? Or had he thought to find someone new in his life? Did he just not care? I didn't know, but from what little I had learned about the man my gut whispered to me that maybe Chief Swan had simply wanted to hold onto what he had left in life.
Wait, am I being sentimental? Christ.
"What do you notice?"
"Aside from the dishwasher."
"Well..." He raised his eyes and looked up at the ceiling. There, inscribed with a neat cursive, were four words inked in Chief Swan's blood.
THE MIDNIGHT SUN RISES
Those four words were the sole reason I was here in this green shithole instead of safe and warm in DC. The Bureau had over half a dozen cases on record with that phrase, the oldest dating back to the 1930s. Every incident featured ritualistic killings of parents, seemingly by their own children, yet aside from the means of murder there was nothing that tied any of the cases together.
Nothing, that is, save those for those four words.
Legrasse, who stood with me at the edge of the kitchen floor to avoid contaminating the scene, said, "Blood. Not enough blood."
I nodded. "They moved the body." It had to be a 'they'. There was no way an itty bitty teenage girl hauled her old man's corpse into the kitchen without leaving a mess, no matter how little was left of said corpse.
"But when? The M.E. put the time of death at five o'clock."
"And we should believe that because Cullen has nothing to hide."
"Fair enough, but the CSI made a concurring note in the report. So say five o'clock -- we have a phone record of the man making a call from this house to Deputy Burke at," he opened his little notepad and paged through it for a moment, "4:52pm. And we know Bella Swan was on her way home at that point from the traffic camera on Main Street. Her next door neighbor says she pulled in the driveway at five sharp. So sometime between 5:05pm and, um, let's say, 5:45pm, her pop goes someplace nearby and he's murdered. They bring him back without anyone noticing and clean up the actual murder scene."
"And they don't spill a drop of blood? Not one between here and there? Why go to all that trouble and then make a mess in the kitchen?"
"Hey, it's your theory."
I stared at the tidy dried stain on the tile, mulling alternatives. Nothing made sense. There just wasn't enough damn blood! "Okay, say he wasn't moved. I didn't see any trauma on the remains to explain him lying back and taking it. The tests show there were no sedatives or depressants in his blood."
"We're missing a lot of his blood."
"Point." I nodded. "So, somehow, his attacker or attackers stop Chief Swan from resisting. He doesn't resist, doesn't cry out as they go to work on him -- that much the good doctor had right, at least from what I saw." I tore my eyes away from the crime scene and looked at Legrasse. "We are missing an arm and a leg."
"There's a joke there."
I ignored him. "Which brings us back to the blood volume problem." I pointed to the walls. "There's no spray, no splatter. Everything is concentrated around the body. Yet this was violent. Charlie Swan was torn apart, butchered. He was eaten. Only his attackers didn't leave so much as a drop when they left even though there's no evidence of blood anywhere else in the house."
"Maybe the blood loss came first, then he was flayed."
"But why leave any at all? If you're going to drain him, why leave him with a half-tank before you butcher his body? You'd still have a god-awful mess on your hands, damning evidence you'd need to clean up somehow."
"I have no idea," answered Agent Legrasse. "I'm sure Ms. Swan can educate us on the fine art of patricide."
The rest of the first floor revealed nothing notable, so Legrasse and I drifted upstairs. As I walked up the narrow, creaking staircase I became aware of a most unusual sensation -- my hindbrain screaming at me to run back downstairs and out the door, away from this house. I paused for a moment to check the corners where the walls and ceiling, or walls and floor, intersected. It reassured me to find that they were all still right angles. That was a good sign.
"Cold," mumbled my partner.
"Yes." The temperature dip was noticeable. "Old house like this? Must be a draft."
"Hell of a draft."
I sent Legrasse to Chief Swan's bedroom. I peaked through a bathroom and a small closet before I hit the jackpot: Bella Swan's bedroom.
Even for a teenage girl, Bella Swan kept a remarkably tidy room. Laundry went in the hamper, textbooks were piled nearly on her desk, her floor was clean, and her wastepaper basket was empty except for a week old receipt to the local Shell gas station. There were a few personal touches here and there -- a ribbon tacked over her desk, some books that spoke of a classical taste in literature, pictures of her and a pale-looking boy next to her bed -- but overall it very much resembled a hotel room. Bella Swan could have fit her whole life's presence in this room into a small box and then you'd have never known she lived here.
I tried the window Legrasse mentioned he believed had seen something move in. It slid open easily.
I poked my head out and took in a deep breath of that clean Forks' air. The wind carried the smell of the forest and the promise of rain. It was cooling outside. Since my partner and I had come in the Sun had disappeared again behind clouds.
I surveyed the lawn before me and the tree perched near the window. I couldn't tell an oak from a maple, a horrifying lack of talent for a former Girl Scout, but, whatever this tree was, it looked taken with some kind of sickness. The branch nearest the window sported graying, dried leaves and ribbons of bark sloughing off it. If the branch wasn't dead, it was certainly dying. Oddly, the rest of the tree seemed fine.
I reached out for one of the grey leaves. The moment my fingertips brushed against it, it crumbled in a puff of dust that soon disappeared on the breeze. I looked at my fingers and a glint of something caught my eye. Running my thumb over it, I noted a thin film of the bygone leaf coated my right index and middle fingers.
Before I had time to ponder it in any detail, the film was gone, lost to the winds perhaps, but gone all the same, cooling my fingertips in its passing just as evaporating alcohol might.
I pulled back and shut the window. It closed without a sound.
I looked behind me. There, in the doorway, stood Agent Legrasse.
"No," he said. "You?"
"No." I looked around the room. "Not yet."
As my partner watched in respectful silence, I began to ruffle through the room, checking under the mattress and box spring, inside the desk drawers, in the dresser, and more.
Where was it?
"Can I help?"
I started pulling apart Bella Swan's little makeshift bookcase. "No." Jane Eyre, Weathering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Sense and Sensibility -- no Dickens, no T.H. Lawrence, no Twain, and absolutely nothing published since the fall of Czarist Russia. A lot like my bookcase as a girl, though the bodice rippers were more up-class. "Did they pull Swan's hard drive?"
"Yeah. The warrant was pretty broad."
"Find anything interesting on it?"
"I don't believe they've looked at it yet. It's still pretty early o—"
I showed him the small, leather-bound notebook. "Bella Swan's journal, just as I suspected."
"How'd you know she have a journal?"
"Are you kidding? Have you seen this bookshelf? No self-respecting teenage lit nerd would go without a record of their deep, profound thoughts. And like any smart cookie, she hid it in plain sight."
"Bully for us."
I checked my watch. "Twenty to five. We should have plenty of time to read up before tonight's session. Come on."
The crowd of locals had dispersed by the time we arrived back at the police station, though I'm sure the eyes of the patrons of the diner across the street tracked us keenly and closely as our SUV pulled back up.
Both deputies were waiting for us inside. Bella Swan, who I checked up on through a camera feed in her cell, was currently napping. Her body language, which few guard in their sleep, was relaxed as she rested on her side.
We had time to kill until the suspect's mother (and lawyer) arrived so Legrasse and I settled in for an early dinner. Deputy Burke ordered in some hot sandwiches from across the street and then left us to attend to some paperwork. My partner chose to review the crime scene and M.E. reports. I started on Bella Swan's lit nerd journal.
The "Vol. 2" inscribed in small, neat black inking on the inside cover suggested a previous journal existed. Paging quickly through the leather-bound book, I noted the entries ended in June of 2005. I made a mental note to check the suspect's bedroom and personal affects for a first and third volume, then settled back in my purloined desk chair and began to read.
Bella Swan's journal made for enjoyable reading. While the girl had an irritating tendency to revel in her own self-absorption -- not unexpected, she was a teenager -- she possessed an eye for detail. Her description of Phoenix, which I could compare to my own brief experience there, consulting for the local FBI office, brought to life that bright, hot metropolis. As she described the move to Forks, I was again struck by how see nailed the essential nature of this green shithole in florid, purple prose.
She also demonstrated an occasional degree of self-reflection. One passage in particular stuck a cord with the frizzy-hair New Wave obsessed teenager inside me, a kid buried underneath a decade and a half of better taste:
I don't relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth is that I don't relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I am closer to than anyone else on the planet, is never in harmony with me, never on exactly the same page. Sometimes I wonder if I am seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world is seeing through theirs. Maybe there is a glitch in my brain.
By six o'clock I reached up to mid-January 2005, the point in her journal when the name 'Cullen' first appears amidst endless complaints about being the new girl in school, when an annoying midi ringtone sounded. I reflexively checked myself. Legrasse, however, was the one who pulled a cell from his pocket and asked, "Hello?"
"Yes? ...they what? No. Yes, she's here. We all are. No. No, we haven't. Why? No! I said 'NO'. Hold on a sec." Legrasse slapped a palm over the mouthpiece of his cell phone. He looked to the deputy and me and said, "The Dwyers' plane landed three hours ago."
I sat up."What?"
Legrasse went on, "The Bureau says they changed bookings during their layover in St. Louis. There was a last minute opening on a United flight."
"Now hold up," said Deputy Burke, "why didn't Renée call and tell us that?"
"They say she did. There was a ten minute conference call with all three parties this afternoon discussing the change in itinerary, including you, Deputy."
"I think I'd remember a conference call with the F-B-I!" He whipped his head around and called out to Deputy Evans, who, as always, toted a shotgun. "Hank! Did you take any calls today? Did you talk to anyone outside this building?!"
"No! You said you'd field the calls!"
He wheeled back on us. "Well I didn't get any calls from the FBI!"
"Legrasse," I said, "where are the Dwyers now?"
"We know they boarded the flight in St. Louis, but now...? They haven't checked in, that's for sure."
"No way in hell that girl's mother wouldn't check in." Burke looked to each of us. "She was so far up my ass about Bella needing a lawyer before anyone talked to her that she could have checked for polyps!"
"Legrasse," I said, locking down the panic I felt, "tell Seattle we have a situation..."