Masen and Swan: The FBI's Most Unwanted
A collaboration between edward-bella-harry-ginny and Gleena
**Second Place Winner**
Epic T Rated, One-Shot contest.
The rules are simple:
1. No lemons. Must be rated 'T.'
2. Has to have a line or reference to a cannibal.
3. Has to have a line or reference to a fireman.
4. All canon pairings.
5. Has to be a one-shot, but is allowed to be continued once the contest is finished.
6. Must copy/paste these rules to the top of your submission. Two entries per person. Collaborations acceptable.
7. Must PM Bronzehairedgirl620 to alert her of your entry so she can add your story to the C2 if it fits the requirements.
The contest will run until June 6th, 11:59 MST (Mountain Standard Time.) Submissions need to be posted to FF and must follow the rules above.
Special Agent Bella Swan, the FBI's most unwanted, is partnered with the bureau's poster boy, SA Edward Masen. Their chemistry keeps them on their toes as they travel to Forks to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. Epic T Collaboration Gleena/edward-bella-harry-ginny
AN: edward-bella-harry-ginny and I both prefer to write T-rated fics, so this contest seemed like an opportunity we could not miss. We're both obsessed with Twilight (duh) and love the X-files. This is not a crossover, and you don't have to have any knowledge of X-files to read this. The genre is All-Human, canon couples. We'll have another author's note at the end.
Disclaimer. Stephenie Meyer is the owner of Twilight characters; Chris Carter is the creator of the X-files. We own nothing related to either, and we make no profit from the work here (quite the opposite, in fact).
"I vant to suck your blood…"
"Come to me my pet…"
"Mike…I'm scared…let's get out of here. I knew we should have seen Here Comes the Bride," Jessica Stanley whispered to her boyfriend.
"Oh, you're ok, baby. I'll protect you…" Mike murmured. Jessica slapped his arm away from hers and huffed as she folded her arms indignantly. "Ok, ok…we'll go…" Mike acquiesced.
"It's about time!" Jessica grumbled. She stood up and started for the exit, ignoring several annoyed murmurs that followed in her wake.
"Wait up! What's your hurry?! It's just a movie… Dracula isn't going to come out of the shadows, you know," Mike teased.
"That's easy for you to say…you're a guy…you don't know what it's like being a woman and always having to look over your shoulder…" Jessica pouted dramatically. Mike puffed his chest out and swaggered with fake bravado.
"Excuse me!" he called to the empty lobby. "Big, strong man coming through!" he teased.
"Oh, shut up, Mike. Why don't you grow up? And you wonder why Swan never looked twice at you," Jessica huffed.
"Hey…I'll have you know she did indeed look twice…" Mike defended himself.
"Because she was doing a double-take…" Jessica replied.
"Ah, baby, you know you're my girl…" Mike leaned in to kiss Jessica's cheek. She accepted his affection and smiled.
"Thank you, Mike, I love it when you say that," she cooed. "But, I have to go to the ladies room."
"Ok, Hon, I'll meet you out front…" Mike said as he headed for the front doors. Jessica shook her head and went into the restroom. A few minutes later, she came out relieved and make-up refreshed. She waved to the teens in the box office before exiting onto the street looking for Mike. Jessica looked right, and left, and stood tapping her foot for a moment. Her boyfriend was nowhere to be seen.
'Maybe he's pulling his car around,' she thought. Suddenly, she was startled by a loud thud coming from the side of the theater, near the dumpsters. She looked that direction just as she heard a low uttered curse.
"Mike?" she asked timidly. She took a few steps in the direction of the sound.
"Mike, this isn't funny!" She called out in a tremulous voice as she came to the corner of the building, and saw his 'Newton's' hiking boots sticking out of the shadows. She rounded the corner and was met by a shocking sight. There was Mike, sitting as though propped in front of the dumpsters, his eyes wide in terror, his face abnormally pale against his blond hair. He was dead.
Jessica let out a scream worthy of the heroine in the movie they'd just left, and fainted just before she crumpled in a heap on the sidewalk.
Special Agent Isabella Swan leaned back in her decaying-vinyl and rusty-metal chair and tossed a golden raisin into the air, catching it in her mouth as it completed its graceful parabolic arc. She wasn't worried about superiors catching her in such unprofessional behavior; none of them had ever entered her office-storage area-basement in the year she had been relegated to this division. She was wearing a feminine, business-like dark brown pantsuit over her agency-issued sidearm in the harness strapped across her back. She was just marking time until her partner made it into the office. He was doing follow-up on an old case in another part of the building.
She swiveled in her chair so that her back was to the office door. She looked on the wall at the life-size poster of Gary Oldman as Bram Stoker's Dracula. "I've got you, now," she said softly, eating another raisin.
"Threatening Sirius Black again?" a sardonic voice said from behind her.
"Masen, I've told you at least a hundred times that Harry Potter was far too clean to be a realistic portrayal of the supernatural," she shot back. At least she hadn't jumped when he surprised her. She swiveled back around and gave him a good glare. She had to glare every chance she got; otherwise, she was afraid she would start mooning over his shock of disheveled red-brown hair and his mesmerizing emerald green eyes.
"Sorry, Swan," replied Special Agent Edward Masen with mock sincerity. He had been assigned to this division to keep an eye on the amazingly gifted, but apparently dotty Special Agent Swan. He was still trying to figure out exactly what had destroyed her reputation within the agency and made her so wacky. Especially since all he had figured out so far was that she was brilliant, if eccentric, and…hot. Today her soft, brown hair was swept up in a French twist, leaving her long elegant neck bare. His eyes kept slipping down to the way her neck curved.
"I've started making travel plans," she said, changing the subject.
"We have a case?" he asked, wondering if it was authorized or another of her hunches. The last one had earned him a verbal (but not official) reprimand from Assistant Director Dermis.
"This one is the real deal," she said, trying to put him at ease. "I got a call from local authorities in Port Angeles, Washington. An exsanguinated body was found just minutes after the last witnesses saw him alive."
"Are you suggesting that there are vampires loose in the state of Washington?" asked Masen, well aware that Swan had some bizarre obsession with blood-sucking night dwellers. The giant poster directly behind her desk sort of gave it away.
"It is one theory we should allow ourselves to consider," she replied diplomatically, letting her big brown eyes suck him in. He was finding that he went along with her crackpot schemes every time she gave him That Look, as he had come to call it. The fact that they had resolved every case they had taken on together was an amazing stroke of luck, as far as he could tell. Either that or she was as perceptive as the stories said.
A knock on the door interrupted their discussion. It was the courier with the airline tickets Swan had requisitioned. They had two and a half hours to make their flight from Dulles to SeaTac and neither of them was packed yet.
"I'll brief you on the plane, Masen," said Swan, grabbing a briefcase from beside her desk.
"Do you want me to pick you up and drive you to the airport," he asked, gentlemanly as usual.
"No, I'll meet you at the gate," she answered.
"Port Angeles, Washington…city of less than 20,000, and one of them may very well be a killer. I'm sure their crime statistics will be skewed for the next decade," Swan joked; she eyed Masen as he drove their requisitioned car into the small coastal town. His eyes tracked the signs leading them to the local police station.
"Swan, this isn't something to joke about; we could be on the trail of a serial here," Masen interjected, glancing at his partner quickly.
"Or maybe something else…" Swan hedged.
"It was murder, straight and simple," Masen insisted.
"You have to admit, the MO is rather bizarre…one might even call it paranormal."
"Swan…everything has a rational explanation within the realm of science. If there's anything my medical background has taught me, it's that there is no such thing as paranormal, merely things that fall outside what is generally considered normal, while still being within the norms of human nature," Masen said.
"Sure, sure, your two degrees in medicine..." Swan agreed half-heartedly. "You must have been a riot in college," She teased. Masen looked at her with a brief glare, which turned unexpectedly into a smirk.
"Well, you know what they say about the quiet ones," he said. He caught Swan's open mouthed shock out of the corner of his eye before she quickly composed herself. Then, his attention was called back to the road. "Here's the Police Station; the Chief said they have a morgue and an autopsy bay on site, so it looks like my degrees are going to get a little practice today," Masen said cheerfully as he parked and they entered the station.
Swan looked at him with a grimace, and then her expression turned gleeful. "You always did like to slap on the prophylactics, Agent Masen, but I'm afraid only one of your very impressive degrees can be exercised today. Pathology may work on a dead body, but psychology will definitely get you nowhere here," Swan said teasingly. Masen glared at her again, though his face was red at her innuendo.
"Maybe not the victim's mental state, but every killer leaves clues to his own state of mind, and I can read that from a body just as well as from the killer's mind," Masen said defensively.
"You have fun with that, and let me know when the gore is done," Swan replied.
A few hours, several pairs of gloves and two disposable smocks later, Masen washed his hands for the last time and called Swan to come down for his report. A moment later, her head peered around the door of the morgue as she tentatively smelled the air.
"Calm down, Swan; everything's been scrubbed down and disinfected. There's nothing for you to smell in here," Masen drawled.
"There's still a body on the table…" Swan argued.
"Trust me, there's no blood to be smelt."
Swan reluctantly came into the cold sterile room and walked over to the table.
"Mike Newton…age 27, resident of a nearby town called-" Masen began.
"Forks," Swan finished.
"Yeah…you read the file already?" Masen asked curiously.
"Sure…" Swan agreed half-heartedly.
"The local medical examiner was rather succinct in his examination. He labeled cause of death as a puncture wound to the jugular vein, and the subsequent bleed out," Masen summarized.
"Puncture wound?" Swan said with raised eyebrows. "By chance are there two puncture marks a few centimeters apart?"
Masen rolled his eyes and shook his head at his pretty partner. "No, Swan it is not, in fact, a vampire's bite. Rather, a skilled hand and a large gauge needle would be my theory."
"Skilled hand? Needle? Like our killer has done this before, a serial, like you thought?" Swan asked.
"Actually, skilled as in medically trained; there is evidence of an incision by a scalpel, and that a central line was placed," Masen explained.
"Central line? You mean like an IV? Someone was trying to drug him?" Swan asked.
"No, the opposite…someone was trying to…" Masen paused, looking into Swan's eager eyes. "…drain him…" he admitted.
"Like a vampire!" Swan crowed.
"Actually…I was thinking something a little more grounded in reality. I'm not entirely certain what to make of this though…" Masen said, and donned another pair of gloves. He glared at the smirk that Swan gave him at the sight of the latex gloves and turned down the sheet over the body. He grasped the left arm and raised it to show Swan. There, clearly visible in the skin of the wrist, was a human bite mark.
"Vampires do have to bite," commented Swan as Masen directed their car down the highway towards Forks, Washington.
"Right. Of course, a lot of sexual predators leave bite marks on their victims as well," Masen responded, working hard to maintain an air of rationality. Sometimes working a case with Swan was like being in an episode of the Twilight Zone; her theories could go in any and all directions. Amazingly, she would eventually zero in on the right target. She was capable of making miraculous leaps of intuition. Occasionally, the leaps went in the wrong direction.
"I guess we'll have to stop in at the local police chief's office," said Swan reluctantly.
"That is standard operating procedure," Masen returned, a little surprised at her attitude. Swan had a tendency to go off-book when in the middle of a case, but was infallibly polite to the locals. He glanced over at her and realized she was uncomfortable. His eyebrows went up a fraction as he turned back to the road.
The local police department was easy to find, since essentially everything in the tiny town was along one side or the other of the main highway.
"This town is smaller than my first grade class," commented Masen.
"Yeah, big city boy, we can't all grow up in Chicago," said Swan with a nervous laugh.
"I wonder what they do for fun around here?" he added. He noticed the Floral Park Motel as they passed it. "Oh, no, no, no. I am not staying in that."
"What's wrong with it?" asked Swan. "Look, it's right by the diner."
"You know motels like that creep me out. They might as well name it the Bates Motel."
"I'm sure it's delightful," she said, twisting her hands together. He watched her surreptitiously. He had never seen her nervous, not even when called onto the carpet for unwarranted destruction of property pursuing a suspect.
Masen parallel-parked in front of the small police station, and they exited the car together. He opened the door to the office and waved Swan in before him. An older man in a tan police officer's uniform stood from a desk to greet them. He had a shocked look on his face.
"Chief? I'm Special Agent Masen, and this is—"
"Isabella," said the chief of police.
"I prefer Special Agent Swan," Swan responded stiffly.
"I'm sure you do, Bells," he answered.
"Excuse me," interrupted Masen, looking back and forth between the two. "Do you know each other?"
"Masen, meet my father, Fork's Chief of Police, Charlie Swan; Chief Swan, this is my partner, Special Agent Masen."
"Sir," said Masen, extending his hand. Chief Swan reluctantly shook it.
"So, how long have you been partners with my daughter?"
"Chief Swan, this is an inappropriate conversation," said Swan, apparently struggling to maintain an air of professional distance. "We've come here to interview Jessica Stanley about the death of Mike Newton."
"I wondered if this would bring you home," muttered the chief. He stroked his bushy moustache. "I guess we should sit. I have some information which might help with your case." He motioned Swan and Masen to chairs opposite his desk, and then sat back in his usual spot.
"There've been a lot of rumors, mostly from the La Push crowd, that our new doctor has a secret agenda."
"What kind of secret agenda?" asked Masen. He was conflicted. Doctors usually protected each other, but whoever had killed Mike Newton had some sort of medical training.
"There were concerns that the clinic he tried to open on the reservation was part of a conspiracy to perform experiments on the kids out there, some kind of genetic testing or something. When rumors about Mike's death started up, there were noises from there about investigating Dr. Cullen."
"What did Chief Black say?" asked Swan.
"He was sort of leading the group," admitted the chief grudgingly. "We had some words. Dr. Cullen is a skilled surgeon who could make ten times as much if he went anywhere else. He came here for his wife and to raise his son in a wholesome environment."
"Is there anything else?" asked Masen. "We should probably get moving if we're going to interview Dr. Cullen and Ms. Stanley today."
"No, that's all. Bells, you're free to stay at home tonight if you're still in town."
"Thank you for the offer, Chief. I think we can check into the Floral Park," said Swan, ignoring Masen's insistent gesturing.
"I think I should insist," said Chief Swan, eyeing Masen dubiously. "Your partner can stay on the fold-out couch," he emphasized the last words with a glint in his eye as he pinned Masen with his stare.
"Fine. We'll call before we come over. I assume you're eating in the diner tonight."
"Yes. Six sharp."
"So, Ms. Stanley, or Dr. Cullen first?" Swan asked, trying to avoid the question that she knew Masen would ask.
"When were you going to tell me that this is your home town!?" Masen retorted. Swan grimaced.
"I was born here, yes, but I was raised in Phoenix, mostly…" Swan murmured while looking at her feet, not wanting to get into her past now.
"Hey, you all right, Swan? Sorry…you don't have to answer anything," Masen said, wanting to hug her, but not sure it would be very appropriate, especially considering her father was probably watching them from the front windows of the station. Instead he opened the car door for her.
When they were buckled in, he said, "So, Jessica Stanley? I take it that it's safe to assume that you know her, and the victim? Do you know what AD Dermis will say when he reads that in our report? He's going to reprimand you for going off-book again, Swan," Masen said softly.
"Well, he's not here now, so let's go question Ms. Stanley, then we can go to the Cullens. According to this map that Charlie, sorry, Chief Swan, drew us, they're outside of town, close to the river," Swan said.
"Ok…Ms. Stanley it is." Masen agreed.
Twenty minutes later, Masen and Swan sat on the couch in the living room of the Stanley home, as Jessica was still living with her parents. As Masen looked around the room, he didn't need his psychology degree to see that this girl was immature; the photos displayed gave a clear picture of the Stanley's enabling their adult daughter to act like a teenager.
"Wow, Isabella Swan…it's been what, ten years since I saw you?!" Jessica said in a perky voice.
"Nearly twelve, actually; and I'd prefer just Swan, thanks. I'm here in an official capacity, as you know…I'm Special Agent Swan now, and this is my partner, Special Agent Masen," Swan said with a gesture towards Masen.
"We'd like to ask you a few questions," Masen started.
"You have a lovely voice…Do you sing?" Jessica asked boldly.
"Uh…not outside the shower," Masen said, red-faced.
"Oh, a shower, huh?" Jessica probed. Masen was flabbergasted. Was this woman grieving a man she had found dead or not?
"Trust me, you're not missing much," Swan interjected swiftly. Masen sat stunned. He wasn't sure if he should defend his shower singing skills, or defend his suddenly sullied reputation. Swan wasn't finished though. "He can really hit the high notes when you flush the toilet while he's in there though," she added. Masen coughed spasmodically.
"Oh," Jessica said disappointed. "Partners," she said, nodding knowingly at Swan. Masen cleared his throat.
"Back to the investigation- How long were you and Mr. Newton separated for?" he asked.
"Well, I used the ladies room, and I refreshed my make-up, so maybe ten minutes?" she said as though it were a question.
"You didn't see anyone near Mike?" asked Swan.
"No…just a big thud, and someone was swearing, then all I saw was…Mike…dead!" Jessica burst into tears, as though she were only now realizing that her on-and-off-again boyfriend had been murdered.
"Thanks, Ms. Stanley, we'll let you get back to…things…" Masen said diplomatically. Jessica nodded and blew her nose loudly into a wad of tissues.
Once outside, Masen gave Swan a red-faced glare, then got into the car.
"Flush the toilet while he's in there? You made it sound like we regularly showered in close quarters!" Masen said exasperated.
"Well, it was either that, or let her hit on you. I figured it would be better to shut her down fast, and get our questions out of the way." Swan said matter-of-factly. Masen couldn't help but notice the way her tone deepened when she mentioned Jessica Stanley hitting on him. As painful as Ms. Stanley's attentions were, Swan's sudden possessiveness pleased him more than he cared to admit.
"We did solidify the time-line though…ten minutes isn't very long…I wonder if the killer has a small, portable dialysis machine to drain the bodies faster…" Masen mused.
"Or really strong lips and throat…" Swan interjected. Masen rolled his eyes again, but he couldn't help but smile at his partner's determination to prove the supernatural existed.
"Let's see what the good doctor has to say, shall we?" Masen asked.
Fifteen minutes later, they pulled to a stop in front of a large white house. Swan's eyes were large as she took in the sight of the near-mansion. Masen allowed Swan to take the lead here, after the experience they'd had at the Stanley's.
"Agents Swan and Masen, with the FBI…we have some questions we'd like to ask Dr. Cullen," Swan said, when a soft "Yes?" was heard from the other side of the closed door. The door opened a crack to reveal a petite, caramel-haired woman.
"The FBI?" the woman questioned.
"Yes." Swan and Masen both flashed their identifications to the woman, and her brow wrinkled in confusion.
"We understand that you're confused, Mrs. Cullen, is it?" Masen asked, stepping forward.
"Yes, I'm Esme Cullen. Dr. Carlisle Cullen is my husband, why do you need to question him?"
"Mom?" a large, well-built man around twenty thundered down the stairs, stopping a few feet from the door.
"What's going on?" he asked.
Masen and Swan reintroduced themselves, and the man nearly wouldn't let them in until they heard, "Emmett, son, it's all right. Chief Swan gave me a call at the hospital. This is his daughter, and her partner, as you can see, they are from the FBI."
Masen and Swan turned to find a blond man standing behind them on the steps. "Dr. Cullen, nice to meet you," he said as he held his hand out to Masen and then Swan.
Thirty minutes later, Dr. Cullen had answered their questions; he unfortunately, appeared to be the victim of small town prejudice and gossip, as he had a solid alibi for the night Mike Newton was killed. He had been in surgery at the time, helping to save a heart-attack victim.
As they were wrapping up their questions, the door blew open and a tall, leggy, twenty-something blonde stormed in. Her tight jeans were designer, and didn't seem to mesh at all with her sooty shirt that was emblazoned with Forks Fire Department over two crossed axes.
"What's this about?" she demanded. Swan was certain that she'd have to shut this woman down before she started hitting on Masen, but she was shocked by the venom in the woman's glare as she took in the two agents.
Masen explained the situation while Emmett came over and pulled the angry woman into a bear hug. He introduced her as Rosalie Hale, his fiancée. Eventually, Rosalie's expression softened, and it turned out, she gave them the next lead in their case.
"There was some talk down at the station a few months back," she began.
"The fire station you mean? You're a fireman, right?" Swan asked. Instantly, the ire was lit in Rosalie's eyes.
"Fire fighter, please," Rosalie said tersely.
"Sorry…What was the talk at the station?" Masen interjected before Swan could get feisty.
"My partner, Jake Black…he was part of an investigative team that went to check out the scene of a large unpermitted bonfire in the woods a few months back. It was a hot fire, pretty much consumed everything, but there were some bone fragments…it was ruled that there must have been some off-season poachers burning carcasses and just taking the heads of trophy animals. But Jake didn't think so…we just couldn't prove anything…"
"Thank you, Ms. Hale, that's very helpful…" Masen said again, shaking hands with the Cullens as they said their goodbyes. As he and Swan got into the car, he looked at her tense face. "Swan?"
"I'm fine, just thinking," Swan assured him.
"Something tells me that you knew this Jake Black, too, once upon a time…" Masen said.
"In a manner of speaking…" Swan admitted.
Masen pressed his lips together until they made a thin white line. Investigating was difficult enough when the witnesses and suspects withheld information. He wasn't going to put up with any more of this from his partner. He abruptly pulled off the road onto a dirt track into the woods.
"What are you doing?" demanded Swan, her voice up at least half an octave.
"I'm pulling the car over. You're going to explain what's going on in this crazy one-horse town."
"Fine," she said sulkily.
"Fine," he shot back. Moments passed in silence. "Well?"
"Fine. Okay," began Swan. She told her story, talking very quickly. "I was born here, and Charlie's been the Chief of Police since before I was old enough to talk. My parents split up soon afterwards, and my Mom moved to Phoenix with me, but I grew up here in the summers. Charlie's best friend is Chief Billy Black of the Quileute tribe, and his son Jake was a friend of mine."
"That didn't sound so hard," commented Masen.
"Well, that was the easy part," she said. Now she spoke more slowly. "I was a junior in high school in Phoenix when my mom was murdered. There was a big investigation and a lot of weird stuff happened; I ran away from child services trying to figure out what was going on. They never caught her killer, and I ended up in Forks, living with Charlie."
Masen waited patiently, because she didn't appear to be finished with her story.
"Charlie and Billy were certain that Jake and I should be together, and Jake believed them. It wasn't easy leaving for college, but when I got accepted at Dartmouth, I made tracks for the East coast and I've barely been back. I knew what I wanted from the day my mom died, and Jake was never going to be a part of that."
"What about Newton and Stanley?" he prompted.
"Ha. Yes, well, Mike had some sort of crush on me in high school and wouldn't take a hint. I was hinting that I didn't like him, and Jessica was always hinting that she did. It's funny, I thought they would have been married with six kids by now." Swan's voice trailed off. "It was harder than I thought, seeing him in the autopsy." She rarely showed weakness or honest emotion in front of others, a defense mechanism she had used since the death of her mother. It had been an essential survival skill in the academy. It didn't hurt to share with your partner, she told herself.
"I thought you were bothered by more than the blood," said Masen softly. He had always been good at reading people, and he knew he was becoming highly attuned to Swan's moods. It was an important component of the partner relationship, he told himself.
Swan turned her head, and looked deeply into his eyes. "Are you ready to go interview Jake with me?"
Not for the first time, Masen wondered if she gave him The Look on purpose, or if it was unintentional. As usual, he agreed to her terms and started the car again.
They found Jake at the fire station. Masen's first impression was that Jake was just freaking huge, maybe 6' 7" and 230 pounds. He had dark skin and long black hair tied in a ponytail and was, even in Masen's estimation, a good-looking guy.
"Bells! Charlie called to let me know you were in town," said Jake with enthusiasm. He picked up Swan and twirled her off the ground, ignoring her annoyed protests.
"Jake, you giant monster. I'm carrying a weapon, and I'm not afraid to use it," she snapped. "I'm here on official FBI business."
"Sure, sure, sorry." Jake's lazy smile suggested he was anything but sorry. He looked down at Masen as if seeing him for the first time. "I'm Jake Black," he said, extending a hand.
"Special Agent Masen," answered Masen, shaking back as firmly as Jake did. "I'm Swan's partner."
Swan rolled her eyes, annoyed at the testosterone-fest. "We have some information that you found possible remains in a bonfire a few months ago?"
"Oh, yeah. The bone pieces were pretty small; we figured it was just animal remains from poachers." Jake had turned serious now that they were talking business. "I could show you the bonfire location."
"Let's go," agreed Swan.
About 45 minutes later, the three had hiked back into the woods just outside Forks, Masen carrying a forensics kit.
"The spot is pretty easy to find," said Jake. "The high school students have been using it for years. Maybe you'll recognize it, Bells."
Masen bit back a comment that came unbidden to him. Jake was an old friend of Swan's, and it wouldn't help their investigation to antagonize him.
"Here we are," said Jake. "I don't think many have been through here since the bonfire. It hasn't been a pleasant winter."
Masen opened his kit, gloved up, and started to sift the ash. "This will take me a bit," he informed the other two. He kept working, but it was a fairly mindless process. He was finding numerous bone fragments, but nothing large enough to identify without further study. He let his mind wander, and caught bits of the conversation between Jake and Swan.
"You haven't called in two years, Bella." Jake's voice was hurt.
"I thought I'd said everything I wanted the last time we talked," she answered.
"Friends do update their other friends every now and then," he insisted.
"Correct me if I'm wrong," Swan hissed. "The last time I saw you, you said being friends was not enough, and if that's all we were, you didn't want any part of me."
"That was before all the text messages and cards and flowers I sent in apology," he said, his voice lowered. Masen was trying really hard not to hear any more, but the woods were very quiet.
"Look, Jake, I am sorry now and I was sorry then, but the reality is that I will never be what you want. I am pursuing the dream I have for my life. I'm a Special Agent in the DC office of the FBI, and that is exactly where I want to be."
"Is this guy part of that?" asked Jake, his voice still lowered. "He seems kind of stiff to me."
"Not that it's any of your business, but Special Agent Masen is my partner."
"That can mean a lot of things," said Jake.
Masen wasn't sure how much more he wanted to hear, but in any case, he needed to interrupt them. "Swan, I think you need to see this," he said in a loud tone, as if they were out of earshot of a normal speaking voice.
Swan and Jake hurried back over to where he knelt at the fire-pit. "What is it, Masen," asked Swan, her face a little red.
"Most of these bone fragments are too small to identify, but I certainly recognize these two," said Masen. He pointed with a gloved finger at two pieces, one a human molar and the other a finger bone. "We seem to have found another body."
Masen had spent the rest of the afternoon cataloging bone fragments and packing them to ship back to Quantico. Swan had gone over the original reports Jake had filed regarding the bonfire, and together she and Jake had fruitlessly searched for any similar fire reports in neighboring counties. Chief Swan had looked through missing persons cases corresponding to the time in question.
At six p.m., sharp, Masen and Swan arrived at the Forks Diner. Swan thought it looked depressingly like it had when she was in high school, except that some of the patronage had aged.
"Bella! It's so nice to see you again! How long will you be home?" Stella had been a waitress in the diner since Swan was a young girl.
"Not long. I didn't come for a social call," Swan said. "This is my partner, Special Agent Edward Masen." Stella winked at Swan and bustled back to the kitchen.
"We have to face the wall since the Chief always keeps an eye on what's going on in the diner," Swan told him confidentially as she redirected him when Masen tried to settle into the Chief's usual side of the booth. Therefore, they were both taken by surprise when the Chief came into the diner – with Jake.
"Bella, I hope you don't mind, I invited Jake to join us," announced the Chief as he took his usual spot and shot a triumphant glance at Masen, who ignored the look. Masen knew he and Swan were not in a relationship. On top of that, he was fairly certain he understood how things stood between Swan and Jake. Chief Swan was going to be mighty disappointed in how the evening turned out.
"Did anything turn up in the missing persons files?" asked Swan, also ignoring the Chief.
"Nothing, yet. I haven't expanded the search to out-of-state," he replied.
"You should narrow the search to males, ages 25-35, probably Caucasian as well," suggested Masen. "If this is a serial killer, they prefer to stick to a type."
"I think it's too early to create a victim profile," protested Swan. "We only have one whole body."
"Bella, is that you?" called a male voice.
Swan looked up in time to see Jake's eyes roll. She turned in the booth to see two men approaching.
"Tyler Crowley?" she asked, unsure of herself. It had been twelve years.
"That's right, I can't believe it's you," answered the first man. He was a handsome, well-muscled man. "Are you here to visit?" His eyes cut back and forth between her dad, Masen, and Jake.
"A short visit," she answered, not bothering to qualify.
"This is my business partner, James Mitchell." The man standing behind Tyler was medium height with long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. He had piercing blue eyes, and an indefinable charisma. When he looked at Swan, she felt he was seeing things that normal people missed – she felt that he was profiling her.
"We have an art studio together," said James, not breaking the eye contact with Swan.
"I see," she said, and realized she had no other words forming to respond.
"Swan is my partner," cut in Masen smoothly. He stood up from his edge seat in the booth to shake Tyler's and then James' hand. "Special Agent Edward Masen. We work together at the FBI." He hadn't missed James zeroing in on Swan. When James' eyes refocused on his own, he saw something shift, and a knowing smirk appeared on James' face.
"You have a classic law enforcement look, Agent Masen. I'm in the middle of putting together a law enforcement calendar in the photography studio. Maybe you'll have time to sit for a photo while you're in town." Chief Swan raised his eyebrows at the offer, and looked at Masen incredulously. Jake sat open-mouthed.
"I don't think that will be possible," Masen refused politely, but firmly, as he sat down. "The Bureau is fairly strict about those things."
"Maybe you can drop by the studio, Bella," said Tyler eagerly. Masen noticed the knowing smirk reappear on James' face as the man looked between Tyler and Swan. "The photography and digital art is James' thing, but I have a metal sculpture studio that's been pretty successful."
"Thank you for the invitation," said Swan, not flatly turning him down. Masen suspected she wanted nothing to do with this Tyler person. He had to have known her since high school, and she appeared to have cut every tie possible with that time in her life. Just as Stella arrived with their orders, Tyler and James wandered back out of the diner. Swan smirked at Masen. He had watched the two men leave, and then he had shuddered subtly.
"Honestly, he looked at you like you were something to eat!" Swan said as she tried valiantly to keep a straight face. Masen grimaced; Chief Swan and Jake were guffawing into their fists, trying to keep it in.
"What was that all about?" Masen asked in an attempt to change the subject. He eyed Swan as they all started to eat. It was Jake who answered though.
"Tyler once asked Bella to Prom," said Jake with a snicker. "He still hasn't figured out she told him no."
The remainder of dinner was somewhat painful; a combination of Swan's and Masen's discomfort and Chief Swan's desperate attempt to showcase Jake. Masen tried to ignore the chief's blatant snubs; it wasn't like he was Swan's boyfriend. He was her partner, in a strictly law enforcement, platonic way…at least that's what he told himself. After they had finished dinner, Swan and Masen followed Chief Swan back to his house to settle in for the night.
"I'm warning you now, Masen, you are going to be sorry we didn't stay at the Floral Park."
"Do you think they have better accommodations than your father's fold-out sofa bed?" asked Masen, figuring it was a lost cause either way. "It's actually been a while since my skin was pierced by an errant spring, but I am up-to-date on my tetanus shots."
Swan rolled her eyes. "Nice. And, uh, I want to apologize for dinner."
"Actually, the meat loaf wasn't half bad," he joked.
"I guess you know why I don't come home often," she said as Masen parked in front of the Swan home.
"Often? Don't you mean at all?" he asked. "I think it's obvious your dad cares about you. He's a little overprotective." Swan snorted. "Okay, a lot overprotective."
"Masen, I'm almost thirty years old with a Ph.D., a firearm, and hand-to-hand combat training. He acts as though I'm still in high school, and he's trying to pick out my Prom date!"
"Come on, we better go in," said Masen, laughing in spite of himself. "If we don't hurry he's probably going to force us into a shotgun wedding for talking after dark in the car."
The awkwardness of the evening intensified until Masen was able to engage the chief in an argument over the future of the Mariners vs. the White Sox. The elephant in the room returned when it was time to get ready for bed though. The pull-out couch promised no comfort, and the three of them were sharing Charlie's only bathroom.
As they settled in for the night, Masen lay diagonally across the fold-out bed, which was too short to accommodate his full height. The events of the day swirled around in his head, and he tried to make sense of the disparate pieces of information. He concluded that they needed more information about the second body before they would make any significant progress on the case.
He was just relaxing into sleep when the telephone rang, and he heard someone pick up an extension upstairs. A moment later, a light appeared at the top of the stairs.
"Bella? Agent Masen?" called the voice of Charlie Swan. "I just got a call. They've found another body on fire out towards La Push."
Barely fifteen minutes later, all three of them stormed out of the house after hurriedly dressing back into their recently changed clothes. Swan rode shotgun in Chief Swan's cruiser, and Masen sat in the back with his arms crossed petulantly. He had wanted to drive their own vehicle, but was prevailed upon to save the world's finite resources.
Masen found that he had plenty of time to sight-see as the Chief drove sedately through the small, sleepy town. Down the street from the diner, Masen noticed a small hole-in-the-wall shop as they stopped at the lone stop light within Forks. The large front window boasted a hand painted sign in the center of that read: 'Brandon Prognostications, Palmistry, and Personal Stylist Services.' Along the bottom of the window was written 'Whitlock Coffee and Antique Books' in much plainer print.
"Hey, Swan, I think I just found a shop for the both of us…paranormal mumbo jumbo for you, and coffee and books for me," Masen commented.
"Gee, thanks, Masen. You make me sound illiterate or something," Swan replied, though she too was eyeing the shop. Chief Swan merely tsked at the both of them as he pulled onto the highway towards La Push, and set his cruise control at the exact speed limit.
"We are headed to a crime scene, are we not?" Masen asked impatiently from the backseat. He felt as though valuable evidence was being disturbed every minute they took to get to the scene.
"Fire Department's there, and the body's not gonna get up and walk away you know," Chief Swan remarked, giving Masen a placid look through the rearview mirror. Masen just gritted his teeth and lay back against the seat.
A moment later, a tall column of grey smoke could be seen just off the road in the woods. Chief Swan pulled his car off onto the shoulder and the three of them began to walk into the thick trees.
"Charlie!" a disembodied voice called from the darkness. A tall man with a hat declaring him to be the fire chief suddenly came into view.
"The body's over here, Charlie," the man said.
"George?" Charlie said the man's name as a question, hoping to prompt him to explain further.
"You'll see." The man turned around and gestured for them to follow him.
"Masen, this killer is becoming careless. This isn't even a quarter mile from the road. We must be making him nervous," Swan murmured. Masen nodded and stepped over to the sheet covered body and pulled on his ever-present latex gloves.
"Here," he said as he passed a pair to Swan as well. She couldn't resist.
"I can always count on you to have adequate protection, can't I," she teased. Masen glared at her again, and then he lifted the sheet from the victim. Swan gasped in shock, and Masen looked at her in alarm.
"Tyler Crowley…It would appear that the killer is closer than we thought…" Masen mused.
Swan swallowed hard, and then her expression hardened. "We need to interview his partner right away. Do you have an address for him, Chief Swan?"
"Now, Isabella, it's a little late to be bothering people with interviews," began the chief.
"Chief Swan," she responded firmly, "we're looking at a possible serial killer. We cannot afford to waste time waiting for a suspect to destroy evidence or solidify an alibi."
Chief Swan eyed his daughter with brief astonishment, which rapidly morphed into fatherly pride. "They both lived in their studio about a mile north on the 101. You can borrow my cruiser; I'll hitch a ride back with George."
When Swan and Masen arrived at the studio, it was completely dark. "I don't like the way this looks," said Swan softly. Masen nodded. They exited the cruiser silently and approached the door, weapons drawn. Masen nudged the door, and it swung open freely. Swan went in low, to the right, while Masen took high. The front room was large; and the darkness was filled with strangely shaped unidentifiable objects.
The search was interrupted by a low moan from the back of the room. Masen snapped on his flashlight and hurried to the back of the room.
"Swan, it's James Mitchell. He's been knocked out."
"I'm calling backup," she responded. It was too dangerous to continue the search with an injured civilian present. Masen couldn't leave him to provide her backup. They would have to relegate themselves to watching for anyone leaving.
After the ambulance took the concussed James off to the Forks hospital, Chief Swan joined them as they finished combing over the studio. Their search turned up nothing but photography and welding materials.
Masen woke with the sun the next morning with a knot in his back and a crick in his neck. Even lying diagonally, he had struggled to keep his frame wholly on the mattress. He had roused often during the night, only to find his head dangling over the side, and the blood rushing in his ears.
After getting dressed for the day, he perused the kitchen cabinets looking for coffee. He was disheartened to find an outdated, off-brand canister of instant decaffeinated. Grimacing, he dropped the offending item back onto the shelf, and closed the cabinet with a thud.
"Is the Thriftway instant decaf not to your liking?" Swan asked from behind him.
"Hardly. How does your father survive? There is nothing in this house but frozen fish, questionable dairy products, and sawdust dyed black and masquerading as coffee!" Masen ranted.
"Charlie usually gets his meals, and his coffee, at the diner," Swan smirked as Masen's eyes widened in remembrance.
"That shop! The paranormal-stylist-antique-book-coffee shop! Let's go," Masen said, already moving out the front door.
Ten minutes later, Masen was gratefully sipping a hot cup of real coffee. Swan was wandering the shop, taking in all the paranormal paraphernalia. The tall blond proprietor, who introduced himself as Jasper Whitlock, shared a knowing look with Masen as Swan took everything in with eager eyes.
"You're a believer, though your friend is not?" A bell like voice pealed in the quiet confines of the store. Swan startled and spun to see an extremely petite woman with raven black hair. Her eyes sparkled knowingly, though Masen was sure that he had never before met this highly memorable woman.
Masen took in the smile that suddenly crossed the quiet store owners' face, and understood immediately that the odd pair was more than co-owners of a quaint small town shop.
"My wife, Alice, has the gift," Jasper explained at the look on Masen's face.
"You're here about the murders…" Alice continued, still looking at Swan.
"That's right," Swan said with a what-did-I-tell-you look on her face.
"Special Agents Swan and Masen, from the FBI," he introduced the both of them, with his own look at his partner. "We've not made it a secret why we're here, and I'm sure you've heard the talk…this is a small town, after all."
Swan rolled her eyes, but ignored the comment. "Alice, don't mind him, as you said, he really isn't a believer," she insisted.
"Many aren't," Alice said simply.
"Do you have any insight that may help us?" Swan asked hopefully. Alice's eyes glazed over and Jasper rushed to her side, supporting her.
"You know the killer…he has spoken to you…he thinks he's protecting you…I can't see his face…" she trailed off, and Masen rolled his eyes.
"Convenient…" Masen muttered under his breath and took a long drink from his cooling coffee. Swan glared at him, and he shrugged unrepentantly.
"You would both be wise to step carefully…the killer isn't finished yet…" Alice's eyes focused once more. "I'm sorry…I can't see any more…" Swan gave another glare towards Masen.
"Right…negative energy…I'll just let you get back to that. Swan?" Masen said as he drained his mug and set it back on the counter. "Thanks for the coffee," Masen said and he nodded to Jasper.
"Thank you, you've been very helpful," Swan assured Alice, then she followed Masen from the shop.
"Just because it doesn't fit in a cardboard box, doesn't mean it isn't real," Swan said, marching right up to Masen and stopping just inches from him as she fixed his eyes with her electric gaze. Masen's breath caught in his throat, and he couldn't respond for a full minute as his body processed his close proximity to Swan. Just as she realized how very close she was, his brain kicked back into gear, and he stuttered, "B-body…I-I have to examine the body…at the morgue…at the hospital…this morning…"
Swan swallowed heavily and took a step back. "Of course…" she said as she strode to the car and sat in the driver's seat. "Come on, I'll take you there," she said. Masen could only nod and take the passenger seat before Swan pulled away from the curb. As skeptical as he may be, something that Alice had said had struck a chord with him.
'…he thinks he's protecting you…'
Both of the identified victims had at one point, known Swan, and had been infatuated with her; knowing the identity of the third body could help to solidify his theory, but there was one person that Masen could think of that definitely had a motive to want to protect Isabella Swan.
"How well do you really know Black? It has been twelve years," Masen began casually.
"Stop, right there...I can see where you're taking this. I trust Jake, he wouldn't kill anyone," Swan said, perceptive as ever.
"He certainly has the training, as an emergency responder, to pull off these murders. He didn't really investigate that first fire very well; I found the tooth and flange within ten minutes! He knows that all these men pestered or humiliated you somehow over the years, and this latest body was found within ten miles of his home!" Masen had really thought this out.
"Circumstantial evidence, all of it!" Swan argued.
"We shouldn't discount it though," Masen shot back.
"If someone is really doing this to 'protect me' we should be worried that he's the next victim, not the killer. The whole town knows that Jake and I didn't part on the best of terms. Here's the hospital…let me know if you find anything…" Swan said, all business once more.
"I'll keep you posted," Masen promised, and he unfolded his lanky frame from the car and strode into the hospital.
Masen was just finishing his examination of Tyler Crowley's remains when there was a knock on the glass to the autopsy room. Seeing Chief Swan at the door, he motioned him to come in.
"Death by blunt force trauma approximately an hour and a half before we arrived on the scene," began Masen, adjusting his safety glasses. "The body was completely drained of blood before being set over the fire."
"Why?" asked the chief.
"If I were to hazard a guess, I would say he was prepared for roasting. I think Swan's vampire is more likely a cannibal," said Masen.
"That is…sick," said the chief, a ghastly look on his face.
"I've been asking myself, why would the killer take Tyler and not James," said Masen cautiously. "I've also noticed there is a tie between the two victims we've identified."
"What, beyond the fact that they were the same age, lived in the same town, played on the same football team together, and have been in the same Sunday School class since they were 12?" asked Chief Swan sarcastically.
"They also both had crushes on Swan," said Masen. "The killer may be someone who knows Swan and is eliminating old boyfriends of hers."
"Tyler was never a boyfriend of Bella's," said the chief belligerently.
"You saw how he acted around her last night," answered Masen curtly. "He liked her in high school, and he still is interested. Which brings up another point of mine: Jacob saw that interaction at dinner last night, and he has a lot of interest in Swan."
"You might as well accuse me of these murders," yelled Chief Swan, his face turning a dangerous shade of red. "I was at dinner, and I have a vested interest in protecting Isabella."
"You'd make a good suspect," agreed Masen calmly, "if I weren't your alibi for the time of death."
For a moment, the two men stared each other down, calm green eyes regarding angry brown ones. Finally, the chief spoke. "Jake is like a son to me. I've known his family since before he was born. If I'm any judge of character, I have to say that Jake is not capable of these heinous acts."
"Before you shut down that avenue of the investigation, ask yourself if you're willing to bet Bella's life on that," warned Masen.
Swan contemplated her morning's work with annoyance. After leaving Masen at the hospital, she had checked on the results from the search in the missing persons database in an attempt to identify the burned victim. When she had found no leads, she visited Tyler's parents, in an attempt to find out more information on his most recent friends and habits. Nothing they had shared struck her as useful.
Other than his business partner James, he had remained friends with many people from their high school class. She wasn't able to find any more information about James other than his name and that he and Tyler had shared the art studio for about eight years.
Swan was startled from her musings when her cell phone rang.
"It's Masen. I'm finished up here and the hospital is about to discharge Mitchell. Do you want to join me for the interrogation?"
"I'm already on my way."
When Swan arrived at the hospital, Masen was waiting for her on the sidewalk. She rolled down the passenger side window so he could lean in to talk.
"I offered to drive Mitchell to the Floral Park Motel since he came here last night in the ambulance and the studio is still roped off as a crime scene," Masen informed her.
"That's fine," she answered. She preferred to question witnesses – and suspects – in neutral territory.
James was escorted to the sidewalk in a wheelchair by a nurse. When she offered to help him into the car, he brushed her off. Once settled in the backseat on the passenger side, he leaned back with his eyes closed. Masen got in the passenger side next to Swan and she pulled out to head to the motel.
"How's your head?" she asked conversationally as she studied him in the rearview mirror.
"It's not that bad," said James. He opened his eyes and met hers with a piercing look. With his deep blue eyes trained on her, he gave a half-smile which turned the look slightly menacing. Another woman may have considered his expression sexy, but it unnerved her. She had to glance away quickly; she was driving after all. Masen was oblivious to the exchange which had taken place as he studied the case notes in his lap.
James checked in to the Floral Park quickly; there were plenty of vacancies in the tourist off-season. Masen and Swan accompanied him into the tiny, dingy room, and Masen realized that staying at the Swan residence had been a wise choice. He thought briefly about what sort of pathogens he could identify with his forensics kit, but decided to be careful about what he touched instead. He elected to remain standing, while James sat on the edge of the bed. Swan pulled out the flimsy desk chair, but when she sat down, it collapsed beneath her.
"Ow," she said from the floor, mortified.
"Swan, you're bleeding," said Masen, his tone distressed as he helped her to stand. She glanced over his shoulder, and saw James' eyes riveted on her bleeding hand. A piece of the chair had cut deeply into her palm. "I'll get my med kit from the car – I think you may need a stitch or two."
Left alone with James, Swan leaned against the tiny desk, hoping it had more cohesiveness than the chair. "Does blood make you as ill as it makes me?" she asked as she looked up towards the ceiling, trying to distract herself from the fresh metallic scent emanating from her cut. She looked towards him after a few silent seconds, but James was still staring at her hand. His eyes moved slowly upwards from her bleeding palm to her face.
"No, I don't mind a little blood."
Swan expected another comment, but Masen re-entered the room. She didn't miss the annoyed look that crossed James' face, but it was gone quickly.
"What can you tell us about your assailant?" she asked as Masen gloved up once more and disinfected her wound. She tried to ignore the fact that his hands were very warm and that he was standing very close. He had never had to use his medical skills on her before, at least not while she was conscious, but she refused to watch his movements as he deftly closed the cut with two stitches.
"I didn't see anything," said James sheepishly, pulling Swan back the interrogation at hand. "I was hit from behind. I didn't even know anyone was in the studio with us."
"Can you think of anyone who might have a grudge against Tyler?" asked Swan.
"Tyler wasn't the type to inspire strong feelings," answered James. "He was very inoffensive, passive... I know you were a friend of his and that he liked you a lot, but in truth, he was an okay guy living a bland existence. Even his art was a bit flat."
Swan was taken aback by his candor; James had described Tyler to a T, but she hadn't expected him to be so blunt. "You needn't worry about offending me," she said. "I'm here as an investigator, not as a friend." Masen finished bandaging her hand, and closed up his kit.
"How well did you know Mike Newton?" asked Masen.
"I saw him more often than I liked. He and Tyler were friends long before I ever worked with Tyler. They had a poker night I went to occasionally."
"How long have you lived in Forks?" asked Swan. She had never heard of James before the case.
"I came here straight after college. First Tyler and I worked in the hospital together, but we decided to go into business after a couple of years."
"In the hospital?" asked Masen.
"Yeah, he worked as a pharmacy technician, and I was a phlebotomist."
Back at Charlie's house once more, Masen commandeered the kitchen table and spread the case file around him. Swan was on the phone with the field office in Seattle, hoping to get some information on missing persons in the entire Pacific Northwest.
"Something about James Mitchell rubs me wrong, Swan."
"We need something concrete…no, sorry I wasn't talking to you…two hours? I thought that the new age of information was faster than that…yes, I know, we're all busy…that's fine…we have a fax here where we're staying…" Swan rattled of Chief Swan's fax number. "Ok, send it when you get it, bye."
"I think we need to probe a little further into James Mitchell's background. Where's he from, why did he move to Forks, and what other medical training does he have? Phlebotomists have to be very skilled at drawing blood; how long was he in that position, and is it something that he's done previously?"
"Whoa…slow down, Masen…I agree, those are all very good questions, but we need to think about his next victim. We can't assume that the killer's finished until he's in custody wearing matching steel bracelets. I for one believe that our victims are somehow going to be connected to my past…I really think that if Eric Yorkie were in town, he'd be a target, but I think that Jake is the next logical choice." Swan said.
"Eric Yorkie? You've not mentioned him…was he another of your erstwhile suitors?" Masen questioned.
"Yes…not so much as Tyler, but he was one of many who tried to get me to go on a date with them." Swan said ruefully.
"Where is he now? Why isn't he in town?"
"Rumor in town said that he ran off with a girl he met on the internet…he was a big online role-playing gamer, even in high school, so it's not that surprising."
The two of them mulled over the information in front of them, neither of them saying anything.
"I really think that I need to check on Jake…" Swan said. She stood and called the Black residence, but there was no answer. She tried to reach him at the station, but the line was busy. Fidgeting absentmindedly where she stood next to the phone, Masen's voice cut through the silence.
"I'll wait for the fax," he said resignedly.
"Thanks, Masen," Swan said, relieved that he understood what she wanted to do.
"Keep me posted, and tell Jake not to go anywhere alone," Masen advised.
"Will do," Swan replied as she grabbed the keys and left the house. Twenty minutes later, Masen still sat at the table, pouring over the stacks of papers in front of him. He suddenly yawned and rubbed his face, and then he rolled his stiff shoulders. He was just about to check that the fax machine had plenty of paper when he heard a creak in the house.
"Swan? Chief?" He called out. There was no response, except for the sudden darkness that enveloped the room when the power to the house died. Masen crouched low and allowed his eyes to adjust to the low blue light that filtered in from the cloudy sky outside as he pulled his weapon from his holster.
"I am armed, and I will not hesitate to defend myself…identify yourself!" A low chuckle seemed to echo through the small house; Masen was unable to locate the source of the noise, so he stayed low to the floor and started to clear the house. Just as he moved into the living room, he felt a sharp pain sear through his shoulder. He could feel his body becoming limp, and he crumpled to the floor, powerless.
Masen's last glimpse before he blacked out was James Mitchell smiling at him as he waved a depleted syringe in front of him as he tilted his head to the side and said, "Gotcha…"
"I didn't come down here to argue with you; I came down to warn you about our theory," said Swan.
"Bella, you haven't lived here for ten years. Why would someone decide to kill guys who liked you back in high school?" Jake was frustrated. He didn't want her to know that he would have done anything to get her back in Forks. It wasn't that he didn't date, but he had a difficult time staying in relationships when any woman had to live up to his memory of Bella.
"I have no earthly idea," she said honestly. "In any case, it is just a theory. The problem for you is that, if we're right, you could be in danger. Tyler wasn't a little guy, and neither was Mike. They were both taken down without a struggle."
The phone rang, and Jake held up a finger to Swan to let her know to wait.
"Forks Fire Department, Black speaking….Where? …. Who? .... Old man Banner, huh. He does this every year, starting about now…. No, it's just the early season campers…. Yeah, he goes up on his balcony with binoculars…. Well, he said it was for bird watching. He used to teach biology….Thanks. Bye."
"Is there a fire?" asked Swan.
"It's near the camping area by the river. I'm sure it's just an early season camper with a small fire. Banner calls them in every year at this time." Jake was matter-of-fact.
"Hmm. Are you going to check it out anyway?"
"Of course. Right now it's just a little smoke. I'll be over there within a few hours." He gave Swan the huge smile she remembered from high school. Jake had always exuded a carefree joy, and she was glad to see it hadn't faded with age.
"Be careful, Jake. This case has been pretty terrible for me, even if I haven't seen these guys in ages. If you get hurt, that would be devastating." She smiled back.
Arriving back at the Chief's house, Swan walked in calling out for the Chief and Masen.
"In the kitchen, Bella!"
Swan walked into the kitchen, surprised when she saw only her father. "Where's Masen?"
"I don't know. He wasn't here when I got here." The chief took a bite out of a takeout sub sandwich. "Yer fascomin."
The Chief swallowed. "Your fax came in. It was just coming in when I walked in the door." He handed her a sheet of paper.
Swan didn't even look at the fax, running back into the living room. There was no sign of Masen until she noticed the flat black finish of his service weapon, lying under the edge of the recliner as though kicked there.
"Dad! It's Masen! I think the killer has him. Jake had a fire report come in while I was at the station. I'm heading out now. Please call for backup. Get Jake and follow me!"
"No, Bella! Wait, we can call from the car!" Chief Swan ran out the front door to stop her, but her car was already fishtailing down the street.
Swan did not waste time driving to the closest point she could get to the riverside campground. She would have to hike the rest of the way and hope the smoke would be enough to lead her in the right direction. She was able to follow a trail for several hundred yards, then smelled the smoke. She headed off to the left of the trail, leaving an arrow on the ground made of broken branches to point her direction. The ground was uneven and covered in leaves. Twice she nearly tripped over roots invisible under the leaf cover. The trees were close enough together that she felt she had a good chance of approaching the fire without alerting whoever was present. Her adrenaline was running high as she drew closer, scanning to the left and right, weapon drawn but held low.
"You're different from the others. You know what I have planned for you." Swan recognized James Mitchell's voice.
"I don't understand. Why?" Masen was trying to stall and give Swan a chance to find him. He was groggy from the drugs, having difficulty focusing either his eyesight or his thoughts. He was very uncomfortable from being bound to the spit.
"It's all for Bella, of course. She's my perfect witness, the only one who could truly appreciate my art. I had to bring her back to Forks to see my work. And I had to make sure that none of the others got in our way."
"Why wait so long? You've been here for eight years." Masen tried to stop staring in horror at the fire. He was propped up against a tree, but he had a feeling he knew what was next.
"I had to be perfect for her. I've been…perfecting my art for some time." James smiled, coming closer to Masen. They were nearly nose-to-nose. "I never imagined she would bring a partner with her. It was almost like she knew what I wanted. I thought Jake would be the perfect sacrifice before I went to her directly, but you're so much better. I can see how you are together. She'll never want to stop fighting me if I kill you." James stroked Masen's cheek gently.
"Now, I'm just going to flip you over. It's much easier to drain you when your carotid artery has gravity to help it out." James easily lifted Masen and flipped him upside down.
"STOP! Federal Agent! Step away with your hands up!" Swan could wait no longer for her backup – Masen's life was now in imminent danger. She hadn't turned on a radio so as to not alert James to her presence. She prayed that Jake and her father would recognize all her markers; after all, the two of them had taught her everything she knew about hiking through these woods.
James whirled to see her approaching, her gun pointed directly at his chest. He pulled out a knife, planning to cut Masen's neck. "Put down your weapon!" she shouted. James turned to swipe at Masen, but Swan didn't hesitate. Her shot rang out through the woods, and James' lifeless body topped back into his own bonfire. Breathing heavily as the adrenaline abated, she turned to her partner.
"Um, before anyone else gets here, do you think you could get me out of this damn thing?" Masen asked as he looked up at her from where his head dangled near the ground.
"No problem, Masen," answered Swan, relief painting her face.
"You're a lucky man, Agent Masen," Dr. Carlisle Cullen said as he finished his examination the following morning. Masen had stayed the night at the Forks hospital for observation following his massive dose of sedatives. The bed fit his frame better than the aging hide-a-bed at Chief Swan's, but it wasn't any more comfortable.
"Lucky Swan was there to help," Masen replied.
"Yes, you're very fortunate to have such a dedicated partner. What I was referring to, though, was your amazing recovery from a dose of medication that should have kept you under for several hours."
"Well, being tied to a stake and nearly barbequed really gets the blood circulating. Adrenaline can be an excellent sobering tool." Masen said ruefully.
"You've got some very bad bruising on your shoulder here from the hypodermic. The muscles there are probably going to be very sore for a week or two. That was a very deep injection he gave you. You're fortunate that you were able to avoid any nerve damage. I may recommend that you wear a sling for a few days, at the very least while you travel. Just to be sure you don't injure your shoulder any further," Dr. Cullen said.
"A sling? I really don't think that's necessary…I'm a doctor myself, I think I'll be fine…" Masen insisted.
"I guess it's true then, what they say about doctors?" Swan's voice broke in from the edge of the privacy curtain around Masen's bed. Swan had been tempted to stay at the hospital with Masen, but in the end, she had settled for staying in the family waiting room over night.
"What?" Carlisle and Masen asked at the same time. Swan snorted at the both of their faces.
"Doctors make terrible patients. Of course if said doctor is also a recently injured FBI agent, he's even more difficult." Swan smirked at the indignant expression on Masen's face. "Get the sling, Dr. Cullen; I'll make sure he wears it. Our flight leaves at two this afternoon, so let's get a move on."
Dr. Cullen smiled at Swan as he left in search of a sling large enough for Agent Masen. When he arrived back a few minutes later, he looked rather chagrined. Masen's face fell almost as though he were reading Carlisle's mind.
"What's the bad news?" Masen asked.
"It appears that there was a mix-up with our supplier…I'm afraid that this is the only sling style we have," Dr. Cullen explained as he pulled his arm around to the front and revealed a truly hideous sling. "It would appear that the check box for forest green, our usual color choice for slings, is right next to fuchsia."
Dr. Cullen exited again, leaving the two agents alone.
"So, the fax that we were waiting on yesterday finally came in after…" Swan waved her hand at Masen, not wanted to say the words. "DNA testing on the tooth matched a sample Eric Yorkie's mother provided from his old hairbrush. Apparently he didn't run off with some girl."
"I'm sorry, Swan. You know this isn't your fault."
"I know. It does make me feel a little like a magnet for trouble, though."
A few hours later, as Masen and Swan stood inside the SeaTac Airport waiting to board the flight, Swan was trying to convince Masen to put on the sling.
"Honestly, if you don't put that thing on, I'll tell AD Dermis that you're not fit to return to active duty…" Swan said.
"You wouldn't dare…if you do, I'll…I won't call you Swan…Isabella…" Masen retorted, moving closer to Swan subconsciously.
"Fine…Eddie…Eddie Tony Masen…" Swan fired back, taking a step closer herself.
"Don't call me Eddie, or Tony…" Masen ordered as he took another step closer…their toes were touching, their chests mere inches apart, and they were both breathing harder than normal due to their ire.
"Just kiss the lady and put the sling on, mister," a flustered businessman said from behind them. Realizing just how close they were, Swan grabbed the sling from the carry-on bag on the floor at their feet and deftly pulled the violently pink contraption over his head and around the arm it was supposed to support.
"There, that's not so bad is it?" Swan said triumphantly as she reached around his neck to straighten the strap. Just as she did so, the businessman behind them rolled his eyes and pushed his way past them roughly. Masen moved to catch Swan, as she tried to steady herself against him. They mashed together, from their heads to their toes, with their lips in between.
A moment later, Swan pulled back, her eyes wide and her face colored to match the garish sling strung around Masen's neck.
"No, Swan…that wasn't so bad at all."
A/N: (edward-bella-harry-ginny) We hope you've enjoyed this journey with us, as we had a great time collaborating on this! It was a lot of fun, and we may just have to explore more adventures with Masen and Swan :)
A/N: (Gleena) We also both want to offer our condolences to the family and friends of Daddy's Little Cannibal. Her tragic death affected us both although we hadn't had contact with her (other than reading her fics).
I'd also like to mention that DNA testing is *not* something that happens overnight like on TV, but we were keeping to a TV-episode-like feel for this story, so I felt okay with some grossly unrealistic forensics.