(This story picks up after the opening moments of "Reunion I".)
CASUALLY SHATTERING REMARKS
Jack was fiddling with matches.
"And that cabin was..."
"Bailey." Terror seized her soul as she waited for the madman to continue. Was Bail still alive?
"Bailey. You should be flattered." Why why why?
"The last word he said on this earth was 'Sam'."
Devastation hit her like a ton of bricks. She turned her head away, trying to hide her visceral reaction. Had his last word been her name? What were his dying thoughts? Surprise at the identity of his killer? Regrets about their friendship? How had he felt about her? Had he thought of Frannie and Arianna? Oh God, how could she ever face his daughters, having brought about the death of their father?
He should have stayed away. She should have pushed him away a long time ago, gone into hiding again. She could have lived without his daily presence in her life. She could have dealt with a lot of things. Could have dealt with anything but this.
Bailey had finally wrestled her away from Coop when the paramedics arrived. He held her elbow, her close to his body as she watched the paramedics do the perfunctory CPR, then stop and call time of death. At that point, Bailey led her away from the scene, and she followed blindly, suddenly numb to everything and almost in-cognizant of her surroundings.
She refused to leave, even after several pleadings from Bailey. Or rather, she refused to understand his words. She didn't want to leave, because the world had stopped making sense again. Where would she go? What would she do now? She was shaking with impotent rage and defeat.
The sight of the crime scene photographer snapped her to the world around her. She had stayed around to fight, but it had come to nothing. Now, she would take flight. She turned on her heels and started walking down the street, just anywhere. Bailey had left her side for a minute, needing to brief the local ATF agent of the events. He noticed Sam was taking off when John yelled after her. The two men shared a look, and Bailey excused him instantly and hastened to run up to her.
"Sam!" No response, not even a backward glance.
"Sam, where are you going?" Nothing. He broke into a run and caught up with her.
"Sam, where are you going?" He stood in front of her, but she brushed past him.
"What are you going to do? Sam, talk to me." He reached to touch her arm.
"Don't touch me!" She flinched away, as if in physical pain.
"Don't touch me! Leave me alone." He stepped in front of her again, raising his hands in a placating manner.
"I won't leave you alone."
"LEAVE ME ALONE! Or do you want to end up just like them? Do you want to end up dead, huh?" Her voice broke and she pushed him a little, trying to pass him. She hadn't walked three feet when he'd already turned, caught her arm and brought her into her embrace. She tried to break free, but his body and arms resisted her struggle until she wore down and started sobbing.
Bailey awoke to find himself in the hospital, still tormented by the nightmare he'd seen. Janet had exited in disgust, unable to accept that her former husband would only think of her well-being. Grace chided Bailey's dismissive behaviour, but he hardly heard it.
"What do you know?"
"Only that you were shot in the shoulder and that Sam's missing."
"No news, nothing?" Grace's heart almost broke for him.
"No one saw anything that happened at the cabin. What do you remember?" Bailey shut his eyes, willing himself to recall the events.
"We arrived at the cabin. I didn't notice anyone else there. I wasn't even on the lookout... We took a look at the cabin, I went outside to the car to get the rest of her stuff. I opened the trunk and then... There was a searing pain in my shoulder. I fell the ground and blacked out."
"You didn't see or hear anything? "
"I heard nothing. He must have used a silencer."
Grace voiced the question neither of them could answer with certainty.
"Who used a silencer? Who would have kidnapped her? Jack? He's on death row. What could he possibly gain from this?"
"I don't know! I just know that something isn't right. We've missed something, somehow. How's the investigation going?"
Grace hesitated in her answer.
"You've been here for eighteen hours. They estimate that three hours lapsed before you were taken to the hospital. A locals relative got lost in the area and drove up to the cabin. She called help immediately. You should rest, you lost a lot of blood."
"You didn't answer my question."
"We've been frozen out of the investigation. You were shot, Sam's missing. The local police department took care of the initial stages of the investigation, and after that the word came down from Quantico that we wouldn't be allowed to take part. They're sending in another profiler."
"We won't be able to pitch in? Another profiler can't possibly familiarise himself with Jack's case sufficiently! Time is of the essence here." Bailey was getting more agitated by the second.
"We've been denied access to the evidence and the crime scene. There's nothing we can do. We'll be lucky if we're allowed to enter the VCTF on our own."
"Who did they send?"
At that very moment, Special Agent Foster was addressing the members of the VCTF in the command centre. He was a tall and rotund man, had black hair and blue eyes, wore glasses and spoke in a soft voice.
"My name is Eric Foster, and I'll be leading the query into the shooting of Agent Malone and the disappearance of Agent Waters. Agent Malone is recuperating in the hospital, but the whereabouts of Agent Waters is still unknown. I'll be cooperating with the local police department. Who here has worked with Waters and Malone since the founding of the unit?" John, George and a dozen others raised their hands.
"Thank you. You're all excused from my investigation. You're all material witnesses and I'll be interviewing each of you in turn."
"What the hell do you mean? We won't allowed to help you find Sam? That's unacceptable!" John cried out in outrage.
"I will not have my investigation tainted by personal investment. When the search team has no significant emotional ties with the kidnapped party or any other victim, the chances of a favourable outcome increase exponentially."
"Bailey will never stand for this."
"Agent Malone won't have a say in this. The director of the FBI has ordered him on sick leave. The only involvement Agent Malone is to have will be as a witness to the crime. Have I made myself clear?"
John and George were stunned into silence by Foster's dismissive attitude.
"Fantastic. Now, who has worked here less than two months? You'll be assisting me. The rest of you, resume working on the cases tasked to you before the incident. As for my assistant crew, I'll meet you here in an hour. You, bring me the personnel files on Agents Malone and Waters as soon as possible," he said to the nearest agent. The crowd was hesitant to disperse. This abrasive Foster was a far cry from Bailey's managerial style.
They watched as Foster headed out, looking around him and peeking into offices. When he found Sam's office, he sneaked in. He looked at the paintings, the plants, the way her office was organised, rummaged through her belongings with an apparent disregard for her privacy. He gazed at the photos around her office for a long time. A picture of a blonde little girl. A picture of Agent Waters, the same little girl and a black woman in a kitchen somewhere. A picture of Agent Waters and Agent Malone, him kissing her head with balloons and a banner of some sort in the background. When the junior agent brought him the personnel files, he asked what the occasion had been.
"It was before my time. As I understand it, Agent Malone was shot by his daughter. That photo that must have been taken when he returned to work." Foster dismissed the agent, gazed at the photo for a short time and then delved into the files. He would have to delay the task force meeting. He wanted to poke around Agent Malone's office before he made any further plans.
It had taken Bailey better part of an hour to convince the doctors to give him access to the phone, then fight his way through the red tape to talk to someone who'd be in a position to give him real answers. He'd learned that Foster specialised in kidnappings, and had solved 16 cases with the victim coming home. Five other cases hadn't had a happy ending. Bailey managed to intimidate the young guy in the human resources department into revealing Foster's phone number. Bailey wasted no time in calling him.
"Special Agent Foster."
"This is Agent Bailey Malone."
"I see. I assume you've been briefed on how the investigation will be conducted?"
"Yes, but you're out of your mind if you think any of us will walk away."
"I'm sorry, but that's exactly what you will have to do. You know how this works. You're all too close to Agent Waters, and you're a victim yourself. You can't lead an objective search and rescue effort at this point."
"You don't know any of the background information on Jack."
"Are we certain that this Jack-of-All-Trades kidnapped her? Isn't he behind bars as we speak? The fact of the matter is, we have no conclusive evidence as to the identity of the kidnapper, and I won't leap to conclusions before such evidence is presented."
"Have the crime scene people used a black light at the scene yet?"
"I won't divulge that information" Foster said, but made a mental note to make sure someone swept the place. Better safe than sorry.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"That you're shut out of the investigation and will be given information on a need-to-know basis." Foster cut off Bailey's objections. "If you're well enough to engage in an hour of arguing over the phone, you're well enough to be interviewed. I'll drop by on my way to the crime scene."
"Oh, I'll be here." Foster hung up and left Bailey seething.
Foster had run into Grace outside Bailey's room and had informed her that he'd ask her some questions about Sam and Bailey at a later time. Bailey was dozing off in his bed, exhaustion having overtaken him. Foster observed him for a while outside the room, then stepped in and remained standing. He would use every authority exuding play in the book to make Agent Malone focus on answers that could be of use.
"Agent Malone? I'm Agent Eric Foster." The men shook hands, each assessing the other.
"Are you well enough to answer my questions?"
"What do you think?"
"I'll let that one slide. Tell me what happened."
"We arrived at the cabin..."
"No. How did you come to be at the cabin? Tell me everything."
"The Lucas trial had ended. Sam felt overwhelmed, said she needed some time off. My buddy had a cabin, which I offered for her use."
"How quickly did this plan of action come together?"
"This same week. The trial concluded on Wednesday, and we drove up to the cabin on Friday afternoon."
"Who would have known about it?"
"Just Sam, me, Grace, John, George, Angel and Chloe."
"Angel and Chloe are?"
"Angel is Sam's best friend since childhood. Chloe is Sam's eight-year-old daughter."
"Tell me about them."
"Chloe is the sweetest kid alive. She's a doll. Angel is a sculptor and a fierce friend. Don't tell me you didn't already know who they were."
"Oh, I did. I was curious how you'd describe them to a stranger."
"Because it tells you about my relationship with them and Sam? Okay. I understand that you've specialised in resolving kidnappings."
"That's correct. Although this isn't a straight forward kidnapping. One victim was kidnapped, another was shot, but not fatally. Just enough to knock you out of the proceedings. Why is that, I wonder. Any thoughts?"
"Because that's how devious Jack is."
"Let's back away from the Jack angle, shall we? Tell me about Agent Waters. What is she like?"
"Sam..." How could he begin to describe her?
"She's brilliant. A loving mother to Chloe. Would move the earth to protect her. She's strong beyond words, she's courageous and affectionate."
"How would she respond in a life-threatening situation?"
"She's a survivor. She would never give up. She'd fight to the bitter end for Chloe's sake."
"And how about the relationship between you two? How would you describe it?"
"We've known each other for thirteen years. We're best friends."
"You met at Quantico, correct? And you were her mentor at one point."
"Yes. But she soon surpassed me in profiling. She's the best profiler I've ever come across."
"Is that your professional opinion or personal one?"
"Any idea why you were left alive by the kidnapper?"
"No, I haven't come up with any new reasons since three minutes ago."
"And there's nothing you've omitted to tell me?"
"What do you take me for? Why wouldn't I tell the absolute truth?"
"That I cannot say right now. But I have a feeling that there's more to this incident than is readily apparent. I don't mean to imply you're somehow involved. You care deeply for Agent Waters, that much is obvious. I believe you wouldn't withhold any crucial information by your volition. The problem is, you're too close to the case. You won't know what's vital information. Even I don't know what is at this time. Which means that this chat was just the first of many we're going to have."
"Before I visit the crime scene, talk me through the events." Bailey recounted the moments leading up to the second his world spun out of control.
How had Bail died? Jack must have been close to have heard his last words. God, she hoped it had been quick and painless.
She would never see him again, Jack would have made sure of it. She yearned to see him, hear his voice, look at him one last time. But he would probably be buried before she escaped Jack's clutches. She'd never have the chance to tell him how much she loved him, to hold him and say goodbye.
Her mind was whirring with regret, longing and guilt. She hadn't been silent for more than a few seconds.
"The milk's been spilt, let's not mope about it." That snapped her out of her thoughts. Milk? He was comparing Bailey's death to spilt milk?
"You bastard," she hissed. "I'm going to kill you." Jack continued to smoke, with a smug and nonchalant look on his face. He was in control and he knew it. He smiled indulgently at her words.
"Touched a nerve, have I? That's a shame. When are you going to realise that you don't need him? Wasn't getting rid of him enough to snap you away from the undue influence he wielded on you? Look at what all of his ideals and convictions brought him."
"Don't talk about him like that!" Sam picked up a lamp and hurled it at him, but he managed to avoid it by springing up and leaping a couple of steps. For the first time, Jack's complacent mask slipped a little as he watched his captive. There was something jarring in her ferocity. What was it?
To be continued...