C.J. went to meet Simon at the hospital after leaving a message for Matt that she'd be late coming home that night. She knew he'd looked forward to them spending a quiet evening together and so did she, god everything had been busy lately with an injection of craziness of it. She had been so on edge lately as if she were waiting for something and the nightmares hadn't helped.
Maybe if she could learn something from the woman in the hospital it would help. Not just the woman but herself. After all women were being discovered washed up on the shores of the oceans and seas of this world. Most of them bearing the mark of the jaguar…so she knew they belonged to him. He or someone else was methodically destroying his property and she didn't know well. The only reason that made sense is that he'd gone deeply underground and was trying to minimize the risk of exposure.
It made a lot more sense than when Andre Duval had been doing the same thing with his prostitutes. His murder and systemic disposal of them had been because he'd been killing his mother over and over again, the prostitute that had birthed him into hell and then left him. If it hadn't been for his father Marquis Sr, Andre might not have survived his upbringing. The Jaguar didn't have those drives, C.J. sensed, he was a businessman and if he were going through such trouble to erase his tracks to trafficking then he must have a legitimate trade. Maybe he did legal business dealings as well, maybe he was someone in an elevated position of power. She'd struggled to remember who he'd been when she'd encountered him at the compound in Washington State but she drew a blank…except while she slept at night. When the past came alive for her again.
Whatever drug she'd been given during that missing time when she'd been a captive had done its job.
She drove through downtown Houston, the traffic being light. It looked like it might rain soon and she hoped that this errand at the hospital wouldn't take too long. She felt eager to talk to this woman to see how much she might remember but at the same time, she felt fear inside of her too. What if the women remembered details of her life under the Jaguar that mirrored those experienced by C.J.? She'd never worked as a prostitute; it'd never gone that far because she'd escaped that night before he could come collect his new purchase. But she knew he'd been looking for her along with Andre and the feds while she and Matt had been on the run to try to free her from those who had other plans for her. The Jaguar had sent someone to collect her on Sapphire Island but Matt and his ragtag band of men had thwarted that plan. Still she never felt free in a world where the Jaguar still ran free.
She turned into the parking lot of the hospital and parked her car. The lot was filled with empty cars and she looked around carefully after locking up her own. No one lurked there except for a man who looked to be on his cell phone. She glanced at him as she walked into the building to meet Simon in the lobby, not paying much attention to him when he followed her inside.
Matt had finished his work when he'd gotten C.J.'s message that she had gone to the hospital to meet Simon. He knew about the comatose woman lying in the bed there and the clues she might hold for police if she ever regained consciousness. He also knew it'd be a long shot for her to make a complete recovery. But he knew how much C.J. wanted for her to wake up and provide information about her time with the Jaguar and how she had wound up washed up on a beach not far from here. He packed up and headed on out and when he got to the house after picking up some groceries; he sat on the sofa in the living room and called L.A.
Roy had been working with Brody on organizing the caseload which had grown despite Matt not being involved in the day to day operations anymore. He knew that through the years they had built up a clientele who relied on their services and word of mouth had boosted the numbers. Roy was more than capable of taking over the helm and Brody was an ace investigator. So there'd been nothing to worry about on his end.
"How are things in Texas?"
"Busy…the firm picked up some new clients and we're working on that system for Mr. Kostas."
"Ah, the mysterious pharmaceutical extraordinaire, how's that going?"
"He's easy to work with, seems to approve the recommendations," Matt said, "Easier to deal with than this reputation I'd heard so much about in the media."
"You were at his island compound off of Crete right?"
"Yeah we broke into his house there to test the system," he said, "Very impressive setup there. He even has a menagerie of animals."
"I heard about the dead women washing up," Roy said, "Police know anything?"
Matt sighed again.
"Not much…in fact C.J. ran off to talk to a woman they found who survived," he said, "They all had tattoos on them."
"This time it's a jaguar rather than a chimera."
"Ah yes, the infamous Jaguar is rearing his head again," Roy said, "trying to ensure that no one finds out about his illegal businesses."
"You think he's a legitimate businessman as a cover?"
"Got to be…Probably a hell of a lot of money laundering going on through his public corporations," Roy said, "Duval did that including through his foundations so the Jaguar's doing the same thing."
"Hiding in plain sight," Matt said, "What if he's some high profile business leader or politician?"
"Then it's going to be both easy and difficult to bring him down," Roy said, "Finding him is going to be challenging if he's using his legitimate gains to hide behind."
Matt knew that much but he also knew he was determined to find him, to bring him down one way or another and put all this behind C.J. and him. He had so much in his future that he wanted to plan, the woman he wanted to spend his life with, to build family but he knew as long as the faceless man who haunted her dreams lurked that neither of them could move forward. Then there was the upcoming trial…all challenges they had to face.
But he loved her more than anything and he wouldn't have his life any other way if she wasn't in it.
Stefan just looked out at the span of Houston from his hotel suite. The light of the buildings and the streets twinkled in front of him. He liked major cities, always alive and bustling filled with things to do to pass the time. Perfect settings for both his legitimate and his more shadowy businesses….and he'd been trying to balance them both in the months since the feds broke up Andre Duval's operation in the Caribbean and around the world. The focus had been on his business rival but that hadn't spared others like him and Lucian who had apparently dropped off the face of the planet.
"So you sent someone to the hospital to put her to sleep permanently?"
He nodded before going to pour himself another drink. The women washing up, he couldn't help. The oceans and seas of the world were still the best burial grounds even though the tides did surrender them up eventually. But by then, most of them had been decomposing.
Except for this one in the hospital bed.
Somehow she'd survived being murdered and cast out in the Gulf of Mexico. She'd washed back to shore badly injured but alive and she had been comatose since. He'd sent one of his men to keep her under surveillance and report back all her visitors. She'd been under tight police guard and so he couldn't send anyone in yet to finish her off. But it would only be a matter of time before he'd be able to do that. He was putting together a plan and had someone on the inside already.
Then the phone call that one of the FBI agents Simon and C.J. had shown up at the hospital separately which wasn't a coincidence. Both were there to see the woman and that meant she must have regained consciousness. She had been badly beaten and choked not to mention having been drugged for quite a while towards what was to have been the end of her life. Not that he was overly concerned because there'd be no way for a mere whore to connect the men who handled her to the Jaguar let alone to Stefan, the respectable and highly successful businessman.
But he hated loose ends and he wanted this one tied up quickly. He told the man to keep a close eye on Simon and C.J. and then to report back to him. He walked back to the window to take in the view while Sasha watched him.
C.J. looked into the woman's bruised face and her reddened eyes. Whoever had beaten her up had been thorough and there had been some bleeding on the brain discovered in an MRI along with swelling. But she had improved much in the past 24 hours through use of a drug that had been researched at this hospital and then later approved for use by the FDA.
The woman just looked at them and C.J. didn't know what she saw. Did she see her and Simon or did she see something else? She looked agitated, moving her eyes about the room, not focusing on one spot. Simon of course put his lousy people skills to use right off the bat.
"You ready to talk to us?"
C.J. just rolled her eyes at him.
"Simon, she's not one of your uncooperative suspects," she said, "She's a woman who's been through a very traumatic experience."
He shrugged and took out his audio recording device. C.J. just looked at him and then she rested a hand on the woman's shoulders. Her hands were bandaged from being cut up perhaps from some type of defensive wounds, or from the rocks when she'd been in the ocean.
"Hi there…good to see you come back," she said softly, "How you feeling…?"
The woman focused her eyes on her or at least she tried and her lips moved.
C.J. knew she meant to say water and there had been a pitcher left by her bed and a cup. The nurse walked in to put some notations on her chart and C.J. asked if she could have water and she nodded.
"In moderation," the nurse said, "she was badly dehydrated on top of everything else so we gave her IV D5W for that and other issues."
The nurse poured her cup and C.J. helped the woman drink from it as her hands were quite shaky. The woman nodded slightly when she'd had enough and C.J. put the cup down.
"You've been through a lot and you need your rest," C.J. said, "We're just here to check in on you and ask some questions if you're up to it."
The woman's brow knit.
"Who are you?"
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, "I'm C.J. Parsons; I'm doing some consulting for Simon here from the FBI. His bedside manner's not the best, I'll have to apologize for that."
He glowered but said nothing. The woman just looked at the two of them.
"What do you want to know?"
Her voice sounded stronger in just a few moments and C.J. knew she looked at a resilient woman.
"Who did this to you," Simon asked, "and was it the man who pimped you for The Jaguar?"
C.J. just sighed, knowing that Simon love to cut to the chase but it wouldn't yield much information here. The woman had been badly injured and likely drugged so her memories might be fuzzy if they weren't erased.
"I…I…who's the Jaguar…?"
The woman looked confused at them.
"You never heard of him?"
She shook her head slightly.
"No…no I was a model," she said, "I was called by my agent for…jobs…don't remember much…but this man…he was tall and I…I don't remember what happened."
C.J. figured as much after her experience that her recollections might be sketchy. That might improve with time and attentive care. But if this woman was a prostitute for the Jaguar then she was likely on the bottom rung of his operations…thus not likely to know what happened at the very top. Still, she was the only woman found alive so far and that was enough.
The Jaguar for whatever reason had wanted her and the other women dead, but at least in the case of the woman lying in the bed in front of her, he hadn't gotten his way.