Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne,
Blessent mon cœur s'une langueur monotone.
Tout suffocant et blême, quand sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens des jours anciens et je pleure;
Et je m'en vais au vent mauvais qui m'emporte

Deçà, delà, pareil à la feuille morte.

(

The lengthy sobs of Autumn's violin,

Ache my heart with a monotone longing.

Everything suffocates and withers, because its time is nigh,

As I remember the days gone by and I cry;

And then I'm gone, with the menacing wind that carries me

Back and forth like an arid leaf.)

Paul Verlaine, Chanson d'Automne, 1866

I

Like fluid tentacles of sinisterness and secrecy, the grey ubiquitous fog rolled over the damp leaf-covered grounds as it devoured more and more of the land, draping an impenetrable veil wherever it touched. Curling round the soft glistening stems of the trees, whispering through the foliage, it began masking the colourful palette of autumn nature so carefully had tried to put to display. A soft breeze shredded the thickness a little, dispersing rags of grey and white past the sienna-patched orange-golden oaks and aspen, the yellow beeches, where they ultimately pierced on the green pines and firs that had infiltrated the colourfulness with their monotone tints of everlasting green.

Silence settled as the wind died down and the rustling of the swaying twigs and branches slowly halted; twirling leafs that had been the toy of the wind's playfulness just before now gracefully meandered back to earth where they settled on top of the brown and tan layer of their ancestors that had overwhelmed the soil like an Airborne army.

Moisture from the rags of mist that condensed lay a shimmering light on them, the twigs of the trees encompassed in droplets that shone like pearls before they fell on the bed of leafs with soft dull thuds in an endless rhythm that accompanied the advance of the fog like a marching band parading the troops.

The greyness didn't only shy away the magnificence of the surroundings, it also narrowed the world, erasing the memory of what had been and lay ahead as visibility faltered. Shielding away the daylight that barely made it through the upper clouds, the warmth of earlier autumn days vanished only to be replaced by the first streaks of the oncoming winter as temperatures dropped.

The tranquillity and stillness of it all, the absence of life and a world void of sounds, was therefore so much more compromised as footsteps broke through and movement dispersed the idleness as a woman emerged from the rags of mist walking slowly. The dampness made a few strands of golden hair stick to her cheeks as little droplets of water had settled on her clothes. Her motions were solemn as she progressed further, the moisture on her face was fiercely claimed by the both the weather and the tears of her own she must have shed before.

Her arms folded she hunched a little to shield herself a little against the elements and the wind that increasingly pierced through her damp coat and trousers whenever it picked up again. She was glad her boots weren't wet yet but she shivered nonetheless. She didn't need to look at her watch to know she had been wandering for several hours. Despite the rags of clouds and the disorientating effects they could have, she knew exactly where she was; she had been here countless times before and out of instinct she headed for the heavy oak recreational bench that was dark with moisture it had sucked up through the pits and grooves. In clear weather, it offered a most gentle view of the slopes that rose from Rock Creek to Barnaby Woods and Hawthorne. Now, the display of colours was more obscured, but she didn't care.

Susan Thomas, Special Investigative Analyst with the FBI Washington DC field office, didn't know what she could care about anymore. The refuge she sought here, undisturbed and quiet, hopefully contributed to finding meaning in everything that had happened, and calm in the stormy mess she called her emotional life. Sighing deeply she let her fingers follow the lines in the wood as she contemplated on what to do, feeling the wet smooth material and the rugged hard pitches. In that same instant a soft vibration on one of her thighs stirred her as her cell phone buzzed with an incoming call.

Fatigue washed down over her as the phone kept on going, feeling more like an unwelcome trespasser than her line with her life elsewhere. She didn't know who was calling, but the possibilities were rather limited. One she did not feel ready to talk to yet, and one she couldn't possibly handle to talk to at all. Feeling how her throat constricted once again with the same lump that she in vain had tried to digest through hiking out in the woods, she shifted her weight and felt how the adamant buzzing decreased from direct touch until it finally stopped completely. Shortly closing her eyes a hint of rest and tranquillity sparked, and then it was gone when the full imagery of the time gone by resurfaced before her eyes. Vigorously expelling the calm and tumbling her back into chaos and pain once more.

She had always characterised herself as intelligent and smart, her upbringing in rural Ohio had taught her sobriety and reason hence she couldn't fully fathom why she had stumbled over something that had been sobering and hurtful the first time anew. Smiling weakly, her lips barely moving she watched how a few leafs danced over the soil with the wind, their bright yellow and red, sienna and orange colours twirling in a graceful waltz until they collided with her feet as she acknowledged one part of her that had led her down that same path again.

It was her strongest virtue, and at the same time her weakest point: her heart.

Her best friend Lucy, the team's rotor and her roommate for years, once said "Your heart's big enough to contain the world, but can be filled with just one." That 'one' was precisely the reason she was here today. Her heart ached and her stomach felt as if a strong hand painfully squeezed it tight as she mourned another chance gone and relinquished a new scar being torn on her already bruised and battered soul.

You could have known it would end like this again, she chastised herself as a wave of bitterness drew her jaws' muscles tight as if she was about to throw up with self-disgust. She cursed herself for her naivety that led her open-eyed in the same pitfall of their earlier assignment. The aftermath of their previous 'marriage' had been nothing short of harrowing as she suddenly felt the full impact of the life she dreamed about but couldn't have. It had taken quite a while before she had come to terms with her feelings, to a degree. If emotion dyed life sweet, the touch of salt that spoiled the bliss would undoubtedly be ratio. Her mind and heart forcibly collided, knowing it could never have lasted, but wishing it had.

She had sworn never to be hurt like that again, not by him nor by anyone else. But when the upper brass of the Bureau conjured up another assignment, she succumbed under the pressure of her heart that longed for feeling the same bliss she had felt during their previous marriage. Like an addict starved for the drug it needed, she gave in eventually, fully aware the preferences would be the same as before but the crave for that blissful feeling overcame the best reasoning her ratio could provide. She leaned against the bench's back and closed her eyes as she relived everything again.