Author's Note: Sorry for the wait. Been a busy week while I quietly sit denying that it's a busy week and therefore making it a busier week. But, here it is. Now I have to go lie down.
Don's eyes scanned the alleyway before stepping into the shadow.
Julio and Megan were knelt beside the body, conversing quietly and gesturing at points of interest on the corpse.
Don leaned over them, looking at the pale white face, smeared with blood. Already fading bruises covered her neck. Her clothes were torn and stained.
"We have an ID?"
"She had her wallet on her," Megan said solemnly, handing the red leather billfold up to him. "Justine Lake Tedesco. Wife to Lester Tedesco. He reported her missing last night, and we have him in custody. A nurse working the night shift found Justine around four. We have her in custody, also."
Don stared at the smiling driver's license picture. He felt sick as the resemblance became obvious.
"This is Terry Lake's sister," he said in a pained voice, and then muttered, "Goddamn."
David appeared by his side, looking over his shoulder. "Christ. It is."
Don bent down to examine the asphalt. "They did this."
Megan nodded gravely. Charlie climbed out the car, head craned to see the street sign a block down. He quickly pulled out his phone, found the navigator, grabbing notes out of his back pocket.
"Huh," he muttered, eyes focused, zooming back and forth between his scribbled handwriting and the street map of Los Angeles.
"What is it, Charlie?"
"That can't be a coincidence," he murmured, passing the phone to Don. "Each crime is equally spaced, a set number of streets apart."
"So, it's creating a line?"
"Yeah, and we can use it to predict where the next crime will be. Except, well, we just don't know what the next crime will be."
"At least it's a start. Any idea of their current base of operations?"
"I'm still looking at the data. Previous aliases, directions they left from crime scenes. But honestly any connections would likely be coincidence, given the lack of information."
"Well, keep at it, as usual."
"I'm gonna head back to the office. Talk to the husband and call Terry later on," Don declared, already heading for the car.
"You're going to tell Terry Lake her sister's dead?" Charlie asked to his back.
"Better a familiar voice."
"I suppose. Did she get back with her ex husband?"
"Last I heard."
Charlie smirked, but Don missed it, as he was already driving away.
m m m
The talk with Lester Tedesco was about as painful as Don expected it to be. He had thought for some time that this job was for those who had a certain sadistic aspect to their psyche—not overpowering, but a dismissal of personal pain to focus on another's in situations such as this. He sure as hell didn't take pleasure in it, but it didn't upset him enough to stop doing it, either.
It was less of a conversation and more of a few sentences, surrounded on both sides by a tension filled silence. Don explained to him that they had suspects, already implicated with other crimes, that they were currently pursuing with their whole effort. Lester just nodded at this, a strangely tall man with slick dark hair, his eyes unfocused as he stared at a spot just in front of Don's hands on the metal table. He held an untouched cup of coffee.
"Once again, terribly sorry for your loss," Don's voice was grave, quiet and slow. A few minutes later he left for his desk, promising to Lester that another agent would be in soon to talk about when her body, still currently evidence, would be released for burial. It was only when Don left the room that he saw tears begin to drip down the other man's face. He thought Lester had been impressively stoic through the meeting. Don couldn't think what he would've done in his place, but he doubted that his actions would be quite as understated.
He shut the door to his office and pulled out his phone. Terry's number was still in there, at first out of some half baked fantasy of her returning to LA, and then to invite her to his wedding. That was nineteen years ago. It continually surprised him how much time had passed.
He realized once it was ringing that it was highly unlikely that she still had the same number.
His suspicions were correct in that the phone was answered with an automated message telling him that it was no longer in use. Being resourceful, he used his squad leader status to look up Terry's personnel file, which included her new phone number, D.C. area code and all.
By most standards, that little escapade would have been a little creepy. He passed it off as a dire situation. There was a current ID badge photo in the file, which he tried not to stare at for longer than was necessary.
He quickly tapped in the new digits and felt his chest tightening as the phone rang.
"Hello?" a male voice answered.
"Hello, sir, my name is Don Eppes from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Is this the residence of Terry Lake?"
"Yes, what is this about?"
"Is she available? I have some bad news."
"Mom, the FBI wants you," the voice called, a hand muffling the receiver ineffectually.
There was the sound of footsteps, and then a familiar, "Terry Lake."
"Terry, it's Don. Don Eppes."
"Oh, hi, Don. How are you? Everything alright?"
He wished he could just talk to her first. Just ask how she was doing. Swap stories before he had to shatter a portion of her family. But this was not news you could casually add into the ass end of a conversation. Oh, by the way, your sister is dead. Talk to you later.
"Terry, I'm sorry I have to tell you this over the phone."
Silence. As though steeling herself against his next words. "What is it?"
All that could be heard was the gentle hum of the office outside his office walls. When she spoke again, her voice was unsteady. "How?"
"She was raped and murdered. Some time last night. We have suspects. Charlie and the team are working on it."
"I'm coming out there."
"Lester'll need someone there. I always felt bad about leaving them in LA by themselves, after telling them to come out and be with me. And I can help with the investigation."
Don wasn't sure about the investigation part. There was no way to remain objective at this point. But he didn't say a word.
"I'll get the next flight."
"I'm sorry. I know it doesn't mean much."
"I'll see you soon."
She hung up. He didn't know what he expected out of that conversation, but it sure as hell didn't involve seeing Terry Lake again so soon. He raised a curious eyebrow.