Violence Warning: This story depicts scenes of violence and their aftermath. Some violence is depicted graphically.
Domestic Violence Warning: This story has a reference to domestic violence. It is not graphic.
Hurt/Comfort: There is some of that too. If this is uncomfortable for you, you might consider skipping this one.
Subtext: This story depicts sexual relations between two women who are in love. If that offends you there are plenty of other stories you might want to read. If you are under 18 or it is illegal where you live, please stop and read no further.
Thanks: A special thanks to Lunacy for her help with beta reading, feedback, and most importantly encouragement and patience, without which this story would've never gotten off the ground, let alone finished.
Comments. Questions and comments are welcome.
By C Paradee
Tony Viglioni stretched fluidly as she stood at
the window waiting for dawn to arrive. It was her favorite time of the day. She had spent
the better part of a month at the FBI barracks at Quantico, Virginia for debriefing. Tony
didn't have a home in the real sense of the word. Her job had been infiltration and, when
necessary, termination. This required ingratiating herself into the enemy's camp. Not much
need for a home since her assignments lasted anywhere from days to months. For the first
time in years she allowed herself to think of *civilian* life and wonder if she could
survive it. Tony muttered, "Damn, damn, damn," and paced restlessly around the
room, wondering where she would be sent and in what capacity.
Her thoughts flickered to the meeting with her boss six months ago. She'd approached him and said she wanted out. If he was surprised, he had hidden it well. He simply asked her why. She told him she was burned out and wanted to put roots down somewhere. She wasn't asking to leave the agency, yet' she had silently added, just transfer to a visible job. He seemed to accept her answer and indicated she was already lined up for another mission. Once she completed that, if she'd had no change of heart, he would arrange the transfer.
Tony thought of the real reason why she wanted the transfer and smiled self-depreciatingly. On the mission before this one she had accidentally found out that although her report indicated this particular militant group was no threat to the government, the leader had mysteriously died of a heart attack within a week of her departure. Tony had learned the hard way that coincidence did not exist in her realm. So pulling in a few markers, she had confirmed her suspicions. That had started an unending rush of questions in her mind regarding every undercover operation she'd ever been on. How many times had groups and organizations she reported as no threat been dealt a deathblow? How many terminations had she participated in that maybe...just maybe...should not have been terminations? That thought still made her blood run cold. Her mind tried to reason, but it was always for the greater good...but whose greater good? another voice taunted.
A moment of dark humor released the thought of what John Q. Public would think if they knew what the Executive Branch of their government was capable of.
Yeah, it was time to get out.
This debriefing had been a tough one. But Tony, ever the master of deceit and deception, a true chameleon in the corridors of power, had simply stowed her conscience and emotions into neat compartments of her mind, and convinced the FBI shrinks that she was carrying no excess baggage from her years undercover.
Looking inward, Tony snorted derisively at the deception she had pulled off. Continuing to prowl around the room, she shook her head and sighed, what's wrong with me anyway? It's a little late to be developing a conscience. Time to go for a run.
Moving gracefully across the floor to the dresser, Tony threw a silent thanks to whatever cosmic entity her share of the gene pool had come from as she looked into the mirror. Tony was undeniably beautiful. Tall and lean, her body was muscular but supple. Her high cheekbones and full sensuous mouth were offset by a golden complexion with black hair gently outlining her face and falling loosely over her shoulders and down her back. But her most striking feature was a pair of magnificent blue eyes. She exuded an essence that was powerful and physical in its impact, an aura dangerous yet exotic. Both men and women fell to her charm and Tony had been quite resourceful about using that to her advantage. It was just one of the many reasons why she was so successful in her line of work.
Dressing quickly she glided down the steps of barracks. Running always relaxed her and since she wasn't meeting with the Director until 9am, it was something to do.
Setting an easy pace, Tony's mind swirled with unbidden images and before the power of her will could close down these thoughts, she realized with sudden blinding clarity, in the nanosecond it took her mind to put the walls around her conscience and emotions firmly back in place, that she was scared. Tony poured on the speed.
Faster, faster, faster, her mind now unable to focus on anything except the rhythmic breathing required to keep the grueling place she had set for her body.
Megan rolled over and hit the snooze button again on the alarm clock. She tried to force herself awake asking herself the same question she did every day, why does morning come so quickly?
After languishing in bed another five minutes, Megan dragged herself up before the alarm could go off yet again. She ambled slowly out to the kitchen and turned on the coffee maker thinking that if the darn timer hadn't quit working it would be ready.
Megan loved her job, but acknowledged wryly that it did cause her to lose a lot of sleep. Getting called out in the middle of the night wasn't exactly conducive to a good night's sleep. Megan knew that her body required at least 7-8 hours a night, and lately she hadn't been getting it. A serial killer had apparently decided to pick Cleveland as a base of operations. The killings began about four months ago and were becoming more and more frequent with the lapse only lasting two weeks this time. The police were stymied...they just had no clues to go on. The Coroner, Dr. George Whitehouse had been handling the case. But then he always handles the high visibility cases, she thought. That's why she had been so surprised to get the call last night telling her there was another victim with the same M.O. and that Dr. Whitehouse was unavailable. Megan's mood perceptibly darkened as visions of the body she had been called out to examine came flooding back in vivid detail. Shaking off the dark images, she headed for the shower.
Dressing quickly, she enjoyed a breakfast of coffee, orange juice and English muffins while quickly perusing the sports page for the Rockers' game highlights. Noticing they lost the night before, she threw down the paper, and headed to the parking garage.
Megan piloted the car through the orange barrels on the interbelt that had traffic almost at a stand still as she reflected on the unexpected turn of her career a year ago. Who would have thought she'd be the Assistant Coroner at the ripe old age of 27? Always an optimist, Megan had started medical school with the altruistic idea of being able to help people, until that fateful day when a classmate of hers had become the victim of a senseless violent murder. It was almost as if some unseen piece of a puzzle fit into place in her mind and she realized she could accomplish much more good by doing her part to stop the senseless killing. From that day forward there was never a doubt in her mind that forensic pathology was the way to do that. She pictured her parents' reaction to her proclamation and smiled...shock, pure and simple. It's not that she was that close to her parents anyway, but her mother's approval had always been important to her. Her father...well that was another story and she wasn't about to entertain it now and ruin a perfectly good day.
Megan hated the wanton violence. If she could find evidence to link someone to that violence then the cycle wouldn't be repeated...at least not by the same perpetrator, she mused. After completing her training and residency in record time, she was offered a job at the Coroner's office. She accepted and became single-minded in her quest for evidence. Things overlooked by the other pathologists didn't escape Megan's scrutiny. The quantity and quality of evidence the police received from the Coroner's office took a drastic upward swing that didn't go unnoticed by the police or Dr. Whitehouse. As a direct result, Megan was promoted over her co-workers. There had been some resentment, but Megan reasoned if some of the others had been more diligent, it wouldn't have been her that got the promotion.
What Megan didn't know was that Dr. Whitehouse was a political creature and by promoting the young woman he was actually covering his own back. Since she was the golden girl of the media and the police, she was the logical choice, and it gave him a scapegoat should the need ever arise.
Megan parked and exited the car, proceeding to the door of the squat brown building that housed the Coroner's office and morgue. The early morning sun accented the red highlights in her blonde hair causing her hazel eyes to appear green. She was totally unaware of the eyes that tracked her small lissome body, noting the slight bounce to the beautiful woman's step, while dispassionately taking in her attributes.
Tony arrived back at the barracks in total control once again, feeling pleasantly tired and relaxed after the run. She quickly showered and changed into a simple black suit, the skirt accenting her body, but not outlining it, with a white blouse open at the neck complemented by a gold rope chain and matching earrings. She judiciously applied a touch of makeup and headed out the door to the meeting.
Huey Straton sat at his desk drinking coffee and contemplating the upcoming meeting with one of his most talented agents. Raking a hand through his thick gray hair he thought about Tony's request and wondered if she understood the implications of it. He would grant the request. She had certainly earned it. But he questioned her ability to adjust to the mundane daily existence of an ordinary FBI agent. He also had doubts about the reasons that she had given. They just didn't ring true. Tony loved the excitement of the chase. She lived her part until she believed it herself. The real person was buried under years of alternate identities, and role-playing. Did she even know who she was anymore? Huey wondered. She had passed the psychological debriefing with flying colors, but he'd expected no less. This was not just any agent. This was Tony Viglioni master of the game. He sighed, wondering what was really up with her and told his secretary to send her in.
"Hi Tony." Huey smiled, leaning back in his chair and taking in the agent's beauty with an appreciative look.
"Hey Huey. How's it going?" Flashing a quick smile in his direction, she strolled over to the chair facing the desk and lowered herself into it.
"Good. You have any second thoughts about your request to transfer out of covert operations?" he said, pinning her with his eyes while unconsciously drumming his fingers on the desk.
"Nope. This is something I really feel like I need to do." Crossing her legs, she added, "Change of pace, ya know?" quirking a crooked little smile.
Smirking Huey replied, "That has to be the understatement of the year."
Standing and walking around the desk, he leaned
against the front of it, peering intently at Tony, and continued, "Do you
understand just how big a change of a pace you're looking at here?"
Tony winked to ease the tension and said, "Now Huey, have you ever known me to fail? Besides I have many skills. Anyway, this will be easy considering some of the assignments I've had." You have no idea how much I realize what a big change I am jumping into. . . how out of control I feel. I just hope I can handle it. "And besides I know you're going to give me a really good job to get my feet wet in, right boss?" she teased.
Huey grinned at the confident young woman sitting
in front of his desk, smiling sassily, making a career move that would have a major impact
on her life and acting like this was something she did every day.
"As a matter of fact, yes. I have a perfect opening for an agent in the Cleveland office..."
"Cleveland? What's wrong with LA or San Francisco or even the Windy City? Why Cleveland...what's in Cleveland?" Tony grumbled, raising one eyebrow so high it was lost under the cover of her bangs. Surely he's joking.
Huey pretended not to notice the incredulous look on her face and continued, "Look Tony, Cleveland's been ignored for too long. I need some talent there and you're it. He smirked and then added, "Besides they do have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
"Oh please...spare me," she replied with an exasperated sigh.
Laughing, Huey continued, "You'll start off by working with the locals on a serial killer case. With your background, you're perfect for the job. You get into the heads of the bad guys better than anyone I know, and they are having a real problem there. It appears our killer isn't leaving any clues. I've arranged for you to report tomorrow to Michael Braxton. He is the head honcho. He'll go over the case with you and then introduce you to the locals. Any questions?"
Tony almost rolled her eyes at the notion of her tracking down a serial killer. This is what you asked for, right. This is what a regular FBI agent does, right? OK, so what's the problem? Her mind taunted. Saying, "No questions," she stood to leave.
"Ok, good luck and..." Huey began,
"Yeah?" Raising an eyebrow in question, she turned back toward him.
"If you change your mind, just call me," he finished.
"That isn't gonna happen." Pausing, she added, "But thanks anyway," and waltzed out of the room.
Huey shook his head behind her. He realized that even though he'd known her several years, he still wasn't immune to her charm. He silently wished her well. If he had to lose her, at least he'd get some leadership ability in the Cleveland office.
Megan walked into her office and checked for messages. There were two, one from Dr. Whitehouse, and one from Sgt. Brian Davies of the Cleveland Police Department. She picked up the phone to call Dr. Whitehouse first.
"Dr. Donnovan calling for Dr. Whitehouse."
His secretary, Hilda, placed her on hold and she started humming along with the canned music. Megan knew she couldn't carry a tune of her life depended on it, a musician she wasn't, but that little detail wasn't about to stop her from contributing to the vocal.
"How are you this morning Dr. Donnovan?"
Somewhat startled at how quickly he answered, Megan replied, "Fine Dr. Whitehouse. What's up?"
"I've decided to assign you the Shadow case. My schedule is too busy to handle it personally. Stop in and Hilda will give you all my files on the case. I understand there was another body found last night."
"Yes there was. It appeared on gross examination at the site of the crime scene to be the same perpetrator. I'll go ahead and do the autopsy this morning. Do you want me to copy you my findings?"
"No, I'll access your report from the computer. I've got enough paperwork covering my desk without adding more to it. Do you have any questions?"
"Not right now," she replied with a small frown creasing her forehead, "but I may after I look at the files."
"My files are very concise. I really don't think they will need to be expounded on," Dr. Whitehouse stated pointedly.
Whoa...what a crab. "Ok, fine. Anything else?"
"No. Good Day."
Wonder what his problem is? I guess I know why I got sent out last night when everyone knew it was Dr. Whitehouse's case. Mm...it's not like him to turn over a high profile case. I wonder what gives.
Megan then returned Sgt. Davies call while powering up the computer to take a look at the four previous autopsy reports filed by Dr. Whitehouse.
"Dr. Donnovan, Sgt. Davies here. I understand you're handling the Shadow case."
"Yes, as of this morning, it is my case." Interesting that he knows that already. "What can I do for you?" she asked, propping the phone on her shoulder.
"I'd like to meet with you to discuss your findings on the victim found last night."
"I'll be doing the autopsy this morning. You're welcome to attend. Otherwise, I'll call you when I'm finished." Megan absently replied while scanning the computer for the autopsy reports on the previous victims.
"Fine. I'll be expecting your call."
Each of the four autopsy reports showed suffocation as the cause of death. Each victim had extensive bruising around the neck, and then the neck had been broken. There was no evidence of sexual assault. Megan just didn't understand. Why hadn't any of the victims fought back? There were no hair fibers or clothes fibers. Nothing at all to link the perpetrator to the victim. She decided the Shadow, which the press had dubbed the killer, was appropriate. It was like a shadow appeared, killed the victim, and then disappeared. She knew how unrealistic this illusion was, but she had a vivid imagination and had no problem putting it to good use.
This is going to be a tough case. So what else is new. Besides when did I ever let that bother me? With that thought in mind, she went to the locker room to change into scrubs so she could get started.
Once the autopsy was completed, Megan did a gross examination of tissue samples. Like the other four cases, there was no apparent evidence to be gleaned. The fingernails were clean. There were no hair or fabric fibers, and no unknown substances...nothing. She sat on a stool looking at the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) that had so far failed her. There just had to be something she was missing. But what? The only thing she could think of to do that Dr. Whitehouse had not done was order a complete toxicology work up. He had ordered the usual abbreviated one. She really didn't expect this to show anything, but was ready to grasp at straws. Megan knew she was likely to incur the wrath of Dr. Whitehouse for wasting taxpayers money with the expensive test so she decided to make it worthwhile and added a Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) test also.
Changing back into her street clothes, she went to her office and began to prepare her preliminary report.
"Hey Doc..." came the teasing voice from her doorway.
Smiling, she looked up. "Mark, how many times do I have to tell you it's Megan?"
Grinning easily, he winked at her and replied, "Ok, Ok. So what tidbit do you have for this lowly reporter struggling to survive his purgatory on the crime beat?"
Rolling her eyes, "Since when haven't you loved the lure of the police scanner? I think you beat the police to the scene half the time."
"Guess I'm busted," he laughed and continued, "but I heard the Shadow case is now yours. How'd that happen?" Mark Potter was handsome in a rugged sort of way. He was somewhere around 6 feet, with wavy chestnut brown hair trimmed to a fashionable length. He had an easy smile and a charming manner. His chin was square and he was always sporting a five o'clock shadow no matter how many times a day he shaved.
Megan answered absently, "Just lucky I guess." She was still wondering why herself. And she particularly didn't like the fact that everyone in the city seemed to know it was her case almost before she did.
"So what did the autopsy show?"
"Mark, you know very good and well I can't discuss that with you," she said, smiling to take the sting out of the words.
"Oh come on, I'll just quote an inside source," he persisted.
"Oh that's just great. Everyone in the city seems to know I've been assigned this case and you're going to quote an inside source. Get real will ya," replied an exasperated Megan.
"Sorry, you're right. I was really being
inconsiderate. Can I make it up by taking you to dinner tonight?" he asked hopefully.
Looking at the figure in her doorway, Megan silently sighed. She like Mark and considered him a friend, but she knew he wanted more. Going to an occasional movie or out to eat as long as she paid her way was ok. But she wondered if he was ever going to understand that there would never be a relationship other than friendship between them. God knows she had told him enough times. If nothing else he was tenacious.
"I know you didn't mean any harm. You're
just doing your job. So dinner isn't necessary, and besides, I already have plans for
tonight," she said, feeling guilty about the little white lie she uttered.
"OK, you can't blame a guy for trying. If you do find out anything you can let me have, would you give me a call?"
"Sure Mark, I always do."
"Later," he replied sauntering out of the office.
"See ya Mark."
Megan turned her attention back to the report she was working on. She wasn't looking forward to calling Sgt. Davies and telling him the autopsy results were negative.
Finishing the report, Megan placed the call, "Dr. Donnovan here. I just wanted to let you know that the preliminary autopsy report hasn't yielded anything new. Death was by strangulation and then the neck was broken. Time of death between 2300 and 0300. Preliminary reports on the blood, toxicology and tissue samples won't be back until tomorrow," she reported clinically.
"Ok, thanks. I guess I wasn't really expecting much on this one either. Seems our killer is extremely clever. But then the organized serial killers usually are. Be sure and let me know what the tests show."
"I'll fax the results tomorrow..."
"Oh, Dr. Donnovan," he interrupted, "one more thing. Apparently the Mayor decided we weren't making enough progress on this case so he called in the FBI. I thought you should know because you'll probably get a call from them. The Mayor made it perfectly clear we are to cooperate fully."
"Thanks for the warning," she replied and hung up the phone. I wonder if that's why I got this case. Dr. Whitehouse hates working with the FBI. They always tell him what to say or not to say to the reporters. He hates being told what to do. Somehow that just doesn't seem like a good enough reason, though.
Tony was glad to see some of the outlying suburbs of Cleveland approaching as she drove her new 1998 Buick Regal GS westbound down I-90. Needing a car, she had opted for something with soft lines but not overtly sporty. She wanted something that would be fairly nondescript and with that thought in mind she chose jasper green metallic. She had tested the ability of the turbo charged engine during the day and been pleased with the results. Yeah, it would do, she thought popping out the CD and turning the radio on.
The thought of going into this assignment blind made her distinctly uneasy. When doing infiltration, she had always been provided a complete dossier on the target. So when the game began, she knew the players. Their likes, dislikes, families, friends, job, hangouts, amount of money they made, what they had claimed on their IRS forms over the years, previous military or law enforcement experience, basically everything. With this information provided, it was easy enough to either befriend someone in the target organization or stage an incident that would call her to their attention and wait until they made contact. Which they always did. Even on wet operations, the information only provided on a need to know basis, it was still always sufficient to get the job done. Tony reminded herself that she was not working undercover anymore and that she didn't need the support system of the infrastructure to find a serial killer. Somehow that thought did not ease her concern.
Driving along the Lake Erie shoreline, Tony noticed the boats and yachts docked at the various piers along the lake. Maybe there are some redeeming features in this town after all.
Singing along with the songs on the soft rock channel, she exited following the directions she had been given to the Marriott and parked her car in the underground garage. She grabbed her luggage and headed for the elevator.
Checking in, she was given a message from Mike Braxton requesting that she call when she arrived. Stuffing it in her pocket, she quickly took in her surroundings falling into the old habit of checking the layout. The locations of the doors, stairs, and elevators were of primary importance. This attention to detail had saved her life more than once.
Turning her attention to the desk clerk as he informed her, "The pool is open 24 hours a day, and on the Club floor there is a fitness center that is open from 5am to 11pm. The dining room closes at 10pm, but the sports bar is open until 2am. Handing her a key card, he said, "You're in 305. Just go down that hall to the elevators, go up to three and turn left. The room is near the end of the hall. Do you need help with your luggage?"
Shaking her head no, she thanked the clerk and went to find her room. All she could think of was a nice hot shower to wash the road grime off. Then perhaps a martini and caesar salad for dinner. Might even get a chance to start that book she'd been carrying around for over a year. What was it? Oh yeah, The First Wives' Club.
Feeling much better after her shower and dinner, Tony picked up the phone to call Mike as she downed her martini. "Agent Viglioni calling for Mike Braxton."
"Hi...mind if I call you Tony?" He continued, without waiting for a response. "Welcome to Cleveland. How was your drive up?"
"Not too bad," she automatically responded while trying to get a fix on the character behind the voice. "I'm looking forward to getting started."
"Well we're glad to have you aboard Tony. We've been very shorthanded lately. You will be handling the serial killer case. There was another victim last night, same MO. I'll brief you on it in the morning." He silently hoped this agent would last longer than the last one. He had only lasted three months before getting caught in the cross fire of a gang war. For some reason no one took a Cleveland assignment seriously.
"I'll meet with you at 9:00 a.m.," adding, "that's room 640 in the Federal Building." Not knowing Tony had already ascertained the location of the FBI office.
"I'll be there," Tony said before hanging up the phone. Walking over to the bar, she fixed another martini, picked up her book and gracefully lowered herself to the sofa, totally relaxing for the first time all day.
Megan finished up her workout at Bally's and decided to stop for Chinese on the way home. She always went to the same place because the food was good and they didn't use Msg. Arriving home, she parked in the parking garage and started making her way to the elevator.
Her neck prickling, the hairs on the back of her neck standing up, Megan stopped and turned around, scanning the garage carefully. There was no one there. She could have sworn someone was watching her. Megan hated deserted parking garages. She had autopsied too many cases that were the result of them. But lately the garage seemed almost malevolent. Clearly her overactive imagination was at work again. But this wasn't the first time, a small voice in her mind spoke. Ignoring it and trying to shake off the feeling, she proceeded to her apartment.
Eating her dinner, Megan's thoughts drifted back to her conversation with Mark. She never lacked for dating opportunities, but she turned most of them down. She thought about her two engagements, both to the same guy. She had loved Ray, but something had been missing from their relationship. She was the one who broke off the engagement both times. She still wondered why she had felt so threatened by the idea of marriage to him. She just knew it wasn't right for her. What she had never figured out was why. Now when she dated, she always stopped short of a relationship. Being a romantic at heart, she guessed she was just waiting for someone to sweep her off her feet. Well you better quit turning everyone down or it's never going to happen, her mind voiced her unspoken thoughts. Not knowing why she felt so melancholy tonight, Megan decided to lose herself in a book. She picked up Montana Skies by Nora Roberts and was quickly captivated by the story.
Bolting upright, the pounding of his heart in his chest threatening to explode as his lungs struggled for air, he ripped the tangled sheets away from his sweat-covered body before realizing it was only a dream. Finally able to catch his breath and slow his breathing down, he slowly gained control.
It was wrong. It was too soon. It had only been a couple of days. The nightmares shouldn't be back yet. Panic reared its ugly head, and his mind fought for control. Get a grip. Panicking isn't going to help. With an effort that was almost physical in its intensity, he was able to shut the panic down.
Walking over to the sink, he poured a glass of water drinking deeply. There would be no more sleep for him this night.
Tony was up early after spending a fitful night. Donning a pair of shorts and T-shirt, she headed to the fitness center.
A couple of hours later, feeling the pleasant tiredness associated with a good workout of well-toned muscles, she reentered her room.
Tony knew that today was important in setting the tempo at her new job. Deciding on the subtle power approach, she showered and blew dry her hair. Dressing in a blue slack suit, offset with an ice blue blouse, she sparingly applied makeup. The color of the suit and blouse offset her eyes giving them an incandescent look. What else...oh yeah...the not so subtle height intimidation thing, smiling she donned 3 inch spiked heels.
Hailing a taxi, Tony looked out at the city on
the ride to the federal building. Taking the elevator to the 6th floor she located the FBI
office and entered. Looking at the large room divided by cubicles, she headed over to the
closest desk and asked to see Director Braxton.
John Austin looked up to address the woman speaking to him and had to consciously struggle to keep from gaping. He took in the image appreciatively, and thoughts best left unspoken ran through his mind. "It's right down there on the left."
"Thanks," Tony answered, smiling easily. Turning down the row indicated, she was well aware of his eyes following her.
Tony entered the office and asked the secretary to see the Director. Taking a seat, she waited.
Mike Braxton had carefully gone over the file on Tony Viglioni. The problem was that it had revealed very little. The picture showed an attractive brunette. She was 30 years old. Had graduated Summa cum laude with a major in Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice. Immediately upon graduating she had entered the FBI Academy at Quantico. She had graduated at the top of her class breaking many of the previous records in self defense, infiltration, hostage negotiation, and marksmanship. It was here that things became sketchy. Her file indicated she had been assigned to the Washington, D.C. office for the last eight years. Mike was not a fool. This record had been cleansed. That could mean one of two things. Either the agent had been involved in some major screw-up or else she had been involved in top secret covert operations. Whatever the case was, apparently Headquarters didn't think he had a need to know. Mike wasn't entirely happy with this lack of information, but he'd worked for the government too long to question the decisions of the higher-ups.
If there was such a thing as a stereotypical FBI agent, Mike Braxton fit the mold. Average height, brown hair cut short, clean shaven, conservative dark blue suit, white shirt, blue tie, black wingtips, a slight bulge under the jacket indicating a shoulder holster and no particularly distinctive features.
Calling his secretary and telling her to send the new agent in, Mike rounded his desk to meet Tony. Holding out his hand, he said, "Hi. Please call me Mike." He shook her hand, feeling slightly intimidated, and decided the picture in her file did not do her justice.
Tony smiled engagingly and said, "Hi, nice
to meet you."
"Have a seat. Once again, we're glad to have you. When you are finished here, see my secretary for an in-processing packet.
Walking back and forth he continued, "We are currently very short staffed. Some of the operations we are involved with include a computer scam targeting old people, a counterfeit ring, and several bank robberies. One of our agents is out on disability and a gang war is looming. Monday the Mayor asked for our assistance in the serial killer case. In the interest of good relations with the local law enforcement agencies, we cannot refuse."
Raising an eyebrow, she asked, "Your point is?" continuing to appraise her new boss. This is definitely a company man. What a wus. Well, did you really expect to be impressed? It's not like Huey didn't kind of warn ya and if he doesn't quit pacing back and forth in front of my chair I'm gonna have to hurt him.
Feeling control of the conversation slip away when she interrupted him, he replied, "I don't have anyone else to assign with you on this case. So you're on your own. I expect to be kept informed of all developments as they occur. Of course you will have access to all the FBI resources through the computers here in the office. Our job is to assist the locals, not take over their operation. I know I don't have to tell you how important it is to maintain good working relations with them. Your point of contact is Sgt. Davies. My secretary will give you the number." Thinking, God, she has presence. A very powerful presence. I'm glad we're not on opposite sides.
"Fine. Anything else," she inquired in a bored voice, just anxious to be out of this meeting.
"No, that will be all. The only agent in the
office right now is John Austin. Come on, I'll introduce you."
Tony turned to follow him thinking, must be the guy by the door.
After the introductions were made, Tony received her in-processing packet and was shown to her cubicle. There was a small desk, a PC, and a filing cabinet. Laying the in-processing packet aside, she picked up the phone and called Sgt. Davies.
"Sgt. Davies, this is Tony Viglioni of the FBI. I've been asked to assist you in the serial killer case."
"I've been expecting a call from someone in your office. I have had a file made up with copies of the progress of our investigation so far. I have also included all the crime scene photos. I'll have a squad car drop it off. Once you review it, if you have any questions, I'll do my best to clear them up. Otherwise we will provide you with new information when we get it and will expect the same from you. What number can you be reached at?"
Tony gave him her number and rang off. Nothing like getting blown off by the locals, she mused. It was obvious the FBI was not very popular with the police department. But she didn't create that little problem and she would be damned if people were going to keep blowing her off. First her boss, and now this idiot.
Pacing around the cubicle, she slowly emptied her mind and thought focus. It was a technique that she had taught herself over the years. She was aware of her quick temper and knew that success in this endeavor relied on her tempering it.
When the packet from Sgt. Davies arrived, Tony quickly scanned the contents paying particular attention to the crime scene photos. Looking at the details of the crime scene photos, she tried to lock into the mode the killer must have been in. But there really wasn't enough to go on. All the victims had been killed between 2300 and 0300. All were of similar body type and age. All were killed near the Cuyahoga River. The autopsy reports indicated death by strangulation with the neck broken postmortem. There were pages of interviews with people in the area at the time, but no one had seen or heard anything.
Looks like I'm gonna have to start from scratch. The file indicated that the Assistant Coroner, Dr. Donnovan, was in charge of the case. The autopsy report for the latest victim was not in the file. Wanting to talk to someone who had been at the crime scene, she decided to start with the Coroner's office.
"Dr. Donnovan," answered Megan, while absently twirling a piece of hair in her fingers.
Tony thought the pleasant voice sounded young to be the Assistant Coroner. "Dr. Donnovan, this is Agent Tony Viglioni with the FBI. I would like to talk to you about the serial killer case. I can be there in 30 minutes. It won't take much time."
Megan took in the low-pitched voice, thinking, God, what a voice. It's almost...sexy. She loved to play a game with herself of what someone she hadn't met would look like in person based on their voice on the phone. She smiled to herself remembering an expose on TV about the women that talked on sex chat lines. Many of them worked out of their homes while tending husbands and children. Interestingly enough, most of them did not look anything like the voice would lead you to believe. This woman had one of those kinds of voices. With this in mind, Megan drew a picture in her mind of a frumpy, dour woman, 30-40, dressed in a severe business suit, probably gray, after all everyone knew the FBI didn't have any imagination, with her hair in a bun and wire rim glasses.
Smiling at the image, she replied, "Agent
Viglioni, I am getting ready to go to lunch and will be tied up the rest of the day. How
about tomorrow? I'm free at 3:30." The FBI had a reputation for coming in on a case,
using the locals, and then taking all the credit for solving the case themselves. So she
wasn't about to interrupt her schedule to accommodate the agent, especially since she
hadn't even asked for time, but instead demanded it.
Tony was slightly taken aback. She couldn't believe the nerve of the woman she was talking to. She had a case to solve and no one wanted to give her the time of day. Thinking quickly, she lowered her voice half an octave and replied in her most compelling voice, "Dr. Donnovan, I really need to see you before tomorrow," she drawled, "I would be so grateful if you could find some time for me today."
Against her will, Megan was now thoroughly intrigued by the voice on the phone. Her inquisitive nature overcame her desire to make the FBI agent wait, but still wanting to control the situation, she replied, "I'm going to the Chef's Blend for lunch. I can meet you there in 15 minutes. Just tell the hostess you're meeting me. I'll do my best to answer your questions then. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow."
Don't piss off the locals...don't piss of the locals...don't piss off the locals, Tony's mind chanted, remembering the words of her boss that morning and thinking just how much she'd like to throttle the pompous woman she talking to. She thought, focus, and felt the control beginning to slip back in place, just do whatever it takes. She replied, "I'll be there," hanging up the phone.
Megan stared at the phone in her hand thinking, that was abrupt, wondering if her curiosity about the woman behind the voice was wise. Snaring her purse on the way out the door, Megan left for lunch. She figured she would find out soon enough.
Tony sighed. She was not having a good day. Everyplace she turned, she hit resistance. She was used to getting her way and couldn't believe she had literally had to beg for a meeting with the...doctor, shutting the door on the more descriptive words that came to mind.
Now where is this Chef's Blend? What was that guy's name...John? Yeah that was it. Calling his name as she walked toward him, she said, "John, do you know where the Chef's Blend is?"
"Sure. It's over on Rockwell and E. 6th. When you leave here turn right and go up to Rockwell. Turn left. It's right at the corner of E 6th. Take ya 15 to 20 minutes depending on how fast you walk," he replied, wondering how she could possibly have a luncheon date already. She had just arrived in town yesterday. Talk about fast workers.
"Thanks. I was wondering if you could do me a favor?" she inquired innocently, flashing him a beguiling smile.
John said, "Sure," willing to do anything she asked.
Relaying her request, she thanked him again. Turning to leave the office she thought, if I'd have known I was going to have to go waltzing around downtown I sure wouldn't be wearing 3 inch heels. Quickly making her way to the restaurant, Tony told the hostess she was to meet Dr. Donnovan.
Megan was absently watching the door as she drank her iced tea. Several people had entered after her, but none had been directed her way. She noticed the hostess leading a tall striking woman down the isle thinking, nah, couldn't be, and once again directed her eyes toward the door.
Recognizing the voice, she drew her attention from the door, automatically answering, "It's Megan." Looking up, she found herself gazing into a pair of the bluest eyes she had ever seen. The sight rendered her momentarily speechless. No, no, no, it can't be. FBI agents don't look like this, her mind told her as her eyes disagreed. Normally, gregarious by nature, it was disconcerting to her to find she had trouble finding her voice to say, "Please have a seat," a smile touching her lips. Megan's thoughts continued to run wild. She's... and for the first time in her life couldn't come up with a word to describe what she saw, finally settling on beautiful. As she tore her eyes away from the mesmerizing ones holding them, she finally broke the trance. Megan felt the quiet power that surrounded the woman. She didn't understand her body's strong reaction to this woman and figured it must be because of the disparity between the image she had created in her mind and the one standing before her.
Realizing the tall daunting woman was still standing, Megan knew she had one of three choices. She had been raised in a house where her father ruled by intimidation. She could be cowed or ignore it as she had when a child, or she could face it head on which she chose to do.
"Are you going to stand there and keep trying to intimidate me, or are you going to sit down?" she asked in a level voice, keeping a smile on her face to ease the impact of her words not really sure what to expect.
"Sorry," the word slipped out before Tony even realized she had spoken. Sitting down, she thought with amazement, I can't believe I'm apologizing to the same person I wanted to throttle less than an hour ago.
Actually, Tony hadn't been trying to intimidate Megan. Expecting to dislike the woman and be greeted with hostility she had found instead an open friendly face smiling up at her. She was so surprised that the vision in front of her could be the same woman she had spoken to on the phone, that her body had automatically taken over with the persona she was most comfortable with. Thoughts continued to run rampant through her mind, she looks so young...what a little wisp of a thing...what gorgeous eyes...she's so attractive...no beautiful...before she was drawn out of her reverie by Megan's voice.
Megan smiled as she said, "You aren't exactly what I pictured an FBI agent to look like."
Still somewhat off balance, a sarcastic comment flew to her lips but gazing at Megan's face and seeing only friendly curiosity she bit off the retort, and replied with a half smile, "And you don't exactly look like Quincy."
Megan laughed easing the tension.
"You know the cold lobster salad is really good," Megan offered while discreetly studying the woman across from her. Once she got over her initial reaction, her curiosity was sorely piqued. Goddess, she realized in a flash. A dark goddess, her mind added. That was the word she couldn't find when first confronted with the appearance of the agent.
Tony really hadn't intended to eat lunch. She merely agreed to the meeting to find out what she could about the Shadow case. But maybe eating lunch wasn't such a bad idea. The young woman seemed friendly enough and she clearly expected it.
"Sounds good," she replied to the suggestion.
After they placed their orders, Megan asked, "What exactly would you like to know?"
"Start with the crime scene. I've seen the photos but a first hand account would be much better," replied Tony, drawing her attention back to the reason she was here.
Megan's voice took on a clinical detached tone as she began her recital. "The body was laying lengthwise across the pier. At first glance it was obvious by the unnatural angle of the head that the neck was broken. The position of the legs and arms indicated that she was probably dead when she hit the ground. The clothes were also skewed in such a manner to support this. There was no indication of any struggle. I bagged the hands and checked to make sure that no one had moved the body and then began my examination. There was extensive bruising around the neck. Other than that there was just nothing else." The frustration obvious in her voice, she continued, "I did the autopsy yesterday. It confirmed my suspicion that the cause of death was strangulation. Similar to the other cases, the neck was a broken postmortem. I did send out a complete toxicology test including a GCMS." Megan then added for clarification, "It'll show any unusual chemical strands. The preliminary results should be back this afternoon. I really don't expect it to show anything, but I just don't know what else to do."
Studying the young woman across from her, Tony listened to her description and actions at the crime scene. Young or not, this woman was obviously very knowledgeable and committed to her work. She actually seemed upset at not finding anything. Tony found this unusual. Having dealt with her share of coroners, most did their job, turned over any evidence found to the police, and moved on. She seemed to be blaming herself for not finding anything.
Always pragmatic, Tony knew that evidence was not always easy to come by. Feeling a pang of sympathy, she decided to try to ease the Doctor's burden. Although why she cared was not within her grasp at the moment.
"Megan, you can't find something that's not there."
"I know. It's just so frustrating. I wish there was something else I could do."
"You've done everything you can. Now it's my turn. That's why I'm here. I want this case solved just as much as you do. Tell me about the other four victims."
"I'm afraid I can't tell you too much. This case was just turned over to me yesterday. Dr. Whitehouse was handling it until this last victim. I know where the victims were found and I read the autopsy reports he posted. They were basically the same as the one I did."
Smiling ruefully to herself, Tony thought, so she got this case dumped on her too.
"And Dr. Whitehouse is?"
"The Coroner. I thought everyone knew that." Megan was puzzled by the agent's apparent lack of knowledge.
Ignoring the comment, Tony asked, "Isn't it a little unusual to have the Coroner hand off a high profile case like this right in the middle of it?"
"It is very unusual." Twirling the straw in her iced tea, she decided not to elaborate.
"Do you have any idea why he would do that?" Tony persisted.
Now how do I get out of this one. Do I lie and say no? Or do I tell this very imposing FBI agent that he doesn't like the FBI? Oh well...she'll just have to get over it. "I think he doesn't like working with the FBI very much," she said, waiting for the reaction she felt was sure to come.
To her surprise, the agent laughed. "That's certainly not a novel concept."
At that moment their food arrived and Tony decided to relent in her questioning until they ate. The Doctor was correct. The food was excellent.
Giving her mind a break from the murders, Megan found herself totally fascinated by the woman sitting across from her. She's so intense...she seems almost dangerous. I wonder why she became an FBI agent. Guess I'll have to ask if I want to know. She seems perfectly content to sit there and eat and not say a word.
"Uh, Tony?" she began, waiting until she had her attention, "Have you been an FBI agent long?"
"Almost 10 years," Tony replied, not liking the turn of the conversation.
When it was obvious she was not going to elaborate on the answer, Megan continued, "Did you always want to be an FBI agent?" She had no idea her casual question would evoke memories Tony hadn't allowed to surface for years.
"What is this, 20 questions?" Tony snapped, regretting the words the instant they were out of her mouth. Seeing a shadow flicker across the face in front of her, she realized it really bothered her that she was the cause of it. Forcing the memories the question had conjured up back into the recesses of her mind, Tony began silently berating herself, that was really smart. All you've done is bitch about everyone blowing you off and then when someone tries to be friendly, you bite her head off. Real bright move.
"Sorry," Megan quietly replied looking down at her food. Guess I should've minded my own business.
Oh God, now what do I do...It's not her fault. "Megan," Tony began, waiting for her eyes to come up and meet hers before continuing, "I'm the one who should be sorry. There was nothing wrong with your question. I just don't like to talk about myself."
"No, it's ok...." Megan interrupted.
Tony held up her hand and said, "Please...let me finish. Your question deserves an answer. I've wanted to be an FBI agent since I was 17. So I went to college and as soon as I graduated, I was accepted into the academy," she said, hoping vehemently that the young woman would leave it at that because she couldn't tell her anything more and didn't want to hurt her feelings again.
Turning the conversation away from herself, "What about you? Did you always want to be a forensic pathologist?"
Megan realized the agent was more a mystery than ever. She obviously was not a talker. But she was making an attempt, and her apology seemed sincere. She knew she had just received a peace offer. She also instinctively knew the agent didn't make many. So despite the earlier rebuff, she gave into her intuition about the woman sitting across from her as it dictated that she accept the offer.
"Actually, no." Megan paused at this point unconsciously making a decision, and continued, "I wanted to be a writer when I was a child. But things change." Not aware of the slight hardening of her voice at the last comment. "I decided I wanted to be a doctor in high school. Medicine seemed like a good way to help people. Then in my last year of medical school one of my classmates was brutally murdered. It was senseless. She didn't deserve to die. At that time I made the decision to devote my life to helping find the perpetrators of violent crime by finding evidence to link them to the victims. I knew I could do that in forensic pathology. So here I am."
Listening to Megan, she sensed an inner strength belying her appearance. She had not missed the subtle change of tone during the recitation and wondered what could have happened to make a potential writer turn to medicine. However it was obviously something she did not wish to talk about, and Tony understood that very well indeed.
"It seems you have been very successful." Tony offered noticing the slight blush at her words. She's modest too, filing that thought away for contemplation later.
Wanting to change the subject, Megan asked, "Do you have any other questions about the Shadow case?"
Surprising herself once again at being reluctant to turn her attention away from Megan and back to the case, Tony answered, "What are your impressions? Not your clinical findings. YOUR impressions. Is there anything that doesn't fit, or that you're not comfortable with?"
"The only thing I can think of is that the victim seems to be dead before hitting the ground. When someone is strangled, there are always signs of a struggle of some sort. The shoes may be scuffed, the clothing torn or dirty, fingernails broken, that sort of thing. There were absolutely no signs of a struggle and I just don't see how that's possible when someone is fighting for their life. It's as if they are lifted up into the air, killed, and dropped onto the ground. Sounds silly, huh?"
"I'll admit it's puzzling. But no, it doesn't sound silly at all. Is there any possibility the victims may have been killed somewhere else and then moved?"
"No. There was no indication that they had been killed elsewhere. The thing that's really weird is how can someone be murdered in the Flats of all places, without anyone seeing anything? I find that amazing."
"You never heard of the Flats?" Raising her eyebrows with an amazed expression on her face, Megan asked, "How can you live in Cleveland and not know what the Flats are?
Tony narrowed her eyes slightly. She hated
looking stupid. Obviously the police hadn't bothered to put that little tidbit in the
files. With a nonchalance she wasn't feeling, she said, "I just arrived in Cleveland
yesterday. Apparently the file I was given on this case is a little lacking."
"I'm sorry, I had no idea." With a chagrined look, Megan continued, "The Flats refers to the flat land on both sides of the Cuyahoga River. All the victims were found there."
Still smarting a little from the look on Megan's face when she had first mentioned the Flats, Tony said, "I find it surprising that it's so common a phrase here in Cleveland when it just refers to the land by the river."
"Oh, no. It's much more than that. It is one of the most popular night spots in Cleveland. Businesses range from the very best in dining to places that are nothing more than meat markets. It's divided by the river. The West Bank and the East Bank. The West Bank sports a little older crowed, late 20's and up. The East Bank caters to the younger, wilder crowd and those out to prey on the less experienced. It has a pulse of its own and is really quite fascinating. All the victims have been found on the East Bank. The place is rocking at night. That's why this case is so frustrating to me. How could no one have heard or seen anything, it just isn't possible."
Tony remained silent enjoying Megan's animated voice as she absorbed the information. She had already planned to visit the crime scenes. The fact that it was a teeming night spot just made it more interesting.
Megan realized she could help the agent. With that thought came the insight that she also wanted to know more about her. Once she left, the opportunity might not present itself again. So risking rejection, she took the first tentative step and said, "You know Tony, since you're new in town, I could show you around down there. I know where the victims were found. It's not like a regular place. There's no parking in most areas and it really is easier if you go with someone who's familiar with it."
"Why would you do that?" Tony asked, surprised at the offer, studying the open earnest face across from her.
"Because I want to see this case solved too and I thought it might save you a little time since you're new here," and because for some reason I can't define I don't want to lose contact with you.
Tony quickly thought through her options. She had no doubt she'd be able to maneuver in the Flats on her own. But it would take less time with someone who knew the area. The sooner this case was solved the sooner she could get to her own *agenda* she justified to herself instead of just acknowledging she liked this attractive woman.
"Ok, but I really need to do it soon."
"No problem. How about tomorrow afternoon around 3pm?" Yes, yes yes! Megan still had no clue as to why it was so important for her to see Tony again. She just knew it was.
Smiling at her, Tony replied, "That'll
"It would probably be better if I drove. Where should I pick you up?" Megan smiled back agreeably.
"The Marriott on the Square. You know where it's at?"
"Yes." Megan replied. "You parked around back too?"
"No, I walked."
"You walked all the way from the Federal Building? Adding incredulously, "In those shoes?" Not waiting for an answer, she said, "Come on. I'll give you a ride."
Tony wanted to be angry. But the look on Megan's face was so comical, she started chuckling and followed her.
Megan used the key pad to unlock the doors to a blue Mercury Sable. Tony got in thinking it was a good thing the car had bucket seats because with her long legs she would never have been able to fit in the front seat with the short woman driving.
Tony discretely watched Megan expertly maneuver the car through the downtown traffic. She drove with the same confidence and poise Tony had noticed throughout lunch.
Never one to remain quiet for long, Megan began pointing out various buildings and naming them for Tony's benefit. As far as Megan was concerned the short drive was over all too soon. She'd have been surprised to find out Tony's thoughts mirrored her own.
Megan returned to work and found David waiting
for her in her office. "Hi."
"Hi Megan. Where ya been? We got another case to do."
"At lunch. What's it to you?" she teased the blond morgue assistant. David was usually assigned to help her with the cases she autopsied and they had developed a close friendship during her short tenure. Not only was he good at his work, he was just a delightful person to be around. "What kind of case?"
"A wire." he replied, grinning mischievously.
"I'm sure, David. A wire?" she inquired with her eyebrows raised.
"How about a piano wire wrapped around the neck?" he replied innocently.
"Oh great. Now they're getting creative." Megan pushed dark thoughts aside knowing David's gentle bantering was necessary to their sanity when dealing with the grim results of suffering and death, day after day.
"What do we know?" she asked him, her high spirits replaced by the clinical detachment that best suited her line of work.
"Male, 30-35, clothes indicate he was most likely homeless. Found on the West side near the gang hangouts. Probably an initiation killing. Jerry went out to the scene but since he's already working on two other cases, you got elected."
Megan's forehead creased at the mention of Jerry. He was one of the other pathologists on staff and she knew he was still angry about her promotion. More than likely he just didn't want the case. But knowing what a sneak he was, she figured he went to Dr. Whitehouse to have the case assigned to her. Not that it was a problem, but she'd been getting more than her share of cases lately. Jerry managed to make his cases last longer than she thought was humanly possible. She knew it was all a front to get out of work, but that was up to Dr. Whitehouse to notice.
David watched her sympathetically. He was very fond of Megan and would do anything he could to protect her from the treachery of the morgue staff. He knew Jerry and Dwayne, his assistant, had nothing but hatred for the little doctor. He had to give her credit, though, she ignored it for the most part and treated them with professional respect that they did not deserve as far as he was concerned. David and his partner Mike, had invited Megan over to dinner several times, and had enjoyed her company immensely. She was absolutely endearing and he wished there was something he could do about the situation at work. More than anything, he wanted to see her happy. David knew she was lonely. He also knew it was something that she had not really acknowledged. Instead, she had become so dedicated to her job that he wondered if she ever really left it behind. David knew from experience if she would just meet the right person all that would change.
"Earth to David." Megan had noticed her friend go off to La La Land and hoped everything was ok. She knew if it wasn't he would come to her when he was ready.
"Just visiting with my spirit guide," he replied grinning, "I guess you're ready to start."
"Might as well get it over with. Has the body been prepped?" she asked, knowing the answer.
Rolling his eyes at her, pretending to be
indignant, "Of course."
It was near 5pm before they finished and Megan returned to her office. Once there, she noticed the preliminary toxicology results were in her inbox. The toxicology was negative, but the GCMS had shown some abnormal chemical patterns. Megan felt a quick rush of adrenaline. But she also knew determining what these patterns represented could take a week to a month.
Megan faxed the results to Sgt. Davies.
Tony returned to her office and once again began reviewing the case file the police department had provided her. After soaking in every detail she turned her mind loose to identify anything she might not have noticed. Something about the bodies tried to surface, but the more she concentrated, the more elusive it became. Frustrated she looked for something else to turn her attention to. Walking around the office, she noticed some paperwork sitting in the fax tray. Curious, she picked it up and saw it was the background checks she had asked John to run before she left. Tony was a creature of habit and had decided to create her own dossier for this case. The background checks were on Sgt. Brian Davies and Dr. Megan Donnovan.
Returning to her desk, she read over the information provided on Brain Davies skipping what wasn't pertinent. He was 39, born in Madison, Ohio, moving to Cleveland as a child. He entered the police academy in 1979 after being awarded an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. He had done well on the police force with a 75 percent of conviction per arrest ratio. In 1983 he was wounded in the line of duty protecting a fellow officer during a domestic violence call. He had been married in 1985. His wife's maiden name was Jennifer Sheridan, age 33. They had three children, two boys, 12 and 10, and a girl, seven. In 1986 he was promoted to Detective and had been assigned to homicide. His record indicated he was very successful in homicide and had been credited with solving some cases almost singlehandedly. Tony finished reading wondering why he was still a Detective Sergeant when his record was so outstanding. Looking at the picture provided, Tony smiled when she saw the height and weight.
Next she picked up the file on Megan Donnovan. Picturing the attractive woman, a slight twinge of guilt was quickly displaced by an intense curiosity. Megan Donnovan 27 years old, was born on September 25, 1971 in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Charles Donnovan, was an attorney with Hughes, Smith, & Donnovan. He specialized in corporate law. Her mother, Barbara, had a part time career in real estate. She has two sisters, Ashley 30, and Taylor 24. She has one brother, Charles Jr., 28. All are married and Ashley and Charles each had two kids.
While in high school, she was a member of the National Honor Society and the Literary Club. Sports included the intramural field hockey and swim teams. She had been accepted into the high school/college preparation program and completed her first year of college at the same time she graduated in 1987. Wait a minute, that made her only 16, Tony thought with admiration. She graduated in 1990 with a degree in chemistry and was accepted into the joint M.D./Ph.D. program graduating in the top ten percent of her class in 1994. She completed a short residency and began work at the Coroner's office in 1996. There was no record of any marriage. The remainder of the record was just the usual: no arrest record, no participation in student unrest, no evidence of drug abuse, no moving violations, no warrants, no military service, and no adverse credit.
An image of the young doctor planted firmly in her mind, Tony found herself wanting to know much more about her than the basics provided by the background check.
Megan was bored. She didn't want to go to Bally's. She didn't feel like cooking dinner. She didn't want to read a book. Pacing back and forth, she was unable to figure out why she was so restless. She decided to go on line. There were a couple emails from some of her professional friends. She quickly answered them and decided to go surfing. Wonder what the FBI had on their website. Finding that URL, she read the pages with interest. Not only did it have the history, but it even addressed Waco and Ruby Ridge. After reading everything from the history, to what VICAP and the profilers did, she then read about the services offered by the FBI Laboratory. As she continued to read, her interest waned when she realized she was interested in one particular FBI agent, not the FBI.
The phone rang interrupting her thoughts, "Hello."
"Hi, Megan. I had to work late tonight. Let's go to dinner. John is watching the kids," replied Ashley.
Smiling at the voice of her sister, she asked, "Ok, where and what time?"
"How about I meet you at the Stone Hedge at 7:30 p.m. I'll call for reservations now."
"Ok, Ashley. See ya then."
Tony had stayed late at the office entering the few facts available on the case into the VICAP data base and NCIC. There wasn't much point in contacting the profilers. There arent enough data to give them.
When she arrived back at her room, she began wondering aimlessly around. Tony began to feel trapped. She was going to have to find some place to live. The hotel was already getting to her.
Her thoughts once again turned to a certain young woman. Tony sighed exasperatedly, thinking, God, you'd think I was a high school kid with a crush.
Knowing she needed a distraction, Tony decided to go explore. This was a new city and it was important to learn the layout. Opting to do it and get some exercise at the same time she donned a set of light weight sweats and departed.
Jogging toward the huge lights of the baseball stadium, Tony took in the downtown businesses as she passed them. Noting that most of the streets went east and west or north and south, there were a couple that seemed to go diagonally across the others. The layout was much simpler than the insane cluster of streets she was used too in Washington, D.C.
Tony leisurely moved along with her senses fully extended. She quickly assessed the other people she passed on the streets. While Cleveland was certainly not the crime capital of the world, it had its share of crime per capita. Tuning into the night life around her, she created a surreal image with her long hair flying behind her head--a single woman alone daring to breach the dark domain of gangs, drugs, sex, and violence.
Rounding another street corner in her lazy loop around the downtown area, she saw three young men swaggering abreast heading her way. Thoroughly enjoying her night sightseeing, she decided to go around them and jogged off the sidewalk and into the street.
The men dressed in the dark garb of predators of
the night were both surprised and pleased that they had found prey so quickly and easily.
The three lowlifes stepped into the street to block Tony's passage.
Tony's entire demeanor changed as she coldly reviewed her options. She could simply keep running. With her athletic body capable of gymnastic moves that would awe the judges at world sporting events, she could easily maneuver around them. On a sustained run there was absolutely no way they would ever come close to her speed or stamina. She could stop and tell them she was an FBI agent and to get lost before she decided to find a reason to haul them in. She chuckled at this thought...like they would believe that. Or she could disable them and call the police. None of these solutions particularly appealed to Tony because from the moment they had blocked her path she had felt the familiar heat course through her body, and now she felt like kicking some serious ass. With the exception of lunch, where'd that thought come from, this had been the most boring day she could remember and she was ready for some action. Tony began waging a battle with her conscience. Overt FBI agents do not go around kicking butt. Maybe not...so I guess I'll be covert for about the next five minutes and besides, there's no doubt these guys are going to harm some innocent citizen somewhere tonight. You're just making excuses for your behavior. All right I'll compromise...I'll advise them I'm an FBI agent and if they take off, fine, but if they don't...knowing full well she'd get her wish for some action, conscience be damned.
Drawing to a stop about 4 feet from the thugs, Tony's entire body tensed, ready for action, under the guise of relaxation and her narrowed, hooded eyes took on a glacial hardness. Smiling she said, "Something I can do for you boys?"
"Oh yeah baby," the middle thug leered at her while grabbing his crotch suggestively as the other two began moving sideways.
Tony kept them in her peripheral vision as she gave a warning that she considered a total waste of time, "I am an FBI agent and I suggest you move on before I find a reason to haul you in."
Were these thugs any less used to preying on women and other innocent and harmless beings they might have sensed the aura of danger that rolled in waves off the tall woman standing in front of them. But they had become so used to taking what they wanted, when they wanted, the danger never permeated their brains.
As all three began hooting derisively, the one in the middle guffawed, "Yeah, and I'm the President..."
Another interrupting, "No man, I'm Elvis..." and doubled over laughing.
The third offered, "No, I got one better, I'm Superman." Lowering the timbre of his voice until it became threatening, he said, "and we know he always gets what he wants."
Moving closer, knives appeared in their hands.
"I have a better one," she drawled ominously.
"Yeah..." the one in the middle snarled tiring of the game.
"I'm your worst nightmare," growled Tony. Her body became a flurry of motion, one foot slamming into the groin of the middle thug, a fist simultaneously slamming backward into the nose of the thug to the right. She grabbed the third man's wrist in an iron grip causing him to drop his knife while spinning her body and connecting with a bone breaking side kick to his ribs. She pivoted toward the only attacker still standing. Warily circling her, blood dripping from his nose, he feinted in and out with his knife. With a feral smile Tony taunted the thug, "Are we having fun yet?"
Lunging forward, determined to slice this crazy arrogant woman open, he met only air as she deftly side stepped at the last moment. She grabbed his wrist rendering the knife useless, and turned her body into him. Stretching his arm over her shoulder and driving her other hand palm up under the elbow, the snapping of bone echoed through the night. Thrusting him away she said, "You're lucky I was in a good mood tonight."
Tony looked with disdain at the scene, and watched them scuttle away, feeling no remorse but rather vindication knowing these three would not be targeting anyone else soon.
Quite satisfied with herself, Tony continued her
slow leisurely tour.
Megan was thoroughly enjoying her dinner with Ashley. She very seldom got to see her sister one on one. She knew how many things Ashley had to juggle to take care of John, the children and a career. It wasn't that Megan minded visiting with her brother-in-law and two nieces. She just felt that their world was so far removed from hers. So the infrequent times when just she and Ashley could get together were that much more enjoyable.
Ashley had brought her up to date on Caitlin and Cayley, her 5 year old twin nieces. Then she had continued on about John and his career, and her own.
"So now that I've monopolized the conversation, what are you doing these days?" Ashley smiled over at her younger sister.
"Oh, you know. Work mostly. They assigned me the Shadow case."
"Yeah, I heard. I read the article that reporter you know did. Mark something. Are you still going out with him?"
"Ashley, I never was going out with him. We're just friends. We go places together sometimes. That's not the same as going out." Megan said with a sigh.
"Megan, I didn't mean anything," she continued, "You know Mom and Dad ask about you all the time. You don't visit them very often."
"I know. But every time I do, they want to know who I'm dating and when I'm going to get married and I have to hear all about how my biological clock will run out if I don't do something soon. I'm only 27. When I meet the right person, they'll know. In the meantime, I just wish they'd give it a rest."
Ashley wisely decided to change the subject, "Want to have some dessert? We've got time," chuckling at the delighted look on Megan's face. Some things never change.
Ashley's thoughts turned back to their childhood. Megan had always been such a dreamer. She was always reading. She practically lived in her books. That was before their father found out how intellectually talented she was and decided that she was going to follow in his foot steps and become a lawyer. He had done everything he could to belittle all her interests except for those related to the textbook. Ashley remembered the day her father had finally put an end to Megan's dream of becoming a writer. He ruled with an iron hand and Megan was often at the receiving end of it. After that Megan did what he wanted and excelled at every academic challenge. He never could take away her genuine concern about other people though. Ashley remembered the two times Megan had stood up to him, consequences be damned. The first time she told him she was going to medical school not law school, and the second time when she had announced she was going to be a forensic pathologist. Their father had been so flabbergasted he was actually speechless, and that had to be a first because the man could talk. She just wished Megan hadn't given up on her other dream.
"What are you smiling about over there?" Megan asked watching her sister.
"Oh, just thinking about when we were kids," Ashley replied, quickly changing the subject, "I called you earlier today, but you were out to lunch. Did you get the message?"
"No," Megan smiled remembering lunch.
What a challenge that had been. But...a good sort of challenge.
"Now it's my turn. What are you smiling at?" Ashley asked, pleased with the mood
"I had lunch with the most interesting FBI agent. She was really different than what I expected. I've never met anyone like her before. I'm going to show her the crime scenes in the Flats tomorrow. She's new in Cleveland." Megan continued, "She's is probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and she must be close to 6 feet tall and she was really intimidating at first, but, well you know with Dad, you get used to handling that," Megan stopped realizing she was babbling.
Ashley listened to the whole exchange with interest. Megan's entire demeanor changed as she talked about the FBI agent. Now isn't that odd...or is it, she mused. It would certainly explain a few things. Megan was Ashley favorite sibling and whatever made her happy was fine with Ashley.
"Sounds like an interesting friend." Ashley smiled over at Megan.
"Well, I'm not sure you could really call us friends. It's more like business acquaintances. Megan answered seriously.
Ashley smiled to herself and thought, not if you have anything to say about it, dear sister of mine. I know ya.
As they parted ways, both promised to try to get together more often.
Dwayne Hudson glanced at his reflection in the mirror as he finished shaving. He ran a comb through his dark brown hair studying his face. His chin could be a little stronger and his brown eyes could be a little bigger, but overall not bad. He looked at his muscular body and knew that it was his strongest suite. Posing before the mirror, he combed his hair straight back. Studying his reflection, he smiled and then combed it toward the side. Oh yeah, much better. Dwayne did not consider himself vain, merely accurate.
Looking over at his rumpled bed, he was glad he
had insisted on separate bedrooms. It was so much simpler that way.
He listened to the sounds coming from the kitchen and smiled affectionately. Gloria was making his breakfast. He knew it would be a perfect meal. After all he had taught her well just like his father had taught his mother. Granted, the first couple of years had been rough. But that was before she had learned the Rules. She hadn't understood that a wife's place is to serve her husband. But she had finally learned. Now her whole purpose in life was to please him, just like it was supposed to be.
Putting on blue pants and a striped sports shirt he went downstairs. He knew he could wear jeans and a T-shirt since he just changed into scrubs at work anyway, but his ego would not allow him to go to work dressed in jeans. Smiling, he said, "Smells good Honey."
"I hope you like it," came the quiet
reply from the small woman who knew if he found anything wrong at all she would pay
Gloria knew how to play by the rules and continued, "You look really nice Dwayne," knowing that if she played on his vanity he was less likely to find something wrong. She knew he had been preoccupied lately. This did not bode well for her. Perhaps if she could find out what was bothering him, she would be able to avoid a confrontation later. So feeling braver now that she had a plan, she asked, "How's work."
Dwayne stopped eating and stared at his wife. She had unerringly gone straight to the source of the problem. His thoughts turned toward work, and his face darkened with rage when an image of Megan flickered through his mind. How dare she enter the world of forensic pathology in the first place. Any decent woman knew that it was a man's field. That was why he was in it. He was sick of all the hussy's who thought they were as good as men, and took their jobs. But what really infuriated him was that she had been promoted to Assistant Coroner over his friend Jerry Calhoun. Although it had taken him a long time to decide what to do about that, lately everything had fallen into place. Thinking about his plans for her, he smiled a cruel smile.
Shuddering, Gloria watched her husband's face change first to rage and then to a cruel smile. She had only wanted to ward off any action against her. She hadn't meant to make him mad. All she had done was ask him about work, what was wrong with that? But she knew she was not allowed to make him mad, it was one of the Rules.
"Looking at his wife coldly, he said, "I'll talk to you when I get home." He stood and walked out the door.
Gloria, noticing his unfinished breakfast, knew just what a "talk" entailed and she put her head down on the table crying.
When Gloria's despair reached the bottom of her
soul, her instinct for survival forged a tiny crack in it allowing a tendril of courage to
course to the front of her brain. She only took her purse and the small amount of money
she had been able to scavenge each week from that allotted for groceries, and headed to
where she knew the women's shelter was. She had taken the first small step. There would be
no turning back now.
Detective Sergeant Brian Davies was an imposing figure crossing the squad room to his desk. Measuring in at 6'7", he had the body of a linebacker and the weight to go with it at nearly 275 pounds. When a beat cop his appearance alone had often thwarted crime about to be committed as petty criminals regarded the wisdom of their acts. Having nearly 18 years on the force, he was a cop's cop. Brian Davies refused to kiss ass. He was not willing to play politics and would never be promoted any higher because of it. He protected his officers from the day to day power plays while following the age-old adage of working right along the side of your subordinates. The few officers that had chosen to invoke Brian's wrath had quickly learned that while he would protect them from the upper echelon if he could, it saved them only from dealing directly with him. Most wisely chose not to do that. His willingness to go out on a limb and protect his officers had inspired a fierce loyalty among those under his command.
Brian hated task forces. He felt that at best they were just political attempts to appease the public. The "task force" still consisted of the same members that had been working on the case all along while allowing outside interference from the FBI and the addition of some of the upper echelon as figure heads.
Right now he was going to have to deal with one of the products of this particular task force and he wasn't looking forward to it. He had been informed the FBI agent assigned to the case was here to seem him. Brian, along with many of his fellow police officers had no use for the FBI since the Fielding case two years ago.
Watching the FBI agent approach his desk, he noticed several sets of eyes cut toward the woman. Word traveled fast through the precinct and most of the officers were aware this was the FBI agent assigned to the task force. Brian had been a cop long enough to have seen it all. But even he was surprised at the FBI agent's appearance and deportment although it did not show on the countenance of his face. Arriving and standing in front of his desk she exuded confidence and poise.
"Sgt. Davies?" she asked while appraising the man.
He stood to greet her. "Yes, and it's Brian. Have a seat," he responded simply, letting her have the lead in the conversation, his senses scrutinizing the woman, knowing instinctively this would be a powerful foe.
Sitting, she replied, "Tony Viglioni," feeling the latent hostility directed her way throughout the squad room. "I have a problem with the file you sent me," she continued. "It is not complete. There are no copies of any interviews with the family members of the victims. The Administrative Worksheet and Narrative Description of each crime scene was not included. The Evidence Recovery Log was not included either. Those are the apparent things that are missing. I have no way of knowing what else may have been left out."
Brian thought to himself, shit, I should have checked the file before it was sent over . . . deliberately leaving out part of the case file was serious...well, I'll deal with that later. "I'm sorry that happened. I'll see that you get a complete file. Anything else I can do for you?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. As a member of this task force I intend to be included in the task force meetings. It's quite obvious," she said glancing around, "there is some hostility toward the agency. At least I suspect it's against the agency since none of you know me personally. Since it does affect me, I want to know what the problem is. The air needs to be cleared if we are going to work together to solve this case. We don't have to like each other, but our goal is the same here."
Brian studied the agent's expressionless face knowing it spoke volumes about the woman behind it. He recognized the wisdom of the words and although they had been delivered in a cool, even tone he did not underestimate the intent behind them. He also sensed the alternative was that she would attempt to solve the case herself and that did not bode well for the police department. She was challenging him as a law enforcement official and he knew he had to rise to the bait.
"I'm not going to try to justify the hostility directed toward you. Whether or not I feel it is warranted isn't the issue here. As you astutely pointed out, it's not personal. Simply put, there is bad blood between the police department and FBI. It stems from a kidnaping case a couple of years ago. A tip from one of our informants came through the squad room. The FBI agent assigned to the task force answered the phone. He didn't bother informing the task force that the phone call had revealed the location of the child. He chose to call on a few of his fellow agents and effect the rescue. The upside was that the child was rescued successfully. The downside was the betrayal of the task force." He paused, trying unsuccessfully to gauge her reaction to this words before continuing. "So if you're expecting to be welcomed with open arms, it ain't gonna happen; however, I can assure you that there will be no repeat performance of what happened with the file."
"The task force meetings?" she countered absorbing the information he had delivered. Tony knew there were FBI agents who liked to hot dog for their day of glory, and gave no thought to the consequences of their actions.
Brian always paid attention to his gut and it was telling him that this was not a woman who could be easily intimidated. Most people he met for the first time were cowed solely because of his size. Many would have been surprised at how gentle the man normally was. Brian felt like the agent had seen right through his veneer. Answering he said, "The entire group meets every Monday and any other time something major breaks. Informally, I meet with the officers each morning to direct their part of the investigation."
Tony studied the behemoth of a man sitting at the desk. His short cropped brown hair was combed straight back. His grizzled face was offset by a pair of steely gray eyes and a heavy mustache. The small lines around his eyes indicated this face could erupt quickly into humor or ire. He could be a worthwhile ally or an awesome foe. She sensed his strength of conviction but felt he was no threat. While Tony noted the last thought, she also knew she could handle him if it became necessary. It was his choice really. All she was doing was the job she had been assigned. The sooner it was done the better. She still had her *agenda* to deal with and she wouldn't be able to give it any attention until this case was solved. It never occurred to Tony that there are many serial killer cases that never get solved. The killers move onto another place and start
"Have you met yet this morning?" Tony countered, watching Brian carefully for any sign of reluctance at having her attend.
"No. Everyone is waiting for me now. Lets go. I'll introduce you," raising from his chair he headed toward the conference room, Tony following behind him.
Brian informally called the meeting to order, "All right, listen up. This is Tony Viglioni the FBI agent assigned to the task force." Sighs and rolled eyes greeted the announcement. Brian continued, "We are going to bring her up to date on the case. I expect everyone to cooperate fully with her. I know quite a few of us have hard-ons for the FBI. Get over it. You can't judge everyone by the actions of a few. Now I know I sound like I'm preaching, and I am, because I know I'm guilty of this too. So I ain't asking you to do anything I ain't going to do too. So set it aside and lets focus on solving this case."
Tony noticed the respect all the officers showed toward Brian. He was obviously a very effective leader. She knew she would have to prove herself, it went with the territory, but she was used to it from her covert days.
"Dr. Donnovan faxed over the autopsy report yesterday afternoon. It didn't show anything that can help us out."
Tony drew out of her quiet appraisal of the task force members when she heard the words, "Dr. Donnovan," pondering her reaction to the name.
"The victim's family does not know of any reason why anyone would want to harm their daughter. To the best of their knowledge she was not dating anyone on a regular basis. As you all know this doesn't mean shit. Since when do 24 year olds tell their parents what they are doing in the first place." Laughter spread around the room as the officers agreed.
"We are still trying to locate one of her
neighbors to determine if they can tell us if she had a regular boyfriend other the casual
friends we've uncovered so far. There are a couple more people in the building we've been
unable to locate and we're still trying to recreate her movements from the time she left
her apartment in the morning. You all know since the press dubbed the serial killer the
Shadow, the phone has not stopped ringing with people calling in tips. The calls have
included everything from confessions to offers of psychic help. Each and every one needs
to be checked out. "So today we are going to focus on finding the missing neighbors,
looking for a steady boyfriend, and the phone tips."
"Jack, you and Chuck get the apartment building again. Kris, you and Dave get the neighborhood. Mike, you get to check out some of the phone tips." Casting his eyes toward Tony he said, "Mike could really use some help with the phone calls," almost sighing with relief when she nodded her head, recognizing his silent message.
Megan woke up in an extremely good mood. Since she usually always wore a suit to work, she set aside a pair of casual beige slacks, a white blouse and a comfortable pair of Sass loafers to take with her. She knew she wouldn't have time to go home to change before meeting Tony.
Once she arrived at her office, she checked for messages and then went looking for David to find out what cases they had for today. Walking into the autopsy suite she saw Dwayne first. "Hi, Dwayne," greeting him like she always did. She was not prepared for the fleeting look of rage that crossed his face at her words. Looking around for David, she felt a faint tremor of fear run through her body and she found herself wishing someone else were in the suite with them.
Just then David came barging through the doors saying, "Sorry I'm late. Traffic's a bitch."
Megan smiled, "I know what you mean. I'll go
see what came in overnight," relieved that he had arrived when he did. She didn't
think Dwayne would ever physically harm her, but that look was pure hatred and it still
There were only a couple of cases that came in overnight and only one was assigned to Megan. After they finished, Megan went to her office to catch up on work that had sat far too long already.
Megan discovered she had no interest in paperwork. She was looking forward to the trip to the Flats with Tony too much. She was glad for the distraction when David came in and sat down. "So how's Mike doing? Does he like his new job?"
"Yeah, he really does. The boss seems to really like him and he's off to a great start."
Megan and David continued to chat until it was time for Megan to change and leave.
"Where are you going so early?"
"I'm meeting the FBI agent assigned to the Shadow case and am going to show her where the victims were found." Megan answered.
"What are you going to do that for? I'm sure someone else can do it," a puzzled David inquired.
"Because I WANT to. Is that ok with
you?" Megan shot back surprising herself with the sharpness of her retort.
"Ok, ok, sorry," David answered with a wide-eyed look.
"Look, David, I'm sorry. This case is just getting to me," she said not understanding why she had become so upset at him for suggesting someone else show Tony around.
Tony had returned to the hotel to change into clothes better suited for walking and donned a pair of dockers, a long shirt and her Asics. She ran a brush through her hair, checking her appearance more carefully than usual and went down to the hotel entrance.
Megan arrived at the Marriott, parked the car and
then went looking for Tony. Finding her out front, she said, "Come on."
"We're walking?" asked Tony.
"Just to the Tower. Then we'll catch the Water Front Line. It's part of the transit system. We'll get off at the stop in the East Bank." Megan was thoroughly into what she perceived as her job of a tour guide.
Entering the Terminal Tower, Megan led them to the escalators going down to the lower level giving a running commentary on how a city once on the verge of bankruptcy had now developed the downtown area into a major shopping area where businesses once again thrived, including a new mall called the Avenue which extended through four buildings and featured many of the big store chains and a 6-movie cinema. She paused her commentary long enough to tell Tony the fare was $1.50 pulling the fare out of her purse explaining the pass was good for four hours. Looking up at Tony for the first time since they entered the Tower, she noticed a small smile on her face and wondered what she had said that was funny.
Tony was content just to let Megan talk. She was enjoying the lilting tone of her voice and when she became animated about something the way her hands would move in supporting gestures. She also found it somewhat amazing that anyone could talk nonstop for so long.
Sitting together on the train as it departed, Megan turned to look at Tony and asked her, "I'm not boring you, am I? I just thought you might like to know a little about Cleveland."
Tony responded, "No, please continue," not bored at all. However, she was much more occupied with the nearness of Megan than the conversation.
Megan began again with renewed vigor giving the history of how apartments and condos had just recently come to the downtown area pointing out the first set as they passed them, then launching into the story of how the track for the River Front Line was built. Arriving at the stop in the East Bank, they exited the train.
Tony let Megan lead the way to Old River Road which was the main thoroughfare in the Flats. Walking along the sidewalk, Megan turned to Tony asking, "I'd like to give you an overview of the area before we go to the crime scenes if that's ok with you." Megan was enjoying herself and wanted to delay the gruesome part of the trip.
"Sure, that's fine." Tony didn't mind a short delay as long as she saw the crime scenes before they left.
Megan began pointing out various nightclubs, restaurants, and bars. She gave a short history of each one, what type of entertainment or dining each specialized in and what sort of clientele frequented them.
Tony kept a small part of her attention on Megan's commentary, but concentrated on her surroundings evoking her predatory instincts.
Megan finished the running narrative and led Tony to the first of several alleys with signs posted indicating "water taxi." The alley curved first to the left, then back right, and left again before straightening again at the dock. As they reached the dock, she turned until she was facing south and showed Tony where the last body had been found. Tony had already noted that this would be a perfect place to commit the crime unseen.
Voicing the thought aloud, Megan interrupted and
said, "No. It's not that simple. These alleys are traveled constantly throughout the
evening and night. People are always going back and forth across the river. To be totally
deserted long enough to strangle someone would be almost impossible."
Tony disagreed thinking, I could do it with no problem. Obviously so can the killer. Now that I've seen the location, I can understand how he has gone undetected...he is good, she acknowledged. "I'll have to come down here at night and look at it then."
"Ok, when do you want to go. We could come down Saturday night."
Tony looked at Megan and said, "You were kind enough to take the time to show me around down here today. You don't need to come back again."
"I want to come. I don't mind, and it'll make me feel like I'm contributing something to the case. Besides you can't come down here alone at night. It's dangerous. No women travel alone here after dark, and you'd be noticed if you were all by yourself."
When Tony didn't immediately respond, Megan put her hands on her hips, her hazel eyes flashing, and added, "You're new in town. You don't know this area. There are muggings, stabbings, and," looking pointedly at Tony, "murders."
Tony had lifted an eyebrow at the words as her mind took in the absurdity of this conversation. She didn't know if she should be mad or laugh. She could understand Megan wanting to help. It was the rest of it that confounded Tony. She's worried about me? I'd probably be the most dangerous person here. If she had any idea what I've done for the last 10 years she run as fast as she could the other way. Tony mused, Megan had shown her nothing but kindness. Would it really hurt to let her come along? All she planned to do was coming down and absorb the essence of the place when it was in full swing. She couldn't deny she enjoyed Megan's company. Still feeling guilty about the incident at lunch yesterday, she ignored the warnings vying for attention in the back of her mind.
Tony looked at Megan's petulant pose thinking, she's so damn cute, and was suddenly drawn into the gold and green vortex of the flashing eyes looking back at her.
Megan had watched Tony's eyes narrow and turn inward at her words. Holding her breath wondering if she had gone too far, she was startled by the intensity of the dazzling blue eyes as they returned to her. Captured by the baby blues she was totally unprepared for the sensations that surged through her, barely hearing the tall woman say, "Ok."
Bewildered by her body's physical reaction to the silent exchange, Megan was confused and said, "Ok?"
"Ok, we can come down here together Saturday night," Tony replied gazing thoughtfully at the small woman, the turmoil of her own emotions firmly back under control.
"Oh...yeah...right...good," turning quickly, she began walking down the alley hoping Tony wouldn't notice how flustered she was. God, what's going on with me? Calling over her shoulder, she said, "Come on. I'll show you the other sites."
Tony silently followed, forcing her attention back to the case and her surroundings.
Megan had regained her composure and while showing Tony the crime scenes, she noted her companion's casual air and decided that she hadn't noticed after all. Thank God, she thought.
Tony had not missed anything, but her interpretation was vastly different from Megan's. She fully expected Megan to cancel her offer for Saturday. But that's ok. It's no big deal. It doesn't matter. I wasn't planning on company anyway, she rationalized to herself.
They finished visiting the crime scenes and
headed back to the train stop. Megan pointed out the few places she had missed on the way
down, and then asked Tony, "Well, what do you think of Cleveland so far?"
"It's ok, I guess," Tony answered not really knowing what to say. As far as she was concerned it was like any other city.
"It grows on ya. You'll see. There's a lot
to do here. We have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the new Science Center and we've got
all the major sports covered. The Indians are great, but it's really hard to get tickets
and we've got a women's basketball team, the Rockers. The Cleveland Orchestra is one of
the best in the world. When they're in town, I always go see them." Megan stopped,
momentarily out of words.
Walking beside Megan listening to her, Tony had a small grin on her face thinking about how multifaceted the small woman was.
"Do you ever talk?"
"Huh...yeah...sometimes," Tony responded, caught off guard by the frank question. Tony was actually quite a good conversationalist when she needed to be. However, since Megan obviously liked to talk, she was quite content to listen.
"Well then...did you find a place to live yet? Have you even had time to look? Are you looking for a house or an apartment? I could suggest some nice places." Megan finished, quite satisfied with herself for asking enough questions that Tony would have to talk for a while.
Tony thought through the questions carefully and then answered, "No, no, I haven't decided, and thanks, that would be nice."
Megan's mouth dropped open and totally exasperated, she complained, "I don't believe you. What kind of answers are those?"
Tony couldn't help herself, and started laughing. She had answered that way purposely just to see what Megan's reaction would be.
Megan was so surprised to hear the deep rich sound coming from Tony, she quickly forgot her exasperation and joined in the laughter.
Taking the train downtown, they walked companionably back toward the Marriott. Megan continued to do most of the talking.
Tony walked Megan to her car and then thanked her for her help. "See you Saturday," she offered casually.
"Right. How about I meet you here at 9pm?" Megan answered.
"Ok, see ya then," thinking, well at least she didn't cancel.
Megan drove home with thoughts rolling around wildly in her mind. She knew she had some serious thinking to do. Parking the car, along with several other tenants just getting home from work, she was unaware of the hostile eyes following her moves.
After starting dinner, Megan got a glass of iced tea and moved to the living room to sit in her recliner. Her thoughts flickered back over the afternoon coming to rest on the moment she had been drawn in by Tony's eyes. Megan didn't consider herself naive. She realized had she was with a man, there would have been no doubt in her mind regarding her body's reaction. Her mind fathomed just as quickly that no man had ever engaged her senses like that either. Megan understood for the first time what the words animal attraction meant. She had taken her share of psychology and sociology courses so the thoughts running through her mind were certainly not alien to her. But what she couldn't understand was that she had never shown any inclination...that way. She remembered her hero worship of some of her female teachers, but that was considered normal. But what was normal? Could the way she felt be normal for her? Megan thought about her limited sexual experience and realized it couldn't even begin to compare with what she had felt just gazing into Tony's eyes. But it was more than that. She was interested in everything about the woman. She was attracted to her, plain and simple. Megan surprised herself with this candid self-revelation. But what surprised her even more was that it didn't bother her like she was sure it should. She sighed with frustration. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe she was reading too much into her reaction to Tony. She had known a few lesbian women in college and they had been aware of their sexuality. If that were her niche, how could she not know? She was a grown woman. Playing devil's advocate in her mind she thought what difference did it make anyway? Tony would never be interested in her that way. Just look at the woman. She was gorgeous. She could obviously have anyone she wanted. Megan tentatively tried to come to terms with her feelings and simultaneously realized she must never make the mistake around Tony she had made today.
Megan wished there was someone she could talk to. Her thoughts flickered to David, but no, that was different. He was a guy. More frustrated than ever, she went to check on her dinner.
The next morning Tony decided to develop her own dress code for the FBI. She had spent the last several years dressing whatever part she was playing. For the most part it had been anti-establishment and militant groups. So her normal attire had been anything from jeans to cami's. Tony liked dressing for whatever the occasion called for, but in her mind sitting in an office or doing street work did not warrant a suit. She decided on a pair of navy blue slacks and a long white shirt, finishing the ensemble with a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Tony was so bored she thought she was going to go crazy. If one more person she called told her about a vision of the killer, she was going to throw the phone across the room. Damn Davies anyway. All day she had worked through the hot line tips and she had about reached her limit.
Tony had a sudden thought and pulled a number out of her wallet.
When Megan arrived at work, she found two cases waiting for her. One was particularly nasty and took a long time. The city had been particularly brutal the night before, and Jerry and Dwayne had also been busy. It wasn't often all four were in the autopsy suite together. Jerry preferred to work around her and did his cases separately. She and David were finishing up when the phone rang.
"David would you please get that?"
"Sure." Picking up the phone, he answered, "Dr. Donnovan's office."
"Is she there?" drawled Tony who had all of a sudden decided she just had to know if the test results were in.
After asking Tony to hold on, he put the phone on hold, winked at her and said, "Megan, there some lady with an incredibly sexy voice asking for you on the phone." David had never been shy about his sexual preference and loved to tease Megan.
"David, you are so crazy. Give me that phone." Putting the phone to her ear, she answered, "Dr. Donnovan."
"Hi, Megan, It's Tony. I was just wondering if you got the lab results back yet."
Megan smiled at the sound of the voice, answering, "Hi, Tony. Yes. I faxed the toxicology results over to the police department yesterday. They were negative. But the GMCS showed some slightly abnormal chemical elements. Unfortunately that could take anywhere from a week to a month for the chemist to figure out exactly what the chemical strands mean."
Tony wasn't even angry the police had not told her the toxicology was negative. She had just felt like talking with someone normal. Yeah, right...her mind supplied.
"Ok, well thanks. I was just curious." Tony answered trying to think of some other business to talk about. "Do you still want to go tomorrow? You don't have to, you know."
"Of course I want to go tomorrow. I told
you, the Flats will be rocking. It's the best time to go. I'll be there at 9,"
wondering why that came up again.
The conversation had been monitored very closely by one of the men in the room and a diabolic idea was born.
Saturday morning, no longer able to stand the
confines of the hotel room for another minute, Tony grabbed the phone book, made a few
phone calls and left after pulling on her heaviest jeans, a T-shirt, jean jacket and a
pair of well-worn black boots.
Enjoying the feel of the wind against her face, Tony maneuvered the bike crazily up the hill, the rear wheel skidding back and forth when she goosed the gas. Reaching the top of the hill and looking at the cratered track heading almost straight down with turns meandering throughout the area, she let out a yelp of joy. Building her speed down the hill she laid the bike almost flat on a sharp curve, the only balance offered was a strong leg. Negotiating the hair pin curve at a speed never intended, dirt and dust went flying. Seeking greater challenges Tony entered an S curve pushing the speed. Rider and bike became as one navigating the dangerous curves each responding to the strains put upon it. Careening out of the turn into a swell of hills, adrenaline racing through her body and heady with the excitement, Tony's wild grin was at odds with the dirt covered sweaty face. Leaning forward to gather momentum, she automatically increased the speed before forcefully throwing her body back, and rotating the bike up. She crested the hill, rider and bike leaving the ground effortlessly. Shifting her weight forward for maximum extension, she guided the bike to the next hill and the next.
A few hours later, her excess energy finally expended, Tony removed her helmet and returned the bike.
Megan decided to go to Bally's. She usually stopped three to four times a week. Not only did she take pride in staying in shape, but it allowed her mind a break from the pressures of the job. Today, she needed a distraction before she drove herself crazy with self-analysis.
Debating on whether to warm up on the stationary bike or the murderous stair stepper, she decided to go for the physical challenge of the latter. Finishing her warm up, she continued on to the Nautilus machines, working through a regimen designed specifically for her. She then went upstairs and began lazily jogging around the track.
Hearing someone moving up quickly behind her, she moved to the side. The runner pulled even with her and said, "Hi, Doc, you aren't going very fast."
"Hi Mark," Megan replied ignoring his standard greeting.
"Have you eaten yet? Do you want to stop when you're finished?"
Megan was not ready to go home to her empty apartment yet. Why not, she decided. "Ok, but give me half an hour to shower and change."
"No problem," he smiled, happy that she had agreed.
After being seated and ordering, Mark asked, "Anything new on the case?"
Megan was in no mood to discuss the case. "I'm surprised you're not over at the station asking around. You'd find out a lot more over there. Is that why you wanted to go to lunch?" she asked testily.
"Megan, you know better than that. You seem preoccupied. What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry Mark. I just don't want to discuss the case right now," she answered honestly.
Adroitly changing the subject, he asked, "Did you see the game last night?"
Megan and Mark finished lunch discussing the Indians and whether or not they would make a return trip to the World Series.
Much later, Megan looked in the closet trying to decide what to wear. She skimmed through skirts, slacks, and dresses, looking at each, undecided. The attire of the Flats was anything from cutoffs to dressy. Pulling a pair of peach colored slacks out of the closet, she added an off-white blouse and decided that would do.
After showering and blowing her hair dry, Megan looked at her choice of clothes and decided she didn't want to wear that tonight. Going through her closet again, she finally pulled out a simple sleeveless teal dress, whose only ornament was a belt around the waist. Holding it up against her in front of the mirror, she liked the way it set off her eyes. A thought danced through her mind, you'd think you were going on a hot date or something. Megan banished the idea thinking, this is business, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice. Megan took more time than usual with her make-up and hair until she decided it was just right before departing.
Tony took much less time with her attire, choosing black light weight slacks and a long blue shirt. Checking her appearance carefully one last time, she went down to wait for Megan.
Seeing Megan walking toward her, Tony flashed a
grin, her eyes slowly soaking in the sight with appreciation. She shoved her overzealous
libido down warning herself, no more mistakes. "Hi, there."
"Hi," Megan smiled back as she discretely took in the image before her thinking, she is so beautiful.
"Are we going to take the train down again?"
"Yeah, I think it's better than driving down there."
They began walking toward the station and all of a sudden Megan found herself tongue tied. She realized she was nervous. She couldn't think of a thing to say.
Tony noticed her nervousness and was not surprised. Who could blame her? Ok, what's a good neutral subject? "Have you lived in Cleveland long?" knowing the answer, but wanting to relax her companion.
Megan, finding her voice, smiled in appreciation, "Yes, I was born here and have lived here ever since. I thought about leaving once, but my sister talked me out of it. We're pretty close and I realized I would really miss her."
"How about you? Where were you born?" Megan inquired.
"Boston." Anticipating the next question, she added, "I left there when I joined the FBI and have just traveled around to the places they've sent me since then."
"You don't have a Boston accent."
"I know. In my line of work you have to be able to adapt. You can't adapt with a regional accent."
Both relaxed and conversed easily with each other as they rode the train to the Flats. Arriving there, Megan and Tony began a slow leisurely walk past the clubs, bars, and diners just taking in the sights around them.
Tony noticed that most of the nightclubs were so crowded people were standing out on the sidewalk in front of them holding drinks and socializing on the streets. This was definitely not her type of place. It was much too crowded.
Megan had been a regular visitor to the Flats when she had dated Ray and although she hadn't been down at night for quite a while, nothing had changed. After they had walked the entire area Megan asked, "Do you want to go in some of the places now."
"Yeah, that would be good. But we'll be lucky to find anyplace to sit," Tony commented.
"Oh, I know some places we can try. That place over there plays jazz and they're usually not too crowded." Megan turned toward the nightclub leading the way.
Tony had been using her senses to assess the area as they had walked and had so far felt absolutely no threat of any kind other than that usually associated with a very busy, drink catering, night life area. Following Megan, she relaxed slightly. She knew the biggest threat in an area like this was probably muggings and drunks.
Entering the nightclub, Tony noticed an empty table near the back of the room. Turning to Megan, she said, "Let's go sit over there."
Megan seeing a closer table near the band stopped, and said, "What's wrong with this table?"
"I can't see everyone from that table,"
Tony answered succinctly.
"Oh, yeah...right," Megan had been enjoying herself so much, she had almost forgot the reason they had come in the first place.
Tony ordered a coke, knowing the night was going to be a long one and wanting to be totally alert. Megan had every intention of ordering a drink, but changed her mind when she heard Tony's order and settled on a Pepsi
"What do you think so far?" Megan asked, figuring Tony had plenty of time to get a sense of the place.
"Well it's certainly a thriving area," Tony replied, thinking of all the people out on the sidewalks.
"I used to come down here quite a bit, but this is the first time I've been here in a few years. It's still the same though. I remember before my sister got married, we'd come down and bar hop. We used to have fun. We were always careful to stay together though, just as a precaution." Megan saw no reason to add that she and Ray had been regulars.
Just then an attractive man approached the table,
looking at Tony he asked, "Mind if I join you?" Tony looked at him, her eyes
hooded, and smiled brazenly. "Yeah, I mind. We're having a private
conversation," she drawled. Tony almost laughed at the effect she had on him. That
had been fun.
"Yeah, right. Some other time." He backed away blushing, lewd thoughts running rampant through his mind.
Megan's heart fluttered at the look Tony had flashed the guy. God is she sexy, rolled around in her mind. Tony turned back toward Megan and said, with a shrug of a shoulder, "I didn't feel like entertaining tonight."
Megan decided to change the subject. This woman was having an unsettling effect on her.
Walking along the crowded streets, it became
harder and harder to move amidst the inebriated partying sidewalk dwellers. Megan was
having trouble staying up with Tony. Her small stature commanded no respect and she was
jostled about mercilessly. Tony seeing Megan's plight, gently took her arm pulling her
closer and cleared the way. Enjoying the feel of the soft skin of the arm beneath her
hand, she grudgingly relinquished her hold once they cleared the more crowded area.
When Megan felt the warm strong hand pull her close, she became so distracted she would have walked into a light pole if Tony hadn't guided her around it. After that she figured she'd better concentrate on where she going. When Tony removed her hand, she almost sighed with disappointment.
With the wildly beating tempo of music and people throbbing around them, talking was impossible. Arriving at a part of the Flats where the noise was more bearable, Tony asked Megan, "Do you want to stop in someplace and sit down for a while?"
"That would be great. These crowd's are getting a little to boisterous for me," replied Megan as she thought about getting Tony away from the crowds, into a one on one situation. Yeah, that would be real good. What good it would do her was another matter. But she figured she worry about one thing at a time. She just wanted her all to herself.
"Let's go in here." Megan grabbed
Tony's arm and pulled her toward the open door. Tony almost grabbed her arm back and then
decided, what the hell, and followed along letting the smaller woman lead the way.
It was her neck of the woods after all. Tony thought they must have stopped in every night
club and bar along the whole strip. She also thought about her impressions of the place.
While she was sure Megan had not exaggerated about the crime, tonight seemed relatively
peaceful. It was late and Tony unconsciously began to relax. The evening had been
enjoyable. Megan was absolutely engaging and Tony was unaware of being inexorably drawn
Entering the night club, they found a table with a pretty good view of the club. Tony decided she was done working for the night and ordered bourbon and coke. Megan following suit ordering a fuzzy navel.
Engaging in the comfortable conversation that had marked most of the evening, Megan began telling Tony some of the humorous aspects of growing up in a house with an attorney for a father and his way of solving disputes between her siblings. She purposely left out her personal relationship with her Father. Megan found that she loved to talked to Tony and watch the small smile that would appear on her face from time to time. She was glad that Tony seemed more relaxed than she had earlier when they were roaming the streets and clubs.
They ordered another drink. Tony was totally captivated by the young woman and her delightful way of expressing herself.
They were mostly through their second drink when a tall blonde man approached their table. Tony silently assessed him, but the focus of her attention was Megan. The small woman wasn't paying attention to anyone except Tony and was unaware of his approach.
"Hi Megan. It's been a long time."
Megan looked up surprised to hear the familiar voice. She had always felt bad about hurting Ray and while they had parted amicably she still felt a little guilty.
Smiling at him, Megan said, "Hi." Ray pulled out a chair and joined them. Leaning over and giving Megan a kiss on the cheek, he said, "you're even more beautiful than I remember."
Megan blushed, saying, "Thanks. Ray, this is
Tony. She's an FBI agent working on the Shadow case."
Ray looked over at Tony, exchanged greetings, and decided even though she was attractive, she sure looked intimidating.
Megan had been caught totally off guard by Ray's appearance and didn't notice the slight narrowing of Tony's eyes.
Ray, pleased to see Megan again, launched into a discussion of the good old days, and their escapades in the Flats drawing Megan into the discussion with him.
Tony watched the relaxed interaction between the two for about 15 minutes before an unfamiliar emotion raced through her. Recognizing it, she knew she need some space and fast. Rising she said, "I'm going to take a look around. I'll be back shortly," and departed before either could utter a word.
Moving quickly to the door, Tony exited, and for the first time in years was totally oblivious to her surroundings. Forcefully trying to gain the upper hand on her rolling emotions, she moved rapidly down the length of the Flats turning into the last alley. Stopping she finally put a name to the emotion she had been assaulted with - jealousy. But that makes no sense. There is nothing to be jealous of. Her mind began waging a battle, the force of her will against emotions held in check for way too long. Tony had mastered the practice of deceit and deception, always controlling her emotions that finally, turned loose, they were wrecking havoc in her mind. Tony felt betrayed. She had always relied on her mind to provide her with a part to play. It had always complied. But what Tony had yet to realize was that her mind had not failed her. It had just given her the hardest part of all. That of being herself.
Unable to fight the onslaught any longer, a calmness pervaded her. Tony thought of the way Megan smiled, the gentle curve of her lips that lit up her whole face. The gorgeous eyes with the green and gold swirling around vying for dominance. The sharp mind that pretty little head contained and the gentle curves of her body. She pictured the strong shapely legs and the gentle roll of her walk. She was so fresh and untainted...so far removed from Tony's own world.
Tony sighed realizing what she was going to have to do. Her mind returned to the afternoon she and Megan had come to the Flats to look at the crime scenes. She remembered the effect Megan had on her and when she thought she had a felt connection, she remembered all too clearly the way Megan had practically ran from her down the alley. She would return to Megan and Ray and enjoy what was left of the evening. She would then step out of the other woman's life just as quickly as she had stepped into it.
Emerging from her introspection, a sound behind her registered. She began turning and felt a agonizing blow to her back, the pain staggering her momentarily. Grabbing her gun from the small of her back, Tony began racing after the figure running down the alley, her only thought that of pursuit. Nearing the end of the alley, she was gaining on him when all of a sudden a wave of dizziness surged through her. She felt herself stagger and came to a stop fighting to maintain her balance.
Megan was caught totally off guard by Tony's abrupt departure. After deliberating for about 30 seconds, she decided to follow. "Ray, it's not safe for her to be by herself out there. I'm going to go with her."
"Come on. I'll help you find her. It's bad enough her walking around alone, you don't need to be too."
Megan, glad to have help to find her, reached the door and looked both ways. Not seeing Tony she started down the sidewalk. They quickly looked in the door of each nightclub and glanced down each alley. Megan was beginning to worry even though no more than five minutes could have passed. There was only one alley left.
Looking down the alley, Megan saw the tall woman stagger, and begin swaying. Megan tore down the alley, reaching Tony in seconds, gently placing her arms around her, and with Ray's help, eased her to the ground.
Megan's trained eyes quickly assessed the large amount of blood coming from Tony's back and she ordered Ray, "Go get some towels from that bar and call an ambulance. Hurry!"
Megan knew Tony had passed out when they lowered
her to the ground. Grabbing the bottom of Tony's shirt, and pulling it toward her, she
wadded it up placing it over the wound while simultaneously applying pressure. Checking
Tony over with her other hand, she noted the weak rapid pulse, the fast shallow breathing
and the cool, clammy skin. Megan knew how dangerous shock was. Finishing the quick
examination, finally satisfied that the only wound was to her back, she noticed Tony's
fingers were still curled around a gun. Megan didn't like guns, so not knowing why she did
it, she eased it out of Tony's hand and placed it in her purse. Realizing there was
nothing more she could do except wait for the ambulance, a feeling of total helplessness
washed over her.
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