Back on duty, Andrews was waiting for me with a warning. Someone had taken over the investigations into Lydia’s murder and the death of the courier. The disks had been confiscated and the new investigators would probably be talking to me.
I could tell from his expression that something was up, and it wasn’t good. I thanked him for the warning, but I could tell there was more. He looked at me, his expression very serious. “You saw those pictures.”
I nodded. “Yeah,” I sighed. “I had to know what to do with them, and it was the only way to find out.” I didn’t think it was necessary to tell him that I hadn’t just seen them– I’d made copies. Copies that were now safely tucked away in a secondary safety deposit box under an assumed name.
I may be slow, but I do catch on.
The investigators were Federal, and they had the mirrored shade-cop look down pat. I got called into the Captain’s office and introduced to them between calls. They asked me about the call and didn’t I think it was odd that the woman asked me to hold onto the disks for her.
From what I’ve seen of this place, that’s just Seattle on a Saturday night. I told them as much.
When they asked me the next question, I knew they were studying me, I could feel one of them zoom in on my pupil and I knew he was watching for any change in my blood vessels. A rather effective lie detector without having to get my permission.
“Did you look at the pictures?”
I nodded. “Yeah,” I admitted. “I wasn’t sure who to send them to.”
“Are you holding out on us?”
I turned and gave Fed #2 a look. “I’m a medic,” I told him. “Lady gave me two disks, said they were important. I figured it was either new Elvis sightings or something for the police.”
“What made you think it was a police matter?”
I resisted the urge to say, ‘No signs of Elvis.’ and told them the truth. It was all a matter of record anyway and it was the safest way to play it.
I don’t think they entirely believed me, but it was pretty much a matter of public record. I could tell they wanted to ask more questions, but we got called out. I left to their promise of seeing me again.
We got a call close to Aztechnology and I came in on the motorcycle. They victim looked like he’d been roughed up and dragged there. Roughed up? More like mauled. The cuts were made in parallel groups of three and four.
I couldn’t help but notice the way the guards studied me as I worked on the man. It was enough to set anybody on edge. The man was in shock, and I tried to stabilize him as Ray arrived with the truck.
As we lifted him into the truck, something fell from his hand. I had about 3 seconds to look at it before one of the guards was there, taking it from me. There was something in his eyes that told me I did not want to fight him on this.
Silently I climbed into the truck and Ray got us rolling. I looked out the back window and could see the guard watching us as we drove away. The look he gave was enough to send shivers down anybody’s spine.
We got the man to the hospital in time, but it doesn’t look good. He’s probably got a 30% chance right now. When we went to get my bike, the guard was still there. He’d moved my bike behind the gate, for safety’s sake.
As I went to reclaim it, he put a hand on my shoulder. “Curiosity is a dangerous thing Jessica Miller, beware of those who hunt the night.”
I turned and looked at him questioningly, but it was almost as if he hadn’t said anything. As I wheeled my bike back onto the street, I heard him say to another guard. “She is the one.”
If that isn’t enough to send chills down your spine nothing is.
I have to admit thought, now I see why the Star hadn’t gotten anywhere with my brothers’ cases– there’s just too much stuff going on around here for it to all get sorted out, and just when you think you understand, a new layer gets added to the puzzle.
I think I’m going to stay as clear of Aztechnology as I can.
Man, what I wouldn't give for a bushel of crabs and a six pack right now. It's the end of crab season and I'm on the wrong end of the country. It doesn't help that I'm up to my elbows in mystery.
Man I wish it was just crab meat. That, I could dig into- lot safer too.
On the bright side, the guys from Baltimore aren't faring any better, but still. If I were home, they wouldn't be able to run their little campaign of trying to discredit me. That's what it boils down to. I feel like they're trying to steam me, but just can't find the right combination of spices, guess I'm not the only one having problems with the difference between cities.
I finally met them at the diner this morning. They came in after I sat down, and then flanked me on either side of my counter seat. They started asking me about Baltimore and commenting on my ‘dereliction of duty' in not treating someone in need.
I looked at them and shook my head. "You want to get to the point of all this or are you going to keep bad mouthing me and harassing me?"
The first one acted surprised, and innocent. "Harassing you?" His tone was perplexed, even though I could tell by his eyes he wasn't. "Miss Miller, we're just trying to understand why a perfectly healthy paramedic would refuse to help a man in need. A man she had endangered in the first place."
My eyes widened at that, but I forced myself to remain calm and collected. "First, I was no longer a paramedic in the city, secondly, the man in question had hit me in the left clavicle with a Louisville Slugger, rendering my arm non-functional. A person requires two hands to perform most first aid procedures, especially Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation or in his case Artificial Respiration. I therefore secured the scene and called for the paramedic staff."
The other man snorted as he looked at his coffee. "Yeah, we read what you told the police."
I shook my head. "Then you know the whole story gentlemen," I declared getting up from the counter. "And if you'll excuse me- I have a job to do."
I tried very hard not to react when one of them said something about, "We'll see about that."
I don't believe it: even from jail, the man's trying to ruin my life. I turned and sighed. "I thought it was an investigator's duty to remain objective, to explore every avenue, but then again, you aren't real investigators, you're hired guns, trying to bring me down- and that is harassment."
The didn't seem phased by what I said, but I felt better. Not that any court in their right mind would take the charges seriously, but if they twisted the truth just right it might be enough to get me hauled in and perhaps make it to court, and then the charges would remain in my jacket, a small chink in my armor.
I'd seen guys in my place ruined with less, so now I have to watch my step. Damn Aaron, he's alive because I did the right thing. I didn't roll over, I didn't die and I didn't kill the bastard when I had a chance. Maybe that was my mistake. No, I start thinking like that, I'm just as bad as he is. I didn't kill him because it was no longer life or death for me. And these bozo's are just using scare tactics, trying to make me slip up.
I've had a lot more time to think about those two yahoos and what they said. They are fishing, trying to pin something on me, anything. Or they're merely trying to push my buttons. Thing is if they know where I live, Aaron now knows where I live. He's in jail, but for how long. How long will it be before he convinces someone else that he was chemically imbalanced and that he's over it now. How long before he comes back into my life swinging?
And as if I didn't have enough problems, we got another call to Aztechnology: another man in front of the gate looking like he'd been through the wringer, another creepy trip back to get the bike. And of course another knowing smile from the guard.
Man, too many complications. I could really use that beer, maybe a half dozen crabs to go with it.
Okay, maybe crabs and beer are too much to ask for - how about a little sleep? This morning, no sooner did I finally lay down, and get comfortable than the door bell rang- and rang. I stumbled to the door and peeked out. It was the Feds.
"Miss Miller, we have a few questions for you. It won't take more than an hour of your time."
It took three.
At first they were asking questions about the pictures, about the accident scene, if I'd seen anything out of the ordinary, but then the conversation turned.
From then on, practically none of the questions had anything to do about Lydia Greenwood, the pictures or the courier. They had everything to do with Aaron, and Baltimore and my last night in town.
I started answering their questions, but as they progressed I shook my head. "Gentlemen, if you continue this line of questioning, I will need a lawyer present."
This seemed to interest them both. I could see them sit up in their chairs, as if I'd given them a lead.
"And why would that be Miss Miller?"
I just love it when they call me 'Miss Miller'
"Lets just say I don't want any misunderstandings in this matter," I answered evenly.
"There's no need to worry, we're just trying to learn more about you, and how you're involved in this case. Nothing dangerous or clandestine..."
I shook my head. "I have every reason to be suspicious," I answered. "Especially since you're asking questions based on rumor and innuendo instead of actual police records."
"There's no reason to be suspicious."
They tried reassuring me, but I had had enough. "Gentlemen, Since I've arrived in Seattle, I have been mistaken for a burglar breaking into my brother's apartment; harassed by gangers; shot at in a random drive by; arrested while trying to administer first aid after said drive by; drugged by organ leggers, who were using a new catch and release program; turned into a guinea pig for some banned pharmaceuticals; used as bait in a multiple murder case; drugged; questioned; terrorized; been thrown into the middle of what's looking like a federal case; played clay pigeon to a scam artist with more than money on his mind; harassed by a couple of supposed 'investigators' from Baltimore trying their best to discredit me in a case that has nothing to do with anything, and you all seem to be buying into it. Still wonder why I seem a bit suspicious of this whole thing?”
They stared at me. I don't think they were ready for my tirade, but its been a rather busy two months.
I finally relaxed a little and sighed. "Look, if you want a statement about what happened in Baltimore, you can get a copy of the report, the restraining order and the case history from the Inner Harbor Office of Legal affairs. If that isn't enough, I can get you copies of them, and the news clippings-- but it has nothing to do with this case, or even why I'm here, so can we get back to the topic so I can get some sleep before I have to go back to work?"
They finally recanted. I guess they realized I'm not going anywhere and maybe they should do their homework before pressing the whole Aaron thing.
I managed to squeeze in 7 hours of sleep, but it meant getting up and going straight to work, no trid, no cats, no nothing. I hate days like that, cause that's not living.
The shift was peaceful for a change and I'm happy to say there were no more calls to Aztechnology.
I think I can officially say, without any hesitation or reservations, that I have completely and utterly had it!
I’m tired of living under a microscope, I’m tired of being watched, questioned, followed, and I am really tired of seeing people I care about getting hurt. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I just...
Okay... deep breath. The morning started out normally enough. The guys from Baltimore had me under surveillance. They were in this big white van that could have easily had “HI WE’RE WATCHING JESS MILLER” stenciled on the side.
The only bright part of the day was when I got to spend some quality time with the cats. They were taking turns going for extra cute points and vying for affection. But between the van and the feds and the rumors they were feeding everyone– I’m just glad everybody knows me well enough to know what I would and wouldn’t do.
Everybody but the Feds that is. They seem really chummy with the ‘Balmer boys. I tried to shake it, but the screamin’ heebie-jeebees were going pretty strong. I think I would have been able to handle everything, but I had another one of those... ‘blackouts’ while I was waiting for Ray in the truck after one of our runs.
This time I remembered everything, and believe you me, it was not fun. The woman knew I was hiding something from her. She knew! More to the point the man with her knew and he made sure I knew he knew, I could feel him in my mind. And if that weren’t bad enough, Big Dark and blobby turned out to be an Orc with a very twisted sense of humor, and a very mean back hand.
She gave me one more chance to ‘redeem myself.’ Like I need some lady who’s given herself the right to stand in judgement of others based on her twisted sense of morality telling me what I should be doing. Wonder how she’d feel if she were on the receiving end of her little wonder chem.
I wonder how she’d like being the member of the herd to be culled.
Yeah, I’m in a dark mood. ‘Cause that wasn’t even the worst of it – we got another call to Aztechnology. And this one was worse than the last two, a lot worse.
It was Fin.
Yeah, I got the call, first responder... I get there and I’m trying to find out how bad it is when I get a good eyeful of torn flesh, and that all too familiar grin. I mean...
There’s no way I can take much more of this. Its just too much. Ray understood. He picked up the bike for me... I stayed with Fin until we were sure he as over the worst of it. They’re still not sure how complete his recovery will be.
I don’t know how I’m going to take anymore. This has just been– too much.
I woke up around 2:30. I was still rather freaked over yesterday. A call to the hospital and they assured me that Fin would be all right, given time to heal. He checked out around 5:30, hasn’t been seen since.
Not that I blame him. Aztechnology has a reputation for how it deals with its enemies. From the looks of things, it's been earned. I tried to lose myself in ‘normal’ things. Cleaning the condo, dusting– laundry. But even the condo is a reminder of how completely out of kilter everything is around here.
I thought about calling Mario, but I didn’t want him to help me on this– it was something I needed to work through on my own. I think he knew something was wrong, but he also had the sense to leave me alone when I was in the laundry room.
By six I was starting to get hungry and was about to leave when somebody rang my doorbell. It was Ray. Well, the first view I had was the can of beer he was holding in front of the viewer. When he was sure I was there he pulled it back to reveal a rather irritated blue crab.
I don’t think I could have opened the door fast enough.
It was just what I needed. I didn’t need any fancy meal, just a table coated in newspaper and spices and goo. A bushel of crabs, some beer, and a friend to share it with was all it took. We didn’t talk. We just steamed them up and had ourselves a crab feast.
One by one, my friends stopped by, mostly checking on me, making sure I was okay. Some stayed, a few even tried the crabs. Mario, Trina, Mrs MacAdders, even Saunders stopped by, saying he was a little worried when he didn’t see me down at the station. He tried one of the crabs, but said it was way too much work to get such a small amount of meat.
Sometimes, that’s the point, and sometimes, the work makes it all that much better. Guess that’s life in a crab shell.
Its amazing: some crabs, some good friends and a good night’s sleep can work wonders. I’m still not sure how much I can handle, but at least I’m handling things today. I stopped by the morgue and visited with Dr. Chen, got Andrews’ latest list of JD’s and spent pretty much the rest of the day hospital hopping.
Another thing that amazes is how quickly people get used to things. I think every duty nurse in every major hospital knows me by now. If they don’t, they’ve at least heard of me. I rarely get a raised eyebrow anymore when I ask to see their John Doe cases.
While I was out, I stopped by Council Island and visited Mike and the rest of the Walkers. Jonathan knew immediately that I’d seen the mystery woman and her assistants again. He also had some more information for me.
Seems one of the Senior VP’s from ValenzBioChem had left the company in a big hurry after Doc River’s arrest. He also found out that her limo had been in an unreported fender bender a few weeks ago. Betcha the paint matches the sample they pulled from my bike.
Mrs. Walker was very concerned that I was still in danger. I didn’t think it was wise to mention the little...incident at Aztechnologies. Somehow, I don’t think they’d look too well on what I’d done, whatever it was I had been involved in.
I couldn’t stay long, but as always it was a peaceful interlude in the middle of the day. Or it would have been if it weren’t for the latest bit of news. I ended up stopping by central and checking the records for calls near Aztechnology
I may have been off duty, but that didn’t mean there hadn’t been another attack. There had, and another mauling victim had been found out in front of the gate. I was reading through the report when I found a picture of victim number four. I knew this victim as well, it was the Guard who’d – warned me?
Was it a warning or a threat? I’m beginning to wonder. He said something about ‘... beware...’ and ‘those who hunt the night’. I’m not sure I want to know more, of course I’m in this mess because I didn’t want to know more, and now Fin’s taken off for parts unknown. If I had sense, I’d leave too, but I have a job to do, and I think I’ve pretty much established the fact that I have no sense.
I caught sight of the white van several times during the day. They tried to follow me onto the island and were stopped. Thank God for small favors.
I made it back to the condo in time for dinner with Trina and Mario, but I had a lot on my mind, and a lot of things to worry about. I don’t think I was very good company.
Well, this morning the feds stopped by my place, not to question me, but to deliver a subpoena. Great way to start the morning– I am wanted before a federal review board for my actions or lack thereof in the case of one Aaron Mistopholes of Baltimore.
The date on it was for today, one hour from the time they showed up at my door. Talk about feeling railroaded. Good thing I was still in my sleep cloths, cause otherwise I don’t think they’d have given me a chance to change. I tried to make a call, but they nixed that as well. So much for being there to ‘help’ me.
I tried to explain that there were people who were expecting me, but they came back with something about this not taking long. Then they were reaching for their handcuffs.
The whole thing stunk and I knew it, but I didn’t know what to do. If they were on the up and up and I resisted, things could get pretty nasty. On the other hand, if they weren’t, things already were pretty nasty.
“You don’t need those,” I stated backing away slightly. “And if you feel you do, then I want uniformed officers from the Star here... Officers that I know.”
I don’t think they were expecting that.
“Miss Miller, this is merely a precaution,” one of them said soothingly as he once again moved closer.
“Exactly,” I answered evenly. “That’s why I want the added precaution of uniformed officers of the law to carry this out.”
They looked at each other for a minute. “I’m afraid we really don’t have time.”
My heart was racing now. I’d let them into the apartment, assumed they were on the up and up and now things were getting more and more hinky.
“Miss Miller, if you will please turn around and place your hands behind your back,” Fed number one stated.
“Uniformed services,” I repeated. “It will take them less than 5 minutes to get somebody over here.”
They didn’t like my attitude, I didn’t like theirs, but in the end, there were two of them and I didn’t want to add assault to whatever charges had been cooked up. Only problem was, I was finally catching on that things were a lot worse than I thought and the whole thing was probably a setup.
They led me out to a waiting black Americar with government plates. At least that part wasn’t cocked up. I don’t think I’ve been that scared in a very long time. With everything else that’s happened so far, I didn’t have time to worry; time to think about what could or might happen. Now I had nothing but time.
As soon as I was in the car, I started working on the handcuffs. I figured that if they were on the level they might understand, but from the looks of things, they weren’t and I needed every chance I could get. It took me a good five minutes, but I did mange to get them unlocked.
The drive in seemed straight forward enough, until I recognized the building from Lydia Greenwood’s pictures. Fed #2 turned towards me. I could tell he was focusing on my pupils again, looking for any capillary reactions. “Do you recognize this area?”
There was no use lying. “That building was Lydia Greenwood’s pictures,” I answered nodding towards the building from the pictures.
I couldn’t help but notice the half nod he gave his partner as he guided the car away from the center of the city, away from the federal buildings and away from the courthouse. My heart sank. The inspectors from Baltimore had been a perfect diversion, the perfect setup. They weren’t worried about my credibility, just about a way of controlling the situation. I had no doubt that I was about to have an ‘unfortunate accident.’
I was contemplating something desperate when the car was rear-ended by a white van. The same van that had been following me since the investigators from Baltimore had shown up. Fed number one opened the door and held out his badge as he moved towards the driver’s side of the van while Fed number two kept an eye on me.
Investigator number one got out of the van and was yelling at Fed number one. I noticed that his voice had grown slightly nasal, and he was pouring on the Dundalk accent. Fed number Two was splitting his concentration between me and his partner, when Investigator number Two knocked on the car window and pointed his gun at Fed number Two.
I was relieved to have been rescued, but was even more wary when Investigator 2 started to herd me towards the van. “Miss Miller,” he told me in a gruff voice. “We don’t have time. We’ll explain later.”
I nodded and grabbed his gun, using one of the Chi na’s Matt had taught me to break his hold on it. I tucked it under my belt and backed away. “I’ll be at the main Star station,“ I told him, then I turned and ran as fast as I could.
I hate not knowing who to trust, but it would have been the perfect setup. Suspect flees Federal custody, only to turn up dead elsewhere. I figured if anybody had a legitimate beef, they could talk to me downtown.
Nobody every showed. I reported the whole thing to Andrews, and he reported it to his captain, who then reported it to the Federal Marshall’s service. Only problem was of course, they’d turned over all their evidence to the Feds.
They were all rather ticked off. Without those pictures they had nothing and they knew it. I let out a heavy sigh and asked Andrews to provide an escort to the bank and my safety deposit box. I grabbed a few blank disks on the way out and made an extra set of backups at the bank. I don’t think they’re going to lose these.
Tuns out there actually a Federal inquiry I was supposed to attend, but under the extenuating circumstances, its been postponed. Thank God for small favors.
After a rather lengthy discussion, they decided that I needed to be put into protective custody. I was now a Federal witness. I put my foot down on that, or at least I tried to.
“Look,” I told them. “I appreciate the offer, but we’re already one medic short, you take me away and you’re going to lose a lot of the city’s emergency medics, cause the others are going to have to take up that much more slack, and the job has a rather high attrition rate as it is.”
Again there was a lengthy discussion and this time they came up with a compromise. I would have a Marshall with me at all times. I tried to object about it getting in the way of my work, but they ‘issued’ me a Marshall who was also a certified Paramedic.
Somehow, I think the big danger is over, but its nice to have someone who understands watching my back. And Citywide doesn’t even have to pay him.