The MCRT, Morlocks, MGH and Murder

Part 1: Chapter 6

Remy had returned to his desk only to drop off the work mail he had no intention of going through at the moment. He figured he might as well take Clay’s advice, since he felt shitty anyways and wouldn’t be useful at work. After returning from West Virginia, he had taken a shower because he was cold and smelled of smoke, also throwing up always made him sweaty, and he had brushed his teeth to remove the acidic lemonade and vomit taste. Then he met Ororo for dinner at one of the eateries on the compound, though he ate nothing.

But now, back at his desk, he dropped the mail right in the center of it and then pulled on his gloves. And then the infernal phone started to ring. Goddamnit. He cursed mentally. Just pretend you’re not here, he told himself as it rang again. But, guilt made him grit his teeth and he caught the phone just before it switched to voice mail. He cleared his throat, to try to sound normal, since sometime after the plane ride he had noticed he sounded pretty far from normal. “LeBeau,” he answered.

It turned out to be one of his least favorite persons. Ms. Lisa Pare. “Evening, Ms. Pare,” he said, struggling to keep his voice neutrally polite. “What can I do for you? Is Sammy alright?”

“Well, you see,” it was clear she was crying, or at least trying to sound as if she was, “I don’t think so. He was really angry when he came to visit me, he always visits me Tuesday nights, and he just wouldn’t tell me why. I think he’s missing.”

Remy sniffled, for an entirely different reason than Lisa, and said, “Do you know if Sammy has been under any recent pressures lately? An upcoming test, perhaps, or maybe a fight with a friend?”

Remy knew exactly what Lisa was going to say. “No, I guess he’s been real distant lately,” she replied.

Him or you? Remy thought, but didn’t say, and settled on, “How long is lately, Ms. Pare?” He tried to keep the phone conversations as polite as possible, and always did his best to make his mood match appropriately to whatever situation. Usually, in person, he didn’t manage as well, and dropped the ‘ma’am and miss’ charade and just called her Lisa. It was a lot nicer than what he might have called the notoriously absent and irresponsible mother.

“I don’t know,” Lisa replied, and it sounded as if her face was now dry and she might not have even cried one bit. “How are these questions helping to find my son?” She sounded annoyed, perhaps upset that he didn’t take her at her word.

Remy sniffled again, and swallowed painfully. He was both physically and emotionally sick and tired and did not have the desire to talk to this woman, nor did he have the desire to look for her son. “I’m trying to get a feel for how Sammy is feeling lately. It will help me find him.”

“Can we meet somewhere? I can give you his stuff.”

What the hell do you think I’m gonna do with his stuff? Get a fucking scent? “I don’t see why that would be necessary, Lisa,” he responded. He muffled a cough into his arm.

“I’m trying to help you, Agent LeBeau, and you’re being an asshole,” she said stiffly, and like an award winning actress dissolved into more tears.

Suddenly his head was pounding harder than it had all day. “I’m sorry, it wasn’t my intent,” he apologized as sincerely as he was able. “Why do you think Sammy’s stuff will help me find him?”

“I think he’s in a gang. I want you to look in his room and through his stuff.”

Remy muffled another cough, this one accompanied by slightly louder friends, and he replied, “Okay. I’ll send a couple of agents out to your house to take a look at Sammy’s room.” He had every intention of being asleep by the time the agents would return from the East Salem Apartments where Ms. Pare had recently moved to.

“I don’t want anyone else to look through Sammy’s stuff. He trusts you.”

If only everyone could get what they wanted, Remy thought, as the vision of his comfortable bed diminished. He could imagine the scene perfectly if he refused her. She would not cooperate with whomever he sent, and as past events could attest to, she might even get physical. He did not want to send two clueless rookies to her house only to have one of them assaulted. “Give me an hour, Lisa.”

Rookies ended up with shit details more often than not, and the two rookies that were currently under his tutelage were Anna Marie Caldecott and Kurt Wagner. He was hoping against all hopes that Kurt was being his usual self and taking a half-day, because he didn’t have the patience to deal with Kurt tonight, and was glad to see just Anna Marie in their sanctioned off area. Sometimes, she wasn’t pleasant to deal with either, but at least she didn’t talk to him like she thought he was stupid, like Kurt did. “Hey, you want to get some valuable experience?” he asked her, and attempted his usual rakish smile.

Anna Marie paused the presentation on Captain America’s third visit to Iraq and looked at her superior agent. Though she still had a lot to learn about the job, she had worked with Remy for long enough to notice a few things about him personally. “Sugar, you look just awful.”

“I feel about that way, too,” he admitted, too damn tired to care about saving face.

She slipped on her conservative brown pumps, watching clips of the aforementioned Avenger did not require shoes, only a feeling of respect, and she stood up, pulling on her coat as she did so. “I’m always up to some learning,” she replied, with a shy smile of her own.

“Great. Do you know where the East Salem Apartments are?” They left the Rotunda through the main entrance and started towards the parking lot.

Anna Marie made a face. “Yeah. I take it this isn’t going to be a rose garden type of trip.”

“Sorry, Ms. Anderson, I never promised you a rose garden,” Remy replied, smiling. Though he didn’t listen to country music much, he knew she did.

“We’d be lucky to find green grass, I suppose,” she muttered, somewhat bitterly. It wasn’t exactly true, because Salem was a pretty nice place to be, but in Anna Marie’s experience, the people that lived in the aforementioned apartment complex were not. They were, as a whole, lazy and content to live out their lives bitching about things but doing nothing about it. Okay, so she knew one person from there – and he was like that.

Remy turned to sneeze into cupped hands. “Excuse me,” he said apologetically.

“Bless you,” Anna Marie said.

“Thank you,” Remy answered and with the automatic button, unlocked the car door.

“Who exactly are we visiting?” Anna Marie asked as she slid into the passenger seat.

“Do you get car sick?” He had once not asked the question and was sorry when Dr. Emma Frost nearly ruined the interior. And pulling over to the side of a road while driving on a four lane road was difficult when one was in the express lane in heavy traffic.

“No, why?”

“I’ll let you read the file on the way then.” He handed her a flash drive that would fit into her tablet, one that the big cheese, Mr. Tony Stark recommended they use. “It’ll fill you in on Ms. Lisa Pare and her son, Sammy. Save me my voice, anyways.” Which was a good thing, considering his voice was already pretty well worn.

It was extensive, and through the forty minute drive, Anna Marie had been only able to glance through the most recent half. But she learned enough.

“According to Lisa,” Remy filled in as he found them a parking spot as close as possible to the cheery white and sea green building that for some reason made Anna Marie upset, “Sammy might be in a gang, has been distant lately and she has no idea where he might have gone after he visited with her earlier in the afternoon.” He paused to clear his sore throat and continued, “According to Sammy’s RA, he did not make the mandatory check-in time after lunch.”

“So he’s been missing for about six or seven hours then,” Anna Marie supplied. “It seems that this isn’t unusual for the boy.”

“I agree. But, policy requires we check out every complaint for a student enrolled in high school classes or below. Though Lisa makes enough of them to require her own personal agent, if you ask me.”

“You don’t like her very much, I’m assuming?” Anna Marie asked, getting out the car.

Remy shut his side and said, “Not particularly. Let’s just say she thought she would take our first meeting to a very different place than I had in mind.”

Anna Marie laughed. “She came onto you?” It was funny to think that Remy would be made uncomfortable by a brazen woman, or that he might be unaccustomed to being hit on, because she knew for certain he was hit on by every type, age and gender. But, she hadn’t yet met Lisa Pare.

“And when I refused, she assumed I was gay and told me she was quite all right having sex with someone of my persuasion. At the time, Sammy was a very frightened ten year old who had just fully transformed into a fish-like mutant.”

Anna Marie assessed that Lisa was a very inappropriate woman. Remy sneezed again, twice. He excused himself, and sounded irritated.

“Oh my, bless you. So, what would you like me to do?” She meant either talk to Lisa or look through Sammy’s room.

“Just follow my lead. We’ll most likely have to listen to Lisa’s long, sad and pointless story first before we’ll have access to Sammy’s room. I’m not sure if I think he’s actually in a gang, but looking in his room is at least a good start.”

“And what about finding Sammy?”

“I already have a couple of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers searching the school grounds. I can’t be sure at this point Sammy is even missing.” Sammy had been quote, unquote ‘missing’ at least seven times in the two years since Remy had worked with him and his mother. He was always found within the first few hours in some place he was supposed to be.

They walked up the path to the apartment complex, and were lucky enough to go in as a couple was exiting. Anna Marie unexpectedly dodged the couple’s eyes and held open the door for Remy, instead of the other way around. And she was never one to be offended by his southern boy chivalry. He made note of a short woman and a tallish man with a shaved head. He would ask her about it later. Lisa’s apartment was on the third floor and together, Anna Marie and Remy took the stairs. Apartment 3F looked identical to the other apartments, at least by blueprint design and the outer door.

Remy raised his hand to knock, when Anna Marie whispered, “The lights are out.”

Why sit in the dark if one was expecting company? The only room in which the apartment could suit guests was the main room. He leveled a gaze at Anna Marie quickly and then took a bobbi pin from his coat pocket. It was only weird that he was carrying one if one didn’t know him. His dexterous fingers moved gracefully and swiftly over the lock and it popped easily. He eased the door open, pushing it towards the interior of the apartment, knowing it would be relatively easy for someone to be lying in wait behind the door. Though, with it being locked, he doubted it, but wouldn’t take any chances.

Anna Marie took off her thin camel colored gloves, and noticed Remy had at least three or four playing cards in his hands. He, of course would use them as projectiles if necessary. He went in first, checking behind the door first and Anna Marie followed him, checking in the other direction. She, too, was ready to strike, in a signature move taught to her by Logan and reinforced by her, at first mandatory and now voluntary sessions with Dr. Frost. After a tentative glance through the apartment, at the front door, as protocol mandated, they announced their presence. “Lisa? Are you here?”

No auditory reply, but Anna Marie covered her nose and mouth with her hand and said, muffled and quietly, “Don’t you smell that?”

Remy detected Anna Marie’s nerves and so he only shook his head ‘no’ and pointed to his nose, indicating he couldn’t smell really anything at the moment. Anna Marie lowered her voice even lower, and she looked practically petrified. “It’s awful.”

Remy wasn’t going to try to smell it, and so, he asked, “What does it smell like?”

Anna Marie thought of a good way to describe it. “It reeks. Like…” she paused, and then added, “The wrong side of a clam bake.”

Remy pretended he understood what that meant, and attributed it to a smell similar to fish turning or spoiling, either that or shit. He figured Anna Marie would not say that. “We should check the fridge and the trash first,” he replied calmly, trying to keep her calm.

“That’s disgusting,” she replied. But it was she who opened the door and peered into foggy Tupperware and foil covered bowls and then after putting on a pair of latex gloves, took a tentative look into the trash.

Remy was busy calling Sammy’s cellular phone and then Lisa’s. “Goddamnit,” he cursed when Sammy didn’t answer and Lisa’s went straight to voicemail. Why would a mother turn her phone off if her son was missing?

“Nothing in here that smells like that,” Anna Marie said. “Or maybe my nose just can’t take any more stink.”

“I’ll check the bedrooms,” Remy said, sounding even more stuffed up than before. Anna Marie supposed it was on purpose.

“It could be coming from the bathroom,” she suggested, thinking of perhaps an unflushed toilet, or a soiled tampon. She wanted to gag but held her ground.

Remy nodded, “Be careful.”

Another wave of the smell hit her hard, or maybe it was just her mind playing tricks on her, and her eyes watered and bile rose in her throat. Swallowing carefully, not wanting to throw up in front of a superior agent she said, “How the hell can she live like this?”

Remy just shook his head and headed off towards the bedrooms, wondering now if Anna Marie were making emotional connections to the smell instead of it actually being that putrid. Everyone was guilty of it at times. Death by water scenes were always difficult for him. Bloated bodies and slipping flesh did not sit well. Maybe she didn’t like spoiled food or whatever it was that she smelled.

Anna Marie carefully entered the tiny bathroom, noticed first that the toilet was open, yet flushed. There wasn’t enough residue to elicit the kind of stink she was still smelling. The garbage can had only tissues and an e.p.t. pregnancy test inside; apparently, Ms. Lisa Pare was not having a period. She moved the shower door open carefully and saw much of the same. Stray hairs, yes. Soap scum, absolutely; but not anything horrific. She opened up the cabinet underneath the sink, and saw nothing of interest. So far, everything seemed too clean to cause a smell this awful.

Remy entered Lisa’s bedroom and finally smelled something. The overpowering smell of Lisa’s perfume. He sneezed as he pushed open her bathroom door and wondered if she spilt the whole damn bottle of eau d’obnoxious. His eyes watered and he left quickly, sneezing again, turning towards Sammy’s bedroom, entering after picking the lock.

Anna Marie joined him, after her futile search through the bathroom, and she immediately knew it was in here that held the smell. “I can’t believe you can’t smell that. It’s revolting.”

But he was beginning to. After all, nasal congestion could only do so much. Something else other than Lisa’s perfume. It smelled like turned seafood, which was one of the most disgusting food smells, and that was enough, he supposed to cause Anna Marie to be so upset. Sammy was at least part fish. He coughed, and said, “Look under the bed.”

She knelt down and peered under the bed while Remy checked the small closet. “Oh God, Remy,” Anna Marie said, “It’s coming from here.”

Remy too, got down too, and looked under the bed. “Jesus Christ,” he whispered, coughing again as he pulled on a pair of latex gloves. The box was too small to contain even someone as small as Sammy was. He reached back towards the wall and pulled out a box shipped from Fed Ex. Even through his gloves, he could feel the dampness of something – perhaps decay. The structural integrity of the box had diminished since whoever had put their treasures inside, but it held up enough to not spill its contents as Remy pulled it out. He opened it up and was surprised to find what appeared to be fish scales.

A choked sob from behind them turned their heads suddenly, forgetting for a moment their disgust and confusion, to see Ms. Lisa Pare, watching them from the doorway. “Is that what I think it is?” Her hands shook as she took them away from her mouth. “My baby’s in some kind of trouble, isn’t he?”

Anna Marie got her first look at this poor excuse for a mother. She was dressed as if she was ready for a night out. Her short, light brown hair blown out and crimped. Her blouse low and revealing, the visible petal pink push up bra doing its job. Her tight black pants provocative. And her makeup dark and sultry. Her kid was missing for seven, eight hours and this woman was ready to party. She reminded herself of the Casey Anthony case and decided not to be too judgmental. Appearances could be deceiving.

Remy was now standing and because of the combination of being lied to, going on a nasty treasure hunt and not feeling well, whatever patience he had was gone. “Where the hell were you, Lisa? I don’t appreciate being led on some goddamned wild goose chase. It never crossed your mind to let me know exactly what I would find in your son’s room?” He noted silently that the only way to lock the door was from the inside, and he wondered what that might imply.

Lisa broke down, and because of some reason she didn’t understand, Anna Marie let a woman she didn’t know collapse against her in loud, gasping sobs.

Remy squeezed his eyes shut, and turned away from her, tired of her games and tired of the steady pounding in his head, made worse by her irritating blubbering and the smell of perfume and fish. “I’m going to have to take this in,” Remy said, meaning the box, though saying so wasn’t necessary.

Lisa pulled herself slowly away from Anna Marie and wiped her face, rubbing hard but not before Remy saw there were hardly any tears to wipe away. “I wanted you to get your own impression, without me telling you what was here.”

“My impression was that you flew the coop,” he was still bitterly angry and did not want to have this conversation. He took off his soiled gloves, turning them inside out and placed them on top of the partially closed box.

Anna Marie decided it was time to learn how to do this job the hard way. “Ms. Pare?” she said, and the woman turned to her, seeming to see her for the first time. “I’m Anna Marie. I can appreciate the fact that you were trying to let us do our jobs, but you must understand that it seemed sort of fishy, don’t mind the pun, for you to not be here and the smell was rather suspicious.”

Because Anna Marie had never before met Lisa, she wasn’t aware she had just stepped into a war zone. Lisa looked at the slim beauty with gorgeous green eyes and full lips and her fury rose. She had heard the words of caution and concern expressed between Agent LeBeau and this woman from her bedroom closet and a possessiveness she had no right to feel angered her beyond reason. “And how the hell do you think I felt, Anna Marie?” Lisa snapped both viciously and sarcastically, her done up face now splotchy red with anger. “I thought my son was in a gang. I thought my baby was dead!”

Green as grass eyes widened in shock, and the ever cantankerous Anna Marie was just about ready to lose it. “That is exactly what we thought, that your son was dead and you had left, leaving us to clean up your mess.” She was nearly shaking, because for as hot tempered as she seemed, she really was just sensitive and didn’t like confrontation.

Lisa turned to Remy and slammed her fists against her hips. “Are you going to let her talk to me like this?” then she raised her voice even more and said, “Is she saying I had something to do with this? With this!” She was stabbing her fingernails into her palms as they rested against her and she hoped to restore her calm demeanor. It was harder than one could imagine playing the victim and Agent LeBeau, though polite, wasn’t usually a fool.

“No,” Remy replied quietly, finally regaining his cool. “No one is saying anything.” He touched Anna Marie gently at her elbow and said, “Would you please bring in the evidence kit that’s in the trunk?” He slipped the keys into her pocket because she still had her gloves on. He knew she needed a break, and not so much from the smell, but Lisa.

She looked into his softened espresso colored eyes and nodded slowly. “Yes sir,” she responded automatically and left, taking off her gloves with an angry snap. Though it angered her that he knew she needed a break, she was grateful. She would walk quickly out of the apartment and stand by the car taking deep breaths to calm herself down. And she would not cry, not even a little.

Remy turned back to Lisa after Anna had gone and said, “I’m more than capable of getting my own impression, you in the room, or not. Agent Caldecott is more than capable as well. And she was fair in saying we assumed the worst. Lights off, a strong smell, come on, Lisa, this isn’t our first time around the carousel.”

Lisa looked ready to cry again. Or pretend to cry, anyways. Remy said, “Enough with the waterworks. Give me time to look this over. The fact that Sammy has this in his room is cause enough for concern. However, I don’t think it means he’s in a gang. Acting out, probably. What I need from you now is the truth.”

“Sure, Agent LeBeau. I only want what’s best for my baby.”

Remy sneezed. “Excuse me,” he said quietly, and he purposely did not respond to her acclaim that she wanted what was best for her baby. “How long have you noticed the smell?”

“Um, just before I called you.”

“Really?” Remy asked, doubtful. “It smells like a landfill in here.” That was an exaggeration, of course, but he could imagine if one sat in here for hours, it would become overwhelming. “And Sammy came to visit you when?”

“I told you,” she replied, hotly. “He always visits me on Tuesdays. For lunch.”

Remy observed expressionlessly that Lisa did not answer his question. She wouldn’t want him to think she hadn’t noticed the smell because she wasn’t being the victimized little mother waiting for him. She also used vague words like ‘lunch’ when she had before used more telling words like Tuesday. But, he would ignore that for now, as always his concern was for Sammy. Someone had to care about him, after all. “He didn’t check in after lunch, for the mandatory check in. I’m assuming he took the bus or subway either right after he ate or skipped lunch altogether and came here. Is that accurate?”

Anna Marie came back inside and after putting on a fresh pair of gloves, quietly went about bagging and tagging the box of fish scales as well as taking several pictures. She also put both hers and Remy’s gloves into separate bags, labeling everything with her initials as she had been taught. She didn’t even look at Lisa.

Lisa did glance at her, though, and consequently moved closer to Remy, the movement of her body sent waves of the fuck-me-musk-and-floral perfume in his direction. His eyes watered. She replied with inappropriate affect, almost a purr, “Yeah. He ate when he was here. I made him lunch.”

“Good, that’s helpful,” Remy replied, before turning away from her to sneeze. Sniffling, he continued, “Excuse me. He eat it, or pick at it?” He was trying hard to focus on his questions and his train of thought instead of the smells.

“Are you saying I’m a bad cook, Agent LeBeau?” she said with a chortle, quite self-centeredly, and it was so over the top flirtaceous, that Anna Marie was glad no one could see her look of disgust.

Remy remained completely noncommittal and uninterested. Inside, he was angry and disgusted, too. But, mostly because there was obviously something very wrong with this woman. “I just want to know if he was hungry.”

“Yeah, he ate a lot. Growing boys, I’m sure you know.” Lisa made a direct reference to Remy’s height and athletic build as she looked him up and down slowly, lingering on the things that separated them as man and woman. She might have had some small amount of tact, because even though she was close enough to touch him, she didn’t. Anna Marie was surprised.

Once again, Remy ignored it. “Did he bring anything with him? His book bag, a gym bag, perhaps?”

“Yeah. I think so. Maybe both. I asked him if he was going to stay for a few nights. I told him I just cleaned his room.”

Well, don’t you deserve mother of the year, Anna Marie thought bitterly. She said aloud, “So this couldn’t have been in here before his visit today, right?”

“Of course not,” Lisa said, harshly, because it was Anna Marie who asked, “I would have noticed it and cleaned it up.”

“Not even the box?” she asked.

“I’m sorry; I don’t usually notice just regular old boxes.” She said this with a little ironic smile as she shrugged, as if to say who could blame her, and Anna Marie’s question was useless.

Remy coughed and said, “Then what happened? After he ate.”

“He said he needed to chill out, or something, for a while, and went to his room.”

“When was this?”

“I’m not sure exactly, Agent LeBeau.” She always emphasized his last name, trying to sound as if she spoke French fluently, but for Remy, who did speak it fluently, it was unimpressive. She had told him once, since her last name was also French, was pronounced ‘Par-ey’, and not ‘Pear’, that she had come from Paris in the nineteen eighties.

“Can you approximate?” he asked. “Or can you tell us how long he was here?” Now, Remy was getting to his earlier point. The empty apartment, the locked door, the party outfit. The vague times.

If Lisa knew what he was getting at, she pretended she didn’t. “Well, like I said, he came, ate and left. Do you think someone else put that thing here? Like a gang member? You know how they put fingers in a box and stuff?”

Her preoccupation with her own contrived gang-member theory was unnerving, but what was even more upsetting to Remy was she again avoided his question and also somehow knew what was in the box even though they hadn’t told her and she couldn’t really see it from her vantage point. Certainly not now since it was inside a white bag. “I need a time, Lisa. When did Sammy get here? When did he leave?” His voice was steady and calm, trying to force her to be truthful.

Lisa bit her lip, and her eyes watered. “It’s so hard to think when you ask me so many questions. I’m so scared. Oh, please find my baby.”

Remy didn’t tell her not to cry this time. He coughed again.

Anna Marie decided to switch tactics. “Don’t worry, Ms. Pare. We’ll find Sammy. Just be patient with us. Can you remember what you made Sammy for lunch?”

Lisa sniffed and managed a watery smile at Anna Marie as if she had never yelled at her and didn’t hate her for no reason. “Yes,” she ventured bravely, “we had sandwiches and soup. And he also ate crackers and some chocolate candy.”

“Is this a usual meal?” Anna Marie continued, “Or have his eating habits changed recently?” Anna Marie thought about eating disorders for a second, wondering if the disgusting fish scales in a hidden place was some sort of metaphor for it. She remembered a girl she went to high school with who hid things she liked to eat in her closet, like candy or chips and forced herself to take it out and look at it. Did Sammy used to eat fish before he became fish-like?

Lisa shrugged, finished with Anna Marie once again, and said, “Uh, I think it’s pretty normal. I mean, grilled cheese sandwiches and soup are pretty common.” No trace or hint of her earlier sorrows. Her voice was flat.

“What kind of soup?” she pressed on, knowing she wouldn’t get much more and hoping it wasn’t clam chowder, the very thought making her feel ill. Everything about it made her ill, actually. The thought, the look, the smell…she stopped herself from going any further.

Lisa sighed, making her annoyance shown. “So many questions.” Turning to Remy, she said, “Agent LeBeau, how will this help find my son?”

Remy gave her a very pointed look, before coughing again. “Every detail is important, Lisa.” He used her name often, and not because he liked to say it, but to personalize her, when he knew she wanted to be depersonalized. She wanted to objectify herself to him – and any man – and he would have none of it.

She said, “It was just regular Campbell’s vegetable beef.”

Remy knew Sammy was a vegetarian, not by choice but by his physiology. He had told Lisa many times that Sammy could not digest meat well and thus, she should not make it for him. He ignored this, though, for now, not wanting to think of the poor kid sick with cramps because his mother was a neglectful idiot. Or the other likely scenario that Lisa had no idea what Sammy ate for lunch.

Remy thought it over in his head. She had no idea of the time Sammy came or when he left but knew exactly what she had fed him. She remembered that she told him she had just cleaned his room. But not what he had brought with him, though conveniently she said he had brought what Remy had suggested he did, which was probably a mistake on his part.

Anna Marie could tell Remy was tired and she suspected, though Lisa was doing a good job hiding it, that she was using it against him. Her emotional switching, from high to low and flat were probably not helping either, even if Remy knew they were fake. So, she said, “We can do very little from here, to be honest, Ms. Pare. What we need to do now is take the valuable information you’ve given us and get out there and find Sammy.”

“Yes, of course,” she said, and Anna Marie was surprised she sounded a bit pouty. As if, when they left, no one would be there to give her attention.

Remy was not at all surprised. Anna Marie continued, “What we’ll do, just so you know, is call the subway stations and the bus stations, to see if anyone recognized Sammy earlier in the day. Maybe we’ll even get lucky with the surveillance.”

For a moment, Lisa was speechless, and there was nothing on her face that would indicate that sorrow or shock was the reason. Then, she recovered, and replied, “And what if you don’t find him? You’ll check the school? His room? Oh, my poor baby. He’s only twelve, you know. And I had him so young.” She covered her face again, but no one believed she was crying. Not after she had just tried to point out what a young mother she was. Maybe also trying to rationalize why she wasn’t always a good mom.

Remy ignored that, though Anna Marie didn’t, and instead he focused on the fact that she had asked them to check the school and his room. He would not be missing if he was at the school or in his room, and it was becoming a real possibility that this was a set up just to bring people out to her house to give her attention. Like the other seven times. She wouldn’t want them to check all those places and figure out he was never there.

“We’ll leave no stone unturned, ma’am,” Anna Marie said, and she spitefully called her ma’am to show she was not as young as she tried to act. “And we’ll let you know as soon as we find out anything. You might want to keep your phone on.” Evidence bags in hand, she walked towards the door, not sorry for her attitude because she thought she disguised it well.

“Ma’am?” Remy questioned as they were walking down the stairs towards the entryway.

She shrugged, “It’s a polite term for an older woman,” she replied with a small smile.

He smiled too; Lisa was older than both of them, though not by much, but wasn’t quite ready to let her off the hook. “I think you spooked her with the mentioning of surveillance. Smart thinking.”

“I thought she was lying. Don’t you?”

Remy shrugged and coughed. “Lisa always lies; it’s a matter of sorting out exactly which part of her story is the lie. Sammy is still our priority, and so far no one has found him.” He would have received a text message, or a call, if Sammy had been found. His phone had yet to buzz.

The weather outside had turned bitterly cold, and a dangerous layer of ice coated the ground. “I should have worn more sensible shoes,” she added, almost slipping because her heels were not suitable.

His hand gripped her arm, right above her elbow, his reflexes quicker than she realized. He was smart and had worn boots with certainly more traction than she had. “Thank you,” she murmured. “All this time living in the north now, you’d think I’d be more careful.”

“You can take the girl out of the south, but not the south outta of the girl,” he replied. “I personally think that’s a good thing.”

She smiled. “There’s no reason to take the south outta anybody, if you ask me.” The fact that both had been transplanted from the Delta into Yankee territory had always been a comforting thought for her. As if she weren’t the only outsider. He did a better job hiding his accent, though. But then, he spoke flawless French, Spanish, and Italian. Of course he could get rid of his Southern accent if he wanted to. She also suspected he didn’t want people to think he was a stupid redneck; his obvious Cajun heritage was often cause for a lot of stereotyped observations. She, on the other hand, couldn’t care less what people thought of her drawl.

He smiled, too. Though she came from Mississippi, and not his home state, she was often the closest thing he could find to remind him of home. Because Clay Quartermain and his Texas did not count.

“So what do we do now?” she asked him, for his sake, hoping he would not say join the search party.

He sighed and replied, “Go to bed, hopefully.” He turned away from her and sneezed, murmuring an ‘excuse me’ that sounded tired and annoyed.

“Bless you. How about I drive us back to HQ?” she suggested in that tone of hers that was not really a suggestion. She held out her hand, palm up, silently telling him to give her the keys.

He relented and plopped the keys into her hand. And he said nothing else until they were both buckled and on the road. After all, she wouldn’t abandon him in his condition would she? “So, what is it with East Salem Apartments that irks you? Or should I ask which occupant does?”

She stared straight ahead, pretending it was because of the tiny icy pellets whizzing by. “I thought you were tired,” she managed.

“I am. I’ll just lean on back and you can tell me all about him.” He did lean the seat back a bit, and put his arms behind his head.

She sighed, angry at herself because of her tendency to wear everything on her sleeve. “Nothing much to say. He was a jerk, I was an idiot. Once I figured that out, I fixed it.”

Remy smiled at her no-nonsense way of talking. But then he asked quite seriously, “I would think fixing a situation would mean no leftover feelings, no?”

“Who said I had any?” she said, and even though his eyes were closed, he knew she had tipped up her nose and sat up straighter, tenser. Her body language was very easy to read, and it said, ‘don’t go there’.

Her tendency to use sarcasm, humor or anger to avoid a conversation occasionally irked him and sometimes made him smile. He wasn’t yet sure where he was headed. “I just did,” he replied, neutrally.

He heard her huff. “Well, maybe I didn’t ask you.” The fact that she had indeed asked a question was not important. She turned on the radio and switched the station to country.

Remy recognized Toby Keith’s A Little Too Late. He’d gotten fairly good at recognizing who was who, mostly because of Clay. “You asked somebody and seeing since I’m the only one here…” he trailed off; maybe he was too tired to get into anything with her.

“Oh, go back to coughing, why don’t you?” she said, always needing to end an argument in her favor. She had never before met anyone who didn’t let her get away with her shifting mood swings. Maybe because he was as bad as she was.

He sent a quick email from his phone and then changed the subject, “The next shift of soldiers will take over at eleven. Two or three of them will be handed instructions to continue the search for Sammy. As for you and I, we’re done until tomorrow morning.”

She relaxed now, since they were no longer talking about her, and replied, “Do you think he’s alright? I mean, he’s been gone longer than any time before.”

“It’s too soon to tell. We’ll worry after twenty four hours have passed.” he answered her, perhaps unfairly, with the standard talk of the trade.

She suspected that he spoke that way for his benefit and not hers. She didn’t know Sammy, and he had known him for two years. If she were of the touchy-feely variety, she might have reassured him with a touch to the hand, but she wasn’t. She said instead, perhaps also unfairly, “We can’t deny it’s a slightly different M.O. for him.”

“That’s true,” he said, and maybe it was because she was willing to talk now and not before that caused him to be irritated. Maybe it was because fifty two mutants died senselessly last night and he didn’t want to think about one more. And maybe it was because he was tired, and cold and sick, but he added rather bitterly, “Would you like to stop by a cemetery on the way home and dig a grave for him?” She could not have known what was going through his head, what things he had seen today, and yet, he took it out on her as if she should have known.

Her eyes widened at his tone and his suggestion, and she said, “I didn’t say he was dead, Remy. I was just pointing out that he’s been gone for a lot longer than any other time.”

“I know what you were pointing out. I wrote all the other goddamn reports.”

She bit her lip, feeling uncomfortable since he was still her superior, though most of the time he treated her, and most, as his equal. She counted to ten before she said, really quietly, “Yes, I know you did.” Logan would be so proud of her meditation skills. She had been assigned to him for the first six months after her graduation from The Academy and he had worked hard trying to thicken her skin. ‘Act, don’t react’ was his favorite slogan. He had yelled it in her face plenty of times.

Realizing now that his hotheadedness was uncalled for, he sighed. “Sorry, it’s been a long day.” They were pulling into the compound’s main gates now and heading towards the Rotunda’s main entrance.

“It’s alright,” she said, somewhat shortly, as she parked the car and handed him the keys. “Anything you need me to do before I go home?”

He thought about it and said, “Send the pictures to Emma and ask her for an analysis.”

“Will do,” she replied.

“Thank you. Good night, Anna.” Perhaps, manners were extra important right now, since it was obvious she still was feeling prickly towards him. She’d get over it, eventually, he decided. And if she didn’t, he’d have two rookies that hated him.

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