By the time morning arrived Maura was too frustrated to wait for Susie at her house. She texted her instead, instructing her to meet at the coffee shop so they could wait for Nina to hopefully turn up. Maura didn’t want to miss her if she went for coffee before her work day started.
After Angela and Jane left the previous evening, Maura had started reaching out to her contacts. There were only a few still available to her, as she had burned a few bridges when the leads started to dry up and she became desperate. None of her contacts had any new information immediately available, but they had promised to look into Detective Lucas. Maura wasn’t counting on them finding anything, since none of her sources were within the police department, but any information could be useful. She had given up a little after midnight, admitting that she needed rest if she was going to have any chance at functioning the next day. When her alarm rudely woke her at six, she discovered that none of her attempts to reach out had borne fruit, leading to her agitated need to find out something. Anything.
Maura arrived as the shop was being opened. She ordered a juice, being wary of caffeine since she was still on a few medications following her injury. Once she got her order she found a table that had a clear view of both entries to the store and settled in to wait.
Regular customers started filing in, most of them barely awake. Maura vaguely recognised one or two, and suspected they may be employees of BPD that she had passed in the corridors. One woman gave her a friendly wave, which she returned uncertainly, not recognising the woman at all.
After around twenty minutes Susie arrived, her eyes flying around the shop before they found Maura. The frazzled woman relaxed and walked over to the table, sitting in the unoccupied chair.
The pair smiled at each other and exchanged greetings before Susie got up to get herself a coffee. As she stood in line, Maura continued to watch the other customers.
Suddenly she tensed as Nina walked in. The analyst didn’t seem to be in a hurry, she simply joined the line and pulled out her phone, tapping casually on the screen as she waited.
Maura wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. It would probably be impolite to go and stand next to her in line, but then again staking out someone’s favourite coffee shop in order to ambush them was already somewhat impolite.
Fortunately Susie had seen Nina as well and spared Maura from having to decide on a course of action. Using a move Maura suspected Susie had seen in a movie, the criminologist artfully managed to ‘accidentally’ trip over Nina, spilling her coffee all over herself and landing in a tangled heap at Nina’s feet.
Repressing a laugh, Maura jumped up and ran to help Susie. Nina had already dropped to her knee, and was trying to help Susie brush the hot coffee off her shirt while spouting apologies. Maura grabbed the dropped coffee cup and Susie’s glasses, allowing Nina to help Susie up.
Nina’s expression was embarrassed and horrified as she looked Susie over. “I’m so sorry Susie, I wasn’t paying attention. Are you alright?”
Susie nodded, still pulling herself together. Maura was fairly certain she wasn’t injured, but she put a guiding hand on her arm anyway. “Susie, come and sit down. I’ll get you another coffee in a moment.”
Nina grabbed Susie’s cup out of Maura’s hand, looking at the order scribbled on the side. “I’ll get it. Take her to sit down, I’ll bring it over.”
Maura obeyed, leading Susie to the chair and guiding her down. Once she was sure Nina was out of earshot, she whispered excitedly in Susie’s ear. “That was brilliant! I had no idea how we were going to approach her!”
Susie went slightly red. “It was only partially on purpose. I spun around and she was right there, and I almost dropped my coffee, which gave me the idea, and I just sort of…exaggerated it.”
Maura was torn between concern and amusement. “Are you actually alright?”
Susie nodded, absently brushing more liquid off her shirt. “I think I might go home and change after this.”
Maura couldn’t help laughing, which is when Nina bustled back to the table, holding two coffees and a bag of pastries. “I’m so sorry Susie. Here’s a coffee, and I got some bear claws and some doughnuts, they are really nice here.”
Susie smiled at the poor woman. “I’m really fine. Thanks for the refill! Why don’t you sit down for a minute?”
Nina glanced at her watch, considering for a moment before she grabbed the nearest chair and sat down, her body language indicating that she was slightly uncomfortable. “I’m actually early, so why not?”
Maura smiled at her appreciatively, before the smile fell as she realised it was her turn to come through. “So, Nina, how are things in BRIC?”
Nina nodded hesitantly, thinking carefully before answering. “Things have been pretty calm lately, apart from our two missing detectives turning up. I know you guys know all about that though, how is the shoulder Dr Isles?”
Maura’s hand instinctively moved towards her injured shoulder, her arm still in a sling. “It’s starting to heal nicely. I’ve managed to rest it fairly well, so I don’t anticipate any complications in my recovery.”
Nina nodded politely, before glancing at Susie, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Susie, is it true that you’re suspended?”
Susie froze mid-sip, her eyes going wide. “Uh, yes, that is true. I’m hoping it won’t be long, there was just a miscommunication.”
Nina nodded again, her eyes moving between the two suspiciously. “Well, it was nice seeing you guys, but I need to get to work.”
Maura surprised all of them when her hand shot out and gripped Nina’s arm. “Wait, please. We need your help.”
Susie rolled her eyes at Maura’s lack of tact. Nina sat back in her seat, her face impassive. “I thought you two were acting weird.”
Maura pulled her hand back, her expression apologetic. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to deceive you. We just didn’t quite know how to ask.”
Nina scrutinised Maura’s face carefully before taking a slow sip of her coffee. “Explain. Fast.”
Maura nodded gratefully. “It’s to do with Jane. We think Detective Lucas had something to do with her initial disappearance, and that they are both lying about where she was. We also think something was done to make her behave differently. She isn’t acting anything like the old Jane. We need your help to look into Detective Lucas’ movements, both recently and around the time Jane disappeared, to see if we can figure out what happened.”
Nina’s eyes seemed to be boring through Maura as she spoke. She didn’t move for several seconds after she finished, her finger tapping rapidly on the side of her cup the only sign of her agitation.
She slowly sat forward in her chair, her voice low and serious. “You’re asking me to look into one of our own guys. Do you at least have some solid evidence?”
Maura and Susie looked at each other doubtfully. Nina took that as all the answer she needed. “Look, guys, I would like to help you out, but you need to look at this from my perspective. Susie, you’re suspended for misuse of department facilities. I may not know the details, but I know it had something to do with Detective Lucas. Doctor Isles, you are off on medical leave for the fourth time in as many years. The previous three times have all had some sort of mental health aspect, and the rumour going around is that you were hallucinating that a drug addict was Detective Rizzoli, and you got yourself shot because you got in between her and Lucas when he came to help you guys. If two people with those credentials were asking for your help, what would you think?”
Susie started to sputter out an indignant response, but Maura put a restraining hand on her arm before answering Nina’s blunt statements. “I understand how this must look. I would honestly have trouble believing it if I was in your shoes. But I can only appeal to your sense of logic. Please look at Detective Lucas’ story, independent of anything we’ve told you. See if what he says happened with Jane is even possible, much less plausible. You used to know her. Talk to her and see if she is still the same person you remember. If you really look at the facts here, I have no doubt you’ll see there is something amiss.”
Nina studied Maura for several long moments before getting up. “I’ll think about it. I’ll keep my eyes open. But I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s a good idea to stick my neck out on this one. Jane’s finally back. Unless I see something to convince me that she’s in trouble, I think she should be left alone and allowed to return to her life as best she can.”
With a parting look of finality, Nina turned and walked out. Maura and Susie slumped dejectedly in their chairs, knowing their best chance had walked out with her.
The pair sat glumly for a few minutes before admitting defeat and leaving. Susie decided to go home to change before meeting Maura at her house. As futile as it would probably prove, the duo decided to go over the evidence from Jane’s initial disappearance, on the off chance that they noticed something new with the tiny pieces of extra information they had gleaned.
Around four in the afternoon, both were ready to concede defeat. There was no sign of Detective Lucas or Frankie in any of the incomplete footage they had access to, and no records to clarify what either of them had been doing on the day of Jane’s disappearance. Maura was fairly sure that Frankie hadn’t been involved officially in the incident, but her memories of the events were somewhat fuzzy, a result of the injuries she had sustained.
As the dejected women packed up the files, Maura’s phone rang unexpectedly. To her surprise, she recognised Nina’s number in BRIC. She quickly answered, trying and failing to keep the desperate hope out of her voice. “Doctor Isles.”
“Hi Doctor Isles, it’s Nina here from BRIC. I have a couple of things from one of your recent cases I needed to clarify. Detective Lucas came by today and asked me to track down some details for a report. Since you’re not in at the moment, would you mind if I brought the file to your house to look over?”
Maura was momentarily confused, since Detective Lucas didn’t have any involvement in her recent cases, but then realised Nina might be speaking in code for the benefit of someone listening in. “Oh, that will be fine Nina. I’m home now, so come by whenever you like.”
“Thanks Doctor Isles, I’ll be by shortly.”
Maura heard the line go dead and looked at Susie hopefully. “It was Nina. She’s coming over to bring a file to discuss. She mentioned Detective Lucas, so this might mean that she believes us!”
Susie knocked over a pile of files as she excitedly squeaked, jumping over to hug Maura. After the pair finished celebrating, Susie bustled around tidying the scattered materials while Maura put on some coffee and tea for the three of them.
Around half an hour later, there was a firm knock on the door. Maura rushed over to let a serious looking Nina in. Nina was holding a bundle of files protectively, her eyes flitting over the interior of the house nervously.
Nina followed Maura to sit on the couch, joined quickly by Susie bearing a tray of mugs. Nina was looking at the piles of evidence around them, realising just how much effort had already been expended on this mission.
Grabbing a mug and taking a sip, Nina finally lowered the files onto her lap and started to speak, her voice conveying her conviction. “So, as you probably gathered, I’m in.”
Twin smiles appeared on Maura and Susie’s faces instantly. Maura couldn’t help a sigh of relief as she responded. “Thank you, you have no idea how good that is to hear. What changed your mind?”
Nina couldn’t quite hide a smirk. “Well, Detective Lucas came by today. He was asking for help with a case, I actually didn’t make that up. But the case he was asking about wasn’t his, it was one of Jane’s cases from years ago. It was an unsolved murder, a doctor that had disappeared and then been found dead almost a year later. Jane only got that case about a month before she disappeared. When I looked into it I realised it had been assigned to Lucas, but he hadn’t made any progress since Jane disappeared.”
Maura exchanged a knowing look with Susie. “I remember that case. The doctor was found dumped in a park. I determined he’d died from an overdose of a very unusual cocktail of drugs, which we didn’t manage to trace. I never chased up the resolution of the case, I was too distracted after Jane disappeared.”
Nina nodded. “I think that was the idea. When I looked into the file, it was obvious that Lucas had been pretending to keep investigating, but he was really just trying to bury the case and make sure it stayed unsolved. He had progress reports that were copied and pasted from older reports, any leads that he supposedly followed didn’t have updated information, and he outright falsified one report that claimed he asked me to run financials on the doctor’s colleagues at his practice. I’d never even heard of this case before today, when he asked me to run the checks he said I’d already run years ago.”
Maura frowned. “So does any of this help us? Is it anything to do with Jane?”
Nina shook her head. “No, that was just the first thing that put him on my radar. The next thing that happened was what convinced me that you guys were right. Frankie decided to bring Jane into work to try to jog her memory.”
Nina rolled her eyes before continuing. “You should have seen all the jaws drop when she walked into the bullpen. Firstly, I’ve never seen Jane Rizzoli wear a skirt and high heels unless she was undercover. Secondly, she actually smiled at Detective Crowe. I don’t care how bad her amnesia is, nobody could smile at that guy without a lobotomy.”
Maura and Susie cringed and nodded in agreement. Crowe had become even more of an ignorant pig since Lucas had joined the team, the two of them feeding off each other’s bad influence.
Nina suppressed a shiver before concluding her story. “But, the thing that clinched it was when Jane came over to talk to me. Frankie introduced me, then had to leave Jane for a minute while he checked on one of his cases. We got to talking, and then Jane noticed my phone. She gushed, seriously giggled, about how pretty the cover was, and asked me if I’d do her phone up the same.”
Nina was met with two confused looks. “Okay, sorry. Several years ago, right after I first joined BPD, Jane stuck her foot epically far down her throat when she made fun of phones with bling, not realising I had a taste for bedazzling things myself. I didn’t know much about her at that point, but I could definitely tell she’d rather use a shoe phone than let rhinestones anywhere near her cell. That sort of hatred doesn’t go away with memory loss, it’s built in.”
Maura and Susie nodded in understanding, smiling in amusement as they imagined Jane’s reaction to a bright pink shiny phone. Maura’s face soon fell as she remembered how different not-Jane was from the woman they had known. “Nina, I’m really glad you’re going to help us. As you can probably see, we’re stuck.”
Nina grinned as she glanced around again. “Yeah, I see you’ve exhausted a lot of leads though. But then again, you didn’t have access to this.”
She opened the file on her lap. “I traced Detective Lucas’ movements on the day Jane disappeared. He clocked in at 8:14 in the morning, then left BPD at 9:20. He was supposed to be looking into a lead on one of his cases, but I managed to get footage from a few traffic cameras around the city. Because of the disaster that day, the footage was all obtainable, since it had all been collected as part of the investigation. As you know, the incident has become a cold case, so the footage was all sealed. I managed to get access, don’t ask how, and followed his car all the way from BPD to the industrial district. I lost it there, since there aren’t any cameras, but I found him coming back out two hours later.”
Nina paused, knowing the next part might be hard to hear. “He then went straight to the site of the incident. He pulled up outside the building, got something out of his car, and then went inside. He came out about twenty minutes later, got something else from his car, then went back in for another twenty minutes. This was about three hours before you guys got there.”
Susie’s brow furrowed in confusion, but Maura got it straight away. Her voice was cold and angry. “It was him. He placed the bombs in the building. He caused the collapse. He dropped a building on Jane, and me, deliberately.”