Maura was almost hyperventilating as the enormity of what Frankie had just done hit her. Nina was staring at the doors in disbelief, her breath coming in sharp gasps. Susie was crying, her face crumpled in agony, obviously trying to stop herself from whimpering in pain.
The lift doors abruptly opened, snapping Nina out of her stupor. She smacked Maura on the arm to get her attention, pulling off her backpack and thrusting it into Maura’s shaking hands. Nina then bent over Susie, apologising softly before she hefted the woman into her arms and took off.
Maura managed to follow, pressing the buttons for the top floors before leaving the lift in an attempt to slow their pursuers. She saw that the other lift was moving towards the floor and gasped, running after Nina frantically.
The three burst out the front door and ran along the street towards Susie’s car. Maura kept glancing behind them, but there was no sign of pursuit. It seemed like Frankie had managed to delay not-Jane long enough to let them get away.
When they reached the car Maura quickly found Susie’s keys, opening the back door to allow Nina to put the bleeding criminalist on the seat. She climbed in after her, handing the keys to Nina so she could drive while Maura attended to Susie’s wounds.
Maura heard Nina swear and glanced back at the building. Lucas had just come through the door, and was scanning the street furiously. Nina jumped behind the wheel, starting the car and squealing the tires in her haste to get away. Maura saw Lucas spot them and raise his gun, but they were already out of range. He screamed in frustration before turning back to the building.
Maura gasped in relief as she realised they’d gotten away, at least for now. She quickly verified that the backpack with Nina’s equipment was safe, and her kit had also somehow stayed in her grip and made it into the back seat. Opening her bag, she grabbed the medical supplies and started to assess Susie’s injuries.
Maura barely felt the car turning and swerving as she examined Susie, speaking softly and reassuringly as she worked. Her wounds were deep and painful, but strategically placed to disable rather than kill. She could tell from the rate of blood loss that there were no major blood vessels cut, which meant that they shouldn’t need to go to a hospital. Maura would need to do further examination to determine if there was any nerve or muscle damage, but the fact that Susie was moving her limbs involuntarily due to the pain was encouraging.
Maura glanced out the windscreen, not recognising their location. “Where are we going?”
Nina was driving quickly but not illegally, obviously trying to blend in. Her hands kneaded the steering wheel in agitation as she answered. “I’m not sure yet. I was just trying to get some distance, work out if we’re being followed. Once I’m sure we’re in the clear we can work out where to go.”
A look of realisation flitted over Nina’s face. “Oh. Quick, give me your phone, and Susie’s. We need to dump them so they can’t be traced.”
Maura carefully reached into Susie’s pocket, finding her phone and handing it to Nina. She then retrieved her own, passing it into Nina’s waiting hand. The tense woman glanced around furtively at the people near the car before winding down the window and tossing the phones, followed by her own.
Nina glanced around again, before relaxing slightly. “They shouldn’t be able to track us now. Damn, I liked that phone!”
Maura nodded and turned back to Susie, working efficiently to dress her wounds. She continued to reassure her, emphasising that there didn’t appear to be any permanent damage. Susie nodded in response, her face still contorted in pain. Maura dug through her bag again, finding some low grade pain relievers. They weren’t ideal and certainly weren’t as strong as Susie would need to completely block out the pain, but they were all she had. Susie gave her a shaky smile in thanks as she swallowed the pills, closing her eyes to focus on breathing evenly.
When Maura was finished dressing the wounds, she gently took Susie’s hand. Susie’s eyes opened groggily, her gaze unfocused for a few moments before finding Maura’s face. Maura was relieved to feel Susie’s hand tighten within her grip, squeezing gently but reassuringly.
Susie cleared her throat, her voice pained but clear. “I can tell you’re about to start blaming yourself, but don’t. It’s not your fault Maura. Not my injuries, and not Frankie. We both chose to be there. We knew the risks. It was our choice.”
Susie’s eyes closed again, missing the sight of Maura’s eyes filling with tears. She had been able to push her emotions down under her medical duties, but now her mind raced with the memories of what had just happened, her genius intellect scrambling to find some semblance of meaning in the chaos.
Jane had been transformed into something completely inhuman. The woman she had known was almost indistinguishable in the robotic monster that had chased them. There didn’t seem to be any emotions within the façade of humanity, only blind obedience to her handler.
The blades that had swung out of her arms and the strength she had displayed were also terrifying. Maura now understood the purpose of the many surgical procedures she had discovered mapped out through Jane’s scars. Her skeletal structure had been augmented to allow for superhuman strength, and her arms had been implanted with concealable deadly weapons. Combined with the ability to change her appearance and her unthinking compliance with any order, Jane had been turned into the perfect assassin.
And they had just left Frankie alone with her. After all her suspicions, all her reservations, Frankie had just unquestionably proved himself to be the most loyal brother and friend imaginable. She covered her mouth and suppressed a sob at the thought that she may never have the chance to apologise for doubting him.
Maura remained silent, allowing tears to spill unchecked as she held Susie’s hand. Despite what Susie had said, she knew guilt would be her constant companion for quite some time, if not forever.
Around half an hour after leaving the facility, Nina pulled over in an alley. “There aren’t any street cameras in this part of town, we should be safe. I want to ditch the car as soon as we can though. How’s Susie?”
Maura opened her mouth to answer, but Susie spoke over her instead. “I’ll be okay. We need a plan, somewhere to hide and look through the information.”
Nina tapped the steering wheel thoughtfully. “We could go to a motel, and use a fake name. If we pay cash they shouldn’t be able to find us. If we have enough cash, that is.”
Maura reached into her bag, pulling out a wad of cash she had packed just in case. “This should be enough to get us started.”
Nina nodded, her expression contemplative. “Susie, can you move?”
Susie simply nodded, gesturing for Maura to help her sit up. Nina watched the manoeuvre, satisfied with Susie’s mobility, before she got out of the car.
After only a few minutes, Nina returned, opening the door. “I’ve found a car we can steal. It’s old, so it shouldn’t have any GPS or alarms.”
The trio awkwardly made their way to the nondescript car Nina had found. Nina quickly popped open the door and helped get Susie inside, before moving into the front seat and hotwiring the car.
Around an hour later, they were pulling into the car park of a cheap motel. Maura had no idea what part of Boston they were in, but Nina insisted that she had stayed clear of any surveillance during their transit, which was the important part.
Nina checked them in, since her appearance was the least notable of the three. Susie was covered in blood, as was Maura after tending her wounds. Nina had somehow avoided getting bled on as she carried Susie out of the building. They quietly grabbed the two bags and shifted Susie into their room, avoiding any prying eyes as much as possible.
Susie gratefully settled onto the bed, the cramped space in the car not helping her injuries. Maura checked them over again, glad to see that both wounds had stopped bleeding. She packed a few pillows around Susie’s body to help keep her as comfortable and still as possible.
Nina wasted no time in opening up her backpack, getting out her laptop and hooking up the hard drive containing all the crucial information she’d copied. She quickly copied the files to the laptop memory, to make sure they had a backup if anything went wrong.
Maura didn’t know what to do with herself, so simply sank into a chair and waited. Her mind was still spiralling around the same thoughts, her emotions making her shoulders slump. The adrenalin had long since worn off, making the ache in her still healing shoulder painfully apparent. She made no attempt to relieve it however, finding some small solace in the pain, as if it would make up in some small way for her failure to protect those she cared about.
Nina had pulled out a tablet, and walked over to Maura, holding it out. “Maura, here. I’ve put some of the files on this, can you start to look through them?”
Maura raised her head slowly, her eyes finding Nina’s compassionate expression. Feeling undeserving of her consideration, Maura simply nodded and took the tablet, opening the first file she saw. Nina sighed, obviously realising the frame of mind Maura was in, but remained silent, walking over to check on Susie instead. The exhausted criminalist appeared to have drifted into a restless sleep, her face still crumpled in a pained wince.
Suppressing another guilty sigh, Maura turned her attention to the tablet and started to read.
The file structure was similar to the one they had discovered in the surveillance files. Instead of opening Jane’s file in the Subjects folder, Maura decided to look through the Agents records first.
The agents were listed by last name. She scrolled down the list, seeing a few names she recognised as BPD cops. Lucas’ name was jarring to read, bringing a frown to her face immediately.
Maura was about to open the file when she had another thought. She continued to scroll, reaching the R’s. Ray, Reek, Rees, Riley, Riker, Roberts…..
Maura sighed in relief. No Rizzoli. There was no record of Frankie being an agent. He really had followed them to protect them. He truly had no idea where his sister was this whole time.
Nina heard her soft exclamation and quickly got up, her voice low to avoid waking Susie. “Did you find something?”
Maura smiled faintly. “No, I didn’t find anything. Frankie was telling the truth.”
Nina nodded understandingly, seeming torn over whether to speak. “There was no way for us to know. And even if we had known for sure, it wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Maura’s smile dropped, and she returned to her reading without a response. She didn’t need to voice her guilt to feel it keenly. It clung to her like a miasmic cloud, and it would take more than mere words to disperse it. She doubted she would ever be rid of it.
Shaking off her dark thoughts for the time being, she opened Lucas’ file. There were records for Recruitment, Background, Service and Missions. She opened each folder, wanting to know as much as possible about the monster that had ruined their lives.
Around an hour later, Susie started to stir, moaning quietly. Maura put down the tablet and rushed over, checking the bandages urgently. They seemed fine, with no new bleeding. Susie groaned again and settled back into her slumber. Maura had hoped the pills she had administered would knock Susie out and let her heal, and it appeared to be working.
Maura stepped back, her emotions swirling angrily after reading Lucas’ file. Nina saw the look on her face and decided Maura needed a break.
She stood and moved to the mini-fridge, grabbing two cans of drink and handing one to Maura. She looked set to argue, but Nina stared her down with a raised eyebrow. Maura huffed in exasperation, opening the drink and giving Nina a thankful look as she returned to her chair.
Nina pulled her chair over to sit next to Maura, speaking quietly again. “So, found anything interesting?”
A revolted look crossed Maura’s face before she started explaining. “I’ve been reading Lucas’ file. He was recruited by the organisation, which I still haven’t found a name for, before he joined BPD. His history before joining included some time in the army, then time with SWAT in New York. He’s a specialist in close quarter combat, black ops and assassination. He tends to employ brutality wherever possible, as his army and police records include several incidents involving unnecessary force. His service record indicates he is excellent at following orders, but lacks competence when required to think for himself, which is why he was recruited. He enjoys following someone else’s plan, and becomes panicked and sloppy when improvising.”
Nina nodded, thinking over recent events. “That explains why the cover story after Jane returned was so transparent, he must have come up with it himself. Whoever he’s working for must have started stepping in and cleaning up after him later, with your removal and Susie’s suspension.”
Maura nodded in return. “His job was to infiltrate BPD and cover up cases that could link back to the organisation. He has falsified evidence, made witnesses disappear, botched interrogations on purpose, anything required to hide their activities.”
Maura sighed, her revulsion building again. “The case that got Jane and I pulled into this is in here. It was the one Lucas asked you to look into. The doctor who was dumped in a park with an odd drug overdose. Jane was the assigned detective on the case, and there were no leads. I had completed the tox screen, and the drugs in his system didn’t appear in any database. I couldn’t even conclusively say whether it was a homicide or an accidental death, there was no family to push for resolution of the case, and there were no suspects, which is why Jane hadn’t been able to get far with her side of the investigation. However, I had requested an analysis of the drugs in his system from a specialist lab in Chicago, and I was waiting on the results.”
Maura gestured to the tablet angrily. “The organisation Lucas worked for found out about the test and were worried that I might find a link to them. Some of the compounds in the drugs would be traceable to a company here in Boston, which would have eventually led to the facility we were in today. Lucas knew Jane and I would figure it out. So he decided to get rid of us.”
Maura opened up another file. “I found a reference to the doctor as Subject 147, so I checked his file in the Subject folder. He had been kidnapped, and they were experimenting on him. The drugs in his system were designed to weaken his mind and make him susceptible to brainwashing. If successful, they intended to release him back to his normal life, still himself but reprogrammed to obey anyone who said the appropriate code words. He would for all intents and purposes be a sleeper agent working for the organisation, all without knowing it. His job as a surgeon for the most expensive private hospital in Boston gave him access to high profile patients who could be recruited and used by the organisation.”
Nina frowned. “So what went wrong? Why did he end up dead in the park?”
Maura flicked forward a few pages. “It seemed there was a chemical imbalance in his brain that had impeded the efficacy of the drugs but the scientists didn’t realise until after he’d been released. I only noticed it when I did the autopsy, there would have been no way to diagnose it while he was alive. He had played along, pretending to be under their control, when in fact he still retained full command of his faculties. When he escaped, he attempted to contact someone in the police department. Unfortunately, the detective he contacted worked for the organisation, a detective Jones.”
Nina groaned. “So of course they immediately realised their mistake.”
Maura nodded. “But they made another one. Instead of recapturing him or killing him, they sent a team to his house with an increased dose of the drugs. They thought that he’d just had a slight glitch, and that a higher dose would enable the programming to reassert itself. Instead, the drugs caused him to have a psychotic break. He managed to get away from the agents. The records don’t show how he got to the park, but by the time they figured out where he went, BPD had already been contacted. They had no choice but to let us process the case and try to disrupt the investigation.”
Maura glanced at the file before sighing. “I can’t be sure, but I think I had been getting in Lucas’ way for a while leading up to that case. We had several minor altercations about conclusions I had reached that compelled investigations to continue, rather than being neatly concluded. At the time I had thought he was just lazy, but now I realise I was making things more difficult for him to cover up.”
Nina frowned. “But, that doesn’t explain why he took Jane from the basement. If he just wanted you dead, why involve her? And why didn’t he keep trying to kill you after the initial attempt?”
Maura cleared her throat, slightly ashamed. “I think I was so distracted with my search for Jane that I wasn’t an issue anymore. I mean I never followed up on the overdose results, I was spending so much time away from the office and delegating so much work…I think the organisation decided that it would be more suspicious for me to die or disappear than just to let me destroy my reputation and credibility. In my single-mindedness and stubbornness I did their work for them.”
Nina tried to reassure her. “At least it kept you alive. If you’d been digging into their business, you wouldn’t have ever found Jane, and we wouldn’t have a chance to rescue her now.”
Maura frowned, accepting Nina’s words but still feeling displeased with her behaviour, and opened Lucas’ last mission file. “It seems like I started to annoy Lucas again four months ago. He put in another appeal for me to be eliminated, and it was approved. There is a reference to a mission being planned, but it was never finalised or carried out. The records stop after that file. The last modification I could find was three months ago.”
Maura flicked back to the Subject 314 folder with trepidation. “I suspect the answer to why he took Jane is in here, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to read it yet. What have you found?”
Nina decided not to push the issue and started summarising. “I was looking through the general files. I haven’t found a name for this organisation either, I suspect it might not have one. The organisation is so secret it doesn’t appear to exist, and it’s less than five years old. I get the impression that the facility we found is the only one that exists. There was mention of other considered sites, but nothing that suggests they were actually built.”
Nina’s eyes dropped, her voice serious. “It’s bad Maura. I’ve found a lot of names associated with this belonging to very important people. I’ve started making a list, but so far I’ve found twelve cops, five of them inside BPD. I’ve found two judges. Twenty five doctors.”
Nina paused, her voice picking up a layer of disgust. “Our Deputy Superintendent is named. So is the Governor.”
Maura gasped, standing from her chair and starting to pace. “I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did in the chair. The governor? You’re right, this is bad.”
Nina nodded soberly. “I haven’t found anything like a mission statement, but I’ve found enough to read between the lines. The organisation finds candidates for experimentation or utilisation, kidnaps them, and puts them into one of four subject groups. Each subject is given a unique three digit designation, starting with the group number. For example, your deceased doctor was part of group one, hence 147. Jane ended up in group three, so she is 314.”
Maura frowned, not liking where this was going. “So what’s the difference between the groups?”
Nina looked at her hands. “Basically, it’s what experiments are performed. Group one is the most non-invasive. It seems to consist of drug treatments and brainwashing, which is done via forced visual and auditory stimulation. Nothing is implanted into the subject, and they are returned to their lives once the programming is complete. The average subject is only in the facility for a week. The organisation comes up with a cover story, like a holiday or conference, so nobody even knows they went missing.
“Group two is where things start getting a bit more sci-fi. This group is mostly homeless people, criminals, anyone who can be permanently abducted without a fuss. They are augmented physically, similar to what we’ve seen in Jane. I haven’t found functional descriptions for all the hardware yet, but it seems to vary slightly between subjects. This group is also reprogrammed, but they aren’t released back into the world once they are finished. They are kept in the facility, only being sent out on missions. There is around a 50% success rate for this group, with the rest either dying in surgery or having a complete mental breakdown during the programming. A few were destroyed after failing missions and almost exposing the organisation.”
Maura’s hands were shaking with anger. She couldn’t believe anyone could be so cruel to another human being, keeping them against their will, stripping them of their own minds. It was against every value held by their society. It was unthinkable. But it had been happening right here, in their city.
Nina paused for a moment, evaluating whether she should continue. Maura met her gaze with determination, needing to hear the rest.
Nina took a deep breath before continuing, her voice trembling slightly with ire as well. “The third group is for people who are brought in deceased. From what I’ve found, they don’t really expect these subjects to survive, they are more experiments for life-saving techniques that are ethically unable to be otherwise attempted. As far as I can see, Jane is the only one to have survived.”
Maura crumpled forlornly back into her seat. So Jane really did die for her. She had seen the video, she had evaluated the damage, she had seen the horrible scars, but she hadn’t honestly believed that Jane had really been dead.
Nina saw Maura’s reaction, and continued in a subdued tone. “The fourth group had no survivors, which is probably for the best. It was a very experimental group. Basically they were performing experiments on the remains of subjects who had perished. Real Frankenstein stuff. Cyborgs, DNA manipulation, cross-species experimentation, all the stuff of nightmares. The general notes said that there were no successes, but some of the results were of benefit to group three.”
Maura’s head snapped up. “Jane had some of those techniques used on her?”
Nina shrugged helplessly. “I haven’t read the 314 file yet. I thought you’d want to do that yourself. If not, I can totally…”
Maura cut her off with a wave of her hand. “No, you’re right, I need to read it. I need to understand everything they did to her. I need to know if there might be a way to reverse it.”
Nina nodded sadly, knowing that out of the three of them Maura had the best chance of comprehending what had been done to Jane and finding a solution. She squeezed Maura’s arm before returning to her own files.
Maura closed her eyes, taking a few calming breaths, before picking up the tablet again. She glanced at Nina, feeling suddenly anthropophobic, and realised she needed privacy to read this information. She grabbed her drink and moved into the bathroom, receiving an understanding look from Nina before she quietly closed the door. She opened the first document in the Acquisition folder and started to read.
Nearly two hours later, Maura opened the door. Susie was awake, carefully drinking some water. Nina looked up in surprise, her eyes carefully evaluating Maura’s state of mind.
Maura’s face was red and raw from hours of crying, but her expression was determined and her voice was laced with steel. “I’ve found something. I know what we need to do to get Jane back.”
Nina stood up in excitement. “Great! What is it?”
Maura smiled deviously. “We need to kidnap Lucas.”