Frankie entered the ME's office with Frost right behind him to see the honey blonde elbows deep in paperwork rather than the usual body.
"Hey, Maura. Those labs come in yet bout our latest John Doe?"
Maura set her pen down and smiled. "Frankie. No, not yet. I'm sorry but the lab has been backed up these past few days. However, once they come in, I'll be sure to let you know." She looked behind him to see Frost standing awkwardly near the door.
"Detective Frost," she acknowledged. The young man only nodded in response.
Frankie could feel the tension oozing in the room between the ME and Frost. Awkward couldn't even begin to describe how out of place he felt. It was at times like these that he felt like knocking both their heads together. Both were equally as stubborn though and while the strain in their relationship was not exactly ideal, it had been for the most part, civil. Thankfully, the silence was broken by senior criminalist Chang.
"Dr Isles, here are those test results you requested urgently." Maura got up eagerly from her chair to take hold of the papers in hand, momentarily forgetting the two men. For the first time since Jane's death, he saw a glimpse of the old Maura - the Maura who would take an interest in their cases often going somewhat off tangent whenever she got into one of her spiels about something or other case-related as compared to simply treating them as part of her job, passing them off once her role was done, he saw the hint of excitement that would take hold when there was a breakthrough.
He watched her flick through the papers, examining the results. He noted the way her shoulders dropped and the sense of trepidation that had coursed through only seconds ago, whoosh straight back out.
"Hmmm?" she murmured looking up. "Oh, Frankie. I'm sorry. I completely forgot you were there. Did you want anything else?" The sudden characteristic change was not lost on him. When Susie had brought those results in, she'd been apprehensive and ever so slightly jumpy, her mind suddenly on other things. He could tell from her body posture. Now, she was just despondent, discouraged even.
"I uh...well we," he said pointing to himself and Frost, "were wondering if you'd like to go to lunch with us later today?" Maura didn't reply.
He looked over at Frost whose eyes held concern similar to his and indicated that he'd catch him later but the black man steadfastly refused to move. Despite their fight, Maura was still his friend and friends looked out for one another. Besides, Jane would probably come back to haunt him if she ever found out. The woman had been as determined in life as she would be in death, he figured, and he would rather like to sleep easy at night. In any case, he certainly didn't want it on his conscience if anything were to happen to her. Dealing with Jane's death had been hard enough.
Frankie took a seat opposite the blonde.
"Not what you were expecting?" he asked, indicating to the papers she still held in her hand. His question was effective enough to draw her out of her reverie.
"No. Not at all," she replied, "I guess I was just hoping..." She gave him a small smile of assurance.
I'm not going mad.
I don't believe in ghosts
"It's silly really."
"Wanna tell me?" he asked. "It's just that sometimes, two heads are better than one..." For the first time, he couldn't see the logic in that sentence. Maura was the genius after all. If she couldn't figure whatever it was out, then he certainly wasn't going to be any better at doing so either.
She stared at him for what seemed like an indeterminate amount of time before coming to the conclusion that it was probably best if someone knew given the fact that she hadn't confided in anyone since the notes had started. She put the papers down, reaching into her desk drawer to pull out two post-its.
"This," she said indicating to one of them, "is one of the notes Jane used to leave for me." He nodded, knowing how it had become his sister's habit to leave them for the ME. "This," she said, picking up the other one and passing it to Frankie, "is one of the notes that was left to me a sometime last week. I found it alongside one of my mother's handkerchiefs."
He examined both the papers carefully, as did Frost who had come to stand behind him. They both squinted at them but she could see from their confounded expressions that they had no idea what she was getting at.
"I don't understand," he admitted.
She took a deep breath. The news she was about to give was definitely not going to be taken lightly. If anything, it would probably make them question her sanity. Hell, if she were them, she would probably be questioning her sanity too.
"It isn't the first one I've received since Jane's death," she said, matter-of-factly, leaning back in her chair, hands clasped over her stomach "and seeing as Jane was the only one who ever used to do it, how it was our 'thing'..." She didn't know quite how to go on, knowing if she did, she'd probably sound crazy for even thinking it. But she had to hope. Surprisingly, it was Frost who spoke up, having quickly connected the dots.
"You don't think she's dead." She fingered the ring on her locket, moving it from side to side nervously.
"No." She was surprised at how even her tone was. "At least I didn't. As soon as I received the fourth post-it I began to become suspicious. So I ran a handwriting comparison match between the two pieces. Apart from a slight similarity between the 's' and the 't', that is unfortunately where it ends. The rest of the words don't even compare. In fact, there's a less than 10% match between the two. 7.6% to be precise." Frankie's brain was busy playing catch up.
"Wait a minute, did you just say that since the you found the first one, you found four more, effectively amounting to the fact that you have received five of these?" he asked disbelievingly.
Maura swallowed nervously. "Yes."
Frankie was incredulous.
"And you didn't think to tell anyone?!"
"I didn't believe it to be necessary!" she argued. "They popped up at the most inconspicuous times. I had no reason to suspect anything out of the ordinary," she said, defending her lack of communication about the notes.
Frost decided there and now would be a good time to interrupt. "What did the others say?"
"The first one informed me that we were out of lucky charms but I believe that had been left by Jane before she died, after all, I haven't touched the box since given the nutritional 'value' it lacks..." She could tell from Frankie's pointed look that she was getting off track. Coming back to the issue at hand, she continued, "the others had the traditional wedding phrase, 'something old, something new, something borrowed' but I have yet to receive the last, that being 'something blue'," she replied.
Frankie's mind was working overtime in light of the information.
"Wait. Two things. First, you said you've received five of these notes, yet you've only accounted for four. Second, you said you thought it had all been coincidental, that you thought nothing of it so something must have happened to change your mind. The question is, what was it?"
Maura tilted her head, Jane had been right. One day, Frankie would make a brilliant detective. She sighed.
"I found another one a few days ago. This time, it was a poem. 'I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart..." She finished off the rest of the poem quoting it flawlessly. Her last words met a deafening silence. "Plus, there was the lily." It was added as more of an afterthought.
Warning bells started going off in both men's heads.
"Yes. It was lying beside the note," she responded calmly.
"We should inform Cavanaugh," Frost said. Frankie nodded in agreement, getting up to do so.
"Maura..." the exhortatory tone in Frankie's voice was not nearly as good as his sister's. If it had been, she would have listened agreeing with Jane that all necessary precautions should be taken.
But he wasn't Jane.
"We don't have any evidence..."
"There is someone, with access to your home, leaving creepy, random notes," he bit out. "I don't know about you, but I sure as hell would sleep easier knowing you were safe. And Jane would want you safe..."
It was emotional blackmail; he knew it, Frost knew it, Maura knew it, but if it got her to listen, if it kept her alive...that was all that mattered. Now that Jane was no longer around, he felt it necessary to step up to the plate and carry on protecting the ME. It was what she would want. Plus, he was slightly worried for the ME's state of mind - somehow, through some deduction or other, she had come to the conclusion that her fiance was still alive. Hope, faith, whatever misguided belief that had caused her to believe it, wasn't healthy.
Jane was dead.
She had to come to terms with the fact.
Sooner, rather than later.
Clearly, the blackmail worked. Whatever retort or argument she had been about to give effectively disappeared.
"That's not fair," she whispered.
Forgetting that they were supposed to be fighting despite their 'truce', Frost came round, crouching down in front of her.
"Frankie's right," he said, clasping her hands between his. Tears filled her eyes. "Someone is clearly taunting you with those words and given that it's coming up to the date of what would have been your wedding day... It's evidence enough given the words they've used.
"You're one of our own, and we look after our own."
Cavanaugh needs to know."
That's it for this chapter. Reviews as always, are always welcome.
I am working on the next one now so hopefully, it'll be up in the next few hours! Only a few chapters till the end and then it's on to the next one in the series, provided that you all want this to continue.
In the meantime, stay tuned!