Edward refused to move far from the phone all day. He had called down to the front desk and instructed them that he was expecting a phone call for someone simply asking for 'Edward' and asking them that if said phone call came through would they please transfer it to his room phone as soon as they could. After that he stayed right beside the phone, getting to work on the report Mustang had asked from him.
As a result he was fairly hungry by the time Alphonse returned, not having even gotten up to go and get something quick to eat. He was also highly frustrated by the report.
When Alphonse opened the door he took two steps inside and stopped, puzzled. Why was the room covered in crumpled bits of paper? Edward was sitting cross legged on his own bed, beside the phone, scribbling furiously on a fresh piece of paper.
"Nii-san?" Al asked cautiously.
Edward looked up at him with slightly wild eyes.
"I keep trying to start this damn report!" he exclaimed. "It has to be neat and lengthy he said. But everything I said sounded stupid! Now I don't care! I'll write it and when I've gotten the rest of the information I'll rewrite it!"
Alphonse made a weak sound of agreement. Exactly how long had his brother been working on that report? Obviously too long.
Suddenly Edward's stomach growled.
"Have you eaten today?" Al asked.
"Er… not since breakfast."
"I was busy."
Alphonse strode forward and stopped when he was standing directly over his shorter brother. Sometimes the height difference came in handy.
"Go eat something."
Glaring and grumbling Edward set aside his report and stomped out of the room, mumbling about annoying little brothers. Alphonse just grinned.
Barely a minute later the room phone rang and, startled, Alphonse picked it up.
"Uh, yes, hello, would Edward be there? My name is Sanden Rein."
"Oh, sorry, he just stepped out for a moment. Do you want me to get him to call you back?"
'No, don't worry," sighed the man on the other end. "Tell him I'll call again tomorrow morning, if you would?"
"Of course. Bye."
'Who is Sanden Rein?' Al wondered as he put down the phone. 'I'll have to tell nii-san about it when he gets back.'
As Alphonse started clearing away the papers he promptly forgot all about the phone call, even when Edward returned. Half an hour later, upon seeing his brother sitting by the phone again, he remembered.
"Oh, Nii-san, a phone call came for you earlier while you went to eat dinner."
"Huh?" Edward asked, head shooting up.
"Yes, not long after you left," mused Al. "He said his name was Sanden Rein and that he would call you back tomorrow morning."
Al had expected Edward to react to the news… but not like this. Edward dropped his papers, stood up and then promptly collapsed to his knees on the floor.
"I waited all day for that phone call!" he wailed. "And it came the one time I wasn't there!"
"Oops…" said Al sheepishply.
Edward was not impressed with his report. He stared at it early the next morning a little glumly, wondering if he should just shred this one too.
He had barely gotten any sleep the night before and had been forced into wakefulness at the sound of Alphonse rolling over and accidentally falling off the bed. Now his brother was reading a book while Edward, despite the fact that the sun had barely come up, was staring at the pieces of paper that held the information he had currently collected.
Which meant the report was very, very short.
'Damn it,' he cursed. 'I'm wishing now that Mustang had asked for something, anything else!'
Well, there was nothing for it right now. This could serve as his rough draft; he would add whatever Sanden Rein told him and then he could rewrite it. Still, Edward wasn't sure he would be able to word it any better.
His face burned at even the thought of what Mustang would say when he read the report. The early part of it had to include references of the off feeling he had gotten from Tucker, and wasn't that just a riot; the scientific state alchemist relying on feelings to tell him when something wasn't right.
After that he talked about what he had discovered from the files that Mustang had lent him, which was followed by what he had found when he discovered the registry office. That had taken up perhaps a page and half in small, slanted writing that he knew the colonel hated particularly. Everything that followed after would be what Rein told him and what he concluded from it.
It was odd to think that by the end of the morning he would have found everything that he had been looking for. What that was he didn't know yet, but he was certain he was getting close.
And he was certain that none of it was good.
It was highly suspicious that Elsa was still labeled as 'missing' even though Tucker himself had confirmed her death, and on top of that was the imaginary divorce that the two of them had never gotten. An hour before Alphonse had returned the alchemist had actually called back and asked what was required for a divorce.
In short terms it needed the signatures of both people in the marriage.
Had Elsa just up and left without bothering with a divorce? Had she truly been so eager to get away that she had just fled, without either her daughter or an official annulment to the marriage she was escaping?
No, it couldn't be right. Falman had said that she loved Nina and indicated that she was a fairly strong willed woman. If she had truly been frightened enough to run out of the blue like that she would have taken her daughter, he was sure of it!
Growling Edward dropped the report on the bed again. None of it made sense at the moment; hopefully Rein could shed some light.
Al looked up.
"Something wrong, nii-san?" he asked.
"Just frustrated," Edward sighed.
Alphonse hummed noncommittally. And then he sat up straight, armour clanking.
"Oh!" he said. "I almost forgot. Mr Tucker asked if we could not visit today; he said he had important preparations to do for his assessment."
"Okay," said Edward. That was actually a good thing; he would have had to take another day off otherwise. "What will you do all day?"
"We're running out of some things," Al said. "I might go to the shop this morning and then read this afternoon."
"Sounds good," said Edward.
The hours ticked by slowly. There was really nothing to do until the phone call came through, and Edward was left pacing restlessly until Alphonse all but threw a book at him, annoyed by his older brother's frustration.
Finally, at exactly nine o'clock, the phone rang. Edward dove for it, almost tripping over the book that he had dropped on the floor.
"Hello?" he asked breathlessly.
"Is this Edward? My name is Sanden Rein."
"Yes, I'm Edward!" the alchemist said, relieved. "I'm sorry I missed your call last night."
"Not to worry, young man."
Alphonse waving to him caught Edward's eye and, when he looked, Al indicated to himself and the door, saying that he was going out now. Edward nodded and waved him off before returning his attention to the phone.
"Now, may I ask exactly who is calling other than just 'Edward'?" Rein asked.
"Yes, sir," said Edward respectfully. "My name is Edward Elric."
There was silence for a moment.
"So, the Fullmetal Alchemist, a military state alchemist," said Rein. "What did you want to speak to me about?"
He sounded neither angry nor pleased; his voice was suddenly dead and flat, making Edward incredibly nervous.
"I-I don't want to bring up anything bad, but I have to ask," Edward said, a little anxiously, half expecting to be yelled at. "I need to ask you about your daughter, Elsa Tucker nee Rein."
Silence. Dead silence.
"Why?" Rein asked eventually.
"I just… you might think it's stupid," Edward said, tugging on one of his bangs. "I'm doing research at Shou Tucker's house at the moment and some things that he said… well, then I did some research and something just didn't seem right so… I thought I'd call you and ask."
All of a sudden Rein began to laugh. A low, bitter laugh.
"It takes the child alchemist suspecting something is up before anything is done," Rein muttered, and Edward thought about being indignant about being called a 'child'. The man sighed. "Can you tell me what you have discovered?"
Shouldn't he be asking the questions? Still, it couldn't hurt to answer.
"Not much," Edward said. "I've discovered that though Tucker said he and Elsa divorced there's no record of it. Also that she is labeled as missing though Tucker told me she had died in an accident after she left him. Apart from that I know next to nothing; I was hoping you could give me some answers."
The man made a funny sound; Edward was alarmed to realize that it was a choked sob.
"You've just given me more information than I've heard for two years, boy," Rein said. "I haven't seen my daughter for that long."
Edward went cold.
"But, Shou Tucker said that when Elsa left she returned to her family," he said.
"He lied," Rein said flatly. "Elsa never returned; I heard from her the day before the military labelled her as missing. The day before Tucker received his state qualifications. I've tried to see my granddaughter but he refuses."
Something was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong! What was happening here? Why had Tucker told him that lie? And if she hadn't returned to her family... then what happened to her?
"I don't understand," Edward muttered, grabbing the report. "How can someone just disappear into thin air?"
"I wish I knew."
Edward frowned when he realised he had accidentally grabbed Shou Tucker's files as well, including the scientist's report. He really didn't want to look at that again...
"Mr Rein," he said slowly. "You say Elsa was labelled as missing the same day that Tucker passed the state exam?"
"That's right," said Rein.
"Who reported it?"
"Tucker did. He said she had up and left the night before and he had been unable to find her all day. That night he went to the military police and told them, and they told us not long after that."
Tucker had been the one to discover her absence; of course, he was her husband so he would naturally be the first to notice. He had reported it the same day he had passed the exam.
She had gone missing the night before.
Just... disappeared, into thin air, as though she had never been in existence.
All it had wanted was to die...
"Almost human-like depression that made it refuse food and eventually kill itself…"
Edward's breath caught.
"No," he whispered. "He didn't…"
"…One evening, about a week before she left, she had shouted at him in the middle of the street, asking if he would experiment on humans next."
"No one knows what became of her…"
"If the chimera wished for death it likely had good reason…"
Edward was having trouble breathing. His hand had grabbed the pen and he was writing quickly on the report, putting his thoughts down before he could lose them, drawing a conclusion that he was struggling with.
"She disappeared the night before the evaluation," he muttered. "Gone, completely and utterly with no trace... she loved her daughter but left her... he said they divorced, which needs two signatures but he lied... for a... for a..."
'For a chimera to speak human it must have the ability to start with. One cannot just fuse two animals and hope it can speak. For a chimera to speak human it must be an animal fused with...'
"No, no..." Edward said frantically. "Damn it!"
"You aren't making sense!" Rein said sharply. "By the way you are talking you have figured something out."
Edward swallowed. "You know of the chimera Tucker created?"
"Of course. Why?"
"I think... I think..." Edward felt like he was about to throw up. "I think that to create that chimera Tucker... fused an animal and a human."
Horrified silence permeated both ends of the phone.
"But..." Rein said faintly. "He... murdered my daughter?"
Edward wasn't sure whether or not to be grateful that the man was accepting his conclusion without argument. Tucker had really done it; he had murdered his wife and used her to create a chimera.
Last year he obviously had not done it again because his annual assessment had not gone well at all. But if he had done it once he could do it again in the future.
"What is Tucker doing now?" Rein asked urgently.
"Al, my brother, said he was using the day to set up for this year's assessment," Edward said. "He didn't do so well last year."
"He would do anything to keep that qualification."
"I know." And then it hit him; the one factor in this whole debacle that he had not yet thought but was like the most important one at the moment. "NINA!"
Panic suffused him.
"Mr Rein, I have to go," he said hurriedly. "I've got to go get Nina and then go to the military. I'll get someone to call you and tell you what's happening... I'm so sorry..."
"Don't be," said Rein gruffly. "Don't be. And be careful."
"I will," said Edward distractedly. "Bye."
He hung up before he could get an answer. He looked at the papers in his hands and grabbed a fresh one, writing a note to Alphonse. Then he grabbed his coat and dashed off.
People stared as he raced by them, but they were only blurs. His footsteps were pounding in time to his heartbeat and he only had room for one thought in his mind; Nina. He had to get to Nina.
'Oh god, what if he uses Nina in an experiment? If he used his wife what's to stop him using his daughter? I have to get there before it's too late!
'I have to hurry!'