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Alibis and Explainations


TWENTY-ONE

Alibis and Explanations


Cal’s ringing phone interrupted him before he could ask Taylor to explain how she knew about the where abouts of Murphy’s stolen files. He checked the caller ID from habit.


“It’s Michael,” he said, his voice self-conscious and strained as the phone rang a second time. “He’s calling from his house.”


Taylor’s eyes widened and her expression mirrored Cal’s anxious face. “What could he possibly want at this hour? Don’t let him know I’m here. Don’t say anything about the accident until you know exactly what he wants. ”


Cal paced anxiously around the room like a teenager about to be caught in a compromising position by his parents letting the phone ring three more times before answering.


“Yeah, Boss,” he said. Michael knew he screen his calls, so simply answering with a ‘hello’ would only make his anxiety more obvious.


“Took you long enough to pick up,” Michael’s voice was tense, suspicious. “I need to see you right away.”


“Sorry Boss. I was in the shower.” Taylor rolled her eyes at the clichéd excuse as Cal continued defensively. “What’s going on?”


“When you left Taylor at the hospital,” Michael sounded like he was interrogating a witness. “Did she give you any indication where she might be going next?”


Cal had to turn his back to avoid Taylor’s questioning stares. “No. She was still at the hospital when I left. I just assumed that she would go back to her hotel.”


“Well she’s not answering her phone. I sent a cruiser to her hotel and her Jeep’s not there. Apparently you were the last one to see her.”


Cal turned and looked at Taylor, who mouthed ‘what’. “What’s happened; what’s going on Michael?”


“Special Agent Harmon is here with me,” Michael said a slight edge in his voice.


“Harmon’s at your house?” Cal asked the question in order to supply Taylor with the details of the conversation.


“Apparently no one informed him about the attempt on Gallo this evening.”


“How is that possible that he didn’t know?” Cal asked directing his question to Taylor who shook her head.


“No one has heard anything from Taylor or Agent Carson.” Bimonte’s tension was obvious in the tightness of his voice. “We’ve been reviewing the circumstances leading up to tonight’s events and we both agree that Gallo was only a secondary target, collateral damage.” Michael paused, gathering his thoughts before he continued. “We think that Taylor might have been the target and now she’s missing.”


Cal continued to pace around his living room, Taylor’s questioning stare following his every movement. “Has anyone been to the hospital to talk with Gallo? Maybe he knows where Taylor is; maybe she’s still there.”


It was a stretch, a lame attempt to disguise the fact that he knew exactly where Taylor was and Cal knew, suspicious, as Michael seemed to be of his daughter and his recent lack of confidence in Cal’s attention to procedures, that Michael was bound to see right through it. There was a brief silence on Bimonte’s end of the phone before Cal received his next assignment.


“Maybe you’re right,” Michael began. “Go back to the hospital and see if she’s there or if Gallo knows where she is. It’s possible she went back to the camp to check on Gallo’s daughter. I noticed how protective Taylor seemed to be of the little girl at the lake earlier.”


Taylor listened to Cal’s conversation and watched the emotions cycle across Cal’s face as he wrestled with the conflict that the current situation presented him. She knew he was caught between trying to do what was right and trying to protect her. Her head was still throbbing so she reached for the Tylenol bottle and took three more tablets then leaned her head against the arm of the couch. The memories she had of this room started to spark others, both pleasant and painful. The last time she had been here, Cal had accused her of simply walking away from the future they were supposed to have together; she didn’t tell him, couldn’t tell him then that it wasn’t her choice to walk away. Taylor closed her eyes and let herself wander back to the point when her choice whether or not to be part of Cal’s life had been taken away from her.


Taylor had just returned to campus from the second of two- six week stints at the FBI training facilities near Quantico which, thanks to her law enforcement class teacher, were somehow going to help fulfill a bunch of general education requirements and shave about a half a semester from the amount of time it would take for her to finish her law degree. Most of the trainings were in self-defense, a few dealt with weapons, different firearms and antipersonnel equipment. The last two weeks had been spent on wilderness survival skills and covert operations. The whole twelve weeks had been exciting and interesting, but it was over and Taylor was ready to focus on graduation and what was coming after she received her diploma. Her mentor and instructor, Alex Harmon had been doing his best to convince her that her future lay with the FBI, but Taylor had other plans. Taylor had never expected that one chance meeting in a bar would evolve into a relationship that had lasted close to two years. To be honest, she had never allowed anyone to get as close to her as she had let Cal Montgomery, now every time she thought about him, anything about him, she could feel a stupid grin spread across her face. Being with Cal had help Taylor start to believe that maybe she could avoid some of the mistakes her own parents had made, that maybe ‘happily ever after’ was a possibility. The first hurdle that any future they might have was in where the next chapter would play take place. Taylor was certain that she could never move back to her childhood home, but she was confident that she and Cal would work something out. And as Harmon continually was point out, she had lots of options, from high powered Albany law firms to the Secret Service. She knew she was going to have to decide soon and since Taylor had gotten rather used to having Trooper Calvin Montgomery in her life, it seemed that what ever choice she made would be influenced by what ever would include his continued presence.


“I know that look,” Taylor’s friend Laura teased. “You’re thinking about that cop again aren’t you?”


Taylor and Laura were walking across campus after a late English lit class. The two women had been roommates since the beginning of law school. Taylor had moved off campus and rented an apartment off campus at the beginning of the past semester because she now had a boyfriend who was very committed to visiting her on a semi-regular basis, and it had become a huge inconvenience to have to go through the whole process of getting permission for Cal to stay with her in her dorm suite. Taylor had found a place close by which afforded her the privacy she craved and was still close enough to campus so not to interfere with her studies. Even though they no longer shared a suite, the two women had remained good friends.


“Guilty as charged councilor,” Taylor laughed. “Do you want to grab some coffee?”


“Sure, why not?” Laura looked around nervously as the two reversed direction and headed towards the campus coffee house. “As long as we’re not out too late; I’m still weirded -out over what happened.”


There had been a series of strange incidences on the campus. Earlier in the semester, a freshman girl had been assaulted by an unknown man on her way back from a late night study session and another upper classman who was completing a work study between semesters had been chased between the dorms during a holiday break in classes. Neither girl could identify their attacker nor there been any witnesses to either incident, which left the college police and the local authorities with out any solid leads, so they contacted the FBI for assistance. The local authorities, working in conjunction with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit now suspected that the ‘College Creeper’, the name given to the unknown assailant by the media, was a serial rapist who had been preying on young college students up and down the east coast. The University of Virginia seemed to be his current hunting ground of choice, the latest in a series of assaults spanning almost four years. Most of the victims fell into a similar category, young, between the ages of 19 and 24, athletic build with light skin and hair color. The college security people had suggested that female students travel in pairs and avoid secluded, poorly lit areas of the quad and surrounding grounds when ever possible.


Taylor and Laura didn’t realize how late it had gotten until the barista of the coffee house started shutting off lights and stacking stools.


“I think we’re being handed our hats and shown the door,” Laura laughed as they collected their belongings and headed for the door.


Because of the late hour, Taylor insisted on walking Laura all the way back to the dorm. When they arrived at the building, Laura convinced Taylor to come up to the suite and crash for the night rather than crossing the campus to get to where Taylor had left her car. The building was quiet as it was a weeknight and at this hour most everyone had turned in for the night. When they reached their floor the hallway was dark; the over headlight, left in a state of disrupted repair, was dangling precariously from its electrical connection wires. Laura hesitated for an instant before they started for the suite.


“Looks like the RA still hasn’t got the custodians to fix that damn thing,” said Taylor in an effort to ease Laura’s dis-ease. “If they don’t get it fixed soon, you’ll just have to move in with me.”


Laura laughed nervously. “Sure just what your love nest needs: a third wheel.”


She unlocked the door, cracking it enough to allow her arm to slide though and search out the inside light switch. As soon as Laura felt the switch under her fingers and heard the click indicating the lights were on, she pushed the door open. Each action was deliberate and rehearsed, like a ritual that she preformed many times.


“Jesus Laura.” Taylor put her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “What are you, OCD or something? You’re really freaked out over this creeper thing. Do you do this every time you come home?”


Laura tossed her keys on the end stand by the door. “You have no idea how on edge every one is about this whole thing. Did you know that the girl who was chased by that maniac lived on the second floor here?” Laura went to the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of diet soda. Handing one Taylor, she moved to the sofa and sat down. “I can’t get the idea that he could have followed her here out of my head. That nut chased her half way across the quad; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where she was running to.”


“What makes you think that she was running here or that he was even aware of the buildings she might have been running toward? I mean come on, the campus is a big place, this building is full and security’s been stepped up, hasn’t it?” Taylor sat down next to her.


“What make you think that it will make any difference to someone who’s hunting college girls? This guy just disappeared into thin air as soon as security was alerted.” Laura looked away, studying the pattern on the sofa, the depth of her terror obvious. “I was here when the police came. I’ll never forget the look on her face. I see it in my dreams sometimes.” Laura was looking at something far away in her memory. “When her parents came to get her, she looked so different, like she was still being chased.”


Taylor nodded supportively; she could see that Laura was genuinely frightened. “If you feel that way, seriously Laura, come and move in with me until they catch this guy.”

Laura took a long drink from her soda bottle. “I’m fine. I just don’t go out after dark alone anymore and at least one good thing has come from my paranoia,” she said smiling bravely.


“What’s that?” asked Taylor as she wrapped her arm around her friend’s shoulder.


“I’ve quit smoking,” They laughed at the irony of the situation. “I’m too afraid to go outside alone for a smoke.”


Now that the air had been cleared of unpleasant things, Taylor and Laura picked up their coffeehouse gossiping until both were too tried to keep their eyes open. Laura loaned Taylor something to sleep in and then they said their good nights as Taylor settled into her former bedroom and got ready for bed.


A terrifying dream woke Taylor out of a sound sleep. She and Laura were walking across campus when a faceless man brandishing a huge knife intercepted them. Taylor tried to disarm the phantom using some of the techniques she had learned at the FBI training camp, but the assailant flung her away like a rag doll. The ghastly figure turned and began to chase Laura, quickly overtaking her, but this time when Taylor tried to intervene, the attacker grabbed Taylor by the throat and held her fast as he knelt down on Laura’s chest, pulling Taylor down with him. Then the faceless man turned the black abyss that should have been his face on Taylor and hissed in to her face.


“This is your fault. Watch what you are powerless to prevent.”


In the dream, Taylor stood frozen in wide-eyed terror as the faceless man, slashed and tore at Laura as she screamed for help that Taylor couldn’t give.


Taylor sat up soaked in sweat and shaking; she looked around the room for confirmation that she was awake. The clock on the nightstand glowed green in the darkness and the streetlight in the parking lot was faintly visible through the closed window shade. Taylor swung her legs off the side of the bed and touched her bare feet to the cold floor. The floor was real and had substance; she could feel the bed sheets beneath her hands and could make out more furniture in the room as her eyes adjusted to the dark. There was no question that she was awake and Laura was still screaming; just like she had been in Taylor’s dream.

Cal ran his hands through his hair in relief. “Right boss. I’m out the door right now.”

“By the time you complete the hospital-camp circuit, Agent Harmon and I will be at the barracks. Meet us there and we’ll see what we’ve got.” Michael hung up.


Taylor lifted her head from the arm of the couch shaking away the memory as Cal turned to return the phone it its base.


“Harmon is worried about you; he thinks that you were the intended target tonight,” Cal said placing the phone back into its cradle. “The long and the short of it is no one knows where you are and they are assuming that..,” Cal sat down on the couch next to Taylor as she finished his sentence.

“That I’m dead in a ditch somewhere.” Taylor carefully repositioned herself so she could get up and then she dug her cell phone from her jacket pocket. She quickly composed a text message to Special Agent Harmon and sat down near the fireplace when she finished.


“That should take care of any concerns Alex has at the moment.” No sooner had she spoken than her phone’s alert sound went off. She read the message and responded as if Cal wasn’t there.


“What about Michael T?” Cal crossed and stood over her. “As a father, I think I know how he’s feeling right now. I could hear the worry in his voice. Don’t you think he deserves to at least know where you are?”


“Look Cal,” she got up so she didn’t have to crane her neck to speak to him as her phone beeped again. “You of all people know that it’s all about business with your boss, statutes and procedures.” She tucked the phone into the front pocket of her jeans. “He stopped being my father the day he signed his divorce papers.”


Taylor turned away and played with the latch of the carved wooden box which was positioned between the two framed photos of Cal and Jack on the mantle of the fireplace.


“The less you or my father knows about the specifics of who the FBI leak is, the better. If someone is targeting me, I can take care of myself with out having to worry about either of you getting caught in the middle.”


“You’re avoiding the question and I think we can take care of ourselves T.”


“Really? Mathew would argue the same and look where he is.”


Cal backed a few steps away from Taylor as the way she said Mathew Gallo’s name reminded him what he had seen happen between them earlier, the way Gallo looked at her, the intimate way he had touched at the hospital, and the way she had allowed him to kiss her before they took him to the hospital. Much to his surprise, a surge of jealousy washed through him followed by anger at how envious he was that now Gallo seemed to possess what he should be his.


“Right, didn’t do such as good job of looking out for him did you T?” The green-eyed monster took control of Cal and struck out at Taylor. “How is your, oh what should we call him; your client or your boyfriend? Cal voice dripped with distain and sarcasm. “Everything check out all right?”


She turned back around to face him, taken a back by his questions that seemed more like accusations.


“Mathew is my client and the subject on an on-going federal investigation,” she snapped, the tone her voice defensive but firm. She glared hard at him with the same intensity as she had when he challenged her at the hospital. “Just what are you implying Cal?”


“Just what services do you provide Gallo? Judging from what I saw before they carted his sorry ass to the hospital, I have a hard time believing that he’s just your client or some suspect you’ve got under surveillance.” The floodgates opened and everything he wanted to say to her that day in Virginia came rushing out. He paced around her as he fired another jealous accusation “That didn’t appear to be legal briefs or real estate holdings you were discussing sitting on that hospital bed T.”


“Is that really what that was all about at the hospital,” she gasped, genuinely shocked. “You think that I’m sleeping with Mathew Gallo?”


Actually hearing the words only made Cal angrier, old hurts spurring him on, making him want to act meaner. “Is that how you know so much about what goes on inside his head T; no secrets between the sheets?”


“You stupid ass,” Taylor shot back. She repeated each word with sharp enunciation “You –stupid- jealous- ass! Do you really think so little of me? Do you think for one minute that I would resort to THAT in order to do my job?” Taylor turned away and braced her self against the mantle of the fireplace

“Not that it’s any of your business Calvin Montgomery,” she began stubbornly. “And I could care less whether you believe me or not,” she paused for a moment drawing a deep breath, resting her head on the stone edge of the mantle. She looked back over her shoulder, unwilling to face him again directly. “The last time I was with any one, the last time I made love with a man, I was in this room. The last man I was with Cal was you.”


Taylor’s revelation dissipated the swell of jealous anger that had consumed Cal and replaced it with embarrassment and regret. He desperately wanted to take back every thing he had thought or said since he stupidly opened his mouth. Instead he stood there in the awkward silence and was actually relieved, as the message alert sound of Taylor’s phone seemed to echo in the room.

After what seemed like hours had passed, Taylor turned back toward his direction reading the latest message on her phone’s screen then with out another word, she quickly composed another text message, picked up her jacket and moved toward the door.


“Where do you think you’re going?” Cal asked as he pushed ahead of her, reached over her head and held the door closed with his hand.


“I have to go back to the Gallo camp,” she replied stubbornly. “You can either give me your keys or come with me.” She could tell that he was debating whether or not he could or should try and stop her so she added, “You wanted to know about what was in the files Murphy stole. Here’s your chance. Besides, you’re supposed to be out looking for me anyway; if anyone sees you and me together, they’ll assume you found me.”


Unable to argue with her logic and with his curiosity whetted, Cal grabbed his jacket and keys and followed Taylor out the door.

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