“I’ve never seen him so confused,” Leigh said as we reached the end of the hall.
“Who?” I asked.
“Benings,” he continued, opening the exit door and letting cool air and the sound of falling rain in. “I know this case is all messed up, but if it wasn’t for the extensive evidence and the Feds, he would think you were lying to the board.”
I shook my head walking next to him.
“What happens now?” I asked.
“I’ll keep you posted, but I got to say, we are standing on thin ice on this one.”
I looked out of the door at the rainy street where a few cars drove through.
“Listen,” Leigh continued, looking at his watch, “I have another case in 207 with Benings in a few minutes. We’ll keep in touch, ok?”
“Sounds good,” I replied, shaking his hand.
Looking at Leigh walking back toward the interview room, I saw Klebond walking toward me with a purpose.
“Detective Miers,” he said, “can I have a word with you?”
He came to a stop in front of me as I closed the front door of the building behind me. I sighed, looking at him with an annoyed face. I knew the FBI was in this for their own purposes and whatever clarification he was about to ask for likely wouldn’t benefit my situation.
“Couldn’t you have asked during the interview?”
“I thought to, but the Captain looked like he was having a panic attack,” he replied, smirking.
“What is it?”
“As we were processing the scene, we confirmed something peculiar. I hope you can help shed some light in this matter.”
He opened his folder and pulled out a black and white polaroid picture containing dark and white bands. A DNA profile comparison.
“From our analysis, it seems you and Xelsior share quite a bit of DNA, enough to put you in the same distant family. A little more than twenty-five percent, in fact.” He handed me another black and white picture of a few men standing in front of an airplane.
“Well, I guess my actual question is, do you know Xelsior?”
Looking at the report and the picture Klebond just handed me, something ticked in my head. I remembered something I’d thought was trivial. The nurse in the hospital where I was being checked after everything went down had handed me a black suit jacket that I didn’t remember owning but that they insisted was found with me when I was rescued. Inside a pocket in that jacket there was a half burned black and white picture of a group of men near an airplane. I remembered seeing that fedora-wearing man there, and at home in a family album my wife Elsa had made from all our pictures. He looked strangely familiar.
Like pieces of a puzzle falling in place right in front of my eyes, I recalled the phrase he’s just uttered—we confirmed something peculiar.
“I don’t know that man,” I replied, feeling my blood boiling. “Are you telling me that you knew about this before you sent us in Ohio?”
“Well, we weren’t sure…”
“You used us as bait for you goddamn investigation!” I shouted, taking a half-step toward him. “And you didn’t even get the guy!”
Klebond stood his ground, looking at me as I continued.
“I have a question for you, Mister Fed-I-know-it-all! How the hell do you have genetic profiles of Nazi nurses when the sheer proof of concept of DNA profiles didn’t begin till forty years later? Huh? How the hell do you have mine and the firefighter’s DNA profile? It’s not exactly common procedure, is it?”
Klebond peeked behind his shoulder at a couple of people that crossed the corridor behind him, looking our way.
“This investigation precedes me, it precedes the bureau as a unit. Do you know that over ten million people go missing every year? Eight million of them are children. That’s a lot of people, and this has been going on for as long as we have been keeping records of it.”
“You know what? I don’t care,” I replied, feeling dismayed and betrayed. “You do your investigations your way, but leave me out of it.”
I opened the door and walked out of the building. It was so cloudy and gloomy outside the afternoon almost felt like late evening.
I turned my jacket collar up and walked briskly toward the parking garage at the end of the block.
“Why did you lie to the board?” I heard someone asking me as I entered the garage building.
Sighing, I turned around to see a man coming to a stop a few feet behind me. I briefly looked around to see where he’d come from, then focused on him again. Like the man in the picture, his face—clean-shaven but for a thin moustache—stuck out from under the brim of his black fedora hat. A white shirt and dark-colored tie peeked out his long trench coat. He was wearing shiny black leather shoes.
“What? How’d you know…” My voice echoed through the walls of the concrete garage hall.
A feeling of a deep pain in my stomach overtook me. I inhaled quickly. Like in a dream, I vaguely remembered shooting at this man, but I couldn’t remember the events that led to it, nor why I did it.
As a car pulled out if its spot and drove past us, I narrowed my eyes, looking at the man.
“I’ve never met you, I think,” I said, realizing that this man was Xelsior Dietrich, “but the FBI says we, me and you, share twenty-five percent of our DNA. That would make you my grandfather, who has been missing for over seventy years in Germany. Who are you? What is going on and where is my partner?”
“Hmpf,” Xelsior grunted, “it’s a pickle, isn’t it? Soon,” he continued, “we will have a long conversation about this, but not here, not now. And your partner is…ok. He’ll be found.”
“One day? I want some goddamn answers right now!” I shouted at him. “My partner is missing, my job thinks I’m crazy, and it all has something to do with you.”
“Then come with me now, let me help you understand.”
“The hell I will.” I clenched my fists.
I wanted to punch him as hard as I could, but I couldn’t risk another confrontation with the board even if it meant bringing in our suspect. This guy seemed to be a ghost, everywhere and nowhere, and had eluded the FBI for such a long time.
“What about the tipster?” I said instead, trying to get some more information from him.
“Do you know who he is?” he asked in reply.
“No, and the feds didn’t mention where the calls came from, but obviously there’s at least one person that knows whatever it is you do.”
“Then we’ll have to have our talk sooner than I thought. Meet me at this place tonight at 8 p.m.” He pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. “And Miers,” Xelsior said, turning around as he was leaving, “the tipster is neither your friend nor your ally. Don’t trust him.”
I briskly walked away from Xelsior with a deep feeling of panic, unusual for me as I liked to plan my moves before they happened. Turning the corner of garage’s second floor I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and called home.
“Hello,” I heard Elsa say.
“Hi Bobby,” she greeted me.
“Where is Julia?”
“She’s at school today…is everything ok?”
“Everything’s fine,” I responded. “I’m coming home.”
“Ok, see you in a few minutes,” Elsa replied after a brief pause.
After ending the call, I walked toward my car feeling frustrated and anxious, thinking about the case. Xelsior’s comment about Enry eased me a bit, but now I was beginning to get worried about both the tipster and Xelsior alike, especially after hearing that his calls were targeted to Enry and me. I’d known that the calls came through our unit, but I hadn’t known that the tipster had directly called our extension.
I drove home as fast as I could, parked my car in the driveway and walked inside, constantly checking over my shoulder to see if anyone was following me. My wife was in the living room, watching the news.
“Are you ok?” she asked as soon as I entered the room.
“Yes,” I answered as I walked toward the safe where I stored my weapons. “Why do you ask?”
“The last time you called randomly asking about Julia and me, we had to relocate to the mountains for three months.” She followed me to the safe. “What kind of trouble are you in this time?”
I punched my code into the safe and pulled my .38 caliber revolver out of it, as well as a box of ammunition that I kept stashed away for emergencies. I headed to the living room and closed the curtains.
“Robert!” Elsa raised her voice. “You’re scaring me.”
“Where is your gun, it’s not in the safe,” I asked as I loaded mine.
“It’s on me, I pulled it out right after you called me. Robert, you need to tell me what’s going on.”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think I have time to explain right now. Please do as I say for the moment. I’m going to pick up Julia at school, then we can talk.” I stashed my gun in my front pocket. “Do not answer the phone. Do not open the door for anyone. We should still have some time to figure out what’s happening. I just need to make sure our daughter is safe right now. Call her up and ask her to wait for me. And Elsa, pull out the bug-out bags for us. Please.”
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