“Are you sure about this, Hamilton?”
A warm wind blew over Lucy as she stepped out of the black sedan, oceans eyes looking over the Los Angeles County Jail. Soft hair billow as she turned her head toward Ramos, a face she’d known since her father’s death.
“I have to talk to him,” she said, positive of her actions as she crossed in front of the vehicle. Lucy wore only basics, aware of what flashy outfits cause in a prison. “I know what he’s done, I’ve seen it. I can get him to say something, or to at least prove he’s done more, the legal way.”
“Are you sure you want your voice on tape?” questioned Ramos. “I can’t alter it if it’s going to be used in court, you know that.”
“Of course I know that,” Lucy agreed with a sigh. “We can swing it as a consultant, or forge a request for him to see me. We can get around Deveraux.”
Ramos tilted his head, having no choice but to agree as Hamilton headed off towards the county prison.
Although she may have lacked total confidence in her steps, she was sure she was where she needed to be.
SA Ramos stopped Lucy just shy of the prison gates, holding a hand out in front of her. “Tell me one thing before we go in.”
“Are you doing this for the case or for you? I know you feel guilty about Eliza being taken, I can see it on your face. Especially after you risked going to talk to her.”
“This is for Emily, Ramos,” replied Lucy. “For any others that he’s killed, and for the families he’s ruined. It’s not about me.”
Ramos softly nodded, motioning towards the guard already waiting for them.
The entrance into the facility was smooth, both Ramos and Hamilton escorted in without issue.
“You again,” remarked Officer Hudson as he met the pair in the main hall, arms folded across his chest. He nodded towards Lucy, moustache bristling as he spoke. “Who’s this?”
“Lucy Hamilton, she’s a consultant of mine,” Ramos easily replied. “She’s been cleared to be in the room with Hunter.”
“He’s not very talkative, you know that,” Hudson said with a sigh as he turned, leading them toward the interrogation room.
Hudson’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, glancing back to Lucy. “Are you sure about that?”
“If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t say so,” she remarked, earning half a grin from Ramos as the three walked in near sync.
Officer Hudson gave an unsure sigh, stopping outside of the interrogation room Hunter had met with the FBI in before. “I’ll grab Fowler to stand outside. He’s already in there.” He slid his badge along the mechanical panel on the door, pulling it free as soon as the red light flipped to green. “Good luck.”
The atmosphere of the small room was even worse, sticky with sweat and clouded with anxiety. A body in blue scrubs was latched to the metal table by his handcuffs, head low and ankles bound in steel.
Neil Hunter barely acknowledged the new arrival, head bowed low and eyes averted.
Lucy’s heart was racing, no internal words able to calm her down as she approached the opposite side of the table. She hesitantly pulled out the chair, flashes of the memory she’d been caught in when visiting his house crossing her eyes.
Ramos, however, was lacking the same apprehension Lucy was feeling, instead pulling out a hand recorder and setting it on the table. He folded his arms over his chest, choosing not to sit. “Good morning Mr. Hunter.”
There was no response.
“My name’s Lucy,” she unsteadily began, pulling herself together as she went on. “I wanted to talk to you about a few things.”
Hunter’s eyes slowly rose, still refusing to meet Lucy’s. Still, he said nothing.
“I wanted to ask you about Emily Morrison,” she said calmly. “You’ve been accused of kidnapping and killing her. Did you know they found a body in the woods behind your home?’
“I, however, don’t think that it’ll be Emily’s body.”
Hunter’s expression shifted, tilting his chin toward her.
A reaction. They’d gotten a reaction.
“Not a lot of people would agree with me on that,” said Lucy. “But they don’t know everything I do. They’ve overlooked your past where they shouldn’t have.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hunter softly said, his first words uttered to police since the night he was arrested.
“Maybe you don’t remember. Maybe you’ve blocked it out,” Lucy began, voice both soothing and calm. “But I think you could never forget what you did – what started it all.” She barely needed to prompt Ramos, handed a file the moment she put her arm out. “Neil, everyone does what they do for a reason, whether they know it deep down or not.”
Hunter’s heart was racing as he watched the manila file in Lucy’s hands, terrified of what she would reveal.
“Was she your first?” asked Lucy, removing a black and white photo from the folder and sliding it across to him.
A young, gorgeous girl stared back at Hunter, hidden behind the passage of time. She was remarkably close to Emily Morrison, as if she had lived forty years before.
Hunter let go of a struggled breath, damp eyes threatening to spill over. “She’s just as beautiful as I remember.”
“Was Karen McDonald the first girl you took?”
His chains suddenly rattled, Neil sharply looking up. “I didn’t take her. She came with me. She loved me. We were happy together.”
Lucy began to recoil the image of Karen, only for it to enrage Hunter.
Hunter quickly grabbed the photograph, body shaking and rage enclosed his body. “Don’t take her away from me again. Don’t take her from me,” he growled viciously.
“I’ll let you keep it if you tell me one thing,” Lucy said, seemingly unbothered by the alarming change in behavior. “Did you kill Karen?”
A tear etched down a ruddy cheek, slowly meeting eyes with the author. “She wanted to leave. I couldn’t let her leave me. I couldn’t let her. I couldn’t let her leave.”
“Neil, how many girls have you taken because they look like Karen?”
It was then when he began to sob.
“I understand how strange it is to see those that you’ve lost within other people. Maybe you thought you could get another try – to make things right with Karen. To make her stay.” Lucy kept her eyes on Hunter, no doubt in her voice. “But they would never stay, would they? They would leave you, just like Karen had. And you couldn’t take it, could you? You couldn’t let them leave like Karen. They would go tell. They would go find someone else to love, far away from you, just like Karen had tried to do. So you would kill them, to make them stay. If they wouldn’t stay with you, they could at least stay on your land – where they could be your secret.”
“I just wanted them to love me,” Neil whispered.
“Hunter, how many girls did you take?” questioned Lucy, eyes unwavering.
“Eight,” he uttered, eyes stinging with tears. “It was only supposed to be seven. Seven was Karen’s lucky number.” Hunter trailed a finger along the photograph of Karen, as if he could still touch her. “I don’t know what came over me after Emily.”
“She was supposed to be the last,” said Lucy, Emily’s death replaying over and over in her head. “Why wasn’t she? Why did you take Eliza? She doesn’t look anything like Karen.”
“I don’t know,” Hunter said, his throat tight and words spilling out. “I know I shouldn’t have. I knew she wasn’t Karen. I was supposed to be done.”
“Neil, I need you to do one last thing for me.” Lucy brought out a small pad of paper and a pen, setting them down on the table. “I need you to give me all the names of the girls that you’ve taken, and where their bodies are.”
Hunter immediately shook his head, “I can’t do that. I can’t-“
“It’s what Karen would want, Neil,” assured Lucy. “You’re done, you don’t need to keep it a secret anymore. Let their memories go home, so their families can love them just like you did.”
And with salty tears and grief lining his face, Neil Hunter picked up the pen.
Days had passed over Los Angeles in subtle warmth as the Hunter case began to come to a close, the sun shining high over the crowded city skyline. The media exploded across the country, tens of cases opening back up with seemingly no links to each other.
A set of twins had their cause of deaths changed; their mother finally charged for the crime. A hidden serial killer had been brought into the light and convicted with the murders of eighteen children. A mayor had been caught in her lies and skeletons had been pulled from her closets.
To the public, it made no sense.
To the agents working the cases, it didn’t make much more.
The origins of the evidence has been kept from all involved outside of conference room B, Lucy Hamilton hidden behind the graces and guilt of the FBI. She could remain alone in the comfort of her beach house, editing her newest novel and doting on Alex with no worry of helicopters swarming.
And while helicopters weren’t swarming the LA field office, the criminalistics floor was swimming with information.
Five cases had been put into processing, three solved and the others dissected on composition boards throughout the office. Agents had been dispatched through multiple field offices and police departments, armed with the information pulled from the Stella St. Laurens novels without her name included.
All the FBI told them was that the source was need to know and that they didn’t meet the qualifications. It always worked.
SSA Phillips stood in the center of her domain, arms folded over her chest as she scanned the varied teams set on different cases brought back into the light by Lucy. Her jaw tightened as she looked over her suited shoulder, spotting the cracked open office door towards the back of the massive room. “Damn it, Deveraux.”
The masses seemed to part as Marina moved across the stained carpet, practically slamming Agent Deveraux’s door open.
However, no one was inside.
Phillips walked around his desk, moving the computer mouse just enough to bring the screen back to life. She’d expected to find something on Hamilton, but his only tabs open were of the case he’d been posted on since Lucy was removed as a suspect.
A throat cleared behind the floor director, “Ma’am?”
Phillips would’ve jumped if she hadn’t been with the FBI for years on end, the senior agent only turning her head towards Deveraux.
Vance’s eyebrows lifted as he searched for a cue, unsure of what to say. “Everything all right?”
“No, we’ve got multiple reopened cases on our hands,” Marina quickly said as she moved past him back into the main floor. “Get back to work.”
Waiting until his boss has disappeared, Vance took his place behind his desk as he set his coffee down. He only shook his head softly, opening one of the drawers and pulling out his personal laptop. “No trust around here,” he said to himself absently, bringing up his server.
Phoenix Native Earns Full Ride To Stanford
Lucy Hamilton Graduates Stanford Law Summa Cum Laude
Stanford’s Top Law Student Turns Down All Law Firm Offers
“She’s perfect,” Vance said with annoyance in his voice as he scoured through pages upon pages of research he’d done on the novelist’s true persona.
He’d tried to find a criminal file, a detention notice in high school or anything that could be relative, but lo and behold; she was an outstanding citizen.
Green eyes searched through lines of information on what little was known about Stella St. Laurens, making the connection that her books had begun to soar just about the time Lucy passed the California Bar Exam with flying colors but turned down every top law firm around the country that had invited her to work for them, at top price, no less.
It seemed insane to anyone unaware of the profits she made off of one chapter alone that she would give up the prospect of taking over the US court system.
Vance idly ran a finger along his bottom lip as he foraged for intel on the author, his eyes narrowing as he came across a file blocked from his FBI clearance level. “What?” he muttered to himself, attempting to bypass the firewall.
But there was no avail; he’d been shut out.
Swearing under his breath, Deveraux nearly knocked over his coffee cup as he picked up his laptop, rising from his desk chair with intent. His oxfords carried him out of his close-quarters office, ignoring every team working throughout the main floor as he headed towards the elevator.
The doors closed around him, encasing him in silver with a distorted figure of himself reflecting off the metal like a funhouse mirror. Only clicks of the passing floors sounded through the box, Deveraux barely breathing as he traveled down to the IT main floor.
In his brief moments alone, he thought of all the things that could go wrong if he didn’t let go of Lucy Hamilton.
He could lose his clearance, his job, or even his life.
Vance wasn’t exactly in the good graces of those above him, and it would only get worse if Phillips caught him digging into Hamilton’s past when she’d strictly told him to leave her alone.
He just couldn’t bring himself to cease the case.
Deveraux was lost in his thoughts as the elevator doors opened on the IT floor, having to snap himself out of the distance before heading through the busy, coffee drenched work tables and towards the back. He nodded slightly in greeting to the few agents who recognized him as he found the singular office space that was exactly where his own was in the mirroring floor plans of the bureau. Rapping his knuckles twice on the door of a familiar desk agent, Vance stuck his head through the slightly cracked space. “Oswald? You in here, man?”
A blond not much younger than Vance looked up from his desk, a computer torn apart and dissected. “Deveraux? What are you doing down in the Pit?” He sat up, running a swift hand through his jaw length hair before motioning for Vance to come inside. “I never see you down here unless you need a -” brown eyes found the laptop under Deveraux’s arm, “favor,” he finished with a skimp laugh.
“I, uh,” Vance hesitated, glancing to his own computer, “yeah, but there are drinks in it if you’re up for the task.”
“You know I never turn down a drink,” replied Agent Oswald, holding out a hand across his messy desk. “What do we have going on?”
“Issue with a file.”
Oswald lifted an eyebrow, looking up to Vance with a questioning expression. “You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?”
Deveraux sat down in the spare seat in the corner, giving a flat look to the boy he’d roomed with in college years before. “I’m serious, Damon. I can’t get to the file.”
Leaning in on an elbow as he deciphered through Deveraux’s computer, he didn’t bother glancing up as he spoke. “Says the Special Agent.” He shook his head, “It’s not a file issue, Deveraux, it’s clearance.”
“Like you just said, I’m an SA, I shouldn’t be having an issue.” Vance stood back up as quickly as he seemed to sit down, going around Oswald’s desk to see the screen. “I thought you could help.”
“Meaning you thought I could break through government firewall,” Damon retorted without question, bringing up the code of the page Vance had been stuck on.
“We lived together the entire time we were at MSU, I know you can.”
Oswald, however, hesitated as he maneuvered his way through back channels. “What’s this even about, anyways? I heard Phillips chewed you out for giving a false warrant to a Stanford Law grad.”
Vance rolled his eyes, muttering, “How did that even make its way down here?”
“We’re the IT department, Deveraux, everything makes its way down here,” countered Oswald as he worked. “So, that’s what it’s about? The weird book case?”
“Yeah,” he replied, “it does. I was trying to look in on - an unsub, and I was shut out.”
“Stella St. Laurens, right?” Damon’s light hair slacked in front of his face as he dug deeper into the locked database, his mind processing the information at an alarming rate. “I heard they shut her name out of everything last week, before they opened all of the cases.”
“What’s the point of secrets if everyone else knows about them?”
“Dude,” Oswald over his shoulder to the hovering Vance, “you do remember you work for the government, don’t you?”
Slightly grumbling against Damon’s quip, Vance motioned to the screen of his laptop. “Can you get me to the file.”
“It was locked from more than just your clearance level, Dev, I’m pretty sure it was hidden from the whole system.”
Vance’s eyebrows narrowed, “Someone hid the file from the whole FBI?”
“Not the whole FBI, but pretty much anyone who isn’t on Jones’ security level, which is basically everyone.” The MIT master’s grad bounced through dark net portals, lifting his fingers from the keys as a noise made itself present on Vance’s laptop. “We’re in.”
The screen seemed the fritz for a moment, the resume and photograph of a handsome man with US flag pinned to his suit showing up slowly.
Oswald’s eyebrows furrowed, “What’s he got to do with this?”
“I was just looking for her father, he never showed up in any of the files-”
Quickly shutting the computer, Damon pushed the laptop back at Vance. “You’ve got to stop. You can’t keep looking into this.”
Vance found himself being rerouted out of Oswald’s office, the slightly smaller man moving his old roommate towards the door. “Oswald, come on-”
“No,” he objected all too quickly, with every intention of shutting the door in his face. “You can’t investigate his daughter. Not his.”