Malibu was known by heart by most famous actors and authors; lavish homes lining the Pacific Coast on its beautiful beaches and typically only lived in seasonally. The waves never ceased to draw in a crowd, whether they have an Emmy or not. Movie magic is constant and a dismal air only ever seemed to fall upon one home in particular; The Hamilton House.
Alex padded along the shore, small plumes of salt water erasing his paw prints as he paced up and down happily. He sensed nothing out of the ordinary as he waited for Lucy’s return from the waves, shaking out his golden mane with grace.
The neoprene of Lucy’s wetsuit fought off the freezing waters of the early evening ocean as she emerged from under a wave, the screeching of birds powering through the crash of the waters. The warm winds graced over the brunette as she paddled farther out on her stomach, able to feel the divots that the sex wax had left on her board through the black fabric.
The thoughts running through her mind were shrinking as she swam closer to a swell in the ocean, leaving that of the potential end of her career, her lies and her secrets. There was only one left as she swung her board around, beginning to paddle away as she felt like she was starting to fly.
Lucy’s mind wasn’t filled with all of the problems with her life, but instead only the rush and joy of catching the wave as her feet connected with board.
She was free when she surfed, time suspended as she thought of nothing but the happiness it brought her.
It was the only thing that kept her sanity in tact anymore.
And the one doing the best against her sanity? He was waiting on the shore.
Vance Deveraux stood next to Alex, oxfords dangerously close to being submerged in Pacific Coast sand. His suit jacket was missing and his white dress shirt was rolled up to his elbows, bearing dark slacks not appropriate for the beach. A hand was outstretched next to him, petting the retriever’s head while keeping the other pocketed. He kept his eyes out on the water, watching as Lucy came down from a massive wave. Lifting his hand from Alex into the air, he caught the author’s attention in the brief moment she looked over to check on her dog.
Even from the distance the ocean had put between them, Vance could see her expression shift from a wide smile into a look of sheer annoyance. It’d become the face he was most commonly greeted with when it came to Lucy Hamilton.
“She’s not a big fan of me, is she?” questioned Vance as he glanced back down to Alex, Lucy already on her way in from the surf.
Alex didn’t register that Vance had spoken, simply laying down on the beach with a wagging tail as his owner approached.
“Do you really want to take a Stanford Law student to court where you have no case, Special Agent Vance?” Lucy asked as she pushed back her hair, carrying her board under her arm. She had partially unzipped her suit, knowing the heat would be swarming back to her skin soon enough.
Vance held up his hands, “I just want to talk.”
“Funny, you’ve said that to me before,” she quickly retorted. “Didn’t exactly end as just a talk, now did it?”
“For real this time, Hamilton,” Deveraux said. “I just came to talk.”
Lucy hesitated before sighing, going around the FBI agents and up to the house. She mounted her board on the side paneling of her home, intending to clean it once Deveraux left. She whistled without looking back, Alex jumping up from the sand and running past Vance towards the house.
“Click the coffee pot, would you?” she asked over her shoulder as she went through the open floor plan, heading up the stairs to the loft.
Vance wasn’t given the option to disagree, Lucy vanishing to change out of her wetsuit. He briefly looked down to Alex as if he could help before he wandered into the kitchen, concentrating on the buttons before finding the right one to start the preset. Turning around, he stopped as he saw a purple cube sitting on the island out of its plastic wrapping. “Hamilton, why is there sex wax on your counter?”
“Don’t be a creep, it’s for surfing,” Lucy flatly said as she came out from behind the bamboo panel in the loft, drying her hair with a blush hand towel. She wore a pair of gray joggers and a thin blue tee, bare feet hitting the wooden staircase as she rejoined Vance on the first floor. “It’s for the board. Did you never surf in Virginia?”
“Never had the chance,” he replied as he set down the wax cube. “And as a kid, Michigan isn’t exactly a prime spot for waves. Wait,” Vance hesitated, “how did you know I was in Virginia?”
Lucy only lifted her eyebrows as she went into the kitchen, giving him a knowing look as she pulled down two mugs from the cabinet. “You have Quantico written all over you.”
“You would know all about that, wouldn’t you?”
Pouring out two cups of the quickly brewed coffee, Lucy showed no signs of an argument. “Never went to Quantico.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t know anyone who did, Deveraux,” Lucy interrupted as she held out a Chicago mug to him. “You jump to conclusions incredibly fast.” She moved out of the kitchen, taking a spot on the sofa next to Alex without telling Vance to follow her.
But he did, of course.
Vance sat opposite of her in the settee, posing a calm facade. “In my line of work, I don’t typically have time to wait.”
“Then my case must be particularly frustrating,” Lucy mused between sips of black coffee, remarkably at ease. “Or my non-case. Whatever you’d like to call it.”
“How’d you manage that?”
Lucy only lifted an eyebrow despite knowing exactly what he was talking about, “Manage what, Special Agent?”
“First off, I think I’ve bothered you enough for you to call me Vance, and second, I mean Phillips dropping you as a suspect.” Deveraux leaned back against the cushioned wicker, watching Lucy’s every move.
“Probably because it made no sense to go after me, Vance. Honestly, you look too deep into things.”
“How many people do you fool, Lucy? Because you’re not fooling me.”
Lucy only smiled, absently petting Alex. “You know exactly what to say to a girl, don’t you?”
“Come on, Hamilton, I don’t have time for games.”
“Did you take your bar time for little old me?” she asked with false flattery. Giving up with a sigh when Vance wasn’t up for her level of mind, she instead rested her palm on Alex’s neck and kept the other wrapped around her mug. “So what are you doing here this time? What made you want to ‘just talk?’”
“How about your book Invisible Ink?”
Lucy hesitated, but her expression remained passive. “Phillips didn’t deter you enough, then.”
Vance’s eyebrow lifted, “You know Phillips?”
“If you’ve figured it all out Vance, shouldn’t that be evident?” inquired the author with a near smug tone. “You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t know. So, did you go around her back and find someone on the IT floor that boosted you through the lockdown she put on the file?”
Agent Deveraux remained quiet for a moment, processing her words. “You had her block the file?”
“It isn’t exactly public knowledge,” Lucy replied. “There’s a reason my mom and I had a different name. The FBI helped us but they couldn’t seem to help him.”
“So he is your father.”
Lucy kept her eyes on him, no surprise in her voice. “You knew that already, Vance. You just want to hear me say it.”
Vance was staring into the abyss of an ocean that was Lucy’s eyes, cautious. “Then say it.”
“Former FBI Director Reeves is my father.”
“And Invisible Ink? That’s the book about his murder, right?” Deveraux’s thoughts were slipping as he fumbled in the darkness, unaware of what was really going on. He was only left with accusations and assumptions. “I’ve heard of odd situations when it comes to authors, but writing yourself into a story? Talk about a God Complex, Hamilton. Not to mention, like always, you know more about the murder of your father than the police do.”
“Are you accusing me, Vance? Because if you did read the book properly, you would know I was still in undergrad and no where near Phoenix.”
“I’m simply asking. How does the unsolved get solved if not by the killer? All of your novels have had details even the police couldn’t know. Intimate moments, thoughts before death. None of it makes sense. So how about you tell me why it makes sense to you? How did you know who your father’s killer was, where the weapon was left and what his final thought was before death? It was about you, wasn’t it? So if the book is de facto, written by you, is his last dying wish that no one hears just your narcissism? How dare you assume what the dead think-”
“You don’t know anything about me or my father. You have no right to talk to me like this. I’ve done nothing wrong and you have nothing you can spin for a court case.” Lucy rose from her seat, leaving her mug on the coffee table before moving towards the back porch. “You’re welcome to leave. I’m not letting you tell me about my own dad, a man who died before you even joined the bureau.”
Vance shut his eyes as the glass door slammed shut behind him, able to sense the anger seething in Lucy’s movements. “Good job, Deveraux. You did it again.” With a sigh, he set down his half empty drink on the coffee table as he hauled himself out of the comfortable couch.
He knew he was about to get her to talk, so despite the self hatred it brought him to badger it out of her, he had to keep going.
Following Lucy outside instead of taking her invitation to leave, Vance found the author leaning on the wood railing as she spun a gold ring around her left middle finger. He mimicked her position next to her, resting his forearms on the deck as he looked out on an ocean framed by a molten sunset. “How did you know your father’s last words if you weren’t in Arizona when he died?”
“Because he told me.”
The daytime heat of Phoenix had subsided into cool breezes over Roosevelt Row, an art covered suburb of the major desert city. A crescent moon shone down over the near empty streets, the weeknight offering a selective choice of citizens still making their way home.
Edward Hamilton walked down the concrete towards the family home only two blocks away, a hand pocketed in his jeans while the other held his cell phone to his ear. “I’m telling you, Mal, that job grayed my hair. I warned you before you took my position.”
“I thought you were just trying to keep me from those benefits, Ed, I had no idea you were serious,” remarked the light-hearted voice on the other end of the line. “I haven’t had a free moment to myself since I was sworn in. I was lucky enough to get the night off since Ty’s in town.”
“Penn must be on a different schedule,” Ed said. “I haven’t seen Luce in ages. She didn’t come home for spring break and she’s covered in studying for finals.” His eyes wandered up to the sky, feet going at a consistent tempo on the sidewalk.
“Just came home for the weekend, that’s all,” replied Director Jones. “Last visit before he graduates.”
“Still going to Quantico?”
Malcolm laughed warmly, “Definitely. He’s been ready for Quantico since he was born.” There was a hesitation on his end of the line, a mumbling of voice in the background before the director’s voice came back strong. “He actually wants to talk to you. Have you got the time for dear old Ty?”
“Always, always,” Ed answered with a sheer smile. He spoke again once he heard the handset change over. “What can I do for you, Ty?”
“Hey Mr. Hamilton,” the friendly voice of the director greeted. “How are you?”
“I’m doing just fine, Tyler, thank you.”
Tyler held no apprehension, calm with the man he’d known since he was a kid. “And the family?”
Edward softly laughed, well aware of what the Penn State senior was getting at. “Johanna’s well, she’s very involved with the VFW here in Phoenix.” He paused, only to torture Tyler’s pride just a little bit.
“Still at UCLA, doing wonderful from what I know.” Ed made the turn around a cinder block corner that led towards the Hamilton home, amused as he spoke with Tyler. “Have you heard from her recently?”
Tyler paused for an answer, “No, not…lately. I, uh, was actually just curious is she was still planning on going to the Academy after she gets her J.D.”
“From what I know, she’ll be kicking your ass as a special agent in no time.” The retired director held a grin, knowing that it would no doubt be a fact. He knew his daughter, and he knew she would take over with bountiful success. “Are you ready to go in? It’s not an easy job, you know.”
“I think I’m ready,” Tyler replied with a light laugh. “I better be, I’ve already got a set day to begin training.”
Ed shook his head, “What I would do to be a NAT again, Ty. You have no idea.”
“Did you know which area you wanted to work in before you started at the Academy?” questioned Tyler with his guard lower than usual. “I’m leaning towards the counter-terrorism unit, but criminalistics looks interesting.”
“I had no clue, Ty. No clue at all.” Ed looked both ways as he stopped at a crosswalk, making his way across the street with his phone still held to his ear. “Don’t stress yourself out, okay? Just get through the Academy and everything will work itself out.”
Tyler let out a sigh on the other end of the call, the 21 year old calmed by his words. “Any other advice for me, Ed?”
“Yeah,” Ed said with a laugh, “just breathe, kid. You’re gonna be just fine, I promise. I’ll see you at graduation.”
“Will…uh, will you bring Luce?”
Ed softly nodded his head despite there being no chance of Ty seeing it, “I’ll see what I can do. I’m almost home, but let your dad know I said to have a good night, all right?”
“You got it,” Tyler replied before the two of them said goodbye, a registered click ending the conversation.
Taking another left, Ed hesitated to put his phone away and instead called Lucy as he turned onto the proper street. Although expecting her voicemail, he couldn’t help but smile when the other end picked up. “Hey kitten.”
“Hi Pop,” Lucy welcoming voice greeted through a coffee induced haze. “What’s up?”
“How’s the studying for finals coming?”
“Not too bad. I’m pretty sure I’m personally funding the coffee cart in the quad, though.”
Edward laughed warmly, “Sounds like college. My second year of law school, I recieved an honorable mention by the art department for how much coffee I bought from them, since they ran it out of their building.”
“Iconic,” replied Lucy with a grin in her voice. “I’m definitely your daughter, that’s for sure. I drink enough coffee for a small village.” There were distant taps of her computer keys going in the background, a noise the always seemed to signify her presence. “What’d you call for, Pop?”
“Maybe I just wanted to hear the voice of my best girl,” Ed defended with a chuckle. “I, uh, I’ll actually admit that I felt prompted to call you. Ears burning by chance?”
Confusion was evident in his daughter’s voice, “What do you mean?”
“Mal called me, and Ty was home visiting. Got a couple minutes with each of them,” replied Ed as he ran his hand along the gray scruff lining his jaw.
The ex-director of the FBI stopped with a slight shuffle of his feet on the sidewalk outside of their family home. “I know, hun, but he just wanted to know if…if maybe you were planning on coming with your mom and I to his graduation once you get home from college.”
“Maybe, Dad…I’m not sure.”
“I understand, sweetie, I-”
The silence of the evening streets was decimated by a single burst that seemed to shatter the sound barrier and the love of Edward Hamilton faltering into nothing but a freezing burn in his chest.
But in the moments that the sound ricocheted within the receiver of Lucy’s phone, she was sat at her desk with a leg pulled up to her chest and her laptop open in front of her. Thoughts of summer agony vanished as her aluminum thermos slipped from her fingertips and clattered onto the tile floor of her dorm room. “Dad?”
Silence met her cracked voice in response, a burst of pavement ending the call.
A shaky hand covered her mouth as she stood, her dorm seeming to spin around her and panic filled her chest at an ungodly rate. “No, no-” Lucy quickly pulled her phone down from her ear, calling him back.
It didn’t even ring.
“This can’t be happening,” she whispered to herself as she called her mother’s contact with barely any hesitation.
But five rings only brought her a voicemail.
Lucy tried again three more times, pacing back and forth across her small dorm enough to dent the flooring.
She knew what she heard, and she knew what it meant.
Yet, she didn’t want to believe it.
Lucy threw her phone onto the futon below her lofted bed, tears staining her cheeks as she forced herself to sit down at her desk. She brought up travel sites within moments, scrounging for a plane ticket or a bus ride that could get her to Phoenix as soon as humanly possible. Swearing under her breath with every motion, she forced herself to hope for the best.
But reality came crashing down all too soon.
The brunette’s expression slipped, every inch of her going rigid. She slowly turned over her shoulder, water brimming in her eyes as she let out an all knowing sigh. “Dad, no.”
A wispy Edward Hamilton stood in the middle of her single dorm, only a soft smile lining his features. “Hi, peanut.”
Lucy shook her head, nearly hysterical in her tears. But she couldn’t seem to come up with anything to say.
The graying spirit of Edward moved towards his daughter with a subtle expression of peace, putting his hands on her shoulders. He leaned in towards her left ear, whispering his last testament of love. Kissing her lightly on the forehead - something that felt nothing more than a breath of cool air - he faded into oblivion.