The overhanging smell of coffee dug into Lucy’s senses as she was exposed to the criminalistics floor of the LA FBI office, surrounded on all sides by the suited agents that had brought her in.
“Welcome to the FBI, Miss Hamilton,” Vance said with a smirk, stepping out of the elevator in front of the group.
Lucy rolled her eyes as she followed the agent out, drawing stares from all around as she was escorted out. “Smells like hierarchy and sleep deprivation.”
“Deveraux,” SSA Philips called from across the office, a steady click of heels bringing her to the small cluster of agents at an alarming speed. She cleared her throat, eyes glazing over Lucy for only the briefest of moments. “Paperwork and then you can question her. Ramos,” Marina looked over her shoulder, waving the slick agent toward her, “I want you to escort Miss Hamilton to the questioning room.”
“You can call it an interrogation room,” Lucy interrupted rather flatly. “You don’t have to sugar coat it for me.”
“Fine,” Marina’s eyes went from a bitter Deveraux to Ramos, “take her to the interrogation room. Get her some coffee too. From the look in Deveraux’s eyes, this’ll take a while.”
Although Carson, Parrish, Dane and Danielson parted to return to their desk, Ramos put a hand on Deveraux’s shoulder before he could go anywhere, Philips already in an aggressive retreat to her office.
Ramos leaned in to Vance, “Next time you pull something on a case we’re working together, you tell me. Got it? I don’t like surprises.”
Vance’s eyes stayed on Ramos’, jaw clenched in subdued anger. “Sure thing, Ramos,” he bit with a lack of sincerity.
“Good man,” Ramos said, patting his back before taking Lucy’s attention. “Follow me Miss - Hamilton, was it?”
“I hope I’m worth the trouble,” Lucy said, winking at Deveraux as she passed, following Ramos towards the back of the office.
The two dipped into the long stretch of hallway that led to the interrogation rooms, footsteps quiet as they continued on.
Ramos softly sighed, keeping his voice low. “What the hell are you doing here? I told you he was coming. That moron doesn’t know how to keep anything quiet. You should’ve run.”
“I’m not running from anything,” Lucy murmured, a slick suited woman passing by the pair. She glanced over her shoulder, judging the distance before lifting her voice. “Does he know you’re involved?”
“He doesn’t know a damn thing,” remarked Ramos as he opened the door to interrogation room B.
“Good. Let’s keep it that way.”
With her mind elsewhere as time ticked away, Lucy was situated in a metal chair, her cup of caffeine leaving a heat ring on the silver table that was separating her from an empty seat. Her thin blouse did little against the temperature of the room, goosebumps arising on her legs when she ceased to bounce them.
Minutes had turned into hours in front of Lucy’s eyes, her coffee seeming to drain itself as she waited for someone - anyone - to come in.
After it seemed unbearable, the door of the interrogation room finally opened to reveal Vance with several files in hand. He didn’t address Lucy immediately, instead filling the seat across from her. Setting his papers onto the metal table, he looked up.
Silence lingered, Lucy remaining voiceless as she waited for the accusation.
Vance hesitated, “Did you really name your dog Alexander Hamilton?”
Having to take a moment to process his words, Lucy’s eyebrows lifted. “Is that seriously what you’re asking me in an FBI interrogation room?”
“And in your author’s description, his name is John. As in John Laurens? As in Hamilton’s best friend?”
Lucy held back a laugh, softly shaking her head, “More like lover, but I don’t see what my pseudonym has to do with anything.”
Deveraux pinched the bridge of his nose before forcing himself to move forward, “Okay, all right, why do you use a pseudonym, Miss Hamilton?”
“I prefer a simple life, Agent Deveraux,” Lucy replied. “I’d rather surf and spend time with my dog, and be seen as a normal person to my neighbors. I don’t like being looked at or held up, so the situation works. Stella St. Laurens writes and publishes a book, I still get my beach day.”
“And when you started writing, did you think that your work would blow up like it had?” Vance questioned, trying to get anything he could out of her that would amass to something useful.
Lucy gave a light shake of her head, “Not in the slightest. I just didn’t want its publication to inflict with my personal life at the time.”
Deveraux searched for a way into her brain, contemplating his words cautiously. “How long have you been surfing?”
The woman’s eyebrows narrowed, “What?”
“Surfing. How long have you been surfing?” Vance repeated.
“Since I was a kid, I learned on a trip to Hawaii.” Her beat quickly switched, “I don’t see how any of this is relative. I deserve to know what I’m doing here.”
“How about murder?”
Lucy looked appalled within a split second, “I’m an author, not a murderer.”
“Krystian Bala, used his own killing to plot a best seller. Anne Perry, Michael Peterson. It isn’t an impossible route, Miss Hamilton.”
“I would like to be presented with the said evidence incriminating me, Agent,” she coldly said, blue eyes dead set on Vance.
Vance smirked, opening the top file and spinning it to face Lucy. “Your novel Endless Alabaster oddly matches to the Neil Hunter case as well as the Emily Morrison one. Have you heard of either of them?”
“The media makes it a little hard not to hear about most people,” Lucy vaguely replied. “Hunter has been on TV for the past couple of days, as well as Morrison.”
Agent Deveraux held eye contact with the writer for a moment of silence worthy enough for the grave, forcing himself not to show any outward signs of frustration. “Your novel depicts Emily Morrison’s time while held by Hunter, does it not?”
“I’m a fiction novelist, Agent Deveraux, my novel depicts fictional characters.” Lucy leaned back in the metal chair as comfortably as she could, not even bothering to look into the file set in front of her. “There are coincidences in the world.”
“Not in mine, Miss Hamilton. When it comes to murder, there are no coincidences. Everything is intentional, including every single novel you’ve written.” Deveraux spread out seven files, all with sharpied titles that matched those of Lucy’s books. “I’ve got a team busy with the rest of your works, but let’s start with these, shall we?”
Lucy lifted a hand lightly, “By all means.”
“Harbor Lights, tied to a similar case of a girl drowning in the gulf, killed supposedly by her father while your novel shows that it was the mother. Moonlit Murders, a Halloween haunted house turned to be a den of a real killer, tied to an oddly familiar one from five year ago in Omaha. Abundance of Dreams, in the Satanic Panic era with a city worshiping the Devil - an urban legend of said city that turned into the death of a young child, near exact to a suburb outside of Seattle four years ago. Stargazers Anonymous, two joggers find a body in the woods, cut in half. How strange that it was overlooked upon publication despite the exact same thing happening two years before in lower wine country. Tell me, how does this happen?”
“I wish I could tell you,” Lucy flatly responded.
Deveraux’s jaw clenched, having to take a moment. “Miss Hamilton, you do realize you’re in custody of the FBI, don’t you?”
“If I’m in custody, then tell me what the charges are. I came willingly, I can leave in just the same manner.” Lucy leaned forward on her elbows, tone lacking any insincerity or fear. “If you’d like to keep me, charge me.”
“We don’t work under the police-”
“But you do work under the law,” Lucy quickly objected. “So, I would recommend you remain within your limits or I will take you to court.”
Agent Deveraux idly kept a finger against his lips, an arm balancing on the table. “With such strong statements, don’t you think you should’ve asked for a lawyer by now?”
“I have nothing to be guilty for,” she countered without hesitation.
“It doesn’t make sense.” Vance spoke firmly, losing his professional mannerism within minutes.
Lucy weirdly managed to keep her composure, looking directly into the agent’s eyes. “Lots of things in the world don’t make sense, but what also doesn’t make sense is attempting to holding someone without charges, on a claimed federal offense. And yes, it would be considered a federal offense if you were to use the alleged plots of my books to assume I had something to do with multiple deaths across the country. You know what also doesn’t make sense? That you’re accusing me of affiliation in cases that some of which I wasn’t old enough to have been capable, or that I wasn’t anywhere near them.
“I’ve never left this part of the country. I grew up in Phoenix, came to California for school and decided to stay. Yes, maybe it does seem odd, but you have no right to treat me like a murderer.” Lucy shut the open file in front of her, standing up from the uncomfortable chair. “And as a non-murdering crime writer, I’m going to leave because you have nothing to hold me on. If you do find something tangible, although highly unlikely, I will willingly come back. Thank you, Agent Deveraux.” She looked to the reflective panel of glass, motioning to what seemed herself. “As to you, Agents.”
Vance’s fist gripped underneath the table, not saying a word as Lucy left the interrogation room. He swore to himself, able to hear laughter from the room over behind the one-way mirror.
SSA Phillips came through the door of the room, a light smile on her lips instead of the expected scowl. “She knows how to handle herself, and apparently you, too.”
Agent Deveraux began leafing the papers back together, shaking his head as he did so. “She can handle herself all the way to jail.”
“She’s got fire,” said Marina as she glanced over her shoulder. “I like her.”