Los Angeles bustled around Sage Cafe, the aroma leaking out into the streets to guard off the smell of the city for a few feet each way. Students and business professionals alike inhabited the indoor-outdoor building nestled between a retail shop and a personal law firm, varied drinks atop tables throughout.
Lucy sat alone within the shop, music playing in her ears loud enough to block out the other occupants as she typed ceaselessly on her laptop. She was on her fourth cup of coffee and fading fast as her fingers moved not nearly as quick as her thoughts.
It had been only a few days since her endeavor with the FBI, and she’d barely slept since.
A manuscript, however, had arisen to near completion from it.
Her stress had kept her awake, and with those mounting hours, she turned it into words. It had happened at twice the rate of her typical novels, bouts of meetings and surfing typically in between chapters, yet she had done nothing but stare at her laptop screen and write.
She was three months ahead of her next deadline and although she would benefit financially, it would be hell on her mental state.
Her cell phone dinged through her music, drawing her attention from the final paragraph. She flipped over her phone, her mother’s contact across the screen. Running a hand through her hair, she hesitated before responding.
Ramos is taking care of it
Lucy quickly resumed her work, as if it had been nothing to say, and found herself running out of words. She was losing the ending as she attempted to write it, the characters slipping away into oblivion as she tried to hopelessly catch up.
“You look like a woman on a mission.”
Recognizing the voice through her headphones, Lucy briefly shut her eyes as she stopped her fingers mid sentence. “Agent Deveraux.”
When she looked up, however, she was presented with a seemingly different man than before.
Vance stood in a distressed maroon shirt and a pair of jeans, dark hair flipping up at the front graciously. He held a to-go cup in one hand, the other pocketing his phone before motioning towards her laptop. “New manuscript?”
“In fact it is,” Lucy answered as she posed a light hearted persona, taking out her earbuds. “What brings you here?” she inquired mildly as she raised her coffee mug to her burgundy lips.
Deveraux motioned to her phone as it was briefly lit up, seeing her music choice. “Beethoven?” He sat as he spoke, not waiting for her to offer; he knew she wasn’t likely to. “Doesn’t seem your type.”
Lucy narrowed her eyes slightly but didn’t force him to leave, instead giving in on her lack of sleep. “It helps me focus. It’s pretty much the only way I managed to get through college.”
Surprisingly, Vance laughed. “I guess I’m not the only one. When I wasn’t on the court, I could only listen to Bach to get my homework done.”
“I can’t do organs,” replied Lucy. “Symphony or no go, so I just stick to Beethoven.” She shut her laptop with her free hand, keeping a watchful eye on the agent. She put down her mug, questioning Vance’s motives despite being equally curious about what college he had gone to. “Did you just happen upon my safe space, or have you been following me?”
“I work for the FBI, Miss Hamilton,” remarked Vance with half a grin as he leaned back against the vinyl seating. “I can find anyone.”
“Imagine that.” Lucy finished off her coffee, placing the ceramic mug to the side of the booth table. “So, have you come to arrest me or just talk about classical music? Because I doubt the staff here will treat me the same if I’m carried off in handcuffs. They give me really good deals right now and I’d rather not risk that.”
Vance glanced down, lightly shaking his head. “Neither, actually. Trust me, I’d never risk a good deal on java.” He grew quiet for a moment, watching for any visual cues off of the author. “I want to know what’s going on.”
Lucy held eye contact with Vance, the abyss of green attempting to see into her soul. She knew exactly what he was doing. “I know as much as you do, Agent. I’m sorry I can’t be more help to you,” she said as she dragged her attention from him and reopened her laptop.
He put out a hand, stopping her mid-motion. “I don’t care if this case goes anywhere or not, I just want to know how you’re involved. How do you do it? How do you know all of these details in crimes no one else could solve?”
“My works are fiction-”
“There’s no chance,” Vance interrupted hastily. “There’s no possible way on Earth that you could write a book that matches so closely to Emily Morrison’s unknown story and it only be fiction.”
Lucy could see him losing it, the agent beginning to lean in out of sheer frustration. She shook her head, chestnut hair moving with her graciously. “It was just a book, Special Agent Deveraux. I probably got the idea from a Criminal Minds episode or something. I swear, I have nothing to do with these crimes you’re linking to my novels.”
Deveraux wouldn’t accept it; he couldn’t.
“Come on, Hamilton,” Vance practically pleaded. “You have to give me something.”
“How about this?” questioned Lucy in response. She packed her things as she spoke, a fierceness to her actions. “I have no blood on my hands, only ink. Begging me to be an accomplice will get you nowhere.”
Vance grabbed her arm across the table before she could leave the booth, desperation in his eyes. “I read your book cover to cover, and there’s no way it can be that close to Emily Morrison.”
“Who says it’s actually what happened?” Lucy haughtily asked with a lowered voice, seething with irritation. “No one knows. Isn’t that the point? I know what happened to my character, not what horrors your Emily was submitted to.” She forced his hand off of her, pulling her bag over her shoulder with jerky movements.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Deveraux said with a dare in his tone. “There’s a copy of the book on the way to Neil Hunter and if he contests that what you wrote is true, we’re gonna have a problem, Miss Hamilton.” He stood, suddenly taller than the novelist.
Although having to look up to him, her ferocity never wavered. “If he admits the book is right, Special Agent, then he would’ve confessed to committing the crime, so I don’t see how that will incriminate me. No judge would let that stand trial. If you try to get me to testify, it will only be ruled as hearsay because I wasn’t there, therefore holds no meaning. You have no case.”
Vance’s expression changed at the sound of her vocabulary, suddenly wishing he’d done more investigation on the writer herself and not thrown himself into the physical novels.
“Yeah,” Lucy smugly said, “Stanford Law, asshole.”
Knocked down a peg, Vance still wouldn’t stop. “I’ll find something, Hamilton. I know you’re involved, somehow. I know it.”
Lucy’s jaw clenched as she stared into the agent’s eyes, her voice low and daunting. “Then prove it.”
Agent Deveraux lifted a hand to his head, staring after the author as she boldly left the coffee shop.
His evidence was fleeting, and so was his case.