Special Agent Simon Franz never counted on getting a lead so solid so fast. Just the night before he was no closer to a lead than when he was first assigned to the case. And now he had two witnesses, and two suspects; one dead and one in critical condition. But more importantly he had their first real lead. He made his way through the hospital, wearing a badge clipped to his trench coat that unmistakably displayed the letters FBI. Although Decker wasn’t assigned to Franz’s unit, Franz saw no reason why he couldn’t accompany him. After all he was a federal agent, and Simon trusted him. They approached the public inquiries desk on the fourth floor. Simon produced additional identification as he spoke.
“Good Morning Mam. I’m with the FBI, Special Agent Franz and this is Agent Decker.” he paused and smiled as she looked at their I.D.s
“We understand that three bodies were brought in this morning. A William Morre, a dead man and a woman in critical condition, both still unidentified?”
The middle-aged nurse spoke for the first time.
“That’s right. The gentleman died on the operating table, the woman is critical but stable.”
“And Mr. Morre?” Decker asked straight-faced.
“He lost a considerable amount of blood, but he is in far better condition than the woman.”
“Is he conscious?” this time it was Franz who posed the question.
“He was,” she said, looking at her watch “but we gave him something to ease the pain and help him sleep.”
“O.K.,” Decker added, forcing a smile “who was the doctor in charge at the time.”
“That would be Doctor Taylor.”
“And is he still on duty?”
“She is making her rounds, Agent Decker. I’ll page her.”
She shared a smile with Franz, as she pulled the mic closer to her mouth.
“Paging Doctor Taylor, Doctor Lisa Taylor please come to the front desk.”
Moments later the tall slender figure of Lisa Taylor M.D. approached the desk. She was simple looking but attractive. Her face was drawn and lined, just six hours into her twelve hour shift and the day had already more than taken its toll on her. As she stopped in front of Decker and Franz, Franz smiled and spoke.
“I’m special agent Franz and this is agent Decker. We’re with the FBI and we would just like to ask you a couple questions about some patients who came in around 5 a.m. this morning.”
“I think I know the patients you’re referring to.”
“And?” Decker added impatiently.
“You mean, what can I tell you that you don’t already know.” she replied cynically. Franz shot Decker a stern look before turning to Doctor Taylor.
“I’m sorry;” he said, smiling “please Doctor. Whatever you can tell us.”
“The five of them came in at the same time.”
“Five? We were told of three.”
“Let me explain.” she answered, managing a little smile.
“I’m quite sure that you were made aware of the woman in critical condition, the man who we lost and Mr. Morre.”
“That’s correct.” Decker replied, managing to sound civil.
“Well,” she continued “two women were also brought in at the same time. I guess that by comparison their injuries were minor. They are both suffering the effects of concussions consistent with being hit in the head with a blunt object using considerable force. Because of the nature of their injuries, we are keeping them at least overnight for observation.”
“Would it be at all possible, to see either one of them right now?”
“I guess,” she replied looking at her clip board “one of the two refuses to take anything for the pain. It seems that in the midst of whatever was taking place that she lost her baby daughter. She is in a considerable amount of pain, emotionally as well as physically. So I would appreciate it if you would limit your time,” she paused and looked at Decker “and be a bit considerate with your questions.”
“Fair enough.” Decker added seriously.
“Okay. I’ll take you to her room.”
As she walked ahead Simon turned to John, shaking his head.
“Charming John, what are you, campaigning for asshole of the month?”
John just looked at him with a smirk on his face.
As they entered the room, Doctor Taylor pulled a blind around Natalie’s bed for privacy. She then made her way to Natalie’s side and whispered something in her ear. Natalie turned away from the window she was looking out of, and they saw her bruised face for the first time. The right side of her face was swollen and the eye was bloodshot, there were also purple finger impressions on her neck.
“I’ll be right outside if you need me.” Doctor Taylor said for Natalie's benefit before leaving the room.
Simon pulled up a chair close to the bed, and tried to smile. Although he was not unaccustomed to seeing marks of violence on people, it was something that he never felt comfortable with.
“I’m sure doctor Taylor told you that we’re with the FBI we don’t intend to keep you to long, we just need to ask you a couple questions. The more help you are able to give to us, the more we’ll be able to help you.” Simon paused for a while, but she remained silent.
“The people who did this to you, did you happen to get a good look at anyone of them. Take your time, whatever you can recall.”
She blinked and took a breath before she answered.
“I heard my daughter cry,” she began, her voice shaking from the emotion “I only saw one of them for a moment and then...I keep asking about my daughter and my sister but no one tells me anything. I’ll do my best to help you in what ever way I can with your questions, but can you please tell me what has happened to my sister and my baby girl.” She could no longer hold back the tears. Simon looked away and swallowed, while John maintained his detached stare.
“Miss Smith, as far as we know your sister is fine. She’s probably a bit shaken up, but she’s resting comfortably.”
“And my daughter?”
“We are trying to determine what happened to her. But let me assure you that if she was in fact taken by the persons we suspect, she is still alive.” Simon looked into her eyes as he continued.
“We will do everything thing we possibly can, to get her back to you safely.”
“Miss Smith,” John began, disguising his impatience. “there was a man injured just outside your apartment. It appears he risked his life to save yours. And I’m thinking, it’s reasonable to assume that either you, your sister or both may be acquainted with him.”
The first name that came to her mind was her sister’s fiancé, Stephen. She whispered Oh no not Stephen under her breath.
“His name is William Morre.”
Her jaw dropped.
“William!? Is he all right, are you sure. What was he doing there?”
“So you know him?” Simon asked, his eyes searching her face.
“Yes. He’s the father of my daughter. I know him very well.”
As they continued their questioning, William’s father and Tonya were finally allowed to see William for a few moments. Tonya had only really seen Michael cry one other time, but she knew his tears were for a different reason this time. William’s face was a bit swollen on the left side where he was grazed by the bullet. There was a long slim bandage over his left eye, and his face appeared drawn and worn. Michael sat at his son’s side and smiled through his tears.
“I know you didn’t come all this way to die. You’re going to be all right, I don’t even know why I’m crying. But for whatever it’s worth, I’m here. I know I wasn’t before but I’m here, now.” He couldn’t know it at the time, but William heard most of what he said and found a great deal of comfort in his words.
Down the hall, in room 214, Stephen held Nicole’s hand as she slept. She hadn’t regained consciousness since he was there. He wanted to be there when she got up. He inquired about Natalie, he knew she would be fine but everything that had happened threw him into a near state of panic. The officers who responded to the call told him that there was no child at the scene. Who took her, what was William doing there, what did this attack mean? Was it retaliation for some case the D.A.’s office worked on, or was currently working on? Whatever the motive was, he knew he wouldn’t feel safe until he knew why, until somebody was caught and made to pay for what they did. He took a deep breath and brushed her hair back from her face with his free hand.
Then, suddenly, the ear piercing sound of a fire alarm shattered the near silence of the hospital’s hallway. Weapons drawn, agents Franz and Decker made their way through the fast thickening crowd against the flow of people. Stephen followed closely behind. Decker turned swiftly, gun leveled, sensing someone behind him. Just as quickly Stephen produced his badge. It seemed they were all thinking the same thing, there was a suspect that needed to be protected just as much as anyone else. She most certainly had some of the answers to their questions. She could only answer them alive.
As they approached the door, they noticed the officer assigned to protect her slumped over in his chair. Franz noticed an inflamed needle like mark on his neck, he felt for a pulse then looked at both men before kicking open the door. He signaled Decker to check on the woman, as both he and Stephen covered him. They made their way cautiously inside, their eyes sweeping the room from left to right. Stephen checked the toilet, but it was empty. If anyone managed to get into the room, they were no longer there.
“John?” Simon looked into his eyes, throwing out the question almost perfunctorily. He knew that they were dealing with professionals; he knew the woman was dead.
The twenty-four hours following the murder of their suspect forced the FBI into action. Against the recommendations of his doctor William was moved to a safe house. As with most of the Bureau’s safe houses it was close to water and there were multiple routes of escape, which also meant there were multiple routes of access. They moved everyone, although not to the same location, Simon didn’t want to risk losing anymore of them at least not all at once. Doctor Lisa Taylor was as she was told, now working with the Feds on a matter of critical public importance and should feel honored that she could be of service to her country. Sure she thought, more rhetoric that meant we own you for as long as we say and oh by the way the possibility exists that you could lose your life. But she didn’t have a choice and they assured her that as soon as William was well enough she was free to go. Would she be? What about her safety, could they really assure her that she wouldn’t be targeted by whomever they were investigating. But what good was their thinking about that now, she had no choice but to trust them at least for now.
William was as protected as he needed to be. There were two agents stationed on each of the two access roads to the safe house, a sniper and another agent on the perimeter of the house and three agents inside. Simon was one of the agents inside, for the first time he felt tangibly close to answers, he wasn’t going to lose another lead.
It had been nearly forty-eight hours since William last moved and Simon wondered how long his concussion induced coma would last. He didn’t have to wait long for an answer. William stirred, slowly at first his eyes still closed. Simon sat up in the chair facing the bed and called for Doctor Taylor. She came into the room just as he was opening his eyes. Everything came racing back to him, he tried to force himself into a sitting position but his muscles didn’t respond, as they should. A sudden lancing pain seemed to be ripping his head open.
“Hey, hey take it easy. Your O.K. just relax.” Lisa said trying to reassure him.
The human figures slowly became clearer and as they did his eyes focused on the nine millimeter strapped to Simon’s chest. The panic quickly returned and as it did Simon followed William’s gaze and removed his holstered weapon placing it on a table close by.
“We’re on your side Mr. Morre relax,” he slowly removed his I.D. “my name is Simon Franz I’m a Special Agent with the FBI how do you feel?”
“I,” William began the weakness of his own voice surprising him. “I feel weak, I’m tired.”
“That’s understandable,” Doctor Taylor added. “you’ve been through quite an ordeal. Let’s just concentrate on getting you on your feet again.”
He started to relax, he figured if these people were not genuine then he would be dead already. He hoped he was right. Everything was coming back to him now, the assailants in black, the guns, the blood...the death.
“Natalie, Nicole?” he asked searching Agent’s Franz eyes for answers.
“They’re fine,” he said with a little smile, “but before I go any further I need you to answer a couple questions.”
“If I can.”
“What were you doing outside Ms Smith’s apartment that night?”
“I,” he searched his mind. “I saw her the day before. I hadn’t seen her in a really long time. I guess as strange as it might sound, I just wanted to be close to her.”
“So you ran a mile and a half to her neighborhood in minus ten degree wind, just to be close to her?”
“It sounds even more absurd being repeated back to me, but yes. I don’t know, I probably hoped she’d get up for a drink of water and look outside and I would see her...Hell I don’t know. I wasn’t even sure I would recognize the house, previous to that I had only seen it in photographs.” He stopped, allowing the throbbing in his head to ease.
“You obviously care for her.”
William pressed his eyelids shut trying to shut out the pain before he continued.
“I love her,” he corrected. “I never stopped.” his voice took on a distant quality as he continued.
“There was a child when I saw her last, was the child there, is he alright.”
Simon and Doctor Taylor exchanged uncertain glances, exposing that what was to follow was not in the least bit pleasant.
“William believe me when I say I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I have to be the one to give you this news. The child is a girl, and she was taken from the house. As far as we can determine she’s unharmed.”
“God.” he whispered.
“William, there’s no other way to say this... She’s your daughter.”
All at once William felt as though his heart stopped, his mind went blank. The only question he could think of was why? Both Lisa and Simon seemed to be talking to him now, but he couldn’t hear either one of them. He wanted to erase the pain, he wanted the chance to go back with the information he had now and make every last one of those sons of bitches pay. He would wait, and God help them all if he found them.