Rossum woke up with a gasp. He had just meant to rest his eyes for a moment, but early morning light was streaming through Addison’s bay windows. Sitting in front of him on the coffee table was a to-go cup of coffee and he heard the sink running in the kitchen. He shot up from the couch and practically ran into the next room, “Addison? Addison!”
He stopped short when he saw who was at the sink. A shuttering Magnus stood with a cloth in his hand, “I’m sorry, sir! I got here; you were sleeping, so I grabbed some coffee. I was just washing my hands, I didn’t think you would misinterpret… I’m sorry.”
“No, Magnus, I guess it was just my silly wishful thinking. This is my fault, not yours. Thank you for the coffee and waking me up. I have a lot of work to do.”
“That’s why I’m here. I have tried tracing the phone call, triangulating the phone call, calling back the number. Nothing, it’s like it never happened. I’m not sure what else I can do.”
“So that’s it then? You are just going to give up on her. The first solid evidence we have that she is alive and you can’t do anything with it? We are the FBI for Christ’s sake, why can’t we find her?!” Rossum practically screamed in frustration, but he had got no further than Magnus. He had gone through every word Addison had spoken to him to try and find something with a double meaning. Something that would tell him where she was. The only thing that was odd was what she asked about Lena. Was she not the one that pushed them back together? That encouraged him to give her a second chance and move on from what she had done in the past? So, why now would she be asking him to doubt?
Magnus stayed silent and Rossum was about to apologize when he remembered the cell phone charging in the living room. He jogged over to it mumbling something about needing to make a phone call over his shoulder to Magnus. He scooped up the phone and disappeared into the bathroom off Addison’s bedroom.
Slug picked up almost immediately, “any news?”
“Yes, actually. She called me last night. She couldn’t tell me where she was or who took her he was with her. She said he allowed her one last phone call to say goodbye.”
“I’m going into your call history right now. If there is anything to find, anything at all I will find it. Did she say anything weird, something that could be a message of some sort? It would have to be subtle with her captor right there, but if I know Swan there is something.”
“Mostly just the usual goodbye things. There was this one question she posed to me though. It was about my ex-wife that recently came back into my life. Asking me if she would stay.”
“That doesn’t really sound like her. There has to be something there. If Swan knew she was about to die there is no way that the last thing she would want would be for you to leave your wife and be all alone. If anything she would try to push you closer together. Is there anything about your wife that could be connected to this?”
“I asked myself that question, but it is impossible. Lena has been in Europe for the past couple of years. She didn’t even know Addison before a couple of months ago. Lena doesn’t really even have that many friends, just family.”
“Alright, so we will put that idea on the backburner. What exactly did she say, word for word, do you remember?”
“I will remember every word until the day I die. In that particular sentence she said: I just needed to talk to you one last time and ask you: ‘could Lena ever stay here? Could she Ross? Think about it’. And I have thought about it. For hours I have gone over every single word she spoke, but I am no closer to understanding what she means.”
There was a pronounced silence that made Rossum feel uncomfortable. He didn’t understand what had made Slug so contemplative, but finally he spoke. “She worded it like that? Could Lena ever stay here? Those exact words?”
“Yes, why? Is there something I’m not seeing here? I don’t understand the significance.”
“You wouldn’t. She was taking a great risk, assuming that you and I would somehow find each other. Ballsy right to the end that Swan.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. What is ballsy?” Rossum was trying to keep calm, but now that he knew there was something, there was some sort of hope, he wanted to shake it right out of Slug.
“Could Lena Ever Stay Here. Strange way to put that statement, isn’t it? Weird time to bring it up. Then following it by saying think about it. She wanted it to stand out, and it does. Could Lena Ever Stay Here: C-L-E-S-H.”
“Clesh? I’m sorry is that a place that I am unaware of?”
“A place no, nothing as straightforward as that. It is a person.”
A smile crept onto his face. “She’s done it then, she’s managed to tell us who has captured her, and you know this person?”
“No, no you’re not understanding this. This secret is one I have kept for a long time. I swore on my life that I would never speak this name again, but seeing as she has all but spelt it out for you, I guess that is my permission.”
“What are you saying? If Clesh isn’t a place, and it isn’t the name of the man who took her, then who is it?”
“Isabella Clesh or, as you know her, Addison Grace. They are one in the same.”
Rossum’s hand went to his hair and pulled through it, “her last words and she decides to tell me her real name? That’s it. I don’t give a shit what her real name is! I want to find her!”
“But that’s just it. If Swan only had a little time to live, she wouldn’t waste this gift. Clesh has to be something more than just her name, it has to be connected to something else. Something that can point us in the direction of where she is. But, Agent…”
“What? What is it?”
“If this man let her call you to say goodbye I would say her clock is ticking, and it’s ticking fast.”
“Yes, I got that impression as well. I will go to the office and try to find something. You do whatever it is you do on your end and we will find something.” Rossum didn’t wait for an answer to hang up. He practically pulled Magnus out of the house and into the office, not saying a single word on the way.
When he finally sat down in his office he typed the name ‘Clesh’ into every database the FBI had at it’s disposal. There were more than a few vehicle registrations, but Rossum put those to the side deciding only to go through them as a last resort. He pulled up housing records and tried to narrow them by isolating it to an Isabella Clesh, but none were Addison. In fact, of all the Isabella Clesh’s that his search turned up, not one of them were Addison. Isabella Clesh was a ghost, but that wasn’t all that surprising to Rossum. Whatever it was that Addison was running from must have been scary enough to convince her that she was better off starting over.
“Rossum, sir, what are you doing? Who is Isabella Clesh? Do you know something?” Magnus was still standing behind Rossum, although he had forgotten he was there until he spoke up.
“I have a possible lead, but it is almost impossible to sort through all this shit. Isabella is the key, but she has erased every bit of information there is about her.” Rossum was just about to delve into another set of records when his email popped up. A new message from an unknown sender. He quickly opened it.
I didn’t tell you before because I was having a battle with my inner conscience, but the ticking clock has given way to my feelings of loyalty for Swan. Isabella’s father’s name was Peter Nicolas Clesh and all I know about her mother is that her maiden name was Cavanagh. I don’t know if that is going to help you much, but we might as well both be working with the same information. I will get back to you with any new information I find.
Peter Nicolas Clesh was definitely not erased. There were DMV records, house deeds, even arrest records in his youth, but nothing any sooner than 15 years prior. Like Isabella he disappeared. He pulled up the marriage contract and found Addison’s mother’s full name Maria Natalie Cavanagh. She had a brief couple of years in Italy before her family moved to the States. Seems she met young Peter Clesh in college and they were married not long after. There were not vehicles in her name. She owned no properties at all. All records of her, again, disappeared.
“Sir, please.” Magnus practically begged, “I just want to help. Talk to me, maybe something will spark.”
“Get Mortimer in here. If I am going to share I want it to be with both of you and I want it done now before we are out of time.”
“Yes, Agent, of course.” He quickly disappeared out the door and not five minutes later, he appeared with Mortimer on his heels.
“The young doctor here says you are working on something?” the older gentlemen said as he sat down.
“I think we have all known for a long time that Addison isn’t exactly who she says she is. She has been keeping secrets a long time.” Both men nodded their heads but did not interrupt, “in the phone call last night, Addison did, in fact, leave a message. Clesh. Isabella Clesh. That is her real name, but that was all she managed to get across. So there has to be something. I refuse to believe that in her last words to me she only wanted to tell me her name. There is something more to it. It is the key to where she is. The property holder’s name, or some –” Rossum abruptly stopped talking and whipped open with bottom desk drawer. The other two men in the room stared at him quizzically, but did not stop him.
He fingered through a stack of old files until he came to what he was looking for. He smoothed it out on his desk. It was the last letter Addison had given to him before he had finally met her and convinced her to come to work with him. Attached to the letter was the highlighted article about Paul Dredon’s inheritance of land from his uncle and it hit him. It might not be under the name ‘Clesh’, but it could be connected to that name.
He searched obituaries for every family member he could find for Peter Clesh. His parents had been poor. His father died when he was still young and his mother struggled to pay rent until she too died of cancer. His mother had no family, and no land. His father hand a brother and three sisters, but he was estranged from them it seemed and all were still living. The four of them had land, but it was only the homes they lived in themselves and would not be an ideal place to hold someone. Fearing making any mistakes Rossum asked Magnus to step outside and call the police stations in each town to drop by and make sure nothing was amiss.
Next, he moved on to Maria Clesh. Most of her family still resided in Italy, but there was a great aunt that had moved to Virginia a long time before Maria’s family. She had married a wealthy American man, but they had produced no children. Her husband owned several pieces of land that went to Marie’s great aunt when he died. As it were, she didn’t last much longer than her husband. With no children by either of them, when she died, she split up the land and gave it to her husband’s living nieces and nephews, and to her one living family member in the United States, Maria Natalie Cavangh, or, as she was now known, Maria Clesh. Maria’s great aunt had gifted her two properties, neither of which she had bothered to change the name on the deed. One was in Washington state, near the Canadian border. The other was in Maryland, a tiny town called Pocomoke City.
“Pokomoke City!” Rossum exclaimed.
Mortimer practically jumped out of his chair. “Pocomoke city it is!”
Rossum’s stomach turned as they raced out to the car. He prayed that this was right. If he was wrong he might as well have killed Addison himself. “It’s going to be at least a two hour drive.”
Mortimer turned the flashing lights on in the car and threw it into drive, “I’ll get us there in one.”
Rossum buckled his seatbelt and immediately pulled out his cell phone. He could feel how fast Mortimer was driving, and the erratic way he was weaving in and out of traffic, but he didn’t have time to worry about it, or even acknowledge it. He was barking orders at police stations trying to get them to go out to other properties and take a look, but it was increasingly difficult to persuade them.
“Mr. Canis, I can assure you that it is in your best interest to go to that property and take a look around. I don’t believe that she is there, but if she is… every second you spend arguing with me is one for second that she could be dying. This is a personal request from the FBI.”
“I understand that, Agent, however we only have a certain amount of people. If we get some we can spare we will send them right over.”
“I don’t give a shit who you send over. Find your janitor and send him. Just give someone a gun and go to that property or you will have the full force of the FBI so far up your ass we are going to know what you eat for breakfast, am I making myself clear enough?”
Rossum took a deep breath and tried to calm down. His big bad methods weren’t working so it was time to try something new, “look, this isn’t just some girl. She is very important to everyone here at the FBI. If she dies… if she dies, no one will ever forgive me. I will never forgive me. Please send someone. I just want to know for sure where she is.”
“One of my teams is walking in right now. It’s just about the end of their shift, but I’m sure if I explain the situation to them, they won’t mind being a little late.”
“Thank you, thank you so much. Tell them I am eternally in their debt. Seriously, thank you so much for doing this!”
Rossum hung up his phone as Mortimer took the last exit to Pocomoke City and he started to fidget in his seat. Mortimer looked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, a dangerous gesture considering the speeds they were travelling at.
“We’re going to find her. She will be here.” He pressed on the gas a little harder and the car revved into action. Trees were whipping by and people were running out of their houses to see what the commotion was all about, but these men weren’t stopping for anything. Houses became fewer and fewer and the paved road ended giving way to a gravel one. The billows of dust flying out from behind the car looked like smoke and the wheels fought to keep traction on the loose road. The GPS’s small voice informed them that they needed to take the next right turn onto a driveway and at the end of it would be their destination. Rossum pulled his belt off in anticipation and, if it were possible the vehicle went even faster over the bumps and hills of the remote drive way.
A small red cabin came into view. It looked peaceful and quiet, set on top of a picturesque hill with the sun dancing behind it. A little further in the distance was another structure. The milky walls made him think it was a greenhouse, but his first priority was the house. Mortimer pulled right in front of it and stopped, but made no move to get out, “you search the house, I’ll go look in that thing over there.”
He took off after Rossum slammed the door shut. A chill swept down his spine and he pulled his gun. When he got to the front door it was open just a crack. He tried to look through it, but saw nothing so he edged it open with his foot, “Hello?” his voice only echoed in the hollow space, but no one answered. He took a few steps inside, “is anybody in here?” he yelled, but again it was only his own voice that answered him. There was a kitchen in front of him behind an arch, he stepped in and lowered his gun. There were two chairs set up on either side of the round kitchen table. Ropes were draped on one of the chairs as well as the ground below in and in the middle of the two was the remains of a cell phone.
“This is the place.” Rossum said to himself. Without stopping to investigate further, he picked up his speed, “Addison!”
He her name desperately in every new room he came to. In the living room he found a set of stairs leading down. Again he pulled his gun and placed both hands on it. He crept down the stairs keeping his eyes directly in front of him. There were bolts on the thick door in front of him but they were all unlocked. This gave him an uneasy feeling, but he continued through the door. In this makeshift basement he found two cells. One had a small rusty bedframe with an old matress on it, the other was completely bare except for a large pool of blood in the middle and footprints leading out of the cell until they stopped completely.
Rossum cautiously approached the cell and ducked into the room. His eyes wanted to rest on the blood and stay there, but there was something else in the cell that caught his eye. It was a pile of long brunette hair. Shaking, his hand reached out and grasped a handful. It was still silky smooth and the rich colour of chocolate. When he raised it to his nose, he took a deep breath in and the scent brought tears to his eyes. Tears of familiarity, and tears of loss. They swept down his cheeks and he dropped the hair. The blood on the floor, it finally had his full attention. There was too much, no one could have survived losing that much blood.
The sound of Mortimer’s voice crackled through his earpiece. “Rossum, you’re going to want to come check out this greenhouse. It’s… just get out here.”
“Mortimer!” Rossum stopped him. “We lost her. We’re too late. She’s dead.”