Addison was woken up by the slam of a door. Her glass fell to the floor, but it was so close that it just landed with a thud and didn’t shatter. She groaned and fluttered her eyes open.
“I – I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t know you weren’t alone. I – I’ll come back later.” Alex stuttered and attempted to pull at the door knob, but Rossum spoke first.
“No, Agent Brogan, what did you need?” He pulled a piece of paper that was stuck on his face off and settled it back in its pile, “Miss Grace and I simply fell asleep working late last night.”
“I wanted to let you know that the peat moss Grace found was the same as usual, except for one thing. It held traces of vegetable roots with it too, more specifically red pepper.”
“It’s never had any of that before, has it?”
“No, sir, any idea what it means?”
Addison stood up and smoothed out her t-shirt, “he enjoys salad with a little colour?”
She bent down to gather the papers that fell out of her lap while sleeping and Alex took a long gaze as he reached for them, “Agent Brogan is there anything special about the red peppers or where they grow?” The silence caused Rossum to look up from his desk, “Agent Brogan!”
His attention was finally torn away from Addison’s body, and he fumbled to answer the question, “The peppers? Oh, right, no nothing special, even if he lives in a place that is cold half of the year, a greenhouse would take care of it… Can I help you with those, Miss Grace?”
She placed her hand on Alex’s chest and laughed, “Please, call me Addison, and no I’m alright with these. Honestly,” she pulled her shirt to her nose and inhaled, “I need to go home and change, I feel like I’ve been wearing the same clothes for a week. Do you need me for anything for a while, Uncle Ross?”
“No, hunny, you can head – what am I saying? Stop calling me Uncle, it’s messing with my head.”
“I think you’re just tired,” she kissed Rossum’s forehead, “go home, and please, I am begging you, do not call me for at least 5 hours. I have a date with my bed.”
Addison only had eyes for her bed when the cab pulled up to her apartment building. Luckily, there was no sign of Greg anywhere in the apartment, but there was something off about it that she just couldn’t place. Nothing in the apartment looked out of place, but something, just didn’t seem right. Her cell phone rang from her purse, “If this is Rossum, I told you five hours and it’s been like 20 minutes.”
“Your uncle? No, it’s Greg, baby. I wanted to make sure you got home alright after your uncle picked you up so late last night.”
“I actually, just walked in the door. It was, you know, an emergency with my aunt. You’re not coming over, are you?”
“Thanks for the warm welcome to my house.”
“Sorry, I’m just exhausted.”
“Its fine I’m at work anyway.”
“Oh, before I let you go, I was wondering if you did anything strange with the apartment before you left last night?”
Greg paused, “I don’t think so, well I did put a picture of us up on the wall.”
“Where did you get a picture of us?”
“I snapped one while you weren’t paying attention.” He confessed.
“Romantic. That must be it, throwing off a weird vibe in here.” She didn’t let him respond, but just forced out a quick goodbye and hung up the phone. She passed the picture in the living room and shivered a bit before shaking it off and diving for her bed.
Addison woke up with a jolt. Her dreams were haunting her with pictures of the victims of the tri-way killer, their faces cold and lifeless. They were lying together, hands linked, covered in a fine layer of peat moss. She made her way to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of scotch and sipped at it as she allowed herself to get lost in her thoughts. There had to be something she could do, there had to be something more to the peat moss than the killer was saying.
It was difficult for Addison to find a phonebook in her apartment, but there was one located in the very back of the junk drawer beside the sink. She flipped to the G’s and found what she was looking for; she punched the address into her phone and went into the bathroom to shower. Her long hair fell over her shoulders as she brushed it, but something was wrong. The hair that usually hung past her chest was doing so on the right side, but the left side was only slightly past her collar bone. She took it between her thumb and forefinger, “that’s weird…”
She slightly shrugged in the mirror and stepped into the steaming shower. The stresses of the past day rolled off her body with the water and she gently massaged her aching shoulders. When she got out of the shower, she picked out a short dress just in case she had to do any charming. Looking in the mirror she pinned back the short piece of hair and shook her head. By the door she pulled on her plain black Louboutins to pair with her pale pink, strapless dress.
She pushed the key into the ignition over and over, but it was no use, the engine refused to turn over. She angrily kicked the door shut and groaned loudly. Glancing to the left she saw the shiny black Mercedes that had only been driven from the dealership. The keys were hidden in the Toyota’s glove compartment, but it took her a few minutes to figure out how to start it, but once she found the button the engine revved and she curled her fingers around the steering wheel.
When she pulled into the parking lot she inhaled the smell of fresh growing flowers. The greenhouses were set up in the back and she immediately sought out a male employee. A male in his early 20s was walking around watering the hanging baskets, “excuse me?”
“Can I help you find something?”
“Actually, my uncle is really into gardening and he’s looking to start growing vegetables. He really likes red peppers and I wanted to get him started, but I know nothing about gardening. Do you have any tips, what he should grow it in, when he should plant it, stuff like that?”
“Yeah, for sure. Any balanced garden soil will grow peppers just fine; your uncle shouldn’t have to worry about that. I can show you some starter plants over here if you’d like.”
“Yes, I would like that. But, before we do that, could I ask you if there is anything beneficial about using peat moss with vegetables?”
“That mixed with fresh compost would be a higher quality. It would definitely be for a more experienced gardener, but it sounds like your uncle could handle it. Does he do his own composting?”
“Compost…?” Addison bit her lip and let her eyes wander.
The greenhouse employee started to feel uncomfortable, “ma’am? Should I show you those plants now?”
“Oh, sorry, yes, for my uncle. I’m just thinking if he doesn’t compost, he should. It seems like a good way to dispose of unwanted materials.”
The Mercedes had touch screen navigation and Addison quickly punched in the numbers and threw the gas pedal to the ground and followed the instructions shouted from the speakers. She parked illegally in front on a fire hydrant and practically jumped out of the car still holding the small green plant. The small house was non-descript, except for the lush gardens in the front. Her eyebrows buried in confusion, but she bounded up the front steps anyway and pounded on the door impatiently.
Rossum swung it open with a sheet draped over his shoulders. His eyes were barely open and he didn’t look very happy to see Addison’s bright face, “I thought we agreed to a day apart?”
“We agreed to 5 hours. I’m not sure if I stuck to that, but I have been researching. Now, are you going to let me in?” she looked him up and down, “by the way, the whole, answering the door in your sheet thing works a lot better on me.”
He glared at her and pushed the door open wider. The bungalow opened up to the kitchen on one side and the cozy living room on the other. The appliances looked well used, but seemed to go with the rustic feel of the entire house and the walls in the kitchen were painted a happy yellow colour. A small wooden table and four mismatched chairs were sat on the floor with a fruit bowl resting in the centre. The bananas in it were almost completely black and something that was so moldy Addison couldn’t even decipher what it had originally been. Next, she looked to the left and took a step onto the well-worn in carpet. The walls were a light blue that should clash was the faded green of the L-shaped couch, but they seemed to actually go well together. She saw a hallway lined with pictures that she assumed led to his bedroom and was tempted to check it out, but, instead she shoved the plant into Rossum’s hands and took a place on the couch. It gave when her weight landed on it and seemed to envelope her. She thought that it might be the comfiest couch she had ever sat on.
“What is this?” Rossum questioned as he placed the plant on his coffee table beside Addison’s feet.
“Enjoy your red peppers, Uncle Rossum.”
“Has someone been playing detective without their parental supervision.”
“Someone has been and found out something interesting. Now go put on some clothing so I can share it with you. Your sheer manliness is distracting me.”
“Careful little girl, someone might think you’re flirting with me.” When he came back out he was in baggy track pants and a grey cotton t-shirt with FBI written across the chest, “now what is this revelation you’ve come to?”
“Compost.” Addison said it and smiled broadly.
She nodded, “rotting vegetation.”
“Please tell me you did not wake me up in the middle of the day to say that because not only will I be very angry, I will also have you committed.”
“That’s what he is trying to tell you. Composting, that is the key to the peat moss and vegetable traces, and now that I see your garden in the front it’s clear that this is something that speaks to you specifically.”
“But why leave traces of it at the crime scene? Just to tell me that he knows me?”
“Yes, Rossum, he knows where you live. He’s showing you that he has stalked you like he’s stalked them and he wants you to know that.”
“What does he want from me? He wants me to be afraid of him? To live in fear while he’s free?”
Addison shrugged her left shoulder, “he lives off of fear, that’s why it takes so long for him to kill them, he wants to prolong the fear as long as he can; if he can get that fear from someone else that’s just a bonus. Plus, it seems like you are his fixation.”
“You figured this all out in five hours?”
“Don’t be silly, I figured it out in the shower.”
Rossum pursed his lips, and was silent, “I don’t know. I feel like there must be something more to it. He would have to assume that I was scared by this, but that wouldn’t provide him with very much satisfaction.”
“Well, it’s better than any explanation you’ve come up with in four years.” She stood up, walked over to the kitchen, and started to throw open cabinet doors.
“Can I help you find something? It is my kitchen you’re dishevelling.”
“I’m looking for your alcohol, it helps me think.”
He kicked open the door on the coffee table in front of him and pulled out a bottle of Jameson, “Sounds like a bit of a problem.”
Two glasses landed beside the bottle and Addison poured a generous amount in each, “I’d say a problem is only a problem if it’s causing problems, you know? Now, if you are so insistent that it means something else let’s figure it out.”
Addison kicked off her heels and tucked her legs under her body, “Why, because you have so many exciting things to do today? I bet your day planner is just so packed.”
An icy glare shot back her way and she laughed, “You’re a cruel little girl.”
“Okay, I am going to need track pants, a t-shirt, and a laptop.” She looked at Rossum when he didn’t immediately listen to her commands, “if you don’t mind.”
He glared at her suspiciously, but stood and walked to the bedroom. When he came back he was holding all the items she requested, plus a tablet resting on top, “can I ask why? Or is this all supposed to add to the mystery that is Addison Grace?”
“You don’t have to get snotty about it. No mystery here,” she pulled the track pants under her dress and rolled the waistband over a few times. She then slipped the t-shirt on top of the girly dress and unzipped the side. It fell easily to the floor and with a flick of her foot, she kicked it into her hands, “I can’t do serious research in a rigid dress. As for the laptop, I’m going to look up everything there is to know about compost, and something is going to stand out; something is going to make sense.”
Rossum picked up the tablet and opened up Google. He stared at the search bar and tried to think of something to type in, anything, but instead he just looked at it like it would start spouting knowledge and lead the way. Glancing over at Addison he felt strangely comforted by the look of her in his clothing with her hair falling in her face and a pen grasped tightly in her mouth. She was furiously typing on his laptop, her eyes lit up with determination. Knowing there was nothing he was going to type into a search engine that was going to match her passion and dedication, so he decided to go to his back yard and take a look at his own compost pile hoping to spark something.
Opening his fridge, he pulled out 2 apples and tossed one to the lounging brunette, who caught it without tearing her attention away from the screen. He laughed and shook his head pulling over the screen door. He bit into the apple and stared at the compost pile, not understanding what he was supposed to see, what he was trying to say. The sun beat down on his back and a bead of sweat fell from his forehead to his jawline. Instead of feeling useless, he decided to tend to the garden; thoughts always came easier to him when he tried to take his mind off of everything. He grabbed a shovel and started to spread some of the compost onto his flowers; he hadn’t done it in a while and the pile was building up.
After a few shovels he tossed his apple on the pile, but it rolled away. He grabbed it again and carefully placed it on top, securing it, but he saw something that caught his attention. The white stood out from the colourful fruit and brown of rotting food. He kicked an orange peel off of it and his face went pale. A shaky breath escaped his lips, “Grace! Addison, get out here!”
His panicked cry caused her to stumble as she bolted out of the small house, “Phil, what is it? Are you okay?”
“I think I know what he was trying to tell us… me.”
She stood next to him and he could feel the heat radiating off of her as she examined him, trying to decipher if he was having a breakdown, “Well, what is it? I haven’t found anything – I mean I’ve found things, obviously, but nothing imp –”
“Addison, look.” He pointed to the small white object on his compost heap and she took a step forward to try and understand what she was looking at. Rossum saw her face turn pale to match his and she took a moment to swallow deeply.
“I-is that…” She started, stumbling backwards until she bumped into Rossum’s broad chest.
He nodded slightly, “definitely bone, I’m not sure if it is human or not, but I can assure you that I didn’t put it there.”
Rossum felt a small hand slip into his own, shaking a little bit, “I don’t know if you should be staying here.”
“Addison, if he wanted to kill me he would have done it already. You staid it already, he loves the fear, that’s what he gets off on.”
“But what happens when that’s not enough anymore?” She stared directly in front of her like she was lost in a daydream and Rossum swore that he saw the slightest gathering of tears about to spill over her lids, but with a blink they were gone and her hand slipped away from his in the same instant. “But you can do whatever you want, stay here, don’t stay here, I couldn’t care less. Now, I’d say we should bag that piece of evidence and bring it into the office, might be important.”
Rossum was still recovering from whatever is was that came over Addison when she came back into the backyard with a Ziploc bag. She started to walk towards the pile, but Rossum stopped her and carefully took the bag out of her hands. He wrapped the bag over his hand and wrapped it around the small, hard object and folded the plastic over it. Turning to Addison he zipped the bag up and tried to look into her big green eyes, they usually shined like emeralds, but today they looked almost grey, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
A strange sound escaped her throat that resembled a laugh, “I’m not upset and you have nothing to be sorry for.”
With that she disappeared into the house and Rossum was left holding a baggie of what he was fairly certain was human bone. He glanced back at the door and she appeared back in her little pink dress and pulling her hair out of the small bun it was wrapped into. The fringe fell around her face and he noticed that one side was the regular length, but the other side was cut to her chin. He pulled the piece between his forefinger and middle finger, “Is this some new style the kids are trying out these days because I’ve got to tell you, I don’t really get it.”
She pulled away from his grasp and rolled her eyes, it sent a chill through Rossum’s body, was this really the same girl who a few minutes ago was clutching his hand and cowering behind him? She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, “No new style, I just noticed it myself. I must have accidently cut it somehow. No big deal. Shit happens.”
Rossum narrowed his eyes at her, but didn’t pursue it; he knew she was already angry enough and she was a weird girl, things like this didn’t seem out of the norm for her. It was Rossum’s turn to shrug. He turned into his house and quickly changed into slacks and a crisp white button-up. Addison greeted him with another one of her award winning eye rolls, “do you ever go out in anything that isn’t stuffy?”
Looping a tie around his neck, Rossum threw her a slight glare, but softened a bit, “Not all of us can pull of a pink strapless dress; some of us like to maintain the illusion of professionalism.”
“Who said anything about pulling my dress off?” Addison asked innocently, her witty banter back in full force. She smirked and unplugged his laptop to take it with them. Addressing the questioning look on his face she smiled, “I did get a bunch of information; you never know when something is going to be helpful. Remember to grab the bag.”
Rossum did as he was told and was lead out to a pristine, shining Mercedes parked in front of the fire hydrant in his front yard. “So this is the elusive Mercedes. Damn, this car is amazing; you need to stop driving that heap of junk.”
Addison kept a straight face as she responded, but her voice was low, almost inaudible, “I love that car.”
For the second time that day he saw sadness play on her face, so he silently slipped into the passenger side, feeling that she needed a moment to herself to gather her thoughts. When she finally did enter, she smashed the gas pedal, and Rossum pulled at the seatbelt franticly. Sensing his fear, she smiled again, “Sorry, first of all, this is my first time driving this car and I’m not completely used to it, plus, I'm kinda creeped out having that thing in my car.”
She glanced wearily at the plastic bag, and Rossum couldn’t hold in his laughter. He wasn’t sure if it was the lack of sleep, or the shock he was experiencing, but the current situation was making him laugh uncontrollably. Addison shot him a strange look and he waived his hands in front of his chest, trying to speak, “I just think it’s hilarious that you are so freaked out by this little piece of bone, but you have no issue waltzing into serial killer’s homes and coercing him into a confession. I was honestly starting to suspect you had no fears, hell, I was pretty sure you didn’t even feel any real emotions.”
“Just because I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve doesn’t mean I don’t have them.”
Her tone knocked Rossum out of his laughing fit, but he wasn’t quite sure how to respond, “I… I’m sorry.”
The duo sat in silence the rest of the drive until Rossum directed her towards the parking lot in front of the lab. After a parking job that almost gave Rossum a heart attack, both bounded out of the car and ran to the front doors. Rossum ignored the perky receptionist and navigated the halls until he found what, or rather who, he was looking for. Magnus Norms had only been working in the lab for just under two years, but Rossum had quickly taken a liking to the young mop headed boy. He had his doctorate in chemistry, and a masters in biology and forensic science. His curly, dark brown hair was always piled on top of his head and a few stray curls fell onto his face. Black rimmed glasses stood out in stark contrast to the pale skin on his boyish face. His face curled into a smile when he saw Rossum turn the corner and he stood to greet him.
“Agent Rossum, it’s so very nice to see you again!” Magnus said stiffly. Rossum saw his gaze shift to the female on his right and a blush creep up on the boy’s neck. Did she have this effect on all men, or was it just everyone who worked in this building?
He swallowed his frustration and smiled at his favourite analyst, “Magnus, it has been far too long!” He shook the boys hand and turned back to Addison who was looking around the pristine lab, seemingly in awe. “This is Addison Grace; she is a kind of consultant helping out with the tri-way killer case. Addison, this is Magnus Norms the best analyst we have in this place.”
The blush spread further up his neck spilling onto his cheeks, and Rossum was worried he might pass out when Addison smiled warmly at him and held out a perfectly manicured hand, “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Norms.”
“The p-pleasure is all mine, M-Mrs. Grace.”
“Oh, please, call me Addison, and its miss.” She said with a wink.
“Addison…” Rossum warned, his voice low and serious.
She scrunched up her nose, “he never lets me have any fun.”
Magnus cleared his throat to recover, “What can I do for you two today?”
Rossum held out the Ziploc bag ominously, “I need to know if this is bone, more specifically human bone?”
Magnus looked from the older gentleman, to the pretty brunette, “this doesn’t look like it came from a crime scene.”
“That’s because it didn’t.” Rossum didn’t want to give too much away, not because he didn’t trust the young technician, but because he didn’t want all of this to be blown out of proportion. He knew Magnus respected him enough to give him a straight answer without prying too far into things.
Magnus slid gloves onto his skinny fingers and gently took the subject in question out of the bag, “just from initial sight, I feel confident that this is human bone. I would say it’s a fragment of an ulna.”
“Are you sure it’s just a fragment?” Addison asked glancing over Magnus’ shoulder.
“Yes, quite. Do you see the end here?” he flipped the bone over and pointed to the end with his pinky finger, Addison nodded. “It seems smooth like something chopped it right in half.”
“Are you sure it didn’t naturally break?” Rossum was thinking back to his compost pile, thinking he might be able to go through it and find the other half.
As Magnus shook his head new curls spilled onto his forehead and Rossum saw a quick smile play on Addison’s lips. “No, a natural break would never be this smooth. If you leave it with me I can do some test on it and report back to you in a couple of weeks.”
“No, Magnus, I need this results rushed. No more than a couple of days.”
“Do you know that every single person who walks through those doors needs their sample “rushed”? You might be my favourite agent, Rossum, but even if I didn’t have any other work to do, it would still be tough to get the results to you in a matter of days.”
“Magnus, I just found this at my house. This is a little bit personal.”
“I have sympathy for you Agent Rossum, but I have protocol that I have to follow, just like you.”
Rossum let out a frustrated sigh, but Addison placed a hand on his shoulder to calm him down then took a step forward so she was slightly touching Magnus. “I completely understand where you’re coming from, Magnus. I think both Rossum and I are just kind of freaked out right now.” The boy shakily looked to her and Addison’s eyebrows were almost touching, her face full of sadness and concern, her eyes filling with tears. “Sorry, I’m getting so emotional. I just am not sure if I’m going to get any sleep at all until we have some answers.” She let a single tear escape her bright eyes and Rossum wanted to applaud her acting abilities, but he opted for staying stoic.
Magnus put a comforting arm around her small shoulders and Addison buried her face into his chest, heaving a little, seemingly with sobs, “Oh, Addison, please stop crying. It will all be okay, I promise. I can push most of this work aside, and I can stay late a couple of nights.”
She pulled away from his chest and looked at him through wet, matted eyelashes that seemed to make her eyes look even bigger, “are you completely sure? I wouldn’t want to get you into any trouble. Though it would put my mind at ease knowing that someone as smart as you was on the case.”
Rossum couldn’t stifle an eye roll at this, but the other two people in the room were not paying him any attention. Magnus looked into her eyes, “No, it’s the least I can do to make you feel safe. I’ll drop the results off to Rossum in a few days. Will you be able to keep safe until then?”
“I’m sure Uncle Ross will do everything in his power to make sure no harm comes to me, but I am flattered by your concern. I can’t wait for the results. Thank you again, Magnus.” She leaned in and kissed him lightly on the cheek before walking out the door.
Magnus placed his hand over the spot and grinned, “Yo-you’re welcome. Come by anytime.”
Rossum raised an eyebrow at him, “Smooth man.” He joked and jogged to catch up with Addison. He grabbed her hand and whipped her around, “What was that?”
The tears were completely gone from her eyes and a smirk replaced the concerned frown, “I just got what you wanted, you’re welcome.”
“You got it by manipulating, not only a co-worker, but a friend.”
“Alright, Mr. High-moral-fiber but let me ask you something, did that little exchange hurt Mr. Norms in anyway?”
“Well, no, but –”
“And did he, in fact, show some sort of interest in me?”
“Yeah, it looked that way.”
“So, me showing an interest in him probably made him flattered, he probably feels pretty good right about now, huh?”
“I’m sure he is ecstatic, but it wasn’t real.”
“Who says it wasn’t real. He sure thinks it’s pretty real, and knowing that a girl he likes could like him back probably boosted his self-esteem a little.”
“Yeah, but what happens when he asks you out because of that little display, and you say no. It will crush him.”
“Oh, Phillip, I find it very interesting that you automatically think I would say no. Those glasses were pretty cute.” Addison winked at him and turned on a heel.
“Addison you cannot date employees while you are consulting, it is highly frowned upon!”
“Is it really? Well, I guess if he asks I’m going to have to tell him that we can only be friends.” She put a mock pout on her lips then smiled, “Now, as much as I would love to argue with you about whom I can and cannot date, I think I am going to go home and enjoy the rest of my day away from you. Do you want a ride home, or are you going to stay here for a bit?”
“I think I’m going to look over some stuff before I leave considering every file in the entire building is currently in my office.”
She shrugged, “Suit yourself, will you be alright to get home?” Rossum nodded, “Alright then, Uncle Ross, call me if you have a sudden realization.
“Will do, get some sleep, alright. You’re going to make yourself sick.”
Rossum felt bad for lying to her, but he wasn’t really lying, was he? It was more of an omission of truth. This case was his everything. His entire life revolved around it and it was hard to bring someone new into it. Everything about this case, even more so now, was so personal, it was like letting someone see a little piece of his soul and he just wasn’t ready to bare that much just yet. On top of that, Rossum knew she was more worried about him than she was letting on, and this wasn’t going to help.