Chief Inspector Maureen Thompson combed through her reports, trying to fit Jonathan Tyler into the web of connections created by the reports in front of her. There was no sense to her fervor except a gut feeling, especially since the FBI was now in control of all but the abandoned baby case. They didn’t know her precinct had a directive to find Jonathan Tyler before they did.

Damn. She could use another cup of coffee. The flood of information squirmed through her brain like tunneling worms trying to get away from rising water. She reread the words. They crawled into her mind and then got lost in the intricate web that seemed to weave each of the reports together: dead teen at the river, missing person reported by grandmother, abandoned baby, gang retaliation over a birth gone bad, one of their own missing. Still unanswered: Who was the mother? Where was the midwife? Who was the kid that delivered the money?  

Evan Fischer stated twice that he had sent one of his father’s employees, a young male, age unknown, named Sawyer, on an errand to run one thousand dollars to the midwife of his pregnant girlfriend, Sobrina Morelli. Marchesi had hired Sawyer the night before.

Sawyer, Sawyer. What kind of parent named their kid Sawyer nowadays? Why would Evan trust him, someone he didn’t know, with that amount of money? Why didn’t he wait for his father’s right hand man, Allessandro Santorini?   

Evan Fischer, age nineteen, reported missing.

They now knew that the Morelli clan had sent an enforcer to teach Evan Fischer a lesson because he had knocked up their sister, Sobrina, sixteen years of age. That enforcer was a young Taiwanese national, dumped at the river.

Cause of death, stab wound.

They now believed he was the Morellis’ best new fighter, trying to make his way into their organization. Evan would not admit he had taken a knife to the fight. He repeatedly stated that he was not aware of a knife. Thompson’s team did not find a knife. 

A miscarried baby lay in their morgue. The FBI whisked Evan and his father away before she could ask about the baby, before she could swab for DNA. Without it, she could not confirm that the abandoned baby was his. Her wild card was Jackson Tyler. He had dreamed of watching a young woman give birth to a stillborn baby.

The timing of it got to her. She didn’t believe in coincidences.

One thousand dollars to the midwife…

…young man, age unknown, named Sawyer….

Had Jack seen through Sawyer’s eyes? Was the unfortunate witness to a tragic birth part of the equation, or was this birthing completely unrelated?  Sawyer. Wouldn’t it be more likely for Jack to see through Evan’s eyes? Or Jonathan’s?

“Oh, lordy, would Jon use an alias?” she said aloud.

“Talking to yourself on the job. Not a good sign,” said Officer Marcus Balmario. He was geared and ready to go when he approached her desk.

Until Jackson Tyler was fully on the job, Marcus Balmario was Maureen’s choice for temporary partner. He was young and unmarried, but he was extremely level-headed. She was comfortable working with him. Their last case had ended tragically with the loss of his partner. Like Jack, he preferred to keep working to keep his mind off his grief.  Even though he and his partner had worked together less than six months, she would keep an eye on his stress levels. At the first sign of trouble, he was going home. She could work alone.

“Thanks,” he said. He sat across from her. She knew he was referring to her willingness to keep him busy.

“No problem,” she replied. “I sent Jack home to make phone calls, but you and I both know he isn’t going to stay put for very long.”

“His emotions are too high,” said Marcus. “That’s dangerous. We should put someone on him.”

“That’s a little extreme.”

He shrugged. “I sent the FBI BOLO out on our wire. Every cop in this and the surrounding areas will have Jonathan Tyler’s picture by noon,” said Marcus.

“Good, thank you,” she said. Her desk phone rang. “Thompson.”

“Transfer from a gentleman named Rodney Heathe, asking for you. He’s reporting a missing person.”

“Connect us please.”  Maureen motioned for Marcus to stand by. “Mr. Heathe.”

“I don’t know what is going on with my people, but another employee has not checked in, and like Evan, she is extremely punctual and never sick. I am quite frankly worried that somebody is trying to sabotage my business.”

“Walgreens isn’t a franchise, Sir. Unless you fail the corporation, no one is after you. Who may I ask is missing today?”

“Emilia Rodriguez, one of my cashiers.”

Maureen capped the phone with her hand to tell Marcus, “Pull a car. We’re taking a trip.” To Mr. Heathe, she said, “We will be there in about twelve minutes.”

“Thank you. Thank you,” he said.

Maureen felt like she was approaching a hornet’s nest. During her original interview with Emilia Rodriguez, Maureen’s gut told her that Emilia had more responsibility than running errands and delivering pain medications. She had pulled Emilia in on Evan’s case because he needed pain medicine after his mix up with the Morelli gang. She had delivered them.

Had Emilia Rodriguez found herself in the Morellis’ crosshairs as well?

Eleven minutes later, Marcus pulled their marked car into the parking lot, front and center of the store. She was glad they were in a marked car, instead of her Corolla or Balmario’s Jeep. A show of police on the premises was just good business in case Heathe was part of Marchesi’s gang, which they suspected he was.

Together, they entered the store and jogged to the back where they found an agitated Rodney Heathe pacing in front of the ‘Employees Only’ entrance.

“Thank you,” he said, grabbing Maureen’s hand. He was a different man today, not the arrogant SOB they had interviewed earlier. “I can’t reach her. I’ve called a dozen times.”

“Okay, okay. Let’s sit in your break room. There is so sense in scaring your other employees.” Maureen guided Mr. Heathe with a hand on his elbow and ushered him down the hallway. She pulled a chair and settled him against a wall.

Then, she dialed dispatch, relayed Emilia Rodriguez’s contact information, and asked that they attempt contact.

While waiting on the return call, Maureen asked, “Have you worked with Sra. Rodriguez for a long time?”

“Three years,” he replied, but didn’t offer any more information.

“Has she always been a cashier?” asked Marcus Balmario.

“No, she started in the stock room, but she is quiet and pleasant, so I put her out front. It pays better, and she was a good employee. Still is, I mean.”

“Of course,” said Maureen. “What about calling in sick? Does she always call when she can’t make it?”

“She has never called in sick,” said Heathe. “And with Evan’s disappearance, I thought I should report hers right away.” Her gut told her that he was worried about more than another absent employee, but she was more worried about Emilia Rodriguez than his legal troubles or his involvement. Should they conclude that he was involved with Marchesi or the Morellis somehow, they could deal with him then.

She was, however, tempted to show him the picture of the dead Taiwanese boy again just to ask if he thought Emilia knew him. She was interrupted by her phone. “Thompson.”

“Dispatch. There is no answer from your contact. Over.”

“Roger that. Out,” said Maureen.

Maureen’s suspicion that Emilia Rodriguez could be the midwife involved in the tragedy of Sobrina Morelli’s death after birthing a stillborn child was growing exponentially. Jack had…suffered, for want of a better word, a remote viewing of a birth. In need of all her resources, she decided to include him, even though she had sent him home. She texted, asking him to meet them at Sra. Rodriguez’s address. Maybe, if he wasn’t too distracted by his runaway son and his recovering partner, his mojo would turn on and lead them to her.

“Mr. Heathe, you should know we found Evan Fischer. He is well. However, he will not be coming back to work at this time.”


“I am not at liberty to discuss that,” she replied.

Rodney Heathe folded his hands in his lap and looked at the ceiling. It was clear that a million different thoughts were bombarding his mind. Maureen and Marcus gave him a few moments for the information to sink in.

“We will check on Emilia. She has been implicated in treating Evan Fischer for some injuries he incurred during a fight.” She watched his expression carefully, looking for any hint that he knew about the fight. She added, “Sra. Rodriguez may be involved with the same people Evan was involved with.”

His facial expression showed distress, possibly knowledge, but she didn’t read complicity.

As they left, Maureen said to Marcus, “He automatically assumed someone was out to get him. Did you notice that?”

“I did,” he said.

“He’s involved in this whole mess, somehow. I’m putting someone on him.” She called the Captain and set that up. “I texted Jack, invited him to meet us.”

“I thought we agreed he was unstable at this time,” mumbled Marcus.

“Again, that’s a little harsh. He had a dream about a birthing experience. With all that we know, I think we need to factor in the possibility that he remotely saw something that may give us information. I don’t know if Emilia is involved, I don’t know if Sobrina is involved, I don’t know if the stillborn we found yesterday is involved. Maybe he can figure that out.”

Marcus didn’t say anything. She knew about his rivalry with Jack. She knew about the constant teasing he gave and the razzing that Junior Inspector Tomio Dubanowski put up with because he was Jack’s partner, but at this point, it was all in-house fun. They were professionals on the job. She expected the same today.

“I don’t feel right about putting him in that position,” said Marcus. “It’s too much.”

“Too much,” she said, revved to defend Jack if she needed to.

“Yeah. His son is missing. The FBI thinks he’s here. His partner is still in the hospital. He can’t have gotten over the last case. I haven’t.”

“Yet, here you are, ready, willing, and I assume, professional.”

“Yes ma’am. I’m just worried for him. You know?”

Relieved by his compassion, she said, “I know, believe me, I know.” Finding Emilia would go a long way towards relieving some of that worry.

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