And Found

(Author’s Note: You have not missed a chapter. Due to global warming and fires in Northern California, I did not post last week.)

Anger tastes metallic, thought Jack. He understood why he was sent home, but at home didn’t ease the terror he felt for his son or the anger with the FBI and its machinations. At home, he wasn’t Senior Inspector Jackson Tyler. He was Dad, a scared shitless dad, a dad who had seen the kinds of bad things that happened to runaway teens too many times.

His phone buzzed against his thigh. His little toe kicked the solid foot of the couch when he jumped at the sensation.   

Struggling to pull his phone from his pocket while hopping on one foot, Jack prayed it was his son, Jonathan.

Instead, it was Chief Thompson. She had texted, “Jack, meet us at Emilia Rodriguez’s apartment, ASAP.”

He gathered strength to type back the one question he couldn’t voice, the one that was foremost in his mind. “Did you find Jon?”

Her response was immediate, “No. This is about that dream you had.” An address followed.

“Weird,” he said when he saw it. He knew the address. Why? When had he been there and for what reason?

He rested the phone against his forehead, trying to gather thoughts, letting his heart calm. Following a case would take his mind off the panic he felt about Jon.

He texted, “OK.”

Emilia Rodriguez. He had interviewed her about Evan Fischer’s case. She had picked up a pain prescription for him and claimed she was only an errand runner. Neither he nor Maureen felt that running errands was her entire story, but they had no evidence otherwise. He could see her face so clearly in his mind right now. He’d met her once and had not thought of her since, so why were her features so front and foremost in his mind?

He quickly changed into presentable clothes and raced out his door.

He parked in front of Emilia Rodriguez’s building and waited for the Chief. She was riding with Marcus Balmario, with whom he had an uneasy rivalry. During their last case, he and Balmario had eased their relationship with shared grief, but it was a new chapter for them, and Jack planned to be cautious. He couldn’t handle jibes right now.

He leaned against his hood with his arms crossed and studied the building. It seemed creepily familiar, like he’d been here recently, but then it was a typical building for this area. He’d been to at least a dozen others just like it.

Marcus Balmario pulled into a space across the street.

“Jack,” said Maureen as she and Balmario crossed it.

“Maureen, Marcus, thanks for the call,” said Jack.

“How’s the little wifey?” said Balmario.

“Not in the mood,” said Jack, and little angrier than he intended. He added, “He is fine.”

“Okay, there is no time for this, boys. Get your professional investigative hats on, now.”

Nobody messed with Maureen.

Emilia Rodriquez lived on the second floor at the end of a very short hallway at the back of the building. The hallway was dark and smelled strongly of cigarette smoke and mustiness, probably from mold. Halfway down the hallway, Jack noticed a trail of what he suspected was blood. The stain was heavier in front of her door.

It hung off its hinges. Someone had kicked it open.

Like dancers that had rehearsed the move, all three pulled their guns and approached in silence. They entered a short hallway adorned with photos. Jack flipped a light switch next to the door, but nothing happened. To the right was a living room, which he cleared. Across from it was a bathroom, which Maureen cleared. At the end of the dark hallway was a closed door. He knew it was the only bedroom. Balmario opened the door and cleared the space behind it.  

The only room left was the kitchen past the bathroom. When Jack stepped into it to clear the space, a wave of dizziness punched him back into the hallway.

“Jack?” said Maureen.

“I’m okay,” he said and stepped back into it. The dirty dishes were still in the sink, but someone had cleaned up the floor and the bloody towels. He flipped the switch next to the door, and the kitchen lit up, a hazy, yellow, postage stamp of space that was exactly how he remembered it.

“This is it,” he said. “This is my dream. I stood right here.”

“Are you sure?” said Maureen.


Maureen said, “I thought there was more to her than what she told us.”

Jack pulled a chair from the table and leaned his hands upon the back of it. The grit of peeling paint dug into his palms right where he imagined it would. “She was on the floor, right there.” He pointed to the spot in front of the chair.

Maureen squatted. “Yeah, the bleach smell is really strong right here. And, ugh. Is that hair?” She pulled tweezers and a small plastic zip lock bag from her kit. She carefully lifted strands of black hair from the connecting bar between the chair’s front legs.

“Each time a contraction hit her, she would raise her head. I could feel her bump against the chair.”

“Well, it looks like there are some roots here. Maybe we can match the mother to the abandoned baby we found yesterday morning.”   

Marcus was watching Jack. Jack could feel the skepticism seeping off him. He braced for the inevitable sarcasm Balmario was sure to throw at him. Balmario had been the one person that had razzed him the longest about his seemingly psychic insight.

Marcus didn’t say anything; he just watched.

Jack’s mind floated back to the dream. “I knew the girl.” He fisted his chest over his heart. “She was someone I thought was stunning, even as pregnant as she seemed to be. It was a horrible juxtaposition seeing her on the floor suffering compared to….” She stepped out of a shiny Lincoln and walked toward him, an undulating vision of blatant beauty. It stopped his breath.

“Compared to what?” mumbled Balmario.

“What?” said Jack. He shook his head and was back in the present.

“Go on,” said Maureen.

“I was delivering money to pay a midwife, so I guess Emilia was a midwife as well as a donkey. Right? Damn.” He bowed his head.

“What?” said Maureen.

“When I woke up the morning after the dream, I was so scared that Jon was involved in all of this. I ignored the hints that my mind was giving me, that somehow I knew the midwife. The kid who was actually here did not know her…so, I did not…know her, I mean…as him. I dismissed it.”

Marcus snorted.

Maureen glared at him.

Marcus said, “I’m going to call CSI and get them out here.”

Maureen said, “Good idea.”

Jack’s arms and legs buzzed, his jaw hurt. What had he neglected here? If Emilia Rodriguez was injured, or worse, because he had not considered this vision, he didn’t know if he could forgive himself. They had to find her. He backed out of the kitchen into the darkened hallway to catch his breath. The bedroom at the end of the hall drew him forward. He could almost feel the baby in the crook of his left arm. The girl was alive when he left. She was still moaning on the kitchen floor. There was a commotion at the door. The midwife was screaming at him to get out.  

He escaped out the bedroom window, taking the infant with him. Why had she handed him a dead baby? He went to the bedroom window and looked down at the alley below. “Maureen,” he said, “I’m going to check out the alley.”

She hollered, “Okay.”

Jack put on gloves before he wrenched open the window. It was as sticky as he remembered. He clambered onto the rickety, metal landing to climb down the fire escape. At the base of it, he tried to figure out which direction he had run. He was so afraid then, afraid of what he had seen, afraid of the people pounding on the door, terrified of the death cradled against his side. Standing here now, disoriented and churning the same way he had in the dream, he could not remember which direction he took.

He slowly turned three hundred sixty degrees, scanning the area. Four of his long strides took him to the mouth of the alley. There were skid marks snaking across it. He pulled a partial roll of crime tape from the right pocket of his coat and stretched it across the alley to block auto and foot traffic. Then he jogged down the alley toward the other entrance. He saw nothing that could be used as evidence, but he taped off this end of the alley, anyway.

Maureen leaned out the window. “Jack.”

A chill went through him. “I’ll be right up,” he said.

As he climbed through the window, he heard Maureen say into her phone, “Just cover the body until we get there.”

“No, no, no,” he moaned.

She lowered her phone. “A woman, Jack. A woman washed up on the river.”

“Okay, okay,” he said. “Okay.” He quickly looked around the small flat, at first relieved it wasn’t news about Jon, then horrified when instinctively he realized that it was probably Emilia Rodriguez.

CSI arrived and began unpacking in the hallway. Maureen and Balmario were right outside the front door. Jack expected to join them on the body call. Instead, Maureen called to him, “Jack, you stay here and direct CSI. Maybe something else will occur to you that we can use.”

“I’m worried it’s Emilia,” he said.

“Just stay here and help CSI.”

“Maureen.” He took two steps to follow.

She shook her head.

He froze.

“Sir?” said one of the CSI techs. “Sir?”

Jack turned slowly toward her while Maureen left with Marcus Balmario.

Maureen and Marcus stood over Emilia Rodriguez. Her body showed signs of being in the water for at least twelve to sixteen hours, maybe more. There was a neat hole through her forehead.

Maureen said, “They are cleaning house.”

“Who was Jack talking about back there in the apartment?”

“Well, I have my suspicions, but of course, if Jack didn’t get names, we can’t know. Evan told us that he’d asked one of his father’s employees to bring money to his girlfriend’s midwife. Seems like a coincidence since Emilia and Evan knew each other.”

“Uh, huh.”

“Another coincidence, the baby was a stillbirth.”

“In Jack’s vision,” said Balmario.

“Have you ever actually worked a case with Jackson Tyler?” said Maureen.

“Not as a primary,” said Marcus with a great deal of relief.

“Well, I have. When he gets this way, you might as well take it as if you are listening to someone who witnessed the event. Because he has.”

“It’s so damn weird,” said Marcus.

“Yes. Yes, it is,” said Maureen.

“If the Morellis are cleaning house, we need to find this other player. What was his name?”

Maureen scrunched her eyes and said, “Sawyer. Evan Fischer said he sent one of his father’s employees to pay the midwife. His name was Sawyer.”

“So you think Jack was there as Sawyer?”

“Maybe,” she said.

The medical examiner’s crew was bagging the body.

Maureen said, “We need to follow her back to the morgue.”

When they were in the car following the ME’s van, Marcus said, “I have a question.”

“Yes?” she said.

“Everyone knows about Tyler’s weird mojo, but I have never seen it in action. He didn’t seem to have a lot of helpful information. If he saw this woman before she was taken, why didn’t he say something? Maybe we could have prevented her death.”

“He did say there was a commotion at the door, but he didn’t make the connection. Why would he call if he didn’t know where to send help, or who to send it to?”

“But you just said it was as if he was there.”

“But not as Jack. If our suspicions are correct, and let me remind you, we are talking about suspicion, not fact, if they are correct, he was this kid named Sawyer, who was delivering the money and got caught up in something he couldn’t handle.”

They were silent for a moment.

Then Maureen said, “I did ask him. I did ask him if he had seen the midwife’s face, because it was after we had found the abandoned infant.”

“What did he say?”

“He couldn’t really. I got the impression he felt like he knew who she was, but the connection wasn’t there.”

“Shit,” said Marcus.

“It doesn’t work that way. It’s not his fault.”

“No, I wasn’t thinking that. Tyler is going to shit bricks when he finds out she is dead. I know I would. Whether I want to admit it or not, he’s one hell of a good cop, and compassionate. He isn’t going to take this well.”

“If we can get DNA off this hair, we can at least connect the mother to the baby. If we can connect the mother to the baby, and Jack can confirm in his vision he was Sawyer, that will help a lot,” said Maureen.

“Then we can assume that the baby we found is Morelli’s?”

“Perhaps not in court, but for our sakes, I would stake my life on it.”

“How can we facilitate Jack’s memory?”

“Good question.”

Marcus snorted again.

“We need to find Sawyer,” said Maureen. “I think he’s our best bet for fitting the pieces together.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s