On Monday night, the watch commander made a note in his log. She had not checked in. That was unusual, but not unheard of. Sometimes, they missed. Sometimes, she missed. Thursday’s protocol dictated that we try to initiate contact. Friday morning, the morning I arrived back in town from the Wilkes debriefing in Virginia, the report was sitting on my desk. Saturday afternoon found me inside an old office building listening to the local sheriff lie to me.
I did not have the time or the patience to indulge him. Pulling out my portable recorder, I stood it up on his desk between his unwashed coffee cup and a wadded up paper towel. It was time to show this hillbilly how I played this game.
“You know, I come all the way out here it means something. It means that this lady, this lady turns up missing from your town, she must be important to me.”
His eyes drifted upwards then snapped back to meet mine. I held my hand up to keep the idiot quiet and then I reached out and tapped my recorder with my finger. “This little thing works like a tape recorder except it does not have one moving part.”
The sheriff leaned back in his chair and smirked just enough to let me know he did not appreciate my tone. It was the reaction I was hoping for.
“Listen Agent...” he glanced down at my card. “Agent Donovan, I was over there at her place personally and…
I cut him off. “These things are standard issue now. Most are used for interviews, like this one we are having here. It’s an amazing little piece of technology.”
“You taping this now?” he asked.
I smiled; I shook my head. “Why should I? You have not said anything that is even remotely true since you gave me your name.” I thumbed the wheel starting play back and her voice filled the small office.
“Donovan?” she said, “This is Linda. Linda Becker and it’s Sunday night, uh, almost nine.” There was a tremble in her voice. I pressed the pause.
I grabbed the recorder and stood up walking over to the bulletin board. “She sounds worried, doesn’t she?”
He wasn’t going to answer now. This was the point where he shut his mouth and waited to find out exactly what I had.
I pressed play again.
“Listen,” Linda said, “This is going to sound crazy, but that shouldn’t be surprising coming from me, right? So, here it is. I’m going to be dead by morning and I… when you get out here…” There was a crashing sound in the background. Metal clanking on metal. She called out, “Amy let Jake get that down.” I stopped the playback again and turned back towards the sheriff. He was looking down at the mess on his desktop.
“Missing kid reports hit our office with regularity.” His head snapped up, his eyes focused on me know. I winked at him.
“But, they were…” I hit play again. His lies were boring me.
“When you get here, they are going to lie to you. All of them, I think.” She continued. The stress was clear, but there was also determination. Something was driving her. “Everything you need is here at my house. You’ll know where to look.” She paused and there was the sound of papers ruffling. “And Donovan, he’s going to try and steer you off the path, but push the sheriff. He’s not one of the good guys, but he’s a coward. He’ll help you if you lean hard enough.”
There was a bit more of her message, but it wasn’t for this yahoo to hear so I stopped the recorder and placed it in my jacket pocket. I glared hard at him. “So, I guess, I am going to lean on you.”
I had hoped he would make a move to his revolver hanging from his belt on the coat rack, but this one was the type to shot you in the back. He’d wait until he had the better odds of coming out on top before trying to pull a move on me.
The sheriff did not move. I could almost see his mind was spinning, trying to find a way through the mess I had brought to him when I walked into his office. He began tapping his fingers against the desktop in a strange uneven manner and I could see his pulse beating through the vein in his neck. Having been in law enforcement for the last fifteen years, I had seen this exact type of reaction many times. He was on the verge of panic.
Stepping back, I quickly removed my jacket and tossed it on a chair by his door; the movement drew his attention.
“It’s cold outside.”
“Funny thing,” I replied. “We’re not going to have to go to the house. You’ve already found what she left me.” He blinked at me. “The real question is whether or not you were stupid enough to bring it here.”
I often wonder if the people I come across in the course of doing my job ever go to the movies or watch TV. The sheriff turned his head to look at the filing cabinets against the windowless wall so quickly, I was certain he had never watched an episode of Columbo or even a CSI Miami.
“Really?” I asked. “In the filing cabinets? You make it that easy for me?” I decided not to take any chances now. While I would gain a certain satisfaction from beating this moron, I needed to find out what Linda left me and why. I drew my Glock and trained it on him. “Cuff yourself to that thing,” I ordered motioning to the old radiator fixed to the opposite wall.
“You are gonna regret this. You really are,” he said as he clicked the handcuffs around his wrist and tossed the keys from his belt to me.
“If I live long enough, I am probably going to regret everything I’ve ever done,” I said as I holstered my firearm and moved over to the cabinets. “Let’s see what you have here.”
I pulled open the top drawer of the file cabinet and was greeted by files.
The sheriff laughed and then said, “I suppose it wouldn’t make things worse if I just tell you it’s in the bottom.”
I nodded and slid open the bottom drawer. I reached in and pulled out a heavy pillowcase. “This it?” I asked glancing over to the sheriff.
“You look inside?”
“’Course I did,” he replied.
I quickly knocked the clutter of the sheriff’s desk to the floor. He started to protest, but then thought better of it after I gave him a stern glare.
“Alright, Linda. What’d you leave me?” I dumped the contents onto the desk and was hit by the strong smell of cinnamon. It was so strong my eyes stung. I grabbed a can and read the label. It read ‘cinnamaldehyde’.
“Cinnamaldehyde?” I asked.
“Made out of cinnamon, I recon,” the sheriff commented. “Couldn’t make sense of it myself, but it sure smells nice..”
The other items on the desk were just as confusing. There was a small medallion with a half-opened eye set against a rising sun, a small pamphlet on West Nile Virus, and a very long, pointy needle like thing.
“You know what this is?” I asked as I picked it up.
“Of course I do,” he answered. “But you got all the help you are going to get from me.”
The thing was very smooth and felt organic. It certainly wasn’t made of metal but it was smooth. It was also hollow. It really was a very large needle. It was so thin that it seemed like it would break from the slightest pressure, but it proved to be strong. It wouldn’t bend much less break.
What was Linda trying to tell me by leaving me this stuff? It was time to put my brain through its paces. I grabbed a chair and slid it up to the sheriff’s desk. He was still cuffed to the radiator so I sat down and kicked my feet up and began to think my way through everything I knew.
She knew she was going to die. She had prepared for it and she had left me what she termed “everything I would need”. She had two kids with her. She knew the sheriff was no good, but knew he would be useful if I leaned on him. She had left me a giant needle, a can of something smelled like cinnamon, and then obviously I was missing something.
I stood up and removed his gun belt from the rack and then tossed him his keys back.
“Looks like we are going to have to run over to her house anyway. You missed something.” I said.
“Ain’t likely, but if you want to take a ride, I’m game.” He replied as he let himself free and stood up. “You can’t figure out what’s what, can’t see how that…”
He was interrupted by the sound of shattering glass. I spun pulling my pistol out in the fluid motion they had trained into me back in Quantico. They had taught me how to deal with every different type of criminal in every type of situation. Agent Shane Donovan had graduated at the very top of his class.
There was no way I was trained to handle what came at me through the window. It was large, about the size of a turkey. With the flying glass coming at me and the speed of the thing, I couldn’t get a solid look at it, but what I did see looked like a very large insect. The wings were moving at such a speed, it was impossible to see anything other than a blur and the humming they gave off was deafening in the small room. I squeezed off a few rounds at it, but my aim was far too slow. It came at me and I dived, driving my shoulder into the corner of the desk with a sick cracking thud that was nothing but bad news. The humming stopped suddenly and the sheriff started screaming. I rolled away, ignoring the fire in my shoulder, and came up in the standard combat crouch. Both hands held my Glock steady on the flying intruder, but I held my fire. The sheriff continued to struggle and scream in pain as this thing sat on his back.
It had huge transparent wings, easily each as long as a man’s arm and buried into the sheriff was one answer to the things Linda left me. I knew what the long needle was. I fired a quick three round burst at the things which could only really be described as a mammoth mosquito. The long piercing rod ripped out of the back of the sheriff’s neck as it was tossed back against the wall by the force of the 9mm rounds.
The sheriff was fading fast. There was no way I could stop the bleeding. He had seconds left.
“What the hell is that?” I asked him, knowing damn well it was futile.
His face was almost completely white and he forced a smile. “You better run,” he said.
Running sounded like the perfect idea but as I turned to get the hell out of there, I heard the humming. Growing stronger and coming closer.
With only 7 rounds left in my clip and my shooting shoulder destroyed, I knew it was way too late to run.