I look up from my desk and mind-numbing reports to find fellow Special Agent Khouri with a wicked grin on her face.
“What’s up?” I am immediately suspicious of that expression.
“Garrison has a walk-in. Says she’ll only talk to him.” She grins again, enjoying assigning me this likely fools errand.
“He’s not here.”
“I realize that, but she says she has information about an open case.”
“Won’t say. She’ll only talk to Garrison.”
“Am I supposed to pretend to be him?” I ask frustrated.
Khouri shrugs. “Maybe she’ll talk to his partner. If she won’t you’ll have to get him in here.”
Sighing heavily, I push myself back from my desk and stand. I was right to be suspicious of her enjoyment at my expense. These walk-ins are usually a waste of time, but our section leader insists we are ‘available to the community’. It’s some plan to rebuild trust between the FBI and the people. I hope I can get this crazy woman to talk to me because there is no way in hell I’m calling Garrison on the first vacation he’s taken, other than getting shot, in years. I’d like him to be able to enjoy it. And I’d like not to be reamed out by my director if I ignore her random tip.
“She’s in interview room three.” She grins one last time and scampers away.
“You’re cruel, Khouri. I won’t forget it!” I yell after her.
And head to interview room three.
I pause mid-way down the hallway, studying the tipster before she realizes I’m there. She is slowly pacing the length of the room, periodically she’ll disappear from my view and then reappear facing the opposite direction. She’s tiny. Tiny frame, delicate features, disturbingly baggy clothing. She’s got a faded baseball cap pulled low over her eyes and covering what I’m assuming is very short dark hair based on the few wisps poking out of the back along her nape.
She doesn’t seem agitated enough to be unstable. Right now anyway. But that doesn’t mean she’s not going to be an utter waste of my time.
My jaw clenches as I move the rest of the way down the hall and rap twice on the door before entering.
My abrupt entrance startles her and she jumps, facing the doorway. Her lips open, gasping softly and her wide eyes fly to mine.
Striking amber colored eyes. Practically golden, contrasting against her fair skin and slashing black eyebrows.
I smile, trying to be disarming. “Hi, I’m Agent Hansen.” I extend my hand in greeting.
She grasps it firmly but immediately tells me, “I’m waiting for Agent Garrison.”
“I heard.” I take a seat at the table, encouraging her to do the same. She doesn’t.
I look up at her from my chair. Sitting is another part of my strategy to make her comfortable. I’ve got over six inches on her and I don’t want her to feel intimidated. That will likely cause her to clam up and insist on Garrison. It doesn’t surprise me she’s asked for him by name. He’s the Chicago Bureau’s favorite public face, frequently used as a spokesperson at press conferences. I don’t begrudge him his media fame. I like being a bit more anonymous. But his notoriety does come in handy at times.
Just not when I have to humor walk-ins. Even ones with beautiful amber eyes.
“I’m Josh’s partner,” I inform her. “I was hoping I could help you.”
She tucks her lips in, chewing on them thoughtfully.
I flip through my notebook, finding a blank page. “What’s your name?”
Instead of answering she asks a question of her own.
“How long have you been partners?”
Leaning back in my chair, I study her carefully. “Six years.”
Gingerly she moves closer and sits across the table from me. I exhale in relief at this sign she’s willing to work with me. Maybe Garrison will get his vacation.
“Did you work with him on the Alarie case?”
This is interesting. Maybe she does have an actual tip worth my time.
“I did,” I confirm.
That was the case my partner, Josh Garrison, was shot during. We kept details close to the vest on that one, releasing very little to the media. For multiple reasons.
“I was told I could trust Garrison. That he would be a good person to talk to.”
There aren’t many that know the details of that case. This immediately narrows down the people who could have referred her to us. To Josh. But still too many possibilities to know for sure who sent her and hazard a guess why. I find myself hoping the most obvious, most likely scenario is not the right one.
“You can trust me too.”
She studies me carefully, considering. I find myself holding my breath until finally she nods.
Glancing at my notebook I ask again, “Your name.”
She shakes her head.
“I need a name.”
“Birdie?” I study her silently, confident this is a lie.
She stares back, defiant. This is all I’m going to get.
“Birdie,” I repeat and nod, accepting this. “How can we help you?”
“I saw on the news, about the two women who went missing.”
Frowning, I ask her for clarification.
“Dawn Sanchez and Heather Gold.”
I keep my face impartial. I know a little about these cases, they’ve been all over the Chicago news. But they aren’t FBI cases, they are Chicago PD. And as far as I know they aren’t connected. Maybe she is just looking for attention or notoriety. Once again I’m assuming she’s a waste of my time.
“Did you have some information about either of them?”
She swallows, her eyes dropping to her hands resting on the table between us. She’s twisting her ring around nervously.
“I think so.”
I wait patiently. But my mind is already back on the reports at my desk.
“I – I think they’re both alive.”
“Okay. What makes you think that?”
“They fit the pattern.”
If I could roll my eyes I would. Dawn Sanchez and Heather Gold have little in common. Dawn was a college student on a full scholarship and disappeared during her morning run. Heather was visiting Chicago with friends and never returned to their hotel room after a night at the bars. This one has clearly been watching too much Criminal Minds.
“Anything specific you can tell me? What pattern are you referring too?”
Her ring flips through her fingers, periodically reflecting the overhead lights.
“What he likes. How he… how he collects them.”
What the hell?
“You think I’m crazy,” she accuses.
“I’m just trying to understand,” I deny. “No one has connected these two women.”
She stands abruptly, tears spring to her eyes. “I’m not crazy. I can prove it.”
Despite everything… she doesn’t seem unstable. She doesn’t seem like the glory-seekers we sometimes see. She seems genuine. I find myself wanting to believe her even if it seems far fetched.
“I’m listening,” I say trying to reassure her.
“I can prove it,” she insists.
I nod, waiting patiently.
“Until two months ago, he had me too.”
Curious about Josh? You can meet him here.