By Beth ©
FBI Files (Ezra, Seven)
Notes: Please read the other FBI stories before this one, those will help explain a bit about the guys’ pasts. This isn’t meant to be a light read; it does deal with a very sensitive subject and should be read as such. It is estimated that a woman is raped/sexually abused every 2 minutes in the United States alone. Know your rights, your surroundings, and follow your gut instincts!
Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks: To Yolande, for catching those errors and asking those fantastic questions!
Feet tapped hauntingly against the old marble floors. The faint echo was heard by only those awake and still aware of the night’s diminishing hour. The moon’s bright rays cascaded through the windows, casting brilliant rays through the air, accentuating the dark shadows behind corners and against walls. Small bells hung above doors, and strings were attached to a tie near each and every knob. They still looked new, despite their antique age.
The wind blew a tree branch against a window, causing it to scrape and thump. He continued down the hall, his breath coming in even, anticipated breaths. He shone his flashlight into a narrow crevice—finding nothing, he returned to his nightly search.
He could hear a few voices talking behind bedroom doors, a few giggles—girls that were supposed to be in bed, and weren’t. He didn’t care; he was only the night watchman…guarding those who couldn’t guard themselves.
It was peaceful, like most nights…despite the storm raging outside. Once the rain let up, and the wind died down the sun would come out by morning, it would be fabulous—the smells, air, and even the mud. He smiled and headed down his last corridor, hoping to get to bed early, maybe watch the Late Show.
But he wouldn’t.
His breath was suddenly caught in his throat.
His heart sank and dropped to his shoes.
He rushed forward, despite the scene, and checked her pulse.
The other victims had survived….
This one hadn’t.
Quickly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone then dialed 911. When he finished he called his boss.
“Chris,” came the soft acknowledgement.
“It’s Buck,” he said softly, “...there’s been another one.”
“You all right?”
Buck sighed and took a deep breath: “No.”
“Hang on,” Chris said firmly, “I’m on my way.”
Buck paced back and forth in the school principle’s office, listening to the first-on-scene police officer’s report. The report was good, Buck’s interview however, had sounded like a rookie’s. Sure, he’d been upset, it was understandable as to why, but he was still a veteran—having been on the force for over twelve years. He was expected to keep his composure.
“That makes fourteen rapes within the past three years,” Detective Daniels said, shaking his head while he read his report over and over again…looking for anything unusual—he was up for promotion.
“I know that!” Buck snapped, running his fingers through his hair.
“I’m just saying that this is the first one that he killed, maybe the perp got out of hand.”
“Do you think?!” Buck asked sarcastically, taking a threatening step forward.
“Buck!” Chris yelled, stepping into the office, stopping his agent in mid-stride. “You can leave,” he said bluntly, pointing toward the officer. He stepped out of the way as Daniels left. Chris turned and shut the door before looking critically at his agent. “What happened?” he asked.
Buck looked out the office window and out past the green pastures. “I didn’t hear anything,” he admitted softly. “I’m here to help protect these people and I didn’t hear a fuckin’ thing!”
Chris nodded in understanding, but he kept quiet.
“Where’s Ezra?” Buck asked, looking toward Chris.
“He’s flyin’ in as we speak—should be here by morning.”
Buck nodded: “I want this fucker,” he muttered, running his fingers through his hair.
“We all do.”
“Did you see what he did to her?” Buck stared at the wall, refusing to meet Chris’ eyes.
“Yeah,” Chris spoke softly, like a cowboy would to a frightened horse.
“I was supposed to protect her.”
“We’ll find him, Buck.”
“He killed her, Chris…he might do it again.”
“We’ll wait for Ezra to tell us what he’s thinking. You did the best you could—nobody blames you for it.”
Buck looked away and shook his head: he blamed himself.
Rape wasn’t about sex…it was about control—domination, humiliation, and the ability to overpower someone into defeat.
The others had been scared—terrified; most couldn’t even identify a single character trait by their assailant. They knew he smoked…that was all.
Abigail Jorden had fought—she’d been the only one who had.
Nathan seated himself in the conference room and looked at his friends and comrades. “I managed to collect a possible DNA sample from fingernail scrapings—but that was it.” He wished he had more.
“Come up with any match?” Chris asked, keeping an eye on Buck—the murder had occurred on his watch…he felt responsible.
“Won’t know for a couple of days—could take longer,” Nathan replied.
Buck abruptly stood up.
“Where’re you goin’?” Chris asked.
“Need to report to work—I have a job to finish.”
“Your job is done, we’re all moving in ASAP to find this guy—Travis has already approved the case.”
“I’m finishin’ this job!” Buck snapped.
“—it’s not your fault.”
“Tell that to Abigail Jorden!” Buck stopped suddenly, and ran his fingers through his hair. He was tired, anxious, and altogether overwhelmed.
“You’re not going back out there until you can look at this with a clear head,” Chris replied calmly, and with a profuse amount of authority. “We’re working on this case as a team—and I expect that from everyone.”
“When’s Ezra gettin’ here?” Vin asked, trying to break up some of the tension. He scratched his nose before kicking his feet up and onto the empty chair next to him.
Just as Josiah pushed himself away from the table, the conference room door opened.
Ezra stepped in and nodded before taking a seat. “Sorry I’m late,” he said softly.
Vin quickly pulled his feet from the chair and noted the profiler’s exhaustion. Ezra hadn’t had a chance to shave, and he was still wearing the same clothing from the day before, the wrinkles, missing tie, and coffee stain on his shirt proved it. He placed his briefcase next to his chair, and waited for the rest of them.
“Well?” Buck asked, “Where’s the profile?”
Ezra furrowed his brow and shook his head: “For which case, Mister Wilmington?”
“The one you’re supposed to be workin’ on!”
“I’m working on 134 cases at the moment—you’ll have to be more specific.” He was exhausted, and not in the mood for belittling.
Buck was about to snap back, but was stopped by Chris’ swift movement. He stood up and tossed a pile of photographs, interviews, and police statements onto the tabletop.
“This happened at a blind school—”
“So nobody saw anything,” JD said softly, sadly.
“Did anyone interview the occupants of the rooms closest to the scene?” Ezra asked, looking carefully through the images.
“They’re blind, Ezra,” Buck snapped, slumping back onto his chair.
“Blind yes, deaf no,” came the sharp response.
“Hell, Ezra, even I didn’t hear anything,” Buck replied softly, wiping his left hand over his face.
“Most individuals who lose one sense find their other senses enhanced—”
“This is a school for those who come into their blindness late in life. Most haven’t been blind over a year.” Josiah looked through the school brochure and read the statistics. “They’re just learning how to cope.”
“There are four interviews by girls in the surrounding rooms—none of them heard anything out of the ordinary,” Chris replied, flipping through the files on the table.
“Who did the interviews?” Ezra asked, looking through the information.
“Officer Daniels—young guy, knew what he was doin’.” Chris took a seat and slowly ran his fingers through his hair. “Detective Bill Hadley worked on the first four cases, but was killed during a ski accident two years ago—Daniels was working with him at the time, and has since then taken over.”
“I want to speak with the students, the police, and visit the crime scene.” He looked at the images of the young woman whose life had been brutally taken from her. “How many others?”
“Could be as many as 14,” Buck replied softly.
“And where are the police reports on those victims?” Ezra asked, placing the photographs on the table.
“We’re after a suspect, Ezra, old case files aren’t going to get us shit,” Buck replied bitterly.
“Understanding who the victims were, Mr. Wilmington, is understanding who your predator is.” He looked up and at his fellow teammates and then looked at Buck. “Why are you working undercover at a blind school? Were there more rapes at this location?”
Chris shook his head: “We were asked to get involved when the last two rapes occurred within 7 days of each other. The police have undercover officers working in most of the surrounding schools as well as places of employment for collage age girls.”
“Which is everywhere,” Vin muttered.
“You were asked by whom—the police, or someone with a large pocketbook?” Ezra questioned suspiciously.
“Fuck you, Standish,” Buck bit.
“It’s a logical question, Buck,” Chris snapped. “We were asked by Special Agent Hopper to get involved. His daughter is going to school there and wanted someone on the inside for her protection—”
“Hopper’s a friend of mine so I told him I’d do it,” Buck replied.
“Why do you want to know how we got involved?” JD asked, seemingly confused.
“Rapes are not within FBI jurisdiction...unless we’re asked by a law enforcement agency outside of our own.” He sighed and looked at his teammates.
“Special Agent Jude Hopper is a friend of Officer Daniels—Daniels asked out of friendship,” Buck snapped, losing his patience.
“Where is Hopper now?” Ezra asked, looking for answers.
“Flying back from California—he wanted his daughter to go there because it’s the best school in the country for teaching the adult blind,” Buck said, feeling as though he had to justify his friend’s decision for keeping his daughter at the school.
“What about the other files?”
“They’re in my office,” Chris replied. He looked at Buck and nodded a silent understanding. “Go home and get some rest…we’ll start fresh in the morning.” He looked at the rest of his men and slowly stood. “That goes for all of you.”
Reluctantly, everyone but Ezra got to their feet and gathered their notes and documents before heading out of the room. Chris stopped at the door and turned to look toward the profiler.
“Go home and get some rest, Ezra, you look like you could use it.”
Ezra hesitantly agreed, but continued to remain seated, even as the door closed. The pictures were of classic police issue. Some were in black and white, others in color…it was the ones in black and white that were the most gruesome, surprisingly so. Abigail’s hair covered portions of her face, hiding her eyes and nose, but exposing her gaping mouth. Her right hand lay away from her body, her fingers curling up toward the ceiling. Her left lay across her belly, material grasped between her fingers. She rested against a wall, looking as though she’d been sitting when the killer approached. It wasn’t a guess as to what had killed her. Her neck was covered in bruises—not by hands...but by the nylons still wrapped around her...looking more like a halo than the item of her death.
There were a lot of questions running through Ezra’s head. Why was she in the hall alone so late at night? Why hadn’t Buck heard any noises? What hadn’t anyone heard anything? Why a blind school? Why someone so young with so much potential?
Like he’d done so many times before, he stood up and started hanging the images on the wall in the order they’d been taken: drawing himself a picture of the crime, the victim, and the murderer. He stood back and looked at the puzzle. Ezra tuned and opened the door and left the small conference room, only to enter Chris’ office. He saw the pile of files on Chris’ desk and took a quick look through them…the others.
These had all survived.
Ezra returned to the conference room and hung their images on the board by date. Blondes, brunettes, and one red head, all were beautiful in their own way, and all had been young at the time of the rapes. There were fourteen in all, happening over a period of three years—too many by any standards. However, the perpetrator’s frequency had increased within the past year. He was getting bolder, attacking his victims in parks, a local restroom...and now a blind school...what was next?
Nobody had been able to find a link, a reasonable description of the suspect, or any physical evidence. Over the period of time, the rapes became more brutal, more demeaning, and now, a young woman was dead. Perhaps she was just the first, maybe she was the last, but either way the killer needed to be found.
Ezra sat back in his seat and reread the police reports, initial autopsy report, and the statements made by employees and the students. Everyone had something to say, but nothing of obvious value. A young woman had just lost her life. Her friends would spend a few days grieving, her family would mourn her, the school would honor her spirit, but eventually the memories would fade and lives would continue.
Ezra sighed and slowly ran his fingers through his hair, contemplating the case before of him.
Buck sat in his apartment, looking out the living room window, remembering the point in his life when he’d decided to become involved in law enforcement…when he decided he wanted to help those that couldn’t help themselves.
No matter how hard he tried, the image of that girl wouldn’t leave his mind. He would see her body splayed for the rest of his life. At the moment, he was having a difficult time trying to convince himself that he was doing the right job, that he was indeed doing what he’d been ‘called’ to do.
It was different arriving on scene and seeing the victim, knowing what could have happened…but to actually be there…to be the one that was supposed to have saved her...
Buck rubbed impatiently at his face before leaning back in his rocker and taking a deep breath. His mind was a maze, lined with questions, uncertainties, and self-doubt.
Things like this weren’t supposed to happen.
Things like this weren’t supposed to happen to Buck Wilmington.
Chris entered his office with two cups of coffee. He moved out of the way of the maintenance man and nodded in acknowledgement. Only a few of the early birds had arrived before the sun came out, and working six floors below the ground didn’t aid daytime recognition. He entered his office and slipped his coat off before tossing it over the back of his chair, and then he quickly made his way into the conference room.
Ezra sat at the head of the table, flipping papers between his fingers and scratching his chin. He looked up when he heard the faint sound of the door opening.
“Figured you’d still be here,” Chris said, handing the profiler one of the cups of coffee.
“Thank you,” came the whispered reply. Ezra immediately took a sip before setting the paper cup on the table.
“Discover anything?” Chris asked, taking a seat while looking hard at the wall of photographs and evidence.
“I’d like to learn more about the victims before I make any suggestions,” Ezra replied confidently.
“He gets control of his victims quickly, not giving them enough time to really fight, or for that matter—scream. He uses the pillowcase to protect his identity, which is why he didn’t use one with the Jorden girl—he didn’t have a need to.” Ezra furrowed his brow in thought. “This guys pissed, and something had to push him over the edge—that’s why the rapes are happening more frequent.” He looked up and met Chris’ eyes. “He raped her in her room and moved her so Buck would find her…he knows the property, and he probably got out when the confusion started…people rushing around trying to protect other students, students trying to find out what was going on, police, reporters, and God knows what else. He knew where to hide—”
“Why would he want Buck to find her so soon?”
“Because he killed her…and I don’t think he’d meant to.”
Chris nodded before taking a good look at the profiler, seeing the dark circles under his eyes, and the three days worth of stubble on his face. “You should have gotten some sleep.”
Ezra nodded: “When are we leaving?”
“We’ll head out today and meet up with Buck at the school.”
“Do you think it’s wise to keep him on the case?” Ezra leaned back in his seat.
Chris nodded: “He’ll do his job—”
“Without burning out?”
“I’ll talk to him.”
“It’s one thing to deal with the victims and the suspects, but to be indirectly involved in this is extremely debilitating.” Ezra looked up and met Chris’ eyes. “He will become a suspect.”
Chris nodded in understanding. “He didn’t do it,” he had to reiterate.
“I know he didn’t do it, he’s not the type of personality that could so brutally take a life in this manner—”
“Stop with the profilin’ bullshit for just a minute, Ezra,” Chris snapped, getting to his feet. “He’s a damn good friend of mine, and I’m not about to sit here and let you berate him like some common suspect. Besides, everyone in that town’s a suspect at this point.”
Ezra shook his head and quickly got to his feet and started removing the papers and pictures from the wall. Everyone had the wrong idea about his job, why wouldn’t Chris as well? “I’m not treating him like some common suspect, Mr. Larabee, I’m simply stating that he’s going to feel responsible for that girl’s death for a long time and becoming a suspect will only heighten those feelings. I know he’s a good officer—but he’s just like the rest of us when it comes to having a breaking point.” He paused before placing documents into their appropriate files. “If he continues to push himself, it will only be a matter of time...”
“He takes cases like this to heart.”
“I’ve seen police officers and detectives eating hamburgers and French fries at crime scenes—not to prove to anyone else, but themselves that what they’re seeing doesn’t affect them…but eventually, it does.” He tossed the pictures to Chris, exposing the gruesome images. “It all gets to you.”
Chris nodded while gathering the images. “I’ll make sure he gets the help he needs.”
Ezra nodded, knowing that was the best he was going to get.
Chris stood up and gently slapped Ezra on the shoulder before heading toward the door. “Go home, shower, and change. Make sure you pack up some clothes and be ready to travel in an hour.” He grabbed the doorknob and paused. “If you want to find out more about the other victims I’ll send Vin with you—I don’t want you goin’ out alone.”
“I appreciate it.”
“By the way,” Chris smiled, “welcome back.”
The campus was composed of three buildings, all of them brick and surrounded by acres of manicured lawns. Several cars were parked to the south of the exit gates, and people were gathering around the entrance of the gymnasium for the funeral. Men wore black suits and women dark dresses, most consoled one another while young children played unconcerned on the lawn.
Abigail Jorden’s family, students and their families, as well as the school’s staff had gathered in for the service. All hated being there, not because of Abigail—but because of what had happened to her.
Chris shifted the rental car into park and turned off the engine. He looked out toward the crowd and saw a glimpse of Buck, standing at the base of the steps, speaking with students or employees—Chris wasn’t sure.
“A school for the adult blind,” Josiah said, looking at the detailed brochure. He shook his head, thinking of the violation that had taken place here.
“JD,” Chris said, turning just slightly in his seat to look at the kid who sat behind him, “start from scratch. Find out who had complete access to the school—janitors, teachers, security guards, other male students, and medical staff. Then, when you get done with that, do a background check on all of them—look for criminal backgrounds—anything abnormal.” He looked toward Nathan. “Why don’t you get down to the ME’s office and find out who did the initial autopsy report and who handled the body during transport…cross any ‘T’s and dot any ‘I’s that were missed.” He turned to Josiah. “You and I can talk to some of her friends—I know Ezra’ll want to as well, but let’s get an idea of what kind of woman Abigail Jorden was.”
“Think we’ll find anything?” JD asked, stepping out of the car.
“I think the first-on-scene police did a damn good job,” Chris answered before slamming his door shut. He stretched his back and took a long look around. “So, no, I don’t think we’ll find anything.”
“You want to call me when you need a ride back to town?” Nathan asked, opening the driver’s side door.
“We’ll have one of the detectives give us a ride back,” Chris responded, slipping his jacket on. He nodded toward JD who was already off and heading toward the gym in search of the school’s administrator. “Let’s try and meet up again at the hotel at eight.”
Nathan nodded and got situated in the car before slowly backing out of the parking spot.
Josiah took a deep breath and hesitated a moment: “You ready?”
“Hell no,” Chris replied. “I’m never ready for shit like this.”
Josiah nodded in agreement; who was?
Vin chuckled when Ezra woke abruptly, sitting in the passenger seat of the car. He ran his hand over his face and leaned his head back, feeling his exhaustion to the fullest. He looked out the window and watched the mile markers bend to and fro as they passed by. The trees waved gently as the wind from passing cars swept their branches.
“Want to go straight to the hotel—maybe get some sleep before you start talkin’ to people?” Vin asked, glancing from the road and then back to Ezra.
“Let’s head on over to the police department, I’d like to talk with Officer Daniels.”
Vin nodded in understanding. “You look like shit.”
“I wasn’t asking for your opinion,” Ezra replied, keeping his eyes on the road before them.
“Don’t matter when I give it,” Vin said abruptly. “You’re not goin’ to do anyone any good wearin’ yourself out like this—there’s got to be more profilers available to take on some of your cases.”
Ezra chuckled: “And just who’s going to do it?”
“There’s a whole department for the shit you work on.”
“There’re fourteen people working on over 2000 cases at any one time—including the ones I’m currently working on.” Ezra’s tone strengthened, as his patience ran thin.
Vin just nodded—unwilling to push the subject any further. “What do you think of this case so far?”
“I don’t have enough evidence to come up with a logical explanation of the perpetrator’s behavior.”
“I ain’t askin’ for anythin’ positive—just gut instincts.”
Ezra sighed and rubbed the fingernail of his thumb with ring finger. “He’ll do it again—”
“He didn’t kill her on purpose—but he’s had a taste of it now, so he may…but he’ll defiantly rape again and he’ll continue to get more violent until he does kill with intent.”
Vin nodded in understanding, taking the exit to their destination. “So how come you didn’t tell Chris or the others before.”
“I’ve been wrong before,” Ezra admitted, not bothering to explain the conversation he had with Chris earlier.
“Shit,” Vin chuckled, “who hasn’t?”
Ezra looked over the reports again after finishing his talk with the lead detective on the case. They all had suggestions, but nothing of real value. Everyone was at a loss.
“The only thing that ties these girls together is the fact that they’re all white,” Detective Daniels said, tossing more files onto his desk.
“They’re all young,” Vin added. “All are seemingly healthy.”
“He thrives on the challenge of the takedown,” Ezra said, looking at the images on the wall. “Abigail Jorden was blind, but she was well known as an athlete—someone who probably took pride in her abilities.”
“If that’s the case I hope the next girl he tries to take down has a black belt in karate,” Daniels snapped, heading out of his office. “Hope she rips his fuckin’ balls off…”
Vin couldn’t help but grin. “Be a nice justification.”
Ezra nodded in agreement. “Though castration is a logical—and justifiable punishment for those of us who are not criminally insane, a rapist’s intent is to overpower his victims—make them see and understand his dominance. So, unless you plan on a lobotomy with that castration—it won’t work.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I think Abigail Jordan tried to fight, and that’s what got her into trouble.” He looked at her most recent picture. A pretty young woman with dark brown hair, her eyes hinted at a life lived hard, but her smile defied her painful past.
“Find anything?” Chris asked, stepping into the room with Josiah and JD behind him.
“Nope,” Vin replied, taking a seat behind an officer’s desk. “You?”
Chris shook his head. “The school is clean…at least its students and employees.” He leaned against the wall and sighed. “Nathan’s meetin’ us at the hotel…he’s still with the ME.”
“Think he’ll find anything important?” JD asked, taking a deep breath with a mile of questions running through his mind.
Ezra stirred his coffee, trying to sweeten the bland substance. “Is it your responsibility to baby sit me during this investigation?” he asked, pushing his plate of half eaten eggs and toast away from the table’s edge.
Vin shook his head: “Chris wants me to go with you, just like Nathan went with Josiah, and Buck went with JD…I’m not all that bad, Ezra. Besides, I know a lot about different shit. I might come in handy.” He finished off his coffee and looked out the window toward the busy street. “Who are we goin’ to visit today?”
“Miss. Jorden’s parents. I want to speak with them before I talk to the other survivors.”
“You think they’ll talk to you?” Vin asked, resting his elbows on the table. “I mean, they just lost their daughter…figure the last thing they want is to know every detail about her murder.”
“We’ll let them do the talking,” Ezra replied, picking up the breakfast ticket.
Vin quickly reached out and grabbed it. “My treat, besides, I figure I’m in for an interestin’ day.”
Abigail Jorden’s parents knew more about money than most, with a house right out of Home and Garden magazine. Immaculately cut hedges and rose bushes lined the driveway. Even the grass seemed to have been trimmed to perfection. An antique buggy rested near a weeping willow tree, placed in faultless harmony with the white fences that contained beautiful Arabian horses of all sizes and colors.
The home, painted a crisp white with four pillars out front heightened the occupants’ standard of wealth. A large Doberman pincher ran out from behind the home, barking and baring his white teeth. A gardener quickly hushed the animal and then propped his rake against the porch steps.
“You here to see the Jordens?” he asked, taking off his gloves and slipping them into the back pocket of his overalls.
Ezra and Vin both slipped out of the vehicle.
“I’m Special Agent Tanner, and this is Agent Standish. Are the Jordens home?” He flipped out his badge as proof of his position and quickly replaced it.
“Yes, sir,” came the nervous reply. “Go on up to the house and Mrs. Bailey will take you to them.”
Ezra nodded, looking around the property with a critical eye. “How long have your worked here, Mr….?”
“Roy Bailey,” he answered, “the wife and I’ve worked here for…15, maybe 16 years.” His eyes flickered nervously between Vin and Ezra.
“Did you know Abigail very well?” Ezra asked, keeping a kind eye on the older gentleman.
Roy smiled and relaxed. “She was an angel—” he looked around before leaning in toward Ezra, “—though, her folks always thought she was a wild one.” He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “She had a mind of her own, always did…even when she was a little one.” He shook his head, still unable to believe the news of her death. “Don’t think her folks ever appreciated that—least ways, they never gave her the chance to prove her choices.”
Ezra reached into his pocket and pulled out his card. “If you’d like to talk to me in a more private setting, you can call me at this number and we’ll meet.”
Roy took the card, knowing one of the Jordens was walking up behind him. “I’ll do that.” He took the card and stepped out of Ezra’s line of sight.
“Can I help you?” the man said, stepping forward. He wore a black velvet riding cap, blue sweater and tan colored breeches. His riding boots reached his knees, and in his left hand he held a riding crop.
“Mr. Jorden?” Ezra asked, not quite sure how to take the man’s demeanor.
“Yes,” he responded, slipping the crop underneath his armpit. He removed his black leather gloves and slapped them into the palm of his right hand. “What do you want?”
“We’re from the FBI. We’re here about your daughter,” Vin answered, annoyed with being treated like a bothersome ‘employee’.
John Jorden nodded: “Come,” he motioned with his hand toward the house, “let me get you a drink…we’ll be more comfortable there.”
Walking into the Jorden home was like walking into a piece of Ezra’s past, and he couldn’t help but cringe at the thought. Original works of art hung in glorious fashion on the foyer walls, and intricately woven rugs lined the wood floors. The home even smelled like roses.
John led the two FBI agents into the tearoom, and quickly ordered for coffee and sandwiches. Mrs. Bailey, wearing a traditional maid’s uniform, skirted around her boss and disappeared behind the heavy door. The room, made mostly of glass, gave everyone sitting in its wake an open view to the rest of the property: horses, barns, and flower gardens.
“Please excuse the absence of my wife, since Abby’s death, she’s been—well, she’s not been herself.” John rested his gloves, hat, and riding crop on the hutch before taking a seat. “The police stopped by and said the FBI would be getting involved—something about a serial rapist in the area?”
“We’re investigating a series of rapes, Mr. Jorden, as of yet we’re unsure if they’re related in any way,” Ezra quickly spoke up. “We’re here because the police have asked us to get involved.”
“What he means is...your daughter’s murder is within Federal jurisdiction guidelines. So us bein’ here—”
“I understand completely, Agent…”
“I’ll go see to our coffee,” John stood and turned, leaving both agents.
“I fear your inferiority complex will only go so far when pushing someone like Mr. Jorden,” Ezra said, leaning back in his seat, resting his ankle on his knee.
“You know somthin’ about their kind?” Vin returned, reaching out to touch the leaves on the fichus, just to see if it was real.
“More than you can imagine,” Ezra muttered under his breath.
Vin wanted to ask more, but the sight of John returning had him keeping his mouth shut.
“Mrs. Bailey will be right in,” John said, retaking his seat. “What would you like to know about my daughter?”
“How’d she become blind?” Ezra asked, dropping the politeness for bluntness.
John nodded, understanding what was happening. “Abby was a…free spirit. She’d decided, against her mother and my wishes, to attend Harvard rather than Yale. I’m a Yale man myself, and wanted my daughter to follow in my footsteps.” He crossed his legs and pulled at the leather knee patch on his breeches. “She was driving home for spring break two years ago when she fell asleep at the wheel—we nearly lost her then, but as always, she pulled through. She’d always been the strong one.” A serine look embraced his face. “She had this strength…I don’t think she ever really saw herself as a person with a disability—or at least she tried not to…but I think it hit her the hardest when she realized she couldn’t do a lot of the things she used to on her own—take her horse out and go riding, drive down to the mall, watch a movie with her friends. A lot of things changed for her—but she tried her hardest not to let it bother her.”
Ezra watched, listened, and read between the lines.
“The optical nerves in her eyes had been damaged so badly that she lost all sight. At first she’d wanted to go back to Harvard and finish, but being so new to her blindness she didn’t realize how much she’d need the help of others to make it through. When I heard about this blind school, I immediately signed her up for it—I should have asked her first, but I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“She didn’t want to go?” Vin asked.
“No,” John answered. “She didn’t want to be different.”
“May I see her room?” Ezra inquired.
John nodded. He stood up, forgetting about the coffee as Mrs. Bailey brought it in the room and set it on the table. “Please, follow me.” He walked out of the tearoom and headed up the stairs. Family pictures hung on the wall in perfect order. It seemed to be a tribute to Abigail, from her birth to her high school graduation. “We haven’t changed anything about her room—so it’s just like it was when she left for school.” He opened the door and stepped inside. His demeanor now changed from overwhelming confidence to a mourning father.
Ezra stepped into the room and took a quick glance around. Horse show ribbons hung above the bed, not just the blues, but the reds and whites as well. Pictures of horses rested on shelves with books and models. Her desk was covered with drawings and sketches…a few half finished poems lay next to a book. Ezra looked at the images of a young woman exhibiting confidence. What had happened to change that…what had caused Abigail Jorden to become too old so soon? Her eyes expressed that bitter knowledge of the real life, the one outside her father’s big house.
“How old was she when she was raped the first time?” Ezra asked, replacing one of the pictures back on the shelf. He looked at John with knowing eyes.
John clenched his jaw and nodded. “She was fourteen,” he answered. He ran his hand over his face and took a seat on the rocking chair next to the bed—the one his daughter had often fallen asleep in while reading. “He was a stable hand that I’d hired for the spring training season… my mistake.”
“What happened to him?” Vin asked, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
John took a deep breath. “I refused to let Abby testify at the trial—she’d wanted to, for someone so young she wanted to nail the bastard to the wall for what he’d done, but how would it look, the daughter of a prominent businessman raped by a stable boy—”
“You were ashamed?” Vin questioned, feeling his gut tighten.
“It was about the money,” Ezra surmised, watching John’s movements. “If she testified you’d be affiliated with hiring less than reputable people—you’d lose business.”
John shrugged, unwilling to respond to the accusation. “The man I’d hired went to prison—he pleaded guilty and because Abby was a minor, her name was left out of the papers.” He rubbed his knees. “Will Baxter was killed in prison, I guess it was leaked out what he’d done—even criminals have their standards.”
“Was she involved with anyone?” Ezra asked, reaching into his pocket to pull out a business card.
John shook his head: “I don’t believe so, no.” He took the card handed to him.
“If you think of anything that might be helpful, please give me a call.” Ezra and Vin both exited the bedroom and headed down the stairs. “We’ll see ourselves out.”
John remained standing at the top of the stairs, looking at the images of his daughter.
“Where to now?” Vin asked, slipping into the driver’s side of the vehicle.
“Mandy Shelly’s,” Ezra replied. “She was the first.”