THE UNSUB by Laurel
Summary: A serial killer starts killing women and the team’s race to find the killer becomes further complicated as it appears he has crossed paths with one of their own.

Author’s notes:

First I want to start off by saying that while I do own my dog -- don’t tell him that -- I don’t own anything to do with CBS, Without A Trace, any of the characters or anything along those lines.

Second, while I have researched locations and for the most part have described approximately their geography and relation to other places, I make no guarantees to the accuracy of the information within here, remember, this is a work of fiction.

Third, I’ve used some technical terms relating to driving routes, maps, the FBI as well as some medical type situations, again, most of what I’ve picked up is either from a brief search on the internet, reading one too many true crime novels, watching TV and while I have driven some of the roads depicted within, it’s been many years and the atlas I used is almost eight years old, so again, nit pick on the details if you like, but you’re only ruining the fun for yourself.

Fourth, I’ll admit that I’ve read one too many true crime novels in the past couple of months which is where the seed of the idea for this story came from, but I developed the story on my own and where I got lost, side-tracked, missed important parts, skimmed the surface on important moments or forget big details Silvia, my friend, beta and muse for this piece put me back on track, offered her unflinchingly honest critique (which I’ll never be able to assure her enough was not taken by me as anything other than honest and necessary and completely welcome feedback), offered suggestions and pointed out some timeline inaccuracies to keep me and thus all of you on track.

Fifth, (and congratulations to all of you who have endured this lengthy preamble and are still with me at this point) this story is pretty dark, at times disturbing and, although the violence that is discussed inside is not graphically portrayed as if it is occurring, there are times where the descriptions are very clear. There are mentions of rape to women, as well as descriptions of crime scenes.

Thank you for staying with me on this page-long opening.

Without further blathering from me, I present:

Chapter 1:

Monday May 7th. 2007.
MPU Office 11:00 a.m.
12 hours missing…

“All right. The husband is on his way in. He indicated that his wife never came home from her shift last night. She works as a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital and her shift is over at 11:00 p.m. She’s usually home by 12:30 a.m.” Jack was standing in the bullpen while his team sat at the small table in the middle of the room. He pulled the woman’s picture from the folder he was holding and turned to pin it on the whiteboard.

“When did he become concerned?” Vivian asked as she studied the woman’s picture.

“Police said that he indicated he usually hears her come in but their three-year-old daughter has been sick lately and between his job and her job they’ve both been tired caring for their daughter and working long hours, and he just slept through until his alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. this morning. When he woke and realized Barbara wasn’t there, he checked the house but there was no indication she had come home. He called the hospital to see if she had needed to work over and was told she clocked out at 11:00 p.m.

By the time he called the police and gave his report and called family and friends and so and so forth…”

“We get the call and 12 hours have already passed.” Elena finished the thought.

“That’s right. Martin, I want you and Danny to head to the hospital.”

“Got it, Jack. We’ll check security cameras as well as co-workers.” Danny got up and grabbed his coat.

“The second shift comes on in about four hours, those we don’t get a hold of by phone by then will be coming in to the hospital, and we’ll interview them when they arrive.” Martin stood next to Danny and waited for the rest of the assignments to be given.

“Great.” Jack turned to Sam and Elena. “I want you two to head to the subway station. The husband said Barbara catches the subway a few blocks from the hospital and takes it to the end of the line at the Eastchester/Dyre Avenue terminal. Vivian, I need you on the financials, phone records and background. I’ll interview Jim, the husband, as soon as he gets here.”

With the assignments set the team split up and headed out.

Subway Station 12:00 noon at 96th and Lexington:

Elena and Sam left the manager’s office behind the ticket counter.

“Just our luck their cameras are down. We have no footage to show if Barbara was being followed when she got on the train.”

“And none of the workers that were on at that time are here right now. At least the manager was able to confirm that her pass card was used here and at the terminal at the end. What do you say we take a trip to the Eastchester/Dyre Avenue stop and see if their cameras are working there?” Elena looked at Sam.

“Sounds good, let’s go.” The two agents exited the station, returned to their car and while Elena drove, Sam dialed Vivian and updated her on their progress.

MPU Jack’s office:

“Mr. Harrison, please sit down, thank you for coming in.” Jack stood as an agent escorted Jim Harrison to his door.

“Has there been any news. Have you found Barbara?” Jim Harrison continued to stand in Jack’s office and his head turned taking in the activity across the hall in the bullpen and then scanned the papers on Jack’s desk.

“Please, sit down.” Jack indicated the chair and then, after Harrison sat, he took his seat.

“We haven’t found your wife yet. I’ve got agents at the hospital reviewing the security footage and interviewing coworkers as well as I have two other agents at the subway station.”

“What can I do to help?”

“First of all, why don’t you tell me everything you know – “ Jack held up his hand as he saw the flash of irritation coupled with distress cross Jim Harrison’s features.

“I know. It seems like we’re wasting time, but it really is helpful for me to hear you tell me exactly what you told the police, so please. When did you know something was wrong?”

“Well, like I told the police, normally I hear Barbara come in. It’s usually around 12:30 when she gets home. Last night though, we’ve both been so tired, Katie, she’s our daughter, she’s been sick, just a spring cold but she’s been coughing and stuffed up and well you know how kids are –“ He paused for a moment and Jack nodded with a small knowing smile.

“Anyway, we’ve been taking turns each night and last night was the first night Katie didn’t wake up and I – I guess I just didn’t either because the next thing I know my alarm is going off at 6:00 a.m. I shut the alarm off and that’s when I saw that Barbara wasn’t in bed with me. I thought maybe she was in with Katie since I hadn’t heard Katie at all through the night but, when I looked, she wasn’t there. I went downstairs and she wasn’t there either and her car wasn’t in the driveway.

The train station is about two miles from our house and Barbara drives to the station, leaves her car and catches the train into the city. But her car wasn’t there and all the doors were locked and everything was on as I left it the night before, even the outside lights and the light I leave on for her in the kitchen. I knew she hadn’t been home.”

“Okay. Um, where’s your daughter?”

“I left her with Barbara’s mom. She lives a couple houses up from us. I talked to her, too. She hadn’t spoken to Barbara since the day before. She wanted to come down here but I told her it was best if she took care of Katie and stayed home. I – I don’t want Katie upset if there’s no need.”

“That was smart. Okay. Mr. Harrison, I’m going to go through some standard questions with you, and it’s important you just answer my questions. I promise I’ll explain everything to you but you need to know these are standard questions that we ask everyone.”


“Okay. Have you had any strange phone calls at the house lately?”


“No hang ups, or calls that, when you answer the phone, no one is there?”


“All right. How about any people knocking on the door asking directions or realizing they have the wrong address?”
“No, nothing.”

“Seen any strangers in the neighborhood? People hanging around?”


“Okay. How about strange vehicles passing slowly back and forth?”

“Again, no. Look, I can figure this out for myself. No strangers at our house, Barbara hasn’t said anything about anyone following her or anyone harassing her at work. She hasn’t had any weird phone calls.”

“Okay. That’s fine, you’re doing fine. What about your marriage, everything good there?”

“Yes, everything is fine, I don’t understand –“

“Mr. Harrison, I know some of these questions are going to be unpleasant, but I assure you I need to ask these questions. The better understanding I have of Barbara’s frame of mind, her routine, how you two communicate the better and faster we’ll be able to do our job.”

“I understand, I just – I love my wife. We’re not perfect, but we’ve been married for seven years now and we have one daughter and – Barbara left for work yesterday at 1:30 like she always does and she hasn’t come home. I just want my wife. Please, please find my wife.”

Jack saw Vivian indicating to him outside his office. He nodded slightly and then turned his attention back to Jim Harrison. “My whole team is working on it. Listen, I’m going to have an agent take you to a waiting area while I confer with one of my colleagues. I want you to wait there and think back over the last couple of weeks. If anything comes to mind no matter how small or how simple it appears, I want you to jot it down.” Jack gave him a pad of paper and a pen. “I’ll come get you as soon as I have some more information for you.”

Standing up Jack walked around his desk and opened his office door so that Mr. Harrison could exit the office first. He walked Mr. Harrison past Vivian to the reception area for the unit and waved over an agent to take Mr. Harrison to the waiting area. Then he turned back and met Vivian who was waiting for him.

“I just hung up with Sam; she and Elena are heading to Eastchester/Dyre Avenue terminal. Seems Barbara Harrison’s subway card was used to clear the terminal where she parks.” Vivian’s gaze rested briefly on the retreating form of Jim Harrison as he followed his escorting agent to the waiting area.

“Okay. That’s good, anything from the boys?”

“Not yet. I’m sure as soon as they review the footage we’ll get an update. I let them know what Sam and Elena are doing so they’re going to try and see if it looks like anyone was following or harassing Barbara. Now, I’ve done a preliminary scan of their financials, everything looks normal for a two-income family with a young child living in north Bronx. I’m waiting on phone records and credit card records which should be in –“

“Agent Johnson.” Vivian stopped as a fellow agent approached and handed her a folder. She thanked him for the file and flipped it open.

“Well, phone and credit card records are here now, so I’ll get started on these.” She turned away from Jack and headed to the table in the bullpen.

“I’ll give you a hand.”

Mt. Sinai Hospital: 1:00 p.m. Security Office:

Martin and Danny were sharing a small table that had been cleared for their use and were finishing watching the security footage that had been provided for them. They watched the black and white footage of the side entrance of the hospital labeled for employees only. On the screen the door opened and about 20 people streamed out the door.

“Freeze it, Martin.” Danny leaned forward and peered intently at the screen. “Yep, there she is. Time code is about right, 11:15 p.m.”

Martin jotted down a note and then continued the footage. It showed the people passing out of the camera view. “Okay. We’re going to need this footage as well as identification on all of those people who left with her.” He turned to the security manager who, along with the assistant manager of Human Resources, had been tasked to accompany them.

“I’ll get you this tape and we should be able to put together the list of those employees fairly quickly. Most of them appear to be wearing nursing uniforms so, Linda, if you could take it to Nursing Administration –“

“You bet, Rich. Can you print me that picture and I’ll head down there now and start getting names and phone numbers.” The security manager nodded and hit the print screen button and the printer in the corner hummed to life.

“That would be great, ma’am.” Danny spoke up. “Can you also find out if any of those people are going to be working today and, if they are, arrange that when they come in to work that they meet with us first but don’t tell them why we need to meet with them.”

“Okay.” Linda answered slowly. “Why don’t you want us to say anything?”

“Ma’am, it’s just standard procedure.” Martin spoke evenly and met Linda’s eyes straight on. “When we ask them about leaving with Barbara, we want their first impressions, their first recollections of how she seemed, if anyone seemed unduly interested in her or out of place, anything like that. If anyone mentions to them before we get a chance to talk to them that she’s missing and we’re going to be asking them questions, then they’ll start sifting and sorting through their memories and coloring their impressions or worse, discarding observations or impressions because they don’t want to appear alarmist or foolish.”

“Yes, and that could hurt our chances to find Barbara quickly and safely.” Danny finished. Neither agent explained the other reason for not alerting the people in the picture they wanted to talk to them: if any of the people on the screen were part of Barbara’s disappearance, they didn’t want them alerted to the fact that the FBI was there asking questions.

“Oh, that makes sense.” Linda appeared mollified. “I’ll just tell their manager that we have a new security procedure that we want to go over with people who use that door.” With that Linda got up and left taking the printed image with her.

Danny turned back to Rich, the security manager, “Would it be likely that she would walk the four or five blocks to the station?”

“Nope. Usually several of them share a cab to the station or if they do walk, they go in groups.”

“Okay. Do you have any footage from any other angle that would show us people catching a cab together?”

“Yeah, there’s another camera that shows the area on Madison Avenue where staff get cabs and would show them walking down the block.

Martin and Danny watched as the next piece of footage appeared on the monitor in front of them. They saw Barbara Harrison and two other staff members hail a cab and share the ride to the station. Danny got a copy of the image printed and added it to his folder. He and Martin would want to interview those two people to see if either remembered anyone following them or approaching them. Checking his watch he guessed that Sam and Elena would be at the terminal by now and would have an update shortly on whether there was any footage. Until then, he and Martin were at a slight pause in their activity until they got names to go with the faces of the people that shared Barbara’s cab.

Eastchester/Dyre Avenue Terminal, Bronx

Sam and Elena pulled into the terminal parking area and got out. They were greeted by a man who introduced himself as Captain Kelley.

“Glad for the help. My men already talked to the manager of the terminal and pulled the surveillance tapes. There’s not that many people coming through at that time of night so it was pretty easy to see her on the video footage. Doesn’t appear that she was worried about anything or that anyone was paying any special attention to her, but whatever happened to her happened here. Her car is still in the lot.”

Sam and Elena exchanged looks and then followed Captain Kelley through the terminal parking area to where a police cruiser was parked behind a dark blue Jetta.

“Once, Mr. Harrison told us he was headed to your downtown office to be interviewed, we figured we’d canvas the lot just to be thorough, glad we did.”

Elena spoke up, “Her subway pass shows she exited here and now you have the footage as well to verify it. Are there any cameras that cover this part of the lot?”

“Unfortunately no. They’re planning on upgrading their security in the lots but haven’t had the opportunity or the funding to do so yet. There’s good lighting and this woman was savvy enough to park under a light and in the direct path from the exit of the terminal to her car, still nighttime is a dangerous time.”

“Have you searched the car, yet?” Sam was peering through the windows and didn’t note anything out of the ordinary, a car seat in the back, various toys and children blankets were scattered on the seat and a coffee mug sat in the cup holder, looked normal.

“Not yet. I just updated your Agent Malone and he informed me you two were probably almost here so I decided to give you a few minutes before I popped the locks. Now is as good a time as any.” Captain Kelley turned and nodded to another officer who had been standing quietly by observing the conversation, within seconds he popped the front lock and then triggered the trunk release.

Taking a breath Sam reached forward with a glove covering one hand and gently lifted the trunk lid.

Inside the trunk was a folded up stroller, a couple of jackets for the changeable late spring temperatures and some empty plastic water bottles. A further search of the vehicle turned up nothing of any material value to the investigation.

“We’ll have it towed to our station and have it processed, but I’d say Mrs. Harrison never made it to her car.” Captain Kelley summed up.

“I’d say you’re right.” Sam answered and then turned back to look at the terminal entrance wondering what had happened in the 100 or so feet from that door to this car that caused Mrs. Harrison to disappear.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the squawking of Captain Kelley’s radio.

Elena and Sam stood quietly and listened to the radio exchange recognizing the codes that flashed over the airwaves.

“Roger that. I’m en route now.” Captain Kelley answered the call and turned to look at the two agents. “I’m afraid we may have found our missing woman. If you’ll both follow me, it’s only a mile or two from here.”

Leaving the one officer behind to wait for the tow truck, Captain Kelley and Agents Spade and Delgado drove through the streets to a small park that was bursting with springtime scents and colors and life. A small gathering of people up near a duck pond directed them to their destination and within moments all three stood just inside a newly taped off area just out of earshot of the few people that were gathered gawking and trying to see and understand what was going on.

Behind some bushes and just in front of the duck pond, out of sight of casual passers by was the nude body of a woman. Her eyes stared straight up sightlessly, her neck was grotesquely angled leaving little doubt that it had been broken, evidence of ligature marks around her throat spoke of strangulation and blood was dried between her legs hinting at violent sexual assault.

One look and Elena and Sam knew without a doubt their missing person had been found. Elena stepped forward to examine the body more closely but not touching it since the medical examiner was not yet on sight while Sam pulled out her phone and called Jack.

Sadly this case was over for the team but its effects would never be over for the family and friends of Barbara Harrison. What neither Sam or Elena, nor anyone else on their team knew was that this case would mark the awakening of something far more sinister and hit a lot closer to all of their lives than they ever suspected.

Chapter 2:

Four days later: MPU Office. (Thursday May 10th, 2007)

“Agent Malone.” Jack looked up from his desk and stared curiously at the two FBI agents standing at his door.

“Yeah, who are you?” He waved them in and indicated they should sit down.

“I’m Agent Chris Mitchell and this is Agent Tom Clark.” The taller of the two men completed the introductions as both men settled into the indicated chairs. Jack leaned back from his desk, placed his glasses on top of the file he was reviewing and waited to hear what brought these two agents to his office.

“We’ve been tracking some murders of women across several states over the past six years or so and noticed a routine posting that your unit completed yesterday on a –“ Mitchell paused and looked at his notebook to confirm the name. “– Barbara Harrison.”

“Yeah, we were called in on her missing person case on Monday. Unfortunately, when we found her, she was dead.”

“Yes, we know. It’s the cause of her death and where she was found that leads us to believe she may be a part of the cases we’ve been following. When you loaded the medical examiner’s findings of the victim as well as the description of the victim and where she was found into the ViCAP system, we received an alert as several factors or perhaps even signatures are similar in.”

“Such as --” Jack knew when he heard a word like ‘signature’ that the possibility of a serial killer was coming, but he hoped this was just a coincidence.

“Well, things like the violence of the rape, the fact that the victim was left in a park and that in addition to strangulation her neck had been broken at the C3 and C4 vertebrae. She was also a brunette in her mid-30s and her disappearance appears not to have been preceded by any threats or unusual incidents and there were no witnesses.”

“Those are the salient points to the case. You said you’ve been tracking cases across several states. What other states show similar murders?”

“So far we’ve identified Washington, around the Seattle area, Colorado, Pennsylvania, DC and now here. We’d like to meet with your team, go over the case and then we’re heading to the medical examiner’s office, and we’ll meet with the local police where the victim was from.”

“All right. My team is right outside. We’re having a lull in missing persons right now which probably won’t last long so why don’t we go introduce you to them, and I’ll have them review the file with you.” Jack stood up and indicated for the agents to exit his office and then he lead them across the hall to the bullpen.

Friday May 11th, 2007:

Jack walked into the conference room and noticed the files spread across the table and the various white boards and portable bulletin boards that were filled with pictures and timelines, places and dates. Agents Mitchell and Clark had set up their work space quickly and with a confidence and ease that spoke of familiarity with the various victims as well as with each other’s work preferences. He noted that only Agent Clark, Vivian and Martin were in the room at the moment.

“So you’ve been following these cases across the country for how many years now, Agent Clark?” Vivian was asking Agent Clark.

“Well, I don’t do it full-time. The trail grows cold for a while and then it heats up again. The reason we came out here so quickly after Barbara Harrison is because last Friday another case with a similar profile was entered into the ViCAP system and that gave us two in this vicinity that appeared within days of each other.”

Jack was more than a little interested and spoke up regarding that last comment; “Another case? Which one? Who?” He didn’t remember hearing of any other murdered women shortly after they disappeared that fit the same criteria.

“This case was in reference to a disappearance in 2004, springtime. The woman’s name was Elsie Thomas. Her remains were found last week when the park she was discarded in was digging a foundation for a new water pond/fountain where they would have carp swimming for the kids to feed. Anyway, during the dig they discovered a woman’s skull. Local medical examiner was called and the crime scene team dug and recovered most of the skeleton including the vertebrae and lo and behold, her neck had been broken, that plus the location in addition to your case earlier this week caused us to come out and take a look.”

“I remember that case.” Martin spoke up quietly. When the other three agents looked at him questioningly he gave a sad smile and continued. “Elsie Thomas, the woman, went missing the same day of my Aunt Bonnie’s funeral. I remember reading the paper and seeing her disappearance. We weren’t called in on that one for whatever reason, I don’t remember. Odd, you know, I think about her every year when the date of Bonnie’s death and her funeral comes around.”

Vivian smiled softly at the wistfully sad tone in Martin’s voice. He shook himself subtly as he noticed her glance and realized the room had gotten quiet.

“Anyway, now that you mention it, I read the article about them finding a body last week, but I didn’t know they had confirmed her identity.”

Agent Clark looked at Martin as he replied, “They haven’t released her identity to the paper yet. They probably will in the next couple of days since DNA has confirmed her identity and the family have now been notified. We asked them to hold off telling the press until we got a chance to review all the files and question some of the witnesses again.

We’ll only get a day maybe two before it will have to hit the press once we start questioning witnesses, won’t take long for people to see through our cover of just a routine follow up especially with the news already reporting a body of a woman being found, still –“Clark trailed off thoughtfully as Martin met his gaze and gave a slight nod of understanding.

“Anyway, Agent Johnson, I guess that didn’t fully answer your question. Agent Mitchell and I have been following these cases for the last six years. Actually we’ve been together for about three. The first cases appeared in Seattle. Three women all disappeared, all found within a year, year and a half, all found in various parks near duck ponds.

Agent Mitchell worked those cases there. It wasn’t until we had some cases in Colorado that we were able to link up and I came on board. We’ve found two bodies in Colorado and there’s a chance that at least two other women who are still missing are part of this case but without the bodies, it’s impossible to know.

We’ve had one case in DC and even some in Pennsylvania, but this is the only time we’ve had two surface so quickly. Of course, again, one case is from three years ago and the other earlier this week, still there’s a chance the killer has remained in this area, so we’re here. Usually we don’t find the trail until after a significant period of time has passed. Right now the trail is hot and we’re determined to find him.”

“I read that even today there are bodies surfacing of missing women that were possible victims of Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer.” Martin added. When he was given strange looks by Jack and Vivian he just dipped his head a bit and said: “What, I read.”

Jack just sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Agent Fitzgerald is right,” Clark added a bit for Martin’s defense, “I don’t have to tell you how many people go missing each year, any one of you could quote me the stats for how many people are missing in New York State –“

“Over 4000” Jack, Vivian and Martin all replied simultaneously.

Clark gave a small smile, “See what I mean. Some are runaways, some just up and left and changed their name, some are kidnapped and held somewhere even to this day, some are dead and the possibilities are endless. Across 50 states there are so many more and from what we can tell this guy, this killer, is not afraid to travel, already we’ve got four states from west, to southwest to northeast, there’s no pattern other than how he kills and where he leaves the body. Some bodies are missing for years and others, like Barbara Harrison appear within a day, how many more are out there?”

Agent Clark stopped speaking and reflectively stared at the various boards in the room that depicted the faces of those victims that were known to have been murdered by this killer as well as a couple of photographs of women they suspected. Jack and Vivian and Martin were also quiet as the enormity of the undertaking was no stranger to them either.

The quiet moment of reflection was broken by the arrival of Agent Mitchell coming just inside the room. “Just got a call from the medical examiner’s office, they’re ready for us to come down and review the findings thus far on Barbara Harrison.”

Jack and Agent Clark turned and left the room both having been previously invited for the meeting. Vivian and Martin continued to go through the files trying to provide fresh eyes to the investigation. Vivian concentrated on the Pennsylvania and DC cases while Martin worked on the Colorado files.

One week later: Friday May 18th, 2007 MPU Office 8:00 p.m.

“Martin, go home. We’ve done all we can right now.” As usual Martin was still in the office long past the others having already left, the others except Jack that is.

“I’m almost finished.” Martin raised his head distractedly from the files that were spread in front of him at the small table in the middle of the bullpen. “All these women, Jack, and now this killer, this monster is here. We’ve had Barbara Harrison fall prey to this animal and now Jo Anne Mills.”

Martin was talking about the case that had come to the team this past Monday morning that started out similar to all their other cases, a frantic phone call, tearful, fearful friends and family, long hours of interviews, endless searches through financial records, an angry boyfriend threatening to punch the agent in the nose for inferring that either of them were cheating, bad take-out food designed to fuel the body long enough to question one more witness, follow up on one more of a hundred tips.

In the end, Vivian and Martin had had the grim task of driving to the scene with the familiar police tape, the familiar officer guarding the entrance to the scene trying to keep back the hovering bystanders who wanted to gawk unabashedly at the poor dead woman who had been stripped of all her dignity and privacy as she was thrown away to rot by a duck pond, naked, neck grotesquely angled, legs spread so there was no question of the violation.

All the agents in the MPU, along with Mitchell and Clark were counting this as the third victim of this unknown killer, or Unsub, as the FBI profilers termed him. Mitchell and Clark readily pointed out that there was an extreme escalation in the killer’s behavior for him to have taken two women in as many weeks. No one knew what had caused the escalation since besides the method of kill and the location of the body dump, there was little to go on. So far no one had come forward to indicate that they’d had a similar occurrence but had managed to escape. All anyone knew was that this killer was quick, ruthless and invisible.

“What are you looking at?” Jack stood next to the table and looked at the various files that were opened and the pictures of the dead women.

“I’m looking through the files of the cases here in New York as well as the files from Seattle, and Durango. There’s something about these cases that rings a bell with me, but I can’t figure out what it is.” Martin took a deep breath and rubbed tiredly at his eyes.

Jack picked up one of the files and read the cover summary page: Alicia Calhoun, last seen February 2004, 5’8’’ 155 pounds, brown hair, green eyes, occupation dietician, Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia; last seen skiing vacation with friends in Durango, Colorado. Jack put the file down and looked again at the table; there were at least seven or eight other files.

“I’m not sure why that case rings a bell with me.” Martin said indicating the file Jack had just read. “I remember two of these other cases from when I was out in Seattle. Our team didn’t work the investigations but once we got called in to assist with searching a site.” Martin stopped for a moment and Jack saw a shadow cross the agent’s face.

“It was pretty grim work as you can imagine. We found some bones, not much else. The woman had been missing about a year and a half. Actually, shortly after that I got your call offering me this job. It was eerie standing in that park and realizing that whoever had killed this woman had walked that same ground carrying that poor woman or making her walk or dragging her, by the time she was found animals had scattered what was left and it had been so long it was impossible to tell how she got to that spot.”

Jack rested his hand briefly on Martin’s shoulder. “Go home. It’s the weekend; we finished our case. You and I know that all of this will be here on Monday. Go, take a run, climb a rock anything.”

Martin gave a small grin. “Yeah, you’re right. Chances are good with some rest and a little perspective I’ll realize what it is about these cases that’s bothering me.” Martin gathered up the files. Jack stood and waited until he was sure Martin was going to leave and then he grabbed his briefcase and walked out, Martin following moments later.

The only two figures remaining on the unit were Agents Mitchell and Clark. They were too invested in these cases. They’d given up their personal lives and their personal comforts. They no longer were able to rest and find down time. This hunt had become a personal mission for them. They stayed long into the night reviewing and taking notes on the past cases as well as the current ones.

Both men read through the insights that all of Jack’s team had provided in their ‘fresh eyes’ review of the case files and as they read into the night and over the weekend a pattern began to develop.

Chapter 3:

Monday, May 21st, 2007, 2007:

Jack Malone wasn’t someone who slept very late anyway but that didn’t mean he enjoyed having his cell phone be his alarm clock at 5:45 a.m. and that displeasure was readily apparent in his voice as he answered the phone keeping his eyes firmly shut. “Malone.”

“This is Lieutenant Cooper with the New York State Police. Does a Martin Fitzgerald work with you?”

“Yeah, he’s one of my agents.” Jack’s eyes were opened now as he sat up in bed and turned on a light, grabbed his watch and looked to see the time.

“Sir, we’ve got a vehicle here on the Saw Mill River Parkway about a mile north of Exit 37. The vehicle registration comes back to a Martin Fitzgerald. We checked him out and came up with your number to call.”

“Exit 37, what’s he doing all the way up there?” Jack wondered aloud.

“Sir, we haven’t towed the vehicle yet since the registration came back to an FBI agent. We’re going to need someone to come up here and also, I need to tell you that there was a woman driving the car.”


“That’s right, sir. Routine patrol spotted the vehicle crashed against the guard rail. When the officer checked the vehicle, he found the unconscious woman. She appears to have been raped and there was a stocking around her neck that someone had used to try and strangle her. Lucky for her she got away. She’s been transported to the hospital, but she’s still unconscious and is still being examined.”

“All right. What about Agent Fitzgerald how badly was he hurt?” Jack rubbed a hand through his hair and then over his face trying to wake himself up more.

“Sir, Agent Fitzgerald wasn’t in the car.”

“What?” Jack was quite awake at that point.

“Sir, I understand that he’s your agent and…oh, hell, this will be a PR nightmare once the word leaks out and all and…sir, we’ve received the alerts about a possible killer after that nurse from Mt. Sinai, what I’m trying to say is that I can only keep this quiet for a short period of time.”

“What are you talking about Lieutenant Cooper?”

“Sir, only about a mile away from here is a small little park with a duck pond. On a hunch I sent one of my men there just to have a look around. He found a woman’s shoe that matches the shoe of the woman driving your agent’s vehicle. He also found a badge…it’s Agent Fitzgerald’s.”

Jack was stunned and couldn’t speak for a moment. Then he recovered and went into action.

“I’ll have two of my agents meet you at your location within the next 90 minutes. Keep everything under wraps for now. We don’t have anything concrete until we speak to the victim.”

Receiving assurance from the lieutenant that his commands would be followed, Jack hit the speed dial on his phone for Martin. He wasn’t surprised when the call went directly to voice mail but that did little to quiet the dread that was developing in his gut. Not wanting to be less than thorough he quickly dialed in Martin’s beeper number giving his own cell as the call back and then without waiting for the unlikely response, he dialed Martin’s home number. He came away with nothing for his efforts save the slight satisfaction of being thorough. With one final resigned sigh he pressed Danny’s speed dial designation and waited.

“Taylor.” Jack grimaced, Danny sounded too damn cheery in the morning.

“Danny, it’s Jack. I need you to get a hold of Elena and head up the Saw Mill River Parkway about a mile north of Exit 37 and meet Lieutenant Cooper of the State Police.”

“Okay. What’s the case?”



“I don’t know anything else other than Martin’s car has been found there with a woman driving. Danny, there was no sign of Martin and the woman was possibly raped and someone tried to strangle her. Get moving and meet Lieutenant Cooper; I told him it would take you about 90 minutes to get there. Try to do it faster than that. They’ve agreed to keep it under wraps for a little while longer.”

“All right. I’ll call Elena and we’ll head up.” Danny disconnected and Jack took a moment to gather his thoughts and hit the next speed dial on his phone, after the second ring he heard Vivian’s voice.


“Vivian, it’s Jack. I need you and Sam to get over to Martin’s apartment immediately.” For the second time today he gave another member of his team the scant details and felt his own worry deepen as the myriad of what ifs and possibilities rose unbidden to his mine. After Vivian told him she and Sam would be at Martin’s within the hour, he headed for a fast shower and shave before the trip to the office. Not even 6:00 a.m. on Monday and he had already written this whole week off as a bad week.

Saw Mill River Parkway: one mile north of Exit 37

Danny and Elena pulled in behind the other cruisers and personnel that were near the taped off area around Martin’s car.

“Danny.” Elena’s voice carried a hint of warning and he followed her gaze. His stomach tightened as he took in the figures of Agents Mitchell and Clark.

“Had to figure they’d be here. They’re the point agents for these killings.” Danny unhooked his seatbelt and exited the vehicle. With Elena in step beside him they approached the small group.

“Agents Taylor and Delgado. Which one of you is Lieutenant Cooper?”

A tall man with an obvious air of experience surrounding him reached forward to shake Danny and Elena’s hands.

“Malone said you’d be here in around 90 minutes, you made it in 82, not bad.” He gave them a wry smile and then quickly got down to the business at hand.

“All right. Patrol came across this vehicle around 4:30 this morning, Ambulance was contacted first and transported one Rachel Sanders to the hospital. EMT stated that rape was very likely, strangulation had been attempted but for whatever reason, thankfully, had not been completed. She had been beaten around the face and while the air bag had deployed in the car upon impact, she wasn’t belted in so she was unconscious and has remained so at last check which was about 15 minutes ago.

We ran the vehicle, came up with Agent Martin Fitzgerald, contacted Senior Special Agent Jack Malone and here we are. Also, on a hunch based upon the recent alerts from Agents Mitchell and Clark, I sent an officer to the park that’s about a mile from here. It has a nice little duck pond and is a frequent spot for joggers. Near the pond my officer found a woman’s shoe that matches the other shoe Ms. Sanders was wearing as well as this.”

Lieutenant Cooper offered an evidence bag to Danny who took it carefully. Inside was a badge.

“It belongs to your Agent Fitzgerald and it was found near the shoe by the duck pond.”

Danny nodded quietly. “What about the car?”

“We’re going to tow it to our impound yard and we’re going to process it. We’re almost done photographing and detailing the scene here and I have another team at the park doing the same.”

“Okay. Agent Delgado and I are going to need to take a look in the car briefly and then we’ll head to the park.”

“No problem, it’s back about a mile, take a left and go straight; there’s nowhere else to go but to the park after that.” Cooper was friendly yet businesslike and his eyes and tone held no judgment; just a man intent on doing his job with professionalism.

Unfortunately the same could not be said of Agent Mitchell.

“Agent Taylor, we’ve already been through the car, glove compartment is empty save the usual maintenance manuals and registration and insurance paperwork. There’s an empty coffee mug in the cup holder and a bottle of water in the second holder. Trunk is empty except for the spare tire and the usual car tools. There’s nothing of interest and I don’t want you or Agent Delgado contaminating the car.”

Elena restrained herself from laying a hand on Danny’s arm to control him but did step slightly in front of him to block him while she spoke. “Agent Mitchell, both Agent Taylor and I have been doing this for years and we know how not to contaminate a crime scene. You also must know from your years of experience how valuable first hand information at any scene, no matter how limited, is to an investigator.”

Scowling Mitchell stepped back and allowed them access. When they were done, they moved as if to head back to their vehicle to drive to the park.

“Actually, we’ll split up. I’d like Agent Delgado to ride with Agent Clark while I ride with you, Agent Taylor. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

Without waiting for Danny’s agreement Mitchell climbed into the passenger seat of Danny’s vehicle and waited for Danny to take the driver’s seat. Agent Clark gestured for Elena to walk in front of him to his car.

Danny got behind the wheel and started the engine.

“Why don’t we just sit here for a minute while I ask you some questions.” Mitchell phrased it as a request but there was no hint of compromise in his tone.

Danny turned the engine off after a moment and stared straight at Agent Mitchell.

“How long have you worked with Agent Fitzgerald?”

“He joined the MPU about five years ago, so since then.”

“Would you say you know him pretty well?”

“As well as I know any of the others.”

“What does that mean?”

“He comes to work each day, I come to work each day. I trust him with my life.”

“Do the two of you spend time together outside of work?”


“But he’s not someone you do things with outside of work?”

“This is a tough job, if you don’t have some separation and outside interests that take you away from the job, it’ll eat you up.”

“So, people need coping mechanisms?”

“People need lives.”

“Okay. Have you ever seen Agent Fitzgerald be inappropriate with a suspect?”

“In what way?”

“Has he ever hit a suspect?”



“That’s what I said.”

“Okay. So about a year ago, when he was chasing a suspect and he hit the suspect in the face, you don’t call that hitting a suspect?”

“I believe the incident you’re talking about is when we were locating a missing agent. When we found the agent he had been shot and died within minutes of our arrival. We had information that the person responsible was looking to escape and was heading in the direction of Agent Fitzgerald and his team. They encountered the fleeing individual who promptly opened fire on them. Agent Fitzgerald radioed their position and that they were under fire and then continued pursuit. During that pursuit the gunman ambushed Agent Fitzgerald and hit him with a pipe knocking him down a flight of stairs. When I and the second team located the gunman on the roof just after he had attacked Agent Fitzgerald, we sought to apprehend the subject. He turned to flee back down the way he had come up only to encounter Agent Fitzgerald who, yes, stopped him with a punch to the face.”

“So, the answer is yes, he has hit a suspect.”

“It was ruled as an appropriate use of force.”

“Regardless, he hit a suspect.”

Danny watched in anger as the arrogant man actually jotted notes on his pad of paper.

“Do you think Agent Fitzgerald enjoys hitting suspects?”

“I don’t think that at all. He hit one man and that man had fired a gun at him numerous times, hit him with a pipe and was attempting to continue to evade arrest.”

“Okay. Now tell me, you and Agent Fitzgerald often team up to interview suspects, is that right?”

“We team up with everyone on the team.”

“That’s fine, but you and Agent Fitzgerald team up, correct?”


“Now, during these interviews, do you sometimes employ the good cop/bad cop strategy?”

“Some of the time.”

“Who is the bad cop?”


“Who is the bad cop?”
“It depends on the situation. Some of the time it’s Agent Fitzgerald, some of the time it’s me. Each situation is different.”

”You’re more frequently the bad cop in these little role-playing situations, right?”

“I haven’t kept track.”

“Well, I mean let’s face it, Agent Fitzgerald doesn’t really present himself as the tough intimidating agent especially with some of the street thugs and lowlifes you deal with.”

“Agent Fitzgerald can hold his own in an interview.”

“Oh, I’m not denying that, I’m just saying that in all likelihood, you’re a little more ‘in the know’ about the world and how things work and can probably portray the tough cop/bad cop persona a bit more convincingly wouldn’t you say?”

“Again, I haven’t kept track.”

“Do you think Agent Fitzgerald ever gets frustrated that he doesn’t get more of an opportunity to tell some of the scum you encounter what he really thinks of them?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, you’ve worked with him for five years. Your desks aren’t more than ten feet apart. You’ve been on stake outs together, you’ve spent long hours pouring over documents and interviewing people, surely you plan a little strategy before you go into the interview room, so, I’m sure you know his thoughts pretty well. Does he ever get frustrated that he doesn’t get more of an opportunity to tell some of the scum you encounter what he thinks of them?

“Not that he’s ever mentioned to me.”

“Surely he gets upset that justice isn’t always realized. Sometimes the bad guys win and the good guys don’t, surely that bothers him.”

“Is that a question?”

“That’s fine, I’ll move on. Now, you say that this is a stressful job.”

“That’s right.”

“People need things to do outside of work to separate themselves from the truly horrific things you encounter?”


“Sports, reading, maybe a trip out of town, you know, just to get away.”


“Maybe escape?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Oh, I think you do. Does Agent Fitzgerald sometimes just need to escape the pressure, the horrors, maybe just disappear?”

“You’re going to have to be a bit simpler in your question, I’m just a street smart, ‘bad cop’ I don’t know what you’re trying to get at.”

“Does Agent Fitzgerald have any other ways besides sports or hobbies to escape the pressure, you know, drugs perhaps?”

“To my knowledge Agent Fitzgerald does not take drugs.”

“Has he ever?”

“I’m sure he takes aspirin. I’m feeling the need for a couple right now.”

“Well, I’ll let you get some shortly. Besides aspirin, ever know him to take anything else?”

“I don’t know what you want or what you think you’re getting at but --“

“Is Agent Fitzgerald an addict?”


“Is Agent Fitzgerald a recovering addict?”

“Why don’t you ask Agent Fitzgerald?”

“Because I’m asking you.”

“Well, I decline to answer that as it has no bearing on the fact that right now he’s missing!”

“Doesn’t matter. We already know he goes to NA meetings.”

“Well, I guess we’re done then.”

With that Danny turned the key in the ignition and followed the directions Lieutenant Cooper had given him. He didn’t acknowledge the man in the passenger seat next to him but stared straight ahead aware that Elena and Agent Clark followed close behind.

What have you gotten yourself into, Martin? If you needed help, why didn’t you call me? If you figured out who the killer was, I would have backed your play.  Danny had no doubts that Martin was innocent what he didn’t know was how he was mixed up in this and more importantly where was he and was he all right.

Chapter 4:

When Danny stopped in the little parking area he noted the presence of a couple police vehicles and one officer was standing at the head of a little walkway. He started to get out only to have Agent Mitchell lay a restraining hand on his arm.

“I’d like you to wait here for a few minutes.”

Danny pulled his arm away and stared at Mitchell barely disguising the fury in his voice, “Why is that. We’ve already been through this, we need to see the crime scene first hand and you have no right – “
“Actually, Agent Taylor,” Mitchell’s voice was even but firm and his eyes held a gleam that told Danny Mitchell carried the upper hand in this discussion. “I do have the right. I am the lead agent on these series of killings and, if I have to, I’ll play that card and shut you and your entire team out of this investigation entirely. I’m not going to keep you and Agent Delgado from viewing the scene, but first I want to ask Agent Delgado a few questions before I do, so stay here and we’ll head up to the scene in a few minutes.”

Danny seethed but decided to comply for the moment. He watched as Mitchell exited the vehicle and went back and joined Elena in the other vehicle. Not surprisingly Agent Clark came and stood quietly beside the opened passenger door of his vehicle in essence daring Danny to make a phone call. Danny decided he’d wait, no doubt Jack would suspect these two were intent to make trouble for the team and probably already had Martin’s apartment being searched quickly and quietly by Vivian and Sam before these to yahoos got there. He waited and watched while Mitchell began the same routine with Elena.

“Agent Delgado, a few minutes of your time before we head up to the crime scene.” Mitchell said by way of greeting as he slid into the driver’s seat. She turned to look at him and caught a glimpse of Danny’s face in the other vehicle. She could easily read his anger and knew that Mitchell and he had not gotten along. She wasn’t surprised; Mitchell had always been aloof and a bit condescending throughout the time their teams had been interacting.

“I just want to ask you a few questions regarding Agent Fitzgerald.”

“All right.”

“How long have you known Agent Fitzgerald?”

“Almost two years, more like a year and a half -- since I joined the team.”

“All right. So you’ve known him the shortest amount of time of the whole team?”

“Correct.” Great, Elena thought, this guy is brilliant, I joined the team last so of course I’ve known Martin the shortest amount compared to the others.

“Now, tell us, is Agent Fitzgerald a good agent?”


“Can you elaborate?” Mitchell encouraged her to speak a little more openly.

“What would you like to know?” Elena wasn’t going to start speaking in generalities, if this man wanted to know something, he was going to have to ask.

“Is he thorough in his paperwork?” Agent Mitchell asked the question with just a trace of annoyance in his voice.


“Agent Delgado, I’m trying to get a sense of Agent Fitzgerald. Please, in your experience as an FBI agent, is Agent Fitzgerald someone you like working with?”

“Like, yes. Trust, yes. Have I learned from him, yes.” Mitchell really was getting on her nerves. She knew he was taking the circumstantial evidence and developing his own theory on what had occurred and in his eyes, Martin was guilty but Elena knew him and knew it wasn’t possible.

“Again, I’m just trying to get a sense --”

No, you’re trying to wheedle something from me because I’m the newest on the team. There’s nothing to wheedle, but you’re still going to have to ask the questions.  Elena thought barely listening to the rhetoric Mitchell was spewing.

“Agent Delgado, this can go rather quickly if you would just –“

“Why don’t you ask me a straight and simple question, and I will answer it. Don’t ask broad sweeping questions. We’re wasting time here.” Elena was frustrated, didn’t this guy understand the clock was ticking!

“Fine.” Mitchell tried to hide his displeasure at being directed by her but she caught it easily. “In reviewing some of the cases you and Agent Fitzgerald have worked I noticed that on at least one occasion you were involved in a case involving a missing girl.”

“I’d say you’re mistaken. Many of our cases involve missing children, girls and boys alike; there has been more than one.”

”True, but this one in particular involved child pornography.”

Unbidden the images came quickly to Elena’s mind of the pictures and the websites. She remembered the case now, it was shortly after she joined the team and the case started with a missing adult male only to evolve into a search for a little girl who had been pimped out by her supposed guardian.

“Yes, I remember the case.”

“Now, I understand that there were quite a few pictures of the girl and others in…let’s just say illicit settings and inappropriate attire.”

“You could say that.”

“What I want to know is, did you notice Agent Fitzgerald having any particular fascination with the pictures or the web sites. Did he appear to study them a little too closely or want to keep revisiting the sites for additional research perhaps?”

“Absolutely not!” Elena was angry at the implication. “We were all horrified and tried to look at those sites or photos as little as possible and still complete our investigation.”

“You have a daughter, don’t you, Agent Delgado?” Agent Clark asked.

“You know that I do.” Elena answered coldly.

Clark met her flashing eyes without flinching. “Would you want Agent Fitzgerald anywhere near your little girl?”

Elena took a deep breath as she tried to calm herself. “Agent Fitzgerald is a colleague and a friend. I trust him with my life and I would and have trusted him with the life of my daughter and, if need be, I would do it again. I think we’re done for now, Agent Mitchell, there’s a crime scene we need to get to.”

Without waiting for his reply, Elena left the vehicle and noted that Danny quickly left his and the two of them strode to the officer at the head of the little path, flashed their badges and without waiting headed to the duck pond to see what they could find.

7:30 a.m. Martin’s apartment:

While Elena and Danny were tangling with Mitchell and Clark, Vivian and Sam entered Martin’s apartment via the key Sam still carried. She looked at Vivian and blushed slightly. “I just never got around to giving it back.”

Vivian smiled quietly and stood inside taking in the apartment. The living area was neat and organized. There was a couch, tv and stereo system, a bookshelf against the wall was filled with books both, fiction and nonfiction, paperback and hardcover. The drapes were pulled closed keeping the daylight out. There were several comfortable looking chairs and a desk that completed the room. The dining room was right next to the kitchen and there was plenty of evidence that Martin had been working out whatever was bothering him with the files.

Sam reached down and picked up the notepad that was covered with Martin’s neat handwriting. There was a column on the left where dates, cities and names were neatly printed. Each date had the name of a city underneath and a woman’s name underneath that. Sam recognized each of the names of the women who had been murdered over the past seven years from the files Mitchell and Clark had shared. The next column contained another list: Guys came to visit and rock climb near Rainier; Skiing trip, Golfing trip, moved to NYC guys came, golfing trip, scouting NYC, moved to NYC.

“Viv, Martin’s got a list here for each of the murders that we have files for. He’s listed events next to each date.”

“Yeah, and I think I know what he figured out.” Vivian was standing on the other side of the table and had been looking at the various calendars and day planners that Martin had scattered on the table.

“Look at this, Sam: February 2004, ski trip with the guys. It doesn’t list any names just the dates and ‘the guys. Here’s another one, August 2001, Mt. Rainier, rock climbing with the guys. Again, no names and then July 2002, just moved to NYC, guys coming to celebrate.”

“He’s got another page of names, dates and places here.” Sam looked at Vivian and the fear in her eyes was easily read. “There’s a list of at least five other women that have been murdered. They were murdered in Sacramento and Chicago. He’s scribbled a note about training seminars. I’d have to check with Jack, but I don’t think Martin ever went to Chicago or Sacramento for any training.”

“What if Martin figured out who the killer was and went to stop him.” Vivian thought aloud.

Both agents shared a knowing look, Martin would do that, especially if he knew who it was or if he thought he knew.

“What we don’t know is who that person is. All he’s listed here are the dates and locations and the victims’ names. I wonder why he didn’t write down any names.” Vivian continued to think aloud.

“Hmmm.” Sam murmured mechanically. Sam’s thoughts were on Martin. She knew there was no way he could be the killer. She shuddered involuntarily and closed her eyes against the pain she envisioned he had felt as he these lists came together and the awful truth had been revealed to him.

Vivian didn’t notice Sam’s distraction as her thoughts were also on her missing colleague. What had he felt as he discovered who the killer was and then gone off to confront him. She knew he had been torn between being a federal agent and a friend that had discovered a terrible, monstrous part of another friend. She understood why he hadn’t called any of the others for help, how do you even start the conversation?

She held the calendar marking the year 2002 and flipped slowly through the pages and found the entry she knew she would find. July 12th, Jack Malone called and offered me the position on his team!!! It was circled in red. Vivian smiled sadly knowing that, if it were in Martin’s character, he would have placed a huge smiley face in the box as well.

Hang on, Martin, we’ll find you. We won’t stop until we find you. Vivian sent the plea silently through her mind and hoped that wherever he was, he knew they were looking.

Small Park off Saw Mill River Parkway:

Mitchell and Clark followed behind Danny and Elena catching up to them just as they arrived at the little picnic area that looked over at the duck pond. The ducks were flocked on the far side of the pond and they were loudly letting everyone in earshot know they weren’t happy having their space invaded by crime scene tape and officers with radios that blurted messages at intermittent intervals complete with static and occasional feedback.

Mitchell and Clark gave the area a perfunctory scan. They’d already been briefed by Lieutenant Cooper and a quick sketch had already been made of the site and the location of where each item had been found. Now only little cones were left identifying the location of the shoe and the badge. After a few minutes of noting the placement of the items and scanning the area for possible hiding places, Mitchell and Clark turned away and headed back to their car leaving Danny and Elena scowling in their wake.

“They do leave a lot to be desired for how they search for clues.” Danny groused.

“They’re used to sites with dead bodies long since abandoned and any clues for an immediate lead have also long since disappeared. We’re used to looking for clues of what occurred in any given location. To us a site is a story; to them it’s the end.” Elena thoughtfully mused.

Danny gave her an appraising look. “You’ve come a long way, Agent Delgado. You’ve come a long way.” He nudged her shoulder teasingly and then stood still and scanned the entire area.

“Danny, this looks like a spot where somebody was struggling with someone else.” She walked over to the grassy area where there was a clear indication that something or someone had landed heavily. The grass was flattened and some of the twigs and small pieces of branches that typically fell to the ground were broken. Just beyond the area in the dirt were footprints that were scuffed and a couple of places looked as if something or someone had been dragged or perhaps was crawling.

Danny was frustrated by Mitchell’s lack of diligence in scanning the scene fully and he motioned to the officer who was guarding the scene to tape of those areas as well. Elena and Danny followed the trail of broken branches, occasional scuff marks and flattened patches of grass about 50 feet where they came up to a small stone barrier.

Leaning over the little barrier Danny realized that it wasn’t so much a barrier as just a natural formation and that on the other side was a drop that while it went easily 15 to 20 feet before it leveled off would be easily traversed by someone who was hiking for the day. It wasn’t very steep, but it did have plenty of rocks protruding from the dirt as well as roots sticking up from shrubs that dotted the little incline.

He looked down and saw a branch lying in the dirt near the rock formation. Since there weren’t any other tree branches of that size lying on the ground in that area Danny crouched down and gave it a closer look. Slipping a glove on one hand he lifted the branch and examined it carefully, he noted a smear at one edge and his heart lurched in his throat, blood.

“Elena, I’ve got what I think is blood.”

Elena came up beside him and examined it as well. Their eyes met and with sadness they both nodded. Looking again over the rocks and down the incline Danny made his decision.

“I’m going down to see if there’s anything or –“ Danny couldn’t finish the thought. Elena nodded and pulled out her cell phone to update Jack on what they’d found and Mitchell’s separate ‘conversations’ with each of them. Another crime scene team would need to scour this area.

Danny slowly worked his way down the slope. He tried not to disturb any rocks in case someone **Martin** was down there. He followed a direct line from where the piece of wood had been found figuring that, if whoever had been struck by it had fallen down this way, he’d be on their track.

At the bottom he found two things he hoped he wouldn’t find and one that he was both relieved not to find but discouraged because he didn’t know where to look for him next. At the spot where the terrain leveled out he saw a rock that had been dislodged from its original spot as the ground bore testimony to its movement, beside the rock was a dark spot on the ground that was covered with insects. Experience told him it was blood. The next thing he found was a cell phone. He didn’t have to pick it up and look at it to know that it was Martin’s, but he flipped open his own phone and hit the speed dial for Martin’s phone. Within seconds the phone on the ground vibrated and the little red light flashed on and off. “Where are you, Martin?” Danny bagged the phone and returned up top where Elena was in the process of updating Jack.

MPU Office: 11:00 a.m.

Jack watched the elevator light descend from Van Doren’s floor to his own. He’d given her an update on what little the team knew at the time and was relieved that she had told him that Martin’s father was out of the country at a conference in Japan. Jack felt that for once there was a little luck on their side as he didn’t want to contend with Victor Fitzgerald at that moment and Paula indicated that while she he was in the process of returning home, it would take Victor a significant amount of time.

Upon returning to his office he was greeted with an annoying sight, Agents Mitchell and Clark had taken it upon themselves to enter his office and were sitting in the chairs across from his desk. He knew the two men had left Danny and Elena hours earlier and Van Doren had just informed him that they had secured a warrant to search Martin’s apartment. Their presence in his office indicated they had completed that task. Jack was only glad Vivian and Sam had gotten there first. Jack wasn’t sure if these two were interested in the truth or just in pinning the crimes on a convenient target.

”By all means, gentlemen, make yourselves at home.” Jack’s gruff voice did not even cause either man to look up from their notepads much less stand at his entrance.

Jack walked around to the back of his desk and resumed his seat. “Well.”

“Agent Malone, perhaps it would be best if we spoke in private.” Mitchell started.

Jack looked around his office that was empty of any other person beside himself and the two agents across from him. “So, do you need an exorcism to get rid of the ghosts or is that your way of telling me you’ve turned off the bugs?” Jack could feel the headache growing behind his eyes, this was not going to be a good day.

“I meant perhaps we should talk with the door closed.” Mitchell responded tightly.

Jack’s response was to wave at the door and when it didn’t close by itself, Agent Clark stood up and closed the door.

“Agent Malone, how well do you know Agent Fitzgerald?”

“Well enough, why?”

“I guess what I’m asking is do you really know who he is?”

“I don’t know what color his pajamas are or what side of the bed he sleeps on if that’s what you’re asking.” Jack’s temper was rising quickly.

“It’s not. Do you trust Agent Fitzgerald?”

“With my life.”

“Would you trust him with your daughters’ lives?”

“I don’t trust anyone with my daughters’ lives. Get to the point.”

“Agent Malone, we’ve found Agent Fitzgerald’s car, driven by a woman who has been raped, beaten and almost strangled. The location where this happened fits with all the previous murdered women not only here but in Seattle and Colorado. Agent Fitzgerald’s badge was found lying near the woman’s shoe and now your agent is missing and not answering his phone or pager. We searched his apartment and while there is nothing there of any material evidence, we have impounded his computer and your tech specialist is going through it right now. I think it’s safe to say that Agent Fitzgerald is our killer.“

“I think it’s safe to say there’s evidence that that he’s been in close proximity to some of the killings but then so have you. Not to mention that all the evidence regarding Martin’s car and this attacked woman is circumstantial. For all we know he came upon the crime, intervened and was injured and taken prisoner or worse.”

“Agent Malone, I don’t think you understand the psychosis of a serial killer. They most often stick to very similar patterns and rarely, if ever, do they go from mutilating and murdering women to kidnapping men. If this mythical killer you’ve conjured up had gotten the better of your Agent Fitzgerald, it’s likely he would have killed him on the spot, not spirited him away.”

“Do you know that Agent Fitzgerald likes to ski?” Clark’s question caught Jack off guard but his experience kept him from showing it in his facial expressions.

“Yes, I do.”

“Yeah, I was talking to him when we first got here. I mentioned I was from Colorado and we got to talking about skiing. Turns out Agent Fitzgerald has visited my home state several times over the years. He even did some skiing in Durango about three or four years ago, although he said he couldn’t pinpoint the year.” “And your point is?” Jack was rapidly tiring of this game of cat and mouse, especially since he was the mouse.

“My point is that I did a little checking, as it turns out Fitzgerald was in Durango during the time period that Alicia Calhoun went missing. He’s lived in Seattle during the first disappearances and now he’s here in New York City and we’ve got three additional missing and probably murdered women.”

“So far all you have is coincidence.” Jack didn’t like the glint of victory in Mitchell’s eyes.

“There’s an awful lot of coincidence Agent Malone. I’m sure you can see why we’re more than a little curious about Agent Fitzgerald. We’ve been told that it’s not likely that Rachel Sanders will regain consciousness for us to talk to her until later today. We’ve already spoken with Agents Taylor and Delgado and as your other two agents, Johnson and Spade, are in the outer office, we’re going to be interviewing them. After that we’re going to go through all the phone records, credit card and bank statements and all the other material you’ve spent the morning combing through. We’ll find Fitzgerald; we’ve waited too long to find our killer.”

Jack snorted as the two men rose and headed for his office door. “Do you want the killer, or will anybody do?”

He watched them stop at his voice but not turn back to look at him. Both men went across the hall and Jack watched as Mitchell spoke with Vivian and she rose and followed him to an interview room. Clark sat near Samantha and started reviewing his notes while Sam glanced first in the direction Vivian had disappeared, then once in his direction before going back to her work.

Interview Room #1:

“Agent Johnson, please take a seat.” Agent Mitchell started as he placed his notepad on the table and claimed a chair.

“I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.”

”Of course.” Vivian was not impressed with Mitchell right now. She knew he was dedicated to finding the killer of all these women but right now her focus was on finding Martin and every second counted. “Okay. How long have you known Agent Fitzgerald?”

“Five years.”

“Is that when he joined the MPU?”


”Okay. Now, would you say that he’s a good agent?”

”Yes, I would.”

”Do you think he likes his job?”

“I would say so, yes.”

“Do you think he takes the job to heart?”

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“I’m wondering if perhaps the job becomes a bit overwhelming for him, you know, perhaps he doesn’t know how to leave it behind at the end of the day?”

“I think any agent who is dedicated to what they do encounters that in their career.” Vivian responded evenly.

“Have you ever been concerned about Agent Fitzgerald’s professionalism?”

“What do you mean?”

”Has he ever displayed any behavior that concerned you?”

“Concerned me how?”

The corner of Mitchell’s lip twitched in annoyance. “All right. Has Agent Fitzgerald every lost his temper?”

“Yes, as have I.”

“That’s fine, but I’m only interested in Agent Fitzgerald. Now, when he lost his temper, did anyone get hurt?”


“Can you describe that situation?”

“I could but, since it’s a matter of official record and both Agent Fitzgerald and I were thoroughly questioned and cleared of any wrongdoing, you can read the file yourself.”

“Agent Johnson –“

”Listen, I know what you’re after or what you think you’re after but I will tell you this: Agent Martin Fitzgerald is a dedicated, intelligent agent. He risks his life for his partners and for the people we are out trying to help. I trust him with my life. Now, I’m quite certain the couple of minutes that I told you I was able to spare are up.”

Vivian stood up, carefully replaced the chair at the table before turning and exiting the room pulling the door closed behind her.

She walked to the bullpen pausing at Martin’s desk. As usual everything was in place except he wasn’t there. She fingered his name plate with one hand while the other unconsciously patted the back of his chair. Her mind went back to almost two weeks ago to Wednesday May 16th when the second body had been found and the horrific murders hadn’t yet turned out to be a nightmare of personal consequence to the team…


Vivian opened the passenger door and stepped from the sedan. Her partner, Martin, did likewise from the driver’s side. They had been called to Central Park after the body of a young female had been found. Oddly, her driver’s license was right next to her body allowing for easy identification and was the reason the Martin and Vivian had been dispatched.

The woman’s name was Jo Anne Mills and they had been on her missing person’s case since Monday of this week. Now, two days after the woman had been reported missing, she had been found. Both agents showed their badges to the officer guarding the taped off entrance to the crime scene and then proceeded up the path and then followed the track up a small hill until they came to the spot where the medical examiner was just completing his initial pronouncements while a small flock of ducks quacked agitatedly from their little pond.

“... by the rate of decomposition she was likely killed shortly after she disappeared. Obviously I’ll be able to tell you more definitively once the autopsy is done and tissue and toxicological tests are complete. Obvious signs are asphyxiation due to the ligature around the throat; her neck was also broken between the C3 and C4 vertebrae. She was bound at some point judging from the marks on her wrists and ankles and judging from other damage readily visible she was raped. Again, a kit will confirm that.”

Martin and Vivian stood quietly taking in the horrific scene in front of them. Both were seasoned in their work and had seen more than their share of these sites but it still never got to be normal for either of them.

Later, as they were sitting in their car getting ready to head back to the office Martin turned to Vivian sadly.

“It never gets any easier.”

“No, it doesn’t.” Vivian paused for a moment and let the sad silence settle around them. ”I guess the only positive we can take away from this is that we can bring some closure to the family.”

Martin snorted softly. “I was just saying that to a friend this past weekend. He was asking me how I dealt with the violence and the sorrow and all that we see and I told him that one consolation was being able to bring closure – to bring home the loved one to their family and friends even if that meant they were dead that knowing was better than not knowing.”

“I think it is. I hope it is.” Vivian wasn’t certain who she was trying to convince since in this conversation they were both on equal footing despite her greater years of experience.

“I hope so, too.” Martin started the car, backed it up and swung it around only to pause before putting it into drive, “You know, Viv, you’re right when you say to put it in a box. If you don’t, it just eats you alive until you can no longer function. Sometimes though, I have to open that box and look inside, otherwise, it just seems disrespectful. It seems as if they didn’t matter.”

Vivian nodded thoughtfully at that. As Martin put the car in drive and slowly headed out of the park and back to the office she looked in the side mirror and watched the scene behind them disappear. Whoever had done that to that woman, defiled her body, ended her life and threw her away obviously didn’t care about her, was it enough that there were people like Martin who did even if it was too late?

Present Day, Monday, May 21st, 2007:

Vivian stared a moment longer at Martin’s desk and then squared her shoulders and set to work. She wasn’t about to allow him to become one of those cases that gets put into a box and the lid closed. It didn’t matter that someone lifted the lid and respectfully remembered from time to time, she wasn’t going to let it happen.