An hour passed since the sketch had been released. The team sat around the conference table while the police took calls. Tips trickled in. Some were easily dismissed, but others had to be physically vetted. The unsub kept a low profile, but that didn’t surprise anyone on the team.
Rick tapped a pen on the desk. Waiting on leads was the hardest part of his job. He stood up and paced around the room, stopped a few times, stared at the boards, and then paced again. Jenna had her nose stuck in her iPad. She felt that they were on the verge of something big, but the pieces weren’t falling into place. Rayne sat quietly beside Trip and Dan. She listened to the two men exchange computer tips. When Rick’s cellphone rang, they were all startled. It was Mr. D’Arca. Rick put him on speaker phone.
“Paul D’Arca here. I just got off the phone with Donny.”
“Was he able to tell you anything?”
“Not much. He doesn’t know the name of the man who bought the equipment. Just some guy who answered his ad from the local paper.”
“What about the van?”
“Scrapped it at a junk yard. Spartan’s.”
“Thanks, Mr. D’Arca.”
“Wish I had more information, Agent Harris.”
“You did great. If we need anything else, we’ll be in touch.”
Rick ended the call while Jenna added the new information to her iPad. Trip looked up Spartan’s address and sent it to Jenna. He sat there scratching his head for a minute and then pulled up a map of Fairfax.
“Check this out,” he said excitedly.
Rick and Jenna joined him at his laptop. Trip had input the locations of the kennel, Spartan’s and the outreach church where Mr. D’Arca had donated the uniforms. The three locations formed a tight triangle around a section of streets along the Metro line.
“That can’t be a coincidence,” Rick said.
Jenna grabbed the sketch off the board and picked up her briefcase. “Let’s check out that church and junk yard.”
Rick glanced over at Rayne. “You up to it?”
Rayne wasn’t, but she nodded her head anyway. She just wanted this whole thing to be over and those girls returned safely to their parents. She stood up and joined Rick and Jenna.
They went to the garage first, but it was already closed for the day. Rick checked the post on the door and Jenna jotted down the business hours into her iPad. They’d have to return in the morning. They drove six blocks east and pulled up in front of the outreach church, Christ Church of Fairfax. Rick got out and tried the front door of the church. It was locked. He walked around to the side and saw an attached building with homeless people wandering in and out of it. He motioned for Jenna and Rayne to join him.
Rayne walked closely beside Jenna. Her senses were heightened as they approached the doorway. Homeless men stared at her with deadened eyes. She shivered. She didn’t fear them, but she could feel their despair and pain. They walked inside the center and a small child with widened eyes spotted Rayne. She leaned in and half-hid behind her mother. Rayne smiled at her and the girl grinned before hiding completely behind her mother’s skirt. Jenna turned her head to see the girl’s movements and then looked at Rayne.
“She’s a cutie. Shy.”
Rayne smiled and nodded, and then a frown creased her face. “He’s watched her, but she is too young,” she said too softly for Jenna to hear.
Jenna and Rayne hurried along to catch up to Rick who stood at a table where an older man handed out clothes to a group of women. When they caught up to him, Jenna pulled the sketch out of her briefcase and handed it to Rick.
“Excuse me,” Rick said as he approached the man.
The man looked up and flashed a friendly smile at them. “Can I help you?”
Rick withdrew his badge from his jacket pocket and showed it to the man. “SA Harris and SA Styles from the FBI and this is our colleague Rayne Fallon,” Rick said as he introduced everyone to the man. “Can we ask you some questions?”
The man moved away from the table and waved his hand for them to follow him. He led them to a small room off from the main one. “Sorry, these people get nervous around cops. I’m Pastor Richmond. How can I help you?”
“I understand,” Rick assured him. He held up the sketch of the unsub. “Have you seen this man in here before?”
The pastor took the sketch and studied it for a long moment. “I can’t be sure. We get a lot of men in here these days. Times are hard,” he concluded as he handed the sketch back to Rick.
“He would have badly scarred hands,” Jenna added.
The pastor rubbed his chin. “Scarred hands, huh? Come to think of it, a man came in here a few months ago with burns on his hands. We offered to treat him, but he just asked for some clothes and food.”
“Did he ask for any specific clothes, like work uniforms or hoodies?” Rick asked.
“We give out a lot of jackets and hoodies this time of year. It’s possible that we could have given him one, but if I recall correctly, he did ask if we had any old work shirts. He claimed that he was working on a car, no… a van, and he didn’t want to ruin his t-shirts.”
“How can you be so sure?” Jenna asked.
“We get uniform donations a lot here. People close shops and just dump whatever they have. Most of the homeless don’t want to wear shirts with logos on them. Cops can spot them too easily that way and harass them. This man specifically asked for work shirts.”
Jenna jotted down notes again and then looked up at the pastor. “Has he been back recently?”
“Not that I am aware of. He could have slipped in while I was off duty though.”
Rayne took in her surroundings. The room held shelves like the ones she’d seen in the abductor’s basement. “Do you ever give out shelving?” she asked.
The pastor turned his head and followed Rayne’s eyes to the shelves behind him. “Not directly, but sometimes we toss out rusted shelves behind the building. People are free to take them.”
Jenna noted that on her iPad too.
“Thank you, Pastor Richmond. You’ve been a great help,” Rick said as he extended his hand.
The pastor shook it. “Let me know if I can help in any other way.”
As Rayne followed Rick and Jenna out of the center, the little girl ran up to her and handed her a small metal trinket. Rayne looked down at it and inhaled sharply. It was a dog tag.
“Where did you get this?” she asked the girl as she squatted down to her level.
“A man gave it to me. He said I could be his puppy someday,” the girl said in a shy voice.
“When did he give it to you?”
“A few days ago.”
“Did he have scars on his hands?”
The little girl nodded. She scrunched up her nose. “His hands are scary.”
“I know, sweetie. Do you mind if I keep this?”
“I don’t want it. It gives me bad dreams.”
Rayne patted the girl on the head. “Where’s your mommy?”
The girl pointed to the woman Rayne had seen earlier. She stood up and took the girl’s hand and walked over to the woman.
“There you are, Mia,” the woman said with a smile.
Rayne released the girl’s hand. “Please keep an eye on her,” she whispered to the woman. Without waiting for a response, Rayne turned and hurried to catch up with Jenna and Rick.
“What was that about?” Jenna asked as they approached the car.
Rayne held out the dog tag. “He’s tagged her as a future mark.”
Rick opened the back door for Rayne. “Damn it. We need to get this unsub off the streets.”
“We will,” Jenna assured him as she opened her door and climbed inside.
Rayne stared into Rick’s eyes. The kindness she normally saw there had turned into pain. She felt it too. This case had affected all of them in the worst ways possible. She slid into the car and Rick closed the door for her. She watched his body as he walked around to the driver’s side. Even his normal, confident posture had changed. He slouched more. She stared down at the dog tag. On the front, a small bone was etched into the metal. She flipped it over and read a name – Bethany.
“I don’t think Bethany is a child,” Rayne said.
Jenna turned around in her seat. “Why not?”
She held up the back side of the tag. “I think it is a dog.”
Rick let out a long sigh as he settled into the driver’s seat. “What kind of sicko kidnaps little girls to replace a dog?”
“That would be a good question for Mark,” Jenna said. “He has morning shift, right?”
Jenna pulled out her stylus and made a note. “I guess tomorrow morning will be a busy one.”
Seeing You (a working title) is the story of Rayne Fallon, a witch with the power to see into the past and future, although not always accurately. She gets tangled up with FBI’s SA Rick Harris and SA Jenna Styles as they search for an 8 year old missing girl, thought to have been kidnapped by a Serial Killer.
Seeing You ©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.
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I am participating in NaNoWriMo. Each day I will try to write at least 1667 words for a total of 50,000 by the end of November. Today’s total: 1562 words. Total words so far: 32, 067