and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
“Mulcahy wants you to stop by his office before you take off.” Richard Esposito slid on his trench coat and raised the collar, bracing himself for the February evening’s bitter cold.
“Yeah, thanks.” Eyes fixed on her computer screen, Elizabeth Summer’s fingers moved steadily over the keyboard.
“Still be here in the morning, Summers,” Esposito grumbled around his cigarillo. He waited for her response. When none came, he shook his head and left.
Elizabeth stopped typing and looked toward the door. It wasn’t uncommon for her and Esposito to be the last ones after everyone else had headed home to their families. Out of all the other agents, Elizabeth felt a unique connection to the man who was the Oscar to her Felix. No two people were more different, yet they were the closest either had to family. There was no denying, she cared for the big lug.
An eighteen-year FBI Boston Division veteran, Richard Esposito was a balding, portly middle-aged divorcé twice over. His gruff, thick Bostonian accent added an edge to his typically brash and often colorful vocabulary. In ill-fitting polyester suits, once white dress shirts, and grease-stained ties, Esposito was a big ol’ mess. Yet he was the Bureau’s most highly respected agent on the entire East Coast. Not to mention, one of the most outspoken. When Elizabeth joined this division two years ago, he let everyone know his thoughts on the matter, “Great, another broad thinking she can play with the big boys.”
What he hadn’t expected was Elizabeth speaking up and spending the next five minutes telling him where to go and how to get there. Taking on what he and the others soon dubbed her take-no-prisoners attitude. When she’d finished, he’d given her a rare half-grin and his instant respect. With Esposito’s nod of approval, which was rarer than a Yankees’ fan in Beantown, the other agents soon followed. Earning her fellow agents’ much sought-after respect was one thing, getting the same outside the agency was yet another. Whether it was the victims’ families, other agencies, or even the local police departments, they all seemed focused on her appearance more than what she had to say or her qualifications.
She was a petite brunette, who barely tipped the scales at a buck-twenty, and yes, she’d been told more often than not she didn’t look old enough to buy alcohol never mind carry a gun. She hadn’t been under-age in over seven years. This not only affected her professional life but her personal life was as well. She’d rarely dated since graduating from college, and even before then, her romantic life was sparse at best. Most of the guys she met were either chauvinistic Cro-Magnon brutes or she flat-out intimidated them.
Either sexist pigs or just plain ol’ fraidy cats, they seemed to share in the school of thought that just because she appeared physically weak, she must be an idiot as well. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. She graduated from Boston University at the top of her class. At Quantico, she not only excelled in academics but kicked major butt mano a mano as well.
During her first few weeks at the Academy, she worked twice as hard to prove herself. Despite all her efforts, she knew her instructors were still uncertain of her physically. This was never more evident than the first day of her disarming techniques class. The instructors told everyone to pair up with someone of similar size. This left her to spar with the hanging dummy. Not an option. Needing to prove she was more than capable, Elizabeth sought out and partnered up with the biggest male cadet, who outweighed her by at least one-hundred fifty pounds and was over a foot taller. To everyone’s surprise–except her own–she took him down, not once but four times. From that day on, she was called many things, but never weak.
The janitor’s noisy entrance brought Elizabeth back to the here and now. Needing to check in with Special Agent in Charge Mulcahy, she slipped on her navy blue blazer and after making a few unneeded adjustments, headed toward his office. Reaching his door, she stilled a moment, inhaled deeply, then knocked.
“Yeah, come in.”
Elizabeth entered and closed the door. Mulcahy looked up from the thick files strewn across his desk, his expression grave.
“Summers, take a seat. No need to be so formal, especially with it being…” he glanced at his watch and sighed, “Damn, almost midnight. Do you remember the Melissa Hartley case?” Mulcahy sorted through a file, collected and handed her several photos.
“Yes, a twenty-two year old UMass grad student. Her body was found in a less-than reputable motel. She was bound, gagged, her eyes removed, and was bled almost dry. No suspects, no prints or fibers. No leads.”
“And Jessica Ramirez?” He handed her more photos. In the center, another young woman. Her wounds and position almost identical to Melissa Hartley’s.
“Yes, same M.O. Same outcome.”
“I have dozens of pics here, each one pissing me off more than the last. Not to mention this shit’s been dragging on for the past five years, nine are dead, and we still don’t have much to go on. Except for this, they all frequented the same high-end nightclub, Concentrico. You’ve heard of it?” Agent Mulcahy leaned forward in his chair, gaze intense.
“A three-story converted mill downtown. Elite clientele, invite only.” Composed, Elizabeth handed back the photos.
“Yeah, ‘bout sums up what I had, until BPD sent over what their woman on the inside sussed out. She’s been working this case for the last three years. The best BPD’s got is that these vics aren't some random working girls or some small town runaways. They think it's far deeper than that. Like each was chosen. Now this is all well and good but not enough to fill a report. Never mind get a warrant to gut this place and flush out the sick fuck carving up girls.
“Our only saving grace is the mayor has finally stepped in and made this his top priority. 'Bout friggin' time too. Only took an election year and the media tearing BPD a new one to make it happen. Anyhow, he decided to call in the big guns and that’s where you come in.”
Agent Mulcahy handed Elizabeth a large manila folder. “That’s everything you need. The address where you’ll be staying. No worries, the rent’s paid up for six months. Your new identity, and enough cash to keep you comfy. Also the cell’s a burner. Your in will be calling you tomorrow night at seven. That means you have less than twenty-four hours to tie up loose ends. Then it’s show time.”
Despite the enormity of this case and what it entailed, Elizabeth remained calm. She knew the drill. Even though all her past undercover assignments were short-lived, no more than a few weeks, she handled each of them the same way—never half-assed.
This wasn’t just her job. This was her life.
“I won’t let you down, sir.”
“I know you won’t, Summers. And just one more thing, after tonight and until you guys take this sadistic son-of-a-bitch down, the woman on the inside is your only lifeline. You okay with that?”
“Like I said sir, I won’t let you down.”
Mulcahy studied her face, most likely searching for any doubt. Appearing pleased with her reaction, or lack thereof, he settled back and nodded.
“Good. Now, go home and get some shut-eye. Got a lot to do before tomorrow night.”
He handed her a heavier, second manila envelope. Without asking, she knew these were all the details he had on the case. Tonight, she’d light a fire and over a bottle or two of wine, digest every last grisly detail then feed it all to the flames. It was cathartic watching it burn until nothing was left. Every time she felt reborn and ready to assume a new identity. To become someone else, even for a little while.
Elizabeth stood and extended her hand to Mulcahy. With nothing more than a firm handshake and a nod between them, Elizabeth left his office.
Please take a moment to let me know your thoughts.
Oscar and Felix were two divorcé roommates in the 70’s show The Odd Couple. This show was based on a play of the same name written by Neil Simon. Long story short, Felix was a neat freak and Oscar was a complete slob. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Odd_Couple_(TV_series)