Charlie watched closely as Dr. Brandon used the tweezers to pull out a pill-shaped object. It glistened with her blood. He looked at Angel’s face expecting to see pain in her features. He saw nothing but curiosity for the thing she’d fought sedation to have removed.
“There you go, Miss,” said Dr. Brandon. He took the needle and thread prepared by the nurse beside him.
“Ah, you can call me Angel,” she whispered. Her face lost color, but she didn’t take her eyes from the doctor’s stitching. “It’s as good as anything right now.” She winced slightly as he pressed gauze to the wound and wrapped surgical tape around her hand.
“All right, Angel. Will you sleep now?” Dr. Brandon helped the nurse tidy up the equipment, but was careful to drop the thing from Angel’s hand into a small plastic bag and give it to Charlie.
Charlie took it gingerly and held it up to the light to get a better look. Just a bit larger than a grain of rice, Charlie could almost see the electronics inside the glass capsule. It looked like the device they used to identify lost pets. He said as much aloud.
“The FDA has just approved something similar with patients’ medical records. Neither has GPS in them, yet. Though I hear something like that is in the works for the mentally challenged and Alzheimer patients. I think they are still working on the tech. You’ll have to check on that, Charlie. Maybe this little device can help you figure out where Angel belongs.” Dr. Brandon washed his hands in the sink with the bathroom door open. “I have rounds to do, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Charlie turned to Angel. “Somehow I don’t think that this thing will give me any leads. And if it did, we wouldn’t find the place where you feel you belong, would we.”
Angel shook her head. “Nope.” She smiled softly. “But all my money says you will find out who I am and where home is.” She laid her head on the pillow. She blinked once, then was still.
Charlie watched her for a few minutes before gathering his things and leaving for his own kind of rounds.
Charlie found Jackson in the tiny office tucked away in the corner of the building two floors down from his own. An FBI techie should look like the stereotypes from every crime show on TV. However, Jackson had been an agent long before the higher-ups finally managed to convince him that the money would be better for him if he stayed glued to the computers in his own corner office. He made more use of the gym downstairs than anyone else and took his laptop outside whenever he got the chance. So instead of pasty, spectacled and thin, Jackson was tanned and toned, not just third in his graduating class at MIT.
In the negotiations to put his mental talents to good use, Jackson insisted on a windowed office rather than one of the larger ones downstairs. He gave up space for sunlight and kept the blinds open. So Charlie felt out of place in the dreary morning light that filtered through the gray clouds outside.
“Hey, Charlie.” Jackson did not look up from the screen in front of him. “Got nothing for ya. Your girl is not a reported missing person.”
Charlie took his customary seat on the couch in front of the window, choosing not to allow the lightning show in the darker clouds billowing in to distract him. “You workin’ on anything else?”
“Of course. Yours is not high priority. Prove she was the object of the Professor’s search and I can spend more time on her.” Jackson twirled in his chair to face Charlie. “Better yet, let me see if that thing from her hand is anything good.”
Charlie reached in his pocket, reminded himself again to go home for more clothes, and tossed the bag to Jackson.
Jackson took the bag to the dismal light from the window. A long appreciative whistle echoed through the room. “Well, it looks like something interesting.
I’ll have to check it out though. Give me a few hours, Charlie. I’ll give you a call.”
“Oh, Charlie.” Jackson said before Charlie left.
“Either go home and take a nap or stop and get a triple shot espresso.”
Charlie chuckled as he left. He still had a few hours before the shrink would be at the hospital to talk to Angel. He had one more stop before he could go home.
He drove to the alley. Something had been bugging him all night and he couldn’t put his finger on it. Everything was still wet, and from the look of the clouds above, would stay that way for a while. Crime scene tape hung from the walls that defined the alley. A uniform guarded the entry. Charlie flashed his badge and ducked under the yellow tape.
Crime scene techs worked tirelessly, pulling everything they thought relevant to last night’s shooting. But that was their only focus. Charlie had another one to suggest.
He followed the steps he’d taken from the car. There was an itching in the back of his mind as if he was seeing something or rather not seeing something he was supposed to. He stepped around the markers left by the forensic team.
Charlie started turning slowly. He circled the alley with his eyes, round and round, higher and higher. On his fifth circuit, Charlie paused. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He smelled old beer and cigarettes. He smelled trash from the dumpster. He smelled the rain on the air.
Calling to mind the moment he’d grabbed her, Charlie remembered that she reeked of sweat and fear and blood and the mud that clung to her feet. But she had not smelled heavily of dumpster. She couldn’t have been in the alley for long.
Where had the Professor’s boys come from? Nowhere, they’d just been driving around when they got the call from an untraceable cell. They went to a drive-thru, picked up some food and headed straight here. Aside from firing on a federal agent, there was no sign of criminal activity.
Charlie hadn’t seen her on the street. How had she gotten into the alley?
No fire escapes here. She hadn’t come down.
At the end of the alley, small pieces of glass crunched underfoot. Charlie examined the wall. It didn’t go very high. It seemed to be an afterthought connecting the two buildings – a closed in walkway.
Charlie stepped back and took a running leap. He caught the top of the wall and pulled himself up and onto a roof littered with glass shards. He crouched to examine them. This could be where the glass embedded in her feet came from.
He looked down into the next alley. Below him, another dumpster and a crate rested beside it. Charlie dropped onto the lid of the dumpster, noting the hollow sound.
Charlie walked down the short alley here and onto the sidewalk of the next street. Nothing jumped out at him. A shady hotel, a Laundromat, a corner drug store, some apartments…all these places would have been canvassed by local law or would be. He’d have to wait for their reports for now.
He returned the way he’d come, up and over the walkway. Back in the alley, he called to a man overseeing the evidence gathering with a clipboard and Bluetooth in his ear.
Max tapped the Bluetooth and jogged over. “We miss somethin’, Charlie?”
“I’m just wondering where the girl came from.”
“Whatcha need?” Max ran his hand through long black hair trying to get the curls out of his eyes. It worked, but only for a moment.
“Well, she had glass in her feet and legs, blood on her hands and face. You think you could let me know if you find something?”
“Sure. May need at least a blood type.” He looked up at the clouds. “And maybe a break in this weather.”
“County should have the blood type.” Charlie followed Max’s gaze upward. “But you might have to pray for the other. That’s way above my pay grade.”
Max chuckled, making notes on his clipboard as Charlie walked back to his car.
What was he missing? How far had she come before he found her in this alley?