Charlie met Davis on the third floor of the hospital. She greeted him at the stairwell door handing him booties to slide over his shoes. The unmistakable scent of fresh blood hit him before he crossed the threshold. He pulled on latex gloves.
“You are not going to believe this,” she said and led him to the body lying in a pool of blood half way down the hallway. The man, dressed in dark jeans and suit jacket lay next to a black Sig Saur equipped with a silencer. One hand lay hidden beneath the body.
“Do we know who he is?”
“No ID, no credit cards. Hell, not even a library card. Cash only. And a lot of it in his wallet. But we did find these.” Davis handed him three sealed plastic bags. One held a key, a key fob with buttons for a vehicle and a key chain. “Saint Sebastian,” Davis told him in reference to the key chain. The second sealed bag held a medallion on a chain the victim obviously wore around his neck. “Saint Bruno,” Davis offered. Charlie wracked his brain, wishing he’d memorized more of the saints back in Catholic school.
The third sealed bag held a white napkin. Scribbled on it in blue was the name of the hospital and a number: 213.
“Nothing in the system.”
“Are they done with the body?”
Mitch, the medical examiner pitched in, “Yep. Waiting for you to roll ‘im.”
Charlie knelt beside the body, careful not to stick his knee in the congealing puddle. With Davis’ help, he turned the body over and saw a nondescript white guy with long, black hair. Blood coated his neck and soaked into his white shirt.
Mitch said, “Time of death is pretty recent, maybe less than two hours. Looks like three punctures, one is jagged and missed anything vital, and one of the other two is probably the cause of the death. Can’t tell what did this to him until I get him cleaned up, but I’m willing to bet the fatal one was a small blade.”
Charlie pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the man’s face. He knew what would keep him busy here at the hospital for a few hours, more surveillance footage, calls to Jackson and probably Max after he and his crew got here.
Charlie sighed and looked at Davis. There was a line between her eyebrows. “There’s more,” he said, reading her correctly.
Davis hesitated. She raised her hand to her hair, consciously resisted the urge to stick a pen in her messy brown bun and tucked a stray hair behind her ear before responding.
Large drops of rain startled her when they hit her head. She would have to find a place to stay dry. She looked around. Neon lights blinked at her a few blocks down. Angel stopped thinking and her body took over as if she just knew what she would do next. She turned into the next alley and rummaged through the duffel bag. She pulled out a black tank and traded it for the t-shirt she’d been wearing. Taking her hair down, she slid the bands onto her wrist so she wouldn’t lose them and ran the brush through her long mane. Shoving the FBI agent’s jacket into the duffel, she attempted to zip it up. Too full to close completely, she placed the duffel carefully in the almost full dumpster that resided in the back of the alley. She took a few newspapers and covered it before dropping the top down.
At the door to the club, Angel ignored the line and the velvet rope. She smiled at the bouncer and touched his arm. He returned hers with a puzzled smile of his own, but nodded her in without question.
Loud techno dance music greeted her once she made it through the dark hallway. She paused to let her eyes adjust to the darkness pierced by random LED beams. Across the room the bar gleamed in the reflected glow of its own LED spotlights. Between the door and the bar random, round tables and chairs created scattered groups of people holding drinks, and moving to the music. To the left, a staircase led down to the dance floor below. There were two empty stools at the end of the bar. Angel headed there.
It wasn’t long after she slid onto the barstool before the bartender turned his focus on her. “What’s your poison?”
Angel had no money. “Water?”
“Honey, the guy in the leather jacket at the other end of the bar is paying. Make it a good one.”
Angel glanced behind the bartender; a man with short brown hair lifted his drink in her direction. She smiled at him and addressed the bartender. “What do you suggest?”
He appraised her quickly, “Fruity or not?”
“I’ve got just the thing.”
Angel watched him toss bottles in the air with grace and precision, making a graceful show of every move. He returned to her with a tall glass, a straw and a napkin. She sipped it quickly as it was obvious he awaited her approval. She nodded. “Perfect. Thank you.”
The guy at the other end of the bar took the smile as approval for him and made his way to the empty stool beside her.
“Name’s Sean,” he said.
After a moment’s hesitation, Angel responded, “Haley. Thanks for the drink.”
“You here alone?”
Angel spent a few hours in the bar listening to Sean’s inane chatter. On the dance floor, she lifted one wallet at a time, emptied it of cash and returned the wallet to its owner like a magician, without thinking, letting her instincts take control. Off the dance floor, she allowed Sean to ply her with drinks. Between sipping them slowly and the thin film of sweat that came with dancing like no one was watching, the alcohol never seemed to affect her. When Sean asked if she wanted to go somewhere quieter, she excused herself to the bathroom and exited through a back door.
Outside, thunder rumbled, but it was still a relief after the deafening music inside.
Angel returned to the dumpster where she’d left the duffel bag, pulled out the agent’s jacket and wrapped herself in it. Quickly she slid the duffel’s strap over her head and started walking.
Now, she let her brain function again. She still had no idea who she was or where she was going, but now she had close to five hundred dollars in cash and could at least get a meal and a room for the night.
Before she found the diner, rain erupted on the city and soaked her.
Charlie entered what had been Angel’s room. Davis had left it the way she’d found it with orders to the floor nurse to do the same until Charlie could examine it.
On the bed were the few things he recognized as what he’d kept in the pocket of the coat he wore over his suit. He looked around for it, but she’d obviously taken it. The door to the wardrobe in the corner stood ajar. He felt for the key he’d kept in his pants pocket. It was still there. Charlie nudged the door open a bit more. On the top shelf was the metal piece of a pen and a bent needle. On the bottom shelf, his laptop mocked him. He picked it up and retrieved the business cards and gum left on the bed. He noticed the spots of blood on the sheets before the card on the pillow. White on white, the only thing that jumped out were the handwritten words. For a moment, it looked like she’d written directly on the pillowcase.
He picked up the card. Charles, I am so sorry for leaving like this. I know you wanted to help. But he’s found me. Angel.
It seemed as if she were in the wrong neighborhood for cheap hotels. Which is what she ultimately wanted. Cash on demand, no questions, anonymity. Angel peered into one lobby after another, each one too classy for anything but credit cards and full names and some kind of ID to prove it. She walked until she knew her rain-soaked, borrowed clothes appearance would not get her a room in any of these hundred-dollar-a-night hotels.
Something whispered to her as she passed by a series of windows. She stopped. Short gingham curtains hung half way along the windows. The smell of coffee, burgers and onions shoved the wet street smell back into the night. Angel sucked it in. She identified the faint wisp of bacon and…pie? She dug into her pocket. She’d slipped most of the bills into the duffel at the small of her back. But…she fingered the paper…there was enough for food and definitely enough for coffee.
The bell tinkled overhead when she pushed her way through the door. The diner was almost empty so Angel had her pick of the where to sit. She chose the booth at the back, near a hallway that might lead to the restrooms. The heat from the kitchen was close enough to make her realize she was colder than she thought. The waitress’s smile above her bright yellow and blue uniform made Angel realize just how alone she really was.
“What can I get ya, hon?” asked the waitress with the fake red hair, and pen perched over her order pad.
“Oh, coffee, please.”
“You gonna eat anything? You look like you haven’t had a home-cooked meal in some time.” Her voice was so friendly, Angel glanced at the nametag on her breast.
“Well, Elena, what do you recommend?”
Elena the waitress looked down at Angel, soaked to the bone, carrying a duffel bag instead of a purse. “Well, hon, everything here’s good, ‘cept for the onion rings and tomato soup. Don’t know how he can screw those up, but Buddy can.” Elena narrowed her eyes, thinking. “Alright, I know just what you need, chicken noodle and grilled cheese.”
“That sounds perfect.” Elena nodded and moved away. “Wait…Elena?”
The waitress turned.
“Could you get Buddy to put some bacon on that grilled cheese?”
“I guess I could get ‘im to do that for ya. Be right back with your coffee.”